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July 31, 2009

Sparse turnout on Day 2 of hearing on “Ghost Project Plan”; Jeffries, Kruger testify; open mike night for BUILD, unions

Atlantic Yards Report

Sometimes the sequel is even better than the original, like with The Godfather, Part II. And sometimes, it's just a lot less compelling. Here's a case in point.

The second day of the two-day Atlantic Yards hearing held by the Empire State Development Corporation was even more of an anti-climax than the first day.

Without a contingent from ACORN and with only a handful of project opponents, no more than 100 people attended during the 2-5 pm day session and far fewer showed up for the 6-8 pm evening session, leaving a sea of empty seats in the Klitgord Auditorium of New York City Technical College. During the latter, hearing officer Edward Kramer several times paused to go “off the record” before new people showed to testify.

In fact, the hearing at times seemed like open mike night for members of the construction unions and Community Benefits Agreement signatory (and Forest City Ratner-funded) BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), who touted the expected benefits of the project.

By my estimation, fewer opponents and critics attended the two-day hearing than the 130 who attended the June 9 update on AY held at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene.

While the reasons--location, weather, vacations, belief that the effort was futile?--are unclear, it suggested that, however much residents in the area near the project dislike AY, it’s tougher to get them out. (Still, nearly all candidates for seats in two nearby City Council districts either oppose or are critical of the project and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn mustered a vigorous press conference/rally before the hearing Wednesday.)

Some telling testimony

Still, some telling testimony was lodged by project opponents, including Patti Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, who called the Modified General Project Plan under consideration a “Ghost Project Plan” because it lacks a site plan, renderings, and a current financial analysis.

Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee, ramped up previous criticism, said the benefits promised came at much too high a cost: "I believe this project is flawed beyond belief, and ESDC would be wise in stopping this miscarriage in its tracks."

article [with video]

NoLandGrab: Certainly more opponents of the project would've shown up had they felt the whole thing wasn't just one big charade. Better to walk softly, and carry a big lawsuit.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Why the DOT's cars-on-the-sidewalk plan was approved, why it wasn't announced, and how safety has been improved

Atlantic Yards Report

Yes, it really is kosher for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to approve temporary use of a sidewalk for vehicles, as it did for two weeks--beginning this week--on Pacific Street going east of Sixth Avenue in Prospect Heights, while utility work goes on nearby.

However, after inspecting the initial configuration of the site--perhaps in response to concerns raised online once Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn on Tuesday posted a photo of a potentially dangerous situation--the DOT took additional action to increase safety.

DOT spokesman Scott Gastel responded on Wednesday:
We approved a plan at this location to permit two-way traffic using a portion of the sidewalk during sewer installation for approximately 12 weeks. This kind of arrangement is not unique and has been used on projects such as the Second Avenue Subway and on major projects on 34th Street in Queens or Richmond Terrace on Staten Island.

We inspected the location this morning and instructed the contractor to replace the wooden barrier with one made of concrete and to extend it in both directions while maintaining at least a five-foot-wide pedestrian walkway, and to install additional signs as was part of the original, approved plan. We will continue to monitor the area.


NoLandGrab: Thank goodness Bruce Ratner has so successfully reduced the area's population. He doesn't get enough credit for looking out for people's safety.

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

On the radio, Nets' Yormark continues to spin about housing, litigation, arena timing, and arena renderings

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder turns a critical ear to ESPN Radio's interview with truthiness-challenged Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

Yormark disavowed the renderings of the Ellerbe Becket-designed arena: "I hate to use the word leaked. They were inappropriate renderings, not approved by us.... 30-45 days, you'll see some great architecture."

As noted, even if they were leaked at first, they later appeared as illustrations in the Empire State Development Corporation's revised documents.

Yormark continued to repeat the canard about Forest City Ratner's alleged perfect record in court: "We're 25 and 0 in litigation."

First, many of those case involve not FCR but the Empire State Development Corporation. Also, and perhaps most importantly, the eminent domain appeal wouldn't have been put on the calendar of the state Court of Appeals in October if FCR and its allies had a perfect record.


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Atlantic Yards Then and Now

Brooklyn Speaks


Posted by eric at 6:02 AM

On Day 2, a Calmer Atlantic Yards Hearing

The Local [NY Times blog]
By Tamara Best

There were none of the protesters of yesterday and consequently little of the tension. This afternoon’s hearing on the proposed changes to Atlantic Yards was attended mostly by supporters of the project, notably job-seekers, union members and members of the business community, with only a few people speaking out against the development plans.

crab.jpg Here's a compelling argument for building Atlantic Yards NOW(!):

Several union carpenters spoke, including Derrick Taylor, 41, of Carpenters Local 926, who compared the debate over the plans to crabs in a bucket.

“If you have 20 crabs in a bucket, none of them will ever get out because they will naturally pull each other down. This is the crab with buckets, and Ratner is a crab — let him out.” Mr. Taylor said that Ratner is offering the community an opportunity to flourish.


Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

Offseason: Raptors, Magic win with or without Hedo; Blazers not so lucky


Just yesterday, NJ Nets CEO Brett Yormark told ESPN radio, "we're having one of the best off-seasons that we've had in years."

Here's what sports writer Ken Berger's has to say about the Nets off-season:

Nets: With Carter gone and their dream of moving to a new arena in Brooklyn still on life support, the Nets might as well fly a white flag outside the IZOD Center. Is it any wonder that owner Bruce Ratner reportedly is looking to sell the team? As long as it's playing in New Jersey, who would buy it?


Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

July 30, 2009

Build It Now!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


Posted by eric at 9:51 PM

Atlantic Yards: A Crash Course

Next American City
by Katherine Mella

Next American City, coming a little late to the Atlantic Yards story, gets the facts mostly right, but nails it in the final paragraph:

Being able to borrow money and raise capital in this fiscal climate has placed the project at a severe disadvantage. And with a less than exciting main attraction, resolute local opposition, and legal and financial hurdles, it is hard to say if Ratner’s Atlantic Yards will ever—or even ought to—come to fruition.


Posted by eric at 6:39 PM

HEADLINES: Atlantic Yards Hearing

The Wonkster [Gotham Gazette], Pols and Activists Blast Atlantic Yards Project

“It’s time to put the proposed Atlantic Yards project out of its misery. The end is near. It’s time to engage in smart and strategic development,” said Councilmember Letitia James, who represents the area where Atlantic Yards is planned to go. After reciting a litany of the city’s crises — “rising unemployment, overcrowded schools” and more — James asked, “with all of these issues, with all of these concerns, can someone please tell me why we are still considering the public financing of an arena for a private company?”

NY1 News, Scaled-Down Atlantic Yards Still Draw Huge Controversies [with video]

Those against the project protested the public hearing, saying renderings of the new proposal were not yet released. They also argued that the project will push low- and middle-income earners out of the area.

"This is something that has been created by people that do not come from the neighborhoods that we come from," said local Faye Moore. "This is a development by people that want to move the working class."

New York Observer, Pro-Atlantic Yards Rally and A Question of Place

Reporter Marianna Faynshteyn appears to have mistaken yesterday's "hearing" for a build-it-now rally, which is understandable, given how rigged these "hearings" really are.

Decked out in a red that would scoff at being labeled “apple” or “ketchup,” a brigade of Atlantic Yards supporters from ACORN marched out of the auditorium of Brooklyn's Polytechnic University on Wednesday evening during a pro-Atlantic Yards rally. In the lobby of the auditorium stood opponents of Bruce Ratner's mammoth downtown Brooklyn development, some wearing yellow T-shirts.

After several no-shows to the auditorium's podium, a 16-year-old African-American woman approached, announcing herself as an Erasmus High School student and proclaiming, “I am Brooklyn,” which sparked applause. Not long after, a middle-aged man, white, dressed in a suit less confrontational than the traditional black, read out to the audience the differences between a good development and a bad one, concluding, with his background in urban planning, that Atlantic Yards fit in the latter category.

Wednesday evening's rally in favor of the project was like that: a bit haphazard—and sliced between largely African-American proponents and white opponents.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn Broadside: New Atlantic Yards Hearings Draw Protests, Pro and Con

A person attending the public meetings three years ago happening to walk by would have had a strong sense of deja vu. Many of the same people standing in the same place holding the same signs opposing the plan were there again. Union supporters, largely beefy men, who support the plan, holding the same signs, also stood in the same place.

But there has been one major change: This is now largely a public plan run by both the state and the city. The state will own most of the land on which the project will be built, and that land will be leased to Forest City Ratner for appropriate development.

NoLandGrab: Holt's right about the deja vu, but wrong about Atlantic Yards being "largely a public plan." And it certainly wouldn't be "appropriate development."

SportsBusiness Journal, Facility Notes [subscription required]

In N.Y., Pearson & Durkin report critics yesterday "ripped into" the Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) for allowing Forest City Ratner (FCR) Chair & CEO and Nets Owner Bruce Ratner to "move forward without producing renderings of the new" Barclays…

Posted by eric at 6:20 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere... (P.M. edition)

Curbed, 'Real' Barclays Center Design Not Yet Ready

The Empire State Development Corp. is holding its public hearings into the revised Atlantic Yard plan, pretty much for the sole purpose of getting heckled by project opponents outraged that the ESDC will approve the plan despite seeing no new renderings of the Frank Gehry-less design.

Streetsblog, Ratner’s Sidewalk Seizure: Marginalizing Pedestrians for Three Months

After yesterday's post showing the sidewalk appropriation going on at Pacific Street and Sixth Avenue as part of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, DOT sent an email explaining why this is happening:

We approved a plan at this location to permit two-way traffic using a portion of the sidewalk during sewer installation for approximately 12 weeks. This kind of arrangement is not unique and has been used on projects such as the Second Avenue Subway and on major projects on 34th Street in Queens or Richmond Terrace on Staten Island. We inspected the location this morning and instructed the contractor to replace the wooden barrier with one made of concrete and to extend it in both directions while maintaining at least a five-foot-wide pedestrian walkway, and to install additional signs as was part of the original, approved plan. We will continue to monitor the area.

Ecology of Absence, From Done Deal to Dead Deal?

A blog advocating for preservation in St. Louis sees parallels between Atlantic Yards and that city's NorthSide project.

However, one thing about Atlantic Yards that we have not seen with NorthSide is a political swing in favor of opposition.

I suppose the perils of large-scale development have never been as clear as now. Atlantic Yards may have killed itself through sheer folly of its ambitious scope and clumsy execution. The development team behind NorthSide should take heed.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Gilly Youner: Pictures from the Atlantic Yards Hearing

Runnin' Scared, Markowitz Tries to Dodge Challenger, For Whom Room 8 "Sheds No Tears"

Now Myrick, who hasn't got any money and supports progressive land-use policies, especially regarding Coney Island and Atlantic Yards, has to defend against the challenge. It hardly seems fair.

But Gatemouth at Room Eight, while sympathetic to Markowitz' opponents in general, looked into it and decided he would "shed no further tears" for Myrick...

Posted by eric at 6:01 PM

Ratner's New Messaging and South Brooklyn Political Friends

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The latest mantra out of Forest City Ratner and its cronies is that a few selfish people are standing in the way of their Atlantic Yards project, to the great expense of the masses (and, unmentioned, of course, their bottom line).

DDDB explodes that myth.

Let's just make this clear again. The "few" are Bruce Ratner and his execs like Gilmartin, the unelected, unaccountable, unattentive Board of the ESDC, three-men-in-a room, and Bruce Bender's small gang of South Brooklyn political club friends.

The opponents of Atlantic Yards are the many. For example, DDDB has well over 4,000 individual donors alone, 800 volunteers and 7,000 subscribers to our e-newsletter and has widespread support across Brooklyn and New York City.

Alan Maisel got 3,262 votes in his last primary (2008).

But it is not surprising that Assemblyman Maisel of South Brooklyn would come out to shill for Ratner. After all in 2008, when Maisel ran for re-election, Forest City Ratner Chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner, Forest City Ratner President and COO Joanne Minieri and FCR Executive VP, Government and Public Affairs Bruce Bender all gave $2,000 a piece to Maisel. And Bruce Ratner's wife Dr. Pamela Lipkin gave Maisel $3,000. (See filing.)


NoLandGrab: In case you were wondering, Maisel represents the neighborhoods of Mill Basin, Bergen Beach and Canarsie, about as far as you can get in Brooklyn from the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Posted by eric at 1:26 PM

State of the Union: New Jersey Nets

ESPN Radio [The Seth Everett Show]

Newark Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi and New Jersey Nets' CEO Brett Yormark give the reality and fantasy on the state of the Nets in back-to-back interviews with ESPN Radio's Seth Everett.

The award for best delusional Yormark line? A tie between "we're having one of the best off-seasons that we've had in years" and "I think the world of Nets basketball right now couldn't be better."

Other great (and equally untrue) claims: moving the Nets to Brooklyn is about jobs and affordable housing; half the housing units will be affordable; the "leaked" renderings were not approved by Forest City; and the Nets will be in Brooklyn for the 2011-2012 season.


Posted by eric at 1:10 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Hearing 'Less Raucous' Than Expected

According to the Atlantic Yards Report, yesterday's public hearing held by the Empire State Development Corp. was "less raucous and more lightly attended" than many people thought it would be. The central issue, according to AYR and others, was the lack of renderings and information about what the revised (or downsized) project will really look like and what the fiscal and environmental implications of the new plan are. "We are being asked to comment on a phantom project, to review a project without being able to view the project plans. This is beyond ludicrous," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

Bike Rides In Brooklyn ..., Brooklyn Says NO to Ratner and his Atlantic Yards. Again.

On top of this, Ratner demands that taxpayers should give him even more breaks and the MTA should give him an even more lenient and favorable contract on the air rights. Only an arrogant billionaire would have the chutzpah to make such demands. The question is will the politicians, the Mayor and the Governor, who have been so willing to accommodate this scandalous land grab, continue to play ball with Ratner or finally listen to the people and end this sham deal once and for all? Time will tell. Our voices can help them decide.

City Room, Uncovering a Revolver’s Hidden History

State officials are set to vote on the latest version of the developer Bruce C. Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in September, even if they do not know what it looks like. At a raucous hearing Wednesday, critics ripped into the Empire State Development Corporation for allowing Mr. Ratner to move forward without producing renderings of the new Nets arena and the 16 towers he plans to build in Prospect Heights.

Dan Jacoby's blog [The Daily Gotham], What Hath Betsy Wought?

Yesterday, Councilmember Simcha Felder submitted Intro 1046, a bill to abolish the Public Advocate's office. I personally find it a disgusting, pathetic attack on an office that could do so much good for New York City.

Thanks to Betsy Gotbaum, Mayor Bloomberg and many City Council members have gotten away with all sorts of shenanigans. For instance:

The public money spent on two new baseball stadiums was a complete waste -- no new permanent jobs have been created, and no significant new sources of revenue have been created to pay for the cost.

The rezonings of (among others) Long Island City and Williamsburg, and the proposed Atlantic Yards project, are completely destroying the character of the neighborhoods, while providing no significant sources of affordable housing.


Pseudonymous blogger Gatemouth claims his criticism of Marty Markowitz is more meaningful because he's "not reflexively anti-development," as if opposition to Atlantic Yards is "reflexive" or "anti-development," as he ruefully takes down Markowitz-challenger Eugene Myrick, while blaming AY opponents for not fielding a better challenge themselves. Which is not so meaningful, coming from a pseudonymous blogger.

Nets Daily, Yormark, Politi Debate Nets Future

Steve Politi, the Star-Ledger columnist, and Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets, both had their say in back-to-back interviews on ESPN 1050. Politi basically repeated his column of a couple of weeks ago, attacking Bruce Ratner’s stewardship of the Nets and the need for a move to Newark. Yormark then defended the move to Brooklyn and said that the state of the Nets “has never been better!”

Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

Hearings on Atlantic Yards Development Continue

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

Public hearings on the latest plans for the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn continue today. At yesterday's hearing, Bob Zuckerman, who's running to represent a City Council district adjacent to the project's footprint, criticized many of the changes made to the proposal, since it was first approved three years ago.

Zuckerman: Several years ago, 16 buildings and an arena by 2016. Now one building, and an arena by 2012. How much affordable housing are we going to get?

REPORTER: The Empire State Development Corporation has to hold the hearings, because it's allowing developer Forest City Ratner to purchase the property more slowly than originally planned. The ESDC is expected to approve the revisions in September.


Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

First Day of ESDC Hearings on New Sight-Unseen Version of Atlantic Yards: Some Noticing New York’s Testimony and Questions Asked

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White does his best Michael Moore impersonation, sans cameras, with Brooklyn Academy of Music chairman (and apparent Ratner stooge) Alan Fishman.

Whapped Up Side of the Head: BAM!

One of the early testifiers in favor of the project was the heavily-hissed Alan H. Fishman, Chairman of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

We then asked Mr. Fishman how his attendance to present BAM’s position in favor of the project had been handled, who he had consulted with beforehand. It turned out that Mr. Fishman had discussions with Bruce Ratner about the development issues he had talked about in his testimony on behalf of BAM but that he had not discussed the position that BAM would be taking about redevelopment of the BAM neighborhoods with the BAM board. Mr. Fishman pointed out that he was also the Chairman of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and chairman of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (Directors of the Yard are appointed by Mayor Bloomberg) and he said “also chairman of a lot of other things in Downtown Brooklyn.” In his testimony Mr. Fishman had mentioned his position as chairman of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership but said specifically that he was speaking to represent BAM in his remarks and to discuss BAM’s “relationship” with the project. In his remarks he said that BAM was calling upon all parties to endorse “this highly promising development plan.”

So the taking of this position by BAM was handled at the executive level without board authorization we asked? Yes, Mr. Fishman told us.

We asked Mr. Fishman what kind of thinking was there on the part of the BAM board about the Atlantic Yards project. We asked whether there was disagreement or division and whether everyone was in agreement with him. He said he had “no idea.” We asked him if he thought it would have been appropriate to find out the thinking of the board before coming out to make his statement. We pointed out that a lot of people viewed the project as destructive to the community and to Brooklyn. When I asked Mr. Fishman if he would still have delivered his statement if most of the BAM board was opposed to the project. Mr. Fishman responded, “I’m done. We’re not talking anymore.”


Click through for the full exchange between White and Fishman (well worth the read), White's thoughtful testimony against the project, and more.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Atlantic Yards: Yea or Nay?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Rallies Both For and Against Atlantic Yards

While the Empire State Development Corp. was getting ready to begin its hearing at City Tech’s Klitgord Auditorium on the modified project plan for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards proposal, anti-Ratner protesters assembled outside, including a virtual “who’s who” of Downtown Brooklyn officials and political hopefuls.

Speakers stressed that the new plan provides only a small number of the affordable housing units promised in the original plan; that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is needed; and that many details of the revised plan haven’t been made public.

Later in the day, a pro-Atlantic Yards rally was scheduled for Jay and Johnson streets.

The Brooklyn Paper, Vox Pop: A tale of two Yards at hearing

Both sides of the Atlantic Yards saga — mostly construction workers in favor and neighbors of the project footprint in opposition — were out in force at Wednesday’s hearing in Downtown. Here’s what our sharp-earred reporter heard.

“I’m here to fight for good jobs, for jobs to improve the United States. We’ve been bombing for eight years, it’s time to build and build for the good. … I don’t see too many negatives, just a lot of positives. We’ve been spending money to destroy stuff for a lot of years, so anything built in America to me is a good thing.” Frank Basile, Queens

“Ratner definitely shouldn’t get any tax breaks — that’s our money that they’ve pulled out the affordable housing. It’s not right. I’m for putting that money back into the community.” Beverly Corbin, Wyckoff Gardens

NoLandGrab: It's a small sample, for sure, but the majority of the project proponents interviewed, all construction workers, "ain't from Brooklyn," as the saying goes.

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

Atlantic Yards Hearing Attracts Politicians

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Jess Wisloski

The public hearing Wednesday afternoon on the proposed revisions to the Atlantic Yards project plan was prefaced with a protest staged by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn outside the Klitgord Auditorium at New York City College of Technology on Jay Street. It turned into a pep rally filled with boos and cheers inside once the hearing began.

The gathering was noteworthy for the number of politicians and political hopefuls who turned out to speak against Atlantic Yards. The anti-AY bandwagon seems to be getting more crowded.

In The Opposition Corner

Mayoral Candidates Tony Avella and Rev. Billy Talen; City Council candidates Brad Lander (39th), Evan Thies (33rd), David Pechefsky (39th), Ken Diamondstone (33rd), Ken Baer (33rd), Bob Zuckerman (39th), Josh Skaller (39th) and Doug Biviano (33rd); Norman Siegel, running for Public Advocate; SEIU local 371; Municipal Arts Society; Councilwoman Letitia James; Assemblyman Jim Brennan; State Senator Velmanette Montgomery; activist and sometime-candidate Kevin Powell.

In the Pro-Yards Corner

Assemblyman Alan Maisel; State Senator Marty Golden; Borough Presdient Marty Markowitz; Congressman Edolphus Townes; City Council hopeful Anthony Herbert (41st); Ironworkers Local 580; Carpenters Local 79; Junior’s Restaurant; Downtown Brooklyn Alliance; BUILD; ACORN; New York Building Trades Council; Long Island University; Brooklyn Academy of Music.



NoLandGrab: Notably absent was City Councilmember and candidate for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, but his support for the Atlantic Yards project was in evidence.

Related coverage...

City Room, Public Advocate Candidates Spar in TriBeCa Debate

The debate, hosted by the New York Civil Liberties Union, focused on civil rights and civil liberties. Juan Gonzalez, a columnist for The Daily News, moderated the event before an audience of 250 people at the New York Law School in TriBeCa.

The debate remained polite until Mr. Gonzalez asked the candidates whether they believed there had been too much private development under the Bloomberg administration.

Mr. Green said private development could sometimes serve a public interest and supported the use of eminent domain, the right of government to seize private property for public use. He added that it was only permissible when there were substantial community benefits.

“I’d like that balanced approach rather than ‘no’ to all development,” he said.

Mr. Siegel responded sharply, arguing that too often there was a conspiracy between the developer and the government and contested the constitutionality of the legal principle. He cited the development by Columbia University and the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

At lightly-attended (and sometimes raucous) public hearing, dueling electeds, some déjà vu, and a “sham process for a sham project”

Atlantic Yards Report

No sham here — as per usual, Norman Oder provides the definitive rundown on yesterday's Atlantic Yards festivities.

In the end, the first day of the public hearing on the revised Atlantic Yards plan, though hardly uneventful, was less raucous and more lightly attended than many expected. Many, but hardly all, of the arguments recycled those at the epic public hearing held on 8/23/06.

The key new argument for opponents and critics emerged from information--or, more precisely, the lack thereof--from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR).

The absence of a site plan, arena renderings, economic projections, a solid timetable, and a meeting with the cops over security informed a series of arguments, backed by several elected officials, that the approval is premature. They called for either a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement or for the project to be scrapped.

The most telling piece of theater occurred when Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein went up to testify and, before speaking about “a sham process for a sham project,” methodically altered the landscape behind him, placing placards with question marks over the three ESDC-provided panels that offered minimal information about the project as it stands. DDDB had both local elected officials as well as several candidates for two City Council races--in districts near the project site--in its corner.


Click here for a look at Daniel Goldstein's placards.

Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

Developer Bruce Ratner doesn't offer renderings of Atlantic Yards plan

The NY Daily News coverage by reporters Jake Pearson and Erin Durkin focused on the conspicuous absence of renderings, plans or any meaningful information about how Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project is taking shape.


"We are being asked to comment on a phantom project, to review a project without being able to view the project plans. This is beyond ludicrous," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

Since star architect Frank Gehry was booted from the project to save money, the Kansas City firm Ellerbe Beckett has been working to design a stripped-down arena for the Nets.

"The design is not complete yet," Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President MaryAnne Gilmartin said last week, adding that renderings would be released in September or October.

But Gilmartin also said the developer may not put out the images before the board votes — and doesn't have to.

ESDC counsel Steve Matlin agreed, saying Ratner isn't required by law to show images of the project before the final vote, as long as design guidelines are followed.

But Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Kensington) said ESDC was breaking the rules by moving the project forward without a design plan or a new environmental study. "You've violated the rights of New Yorkers," he said at the hearing.

"The state is imposing this project on the community without its consent."

Gilmartin also insisted the project will look nothing like images circulating publicly that have been compared to a barn or an airplane hangar.


NoLandGrab: You can't make this stuff up.

Gilmartin's argument in brief is:

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

Atlantic antics! A week of Yards hearings did little to change things

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ben Muessig, Mike McLaughlin and Jared Foretek

More than 50 project opponents as well as a who’s who of politicians and City Council candidates rallied outside the hearing, demanding the project be halted in the wake of changes approved last month that would allow Forest City to build the project at a slower pace, pay the Metropolitan Transportation Authority less money up front to build for development rights to a smaller portion of the railyards at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, and to make less-costly railyard renovations than initially promised.

“The end is near. It’s time to put the proposed Atlantic Yards development out of its misery,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene).

Meanwhile, about a dozen supporters of the project — who were later joined at the hearing by a larger bloc of Atlantic Yards backers — held up signs and chanted: “You can’t stop the progress.”


Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Sidewalk safety in Ratnerville

How do you mitigate construction-related traffic-flow problems in Ratnerville? Drive on the sidewalk!

Here's some coverage in the blogosphere of one of the more amazing traffic mitigations brought to you by Bruce.

StreetsBlog, Bruce’s Way

Over at Pacific Street and Sixth Avenue in Prospect Heights, the sidewalk has been transformed into a motor vehicle travel lane.
The Atlantic Yards construction project -- which still hasn't even gotten started -- is already turning out to be something of a minor disaster for pedestrians and cyclists. The Carlton Avenue bridge, a critical link in Brooklyn's bike network, was demolished months ago and isn't expected to re-open for years. Then there was that entire city block that Forest City leveled and turned into a surface parking lot for construction workers and future arena visitors.

Norman Oder from Atlantic Yards Report added this eyewitness report in the comments section that will make you cringe:

I walked by there this morning around 9 and a pedestrian--walking west, approaching Sixth Avenue--was smack in the middle of the sidewalk-turned-road, at approximately the location of the black car in the second photo.

There was a uniformed traffic cop in the intersection helping steer traffic, but I didn't see (or hear) him motioning for the pedestrian to get out of the way.

The pedestrian didn't look confused, but she sure wasn't aware of the change.

Brownstoner, Closing Bell: Ratner Remapping Road

If you happen to be going past the corner of Pacific Street and 6th Avenue, watch out: Forest City Ratner has turned the sidewalk into a road!

The Local, DOT Explains, Improves Sidewalk-Road

This morning we asked DOT what was up with the dodgy-looking conversion of Pacific Street’s sidewalk into a car traffic lane that Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn reported last night. Department spokesman Scott Gastel tells us that the sidewalk and roadway have now been more clearly demarcated and offered this comment: “We approved a plan at this location to permit two-way traffic using a portion of the sidewalk during sewer installation for approximately 12 weeks. This kind of arrangement is not unique and has been used on projects such as the Second Avenue Subway and on major projects on 34th Street in Queens or Richmond Terrace on Staten Island. We inspected the location this morning and instructed the contractor to replace the wooden barrier with one made of concrete and to extend it in both directions while maintaining at least a five-foot-wide pedestrian walkway, and to install additional signs as was part of the original, approved plan. We will continue to monitor the area.”

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: Weeks beginning July 20, 2009 and July 27, 2009

For your information, the Department of Transportation's plan "to permit two-way traffic using a portion of the sidewalk during sewer installation for approximately 12 weeks" was not mentioned in the Atlantic Yards Contruction Update. The only notifiction of work in this location is as follows:

  • Required Maintenance and Protection of Traffic (MPT) has been installed

  • Infrastructure work related to installation of new sewer chambers at the intersection of 6th Avenue at Pacific Street has commenced. This work is part of the first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations previously commenced at the site. Chamber work is expected to take 12 weeks from commencement.

NoLandGrab: This is another example of how the Empire State Development Corporation's notifications and hearings are pro forma, intended more to satisfy some legal requirement and not as a useful common sense approach to inform the public in a meaningful fashion.

But rest assured that DOT is doing a bang-up job with "Protection of Traffic."

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

Forest City in the News

Moody's downgrades Forest City to B3; outlook negative

[Full text, after the jump]

Approximately $1.1 billion of securities affected.

New York, July 29, 2009 -- Moody's Investors Service today lowered the senior unsecured debt ratings of Forest City Enterprises, Inc. to B3 from B1, and maintained the rating outlook on negative. This rating action was driven by the continuing weakness in Forest City's credit metrics, particularly its fixed charge coverage (at 1.2x for Q1'09) and net debt/EBITDA (at 16.8x in Q1'09), as well as by persistent challenges in both the real estate market and the credit environment.

The Cleveland Plain-Journal, Forest City Enterprises chosen for advisory team for Washington, D.C. project

Forest City Enterprises Inc. has been tapped for a team that will provide advisory services, in exchange for fees, to the District of Columbia related to a planned waterfront development in Washington, D.C.

The real estate company, based in Cleveland, largely has shelved development and focused on cleaning up its finances during the recession. Forest City also has been exploring new ways to make money, expanding into asset management and other fee-based, third-party services.

Washington Business Journal, Forest City to advise D.C. on Poplar Point

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s economic development team has selected Forest City Washington Inc. as real estate adviser for the planning of Poplar Point, the company announced Wednesday.

“We’re honored to have been selected as part of this team to assist the District in moving this important project forward,” said Charles Ratner, president and CEO of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc., of which Forest City Washington is a subsidiary. Partners in the advising roll are Wall Development LLC, Atlanta-based Strategic Advisory Group, Los Angeles-based AECOM Technology Corp. and Smoot Construction Corp.

The team “will assist the District with master planning, entitlements, financial feasibility, phasing strategies, infrastructure financing and disposition of the project.”


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Material from diverse and sometimes temporary sources is being made available in a permanent unified manner, as part of an effort to advance understanding of the social justice issues associated with eminent domain, local development and land use. It is believed that this is a 'fair use' of the information as allowed under section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 USC Section 107, the site is maintained without profit for those who access it for research and educational purposes. For more information, see: www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.

To use material reproduced on this site for purposes that go beyond 'fair use', permission is required from the copyright owner indicated with a name and an Internet link at the end of each item.

Moody's downgrades Forest City to B3; outlook negative

Approximately $1.1 billion of securities affected.

New York, July 29, 2009 -- Moody's Investors Service today lowered the senior unsecured debt ratings of Forest City Enterprises, Inc. to B3 from B1, and maintained the rating outlook on negative. This rating action was driven by the continuing weakness in Forest City's credit metrics, particularly its fixed charge coverage (at 1.2x for Q1'09) and net debt/EBITDA (at 16.8x in Q1'09), as well as by persistent challenges in both the real estate market and the credit environment.

The current rating reflects the slowdown in Forest City's core portfolio performance in tandem with the broad economic deterioration: its retail and residential sectors posted negative same property NOI growth of -1.0% and -1.8%, respectively, in the first quarter of 2009. Its office portfolio; however, performed better with same property NOI growth of 4.4%, buoyed by long-term leases and strong results from its life sciences assets. Forest City also faces a significant, although materially curtailed, development pipeline in excess of $2 billion with $777 million in remaining costs. Positively, construction financing is in place for all except $6.4 million, with a portion of the remaining financing ($158.5M) subject to certain leasing hurdles. In addition, Forest City will need to re-finance $159 million of secured debt in its fiscal 2009, which is a reduction from $242 million at YE08.

Nevertheless, Forest City's portfolio continues to benefit from well-laddered lease expirations and no significant tenant exposures. Also, the firm's largely non-recourse borrowing strategy allows it a measure of flexibility when addressing upcoming maturities. Positively, Forest City raised $330 million of equity in May 2009, which allowed the firm to pay down most of its outstandings under the line of credit and meaningfully enhanced its liquidity.

The negative rating outlook reflects the deterioration in debt protection measures experienced by Forest City, as well as Moody's expectation of further weakness in the company's credit profile and earnings over the next several quarters due to the recessionary economic environment and very constrained capital markets.

The rating outlook is likely to return to stable once Forest City's fixed charge coverage has stabilized at above 1.2x and debt/EBITDA is closer to 14x. Maintaining sound liquidity would also be important for the outlook to be stabilized. A downgrade would be precipitated by continued earnings deterioration and resulting further pressure on leverage and coverage metrics, as well as any breach of covenants or liquidity challenges.

Moody's last rating action with respect to Forest City was on December 19, 2008, when the ratings were lowered to B1 from Ba3 and the rating outlook was maintained on negative.

The following ratings were lowered with a negative outlook:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. -- Senior unsecured debt to B3 from B1, senior unsecured shelf to (P)B3 from (P)B1, senior subordinate shelf to (P)Caa2 from (P)B3, subordinate shelf to (P)Caa2 from (P)B3, junior subordinate shelf to (P)Caa2 from (P)B3, and preferred shelf to (P)Caa2 from (P)B3.

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. [NYSE: FCE-A] is a national real estate company that is principally engaged in the ownership, development, management and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate and land throughout the United States. At April 30, 3009, its assets totaled $12.6 billion.

The principal methodology used in rating Forest City was the Rating Methodology for REITs and Other Commercial Property Firms, which can be found at http://www.moodys.com in the Credit Policy & Methodologies directory, in the Ratings Methodologies subdirectory. Other methodologies and factors that may have been considered in the process of rating Forest City can also be found in the Credit Policy & Methodologies directory.


Copyright 2009, Moody's Investors Service, Inc. and/or its licensors and affiliates including Moody's Assurance Company, Inc. (together, "MOODY'S"). All rights reserved.

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Provider ID: 00500511 -0- Jul/29/2009 18:57 GMT

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

July 29, 2009

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: ESDC’s Atlantic Yards Public Hearing: A Sham Process for a Sham Project

Brooklyn, New York – Today Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), community groups, union members, elected officials and political candidates held a press conference outside of the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) public hearing on Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development plan. The hearing was ostensibly for the public to comment on a modified project plan.

But the public was asked to comment on the modified plan despite the complete absence of a site plan, a rendering of any part of the project, a cost-benefit analysis, a construction timeline, an affordable housing plan, and an NYPD security review. These glaring omissions, the ESDC and Ratner have said, will be available to the public (maybe) after the ESDC Board, controlled by Governor Paterson, meets to likely rubberstamp the modified project plan in September.

DDDB and many speakers at the press conference and the hearing repeatedly demanded that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the project be undertaken as required.

“Atlantic Yards is a phantom project—there is no site plan or rendering and won’t be until after the public comment period is over and the project rubberstamped. With today’s public hearing the ESDC continues its sham process for Bruce Ratner’s sham project, which is why the only place we can turn to is the courts,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “It is clearly time for Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg to step in and scrap this ludicrous, out of control development idea. If they do not, then the Courts will have to sort it all out.”

The ESDC held the hearing today before so much necessary and basic information—like what the project looks like—is available, because Bruce Ratner has a December 31st deadline to issue his tax-exempt arena bond. And the clock is ticking loudly. Bruce Ratner’s interest is being met by this premature, information-less hearing, while the public interest is…mocked.

City Councilmember Letitia James, on Ratner’s failing project, said, “The end is near. The days of excess are over. The time for transparency, accountability, democracy and a new vision are now.”

Goldstein concluded, “The Atlantic Yards project approved in 2006 no longer exists, and because of that the ESDC must undertake a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. If they do not, and they maintain that they will not, then they are making themselves vulnerable to litigation.”

Posted by eric at 6:40 PM

Bruce’s Way


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the organization fighting Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards boondoggle, point us to the latest traffic "mitigation" from the Empire State Development Corporation, pictured above. Over at Pacific Street and Sixth Avenue in Prospect Heights, the sidewalk has been transformed into a motor vehicle travel lane.

The Atlantic Yards construction project -- which still hasn't even gotten started -- is already turning out to be something of a minor disaster for pedestrians and cyclists. The Carlton Avenue bridge, a critical link in Brooklyn's bike network, was demolished months ago and isn't expected to re-open for years. Then there was that entire city block that Forest City leveled and turned into a surface parking lot for construction workers and future arena visitors.


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Atlantic Yards: Then and Now


[Click image for a larger PDF version]


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

BrooklynSpeaks, electeds call for Supplemental EIS; DDDB plans rallies, press conferences outside hearing today

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what should we look for at the public hearing today and tomorrow on the 2009 Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan (MGPP)? (The official times are 2-5 pm and 6-8 pm, at the the Klitgord Auditorium of New York City Technical College at 285 Jay Street.)

The cameras, most likely, will focus on the conflict, the signs and chants displayed by project supporters and opponents, both outside the venue--and, perhaps, inside. It would be newsworthy if disruptive people are ejected, as the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) promises.

But the news might more concern which elected officials--and candidates--show up, and what they say. There's not much to say directly about the ostensible purpose of the hearing, which concerns, among other things,the plan to pursue eminent domain in two stages rather than one and Forest City Ratner's revised deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the Vanderbilt Yard.

But there is a lot to say about the project, and the process.

Read on for more about BrooklynSpeaks latest stance, the political landscape, and catered lunch.

The Local [The NY Times], Atlantic Yards: Twice More, With Feeling

Ron Shiffman, a former city planning commissioner who co-founded the Pratt Center for Community Development and now sits on the advisory board of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, said he thought the impact of the hearing would be “very little other than setting a record for what I’m sure will be another spate of lawsuits.”

The proposed changes in the project plan include:

  • Giving Forest City 22 years to pay the M.T.A. $100 million for a rail yard rather than making them pay the whole thing up front;
  • Letting Forest City scale down the replacement rail yard they will build.
  • Breaking the project up into phases to allow Forest City to proceed with the construction of the basketball arena while acquiring other land;
  • And other extensions of the timeline for the $4.9 billion project.

Mr. Shiffman said: “The fact that they’re holding the hearings without really many facts or details about what the changes are, the fact that the M.T.A. made its changes in such a pro forma way, indicates to me that this isn’t anything more than their attempt to meet the form requirements of a public hearing as opposed to the substance.”

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

Lunch will be served...

Apparently there IS such thing as a free lunch...

ACORN, the Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) signatory and receiver of a financial bailout from Forest City Ratner, is calling supporters to rally for the project outside today's public hearing — free food and drink will be provided.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM


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

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and other groups are organizing an Atlantic Yards protest before the start of the last of two public hearings on July 29, 2009 at 1pm.

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Jury-rigged: Ratner Road


In case you can't remember who calls the shots in this town, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted photos of an "astounding" traffic kludge in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards plan:

Remember: this is a mitigation(!) from the ESDC (the agency holding [today's] hearing) to deal with the impact of Ratner's boondoggle.


Yes, they've turned the sidewalk into a lane of the road. And as we took these photos we saw a number of confused pedestrians walking down the "road" and confused drivers wondering why they were supposed to drive on the sidewalk.

It will be pure luck if nobody is hurt by this mess.


Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Atlantic Yards Crescendo in Brooklyn

Huffington Post

Author and Atlantic Yards critic Steve Ettlinger aptly describes the run-up to today's public hearing as "weird":

Yes, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has deigned to allow the public to comment this week on the biggest development in the city, one which, if completed as originally described, will be the denser than the densest census tract in the country, in Harlem.

How much denser? Original projections were as much as TWICE as dense, or about 500,000 people per square mile. For various reasons we don't know what the final population of new tenants will be.

One of those reasons is that neither Forest City Ratner (FCR) nor the ESDC is providing final figures or drawings of the proposed arena and buildings despite the hearing's ostensible purpose: to comment on the Modified General Project Plan.
The idea, I guess, is to simply trust the ESDC. They say they'll release new information in September, which as I figure it, comes after the July hearings.


Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

It came from the Blogosphere... (NY Post edition)

News that the Municipal Art Society released a set of revised renderings, because Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner won't, made the rounds in the blogosphere:

Brownstoner, Reality Check Rendering of Yards from MAS

Now that the budget and ambitions of Atlantic Yards have been scaled back and Frank Gehry has been dumped, what are we left with? Since Forest City Ratner has not been forthcoming to date, the Municipal Art Society took a stab at creating a rendering of what may be in store.

NY Times, "City Room," Morning Buzz: Housing & Economy

Renderings of Bruce Ratner’s embattled Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn commissioned by the Municipal Art Society portray how the $4.9 billion project will look now that all the bells and whistles have been stripped from it - most notably the architect Frank Gehry and his expressionist building and arena design. The society says it’s doing what Mr. Ratner and the state won’t — providing the public with renderings to rely on as the Empire State Development Corporation holds public hearings Wednesday and Thursday regarding Ratner’s revised project plan, which was released last month and is scaled down and more costly than the one state officials approved in 2006.

Sports Business News, Facility Notes

In N.Y., Rich Calder reports the Municipal Art Society of N.Y. (MAS) said that it is doing what Nets Owner Bruce Ratner and the state "won't -- providing the public with renderings to rely on as the Empire State Development Corp. holds public hearings Wednesday and Thursday....

* Aerial photo, Jonathan Barkey

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Forest City Announces $325M in New Financings and Extensions

The CoStar Group

The announcement of refinancing and extensions of company debt casts doubt on Forest City Enterprises claim that suspension of construction at Atlantic Yards was rather due to lawsuits (not like we believed them in the first place):

Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) announced that since the beginning of 2009, it has secured or completed six new financing and eight extensions of maturities, totaling approximately $325 million. The six new financings, which totaling approximately $70 million, were secured against several of Forest City's multi-family developments. The eight extensions, which total approximately $255 million, were related to the developer's Orchard Town Center in Westminster, CO; Central Station in Chicago; Tangerine Crossing in Tucson, AZ; Sidney Street at University Park in Cambridge, MA; two community projects in Manatee County, FL; and a Marriott hotel in Charleston, WV.


Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

July 28, 2009

Norman Oder, Force of Nature

Atlantic Yards Report runs down a whole host of issues hanging over this week's public hearing sessions on the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan (MGPP).

Why the rush? Because Forest City Ratner needs to save money; also, MAS produces new rendering with tower, open space

Why, as I write today, is the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) preparing to approve the Atlantic Yards plan in early September without having renderings of the arena (but having Design Guidelines), without having the New York Police Department examine security, without having an updated fiscal impact analysis (not to mention a real cost-benefit anlaysis), and without even clearing up how high the buildings would be?

Well, the timing is all driven by the needs not of the public but of developer Forest City Ratner.

Meanwhile, in the absence of any official renderings, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) has produced a new rendering of the project, as shown in the New York Post, with no Building 1 office tower nor Urban Room but instead interim open space, plus one tower.

The ESDC last month acknowledged that “prolonged adverse economic conditions” could slow all buildings after the arena--scheduled for first quarter of 2012--and just one tower.

Would it cut corners for ESDC to approve AY plan before arena security is discussed with NYPD? Video offers some clues

It was another astonishing moment during the informational meeting last Wednesday. Moderator Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6, asked, "Has the Police Department reviewed the arena plans with the same level of detail that they did initially, and have they offered you any comments that you can share with us?"

Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin responded, "As the design is not complete yet, that review will take place, obviously, before the closing. But we’re in constant contact with the city, and expect to see the police department about the changes to the design in the fall."

In the fall--meaning after the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board in early September is expected to rubber-stamp the revised Modified General Project Plan (MGPP).

Can the Design Guidelines suffice in the absence of arena renderings? ESDC/FCR say yes, but look at the evidence

One of the major messages from last Wednesday's informational meeting on Atlantic Yards was this: It's OK to have a public hearing and approval process for the project without arena renderings because "rigorous Design Guidelines" are public.

In fact, ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin pronounced the phrase "Design Guidelines" five times in a single paragraph and Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin also clung to the phrase.

The only problem: the Design Guidelines regarding the arena, as detailed below, are quite general, with the major distinctive factor a requirement that there be transparency from the street. In other words, as long as people along Flatbush Avenue can see into the arena bowl, the architects have a lot of leeway.

Would Building 1 still be 620 feet? ESDC documents: yes, Barclays Center site: no; also, Gilmartin whiffs on Building 3 height

Oder probes the mystery of Building 1's height, which was allegedly reduced from 620 feet to 511 feet in one of the more cynical episodes of the entirely cynical effort to build Atlantic Yards — when Borough President Marty Markowitz "asked" at the August 23rd, 2006 environmental review hearing that the building not be taller than the 512-foot-tall Williamsburg Bank tower, as Forest City executives sniggered in the back of the auditorium knowing full well that the deal had already been struck. Or had it?

I'm still trying to figure out the statement at last Wednesday's informational meeting by Forest City Ratner VP MaryAnne Gilmartin that the office tower known as Building 1 (B1) would be 620 feet tall. It just doesn't compute. Nor does her statement that one residential building would be 428 feet.

[Updated] And I wasn't able yesterday to get FCR or the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to clarify their expectations of the building heights--though this morning an ESDC spokesman says, "The GPP accurately states the maximum allowed height of each tower."

The ESDC's economic impact (not cost-benefit) analysis won't be subject to any public scrutiny because it doesn't yet exist

Just as information about the Atlantic Yards site plan and renderings of the arena won't emerge in time for the public hearing Wednesday and Thursday, nor will the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) economic impact analysis.

That number--not a real cost-benefit analysis, despite use of that term at the informational meeting last Wednesday--may emerge when the board of the ESDC votes to approve the plan in September. There just won't be an opportunity to comment on it or examine the methodology behind it.

NoLandGrab: In the bogus world of Atlantic Yards, few things are as bogus as the ESDC's alleged "cost-benefit analysis." In fact, ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin broke out the eyeglasses during that part of last week's "informational meeting" in a ridiculous attempt to make his non-answers seem more legit.

Posted by eric at 1:05 PM


NY Post
by Rich Calder

Oh, what a difference three years makes.


Renderings of Bruce Ratner's embattled Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn commissioned by the Municipal Art Society portray how the $4.9 billion project is in danger of looking now that all the bells and whistles have been stripped from it - most notably "starchitect" Frank Gehry and his expressionist building and arena design.

The MAS says it's doing what Ratner and the state won't - providing the public with renderings to rely on as the Empire State Development Corp. holds public hearings Wednesday and Thursday regarding Ratner's revised project plan, which was released last month and is scaled down and more costly than the one state officials approved in 2006.

Ratner has failed to produce new renderings or models to address the project's many recent changes -- including the replacement of Gehry's magnificent glass-and-steel arena design to shave its costs from $950 million to $772 million.

The rendering reveals the dramatic differences between the new design for the Atlantic Yards arena and what was approved in 2006, and it highlights why the state must reevaluate the new project and its environmental impact," said Vin Cipolla, President of the Municipal Art Society.


Download MAS' side-by-side comparison of the promised "public benefits" of Atlantic Yards then and now.

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

Gowanus Superfund: What’s at Stake

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

In an editorial ostensibly about the Gowanus and Coney Island, Dennis Holt (who has yet to meet an ass-backwards development project he didn't love) can't help wishing upon Atlantic Yards.

And there was even positive news about the long-stalled Atlantic Yards plan, which Mayor Bloomberg strongly supports. Forest City Ratner officials told members of Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6, and 8 on Wednesday that ground will be broken for the sports arena before the end of the year and that the first housing tower will be built and opened on the arena site by fall of 2011 when the arena will also be open.


NoLandGrab: Positive news? Ground will be broken? Arena open in 2011? After all this time (remember, the Nets were supposed to be playing in Brooklyn back in 2006) Holt still believes what Forest City Ratner tells him — and what he hopes to be true.

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Rocky Sullivan's Pub Quiz via Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Greetings From Scott Turner: Apex of Weirdness

This Wednesday -- tomorrow -- is much bigger, more important community hearing. You're all invited. It's during the afternoon and also in the evening. If ever there was a meeting folks should turn out for -- to make your views known, to protest, to really have at Forest City Ratner, government officials or, if you like the project, opponents -- this is the one. It's a crucial time -- over the next few months, any number of things can permanently sink Atlantic Yards.

Atlantic Yards needs to be sunk. Because it would provide few, if any, affordable apartments, newly-created jobs and union jobs, because it would cost taxpayers (i.e. you and me) billions of dollars, because it's been such a scam and corrupt process it makes Boss Tweed look like Walter Cronkite, and because it's the Ugly Bat Boy of real-estate developments. That's why Atlantic Yards has to be stopped, now, and replaced with a plan that makes good on the promises Ratner can't and obviously won't.

Be sure to click thru for the photo of Ugly Bat Boy (you won't regret it).

Field of Schemes, Latest Nets arena forum: The recaps

Playing catchup a bit here, but if you're interested in how last Wednesday night's public meeting on the New Jersey Nets' proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project went, there's a long recap on the New York Times' Fort Greene blog, and an even longer recap at Atlantic Yards report (includes verbatim heckling transcripts!).

Nets Daily, Final Hearings This Week on Atlantic Yards

Following a rowdy informational hearing last week, supporters and critics can be expected to vie again Wednesday and Thursday as the state’s Empire State Development Corp. holds new hearings on Bruce Ratner’s revised plans for Atlantic Yards and the Barclays Center. Critics are particularly incensed that the developer has yet to provide new architect’s renderings for the project and have come up with their own.

Brownstoner, Weekday Events

Atlantic Yards Protest
There will be no more public hearings on Atlantic Yards; therefore, this should be considered the community’s chance to tell ESDC and Ratner their opinions of the Atlantic Yards project. All are welcome to protest and voice themselves.
Wednesday, July 29. 1 p.m. 285 Jay Street, outside Klitgord Auditorium of NYC Technical College.

Team Tish, Atlantic Yards Protest; NYC Tech; 7/29; 1PM

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

Nets for sale not for sale for sale?

Here's a shocker: you can't get a straight answer out of Bruce Ratner, the Hamlet of NBA owners, or his flacks about whether or not he's looking to sell a large stake in his floundering New Jersey Nets.


The New York Post is reporting that Bruce Ratner, the commercial real estate developer and majority owner of the Nets has put the team up for sale. While the Nets deny this, as would be standard operating procedure, Nets officials confirm that the team is seeking investors, usual code speak for a sale.

NY Daily News, Source denies reports that Nets owner Bruce Ratner is shopping his team

A source close to Nets owner Bruce Ratner denied multiple reports that he is trying to sell all of or part of the team, saying that Ratner is merely fielding "inbound inquiries" from investors who want to come aboard before the team's planned move to Brooklyn.

A pair of reports published Friday said that Ratner is trying to unload at least part of the team due to financial issues and that he was looking for investors who are willing to move the team to Brooklyn to keep his long-delayed Atlantic Yards project intact.

NoLandGrab: Sure, people are beating down Bruce Ratner's door looking to get in on his excellent basketball team and ready-any-day-now Atlantic Yards project.

SportsBusiness Daily, Franchise Notes [Subscription required for full article]

Ratner Denies Reports He Is Looking To Sell Nets

In N.Y., Julian Garcia cited a source as saying that Nets Owner Bruce Ratner is "merely fielding ‘inbound inquiries’ from investors who want to come aboard before the team’s planned move.

HOOPSWORLD, State of the New Jersey Nets

Whatever state the New Jersey Nets are currently in—be it New Jersey, a state of repair, or even a state of fiscal turmoil—the franchise hopes it's only temporary.

More Nets news...

FOX Sports on MSN, The NBA's seven worst teams for next season

Columnist Charley Rosen thinks the Nets will be the NBA's worst team this coming season.

Even though getting rid of Vince Carter will give the youngsters more time and space in which to grow, the Nets could easily be the worst team in the league. That's because their roster is clogged with too many useless players — Yi Jianlian, Tony Battie, the chronically injured Eduardo Najera and Bobby Simmons. Also because Devin Harris is their only proven go-to scorer.

What a mess!

NLG: Sounds just like the owner's Atlantic Yards project!

The Back Page [NYPost.com], Nets called worst team in NBA

Posted by eric at 8:48 AM

Youtube Twofer Tuesday

It's a true multimedia extravaganza at NoLandGrab this morning — audio, video, plenty of bloggy-o. Here are not one, but two videos via Youtube.

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse, INCREDIBLE: CB 2, 6 & 8 Information Hiding Meeting with Forest City Ratner and ESDC

No plans presented, little information shared. That pretty much sums up Community Boards 2, 6, and 8's "informational meeting" on July 22, 2009 with Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin, ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin, and the usual crowd of Eminent Domain Abuse loving hecklers. Now the public is expected to comment on changes they are still in the dark about at a series of public hearings on July 29th and 30th. THEN the new plans will be released in September!

The public got to see how FCR and the ESDC can tag-team the double-talk. These are highly paid professionals who seem to have at least a B.S. in B.S., setting up the public to comment on plans they refuse to release until after the comment period is safely over.

Raulism, Rev Clinton Miller invites congregation to ESDC AY hearing

In the closing moments of the Public Advocate forum hosted by Brown Memorial Baptist Church, Reverend Clinton Miller urges his congregation and others to come to the ESDC hearing on the Atlantic Yards on July 29, 2009.

Posted by eric at 8:29 AM

Wakeup Call: July 27, 2009


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein was a guest on WBAI's Wakeup Call yesterday.

The segment begins at about the 25-minute mark, and runs roughly 10 minutes.


Posted by eric at 8:13 AM

July 27, 2009

"Because it is shovel-ready construction": FCR's lame explanation for seeking federal stimulus funds for an essentially private arena

Atlantic Yards Report

It was one of the more astonishing exchanges at the informational meeting last Wednesday--Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin's explanation for why the developer has sought stimulus funds to boost its essentially private project.

Remember, the developer has lobbied for federal stimulus funds, and is almost certainly still lobbying for such help, even though former Empire State Development Corporation CEO Marisa Lago said at a May 29 state Senate oversight hearing that the ESDC hadn't sought such funds.

Why not? Because, as I note below--it's not a public project.

(Video shot by Jonathan Barkey; edited by Norman Oder)

“Can Forest City Ratner comment on why there have been public requests for federal stimulus funds to help with the construction of the arena?” asked moderator Craig Hammerman.

“It’s shovel-ready construction,” shouted Marie Louis of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory.

Gilmartin at first looked a little uncomfortable with the question--perhaps because there's no good answer--but quickly recovered: “Because it is shovel-ready construction, and the fact of the matter is that the project, like other projects around the country, have suffered, based on the economic downturn, and it’s our responsibility to try to do what we can to make the project happen and to maintain its viability.”


Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

Frank Gehry’s ‘flaky’ marriage of inspiration and innovation

The Buffalo News
By Jack Quinan

A review of Barbara Isenberg's “Conversations With Frank Gehry” positions architect Frank Gehry at the apex of his career: "he recently used his city planning background in such vast multibuilding projects as the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and the Grand Avenue project for downtown Los Angeles."

Since publication of the book, Grand Avenue has been stalled due to financing difficulties and the starchitect has been removed from the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Forest City in the News

While Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises has claimed that litigation has been holding back construction on the megaproject in Prospect Heights, here's more evidence that delays are due to serious cash-flow problems:

PR Newswire, Forest City Announces $325 Million in New Financings and Extensions

"Proactively managing our debt and working closely with our lenders are key to preserving and enhancing liquidity, which continues to be our highest priority," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer. "These transactions - as well as others previously announced - demonstrate the strength of our lending relationships, the skill of our finance teams, and our ability to continue to effectively manage our non-recourse, property-level debt."

The six new financings, which total approximately $70 million, include the following:

  • A $27.2 million, 35-year HUD refinancing of Easthaven at the Village, a 360-unit apartment community in Beachwood, Ohio. The refinancing closed after the end of the Company's April 30, 2009, first quarter.
  • A $23.3 million, 10-year refinancing, through Fannie Mae, of St. Mary's Villa, a 360-unit, federally assisted housing complex in Newark, New Jersey.
  • Three separate transactions, totaling $15.9 million, through Freddie Mac, for Cleveland-area apartment communities: Parmatown Towers and Gardens, Independence Place I and Big Creek. Maturities on the refinancings range from seven to ten years.
  • A three-year, $3.4 million financing for the fourth phase of development of Cobblestone Court Apartments, a 400-unit apartment community in Painesville, Ohio. This transaction closed after the end of the Company's April 30, 2009, first quarter.

The eight extensions of existing financings, which total approximately $255 million, include the following:

  • A 17-month extension of a $99.2 million construction loan for the Company's Orchard Town Center retail center in Westminster, Colorado, near Denver. An additional one-year extension is also available.
  • A one-year extension of $62.6 million in financing for 45/75 Sidney Street, a pair of connected office buildings in the Company's University Park at MIT project in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This extension closed after the end of the Company's April 30, 2009, first quarter.
  • A two-year extension on a $25.3 million land loan for the Company's Central Station mixed-use development in downtown Chicago.
  • Two-year extensions on land loans of $15.3 million and $21.1 million for adjacent, planned-community projects in Manatee County, Florida, south of Tampa. Both extensions closed after the end of the Company's April 30, 2009, first quarter.
  • An automatic, one-year extension on $18.0 million in securitized financing for the Company's Charleston Marriott, a 352-room hotel in downtown Charleston, West Virginia.
  • A two-year extension on an $8.1 million land loan for the Tangerine Crossing planned community development in Tucson, Arizona.
  • A two-year extension on a $5.3 million land loan for the Company's Legacy Lakes planned community in Aberdeen, North Carolina.

Denver Business Journal, Forest City gets construction-loan extension for Orchard Town Center

The Orchard Town Center outdoor shopping center in Westminster is among the Forest City Enterprises Inc. projects involved in $325 million in new financings and extensions of existing financings obtained by the developer, Forest City said Friday.

Orchard Town Center received a 17-month extension of a $99.2 million construction loan for the project, plus the option of another one-year extension.

The extension is the largest dollar amount of a total of 14 financings that publicly traded Forest City (NYSE: FCEA/FECB) has done since the beginning of its fiscal year, Feb. 1.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City closes $325 million in financings, loan extensions

The real estate company, based in Cleveland, has been trying to build up cash, pay off debt and extend existing loans as they come due. Forest City said Friday that it has closed six financing or refinancing deals, totaling nearly $70 million, since the start of its fiscal year

KHON.com, Wind Power Tested for Military Housing

While Forest City Enterprises is blowing hot air in Brooklyn, the company is running tests to determine the viability of wind power generation at military housing developments in Hawaii:

"We hope to understand how the wind operates here off of Pearl Harbor and eventually try to generate power using wind energy,” said John Wallenstrom, senior vice president of military housing for Forest City Military Communities Hawaii.

A 164-foot tall meteorological tower or “MET” is measuring wind speed to see how well smaller wind turbines could work here. The same test will get underway soon at other housing Forest City manages on the Marine Corps base in Kaneohe.

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Nets for Sale, BK in Doubt

By Ben Osborne

A recovering Nets fan, basketball writer and former Prospect Heights resident, currently living in Essex County, NJ gives the Post's Steve Politi props for his "calm and reasonable destruction of the Nets’ shady owner."

As a member of the basketball media, I say I wish I could have written such a perfect piece. And as a former resident of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn and a current resident of Essex County, NJ, I’ll pre-empt my usual trip to the comment section on this one; just move to Newark!!!


SportBusinessInternational, Ratner considers selling Nets stake

The New York Post had reported that Ratner wanted to sell the team, possibly retaining only a small interest.

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

An (imaginary) Open Letter from Forest City Ratner's Gilmartin: We apologize for the disgraceful conduct at hearing, meeting

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder drafts an imaginary open letter from a Forest City Ratner executive that assigns blame for disruptive actions at last week's Informational Meeting on the development company's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject plan:

To the Brooklyn community:

On behalf of Forest City Ratner (FCR) and our parent company, Forest City Enterprises (FCE), I want to apologize for the disgraceful conduct of some Atlantic Yards supporters at the state Senate oversight hearing on May 29 and the Atlantic Yards informational meeting last Wednesday, July 22.

It was wrong to disrupt the hearing with whistles and heckling, and it was wrong to disrupt the meeting with chanting and heckling. I felt very uncomfortable at times during the meeting last week.

Please note: these activities were not directed by FCR; the disruptions were the work of unions who expect work on the Atlantic Yards project; representatives of some of our Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatories (part of our “team,” as I said on Wednesday); and groups that may or may not have any connection to the project.


NoLandGrab: We don't know why anyone would think that Forest City Ratner would apologize about meeting disruptions when they've orchestrated them in the past as part of the company's hearts-and-minds campaign.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

July 26, 2009

The Wonders of Brooklyn - The Land Grab Mahal

Do you wonder what Atlantic Yards will look like according to the latest designs? Keep wondering! The Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, says there will be no renderings of the project available during the period for public comment on the modified General Project Plan for Atlantic Yards.

For now, wonderers can imagine this design based on the Wonders of the World:

Posted by steve at 11:05 AM

Rally - Last Chance to Save Coney Island

Save Coney Island

News from another Brooklyn land grab (click on the image to see a larger version):

Local activist group Save Coney Island is holding this Sunday (7/26) at 1 p.m. in the plaza in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall.

We are expecting a large crowd of New Yorkers to join us in urging the Bloomberg administration to fix its flawed rezoning plan for Coney Island. With the City Council set to vote on the plan this coming Wednesday, this rally is the public's last chance to make its voice heard.

We are calling for more acres to be devoted to outdoor amusements, for the removal of the four high-rise hotel towers proposed for the south side of Surf Avenue, and for the preservation of Coney Island's historic buildings. We share the hope and expectation expressed at the landuse committee hearing by Council member Recchia, Katz, and others that the City will address our concerns through negotiations before the full council vote.

Please join us in our rally to preserve Coney Island as a beloved "People's Playground" for all New Yorkers.

Coney Island is an American treasure. It should be developed the right way. We need your help.

WHAT: Rally to Save Coney Island
WHEN: Sunday July 26, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Columbus Park, by the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall

For more information, please contact Save Coney Island spokesman Juan Rivero at 646.229.6609.


Posted by steve at 10:00 AM

The Newark solution? Optimism from Star-Ledger columnist seems a bit overblown

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines how realistic it might be to expect a move to Newark by the New Jersey Nets.

Star-Ledger sports columnist Steve Politi published two pieces on Friday about the possibility of a Nets move to Newark, not Brooklyn.

However, that move, while it makes sense logistically from a regional perspective--the Prudential Center in Newark is already built, and underutilized, while the Atlantic Yards arena is yet unbuilt--remains a stretch until and unless the plans for AY are further undermined.

The Newark move also makes sense from a federal perspective; Forest City Ratner would save well over $100 million, mostly from federal taxpayers, thanks to the issuance of tax-exempt bonds. But the Treasury Department grandfathered in the plan for bonds.

Newark's mayor, Cory Booker has been hopeful that the Nets could become tenants at the Prudential Center.

Booker has said that he was putting together a team of investors who could purchase the Nets and move them to the Prudential Center in Newark, but he has not had direct talks with team owner Bruce Ratner.

Booker shouldn't be surprised that Ratner wants investors to join the Brooklyn plan. If Ratner simply sells the team to Newark-bound owners, he loses much of the benefit of his investment in the AY plan.

Oder also implies that Atlantic Yards opponents should remain vigilant, rather than take comfort in Bruce Ratner's financial diffiulties.

Yes, Ratner is dismantling the Nets, from roster to front-office, and has lost the confidence of many fans. But I think he's just stretching as far as possible, and aims to regroup if and when the Nets move to Brooklyn.

And I don't know if I'd call opponents chances "excellent"? They're not insubstantial and there are a lot of question marks, but the city and state remain firmly behind the plan.

Finally, there is this assessment of when a move to Newark could happen:

The only way the Nets will move to Newark is if the project called Atlantic Yards dies.


Posted by steve at 9:25 AM

Lupica: Ratner should have just built an arena; AYR: there wouldn't have been as much profit

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder starts this blog entry looking at remarks by Mike Lupica in the Daily News, and quickly moves into reviewing what was said during last Wednesday's informational meeting regarding cost/benefit analysis that was (or wasn't) done by the ESDC.

How was the ESDC’s economic impact analysis conducted?

ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin’s answer was vague. Expected construction costs and tax benefits were plugged into a model, and calculations were reflected in the 2006 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP).

“We’re constantly looking at that analysis and updating that analysis,” he asserted, a statement belied by the absence of any new numbers in the 2009 MGPP. He suggested that, since the the cost of the project has increased, “I’d expect that fiscal benefits will probably increase.”

“Will the cost-benefit analysis be available on the ESDC web site?” moderator Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6, asked later.

Matlin looked slightly quizzical, then offered a bland answer: “The summary of the cost-benefit analysis was in the 2006 [Modified] GPP and carried forward in the 2009 [Modified] GPP. To the extent those numbers are updated, we will reflect them at our next board approval, which we expect will be in September of 2009.”

In other words, the public won’t get an opportunity to comment.


"How can the Empire State Development Corporation properly evaluate the appropriateness of subsidies for the project without producing an independent cost-benefit analysis?" Hammerman read.

"Well, ESDC does do a cost-benefit analysis," Matlin replied. "We have folks that look at the benefits of the project and the costs of the project. That''s an ongoing analysis, and we perform that internally."

"How come it's never been released?" asked Scott Turner (for Fans for Fair Play) from the crowd.

I'd add that the cost-benefit analysis is premised on the impacts of a ten-year buildout, and that seems very unlikely.


Posted by steve at 9:05 AM

Truth and lies about Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, Andrea McNulty

Daily News
By Mike Lupica

Here's more criticism of the way team owner Bruce Ratner has handled the New Jersey Nets.

You wonder how this all would have worked out for Bruce Ratner if he'd tried to bring the Nets to Brooklyn the right way.

Not using them to make a real estate score.

Not looking to turn the part of Brooklyn that the city and state handed to him into Ratner World.

Not with some Frank Gehry/Star Wars arena.

Just a basketball arena for a basketball team that would have brought professional sports back to the borough of Brooklyn.

But that wasn't enough for Ratner, and soon he'll be out of the Nets business and somebody else will own the team that can't get any better because there's no money.

Ratner will blame this on the economy, or Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, or Danny Goldstein, who led the resistance.

The person Ratner ought to blame is himself.


Posted by steve at 7:58 AM

It Came from the Blogosphere

Nets Daily, NetsDaily Off-Season Report #15

NetIncome has his analysis of a possible sale of the New Jersey Nets.

The Nets are for sale, either in whole or in part. Bruce Ratner’s been listening to offers for months and he didn’t go to Moscow last week for the sun. No matter how rainy New York has been, Moscow is more so. It’s not in Ratner’s interest to say the team is for sale. He doesn’t need any more bad publicity on his financial condition. The proper spin, as authored by Brett Yormark, is that Brooklyn is just sooo close that investors are starting to beat down Ratner’s doors!

There are indeed impediments. The Nets have a huge debt-to-equity problem. With rising debt and sinking value, the ratio has been estimated at around 80%. Somehow those debt holders have to be paid off. The team also has a very fragmented ownership structure, with more than 100 individuals–including Jay-Z and author Mary Higgins Clark, corporations, partnerships, who want to be made whole.

So what happens if and when a deal gets done? The NBA Board of Governors has to approve not just a sale but any significant new investors. The process has taken four months in recent years. During that time, financial statements are reviewed to make certain the new owners have the wherewithal and league security checks on the rectitude of the investors. A simple majority of the 29 other teams is all the new players would need.

We have to assume the approval process for Mikhail Prokhorov would be lengthier than one for Vincent Viola.

Sports Biz, Who Loses More With Sales of NJ Nets: Ratner or Team?

Senno also analyzes a sale of the Nets.

To no surprise, at least in this camp, reports surfaced late in the week that Bruce Ratner plans to sell the New Jersey Nets. Though the team indicates ownership is “as committed to ever” on moving to Brooklyn, that’s a tough statement to make when you don’t know who exactly ownership is. Brooklyn is Ratner’s project, without it he has no interest in the Nets, without the Nets he’ll probably pull the plug on the project since he’ll lose most of his upside. It appears the Nets face an uncertain future – Brooklyn, Newark, new ownership, possible move out of the area, free agent players or dumping more salary. These questions always lingered now they are reality. Across town the Islanders and owner Charles Wang face a similar predicament. Before criticizing the owner, and rightfully so, is it possible the owners end up losing more than the team and its fans?

For anyone who ever doubted Ratner’s intentions with buying the Nets, here is a statement directly from Forest City Ratner’s most recent 10-K, right up front in the business description:

“The purchase of the interest in The Nets was the first step in the Company’s efforts to pursue development projects, which include a new entertainment arena complex and adjacent urban developments combining housing, offices, shops and public open space. The Nets segment is primarily comprised of and reports on the sports operations of the basketball team.”

A few other tidbits from the 10-K analysis. The company views this project as the top business risk it faces given the economy and other uncertainties. Further, media coverage has focused on the $42mm loss Forest City suffered on the Nets investment. In fact, Nets Sports & Entertainment incurred a $77mm loss in fiscal 2009, the same as the previous year, and only slightly more than 2007. However, as a partial owner with less than 50% ownership, Forest City assumes a percentage of the loss. Due to its investment in the Brooklyn project and the financing it needed to make those investments, which it listed under the Nets subsidiary, Forest City recognized a larger portion of the teams loss on its financial statements. Without further analysis of the Annual Report it’s difficult to accurately uncover the entire financial situation, but it appears revenue dropped slightly, as did player expenses, though neither enough to create a financial disaster, and Operations remained a stable loss as I mentioned. The difference this year, Ratner was unable to use as much debt to finance the losses. His company had another poor financial year, and is already financing much of its losses, leaving highly overlevered. Forbes team valuations report the Nets have by far the highest Debt/Value ratio in the NBA. My thought is Ratner can no longer fund this project as expenses mount and revenue gets pushed further into the future, so needs to pull the plug and regain some liquidity. In fact, he probably held on too long.

Cap'n Transit Rides Again, "Atlantic Yards" project will shrink the yards themselves

This blog entry is catching up with a State Senate hearing held in May, and wonders if an upgrade for the Vanderbilt rail yards by Bruce Ratner isn't really a downgrade.

Since we're on the subject of central rail terminals and track capacity...

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project was supposed to benefit everybody: he would renovate and expand the Long Island Railroad's Vanderbilt Yard, build the tallest building in Brooklyn (designed by Frank Gehry!), bring pro sports back to the borough, build condos for the rich and affordable housing for the poor, and provide millions for the MTA.

Some people were skeptical, and it turns out that almost all of those promises have been broken. If you needed another reason to oppose this stinking heap of corruption, the Atlantic Yards Report tells us that the latest iteration of the plan would not actually enlarge the Yards so that they could store 76 cars instead of 72; instead, it would shrink them down to 70 cars or less.

Posted by steve at 7:35 AM

Sources: Ratner Looks To Sell Nets

New York Post
By Fred Kerber

This article was not included in yesterday's round up of the news of a possible sale of the New Jersey Nets.

Faced with mounting financial losses that triggered cost-cutting throughout the organization, The Post has learned that Nets owner Bruce Ratner is actively investigating the feasibility of selling the team, despite a decidedly down seller's market, multiple team and league sources said.

In fact, several of the sources claim the team is definitely up for sale, though Ratner is determined to try to keep the team headed for Brooklyn and wants to maintain a piece of the team.

"I know definitely he has been thinking about doing it [selling]," one source close to the situation said. "But now is not the time. And if he sells, what about the building? Does he sell just the team? Then you're in New Jersey for a couple years losing a ton of money."

There have been "preliminary discussions" with some investors viewed as potential buyers, sources said, but the extent and seriousness of the talks were not clear.

"After this year, the Nets will have one of, if not the, lowest payroll in the league, which could make them attractive," said one source associated with the team. "That they're trying to sell is not even an issue any more."

"They're up for sale," a minority ownership source said flatly.


A critical component of the Brooklyn move will be the sale of an estimated $650 million in tax exempt bonds before a Dec. 31 deadline. The Empire State Development Corp. hopes to start issuing the bonds in September.

The Nets have reduced their office workforce by approximately 25 percent. Most non-basketball employees have faced Friday furloughs in the summer, reducing their pay by 20 percent. Assistant coaches accepted significant pay cuts in order to keep all of them employed -- rather than see one lose his job, the four remaining assistants on coach Lawrence Frank's staff agreed to salary reductions equal to the cost of one salary. The Nets thus far have been mute in free agency.


Posted by steve at 6:05 AM

July 25, 2009

Wonders of Brooklyn - Zeus at Flatbush

Do you wonder what Atlantic Yards will look like according to the latest designs? Keep wondering! The Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, says there will be no renderings of the project available during the period for public comment on the modified General Project Plan for Atlantic Yards.

For now, wonderers can imagine this design based on the Wonders of the World:

Posted by steve at 10:01 AM

The big news was the informational meeting, but the media mostly missed it

Atlantic Yards Report

The proposed Atlantic Yards project should have been a great story for major New York media to cover, but the coverage continues to be lacking. An informational meeting hosted by Community Boards 2, 6 and 8 went largely unnoticed.

While the official required Atlantic Yards public hearing takes place over two days, Wednesday and Thursday, that, I think, will be something of a sideshow, an opportunity for both opponents and proponents to face off and to posture--though some substantive criticism surely will be lodged.

The bigger news, I believe, already happened on Wednesday at the informational meeting before three Community Boards, given the unprecedented presence of both Empire State Development and Forest City Ratner representatives and their responses--both answers and evasions--to tough questions.

And it got relatively little press coverage. None of the three dailies sent a reporter, nor did any TV stations, including NY 1 or local Brooklyn cable.


But the dailies, as well as the Village Voice and others who've paid attention to Atlantic Yards, missed an important story about governmental responsibility and public review of major development projects--a story with a number of potential mini-headlines, such as the unavailability of a cost-benefit analysis or arena renderings, or the ESDC's unwillingness to comment on a New York City Independent Budget Office analysis that the arena would be a money-loser for the city.

It's a story not merely of neighborhood and borough interest, but given the city and state subsidies involved, of interest to the city and state, and--given the heat and complexity of the controversy, as well as the controversy over building sports facilities--of national interest.

Atlantic Yards opponents, who generally alert the media ahead of public hearings and meetings, could have done a better job of soliciting coverage. But the media should be able to figure things out themselves, as well.


Posted by steve at 8:37 AM

Politi: NJ Nets owner Bruce Ratner knows damage, not damage control

The Star-Ledger
By Steve Politi

Here is strong commentary on how the New Jersey Nets have fared under Bruce Ratner's ownership.

Bruce Ratner inherited a championship team and gutted it. He stumbled into a growing fan base and alienated it. Now, for his final act, he is seeking anyone rich and dumb enough to help him rip the Nets from this community.

Congratulations, Bruce. You make the Secaucus Seven look like the Rooney family.

The real estate magnate, as first reported in The Star-Ledger, is desperately trying to sell his crumbling vision for Brooklyn to a reclusive billionaire, a Russian businessman and his co-investors. But at some point, don't you think they'll ask what, exactly, that vision is?

There is no blueprint for his arena. There is no world-class architect designing the complex. There is no financing in place for the project, and there is still the messy matter of the Court of Appeals hearing that, if lost, would sabotage the entire Atlantic Yards deal once and for all.

Other than that, it's a great investment.


Sadly, we should have known all along where Ratner's heart is. It was never in fielding a winning basketball team. It was never with the fans who saw a glimmer of hope with those back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals, only to have their team turned into a laughingstock again.

Ratner gutted the Nets, chased away fans, and for his final act, he is looking for somebody rich and foolish to help him back up the moving vans. There is only one positive for Nets fans.

At least if he sells, the next guy can't be any worse.


Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

Ratner Trying to Find Investors for the Nets

Here is additional coverage of Bruce Ratner's attempts, first revealed yesterday, to get out from under his cash flow problems (a loss of $35 million in the past year alone) with the New Jersey Nets.

The Plain Dealer - Forest City talking to would-be investors in the New Jersey Nets
By Michelle Jarboe

Stories in the Newark Star-Ledger and the New York Post indicate that Forest City Ratner, the New York arm of Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland, is considering selling a stake in the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

A spokesman here in Cleveland says Forest City is not trying to divest itself of the team -- but the company has talked to from potential investors in the franchise. Forest City owns a 22 percent stake in the Nets and is the managing member of the investor group backing the team.

"At the moment we fully intend to continue to be an owner of the Nets basketball team," spokesman Jeff Linton said. "This is not our effort to sell the team."

The Nets are pivotal to Forest City's much-delayed and controversial Atlantic Yards project, a planned development that includes a basketball area named the Barclays Center. But the money-losing team is toting a heavy debt load. According to the Star-Ledger's report, more than 20 of the team's business employees have been laid off since September, and four members of the team's coaching staff took sizable pay cuts last week.

The Star-Ledger - Newark mayor Cory Booker not surprised by reports that NJ Nets are for sale
By Steve Politi

Newark mayor Cory Booker wasn't the least bit surprised at reports that the Nets are for sale -- he predicted that would happen months ago. What did surprise and disappoint him was hearing that the team was only looking at potential investors interested in moving it to Brooklyn.

"I have said from the beginning of this that the endeavor in Brooklyn is under a lot of challenges now, and I've said for months that the team is going to go up for sale," Booker said Friday at a musical festival in Newark.

"I'm discouraged a little bit that they're saying they're only going to sell to people who are going to stay in Brooklyn, but the reality is, we're going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that team stays in New Jersey. We need the revenue, we need the business opportunities. It really can become an economic engine for our state at a time when we need it."

Booker has said that he was putting together a team of investors who could purchase the Nets and move them to the Prudential Center in Newark, but he has not had direct talks with team owner Bruce Ratner.

ESPN - Friday Bullets

Nets owner Bruce Ratner -- now accepting investors. Dave D'Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger says that if and when a suitor legitimately emerges, the team is likely Brooklyn-bound: "So far, nobody's buying. But according to numerous officials throughout the organization, Ratner may soon find someone to help alleviate the team's crushing debt load and facilitate the construction of the Atlantic Yards project, and the candidates range from the former CEO of Yahoo to a billionaire industrialist from Russia -- each of whom would still move the team from New Jersey."

Canadian Press - Nets owner Bruce Ratner looking for investors
By Tom Canavan

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner has been getting feelers from individuals interested in buying a piece of the struggling NBA team that hopes to move to Brooklyn in 2011.

"We have received interest from potential investors in the team," Nets chief executive Brett Yormark said in a statement the team sent on Friday. "That interest is growing as it is clear that we are moving to Brooklyn. Our ownership group is as committed as ever to the success of the Nets and to the Barclays Center."

A real estate developer who heads Forest City Ratner, Ratner bought the Nets in 2004. The team has seen its attendance drop the past two years as it missed the playoffs.


Ratner must start construction of the arena by the end of 2009 to qualify for tax-exempt bonds. The Nets have maintained that they will break ground before the deadline and move into the new arena for the 2011-12 season.

The arena is part of a project known as Atlantic Yards, where more than a dozen skyscrapers are planned on a 22-acre site. The project has been stalled by financing problems in a crippled real estate market, high-priced designs and lawsuits by residents opposing the use of some condemned property to build the arena. New York's top appeals court has agreed to hear a challenge to the state's use of eminent domain to obtain all the land for the project.

Ratner recently released Frank Gehry from designing the arena and all the other buildings in the project.

Posted by steve at 7:59 AM

Community-Organized Crime

The American Spectator By Matthew Vadum

A Congressional report by House Republicans seems to only be noticed by conservative news outlets, but it gives the Spectator another excuse to attack ACORN, and ACORN's support of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

The report notes that failing to report the misappropriation to the IRS in itself constitutes fraud, and that ACORN apparently raided pension funds to help cover the financial shortfall. ACORN also agreed last year to accept a bailout consisting of a $1 million loan and $500,000 in donations from Forest City Ratner, a developer that wants to build an ambitious project in Brooklyn, New York, to be called Atlantic Yards that would become, among things, the new home of the New Jersey Nets. The developer indicated in a letter to ACORN that it would disburse $500,000 in grants but the money wouldn't go to ACORN directly. The grants were to be made to the ACORN Institute, one of ACORN's tax-exempt nonprofit affiliates.

There are strings attached. ACORN previously signed an agreement to support the project in exchange for a commitment that the developer would build affordable housing, but the 2008 agreement with the developer provides that the ACORN Institute was to receive $300,000 of the $500,000 grant up front, with the remaining $200,000 to be paid out in equal installments in August 2009 and August 2010. With the current economy, it's unclear if the housing will be built, and whether the money paid out will stay at the ACORN Institute, which trains aspiring community organizers, is anyone's guess because ACORN routinely shuffles cash around its network.


Posted by steve at 7:46 AM

July 24, 2009

Wonders of Brooklyn - The Pyramid Scheme

Do you wonder what Atlantic Yards will look like according to the latest designs? Keep wondering!
The Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, says there will be no renderings of the project available during the period for public comment on the modified General Project Plan for Atlantic Yards.

For now, wonderers can imagine this design based on the Wonders of the World:

Posted by steve at 9:05 PM

Updates re Wednesday's meeting: the evasion of public responsibility, the orchestrated disruption, and more

Atlantic Yards Report

I've updated and reorganized somewhat my post yesterday about the three-hour Atlantic Yards informational meeting held by Community Boards 2, 6, and 8.

Most importantly, a look back shows clearly how the public, which is supposed to comment next Wednesday and Thursday at the official public hearing, is not provided with essential information and will not get it during the comment period that ends at the end of August.

Notably, we weren't told--and won't be told--the total amount of subsidies required. We were told that the Empire State Development Corporation "constantly" updates its cost-benefit analysis--actually just an analysis of new revenue, without accounting for full costs--but that the analysis was not included in the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (GPP) issued last month.

We were told that new numbers may be provided to the ESDC board when it votes to approve the project in September. Whether or not that analysis emerges, if it updates the previous analysis, it will assume that the project will be built within a ten-year timetable (which is, of course, very unlikely).

No site plan or arena renderings will emerge before the project is approved.


Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

It's all about cash flow: Ratner, according to report, pushing harder to sell part of Nets

Atlantic Yards Report

On Wednesday night, at the informational meeting on Atlantic Yards sponsored by three community boards, Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin was asked about reports that principal owner Bruce Ratner was selling the Nets to minority owner (and Brooklynite) Vinny Viola.

"That's not true," Gilmartin said.

Maybe so, but it was a narrow answer to a narrow question.

Nets for sale

As to whether Ratner may be selling the Nets to someone else, the headline on an article by Dave D'Alessandro of the Star-Ledger is New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner on verge of enlisting investors willing to move team to Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 8:45 AM

New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner on verge of enlisting investors willing to move team to Brooklyn

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

It appears that Atlantic Yards developer and NJ Nets team owner Bruce Ratner is trying to sell the team to an ownership group that shares his vision of moving the team to Brooklyn:

[A]ccording to numerous officials throughout the organization, Ratner may soon find someone to help alleviate the team's crushing debt load and facilitate the construction of the Atlantic Yards project, and the candidates range from the former CEO of Yahoo to a billionaire industrialist from Russia -- each of whom would still move the team from New Jersey.

"I would be surprised if it doesn't happen fairly soon," said a high-ranking Nets official, who requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize Ratner's plans. "Bruce has looked into several options. He's had offers, he's made counteroffers, and at some point in time -- probably by the time the season gets under way -- something will transpire."

To what degree Ratner needs help is uncertain, even to some of the team's own investors. One who is admittedly skittish over the team's annual losses and the dubious plans for Brooklyn said earlier this week that Ratner needs "significant" financial assistance to keep the team afloat.


DDDB.net, Ratner Desperately Seeking Buyers For His Share of Nets

Meanwhile, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn noted:

At last night's Atlantic Yards "informational meeting" Forest City Executive MaryAnne Gilmartin was asked if Forest City Ratner is looking to sell it share of ownership of the New Jersey Nets as has been reported, most recently, in Sports Illustrated.

Her one word answer was, "no."
It leaves us wondering (though not too hard): Are we to believe anything that comes out of the mouths of Forest City Ratner representatives?

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM


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

new graffiti
former site of the Ward Bread Bakery
Dean Street near Vanderbilt Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

The Hit and Miss of Last Night’s Public “Information” Meeting on Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

Comparing notes after last night’s information meeting on Atlantic Yards, the consensus seemed to be that there wasn’t that much about it that was that surprising. Forest City Ratner in the person of Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin and representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation essentially answered the questions they wanted to answer they way they wanted to answer them and evaded the questions they didn’t want to answer.
There was, however, one thing that did initially seem surprising to us: The written questions submitted by those in attendance ran out about ten minutes before the meeting was officially scheduled to conclude. That was surprising to us until we thought more about the fact that some of our own Noticing New York questions that were submitted were not, in fact, presented. Other questions we submitted that were asked flashed by time-wise because they were not answered at all. In theory, questions we submitted might have been passed over if they duplicated other answered or evaded questions that were asked, but that was not the case. At least we will get to note them here.

Read on...

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Chaotic Meeting on Atlantic Yards

AK-ChaoticMeeting.jpgBrit in Brooklyn

This photo by Adrian Kinloch was taken at Wednesday's Community Board Informational Meeting on Bruce Ratner's still-controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

July 23, 2009

What do Teaneck, Cleveland and Edgemont Have To Do With the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Project?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB ruminates on last night's Atlantic Yards "Informational Meeting."

The most enlightening piece of information: Ratner and ESDC will not reveal the project models or renderings or cost-benefit analysis until after the project is given its second approval in early September. So, all the uproar at the meeting and hearings that will come next week is about an invisible project.

When union members shout "build it now" at such meetings, we'd like to know: Build what?

And what about Forest City Ratner EVP MaryAnne Gilmartin's claim that a handful of rabid obstructionists are spoiling the party for everyone, or, as she put it, "a relentless campaign of a few to delay the benefits to many?"

"Relentless campaign of a few...?" Really?

Ms. Gilmartin, the few were the ones sitting on the panel last night. The "relentless campaign of a few" is made up of thousands and thousands of donors and supporters of DDDB, scores of community organizations, and the opposition and critics include all of the elected officials representing districts around the project site.

It has been a relentless campaign by Forest City Ratner and its paid or indebted partners, in other words "the few," to attempt to steamroll and bulldoze a community with false promises and selfish motives.


Posted by eric at 5:06 PM



Filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky have been watching the unfolding saga of Atlantic Yards through a lens for the past five-and-a-half years, and they've just released a trailer for their upcoming documentary about the fight to stop the project: The Battle of Brooklyn.

Coming this Fall

The Battle of Brooklyn follows a group of people who come together to fight the Atlantic Yards Project, a massive real estate development that threatens to destroy their homes and neighborhood. If built, the project, situated at the juncture of predominately low rise-brownstone neighborhoods in Prospect Heights, would place 16 skyscrapers and a sports arena on a 22 acre parcel of land. Their fight to stop the project pits them against developer Forest City Ratner, as well as other residents who are eager for the construction jobs and the additional housing that the project would create. Others are excited about bringing the New Jersey Nets basketball team to Brooklyn.

Daniel Goldstein's apartment sits at what would be center court of the new arena. A reluctant activist, Daniel got dragged into the fight because he simply couldn't believe that the government should use the power of Eminent Domain in order to take his property and hand it off to a private developer. Daniel and others formed the group, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, in order to develop alternative plans to the proposed project.


Read about how the film came about.

Posted by eric at 2:43 PM

Protocol for Public Hearing on the 2009 Modified General Project Plan for the Atlantic Yards Project

Empire State Development Corporation

Given the great susceptibility of Atlantic Yards hearings to devolve into sideshows of building trades-led chants of "Build it now!," heckling by a certain member of the clergy, and occasional outbursts by frustrated project opponents, the Empire State Development Corporation has actually laid out a "protocol" for next week's two-day hearing on the Modified General Project Plan.

In order to help facilitate an orderly and productive public hearing ESDC will employ the following protocols for each session:

  • Interested speakers will be asked to sign-up prior to speaking. Speakers will be asked to identify their respective position (in favor or against the project) and to the extent feasible speakers will be alternated between those in favor and those opposed.

  • Speakers can sign-up at the hearing location, starting one hour prior to each session, and will generally be heard on a first come basis. The only exception will be given to elected officials who will be given deference to speak when available.

  • In order to expedite the sign-in process, persons desiring to speak can complete the form below and submit at the hearing location on the date of the hearing.

  • ALL speakers will be limited to three (3) minutes. Speakers WILL BE CUT OFF when their time has elapsed.

  • Any attendee who disrupts the proceedings will be escorted off the premises.

Click thru [PDF] with instructions on how to submit comments via snail- or e-mail and a short form that you can fill out in advance to expedite the sign-up process if you wish to give testimony at the hearing.

NoLandGrab: This hearing might be worth attending if for no other reason than to see how effectively the ESDC is able to enforce its "protocol."

Posted by eric at 2:20 PM

HEADLINES: Atlantic Yards Confrontational Informational Hearing

Though the headlines mostly key on the disruption (when was there ever anything Atlantic Yards-related without disruption?), the more interesting story was the wee bit of news coming out of last night's joint Community Board event. Atlantic Yards Report got there first, but here are highlights from the rest of the coverage. First up, some good insight from The Observer's Eliot Brown.

NY Observer, Public Review of Atlantic Yards, Without the 'View' Part

With changes to the design and timetable, Bruce Ratner’s $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project is back in public review, complete with public meetings, public comment and a vote of the board of a public authority.

Theoretically, this month-long public comment period is meant to review the changed project. But one thing that’s absent in this re-review: renderings, or any other look at the project’s design (which one would assume has changed dramatically since the last approval in 2006, given that star architect Frank Gehry, with his distinctive style, was pulled from the project).

At a public hearing Wednesday night on the project, a state official, Darren Bloch, was asked about whether there would be any formal comment allowed on the renderings.

“We do not expect a formal review process by the public,” he said. “We expect to see the renderings by Forest City Ratner; we expect ourselves, the city, to weigh in on those to some degree, but we do not expect a formal presentation to the public to accept comment from that.”

He added the renderings were expected to be presented in the fall (the public comment period on the revised "General Project Plan" closes at the end of August).

The argument of the officials and Forest City Ratner is that the original approval from 2006 provided for design guidelines, and so long as the arena falls in line with those (which they say it will), then they are doing what is required of them at this point.

NoLandGrab: So the ESDC is sole judge and jury as to whether or not the project meets the "design guidelines," which of course it claims it does, and the public can't weigh in on whether or not it agrees, because we won't see renderings until after the comment period ends. Wha?

Back when Frank Gehry was the designer, Forest City and the state trumpeted grand renderings and models well in advance of when they were detailed. Mr. Gehry’s design was a key selling point, of course, and his name came up at most every possible mention of the project.

The issue highlights the inherently misleading nature of renderings in public projects. They are used to sell the public and officials on something that looks appealing, but unlike something like rent payments or certain amenities, developers are rarely, if ever, contractually obligated to build a project as pictured or with a certain architect.

NLG: The Gehry factor played prominently in the acquiescence of a number of "culturally susceptible types."

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Atlantic Yards Meeting Erupts

Former Brooklyn Paper Atlantic Yards beat reporter Jess Wisloski covered the meeting for The Local.

With one week to go before the official comment period begins for the state’s recently modified plan for the project, state and Ratner representatives were greeted by an avalanche of tough questions posed by community members who live in and around the site’s 22-acre footprint, and the meeting at times flew out of control, with both proponents and opponents erupting.

The hostile tenor of the meeting was obviously a result of pent-up emotions by those who have been trying to raise questions about the viability of the project and its affect on the surrounding areas. In the absence of public forums, opponents had repeatedly showed up at the authority’s monthly board meetings, which do not offer an opportunity for the agency to respond to public comment.

The Brooklyn Paper, Atlantic antics! Yards hearing goes haywire!

The state, meanwhile, dismissed a report by the city’s Independent Budget Office that said the basketball arena would in fact be a net loss for taxpayers, rather than the promised generator of revenues.

“Own analysis [covers] the entire project,” said Steve Matlin, counsel at the ESDC. “Our calculation determined that it would be a significant benefit to the city and state.”

NLG: Only the state's "analysis" hasn't been updated since 2006 — and even if it had, it doesn't trifle with bothersome things such as "costs."

Nets Daily, Hearing on Barclays Center Devolves into Screamfest

It was supposed to be an informational hearing on changes to Bruce Ratner’s plans for Barclays Center–and the larger Atlantic Yard project–but once again, tempers flared as critics heckled Ratner representatives and construction workers heckled critics.

Posted by eric at 1:08 PM

ESDC, FCR face, answer, evade tough questions (subsidies, cost-benefit analysis, etc.); meeting marred by heckling and chaos

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder gives the blow-by-blow from last night's "informational meeting" on Atlantic Yards.

Despite the heckling, chanting, and chaos that marred last night’s informational meeting on Atlantic Yards, the session may have been the most enlightening—in terms of questions asked, answered, and evaded—of any in the history of the Atlantic Yards project.

Representatives of Forest City Ratner (FCR) and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) got thrown some hard questions—about the total amount of subsidies, the details of a cost-benefit analysis, and the absence of any site plan or arena renderings--and managed to evade or deflect many of them.

Other answers were telling: FCR’s MaryAnne Gilmartin gave a long and convoluted answer to a question about affordable housing rents while avoiding the opportunity to state the monthly rent for an apartment. ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin asserted--for the first time, I believe--that the arena naming rights bestowed on the developer were considered part of the financing of the project, a statement that I don't think has been part of any fiscal analysis of AY. ESDC dismissed but did not dispute a New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) report saying the arena would be a net money-loser for the city.

And Gilmartin said FCR "expected" not to seek more city or state subsidies--a pledge put into question by her acknowledgment of and justification for the developer’s pursuit of federal stimulus funds.

She also acknowledged, for the first time, that Forest City Ratner has funding commitments for all of its Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) partners. Several of those groups, such as Brooklyn Endeavor Experience and Public Housing Communities, and the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, have resisted answering questions about their funding.


NoLandGrab: It's impossible to summarize Oder's entire story, which paints a very full picture of the event, so we suggest you at least scan the piece. Did we learn much new, however? Unsurprisingly, not really.

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

They’re off! Fields are set for September primaries — and The Brooklyn Paper is there

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin and Ben Muessig

District 35

Parts of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant

Democratic incumbent Letitia James would have been eligible for re-election even without the term limits extension, but that hasn’t stopped two challengers from entering the political ring to unseat her.

Delia Hunley–Adossa, a pro-Atlantic Yards neighborhood activist, and Medhanie Estiphanos, an unknown newcomer, seek to defy the odds — no sitting councilmembers lost in 2005 — and beat James.

James is popular in her district and holds all the advantages of incumbency, but her Achilles heel could be her paltry fundraising, making it tougher to flood the district with a pro-Tish message. Unlike other legislators, she had not focused on fundraising, and has raised just $31,030 compared to the surprisingly strong $22,585 raised by Hunley-Adossa.

Her support for the troubled Atlantic Yards project has helped her .


NoLandGrab: Expect Pro-Atlantic Yards candidates to give opponents a run for "the money."

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

July 29: SAY NO TO ATLANTIC YARDS - PROTEST Against Ratner’s Rip-off

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Wednesday. July 29. 2pm.
Start Gathering at 1pm.
Outside Klitgord Auditorium of NYC Technical College
285 Jay Street, Near Tillary
(A/C to Jay St./Borough Hall. 2/3 to Borough Hall)

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC, which is the state agency overseeing the Atlantic Yards proposal) is holding a public hearing on the Atlantic Yards project on July 29th.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn urges you to join a protest against Ratner’s destructive project outside the hearing and then to testify at the hearing.

This is it: there will be no more public hearings on Atlantic Yards or protests like this one.

This is the community’s chance to tell ESDC and Ratner:

We Don’t Want Atlantic Yards.
We Want Development That Works for the Community,
Not at the Expense of the Community.
Atlantic Yards Must Be Scrapped!

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

Forest City in the News

Bearish.jpgSmarTrend, Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) Bearish Technical Alert - Trend Down 3.8%

Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) is trading 3.2% lower (down $0.20 to $6.05) today on volume of 79,408 shares. The stock has traded within a 52-week range of $3.26 and $40.49.

Forest City Enterprises is currently below its 50-day moving average of $6.41 and below its 200-day moving average of $7.51.

SmarTrend is bearish on shares of FCE.A and our subscribers received a Downtrend alert on May 14, 2009 at $6.29, which has returned 3.8% to date.


RatnerDebby.jpgFrom BisNow's Breakfast & Schmooze gathering in DC on Tuesday:

Two of commercial real estate’s favorite people: Forest City president Debby Ratner Salzberg and JBG managing partner Mike Glosserman.... Debbie said in the fall she thought the world was coming to an end but now believes we will be able to hobble along.

The Riverdale Press, Espada's Finances

State Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. received thousands of dollars this year in campaign donations from real estate interests, recently filed state records show.
Lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who is now representing the Atlantic Yards development firm and the Retail & Wholesale Department Store Union to the city, had $5,000 for Mr. Espada.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

July 22, 2009

Colbert and ACORN's Bertha Lewis Have a Chat

Via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Stephen Colbert has a chat with ACORN National Director and Forest City Ratner partner Bertha Lewis in a segment called Better Know a Lobby - Acorn. (Remember, ACORN is in debt to Forest City Enterprises)

From The Colbert Report:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a Lobby - Acorn
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford


Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

Thieves that prey together

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Mike McLaughlin

The once-devoid-of-any-criminal-activity Atlantic Terminal Mall was a crime scene last week.

Ax not

Thieves stole several guitars from a music store in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on two occasions last week.

Police were called to the Guitar Center, which is on Flatbush Avenue between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue, on July 13 and July 16 after employees realized that six electric guitars and two acoustic pieces were missing.


Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

The public has questions. Do Forest City Ratner and the ESDC have answers?

Brooklyn Downtown Star: Atlantic Yards Watch
by Eric McClure

This correspondent suggests some possible questions for tonight's Atlantic Yards Informational Meeting via the Brooklyn Downtown Star.

How enlightening those answers may be will remain to be seen, since the ESDC often defers to Forest City, which has been notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to divulging meaningful information about the controversial project. In fact, the lack of substantive public disclosure has become a running joke among critics of the Atlantic Yards project, who frequently mock a statement, made last year by a Forest City spokesperson, that "when it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there's no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned." Reality indicates otherwise.

But on the outside chance that the folks at Forest City and the ESDC might get an accidental hit of truth serum, we've prepared a number of important questions that, despite all of the developer's claimed information-sharing, still lack satisfactory answers.


Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Real Fort Greene, Support Tish James on July 27th at Moe’s

Blogger Carlton Banks plugs a Tish James fundraiser.

Letitia “Tish” James, Fort Greene & Clinton Hill’s City Councilwoman, is up against three opponents in this year’s Democratic primary. As most you probably know, Councilwoman James is a true advocate for the people of the 35th district. On issue after issue she has stood up against powerful forces within this city for the benefit of her constituents. Whether is be the blatant cronyism behind the Atlantic Yards project or the push to renew Myrtle Avenue or standing up to Mayor Bloomberg in his quest to circumvent established term limits (bypassing the will of the people by way of the City Council) or pushing for the NYCHA to hire residents to work on building renovations, Councilwoman James has distinguished herself if a city known for corrupt, self-absorbed politicians.

Delia Hunley-Adossa, president of the 88th Precinct’s community council, is probably the strongest opponent. As the signatory for the Community Benefits Agreement associated with the initial approval of the Atlantic Yards project, she has the backing of Bruce Ratner’s real estate powerhouse. Given the level of power he wields in this city his backing cannot be taken lightly. He’s bought everything else so a city council election is probably a bargain to him.

Who Walk in Brooklyn, Novelist Jim Knipfel’s Park Slope Liebestod

Atlantic Yards manages to find its way into a conversation between historian Brian Berger and writer Jim Knipfel.

Brian: NYC and Brooklyn politics are such a fiasco it’s amazing some people still act smug about how ‘liberal’ the city is—hah! At the same time, if there’’s one good thing side-effect of so-called Atlantic Yards is it forced some people to realize just how corrupt and insipid the corporate media is. Not that it connected Prospect Heights and Park Slope residents with their equally disaffected (but much less influential) brethren in the Bronx but maybe this is a strong first step towards a liberating nihilism?

Jim: It boils down to a specifically American brand of nihilism that’s completely apolitical in nature—a kind of nihilism that says “we just want to watch the TV and drink cheap beer and not have to think about anything. Just tell us what to do.” It’s not a conscious, philosophical rejection of everything, but a quiet, unthinking acquiescence that amounts to the same thing.

Whether it’s Coney or Atlantic Yards or Times Square, it’s the same sort of deal. Lots of money gets tossed around as the spirit of the city is gutted and as a lot of people lose their jobs and homes. In the end no one really cares. What matters to them more than anything are traffic patterns. So long as traffic past their house doesn’t get heavier, well then what’s the problem?

ParkSlopeGreens.net, Important Develop Don’t Destroy Events and Rev. Billy House Party!

We Forgot Some Very Important Information In Our Message Yesterday.

1) Important Joint Community Board Meeting For Ratner’s Atlantic Yards

2) Atlantic Yards Protest

3) Joan Baez Fundraiser for Rev Billy (Repeated message)

4) House Party for Rev Billy

TEXTSCAPE, Coney Island project moving toward approval

So many major projects in NYC have either been killed, stalled or maimed -- Atlantic Yards, Convention Center, much of the WTC site -- despite some understandable misgivings about the Coney Island project, at least it's good to see something move forward.

NoLandGrab: Um, no, it's not. The Mayor's Coney Island plan is another disaster that will suck the life out of the People's Playground.

Yaros' Sports Report and Analysis, Miami Heat Trying To Mix It Up In The East!

The problem is, [Chris Bosh], more than a smaller player, needs guys around him to play well. The Knicks are lacking those guys. However, the Nets, are in far better shape from a player development standpoint. But, with Bruce Ratner apparently looking to sell the team and the Brooklyn idea all but over, does a superstar really want to play in East Rutherford or Newark? Only time will tell if a venue outweighs talent... or perhaps, neither team will sign anyone!?

Nets Daily, Architect Says Barclays Will Look Nothing Like Initial Renderings

James Poulsen, lead architect for Barclays Center, says his final design will look nothing like widely published–and heavily criticized–initial renderings…nor Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. He tells Sports Business Journal the design will be “less barnlike…something totally unexpected.” Poulsen, lead architect for Conseco and Seattle’s Qwest Field, adds it will evoke Brooklyn’s working class industrial history.

NLG: Why, maybe it'll look just like the Ward Bakery! Oh, wait, Bruce Ratner has already done his take on the Ward Bakery.

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

TONIGHT: Atlantic Yards Informational Meeting


Please join Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 & 8 at an Informational Meeting to hear an updated presentation on proposed modifications to the Atlantic Yards Development General Project Plan. At this meeting proposed modifications to the plan will be presented by representatives for the New York State Empire Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner Companies. Following the presentation there will be an opportunity for questions (to be submitted in writing) and answers.

Meeting will be held 6:00-9:00pm on July 22, 2009 at Long Island University's Zeckendorf Health Sciences Center, Room 107 (enter Dekalb Avenue, off Flatbush Avenue).

Click here [PDF], or use the following link for meeting notice: http://www.brooklyncb6.org/calendar/#22

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

A test for the informational meeting tonight: will Forest City Ratner fulfill its pledge to share information?

Atlantic Yards Report

So why is the Atlantic Yards informational meeting, from 6 to 9 pm tonight at Long Island University, important? It's not just that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is sending representatives to discuss changes in the Modified General Project Plan, the subject of a two-day official ESDC public hearing next week.

Because Forest City Ratner didn't show up at the state Senate oversight hearing May 29 (and claimed they weren't invited).

Because Forest City Ratner didn't bother to send someone to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority meetings June 22 and June 24.

Because Forest City Ratner hasn't appeared in public to answer AY-related questions for some two-and-a-half years.

Because MaryAnne Gilmartin, the project's current point person, has never answered questions in public (and, I'll bet, won't show up tonight, even though only written questions will be allowed).

When was Forest City Ratner much more transparent? Well, never.


Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

More from Gehry at Aspen: On meeting budgets, taking more responsibility, and engaging the client

Atlantic Yards Report

Beyond Frank Gehry's dust-up with Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces , some other passages in Gehry's Aspen Ideas Festival interview earlier this month have resonance for Atlantic Yards watchers, notably the architect's insistence, as he has said before, that he works "close to the bone."

In other words, I think it buttresses my argument that dropping Gehry from the Atlantic Yards project was not simply because the cost of the arena had risen significantly. Rather, it would be impossible to design an arena wrapped within four towers if developer Forest City Ratner could stretch its original four-year timetable for the towers to 12 years; only after that would a penalty kick in (and the developer could get away with building only three towers).


Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

July 21, 2009

Paterson on Ground Zero towers: Public money just as important as private money

Atlantic Yards Report

Seems that what's good for Larry Silverstein isn't good for Bruce Ratner.

Developer Larry Silverstein wants the Port Authority to guarantee loans, in the absence of private financing, for him to build two towers at the World Trade Center site. But Gov. David Paterson isn't buying it.

From WNYC:
PATERSON: Where private money is eschewing the opportunity, public money should not be used either because the public's money is just as important and that is why.

From the Daily News:
Paterson's charm offensive was backed up with tough talk as he told Silverstein that taxpayers would not plow billions of public dollars into funding speculative private-sector office towers that cannot lure private financing.
"The public's dollars are just as important as anyone else's - and that is why I insist we cannot finance anyone else's project," the governor told reporters. "The state is not going to be the only entity that has risk in the project."

Now the government hasn't been asked to invest in the speculative office tower planned for Atlantic Yards, but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (controlled by Paterson and Mayor Mike Bloomberg) moved to lower Forest City Ratner's risk in AY, allowing a delayed payment schedule and a railyard worth $100 million less, without asking for any concessions in return.


Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

Barclays won’t look like leaked rendering, Ellerbe Becket says

Sports Business Journal

Um... the new architect for Bruce Ratner's Barclays Center swears the arena design won't look like the renderings that met with a chorus of derision last month.

The New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff can rest easy.

The exterior of Barclays Center, the New Jersey Nets’ proposed Brooklyn arena, will look nothing like the image the Times published last month, according to James Poulson, Ellerbe Becket’s design director for the project.

Poulson says the new design might be "something totally unexpected," as he "echoed the comments made by Nets executive Brett Yormark, who said the arena will evoke the borough’s history as a working-class industrial hub."

Also, the developer and architect are planning on moving bunker-stlye midlevel suites further up in the bowl to make room for "midpriced premium seats," which replaces "jumbo shrimp" for our favorite oxymoron.

article [Full article, after the jump]

Atlantic Yards Report, Leaked rendering? Barclays Center image also appears in the latest ESDC documents
Norman Oder points out that the rendering couldn't have been "leaked" if they appeared in a public document (Empire State Development Corporation, 6/23/09, Technical Memorandum).

NoLandGrab: One assumes that Ratner and Ellerbe Becket had no clue that the new arena design would be roundly rejected and that the renderings-were-leaked story is the best excuse they could come up with.

DDDB.net, Atlantic Yards Theater of the Absurd Continues

So, remember that Atlantic Yards arena "hangar" design that appeared in the NY Times and elsewhere, which the Times' critic Nicolai Ouroussoff ripped to shreds? Yup, that one that Ratner said is "not his intention," the one that City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden supposedly "leaked," but somehow appears in the official state document governing the Atlantic Yards project (more on that from Norman Oder in relation to this article)?

Well now the hangar's arena's lead architect Ellerbe Becket says that the real rendering will knock your socks off with its evocative "working-class industrial hub" feel replete with "bunker style" luxury suites.

Presumably the "working-class industrial hub" look would be a facade.

The New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff can rest easy.

The exterior of Barclays Center, the New Jersey Nets’ proposed Brooklyn arena, will look nothing like the image the Times published last month, according to James Poulson, Ellerbe Becket’s design director for the project.

The initial rendering, obtained by the newspaper without approval from the NBA team and the architect, shows a red-brick building with an arched roof, a plan that prompted Ouroussoff to rip the design in a critique.

“I’ve heard it called an airplane hangar, a trash Dumpster and a big barn,” Poulson said, chuckling. He served in the same role for developing Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the retro-themed arena that has influenced several NBA facilities built in the last 10 years.

Brooklyn isn’t Indiana, of course, and Poulson echoed the comments made by Nets executive Brett Yormark, who said the arena will evoke the borough’s history as a working-class industrial hub. The exterior in its final form will be “less barnlike,” Poulson said.

“It may be something totally unexpected,” he said. “We would like it not to look like Conseco.”

Inside the arena, Ellerbe Becket principals are designing some midlevel, bunker-style spaces where the early plan is for club seat holders to rent them on a per-event basis for pregame and postgame activities, Poulson said.

It’s a slight twist on bunker suites, the event-level private hospitality spaces with no view to game but tied to courtside seats. Moving those areas up higher in the seating bowl is part of the Nets’ plan to meet market demand for midpriced premium seats, he said

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

As informational meeting approaches, echoes of November 2004, and some pending questions

Atlantic Yards Report

More than four-and-a-half-years after their first informational meeting on Atlantic Yards, Community Boards 2, 6, and 8 tomorrow will sponsor another informational meeting, at Long Island University from 6 to 9 pm, under similar conditions, but with a different lineup.

The 11/29/04 meeting, held at the Klitgord Auditorium of New York City Technical College, was essentially The Plucky Jim Show,"to quote the Brooklyn Downtown Star, which reported on the polished answers of Forest City Ratner's now-departed Atlantic Yards point man, Jim Stuckey.
While I haven't seen the rules for Wednesday, CB 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman, who had the unenviable role of moderating in 2004, said that the meeting will run in much the same manner. Project representatives will make a presentation, then attendees will be able to submit questions on index cards.
Questions should be "closely tethered to the subject," he said, though, I suspect that the subject of the Modified GPP still points to a lot of potential questions.

Click through for Norman Oder's list of potential questions.

Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

Electallujah! Reverend Billy Takes on Bloomberg, Corporate Hegemony and Consumerism

Fog City Journal
By Sunny Angulo and Andy Blue

Atlantic Yards is Reverend Billy's posterproject for Bloomberg-supported boondoggles:

“We’ve shopped ourselves to death. The enormous shopping utopias that Mike Bloomberg had envisioned - just huge projects, some of them the biggest urban renewal projects ever seen in history - they’re killing us. One of them here in Brooklyn involved 16 skyscrapers, the Atlantic Yards Project, a very controversial project. It’s getting smaller and smaller over time, but that’s because the community continues to rise up against it. The government is in such a state of chaos out here in New York now, the community is actually becoming emboldened. It’s a very encouraging time for facing down abusive development. In the case of Atlantic Yards, it was tax-payer financed and led by a billionaire, through a very narrow kind cultural design, really created for 28-year old stockbrokers. Shopping, shopping, shopping - no street lights at all, all glassy, metal and stone hard fronts, with additional space for the 20,000 new cars expected everyday.


Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Forest City in the News

BisNow, DC Commercial Real Estate

Reminder: Tomorrow [7/21/09] is Bisnow's big Breakfast & Schmooze at the Reagan Building! Join two of real estate’s top figures, JBG’s Mike Glosserman and Forest City’s Debby Ratner Salzberg, with Senator Mark Warner, FBR co-founder Russ Ramsey, Clinton Budget Director Alice Rivlin, new Burke & Herbert CEO Hunt Burke, and top lobbyists to hear the latest on federal stimulus and the economy. Recession-busting prices! Sign up!

The Cleveland Leader, RTA Takes Us for the Wrong Ride

If you think that the Ratners have landed a sweet deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, check out what they have going in Cleveland:

Despite the fact that these RTA [Regional Transit Authority] facilities help Tower City, RTA pays some $1 million a year to Forest City Enterprises, owner of Tower City. It’s annual fee for RTA’s use of space into Tower City. RTA pays an addition $32,000 to “reimburse” Tower City for central plant operations. It even pays a utility charge for use of the escalators! There’s room for negotiations here to lower costs.

Isn’t it time to renegotiate these fees lower since there’s less use and Tower City seems to always get reductions of its property taxes?

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

July 20, 2009

Be the Journalist: Atlantic Yards Update

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Sarah Maslin Nir

The newspaper that paid people this week to write articles about corsets for men and the trend in eyebrow-shaving is looking for a "citizen journalist" willing to cover an Atlantic Yards meeting this Wednesday for free.

Interested in the Atlantic Yards project? Then this assignment is for you.

We need a citizen journalist to head to a tri-community board informational meeting on the development of Atlantic Yards. CBs 2 (that’s us), 6 and 8 are joining forces on Wednesday, July 22, to have a good long chat (it’s scheduled to go from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) about what’s going on with the Yards.

We’d love you to go and send us some meeting minutes, new information and all the news that’s fit to blog from that meeting. Deadline: as early as possible Thursday morning. Please send us an e-mail if you’d like to be our citizen journalist for this meeting.


NoLandGrab: We suppose we could be upset that The Times, to which we pay several hundred dollars a year for home delivery, can't be bothered to assign a salaried reporter to this important story, especially since Forest City Ratner, the developer of the paper's headquarters building, is at the center of it. But we choose to look on the bright side — at least there's a chance the coverage might be objective!

Posted by eric at 8:53 PM

The real value of the station naming rights (far less than $4M, or even $2M), and the MTA's stonewalling about setting the price

Atlantic Yards Report

The MTA is not so into sharing, and they're bad at math, to boot.

So, was the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) sale of naming rights to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street station for $200,000 a year over 20 years "a goodly sum," as the New York Times described it in an editorial last month?

No, since, as I describe below, the present value cost to developer Forest City Ratner to slap "Barclays Center" on the stations would be far less than the $4 million sum casually used by the press, and even well less than $2 million.

Michael D.D. White, in his Noticing New York blog, was the first to argue that the naming rights were undersold, though the WNYC piece linked to suggests it's a very inexact process.

So I queried the MTA via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request:
During or after the 6/22/09 MTA Finance Committee meeting, CFO Gary Dellaverson said MTA staff, in an effort to set a price for the naming rights agreement considered for the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. station, looked at naming rights deals set by other transit systems. I would like a copy of any memo or report that MTA relied on to analyze the price of such naming rights deals.

Request denied.

So, how much is the "$4 million" deal really worth?

[Corrected] I've revised these figures based on an email from a reader.

With an interest rate of 6.5% (which the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas called "laughable"), the same for the railyard deal, the present value would be $2,203,701.

With a super-attractive (and unlikely) interest rate of 4%, the present value would be $2,718,065.

But with a more realistic interest rate of 10%, given the cost of corporate borrowing, well, the deal would be worth just $1,702,713 (not $594,575, as I wrote earlier).


Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

July 19, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Updates

Atlantic Yards Report

Catching up on pictures of utility and railyard work

Norman Oder uses recently taken photos, such as the one shown here, to illustrate activity taking place on the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

A video about the Prospect Heights Historic District, and a politic omission

A video from the Municipal Art Society (MAS) offers an effective sketch of the efforts--prompted by teardowns of historic buildings and the looming Atlantic Yards project--to create the Prospect Heights Historic District, which has been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and is expected to be approved by the City Council. ...

While the potential impact of Atlantic Yards certain gets a mention, omitted is the effort to save the now-demolished Ward Bakery, in the southeast block of the AY site.

And, as Tracy Collins's map below points out, the district will wrap neatly around that southeast block, designated for interim surface parking--a fate, I suspect, highly unlikely for the borders of other historic districts. And, of course, that block could have been preserved, as Forest City Enterprises has done in other cities.

Posted by steve at 9:22 AM

Important Meeting- Monday, July 20th at 7:30 – Spread the word!

The Dean Street Block Association

The Dean Street Block Association invites concerned community members to prepare for ESDC's hearings on the modified general project plan for the proposed Atlantic Yards project scheduled for July 29 and 30

Learn what you can do for the upcoming public hearings on Atlantic Yards – join us!

When: Monday, July 20th at 7:30-9:00

Where: 535 Dean Street #313 (Newswalk)

The Atlantic Yards Project is about to proceed through a set of important hearings and new approvals. What is Atlantic Yards now? The city, the state and the MTA have changed the structure of their agreements with Forest City Ratner so that the only parts of the project guaranteed to happen are an arena designed by an architecture firm from Kansas City and the start of two more buildings within five years of the vacant property being delivered to the developer. As of this moment no official illustrations of the site plan of the project exist. With the exception of the addition of some interim open space, images produced last year show the most likely outcome in our lifetimes:


The state continues to argue the project will be built in full, although they concede it will take decades. No independent feasibility studies of the project have been released to the public, and nothing obligates the developer to cover the remaining 2/3 of the rail yard, build underground parking, create the lion’s share of the affordable housing or create any permanent public outdoor space. The environmental analysis of the project still assumes a ten year timetable to full build out and no additional impacts, even though we will almost certainly live within an incomplete or abandoned project for decades.


Posted by steve at 9:11 AM

Support Tish James on July 27th at Moe’s

The Real Fort Greene

The author of this blog entry reviews the candidates challenging Atlantic Yards opponent, Councilwoman Letitia James and argues why James should be returned to the City Council.

In my opinion the choice is obvious. Two relatively unknown, inexperienced candidates who haven’t shown (at this point) a great deal of understanding regarding the myriad of issues facing this community. One candidate in the pocket of Bruce Ratner who seems to be one issue candidate. An experienced incumbent with history of fighting the good fight to stand up for her constituents.

Please attend the fundraiser and show your support.


Posted by steve at 8:57 AM

July 18, 2009

Saturday Morning Trio From Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Tomorrow 2009: unlike previous two issues, no mention of Atlantic Yards (and it comes with the Brooklyn Paper now)

This year's version of the annual advertorial "Brooklyn Tomorrow" can now be found in current issues of the the Courier News Group's (CNG) Courier-Life as well as The Brooklyn Paper. In the previous two issues, the insert featured the proposed Atlantic Yards project and copious amounts of advertising from developer Forest City Ratner. Both are missing this year.

Why omit Atlantic Yards? Surely it remains part of the CNG vision of Brooklyn Tomorrow. Perhaps Forest City Ratner didn't want to share images of the project, either because they're not ready, or the "hangar" of a new arena is too embarrassing.

Maybe it's that there are no advertisements from Forest City Ratner, the Nets, or Barclays this time. Or maybe it's both.

As ESDC public hearing approaches, a planned protest and an opportunity to submit comments

The Empire State Development Corporation, a tool of developer Bruce Ratner, have scheduled public hearings regarding the modified project plan (MPP). Here is some anticipation of what upcoming public hearings will be be like.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) plans a Protest Against Ratner's Rip-Off starting at 1 pm on July 29 outside the Klitgord Auditorium of New York City Technical College.

And, I'd bet, an even larger force of project supporters, notably construction union members and those associated with Community Benefits Agreements signatories, will show up as well.

The ostensible purpose of the hearing is to comment on the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (even though we don't have an updated site plan or official renderings).

But DDDB [corrected] isn't emphasizing efforts to comment on the plan, because it's a done deal. (I had written that they weren't encouraging people to comment; actually, they are also asking people to comment, as well.) The protest, and the project supporters, will all be playing to the cameras.

Comments on the MPP may be presented in written and verbal form:

DDDB noticed the ESDC's announcement:

Written comments will receive equal consideration to testimony received at the hearing, and can be submitted via email or U.S. mail.

Email: atlanticyards@empire.state.ny.us If submitting via email, please indicate in subject line: "Public Comment for Atlantic Yards MGPP."

Mailing address: ESDC Attention: Steve Matlin, Senior Counsel 633 Third Avenue, 37th Floor New York, NY 10017

Deadline for all submission for comments is August 31, 2009 at 5:30pm.

"It's About Bringing NBA Stars to Newark" (well, for preseason games)

From the New Jersey Nets' web site, an advertisement for the two preseason games (of three total) that will be played at the Prudential Center in Newark.

And, of course, should the Brooklyn arena plan fall through, there might be a lot more NBA stars coming to Newark.

Posted by steve at 7:23 AM

July 17, 2009

Courier-Life's Witt responds to letter, misses the point completely

Atlantic Yards Report

More brutal weirdness from Courier-Life "reporter" Stephen Witt.

I wrote a letter June 15 to the Courier-Life chain complaining about unfounded criticism of me; rather than publishing it in the first issue possible, the newspaper has waited until the fifth issue, with a similarly unfounded response from reporter Stephen Witt.

Witt's response

Stephen Witt responds:
Mr. Oder,
Rev. Daughtry deserves his say. The fact that many longtime community people support the project has been largely ignored by all the media, including your highly speculative brand of "citizen journalism." I do note that since my article came out you and a few other media outlets that push the public agenda are beginning to include these views. I also don't agree with journalists that buy into your view that Rev. Daughtry and other groups who signed the CBA are somehow tainted as sources because Ratner helped fund their non-profits. These groups represent thousands of people of all income levels. They are respected in the community and their points of view are just as valid as those who oppose the project. I suggested you take your "brutally weird" self down to the BUILD office and speak to those in the waiting room looking for work.

My rebuttal

It's not a question of whether Rev. Daughtry deserves his say; surely he has been having his say, especially while heckling at the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing.

It's just that, as I wrote, Daughtry's arguments are debatable, and Witt ignores countervailing evidence, such as my citation of Daughtry's longtime ally Charles Barron, an Atlantic Yards opponent, and the long delays in delivering the benefits Daughtry seeks.

Witt ignores the evidence I provide regarding whether I have contacted Daughtry or learned "his side."

Witt initially disparaged me by writing that "many media outlets utilize [my blog] for information without checking his facts," but offered no evidence of errors in my work. He continues to do so in his response, citing my "highly speculative brand of 'citizen journalism.'"

Highly speculative and "brutally weird"? I think that applies to the "real land-grabbers" quote Witt dutifully published.

Yes, I've been to the BUILD office. I recognize that large construction projects create jobs and that people involved in groups and unions that train people or organize workers have an interest in seeing those projects go forward. But that doesn't obviate the responsibility to examine the project.

Witt suggests that it's simply "my view" that groups that signed the CBA are tainted as sources. I direct him to experts on CBAs like Good Jobs New York, Good Jobs First, and the Partnership for Working Families.


Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

Would 40% of AY affordable units be above market? Market-rate studios in Brooklyn's tallest building offer evidence

Atlantic Yards Report

Seems like some 40% of Atlantic Yards promised "affordable" housing units are slotted to be more expensive than market-rate rents charged in other buildings. And you can't chalk up the premium to a "Frank Gehry design" anymore.

Three years ago, in July 2006, Forest City Ratner projected that "affordable" studios for the highest "band" (141%-160% of Area Median Income, or AMI) of those gaining access to subsidized units would cost $1861 a month. Given that AMI has gone up since then, the rent would be higher now, and likely would rise when and if units are built.

However, reports the New York Observer, when the 51-story Brooklyner opens next year, studios are expected to start at about $1550 per month. The studios will be small, 350 to 400 square feet. The affordable Atlantic Yards studios would average 400 square feet.

In other words, a significant slice of the subsidized housing--perhaps 900 of the 2250 units, as I wrote in April--would track or exceed market prices.


Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

The money primary, updated; James nudges ahead; Simon's rivals have cash on hand; Lander leads, Skaller also ready to spend

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder updates the fundraising efforts in the 35th, 33rd and 39th district City Council races.

The latest fundraising reports to the New York City Campaign Finance Board are out.

In a contrast to the reports from May, City Council Member Letitia James has raised more than $8000 more than rival Delia Hunley-Adossa in the race for the 35th District, though the totals raised by each would put them well behind candidates in the nearby 33rd and 39th Districts, where there are vigorous contests for open seats to succeed David Yassky and Bill de Blasio, respectively. In terms of cash on hand, the race is closer; James has about $3000 more.

James has raised $31,030 and has spent $27,713, including $8500 on office rent, $4410 on her fundraising treasurer, and $2000 on the Rosa Parks Democratic Club for petitioning.

James's largest contributor, giving $1000 is Trevor Wilson of Prestige Management, which manages the three Mitchell-Lama towers of Atlantic Terminal II. She also got $500 each from Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union and Local 702 of the Board of Education employees. She gave $500 herself.

Hunley-Adossa has raised $22,585 and spent $23,392, including $7000 to election lawyer and former state Senator Martin Connor.

After in-kind contribution of $2300 from Idris Abdullah for office expenses, Hunley-Adossa's next-largest donor, at $1135, is herself. Also, giving $1000 each are the New York City Council of Carpenters, Willard Hawkins, and Dorothy Bembry-Guet.

Also giving $1000 is Alan Weisberg of One Stop Promotions, an Atlantic Yards supporter (and, perhaps, the same Alan Weisberg associated with the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club in south Brooklyn that spawned Forest City Ratner public affairs VP Bruce Bender).


Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

yard work

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

Construction continues on a temporary rail yard for the MTA LIRR, in anticipation of Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: This is the same construction that came to a halt, ostensibly because of the lawsuits, but coincidentally when the development company Forest City Enterprises was experiencing a cash-flow crisis. However, lawsuits persist, FCE has raised more capital, construction activity has resumed and we wonder why any reporter believes anything that developer Bruce Ratner says.

Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

A question for the Informational Meeting next Wednesday: how does the economic downturn affect tax projections?

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Developerment Corporation will only be answering questions submitted in writing at next Wednesday's informational meeting on Atlantic Yards, so don't bother raising your hand.

Here's a good question from Norman Oder, which we expect will garner a a stock non-answer:

How, given the downturn in the economy, the depressed office market in the city, and the numerous unsold and stalled condos in places like Williamsburg, can the expected office tower and 1930 condos (along with 4500 rental units, half of them at subsidized rents) be built on the projected ten-year schedule?

And, if not, how does that change the projections for tax revenues from Atlantic Yards, which the ESDC said last month would be higher than initially projected?


NoLandGrab: The real answer is that these types of projects NEVER come close to the projected tax revenues.

However this is proof that Atlantic Yards is getting dumberer: now we're supposed to believe that tax revenue projections have increased, even though the project has been scaled down.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

New Opera Takes Center Stage At Galapagos in DUMBO

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Zoe Thomas

Sure the Eagle supports Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, but we're still surprised that the paper whitewashed Freddy's role in the fight (emphasis added):

Opera on Tap started just four years ago in Freddy’s Bar on Dean Street, best known as a meeting place for opponents of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. Like AOP, Opera on Tap promotes contemporary opera in new and unusual locations, giving its performers an opportunity to perform for audiences that “would never step foot in a concert hall,” said Richi.


NoLandGrab: Freddy's Backroom and Bar isn't just a clubhouse for Atlantic Yards opponents — it is BEST KNOWN for being at ground zero for Bruce Ratner's eminent domain-assisted land grab. Ratner and the State have been gunning for Freddy's for over five years to make room for the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise taxpayer funded boondoggle.

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

NYT Misleads in Editorial on Census and ACORN

By Matthew Vadum

ACORN's deal with Bruce Ratner to promote Atlantic Yards and administer the affordable housing units is cited as one of the reasons that The NY Times has gone soft on ACORN's ties with the Obama administration.

Then there's the newspaper's woefully inadequate coverage of its business partner Bruce Ratner's ACORN-assisted land grab related to the taxpayer-subsized proposed Atlantic Yards project right in the newspaper's own backyard in Brooklyn, but perhaps I digress.


Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

July 16, 2009

It came from the Atlantic Yards Report

Three more from the "Mad Overkiller":

Brodsky: "it seems... provable" that MTA did not fulfill fiduciary duty with Atlantic Yards deal (but he won't look further)

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who in early June criticized the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) expected acceptance of a lowered initial cash offer for the Vanderbilt Yard from Forest City Ratner as a violation of its fiduciary duty but then remained quiet as the deal proceeded, has returned to his criticism, saying "it seems to me provable" that the MTA did not fulfill that duty with Atlantic Yards and two other deals.

However, he indicated that the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, which he chairs and which has looked closely at the Yankee Stadium deal, would not look into the Atlantic Yards deal. (As noted below, I think there's room for an inquiry.)

NoLandGrab: Brodsky could get a whole lot more maverick-y by doing a little more poking into Atlantic Yards, and we bet he'd find enough dirt to render himself impervious to payback from Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, an ally of Bruce Ratner, supporter of Atlantic Yards and Albany powerbroker non-pareil.

No renderings or site plan for Atlantic Yards (until September?), but the ESDC suggests a reoriented arena is just a "minor change"

When the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) met June 23 to "adopt"--the first state of the approval process--the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) for Atlantic Yards, it was notable that there were no renderings of the project, given that the boardroom was chock full of renderings when the project was first passed in December 2006.

Even more disconcertingly, there's no new Site Plan for the project--yet, and thus no opportunity to discuss whether a reoriented arena could lead to other changes, such as rescinding the planned closure of Fifth Avenue.

As I wrote last month, the Municipal Art Society (MAS), in its testimony on the project (graphic at right), suggested that, with a north-south re-orientation of the arena, Fifth Avenue could be kept open. Shouldn't that be part of the discussion?

Why talky Public Advocate candidate Bill de Blasio became quiet about Atlantic Yards (and will rival Siegel press the issue?)

Overdeveloper got your tongue?

Any reporter or blogger on Bill de Blasio's mailing list gets a daily stream of announcements and statements, in which the Council Member and Public Advocate candidate weighs in on local and citywide issues--but not Atlantic Yards.

Today, in fact, he plans to attend a press conference in the Bronx, along with Council Member Annabel Palma and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, to demand that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) "guarantee riders a basic level of service and accountability."

And he plans to announce an endorsement from the Rev. Al Sharpton, an Atlantic Yards supporter and longtime ally of the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a signatory of the AY CBA (and noted heckler).

AY criticism recedes

When it came to crossing some of his union supporters (and, for that matter, Sharpton) by questioning the MTA's willingness to cut a sweetheart deal with Forest City Ratner, however, de Blasio and the "independent leadership" he promises was nowhere to be found.

From CBID questionnaires, positions on AY

The candidates [for Public Advocate] were asked about Atlantic Yards by the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, which has endorsed Siegel. Candidates filled out lengthy questionnaires (here and here) on numerous issues.

Siegel on AY:
The use of eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards project is unconstitutional, illegal, and absolutely inappropriate. I have always opposed it, dating back to 2004 and 2005 when I was counsel to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. Unfortunately, this attitude towards development is not an isolated incident, but has been a troubling pattern of the Bloomberg administration – which I know firsthand as I am also counsel to Tuck It Away Storage in their fight against the use of eminent domain in Columbia University’s expansion plan.

Here's a City Limits profile on Siegel.

de Blasio on AY:
I became a supporter of the project because of the groundbreaking affordable housing program, jobs and other community benefits, and felt it to be an appropriate use of eminent domain. I have said publicly that no further public subsidies should be granted or demolitions allowed until there is evidence that the Community Benefits Agreement will be adhered to. It is also essential that surrounding neighborhoods have a larger, ongoing role in the project.

That's what he told City Limits, too. Note that, when the MTA expanded subsidies to Forest City Ratner, de Blasio was silent.

Green on AY:
Being out of office, I had no public role or say on the Atlantic Yards development. My views now are that the City and Borough economy obviously need smart growth, which must include a good chunk of any residential housing in Atlantic Yards be affordable. Eminent domain turns on the extent of the public purpose, which I haven’t yet examined in this case. Obviously, given what’s happened to the City in general and that project in particular, the economics and scale of Atlantic Yards now needs to be reexamined if not reimagined.

Here's a City Limits profile on Green, whose brother is a real estate mogul.

Gioia on AY:
My position today is the same as it was in 2005 – I am opposed to the use of eminent domain for purely economic reasons. I did not vote in favor of the Columbia University project for similar reasons. If you respect property rights, you have to respect property rights for the little guy as well as for the big shots.

Here's a City Limits profile on Gioia.

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Diamondstone: Over 5,000 Brooklynites Call for Real Reform

Hot Indie News

City Council candidate Ken Diamondstone announces petitioning results in a release that touts his long-standing and well-documented opposition to Atlantic Yards.

“I am the only candidate in this race with a record of real reforms,” Diamondstone said. “I’m not afraid to stand up to the powers that be. Borough President Markowitz tried to force me off the Community Board when I dared to question Atlantic Yards, and I fought back and won. If elected I will continue to fight for the people, not the powerful.”

Diamondstone has a well-earned reputation as a reformer willing to take risks and standing on principle. He has always opposed developments that put community interests second, including the Dock Street project that blocks views of the Brooklyn Bridge and his opposition to luxury housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park.


Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Architect's Newspaper Blog, The Rumble in Aspen

Matt Chaban picks up on the story of Frank Gehry's great-and-powerful-Oz dismissal of a serious and legitimate question from Project for Public Spaces' Fred Kent.

How we found out about this was through the all-things-Ratner-Gehry-and-Times-related Atlantic Yards Report. Never one not to parse everything related to the above three–and our hats off to him for doing so–Norman Oder discovered the one contentious conversation of the otherwise lovely affair, when Gehry called no less eminent urban thinker Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces “a pompous man.” Wow.

NoLandGrab: Gehry, who claims urban planning bona fides, should've known who Fred Kent was; if he truly didn't, that tells one pretty much all one needs to know about the legitimacy of those bona fides.

Noticing New York, The Jane Jacobs Way for Coney Island

Atlantic Yards merits a couple of mentions in this piece about Jane Jacobs, Coney Island, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn and "Bloombergian" development.

The city picked Monday to dedicate and rename a portion of Hudson Street where she lived “Jane Jacobs Way.” This produced the odd spectacle of politicians, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn praising community activists and protestors who fight what used to be thought of as Robert Moses-style development, development that is oblivious to communities, their input and their wisdom about their own neighborhoods. These days that style of development is more apt to be thought of as Bloombergian. The event also produced protesters, mainly “an army Janes,” protesters who were dressed up as Jane Jacobs and asking that the city plan for Coney Island be fixed. We were one of that group; we wore Jane Jacobs glasses but not a wig.

Our Streets — Our Stories (Dean Street Block Association), Meeting Monday, July 20th at 7:30

Important Meeting:

Learn what you can do for the upcoming public hearings on Atlantic Yards

When: Monday, July 20th at 7:30-9:00

Where: 535 Dean Street #313 (Newswalk)

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Breakfast-of-Candidates: Comptroller Bill C. Thompson (Running for Mayor)

Louise Crawford interviews Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.

Atlantic Yards?

" I did initially support it. I have real concerns now. I will continue to re-evaluate it, meet with individuals, have a conversation. I plan to sit down to talk and evaluate," he said.

My reaction: You lived in Prospect Heights and initially supported the Atlantic Yards???? Yikes. And why aren't you more outraged now? Many Brooklyn Democrats are.

Atlantic Yards Report, Mayoral candidate Thompson tepid on Atlantic Yards: "I plan to sit down to talk and evaluate"

My reaction: Thompson has had ample time to evaluate. In May 2008, he was pretty vague about AY.

For example, Thompson is supposed to be a watchdog over city funds, and it was Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) appointees of Mayor Mike Bloomberg who led the defense of the MTA's sweetheart deal last month with Forest City Ratner. Thompson said nothing.

Expect long-shot candidates Democrat Tony Avella and the Green Party's Reverend Billy Talen to make a lot more noise about AY.

mole333's blog (The Daily Gotham), Ratner Puts a Downpayment on Brad Lander

Blogger David Michaelson's post about a contribution from Forest City Ratner's Richard Greenspan (he's Chuck Ratner's son-in-law and a Park Slope resident) to City Council candidate Brad Lander was met with criticism from a number of parts, since the contribution was quickly returned. But Michaelson believes people are missing the point, as he explains in this update to the original post:

To those who point out that he is returning this money. That is all well and good. But my point isn't really altered by that, though maybe I wasn't clear. In fact as you go through his filings, many, many developers donate. Some gets returned (the most blatant ones). But Greenspan, as well as many others, are seeing Brad as their candidate to buy...and that has to raise a red flag to people. Greenspan and the Ratners must see Brad as on their side the same way Vito is clearly on their side.

NLG: Actually, the money was returned the day it was received, about a year ago, according to the NYC Campaign Finance Board web site.

Hildy Johnson's Blog (Room Eight), Forest City Lander

The pseudonymous "Hildy Johnson" jumps on the bandwagon.

In fairness, I should note that Lander returned this money.

But the point isn’t that Lander took the money. The point is that they were so eager to give it to him. Greenspan and the Ratners see Lander is on their side.

And they didn’t get rich by being stupid.

NLG: Actually, "fairness" would probably be something else entirely. While we'd prefer that Mr. Lander were an outright opponent of Atlantic Yards rather than just a critic, and we expect to endorse one of his rivals, we don't believe mole333 and "Hildy Johnson" are being entirely fair.

the transport politic, Regional Rail for New York City – Part I

Atlantic Yards gets a mention (they mean the Vanderbilt Yard) in this interesting piece about improving the New York-area rail system.

An extra stop at Sunnyside could come with air rights over the adjacent Sunnyside Yards, which one hopes the MTA would sell more competently than it has Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

July 15, 2009

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card, cont'd

Blogger Michael D.D. White has been putting Atlantic Yards to the Jane Jacobs test. Thus far, Atlantic Yards isn't getting a passing grade — today's marks pretty much meet expectations:

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #21: Avoidance of Harmful Gigantic Outdoor Advertising? NO

Jane Jacobs was unusually tolerant of what ought to be permitted in an urban environment but goes out of her way to say that except in very unusual situations very large billboards and signage is destructive because they are visually disorganizing to streets, and overly dominating. The Atlantic Yards proposal involves illuminated (changeable and perhaps animated) electronic signage of up to 150 feet,- That is billboards 15 stories tall- and to accomplish putting these signs in the middle of historic brownstone neighborhoods would override local regulations which would normally, in such an area, be stricter than usual to prevent such signage. No sports facility in the city has similarly huge signage.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #22: Avoidance of Enterprises and Uses Harmful Because the Scale Is Wrong? NO

Jane Jacobs pointed out that there were enterprises or uses which she referred to as `exploding’ the street that were not, in themselves wrong, but which were harmful if they were operating at too large a scale, with too much disproportionately large street frontage. The disproportionately large street frontages at Ratner’s Atlantic Centers are examples of such street exploders and bode ill for Atlantic Yards. Security problems at Metrotech have created similar problems at that location which have gone unaddressed. But even if the ground floor space at Atlantic Yards is leased to retail operators that use smaller street frontages in a break from past Ratner practices, the effect of the street being broken up will occur because the buildings in Atlantic Yards are spaced apart so that they will not have continuous uninterrupted streets.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #23: Protection Against Self-Destruction of Diversity of Building Use? NO

Jane Jacobs describes a problem of the too successful city where diversity is lost when supplanted by crowded uses like banks or insurance companies that lack diversity. Though each is economically successful in its own right, Jacobs feels a dull monotony takes over with the crowding.... This has application to Atlantic Yards mainly in that buildings that could have been converted and enlisted for such “staunch” uses, perhaps as schools or libraries, are being torn down instead.

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

Gehry vs. Kent, the "lame excuses" to Fallows, and the unmentioned example of Gehry and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

When two characters from the Atlantic Yards drama meet up in Aspen, a starchitect takes things a little too far:

In the past ten days or so, the outline of a curious episode involving Frank Gehry at the Aspen Ideas Festival has emerged in the blogosphere, but now that the video has surfaced, we can all judge for ourselves.

My summary: Gehry was obnoxiously imperial in dismissing some legitimate questions by Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces (PPS); Gehry should know Kent by reputation but apparently does not; Kent did ask a legitimate but longwinded question and was not “pompous” as Gehry dismissed him; and, yes, Gehry is quite thin-skinned, as we’ve learned from his role in the Atlantic Yards saga.


NoLandGrab: Like Norman Oder, we're shocked, shocked(!), that Frank Gehry was busted for being an obnoxious egomaniac. Atlantic Yards watchdogs and critics have been on the receiving end of Gehry's ignoranting more than once.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

July 22: Come Out and Ask Ratner and ESDC Your Questions

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Don't you think it is long past time for the ESDC and Ratner to discuss Atlantic Yards with the community on equal footing?
We do.

Don't you think it is long past time for the ESDC and Ratner to answer direct verbal questions and comments, rather than through a moderator, and to answer folllow-ups?
We do.

Don't you think it is long past time for the community to be in charge of the community's future, rather than the ESDC and Ratner?
We do.

Come on out and verbally ask your questions and make your comments to the ESDC and Ratner...


NoLandGrab: Do you think that Bruce Ratner should put us out of his misery?
We do.

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

July 14, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere...

Noticing New York, Waiting for What Thompson Will Say Specifically about Atlantic Yards

Michael D.D. White wonders when (if?) Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is going to let the current Mayor have it over Atlantic Yards.

City Comptroller and candidate for mayor, William Thompson, kicked off a five borough tour in Brooklyn Saturday morning.

We are waiting because it is obvious that Thompson will soon have to say a lot more and get specific about Atlantic Yards. And as we said when we wrote previously, it should be easy for him to come up with some stiff criticism: The project which was always bad has gotten so much worse.

Meanwhile, a few notes about Saturday morning. Mostly what was important was who was there. (Marty Markowitz was not.)

Click through for the who's who, and their positions on Bruce Ratner's boondoggle.

NETSARESCORCHING, Lawrence Frank Broken Down

Does Nets' coach Lawrence Frank owe his job to Atlantic Yards opponents?

Frank’s Staying. Let’s say that the Nets start the year 0-15, Lawrence Frank isn’t going anywhere. Despite what the Nets’ front office says, Bruce Ratner was definitely behind the decision to keep Frank, because there is no way that Ratner is going to pay two coaches’ salaries next year. Since we found out Frank was staying, Ratner’s money situation has only gotten worse.

NBA.com, Atlantic Division breakdown

NBA.com columnist Fran Blinebury picks the Nets — for last.

Up in the air -- Everything about the future of the franchise seems to be floating. Team owner Bruce Ratner is up to his eyeballs in financial problems with his development company, the move to Brooklyn is in limbo and execs Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe have all their eggs in the basket of landing LeBron James next summer.

But, of course, nothing that happens next season means anything. It's all about the summer of 2010 and landing King James. If the Nets don't win the LeBron Sweepstakes -- and the odds are longer than winning the lottery -- they'll be stuck at the bottom for a long, long time.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Ratner's Nets Now a Doormat

DDDB offers congratulations to the Nets' owner for that last-place prognostication.

Kudos Bruce, you've officially turned a contender into a doormat in only five years!

Nets Daily, State Expects to Market Arena Bonds Soon

Nets Daily boils down Atlantic Yards Report:

The Empire State Development Corp., Bruce Ratner’s partner in Barclays Center, plans to issue tax-exempt bonds for the arena even before the Court of Appeals rules on the critics’ eminent domain case. The ESDC has a Dec. 31 deadline to sell the bonds. The plan is to market them beginning in September. The court appeal will be heard Oct. 14. The bond sale is expected to generate as much as $650 million.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

ESDC says it hopes to sell $650 million (not $531 million) in arena bonds even while Atlantic Yards appeal is pending

Atlantic Yards Report

So, the projected amount of tax-exempt arena bonds would be larger than initially announced, indicating more savings for developer Forest City Ratner.

A New York Times article on July 1 stated:
The Court of Appeals' involvement, announced on Monday, is the latest hurdle to Mr. Ratner's plans to build a $772 million basketball arena, the centerpiece of the project. The developer and his bankers intend to sell about $650 million in bonds for the arena in late September.

That $650 million number was surprising, because, at the June 23 meeting of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board, a memo stated that tax-exempt arena financing was $531.1 million.

The explanation

"The sizing of the tax-exempt and taxable financings is still in flux," ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston responded. "The $531 [million] number in our Board materials was a net number--exclusive of cost of issuance, capitalized interest, debt service reserve and bond insurance. In particular, the latter three are very big numbers. $650 [million] is a good ball park number for the tax exempt bond financing. The taxable piece will be relatively small (maybe $30-$50 million)."


Posted by eric at 4:59 AM

July 13, 2009

Community Boards Call Atlantic Yards Meeting for ESDC and Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The agency that gives very little information will be joined by the developer which falsely prides itself on its "information sharing" to let you, the public, know what is going on with their Atlantic Yards debacle.

More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Forest City Ratner to answer (written) questions at "informational meeting" July 22; when will new arena design be released?

In other words, don't expect Forest City Ratner representatives to be pressed to answer questions. Remember, they refused to attend the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing at Pratt Institute.

Forest City Ratner has promised that the renderings of the arena that have emerged are preliminary, and that new designs will be released.

The question: will the new designs be released just on the eve of the informational meeting, or just on the eve of the public hearing?

Posted by eric at 10:49 PM

The Billyburg Bust

A working-class neighborhood became a bohemian theme park, which in turn became a fantasyland for luxury-condo developers. Now, littered with half-built shells of a vanished boom, Williamsburg is looking like something else entirely: Miami.

New York Magazine
by David Amsden

A big honking overdevelopment cautionary tale is unfolding ever-so grimly in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Are you paying attention, Empire State Development Corporation and Governor Paterson?

With sales across Brooklyn down a staggering 57 percent from a year ago, Williamsburg, with its high density of new construction, has taken on an ominous disposition. Walk down virtually any block and you’ll come across an amenity-laden building that sits nearly empty: relics of a moment in history that seems, increasingly, like a fever dream. Some developers with iffy financing have quietly been forced to go rental, others have lowered prices to the point where losses are inevitable, and a handful of projects, including two buildings Maundrell had been selling, have gone into foreclosure.

Most unsettling are the cases of the developers who seem to have vanished, leaving behind so many vacant lots and half-completed buildings—eighteen, to be precise, more than can be found in all of the Bronx—that large swaths of the neighborhood have come to resemble a city after an air raid. “I mean, look at that,” Maundrell said as we drove down a particularly grim block on North 9th Street that was lined on both sides by pits of mud where luxury buildings were supposed to be going up. “No signs of anyone actually building anywhere. It’s crazy. My lovely Williamsburg is filled with all these vacant sites everywhere you look.”


NoLandGrab: With hundreds of finished apartments sitting vacant in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and thousands more coming on line this year and next, remind us again: why is the ESDC pushing full speed ahead on Atlantic Yards?

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

Atlantic Yards Informational Meeting

This notice came to us via Brooklyn Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman.


Please join Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 & 8 at an Informational Meeting to hear an updated presentation on proposed modifications to the Atlantic Yards Development General Project Plan. At this meeting proposed modifications to the plan will be presented by representatives for the New York State Empire Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner Companies. Following the presentation there will be an opportunity for questions (to be submitted in writing) and answers.

Meeting will be held 6:00-9:00pm on July 22, 2009 at Long Island University's Zeckendorf Health Sciences Center, Room 107 (enter Dekalb Avenue, off Flatbush Avenue).

Click here [PDF], or use the following link for meeting notice: http://www.brooklyncb6.org/calendar/#22

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

NBA Execs "Impressed" With Nets as Planned Move to Brooklyn Is "In Tatters"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB looks at a report praising the Nets front office's personnel moves — and panning ownership's blundering.

Surely the executives can't be impressed with the Nets numbers or their effort to get out of dodge. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

...Nets impress:

If you talk to executives around the league, many are impressed with what the New Jersey Nets have been doing.

They got out from under Vince Carter's contract and picked up a very good young player in Courtney Lee besides expiring contracts from the Orlando Magic. They now have three quality young pieces to build around: Lee, All-Star Devin Harris and promising young big man Brook Lopez. The Nets also get good draft picks coming their way plus a load of salary-cap space next summer.

The major problem is their plan to move to Brooklyn is in tatters, and their owner is quickly running out of money because they languish in one of the worst arenas in the NBA...

Mighty impressive!


Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #s 18, 19 & 20

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White continues his series asking "what would Jane Jacobs do?" in the case of Atlantic Yards.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #18: Improved Mass Transit Bus Service by Avoidance of One-Way Streets? MAYBE NOT

Jane Jacobs pointed out technical reasons why two-way streets favor and assist the mass transit use of buses. The City’s Department of Mass Transportation has been unable to envision how the city transportation systems will be able to handle the extra loads associated with a project the size of Atlantic Yards. It will be a problem in terms of vehicular transit on the street and also because DOT has reported that the subway lines serving Atlantic Yards are already at maximum capacity and will not be able to be suitably upgraded in the foreseeable future applicable to the project’s construction. Without a good solution available, DOT flailed at the problem by proposing to accommodate Atlantic Yards by turning Brooklyn’s Sixth and Seventh Avenues into one-way streets. (Fifth Avenue is proposed to be partly shut down by the Atlantic Yards project.) If this were done it would be despite the particular technical problems for buses that Jane Jacobs pointed out, notwithstanding that mass transit buses might be the main hope available to deal with the sudden huge population Atlantic Yards would dump into this area of Brooklyn.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #19: Avoidance of Harmful Large and Heavy Trucking Depots? MAYBE NOT?

Jane Jacobs views trucking depots in the wrong areas as adverse to neighborhoods. Atlantic Yards is not proposing that trucking depots will be built within its final design. But there will likely be many years where construction trucks fill the neighborhood.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #20: Avoidance of Harmful Gas Stations? MAYBE YES/MAYBE NO

Jane Jacobs suggested that gas stations in the wrong areas would deaden neighborhoods. Those looking for a positive accomplishment in the Atlantic Yards Development can point out that a gas station will be one of the condemned businesses. On the other hand, the gas station which sits on an island on busy Flatbush Avenue might be in about as good a place as it might ever be in terms of not disturbing an adjoining neighborhood. Arguably, on the other side, when it goes out of business at this location it is possible the demand for an unfilled service may result in a new gas station springing up in a less desirable location.

The Mobil station in question, at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, has since been demolished by Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 9:16 AM

NYPD's new warnings about high-risk buildings bolster argument for additional look at Atlantic Yards security

Atlantic Yards Report

So, how close would the revised Atlantic Yards arena be from the street?

We don't know, nor do we know whether buffer zones are being designed into the facility. Nor do we know what the facility would look like, since Forest City Ratner says that designs that have emerged from new architects Ellerbe Becket are not final. (The rendering at right certainly puts the arena close to the street.)

But these questions have grown in importance, especially because the New York Police Department (NYPD) on July 1 released a new guide to security for high-risk buildings, a category that likely includes the arena and could include the flagship officer tower (Building 1) still planned.

As Alan Rosner, co-author of July 2005 White Paper on terrorism and security issues regarding Atlantic Yards, commented, "They have done more with this single publication than the five-year community and local elected officials' effort to get the ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] to take this issue seriously. The timing couldn't be better."


Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Years-long Terminal Tower renovation nearing completion

Forest City Enterprises, development company for Atlantic Yards, can do preservation and renovation when they want to.

At 79, Terminal Tower is older than Superman and may well be the first tall building he leapt in a single bound.
A years-long renovation project by its owners, Forest City Enterprises, is close to completion. An 80th birthday party, a year from this month, will showcase the work that has taken place since 1997 - a total makeover from top to bottom, inside and out. With a reverence for the classical interior and beaux-arts facade, every window and every elevator have been replaced, every surface has been repaired, replaced, polished or painted. All of this without disturbing the peregrine falcons that have nested on a 12th-floor ledge, or upsetting the ghost left behind by master plasterers above the main entry's majestic barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Associated Press, D.C. commercial property market resisting downturn

Even as the recession continues to squeeze commercial real estate owners across the United States, the impact on the nation's capital has been significantly less severe.

Washington's edge? Uncle Sam.
"Over (last) summer things started to go flat and got progressively softer," [Hessam Nadji, managing director at Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services] said.

Yet developers are forging ahead with new retail projects like The Yards, which will add 400,000 square feet for shops and restaurants. The 42-acre project is being built by Forest City Washington Inc. in the Capitol Riverfront district and also will feature some 1.8 million square feet of office space and 2,800 residences.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

Goodbye corporate handouts: How Arizona's "Taj Ma-mall" could end corporate welfare

Enter Stage Right
By Darcy Olsen

Congratulations Bruce Ratner! Your Atlantic Yards megaproject is now a national poster project for corporate handouts:

Feeling outraged about the billions of dollars pouring into GM and Chrysler's private pockets? Now take a look in your own backyard, where state and local subsidies cost over $50 billion annually—from Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards to everyday big-box retailers. Taxpayers have a long tradition of losing corporate handout battles, but a new court case could bring these boondoggles to a screeching halt: Arizona's Taj Ma-mall.

The article explains that many state constitutions have tougher provisions than the federal constitution for protecting against corporate giveaways.

For example, one of the points being argued in the case just accepted by the State Appeals Court has to do with the constitutionality of using eminent domain for uses other than low-income housing.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

July 12, 2009

In Architectural Record (February 2007), editor called for "employing other voices"; now what?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look at a mostly ignored article from 2007 that examined the proposed Atlantic Yards project through a mostly architectural viewpoint. After two years, a new look would be a good idea.

This is well over two years late, but I don't think anyone noticed a thoughtful but flawed February 2007 column by Architectural Record editor Robert Ivy, headlined City of Trees and published shortly after the Atlantic Yards project was officially approved but, obviously, well before significant changes were made.

It's worth another look and Atlantic Yards, I think, deserves Ivy's attention again.

Ivy points to the need for development at the crucial intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, cited the need for housing in the city, and pointed out the importance of professional sports in what could be the fourth-largest city in the country. (I don't buy his restatement of the cliche that Brooklyn is "still grieving the loss of the Dodgers in 1957," however.)


However, he acknowledges concern: Soon residents of surrounding property and their sympathizers began to protest the disruption to the urban fabric that the 22-acre master plan proposed. They decried the loss of low-scale housing in the Prospect Heights neighborhood (a gentrifying area), the use of eminent domain by a civic authority to block viable streets, and the variation in scale presented in the proposed project.

It's even more than urban design, scale, and even eminent domain, given factors like superblocks and indefinite interim surface parking. The big issue is process--why else would the Municipal Art Society's Kent Barwick have mused that AY might be "this generation's Penn Station"?

Oder goes on to examine the role of Frank Gehry in the planning and promotion of the project as well as the original concept that Gehry would have been responsible for planning every building for the project.

He concludes by looking at how realistic a compromise solution might be and suggesting a fresh look.

Ivy concludes: New York needs density, and more housing, but not at the expense of alienating urban advocates who decry closed streets, inadequate affordable-housing options, or imperiled existing residences. Their voices must be taken into consideration. Ultimately, Atlantic Yards will comprise its own city within the city. As Gehry himself has proposed, his large commission can be improved by employing other voices to build on the plans he has laid out to date, adding other sensibilities to the architect’s own, layering the new community now in formation with multiple points of view, and enriching the borough and the whole city as a result. (Emphasis added)

This is essentially a "mend it, don't end it" solution, reasonably close to the issues raised by BrooklynSpeaks.


But it doesn't square the circle: if existing residences are to be saved and streets not to be closed, Forest City Ratner's master plan must be significantly altered--and probably couldn't work. It implies a lower density; if so, the developer couldn't fulfill the affordable housing pledge it made.

Moreover, it doesn't deal with the dubious claims of blight. Nor does it deal with the developer's pattern of misleading the public.

It's understandable that Ivy, like other architecture critics, would focus on issues of urban design. But a project this big raises other questions, as well.

Now that it's been two years and counting, he should revisit the issue.


Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

The Lawyer Who Freed Prince

By Alenka

This profile of attorney L. Londell McMillan has a fuzzy mention of his involvement in the proposed Atlantic Yards development. There's an implication that he's an investor in the project, but it seems more likely that he is an investor only in the New Jersey Nets. Either way, the team will not be playing in Brooklyn in 2009 as the article suggests.

McMillan is his own best advertisement. In addition to his personal real estate investments, he has partnered with Bruce Ratner, a real estate developer whose handiwork-the MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, for example-McMillan has esteemed since boyhood. "I admired his ability to develop big projects and interface in urban areas that many developers were less excited about investing in," says McMillan, who became one of several investors in Ratner's newest project, the Atlantic Yards, a $4.5 billion residential, retail and commercial development that will include co-ownership of the New Jersey Nets. As early as 2009, the team will move to Brooklyn and call the Yards' sports arena its new home. "It feels surreal to be part of a group that has its own team," says the former athlete. "It's gratifying to have equity in something I'd support as a fan."


NoLandGrab: It would probably be more gratifying to have equity in something that wasn't losing money.

Posted by steve at 7:54 AM

July 11, 2009

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's AY fig leaves

Atlantic Yards Report

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership essentially serves as a representative for developers, so visitors to their website (a screenshot of it is here) should have their b.s. detectors in good working order. Fortunately, Norman Oder is here to set things straight.

You'd think the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) would've gotten this right, especially since its representatives last month testified in favor of Atlantic Yards before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation.

However, it claims on its web site that Atlantic Yards would be "built over the rail yards near Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues...."

For the record, Atlantic Yards would cover 22 acres; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard is about 8.5 acres. The project can't be built over the rail yards.

Also, some of the numbers are off; as approved in December 2006, the project would include 6430 housing units, a reduction from the 6800 once promised and stated on the DBP web site. There is no plan as of now for hotel space.

And, of course, the Atlantic Yards site is not in Downtown Brooklyn, but would extend it.

Why bother with these seemingly minor issues? Because some people unfamiliar with the project may take the DBP's representations at face value.


Posted by steve at 8:01 AM

David Carr's review of the I.F. Stone bio, the alleged lack of shoe leather reporting, and the blog coverage ignored

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder defends the usefulness of blogs, and of his Atlantic Yards Report in particular, in this open letter to David Carr.

Dear Mr. Carr,

I'm befuddled by your blanket dismissal of the blogosphere in today's New York Times review of the new biography of legendary independent journalist I.F. Stone.

In your concluding paragraph, you wrote: After reading Mr. Guttenplan’s extensive, loving reconstruction of Stone’s outside-in approach to journalism, it might be tempting to suggest that Stone was a protoblogger, a postmodern journalist who hacked his own route to an audience long before there was something called the Internet. But his insistence on shoe leather over rhetoric has yet to be replicated in digital realms. As it is, his life and work are reminders that knowing more than anyone else is the surest way to win an argument. (Emphasis added)

Sure, no journalist using the blog format has produced a body of work to rival Stone's output, but there's lots of shoe leather reporting out there. Scott Rosenberg cites Talking Points Memo and Firedoglake, among others, in his new book Say Everything.

Closer to home, and I know you live in New Jersey, you somehow haven't noticed how my Atlantic Yards Report often provides a far more comprehensive account of the Atlantic Yards controversy than does the Times.

Just in the past six weeks, consider coverage of the May 29 State Senate oversight hearing; the June 22 Metropolitan Transportation Authority Finance Committee meeting (and more); the June 23 Empire State Development Corporation board meeting; and the June 24 MTA board meeting (with video).

And consider how the Times fell down, either ignoring the events entirely or downplaying crucial details.

As for winning an argument, consider this dispute I had with the Times over the newspaper's unwillingness to correct an unqualified prediction that the Barclays Center, the arena in the Atlantic Yards plan, will be built.

Please keep in mind that the unlimited space provided by the Internet, as well as the ample opportunity for citations and factchecking, should foster much more work, not less, in the spirit of Stone.

I read with interest your piece last Saturday about stumbles by the Washington Post's publisher. Consider that the Times, given its inadequate, distorted, and absent coverage of Atlantic Yards--a project of the parent New York Times Company's business partner, Forest City Ratner--is long overdue for similar scrutiny.

Norman Oder
Atlantic Yards Report
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by steve at 7:21 AM

This is the Coney Island the Bloomberg Administration Doesn't Want the City to Have

Noticing New York

The focus of this blog entry is the release of images by the Municipal Art Society (MAS) that clearly show the problems with a proposed city plan for redevelopment of Coney Island. Also, MAS's "Atlantic Lots" images are recalled.

Not only are MAS’s images informative but MAS has previously been marvelously prescient in producing urban development image projects. MAS was right on target with its "Atlantic Lots" website. That website, predicting that the Atlantic Yards megaproject (yet another Bloombergian mega-vision project) would become just a generic arena surrounded by parking lots, furnished images that have turned out to be exactly right. Right now, Forest City Ratner, the developer proposed to get a monopoly over a swath of Brooklyn, just wants to build a crude airplane hanger style arena. Notwithstanding, FCR would get a blight-inducing ultra-long-term, low-cost exclusive option on many times the acreage needed for that arena. That extra acreage is where FCR would get to put parking lots for perhaps as long as 30 or 40 years. And the developer has already been busy tearing the neighborhood down.


NoLandGrab: Like Atlantic Yards, the redevelopment of Coney Island has not received nearly the attention it should be getting from mainstream media, so you may not be aware of the plan that will likely destroy Coney Island as an amusement destination. Click on the above link and take a look at this video, Don't Kill Coney! Fix the Plan!: A Friendly PSA from Coney Island's 'Mayor', to come up to speed quickly on this issue.

Posted by steve at 6:52 AM

Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) Organized Trend Formed: 22.4% Move in 57 Days


We're not the only ones noticing that the stock price is still slipping for the developer of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) Organized Trend Formed: 22.4% Move in 57 Days SmarTrend's proprietary algorithms detected bearish price action on shares of Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) which generated a Downtrend alert on May 14, 2009 at $6.29.

Since the alert, FCE.A has trended 22.4% lower as of today's recent price of $4.88.


Posted by steve at 6:45 AM

DDDB: We Proudly Introduce 3 New Members of Our Advisory Board

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This is an item from DDDB's newsletter (subscribe to the newsletter here) announcing additions to their advisory board.

We are very proud to announce the addition of three new members to our extraordinary 51-member Advisory Board. We thank them for their support of and participation in our work.

These three Brooklynites, with exceptional and diverse experience, are:

DOMINIQUE BRAVO is an attorney with nearly 20 years of experience representing artists, labor unions, and other individuals and organizations in a wide range of legal issues. Dominique specializes in employment and entertainment law, and provides general management counsel to a number of arts and non-profit organizations. She began her career with the New York law firm of Cohen, Weiss and Simon and previously served as general counsel to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). Dominique currently serves as special counsel to AFTRA in matters concerning sound recording artists, and has a private practice representing individuals and organizations in the arts and entertainment fields. Dominique also serves as an officer on the Board of Directors of Performance Space 122 and on the Board of Directors of the Montessori Day School of Brooklyn. Dominique has lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn since 1991, where she now resides with her husband and three children.

SEAN MEENAN is fifth generation native New Yorker. He is a celebrity entrepreneur, filmmaker, former amateur boxing champion and now manager of boxers, and former board member of Bed-Stuy Boxing Center. Sean's love and consciousness for the environment has always been a primary focus. Sean has been able to intertwine his interests through his career and opened one of the most sought after, under-the-radar restaurants in Manhattan and Fort Greene, Brooklyn called Café Habana. In Manhattan's Nolita, the restaurant is a small neighborhood café that is warm and familial, serving Cuban cuisine. Habana Outpost in Brooklyn is the first solar powered restaurant and marketplace focusing on making sustainability fun and accessible. Since 2005 the Outpost has become a nexus for community activity bringing neighbors, environmentalists, artists and families together into one courtyard. Sean also has created Habana Works, a 501c3 charity, promoting environmentalism and urban study in Brooklyn.

SUSAN S. SULLIVAN is an artist and former city planner. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College and received a planning degree as well as a diploma in real estate from New York University. Susan worked for the City of Newark Division of City Planning, the Newark Housing and Redevelopment Authority and the NJ Pinelands Commission. After moving to Brooklyn in the early 1980's, Susan began to study drawing and painting; she received a BFA from Pratt Institute in 1992. Susan and her husband, T. Dennis Sullivan, live in Prospect Heights. They have two sons

Posted by steve at 6:39 AM

July 10, 2009

A Local Journey: Daniel Goldstein with Brian Carreira

The Brooklyn Rail
by Brian J. Carreira

The Brooklyn Rail sits down for a fascinating, insightful, in-depth interview with the accidental activist, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein.

Daniel Goldstein is the spokesperson and one of the founders of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. He has spent the last five-and-a-half years fighting against—and living in the footprint of—Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. As developer Bruce Ratner continues to face serious financial and legal hurdles, Brian Carreira—the Rail’s former City Editor and long-time writer on Atlantic Yards—sat down with Goldstein at his apartment on Pacific Street in Prospect Heights to discuss his ongoing battle against one of the city’s most powerful players.

Brian Carreira (Rail): You moved here in May 03, and you said you were looking for a place for four years. What made you bite the bullet on this place?

Daniel Goldstein: I was renting on 7th Street between Third and Fourth for seven years. I think about half the time I was there I was looking—it was a little bit of a hobby. I thought it was a good idea to try and own an apartment. I liked the neighborhood. And I liked the building, it had the location that I wanted. I definitely did not know as much about the neighborhood as I do now—what it has to offer. I managed to outbid someone else by a little bit, so it was real close in terms of me getting this place. Atlantic Yards became a rumor, I think in August, because of Patti Hagan, so—what’s that, three months?

Rail: Let’s go back to this space of time between where you went from being interested because it had a personal effect on you and being pissed off, to I’m gonna fight this thing. How long did you think you were going to be committed to this, and what did you think the result was going to be?

Goldstein: I don’t think I was considering how long it might take, which probably means I didn’t think it would take this long…I thought we could challenge the project in court and I thought we could win. I remember conversations with other owners who just thought there was no way to do anything, so why not sell? And that’s perfectly understandable. But it’s hard to explain how I’m the only apartment owner out of two condos and a co-op that stayed. I don’t know how I maintained optimism or a sense of hope that there was something we could do.

After everyone else in the building negotiated a deal with Forest City Ratner, I got a call asking if I’d meet with them. I did, with my lawyer. I think I was just curious what they were going to do. I never seriously considered it. After everyone has sold, what’s the point? And I think I’ve learned what the point is—that basically the sales meant nothing to Ratner. It didn’t get him silence because the people who sold weren’t loud anyway. It didn’t get him this building to demolish. It really didn’t get him anything. If over time they thought they’d isolated me, they haven’t done that either.


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

First crack at EIS appeal denied; eminent domain case oral argument scheduled

Atlantic Yards Report

While neither side announced it, the first effort by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and 25 co-plaintiffs to appeal the decision in the case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) environmental review has failed, as the Appellate Division, First Department on June 30 denied leave to appeal in a one-line decision.

DDDB and fellow plaintiffs can now ask the Court of Appeals directly. The first motion in that appeal is due by the end of July.

It is not certain, however, that even a victory in the case would affect the ESDC's plan to have tax-exempt bonds for the arena or its plan to proceed with emiment domain. Victory might simply require a revision of the environmental impact statement--or it might upend the findings of blight.


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

While Nets' attendance went down 3% last year, ticket revenue went down 29%

Atlantic Yards Report

Marketing genius Brett Yormark was apparently not quite so genius-y last season.

The New Jersey Nets in 2008-09 reported attendance of 15,147, a 3% drop from the reported attendance of 15,656 in the previous year.

But that apparently masked a far more significant decline in revenues. Ken Berger of CBSsports.com reports:
Fifteen teams suffered declines in gate receipts last season, the worst being the New Jersey Nets, whose ticket revenue declined $11.4 million, a 29 percent drop from 2007-08. It's no wonder the Nets want so badly to move to a new arena in Brooklyn.

I wrote last December about the history of inflated attendance figures at NBA arenas and especially Nets home games.

Why the discrepancy between the decline in revenue and the decline in reported attendance? It could be that the Nets last year inflated attendance even more. Or maybe they just gave away or discounted more tickets, thus filling seats but with less revenue.


Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

A Street Encounter Raises Questions About The Working Families Party, ACORN and Atlantic Yards That Seem To Lack Satisfactory Answers

Noticing New York

A Working Families Party canvasser's claim that the WFP and ACORN had parted ways sets Michael D.D. White on a quest for answers (here's one: he got bad info from that canvasser).

Interesting, we thought. This was worthy of investigation. What better way to investigate than to go directly to the Working families Party and ask. A split would be interesting. The Working Families Party was formed by ACORN (and by the auto and communications workers’ unions) in 1998.

We contacted Dan Levitan, spokesperson for the Working Families Party. This is how our discussion unfolded.

Mr. Levitan told us that despite the information we had received on the street, the Working Families Party has NOT disaffiliated from and still maintains relations with ACORN. More specifically, Mr. Levitan informed us that "the scandals at ACORN" at had not caused any disaffiliation.

Clearly Distinguishing Scandals in Actual Question

We had to be clear in our discussion to confirm with Mr. Levitan that by “scandals,” we were not talking about anything like the Fox News attacks on ACORN about their voter registration activities. We were specific that we were instead talking about the embezzlement that was concealed from various people, including the ACORN board and interested government agencies with which ACORN transacts business. We said that we were also talking about the huge loan that ACORN received from Forest City Ratner that was reportedly similarly concealed. We expressed to Mr. Levitan that we believed that when New Yorkers think of the ACORN scandals this is what we think typically jumps to mind.

Will the WFP answer Michael White's questions? Read on for the answer(s).


NoLandGrab: Our own experience with WFP canvassers is that they're quick to claim disavowal of Atlantic Yards, but the reality is a lot messier.

Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

Letter: The MTA’s At It Again

Floral Park Dispatch

The chairman of the village of Floral Park's Long Island Railroad Third Track Task Force wonders why the LIRR is so critically concerned about track capacity — except when it comes to Bruce Ratner's Altantic Yards.

Another component of this new proposal is a smaller capacity LIRR train yard. The developer is now seeking to provide less than the agreed upon number of tracks for the important work of train storage, maintenance as well as the setting and accepting of equipment for scheduled commutes.

Floral Park and other communities along the Main Line have heard, ad nauseum, about the importance of track capacity and flexibility, therefore, the possibility of the MTA lessening that capacity or compromising that flexibility is inconceivable.

Perhaps, when planning its future, the LIRR should look to the quality and expertise of its own engineering staffs and train personnel for solutions rather than the high-priced special interest lobbying groups.


Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

The Court Date Is Set for Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Ryan Thompson

The state’s highest court has chosen a date to consider the constitutionality of Atlantic Yards. Oral arguments are set for Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.

Regardless of what the New York Court of Appeals decides, the multibillion dollar project will likely be delayed until at least winter, based on this schedule.

After oral arguments on Oct 14, a decision from the court is expected to be issued in November or December, meaning that resolution of the eminent domain issues and transferring of title likely won’t happen until sometime next year, assuming that the court finds the use of eminent domain to be constitutional.

Developer Bruce Ratner, facing financial deadlines, had vowed to break ground on the Barclays Center basketball arena in the fall. That now appears impossible, according to the court’s scheduling of the case.


More coverage...

NorthJersey.com, Court date set for Atlantic Yards project

The state’s highest court agreed June 30 to consider the case, in which Brooklyn residents, led by Daniel Goldstein, and several businesses located within the footprint contend that the use of eminent domain to remove holdouts from the project’s footprint would violate the New York state Constitution.

Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

No Kidd-ing

Elyria Chronicle-Telegram

J-Kidd doesn't think Jay-Z has much of a chance of convincing LBJ to play for BCR (Bruce C. Ratner).

Mavericks guard Jason Kidd — an Olympic teammate of LeBron James — chimed in on the never-ending James to New York in 2010 speculation, saying, “I would say (no) right now. He’ll stay in Cleveland.”

Kidd made the statement on Dan Patrick’s nationally syndicated radio show, where he also laughed off talk that James would join rap mogul and close friend Jay-Z with the New Jersey Nets.

“To play in Jersey?” he said using an incredulous tone.

Jay-Z is a part-owner of the Nets, who announced plans to move to a $1 billion arena complex in Brooklyn three years ago, but haven’t put a single shovel in the ground in the New York City borough. Their managing partner is Bruce Ratner of Cleveland’s famed Forest City business empire.

article (scroll down)

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Nets Daily, Date Set for Atlantic Yards Hearing

The Court of Appeals has set Oct. 14 for arguments on a critics’ appeal of a lower court ruling allowing condemnation of private property for Barclays Center.

Willets Point United, Bloomberg says eminent domain unlikely at Willets Point

From an interview with Mayor Bloomberg by the Queens Chronicle -

Question: What is the status of the Willets Point redevelopment project and do you expect to use eminent domain there?

Answer: [Regarding eminent domain] No, people will move. It will take 10 years and a stronger economy to build it up, but we’re already working on the infrastructure. The zoning issues for Willets Point started for the 1964 World’s Fair, so it took 45 years to do. But at least now it will be built up.

Actually, sir, it will take 10 years just for the City to get the people who made deals to stay to vacate. And with the lawsuits that will be filed, you can add another 5 years onto that.

How's that Atlantic Yards project coming along, Mr. Mayor?

Bay Currents, Oligarchy: Rule by Small Powerful Elite

I recently sat down to write about the growing number of people in this country left out of our economy* and their increasing numbers as we [presumably] head toward recovery. Before I got very far, I was bombarded by news reports and personal observations of the injustices amassing against the public nationwide; and to an ever greater extent, here in New York.

Each is a story unto itself, but there is one theme running throughout…abuse of power to enhance the wealth and control of a few at the expense of the general public. Oligarchy, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes”.

Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, the most people friendly of our city-wide elected officials, spoke out against the undemocratic extension of term limits. Mayor Bloomberg and Council Speaker Kathleen Quinn didn’t appreciate her resistance and cut her office 40%, making it nearly impossible to operate. But why should the people have an advocate in Bloomberg’s New York?

Devastating cuts have been made to vital services while billions are diverted to Bloomberg’s pet projects. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, elected as a man of the people, seems to have learned from the master. His pet project, an amphitheater in Asser Levy Park will have an extremely negative impact on the surrounding community which just about unanimously opposes it yet the “man of the people” refuses to even appear in public to hear them out; a typical Bloomberg tactic. (see article in this issue)

While transit fares have risen, the MTA has given Bruce Ratner a sweetheart deal for his Atlantic Yards invasion of the surrounding community.

NY Bullshit, Baby Steps on Affordable Housing

Bloomberg and Quinn announced the creation of a pilot program to buy up unsold condo projects and turn them into ‘middle’ to ‘moderate’ income affordable housing. While this strategy to create affordable housing certainly makes more sense than pumping hundreds of millions of tax dollars into mega developments like Atlantic Yards, and a slight bit more than inclusionary zoning rules, the actual program is a step so meager to be negligible.

The City Fix * DC, Don’t Sell Subway Station Naming Rights

The news is a few days old, but I think it’s really fascinating that New York is considering selling partial naming rights to the Atlantic/Pacific station, the second busiest station in Brooklyn.

In other words, this isn’t popular. Why are people so much more upset by this than by plastering the stations in advertisements in the first place?

It’s a reminder of the importance that public space still has and the absolutely critical role that our subway systems have in creating our social geography.

Posted by eric at 8:54 AM

Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Appeal Oral Argument Calendared

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Oral argument in the Court of Appeals for the appeal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation has been scheduled for Wednesday, October 14 at 2:00 p.m.

The court is located at:
20 Eagle Street, Albany


Posted by eric at 8:51 AM

July 9, 2009

Slip Slidin' Away

Straphangers, who were hit with major fare increases beginning on June 28th, just about the same time that the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was cutting a new sweetheart deal with developer Bruce Ratner over the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard, aren't the only ones getting the short end of the Forest City stick these days.


Investors who bought up the 52.3 million new shares of Forest City Enterprises' Class A stock floated by the company in May, at $6.60 per share, are also feeling pinched. With trading of FCE-A shares closing today at a flat $5, those investors have thus far lost a smidgen less than 25% of their money. Not bad for a few weeks' work.

If it's any solace to those misguided investors — and admittedly, it's hard to find a silver lining when tacking on a 25% loss on top of the hammering the stock market has taken the past year — Ratner family members reportedly purchased about $20 million worth of those shares sold in May.

So at least they're feeling your pain at the same time they're causing it.

Posted by eric at 4:49 PM

ACORN Sells Out the Poor

The American Spectator
by Matthew Vadum

ACORN's highly questionable role in the debacle otherwise known as "Atlantic Yards" is just too much for the conservative Spectator to pass up.

The relentlessly sanctimonious Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now may not deserve its carefully cultivated image as a defender of the poor.

That's because the group has become the leading cheerleader for a controversial real estate development that is slated to use eminent domain to remove the poor people it claims to represent.

ACORN, which has long prided itself on fighting the so-called gentrification of neighborhoods as rising property values force the poor to move, has also taken money from the project's developer and signed a binding agreement forcing it to stand behind the project no matter what.

With Sarah Palin in seeming meltdown, has the Right found a new "intrepid" hearthtrob?

Watchdog Norman Oder is upset that the New York Times hasn't paid enough attention in his opinion to the Atlantic Yards story, especially with respect to Forest City Ratner's payments to ACORN.


Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

Markowitz: "Please, please, please" get AY started (because he'd never support anything not in the interests of Brooklyn)

Atlantic Yards Report

[At last month's MTA Finance Committee meeting, the] only elected official to offer pro-project views was Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who sent Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura, who presented several questionable arguments.

One of the lines was so classic Markowitz that it deserves its own excerpt.

"As we all know, the Borough President would never support anything that is not in the interests of all of Brooklyn and all Brooklynites," Scissura declared.

He wouldn't? Have the interests of Brooklyn been distilled into the consciousness of one enlightened BP? Can they be?

Check out the rest of the article for some stunning lies and developer propaganda delivered by Marty's representative.

NoLandGrab: Since the interests of NY State has been distilled into the consciousness of one enlightened developer, could the BP be right?

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Atlantic Yards utility work

This photo of the resumption of utility work was uploaded by photographer Tracy Collins, to the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool:

Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

Journalism of verification? Times won't back down from claim that there will "soon be a Barclays Center"

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times, utilizing snark typically reserved for the blogosphere, passes on Norman Oder's suggestion that the "Paper of Record" get out of the business of predicting the future:

A June 24 article on naming rights for the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station stated:

There will, however, soon be a Barclays Center, the sports arena planned as the focal point of the Atlantic Yards project...

No correction was printed and, five days later, in a roundup article June 29 on arenas, the Times reported:

Five major complexes — four existing and one planned — will soon be slugging it out within an area 30 miles wide.

...By the time the arena in Brooklyn, which will be called Barclays Center, is built, there will be a total of nearly 100,000 seats to fill, 365 days a year.

Senior Editor Greg Brock responded:

We have been very responsive to your queries in the past and have run corrections when appropriate. I do not think this rises to the level of a correction. I realize you monitor every word in these articles because you have your own perspective. But at some point, we have to use common sense on these points. I am sure you will not agree: but I think this is splitting hairs and not worthy of a correction.

[Read: We have tried to ignore you in the past and have run some corrections in order to try to get you to go away. I do not think you are right, because only a crazy person would read every word in these articles. But at this point, we are the arbiters of common sense, though I'm sure that you will not agree: you are wasting my time, go away.]

Norman Oder comes up with some hypothetical parallel language that might raise some eyebrows:

Let's try a thought experiment. What if the Times were to report today:

There will, however, soon be a nuclear war, a tactic planned as the focal point of North Korean foreign policy

For Mayor Bloomberg, there will, however, soon be a third term, a period planned as the focal point for his sustainability initiatives


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder's "journalism of verification" has a better batting average than the "Paper of Record," so you have to wonder who really has his "own perspective."

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

July 8, 2009

Bruce Ratner: Scumbag Liar

By Genaro Brooks-Church

Here's a pretty good rant from green builders ECO Brooklyn.

I read in the Carroll Gardens Courier that Ratner is continuing his dishonest takeover of the Brooklyn community in Atlantic Yards.

After securing a corrupt deal with the MTA where he will be allowed to buy part of their land he said of the site this week:

“….it is about affordable housing and public space. It is about jobs and opportunity. It is about creating new community in the heart of a thriving borough.”

Lies, lies, lies. It is about his profit. Period. Bruce Ratner is the antithesis of green building and the concept of Build It Forward.

He says the area will be used for sports, conventions, meeting, concerts etc. Anything where you need to put a large group of people together for a couple hours.

So how is the community around Javitz Center? A bunch of desolate concrete roads.

What about the area around Madison Square Garden? Cheap pizzerias and tourists.


Posted by eric at 5:06 PM

Newcomer Bids to Deny Markowitz a Third Term

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Michael Szeto

Eugene Myrick has a message for Fort Greene: Slow down.

Mr. Myrick, an online entrepreneur who is hoping to challenge Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in his bid for a third term, said the neighborhood is developing too quickly.

“On the Fort Greene side of town you have to slow down,” he said in an interview. “Fort Greene is becoming more like Clinton Hill.”

The yield message includes the Atlantic Yards project, which Mr. Myrick strongly opposes, arguing in his campaign that it has received too much support from Borough Hall.


NoLandGrab: Though New York City's electorate twice voted for two-term limits, Markowitz is happily seeking a third, courtesy of Mayor Bloomberg, Christine Quinn and the Bloomberg 29.

Posted by eric at 4:59 PM


Weeks beginning July 6, 2009 and July 13, 2009

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

  • Remobilization of contractors

  • Continuation of general excavation/finish grading in the Yard, Block. 1120 and 1121

  • Continuation of work at the East Portal in preparation for concrete pour

  • Assembly and launching of Trestle Bridge (BL1121)

  • Installation of electrical cable on Cable Bridge (BL1120)

  • Installation of conduit and cable within Yard (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Installation of underground water line (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Work is anticipated to continue through the end of the year.

Environmental Remediation

  • Previously installed rigs have been replaced by small crew and pick up truck.

  • Sampling on Block 1118, lot1 and Block 1119, lots 1, 64, continues


  • Contractor will be moving equipment -- caterpillar-tread machine to site as part of mobilization for infrastructure work

  • Work related to the required Maintenance and Protection of Traffic (MPT) will commence. MPT, as approved by DOT, will include:

    • Modifications to the signal at 6th and Pacific.
    • Barricades will be installed to isolate the Chamber 4 work from vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The west lane of 6th between Pacific and Dean will be closed and will not accommodate southbound traffic on that block. The crosswalk at the southwest corner of pacific and 6th will be closed.
    • As required by DOT’s , Traffic Enforcement Agents will be provided to direct traffic
  • Infrastructure work will consist of the installation of new sewer chambers at the intersection of 6th Avenue at Pacific Street. This work is part of the first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations previously commenced at the site. Chamber work is expected to take 12 weeks from commencement.

Posted by eric at 2:50 PM

Brooklyn will go easy on its skyline

Marketplace Morning Report

American Public Media's all-things-financial program looks at how the recession may affect Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

When a recession hits, building projects get abandoned and not everyone thinks that's a bad thing. In Brooklyn, New York, developers were supposed to be building a massive complex -- millions of square feet of housing and offices and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. Superstar architect Frank Gehry was signed on to the project, called Atlantic Yards. Well now, Sally Herships reports those plans have been scaled way back.

SALLY HERSHIPS: The Atlantic Yards site lies in Brooklyn's district 35. Letitia James is the local city council rep. She's a big critic of the developer, Forest City. And she hates the new architect's design for the basketball arena.

LETITIA JAMES: Now, it's just a barn, an airplane hanger, a mess.

Some Brooklynites look at that so-called mess and get nervous about what their neighborhood might look like. But the recession could come to their rescue. Money has run so short that Forest City may not even be able to build the arena, let alone the office and residential buildings.


Posted by eric at 12:54 PM

Mystery solved! Work on sewer chamber resumes, as Forest City Ratner ramps up construction activities

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that the installation of sewer chambers are mentioned in an Atlantic Yards Construction Update issued for the weeks beginning July 6 and July 13, we finally have an answer to a mystery lingering from May--as well as an indication that life in the Atlantic Yards footprint, given new infrastructure work and the partial closure of Sixth Avenue, will become more complicated, at the least.

I had wondered back then what happened to plans for upgraded water and sewer installations, including, as stated in a Construction Update from last November, "Work will begin on a new sewer chamber on 6th Avenue at Pacific Street."

That new sewer chamber was not mentioned in subsequent Construction Updates, which are issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) via Forest City Ratner (FCR). So I observed that it looks like the utility work stopped abruptly instead of being completed.

The ESDC wouldn't answer but instead sent me to FCR, which, of course, didn't respond. It was another reason to doubt the developer's claim that it had completed all the work it could do while lawsuits were pending

Now much work, including the sewer work, is resuming (though lawsuits are still pending).


NoLandGrab: Last November, we heard through the grapevine that parent company Forest City Enterprises (FCE) wasn't paying their bills and the word in the marketplace was that the company was stricken with a severe cash-flow crunch, which is why work ground to a halt in the footprint of Atlantic Yards.

Subsidiary Forest City Ratner eventually blamed the work stoppage on lawsuits.

Lawsuits are still pending, work has restarted, the only thing that has changed is that FCE recently issued more stock to ease the company's debt burden.

This isn't the first time common sense tells us one thing, while Ratner says another.

Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

Barclays buys rights to Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street station name

The Times (UK)
By Christine Seib

Barclays, which is keen to develop its brand in the US, has paid to have its name added to one of the busiest subway stations in New York in the first deal of its kind.

Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street Station in Brooklyn will have Barclays added to its already lengthy moniker after the British bank paid more than $300 million (£185 million) for the naming rights to a nearby sports stadium — the 18,000-seat Barclays Centre.
The change will not come into effect until the stadium opens in 2012. As part of its deal with Barclays, Forest City Ratner, the developer of the venue, threw in the naming rights to the station.


Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

July 7, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere124.jpgNets Daily, ESPN: New Owners Would Want the Nets to “Stay Put”

In a short item in ESPN the Magazine’s “3 Seconds” column, Ric Bucher reports that “financial issues” may force Bruce Ratner to sell the team. Quoting “multiple league sources”, Bucher also reports “prospective owners want the team to stay put”. SI’s Ian Thomsen reported last week that four groups are interested in buying the Nets but that any sale was predicated on the Nets moving to Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards gets interestinger and interestinger.

ESPN the Magazine via Nets Daily, 3 Seconds

Multiple league sources say Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s dream of relocating to Brooklyn has grown even further from reality due to financial issues. He could be forced to sell the team before it happens, and prospective owners want the team to stay put.

–Ric Bucher

The Architect's Newspaper Blog, Everybody Wants a Bailout

With the news today, reported by the Observer, that Larry Silverstein has begun legal proceeds against the Port Authority to end the gridlock at Ground Zero, as well as the developments two weeks prior at Atlantic Yards, it seems obvious to us what’s going on here. Having witnessed the financial titans across town receive hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money, these developers now want theirs. Granted, so did Larry Flint and the porn industry, but the comparison bears consideration.

To begin with, the market has failed for both finance and real estate–to say nothing of every other industy–leaving “free market” options closed. Where the bankers have turned to the Treasury and the federal government, Silverstein and Bruce Ratner, in one form or another, have turned to local pols.

Fifty Car Pileup, The progressive intent of (some) urban redevelopment schemes

At a birthday party a few weeks ago, after the latest incarnation of the new Atlantic Yards stadium design was discussed with no uncertain degree of derision, conversation shifted to the history of other large scale developments in the city.

And aside from the project's escalating cost to taxpayers, there's also concerns about a project of such scale will affect the livability of the existing neighborhood. When I first moved to New York in 2005, I lived off of Flatbush Avenue, a few blocks from the apartments designated for demolition. Crossing Flatbush or Pacific to access the subway at the Atlantic Terminal was always a pedestrian nightmare, and I'm certain that building additional high density housing and the sports arena will only worsen the traffic as well as the risk to non-motorists at that intersection.

Sugar Palace, Barclay Bank Station? Puh-leese!

What shocked me the most was the cost. $200G over 10 years? I have a feeling if enough people in Brooklyn organized, we could come up with $30k/year to get the name switched back.

NLG: It's actually $200,000 per year over 20 years, but that doesn't change the sentiment.


Norman Oder gets props.

Because information wants to be free, blogs are all about sharing, so from time to time I’ll post these potpourri columns of Great Posts By Others, featuring thought-provoking posts and our reactions thereto.

1.1 Atlantic Yards Report
Ever since I first encountered the Atlantic Yard report blog, I’ve considered it essential reading for understanding Atlantic yards, an enormous and seemingly endless current eminent-domain-like redevelopment in Brooklyn.

Single-handedly researched, written, and posted by the indefatigable and Pulitzer-prize-deserving Norman Oder, it is a sole-source reference, using the Web to publish documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, chronicling public hearings, and mercilessly comparing what officials said once with what they say now.

I’ve been agog at two things:

  • The extraordinary diligence that Mr. Oder has poured into his blog, even quoting people like me.
  • The significance of Atlantic Yards on discussions (for or against) of eminent domain for economic development (ED4ED), which often bears on affordable housing.

Over and over, Mr. Oder had exploded public pronouncements with evidence, leaving the developer’s credibility (and that of many of its supporters, such as ACORN) in tatters.

Posted by eric at 1:02 PM

ACORN's Lewis, interviewed unskeptically in journal focused on labor issues, maintains AY deal is a success

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder supplies a little fact-checking for an article devoid of it.

An immersion in the Atlantic Yards story can lead to some hard truths about people we consider professionals:

  • Elected officials repeat Forest City Ratner talking points and imaginary numbers ginned up by a paid FCR consultant
  • Elected officials miss the chance to pose tough questions to government officials (though they can recover)
  • Appointed officials actively mislead the public at an oversight hearing
  • A distinguished civil liberties lawyer makes campaign contributions to Brooklyn machine politicians
  • Wall Street analysts fail to ask tough questions about an issue that demands skepticism.
  • Academics avoid scrutinizing an organization that passes an ideological litmus test

The latter is the lesson of an unskeptical interview in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Regional Labor Review headlined ACORN’s Fair Housing Fight in Working Class Communities: A Conversation with ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis.

The section of the interview regarding Atlantic Yards consists of two open-ended questions and long soliloquies by Lewis, with no interpolation for fact-checking.


NoLandGrab: Lewis talks about how the Atlantic Yards affordable-housing agreements and Community Benefits Agreement "worked," but history, not Bertha Lewis, will be the judge. The project has yet to, and may never, break ground, and the disposition of that affordable housing, certainly 2,250 units of it, is very much in question. But one can't really say that ACORN got played by Bruce Ratner, 'cause they're holding 1.5 million of his dollars.

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

ACORN’s Fair Housing Fight in Working Class Communities: A Conversation with ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis

Regional Labor Review
by Niev Duffy

Q: Bottom line, why do you think [Atlantic Yards] worked?

BL: I think it worked because, one, we were very clear on what we wanted and we had solutions to what we wanted. We had a way to show this developer by spreadsheets and other stuff, we spoke development language. We actually understood what we were talking about, and we had a concrete proposal. Two, we were valueadded: one, in expertise; two, in political cover – let’s face it – and political might and our ability to fight them.

You know, you make an analysis as if you’re going to lose. But we would have put up a hell of a fight, and they didn’t want to fight with us. So you have to be big enough, deep enough, have the expertise, have a real plan. You can’t come to these folks with vagaries. You know, “We want affordable housing.” “When do you want it?” “Now.” “What does it look like?” “We don’t know. You figure it out.” You can’t do that. You really have to know your shit.

So that’s why I think it worked. I think we were the right group at the right time with the right stuff in the right place, and finally you have to have a willing partner. As I said, we’ve met with developers for 30 years, and they just have contempt. I’m going to give the devil his due. Forest City was willing to sit down, like I say, bring their bean counters, bring their lawyers, bring their experts and actually sit at the table with us and not talk to us like we were children, actually have real conversations. They wanted to find a way to do this.

article [PDF]

NoLandGrab: Bertha Lewis called Bruce Ratner the devil, not us.

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Public's interests must be preserved at Atlantic Yards

NY Newsday, editorial

After Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner secured a better deal from the MTA, resulting in public benefits being "relegated to the back burner," Newsday's editorial board declares that "major, continuing changes argue for the creation of a new government subsidiary to oversee progress and ensure that the project's public benefits are not relegated to the back burner."

The editorial also misses some key points about Ratner's new deal with the MTA, namely the interest rate that the two parties agreed upon in order to finance the development rights over the railyards is much lower than what Ratner could get in the open market, and that the "better Long Island Railroad facilities" comprises of a railyard with smaller capacity than the current one.


NoLandGrab: The only reason we might need a "government subsidiary to oversee progress and ensure that the project's public benefits are not relegated to the back burner" is because the boards of the Empire State Development Corporation and MTA totally abdicated that role and are now, seemingly, receiving their orders from developer Bruce Ratner.

Atlantic Yards Report, In editorial, Newsday channels two of RPA's relatively mild AY reforms (that the MTA ignored)

Norman Oder catches an ignorant mistake and connects the editorial to the position of the Regional Planning Association (RPA):

...it wouldn't be downtown Brooklyn. And how exactly would it be a financial boost for the MTA, given that it would deliver far fewer dollars than the MTA initially expected in the short term?

The editorial continues:

Instead of the original $100 million paid upfront for the right to develop the LIRR's rail yards, Ratner wants to stretch payments over 21 years, with interest, which works out to $193.5 million. The MTA should require a share of future revenue in addition, to take advantage of a market recovery.

The editorial doesn't say that the interest rate would be a notably low 6.5%. As for the share of future revenue, that's a not unreasonable concept should the project go forward, but it should be way more specific. When the RPA suggested it at the June 24 hearing, no one took it up.

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

Brooklyn subway stop named for British bank


Bruce Ratner's naming-rights deal with Barclays and the MTA is spreading the controversy around Atlantic Yards to those who are wary of commercialization of the public domain.

Several subway riders are outraged that Barclays has purchased the naming rights to this subway stop, which sees about 10 million people go through it each day.

One straphanger said, "A London Bank shouldn't be the name of this train station; it's something that belongs to the public domain."

Another said, "It's just everywhere we go, everything we do, it's just branding, branding, branding. It's America now."

Renaming the Atlantic-Pacific Station is tied to the construction of Barclays Center, the new sports arena for the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets.


Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Wylde Ideas, Making For a Wrong Partnership

Noticing New York blogger Michael D.D. White takes Kathrine Wylde of the Partnership for New York City to task for the group's steadfast position on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, even though the project has changed so significantly, as to warrant a second look:

It was amazing that the Partnership supported Atlantic Yards in the first place, when the megadevelopment had not been subject to any proper and legitimate bid process. How much more amazing is it that the partnership supports the new iteration of the project now when it has become an even worse and more developer-oriented project that it ever was before? The Partnership supports it when, so altered, it should be going back for bid and reappraisal of its design. And how can the Partnership blithely be supporting, however you calculate their total amount, the hundreds of millions in giveaways to Ratner with nothing going to the public in return?


Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

The road to Microsoft City, Missouri

The Missourian
By Katy Steinmetz

Sure, we expect to see advertisements in our media, and we can live with them being awkwardly planted in films, but there’s got to be a line drawn between what space is for sale and what isn’t.

The constantly evolving spectrum of advertising makes it hard to pinpoint that line’s exact coordinates, but New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority seems to have landed somewhere on the wrong side. Their offense? Pimping out one of Brooklyn’s subway stops to Barclays.
But the MTA is getting almost $100 million for the real property and air space involved in the project. I find it hard to believe that a relatively paltry $4 million is going to make or break the system.


NoLandGrab: To be clear, the MTA is selling the "development rights" for the MTA railyard to Bruce Ratner, and the deal has been reduced from $100 million at closing, as first agreed, to $20 million down and the rest to be financed at below-market-rate interest over the next 22 years. Since, Ratner is nickel-n-diming the transit authority, maybe $4 million does make a difference after all.

Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

Superstore Me: Guilt, Rituals and Red Bags

The NY Times
By Jason Zinoman


When Target opened in 2004 at [Bruce Ratner's] Atlantic Terminal Mall in Brooklyn, this Minnesota-based superstore, trying to fit in, threw an invite-only party where a D.J. and local celebrities (including Maggie Gyllenhaal and Lizzie Grubman) mingled among two floors of Gatorade, kitchen appliances and reasonably priced consumer goods.
Target has not attracted the controversy of the nearby Atlantic Yards project, which plans to add a stadium and a new skyline of towers to downtown Brooklyn. But for some locals it’s part of the out-of-scale corporate sheen that threatens the spirit of their leafy borough. Anxiety about this development is stylishly illustrated in “Behind the Bullseye,” an intimate Target polemic that looks like one of Reverend Billy’s nightmares staged by Robert Wilson on a budget.


NoLandGrab: Three Points

1. Target is in reality a designer big-box store, adding to developer Bruce Ratner's collection of superstores that now litter NY cityscape.

2. For more proof that appearances matter, one could say that the Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project had not attracted the controversy as the off-the-shelf Atlantic Yards project Bruce Ratner is now proposing.

3. The Times should know by now, it's an "arena," not a "stadium."

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

July 6, 2009

Elected officials shocked, shocked at changes in AY; DePlasco, Daughtry maintain talking points

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder fills in some gaps in today's Daily News story about local elected officials souring on Atlantic Yards.

A couple of elected officials who wouldn't mind a little press coverage are shocked, shocked by changes in Atlantic Yards.

The article closes with this assertion:
Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said all the promised jobs and affordable housing will be delivered.

If it's not legally required, and it's not, the paid flack DePlasco can say whatever he wants. Remember, he's the guy who once said, “There’s no reason to think the team is not moving to Brooklyn for the 2007 season."

Who's missing

Missing from the article are two elected officials who have posed more substantive questions: both Assemblyman Jim Brennan and state Senator Bill Perkins have questioned the legal authority of the MTA to renegotiate its deal with Forest City Ratner. And those questions may be answered in court.


Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Atlantic Yards beginning to look like pie in Brooklyn sky for pols

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin and Jotham Sederstrom

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and City Councilman David Yassky are none too pleased with the latest iterations of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Five and a half years later, a state agency's recent vote to adopt a plan for a new Nets arena and 16 towers - which will take longer, cost more, and look radically different than the original - has left Jeffries and some other officials disillusioned.

"The way in which the project was sold is dramatically different than the one in which the developer appears prepared to deliver," he said. "The promises made by this developer have disappeared like a house of cards."

City Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn) said he always thought the towers were too big, but supported the arena because he was "excited about a professional basketball team in Brooklyn and an architecturally significant arena."

He soured on that as it became clear taxpayers would end up footing much of the bill.

"The MTA changing the deal just added insult to injury," he said. "This was already a bad deal for taxpayers and now it's an appallingly bad deal."


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

MTA CFO's justification for Forest City Ratner renegotiation: "too speculative" to consider another deal

Atlantic Yards Report

The central question behind the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's June 24 decision to renegotiate more generous terms for the Vanderbilt Yard with Forest City Ratner--$20 million rather than $100 million down, and a replacement railyard worth $100 million less, was whether another deal was possible.

A few MTA boardmembers have publicly stated their feelings that another deal isn't possible.

However, the "Public Authorities Accountability Act" requires that the MTA dispense the land for no less than market value, which would require that an appraisal be done. Was a current appraisal ever done? The MTA told watchdog reporter Norman Oder he'd have to file a Freedom of Information Law request to find out.

How does MTA CFO Gary Dellaverson know another deal isn't possible? Here's what he told WNYC reporter Matthew Schuerman:

I have no idea when it would be more propitious than now to engage in a second transaction on this property. I simply cannot guess. I can tell you that it would turn on answers to questions that nobody has, which is: when does the financial market begin to change, when does the credit market change, when does the housing market change... So I think it's too speculative.


NoLandGrab: The MTA's steadfast refusal to negotiate with more than a single developer makes the entire deal "too speculative" at best, illegal at worst.

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

Who didn't show up at the MTA meetings? State Senator Carl Kruger and his topsy-turvy view of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report reviews summer ficition...

Kruger-NYDNsm.jpg Everyone, including the Mad Overkiller Norman Oder, missed State Senator Carl Kruger's May 13 press release "accusing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of intransigence as Forest City Ratner tried to reduce its obligations to pay cash and provide and upgraded railyard." In this alternate parallel universe, Kruger hilariously demanded that the MTA meet with him to show its financial records for Atlantic Yards or "he'll take the matter to the next step."

For a good beach read, check out the rest of the article where Oder provides color commentary as Kruger declares that "all of Forest City’s project obligations will be honored" and bolsters the "MTA’s widely-held image as a secretive entity that works not for the good of the public but for its own financial benefit."

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

She could do better.

By Matt Arnold

One commentator just woke up to Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's penchant for bait-and-switch (whadya expect from someone who still thinks that the basketball arena is a "stadium?"), and is having trouble with the idea that taxpayers should be forced to come up with more for less:

The strange thing is that after duping us, Ratner is coming back to New Yorkers and asking for a deal on the financing--on top of the millions of dollars in public support he’s already getting. And the Bloomberg administration appears to be caving in to his demand. It would be one thing if Ratner was financing this whole project himself, had the permits he needed, and decided that he was going to do what he liked with his money. But in this time of severe budget crisis, he’s asking us to dig deeper into our pocket so that he can build this monstrosity.


Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

July 5, 2009

One wrench in Ratner’s plans

The Brooklyn Paper
By Cristian Fleming

Posted by steve at 12:00 PM

Notice of Public Hearing to Be Held On July 29, 2009 And July 30, 2009

Empire State Development Corporation

The public hearings allowing for comment on the Modified Project Plans for the proposed Atlantic Yards project have already been announced via an ad in the New York Post. The ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, has posted the legal notice (PDF document) on Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project web page.

Posted by steve at 8:57 AM

Documentary Says Only 15 Residents Holding Out in Brooklyn

Nets Daily

Boosters of the proposed Atlantic Yards project want to find some way of justifying a project that, increasingly, has no good reason to proceed except to benefit the developer Bruce Ratner. In this particular case, a claim is made that there aren't enough people living in the proposed project's footprint to justify challenging eminent domain.

A mini-documentary reports that only about 15 people are still living in the footprint of Atlantic Yards, Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn real estate project that includes Barclays Center. A prominent critic challenges the accuracy of other parts of the documentary (Barclays Center won’t be twice the size of the Garden…it’ll be smaller) but lets the number of holdouts stand. Six hundred people have left, according to the film.

In the comments section, Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report sets the record straight.

The ever-responsible Mr. Income takes me to task for not questioning the report’s statement that there are 15 people living in the footprint without even linking to my coverage.

For what it’s worth, the 2009 Modified General Project Plan states (p. 19): http://www.empire.state.ny.us/pdf/AtlanticYards/MODGPP2009.pdf Based on the best information available to the Project Sponsors as of the date hereof, in the 31 households that are currently occupied with no agreements to vacate, 5 of which are owner-occupied and 27 of which are rental units, there are approximately 62 people who remain in occupancy.3

3 These figures do not include transient occupants of the homeless facility who will be accommodated elsewhere.


NoLandGrab: Also from the Nets Daily, commentor, BrooklynBound, says: "Not one person should have to leave the property they own for a BASKETBALL ARENA."

Posted by steve at 8:05 AM

NY Court Agrees To Hear Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Suit


Perhaps this article is about the progress of the Eminent Domain lawsuit brought by residents living in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project appears to be a little late due to the Encore's weekly publication schedule.

New York's highest court has decided to hear a challenge to the state's use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

According to the New York Times, the Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments in October in a case that might throw a roadblock into developer Bruce C. Ratner's plans for the development.

Lawyers for the project expect that the favorable decisions of the lower courts unanimous rulings will be upheld, supporting the state's use of eminent domain while opponents hope that the Court of Appeals will reconsider the matter based on constitutional concerns.

The Appellate Division had previously rejected the suit, stating that the development would serve the public interest as approximately 40% of the housing being planned would be aimed at low income residents. The state had recommended that the Court of Appeals reject the suit as well, noting that the project had been approved at the city and state level but the request appeared to fall on deaf ears.

The decision to hear the case could raise issues for the developers, who are already facing significant challenges in obtaining funding for the project.


Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

The "Ratner Unit" and the"Brooklyn Nets of New Jersey"

Atlantic Yards Report

The need for developer Bruce Ratner to create confusion around the facts of the proposed Atlantic Yards project has produced two new ideas.

The first example, left as a comment on the Atlantic Yards report, refers to the constantly changing completions dates announced by blighter Bruce Ratner and his tool, the Empire State Development Corporation. In 2003, the proposed Barclays arena was scheduled to open in 2006; in 2006, it was to open in 2009; in 2009 the opening date is to be in 2012. This brings us to the "Ratner Unit".

Ratner Unit - the length of time from today (always equal to 3 years) that the AY arena will open.

The other concept, via a comment from the Nets Daily blog is to try to capitalize on the uncertain future of the New Jersey Nets by changing their name to the Brooklyn Nets of New Jersey:

The Nets should use some sneaky tricks to get Lebron to sign here. Like the Angels of MLB, the Nets should change their name to Brooklyn Nets of New Jersey. Problem solved.


NoLandGrab: It's been said that the best way to kill a joke is to explain it. Here's hoping that NoLandGrab has not committed murder.

Posted by steve at 7:33 AM

July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, America!


What better way to celebrate America's birthday than with a cake* in the shape of the Atlantic Yards footprint, to remind us that, 233 years after our Founding Fathers declared independence from a repressive regime, the King can still take your property for a basketball palace.

Will New York State, which joined originally with the twelve other colonies in UNITY against the crown, pull the plug on the troubled project, or will it continue to do the bidding of King Bruce?

What say, Guv'ner?

(*Actual use: the celebration of the birthday of Historic Districts Council Deputy Director Frampton Tolbert; bakers, Cassie Murdoch and Andrew Sloat)

Posted by eric at 2:48 PM

Happy Independence Day!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Happy July 4th!

Posted by steve at 12:00 PM

In New York magazine, some (partly) misplaced regret for the lost Gehry design

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder critiques a New York Magazine article The Unbuilding of Frank Gehry: Has New York lost its great chance with an architectural legend? Gehry speaks.

Longtime critics of Atlantic Yards know that the removal of architect Frank Gehry is part of a pattern of not-so-trustworthy behavior by developer Forest City Ratner (whose reps swore for months that Gehry was still the architect), but New York magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson, like some other architecture aficionados, treats it as the ultimate betrayal.

The idea that Atlantic Yards would have been Gehry's opportunity to create a new "urban archetype is disputed:

But for Gehry, Atlantic Yards represented an irresistible chance to do for an urban district what he had done for the museum and the concert hall: establish a new archetype.

I think Davidson grants Gehry a little too much credit here. The architect was spending most of his time on the arena, his first, and came up with the (much-praised by some) solution--given the enormous site constraints--of nestling the arena within four towers.

Gehry did not exactly walk around Prospect Heights--or talk to locals--to try to suss out a new urban archetype.

The New York Magazine article says that an opportunity for great architecture was missed when developer Bruce Ratner announced officially what many had know for a while: Frank Gehry was no longer on the proposed Atlantic Yards project. Oder has a different perspective on the timeline.

A few weeks after that conversation, Ratner scrapped six years’ worth of design work. Pleading financial straits, he fired Gehry from the whole project and replaced his arena design with a graceless Cow Palace knockoff by the journeyman stadium-builder Ellerbe Becket. To judge by early renderings, the new offering isn’t simply inferior; it’s insultingly bad. Yet Gehry has served Ratner well. His involvement helped strong-arm the city and the state into delivering tax breaks, permits, and the power to evict holdouts. It helped beat back opposition, secure $400 million in naming rights from Barclays, and win over the architectural press. Ratner didn’t just toss Gehry into the drink; he betrayed the city, blighted a neighborhood he promised to transform, validated his opponents, and blew a colossal opportunity to bring great architecture to a city that badly needs it.

Oh, come now. Wasn't the whole thing blown in September 2007 with the State Funding Agreement, which allowed Ratner six years (after the delivery of property by eminent domain) to build the arena without penalty, 12 years for Phase 1, and no timetable for Phase 2?

That agreement, which came to light in March 2008, meant that building four towers around the arena within a tight time frame was unlikely, and thus Gehry's design was unlikely. It also meant that blight--in the form of surface parking lots and/or cleared land--was likely to persist for decades.

Also noticed is the apparent lack of regret by Gehry in laying off half of his staff. This seems consistent with other difficult decisions from the past as noted in the film "Sketches of Frank Gehry".

In the film, Milton Wexler, Gehry’s longtime therapist, recounts how Gehry was in limbo with his wife, and advised him to make up his mind, to either commit to work it out or to leave immediately. Gehry instantly moved to a hotel. “I had two daughters and a wife,” he says with a mildly incredulous laugh, but without remorse.


Posted by steve at 6:48 AM

Court to hear yards case

By Stephen Witt

This article makes reference to the alleged public benefit of affordable, although the majority of so-called affordable units (most not affordable to low-income Brooklynites), are scheduled for Phase 2 of the proposed Atlantic Yards project. Nobody can say when Phase 2 might be built.

The state’s highest court agreed last week to hear the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

The Court of Appeals decision comes about a week after developer Forest City Ratner Companies received two greenlights for its 22−acre arena⁄housing plan at the Flatbush and Atlantic avenues intersection.


The high court’s decision comes after the state appellate court ruled unanimously in May for the state to condemn property to make way, in part, for affordable housing.

“This case provides an opportunity for the New York Court of Appeals to continue its proud tradition of interpreting this State’s Constitution in a manner that affords more protection to individual rights and liberties,” said Matthew Brinckerhoff, the lawyer representing the appellants.

Please notice how the following sentence tries to up the percentage of affordable units by saying that 50% of rental units will be affordable. If there are 6,000 units in all, then 2,250 affordable units would make up 37% of the total.

The planned project includes an arena to house the NBA’s Nets, and about 6,000 residential units with half the rental units (2,250) being reserved for low− and moderate−income housing.

The Court’s decision came after the MTA last week voted to sell the eight−acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard portion of the project.

Under the deal, FCRC will pay $20 million down for the arena and four buildings (phase 1 of the project), and a remaining $80 million with interest over 22 years as it proceeds with the rest of the project.


FCRC needs to finance the project and begin construction by Dec. 31 to qualify for tax−exempt status, which would save the company millions of dollars in borrowing costs.

In order to do this, the company intends to sell about $650 million in bonds for the arena in late September, according to published reports.


The ESDC also announced a 60−day public comment period complete with hearings on the modified general project plan.

The hearings are slated for July 29 and 30 with two sessions for each hearing − an afternoon hearing between 2−5 p.m., and an evening session from 6−8 p.m.

The hearings will take place at the New York City College of Technology’s Klitgord Auditorium, 285 Jay Street.


Posted by steve at 5:59 AM

“HoldOut” – A short documentary about Atlantic Yards holdouts

Not Another F*cking Blog!

This blog entry offers commentary on the latest Atlantic Yards documentary, Hold Out.

After trudging through every nook and cranny of the footprint, taking tens of thousands of photos, trying to capture what it was, what it is now, and what it’s becoming, I recognize nearly every location and person in this visually stunning short. A small part of my home even makes an appearance. It’s not factually perfect, per Norman Oder on his Atlantic Yards Report, but I feel that it does put a much needed human face on those directly in the path of the developer Forest City Ratner’s wrecking ball.

My only regret is that it was so short. I hope this team has a longer Atlantic Yards project in the works.


Posted by steve at 5:50 AM

July 3, 2009

MediaStorm's "Hold Out" and a bit of fact-checking

Atlantic Yards Report

Some Friday fact-checking — and a brief review of a brief movie — from Atlantic Yards Report.

Don't expect the brief video Hold Out, by the multimedia company MediaStorm, to provide a full sketch of the Atlantic Yards development, and don't even expect main character David Sheets (right), a crusty and compelling Dean Street resident and regular at Freddy's Bar & Backroom, to have all the facts.

Backed by an ominous soundtrack, Sheets, a rent-stabilized tenant and plaintiff in the eminent domain case, offers his incredulity at the plans for Atlantic Yards, his deep frustration at the utility and other work that made life on Dean Street hell last year, his lament at the community lost, and his commitment to fighting the project until the end. It's a highly sympathetic portrait.

Some fact-checking

Do note, however, that the overview text asserts that, when announced in 2003, Atlantic Yards would cost nearly five billion dollars. That's the tab now, but it was $2.5 million when announced.

Also note that, at 22 acres and nearly 8 million square feet, Atlantic Yards would not be "three times the size of Rockefeller Center," as Sheets asserts, but rather just about the same size. The key difference: AY would be mostly housing, while Rock Center is mostly commercial space.

Nor would the arena be twice the size of Madison Square Garden, as Sheets states, but, at 800,000 square feet, would be fractionally smaller than MSG's 820,000 sf.


Posted by eric at 10:09 AM


MediaStorm presents a short documentary on some of the remaining residents and property owners who stand in the way of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.


Atlantic Yards is Brooklyn's largest ever proposed real estate development. The plan includes a basketball arena, numerous high rises, and would cost nearly five billion dollars. To make room, many buildings have been razed and more than 600 residents have left the neighborhood. But a handful of residents refuse to leave.


Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

Lawyer for footprint owners says ESDC effort to move tenants is premature

Atlantic Yards Report

Is the friendly neighborhood Empire State Developerment Corporation just trying to be helpful, or were the letters they sent to residents and property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint meant to apply more pressure to get them out?

I wrote Wednesday that tenants and property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint have received letters from the law firm Berger & Webb, which represents the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in its pursuit of eminent domain, telling them it'll be time to move soon.

Attorney Michael Rikon, who represents some footprint property owners, sent a letter of complaint to the ESDC, saying the process shouldn't begin until eminent domain is completed:

My client forwarded a copy of a letter dated June 26, 2009 in which you inform that the New York State Urban Development Corporation relocation consultant, Cornerstone Group Real Estate Services will start conducting initial visits with each occupant in the effected business buildings. Please be advised that no one is permitted to enter the premises to speak to any tenant on the property with respect to relocation until title has vested. We will view any such visit as trespass and further as an “affirmative value depressing act.” No relocation effort may begin or contact with the tenant with respect to relocation until title vests.

In a comment to me, Rikon added, "ESDC has absolutely no right to talk to tenants about relocation before it acquires title.


Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

ESPN The Magazine says Bruce Ratner is second-worst owner in pro sports

Atlantic Yards Report

ESPN Magazine likens Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets to a house guest that overstayed his welcome. Norman Oder explains why.

From the [ESPN Mag] entry:

Developer Bruce Ratner is starting to resemble that college friend who just wasn't ready to move on after graduation. Hey, Jersey, we're hitting snafus with that planned move to Brooklyn, so, ummm, ya mind if I crash here a while longer?

For the record, when Atlantic Yards was announced in December 2003, the Brooklyn arena was supposed to open in 2006. When the project received governmental approvals in 2006, the arena was supposed to open in 2009. Now Ratner projects 2011, though government agencies say 2012--and that's before lawsuits get resolved, bonds are sold, and shovels in the ground.


Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Ratner Makes New Promises; Amanda Burden Close to Edge on Arena Design

After Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner committed not to build ugly, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn wonders:

So, if the renderings of the Barclays Center Hangar were not Bruce Ratner's "intentions for the project" what were they and what are his intentions? And if he still doesn't know what his arena is going to look like (if that is true) how can he claim, with a straight face, that he's breaking ground this fall?


It seems pretty clear that City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden is not pleased with Atlantic Yards at all. So she has a choice to make: let it stumble along and end up with decades-long blight and a big box arena sitting empty most of the time or buck her boss Bloomberg and do the right thing. It's times like these on projects like these that call for whistleblowing.


Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) Channel Alert: 3.3% Move in 49 Days


Jul 02, 2009 (SmarTrend(R) Spotlight via COMTEX) ----SmarTrend's proprietary algorithms detected bearish price action on shares of Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) which generated a Downtrend alert on May 14, 2009 at $6.29.

Since the alert, FCE.A has trended 3.3% lower as of today's recent price of $6.08.

SmarTrend is actively monitoring Forest City Enterprises for any change in trend direction.


NoLandGrab: In case folks at Forest City didn't notice, but two of the three related-ads that appeared with this item were for "penny stocks" — ouch!

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

July 2, 2009

Ratner promises Atlantic Yards arena redesign

The Forest City Ratner chief said the Atlantic Yards basketball arena renderings leaked to the media last month were premature and do not reflect his intentions for the project.

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

Promises, promises.

So, Bruce, you'd have us believe that you spent a bunch of money to produce several renderings to submit to the Department of City Planning (whose commissioner, Amanda Burden, leaked them to the press) that do not reflect your "intentions for the project?" Uh, wha?

Bruce Ratner, chief executive of Forest City Ratner, has told senior members of the Bloomberg administration that the Atlantic Yards basketball arena renderings leaked to the media last month were premature and do not reflect his intentions for the project, city sources say. While Mr. Ratner is said to have reaffirmed his commitment to a "world-class" design, he faces the challenge of improving it without substantially raising the cost.

Frank Gehry had designed a $1 billion arena that impressed architecture critics but proved unaffordable when the economy tanked and credit markets froze. Missouri-based architectural firm Ellerbe Becket was brought in and proposed a $772 million arena that resembled an airplane hangar. To say that the design did not meet the expectations of Amanda Burden, chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, would be a vast understatement.

"One of the key goals of the Atlantic Yards project was to transform an area with development that incorporates world-class architecture, a dynamic streetscape, and significant public amenities," she said in a statement issued by her spokeswoman. "Bruce Ratner has given the city a commitment that he will design the Atlantic Yards in a way that respects both the letter and the spirit of what was envisaged in 2006, when the project received its original approval."


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner has twisted the truth about Atlantic Yards so often that it has now become habitual. And Amanda Burden really needs to come out in public and say what she supposedly says in private: that Atlantic Yards was a bad idea that has only gotten worse.

Posted by eric at 3:34 PM

Ultimate Standings 2009

ESPN The Magazine
by Morty Ain


Congratulations, Bruce Ratner! You're the second worst owner in professional sports! (and the worst owner is bankrupt and is trying to sell his team to a guy who plans to move it out of the country!)

But don't worry, even with all that, you stand alone in last place when it comes to "Community Commitment."

Welcome to ESPN The Magazine's seventh annual Ultimate Standings, in which we measure how much MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises give back to the fans in exchange for all the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them.

Developer Bruce Ratner is starting to resemble that college friend who just wasn't ready to move on after graduation. Hey, Jersey, we're hitting snafus with that planned move to Brooklyn, so, ummm, ya mind if I crash here a while longer? "I'd like to say we have the most hated owner in sports, but of course that's not possible," says Mike from Joenetsfan.com, "because a) Al Davis is still around, and b) Nets fans can't work up enough contempt to get stoic, let alone angry."


See the complete, sortable rankings

More coverage...

Nets Daily, Ratner Ranked Second Worst Owner in Sports

Only the bankrupt owners of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes are ranked lower than Bruce Ratner in ESPN’s listings of all 122 professional sports teams. The Nets also sit 111th–third from the bottom in the NBA–overall. The “stadium experience” at the IZOD comes in 119th.

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Atlantic Yards, 2010: the push for a second round of stimulus funds (I speculate)

Atlantic Yards Report

Watchdog reporter Norman Oder is getting the sneaking suspicion that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is still after federal stimulus dollars:

Despite the statement by ESDC CEO Marisa Lago at a May 29 state Senate hearing that no federal stimulus funds had been sought for Atlantic Yards, the developer is still actively lobbying in Washington.

In 2006 and 2007, Forest City Ratner paid $200,000 a year to former Senator Alfonse D'Amato's firm, Park Strategies, to fight against restrictions on the use of eminent domain, as the Observer reported.

In 2008, FCR paid D'Amato only $80,000. This year, FCR is on pace to pay D'Amato double that sum, $160,000, at least based on the first quarterly filing.

And, as the Observer reported, the target is stimulus funds. If a new round of federal funds becomes available next year--and the Obama administration is keeping an open mind--Forest City Ratner might be arguing that the public should help with the infrastructure it promised.


Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

Dean & Carlton

This photo taken at Dean St. and Carlton Ave. was uploaded yesterday by photographer Tracy Collins to the Atlantic Yards Photo Pool on flickr.

According to Tracy:

If Atlantic Yards were built as planned, this shot would include 3 skyscrapers.

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

The Times low-balls the total subsidies and tax breaks for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times head real estate reporter Charles V. Bagli totally lowballed the amount of public subsidies for Bruce Ratner's subsidy-sucking Atlantic Yards megaproject. In his article yesterday he had it at $300M. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that the direct cash subsidy is already at $305M, and that's ignoring an ever-growing list of tax breaks, affordable-housing subsidies, brownfield clean-up funds, and the naming rights contract for the "publicly owned arena."

The real figure is one of the great mysteries of Atlantic Yards and is predicted to be headed towards the billions.

Norman Oder thinks that Bagli and the Times can do better:

I know the $300 million was not the focus of the article. Still, such a sloppy estimate reinforces my argument that the Times should consistently disclose its parent company's business relationship with Forest City Ratner.

Such disclosure should--though I can't say it does--prompt reporters and editors to be more exacting in their coverage.


Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Behind the state Senate turmoil: the real estate industry (with an AY angle)

Atlantic Yards Report

In an article headlined Senate Coup Plotters' Hidden Agenda: Tabloids call it a circus, but the lobbyists' goal is to squelch reforms, the Village Voice's Tom Robbins connects the state Senate's dysfunctions not to no-good legislators but to the real estate industry's desire to stymie long-awaited reforms in the city's rent regulations.

Also jeopardized are efforts at campaign finance reform and gun control. And, yes, a further look at Atlantic Yards.

In a nutshell, under Democratic control, local State Senators have held one public hearing on Atlantic Yards. If the Republicans have their way, there's little hope that State legislators would lift a finger to find out more about Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized megaproject.


The Village Voice, Senate Coup Plotters' Hidden Agenda

Democratic control of Senate committees also brought the power to shine a spotlight in places Republicans had preferred to leave dark. On May 29, 10 days before the coup shut everything down, Harlem Senator Bill Perkins, new chairman of a committee overseeing state authorities, held the Senate's first public hearing on the massive $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

The Forest City Ratner deal was made possible by an official sleight of hand that allowed it to skirt city land use regulations. Under Republican control, the Senate asked no questions. Even at the hearing, they still offered protection. Brooklyn's lone GOP senator, Marty Golden, burst into the hearings late and, backed by cheers from building trades workers, proceeded to mock Perkins and Montgomery, in whose district the project sits, for "holding the project hostage."

Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

Ratner and Brooklyn: Eminent domain and tax-exempt status

Field of Schemes

New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner's quest to build a vanilla, big-box style arena in Brooklyn just got a bit more complicated, with New York's top court allowing a challenge of his desired use of eminent domain for this project to move forward.
The clock is ticking on Ratner, as he needs to get all his financial ducks in a row and get a ceremonial shovel in the ground by December 31 to be eligible for tax-exempt status.

With estimated arena costs at $772 million and capital tough to come by as the economy lurches along, not achieving tax-exempt status could torpedo the project. To hold opponents at bay, perhaps he could threaten local opponents with a decision to bring back the quirky architecture of Frank Gehry if they refuse to back down.


Sports Business Daily, http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=sbd.preview&articleID=131436 (subscription only)

Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

July 1, 2009

State’s highest court sees some ‘appeal’ in Yards eminent domain case

The Brooklyn Paper
by Mike McLaughlin

In a twist that could be disastrous for Bruce Ratner, New York’s highest court surprised many and agreed to hear an appeal that the state has illegally used its power of eminent domain to spearhead the embattled $4.9-billion Atlantic Yards project.

Previous eminent domain cases have gone well for Ratner, but even if he wins another court battle — this time in the Court of Appeals — he could still lose hundreds of millions of dollars in possible construction and financing delays stemming from another round of litigation.

To qualify for tax-exempt financing that could save him millions, Ratner must begin construction by Dec. 31 on the Barclays Center, now a $772-million basketball arena no longer designed by Frank Gehry. Also on the line is the British bank’s agreement to pay $400 million to have its name on the Nets’ now-generic future home court, another deal that turns into a pumpkin at the end of this year.


Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

Right of way: ESDC letter warns AY footprint tenants/owners that relocation consultant will be knocking on the door

Atlantic Yards Report

Just as the New York State Court of Appeals announced that it would hear the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, the Empire State Development Corporation was getting ready to unleash its friendly "relocation consultants" on residents of the project footprint.

Tenants and property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint have received letters from the law firm Berger & Webb, which represents the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in its pursuit of eminent domain, telling them it'll be time to move soon.

One complication: the letter offers only services of a real estate agent and a modest $5000 stipend for residential services, not mentioning the offer by Forest City Ratner--which was part of the General Project Plan (GPP) and Modified General Project Plan--to those in residence for at least one year to "return and to rent a comparable unit within the Project Site at a comparable rate to what they are currently paying."

The absence of an offer to relocate tenants into the project--as state law recommends but does not ensure--prompted a protest by George Locker, who represents eight rent-stabilized residential tenants in the project footprint and has filed a number of lawsuits on their behalf.

But Empire State Development Corporation spokesman Warner Johnston said, "The letter is just intended to alert occupants that representatives of The Cornerstone Group, our relocation consultant, will be in the neighborhood and contacting them soon, and it includes the basic parameters of the relocation assistance that ESDC is providing (essentially verbatim from the General Project Plan), such as referrals to alternative housing, provision of moving services, etc. The General Project Plan also references some additional assistance that FCRC has been and will continue to provide for residential tenants, such as relocating residents back on the Project Site as soon as feasible (if that's what residents desire) and providing interim rent subsidies. The referrals to alternative housing to be provided by Cornerstone (mentioned in the letters of introduction) will include coordination with FCRC as necessary with respect to this assistance."


NoLandGrab: Cornerstone is a member of the International Right of Way Association, which is fitting, since Bruce Ratner appears to believe he has a right to push property owners and tenants out of his way.

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

Is Ratner’s goose cooked?

Not another f*cking blog

Miraculously, New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has accepted an appeal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case! This case had been dismissed by a lower court in May of this year. The earliest the appeal would be heard by the court is mid October, and their decision would follow 6 or 8 weeks later, sometime around Thanksgiving. What this means for the developer, Forest City Ratner (FCR), is their goose (aka Atlantic Yards) is that much closer to the oven, and just in time for the holidays!

So, after the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) brazenly forked over more of our money to FCR just last week to keep the zombie proposal stumbling forward, the Court of Appeals may end up being the stake through the heart that kills this zombie once and for all.


NoLandGrab: Stake through the heart? That's no way to kill a zombie. Only way to kill a zombie is to destroy the brain.

Posted by eric at 9:14 AM

Six Charged with Vending Violations in Sting (Also: Screw Your Bidding System)

Fork in the Road, [Village Voice blog]
by Sarah DiGregorio

Bruce Ratner merits a dishonorable mention in this piece on street-food vendors.

New York's street vending has been pushed into its current state of chaos and disrepair by unchecked bureaucracy--vendors are regulated by as many as seven city agencies--and unreasonably low permit limits, which were set in 1979 by then Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Bruce Ratner, always a friend to the common man.


Posted by eric at 9:09 AM

Atlantic Yards project faces roadblock from New York State Court of Appeals

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

More on this week's Atlantic Yards legal news.

The New York State Court of Appeals agreed to hear an appeal by nine plaintiffs who sued to prevent the government from taking their homes and businesses under eminent domain to make way for developer Bruce Ratner's long-delayed Nets arena and 16 residential and commercial towers.

When a lower court ruled in his favor, Ratner told the Daily News it was the "last hurdle" to the project and vowed to break ground in September. The latest court action will likely push that date back.

"You can't start building until you own the land and demolish the buildings," said Daniel Goldstein, whose Pacific St. home sits in the middle of the site of the planned arena. "It's just not possible for that to happen in '09 with this ruling."


Additional coverage...

New York Law Journal, Newsbriefs: Judges to Hear Challenge To Atlantic Yards Project

Yonkers Tribune, Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case Going to New York's High Court

Metro NY, Atlantic Yards' new hurdle

Posted by eric at 8:40 AM