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August 31, 2008

At the DEIS hearing, "an affront to common sense" on adaptive reuse

Atlantic Yards Report

Adaptive reuse of buildings in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint was brushed aside by the Empire State Development Corporation. One preservationist testifying in 2006 at the Draft Environmental Impact Statement Hearings made note of this:

...The consultants say that they examined the possibility of conversion to residential use, but they rejected it. Why? Conversion might entail altering the buildings and then the buildings would lose their integrity. To contend that historic buildings should be demolished so as to avoid changing them is an affront to common sense... and to local preservation laws. The ultimate loss of integrity is demolition, not minor alterations for adaptive re-use.

link

Posted by steve at 4:32 PM

New York City Music Clubs

Lucid Culture

FreddyFromInside.jpg

This listing, titled "New York City Music Clubs" includes an entry for Freddy's, located in the footprint for the proposed Atlantic Yards.

Freddy’s

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. And Freddy’s seems to be winning their seemingly endless court battle with megalomaniac developer Bruce Ratner. At this point, it looks like his plans to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn (why didn’t somebody consult Dr. J beforehand?!?), and seize private housing inhabited by working people via eminent domain have collapsed. Since all this was planned to be built with borrowed money, the banks who initially wanted to finance all those plastic-and-sheetrock luxury condos have become very reluctant to to get involved. Til the verdict becomes official, if you’re in the neighborhood, this is one establishment that deserves your support, considering how valiantly they’ve fought to stay in business.

link

NoLandGrab: The court battles continue and Ratner vows to build the project, although financing looks sketchy. Unfortunately, plans for proposed Atlantic Yards project have not yet collapsed.

Posted by steve at 7:25 AM

From the DEIS hearing: unheeded wisdom regarding the economic claims

Atlantic Yards Report

ratnerthis%20tall.jpg

The ongoing review of 2006's Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) uncovers testimony that questions underlying economic assumptions about Atlantic Yards. A thorough, public review has never been done.

...The benefits laid out in detailed numbers in the DEIS rely on assumptions about new residents coming from outside of the city, about all retail and office space being filled immediately, about Nets fans coming from out of state and a certain number of Nets players living one the city.

These seemingly small assumptions are the fundamental foundation of the promised benefits to the City and the State. Yet, it is not hard to imagine circumstances in which several of these assumptions might play out differently in reality. Once the foundation falters, the whole facade of economic benefit begins to crumble.

Often important assumptions appear in [FCR consultant Andrew] Zimbalist's report, but are absent from the DEIS, misleading the public. If there is solid evidence to back up these claims, it is not presented in the DEIS.

Without this evidence it is unreasonable for the public to believe in the promises made by Forest City Ratner.

link

Posted by steve at 6:39 AM

August 30, 2008

Atlantic Yards Report : Zimbalist, Plus Daniel Ratner and the Legion of Doom

br%26lodcrop.jpg

The Atlantic Yards Report gives further reason to doubt Andrew Zimbalist, author of the deeply-flawed report, Estimated Fiscal Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New York State Treasuries (commissioned by Forest City Ratner).

There is also an additional look back at some absurdity from the DEIS Hearings of two years ago.

In 2006, as well, Zimbalist's ($73K) testimony was disallowed in court

Zimbalist's testimony got bounced from a 2006 case where he was hired by the city of Anaheim.

A 1/26/06 article in the Los Angeles Times explained that Zimbalist would not be allowed to testify, according to the trial judge. The newspaper reported: *In analyzing the effect of the Angels' name change, Zimbalist calculated the city had foregone $138.5 million by signing a long-term lease with the team rather than demolishing the stadium, selling the land and reaping taxes from property development.

But that analysis does not offer "the proper measure of damages" in a breach-of-contract case, Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos ruled. If the Angels have broken their lease by adding "Los Angeles" to their name and dropping "Anaheim" from use, he said, the damages should reflect the value of the actual benefits lost by the city.*

Zimbalist's Seattle bill was $61,296

Zimbalist's bill for services rendered to Seattle are recounted. The mony was poorly spent as his testimony was discounted in court.

Last month, I reported, based on press accounts in Seattle, that expert witness Andrew Zimbalist cost the city of Seattle $17,753 in its effort to hold the new owners of the Seattle SuperSonics to their local lease.

Actually, as the Post-Intelligencer reported yesterday, the total was $61,296, including $59,540 on time spent preparing his report and his 50 minutes of testimony, with the rest going to plus travel expenses.

The point here is that Zimbalist's report advocating for Atlantic Yards deserved some close public scrutiny.

From the DEIS hearing: "Daniel Ratner" and the Legion of Doom

The testimony of an "eccentric fellow named William Stanford, Jr." is reviewed as part of a revisit of 2006's DEIS hearing on Atlantic Yards

Stanford often sounded like a nut, calling his antagonist "Daniel Ratner" (a combo of Bruce Ratner and Daniel Goldstein?), threatening to attack with pro wrestling moves, and charging the aforementioned Ratner with drug smuggling.

But he also made some earthy good sense, questioning the scheduling of a forum on Primary Day with "Are you stuck on stupid?"

...

MR. WILLIAM STANFORD: Thank you for holding this forum. By holding this forum you just gave me a better reason to give Daniel Ratner a flying full nelson off the top rope courtesy of the Legion of Doom.

Posted by steve at 9:30 AM

August 29, 2008

It came from the Blogosphere...

"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide, Silver Tarnishes Dem Convention

AY Voter Guide tells us what he or she really thinks about Sheldon Silver:

What a great historic night it was last night. Officially nominating the first African-American Presidential nominee....

It was only tarnished by one thing: The corrupt Assembly Speaker Silver introducing Senator Hillary Clinton so she could put an end the roll call vote.

Silver stands for pay to play cronyism and consolidation of top down power so anathema to soon to be President-elect Obama's message, one can only hope that the whiff of corruption dissipates in the thin Denver air before the party leaves the city.

Brownstoner, Modernism in the City/Gehry in Brooklyn

In Lisa's preview of a review of Nathan Glazer's book on the problem with starchitects, the example of Frank Gehry's design for Atlantic Yards stuck out:

Gehry may have been ousted from the Theater for a New Audience building, but his vision for Atlantic Yards, which, no matter your opinion of it, seems pretty noncontextual considering the neighborhoods around it, remains.

life in the sonic age, Democracy and the truth…
Ken Lowy commends Dan Squadron for challenging incumbent Marty Connor and for not hitting below the belt, but wonders if everything is above board, especially when Squadron's candidacy is supported by the Atlantic Yards power base:

Squardon has come out and stated clearly that he is against apartments in Brooklyn Bridge Park. That’s good news. But it makes me wonder why people like Anthony Weiner and Mike Bloomberg have endorsed him. They are on the record as having no problem with apartments in the park. And then there’s the Atlantic Yards project. I don’t know where Dan Squadron stands on the Atlantic Yards Project (I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is against the project). But when I searched I couldn’t find anything on his web site. We know where his supporters stand. Weiner, Bloomberg and Schumer are for it. So what are we to think?

Runnin' Scared, Making Local Politics Marginally Less Dull (Updated)

We commend Atlantic Yards Report for taking a portion of the transcript from last Saturday's* environmental-impact hearing on the proposed development and presenting it as a dramatic text with "echoes of absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett."

UPDATE. *By which we mean, two years ago, August 23, 2006, which means this dialogue is now a period piece.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

AYR open mic night

openmic.jpgIn today's look back at the public-theater-of-a-hearing back in August 2006, Norman Oder stumbles over a previously missed fine point in City Councilmember Bill de Blasio's position on Atlantic Yards, a moment of pure farce, and a country song by Lew Fidler.

As de Blasio stresses AY support, he claims CBA, not government, would guarantee the affordable housing

From City Councilmember Bill de Blasio's tesimony:

As someone who's been involved in the housing field for a long time, I can say that unfortunately the places that we look to historically for affordable housing are not producing it, meaning our Federal and State government and this is one of the only ways we're going to be able to make progress.

Maybe de Blasio should have a sit-down with Norman Oder, who could explain how the Atlantic Yards affordable housing and CBA thingies work:

I've written about de Blasio's failure to do "due diligence" regarding Atlantic Yards. But I hadn't examined his statement at the hearing, which claimed that, because the federal and state governments were not supporting affordable housing, Atlantic Yards "is one of the only ways we're going to be able to make progress," but "only if we insure the community benefits agreement [CBA] is adhered to."

However, the affordable housing depends significantly on city and possibly state housing bonds, both authorized by the federal government. Other elements of the CBA depend on government funding as well.

From absurdism to farce: the community forums conclude with "What for?"

Tamika Brown, from the group with an unfortunate acronym (PPEE!), performed her own brand of nihilistic sketch comedy:

MS. TAMEKA BROWN: Hi. My name is Tameka Brown. And I represent PPEE [People for Political and Economic Empowerment]. And I'm for the project.
...
On that point, with y'all coming up here and saying all that stuff about the environment and all the rest of the stuff, what for? Why?

MR. TIMOTHY LOGAN, Sierra Club: Because it's an Environmental Impact hearing.

MS. TAMEKA BROWN: What for? What for?

THE PRESIDING OFFICER: Sir, let her finish.

MS. TAMEKA BROWN: What for? The environment's already messed up. There's a hole in the atmosphere, what's up? I mean, come on, let's be real.

(Applause.)

To Lew Fidler, AY would replace an "old Buick"

COUNCIL MEMBER LEWIS FIDLER: For those of you who are probably about to boo me, I want to offer you my sympathy, but not my support. You know, I remember when I had to get to get rid of my -- my old Buick, you know, it's a trusty old familiar car. You know, I had it for, you know, longer than I probably should have. And I felt really bad as they drove it off to the junkyard. But you know what, I knew that driving into the future with my beautiful, new union-built car was a whole lot better.

Lyrics from "Buick City Complex":

They're tearing the Buick City Complex down
I think we're the only people left in town
Where are you gonna move, where are you gonna move?
Do you wanna mess around?

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

Forest City in the News

MarketWatch.com, Forest City Enterprises Notice of Second-Quarter 2008 Earnings Conference Call

Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) will release its second-quarter 2008 financial results on Thursday, September 4, 2008 and will hold a conference call on Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss these results. Investors are invited to dial into the conference call hosted by Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer.

The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Tuesday, September 9, 2008. To participate, dial 888-713-4205 using access code 93455825, approximately five minutes before the call. Tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City 2nd Quarter Earnings Conference Call. (International callers, please dial 617-213-4862)

Five Towns Jewish Times, Met Council’s Annual Builder’s Luncheon Raises One Million Dollars

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council) netted more than one million dollars the week after Tishah B’Av, during its annual Builder’s Luncheon honoring Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies.

The nearly 500 guests spanned the real estate, political, and communal spectrum. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Congressman Anthony Weiner, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz praised Mr. Ratner for his work in developing New York City. The keynote speaker, Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, presented Mr. Ratner with a beautifully decorated charity box.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

August 28, 2008

Brooklyn Boone

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

No byline on this story, which might explain why it reads just like a press release.

Brooklyn kids will have a chance to learn how to dribble, shoot, pass and score from New Jersey Nets star Josh Boone at the second “Josh Boone Basketball Clinic,” presented by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), this week.
...

Boone and the seasoned coaches from Basketball City will help the kids hone their hoops skills with drills and games. FCRC will be sending the kids home with different prizes and giveaways. The camp is free for all children, ages 8 to 16.

article

NoLandGrab: Doesn't take much to be a "star" in the eyes of the Eagle, apparently, as Josh Boone's 8.2 points per game would attest. Of course, with owner Bruce Ratner having gotten rid of every last member of the Nets' back-to-back 2002 and 2003 Eastern Conference championship squads, it doesn't take much to stand out.

More coverage:

Nets Daily, Young Nets Working the Courts and the Community

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Brooklyn Raccoons Approach Atlantic Yards Territory

Gowanus Lounge

Raccoon.jpg

The latest Brooklyn raccoon sighting report (yes, we realize, there are a great many) is of interest because it comes from the Pacific Bears Garden, which and located at Pacific and Flatbush Avenue and would be a neighbor of the Atlantic Yards arena.

link

NoLandGrab: Unlike certain developers and politicians, this little Atlantic Yards bandit was kind enough to identify himself by wearing a mask.

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

SUMMER READING: "I've been here since 2:00": echoes of Beckett at DEIS hearing

Atlantic Yards Report

We've often wondered what drives Norman Oder to read through hours of hearing and interview transcripts, save the occasional nugget of info. Clearly, Oder has a highly developed appreciation of the absurd:

Beckett.jpg

There are more than a few places where the dialogue, at least as captured on the transcript, has echoes of absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett, notable for lines like “You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on.”

Anonymous voices inside the Klitgord Auditorium lamented that people were not let into the building, that they'd been waiting for hours, and that the public would no longer be allowed to speak at a public hearing.

(Photo of Beckett mural in London by Rachel Scott Halls, reproduced under a Creative Commons license.)

Oder has titled ACT I, "Inside and outside"

THE HEARING OFFICER: Thank you, Mr. Watkins. The next speaker is Bob Braun. Is Bob Braun here?

A VOICE: He won't be let into the building. Bob Braun is outside.

THE HEARING OFFICER: In that case, the next speaker is Richard Chernoso (phonetic.) Is Richard Chernoso here?

(No response.)

THE HEARING OFFICER: Then the next speaker is Paul Heller.

A VOICE: He also has not been allowed in the building.

A VOICE: These people are not being allowed in the building.

A VOICE: There's a thousand people outside waiting to get in.

You must click on...

[Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn calls it "Waiting for Gargano," " an absurd snapshot of the absurd hearing."]

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Elections = term limits? The disingenuous Marty Markowitz

Atlantic Yards Report

How do you spell AGITA?

Talk that a bunch of lame-duck local elected leaders might try to eliminate term limits has Brooklyn Beep and Atlantic Yards Cheerleader in Chief Marty Markowitz expressing interest in a third term.

[Cue skeery music.]

Markowitz suggested that term limits empower a "faceless, nameless bureaucracy" and, as the Sun reported, second terms are often less effective under the current two-term system, as they must devote much of their time to planning their next campaign rather than governing.

Well, um, shouldn't they be planning their next campaign for their job, as well? And how much of what Markowitz does is governing and how much is promotion?

article

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

August 27, 2008

Don't hate me b/c I want to buy near AY

Brownstoner

NewswalkinAYContext.jpg

A Park Slope renter is close to making an offer on an apartment in the Newswalk building — which is surrounded on three sides by the planned Atlantic Yards project — and wants to know what the future might hold.

I have (mostly) decided to buy an apartment that, yes, overlooks the Atlantic Yards site on the Carlton side. I know all the arguments and don't want to wake that monster. I am more hoping that someone has an update on the status of the project since the last round of information that came out around April- the redesign, the problems with funding and the tax issues. Does anyone know anything more current about the status and whether/when the construction is likely starting on the stadium and when/if you think the other buildings are going to be built. Or is it just anyone's guess at this point?

link

NoLandGrab: Should she or shouldn't she? NLG's Magic 8 Ball says...

Posted by eric at 5:22 PM

Developers' Hazard: Legal Hardball

The New York Times
by David W. Dunlap

A recent dip into the archives of The New York Times unearthed an article on the effects of litigation on development in New York City, and interestingly, it features quotes from both Atlantic Yards (and then-Atlantic Center) developer Bruce Ratner and new Empire State Development Corporation CEO (and then-Boston development official) Marisa Lago.

Lawsuits are no longer last resorts. They are an integral part of the process. Litigation has altered the 42d Street redevelopment in Manhattan and the building of Atlantic Center in downtown Brooklyn; it has derailed other projects entirely, like Westway and Columbus Center, the previous proposal for the Coliseum site.

''It is almost impossible to finance a project when it's in litigation,'' said Bruce C. Ratner, president of Forest City Ratner Companies, which inherited Atlantic Center after the legal buffeting. ''Even if there's a remote chance that the plaintiffs will win, the banks are not going to lend the quantities of money required.''

NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that Bruce was saying this in 1996, when the economy was robust and the unforeseen global lending crisis was 11 years away.

There are cities, however, where land-use litigation is not commonplace. ''The ethos of suing on every project just hasn't occurred in Boston,'' said Marisa Lago, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and former general counsel of the New York Economic Development Corporation.

NLG: "Suing on every project" wouldn't be necessary if developers and economic-development officials would propose better-conceived projects, involve affected communities from the get-go, and eschew the use of eminent domain.

article

Posted by eric at 3:24 PM

Game. Sauté. Match.

The NY Observer
by Chris Shott

The "debacle at Atlantic Yards" makes a cameo appearance in this Observer story about the massive catering operation at the U.S. Open, run by Levy Restaurants, the Chicago-based food-service giant tapped to provide chow at Bruce Ratner's Barclays Center — should it ever get built.

In 2010, the company plans to make its second foray into the coveted New York market, after signing on to handle concessions at the forthcoming Barclay Center, future home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, at developer Bruce Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards complex in Prospect Heights.

“I think the building’s going to be spectacular,” said Mr. Lansing. “You know, a lot of the arenas, historically, have been, well, not cookie-cutterish because they’re all a little bit different, but they follow a similar mold. But when you have Frank Gehry design an arena and really break the mold—that’s pretty ambitious.”

He added, “Some of the things that we’re going to do with the Nets are going to be revolutionary.”

Of course, it will also feature the usual Brooklyn staples. Can you say egg creams? “Absolutely,” Mr. Lansing said. “We know Brooklyn pizza, you know, we get it. We understand the locals. We understand what they want.”

article

NoLandGrab: Hmmm. Not "cookie-cutterish?" They "understand the locals?" So the Nets are hiring a mega-caterer from the Midwest to serve "Brooklyn pizza" and egg creams?

Commenter Norman Oder also points out that Levy might need to rebook those 2010 tickets for, say, 2011.

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

As new stadiums spring up, grumbling over ticket prices (but is that the real issue?)

Atlantic Yards Report

There's been some vigorous discussion on the New York Times web site in response to yesterday's front page article, headlined New Stadiums: Prices, and Outrage Escalate, about how four new stadiums coming online in the next few years have raised ticket prices and also added revenue-raising elements like personal seat licenses--both of which are likely for the Atlantic Yards arena, which goes unmentioned in the article.

The article is sympathetic to the elite of sports fans who have season tickets, while some online commenters suggest that fans should be paying for new stadiums. Others point out that the stadiums receive public financing and tax breaks, and that "professional sports leagues are government sanctioned cartels" with competition limited. Moreover, season tickets are often a tax deduction.

And what about the Nets? As I wrote last year: "Thanks significantly to 170 new high-priced suites, the “blended average ticket price” for Nets games would go up dramatically, 73% for regular-season games and 64% for playoff games, upon the team's move." The number of suites has been reduced to 130, but you can bet the average ticket price would skyrocket.

article

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

At the DEIS hearing, invocations of Brooklyn street cred

Atlantic Yards Report reruns some choice quotes from back in August 2006, where, at the front lines of the public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the battle lines were drawn between folks who live in Brooklyn and folks who live in Brooklyn (plus one guy who was brave enough to mention that he didn't). Meanwhile, a guy from Cleveland who lives in Manhattan was pulling all the strings.

Welcome2Brooklyn2.gif Here are some highlights:

ASSEMBLYMAN GREEN: I want to start by saying for some of you that I was born in Brooklyn.

MR. TAL BARZILAI: Yeah. I'm a resident of Pleasantville, New York. And I know I don't really live in this borough, but my statements are just as important here.

MR. UMAR JORDAN: If you haven't to Brownsville or East New York, Flatbush, you not from Brooklyn -- you just visiting. I'm speaking about the people that really never been to Brooklyn. ...And this is for people that are unpleased with the behavior of Brooklyn. Well, I suggest you go back up to Pleasantville or wherever it is.

MR. MEREDITH STATON: Good evening, folks. I'm a member of this community and the community board, as well as member of Crown Heights. I've been living in this community for forty years.

MR. MICHAEL UTEVSKY: My Name is Michael Utevsky. I live in Fort Greene. I've lived in Brooklyn for 30 years.

MS. ASTRID LEGROV-SOLOMON: Having lived in this area since the 1960s I have witnessed the rebirth of what once -- were once elegant streets that had been left for decay.

MR. LLOYD HEZEKIAH: My name is Lloyd Hezekiah. For over 35 years I have owned a home in historic Fort Greene and contributed actively in its in development.

MS. PAT BOONE: I was born, bred and have lived life-long in Brooklyn. In fact, I was born right here on Bergen Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue. My church is on Bergen Street between 3rd and Nevins.

MR. ROBERT PUCA: I was born in the -- it was called -- it used to be called the Jewish Hospital. It was on Classon Avenue. That's where I was born. I've been a full time -- just so everybody knows, I've been living in Brooklyn for 43 years. I was born on Classon Avenue.

MS. AUDREY DOYLE: Good evening. My name is Audrey Doyle. I have lived -- I have lived in Fort Greene for about thirty years.

MR. PETER VITAKIS: My name is Peter Vitakis. And I have been a resident of Fort Greene and the surrounding neighborhood for forty years.

You get the point...

Meanwhile in Ratnerville:

MR. SCOTT TURNER: And the people who talk about community, and I wish the DEIS would have done a study on what it means to be a Brooklynite. You are depending on a heirloom from Cleveland, a rich, white guy and you're calling him a savior.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

"We talk about people and we talk about children": Carl Kruger's "Brooklyn" aria

Atlantic Yards Report

In Norman Oder's look back at the testimony from the August 2006 public hearing for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, it seems that no one managed to string together every buzzword of the day to spend so much time saying nothing specific as State Senator Carl Kruger. If the hearing were held two years later, the only words that Kruger would have surely added are "green" and "sustainable."

Here are the high notes (full text at Atlantic Yards Report):

My name is Carl Kruger. I'm the State Senator representing the Southern Tier of Brooklyn and I think that tonight "Brooklyn" is the operative word.... We're talking about Brooklyn, we're talking about communities, we're talking about Brooklyn first.
...
How better tonight can we talk about Brooklyn than to talk about development. When we talk about development, we talk about neighborhoods; We talk about sustaining the old while we build on the new; We talk about creating communities where communities existed; We talk about change; and We talk about growth; We talk about a borough and we talk about a city; We talk about people and we talk about children; We talk about what it means to each and every one of us and what we hold near and dear. So today, as this Commission deliberates the very process for which this hearing is taking place, it must look at the Atlantic Yards project in the vacuum of what it really is....

NoLandGrab: "Vacuum" indeed.

Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

fresh paint on 585 Dean

Photographer Tracy Collins posted this photo of what's left of 585 Dean St. to the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Inexplicably, the remnant of the pumpkin graffiti wall, on the lot that was formerly Vanderbilt Products, has been painted white.

Another empty lot in Ratnerville, brought to you by Bruce.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Onward with Team Golden? AY supporter caught in self dealing

Atlantic Yards Report

Though, back in August 2006, at the public hearing for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, State Senator Marty Golden, declared, "Onward with Team Nets; Onward with Team Ratner; Onward with the team of the City and this great Borough of Brooklyn for their future," Norman Oder points out that "the Senator seems most concerned with Team Golden."

Tom Robbins of the Village Voice explains in an article today headlined GOP Star Marty Golden Doles Out Big Bucks to his Family Catering Hall:

What makes it even more noteworthy is that every time Golden's campaign writes a check to the company [that owns Bay Ridge Manor], it goes into very friendly hands. Although he sold the establishment a couple of years after he entered the senate, Golden didn't have to hunt for a buyer: His brother bought it. Also, according to Golden's disclosure report with the state Legislative Ethics Commission, his wife Colleen serves as the catering hall's business administrator. And the Bay Ridge Manor's landlord? That would be Golden himself, who lists full ownership of the three-story red-brick building with the green-colored awnings on his filings.

That makes three separate income streams that the senator gets from the Manor, according to his filings: rent, his wife's salary, and continuing payments from the 2004 sale.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere122.jpg Atlantic Yards Voter Guide, Marty Wants a Third Term, Voters Be Damned

Brooklyn Borough Beep and Atlantic Yards Cheerleader-in-Chief Marty Markowitz is in favor of ending term limits.

On the Times City Room blog Markowitz says:

“If the laws were changed and they allowed another term, I’d certainly be honored to serve another term,” Mr. Markowitz added. “But the choice would be up to the voters.”

Marty should be informed that the choice has been made by the voters—they ratified term limits twice.
...
Anyways, we endorse Markowitz wholeheartedly...for retirement.

Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Public Hearings on Columbia’s Use of Eminent Domain, Next Week

Now that the state has officially declared Manhattanville “blighted,” on September 2 and 4, the Empire State Development Corporation will hold public hearings, the next stage of the process that will ultimately determine whether the state will support the use of eminent domain in Columbia University’s planned expansion. While many believe this is a done deal, there is still the opportunity to make your voice heard on this issue. Talking points on eminent domain from Task Force Supporters the Coalition to Preserve Community, a group that has long been fighting Columbia’s plan, are after the jump.

The hearings will be held from 1-4pm and 5:30-9:30pm both days, at Aaron Davis Hall of the City University of New York, located at West 135″‘ Street at Convent Avenue. Speaker sign-up begins 15 minutes before each session.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

August 26, 2008

Voting Against Atlantic Yards

"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide

AYVG got dusted off this morning for the first time since the 2006 primary elections, with two endorsements, one for 10th Congressional District challenger Kevin Powell, and the other for Paul Newell, who's taking on Bruce Ratner-enabler and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in the Lower East Side's 64th Assembly District.

Choose Powell for the 10th CD

The big race in the neighborhood is for the 10th Congressional District, pitting 25-year incumbent Ed Towns against 42-year old challenger Kevin Powell.

Powell opposes Atlantic Yards while Towns has supported the project and has, through the years, received contributions from Ratner and his relations and surrogates.

Newell, Attempting to Unseat Silver, Gets Times Endorsement

Challenging an incumbent as corrupt and deeply entrenched as Sheldon Silver is no easy task. Our admiration goes out to Paul Newell and Luke Henry for making this courageous effort. Newell opposes Atlantic Yards, while Henry's position on the project is unclear.

Of course Sheldon Silver supports Atlantic Yards, voted to approve it and receives financial support from Forest City Ratner.

The New York Times endorsed Newell on August 22.

Posted by eric at 2:48 PM

New Stadium or Old, Seats Cost a Fortune

The New York Times, New Stadiums: Prices, and Outrage, Escalate

No American market has witnessed anything like it: two baseball teams and two football teams will open three new stadiums within 17 months and 20 miles of one another, with everything set to be in place by the fall of 2010.

But even as fans of the Mets, the Yankees, the Giants and the Jets look forward to state-of-the-art stadium architecture, better sightlines, wider concourses and more bathrooms, some of them are also facing startling increases in ticket costs during a serious economic downturn.

The teams are confident market research supports the increases, but season-ticket holders say the price they are being asked to pay in the new stadiums — the Mets’ $800 million Citi Field, the $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium and the $1.6 billion (and climbing) Jets-Giants stadium — is turning them into something other than fans. Instead, interviews with two dozen fans indicated, they are starting to feel like unwitting bankers.

“You’re asking me for money and giving me nothing in return,” said Steve Kern, a construction executive from Boonton Township, N.J., who owns two Jets season tickets. “I won’t be sharing in the revenues or get any perks.”

NoLandGrab: At least Mr. Kern will get to see a Jets game or two, should he decide to keep his season tickets. Millions of taxpayers will have nothing to show for the massive public investment in these projects.

One has to wonder, too, with all these new stadiums coming online, and a head-to-toe makeover of Madison Square Garden soon getting underway, what demand will remain for seats and suites in the Barclays Center?

amNY, Shea Stadium seats selling like hotcakes

Not the right to sit in the seats in the new Citi Field, but the actual physical seats from the soon-to-torn-down Shea Stadium, 6,000 of which sold in the first two hours of online sales yesterday morning.

The Mets struck a deal to sell the pairs of seats, complete with an armrest in between, priced at the hefty sum of $869 in honor of the team's champion years of 1986 and 1969.

The club will split the proceeds from the sale, which is expected to gross more than $14 million, with the city.

As of Monday morning, all of the orange-colored field level seats were sold out, but seats in the loge, mezzanine and upper deck remained.

Other bits of Shea lore, such as clubhouse lockers, are expected to go on sale shortly, as are pieces of Yankee Stadium, which is also closing this year, but final details have yet to be worked out.

NoLandGrab: And why exactly is the City of New York splitting the proceeds with the Mets, when the stadium is ostensibly publicly owned? Too bad we taxpayers don't get to negotiate our tax rates with local government, which appears to be an exceptionally easy mark.

Posted by eric at 2:16 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

Since the Empire State Development Corporation won't send us these Construction Updates, we forgot to post the past three. If you're interested in getting caught up, we've included the links at the end of this post — or, you can always just visit the Footprint Gazette.

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning August 25, 2008 and September 1, 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 to grade level at Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).

  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.

  • Continue hauling soil from block 1121.

  • Continue underpinning of Pacific Street wall.

  • Continue removal of sidewalk on east end of Pacific St.

  • Continue drilling of Pacific Street piles.

  • Begin lagging at Carlton Avenue Bridge piles on Pacific Street.

  • Continue demolition of Pacific Street retaining wall at the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

  • Continue trenching electrical duct banks in block 1121.

  • Begin trench for electrical duct bank at the LIRR sub-station.

  • Begin relocation of hydrants on Pacific Street from north to south side of street.

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.

  • Abatement is complete at 489 Dean Street (block 1128, lot 88).

  • Abatement is complete at 475 Dean Street (block 1127, lot 48).

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. Work is underway on a new sewer chamber on Dean Street near 6th Avenue.

  • 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.

  • Verizon will be splicing cable on Pacific Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and removing cable at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

  • Time Warner Cable and Keyspan will be working at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

Recent Construction Updates: July 14 & 21; July 28 & August 4; August 11 & 18

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

Powell calls Towns "woefully" MIA on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper has posted articles and podcasts of its separate interviews with veteran 10th Congressional District Rep. Edolphus Towns and challenger Kevin Powell.

At about 29:00 of the interview, Powell begins to criticize Towns on a number of issues, saying Towns hasn't addressed joblessness and the need to incubate small businesses, and has been "silent on police brutality" and unwilling to talk to peace activists.

"Missing in action"

Then, at about 30:30, Powell adds, "Where is he on Atlantic Yards? Woefully missing in action, because he's in the pocket of a number of developers."

Actually Towns is not so much missing in action but offering his endorsement to developer Forest City Ratner, although he's been far less vocal than most other elected endorsers.

article

Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

Three minutes? Transcript shows how DEIS hearing quickly went off track

Atlantic Yards Report

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

More than 250 people signed up to speak at the hearing, which, if speakers had been kept to the three-minute limit, would've meant 750 minutes (12.5 hours) in speaking time alone. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

Hearing Officer Edward Kramer's unwillingness to keep some of the first 13 speakers, all elected officials, to three minutes, coupled with his incapacity to keep the crowd under control, made for a chaotic hearing. And while an ESDC spokeswoman insisted afterward that "ESDC followed our practices and policies regarding hearings. We intend to conduct the forums similarly," in the follow-up community forums, Kramer enforced the time limit by having the microphone turned off.

Conclusion:

More people might have spoken had the time limits been adhered to.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

The Real Deal, Harlem complex would move ahead with proposed rezoning

Apparently New Yorkers aren't totally fed up with the Bloomberg administration's continued use of eminent domain:

The New York City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote Wednesday on rezoning the area from 125th to 127th streets, between Second and Third avenues, for a 1.7 million-square-foot mixed-use complex. The city already owns 81 percent of the land designated for the project, and remaining property owners in the zone say they haven't had offers on their land yet, and are afraid the city will use eminent domain. The council is expected to pass the rezoning proposal, and developers Vornado Realty Trust, Thor Equities and General Growth Properties are already bidding on the project.

EMINENT DOMAIN HEARING SEPT. 2 AND SEPT. 4

From an email from the folks in West Harlem fighting the Columbia University land grab:

The Empire State Development Corporation will hold a hearing which is supposedly part of the process to help decide whether the state will support the use of eminent domain for the Columbia expansion. It will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 2 and Thursday September 4 (exact times and signup procedure is below), at Aaron Davis Hall at City College (135th Street and Convent Ave.), just east of Amsterdam Ave.
...
Columbia’s public relations gang together with Councilman Jackson’s office issued a joint press release over a year ago making claims CU would not use eminent domain against expansion properties that had residential tenants. Our coalition immediately disputed this claim, and last month, sure enough, Columbia had changed its tune. Instead of CU President Bollinger’s and Jackson’s assertion that eminent domain would never be used against residents, in the papers before the ESDC, that tune had cha nged. Now CU has reneged on its promise and says it will only forgo eminent domain for an undetermined amount of time (approximately 10 years – or until they need the land where residents are housed).

Complete text after the jump

To CPC Members and Others Interested: 8/24/08

EMINENT DOMAIN HEARING SEPT. 2 AND SEPT. 4 (COME THE EVENING OF THE 2ND IF YOU CAN) AND SUMMER UPDATE:

The Empire State Development Corporation will hold a hearing which is supposedly part of the process to help decide whether the state will support the use of eminent domain for the Columbia expansion. It will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 2 and Thursday September 4 (exact times and signup procedure is below), at Aaron Davis Hall at City College (135th Street and Convent Ave.), just east of Amsterdam Ave. Many Coalition to Preserve Community members testified at the initial meeting in July and the undemocratic practices of the ESDC became immediately evident when its chairperson called for the vote from the members on the eminent domain issue. The chair did not even make the perfunctory gesture of asking if there were any votes in opposition or abstentions. It was only when a CPC member, loudly because his hand went unrecognized, pointed out this basic violation of Roberts R ules of Order, that the chair then went back and completed the proper voting procedure. Even before the vote was taken on whether the eminent domain process would move forward, ESDC officials had already picked hearing dates in September!

State Senator Bill Perkins challenged ESDC for failing to provide him and the public with the current state documents which should have been available. Councilman Robert Jackson’s representative neither raised nor supported any issue that had been brought up by community members or Perkins, instead focusing on a lame request that the hearing be held in September. (It was clear to those present that Jackson had no interest in challenging eminent domain abuse itself – the Sept. 2 date is apparently fine with him--it would give him and his staff enough time to come back from the Democratic National Convention. The organizing challenge of getting the public to a hearing the day after the Labor Day holiday was of no concern to the Councilman. This process is so clearly rigged in favor of Columbia that Governor David Paterson needs to step in personally, come to Harlem’s defense, and show political integrity by maintaining consistency with his own formerly critical position on eminent domain.

We regret to report that Community Board 9 (CB 9) did not have a single representative at the initial ESDC meeting to reiterate the Board's and the community's opposition to Eminent Domain. There are 50 members on the board. Couldn’t someone come and represent it? We must also report that CB 9 did not have anyone present at the judge’s hearing on the environmental lawsuit (brought by Tuckitaway and covering many essential issues raised in CB 9’s resolution against the bathtub construction and other environmental issues raised by CB 9 in its 197 A plan). Where is CB 9 when the community needs them? Where is our political representation? And for that matter, why was the West Harlem Local Development Corp (WHLDC) not present and representing the community’s interests? The WHLDC needs to stand up against eminent domain earnestly in public. We hope to see CB 9 and the LDC members out in force at the ESDC hearing and standing up and speaking out.

Columbia is acting like it has ESDC approval already. Just look at what it is already doing on Broadway’s west side near 130th Street – limiting traffic flow (at least two accidents have occurred already). Has anyone tried to get gas at the Shell Station or a car repair at Papi’s there? Columbia continues its blight creation, and its attack on employment it deems not consistent with the new world it wants to create at our expense.

Columbia’s public relations gang together with Councilman Jackson’s office issued a joint press release over a year ago making claims CU would not use eminent domain against expansion properties that had residential tenants. Our coalition immediately disputed this claim, and last month, sure enough, Columbia had changed its tune. Instead of CU President Bollinger’s and Jackson’s assertion that eminent domain would never be used against residents, in the papers before the ESDC, that tune had cha nged. Now CU has reneged on its promise and says it will only forgo eminent domain for an undetermined amount of time (approximately 10 years – or until they need the land where residents are housed).

Columbia has broken its promise not to use eminent domain against residents after having used it during the government approval process to soften outrage over the use of eminent domain against longtime residents, some of whom were in the process of becoming owners of their apartments. This PR strategy allowed Columbia and the City Council to make the owners easier targets for eminent domain - as if the public is so stupid it does not understand the way eminent domain (and placement of environmentally unsafe facilities) are being used in low-income and minority communities across the country. It was a cynical attempt to divide and conquer but the unity that exists between owners, businesses facing eviction, and residents in and out of the expansion area, is strong. We suspect that Columbia’s inevitable contingency plans to mitigate the affect of C2 the arrests of community members (yes, we will be in front of the bulldozers) must be going forward in the bowels of Low Library, and in consultation with the trustees’ political friends.

Of course, the residents in the immediate expansion area are already being affected by the threat of forced displacement, as are all tenants in the surrounding area and in greater Harlem as well. And, finally, regarding those property owners facing the theft of their properties: They have been dealing with this threat over the past five years, and are now confronting the endgame abuse. The businesses and owners who have been driven out already, and those who are maintaining a courageous (and costly) resistance, have the support of Harlem residents and organized groups like the CPC. Despite Columbia’s vicious underhanded efforts to demean these owners and harass them into selling out, the largest one and others are still hanging tough. Nick Spreyregen of Tuckitaway, declared years ago that he would fight this to the Supreme Court. Those owners who held out f or a long time but were finally squeezed and pressured into selling out, tip their hats to the battle Nick is waging because they would have been right there if they had the resources. He is doing it to save his family businesses and for all Harlem residents, businesses, and workers as well. As we see more and more businesses and residents being forced out from re-zonings (yeah the Record Shack has joined Bobby’s Happy House) and the gentrification process, we know that we cannot go quietly. And we will not. We need you at this hearing. So come on out.

Coalition to Preserve Community members have been active this summer, doing flyering at subway stops against the biotech lab #3’s and the bathtub, and doing other supportive actions for neighborhood preservation, but it is now time for everyone to step into high gear and turn out at this hearing and speak against the use of eminent domain.

Below are talking points to be made at the hearing and below that is the official ESDC notice of where the hearing will take place and speaking rules.

EMINENT DOMAIN TALKING POINTS

EMINENT DOMAIN SHOULD NOT BE INVOKED ON BEHALF OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY’S PROPOSED EXPANSIO N FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:

(1) THE COMMUNITY UNEQUIVOCALLY OPPOSES IT
At every forum of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation and at every public hearing in the ULURP process, the community has been united in opposing the use of Eminent Domain as a first principle and most community members have demanded that the University take it off the table as a precondition for any negotiations with Columbia. The community seeks an integrated community, where private owners who have provided good-paying jobs to community workers can stay in their historic locations. Condemnation would create a “company town” solely f or Columbia University’s use and enjoyment. Columbia’s “all of nothing” demand is unnecessary to their expansion, but not to their “fire-sale” land grab, and destructive of the neighborhood.

(2) THIS PROJECT IS NOT “CIVIC” NOR “FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD”
This proposed project would transfer private property to another private entity, which will use the property in public/private biotech business projects akin to Stanford University’s research park (a development Columbia has sought to emulate since the 1960s). This is not an 9 Ceducational” or “-“civic” use, despite the title of this hearing, but an income-producing use by a not-for profit entity which will not even pay real–estate taxes.

(3) ANY “BLIGHT” IN THE EXPANSION AREA HAS BEEN CREATED BY THE PROPOSED BENEFICIARY OF EMINENT DOMAIN
If it is true, as Columbia has repeatedly claimed, that the University owns 70-80% of the property in Manhattanville (a claim put into question by the list of properties which it seeks to have the ESDC condemn), any ill-maintained and unoccupied property has been the result of the University’s own deliberate actions. It should not benefit from those actions. Available industrial real estate is at a severe shortage in the City. Any vacant properties could have been rented immediately if maintained and truly offered for occupancy. The University has used the threat of condemnation, based on its own creation of blight, to threaten and intimidate landowners into selling their properties, saying “sell to use now or deal with the State later.” Columbia has also emptied the area of commercial tenants like Reality House and the mechanics at 3150 Broadway and is in the process of removing long-time residential tenants and potential owners.

(4) THE CONDEMNATION PROCESS HAS BEEN CORRUPT AND FULL OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
The University has paid at least $300,000 to the ESDC to move the condemnation process forward (a payment unacknowledged by the University until an FOIL request uncovered it) while denying its role in the Eminent Domain process. There is an irresolvable conflict of interest in the condemnation process because the consultant AKRF was hired by the University to perform its Environmental Impact Statement for the ULURP process and at the same time created the “blight study” being relied upon by the ESDC as a basis for Eminent Domain. That conflict has not been resolved by the newly minted “blight study” by another consultant which uniformly mimics the AKRF study. Moreover, AKRF also drafted responses for the City Planning Commission in response to points brought up by Community Board 9 critiquing the “Draft Scope of Work” during the ULURP process. Thus it is seeks to serve three masters: the University, the City, and the State. That is not possible.

(5) THE USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN AT THIS STAGE IS PREMATURE
Columbia has never demonstrated its need for the entire proposed expansion area. We don’t have even one set of completed plans for a building. The safety and economic-feasibility of its proposed “bathtub” basement has never been demonstrated and has served primarily as a rationale for the attempted acquisition of the entire footprint. Columbia has made no commitment to building the bathtub or developing the proposed expansion area within any designated time period. The footprint may sit fallow for years as the University struggles to raise funds in a depressed economy. Present businesses are already operating, paying wages to workers and taxes to the City.

(6) EMINENT DOMAIN IS UNDEMOCRATIC AND UN-AMERICAN
Property to be acquired by private developers like Columbia University should be bought through the market at market prices. Owners uninterested in selling should not be compelled to sell by the State.

COME OUT AND TESTIFY AGAINST THE USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN IN MANHATTANVILLE. WHY SHOULD WEST HARLEM BE HANDED OVER TO COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY WITH A STATE SPONSORED EVICTION? THE PEOPLE, NOT PRIVATE DEVELOPERS AND ELITIST INSTITUTIONS, MUST HAVE INFLUENCE AND MUST BE HEARD.

THE TIMES OF THE HEARING (IT'S IN FOUR PARTS) AND HOW TO SIGN UP TO SPEAK ARE IN THE NOTICE BELOW AND TALKING POINTS TO RAISE ARE AT PASTED IN ABOVE. TRY TO COME TUESDAY NIGHT IF YOU HAVE A CHOICE – 5:30 to 9:00PM.

LEGAL NOTICE
NEW YORK STATE URBAN DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION D/B/A
EMPIRE STATE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING TO BE HELD
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2008 AND CONTINUED ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2008, PURSUANT TO SECTIONS 6 AND 16 OF THE NEW YORK STATE URBAN DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION ACT AND ARTICLE 2 OF THE NEW YORK STATE EMINENT DOMAIN PROCEDURE LAW IN CONNECTION WITH THE PROPOSED COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY EDUCATIONAL MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT LAND USE IMPROVEMENT AND CIVIC PROJECT

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that a public hearing, open to all persons, will be held at the Aaron Davis Hall of the City University of New York, West 135"' Street at Convent Avenue, New York, New York 10031, from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 2, 2008 and continued on Thursday, September 4, 2008, from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. by the New York Sta te Urban Development Corporation d/b/a Empire State Development Corporation ("ESDC") Pursuant to Sections 6 and 16 of the New York State Urban Development Corporation Act (Chapter 174, Section 1, Laws of 1968, as amended; the "UDC Act") and Article 2 of the New York State Eminent Domain Procedure Law ("EDPL") to consider: (a) the General Project Plan (the "General Project Plan") for the proposed Columbia University Educational Mixed-Use Development Land Use Improvement and Civic Project (the "Project"); (b) the proposed acquisition by ESDC, by condemnation or voluntary transfer, of certain property located within the Project Site (described below) in furtherance of the Project; and (c) the essential terms of proposed conveyances of property so acquired by ESDC to Columbia University in furtherance of the Project.

For those who wish to speak at the hearing, speaker registration will commence 15 minutes before each session on each hearing date at the Aaron Davis Hall.

WE ARE COMMITED TO STOPPING THE DESTRUCTION OF HARLEM AND TO PRESERVING OUR HOMES, JOBS AND COMMUNITY

Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

Dear Eliot, . . . . . Please be a true reformer

Noticing New York

This is the second in a series of posts I am running. Each post will share one of a number of letters I have written to politicians representing us calling for them to take responsibilty on Atlantic Yards.

I invite others to borrow freely from them in structuring their own letters.
...
I also received a response to this letter I sent to Eliot Spitzer when he was still governor. More on that later because that is an interesting story in itself.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

blogging121.gif Brownstoner, The History/Mystery of the Hot Bird Sign

Though new businesses have opened in the former Hot Bird spots, most have chosen not to replace the signs—they are now part of the landscape, a mural representing an older Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: No mention that the "part of the landscape" featured in the photo is slated for demolition for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Reid on Travel, Battle of Brooklyn!

Travel writer Robert Reid checks out the the enactment of the real Battle of Brooklyn, which was not reported on in the Blogosphere:

Lately the battle of Brooklyn centers around finding cheap rent for bands or artists in neighborhoods in from Williamsburg on the L line, which heads straight into East Village bar turf on Manhattan. Or the battle over the Atlantic Yards project. The ultimate should we/shouldn't we in urban development -- a new business center that could bring jobs (and the NBA Nets) but means extra traffic and, worse, kicking out locals from some homes.

There was another Battle of Brooklyn, one few Americans have heard about. Likely because it was a huge defeat.

housinganddevelopment.com, Tax-Exempt Bonds For Rental Tower

Developer Bruce Ratner receives $109.5 million in tax-exempt bonds to help construct a 34-story rental housing tower in Brooklyn, not far from his Atlantic Yards mega-development.

Lost City, A Bloomberg Rainbow

The "Bloomberg Rainbow" is not in Atlantic Yards, but it sure is pretty.

Posted by lumi at 4:28 AM

USA Today-heart-Brett Yormark

Atlantic Yards Report

Brett Yormark, CEO and president, Nets Sports and Entertainment (and CEO, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment), is impressive on a lot of fronts, as USA Today's rapturous profile told us yesterday.

Unfortunately, the reporter swallowed the line that Yormark and the Nets "hope to be in [Brooklyn] by the start of the 2010 season." As I commented on the USA Today site, check out Bruce Ratner's 2011 statement to shareholders and Yormark's consistent fudging of the facts.

article

NoLandGrab: Ratner executives like Yormark rely upon this type of journalism of stenography to reinforce their spin.

Posted by lumi at 4:15 AM

August 25, 2008

CEO Profile: Casting a giant (New Jersey) Net

USA Today
by Adam Shell

We're not naive enough to expect USA Today to do critical reporting when it does one of its CEO Profiles, but this story reads like it was written by Brett Yormark himself. And alas, poor Yormark is not lacking in self-esteem.

"Whether it's at the end of a game or that last sale needed to make the monthly budget, I want the ball. That's pretty much been my DNA," says Yormark, a former high school hoops player and marketing whiz who made his name earlier this decade by revving up NASCAR's racing brand by brokering a $750 million sponsorship deal with Nextel.
...

Yormark works long and fast, as if he's on a 24-second shot clock 24 hours a day. His work ethic is legendary. Fortune magazine once called him "The Overtime Guy." His alarm goes off at 3:45 a.m. He's the first guy in the office, getting there by 5 a.m. "I'm the one who turns on the lights," he says.
...

Yormark recalls his initial deal with the Nets during his first go-round with the team in the late 1980s. "On my first day, I sold one of the biggest ticket packages anyone had sold," he says.

article

NoLandGrab: Be sure to read the part where Yormark compares the Barclays Center to the Eiffel Tower, and touts that the Nets are "building a new Brooklyn," which is good, since team owner Bruce Ratner is busily demolishing the current one.

Posted by eric at 9:22 AM

Overstatements from the DEIS hearing: land acquisition, legal challenge, new high schools, housing

Atlantic Yards Report

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

There were several overstatements and deceptions during the DEIS hearing, notably claims that developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) would pay for the land, that the opponents' legal case was unstoppable, that FCR would build four new high schools, and that affordable housing would be "given" out and guaranteed.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

BEEP PROJECTS REAP BIZ BUCKS

NY Post
By Chuck Bennett

Bruce Ratner and Bruce Ratner made contritubtions to Atlantic Yards Cheerleader-in-Chief Marty Markowitz's pet charity and Bruce Ratner contributed to a charity spearheaded by Manhattan Beep Scott Stringer:

Big companies face strict limits on how much they can donate to politicians - but they can be as generous as they want to the politicians' pet charities.

Borough Presidents Scott Stringer of Manhattan and Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn both operate nonprofits that solicit cash from big companies.

Markowitz, a potential mayoral candidate, runs Best of Brooklyn, which took in $1.2 million in 2007 to fund some of his favorite causes, like sending kids to summer camp and finding teens jobs.

"BPs have no legislative role whatsoever, and The Post should applaud the fact that our office encourages public-private partnerships for the public good," Markowitz said.

Among the charity's donors are the Nets and Forest City Ratner - both owned by developer Bruce Ratner, who is building an arena project in Downtown Brooklyn that has benefited from Markowitz's cheerleading.

Both gave between $5,000 and $20,000, documents filed with the Conflicts of Interest Board show.

Stringer, who also harbors citywide office ambitions, made a splash last year with his "Go Green East Harlem" initiative to promote healthy eating.

The project, run by Stringer's Community Fund for Manhattan, was funded in part with a $15,000 gift from Forest City Ratner, $15,000 from Vornado Realty Trust and $10,000 from Commerce Bank.

"The solicitations are governed by rules promulgated by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board," said Stringer spokesman Dick Riley.

article

NoLandGrab: The same Bruce Ratner has also donated megabucks to Mayor Bloomberg's favorite causes: $200K to the NYC2012 Olympic Bid and "$450,000 and $1 million to a nonprofit closely associated with... Bloomberg."

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Is Kucinich looking at the issue of naming rights?

Atlantic Yards Report

From a New York Times Magazine Q&A yesterday with Rep. Dennis Kucinich:

I see you are scheduled to speak at the convention on Tuesday, at the Pepsi Center, which sounds like the name of a soda plant. Why is it called that?

My guess is that Pepsi probably bought the naming rights. Naming rights are another thing my subcommittee — the Domestic Policy Subcommittee — is looking into.

We know that the subcommittee has been looking into the tax-exempt bond deals for Yankee Stadium and other sports facilities, as well as the rules behind tax-exempt bonds. But the naming rights inquiry is news to me.

link

NoLandGrab: If Bruce Ratner's new basketball arena in Prospect Heights is technically publicly owned, how come he gets to keep all the money made from selling the naming rights?

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

Ivanka Trump’s View From the Top

Ivanka-Page6.jpg NY Post, Page Six Magazine
By Joshua David Stein

Bruce Ratner is mentioned in a profile of his most famous apprentice:

Since graduating from Wharton in 2004 and entering the real estate business (before joining up with her dad, she worked for developer Bruce Ratner’s Forest City Enterprises as a tenant coordinator for a year), Ivanka has traveled largely unscathed through the gauntlet of tabloids—though she has been romantically linked to Topher Grace and Lance Armstrong in the past.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

BOOK REVIEW: "In the Country of Brooklyn: Inspiration to the World," Peter Golenbock

Publisher's Weekly, Non-Fiction Reviews

The attempt to shape Brooklynites' opinions of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject makes it into an oral history of Brooklyn:

Brooklynites of varying ethnic and religious backgrounds tell their stories in this oral history of the newly hip New York borough of Brooklyn. Boxer Peter Spanakos, son of Greek immigrants, tells how his brother caught Peter’s Olympic teammate Muhammad Ali drinking out of a bidet in their Rome hotel room. Newspaper columnist Pete Hamill talks about the optimism that defined working-class Brooklyn after WWII. Dave Radens’s Muslim mother never spoke to him again after he married a Jew, and when the eminent black scholar John Hope Franklin became head of Brooklyn College’s history department in 1956. he faced white hostility while looking for a house near campus. Golenbock wrote Bums, an oral history of the Dodgers, and several of his interviewees rhapsodize over the team and Jackie Robinson. Locals will notice that Golenbock lets politicians and developers cheerlead for the controversial Atlantic Yards development while giving short shrift to the opposition. Many of these stories are engrossing and authentic, but also unfocused and rambling. The dearth of female interviewees and younger Brooklynites may limit the book’s appeal. Photos. (Oct.)

Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

Reshaping the City: Who's Being Heard -- and Why?

Gotham Gazette
By Courtney Gross

An examination of the dramatic rezonings in Mayor Bloomberg's New York notes how Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan is special:

Rezonings can come in several ways. There are developer-initiated applications, like Atlantic Yards, but the vast majority begin at the city's planning department.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

August 24, 2008

Eminent Domainia - Crain's Edition

willets8.08.jpg

City quiets a loud Willets Point critic

Jerry Antonacci, owner of Crown Container and once an outspoken critic of the city's plan to redevelop Willets Point, has agreed to make way for the project, for a price.
...
With his deal in hand, Mr. Antonacci has withdrawn from Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, which is leading the opposition among landowners. But despite the agreement, he says his opinions on the redevelopment haven’t changed.

“I don’t want to see eminent domain used on anybody,” he said. “I hope the city treats everyone else as good as they treated me. If they do, maybe you won’t see so much fight.”

City vote on E. 125th Street rezoning near

The New York City Planning Commission is slated to vote on Wednesday on whether to rezone the eastern portion of 125th Street, which would help the pave the way for the construction of a proposed 1.7 million square foot, mixed-use complex.

But property owners in the development zone say city officials have yet to make any offers for their land, which they fear will be acquired through the use of eminent domain.

NoLandGrab: The E. 125th Street folks are protesting the rezoning because there is not a pre-selected developer. Hoping for a Ye Olde Community Benefits Agreement with a developer to rectify the community's needs might not be the best plan...

Posted by amy at 9:10 PM

Will new head of ESDC take a walk around the AY footprint?

Atlantic Yards Report

In March, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Downstate Chairman Pat Foye, an appointee (and friend) of departed Governor Eliot Spitzer, resigned, leaving his deputy, Avi Schick, as the ESDC's acting president.

Schick, who will leave his post in September, has publicly defended Atlantic Yards. Foye was supposed to visit the AY site, but never did.

Now Governor David Paterson has nominated Marisa Lago, a global head of compliance at Citi Markets and Banking, to be the ESDC's president and chief executive, supervising executives for both downstate and upstate. Reported the New York Times:
Mr. Paterson has made revamping the agency a top priority. As he has sounded the alarm in recent weeks about the increasingly bleak outlook for New York’s economy, a better functioning Empire State Development Corporation has become a key piece of the governor’s economic revitalization plan.

link

Posted by amy at 11:06 AM

Reskew Pt. 2

graf8.08.jpg

citynoise

These are on Atlantic Avenue adjacent to the site of the ongoing Atlantic Yards project...

Posted by amy at 10:49 AM

Dan Squadron - Progressive?

squadron12.jpg

life in the sonic age

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards is now being used as a yardstick of progressive politics:

Is it just me or is it strange that a candidate who calls himself a pro- gressive would advertise being endorsed by people who are not at all progressive.

Schumer: middle of the road Democrat. For the Atlantic Yards project, against marriage for GLBT community.

Bloomberg: Billioniare Mayor who runs the city like a billionaire. Tried to get the olympics (never had a chance, blew millions of dollars on a pipe dream), loves the Atlantic Yards, no problem with apartments in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

link

Posted by amy at 10:42 AM

Bruce Ratner’s 80 DeKalb Avenue by Costas Kondylis

80dekalb8.08.gif

greenbuildingsNYC

Designed by Costas Kondylis, Bruce Ratner’s 80 DeKalb Avenue will be the developer’s first residential tower to rise in Brooklyn. The controversial Mr. Ratner will seek LEED certification for the $200 million project, claiming that the 34-story tower will incorporate a variety of low-VOC materials and use low-flow plumbing fixtures. The project broke ground back in July; earlier this week, Mr. Ratner closed on hard-to-obtain $110 million in tax-exempt bond financing from the New York State Housing Finance Agency for the tower, which will feature 73 affordable and 292 market-rate units. (Critics point out that this translates into a cost of $1.5 million in public money for each affordable unit).

link
NoLandGrab: See Atlantic Yards Report for "The reality behind FCR's 80 DeKalb deal (and the implication for AY)"

Posted by amy at 10:32 AM

August 23, 2008

This week in history...Visual Acorn Edition

Norman Oder's post today about the August 2006 DEIS hearing inspired NoLandGrab to hit the archives. We found this memorable photo of Bruce Ratner walking with Bertha Lewis and wearing an ACORN t-shirt.

acornnlg.jpg

So, what has changed with ACORN since 2006? They came over to our side and oppose eminent domain abuse! Look they even used our catchphrase!

Sadly, no. They do oppose eminent domain abuse, but only when they're not feasting at the table.

Posted by amy at 11:33 AM

Two years after the DEIS hearing, one change is "just business"

NYSunayr8.08.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a flashback from the epic hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), held 8/23/06. And here's some video, from Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse.

Departed since then, along with Forest City Ratner point man Jim Stuckey, is point guard Jason Kidd, who gamely appeared with teammate Vince Carter to help provide sports flash for the cameras. (He's standing a bit stoically next to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in this NY Sun photo.)

Kidd, whose trade for Devin Harris looks increasingly like a wise move for the Nets, told the Star-Ledger this week that he didn't have any regrets:
"It's just business," he said. "We had a great run. Sometimes, with moves, business gets in the way. The sad thing is, nobody there is left from when we started the whole thing. I guess you could say they're starting over.

link

Posted by amy at 11:20 AM

Gov. appoints head of Empire State Development

Crain's
Erik Engquist

Marisa Lago was introduced at a midtown press conference as president and CEO of the Empire State Development Corp. Upstate and downstate ESDC presidents will report to her, unlike in the Spitzer administration, when the agency was bifurcated with two chairmen reporting to the governor. Mr. Paterson had frowned on that arrangement, saying it diluted authority at the agency and led to confusion about who was in charge.

Ms. Lago, the former head of development for the city of Boston and a veteran of two mayoral administrations here, has spent the last seven years in international finance as global head of compliance for Citi Markets & Banking. She will be based in New York City and work under unpaid ESDC Chairman Robert Wilmers, who described his role today as “largely strategic” rather than operational. Mr. Wilmers, who was appointed by Mr. Paterson in June, runs Buffalo, N.Y.-based M&T Bank.
...
Mr. Wilmers said that when he accepted his post, “my first thought was to find out how much we spend on economic development.” More than two months later, he admitted, “I still don’t know the answer.”

The agency has also been trying to hold businesses accountable for the job creation they promise in exchange for receiving grants and tax breaks from ESDC. Spitzer administration officials complained that the rationale behind the agency’s handouts was often questionable and follow-up was virtually nonexistent.

Develop Don't Destroy comments:

Remember that Forest City Ratner promised 10,000 office jobs when it announced its project in 2003. Today, if the thing ever gets built, it is likely to only produce about 375 office jobs.

Since the Atlantic Yards project is stalled, lacking in finance and has numerous contracts remaining to be signed prior to the project moving forward, now is the time when the ESDC can examine—really for the first time—its handouts to Forest City Ratner. There is no need to wait for follow-up.

article

Posted by amy at 8:57 AM

On Teasing Walls, Traces of Roasters Past

hotbirdmayo.jpg

NY Times
JAMES ANGELOS

NoLandGrab: The tantalizing title of this article at first got us excited that the Times had picked up the walls story from FoGazy...but no dice:

Another sign, which occupies nearly the width of a wall of an apartment house at 540 Vanderbilt Avenue — the Hot Bird Building, as some call it — sits in the path of the Atlantic Yards project, a planned 22-acre development that will include housing, office space and a basketball arena. A photograph of the building, with demolition equipment in the foreground, titled “Hot Bird’s Last Stand,” was featured this summer at the Brooklyn Museum in “Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition.”

The signs tend to inspire a tongue-in-cheek admiration for Hot Bird’s glory days.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t regret missing the era of Hot Bird in Brooklyn,” one contributor to a Prospect Heights Web site confessed.

article

Posted by amy at 8:46 AM

August 22, 2008

Gehry Out as Architect of Theater in Brooklyn

The New York Times
by Robin Pogrebin

Sure, we were hoping to see something other than "Theater" in that headline, but this is an interesting story nonetheless.

The architect Frank Gehry will no longer be a part of the project to build a permanent home for the Theater for a New Audience in the BAM Cultural District in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the theater’s founder said Thursday. But the announcement came as a surprise to Mr. Gehry, who said he wasn’t told of the change.

Mr. Gehry had collaborated with Hugh Hardy on the theater building’s initial design. Now Mr. Hardy will be the sole architect on the project, according to the theater.

There seems to be a little confusion, however, as to whether Mr. Gehry bailed, or was pushed out.

“Frank Gehry has said to us, ‘I’m sorry that I have to withdraw, but I’m a great fan of Hugh’s, and Theater for a New Audience is going to have a terrific theater.’ ”

But reached by phone on Thursday, Mr. Gehry said his exclusion from the project was news to him. “I didn’t even know they were starting over again,” he said. “I suppose they didn’t need two of us.”

“He’s quite adequate for the job without me,” Mr. Gehry added, referring to Mr. Hardy. “I would guess there are financial reasons for this.”

In response to the architect’s comments, the theater provided The New York Times with a copy of its correspondence with Mr. Gehry’s assistant, in which the architect was said to have approved the language in the theater’s statement. “Frank told me he was too busy and was unable to continue with the project and that he had to withdraw,” Mr. Horowitz said in a telephone interview. “We respected his wishes.”

article

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Forest City Closes $167M Financing for Build

GlobeSt.com
by Natalie Dolce

The headline seems a little truncated, but GlobeSt serves up a detailed report on the financing of Forest City's 80 DeKalb, including this quote from President and CEO Chuck Ratner regarding loan maturities:

"We continue to manage our maturities effectively, recycling capital from our portfolio where prudent to apply to other strategic uses," Ratner says in a prepared statement. "Financing continues to be available for well-conceived and well-sponsored projects and properties in solid markets with good demographics, both in our portfolio and in our development pipeline."

article

NoLandGrab: No doubt Brooklyn is a solid market with good demographics, but when it comes to Atlantic Yards, "well-conceived" does not apply.

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

If A Lettuce

Seems like it's Poetry Friday here at NoLandGrab.

Brooklyn poet Benjamin Gantcher has published If a Lettuce, a book of poems from which he'll be donating all profits to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal fight against the Atlantic Yards project. The book is available locally at Park Slope's Community Bookstore (143 7th Avenue) and Unnameable Books (456 Bergen Street). Here's the title poem.

If a lettuce
in the garden "looks" at the moon
before it sleeps and dreams of the farmer
with his bite at the weeds that comes so close,
with merciless unroots that thud the dirt,
does the lettuce love a lettuce moon
planted in the night,
with runners poking up as stars,
and open gladly when the moon is strong
and pity when the moon is eaten?

NoLandGrab: Unnameable Books is the first business we've come across that uses "the Atlantic Yards landgrab" as a wayfinder on its web site.

Posted by eric at 9:26 AM

First they came for Dean St.

The Footprint Gazette

First they came for Dean St., and I did not speak out -
because I don't live on Dean St.

Then they came for the Carlton Ave. Bridge, and I did not speak out -
because I don't really use that bridge too much.

Then they came for 6th ave, and I did not speak out -
because I am not into avenues.

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.

Why the poesy from "FoGazy"? Click here to find out and to check out the latest photos of The Wall (coming to a footprint block near you).

Posted by lumi at 4:19 AM

The lesson of Field of Schemes: political reform needed

FOS.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

This is the eighth and final part of a multi-part interview (conducted May 28) with Neil deMause, the Brooklyn-based co-author of the book Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit, and writer of the companion web site. He testified at a 3/29/07 Congressional hearing that questioned taxpayer financing of stadiums, convention centers, and hotels.

Q. What’s the lesson of the book? Do you have general reform advice--what should cities, states, or the federal government do?

A. It’s easy if you’re the city or the state or the federal government: you stop giving money… It’s within federal government’s power to stop tax-exempt bonds from being used for stadiums right now. You just pass a law telling the IRS don’t do that anymore. The federal government could shut down subsidies for sports stadiums and for other ridiculous deals, luring companies from one state to another.

There’s this thing I mentioned in the book. [Rep.] David Minge’s proposal, why don’t you just pass an excise tax on corporate subsidies, so if Ratner gets, say, a billion in subsidies for this project, then he has to pay federal taxes on this project, that would suddenly make it a lot less lucrative. Congress could do that in a second. They are not.

Cities could say No, it’s not worth it to us, that it would be nice to have a basketball team in Brooklyn, but not that nice. All this is within the power--it’s not that hard to do. The problem is, what do we as private citizens do when the government is not making decisions based on the public interest but making decisions based on the private interest.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:13 AM

Watch the Vanderbilt Yards in Motion

Video by Tracy Collins from the Flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool, via Gowanus Lounge.

This image was created by Tracy Collins and posted on flickr. It is very short and shows some movement in the Vanderbilt Yards, which would be decked over for the Atlantic Yards development.

Posted by lumi at 3:59 AM

Best of the Fests

Time Out New York

Reclusive Bruce is scheduled to be sighted at a Brighton Beach party.

Sunday 24
32nd annual Brighton Jubilee

Stuff yourself with borscht, blintzes, kebabs and more at this Little Odessa fest, which festival organizer Pat Singer calls a “real multicultural experience.” Offerings include rock & roll shows, a blood drive, and Atlantic Yards founder Bruce Ratner hanging with a “surprise” Nets player. Bring Carmelo to Brooklyn and we’ll shut up, okay? Brighton Beach Ave between Coney Island Ave and Corbin Pl, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn (718-891-0800). Subway: Q to Brighton Beach. 9am–7pm.

link

Posted by lumi at 3:55 AM

August 21, 2008

The reality behind FCR's 80 DeKalb deal (and the implication for AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posits that the stories being written about Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb financing are missing the real story.

The FCR project, along with three others, was selected among 14 projects for the state agency's bonds, because "we view [the 80 DeKalb project] as an efficient use of a scarce resource," said Priscilla Almodovar, President and Chief Executive Officer of HFA. "[T]he developer agreed to limit its allocation to $1.5 million per low-income unit--lower than our $1.7 million ceiling--and agreed to permanent affordability for its low-income units rather than for just 30 years.
...

The larger question is whether a similar fate awaits Atlantic Yards. Though the financing of Atlantic Yards remains murky, it's reasonable to speculate that, given the significant amount of subsidies and tax breaks for Atlantic Yards, plus the advantage of eminent domain, Forest City Ratner may be able to successfully compete for the scarce pool of tax exempt bonds offered by the city Housing Development Corporation by asking for somewhat less per unit than other 50/30/20 projects that include 50% market-rate units, 30% middle-income units, and 20% low-income units.

And that's an argument for a full accounting of subsidies and public costs for AY, before such a decision is made.

article

NoLandGrab: As usual, Oder offers up some helpful background, elucidates the subsidies, and wraps it all up in the context of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

60,000 vehicles daily at Flatbush and Atlantic? A closer look

Atlantic Yards Report

A couple of AYR readers yesterday were taken aback by the claim, on the Barclays Center web site, that 60,000 vehicles pass (or will pass) daily through the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, thus providing a prime location for the Jones Soda Stoop & Adjacent Terrace.

Do 60,000 vehicles really pass through that intersection now--or would they do so later? The short answer is that evidence is inconclusive, since the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, didn't aim at cumulative vehicle counts but rather at whether traffic during peak hours could be mitigated. (Answer: traffic at a.m. peak hours would have significant impacts at 11 intersections even after mitigation efforts.)

Norman Oder examines why it's so difficult to nail down the increase in daily traffic counts for the intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenues, which some consultants claim are lowballed, and why the web site for the Barclays Center would even tout the number of cars travelling through what is widely considered to be the worst intersection in Brooklyn.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

Ratner announces financing for 80 DeKalb

80DeKalb-2.JPG MarketWatch.com, Forest City Closes $167 Million Financing for Downtown Brooklyn Residential Building

The full press release from Forest City Ratner announces that the company "has closed on $167 million in construction financing for 80 DeKalb, a 335,000-square-foot residential building on DeKalb Avenue in downtown Brooklyn."

The Real Estate Observer, New Glassy Tower to Join Fort Greene Mini-City

The glass building will join the Forte Condo (at Ashland Place and Fulton Street), and the soon-to-be-built Danspace project across the street to form a small mini-city on the edge of Fort Greene, bordering Downtown Brooklyn -- but a taste of the 16-skyscraper-and-arena Atlantic Yards complex to come.
...
[A]ccording to the release.

"The New York State Housing Finance Agency selected 80 DeKalb to receive $109.5 million in tax-exempt bonds and $27.5 million in taxable bonds. The lending institutions involved in the transaction were Wachovia Bank, N.A., and Helaba (both co-agents providing the credit enhancement to the $137 million in bonds issued by HFA), as well as the National Electrical Benefit Fund, which provided a $10 million mezzanine loan and $20 million of credit enhancement."

Boring as that might seem, it's an achievement to get that sort of financing in this market, in which many of the Wall Street shops have stopped lending, and borrowers are forced to approach more traditional, and more conservative, balance sheet lenders.

NoLandGrab: It's less of an achievement when the state housing authority is backing most of the bonds. Also, the word on the street is that Ratner had to get the bonds from the State because the City of New York is more inclined to provide tax-exempt bond-financing for projects with a higher component of affordable units (50/30/20).

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Funding Set For Ratner’s First Brooklyn Apt. Building

Unlike most 80/20 developments, 80 DeKalb will remain affordable for 99 years, according to Ratner. For the initial 35 years, 62 affordable units will be made available for households earning up to 50 percent of the area median income (AMI) and 11 units for households with incomes up to 40 percent of AMI. For the remaining years, all of the affordable units will be made available for households earning up to 90 percent of AMI.

NoLandGrab: For those trying to wrap your head around all of the fanfare, this means that after 35 years the income-ceiling for applicants for the "affordable units" will be raised for the remainder of the program. Bottom line, it's less affordability for the long term.

The Brooklyn Paper, Ratner’s first tenants

This head-scratching explanation is probably our favorite bit of spin of day:

Some critics have argued that state affordable housing bonds are too generous. Indeed, the state’s $109.5-million tax-free financing will create just 73 afforable units — a cost of $1.5 million per apartment.

But a spokesman for the Housing Finance Agency said such back-of-the-envelope calculations miss the larger point.

“We don’t finance only the affordable units in a building; we finance the entire building because the developer has committed to having affordable units in it,” said the spokesman, Phil Lentz. “So our contribution is actually $300,000 per unit. We don’t finance buildings that are exclusively market rate.”

NoLandGrab: So NY State justifies its generosity by reminding taxpayers that we are not only helping to finance the affordable units but the market-rate units too!?!

One other note: Chuck Ratner got it right in the press release where he stated, "It's also a tribute to our New York team and the relationships they have built in both the public-sector and private-sector financing community." Though this deal closed in a shaky lending environment, the backbone of the deal, the state-backed tax-exempt financing, couldn't have happened without the Ratners' deep political ties.

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

Baltimore: What The NYT Didn’t See Fit to Print

Rooflines [National Housing Institute, blog]
By Matthew Schwarzfeld

Last week, we pointed out that a NY Times article about the Johns Hopkins project being developed by Forest City in East Baltimore danced around the subject of eminent domain by using curious euphemisms and code words that would be unfamiliar to those who have not been closely following the issue of eminent domain.

Judging from this Rooflines article, the Times piece, covering the "largest urban renewal project in the nation" by the paper's own development partner, was more of a snow job than we initially thought.

Johns Hopkins has a complex and mixed relationship with the mostly black residents of the east Baltimore neighborhood in which the main campus is located, but a recent article in The New York Times on the university’s $1.8 billion expansion plan largely ignores the issue. Though the university expansion will result in the dislocation of thousands of low-income residents, The Times looks almost entirely at the positive business impact.

Johns Hopkins’ expansion is the largest urban renewal project in the country. The university, through a nonprofit partnership, the East Baltimore Development Inc., has acquired 88 acres, much of it through eminent domain. The project will raze a large part of East Baltimore—an infamously crime-ridden area with high vacancy rates—and replace it with office buildings, university lab facilities, and mixed-income housing.

The Times article, which ran in the real estate section, sees the project as nothing but a positive. It describes EBPI’s work as “turning what had become an urban wasteland into a vibrant, 88-acre community” and “demolish[ing] a neighborhood to save it.” (A June 2007 article that ran in The Times national section presents a more-balanced view).
...
The article’s discussion of Forest City, Hopkins’ development partner, has also caught the attention of opponents of eminent domain outside of Baltimore. The blog NoLandGrab, a strong opponent of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project (Forest City Ratner is a subsidiary of Forest City), blasted the Baltimore article in a recent post. Opponents of Atlantic Yards have called the papers coverage into question, noting that the Times Company and Forest City have a series of business collaborations.

“I’ve long commented that, while I don’t think there’s any directive in the newsroom to go easy on Forest City Ratner (or its parent company, Forest City Enterprises), the business relationship means that the newspaper has an obligation to be exacting in its coverage—and, in the case of Atlantic Yards, it has too often failed to do so,” said Norman Oder, editor of the Atlantic Yards Report. “The omission of eminent domain in this article [about East Baltimore] strikes me as another example of that failure.”

article

NoLandGrab: Of course there's no "directive in the newsroom to go easy on Forest City Ratner (or its parent company, Forest City Enterprises)," and the serious lack of critical analysis is just an odd coincidence.

This is where some of us think that Norman Oder is being a little too considerate. There need not be a "directive" when cozy business relationships and a publisher's personal predilections are often enough to quell the appetite for critical reportage.

Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

Mayor, rich friends need to conserve money, too!

amNY, Letter to the Editor

Hey, it's only one person's opinion, but Tanya O'Langan from Manhattan has a point:

How can Mayor Bloomberg say we have a budget problem when he only pays cops $25k? Maybe our only budget problem is that we have a mayor who gives billions of our tax dollars to his fellow billionaires in corporate welfare?

If 'times are tough' and 'we must all bite the bullet,' then perhaps he should get our money back from the well connected crooks like Steinbrenner and the Mets!

NoLandGrab: And while we're belt tightening, throw in fat-cat Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

Silver Praises Ratner

This week, NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver characterized Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner as "a major force in New York City for the good."

The folks over at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn are reminding supporters that Silver must've felt "the good" in Ratner when the developer donated $58,420 to the speaker's political slush fund.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:21 AM

insight, foresight, more sight

Photo by horseycraze, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

moonoverAY-hrcrz.jpg

The "hot bird" building, on the left, and a few trees are all that remain at the eastern corner of the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. However, redevelopment plans for the moon have been put on hold due to the economic downturn.

Posted by lumi at 4:09 AM

Forest City in the News

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Career Opportunities Fair Held in Coney Island

An article about a job fair in Coney Island cites Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner's experience trying to hire from the local job pool for its MetroTech complex.

When Forest City started to build the MetroTech complex, it discovered to its regret that the skills level of most of the unemployed who sought jobs did not match what was required.

This lesson was remembered when the company started working on the large Atlantic Yards development. It has subsequently hosted a series of job training workshops to mitigate that reality.

NoLandGrab: Since Atlantic Yards is sputtering along, what's to stop Forest City Ratner from redoubling its job-training efforts at MetroTech?

The Herald-News, Update: New Lenox mega-mall plan in trouble
Forest City's plans to build a mixed-use "lifestlye mall" in Illinois has hit another snag:

The Birches, a 1.1 million-square-foot lifestyle mall planned for the intersection of Cedar Road and U.S. 6, may not proceed as planned.

Developer Forest City has been negotiating for several months to renew an option to buy the 187 acres needed for the commercial project. But those talks recently broke down.

“It was not a question of money, it was a question of time,” said Jerry Ferstman, the company’s vice president of commercial development.

The land owner wanted a quicker resolution to the deal, but with the economy being what it is, Forest City was looking for more time, Ferstman explained. The company had recently pushed plans for a ground breaking for the project from 2009 to 2010.

NoLandGrab: Why not use eminent domain? Forest City has had no problem wielding that governmental power for past projects.

Posted by lumi at 3:28 AM

August 20, 2008

Panic in Sambôdia: From Crack City Nights To The New Light

Crackland.jpg

THE NEW WORLD LUSOPHONE SOUSAPHONE

Journalist, blogger and Brooklyn ex-pat Colin Brayton reports on a Brazilian urban renewal project land grab that sounds like Atlantic Yards on steroids, complete with exaggerated tales of blight, cheerleading media coverage, and questionable crime statistics. But his Atlantic Yards reference is a little off-base.

City government wants private enterprise to execute New Light urban renewal project, report G1/Globo.

The city plans to expropriate 106 acres in the downtown area.

Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, New York, for comparison’s sake, involved some 21 acres, and years and years of intense negotiation with the local community.

The local community in this case is simply being demonized in the media — Globo is a major culprit — as an homogenous army of crack-smoking zombies and evicted at gunpoint by the fabled Tropa de Choque.

Typical of Globo journalism, some 95% of the report consists factoids plagiarized from press releases by the city government, and dedicates only a token amount of space to opposition to the project by local residents whose properties are being sold off for pennies, in offers they cannot refuse, so that Microsoft can have a nice place to work out of for very, very cheap.

It cannot even manage to interview a single person so affected. It interviews one person who knows of, and sympathizes with, a person so affected.

Symptomatic: G1 follows the city government — the incumbent mayor is polling at about 9% in his bid for reelection, trailing even Paulo Maluf — in referring to the neighborhood as “Crackland.”
...

Longtime residents and property owners are now seeing themselves socioeconomically cleansed from the area along with the crackheads.

article

NoLandGrab: "Years and years of intense negotiation with the local community?" We'll give Brayton the benefit of the doubt, and assume that either a) he's been absent from Brooklyn a few years or b) he's been getting his Atlantic Yards news from The Brooklyn Standard, Forest City Ratner's erstwhile fake newspaper.

The only "negotiation" Atlantic Yards has gone through has been between developer Bruce Ratner and a few hand-picked community groups, several of which didn't exist before the project was announced. The community's intense battle to stop the ill-conceived project, however, has been going on for years and years.

Posted by eric at 10:05 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

MacBookProCat.jpg

Nets Daily, Barclays Center Updates Renderings

Nets Daily notes the new renderings on the Barclays Center web site, sans the irony pointed out by Atlantic Yards Report, but nods to AYR nonetheless:

Critics jumped on the new renderings, saying they show Bruce Ratner is commercializing a public space.

NoLandGrab: We critics do not accuse Bruce Ratner of commercializing a public space. Rather, we criticize the counting of the obviously private "Urban Room" as "publicly accessible open space."

Kristen's Brooklyn, NY Blog [About.com], A Walk Around the [Brooklyn] Blog

The About.com Guide to Brooklyn gives kudos to A Walk Around the Blog for profiling the likes of Atlantic Yards photobloggers Adrian Kinloch and Tracy Collins.

Noticing New York, Dear Mr. Bloomberg, . . . . . the Harm and the Foul

Michael D.D. White revisits a letter he sent last year to Mayor Bloomberg regarding the folly of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

"Maximum" private participation: will the Urban Room become ADT Plaza?

Atlantic Yards Report

Where else does a "Civil Rights-era provision aimed to clear slums" spawn "ADT Plaza" and Ye Olde "Jones Soda Shoppe?"

Ratnerville, of course:

Architect Frank Gehry, developer Forest City Ratner, and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) have long called it the "Urban Room," publicly-accessible open space. It looks like we should start calling it the ADT Plaza.

While ADT Plaza is not described explicitly as the "Urban Room" on the Barclays Center web site, it would include several elements tagged to the Urban Room.
...
And what about the second level mezzanine of ADT Plaza, accessed by a grand stoop? That sounds like the Jones Soda Shoppe, with its retro spelling of "shop."

article

Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

Forest City firm on price for convention center site

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
By Joe Guillen

Forest City Enterprises executives said they will not drastically cut their $40 million asking price for land at Tower City to pave the way for a medical mart and convention center.

The company has already agreed to concessions for the project, including a low-cost 20-year lease of the Higbee Building for the medical mart and a convention center redesign to reduce costs. The company is not inclined to go much further, said three Forest City executives who met with Plain Dealer editors and reporters on Tuesday.

But reducing the asking price is what Cuyahoga County officials are looking for.

article

NoLandGrab: Next step eminent domain? Ya think that the development company that repeatedly benefits from the use of eminent domain for land acquisition (i.e. Atlantic Yards; the NY Times Headquarters; Fresno, CA) might understand if the county just forced them to sell the land at the coincidentally appraised value of $40 million.

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

August 19, 2008

Met Council’s Annual Builder’s Luncheon Raises One Million Dollars

Jewish And Breaking News

The Jewish news blog posts what looks like the press release issued by the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty in the wake of its annual Builders Luncheon, which honored Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

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Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council) netted more than one million dollars this past week, during its annual Builder’s Luncheon honoring Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies.

The nearly 500 guests spanned the real estate, political and communal spectrum. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Congressman Anthony Weiner and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz praised Mr. Ratner for his work in developing New York City. The keynote speaker, Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, presented Mr. Ratner with a beautifully decorated charity box.

Speaker Silver commented in his address, “Bruce is responsible for much of the development and growth that’s gone on in Brooklyn and in Manhattan. He is a major force in New York City for the good.”

article

NoLandGrab: The "beautifully decorated charity box" presented to Mr. Ratner by Mr. Silver pales beside other gifts bestowed upon the developer by the Assembly Speaker, which include PACB approval in 2006 of the Atlantic Yards project and a special clause in 421-a legislation. But just in case you were thinking this was a one-way street, Ratner greased the Silver-controlled Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee with $58,000 just this past January.

Posted by eric at 2:19 PM

Housing Acclimates to Waves of the Future

eOculus [AIA NY Newsletter]
by Lisa Delgado

Last month, Forest City Ratner sponsored an American Institute of Architects NY Chapter event on historic preservation. This month, they're ponying up to sponsor a forum on housing and new technologies.

As our million new neighbors predicted by PlaNYC descend by 2030, housing will make up an ever-greater portion of the fabric of our city. So what are some of the most promising directions for its design? According to William Stein, FAIA, principal of Dattner Architects, and Andrew Knox, AIA, partner at Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects, one trend is the confluence of green design and affordable housing, which are recently coming together in projects that are equally light on the environment as on the pocketbook.

link

NoLandGrab: One current affordable-housing project by Brooklyn's Fifth Avenue Committee has had to scrap its marquee green-design feature — rooftop solar panels — thanks to the shadow that would be cast over it by Forest City Ratner's humongous Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 1:57 PM

MAAC Madness in Brooklyn

The Full-Court Press

Back in July, we promised that we'd post The Full-Court Press's analysis of an as-yet-unbuilt Brooklyn arena as possible future site of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball tournament. Then we missed the post, which appeared on August 7th. Here are some highlights.

Our series gets a little more intriguing today, because Brooklyn is the first potential site we'll look at that has never hosted the tournament. Unlike some of the other potential sites, which could have been options but weren't strongly considered, Brooklyn is new to the mix because Atlantic Yards, the future home of the Nets, is still being constructed.
...

Atlantic Yards will be nearly brand new in 2012, will be accessible on the NYC Subway, and is an easy commute on the LIR for MAAC fans on Long Island. So were I at the table when the discussions were going on, it'd be at or near the top of my list of neutral sites.

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NoLandGrab: One possible reason Atlantic Yards hasn't been considered as a site in the past is because it doesn't exist. Nor is it "still being constructed" — construction has yet to begin, and the soonest any construction could actually begin would likely be some time in 2009. Which means it would most likely be "not nearly finished" by the 2012 MAAC tourney, rather than "nearly brand new."

The Full-Court Press's look at the Prudential Center in Newark also mentions Atlantic Yards. "The Rock" may have an advantage as a potential MAAC tournament site, seeing how it's, um, real.

Posted by eric at 1:24 PM

Hundreds protest Shoreway Shopping Center’s ‘slumlords’

The Chronicle-Telegram [Elyria, OH]
by Stephen Szucs

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The mailboxes of Shoreway Shopping Center owners Marc Levin and James Ratner should soon be stuffed full of mail from Sheffield Lake.

Postcards preprinted with their addresses were passed out to hundreds of Sheffield Lake residents who flocked to the shopping center Monday in an effort to convince the owners to sell what many called a defunct “eyesore” ravaging the city’s economy.

“A lot of the signs you’re carrying make reference to slumlords holding the city hostage,” said Sheffield Lake Mayor John Piskura from atop a flatbed semitrailer. “The truth of the matter is they’ve been playing games with this city for over 30 years.”
...

The Levin Family Trust in McLean, Va., owns 76 percent of the shopping center, while the Ratner family, which owns Forest City Enterprises in Cleveland, owns the rest.

article

Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

If Barclays Center gets built, how long before it's obsolete?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his conversation with Field of Schemes author and blogger Neil deMause.

Q. Economist Mark Rosentraub, in your book, says something like, if you’re not prepared for major changes in your sports facility by its second decade, you’re being pollyanish. Let’s say Frank Gehry’s designing the best arena of its time. How long would it last before it needs to be reworked?

A. Well, [Seattle's] Key Arena was rebuilt in '94; now the Sonics are trying to move to Oklahoma City, that’s 14 years. [They have since gotten the OK to move.]

It depends on what you mean by reworked--torn down and rebuilt, or have some new things added? I think there will always be new technology that teams want, or new things that someone else will come up with and will make more revenue, and they’ll say, we need some of those too, the question is what you can retrofit, how much it costs and who pays for it.

At one point, I asked that to Rod Fort, an economist at the University of Michigan. His response was, Well, from the perspective of the owner, if you’re not paying for it, I don’t see anything wrong with a new arena every year.
...

I don’t think there's any way of knowing. I think the answer is: it’s when the team owner, whoever it happens to be, thinks they can realistically come back and demand something. That could be five years, it could be 30 years--but there’s always going to be something they don’t have.

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NoLandGrab: If history is any guide, Bruce Ratner will not be bashful about holding his hand out to the taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 9:09 AM

August 18, 2008

Freddy’s Bar: Where The Soul of Beer Never Dies

FreddysSurrounded.jpg

Who Walk In Brooklyn

In a tribute to Freddy's Bar (and contemporaneous condemnation of Atlantic Yards), WWIB gives props to Norman Oder for the forensics he performs daily on the project that would eat Brooklyn.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has become the Quincy of this developmental malfeasance shit; check him out on the regular even [if] his invective game is slightly lacking. Just kidding: by steady accretion of discovery & detail, The Man has fought The Monster. We can all drink to that!

link

NoLandGrab: Warning — some language in the above-referenced item may not be suitable for NoLandGrab readers under the age of 13. But really, can you blame WWIB for feeling blue?

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Powerful Harlem Church Is Also a Powerful Harlem Developer

The New York Times
by Timothy Williams

Forest City Ratner makes a cameo appearance in a NY Times story on the significant effect that the Abyssinian Development Corporation, the real estate off-shoot of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, is having on that neighborhood.

The corporation’s largest project to date has been Harlem Center, an $85 million retail and office complex on 125th Street it developed with Forest City Ratner. Businesses there include Marshall’s, Staples, H & M and a Washington Mutual bank.

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NoLandGrab: Judging from that partial list of Harlem Center tenants, it's no surprise that some critics say that Abyssinian "has virtually ignored small businesses in favor of chain stores that have damaged the small-town character of Harlem." When you team up with national-chain proliferator Forest City, that outcome is pretty much inevitable.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Measured Improvement? Times analysis of carbon monoxide may exceed AY FEIS estimates

Atlantic Yards Report

Naturally, the Atlantic Yards Evironmental Impact Statement states that "no significant adverse impacts on air quality are predicted during the construction of the proposed project." However, a curious graphic published this weekend in the NY Times, comparing the carbon monoxide levels along the marathon routes in Beijing and New York City, indicates reason for concern for Brooklynites who live, work and play around Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project footprint.

Would you want to run a marathon around the Atlantic Yards footprint?

An informational graphic (click to enlarge) in the New York Times Sports section Saturday suggested some curious details about the Atlantic Yards footprint and nearby parts of central Brooklyn: the area is experiencing high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) emissions, close to the levels that prompted Beijing officials to take drastic pre-marathon measures.

The main point of the graphic is to compare the air quality along the Olympic marathon route in Beijing before alternate-day driving restrictions were imposed with the air quality after such limitations were imposed.

The newspaper also included a graphic of the New York City Marathon route, which showed a "spike" in the area near Lafayette and Bedford avenues, where the route turns north, but also some significant increases around the intersection of Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues, the western segment of the AY footprint.

The newspaper blames "construction machinery" for the increase, at least in the area closer to Bedford Avenue. There's also a significant amount of construction equipment operating in and around the footprint, as with the excavator pictured on Dean Street near Sixth Avenue.

So, as I describe below, there's an argument for measuring carbon monoxide even though it's not part of the Community Air Monitoring Plan for the construction phase of the project.

The Times graphic suggests that the area around Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues experiences well over 5 ppm (parts per million), and possibly as large as 10 ppm, or even larger. Still, without backing data, it's not easy to eyeball the graphic and determine a total.

By contrast, Chapter 17 (Construction Impacts) of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) estimates that the combination of construction equipment and traffic would not raise CO above the 9 ppm threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency in its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Note that the EPA states that the 9 ppm level should not be exceeded more than once per year. (The maximum permitted one-hour concentration is 35 ppm.) Also note that that level is an 8-hour average, and the Times didn't state whether its totals represent such an average or simply the average of one-time readings along the route.

The rest of the article delves into the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, where one thing is for sure, if Bruce Ratner's controversial project is built, we can expect even higher carbon monoxide emissions. No worries, the "Community Air Monitoring Plan" doesn't include carbon monoxide, so what you don't know can't hurt you.

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

So when exactly was that Contract Scope for an EIS prepared?

Atlantic Yards Report

I've posted (via my previous article) the 35-page Contract Scope for an Environmental Impact Statement that I cited on Friday as promising more analysis of blight than was ultimately produced by consultant AKRF.
...
The ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] voted on 9/29/05 to authorize the contract. It was signed by representatives of AKRF on 1/12/06 and ESDC 1/24/06.

The Contract Scope is undated, but its second page states that "a final draft EAF [Environmental Assessment Form] was submitted to ESDC on September 16," which suggests that the document was in front of the ESDC when the agency's board voted that month.

It sure would've been interesting to have had it earlier.

article

NoLandGrab: The contrast between the original Contract Scope and what was ultimately delivered implies that the case for blight might have been very weak had AKRF conducted the study as originally outlined in the Contract Scope. This is interesting because the NY State definition of blight is notoriously lax and in favor of the condemning authority.

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Eminent Domain Abuse Specialists

TC-EDAbuseSpezialists.jpg
Photographer Tracy Collins stumbles over a blast from the past and posts it to the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Found this anti-Atlantic Yards poster on the sidewalk near Dean & Carlton tonight. It appears pretty old and beaten up. Not sure why it's here at this point in time.

Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

Forest City in the News

The strength of Forest City Enterprises's political connections has long been a factor and hallmark of the development company's success. A federal corruption probe into a land deal on Forest City's home turf reveals how lucrative these connections can be.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cuyahoga County missed a chance to save $2 million on juvenile center

On July 28, federal agents raided the offices of Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and Auditor Frank Russo as part of a massive public corruption investigation. The agents seized, among many things, documents related to the juvenile justice complex at East 93rd Street and Quincy Avenue. What the feds are investigating is unclear, but turmoil has surrounded that property for years.

Cuyahoga County Commissioners celebrated as they signed a $2.75 million deal to buy land from Sunrise Land Co., a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, Inc.
...
Just seven months earlier, the county could have saved taxpayers more than $2 million by snatching up the property itself up before the land was sold to Sunrise. ...
[O]n July 13, 1999, Sunrise bought most of the land at a County Auditor's sale for about $400,000, then sold it back to the county within months for a more than 500 percent return on its investment.

Today, county officials are at a loss to explain why they weren't better stewards of the taxpayers' money in purchasing the property that former Mayor Michael White once called "the worst environmental hazard in the city" -- two years before he recommended it as a site for the juvenile center.

Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio officials can't explain land deal

Cuyahoga County officials are at a loss to explain why the county spent $2.75 million to buy land for a juvenile detention center when it could have bought the same land at a public auction for a small fraction of that price just seven months before, a newspaper reported Sunday.

County commissioners celebrated in late February 2000 when they signed the deal to buy the land from Sunrise Land Co., a move that ended a 14-year search for the home for a much-needed juvenile detention center, according to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. In July 1999, Sunrise, a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises Inc., had bought most of the land at a county auditor's sale for about $400,000. The county didn't bid on the land.

Information on the land deal on Cleveland's East Side was a target in FBI raids last month on the homes and offices of county officials, including County Commissioner Jimmy DiMora, according to the newspaper.

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

August 17, 2008

In Courier-Life, "Yards foes" find journalistic confusion

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Atlantic Yards Report looks at the latest brutally weird exchange between Daniel Goldstein and Courier-Lifer Stephen Witt. Goldstein writes a letter to the editor correcting one of Witt's articles, which was riddled with mistakes. Witt fires back by asking Goldstein questions...in print. Atlantic Yards Report breaks it all down for Mr. Witt:

The eminent domain litigation, first filed in federal court but ultimately dismissed, leading to a successor case filed in state court, is unrelated to the case challenging the environmental review, which was filed in state court and remains under appeal.

Why was it filed in the Appellate Division rather than in the lower-level trial court? That's what state law requires. According to Article 2, §207 of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law:
Judicial review. (A) Any person or persons jointly or severally, aggrieved by the condemnor's determination and findings made pursuant to section two hundred four of this article, may seek judicial review thereof by the appellate division of the supreme court...

As for whether "opponents... filed yet another legal petition trying to stop the project," Goldstein's technically right. However, Witt and others can point to intertwining motives; DDDB, while not a plaintiff, has organized and helped fund the eminent domain case. And people contributing to DDDB's legal fund are doing so not to help individual plaintiffs but rather to block or change the project.

link

Posted by amy at 11:06 AM

Not THAT Michael White

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Noticing New York talks about the new federal courthouse on Cadman Plaza East and Tillary Street:

An article in the Brooklyn Eagle describes the plans for the courthouse as “star-crossed” and goes into a bribery scandal involving the general contractor. It reminds us that “A proposal to build it in the Atlantic Center, over the LIRR station, was rejected by federal judges who made it privately clear that this was too far away from the center of things in Downtown Brooklyn.” Tell that to Bruce Ratner the next time he misrepresents Atlantic Yards (which he wants to build more han 4 times as tall!) as being “in Downtown Brooklyn!” (See: Federal Courthouse Project Hits A Snag; New Contractor Sought by Dennis Holt, 03-05-2004)

That same Brooklyn Eagle article tells us “One of Sen. Patrick Moynihan’s last acts was to attend the 2000 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new building. Though physically frail, he gave a stirring speech on the value of public works, a sentiment rarely heard these days, and declared that this building would be memorable.” As many know, I am strongly advocating that we fittingly remember Daniel Patrick Moynihan by putting our resources into Moynihan Station, a “public work” like the courthouse rather than diverting them into Atlantic Yards. Atlantic Yards is not only NOT a “public work,” it represents something Moynihan fought against in his time. It was Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who, in 1986, sponsored the insightful law that bans the use of tax-exempt bonds to finance sports stadiums and arenas which Bruce Ratner now seeks to circumvent.

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Posted by amy at 11:00 AM

August 16, 2008

Should New York City reform eminent domain?

Crain's

City Council member Hiram Monserrate on Thursday proposed to reform the city's eminent domain law by requiring developers to issue a financial impact report on any city project that calls for use of eminent domain. Reports would have to explain the development's estimated costs and benefits, disclose expected tax revenues from the project, and outline expected assistance from loans, grants, and tax benefits.

Would the legislation improve eminent domain?

link

Posted by amy at 3:43 PM

What's Going On Here?

sign8.16.08.jpg

threecee/flickr

The footprint has lost it's brief flirtation with being Columbus Circle. The new and improved text reads:

Here on Flatbush Avenue, Dean Street, 6th Avenue and Pacific street and 5th Avenue, new water, combined sewer and transit infra- structure improve- ments are being built that will upgrade existing water, sewer and transit infrastructures for existing community services. New water/sewer infrastructure will also serve the new Barclay's Center Sports and Entertainment Arena, future home of the Brooklyn Nets.

link

Posted by amy at 3:32 PM

Destructoporn: Atlantic Yards Webcam Shot

aywebcam8.16.08.jpg

Gowanus Lounge

Here’s a brand new shot from the Atlantic Yards Webcam tracking some of the demolition work in Prospect Heights.

Posted by amy at 3:23 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: David Walentas: Pioneer Of the New Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dennis Holt

When the last 30 years of Brooklyn history is written, it will dawn on someone to make note that Walentas was in Brooklyn before anyone had ever heard of Bruce Ratner, or Joshua Muss of Downtown fame to come, or Greg O’Connell of Red Hook.

Now, those who are contributing to the creation of the new Brooklyn bear corporate names that don’t have the same ring, and there’s no one answering the phone personally like Ratner and Muss used to do in the old days when almost everyone else thought these guys were nuts.
...
There aren’t many individuals around who can legitimately claim that they created a whole new neighborhood. Ratner, Muss and O’Connell can, but not quite in the way Walentas did. In effect, Walentas took what was already there, changed the innards, and people flocked there.

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NoLandGrab: Ratner took what was already there, destroyed it, built something unpleasant, and the government bailed him out. Are we sure that it was only in the "old days" that everyone thought he was nuts?

Posted by amy at 3:05 PM

Gehry: seeking the "small percentage of space" to make a difference

Atlantic Yards Report

Architect Frank Gehry is quoted from the documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry. He mentions how the "small percentage of space" in a project defines the good that can come from a commercial enterprise:

You won’t remember this, but years ago, when we first met, you talked to me about filmmaking. I was struggling with the world I was confronted with, which was a commercial world, they weren’t interested in what I was doing. And I talked to you about it one night, and you said you faced the same commercial world and that you made peace with it by finding this small percentage of space in that commercial world where you could make a difference.

So what can one say about what good might come from the proposed Nets arena when the green roof and rooftop park in the original plans have been deleted?

link

Posted by steve at 9:42 AM

The Blogosphere Follows the Atlantic Yards State Eminent Domain Case

Law of the Land
Atlantic Yards Litigation Moves to State Court

Justice.jpg

The most interesting aspect of the petition is the allegation that the condemnation may violate Article 18, sec. 6 of the State Constitution regarding the low-income and current resident requirement. Specifically this Article provides:

No loan, or subsidy shall be made by the state to aid any project unless such project is in conformity with a plan or undertaking for the clearance, replanning and reconstruction or rehabilitation of a sub-standard and unsanitary area or areas and for recreational and other facilities incidental or appurtenant thereto. The legislature may provide additional conditions to the making of such loans or subsidies consistent with the purposes of this article. The occupancy of any such project shall be restricted to persons of low income as defined by law and preference shall be given to persons who live or shall have lived in such area or areas.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
A Closer Look at Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

The Brooklyn Paper hones in on one of the claims in the state eminent domain case filed by 9 property owners and tenants on August 1st. (Note: the lawsuit was filed to keep New York State from seizing the homes and businesses of owners and tenants in the Atlantic Yards footprint.)

The Real Deal
Lawsuit: AY violates state constitution

The latest lawsuit to stop the Atlantic Yards project calls on a little-known and never-tested provision of the state constitution. The provision prevents an urban renewal project from receiving public subsidies if the project's occupancy is not restricted to persons of low-income. Forest City Ratner's development is supposed to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies and tax breaks, even though the proposed development includes thousands of market-rate housing units.

Posted by steve at 9:19 AM

August 15, 2008

It came from the Blogosphere...

BloggingHockeyKid.jpg

The Pressure Zone, stories 24 - 28: the whirlwind

NY Sun reporter Abe Reisman, who covers crime and emergencies for the paper and reported yesterday's story on the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty's honoring of Bruce Ratner, posted a run down of his recent bylines:

"Developer Bruce Ratner Is Honored at Gala" (not technically part of crime / emergency beat, but i did it in addition to all that)

NoLandGrab: "not technically part of crime / emergency beat," but damned close.

Nets Daily, Mayoral Candidates Praise Ratner

Mr NYC, War Over Willets Point

Every year or two an epic battle between developers and citizens erupts in New York City. There was the battle over the West Side Stadium in 2005 (which was killed) and then there was fight over the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn (which wasn't killed) in 2006-2007. Now, in 2008, Willets Point in Queens is the new front is this perennial struggle.

NLG: But AY hasn't not been killed yet, either.

QUEENS CRAP, Monserrate Announces Legislation to Restrict Eminent Domain

Queens Crapper posts the press release from Councilman Hiram Monserrate outlining the eminent domain legislation he announced yesterday.

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

Yards ‘domain’ case has some eminence

The Brooklyn Paper
by Mike McLaughlin

Legal experts agree on one thing about the latest lawsuit to block the Atlantic Yards project — the plaintiffs have put together a crafty argument to combat the project.

Law professors are intrigued by the argument, filed on Aug. 1 in state court by soon-to-be-displaced residents, that the state’s use of its eminent domain power to clear land for Bruce Ratner’s mega-project violates a little-known and never-tested provision of the state Constitution that prohibits public subsidies from underwriting any urban renewal project whose occupancy is not restricted “to persons of low income.”

Ratner’s development is slated to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in direct public subsidies and tax breaks despite the fact that it includes thousands of units of market-rate housing.

The plaintiffs claim that the luxury housing would violate Article 18, Section 6 of the state Constitution.

“It’s a very good, well-written complaint. They’ve got a hook,” said James Gardner, a law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

article

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

Missing from the Blight Study: documentation, as planned, of rents and assessed value trends

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his probe into documents relating to AKRF and the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement and Blight Study, and whaddya know, some things just don't add up, including the mysterious absence of some key items outlined in the original scope of work.

As far as I can tell, the Blight Study did not analyze rents or assessed value trends, as planned, though the issue was mentioned in one sentence.

Here's some quality work that AKRF did include, however:

Section E of the Blight Study noted low residential density:
Together, the 29 businesses and institutions provided approximately 300 jobs. Residential development on the site is also sparse. There are only 171 housing units located on the 22-acre project site. This translates to an average of 13 housing units per acre, compared to approximately 52 units per acre in the ½-mile area surrounding the project site, and an average of approximately 24 housing units per acre in all of Brooklyn.

Well, given that nearly 40% of the site is a railyard, and other chunks of the footprint (e.g., P.C. Richard and Modell's at Site 5) are industrial or commercial and thus not zoned residential, a low residential density is not surprising. Again, the results of a potential rezoning are not suggested.*

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NoLandGrab: Our personal favorite tidbit from today's AYR post is this one, from the Contract Scope for the Blight Study:

"The characteristics of blight can include... traffic congestion."

So, if traffic congestion is a blighting influence, and, according to the Atlantic Yards EIS, the project would create "significant adverse impacts" at 68 of 93 intersections studied in the EIS, does that make the Atlantic Yards project... blighted?

Posted by eric at 9:06 AM

Was AKRF's work for Ratner a hindrance to hiring by ESDC? No, it was a justification

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote in July 2007 about the questionable but apparently legal practice of a developer like Forest City Ratner hiring consultants like AKRF, then paying for AKRF's work on the same project on behalf of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Since then, I've learned some details:
--AKRF had been working for Forest City Ratner since June 2003
--the ESDC's conflict-of-interest policy doesn't address issues of consecutive representation
--AKRF was hired without any competitive bidding or public notice because the ESDC was convinced speed and continuity were important.

All this suggests that AKRF, widely acknowledged as the largest and most experienced environmental consulting firm in New York, the consultant of choice for sponsors of major projects, can benefit from some cozy circumstances: in the case of Atlantic Yards, its preliminary work for the developer, rather than raise questions about the ethics about later doing similar work for ESDC on behalf of the public (from an account funded by the project sponsor), instead cemented the contract without competition.

In the case of Atlantic Yards, the voluminous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) adds up to nearly $4.8 million.

"The noncompetitive, nonadvertised aspect is questionable, as is who’s managing the consultant," observed Hope Cohen of the Manhattan Institute, who's critiqued the EIS process, when I forwarded her some documents for comment. "This question of who’s in charge is a fundamental problem in the public sector."

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NoLandGrab: Original contract with AKRF for the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement: "not to exceed $1.5 million."

Cost to-date of the Atlantic Yards EIS: $4,786,230.

Not finding any impacts that would alter or jeopardize the project in any way: Priceless.

Posted by eric at 8:41 AM

August 14, 2008

Councilman Proposes Law Restricting Eminent Domain

NY1

WilletsPtProtestNY1.jpg

Just one day after crowds of supporters and opponents packed a public hearing on the rezoning of Willets Point, one local leader today will announce legislation challenging one of the biggest concerns surrounding the proposal – the possible use of eminent domain.

The city has said it would only be used as a last resort, but City Councilman Hiram Monserrate plans to announce legislation that would force the city to justify any usage of eminent domain.

He wants a definition of when exactly the city can declare a neighborhood economically blighted, as well as guarantees that any displaced business owners would be properly compensated. Monserrate is also introducing a resolution calling on state legislators to follow the city's lead.

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NoLandGrab: City legislation would not affect eminent domain abuse in the footprints of Atlantic Yards or the Columbia University expansion. These properties are to be taken by the State of NY.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Developer Bruce Ratner Is Honored at Gala

The New York Sun
by Abraham Riesman

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Bruce Ratner, how do NYC pols love thee? Let us list the names.

Developer Bruce Ratner may be facing challenges to his Atlantic Yards project, but he received nothing but support from top New York politicians at a gala in his honor yesterday.

Rep. Anthony Weiner and the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn — both likely 2009 mayoral candidates — as well as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the President of Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz, all lauded Mr. Ratner at a luncheon held by the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

"Bruce Ratner is someone who reminds us all the time that, even in difficult financial times, we need to be a city that continues to grow," Mr. Weiner told an audience of more than 450 on the Upper West Side.

Mr. Ratner's proposed $4 billion redevelopment of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards is currently facing delays and reported financial problems.
...

"How this man looks every day in a positive way at all the hate that's been directed to him, I will never know," Mr. Markowitz said of Mr. Ratner yesterday.

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NoLandGrab: Well, if ever there were any doubt, we now know where Anthony Weiner, Chris Quinn and Shelly Silver stand vis-a-vis Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards. As for Mr. Markowitz and his "Saint Bruce" routine, he just doesn't get how people might think this project and the rigged process behind it could maybe rub people the wrong way. It ain't personal, Marty — it's a BAD IDEA.

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

A Confrontation Over the Future of Willets Point

The New York Times
by Fernanda Santos

WilletsPtProtest.jpg

Supporters and foes of the Bloomberg administration’s plan to turn gritty Willets Point in Queens into a $3 billion development of stores, offices and apartments faced off Wednesday in a confrontation that grew emotional and raucous at times.
...

The hearing combined public testimony on Willets Point and two other rezoning projects, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and at south Hunters Point, along the East River in Queens. Opponents of the Lower East Side and Willets Point plans protested outside the auditorium where the hearing was held through most of the day. Councilman Hiram Monserrate led two dozen opponents of the Willets Point proposal two blocks east, to a spot in Washington Square Park, to confront city officials holding a news conference there.

The opponents interrupted the news conference, which was organized by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, and drowned out advocates for the proposal, chanting “Justice for Willets Point!” and “Save Willets Point!”

The police told the city economic development officials that they could not remove the protesters, saying they had a right to be there, even if they were being disruptive.

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NoLandGrab: The EDC couldn't force the removal of the protesters from Washington Square Park, but it remains to be seen whether or not they'll be able to remove them from Willets Point. One thing we're pretty sure about, though, is that this eminent domain-fueled war will see many, many battles before it ends.

Posted by eric at 9:08 AM

In legal battle over AY environmental review, a realistic timetable is a casualty

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder illustrates the contrast between the legal test and laugh test.

The gulf between what’s legal and what’s truthful is on display in the appellate briefs in the legal case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) have responded at length to a host of issues raised by the appellants, Develop Don’t Destroy and 25 other civic groups, who saw their case dismissed at the trial court level in January.

For now, however, I’d like to focus on whether or not it was legitimate for the ESDC to assume, when it approved the project in December 2006, that the arena would open in October 2009, that Phase 1 would be finished by 2010, and the entire project would be finished by 2016.

The answer, according to lawyers for the ESDC and FCR, is yes, given that there was a timetable that said it was possible to physically construct the project within that time. Whether that timetable was realistic is another story.

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Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

Ratneritor

Ask your doctor ...

Ratneritor.jpg

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

For the record: the AY arena would take 32+ months

Atlantic Yards Report

Though Forest City Ratner officials continue to claim that "We plan to break ground this fall and are working to open [the arena] in calendar year 2010," the numbers just don't work.

According to Chapter 17 (Construction Impacts) of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), the arena would take "less than three years" to build or, by my calculations, 32 months. Even if they started today, the construction schedule would go well into 2011.

Bruce Ratner, speaking to investors in June, somewhat more accurately estimated that the arena would take two-and-a-half years (30 months) to build, though that seems optimistic.

If the developer were to break ground in February, assuming lawsuits are cleared by then, a 32-month (two years, eight months) timetable would still allow for completion for the basketball season beginning in October 2011.

But it sure wouldn't allow for a 2010 arena opening.

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Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

DDDB commentary on Willets Point eminent domain

As the NYC City Council takes a tough stand against the Mayor's eminent domain-abusing Willets Point proposal, Develop Don't Destroy notes some strange coincidences and contrasts.

Parallel Universes: Willets Point Redevelopment and the Atlantic Yards Proposal

We're wondering where the majority of Council members (31 members) claiming to be opposed to eminent domain in Queens were prior to New York State's approval of the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal. Or, for that matter, where they are now as it is not too late for some consistency on the issue.

Eminent Domain and "Fair Deal" Are Mutually Exclusive

A reminder that "eminent domain will be used as a last resort" when the threat of eminent domain doesn't work:

Mayor Bloomberg on WABC-TV talking about the city's plan to use eminent domain on 200 businesses to "redevelop" Willets Point:

..."There is a place for eminent domain. What the city is trying to do is negotiate a fair deal with everybody there," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said...

When "eminent domain" passes the lips of the Mayor of New York City you can be sure that "a fair deal" is not part of the equation. Instead the eminent domain negotiation bludgeon is at work.

Bloomberg Needs New Eminent Domain Talking Point

Bloomberg on eminent domain, August 13, 2008 (from NY1):

"We can't have a situation where one building owner sits there and sticks it to the whole city," said Bloomberg...

Sound familiar? (Never mind that in Willets Point there are 200 businesses the City wants to wipe off the map.)

Bloomberg on eminent domain, August 27, 2006 (from WABC-radio via Atlantic Yards Report):

Bloomberg continued:

In the case of eminent domain, it is--we have to keep changing our cities, and build the infrastructure and have the jobs and the housing, and you can’t just let one person stop all of that.

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

August 13, 2008

Unintended Affordable Housing

The Footprint Gazette

Alas, one person finds a use for "The Wall." link

TheWallShelter-FG.jpg

Posted by lumi at 7:30 PM

Barclays/Nets alliance poses questions, seeks "positive perception of landmark partnerships"

Atlantic Yards Report

[O]fficials from Barclays Capital, Forest City Ratner, and the (as of now) New Jersey Nets are forging ahead with a "Barclays/Nets Community Alliance," aiming to "leverage the Nets with FCRC and BARCLAYS to create a positive perception of landmark partnerships"--in other words, giving away $1 million with the twin goals of helping the disadvantaged communities and, not coincidentally, reaping some public relations rewards.

The announcement also raises questions about timing, length of commitment, and the morphing of a previously announced project.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

An Alternate Revenue Scheme? or just plain pretty.

The Footprint Gazette

TheWallFleurs-FG.jpgSay it with flowers!

"Fo-Gazy" reports that the borough's newest landmark just received a face lift with... real artificial flowers.

Maybe the developer was feeling some remorse for blighting up an unblighted neighborhood for so many years. Or maybe to coincide with the recent announcement that the arena won't be built for at least 4 years, FCR has decided that they should try to make some extra bucks by renting out the footprint as a wedding venue.

link

NoLandGrab: Planning a Brooklyn wedding? Dates are still available for September 2008. Call now!

Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

Events for Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BruceTheBuilder.jpg The Politicker

Noon. Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty honors Bruce Ratner as builder of the year at Tavern on the Green.

link

Note: Norman Oder reported today that a "Request for Funding Guidelines" for the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance was "handed out to some 50 community groups last week at a conference hosted by the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty."

Posted by lumi at 4:21 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Editorial), Cleveland Medical Mart site makes sense; many questions remain

According to the Plain Dealer, in order for the deal to build a new convention center in Cleveland to make financial sense, Forest City Enterprises will need to be flexible with the price of the property, especially since the company, "has no other obvious option to revive [its] office tower and mall battered by Cleveland's grim economy and shrinking population."

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Lawmakers question Navy housing delay
In November, Forest City Military Communities, a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, took over the contract to renovate and build miltary housing, from a company that is the subject of a nationwide military-housing construction scandal.

Mutual Fund Facts About Individual Stocks, Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE) holdings reduced by Ubs Ag

Ubs Ag sold -100 (-1.54 %) of their shares in Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE), bringing their current holdings to 6,385 shares as shown by filings made public on 2008-08-11.

Mutual Fund Facts About Individual Stocks, Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE) more shares bought by None

None (Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund) added additional 12,680 (48.53 %) shares of Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE), bringing their current holdings to 38,805 shares as shown by filings made public on 2008-08-11.

The stock is currently owned by 215 funds/institutions with a total activity score of -0.11. With 40.00 % of owning funds reported recently buying shares, 14.35 % maintaining existing share level and 45.64 % selling shares. Full details for Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE) available at http://www.mffais.com/fcya.be.html

Posted by lumi at 3:49 AM

August 12, 2008

Police Want Tight Security Zone at Ground Zero

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

GroundZeroSecurityMap.jpg

Surprise! The NYPD is ordering even tighter security measures at the World Trade Center (they had already ordered 75-foot setbacks for the Freedom Tower and numerous other safeguards in February), but we're still waiting for that independent security study for Atlantic Yards requested by eight Brooklyn elected officials nearly a year ago.

Planners seeking to rebuild the World Trade Center have always envisioned that the 16-acre site would have a vibrant streetscape with distinctive buildings, shops and cultural institutions lining a newly restored street grid. From the destruction of Sept. 11, 2001, a new neighborhood teeming with life would be born.

But now, the Police Department’s latest security proposal entails heavy restrictions.

According to a 36-page presentation given by top-ranking police officials in recent months, the entire area would be placed within a security zone, in which only specially screened taxis, limousines and cars would be allowed through “sally ports,” or barriers staffed by police officers, constructed at each of five entry points.
...

Landlords, company executives, public officials and some urban planners acknowledged the need for security at ground zero, but worried that the procedures would undermine the effort to reweave the trade center site into the city’s fabric. They fear that the proposed traffic restrictions could create tie-ups in a congested neighborhood and discourage corporate tenants from renting space, or shoppers from visiting the stores in the area.

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NoLandGrab: The implementation of similar security measures at the confluence of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues would render the intersection impassable. But the ESDC and Forest City Ratner insist we needn't worry about it.

Ah. We feel better already.

Posted by eric at 5:36 PM

City Council members blast Willets Pt. plan

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

A day before a City Planning Commission hearing on the Bloomberg administration’s plan to remake Willets Point, a majority of City Council members sent a sharply-worded letter to the planning commissioner opposing the project.

In the letter to Commissioner Amanda Burden, 30 council members say they are in “absolute opposition” to the current proposal to redevelop Willets Point, citing concerns over eminent domain, affordable housing, displaced workers and traffic.

“Unfortunately, this is a product of a flawed process that has continuously ignored the requests of the community in pursuit of a top-down planning process that sets a dangerous precedent for large-scale development projects citywide,” the council members wrote in the letter.
...

The signature drive was organized by the affordable housing group NY Acorn and is the second time in the last four months it has organized a majority of council members to write to a city official opposing Willets Point. Twenty-nine council members sent a similar letter to Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber in April.

This time, the council members say they will not support the plan unless eminent domain is taken off the table in negotiations with landowners; half of the 5,500 housing units are guaranteed to be affordable; a comprehensive relocation and compensation plan for small business owners and employees is put in place; and a community benefits agreement that includes traffic mitigation is implemented.

The city has said it will use eminent domain only as a last resort; its plan calls for 20% of the housing units to be affordable; it is working with LaGuardia Community College on a program to train the approximately 1,700 workers who will be displaced by the development; and it will require the developer to put $5 million into a traffic mitigation fund.

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NoLandGrab: We applaud the efforts and actions of the Councilmembers who've taken a stand against eminent domain abuse, but we're compelled to point out a couple of things.

First, the "dangerous precedent for large-scale development projects citywide" has already been set by Atlantic Yards. In fact, had the Atlantic Yards plot never been hatched by Forest City Ratner, it's likely that the Willets Point plan, however heinous it may be, wouldn't have encountered such significant — and well organized — resistance.

Second, we have to admit we're curious about ACORN's role. Sure, their interest in the affordable housing makes sense, but based on their track record with Atlantic Yards, we have a hard time believing that they give a hoot about the use of eminent domain. Left to ACORN, that would surely be a bargaining chip happily traded for a richer mix of affordable units.

Lastly, we won't belabor the silliness of the city claiming that eminent domain will only be used "as a last resort." It was already put into use long ago as a negotiating bludgeon. We'll focus instead on the $5 million traffic mitigation fund. Shouldn't the mitigation of traffic be a pre-development requirement? The time to fix traffic problems is before they materialize.

Posted by eric at 4:35 PM

Why Not Add Atlantic Yards to the Agenda?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB reacts to the City Planning Commission's nonsensical decision to cram three controversial rezoning hearings into one day and one auditorium with a suggestion:

While they're at it, since Atlantic Yards never went through ULURP—thus avoiding a public planning hearing in front of the planning commission or any planning body—perhaps they can add Ratner's project to the agenda.

link

NoLandGrab: Do you think the repeated scheduling of public hearings on controversial eminent domain-reliant development projects and rezonings in August (Atlantic Yards DEIS public hearing, August 23, 2006; Columbia University expansion ULURP hearing, August 15, 2007; Willets Point redevelopment, tomorrow) is just a coincidence? Or might they be timed to many people's summer vacations? Either way, the triple-billing is a creative new twist.

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Footprint mysteries: two FCR violations, two unpaid $2500 fines

DOBViol473dean-AY.gif Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reminds Bruce Ratner that he still owes the city some $5,000:

In two buildings located in the Atlantic Yards footprint, one owned and one rented by developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), the Department of Buildings (DoB) has assessed $2500 fines for active violations considered hazardous.

In neither case, at least according to the DoB's web site, has the developer contested the violations, paid the fines, or corrected the violations. (Queries to both the DoB and the FCR have not been returned. Maybe someone else will follow up.)

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NoLandGrab: Maybe Ratner is still trying to figure out if he can get taxpayers to foot the bill.

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

Are we talking arena 2012? Four-year deal at Izod Center offers hint

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, Norman Oder broke the story that even Bruce Ratner believes that the arena won't be finished before mid 2011. Instead of thanking Oder for saving them the trouble of having to explain the inevitable and obvious construction delays, Ratner spokesperson Bruce Bender objected to Oder's analysis, though he didn't deny that Bruce said what he said.

That's old news — this week, Norman Oder detects a hint that Ratner might be planning for 2012:

Credit NoLandGrab for noticing a Newark Star-Ledger report that Vonage Holdings will pay more than $1 million in a four-year deal to put its name on the concourse of the Izod Center. That four-year stretch would end before the 2012-13 season.

Of course, deals can be broken, especially ones that are relatively puny compared to the $400 million Barclays Center naming rights deal. Still, it's notable that the press release from the Nets called it simply a "multi-year deal" but the Star-Ledger pinned it down to four years.

Read the rest of the article, which includes "happy talk" from Nets marketing wunderkind Brett Yormark.

Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

Locals Shocked by Brooklyn Paper Headline!

BP-FG.jpg The Footprint Gazette

Which headline in this week's Brooklyn Paper caught "Fo-Gazy's" eye and prompted the following remark?

Thank goodness we have such an attentive and efficient local government or this might have been a disaster that plagued the borough for years to come.

Click here for the answer.

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Noticing New York rewinds to October 2007 to post testimony on the two competing plans for West Harlem, one of which is Columbia University's eminent domain-abusing land grab.

And speaking of testimony, if you were getting the sick feeling that maybe these Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) hearings were merely a pro forma step to a rubber-stamp approval, MetroNY is reporting that "Tomorrow the City Planning Commission will hold public hearings on three controversial projects: Lower East Side Rezoning, Hunters Point South and Willets Point redevelopment."

Typically, each of these actions would warrant its own hearing.

The Willets Point property owners who are standing up against the City's use of eminent domain held a press conference and issued a press release announcing the support by Councilmember Monserrate and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for separate hearings. [Press release after the jump.]

STRINGER, MONSERRATE DEMAND STAND-ALONE HEARINGS

FOR MAJOR DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS

Officials Cite Need for Separate Public Sessions for Lower East Side Rezoning, Hunters Point South and Willets Point

NEW YORK, NY, August 11, 2008 - At a press conference on the steps of City Hall, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Councilman Hiram Monserrate today called on the City Planning Commission to hold stand-alone separate public hearings on three major redevelopment proposals, rather than the single session now planned.

In a letter to Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden, Stringer voiced concerns about the City's plans to hold a marathon public hearing on August 13 to consider the Lower East Side Rezoning, along with two Queens proposals -- Hunters Point South and Willets Point.

"Each of these projects deserve a full and frank discussion, and that means giving citizens in each community the time and attention they need to voice their opinions - pro or con," Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said. "The size and potential impact on affected communities and the City as a whole warrants an individualized public hearing and review process for each proposal."

The three major development projects scheduled to be discussed at the August 13 hearing include: plans for the first major rezoning of the Lower East Side since 1961, a plan covering more than 100 city blocks; Hunter's Point South, a proposed mixed-use housing development covering 30 acres of waterfront property in Long Island City, Queens; and plans to redevelop the Willets Point area of Queens, moving from its current industrial base into retail, hospitality and residential uses.

"Good government demands that we provide our citizens with every opportunity to be heard,'' Councilman Hiram Monserrate said. "By rushing through a process, people's voices are denied. The City Planning Commission must take its time and hold separate hearings for these major projects. One is simply not enough."

Stringer added that he recognized that the City's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) timeline presents challenges, and he expressed sympathy for the scheduling difficulties the Commission faces. He added, however, in his letter to Commission Chair Burden, "By grouping the hearings on these actions together, the Commission risks limiting the amount and quality of public participation for one, or even all three items, by forcing community members to wait for overly long periods of time before being heard. This delay is likely to frustrate community members and may drive away speakers, thereby limiting the breadth of expressed community opinions. Such a consequence is contrary to the spirit of a public hearing."

Posted by lumi at 4:11 AM

August 11, 2008

How ‘Bout we Just Spruce it Up a Bit? (and other tid-bits)

K Nicole Jones Presents: Crib Notes

AYArenaBlock.jpg

And the battle goes on to save Brooklyn, NY. Anyone who has ever had a conversation with me about Brooklyn, knows that I loath the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush–there one can see two of the most architecturally inept and down right ugly retail centers in the world. Forest City Ratner–tried to make good be making the second phase more pedestrian friendly with a big plaza–but alas it is hideous. You think they would learn from the first time–but alas they have not.

Billing it a Frank Gehry star-chitect project ain’t making it no better.

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Posted by eric at 8:32 PM

In the Pool: Atlantic Yards Dusk

Gowanus Lounge

LIRRStablesJCC.jpg

Here’s a shot of Prospect Heights (aka the Atlantic Yards Footprint) with the warm light of dusk making it glow.

link

Posted by eric at 8:17 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: Congestion Pricing, Permit Parking Aren’t Dead Yet

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Eagle columnist and Atlantic Yards fan Dennis Holt offers up residential permit parking as a consolation prize for residents of Prospect Heights.

A strong case can be made that the immediate communities surrounding Downtown Brooklyn — the Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Fort Greene — should have a permit parking plan, which, if you think about it, is a form of congestion pricing. After a couple of the major structures of Atlantic Yards are completed — the arena and the signature building — Prospect Heights can qualify, and probably will.

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NoLandGrab: With no timetable for the completion of the "signature building" — once known as "Ms. Brooklyn" and now as "B1" — there's no telling when P-Heights residents might be receiving their permits.

Posted by eric at 5:32 PM

Yi struggles against Team USA defense

ESPN.com
by Chris Sheridan

YiJianlianOlympics.jpg

Several weeks ago, the New Jersey Nets sent their best all-around player, forward Richard Jefferson, to the Milwaukee Bucks, in a trade that brought them the 20-year-old Chinese seven-footer Yi Jianlian and forward Bobby Simmons. Though some speculated the deal was as much about selling tickets to New York's large Asian population as it was about putting a winning team on the court, Nets' owner Bruce Ratner swore it was "100 percent about basketball." ESPN reports on how the basketball was looking in Beijing.

But what had to make Thorn choke on his Cheerios even more Sunday morning back in the States was the sight of his newest prize acquisition, Yi Jianlian, looking even worse than those smog-filled panoramas you keep seeing on the broadcasts out of Beijing.

Six times Yi put the ball in the air, and six times he missed. Take away that 0-for-6 first half, and the Chinese were just one made bucket away from shooting 50 percent from the field.

And somewhere, former U.S. Olympian Richard Jefferson had to shake his head wondering how in the wide, weird world he was traded for someone who looked so lost on such a massive stage.
...

Yi exited with China down 53-39, replacing Yao later in the third quarter with the deficit at 19 after Yao appeared to aggravate his foot injury and was slumped over cringing in pain. My notebook for the rest of the quarter reads like this:

Yi misses 3. Yi misses 2-on-2 fast break, Yi fouls Chris Bosh with a hard slap that could be heard in the upper deck, Yi stands stationary as sloppy pass leads to Kobe fast-break dunk. 71-48.
...

And somewhere back in the States, we're guessing a certain president of a certain team whose relocation date to Brooklyn grows ever more uncertain … well, we're fairly certain he turned off his TV Sunday morning having a hard time feeling good about what he watched from Beijing -- no matter how happy he was for his old friends on the staff of USA Basketball.

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Posted by eric at 4:56 PM

WILLETS POINT: Imagining a Place Where Cheers Never End

The New York Times
by Sophia Hollander

WilletsPtMetsFan.jpg

Mr. Simon and Mr. McShane represent a new breed of Mets fans, people who have embraced the plans for a new stadium and are now working to help revitalize the surrounding neighborhood. They are using team blogs to publicize community meetings about the future of Willets Point and to update Mets fans on developments.

“If they can successfully build a neighborhood there that draws in people before and after games, but also has permanent residents, I feel like it would have a good effect on the whole area,” said Mr. McShane, who grew up near New Haven and frequented Fenway Park in Boston, where lively restaurants and bars surround the stadium. “That’s something that I always wanted to do for my favorite team.”

NoLandGrab: By "help revitalize the surrounding neighborhood," they mean "help get rid of those annoying businesses that belong to those property owners who've been ignored by the city and deprived of standard services like paved roads and sewers for decades." Mr McShane also represents the "new breed of Mets fan" who also happen to work for Bronx Councilman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who — big surprise — did not join 29 other Councilmembers in April in voicing opposition to the use of eminent domain in Willets Point.

If Mr. Simon and Mr. McShane are leaders in the grass-roots movement to revitalize Willets Points, diehard fans like Jim Conway are its foot soldiers. Mr. Conway, a crane operator, spoke on behalf of the plan last month at a hearing before the Queens borough president, Helen Marshall, saying that it would bring needed jobs to the area. But he admitted later that he had more on his mind than economic interests.

“In Shea, it’s very depressing,” Mr. Conway said as he prepared for his annual pilgrimage to watch the Mets play in Chicago. “You’re embarrassed to ask people from out of town to go with you. There’s no place where you can celebrate being a baseball fan. You don’t feel proud.”

NLG: Mr. Conway is most likely a member of a union whose rules mandated his attendance at the hearing, and whose "needed jobs" would come at the expense of some of the nearly 2,000 jobs that already exist in Willets Point.

And we thought one celebrated "being a baseball fan" inside the stadium. What would make us proud is a government that didn't abuse eminent domain for the benefit of wealthy real estate developers.

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Queens Crap offers some additional perspective: Tweeder starts pro-eminent domain abuse website

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Here Today, but Maybe Not Tomorrow

The New York Times

ManhattanvilleViaduct.jpg

In 2002, Stephen A. Scheer set out to photograph Manhattanville, the area between 125th and 133rd Streets and bordered by the Riverside Drive viaduct and the elevated subway on Broadway. The next year, Columbia University announced a plan to buy a huge swath of the gritty neighborhood to expand its campus. Thus, although it was not his intention, Mr. Scheer's work may come to be the last depiction of Manhattanville in its current form.

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NoLandGrab: The text accompanying this photo essay fails to point out that whatever part of the swath that Columbia can't buy will be seized by eminent domain.

Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

From three months to 14 months: the (yet unexplained) expansion of the timetable for AY utility work

Atlantic Yards Report

A look at documents produced by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) during and after the environmental review shows some inconsistencies in estimates of time for utility work. According to the construction schedule and also Chapter 17 of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), it was supposed to take a year. Chapter 17 states, “The major in-street utility work would begin late in 2006 and last about 12 months.”

However, the construction updates issued by the ESDC offer contradictory information, suggesting a shifting timetable for the first phase of utility work and potentially a much longer stretch for all three phases.

Though the ESDC is often willing to answer questions I've posed, in this case, I haven't gotten answers yet.

At issue is what appears to be classic mission creep: "three months" of "upgraded water and sewer installations" quietly became "four to six months," and before you know it we're looking at "through the end of the year."

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Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Six Seconds with: Ted Allen

TedAllen-NYP.jpg NY Post: Page Six Magazine

According to Ted Allen, "best known for his Emmy-winning turn on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and serving as a regular guest judge on Top Chef," Bruce Ratner is #1:

Now he’s gone solo on the Food Network’s Food Detectives. “It’s like the show MythBusters but with food,” says Ted, 43, who’s been a New Yorker (via Chicago) since 2003 and lives in a landmarked brownstone in Clinton Hill.
...
Who’s the most annoying New Yorker? You could fill several phone books with that answer. It used to be Rudy Giuliani. Now [developer] Bruce Ratner is up there.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

before it goes

Photo by horseycraze from the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Rain-HCRZ.jpg

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

Walk with NYC planner Amanda Burden as she rezones the lower East Side

NY Daily News
By Jason Sheftell

AmandaBurden-NYDN.jpg This tour of the Lower Eastside with City Planning Commish Amanda Burden was brought to you by the letters C, R, I, N, G, & E.

"This wasn't here two weeks ago," Burden says, sneering at a vacant lot. "There was a building. Once you lose a building, you lose character and history. The Bloomberg administration is about growth and preservation. This is why we have to act fast to change the zoning, so developers aren't allowed to come in here and build whatever they chose. I don't mind a building that is in context with the others, meaning the same height with architectural guidelines, but small streets shouldn't have large development."

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NoLandGrab: Based upon Burden's running commentary about her vision for the Lower Eastside, you have to believe that she understands that NYC Planning's support to Bruce Ratner's out-of-context, historic-building-demolishing, neighborhood-clearing, state-sponsored, arena and high-rise Atlantic Yards megaproject is akin to delivering John the Baptist's head on a platter.

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

City owns stadiums,but teams to cash in

MetroNY
by Patrick Arden

Here's an instance where benefits from publicly-owned stadiums in New York City go to the teams. In this case, the issue is the sports memorabilia that will be created when Shea and Yankee stadiums are demolished. Even though New York City owns these facilities, the city is splitting the take with the teams.

Another example of this kind of behavior on the part of the government is how, although the proposed Nets arena will be publicly owned, the Nets will collect all of the more than $300 million from the arena naming rights to be paid by Barclay's Bank.

Other places have netted millions by selling everything from chairs to urinals. But New York’s ballparks promise bigger paydays before the wrecking ball, said Dan Rosenthal, chief operating officer for Schneider Industries, which handled the dismantling of the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis. While Busch sales totaled $8 million, estimated proceeds from Yankee Stadium are already pegged as high as $50 million.

Taxpayers own both Yankee and Shea stadiums, but the city has decided to divvy up the take with the teams. A mayoral spokesman said the split with the Mets favors the city 70 percent to 30 percent. The Mets will promote the sale on its Web site, on TV and at games. “It’s city property,” explained the team’s Dan Newman, “but we’ll act as the marketing agent.”

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NoLandGrab: Instead of acting as "marketing agent", the city would do well to fulfill its actual role: stadium owner.

Posted by steve at 4:30 AM

August 10, 2008

Warnings about "the architect as artist" and Gehry's victimization of Brooklyn

dissent.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report reviews "Fort Greene-based critic Charles Taylor's essay in Dissent, headlined A Wrench in the Machine for Living: Frank Gehry Comes to Brooklyn, is notable in that it connects Glazer's critique directly to Atlantic Yards, just as Glazer has done so in public presentations, albeit not in the text."

Taylor suggests such vision is enabled by starchitect-defending critics like Nicolai Ouroussoff of the New York Times, who wrote 12/16/07, in an essay headlined Let the ‘Starchitects’ Work All the Angles :
Architects have no control over a development’s scale or density. Nor do they control the underlying social and economic realities that shape it.

Taylor calls that "horse puckey," arguing that, when an architect like Gehry "signs on to an immense public development, as Frank Gehry has to Forest City Ratner’s gargantuan Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, he not only gives concrete expression to how the scale and density might be realized, thus having the most direct impact on “underlying social and economic realities,” his imprimatur gives the project the weight of cultural edification."

It's not quite a public development, but rather a public-private one. But Taylor's point is sound. As Brooklyn Views blogger Jonathan Cohn (an architect) wrote 5/21/06 in a piece headlined It's The Scale, Stupid, while the architect does not decide the size of the project, "there is a danger in being hoisted by the developer's petard when taking on a project that is seriously flawed in its conception."

And I pointed out that Ourousoff fails to acknowledge that starchitects, by virtue of their fame, may in fact have some power, and that the public's capacity for discernment is aided or hindered by the effort by the starchitect's clients to survive what he calls "an often tricky public review process."

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Posted by amy at 10:42 AM

What They’re Thinking

The Footprint Gazette

I am still here in Mexico. Still enjoying the relative tranquility, when I got this insight posted on one of the videos I have made:

sg1920 wrote:
My brother is a head foreman on the Nets stadium project, so its gonna be funny when he knocks down your apt. and is bangin chicks from the Big Pimpin' video with Jay-Z and Lebron James and slamming Krystal with massive amounts of cocaine spanning both three point arcs

hahhahahaha

And here I thought that the reward for the people involved in this project was strictly monetary, or in the case of Markowitz, to fulfill the hole left in his heart when the Dodgers skipped town. But as it turns out, the people in charge of this project also get joy from knocking down homes, partaking in orgies with video chicks (from 8 years ago), rappers and basketball stars, slamming rather than sipping Krystal champagne, which I can only assume is some sort of bathtub version of Cristal champagne, and doing massive amounts of coke.

link

Posted by amy at 10:38 AM

Sunday Comix - Atlantic Yards' Moving Goalposts

3027fleming.jpg

The Brooklyn Paper - Cristian Fleming

Posted by amy at 10:35 AM

August 9, 2008

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Free Times, Is It Miller Time?

The Feds Are Examining A County Deal Involving Forest City

When FBI agents swooped into the county administration building last week, one of their top priorities was to confiscate documents related to the ongoing Juvenile Justice Center construction project, according to the search warrant. Details of the deals that led to the placement of the new juvie jail and courthouse, at East 93rd and Quincy, are full of political favors and opportunism, but no one has benefited more than Sam Miller and Forest City.
...
Soil tests [at the site] revealed high concentrations of a chemical called Aroclor 1260, a substance known to cause miscarriages and brain damage in children (both of which had been on the rise in the area, residents contended). Mayor Mike White called the site "the worst environmental hazard in the city."
...
In 1999, Sunrise Land Company, a little-used subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, bought most of the parcels at 93rd and Quincy for $383,571 at public auction.
...
Shortly after Forest City's purchase, White suggested that the county build the new juvenile courthouse on the property, even though it was not one of the sites recommended by a search committee and even though the PCBs had still not been cleaned up.

In early 2000, then-county commissioners Timothy McCormack, Jane Campbell and Jimmy Dimora approved the purchase of the land from Forest City for $2.75 million. Strangely, one of the parcels that the county agreed to purchase from Forest City on February 29 was not actually purchased by Forest City until the next day. And the deal was contingent on an environmental cleanup, which apparently never happened.

NoLandGrab: With a federal probe into Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill deal in Yonkers, that makes two federal investigations into Forest City deals that have been in the news in recent months.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tower City site recommended for Medical Mart

Riverfront land behind Tower City has been picked as the best location for Cleveland's proposed medical mart and new convention center.

A selection committee made its recommendation today to Cuyahoga County commissioners. Commissioners passed a one-quarter of a cent sales tax increase last year to finance the project and have final say on the location.

The riverfront property, owned by Forest City Enterprises, was selected over renovating and expanding Cleveland's current convention center on Lakeside Avenue to also house the mart.

NoLandGrab: It's a win-win for Forest City! Keep in mind that Forest City owns and operates Tower City, which would benefit financially from a deal to build a convention center close by.

Crain's Cleveland, GCP favors Tower City for convention complex

The cost to develop the Tower City site is estimated at $536 million, compared with $583 million at the existing convention center location.

Besides the lower cost, the Tower City site will offer convention attendees all-weather access to hotels, shopping and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport via rapid transit. That factor, Mr. Nance said, is important for a convention center in a cold-weather city to attract conventions in the winter months.
...
Mr. Nance predicted that the project “will change the economic direction of the entire county.”

NoLandGrab: Good luck — by raising the county sales tax 0.25%, the project, for better or worse, will definitely "change the economic direction of the entire county," especially when there is a perennial glut of convention space in the United States.

Cleveland Plain Dealer (blog), Willoughby apartment complex goes on the market

Forest City Enterprises Inc. and Millennium Management have put a Willoughby apartment complex up for sale. Tamarac, a community of 642 apartments on Tamarac Boulevard, is being shopped around at an asking price of $48.5 million. The companies co-own the apartment complex, which is 99 percent occupied.

Posted by lumi at 6:59 PM

Celebrating Brooklyn Day with scowls

martybkday.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

If Forest City Ratner really had been celebrating Brooklyn Day, well, couldn't they have found a happier picture of some of the participants?

It's further evidence that Brooklyn Day, as Daily News sports columnist Michael O'Keeffe observed, was, in fact, a dud.

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Posted by amy at 8:56 AM

Private School’s New Neighbor Is Too Close for Some Parents’ Comfort

NY Times
JENNIFER MEDINA

A federal probation office opening in the same building as St. Ann’s school in Brooklyn Heights is raising hackles:

In an interview this week, he said he would ask the building’s owner, Forest City Ratner, to allow modifications to the probation office plan. The company is a development partner in the new Midtown headquarters of The New York Times Company.

Judge Dearie suggested that officials could minimize the interaction between students and probationers by getting the adults to use a back door; sending probationers directly to the 16th floor and using the ground-floor space only for administration; having probationers in the building only in the evenings, after school is out; or sending sex offenders to an old courthouse.

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NoLandGrab: Perhaps they could use the design notes from the Atlantic Center...or as the locals like to say, "How do you get from Circuit City to Party City?" Answer: "You can't get theyah from heyah."

Posted by amy at 8:43 AM

August 8, 2008

Sign Points to More Atlantic Yards Confusion

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

WhatsGoingOnHere.jpg

DDDB has an exclusive on a mystifying — and now mysteriously disappeared — sign that was lying around the Atlantic Yards footprint.

The photo above is of a sign that was leaning upside down on the ground against the fence enclosing Forest City Ratner's construction material staging area (formerly three occupied, mixed use buildings since demolished by the developer) on Dean Street. (We've turned the photo right side up and you can click it to enlarge it.)

The information in the four colored rectangles is mostly correct. But take a look at black on white text in the middle. It reads:

New York City has a variety of projects, both public and private, which when completed will improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. Whether it's new building construction, road repairs, or park improvements, each effort will make new York a better place to work, live, and visit. here at Columbus Circle a station rehabilitiation is being completed that will improve accessibility and architectural enhancement.

Someone forgot to change that text.

Beside the clear printing error—Columbus Circle is not in Brooklyn—it must be pointed out that the infrastructure work occuring on Dean Street, while paid for by New York City taxpayers, is a Forest City Ratner and New York State project, not New York City. Additionally the work on Dean Street is not "new building construction, road repairs or park improvements." As for "improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers"—the Footprint Gazette has a few things to say about that.

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NoLandGrab: "What's going on here?" is a really good question.

Posted by eric at 2:10 PM

Vonage makes deal with Izod Center

Newark Star-Ledger
by Maura McDermott

The internet phone company Vonage Holdings will pay more than $1 million to put its name on the concourse of the Izod Center, the Nets and the sports authority announced yesterday.

The four-year deal makes the Holmdel-based firm a "legacy sponsor," with naming rights to the concourse and signs along Routes 3 and 120, according to the Nets. The team brokered the deal for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
...

Enticing corporations to pay for the right to name a concourse or entryway -- in addition to selling the naming rights to the whole building -- is an increasingly popular way to raise money, said Howard Bloom, publisher of the Sports Business News online newsletter.

But when it comes to the Izod Center, it can't be easy to attract lucrative sponsorship deals, he said.

"A lot of people are imagining that building as a parking lot," he said. "Because the building has such an uncertain future, they'll take whatever reasonable offer they have."

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NoLandGrab: So the Nets brokered the deal on behalf of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, and it runs for four years, or through 2012, which is well beyond when the Nets claim they'll be all snuggled in in Brooklyn. Would you pay to have your name on the Concourse of an arena that wouldn't have any tenants during part of the term of your sponsorship? Would you pay to sponsor a Concourse period?

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

Yet again, sports economist Zimbalist stumbles in court

Atlantic Yards Repot

The sports economist who penned the oft-cited economic study that comes to the dubious conclusion that a new Nets arena in Brooklyn would be a net benifit to taxpayers screwed up on the witness stand, again:

It’s been a tough seven months for sports economist and professional witness Andrew Zimbalist, who has been beaten up in court three times, not to mention the court of opinion. I recently chronicled a case involving the Seattle SuperSonics, during which Zimbalist’s credibility was shredded during cross-examination, an antitrust case involving NASCAR in which a judge cast doubt upon Zimbalist's report, and Zimbalist’s dubious and defensive appearance on the Brian Lehrer Show.

In the past two weeks, Zimbalist’s credibility further suffered during a federal antitrust trip involving a challenge to the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals), the men's professional tennis players' association, by organizers of the tour in Hamburg, Germany, upset that their tournament had been demoted from the top tier and changing its schedule.

(All coverage is from SportsBusiness Journal, reposted in this tennis blog.)

According to SportsBusiness Journal, Zimbalist’s testimony “caused an uproar,” leading the defense to request a mistrial and the judge to dismiss the jury early, because he brought notes to the stand, in contravention of court procedures.

In fact, at one point, Zimbalist corrected the lawyer questioning him, asking if the right question had been asked. “Well, I have seen it all,” federal judge Gregory Sleet said.

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Posted by lumi at 4:16 AM

Kucinich looks into questionable ticket deals for the Yankees and Mets stadiums

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports that Representative Dennis Kucinich "has asked the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department to hold off from approving any deal allowing PILOTs for a Nets arena until his investigations of tax-exempt financing are concluded."

Kucinich's investigation now includes perks for NYC government officials in the Yankees and Mets Stadium deals.

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Posted by lumi at 3:46 AM

Atlantic Yards IS Too Costly

The folks at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (www.dddb.net) agree with Governor Paterson, who recently stated in an interview on WCBS, "if [Atlantic Yards] starts to become too costly, a lot of these projects that we were for, we might have to change our mind."

However, after a quick tally, the group argues "that we are there with Atlantic Yards and have been for quite a while":

Though the NY Post's $2 billion in government back financing is debatable, the developer claimed three years ago that the public investment in the project would be $1.1 billion. Either figure is too costly considering neither the city or state have shown that there would be a meaningful financial return for the taxpayers—especially seeing as how Ratner has provided the public and government with no confidence whatsoever that the project can be built.

link

Posted by lumi at 3:36 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA

This week, property owners were vindicated in a NJ State appeals court ruling in a Long Branch case that we've been keeping an eye on because... well because taking a neighborhood of smallish, but well kept homes, to build a seaside condo complex is abusive, unseemly and un-American.

LongBranchVictory.jpg Associated Press, via Newsday, NJ court orders hearing in eminent domain case

On Thursday, an appeals court ordered a new hearing for the New Jersey homeowners, allowing them to challenge the city's assertion that their properties are blighted.

The ruling was a setback for Long Branch, which adopted a plan to redevelop its beachfront in 1996. As part of the plan, the city sought to condemn 24 properties that sit on the northern tip of the redevelopment area.

Castle Watch, Long Branch Homeowners Hail Appeals Court Victory
The eminent domain watch-blog for the Institute for Justice, the group representing the Long Branch property owners, posted a press release.

Today, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division unanimously reversed the June 2006 decision of Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson, which allowed the city of Long Branch, N.J., to condemn a charming seaside neighborhood known as MTOTSA for a luxury condominium development. This is the latest in a series of major decisions from New Jersey courts, including the Supreme Court, recognizing that state law and the New Jersey Constitution place real limits on the power of government to condemn property for private development. After explaining how the lower court misapplied the law, the court of appeals found that the city did not provide “substantial evidence” to support its findings of blight.

“The Court basically told the city that if that’s all it has, it can’t take these homes,” said Scott Bullock, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents many of the homeowners along with Peter Wegener of Bathgate, Wegener & Wolf in Lakewood, N.J. “It’s too late for the city to manufacture more evidence, so the Court’s ruling is a fatal blow to the city. We are confident the owners will prevail on remand.” The owners will also have the opportunity to show that changing the plan to use eminent domain was illegal.

,

Posted by lumi at 3:15 AM

August 7, 2008

"So many different angles": deMause puts the AY opposition in context

Atlantic Yards Report

In the next installment of Norman Oder's interview with Neil deMause, the two watchdogs discuss the community opposition to Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject:

Q. In your book, you discuss the opposition movements to sports facilities in Detroit (the Tigers), in Cleveland (the Indians), and Seattle (the SuperSonics)--can you put in perspective the Atlantic Yards opposition movement?

A. You have had so many different angles in Brooklyn, from the start; you’ve had the people who oppose it for eminent domain reasons because they’re opposed to eminent domain or they live there and don’t want their housing taken. You have the neighborhood folks who don’t want that kind of development.

Since it’s this junction of several different neighborhoods, you have a bunch of different constituencies opposing it for different reasons, or some supporting it for different reasons. You have all the issues about spending tax money on a sports team. [They're] not building for a current New York City team, it’s a New York City area team, but it’s bringing a team to Brooklyn--there are people for that and opposed to it.

Especially noteworthy is deMause's observation that the delay between the announcement of the project in late 2003 and the release of the Memorandum of Understanding in March 2005 gave time for the community groups and watchdogs to mobilize their attention and resources.

Click here to read the rest of today's article.

Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

The Nets arena: A timeline

The Brooklyn Paper

Readers of The Brooklyn Paper are well aware that Bruce Ratner has broken promises over the years. Here’s Ratner’s ever-changing timetable for the arena.

Promise made in
December, 2003 

The arena will be done by 2006 and the arena would cost $435 million.
December, 2006

The arena will open in time for the opening of the 2009-10 NBA season.
January, 2008Arena will be completed in calendar year 2010.
NowRatner said the arena, with its $950-million pricetag, will be done in time for the start of the 2011-12 season.

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

It’s unconstitutional! Yards foes pull out new ace in the hole

AceintheHole.jpg The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Lawyers for a declining number of holdout residents of the Atlantic Yards footprint may have found the silver bullet in their ongoing battle against state plans to condemn the remaining few properties still not owned by developer Bruce Ratner: the state Constitution.

Though the United States Supreme Court opted last month not to hear the tenants’ and property owners’ challenge to the state’s use of eminent domain power to facilitate the Ratner mega-project, lawyers filed suit last week in New York State Supreme Court citing a clause in the state’s bylaws that bars public money from underwriting any urban renewal project unless “the occupancy of any such project shall be restricted to persons of low income.”

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Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

Mexico City - The Land of Peace and Quiet

The Footprint Gazette

"FoGazy" hails readers from Mexico City as he tries to get used to the norms of everyday life:

I´m sitting here in Mexico City. I woke up this morning, and my first thought wasn´t "Holy Shi*t! My building is falling!
...
The building wasn´t shaking. There were no billionaires around to harass me. ¿Why must I return home to a city where politicians care only about $$, and not about the citizens?

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Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Brooklyn Office Vacancy, Asking Rents Increase

The NY Observer
By Tom Acitelli

During the past few years, as the demand for Class A office space in Brooklyn has risen and fallen, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has regularly reconformed the project according to the market.

It's hard to figure what to make of the news, reported yesterday by the NY Observer, that vacancies are up — but rents are, too:

[A] The report (PDF), from investment-sales firm Marcus & Millichap, forecasts a year-end vacancy rate of 10.5 percent, up from the 10.4 percent at the end of the second quarter on June 30.

As many as 2,000 office-based jobs in Brooklyn are expected to be eliminated this year, according to the report, mirroring the trend in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the average asking rent for Brooklyn office space has increased in 2008. It was $27.58 a square foot by the end of the second quarter, up 5.1 percent annualy and 4.9 percent since January.

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Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

August 6, 2008

PhotoWedns: 8/6/08 It's a guessing game!

Brooklyn Born

So after much delay and little fanfare I present to you the answer to last week's "Where am I?" question.

It's the "Plaza"! which was the name of the theater that used to be center in this photo. The Plaza theater became the Plaza Twin, which became the Flatbush Pavilion which somehow became an American Apparel store (seen below) at the intersection of Park Slope and Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
...

PlazaTheater.jpg

I thought this location was a great place to start because of how dynamic it is. The street location is Flatbush avenue at the point where Carlton Avenue sprouts headed down into Prospect Heights and Fort Green (although currently it has been unfortunately divided by attempts to build the Atlantic Yards monster which has reduced ease of travel through these neighborhoods). Park Place bisects Flatbush directly in front of the old theater going from Park Slope on one side of the intersection and entering Prospect Heights on the other, as Flatbush is the boarder between the two neighborhoods.

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Posted by eric at 1:02 PM

Nets in ’11?

The Brooklyn Paper
by Mike McLaughlin

Bruce Ratner has pushed back the New Jersey Nets’ move to Brooklyn again — now saying that the basketball team he owns might not play its first game in an Atlantic Yards arena until the 2011–2012 season.

If that turns out to be true, it means the Nets would relocate five years later than originally promised by the developer when Atlantic Yards was unveiled in 2003.

Ratner told investors at the annual Forest City Ratner Companies meeting in Cleveland in June that construction on the Barclays Center, at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, would begin in January 2009, according to the Atlantic Yards Report, an invaluable Web site.

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Posted by eric at 12:08 PM

Atlantic Yards Court Battle Continues

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Jeffrey Harmatz

Property owners in the footprint of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Development are taking the next step in their fight against what they feel is the abuse of eminent domain. Nine property owners and tenants have filed a petition with the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court to block the seizure of their homes by the Empire State Development Corporation.
...

The project’s future under Forest City Ratner has been called into question by Ratner himself, as he has said that the nation’s economic downturn may cause serious delays in the project, and that only the first phase of the project, including the sports stadium, may be built in the next five years.

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Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Forest City, CBRE Feeling Effects of Wobbly Economy

The NY Observer
by Dana Rubinstein

In the worsening economic downturn, some real estate investment trusts and brokerages are showing signs of weakness.

On Jan. 2, stocks of Forest City Ratner parent Forest City Enterprises traded at $43.62 a share. On Aug. 4, they traded for nearly half the price, at $25.60.

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Posted by eric at 8:29 AM

De Blasio Runs as a One-Man Coalition

But will it fly? Mr. Post-racial, meet Charles Barron

The NY Observer
by Katharine Jose

In a profile of City Councilman Bill de Blasio, the candidate for Brooklyn Borough President's only declared opponent, fellow Councilman Charles Barron, cites Atlantic Yards as an issue delineating their respective candidacies.

“Bill, I think, has went along to get along more than I was hoping he would do, because I considered him, when I first came in [to the Council], as a progressive like me,” he said. “But I’ve been very disappointed in a lot of decisions he’s made.”

As examples, Mr. Barron cited Mr. de Blasio’s initial support of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project and his vote against renaming part of a Brooklyn street for black nationalist Sonny Carson, which Mr. Barron says was about the community’s right to self-determination.

Mr. de Blasio said, in essence, that he has no idea what Mr. Barron is talking about. “I think I’m unusually consistent,” he said, after saying that he didn’t really want to comment. (“I’m really, really focused on trying to not make this a campaign of people making allegations and then responding to other people’s allegations,” he said.)

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Posted by eric at 8:21 AM

Flashback 2005: sports economist Zimbalist on the AY exception

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder pokes more holes in the increasingly shaky reputation of one-time hole-poker sports economist Andrew Zimbalist.

In the June 2005 issue of the Brooklyn-based 'zine Stay Free, an interview (headlined Hoop Schemes) shows sports economist Andrew Zimbalist poking holes in sports facility studies, but insisting his study for developer Forest City Ratner was an exception.

However, a paired interview with Zimbalist's intellectual foil, Neil deMause of Field of Schemes, shows some contradiction in the professor's calculations.
...

Yet Zimbalist on the Brian Lehrer Show recently insisted incorrectly that Forest City Ratner was merely relying on as-of-right benefits. And, of course, he ignored costs for additional security and incorrectly speculated there would be no additional public contribution.

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Posted by eric at 8:03 AM

Governor Paterson questioned on Atlantic Yards

In a WCBS interview with NY State Governor Paterson (audio) , the interviewer posted a question from a listener concerning Atlantic Yards. Paterson hedged well enough to assure critics and supporters that he cares:

Q: With the state in such dire fiscal straits why are you supporting this costly project (which according to this writer may end up costing the state and new york city about 2 billion in subsidies and tax breaks)?

A: "There is a point that the listener correctly has addressed. That if it starts to become too costly, a lot of these projects that we were for, we might have to change our mind. To this point we don't think that we are there with the Atlantic Yards and continue to try to help them."

Atlantic Yards Report, In radio interview, Paterson hedges on AY, whiffs on naming rights
Watchdog Norman Oder noticed Paterson's hedge as well:

Does "continue to try to help" mean simply moving ahead or does it mean additional subsidies, which Forest City Ratner seeks?

Paterson also muddied the waters on the naming-rights issue:

During the interview, Paterson said he was opposed to selling state assets but not averse to leasing them. Asked about naming rights, as in “the Company Y state office building," Paterson responded, "Well, we’ve got [the new Mets stadium] CitiField"--he chuckled—“and that might be a way to do it, but I wouldn’t want to change the names of any of the facilities that we have honored great New Yorkers in the past…”

Still, the governor said, he was open to more options than previously.

The fact is, “we” don’t have CitiField, nor the Barclays Center, the corporate name of the planned Atlantic Yards arena. The naming rights go to the team owners.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Building a Technology Park in Baltimore by Rehabilitating a Neighborhood

The NY Times
By Eugene L. Meyer

From the newspaper that has never seen a Forest City project it didn't like, today The New York Times ran a fairly uncritical story about how the development company and Johns Hopkins Hospital "have joined forces to demolish a neighborhood to save it." [No joke!]

Though the article contained this disclosure, "One of its affiliates, Forest City Ratner, was the development partner for the new Manhattan headquarters of The New York Times Company," it doesn't mention that the Times Company and Forest City Ratner (FCR) now co-own the building.

Also absent from the article is any mention of "eminent domain," a controversial component of the plan to build The Times's headquarters and FCR's Atlantic Yards project. Instead, The Times dances around the topic:

To accumulate land for the site, the city, state and Johns Hopkins in 2003 created East Baltimore Development Inc. to acquire buildings, tear them down, and then sell the land to developers.

[Read: In order to acquire enough land, the government and Johns Hopkins created a public-private corporation empowered with the use of eminent domain to force people to sell their homes and/or businesses.]

Check out the rest of the article, which cheerily ends with a quote from a Forest City executive: "Hopefully, this is the last time we’ll have to demolish a neighborhood in order to save it.... It’s a real opportunity to create a new model of inclusive city rebuilding."

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

Partnership expected to recommend location for convention center, medical mart

Cleveland Plain Dealer
By Sarah Hollander

CIeveland is about to strike a deal with Forest City Enterprises for a new convention center to be built on land owned by and next to other holdings of the development company, because everyone knows that building another convention center will really pay off for taxpayers in the long run.

Business leaders appear to be cobbling together alternative financing to help make a new riverfront convention center and medical mart possible.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership, the region's largest chamber of commerce, expects to recommend a location to Cuyahoga County commissioners Thursday.

Commissioner Tim Hagan said he heard that the partnership's site selection committee favors a riverfront center behind Tower City [owned by Forest City Enterprises]. This option appears to be much cheaper than the other top contender -- a renovation and expansion at the current Lakeside Avenue location.
...
The report to commissioners is likely to include various financing options for the top choice.

"We wouldn't make a recommendation to build something without making a recommendation about how to pay for it," Nance said. He wouldn't elaborate.

Cleveland owns the current convention center. But to expand nearby, the county is likely to need to buy private property -- including an office building and parking garage.

Forest City Enterprises owns the riverfront land and would sell its property to the county. The company wouldn't comment on a possible asking price, but has agreed to lease 200,000 square feet in the old Higbee Building for a connected medical mart for $1 year, not including renovation costs.

Sam Miller, Forest City co-chairman, said he wants to strike a deal that's good for both the community and the company.

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NoLandGrab: A convention center adjacent to Forest City's Tower City complex might shore up business for the existing project, which critics have called a boondoggle.

Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

YOUR ROLE IN ATLANTIC YARDS DECISIONS

From the Park Slope Food Coop's Linewaiter's Gazette:

TO THE EDITOR:

Atlantic Yards Governance Act (A11395) is a piece of legislation presented to the State Assembly by 57th AD representative Hakeem Jeffries. Last Monday a press conference was held on the steps of City Hall in support. I doubt that anyone is aware of this legislation. Very few people attended the press conference.

The legislation would set up a new governance mechanism legitimizing the Forest City Ratner Corporation's (FCRCorporation) monopolistic privatization of the terrain around the Atlantic and Vanderbilt train yards between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. Rather than setting up a new governance, elected officials can be defending the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) which is the legal way that residents have a role in vetting decisions about landuse in this city.

ULURP was debated for years, written into law and is included in the City Charter as section 190c. ULURP requires open public hearings facilitated by Community Boards in the affected area(s) and then a vote by the full city council... ULURP gives residents, community board members and local elected officials authority over landuse and development decisions.

Then governor (and Ratner-classmate) George Pataki assigned authority over the project soon after its announcement to his appointees on the states Empire State Economic Development Corporation (ESDC) using an arcane stipulation in the state constitution. They robbed residents and city officials of our authority and power assigned by the City Charter. Elected officials can defend our right to participate rather than set up new and diversionary procedures that contradict city law.

Now that the FCRCorporation's plan has been revised and re-revised and re-re-revised to the point that we don't know whether there is a plan, the situation is this: The militant local opposition, the failing economy, and the new governor open an opportunity to go back to the beginning and do this development decision the just manner and the legal manner- putting out a Request for Proposals to developers and putting each proposal through the ULURP process. We can tell our elected officials that we want them to struggle for a legal and just process.

Another distressing aspect of the press conference was that the person speaking on behalf of the community has no authority to do so. Gib Veconi never brought the proposal to support this legislation to the Park Place- Underhill Avenue Block Association of which we are both members. There was no discussion nor vote on whether the oldest civic organization in Prospect Heights supports or opposes the proposed legislation. It is painful to call a neighbor out, but honesty requires it.

The proposed legislation went over like a lead balloon‚ as Joe Maniscalco reported in the Park Slope Courier. Everyone concerned about the quality of life in Brooklyn can ask her/his elected official for a copy of the proposed legislation. If you oppose FCRCorporation's Atlantic Yards plan, get in touch with those officials and ask them to support an open process, not legitimize and Corporate land-grab.

In solidarity,
Susan Metz

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

Bender Backbends to Backtrack on Atlantic Yards Timeline

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (dddb.net):

The Observer has Forest City Ratner veep Bruce Bender twisting himself in knots trying to tamp down the reality of what FCR president Bruce Ratner told investors at a June annual meeting, as reported today on the Atlantic Yards Report: ground on the the Barclays Boondoggle Arena won't be broken until January and then it will take 2.5 years to construct, so it won't open until mid-2011 at the earliest. (Oder also explains how 2011 is also unrealistic.)

Presumably the developer is more honest with investors than the general public, what with that SEC thing and all.

But that doesn't stop Bender from telling the NY Observer this:

"It is not a new schedule. I think Bruce was just stating that the schedule in place is in fact very aggressive. We plan to break ground this fall and are working to open in calendar year 2010. While that's the goal, if it is not met then it would end up being calendar year 2011."
...
How does Bender et al. plan on breaking ground for the arena in the fall, or January for that matter, if Forest City Ratner will not own the property it needs for the arena by those dates?

NoLandGrab: Right... if last month's slip up to investors "is not a new schedule," what's the new schedule gonna look like?

Posted by lumi at 4:15 AM

August 5, 2008

Nets Arena May Not Be Finished Until 2011, Ratner Says

The Daily Newarker

Seriously, Nets? Newark can get this done for you by next season. The arena is here and ready for you. Do New Jersey proud and stay here, do something good for a city that will welcome you here, and maintain your current fans.

Newark is a win-win for everyone except Forest City Ratner, who is just totally screwing with you guys.

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More Coverage:

Newsday.com, Nets move to Brooklyn delayed again?

This doesn't surprise me much, as the project has been delayed several times. As recently as January, the Nets acknowledged that their original plan to move into the new Brooklyn arena for the start of the 2009-10 season was unrealistic, saying their hope was to complete the move during the calendar year 2010.

NoLandGrab: Actually, their original original plan was to move into a new Brooklyn arena in 2006, but who's counting?

The Knicks Blog, Nets To Brooklyn Hits Another Snag

The Real Deal, Atlantic Yards' Nets arena faces more delays

NBA Fan House, Brooklyn Will Have to Wait for LeBron Nets

HoopsVibe.com, Arena for Brooklyn Nets Delayed Again

Does it count as news if everyone already knew it was going to happen? Let’s assume that it does and treat this story as if it’s a surprise. The folks at the not-so-attractively-named Forest City Ratner company have come out and admitted that the schedule which would have seen the new arena for the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets completed in "calendar year 2010" is "very aggressive".

For those of you not fluent in business-speak, that means that there’s about as much chance it’ll be ready by 2010 as there is of Bruce Ratner suiting up and playing small forward on opening night.

While [2010 is] the goal, if it is not met, then it would end up being calendar year 2011.

In related news, eleven is one larger than ten.

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

State eminent domain suit filed, raises new state claim; hearing in January?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder parses through the NY State eminent domain petition filed yesterday by property owners fighting Bruce Ratner's Prospect Heights land grab.

As expected, the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case has taken a last-ditch trip to state court and, though some of the arguments have already been dismissed in the (likely) more hospitable federal court system, the case filed Friday adds a novel claim, based on grounds untested in court, which might make the argument interesting.

Thus, it looks like the Atlantic Yards legal battle will not be resolved until 2009, despite developer Bruce Ratner’s stated claim--which itself represents a slowdown in the timetable--that groundbreaking would begin in January. (Two other lawsuits are pending, as well as questions over project financing.)

Nine plaintiffs--two fewer than in the recent Supreme Court eminent domain appeal and five fewer than the total plaintiffs in the federal case--have filed suit against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the only potential defendant under the state Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL). In the federal case, which was dismissed at the trial and appellate court levels and refused a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court, city and state officials were named as defendants, along with developer Forest City Ratner.

Read the rest of the article to find out which original plaintiffs have settled with Ratner, what new evidence is being presented and the latest legal argument that claims that Ratner's land grab violates the State's own constitution.

Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

FOREST CITY RATNER STATEMENT ON MOST RECENT EMINENT DOMAIN LAW SUIT FILED BY OPPONENTS OF ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT IN BROOKLYN

August 4, 2008 - Brooklyn, NY - Bruce Bender, the executive vice president for government and community affairs at Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, issued the following statement today in response to inquiries regarding the most recent lawsuit brought by opponents of the project:

“The courts have repeatedly upheld the public benefits of the Atlantic Yards project,” Mr. Bender said, explaining that the project will create thousands of needed jobs and affordable homes. “As expected, opponents have filed another law suit opposing the State’s right to use eminent domain. We’re fully confident that the courts will once again agree that this project is in the public’s interest.”

Earlier this summer, the United States Supreme Court declined to review a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which unanimously affirmed the District Court's decision in a case brought by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project. The District Court had previously decided against the plaintiffs in the case citing the numerous public benefits generated by the project.

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. * To date, roughly 57% of the structures on the site have been demolished or are in the process of being demolished. 31 structures have been demolished and an additional 4 buildings are being demolished or are slated to be demolished in the short term. There are 11 vacant lots and 29 other remaining structures. * Minority- and women-owned businesses have received a large percentage of the work. Construction contracts awarded at Atlantic Yards total approximately $44.5 million. The total MBE awards are $17.9 million or approximately 40.2% of total purchases. The total WBE awards are $2.9 million or approximately 6.5% which brings the total M/WBE participation thus far to $20.8 million or approximately 46.7%. Additionally, 37.5% of the 21 contracts awarded to MWBE firms have gone to Brooklyn based firms. * Construction of the Temporary Rail Yard is under way. The Carlton Ave Bridge is in the process of being demolished and critical upgrades to the 100 year old sewer and water infrastructure have begun.

Legal Update * June 23, 2008. The United States Supreme Court declines to review a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. * 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. * January 15, 2008. The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court unanimously dismisses a challenge to the project approvals under Section 207 of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law in November 2007. Opponents’ request for an appeal was denied in January, 2008. * January 11, 2008. NY State Supreme Court rules against opponents in a case on environmental review procedures. Opponents are appealing the case. * October 2007. A second suit brought in the NY State Supreme Court challenging the State's use of eminent domain was dismissed in May 2007, and the dismissal was affirmed by the Appellate Division in October 2007.

Posted by lumi at 4:14 AM

New Net arena delayed yet again

NY Daily News
By Julian Garcia

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If the Nets do manage to sign potential free agent LeBron James before the start of the 2010-11 season, it's possible their fans in New Jersey could get the first look at him, as opposed to those in Brooklyn.

The company that plans to build the team's new home in Brooklyn acknowledged Monday that the arena may not be open until the 2010-11 season is well underway.

While saying the plan remains to move the team to Brooklyn in "calendar year 2010," a representative of Forest City Ratner - Nets owner Bruce Ratner's company - admitted that schedule "is in fact very aggressive."

"While that's the goal, if it is not met, then it would end up being calendar year 2011," said Bruce Bender, the company's executive vice president.

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NoLandGrab: "...is in fact very aggressive" — translation, "don't bet on it."

It is unlikely that "the new Nets arena in Brooklyn will likely look like" anything in this photo, given that the Daily Snooze ran a photo of the arena model from the unveiling of the project back in 2003. Bruce Ratner has already announced that the arena will no longer feature a "green roof" and the current design is radically different.

Posted by lumi at 3:47 AM

Forest City in the News

wkyc.com, Panel: Tower City Convention Center/Medical Mart site is cheaper

CLEVELAND -- A Medical Mart and Convention Center built behind Tower City and in the old Higbee building is significantly cheaper than at the present convention center site.

That's what a panel evaluating and crunching the numbers is expected to tell Cuyahoga County Commissioners.

Forest City downsized and made over its proposal in recent weeks. The revised cost is about $460 million. The lower figure makes it the panel's recommended location.

The cost to put the project at the present Convention Center location is far in excess of $500 million, topping out at between $560 million and $610 million.

CnewsPubs.com, Tenant list grows for Shops at Wiregrass

WESLEY CHAPEL — When the Shops at Wiregrass opens Oct. 30, customers may start at The Walking Company, mosey over to Champs Sports, saunter into Bath & Body Works and stop at the Finish Line.

After having done so, customers will still have more than 40 other choice shopping or dining destinations to visit in the 800,000-square-foot lifestyle center being developed at the intersection of State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard (County Road 581).

Banana Republic, Williams-Sonoma, Sephora and the Children’s Place are among the newest tenants announced Tuesday, July 29 by Forest City Enterprises. Forest City Enterprises, based in Cleveland, and The Goodman Co., based in West Palm Beach, are developing the Shops at Wiregrass.

Gazette.net, Konterra project proceeds near Laurel

Konterra Town Center East, a proposed $3 billion mixed-use development just outside the Laurel city limits, is one step closer to reality after the Prince George’s County Planning Board approved its preliminary site plan last week.

The retail, office and housing development is to be built on a former gravel-mining site.
...
The Gould family, which is developing the site with Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland, has owned 2,200 acres on the eastern side of I-95 for 27 years. Caleb Gould told the Beltsville Civic Association in March that his company, Konterra Realty, has spent the past two-plus decades reclaiming the property, formerly the Contee Sand and Gravel site.

Mutual Fund Facts About Individual Stocks, Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE) more shares bought by Bank of America Corp

Bank Of America Corp added additional 47,387 (27.43 %) shares of Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE), bringing their current holdings to 220,131 shares as shown by filings made public on 2008-08-01.

Posted by lumi at 3:13 AM

August 4, 2008

Nets Arena May Not Be Finished Until 2011, Ratner Says

The Real Estate [NY Observer]
by Eliot Brown

BruceRatnerGetty.jpg

The news was first spotted by Norman Oder at his encyclopedic watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report, where he put up part of a transcript from a Forest City conference in June [corrected]. In the conference, Forest City chairman Bruce Ratner said the company hoped to start construction on the arena by the end of this year, and would take two and a half years to finish.

We put the question over to Forest City this morning, and here's their response, via a statement from vice president Bruce Bender:

"It is not a new schedule. I think Bruce was just stating that the schedule in place is in fact very aggressive. We plan to break ground this fall and are working to open in calendar year 2010. While that's the goal, if it is not met then it would end up being calendar year 2011."

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NoLandGrab: How's that? It's not a new schedule? It's just the same schedule with new dates? Right, and the arena actually opened in 2006, the date announced initially by Forest City Ratner when they first presented Atlantic Yards to the public in 2003.

As we pointed out this morning, Bruce Ratner had to hew to truthiness in talking to shareholders about the arena's opening. But since Bruce Bender was only responding to a press inquiry, he could, as is his wont, be a little more creative.

Once again, we extend our challenge to Forest City Ratner to tell it straight to anyone not carrying the big enforcement stick of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Posted by eric at 4:47 PM

Atlantic Yards Car Roast: It’s a Beemer!

Gowanus Lounge

BurntBMW.jpg

Forget the news about eminent domain suits and new estimates for a possible opening of the Nets Arena. Here’s some very compelling and current Atlantic Yards-related imagery. This is a toasted BMW 5 Series. The GL reader who sent it writes: “sucks for them. spotted at the 6th avenue bridge over atlantic yards (two blocks from the dean street fire station).”

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NoLandGrab: More evidence of "footprint blight?" Or a metaphor for Bruce Ratner's chances of securing arena financing? No word as to whether the car might have been saved by Dean Street firefighters had they not needed to take a circuitous route due to street closings "necessitated" by Atlantic Yards infrastructure work.

Posted by eric at 2:28 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

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The Real Estate [NY Observer], Landowners Bring Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Battle to State Court

If anything else, the lawsuits thus far seem to have delayed the start of the more than $4 billion planned project, which calls for a new basketball arena for the Nets, and over 6,000 apartments. Now, more than a year and a half since the Atlantic Yards project received state approval, a host of clouds circle over developer Forest City Ratner, which once anticipated building the entire first phase (which includes the arena, an office tower and at least 1,000 units of housing) by 2010. The once-lush climate for financing has turned to an arid desert, tax-free housing bonds are in short supply given soaring demand, and the financing mechanism by which the company was to get tax-free bonds for the arena is under fire by the I.R.S., threatening to drive up costs by more than $100 million.

But if the landowners had an uphill climb challenging eminent domain in federal court, the ascent in New York state court is generally regarded as a particularly daunting one, given the relatively generous treatment to the state by New York's eminent domain law.

We're waiting on a statement from Forest City, but if history is any guide, the company will point out (correctly) that the courts have tossed all the lawsuits challenging the project to date.

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Checking in With Atlantic Yards: A Messy Footprint, a New Timetable, and a Lawsuit in State Supreme Court

It’s been a while since we’ve looked in on the Atlantic Yards project. Luckily, Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report has been keeping vigilant watch over the goings-on at the site. Here’s a quick update...

Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case Filed in State Court

Brownstoner, Nets Coming Late to Atlantic Yards and Suit Coming Soon

Two new developments in the Atlantic Yards saga. Atlantic Yards Report reveals that the Nets have three more years at the Meadowlands' Izod Center, not two, meaning the 2010 opening date Bruce Ratner has been promoting may be nothing more than a pipe dream; we might be looking at 2012 for the team's debut. Besides the team's schedule, there's the issue of construction. Ratner tells some outlets that groundbreaking won't begin until January; to others, he says November.

As construction remains stalled at the site, a lawsuit goes forward. Nine property owners and tenants filed a petition against the Empire State Development Corporation in the Appellate Division Second Department of New York State Supreme Court.

Nets Daily, Has Ratner Pushed Barclays Center Opening to 2011?

brooklyn bob says:

And btw, a JULY OF 2011 barclays center opening is a BEST CASE SCENARIO that assumes no further legal delays, no financing/loan delays and no construction delays. Yeah, right. That’ll happen.

3 more 20-win seasons in the swamp, at least. With 4 more being a very real possibility. While at the same time, newark’s brand new state-of-the-art arena awaits an nba franchise with open arms.

What a bleeping disgrace!!! Way to go ratner. Way to go stern. You two sure know how to screw things up. No wonder the nba’s popularity is going to hell in a hand basket.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case Filed on Friday

Yonkers Tribune, Nine Property Owners and Tenants File Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Challenge in New York State Court

RotoWorld, Nets may not move until 2011

Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Nine Property Owners and Tenants File Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Challenge in New York State Court

Petitioners Seek to Prevent New York State's Seizure of Their Homes and Businesses by Eminent Domain

For Immediate Release: August 4, 2008

BROOKLYN, NY— Late Friday nine property owners and tenants—with homes and businesses New York State wants to seize for developer Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project—filed a petition with the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court seeking an order rejecting the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) findings and determination to seize their homes and businesses by eminent domain.

The court argument will likely be in January 2009.

"New York Courts have a proud history of interpreting the New York Constitution as providing greater protections for individual rights than the federal constitution. This case presents an opportunity to continue that tradition by declaring that the New York Constitution prohibits the government from seizing private homes simply to turn them over to a developer who covets them for a massive luxury condominium project," said lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. "We are confident that the court will see this for what it is: government officials bending to the will of Bruce Ratner, allowing him to wield the power of eminent domain for his personal financial benefit."

Facing the seizure of their homes and businesses, the petitioners have alleged five claims against the ESDC— the condemning authority utilized by Forest City Ratner to take the petitioners' properties and give them to Forest City Ratner. The five claims are that the ESDC's determination to forcibly seize the properties should be rejected because:

1. It violates the public use clause contained in the Bill of Rights of the New York Constitution.

ESDC's claims of public benefit are a pretext to justify a private taking.

2. It violates the due process clause contained in the Bill of Rights of the New York Constitution.

The public process was a sham. The outcome was predetermined in a back room deal between Ratner, Pataki and Bloomberg.

3. It violates the equal protection clause contained in the Bill of Rights of the New York Constitution.

By singling out the petitioners, for unequal, adverse, treatment, and selecting Ratner as the recipient of irrational largess, the ESDC violated the petitioners' right to equal protection under the law.

4. It violates the low-income and current resident requirements of the New York Constitution.

The New York State Constitution provides that no loan or subsidy shall be made to aid any project unless the project contains a plan for the remediation of blight and the "occupancy of any such project shall be restricted to persons of low income as defined by law and preference shall be given to persons who live or shall have lived in such area or areas."

The Atlantic Yards project is not "restricted to persons of low income" and no preference has been given to "persons who live or shall have lived in such area."

5. It violates the "public use, benefit or purpose" requirement contained in New York's Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL).

ESDC's determination that petitioners' homes and businesses will serve a "public use, benefit or purpose" has no basis in fact or law.

The petition to the Court for the case, Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation, can be downloaded at: www.dddb.net/eminentdomain


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn—in its effort to defend the homes and businesses of community members and advocate for their rights—organized the eminent domain lawsuit, and raises the funds for the lawsuit.

Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

Bruce Ratner makes it official: AY arena would open in mid-2011 (best-case scenario)

Atlantic Yards Report

Longtime NoLandGrab readers who have repeatedly watched the arena's opening date slip over the years have known for some time that Bruce Ratner's claims that the arena would be ready for the 2010-2011 basketball season amounted to a tall tale — now it's official.

Despite public statements to the contrary, as on the Barclays Center web site, the New Jersey Nets have three, not two, more years at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands--and that's in a best-case scenario.

The word comes directly from Forest City Ratner president (and Nets majority owner) Bruce Ratner, who indicated to shareholders in June that construction would start in January and take two-and-a-half years--a timetable far different from the developer's and team's public statements, including to season ticket-holders.

FCEMeetingTrans08.gif

[A]t the June 19 annual meeting in Cleveland of Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, Bruce Ratner revised his prediction by one year, to mid-2011, which means the arena would open for the 2011-2012 season, three seasons from now.

From the lips of Bruce:

[W]e're doing very well on the Atlantic Yards project. Our hope is that we can close our loans and close the transaction by the end of the year. And then it will be about two and a half years to build our arena, and then the Nets will move from New Jersey to Brooklyn. So, we're working hard at it, and I think we're finally close to a closing.

Norman Oder explains:

If it takes 2.5 years to build the arena, and construction starts in January 2009, the arena would open in July 2011. Still, keep in mind that the Nets have extended their lease in their current facility to 2012-13, just in case.

Also keep in mind that there's no certainty that groundbreaking for the arena would occur in January--legal cases, including the just-filed state eminent domain lawsuit, may still be pending.

Read the rest of the article for the litany of public statements made by Forest City and Nets executives, meant to convince the media and public to the contrary.

NoLandGrab: Federal regulations and laws governing statements to shareholders force corporate executives to be more candid than when they make statements to the press, only proving that Bruce C. Ratner can squeeze out something that resembles the truth when his ass is on the line.

Posted by lumi at 3:53 AM

Dig-it-all! “Truthy” His-Stories On the Decline

Last week we failed to notice one post from Noticing New York.

The YouTube vid showing a cop taking down a cyclist at last month's Manhattan Critical Mass ride has people thinking about the massive digital archive being created on the Internet:

No longer will history be written by the ribbon-cutters if big megadevlopements succeed. NOT if they are unwilling to stick to the truth.

Digital technology is comprehensively laying down the actual facts.

Just take a look at Norman Oder’s story today, “Typo? City/state letter on tax-exempt bonds backdates MTA RFP by three years” where he zeros in to block the tricky use of a backdating “typo” amongst other organized misinformation in a letter to the IRS by which the New York City Industrial Development Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation attempt to rewrite history. They have reason to try to rewrite history since the history is not pretty. (History includes the award of 22 acres of Brooklyn to Ratner Organization on a no-bid basis, giving Ratner a theoretical monopoly on 30 contiguous acres.)

Once upon a time the true history of big city development was inaccessibly buried in musty old city records. Only the power brokers who wanted to tell a story with their particular slant could mobilize the resources to selectively surface the facts or non-facts that supported the tale they wanted to tell. Now you know that if you want the true story about a project like Atlantic Yards you skip the official press releases and quickie news stories that feed off them and go to sources like Oder’s Atlantic Yards Report.

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Posted by lumi at 3:45 AM

August 3, 2008

Want to be on television?

cameras8.jpg

The Atlantic Yards Photo Pool on Flickr has the recent addition of photos of 20 security cameras in the footprint from PHeights.

Posted by amy at 11:18 AM

A Proper Relationship with the Host?

ACORNBizModel.jpg

Noticing New York looks at Consumers Rights League (“CRL”) June report, "ACORN's Hypocritical House of Cards":

"ACORN's business model involves choosing a corporate target, attacking it, reaching a financial settlement, and then beginning the cycle again with a different target. The organization's own manifesto says: "ACORN's lifeblood is conflict with targets outside the organization," according to an internal document. This strategy has been very effective in the case of mortgage lenders. A magazine sympathetic to ACORN notes dryly, "AHC exhibits a unique ability to develop relationships with institutions, including some with which ACORN was previously in conflict."

Ergo, thinking about it this way, if ACORN’s final goals in launching an attack on a corporate target are a partnership and money for organizing then ACORN has much in common with a parasite- It never wants to kill the host; it wants the host to live so it can coexist with it. Ultimately, it adopts the host's goals as its own.

What that would mean is that in making its judgements about something it has attacked, ACORN would not be asking whether something bad should end, or whether there is a balance that should be struck. ACORN would always stop short of ending a bad thing or striking a proper balance if it would kill the host or partnership opportunities.
...
I can’t say whether what is alleged is true in other contexts. I observe that, in the case of Atlantic Yards ACORN’s alleged “Business Model” model fits.

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Posted by amy at 11:08 AM

Urban Environmentalist NYC: R & E Brooklyn

r-and-e-brooklyn.jpg

Gowanus Lounge provides an interview with R & E Brooklyn owners Rolf Grimsted and Emily Fisher:

Q: If you got together with other small business owners in your community what would the hot topics be?

Rolf: My number one topic is ways to retrofit and green the existing housing stock. I also have an idea about using tax incentives for building green. If the 421-a tax incentive and 421-b incentives were used for green building, the city would encourage new green building and the greening of existing homes, and we’d reduce our city’s energy consumption.

Emily: The ongoing boom in new development is a big topic, including the discussions on what’s going to happen to the Atlantic Yards site and how can that development potentially benefit our community and businesses?

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Posted by amy at 11:01 AM

Ward Bakery Demolition Porn: Remnants

ward8.08.jpg

Gowanus Lounge

This image was captured by Tracy Collins, who is spending a of time chronicling the dismantling of part of Prospect Heights for the Atlantic Yards Development.

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Posted by amy at 10:55 AM

For the Nets, departed star Jefferson could still sell (discounted) jerseys

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Atlantic Yards Report

You've got to hand it to the relentless marketers behind the New Jersey Nets. Former star Richard Jefferson may have been expunged from the Atlantic Yards web site after he was traded to Milwaukee in June, but some product remained in the Nets' team store (right) until last week. (It's gone now.)

I didn't get a screenshot, but, for a brief moment last week, Jefferson and Yi Jianlian, who switched teams in the trade, appeared (virtually) together in Nets uniforms.

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Posted by amy at 10:50 AM

This week in history...

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Although Marty Markowitz is big on unions now, this was not always the case. Before becoming the illustrious Brooklyn Borough President, Markowitz was the State Senator that the Times described as "the only politician in the city who deliberately seeks to entertain." His favorite form of flamboyance, then as now, was free concerts. And what better way to keep costs down for the corporate sponsors?

To keep costs down, Mr. Markowitz persuaded the state to dispatch prison inmates to set up the stage for each concert.

Perhaps this practice would have gone unnoticed, until tragedy struck in 1990:

At Wingate Field six years ago, the rhythm-and-blues singer and composer Curtis Mayfield, best known for the hit title track from the movie "Superfly," severely injured his spine when a windstorm blew over a lighting tower and part of the stage collapsed.

But the important thing is that no egos were injured in the incident:

Mr. Markowitz said attendance did not suffer at concerts after the incident, but added that he lost a corporate sponsor and that Mr. Mayfield, who is paralyzed from the neck down, sued his insurance company.

On August 11, 1996, the vice president of Local 4 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees voiced his displeasure to the Times:

As a stagehand who lives and works in Brooklyn, I was outraged about your piece on Senator Markowitz. The stage and light tower collapse that permanently disabled Curtis Mayfield has never failed to upset me and many of my co-workers.

Mr. Markowitz's hiring practices should be examined closely. Brooklyn has some of the finest stage technicians in the country represented by Local 4 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Marty Markowitz has refused to hire Local 4 workers.

Instead, he chooses to take risks with the safety of the performers and audience by employing amateurs -- prison inmates -- to perform highly skilled jobs.

Rigging and setting up an outdoor show with electric lights and sound on tall steel towers requires skill and experience. The competent women and men of Local 4 have the experience and they are right in Marty's backyard along with all of his other constituents.

THOMAS PAULUCCI
Brooklyn Heights

Posted by amy at 10:23 AM

August 2, 2008

Report suggests solutions for small businesses after the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning

outofbusiness.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

On July 24, I wrote about the unanticipated impacts of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning and wondered what policy changes might emerge. A new report, Out of Business: The Crisis of Small Businesses in Rezoned Downtown Brooklyn, from FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality) and the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center cites extensive displacement of small business (mainly run by immigrants) and suggests four policy solutions, including grants and reserved commercial space.

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Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

News Highlights of the Week: July 26 – August 1, 2008

Architectural Record
Jenna M. McKnight and Alanna Malone

In mid-July, Frank Gehry pulled out of his first major venture in England: King Alfred Development, a seafront mixed-use project in Brighton that has been mired in controversy since it was unveiled. Now, the developer, Karis, says the Canadian-born architect is considering getting back on board, according to The Architects’ Journal. Karis managing director Josh Arghiros told the UK-based publication that he thinks Gehry would consider returning for the chance to “tweak it the way he would want it to be.” His statement came a day after Dutch Bank INC, the project’s main investor, pulled its support—an announcement that prompted World Architecture News to declare that the “King Alfred Project is dead.” The half-billion-dollar project has encountered fierce resistance from the get-go, much like Gehry’s Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn (RECORD, May 2008). It remains to be seen whether Karis will be able to secure the necessary funding before the King Alfred Development becomes a lost cause.

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Posted by amy at 9:40 AM

Construction in Earnest at 80 Dekalb Avenue

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Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Brownstoner.com reported this week that “construction has kicked into high gear” and the foundation and basement are in for the new residential building at 80 Dekalb Ave. in Fort Greene, a project of Forest City Ratner. The building was described in an earlier Eagle article as a 34-story, 370,000-square-foot tower with 365 rental apartments.

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Posted by amy at 9:32 AM

August 1, 2008

The MTA’s un-fare-ness

The Brooklyn Paper

Atlantic Yards gets a dishonorable mention in this week's Brooklyn Paper editorial on the competency deficit at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The MTA sells its assets on the cheap to hand-picked developers and cronies of its well-connected board members rather than selling them on the open market. Atlantic Yards, of course, is the most egregious example of this, with the MTA selling the air rights over its Vanderbilt Rail Yards to Bruce Ratner for $100 million less than its appraised value.

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Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

The Brooklyn Ratners or the Ratner Nets? What if team names in the U.S. were more like those in Japan?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his conversation with Field of Schemes author and blogger Neil deMause.

Q. I noticed in your book that you think a more honest approach to the names of sports teams would be the Japanese one, taking the names of owners, so we'd have the Steinbrenner Yankees or the Turner Braves--or, I might add, the Ratner Nets.

[Japanese team names include the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, named for major shareholder Nippon Ham, and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, named for SoftBank.]

A. The teams are named for the corporations that own them. But then so are the New York Red Bulls, because they’re owned by Red Bull sports drink. The WNBA Connecticut Sun are owned by the Mohegan Sun casino and play there, basically bought and moved there to be a selling point for the casino.

There was talk at one point of moving the Grizzlies, when they were moving to Memphis, where FedEx is based, and naming them the Memphis Express, and that would be part of the naming rights deal.
...

Q. So, in Brooklyn, [if the Nets move,] it should be the Brooklyn Ratners?

A. Maybe the Brooklyn Barclays. There’s no reason not to do that, except I think there’s still a little bit of squeamishness among fans about having that much of a corporate name. You could be wearing this on your hat and shirt, you don’t want it to be just a corporate logo.

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Posted by eric at 8:50 AM

AY Photo Pool: Ward demo continues

WardRuin-TC.jpg

Photographer Tracy Collins just posted some recent images of the ruins of the Ward Bakery Building, including a time lapse video of men at work, in the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Bruce Ratner is demolishing this historic structure to make way for his controversial megaproject.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

Nets investor's lawsuit against Ratner dismissed

Atlantic Yards Report

[A] lawsuit by Nets investor Eugene Greene, claiming that Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner reneged on promises of inner-circle perks as a member of the team's Board of Governors, has been dismissed by a State Supreme Court judge.
...
Greene's lawsuit... sought $20 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages and featured the alleged claim that Ratner executives told Greene he'd been "f----d" out of the deal.
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Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn's decision cites some information that hadn't surfaced earlier:

Although not alleged in the complaint, plaintiff has acknowledged, in his Memorandum of Law submitted in opposition to the motion, that the $6,000,000 investment was returned in 2004... and that he now seeks only the value of what was promised to him for the work he performed on behalf of defendants...

And what was that value? The decision notes that Greene acknowledges that there was no "express written or oral agreement specifying the exact terms" of his compensation.

Greene's lawyer, Jonathan S. Sack, told the New York Law Journal that Greene was considering an appeal.

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Posted by lumi at 4:37 AM

Around Atlantic Yards: Corner of Vanderbilt and Atlantic

CarWashMcD-BIB.jpg

...the popular car wash on the North side of Atlantic Avenue, and... a view looking west through the [Atlantic Yards] development footprint.

Posted by lumi at 4:30 AM

Parents of St. Ann's School kids don't want U.S. Probation office as neighbor

NY Daily News
By John Marzulli

Parents of one of NYC's most exclusive private schools are upset at Forest City Ratner and the development company's newest tenant, a Federal Probation Office:

Parents of students at the snooty St. Ann's School in Brooklyn Heights are outraged at the feds for relocating the U.S. Probation office - and its 1,700 convicted offenders on supervised release - to the same high-rise office building where about 100 kids attend classes.

Chief Judge Raymond Dearie was bombarded with questions hurled by angry and fearful parents at a meeting Wednesday night in the federal courthouse.
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The Probation Department had to find new space after its leases at buildings on Clinton St. and Livingston St. were scheduled to expire this month. The General Services Administration received only one bid - from Forest City Ratner - and signed a 10-year, $3 million lease for 1 Pierrepont. The Federal Defenders office is moving in, too.

"We were never informed by the landlord or the court who the tenant was going to be," said Larry Weiss, the head of St. Ann's, where tuition is about $25,000 a year.

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Posted by lumi at 4:27 AM