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April 30, 2008

Fort Trumbull Housing Plan In Jeopardy

NLDC chief doubts developer will meet deadline for financing

The Day (New London, CT)
by Kevin Dale

Another eminent domain-reliant housing plan, this one at the center of the Kelo vs. New London Supreme Court case, is imperiled by the troubled credit market. This doesn't happen when neighborhoods are allowed to develop organically.

Citing “turmoil” in the national lending market, New London Development Corp. President Michael Joplin said he has “grave doubts” that the Corcoran Jennison company will meet a crucial May 29 deadline to secure financing for its long-delayed Fort Trumbull housing development.

”It's almost impossible, so we have to start dealing with reality,” said Joplin, who broached the “most difficult topic” at Tuesday night's annual meeting of NLDC's full membership in the Crocker House Ballroom.

If Corcoran Jennison doesn't meet the deadline, the Boston-based developer would violate a December extension document in which it agreed to secure a loan and enter a construction contract for an $18.7 million, 80-unit development of rental apartments and townhouses.

The project, whose uncertain groundbreaking could now be delayed months if not years, would represent the first new, ground-up construction since eminent domain cleared portions of the peninsula for redevelopment.

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NoLandGrab: The irony is that there was housing on the site, before it was seized by eminent domain and bulldozed to make way for... housing. Which isn't being built any time soon. Did someone say "bait and switch?"

Posted by eric at 3:14 PM

City agreement allows FCR to build 44% smaller Phase 1; what about NYC's extra $105M?

BREAKING STORY from Atlantic Yards Report

After filing a Freedom of Infomation request, Norman Oder finally got his hot hands on the NY City Atlantic Yards Funding Agreement.

Here's the scoop:

Despite assertions by Forest City Ratner officials that “all of Atlantic Yards... will be built," the State Funding Agreement, which the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) quietly released last month, gives the developer 6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years to build the five towers in Phase 1, and an unspecified amount of time to build the 11 towers in Phase 2.

A look at the previously-unreleased City Funding Agreement signed last September shows the developer has an even gentler deal: modest penalties for delay, plus allowance for a much smaller Phase 1 than that outlined in the General Project Plan passed by the ESDC in December 2006.

(I obtained the City Funding Agreement from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, or NYCEDC, via a Freedom of Information Law request. Warning: 13+ MB; ads before download.)

The City Funding Agreement involves NYCEDC and ESDC, while the state agreement involves ESDC and the developer. (Click on all graphics to enlarge.)

  • The city agreement casts further doubt on the schedule for affordable housing units, perhaps the main generator of political support for the project.

  • It includes no penalties as long as the developer builds, within 12+ years, 1.5 million square feet in Phase 1--some 44% smaller than promised less than a year earlier.

  • It permits a scenario of only 300 affordable housing units by 2020

  • With such a smaller Phase 1, it further reduces expected tax revenues.

  • It does not address the city's $105 million contribution for infrastructure, raising the possibility that, upon the project's demise, the city could recover only its initial $100 million outlay.

  • It confirms that the initial $100 million--once intended at least in part for infrastructure--will be used to reimburse Forest City Ratner for the seemingly generous checks the developer wrote to owners of properties destined for the arena footprint.

  • It requires larger penalties for a delayed arena than a delayed Phase 1, suggesting that the arena is more of a priority.

  • It sets a schedule for relatively modest penalties; an arena three years late (given the grace period), delayed to 2018, likely would cost the developer little more than $10 million in damages to the city.

  • Such relatively modest penalties also apply to Phase 1 delays; should the Phase 1 site lie fallow until 2027--nearly two decades from now--the six-year delay (given the grace period) likely would cost the developer only $17 million in damages to the city.

  • It also poses relatively small penalties if FCR abandons the project within three years; that suggests that a decision to pull the plug, should it be made, would come sooner rather than later.

Click here for the rest of this must-read article.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Revisiting that May 2004 Daily News scoop about Ratner's generous buyouts

Atlantic Yards Report

NYDN-BONANZA.jpg BONANZA! Back in May 2004, the NY Daily News gave Ratner front-page props for his generous offers to homeowners in the footprint of his Atlantic Yards proposal.

Guess where Ratner got the money for the generous above-market buyouts — yup, taxpayers!

Norman Oder rewrites the article with the assitance of facts and hindsight:

Real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner is showing Brooklyn homeowners the money.

Revised: Real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner is showing Brooklyn homeowners taxpayers’ money.

He's turning residents of one building into instant millionaires so they'll go quietly - letting him knock down their homes to make way for his controversial $2.5 billion Nets arena and housing complex.

Revised: Taxpayer funds are turning residents of one building into instant millionaires so they'll go quietly - letting him knock down their homes to make way for his controversial $2.5 billion Nets arena and housing complex.

Read on...

NoLandGrab: The irony is that condo-owner Daniel Goldstein didn't take the taxpayers' money to sign a gag order and fade away. As a consequence, the building featured in the article is still standing.

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

Atlantic Yards footprint, west from Vanderbilt

Photo by Tracy Collins, posted on the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

TC-Block1129.jpg

This is a recent photo of Block 1129 on the Eastern end of the Atlantic Yards footprint, bounded by Vanderbilt Avenue (foreground) and Dean Street (left) and Pacific Street (right).

The "nail house" is currently occupied by tenants, but is slated to eventually be hammered down like the rest of the block.

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Rally Planned To Halt Atlantic Yards Demolitions

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

A community rally whose goal is to tell Gov. Patterson to halt the Atlantic Yards Project is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday, May 3, on Pacific Street, between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues in Prospect Heights.

With Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner recently announcing that most of the project’s 17 towers have been delayed indefinitely, local groups are protesting that demolition of existing buildings is continuing in the same areas of the project footprint where those buildings were planned.

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NoLandGrab: The Eagle may want to check with developer Forest City Ratner, but we only count 16 towers, at this time.

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

Bruce Ratner, Mystery Science Theather 2008

More follow up on Bud Mishkin's NY1 interview with Brooklyn's favorite overdeveloper, Bruce Ratner:

RatnerThenNow-Curbed.jpg Curbed, Ratner Praises East River Fish, Disses Architecture

The snarky real estate blog basically lets Bruce Ratner speak for himself in coverage of the Atlantic Yards overdeveloper's NY1 interview (because you can't make this stuff up).

Our favorite of the bunch:

"[Y]ou know, those who focus on the architecture are frankly misguided about what's really important in this world."

...or maybe it's:

"I want to do great architecture, but I have to say something, which is that, if one is going to boil life down to architecture, then you know what? It's not for me."

...or:

"The architecture is important, but it's not that important."

NoLandGrab: Ratner might consider reserving his love-hate relationship with "architecture" for the therapist's couch.

The Knickerblogger, Bruce Ratner: the Ed Wood of Developers?

Knickerblogger recommends Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's commentary on the Ratner NY1 interview:

Its sort of like the old Mystery Science Theater 2000 - except Atlantic Yards is the crappy film, Ratner the washed up actor - its just no fun without the commentary.

NLG: Speaking about actors, who would you choose to play Bruce Ratner in the movie? Email us with your A-list.

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

Joe Chan, Downtown Brooklyn Shopaholic

The NY Observer
By Dana Rubenstein

Keeping in mind that it is Joe Chan's job to say nice things about Atlantic Yards, the president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership stays on message by asserting that the project will get built, no matter how many decades it takes:

JoeChan-NYO.jpg

Location: About six months ago you released an Ian McKellen-narrated video of what downtown Brooklyn would look like in five years. Given the current economic turmoil, would you release the same video today?

Mr. Chan: Absolutely.

The video cited $9.5 billion in private investment—that included Atlantic Yards?

That includes Atlantic Yards.

So you still think Atlantic Yards will happen?

Yeah, I think it is in the process of happening.

All 16 towers and arena?

The Atlantic Yards was always a project that was conceived as taking a few economic cycles to fully realize itself.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Olympic Landscape

The NY Sun
By James Gardner

BeijingAquaticsCentre.jpg Congratulations Bruce Ratner, your Atlantic Yards plan is now on the short list of controversial projects in NYC:

When it comes to dreaming up grand architectural visions, repressive authoritarian regimes are clearly the way to go. There are none of those nettlesome obstructions that beset the urban planners of New York City: community boards and concerned citizens, good-government types and the dithering dysfunctionality of a score of agencies. Well known to all are the hurdles that developers and architects have encountered recently at ground zero and the Atlantic Yards, the acrimony that has beset Columbia University's West Harlem expansion, not to mention the travails of Londoners over furnishing Heathrow with one lousy little new runway.

Meanwhile, in less time than it takes for New Yorkers to draw up a committee to decide whether to vote on drawing up a committee, the city of Beijing has reinvented itself in anticipation of this August's Olympic Games. Whole neighborhoods have been gleefully wiped out in order to build the Beijing CBD, or Central Business District, situated between the capital's 3rd and 4th Ring Roads and now the site of CCTV headquarters, designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

Despite the social consequences, Beijing appears to be one NYC architecture critic's wet dream:

Taken together, the new architecture of Beijing is a partial and mitigated success, whatever its social benefit or harm. But however many eggs had to be broken to make this particular omelet, New Yorkers can only look on in envy and amazement at the boldness, the size, and the inventiveness of these new designs, which would never have stood a chance in Gotham.

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NoLandGrab: Mayor Bloomberg would probably give his right arm to do away with the pesky Community Boards, heck, even skip the City Council, in order to "streamline" the city planning process. Imagine how many neighborhoods and blocks the city could have plowed and resown if the city had been awarded the 2012 Olympic games.

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

Forest City in the News

The Journal News, Turning the tide

An editorial in support of Forest City Ratner's Echo Bay project in New Rochelle.

WebWire, Sandia Tiger Teams reach out with solar

Forest City Enterprises' military housing unit will be participating in a Department of Energy program to encourage American cities to go solar:

The Solar American Showcase program and the Government Solar Installation Program are less publicized but equally real parts of DOE’s solar effort.

The showcase program provides $200,000 and Tiger Team technical assistance to companies, universities, cities, or states interested in trying new solar technologies. The winners include Forest City Military Communities in Hawaii, the city of San Jose, the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., Montclair State University in New Jersey, and a Housing Authority project in northeast Denver.

The government installation program provides solar technical assistance to federal entities.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: City Funding Agreement Casts Further Doubt on Atlantic Yards ‘Affordable Housing'

Allows Lenient Timelines and Minor Penalties;
Reimburses Ratner for Buyouts Made Under Eminent Domain Threat

City Council Committee Hearings Needed to Scrutinize Convoluted City-Ratner Agreement

BROOKLYN, NY— The New York Economic Development Corporation will use $100 million in taxpayer money to reimburse developer Bruce Ratner for the properties he bought, under the threat of eminent domain, for his planned Atlantic Yards arena. Also, Ratner only has to build 300 "affordable" housing units (only 120 for low-income tenants) by the year 2020. That's 10 low-income units per year.

"Ratner's 'generous' buyouts to many property owners threatened by the developer's abuse of eminent domain to build his arena, it turns out, were generously paid for by taxpayers—Ratner paid just about nothing to purchase those properties" said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "It is unconscionable and indefensible that the City is giving $100 million of NYC taxpayers' money to pay for Ratner's strong-arm real estate deals."

Norman Oder broke this news today on his Atlantic Yards Report (AYR), revealing these and many other troubling arrangements in the city's Atlantic Yards funding agreement signed with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in September, but only made public now through a Freedom of Information Law request. Documents show that Ratner purchased properties within the footprint of his proposed arena site, under the threat of eminent domain, for about $103.5 million; but the funding agreement confirms that the developer's "largesse" is non-existent as the taxpayer will pick up $100 million of that tab.

According to AYR's analysis of the funding agreement, Ratner can also get away with no penalty at all as long as he builds 1.5 million square feet of Phase 1 within 12 years—that would be 44% smaller than the Phase 1 promised at the time the project was approved in December 2006. Such a scenario would mean only 300 units of "affordable" housing in 2020, even though the project that was approved envisioned 2,250 "affordable" units by 2016. The extended timeline allowed in a funding agreement with the state and the reduced project size allowed in the city agreement, would also substantially reduce projected tax revenue found in earlier state documents.

There is no timeline whatsoever for the 11 Phase 2 skyscrapers where the bulk of the "affordable" housing had been proposed

The agreement also requires far greater penalties for the developer if he delays or doesn't build his planned arena, than it requires if the developer delays the housing. And all of the penalties are minimal. Ratner is not even required to pay back $105 million of the $205 million in direct city subsidies if he abandons his project entirely.

Councilwoman Letitia James told AYR that the City Council's Contracts Committee and the Economic Development Committee "should look into the deal." James chairs the Contracts Committee

According to the AYR Councilwoman James expressed shock that the damages the developer would have to pay for an arena delay would be higher than for a housing delay, and that all the penalties are so "minimal."

"These funding agreements demonstrate, once again, that the Atlantic Yards proposal is a bait and switch by the developer, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), and the NYC Economic Development Corporation," DDDB's Goldstein said. "What's clear is that the ESDC approved an idea, not a plan; it was content to do so knowing that it could negotiate pretty much anything it wanted to, without oversight, once the project was approved. Of course Ratner had no problem with that either. The convoluted, post-approval agreement between Ratner and the city requires City Council committee hearings."

The new revelations in the funding agreements make this Saturday's community rally—urging Governor Paterson to halt Atlantic Yards subsidies, demolitions and displacement—that much more urgent.

"Each day the facts of the Atlantic Yards bait and switch become more and more astounding. The Atlantic Yards promises were a mirage, so it's time to halt the project before Ratner turns our neighborhoods into a desert, as he is attempting to do," Goldstein concluded.

The City funding agreement with developer Forest City Ratner can be found here: http://www.dddb.net/documents/economics/NYCEDC_FCRAgreement.pdf (The file is 13.5 mb)

Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

April 29, 2008

Secret, True Identity of Real Estate Developer Revealed!

RatnerCroce.jpg

Disco-era Bruce Ratner or celebrity imposter?

Posted by lumi at 7:01 PM

Q&A With Isabel Hill, "Brooklyn Matters" Filmmaker

Brownstoner.com

On Thursday Cobble Hill Cinemas will host a free screening of "Brooklyn Matters," the documentary about Atlantic Yards. The film, which examines how Atlantic Yards came about and what the project's possible ramifications are, came out early last year and has been shown in a number of venues, including colleges and universities like Pratt and NYU. Isabel Hill, the director and producer of "Brooklyn Matters," talked to us about the movie's relevance now that Atlantic Yards is likely to be stalled and how audiences have reacted to her work. The main thrust of Hill's documentary is that Atlantic Yards has ignored decades-old urban planning wisdom and techniques. Hill worked as a planner for many years before making the film.

Now that you’ve been showing the documentary for a while, have you noticed a difference in audience reaction over time?
Hill:Yes, frankly, there does seem to be more outrage over the specific elements of this project. When I first started showing the film, I think many people were just surprised when they discovered the overwhelming scale of the many proposed skyscrapers. Most people initially understood the project to consist of a sports arena and a vague outline of other development. When they saw the monumental scale of the proposed buildings, most first-time viewers were incredulous. Also, when I first began showing the film, viewers were shocked at the ways this project circumvented public process and how project advocates manipulated public perception. Now, I think as people know more about Atlantic Yards, they are incensed when they see the film and more fully understand the drastic and long-lasting impacts of this proposal—a proposal we taxpayers are subsidizing. What I’ve seen is that the film consistently is a revelation to viewers whether they know nothing, little, or a lot about the project.

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"Brooklyn Matters" will be screened for free this Thursday evening, May 1st, at the Cobble Hill Cinemas, 265 Court Street, at 7:30 p.m.

Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

Development Watch: Atlantic Terrace

Brownstoner.com

Here's one development near the Vanderbilt Railyard, featuring a lot of affordable housing, that's actually going forward as scheduled.

While the future of affordable housing at Atlantic Yards is unclear, there's been some progress on Atlantic Terrace, the mixed-income development a stone's throw from the AY footprint. There was a ceremonial groundbreaking for the project back (rendered at right) in October, and workers have dug the big hole that'll eventually get filled with 80 co-ops, 50 percent of which will be affordable to low-income families and 20 percent of which will be affordable moderate-income earners. Last year there were stories in the Observer and Post about how plans for solar panels on the building's roof had to be scrapped because the looming shadows of AY high-rises would interfere with harnessing sunshine. Perhaps dark days for AY help that design facet see the light of day.

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Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

Major Community Rally Against Ratner's Atlantic Yards Scheme

Daily Gotham [mole333]

As Bruce Ratner goes public admitting he has no intention of fulfilling the promises he made to New York regarding affordable housing in his Atlantic Yards project, even former allies like Bill DeBlasio are now questioning just why New York City and New York State are giving him so much taxpayer money. On Saturday, May 3rd a major rally will be held where opposition will coalesce against Ratner. Among those sponsoring and publicizing this event are former supporters of Ratner, politicians who have previously been lukewarm in their opposition, and opposition groups that formerly didn't work together. In other words, Ratner may have finally shown his hand and all those who believed his promises or who weren't ready to take a strong stand now are feeling betrayed and angry. Saturday may be the beginning of the end for Ratner because for the first time I have seen the names of politicians who had been solidly, blindly behind Ratner cropping up among the opposition.

link

Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

Borough President Marshall rips 'crazy' option to split Willets Point plan

NY Daily News
by Frank Lombardi and John Lauinger

Were pretty sure the only thing "crazy" in this story is the person calling a plan that might avoid the use of eminent domain at Willets Point "crazy."

The mammoth Willets Point redevelopment plan could be divided into two stages under an alternative approach being considered by city officials.

But a key backer of the city's Willets Point vision, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, denounced the piecemeal option as "crazy." Marshall said she believes the option is aimed at averting the controversial use of eminent domain.
...

"I don't think it's a secret. What they're trying to do is to avoid the anti-eminent domain spirit that is going around the City Council," Marshall said.

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NoLandGrab: OK, we admit it — we've caught that "crazy" "anti-eminent domain spirit," too.

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

Simon Liu Fine Art Supply building demolished

Photographer Jonathan Barkey got this shot of what is left of the building that used to house Simon Liu Fine Art Supply.

JB-LiuRubble.jpg

Tracy Collins documented the demolition of the same building and posted a photo, shot from above, in the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

Ratner Speaks

Atlantic Yards Report and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn examine Bruce Ratner's interview on NY1 last night (transcript/video).

Atlantic Yards Report, Ratner lowers our architectural expections; will Gehry ease away?

BR-NY1.jpg

Yes, the "news" (as hinted by the New York Observer) from the fairly gentle profile NY1 ran last night of Bruce Ratner is that the Atlantic Yards developer is talking populism, not Gehry-ism:

“We need jobs, we need shopping that's appropriate and the right price and quality goods, we need supermarkets that provide food that is of quality and well-priced, we need housing, and you know what? The architecture is important, but it's not that important,” says Ratner.

"I want to do great architecture, but I have to say something, which is that, if one is going to boil life down to architecture, then you know what? It's not for me,” he adds.

Interviewer Budd Mishkin, host of the "One On 1" series, didn't raise the suggestion, but to me it hinted as a potential estrangement from Frank Gehry. (Gehry's not mentioned at all in the piece, though models of his buildings are evident and, of course, such video segments are edited.)

After all, Ratner not so long ago was emphasizing his commitment to architecture:

"I’ve been talking for ten years about trying to use ‘design architects’ instead of ‘developer architects," he told New York magazine's Kurt Andersen in 2005. (Citation below.)

Gehry's never designed an arena, so to him that may be the prime lure of the Atlantic Yards commission. Given that most of the project, including the Miss Brooklyn tower (which Gehry called "my ego trip"), has been delayed and layoffs have occurred in Gehry's office, it's possible that Gehry--who has publicly said that typically he'd bring in other architects to work with him--sees a light at the end of the tunnel.

If so, Ratner is now talking about housing and jobs and big box shopping, not architecture.

(The profile offered a look at Ratner in his earlier days as well as a reasonable survey of his life and career.)

NoLandGrab: If starchitect Frank Gehry only designs the arena, then even Gehry detractors might start missing the old guy. The prospect for interesting architecture will become very dim — think MetroTech in the middle of Brownstone Brooklyn.

DDDB.net, Breaking: Ratner Eats East River Fish, Says He's "Progressive"

BruceRatner-DiscoEra.jpgDevelop Don't Destroy got a hearty chuckle from last night's interview. The community group ran the disco-era photo of Bruce Ratner and noted that the self-proclaimed "progressive" ate the fish he caught out of the East River.

NY1 did this fluff job on controversial Atlantic Yards demolition man Bruce Ratner. Some might say it was even hagiographic.

Ratner wants to make sure you know that he is a "progressive." He is so "progressive" that he makes sure to tell the interviewer, Budd Mishkin, that he is "progressive," and Budd tells the viewers that Bruce is "progressive." He also understands the opposition to his project because....their concerns "are not inappropriate," and people have the right to their opinions.

NoLandGrab: Ratner boasted of catching a striped bass, which is migratory and doesn't actually live in the East River, so might not be all that bad for eating, if you want to take your chances. Then again, it must have been a quite big striper because, currently, they have to be at least 28" to be a keeper.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Atlantic Yards Is Very Much Alive,

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

The various uncertainties, plus Forest City Ratner’s insistence that the project is going through, are why groups critical of the Atlantic Yards project haven’t been celebrating the facts reported in the Times article. Several of these groups, plus local elected officials, have joined together to sponsor a rally set for this Saturday. The rally, scheduled for 2 p.m. at 752 Pacific St., is asking new Gov. David Paterson to “Call `Time Out’ on the Atlantic Yards Project.”
...
One of the main complaints of this coalition is that demolition of large areas in the “footprint” is continuing, even though, according to the announcement, “Forest City Ratner Company has acknowledged that the Atlantic Yards project won’t be built according to the schedule and plan that was approved.”
...
Jim Vogel of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods said, “They [Forest City Ratner] say they have a commitment to the project, but they haven’t put a timeline on it. I do project management for a living, and if you don’t have times for deliverables, you don’t have a project plan.”
...
The main day-to-day complaint in the neighborhood, Vogel added, is the continuing jack-hammering and construction noises, often at night. “Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue have become a continual construction zone from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night,” he said. “I live at Fourth and Pacific, and I hear this every single night.”

Riegelhaupt of Forest City Ratner responded that “The work we’re doing is massive infrastructure improvement, replacing 80-year-old water mains that have never been replaced. We’re upgrading, water, sewer lines, and work on the rail yards is also proceeding.”

The company is coordinating with the city to work at night, he explained, because major daytime projects on major streets like Atlantic Avenue would severely impact daytime traffic.

Vogel replied that it’s not only on Atlantic Avenue – night work is also proceeding on smaller streets such as Dean Street.
...
Gib Veconi of BrooklynSpeaks says, “Forest City Ratner is still moving ahead with demolitions and infrastructure disruptions as though they were proceeding with the original plans.

“One of the reasons the Atlantic Yards was announced was to combat blight – now, they’re creating blight. All of Block 1129, between Pacific, Dean, Vanderbilt and Carlton, is slated to be demolished.”

article

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Time Out Rally in the News

TimeOutRally01.gif The Real Deal, Pols to rally for Atlantic Yards halt

Several politicians will attend a Saturday rally that will call for halting Bruce Ratner's massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn so that it can be re-examined. The rally's sponsors, BrooklynSpeaks, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, want Gov. David Paterson to call a "timeout" because they say the struggling project will demolish buildings and displace residents and businesses with no definite plans to build.... On Friday, The Real Deal reported that Ratner has been approached by New Jersey investors and public officials who want him to relocate the Nets, who are supposed to move from the Meadowlands to Atlantic Yards, to the new Prudential Center in downtown Newark instead.

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice], April Showers Bring Rally Calling for Atlantic Yards 'Time Out'

As the economy falters and the credit markets tumble, the initial Atlantic Yards proposal estimated at $4 billion, including much hyped affordable housing, appears to have shriveled to a $950 million arena and a few smaller residential buildings, prompting unnecessary demolitions in the Prospect Heights neighborhood.

A collaboration of community groups—Brooklyn Speaks, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn—wants Governor Paterson to put a freeze on all Atlantic Yards activities until a more sensible solution can be determined.
...
For a deeper glimpse into how the other side spins, catch Atlantic Yards mega-developer Bruce Ratner one-on-one with NY1’s Bud Mishkin tonight at 8 p.m.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Congestion pricing failure may delay BRT; Flatbush route not yet on the agenda

Atlantic Yards Report

BRTFlatbush.gif

The failure of congestion pricing threw a bit of a wrench in the city's plans for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), suggested as one solution to congestion on Flatbush Avenue, but now apparently several years away.

Though Flatbush is an obvious candidate for such service--which would have a dedicated express lane, fewer stops, offsite payment and "honor system" entrance (subject to random check), staggered stoplights, and back boarding, according to the city's pilot in the Bronx--another obvious candidate, Nostrand Avenue, was selected in 2006 for one-per-borough pilot project. It looks to be about four years away, however.
...
A PlaNYC "scorecard" clarifies that the other four SBS services are planned to be introduced by 2011. That's likely too late to start up a Flatbush Avenue version by 2010, the unreliable official target date for opening the Atlantic Yards arena, or even 2011, which I consider the likely best-case scenario.

In fact, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority contradicts the PlaNYC document, estimating on its SBS FAQ page that the Nostrand Avenue route would be implemented in 2012. Though that's subject to change, it's a good bet that a Flatbush Avenue route would be at least a year after that.

Would that be in time for an AY arena? Then again, developer Forest City Ratner has six years--after the close of litigation and the transfer of property via eminent domain--to build the arena without penalty.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Atlantic Yards

From Relinq Wish

OpenSkyYards.jpg

I like this photo a lot. It's hard to find wide open spaces in the city these days, especially a vast open blue sky and a plane in the middle of it. Of course, if you pan down a little more you would see the semi-bearable chaos of the street below. But this picture captures the rare silent and pure moments which are few and far between in the daily norm of hysteria.

NoLandGrab: This is the westerly view over the Vanderbilt Railyards, over which the "Atlantic Yards" project will be built. The Newswalk building is to the left — it's not under threat of demolition, since it was initially carved out of the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Though some Atlantic Yards supporters may scoff at those who decry the loss of "vast open blue sky," it's the one resource that belongs to everyone.

UPDATE: It appears that this photo was actually taken by local photographer TRACY COLLINS who uploaded it to flickr on April 8, 2007, a year before Relinq Wish posted the same shot to her own flickr account. What are the chances Relinq Wish will relinquish the photo credit?

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

NYC building boom won't peak for 2-3 yrs -panel

The Guardian
By Joan Gralla

New York City's building boom will not top out until 2010 or 2011 despite the ailing economy because so many billion-dollar public and private projects are under way, a panel said on Monday.

Wall Street is the sun around which the city's economy revolves, but private developers and public agencies have planned $51 billion of projects over the next four years, according to the blue-ribbon panel's report for New York state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

With contractors and skilled workmen in short supply and the prices of steel, concrete, copper and other materials spiraling higher, the state agency convened the panel to find ways to cut costs to avoid having to delay or reduce projects.
...
So far, Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development, which includes a new basketball stadium for the Nets, is the only project that has said it probably will take longer to finish than first thought because of the sagging economy.

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Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

L.A.'s Grand Avenue project snags on loans

LA Times
By Cara Mia DiMassa

The other Frank Gehry-designed megaproject is also stalling out:

The developer of the Grand Avenue project in downtown Los Angeles said Monday that completion of the $3-billion redevelopment effort will be delayed until 2012 because of difficulty in obtaining construction loans amid the real estate downturn.

The Frank Gehry-designed high-rise project is seen as a linchpin in downtown's revitalization, and the delay is the latest sign that the loft and condo craze in the city center is cooling off.
...
Grand Avenue is one of several mega-developments around the nation that are in trouble because of the credit crunch. In Seattle, developers recently shelved plans for a $7-billion development downtown, citing the poor economy. Huge projects in Las Vegas, Phoenix and New York have also been scaled back or delayed, including part of the Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and a $14-billion development of the area around Penn Station.

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Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere112.jpg Veritas et Venustas, Urbanism and An Architecture of Place
John Massengale chides NY Mets owner Fred Wilpon for his artifice and then points out that the traffic-infested triple intersection at "Atlantic Yards" (we think he means Vanderbilt Yards) would be a better site for a metropolitan ballpark.

Wilpon told the architects of CitiField to make it like Ebbets Field, where the Dodgers played. But then he put the field in the middle of a parking lot. As a Brooklyn boy, he should have known better.

Ebbets Field was firmly embedded in the urban fabric of Brooklyn. The team got its name because their fans had to "dodge" streetcars to get to the field. But CitiField has no city, and the Metropolitans have no metropolis. They should play on the Atlantic Yards site, where there are 5 or 6 subway lines and the LIRR. Their urban locations are part of what make Fenway and Wrigley the two best fields.

No Police State, Another Event

And I was reading another one of those Todd Eaton emails today that seem to be all protest all the time, and this one was titled "Time Out on Atlantic Yards". And it was talking about developers destroying and demolishing whole communities in Brooklyn for no apparent reason other than I am not sure. And that word developer that I've been hearing a lot lately when it comes to overdevelopment leads me to wonder for what reason does the word developer contain the word devel which sounds like devil? Or is that a whole another blah blog posting.

Found in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Rally * May 3rd

Please try and attend and spread the word!

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Rally to Halt Atlantic Yards, May 3

News of the rally from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

Forest City in the News

The Johns Hopkins University Gazette, 'Rebuilding America's Cities'

The third annual Rebuilding America's Cities lecture presented by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies and Evergreen Museum & Library will be held at 6:30 p.m., on Thursday, May 1, in the Evergreen Carriage House. Ronald Ratner, executive vice president and director of Forest City Enterprises, and president and CEO of Forest City Residential Group, will give a talk titled "American Cities: Does Size Matter?"

Ratner, an executive vice president of one of the largest publicly traded real estate companies in the United States, will discuss the pitfalls of equating city size and growth with success, the central role that cities play in metropolitan areas and smart strategies for shrinking cities.

Curious topic, since Forest City Enterprises is the beneficiary of a massive state zoning override for the Atlantic Yards mini-city planned in the "Heart of Brooklyn." Since we seem to be keeping count, the article sites Atlantic Yards in "downtown Brooklyn," instead of Prospect Heights.

New Mexico Business Weekly, Lumidigm soon to join Mesa del Sol community

New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Patrick Lyons said on Tuesday fingerprinting technology firm Lumidigm soon will break ground on a 25,000-square-foot facility at Mesa del Sol.

Lumidigm has signed a lease for land from Forest City Covington NM, the developer of the 13,000-acre, master-planned community on the southern outskirts of Albuquerque. The facility will be located in the community's town center.

New Mexico Business Weekly, Mesa del Sol signs agreement with South Valley center

The master-planned community being developed by Forest City Covington New Mexico signed an agreement with the South Valley Economic Development Center that will help local growers build capacity to supply the 13,000-acre project south of the Albuquerque International Sunport.

The South Valley Economic Development Center assisted local growers in creating the Rio Grande Growers' Association. Mesa del Sol will invest $100,000 for administrative expenses and start-up capital for the association. Growers will provide Mesa del Sol with plants for its Aperture Park and for plantings along the extension of University Boulevard.

Mesa del Sol also will appoint a landscape expert to work with growers and identify the quantity and specific plants to be used for landscaping. The growers, in turn, will supply drought-tolerant, low-water use and native plant materials.

Posted by lumi at 4:13 AM

April 28, 2008

Ratner on NY1: A Snapshot

The Real Estate Observer

Oh man, we hope that the rest of Bruce Ratner's interview with Budd Mishkin on NY1 is as good as the quote that The Observer ran as a teaser:

The notoriously press-shy Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is due to appear on NY1 tonight at 8:30, going one-on-one with reporter Budd Mishkin.

The folks at NY1 have sent us over a brief teaser quote from Mr. Ratner:

We need jobs, we need shopping that's appropriate, and the right price and quality goods, supermarkets that provide food of quality and well priced, we need housing, and the architecture is important but it's not that important.

link

NoLandGrab: "Shopping that's appropriate," and "architecture is important, but it's not that important?" No wonder the Brucester is press shy.

Which leads us to wonder, what would constitute shopping that's inappropriate?

Posted by lumi at 6:17 PM

MEDIA ADVISORY: Community Groups, Elected Officials To Hold Major Rally

TimeOutRally01.jpg WHAT: Time Out on Atlantic Yards Rally
WHEN: Saturday, May 3rd at 2:00PM
WHERE: 752 Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues [Map]
WHO: BrooklynSpeaks, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, local elected officials

Forest City Ratner Company has acknowledged that the Atlantic Yards project won't be built according to the schedule and plan that was approved. Brooklyn residents are faced with demolition of vast areas of their community with no committed plans to build. Taxpayers may be asked to bear an even greater burden than the $2 billion in public subsidies already estimated.

A major community rally will be held Saturday, May 3, 2pm at 752 Pacific Street. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, BrooklynSpeaks, and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn will join with community leaders and elected officials to ask Governor Paterson to call "Time Out" on the Atlantic Yards project: suspend demolitions, displacement of residents and businesses, infrastructure disruptions and further subsidies to the project so that changes to the project can be assessed and a plan prepared with community involvement. The three sponsoring coalitions represent thousands of New Yorkers who have had differing perspectives on issues raised by the Atlantic Yards proposal, but all agree that the current state of affairs is intolerable.

The following elected officials have confirmed attendance: NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery, NYS Assemblywoman Joan Millman, NYS Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, NYC Councilwoman Letitia James, NYC Councilman Bill de Blasio, NYC Councilman David Yassky, NYC Councilman Tony Avella.

CONTACT:

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, www.dddb.net
Daniel Goldstein (917) 701-3056

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, www.councilofbrooklynneighborhoods.org
Jim Vogel (718) 638-3349

BrooklynSpeaks, www.brooklynspeaks.net
Gib Veconi (917) 881-0401

Public transportation to the rally:
SUBWAYS [Map]:
2/3 to Bergen Street
B, D,M,N,R to Pacific Street
Q to 7th Avenue
C to Lafayette or Washington Avenues
2,3,4,5 to Atlantic Avenue

BUS:
65 On Dean Street going East, or Bergen Street Going West
45 on Atlantic Avenue

Posted by lumi at 6:07 PM

Atlantic Yards Time Out Rally

Brit in Brooklyn

AK-RallyPoster.jpg

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

The PlaNYC 2030 housing update and the contradictions of AY

Atlantic Yards Report

PlaNYCProg.gif

When PlaNYC 2030 was announced last April, I pointed out how Atlantic Yards was conspicuously absent as an example of how to build new housing, even though the plan promotes the identification of underutilized areas across the city that are well-served by transit and the exploration of opportunities to create new land by decking over rail yards, rail lines and highways.

Given that the project remains high on the mayoral agenda, the omission was curious, I noted--though I'd add today that there is a built-in excuse; as a state project, the city can claim that it has no power over the rezoning.

The PlaNYC 2030 Progress Report issued last week also understandably leaves Atlantic Yards off the maps of city-initiated rezonings and rezonings with inclusionary zoning.

Does South/Central Brooklyn have the carrying capacity for Bruce Ratner's megaproject? Should the need for affordable housing supercede the debate on other urban planning concerns? Ron Shiffman, former City Planning Commissioner and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn board member, argues that there needs to be a balance.

article

For more reporting on the progress of PlaNYC, check out "PlaNYC gets praise from planners, but momentum must be sustained."

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Real Estate Slump Hits New York

Gotham Gazette
By Steven Josselson

Congratulations Bruce Ratner, your Atlantic Yards scheme is now the poster-project for the local real estate slowdown:

RESlump.jpg

In recent years, few issues have divided residents of Downtown Brooklyn more than the $4 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project being developed by New Jersey Nets' owner Bruce Ratner. Ratner's company Forest City Ratner is in a deal with the city and state to develop a high-rise commercial office tower, affordable housing units and a basketball stadium, the Barclays Center, in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn in just a few years.

Local community groups and residents, concerned that such a large-scale development in a partially residential area could harm their quality of life and change the neighborhood's character forever, have been attempting to stop the project in its tracks through litigation, seeking to influence public opinion and pressure decision-makers in City Hall and Albany to reconsider the project's risks.

While these concerted efforts have proven unsuccessful, integral components of the development have now been put on hold for an indeterminate period of time -- not because of public outrage, but rather due to increasing construction costs, a slowing economy sliding toward a recession and a tightening credit market.

To different degrees, the very same economic challenges facing Atlantic Yards are impacting real estate projects both big and small throughout the five boroughs.

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NoLandGrab: Though Daily News columnist Errol Louis derides those of us who spend our free time pointing out anything that locates Atlantic Yards in "Downtown Brooklyn," as developer Bruce Ratner would have you believe, instead of "Prospect Heights," where it is actually located, we can't seem to stop. It's a no-brainer and thus, just about our speed.

Seriously, the tip-off to the author should have been the description of the neighborhood as a "partially residential area."

Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

City forcing its will upon Coney Island

MetroNY
By Neil deMause

NY City revised the plan for Coney Island in the hopes of “getting something done,” which is a good thing, right?

tortisehare.gif

Worse yet, focusing on “getting things done” doesn’t even always get things done. Too often, it’s meant putting all the city’s eggs in one basket — witness Bruce Ratner’s maybe-on-hiatus Atlantic Yards project, where the city’s hopes for a sweeping remaking of the Brooklyn railyards could instead end up leading to 20 years of empty lots. It’s important to remember that historically, there are plenty of districts that developed because the city didn’t get things done — say, SoHo, which was colonized by artists after Robert Moses’ Lower Manhattan Expressway scheme collapsed — achieving more gradual, organic change. Sometimes, slow and steady wins the race.

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Posted by lumi at 4:20 AM

April 27, 2008

Newark wants Ratner to ditch Brooklyn and stay in NJ

Prudential_Center4.08.jpg

The Real Deal

Developer Bruce Ratner has been approached by several New Jersey investors and public officials on a plan to relocate the Nets to the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The investors would like Ratner to have the Nets partner with the New Jersey Devils and move into the Prudential Center in Newark, where the hockey team has just finished its first full season.

"They're being wooed politically as well as by the private sector," said Ken Baris, a New Jersey realtor, who is familiar with some of the investors who have approached Ratner. "There's a lot of people that kind of want to keep it quiet, but [at the same time] are looking forward to a lot more leaks."

A move to Newark would effectively end Ratner's efforts to move the Nets to a $950 million Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn, which was to serve as the centerpiece of his controversial $4 billion Atlantic Yards complex and would be the most expensive basketball arena in the country. Nets officials denied there have been any plans to move to Newark and have insisted they are moving forward with the Brooklyn arena.

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Posted by amy at 10:02 AM

Flashback: in 2005, the Times reported project completion by 2011

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember this front-page New York Times article?

nytimes7.05.jpg

The article was flawed for all sorts of reasons, notably the claim that the arena was instantly gaining a skyline. (See the skyline announced in December 2003 here.) Instead, revised designs were being released, exclusively to the Times.

But a second look shows the real whopper below.

4.08Ay2011.jpg

Well, 2008-9 for the arena is of course way off. At the time, it was highly unlikely though not completely implausible, assuming a smooth environmental review process and no lawsuits.

2011: a fantasy

But could the the entire project have been completed by 2011? That's ridiculous, given that the developer claimed when Atlantic Yards was announced in 2003 that it would take ten years to build.

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Posted by amy at 9:30 AM

3 vie for Recchia's City Council seat

johnlisyamskiy.jpg

NY Daily News
JOTHAM SEDERSTROM

While one group in the Bronx tries to negotiate a real CBA, one candidate for Domenic Recchia's City Council seat representing Coney Island seems to be aiming low:

Lisyanskiy, an aide to Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) who has worked under speakers Gifford Miller and Peter Vallone, said unemployment and an ambitious plan to redevelop much of Coney Island are among his top priorities if elected.

The Ukranian-born Bensonhurst resident said he would push for a legally binding Community Benefit Agreement like one tied to the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

article
NoLandGrab: Recommended reading for city council candidates: AYR's "Substantial legally enforceable penalties"? FCR's claims about CBA raise doubts

Posted by amy at 9:20 AM

Economy, Credit Woes Foil Cities' Big Projects

Wall Street Journal
JENNIFER S. FORSYTH

One project being watched closely is Atlantic Yards, a $4 billion development that Forest City Ratner Cos. is building on 22 acres in Brooklyn, N.Y. After a number of court battles, the developer plans to finally begin construction on a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team by the end of this year.

However, the schedule for its planned office tower, called Miss Brooklyn, likely be will pushed back until an anchor tenant is signed given the current market conditions, says Loren Riegelhaupt, a Forest City spokesman. He stresses that the entire project eventually will be built. "It's not a question of if, but when."

Atlantic Yards Report responded:

Well, the plan may be to break ground this year, but how can he be sure? As to whether the entire project will be built, well, there's no guarantee that housing subsidies will be available.

More importantly, the governmental authorities don't require the project to be built as approved; the State Funding Agreement includes a City Purpose Covenant that allows for the amendment of the General Project Plan and contemplates its abandonment for a smaller project. Maybe that's why Frank Gehry is laying off architects, as the Los Angeles Times reports on its blog.

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Posted by amy at 9:11 AM

Putting the "Community" back into CBA

CBA.gif

After Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner took the first steps towards perverting the concept of the "Community Benefits Agreement" (CBA), things have gone from bad to worse in NYC. Now a group from the Bronx is hoping to negotiate a real CBA with Related Companies for the Kingbridge Armory project.

From The Eminent Domain:

Now KARA [Kingbrige Armory Redevelopment Alliance] is doing something extremely gutsy: It is trying to wrest the whole concept of a community benefits agreement back from the jaws of elected officials who have perverted it beyond recognition, so much so that New Yorkers who pay attention to development simply assume that a CBA is one step removed from a shakedown. (Check out the comments on blogs and news sites if you’d like to think that’s not true.) And you can’t exactly fault that perception, given “CBAs” like the Yankee Stadium deal that basically gives Bronx officials a pile of money they can spend in any way they want, plus an ample supply of free sports equipment.

The question now is: how is KARA going to change the script here?
...
But the situation highlights a glaring reality: New York City is suffering from its lack of a citywide framework for how economic development projects like this happen. All over the city we’re seeing citizens wage campaigns to make development more responsive to its host communities — in West Harlem, Willets Point, downtown Brooklyn, Coney Island, and those are only the big ones — but they each fight their own lonely battles, often pitted against their own elected officials.

Posted by lumi at 6:33 AM

April 26, 2008

All in the timing: "when" but not "if," says FCR (but not on AY.com)

Atlantic Yards Report

From the FAQ page at the Atlantic Yards web site:
fcrweb4.08.jpg
Obviously, ground hasn't been broken. And the plan, at least that passed by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), may have been to phase construction over ten years, but it was hardly realistic. Now it's an impossibility, and the ESDC gives the developer a long leash. So the FAQ needs an update.

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Posted by amy at 11:18 AM

De Blasio claims AY would have 3000 low-income units

AYaffhousing71106ayr.gif

Atlantic Yards Report

In an interview in the Spring issue of the Park Slope Reader, City Council Member Bill de Blasio, who's running for Borough President, shows he hasn't improved his due diligence regarding Atlantic Yards.

Notably--unless he was misquoted--he claimed that the project would include 3000 low-income housing units, a significant overstatement.

Actually, the plan is to include 900 low-income rental units--at 30-50% of AMI (Area Median Income)--among 2250 affordable rentals, and 600 to 1000 for-sale affordable units, of which a "majority... will be sold to families in the upper affordable income tiers," according to the Housing Memorandum of Understanding Forest City Ratner signed with ACORN. That means households with six-figure incomes, perhaps needing a boost in New York, but hardly low-income.

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Posted by amy at 11:03 AM

Layoffs at Frank Gehry's firm have L.A. architects on edge

gehry4.08.jpg

L.A. Now

One Gehry architect told LA Now today that 23 workers were laid off in the firm's Venice office in response to the delay in the giant Atlantic Yards project in New York and the slowing economy. On Thursday, Curbed LA reported a rumor that 80 people had lost their jobs. Gehry's firm, for its part, is not talking, failing to respond to several e-mails and phone calls today.

What's for sure is that architects, along with real estate developers and builders, are seeing business drop off steeply, with no end in sight. Says Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne:

"I think it's likely certain big firms around town will have to take similar action; even foreign investors flush with capital, which have been keeping a few high-stakes projects here from collapsing, are starting to look wary of investing in the U.S. All the same, Gehry's is a special case: The sheer scale of the firm's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn -- not to mention Grand Avenue, Abu Dhabi and other mega-commissions around the world -- meant it had to expand over the last few years to an unprecedented degree. Staffing levels there really had nowhere to go but down."

link

Posted by amy at 10:59 AM

‘Room’ doomed?

The Brooklyn Paper, Letter to the Editor from Alan Rosner, Park Slope

To the editor,

We have just learned that the iconic Frank Gehry skyscraper, Miss Brooklyn, has no anchor tenant, and that without one no financing is available (“Atlantic Yards Dead,” March 29). That being the case, the basketball arena may get built long before Miss Brooklyn construction begins.

Meanwhile, no one seems to have asked if the “Urban Room” — a six-story, all-glass entry to Miss Brooklyn, the arena and the Atlantic Avenue station — will be built or abandoned.

There are problems either way. If it is to be built, Bruce Ratner will have some major redesign costs, especially if the distance between the “Urban Room” and the arena is to be hidden rather than left a gaping open wound.

Ratner’s less-costly alternative is to wait until Miss Brooklyn eventually goes ahead. But the “Urban Room,” a promised amenity, also served to mitigate the expected hoards of pedestrians crossing Atlantic Avenue by connecting the MTA’s Atlantic Avenue station with the arena. The silence suggests that neither the ESDC nor Ratner are concerned.

link

I’d like to think The Brooklyn Paper could find out what a delayed Miss Brooklyn means, but unfortunately control of what happens to neighborhoods is happening behind closed doors among connected, corporate developers who have money to buy their way through the system.

I guess the real question is how much longer this swindle will be allowed to drag on?

Alan Rosner, Park Slope

Posted by amy at 10:55 AM

Brooklyn Bridge Park goes forward

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

Brooklyn Bridge Park cleared another hurdle this week, as the State Supreme Court ruled against opponents of the open space and luxury housing development, unanimously upholding the state’s inclusion of private housing inside the park’s footprint.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund had filed the lawsuit to force the state to revise its plans for the 85-acre parkland and commercial development along the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights waterfront by eliminating the controversial condominiums and hotel slated for the park.
...
The Defense Fund also argued that the development’s Environmental Impact Statement — a document that examines the effect of the project on everything from air quality to traffic flows — was flawed because it underestimated the impact of traffic from the proposed Atlantic Yards mega-project just over a mile away.
...
The court also concluded that the effects of Atlantic Yards-related traffic was sufficiently studied.

article

Posted by amy at 10:50 AM

April 25, 2008

Rally for AY "time out" to be held Saturday, May 3

Atlantic Yards Report

Three "flavors," one rally:

The "Atlantic Yards stall" has brought groups representing different flavors of project criticism and opposition together for a rally at 2 pm on Saturday, May 3, with a range of local political officials confirmed as attendees. The location is 752 Pacific Street near Carlton Avenue in the AY footprint, a block planned to hold "interim surface parking" that could last indefinitely. (The Brooklyn Paper broke the news, though the lead of the article says Sunday rather than Saturday and stresses stopping demolitions.)

The stated purpose--asking Gov. David Paterson for a "time out"--is certainly milder than the full agenda of Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB). Indeed, DDDB restates its opposition to the project in its rally announcement.

What does the statement that "Brooklyn needs a new plan and community involvement" mean? It could mean the UNITY plan, which DDDB and CBN support, but it also could be a restatement of the position of more moderate coalition BrooklynSpeaks, which has taken a "mend it, don't end it" posture toward AY and has avoided joining any lawsuits.
...
(Note that the rally location is outside a building owned by Henry Weinstein, a plaintiff in the eminent domain case and a party in a suit, so far successful, against his tenant Shaya Boymelgreen, who then assigned leases to Forest City Ratner.)

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Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

Mega-rally to stop mega-project

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Three local groups that haven’t exactly agreed on how to fight the Atlantic Yards development will put aside their differences to demand a halt in demolition work on the project at a mega-rally next Sunday.

The announcement of the May 3 rally by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Brooklyn Speaks and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn comes one week after three City Councilmembers from Brooklyn asked the Empire State Development Corporation to bar developer Bruce Ratner from continuing to tear down buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint given that the developer has said he cannot build the 16-skyscraper, office space, retail and basketball arena project that was approved by the state in December, 2006.
...
Expected on hand will be Councilmembers Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), the trio that penned a letter to state officials calling for a halt in demolitions so that the neighborhood is not left “in an empty, blighted state for an unknown number of years to come.”

Rally against Atlantic Yards sponsored by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhood, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and Brooklyn Speaks will be held at 752 Pacific St. (between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues in Prospect Heights) at 2 pm on Saturday, May 3. Visit www.councilofbrooklynneighborhoods.org, www.dddb.net or www.brooklynspeaks.org for info.

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NoLandGrab: Though the positions held by the three participating groups are significantly different (read the article for details), the irony is that to the developer Forest City, NY City and State, these same distinctions remain subtle.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

Arena subway access without the Urban Room? ESDC says it's OK

Atlantic Yards Report

The "Urban Room" at Atlantic Yards (aka, "atrium") is billed as a multipurpose, glass-enclosed retail gallery, public space, ticket window, subway entrance, and the largest stoop in Brooklyn, and has been lauded and sold as a "significant public amenity," "a soaring Piranesian space," "a prominent feature of the pedestrian experience," and "its own destination." Yet without the signature tower — fancifully dubbed "Miss Brooklyn" — might developer Bruce Ratner deliver an "Urban Shed?"

Norman Oder sifts through the few documents that have been made public, and it looks like the only requirement is that Ratner "provide reasonable assurances... that the new subway station access that will adjoin the Arena will be completed and operational at the time the Arena is opened for operation."

Oder concludes:

Without Miss Brooklyn, it looks like there's no room for the Urban Room.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:26 AM

April 24, 2008

An Open Letter to President Bollinger

Columbia Spectator

West Harlem businessman Nick Sprayregen, unable to get a meeting with the man who runs the institution that wants New York State to take his land by eminent domain, resorts to an open letter in the Columbia Spectator.

Dear President Bollinger,

With the recent appointment of a new governor, there is renewed hope among many that the state will finally take strides in amending its abusive eminent domain laws. As such, I publish this open letter with the sincere hope that it will lead to meaningful dialogue between you and me. Over the past nearly four years, the institution that you head, Columbia University, and the family business of which I am president, Tuck-It-Away Self Storage, have been locked in battle. The outcome of this struggle will affect the future direction of many parties—my family, Columbia, and West Harlem. The stakes are huge.

The issue: the threatened use of eminent domain. You have asked the state to condemn any properties in the Manhattanville area of West Harlem that refuse to sell to you. Out of regard for my family, which has owned and operated four commercial properties here for almost 30 years, my answer has always been the same: I will not negotiate while the threat of eminent domain is hung over my head. That is not fair.

During this fight, you and I have never directly communicated, despite my request for a meeting with you. This request was turned down. Instead, it has only been through surrogates—lawyers, lobbyists, and journalists—that we have had any form of contact.

I am adamant in my opposition to the possible use of eminent domain so that Columbia can take others’ private property to help it build a new campus. This is not how eminent domain should be used. Columbia is a private institution of privilege—it is not a fire station, highway or, indeed, a public school.

link

Posted by eric at 2:26 PM

Legislation would require emergency report on major capital projects

EmpireStateNews.Net

BrodskyMTA.jpg

Citing a pattern of inadequate financing, bad planning and misplaced priorities, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Commissions, and Authorities today released legislation requiring the immediate submission to the Legislature and the Governor of a report outlining the status of and issues confronting close to a dozen major capital projects in the downstate region.

These projects, all of which are facing significant problems, include Hudson Yards, 7 Line extension, Javits Convention Center, the Boulevard, Moynihan Station, World Trade Center rebuild, PATH station, Atlantic Yards, Willets Point and Sunnyside Yards.

article

Additional coverage:

The NY Sun, Progress Reports Urged for Big Development Projects

"This is not about the fact that these developments are in various states of collapse, which they are, but that they are all endangering the MTA's capital plan, which is the single most important part for any government," Mr. Brodsky said.

"Other than the mayor and the governor, who knows what is actually going on?" [Brodsky] said.

NY Daily News, Pol wants facts & figures on faltering big projects

Brodsky says the projects are in trouble due to "inadequate financing, bad planning and misplaced priorities," and he's worried that they're siphoning off funds for much-needed mass transit projects.

Atlantic Yards Report, Brodsky seeks AY timetable, cost-benefit analysis in report on megaprojects

Analysis and commentary from Norman Oder:

If passed, the law would require not merely a status report, but also would require a cost-benefit analysis that has so far not been conducted. It would require the ESDC to detail the full spectrum of public "incentives, benefits, subsidies, and revenues," the projected economic impact on the city, state, and metropolitan area, "and a comparison of expected benefits with anticipated costs."

That could be a watershed. The ESDC has produced a lengthy Final Environmental Impact Statement (see the last pages of the Socioeconomics chapter), as well as a General Project Plan, both of which estimate new revenues, but provide scant details on the totality of public subsidies and public costs. (The Independent Budget Office came the closest to estimating the total impact of the project, but shied away from a full study.)

It would be astounding if the ESDC produced a full cost-benefit analysis within 45 days. More likely the agency would supply an updated version of previously compiled documents.

Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

MTA head "concerned" about $100M owed by FCR; developer says first tower residential

Atlantic Yards Report

MTAWebinar.jpg Norman Oder tuned in to the MTA's "webinar" and provides some coverage and analysis and parses Forest City Ratner spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt's response to The NY Observer:

The Observer's report also quoted FCR spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt, who stated that the first building to open, along with the arena, would be residential. That means that Building 1, aka Miss Brooklyn, remains on hold until an anchor tenant is found, as the New York Times first reported last month. It also means that, unless certain parts of Building 1 are completed, the arena would open without the Urban Room, the atrium that would serve as a combination building lobby, arena entrance, subway entrance, retail/restaurant space, and public gathering space.

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Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

MTA Chief 'Concerned' About $100M Owed for Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer
By Eliot Brown

Metropolitan Transportation Authority executive director Lee Sander seems a bit uncertain about the $100 million that developer Forest City Ratner owes the agency for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project. He had this to say earlier this month in a capital program “webinar” (no, we don’t quite know what that word is either), responding to a question about the MTA’s current capital plan:

There is $100 million associated with the sale of Atlantic Yards, and many of you have read in the newspapers some of the difficulty Forest City is having with that development, so hopefully that will proceed, but we want to make sure that that happens—but we’re concerned about that.

A spokesman for Forest City, Loren Riegelhaupt, said the $100 million would indeed go to the MTA later this year, once the company closes on the deal.

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Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Questions unanswered in the State Funding Agreement

Atlantic Yards Report

One lesson from the Atlantic Yards saga is that, at least in this case, the approval in December 2006 by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) was not the end of the story but a midpoint, given that negotiations regarding funding agreements--and thus project deadlines--were in the future.

(Is this standard operating procedure for most ESDC projects? That's a question worth looking into.)

And even the State Funding Agreement, signed last September but made public last month, leaves several ambiguities subject to further negotiations. In other words, it's very much not over--but the negotiations are not exactly public. Perhaps the law, proposed by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, requiring the ESDC to report on details of the project might get to some of these details.
...
I posed several questions to the Empire State Development Corporation. Spokesman Warner Johnston told me last week it was too soon to provide details...

Click here to read Norman Oder's list of questions for the ESDC.

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

April 23, 2008

Behind 80 DeKalb, FCR's test run for AY marketing (and, probably, housing bonds)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes an in-depth look at Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb project for clues about the company's chances of securing scarce tax-exempt bonds for Atlantic Yards.

Forest City Ratner's plan for a 365-unit rental apartment building at 80 DeKalb Avenue, a new tower at the edge of Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn, offers some obvious and not so obvious parallels regarding the housing planned for the Atlantic Yards project.

The marketing of residential real estate--a first for FCR in Brooklyn and one of only three such company projects in the city--presents the obvious parallel.

The less obvious parallel: the developer's success in gaining scarce tax-exempt bonds from the state housing finance agency--in an application that earned praise from the agency's head--shows that FCR may be well-positioned to compete for similar bonds from the city housing finance agency to build AY.

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Posted by eric at 9:12 AM

NJ Nets Chatterbox

If it wasn't for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, we might have missed two articles from New Jersey, which have stirred up all kinds of chatter about keeping the Nets in the Garden State:

PruCenter.jpg Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Nets to Newark Chatter

Yesterday in two Jersey papers (The Newark Star-Ledger and The Record), there was quite a bit of chatter about the expense of the proposed move of the Nets to Brooklyn and the possibility of the Nets moving to the newly built Prudential Center Arena in Newark.

The Bergen Record, Can the Nets afford to move to Brooklyn?

The Nets expect to lose about $40 million in the just-completed season, with similar red ink expected annually for the basketball franchise's foreseeable future at the Izod Center [in New Jersey].

At the same time, the estimated cost of their proposed new building — the Barclays Center in Brooklyn — has soared to $950 million, or more than twice the price of any pro basketball or hockey arena ever built in the United States.

At this rate, the Nets can't afford to stay in the Meadowlands — but can they afford to move to Brooklyn?

The Newark Star-Ledger, Newark hoop dreams [Blog editorial]

Those who dream in New Jersey know the rumors that developer Ratner bought the Nets only to sweeten the appeal of the development project. The reverie is that if Brooklyn falls through, a coalition of New Jersey buyers (led by the New Jersey Devils hockey team, perhaps?) would take the Nets off Ratner's hands. Then the Nets would move into the shiny new Prudential Center, which the Devils built with the city of Newark. Whether the financing of the Newark arena made sense (the city put up the lion's share), it's built and it draws tons of fans via mass transit. The arena here was originally planned as a home for the Nets, and that's where the team belongs.

Nets Daily, Newark Nets? Hope and Reality

The Star-Ledger thinks the Nets should join the Devils at the Prudential Center. With the Nets’ Brooklyn arena hurt by protests and rising costs, the newspaper thinks “The Rock” would be an ideal home. But local pride has its limits, notes an editorial. A Nets’ spokesman says, “Newark is not even a consideration.” There’s also the Nets’ onerous lease with the state, but that, the Ledger hears, could be modified.

The commenters are largely for keeping the Nets in NJ, though most aren't bullish about the prospects.

Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

The Brooklyn Literary 100

The NY Observer
By Doree Shafrir

NYO outs the authors most responsible for Brooklyn's epidemic of writers, some of whom, as if writing isn't hard enough, have taken up "the cause."

NYOBK100.jpg

But making the jump across the East River, and onto Carroll Street and Clinton Avenue—along with the assistants and junior staffers and newly minted MFAs—are now the likes of (No. 1 New York Times best-selling author!) Jhumpa Lahiri; Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss, who famously bought a Park Slope townhouse for $3.5 million in 2005; and the veritable Renaissance man Kurt Andersen, who makes his home in Carroll Gardens. And so they clack away on their MacBooks at Ozzie’s or the Tea Lounge in Park Slope or the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, and do readings at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg or the Brooklyn Lyceum, and contribute to A Public Space or One Story or n+1, and meet their editor for drinks at Union Hall, and play football in Prospect Park on the weekends and tutor kids at 826NYC and buy their friends’ books at the Community Bookstore or Book Court and raise money to fight the Atlantic Yards project by contributing essays to a book called Brooklyn Was Mine, published by Riverhead in January.

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Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

4 Brooklyn Groups To Receive Grassroots Preservation Awards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Linda Collins

HDCAwardees.jpg

Four Brooklyn organizations have been selected to receive preservation awards at the Historic Districts Council (HDC) Ninth Annual Grassroots Preservation Awards in Manhattan on Thursday, May 15, it was announced this week.
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The following are the four Brooklyn award winners (of six total):

  • 227 Duffield Street Coalition, consisting of Joy Chatel of 227 Duffield St., Jennifer Levy of South Brooklyn Legal Services, and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), for their successful efforts to save 227 Duffield St. from demolition and raise awareness about Downtown Brooklyn’s important abolitionist history.

  • DUMBO Neighborhood Assoc., for its successful efforts to have DUMBO designated as a New York City historic district, as well as its continued work advocating for appropriate zoning and new development in the neighborhood.

  • Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, for its ongoing campaign to stop the Atlantic Yards mega project and advocate for appropriate development on the Vanderbilt Rail Yards.

  • Brownstoner.com, a Brooklyn-based blog, will be honored with a “Friend from the Media” Award for its role in informing and interesting the public about issues affecting land use in Brooklyn and across the city.

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NoLandGrab: Congratulations to all of our friends and colleagues who are so richly deserving of this award and thanks to the Historic Districts Council for all of their efforts citywide!

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Brooklyn People

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sam Howe

Louise Crawford, the woman behind OnlyTheBlogKnowsBrooklyn.typepad.com, wants them to meet offline for the third annual Brooklyn Blogfest at Brooklyn Lyceum on May 8 at 8 p.m. Several of last year’s presenters were popular local bloggers who spoke about the impact blogging has on the community, including Lumi Michelle Rolley of noLandGrab.org, dedicated to Atlantic Yards coverage, Robert Guskind of GowanusLounge.blogspot.com, Jonathan Butler of real estate and architecture blog Brownstoner.com, and Norman Oder of AtlanticYardsReport.blogspot.com.

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NoLandGrab: The Blogfest seems to have outgrown the original digs at the Old Stone House as well as the dominance of the blogs covering Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

April 22, 2008

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning April 21, 2008 and April 28, 2008

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

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions. All work has been approved by appropriate City and State agencies where required.

In addition to the activities described below noise attenuation and vibration monitoring measures are underway in connection with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments dated 12/08/06.

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

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Continue excavation, lagging and walers at SOE piles in Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Continue hauling soil from block 1121.
  • Trench and install conduit in block 1120.
  • Prepare and begin foundation piles for cable bridge (in block 1120, parallel to 6th Avenue Bridge).

Abatement and Demolition Work

All work described below will comply with the additional oversight and protocols by the Department of Buildings (DOB) that were established on April 30th.

  • Demolition is underway at 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.
  • Demolition will begin at 640 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 29) within this two week period.
  • Demolition will begin at 645 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 62) within this two week period.
  • Abatement will begin at 195 Flatbush Avenue (block 1127, lot 1) within this two week period.
  • Demolition will resume at 585 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 81) within this two week period.

Utility Work

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

  • The first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations is underway and is expected to continue through the end of the year. Work will continue on Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues and on Sixth between Pacific and Dean Streets. Night time work began on Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street and will continue north along Flatbush. Work began 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 5:28 AM

Newark option gets more realistic, even as Nets seek Euro companies for Gehry arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner has no intention of moving the Nets to Newark, not even as an interim solution while the Barclays Center is being built. However, suggests the Newark Star-Ledger's editorial board in a blog commentary headlined Newark hoop dreams, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority may be willing to make a move--though not an interim one--easier.

The Authority owns the Izod Center at the Meadowlands and, if the Nets were to leave for a venue other than Brooklyn (or Queens), the penalty this year would be $12 million (though it would decline in subsequent years).

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Newark Star-Ledger, Newark hoop dreams

For those looking at Brooklyn from New Jersey, the wish that something -- anything -- might happen to keep the Nets in New Jersey has been a hope that would not die.

Some things have happened. The real estate and credit markets have changed since the $4 billion Brooklyn Atlantic Yards development, with thousands of condos, other homes and an 18,000-seat arena, was proposed. Financing is no longer easy. The payoff is no longer certain. The Nets are losing $40 million a year.

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

Will Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 survive his mayoralty? Should it?

Atlantic Yards Report

Many people concerned about planning and development issues were heartened by Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s announcement last year of PlaNYC 2030, observed Eve Baron, director of the Municipal Art Society (MAS) Planning Center. However, as she said introducing a forum titled “PlaNYC2030 Post-Bloomberg” on April 14, many people think important issues were left out--and the panel discussion bore that out.

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Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

The Willets Point group is a coalition of sucessful businesses, who are more capable of wielding political clout than the typical property owner fighting eminent domain abuse. It's no small wonder that there isn't very much support for Mayor Bloomberg's plan to remake Willets Point, after decades of abuse and neglect from the City of New York.

There's a demonstration and protest over the Columbia University land grab on Saturday.

WILLETS POINT, QUEENS

The NY Observer, Nearly 30 City Council Members Call Willets Point Plan 'Unacceptable'

Late last week, when the Bloomberg administration announced it would begin the process of rezoning the neighborhood of Willets Point without a developer, it did so over the objections of the City Council, including Land Use Committee Chair Melinda Katz.

So it can't be a complete surprise that today, a number of critics of the plan, led by Hiram Monserrate, the most vocal opponent, have written a letter protesting the planned redevelopment that says, “This plan is unacceptable, and we wish to inform you that without significant modifications, we will strongly oppose it, leaving no chance of it moving forward.”

MetroNY, Willets point plan called dead on arrival

Just as the Bloomberg administration set its plan for Willets Point in motion yesterday, 29 City Council members declared the mayor’s redevelopment project dead on arrival.

Crain's NY Business, City Council rebuffs Willets Point plan

Charging that the redevelopment of Willets Point would displace more than 250 businesses and provide an inadequate amount of affordable housing, a majority of the City Council today said they opposed the Bloomberg administration’s decision to advance the plan through the land review process.
...
The city says it is in discussions with business owners about relocation and that it will only use eminent domain as a last resort.

NoLandGrab: The joke is that the government always says that it will use eminent domain "as a last resort."

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Willets Point and Hunters Point South Plans to be Certified Today

The Willets Point Plan has also been extremely controversial — it involves the taking of many industrial businesses, located along the stretch of Queens waterfront located next to Shea Stadium, by eminent domain. In their place, the City plans to construct an entirely new community, including a convention center, hotels, housing, retail, parks/open space, and a school. According to Crain’s, the area’s Council Member, Hiram Monserrate, “remains opposed, saying he wants the administration to guarantee the inclusion of middle- and low-income housing units, require livable-wage jobs and agree not to use eminent domain to take over properties.”

WEST HARLEM, MANHATTAN

A message from the Coalition to Preserve Community:

COLUMBIA SPENT $2.3 MILLION LAST YEAR TO LOBBY FOR ITS WEST HARLEM EVICTION PLAN THEY CAN BUY THE POLITICIANS, BUT THEY STILL HAVE THE COMMUNITY TO DEAL WITH

Join the Coalition to Preserve Community’s March to Columbia 4/26

JOIN TOGETHER SATURDAY, APR. 26, 08
MEET TO MARCH AT ST. MARY’S CHURCH 12:30PM (521 West 126th Street)
DEMONSTRATION WITH STUDENTS ON THE CAMPUS 1:30PM (116 St campus plaza)

IT'S BEEN 40 YEARS SINCE COLUMBIA STUDENTS AND COMMUNITY RESIDENTS STOPPED THE CU GYM IN MORNINGSIDE PARK. LET'S SHOW CU THAT HARLEM IS STILL NOT FOR SALE. NO COLUMBIA EXPANSION IN WEST HARLEM. NO DESTRUCTION OF 125TH STREET. NO FORCED DISPLACEMENT OF BUSINESSES AND RESIDENTS. NO DANGEROUS BIOTECH LABS.

FOR MORE INFO ON THE “BATHTUB” CONSTRUCTION, VISIT THIS WEBSITE: www.biohazardonhudson.com

COME OUT. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

CONTACT US: Call (212) 666-6426, 646-812-5188, or (212) 234-3002 (se habla espanol) or go to www.stopcolumbia.org and sign up to be on our contact list.

Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

Forest City in the News

Even developers get in on the Earth Day action:

LA Daily News, L.A.'s green-building plan deserves praise
From an Earth Day op-ed by Kevin Ratner, President of Forest City Residential West:

The terms "sustainability" and "green" have become ubiquitous marketing terms with increasingly powerful brand presence, not only in Los Angeles and California but throughout the world. Unfortunately, these terms are being misused to promote many products and projects which may not be in fact sustainable over time. As consumers, the public has little information and background to determine if a product truly lives up to these environmental claims.

So, we need to be sure now that what gets measured and promised actually gets done. [Los Angeles] must commit the staff and resources necessary to achieve tangible and measurable results.

NoLandGrab: A great example of how the word "sustainability" has been "misused" is Forest City's sponsorship of "sustainable sculptures," where recyclable water bottles were reused to create sculptures. Wouldn't it have been more "sustainable" to just recycle the damn bottles and use materials that would normally have ended up in a landfill somewhere?

Baltimore Examiner, Businesses do their part for Earth Day

Younger employees are also expecting to work in green office environments, said Joe Wilke, senior construction manager for Forest City, which developed the 278,000-square-foot John G. Rangos Sr. Building in the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins in East Baltimore.

The building, which opened April 11, was built with heat-recovery flywheels to filter warm and cool air from the building, a white roofing system and high-efficiency lighting. The developer also paid to have recycling picked up from the building.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Shopping bag choices moving beyond just paper or plastic

Last weekend, the Mall at Robinson was one of 15 shopping centers owned by Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises to give out reusable canvas tote bags to customers who brought plastic bottles to recycle.

NoLandGrab: It's really nice that Forest City is jumping on the eco-bandwagon — every bit helps. Meanwhile, in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn, the Ratners are tearing down perfectly good buildings that have "SUSTAIN ME!" writen all over them. It's hard to take the eco-Ratners seriously — maybe they can buy a bundle of carbon offsets to assuage their guilt.

Posted by lumi at 4:15 AM

April 21, 2008

Lunch with Mike, Amanda and Patty

FourSeasons.jpg Lost City

SYNOPSIS: The Mayor does lunch by the pool at the Four Seasons with the Commishes of City Planning and Department of Buildings. Everything goes swimmingly until Atlantic Yards overdeveloper Bruce Ratner sends over a bottle of bubbly.

Click here for a laugh.

Posted by lumi at 8:30 PM

House of the Day: 58 6th Avenue

Brownstoner

What happens when a house that may have "no soul" is located in a neighborhood that's fighting to save its own?

58-6thAve.jpg

Character matters (as does the Atlantic Yards Effect).

...the new owner put it back on the market for $1,850,000 last July, where it sat for eight months. In early March the price was cut to $1,795,000 and in late March again to $1,695,000. More than a proximity to Ratner-land, the problem in our opinion is the renovation. It's got a bad case of personality disorder. As we've harped on again and again, a renovation that goes half-way to modern is likely to result in a house with no soul.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:17 PM

Barclay Center Blood Sport

Ultimate fighting has its proponents in Brooklyn

Courier Life Publications
By Stephen Witt

The new Barclay's Center, the home of NBA's Brooklyn Nets* that is expected to open sometime in 2010**, may also feature Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts.***

The UFC is the trademarked league that promotes and produces mixed martial arts fights that are growing nationally.†

While currently not legal in New York, the State Senate and Assembly are moving bills to officially sanction the sport. ††

I have talked with someone [from Forest City Ratner Companies — the Nets owners and Atlantic Yards developer] unofficially, but it's our understanding that the arena won't be built for another two or three years," said Marc Ratner, UFC vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs. †††
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FCRC spokesperson Joe DePlasco refused to comment on discussions involving the sport.

Click image to read the rest.

* Note: The team is still called the "New Jersey Nets."

** Everyone knows that there's no way the arena will be ready in 2010, despite the public protestations of developer Forest City Ratner.

*** Hence the "blood sport" headline, which Barclays Bank is probably not too thrilled about.

Does this sentence scream "I come from a press release," or what?

†† Because the State Legislature has nothing better to do?

††† So, Marc Ratner has a good idea that the arena won't be ready by 2010, but reporter Stephen Witt doesn't?

Posted by lumi at 7:43 PM

Exxon Mobil Second Worst Company to Sponsor McCarren Park Earth Day?

The Gowanus Lounge

There was a lot of irony and disagreement this weekend about the role that Exxon (and Forest City Ratner) played as sponsors of the Go Green Greenpoint Earth Day event in McCarren Park. Exxon is responsible for the monstrous oil spill under Greenpoint along Newtown Creek, less than one-third of which has been cleaned up after a half-century. There is a bit of a protest campaign and there was a protest and suggestions that making a fuss about it was inappropriate.

link

Also, "Protesting Exxon Mobil's Sponsorship of Go Green Greenpoint."

Posted by lumi at 6:39 PM

Dung Deal? Brooklyn Museum Protest Over Ratner Honor

A message from Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse:

From the folks who brought you “Condemned for Christmas” and “How to Rig a Public Hearing”, Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse presents “Dung Deal? Brooklyn Museum Protest Over Ratner Honor”, featuring Daniel Goldstein, Lucy Koteen, Gloria Matera, Chris Owens, Gersh Kuntzman and a lot of cute kids smart enough to know Ratner’s bad for Brooklyn!

On TV tomorrow, Tuesday (4/22/08), 8.00 pm Eastern on BCAT Time Warner 34 or CableVision 67 and again on TV tomorrow, Tuesday (4/22/08) 8.00 pm Eastern on BCAT Time Warner 34 or CableVision 67

Can’t wait for the broadcast, you can watch it now, via YouTube:

Posted by lumi at 5:54 PM

In Courier-Life, ACORN vs. de Blasio and some media conspiracy theories

Atlantic Yards Report

So what’s the news behind the Courier-Life chain’s odd article this week about housing advocacy group ACORN's confidence in Atlantic Yards? After all, we know--from a statement issued March 21 in the wake of the Atlantic Yards stall--that Forest City Ratner’s affordable housing partner ACORN had “every confidence” in the developer.

One piece of news involves NY ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis’s clash with Council Member Bill de Blasio, an ostensible ally who has emerged as a critic of the project. "I'm sure Mr. de Blasio is only reflecting the concerns from a very small portion of constituents,” Lewis told the newspaper, with great but unproven certainty. “However, he also has a constituency that is very supportive of Atlantic Yards."

The other involves the rather bizarre sequence posited by Courier-Life reporter Stephen Witt, in which critical media coverage is blamed on “opponents,” rather than a recognition that maybe a lead story in the New York Times has some fallout.

The article fails to convey two important pieces of news. First, the developer has flexible time, according to the State Funding Agreement: 6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years to build Phase 1, and an unspecified time to build the rest of the public. Second, the president of parent Forest City Enterprises has publicly stated that “we still need more” subsidies. Beyond that, there’s a huge backlog of projects seeking housing bonds.

(Oddly enough, the article at issue appears in the Carroll Gardens-Cobble Hill edition of the weekly newspaper, above, but not in the Park Slope edition, below, which circulates in Prospect Heights, where the project would be located. The front-page stories in the latter issue regarded Public Place, in Gowanus, and the Kahlil Gibran School, in Fort Greene. Go figure.)

Read the rest of the article, for tantilizing hints that Forest City Ratner might get special treatment for the affordable housing bonds and reporter Steven Witt's brutally weird parallel universe, where a beleagured Bruce Ratner is getting beaten up by a mighty anti-Atlantic Yards pr campaign, Councilman de Blasio is meeting with "the opponent bloggers" (um, WE were busy that night), and Ratner hopes to enlist the support of ultimate fighting fans in NYC.

NoLandGrab: You can't make this stuff up, though someone already did.

If Brownstoner and Gowanus Lounge are "the opponent bloggers," then what the frig is NoLandGrab supposed to be?

Note: We've carried the Courier-Life Atlantic Yards coverage in the past, but for some reason, the publication no longer posts these articles online, making the stories a little more difficult to access.

Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

Now he tells us: NYT's Ouroussoff criticizes "distorted reality" of project renderings

Atlantic Yards Report

GehryRenderingDeception.jpg

In an essay in yesterday's New York Times, headlined Now You See It, Now You Don’t, architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff finally took aim at the obvious, pointing out that architectural renderings are part of the marketing scheme for a major development, and that misleading and incomplete renderings produce a "distorted picture of reality" that "stifles what is supposed to be an open, democratic process."

Now he tells us.

Ouroussoff chooses for his example Tishman Speyer's Hudson Yards plan which he acknowledges "represents the norm," no worse and no better than its counterparts. Unmentioned, but implicitly in the same ballpark, is the Frank Gehry rendering of AY that the Times published on the front page 7/5/05, accompanying the article misleadingly headlined Instant Skyline Added to Brooklyn Arena Plan.
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Another distorted rendering released in May 2006 (right) showed the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building looming over the flagship Miss Brooklyn tower, even though at that time Miss Brooklyn was 108 feet taller and three times the bulk. As I wrote, when the plans were released, only the New York Observer's Matthew Schuerman pointed out the deceptive renderings.

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NoLandGrab: One of the more egregious examples is this familiar Atlantic Yards skyline rendering, which, once again, used perspective to trick the viewer into thinking that the Billyburg building was larger than it really was in relation to Frank Gehry's hedgerow of highrises.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

Divisive Willets Point plan up for review

Crain's NY Business

Breaking news in our backyard in one of the most serious domain controversies in the nation:

The city intends to certify the Willets Point and Hunters Point South plans into the land-use process on Monday, setting the stage for a seven-month battle as the projects are scrutinized by the communities, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

Willets Point business owners have been simmering since last May, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $3 billion plan that would displace them and remake the hardscrabble blocks near the Mets’ new Citi Field. There, the city would build 5,500 housing units, a hotel, a convention center and 2.2 million square feet of office and retail space.
...
The mayor’s economic development team has decided to press forward on Willets Point, despite many unresolved issues. The 61-acre redevelopment had been scheduled for certification in February, but the city temporarily backed off when City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens, withdrew his support. He remains opposed, saying he wants the administration to guarantee the inclusion of middle- and low-income housing units, require livable-wage jobs and agree not to use eminent domain to take over properties.

“They have now put a real short-term clock on this project,” says Mr. Monserrate. “And that clock begins to tick on Monday.”

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NoLandGrab: This would be a joke, if the City wasn't dead serious. After decades of failing to deliver basic city services to this neighborhood, New York City is conveniently declaring it "blighted" in order to remove small business owners via eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

April 20, 2008

Eliopoulos' personal film digs deep

eliopoulos4.08.jpg

Asbury Park Press

"GREETINGS FROM Asbury Park," which will have its premiere May 31 at the New Jersey International Film Festival at Rutgers University, is both a personal and a national story, said its filmmaker, Christina Eliopoulos of Eatontown.

Eliopoulos began making a movie in 2001 that was meant to be "an exploration of my family history" in Asbury Park and the changes the city had experienced during the course of 50 years.

But when her great-aunt Angie Hampilos, 92, was told by the city of Asbury Park that her home was in the zone slated for condemnation to make way for redevelopment, the movie took on a larger and more urgent perspective.
...
"The God's honest truth is that I had no idea when I started filming that this issue (of eminent domain) was so massive. But I did more research and I started getting phone calls and letters from people saying, "This is happening in Brooklyn. This is happening in Philadelphia.'

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Posted by amy at 4:34 PM

Reading Metropolis on infrastructure, preservation, and localism

metropolis4.08.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

The March issue of Metropolis magazine had three essays, under the rubric Local Flavors, that resonate with issues raised by Atlantic Yards and waterfront development. Collectively, they suggest a concern with infrastructure, preservation, and sustainable building that hasn't yet acquired criticial mass.
...
Roberta Brandes Gratz, in an essay headlined Urban Virtues: The values of historic preservation go far beyond the clichéd notions of nostalgia and NIMBYism, uses the example of the restoration of the Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side:
Restoring landmarks and renovating existing buildings provide all of the economic benefits inherent to localism; these strategies are also far more sustainable (in the truest sense) than most new construction. As architect Carl Elefante has said, “The greenest building is one that is already built.”

(This has already been said about the Ward Bakery, undergoing demolition for the AY project.)

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Posted by amy at 10:24 AM

April 19, 2008

Documentary City of Water screens today; a provocative look at NYC's waterfront dilemmas

aggarwala4.08.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report has in-depth coverage of "The half-hour documentary City of Water (video trailer and more here), produced by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA) and the Municipal Art Society (MAS), will be screened on Channel 13 today at 1:30 p.m." Here's an interesting bit about sewage (when is sewage NOT interesting??):

Rohit Aggarwala, director of the Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, talks about how we need a better transportation system and to beef up our capacity to handle CSOs, the combined sewer overflows that release untreated sewage after heavy rains. He suggests that the city's shellfish resources could also play a part in cleaning up the water.

Drew asserts: "New development should be linked to the capacity of our infrastructure to support it. And all of our treatment plants are already over capacity. As a society, we would want more sewage treatment plants, but no one wants it in their backyard."

(Note that a report prepared for Forest City Ratner and part of the Final Environmental Impact Statement asserts that, thanks to stormwater detention and water conservation/reuse, AY "would result in a net decrease in CSO volumes to the Gowanus Canal and a minimal increase in CSOs to the East River." The state review finds "no significant impacts;" community critics disagreed.)

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NoLandGrab: Anyone who has read the essays in "Brooklyn Was Mine" knows that Brooklyn's sewage system was once world renowned...

Posted by amy at 1:22 PM

Symbolism: Exxon is a Sponsor of McCarren Park Earth Day Event

greenpointoil.jpg

Gowanus Lounge

We woke up this morning to an email from a group called The Change You Want to See, that was widely distributed by the New York Action Network point out that today's Go Green! Greenpoint Earth Day festivities in McCarren Park have a number of interesting corporate sponsors. We'll start with the most ironic of them: ExxonMobil, which of course, is responsible for the horrific oil spill under Greenpoint along Newtown Creek. The spill is the largest in American history and the slow pace of the cleanup (which has stretch to nearly a half-century) is the topic of much local anger and controversy. Other sponsores include BP America, Waste Management and Forest City Ratner Company. The release we got said "These companies are no friend to our community, and no friend to the environment." A group calling itself Greenpoint SuperFUNd SuperFriendz is starting an online email campaign to send messages protesting the sponsorship and asking for faster action on the oil spill cleanup to City Council Members and Members of Congress.

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NoLandGrab: Although we're not convinced that this is real, it makes sense that FCR would make friends with other "green" companies. If you want a real earth day experience, head over to eco-eatery Habana Outpost today and tomorrow for their Earth Day Expo. While you're there you can puzzle over how a restaurant run off of solar panels could function in shadows...

Posted by amy at 1:07 PM

April 18, 2008

Three City Council members call for moratorium, but not a commitment to build project

Atlantic Yards Report

So, did City Council Members Letitia James, Bill de Blasio, and David Yassky all agree, as the Brooklyn Paper reported, that "construction at the Atlantic Yards site must be blocked until developer Bruce Ratner commits — in writing — to building the full state-approved project."

Not quite. The letter to Gov. David Paterson calls for more information to be shared, not a commitment, and notes that signatories have divergent views.

[Text of the letter after the jump]

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We write to express profound concern regarding recent reports that the residential and office towers in the Atlantic Yards project, including thousands of units of affordable housing, may be indefinitely delayed, while demolitions in anticipation of this construction continue to occur. We urgently request information regarding the revised project plan and timetable, and respectfully ask that you halt demolitions until such information is made available and reviewed by local elected officials.

According to the funding agreement between Forest City Ratner Companies and the Empire State Development Corporation, there is no commitment for the commencement of the construction for Phase II, and we further understand that the timetable for construction of Phase I may be delayed beyond the original estimate. Yet without such commitments, construction is moving forward, causing serious disruption to our communities and potentially leaving them in an empty, blighted state for an unknown number of years to come.

It is imperative that the public be made aware of the anticipated execution dates for the entirety Phase I and Phase II, including all promised units of affordable housing. On behalf of our constituents, we request that you immediately (i) inform the community of any changes to the General Project Plan concerning the plans for building the office and residential towers, and any impact this will have on the number of affordable housing units to be included in the project, (ii) provide the public with a projected timetable for the commencement of construction of Phases I and II, and (iii) immediately cease demolition activity until this information is shared with the public.

We note that the signatories to this letter hold a variety of views on the Atlantic Yards project overall, and may have other concerns beyond the scope of this letter. All of us, however, believe strongly that the requested information should be provided to the public as soon as possible.

Posted by eric at 4:05 PM

TRASHY WTC SECURITY

HOMELESS GUY FINDS KEY PLAN IN A CAN
New York Post
by Jeremy Olshan and Kevin Fasick

OK, we know that the World Trade Center and Atlantic Yards are two different projects, but if blueprints detailing the thickness of walls and the location of support beams in the Freedom Tower turn up in a SoHo trash can, should we really be taking Forest City Ratner spokesperson Bruce Bender's word that Atlantic Yards arena security plans are A-OK?

Two sets of confidential blueprints for the planned Freedom Tower, which is set to rise at Ground Zero, were carelessly dumped in a city garbage can on the corner of West Houston and Sullivan streets, The Post has learned.

Experts said the detailed, floor-by-floor schematics contain enough detail for terrorists to plot a devastating attack.

"Secure Document - Confidential," warns the title page on each of the two copies of the 150-page schematic that a homeless, recovering drug addict discovered in the public trash can.
...

As shocking as such dangerous lapses in security are, experts contend that they are bound to happen again.

"Outrageous security breeches like this amplify how vulnerable New Yorkers are," said Nicholas Casale, former head of security for the MTA.

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NoLandGrab: We're reminded that the numerous elected officials who demanded an independent security study of the Atlantic Yards project nearly six months ago have been completely ignored by the ESDC and law-enforcement officials.

And is it too much to add that Mike Fleming, the homeless gentleman who found the Freedom Tower plans, wouldn't be eligible for Atlantic Yards affordable housing — while a family earning $113,000 would?

Posted by eric at 3:21 PM

FCR, in e-newsletter, anxiously suggests readers "reach out" to elected officials

Atlantic Yards Report

When is a "done deal" not a done deal? When Forest City Ratner starts urging recipients of its electronic newsletter "to reach out to your local elected officials and remind them of the importance of Atlantic Yards." Norman Oder reads the tea leaves.

Time to reach out

Today's message concludes:
Significant progress is being made each day on the project, and Atlantic Yards and all of its affordable housing as well as thousands of jobs will be a reality for Brooklyn. We encourage you to reach out to your local elected officials and remind them of the importance of Atlantic Yards.

To me, that suggests some anxiety about how the "done deal" Atlantic Yards will be treated in the political process as it goes forward. Three City Council Members--Bill de Blasio, David Yassky, and Letitia James--have called for a moratorium on demolitions, as the Brooklyn Paper reported this week.

If that puts the developer on the defensive somewhat, surely a bigger challenge--and a reason to reach out to elected officials--is the developer's stated desire for more subsidies to complete the project.

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NoLandGrab: We encourage you to reach out to your electeds officials, too — to tell them to send Forest City Ratner and Atlantic Yards packing.

Posted by eric at 2:40 PM

Atlantic Yards is the Sore Thumb

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB plays "which of these things is not like the other" with today's New York Times editorial.

Five of the six are projects initiated by government and driven by government. Atlantic Yards, on the other hand, was initiated by Ratner and driven by Ratner. The project has been Ratner's baby from conception and if the developer can't make it happen, the state should use its "strong hand" to remove its support and push forward worthy and necessary projects over the Vanderbilt rail yards and elsewhere.

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NoLandGrab: Whoops! The Times's editorial board appears to have forgotten one other thing — Atlantic Yards is the only one of the six projects being developed by its business partner.

Posted by eric at 2:24 PM

On Second Thought...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB learns the hard lesson of "be careful what you wish for."

A couple of days ago we made an argument as to why numerous recent events and the 21 month lag since the last NY Times editorial on the Atlantic Yards proposal warranted a new editorial considering all of the new facts on the ground.

We take it back.

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NetsDaily offers its two cents, too.

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Reading between the lines of the Times editorial

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder parses today's Times editorial.

It's not exactly what Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn was advocating, but a round-up editorial in the New York Times today, headlined Construction and Hard Times, asserts
Work is slowing, stalling or stopped altogether on too many of the projects we hoped would transform some of the bleakest sections of the city.
(Emphasis added)

I'm not sure that the Atlantic Yards site (or even Penn Station) would qualify as "the bleakest," but the Times editorialist apparently hasn't been checking the un-bleak real estate market in Prospect Heights.

The AY mention

The editorial states:
Atlantic Yards The Nets arena appears to be moving ahead, but the centerpiece Miss Brooklyn building designed by Frank Gehry is likely to be delayed. A strong state hand could ensure that the project — with adequate lower-income housing — survives hard times.

Does "strong state hand" mean that the state should supply the mystery anchor tenant for Miss Brooklyn? Does it mean that the state should prioritize subsidies for the affordable housing (most of which would be "lower-income" than market but certainly not low-income) promised at Atlantic Yards? Do the flexible deadlines already established--6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years for Phase 1--suggest a strong hand?

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NoLandGrab: There are plenty, including some elected officials, who think a "strong state hand" should be giving Bruce Ratner a slap upside the head.

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

The six-year arena timetable surfaced in December 2006

Atlantic Yards Report

We sense a great disturbance in The Force... that slacker Norman Oder missed something:

I can't believe I and others missed it, but the news that Forest City Ratner has 6+ years to build the arena--six years after the end of litigation and delivery of the project site via eminent domain--wasn't exactly new.

It was on page 28 of the Modified General Project Plan (Part 2), issued and approved by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on 12/8/06. It was not, however, in the General Project Plan issued in July 2006, which got a lot more scrutiny.

ModGPP-6rys.gif

However, the other parts of the timetable--that the developer has 12+ years to build Phase 1 and an unspecified time to build Phase 2--were, indeed, first revealed in the recently-surfaced AY State Funding Agreement.

This much is clear: the ESDC, even while approving a plan "anticipated" to be completed in ten years, allowed for six years--including four years of delay resulting from force majeure events or significant financing snags--to build the arena.

So former FCR executive Jim Stuckey's affidavit filed on 4/27/07 in the environmental lawsuit, now on appeal, should be taken with a grain of salt. The petitioners had challenged the project's ten-year timetable, saying the state's environmental review lowballed the impacts of a much longer project.

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Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

"HOT HOT HOT"

VandyDeanCommSp.jpgNot to dampen a landlord's prospects to make a buck, but this listing from Prudential Douglas Elliman needs a little clarification (and a new photo after someone takes ten minutes to move the stuff to the other side of the room):

Vanderbilt Avenue
Prospect Heights
cross street: Dean Street

Style: Commercial
Rent:$4,700 per month

Commercial space in HOT HOT HOT Prospect Heights! Highly visible CORNER LOCATION on Vanderbilt Avenue, near the upcoming development in Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: This property is across the street from Phase 2 of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project. PHASE 2 HAS NO OFFICIAL TIMETABLE for construction, making "upcoming" accurate, like, in a geological timeframe.

Much of the property in Phase 2 is being flattened by Bruce Ratner and is sure to be plagued by demolition blight for years to come, which would definitely make nearly anything that moves into the corner space "highly visible" and a welcome improvement to the neighborhood.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

Losing a year a week

From "Under Cover," the Downtown Express's real estate column:

At this rate, the new K-8 school on Beekman St. may never open.

A month ago, Forest City Ratner was saying the Beekman St. school would open in 2009. Two weeks ago, the developer pushed the opening to 2010. And now this week, it sounds like the school might not open until 2011.

At a private meeting in Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver’s office, Bruce Ratner reps said the school will definitely be ready in 2010, but it could be too unsafe to let kids inside or near the building until 2011.

That’s because Ratner is also building a Frank Gehry-designed 76-story apartment tower above the school, and they’ll likely still be working on it come September 2010. It doesn’t take a star pupil to figure out that school children and high-rise construction sites aren’t a good mix.

Hardhats, anyone?

NoLandGrab: Don't forget that Ratner's Beekman St. school has been reported to be the most expensive school in NYC history

Also, though the project has received Liberty Bond financing, Ratner has NEVER officially unveiled renderings of the Frank Gehry-designed project.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Pols: Stop Bruce now

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Any construction at the Atlantic Yards site must be blocked until developer Bruce Ratner commits — in writing — to building the full state-approved project, three councilmembers said this week.

Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) made the demand in a letter to state officials this week, just two weeks after Ratner announced that the 16-skyscraper project has been significantly downsized and that most of the promised below-market-rate housing is no longer scheduled to be built.

According to Ratner, the project now only consists of a publicly financed basketball arena and two or three smaller residential buildings around it.

“We need something in writing from Forest City Ratner [that] confirms what will be built when,” DeBlasio told The Brooklyn Paper. “We need to stop until there is a clear plan. The plans have changed, at least according to Ratner himself, so why should demolitions continue?”

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Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Miss Brooklyn monologues

The Brooklyn Paper, Letter to the Editor

To the editor,

MissBrooklynRed.jpg

I have shown sketches of Frank Gehry’s “Miss Brooklyn” tower to dozens of people and almost everyone who sees it sees what I see: a vagina-shaped entrance that makes it appear that Miss Brooklyn is squatting on her knees at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues (“Gehry to Brooklyn Paper: Miss Brooklyn ain’t dead — in fact, she’s hotter than ever,” Web exclusive, April 4).

I think Gehry’s frontal design is, to put it discreetly, simply naughty. Could he be pulling this satirical trick on us similar to his “Ginger Rogers–Fred Astaire” building in Prague?

Could all of the people who have seen the rendering — architects, designers, students and faculty of design — be crazy?

Brent Porter, Clinton Hill

The writer is an architect and professor at Pratt Institute.

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

Ratner and the Brooklyn Museum: Perfect together

The Brooklyn Paper, Letter to the Editor

To the editor,

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Of course Bruce Ratner should not have been feted at the Brooklyn Museum (“Protesters call Bruce’s honor a ‘Dung Deal,’” April 12). His Atlantic Yards plan across from our splendid Williamsburgh Savings Bank building is an architectural nightmare (never mind that the city does not need another sports arena).

But the honor for Ratner makes sense, given that Arnold Lehman of the Brooklyn Museum has offered up his own horror —his ill-proportioned, multi-million-dollar glass snout on a Beaux Art building. That new entrance looks as if it’s still a construction site.

More important, entire galleries in the Museum have been cleared of works of art — treasures that rival those of the Metropolitan Museum — to make way for the occasional gaudy show of modern nonsense. Real curators have been fired, and the publicity department seems to be running the galleries.

Oh, dear.

Every time I renew my membership to the Brooklyn Museum (to which my father used to take me from the time I could toddle, over 50 years ago!), I hold my nose in disgust and hope Arnold Lehman will retire soon.

So is it any wonder that Ratner and Lehman have discovered each other?

Barbara Minakakis, Ditmas Park

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

In Harlem and Coney Island, major compromises before zoning approval

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday the New York Times reported that the Bloomberg administration has revised its redevelopment plan for Coney Island to get current landowners and elected officials onboard.

On Wednesday, the Times reported that Harlem's three City Council members had agreed to a compromise plan that would lower the height of new buildings allowed under a rezoning, increased the amount of affordable housing, and provide some help to displaced businesses.

Fair deals? I can't be sure. (The Brooklyn Paper praised the Coney compromise.) But it's notable that the political process--the need to get a rezoning through City Council--forced changes, in both cases much larger compromises than, say, the 6-8% scaleback proffered (and overplayed by the New York Times) before the Atlantic Yards project received state approval.

Norman Oder imagines what if... link

Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

Defining ULURP

The Brooklyn Paper's cautiously positive editorial on the new plans for Coney Island includes this noteworthy definition of NYC's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP):

...the city’s rigorous land-use review process — where the public, elected officials and bona-fide city planners could hack away at it until it was honed to perfection.

It’s this very public-review process that the borough’s other mega-project, Atlantic Yards, was allowed to skirt — to that project’s, and the public’s, great disservice.

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

Construction and Hard Times

The NY Times

Just this week, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn called on the Times to editorialize on the controversial Atlantic Yards plan in the face of major construction delays and revelations about more subsidies to come.

Today's editorial on the state of NYC megaprojects sponsored by the Empire State Development Corporation is a likely indicator of where the paper stands on the largest single-source private development project in the city's history.

Work is slowing, stalling or stopped altogether on too many of the projects we hoped would transform some of the bleakest sections of the city.

The faltering economy is a big factor, but there is also a lack of leadership. The leader of the Empire State Development Corporation quit along with Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former governor.

A committee of marquee name business leaders that was formed to find a replacement has just begun its search, but it needs to act quickly. There are far too many important projects in need of the support and direction of a top-flight developer and negotiator.
...
Atlantic Yards The Nets arena appears to be moving ahead, but the centerpiece Miss Brooklyn building designed by Frank Gehry is likely to be delayed. A strong state hand could ensure that the project — with adequate lower-income housing — survives hard times.

NoLandGrab: "Strong state hand" and "adequate low-income housing" — nuff said?

We're fairly certain that Bruce Ratner has nominated acting CEO Avi Schick for the job. ["Meet Avi Schick, New York's New Steamroller"]

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

The Stoop

From The Brooklyn Paper (emphasis added):

Bay Ridge: Beloved comic David Brenner — the thinking man’s Seinfeld — will headline Lutheran Medical Center’s 125th anniversary dinner dance on May 10. True, the event is in Gaphattan, but it raises money for a good cause: Lutheran Hospital ER department! Our pals at Forest City Ratner are also supporting the gala, which honors Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

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From the press release:

"Next to our soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, I can't imagine a more winning team than Lutheran HealthCare and Brett Yormark," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. "Brett has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for the return of professional sports to Brooklyn—spearheading the Nets' move to a new arena at Atlantic Yards. And just as our borough will benefit from Brett's vision and extraordinary leadership, so will Lutheran HealthCare as it continues to provide its patients with the very best health care available."

"Because this is such an important year for Lutheran, we wanted to select a corporate honoree who best represents the energy and excitement of Brooklyn's future," said Wendy Z. Goldstein, president and CEO, LHC. "Mr. Yormark and Nets Sports and Entertainment LLC do that and much more. We are honored to have his support and we are delighted to welcome him to Brooklyn and to the Lutheran HealthCare family. It is going to be a wonderful evening."

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

April 17, 2008

High crime in the footprint? Officers head, instead, to the mall

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember the Empire State Development Corporation's Blight Study? Its claims of high crime in the Atlantic Yards footprint were dubious, as I wrote in July 2006, and Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden, in her January dismissal of the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, punted on assessing the issue.

NoLandGrab: The "Blight Study" justified the State's use of eminent domain to convey private property to developer Bruce Ratner, who incidentally owns the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center Malls.

Precinct88SectorE.gif

Well, now comes a piece of evidence that further challenges the study's claims. The Daily News, in a story published Tuesday on a "crime wave" in Clinton Hill, reports:

The need for a police presence at the Atlantic Terminal Mall is also cutting into the ranks of officers policing the community, the source said.

Norman Oder goes back to NY State's original blight study report, which concluded that based on crime data "obtained from the security staff at the shopping centers... no robberies occurred that year at Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal," therefore, "the high crime rate in sector 88E is more likely a result of crimes occurring on the project site than in Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal."

And now, thanks to that police source, we learn that the police are concentrating on a mall that gets a lot of foot traffic, which certainly makes sense.

Could it be that mall security staff, whose records indicate that only one incident of grand larceny--theft of property of more than $250 in value--occurred during a year, according to the Blight Study, might be fudging the books?

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Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

"Street Fight," Sharpe James, and some Newark echoes in Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

StreetFight.jpg

Even before the fraud conviction yesterday of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, Marshall Curry's riveting 2005 documentary Street Fight, about Council Member Cory Booker's 2002 challenge to longtime mayoral incumbent James, was essential viewing--and with some implications for Atlantic Yards watchers, especially regarding the performance of the press.

Now that Booker was elected in 2006 and James convicted, Curry's non-neutral but essentially honest investigation reminds us of the inability of the mainstream press, too often wedded to "he said, she said" modes of reporting, to convey the sleaziness of the James administration.
...
Asked in an interview posted on Alternet about how candidates get away with such bad behavior, Curry responded:

One thing that frustrated me so much in both the Newark election and the last presidential election is the mainstream media tries to cover elections in a way that they consider to be fair but that in fact is a distortion of reality. They try to say, "Well, George Bush said this, John Kerry said this" or "Cory Booker said this, Sharpe James said this." And they don't analyze whether one side is telling the truth. They just allow themselves to be mouthpieces for the two campaigns. And I think that they do that because that is what the audience assumes is fair. In fact, I think the media needs to be like a referee. A good referee doesn't call the same number of fouls on both sides; a good referee calls fouls when there are fouls.

If you thought that Atlantic Yards politics were hardball, check out the rest of the article: a camera is barred from a mayoral debate that gets physical, Reverend Al Sharpton struts his stuff and Newark, like Brooklyn, remains in the shadows of the largest media market in the world.

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Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

Time for a Times Editorial on Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) lays out the case for a very belated Section-A editorial on Atlantic Yards:

The paper editorialized on the project three times, always in the "City" section....

Looking at what has occurred just in the past month, the past 21 months surely must have changed opinionmakers' minds, particularly on the concerns expressed in the three previous editorials, and the information in the two pieces in the paper's own pages on March 21.

Click here to read the incredible litany of revelations from merely the past 27 days.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report agrees with DDDB, but notes that the paper has also been leaving some important news reporting on the cutting-room floor.

However, given that several of the stories cited (by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn) --including the desire for more public subsidies, criticism from a City Council Member, and an attempt to assess the public cost and subsidies--haven't appeared in the Times at all, I'd suggest that more reporting is the first order of business.

Also, how about reporting on the long leash the developer has to build the project, according to the State Funding Agreement? How about a rigorous attempt to assess the public costs and subsidies for the project, taking off from the New York Post article that got a lot of tongues wagging?

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

Atlantic Yards Subsidies Might Total $2 Billion

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice]
By Duncan Meisel

The Voice's daily blog published a recent-news wrap for Atlantic Yards, covering subsidies, more subsidies and architecture critic Diana Lind's scathing takedown of Bruce Ratner's controversial megaproject.

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Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

Massive Sustainable Sculptures Unveiled Nationwide on April 19

Fox Business

You know that the adjective "sustainable" has been rendered nearly meaningless when it's attached to the noun "sculpture" in a press release from the Ratners at Forest City Enterprises.

waterbottles.jpg

A sea turtle, cherry blossom tree, and a Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel are among the fifteen sustainable sculptures created from more than 10,000 recycled plastic water bottles that will be unveiled at shopping centers around the country in celebration of Earth Day.
...
These massive sculptures (up to 10 ft. high) will be unveiled on April 19 at fifteen Forest City retail centers from Chicago to Atlanta to Denver and Las Vegas, turning a regular Saturday shopping day into a day of planet preservation. Shoppers will also be entertained and educated with everything from eco-fashion shows, green cooking demonstrations, sustainable stories at children's story time and crafting from reusable materials. Environmental groups and local organizations will also be on hand to offer tips in their fields at their green booths.

"The Eco-Chic celebration is a fun and educational way for us to practice a company core value -- sustainability -- and extend it to the communities we serve," said Jon Ratner, vice president of sustainability initiatives, Forest City, owner of all 15 participating retail centers. "Preserving our planet for future generations is everyone's job. This is our effort to keep the focus on how each of us can help," he added.

NoLandGrab: Just because something is re-used or recycled, doesn't mean it's "sustainable." Were the bottles rinsed by "grey water," are the sculptures being transported by "grass-fed" oxen?

When a Ratner uses the term "Eco-Chic," start running. There are buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint that are screaming "SUSTAIN ME!" Instead, the Ratners are tearing them down as fast as they can.

Posted by lumi at 4:12 AM

New Ballpark in Washington Anchors an Area’s Revival

The NY Times
By Eugene L. Meyer

The coming of the $611 million publicly financed stadium for Washington’s National League team has coincided with — and, many say, accelerated — a striking change in a long-languishing area less than a mile from Capitol Hill.
...
Five historic buildings on the base were declared surplus and are planned to become the Yards, a mix of condominiums, restaurants and shops on 42 acres scheduled for completion in 2010 by the Cleveland-based Forest City.

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Posted by lumi at 3:55 AM

April 16, 2008

Answers About Brooklyn Architecture

City Room (The New York Times Blog)

Diana Lind, author of "Brooklyn Modern: Architecture, Interiors & Design," answers questions from readers. She most definitely has not drunk The Times's Kool-Aid when it comes to Atlantic Yards.

Q: Speaking of Atlantic Yards, what does Ms. Lind think of this megadevelopment, and its potential effects on Brooklyn life?

— Posted by matt

A: Living in Fort Greene half a block from Atlantic Avenue, I’ve thought a lot about the Atlantic Yards project and its potential impact on life in Brooklyn. Certainly the site merits some kind of development, but I’m opposed to the Ratner plan as it stands now for a few reasons. I take umbrage at the project’s vast, uninterrupted scale; its street closings; its miserable sense of public space (when was the last time you threw a Frisbee on a private building’s lawn?); and most recently, revelations of its more than $2 billion worth of tax write-offs and subsidies from the government, according to the New York Post. Though the project has promoted the fact that it’s going to create jobs and housing, the scheme of using public money to finance this endeavor sounds like robbing Peter and Paul to pay Mary (sorry, the pope’s coming to town).

But I also have aesthetic qualms with the project. I don’t think any one architect should be in charge of designing 22 acres of any city. In a March 21 article by the New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, the project’s uncertain status is lamented. Mr. Ourousoff points to the importance of great planning projects like Rockefeller Center (roughly the same size as Atlantic Yards). But Rockefeller Center was developed by a team of architects; Atlantic Yards will not be. Gehry is good at what he does, and as others have noted his voluptuous style would nicely contrast with the phallic bank building, but more than seven million square feet of his outlandish style (of any architect’s style) starts to look pretty tacky and boring, no matter the context.

So, if the project goes ahead as it’s planned now, how this will affect life in Brooklyn? A lot. Irreversibly. It will complete Brooklyn’s transformation from a post-industrial residential borough to a city unto itself and will extend Downtown Brooklyn to Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Boerum Hill.

Spending time in Brooklyn now, one senses the borough’s promise and mutability. When and if Atlantic Yards is completed, I think many people will feel an enormous opportunity was lost on a not particularly innovative project. If I were in charge of the development site, I’d scrap the plan, build a platform over the railyards, and auction off small parcels of the site to varied developers, cultural organizations and schools. The diversity of approaches to the parcels would mimic the city’s naturally haphazard development process and allow for more community involvement.

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NoLandGrab: Better hurry up and take a screen shot of this piece, since we don't think we'll be seeing such unvarnished criticism of Atlantic Yards in the pages of the Times's print edition any time soon.

Atlantic Yards Report, Answers About Brooklyn Architecture, criticism of AY

Norman Oder must must have been rendered speechless, since he posted the passage we cited above sans comment.

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

Nets Are Moving, but Their Direction Remains Unclear

The New York Times
by Howard Beck

More wishful thinking — and lack of credulity — on the timing of a new arena in Brooklyn.

In the renamed arena next to the construction zone near the turnpike, the Nets played their final home game — a nondescript team in a nondescript parking lot, in search of a new identity and a new home.

They are no longer the Nets of Jason Kidd and are only nominally, temporarily, the team of New Jersey. They are not going to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Like the half-built entertainment complex next to the Izod Center, the Nets are in a messy state of transition.

In two years, they hope to be playing in a sparkling new building near downtown Brooklyn. By then, they also hope to be back among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

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NoLandGrab: In two years, it will be 2010, and the only sparkling new building in which the Nets might be playing will be in Newark.

Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Councilman wants Atlantic Yards demolition halted - for now

NY Daily News
by Jotham Sederstrom

The News follows up on comments made to bloggers Monday evening by Brooklyn Beep candidate Bill de Blasio.

Point:

A Brooklyn councilman who has been supportive of the controversial Atlantic Yards project has called for a moratorium on the struggling basketball arena plan.

Councilman Bill de Blasio bashed developer Forest City Ratner for keeping government subsidies hidden and not telling residents about construction delays.

"I've been frustrated in general by the lack of communication by Forest City Ratner for years, and it seems to me it's only gotten worse, not better," said de Blasio, who is running for borough president.

Counterpoint:

Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Bruce Bender argued in a statement that the project has been transparent but did not address the developer's refusal to publicly reveal aspects of public funding and security concerns involving the plan.

"Atlantic Yards has been reviewed and debated extensively for over five years, including two public hearings before the City Council, multiple other state public hearings and hundreds of public meetings," Bender said in the statement.

"As the Council member knows, all of Atlantic Yards, including all of the affordable housing, will be built, and any delays in the construction phase will result in delays in delivering the thousands of units of affordable housing and thousands of jobs that Atlantic Yards will create."

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NoLandGrab: Bruce, you ignorant.... But we digress. Why is Bill de Blasio the last to know that Forest City Ratner couldn't be trusted? If politicians of his ilk had been more skeptical about Atlantic Yards from the outset, we wouldn't be in this mess now. Still, we're glad that de Blasio is speaking up.

As for Bruce Bender: "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." Is it possible that he's been faxing out the same statement for the past three years?

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Reading between the lines: Ratner may seek $163M (or more) in subsidies for the railyard

Atlantic Yards Report

We know that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner intends on seeking more direct subsidies for the controversial megaproject. But we still don't know how much and what the justification might be.

Norman Oder may have stumbled over a clue:

MoneyGiveaway-sm.jpg

What did Chuck Ratner, president of Forest City Enterprises (FCE), mean when he told investment analysts two weeks ago that "we still need more" subsidies for Atlantic Yards?

I can't be sure, but documents submitted by FCE's subsidiary Forest City Ratner (FCR) hint that the developer might seek reimbursement for $163 million (likely more) spent on "extraordinary infrastructure costs"--mainly the platform, but also including planned open space--at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.

Why do I draw that conclusion? Because FCR once claimed that it was absorbing those extraordinary infrastructure costs, part of its investment in the project.

In a court document, FCR dropped that claim. Thus it's reasonable to speculate that the developer will seek reimbursement from the public.

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Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

De Blasio's (late) AY conversion and the need for oversight

Atlantic Yards Report

While other bloggers captured what Bill de Blasio said about Atlantic Yards on Monday evening, Norman Oder provides some important historical context from the last time the City Councilman held court with local bloggers:

I missed de Blasio's meet-up with Brooklyn bloggers Monday night--I was at a Municipal Art Society panel on planning--but I think a little skepticism is in order.

After all, he's long supported the project, despite expressing qualms. NoLandGrab noted yesterday that de Blasio was facing blowback for his support of the "toothless" Community Benefits Agreement.

As I wrote, after a long exchange with de Blasio at a meeting last fall, he sounded way out of touch when he said, “In retrospect, I don’t think anyone expected Forest City Ratner to be so untransparent.”

After all, as I noted, the developer has produced at least six disingenuous political brochures, launched the Brooklyn Standard “publication,” and required those selling property to sign gag orders.

As for de Blasio saying he wants "something in writing from Forest City Ratner to tell us if there has been a change and if there's been a change we need to revisit it," well, as noted on GL, the State Funding Agreement gives Ratner a lot of slack: 6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years to build Phase 1, and an unspecified amount of time to build the rest of the project.

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Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Is Frank going Gehrazy?

International starchitect and Atlantic Yards designer Frank Gehry is no longer suffering from the run-of-the-mill diva complex. Recent comments from critics and the master himself make us wonder if he's gone off the deep end.

Gehrazy.gif Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn concludes that Gehry sounds "fed up" in comments made at Yale University. Maybe he's fed up, or could it be paranoia?

“Cities are filled with bad buildings and nobody complains,” he said. “But if I do a building, there’s all sorts of protests.”

Such opposition has presented hurdles for Gehry’s work — including the plan for the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn that he first presented some five years ago and that has since changed dramatically.

“I’m supposedly doing 20 or 30 buildings in Brooklyn, but at this point I doubt if it’ll ever all happen,” Gehry acknowledged on Friday.

Either Gehry is being blasé, or he's really losing count of how many buildings he's designing for the largest single-source private development project in NYC history. Typically, regular folks try to mask early signs of dementia.

Gehry is clearly in denial, as most narcissists are, in this quote run by New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer:

Have they got things against me?” he asked. “No, it’s against Bruce. You know, when Bilbao was in the model stage, when I was presenting it, I went to Bilbao and there were 300, 400 people with little candles stretched out in three rows, and I had to walk through them to get into the building, and they were protesting me. They published a fatwa in the paper saying ‘Kill the American architect.’ So I’m sort of used to it.” He also suspects his critics will become converts. “Now I go to Bilbao and they kiss me,” he said. “I think the same thing will happen here.”

Selophane.blog gets to the point:

Now Frank Gehry has envisioned himself as the new Pope, when working ex-catia he is a man that can do no wrong.

Dearest Frank:

We don't know whatever gave you the impression that we don't appreciate all that you are trying to do for us. Please know that we all LOVE you and that we're truly sorry and saddened that you feel this way. We understand that creating a "neighborhood practically from scratch" is hard work and you have to be a supergenius, like yourself, to do it. Everyone knows that your Atlantic Yards design has captured the "body language of Brooklyn," so please don't give up on us now.

xoxo

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

The Bell is Ringing

Supersonic Soul

The very same sound of subsidies being sucked up by NJ Nets team owner Bruce Ratner can be heard in other cities fortunate enough to host an NBA team.

MoneyDrain02.jpg

...what is happening to the Sonics in Seattle is happening – on another level – to all NBA teams in all NBA cities.

In New Orleans, where a city bludgeoned by unspeakable tragedy is paying $7.5 million a season in taxpayer money to keep the Hornets from fleeing. You read that right. The Hornets, a team owned by a man, George Shinn, whose net worth of $100 million neglects to include his $275 million basketball team, receives nearly $8 million every year from the people of New Orleans.
...
It is happening in San Antonio, where the model of success for the NBA, the Spurs, turns around and asks the city for more concessions and more money, less than five years after receiving a brand-new building, the same building they received because the brand-new building they received in 1993, the Alamodome, was obsolete within a decade.

It is happening in Brooklyn, where the subsidy figure for the Nets’ Atlantic Yards project has now reached the $2 billion mark, and shows no sign of stopping.

All of this has been occurring while America is in on the verge of entering (if it has not already entered) a tremendous recession....

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Posted by lumi at 4:31 AM

Times Building Continues to Discourage Bike Commuting

NYTBike.jpg StreetsBlog fingers The New York Times Corporation for cracking down on bicycle commuters, but keep in mind that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner developed and co-owns the Renzo Piano-designed building, which originally was supposed to be loaded with environmentally friendly features.

In the latest episode of the New York Times Building vs. bike commuters saga, building management is tagging chained bikes with notes threatening to clip and "remove" them.

After being promised space in the new, 1.5 million square foot building, cyclists were barred from bringing their bikes in for months. Management finally opened a small room with enough space for 20 bikes, which, not surprisingly, is apparently not enough. Rather than meet demand for bike storage in its "green" building, it looks like the Times is again taking a hard line against clean commuting.

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NoLandGrab: Ha, judging from the photo, the building itself makes an excellent bike rack.

Posted by lumi at 4:02 AM

April 15, 2008

De Blasio blasts Ratner, Calls for Moratorium on Demolitions

Bill de Blasio is mad as hell, and he wants to know why the rug has been pulled out from under Atlantic Yards' promised affordable housing. The Gowanus Lounge and Brownstoner share the scoop from last night's blogger meet-up with the Council Member.

The Gowanus Lounge, De Blasio Calls for Moratorium on Atlantic Yards Demolition

City Council Member and Brooklyn Borough President candidate Bill de Blasio is calling for a moratorium on demolition in the Atlantic Yards footprint. Mr. de Blasio made comments deeply critical of possible changes in the huge project as part of a wideranging discussion last night that covered everything from construction safety as developers race to beat changes in the 421a tax break program to zoning issues in Gowanus and Carroll Gardens.
...

On Atlantic Yards, Mr. de Blasio said, "I am livid at the New York Times interview with Ratner" in which the developer announced that the project would be scaled back and that massive amounts of affordable housing would be seriously delayed or eliminated. "There was no discussion with the community before he went on record," Mr. de Blasio said, adding that the changes put "the entire community benefits agreement up for question."

Brownstoner, De Blasio Blasts Ratner on AY Obfuscation

The Councilman also said that he thinks the entire development should be reviewed again by the state if Forest City Ratner is now conceiving of a vastly different project, particularly one that reneges on its promised affordable housing. "I held out hope for the project because of the amount of affordable housing it would create, as well as the number of jobs it would bring," he said. "But I have been constantly disappointed in the lack of community involvement...I've never seen anything that's been mismanaged so fundamentally in terms of community involvement."

NoLandGrab: What Council Member de Blasio is overlooking is that there really hasn't been any discussion with the community ever, and that early support for the toothless and barely enforceable Community Benefits Agreement by him and other politicians has now come home to roost.

Additional coverage:

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Stall: Another Call for a Demolition Moratorium

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

West Side plans in disarray; what about AY?

Atlantic Yards Report

An article in The New York Times prompts Norman Oder to compare the Atlantic Yards fiasco to the Hudson Yards disarray:

Yesterday, in an article headlined West Side Redevelopment Plans in Disarray, the New York Times described a harsh reality that has some interesting echoes in Brooklyn:

Because of the economic downturn, logistical problems and, critics say, design flaws, the expansion of the Javits Center has died, the plan to rebuild Penn Station and the area around it is in jeopardy and there are deep questions about financing, public and private, to extend the subway or build over the railyards. ...But many urban planners, architects, community leaders and developers say the downturn may have a silver lining, providing an opportunity for the city to rethink and reconfigure sweeping proposals many of them had doubts about all along.

The article didn't mention Atlantic Yards, but there are some comparisons and contrasts worth considering.

The full article briefly examines the developer selection process, increased density around transit hubs, public costs and the Regional Plan Association's position.

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Billions of Bucks for Bruce

Yesterday, the NY Post published an article that tried to analyze the full cost to the public of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards land grab.

Local coverage of the story:

www.dddb.net, Ratner's Corporate Welfare

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

It's not quite news that Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal is a big burden on city and state taxpayers by way of direct subsidies, breaks and government-backed financing.

The Brooklyn Paper, BREAKING NEWS: Post reports Ratner’s Yards subsidies at $2.1 billion!

Monday’s New York Post reported a story that is quite familiar to Brooklyn Paper readers: That Bruce Ratner’s $4-billion Atlantic Yards project is floating on more than $2.1 billion in taxpayer subsidies.

The Post story followed up The Brooklyn Paper, which reported this week that Ratner is about to ask for more subsidies in light of his recent admission that the project is in trouble.

Brownstoner, You Pay and the Nets Will Play

Forest City Ratner is poised to get $2,157,260,000 in tax subsidies for Atlantic Yards, according to an article in this morning's Post, but even that may not be enough dough from public coffers.

From the comments:

Wow, no kidding, a zero risk sweetheart deal for the developer? Really?

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Math: Will Half of $4B Cost Be Paid by Public?

The subject of how much Atlantic Yards will cost the public has always been a political football. Supporters have said the support would be modest. Opponents have argued that taxpayers would get taken to the cleaners. Today, Rich Calder takes a swipe at the topic in the Post and finds that the project is "boosted by so many sweetheart deals that the public stands to pay for more than half the cost of his controversial $4 billion plan."

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

For public discussion of development, Brooklyn needs a venue

Atlantic Yards Report

On top of the fact that Norman Oder must be getting tired of schlepping to Manhattan to attend panel discussions about Brooklyn, the Mad Over-Attender of such panels makes a good point that this level of public discourse should be fostered locally.

Brooklyn needs a place where controversial issues can be ventilated publicly. After all, the frequent discourse that has Brooklyn neighborhoods designated the nation's "bloggiest" deserves to surface in real time.

There are places for discourse, among them the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Center for the Study of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College (and other academic institutions), and events sponsored by community boards, the Borough President, civic groups, and neighborhood groups like the Fort Greene Association and the Park Slope Civic Council. And Brooklyn Community Access Television (BCAT) produces a good number of public affairs shows.

However, Brooklyn, given its population of more than 2.5 million, would be the country's fourth-largest city if independent. It deserves its own equivalent of MAS or MCNY, just as it deserves much more press coverage.

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NoLandGrab: it's hard to argue with Oder's point of view, but something tells us that many of the obvious venues in Brooklyn feel they must kowtow to the politicans and developers who seem to be setting the agenda in Brooklyn these days.

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

Forest City in the News

The Johns Hopkins University Gazette, New Era Begins in East Balto

The first building has opened in the Johns Hopkins Technology and Science Park, developed by the Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership.

Ad Hoc News, Robert Falls & Co. Public Relations Announces Move to Terminal Tower

A public relations company issues a press release announcing that it is moving to one of Forest City's signature highrises in Cleveland.

Fresno Bee, Hopefuls give downtown visions

Forest City Enterprises' controversial downtown revitalization project in Fresno is a hot-button issue in the mayoral campaign.

Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

April 14, 2008

No-risk arena: NY Post estimates "Net" loss of '$2B in taxes"

Norman Oder takes us step by step through the details of today's NY Post story about the incredible subsidies needed to build the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

The sweetheart deal, the payments in lieu of taxes, they're all described here in loving detail.

Oder also points out the fact that the article, as it appears in print, only contains portions of the complete version posted on the Post's website.

Here's an important detail missing from the print version:

The rest of the article didn't appear in print, and it contained some of the most important news: Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) warned that Ratner must deliver what was promised when the state approved the project in December 2006.

"All the big projects -- the 7-line, downtown Manhattan, Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards -- they're all hanging by a tread, and the notion the taxpayers are going to invest money while the developers don't meet their commitments, if that's what people expect, there is going to be a fight about it," said Brodsky, who chairs the Assembly committee that oversees state entities that approved these projects.

Spokespersons for the city and state said it's unclear whether Ratner would receive more subsidies if he asked, adding it would need to be reviewed. But some Brooklyn-based council members have said their dead set against giving Ratner more cash.

If "it's unclear," that means the door is still open and, given that new elected officials eventually will emerge, the "Atlantic Yards permanent campaign" is hardly over.

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Posted by steve at 9:18 AM

The Prospect Heights Historic District nudges forward

Atlantic Yards Report

The City's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) held a public meeting last Wednesday in Prospect Heights (the neighborhood in which the proposed Atlantic Yards is located), as part of the process to establish a Prospect Heights Historic District.

Norman Oder covered the meeting, which was called by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC). The threat of Atlantic Yards influenced some of the discussion that meeting attendees had with Kate Daly, the LPC’s executive director.

Some residents wondered, essentially, why now. “You didn’t stop Ratner,” one said. “You didn’t stop the [Richard Meier] glass building on Grand Army Plaza.”

“It’s not to stop development,” Daly replied. “It’s to preserve a sense of place.”
...

Later, the issue recurred, when an audience member said, “I don’t see anything in this process that helps protect” against a development like Atlantic Yards.

An audience member responded that, as of now, someone could knock down five contiguous buildings and construct something quite out of scale.

Still, some were concerned that the process couldn’t protect, for example, against shadows caused by giant buildings on the border of the district, buildings that sounded a lot like Atlantic Yard.

“We’re not able to stop development outside the boundaries,” Daly acknowledged. “But this would be a tremendous accomplishment.”

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Posted by steve at 8:27 AM

Your 'Net' Loss

nypostratner.jpg

New York Post
by Rich Calder

The Post fills us in regarding the more than $2 billion in public costs for the proposed Atlantic Yards project, and how we might expect to pay even more.

Developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is boosted by so many sweetheart deals that the public stands to pay for more than half the cost of his controversial $4 billion plan, a Post analysis found.

The project - which would bring an NBA arena and 16 residential and office towers to Prospect Heights - is in line to receive at least $2,139,890,000 worth of government subsidies, according to project records and interviews with past and present state and city officials.

And the developer is gearing up to ask for even more corporate welfare.

The president of Ratner's parent company said in a conference call with investors last week that the project will "still need more" subsidies.

The state and city say Ratner has yet to ask for extra assistance, but the developer last month admitted that a sagging economy is holding up construction of the project's residential and office space.

Among the biggest revelation of the Post analysis is what project skeptics have feared for years - that Ratner can build the planned 18,000-seat arena for his New Jersey Nets to move to with little financial risk.

"The setup is basically like paying taxes on your home and then having the government use that money to help you pay off your mortgage," said Michael D.D. White, a former vice president and top lawyer for the state finance authorities.

The story features a handy, itemized list of Atlantic Yards subsidies:

RATNER'S NETS GAIN

PROJECTED ATLANTIC YARDS SUBSIDIES (SAVINGS TO BRUCE RATNER)

  1. Arena real estate tax savings through 30-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with state = $1,032,740,000*

  2. Taxes saved on $1.406 billion federal-state-local tax-free bonds to create affordable housing = $261.25 million*

  3. Cash from New York City for infrastructure and/or land acquisition costs = $205 million

  4. Taxes saved on estimated $1.032 billion fed-state-local tax-free bonds to finance $950 million arena = $191.9 million*

  5. Tax credits through special 421-a "carve out" state legislation = $150 million

  6. Savings from purchase of Atlantic Rail Yards at price less than MTA appraisal= $114.5 million

  7. Cash from New York State for infrastructure costs= $100 million

  8. Mortgage recording tax exemption (on residential buildings) = $39.37 million*

  9. Value of city land under arena given to developer= $27.1 million*

  10. Potential tax credits for low-income housing units= $18 million*

  11. Sales tax exemptions (only arena) = $17.4 million*

  12. Sale tax exemptions (other than arena) = Undetermined

  13. Extra funds for "extraordinary infrastructure costs"= Undetermined

  14. Credits for public utilities relocation= Undetermined

GRAND TOTAL=AT LEAST $2,151,890,000

*Estimations by Michael D.D. White, an urban planner and former top lawyer for New York State's finance authorities, after reviewing public documents. Other figures based New York Post examination of state records and interviews with government officials.

Note: Atlantic Yards is estimated to cost $4 billion.

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Posted by steve at 6:16 AM

At 79, miracle-worker Gehry still going strong

Yale Daily News
by Paul Needham

Frank Gehry, Atlantic Yards starchitect, lectured at Yale last Thursday. Among his observations of a life in architecture is this assessment of the state of Atlantic Yards:

“I’m supposedly doing 20 or 30 buildings in Brooklyn, but at this point I doubt if it’ll ever all happen,” Gehry acknowledged on Friday.

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NoLandGrab: Sometimes, less is more.

Posted by steve at 6:00 AM

New Bloomberg Job Rumor Is Followed by a Denial

The New York Times
By Fernanda Santos

The Times probes rumors about Mayor Bloomberg trying for a third term (which would require changes to term-limit rules). Political consultant George Arzt mentions one possible advantage to Bloomberg of a third term:

The prospect of a third term would give Mr. Bloomberg more control over his legacy, Mr. Arzt said. It could allow him to recover from recent setbacks like the defeat of the congestion pricing plan in Albany and delays in projects like the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn because of the economic downturn.

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NoLandGrab: The real setback for Bloomberg over Atlantic Yards began when he ceded control of the project to the state, along with any input into sensible design for the lumbering, over-subsidized project.

Posted by steve at 5:59 AM

What will it take for Knicks to get LeBron?

Newsday
by Ken Berger

Speculation about LeBron James's free agent future includes the oft-repeated, but dubious claim, that the Nets could be playing in Brooklyn by 2010.

According to several NBA sources, James wouldn't necessarily choose the Knicks over the other team that is scheduled to call the metropolitan area home sometime that same year. The Nets plan to be playing in Brooklyn in 2010 or 2011 and figure to have better complementary pieces and more cap flexibility by then. Throw in LeBron's much- publicized friendship with Nets part-owner Jay-Z, and you wonder what hip-hop star the Knicks would have to counter with to compete.

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Posted by steve at 5:41 AM

Nicole P. Marwell: Sociology of Brooklyn 11237 + 11206 + 11221

Who Walk In Brooklyn

Here's an interview with Nicole P. Marwell, author of "Bargaining For Brooklyn," about community-based organizations (CBOs). The introduction to the interview notes one well-known CBO, ACORN, and its Executive Director, Bertha Lewis. Lewis signed a memorandum of understanding with Forest City to include affordable housing in the proposed Atlantic Yards development. Given the problems plaguing Atlantic Yards, the affordable housing may not be built until far into the future, if ever.

Enter into this affray Nicole P. Marwell, a Wisconsin-raised, Chicago and New York educated, Bronx-residing sociologist who currently teaches at Columbia University. While the history of Latino Kings County has yet to be written— despite the fact that “Spanish” BK is just as old as, say, the Italian one—Nicole’s book, Bargaining For Brooklyn, will be a substantial resource for whoever does. How so? Because Nicole gets deep into one of the most important & least glamorous aspects of understanding a city of the haves & the ain’t-got-shit, the mysterious—to outsiders— world of “community based orgnanizations” (CBOs). In Brooklyn, the best known of these groups is probably ACORN, & even their notoriety is due more to Bertha Lewis’ failed devil’s bargain with Bruce Ratner on the so-called “Atlantic Yards” project than their any of their other, less disputable initiatives.

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Posted by steve at 5:01 AM

April 13, 2008

Collapse of sub-.500 Nets means no lucrative post-season revenue stream

The past month has not been kind to Bruce Ratner.

On March 21st, Ratner admitted to The New York Times that he'd been unable to find an anchor tenant for "Miss Brooklyn," the signature skyscraper of his planned Atlantic Yards mega-development, and he conceded that the evaporating bond market would make it tough to secure financing for the housing portion of the project.

And now, with the New Jersey Nets' loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, Ratner bade farewell to any potential post-season revenue.

For the money-losing Nets, income from playoff games would have helped the bottom line immensely. But the only playoff games the 33-47 Nets (they managed to win a meaningless game against the Milwaukee Bucks last night) will experience are the ones they'll be watching on TV.

Their failure to reach the post-season this year culminates a steepening downward spiral that commenced when Ratner acquired the two-time defending Eastern Conference Champs early in 2004. The team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals that season, but failed to advance past the second round in 2005, 2006 or 2007. Some may perhaps see a parallel in his Atlantic Yards project, which was announced as a "done deal" in December, 2003, but has gradually gotten more and more undone.

The Nets' increasing futility under Ratner's ownership betrays the truth about his acquisition of the team — the deal was all about real estate and had nothing to do with any new-found interest in pro basketball.

Ratner's hiring of Brett Yormark to run the Nets only confirmed that. The team CEO focuses his time on marketing efforts and sponsorship deals, while what the Nets really need is to put a better team on the floor. For all Yormark's alleged marketing wizardry, more than 20% of the seats at Nets games go unused, and even some of the occupied seats are likely deeply discounted or given away. It's probably safe to say that Nets fans would rather have a solid low-post scorer than Wrigley's as official sponsor of the off-season — an off-season that will be longer this year than it has been since 2001. Rather than touring Europe this week to recruit sponsors, Yormark might want to spend some time scouting talent.

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Sunday Comix

The Brooklyn Paper

SundayFunny.jpg Should Bruce Ratner miss the 2009 deadline, this is one of the possible scenarios. To read more see the Atlantic Yards Report post Read the fine print: ESDC gives Ratner 6+ years to build arena, 12+ years for Phase One

Posted by steve at 10:50 AM

Land lock: The government took and destroyed the homes of Fort Trumbull, but so far the only thing to go up in their place is weeds.

landlock.jpg

WORLD Magazine

NEW LONDON, Conn.— Michael Cristofaro stood in a weed-flecked field here and pointed to a stretch of sand between two telephone poles: "The driveway used to go right in here." The driveway used to lead to a Victorian home where Cristofaro's mother cooked Italian dinners for her six children and a yard where Cristofaro's father grew grape vines for his homemade wine.

Now, almost three years after the United States Supreme Court allowed New London to raze the Cristofaros' home in the interests of economic development, there is just a barren acre of land where the neighborhood once thrived. In Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court expanded the local government's power to take private land for public use, redefining "public use" to include the "public purpose" of economic revitalization.

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The Supreme Court based its ruling on the "comprehensive character" and "thorough deliberation" of the developer's plan, but the developer has yet to saw a board or drive a nail. Corcoran Jennison has missed each construction deadline so far, and it now faces a May 29 deadline to start construction on the townhouses and apartments that were supposed to replace the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. "They just came right here and ripped everything out," Cristofaro said. "And what did they create? A dust bowl, a giant dust bowl."

Cristofaro's parents, Pasquale and Margherita, moved to New London from Italy in 1962. Less than 10 years after the Cristofaros arrived, New London took their first home by eminent domain to build a sea wall. The Cristofaros complied because they came from a country where you didn't question the local government. The city never built the sea wall, and a parking lot covers the lot where the Cristofaros' first house once stood.

They moved down the road to a four-bedroom Victorian house in Fort Trumbull, a working-class neighborhood with roots stretching back to the Revolutionary War and where people knew their neighbors and didn't lock their doors. Cristofaro said his father gardened every inch of their half-acre yard, including plants he dug up from their first home and carted to their second since they didn't have a car. When the Cristofaros threw a neighborhood party, they set up picnic tables in a back yard covered with Pasquale's grape vines and flowers. One brother took a birch tree from his own home and transplanted it in Pasquale's yard. "To my father, dirt was gold," Cristofaro said. "Land was very valuable to him."

The Fort Trumbull home housed three Cristofaro generations. Pasquale and Margherita lived there until their family outgrew it, but after they moved they kept the house as a family stepping stone. Two of Cristofaro's brothers lived there with their young families until they outgrew it, too. In 1997, the Cristofaros gained a neighbor in Susette Kelo, a paramedic who was answering an emergency call when she saw a Victorian house facing the Thames River in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. She walked in and later said, "It was like I had been there all my life." The house was for sale for 10 years-almost as if it were waiting, she said-so she bought it and began to refurbish it. "Everything in the house was new," she remembered, "from the concrete in the floor to the roof and the shingles."

In February 1998, Pfizer, Inc., announced that it was building a global research facility in an area adjacent to the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. In 2000, the New London City Council adopted a development plan to increase tax revenues and bring more jobs to the area. The private, nonprofit New London Development Corporation (NLDC) began to acquire the property it needed for development.

NLDC bought 90 acres and then encountered opposition-the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. The corporation offered to buy the Cristofaros' land, but the Cristofaros couldn't bring themselves to sell, even when the price reached $100,000: "It's not for sale for even a million dollars. This is not about money." Kelo felt the same way: "I just couldn't do it."

But the city council gave NLDC the power of eminent domain to take the land anyway. The day before Thanksgiving in 2000, Cristofaro said the sheriff showed up on their doorstep, handed his mother the condemnation papers, and said, "You no longer own this house."

"My mother sat down and she started crying," Cristofaro said. Since her son and his family were living in the Fort Trumbull home, her first question was, "What about my family? What about my son?" Then, "What about our neighbors?" Margherita said they had to fight the condemnation. This was their second tussle with eminent domain, and this time they knew the importance of property rights and also that the government's good plans didn't always come to pass.

Kelo, the Dery family, and others joined the fight. In December 2000, they sought declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that NLDC's use of eminent domain for a private project violated the Constitution's Fifth Amendment, which says the government can't take private property for public use without just compensation. NLDC was a private corporation, they pointed out, and it was building not roads or schools but private buildings. (Plans varied from a fitness club to a hotel and finally townhouses and apartments.) New London argued that using land for economic development constituted a public use.

In March 2004, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled against Kelo and the Cristofaros, saying the Constitution allows the government to use eminent domain for economic development that will increase tax revenue and improve the economy. In July, the petitioners took it to the Supreme Court and on June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled against them. Kelo was shocked: "We always thought we were going to win. Every time we said something, we did something, we thought it was going to be the end." She was also angry: "I was pretty mad, yeah. I'm still pretty mad."

After the Supreme Court decided against them, contract negotiations dragged on. Kelo asked that the city let her pick up her home and move it. The Cristofaros negotiated a contract that protected Pasquale's garden and allowed them to put up a plaque commemorating Margherita, who died five years ago.

A year ago in March-"they showed up on the coldest, rainiest day that they possibly could," said Cristofaro-the city finally tore down the Cristofaros' home. Despite the contract, they destroyed Pasquale's garden with its 45-year-old plants, and Cristofaro says they are quibbling over the wording for Margherita's plaque.

Today, all that's left of Fort Trumbull is a mound of dirt on an empty acre of weeds. A stairway of broken bricks leads to Kelo's house, now a trash-filled hole surrounded by a railway with chipping white paint. A rusty chair sits where the porch used to overlook the waterfront view. Next door, plywood covers the windows of empty houses with the words "Private Property-No Trespassing" scrawled across.

"The first time I came back I literally cried," Cristofaro said. "The second time it still hurt." Cristofaro is now moving from the town his family has called home for as long as they've lived in America: "I can't see New London as my home anymore. They've taken two homes away from my family." Kelo has moved, too, and says she'll never visit Fort Trumbull.

Kelo credits the homeowners for Fort Trumbull's empty field: "No developer wanted to come within a hundred miles of New London once we started making the racket we were making." When she met with developers before the fight began, she warned them, "'If you try to take my property from me, the whole world's gonna know.' They laughed at me. Let me tell you, in 2007 they were no longer laughing, and the whole world does know."

Posted by amy at 10:46 AM

The end of the Times's City section editorial and op-ed page

Atlantic Yards Report is happy that at least one media outlet (the New York Sun) finally noticed that the New York Times editorial and op-ed pages of its Sunday city section are gone. What are the implications for Atlantic Yards Coverage?

I was critical of the Times for relegating the first Atlantic Yards op-ed (and the only one before two state bodies voted on the project) to the City section.

And I was critical of the Times for running editorials about AY in the City section, noting:
I'll repeat for the record that limiting the editorial's audience to readers in the five boroughs is a disservice to the public. Not only would state subsidies be part of the public support, the project would have an impact in the tristate region and also nationally. It deserves broader scrutiny.

My comments assumed the presence of the City section. However, the net loss in space for editorials and commentary means that it's even harder to shoehorn in coverage of issues like Atlantic Yards.

I'll repeat Brooklyn College professor Paul Moses's observation about Brooklyn's place in the local mediascape: Nowhere in the country do so many people get so little local coverage.

article

Posted by amy at 9:42 AM

Gran in Tesco boss planning war

tesco4.08.jpg

BBC News has some eminent domain news from England. We're rooting for Grandma on this one...

A grandmother from Merseyside has applied for planning permission to demolish the home of Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy.

Dot Reid is retaliating against plans to bulldoze her home and 71 others in Kirkby, to make way for Everton's new stadium and a Tesco supermarket.

The 58-year-old said Sir Terry, who lives in a mansion in Hertfordshire, deserved a taste of his own medicine.

She plans to turn the site of the Tesco boss's house into a community garden.

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Posted by amy at 9:38 AM

Does Ratner Need More Subsidies Before Proceeding?

NetsDaily

Bruce Ratner’s cousin, Charles, is also CEO of Forest City Enterprises, which owns 21% of the Nets–three times Bruce’s holdings–and is corporate parent of Bruce’s Forest City Ratner. So he caused a storm of criticism last week when he suggested the need for more city and state subsidies for Atlantic Yards–and the Nets’ new arena–on top of the $300 million already approved. He’ll have help. Forest City has some of the city’s top lobbyists.

link

Posted by amy at 9:35 AM

April 12, 2008

It Came from the Blogosphere...

murakami4.08.jpg

Museum Hours, Museum Hours

Also wrong were the Museum's decision at the show's gala party to honor bulldozer developer Bruce Ratner and to invite Louis Vuitton to create a faux knockoff handbag bazaar. In Marie Antoinette style, VIP guests were invited to pretend they were a poor plebian purchasing an imitation purse while paying 100 times the cost. And, get this, a portion of sales was donated to maybe the least-deserving charity ever -- the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation.

Michael Leonard Photography Blog, THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM TO “HONOR” BRUCE RATNER

The Brooklyn Museum to “honor” Bruce Ratner, the developer who is making NYC unaffordable to average joes (and building fugly-ass malls). This comes a little more than a week after the Museum decided to donate a portion of its proceeds from Murakami’s Louis Vuitton boutique sales to the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation. (Because what we really need is more surveillance.) I’m just waiting for someone to tell me that they’ve hired Rudy Giuliani as a curator.

Curbed.com, The Atlantic Yards Ombudsman is Not In

When last heard from, the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman had finally been hired and was on the job, but today's Daily News reports that he hasn't been easy to get to see. Since November when Forrest Taylor was hired, "office renovations and ongoing meetings with city and state officials have delayed his advocacy duties." Only 60 percent of the Ombudsman's job is supposed to be spent "addressing community concerns" such as construction safety and other issues related to the big project. (Speaking of which, some work on the project was hit with a Stop Work Order yesterday by the Department of Buildings for unsafe conditions, among other things.) In any case, the Ombudsman's office on Hanson Place will open to the public, but no one can say when. And the Ombudsman himself is on vacation right now.

Posted by amy at 9:38 AM

In need of correction: the AY housing page

housing4.08.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

From the official Atlantic Yards web site, a page in need of significant correction, given the news of the Atlantic Yards stall.

link

Posted by amy at 9:28 AM

FCR sharing information? Not quite

Atlantic Yards Report

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is savoring the pious promise made by Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Reigelhaupt, who told the New York Observer in February, “When it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned."

As DDDB points out, for the third time, the developer isn't exactly answering questions from the press. (FCR routinely ignores questions from the Brooklyn Paper and also from me.)

link

Posted by amy at 9:24 AM

April 11, 2008

Forest City Ratner eighth in state lobbying, but has second-largest contract

Atlantic Yards Report

You didn't read this in the New York Times (or several other media outlets), but Forest City Ratner, though dropping to a eighth among lobbyists statewide in 2007, still managed the second-largest lobbying contract. In the 2006 tally, the developer was third in total lobbying and had the largest lobbying contract.

Significant FCR spending in 2006 was understandable; the project was approved that year by the Empire State Development Corporation and the Public Authorities Control Board.

However, the continued spending reminds us of the "Atlantic Yards permanent campaign;" even though the project has received official approval, much more, including a special 421-a tax break (achieved) and a campaign for additional subsidies (anticipated) was on the developer's agenda.
...
The [New York State Commission on Public Integrity] press release states:

O'Brien & Gere Limited had the largest lobbying contract, valued at $1,547,812. The firm lobbies on its own behalf. Forest City Ratner Companies, a commercial real estate company, had the second largest contract with Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, LLP, valued at $771,170.

Read the full article to learn what media outlet did run a story on lobbying largesse in Albany.

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

Ratner seeks … more tax dollars!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

BP.jpg Forest City Ratner's admission to investors that the development company needs more subsidies for Atlantic Yards is the lead story of this week's Brooklyn Paper. Two City Councilmembers, who have been conditional supporters of the plan in the past, are not buying it.

After the president and CEO of Ratner’s parent company, Forest City Enterprises, told industry analysts that “we still need more” subsidies to build Atlantic Yards, Councilmen David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) said that the already-committed $1 billion in public underwriting is enough.

“My head spins in astonishment that they would want more,” said Yassky.
...
“I cannot approve of more subsidies when the only thing that’s certain is a stadium,” said DeBlasio, who called for “a timeline for the full project, especially with respect to the affordable housing.”

He also demanded to know “exactly why the additional subsidies are needed and what they would be used for.”

A Ratner spokesman declined to comment for this story.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

Cut Ratner off

The Brooklyn Paper editorial makes a good point — if Atlantic Yards is a "done deal," then why does Ratner keep asking for more money.

All together, the financial assistance to Ratner is anywhere from $1 billion, according to City Councilman David Yassky, or more than $2 billion, according to the Atlantic Yards opposition group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

And now Ratner wants more.
...
More? More for what, exactly? New York taxpayers have already been far too generous in propping up this 16-skyscraper white elephant.

And just as the economy starts to dip, Bruce Ratner and cousin Chuck — who are always hailed by our elected enablers as risk-taking visionaries — come to us asking for more money to underwrite their ideas.

It must stop. At this point, only a few members of the City Council, most notably Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), are questioning what their colleagues obviously believe is a done deal.

But this deal is not done because Ratner keeps trying to change it. Let’s not let him get away with it.

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Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

Protesters call Bruce’s honor a ‘dung deal’

The Brooklyn Paper's Gersh Kuntzman reports from inside and outside last week's Brooklyn Museum Gala honoring the controversial Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

I heard about [the Ratner honor] a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t believe it,’’ said Clem Labine, 70, who was dressed in robber-baron style: a black bowler and black tie. “Ratner is a totally divisive character, and I had to protest this decision by the museum.”
...
Joining the protesters was Marilyn Gelber — a former city Department of Environmental Protection commissioner who worked with Ratner on the Metrotech office complex when she was chief of staff to former Borough President Howard Golden.
...
Given Gelber’s connections and long support for the Museum, she could have been inside eating tuna martini, miso filet of beef and pineapple pillows for dessert rather than on the hustings, with the other Atlantic Yards foes.

“I’m a big supporter of the Museum and have enormous affection for [Executive Director] Arnold Lehman. I was invited to be inside, but I told Arnold that given my views of Atlantic Yards, I’d rather be outside.”
...
“We’re not involved in the politics that seems to be swirling around us,” Lehman added.

Opponents pounced on Lehman’s apparent surprise that politics were “swirling around” the Museum. Indeed, those politics are quite inside the institution.

One of its board members, Joanne Minieri, is the president and chief operating officer of Forest City Ratner. Another board member, Robert Rubin, is an investor in Ratner’s New Jersey Nets.

In addition, the team’s CEO, Brett Yormark; rapper Jay-Z, another Nets investor; and Barclays Capital (which paid Ratner $400 million to emblazon its name on the publicly built arena), were members of the committee that put together the April 3 gala.

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Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Forest City in the News

Dallas Morning News, 1407 Main, all-new residential tower in downtown Dallas, to open soon

While 1407 Main is the first new apartment tower downtown has seen in ages, it won't be the last.

About three blocks away, Forest City Enterprises is building its 15-story Element apartment tower, which is set to open later this year.

That new building – adjacent to the historic Mercantile National Bank tower – will contain 156 units.

Fresno Bee, Fresno council candidates share downtown views

Forest City Enterprises' Downtown Redevelopment project in Fresno is a central issue in the race for City Council. Some pols support more subsidies, but eminent domain is a sticking point.

GlobeSt.com, Forest City Lands Hotel for $350M Promenade

Forest City Enterprises has brought on Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. to operate an Aloft Hotel at the Bolingbrook Promenade, a mixed-use project being developed by the Cleveland-based developer. Forest City is also announcing that it plans on adding office condominiums and age-directed housing to the 200-acre development, located at Interstate 355 south of Boughton Road.

The Press Enterprise, Calimesa tax incentives possible for shopping center developers
Downturns in the economy are the "times that great things are done," if the right tax incentives are in place.

City officials are considering providing tax incentives to developers of a sprawling, pedestrian-oriented regional shopping center to be built south of Interstate 10 between Singleton and Cherry Valley roads.

In return, Calimesa could reap as much as $6.5 million in annual tax revenues once the Oak Valley Town Center is built out to as much as 3 million square feet of space, developers say.
...
Forest City is a 90-year-old real estate development firm with $10 billion in assets. The company built the 160-acre Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga and has projects in 24 states, including 16 other regional malls. Its 126,000-square-foot expansion of The Promenade in Temecula is slated for completion next March.

Developers plan to foot the bill for the entire first phase -- 1.2 million square feet -- but Calimesa will be asked to kick in a portion of sales and property taxes for the next two construction phases, which will rely heavily on I-10 interchange construction.

All American Patriots, Colorado Governor Ritter Congratulates Colorado Springs And Forest City Stapleton For Energy Star Awards

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter today congratulated two Colorado organizations, Colorado Springs Utilities and Forest City Stapleton, for being selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy as 2008 ENERGY STAR Award winners.

Posted by lumi at 4:16 AM

Shelly Silver’s Shadiest Maneuvers: A Brief History

Silver-NYMag.jpg Daily Intelligencer posted a litany of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's backroom strong-arm maneuvers. Atlantic Yards made the grade, though the Public Authorities Control Board's approval came in December 2006, not 2005:

Seeding Atlantic Yards (2005): As Brooklyn residents get their knickers in a twist, the Public Authorities Control Board approves $200 million in public seed money for Atlantic Yards — without officially counting how many Brooklyn lawmakers support seventeen-tower cluster around a Frank Gehry arena.

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Posted by lumi at 4:15 AM

April 10, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Willets Point Industry and Realty Association Filing Lawsuit in U.S. Federal District Court against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg & City of New York

NEW YORK — The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA), a group of the 10 largest business and land owners in Willets Point, Queens, are today filing a lawsuit against the City of New York seeking a court order requiring the City to provide basic vital infrastructure including repairs to streets and storm sewers, installation of sanitary sewers, street lights, street signs and other services that WPIRA maintains the City has withheld for over 40 years. The suit also requests unspecified damages for past neglect. The suit was filed in U.S. Federal District Court, in the Eastern District of New York. WPIRA will hold a rally and press conference at New York City Hall at 11 A.M. today.

The suit is filed against Michael Bloomberg, as Mayor of the City of New York, Emily Lloyd, as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Janette Sadik-Khan as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation and John Doherty as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation.

At the heart of the complaint is the alleged purposeful refusal of New York City to provide these basic services and an allegation that the City intended to depress property values. This would pave the way for NYC to condemn Willets Point, evicting its businesses and deliver this choice piece of real estate to the hands of private developers. In addition to the lawsuit, members of WPIRA fear this development plan will follow the current trend of stalled or failed developments throughout the City.

WPIRA says that The City of New York is proposing to rezone Willets Point, condemn it and evict the existing businesses through the use of eminent domain and replace them with 1.7 million feet of retail space, 500,000 square feet of office space, a hotel, 5,500 residential housing units and a convention center in the neighborhood that is currently zoned for heavy industry. To make this proposal a reality, the City must first acquire the 60 acres of privately owned land at Willets Point. The suit alleges that the City of New York has planned to rezone and redevelop for many years and has been waging a campaign of intentional neglect to create and perpetuate an eyesore for the eventual justification of the use of Eminent Domain.

“The city’s negligent, reckless and willful refusal to provide this infrastructure creates not only an offensive nuisance but it also creates hazards that threaten the health, safety and livelihood of those who work in Willets Point,” said Michael Gerrard, Attorney for WPIRA. The suit claims the City’s failure to address the deplorable conditions of the Willets Point infrastructure has caused extensive and predictable damage to the businesses. This damage includes depressed property values, difficulty recruiting and retaining employees, difficulty obtaining credit, higher interest rates for business loans, diminished business revenues, equipment and property damage, higher delivery costs and business interruption costs. Additionally, the looming threat of Eminent Domain and resulting loss of jobs has taken a toll on morale in all area businesses.

According to WPIRA, Willets Point employs an estimated 3,000 highly skilled workers in ironworking, construction, solid waste management, sewer parts, auto repair and service, and the manufacture of bakery and food ingredients that includes the largest distributor of Indian foods in the US. Yet the city continues to misrepresent the area as a haven for crime comprised mostly of junkyards and chop shops. The area’s workforce is mostly blue-collar and for almost 80 years has provided a valuable opportunity for local residents to start up their own businesses and live the American dream. Willets Point businesses provide billions of dollars of economic activity and millions of dollars of tax revenue to the City of New York.

The members of WPIRA believe that the area would be revitalized if the City spent a fraction of the capital required for redevelopment and invested in infrastructure for the area. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) conducted a study of the area in 1991 that suggested exactly that. “If the City provided the infrastructure and services that we are entitled to and in fact, are paying for, the area would be revitalized,” said Dan Feinstein, President of Feinstein Iron Works, Inc., one of the Plaintiffs. According to WPIRA, the estimated cost of redeveloping the area is upwards of three billion dollars. That estimate is expected to skyrocket given the credit crisis and increasing construction costs. “Our schools and emergency first responders are facing more budget cuts and the Mayor wants to hand a blank check of New York City’s hard earned taxpayers dollars to a private developer?” said Feinstein. “That is outrageous, unacceptable and we’re not going to stand for it.”

WPIRA members point out that the project’s price tag is just one of the many obstacles the EDC faces as the City moves forward to prepare to certify the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) to rezone Willets Point. The City issued an RFP in November 2004 but has not released results of their environmental impact analysis of the area in question nor has it presented a detailed plan for the redevelopment of the area and/or identified a developer. These usually precede the ULURP process so that the City Council can maintain control over the final outcome. WPIRA charges EDC wants a free hand to negotiate with a developer, unencumbered by the City Council.

“Despite the numerous and obvious obstacles, it appears that the EDC believes it doesn’t have to follow any rules and it can muscle its way through the City Council and the ULURP; and the Union and Housing advocates can be appeased by promises that future administrations will have to fulfill,” said Thomas Mina, Vice President of T. Mina Supply Inc., one of the Plaintiffs. “We have received feedback from City Council members and seen the false statements in the news by the EDC that prove our fear that the EDC is attempting to portray us as uncooperative and “money hungry” so they can justify the use of eminent domain at the end of the ULURP process,” said Mina.

“The EDC is not being truthful with the City Council, the businesses at Willets Point or the public. If the City wanted to deal openly and fairly, they would have released the results of property appraisals that were completed last year by Cushman and Wakefield,” said Anthony Fodera, President of Fodera Foods Inc., one of the Plaintiffs. Not one of the 10 business and land owners of WPIRA have been provided with viable options for relocation of their businesses, despite numerous public statements to the contrary by the EDC and Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall.

The WPIRA points out the EDC’s abysmal track record of completing re-development projects and abusive threats of Eminent Domain. “The EDC has yet to prove that it can coordinate between the community and developers to bring a project to successful completion,” said Anthony Fodera. “Just look at Municipal Lot 1 project in Flushing, Queens. That project has been stalled for years due to the developer’s inability to fulfill the community benefits package it once promised. Why should we think the EDC can do any better in Willets Point?”

The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA)

The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA) is dedicated to the development, improvement and growth of the Willets Point area by the businesses that reside there, and not by development schemes in which eminent domain is used to forcibly evict and raze those businesses. The WPIRA consists of the following businesses: A. Fodera & Son, Inc., Bono Sawdust Supply Co., Inc., Crown Container Co., Inc., Feinstein Iron Works, Inc., House of Spices (India), Inc., Parts Authority, Inc., QC Iron Works Inc., Sambucci Bros. Inc, T. Mina Supply, Inc., Tully Environmental, Inc., Tully Construction Co., Inc. www.WPIRA.com

Posted by eric at 3:50 PM

Willets Point property owners sue city

NY Daily News
by Jess Wisloski

Long-time NoLandGrab readers will remember Jess Wisloski, who cut her teeth covering the Atlantic Yards land grab and is now on the Willets Point beat.

Willets Point property owners filed a lawsuit against the city Wednesday, charging it has deliberately denied the area basic city services to grease the skids for condemnation.

About 150 business owners and their supporters gathered on the steps of City Hall to announce the federal case and to protest the city's plans to redevelop the gritty 60-acre industrial swath known as the Iron Triangle.
...

Eight City Council members backed the protesters Wednesday and denounced the city's negotiating tactics, which the business owners said have been in bad faith.

Mayoral hopeful Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who heads the Council's zoning committee, said he would refuse to approve any plans that would invoke eminent domain to develop something on the site other than a "good public purpose," such as a school or a highway.

"It is a completely different thing to take it and give it to another private individual, a developer, who will then turn around and make millions of dollars," Avella said. "We're here today to say, 'No.' Go back to the drawing board, Mr. Mayor."

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More coverage:

The New York Times, Businesses in Potholed, Sewerless Queens District Sue the City

“Some of the photos you see behind me — you see floods, you wonder if this is New York City in 2008 or Baghdad after a few mortar rounds,” said Councilman Hiram Monserrate of Queens, whose district includes the area.

Councilman Eric N. Gioia, also of Queens, said the threat of eminent domain, even as a last resort, was “like walking into a negotiation, putting a gun on the table, and saying, ‘I’d like to strike a fair deal; I’ll only use the gun if I have to.’”

Newsday, Willets Point businesses sue over mayor's plan

Queens Times Ledger, Willets Pt. biz group to sue for infrastructure upgrades

Gothamist.com, Willets Point Locals Sue City Over Neglect

At a City Hall rally yesterday, Anthony Fodera, president of Fodera Foods Inc., told the Times that he’s “been there for 35 years; I have yet to see them fill a pothole.”

The Queens Courier, Willets Point businesses sue city

NY1, Ten Willets Point Landowners Sue The City

"This is our property," said Feinstein Ironworks Owner Dan Feinstein. "It's been in our family for generations. This is our legacy to our children and our grandchildren, and we're not going to allow this administration to steal it from us."

Posted by eric at 3:15 PM

Richard Lipsky: Willets Point and Atlantic Yards are different

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Uber-lobbyist Richard Lipsky posts twice today on his MomandPopNYC blog about Willets Point, and is careful to point out how eminent domain is bad — except when it benefits Atlantic Yards developer (and Lipsky paycheck-signer) Bruce Ratner.

Point-Counterpoint

So now the city is going to throw out the hundreds of businesses and the thousands of workers so that a few real estate companies can reap the benefits of the city's belated investment in infrastructure? This is seriously messed up, and cries out for a new approach to eminent domain that allows for greater scrutiny of blight claims-and yes my friends the undeveloped acreage around Atlantic Yards is different from the living, breathing businesses in West Harlem and on the Point.

NoLandGrab: The only "undeveloped acreage around Atlantic Yards" is the railyard itself — unless you count the numerous empty lots where buildings demolished by Ratner once stood.

Wither the Point

The lawsuit filed against the city by Willets Point property owners highlights another problem that the city faces-and this one is political. As Eliot Brown points out in the Observer's real estate blog: " The city was days away from starting that process in February when local council members, led by Hiram Monserrate, became vocal in opposition to the project as planned. The city then backed away from its late February start date and now it’s been almost two months since the council members spoke out, with no new date set to start the rezoning. Yesterday, even more council members climbed into the criticism camp. David Weprin, Diana Reyna, Eric Gioia, Leroy Comrie Jr. and James Sanders Jr. joined Mr. Monserrate and Tony Avella at a press conference yesterday to criticize the plan for its effects on the business and landowners, with many expressing outright opposition to any plan that included the use of eminent domain (Mayor Bloomberg has strongly supported the potential use of eminent domain in the project.)"

What this looks like to us is the fact that, due to recent political circumstances surrounding the mayor and the speaker, more council members are being emboldened to stake out a position on eminent domain issues. We've gone beyond the usual suspects (or perhaps the enlightened few) to what is beginning to look like a groundswell. Let the lame duckery begin!

NoLandGrab: "The enlightened few" do not, apparently, include the double-talking Lipsky.

Posted by eric at 2:48 PM

Road trip

NY Post
by Richard Wilner

Nets' CEO Brett Yormark is traveling the globe in search of sponsors.

Brett Yormark, the sports-marketing wizard who became the first NBA team executive to sell corporate sponsorships to summer BBQs and the entire off season, is at it again.

The CEO of Nets Sports & Entertainment is scheduled to take off tomorrow for London and Torino on a hunt for corporate sponsors for the team's planned Barclays Center arena.

If successful - and Yormark has 10 meetings set up - the Nets will become the first NBA team to have as corporate sponsors non-US-based companies.

"It's all about doing the unexpected," said Yormark....

article [scroll down]

NoLandGrab: "Unexpected," or desperate? Is Yormark's far-flung marketing strategy another stroke of genius, or is it being driven by a lack of interest closer to home — a la the absence of an anchor tenant for "Miss Brooklyn."

Posted by eric at 2:34 PM

Ouroussoff on Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards: The Gray Lady's Guide to Contemporary Civics

CultureGrrl [ArtsJournal.com]
by Martin Filler

Cultural and architectural critic Martin Filler takes a guest turn at Lee Rosenbaum's CultureGrrl blog, and takes The New York Times to task for the way it dances around its Atlantic Yards conflict of interest.

A large part of the blame for the electorate's cynicism about this and other related issues lies squarely with the establishment press, which is not immune to the corruptions of cronyism. Although there are worse things to worry about now, The NY Times' coverage--or non-coverage--of the controversial redevelopment of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards is symptomatic of how conflicts of interest have undermined once-respected institutions.

On Mar. 21, the Times ran two pieces about cutbacks to the Atlantic Yards scheme due to the weakening economy, by architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, and by Metropolitan Desk reporter Charles V. Bagli. Ouroussoff's critique made no mention of the somewhat pertinent fact that the project's prime mover, Bruce Ratner, was also developer of the new New York Times Building. To learn that, you needed to read Bagli, who, in a classic example of "bury the lede," got around to that disclosure only near the end of his 1,400-word piece.

Since he succeeded Herbert Muschamp in 2003, nothing Ouroussoff has written (with the possible exception of his calling Yoshio Taniguchi's MoMA expansion "exquisite") has incensed me more than his claim that anticipated contraction of the monstrously overloaded Atlantic Yards complex "feels like a betrayal of the public trust." I could hardly stop sputtering "Betrayal!...Public Trust!"

Let's talk for a moment about public trust and the Times, forgetting Judith Miller's compromised WMD reportage and a few other postmillennial lapses. Ratner's ties to the Times's majority shareholders, the Sulzberger dynasty, long predate their recent collaboration. In 1996 Ratner was made a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the behest of its then board chairman, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, father of the current Times publisher. Can it be mere coincidence that the Newspaper of Record has done its best to ignore the considerable public resistance to Ratner's Atlantic Yards?

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Posted by eric at 1:01 PM

Errol Louis and the "Atlantic Yards pork pool"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines two recent Errol Louis columns and finds some inconsistencies.

Daily News columnist Errol Louis cares about politicians giving away the public's money, but not when it comes to Atlantic Yards.

In a 4/6/08 column headlined Speaker Quinn and her pork pool, Louis wrote:
It seems there is no limit to how much of the public's money politicians will steal, waste and abuse if we don't keep a close and skeptical eye on them. The piggies have been busy lately, and it's going to cost us plenty.

What we know so far about the budget scandal engulfing the City Council is that the Council has, since 2001, allocated $17 million by giving grants to nonexistent organizations.

"Local selfishness"

Remember Louis's exchange about subsidies with Assemblyman Richard Brodsky in September 2006. The “local selfishness” regarding subsidies, Louis said, is something “I accept as the lay of the land… If they’re going to get a billion-dollar TIF [tax-increment financing] deal in Rensselaer County, I think where I live, in Kings County, if somebody wants to bring a billion-dollar deal there, with way too much paid per job, in my neighborhood, where there’s a lot of unemployment, personally, I would say, ‘You know what? I’ll take that.’”

Brodsky was unimpressed. “That is a prescription for a bigger disaster. ‘My pork is good. Your pork is bad.’ is not a principled response to the pissing away of billions of dollars.”

AY subsidies

A day after Louis's column about Quinn, I reported that, despite $305 million in pledged direct public subsidies for Atlantic Yards, a top executive told investment analysts that "we still need more” subsidies.

Will Louis address that? Nah. A column last month about Atlantic Yards suggested that "those who want prosperity and progress in Brooklyn" project should, among other things, "negotiate improvements to the plan with Ratner."

And today, rather than criticize the "Atlantic Yards pork pool," Louis, in a column headlined Building a better economic outlook, writes a valentine to Avi Schick, acting CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation, an "unsung hero" who keeps "the machinery of growth humming in good times and bad."

article

NoLandGrab: Be sure to check the comments appended to Oder's story, in which Errol Louis tries to overkill the "Mad Overkiller," who then overkills the overkilling. Or something like that.

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Building a better economic outlook

NY Daily News
by Errol Louis

The Daily News columnist praises ESDC honcho Avi Schick and Rebuild! president Darnell Canada for their efforts to keep economic growth on track.

As New York slides into an economic rough patch, hopes for a speedy and robust recovery will lie with the unsung heroes who keep the machinery of growth humming in good times and bad.

I'm talking about people like Avi Schick, acting CEO of the Empire State Development Corp., the state's main economic development agency. Schick is battling to keep complex, high-profile mega-projects alive around the city, including the rebuilding of Ground Zero, the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, the creation of a new midtown train terminal to replace Penn Station and Columbia University's expansion into west Harlem.

Each of these big projects has been slowed or halted of late, for reasons ranging from political squabbling to a credit crunch as investment banks battered by the slowing economy tighten up on loans to developers.

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NoLandGrab: This column is a departure for Louis — he passes up the opportunity to blame Atlantic Yards' delays on opponents, instead citing the "souring economy."

Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

Ratnerville Update Illustrated

Photographer Adrian Kinloch toured the western end of the 22-acre footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project and took these photos illustrating two items from this week's "Atlantic Yards Construction Update."

AK-DeanStUtil01.jpgUtility Work

AK-B67Elim.jpg Transportation Update

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Reading the Paterson tea leaves: AY unmentioned in speech about development

Atlantic Yards Report

Governor David Paterson's speech Monday to the Association for a Better New York took on the following topics: the MTA, Ground Zero, congestion pricing, the Second Avenue Subway, the East Side Access project (bringing the suburban Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central station), Moynihan Station, and Governors Island.

Unmentioned: Atlantic Yards.

Does the fact that he's not pushing the project means he's opposing it? Nope.

Perhaps it just means that he's taking a hands-off attitude for now, as Forest City Ratner waits for the market to change. But will he support more subsidies for the project?

Click here to read the excerpt from the transcript.

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

State Senator Carl Kruger and his campaign war chest

Atlantic Yards Report

This week, The Village Voice examines State Senator Carl Kruger's political machine, which is well fed by a $1.6 million campaign war chest, even though Republicans no longer bother to run against him.

Why do Atlantic Yards critics care? Norman Oder explains:

Let's remember some other elements of Kruger's record: he's a supporter of Atlantic Yards and the $6 billion lie; he received $4000 from Bruce Ratner's brother and sister-in-law; and, though a Democrat, he campaigned for Republican Martin Golden in return for new district boundaries that protected his seat, as recounted by Seymour Lachman in Three Men in a Room.

And, less we forget, Kruger has emerged as a dubious player in the debate over Coney Island, using that considerable campaign war chest to gin up public opposition to the city plan and support for Joe Sitt.

Remember, as the Observer's Matthew Schuerman reported 5/31/06, Kruger and fellow Atlantic Yards-loving South Brooklyn politicians come out of the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, which also produced Ratner aide Bruce Bender.

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Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

The congestion pricing votes: AY wasn't the issue, nor was overbuilding

Atlantic Yards Report

Implementation of congestion pricing was considered to be critical to offset the impact of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan. You'd think that Atlantic Yards boosters would support the plan, or that politicians who have taken a public stance on the largest single-source private development project in NYC history would factor their positions into their decisions to support congestion pricing.

Today Norman Oder tallies the scorecard:

As the recent defeat of Mayor Mike Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal suggests, local political considerations trump the long-term public policy issue. The politicians with the most at stake regarding Atlantic Yards were decidedly mixed in their approach.

For example, City Council Member Letitia James, an Atlantic Yards opponent, supported CP. City Council Member Bill de Blasio, a longstanding but increasingly critical supporter of AY, represents a district that suffers as much from traffic as does James's district. But his opposition to CP likely derives mainly from his need to court votes throughout Brooklyn in his run for Borough President.

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Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

NYPD Letter Blasts Security Lapses At Penn Station

WNBC

In a letter, NYC Police Commish Kelly "voiced frustration" toward Madison Square Garden stakeholders for failure to implement security measures:

Kelly's frustration was directed at the owners of Madison Square Garden, the chairman of Vornado Realty Trust, the head of the MTA and the president of Amtrak. Kelly did praise the MTA for securing millions of dollars to build the permanent security perimeter, a perimeter that would be complete with bollards and delta barriers able to stop truck bombs.

Currently, the streets between West 31st and 34th streets between 7th and 8th avenues either have no barricades or are surrounded with dirt-filled planters.

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NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, as reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, regarding Bruce Ratner's plans to build an arena over one of the area's largest transit hubs:

NYPD spokesman John Kelly said, “The department has met numerous times with the builders, who have been very cooperative and have done everything we have asked.” He also said the department doesn’t foresee any street or land closures, sidewalk widening around the arena or the instillation of bollards.

No bollards or closures, and an arena just 20 feet from the street: have the NYPD and Bruce Ratner overlooked something?

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

Ratner at Brooklyn Museum Riles Nabes

BMProtest-BDS.jpg Brooklyn Downtown Star

The honors given to developer Bruce Ratner by the Brooklyn Museum have drawn the ire of residents of Downtown Brooklyn who oppose his mega-development plans for their neighborhood. Ratner, who is the founder of Forest City Ratner and the developer behind the Atlantic Yards Development, was honored by the Brooklyn Museum at a gala last Thursday. The Atlantic Yards project has been a source of controversy in the neighborhoods surrounding the project since it was first announced, and a number of activists protested the Brooklyn Museum's support of the divisive figure by holding an anti-Ratner rally on the steps of the museum while the event was being held.

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Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

Has NYC’s Ambitious Development Agenda Stalled?

Architectural Record
By Alec Appelbaum

Atlantic Yards is first at bat on this spring's collection of development projects delayed:

Atlantic Yards: Developer Bruce Ratner hired Frank Gehry, in 2003, to masterplan a basketball arena and 17-tower district of retail, offices, and residences on 22 acres surrounding Brooklyn’s transit hub. It convinced the city and state to use eminent-domain, while neighbors sued—unsuccessfully, so far—to scale back plans. But Ratner’s inability to find an anchor office tenant for the development’s signature tower, which Gehry dubbed “Miss Brooklyn,” now threatens to delay construction by years. “We are committed to building the whole thing, it just might take a little longer than anticipated,” says spokesperson Lorin Riegelhaupt, projecting an arena and residential tower by late 2010, and another residential building soon after. To help Ratner find an anchor tenant for Miss Brooklyn, which had once targeted a 2010 opening, Gehry has sent a signed letter and sketch to a dozen or so CEOs, hoping to persuade them to relocate headquarters there.

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Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

April 9, 2008

Willets Point protesters sue to block $3B city plan

Protesters say the city hasn't t provided sewers, sidewalks, paved roads or storm drains for the last 40 years. New development is like throwing out the baby before changing the bathwater.

Crain's NY Business
by Hilary Potkewitz

Willets Point property owners have filed a federal eminent domain suit against New York City in an effort to keep their businesses from falling prey to "redevelopment."

A group of businesses facing eviction by the city from their homes in Willets Point, Queens filed a federal lawsuit against the City of New York and several public officials Wednesday. It is the companies’ latest effort to forestall plans for a city-backed $3 billion mixed-use project on their land.

The case, filed in the Eastern District federal court, seeks to force the city to provide sanitary sewers, sidewalks, paved roads and storm drains in a commercial area that has had none for more than 40 years. The suit also seeks unspecified damages, charging city officials with a “waging a campaign of intentional neglect to create and perpetuate an eyesore for eventual justification of the use of eminent domain,” according to the filing.

The businesses say they’ve been thrown out with the bathwater.

“The city has intentionally driven down the value of these properties by withholding services,” says Michael Gerrard, a partner in the environmental law practice at Arnold & Porter, which is representing the business owners. “It is impermissible for the city to try and take advantage of that [lack of services] to acquire properties at fire-sale prices.”

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NoLandGrab: While a spokesperson for the City's Economic Development Corporation called the area "blighted and seriously contaminated," she didn't comment on the City's failure to provide the neighborhood with sewers, sidewalks, paved roads or storm drains for the past 40 years. But now that fancy new Citi Field is set to open across the street next April, the area's problems need to be addressed — through eminent domain, if necessary (but only, of course, as a last resort).

Posted by eric at 5:09 PM

Community advocate still missing in Atlantic Yards project

NY Daily News
by Jotham Sederstrom

vandyRailyard-NYDN.jpg

Nearly a year after state officials announced they would hire a community advocate for residents living near the Atlantic Yards project, the doors have yet to swing open to the public, officials acknowledged Tuesday.

Former MTA executive Forrest Taylor was hired in a fit of damage control nine months after a building collapse on Pacific St. within the $4.2 billion development site.

But since November, when Taylor started the job, office renovations and ongoing meetings with city and state officials have delayed his advocacy duties.
...

Candace Carponter, a member of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a group critical of the arena plan, said that for the select few residents who have actually tried calling Taylor, getting through has been smooth sailing.

"I do think he's accessible, he's just useless," said Carponter, who said that when residents complained about early morning construction on Dean St., Taylor defended the Transportation Department ruckus and refused to mediate the situation.

"His responses have been completely party-line. He's not even good about conveying information," she said.

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Atlantic Yards Report, The ombudsman's local office will open (finally)

OK, I'm trying to figure out the headline in today's Daily News story, Community advocate still missing in Atlantic Yards project. Yes, complaints are aired about Empire State Development Corporation ombudsman Forrest Taylor, but those have been aired for months, since he was appointed in late November.
...

Well, he was supposed to be an advocate all along. The news is that his office on Hanson Place apparently will open soon. Right now, he's on vacation.

NoLandGrab: The vacationing Mr. Taylor apparently doesn't know how to set up an out-of-office reply on his email, since a Prospect Heights resident who was threatened by an invective-spewing construction worker who refused to produce a work permit for middle-of-the-night jackhammering at the site of the former Mobil station on Flatbush Avenue got no response to several emails yesterday about the incident.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Are sports facilities "public" recreation? Eminent domain supporters raise questions

Atlantic Yards Report

Is a basketball arena, open only to those citizens willing to pay hefty ticket prices, really a "public use?" Norman Oder looks to a policy paper by two advocates of eminent domain for answers.

An interesting contrast comes in a 2006 paper by two noted supporters of eminent domain and the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial 2005 Kelo vs. New London decision. They raise questions about just how public sports facilities are.

Kelo's Unanswered Questions: The Policy Debate Over the Use of Eminent Domain for Economic Development was written by Robert G. Dreher and John D. Echeverria of the Georgetown Environmental Law & Policy Institute of the Georgetown University Law Center.

Privileging sports facilities?

The relevant comments come in a caution about privileging eminent domain for specific uses, such as sports facilities:
One popular approach to reform already adopted in some states involves prohibiting various specific uses of eminent domain or, what amounts to the same thing, prescribing the allowed uses of eminent domain. This approach seeks to draw clear lines establishing when eminent domain can and cannot be used. The difficulty with this approach is that it turns out to be very difficult to make reasonable generalizations about when the use of eminent domain is appropriate. Apparently because professional sports teams tend to be popular, some enacted and pending legislation provides wide latitude for the use of eminent domain to develop sports stadiums. But, as a matter of principle, it is difficult to understand how one can distinguish between stadiums and other privately-owned public entertainment venues, such as movie theaters and theme parks. Moreover, it is hard to see why sporting arenas, which are accessible only by admission-paying customers, are considered more “public” than shopping centers, which may in a sense serve a lesser civic function, but at least are accessible to all without charge.
(Emphasis added)

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Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

Interesting Development Of The Day

NY Shitty

Posted by Miss Heather yesterday:

As I was knocking around the Atlantic Yards site this morning I made a very interesting discovery.

Bruce Ratner et. al got a brand-spanking new Stop Work Order.

Just in time for spring!

Click here for full post, which includes the latest installment of fence art at the railyards.

Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

Well, We Have The Other Bloomberg's Attention

Gumby Fresh is way ahead of most of us when it comes to understanding the big picture and intricacies of bond financing. Recently, he posted some commentary on a Bloomberg News article, along with a couple informative links, and related it to Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise tower project.

In a nutshell, if the scenario in the Bloomberg story continues to bear out, it could make Atlantic Yards very tenuous. And if the market for Nets luxury suites is lukewarm, Bruce is in trouble.

For watchdogs and neighborhoodies who are trying to get a feel for what Bruce Ratner is up against in the current economic climate, Gumby Fresh's full article is well worth the read.

If your boss might be walking by at any moment, here are few choice excerpts:

In [the article], we discover that several stadiums with auction rate debt service liabilities are facing quite disgusting hikes in their debt service costs. This is because auction rate bonds rely on investors bidding at set intervals, through a dutch auction, how much interest they would like to receive and how many bonds they would like to buy. When no-one bids enough to cover the amount of debt outstanding, the auction fails, and the interest rate on the bonds jacks up to some ludicrous number like 20%, which encourages the borrower to refinance the debt pretty damn quickly, and compensates the buyer for the fact that they can't sell out of the bonds whenever they like. A longer, and pretty reliable, description, at wikipedia.

Auction rate bonds have been used on quite a few stadium deals, as the article illuminates. The Jets/Giants bonds, for instance, are hurting right now, since some of them are now carrying interest rates, says Bloomberg, of 11-20% (at issue, these are usually carrying rates of just under 5%). There are a mixture of reasons for auctions failing, including general risk aversion, the refusal of brokers and investment banks to support the auctions by buying excess bonds, and the difficulties of the bond insurers, which guarantee a fair proportion of these bonds. Some of these insurers are now very low-rated, so low-rated that 11% is almost a fair interest rate to ask for in on their bonds.

How does that relate to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards?

The Bloomberg article is a tad confusing, since it does not distinguish between stadiums where a state-owned entity is the nominal borrower (as it will be for the Nets Arena, and as one has to be for the borrower's interest payments to be exempt from tax) but the state does not provide credit support for the bonds, and stadiums where the state is the nominal and economic owner, and shares the risks of ownership.

If the luxury seat sales looked very disappointing or Barclays reneged then Ratner might try to cobble together some state support, though I do not think he will get very far. The eminent domain, cash and free infrastructure improvements are the price that some of Ratner's political supporters think are necessary to get the jobs and affordable housing. Adding $1 billion in debt to government balance sheet(s), even if it doesn't come in the form of hinky bonds that reset to usurious interest rates, makes them nervous.

But it's part of the background noise, no doubt. If investors are nursing wounds because of other stadium bond investments, then this is going to push up the premium they expect to charge for the Atlantic Yards debt, and no amount of gussying it up with monoline insurance and other bits of financial engineering is going to change that.

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

Atlantic Yards: No Frying, No Fat, No Oil

Brit in Brooklyn snapped this shot Monday evening of the last residential building standing on the Vanderbilt Avenue side of the Atlantic Yards footprint.

AK-HotBird02.jpg

Looking from Dean Street across to Vanderbilt last night.

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

PUBLIC SUBSIDIES: "We still need more!"

RatnerCorporateWelfare01.jpg Two days ago, Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder broke the story that Forest City Ratner executive Charles Ratner told investment analysts that they "still need more" public subsidies for the highly controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Here is some reaction from a range of watchdoggies:

Field of Schemes, Ratner: We want more arena subsidies

As [Norman] Oder notes in a phone conversation with FoS, the $305 million Ratner mentions is all direct cash outlays, implying that the Ratners are seeking more up-front money, not tax breaks for affordable housing or the like. Given that the rest of the project is on the brink of collapse and the arena cost is up to a staggering $950 million, it wouldn't be exactly surprising. Stay tuned for further developments.

Ground Report, Greedy In Brooklyn: Well-connected Developer Seeks Still More Subsidies For Brooklyn Arena Scheme

It is not suprising that Forest City Ratner, which was a partner of the New York Times in an eminent domain scheme for the newspaper's new headquarters, should need more money. As I noted in my article "Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Abuse Scheme Confronts Reality" [http://www.groundreport.com/US/Atlantic-Yards-Eminent-Domain-Abuse-Scheme-Confron] which links eminent domain with the money issue and economy in general, the expansion of the money supply encourages malinvestments. Similarly, the availability of subsidies and eminent domain encourage uneconomic schemes.

The Atlantic Yards real estate scheme is legalized theft. The Empire State Development Corporation is a body whose mission is legalized theft. It should be abolished. The taxpayers must be protected from subsidizing the theft of others.

Save Our Land, if you sound out "FCR" phonetically, what do you get?
A watchdog in Cleveland has seen this all before:

As Roldo predicted, the Ratners--in full FCR mode over at Forest City Ratner--are trying to extort still more from Brooklyn. Did you ever think we'd all be a lot better off without them--FCR, FCE, FCM? They're tanking Cleveland's mass-transit hub at Tower City; Stark's bombing in Crocker Park. I see still another disgusting insider replay coming with this Medical Mart nonsense.

NoLandGrab: The lesson from Forest City in Cleveland is that throwing more money at or reconfiguring a bad project never turns it into good project, never.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

Bruce Ratner Versus Gowanus: They Did The Mash

Who Walk in Brooklyn

If the image of the Virgin Mary appeared in the oily film on the Gowanus Canal, might true-believers actually anoint themselves with holy water? What about when it's Slick Bruce Ratner?

Berenice (”The Abbott”)/BZA, Photo Editor reports: To the shock of many & delight of all, yesterday afternoon an anonymous reader sent in the near-genius collage at left. I was out surfing in Rockaway but when I got out of the water & was warm enough to check my messages at the library (shout out to the Peninsula branch of the QPL: what’s good, homies?), I agreed with The Publisher: it had to be an inside job. J’accuse?! Not me, boss, & without disparaging the myriad skills of our other editors & reporters, I strongly question whether anyone of them did it either. Can ya’ll imagine, say, an Ernie Koy Jr. or Zyczymy Smacznego sitting there & tweaking the “ripple” effect? I think not. But if– as it was signed– “Diogenes of South Brooklyn” ain’t us then… is it tu or is it vous?

link

Ce n'etait pas nous! Mais comme Bruce Ratner, ce canal crie "Clean Me!"

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere111.jpg Curbed.com, Prospect Heights Residents Tired of Destructoporn

The Dean Street Block Association sent a letter to Gov. David Paterson and to the head of the Empire State Development Corp. asking for the bulldozers to take a time out until the status of the project is clear, lest the neighborhood be left with wide-open 1960s Urban Renewal-style cleared land that stays empty for a decade or two or three. It asks for "a moratorium on demolition until such time that the communities surrounding Atlantic Yards can be assured that rational decisions are being made to protect the area from the blight associated by dormant sites, over-scaled inefficiently situated construction staging, and surface parking lots." The ESDC, however, already appears to have indicated the demolition porn will keep coming.

NY Magazine, "Daily Intelligencer", Neighborhood Watch: Prospect Heights

Now that the area's massive Atlantic Yards project is stalled and may never be completed, locals want the state to freeze the demolition of buildings that were slated to come down…including these adorable (and, uh, occupied!) little townhouses. [Brownstoner]

Who Walk in Brooklyn, ¡Sunset Park No Se Vende! (& Other Two Fisted Tales)

Protest. As for the Brooklyn Museum of Art (a whore like the rest): we await their retrospective on the Architecture of Bruce Ratner, beginning with Metrotech & the so-called Atlantic ah, luxury!Center Mall. Perhaps one of the great real estate bloggers of today can write the monograph, since they regularly report on the full ethnic, environmental & economic range of Kings County. (Don’t they?) Surely, if somebody can tour a big box store in Red Hook without once writing the words “Municipal Solid Waste,” it’d be a cinch for them to whip up a quick social-cultural history of downtown Myrtle Avenue… or at least enough of one to compare before & after Bruce Ratner. (Who’s merely giving back hijacked taxpayer money in the first place, wake the fuck up.)

The Gowanus Lounge, Ratner Post-Gala: Did Marty's Wife "Hoarde" Murakami Swag?

The Brooklyn Museum Bruce Ratner Gala continues to produce interesting stories. Radar, which always entertains us, but doesn't often offer up Brooklyn fodder, is doing so in a big way with a story about the wife of a certain Brooklyn Borough President allegedly cornering the market on Murakami swag after the big, controversial event.

One commenter alleging firsthand knowledge asserts that the coverage is unfair, stating, "I was seated at their table and we willingly gave our 'swag' to Jamie."

Another grasped the metaphor:

Actually, a great story... reflects perfectly the current zeitgeist in Brooklyn. Grab as much as you can as fast as you can, and screw your neighbors.

Museum Hours, Museum Minutes: Special Brooklyn Museum Takashi Murakami Edition

Some news items surrounding the opening of the Murakami show in Brooklyn... protesters, performers, swag fights, mock fake handbags, MTV and a penthouse tour...

The Gowanus Lounge, More Brooklyn Museum Fun: Crowd-Curation Succeeds!
Brooklyn super-blogger Robert Guskind posted this item at both his paid and unpaid gigs:

A GL reader sent us this image that was submitted to the "Click!" crowd-curated photo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. It's not clear whether it went in pre- or post-Bruce Ratner Gala furor, but it is certainly a statement in its own way and talks about the "changing face" of Brooklyn and "sterile condos, fusions restaurants, hand-bag poodles..." and the "irony of an art institution paying homage to such a changing face." Click over to our Curbed post to see the full image after the jump there, along with the warning that it's not a work or kids-looking-over-your shoulder kind of picture.

Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

April 8, 2008

Group Aims to Stop Brooklyn Demolition

WNYC Radio
by Kathleen Horan

Opponents of the controversial Atlantic Yards project want to stop any demolition between 6th Avenue and Dean street in Brooklyn.

The Dean Street Property Association - made up of tenants, business and property owners - says buildings are being taken down too quickly without a guaranteed "Phase 2" construction plan.

The group has asked Governor Paterson and the Empire State Development Corporation to reevaluate and possibly suspend any more demolitions in the area. A spokesperson for the ESDC says "Phase 2" is an integral part of the project and that it's committed to ensuring the developer fulfills its obligation to complete all phases of the Atlantic Yards project.

The governor's office has yet to comment.

link

NoLandGrab: The State Funding Agreement sets deadlines for the arena and Phase I, while Phase II remains open-ended. That's neither integral or committed.

Posted by eric at 1:59 PM

Ratner, the deputy mayor, the "Wild Card" BP, and the conversion of subsidies into philanthropy

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder ties up some loose ends in an analysis of last week's Brooklyn Museum annual gala, at which the honoree was Brooklyn's biggest developer, Bruce Ratner.

But no one at the demonstration outside recognized Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris, who was Mayor Mike Bloomberg's chief philanthropic advisor at Bloomberg, L.P., and her portfolio includes arts organizations.
...
Note that the "Schedule of Podium Remarks" (sent to me by an anonymous source) misspells Frank Gehry as "Ghery" and declares Markowitz, whose schedule is variable, as a "Wild Card."

NoLandGrab: "G-Hery?" Is that the starchitect's rapper name?

Indeed, the museum might have gotten more of a "Wild Card" than it expected when Markowitz's wife, Jamie Snow, scooped up eight valuable one-per-guest plexiglas placemats, as reported by Radar and the Daily News. (Note Radar's follow-up.)
...
Hmm--if the Murakami placemats are indeed worth $500-$1000 each (here's an eBay sale), and attendees at the ball paid $1000 a plate, do they get a full tax deduction? Did the Museum deduct the value of their swag from their tickets?

Hmm... that might explain why Jamie Snow and Marty Markowitz are now saying that the placemats Snow snagged will be auctioned off to raise funds for Camp Friendship, lest she should have to pay taxes on her booty.

What happens if you keep following the money?

Given that the developer relies crucially on public funding, it's a lot easier to spread the wealth.

In many ways, we may be paying for the philanthropy. Kawaii, indeed. [aka, "Kawaii ne!"]

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Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Residents: Atlantic Yards project is going haywire

Calls mount for a moratorium on more ‘unnecessary’ demolition

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

Dean Street residents, whose apartments are in the shadow of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, want Gov. David Paterson to demand a new construction schedule before any more buildings are demolished in the 22-acre footprint.

The project’s anticipated 2016 completion date, announced when it won state approval in December of 2006, has been pushed back, but FCR has yet to release a revised schedule for its basketball arena and 16 high-rises.
...
“There is ongoing demolition activity at the project site which may now be wholly unnecessary and which is having and will continue to have a long-term significant impact on the surrounding community,” the Dean Street Block Association’s Peter Krashes wrote to Paterson last week, calling for a temporary moratorium on demolitions.

Krashes wants the enshrouded Ward Bakery building and others to be adapted and re-used rather than torn down for “unnecessary construction staging areas” and surface parking lots. He is afraid to see more “holding” properties such as the bleak building housing Modell’s — that are basically space savers for bigger buildings.

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Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

Marty Markowitz's Wife Hogs Swag at Murakami Gala

Gothamist

Sheesh! Who knew that at last week's Brooklyn Ball honoring Bruce Ratner, the Atlantic Yards overdeveloper would be the classy one?

Gothamist sums up the Radar Online and NY Daily News coverage of the Brooklyn's First "Lady's" boondoggle:

SnowMarkowitz.jpg

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner wasn’t the only one causing controversy at the Brooklyn Museum’s gala celebration for the Takashi Murakami retrospective last Thursday night. Some attendees say Jamie Snow, wife of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, was rather boorish in her accumulation of freebies at the event.

Snow grabbed eight of the limited-edition placemats, and when those left empty-handed complained:

According to Radar, she had little sympathy: "You guys really should have acted faster. This is Brooklyn!” Other placemat pleas reportedly elicited responses such as, “You snooze, you lose, buddy. Forget it.” And when her husband, the borough president, was asked to intervene, he responded with a shrug: “Just try being married to her.”

What do the truth and pregnancy have in common? According to the Borough President's wife, you can have a "little" of it.

The Daily News confirmed the contretemps with Snow, who admitted it was “a little true.” So Marty Markowitz has vowed to sell the placemats to raise funds for Camp Brooklyn, a program that sends low-income kids to camp. "She didn't steal, she didn't thieve, she didn't take from anyone else," Markowitz told the News.

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Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

Developer Ratner Feted and Jeered at Brooklyn Museum

ARTINFO

Last week's protest somehow managed to register a blip in the art media:

Last week’s Brooklyn Ball, the Brooklyn Museum's annual spring fundraiser, honored developer Bruce Ratner for his philanthropic support, a decision that brought out, in addition to the usual legions of celebrities and museum supporters, scores of protesters who braved the cold evening to rail against his $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, Bloomberg reports.

As guests at the gala paid $1,000 for dinner catered by chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa's Nobu 57 restaurant, outside the museum, about 60 local residents jeered the developer’s plans for the 22-acre area, which include erecting a $950 million, 19,000-seat arena for the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets and 16 high-rise buildings near the Atlantic Terminal, New York's third-largest transit hub.

Some local residents claim that the project is too large and will flood nearby residential neighborhoods with traffic and crowds. There is also considerable concern about the plan’s intended use of eminent domain to seize nearly 60 residential and commercial buildings in the nearby Prospect Heights neighborhood, according to Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn opposition group.

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Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

April 7, 2008

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning April 7, 2008 - April 14, 2008

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Excavation, lagging, walers and struts at SOE piles in Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Continue hauling soil from block 1121.
  • 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 complete at 626 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 22) and is awaiting sign-off.
  • Demolition will begin at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30) within this two week period.
  • Demolition will begin at 640 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 29) within this two week period.
  • Demolition will begin at 645 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 62) within this two week period.

Utility Work

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

  • The first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations is underway and is expected to continue through the end of the year. Work will continue on Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues and on Sixth between Pacific and Dean Streets. Night time work began on Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street and will continue north along Flatbush. Work began 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 2:41 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Ratner Says They "Still Need More" Subsidy for Heavily Subsidized Atlantic Yards Proposal

NEW YORK, NY— “We still need more” subsidies for the Atlantic Yards project, Forest City Enterprises president Chuck Ratner said during an investment analysts conference call last Wednesday. Forest City Enterprises (FCE) is the publicly traded parent of Bruce Ratner’s Forest City Ratner (FCR). (Journalist Norman Oder broke the news of Ratner’s “need” for more cash subsidies on his Atlantic Yards Report today).

From the conference call transcript it is clear that the Ratner team will seek more public subsidies; it is not clear if they will seek more city and state subsidies or just city subsidies. FCR’s Atlantic Yards $4-plus billion proposal already has been granted $305 million in direct cash from New York City and State. In total, the developer’s project would be the recipient of at least $2 billion in government-backed financing and tax breaks. The city’s direct cash contribution went from $100 million to $205 almost immediately after the project received political approval in December 2006.

During the conference call, FCE president Chuck Ratner said, “Just in these past six or eight months, we got the various governmental agencies, state, city, bureau in New York to increase their commitments to Atlantic Yards by $105 million on top of the $200 they had committed. We still need more.”

(It was actually the city that increased its direct subsidy to Ratner.)

How will local elected officials respond to an impending visit by Ratner back to the public subsidy trough? It doesn’t appear that they will welcome more Atlantic Yards subsidy:

Councilman, and Brooklyn Borough Presidential candidate, Bill de Blasio warned against additional public subsidies for Ratner’s Atlantic Yards in The Brooklyn Paper. “There has already been very generous public investment,” de Blasio told The Brooklyn Paper on March 29th. “I don’t see how we can go any farther.”

“The Atlantic Yards proposal is already subsidized to the hilt. Ratner’s highly profitable development plan should not be bailed out by the taxpayer, especially with budgetary tightening including education cuts,” Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein said. “If Ratner can’t build his project--with over $300 million in direct cash subsidy, over $2 billion in government-backed financing, a blank city check for ‘extraordinary infrastructure costs,’ free land from the city, a below market rail yard purchase price, and the windfall benefits of eminent domain condemnation--he should not be rewarded with yet more taxpayer funds.

link

Posted by eric at 2:30 PM

A Call for a Moratorium on AY Demolitions

Brownstoner.com

In the wake of news that Atlantic Yards plans are stalled, the Dean Street Block Association (6th Avenue to Vanderbilt section) is asking the state to immediately halt demolitions on buildings in the project's footprint. The group sent a letter (copy on jump) to Governor Paterson and ESDC head Avi Schick requesting a temporary moratorium on the destruction of buildings on the project site, particularly those that are being torn down for the second phase of Atlantic Yards. At present, the Ward Bakery building is being demolished, and the group's letter says the "building is eligible for listing on the State and National Register of Historic Places." The occupied townhouses in the photo at left, above, are also slated to come down. The concluding paragraph of the letter notes, "Please implement a moratorium on demolition until such time that the communities surrounding Atlantic Yards can be assured that rational decisions are being made to protect the area from the blight associated by dormant sites, over-scaled inefficiently situated construction staging, and surface parking lots." This does indeed sound "rational." What sense does it make to tear down buildings—especially one as treasured as Ward Bakery—for a development that may never happen?

link (features the full text of the letter)

Atlantic Yards Report, Block association calls for a moratorium on AY demolitions

Posted by eric at 1:51 PM

Forest City tells investment analysts: “We still need more” subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

pigtrough.jpg

There have been some indications that Forest City Ratner wants to return to the public subsidies trough, and Norman Oder has confirmed that as he details a Forest City Enterprises, Inc. earnings conference call.

While developer Forest City Ratner initially got the city and state to supply $200 million in direct subsidies for Atlantic Yards, then extracted an additional $105 million from the city, that's not enough.

“We still need more” subsidies, Chuck Ratner, president of parent Forest City Enterprises (FCE) told investment analysts in a conference call last Wednesday. It confirms the clue, as noted in the most recent 10-K filing, that the developer seeks more public support before proceeding with the project.

That might generate pushback from some elected officials. “There has already been very generous public investment,” City Council Member (and Brooklyn Borough President candidate) Bill de Blasio recently told the Brooklyn Paper. “I don’t see how we can go any farther.”

Chuck Ratner's comment further undermines sports economist Andrew Zimbalist's unwarranted prediction, in his FCR-commissioned "promotional study": Although the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] refers to the possibility of additional optional contributions from the city and state, it seems unlikely that such payments would be made and, in any case, it would be entirely speculative to assign a dollar figure to them.

Additional contributions have already been made, and now we know more will be requested.

Oder goes on to give an in-depth review of the conference call that covered several topics, including how Forest City portrays delays in the project due to pending lawsuits, arena financing and confidence in being able to wring more subsidies for Atlantic Yards out of the City and State. It's well worth a read.

link

Posted by steve at 9:18 AM

The Bloomberg Mystique

The Brooklyn Rail
By Richard Wells

An accounting of the mythology and record of Michael Bloomberg includes an Atlantic Yards tidbit in a paragraph about the unraveling of the Mayor's mega-develpoment inc.:

VandyYards-BR.jpg

...what of Bloomberg’s big development plans?

Many are going down the tubes, piece by piece. Hard on the heels of a fare increase, the M.T.A. just announced that improvements to subway service would be delayed because of declines in real estate tax revenue. All that remains of Atlantic Yards, a scheme touted for its contributions to the stock of affordable housing and open space, is the heavily subsidized Nets arena. The announcement that city officials had made a deal with Tishman Speyer to develop the West Side Railyards was immediately followed by news that, given the reluctance of lenders to finance big projects these days, construction won’t start anytime soon. If and when it does get built, moreover, it probably won’t be as grand as originally envisioned.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Hidden law could undo Willets Point rezone plans

Queens Times Ledger
By Stephen Stirling

Even though a recent discovery in the City Charter has nothing to do with Atlantic Yards, many NoLandGrab readers following other development controversies around the city may find this to be very interesting:

While pouring through the City Charter recently in an effort to find a way to ward off a rezoning of the area around Harlem's 125th Street, first year CUNY law school students Giselle Schuetz and Kathleen Meyers, along with two others at Vote People, a legal services group, came across a 110-year-old clause that has given hope to those opposed to the Manhattan rezoning.

The clause, outlined in Section 200 of the City Charter, states that if a petition is signed by more than 20 percent of the landowners in and directly adjacent to a proposed rezoning area approved by the City Planning Commission, the City Council would need a 75 percent majority to approve the measure rather than a simple majority.

This discovery could have implications for property owners in Willets Point who are fighting eminent domain:

Schuetz's and Meyers's discovery has also piqued the interest of business owners at Willets Point, who are currently fighting the city's plan to remake the 60-acre swath of land into a sprawling mixed-use development with more than 1 million square feet of office and retail space and 5,500 housing units.

When word of the century-old clause reached members of the Willets Point Industry and Real Estate Association, a group of 11 property owners united against the city's plan and lawyers for the group immediately began pouring over the language of the City Charter.

"Everybody's looking at it," said Rick Wynn, general counsel for Tully Construction Co., one of the largest businesses in Willets Point. "It's certainly interesting from our point of view - let's put it that way."

article

NoLandGrab: Since Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards is the result of a NY State takeover, which supercedes all local zoning, and the NY City Council never had an official vote on the plan, this discovery doesn't apply here.

More locally, however, this could affect the Toll Brothers project along the Gowanus. Toll Brothers is seeking a special rezoning through the City's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, even while future rezoning plans are being contemplated for the rest of the Gowanus basin.

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Forest City in the News

Rocky Mountian News, 5 questions for James Ratner and David LaRue, Forest City's Commercial Group
Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner might want to listed to Forest City exec James Ratner, interviewed in the Rocky Mountain News about the Orchard Town Mall:

What factored into your decision to build The Orchard?

Ratner: As a developer, you want to position yourself where there's growth. We looked at this corridor and thought there was a great opportunity here to provide a unique retail destination that would combine the lessons we've learned in the past 10 years about what customers want.

They want a real-life experience. They don't want to feel like they're going somewhere that's a Disneyland, or a pretend village. They want to go somewhere that feels like it belongs, and that's what we attempted to do here.

NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn, Bruce has never taken the hint that Atlantic Yards doesn't belong.

Denver.YourHub.com, Orchard Town Center opens

In a place where apple trees once flourished, a new lifestyle center has taken root. The Orchard Town Center, located at the intersection of I-25 and 144th, is opening for business on Thursday, April 3 when Mayor Nancy McNally, city officials and developers cut the ribbon signifying a new era of shopping for Westminster and its surrounding communities.
...
The Orchard Town Center, a 983,000-square-foot-development designed in classic prairie craftsmanship, offers a pedestrian-friendly, outdoor lifestyle village with exceptional options in shopping, dining and entertainment. AMC Orchard 12, Macy's, JC Penney and SuperTarget anchor the center. Retailers will begin opening their doors on April 3 with more retailers and stores opening throughout the spring and summer.

Located at the northwest corner of Interstate 25 and 144th Avenue, The Orchard Town Center features a Town Center with a sunken plaza, a giant outdoor fireplace and a children's play area that features artistically-crafted apples, apple slices and roots made of soft, resilient rubber surfacing that beckon children to climb through, under and over.

NoLandGrab: The previous article mentions that all 500 units of housing are on hold, which means this "Town Center" is currently an outdoor mall.

The Washington Post, Real Estate Company Mixes It Up Around New Nationals Stadium
Another Q&A with a Ratner-family Forest City exec:

Deborah Ratner Salzberg is president of Forest City Washington and a director of Forest City Enterprises. Salzberg, who has a bachelor's degree from George Washington University and a law degree from the University of San Francisco, has worked at the real estate company since 1985.

Salzberg told staff writer Thomas Heath about what the company is working on here and what she sees as the future of the area around the Nationals stadium.

Ratner-Salzberg discusses several Foreset City projects in the DC metro area, including The [Not-Atlantic] Yards, the Forest City box seats at the Nationals Ballpark, and her ringtone.

TradingMarkets.com, Stolen Trade Secrets?: Lawsuit Claims Exec Took $1M Study From Pulte Homes

Pulte Homes claims in a federal lawsuit that a top executive who was being laid off stole a highly confidential, $1 million Albuquerque market study and used it to create a similar report for a major competitor.
...
Pulte claims [Lynn] Galindo entered into an agreement with Forest City Covington, developer of the 13,000-acre Mesa del Sol development south of the Albuquerque International Sunport, to provide that firm with a marketing study and used material from Pulte's [the Albuquerque Operating Strategic Plan ] to do so.

There is no allegation of wrongdoing against Forest City, which is identified in the lawsuit but not named as a defendant.
...
[Attorney Marty Esquivel] said Pulte was retaliating against Galindo because she is a witness in a case against Pulte brought by other employees in Nevada.

The Charlotte Observer, DAVIDSON IS HOME TO A DELICATE, THRIVING ECOSYSTEM, THREATENED BY DEVELOPMENT
The town of Davidson missed an opportunity to protect local wetlands. Now the town is hoping that Forest City, which owns the development right, will do the right thing.

The company has asked $2.7 million for 33 acres around the wetland, Alexander said. The company has already committed to preserving the wetland itself but, with its development plan approved, is not obligated to set aside the uplands.

"We want to be good neighbors and do the right thing," said project manager Scott Kilby, himself a trout fisherman.

But Forest City has also told the town and conservancy that its home office in Cleveland expects Summers Walk to meet profit goals.

Posted by lumi at 4:12 AM

April 6, 2008

On Wednesday, a landmarking meeting for Prospect Heights

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC): Following PHNDC's request to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for an evaluation of a Prospect Heights Historic District, LPC will present its proposed boundaries for the district at a community forum on Wednesday, April 9 beginning at 7:00 PM. The forum will be held at P.S. 9, 80 Underhill Avenue (between St. Marks Avenue and Bergen Street). Representatives from LPC will also answer questions from residents and business owners.

Note that the Ward Bakery, under demolition, and the rest of the Atlantic Yards footprint are not included in the boundaries.

link

Posted by steve at 8:50 AM

Murakami at the Brooklyn Museum (NY Times Video)

NY Times

MurakamiVideoCapture.jpg

This almost five minute long video coverage of the event honoring Bruce Ratner at the Brooklyn Museum of Art last Thursday is almost entirely about the goings-on inside the event. At about 2 minutes and 50 seconds into the video, there is a quick succession of images that move from Frank Gehry, to Bruce Ratner, to protesters in front of the museum.

link

Posted by steve at 8:33 AM

Gehry: Ratner Has Big Mouth. Ratner: Museum Award for His "Socially Responsible" Developments

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This commentary points out the contradiction in statements from The Brooklyn Museum of Art. On one hand, the museum tells the The Brooklyn Paper that the honor given Ratner is purely for his support of the arts. However, when the honor is bestowed, it wants the honor to to be based on Ratner's supposedly socially responsible real estate development.

In defending itself against public rebuke and criticism of its decision to bestow this honor on Atlantic Yards proposer Bruce Ratner while the community fight against his planned project is ongoing. The Museum's spokeswoman Sally Williams explained things a few weeks ago to The Brooklyn Paper:

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.

She added that the museum’s selection of Ratner did not indicate its support (or lack thereof) for Atlantic Yards...

“One thing has nothing to do with the other,” she said.

Last week she told The Brooklyn Paper:

“Bruce C. Ratner is being honored … in recognition of his longstanding support of this museum."

But, according to The Brooklyn Paper, at last night's gala when Bruce Ratner accepted his award, he seemed to think he was being honored for his work as a developer, which would include being the eminent domain abusing, proposer of the Atlantic Yards—a national poster child for bad planning and bad process:

...In his acceptance speech hours later, Ratner did not mention Atlantic Yards, but merely said that he was honored to accept an award that “represents the essence” of what he does as a developer, namely, building with “a social purpose and responsibility.”

link

Posted by steve at 8:30 AM

April 5, 2008

Atlantic Yards Report Digest: Saturday Edition

Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report features four brief posts today.

Times Style writer arches eyebrows at "obligatory chorus" of protesters

To those on one side of the museum’s new glass-walled addition, Mr. Ratner is a deep-pocketed patron and, as the museum’s director, Arnold Lehman, said, “a nice boychick from Cleveland, Ohio.” To those at curbside on Eastern Parkway, he was viewed less benignly, as Satan. Most developers are.

“Atlantic Yards is truly going to make a lot of people miserable,” said one protester, Eleanor Price, referring to Mr. Ratner’s $4 billion plan to refashion downtown Brooklyn into a commercial wonderland of shops, a basketball arena and fanciful buildings by Frank Gehry.

Let's just say that if he's calling the site "downtown Brooklyn," an error the Times has corrected in more than a dozen articles, and that this was merely an "obligatory" protest, he's not doing his reading. The Times's CityRoom blog, maybe, thought it was news. Maybe the news side should've sent a reporter.

NoLandGrab: One Times error that even Oder didn't catch was the writer's listing of "Kristen Davis" among the celebrities attending the Museum event. Were pretty sure The Times means "Kristin Davis," former star of "Sex and the City" — not the recently busted East Side Madam.

AY web site talks of suites but not stall

Anyone looking at the In The News page at the official Atlantic Yards web site is getting a rather skewed sense of the news.

At the top of the page are links to tabloid articles about the luxury suites planned for the Atlantic Yards arena. Then comes a link to a Daily News column by Errol Louis (whose last name is misspelled) decrying delays in the project.

There's no link, however, to real coverage of the Atlantic Yards stall, much less news that the developer has 6+ years to build the arena.

NoLandGrab: How clever of the FCRC webmaster to spell Errol Louis's name L-e-w-i-s, in order to confuse those who might otherwise think the Daily News columnist is doing the developer's bidding.

Stoler: Outer-borough office market in trouble

From an article headlined Office Space Glut Talk of the Industry, by Michael Stoler in Thursday's New York Sun:
At least 4 million square feet of office buildings are in the planning stages in Brooklyn and Queens, not including Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development.

Construction has not yet commenced on Tishman Speyer's planned office development on the site of the Queens Plaza Municipal garage. The developer has announced plans to build the Gotham Center: four towers, some more than 40 stories tall, totaling 3.5 million square feet of mixed-use space on the two parcels in Queens Plaza. Real estate sources said the first phase of the project will be a 20-story, 750,000-square-foot office tower, with the city committed to leasing about half of the space.

Industry leaders are voicing skepticism about new office development in Brooklyn and Queens, however. As one real estate banking officer put it: "If these projects did not happen when the market was hot as a pistol, I don't see this going to happen over the next couple of years. Who is going to pay the rents for the new construction in these locations?"

"Brooklyn Views": the ironies of "The Moment"

From "The Moment" blog of the New York Times's "T" Magazine. under the headline Now Screening | ‘Brooklyn Views: The Home of Arnold Lehman
This Saturday, the Brooklyn Museum opens its new Takashi Murakami show, “(c) Murakami.” This morning, the museum’s director, Arnold Lehman, invites T Magazine into his Brooklyn Heights apartment to view his personal collection of contemporary art. In our film, Lehman walks through his apartment, giving his perspective on collecting, curating and the Brooklyn cityscape, of which his apartment has a 360-degree view.

Of course Brooklyn Views is also the name of a once-active blog written by architect Jonathan Cohn critiquing the Atlantic Yards project, and Lehman's museum has just been slammed for honoring Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner. And one criticism of the museum is that it has not been willing to screen the AY documentary Brooklyn Matters.

NoLandGrab: Is the prolific Oder really in need of more material? This one seems like a bit of a stretch.

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

Museum Director Arnold Lehman Doth Protest Too Much

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This a summary of coverage of the protest against the Brooklyn Museum of Art's honoring of Bruce Ratner. Also included, however, are some observations that give us reason to be skeptical of an innocent-sounding quote from Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold Lehman:

"Honoring Bruce Ratner has nothing to do with anything other than his terrific patronage over a very long period of time. ... We're not involved in the politics that seems to be swirling around us.''

Lehman is conveniently forgetting the Ratner-connected folks on the Museum's board, the Brooklyn Ball committees and Museum's hosting of the Forest City Ratner/Barclays gala press event announcing the $400 million arena naming rights deal.

Click on the link to get all the details.

link

Posted by steve at 8:49 AM

EXCLUSIVE: Gehry to Brooklyn Paper: Miss Brooklyn ain’t dead — in fact, she’s hotter than ever

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

An exclusive interview with Frank Gehry, starchitect of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, takes up the first part of this article.

In an exclusive interview, he told The Paper that not only will it be built, but it will “look better than anyone imagines.”

Gehry admitted that developer Bruce Ratner has struggled to find an anchor tenant for the 511-foot iconic, shimmering glass-walled skyscraper. Brooklyn Bridge Realty

But Gehry quickly added: “Bruce will have a tenant soon — and then he’ll begin construction.”

...

Gehry’s comments come two weeks after Ratner admitted that he was having trouble finding an anchor tenant for Miss Brooklyn, telling the New York Times that he “won’t build” the tower without such a tenant.

But if Ratner gets a tenant, Gehry said, his design is “better than ever.”

“We’ve made some adjustments that people will absolutely love,” he said. “This is the part of the process I enjoy — tinkering, making things better.”

The protest outside the event is also covered.

Protesters condemned the Museum’s decision to honor Ratner, some holding signs reading, “Con Artist” and, in a particularly nifty bit of memory, “Dung Deal,” a reference to the Museum’s 1999 controversy over its “Sensation” exhibition, which featured a painting of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung.

Joining the protesters was former city Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Marilyn Gelber.

link

NoLandGrab: Considering that its initial design showed 'Miss Brooklyn' to be a hulking, out-of-scale monster, It's not hard to imagine that Gehry's tinkerings make it 'better than ever'. Also, 'soon' is a relative term, but it's probably not the word you'd use for the AY construction schedule.

Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

Atlantic Yards Fallout

The Brooklyn Rail
by Brian J. Carreira

This is an excellent read for anyone trying to catch up on the state of the proposed Atlantic Yards project. The heart of the article explains how the proposal is based on three false assumptions.

The first false assumption was that the land grab was going to be easy. In some cases, the condo conversions on Pacific Street had only opened 6 months before Ratner announced the project. It would be logical that these new residents, with a not-so-veiled threat of eminent domain, would have little attachment to the neighborhood and would likely be happy to take a premium on their new homes and get lost. The other buildings were rentals and underutilized industrial and commercial space. Properties like these rarely engender attachment from landlords who often live elsewhere. And for longtime owners, the return on their investment would be massive in that real estate climate.

For the most part, this assumption was accurate. Most of the owners took the money. But a few, like Daniel Goldstein from Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), stayed and invested unanticipated amounts of time and energy fighting the project.

The second assumption was that Brooklyn was still looking to be “saved.” When FCRC proposed MetroTech in the late-1980s, so the legend goes, only Bruce Ratner was brave enough to build in Brooklyn. A lot has changed in the interim. New and old residents were shaking off the borough’s inferiority complex. It was hip to be a Brooklynite, even in spite of that ugly office complex downtown. So, the idea that Frankenstein’s bride, “Miss Brooklyn,” and the rest of Frank Gehry’s monstrous high-rise and arena complex, would usher in a new era rang hollow.

It is interesting that this refrain of “salvation” cum Atlantic Yards was mostly sung by Manhattanites. Brooklyn politicians like City Councilwoman Letitia James and local residents weren’t going to simply fall prostrate in gratitude that developer Ratner chose their borough as the site of his hubristic endeavor. Markowitz did, but that seems a story for another time.

The third assumption was that no one would look into the developer’s claims all that deeply. If 10,000 jobs were promised, then that is what was going to be delivered. If a community benefits agreement was drafted, then it must have meant FCRC really labored to reach consensus with neighbors and stakeholders.

In many cases, this false assumption was also presented as truth. Papers dutifully reported the jobs number even when it seemed completely implausible and few bothered to dissect the community benefits agreement to see that it was largely unenforceable, selective in terms of whom it negotiated with, and demanded next to nothing that Ratner wasn’t already going to provide.

link

Posted by steve at 8:16 AM

Brooklyn Developer Ratner Feted as Protesters Jeer

Bloomberg.com
by Patrick Cole

The Brooklyn Museum gala honoring developer Bruce Ratner brought out scores of celebrities, friends and supporters last night, as well as detractors who stood in the evening chill to protest his plans to make over a 22-acre swath of the New York borough.

...

Some local residents say the project is too large and will overwhelm adjacent neighborhoods with new residents and traffic. In 2006, tenants and homeowners filed a lawsuit, asking a judge to block the use of eminent domain. In January, an appeals court dismissed the suit.

Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for a group opposed to the Atlantic Yards project, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said he hopes an appeal of the court's decision will stop the seizures of residents' properties. If the development goes ahead, Goldstein said, the apartment building where he lives on Pacific Avenue will be destroyed to make room for the basketball arena.

"It's just poor judgment by the museum to honor this developer who is in the midst of a huge fight in the community that surrounds the museum,'' said Goldstein, 38. ``He's taking away people's homes. He's taking away my home.''

New York State wants to use its power of eminent domain to seize 57 residential and commercial buildings in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights district, Goldstein said.

link

Posted by steve at 8:03 AM

This Is Not a Sidewalk Bag

The New York Times
by Guy Trebay

This article mostly covers what went on inside Thursday's Brooklyn Museum of Art event honoring Bruce Ratner, but does take notice to the protest outside.

Here, then, at the gala opening of the Takashi Murakami retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum on Thursday, an evening of unseasonal chill and spitting rain, was the obligatory chorus of protesters on Eastern Parkway, raising voices against the developer Bruce C. Ratner, who was being honored that night for his support of the arts at the annual Brooklyn Ball.

To those on one side of the museum’s new glass-walled addition, Mr. Ratner is a deep-pocketed patron and, as the museum’s director, Arnold Lehman, said, “a nice boychick from Cleveland, Ohio.” To those at curbside on Eastern Parkway, he was viewed less benignly, as Satan. Most developers are.

“Atlantic Yards is truly going to make a lot of people miserable,” said one protester, Eleanor Price, referring to Mr. Ratner’s $4 billion plan to refashion downtown Brooklyn into a commercial wonderland of shops, a basketball arena and fanciful buildings by Frank Gehry. “They’re using eminent domain to get rid of a lot of people and to close businesses,” Ms. Price said. “Where are they going to go?”

link

NoLandGrab: Perhaps it's useless to mention yet again, but could The Times's editors get it straight that the proposed Atlantic Yards project is located in Prospect Heights, NOT in downtown Brooklyn?

Posted by steve at 7:47 AM

Brooklyn 'Crowd Curation' Experiment is a Success!

Curbed

The Brooklyn Museum web site included a feature entitled "Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition" which is "a photography exhibition that invites Brooklyn Museum’s visitors, the online community, and the general public to participate in the exhibition process."

Curbed catches someone creating a different kind of contribution to the process. Warning for sensitive readers: this item features the display of naked buttocks.

We're not entirely certain if this contribution to the Brooklyn Museum's "crowd-curated" exhibition called "Click!" pre-dates or post-dates the eruption over the nasty controversy about the Bruce Ratner Ball. What we do know is that it's about the, uh, "changing face" of Brooklyn and "sterile condos, fusions restaurants, hand-bag poodles..." and the "irony of an art institution paying homage to such a changing face."

link

Posted by steve at 7:30 AM

Formal Opposition: Protesters Dress Down Brooklyn Museum Over Bruce Ratner Honor

The Village Voice
by Julie Bolcer

Further coverage of this past Thursday's protest in front of the Brooklyn Museum of Art:

Some cleverly dubbed it a “dung deal.” Others slyly suggested that “Ratner is a ‘con’ artist.” And still more dismissed it fundamentally as a “shame.”

Chants creative and classic poured from the crowd of protesters assembled behind NYPD barricades on Thursday evening outside the Brooklyn Museum. Inside, a $1000 per ticket gala headlined by Kanye West would soon honor Bruce Ratner, the controversial mega-developer behind the increasingly challenged Atlantic Yards project, for his patronage of the arts and commitment to public service and generosity.

However, much like the meaning of the Takashi Murakami artwork with Louis Vuitton boutique now installed at the Museum, the protesters led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn argued that where Ratner is concerned, the concept of “honor” is debatable.

link

Posted by steve at 7:19 AM

Carbon Neutral Nets Can’t Offset Fan Skepticism

greenbuildingsNYC

GreenNet.jpg

A New Jersey resident and long-time follower of the Nets assesses the efforts of the Nets to become the first carbon neutral team in the NBA. He is impressed by the team's effort to play the first carbon neutral game on April the 1st, but is much less impressed by their overall green strategy.

... The initiative worked for the Nets – they got a nice mention in the New York Times, which essentially wrote a Yormark press release in writing, “In a league known more for sideline celebrities and fancy cars, the Nets are standing out with their commitment to going green.” And it’s hard to knock a carbon-neutral professional sports event. But the broader point of my earlier post still stands: sustainability is about more than just branding, and the Atlantic Yards development – pigheaded, wasteful and, to reiterate, mind-bendingly grandiose – remains emblematic of a mindset more concerned with greenbacks than green building. So credit where it’s due on the carbon neutral game…but at the risk of sounding sour, let’s remember that there’s very little sustainable about throwing up 16 new buildings (LEED Silver or no) in a neighborhood that doesn’t much want them.

link

Posted by steve at 6:16 AM

April 4, 2008

Kelo sequel docketed

USSupremeCourt.jpg SCOTUS Blog is reporting that the Goldstein v. Pataki petition, filed by property owners and renters fighting to save their homes and businesses from eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards footprint, has been assigned a docket number, "07-1247."

Posted by lumi at 6:58 PM

FIRST LADY OF BROOKLYN'S $8K SWAG SNAG

Radar Online

Seems like the rabble was inside the Museum last night.

takahashimarkowitz_fresh.jpg

Without a doubt, the person who got the most out of Thursday night's Takashi Murakami retrospective opening at the Brooklyn Museum of Art was Jamie Snow, the wife of Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz. She grabbed eight of the limited-addition Murakami technicolor fiberglass place mats that were being given out as gifts to party-goers—mats that fetched up to $1,000 on eBay after similar events. And she was wasn't about to give even one of them up.

Hundreds of wealthy Manhattanites braved the light drizzle by taking hired towncars out to the Brooklyn art museum for the multi-tiered extravaganza. Some were there in honor of bulldozing developer Bruce Ratner, who was being given an award by the museum for donating lots of monies. (The gaggle outside protesting his Atlantic Yards project probably disagree with the museum's selection.) Some were there for the opening of the gigantic Murakami exhibit, which also includs a full-service Louis Vuitton store (Murakami-designed "Monogramouflage" handbags are $1,500 and up). Some were there to see Kanye West perform and check out Marc Jacobs' "performance art" installation, in which Jacobs sought to bring attention "to the serious issue of counterfeiting" by setting up a fake Canal Street stall. Still others were there to eat food catered by Nobu, drink a lot of wine, and hoard swag.

Snow was in the last category.

The mats were intended to be taken by seated guests, but after wolfing down dinner, the enterprising Snow, perhaps sensing a business opportunity, rounded up eight of the mats and rushed over to Murakami to have them signed. When party-goers who ended up placemat-less asked her if she would kindly relinquish one, Snow snidely remarked, "You guys really should have acted faster. This is Brooklyn," and skulked away.

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NoLandGrab: We're speechless — almost. All we can say is, when you honor Bruce Ratner, really, what else can you expect?

More Blogosphere coverage of the Museum protest:

Gowanus Lounge, Brooklyn Museum Ratner Protest is Angry & Visual

Gothamist.com, Murakami Gala at Brooklyn Museum Eclipsed by Ratner Protest: Photo Gallery

Brownstoner.com, 'Angry' Anti-Ratner Protest at the Brooklyn Museum

The Kingston Lounge, Brooklyn Museum Ratner protest - card I of II

Brooklyn Vegan, Protesters outside the Kanye West show last night

Posted by eric at 2:52 PM

Advance blogo coverage

Here are links to some of the advance coverage of yesterday's protest in front of the Brooklyn Museum:

BRatner-Gothamist.jpg Gothamist, Despite Controversy, Brooklyn Museum to Honor Ratner

Ratner's Forest City Foundation gave $100,000 to the museum in ’05 and again in ’06; now the museum's is giving him their highest honor, the Augustus Graham Medal. Brooklyn resident Michael White is organizing a protest, and tells the Daily News, "A museum should be a good neighbor to its community. You cannot be a good neighbor by promoting the activities of someone who is a bad neighbor."

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice], Atlantic Yards Opponents Protest Brooklyn Museum’s Choice to Honor Bruce Ratner Tonight

In what may be this season's version of elephant dung on the Virgin Mary, opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn think the Brooklyn Museum has acted in very poor taste.
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During a celebration at the museum, which also marks the opening of the new Takashi Murakami exhibition, the board of trustees will award the Atlantic Yards developer with the Augustus Graham medal. Named for the museum’s founding benefactor, the honor recognizes patronage of the arts and commitment to public service and generosity. [Emphasis added.]

The Gowanus Lounge, Brooklyn Museum Ratner Gala Continues to Stir Anger

A protest has been organized and there have been angry letters circulating about the event, including an "open letter" to the Museum, which would seem to indicate that some of its members and supporters are upset.
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From the museum's perspective, however, the Gala is a big-ticket institutional thank you to a major supporter.

Posted by lumi at 6:57 AM

Brooklyn Museum Gala Protest

Brit in Brooklyn

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Photog Adrian Kinloch made it to last night's protest of the Brooklyn Museum's annual gala, where the guest of honor was Brooklyn's best overdeveloper, Bruce Ratner:

Last night a feisty, dedicated group made their voices heard in protest against the Brooklyn Museum gala honouring Atlantic Yards mega developer Bruce Ratner.

Kinloch posted a selection on his blog and more on his photo site.

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

"Shame!" Crowd outside museum shouts "Ratner's bad for Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder was present in front of the Brooklyn Museum of Art last night covering the protest against the honor being paid to Bruce Ratner.

Maybe it's because a major anti-Atlantic Yards rally was held on a sweltering day or that the annual Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn walkathon fundraiser takes place in comfortable weather, while last night it was cold. Maybe it was the ostentatious elegance of the tables set for the Brooklyn Museum's gala honoring Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

Maybe it was the parade of limousines and SUVs bringing well-dressed guests--at $500 to $1000 and more a plate--to an event that protesters likely arrived at via the 2/3 subway line. Maybe it was a sense that Forest City Ratner, however stalled in its plans for most of Atlantic Yards, is in the driver's seat, with most elected officials yet to challenge the developer. Maybe it's that demolitions promise increased blight around the Atlantic Yards footprint. Maybe it's just the accumulation of grievances.

But the protest organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn last night outside the museum was notably angry, with some 80 people gathering at one point, many chanting "Ratner is a liar" and "Shame on you" at vehicles coming to drop off their passengers. (More people arrived later, as others left, so total attendance probably topped 100.) Taking off from the museum's function, several people carried signs calling Ratner a "con artist."

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Posted by steve at 6:36 AM

Some Scenes From Last Night's Brooklyn Museum Protest

All pictures courtesy of your friends at No Land Grab.

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Posted by steve at 6:29 AM

Protesting Ratner’s honor

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

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In a perfect world, arts institutions would not have to go begging — or, worse, risk the appearance of impropriety by courting donations from controversial figures accused of not caring about the interest of the broader community.

So while we understand the Brooklyn Museum’s motivation in honoring Ratner, we are equally cognizant of why so many Brooklynites — many of them museum members — were picketing the institution on Thursday night.

Read the rest of the editorial for the litany of reasons why Bruce Ratner's good-neighbor credentials have been revoked by the community, causing Brooklyn Museum members' heads to spin when they found out that the cultural institution was not only sucking up to, but also honoring, the deep-pocketed developer.

Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

Public Hearing Scheduled for 80 Dekalb Financing

Brownstoner

Today the Eagle reports that funding for the affordable housing units in one of Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn projects is looking more promising than it is for Atlantic Yards. The 34-story rental tower, as rendered above, will probably receive tax-exempt and/or taxable multifamily housing revenue bonds for 80 Dekalb's construction “not to exceed $109,500,000” from the Housing Finance Agency, which is having a public hearing about the matter on April 15th. The entire project is supposed to cost around $204 million, and at least 35 20 percent of its 365 apartments are going to be set aside as affordable rentals. As the photo on the jump shows, after a slow period last fall, work on the foundation is in full swing.

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Posted by steve at 5:55 AM

Beekman school, Gehry’s tower pushed back a year

Downtown Express
By Julie Shapiro

Developer Bruce Ratner finally sent Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver a writen response, explaining when the eagerly awaited public school at the Gehry-designed Beekman St. tower might open:

Ratner’s letter came more than a month after Silver inquired about the lack of progress on the Beekman St. site, which has been at a standstill since last fall. The school will sit in the base of a 76-story mixed-use tower, designed by Frank Gehry. Downtown Express first reported last September that Forest City Ratner was having trouble financing Gehry’s complicated design.

“When we initially conceived this project in 2005, the financial markets and economic environment were exceptionally strong,” Ratner wrote to Silver. “Today, unfortunately, the markets have shifted and the availability of capital has tightened. This tightening caused us to delay construction of Beekman.”

Ratner called the delay on the school “terribly frustrating,” but added, “We believe it is better to delay the opening than to risk opening the school prematurely.”

NoLandGrab: Why would ANYONE open a school prematurely?

The new pre-K to 8 school will have 630 seats, which are badly needed in the community. As recently as several weeks ago, Ratner representatives were assuring C.B. 1 that the school would open on time, but they have refused to attend a public meeting for months.

The day after Ratner sent his letter, Forest City closed on $680 million in construction financing for the project, allaying fears that the project would not go forward at all. Community members had been particularly worried after the New York Times reported two weeks ago that almost all of Ratner’s $4 billion Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn could be delayed for years. Ratner also blamed the economic slowdown for that change of plans.

The $680 million will cover the complete construction costs for the Beekman project, said Joyce Baumgarten, a Ratner spokesperson.

“They can stop worrying,” she said of the community. “It looks like tahe dates we have now are fixed…. Now it’s on schedule.”

For those of you who've been wondering why a building that is slated to receive Liberty Bond financing hasn't even been revealed publicly:

Usually, concrete buildings like the Beekman St. tower can rise one story every two to three days, said Josh Rosenbloom, director of city operations for the Construction Center. Construction workers build floor-plate molds once and then use them to pour concrete for each floor.

“But the way Gehry designed it, no two floor plates were the same,” Rosenbloom said at a Community Board 1 Quality of Life Committee meeting. That means that workers would have to build new molds for each floor, substantially drawing out the construction.

To cut the costs and lengthy schedule of this process, Ratner is simplifying the design, Rosenbloom said.

Asked if Ratner and Gehry have resolved the design debate, Rosenbloom replied that he did not know.

Baumgarten said Monday that the design would be unveiled in four to six weeks. She said the design is complete but she could not comment on it. Older versions show a wavy structure with an undulating facade.

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NoLandGrab: The inclusion of a public school in Bruce Ratner's Gehry-designed tower in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's district has been widely seen as a key to Silver's support for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Readers respond to Bruce Ratner’s Yards failure

The Brooklyn Paper published three letters in response to news that Atlantic Yards has been significantly delayed:

Affordable housing deferred?

To the editor,

Your article about the demise of Atlantic Yards (“Atlantic Yards Dead; Ratner kills Miss Brooklyn, KOs 11 buildings; vows to build publicly financed Nets arena,” March 29) makes it seem like Bruce Ratner’s promised 2,250 units of affordable housing might never get built.

One scenario is that Ratner builds the stadium and then sells off the rest of the 22-acres to private developers.

So when does ACORN, which supported Ratner and signed the Community Benefits Agreement, say, “Bruce, you’re breaking the deal”?

Bertha Lewis has to have major egg on her face now.

P.S. I hope the editor’s ankle is healing nicely.

Steve DeSève, Brooklyn Heights

Betrayal of Public Trust

To the editor,

Your editorial, “Take Back the Rail Yards” (March 29) was right on. The whole Atlantic Yards project has been a huge betrayal of the public trust, and a reversion of the yards would help at least a little bit.

Your coverage of the whole debacle has been most welcome, and your jeremiads are being vindicated.

Let’s hope the several public officials do the right thing now, and move from (tardy) outrage to (early) action. Get on it, lawmakers. Make it happen. Take the rail yards back. And work on legal relief for those adjacent neighborhoods, which are not being developed but destroyed.

Daniel Meeter, Park Slope
The writer is the pastor at Old First Reformed Church on Seventh Avenue

Beginnings of Blight

To the editor,

Bruce Ratner didn’t create this blight. It has been a blight created by 60 years of political neglect. Even when the all-powerful speakers of the state Assembly were from Brooklyn, nothing was done to improve the area.

That is where the blight and neglect started — and remains.

Al Pankin, Downtown

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Yards foes to sing to Supremes

The Brooklyn Paper
By Dana Rubinstein

One of the top eminent domain attorneys in New York just reset the odds that the Supreme Court might choose to hear the case of Goldstein v. Pataki:

Eleven Brooklynites who still own land in the footprint of the mega-project asked the High Court on Monday to examine the state’s use of eminent domain to make way for Bruce Ratner’s development — and at least one expert gave the case a good chance of being heard by the Court, which turns down 99 percent of the 8,000 petitions it receives every year.

“The petition is very well written, so there’s a chance,” said attorney Michael Rikon, who once represented plaintiffs fighting eminent domain at Ratner’s Metrotech project.

Two months ago, Rikon said the odds were “extremely slim” that the case, Goldstein v. Pataki, would be accepted. But he said on Wednesday, “I’ve changed my opinion” because the plaintiffs, who include Freddy’s Bar and Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, may have found an inconsistency in the Court’s landmark 2005 Kelo decision.

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Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Forest City in the News

Forbes.com, Forest City outlook cut to negative on unfavourable market conditions - Moody's

Moody's Investors Service said it has revised Forest City Enterprises Inc.'s outlook to negative from stable, citing the unfavourable market conditions in single-family residential real estate that have been putting pressure on Forest City's land development business.

GlobeSt.com, Forest City Delays Large Projects, Examines Others

Despite a challenging economy, Forest City Enterprises continues to look for development and acquisition opportunities even as it eyes its pipeline cautiously, executives said at the company’s fourth quarter conference call.

Regional mall sales last year were $468 per sf, but comparable sales declined 1.8% in 2007, indicating weakness. With all sectors slowing, and anticipating a weak financing environment for the rest of the year, the company has delayed projects that would have exceeded $1 billion (including a retail project in the Northeast), and each project in the pipeline is being examined.

Larchmont Gazette, Myrtle Blvd Parking Deck Construction To Begin in June

After weeks of negotiations (and several public hearings), the board unanimously approved a three year extension to the special permit granted Forest City Mamaroneck (FCM) in October 2006 to build an apartment complex on Madison Avenue and a parking deck on Myrtle Boulevard. Forest City now has until April 2011 to apply for a building permit for the apartment complex.

Town Attorney Bill Maker made it clear that the permit was extended on the condition that FCM begins construction of the promised two-story parking deck no later than June 2, 2008 and completes the project by March 1, 2009 - whether or not the apartment complex is ever built. In essence, the Town gained a new parking facility for 118 cars at no cost to taxpayers.

LVBC.com, City Council moves ahead with new city hall

$150 million. That's how much it will cost to build a new city hall for Las Vegas. Despite the economic slump, City Council decided to move forward anyway.

News 3's Marie Mortera tells us how the city can afford this. The key is not to pay for it now. In fact, Las Vegas won't have to come up with the money to turn the site around until five years after construction is done, in 2016.

That's what helped seal this initial deal between the city and developers Forest City and Live Work Las Vegas.

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

April 3, 2008

Atlantic Yards Developer Rushes to Reassure Investors

Gothamist.com
by John Del Signore

During a conference call with investors yesterday, Forest City Enterprises CEO Charles Ratner acknowledged that a window of opportunity had all but closed for the ambitious, 22-acre housing, retail and stadium project proposed for Brooklyn. But he also insisted that the delay – brought on by recession and dogged opposition from community groups – was just temporary:

The economy sometimes alters the timeline, but we have demonstrated our ability to see these projects through to completion—the value they create is well worth the time and effort. … Real estate is a long-term business. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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Posted by eric at 3:40 PM

With Investors on the Phone, Forest City Thinks Happy Thoughts on Atlantic Yards

The Real Estate Observer
by Eliot Brown

The developers of Brooklyn’s $4 billion-plus Atlantic Yards project, Forest City Ratner, tried to assuage fears about the stalled development in a conference call with investors today, saying they are committed to the success of the project in the long term. The call was held by Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of Forest City Ratner.

“Today’s economic environment is challenging,” Forest City Ratner president Joanne Minieri said. “Projects of this size and significance are always subject to changing market demands and economic influences.”

Publicly traded real estate firms' conference calls are normally cheery affairs, with executives giving a bright outlook, matched with the footnote that their stock is quite undervalued. But the remarks of Ms. Minieri and others were laced with relatively sobering talk about the short-term outlook, and a statement that tough times call for backing off on projects until the climate is better.

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Posted by eric at 3:30 PM

Protest the Brooklyn Museum's Bruce Ratner Celebration - An Affront to Brooklyn's Communities

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From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:
Join your friends, neighbors and the Brooklyn community to protest the Museum’s insensitivity to all those whose lives have been, and would be, turned upside down by Ratner’s Atlantic Yards – a project that has become the national posterchild for bad development.

Bring your signs and friends.

Where: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, New York

When: Thursday, April 3, 2008 - 6:30 PM

We don’t question the Museum’s right to raise funds to support itself. We don’t even question the Museum accepting donations from Bruce Ratner. What we do take issue with is honoring and celebrating Bruce Ratner in light of what he has done and proposes to do to Brooklyn’s communities.

Posted by steve at 10:42 AM

Atlantic Yards foes rage at Brooklyn Museum over Bruce Ratner honor

NY Daily News
by Rachel Monahan and Jotham Sederstrom

Atlantic Yards critics blasted the city-funded museum, saying it was wrong to honor a developer whose arena and residential project has been criticized for its size, the seizure of private property and its use of taxpayer money.

"A museum should be a good neighbor to its community," said Brooklyn resident Michael White, who spearheaded a petition that has netted nearly 100 signatures from outraged Brooklynites. "You cannot be a good neighbor by promoting the activities of someone who is a bad neighbor."

The glitzy event, expected to feature rapper Kanye West, has prompted a protest tonight outside the museum.

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Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

MONEY & CULTURE: Forest City Ratner Foundation, the Museum, BAM

Today, Norman Oder explores the activities of the Forest City Ratner Foundation and how large contributions haven't hurt relationships with two local cultural organizations:

Forest City Ratner's shadowy foundation, under the radar, dispenses $1.7M

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Forest City Ratner aggressively announces local philanthropy such as basketball clinics and Double Dutch clinics. However, it's much quieter about the activities of its corporate foundation, which over the past three years has given away nearly $1.7 million, including six-figure annual gifts to local institutions like the Brooklyn Academy of Music (three years) and the Brooklyn Museum (two years), plus gifts of $80,000 and $100,000 to the Brooklyn Children's Museum in two years.

There's no web site for the Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation; a Google search turns up a handful of press and web mentions. There's no separate phone number. Indeed, a filing with the Internal Revenue Service provides the same number, 718-923-8400, as the company switchboard, blurring the distinction between company and foundation.

Read the rest of the article for a look at what the foundation does, its relationship to the NJ Nets Foundation, and the totally legal lack of transparency regarding funding sources.

BrooklynBall04.jpg How much has FCR given the Brooklyn Museum? At least $200,000, with more coming

How much has developer Forest City Ratner contributed to the Brookyn Museum, which is honoring CEO Bruce Ratner tonight at a gala that will be met by a protest and has already generated a lengthy letter of critique?

To the Brooklyn Paper, spokeswoman Sally Williams cited Ratner's “generous support of various activities of the Brooklyn Museum” but wouldn't provide specific numbers. She said the honor didn't indicate support for Atlantic Yards; indeed, unlike the Brooklyn Academy of Music, whose board Ratner once chaired, the museum did not comment formally during the state's AY environmental review.
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Given that tables of 12 with premier seating at the gala are going for $50,000 to $75,000, and tables of ten range from $5000 to $25,000, it's a good bet that the honor for Ratner will draw significant sums. And it's not unlikely that Ratner and colleagues have made individual donations.

Those, however, are not a matter of public record. However, IRS filings by the Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation show a $100,000 donation on 7/1/05 and a $100,000 donation on 9/11/06. Donations from the foundation during 2007 have not yet been reported, but if the pattern has continued, the museum gained an additional $100,000.

BAMBanner.gifBAM on AY: excited about changes, happy with (donor) Bruce Ratner

What does the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) think of the Atlantic Yards project? It would be a good neighbor, especially since Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner's been a good guy, a major donor, and--as documents show--the Forest City Ratner Foundation has been a generous donor, too.

Comments filed as part of the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) stressed the potential upside of the project without acknowledging the downside. BAM Chief Financial Officer Peter Gee testified:

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is excited about the new potential audiences, donors, subscribers, and amenities that will result from residential and commercial development in the Downtown Brooklyn. [sic] The affordable-housing component of the Atlantic Yards plan will ensure that BAM audiences continue to be representative of a wide range of people with diverse cultural interests. BAM looks forward to providing programs and services for everyone.

(Did he mean "Downtown Brooklyn" or "the Downtown Brooklyn area"?)

As many of you know, Bruce Ratner served as BAM's chair for 10 years. He was a generous, thoughtful, and responsive leader who presided over many important milestones for the institution, including the expansion of free community programs, the creation and opening of the BAM Rose Cinemas and the establishment of BAM's endowment. We at BAM believe that Bruce has been--and will continue to be--sensitive to community concerns as he forges ahead with the Atlantic Yards development.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

Kelo and Us

The NY Sun editorial board weighs in on the property owners' petition to the US Supreme Court:

One of the most important Constitutional questions in the history of our Republic might be decided over a few acres of rat infested railroad yards in Brooklyn and a handful of doughty home owners who like living nearby.

NoLandGrab: Did they really say "rat infested?"

The question is whether the Constitution permits a developer to seize the property of the few residents continuing to live in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards development near downtown Brooklyn.
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The stakes don't get higher, for the individuals, for the city, and for the country.
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There's little doubt that the Atlantic Yards project, which is being developed by Bruce Ratner, would bring a host of benefits to Brooklyn, such as a basketball team, housing, office space, some daring architecture, and commerce. The main legal impediment now are just a few holdouts in the neighborhood. We would like them to move, as would many New Yorkers, and make room for the project. The questions is: can the government force them out?

NoLandGrab: The Sun "would like them to move?" Why didn't they say so before? Maybe since they put it so nicely, the property owners and renters will reconsider.

One of the big questions in the case is what the City of New York is going to do — how hard it is going to fight and on what grounds. Mayor Bloomberg has, at least in the public debate, taken an aggressive stance generally in favor of the use of the condemnation process and eminent domain, arguing that our great city couldn't have been built without it. But there may be a sense that the market has shifted under the Brooklyn development and this isn't a case on which anyone, save for the homeowners, wants to go to the mat. It's hard to imagine there's not a market clearing price for all this, but sometimes there is not. In which case no one will envy the Nine this decision.

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NoLandGrab: So far, the State and Bruce Ratner have shown that they are totally willing "to go to the mat" for this project, which indicates how much juice the Bruce has in Albany, and heightens the importance of the question to be considered by the US Supreme Court.

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

U.S. Supreme Court should consider case from Brooklyn

CourierPostOnline.com, editorial

An editorial from New Jersey, where eminent domain is a hot-button issue:

Whether or not you're a fan of the New Jersey Nets or any NBA team, all New Jerseyans, especially those facing the prospect of losing their home or business to government eminent domain seizure, should be concerned about how the Nets-to-Brooklyn case turns out. The U.S. Supreme Court has a chance, with this high profile case, to perhaps modify or even undo its 2005 Kelo v. City of New London ruling, which said local governments have the right to seize property to give it to a private developer.
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The plaintiffs are arguing that using eminent domain in this case violates the U.S. Constitution because the development would primarily benefit the developer, not the public. The Constitution grants governments the right to seize privately owned property when it is needed to build something for the public benefit.

We hope the Supreme Court hears this case. Eminent domain abuse is a problem all over the United States, and too many Davids in South Jersey have had to fight the government Goliath when plans have come along that call for replacing their modest homes and businesses with something more upscale. The U.S. Supreme Court needs to rule again on the legality of this.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

Group Files Petition Against $4B Atlantic Yards

GlobeSt.com
By Natalie Dolce

A story about the petition filed this week by property owners and renters fighting to save their homes and businesses from eminent domain seizure in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project contains two curious points:

Although Forest City Ratner, developer of the $4-billion Atlantic Yards project tells GlobeSt.com that they have no formal comment at this time as far as a response to this particular petition, they did note that the company has won 18 consecutive court decisions." A spokesperson tells GlobeSt.com that "when we started we owned 0% of the condos and co-ops and 35% of the rental units. Currently we own 89% of the land needed to complete the project, including 93% of the condos and co-ops--64 of 69--81% of the rental units--83 of 102."

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NoLandGrab: Considering the developer's consistently strained relationship with the truth, the first point deserves some fact checking. We're pretty sure that there haven't been 18 court decisions handed down, in total. If Forest City Ratner is counting motions, the company definitely hasn't won them all.

Also, the Forest City Ratner spokesperson is suffering complete amnesia when it comes to Henry Weinstein's big courtroom victory, in which a state judge ruled that Forest City had unlawfully sublet Weinstein's Pacific St. property, upending the claim that the company "controlled" the land... which leads us to wonder about the veracity of figures presented above, and of their relevance, since the developer needs to control 100% of the property in order to build.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

New Delays Hit Mixed-Use Sector as Credit Crunch Continues

RetailTraffic
By Elaine Misonzhnik

A commercial real estate trade publication explains why developers are having difficulty financing megaprojects:

As the calendar turns from March to April, mixed-use developers seem to be caught in a rainstorm. In the past 10 days, several high-profile mixed-use projects have either been delayed or altered because of the weak economic conditions and the difficulty in securing financing during the current credit crisis.

The string of bad news began on March 21 with Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner Cos. revealing that it will delay the office and residential components of its 8-million-square-foot Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. The company said that lack of demand for both uses would make it difficult to reach pre-leasing levels necessary to secure financing.
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"I think that everybody has been amazed at the speed and the severity of the credit crunch, and what we see is that the banking community is definitely getting very conservative," says [director and principal with Metropolitan Capital Advisors Scott R. ] Lynn. "Any loan north of $100 million is the ground of national and international banks and the top 10 banks in the U.S. are dealing with lots of portfolio problems. We are seeing a severe pullback in the larger loan arena because the big national lenders have really put on the brakes and a lot of the international banks have just left the market completely."
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Atlantic Yards, for example, calls for 336,000 square feet of office space, 247,000 square feet of retail space and 6.4 million square feet of residential space, in addition to the 850,000-square-foot sports and entertainment arena, which will serve as the centerpiece of the project. With the Nets basketball team already lined up as the main tenant for the arena, construction on that portion of the development started moving ahead in February 2007.

But Forest City Ratner has yet to secure an office tenant for its Miss Brooklyn office tower and it worries about waning demand in the residential sector. Meanwhile, lenders' requirements for office, residential and retail pre-leasing and pre-sales levels have gone up from about 50 percent at the beginning of the year to more than 70 percent currently, according to Lynn. Add to that the fact that Forest City was planning to fund the project with bonds issued by Goldman Sachs rather than a traditional line of credit, and it seems unlikely it will be able to get financing anytime soon. As a result, the firm is postponing construction on the office and residential sections for an unspecified period of time.

Forest City Ratner did not return calls for comment.
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Still, with the initial phases of CityNorth and Atlantic Yards already in construction, these projects are more likely to proceed than Moynihan Station, which has just lost its only committed tenant.

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FYI: Constuction on Bruce Ratner's arena can't begin officially, or in earnest, until property owners are forced from their homes and businesses.

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

Tony Avella is Mad as Hell (And Running for Mayor)

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice]
By Julie Bolcer

Regarding one major example among the last platform, [mayoral candidate Tony] Avella explained his opposition to the $ 4 billion Atlantic Yards project for Brooklyn within a voicemail he left in response to a call for comment on Monday.

“I am totally against the Ratner Project,” Avella said. “I think it is a perfect example of the overdevelopment that is going on in this city, of putting ten thousand potatoes in a five-pound bag. The traffic, the overburdening of the subway system and the transit system in that area would just be enormous. Plus the fact of the misuse of eminent domain – that is something that absolutely has to stop in this city, of taking somebody’s private property and giving it to a private individual, in this case Ratner, so that they can make money from it. That is the most undemocratic situation and process that I’ve ever heard of,” he concluded before he hung up.

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Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

LETTER: How to Build a City

The NY Times, Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

Re “Profit and Public Good Clash in Grand Plans” (Architecture column, March 27):

Nicolai Ouroussoff comes to the right conclusion: When you are trying to build a city, it’s about championing the public good, not counting beans.

But by bemoaning the quality of the proposed buildings and the watering down of Frank Gehry’s work for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, he adds to the confusion about the difference between building a city and treating big chunks of the city as if they were architectural design problems.

The fact is that great cities do not rely on cutting-edge architecture. They rely on a clear framework of streets and open spaces, designed by and for the public, that over time can support the full spectrum of architecture, from the pedestrian to the heroic.

Indeed, how many heroic buildings can you have in one place before none of them are?

Robert Lane
Director of Design
Regional Plan Association

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

Forest City Ratner Seeks Bonds for Affordable Units

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Linda Collins

80DeKalb.jpg An Eagle reporter clears up the confusion sowed by columnist Dennis Holt, who twice reported that "the New York State Housing Authority [had made the decision] to grant Forest City a share of the $628.5 million in tax-exempt bond funding for the Atlantic Yards project" (see, Atlantic Yards: Affordable Housing Still on the Table).

In truth, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City expects to receive affordable housing bonds for another project, 80 DeKalb:

A public hearing will be held in Manhattan Tuesday, April 15, by the New York State Housing Finance Agency (HFA) on the proposed issuance of tax-exempt and/or taxable multifamily housing revenue bonds for the new construction.
...
The agency expects to issue bonds “not to exceed $109,500,000” to finance a portion of the construction.

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NoLandGrab: Norman Oder first explained the mix up on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 4:09 AM

Dead and Buried?

Brooklyn Daliy Eagle
By Henrik Krogius

One columnist bemoans Atlantic Yards' delays, what with Brooklyn on "the verge of bringing new verve and a renewed sense of identity into the 21st century:"

Obviously Bruce Ratner can’t be happy about the current economy, but he knows from his long effort to get Metrotech built that a major project faces obstacles and takes time. He still has the benefit of the state having agreed to allocate tax-exempt housing funds for Atlantic Yards. And this is a far more imaginative and varied project than Metrotech; one can only hope its promise will not be totally frittered away by economically determined reductions and compromises.

link

NoLandGrab: Though the State has agreed in principle to provide tax-exempt housing funds, it's not clear how much will be available from the limited pool.

Atlantic Yards Report, Eagle maintains fiction that AY has tax-exempt housing bonds
Norman Oder suggests that Krogius might be under the mistaken assumption that the State has already allocated the tax-exempt housing bonds for Atlantic Yards, which would be a mistake Krogius recycled from an editorial colleague.

Posted by lumi at 3:48 AM

April 2, 2008

"Carbon Neutrality" Fails to Save Fading Nets

While Tuesday night's game between the New Jersey Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers may have been carbon-neutral, it was standings-negative for the home team. The Nets are fading faster than owner Bruce Ratner's anemic Atlantic Yards project.

With its third consecutive loss, New Jersey crept closer to missing the post-season for the first time in seven years — and for the first time since Ratner took over. Now trailing both Atlanta and Indiana for the eighth and final playoff spot, the Nets saw their un-magic number shrink to five. Were they not lucky enough to be playing in the NBA's sickly Eastern Conference, the 13-games-under-.500 Nets would have been eliminated from contention long ago (they'd be 15 games out of a playoff spot in the West).

After making consecutive visits to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, the Nets have gone steadily down hill under Ratner's ownership regime. If not for the dysfunctional Knicks, the Nets' failings would be more-frequent back-page tabloid fodder.

And missing the playoffs — and their significant revenue boost — can't be good news for the money-hemorrhaging franchise, especially with Atlantic Yards reeling from the effects of a withering credit market.

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

AY eminent domain appeal asks the Supreme Court to clarify Kelo decision

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder provides a thorough analysis of the Supreme Court petition filed yesterday by plaintiffs fighting condemnations intended to clear the way for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

According to two previous federal court decisions, the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case was dismissed because of evidence that the project would--or was believed to--bring a plethora of public benefits, thus trumping any questions about legitimacy of the approval process.

According to the just-filed appeal in the case, known as Goldstein v. Pataki, the Supreme Court should take a look because its controversial 2005 Kelo v. New London decision leaves open the possibility of challenging an eminent domain decision if the taking occurs as a “pretext” to benefit a private party.

The tension between those two postures raises an interesting challenge, given that an appellate court cursorily dismissed the pretext issue in a decision February 1. The court stated that other cases in which courts had considered pretext differed from Atlantic Yards, because the latter would contain some undeniable public benefits while the others did not.

But the appeal stresses another angle, not the quantity of public benefits--which is in dispute--but that of legitimacy. The appeal notes that courts evaluating Atlantic Yards relied on Supreme Court precedent like Berman v. Parker (1954) and Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff (1984), which defer to legislative decisions, while a 2007 case decided by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Franco v. National Capital Revitalization Corporation, declares that Kelo allows inquiry into the question of pretext.

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Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

ATLANTIC CURRENT

BROOKLYN BREAKS OUT IN A BIG WAY

New York Post
by Max Gross

While Atlantic Yards may be stalling, development along Atlantic Avenue is not.

Back in 1968, a brownstone off Atlantic Avenue could be procured for about $40,000 - and in some cases, for significantly less. (One of Wood's neighbors bought a brownstone four years earlier for $14,000.) Then, the avenue consisted mostly of empty parking lots, gas stations and antique dealers.

The area began changing gradually over the past 20 years, but gentrification has truly picked up recently (even with the uncertainty and controversy surrounding Atlantic Yards).

"It's changed a lot just in the last three years," says Rachel Horlick, who moved to the Smith last month after spending the previous three years on nearby Dean Street. "There's boutique clothing stores, coffee places, ice-cream shops."

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Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Atlantic Yards heads to Supreme Court

Eleven property owners and tenants filed a petition this week asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their eminent domain appeal

Crains New York Business
by Kira Bindrim

More coverage of yesterday's filing of a petition for a writ of certiorari in the eminent domain case Goldstein v. Pataki.

The legal battle over Atlantic Yards is coming up on its second anniversary. Plaintiffs filed their original complaint in October 2006 and have since worked their way up the legal food chain.

Those delays have proved disadvantageous for Forest City. Earlier this week, the Manhattan-based developer reported fourth-quarter earnings of $91.2 million, or 85 cents per share, down 15% from $107.6 million, or $1 per share, in the fourth-quarter of 2006. Revenues for the quarter were $406 million, up from $348.3 million last year. Critics of the project are questioning whether financing difficulties will result in Forest City nixing all Atlantic Yards development beyond the stadium.

article

Additional Coverage:

New York Post, 'YARDS' CASE TO SUPREMES

NY Daily News, Residents being displaced by Atlantic Yards ask Supreme Court to hear case

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

The Times publishes one of two needed corrections

Atlantic Yards Report

Some folks pick up the Times and immediately turn to the crossword puzzle. Guess what Norman Oder reads first:

A correction in today's New York Times:

The architecture column on Thursday, about the choice of a developer for the West Side railyards, referred incorrectly to the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn in citing major developments that have been delayed or altered. The Atlantic Yards plan has been approved by New York State, not New York City.

However, that same error about "city approval" also occurred in an architecture column March 21, and has not yet been corrected. Odd.

link

NoLandGrab: You'd think that the Gray Lady would correct all the outstanding errors just to get rid of the "Mad Overkiller."

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

Brooklyn Ball

This clipping is from amNY (print edition only).

BrooklynBall2.jpg

Though the museum announced that they will be honoring Brooklyn's best overdeveloper and eminent domain abuser Bruce Ratner, his presence is already being eclipsed by the star power of Kanye, high-fashion label Louis Vuitton and Murakami.

NoLandGrab: At this late date, there's only one way to be a part of the event, by joining your fellow Brooklynites to protest the museum's decision to give Bruce Ratner the cultural institution's annual award.

It's hard to understand how the board came to the conclusion that this was a good idea. Art, politics and money have always been uneasy bedfellows, but this year the Brooklyn Museum really flipped the bird to its neighbors and many of its supporters.

You can let the Brucester and the museum know how you feel by attending the demonstration.

When: Thursday, April 3. Starting at 6:30pm
Where: Brooklyn Museum Plaza, Eastern Parkway. 2/3 Subway.
Bring: Your signs and friends.
Dress: Formal (if you wish.)

This is also one of the best opportunities that Brooklynites have had to get within earshot of the reclusive Bruce Ratner, who once quipped, "I have never, ever seen a project get less protest than this."

Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

Atlantic Yards May Prompt 9 To Revisit Eminent Domain

The NY Sun
By Joseph Goldstein

About a dozen holdout residents within the project's planned boundaries are petitioning the high court to forbid their eviction. If the residents win, the development, which entails 16 towers of residential and office space and a basketball arena, would be halted. One resident, Daniel Goldstein, said his two-bedroom apartment is near center court of the proposed arena.

NoLandGrab: Correction, a win in the US Supreme Court would be a blow against the project but it wouldn't technically stop it. Instead, it would reverse the dismissal and allow the residents' case to proceed in court.

If four justices agree to hear the appeal, it would be the court's first to test the power of government to seize property through eminent domain since a landmark decision in 2005 in the case of Kelo v. the City of New London.
...
Mr. Brinkerhoff's petition to the Supreme Court focuses on a more modest aim than convincing the court to scrap its opinion in Kelo just three years after issuing it. The residents are asking the court to give them a chance to prove their allegation that the primary motivation behind the Atlantic Yards project isn't a desire to benefit the public. Instead, the plaintiffs claim the project is mainly a conspiracy to benefit the interests of the project's developer, Bruce Ratner, and his company, Forest City Ratner.
...
The question the Supreme Court would address is what opportunity courts should provide property owners to prove that their land is being seized to further a private interest. Should courts dismiss the suits out of hand, or allow property owners to take depositions of public officials and private developers and examine their e-mail messages, as the Brooklyn plaintiffs are seeking?

article

Additional:
The NY Post ran the story off the Associated Press (AP) Wire.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Forest City in the News

Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City Enterprises posts lower results

Forest City blamed the decrease in profits primarily on larger gains on property sales in 2006 than 2007. The company said the drop in EBDT was due to a $34 million decrease in EBDT for its land group, which sells land to homebuilders; that decrease offset gains in commercial operations.

Even though worsening conditions in the real estate business dinged the property giant, Mr. [Charles] Ratner said Forest City’s 2007 results and a long-term perspective “give us the confidence that we will continue to grow our business and drive shareholder value.”

NoLandGrab: You have to admire a company that can turn massive public subsidies into "shareholder value."

The Fresno Bee, Fresno to seek $60m in state aid. City backs efforts to win Prop. 1C grant money to help with infill projects.

Fresno's Redevelopment Agency is supporting efforts to seek more than $60 million in state grant money intended to help with the development of infill projects, which could benefit three projects backed by major developers.

NoLandGrab readers know that Forest City doesn't do ANYTHING without public subsidies:

Forest City says it needs as much as $100 million in public financing to make the $232 million project work. The grant application, being filed jointly by the city and Forest City, seeks $30 million from the infill grant program.

As in NYC, affordable housing is a priority for Fresno:

Forest City, Campus Pointe and Fancher Creek say 20% of their residential units will be designated for affordable housing. The grant program requires at least 15% of the housing to be classified as affordable.

Similar to New York, there are more developers and projects than subsidies:

Murphey acknowledged that the Fresno projects are seeking far more grant money than the $24 million the region is likely to receive.

The Auto Channel, News Release (HQ): EPA Report Profiles Energy Star Partners for Significantly Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Forest City received an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) award for "Excellence in ENERGY STAR Promotion," for the company's Denver Stapleton project.

A complete list of award winners is posted on the EPA website.

BostonSF.com, ushman & Wakefield Represents Four Cambridge Life Science Companies

Cushman & Wakefield announced it has recently represented four, early-stage life science companies in Cambridge.
...
Cushman & Wakefield negotiated a 19,093 square foot lease renewal for Ore Pharmaceuticals, the public entity formerly known as Gene Logic, Inc., at University Park at MIT, 38 Sidney Street, which is owned by Forest City.

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

The New Gehry Residence in Los Angeles

Here's a really good item we missed yesterday about Atlantic Yards starchitect Frank Gehry's latest creative turn:

GehryMcMansion.jpg

It is not often that an architecture master reinvents himself, but that is precisely what Pritzker Prize winning architect Frank Gehry has done. Gehry, who first won international recognition with his own residence, a masterpiece of post-modern architecture, has revealed what can only be described as the first post post-modern architectural work, the New Gehry Residence, completely confounding both his critics and promoters alike.

The New Gehry Residence is located in a nearby suburb of Los Angeles is the newest reinvention of Gehry’s signature architecture. The house, which seems to resemble your typical two story McMansion, has all the details that one would expect from his work. The odd shapes resting one on top of the other seem to look like a gable roof, but are in fact so complex, that it took NASA engineers, and builder and his crew, 6 months to make them work. “We couldn’t get them to work together” said one of NASA’s chief engineers. “When Frank asked us to have the larger shape be nested on top of the other two, we new that this was going to be challenge.”

But wait, there's more!

Posted by lumi at 4:20 AM

April 1, 2008

Kelo sequel to Court

SCOTUS Blog

Lyle Denniston takes a look at the petition to the US Supreme Court by homeowners and renters under threat of eminent domain in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Arguing that the Supreme Court has brought confusion in the wake of its controversial 2005 ruling on the use of government power to seize private property for new economic projects, challengers of a major development in the downtown area of New York City’s Brooklyn borough are filing a new appeal to the Supreme Court.
...
Their appeal, if granted by the Court, would pose a major test of the scope of the Court’s 5-4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, the 2005 ruling that has been met with widespread protests and has spurred a campaign across the country to curb the use of “eminent domain” powers to aid private profit-making projects.

The appeal contends that there is tension between the Court’s suggestion in Kelo that the motives and intent behind new projects could be probed to see if the public use justifications were mere pretexts, and the holding of earlier precedents that courts should seldom second-guess the use of “eminent domain” powers. “In the years since Kelo was decided,” the appeal asserts, “no court has managed to resolve this tension. Instead, lacking guidance from this Court, they arbitrarily choose one approach or the other.”

Broadly challenging the Second Circuit ruling, the petition claiims it made two errors: first, it immunized from inquiry the seizure of private homes and businesses for the benefit of “a single powerful real estate developer” merely because of thinly supported, after-the-fact claims of civic benefits, and, second, it applied a highly deferential review standard created for legislative authorizations of “takings” to cover all eminent domain decisions, legislative or not.

The developer and New York officials will have 30 days to respond once the new petition is formally on the docket (unless extensions of response time are granted). If the other side acts promptly, the Court conceivably could act on the case before the current Term ends.

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Posted by lumi at 8:54 PM

Cert Petition in Goldstein v. Pataki: How to Plead Kelo Pretext

inversecondemnation.com

A land use and appellate lawyer-slash-blogger analyzes the petition to the US Supreme Court filed by homeowners and renters fighting eminent domain abuse in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards:

The homeowners threatened with eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, New York have filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in Goldstein v. Pataki, 516 F.3d 50 (2d Cir. 2008).

The petition points out the schizophrenic nature of Public Use analysis after Kelo: on one hand, the Court's holding that "pretextual" takings or incidental public benefit would seem to allow an inquiry into the motivation of the condemnor, and the "actual purpose" of the taking. On the other, the Court's continuing reliance on the sweeping language of Berman and Midkiff might suggest that any reason that is "conceivable" would insulate a taking from further judicial scrutiny.

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Posted by lumi at 8:50 PM

Brooklyn Residents Bring Atlantic Yards Suit To Supreme Court

NY1

AYSCOTUS-NY1.jpg

A group of Brooklyn residents facing eviction as part of a massive development project that includes a new arena for the Nets asked the nation's highest court today to hear their case.

They want the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether eminent domain can be used to evict them.

They say they're being forced out for the developer's profit -- not the public good, and they say that violates the constitution.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide in June whether to hear the case. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that local governments may use eminent domain for private development if officials believe it will ultimately benefit the public.

At this hour, NY1 has not heard back from developer Forest City Ratner.

link/video (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 8:41 PM

Nets leader lauded at dinner

NY Daily News
By Patrick McCormick

Bruce Ratner isn't the only honoree in Brooklyn:

Brett Yormark, president and chief executive officer of Nets Sports and Entertainment LLC, was honored by Lutheran HealthCare at the group's 125th Anniversary Dinner Dance.

He was named to Sports Business Journal's "Forty Under 40" list for a third consecutive year in 2006, as one of the best sports executives under the age of 40. Yormark was hailed as the driving force behind the recent business success of Nets Sports, for which he has been an executive since 2005 and is paving the way to move the New Jersey Nets to a new arena to be built at the Atlantic Yards.

At the March 6 fund-raiser, Lutheran HealthCare CEO Wendy Goldstein welcomed Lutheran Hospital's future neighbor and lauded Yormark for being a part of Brooklyn's exciting future.

Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was also in attendance, praised Yormark for his leadership as a businessman and for the role he is playing in bringing a professional sports franchise to Brooklyn.

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Whoops! It appears that the Daily News reporter didn't read the press release carefully. March 6 was the date of the release not the dinner, which is scheduled on MAY 10, to be held at Chelsea Piers in Brooklyn Manhattan.

Markowitz wasn't in attendance, as the article states, since as far as we know, he hasn't developed the ability to travel into the future; rather he provided these glowing words for the release:

"Next to our soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, I can't imagine a more winning team than Lutheran HealthCare and Brett Yormark," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. "Brett has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for the return of professional sports to Brooklyn—spearheading the Nets' move to a new arena at Atlantic Yards. And just as our borough will benefit from Brett's vision and extraordinary leadership, so will Lutheran HealthCare as it continues to provide its patients with the very best health care available."

Posted by lumi at 8:24 PM

Group wants Supreme Court to hear Atlantic Yards case

Crain's NY Business

Two months after being shot down by the Second Circuit Court, critics of Forest City’s Ratner $4 billion Atlantic Yards project aren’t giving up the fight.

Eleven property owners and tenants filed a petition this week asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their eminent domain appeal, which was dismissed on Feb. 1 by the lower court. The petition charges Forest City with abusing eminent domain for a project that they say will be more beneficial to chief executive Bruce Ratner than the local community.
...
"Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, the government will continue to have carte blanche to take private homes and businesses and give them to influential citizens as long as one can imagine a conceivable benefit to the public, no matter how small or unlikely it may be," said Matthew Brinckerhoff, the lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide in June whether to hear the group's petition.

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Newsday.com posted an article based on the same AP wire story.

Posted by lumi at 8:00 PM

Hotel Sought For East Side Bellevue Site

The NY Sun
By Peter Kiefer

A story about a proposed new development in NYC cites Atlantic Yards' delays as an indicator that the market might not be ripe for issuing new requests for proposals.

Despite a flagging economy, the city's Economic Development Corp. and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. are seeking a private developer to transform the building that housed the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital into a hotel and conference center.

The EDC sent out a request for proposals yesterday for a 400,000-square-foot hotel on First Avenue between 29th and 30th streets that would serve the medical and life sciences industries that are represented in the surrounding neighborhood. The revenue generated from the hotel would go back to Bellevue.

Critics are questioning the wisdom of releasing the RFP at a time when major development projects across the city — from the Atlantic Yards to the proposed remake of Penn Station — are either stalled or in jeopardy of falling apart.

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Posted by lumi at 7:45 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... (ED edition)

NoEdAbuseWall.jpg The Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Appeal Filed with Supreme Court

The 11 property owners and tenants fighting the use of eminent domain for the troubled Atlantic Yards project have filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition asks the Court to hear the appeal of the eminent domain case, which was dismissed on February 1.

Brownstoner, AY Owners, Renters File Eminent Domain Appeal

Lead plaintiff Daniel Goldstein, who owns a condo in the arena footprint, said it's about their constitutional rights. But as far as the ticking clock, he said this is their last federal appeal, and he expects the court to decide whether to hear it this July. "If they don't take our case, or take our case and rule against us, then we will go to state court, the appellate division, and raise our state claims." When asked if they could drag out their case until 2010, after which time Forest City could automatically default if he decides not to continue pursuing litigation, Goldstein said, "We will take our case as far as we can to protect our constitutional rights."

Castle Watch, Brooklyn property owners ask United States Supreme Court to hear case

The Empire State Development Corporation, Mayor Bloomberg and former Governor Pataki have spearheaded an effort to condemn homes and businesses in historic Prospect Heights so developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Enterprises can build a new arena for the Nets and wildly out-of-place skyscrapers.

Curbed.com, Atlantic Yards Stall: Supreme Court Appeal Filing Edition
The action is in the "Comments" section, where, despite the fact that Bruce Ratner is taking down buildings, the wasteland appears to be the fault of Atlantic Yards opponents (aka, "Goldstein and his goons").

Yonkers Tribune, US Supreme Court Asked to Hear Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case
Folks in Yonkers, where Bruce Ratner has started construction on the controversial Ridge Hill project, are keeping an eye on Atlantic Yards. Today they published Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's full press release.

Posted by lumi at 7:13 PM

Shadows on the Hudson

Among the tottering cranes, panicky condo marketers, and derailed megadevelopments, envisioning tomorrow’s boom today.

New York Magazine
By Justin Davidson

HudsonYardsRendering.jpg

Real estate is supposed to be real, but these days it’s the province of fabulists. Boom-time dreams for Coney Island, Pier 40, and a new Madison Square Garden got bad news last week. After years of spinning fantasies of a Brooklyn Oz designed by that purveyor of fairy-tale architecture, Frank Gehry, Bruce Ratner has finally admitted that his Atlantic Yards ambitions have vaporized—or, in builders’ parlance, that the credit crunch “may hold up” most of the project. But fantasies have consequences: The condemned buildings will keep coming down, and the basketball arena will go up, leaving that part of Brooklyn ravaged, not improved. Now the parcel might be sold off and developed piecemeal, one mediocre tower at a time.

Ratner has called off his party, but elsewhere the city still plows ahead. Unfinished towers sprinkle debris on passersby, producing tomorrow’s glut of vacant penthouse pleasure domes.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:01 PM

Over $20 Billion New York Development May Be Canceled Due To Weak Economy

All Headline News
By Vittorio Hernandez

A rewrite of this weekend's NY Daily News story:

As the Big Apple's economy seemingly turn from bad to worse, over $20 billion worth of development projects are at risk of being canceled. A number of the projects were designed by renowned architects.

Among the ambitious projects now with dubious futures are the Atlantic Yards towers in Brooklyn designed by Frank Gehry and the Manhattan Moynihan rail center in midtown. The developer of Atlantic Yards, Bruce Ratner, said the $4 billion project may be delayed because of funding problems.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:56 PM

LETTER: Why protest Bruce Ratner and Brooklyn Museum?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted an open letter from Michael D. D. White (can someone get this guy his own blog already?). The letter contains an unabridged laundry list of reasons why it's so wrong for the Brooklyn Museum to honor the poster boy for eminent-domain-abusing public-subsidy-sucking local-zoning-circumventing overdevelopment.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:08 PM

Forest City Declared Quarterly Dividend

Business Wire

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.

link

NoLandGrab: In layman's terms, this means that Forest City Enterprises will be paying out a quarterly dividend to shareholders totaling more than $8 million while seeking additional subsidies for Atlantic Yards — as if $1 billion-plus wasn't already enough.

Posted by eric at 4:38 PM

City Announces Huge April 1 Toll, Thor, Ratner Land Swap

Gowanus Lounge

Breaking news on a major city initiative intended to jump start several Brooklyn development projects.

Gowanus Lounge has learned that the city has engineered a huge land swap to simultaneously address major Gowanus, Atlantic Yards and Coney Island development issues. "Sometimes things don't work out the way we'd like and we all have to deal with it," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in announcing what he called the Brooklyn Three Way. The Three Way was worked out by departed Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who brokered the arrangement as a volunteer working while on a business trip in Japan. The City Ethics Board okayed Mr. Doctoroff's shuttle diplomacy.

The broad outline of the arrangement is that Mr. Sitt, who is reviled in Coney Island, will replace Mr. Ratner, who is disliked in Prospect Heights, Park Slope and other surrounding neighborhoods. Mr. Ratner will, instead, develop Gowanus, freeing up the Toll Brothers, for whom there is little neighborhood love, to work in Coney Island, where they have no known opponents. Mr. Doctoroff acknowledged, however, that Mr. Ratner would have some remedial work to do on his image in Gowanus.

article

Posted by eric at 2:12 PM

Nets and Barclays to offset carbon emissions vs. 76ers

AP via Yahoo! Sports
by Tom Canavan

So far as we can tell, this is not an April Fools joke.

The New Jersey Nets will support four worldwide projects to offset carbon emissions when they play the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.

“We’re definitely the first NBA team to have a carbon neutral game,” said Julianne Waldron, the Nets’ environmental manager. “I don’t know if we’re the first sports franchise, I can’t speak to that, but I can say we are the first pro team to receive an accreditation of carbon neutral.”

The CarbonNeutral Company calculated that 449 tons of carbon dioxide would be produced Tuesday by fans and Nets’ personnel traveling to the game, energy use at the Izod Center and emissions from the 76ers bus trip from Philadelphia.

To offset that, the Nets will invest in a waste recovery project in India, a waste gas project in Germany, hydroplants in China and solar water heating systems in India.

Barclays PLC, the financial services firm which has bought naming rights for the Nets’ planned arena in Brooklyn, N.Y., is covering the cost of the carbon free night.

article

NoLandGrab: No word on whether Nets' principal owner Bruce Ratner will "go green" by harnessing the embodied energy in Prospect Heights buildings rather than bulldozing them to build a giant surface parking lot.

Posted by eric at 12:24 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Goldstein et al v. Pataki et al

11 Property Owners and Tenants Ask the Supreme Court of the United States to Hear Their Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

Plaintiffs Ask Court to Consider Key Constitutional Issues Seeking to Allow Their Eminent Domain Case to Proceed

BROOKLYN, NY— Eleven property owners and tenants have filed a petition asking the Supreme Court of the United States to hear their eminent domain appeal, which was dismissed on February 1 by the Second Circuit Court. The petition provides the Court with an important opportunity to address the appropriate constitutional limits on the government's power to seize private homes for the benefit of powerful real estate developers like Bruce Ratner.

In 2003 developer Forest City Ratner's (FCR) CEO Bruce Ratner targeted the plaintiffs' homes and businesses (and many others) for acquisition and then convinced then Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg to agree to seize the properties and transfer them to Ratner so he could build his proposed 16-skyscraper-and-arena complex known as Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Given the mammoth scale and footprint of the project, Atlantic Yards is dependent on the use of eminent domain; it cannot be built unless Ratner succeeds in wresting the properties from the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs filed their original complaint in October 2006. Their suit, Goldstein et al v. Pataki et al, named former Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, the Empire State Development Corporation, Bruce Ratner and others as defendants. The plaintiffs argued that the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project violates the United States Constitution because the taking of their property is not primarily for the public's benefit. While Ratner claims that the project is justified as a public benefit, in fact Ratner is the only who stands to gain and handsomely so from the seizure of plaintiffs' homes and businesses.

In 2005 the US Supreme Court issued an extremely controversial 5-4 decision in the eminent domain case Kelo v. The City of New London. Goldstein v. Pataki is the first case submitted to the Court since the Kelo decision, which utilizes the majority's reasoning in Kelo and seeks clarity on that reasoning. In Kelo, the Court stated that though eminent domain is allowed for "economic development," the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the taking of property:

"…under the mere pretext of a public purpose, when [the] actual purpose [is] to bestow a private benefit."

That is precisely what occurred when the former Governor and the Mayor decided to take the plaintiffs' properties and give them Ratner at his behest. The plaintiffs, utilizing the majority's decision in Kelo, are asking the Supreme Court to hear their case and allow them to pursue their claims by obtaining documents and sworn testimony from Ratner and the government officials he co-opted. The plaintiffs believe that the evidence will show that their homes and businesses are being sacrificed for Ratner's benefit, not the public's.

Download the Petition to the Court

"The seizure of my clients' properties is based on a pretextual public purpose which is actually for a strictly prohibited private benefit. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, the government will continue to have carte blanche to take private homes and businesses and give them to influential citizens as long as one can imagine a conceivable benefit to the public, no matter how small or unlikely it may be" said lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. "This is wrong. It should trouble all citizens who, unlike Bruce Ratner, lack the power and money to coopt the government's power of eminent domain for their private use and benefit. We believe that the United States Supreme Court will welcome the opportunity to clarify this area in light of its widely criticized Kelo decision."

The petition presents three questions to the Supreme Court:

1. Is the Court's statement in Kelo, that the Public Use Clause prohibits the taking of "property under the mere pretext of a public purpose, when [the] actual purpose [is] to bestow a private benefit," a rule of general application or is it limited to takings justified solely on economic development grounds?

2. Does the substantial deference afforded to a legislative public use determination under the Court's 1984 Midkiff eminent domain decision apply to a non-legislative condemnation decision?

3. What are the elements of a Public Use Clause claim, and how should such a claim be evaluated on a motion to dismiss, given the tension between Kelo's assurance that "purpose" and "pretext" matter and Midkiff's statement that courts should defer to a legislative taking that appears "rationally related to a conceivable public purpose"?

Brinckerhoff concluded, "We are asking the Supreme Court to take our case because with Ratner's Atlantic Yards scheme all of the traditional indications of a legitimate decision to take properties by eminent domain have been absent. Because of this, our pretext claims must finally be allowed to proceed to trial."

The petition arguess that the characteristics of a legitimate decision to take properties by eminent domain, which were present in the Supreme Court's three eminent domain rulings against property owners (Berman, Midkiff, and Kelo), have been wholly absent in the decision to take the plaintiffs' property in the case now presented to the Court.

Among other things, the signs that strongly indicate that plaintiffs' homes and businesses are being illegitimately and unconstitutionally sacrificed in order to enrich Ratner are:

1) A legislative body played no role in determining public purpose;

2) The properties slated for condemnation were selected by the private beneficiary at the outset, rather than as part of a comprehensive government-initiated plan;

3) No alternative development sites were ever considered, (i.e., sites that would not require condemnation at all, or sites that would burden others, who the private beneficiary/developer spared when he drew an oddly shaped, non-contiguous takings map);

4) The sole beneficiary of the land transfer was known before the decision to condemn;

5) No competitive process for selecting the private beneficiary was employed;

6) Only a single plan (the developer/beneficiary's plan) was ever considered;

7) The public benefit justification was identified after the decision to condemn;

8) The normal processes for approving massive zoning variances and assessing public benefit, (normally reviewed by the New York City Council) were bypassed entirely.

A decision on the plaintiffs' petition is expected from the the Supreme Court of the United States in June.

The Supreme Court Petition, and all lower court briefs and decisions in Goldstein et al v. Pataki et al can be found at:
http://www.dddb.net/php/reading/legal/eminentdomain

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Midtown Mews: A Garden of Eden Grows in Manhattan

Manhattanites feeling left out of the Brooklyn Overdevelopment Renaissance now have hope, with the recent announcement of Bruce Ratner's Midtown Mews — it's delirious!

Click on the hot link to view the site plan.

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

NO FOOLIN': April 1 must-reads

If you read two Atlantic Yards stories today, check out these news-breaking items from Atlantic Yards Report and Brownstoner:

Atlantic Yards Report, Forest City disclosures: AY delayed, risky, depends on more subsidies
Corporations are required by law to be more forthcoming with their investors than state agencies are with the taxpayers. That's why a more accurate picture of the status of Atlantic Yards might be gleaned from reports to investors.

Norman Oder not only combs the reports released yesterday for clues, but compares them with the previous year's statements.

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

Reporter Sarah Ryley is still finding some very interesting stuff in the recently released NY State Funding Agreement for Atlantic Yards, specifically that Forest City Ratner need only submit the financing plan for THE ARENA in order for eminent domain to be executed on properties in the ENTIRE 22-ACRE FOOTPRINT. [Really, no foolin'!!!]

Ryley wrote:

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."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Dan Goldstein says that, "It's crazy, it's unethical."

Spokesmen for Forest City and Empire State Development Corporation assure the public that the entire project's financing plans have been submitted (which btw, if they really have been, they've never been released in full) and that the rest of the project will be delivered.

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

Forest City disclosures: AY delayed, risky, depends on more subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, has issued its FY 2007 financial results, and the accompanying press release and Form 10-K report to the Securities and Exchange Commission offer some important clues about the progress and future of Atlantic Yards, namely:

  • There's no real timeline for the arena, since the developer no longer predicts an opening date
  • More public subsidies likely will be sought for the project to come to fruition
  • The developer is more strongly emphasizing the risks to the project

That said, Forest City isn't exactly coming clean about the stall reported on the front page of the New York Times on March 21. But a close reading offers clues.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

ESDC explains that AY time frames were "negotiated," second phase is "under negotiation"

Atlantic Yards Report

So why exactly did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) allow such flexible time frames for the construction of the Atlantic Yards arena (6+ years), the first phase of five towers (12+ years), and the rest of the project (deadline unknown)?

I would've expected someone to follow up last week after the news broke, but since no one did, I queried ESDC.

Spokesman Warner Johnston replied via email:

"We expect the arena and phase 1 to be completed before the outside deadlines. Nevertheless, acknowledging that complex projects are often delayed due to external factors (including market conditions) we determined it was reasonable to provide the developer with flexibility. Those time frames were negotiated. There will be an outside deadline for phase 2. It is presently under negotiation."

Now it's not unreasonable to acknowledge that complex projects are often delayed. But why, then, did the ESDC's General Project Plan, approved just nine months before the funding agreement was signed, "anticipate" that the whole project would take only a decade?

article

Posted by lumi at 6:26 AM

Forest City 4Q profit falls; revenue up 16.6%

CNN Money

Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE A) (NYSE:FCY) Monday reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $12.6 million, or 12 cents a share, down from $70.6 million, or 66 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

The decrease in net earnings was mainly attributable to larger gains on the disposition of properties in 2006 compared with 2007, the Cleveland-based real estate developer said.

Revenue in the three months ended Jan. 31 rose 16.6% to $406 million versus the $398 million consensus estimate of three analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

Forest City said it expects 2008 to be 'an even more challenging year' than 2007.

The company's shares rose 35 cents to $35.95.

article

Additional:
BusinessWire.com, Forest City Enterprises Reminder of Year-End Earnings Conference Call

StreetInsider.com, Forest City Reports Fiscal 2007 Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Results

In addition to continuing to prevail in court decisions related to Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, as previously mentioned, the Company is also moving ahead with site work, including demolition, infrastructure upgrades and construction of the temporary rail yard. Forest City now controls more than 85 percent of the land necessary for the project, which includes up to 6.5 million square feet of developable land on a 22-acre site.

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

Flashback, 2004: Forest City claims it was "selected" to develop AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Could this be Norman Oder's idea of an April Fools joke, or is the joke on Brooklyn and NY taxpayers?

From a 3/11/04 press release announcing the financial results for the fiscal year ending 1/31/04, Chuck Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises (FCE), offered an original fib that should've been challenged.

"In addition," he said, "we strengthened our opportunities for future growth by being selected to pursue the rights to develop Southeast Federal Center in Washington, D.C. and Brooklyn Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, as well as our first military families housing project in Hawaii."
(Emphasis added)

Ratner's language implied there was a bidding process for a project known as Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. Rather, FCE subsidiary Forest City Ratner proposed a project that was embraced by local political leaders. However, no one "selected" the developer.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

$680M Loan Closes for Downtown Tower Build

GlobeSt.com
By Natalie Dolce

NEW YORK CITY-The New York City Housing Development Corp. closed a $680 million construction loan with an affiliate of Forest City Ratner. The project will use Liberty Bond and taxable bond proceeds for the new construction of a 904-unit apartment tower in Lower Manhattan located at 60 Beekman St.

The Liberty Bond issuance represents the last of HDC’s allocation. The New York State Housing Finance Agency also contributed $13.9 million from its Liberty Bond allocation to make this exciting development possible. "Beekman Tower is among HDC’s most notable financings to date” according to Marc Jahr, president of the HDC. "I’m confident that this striking Frank Gehry designed building will provide a powerful impetus to the continuing transformation of Lower Manhattan into a vibrant live-work neighborhood."
...
Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner, says in a prepared statement that "this project could not have happened without the Support Speaker Silver, Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Deputy Mayor Leiber, HPD Commissioner Donovan, NYC HDC President Marc Jahr, LMDC President David Emil and Chairman Avi Schick and all of the local community leaders."

article

NoLandGrab: If we're not mistaken, plans for the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Street tower are a very well kept secret and have never been released publicly.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

12 MetroTech Building Now Completely Leased, Forest City Reports

El Diario Takes Floor at One MetroTech

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Compiled by Linda Collins

It's not all bad news coming out of One MetroTech, Bruce Ratner's world headquarters.

Forest City Ratner Companies reported this week that with two recently signed leases its building at 12 MetroTech Center is now 100 percent leased.

As the Eagle has reported, the building houses the State Supreme Court and Family Court on floors 2-25, reserving floors 26-30 for commercial leasing.

The recent transaction was with the National Union Fire Insurance Co., a subsidiary of American International Group (AIG), which has signed a lease for approximately 120,000 square feet on three full floors and one partial floor for support staff and administrative operations for several AIG companies.
...
Forest City also reports that El Diario La Prensa, the oldest Spanish language newspaper in America and the largest in the tri-state area, has signed a lease for 23,400 square feet on the 18th floor at One MetroTech.

article

NoLandGrab: The Eagle has run most of this stuff already. Either the paper was just filling space with this press release mash-up, or it really can't get enough of the Brucester.

BTW: The City of New York is the largest tenant in MetroTech, though Ratner would never send out a press release bragging about it.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

IT'S NOT A MOVEMENT WITHOUT A MOVIE

New York City's activist and advocacy communities are putting themselves and their interests on video like never before.

City Limits
By Karen Loew

We thought that all you needed was a blog or two to become an official movement, but to make it to the big time, you gotta have a movie!

Videos made by grassroots documentarians – who often are not professional filmmakers – about local issues and aimed at raising consciousness have risen to a more prominent, even ubiquitous, place in city movements for social change.

Name a cause, and you'll find an advocacy video on the subject – or you'll find a few, or at least be told there’s one in the works. With the tools of video production more affordable and accessible than ever before, and more people reflexively turning to video for expression, New York City finds itself awash in a sea of video by the people, about their concerns, for the purpose of affecting the discourse. Some exhibit the craft and polish to earn the title “documentary,” or at least to be called a film. Others are rawer videos with lower production and editing values. Some is really just “footage.”

Hey, WE have a movie!

Isabel Hill, director of the acclaimed documentary “Brooklyn Matters,” which critiques Forest City Ratner’s mega-development plan for Atlantic Yards, considers herself a historian and urban planner first and a filmmaker second – but says she simply had to jump into the Atlantic Yards debate with a movie.

“I had to get cracking because I knew time was running out” in the second half of 2006, leading up to the city’s key decisions on the property, Hill said recently. “I wanted to have something out there for people to respond to – and it has been good.”

In a previous job as a film reviewer for an arts organization, “I realized [film] was a great way to present something – ideas and concepts,” she said.

article

Brooklyn Matters will be screening TONIGHT at:
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School
357 Clermont Avenue, Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: NYC Twilight Zone Edition

There are treatments for ED, but first you have to admit you have a problem:

NEW Penn Station, Listen to MAS President Kent Barwick on WNYC
Lately, the Municipal Art Society has been quiet about Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards fiasco... that is until last week, when MAS President Kent Barwick cited Atlantic Yards as a justification to use eminent domain for the Penn Station renovation.

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.

NoLandGrab: How about citing the massive public subsidy for Atlantic Yards to justify, say, fully funding our local schools? Yeah, it really takes a while to wrap your head around that one.

Brownstoner, Vito's Plans for Pfizer: A Gross Misuse of Eminent Domain?

In a bizarre twist, Vito Lopez, the political boss who gave Bruce Ratner a generous carve-out in the 421-a affordable housing reform legislation, is now threatening to use eminent domain against Pfizer, the corporation that played a key role in the US Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Kelo vs. New London, the case that broadened the use of eminent domain to just about anything. Pfizer is crying foul, most property-rights activists are cross-eyed, but Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Dan Goldstein has managed to keep his head:

This morning the Sun takes a look at the drive to seize the old Pfizer plant in Williamsburg via eminent domain. Assemblyman Vito Lopez introduced a bill that would result in the state condemning the 15-acre property so it could acquire it and issue its own request for proposals to create around 1,700 affordable housing units. Pfizer intends to shut down the plant at the end of this year, and it released its own request for proposals for a mixed-use development on the site that would also include affordable housing.
...
"The fact that this grossly mistreats business doesn't make it any better," says Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. "If Lopez wants the affordable housing on that site then he should work with Pfizer to get it included in the development and require that they build it on their property."

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere110.gif

Here's what folks are saying about Atlantic Yards, developer Bruce Ratner and the Nets in the Blogosphere:

Nets Net, Musing About the Future, Part II
Nets coach Lawrence Frank's job is safe for now:

We've said it in this very blog a couple of times. Ratner doesn't want a new coach. Even if he did, who'd take this lame duck job?
...
Ratner is saying the bad economy means an indefinite delay in the Atlantic Yards project, except that is for the arena.

This is a team set adrift..

BizBash, Tishman Speyer to Develop Hudson Yards

Although new governor David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg dismissed those who believe the economic climate will cause delays, others aren't quite as optimistic. A particularly scathing New York Times piece, published yesterday, asserts that the [Hudson Yards] project "seems to be a wishful fantasy." The article goes on to compare the development with "the ground zero and Atlantic Yards fiascos" and criticize those involved, believing the project "signals a level of cynicism that should prod us to demand a moratorium on all such development until our public officials return to their senses."

Sonic Parthenon, Gotham City Development Update

We're not the only blog that carried both audio links from WNYC's Brian Lehrer and Leonard Lopate Atlantic Yards Double Feature Day:

It's been a busy last few days in the world of NYC development, primarily in regards to the Atlantic Yards and the Hudson Yards. There's also been a big step back in the future of building a new Penn Station... It wouldn't be a crime if the Nets don't get an arena in Brooklyn (don't worry, they will) but it will be a travesty if the 2nd Ave subway line is never built... It now looks like the big, gorgeous Fulton hub will not happen. Shame all around.

Urban Transport, May 12, 2006 New York, Developer Defends Atlantic Yards, Saying Towers Won't Corrupt the Feel of Brooklyn
One blogger provides links to coverage of designers Frank Gehry and Laurie Olin's plans for Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: Since construction plans for everything but the arena has been stalled, we can kiss those plans goodbye.

The Skyline [The Chicago Tribune], Helmut Jahn plan under fire in N.Y.
Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune's Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, adds some thoughts to a NY Times review of a megaproject plan in Chicago:

Ouroussoff's piece is also worth reading because it links the apparently unimpressive Jahn/Tishman plan to other disappoinnting, large-scale developments efforts in New York, including the watering-down of Daniel Liebeskind's master plan for Ground Zero and the whittling away of Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. There was much talk in New York last year about coming to terms with the legacy of the demonized uber-planner Robert Moses and finally getting big plans right. But these three pieces of the puzzle suggest that the biggest of America's big cities isn't ready to do big plans right.

NYPolitics.com, Visions of parking lots at stalled Atlantic Yards site
A political blog shares with its readers last week's MetroNY article about Bruce Ratner's plans to turn unused land in the Atlantic Yards footptint into a gigantic surface parking lot for the arena.

brooklynometry, Crowing Roosters

Here in Brooklyn it's illegal to keep roosters because the crowing makes for poor relations between neighbors, but hearts are not illegal, and thanks to the blogosphere, we hear more and more hearts crowing without any restrictions. In Brooklyn so many blogs maintain vigilance for the sake of the public good, asking for nothing in return. There are actually very few blogs running here in Brooklyn that don't express tremendous passion for justice, truth and beauty in some way. Posts from blogs monitoring the Atlantic Yards project intend to defy those who use power to violate individual rights and promote inappropriate development, others blogger's watchful eyes search for dangers in the form of thoughtless construction practices and other threats to public safety, and so many blogs lament losing an authentic, organically arising community for one spawned from corporate earning strategies and superficial values.

NoLandGrab: Best to be a rooster if you're gonna be chicken!

The Gowanus Lounge, An "Open Letter to the Brooklyn Museum"
GoLo posted a couple excerpts from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's posting of Michael D.D. White's open letter to the Brooklyn Museum.

The backlash over the Brooklyn Museum's Gala honoring developer Bruce Ratner continues. There will be protesters at the April 3 event, and today an "Open Letter to the Brooklyn Museum" went out and was posted on the DDDB website.

Posted by lumi at 3:57 AM