« May 2008 | Main | July 2008 »

June 30, 2008

Where are they now: Jim Stuckey

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Where is Stuckey?


We found Jim Stuckey!

Where is he now? Where has he gone to face those challenges? He is now partner at Verdant Properties, where his profile touts his service for Forest City Ratner and the Atlantic Yards stewardship.

Mr. Stuckey should feel free to use DDDB as a reference for his work doing "sustainable, harmonious development"...we have much to say about his efforts with that Atlantic Yards proposal.

Atlantic Yards Report, Former FCR executive Stuckey aims to cash in on insider info

The more important asset Verdant brings, however, may be the inside track. To quote the company's web site:
With over three decades of proven experience, and relationships with property owners and tenants; brokers and appraisers; architects and attorneys; title companies and accountants; and, lenders and investors – the principals of VERDANT PROPERTIES, LLC™ frequently learn of opportunities to acquire properties long before their competitors, and often times, these assets are never publicly marketed.
(Emphasis added)

Remember, Forest City Ratner was anointed developer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard 18 months before an RFP was issued.

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

FCR consultant Zimbalist adds millions to AY subsidy total, calls for ULURP hearings (not quite)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder points out some glaring inconsistencies in the positions of sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, which seem, not surprisingly, to correlate with the source of his paycheck.

Andrew Zimbalist, the sports economist Forest City Ratner hired to produce a dubious study of Atlantic Yards costs and benefits, mostly dismissed a very big thing: the economic value of the tax-exempt bonds used to build the arena. And when writing about a very similar financing plan for the West Side Stadium, he called such bonds the equivalent of a public contribution.

So, would the $800 million in tax-exempt bonds for AY count as a public subsidy? Not under Zimbalist's logic, given that, in a 1/22/06 New York Times op-ed, he blessed a similar financing plan for the new Yankees Stadium, contrasting it with the West Side Stadium by noting that "the Bronx is already in a tax abatement zone."

But maybe that's not quite right--and it deserves scrutiny as the State Assembly takes up tax-exempt financing for the Yankees, if not the Nets, during a hearing on Wednesday.

There's increasingly less justification for such tax exemptions. Just as the city's longstanding 421-a tax exemption for outer-borough residential construction recently got an overhaul, given that the residential market had long since improved in certain neighborhoods, so have there been recent calls to reform the city's Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program (ICIP), on which the AY arena tax exemption would rely.


Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

Summons drives Wendell Gault to battle for justice over broken parking

NY Daily News
by Clem Richardson

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo appearance in a story about a Prospect Heights man who fought the system — and won!


[Wendell] Gault is not one to let things go. He has fired off letters to elected officials about a number of community issues, from the nearby Atlantic Yards project to the inequity of having alternate side parking four times a week in Prospect Heights but only twice a week across Flatbush Ave. in Park Slope ("Are they saying we're dirtier on this side of Flatbush?" he asked.)

Armed with a video camera, Microsoft's Moviemaker program and with girlfriend Linda Simpkins providing technical assistance, he made a film clip of the meter doing its shortchanging thing.

Gault took the video to his hearing. It was enough to convince Associate Law Judge Richard Ballerini to throw out the ticket.

"He said if I went to that much trouble, I must be telling the truth," Gault said.

Meter 324-0188 was still broken as of Friday.


NoLandGrab: And Bruce Ratner probably likes it that way, since in the Forest City Ratner playbook, a broken parking meter is no doubt cited as evidence of "blight."

Posted by eric at 9:13 AM

Tax-subsidized stadiums vs. early childhood education? An expert's view

Atlantic Yards Report

Unlike so many of his colleagues in the House, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is not a lawyer, which may explain why he didn't follow the rule of never asking a question to which you don't already know the answer:

During the 10/10/07 hearing, Professional Sport Stadiums: Do They Divert Public Funds From Critical Public Infrastructure?, held by the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Arthur Rolnick, Senior Vice President and Research Director, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (but speaking for himself only), explained why early childhood education is a much better public investment than sports stadiums.

Ranking minority member Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was a bit skeptical.

Issa: Did you also look at physical fitness, health and welfare, aspirations of young people, everything else that goes when they go to one professional baseball game and they say, "I want to be like that. I'm going to join my Pop Warner and I'm going to do this." Did you look at any of the other -- did you apply those same metrics to that?

Rolnick’s response didn’t mention, uh, steroids, but he still knocked it out of the park.

Rolnick: Yes, we did. Actually, we did. And we do know that baseball is going to exist in this country whether we subsidize it or not. It was interesting when the Minnesota hockey team left Minneapolis for Dallas a number of years ago.

So what happened with those kids who loved hockey? They started to go to the high school games, they started to go to the college games. It isn't that entertainment, sports entertainment disappears. They started to go to some of the minor league games.


Posted by eric at 9:02 AM

Booker attempts to woo new-look Nets

By Joe Brescia

Here is yet another story about negotiations that are under way to move the Nets to Newark, rather than Brooklyn.

When Newark Mayor Cory Booker welcomed Bruce Springsteen, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Yogi Berra and others into the New Jersey Hall of Fame weeks before the NBA draft, Booker said he hoped to welcome another group of athletes to town in the near future: the Nets.

Booker is trying to help Jeffrey Vanderbeek, the owner of the Devils, assemble investors to purchase the team.

Bruce Ratner, the Nets’ principal owner, has denied reports that he is interested in selling the team or moving it to Newark. Booker, though, says otherwise.

“I’m going to work very hard to make it happen,” Booker says. If the deal were to go through, the team would play at the Prudential Center, the newly built Devils’ home arena. Both teams played at the Izod Center, the former Continental Arena, in East Rutherford, N.J., before the Devils moved to the new facility in Newark last season.


Posted by steve at 6:32 AM

To federal regulators, ESDC claims Forest City Ratner has "acquired" 85% of AY site

Atlantic Yards Report

Perhaps Forest City Ratner "owns or controls 86 percent of the land needed for Atlantic Yards," but that didn't stop the project sponsor, the Empire State Development Corporation, from telling a little white lie to federal regulators:

According to the "Atlantic Yards Chronology" (p. 6 of this PDF): Forest City Ratner Companies ("FCRC"), the developer of the Project, has already acquired approximately 85% of the project site.


NoLandGrab: Well, at least the ESDC didn't lie when it identified Forest City Ratner as "the developer of the Proejct."

Posted by lumi at 4:19 AM

So, would Brooklyn be 2010 or 2011?

Atlantic Yards Report

In articles this weekend, The NY Times "offered that not-so-credible 2010 date for the Nets' assumed Brooklyn move," while the Boston Globe had it, "probably in 2011."

Norman Oder bets on the Globe:

I think 2011 is a more likely best-case scenario. Remember, the Nets are promising only "calendar year 2010," which might just be New Year's Eve.


NoLandGrab: The New York Times Company owns both The Times and The Globe, so someone in Boston apparently didn't get the memo.

Posted by lumi at 4:15 AM

Popular Fulton Mall plans expansion

NY Daily News

In this article about plans for the Fulton Mall, reporter Allison Colter has rebranded the Atlantic Terminal Mall as "the Atlantic Yards complex."

Target is said to be considering taking space as an anchor tenant - even though it already has a megastore further along Flatbush Ave., in the Atlantic Yards complex.


NoLandGrab: Even Ratner's branding efforts haven't taken it that far.

Posted by lumi at 3:59 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gowanus Lounge, Ward Bakery Destructoporn, Black Chair Edition

We offer this photo that was dropped into our GL Photo Pool by Tracy Collins for the absurdity of the black chair sitting there in the rubble. Mr. Collins’ body of work is a must for anyone interested in the neighborhood where the big project may rise.

The Footprint Gazette, This just in...

"Ratner is..."

Two graffiti can't be wrong.

Krispy Kruller's All Nite Sugar Palace, Brooklyn Represent!

The controversial Atlantic Yards project is beginning to stick to Jay-Z, who is a minority owner of the NJ Nets.

Now, I'm not a big fan of Jay-Z. I don't like his music; I don't like his role in the Atlantic Yards project, but you gotta admit, this is pretty funny. One of the Gallagher twins from Oasis didn't want Jay-Z playing at Glastonbury, because it's traditionally a rock concert, it's no place for rappers, etc.

So what does Jay-Z do?

WARNING: Like Atlantic Yards, it's not pretty. Unless you're tone deaf, you may want to skip this link.

uacash.com, США: жить в центре города уже не модно

В связи с этим, в 2008 году в центрах некоторых крупных американских городов были приостановлены масштабные проекты, например, проект Brooklyn Atlantic Yards стоимостью в 4 млрд долларов, который включал в себя постройку стадиона для New Jersey Nets и квартир общей площадью 750 тыс. кв. м.

Roughly translated:

In connection with this, in the centers of some large American cities were in 2008 stopped scale projects, for example, the project Of brooklyn Of atlantic Of yards by cost in 4 billion dollars, which included building stadium for New Of jersey Of nets and apartments with the total area of 750 thousand sq. m.

Posted by lumi at 3:50 AM

June 29, 2008

July 2 Showdown Over Yankees (and Nets) Tax-exempt Financing


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Presumably the discussion at the hearing below will include the $800 million (at least) in tax-exempt financing Forest City Ratner seeks for its proposed $950 million, and counting, Barclays Center Arena...

Assembly Standing Committee On Corporations, Authorities And Commissions Assembly Standing Committee On Local Governments Assembly Standing Committee On Cities Assembly Standing Committee On Ways And Means

Notice Of Public Hearing

SUBJECT: The request for increased public financing for construction of a new Yankee Stadium in New York City.

PURPOSE: This hearing will examine the recent requests by the New York Yankees for additional funding in the form of tax-exempt bonds from the New York City Industrial Development Agency (NYC IDA), a subsidiary of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC), for construction of a new Yankee Stadium in New York City.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008, 10:00 am
Assembly Hearing Room, Room 1923, 19th Floor
250 Broadway
New York, New York


The NYC IDA is the financing branch of the NYC EDC that provides assistance to businesses and companies operating in the five boroughs of New York City through tax-exempt bond financing. In 2006, the NYC IDA approved the issuance of $920 million in tax-exempt bonds to the New York Yankees for the construction of a new Yankee Stadium in the borough of the Bronx. The issuance of these bonds was made possible when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) waived regulations which prohibit the use of public financing for sports facilities. Shortly after the waiver was granted, the IRS instituted stricter enforcement of its regulations prohibiting such use of tax-exempt bonds.

Reports in the news media have indicated that the New York Yankees are seeking an additional $350 million in tax-exempt bonds from the NYC IDA to complete construction of the stadium despite IRS regulations prohibiting such use of public financing, and efforts are underway to have a waiver granted once again so that the sports team can acquire the funding. This hearing will allow the Committees to obtain information on the status of the financing plans for the construction of the Stadium, and to investigate the requests for additional funding.

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky Chair. Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt Chair, Committee on Local Governments

Assemblyman James F. Brennan Chair, Committee on Cities

Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, Jr. Chair, Committee on Ways and Means


Posted by steve at 11:00 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Castle Coalition

Rally To Support Willets Point Businesses

New York City officials wants to wipe out over 200 profitable businesses in Willets Point in order to transfer the land to a private, yet-to-be-determined developer. The 45-acre area employs thousands of highly-skilled workers, and generates billions of dollars in economic activity and millions in tax revenue for the city - yet for decades, the city has refused to supply the area with basic municipal services like garbage collection, plumbing and electricity. And now, after sabotaging the area for years, the city is pointing to the blight that it created as justification to condemn the businesses that have nonetheless thrived there.

This Monday, the Willets Point businesses need your help:

Monday, June 30 @ 6:30pm
Union Plaza Senior Home
33-23 Union Street
Flushing, NY

Come out and show your support for the business owners. In the meantime, if you live in New York City, contact:

Community Board #7: 718-359-2800, QN07@cb.nyc.gov
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall: 718-286-3000, mcontessa@queensbp.org
Mayor Michael Bloomberg: 212-788-3000, fax 212-788-2460

Let them know that you oppose eminent domain for private gain!

Posted by steve at 10:42 AM

June 28, 2008

The Post's Brooklyn Tomorrow advertorial is back

BklynTomorrow.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

Here's an assessment of the latest advertorial featuring thoughtless rah-rah promotion of the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

As I wrote last June, Brooklyn Tomorrow, the promotional magazine inserted in the New York Post and the Post-owned Courier-Life chain, is not labeled advertorial though it certainly reads as such. But the latest edition of the annual publication, featuring enthusiastic articles from bylined Courier-Life staffers, certainly helps explain why, despite considerable reason for skepticism, the Post editorial page last week twisted its way to an Atlantic Yards hooray.


NoLandGrab: With a cover featuring an artist's rendition of an office building that has no anchor tenant, tomorrow could be much further away than Forest City Ratner cares to admit.

Posted by steve at 9:20 AM

CBA Block Party Cancelled


The Community Benefits Agreement Third Anniversary Block party, expected to take place yesterday, was cancelled. Did someone forget to buy the balloons, or did it turn out that Thursday is a better party night? Three different blog entries try to figure out what happened:

Atlantic Yards Report: "Brutally weird" block party quietly canceled, as FCR apparently has second thoughts

The "brutally weird" block party scheduled for yesterday--on a to-be-demapped AY footprint block--by Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatories was canceled without public explanation yesterday. Apparently Forest City Ratner and its surrogates recognized that 1) it was bad form and 2) block parties usually involve residents celebrating their block, and there weren't any of them. (Image from DDDB.)

Well, there was some largesse distributed. As told to DDDB and to me by an eyewitness, CBA signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) and Forest City Ratner representatives "were out in front of the [homeless] shelter at 603 Dean handing out pizza, drinks and Nets tote bags to shelter residents." The shelter is on the block just below the block where the party was to be held.

The Real Deal: Ratner's Atlantic Yards block party cancelled

Three years ago today, Forest City Ratner entered into a community benefits agreement for its Atlantic Yards project, promising affordable housing and work for local and minority businesses to help build Brooklyn's biggest-ever development. A block party planned for today to celebrate the anniversary has been canceled.

The party was to be in the footprint of the struggling Atlantic Yards project, on Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Carlton avenues. Delia Hunley-Adossa, chairwoman of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement, said the block party had been planned for months, but was canceled after the U.S. Supreme's Court decision Monday not to hear an eminent domain petition presented by property owners and tenants challenging the government's ability to seize their homes. The ruling followed a string of legal losses for the project's opponents.

"We wanted to be sensitive to the community that the decision came down Monday," said Hunley-Adossa, who works with both the developer and the community.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: Offensive Atlantic Yards "Block Party" Cancelled

Developer Forest City Ratner’s partners and surrogates announced last Monday afternoon that they planned to hold what they claim to be a “block party” to “celebrate” the third anniversary of what experts have called a toothless, illegitimate “Community Benefits Agreement” (CBA) for the developer’s Atlantic Yards proposal.When the time came today for the party today nobody showed up. Our eyewitness sources tell us the "block party" was cancelled. But no worries, we got this eyewitness report that: "BUILD and FCR (Forest City Ratner) were out in front of the [homeless] shelter at 603 Dean handing out pizza, drinks and Nets tote bags to shelter residents."

Posted by steve at 7:34 AM

Atlantic Yards Camera Club

A Walk Around the Blog


Adrian Kinloch of Brit in Brooklyn and Tracy Collins of Not Another F*cking Blog share their thoughts on photoblogging and talk about the Web Cam that is documenting the demolition at the Atlantic Yards site.


Posted by steve at 6:52 AM

Random Notes from a Night to Remember

Nets Daily Blog

Here is yet another example of less-than-skeptical acceptance of Forest City Ratner's claim that the proposed Barclays Center arena will open in time for the Nets' 2011 season:

Make no mistake about it, tonight’s moves were as critical to the Nets’ future as those at the trade deadline when Jason Kidd was traded. In one aspect, this was opening night for the Brooklyn Nets…the team started making real plans for the 2010-11 season in the Barclays Center, a building yet to rise above the Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: Even if FCR can overcome all the legal and financial barriers that have so far prevented ground breaking on the proposed Atlantic Yards development, it is extremely unlikely that an arena can be completed before 2011. But don't just take our word for it.

Posted by steve at 6:33 AM

Ikea has meatballs, couches and … jams

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ben Muessig

Guess what's in store for neighborhoods around Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project if the developer builds the 19,000-seat arena next to the "temporary" surface parking lot for 1,400 cars.

Check this coverage of the opening weekend at Ikea and the 1,400-car overflow parking lot.


Quiet Red Hook streets became bumper-to-bumper traffic jams when hordes of furniture-crazed shoppers flocked to the newly opened Ikea on its debut weekend.

Once-dreary roads that connect the Beard Street big box with the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway saw such a big uptick in traffic that cops from the 76th Precinct rushed in to police the area and bolster the efforts of 17 off-duty officers hired by Ikea to handle traffic.
Red Hook residents say that the influx of cars made Columbia Street look more like a parking lot than a thoroughfare.

“It was unreal. I’ve never seen so much traffic in my life,” said Jay McKnight, co-chair of the Red Hook Civic Association. “I was fearful of crossing Columbia Street — it was bumper to bumper and everyone seemed like they were in a hurry, trying to inch up between cars.”

To handle traffic, Ikea built a 1,400-spot primary parking lot and acquired a temporary overflow lot on the neighboring site of the former Revere Sugar refinery, which it has secured at least until Labor Day.

Before opening, the furniture giant also paid to put up new signs directing drivers to the store, and hired 17 off-duty NYPD cops to form a “paid detail unit” that would help direct traffic.

But even with Ikea’s preparations, cars clogged Red Hook roads.

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards supporters will note that Ikea is not convenient to public transportation, while Ratner's arena would be located above one of the area's largest transporation hub, which begs the question, why does the developer need so much parking?

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

June 27, 2008

The balance of power?

The Brooklyn Paper

At its core, the issue in this case is New York State’s insistence that Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena, office and housing mega-project will bring about a “public benefit.” The declaration of such a “public benefit” enables the state to use its eminent domain power to seize the 11 properties from their owners and give them to Ratner.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that when states condemn private property for a public benefit, they do not violate the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.

But in its most-recent ruling on such takings — the 2005 Kelo decision — the High Court declared that the “public benefit” cannot merely be a pretext for handing over one person’s land to another person.

In a word, the benefit must be real.

But who determines if the public actually benefits from a development? In its brief to the High Court, state officials said that only the state itself has the power to make that determination.

The 11 plaintiffs in Goldstein v. Pataki allege that a corrupt and cronyism-riddled Empire State Development Corporation simply used the pretext of public benefit to hand over properties so Ratner could make millions. Two federal courts have declined to examine this claim, saying that judges have no role in hearing challenges to a state’s determination that a project is a “public benefit.”

So, if a state agency says that a project is a “public benefit,” it is, de facto, a public benefit.

But what if the so-called “public benefit” isn’t a benefit at all?


Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

No-property-tax status was supposed to raise the price of the Vanderbilt Yard

Atlantic Yards Report

There's another obscured benefit for Forest City Ratner in the bid for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard. In its September 2005 report on Atlantic Yards, the city's Independent Budget Office (IBO) stated:
IBO’s estimate of new property tax revenue lost to the arena PILOT does not include a loss of property taxes for the MTA land that would be part of the arena building foot print. The city currently receives no tax payment from the MTA for the rail yard because the MTA, like other state entities, is exempt from local property tax. Under the MTA’s Request for Proposals, any developer acquiring the development rights to the site would probably enter into a long-term lease, leaving the MTA in place as the owner. Therefore, the property would likely remain off the city’s tax roll, resulting in no impact on the city budget. Indeed, the MTA has an incentive to make a deal that maintains the tax exemption in order to maximize the price it receives for the development rights.
(Emphasis added)

That hardly happened. Forest City Ratner paid $100 million in cash, and values its total bid at $379.4 million, though that's questionable. Meanwhile, the developer expects tax breaks worth $800 million, as tax-exempt bonds are repaid by PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes).

It doesn't sound like the MTA maximized much.


NoLandGrab: Not true! They appear to have maximized the sweetness of the deal for Forest City Ratner. Meanwhile, taxpayers and transit riders can expect MTA service cuts — and fare hikes.

Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

Pacific Street

Photo, by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

This will be the site of [today's] (7/27/2008) Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Third Anniversary Block Party, sponsored by "Local Community Groups."

There are not many residents on this stretch of Pacific Street. The red brick buildings on the left are occupied by renters who are in court fighting their eviction by the developer, Forest City Ratner. Further down Pacific Street, past the Ward Bread Bakery (currently being demolished), is a homeless shelter.

Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

Gargano flashback: "no taxpayer money will go to build a sports arena"

Atlantic Yards Report

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn points to a 8/23/04 interview with Charles Gargano, then chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, who seemed definitive that there would be no help for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena:

The governor and I have made it clear for nine-plus years that no taxpayer money will go to build a sports arena. We will consider helping with infrastructure improvements, like a platform over the rail yards on the West Side or new subway stations, which helps the public at large.

Norman Oder unpacks that damn lie in the rest of the article.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has more on its web site, including Gargano's yarn about Yankee Stadium, which is turning out to be one of the most successful boondoggles for one of the most successful professional sports franchises in history.

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

"It's Our Pleasure to Serve You"

Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


According to Collins:

I think our community is certainly being "served."

Ward Bread Bakery
Dean Street near Vanderbilt Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

The Ward Bread Bakery is currently being demolished for Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: Idea for another episode of "The Ratner-Zone," "To Serve You."

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

RESOURCES: Documents Related to Proposed IRS Regulations on Tax-exempt Bonds

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn compiled resources concerning the "Proposed IRS Regulations on Tax-exempt Bonds" which, depending on how the Internal Revenue Service rules, will have a big effect on the financing structure of Bruce Ratner's controversial and heavily subsidized Atlantic Yards project.

This page should be particularly interesting and helpful to reporters and bloggers covering the story — and Larry Penner.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM


PacVand-Dope.jpg Dope on the Slope

The combination of weird angle, polarizing filter, and oblique late afternoon sun gives this picture a twilight zone quality. It's the light pole at the corner of Pacific and Vanderbilt next to the Vanderbilt Railyards.

I took this photo while strolling around with Brit in Brooklyn. We noticed a taut monofilament line stretching from the pole to the fence surrounding the project site. What could its function possibly be? Hanging banners?


NoLandGrab: "Hanging banners" for today's Ratner-Zone Block Party, to be celebrated on a block that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is planning to demap?

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Congressman offers unskeptical endorsement of Zimbalist's dubious AY study

Atlantic Yards Report


In Congress last year, Andrew Zimbalist's dubious study of Atlantic Yards for Forest City Ratner got a mindless endorsement from the ranking minority member of the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the House of Representatives, even though an expert witness warned that accepting studies that were not peer-reviewed was akin to federal drug regulators embracing reports created by the drug companies themselves.
[L]ater in the hearing, some non-peer-reviewed research, albeit with an academic gloss, was promoted by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the ranking minority member. He declared (see p. 123):

Mr. Chairman, I would also like to put into the record an economist's study from the Robert A. Woods professor of economics at Smith College in Massachusetts. It is from May 1, 2004, and it specifically deals with Atlantic Yards, estimating that the total of $2.93 billion over 30 years or a net present value of $1.08 billion would be the advantage for that operation. Although it may not be the one that is going to carry the day, it certainly seems that independent bodies such as university economist very much believe that there can be a net economic benefit, and I ask that be placed in the record.

Except that Zimbalist was a consultant "retained" by the developer, not an "independent body," his study was deeply flawed, and it was never peer-reviewed (nor the subject of journalistic scrutiny).


NoLandGrab: When a report by a paid consultant makes it into the record at a congressional hearing, we'd say Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner got his money's worth.

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

Digging the Yards

From Brit in Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner isn't the only one who digs Atlantic Yards.

Photo's from an evening walk around the Atlantic Yards footprint.


Posted by lumi at 4:42 AM

Ratner's Relocation Plan Revealed!

The Footprint Gazette

After years of empty promises, are workers finally preparing the rent-stabilized holding pen for footprint tenants???


One of the multitudinous reasons that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project has lost it's momentum is that the tenants currently living in the proposed construction site have not been offered any clear options for what's to be done with them. There was vague talk of a relocation plan, but that plan never had any kind of details associated with it.

Well the details have finally surfaced and I was lucky to get a shot of where the tenants are to be relocated.


Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

With Jefferson gone from the Nets, the AY permanent campaign adjusts

Atlantic Yards Report


Now that Nets forward Richard Jefferson has been traded to Milwaukee for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, the Nets page on the Atlantic Yards web site has been updated--likely temporarily--to feature one player (Vince Carter) and two owners (Bruce Ratner and Jay-Z).
In the previous iteration of the page (below), Jefferson occupied the slot currently held by Jay-Z. Of course, before team leader Jason Kidd was traded to Dallas for Devin Herris, the page featured a Carter/Kidd/Jefferson/Nenad Krstic panorama, plus a shot of Kidd alone.

What's clear is that the Nets, with two strong draft picks and a young guard in Harris, are rebuilding, and two of the three stars paraded to help sell the Nets to Brooklyn, Kidd and Jefferson, will be long gone before an arena opens. But they served their purpose in the Atlantic Yards permanent campaign.


Posted by lumi at 4:21 AM

empty seat

Photo, by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


Front row seat in the Ratnerville demolition playhouse.

Posted by lumi at 4:14 AM

Meet 'The 100'

At Four Seasons Awards Ceremony, New York Observer Fetes New York's Real-Estate Power Circuit

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report hobnobbed with the who's-who in NYC real estate.


Posted by lumi at 4:08 AM

June 26, 2008

Everyday Chatter

Jeremiah's Vanishing New York

I picked up this Forest City Ratner advertisement disguising itself as a magazine on a bench outside St. Mark's Church today. It came from the NY Post. One of the stories is called "Feeding the Need to Shop." Another refers to the Coney redesign as a "new day dawning at the shore." The gentrification of Flatbush is hailed "Old Nabes Take On New Life." Brooklynites, here lies your grim future:



NoLandGrab: Judging from the looks of that "stacked shoe box" design, this must be the much-anticipated Summer 2008 edition of Brooklyn Tomorrow.

Posted by eric at 4:27 PM

Karl Fischer bunker beds



Bruce Ratner rates a (dis)honorable mention in a blog post about ubiquitous NYC architect Karl Fischer, complete with a humorous rendering of a Gehry-less Atlantic Yards (click image to enlarge).

Real estate magnate Bruce Ratner's problem is that he thinks too big. If he had quietly bought a block at a time and hired Karl Fischer, Atlantic Yards would be done by now (right). Instead, it's every other block of Williamsburg that gets an arbitrary eyesore from the napkin doodles of The Master.


NoLandGrab: Thanks, but we think we'll get our Prospect Heights fried chicken at Bob Law's Seafood Café.

Posted by eric at 3:23 PM

O'Connor: Nets, Knicks envision a future with LeBron

Bergen Record
by Ian O'Connor

As a franchise, the Nets have rarely dealt in the currency of good luck. So there was a time recently when it appeared the Dodgers would be playing home games in Brooklyn before the Nets did.


Then something funny happened on the way to an abandoned project and another quarter century or more of self-loathing in the East Rutherford marsh.

The Supreme Court, of all entities, decided to play ball with the Nets. The justices decreed that property owners and tenants in and around Atlantic Yards had no right to stop Bruce Ratner, Nets owner, from building a Brooklyn arena for his team and a fresh set of skyscrapers that would serve as a monument to himself.

In other words, the Supreme Court allowed the Nets to resume their slow-break into New York City, longstanding home of the God-awful Knicks.

“That was a big one, a good one,” Nets president Rod Thorn said of the eminent domain ruling that would alter the dynamic that exists between his team and the Knicks.

“If we’re in Brooklyn, then [the rivalry] might be entirely different. Then we’re competing for the same people and the same turf.”




From: Brett Yormark

To: Rod Thorn

Subject: "If" vs. "When"

Rod —

Bruce only wants us to use "when" when talking about Brooklyn. Never "if." Only "when." Got it?

— Brett

P.S.: Good luck with the draft 2nite.

Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

A Large Cloud Over Brooklyn

AK-SkySteeple.jpgFrom Brit in Brooklyn

A place where church spires are still some of the tallest buildings.

NoLandGrab: Speaking of "a large cloud," this is a view that would become scarce around Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

For Ground Zero, Paterson promises timeline candor; for AY, it's the party line

Atlantic Yards Report

Regarding Ground Zero reconstruction, Gov. David Paterson has expressed skepticism about the professed timetable, and asked for clarifications. Despite reasons to doubt the professed timetable for Atlantic Yards, he has not merely failed to express skepticism, his administration has endorsed the chimerical timetable asserted by developer Forest City Ratner.
[I]n a 5/8/08 letter to the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department, the New York City Industrial Development Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) cite the chimerical timetable in arguing that the PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) plan for arena financing should stand, even though the feds want to change the rules for tax-exempt bonds.

Part of the argument is that Atlantic Yards has already proceeded significantly. But a realistic timetable would acknowledge the project is much farther away from its completion date.
[T]he IRS and the Treasury Department should take the ESDC's claims with a big grain of salt. And Governor Paterson should explain why he approaches Ground Zero with much more skepticism than he analyzes Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

Who spent $219 million on AY? The city and state obscure the issue

Atlantic Yards Report

In a 5/8/08 letter to the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department, the New York City Industrial Development Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) argue that the PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) plan for arena financing should stand, even though the feds want to change the rules for tax-exempt bonds.

Part of the argument is that Atlantic Yards has already proceeded significantly. But on more than one issue, the city and state obfuscate rather than explain.


Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

Bloomberg's desire to control board members is part of why public authorities reform bill died

Atlantic Yards Report

In a letter to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky rattles off a litany of reasons NY State Public Authorities need to be reformed, including, "massive subsidies provided for sports facilities," and then pins the blame on Bloomberg for scuttling the bill at the last minute:

Our work has been assisted by the private sector, most notably by the Millstein Commission, and we have produced a sweeping reform bill that will fundamentally change these authorities, and return them to the control of democratic institutions. Last year the Governor and Assembly agreed on legislation which we passed, while the Senate passed a very similar bill. All this was known to the City. Now, at the last minute the City has produced a list of demands which would destroy the progress we’ve made on reaching a consensus, make the system worse than it is today, and leave the problems we’ve identified completely unchanged.


Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

City Council Members propose bill that would require EIS-like reports for subsidized projects

Atlantic Yards Report

A group of City Council members and advocacy groups yesterday announced the introduction of legislation designed to ensure that projects eased by tax breaks and bond financing are accompanied by economic impact reports. Whether such reports, which would resemble mini environmental impact statements (EIS’s), could make a major difference is an inevitable question, but proponents said it’s a start.


NoLandGrab: By "mini environmental impact statements (EIS's)" we think that Norman Oder is including all of the problems with EIS's, like the fact that these documents only require disclosure, not candor.

Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

ACORN on Displacing Residents and Businesses ...In Coney Island

This was brought to our attention by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

From Crain's:

...“Here we go again,” said Bertha Lewis, executive director of Acorn. “The administration is proposing yet another mega-project that will displace residents and small business.”...

Ms. Lewis is talking about Coney Island.

Posted by lumi at 4:27 AM

US Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Atlantic Yards Case

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Jeffrey Harmatz

Residents protesting the possible eminent domain seizure of their homes because they are in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project were dealt a setback on Monday, as their petition for a hearing was rejected by the Federal Courts.

Eleven property owners and tenants joined together to file Goldstein et al. v Pataki et al, an action that seeks to overturn the use of eminent domain to acquire property within the footprint of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan, which includes a basketball arena and thousands of units of affordable housing.

Their petition was filed on March 31, and asserts that the project will only benefit Forest City Ratner rather than the public, therefore the state’s use of eminent domain is unwarranted. The Federal Supreme Court denied to hear the case, but the residents have said that they will continue to fight the seizure of their property.


Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Supreme Court Won’t Hear AY Case, State Court Next for Plantiffs

News from Task Force Members Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn: The US Supreme Court has denied the petition to grant a hearing to to eleven property owners and tenants challenging developer Forest City Ratner’s legal rights to use eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards development project. Now, the plantiffs will file an action in New York state court.

The Privatopia Papers, SCOTUSblog » A new vote for property rights?

Mystery Reader sent this SCOTUSblog piece by Lyle Denniston speculating about Samuel Alito being a balance-tipping fifth vote in favor of property rights.

DMI Blog, Vann Bill Demands Developer Disclosure

In light of recent controversial, high profile development projects like Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, one of the most vexing questions facing neighborhood stakeholders is, how do you ensure that developers feeding from the public trough do the right thing when pursuing a large development project in a low- and moderate-income area? Community Benefit Agreements, like the hotly controversial one generated between ACORN and Forest City Ratner for the proposed Nets stadium and surrounding development, has been one way for community-based organizations to assert some minimal control over the kind of impact that powerful, deep-pocketed, politically connected developers have on the city.

In this same spirit, Council Member Al Vann today announced new legislation that would compel developers receiving public subsidies accountable to disclose what kind of demographic and economic impact their projects would have on the surrounding area.

NoLandGrab: Having closely watched the environmental disclosure process for Atlantic Yards, it seems that further disclosure requirements might result in another invitation for developers to lie about the impacts and benefits of their projects.

Posted by lumi at 4:11 AM

Pissing on the Footprint Pt. II

The Footprint Gazette confirms the "official epidemic" of street pee within the borders of Atlantic Yards project and begins to contemplate payback.


NoLandGrab: This street pee epidemic was brought to you by the letters F, C, and R and the number 4-billion dollars.

Posted by lumi at 3:51 AM

June 25, 2008


DeMapped.gif Re: Invitation to Community Benefits Agreement Block Party
Friday, June 27, 2PM—4PM
Pacific St. between Vanderbilt and Carlton Avenues.

"Only in the Atlantic Yards project can you find a group of people celebrating with a 'block party' on a block that will be demapped."

Posted by lumi at 8:44 PM

Frank Gehry: Super-Genius or Blundering Artiste? You Decide!

List of Top 10’s of Everything, Top 10 Smartest (Intelligent) People on Earth

Frank Owen Gehry


He is one of the world’s most influential architects. His designs for the likes of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA are bold statements that have imposed a new aesthetic of architecture on the world at large, enlivening streetscapes and creating new destinations. Mr Gehry has extended his vision beyond brick-and-mortar too, collaborating with artists such as Claes Oldenberg and Richard Serra, and designing watches, teapots and a line of jewelry for Tiffany & Co.

Now in his 70s, Mr Gehry refuses to slow down or compromise his fierce vision: He and his team at Gehry Partners are working on a $4 billion development of the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and a spectacular Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which interprets local architecture traditions into a language all his own. Incorporating local architectural motifs without simply paying lip service to Middle Eastern culture, the building bears all the hallmarks of a classic Gehry design.

NoLandGrab: "All the hallmarks?" Like, it will roast people and leak?

Business Standard, The folly of modern architecture

Take the example of the iconic Frank Gehry and two of his projects, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Stata Center at MIT. The Disney Concert Hall has vertically-curved layers of shiny stainless steel sheets at different angles, which amplify and reflect abundant California sunlight in all directions, blinding residents and heating up their neighbouring apartments by several degrees. After many complaints, the Los Angeles Philharmonic had to solve the reflection problem by covering up the steel facade with unglamorous matte cloth. Had Gehry taken into consideration the impact of the building on its surroundings, he would not have used mirror-like panels in the first place. It seems Gehry did not learn his lesson, as his subsequent work on the Stata Center exemplifies.

MIT had sought a new large building to house several science departments and research labs, in a harmonious and collaborative environment. Gehry took the latter part of agenda a bit too seriously, at the expense of function, low maintenance, and cost savings. Outside, the centre looked like the crooked house from Mother Goose, as Silber aptly puts it, with flat glass roofs that wilted under Massachusetts rains and snow, subjecting expensive computer and lab equipment to damage from frequent leakage. Inside, it was equally chaotic. Gehry had wanted to do away with walls between offices, but after the faculty insisted on their privacy, he compromised with glass walls that failed to block sound or visual distractions. Ironically, there are glass walls in the cryptography departments and other centres that conduct secret military and industrial information. For this building that was completed four years behind schedule, MIT paid nearly twice the original estimate of $100 million. In late 2007, MIT would sue Gehry for providing designs with major structural deficiencies leading to high maintenance and repair costs.

Posted by eric at 4:29 PM

Chicago, Say No to the Olympics!

Gapers Block
by Ramsin Canon

A warning to Chicagoans to reject the 2016 Olympics includes a reference to the "now-infamous and loathed Atlantic Yards development," and offers up a link to our favorite project watchdog.

There could be a continued dilution of any top-down negotiated "Community Benefits Agreement," as happened in New York City in the now-infamous and loathed Atlantic Yards development, as reported by In These Times' Michael Gauss. In that case, developers sought political cover by enticing a community group (in that case, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN) into a backroom deal that left plenty of room for developer wiggle room.


Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

Pols Remain Masters of Domain

by Steven Malanga

The Manhattan Institute Fellow and RealClearMarkets editor makes a convincing free-market case against the rampant use (and abuse) of eminent domain.

In her two great works--The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities—Jane Jacobs explained that effective economic development and urban renewal arise from the bottom up as the product of thousands of enterprises and people working on their own without a master plan, rather than from the top down, as planned by politicians or bureaucrats. The vibrancy and diversity of city markets and neighborhoods lie in “the creation of incredible numbers of different people and different private organizations, with vastly differing ideas and purposes, planning and contriving outside the formal framework of public action,” she observed.

This week, it is exactly three years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision, which endorsed a very different view of how local economic progress occurs. In that decision, the court said that it was okay for government to condemn and take private property and use it for new economic development if officials believed that the seizures would "provide appreciable benefits to the community, including…new jobs and increased tax revenue." The court’s decision expanded the so-called “takings” clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which previously had been interpreted to mean that government could only take private property to create a public “good,” such as construction of a needed new highway or water pipeline.

Most Americans object to such takings because the intended uses of the land don’t justify violating property rights when the owner is unwilling to sell to government. But as Jacobs observed, another important objection is that government planners often do a lousy job of anticipating the marketplace when they take property to be developed into something new. What I call mega-project ‘state capitalism,’ the grandiose schemes of politicians and their planners to invest public money in big projects like stadiums, downtown super-malls, and subsidized entertainment districts, has been on the rise for years, often with disastrous results which should have given the Supreme Court justices pause before they gave their blessings to seizures that "provide appreciable benefits to the community."

In the wake of public reaction against Kelo, officials in many states promised they would seek laws limiting local use of eminent domain, but although a few states have put in tougher restrictions, in many places there has been little reform because regardless of public sentiment, officials like the power of takings that the Supreme Court gave them.

Today, three years after Kelo, the game of public sponsored economic development subsidized by taxes, tax-free bonds, tax-breaks for favored businesses, and the threat of eminent domain, is alive and well, supporting everything from mega-projects like the massive 22-acre Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, N.Y., to the efforts by the tiny California town of Hercules to take land away from Wal-Mart because the town fathers objected to the big box retailer invading their domain. Kelo has allowed local officials throughout the country to remain masters of eminent domain, and private markets continue to suffer as a result.


Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

Atlantic Yards: 20 Court Decisions v. 20-ish Lies

Bruce Ratner Pants on Fire

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB has had enough of Forest City Ratner's false claim of being 20-0 in Atlantic Yards court decisions, and in return, they've compiled a list of 20+ prevarications promulgated by the developer.

Without lying, we now list for you 20 Atlantic Yards lies from the Forest City Ratner team and Bruce Ratner—there are plenty more but we are striving for symmetry (we failed). In no particular order:

  1. There will be 50% affordable housing in Atlantic Yards. (LIE, do the math: 6,430 units, 2,250 so-called "affordable")
  2. There will be a public open space on the arena roof. (LIE)
  3. There will be a private green roof on the arena. (LIE)
  4. Ratner spokesman Loren Reigelhaupt: “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." (LIE)
  5. Atlantic Yards will take 10 years to build. (LIE)
  6. Atlantic Yards went through a rigourous public process. (LIE)
  7. Atlantic Yards will create 15,000 construction jobs. (LIE)
  8. Atlantic Yards will create 10,000 permanent jobs. (LIE)
  9. "The $6 Billion Lie." (LIE)
  10. "Arena development to begin at the end of 2004, with completion set for summer of 2006." (LIE, see page 5)
  11. Arena will open in 2008. (LIE, see page 14)
  12. Arena will open in 2009. (LIE)
  13. Arena will open in 2010. (LIE)

More Lies

Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

Bronx Groups Demand a Voice in a Landmark’s Revival


The New York Times
by Terry Pristin

We're not sure exactly what tangible benefits will accrue to members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance in the Bronx, but we're reasonably confident that they have lots of rallies and blockparties in their future.

Now community organizers in the area, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, are seeking a private contract with the Related Companies, the developer chosen by the city in April to transform the Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall with 575,000 square feet of retail space, including a department store, a multiscreen movie theater and restaurants.

In recent years, a growing number of private pacts, known as community benefits agreements, or C.B.A.’s, have smoothed the way for developments around the country, including Related’s Grand Avenue project in downtown Los Angeles.

But only a few such agreements have been forged in New York. In 2005, the Bloomberg administration publicly applauded a private agreement between housing advocates and Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, but now it no longer supports the concept.

“When you do a C.B.A., the decision may be made in a vacuum, and that’s what we’re looking to avoid,” Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, said in an interview last week. “We’re not opposed to benefits for the community, and we’re not opposed to community involvement. But we just think it should be part of the larger process.”


NoLandGrab: "The larger process?" How about any process? It's apparent that the Bloomberg Administration now recognizes that Atlantic Yards is the blueprint for how not to do large development projects in NYC.

Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

Ratner's central party planning committee invites you...

CBABlockPartyFlier.gif The participants in Bruce Ratner's "Ye Olde*" Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) have officially transformed themselves into Brooklyn's finest Party Planning Committee.

Instead of doing what community groups say, Ratner supporters do what we DO. When Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods and Brooklyn Speaks hold a rally with local politicians, Ratner's crew holds their own rally. And now after the Dean St. Block Association has a block party, Ratner supporters are throwing their very own "block party."

We must be doing something right, because we appear to be getting under their skin. We can't wait for Bruce's "Blockbuster Bake Sale" (featuring FREE cookies?).

Atlantic Yards Report calls it "brutally weird" and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn deemed it a "joke."

We wonder if Bruce Ratner's party planning committee can't find something more important to do.

* That faux-parchment thingie still cracks us up.

Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Footprint Gazette, Another Glimpse Into Our Future?

My fears regarding my own apt. were realized this weekend for a number of families in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Construction alongside their building caused long cracks to it's foundation. The tenants were told to grab only a few light items and then vacate. 'Light' because anything heavy might cause the building to shift.

inversecondemnation.com, Note to Self: Avoid June 23 at the Supreme Court

Though we usually ignore the stupidsticious, the headline is funny in a black humor sort of way.

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

A Stadium Story: eerie echoes, curious contrasts, and cautionary lessons for AY

Atlantic Yards Report


Remember the battle over the West Side Stadium, that 15-month donnybrook, from March 2004 through June 2005, that dominated the city’s discourse over sports facilities, leaving scant attention for the Atlantic Yards and baseball stadium controversies?

The documentary A Stadium Story, screened in 2006 but not yet in wide release, offers some eerie echoes, curious contrasts, and cautionary lessons for Atlantic Yards watchers. (The film is well worth watching; for now, it’s available for $25 from the official web site, but it should be distributed soon, according to the filmmakers.)
[S]tadium opponents had a wealthy patron, Cablevision (owners of Madison Square Garden), to amplify their criticisms. Thus what on one level seemed liked a David-and-Goliath story was, at least from the perspective of lobbying expenditures, much more of a fair fight.

If Atlantic Yards opponents had had such a megaphone, the public debate, if not the result, would have been different. Even so, the protracted Atlantic Yards battle--already three times longer than the West Side Stadium fight--suggests that the issues raised and the opponents' effort deserve to be taken seriously.


Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

June 24, 2008

City approval for Atlantic Yards? The Daily News rewrites history

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder corrects some of the factual irregularities in today's Daily News editorial:

From a Daily News editorial today, headlined Yes, in their backyards:
No, these were all about snarling an extraordinarily beneficial project, approved up and down by the city and state....

Approval by the unelected Empire State Development Corporation and the "three-men-in-a-room" Public Authorities Control Board, with no official role for the city at all, is hardly "up and down."

Also, the editorial refers to "22 down-at-the-heels acres in the heart of Brooklyn," as if Forest City Ratner were doing some kind of favor to the public. Rather, developer Chuck Ratner calls it "a great piece of real estate."


Posted by eric at 4:17 PM

Supreme Court won't hear Nets case

Field of Schemes

Subsidized-stadia critic Neil deMause splashes a little cold water on those celebrating yesterday's pass by the U.S. Supreme Court.


The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of the lawsuit against use of eminent domain to clear land for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project, which would include an arena for the New Jersey Nets. The plaintiffs say they'll now file a similar suit in state court, but that's considered an even longer shot to succeed.

Don't expect the steamshovels to power up just yet, though: A pending appeal of a state case challenging the project's environmental review is still set to be heard in September, and yet another state lawsuit (by tenants on the site) has just started working its way through the courts. Add in that developer/Nets owner Bruce Ratner is still uncertain how much of the project he can afford to build, that the proposed financing plan might be illegal under new IRS regs, and that local elected officials are demanding a moratorium on new demolition until Ratner can confirm that all the promised housing will be built, and Atlantic Yards' prognosis still needs to be considered "questionable."


Posted by eric at 3:25 PM

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal By Atlantic Yards Opponents



The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected an appeal from tenants and property owners who face eviction to make room for the Atlantic Yards development.

The group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn had hoped to stop the skyscrapers and new arena for the Nets from moving forward, arguing that the use of eminent domain was unconstitutional.

They say the government's power to take the property is in violation because the project benefits the developer more so than the public. But the justices did not agree.

Community members say they will now file an action in state court to make their case.

article/video [dialup/broadband]

Posted by eric at 2:38 PM

Atlantic Yards News: NY Papers Applaud Supreme Court Decision in Atlantic Yards Favor


"In Atlantic Yards Favor?" We think they meant "In Atlantic Yards's Favor," but yes, the Supreme Court (excepting, at minimum, Justice Samuel Alito) did do Atlantic Yards a favor in not taking Goldstein v. Pataki. And the Daily News and the Post did Forest City Ratner a favor, too, by penning editorials that saved the company's PR department from having to come up with something of their own.

Yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision put an end to the federal lawsuit opposing Atlantic Yards by challenging eminent domain, eliminating what was potentially the most serious remaining legal hurdle for the project. The New York Post and Daily News weigh in today with editorials applauding the decision and calling for Atlantic Yards to move forward.

For press coverage of the decision, please visit our [they mean their] website.

Posted by eric at 1:13 PM

Yes, in their backyards

NY Daily News Editorial

In its typically understated fashion, the Daily News (aka, Errol Louis) gloats on its editorial page about yesterday's Supreme Court boost for Atlantic Yards.

Opponents of the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project got unceremoniously stuffed yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was a fitting end to a grand legal hoax perpetrated by a handful of not-in-my-backyard naysayers.

The high court tossed the case without comment, adding to the legal defeats suffered by the development's foes. On the merits, their arguments were losers. But the merits had nothing to do with these court battles.

No, these were all about snarling an extraordinarily beneficial project, approved up and down by the city and state, in endless time-consuming litigation in the hope that delay might prove fatal. And four years of nonsense have at least been damaging.

Presented in headier times by builder Bruce Ratner, the Atlantic Yards plan was conceived as turning 22 down-at-the-heels acres in the heart of Brooklyn into the home of an arena for the pro-basketball Nets, plus 6,000 units of housing, much of it priced to be within financial reach of poor and middle-class New Yorkers.

Now, Ratner is facing the challenge of an economic downturn and tightened credit markets. And his victory in the Supreme Court over 11 - count them, 11 - holdout property owners may prove hollow. He says he's committed for the long term. Let's hope so, because the Atlantic Yards would be great for Brooklyn and the city as a whole.


NoLandGrab: "Four years of nonsense?" Has it been that long since the Daily News first opined in favor of Bruce Ratner's monolithic boondoggle? As far as we can see, the greatest damage has been that done to the News's reputation; the paper once prided itself on being the champion of the little guy.

And as far as a "grand legal hoax perpetrated by a handful of not-in-my-backyard naysayers," here's what Mr. Louis had to say recently about city plans to relocate a homeless-intake facility into his neighborhood:

"And that is why we must be prepared to go to war - with protests, lawsuits, the whole nine yards - to prevent the city from magnifying its proven incompetence into the collapse of an entire neighborhood."


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

NYC Donut Report's Got Beef with SCOTUS

NYC Donut Report!!

The "International donut reporter" takes a break from chronicling the world of tasty deep-fried dough to mourn the Supreme Court's refusal to hear Goldstein v. Pataki and what it could mean for the future of everything that makes New York City — and especially Brooklyn — great.

If you love the quirky independent donut shops that we cover on this Web site, then you ought to detest the Supreme Court's refusal on Monday to take up the case of Brooklynites who are being forcibly evicted from their homes and businesses to make way for tacky high-rise condos. The court has now cleared the way for real-estate developers all over the city -- and indeed across the country -- to use the power of eminent domain not to build roads and other works that serve the public good, but instead to build condos, malls and office towers to make money.


The power of eminent domain, now used just to turn a profit. This ruling gives the developers yet another incredibly powerful weapon in their campaign to literally demolish all the homegrown donut shops, dive bars, corner bodegas, independent bookstores, hole-in-the-wall burger joints, art-house theaters, Chinese apothecaries, junk shops, wig emporiums, dumpling houses, Bulgarian discos, peep shows, Gray's Papaya hot dog joints, word-of-mouth supper clubs, cutthroat Korean ping-pong gyms, stinky fishmongers, brownstone stoops, rent-stabilized apartment buildings, chrome diners, kebob carts, basement barber shops, cramped jazz clubs, wholesalers of obscure items and taxidermy shops -- in short, to destroy all the things that make New York distinctive -- and replace them with condo developments and "festival marketplaces" you could just as easily find in Denver or Scottsdale.

The trends in Brooklyn are especially not good. The Coney Island that you and I know as one of the great symbols of Americana is about to be utterly sterilized. Acres and acres of gross condo towers are going up in the Atlantic Yards project that Antonin Scalia and his cronies are so enthused over. And what's the third big project going on in the borough? Why, it's funny you should ask. They're going to reopen -- and double the size of -- the Brooklyn House of Detention.

Shopping malls, million-dollar condos, overblown arenas for the New Jersey Nets to suck in, a massive prision smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood -- it's all the same to the developers. They all make money, and they all have no purpose but to make money.


Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

In state court case, questions of “condemnation blight” and "reasonable" efforts to proceed

Atlantic Yards Report

All the Atlantic Yards legal action wasn't taking place in Washington yesterday, and Norman Oder has an exclusive:

On Monday morning, when most Atlantic Yards watchers were waiting to learn whether the Supreme Court would hear the AY eminent domain appeal (it said no), another legal drama was playing out in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, before State Supreme Court Justice Jane Solomon. Tenants, nearly all with rent-stabilized leases, in two buildings, are charging (lawsuit, follow-up) that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is violating a provision of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL) that requires disposition of properties within a decade.

Solomon seemed skeptical of the main thrust of the argument made by attorney George Locker, who has filed two previous cases on behalf of the 13 tenants, who live in two Forest City Ratner-owned buildings within the footprint of the planned arena block.

Then again, she did seem somewhat sympathetic to Locker’s effort to paint the footprint as suffering from “condemnation blight,” a state of suspended neglect, and that the project has changed enough to require a public hearing.

The petitioners seek to annul State Funding Agreement agreement Law and also to order the court to require another public hearing, based on the law establishing the ESDC.


Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

NY Post editorial twists its way to an AY hooray

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder pokes some holes in the logic in today's pro-Atlantic Yards New York Post editorial.

The New York Post editorial board goes through some interesting gyrations in its editorial today, headlined A WIN FOR ATLANTIC YARDS. The newspaper opines:
Atlantic Yards, to be sure, has never been a perfect project. For starters, Ratner has relied heavily on special subsidies and tax breaks.

The Post itself has estimated the tab at $2 billion. Doesn't that imply some effort at a cost-benefit analysis?


Posted by eric at 9:11 AM


NY Post Editorial

Downtown Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards redevelopment got a huge and welcome shot in the arm yesterday - courtesy of a favorable decision from the highest court in the land.

Atlantic Yards, to be sure, has never been a perfect project. For starters, Ratner has relied heavily on special subsidies and tax breaks.

And, of course, the state is threatening to use its eminent-domain authority (a power we've argued should never be used lightly) to acquire some of the land - sparking the court case in question.

Still, at the end of the day, the city can't afford to leave neglected, run-down or under-built areas languishing.


Posted by eric at 9:05 AM

Ratner's "20 court decisions" claim requires proof

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, upon the U.S. Supreme Court's announcement it would take the Atlantic Yards eminent domain appeal, said, "The opponents have now lost 20 court decisions relating to Atlantic Yards...." That was repeated without skepticism in the press, such as in the New York Times's CityRoom blog [and today's paper].

Is that true? Well, maybe they've lost 20 decisions if we count decisions on specific motions. But then we'd have to count motions that opponents have won. And we'd have to count the cases opponents have won. NoLandGrab's scorecard, while probably flawed, strikes me as more accurate than Ratner's claim, especially since Ratner has provided no list.

Until the developer provides a list of the 20 decisions won, the press shouldn't be quoting the claim without rebuttal. The facts are verifiable.


NoLandGrab: Um, Norman Oder challenges journalists to practice "journalism of verification," while he concludes that our own analysis is "probably flawed" without providing any facts? Oder may be overworked, but that doesn't mean he is "probably" overworked.

It is disturbing, though, that reporters don't question something as simple as a statistic. At least it makes the pr professionals' job so much easier!

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

The Morning Papers: SCOTUS Eminent Domain edition

The NY Times, U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Atlantic Yards Case

Mr. Ratner, whose company was a development partner in the Midtown headquarters of The New York Times Company, said in a statement, “We are gratified that the Supreme Court has decided to put an end to this lawsuit. The opponents have now lost 20 court decisions relating to Atlantic Yards, and we are now one step closer to making these benefits a reality for the borough and the city.”

NoLandGrab: The claim to have won "20 court decisions" is another one of those unquestioned lies promoted by Bruce Ratner. Shame that it made it into the NY Times. Atlantic Yards Report examines the claim in today's post.

NY Daily News, Court won't review Nets arena project

And while we're pointing out flaws in coverage, the Daily News still believes that the project is in "downtown Brooklyn:"

The Supreme Court Monday turned down the latest appeal to block construction of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn.

Opponents vowed to file a new suit in state court to block what they call a shameless land grab.

NoLandGrab: If Ratner calls the Atlantic Yards footprint "Downtown Brooklyn" does that mean reporters have to do the same?


The high court's inaction leaves the state with the green light to begin eminent-domain proceedings.

"We believe, and the courts have repeatedly agreed, that Atlantic Yards provides significant public benefits, including thousands of affordable homes and much-needed jobs, for Brooklyn," Ratner said yesterday.

The developer, however, is not planning to break ground until the end of the year, after a suit challenging the legality of the state's environmental review of the project is decided.'

Opponents yesterday were continuing their full-court press against Ratner, saying they'll now take the case to state court.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Atlantic Yards Case

The opponents of Atlantic Yards continue to lose each and every lawsuit and appeal that they file.
However, shall there be a sixth lawsuit filed by the opponents of Atlantic Yards?

MetroNY (print edition only)


amNY (AP), Property owners will still fight NYC arena plans

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Big-time spin: Ratner claims Supreme Court pass ushers in arena construction

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder bets against the hyperbolic headline on Forest City Ratner's Dear-Norman email.



Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

Adventures in obscurity, via the New York Times

Atlantic Yards Report


A New York Times article yesterday on holding protests and press conferences at City Hall, headlined To Make a Stir at City Hall, Make an Appointment, contained, in the print edition, a photo with a very curious caption.

Um, that "Brooklyn real estate project" would be Atlantic Yards, and that was a press conference regarding the Atlantic Yards Development Trust--an event not reported on in the newspaper.


NoLandGrab: To call "Atlantic Yards" a "Brooklyn real estate project" is sorta like calling President Bush a "Washington DC-based politician." That's aside from the similarity between approval ratings of both.

Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

Al-Qaeda’s Law Firm


A conservative screed against Michael Ratner and the Center for Constitutional Rights* calls the lefty hero Michael a "wealthy communist," brother Bruce an "eminent domain abuser" and, in what is a new low for the blogosphere, sister Ellen is labeled a "journalist."


Name-calling aside, our point is that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has earned a national reputation for his repeated abuse of eminent domain.

* That would be the "Constitutional Rights" minus the Fifth Amendment, since Michael Ratner is a part owner of the NJ Nets and stands to benefit from the taking of private property to build the team a new basketball arena.

Posted by lumi at 4:19 AM

MISSING: Atlantic Yards Report

Here are two items from Atlantic Yards Report that we missed from yesterday.

Bill to reform Public Authorities stumbling in Albany

The New York Times reports today that Assemblyman Richard Brodsky's effort to reform the governance of public authorities may be running aground, given Mayor Mike Bloomberg's effort "to have more power over his own appointees to authority boards — ostensibly independent."

Today's the last day of the legislative session.

As vote for NYU to absorb Polytechnic approaches, some strange silences

Today the Higher Education Committee of the New York State Board of Regents will discuss a proposal "to amend the charter of Polytechnic University, as requested, to effect an affiliation with New York University," and a vote on the proposal will be held Tuesday. As I've explained, the proposed "consolidation" or "merger" is more like an absorption by the larger NYU of the MetroTech-based Poly.

While there are clear potential benefits for both institutions, there are also reasons to be wary, reasons that, unaccountably, neither the major media nor the Board of Regents seem to have noticed.

Posted by lumi at 4:07 AM

June 23, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: "Subject: Brooklyn Arena Construction to begin"


June 23, 2008 - Brooklyn, NY - Bruce Ratner, the CEO and Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, today applauded the United States Supreme Court decision not to hear an eminent domain suit requested by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.

Today the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, affirmed the State's right to use eminent domain relating to Atlantic Yards. In February, the Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, unanimously affirmed the District Court's decision in a case brought by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn on the grounds that the use of eminent domain violates the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The District Court had previously decided against the plaintiffs in the case citing the numerous public benefits generated by the project.

"We believe, and the courts have repeatedly agreed, that Atlantic Yards provides significant public benefits including thousands of affordable homes and much needed jobs to Brooklyn," Mr. Ratner said. "We are gratified that the Supreme Court has decided to put an end to this lawsuit. The opponents have now lost 20 court decisions relating to Atlantic Yards and we are now one step closer to making these benefits a reality for the borough and the City."

Background on Atlantic Yards

Construction on the Site
- Construction work on Atlantic Yards began in February of 2007. FCRC expects to open the Barclays Center in the 2010 calendar year.

Legal Update
- February 1, 2008. US Court of Appeals, the Second Circuit, unanimously rejects the opponents' appeal in the federal eminent domain lawsuit that was dismissed in June, 2007.

This email was sent to you by Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, 390 Murray Hill Parkway, East Rutherford, NJ 07073.

Posted by lumi at 8:25 PM

More coverage of US Supreme Court denial to hear case

The Brooklyn Paper, Supremes sing the blues to Yards foes

The Supreme Court will not hear a case brought by property owners who are slated to lose their land to make room for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project — but the property owners say they will take their case through New York State’s court system, which has traditionally not been sympathetic to property owners in eminent domain cases.

The Supreme Court denied without comment the 11 property owners’ request that the High Court take up case, which has been rejected by two lower federal courts — though the court did reveal that Justice Samuel Alito, a known skeptic of eminent domain, voted to hear the case.

GlobeSt.com, Supreme Court Rejects $4B Project Petition

Crain's NY Business, Top court denies Nets arena appeal

WNYC News Radio, Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Atlantic Yards Suit

Village Voice, Supreme Court Declines to Hear Atlantic Yards Challenge

The NY Sun, U.S. Supreme Court Turns Down Atlantic Yards Appeal

Posted by lumi at 8:14 PM

Legal Blogging

SCOTUS2008Portrait.jpg SCOTUSBlog, A new vote for property rights?
Lyle Denniston explains the implications of what happened today in the US Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court refused on Monday, amid a flurry of orders, to reopen the heated controversy over the power of government to seize private property for a new economic development project, but owners of property appeared to have picked up a potential new ally on the Court. Justice Samual A. Alito, Jr., was the only member of the Court to note that he would have granted review of a significant Second Circuit Court ruling on property rights in the face of a massive new project in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Because the Court simply denied review of the Second Circuit decision, it set no new precedent. But the case had been closely watched for the Court’s reaction to the one of the first significant sequels to arise in the controversy that spread rapidly across the country following its much-disputed 2005 ruling in Kelo v. New London, allowing private property to be taken for economic redevelopment by private organizations. Justice Alito was not on the Court for Kelo; his predecessor, now-retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, wrote the main dissent. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also dissented; they did not reveal their votes Monday in the Goldstein case. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., also not on the Court for Kelo, did not reveal his vote Monday (his predecesssor, the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, dissented in rhe 2005 decision).

The Wall St. Journal, Law Blog, High Court Says ‘Fuggedaboutit’ To Brooklyners’ Appeal, Kelo Challenge

As a Brooklyn resident, the Law Blog enjoys many quality local newspapers, from the Daily Eagle to the wonderfully understated Brooklyn Paper. If there’s one topic that’s consistently dominated the headlines of these publications, it’s the the Atlantic Yards project — a massive development plan by Bruce Ratner’s company, Forest City Ratner, to build a sports arena for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, to be renamed the Brooklyn Nets, as well as offices and condos.
Today, that suit hit a snag when, on the third anniversary of Kelo v. New London — the controversial eminent domain decision from 2005, in which the Supreme Court ruled that municipalities could seize property for private development — the Court refused to reopen the same controversy that’s now raging over the Atlantic Yards project.

Castle Watch Daily, U.S. Supreme Court denies cert in Goldstein v. Pataki

Goldstein’s case goes back to the state court system in New York. Also, FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume featured Goldstein’s case last Thursday and places it in the context of Kelo.

LAW OF THE LAND, SCOTUS Denies Cert in Goldstein v. Pataki – Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

Links to other coverage including, SCOTUSBlog and Atlantic Yards Report.

According to the orders list handed down today, Justice Alito would have granted cert. See page 9 of the following orders document: http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/orders-mon-0623.pdf

Posted by lumi at 7:38 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere120.gif Here's what they're saying in the blogosphere, in no particular order:

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Appeal Rejected by U.S. Supreme Court

Today the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by 11 Brooklyn property owners and tenants whose homes and businesses would be razed to make way for the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project. Coincidentally, today marks the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s narrow 5-4 ruling in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, which affirmed the government’s power to use eminent domain to accommodate private

Hoodman, Supreme Court Decides not to Hear Atlantic Yards Case

Definitely disappointing that the Supreme Court didn’t hear the case concerning the Atlantic Yards project. Ratner, Hova, and friends are seizing land owned by Brooklyn residents and business owners for their new Atlantic Yards project that doesn’t just include the Nets moving to Brooklyn, but also huge high rises and mini-mall type shits being built.

Radar Online, Downtown Brooklyn Ready For Razing

Brooklyn homeowners have failed in their attempt to get the Supreme Court to undo the damage of that court's 2005 decision in Kelo v New London—its third anniversary is today, by the way!... It's enough to make anyone into a wackjob libertarian!

Reason Hit & Run, Eminent Domain Abuse in Brooklyn
Damon Root says:

As someone who just relocated from one of the thriving neighborhoods sitting in dangerous proximity to the proposed site, I'm here to tell you that the Atlantic Yards will be a catastrophe and a disgrace, ruining many more lives and livelihoods than this lawsuit could ever hope to reflect.
Another interesting fact: Justice Samuel Alito noted that he would have granted review to the case. No other member of the Court shared their votes, nor is it common for them to do so when simply denying review.

The Knickerblogger, A Personal Note

So can the state, will the state (because hope of winning in state court, where the judges are utterly corrupt, is a long shot) be brazen enough to take the land from the property owners even though its obvious Ratner won't build for a long long time?

Gowanus Lounge, Breaking: Supreme Court Won’t Hear Atlantic Yards Case

There are potentially still many, many more months of litigation ahead in the case. It is believed that Forest City Ratner will launch a vigorous effort to try to prevent the case from being heard in the State Courts.

Nets Daily, Supreme Court Rejects Arena Critics’ Appeal

In the latest and the most devastating defeat for critics of the Nets’ new arena, the US Supreme Court on Monday refused to grant a hearing on their appeal of lower court rulings favoring Bruce Ratner. The Court rejected the appeal with only Justice Sam Alito in favor. Critics had hoped the Court would revisit an eminent domain decision from 2005. The decision is likely to clear the way for ground breaking later this year.

NoLandGrab: Additional lawsuits could get in the way of ground breaking for 2008.

Posted by lumi at 5:49 PM

Supreme Court denies AY eminent domain appeal; state case would be more of a long shot

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder offers a sober assessment of the chances of an eminent domain victory for Prospect Heights plaintiffs in New York State court, while enumerating the many significant challenges still facing the Atlantic Yards project.

The Supreme Court's decision, announced today, to reject the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, Goldstein v. Pataki, is certainly a setback for project opponents, though the case was always a long shot.

Remember that the decision does not mean that the cases below were decided correctly, just that the appeal didnt present enough issues of law--conflicts in the interpretation of the 6/23/05 Kelo v. New London decision--to merit review.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn indicates that it will organize a case to be filed in state court. That is surely more of a long shot than the federal case, but even that case might delay key elements of project--the acquisition of property via emiment domain and the opportunity to issue bonds for construction--by several months. Then again, some of the 11 plaintiffs in the federal case may feel increasing pressure to settle.


Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

High Court Won’t Hear Appeal on Atlantic Yards

City Room [The New York Times]
by Sewell Chan

The United States Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by 11 New York City property owners and tenants whose homes and businesses are scheduled to be taken over by the government and demolished to make way for the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Without comment, the justices refused to hear the plaintiffs’ argument that the seizure of their property would violate the United States Constitution. In February, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a trial judge’s dismissal of the landowners’ and tenants’ suit.

However, the plaintiffs, including Daniel Goldstein, the leader of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which opposes the Atlantic Yards project, vowed to continue their legal fight by turning, once again, to the state courts.

The Supreme Court’s decision today was a victory for the developer Bruce C. Ratner and for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who supports the project. At the center of the $4 billion development plan, which 16 high-rise office and apartment towers, is a basketball arena intended to house the New Jersey Nets. Brooklyn has not had a professional major league sports team since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957.

Lawyers for the mayor and other governmental defendants in the case argued that the project “serves multiple undisputed purposes,” including the transformation of blighted neighborhoods in Brooklyn. But in fact the area has already been rapidly gentrifying. Moreover, the faltering economy could slow down the construction of the project, doing what opponents of the project have so far failed to achieve in court.


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Supreme Court Won't Hear AY Eminent Domain Case



The Supreme Court announced today that it won't grant a hearing to a group that sued over the planned use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards. Eleven property owners and tenants wanted to appeal a lower federal court's dismissal of an eminent domain case and have the High Court clarify constitutional limits on private-home seizure. Now that the eminent domain case is toast on a federal level, the plaintiffs are going to file suit in state court, according to a press release from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

Court won't review NBA Nets arena project

Associated Press


The Supreme Court has turned down property owners and tenants facing eviction to make room for a new NBA Nets arena in Brooklyn.

The justices rejected an appeal that was intended to stop development of the Atlantic Yards project. Eleven property owners and tenants said that using the government's power to take the property, called eminent domain, violates the Constitution because the project would primarily benefit the developer, not the public.

Developer Bruce Ratner says he wants to build 16 skyscrapers, an 18,000-seat arena for the professional basketball franchise and thousands of apartments. The area currently is occupied by a rail yard, industrial buildings, and some businesses and homes.


NoLandGrab: Actually, the goal of the appeal was to send the case back to the Federal District Court for trial, where the goal would have been to stop the project. That playing field now shifts to State court.

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Supreme Court Denies Eminent Domain Petition From Owners & Tenants Facing Property Seizures for Atlantic Yards

11 Property Owners and Tenants Will Take Their Case to NY State Court To Challenge the Improper Use of Eminent Domain Under New York State Law

BROOKLYN, NY— The United States Supreme Court denied the petition to grant a hearing (cert petition) to eleven property owners and tenants who asked the court to hear their appeal on the Second Circuit Court’s dismissal of their challenge to the use of eminent domain for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The petition asked the Court 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.

The Court’s denial of the petition in Goldstein et al. v. Pataki et al. does not affirm or deny the plaintiffs’ arguments, nor is it the end of the legal road for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs, fighting to prevent the seizure of their homes and businesses for the benefit of Forest City Ratner, will now pursue their eminent domain challenge in state court under New York State law.

"We are, of course, disappointed that the Court declined our request to hear this important case. This is not, however, a ruling on the merits of our claims. Our claims remain sound. New York State law, and the state constitution, prohibit the government from taking private homes and businesses simply because a powerful developer demands it. Yet, that is what has happened. Recent events have revealed that the public, and the Public Authorities Control Board were sold a bill of goods by Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation. We now know that Ratner’s project will cost the public much more than it will ever receive," said lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. "Now we will turn to the state courts to vindicate our rights. We will soon file an action in New York state court under state law as we were expressly permitted to do by the rulings of the federal courts."

Besides the eleven plaintiffs on Goldstein et al. v. Pataki et al. there are approximately 30 other residents and business owners in the project’s footprint whose properties would be seized for Forest City Ratner’s benefit.

Ironically, today is the 3rd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s extremely controversial 5-4 decision in the eminent domain case Kelo v. The City of New London. The plaintiffs in the Brooklyn case did not seek to overturn Kelo, but rather utilize the majority and concurring opinions to make their case.

The petition and all lower court briefs and decisions in Goldstein et al v. Pataki et al can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/eminentdomain.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Atlantic Yards: This Generation's Penn Station?

Atlantic Yards Report

Writing a few thousand words a day on Atlantic Yards Report is not enough, apparently, to keep Norman Oder busy.


I have an overview article on Atlantic Yards in Places: Forum of Design for the Public Realm, a journal published three times a year by the Design History Foundation, with the goal that "designers, public officials, scholars and citizens can discuss issues vital to environmental design, with particular emphasis on public spaces in the service of shared ideals of society."

The "Dispatch," headlined Atlantic Yards: This Generation’s Penn Station?, was assigned months ago. Fortunately, the final production deadline was stretched long enough into May to incorporate mention of the new designs and professed timetable announced in March.

Will AY be seen as "this generation's Penn Station"? It's too soon to tell exactly what kind of change it may galvanize. It is clear, however, that the city and state, even as they pursue projects that inevitably stir controversy, are doing more to ensure a fair bidding process and to consult with communities.


To download a PDF copy of Atlantic Yards: This Generation’s Penn Station?, click here.

Posted by eric at 9:14 AM

Glass and Darkness: Harbingers of Things to Come for Brooklyn and Its Prospect Park?

Brooklyn Ron

FightTheTowers.jpg Congratulations Bruce Ratner! After spending millions on pr, your "Atlantic Yards" project is offically a "household phrase."

This planned development has not become a household phrase, like Atlantic Yards, but it has serious implications for the park, the surrounding neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Gardens and for Brooklyn.

Read the rest of the post to learn more about the high-rise controversy brewing on the southeast side of Prospect Park, and Saturday's protest.

Posted by lumi at 4:11 AM

New Plan to Govern Yards

The Courier-Life Publications' coverage of the call by local elected officials for more governance for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project includes the latest "no comment" from the developer:


Posted by lumi at 4:05 AM

June 22, 2008



Save Coney Island Coalition via MySpace

Please attend this Public Scoping Hearing, June 24th, 6PM

Please voice your opinion about the City's Plan to redevelop Coney Island at this Public Scoping Hearing!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008, 6pm


Lincoln High School

2800 Ocean Parkway ((2800 Ocean Parkway. Q train to the Ocean Parkway Station, then walk 3 blocks north)


This is your opportunity to officially voice your opinion, on public record, and Change the Future of Coney Island.

Please review the City's Plan and attend this hearing, prepared to testify and make a statement about this Plan and how you feel Coney Island should be redeveloped!!



The City's new plan almost completely abolishes the amusement district for the sake of high rise hotels and retail.

Coney Island is currently zoned for 61 acres of amusements; the city's new proposal reduces the amount of amusements to 9 acres.

This reduction of the Amusement Distirct will destroy Coney Island's legacy as "the People's Playground" and defeat the goal of creating a world class amusement and tourist destination.

25 to 30 story high rises and retail do not belong in the amusement district!

Retail is no substitute for amusements!

There is plenty of space outside of the Amusement District, in Coney Island for residential, hotels and retail! Why destroy the amusement district forever to meet this goal?

Save Coney Island says YES to Revitalizing Coney's World Famous Amusement District!


to 26 New High Rises of up to 30 stories each in the current Amusement District!


to Retail, Malls or "Entertainment Retail" in the Amusement District!


to shrinkage of the Amusement District from 61 acres to 9 acres!


to preserving Amusement Zoning in the Amusement District!!


to keeping Coney Island the People's Playground- providing accessible Amusements for ALL to enjoy!!

If you Cannot Attend the Hearing- Write a Letter!!

If you can't come to the hearing, you can submit a written testimony by writing a letter, expressing your opinion to:

New York City Economic Development Corporation

110 William Street

New York, New York 10038

Attention: Rachel Belsky, Vice-President

OR, Send an email to:



Please send a copy of your written testimony to

Mayor Bloomberg, City Council President Christine Quinn, and your City Council Member.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

City Hall

New York, NY 10007

Phone 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)

Fax (212) 788-2460

Cristine Quinn

224 West 30th St (Suite 1206)

New York, NY 10001

Phone: (212) 564-7757

Fax: (212)564-7347

Posted by amy at 10:55 AM

Local: A Brilliant Political Speech, Remixed Into Instant Classic

Daily Kos

We all love local politics. Well here in Brooklyn we are fortunate to have a skilled, principled City Councilwoman named Letitia James representing us.

A local blog, The Footprint Gazette has taken a recent speech she gave at a rally against developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, and remixed it into an instant classic. It's well worth the listen.

Keep an eye on Tish, as she is called, she has a great career ahead of her.


Posted by amy at 10:50 AM

On Dean Street, block party, block not-party, and some new brew


Atlantic Yards Report

The Dean Street Block Association held a block party yesterday afternoon between Sixth and Carlton avenues, though the activities (food, stoop-less sale, face painting, more) were held east of the first five houses, which would be part of the Atlantic Yards footprint.

The view west of Sixth Avenue on Dean Street, however, looks like less of a party. The construction equipment was quiet, but, as the Footprint Gazette can tell you, that was just a respite.

Atlantic Yards has spawned much creativity in terms of music, writing, photography, art, and filmmaking. Add to that list Dean Street resident Nick Friend's Shadow of the Yard beer, a vanilla-flavored brown ale that was spotted at the block party. The palatable brew is produced in limited quantities unsuitable for a sports facility.


Posted by amy at 10:46 AM

When architects meet autocratic clients, when's time to walk?

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times architecture column today, headlined I’m the Designer. My Client’s the Autocrat., takes on the question--raised by Daniel Libeskind--about working for repressive regimes:
Some architects argue that it is unrealistic and self-serving for them to presume that they can transform a society or distance themselves from a patron’s conduct.
“Sometimes architects like to think they’re above the political fray,” said Frederic M. Bell, the executive director of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “I think that’s a little bit disingenuous. Sometimes it’s very difficult to take commissions from countries with positions with which one disagrees.”

While Forest City Ratner is not Communist China, that still reminds me of a couple of AY-related quotes. Frank Gehry in January 2006 said, "If I think it got out of whack with my own principles, I’d walk away."

Asked if previous projects involved the use of eminent domain or eminent domain abuse, and whether that be enough to make him walk away from Atlantic Yards, he responded, "No comment."


Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

Campaign to Reform the Governance of Atlantic Yards

BrooklynSpeaks via YouTube

June 16th Press Conference at City Hall, NY to launch campaign to reform the governance of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by amy at 10:35 AM

June 21, 2008

From the Carpenters Union, a video of the "Brooklyn Day" rally


Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Carpenters Union, Local 926, has produced a video with excerpts from the "Brooklyn Day" rally on June 5. I suggested the rally showed speakers embattled and a not-too-enthusiastic audience, but you can check it out yourself. Among the speakers: Sal Zarzana, president Local 926, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and radio host Curtis Sliwa. Note the criticism of local elected officials who've criticized the project.

Let me point out that 15,000 construction jobs is actually 1500 jobs over ten years, or 15,000 job-years. (More likely the project would stretch over decades, thus employing fewer people at one time.) Also note that there's mention of how "Brooklyn" needs the project, but no mention of developer Forest City Ratner.

NoLandGrab: This video is crying out for pop-up corrections...somebody call streamgazer!

Posted by amy at 11:58 AM

FOX Cable News Takes a Look at Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

Develop Don't Destroy Brookyn

FOX Cable News came to town to do a news segment on the eminent domain case Goldstein et al v. Pataki et al. (stemming from the Atlantic Yards development proposal) as the plaintiffs' petition to the US Supreme Court is under consideration. Needless to say, nobody from Forest City Ratner or the Empire State Development Corporation or any elected official would appear on camera.

"Fair and balanced" as always, the segment concludes with two pieces of speculation and innuendo with no foundation whatsoever and, of course, no opportunity in the segment for rebuttal.

First the reporter says that "eminent domain supporters believe the homeowners are being used as pawns giving a powerful public interest legal group another chance to have say before the Supreme Court". This is a reference to an amicus brief filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by the Institute for Justice (IJ). The homeowners and plaintiffs who initiated and have pursued the eminent domain lawsuit—a courageous bunch—are pawns to no one.

Segueing from the reportorial innuendo, the segment concludes with a sound bite from a Jeffrey Finkle, President and CEO of something called the International Economic Development Council (surely an association without any agenda). Finkle makes a baseless statement that the plaintiffs—pawns to IJ as he implies—are "probably getting free legal counsel" from the libertarian public interest legal group. That is 100% false. Perhaps we'll invite Mr. Finkle to one of our next bake sale or stoop sale fundraisers, and introduce him to the 4,000-plus donors who have supported their neighbors' challenge against the abuses of the Atlantic Yards proposal.

If you want to let Mr. Finkle know what you think of what he had to say, you can reach him at the email of his executive assistant, listed on his organization's website, which is: cziegler@iedconline.org.


Posted by amy at 11:52 AM

Fox on Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Supreme Court Petition

fox6.gif Fox News via Streamgazer/YouTube

June 19 Fox Cable News broadcast on the cert petition filed with the Supreme Court on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case. Jeffrey Finkle's comments at the end and the insinuation by the reporter that the plaintiffs are pawns of some agenda and receiving "freel legal counsel" are outright lies, but what would one expect from a guy whose first job out of school was working for Karl Rove. The courageous plaintiffs initiated and have pursued the lawsuit since October 2006. Their suit is financed by thousands of donations from their neighbors in Brooklyn and New York City, as well as themselves.

Finkle should be ashamed of himself, but of course he isn't. Clearly it is he, as the head of the "International Economic Development Council" who has an extreme agenda.

NoLandGrab: If only the real Fox News had pop-up facts!

Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

Get The Hell Off My Lawn


Every weekday beginning at 7am in one corner of Prospect Heights Brooklyn there is deafening construction that rattles the whole block. Bruce Ratner is convinced he's going to build an arena there. We were here first. So I say "Get The Hell Off My Lawn"

NoLandGrab: Footprint Gazette has been very busy this week with the multimedia productions! The hits keep coming...

Posted by amy at 11:10 AM

Letitia James Gets Remixed


The Footprint Gazette has posted NoLandGrab's new favorite song.

Council Member Letitia James has been championing the cause of Prospect Heights residents that would be affected by AY from the outset. I appreciate the fighting she has done on our behalf and was moved by her fiery speech at the Time Out! rally a few weeks back. I hope she doesn't mind that I've taken some creative liberties with it in the remix posted below.

Listen Here


Posted by amy at 11:02 AM

Thompson has his say


Courier via YourNabe.com
Stephen Witt covers William Thompson's visit to Fort Greene/Clinton Hill.

Opposition to the Atlantic Yards project was immediately brought up by long-time community activist Ruth Goldstein, who is also on the board of Development Don’t Destroy Brooklyn – the controversial anti-Atlantic Yards organization.

Thompson responded that he originally supported the project because of the community benefits agreement between Atlantic Yards Developer Forest City Ratner and several organizations from the community.

Further, Thompson said he liked the affordable housing mix in the massive $4 billion project.

“Right now I don’t know what Atlantic Yards has become,” said Thompson. “I’m concerned that the project [as proposed] can be done and I’m taking a second look.”


NoLandGrab: Development Don't Destroy Brooklyn would probably very much like for Thompson and other politicians to take a closer look at Atlantic Yards. Any kind of look at all is sure to turn up a wealth of information. Development Don't Destroy Brooklyn points out that Thompson's flip is part of a turning tide of opinion about Atlantic Yards, and adds this about Stephen Wittment:

On a side note, only a pro-Atlantic Yards reporter (working for Rupert Murdoch) would call Development Don't Destroy Brooklyn controversial while never modifying Forest City Ratner with anything other than "developer."

Posted by amy at 10:47 AM

June 20, 2008

Atlantic Yards Opposition Seeks Further Approval

by Natalie Dolce

The proposed $4-billion Atlantic Yards project has had many hurdles presented in a number of court challenges over the past year, and opposition to the project has continuously called for a "time out," as GlobeSt.com previously reported. On Thursday, one such opposition group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, and its attorney Jeffrey Baker of Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore LLC, sent a letter to the Public Authorities Control Board regarding the "increase in cost" of Forest City Ratner Cos.' Atlantic Yards Barclay's arena and the development project as a whole.

The letter demands that the PACB--comprised of Gov. David Paterson, Speaker Sheldon Silver and Majority Leader Joseph Bruno--exercise its "statutory obligation to approve the financing and construction of the project." When asked about financials surrounding the project, a Forest City Ratner spokesperson tells GlobeSt.com that they have "no comment at this time," and also says that they have no comment regarding the DDDB letter.


NoLandGrab: Hmmm, a double no-comment from Forest City Ratner. Guess they forgot that "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."

And we wonder if the members of the PACB declined comment, too, or if GlobeSt. just forgot to seek it.

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

What we talk about when we talk about Atlantic Yards (& eminent domain)

Atlantic Yards Report

Ha! Jeremiah Moss, Norman Oder will see your paltry 693-word report on Wednesday's New York Public Library panel discussion on eminent domain, and raise you 2,351 words! All in!

It’s hard to talk about Atlantic Yards in public. Relatively few people know enough of the facts. Debates among opponents and proponents are rare, most recently non-existent. So a panel discussion at the New York Public Library Wednesday night, which contained its share of AY criticism, might be seen as one flip side of some of the public meetings managed well by project proponents.

It wasn’t only about Atlantic Yards, but when we talk about Atlantic Yards the topic extends to questions of gentrification, neighborhood change, and the proper parameters of public debate. And it led at least one audience member to wonder about the absence of a devil’s advocate. (Other accounts of the evening from Jeremiah's Vanishing New York and Lithuania-based curator Simon Rees.)

The program and the exhibit

First, some background. The blurb for the program, titled EMINENT DOMAIN: THE AMERICAN DREAM ON SALE, suggested an idea torn in different directions, about urban renewal and the power of social bonds:
The current exhibition at The New York Public Library, Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City, features the work of five contemporary New York–based photographers... whose works intersect and resonate with current concerns about the reorganization of urban space, and its public use, in New York City. Artist Glenn Ligon offers the literal narrative of his own housing in the city. In addition to proposed regulations that threaten First Amendment rights to photograph in public places thus becoming a form of privatization of public space, questions also arise with the current private/public arrangements that characterize much of modern urban development, particularly the legal power of eminent domain, or the taking of private property for public use.

Ok, so the exhibition is called “Eminent Domain” but isn’t really about it. But the panel was assigned to “discuss the use of eminent domain and how urban renewal is changing the cityscape of New York City” and “Atlantic Yards, a hotly contested developer driven project in Brooklyn, will serve as a focus through which the evening will begin.”


NoLandGrab: "Brokeland2003" raises a good question in a comment appended to Oder's post, in response to a question raised at the event by someone wondering why there was no "devil's advocate" on the panel:
"Why must the NYPL have a so-called "balanced" panel (whatever that is) but nobody complains when Crain's holds panel after panel with Doctoroff clones?"

Posted by eric at 8:45 AM

Given 50% arena cost increase, DDDB asks PACB to reconsider AY approval

Atlantic Yards Report

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) yesterday asked the three-member Public Authorities Control Board (PACB)—comprised of Governor David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno—to revisit its approval of the Atlantic Yards project, given “the dramatic increase in cost of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards arena and the development project as a whole.” The effort relies on an untested area of state law.

The PACB, which in 2006 derailed the planned West Side Stadium, is not supposed to evaluate the overall merits of a project, just whether the state’s investment is a sound one. DDDB contends that the nearly 50% increase in the price tag for the arena over 15 months—$637.2 million as approved in December 2006, but $950 million in March 2008—means the PACB should take another look. (The state has pledged $100 million of the project’s cost, estimated at $4 billion at time of approval but certainly significantly higher at this point.)

I asked DDDB attorney Jeffrey Baker if anyone has successfully made this challenge and, if so, what was the increase in the cost of the project at issue. “As far as I know there is no case law directly on point on this issue with PACB,” he responded.

Baker noted that the “source of the nearly $320 Million of additional construction costs has not been identified, and it is utterly unclear how the arena PILOT can be paid towards the bond based on assessed property taxes.”

The latter is a reference to a rule that says PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) cannot exceed the maximum amount of foregone property taxes. In terms of Atlantic Yards, those taxes may be significantly dwarfed by the potential arena bond.

What if PILOTs curtailed?

Indeed, the PACB’s approval, as with the KPMG study that led to the ESDC’s approval, was predicated on the use of PILOTs to pay off the arena bonds. Should the Internal Revenue Service be successful in curtailing the use of such PILOTs, that would strain the financial model significantly. The cost increase adds another strain.


Posted by eric at 8:28 AM

Is criticism of Atlantic Center mall just 20/20 hindsight? (Nope)

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's our Snarky Friday synopsis of today's posting by Norman Oder:

Yesterday, amNY ranked Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall #6 on the paper's list of fugly-assed buildings the city could do without.

Atlantic Yards Cheerleader in Chief Marty Markowitz recently gave his pal Bruce a pass, because what clearly ranks as one of the worst malls ever, was built during the era where developers weren't ready to invest heavily in Brooklyn, because Brooklyn was... skeery.

Even Bruce famously said, "Here you’re in an urban area, you’re next to projects, you’ve got tough kids.”

In the end, he has no one to blame but himself.

Ultimately, however, even Bruce Ratner blames the bad design on himself, not inexorable external forces, as New York magazine's Kurt Andersen wrote in an 11/20/05 column:

Until now, most of Ratner’s buildings have ranged from the uninspired to the bad, like his shopping center across from the Atlantic Yards. Even he admits the Atlantic Center mall is “not up to snuff. Philip Johnson did a first design, but I made a decision not to use him. I have to blame myself. I’ve been talking for ten years about trying to use ‘design architects’ instead of ‘developer architects.'"

In other words, it was a bottom-line decision that could have gone another way.


Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

NY lawmakers want cheap seats at publicly funded stadiums

AP via am New York

ALBANY, N.Y. - New York lawmakers want any pro sports team that builds a stadium with public funds to set aside a block of low-cost tickets.

Democrats in the Assembly majority say that any professional sports team - including the New York Yankees - that wants public financial backing for a stadium should have to set aside tickets at a price fans of moderate and low income could afford.

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh of Manhattan says the teams have that responsibility if they take public financing.

The Yankees are seeking more public funding for their new stadium, the New York Mets are replacing Shea Stadium and the NBA's Nets plan to move to a new arena in Brooklyn.

There is no support yet for the ticket proposal in the Republican-led Senate.


NoLandGrab: Requiring a sports franchise to set aside a block of cheap seats to offset the hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies seems simple-minded. Thanks to the authors of this legislation for pointing out how taxpayers are underwriting professional sports facilities, but no thanks for the pandering.

Posted by steve at 4:49 AM

The Footprint Gazette: Exclusive and Block Party

NailHouse-FG.jpg A Footprint Gazette Exclusive!

A Footprint report from the future.

One tenant was heard saying "It's not great. Getting to work is kind of a pain, but it beats the hell out of having a basketball arena in the neighborhood. That would be just awful."

Dean St. Block Party

Every day is a block party on my block. Ride the swaying building! Play who can withstand the diesel fumes! Mud fight! And other block party classics are the norm over here.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

Local Coverage of the Atlantic Yards Governance Act

Two local weekly papers note the proposed Atlantic Yards Governance Act legislation. This bill would cause oversight of the proposed Atlantic Yards project to be taken away from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and moved to a trust.

The Brooklyn Paper: Pols want more Yards scrutiny
By Sarah Portlock

State legislators want to take oversight of Atlantic Yards away from a development agency controlled by the governor’s appointees and give it to … a new agency controlled only slightly less by the governor’s appointees.

The bill, drafted by Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries (D-Fort Greene) and James Brennan (D-Park Slope), would replace the Empire State Development Corporation’s ongoing oversight of Bruce Ratner’s approved mega-development and hand it over to a new, 15-member panel.

It’s unclear whether the new body would have any real power to alter the $4-billion development, as Gov. Paterson, who supports the project, would have seven appointees.

Brooklyn Downtown Star: Group Wants to Put Trust in Yards Project
By Shane Miller

As plans to build a new arena for the New Jersey Nets and several residential towers in Prospect Heights flounders due to community opposition, legal troubles, and a tanking real estate market, elected officials and civic groups from the area called on a new levels of oversight and governance for the project.

The Campaign to Reform Atlantic Yards held a press conference on the steps of City Hall Monday morning to address what the coalition feels is a lack of transparency, accountability, and public involvement in the massive development project.

To meet those aims, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries has introduced a piece of legislation called the Atlantic Yards Governance Act. The bill is modeled after the Hudson River Trust Act of 1998, and it would create the Atlantic Yards Development Trust to oversee the project. The Trust would be comprised of state and city appointed officials.

The bill would also create a Stakeholders Council made up of local residents who would be appointed by elected officials, and whose task it would be to advise the Trust. “Every major state project in New York City, except Atlantic Yards, has a governance body similar to the one this legislation creates,” said Jeffries. “The best way to assure this project’s public benefits are realized, including the creation of affordable housing, is to have real oversight on the project.”


Councilwoman Letitia James threw her support behind the bill, but also reiterated her opposition to the project as a whole.

“I continue to believe the plan put forward by Forest City Ratner and the ESDC is bad for my district and for Brooklyn,” she said. “The outcome of the Atlantic Yards project is far from certain, and the current plans may be scrapped entirely, but it will always be critical to have local representation in decision-making on such a significant project.”

Posted by steve at 4:19 AM

Are Downtowns in Danger of Going Downhill Again?

Business Week

The myth of the Atlantic Yards scaleback, which had been in the cards for years, makes it into an article about stalled construction in downtowns across the nation.

[S]ince the end of last year, as property values across the country continue to soften and credit markets tighten, downtown development is slowing. "There is no more 'build it and they will come' mentality. Retail development follows population growth," said Scott McIntosh, senior economist with the National Association of Realtors.

Already this year many of the more prominent development deals, such as Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, anchored by a new stadium for the New Jersey Nets and 8 million square feet of apartments, are being scaled back.


NoLandGrab: Initially the "scaleback" was announced to great fanfare, since it was a pr move to satisfy criticism that the project was too big. Politicians who support the project could point to the "scaleback" and tell voters that developer Forest City Ratner was addressing community concerns.

This pr manuever could backfire, if reporters continue to cite the economic downturn as the reason for the "scaleback."

Posted by lumi at 4:17 AM

Under Cover: Nice sore thumb

Downtown Express

Developer Bruce Ratner may still have mega-money problems but his Beekman St. condo tower is going up fast. After finally resuming construction from a hole in the ground two months ago, the building structure is now several stories high.

UnderCover ain’t seen nothing yet, a construction worker who appreciates the aesthetics of a sore thumb told us last week. “Once it hits 11 [floors], it’s going to go really fast,” he said. “It’s going to look nice -- it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb.”

Is Frank Gehry’s intricate design making it complicated to build? “That’s another thing,” the worker agreed.


Posted by lumi at 4:08 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gowanus Lounge, Always Best to Have a Block Party While the Block’s Still There
Humorous headline from GoLo.

Brownstoner, Three Brooklyn Winners on AMNY's Most-Fugly List
Congratulations Bruce Ratner, your lame-ass mall is the posterchild for Brooklyn Fugly.

Red State, Atlantic Yards: A Chance to Mitigate "Kelo"?

The Atlantic Yards case in Brooklyn could be a chance for the Supreme Court to mitigate Kelo, or it could be just another brick in the wall separating the Constitution from the People it is supposed to protect.

NoLandGrab: Red State doesn't get all the details of the Atlantic Yards case right, but the underlying premise is correct, that this is a chance for the US Supreme Court to rein in potential abuses from the Kelo decision.

Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, Discussing Eminent Domain
Jeremiah Moss reports from the New York Public Library's panel discussion on eminent domain.

Clawback, New Yorkers Say ‘Enough!’ to Stadium Subsidies

Fed up with public funding going to stadiums instead of services that benefit the whole city, a coalition of good government, park advocacy and community groups sent an open letter yesterday to the New York City Congressional delegation. The letter demands they ask the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department to help close a loophole discovered by local officials that allows federal subsidies (in the form of tax-exempt bonds) for sports facilities, which are normally not eligible. Another group began an e-mail campaign asking Mayor Bloomberg to refocus his priorities from stadiums to schools and other public infrastructure.

It seems the city’s attempts to use the loophole might not be so easy this time.
Officials seem to be in a panic over the idea that in the future large stadiums may no longer be eligible for tax-exempt bonds. A recent New York Times story noted that the city is seeking bonds for the Nets Arena, part of the controversial Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 3:19 AM

June 19, 2008

10 to lose: Ugly buildings NYC would be better without


by David Freedlander

While Bruce Ratner busily tears down every building he can in the footprint of his Atlantic Yards project, including the landmark-worthy Ward Bakery, amNY thinks he should perhaps be tearing down one of his own.

Each winter, amNewYork devotes a special issue to 10 buildings in New York City that we fear will soon disappear under negligent eye of the city's real estate interests.

Now, with the turning of the seasons and the sun high in the sky, we say enough with gnashing of teeth over this vanishing city. It's time to do a little pruning.

Besides, even the glittering New York City skyline is bound to contain a few clunkers. That's why we asked some of the city's leading architects and critics to put away their pencils and take out their erasers, and tell us which parts of New York the city would be better of without.

6.) Atlantic Center

Rob Lane, Regional Design Programs, Regional Plan Association:
"Seems like the focus should be on buildings and structures that are not just ugly in someone's opinion, but things that detract from, if not destroy, the most essential part of urbanity –— the pedestrian experience. One example is Atlantic Center in Brooklyn. Not only is it an eyesore, it completely detracts from the walkers experience through long empty sidewalks and hallways and absolutely no street life whatsoever."


Photo Gallery [photos 1-12 correspond to the buildings featured in the article]

Posted by eric at 3:30 PM

DDDB Press Release: Increased Atlantic Yards Costs Require New Approval by PACB

Letter to PACB Demands New Approval of
Atlantic Yards Financing in Light of
Project's Dramatically Increased Price Tag

BROOKLYN, NY— Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) attorney Jeffrey S. Baker (Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore, LLC) sent the letter below to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) today. In light of the dramatic increase in cost of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards arena and the development project as a whole, the letter demands that the PACB—comprised of Governor Paterson, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Bruno—exercise its statutory obligation to approve the financing and construction of the project.

"We fully expect the PACB and Governor Paterson to agree that the change in Atlantic Yards financing needs a new approval decision, based on the need for sound and prudent fiscal policy," said DDDB Legal Director Candace Carponter. "However, if necessary we will take all legal steps available to assure that Brooklyn is not stuck with a half-completed, derelict project due to the shaky financial foundation of the Atlantic Yards proposal."

The letter can be downloaded at www.dddb.net/documents/letters/080618PACBletter.pdf and follows below:

Ms. Laura L. Anglin
Public Authorities Control Board
c/o Division of the Budget
State Capital
Albany, NY 12224

Re: Atlantic Yards

Dear Ms. Anglin:

We represent Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and numerous other groups concerned about the construction and financing of the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn including the proposed Barclay’s Arena. We are writing to respectfully demand that the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) exercise its statutory obligation to approve the financing and construction of the project by the Urban Development Corporation d/b/a Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

As you know, the PACB is charged with reviewing and approving projects being financed and undertaken by various state entities, including ESDC. Public Authorities Law § 51. As part of its approval process, the PACB is directed to determine that there are commitments of funds sufficient to finance the acquisition and construction of the project. PAL §51(3).

On December 20, 2006, the PACB adopted Resolution No. 06-UD-953 approving the Atlantic Yards Project submitted by ESDC. The project identified as the subject of the resolution included the Barclay’s Arena with identified financing of $637,200,000. In considering the request from ESDC, the PACB relied in large part upon a December 2006 report from KPMG LLG Economic and Valuation Services, which evaluated the financial viability of the arena. Based upon the expectation that construction of the arena would cost approximately $637 Million, KPMG found that the projected return on investment would support the development and maintenance cost. (1)

Since that time the estimated cost of the arena, as well as other elements of the Atlantic Yards proposal, has increased dramatically, either as a result of increased construction costs or initial underestimation. As of March of this year the estimated cost of the arena itself, according to Forest City Ratner Companies, has increase to $950 million. This represents a 50% increase over the original estimate.

That is an incredibly significant increase, far above what could be considered an expected factor and far in excess of the rate of inflation. It presents significant questions as to the overall financial viability of the project and its ability to actually be constructed and operated in a manner that would repay its indebtedness. The source of the nearly $320 Million of additional construction costs has not been identified, and it is utterly unclear how the arena PILOT can be paid towards the bond based on assessed property taxes. The PACB was created exactly for this sort of situation to assure that state entities like ESDC do not undertake an indebtedness and obligations that are not viable. While the ESDC bonds are non-recourse obligations, the fact remains that the good faith of the State does stand behind those obligations and a default by ESDC would have severe ramifications for the State, similar to the UDC defaults in the 1970’s.

Therefore, given the major change in the assumptions underlying PACB’s 2006 approval, and the lack of an identified source for additional needed funds, we believe it is mandatory that the PACB re-consider the ESDC funding resolution before ESDC undertakes any binding commitments for the project. We assume that you will agree that such a review is legally required and we would like your confirmation of such within ten business days of this letter.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours, Jeffrey S. Baker

(1) However, KPMG did note that Forest City Ratner Companies, the project sponsor, refused to make various financial information and modeling available to it.

Hon. David Paterson
Hon. Sheldon Silver
Hon. Joseph Bruno
Peter Karanjia, Esq. (Attorney General’s Office)

Posted by steve at 11:50 AM

Marty says Brooklyn attractive because of more "friendly" residential density

Atlantic Yards Report

In a surreal parallel universe, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz starts making sense and speaks out against "out-of-context" development, describing Brooklyn as "friendly, in terms of density."

[Idea for a slogan: "Brooklyn, we're density-friendly!"]


Interviewed recently for CUNY-TV’s real estate talk show The Stoler Report, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz sounded just a little bit like some Atlantic Yards opponents, as he explained Brooklyn’s attraction as a residential district because it is “more... friendly, in terms of density.”

He of course wasn’t saying that in the context of Atlantic Yards and, indeed, at another juncture (about 27:00 of the show) noted, “In many of our neighborhoods... I bitterly oppose the construction of out-of-context [buildings], but there are areas where it’s appropriate to grow.” There was otherwise little mention of AY, though Markowitz at about 4:00 of the show predicted the arrival of “the Nets arena, Barclays Center, in a few years.”

The show, titled What’s Happening in Downtown Brooklyn (video), was taped March 18 and broadcast for the first time on June 10.

Norman Oder recaps the conversation on his blog.

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

Dean Street Construction

Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


This stretch of Dean Street would be near the southwest corner of the Atlantic Yards site. Most buildings to the left of the pole would be demolished.

A sign for our block party is on the light pole.

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

Socialized Sports

The NY Sun

Boston might not be the home of New York's favorite sports franchises, but this city had a reason to cheer as the Celtics claimed the NBA championship over the Lakers on Tuesday night. Boston's victory proves that sports franchises don't need tax subsidies to succeed, and in no city is that lesson more needed than New York, where multimillionaire owners regularly claim that their teams simply cannot compete unless a healthy dose of funding is forcibly taken from taxpaying residents.

TD Banknorth Garden, Gillette Stadium, and Fenway Park are all privately-owned and -funded, while the teams that play in those stadiums — the Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox, respectively — have, in recent years, all won world championships. That is to say, all the joy generated in Boston sports stadiums hasn't cost taxpayers a dime.
[A]ccording to the New York Post, the public will foot the cost of more than half of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which will house the New Jersey Nets in a $950 million arena, one the most expensive ever built.


NoLandGrab: Sure, our local teams are not playing by free-market rules, but to call it "Socialized Sports" is a little unfair to socialists.

The Sun is the one paper that has consistently covered the un-capitalistic nature of the Atlantic Yards deal, from massive public subsidies for a highly profitable development company to the abuse of eminent domain. An ardent capitalist recognizes the market-distorting nature of both.

On the other hand, any dyed-in-the-wool socialist would have a problem with allocating private property and public resources to the enrichment of a single developer.

Perhaps "oligarchy" best describes what's going on in Ratnerville, and with our local professional-sports-assistance progam.

Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

From Assembly Speaker Silver, non-candid candor on the arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reads the tea leaves from a public appearance by NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, as reported on Lilith Blog:

Mel Weiss of the Lilith Blog reports on an event at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, where Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents the area, dropped in:

I daydreamed through much of Speaker Silver’s talk, enjoying the architecture but a bit put off by all the nostalgia, until I heard a brave question from a random audience member: “Is the arena going to be built?” The question, referring to the Atlantic Yards debacle, was said in a defiant tone, and Speaker Silver hurriedly gave a non-answer and left.

Silver is a notoriously careful speaker, and his non-answer may not have represented his real feelings or expectations. Moreover, Forest City Ratner's gift of $58,420 to Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account should trigger even more caution.

Still, in comparison to Bruce Ratner's facts-be-damned project timetable and faux nonchalance regarding arena funding, Silver's non-answer was, essentially, more candid. Even though a betting person would have to go with the big money, we just don't know right now.


NoLandGrab: Hmm... on the face of it, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's recent rally on the steps of Borough Hall seemed to be a little desperate for a project that is supposed to be a "DONE DEAL! DONE DEAL!"

The bizarre rally and Silver's quick exit may be clues that some political support for the project has quietly eroded behind the scenes.

We may be reading too much into all of this, but with the persistent lack of transparency surrounding everything about this project (especially the public financing), we're sometimes forced to read between the lines.

Posted by lumi at 4:12 AM

June 18, 2008

Times corrects arena site caption

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notches a small victory in his ongoing struggle to make The New York Times a better newspaper.

Was this the Atlantic Yards arena site, as 6/13/08 New York Times suggested?


No. Today's Times published a correction:
A picture caption on Friday with an article about an Internal Revenue Service proposal that would make the construction of three expensive sports arenas in New York even more costly referred incompletely to the site of the planned Barclays Center arena, the centerpiece of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The arena site is in the upper left quadrant of the photograph; it does not extend to the area in the center of the frame.


Posted by eric at 12:08 PM

Randolph Sacrificed, Minaya Death Watch Starts In Earnest

Can't Stop the Bleeding


Congratulations, Bruce Ratner, you rank right up there with the Dolans!

For whatever it’s worth, I don’t believe Fred and Jeff Wilpon are the worst owners in sports. As long as James Dolan and Bruce Ratner own their respective basketball teams, the Wilpons aren’t even close to the most loathed owners in the New York metropolitan area. But for all the credibility the Mets purchased with their acquisitions of Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana, there isn’t enough money in Flushing to erase the sort of ill will their handling of this episode will generate.


NoLandGrab: One has to wonder why our elected "leaders" do everything they possibly can to throw money at people like Fred and Jeff Wilpon, James and Charles Dolan, and Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM


Weeks beginning June 16, 2008 and June 23, 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, testing tie-backs and installation of 2nd tier/cross lot bracing in Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Continue hauling soil from block 1121.
  • Continue north foundation for cable bridge.
  • Continue south foundation for cable bridge.
  • Installation of temporary access ramp structure.
  • Drill coffer dam piles at Carlton Avenue Bridge, Pacific Street elevation.
  • Prep west abutment of trestle for concrete placement.
  • Continue drilling trestle piles.

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 30, 2007.

  • Demolition is underway at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) and will continue throughout this two week period.
  • Demolition is complete at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30).
  • Demolition is complete at 640 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 29).
  • Demolition 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 continued north along Flatbush. Work is complete on a new sewer chamber on Dean Street near Flatbush.
  • Transit ducts on Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street will be relocated. This work is expected to continue over the next three months. All work taking place in the sidewalk will occur during the day. Pedestrian walkways will be maintained.

Private Utility Work

The work described below is managed and contracted by the respective private utility companies, as indicated.

  • ConEd will be installing conduits on Dean between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and working on a feeder at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
  • Verizon will be splicing cable on Pacific Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
  • Time Warner Cable and Keyspan will be working at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

Treasury official: Intangible benefits, political constraints fuel stadium deals

Atlantic Yards Report

The only parties who seem to be justifying the use of tax-exempt bonds backed by fixed PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to build sports facilities are sports team owners and their municipal backers. Academic analysts of professional sports and a wide array of civic groups criticize the provision as a wasteful subsidy.

Even the Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service, Donald Korb, called the plan the IRS (seemingly reluctantly) approved for the construction of stadiums for the New York Yankees and New York Mets a "loophole" the IRS tried quickly to close.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who chairs the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, doesn't think the IRS should let the stadium deals go through in the first place and has called for a moratorium until the IRS and Treasury Department explain their positions.

After all, as testimony last year showed, the Treasury Department had trouble justifying the deals, suggesting that local decisionmaking was affected by perceived intangible benefits as well as political and fiscal constraints.

That suggests that projects like the Atlantic Yards arena are essentially political projects that require significant scrutiny in the news pages, not cheerleading in the sports pages.


Posted by eric at 9:14 AM

Board members of ESDC, other authorities, would finally become fiduciaries if reform bill passes

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR takes a look at pending state legislation that would create the "Independent Office of Public Authority Accountability."

Somewhat buried in a New York Times Empire Zone column on Monday, headlined Stance on Same-Sex Marriage Brings Surprises for Paterson, was an item, under the sub-headline "Seeking Oversight for Agencies," indicating the potential passage of “the first meaningful oversight of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York State Thruway Authority, the Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC] and a multitude of other state and local authorities.”

Notably, it would require a fiduciary duty of authority board members--a duty of care arguably lacking in the ESDC's treatment of the Atlantic Yards project.

Did ESDC board members, in their brief 12/8/06 approval of the project bother to check:

  • if the arena financing plan was legitimate or a took advantage of a "loophole"?
  • if there would be enough affordable housing financing to get the project done anywhere close to the “anticipated” ten-year timetable?
  • if that ten-year timetable would be enforced in future ESDC contracts or whether the agency would give the developer 12+ years to build Phase 1 and no deadline for Phase 2?

These are all questions that might be pursued if the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions, chaired by Brodsky, turns its direct attention to Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 8:57 AM

TONIGHT: Eminent Domain: The American Dream On Sale

New York Public Library - LIVE presents



Wednesday, June 18 at 7:00 pm

Marshall Berman, Mindy Fullilove, Tom Angotti, Brian Berger & Michael Galinsky, moderator

The current exhibition at The New York Public Library, Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City through August 29, features the work of five contemporary New York–based photographers—Thomas Holton, Bettina Johae, Reiner Leist, Zoe Leonard, and Ethan Levitas—whose works intersect and resonate with current concerns about the reorganization of urban space, and its public use, in New York City. Artist Glenn Ligon offers the literal narrative of his own housing in the city. In addition to proposed regulations that threaten First Amendment rights to photograph in public places thus becoming a form of privatization of public space, questions also arise with the current private/public arrangements that characterize much of modern urban development, particularly the legal power of eminent domain, or the taking of private property for public use.

South Court Auditorium
The New York Public Library
Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street (enter at Fifth Avenue)

Length: 1 hr 30 mins
Intermission: None
Seating: General Admission

more info

Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

TONIGHT! Brooklyn Public Library
Twilight on the Waterfront: Brooklyn's Vanishing Industrial Heritage

Kensinger-BPL.jpg Word from filmmaker and photographer Nathan Kensinger is that his exhibit opening today at the Brooklyn Public Library (Grand Army Plaza) contains "a great triptych of those shots from inside the Atlantic Yards construction zone." Check out Kensinger's web site here.

Gothamist, As Ikea Opens, Exhibit Looks Back at Old Waterfront

Opening [today] as a counterpoint to the Red Hook Ikea kick-off is a photography exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library that chronicles the disappearing industrial sites along Brooklyn's waterfront. Called "Twilight on the Waterfront: Brooklyn's Vanishing Industrial Heritage," the photographs are the work of Nathan Kensinger, who has compiled an impressive body of work over the last five years by sneaking into dilapidated properties around Brooklyn.

Kensinger's show opens [tonight] with an event from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza – so there'll be plenty of time to swing by after picking up a couple POÄNG chairs at the Ikea grand opening.

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

Working Families Party against welfare for new professional sports facilities (except for Ratner's?)

WFPLogo.gif Atlantic Yards Report, As groups lobby against tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities, is WFP hamstrung by ACORN's AY deal?

One of these letters is not like the other one [hint, the one signed by Atlantic Yards supporter, ACORN NY Director, and Co-Chair of the Working Families Party Bertha Lewis].

There seems to be a consensus among good-government and neighborhood activist groups that tax-exempt bonding for sports facilities, as keyed to the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deals crafted for the new Yankees and Mets stadiums, and planned for the Atlantic Yards arena, is bad public policy. The loss to the federal treasury often benefits sports team owners more than the public at large.

That's why two letters issues yesterday said very much the same thing--but with a curious discrepancy that suggests that the housing group ACORN's role in the Atlantic Yards project may have hamstrung the Working Families Party from explicitly criticizing tax-exempt bonds for the AY arena.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bertha Lewis, WFP Target Steinbrenner's Corporate Welfare With No Mention of Ratner's

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform now, aka ACORN, the key group supporting Forest City Ratner's arena and skyscraper proposal known as Atlantic Yards, is, of course, also a key player in the Working Families Party (WFP). Today the WFP has sent out an email signed by ACORN's Bertha Lewis (with a "take action" link to a letter to Mayor Bloomberg) reprimanding the Administration for going to bat for the Yankees in their attempt to get more triple tax exempt bond financing.
Are they suggesting that what is bad for one billionaire—Steinbrenner—is fine for the other billionaire, ACORN's partner Bruce Ratner? It appears so. Or at least they don't want to draw attention to Ratner's corporate sports welfare while shining the light on Steinbrenner's.

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Letter Urges NY Congressional Delegation to End Tax Giveaways to Sports Teams

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:


Today a co-signed letter was sent to New York's federal representatives urging them to make sure that are no more giveaways for sports facilities, facilities which bring no economic benefit to the public but clear, lucrative benefits to the teams' owners.

The letter concludes: Rather than bending the rules for wealthy private interests, we need to ensure that public dollars are wisely invested in projects that will benefit all New Yorkers.

The letter, sent to Members of the New York City Congressional Delegation and Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, was signed by the following groups:
Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn
Fifth Avenue Committee
Fiscal Policy Institute
Good Jobs New York
New Yorkers for Parks
New York Public Research Interest Group
NYC Park Advocates
Pratt Center for Community Development
Save Our Parks
Sustainable South Bronx

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

Pols Say They Want an Atlantic Yards 'Trust'

Brownstoner recaps the coverage from The Real Estate Observer and Atlantic Yards Report of the press conference "calling for the formation of an Atlantic Yards trust that would, theoretically, allow for more community input/involvement in Forest City Ratner's development."


Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Forest City in the News

The Journal News, Full disclosure needed on development plans
New Rochelle has already chosen Forest City Residential to head the city's controversial development plan, which (no surprises here) includes the threat of eminent domain.

In a letter to the editor, one resident questions the town's hell-bent quest for redevelopment, while current housing stock sits vacant.

The Journal News, New Rochelle council remains divided as key Echo Bay vote looms tonight
Some New Rochelle councilmembers still had questions before a vote to approve one aspect of the Echo Bay project, while other aspects remain unresolved:

The other Republican council members who have raised concerns, Louis Trangucci and Albert Tarantino, say they are uneasy about taking on debt while matters like the lease remain unresolved. They also say they want to know more about the projected benefits of the Echo Bay redevelopment, information that won't be available until next year when Forest City Residential is expected to submit a completed impact statement for the development.

Pacific Business News, Solar-power system part of Navy housing

A developer that manages thousands of homes on Oahu military bases launched a 107-kilowatt photovoltaic system Monday that will generate enough electricity to power 10 homes per month.

Forest City Military Communities' system at the Navy's Halsey Terrace neighborhood community center, which was built with 477 SunPower 225-watt solar panels affixed to the roof, will generate 13,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month.
Forest City received a technical assistance award from the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar America Showcase program to develop the Halsey Terrace photovoltaic system.

Forest City Military Communities is rebuilding about half of a total 6,564 housing units in 34 neighborhoods on Oahu and Kauai through a public-private partnership with the Navy.

Rocky Mountain News, New Town Builders plans affordable units at Stapleton

Stapleton today unveiled its latest affordable for-sale homes for income-qualified families. New Town Builders has completed the 68-unit 29th Drive Row Homes and residents will begin to move in at the end of the month. "The response to the 29th Drive Row Homes has been very positive," Denise Gammon, senior vice president of residential development of Forest City Stapleton, said in a statement.

DevnerPost.com [Blog], Home being built to help fund education
Forest City donated the lot for a house being built to raise funds for "the Challenge Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income students attend college by funding their education at local middle and high prep schools. The foundation hopes to raise about $42,000 to sponsor six students in the program."

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

Reverend Al: Condemnation and Resurrection

This weekend, the Atlantic Yards story took an interesting detour when a NY Post article questioning Reverend Al Sharpton's fundraising strategy included developer Forest City Ratner. Here are two more responses, one criticizing Sharpton's tactics and the other offering a detailed rebuttal of the entire article.

Family Security Matters, Exclusive: Sharpton: More a Shakedown Artist than a Civil Rights Activist?

[I]t is his clear pattern of using protests, boycotts and media attacks to blackmail his targets into sudden racial sensitivity or generosity that is most bothersome.

Companies like PepsiCo, GM, Forest City Ratner, MGM Mirage, American Honda, Chrysler, Colgate Palmolive and Macy's made sudden contributions to Sharpton's National Action Network either as a response to a direct Sharpton threat or in response to such protests. Some of these companies even employed Sharpton briefly for a while as some sort of a diversity advisor.

At the very least, such conduct smells like street shakedowns where a tough guy promises to "protect" various businesses or even homes against things that "could happen." People donate to such shady causes because they understand the donation to be protection money and nothing else.

EUR Web, AL SHARPTON SAYS 'WHAT SHAKEDOWNS?': Rev. challenges NY Post writers to debate after negative articles.

Rev. Al Sharpton has released a statement condemning the New York Post for publishing articles that accuse him of shaking down corporate CEOs through threats of boycotts.
[T]he Post, in its typical fashion, omitted facts that contradicted the article's shakedown premise. Most notably, Ms. Vincent did not include one example of when Reverend Sharpton and NAN spoke out critically against companies after they had contributed to NAN....
Fact 5. Forest City Ratner. Ms. Vincent misleadingly writes that, 4 years after Reverend Sharpton blasted Forest City Ratner for "low wages," he made a "dramatic flip flop" and supported them. Rather than stating the objective facts that Forest City's practices have changed dramatically, she resorts to using subjective quotes by Reverend Sharpton to defend the shift, which obviously could be interpreted as self serving, and therefore a weaker defense.

NoLandGrab: From our point of view, it is worth noting that Forest City Ratner has a pattern of financially supporting groups and individuals who might prove to be formidable adversaries.

Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM


The Day [New London], Fort Trumbull Growth Stalled By Hard Times

Morgan McGinley, the former editorial page editor for The Day, explains how the City of New London's winner-take-all approach has left the city with little to show for its efforts:

Eight years have passed since the New London Development Corp. reorganized and in short order produced Pfizer's Global Research and Development offices. The city anticipated a vibrant research and office park in Fort Trumbull with a high-quality hotel.

Pfizer's development has given a much-needed shot in the arm to the local economy. But a time-consuming lawsuit over eminent domain blocked the NLDC's other goals and now the Fort Trumbull project is mired in the national recession.
As a result, the city is unlikely to get much new tax revenue anytime soon in Fort Trumbull and a hotel is at least five years away, if at all.

NoLandGrab: The City of New London wouldn't accommodate a handful of homeowners and now all that's left is an empty, non-tax-generating waterfront.

New London won the case, but is now the loser; Susette Kelo lost her case, but is still fighting alongside the Institute for Justice (IJ) for property rights.

Check out IJ's website for Kelo Day initiatives, including fundraising and get-out-the-word campaigns.

Posted by lumi at 4:08 AM

June 17, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Community Leader Ken Diamondstone Announces He Will Run for City Council in Brooklyn's 33rd District


Progressive advocate and affordable housing creator Ken Diamondstone announced today that he will run for the open City Council seat in Brooklyn's 33rd Council District as a Democrat.

"I'm launching this campaign for City Council because the hard-working people and families of Brooklyn can't wait any longer for good government," said Diamondstone. "Now is the time to take back Brooklyn. I'm going to fight for the bold progressive reform we need to protect our neighborhoods and help them flourish."

Diamondstone earned his reputation as a passionate and effective neighborhood leader by consistently taking courageous stands over the course of his 38 years living in the 33rd district. He was one of the earliest and fiercest critics of the process and scale of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project, and outspoken in his opposition to housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Diamondstone has also served at the forefront of many of Brooklyn's most important citizen empowerment organizations, including Community Board 2, Brooklyn for Peace, the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation, New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, and the Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board, which he chairs.

[Rest of the release after the jump.]

More coverage:

The Daily Politics [NY Daily News blog], Diamondstone For Council (Again)

Brooklyn Heights Blog, Diamondstone Officially Announces City Council Bid

As a candidate for City Council, Diamondstone now aims to make history by becoming Brooklyn's first openly gay representative to any legislative body in New York State. "To solve the big problems we have before us – inequality, soaring costs of living, an environment in crisis, and painful shortages in affordable housing, transportation, and education – we need a new kind of leader. We need a transformative leader, a leader who is not afraid of putting an end to politics as usual, and a leader who will take the power out of the hands of the few and return it to all our citizens. I will be that leader."

Diamondstone, whose strong campaign for State Senate in 2006 won him The New York Times' endorsement, is drawing upon his solid base and deep grassroots support through the community to get a quick start in the Council race. He already has his first fundraiser set for next weekend in Boerum Hill with former Congressman Major Owens, who has pledged his support for Diamondstone's candidacy, serving as honorary host of the event.

The 33rd councilmanic district of Brooklyn is comprised of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Vinegar Hill, DUMBO, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and parts of Park Slope.

Posted by eric at 10:05 PM

Musical Chairs in Emerging BAM “Cultural District”



Congratulations Bruce Ratner, Atlantic Yards is now the poster project for developments that don't go forward as originally planned.

In 2004, Mayor Bloomberg agreed to set aside property in Fort Greene for the construction of a $48.5 million, 299-seat classical theater (above) designed by Frank Gehry and Hugh Hardy for Theater for a New Audience. The itinerant company has not had a permanent home since it started in 1979; the glassy new building would be built on city-owned land in Fort Greene opposite the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in a planned BAM “Cultural District.”

Well, as Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner might privately admit, stuff happens: In 2006, the proposed site of the not-yet-built theater was moved to a lot across the street, on the corner of Ashland Place and Lafayette Avenue. Now the Sun reports that the theater will shuffle down the block so the city can use the site for affordable housing.

It was also revealed yesterday that the planned public library designed by Enrique Norten that was to have risen next to BAM has been aborted due to lack of funds. Instead, Two Trees Management is finalizing a deal to buy the land from the city for $20 million and build a mixed-used facility designed by the same architect.


NoLandGrab: Heck, who needs another public library when having to forego tax-free bonds might cut into the profits of the Yankees, Mets and Nets?

Posted by eric at 9:39 PM

Another potential snag for AY arena financing: foregone property tax may severely cap tax-exempt bonds

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder explores another probable arena-financing hurdle facing Forest City Ratner — it seems that, legally, Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) on arena debt cannot exceed what the equivalent property tax payments on the underlying land would amount to.

Extrapolating from the amount of bonds and the PILOT payments for the Yankees, a similar 6% ratio suggests annual PILOT payments on $800 million in tax-exempt Atlantic Yards arena bonds would be about $48 million.

In 1/7/08 testimony to the City Council Finance Committee, Theresa Devine of the Independent Budget Office stated that owners of Madison Square Garden, who benefit from a full property tax exemption, were saving $11 million in the current fiscal year.

That’s a lot less than $48 million.

In its September 2005 report on Atlantic Yards, the IBO estimated the value of the Atlantic Yards arena at $100 a square foot, compared to Madison Square Garden at $125/sf. Based on the $100 figure, the IBO had calculated the foregone property tax at the Atlantic Yards arena at only $3.85 million.

The value of Madison Square Garden, IBO’s George Sweeting told me in a recent email, is now calculated for tax purposes at $250/sf. So even if doubled to $200/sf, the foregone property tax for the AY arena would be less than $8 million a year--a reasonable ratio if the figure for Madison Square Garden is $11 million.

Sweeting noted that the agency’s 2005 analysis “was based loosely on the Department of Finance’s official market value for MSG at the time, discounting for differences in land value. It is probably true that neither the MSG value assigned by the city, nor the AY arena value estimated by IBO, reflect the actual cost somebody would pay to buy the land and build a new arena. We based our value on an assumption that whatever the Finance Department is doing when valuing MSG, they would do for AY.”

If so, there would have to be a lot more taxable bonds than currently contemplated.


NoLandGrab: The whole PILOT and bond situation presents Ratner and his government enablers with an interesting quandary. On the one hand, Ratner, the ESDC and the City need the assessment of the land to be as padded as possible, in order to maximize the bond cap. On the other hand, such a valuation would theoretically raise — significantly — the "just compensation" paid to property owners whose land would be taken via eminent domain.

Stay tuned to see how the interested parties try to play this one to their benefit — it ought to be entertaining.

Posted by eric at 8:39 PM

YOU'RE INVITED: Dean Street Block Party

Dean Street, between 6th and Carlton Avenues
Saturday, June 21
Noon to 6 p.m.

Join your Dean Street neighbors as we party in the street between 6th & Carlton Avenues.

Break out the BBQ grill, cooler and lawn chairs! Invite your friends and family to chill in the street as the block will be closed to traffic all day!

Enjoy food and music, games and activities for kids, including a Moonwalk, face painting, and a clown!

Tour our firehouse and an ambulance! These were big hits with the kids last year.

Donate to our fund-raising flea market (where you might also find a great deal), or whip up a batch of your famous cookies for our bake sale! Proceeds from last year's block party were used to help beautify our block with window boxes and flowers. Of course, cash donations are always appreciated.

Questions? Want to volunteer? Have something to donate? Contact Rhona Hetsrony (516-509-3980 / rbk888 [at] aol [dot] com) or Tracy Collins (347-365-1584 / tc [at] 3c [dot] com)

Thanks to our sponsors: FDNY Engine Co. 219 & Ladder Co. 105, First Response Ambulance, Transportation Alternatives, Maha's Middle Eastern Cuisine, Beast Tapas Bar Restaurant Lounge, Christie's Jamaican Patties, Met Foods, Sushi Tatsu, Barrette Bar, DJ Felix

Posted by lumi at 6:58 PM

After Michael Ratner's support for Kucinich, blowback?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder speculates how Michael Ratner, who is Bruce Ratner's brother and human rights advocate, might be experiencing some unintended consequences as a result of political contributions.

Michael Ratner tends to back Brooklyn politicians to gain their support for Atlantic Yards. Outside of Brooklyn, he seems to back candidates based on their ideology, such as Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Lately, this seems to have produced a kind of conflict as Kucinich is working against Atlantic Yards in trying to close an IRS loophole that Bruce Ratner had hoped to use in order to help finance the project.

Michael Ratner has a record of supporting progressives in New York City and elsewhere, just as he has a curious record of supporting undistinguished products of the Brooklyn machine (who also support Atlantic Yards), as I wrote in September 2006.

While Ratner's not talking, his Brooklyn political contributions seem guided not by ideology but by the interests of Forest City Ratner (FCR). Indeed, as federal filings show, while he generally lists his employer as the Center for Constitutional Rights, some list his affiliation as First New York Partners, a separate operating entity of Forest City responsible for providing property management and services to all Forest City buildings and their tenants. In other cases, he lists his address not as his Greenwich Village home, but 1 MetroTech, FCR's headquarters in Brooklyn.

Will he ask Kucinich for his money back?


Posted by steve at 5:30 AM

The clock stalls (a bit) on Goldstein v. Pataki

Atlantic Yards Report

At least according to the U.S. Supreme Court's official docket, on Thursday, June 12, the nine justices were to consider whether to accept the cert petition--the appeal--in the Atlantic Yards emiment domain case, known as Goldstein v. Pataki.

However, the order list issued today, with the results of Thursday's deliberations, doesn't mention the case. There's only one more conference, on Thursday, during the court's current calendar. So next Monday we'll either have a decision on that cert petition or we'll know that the discussion of that petition will have been postponed until the fall.


NoLandGrab: Postponement of the discussion of the petition until the fall would put a big dent in Bruce Ratner's timeline and plans to break ground.

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

More news on pols call for more oversight

MetroNY (print version only)

Atlantic Yards Report, Push for AY Development Trust begins; how much power would it have?

Such an organizational structure is par for the course; it mirrors the Hudson River Park Trust, which is similarly is governor-controlled. “A balance has to be struck between making sure we maximize community input and the reality of getting legislation passed,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (at dais), a sponsor of the bill, which is likely to receive serious consideration not this legislative session but the next one.

But whether such a trust could actually respond to local concerns, as City Council Member David Yassky put it, about buildings being too tall, and traffic and environmental problems, is another question. Jeffries suggested that the yet-to-be negotiated ground lease for the project gave the state--and, presumably, the trust should it emerge--some leverage.

Kent Barwick of the Municipal Art Society, a major component of BrooklynSpeaks, said the trust aimed not to take the governor’s power away “but get the public’s voice in the discussion.” Barwick (at right in photo) said public involvement was needed because it’s “just basic civics” and also because “large-scale public projects in New York take a long, long time;” such continued oversight is even “in the interest of the developer.”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LEGISLATORS, CIVIC LEADERS To Begin Campaign To Reform Atlantic Yards Oversight.

Today on the steps of City Hall at 10 a.m., Assemblypersons Hakeem Jeffries and James Brennan and City Councilpersons Letitia James and David Yassky will gather with community leaders to launch “The Campaign to Reform the Governance of Atlantic Yards.”

This is an initiative to pass new legislation that would reform the governance, or oversight, of the Atlantic Yards project.

Gowanus Lounge, New Push for Atlantic Yards Legislation Gets Underway

The Campaign to Reform Atlantic Yards, which proposes an “Atlantic Yards Trust” to oversee the project as well as other reforms, is launching this morning at 10AM at City Hall. Among the local officials back it are Assembly Members Hakeem Jeffries and James Brennan and City Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky.

Curbed.com, Officials Want a 'New Structure' to Govern Atlantic Yards

The officials want to create an Atlantic Yards Trust made up of state and city officials to "oversee" the project and a Stakeholders Council of local residents appointed by local elected officials to advise the trust and "provide meaningful community input." The change would have to be approved in Albany. There is an ombudsman appointed by the Empire State Development Corp. overseeing the project. All approvals were handled at the state level.

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Brooklyn Electeds Call for Atlantic Yards Trust

This Act would create a 15-member development trust to manage the Atlantic Yards project, theoretically redistributing power over the project’s master plan from developer Forest City Ratner to the public.

Brooklyn Heights Blog, Yassky, Millman, BHA Support Atlantic Yards Oversight.

Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman, whose district includes the Heights. Among those speaking in favor of the bill at the press conference was City Councilman David Yassky (at podium in photo), who noted that $55 million in public funds has already been disbursed to the developer, Forest City Ratner, without any conditions or meaningful public oversight. Yassky opined that, although there are many problems with the project as proposed and approved, including the height and bulk of some buildings, some core of good can be salvaged from it.

Assemblywoman Millman could not be present for the press conference, however, State Democratic District Leader for the 52nd Assembly District (Millman’s) Jo Anne Simon (to the left of Yassky in photo) was there, and spoke in favor of the bill. She strongly criticized the lack of transparency and of meaningful public participation in the process of reviewing, approving and funding Atlantic Yards. She noted that the bill would provide a forum for “all of the stakeholders, not just a pre-selected few.”

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere119.giftransitblogger.com, Atlantic Yards Rally A Sham?
Reaction to last week's Brooklyn Paper editorial:

I truly feel bad for the people who have already been or will be forced out due to this project. While the amount of jobs such a project could possibly bring to the local economy, it is nowhere near enough to justify how this project was originated out of greed & not necessity. Brooklyn does not need the New Jersey Nets & I’d be willing to bet many don’t want them if they had the choice. As usual in situations like this, money talks & the desire of the people gets swept under the rug.

Gideon's Trumpet, In Pursuit of the Free Lunch
One blogger explains how public funds are diverted to free lunch for developers by way of triple tax-free bonds. Naturally, Atlantic Yards is the poster project:

And in New York, we learn from today’s New York Times (Charles V. Bagli, A Question Mark Looms Over 3 Expensive Projects, June 14, 2008, at p. A17), that the promoters of Barclays Center, “expected to be the most expensive arena in the world,” and surprise, surprise, the folks behind the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn (see our blog of March 22, 2008, Another Big Redevelopment Project Down the Tubes?) are getting bent out of shape because — are you ready? — Uncle Sam, meanie that he is, is no longer enamored of letting them finance their multi-hundred-million-dollar stadiums with tax free bonds, and is contemplating new regulations that would make interest on bonds used to finance such projects taxable, the same as interest on all other private bonds. Which means that if Uncle gets his way, the owners of big-league sports stadiums may actually have to pay for their own ball parks. Oh the horror of it!

Gumby Fresh, Moderately Epic Return To The Arena-Blogging Fray
"Freshie" gets his two cents in under the wire on Bruce Ratner's desire to use triple tax-free bonds to finance the arena and "norman oderizes" yours truly and pontificates on the Mets in the process.

In any case, if I have any overriding quibble, it's that we're still seeing the financing as this kind of binary, on/off-type creature. FCR is probably intermingling its returns from the various projects at the Vanderbilt Rail Yards site and its surroundings as much as it intermingles the PR. The opportunities for bits of the AY project to cross-subsidise each other, much as bits of a sports teams operations cross-subsidise each other, and bits of wealthy sports teams owners holdings subsidise each other, are legion. Changes to the ways that one component raises financing have subtle knock-on effects on FCR's profits rather than one catastrophic result.

Given that Oder's numbers show the arena project throwing off decent amounts of cash, even under some fairly conservative assumptions, these hikes in debt service costs mostly eat into FCR's returns on the project, or at least the returns of the Nets owners and the stadium's economic owners.

Community Benefits Agreements, More on Atlantic Yards, the IRS and tax exempt bonds
The blog that monitors Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) across the nation is keeping close tabs on Atlantic Yards and Norman Oder's coverage of developer Bruce Ratner's plan to reap the most benefit from the project through tax-free bond financing.

Posted by lumi at 4:08 AM

June 16, 2008

Brooklyn Pols Push for Atlantic Yards Oversight

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman


State legislators from Brooklyn are pushing for a new community advisory board to help oversee the troubled Atlantic Yards project.

The state economic development agency had promised to involve local politicians a year ago. But Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries says those efforts have failed.

JEFFRIES: This developer has promised thousands of units of affordable housing. We want to make sure that that affordable housing gets built.

REPORTER: The governor's office says it won't comment until the bill passes both houses of the legislature.


Posted by eric at 4:04 PM

The "Atlantic Yards Governance Act"

New York State Assembly

Herewith is the full text of Assembly Bill A11395, the "Atlantic Yards Governance Act," sponsored by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-57) and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-44) and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D-52).

The bill proposes the creation of a trust to oversee the Atlantic Yards project, much in the same way that Battery Park City is managed.

  1. The planning and development of the Atlantic Yards project is a matter of state concern and in the interest of the people of the state. It may include both market rate and below market housing, new open space, commercial and retail development and a sports arena for New Yorkers, as well as alleviate unsatisfactory conditions of the current site.

  2. It is in the public interest for the state and city of New York to act together to oversee the development of the Atlantic Yards project and to ensure the public is fully engaged and involved in the design, development, and operation of the project, and in the development and implementation of policies to mitigate the project's anticipated environmental impacts.

  3. The planning, environmental review, interim improvement, and development process for the project that has been conducted to date has furthered the foregoing purposes. It is intended that the Atlantic Yards development trust, to the extent provided and subject to the limitations set forth in this act, replace the New York state urban development corporation with respect to its authority over the project, for among other things, the completion of the development process and the construction, operation and maintenance of the project, all in accordance with this act.


NoLandGrab: Trying to legislate a role — any role — for the public in the process surrounding Atlantic Yards is commendable, but can they really be talking about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards when they claim "the planning, environmental review, interim improvement, and development process for the project that has been conducted to date has furthered" the public's being "fully engaged and involved in the design, development, and operation of the project, and in the development and implementation of policies to mitigate the project's anticipated environmental impacts?"

Posted by eric at 3:13 PM

Brooklyn Politicos Call for Trust to Oversee Atlantic Yards

Governor would exercise majority control

The Real Estate
by Bharat Ayyar

A handful of local politicians this morning crowded onto the steps of City Hall to announce an initiative to foster community involvement in the Atlantic Yards project.

The Atlantic Yards Governance Act, co-sponsored by Assemblymen Hakim (sic) Jeffries and James Brennan of Brooklyn, would create a 15-member development trust to balance what they say is a one-sided effort monopolized by developer Forest City Ratner. The trust would, theoretically, have full power to modify the Yards’ development plan. But, at the same time, a majority eight members of the board would still be appointed by the governor.

"Atlantic Yards is a public project¹ built on public land² using public money overseen by a public entity for a public purpose³," Mr. Jeffries said. "It therefore deserves maximum public participation during the life of this project."


NoLandGrab: We applaud the effort to gain some local control over Atlantic Yards, but establishing a Trust controlled by the Governor to oversee a project 100% defined by the developer is just a bit like shutting the barn door after all the horses have run away, don't ya think?

Corrections: ¹ it's a private project; ² to be built primarily on private land acquired under the threat of — or directly via — eminent domain; ³ for a primarily private purpose. No argument with the need for maximum public participation, however.

Posted by eric at 1:25 PM

As IRS moves to close "loophole," ESDC fights for AY funding scheme

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder digs deeper into the background of the controversy over IRS rules and tax-exempt bond financing for stadiums and arenas. Surprised?

The strategy under which the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner seek tax-exempt bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena has been acknowledged by the chief counsel of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a “loophole” the agency moved quickly to eliminate.

Donald Korb’s testimony came at a 3/29/07 oversight hearing of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, headed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). The hearing, covering “Taxpayer Financed Stadiums, Convention Centers, and Hotels,” mainly focused on the stadiums, starting from the premise that they do not bring economic development and potentially divert funds from critical infrastructure.

The IRS in July 2006 issued two Private Letter Rulings (PLRs) related to financing for stadiums for the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. (Here's one.) In both cases, the IRS agreed that payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) used to pay off the bonds could substitute for property taxes, even though critics warn that they do not seem commensurate with such taxes but simply mirror debt service.

However, [American Tax Policy Institute Projects Director Dennis] Zimmerman said, "those who benefit most from stadiums (owners of teams, players, fans, some related businesses) learned how to utilize pseudo-economic studies to argue that the economic benefits from stadiums generated sufficient additional tax revenue to pay for the public subsidy, a proposition that runs counter to an extensive economics literature.... Second, the monopolistic structure of professional sports leagues maintains excess demand for franchises, forcing cities to compete for a limited number of franchises with offerings of stadium subsidies. As a result, many stadiums were built for which local taxpayers, who receive limited benefits, paid at least 90 percent of the debt service on the bonds."


Posted by eric at 8:51 AM

Droll Bloomberg on Atlantic Yards Protest: 'Democracy in Action'

The Real Estate
by Tom Acitelli


Mayor Bloomberg on his way out of City Hall this morning, after seeing the set-up for this morning's protest against Atlantic Yards (we'll have more on it this afternoon): 'Democracy in action.'


NoLandGrab: Well, we'd call the City and State lobbying the treasury department to allow the use of tax-exempt bonds for Atlantic Yards "democracy in action," too — except it's not.

Posted by eric at 8:51 AM

School Budget Buster

Courier-Life Publications


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted this clipping (link) from the Park Slope Courier with a reminder:

For years we, and so many others, have been saying that the Atlantic Yards sweetheart deal, funded largely on the backs of taxpayers, exemplifies an Administration that has prioritized the real estate industry and pro sports facilities over necessities, such as public shools.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn started a postcard campaign to Governor Paterson back on March 13 (when it was clear he would become Governor), with that very message. Around 2,000 of the cards have been signed and mailed to the Governor.

Now elected officials from Park Slope to Bay Ridge are saying the same thing.

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

Officials Rally for More Atlantic Yards Oversight

The NY Sun

A group of city and state elected officials is seeking to create a new governing body to oversee the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn.

New York State Assembly members Hakeem Jeffries and James Brennan, and New York City Council members Letitia James and David Yassky are launching a campaign for new legislation created "to Reform the Governance of Atlantic Yards" at a rally at City Hall scheduled for today.

"Atlantic Yards is the only state project without effective public oversight and a vehicle for community input in its decision-making," the officials said in a statement released yesterday.
The officials are seeking to create the Atlantic Yards Trust, which would be comprised of state and city appointed officials and a Stakeholders Council of local residents appointed by local elected officials. The residents would help advise the Trust.


More details about the proposed bill and today's press conference can be found on Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

Just wondering I: Nets target '10-11 opening


Columnist Neil Best gets the Yormark treatment, but doesn't realize he might have a scoop:

What with the news the Yankees are seeking more dough to finish their new palace, it was time to check in with the Nets' efforts to move to Brooklyn, within walking distance of an LIRR stop.

How's it going? "We'll be there for the '10-11 season," CEO Brett Yormark said of an effort slowed by legal challenges.

The plan is to break ground this fall, which would go a long way toward quieting skeptics and selling suites.

Yormark gave me a tour of a sweet-looking model suite in a Manhattan showroom, 500 square feet with room for a small pool table. If I had $300,000 a season to spare, I would rent one and invite readers to hang with me.


It looks like slick Yormark is hedging again. Instead of vowing that the Nets will play in their new arena "in calendar year 2010," which is all but impossible, he's now betting on the "2010-2011 season," which you can bet means more like 2011.

The previous admission that the arena opening would be delayed was handled in an orchestrated "soft release." This looks like the beginning of another one.

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Sharpton to Ratner: money CAN buy you love

sharpton2.gif This weekend's Post cover story about Reverend Al's fundraising prowess and his Forest City flip-flop got airplay in the blogosphere this weekend.

Nets Daily, Sharpton Donations Latest Controversy for Ratner

In an investigative report on Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the New York Post suggests that the civil rights leader changed his tune on Bruce Ratner after the Nets’ owner started making donations to NAN.... Sharpton denies a connection.

Gothamist, A Look at Sharpton Non-Profit's Funding

In the caste of FCR, Sharpton once decried how little workers were paid at the Atlantic Mall; now Sharpton believes FCR's Atlantic Yards is a great boon for the community.

Sharpton denies the shakedown charges, telling the Post, "That's the old shakedown theory that the anti-civil-rights forces have used against us forever. Why can't they come up with one company that says that? No one has criticized me." Instead

NoLandGrab: Ah the "old shakedown theory" — that makes sense, because Bruce Ratner would never play the race card to promote his $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

Make Decent Sandwiches Not Controversial Slogans

An excerpt from The Footprint Gazette's eulogy to the "overpriced-undertasty" cheesesteaks:

I take no joy in posting about the failure of a mom and pop sandwich shop. In fact there are few things I root for more whole heartedly than mom and pop sandwich shops. But this one always had a little bit of baggage associated with it in that it aligned itself with the controversial arena.

Meanwhile back in Ratnerville, it looks like empty storefronts and lots will be the neighborhood mascot for years to come:

What bummed me out more than the fact that I would no longer have access to a mediocre $8 cheese steak that takes 20 minutes to make, is the fact that this is what this neighborhood is starting to look like. Closed shops. Empty homes. Most of the apts. on my street are empty. The gas station is gone. That dance wear place sits empty. The commercial space up on Pacific and Carlton sits empty. The U-Haul lot is empty. The JRG Fashion Cafe lot is empty. New businesses don't want to open up here, even in the places that aren't in the footprint because there is so much uncertainty in the air. And even if this arena does get built there will be years of noise and dust to contend with.


Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

The NY Times, City and Labor Leaders Reach Deal on Plan to Develop Willets Point
Taking a page from Bruce Ratner's landgrab playbook, the City is seeking to cut deals with favored stakeholders, to pressure property owners, the original stakeholders, to sell.

The Bloomberg administration has forged an unusual pact with labor leaders, promising that in exchange for their support of the city’s ambitious plan to transform Willets Point, a 62-acre enclave of auto repair shops and cinder block sheds near Shea Stadium, the project will provide union jobs and good wages.

Union leaders hailed the agreement as a template for similar pacts with city and state officials, even as the Real Estate Board of New York, the industry’s powerful lobbying arm, criticized it.
But some local civic groups, property owners and elected officials have opposed the plan because it calls for displacing about 260 small businesses, possibly through eminent domain. Housing groups like Acorn and some union leaders have also pushed for more housing that would be affordable for low- and middle-income New Yorkers.

NoLandGrab: Yes, you read it right, housing group ACORN appears to be next on deck to strike a deal with the City.

From MetroNY: MetroNY080611.gif

Posted by lumi at 4:07 AM

June 15, 2008

High End or Low, Ballparks Break Bank

NY Times

This week, word came that the Yankees want $250 million to $350 million more in tax-free bonds to complete construction of what is the most expensive stadium ever built in the country. With $943 million already in its bucket, the team is scratching around for additional public financing to bring the Yankees’ part of the project to about $1.2 billion.

Add to that at least $500 million that the city is paying to build garages and to replace parkland, a figure that is likely to climb. By the time kids are at last playing in the new parks that will replace the ones handed over to the professional sports team, no one would be surprised if the whole stadium package came to $2 billion.
To build the [minor league] stadiums in Brooklyn and Staten Island for 12 weeks a year of minor league baseball, the city borrowed the $120 million over three decades. The debt service on those loans costs the city $6 million annually, or $500,000 for every week of play.

And what does $6 million a year mean?

That is about $2 million more than the city pays for sports equipment and uniforms for 400,000 public high school students. And that means $10 a kid.


Posted by amy at 8:01 PM

Bloomberg to Raise Property Taxes on Everyone But Ratner and Steinbrenner


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Mayor Bloomberg is planning to raise property taxes on everybody but billionaire sports team owners.

Bruce Ratner, George Steinbrenner While Mayor Bloomberg's economic development agency lobbies the Treasury Department to open a tax loophole for Bruce Ratner and George Steinbrenner on the one hand, on the other hand the Mayor wants to raise property taxes. Forest City Ratner would pay no property taxes on its 22-acre, 8 million square foot Atlantic Yards project.

If times are tough, shouldn't we all be sharing in the burden?


Posted by amy at 12:04 PM

"Shoot Hoops Not Guns" restaurant doesn't make it to arena opening


Atlantic Yards Report

The High Stakes Cheese Steaks restaurant on Flatbush Avenue near Bergen Street, which opened in December 2006, replacing the Silver Spoon diner, has closed. The restaurant business is always a gamble--one in four restaurants fail in their first year, and three of five in three years, according to Business Week.

The restaurant's "Shoot Hoops Not Guns" sign, though it may seem a reference to a teen basketball program, was put up, an owner told the New York Post, in a 12/22/06 article optimistically headlined A WINNING $HOT: BROOKLYN EATERY TO BE COURTSIDE, because "he wants his business associated with the arena." That sign was either lost or removed fairly early in the restaurant's lifespan.

The Brooklyn Paper quoted landlord Michael Pintchik as observing that such a narrow menu was difficult to pull off. That, and the fact that the arena wasn't going to open in a year--nor in three. Those were long odds.


Posted by amy at 11:51 AM

Bagli and Brodsky: two of the most powerful people in NY real estate (this week)

Atlantic Yards Report

When the New York Observer last month released its list of the 100 most powerful people in New York real estate, the choices were quite debatable and, in hindsight, even more so.

For example, Charles Bagli, the veteran real estate/development reporter for the New York Times--and formerly at the Observer--did not appear on the list and he's the most powerful journalist covering New York real estate and development. It was his coverage on the Metro front page Friday that clarified the issue surrounding tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities: it's more about the Nets arena than Yankee Stadium.

And Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, listed at #89 (behind me!), showed that he can make news and put officials under the spotlight, both criticizing "Soviet-style" tactics regarding the negotiations for such bonds, and scheduling an Assembly hearing within three weeks.

In the past week, I'd say, Bagli and Brodsky deserve a place in the Observer's top ten.


Posted by amy at 11:49 AM


NY Post

In a dramatic flip-flop, Sharpton in 2000 blasted New York developer Bruce Ratner for paying low wages to workers at his Atlantic Mall in Brooklyn.

"We will not allow you to enslave our communities, Mr. Ratner," Sharpton told a rally. "You must meet with us - you must come to terms with the poverty you are creating using public dollars."

By 2004, the developer's company, Forest City Ratner, had begun to fork over thousands of dollars to NAN. Sharpton now strongly supports Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards project, which includes a new arena for the New Jersey Nets.

"Just because Pepsi and other companies had me on their board advising them didn't mean that I wasn't blasting them all the time," said Sharpton.

"Look at Forest City Ratner. I blasted them and they came up with one of the best community agreements for blacks and Latinos."

article sharpton6.jpg

Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

Atlantic Yards demolition crew urine


threecee via flickr

This photo, sent to me in May 2008, shows the result of an Atlantic Yards demolition crew worker who, for whatever reason, could not find his way to an appropriate facility to urinate. Apparently, this is not an isolated incident, as the photographer (who wishes to remain anonymous) has witnessed this misbehavior before.

Here's what he wrote in the email:

"An AY construction 'crew' HAD to relieve himself inside his car, this happened around 12:45 pm on 5/18/2008 on 700 Pacific Street at the car park entrance..... The guy 'apparently' PP in an 'apple' juice bottle & then poured it on the street...."

I'm pretty sure that this is illegal, is certainly gross, and has also been witnessed by another Atlantic Yards chronicler.


Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

Meet the Designer Behind the NYC Parking Boom



NoLandGrab: As if free gas wasn't enough of an encouragement to drive, Forest City Ratner's East River Plaza development brings bog box stores with suburban style parking garages - right in New York City!

So, in the name of convenience, Blumenfeld Development and GreenbergFarrow are squandering the inherent attraction of urban streets -- walkable places where people actually like to linger -- and flooding the city with additional car trips.

These big box stores may have been given the green light before PlaNYC was unveiled, but how does this wave of car-friendly development square with Mayor Bloomberg's much-touted sustainability goals? Between a City Planning Department that sits back and allows the willy-nilly construction of new public parking garages, and an Economic Development Corporation that actively courts big box retailers and signs off on stadium parking subsidies, the push to mitigate traffic seems to have been limited to congestion pricing. Streetsblog has a request into the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability to find out whether scaling back huge parking facilities is on the mayor's agenda.


Posted by amy at 11:13 AM

Nets Look to Lure Fans With Free Gas



Given the New Jersey Nets' lackluster season (34-48 record, no playoff berth), the franchise is taking a page from another under- performer to unload tickets for next year. That's right: buy 2008-2009 season tickets and the Nets will return 10 percent of the cost in the form of "free" gas, which fans will presumably burn up on the way to all those home games. 'Cause with the Nets, it's not about winning or losing, or even how you play. It's about the free gas.

This promotion brought to you by the would-be savior of Brooklyn.


Posted by amy at 11:09 AM

Graphic Images from Atlantic Yards


Brit in Brooklyn

Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

Scraping the Sky, and Then Some


NY Times

A three-part exhibition in Manhattan at the Skyscraper Museum — “Future City: 20|21” — explores this theme by comparing New York in the 1920s and ’30s, when audacious skyscrapers rose up and captured the public’s imagination, with its modern-day peers in Asia, namely Hong Kong and Shanghai. “New York Modern,” the first leg of the exhibit, concludes later this month, and will be followed by “Vertical Cities: Hong Kong|New York.” An examination of Shanghai is planned for next year.

As the show suggests, the center of gravity today has shifted from North America and Europe to Asia and the Middle East, where supertalls are rising at a frenetic pace. (In Dubai, the construction crane is jokingly called the national bird.) Supertalls are also going up in countries like India, Kazakhstan and Brazil.

The trend, said Carol Willis, an urban historian and director of the Skyscraper Museum, reflects the expanding economies of those regions and their desire to compete for international status and business.

In contrast, she says that large developments in New York and other Western cities these days are likely to encounter public opposition — as evidenced by initial public reaction to Forrest City Ratner’s plan for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and Jean Nouvel’s soaring Midtown Manhattan tower, commissioned by Hines, an international real estate developer.


Posted by amy at 10:54 AM

So Ratner DOESN'T need tax-exempt bonds?

This week, Forest City Ratner performed an incredible high-wire act.

News that Atlantic Yards could further get bogged down if highly coveted triple-tax-exmpt bonds don't come through, undermined the development company's official posture that Atlantic Yards is a done deal.

From the Daily News:

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner, which is building the Nets' Brooklyn arena, said Ratner would break ground on the $950 million arena later this year even without tax-exempt bonds.

This no-worries pr strategy undermines the justification for the lucrative tax-exempt bond financing scheme.

Based on the un-named spokesman's statement, developer Bruce Ratner CAN build Atlantic Yards without the tax-exempt bonds, he's just looking for more free money.

Posted by lumi at 6:34 AM

June 14, 2008

Rep. Kucinich asks IRS, Treasury to hold off on approving financing deal for AY arena, other projects

Atlantic Yards Report

Who loses when triple tax-exempt bonds are used to finance stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, and the planned Atlantic Yards arena? Overwhelmingly the savings come at the expense of federal taxpayers, not state or city ones, which is why city and state officials are so eager to use such a financing mechanism--the costs are just too diffuse.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio, former maverick presidential candidate, and Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, yesterday released a letter asking the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department to desist from approving any more sports facility deals based on PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), pending further clarification of their policies.

In other words: don't approve any deal involving the Nets arena just yet.

It's not clear to me whether Kucinich, whose letter was dated May 23, was piling on the recently-surfaced concern about such deals, or whether the original delivery of that letter triggered additional alarm among New York officials whose expectations of smooth sailing for AY arena funding and more bonds for Yankee Stadium had already been dashed.


Posted by amy at 10:22 AM

Ratner's Atlantic Yards Talking Point is Wishful Thinking

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Forest City Ratner's number 1 talking point—"We'll break ground in the fall. We'll break ground by the end of the year"—is an impossibility.
It's all wishful thinking. Ratner simply cannot break ground this fall. They will not have the financing they need or the land they need, and they will be in court.

Perhaps this is why Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber let slip at a Crain's breakfast yesterday and declared that Atlantic Yards would be "under construction by the end of 2009." (This was reported by Norman Oder on his Atlantic Yards Report.) While we don't believe the Atlantic Yards project will ever break ground, "by the end of 2009" is at least based on real possibilities rather than pure fantasy. Of course Mr. Lieber backed off when asked about his misspeak.


Posted by amy at 10:14 AM

IRS Rule Coverage


The Real Estate: Cost of Extra Yankees Financing to the City: About $3.6 M.

The most at-risk project appears to be the Nets’ arena in Brooklyn, which is now seeking somewhere between $600 million and $700 million for the more than $900 million cost, though the final amount of financing has not been determined. Should the team and developer Forest City Ratner be unable to finance in the manner initially planned, it seems a new financing plan, likelier at a higher cost, would need to be devised.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: Ratner's Tax-exempt Atlantic Yards Bonds Worth $165 Million in Savings

We asked here: Why is Bruce Ratner telling NY1 "we don't see really a problem...there's not a problem" with new IRS regulations while his surrogates are in Washington lobbying for an IRS waiver so he can receive triple-tax-free bonds for his arena? Norman Oder provides the answer on his Atlantic Yards Report. Its pretty simple: Ratner was just doing some not very subtle spinning. They do have a problem if they can't get their triple-tax-free bonds—a $165 million problem.

River Ave. Blues: NY pols bemoan stadium subsidies

As Charles Bagli wrote in The Times today, the end game of this debate will probably lead to cost increases across the board for projects of this nature with the potential rule changes impacting the Atlantic Yards development, Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. But somehow I think the sports franchises will worm the money out of the public coffers one way or another.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: Ratner Says "No Problem" About Atlantic Yards. Twice in One Interview.

All news reports today said that the IRS tax exempt bond regulations may spell doom for Forest City Ratner's Barclays Center arena. So worrying are the regulations for the Ratner team that they, along with the city and state, are lobbying the Treasury Department in Washington to waive the rules for the Nets. But Ratner tells NY1 it's not true, there are no worries.
We don't see really sense being made here. If having to use taxable bonds, rather than tax-free bonds because of the IRS regulations, is not a problem for the developer, then why are his surrogates lobbying in DC and why did he go for tax-free bonds in the first place if he doesn't need them?

Atlantic Yards Report: The $165 million difference: why Ratner can't play it cool about IRS rules

The difference is worth many millions. The Yankees would save $189.9 million over the 40-year life of $920 million in tax-exempt bonds, according to the Independent Budget Office. (The Times, quoting the IBO, suggested $190 million savings on $943 million in bonds.)

Though the IBO has not calculated the savings on the arena's new $950 million price tag, a similar ratio to the Yankees numbers suggests that those building the Atlantic Yards arena, for which $800 million in tax-exempt bonds are sought, would save $165.1 million.

So Ratner may tell the press that the arena might go forward with taxable bonds. But surely Forest City Ratner's investment plan assumes tax-exempt bonds and the attendant savings.

Posted by amy at 9:53 AM

Brooklyn Today: Friday, June 13, 2008

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

RATNER AND CO. To Give Prospect Park Sites a Facelift. More than 200 volunteers from Forest City Ratner Companies, including Bruce Ratner himself, will meet at the Tennis House at Prospect Park today to give the building its first major renovation in 15 years. Another team will clean up the east side of the park at Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Road. The effort is part of Forest City’s annual “Community Day” initiative that will run from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The upgrades to the Tennis House will include power-washing the tiled floor, walls and steps; painting the house’s wrought-iron fence; painting the railings around the building and more.

NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, Ratner's community contributions to Prospect Heights this week include power-washing the streets, building fences, and painting an elderly lady into a corner.

Posted by amy at 9:44 AM

June 13, 2008

New IRS Rule May Delay Development Of Atlantic Yards Project



Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner downplayed today’s reports that a proposed Internal Revenue Service rule might stall the vast construction project.

"We don't see really a problem,” said Ratner. “You know if the regulations don't change, do change, whatever the regulations will do, we'll be able to finance this. We've been assured of that. We've been working on it over the last two months, and it will take another three or four months to finish the documentation, but there's not a problem.”

article/video [dialup/broadband]

NoLandGrab: "We've been assured of that?" Assured by whom?

Bruce was apparently tracked down by NY1 while taking part in Forest City Ratner's "Community Day" clean-up of Prospect Park — which is not to be confused with "Brooklyn Day."

Posted by eric at 7:58 PM

Brodsky to hold hearing on bonds for Nets arena and two stadiums

Atlantic Yards Report has the breaking news that the New York State Assembly plans to hold hearings on the issuance of public debt for the new Mets and Yankees stadiums and, most crucially, the planned arena for the Nets.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), Chairman of the NYS Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities & Commissions, and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo), Chairman of the NYS Assembly Committee on Local Governments, have today invited the New York City Industrial Development Authority (NYCIDA) to testify [before] a Public Hearing to be scheduled on either June 30, July 1 or July 2 in New York City. Final date and location will be announced shortly.

The Hearing will examine the NYCIDA’s practices and procedures for issuance of public debt with respect to sports facilities for the Yankees, Mets and Nets. The Committees have been investigating the facts and actions of the issuance of public debt by state-created entities that operate in secret and without the control of elected officials. Legislation to reform such practices is being considered by the committees.


Posted by eric at 3:57 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... (The Taxman Cometh edition)


More commentary from the blogosphere about those nettlesome IRS rules and their possible effect on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Curbed, Will the IRS Strangle the Atlantic Yards Arena?

Brownstoner, Key Form of AY Arena Financing Appears Shaky

COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENTS, Atlantic Yards & Yankee Stadium face difficulties with tax-exempt financing

THE KNICKERBLOGGER, Oh, Now I know Why I have to Pay Tax on Amazon Purchases....

SmartBrief.com, IRS rules threaten future of New York basketball arena

SportsBusiness Daily, IRS Regulations Jeopardizing Construction On N.Y. Projects [Subscription required]

The View from the Bleachers, Politicians Hit Out at New York Stadia Funding

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, IRS Loophole More Important for Nets Than Yankees

Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

Arena site in the Times? Nah

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder does some free photo editing for The Times.

Is this the Atlantic Yards arena site, as today's New York Times suggests?


Nah. Rather than stretch solely along the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, as in the picture, the arena site would end at the Sixth Avenue Bridge in the upper left quadrant of the photo and stretch south below the Pacific Street boundary, at the far left of the photo.

Below is the arena site outlined, more or less, in a photo by Jonathan Barkey.


Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Nets Want to Ease Gas Pains

Nets Daily

It appears that the carbon-neutrality the Nets were so intent on promoting in April was just another publicity stunt. Now it's all about helping season-ticket holders fill up their SUVs.

As everyone who has ever taken Exit 16W knows, it’s hard to see the Nets without driving. And as everyone who drives knows, gas costs $4.00 a gallon. So the Nets are setting aside more than $250,000 worth of free gas for new season ticket holders. Brett Yormark says anyone who commits to buying season tickets from now through June 26―the NBA Draft– will get back 10 percent of the ticket purchase in gas cards.


Best Nets Daily poster comment: "If anything they should provide free metro cards or nj transit stuff if they want NJ fans to stay nets fans come that magical time when unicorns jump over rainbows and the barclays center opens."

NoLandGrab: Let's see, if Jay-Z plunks down $540,000 for a Barclays Center "bunker" suite, he'll get back a $54,000 gas card, which will allow him to fill up his Jay-Z-edition GM Denali, um, a few times.

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

Atlantic Yards Doomed If Ratner Can't Get More Corporate Tax Breaks

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB offers its take on the shocking news that the deep-pocketed owners of local pro sports franchises want more of your money.

The richest team in sports (the Yankees), and the billionaire developer of the most expensive basketball arena ever proposed (Forest City Ratner's arena for his Nets) want more money and the IRS to bend the rules*...for them.

Forest City Ratner is desperately trying to lobby the Treasury Department in Washington (along with NYC, NY State and the Yankees) to waive an IRS regulation that would make it very difficult for Ratner to get the triple tax-free bond he desires for his billion dollar arena.

This begs the question: If Ratner/Steinbrenner succeed in getting a waiver, opening up an IRS loophole they want for their respective sportsplexes, what then would the IRS do when the next team from, let's say Chicago, wants triple-tax-free bonds for their new sportsplex? Where does the waiving stop? Will the United States government actually break its fiscally prudent regulations just for Bruce Ratner and George Steinbrenner?

*Neil DeMause explains the intricacies of the IRS regulations and what the Yankees and Nets would like to see waived over at the Village Voice.


Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

A Question Mark Looms Over 3 Expensive Projects

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli


More than two years ago, the Bloomberg administration came up with an aggressively creative way to use tax-exempt bonds to finance two of the most expensive stadiums in the world, one for the Yankees in the Bronx and another for the Mets in Queens.

The Internal Revenue Service initially approved the use of the bonds for the ballparks, but quickly issued a proposal in 2006 to tighten the rules governing the use of tax-exempt bonds so that it would be more difficult, and perhaps impossible, for this kind of financing to be used again by profitable, private enterprises like professional sports teams.

Much of the financing for the two ballparks, which are both under construction, is already in place. Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is hoping to score a huge windfall from Washington:

Now state and city officials say the proposed rules are jeopardizing what is planned to be the city’s next big sports palace: the $950 million Barclays Center, an 18,000-seat basketball arena for the Nets that is the centerpiece of the huge residential and commercial complex in Brooklyn known as Atlantic Yards. The project’s developer, Forest City Ratner, says it plans to break ground on the arena this fall and has long expected to use tax-exempt financing to reduce its borrowing costs by tens of millions of dollars.

Barclays Center is expected to be the most expensive arena in the world, and the lack of tax-exempt financing would substantially increase its cost. The $4 billion Atlantic Yards project already faces delays because of litigation, a sluggish economy, the lack of commercial tenants and the reluctance of lenders to finance large real estate developments.
In an interview this year, Bruce C. Ratner of Forest City said that he hoped to raise about $800 million through tax-exempt bonds. He acknowledged that “the tax changes would make it more difficult” to do the project, although he was still optimistic that he could break ground for the arena this fall.
[T]he proposed changes in the I.R.S. regulations are far more significant for the Nets and Atlantic Yards, which has not yet issued any bonds or started construction.


Some follow up to the story on The Times's City Room blog: I.R.S. Rule Change Could Imperil Atlantic Yards Arena

Posted by lumi at 10:12 AM

Is the Poor Economy Saving Our Skylines?



The Western World may be losing it's dominance in the neverending skyline wars, but that might not be such a bad thing for American and European city-dwellers. German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reports that as the credit crisis is halting ambitious real estate projects in the States, emerging powers such as China, Dubai and Russia are building bigger and crazier skyscrapers than ever.

This skyline boom may be providing these nouveau riche nations with status symbols, but much of the construction is being criticized by architecture experts as environmentally and aesthetically harmful.

Public opinion in many places seems to agree with the experts' contention that modern skyscrapers are ugly. The Spiegel article cites European architects who see a positive side to the poor economy because it will allow the continent to preserve it's "enduring cityscapes."

Similarly in New York, Frank Gehry's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is stalling thank to money troubles, which must be a relief to the area residents who have protested the plan since it's inception. Another major New York landmark, the proposed Freedom Tower, is also way behind schedule, but it's not like those designs have been highly anticipated by the locals.


Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

Funding the new Yankee ballpark

Behind the News

Eyewitness News (ABC 7)

The old "in for a dime, in for a dollar" theory may be what comes into play in the current flap involving the New York Yankees.

There are many people who expressed skepticism over any public contributions to the construction of the new ballparks for the Yankees or the Mets or the Nets, who want to move from New Jersey to Brooklyn as an anchor tenant of the new Atlantic Yards.

There's the valid argument that the presence of a new facility increases tax revenues, so the City gets money from these teams. But the truth is that these teams are cash cows and the profits redound not to taxpayers -- some of whom double as fans who pay the among highest ticket prices in the nation - but to the owners and highly paid players on the teams.

And so the critics say the teams should dang well fund these facilities themselves.


Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

The Times says Ratner was optimistic about AY timetable--well, so was the state

Atlantic Yards Report "oderizes" a subtle, though rather important, detail from today's NY Times:

From an article in today's New York Times, headlined A Question Mark Looms Over 3 Expensive Projects:

When the project was approved in December 2006, Mr. [Bruce] Ratner optimistically indicated that its first phase — the arena, an office tower, a retail complex and three residential buildings — would be completed by 2010. But under a financing agreement completed nine months later, he was given 12 years to complete the first phase.

Actually, it wasn't just Atlantic Yards developer Ratner who indicated that the first phase--five towers rather than the current four--would be completed by 2010. That was the foundation of the Empire State Development Corporation's environmental impact statement and General Project Plan.

The State Funding Agreement gives the developer 12 years after the close of litigation and the delivery of property via eminent domain to build Phase 1--and the City Funding Agreement allows it to be smaller than planned, without penalty.


Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

New York's Morning Handout Newspapers Cover Government Handouts

Both amNY and Metro are covering the story of increased subsidies for large projects, including the proposed Atlantic Yards Project.

Both papers carried similar versions of this story:

State assembly questions public funds for Yankee Stadium

State lawmakers and fiscal watchdog groups cried foul Thursday over the Yankees' bid for another $350 million in public financing for their new stadium, saying it could soak up funds needed for parks and transportation.

Three state Assembly members from New York City called for a public hearing to examine a proposal to provide public support for one the richest franchises in sports.

"These sports teams are private companies that appear addicted to keeping their hands in the government cookie jar," said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn.

Jeffries and Assemblymen Ruben Diaz Jr. and Jose Peralta asked for a hearing on the use of public funds for the Yankees that they said were negotiated "in secret and without the control of elected officials" while other community projects are desperate for funding.

These two additional items appeared in amNY:

The first is this opinion piece by Ellis Henican: When did NYC turn into Gimme City?

Gimme, gimme, gimme…

That's all we're hearing these days. Gimme more of your money for taxes, fares and fees.

The Yankees demand another $350 million in tax-free city financing or they won't finish their new stadium.

Finally, there is this item (found only in the print edition) that includes the issue of additional subsidies for the Yankee Stadium — the same kind that Bruce Ratner will be looking for [click to enlarge]:

Posted by steve at 6:00 AM

A High Stakes loss near Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
By Sarah Portlock

Considering reports that service was slow, it seems like the only thing that High Stakes Cheese Steaks had going for them was that Bruce Ratner was planning on building a basketball arena down the street.


Has Bruce Ratner’s failure to build Atlantic Yards claimed its first victim?

High Stakes Cheese Steaks, a perfect-for-pre-game fast-food joint on Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street, closed last week, 18 months after it opened in anticipation of the controversial construction project that was supposed to create 1,500 construction jobs annually over 10 years. Yet construction of the arena, which was once slated to be done by 2007, has not even begun.

Instead, the bright orange lunch spot — with its one menu item, Philly cheese steaks — quietly closed. Experts said the joint would likely still be open if the Nets were playing home games across the street, but the still-unbuilt arena is only partly to blame.


NoLandGrab: Sad. It would have made sense for High Stakes owners to check out Atlantic Yards Report's continuing criticism of the developer's overly optimistic timeline. Just yesterday, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber let spill that he thought that Atlantic Yards would be "under construction by the end of 2009."

Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

NYCEDC Confirms: Ratner Wants More Subsidy for Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn connects the dots in the public discussion on more subsidies for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project. Here's the gist of it:

Back on April 2nd, Forest City Ratner's parent company CEO Chuck Ratner said on an analysts conference call that "we still need more" subsidy for Atlantic Yards. (Atlantic Yards Report broke that story.) Ever since then, Forest City Ratner spokespeople have flat out denied that they would be seeking more subsidy. But NYC Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky begs to differ, according to the Sun article, he confirms what Chuck Ratner said in April:

...He [Pinsky] also said that the developer Forest City Ratner Co. had expressed interest to the city about seeking additional tax-exempt funding, but that the request was being handled by the state...

Two key City Council members—David Yassky, running for City Comptroller and Bill de Blasio, running for Brooklyn Borough President—have already said "no way" to more subsidy for Atlantic Yards.
Who will stop this madness? We suggest a hearing before the members of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions would be a good place to start.


Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

As officials admit lobbying IRS for Nets arena, Lieber says AY groundbreaking by 2009 (at least)

Atlantic Yards Report

Whoopsie! You gotta love when public officials come down with a bout of the truth and go off message:

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber, speaking at a Crain's New York Business breakfast yesterday, declared that Atlantic Yards would be "under construction by the end of 2009."

[Developer Bruce Ratner still claims it will be fall 2008.]

During the Crain's session, David pointed out that “the opposition which has dogged” Atlantic Yards had been inflamed by reports in March of delays in project construction, the developer’s call in early April for more subsidies, and the general question of what might be done with the site, as exemplified by City Comptroller William Thompson’s April 30 acknowledgement that “I’m not sure what that project is any longer” and his hint that it might be revived by bringing in additional developers.

Lieber said Atlantic Yards “is going through the last stage of litigation” and “we do believe it’s going to get under way.”

As to bringing in other developers, Lieber said the issue hasn’t come up: “Frankly, no, I don’t see any reason to do it.”

What about increased subsidies? “We have not received any kind of request," he said, "but we’re open-minded, and we’ll listen.”

NoLandGrab: We're listening — Forest City CEO Charles Ratner already stated in April 2008 that they'll "still need more" subsidies.

article [updated with extended verbatim responses from Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber]

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Nets still tanking

The Brooklyn Paper
By Sarah Portlock

The New Jersey Nets are losing even more money — adding yet another wrinkle in the team’s plans to relocate to Brooklyn.

Despite a promise to bring the Nets here, Forest City Enterprises, which partly owns the team, admitted this month that the squad has lost $10.2 million more this year than at this point last year.

The company reported an $18.5-million loss in its just-released first-quarter report, and its loss from its 22-percent investment in the Nets represents more than half of that downturn.

Those posted losses don’t mean Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner might abandon his plan to bring the Nets to Brooklyn because what’s a $10 million loss in a $4-billion project, one analyst said.


NoLandGrab: Right-o — just because the Nets are leaking money doesn't mean that Bruce Ratner will abandon the project. It means that they'll keep leaking money as the project continues to stall, and that CEO Brett Yormark's energetic efforts to increase sponsorship aren't paying off in the short run. Ouch!

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

An AY governance bill emerges, aimed at 2009

Atlantic Yards Report

A press conference will be held at City Hall Monday at 10 a.m. to to launch “The Campaign to Reform the Governance of Atlantic Yards,” an initiative to pass new legislation that would reform the governance of the Atlantic Yards project--changes that have been resisted by the Empire State Development Corporation.

The proposed legislation would set into law the governance structure recommended by the BrooklynSpeaks coalition. According to the press release, the Atlantic Yards Governance Act (A11395) would create the “Atlantic Yards Trust” to oversee the project with a board of state and city appointed officials, overseeing policies to mitigate the environmental impact of the project (and recommending additional policies). A “Stakeholders Council” comprised of local residents appointed by local elected officials would advise the Trust.

Among those at the press conference will be Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries and Jim Brennan, and City Council members Letitia James and David Yassky, along with Brooklyn community leaders. Given that the state legislative session essentially ends June 23, it's unlikely that the bill would pass the Assembly in time, much less the Republican-controlled state Senate.

However, the Senate may tip Democratic after this year's elections, and the bill, once introduced, can be considered again, said Jeffries, the legislative sponsor.


Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

'Soviet-Style' Tactics Said To Be Used To Help Yanks

In The NY Sun coverage of Wednesday's revelations that the Yankees, Mets and Nets are hoping for more tax-exempt bonds to finance their stadium and arena projects, reporter Peter Kiefer gives readers a brief history of the latest creative way to publicly finance new sports venues:

Since the 1986 Tax Reform Act was enacted during the Reagan administration, private development companies have faced tight restrictions when attempting to get access to tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities.

In 2006, with the support of the Bloomberg administration, the Yankees and the Mets were able to circumvent the federal regulation by employing a complex accounting technique that allows the bond debt to be paid by the city and state with money received from the private developer, known as payments in lieu of taxes.

Now the IRS is considering closing the loophole for future projects, a move city officials say would hinder development. They say that more private development projects should be able to get the benefits of tax-exempt bonding.

What's in it for NYC?

City officials see the bonds as a relatively inexpensive way to subsidize development, specifically because the federal government picks up a greater share of the tab.

"What is advantageous is that the vast majority is paid for by federal taxes as a result the city loses a small amount of money," Mr. Pinsky said. "We are leveraging a small amount of city and state funds to get a substantial amount of federal assistance."

NoLandGrab: Yeah, that's what sports franchises need, "federal assistance."

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

No more stadium tax breaks, pols howl

NY Daily News
By Adam Lisberg

At least somebody remembers that tax breaks and subsidies are supposed to go for people, programs and projects that really need them:

The Yankees, Mets and Nets can complete their new stadiums without more tax-free bonds, officials say - but the city and state are still pushing the IRS to reopen a loophole so they can get them anyway.

"It's a useful tool for economic development," said Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corp. "We're constantly having projects brought to us that have a financing gap, and this could be a useful mechanism."

Critics, though, said the city and state economic development corporations have no business lobbying for stadium tax breaks while schools, hospitals and subways are starved for cash.

"We can't fund the MTA capital plan, and yet sports facilities seem to be able to get to the top of the list," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester). "Is this the best use of publicly supported debt?"

Local teams plus City and State officials are going to the mat for more tax breaks even though Yankees and Nets execs insist that they'll build without more tax-free bonds??? [Seriously, WTF?]

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner, which is building the Nets' Brooklyn arena, said Ratner would break ground on the $950 million arena later this year even without tax-exempt bonds.

The Mets declined to comment.

There's some big news that made it into the end of the article. Forest City CEO Chuck Ratner said back in April 2008 that the company would be looking for more subsidies for Atlantic Yards. Now City officials are listening:

Meanwhile, the city's deputy mayor for economic development said at the Crain's business breakfast that the city would consider giving more subsidies for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

"We're open-minded, and we'll listen," Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber said.


Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

Feds get Yonkers computer drives

RidgeHillProg-JN.jpg The Journal News
By Len Maniace

In the latest twist in the investigation into the approval of Forest City Ratner's other highly controversial local megaproject, the feds have seized the computers of all seven Yonkers City Councilmembers.

The city has turned over the computer hard drives of all seven City Council members to federal investigators who are probing the council's handling of the 81-acre Ridge Hill development.

The hard drives were removed under a subpoena issued this year that had sought a variety of information, including council e-mails....

The article includes this good recap of events leading up to this latest subpoena:

The $630 million Ridge Hill development, now under construction along the New York State Thruway across from the Stew Leonard shopping center, faced opposition from community residents, a lawsuit from neighboring municipalities and difficulty winning approval from City Council.

Developers Forest City Ratner fought back, lobbying the City Council strongly. In June 2006, Council member Sandy Annabi, D-2nd District, dropped her opposition, providing the key fifth vote for the council supermajority needed to approve the project's zone change. Annabi switched her vote after the developer agreed to pay Yonkers an additional $10 million over three years.

The first set of subpoenas came in March 2007, seeking meeting agendas, tapes of meetings and voting records from 2004 until then as well as financial disclosure statements filed by then-city Republican Chairman Zehy Jereis.

The next subpoenas arrived in early February of this year. They ordered council members to testify before a federal grand jury in White Plains and sought information on increased water rates, higher fees for building and fire safety inspections, and the Longfellow project, a redevelopment plan involving two shuttered Yonkers schools.

More than a month ago, federal prosecutors subpoenaed financial disclosure forms and e-mails to and from Annabi and e-mails to and from council member Patricia McDow, D-1st District. They also issued a grand jury subpoena to Assemblyman Michael Spano, D-Yonkers.


Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

Mr. Markowitz Tear Down This Wall

TheWall-FG.jpg The Footprint Gazette

A brief history of walls and a historical hysterical speech that left us... well, speechless.


Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

Forest City in the News

New Lenox Patriot, Economic slowdown delays NL mall
Forest City is tapping the breaks on a mall in Illinois:

Despite a delay in one of its major mall projects, Mayor Tim Baldermann said New Lenox is still in an advantageous position and both that project and the other mall are still moving forward.

"We've been in constant contact with them," Baldermann said of the village's communication with Forest City Enterprises Inc., developers of the Birches of New Lenox. "It's not anything that we're concerned with."
Baldermann said Forest City hasn't had any concerns, but retailers planning to set up shop in the center are wary given the current economic downturn.

The Real Deal, Harlem big-box retail store to open October '09
Bruce Ratner brings you more big-box retail:

East River Plaza, a former dormant wire factory in East Harlem, will be opened as a big-box retail complex in October 2009, 15 years after developer David Blumenthal purchased the site. The property, which runs from 116th to 119th street along Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, will cater to stores like Costco and Wal-Mart. Home Depot and Target have already signed on, though Home Depot might sublet it space as it trims its expansion because of the weak economy.... Blumenthal is developing the site with Forest City Ratner.

wkyc.com, Making The Grade: Helping Our Kids Achieve

"Channel 3 has once again teamed up with Voices for Children of Greater Cleveland, KidsOhio.org, The Center for Families and Children, Invest in Children, Chuck and Ilana Horowitz Ratner and Forest City Enterprises to bring NE Ohio several important local community events and the third in a series of compelling local specials Making The Grade: Helping Our Kids Achieve," said WKYC President and General Manager Brooke Spectorsky.

"Our children and their successes are vital to the growth and future of our community," added Horowitz Ratner.

mffais.com [MFFAIS - Mutual Fund Facts About Individual Stocks], Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE) dumped by Macquarie Group Ltd

Macquarie Group Ltd completely dumped all -11,305 shares they owned of Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE) as shown by filings made public on 2008-06-11.

The stock is currently owned by 174 funds/institutions with a total activity score of 0.08. With 44.97 % of owning funds reported recently buying shares, 15.38 % maintaining existing share level and 39.64 % selling shares. Full details for Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE) available at http://www.mffais.com/fcya.be.html.

GlobeSt.com, $719M Funds Affordable Creation, Preservation
At least these subsidies will fund housing instead of a hoops emporium.

The largest Brooklyn financing is for 80 DeKalb Ave, an 80/20 project in the Fort Greene neighborhood near downtown Brooklyn, which will receive $137 million in financing for a 34-story building with 365 units, of which 73 will be reserved for low-income tenants. The borrower will be FC 80 DeKalb Associates LLC, whose principals include Bruce Ratner, chairman of Forest City Ratner Cos.

Posted by lumi at 4:12 AM

"I want to revisit Atlantic Yards"

The Brian Lehrer Show

In an interview with City Councilmember Letitia James, Brian Lehrer brought up term limits. James offered Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project as an example of one issue that she would like to put to rest during her term, though the fight could drag on:

LJ: I want to revisit Atlantic Yards. It doesn't look like the controversy will end in my term -- it will continue. The next person who takes this seat over, I want them to be just as vigilant on the changes with respect to Atlantic Yards, and the inequities with respect to Atlantic Yards and all of the other issues Atlantic Yards raises.

BL: If the people of your district oppose the Atlantic Yards project and you are term-limited out, they could elect another anti-Atlantic Yards Councilperson.

LJ: I would hope so. I would like to see — since it began when I was first elected — I would like to see it end when I end my term in office.

[start around 11m 30sec]

Posted by lumi at 3:54 AM

Relief for wealthy teamowners?

The best quote from yesterday's coverage of local teamowners who are seeking even more tax-free bond financing for their new sports venues came from Janel Patterson of the NYC Economic Development Corp.:

"The city is working with the state in Washington to seek relief from the applicable IRS regulation."

The era when cities openly shelled out for new stadiums and arenas is over, so politicians and owners are now trying to go through the back door.

But the IRS put an end to the scheme, so now team owners are seeking "relief" as if they were victims of some natural disaster, making Steinbrenner, the Wilpons and Ratner just about NYC's whiniest corporate-welfare queens.

Posted by lumi at 3:37 AM

June 12, 2008

MEDIA ADVISORY: Campaign to Reform Atlantic Yards Governance


WHO & WHAT: New York State Assembly members Hakeem Jeffries and James Brennan, and New York City Council members Letitia James, and David Yassky will gather with Brooklyn community leaders to launch “The Campaign to Reform the Governance of Atlantic Yards,” an initiative to pass new legislation that would reform the governance of the Atlantic Yards project.

Atlantic Yards is the only state project without effective public oversight and a vehicle for community input in its decision-making. To address this, the Atlantic Yards Governance Act (A11395) would create the “Atlantic Yards Trust” to oversee the project with a board of state and city appointed officials and a “Stakeholders Council” comprised of local residents appointed by local elected officials that would advise the Trust and provide an opportunity for meaningful community involvement.

WHERE: Steps of City Hall, Manhattan

WHEN: Monday, June 16, 2008


Press Contact: Shea Communications, Inc.: George Shea, Alexis Schneider: 212.627.5766


Posted by eric at 3:38 PM

Can Ft Greene Maintain its Cool?


The Real Fort Greene
by Carlton Banks

The Ft. Greene and Clinton Hill blog finds a ray of sunlight in the stalling of Atlantic Yards, and offers a prescription for keeping the neighborhood "cool" (and they ain't talkin' about the recent heatwave).

How can a neighborhood maintain it’s “cool” in a time of rapid gentrification/”mallification”? This post references my earlier “Has Ft. Greene Gotten Too Cool” post. I’ve been reading the Vanishing NY blog and I’m a little worried. As the prospects for Atlantic Yards dim I’m trying to keep hope alive. It’s not too late to save Ft. Greene from the “mallification of NYC”!


Posted by eric at 3:21 PM

Brooklyn Paper weekly - 6.7.08


Cristian Fleming Weblog

Satirist/Cartoonist Cristian Fleming offers "Brooklyn Day" congratulations to Bruce Ratner.

This might be brilliant if it weren’t so stupid. Let me see if I can summarize. Nobody really wants Atlantic Yards in it’s currently offered state. Bruce Ratner has really fucked this up good and hard, and its a miracle that he has because he has begged, bribed and stolen his way into such a plum deal. So Atlantic Yards sucks, yea? Ratner decided to have a “rally” in support of it. He cuts a deal to get construction workers (yes, the same construction workers that would, of course, be hired to build the Yards development) busy working on other buildings in the area a few hours off, coincidentally right when the “rally” is happening. Throw in some subtle encouragement by union and current site bosses to attend, and some additional bussed in attendees, and you have this sham rally. Of course, if I were looking at a chance to support a future paycheck I could use to support my family in a shitty economy how dumb would I be to not go? You would think that Ratner & Co. might make even the slightest attempt to make this actually look like less of the cynical ploy it really is. Congratulations Bruce, you’re an ass.


Posted by eric at 3:16 PM

As Cranes Fall and People Die

Economic Development for Whom?

by Judith Levine

In an essay decrying the conventional wisdom that in a construction boom, accidents will happen, Brooklyn author Judith Levine fingers a ubiquitous bogeyman.

Developers—like Forest City Ratner, preparing for Brooklyn Atlantic Yards—demolish affordable housing to build “sub-market-rate” housing, which is unaffordable to most New Yorkers. Meanwhile, the City announces that budget cuts will force 15% rent rises in public housing and the closing of community centers and programs.

Perhaps City Hall has always been a wholly owned subsidiary of the equivalent of Forest City Ratner. Perhaps there’s never been a time when New Yorkers didn’t wake up to the sound of jackhammers, when life here was not noisy, crowded, and chaotic. When workers did not fall to their deaths from skyscrapers and cranes.

But the question is always the same: who benefits?

The job of public officials is to ensure that the answer is the public—not just developers, but the rest of us.


NoLandGrab: Well, we know Bruce Ratner and his cronies benefit. The check for everyone else is in the mail.

Posted by eric at 2:33 PM

After Yankees snag, will IRS regulations slow tax-exempt bonds for Nets arena?

Atlantic Yards Report

Like us, we're pretty sure you've grumbled when writing a check to the IRS, or when looking at your pay stub and seeing how much federal tax is being withheld. But little did we Atlantic Yards critics know that the IRS may be our friend.

Without a waiver, Internal Revenue Service restrictions on tax-exempt bond deals may hamper the construction of Yankee Stadium and, without further waivers or changes in Washington, could snag plans for construction of the Nets arena in Brooklyn and other sports facilities in the city.

While the Federal Tax Reform Act of 1986 repealed the use of tax-exempt private activity bonds for sports facilities, Congress did not repeal the tax exemption for bonds that are paid off with tax dollars, thus apparently intending to preserve tax-sheltered financing for multi-use, publicly owned arenas, according to GJNY. The bonds, exempt from city, state, and federal taxes, have an interest rate about 25 percent below taxable bonds.

However, city lawyers asked the IRS for a special ruling allowing payments-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOTs) to be considered the legal equivalent of taxes for the purpose of servicing the bond debt. The IRS said yes, “despite language in its own regulations that seemed to contradict the ruling,” according to GJNY.

So now you know why the Atlantic Yards arena would be paid off by PILOTs--it’s the same deal. And now we know that not only pending lawsuits may hinder such tax-exempt bonds, but so might the IRS.

Bettina Damiani of GJNY warned to Metro that the Nets and Mets would likely similarly request such bonding from the city. “This is coming from the mayor who said he’d end corporate welfare as we know it,” she said. “It’s almost comical.”


Posted by eric at 7:51 AM

Yankees want IRS to reverse loophole to allow for more tax-free bond financing

"Allowance" would be boon to Bruce Ratner's Nets arena financing plan

YankeeStad-NYP.jpg Associated Press, Yankees may seek more public financing for new stadium

New York City officials confirmed Wednesday that the New York Yankees may be interested in seeking more public financing to build their new stadium, pending a regulation change by the IRS.

The team stressed, however, that its bid to change the Internal Revenue Service regulation wasn't going to affect the completion of the new Bronx stadium.
Janel Patterson, of the New York City Economic Development Corp., which is working with the Yankees, said the project isn't threatened. But she said the city is working to relieve an IRS regulation that prohibits more public debt to be incurred for the stadium. State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, of Westchester, said that IRS change also is being sought to help stadium and arena projects for the New York Mets and New Jersey Nets.

NY Daily News, Can we have 400M more? Yankees ask

About $941 million in tax-exempt public bonds have already been issued for the $1.3 billion stadium, which is to open next year.

Internal Revenue Service regulations prohibit more public debt to be incurred for the stadium.

City officials have been lobbying in Washington for a change in the IRS regulations, which could benefit other local projects, including construction of new homes for the Mets and Nets, [president of the city Economic Development Corporation Seth] Pinsky said.

"The Yankees have informally expressed to us an interest in receiving additional financing for the stadium project. What we've told the Yankees is if [the IRS regulations] were to change, we'd be willing to consider the option."

MetroNY, Yankees ask city for $400M more

Yogi Berra might describe this latest request as déjà vu all over again: In 2006, the team got $943 million in tax-exempt bonds, but the city had to ask the IRS for permission, because Congress had restricted the use of tax-exempt bonds to build sports facilities. A loophole allowed the bonds to be paid off in the form of taxes, and the Yankees claimed the debt would be met with payments in lieu of property taxes, or PILOTs, though the team’s never paid property taxes.

While the IRS eventually gave the go-ahead, it then closed that loophole.


Team President Randy Levine said Wednesday night, "At some point, as stated and contemplated in the original transaction, the Yankees will seek additional bonding."

But he insisted, "This issue does not affect completion of the Stadium."

In a worse-case scenario, the Yanks could seek taxable financing, as opposed to tax-free bonds to complete the project.
"This isn't the biggest issue for the Yankees and Mets. It's a much bigger issue for the Nets and other development projects that haven't secured any financing yet," said a source.
Bettina Damiani, director of Good Jobs New York, said an IRS reversal "would be opening the floodgates. It defies all fiscal common sense to subsidize wealthy sports teams."

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

Want to hold a rally at Borough Hall and Cadman Plaza? It's simple

Atlantic Yards Report


A couple of readers wanted to know exactly how Forest City Ratner got permission to organize the "Brooklyn Day" rally held last Thursday at Borough Hall and the surrounding Cadman Plaza.

The process, apparently, is fairly simple. "They paid the standard $25 application fee for special events," said Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson. "The permit covered the central plaza from 11:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Any other group is welcome to hold similar events. All they need to do is fill out a special event application on our web site at least three weeks in advance of the event and pay the $25 fee."

Permittees are responsible for clean-up and insurance, which obviously cost more, and must get a police permit for amplified sound. We can assume Forest City Ratner spent a lot more on staff, food, music, and more.

(Photo of participants during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Tracy Collins.)

Click here for more and to learn how to get permission to use the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

IJ files amicus in Atlantic Yards case

Castle Watch Daily [Eminent domain blog, The Institute for Justice]


Yesterday, the Institute for Justice filed an amicus brief in support of Dan Goldstein’s case, which has been submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. Goldstein argues that the even though the state of New York’s claims that the eminent domain takings in Brooklyn are for a “public use,” the true beneficiary of the takings is the developer. Goldstein’s case has, so far, been dismissed by judges who claim they have no power to even look into whether the state of New York’s claims of “public use” are legitimate.


Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

M&T Boss Wilmers Named New York State Economic Czar

By John McMahon

Wilmers.jpg Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards is mentioned in a list of stalled projects in NYC in an analysis of NY Governor Paterson's appointment of Robert G. Wilmers, "chairman of M&T Bank and prominent anti-union activist," to run the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the sponsoring agency for Atlantic Yards.

The failure of the Spitzer plan may be something of a red herring given the current economic climate and the state’s inability to fund many of the projects on ESDC’s docket.

A New York Times article last month outlined numerous stalled development projects in New York City and stated that “…the governor has sent conflicting messages, preaching fiscal austerity while suggesting that the state can move forward on a host of costly projects, including the Second Avenue subway, the extension of the No. 7 line, the $14 billion redevelopment of the West Side railyards, the $14 billion Penn Station project and the $4 billion Atlantic Yards basketball arena and residential complex in Brooklyn.” The article goes on to describe growing friction between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the governor over the direction of the agency.

So why did Paterson do it? The Wilmers appointment comes on the heels of the governor’s controversial (and seemingly ill-fated) plan to put a cap on the amount of taxes a school district can impose. Is Governor Paterson veering to the right or is he just punting?


Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

New York City Music Venues

TC-FreddysNigh.jpgLucid Culture

Freddy's Bar and Backroom is the place to check out music and shove it to landgrabbing overdeveloper Bruce Ratner at the same time.


485 Dean St., sort of Prospect Heights area, Brooklyn

Any train to Atlantic Ave. Walk on Flatbush away from Brooklyn Heights to Pacific St. Left on Pacific, then take your first right, go past the police station and the club is right on the corner.

This legendary neighborhood dive has a corner bar upstairs and the music room downstairs. The sound is so-so in the fairly small, low-ceilinged basement room with benches and tables. The crowd is totally oldschool Brooklyn: it’s a friendly place. Drinks are cheap and the waitstaff is nice. There’s absolutely no Nazi factor here. The quality of the acts here is above average; booking here, like at most of the other well-established venues has seen a visible decline, as musicians are being priced out of the neighborhood and the city in general. But Freddy’s seems to be winning their seemingly endless court battle with megalomaniac developer Bruce Ratner, whose plans to bring the New Jersey Nets (why didn’t somebody consult Dr. J beforehand?!?), and destroy the neighborhood’s remaining middleclass housing so he can build a plastic-and-sheetrock luxury housing complex, have hit a major snag. In the meantime, if you’re in the area, this is one establishment that deserves your support.

Posted by lumi at 4:05 AM

June 11, 2008

Square Feet: Squeezing Big-Box Retailing Into Small City Spaces

EastRiverPlaza.jpg The New York Times
by Terry Pristin

Blumenfeld [Development Group] is developing East River Plaza with Forest City Ratner, which was also the partner of The New York Times Company in its headquarters building on Eighth Avenue.

Home Depot has been part of the East River Plaza project for about a decade. Two years ago, the retailer signed a 30-year lease for 110,000 square feet of space. But like many national retailers, Home Depot is trimming its expansion plans as a result of the weak economy, and the company is talking to two warehouse clubs — Costco and BJ’s — about subletting its space, Mr. Blumenfeld said. A Home Depot spokeswoman said the company is “re-evaluating” the site.

As it happens, Costco had counted on becoming one of the anchor stores at East River Plaza, but instead the developers cut a deal with Target in 2006, leading Jeffrey H. Brotman, Costco’s chairman, to complain publicly about being shunted aside.


NoLandGrab: OK, this story provides us with a perfect opportunity to do an Atlantic Yards hypocrisy check.

Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) had a deal with Costco to be one of two anchor tenants at East River Plaza. But when Target expressed interest in 2006, FCRC booted Costco for the bullseye-logoed retailer, which happens to be the main tenant of FCR's Atlantic Terminal mall.

Then in March of this year, Home Depot, the other anchor tenant, announced that it was rethinking its commitment, due to the double-whammy of a slowing economy and the global credit crunch. But Costco-kicker-outter FCRC got all legal on Home Depot; FCRC VP Loren Riegelhaupt told Crain's NY Business, "we have a lease with them, and we expect them to live up to that.” Yup, they're all about honoring commitments.

Speaking of honoring commitments, Forest City Ratner lobbyist Richard Lipsky is best known for heading the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, which purports to fight "the danger presented by big box stores. These stores... pose a dire threat to all of the city’s neighborhood businesses and the communities they serve." Lipsky also represents West Harlem businessman Nick Sprayregen, whose properties face the threat of eminent domain for Columbia University's expansion plan. But Lipsky apparently loves money more than he hates eminent domain, since he's happy to do Bruce Ratner's bidding on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 5:23 PM


LA Daily
by Matthew Fleischer

What would you call an expensive, widely opposed Frank Gehry project with a lavish budget that comes partly at the expense of education funding? Atlantic Yards? Think again.

First there was the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, then Grand Avenue, now yet another proposed Frank Gehry building has come under intense public scrutiny -- this time at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Hundreds of students and alumni gathered in the auditorium of the prestigious design school yesterday to question Art Center president Richard Koshalek about a proposed $50 million Gehry-made design research center and library.

During the course of the contentious two-hour meeting, several students made it clear they thought Koshalek was spending too much time and money plotting a signature building and not enough on their education. Art Center students have seen their tuition jump 5% to 6% annually for the past five years. They now pay roughly $15,000 per trimester in tuition.

Opposition to the Gehry building, which had been simmering unspoken for quite some time, found public voice last month when Nathan Cook, a 26-year old Industrial Design major, wrote a post on his blog questioning the Koshalek administration's priorities. Cook was upset that though Art Center goes out of its way to brand itself a leader in sustainability, the campus has no recycling bins and its cafeteria continues to use Styrofoam plates and cups. After being told for more than a year that the school couldn't afford such amenities, Cook wondered openly on his blog how a school that paid $385,068 to Gehry Partners to design a new building, a figure he culled from 2005 public tax records, couldn't afford recycling bins and environmentally friendly kitchenware.


Sign the petition "calling for a moratorium on all new Gehry-related building expenses" by the Art Center College of Design.

Posted by eric at 2:00 PM

At post-Kelo conference, AY ironies amid support for eminent domain

Atlantic Yards Report

On the brink of a decision by the United States Supreme Court on whether or not to hear the appeal brought by the plaintiffs in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case Goldstein vs. Pataki, Norman Oder revisits Kelo vs. New London through the prism of a November, 2007 conference that weighed the impact of eminent domain on urban communities.

If, as the saying goes, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," then "the friend of my enemy is my enemy," which makes the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case--now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court--rather tainted, in the eyes of many who emphasize the importance of eminent domain to urban redevelopment.

Why? Not just because of the partial challenge to the Supreme Court's controversial 2005 Kelo v. New London eminent domain decision, but also the tangential involvement of and support from the libertarian Institute for Justice (IJ), which has a broader property rights agenda nationally that could hamstring local governments.

That was a major message from a November 9 conference at Princeton University titled Land and Power: The Impact of Eminent Domain in Urban Communities, hosted by Princeton's Policy Research Institute for the Region (PRIOR) and the Penn Institute for Urban Research. The audience included lawyers, planners, government officials, advocates, and analysts, with the panels generally tilted toward supporters of eminent domain who believe that smaller-scale reforms, rather than fundamental challenges, are needed.

The irony, however, is that property owners/leaseholders in Goldstein v. Pataki, the Atlantic Yards case, seek not to overturn Kelo, which libertarian opponents of eminent domain slammed, but to hold the Supreme Court to what may be a difficult-to-enforce doctrine, that eminent domain should proceed only after carefully formulated plans and when there are no questions that the transfer is a pretext to assist a private party.


Posted by eric at 8:14 AM


By Mary Campbell Gallagher
(Exclusive to NoLandGrab)

This Thursday, June 12, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will meet to decide whether to hear arguments in an eminent domain case reflecting every property owner's worst nightmares. Five years ago residents in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn learned that politicians were skipping the city's zoning and approval procedures so the state could use eminent domain to seize their homes and businesses, bulldoze 14-plus residential acres, sell the 8.3 acres of railyards at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues to developer Bruce Ratner, and fast-track an 18,000-seat arena for Ratner's professional basketball team, plus starchitect Frank Gehry's titanium-wrapped towers. Ratner would market the whole no-bid development under the name Atlantic Yards.

In response, eleven outraged Brooklynites brought a federal lawsuit asserting the startling claim that at Atlantic Yards politicians are using eminent domain for a land grab to enrich a private developer at their expense, and not, as the government claims, to create a "public benefit." Plaintiffs in Goldstein v. Pataki argue that Ratner will lease the basketball arena at $1 a year but his annual profit will be in the millions, so the arena is no public benefit. Plaintiff Daniel Goldstein tells me his apartment will be in center court. Plaintiffs argue that the government's belated revulsion at "blight" in their gentrifying neighborhood is transparently fake. They point to the U.S. Supreme Court's saying in 2005 in Kelo v. New London that the U.S. Constitution does not permit the pretext of public purposes to qualify a project for eminent domain when the real purpose is private benefits. The federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals, they argue, wrongly refused to give them access to documents proving New York officials' illegal intentions.

Startling as their claim is, the Brooklyn plaintiffs have not argued strongly enough. To halt Atlantic Yards, the U.S. Supreme Court need not eyeball a single government email, because New York politicos' public actions loudly betray their unlawful intent. If I pull a chair out from under a woman who is about to sit down, the law says my intent was for her to hit the floor: no verbal evidence is necessary. Similarly, if skipping normal legal procedures pops the cork on limitless profits for Bruce Ratner, the government's intent must be private benefits.

Look at what the politicos did. In the sham bidding for rights to the 8.3-acre Metropolitan Transit Authority railyards, another developer submitted a higher bid, yet Ratner won. Bad enough. What's worse is that since Atlantic Yards is a no-bid job, there was no competition at all for the 14.5 acres of Prospect Heights where the Empire State Development Corporation wants to exercise eminent domain. If Ratner reaps excess profits there, it is a government-intended private benefit. Ditto for short-cuts for selecting a project, selecting a developer, setting the price and, especially, changing the zoning.

New York City's established zoning rules prohibit building skyscrapers at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. They prohibit inserting the gigantic bulk of a sports arena into any residential neighborhood. The City Charter's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) compels local community boards and the City Planning Commission to hold hearings on major zoning changes, culminating in a City Council hearing and vote.

Mayor Bloomberg, however, bypassed ULURP and handed decision-making on Atlantic Yards to a secretive state agency, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which can order eminent domain and which overrides local zoning.

By that one stroke, handing the project to the ESDC, the Mayor removed all limits on the size and density and, therefore, profitability of Atlantic Yards. He plunged its financials into darkness, eliminated a possible Council veto, and assured Ratner use of the state's power of eminent domain. Let's call it by its right name: a private benefit for Bruce Ratner.

The Second Circuit said courts must defer to the legislature. The ESDC, however, is no legislature. It is accountable only to the governor.

Large-scale development proposals like Atlantic Yards always cause controversy. Some New Yorkers loved Ratner's promise to replace a lowrise neighborhood with Manhattan-style skyscrapers, offices, condos, and some units of subsidized housing. Others said it would destroy the character of Brooklyn. But loudest of all was the cry that the nationwide epidemic of eminent domain enriches private interests and threatens everyone's home.

No fair-minded person claims that setting limits on eminent domain should be easy. The Brooklyn plaintiffs merely ask the Supreme Court to clarify the constitutional rules, saying lower courts are confused. The High Court unleashed a national furor in 2005 by holding in Kelo that even "economic development" justifies eminent domain if it bears a "rational relationship to a conceivable public use." With Atlantic Yards, the Second Circuit used a "public benefits" justification for applying the same rule. Yet Kelo also said that the mere pretext of public benefits cannot suffice, when the real purpose is private benefits. In the conflict with the Second Circuit that qualifies Goldstein for possible Supreme Court review, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in July 2007 declined to permit the government to use eminent domain just to benefit a private developer, in Franco v. National Capital Revitalization Corporation.

To uncover government officials' unlawful intent to confer a private benefit, to make the Brooklynites' homes and businesses safe, to safeguard us all from government abuse of eminent domain, the Supreme Court need only instruct the Second Circuit to look at New York politicos' actions. Their actions shout cronyism, and the U.S. Constitution says No.

Mary Campbell Gallagher is business owner, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and a frequent writer on urban legal issues. She has published reviews, essays, and op-eds in publications including *The Nation, The Weekly Standard, Newsday, and Metro New York. Her Manhattan-based business, BarWrite®, offers large-group classes to candidates for the bar examination.*

Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

A Look Ahead to the June Conferences

SCOTUS Blog [Supreme Court of the United States Blog] adds the Atlantic Yards federal eminent domain case, Goldstein v. Pataki, to its watch list as the Justices consider which cases to hear in the fall:

Before departing for the summer, the Justices will no doubt aim to fill the remainder of the October, November and December docket. Unless the Court opts to hear argument in more than two cases per day during those months, which is a possibility, it would need to grant cert in four additional cases to fill out the fall calendar. (UPDATE: Earlier today, Chief Justice Roberts announced the Court would hear three arguments per day in October and November. As a result, the Court will need to grant 14 cases before the summer recess to fill the fall calendar.)
Finally, in a high profile case that did not make our watch list — Goldstein v. Pataki (07-1247) — the Justices will consider an eminent domain challenge by a group of Brooklyn residents to the construction of an arena slated to house the professional basketball franchise currently located in New Jersey. Cert filings in the case are available here.


Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

The art of honesty

The Brooklyn Paper
By Marie Cunningham

Bruce Ratner rent-a-cops doing security detail in the footprint of Atlantic Yards and the developer's two malls adjacent to the site have a bad rep for being heavy handed when trying to clear public sidewalks of project critics.

This week, one Ratner security guard ends up being the nice guy in a story about an artist's examination into city living and its effects on human nature.


Artist Jillian May had a simple idea: for two weeks last month, she set out baked goods on an unmanned table on Dean Street with a sign that asked customers to deposit 25 cents in a jar.

Some people stole the food.

Others stole the money.

And vandals broke the jar.

In other words, it was a successful project!

Indeed, after a rough start, May said she began to see the better side of humanity, noting that area residents, workers and business owners began protecting her kiosk (and money) when the cookies and cupcakes ran out each day.

One of the kiosk’s biggest supporters was Peter Parker, 54, a security guard at the demolition site that may someday be the Atlantic Yards mega-project across the street from May’s kiosk, between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues in Prospect Heights.

Parker was not only May’s first customer every morning (his favorite was the vegan chocolate chip cookies), but he watched the stand — an example of the integrity May hoped the project would inspire.

Parker even said he once caught someone trying to steal the money jar. “He put it back and apologized to me,” he said.


NoLandGrab: Hmm... people taking things that don't belong to them when they think no one is paying attention around Atlantic Yards?? Thank goodness someone is looking out for the community.

Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

"The Battle for the World's Skyline" sounded better in the original German

Atlantic Yards Report

Portfolio.com's Felix Salmon points to a Business Week article--well, an article on the magazine's web site--called The Battle for the World's Skyline, which is translated from and apparently written from a German perspective.

Salmon observes:

And it would be very hard indeed to find many New Yorkers who agree with the Business Week article that the scaling-back of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is "a tough blow for New York". (I suspect the authors will have lost most Brooklynites when they describe the area as "an industrial wasteland".)

Rather than try to build on that critique, I'll just translate the passage about AY from English back to German, then back to English, courtesy of Babelfish.

Click here to see how "Herr Oder" occupies himself in his spare time, when he's feelin' dank.

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

Atlantic Yards: Sidewalk Closed Ahead

AK-SidewalkClosed.jpgBrit in Brooklyn

Photographer Adrian Kinloch is gearing up to do a GPS-tagged post on "graphics around the footprint" this week: "Many of the signs here feature words like detour, or closed."

Kinloch posted this preview (link).

Posted by lumi at 4:12 AM

Forest City in the News

The Express Times, Decline of Summit a mixed blessing
Forest City walks away from a project in Bethlehem Township.

It was envisioned to be a new center for the township with more than 1 million square feet of retail space and hundreds of homes for various income levels.

Now after six years and more than $20 million in planning costs later, the Summit Lehigh Valley project at Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue is no more.

Forest City hoped to continue pursuing the project, but its option to purchase the land from owner Elaine Emrick expired and it was unable to secure an extension, said Jeff Linton, vice president of corporate communication for Forest City. Emrick did not return a call for comment Friday.

The project stalled because of the housing market conditions, a slowdown in the retail industry and delays in the public infrastructure process, Linton said. Forest City and other nearby developers hit a snag over sewer service before the township and the city of Bethlehem reached an agreement last year.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City's loss widens in first quarter

A $21.5 million write off for the project in Bethlehem Township and the increased carrying costs of the money-sucking New Jersey Nets put a big dent in the Forest City balance sheet;:

A dropped property deal and continued losses on the New Jersey Nets basketball teamed dragged down Forest City Enterprises during the first quarter.

The mega-developer, based in downtown Cleveland, reported earnings after the market closed Thursday. The good news: Revenues jumped 14.6 percent, compared with the same quarter a year before. The bad: Losses widened to $40.3 million -- 39 cents a share -- during the three months that ended April 30. That compares to a $17.2 million loss, or 17 cents a share, during the first quarter of 2007.

It's not unusual for Forest City, which buys, sells and develops property, to see wild swings in its quarterly earnings. A significant property sale can boost profits, while -- in the case of the recent quarter -- abandoned development plans can mean big losses.
"We prudently abandoned the project and have written off the related costs," Charles Ratner, Forest City's president and chief executive, said in a news release. "We are well aware of the risks inherent in the real estate development business, even as we continue to seek new opportunities."

Forest City also lost money on its 22 percent ownership stake in the Nets, for whom the developer plans a new arena at its controversial Atlantic Yards development in New York City. The team's total money losses did not change significantly from the beginning of 2007 to early 2008, but Forest City shouldered a greater portion of those losses during the recent quarter, said Michael Lonsway, vice president of strategy and investment.

An article about the tortured history of development in the Rockaways contains this bit about a past Forest City Ratner proposal:

To revive the local economy, community and city officials tried for decades to lure private developers to the Arverne Urban Renewal Area, which was under the authority of HPD. Two major proposals were forwarded in the 1980s and 90s: first a Forest City Ratner project to build 10,000 condo units on the beach collapsed under its own scale; then a Toronto-based developer planned a massive sports and entertainment complex, Destination Technodome, that would have created thousands of jobs but was scuttled because of poor transit options. Both plans came in an era of stagnant real estate development across the city, when developers seemed to abandon lots more frequently than develop on them.

Columbus Dispatch, Conventional decisions
Forest City Enterprises provides a cautionary tale for an article comparing Columbus, OH's convention center amenities to other cities:

On the other hand, Pittsburgh and Columbus both lack enough full-service hotel rooms adjacent to the convention center. Plans in Pittsburgh for a hotel attached to the convention center have been stalled for several years as the interested developer, Cleveland-based Forest City, envisions something smaller than the 1,000-room hotel VisitPittsburgh wants there.

Posted by lumi at 3:44 AM

June 10, 2008

In dueling briefs, AY eminent domain case ramps up for Supreme Court conference

Atlantic Yards Report

On Thursday, June 12, the justices will meet to decide whether to accept the appeal in the case, known as Goldstein v. Pataki, in which 11 residential and commercial property owners and leaseholders are challenging the state’s plan to use eminent domain to take their properties for Atlantic Yards.

The justices’s decision to accept the case or not should be made public next week. Their decision will be based not on an evaluation of errors in the lower court decisions but on whether they think there are doctrinal differences nationally regading interpretations of the Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo v. New London eminent domain case that must be resolved.

The crux of the Brooklyn case (briefs here), which now involves an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief from the libertarian Institute for Justice, can be seen through two lenses. If the government can claim that there are public benefits from the use of eminent domain, the plaintiffs contend, that shouldn't shut off any inquiry into governmental decisionmaking. By contrast, the defendants argue that if evidence of pretextual benefits appear flimsy and eminent domain would produce public benefits, such a case shouldn't proceed.

Depending upon how the US Supremem Court should choose to act, Norman Oder explains the procedure and timeline of the possible outcomes in the rest of the article.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 PM

A Footprint Heat Wave Haiku

The Footprint Gazette
posted a heat-wave special,
a haiku for you:

It's Too Hot Inside
A Ha! Open The Windows!
Now It's Too Loud, Crap.

Posted by lumi at 7:41 PM

Cities vs Skyscrapers

Market Movers

by Felix Salmon

Condé Nast Portfolio columnist Felix Salmon critiques BusinessWeek's recent proposition that when it comes to architecture, bigger (and newer) is always better.

Many thanks to Matthew for pointing me to an extremely peculiar 3,000-word Business Week feature on global architecture. If you want proof that the teachings of Jane Jacobs have yet to sink in around much of the rest of the world, then all you need to do is read this article, which paints global architectural activity as, in the words of the headline, "The Battle for the World's Skyline".

And it would be very hard indeed to find many New Yorkers who agree with the Business Week article that the scaling-back of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is "a tough blow for New York". (I suspect the authors will have lost most Brooklynites when they describe the area as "an industrial wasteland".)


Posted by lumi at 1:29 PM

The Battle for the World's Skyline

Cities like London and New York don't have the money to keep up with Asia, Russia, and the Persian Gulf. Is the Western urban landscape out of date?

by Ulrike Knöfel, Frank Hornig and Bernhard Zand

From a Western perspective, at least, this is precisely the problem. Economically booming megacities — such as Beijing, Shanghai and Dubai — where extravagant skyscrapers are shooting up all over, mean that cities like New York are beginning to look old and outdated, despite attempts to modernize. In Europe, the eastern part is beginning to look more modern than the western part. Cities like Istanbul and Moscow are more dynamic than London, Paris or Milan.

There have never been this many skyscrapers on the drawing boards, with most of them planned for the world's new boom towns. The West is eying this development with jealousy, all the more intense for its inability to compete. The massive downturn in the American credit market has caused the cancellation or postponement of many major architectural and urban-planning projects.

Yet another of Gehry's urban improvement ventures has run into difficulties. Gehry was commissioned to transform an industrial wasteland in Brooklyn into a mixed-use architectural pearl. The price tag of the Atlantic Yards project — which New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised as a "colossal achievement of one of the world's leading architects" — was $4 billion (€2.6 billion). But demand has been unsatisfactory, and Gehry was forced to reduce the size of the largest tower in the complex. According to the developers, construction of several of the planned buildings will be placed on hold.

It's a tough blow for New York. For real estate aficionados, it remains the "ultimate 24-hour American city," a place that attracts the global elite. But it takes some effort and a constant series of facelifts to keep it that way. Where else but in New York is there so must distaste for any form of inertia?


NoLandGrab: "Damned lawsuits! I bought this overpriced Brooklyn condo because I thought this backwater was going to be more like Istanbul or Moscow."

Posted by lumi at 12:48 PM

Unpacking a fib in the ESDC's Supreme Court brief

Atlantic Yards Report

ESDCSCOTUS-AY.gif Norman Oder calls deceptive wording in the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) legal brief to the US Supreme Court a "fib," which Webster defines as "a trivial or childish lie."

Just because it's subtle doesn't make it "trivial," especially when people's homes and the powers-of-eminent-domain clause of the Fifth Amendment are at stake.

Judge for yourself:

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in its brief arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court should not hear the Atlantic Yards eminent domain appeal, fibs about its history, using circular logic that suggests a court has defined the agency's job as encouraging projects like Atlantic Yards.
[T]here's no connection between the phrases; the encouragement of "maximum participation" by the private sector comes from a law passed in 1968, while the promotion of “large-scale real estate projects" comes from a 2006 decision from a New York State appeals court. The state court's decision simply adopted phrasing from the ESDC's own brief in that case.

And where did the phrasing in that earlier brief come from? The ESDC's own mission statement.

As I pointed out in May 2007, it's a neat maneuver, with circular logic. First, the ESDC announces its mission on its web site. It describes its mission in legal papers. A New York State appellate court adopts that language. Now, in legal papers, the ESDC cites the definition as emanating from the court, not itself.

Click here to get the details of what the ESDC said, and when they said it.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere118.gifGowanus Lounge, Hardcore Demolition Porn Video, Senior Citizen Edition
GoLo on the video taken last week of major demolition activity outside an elderly woman's window:

We’ll leave aside the assertion in this video as to whether or not this video shows “harassment” of senior citizens by Bruce Ratner to get to the crux of the issue: it painfully the demonstrates the extreme violence being done to the quality of life of an elderly woman that is enduring Atlantic Yards demolition work going on outside her window. The video shows how deeply construction and demolition work can violate the core of one’s life.
We often joke about demolition porn, but this video, frankly is about as pornographic as things get. Hardcore.

Daily Intel, Neighborhood Watch

Prospect Heights: The law firm that lost a 2005 Connecticut eminent-domain case in the U.S. Supreme Court has filed to get the Supremes to stop the Atlantic Yards project, saying that government officials approved it as a favor to developer Bruce Ratner. [NYS]

NoLandGrab: This isn't quite right; the Institute for Justice did not file a case to STOP the Atlantic Yards project, it an AMICUS BRIEF arguing that the Supreme Court should set some limits to the use of eminent domain and that the case concerning Atlantic Yards should be sent back down to be heard in the lower court.

Yonkers Tribune, Institute for Justice (IJ) Files Amicus in Brooklyn Eminent Domain Case
The Yonkers news and politics blog posted the press release from the Institute for Justice. Since Bruce Ratner is their favorite overdeveloper too, they like to keep an eye on what's doin' in Ratnerville, Brooklyn.

Room8, Strange Bedfellows

More commentary on the amicus brief from the Institute for Justice:

Why is DDBB so intent on being the right’s useful idiots?

Whatever DDDB’s intent, the roster of Justices who took their side in Kelo were all the usual far-right suspects. It would have been far better to fight for changes in eminent domain law in the legislature, rather than to try to repeal two centuries of constitutional law. Or did they think this was Dred Scott?

Atlantic Yards opponents have an unhealthy belief that if something is bad public policy it is therefore unconstitutional, and should be struck down, by any means necessary, no matter what the consequences.

NoLandGrab: Crazy — how come when a bunch of bleeding-heart right-wingers make some sense, knee-jerk arch-lefties have to take the opposite view?

Author J. Cheever's suggestion that legislative reform is the way to go in NY State betrays a worrisome lack of interest about how things get done (or don't get done) in Albany.

Also, if something may be unconsitutional and gets stuck in the courts because citizens are trying to get a fair hearing regarding their property rights, it certainly isn't good public policy.

Neighborhood Retail Alliance, O'Keeffe's Kerfuffle
You gotta love Richard Lipsky. When Daily News columnist Michael O'Keeffe writes a scathing column about last week's "I-heart-Ratnerville Rally," it's because O'Keeffe "doesn't like Bruce Ratner." Sure, it had NOTHING to do with the fact that the rally was lame and was attended by folks looking for a free sandwich and people bussed in by paid supporters.

The reality here is that our client Forest City and the Nets see the youngsters as their future stakeholders once the team comes to Brooklyn, as it will in two years in spite of O'Keeffe's willing disbelief.

There's nothing sinister in enlightened self-interest, whether it is expressed by FCRC, the Brownsville Rec Center, the Flatbush Youth Association, the Brooklyn Falcons, the Brooklyn Saints, or the CYO contingent-well represented by hundreds of happy young folks who appreciate the company's support and look forward to a continuing partnership once AY is opened and the team is finally playing in 2010.

Bay Ridge Journal, Ratner Hosts Brooklyn Day "Rally"
BRJ reblogged the Daily News article that heralded last week's Go-Atlantic-Yards Rally.

Posted by lumi at 3:56 AM

June 9, 2008

Manholes - And What They Can Teach Us

The Footprint Gazette

The new blog diagnoses the cause behind the symptom of exploding manhole covers on Dean Street.


Did anyone else hear those manholes exploding up and down Dean St. yesterday? Did you hear what they were trying to tell us? Three manholes did their inaugural summer dances early yesterday evening prompting the fire department to take what must have been one of their shortest drives down to the end of their block. It also prompted the regulars at Freddy's to take the short trip outside to see what all the commotion was about.

I'll tell you what the commotion was all about. The city, the streets of the city, were trying to tell us something. They are ill and they angry. They are upset that on the other end of the block the sewer pipes have been exposed to help expedite the flushing of your tax dollars. Millions of your bucks are heading down that there exposed drain to prep for an arena that stands as an emblem of civic dysfunction. Meanwhile the city's infrastructure requires those dollars to keep things like manhole explosions from halting day to day life.

I don't know if the manholes popping were directly related to the construction blighting up the block, but I do know that the juxtaposition of the two painted a pretty precise painting of why this project stinks.


Posted by eric at 2:27 PM

IJ Files Amicus in Brooklyn Eminent Domain Case

Supreme Court Should Preserve Judiciary's Role In Examining the Question of "Public Use"

Arlington, Va.—Does a city have the power to transfer property from one private owner to another just because the government claims the transfer is for a "public use" or are questions about what defines a genuine public use best answered by an independent judiciary rather than self-interested politicians? That is the question before the U.S. Supreme Court in Goldstein v. Pataki. Although the Supreme Court expanded the definition of "public use" in its 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, the Institute for Justice argues in its amicus brief filed with the court that it did not change the process by which courts determine whether a use is "public."

IJ's brief urges the Court to defend a citizen's right to have a judge examine whether a city's claim of "public use" is actually public use or merely a pretext for transferring property from one private entity to another for the latter's benefit, as is the case in Brooklyn. IJ's seeks to stop the subversion of the Fifth Amendment and the unconstitutional seizure of homes and small businesses.

Daniel Goldstein, a Brooklyn property owner, along with ten co-plaintiffs, sued the state government of New York, arguing that the state's claim of "public use" when using eminent domain for the (now financially questionable) Atlantic Yards project was simply a pretext for amassing land for the private benefit of developer Bruce Ratner. A Second Circuit Appeals Court dismissed the case earlier this year, holding that taking property from one person to give to another is constitutional—so long as the government asserts some public purpose.

"Although Kelo clearly expanded the definition of 'public use' to include economic development, the Supreme Court was also clear that government cannot take property simply for the private benefit of another party even if the government claims it is for public use," said Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. "The court needs to assert that public use is more than just a formality for cities to manipulate to mean whatever they choose."

IJ's brief asks that the court "clarify that Kelo did not remove the federal courts' power to hear and adjudicate—on their merits—claims of bad-faith or pretextual takings under the U.S. Constitution." Although cities may claim "public use," Goldstein's case questions whether a private citizen has a chance to dispute in court a city's public use claim when there may be clear evidence to the contrary. According to the brief, there is confusion in the lower courts as to whether there is even any role for the judiciary to examine whether a city's public use claim is true and reflects the actual purpose of an invocation of eminent domain for economic development.

Three years ago, IJ brought the case of New London homeowner Susette Kelo before the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the court ruled against Kelo, allowing the city of New London to seize her home for a private redevelopment plan, the decision provoked a nationwide backlash. Since the decision, 42 states have reformed their laws, protecting property owners from having their land seized for economic development. New York is among the eight states that have blocked eminent domain reforms.

Legal filings on the Brooklyn case, including the Institute for Justice's amicus brief, can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/php/reading/legal/eminentdomain


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

Today in AY: FCR Rally Panned; Amicus Brief Filed


Battles over Atlantic Yards' PR face and legal validity continue to rage. On the image front, Daily News sports columnist Michael O'Keefe has a withering piece about the rally Forest City Ratner sponsored at Borough Hall last week in order to demonstrate support for Atlantic Yards. O'Keefe says the developer's statement that 3,500 supporters showed up for the event "seemed extremely optimistic" and that "the speakers at the rally sounded like Hillary Clinton in the waning weeks of her failed presidential campaign: angry and frustrated, stunned at the prospect of defeat when they once expected a slam dunk." The lawsuit-plagued project recently got its latest legal challenge in the form of an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, according to an article in today's Sun. Public-interest firm Institute for Justice, which challenged the use of eminent domain in Kelo v. City of New London, filed the brief on the grounds that it wants the Supreme Court to use it "to clarify how much leeway courts still have to halt the use of eminent domain." It's unclear whether the high court will hear the case, which is brought by residents in the Atlantic Yards footprint who are supposed to be booted from their properties in order for the project to proceed.


Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Prominent Law Firm Urges Atlantic Yards Development Be Stopped

The NY Sun
By Joseph Goldstein

The public interest law firm that challenged the use of eminent domain in the landmark case Kelo v. City of New London is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

In a friend-of-the-court brief recently filed in the federal high court, the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice called on the court to hear an appeal brought by a handful of residents who would be ousted by the Atlantic Yards project. The Supreme Court has not yet indicated whether it will hear the case.
Lawyers for the Institute for Justice argue that the Supreme Court should overturn the two lower courts and affirm that the use of eminent domain is unconstitutional when the seizure of property is made in "bad faith or for pretextual reasons," such as to benefit a private developer, the brief said.


NoLandGrab: Despite the headline and lead, the amicus brief filed by the Institute for Justice calls on the Supreme Court to hear the case, not stop the project.

Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

Markowitz purges more of Brooklyn Community Board 6

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President and Atlantic Yards Cheerleader in Chief Marty Markowitz still has the urge to purge members of Community Board 6, ostensibly because of members took a strongly worded position against Bruce Ratner's controversial megadevelopment.

Just as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was gamely recognizing former Brooklyn Community Board 6 chairman Jerry Armer, who was being honored by the Park Slope Civic Council, the BP was continuing his purge of CB 6 for its stance against Atlantic Yards.

The Courier-Life, in an article headlined "CB 6 is shaken to its core," reports that Celia Cacace, a board member since 1982, says Markowitz told her in 2006 that he wouldn't reappoint her when her term came up and treated her coldly ever since. She learned of the decision through a form letter. Like Armer, she said she would still attend CB meetings.


Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM

Pritzker Prize Winners Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Renzo Piano

The Charlie Rose Show

Gehry-CharlieRose.jpg During a panel discussion among Pritzker Prize Winners, Atlantic Yards designer Frank Gehry reveals why he probably shouldn't be talking to the media about the 16-highrise superblock megaproject.

A short discussion of Atlantic Yards starts around 24:15 on the video broadcast (link):

Despite four generations of renderings and models released to the public, Gehry claimed that "nobody has seen it until a few weeks ago, for the first time."

NoLandGrab: The Charlie Rose Show used drawings from the third-generation design of Atlantic Yards, released in May, 2006. Frank Gehry may recall that he was present at the unveiling.

In a moment of clarity, Gehry admits "It went through a fairly creative, but a legal and business and city-planning process. I think in the end it was going in the right way. It's smaller because we always knew it probably would be smaller."

NLG: "Fairly creative, but... legal," is a "fairly creative, but legal" standard for any city-planning or approval process, but that's what makes Atlantic Yards special.

Atlantic Yards Report, On Charlie Rose, Gehry claims that old AY designs were never legit
Norman Oder posted play-by-play commentary on Frank Gehry's segment on Atlantic Yards and analysis of relevant remarks from the same discussion by Zaha Hadid.

Posted by lumi at 4:19 AM

June 8, 2008

Times Public Editor says Op-Ed page must respect facts (but what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt last Sunday pointed out that the Times's op-ed page should pay attention to verifiable facts--a deficit, as I've pointed out, that applies to coverage of Atlantic Yards.

AYR cites some of these deficits, most of which involve where the site is actually located:

In that same Op-Ed, Manbeck described Forest City Ratner Companies' plan to build a sports arena surrounded by 17 imposing high-rise buildings on the Atlantic Avenue railyards.

Of course, the railyards would represent less than 40% of the project site, and the Times corrected similar errors in its news pages. Shipley wrote to me with a rather evasive explanation:
I'm afraid I disagree with you regarding the railyards -- for Mr. Manbeck to say that the project was on the railyards does not exclude the possibility that it could overflow them.

I asked how that could square with other corrections the Times wrote. He responded:
Real estate and Op-Ed are different departments. They do their corrections and we do ours. The phrase in question, as I explained earlier, seems to me to be a question of interpretation: for Mr. Manbeck to state that the project was on the railyards does not exclude the possibility that it could overflow them.

That true, but that's like saying that someone who is five feet tall could also be six feet tall.


Posted by amy at 5:20 PM

Atlantic Yards Camera Club Part 2: The Atlantic Center Incident

Brit in Brooklyn

Norman Oder (right) has been trying to get an explanation from the police as to why we were removed from the Atlantic Center plaza, during the Build It Now rally. There's an update on Atlantic Yards Report today.

The AYR blog also ran an open invitation from Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Executive Committee, for people to take pictures at tomorrow's FCR organised rally:

"...this will be an excellent opportunity to come out to a FREE event... FREE food and give-away's. Get a chance to meet some celebrity basketball players from the NETS... and take pictures... and enjoy the day."
(Our emphasis)


Posted by amy at 5:12 PM

Atlantic Yards Camera Club Part 1: Blip TV


Brit in Brooklyn

Blip TV filmed Tracy Collins and myself around the Atlantic Yards footprint this afternoon. While we were there I took some shots from the sidewalk and was told by a security guard I could not be there. Has FCR snapped up Dean Street?


Posted by amy at 5:09 PM

All drawn out


The Brooklyn Paper

Posted by amy at 5:05 PM

Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn Day a dud


NY Daily News
Michael O'Keeffe

Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn Day was billed as a celebration, but Thursday's pep rally to whip up support for the Nets owner's controversial Atlantic Yards project seemed more like a goal-line stand than a party.

The speakers at the rally sounded like Hillary Clinton in the waning weeks of her failed presidential campaign: angry and frustrated, stunned at the prospect of defeat when they once expected a slam dunk.
The quality of the crowd at Columbus Park was easier to gauge than the quantity; nobody, it seemed, had come to Brooklyn Day because they believed Atlantic Yards was crucial to New York's future. The youth basketball groups came because Ratner has sponsored their tournaments. The workers from Borough Hall and the nearby courthouses came for the free sandwiches Forest City Ratner passed out. The kids - was it coincidence or conspiracy that Ratner scheduled the event on a day public schools were closed - came for the free key chains and autographs of former Nets who retired from the NBA long before they were even born. The unions came because Ratner has promised to hire organized labor.

"I gave up my lunch break for a free hot dog and to support my union," one suspiciously red-eyed construction worker said.

"Got any weed?" his buddy asked.

NoLandGrab: Perhaps if they had advertised magic brownies they could have attracted a larger, if not more energetic crowd.

Atlantic Yards Report was happy a print reporter actually showed up:

New York Daily News sports columnist Michael O'Keeffe was in the audience at Borough Hall on Thursday and--like any sports reporter trained to tell the story of the game in front of him, not the press release--told it like it was.
I've been suggesting for nearly two years that columnists should cover Atlantic Yards. That means actually showing up.

Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

No, they're not removing rail lines for Atlantic Yards


Atlantic Yards Report

The criticism of Atlantic Yards has stretched far and wide enough to get garbled along the way. Note this discussion with James Howard Kunstler and Nikos Salingaros, published in the City of the Future blog and in EnergyBulletin.

(The Atlantic Yards reference was among the sections cut in the interview as published in the magazine The Next American City. Photo by Tracy Collins.)

Salingaros states:
In New York now there’s a new project, the Atlantic Yards project, where a world famous architect is proposing to tear up all the rail lines, and they’re going to do that, and someone is going to make billions of dollars. And in 30 years, people will say, “My God! We had rail lines here! They were entering New York City! Now we can’t possibly afford to put rail lines in. Where are we going to put them? We have to put them on the water.” Catastrophic short-sightedness to dig up existing rail lines.

Actually, the rail lines servicing Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal remain unscathed. The project would relocate the railyard used to store and service the trains.


Posted by amy at 11:25 AM

Antonovich questions plan to again delay Grand Avenue project's start

LA Times
Cara Mia DiMassa

The developer says the postponement is necessary because of the tight credit market. County supervisor calls for the Frank Gehry-designed project across from Disney Hall to be put out to bid again.
Supervisor Mike Antonovich issued a statement late Friday calling on the Grand Avenue Authority, made up of city and county officials, to put the project out to bid again.

"If other developers knew that they could delay the start date for 16 months, they would have bid the project differently," the statement said.
Grand Avenue is one of several major developments around the nation that have been delayed 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 City 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 in Manhattan.

NoLandGrab: Although it sounds like this project is suffering a similar fate to Atlantic Yards, it's important to remember that with AY, FCR was outbid from the start.

Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

June 7, 2008

Tony Avella, the Anti-Overdevelopment Candidate



City Councilman Tony Avella has been making himself known around Brooklyn lately, showing up at a community meeting about Gowanus and supporting other politicians who've called for a moratorium on Atlantic Yards demolitions. The common thread is also Avella's main talking point in his (longshot) bid to become our next mayor: Namely, that the Bloomberg administration has sold out to real estate interests, disrupting the fabric of neighborhoods and turning a deaf ear to community concerns. Voice blog Runnin' Scared has an interview with the man who wants to replace Mike. Here are some choice quotes:

"You have so many communities throughout the entire City that need to be protected from overdevelopment. You have the Department of Buildings, which is in a shambles. And it has been such a huge effort to get even the smallest rezoning, even the smallest change done within the City Council. It’s bizarre."

"Listen, a lot of my fellow councilmen seem to be more interested, along with the Speaker, in getting money from the real estate industry than stepping up and doing the right thing. I don’t need to tell you, there’s very little independence in the City Council. It’s amazing to me how nobody speaks up."


Posted by amy at 9:19 PM

From Brooklyn to DC: Kevin Powell with Theodore Hamm


The Brooklyn Rail

I first met Kevin Powell during his first campaign for Congress two years ago, when he briefly ran against Ed Towns in Brooklyn’s 10th Congressional District, which extends from Brooklyn Heights through Fort Greene and Bed Stuy to East New York. An author, community activist, and former original cast member of MTV’s The Real World, Powell is now running a full-fledged campaign for Towns’ seat. The following conversation took place in late May, at Powell’s home across from the Fort Greene Projects.
Hamm: Can you explain your position regarding Atlantic Yards, and why you’ve criticized Towns for supporting it?

Powell: I’m opposed to Atlantic Yards. As for Towns, he gets money from a lot of different places—tobacco, pharmaceuticals—and we believe he is getting money from the Atlantic Yards folks, from Ratner. Over the last few years I’ve had a chance to really study this issue. If you remember two years ago, I said that I had to get back to you about my position. Now I can say unequivocally that I do not support the use of eminent domain in a private project. I made it a point to educate myself thoroughly about that issue. I don’t support Atlantic Yards in its present form. I can’t support a project that is dividing a community racially and along class lines. Working class folks in this community have been taking money from Ratner—they have been getting money for t-shirts and bus rides to casinos and Nets games and stuff like that. They are being exploited. I come from poverty, so I understand. When I was growing up and someone said, “Hey, you get free Nets tickets,” then you’re gonna support someone that is giving you the free Nets tickets. But we’re not seeing the larger effects of the project, one of which is that we’re about to lose eleven acres of land where the Fort Greene Projects are located. If you walk around, you’ll see a lot of vacancies there. As the residents will tell you, one of the things that’s been going on is that if you have a son that lives in the projects, and he happens to get arrested outside for standing on the corner, you lose your lease automatically. Meanwhile, while that’s happening, money is being thrown at folks who are in tenants groups—“we’ll give you money for this, we’ll give you money for that,” and so you’re actually supporting Atlantic Yards while you’re being gentrified out of your own home. We’re not seeing the connection between the two. Luckily an organization like FUREE sees that connection and they are fighting back.


Posted by amy at 9:12 PM

NYPD explains May 3 incident: photographer ejected (at FCR's request) "to maintain peace"

Atlantic Yards Report

I couldn't get an answer as to why I was removed from the privately-owned, publicly-accessible plaza outside the Atlantic Terminal mall on May 3, as counter-protestors gathered in response to the "Time Out" rally. However, Brooklyn resident Sidney Meyer at least got an explanation for why photographer Adrian Kinloch was ejected: The police were acting in response to Forest City Ratner's request.

That doesn't answer why I was removed. I suspect that, after I greeted Kinloch, who was surrounded by police officers, the cops simply classified me as a Kinloch confederate, even though I said I was there only to take notes and talk to people.

That doesn't say much for Forest City Ratner's vaunted pledge, “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."


Posted by amy at 9:06 PM

Al Sharpton a No-Show at Atlantic Yards Rally

A rep, though, says he's still '100 percent' behind project

NY Observer

At Thursday's rally:

State Assemblyman Karim Camara represented Mr. Sharpton, who was “stuck in Detroit." He said Mr. Sharpton asked him to relay a message: He is 100 percent behind the Atlantic Yards project.

Mr. Sharpton made a splash in November of 2005 when he criticized Fernando Ferrer, a candidate for mayor at the time, for opposing Atlantic Yards. It was later found that Forest City Ratner, the developer for the project, had donated thousands of dollars to Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network, though he denied that the money had anything to do with his endorsement of the development.


Posted by lumi at 5:39 PM

Ratner Manufactures Rally In Support Of His AY Failure

Joshing Politics

A local political blogger believes that Ratner's rally reveals he's on the defense:

The Atlantic Yards Project envisioned by developer Bruce Ratner has fallen on hard times. With the lackluster support and energetic opposition, he has had to scale back his plans and hasn't done much except petition for more of Brooklyn's tax dollars to pay for the start-up costs. That is why he held a "Brooklyn Day" to conjure up community support of his massive plan to redevelop downtown Brooklyn.
On one hand, it is sad to see that quite a few local politicians are on board this sinking ship and that they have to try and engineer community support for something that clearly has next to nothing of the kind. On the other though, I'm glad to see these crooks going down in flames and on the defensive.


Posted by lumi at 5:27 PM

Atlantic Yards Rally Reminds us What’s at Stake for You, Me and Brooklyn

DMI Blog
by Mark Winston Griffith

Although the Atlantic Yards project has been slipping in and out of the headlines over the past year, the rally served as a reminder that construction on a project that defies reasonable scale – if built as planned it will create the most densely populated swath of land in the country – still looms over Prospect Heights. But given the fact that Ratner’s own financial constraints have put the project’s future in question, one is compelled to ask, what or who was the event trying to rally? As one opponent of the project quipped, “Most interesting to me were the ‘Build It Now Signs.’ Who are they directed at? Forest City Ratner has many acres of land they can build on. But financially they are incapable, so they turn the blame on the opponents. That message is really for Ratner, though they don’t know it.”

One obvious motivation for the rally was to boost the project’s sagging pubic image which took a hit when news surfaced that the slowing economy and Ratner’s own financial position threatened the project. By some eyewitness accounts, the rally was apparently intended to leave the impression that outside forces, like some of the pending lawsuits against it, jeopardize the project, rather than Ratner’s own precarious financial position. And there are other theories. The New York Sun suggested that the rally was orchestrated as a way for Forest City Ratner to argue for more public subsidies for the project.

At worst, Ratner will continue demolition in the footprint and piss away huge public subsidies, but fail to summon the financial will to actually build anything, thus leaving the land physically scarred, barren and useless for years, perhaps decades, to come. This of course will have the effect of preempting any other, perhaps more practical, development projects envisioned for the area. If this happens, not only would Ratner, as well as the public officials who have rooted on his urban cowboy venture, lose, but so would we all.


NoLandGrab: One theory we haven't yet seen posited in the media is that the rally was actually geared toward Chuck Ratner, CEO of Forest City Enterprises, the parent company to Forest City Ratner. The theory holds that FCE, which also owns about 22% of the Nets, might be getting ready to pull the plug on the troubled Atlantic Yards project, prompting Forest City Ratner to go to lengths to convince headquarters that all is rosy in Brooklyn: just look at all those happy constructions workers and school kids, Chuck! You wouldn't want to disappoint them, would you?

Posted by eric at 4:01 PM

The Footprint Gazette

It's probably safe to say that Atlantic Yards is the "bloggiest" overdevelopment project in the nation. With Bruce Ratner's highly controversial project being covered every which way, who woulda thunk that there was room for another blog?

This week, "The Footprint Gazette" chimed in, with its unique slice-of-life perspective of what it's like to live, work and play in "Atlantic Yards."


From a week in "the footprint" (http://thefootprintgazette.blogspot.com):

A Voice From The Occupation
Introducing The Footprint Gazette:

Why blog about it?
Much has been written about the false promises and back room deals that have become synonymous with Atlantic Yards, so this blog aims to tell you what life is like on the ground, amidst the dirt and the rubble. These are the whispers within the thunder of backhoes. This is a reminder that people still live here.
They paid our neighbors to shut up and leave. They closed our bridge, uprooted our mechanics, and our laundromats, and now they want our bar. They put port-a-potties in front of our windows, track mud on our stoops and wake our babies. They can't look us in the eye.

FG-Pee.jpg Why build a stadium when you can have a swamp?

This is just another day in the footprint, where mixing dirt and water on the street is a full time job helping to put food on the table of fellas from Long Island.

Pissing on the Footprint

Before today I may have made the case that Ratner was metaphorically pissing on this community. Well, now it's not a metaphor. I saw this guy take out his shvantz, piss in a giant styrofoam cup, then pour the piss out on the street.

How Not To Celebrate Brooklyn

I didn't get a chance to make it to FCR's "Fun Day" yesterday because I was too busy partaking in FCR's "Misery Day" being held at the same time here in the footprint. They need to schedule better.
To recap how FCR celebrates Brooklyn:

Convince non Brooklynites to show up to a rally supporting the displacement of Brooklynites. Give them sandwiches with no relationship to a borough filled with great sandwiches and invite a non-Brooklynite musician who then doesn't show up. Shame I missed it.

Video of FCR Mistreating the Elderly

This video of footprint demolition as seen from the apartment of an elderly woman who lives there has been floating about. Pretty outrageous.

Posted by lumi at 11:18 AM

Ratner Plans Pro-Arena Rally Thursday

Nets Daily

Here's one we missed from the pre-pro-Atlantic Yards rally — the third-party analysis is worth examining:

Perhaps he feels critics have gotten the upper hand in the public relations war over Atlantic Yards and the Nets’ new arena or he knows the final legal battles holding up the project are near. In any event, Bruce Ratner is planning a big four-hour rally Thursday at Brooklyn Borough Hall to “celebrate the progress of Atlantic Yards”. The rally is expected to feature an appearance by Sean Williams.


NoLandGrab: PR professionals working for Bruce Ratner should have anticipated that people would see a pro-Atlantic Yards rally a year and a half after formal approval of the project as a sign of desperation.

Here's some commentary from Nets Daily readers:

i just wish there was a definite answer here. either we are moving brooklyn and can start building the arena asap or we are not and then can be sold to a nj team to move us to newark. — xcalibur

I knew this project was in trouble, but I didn’t think it was this far gone. — openhead

This actually only draws attention to the controversy around the arena. This is just silly. — Wick

The only reason people are going to show up is to get some free food and see if Jay Z stops by. It seems like a poorly put together last second event that will do nothing for the project. — Trenton

The Nets are moving to Brooklyn - the sooner you all realize that it’s a reality and not a dream the easier it will be for everyone. — BrooklynZoo

Posted by lumi at 10:00 AM

TODAY: 2 MEGA Stoop Sales!

Benefiting Develop Don't Destroy. 10am - 4pm

Stoop Sale 1: 622 Carlton Avenue. Between Park and Prospect Place.

Stoop Sale 2: 420 Dean Street (between 4th and 5th Avenues)

DONATE or SHOP FOR: Arts & Crafts, Toys, Good books, Music & media, Clean - lightly used clothing, Household items and Small Furniture.

Posted by amy at 9:15 AM

Was that FCE's Chuck Ratner at the "Brooklyn Day" rally?


Atlantic Yards Report

Though Forest City Ratner head Bruce Ratner was nowhere in evidence at the "Brooklyn Day" rally at Borough Hall yesterday, his cousin Chuck Ratner--or someone who looks very much like him--was in attendance. Chuck Ratner is the president and CEO of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises (FCE), parent of Forest City Ratner.

He's notable for saying that "we still need more" subsidies and offering dubious promises about the AY timetable. Was he in Brooklyn to lobby local officials, to take the measure of AY supporters and opponents, or simply to absorb the spirit of a "fun day,"? In the photo, at least, he looks pensive.


Posted by amy at 8:50 AM

Brooklyn: Dazed and Confused


not another f*cking blog! covers "Brooklyn Day," which by our count seems to have garnered more ridicule than positive coverage:

To me it seemed desperate, sad and pathetic. Bruce Ratner didn't even show up. I guess he knew how lame it was going to be.

If Forest City Ratner hadn't given away food and t-shirts, hadn't had the unions "ask" their members to take the day off and attend, hadn't had "supporters" bussed to the event, hadn't "invited" former and current ball players to stand on the steps behind the podium, and hadn't delegated his underlings to organize and coordinate the "celebration", the only ones who would have shown up were the people who happened to be going to one of the many government offices in the area, those heading to the green market (unrelated to the "rally"), and the media recording the charade for posterity.

NoLandGrab: View more of Tracy Collins' photos here.

Posted by amy at 8:42 AM

Atlantic Yards Supporters Rally in Downtown Brooklyn



Rallies aren’t just for grassroots activists – moneyed developers can hold them too, as Bruce Ratner proved yesterday by financing an afternoon rally in downtown Brooklyn to support his beleaguered Atlantic Yards project. Organizers of the so-called “Brooklyn Day” event handed out free hot dogs and T-shirts to passersby in an attempt to drum up enthusiasm for the $4.2 billion project, though there were no free turkeys to fully evoke the Tammany Hall spirit.

NoLandGrab: More of Adrian Kinloch's photos of the event can be found here.

Posted by amy at 8:36 AM

Answers About Development on the Hudson, Part 2


NY Times' City Room blog hosts Ned Sullivan, the president of Scenic Hudson, answering questions about NYC development and smart growth. Needless to say, Atlantic Yards does not fall into the "smart" category. But the Atlantic Yards bad development example is so pervasive, it's actually used in a question, not an answer:

Q: I saw the renderings and the plans for the Hudson Yards proposal that won. Between now and the time it is built, what economic forces will shape the eventual outcome and what might it actually look like?

Like the Atlantic Yards, might some of it become a parking lot until there is demand for more buildings? Will the park portions come last? What effect will the extension of the 7 train, and the 10th Ave stop in particular, have on what gets built? Will the Hudson River portion of the park come last?

— Posted by AlexB

A: I’ve seen “good” developments transformed almost overnight into projects that harm neighborhoods and the environment, so it’s critical for New York City residents to keep a close eye on future progress at Hudson Yards. It’s also crucial that the city and M.T.A. invite public input every step along the way and force the Related Companies to live up to its promises, especially concerning open space.


Posted by amy at 8:26 AM

June 6, 2008

"Fun day"? At FCR’s “Brooklyn Day” rally, déjà vu and defensiveness

Atlantic Yards Report

Dee%26RatneritesAK.jpg Norman Oder has the play-by-play of yesterday's Forest City Ratner-sponsored "Brooklyn Day" rally, and it seems the playbook has not been updated.

If you listened to the arguments for Atlantic Yards offered at the Forest City Ratner-sponsored “Brooklyn Day” rally yesterday at Borough Hall, they sounded suspiciously like those aired at rallies in 2004, or the public meetings in 2006. Jobs, housing, and hoops. The half-century-old loss of the Dodgers. The failure of “opponents” to step up.

The difference in 2008, with the project at this moment stalled, was a palpable air of defensiveness, calls for “our share” and “a piece of the pie,” even as developer Forest City Ratner, behind the scenes, seeks more subsidies.

The edge in Borough President Marty Markowitz’s voice was undeniable, as he and others flailed the opposition for delaying the project, but offering no more insight other than “build it now.” They mentioned nothing about the credit crisis, the limited pool of tax-exempt bonds, the state’s extended deadline for construction, and the developer’s subsidy request.

Though speakers like ACORN New York head Bertha Lewis and Carpenters Union Local 926 President Sal Zarzana at times were able to whip up the crowd, Brooklyn was just not very much in the house.


NoLandGrab: While several speakers cited the need to feed families and to create affordable housing as reasons to "build it now," no one explained how sinking nearly $1 billion into a basketball arena was a good use of a shrinking pool of tax revenues.

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM


NY Post
by Rich Calder

The regular Post headline writers must be on vacation.

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner certainly knows how to throw a party. The man who wants to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn spared no expense yesterday in organizing a gala rally on the steps of Borough Hall to garner support for his $4 billion project, which includes an NBA arena, housing and office space.

More than 3,500 people turned out for the event.

Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said the rally stunk of "desperation" and was likely done to get more subsidies.


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

M & T Bank Chief Named Development Agency Head

NY Sun
by Peter Kiefer

Robert Wilmers, chairman and CEO of Buffalo-based M&T Bank Corp., has been appointed by Governor Paterson as the new head of the Empire State Development Corporation.


Mr. Wilmers has his work cut out for him at the development agency. He will be assuming the chairmanship under a governor who wasn't elected and who may be out of office in two and a half years. The state is also facing a smaller pool of public capital and private investment for costly development projects, a number of which have been either been stalled or scrapped altogether.

The agency recently scrapped plans for a $1.8 billion expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and has been unable to breathe life into plans for renovating Pennsylvania Station and for the construction of an Atlantic Yards basketball arena and residential complex in Brooklyn.

The chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Richard Brodsky, said the appointment was secondary to what he says is a necessary restructuring of the agency.

"I don't think it matters much who it is, but whether he is willing to come in and immediately restructure from the ground up what is a dysfunctional organization," he said.


Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Ratner cooks up rally for Brooklyn project

NY Daily News
by Brooke Naylor, Ayala Falk and Melissa Grace


Scores of people turned out to support the controversial Atlantic Yards project on Thursday at a rally paid for by the developer.

As part of Brooklyn Day celebrations, Forest City Ratner handed out free hot dogs and T-shirts at Columbus Park near Borough Hall. The developer's $4.2 billion project in downtown Brooklyn includes offices, apartments and a basketball arena for the Nets.

"This is Brooklyn's future," Borough President Marty Markowitz said from the stage. "Nobody is going to hold it back, nobody. We deserve it."

The developer said 3,000 attended the rally, held on a day city public schools were closed.


NoLandGrab: Those kids look like they'd rather be in school than listening to speeches by the likes of Marty Markowitz.

Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

He’s a ‘Yards’ party pooper

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters to the Editor

Last week, this page had a letter to me from a group calling itself United Neighbors of Brooklyn (“Yards foes extend hand to critic of Ratner and DDDB,” Letters, May 31). But this letter was certainly not a response to my words of May 17 (“This guy faults Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards foes,”).

I did not express the desire for the broadest coalition possible against the Atlantic Yards proposal. I jotted down some thoughts on Bruce Ratner’s depredations and how I have sat out the fight against him because his foes are also arrogant.

I rue the disrespect shown Ratner backers. The animosity will linger whether Atlantic Yards gets built or not. If it doesn’t, what a bitter victory. Their letter made assumptions about me.

In my mourning for lost human ground, they heard a cry for city services. A big jump. I am hereby turning down UNB’s invitation to join them in their continued effort to bring together all the communities negatively affected by Forest City Ratner’s past and current plans.

In closing, I do not know even one signer on the UNB letter, yet all five have felt free to call me by my first name, Leon — twice. They couldn’t give me the common respect of Mr. de Augusto.

Leon de Augusto, Bushwick

NoLandGrab: We're happy to use Mr. de Augusto's preferred form of address, though his turning his back on the "common ground" he'd said he wanted doesn't seem very respectful to us.

Posted by eric at 8:58 AM

Pro-Atlantic Yards Rally Attracts Huge Crowd

Construction Workers, Others Converge on Borough Hall Steps

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

Compared with the frequent events held by anti-Atlantic Yards activists, the pro-Atlantic Yards forces rarely hold public events. But when they do, they pull out all the stops.

A case in point was the rally called outside Borough Hall Thursday, also sponsored by several labor unions, which served as both a mass meeting and a Brooklyn Day celebration.


NoLandGrab: If you're gonna throw a party, there's nothing like FREE food, swag, entertainment, transportation and mandatory attendance of union workers to make it a day.

Posted by lumi at 4:02 AM

NIMBY? We're Just Saying...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn outs City Councilmember Dominic Recchia and NY State Senator Carl Kruger for their hypocritical stance on megadevelopment and eminent domain.


November, 2007: State Senator Carl Kruger and Councilman Domenic Recchia express adamant opposition to City's redevelopment plan for Coney Island—their backyard. Recchia represents Coney Island and Kruger nearby neighborhoods including Brighton Beach. Kruger went so far as to call the plan a "backdoor approach to eminent domain."

Yesterday... both Kruger and Recchia journeyed from their backyards to speak at Bruce Ratner's Rally in Support of Bruce Ratner (aka Rally for the "Done Deal" Come Undone), aiding in the developer's choreographed attempt to extract more subsidy from Albany and/or City Hall.

Posted by lumi at 3:52 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Curbed.com, Is Atlantic Yards Rally About 'Fun' or More Subsidies?

The Atlantic Yards Battle heats up again today with a rally at Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn that will feature, among others, Rev. Al Sharpton and Curtis Sliwa. So, why is it taking place? Forest City Ratner, which is sponsoring the event, says it's being done because "We thought it would be a fun day." It does, after all, coincide with Brooklyn-Queens Day. (To refresh the memory on the big day: It's a Protestant holiday first celebrated in 1829 to commemorate the founding of the First Sunday School on Long Island that is marked on the first Thursday in June and is very important to the Nets, but not the Knicks.) Today's Sun, however, reports that some people suspect it may be a prelude to seeking more public money for the project as the developer is "working on finalizing the affordable housing component with the city and the state."

UPDATE: Sharpton was a no show.

AK-BWAYRally.gif Gowanus Lounge, Today’s “Brooklyn Day” Atlantic Yards Rally
A reader responds to photos from the Atlantic Yards rally:

Sliwa , the Guradian Angel guy, is supporting [Atlantic Yards]?? This looks like Munich circa 1939…propaganda.

Brooklyn Stoop, 2 Stoop Sales Raising Money for DDDB Litigation Against Atlantic Yards

If you missed their first stoop sale, don’t fret, you’re in luck because these Prospect Heights folk are having yet another one this coming weekend. The proceeds from this sale will go to the DDDB litigation against Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Proposal.

Castle Watch Daily, A Developer in Need of a Pep Rally and other news

The Atlantic Yards Project stalled a while back; in an interesting development, developer Bruce Ratner is holding a rally to support the return of professional sports to Brooklyn. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn is a bit perplexed as well but reads between the lines.

Not another f*cking blog, New Atlantic Yards blogger

Seems we have another blogger in our midsts. The Footprint Gazette, published anonymously from within the DMZ of Prospect Heights, appeared today in my Google Alerts for "Atlantic Yards". I don't know who's behind this new chronicle, but so far I like what I've read.
I have my hunches as to who is behind this, but I won't be naming names...

FlavorPill.com, Jun 3-9, 2008, Newsletter
Congratulations Bruce, nearly everyone is hip to your Atlantic Yards overdevelopment.

Amid luxury pop-up condos in Greenpoint, continued bickering about the Atlantic Yards (over)development, the shuttering of Florent, and a constant snarling of our favorite dirty word, "gentrification," it's been admittedly more difficult to find an underbelly anywhere in the city.

Posted by lumi at 3:09 AM

Ratner’s false choice

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

The Brooklyn Paper renews the call for "sane, viable, broadly supported development" of the Vanderbilt Railyards — in other words, not Atlantic Yards.

On Thursday in front of Borough Hall, Bruce Ratner sponsored a rally to celebrate “Brooklyn’s renaissance” and “the progress of Atlantic Yards.”

As if they are the same thing.

Hundreds of union members showed up at this “Brooklyn Day!” rally to pledge support for a stalled project that has actually not played any part in Brooklyn’s revival. Just the opposite is true: Ratner’s wholesale demolitions have blighted parts of the thriving Prospect Heights neighborhood.

Those at the rally — many of whom were bussed in — said they support Ratner because of the jobs that his project will create. But it’s hard to take such tributes to Ratner seriously given that Ratner paid for the stage on Thursday — and that union workers are required to attend such mass rallies under their organizations’ rules, a union boss told us this week.

As such, this rally is not a spontaneous show of democracy, American-style. It’s democracy as they practice it in North Korea, where lackeys are paid to show up and sing paeans to the Great Leader on command.


Posted by eric at 12:03 AM

June 5, 2008

Forest City Ratner Harassing the Elderly


While most of Brooklyn's building trades were over at Borough Hall celebrating "Brooklyn Day" and noshing on some free Forest City Ratner sandwiches, at least one backhoe operator was still on the job, making life hell for an elderly resident of Dean Street — also courtesy of Forest City Ratner.

every time it drops that concrete slab you can feel her apt. shake. she's rent stabilized and doesn't want to leave but FCR is doing everything they can short of using eminent domain to kick her out. sadly, eminent domain might be in her future as well as many others' in the area. in the meantime it's just this noisy mess, day after day after...


Posted by eric at 11:41 PM

Rally Seeks to Jump Start Atlantic Yards Project

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

An estimated 3,500 people turned out for a rally in support of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Many of them were union construction workers who took time off nearby jobs. They said they felt the project, which will be union-built, was being threatened by local elected officials who are having second thoughts about a project that has already got all of its approvals. Anthony Williamson represents general construction laborers.

WILLIAMSON: And we're sending a message to people opposed to this, including political leaders who oppose this, that in this hard time, people need to have, you know, people need to put food on the table. People need to give their kids a decent education.

REPORTER: The developer, Forest City Ratner, says the company held the rally in order to celebrate Brooklyn Day, a traditional public school holiday. A spokesman, Loren Riegelhaupt, said five thousand sandwiches, fifteen hundred hot dogs and three thousand t-shirts were given away for free.


NoLandGrab: Well, not exactly free, since the hundreds of millions in public subsidies probably helped offset the cost of the swag.

Posted by eric at 11:04 PM

Gov. Paterson names new chief of ESDC

Robert Wilmers (on the right) will replace recently resigned Dan Gundersen and Patrick Foye; he will search for two individuals to run downstate and upstate ESDC divisions.

AP via Crain's NY Business


After some difficulty finding someone to take the job, it looks like the public corporation spearheading Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan will finally have a new chief.

Gov. David Paterson on Thursday appointed Robert Wilmers as head of the Empire State Development Corporation. Mr. Wilmers will be the sole head of the agency and, in a shift, he will be based in Buffalo.

Chairman and chief executive of M&T Bank Corp., Mr. Wilmers has been critical of Albany dating back to the Pataki administration, chastising the state government for regularly spending at twice the inflation rate.

He replaces replace Dan Gundersen and Patrick Foye, both appointed by former governor Eliot Spitzer to run economic development upstate and in New York City, respectively. Mr. Gunderson stepped down Thursday, two months after the departure of Mr. Foye.

Mr. Wilmers will participate in a search for two individuals to run downstate and upstate ESDC divisions, both of whom will report to him.

"Whoever takes the job has to be ready to make fundamental change," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat critical of economic development during the Pataki administration. "The programs have become enormous giveaways to powerful interests unrelated to any public benefit."


NoLandGrab: Not surprisingly, H. Carl McCall did not get the job.

Posted by eric at 10:36 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: While Its Atlantic Yards Proposal Faces Failure, Forest City Ratner Manufactures 'Rally' In Support of … Forest City Ratner

BROOKLYN, NY — Despite the very real prospect of a failed development plan, a plan that is inarguably and substantially stalled, Developer Forest City Ratner is holding a "Brooklyn Day Celebration" today at Brooklyn Borough Hall to "support the Atlantic Yards project and The Nets moving to Brooklyn." To fabricate support, the developer has organized the 'rally' in support of itself--and is paying for it as well—in the guise of a "celebration" with free food, free trinkets, live music, and former Nets players. Such goodies are not the benefits once promised by the developer, and while they may draw a crowd, they won't provide jobs or "affordable housing."

"Forest City Ratner has manufactured a 'rally' in support of itself. Most likely it is an attempt to fabricate support to extract more public subsidy from Albany and City Hall for their development proposal," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "For a project long sold as a 'done deal' today's 'rally' is a desperate attempt to boost a deal that's come undone and is on the precipice of failure. Confident developers simply don't manufacture extravaganzas like today's."

The Building and Construction Trades Council have shut down all Downtown Brooklyn job sites where actual work is taking place, starting at 11:30, so union members can join the "celebration" and 'rally' manufactured by Forest City Ratner in support of Forest City Ratner for a project whose construction job promises are in jeopardy of ever materializing. The Trades Council flier urges all members to attend the 'rally.' (See union flier here: http://www.nolandgrab.org/archives/2008/06/unionflierfor.html).

"Though Ratner is attempting to manufacture support for more public subsidy for his failing project, the developer cynically calls his 'rally' a 'Brooklyn Day Celebration.' But the Atlantic Yards proposal is nothing to celebrate," Goldstein said. "Today Bruce Ratner celebrates a vision of Brooklyn that only works for him, not Brooklynites."

More here.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Does an unreleased land appraisal hide a sweetheart deal for Forest City Ratner?

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, we did Norman Oder a disservice in the previous post by comparing him to a slacker like Sherlock Holmes. Though foiled in his FOIL request to New York City's Economic Development Corporation for details of its appraisal of the land on which the arena would be built, Oder has pieced together a compelling case that Forest City Ratner may be getting yet another government-enabled sweetheart deal.

...the appraisal may well have low-balled the true value of the land, according to information shared with me by a real estate professional, and let Forest City Ratner get away with paying less than the property is worth under the ESDC's zoning override.

NYC EDC’s unwillingness to release the appraisal also rests on dubious logic, such as the claim that the developer is negotiating with other property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint. Some of the agency’s other justifications for denying my FOIL and not releasing the appraisal are questionable, as I’ll describe below.

This analysis contains a certain amount of speculation, of course, but it relies on reasonable suspicion. We won't know if Forest City Ratner got a sweetheart deal until NYC EDC releases the appraisal publicly.


NoLandGrab: Proponents of Atlantic Yards have repeatedly claimed that owners who sold their properties to Ratner made out handsomely. That may be true, in relation to the prices those owners paid, but it's almost certainly not true when the state's zoning override is factored in, allowing Ratner to build something much bigger.

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

Building 1 gets a Barclays logo

B1BarclaysBklnDay.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

The sharp-eyed Norman Oder (picture a blogging Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass) notices a curious detail in Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Day flyer.

Note the advertising signage (highlighted) on the flagship Atlantic Yards tower. It did not appear in Frank Gehry's new renderings released last month....


Posted by eric at 8:59 AM

Some disingenuousness from FCR and Kruger, plus a Daily News advertisement

Atlantic Yards Report

Today's article in the New York Sun about the Ratner Rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall contains some weird justifications for the event from Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt and State Senator Carl Kruger.

The word from Rigelhaupt:

"We thought it would be a fun day, and there is an important message out there: Brooklyn has evolved and is approaching a new era, and there are people out there that want it to continue to grow," he said.

The "fun day" reference recalls the classic stylings of flack Joe DePlasco, who in June 2004--four years ago!-- told the Brooklyn Papers that sending 350,000 pamphlets to Brooklynites was "just something fun to do."


The Sun also reported: Mr. Riegelhaupt declined to comment about whether the project would seek additional subsidies...

Senator Kruger also weighs in:

State Senator Carl Kruger, he of the curious campaign war chest, is quoted by the Sun: "Yes, I believe that these are the kind of projects the government should be supporting, and in a depressed market we have to step up to the plate."

Is this the same Kruger who brought a posse last November to question Mayor Mike Bloomberg's plan for Coney Island? They wore hats that read, "The Bloomberg Plan: How much $? How long? Who pays?""

AYR also examines a full-page ad for the rally in today's Daily News.

Still, it raises a question: If the Daily News stopped running gushing editorials, would the developer still advertise?


Posted by steve at 5:57 AM

Forest City Ratner publicly announces rally, led by Sharpton

AYDayFlyer.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

A press release offers two headlines:

Groups Rally in Support of Atlantic Yards, Saying Brooklyn Needs Investment Now More than Ever

Translation: Forest City Ratner needs subsidies now more than ever, as its own leaders acknowledge.


Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Rallying Hard Around Ratner

New York Post
By Rich Calder

A slew of boldface names in politics and sports has been enlisted for a rally today to garner support for the embattled Atlantic Yards project.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, Curtis Sliwa, former New Jersey Nets Darryl Dawkins and Albert King and hundreds of union members who support developer Bruce Ratner's $4 billion project are expected to attend at Borough Hall.

Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for opponents, called the rally a sign of Ratner's "desperation" over the project.


Posted by steve at 5:26 AM

Motives of Atlantic Yards Rally Are Questioned

The NY Sun
By Peter Kiefer

The Reverend Al Sharpton and a number of elected officials are expected at a Forest City Ratner Co. rally today in downtown Brooklyn to renew support for the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

Some elected officials who oppose the project are questioning whether the rally is really just a prelude to another round of requests for additional state subsidies.

"I think that the project itself is in jeopardy — and it was a bad one to start out with — and that is why I think they are doing this," Council Member Tony Avella said. "Obviously they are trying to make the point that this has to happen immediately. But this is nonsense. Brooklyn is doing very well, and if this is about subsidies — well it ain't going to happen."


NoLandGrab: From a marketing perspective, this rally doesn't add up, which is why many good-government enthusiasts are skeptical. If Atlantic Yards is a "done deal" and would be a net economic benefit for the City and State, then why does Ratner need to pony up for free food, entertainment and swag to get folks to come out for a rally?

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Ratner hosts rally to support…himself!

The Brooklyn Paper

BCTUFlier.jpg The building trades union called for the shutdown of real job sites this afternoon so that members can attend Bruce Ratner's free-food-and-swag rally, but attendance is optional??

Construction work in booming Downtown will come to a complete halt so that union members can attend a rally in support of the Atlantic Yards project on Thursday at Borough Hall.

“At the request of the Buildings Trades Council ALL JOBSITES in downtown Brooklyn are to shut down at 11:30 am for the Atlantic Yards rally,” read a flier posted on a construction site in Prospect Heights (pictured). “ALL BUILDING TRADE MEMBERS SHOULD ATTEND!”
But Ed Malloy, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said that it was a perfect time for his union members to show support for the project.

“In our line of work, we have to be optimistic,” he said. “When the economy is good, you see cranes in the air. So we’re attempting as big a turnout [of Yards supporters] as possible. This project would be good for economic development.”

He said his members are not required to attend the rally.

“It’s not like there are sanctions or an attendance sheet, or anything,” he said. “But we take these things seriously because our jobs depend on it.”


NoLandGrab: Union workers have been ordered to leave their current jobs at actual jobs sites to rally for a project that is supposed to be a done deal? We don't make this stuff up, really.

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

Gehry Designs NYC's Tallest Residential Tower

Architectural Record


Starchitect condos? Old news. Now real estate companies are tapping high-profile architects to design rental apartment buildings. In Lower Manhattan, Forest City Ratner Companies and Frank Gehry, FAIA—the team behind the controversial and recently downsized Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn—are erecting what will become New York City’s tallest residential dwelling, Beekman Tower. Tenants will start taking occupancy in fall 2010, distinguishing the project as Gehry’s first completed residential tower.

Wonder why most people head for the exits when they see an architect coming? Check it out:

While speaking at the construction site in late May, Gehry told reporters architectural pluralism is “chaotic, but should be treated as a virtue instead of a negative.” In that spirit, he has designed an exuberant skyscraper that will add flair to the respected downtown landscape.

At the foot of the tower is a highly contextual, 100-foot-tall podium clad in terracotta-colored brick that Gehry describes as “laidback, quiet, simple”; this base will be punctuated by a more sculptural porte-cochere canopy that also forms the ceiling of the building’s lobby.


NoLandGrab: The article misses the point about condo-vs-rentals. The reason that the Beekman tower will be rental is that Ratner knows that the market won't support another round of luxury starchitect condos.

Additionally, calling Atlantic Yards "downsized" proves that Forest City Ratner's cynical pr campaign worked. [Ratner increased the size of the project before later reducing it in "response to criticism."]

Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM


Groups Rally in Support of Atlantic Yards, Saying Brooklyn Needs Investment Now More than Ever

(Brooklyn, NY) - Reverend Sharpton, Brooklyn native Curtis Sliwa and hundreds of union leaders and members will join community advocates to celebrate Brooklyn Day and rally in support of the Atlantic Yards development at Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza (Joralemon & Court Streets) on Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 11:45 am.

Supporters are expected to talk about the economic benefits of Atlantic Yards and to say that investment in the borough and in jobs and affordable housing is more important now than ever given the slowing economy.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz joined by local Assembly, Senate and City Council members are expected along side dozens of union and community leaders including Bertha Lewis of ACORN, Community Benefits Agreement Chair Delia Adossa and athletic youth groups including Greg "Jocko" Jackson of Brownsville Recreational Center and Jeff O'Brien of Brooklyn Children's Basketball Association among many others. Special musical performances by Brooklyn's own Second Step and international recording sensation Maxi Priest.

WHO: Reverend Al Sharpton; Curtis Sliwa; Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; Nets stars Sean Williams, Albert King and Darryl Dawkins; all of the CBA Partners including CBA Chair Delia Adossa and Bertha Lewis of ACORN; other Brooklyn elected officials and community leaders.

WHAT: Rally to urge economic development in Brooklyn; performances by Brooklyn-based Second Step and international recording artist Maxi Priest

WHERE: Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza (Joralemon & Court Streets)

WHEN: Thursday, June 5, 11:45 am

Posted by lumi at 4:09 AM

June 4, 2008

Embrace the Urban Ennui

What we’re looking at on the Web today…

City Room [The New York Times]

From the department of better late than never...

A slide show by the Municipal Art Society shows the gigantic footprint of the Atlantic Yards project and calls on Gov. David A. Paterson to take action. [Atlantic Lots]


NoLandGrab: WHA? WHO? HEY! We're sleepin' here!

Posted by eric at 4:39 PM


[Photos by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.]

Weeks beginning June 2, 2008 and June 9, 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, testing tie-backs and installation of 2nd tier/cross lot bracing 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.
  • Installation of Manholes in block 1120.
  • Continue north foundation for cable bridge.
  • Continue south foundation for cable bridge.
  • Installation of temporary access ramp structure.


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 30, 2007.

  • 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 be complete at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30) within this two week period; lot cleanup with commence.
  • Demolition is complete at 640 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 29).
  • Demolition 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 continued north along Flatbush. Work is underway 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. All work taking place in the sidewalk will occur during the day. Pedestrian walkways will be maintained.

Private Utility Work

The work described below is managed and contracted by the respective private utility companies, as indicated.

  • ConEd will be installing conduits on Dean between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and working on a feeder at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
  • Verizon will be splicing cable on Pacific Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
  • [T]ime Warner Cable and Keyspan will be working at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

BROOKLYN MATTERS: Screening next Monday


MONDAY, JUNE 9, 7:30pm.

Park Slope Methodist Church
6th Avenue & 8th Street

Sponsored by the Park Slope Greens

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

Forest City Ratner withdraws from scheduled appearance at CB 8

Atlantic Yards Report

I didn't believe it would happen. A Forest City Ratner representative was supposed to address the Housing/ULURP Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 8 on Thursday, providing "an update on the first and second phases of the Atlantic Yards project," according to a memorandum sent to committee members. (Click to enlarge.)

What could the developer say about the 12+ years the state has allowed to build Phase 1 of a project that, as approved, was "anticipated" to last a decade? What about the unspecified deadline for the 11 towers of Phase 2?

Would Forest City Ratner, known for carefully managing press and public statements, actually appear at a public forum, in front of a group that inevitably would include some critics and opponents of the project? Would questions be answered?


Check out the rest of Norman Oder's article to hear the official and likely excuses.

Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

Cops closemouthed about incident at Atlantic Terminal during May 3 rally

Atlantic Yards Report

SgtJones.jpg Norman Oder is stonewalled again by the NYPD, who found no official misconduct when Oder was removed from the May 3rd gathering of counter-protesters at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Maybe so, but that struck me as a rather narrow response. I reiterated my questions and also asked whether the plaza's role as "publicly-accessible private space" played any role in the incident.

In other words, had it been purely public space, would it have made any difference? Is it the job of police or private security guards to first enforce regulations regarding private space? Were the police acting on behalf of the mall owner and substituting for private security guards?

That issue is important because Forest City Ratner controls other publicly-accessible private space, notably the Commons at MetroTech. And while the developer has pledged that the open space at Atlantic Yards--all to be delivered in Phase 2 of the project, which has no timeline--would be managed by a conservancy or not-for-profit entity, that still raises questions about what would be permitted. Similar questions could be raised about the civic space promised in the Urban Room.


NoLandGrab: The best explanation we've heard about incidents such as that of May 3rd comes from one of Ratner's own employees, who, back in July 2006, informed some petitioners that 'Ratner owned the whole area (this was on the sidewalk along Atlantic Ave) and that he was the "biggest guy around."'

Posted by lumi at 4:28 AM

Forest City in the News

Tuesday was community day at Forest City Enterprises. To celebrate community day in Brooklyn, demolition continued in the footprint of the company's Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights.

KITV.com, Company Gives Local Schools Maintenance Help

HONOLULU -- A company that builds and manages residential properties on Hawaii's military bases went to work for local schools Tuesday.

Two-dozen employees of the company Forest City Military Communities painted the fence at Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School.

It is part of the company's fourth annual Community Day, where workers pitch in to do needed repairs and maintenance.

New Mexico Business Weekly, Mesa del Sol workers plan events for PB&J

Employees of the Mesa del Sol master-planned, mixed-use community south of Albuquerque will spend the day June 3, building a garden and putting on a carnival at the Peanut Butter and Jelly Therapeutic Preschool.

One day each year, Mesa del Sol developer Forest City Enterprises holds its Community Day, encouraging employees to spend their day doing something good in the community. This year, employees chose to focus their efforts on the preschool, known as PB&J, which opened in 1972 and is at 1101 Lopez Rd. SW in Albuquerque's South Valley. The carnival is for children who attend the school and their families.

Posted by lumi at 4:13 AM

June 3, 2008

Rally Round the Mega-Project


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and AY Report bring word of a rally Forest City Ratner is organizing at Borough Hall this Thursday afternoon to demonstrate support for Atlantic Yards. The event is called "Brooklyn Day," and, as AY Report writes, it suggests FCR isn't considering Atlantic Yards a "done deal." The poster for Brooklyn Day says it's being held in honor of "Brooklyn's renaissance; The progress of Atlantic Yards; Affordable housing, union jobs and community development; and The return of professional sports to the borough." The event seems primarily pitched to construction workers (they got their own invitation separate from the poster above) and, aside from the promise of union jobs, the promo material emphasizes that AY will bring the Nets to Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 1:46 PM

‘State Races To Attract an Economic Tsar’

NY Sun, Letters to the Editor

CarlMcCall.jpgOne-time New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall swears he absolutely, positively does not want to run the ESDC.

A story in the Sun said that I was “seeking the job” of Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation [New York, “State Races To Attract an Economic Tsar,” May 29, 2008]. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Let me say it clearly: I am not seeking the job. I am not a candidate for the job. I do not want the job. And I would not accept the job if it were to be offered to me.

NoLandGrab: Did he mention he wasn't interested?

Maybe Governor Paterson should name Bruce Ratner to the post. Cutting out the middleman might make the agency's disbursement of taxpayer money more efficient.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Giving Away New York

NY Sun, Op-Ed
by Betsy McCaughey

The former Lieutenant Governor (not the one currently residing in the Governor's Mansion) takes the Empire State Development Corporation to task for acting like a slush fund for New York's most politically connected businesses.

Governor Paterson is reportedly having trouble finding a distinguished business leader to head the Empire State Development Corporation. That's not surprising. The agency's giveaways are an embarrassment.

The ESDC selectively dispenses tax relief and other financial benefits to companies in regions that need economic development under its Empire Zone program. It also gives grants of between several hundred thousands of dollars and several millions of dollars to companies for plant expansions, capital equipment, and other projects, all for the nominal purpose of keeping and creating jobs.

Here's the hitch: Only 2% of businesses in the state are beneficiaries. Which businesses? Too often, those with political connections.

For most of the current decade tax revenues skyrocketed, but during these boom years New York's governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, failed to pay down debt and slim down future obligations. The result is that the state faces a fiscal crisis.

The Empire State Development Corporation is not the answer to this crisis. It is a costly part of the problem. If knowledgeable business leaders have no interest in heading the agency, there's a reason. Now is the time to redefine its mission.

The agency should advocate for tax and regulatory relief for all businesses and educate state lawmakers on the need for these changes. To restore the agency's credibility and to spare taxpayers an unnecessary burden, the giveaways must stop.


Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

Elected officials sign development pledge, but the question is money

Atlantic Yards Report


On Saturday, the highlight of the Peoples’ Accountable Development Summit--part of the Fifth Avenue Committee’s South Brooklyn Accountable Development Initiative--was a pledge from elected officials to uphold a list of Accountable Development Principles, listed at right.

Those signing the pledge included City Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky, Rep. Yvette Clarke, Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Jim Brennan, State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams, and City Council candidate (and 52nd A.D. Democratic District Leader) JoAnne Simon. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Borough President Marty Markowitz sent representatives to sign the pledge. The principles are honorable; while some, such as the goal of accountable process, do not require more money, others do depend on a commitment of funds.

The main component is a redefinition of affordable housing, calling for making units "truly affordable to people in the neighborhood"--a dig at projects like Atlantic Yards, which contains a significant slice of subsidized units--2250 of 4500 planned rentals, plus 200 of 1930 onsite condos--but which are not necessarily affordable to average Brooklynites. While there's a 50/50 pledge regarding the AY rentals, when that pledge was announced, it applied to the project as a whole; now it would be 38%. Note that "truly affordable" is not defined.


Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

At Borough Hall on Thursday, another FCR-organized AY rally

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder plumbs the motivations behind Forest City Ratner's not-so-spontaneous "Brooklyn Day" extravaganza.

First, Forest City Ratner quietly orchestrated a counter-protest in response to the "Time Out" rally on May 3. Now the developer is offering an Atlantic Yards rally on Thursday, complete with free lunch, and drawing on the combined efforts of construction trade unions and community organizations, notably those associated with the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

Despite the fig leaf of a "Brooklyn Day" celebrating the borough, the rally suggests the developer's worried that the project, is not a "done deal." (Given the once-a-month schedule, should we expect another rally during the first week of July?)

It'll be interesting if we hear are any specifics regarding the developer's plans--when exactly might the project move forward, given the lack of arena bonds and housing bonds or an anchor tenant for Building 1? Will those lured to the rally be simply used as props for a photo op? Will they be cited in legal papers aiming to clear the three extant lawsuits? Will they be used to help leverage more subsidies?

The rally poster suggests that the developer is de-emphasizing the promises of affordable housing--after all, the developer has 12+ years to build Phase 1, and no deadline for Phase 2--and returning to the old mantra of basketball. After all, the basketball motif dominates the poster and, at the top, "The Nets moving to Brooklyn!" appears in larger type than "support the Atlantic Yards Project." Can the iconographic power of the flag and the Brooklyn Bridge nudge the stalled project forward?

What does Delia Hunley-Adossa do when she's not monitoring the project's environmental impacts?


Hunley-Adossa (with megaphone, at the May 3 rally), heads a group called the Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), which has a Potemkin role in monitoring AY environmental assurances, given that the developer is in compliance by following the state-mandated process. Like five of the eight CBA signatories, the BEE had no track record in its assigned CBA role. There's no evidence of external fundraising, so, as with several other CBA signatories, BEE is likely funded by the developer. In other words, CBA signatories are funded by Forest City Ratner to generate public and political support for the project.

The lack of actual environmental monitoring leaves more time to organize rallies; Hunley-Adossa's e-mail message said she'd "make arrangements to transport large groups." It also referred to a (student?) organization, not known to me, apparently called "Help 2":
All HELP 2 participants and parents are to call Dee upon receipt...this is a day that we want our members to participate and volunteer their services.


Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Ratner Calls Rally In Support of...Ratner

Atlantic Yards: The so-called "done deal" that needs a rally called for and organized by the developer, Forest City Ratner.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB provides the subtext to the rhetoric in Forest City Ratner's "Brooklyn Day" flyer.

Why would a "done deal" need such an extravagant boost? Could the developer be looking for more public subsidy, perhaps?

As you can see above, developer Forest City Ratner is holding a "Brooklyn Day" celebration and rally at Borough Hall on June 5th to "support the Atlantic Yards project and The Nets moving to Brooklyn."

In other words…the developer is organizing a rally to support itself.

We at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn would like to provide a realistic picture of the Atlantic Yards proposal, which is not available on the flier...a look at the status of their project that removes the rose-colored glasses.

Quite frankly, the project is nothing to celebrate.


Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Brooklyn Day!

FCRbrooklyndayflyer.jpg On December 10th, 2003, Atlantic Yards was rolled out at Brooklyn Borough Hall as a done deal, with the apparent support of nearly every power-brokering politician in Brooklyn, New York City, and Albany.

Why then, would Forest City Ratner need to throw itself a rally on June 5th, 2008 to "support the Atlantic Yards Project and The Nets moving to Brooklyn!"? Haven't they done this before?

We can only surmise that Ratner's marquee mega-project is truly on the ropes, what with the American flag and Brooklyn Bridge imagery included on the flyer and the call to all Brooklyn building trades to abandon their work sites to come to the desperate PR event "rally." An email sent by Delia Hunley-Adossa yesterday aimed at drumming up bodies for the event repeatedly used all caps to emphasize all the FREE stuff attendees will receive.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and Atlantic Yards Report have lengthy analyses of the materials and the motivations behind the "rally." Thanks, guys, for saving us the trouble.

Posted by eric at 9:01 AM

Union flier for Ratner rally

TC-BCTC.jpg Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is staging a rally, giving away free food and swag, for a project that has already been approved and that he swears is going forward according to plan.

Noting that other developers don't hold rallies for projects that are already approved and are moving forward, all the money and effort put into this Thursday's rally betrays Ratner's nervousness.

Meanwhile, according to this flier posted at a local construction site, the building trades union is instructing union workers to leave REAL jobs on REAL projects that are ACTUALLY being built, to attend a rally for a project whose future, judging by the tenor of the pro-Atlantic Yards rally, seems to be in play.

We can't decide: is this merely bizarre or plain desperate?

Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

June 2, 2008


Weeks beginning June 2, 2008 and June 9, 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, testing tie-backs and installation of 2nd tier/cross lot bracing 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.
  • Installation of Manholes in block 1120.
  • Continue north foundation for cable bridge.
  • Continue south foundation for cable bridge.
  • Installation of temporary access ramp structure.

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 30, 2007.

  • 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 be complete at 642-646 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 30) within this two week period; lot cleanup with commence.
  • Demolition is complete at 640 Pacific Street (block 1127, lot 29).
  • Demolition 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 continued north along Flatbush. Work is underway 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. All work taking place in the sidewalk will occur during the day. Pedestrian walkways will be maintained.

Private Utility Work

The work described below is managed and contracted by the respective private utility companies, as indicated.

  • ConEd will be installing conduits on Dean between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and working on a feeder at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
  • Verizon will be splicing cable on Pacific Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
  • [T]ime Warner Cable and Keyspan will be working at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

NoLandGrab: Though the ESDC claims that "Demolition is underway at 800 Pacific Street... and will continue throughout this two week period," fact is, there's a Stop-Work Order still in effect in the aftermath of an accident that badly injured a worker two weeks ago.

Posted by eric at 2:30 PM

Downtown Brooklyn? New aerial photos show the context of the AY footprint

Atlantic Yards Report

LookingNorthAnnotated2.jpg Norman Oder looks at recent aerial photos, project renderings and historical photos in analyzing the Atlantic Yards footprint and its relation to its surroundings.

New aerial photos of the Atlantic Yards footprint and environs, taken by photographer Jonathan Barkey as part of the sequence used for the Municipal Art Society's Atlantic Lots presentation, shed additional light on the context for the planned project.

They show a much lower scale to the south in Prospect Heights and Park Slope. They show a good number of relatively smaller high-rise buildings in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. (Here's an overall Brooklyn list of finished and proposed towers from Emporis.)

They confirm that towers completely or planned in and around the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Cultural District would form something of a connecting skein of high-rise buildings to the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower. However, Atlantic Yards would still be a dogleg extension of Downtown Brooklyn and thus does not deserve that moniker, despite Forest City Ratner's rhetoric.


Posted by eric at 8:42 AM

Building Hype

On the Media

Ever notice that sophisticated architectural renderings make construction projects look impossibly attractive. Exactly, says Dwell senior editor Geoff Manaugh, who blogs at bldgblog.blogspot.com. That's precisely the point.


Atlantic Yards watchdogs have been well schooled by Frank Gehry's rendering team in the art of making folks believe that the controversial megaproject:

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

Sunset over Ratlantic Yards

Photo by horseycraze, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.


Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

Forest City in the News

Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City sells 80% stake in Network Parking

L&R Group, a Los Angeles-based parking lot operator, has acquired Forest City Enterprises Inc.’s 80% interest in Network Parking of Cleveland for an undisclosed amount.

L&R also inked a long-term agreement to become Forest City’s parking provider nationally with the exception of its New York City properties.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Eastern Henrico shopping center on track to open in early October
Thanks to Forest City Enterprises and creative bond financing, "The times when residents from eastern Henrico County had to drive out of the area to shop at a Circuit City or eat at Red Lobster are nearly over."

TMC.net, Key downtown Fresno project in works: A lot is riding on housing-retail plan near Selland.

City officials are counting on its housing, convention facilities, hotel rooms and entertainment to create a slice of what downtown has been missing for nearly a half-century -- life around the clock.
City officials in the past four years have touted huge projects in or near the city's core. But Forest City Enterprises' South Stadium project still is waiting to turn its first shovelful of dirt, and billionaire developer Donald Trump's effort to buy the bankrupt Running Horse golf and residential project in southwest Fresno fizzled.

NoLandGrab: Because of the threat of the use of eminent domain, the Forest City Enterprises Fresno project is on property rights activists' watch list.

Chicago Business, Mega-malls stalled

Four of five massive shopping centers proposed for Will County are delaying their openings as retailers halt expansion plans in a slowing economy.
Will County's population rocketed to more than 650,000 from 500,000 at the beginning of this decade. The epicenter of the retail rush has been New Lenox, where the recently completed extension of Interstate 355 attracted two national developers, each proposing to build malls with more than 1 million square feet of retail space.

Collectively, the two projects, one by Forest City Enterprises Inc. and the other by Zaremba Group LLC, both of Cleveland, are forecast to generate as much as $6 million a year in sales tax revenue for the village, New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann says. ...
The head of Forest City's Chicago office, Jerry Ferstman, says his firm is still committed to its New Lenox plan. "We're going forward with the project," he says. "With everything that's been going on with the economy and the credit crunch, it's gotten delayed a year."

The Morning Call, St. Luke's expansion to turn 500 acres into green giant

Plans have been scrapped for Forest City's proposed mall in Bethlehem Township.

St. Luke's Hospital announced Friday it would more than double the size of its proposed complex in Bethlehem Township and work with General Electric to create the world's first so-called ''ecomagination'' health care campus.

Exactly what St. Luke's plans to do with the new 300 acres, just east of nearly 200 acres it already owns at Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue, remains unclear.

But it is clear The Summit Lehigh Valley lifestyle mall, the project formerly pitched for the property St. Luke's is buying, won't move forward as planned, township officials said. The mall developer, Forest City Enterprises, declined to comment.

Posted by lumi at 4:08 AM

June 1, 2008

Sunday Comix - Courtesy of the People's Accountable Development Summit


The Fifth Avenue Committee's "People's Accountable Development Summit" took place yesterday at P.S. 282 in Park Slope.

Included in a folder provided to every attendee, was a comic book titled "Our Community Our Future - A Guide to Accountable Development Principles" (right).

There is one page dedicated to the problems associated with the proposed Atlantic Development. (Click on the below image for a larger version.)

Posted by steve at 8:59 AM

Sunday Comix Part Deux


Brought to you by Forest City Ratner and Frank Gehry. (via Curbed)

Posted by amy at 8:38 AM

The "close reading" on AY projections that the Times didn't do

Atlantic Yards Report

Along with the failure to show the scale of the Atlantic Yards project, another major media lapse has been the unwillingness to challenge the $6 billion lie attributed to sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, Forest City Ratner's paid consultant. Eeconomist Brad Humphreys told Congress last year, as I noted on Wednesday, that academically rigorous economic impact studies of merit are peer-reviewed, while "promotional" studies are not.

Zimbalist's "promotional" study got a pass, though, as I note below, the Times was considerably more skeptical of economic projections regarding the controversial West Side Stadium.


Posted by amy at 8:37 AM

In Ebbets Field, regret marks a lost stadium


River Ave. Blues wonders if current Yankees fans will wax nostalgic about the Yankee Stadium in the future, like Dodgers fans have mourned Ebbets Field for the past 48 years. The difference is that the new Yankee Stadium already upset its surroundings, (not that the Dodgers new digs in LA didn't), but hopefully the nostalgia won't come back in another 48 years to be used for nefarious purposes.

A few weeks ago, I finished reading Bob McGee’s The Greatest Ballpark Ever: Ebbets Field And The Story Of The Brooklyn Dodgers. As Brooklyn Dodger histories go, it’s an appropriate companion piece to Michael Shapiro’s The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers, and Their Final Pennant Race Together.

In one book — McGee’s — O’Malley is the clear villain in moving the Dodgers; in the other, O’Malley tried to keep the team in New York, but Robert Moses was the man responsible for pushing them out of town. O’Malley wanted to build a new stadium near the current Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn, but Moses didn’t want to use his Title I powers to build a baseball stadium. While McGee villianizes O’Malley and Shapiro gives him something of a pass, the truth is, of course, in the middle. Both men were responsible for the Dodgers’ flight to Los Angeles.


Posted by amy at 8:36 AM