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August 31, 2009

FCR consultant on Ridge Hill--a project still under investigation--now works for Senate Democrats

Atlantic Yards Report

How Lowe can you go?

In the Daily Politics, Liz Benjamin suggests that State Senator Bill Perkins, who held a hearing on Atlantic Yards, might have reason to be wary of new Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) staffer Melvin Lowe.

Benjamin noted that Lowe "has provided consulting services to developer Bruce Ratner on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn"--news to me--and that Perkins is concerned, given that he feels "more answers" are needed regarding AY.

Lowe, who's worked for several government officials and campaigns, "will be providing 'oversight' at the DSCC," Senate Democratic spokesman Paul Rivera told Benjamin. The DSCC wants to retain and build on a slim Democratic majority, a crucial priority for state Democrats in 2010.

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Posted by eric at 10:05 PM

Weaker plan to finance Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards housing project

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

The final version of a state plan for developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project weakened guarantees that promised affordable housing would get necessary funding, new documents show.

Ratner has pledged to build 2,250 units of affordable housing as part of the proposed Nets arena and 16-tower project, but critics have questioned whether he'll ever come through.

There are many reasons to doubt Ratner's promises, but one of the more recent ones is because — get this — there aren't any guarantees of affordable housing in the state documents approving the project.

ACORN director and Atlantic Yards backer Bertha Lewis said she wished public officials would stop "mucking about" with the plans, but expressed confidence all the promised apartments would get built.

"Bruce Ratner's never wavered," she said. "I never look for anybody else to ensure these guarantees. We look directly to the developer to ensure the guarantees."

The only problem with that is that the only "guarantees" are laid out in the Community Benefits Agreement, which are essentially unenforceable, especially since ACORN is already in hock to Ratner to the tune of $1.5 million.

In an e-mail also obtained by Atlantic Yards Report, ESDC counsel Steve Matlin acknowledged there's no guarantee that funding will be available - but said that's Ratner's problem.

"Forest City will take the risk that adequate housing programs are in effect," he wrote. "The bottom line is that the affordable housing requirements do not go away if housing benefits are inadequate or are not available."

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NoLandGrab: "Forest City will take the risk?" "The affordable housing requirements?" Hardly, since essentially, there are no requirements, except in the flimsy CBA. The risk is the public's, in that the state has approved a project largely on the promise of affordable housing that may well not ever materialize.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Daily News follows up on the housing guarantees, gets quotes out of FCR, ESDC, and ACORN, lets them off easy

Norman Oder follows up on the Daily News's follow-up of his story in greater detail, natch.

Well, it's nice that the Daily News, alone among the press, followed up on my article last Thursday questioning the guarantees for Atlantic Yards affordable housing, but the omissions and errors deserve attention.

The article, headlined Weaker plan to finance Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards housing project, was posted today though, I'm told, was actually in the paper Friday.
...

The Daily News asked the ESDC and the developer about the housing and their answers were reminiscent of that old Marx Brothers line, "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"

Posted by eric at 8:50 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning August 31, 2009 and September 7, 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

  • Installation of conduit and cable within Yard (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Installation of underground water line (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Installation of Fire Protection Piping on Pacific Street wall

  • Placement of stone ballast at west end of yard in BL1120

  • Installation of track panels and turnouts/track switches (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Work is anticipated to continue through the end of the year.

Environmental Remediation

  • No work currently underway

Infrastructure

  • 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 continues. 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.

Here's the previous Construction Update, for the weeks of August 17th and 24th.

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

Forest City Press Release: Forest City Announces Loan Extension and Tenants for Ridge Hill

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced that Forest City Ratner Companies, its New York-based subsidiary, has reach an agreement with a 13-member bank group on a two-year extension and modification of the $557 million construction financing for the retail/mixed-use Ridge Hill project, currently under construction in Westchester County, New York.

The financing, which originally matured in August 2010, will now have an initial maturity of August 2012, with two 12-month extensions available.

"We're extremely pleased to announce this important step for our great Ridge Hill project, which is gaining momentum and attracting strong interest from top-tier retailers," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City Enterprises president and chief executive officer. "I want to congratulate our New York team on this achievement.

"We deeply appreciate the commitment demonstrated by all of our lenders, and in particular, the Agent banks, Bank of America, N.A., KeyBank Real Estate Capital, and ING Real Estate Finance. Their support reflects the great location and extraordinary quality of this project, as well as the deep relationships we have built over the years. It also highlights our continuing ability as a company to proactively manage our debt maturities in the current economic and financial-market conditions," Ratner added.

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NoLandGrab: Forest City's "ability as a company to proactively manage" its "debt maturities" appears to be necessitated by Forest City's inability to meet its obligations without some leniency from its lenders.

Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Noticing New York, Ratner: The Little Boy Trying To Get Too Many Cookies Out of The Cookie Jar and Getting None

Michael D.D. White has been updating this blog post since testifying at the Atlantic Yards hearing on July 30th.

Here is a list (from which we read) of the very sweet “cookies” Mr. Ratner has been trying to get out of the public cookie jar when we delivered our testimony. As you can see from the video posted in the Atlantic Yards Report account, with only three minutes to testify we were only able to get to number 11 on the list.- The list goes to 24 but can easily be added to (contribute more in the comments section if you wish).

  1. The right to 22 acres without a competitive bid.

  2. An exclusive monopoly by a single developer over the ownership and development of more than 30 contiguous acres of central Brooklyn.

  3. Eminent domain abuse and windfall profit from that abuse.

  4. Extreme unprecedented density.

  5. A lower capacity railyard for the MTA and Long Island Rail Road that will not allow for needed flexibility or provide future expansion and growth.

And many more...

Ground Report, If Atlantic Yards Is Built, I Pledge To...

Libertarian Richard Cooper makes a pledge regarding Atlantic Yards:

However, it may some day be built. If it does, I pledge to:

A) Not rent or buy commercial or residential space

B) Not attend any games at the arena, sometimes called the Brooklyn Nets Arena.

C) Boycott the commercial tenants there.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards: Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

The organization Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn points out that today is the final day for the public to comment on the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan. DDDB opposes the plan, obviously, due to its long-time stance against Forest City Ratner's $4 billion development project. DDDB cites abuses of eminent domain, for example, or the lack of proper community input on a project that will drastically alter the geography and character of several Brooklyn neighborhoods. Whatever your feelings are towards Atlantic Yards, however, today is your last day to throw in your $0.02. For instructions on how to comment, visit the Empire State Development Corporation website.

NoLandGrab: It's now a $4.9 billion project.

Brownstoner, Bruce Ratner, Moving on Down

Bruce Ratner, the developer behind the controversial Atlantic Yards mega-project, might be on the market for a less expensive home, reports the New York Post.

Bay Ridge Journal, Primary Push for Skaller

The Skaller09 campaign is looking for a few good Atlantic Yards opponents.

The primaries are coming up in just over two weeks. There are a couple of [opponents of Atlantic Yards] running, but there is one candidate who has not only shown unshakable conviction in the fight against Forest City Ratner but also created a stellar campaign based on grassroots organization and exceptional fundraising: Josh Skaller.
...

Now we need to go beyond our comfort zone of friends and reach out to all of our acquaintances in the 39th district to make sure that they are motivated to vote for Josh. There are a lot of informed and intelligent voters who don't realize that Josh is the best candidate.

mole333's blog [The Daily Gotham], Lies, Damned Lies and Biviano's Campaign

The dispute here seems to be a question of who's more entitled to the mantle of true Atlantic Yards critic.

NLG: In reality, among candidates for the 33rd District Council race, both Ken Diamondstone and Ken Baer have greater bona fides when it comes to outright opposition to Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

Last day to submit comments to ESDC; harsh comments from condemnees' lawyer

Atlantic Yards Report

Today is the last day in which comments are accepted on the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (GPP) for Atlantic Yards, so the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) likely should receive a host of comments by the deadline.

Will any of them have an impact? Unlikely.

However, the ESDC, likely via its environmental consultant, AKRF, will have to respond to the comments and present a summary of those responses to its board members before the vote to re-approve the plan, likely on September 17.

And those responses, or lack thereof, may be part of future litigation. Note that the ESDC did not issue a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), as many critics have argued, and comments on the environmental impact--rather than the business terms in the GPP--may be considered off topic.

Still, it will be interesting to see how and if they're answered.

Read on for highlights of "harsh criticisms" from George Locker, attorney for "residential condemnees within two buildings in the AY footprint."

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Another look at the "Outlaw Operation" video about the ESDC and the July 29 public hearing

Atlantic Yards Report

On the last day that public comments can be filed for the Modified General Project Plan for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, journalist and watchdog Norman Oder fact checks and analyzes Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse's video documentary from the first day of the hearing.

The only people pictured are project opponents and some say things that don't add up. The narration, as well, pushes the envelope. But isn't the process rather one-sided and won't the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board rubber-stamp the project when it meets September 17?

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Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

August 30, 2009

Two Sunday Morning Nuggets From The Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

On Paterson, the Times discerns a contradiction; will it ever play 'gotcha' with Bloomberg and Atlantic Yards?

Can the New York Times, Bruce Ratner's business partner, correct long-standing reporting errors regarding the proposed Atlantic Yards project?

A New York Times article published August 26 was headlined Paterson Steps Back From Race Remarks and subtitled in print "But Answers to Questions Appear to Contradict Earlier Statements."

So the Times, not unfairly, played gotcha.

Here's another gotcha they haven't bothered with: Atlantic Yards financing.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg said in 2004 that "any city monies of any meaningful size will be debt issues financed by the extra tax revenues." Later, however, he contradicted that statement by having the city commit $205 million for land purchases and infrastructure.

"See the Nets and NBA Stars in Newark"

NetsAtNewark.jpg

The New Jersey Nets are still promoting preseason games in Newark.

As noted last month, should the Brooklyn arena plan fall through, there might be a lot more NBA stars in Newark.

Posted by steve at 11:18 AM

Barclays reaffirms commitment to AY arena; company head calls community "poor" and predicts 2011 season opening date

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder assesses statements from Barclays about the proposed Nets arena.

Barclays PLC President Bob Diamond tells Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi that, while delays on the planned Brooklyn arena for the Nets are "agonizing and frustrating," the banking company remains committed to the Barclays Center.

That's not surprising--Barclays wants its name around the media for branding purposes--but Politi apparently didn't ask if the naming rights deal, reported at $400 million over 20 years, had been renegotiated.

[Addendum] As noted in March and last November (when Barclays recommitted), the bank may have renegotiated the naming rights deal down. With and since that recommitment, there have been a couple of sweeteners: Barclays got a piece of the bond deal and a naming rights deal for the subway station bordering the arena site.

...

Notably, Diamond said he had seen the new arena design, via Ellerbe Becket and (apparently) an unnamed additional firm, and while less preferable than Frank Gehry's design(s), he was fine with it.

That means that, while the public hasn't had a chance to see designs or a site plan during the comment period (which ends Monday) on the Modified General Project Plan, the developer and its partners have seen them. More importantly, the New York Police Department hasn't yet had a chance to weigh in on security issues.

...

Diamond said, "we think it's the 2011 season that it'll be open." Well, maybe in the second half of the 2011-12 season, but I think the best-case scenario is a 2012 arena opening--and it's unlikely the team would move across state lines late in the season.

Politi reports:
"The original intent ... was branding," he said. "We wanted to continue to enhance the brand of Barclays and do something in New York, where the majority of our clients are. There were many opportunities when it came to naming rights, and what really tripped our trigger on this one was the recovery of Brooklyn and a community that was really quite poor. It not only fit our need to brand, but it fit the fact that we like to give back to the community." (Emphasis added)

Which community exactly was "really quite poor"? The community that Forest City Ratner recruited via housing advocacy group ACORN?

Or the people living in and around what Chuck Ratner of parent Forest City Enterprises calls "a great piece of real estate" and where there have been numerous speculative market-rate condos built lately?

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Posted by steve at 11:04 AM

Barclays still behind Nets' plans for Brooklyn moveStar Ledger

Star Ledger
By Steve Politi

A constant feature in the Atlantic Yards fight is the attempt by project boosters to give the proposed project an air of inevitability. This article seems to be an attempt by Barclays to use that strategy.

Barclays president Bob Diamond called the delays on the new Brooklyn arena for the Nets "agonizing and frustrating," but he said the banking giant remained committed to the controversial project.

And, yes, Diamond is better than you. He is allowed to have exclusive access to the arena design. The public at large has to review the project without knowing this crucial information.

Diamond said that he had seen the new design of the arena - which has yet to be revealed to the public - and while he preferred the original Frank Gehry-designed project, he was satisfied with the plans.

Note in this statement how "I know" would have been much more reassuring for project supporters than "I think."

"As it finally resolved all the hurdles, then it was tough to get any construction money from the banks," he said. "I think we're in a good place now, but absolutely, it was frustrating and we would have preferred it to be accelerated. But as a partner, we think (owner) Bruce Ratner did everything he possibly could do, and we're very strong partners with him."

When is financing for the arena ready? "Fairly soon" is fairly vague.

Diamond, speaking before the third round of The Barclays golf tournament at Liberty National in Jersey City, said the he expected financing for the project would be "set fairly soon." The arena is expected to cost $800 million.

The article goes on to point out why there is good reason for Barclays to be less than certain as to the future of an arena for the Nets. Indeed, who can say for sure at this time what Barclays has agreed to pay for naming rights for the arena?

The Nets remain committed to moving to Brooklyn, but legal challenges from the community have prevented the team from breaking ground. The project now faces two important dates: An Oct. 14 hearing before the New York Court of Appeals dealing with eminent-domain issues and a Dec. 31 deadline to begin work in order to qualify for tax-exempt bonds.

Barclays agreed to pay a reported $400 million over 20 years for naming rights to the new arena in January 2007. That was before the collapse of the financial markets put the Atlantic Yards project in peril.

For all the talk of being "strong partners", Barclays still knows where the find the exit in its relationship with developer Bruce Ratner.

Barclays can opt out of the naming-rights deal if construction has not started by then, but Diamond said yesterday, "We won't be walking away." He said the project remains important for the company's profile.

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Posted by steve at 10:19 AM

Watch our public advocate debate now!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Jeremy Walsh

A debate between four candidates for Public Advocate included a discussion of eminent domain abuse.

Last week, the candidates — Councilmembers Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) and Eric Gioia (D-Queens), civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel and former Public Advocate Mark Green — clashed in a spirited debate held by The Brooklyn Paper in conjunction with Brooklyn Independent Television.

The debate aired on the BCAT TV Network last week, but it’s available to watch whenever you want both on this Web site and on BoroPolitics.com, a new site set up by the Community Newspaper Group, the parent company of this newspaper.

...

Indeed, some of the most-heated exchanges came during a question about the city’s use of eminent domain in its Willets Point redevelopment.

DeBlasio said he supported eminent domain in “very certain circumstances,” including the Queens project, while Gioia called the practice “absolutely wrong” for economic development.

“Often the city says it will only use eminent domain if it has to, but that’s like negotiating with Al Capone, who walks in, puts a gun on the table, and says, ‘Pay no attention to the gun. I’ll only use it if I have to.’”

Siegel agreed that there has been “abuse” of eminent domain, not just at Willets Point, but at Atlantic Yards, too. He cited the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo verdict, which allowed such use of eminent domain to seize privately owned land under many circumstances, but not if there is a closed process or if there is bad faith.

Green, who supports the Willets Point redevelopment, challenged Siegel’s reading of the law, but Siegel’s reiterated that his interpretation of the 5-4 verdict was correct because there had been both bad faith and a closed process at Willets Point.

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Posted by steve at 9:28 AM

August 29, 2009

CNG Watch: Bloomberg interviews, sandwich war, and "banned" book, but nothing on the Carlton Avenue Bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper and the Courier Life are both falling down on the job in reporting the delayed reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge. This news came to light only because of a Freedom of Information request made by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Both major Brooklyn weekly newspapers (owned by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group) this week put Mayor Mike Bloomberg's interview with the CNG reporters and editors on the front page. It was a reasonable choice and the Courier-Life article even incorporated some critical feedback from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein.

The Brooklyn Paper (right) made the interview the lead story, with the entertaining tale of a battle between two Vietnamese sandwich shops as the off-lead. The Courier-Life (at left, below) placed the interview as the off-lead (which couldn't fit in the scan I made), while placing a story about the Brooklyn Public Library "banning" a book as the lead.

Neither saw fit to cover the clearly documented news, published on Tuesday morning, well before their deadlines, that the reopening of the Carlton Avenue Bridge would be delayed until at least January 2011 and likely far longer.

Yes, both produce a lot of copy with a handful of reporters, but they are not informing their readers of some important news.

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Posted by steve at 10:00 AM

Atlantic Yards Rainy Weekend Activity

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Here's a civic-minded suggestion for something to do on a rainy weekend: Let the ESDC (the tool of developer Bruce Ratner) know what you think about the proposed Atlantic Yards project before the deadline passes for public comments to the Modified Project Plan.

The deadline for all submission of comments on the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) to the Empire State Development Corporation is Monday, August 31, 2009 at 5:30pm.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has a great deal of useful information about the MGPP, issues to consider and more on its website.

PLEASE submit your written comments about the project and responses to the MGPP...here's how:

Written comments can be submitted via email:

Email: atlanticyards@empire.state.ny.us

*** Please indicate in subject line:
"Public Comment for Atlantic Yards MGPP."

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Posted by steve at 9:44 AM

Mr. Mayor comes to Metrotech

A Short Story

In this account of going-ons at the Community Newspaper Group's (CNG) headquarters in the Ratner-built Metrotech development, Courier Life reporter Aaron Short ends with an oddly breezy mention of the debate sponsored by the CNG between candidates of the 35th council district, one of whom is the incumbent and anti-Ratner stalwart, Tish James.

Finally, Letitia James, Delia-Hunley Adossa, and Medhanie Estiphanos (35th District, Fort Greene/ Clinton Hill) dropped by late afternoon to settle some scores. First off, Hunley-Adossa her unreachability, saying that the reason why she didn't return reporters' phone calls was because they were calling her cell and her home number, and she won't return calls on private lines until after the election. But enough about that. From the reports, it sounds like Tish mopped the floor with the others.
It's all fun. Afterwards, we tried to see how many candidates we could stuff into an elevator. The answer? Three candidates. Plus Gersh.

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Posted by steve at 9:21 AM

Mike still strong for Yards

Courier-Life
By Thomas Tracy

Despite a recent statement condemning community benefits agreements and the revelation that there is no guarantee of affordable housing, Mayor Bloomberg continues in his support of the proposed Atlantic Yards project. This story says the project will cost $4.9 million, but probably means "billion" instead of "million." Whatever the cost, Bloomberg still yearns for long-off-the-project architect Frank Gehry and says the community is wrong to question the project, but that Simon and Garfunkel would love it.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg received a fair share of supporters and enemies Monday when he defended the much-ballyhooed Atlantic Yards project, which he believes should be completed.

As he vies for his third term in office, the mayor defended the $4.9 million development project during a special sit down with reporters from this paper and Community Newspaper Group.

At the same time, he took a sideways swipe at Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which has taken the lead in the opposition to the project, as well as the many lawsuits that have pushed back its ground-breaking.

“One of the great sins here is that this small group of people stalled it for so long that the economy is different,” said Bloomberg, who not only bemoaned the delay of Atlantic Yards but the fact that Ratner is no longer using the original Frank Gehry design for the centerpiece of the project, Barclay Center.

“I would try to get Ratner to go ahead and do the Gehry design,” he said. “It would have been an icon. It would have been great.

“Simon and Garfunkel would have gone there in a second,” he added.

...

The Mayor basically says that Prospect Heights is so hateful that, if Atlantic Yards is not built, nobody will want to build anything there -- ever. Clearly, the Mayor refuses to consider the alternative offered by the UNITY plan.

If the project doesn’t materialize, then nothing will happen there possibly forever, Bloomberg warned.

“The alternative is leaving it exactly the way it is and your grandchildren won’t see anything,” he said. “This is your chance.”

...

Responding to Bloomberg’s swipe at Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, spokesman Daniel Goldstein said that there were “many great sins he’s overlooked” as preparation for the Atlantic Yards Project went forward, including “supporting a sham process for a phantom project,” “endorsing a sweetheart deal to a billionaire to build an arena that the city’s Independent Budget Office has declared to be a money loser for the city,” and “creating a false argument that the choice is Ratner or nothing.”

“Ratner may be a ‘decent guy,’ but that’s not our concern,” Goldstein said. “But the project he continues to foist on Brooklyn is indecent and corrupt, and his firm’s mismanagement is something the mayor needs to take up with him.

“The mayor can pretend that all is well with the Atlantic Yards plan, demonize the majority who reject this corrupt deal, and be left with a failed legacy for himself—or he can actually listen to the community and find out that there is a far better way to develop the rail yards,” he added.

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Posted by steve at 8:56 AM

August 28, 2009

RATNER MOVING WEST

NY Post, Page Six

No, not to Newark — yet anyway.

RatnerBloombergNews.jpg

TOUGH times for embattled Bruce Ratner? The Atlantic Yards developer has already replaced architect Frank Gehry and whittled down the cost of his $1 billion Nets arena by $200 million. Now he's sold his Montauk estate for $10 million to Chelsea art dealer David Zwirner, reports The Post's Jennifer Gould Keil. The 4,500-square-foot house on 7 acres on Old Montauk Highway was designed by classic East End architect Francis Fleetwood. Prudential Douglas Elliman broker John Golden had no comment. Ratner, we hear, has been looking in Quogue --for something less pricey, on the ocean and closer to the city.

link

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Tough Times for Bruce Ratner

His money-losing Nets aren't moving to Brooklyn, and neither is Bruce Ratner. He's moving ot Quogue. Wherever he is, he must be busy peparing those renderings for Atlantic Yards which nobody has seen...what a way to spend the last week of summer!

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Looking at the 35th District debate: Delia Hunley-Adossa surfaces (and shows why she's been inaccessible)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder watched the debate so you wouldn't have to, though his report on it may be longer than the debate itself. Still, it's well worth a read, especially for insight into Forest City Ratner-backed challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa.

While the Brooklyn Paper’s coverage (headlined Our debate is a brawl! Candidates for Fort Greene seat get testy) of the 35th Council District debate focused on the clash between Council Member Letitia James and longshot challenger Medhanie Estiphanos, perhaps the real news came from watching challenger (and Atlantic Yards supporter) Delia Hunley-Adossa, who currently leads AY opponent James in cash on hand, in action.

Now we know why Hunley-Adossa has been so inaccessible. She relies on platitudes and her speaking style is peppered with malapropisms.

Yes, people speaking extemporaneously shouldn’t be expected to speak perfectly, but Hunley-Adossa was well below the bar for political candidates.

James spent most of her time clashing with Estiphanos, an energetic neophyte who lobbed criticims both off-base and cogent, leaving Hunley-Adossa mostly unscathed--not a wise tactic for the incumbent. The toughest questions for Hunley-Adossa came from Brooklyn Paper staffers, and she didn’t handle them too well.

(Note that the video, which lasts nearly 49 minutes, often cuts off the heads of the participants. The Democratic primary is September 15, and a victory then is tantamount to victory in November.)

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Posted by eric at 9:32 AM

A few questions for the ESDC's phantom community information session

Atlantic Yards Report

So it looks like no additional community information session will be held, as seemingly promised, before the Monday deadline for comment to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

But what if, by some miracle, a session is held either first thing Monday morning or the deadline is extended?

Here are just a few questions:

  • Despite what Forest City Ratner executive Mary Anne Gilmartin said, does the ESDC believe there would be sufficient housing bonds for the anticipated ten-year project buildout?
  • How long would it take to build the arena and how long would the eminent domain process take before construction could begin?
  • If Forest City Ratner has seen new renderings of the arena and arena block, what's keeping them from sharing them publicly?
  • How long will stages 2&3 of the Carlton Avenue Bridge reconstruction project take to complete?

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Posted by eric at 9:22 AM

Politics: Candidate Baer Seeks ‘Leadership by Example’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Howard Egeln

City Council candidate Ken Baer has been a stalwart opponent of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards boondoggle from early on.

It’s green thumbs up for a sustainable city from Ken Baer, one of seven candidates in the 33rd Council District Democratic Party primary election campaign, with an action plan growing from a “grassroots democratic vision” rooted in his civic, environmental and finance work.

“I am the only candidate among seven who does not use a car, so I won’t need a special parking permit. I travel by mass transit and favor bicycling,” said Baer. His background includes being the New York State Sierra Club leader, filing eminent domain lawsuits for “Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” on Atlantic Yards and being an accountant.

Egeln mixes up his facts. Baer didn't file eminent domain lawsuits for DDDB; rather, the Sierra Club's Atlantic Chapter joined the suit challenging the environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project under his leadership.

Changing the way community board members are chosen and giving boards more clout is a major goal for Baer. “We may need some way to elect members. At Community Board 6, Borough President Marty Markowitz did not reappoint nine members he chose because they opposed him on supporting Atlantic Yards.”

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Posted by eric at 9:07 AM

Who's cleaning up Pacific Street blight? Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

In September 2007, some AY opponents bushwhacked a clean-up along Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

Last Saturday, when I took a tour group around Prospect Heights, that stretch of Pacific Street looked pretty trim. But the stretch between Sixth and Carlton avenues looked pretty messy, even though a large residential building, Newswalk, occupies most of the street opposite it.

Now, however, it's been cleaned up, as the sequence of photos below shows. And who's responsible for removing this Pacific Street blight? As the name on the blue car indicates, Commons Associates of MetroTech Center--an organization led by Forest City Ratner.

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Be sure to read the comments section for some revealing backstory about the condition of the sidewalk.

Posted by eric at 9:00 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

mole333's blog [The Daily Gotham], Biviano's Bizarro World

Blogger David Michaelson, most certainly not a fan of Atlantic Yards, defends City Council candidate Jo Anne Simon's record on the project in the face of attacks by fellow candidate Doug Biviano.

Doug Biviano keeps insisting that HE is the only candidate running for the 33rd City Council race who deserves the reform mantle. He declares that Jo Anne Simon has been missing or divisive in the fight against Bruce Ratner, the fight for reform of Brooklyn's corrupt political system and corrupt judicial system, and the fight to Superfund the Gowanus canal. He claims that HE is the one to lead these fights.

Only problem Dougie my boy, is I have yet to see you be a PART of these fights up until now. I HAVE seen Jo Anne Simon play a major role in all of these fights and if at times she took a more cautious part than I did, she was still THERE and there never was any question that we were fighting on the right side. So Dougie boy, how the hell would YOU know what Jo Anne Simon has or has not done over the many years of battling the corruption of Bruce Ratner, Clarence Norman, Vito Lopez and Steve Levin? How would YOU know because YOU weren't there.

Nets Daily, Pro-Arena Council Candidate Got $200,000 from Ratner

In the latest controversy over the Barclays Center, a pro-arena candidate for New York City Council admitted Wednesday that she has received $200,000 from Bruce Ratner’s companies. Delia Hunley-Adossa is running against incumbent Letitia James, Ratner’s biggest critic in the council. Hunley-Adossa has made no secret of her support of the project, often demonstrating with union workers at rallies.

NETSARESCORCHING, NETS ON THE NET 8/27/09 EDITION

On the Atlantic Yards front, a pro-development candidate for New York City Council said the non-profit she heads received “a little over a couple of hundred thousand dollars” from developer Forest City Ratner. Meanwhile, over at Atlantic Yards Report, documents show that the affordable house promised at the site is not a guarantee.

Brooklyn Heights Blog, Marty Backs Lopez’s Levin for 33rd

Heights blogger Homer Fink seemingly anoints Norman Oder Brooklyn's 21st Century bard:

How does this make “the people” feel? Well there’s only one guy who can sum up what some folks in Brooklyn are feeling - Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder.

Brooklyn The Borough, This Week In Brooklyn: A Dog Day Morning and the Battle of Brooklyn

And the Daily News profiles a documentary in the works about the struggle over the Atlantic Yards development site. The Battle of Brooklyn tells the story of the six year strife that has ensued between developer Forest City Ratner and the residents of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.

The Wonkster [Gotham Gazette], District 35 Democratic Candidates Debate

The Democratic primary in this district is shaping up to be, in part, a community referendum on Atlantic Yards, a project that calls for an arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, as well as skyscrapers for offices and apartments.

Posted by eric at 8:42 AM

August 27, 2009

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Documents Show Ratner and NY State Provide No Guarantees for Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing

Journalist Norman Oder, on his Atlantic Yards Report, shows today that there are no guarantees that developer Forest City Ratner will build the 2,250 units of affordable housing promised for the Atlantic Yards development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. There are no guarantees that the developer will build any affordable units at all.

Based on documents obtained by Freedom of Information Law requests, Oder makes it clear that Ratner is only required to seek funding through subsidies for affordable housing. The documents reveal that if the developer is unable to get the funds he wants he doesn't have to build the number of units he's promised. Ratner is not required to get the funds and there is no understanding by the Empire State Development Corporation whether there will be room for all of those units under the annual allotments of housing bonds for New York City and State.

The General Project Plan, which is the proposal's governing document approved in 2006, originally had provisions that nearly guaranteed Atlantic Yards affordable housing. But those provisions never made it into the final version. The Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) released in late June also does not include those provisions guaranteeing affordable housing.

The public comment period on the MGPP ends on August 31st and, presumably without those guarantees, the Empire State Development Corporation is expected to rubberstamp the MGPP on September 17.

"We've expected all along that Forest City Ratner and New York State have no documented guarantees that Atlantic Yards will include 2,250 affordable housing units. Now the evidence shows it is true: there are no affordable housing guarantees for Atlantic Yards," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "There should be a political firestorm over this from all of the elected officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, who've supported Atlantic Yards for the affordable housing, but we won't hold our breath on that."

The Atlantic Yards Report article, "Documents show affordable housing guarantees considered but discarded; no apparent effort to ascertain if housing bonds were sufficient," is at:

http://atlanticyardsreport.com/2009/08/documents-show-affordable-housing.html

Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

Our debate is a brawl! Candidates for Fort Greene seat get testy

Boro Politics

The Community Newspaper Group hosted a debate among the candidates for the 35th City Council district, incumbent Letitia James and challengers Delia Hunley-Adossa and Medhanie Estiphanos.

Forest City Ratner's anointed candidate didn't exactly shine.

Hunley-Adossa, who had not taken questions from The Brooklyn Paper until this debate, said far less than her opponents, often not even taking the 30-second allotment for her answers and referring to a binder full of newspaper articles, notes and other study aides.
...

Later, Hunley-Adossa explained her close connections to Ratner, who pumped — in her words, “a little over a couple of hundred-thousand dollars” — into her group Brooklyn Endeavor Experience through a “community benefits agreement” that Hunley-Adossa and others signed in 2005. (Coincidentally, Bloomberg, in a separate interview this week with editors and reporters from The Brooklyn Paper and other outlets in the Community Newspaper Group, said he’s “violently opposed” to such agreements.)

Hunley-Adossa said her group, whose board is filled with many of her family members, helped “downsize” Ratner’s initial plan, though it is actually larger than when it was first unveiled in 2003, and negotiate high environmental standards for the buildings.

"Downsize?"

It also has an educational component, she claimed.

“We have attempted to educate young people on how to be little green people,” Hunley-Adossa said, but its work has been suspended while the construction project is stalled, showing its reliance on Ratner.

article

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Markowitz, endorsing Levin in the 33rd, joins Lopez (and Moses) in prioritizing results over process

Atlantic Yards Report

Process be damned.

The issue re-emerges in a Brooklyn Paper article regarding Borough President Marty Markowitz's endorsement of machine candidate Steve Levin, chief of staff to Assemblyman (and Brooklyn Democratic Party head) Vito Lopez in the crowded 33rd District Council race.

Levin is the only candidate to support the Lopez-backed Broadway Triangle rezoning, which Markowitz supports:
“I know Steve’s opponents think process is more important than results … but he understands that results are the most important thing,” said Markowitz.

“By working closely with Vito Lopez, Steve Levin understands the necessity of delivering affordable housing to his community,” the Beep added.
...

And, of course, Markowitz has long supported Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, erroneously claiming, "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years."

He hadn't suggested that the Vanderbilt Yard--or the privately-owned (and generally occupied) properties around it--be put out for bid or declared blighted.

article

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Ratner to be featured in film

TheDeal.com
by Gerald Magpily

Who wants to bet Bruce plays the villain?

Real estate dealmaker Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Cos. is next to have his moment in the limelight. The owner of the National Basketball Association franchise the Nets will take center court in a documentary titled "The Battle of Brooklyn" about a neighborhood's struggle with the real estate mogul's plan to build a stadium in Prospect Heights for his team.

The six-year saga is still developing with the stadium still not built, which brings a slight dilemma for the filmmaker Michael Galinsky, who has more than 300 hours of footage and expects to have a finished product for film festivals by next year.

"You can't really edit a documentary until you kind of know the end of the story," he told the Daily News. "We don't know the end, but we do have a sense of an arc, and the end is coming. By Dec. 31, either shovels will be in the ground or they will not, and that will be the end of the story."

article

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

Documents show affordable housing guarantees considered but discarded; no apparent effort to ascertain if housing bonds were sufficient

Atlantic Yards Report

Big scoop here!

Norman Oder has been trying to get to the bottom of what assurances were made or discussed about whether or not the affordable housing component of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject would ever get built and, if so, when.

Documents he received, via Freedom of Information Law request, indicate that provisions that nearly guaranteed Atlantic Yards affordable housing were part of the drafts of the General Project Plan, but never made it into the final version.

These documents show that drafts of the official project documents included a requirement that the bonds for affordable housing be approved, along with a provision guaranteeing a percentage of the affordable housing in Phase II of the project. These requirements were dropped before the official vote to approve the project by the Public Authorities Control Board.

BondCap-AYR.gif

If the volume cap on available housing bonds, administered by the city and state, gets exhausted each year without room for Atlantic Yards housing bonds, the affordable housing component of Atlantic Yards could be jeopardized, or at least delayed well beyond the official decade-long buildout. Oder sought information as to whether this important issue was discussed before the official plan approval. One document shows it was, but the information was redacted. "The bottom line: they discussed it, but we don't know what they said."

So, did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), during its approval process for Atlantic Yards, evaluate whether there'd be sufficient tax-exempt housing bonds to meet the ten-year timetable for 2250 affordable units?

Documents received in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request suggest no; in fact, the state considered but rejected a General Project Plan provision that stated explicitly that approval was needed for affordable housing financing.

Thus, it's likely the ESDC board approved the project in December 2006--and will re-approve the project next month--without any assurances the affordable housing could be built as promised.

Moreover, the State Funding Agreement signed in September 2007 gives the developer a pass, asserting that a good faith application for housing bonds was expected to lead to their receipt--without evaluating whether such bonds would be available.

Also, it's not clear whether the ESDC can enforce any affordable housing requirements if the funding is not available.

Read on...

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

Bloomberg "violently opposed to community benefits agreements"

A couple of days ago, NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ranted against critics of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, while in the same interview he whined about Community Benefits Agreements... yes, the very same type of agreement that he supports (and pretended to sign) for Atlantic Yards.

The Brooklyn Paper, Bloomy still wants Gehry — plus other tidbits from the mayor in our endorsement sit-down

...[Bloomberg] also blasted the kinds of community benefits agreement that Ratner signed with several groups, some of which did not exist before they signed an agreement to support the project in exchange for some financial backing.

“I’m violently opposed to community benefits agreements,” he said. “A small group of people, to feather their own nests, extort money from the developer? That’s just not good government.”

NoLandGrab: It sorta makes you wonder if Bloomberg just forgets things, or isn't detail-oriented, or will take any side on an issue, as long as it serves his desired outcome.

[Photo: Mayor Bloomberg signing something at the ceremony for the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, from The Brooklyn Papers, by Tom Callan, July 2005]

DDDB.net, Doubletake: Bloomberg "Violently" Opposes CBAs but Loves Atlantic Yards CBA

Yup, that is Mayor Bloomberg right next to Bruce Ratner signing the Atlantic Yards Nest-feathering Developer Extortion Agreement Community Benefits Agreement (BUILD President James Caldwell on the right who, by the way, appeared in a Bloomberg campaign television ad last time he ran).

No, the Mayor didn't sign the Nest-feathering Developer Extortion Agreement Community Benefits Agreement but he and his friends sure have hyped it to the hilt.

I guess we'd call that bad government.

Atlantic Yards Report, AY CBA witness Bloomberg blasts CBAs as extortion; signatory Nimmons brushes off questions from The Local

...it's unclear whether Bloomberg specifically targeted the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement. As reported in the Times, he began criticizing CBAs in April 2006, less than a year after he presided over the ceremony for the AY CBA.

(Despite the headline on the mayor's site, he was a witness, not a signatory. Moreover, the press release was incoherent, having the mayor declare, "This Community Benefits Agreement is the largest private sector investment in Brooklyn's history.")

So much for the "modern blueprint" to harvest community support for AY, as discerned by a Times reporter in October 2006, during his first weeks on the AY beat.

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

Yes, the time frame for the Pacific Street sidewalk-as-street is 12 weeks

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder issues a "my bad" (English fror mea culpa), after backing the wrong horse:

When I reported July 31 on the Department of Transportation's (DOT) plan to allow a portion of the Pacific Street sidewalk be used as a street, I gave the benefit of the doubt to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

DOT indicated that the plan would be in place for 12 weeks. ESDC said two weeks.

However, the sidewalk is still being used as a street. Now, says ESDC in essence, never mind.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

NY KATRINA COUPLE FETED

NY Post
By Jennifer Fermino

Bruce Ratner's sister garnered some ink for post-Katrina largesse:

Four years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the governor of Mississippi is honoring an Upper West Side couple who helped raise $3.1 million for a community center.

Gov. Haley Barbour is feting Ellen Ratner, sister of real-estate developer Bruce Ratner, and her partner, Cholene Espinoza, today in his mansion for their work in creating the center in Pass Christian, which features dance classes, a yoga studio and the only public pool for 30 miles.

Espinoza -- a former pilot who was supposed to have flown aboard ill-fated United Flight 93 on 9/11 before a schedule change -- personally donated $130,000 to buy the land.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Bloomberg Opines on Atantic Yards, Coney Island

Brownstoner

Mayor Bloomberg spoke with reporters from the Community Newspaper Group, the parent company of The Brooklyn Paper, on Monday as part of his campaign tour, where they discussed everything from overzealous ticketing agents to Atlantic Yards. Concerning the latter, he hopes that developer Forest City Ratner can use the Frank Gehry designs for the arena and skyscrapers, as originally planned but later abandoned due to cost. It would make the arena—and Brooklyn—even more of an international draw, he reasoned: "Simon and Garfunkel on their tour would go to Brooklyn in a second before they go to Madison Square Garden. They’re New Yorkers." (Has MSG been airlifted out of NYC recently?) Concerning the epic legal battles and financial concerns behind the massive development, the mayor sided with Ratner. "One of the great sins here is this small group of people stalled it so long [that] the economy is different," he said.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

August 26, 2009

A Near-Brush with Information

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Andy Newman

Back in March, we noted with interest an Atlantic Yards Report piece about the treasurer of Delia Hunley-Adossa’s City Council campaign, Charlene Nimmons.

The AYR post included a vain attempt to find out where Ms. Nimmons’s nonprofit, Public Housing Communtities, gets its money. That inquiry was in the service of the broader question (which several contributors to our growing list of questions for the candidates have echoed), “To what extent, if any, is Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s campaign bankrolled, directly or indirectly, by Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards?”

Both Ms. Hunley-Adossa and Ms. Nimmons strongly support the project and, as heads of their respective nonprofits, are signatories of a community benefits agreement with Forest City. Ms. Hunley-Adossa has acknowledged that Forest City supported one of her nonprofit’s programs and Ms. Nimmons has cited a Forest-City-supported event sponsored by her organization.

But Ms. Hunley-Adossa has refused so far to answer questions on the subject, and in March, Ms. Nimmons would not even take calls from The Local or Atlantic Yards Report.

Well. (If you’re hoping for an answer to the big question, you might as well stop reading now.)

Actually, it's worth it to keep reading.

article

NoLandGrab: If Atlantic Yards is so great, why are some of its most ardent supporters so reluctant to talk about the developer's support for them?

Posted by eric at 5:48 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, The Carlton Avenue Bridge: Closed Through 2011

The Carlton Avenue Bridge, west of Vanderbilt Avenue, was closed in January 2008, and the DOT announced this year that construction on the bridge should be complete by January 2010. The Atlantic Yards Report points out, however, that the DOT has "quietly advanced" the completion date to January 2011. The Report also suspects that the date will in actuality be later still, due to details in the filed documents and communications regarding the bridge: Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards project, has three years to complete the bridge without penalty, but is trying to take advantage of a loophole by claiming Unavoidable Delay, which would extend the deadline to 2013.

City Room, Angry? He’ll Tell the World, and From His Front Window

A Prospect Heights man who expresses his ire through window signs ("Credit Default Swaps Should Be Prosecuted, Not Paid") is defended by those who say, well, everybody else is doing it:

An informal survey of neighbors revealed some annoyance with Mr. Keith’s outspoken views, but many expressed admiration and supported his right to express himself, noting that window signs opposing the nearby Atlantic Yards development were common in the neighborhood. Mr. Keith said he he had received nothing but compliments from neighbors and passers-by.

The Architect's Newspaper Blog, Gehry Shines in Court

Some consolation for the World's Most Famous Architect:

He may have lost Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Grand Avenue in Downtown LA, but at least Frank Gehry won’t have to forfeit half the proceeds from his jewelry line designed for Tiffany & Co.

Fucked in Park Slope, REVIEW: PROSPECT PARK WEST BY AMY SOHN

FIPS's review of Amy Sohn's new book includes this plot tidbit:

One of the characters is writing a modern-day, post 9/11 terrorist thriller screenplay set in Brooklyn called Atlantic Yards (!!??).

PlanNYC, Editorial Argues for Court Ruling Against Ratner and ESDC

An editorial in the New York Daily News called on the New York Court of Appeals to rule against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Bruce Ratner in the upcoming hearings on alleged eminent domain abuse related to the Atlantic Yards project.

NoLandGrab: Hah, if only it were so. PlanNYC is mistaking Dana Berliner's OpEd piece for an editorial; the Daily News's editorial board has a somewhat different opinion about Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

Bloomy still wants Gehry — plus other tidbits from the mayor in our endorsement sit-down

The Brooklyn Paper

In an interview with the Community Newspaper Group, Mayor Bloomberg whined about the loss of architect Frank Gehry and ragged on Atlantic Yards critics:

Mayor Bloomberg said on Monday that Atlantic Yards would be a better project if Bruce Ratner would bring back Frank Gehry’s much-hyped designs for the stalled and increasingly costly arena and 16 skyscrapers.

BloombergCNG.jpg

“If there’s any way Ratner can possibly do it, he should use the Gehry design, because he will get great events from around the world going directly to Brooklyn,” the mayor told a team of reporters and editors from the Community Newspaper Group, the parent company of The Brooklyn Paper. “Simon and Garfunkel on their tour would go to Brooklyn in a second before they go to Madison Square Garden. They’re New Yorkers.”
...
Like the developer himself — and the borough president he admires — Bloomberg argued that Ratner’s opponents, who have waged numerous court battles against Ratner and his government allies, were largely responsible for depriving Brooklyn of the vaunted architect’s vision.

“One of the great sins here is this small group of people stalled it so long [that] the economy is different,” Bloomberg said.

“I tried to get Ratner to go ahead and do the Gehry design. I thought it would have been an icon, but the economy is just not there.”

But the mayor conceded that Ratner probably would have faltered during the real-estate bust, even without relentless opposition from groups like Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

“He might have been in trouble halfway through, but at least he would have a project in the ground, going up.”

article

Atlantic Yards Report, Bloomberg blames AY opponents for loss of Gehry, fails to analyze 50% leap in arena cost

For the Mayor's benefit, Norman Oder explains why Gehry is out:

The cost of the Gehry arena went up from $637.2 million in December 2006 to $950 million in March 2008, well beyond the cost of inflation, and in part because of the cost of security. Did AY opponents have anything to do with that?

Now the arena would cost $772 million. Maybe Bloomberg should be asking for a cost breakdown.

Moreover, given the longstanding slowdown in Downtown Brooklyn office space--well before the economic downturn--it would've been impossible to build Building 1 (once "Miss Brooklyn") in tandem with the arena and impossible to build the four towers integrated into the arena block as Gehry planned.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bloomberg Maintains Out of Touch Stance on Atlantic Yards

Who is the Mayor callin' small?

Would a financial wizard have a problem understanding that Ratner can't afford Frank Gehry any more (if he ever could, which is doubtful)? Would a financial wizard miss a bait and switch if it bit him in the rear?

And would a master handler of the City's business really think that a "small group of people" could stop a $4.9 billion development project?

Some news for the Mayor: The opposition to Atlantic Yards is very big, the small group is the one including you that has tried to foist Ratner's boondoggle on Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Limited parking, street closures, and rooftop seats: why watching the Cubs in Wrigleyville contrasts with the plans for the Nets and AY (+ video)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a field trip to Wrigley Field to explore the comparisons made to the downtown ballpark in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The [Empire State Development Corporation] says Wrigley fits into its neighborhood.

However, there are some significant contrasts between Wrigley and the proposed Atlantic Yards arena, as I learned when I visited Chicago's Wrigley Field in July during an afternoon baseball game and took photos and a video (below).

The contrasts and insights:

  • Living or visiting across the street is a boon because you can watch games
  • There's very little parking, even though the stadium has more than twice the projected capacity of the arena and, while located on a transit line, is not at a transit hub
  • Residential permit parking has been instituted to protect residents
  • There's a vigorous private market in which residents rent their own parking spaces
  • Two streets are closed during games
  • A line of buses waits for the crowds

article

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

Submit Questions to Council Candidates for the 35th District - Home to the Atlantic Yards Proposal

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is encouraging Atlantic Yards critics to submit questions for the "virtual town hall" for candidates in the 35th District:

The three candidates running in the Democratic primary (Sept. 15th) for the 35th City Council District are incumbent Letitia James, Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement chair Delia Hunley-Adossa, and financial consultant Medhanie Estiphanos.

The Times "The Local" blog is asking you for tough questions to ask the candidates for the blog's "virtual town hall."

Go here to submit your questions in the comments section.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Mystery Downtown Development Going Affordable

Citing a NY Post article, Brownstoner is wondering what Downtown Brooklyn luxury condo building is "in talks with the city to unload their unsold units as affordable housing."

NoLandGrab: Hard times in the luxury condo market don't bode well for Atlantic Yards. Also, if NYC can increase the amount of affordable housing out of unsold inventory, then what is the justification for overspending on Bruce Ratner-built affordable units?

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

Frankly Gehry

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Lawsuit Dismissed vs. Former Yards Architect

A dismissed lawsuit against architect Frank Gehry, concerning his jewelry design work, segues into an update on Atlantic Yards. [No joke.]

The NY Observer, From Bash to Bash to Overhead Smash: U.S. Open Party Itinerary

After dismissal from Atlantic Yards, does Frank Gehry have too much time on his hands?

As we were going to press Tuesday night, Maria Sharapova was expected to be lifting a glass to Frank Gehry at the Cooper Square Hotel. Both have contracts at Tiffany & Co—Mr. Gehry to design jewelry, and Ms. Sharapova to look pretty wearing that jewelry. We’re not precisely sure what they’ll talk about, but since Mr. Gehry backed out of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project and Ms. Sharapova hasn’t been doing much of anything on a tennis court recently, we’re sure those two have had time to think up some stuff!

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

Forest City in the News

Washington Business Journal, San Juan hires Forest City Washington

Forest City Washington Inc., the local subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises Inc., has won a contract to provide real estate advisory services to the city of San Juan in Puerto Rico.

The company, which is developing the mixed-use waterfront development The Yards in Southeast D.C., announced a month ago that it would advise D.C. on another major Southeast property on the Anacostia River, Poplar Point.

For San Juan, the company will serve as program manager for a 21-block waterfront district to include new housing, offices, hotels, retail, parking, parks and a marina. The 100-acre site includes almost two miles of waterfront and is located east of the Old San Juan district, according to the company.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City picked as program manager for 21-block waterfront project in Puerto Rico

Forest City, a real estate company based in Cleveland, will provide management services for the project in exchange for fees. The company was selected for the job by the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce and the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. The proposed project could involve homes, a hotel component, offices, retail, parking and public parks, including a marina.

Responding to a tightening on credit for commercial real estate and a near-halt to development nationwide, Forest City largely has shelved new construction in favor of reducing its debt and managing its existing properties. The company has been exploring ways to make money by providing advisory and management services -- rather than putting shovels in the ground.

PR Newswire, Forest City Named Program Manager for Redevelopment of San Juan, P.R. Waterfront

"We are honored to be selected and extremely excited to provide our full array of development management services for the redevelopment of San Juan's waterfront," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer. "This is precisely the type of project - including elements of urban infill, revitalization and waterfront redevelopment - that Forest City has experience with and does well. This selection also reflects our continued strategic expansion into asset management and third-party advisory services," he added.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, National real estate group to honor Forest City for green building

A Forest City Enterprises Inc. partnership has been tapped to receive a national award for sustainable development of an office building in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
...
Forest City's project is part of a massive community being developed through a public-private partnership in Albuquerque. The lead developer is Forest City Covington, a joint venture between Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland and Covington Capital Corp. The partners are being recognized for their work on a two-story office building for Fidelity Investments.

The developers aim to have the building certified "Gold" through the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. LEED certification, which takes into account factors including energy savings, water use, building materials and interior environment, comes at four levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

RealEstateRama, NAIOP Sustainable Development Award Honors ProLogis and Forest City Covington: Projects to be honored at Development ‘09: The Annual Meeting for Commercial Real Estate, August 25, 2009

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

August 25, 2009

Atlantic Yards saga put into focus

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

It's Atlantic Yards - the movie.

For six years, Clinton Hill filmmaker Michael Galinsky has been filming scenes from the fight over developer Bruce Ratner's proposed Nets basketball arena and 16 residential and commercial towers - and now he's working to turn more than 300 hours of footage into a documentary dubbed "The Battle of Brooklyn."

The Prospect Heights project caught Galinsky's attention soon after it was announced in 2003.

"I got a sense there's a lot more here than I'm reading," he said.

He kept shooting so long because it remained uncertain how the project, bogged down for years by lawsuits and economic troubles, would turn out.

"You can't really edit a documentary until you kind of know the end of the story," he said.

Galinsky, 40, plans to wrap up shooting in the coming months - as Ratner scrambles to get financing, beat back remaining lawsuits and break ground by an end-of-year deadline, and begin screening the documentary at film festivals next year.

"We don't know the end, but we do have a sense of an arc, and the end is coming," he said. "By Dec. 31, either shovels will be in the ground or they will not, and that will be the end of the story."

article

Click "Play" to view the trailer for "The Battle of Brooklyn."

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

The Nowhere Nets

The Star-Ledger, Editorial

Quicker than a slapshot, the Devils' full-color advertisement went up on a digital billboard towering over Interstate 78: "We proudly wear our state on our jerseys," the caption pronounced, the bold words running beneath a photo of the hockey team's NJ logo.

It's the latest gotcha in an intramural feud with the Nets, who continue to commit silly personal fouls against the state while playing in a decaying -- and competing -- arena the Devils want closed. But motives aside, the Nets deserved the dig.

It's not enough that the Nets keep insisting they're moving to Brooklyn (call us when a shovel actually scratches the dirt over there), but now the Nets are removing "New Jersey" from their road uniforms for the upcoming basketball season.

Basically, they're saying: "When we're in New Jersey, we'd rather be in Brooklyn, and when we're on the road, we don't want anyone to know we're still from New Jersey."

So, while New Jersey pours millions of tax dollars into Izod Center to prop it up for the Nets, the NBA team repays the state with disrespect.

article

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Ask the Candidates

The Local wants your questions for an online candidates' forum:

Three weeks from today, there will be a Democratic primary in the 35th District City Council race.

We’re going to be asking the candidates some tough questions. And we want you to help us come up with them.

Welcome to The Local’s virtual Town Hall meeting. The incumbent council member, Letitia James, and her two challengers, Delia Hunley-Adossa and Medhanie Estiphanos, have agreed to answer a series of questions on the issues affecting the district. Here’s how this will work:

From now till the end of the week, you, the readers, may submit questions in the comment box below. They should be questions that apply to all three candidates. Early next week, we will compile a bunch of questions and send them to the candidates. They will have a week to respond. We will print their answers the week after Labor Day, the week before the Sept. 15 primary.

Brooklyn Heights Blog, Biviano and Simon Spar Over Real Estate Contributions

Speaking of candidates, the battle over who took contributions from whom and who's tougher on Atlantic Yards continues in the race for the 33rd Council District.

The Doug Biviano campaign today questioned fellow 33rd District City Council candidate Jo Anne Simon’s connections to developers and real estate interests.
...

Henry McCaslin, Biviano campaign spokesman, said “The fact is she has a long and troubling history of placating developers that goes back to the organization she created to divide the opposition to Atlantic Yards. It is not surprising that real estate interests are now lining up to fill her pockets in this campaign.”

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, "The Nowhere Nets"

The Devils have ratcheted up the Garden State feud taking a big dig at the "Nowhere Nets" who they'd like to see out of Izod and in The Rock in Newark. For those not paying close attention, the Bruce Ratner-owned Nets will no longer wear "New Jersey" on their away jerseys while simultaneously asking for NJ taxpayer-funded improvements at the Meadowlands arena.

Ampersand Seven, #236

I don't have a stoop of my own, but I do like the communal aspect of them. And while I'm sure that proposal of Frank Gehry's (as part of the ill-fated Atlantic Yards project) to build a giant stoop at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues must've sounded great to someone in a board room meeting, how many of you would want to perch atop that chaotic intersection with fifty or a hundred of your closest strangers? The stoop, according to the proposal, would be "visible to 60,000 vehicles that pass through the intersection daily". Um, no thanks.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

The Carlton Avenue Bridge closure will be at least three years (until January 2011), and likely much longer

Atlantic Yards Report

Because Forest City Ratner's predictions and promises historically defy logic and reality, watchdogs have been trying to get a realistic reopening date for the Carlton Avenue bridge.

Today's scoop and analysis comes from a Freedom of Information request made by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which the group shared with Norman Oder:

Newly-discovered details about plans for Carlton Avenue bridge confirm that the demolition and reconstruction not only will take longer than the officially announced two years, it will take at least three years and likely much longer.

The bridge, which connects Pacific Street to Atlantic Avenue and thus Prospect Heights to Fort Greene, closed in January 2008. In January of this year, the Department of Transportation (DOT) said the work "is scheduled for completion January 2010." Now DOT has quietly advanced the official opening date (above) to January 2011--three years after closure.

But there's ample reason to believe that the reopening would be delayed even more, possibly until mid-2012, as I explain below. Notably Forest City Ratner is proceeding in three stages, a far slower sequence than that disclosed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

On Sunday, I contacted two DOT spokesmen for an update, but have not gotten a response.

article

[Photo, Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool]

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Forest City in the News

SmarTrend, Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) Bullish Technical Alert - Trend Up 21.6%

Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) is trading 2.6% higher (up $0.21 to $8.20) today on volume of 185,517 shares. The stock has traded within a 52-week range of $3.26 and $40.49.

Forest City Enterprises is currently above its 50-day moving average of $6.61 and above its 200-day moving average of $6.46.

Yonkers Tribune, President Lesnick, Behind Closed Doors, Ridge Hill, SFC Yonkers, Councilmember Gronowski By Hezi Aris

Delays at Bruce Ratner's Ridge Hill development might be a cautionary tale for political leaders in Yonkers who are counting on the next megadevelopment deal to save their city... or not:

In light of the Journal News article divulging the non-paying, and now delayed 2011 completion date for the Forest City Ratner Ridge Hill development, one must wonder how Yonkers will survive the fiscal hemorrhaging it is undergoing, especially because there is no prospect for additional funding to relieve the exhausted, taxpaying homeowner for the next three to five years forward.

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

The Juice List: The readers have spoken with their own choices

The Star-Ledger sports columnist Steve Politi shares reader responses to his list of 25 most influential powerbrokers in NJ sports. Bruce Ratner's inclusion at #6 got on one fan's nerves:

"Bruce Ratner as a sports broker in New Jersey? He'll take that as an insult as he hates New Jersey! His goal is to be a sports broker in Brooklyn. Seriously, I am a Nets season ticket holder since 2003 (cheap seats). The Nets were always a bit of a laughing stock, but he's gone to new lengths giving away reversible jerseys with a Nets player on one side and a rival on the other. What team promotes their rivals? The sooner this Brooklyn project is buried, the sooner he can sell the team and we can get a real owner, hopefully, from New Jersey. The guy's a joke!" -- Ray Trepkau

Politi's response:

Well, like I wrote on Sunday, power doesn't mean likability. Ratner's decisions in the coming months will have a huge impact on the sports landscape, from the future of the Meadowlands to the Newark arena.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

MTA to James, "Beat it"

Though the Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently signed a deal with Bruce Ratner to add the name "Barclays Center" to the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. Station, the agency isn't even entertaining the idea of adding a plaque at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station to commemorate the location of Michael Jackson's groundbreaking video for "Bad."

NBCNewYork.com, Brooklyn Rumbling for Jackson's "Bad" Subway Station

[City Councilmember Letitia James] said when she asked the MTA why they wouldn't acknowledge the King of Pop, who died on June 25, but they let Bruce Ratner pay $200,000 a year to put "Barclays Center" on the Atlantic Avenue station there was very little response.

"Naming rights is a new kind of thing for us," said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. "We're in the process of developing guidelines for naming rights as sources of revenue."

Associated Press, Agency: NY Michael Jackson subway honor unlikely

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

August 24, 2009

End eminent domain abuse: N.Y.'s highest court should rule against Bruce Ratner

NY Daily News
Op-Ed by Dana Berliner

Though the plaintiffs are asking the NY Court of Appeals to examine specific questions regarding whether the taking of property for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and highrise project satisfies the restrictions placed on eminent domain by the NY State Constitution, attorney Dana Berliner sees this case as an opportunity for the court to clearly state whether or not the US Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. New London passes muster in the Empire State:

In recent years, New York has earned the dubious distinction of being one of the nation's worst abusers of eminent domain. The Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) and localities have approved condemnation of property for a huge range of wealthy private entities, including the New York Stock Exchange, Costco, Stop & Shop and Columbia University. The latest outrage is the effort by the Empire State Development Corp. to take homes and other private property for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards stadium development.
...
There may, however, finally be light at the end of a very dark tunnel. In October, the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, will hear the legal challenge of Brooklyn residents and businesses looking to block the use of eminent domain to build Atlantic Yards.
...
The fundamental legal question is whether the state should go along with the notorious 2005 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo vs. City of New London. In that ruling, the court said that using eminent domain for potential job creation, increased taxes or general economic development does not violate the U.S. Constitution. In the firestorm of outrage that followed, 43 states changed their laws to make eminent domain for private development either more difficult or impossible.

New York remains one of only seven that have not.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

Report says MTA tunnels bordering AY site in "critical condition;" MTA says it's taken remedial action but won't provide details

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has the scoop that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner has reported to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that some of the subway tunnels that are bordering the project are seriously deteriorating. [Click image to enlarge.]

A confidential December 2007 report commissioned by developer Forest City Ratner and provided to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) stated that portions of two tunnels were in critical condition and required repair "in the immediate future" and the "near future."

Preliminary remedial work has been performed--the MTA won't say how much--but further repairs on these tunnels are not part of the MTA's recently-released draft Capital Plan, which covers 2010-14 and aims to address only some of the system's many needs.

In other words, should the Atlantic Yards arena open in 2011-12 as currently projected, it may be bordered by seriously deteriorated subway structures. We don't know whether the city or Forest City Ratner have asked for accelerated repairs or stated a willingness to pay for them.
...
There's no proof that work on the Atlantic Yards site directly threatens the subway system, but Forest City Ratner wouldn't have had the report prepared were there no reason for concern.

The repairs would require service interruptions:

Still, unclear is the extent of potential service disruptions and how they might affect the transit hub at Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street should the Atlantic Yards arena open.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

With one week to go before comment deadline, no news about the second community information session

Atlantic Yards Report

A week ago, I reported how I've been asking when the promised second community information session about Atlantic Yards would be held.

The first was held on July 22, with representatives of developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) facing some tough questions.

No second session has been announced yet, even as the August 31st deadline for comments approaches.
...
Though [former ESDC CEO Marissa] Lago's words weren't precise, the implication was that the community information sessions would help residents formulate input to the ESDC board, including comments at the public hearing and comments submitted in writing.

That means the second session would have to be held before the comment period closes.

There are seven days left.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

Yonkers' Ridge Hill opening postponed

The Journal-News
By LEN MANIACE

Like Atlantic Yards, the construction timeline for Bruce Ratner's other regional megaproject is slipping:

While construction is well under way on the massive Ridge Hill development above the New York State Thruway, hopes for opening the mixed-use complex by this year's holiday shopping season have evaporated in the national recession.

The new projected opening? 2011.

Officials at Forest City Ratner Cos. say the lagging construction schedule at the $685 million retail and residential development is due to the company's wish to time the opening to a better economy, rather than from trouble obtaining financing or attracting tenants.
...
Construction began in 2007, and through most of that year Forest City Ratner officials talked about opening the 1.2 million-square-foot complex in late 2009. But in June, the developer's quarterly report pegged the opening somewhere between the third quarter of 2010 and sometime in 2011, an estimate that Pesin recently conceded was somewhat optimistic.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

JACKO OFF TRACKO

'BAD' IDEA TO RENAME STATION: MTA

NY Post
by Rich Calder

If you want to strike a deal, bring your wallet:

Earlier this year, agency honchos agreed to the MTA's first-ever naming rights deal. Developer Bruce Ratner is set to pay the MTA $200,000 a year over 20 years to add the name of his planned Barclays Center NBA arena to the Atlantic Avenue transit hub in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Looking again at the New Yorker's Bloomberg profile--what's missing?

Atlantic Yards Report

I took a second read of the past week's New Yorker profile of Mayor Mike Bloomberg, headlined THE UNTOUCHABLE: Can a good mayor amass too much power? and was struck by the absence of a significant critique.

Yes, as I wrote, had the profile encompassed public authorities reform and delved into Atlantic Yards, it could've been much tougher. But writer Ben McGrath gave Bloomberg too much of a bye.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

August 23, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report - Sleeping Watchdogs and Thoughts From The Walking Tour

Are newspaper watchdogs? Wyman looks nationally, AYR locally

Norman Oder points out Bill Wyman's piece in the web magazine Splice Today, "Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing." Wyman finds that the role of watchdog supposedly served by local newspapers has been overstated.

Oder looks at a recent Atlantic Yards story to see how this how the watchdogs are doing:

Did the other two dailies cover the recent dust-up in the race for the 35th District Council seat, in which challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa (via the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt) called the New York Times blog The Local biased?

Did they try to figure out whether the charges were legit?

Nope.

...

Did any of the blogs in Clinton Hill (and adjacent Fort Greene), the alleged "bloggiest" neighborhood, cover it? Clinton Hill Blog? The Real Fort Greene? (The latter has publicly ceded its role to The Local.)

What about the comprehensive-in-aspiration Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn or Brooklyn the Borough?

What about Brownstoner, which, Steven Berlin Johnson predicted, in five years would be one of the "big bloggers [that] will break stories [about civic controversies like Atlantic Yards], comment on events, and even make money."

Nope.

(The only journalist/blogger besides me to pick up the story was journalist Aaron Short, who also covers politics and news for the Courier-Life and other news outlets.)

Yes, journalists and others using blogs can serve as watchdogs. But it isn't happening enough.

Learning from the walking tour: Fifth Avenue and naming rights

A walking tour led by Norman Oder of the areas surrounding Vanderbilt Yards causes him to revisit the issues of street closings and naming rights as regards the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

The importance of Fifth Avenue

I know that urban analysts now say that closing streets can actually diminish traffic rather than merely divert it to cause bottlenecks elsewhere. But I think that the plan to close and demap Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues deserves more discussion. After all, we saw a lot of cars heading north on Fifth for drop-offs and pick-ups at the Atlantic Center Mall, notably Pathmark.

As I've pointed out, the Municipal Art Society (MAS), in its 2006 testimony on the project (graphic above), suggested that, with a north-south re-orientation of the arena, Fifth Avenue could be kept open. Now, though we don't have updated renderings, the arena has apparently been re-oriented.

So I don't think Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin ended the debate when she asserted last month that the reduction in the arena bowl "doesn’t change the general footprint for the arena itself… and the Urban Room has not been eliminated.”

After all, we haven't seen the site plan. And the Urban Room wouldn't arrive until Building 1 arrives, and that's on indefinite hold, given the market for office space.

Naming rights

One of the tour participants reminded me afterwards that, while I did mention the name "Barclays Center," I didn't discuss the naming rights deal for the arena or the subway station.

The arena naming rights deal lowers the risk for the developer enormously, even though there's little justification for governments to simply give up naming rights. And the naming rights deal for the subway station is not a "goodly sum."

At the July 22 community information meeting ..., moderator Craig Hammerman asked, "Why will Forest City Ratner get to keep the naming rights revenues for what the ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] claims will be a publicly-owned arena?"

(The reported sum is $400 million over 20 years, which would pay for more than half of the arena construction.)

“It’s part of the financing for the project,” responded ESDC attorney Steve Matlin.

While it certainly is counted on by Forest City Ratner, it was never, as far as I know, suggested to be part of the benefits or part of the sources and uses for the project.

Perhaps someone will ask about that in comments (due by August 31) on the ESDC's pending Modified General Project Plan.

Posted by steve at 8:26 AM

Reminder: There's Still Time to Submit Comments to the ESDC

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) says they want your comments on the proposed Atlantic Yards.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has an online handbook (PDF document) to help you draft your comments.

Here are two topics, taken from CBN alerts circulated via email, meant to get the thinking process going:

Affordable Housing

How will the "affordable" housing be subsidized when sources of financing for affordable housing have not yet been allocated and are scarce?

Given that recent reports indicate that new construction as well as other first-class apartments will rent at figures lower than the rates projected (in 2006) for the highest tier of "affordable housing" (141-160% of AMI, resulting in rentals of approximately $3000 per month), how confident are you that the affordable housing would be less costly than market rate?

  • What percentage of the affordable housing would be at or above market rate in Phase I?
  • What percentage of the affordable housing would be at or above market rate in Phase II?

MTA benefits of renovated rail yard

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is a participant in this project according to the MGGP.

How does allowing FCR to build a rail yard with a 56-car capacity as a replacement for a yard with 72-car capacity constitute an upgrade?

How does the MTA justify hitting subway and bus riders with a 12.5% fare increase on June 28th just days after the MTA's board gave FCR an 80% discount on its down promised payment of $100 million for the 8-acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard.

The original MTA request for proposals (“RFP”) in May 2005 required a business plan and profit projection from respondents. FCR refused to provide the required profit projection at that time but still was chosen as sole developer for the Project.

  • Did FCR provide those figures since then?

  • Has FCR now provided these projections, updated to 2009, to the MTA as part of the renegotiation of their deal?

  • If not, is the ESDC going to require that those figures be presented before it approves the Modified GPP? If not, why not?

link

Posted by steve at 8:08 AM

De Blasio, Why Start Now?

Atlantic Yards Voter Guide

City Council member, Bill de Blasio , is now running for Public Advocate. He could never quite bring himself to say he was against the proposed Atlantic Yards project. For example, this month, he did request a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement for the project, but at the same time he says he supports the project, but just doesn't like the process moving it forward.

The Atlantic Yards Voter Guide wants to know why de Blasio now wants to portray himself as a stalwart against over-development when he never opposed Atlantic Yards.

Here is the front of one of Public Advocate candidate Bill de Blasio's (why is he running for this office?) recent literature:

...

The highlighted passage reads:

Fighting Overdevelopment in Brooklyn
All too often, development in our city is pro-big business and anti-neighborhood. As Public Adovcate, Bill will fight overdevelopment, making sure Brooklyn's development projects reflect community values. And he will always push for more truly affordable housing for hardworking New Yorkers.

It's a good use of buzzwords by the Councilman. But why would he start doing all of this now?

Let's look at...Atlantic Yards, the consensus poster child for overdevelopment, the consensus poster child for "pro-big business" development, and the consensus poster child for "anti-neighborhood" development. Atlantic Yards is the consensus poster child for ignoring "community values" entirely. And Atlantic Yards would have barely any "truly affordable housing" even under the best case outcome.

Atlantic Yards has been controversial since 2003 and would be built right in de Blasio's backyard. Yet h has never gone past the most tepid criticism of small aspects of the project and when he has, he has done nothing beyond press statements or not-so-strongly-worded letters.

He supports Atlantic Yards, which demonstrates everything his literature says he "will fight." Or to be more accurate let's look at what de Blasio said about the Ratner project most recently at Public Advocate debate according to YourNabe.com:

...De Blasio said in the past he has supported the project for the jobs and affordable housing it would create, and that while he still supports it, he is against the way the process is moving forward.

De Blasio added he is against the project receiving more subsidies, and said there should be a new EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and a full disclosure of the current project plan.

Upon being pressed on the issue, de Blasio said the neighborhood around Atlantic Yards is rapidly gentrifying and without affordable housing it would be further gentrified.

So there you have it, more buzz words, more non sequitur and new improved gobbleydeegook.

He supports it and is against it.

So why, Mr. Councilman, would you start doing now (or, god forbid, in the Public Advocate office) what your campaign lit imagines you to have done in the past?

Or perhaps we misread. Perhaps the literature, all in the future tense, is an admission that he has done none of this fighting of "big-business" and "overdevelopment" in the past.

But we doubt that.

link

Posted by steve at 7:46 AM

The inaugural Star-Ledger Juice List: The Jersey area's Top 25 most powerful sports brokers

Star-Ledger
by Steve Politi

This list of those influential in the world New Jersey sports shows the ongoing uncertainty of Bruce Ratner's attempts to move the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn.

Not surprisingly, Ratner makes the list at number 6:

Bruce Ratner. Influence doesn't necessarily translate into likability, and if the Nets owner succeeds with his Brooklyn project, Jersey loses its NBA team. If he fails, he'll have the power to sell the team to local investors or to a group that will try to move it again. Trending: Up.

Please note this mention of the Nets in a profile of New Jersy state senate president Richard Codey, who is number 1 on the Juice List:

The coming months don't figure to diminish his role, either. The future of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority is a major issue, and the future home for the Nets -- either here, or in Brooklyn, or in a location yet to be determined -- will finally be settled.

The entry for Jeff Vanderbeek, number 3 on the list, hints at the possibility of the Nets finding a home in Newark's Prudential Center:

Jeff Vanderbeek. The Devils owner is the biggest reason that there's a world-class arena in Newark, and if there's ever an NBA team there, he'll have to be a major player in making that happen. Trending: Up.

Corey Booker, who is 15th on the list, has promoted the idea of the Nets moving to Newark:

Cory Booker. The Newark mayor has talked big about rounding up investors to bring the Nets to the city. If he fails to deliver, he'll drop a few pegs in public perception -- and off this list. Trending: Up.

link

Posted by steve at 7:13 AM

August 22, 2009

Saturday Morning Pair For Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Bloomberg runs against the MTA, even as he wants board members to not have to follow their fiduciary duty

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as part of his run for another term, is railing against the way the MTA is run. Except that he kind of likes the way the MTA is run. Norman Oder explains.

The contradiction is pretty stunning. Earlier this month, Mayor Mike Bloomberg unveiled a plan to reform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), stating:
New Yorkers depend on our subways, buses, ferries, and bridges every day. They are the lifeblood of our City. Yet our transit system is run by the MTA, and controlled by Albany. We pay the price. Join Mike Bloomberg. Demand Better Transit Now!

In other words, Bloomberg doesn't like the governance of the MTA.

Except when he does.

Bloomberg appointees have four votes on the MTA board. Governor David Paterson's six appointees have six votes. Representatives from seven suburban counties have a total of four votes. There are six other nonvoting members.

Two of Bloomberg's appointees led the argument in June that the MTA should revise the Vanderbilt Yard deal at the request of Forest City Ratner.

Paterson's appointees, in the main, followed Bloomberg's wishes.

Now Bloomberg's blaming Albany.

Sure, while the MTA system is regional, New Yorkers have an argument that there should be more city control of the New York City Transit System.

Bloomberg doesn't make that argument; he just argues for his plan (free crosstown bus service, countdown clocks on subway platforms, etc.)--a plan, as noted on Streetsblog, with no funding mechanism or any effort to reform governance.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg's leading the charge against public authorities reform, changes which would require MTA board members to follow their fiduciary duty, to act in the best interests of the agency, not the officials who appointed them.

He doesn't want such improvements. He just wants control. This is the man the New Yorker called a good mayor.

Blame Courier-Life editor Kenneth Brown; he could've required fact-checking by the notorious Stephen Witt

In an open letter to the Courier-Life, Norman Oder takes the paper to task for sloppy reporting.

To the editor:

Courier-Life editor Kenneth Brown should be ashamed for continuing to publish articles by the notorious Stephen Witt without requiring the most perfunctory of fact-checking.

Witt's article "Paper of record accused of bias," published online August 17 and in print (as "Delia cries foul") August 21, took a shot at the New York Times blog The Local for stating that 35th Council District candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa has been unreachable; Witt described her as always "very reachable by this newspaper."

However, The Local also quoted editor Gersh Kuntzman of the Brooklyn Paper, who stated, "We at The Brooklyn Paper have been astounded by the lack of response to our questions from Delia and her campaign."

The Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life share an office in MetroTech and contribute to the new BoroPolitics web site. In other words, had Witt and Brown found re-reading The Local to be too onerous, they could have walked down the hall. Had they considered any of the responses to the original story, it would have had to have been revised and improved for print.

It was not.

Witt criticized me for writing "lavishingly" of Council Member James but provided no evidence, either regarding my coverage, or that his choice of words is part of the English language.

He also slammed me for "continually criticiz[ing] any community supporters of the project," without considering whether the questions I raise are legitimate.

Why is Hunley-Adossa always "very reachable by this newspaper"? I bet it's because Witt has no interest in raising any tough questions. Those questions include:
--how much does developer Forest City Ratner contribute to fund the fledgling community organization Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), the Community Benefits Agreement signatory Hunley-Adossa leads?
–what environmental expertise does Hunley-Adossa have to run BEE, which aims to address green issues?
–why has BEE distributed more money in compensation to Hunley-Adossa than it has spent on program services?
–why does half the BEE board consist of Hunley-Adossa family members?

Perhaps most bizarrely, Witt criticized Andy Newman of The Local for singing karaoke with a staffer for James at what Newman said was "the apolitical birthday party at a bar for the blogger who does Clinton Hill Chill. At such a politically neutral event, I would be happy to sing with one of Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s staffers.”

Hunley-Adossa said she doubted that promise.

But forget singing. Witt in August 2006 gave Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner a bear hug at a press event.

If the Courier-Life is going to be so vigilant about journalistic impartiality and credibility, Witt and Brown should be looking in the mirror.

Norman Oder
AtlanticYardsReport.com

Posted by steve at 8:19 AM

David Yassky's Ad: Complete Bullshit

The Daily Gotham

Daily Gotham author Mole333 is seeing red over a television ad for Comptroller candidate David Yassky. The ad suggests that Yassky would be a good watchdog over taxpayer money. Three different episodes from Yassky's time on the City Council show that he's not always been terribly responsible. One episode concerns how an endorsement of Yassky by James Caldwell, the head of BUILD, soon led to Yassky's efforts to further fund Bruce Ratner's astroturf organization.

Yassky is claiming he will close loopholes and watch every dollar the government spends, yet those of us who are actually in his district knows he has NEVER watched where dollars went unless they bought him endorsements. I think, in honor of Yassky's latest ad, I should remind people of a couple of sleazy moves Yassky has done that shows he either can't keep track of dollars at all or knows very well where dollars go and uses them to buy political favors...

An article from the Brooklyn Paper is used to fill in the background for Yassky's association with BUILD.

Yassky bill would push $3M to Ratner crony
By Ariella Cohen
The Brooklyn Papers

City Councilman David Yassky is under fire for asking city taxpayers to underwrite a promise that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner made to a handful of community organizations.

Under the provisions of a "community benefits agreement" negotiated by Ratner and the groups, the developer and his supporters pledged to create a job-training program.

Thus far, Ratner has given $285,000 towards that worker-training program, which is being administered by Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD).

Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) now proposes a city contribution of $3 million--more than 10 times what Ratner's given...

Experts on CBAs thought the Yassky bill was misguided.

"[Public funding] usually doesn't happen after the CBA is signed," said Roxanna Tynan, a spokeswoman for the LA Alliance for a New Economy, which was involved in a landmark CBA in that city...

Critics were quick to point out that Yassky submitted the budget request after BUILD President James Caldwell and other CBA signatories endorsed his bid to succeed retiring Rep. Major Owens (D-Crown Heights)...

So, BUILD President James Caldwell endorses Yassky and immediately afterwards Yassky proposes an unorthodox public funding (to the tune of $3 million of our taxpayer money) of BUILD. At about the same time, Steve DiBrienza endorses Yassky and right afterwards Yassky arranges $15,000 for DiBrienza's fake non-profit (which did nothing but paid salaries to DiBrienza and his cronies) even though it was out of Yassky's district. And Yassky wants to be the guy to keep an eye on the City's money???

...

To me this suggests three corrupt bargains Yassky has clearly been a part of. How many more such corrupt bargains are out there that Yassky was part of that we don't yet know about. Keep these scandals in mind as you watch Yassky's latest commercial. Also keep in mind Yassky is running a distant third in the race for Comptroller, so it seems like no one really is buying his bullshit.

link

Posted by steve at 7:33 AM

New York Like a Native’s Atlantic Yards Footprint Tour

Time Out New York

Here's an opportunity to take a look around some the areas that would be most affected by the proposed Atlantic Yards project on a walking tour led by the expert on all things Atlantic Yards, Norman Oder. The tour takes place today rain or shine.

Meet at the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building, 1 Hanson Pl at Ashland Pl, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-393-7537, nylikeanative.com). Sat 22 1:30–4pm, $15.
The gist: Journalist Norman Oder is uniquely qualified to lead this tour, which traverses the area around the controversial Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn: He covers the proposed development since on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report (atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com). “You can’t understand Atlantic Yards unless you walk around and know the history of the contested land,” says Oder. The walk begins in Fort Greene, with a look at the real-estate development, before heading into Prospect Heights, which will change greatly if the proposed arena and high-rise apartments are actually built. Oder will also touch on concerns about urban blight and affordable housing.
Join the walk if… You’re an urban affairs nerd, or if you loathe Bruce Ratner.

link

Posted by steve at 7:22 AM

August 21, 2009

The Day: Big Boo$t for Hunley-Adossa

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Michael Szeto

The coffers of City Council candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa got a big boost yesterday with an infusion of $59,422 in matching funds from the city.

Her opponents, City Councilwoman Letitia James and Medhanie Estiphanos, did not receive matching funds in the round of payments announced yesterday, making Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s campaign the richest with less than four weeks to go before the Sept. 15 Democratic primary.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa, who only had $2,528 cash on hand on Wednesday, now has $61,950. Based on the latest finance filing made last week, Ms. James has $32,510 cash on hand while Mr. Estiphanos has $4,795.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa had been passed over for matching funds earlier this month by the Campaign Finance Board because of unspecified “compliance issues.” But Thursday, the campaign finance board said all compliance issues have been resolved.
...

Ms. James did not qualify for matching funds this time around because her opponents had not raised or spent enough money.

article

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

NYC pays to lobby itself--not just in Queens but in Brooklyn, too

Atlantic Yards Report

Some lobbying for Atlantic Yards isn't much different--in degree and in kind--from that criticized in a major New York Times story today. And the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, while not mentioned in the story, also hires lobbyists, apparently in violation of state law.

The Times article has the delicious headline New York Paid to Lobby Itself, Group Claims. The Times reports how the city formed the nonprofit Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, which "eventually received hundreds of thousands of dollars in public and private money, and spent much of it to help push through the plan through the City Council."

The problem: "state law says local development corporations are not permitted to 'influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise.'"

Half the group’s funding came from the Economic Development Corporation, which is also barred from lobbying, and the rest came from the Mets and other corporate sponsors.

What about the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership?

In Brooklyn, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has taken on a somewhat similar role regarding Atlantic Yards.
...

The Times may have to publish a sequel.

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Here's the original story from The Times:

New York Paid to Lobby Itself, Group Claims

In late 2006, as the Bloomberg administration girded for what promised to be a bruising rezoning fight over the Willets Point section of Queens, it enlisted the help of Claire Shulman, the former Queens borough president.

At a meeting in City Hall that December, Ms. Shulman and Daniel L. Doctoroff, then a deputy mayor, agreed to form a nonprofit group with city and private money. Its primary purpose, Ms. Shulman said, would be to lobby on behalf of the mayor’s plan to turn the long-neglected area near the New York Mets stadium into a thriving hub of shops, hotels, condominiums and a convention center.

NoLandGrab: And this is on top of the eminent domain abuse. Obviously, cleaning up Albany is only half the battle. There's another cesspool in City Hall.

Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

What if the public authorities reform bill had passed before the MTA revised the Vanderbilt Yard deal?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder imagines a world in which New York State government isn't totally corrupt.

So, what if the [MTA] board members had a strongly enforceable fiduciary duty--as opposed to the weaker one imposed by the MTA bailout bill--and felt compelled not to budge from the original $100 million deal, which itself was a compromise?

(Remember, the land was appraised at $214.5 million with the cost of a replacement railyard factored in, and rival Extell bid $150 million, though it was not allowed to flesh out its bid. Forest City argued that the value of its bid was much larger than the appraisal, though it's claims were questionable.)

Mayor Bloomberg, who wants the project to go forward--because of his belief in megaprojects, the desire to cut a ribbon, love for pro sports, coziness with the real estate industry?--would've had to spend some political capital and actual capital.

He could have done so. After all, he's the guy who put an additional $105 million in city funds into the project in 2007. The City Council doesn't have a line item veto.

Bloomberg coming clean

But Bloomberg would've had to have been more open in finding this new money--at least $100 million. He could have cut library hours. He could have continued to cut the starting salaries of cops. He could've closed health centers here and there.

Whatever he did, though, he would've had to have told us, and done so in the face of Independent Budget Office testimony--at the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing--that the arena was a money-loser for the city.

He would've had to confront his statement in May that no more city subsidies were available. And elected officials would've quoted Bruce Ratner, who told the Brooklyn Paper that "We don't need anything more."

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, AY is the great unmentionable in the argument for revising the public authorities reform bill

Richard Anderson of the New York Building Congress, who had no trouble last month testifying in favor of Atlantic Yards, penned an op-ed in the New York Post (DON'T CRIPPLE STATE AUTHORITIES) arguing for rejection of the pending public authorities reform bill.
...

As with the New York Times editorial earlier this week, Anderson supports the provision in the bill "to hold board members more accountable to their fiduciary responsibilities."

However, enforcing the fiduciary duty inevitably militates against selling land at below-market rates.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

2,000 Brooklyn Kids Getting New Backpacks, School Supplies

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Mary Frost

Nashay, Nasir and Precious are just three out of 2,000 disadvantaged Brooklyn kids who are receiving backpacks filled with essential back-to-school supplies, thanks to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) annual Back-to-School/Stay-in-School Program.
...

Karen Boykin-Towns, president of the NAACP’s Brooklyn Branch, said, “Despite the tough economy, we are pleased to deliver on our commitment of providing 2,000 free backpacks to our neediest students.” She added that her daughter advised her to reach out to Thirteen when she was trying to find sponsors to help fill the backpacks. WNET/Thirteen, partnering with Brooklyn’s NAACP for the first time, supplied “Cyberchase” activity books, pencils and bookmarks – and the huggable, larger-than-life “Digit,” from PBS’s award-winning math series “Cyberchase.”
...

Sponsors of the event include Brooklyn Public Library, Con Edison, Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, DELBAC Inc., Everlast, Forest City Ratner, G&B Foundation, Independence Community Foundation, Neighborhood Improvement Association, Polytechnic Institute of NYU -- Center for Youth In Engineering & Science, Pratt Institute – America Reads, Rent-A-Center, Society of Hispanic Provisional Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers and Verizon. [emphasis, ours]

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Wow, imagine how many backpacks and essential school supplies could've been given to needy kids if the city and state weren't sinking hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars into Forest City's basketball arena project!

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Advocate hopefuls talk turkey in debate

Yournabe.com
by Stephen Witt

The four Democratic candidates for Public Advocate, Norman Siegel, Eric Gioia, Mark Green and Bill de Blasio debated this week.

Among the most spirited discussions centered around the issue of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project at the Atlantic/Flatbush avenues intersection.

Gioia claimed Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner sold a “bill of goods” to the people to move ahead with the project and he was against it receiving more subsidies. He also suggested the NBA’s Nets move to Sunnyside, Queens.

Siegel said he thought the arena was a ruse to gain control of the site and suggested a venue be built in Coney Island. Additionally, he said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the use of eminent domain for a private developer.

De Blasio said in the past he has supported the project for the jobs and affordable housing it would create, and that while he still supports it, he is against the way the process is moving forward.

De Blasio added he is against the project receiving more subsidies, and said there should be a new EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and a full disclosure of the current project plan.

Upon being pressed on the issue, de Blasio said the neighborhood around Atlantic Yards is rapidly gentrifying and without affordable housing it would be further gentrified.

Green said he is against additional subsidies for the project, but noted that there is a substantial public benefit. He also pointed out that the Supreme Court ruled that the use of eminent domain is legal, even through private developers, if it is in good faith for economic development.

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NoLandGrab: Someone needs to explain to us what being for the project but "against the way the process is moving forward" actually means. And we challenge Mark Green to outline Atlantic Yards' "substantial public benefit" (and the right of citizens to pay a lot of money for a ticket to a basketball game or even more money for a luxury apartment doesn't count).

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Infrastructure First, Development Second

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Harold Egeln

An interview with transit advocate and City Council candidate Gary Reilly, who's running in the 39th district.

One of his top issues is over-development and bringing in smart sustainable development emphasizing infrastructure work for basic services and schools along with community input before developers first present their plans. “This is a major concern I hear from voters all over the district after all the ‘wild west’ development we’ve seen,” said Reilly.

On the contentious Atlantic Yards issue, Reilly sees a better use. “I’m for the Vanderbilt Yards development. The open rail yards are a tremendous piece of real estate and the tracks could better serve the alphabet soup of subway lines that intersect there, which the MTA may need,” he said.

The Unity Plan is the best way to go and grow suitable development with affordable housing and right-fit public facilities and commercial uses “attractive to private investment,” Reilly said, rather than the troubled ambitious original plan. “Smart development has happened in other cities, so why not here?”

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Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Atlantic Yards Watch

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Alan Rosner

Prospect Heights resident Alan Rosner, who co-authored a White Paper on Atlantic Yards terrorism and security issues [PDF], expands on testimony he gave at the July 29th ESDC hearing on the project's Modified General Project Plan.

It is time to thank Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for finally issuing a report that for the first time, in the clearest way, states the city can no longer support Atlantic Yards.

This report, “Engineering Security: Protective Design for High Risk Buildings,” at last provides the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which oversees the Atlantic Yards project, with both criteria and a method for determining which of the city’s endless potential targets are in the very highest risk category.

Using standards available to anyone, both the Atlantic Yards (AY) Arena and Office Tower rank as high-risk terrorist targets, while the adjacent Atlantic Ave. Station has been a known target since the failed suicide-bombing attempt in August 1997. With three high-value targets all collected in one convenient, easy to reach location, AY, as portrayed in the ESDC’s Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), will immediately become one of the city’s foremost targets.

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Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

So who is the meanest corporation on the planet?

CUACC (Citizens United Against Corporate Corruption

OK, have you already guessed the answer?

Some residents of the Pavilion Apartments in Chicago are not too enamored of their landlord.

Hands down our winner is........
FOREST CITY ENTERPRISES

EVERY picture we took here was from just ONE of their properties. These are just a small sampling of the hundreds of pictures we took altogether. The economy cannot be used as an excuse for the years of deterioration here.

Click thru for some gnarly photos of black mold.

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Related coverage...

NeuLandlord, Forest City Enterprises MAYDAY MAYDAY

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

August 20, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Internets [Daily News blog], Queen Latifah has advice for Nets: Stay put!

Queen Latifah said she's been a Nets fan her whole life, which makes sense because she was born in Newark and grew up nearby. So we asked her what she thought of the possibility of the Nets moving out of her home state.

"I'm not happy about that at all," she said between takes. "I've been riding them a little bit about that. I'm like, 'Who's in charge here and how can we change it?' I'm looking forward to what they're going to do but I'm always going to be a Nets fan regardless of where they end up. But I just hope they don't leave New Jersey because they're our team, for God's sake. They're the New Jersey Nets and I want them to stay the New Jersey Nets. But it is business so you've got to do what you've got to do."

Here's an idea: Maybe Queen Latifah can get together with some other rich celebs who hail from the Garden State and buy the team from Bruce Ratner. In fact, I've got another Bruce in mind.

Our Streets - Our Stories [Dean Street Block Association], How to send your Atlantic Yards comments to the ESDC

The pro-forma public hearings have come and gone, and we are now in a public comment period. It is vital that everyone in the community let the ESDC and the 3 Men in a Room (Governor Paterson, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, and…some guy in the State Senate…) know that this is totally unacceptable!

good grief., sometimes, i am political.

We always like it when we can spread a little sunshine.

a shoutout from a most unexpected place! apparently, the anti-atlantic yards website nolandgrab.org is interested in what i had to say about mr. h to the izzo.

NoLandGrab: For those of you not hip to NLG lingo, "Mr. H to the Izzo" is aka Sean Carter.

Howard Rich, ESDC, FCR fire back, saying Court of Appeals shouldn’t accept appeal in EIS case; in turn, plaintiffs slam mischaracterizations

Anti-eminent domain crusader and real estate developer (imagine that?!) Howie Rich reprints a recent Atlantic Yards Report piece.

Posted by eric at 6:01 PM

What’s really crippling public authorities

NY Fiscal Watch
by Nicole Gelinas

Mayor Bloomberg and real estate interests are trying their darnedest to gut the Public Authorities reform bill that's been sitting on Governor Paterson's desk for some time now, claiming that legislation that would force state authorities to secure "market value" when selling land would have detrimental effects. The Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas isn't having any of it.

But that’s actually one of the bill’s key selling points — and something that should stay in any future, better, public-authority reform bill.

To see what’s really crippling public authorities, look to the Atlantic Yards mess, chiefly the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s recent deal to sell valuable acres of land in Brooklyn to basketball-stadium and condo developer Bruce Ratner, the private-sector sponsor of the project, for the super-low upfront price of $20 million, down from an original $100 million.

The MTA will also allow Ratner to make an in-kind payment of construction work on MTA property that’s far inferior to the original work proposed.

The Atlantic Yards deal is one of those “economic-development/urban-planning” projects Anderson wants to protect — but the public purpose of the project is not actually clear.

What is clear is that the MTA, for political reasons (Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Paterson heavily support the Atlantic Yards project) is sacrificing a real public purpose: getting the most money it can get to fund its next multi-billion-dollar capital plan, which is far more important to the city’s private-sector economy than building some more empty condos is.

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Posted by eric at 5:27 PM

ESDC, FCR fire back, saying Court of Appeals shouldn't accept appeal in EIS case; in turn, plaintiffs slam mischaracterizations

Atlantic Yards Report

We should know within a month whether the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review will, like the case challenging eminent domain, get a hearing before the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner have responded forcefully to the request by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and 25 co-petitioners, who asked the Court of Appeals to review the case, questioning whether the "bias and corruption" demonstrated by the ESDC renders the agency's blight findings invalid.

The ESDC and FCR say the case is cut and dried, given that courts give agencies much deference. In turn, the petitioners fire back in a final legal memo, charging that the ESDC and the developer mischaracterize their arguments.

The Court of Appeals is not required to accept this case.

If it doesn't, however, that would mean that one crucial element in the ESDC's much-criticized Blight Study, the questionable use of crime statistics, would never have been subject to judicial scrutiny, since the trial court punted on the issue and the Appellate Division ignored it.

Should the case be accepted, a victory for the petitioners would, at the least, require a do-over of the Blight Study. While it might undermine Atlantic Yards as a whole, the eminent domain case represents more of a fundamental challenge to the progress of the project.

Click thru for a detailed analysis of the legal arguments, and — surprise! — the ESDC's and FCR's liberal interpretations of reality.

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Posted by eric at 8:49 AM

Next ESDC board meeting: September 17

Atlantic Yards Report

Watchdog Norman Oder is keeping an eye on the Empire State Developerment Corporation's calendar to see when the state agency might have its first shot at "re-approving" Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project:

Thursday, September 17 will be the first opportunity for the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to re-approve the Atlantic Yards project, assuming that consultant AKRF and internal staffers respond sufficiently to questions raised in response to the 2009 Modified General Project Plan. (Comments are due by August 31.)

From an ESDC press release:

The next meeting of the Board of Directors will tentatively be held on September 17, 2009 at a location to be announced closer to the time of the event.

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NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that the "re-approval" is primarily for changes in the financial structure of the project, not for all of the design and programmatic changes that are in the pipeline. Developer Bruce Ratner and the ESDC are trying to satisfy the need for a "re-approval" without triggering the requirement for a new Environmental Impact Statement, which would push out the timeline well past crucial deadlines for financial incentives.

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

Yes, observers see the MTA deal regarding Atlantic Yards as a trigger for public authorities reform

Atlantic Yards Report

Congratulations Bruce Ratner! Your sweetheart deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for development rights over the Vanderbilt Railyards is the poster child for the need for Public Authorities reform, at least during yesterday's discussion on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show:

Danny Hakim, the New York Times's Albany bureau chief, noted that the law emerged from concern that oversight of the state's more than 700 authorities has been essentially ad hoc.
...
Hakim explained that [NYC Mayor Mike] Bloomberg objected to the requirement that "board members have a fiduciary responsibility to the authority they serve and also the mission of the authority as opposed to having a duty to the politician who appointed them.... He's been very clear that he expects his appointees to do what he wants them to do. The tension there is—these are supposed to be independent bodies. We do have agencies of both the city and the state government that are directly controlled by the mayor or the governor."

Guest host Andrea Bernstein followed up: "Let’s give an example of that, the MTA when they engaged in the deal to approve the Atlantic Yards development, there was a lot of question about whether they were actually getting the best deal or whether the board members were just doing what the mayor and the governor at the time wanted them to do."

It was unclear whether she was referencing the 2005 deal for the Vanderbilt Yard or the 2009 revision of the deal.
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[Executive director of the Citizens Union Dick] Dadey gave partial agreement to Bloomberg's concern that authorities would be straitjacketed by having to sell property only at market rates. But if Bloomberg was suggesting that the Atlantic Yards deal was a justification, Dadey wasn't buying it.

"I think [the bill] has good protections in the sense that it does prevent, like the MTA in the Atlantic Yards thing, from giving sweetheart deals to the developers," Dadey said, "but it could add to the cost of developing parcels of land that need to be developed and should be developed."

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Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Sparks fly at public advocate TV debate

YourNabe.com
By Jeremy Walsh

The hot topic was eminent domain at Willets Point, Queens in a debate between candidates for NYC Public Advocate, sponsored by the Community Newspaper Group, to be aired tonight on BCAT at 9pm.

The most heated rhetoric came when the candidates differed on the issue of the massive Willets Point redevelopment and the use of eminent domain, the process by which a government can seize privately owned land for the public good.

[NYC Councilman Bill] De Blasio said he supported eminent domain in “very certain circumstances,” including the Queens project.

“I think it is valid if it creates a substantial number of new jobs and affordable housing, and I think Willets Point does that,” he said.

[NYC Councilman Eric] Gioia called the practice “absolutely wrong.”

“The very presence of it changes the terms of the bargain,” he said, comparing a municipality with eminent domain power to a gun-wielding Al Capone.

[Former Public Advocate Mark] Green openly supported the Willets Point redevelopment.

“If it comes to eminent domain, the city should go out of its way to relocate those small businesses within the community, to the extent it can,” he said.

[Civil rights attorney Norman ] Siegel decried eminent domain abuse and called Willets Point “unconstitutional.”

“The city did not provide services to the businesses out there,” he said.

Sparks flew as the candidates spent some time squabbling over the finer points of the Supreme Court decision that enabled public-private redevelopments via eminent domain.

“I think Eric Gioia should be given a chance to retract his comparison of the mayor and Council to Al Capone with a gun,” Green said.

Gioia did not.

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NoLandGrab: Gioia's point was obviously lost on Green — it borders on extortion when the government uses the threat of a coercive power to force property owners to strike a deal. Owners have little choice but to sell and only those who have the stomach for a fight against the government remain.

Siegel referred to the absurd fact that, for decades, NY City steadfastly refused to provide basic municipal services to the neighborhood, thus greasing the skids for the use of eminent domain to clear "blight," as in the "blight" created by the City's own neglect.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

August 19, 2009

Opposed to Atlantic Yards? Join the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Facebook Group

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB wants to be your friend.

Are you on Facebook?

If so, have you joined the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Facebook group?

If not, joint today! Click Here to Join.

link

Posted by eric at 3:08 PM

Brodsky, Perkins fire back at objections to public authority reform raised by Paterson aide; are authorities really checked by elected officials?

Atlantic Yards Report

In a scorching letter issued yesterday, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and state Senator Bill Perkins slammed an attempt to gut public authorities reform legislation and charged that objections raised in a memo by Peter Kiernan, Counsel to Governor David Paterson, would gut authority reform.

Kiernan’s memo was dated August 14 but released yesterday by the legislators, who, protesting that no objections were raised while the bill was pending in the legislature, promised a detailed reply.

Notably Kiernan suggests, unreliably, that the elected officials serve as a sufficient check on authorities, and proposes that, in lieu of a requirement that property be sold at market rates, there be greater disclosure, including the appraised value.

While this would be fall short of the provisions in the bill, recommended by a bipartisan commission appointed by former Gov. George Pataki, it nonetheless would represent somewhat more disclosure than emerged in June when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a revised deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard.

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NoLandGrab: Yes, that's right, the people who direct their appointees on the boards of public authorities to carry out their bidding and approve crooked deals like Atlantic Yards are the very same people who are going to act as a check against the abuses of public authorities. Excellent plan!

Is it any wonder that New York State's government is widely viewed as the nation's most dysfunctional? Please contact Governor Paterson today and tell him to sign the Public Authorities Reform Bill.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Times Blogger Accused of Karaoke Bias (Updated!)

Runnin' Scared
by Roy Edroso

Back in March, a correspondent from the Times' Fort Greene Blog posted a photo of himself doing karaoke with a staffer from the campaign of councilmember Tish James Tish James' "official staff site," Team Tish. "No political endorsement is implied here," added blogger Andy Newman. "I would just as gladly have duetted with someone from the campaign of Ms. James's challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, if such a person had materialized."

It was a night [cue sinister music] that Andy Newman would come to regret...

On August 12, a different Times blogger chided Hunley-Adossa for not being available to media enquiries. Yesterday Hunley-Adossa defended herself in a Brooklyn Courier Life article, charging the paper is biased in favor of James -- and in defense of her charge "pointed out that Times reporter Andy Newman... published a photo of himself singing karaoke with the woman who runs James' blog," the Courier Life says. Hunley-Adossa added, "I'm not sure he would sing with one of my staffers."

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NoLandGrab: There's no shortage of irony in the fact that Atlantic Yards beat reporter Stephen Witt, who gave voice to this silly, baseless story of media bias, threw a big old bear hug around Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner at the public hearing on the project's draft environmental impact statement on August 23rd, 2006. Media bias indeed!

More coverage...

A Short Story, Delia Can You Hear Me?

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

They took on the wrong men

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Robin Riskin

For a place that the Empire State Development Corporation claims has no crime, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls sure have a lot of crime.

Body work

A serial crook robbed the Bath & Body Works again on Aug. 15.

The manager of the shop, which is in the Atlantic Center Mall near Flatbush Avenue, recognized the repeat offender when she entered the store around 11 am and confronted the perp, who had stocked up a shopping bag and was attempting to leave.

The thief then bit the manager’s right hand and broke the manager’s fingernail, fleeing with $300 worth of toiletries.

The 26-year-old manager was taken to Long Island College Hospital.

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Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Huffington Post, Bricks, Mortar, Bloomberg, Moses

During the Bloomberg era, the power of community boards has withered even as New York underwent physical transformation on a grand scale. Community boards and the land use process have frequently been circumvented or ignored.

The Bloomberg administration kept the West Side stadium, a huge project, out of the Uniform Land Use Review Process, or ULURP. City Hall also prevented community boards from having any meaningful say on Atlantic Yards—a development that might create the most densely populated residential block in the United States. The 16-acres of development at Ground Zero, because it's a state project, are also not subject to community board input. That wasn't Bloomberg's decision. But it was his call to try to slash the budgets of the 59 community boards this year.

City Hall was not alone in undermining the community board system. While he has called for empowering community boards, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer overrode Community Board 9's opposition to the Columbia expansion. After Brooklyn Community Board 6 (on a purely advisory vote) gave a thumbs-down to Atlantic Yards, BP Marty Markowitz purged offending members. Then-Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion took the same approach to community board members who defied him on Yankee Stadium.

good grief., i feel funny

all of that said, jay-z is a little bit of a dick. just a little. now, my family and i are nets fans, despite the fact that they are in a miserable state of affairs these days and their pending stadium in brooklyn, while sentimentally gratifying, would be a terrible thing to happen to brooklyn and bruce ratner is darth vader and all that. but dude: your “bringing the nets” does NOT make you the black branch rickey. sorry. branch rickey, along with jackie, broke the color barrier in baseball, at great risk to his career, a courageous display of civil rights in action. you are a very rich man moving a basketball team to a nearby city at great risk to no one, a kind of cute display of brooklyn pride and people spending a lot of money. chill out.

donkeydemBK, BRAD LANDER: IN DETAIL (CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE FOR THE 39TH DISTRICT)

Atlantic Yards: Brad has been against the Atlantic Yards from the start. He wrote one of the earliest public memos critiquing the development. He believes the current project should be scrapped and should not be given the go ahead. I know this from personalling grilling him after I read some critical pieces online.

NoLandGrab: Time for a reality check. Blogger "donkeydemBK" writes that Brad Lander has been "against" Atlantic Yards from the start, while linking to Lander's campaign web site, which says Lander was an early "critic" of the project. Criticism is not necessarily opposition, and many observers of the campaign in the 39th believe that certain other candidates are stronger "opponents" of Atlantic Yards.

plannyc, Atlantic Yards Debate Central to District 35 Election

The debate over the Atlantic Yards project will figure prominently in the upcoming City Council election for Brooklyn’s District 35. Incumbent Letitia James (D) is firmly opposed to the project, due to fears that it will erode the neighborhood’s character and accelerate gentrification. One of her challengers in the Democratic primary, Delia Hunley-Adossa (currently the 88th Precinct Community and Youth Council president), supports Atlantic Yards on the grounds that it will advance economic opportunities in the area.

NLG: Hunley-Adossa also supports Atlantic Yards because she's paid to support Atlantic Yards.

Atlantic Yards Report, Nets CEO Yormark on CNBC: "You do what you can to survive"

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark, on CNBC to defend the team's controversial reversible jersey promotion, explained, "You do what you can to survive."

As for the move to Brooklyn, he declared, "We will be breaking ground this fall."

Then again, his track record is a bit suspect.

Posted by eric at 9:04 AM

August 18, 2009

The Business of the NBA

CNBC

The Nets' Yormarketing genius was on CNBC today, sticking to old fictions (the Nets will be in Brooklyn in 2011) and creating new ones ("there's only been a few people that have unfortunately not embraced" the team's silly reversible-jersey promotion). Yormark must not be reading Nets Daily.

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NoLandGrab: "The reality of the situation is that we cater to the casual fan?!" That kind of talk will surely make those folks (a dwindling crowd, to be sure) who shell out thousands for Nets season tickets feel loved.

Related coverage...

Nets Daily, Yormark: “Only a Few People Haven’t Embraced the Matchup Plan”

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

Times revises stance on public authority reform, agrees land should be sold at below-market rates

Atlantic Yards Report

After wholeheartedly endorsing landmark legislation reforming the state's public authorities less than a month ago, the New York Times--after listening to Mayor Mike Bloomberg and maybe even Forest City Ratner--agrees that the legislation should be revised somewhat.

The Times appears to buy the Mayor's line that barring state authorities from selling land for less than market value would hamper affordable-housing projects (not to mention basketball arenas!), yet the paper's editorial board thinks the bill should maintain its insistence that directors of said authorities carry out their fiduciary duties.

The fiduciary duty connects directly to selling land at below-market rates, as Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has said, and the most direct example concerns the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard, which at this point would be used far less for affordable housing than for a profitable arena for Forest City Ratner, which, of course, was the partner with the newspaper's parent company on the new Times Tower.

In other words, it's not being sold to a government agency to build housing. It's being sold to a private developer who, with sufficient subsidies, may build housing.

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NoLandGrab: Here we are agreeing with Delia Hunley-Adossa again — The Times just ain't objective. Does anyone else think it's a problem when the city's leading media outlet is chummy with the billionaire mayor and real estate developers?

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

Hunley-Adossa, via the compromised Witt & C-L, counter-attacks weakly against coverage in The Local, AYR

Atlantic Yards Report

The Courier-Life's Stephen Witt tosses Norman Oder a big, fat softball, and Oder knocks it out of the park.

The entire post, which sets the record straight, is well worth a read, but this passage in particular makes the Community Newspaper Group look like the gang that couldn't shoot straight:

It's pretty funny that CNG's BoroPolitics site is hosting an article claiming that Hunley-Adossa is accessible, given that the original piece in The Local quotes Gersh Kuntzman of the Brooklyn Paper, which is one of the contributors to BoroPolitics:
Nor are we the only news outlet that is having trouble contacting Ms. Hunley-Adossa.

“We at The Brooklyn Paper have been astounded by the lack of response to our questions from Delia and her campaign,” said Gersh Kuntzman, editor of The Brooklyn Paper. “She aspires to a very lofty position –- public servant –- and, as such, she needs to answer questions from independent media.”

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Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], We Stand Accused

We usually try to avoid getting too self-referential (no we don’t) but felt journalistically compelled this morning to alert you to a piece in the Courier-Life weekly in which City Council candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa accuses us of being biased against her in favor of the incumbent, Letitia James.

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Paper of record accused of bias

Courier Life Publications
by Stephen Witt

Steve Witt, who was nosing around last week trying to conjure up a story of discord here at NoLandGrab (sorry, Steve, the only thing troubling us is Atlantic Yards), instead found his "story" in a sordid tale of alleged media bias. Buckle your seatbelts for this one.

A longtime civic activist charged The New York Times with propagating a smear campaign as she tries to unseat incumbent Letitia James in the upcoming 35th District City Council Democratic Primary.

Delia (Dee) Hunley-Adossa, who has been the president of the 88th Precinct Community Council for the past 10 years, said she was appalled that The Times ran a story about her this week saying she was unreachable.

The story, which ran under the headline, “Have you seen this woman?” alleges that Hunley-Adossa has been unreachable and is dodging the media.

“I question their objectivity and have from the beginning,” said Hunley-Adossa, who has always been very reachable by this newspaper.

Well of course she's always been reachable by the Courier, which hasn't exactly been critical of Atlantic Yards or its supporters.

As for The Times, we have also questioned their objectivity — because Bruce Ratner is their development partner. We find it a bit odd, though, that the Atlantic Yards candidate would think that The Times, which has always supported the project editorially, would be out to do a hatchet job on a pro-project candidate. Times reporter and The Local blogger Andy Newman, however, has always played it straight.

“I’m also appalled that The New York Times constantly links to someone’s blog who reports one-sided on Atlantic Yards,” said Hunley-Adossa, referring to Norman Oder’s Atlantic Yards Report blog, which writes lavishingly of James and continually criticizes any community supporters of the project.

We'll leave it to the one-sided Mr. Oder to poke holes in these far-fetched claims.

Hunley-Adossa is the chair of a group of community-based organizations that signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Several of these organizations, including Hunley-Adossa’s, received funding from Ratner as per the CBA.

Good for you, Steve Witt, for including this disclaimer. But to say that Ms. Hunley-Adossa's organization "received funding from Ratner as per the CBA" makes it sound like everything's on the up and up. The CBA has been widely criticized, and let's keep in mind that Ms. Hunley-Adossa's organization's biggest expense is Ms. Hunley-Adossa's compensation.

“This campaign is not only about Atlantic Yards. It’s about the 35th Council District and I will continue to run our race. The Local is highly favorable to James and it is what it is,” said Hunley-Adossa.

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NoLandGrab: Readers can decide for themselves if The Local is highly favorable to Ms. James. However, we're betting the voters will most definitely be so.

Check out Atlantic Yards Report for more coverage of The Courier Life's non-story.

Posted by eric at 9:05 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Nets Daily, How Real is the Russian’s Interest?

Bruce Ratner may have traveled all the way to Moscow for ничего.

Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the New York Times and the Star-Ledger have all reported that Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia’s richest man, is interested in buying or investing in the Nets. But Prokhorov’s public relations rep, Juliana Slaschova, tells London’s Guardian newspaper that he isn’t interested in buying the team, the story’s “unfounded and untrue”.

Uncle Mike's Musings, Top 10 Dumbest Team Moves in Sports History

Since "Uncle Mike" has got it that Bruce Ratner is a "lying megalomaniac," why would he believe the myths that (1) Atlantic Yards is in "Downtown Brooklyn" and (2) on the same site that Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new ballpark for the Dodgers?

10. 1958 Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. How can the most successful move in the history of sports be one of the ten dumbest? Let’s see, a “visionary” like Walter O’Malley should have been visionary enough to outwit Robert Moses and get the stadium he wanted in Downtown Brooklyn, at the Atlantic Yards site now favored by a current lying megalomaniac, Bruce Ratner, for the Nets.

NoLandGrab: Ratner's retail eyesore, the Atlantic Center Mall, was built on the site that O'Malley coveted in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

The Cross Pollinator, Bloomberg Destroys New York City…

The Cross Pollinator links to Daniel Goldstein's Fed Up New Yorkers piece.

Brooklyn Food Conference, BK Farmyards and the Benefits of Urban Agriculture

Hey, Bruce, if you're not going to do anything with that land...

With all of these benefits in mind, and with a strong desire to bring people together through food, Stacey Murphy started BK Farmyards – a decentralized urban farming network.
...

Stacey has her sights set on vacant lots, such as parts of the Atlantic Yards, and is being approached to farm diverse locales in Brooklyn, including Gowanus (a challenge!) and Howard Beach.

Posted by eric at 6:56 AM

MTA: no legal advice (beyond checkoff on Staff Summary) justified Vanderbilt Yard deal; also, smaller railyard may be OK for East Side Access

Atlantic Yards Report

The MTA has stated that it doesn't have a document that justifies the legality of the revised deal with Forest City Ratner, but it provided a document that explains why a smaller railyard may suffice

OK, I've gotten a closer-to-final answer to my effort to find out how exactly the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's "legal department has advised us that this is a legal transaction," as MTA board member Jeffrey Kay told fellow board members on June 24 regarding a more generous deal with developer Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard.

No document justifies the deal.

Also, though the original 2005 RFP for the Vanderbilt Yard stated that the revised yard should anticipate a 40 percent fleet-wide expansion, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is taking a wait-and-see posture toward what's necessary to support East Side Access (ESA) service to Grand Central Terminal (GCT).

Remember, the permanent railyard, instead of having nine tracks with capacity for 76 cars as originally planned, would have seven tracks with capacity for 56 cars. While there would be several improvements, including a western portal--allowing a more direct entrance to the LIRR hub than the current convoluted route--it still would be less capacity than the longstanding iteration of 72 cars.

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Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

a poppy grows in the footprint

Neighborhood photog Tracy Collins is keeping tabs of what's doing in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Today, a reminder that whatever Bruce has done to blight the neighborhood, nature persists.

Photo via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

Will Brodsky look into the curious assessments in the Atlantic Yards arena block?

Atlantic Yards Report

[W]hile the questionable assessments in the case of the new Yankee Stadium generated vigorous criticism from Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, he has mostly been agnostic about Atlantic Yards and hasn't turned his attention to the assessment issue.

On Sunday, at the press conference on the bill concerning public authorities reform, I asked Brodsky if he knew about the issue and would look into it.

His answer was careful, neither ruling Atlantic Yards in or out: "There are a lot of very reasonable questions about the role of the assessor's office in these large authority deals, that are currently under review."

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NoLandGrab: Our bet is that Brodsky is more about grandstanding and making noise over shady done deals, than getting in the way of those still in progress.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Missing from the New Yorker's Bloomberg profile: public authorities and the real story of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

A profile in this week's New Yorker, clocking in at more than ten thousand words, is headlined The Untouchable: Can a good mayor amass too much power?, and presents this tension:

Thanks to his money, Bloomberg has managed, perhaps more than any democratic politician ever before, to govern strictly with what he considers to be the greater good in mind. And, thanks to his money, the counterargument goes, he has essentially corrupted the system itself.

Is it always the greater good? In other words, should the Mayor be seen, at worst, as using questionable means for good ends, or do questionable means lead to questionable ends?

I think Bloomberg's record is mixed, but on Atlantic Yards and development issues, he's vulnerable to much criticism. So Ben McGrath's New Yorker profile, while reasonably thorough and hardly a valentine, could've been much tougher.

Notably, had McGrath waited until this week to write, he would've learned that Bloomberg is the prime culprit in an effort to stall reform of public authorities, as Assemblyman Richard Brodsky pointed out yesterday.

And if he'd dug further, he would've concluded that Bloomberg's appointees on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board provided the crucial, but dubious, justification in June for revising the Vanderbilt Yard deal with Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

The Day: Cleaner Eateries, Louder Bikes

The Local: Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill
By Andy Newman

The Gotham Gazette has a large (1,500-word) piece this morning on the 35th District city council race, featuring interviews with all three candidates — incumbent Letitia James and challengers Delia Hunley-Adossa and Medhanie Estiphanos, also name-checking (who knew? not us) Republican/Conservative candidate Stuart A. Balberg and independent Osaretin Ighile.

In the article, Ms. Hunley-Adossa, who says the the Atlantic Yards project would bring affordable housing and jobs to the district, criticizes Ms. James, who opposes the project, charging that she “seems to have not engaged the developer into bringing forth some of these benefits to the community.”

Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s engagement with the developer, Forest City Ratner, includes securing funding from Forest City for her nonprofit, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience. She refused to tell Gotham Gazette how much Forest City had given her group and noted correctly that Ms. James had funded groups opposing Atlantic Yards.

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NoLandGrab: James's support for groups opposing Atlantic Yards is irrelevant to the fact that Hunley-Adossa is too ashamed to speak openly about receiving financial support from Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

August 17, 2009

Perkins, Brodsky say Paterson should listen to the people, not Bloomberg, regarding the Public Authorities Reform Act

Atlantic Yards Report

Blaming New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg for Gov. David Paterson’s apparent reluctance to sign sweeping legislation that would reform the governance of the state’s public authorities, state Senator Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), yesterday urged Paterson to sign the bill, offered forceful rebuttals to Bloomberg’s concerns, and said they were considering public meetings and hearings to focus attention on the bill.

“This bill is as American as apple pie,” Brodsky said of the Public Authorities Reform Act of 2009. “This is a power struggle between the needs of the people and the needs of a powerful mayor.” The bill has drawn broad support from editorialists and civic groups.

Perkins said Paterson should “return to his roots,” noting that, “when the governor had this office [state Senator from Harlem], he was a leading voice for reform.” They spoke at a hastily-called press conference at Perkins’s Harlem office, attended by journalists from the Associated Press, WNYC, and City Hall News, along with AYR. (News of Paterson's reluctance broke Friday.)

While neither mentioned Atlantic Yards by name, Brodsky made what could be interpreted as an indirect reference, noting that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) “has been pressured to... give away property to developers.” Without identifying specific projects, he said such sales represented a violation of the fiduciary duty required in the bill. (Note that the MTA bailout bill this spring allowed removal of board members if they breached their fiduciary duty, but the new bill would make the duty more enforceable, and more explicit.)

In July, Brodsky said that, in the case of AY, the West Side Yards, and the #7 line extension, “it seems to be me provable that... the MTA's fiduciary responsibility to the system and the riders was to maximize the value of the assets it was putting out. It could not do that in many of those cases. That struck me as a violation of the fiduciary duty.”

Perkins said his office was still looking into Atlantic Yards.
...

“The cry for reform in this state is universal,” said Brodsky, nothing that authorities such as the MTA, the Thruway Authority, Long Island Power Authority, New York Power Authority, Empire State Development Corporation, and others constitute an unregulated “shadow government.”

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Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

How the MTA blew off state Senator Perkins; how board members have a fiduciary duty but new bill would make it easier to enforce

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of stonewalling...

A representative of state Senator Bill Perkins was not overstating the case when he testified June 24 that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) had essentially ignored a letter Perkins sent with some tough questions.

As I explain below, MTA Acting Executive Director Helena Williams sent him a cordial but most complete brush-off. While Williams may not have been required to have a fiduciary duty to the authority, board members did have a fiduciary duty.

And it's questionable whether they followed it in relaxing the terms of the deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard, saving the developer $100 million on a replacement railyard, accepting $20 million down for a $100 million cash deal, and giving FCR 22 years, at a generous interest rate, to pay off the $80 million.
...

[Danny] Serrano, director of public policy for Perkins, who heads the Senate committee overseeing the MTA, declared, “It is clear that the project no longer resembles the project that was originally approved. It will not and cannot provide anywhere near the level of public benefits that were originally planned.”

“Much of the controversy surrounding Atlantic Yards has been aggravated by a chronic lack of honesty, transparency, and accountability,” Serrano declared. “This proceeding today is an example.”

Several days before the hearing Perkins submitted a letter with several “very basic, fair, logical” questions for the MTA. He received a letter, but, as Serrano reported, “it was in fact unresponsive.” Williams refused to answer or acknowledge the questions.

He began by asking why there was a renegotiation rather than demanding performance or reissuing the RFP. Asked to speed up, Serrano said, veering on sarcasm, “I’m going to run through the questions so you have the benefit of thinking about them.”

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Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

Will there be another community information session? ESDC says to stay tuned

Atlantic Yards Report

At the June 23 board meeting of the ESDC, then-CEO Marisa Lago indicated there would be: "Knowing the interest in this project, we have committed to have additional community sessions beyond what is required. And we will be having a community session--a question and answer session in the community--before the public hearing and then another after the public hearing. And at those community sessions, there will be the opportunity for those community questions to be answered."

So, I asked the ESDC three weeks ago, when might a second session be held and would Forest City Ratner attend?

"The logistics are still being coordinated," ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston said last Wednesday, after I reminded him of the question.

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NoLandGrab: Those of you who enjoy being stonewalled while banging your heads against said wall might want to contact the Empire State Development Corporation and demand that they honor their commitments.

Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

From the Times: Money Walks: In Hard Times, Sports Is Bad for Business

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article today suggests that high-rollers are no longer able to spend on luxury suites at baseball games and at the U.S. Open because the high cost exceeds what they can now get reimbursed as business expenses:
Baseball’s deliberate pace and the increasingly lavish suites and box seats have made major league games an ideal setting for doing business. But for bankers, brokers and others in the financial industry, accepting an invitation to a game has fast become taboo.

Not only are companies cutting their entertainment budgets, but they are also facing increased scrutiny from regulators, shareholders and politicians — pressures that have forced workers even at healthy firms to avoid being seen at sporting events.

This is particularly true in New York, the capital of the financial industry, where the most expensive seats at the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, or at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, home of the United States Open, far exceed what many firms allow employees to accept from clients.

Presumably this extends to basketball, as well, and might just make Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment readjust expectations for revenue from the planned Brooklyn arena. And wouldn't that make the team that much less likely to pay off the arena bonds?

link

NoLandGrab: A Jets' season-ticket-holding friend of ours told us yesterday that the team, in an unprecedented move, is now offering half-season packages. When the NFL starts to have to scramble to sell tickets, everybody's in trouble.

Posted by eric at 9:10 AM

New Jerseys, er, New Jersey, er...

Fans for Fair Play

Reversible error? FFFP turns the tables on the Nets' silly jersey promotion, which has irked loyal fans by suggesting some other alternatives.

Well, it gets confusinger and confusinger in Ye Olde Ratnerville.

Bruce has run the Nets into the ground. It's no surprise -- Ratner makes Harry Frazee, who bought the Red Sox and sold Babe Ruth only as a financing ploy for his Broadway plays, look like the model of conscientious sports ownership.

The latest disaster is Nets' marketing wizard Brett Yorkmark's new gambit for the hearts and minds of Garden State Nets fans. Those, at least, that haven't yet caught on that they're the worms on the end of Ratners hooks.

Having already announced that the words "New" and "Jersey" have been stripped from this year's uniforms -- another lame effort at the now discredited notion that the Nets moving to Brooklyn is a done deal -- Yormark has a bizarre "gift" for season ticket holders who, in effect, hand Ratner the hammer he'll use to club them senseless.
...

A personal message from Bruce Ratner to New Jersey's remaining Nets fans. It's tender, it's caring, it's...it's Bruce! 2012 might be pushing it. The Nets might end up in Newark a lot sooner. They certainly won't make it to Brooklyn by then...if ever.

Click through for all of FFFP's inside-outable jersey options.

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Posted by eric at 8:47 AM

Atlantic Yards Dominates Debate in District 35

Gotham Gazette
by Alex Kane

Here's a thorough rundown on the race in the 35th Council District, in which incumbent and staunch Atlantic Yards opponent Tish James faces two challengers, including the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory and Forest City Ratner-backed Delia Hunley-Adossa.

The starkest contrast between James and Hunley-Adossa surrounds Atlantic Yards, which would lie partly in this district. James vehemently opposes it, while Hunley-Adossa supports it. In one way, the election battle in this district can be seen as a community referendum on the Atlantic Yards project.
...

"I oppose an outside developer's vision for this community. ... I oppose the fact that low-income residents and small businesses are being displaced," said James. "I oppose the fact that this project wasn't subject to a vote by the City Council."

Hunley-Adossa said that Atlantic Yards will create "a lot of economic development, affordable housing, and [James] seems to have not engaged the developer into bringing forth some of these benefits to the community."

Estaphanos had largely minimized Atlantic Yards as a campaign issue and, in interviews, kept a neutral position on the development.

Money is a multi-pronged issue for Ms. Hunley-Adossa:

The other challenger, Hunley-Adossa, has raised $28,429, but is not eligible for matching funds, because the New York City Campaign Finance Board is auditing her filings. [emphasis, ours]
...

When pressed, Hunley-Adossa refused to say how much money Forest City Ratner provided her organization and fired back by saying James had funded groups opposed to the development.

James said that she has given City Council money to the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a group that has criticized the project, and that she has personally contributed to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the main group opposing Atlantic Yards.

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*NoLandGrab: One note — the caption under the lead photo says "Atlantic Yards." That photo, which documents Bruce Ratner's destruction of the landmark-eligible Ward Bakery building, would more accurately be captioned "the planned site of Atlantic Yards."

More Gotham Gazette election coverage...

Democratic Mayoral Candidates Would Plan from the Bottom Up

Hunter College urban affairs professor and stalwart Atlantic Yards opponent Tom Angotti looks at the Mayoral race and community-planning issues.

Avella has been a vocal critic of developer-initiated and controlled plans such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. He also opposed the plan for redevelopment of Willets Point in Queens, prepared by the city's Economic Development Corp. Avella's approach favors "bottom up" planning that involves local residents and businesses and does not resort to the use of eminent domain to promote private real estate projects.

To accomplish this, he has been a vocal advocate for community-based planning and has worked with the Municipal Art Society to craft legislation that would support communities that do their own plans. "I've been saying these things all along. Other cities are ahead of us. Community planning sets the stage for all of the issues in neighborhoods. We shouldn't just give neighborhoods opportunities to plan but also the funding to address their needs," he said.

There are around 100 community-based plans in New York City, but according to the citywide Task Force on Community-based Planning they do not receive sufficient support from city government. (I am a member of the Task Force).

Thompson also calls for more -- and more strongly supported -- community plans. "Community-based planning that includes input from local community boards, elected officials, and other stakeholders is incredibly important and, like community board budget priorities, should be better incorporated into an overall citywide framework," he said. "Once developed, zoning changes and siting of facilities should be considered in the context of these collaboratively created plans."

The Mayor, on the other hand, isn't so interested in what communities know or want.

Eight Candidates Run in a District Marked by Change

Eight candidates are vying to replace David Yassky in the 33rd Council District, and Atlantic Yards and other development issues are major topics in the race.

Posted by eric at 6:20 AM

August 16, 2009

Catching Up With Atlantic Yards Report

Here are four entries from the Atlantic Yards Report, two of which we missed yesterday.

Atlantic Yards as paradigmatic Bloomberg failure? See DDDB in FUNY

In February, I pointed out that Mayor Mike Bloomberg, on his campaign web site, neglected to mention two new baseball stadiums and a long-stalled basketball arena, much less that subsidies for the latter might make the arena a money loser for the city.

Indeed, since then, the Independent Budget Office has estimated that the arena would be a loss for the city. In the latest issue of the free newspaper Fed Up New Yorkers (FUNY), Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein focuses on AY, writing: On June 24th he pressured the MTA Board into approving a new sweetheart land rights deal for Forest City Ratner. Just after the MTA had been bailed out, purportedly fiscally prudent Bloomberg pressured the Board to accept $20 million up front and $80 million over 22 years from Ratner for the rights to the valuable 9-acre rail yard portion of the Atlantic Yards site in the heart of Brooklyn. Never mind that the yards had been appraised at $214.5 million and Ratner had originally agreed to pay $100 million in cash at closing, after a non-competitive, sham of a bidding process.

Sole-source, no-bid contracts and cronyism for a money-losing, publicly funded arena do not demonstrate sound economic stewardship.

...

I don't think that "the fight against Atlantic Yards, with victory in reach for the community, may very well be Bloomberg’s Waterloo," as Goldstein suggests. After all, Bloomberg--barring much stronger campaigning by leading Democratl Bill Thompson and/or some sort of game-changing event--has the advantage of incumbency as well as extremely deep pockets.

And Thompson, unlike less-funded Democratic rival Tony Avella or the Green Party's Rev. Billy Talen, has shown no appetite for making Atlantic Yards an issue. But it deserves continued scrutiny.

Atlantic Yards and environs walking tour, August 22 at 1:30 pm

As some people know, I'm a licensed tour guide who's operated a part-time tour business, New York Like a Native, since 2000. And I've occasionally given tours of the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Next Saturday, August 22, under my tour guide banner, I'll be giving a tour of the Atlantic Yards footprint. It will last from 1:30 pm to (approximately) 4 pm. Price: $15/person.

Starting place: Outside the tallest building in Brooklyn, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower (aka One Hanson Place). Ending place: near the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street transit hub.

More details here.

Hunley-Adossa's supporters fight back on The Local, with rhetorical opposition to AY

After seeing their candidate avoid the press for a couple of days, supporters of 35th District Council challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa are fighting back, posting comments here and here on the New York Times's blog The Local.

There's one interesting tactic. Two Hunley-Adossa supporters here say almost the same thing: "I do not agree with the Atlantic Yards project" and "Although i do not agree with her participation in the Atlantic yard project...."

Could it be that Hunley-Adossa's supporters have such nuanced positions, even though Hunley-Adossa leads rallies for Forest City Ratner? Or is it that some rhetorical disagreement with AY is necessary to pull the undecided?

From the upcoming TV debates: even AY supporters don't favor more city subsidies; also, why no debates in 34th, 35th, 36th Districts?

Norman Oder finds that, although the Brooklyn Paper claims that debates in "[a]ll the major races will be cablecast", there are several not covered.

Atlantic Yards figured in the debates for the 33rd and 39th Council Districts as well as the race for Public Advocate & Comptroller.

According to [Aaron] Short's print coverage of the debate in the Courier-Life, Lander challenged Skaller over how long he'd been an opponent of AY--an interesting tactic, given that, while Lander has long been a critic, unlike Skaller, he hasn't stood with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn over fundamental issues like eminent domain.

Lander, who's been associated with BrooklynSpeaks:
said that he opposed Atlantic Yards, though he was not a die-hard opponent of the project. he said he wanted to give developer Forest City Ratner time to respond to public criticism about the design throughout the planning process, but said they had failed to do so.

Reilly and Zuckerman said the plan should be killed. Heyer was more vague:
while he would be disappointed if the Nets did not come to Brooklyn, he believed Forest City Ratner would do what they wanted with the site.

That's not quite so--project documents signed (and to be signed in the future) by the Empire State Development Corporation should to some extent control the future of the site.

...

In the Public Advocate debate, according to Stephen Witt's coverage in the Courier-Life, it sounds like Eric Gioa and Norman Siegel were most critical, while Bill de Blasio and Mark Green opposed additional subsidies but highlighted the public benefits.

In the Comptroller debate, according to Witt's print coverage, all four candidates said they opposed additional subsidies:
Yassky and Liu spoke out more adamantly against the project, with Yassky saying Ratner should give back the money he already got for the project and Liu saying Ratner has promised the sky and the stars with nothing to show for it.

Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

August 15, 2009

Reaction to Governor Paterson's Refusal to Reign In Public Authorities

Here's reaction to today's story in the New York Times regarding how Governor Paterson is about to veto legislation to reign in public authorities.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Paterson & Bloomberg Team Up to Veto Reform Impacting Sweetheart Deals Like Atlantic Yards

Paterson and Bloomberg are uniting to veto major reform of the cess pool of unaccountability and non-transparency otherwise known as the New York State Public Authorities. And why? Because it might block or upset thier friends' developments such as Atlantic Yards and diminish their control over the authorities which laughably claim to be independent.

We're looking at you Empire State Development Corporation, and you Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Atlantic Yards Report, Paterson stalls public authority reform that would establish new budget office, require fiduciary duty of board members (including ESDC)

A lot of people think that a bill to reform state authorities, passed by the state legislature but awaiting Governor David Paterson's increasingly unlikely signature, is a good idea.

The New York Times, in an editorial July 23 headlined New York’s Phantom Government, praised the idea of an independent authorities budget office with subpoena power, and an automatic review by the state Comptroller's office of authority contracts valued at more than $1 million.

"Perhaps even more important, board members at these entities would have a new fiduciary duty to protect the authority’s bottom line, just like board members in most private corporations," the Times opined. (That duty, as I will explain on Monday, already applies to the board members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to a clause in the MTA bailout bill passed this spring.)

The Buffalo News praised the legislation. So did Newsday.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said, "Assemblyman Brodsky and Senator Perkins’ bill is the first major step toward public authority reform we’ve seen in years. It’s long overdue."

...

While no one has used the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) as an example, I wonder if the ESDC board would be following a fiduciary duty if it voted to approve Atlantic Yards without a current fiscal impact analysis or a (never-conducted) cost-benefit analysis.

Could the board have approved AY in 2006 without considering the availability of housing bonds and can it do so going forward?

(The law would go into effect 60 days after signature, so if Paterson signs it, which seems unlikely, it wouldn't affect the planned ESDC vote in September. But I wonder if the governor and mayor had Atlantic Yards in mind as a project they'd like to see passed before it got mucked up by reform legislation.)

This blog entry concludes by listing aspects of the legislation that would force authorities to act responsibly.

Fiduciary Duty of Authority Board Members

Members of authority boards will no longer be beholden to those who appoint them. They will have an explicit fiduciary duty to the authority and their mission. Board members’ primary responsibility will be to ensure that the authority runs in the best manner possible.

Debt Reform

The legislation empowers the ABO [Authorities Budget Office] to issue debt reform plans for pub lic authorities. Also, public authorities must submit debt reform measures to the ABO. The legislation will also limit the amount of debt Subsidiaries of Public Authorities may issue.

Comptroller Approval of Contracts

This legislation will require each authority to submit to the comptroller contracts over $1 million. Having this oversight of contracts will prevent fraud and mismanagement while keeping the authority focused on its mission.

Subsidiaries

Public Authorities will no longer be able to create subsidiaries whenever they feel the need to. Unless formed for a very specific purpose, subsidiaries will now only be formed with the approval of the legislature. Authorities will no longer be able to use subsidiaries to create more debt without a clear purpose and proper oversight.

Disposition of Property

All authority property must now be sold at fair market value.

Posted by steve at 8:40 AM

Paterson Set to Reject Public Authority Overhaul

New York Times

Paterson Set to Reject Public Authority Overhaul
By Danny Hakim

The proposed Atlantic Yards project would require massive public subsidies, yet aspects of the project (i.e. what it will look like, what it will cost ), are being kept secret from the public by the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, the ESDC. Also, the MTA has agreed to sell the Vanderbilt rail yards to Bruce Ratner for less than their appraised value, and has even allowed a longer term for him to pay for the purchase.

Since New York Governor David Paterson seems to think that he can have political cover for supporting Atlantic Yards by allowing the ESDC and the MTA to abuse their power, it is disappointing, but not surprising, that he is about to veto legislation that would force public authorities to act more responsibly.

It is also not surprising that Atlantic Yards is not mentioned in this article produced by Bruce Ratner's business partner, the New York Times.

Gov. David A. Paterson is set to reject a sweeping overhaul of the state’s hundreds of public authorities that was passed by lawmakers last month but is opposed by the governor’s staff and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City.

...

If the governor were to veto the bill, or leave it in limbo, he would be turning aside the most ambitious attempt in decades to overhaul the system, which includes groups ranging from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, and which has been criticized as functioning as a shadow government with little oversight.

...

The governor’s office objects to a number of provisions, including one that would require the comptroller to review authority contracts of over $1 million — a restriction that Mr. Paterson and business groups say will be too time-consuming. They also oppose a provision that would require authorities to record and disclose all contacts with lobbyists because it appears to encompass contacts with officials in other government agencies or authorities.

Supporters of the bill argue that the dispute is about power, and that the governor’s office and the mayor fear that the bill would diminish their sway over the authorities, which are ostensibly independent.

The legislation’s main provision would create an independent budget office with an array of powers over state authorities, including the ability to issue subpoenas in investigations and to conduct regular audits.

The legislation also makes clear that people who serve on authority boards have a fiduciary responsibility to the authorities and their missions rather than to the mayor, the governor or the elected officials who appointed them. Mr. Bloomberg is especially opposed to that provision.

The mayor also believes restrictions that would prevent authorities from selling off their land for below fair market value could hamper a number of developments, including a $700 million East Harlem project, which includes 600 housing units for low- and moderate-income families, and the East River Science Park, a $700 million complex in Manhattan that the city hopes will make it a leader in biotechnology.

...

The measure, adopted by the Senate in the wee hours near the end of its chaotic session last month, is one of the few actions to emerge from Albany this year that have been praised by editorial boards and civic groups. Many of the bill’s principles were drawn from a Pataki-era commission on authority reform led by Ira Millstein, a lawyer who is a leading expert on corporate governance.

The legislation has been promoted for years by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who has investigated abuses at the transit authority and the Canal Corporation and, more recently, has scrutinized the financing of Yankee Stadium.

Mr. Brodsky said that Mr. Bloomberg’s concerns about property sales were a smoke screen because the city could easily award grants to developers instead of selling them land for below the market value.

“Their arguments are bogus,” he said. “It’s about power; it’s not about any particular projects.”

...

Senator Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat who was the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said that taxpayers have too often been shortchanged in development deals.

“The whole purpose of this is to make sure that the public gets the best deal,” he said.

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Posted by steve at 8:07 AM

Bloomberg’s Reign of Neighborhood Destruction: Atlantic Yards as Poster Child

Fed Up
By Daniel Goldstein

Mayor Bloomberg's failed development strategy in general, and the proposed Atlantic Yards project in particular, is the subject of this article by Develop Don't Destroy's spokesman.

And for six years he has been attempting yet another publicly subsidized professional sports facility—Forest City Ratner’s Barclays Center Arena (part of the gigantic and embattled Atlantic Yards development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn).

In June the Independent Budget Office (IBO) testified at a State Senate hearing that the Barclays Center Arena, if built, would be a money loser for New York City. Yet the Mayor, who has told us that only his firm financial hand can guide this City, still supports and pushes for the money losing white elephant Ratner wants to build.

On June 24th he pressured the MTA Board into approving a new sweetheart land rights deal for Forest City Ratner. Just after the MTA had been bailed out, purportedly fiscally prudent Bloomberg pressured the Board to accept $20 million up front and $80 million over 22 years from Ratner for the rights to the valuable 9-acre rail yard portion of the Atlantic Yards site in the heart of Brooklyn. Never mind that the yards had been appraised at $214.5 million and Ratner had originally agreed to pay $100 million in cash at closing, after a non-competitive, sham of a bidding process.

Sole-source, no-bid contracts and cronyism for a money-losing, publicly funded arena do not demonstrate sound economic stewardship.

...

When Bloomberg overturned the twice-voted for term limits law it was not a surprise to anyone paying attention to the Atlantic Yards saga. Because back in 2003 Mayor Bloomberg unilaterally overrode New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) taking the decision-making power over Atlantic Yards away from Community Boards, City Planning and the City Council, and allowing a complete zoning override, thus fostering billionaire crony Bruce Ratner’s land grab. Overturning term limits was just another action in a long line of anti-democratic, strong-arm tactics.

...

Bloomberg has taken many steps to remake the city and its many neighborhoods in his vision of a cleansed playground for the well off. And how best to drive out the unwanted? Eminent domain is a handy tool to do that. He has wielded it with Columbia University’s expansion, the Willets Point rezoning, Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, in East Harlem, Bronx Terminal Market and, of course, for the Atlantic Yards project. Eminent domain, of course, is the government’s right to take private property for a public use. But over and over, under Bloomberg, it has been used to take private property from owners and tenants to transfer it to private interests for private purposes.

With a mayoral election approaching, Goldstein reminds New Yorkers of the opportunity to gain better develoment policies for the city.

And for the people of New York who have tried to challenge the various abuses of eminent domain under the Bloomberg reign, what does he have to say? He says that we can’t let one little guy stand in the way of progress.

He’s right, we can’t let this one little guy stand in the way of progress, and that is why he’s got to go. When crony capitalism in the name of overdevelopment, sports playpens for billionaires and excessive, cancerous growth is considered “progress” we know we’re being lied to.

link

Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

Empowering Neighborhoods Is Candidate Simon’s Focus

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Harold Egeln

Jo Anne Simon, one of seven candidates for Brooklyn's 33rd City Council District is featured in the first in what is projected to be a series of profiles. Simon's stance on Atlantic Yards is mentioned.

Atlantic Yards did not go through the ULURP process and the court appeals on eminent domain are being watched closely, she said, as well as the possibility of breaking ground by this year’s end.

“The Atlantic Yards plan is flawed in so many ways, a failed design idea, as well as horribly polarizing and wildly emotional,” Simon said. “Maybe there will be a chance to go back to square one. If the developer is limited in what it can do, there are a lot of good creative ideas out there.”

link

Posted by steve at 7:22 AM

DSBA Meeting This Monday

Dean Street Block Association

Here's an announcement of a meeting of the Dean Street Block Association that serves as a reminder that the ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, is accepting public comment until August 31st on the Atlantic Yards Modified Project Plan.

Monday, August 17th at 7:30-9:00

PLACE: 618 Dean Street Apt 1B (btwn. Carlton and Vanderbilt)

ATLANTIC YARDS: THEN AND NOW

Last Meeting Before End of Comment Period on Changes to Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards in 2009 is not the Atlantic Yards of 2006. Discuss the differences and help us prepare comments. What do we know? What don’t we know? All written comments are due August 31st! Please attend this very important meeting to discuss the concrete things each of us can do for our community.

YOUR INPUT IS ESSENTIAL PLEASE INVITE YOUR NEIGHBORS

link

Posted by steve at 7:15 AM

August 14, 2009

GORGEOUS APARTMENT NEAR ALL- NO FEE (Prospect Heights)

New York Gay Pride

Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY

GORGEOUS NEW APARTMENT NEAR ALL

Very sunny two bedroom apartment only two years young. Hardwood floors, new appliances, Close to Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Medgar Evers College and Pratt Institute 2, 3,4, 5, A and C and Shuttle trains close by.

link

NoLandGrab: "Close to Atlantic Yards?" Even Atlantic Yards isn't close to Atlantic Yards — until Ratner actually begins building something, "Atlantic Yards" is just a "marketing concept."

Posted by eric at 4:26 PM

The Day: Park Pork and Political Discourse

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Andy Newman and Michael Szeto

Good news! Delia Hunley-Adossa's campaign manager is going to let her answer some questions.

Hunley-Adossa to Take Part in Our Online Forum

Thursday afternoon, Musa Moore, Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s campaign manager, said his client would participate in the town hall.

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Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! Bus-riding students NO!!

On June 24th, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted 10-2 to let Bruce Ratner put down just $20 million for the Vanderbilt Yard, and pay the $80 million balance over 22 years (never mind that the MTA had appraised the land at $214.5 million in 2005, and that NYC's Finance Department says assessed values of vacant land have increased 260% over the past three years — and as much as 3400% in the Atlantic Yards footprint). Four days later, an across-the-board, double-digit MTA fare hike went into effect.

As part of that fare hike, the MTA is eliminating discounted rides for students commuting by bus into Manhattan.

NY Daily News, MTA nixes express bus for outer borough students who commute to school in Manhattan

Hundreds of city students from the outer boroughs will have to choose between paying more to commute to school in Manhattan this fall or using a longer route. As part of this summer's fare hikes, the MTA quietly cancelled the discount on the express buses that gave students half off.

"To pay $11 a day, five days a week, it's a lot on my family; it's unfair," said Johnathan Trosa, 17, who takes the bus to get to Regis High School by 7:30 a.m. from Throgs Neck, in the Bronx.

"The express bus comes right near my house and drops me off right near my school. ... ," he said. "This makes the commute much more difficult."

The student fare will rise to $5.50 per trip from $2.50. ...

Jeffrey Levine, 48, a social worker whose two daughters will commute this fall from Throgs Neck to the Saint Vincent Ferrer school, will endure a $120 weekly increase.

"It's going to be hard on my family affording full fare," Levine said.

NoLandGrab: Maybe MTA should stand for Millionaires Thoroughly Accommodated.

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

The mysteries of "Miscellaneous;" why funding source in AY plan went up more than four times

Atlantic Yards Report

So, where exactly would the money be going for Atlantic Yards?

Remember, what was supposed to be a $4 billion project in 2006 would now be a $4.9 billion project, with the arena--after a 50% projected increase in value--going up instead about 22%, to $772 million.

The biggest increase is in the housing, but, on a percentage basis, the largest leap is in the category of Miscellaneous. In the 2006 Modified GPP issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the sum was $19.5 million.

This year, the total is $92 million. That a more than four-fold increase. The 2009 Modified General Project Plan, however, went up only 20 percent.

Click thru for the ESDC's explanation.

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Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

Steve Levin: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Hate Atlantic Yards

Real Reform Brooklyn

With that said, we think it only fair to turn back to Steve Levin and his relationship to Atlantic Yards. If Jo Anne Simon can be accused of conciliation (BrooklynSpeaks) and inaction (not helping with the legal fight), Levin’s record is one of collusion and now (conveniently) religious conversion.

It all goes back to 2007 when Levin was Vito Lopez’s Chief of Staff. The District needs to be reminded about it now. (Some would say it is earlier in the fall of 2006 when Vito Lopez received a total of $6,200 in campaign contributions from Michael Ratner and his wife. Lopez was facing a non-contest primary. Michael Ratner is a bit of a sacred cow because of his great work at the Center for Constitutional Rights. But we will just leave it there.) In June 2007, however, Lopez final oversaw final negotiations of the revised 421-a program. He was literally designated by Assembly Speaker Silver and now-indicted Sentate Leader Joe Bruno to hammer out the final, final deal with New York Real Estate Board of New York executive Steven Spinola. The revision added to the exclusion area where developers would not get a tax break for building market-rate housing without including affordable units Unless, of course, you are Vito Lopez’s friend Bruce Ratner. Specifically, when the bill was being finalized, Lopez slipped in wording specifically tailored for Ratner. The language gave an estimated minimum of $100 million in real estate tax exemptions and as much as $170 million for the market-rate condos. The deal also provided no obligation to build affordable housing in Atlantic Yard condominium buildings, which added again to Ratner’s bottom line.

Levin has now supposedly professed found religion by opposing the project. But we seriously question his conversion given the sell out he presided over as Vito Lopez’s Chief of Staff.

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Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Michelle & James Nevius, Authors, Inside the Apple

Gothamist

Jen Carlson interviews the author/tour guide couple, who know a misguided development project when they see one.

Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? New York has got to learn better how to balance preservation and development. Too often now, it plays out as this Hegelian dialectic between the Big Bad Builders on one side (that’s you, Bruce Ratner) and the Preserve-It-At-All-Costs crowd on the other. New York has always been a city of development—Philip Hone complained in the 1839 that “[t]he whole of New York is rebuilt about once in ten years,” so thinking that all new buildings are terrible is counterproductive. However, has Jane Jacobs taught us nothing? The city and its developers need to think hard about what it is that makes New York great and work with residents and preservationists to make certain that new projects don’t obliterate the city’s unique character.

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Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

Here’s how to watch our TV debates!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

BCAT will be airing a series of taped debates next week, a collaboration between the Community Newspaper Group and Brooklyn Independent Television.

All the major races will be cablecast on BCAT, which is channel 56 on Time Warner customers and channel 69 for Cablevision subscribers:

  • City Council District 33 (currently held by David Yassky): Monday, Aug. 17.

  • City Council District 39 (currently held by Bill DeBlasio): Tuesday, Aug. 18.

  • City Council District 45 (currently held by Kendall Stewart): Wednesday, Aug. 19.

  • Comptroller (featuring Yassky, John Liu, Melinda Katz and David Weprin): Thursday, Aug. 20.

  • Public Advocate (featuring DeBlasio, Mark Green, Norman Siegel and Eric Gioia): Friday, Aug. 21 (repeated on Tuesday, Aug. 25).

All broadcasts will be at 9 pm. And all shows will be available online roughly 24 hours after its initial airing at www.bricartsmedia.org/BITspecials and the Community Newspaper Group’s new political Web site BoroPolitics.com.

It ain’t Lincoln vs. Douglas, but in the days after the debates were taped, several have made headlines, including the 39th Council debate, where leading candidates Brad Lander and Josh Skaller went at it over Atlantic Yards and the schooling of Skaller’s son, Wolf.

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Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

After breaking with developer, Bloomfield must pay $4.8 million

The Star-Ledger
by Halley Bondy

After a Superior Court judge upheld a $4.8 million arbitration ruling against Bloomfield, the township has to pay it to a company that some officials said single-handedly slowed downtown development plans.

Two weeks ago, the township issued a bond with a 1.4 percent interest rate to pay the $4.8 million, according to redevelopment consultant Ken DeRoberts. The money will pay Forest City, a Cleveland-based development company that took the township to arbitration last year after it was terminated as the city's primary redeveloper. Bloomfield appealed to a Superior Court judge who upheld the ruling in June.

"I see this as a burden on the taxpayers of the town," said councilman Robert Ruane. "We have still not seen one shovel in the ground."

Bloomfield's mayor Raymond McCarthy and five council members--not including Ruane--issued a joint statement Monday that the developer "failed our community, wasted our time and resources and destroyed our confidence in their ability to help move our community forward."

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NoLandGrab: New Jersey's top court ruled against the Bloomfield/Forest City plan to use eminent domain in 2007. Seems like governments have to learn the hard way that getting into bed with Forest City ain't a recipe for success.

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

So, was Jo Anne Simon an “early vocal opponent" of eminent domain for AY? Yes, but it's complicated

Atlantic Yards Report

So, did Jo Anne Simon, the 52nd District Leader, civil rights attorney, and fundraising leader in the race for the 33rd District Council seat, say that she was an “early vocal opponent of the use of eminent domain” at the debate on Tuesday, as noted by her anonymous critics on the Real Reform Brooklyn blog?

The answer, as far as I can tell:

  • she said something at least pretty close
  • she did announce opposition to eminent domain early on
  • she has been less vocal than leaders of the AY opposition regarding eminent domain

Simon is not the most anti-Atlantic Yards candidate for the seat--Ken Baer and Ken Diamondstone are longstanding opponents standing with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), and Doug Biviano and Evan Thies are making AY an issue--though she's far more critical and knowledgeable than the current officeholder, David Yassky. She also has endorsements from and ties to various Brooklyn political figures.

The question for voters seeking reform is whether the most important issue is the first order of reform--a candidate other than Stephen Levin, who's tied to Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez--or the second order of reform, the most "reformist" of the rest of the pool.

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Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

The Nets 2010: A Realistic Plan

HOOPSWORLD
by Alex Raskin

Forget about LeBron James' relationship with Nets minority owner Jay-Z; ignore Dwyane Wade's presence at the U.S. Open last August; and don't pay any attention to the Chris Bosh rumors: All three headliners of the Free Agent Class of 2010 aren't going anywhere.

Thanks to the Larry Bird Clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Cleveland, Miami and Toronto can each re-sign James, Wade, and Bosh respectively for around $30 million more than anyone else can offer.

With that in mind, let's take a realistic look at what the New Jersey Nets can do in the summer of 2010.

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Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

Yormarketing Genius: More on the Nets' reversible jersey promo

Norman Oder reported yesterday about how a Nets ticket promotion offering reversible jerseys — Nets player on one side, famous opponent (LeBron, Kobe, Dwayne Wade, etc.) on the other — was enraging fans posting on Nets Daily. Here's a link to those comments, and more coverage below.

Nets Daily, Switching Sides Made Easy

It’s just a marketing ploy, but it seems so…disloyal. To get fans to buy 10-game packages, the Nets are offering five reversible NBA jerseys–one side is a Nets jersey, the other a team they’ll be playing in those games. Devin Harris turns into Dwyane Wade, Courtney Lee into Kobe Bryant, Brook Lopez into Dwight Howard, etc. It’s as if the Nets are saying: if our team is embarrassing you, just switch…sides!

Our favorite comment:

Maybe a better idea would be for the marketing team to give up trying to sell us crap ideas and blow their budget on hiring people to simply break into our homes and steal all our stuff and dignity. It would save a lot of time.

CNBC.com, Nets Make Stars Of Opponents

Marketing opposing players has long been a practice in the NBA, at least for the last 20 years when Michael Jordan started filling up arenas across the country.

But never has a team sold an opponent more than the New Jersey Nets will this upcoming season.
...

“The reality of the situation is that many of our fans like the opposing players and teams and that’s great,” said Nets chief executive Brett Yormark. “When you come to our games, the concessionaire is selling the opposing team’s jerseys, so why not give them away?”

NoLandGrab: Um, because your team loses tens of millions of dollars each year? But heck, the Nets already give away tons of tickets — why not toss in the jerseys, too?

The Internets [NY Daily News blog], Two sides to Nets' (desperate? smart?) jersey promotion

In an attempt to get more fans to their notoriously lowly-attended home games, the Nets have come up with a unique, or as they put it - "unprecedented," offer for tickets.

AP via USAToday.com, No Kidd or Carter, NJ Nets to market opponents

"The reality of the situation is that we target the casual sports fan in New Jersey and New York, " Nets chief executive Brett Yormark said. "As much as they like the Nets, they also like the opposing star players. The Match-Up plan enables us to market our players as well as the star players in the league. We're a young team, the NBA is a league of stars, and we're not ashamed to say that our fans are coming to watch the opposing star players as much as ours."

The loyal diehard fans on Nets Daily would beg to differ.

Yormark said the Nets have sold more than 1,000 new full-season tickets for the 2009-10 season during the summer.

NLG: First, one can never believe what Yormark says. Second, how many existing season-ticket holders didn't renew?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Yormark's Silliest Marketing Deal Yet Derided By Nets Fans

Imagine DDDB selling reversible DDDB tshirts with a Forest City Ratner corporate logo on the other side. Well, don't imagine it.

Nets Daily has links to several more stories.

Posted by eric at 8:31 AM

August 13, 2009

Community cohesion? Plan to offer reversible jerseys irks Nets fans

Atlantic Yards Report

More genius marketing from the New Jersey Nets' marketing geniuses.

The long goodbye to New Jersey for the Nets, at least two more seasons (and likely three, and perhaps never), is continuing to take its toll, as the Brett Yormark-led front-office comes up with ever-more creative promotions that distance the team from its home state.

The team's new inducement to fans--buy a couple of ten-game packages and get reversible jerseys with opposing teams' stars (plus four weeks of the NY Post!)--is generating much derision.

Click thru for a sampling of that derision.

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NoLandGrab: We just have to say that we feel really, really sorry for Rod Thorn. Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark have turned the not-so-long-ago championship-contending Nets into a circus act.

Posted by eric at 6:31 PM

Good Luck on That Condo Thing Bruce

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner wants to build 1,930 luxury condo units not far from this site:

Goldman Sachs' Brooklyn condo bet sours

The company, along with partner The Clarett Group, is negotiating with German lender Eurohypo Bank to turn over the 30-story Forté tower after sales went nowhere.

Crain's
By Amanda Fung

Forté, a 30-story luxury residential tower in the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district in downtown Brooklyn, is underwater.

Manhattan-based developer The Clarett Group confirmed Thursday that, along with its majority partner Goldman Sachs Group Inc., it is negotiating with the project’s construction lender to transfer control to the lender. After two years of marketing, the 108-unit, upscale FXFOWLE Architects-designed building is only 37% sold.

link

NoLandGrab: This doesn't bode well for sales of not-designed-by-Frank Gehry Atlantic Yards condos. The Forté is about as close to Atlantic Terminal transit as any of Ratner's buildings would be, and it's a nice building (we've been there) with spectacular views. Goldman, by the way, is lead underwriter for Atlantic Yards arena bond sales.

Posted by eric at 6:08 PM

Hunley-Adossa Surfaces

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Michael Szeto

Forest City Ratner-backed City Council candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa has turned up at last.

The Local got a callback from the City Council candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa on Wednesday after we wrote about our efforts to reach her and the mysteriously low profile of her campaign.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa, who is challenging City Councilwoman Letitia James, said she has been campaigning hard, knocking on doors and greeting voters on the street.

“I haven’t had many large fund-raisers and I obviously didn’t have any rallies,” Ms. Hunley-Adossa said. “What I do is meet-and-greets and go meet people throughout the community.”

She said she did not know how many doors she has knocked on or the number of voters with whom she has spoken. When asked where, specifically, she had campaigned, Ms. Hunley-Adossa would only say, “Around the community.”

Will Ms. Hunley-Adossa take part in The Local's online town hall for candidates?

She said we would have to wait for her campaign manager to decide if she would participate.

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NoLandGrab: This isn't the first time Ms. Hunley Adossa has gone missing. As far as we know, the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement's Committee on Environmental Assurances, which she chairs, has been AWOL since its inception.

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

NETS ARE SCORCHING INTERVIEW - DEVELOP DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN

NETSARESCORCHING
by Mark Ginocchio

The latest round of reports regarding the Atlantic Yards development and the Nets potential move to Brooklyn has Nets owner Bruce Ratner needing project financing and a groundbreaking by December 31 in order to qualify for tax-exempt bond status and to keep the $400 million naming-rights deal with Barclays Bank for the arena.

Meanwhile, the non-profit group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of the primary opponents of the development, will challenge the state’s use of eminent domain for the project at an October 14 hearing before the NY State Court of Appeals in Albany.

DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein recently took the time out to answer a few questions for Nets Are Scorching about the plan.
...

NAS: Is there a scenario where DDDB would support a new development in Brooklyn that would include a new home for the Nets?

Sure, but Atlantic Yards is not that scenario. And we would never support an arena somewhere else in Brooklyn unless Ratner sincerely worked with everyone in that community the way he never has in this one.

What Bruce Ratner has done to the Nets – turning an NBA Finals team into a lottery franchise – is what he’s done to the communities in and around the arena site. He’s trashed both. It’s better if Ratner sells the team to someone who gets basketball, and doesn’t just use the Nets as a bargaining chip for a luxury condominium development.

NAS: Newark Mayor Cory Booker has said on multiple occasions that he would like the Nets to stay in New Jersey and possibly move to the Prudential Center in Newark. Has your group or Mayor Booker ever reached out to each other to discuss this common ground you share?

No, but we are willing to talk to anyone. Talking never hurts. The Nets have this nomadic history – Teaneck, Commack, Uniondale, East Rutherford. They’ve never felt like they were “home.” Newark could be that home, finally.

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Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Stimulus funds for CityPoint; could there be stimulus funds for AY? Not from Recover NYC

Atlantic Yards Report

City Point, the big Fulton Mall development project, was just awarded $20 million in tax-exempt bonds under Recover NYC, which directs Federal stimulus funds.

Might Atlantic Yards be next?

It would be tough for Atlantic Yards to make the deadline, given that the NYCEDC would announce the candidates for the second round on November 3, before the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case is likely resolved.

But the issue's moot. Only projects located in the yellow recovery zones would be eligible, and the parcel going east of the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues isn't included. But I wouldn't be surprised at other efforts to gain some stimulus funding for AY.

Questions of fairness

In the Times, one watchdog questioned the Recover NYC program:
“This is a sort of David-and-Goliath example of small businesses that are paying the rent and providing services to a diverse constituency of Downtown Brooklyn and having something kind of dropped on top of them, which is a big wealthy developer getting subsidies,” said Bettina Damiani, director of Good Jobs New York, which studies the use of economic development incentives. “So the impact on the local community needs to really be taken into consideration before we move forward with economic stimulus.”

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NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure fairness is of little concern to Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

MORE “SUMMER OF LEBRON” SPECULATING

NETSARESCORCHING
by Mark Ginocchio

Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch sees two potential scenarios unfolding during the “Summer of Lebron.” He either stays in Cleveland or he jumps to New Jersey.

Calling one of Lebron’s other potential suitors, the New York Knicks “mismanaged and malodorous,” Arace adds that the Nets have the benefit of minority owner and rapper Jay-Z to help lure James while also having the cap space to potentially add another superstar, like Chris Bosh.

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NoLandGrab: Only LeBron knows what LeBron is going to do, and he likely doesn't know yet, either. But it's worth pointing out that the owners of the "mismanaged and malodorous" Knicks, the nearly universally maligned Dolan family, still ranked higher than Bruce Ratner in a recent ESPN ranking of pro team owners.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) Bullish Technical Alert - Trend Up 15.6%

FOXBusiness.com

Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) is trading 4.1% higher (up $0.31 to $7.79) today on volume of 91,140 shares. The stock has traded within a 52-week range of $3.26 and $40.49.

Forest City Enterprises is currently above its 50-day moving average of $6.48 and above its 200-day moving average of $6.63.

link

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Delia Hunley-Adossa's stealth candidacy for the 35th Council District; will there be a September push?

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, The NY Times stopped short of posting a missing poster on The Local blog for Atlantic Yards supporter Delia Hunley-Adossa, who surely has had numerous opportunities to return the paper's call. [NoLandGrab's take: The Times might have better luck going through the Forest City Ratner switchboard.]

Norman Oder offers color commentary:

So, what to make of the stealth campaign of Delia Hunley-Adossa, known for her work as president of 88th Precinct Community Council and her questionable ties to the Atlantic Yards project? Perhaps because of the latter, she's avoiding the press and public debates. But is that the way to win a Council seat held by incumbent Letitia James, who won her last primary with 84% of the vote?

I don't think so. I doubt even the AY-loving Daily News could legitimately endorse her after her unwillingness to subject herself to public scrutiny.

Has Hunley-Adossa given up, concluding that the political fight is not for her? Maybe, but I doubt it. Perhaps she'll pour her remaining resources into a final push during the week before the election--remember (pro-AY candidate) Tracy Boyland's stealth campaign in 2006 for (anti-AY) Velmanette Montgomery's state Senate seat.

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Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

Atlantic Yards Deep Thoughts

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn demonstrates why it rarely makes sense to try to make sense of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject:

Bruce Ratner says his Atlantic Yards project costs $4.9 billion and his planned arena costs $800 million, yet there is no rendering of the project.

He knows what it costs but not what it looks like? How can that be?

link

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

A bizarrely belated AY debate in the Brooklyn Eagle, plus Jane Jacobs's 2004 criticism of subsidizing stadiums

Atlantic Yards Report

In a bizarre chapter that should be titled, "All your word are belong to us," Norman Oder gives us his reaction when he found out that the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published an entire Atlantic Yards Report post in yesterday's online and print editions.

[T]he Eagle decided to run my full post from June 11, with comments, critiquing an essay by the Eagle's Henrik Krogius. At the bottom of the piece, below a brief response by Krogius, was the notation "sent by Norman Oder."

I didn't send it and, given the two-month gap, whoever did send it must have used Snail Express.... Then, after a couple of phone calls and emails, the Eagle agreed to excise the "sent by" and give me some kind of credit up top, so the piece now looks different. They did not, however, publish the clarification I requested. And the whole thing was in print, as well.

Ironically enough, the Eagle warns readers that "It’s not considered polite to paste the entire story on your blog." I decided not to push it because I borrowed liberally from the Eagle, albeit for a noncommercial site. But the Eagle is a commercial enterprise.

Let's just say the Eagle doesn't quite get the "Internets."

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NoLandGrab: Section 17 of the US Copyright law permits "the fair use of a copyrighted work" "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research," making a distinction between "whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes." Though its editors may not realize it, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is a commercial publication, while Atlantic Yards Report and NoLandGrab are not.

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

Anti-Bloomberg Group’s Newspaper Hits the Streets

The Indypendent

Note to Bruce Ratner: Your Atlantic Yards megaproject is on the short list of what's wrong with Mayor Bloomberg.

A new, free rag has hit the streets of our city, put together by a group calling itself the Fed Up New Yorkers Coalition (FUNY). Billing itself as “the best of NYC blogs about the worst of NYC politics,” the coalition boasts some impressive names: Nat Hentoff, a former writer for the Village Voice; Ira Glasser, the former national director for the American Civil Liberties Union; and John Scott, the downtown “club chair” for the Working Families Party. The founding member of the coalition is Neil Fabricant, who publishes BloombergWatch.com.

Their main line of attack is that “no third term means no third term,” although inside the paper you will find plenty of anti-Bloomberg screeds ranging from criticism on mayoral control of schools to his support for the massive development project known as Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

August 12, 2009

…And What About Jo Anne Simon? Atlantic Yards & Beyond

Real Reform Brooklyn

In Brooklyn politics, every yin has a yang. Yesterday, we posted a link to The Brooklyn Rail's flattering interview with City Council candidate Jo Anne Simon. But anonymous/pseudonymous blogger realreformbrooklyn is a critic.

So what does that all mean, exactly? Well, it appears to mean that she has gone to a lot of meetings, submitted written testimony at public hearings, and nothing really beyond that. For instance, and perhaps the best example, on Atlantic Yards, Simon claimed strenuously this evening to have been an “early vocal opponent of the use of eminent domain.” But her “Testimony to the Empire State Development Corporation on the General Project Plan, Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Condemnation of Real Property and terms for the proposed acquisition and conveyance of the Atlantic Yards Project Site”, dated August 23, 2006, never even mentions, let alone objects, to the use of eminent domain or condemnation. Her August 25, 2006 letter to the head of the Empire State Development Corporation about the project also make no mention whatsoever about the use of eminent domain. How vocal is that? It’s not. In reality, Simon is most identified with BrooklynSpeaks and its “mend-it-don’t-end-it” stance on Atlantic Yards.

Simon’s track record is even more troubling, however, because of who she is — a purportedly talented civil rights lawyer. The simple fact is that she has never lifted a legal finger to help litigate the numerous Atlantic Yard eminent domain cases. By way of sterling example, Develop Don’t Destroy has an active volunteer legal team that has worked pro bono for years against that project. Simon’s contribution to the effort: nothing.

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NoLandGrab: While Ms. Simon has not volunteered her legal expertise to DDDB, she has certainly been engaged in the battle over Atlantic Yards. However, BrooklynSpeaks's push for an Atlantic Yards governance structure presupposes the project getting built, and the project won't get built without the eminent domain takings.

Posted by eric at 7:01 PM

Some Critical Thoughts on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report via Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In an episode bizarre even for a newspaper that gives unfettered voice to Dennis Holt and Henrik Krogius, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle today, online and in print, ran a full Atlantic Yards Report post — including two reader comments — from June 11th. The online version ran over a byline saying "by Brooklyn Eagle," while the print edition carried no byline.

The story concludes with "sent by Norman Oder," though Mr. Oder assures us he never sent his post to the Eagle. He has, however, requested some sort of correction and/or acknowledgment.

Henrik Krogius, whose story Mr. Oder critiqued in his original post, did "respond" thusly to said critique.

These various observations are interesting, but they turn a blind eye to the brilliance and complexity of the Gehry plan. Was it just too unexpected, too different, too challenging for so many in Brooklyn? It had greater diversity than Rockefeller Center. I think friend Alex Garvin ( respected planner) would likely agree that a near-empty place at such a confluence of public transit warrants a very high density development — precisely AY. As to having moved more quickly if subjected to the city’s ULURP process rather than a state-initiated community board reviews and public hearings, that’s highly questionable. Note also that I wrote last week that Jane Jacobs might have been “sensible enough to recognize that Atlanic Yards represents a well-nigh unique situation for which a high-rise solution requires no destruction of a viable neighborhood.”

For the record, we couldn't find any direct appraisal of Atlantic Yards by Alex Garvin, though Mr. Garvin did speak, critically, to our ear, of Atlantic Yards at a panel discussion last year. As for what Jane Jacobs might have thought about Atlantic Yards, Mr. Oder has already explored that in detail.

Perhaps the Eagle would like to reprint that story, too?

Posted by eric at 4:42 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Singapore Dreams, Il Bocca Al Lupo

A critique of the condition of NYC's transit system inevitably comes around to the MTA's big giveaway.

The budgets are also terribly faulty, with strange surpluses coming here and there while statements come back bloody during budgeting season. Corruption is rampant. Once example I wrote about earlier this year concerned the Atlantic Yards project. For land that was appraised at $214 million, they took the absolute lowest bid of $100 million. When that wasn’t paid, they didn’t break contract and try to negotiate with other parties, they lowered the original amount to $20 million (to be paid over the course of 22 years)!! Who ends up paying for that difference? The commuters who rely on the subways every day.

NoLandGrab: Technically, the $20 million is the downpayment on a $100 million deal paid out over 22 years. But whether the MTA ever really collects from Ratner is anybody's guess.

Examiner.com [New York], New York Times editorial: and upon practising what you preach

There's a New York Times editorial today which makes what sounds like a reasonable suggestion.

The banks have had a lot of taxpayers' money to support them. Now the taxpayers need to sell of bits and pieces of AIG: shouldn't the banks who gained from that taxpayer largess offer something back by offering to work on the AIG sell off by doing so for free?

That's certainly an interesting idea if not necessarily a reasonable one. Those who gain from the taxpayer own that taxpayer something. That debt should be repaid by free provision of the goods that the recipient normally manufactures or provides.

So, let us see where that leaves the New York Times.

Once the 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) site was assembled, it was leased to the New York Times Company and Forest City Ratner for $85.6 million over 99 years (considerably below market value). Additionally, the New York Times Company received $26.1 million in tax breaks.

Has anyone noted the offering of $26.1 million's worth of free copies of the New York Times to the grateful taxpayers of America? Of New York State? Of New York City?

No?

The Faster Times, London’s Answer to Atlantic Yards Chugs On

The high-profile controversy over the city’s Chelsea Barracks redevelopment reaches a new level of tediousness.

Bloomberg Watch, Re-Reading: Bloomberg’s Bombast

Bloomberg Watch re-reads a November 2008 Weekly Standard piece skewering Mike Bloomberg, his overturning of term limits, and the myth of his adept fiscal-management abilities. We never posted the original, though we covered Norman Oder's coverage.

Posted by eric at 3:54 PM

Hills & Gardens
Boerum Hill Leader Talks Issues

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Trudy Whitman

The second installment of a two-part interview with new Boerum Hill Association president Howard Kolins.

Regarding backyards, Kolins insists that it is unfair to classify the Boerum Hill Association’s opposition to the Atlantic Yards project and the expansion of the Brooklyn House of Detention as knee-jerk NIMBY responses: “The Boerum Hill Association as a group is not against development, but it is pro intelligent development and development with context, and I think that’s our biggest beef with Atlantic Yards. The process has had no meaningful community input.”

The BHA recognizes, he continues, “that development needs to happen and that it’s an economic driver . . . but, as conceived, Atlantic Yards is a real plague to our neighborhood and other neighborhoods.” As such, the BHA president concludes, “We continue to lend our name and join with other surrounding community groups to try to bring a more Brooklyn sensibility to this project, and that has been frustrating.”

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Posted by eric at 3:08 PM

The fact that they play in New Jersey is just a coincidence

Like Madonna, Sting and The Artist Formerly (and once again) Known as Prince, this team only needs one name.

SenateNJ.com, O’Toole: Nets Should Keep “New Jersey” on Their Jerseys

We reprint NJ State Senator Kevin O'Toole's press release in full.

Senator Kevin O’Toole, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the decision by the National Basketball Association’s Nets to remove “New Jersey” from their road game uniforms:

“Enough is enough. New Jersey’s professional sports teams, the Nets, Jets and Giants, have no problem feeding at the taxpayer funded trough, yet seem to forget who their benefactors are when they order the teams’ uniforms.

“The taxpayers of this state have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into infrastructure upgrades in the Meadowlands where all the teams play their home games. Is it too much to ask that professional sports teams that benefit from the support of the New Jersey taxpayer recognize the state on their uniforms?

“These teams make hundreds of millions of dollars a year. They should not receive a single concession from the state until they get an attitude readjustment.

“As for the Nets ‘regionalization efforts,’ the last time I checked, ground hadn’t been broken on a new arena in Brooklyn.”

NoLandGrab: Ouch. In fairness to the Nets, though, under the steady hand of Bruce Ratner, they lose tens of millions of dollars a year.

SLAM ONLINE, Uniforms Bring NJ Nets Political Heat

According to one member of the Senate, the Nets are lacking in state pride by removing the “New Jersey” from their road unis...

THE BSS REPORT, Jersey/C?

Is it too much to ask that professional sports teams that benefit from the support of the New Jersey taxpayer recognize the state on their uniforms?

I recognize that this move is to help prep people for the eventual move from East Rutherford to Brooklyn, but this seems to be yet another case of Bruce Ratner not giving a rat's ass about the state and fans of New Jersey, and instead trying to get people to see the "Brooklyn Nets" as soon as possible so that he can sell more merchandise in the new stadium.

NETSARESCORCHING, PUT NEW JERSEY ON YOUR JERSEY

When grandstanding politicians take on billionaire sports team owners it’s like the insufferable force vs. the unbearable object.

But that hasn’t stopped NJ Senate Minority Whip Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Groves) from calling on all sports teams that play in New Jersey to show their state pride by placing the words “New Jersey” somewhere on their uniforms (this also includes you Jets and Giants).
...

Of course, the Nets are the catalyst in all this after the team acknowledged they had stripped “New Jersey” off their new red road jerseys for the upcoming season. That could have something to do with that whole wanting to move to Brooklyn thing.

NLG: "Grandstanding politician?" Kevin O'Toole sounds OK by us.

Posted by eric at 2:25 PM

The Day: Have You Seen This Woman?

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Michael Szeto

Interesting story from The Times's Brooklyn blog.

She’s running for City Council and has been since March. She must be running some kind of campaign because she has spent $23,392 and raised $22,585, according to her latest filing in July.

But Delia Hunley-Adossa remains oddly invisible, at least to the media.

Last week, The Local made many telephone calls to Ms. Hunley-Adossa and left several voice messages. All went unanswered and unreturned. In fact, The Local dialed her number so many times we can remember it.

Calls to friends and supporters didn’t help.
...

Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s opponents do not seem to know what is going on, either.

City Councilwoman Letitia James says she hasn’t seen Ms. Hunley-Adossa for at least a month.

“It’s a bit perplexing,” said Medhanie Estiphanos, the other candidate in the race.

Nor are we the only news outlet that is having trouble contacting Ms. Hunley-Adossa.

“We at The Brooklyn Paper have been astounded by the lack of response to our questions from Delia and her campaign,” said Gersh Kuntzman, editor of The Brooklyn Paper. “She aspires to a very lofty position –- public servant –- and, as such, she needs to answer questions from independent media.”
...

Ms. Hunley-Adossa, 52, was last spotted on July 30 next to State Senator Marty Golden and Bertha Lewis, an organizer for the activist organization, ACORN, at an Atlantic Yards hearing. The three of them were at the hearing to show support for the Atlantic Yards project.

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NoLandGrab: It's more than highly unusual for a candidate challenging a popular incumbent in a primary race less than five weeks away to disappear, or at least to appear to disappear. Let us offer our sincere hope that Ms. Hunley-Adossa is ok and missing only from the media.

Posted by eric at 1:08 PM

This crime is half-baked

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Mike McLaughlin

Criminals strike (again!) where the Empire State Development Corporation would least expect it.

Pedal meddle

Lock-busting hooligans stole two of four bicycles that a woman claims she had locked at the Atlantic Terminal plaza on Flatbush Avenue on Aug. 6.

The woman shopped in the galleria from 3:40 pm to 4:20 pm, but when she exited the mall, between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue, she found a clipped bike lock and discovered that two of her velocipedes were missing.

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NoLandGrab: Fortunately, the victim still had two bicycles remaining to get her where she was going.

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

Class of '99

One year. Eight new arenas. How they changed the industry then and are reinventing themselves today.

Portfolio.com
by Don Muret

This uncritical look at the '90s sports-facility building boom (it's penned by a writer from SportsBusiness Journal, whose business is promoting sports business) includes a look at the inspiration for the "Barclays Center."

In addition, Conseco’s tight basketball-specific layout is a design that New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner wants to emulate at the proposed Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“Before those buildings opened, there was a tendency to come up with one-size-fits-all arenas,” said Jay Cross, a former sports executive involved in developing arenas in Toronto and Miami. “It was the first attempt to design a building unique to the culture of those cities.”

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NoLandGrab: "The first attempt to design a building unique to the culture of those cities?” How exactly is a design emulating Indianapolis's culture "going to evoke Brooklyn like never before?"

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Forest City in the News

Bradenton Herald, Arbor Park developer avoids foreclosure

Forest City dodges a foreclosure in Florida.

The developer of a stalled residential and commercial project in northern Manatee County has avoided foreclosure, according to court records.

Orion Bank has dropped its lawsuit seeking to foreclose on the 483-acre Arbor Park project after reaching a settlement with the developer, Palmer Investors LC, court records show.

Details of the settlement were not disclosed, and several attorneys involved in the case declined comment Monday.

But a Tampa attorney representing Palmer Investors — a joint venture between Medallion Homes and Forest City Enterprises Inc., a real-estate development company based in Cleveland — said Orion agreed to modify the loan terms.

The attorney, William Dufoe, referred other questions to Forest City. Calls to the company were not immediately returned.

PR Newswire, Forest City Announces Major Pittsburgh Office Tenants

Two new tenants and a renewal in Pittsburgh prompt Forest City CEO Chuck Ratner to claim it's "further evidence of the strength of our office portfolio nationwide, which continues to perform well, even under current economic and market conditions."

HorseRaceInsider, Another 13 Tenants Announced for The Village at Gulfstream Park; 45 in All, and Counting

Forest City Enterprises announced the names of another 13 restaurants and stores – ranging from steak houses to a surf shop – that will take up residence at The Village at Gulfstream.

The Village is expected to have its grand opening Feb. 11, the Thursday after Super Bowl XLIV, which will be played in nearby Dolphin Stadium, about nine miles due west of Gulfstream Park.

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

When it comes to the curious assessments in Atlantic Yards arena block, the Department of Finance is mum

Atlantic Yards Report

One of the most crucial steps on Forest City Ratner's path to arena financing has gotten almost no attention, even though it deserves far more scrutiny: the curious elevated reassessments of properties in the Atlantic Yards arena block.

Remember, the only way Forest City Ratner can have the state sell crucial tax-exempt bonds--$650 million, saving the developer more than $100 million--is to make sure that the PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) do not exceed the value of the foregone taxes on the arena block.

In a nutshell, the City must fudge the value of the land, which the State claims is blighted, to justify, to the Federal Government, the value of the bonds that Ratner needs.

As I reported June 8, for some properties on the block, land assessments--which are a percentage of market value, and rise with the latter--have leaped 17 or 20 or 34 times in one year.
...
Is there an explanation? I queried [Owen Stone, a spokesman for the city Finance Department,] several times by phone and email. I never got a response.

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Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Slicing and Dicing the Daily News Editorial on the Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted a point-by-point rebuttal of this weekend's loopy rant published by the NY Daily News editorial board. Starting with this lie promoted by developer Forest City Ratner, it goes on, and on:

After losing 25 state and federal court cases against the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, opponents of the project have launched their most insidious and potentially destructive legal battle to date.

There have been five cases overall brought against the Atlantic Yards project or aspects of it. That would make a 25-0 score impossible.

link

NoLandGrab: To the Daily News's credit, the Atlantic Yards development is indeed in Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

August 11, 2009

Woman vs. the Machine: Jo Anne Simon

BrooklynRail.com
by Theodore Hamm

Brooklyn Rail editor Ted Hamm sits down with City Council candidate Jo Anne Simon.

Brooklyn Rail: And what about Atlantic Yards—have the opponents also been right in forecasting the problems with the project?

Jo Anne Simon: Yes, the community has been right: Atlantic Yards is fundamentally a flawed plan. It follows almost every failed urban design approach, cutting off streets from the surrounding neighborhoods and so on. Obviously the use of eminent domain for private enrichment is very, very bad public policy. The level of public subsidy is problematic—almost no arena has ever been built without public dollars. And the level of the affordability in the housing is too high: very few people from the area will be ever to come back to the new development, if and when it ever happens.

Rail: So should the project go forward? If not, how would you respond to those who say that by not doing so, we’re just left with a giant hole in the ground?

Simon: I didn’t want the project to go forward in the first place, and that hasn’t changed. But nobody who opposed this project wanted a giant hole in the ground. In fact, we warned against allowing demolition to occur ten years earlier than necessary, because there was never a real expectation that Phase Two of the project would begin in the next ten years. They started that demolition in order to gain site control and to create the perception that they had to build here. So the developer (Forest City Ratner) created blight, whereas the neighborhood surrounding the project had been bringing itself back without the need for public investment. Arenas do not stimulate the economy—we know this from other cities’ experiences. The kinds of jobs created are low-level and seasonal. And the infrastructure problems would be tremendous, especially since this is already the most congested area in Brooklyn.

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Posted by eric at 4:17 PM

In the 33rd: Levin vs. everyone else, AY & Broadway Triangle, and the argument for IRV (Instant Runoff Voting)

Atlantic Yards Report

If you're interested in some insight into the race in the 33rd Council District, be sure to read this excellent analysis by Norman Oder.

Let’s face it. Despite some lively debates, and clear differences in style, experience, policy (only somewhat), and geography among the seven candidates vying to succeed David Yassky in the bizarrely-shaped 33rd City Council District, the race--to be resolved at the Democratic primary September 15--comes down to one thing: Stephen Levin versus everybody else.

That should matter to those following Atlantic Yards. Despite Levin’s expression of “serious concern” about the project, he supports the affordability ratio proposed by Ratner--without pointing out that it was part of an essentially private rezoning, which ACORN has unquestionably supported--and works for the Brooklyn Democratic Party boss who's done Ratner's bidding. The other candidates are all more critical of Atlantic Yards.

(Map from Gotham Gazette)

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Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Candidates savage the front-runners in Brooklyn Paper debate

The Brooklyn Paper hosted a debate of the candidates for the 33rd District Council seat last night, and, of course, Atlantic Yards figured into the discussion.

Posted by eric at 9:43 AM

Waiting for the "September surprise"? That's when Forest City Ratner will unveil new arena designs

Atlantic Yards Report

Someone called me yesterday about scheduling an Atlantic Yards-related event in September.

I pointed out that any AY event that month has to be scheduled around the "September surprise," when Forest City Ratner, with fanfare, unveils the next design of the Atlantic Yards arena, wins back certain members of the chattering class, and allows Mayor Mike Bloomberg to look City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden in the eye.

Sure, I speculate, but look at the evidence. Yesterday CEO Bruce Ratner told the New York Times:
[CEO] Mr. [Bruce] Ratner said he expected to release new images of the arena before Labor Day. “I think the final architecture will be really beautiful,” he said.

Labor Day is Monday, September 7. The final day for people to submit comments to the Empire State Development Corporation on the 2009 Modified General Project Plan is August 31.

When will it be?

Presumably the designs will be finished before August 31--but there's no need to flummox the public by releasing them during the comment period, right? Will they be released Friday, September 4?

Friday is traditionally the day people expect extended arts coverage in the Times, so it could be a good way to win back architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who dissed the latest arena design, by arena specialists Ellerbe Becket, as a "monstrosity."

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NoLandGrab: If the arena is going to be "really beautiful," why not let us see it now so we can sing its praises to the ESDC?

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

(Indicted and non-indicted) Carpenters Union leaders: We work with people who work with us

Atlantic Yards Report

The Feds rounded up a bunch of NYC Carpenter's Union officials last week.

Someone asked me if any of the indicted officials associated with the District Council of Carpenters have led advocacy for Atlantic Yards, and the answer is no.

(Here's the FBI press release, stating that the officials took about $1 million from contractors to defraud the union by paying union members cash, without benefits; by employing non-union workers; and avoiding payment to union benefit funds. "[T]oday's Indictment shows continuing corruption at the highest ranks of the union's leadership even after years of dedicated efforts under the federal Consent Decree to rid the union of wrongdoing," said Lev L. Dassin, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.)

However, there's a curious consistency of outlook. Consider that Executive Secretary-Treasurer Michael Forde, indicted for racketeering and bribery (on top of a $274,000 a year salary), has a basic philosophy, according to the Daily News: "We are going to work with the people who will work with us." (That includes Republicans and Democrats.)

The same holds true with Atlantic Yards. Forest City Ratner plays such hardball with unions that it actually stopped construction of the Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan midway to extract concessions. But the unions want to build Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

Facility Notes

SportsBusiness Journal

In N.Y., Charles Bagli writes while many city projects "have been slowed or stopped by a flagging economy," Atlantic Yards is the "largest project in the city moving forward." But Nets Owner Bruce Ratner "must clear a number of important hurdles before starting…

article [subscription/registration required]

Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Hit & Run [Reason Magazine], Tough Months Ahead for Eminent Domain Abuser Bruce Ratner

There's no question that Atlantic Yards threatens to ruin a neighborhood (or two) while benefitting a private developer who has already received far too much corporate welfare from the city and the state—the centerpiece of the whole boondoggle is a new basketball arena for Ratner's Nets, after all. There's also the inconvenient fact that the allegedly cash-strapped Metropolitan Transit Authority (which just raised subway and bus fares) revised their 2006 sweetheart deal with Ratner into something even more generous.

2nd Ave. Sagas, Atlantic Terminal LIRR project due for fall completion

Benjamin Kabak provides an update on the status of the terminal in Bruce Ratner's mall.

For years, the LIRR entrance at the Atlantic Terminal has been shrouded in construction. While the Atlantic Terminal mall opened in 2004 with promises of a rebuilt LIRR entrance to follow, the project has been encumbered by seemingly never-ending delays. Shocking, I know.

Check the comments section for some Atlantic Yards talk.

Bleed Scarlet, Camp starts today

NJ State Senator Kevin O’Toole is

drafting a bill that would prohibit the use of tax dollars to help teams that don’t carry the New Jersey name.

The article focuses on the three teams still playing at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, but it’s easy to imagine that this bill is broad enough to target Rutgers and its athletic teams (or Seton Hall and others). I think it’s absurd that New Jersey gave away nearly $400 million dollars combined to the Giants and Jets to build their new stadium, and Bruce Ratner’s willful destruction of the Nets is the greatest present tragedy in professional sports. All three deserve to have targets on their backs. The proposal to bar giving the teams tax revenue is right for the wrong reasons. And speaking of one of my two least favorite people, the clock is ticking on his brazen theft.

NoLandGrab: He means Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards land grab. The Nets have dropped the "New Jersey" name from their road jerseys.

Gothamist, Extra, Extra

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is running around to get his project started: The NY Times reports Ratner has been busy getting ready to sell bonds, meeting with a Russian billionaire, and dealing with state and city agencies.

SmartBrief, Atlantic Yards development faces several hurdles

Posted by eric at 9:02 AM

August 10, 2009

Bruce Ratner Has Been a Busy Beaver Trying to Save His Supposed "Done Deal"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Charles Bagli at the Times tells us what a desperate busy beaver Bruce Ratner has been over the past months, travelling to Moscow for money, city hall and Albany for subsidies, and bond rating agencies (wherever they hang out) in order to get his Atlantic Yards proposal off life support.

We and Bagli and many others have been down this road before: Bruce opens mouth, stuff comes out and then none of it pans out. Why believe him this time? We don't. It is especially funny to read that Bruce hopes to build more "affordable" subsidized housing than required. Why funny? Because subsidized housing is ALL Ratner can build right now and the money wouldn't have to come out of his pocket. Of course he wants to build more of it.
...

Remember, it was on May 15th that Bruce told the world that his dying project had jumped its "last hurdle." Then why all of this scurrying about?

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Posted by eric at 5:35 PM

I am the god of capitalism, and I give you nonsense

Gumby Fresh

We don't know about you, but we're always happy to see a new post from "the Best Blog Speculating About The Atlantic Yards Arena Financing Evar."

To those pedants among you saying that the proper name for the arena is "Barclays Center", I would say, it ain't called that till it's built, and if Barclays wants me to advertise its execrable banking services it can pay me directly.

Anyway, the cause of this haste is a workmanlike update on the arena financing from the Times' Charles Bagli, FCR's go-to guy for expectations management. Oder teases out the juicy bits so you don't have to. But it's fairly thin stuff.

Ratner's meeting the ratings agencies, which we knew. What we don't know yet is if he's trying to put something together with Assured Guaranty, the least crap bond insurer in the whole of America. He's scrounging for cash from the public and outside investors, both of which are fairly well-known.

Which leaves us with the last paragraph of the story:

Some real estate executives and critics said it would be hard to sell the bonds for such an uncertain project. But Jay Abrams, a bond analyst at FMS Bonds, said there “is definitely an appetite for tax-exempt bonds in New York, and elsewhere.” The lawsuit, he added, “is not necessarily a game-killer. At the right price, there’s always a buyer for bonds.”

I don't know whether Bagli tried to ask Ratner whether he had a plan for getting the bonds out ahead of the litigation being resolved. I suspect Ratner would have been deliberately vague in any case. The reasons being that any way round the December 31 deadline for a bond financing would be fiendishly convoluted.

But let's go back to this Jay Abrams at FMS Bonds. He seems like a contrarian sort of fellow. Maybe they should give him a spot at The Big Money. It could well be that he's privy to the machinations inside Goldman Sachs' sports finance shop. More likely, though, he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about.

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More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Market for arena bonds? Maybe it's a little dicey

Everybody's favorite AY finance blogger, the pseudonymous Gari N. Corp, takes a gander at the actual market for tax-exempt arena bonds.

Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

Dem leader denounces orchestrated protests (over health care)

Atlantic Yards Report

Democratic Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has denounced the protests at town-hall meetings on health care. CNN reports him saying:
"Town meetings are not bean bag. I've had hundreds of them, and sometimes folks get upset. And that's part of America, part of our process.

"But this is clearly being orchestrated, and these folks have instructions. They come down from a Texas lobbyist in Washington."

Durbin said that when "there's a group of people honestly sitting in the middle trying to ask the important questions and get the right answers, and instead someone takes the microphone and screams and shouts to the point where the meeting comes to an end, that isn't dialogue, that isn't the democratic process.

"We need to respect free speech, but we need to respect one another's rights to free speech, too. When these people come in just to disrupt the meetings, no, that isn't right," Durbin said.

That, of course, is what no Brooklyn or New York official said after the July 22 Atlantic Yards informational meeting was disrupted by pro-project forces.

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Columnist Errol Louis agrees — with the health care part, anyway.

NY Daily News, Town halls of shame are poisoning the health care debate in America

Some of the disrupters are genuinely ticked-off citizens upset at President Obama's policies on health care, the environment and the economy.

More power to such protesters, I say - provided they allow others at these town halls to hear and be heard.

But a darker, more violent strand of nut jobs is mixed in with anti-reform protesters. And some of the outrage is coming from "rent-a-mobs" hired by Capitol Hill lobbyists and PR firms doing the bidding of insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms and other vested interests.
...

Political thuggery is always sickening. What makes the current round especially abhorrent is the fact that some of the mob behavior appears to be the work of corporate lobbying groups that are spending an estimated $1.4 million a day to block reform.
...

The group has dispatched busloads of "protesters" on trips to more than a dozen states.

Fake populist groups, known as astroturf (as opposed to real grass roots) are a fact of American political life, and corporate lobbyists are free to dispatch as many paid "activists" around the country as they like.

But the right-wing goon squads disrupting health care town hall meetings nationwide aren't just an annoyance - they are a threat to democracy that should be taken seriously....

NoLandGrab: Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, Louis has for years turned a blind eye to the orchestrated disruptions at public hearings on Atlantic Yards by project supporters, organized by "corporate lobbyists" working for Forest City Ratner. Rather, he's accused project opponents of being obstructionists, NIMBYs, propagandists, and much worse. Healthy debate is apparently good for health care, but not for basketball arenas.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, A Turning Point for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards, Atlantic Yards, Atlantic Yards. It has been one of the biggest issues in Brooklyn for years, but now the controversial 22-acre development seems to be approaching its shit-or-get-off-the-pot moment.

Nets Daily, Ratner Remains Optimistic as Deadlines Loom

In an interview with the New York Times, Bruce Ratner remains confident of getting financing, winning final legal appeals, finding new investors for the Nets. He also says the city needs the overall project more than it did when first envisioned. As for the Nets, he states he intends to retain some ownership in the team no matter who invests in it. Meanwhile, critics vow new lawsuits.

Pinko Magazine, Gay Marry It … Or Abort It? Brownshirts and ghost trains edition.

I don’t think I was very clear in my post yesterday about Mayor Bloomberg, and I gave the impression that I think Atlantic Yards (and the West Side/Jets Stadium redevelopment) are GOOD ideas that I supported. That’s totally not what I meant, Atlantic Yards is a complete fiasco and if you live in New York and want to understand what it is and why it’s a complete fiasco, New American City has a good summary of where things stand today.

My argument was this: The whole thing is a dud and should be scrapped, but if the developers win and they get to build something, I’d rather see them build the whole plan with the Gehry arena etcetera. Right now we’re staring into a half-assed Atlantic Yards with a bullshit shoe-box arena that will be a blight on Brooklyn for decades. I hope none of it happens, and I hope that’s clear. But it is an example of a botched project on the Mayor’s watch.

Lost City, Ratner-Owned Brooklyn Cineplex a Potential Fire Trap

My friends found their own way down the many escalators by themselves and the building was quite smoky. The whole affair was horribly handled, and, even though the fire was localized, it's a miracle no one was seriously hurt.

It's just what you'd expect from a movie theatre owned by Bruce Ratner, isn't it? Screw the public; let's make money!

Extra Time [NY Post Soccer Blog], Beckham interested in buying MLS team

Could you see Beckham prying the Galaxy away from AEG after 2011? Or would you love to see him buy the Red Bulls? Figure it's a lot more likely that he purchases an expansion team? Since he loves Brooklyn so much, maybe he could get done the deal Nets' owner Bruce Ratner hasn't been able to...

Evil Cowtown, INC., I’ve got an idea with regards to the 2011 CBA negotiations: Let’s keep it the way it is!

That's CBA as in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement, not the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement. But Bruce Ratner does make an appearance.

Yeah. Michael Heisley is more valuable to the NBA than LeBron James. Yuh. Right. (Ditto with clowns like Bruce Ratner, Donald Sterling, George Shinn and Jerry Reinsdorf. If you had a scumbug all owner 1st team, those guys would make it up.

From The 3s, Net Worth – Atlantic Division – New Jersey Nets rebuilding from the ground up

Nets owner Bruce Ratner is allegedly selling the team, in spite of the fact today’s economy is not filled with prospective buyers. He would like the team to ultimately end up and play in Brooklyn. Along with the move, he prefers to be an owner, but is actively pursuing other ownership to ease the financial burden he has and will continue to endure.

Job Hut, Gilmartin on jobs, funding CBA partners; Darnell Canada interruption

A job-search site links to video from the Community Board 2, 6 and 8-hosted Atlantic Yards meeting on July 22nd.

MaryAnne Gilmartin of Forest City Ratner is asked about how to get jobs at the Atlantic Yards project. Darnell Canada loudly interrupts.

The Daily Politics, News Of The Day

Bruce Ratner is still racing to start work on the scaled-backed Atlantic Yards project, but could yet be derailed by the state's highest court.

Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

Lupica: Stern should tell Ratner to get out of the basketball business

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's one AYR slipped past us yesterday.

From New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica today:
But when does [NBA Commissioner David] Stern tell [Nets owner] Bruce Ratner that it is time for him to get out of the basketball business?

When does the commissioner tell Ratner to see if he can find a buyer who's more interested in the NBA than real estate?

Ratner is Donald Sterling of the [Los Angeles] Clippers, just taller.

Last month, ESPN The Magazine called Ratner the second-worst owner in professional sports, and the worst owner in pro basketball. Ratner was ranked #121, while Sterling was #116, though his team was overall rated worse (#122) than the Nets (#111) in the Ultimate Standings.

article

NoLandGrab: Calling someone a taller Donald Sterling is not a compliment.

Here's the original story:

NY Daily News, Government must tell us what triggered positive test for Red Sox slugger David Ortiz

Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

Business as usual: Times notes Ratner's seeking more housing subsidies, but ignores lack of a cost-benefit analysis (and omits disclosure)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder parses today's Atlantic Yards coverage in The New York Times.

There are a couple of notable things about the New York Times article today headlined Atlantic Yards’ Developer Races a Court Hearing, a Bond Deadline and Opponents.

First, it portrays the project through the perspective of the developer, while not acknowledging that Forest City Ratner never testified at the public hearing last month (which the Times didn't cover in print, only on The Local, the blog aimed at Fort Greene and Clinton Hill). Second, it states that new renderings of the arena will be released, likely before Labor Day, but--it goes unmentioned--that likely would be after the opportunity for public comment ends on August 31.

Third, it reveals that Forest City Ratner has sought additional housing subsidies from the city, despite the careful statement by FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin last month that “Forest City does not expect to ask for more subsidy.”

The reason that's news: while Forest City is now framing Atlantic Yards as an affordable housing project, the developer won't build the affordable housing without sufficient city subsidies. And we still don't know--though serious doubts have been raised by experts like Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee--how the cost-per-unit compares to alternatives.

article

Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

Atlantic Yards’ Developer Races a Court Hearing, a Bond Deadline and Opponents

The NY Times

Senior real estate reporter Charles V. Bagli catches up with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner for an update on the controversial, highly subsidized, 22-acre arena and high-rise land grab.

While supporters and opponents attended last week's hearings held by the Empire State Development Corporation:

[Ratner] visited three rating agencies in preparation for selling bonds this fall to finance the first project in the 22-acre development near Downtown Brooklyn: an $800 million, 18,000-seat arena for the New Jersey Nets.

He flew to Moscow to meet with the billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov about investing in the money-losing Nets.

He went to and from City Hall and the state’s economic development offices on Third Avenue to complete the paperwork for the Atlantic Yards development and to start work on the arena.

The new images of the arena will be "really beautiful," as opposed to the last ones, which really weren't:

Mr. Ratner said he expected to release new images of the arena before Labor Day. “I think the final architecture will be really beautiful,” he said.

Harbingers — More subsidies and arena bonds at what cost:

In recent weeks, the developer has sought additional housing subsidies from city officials, who have so far declined to go beyond the standard incentives for developers. The project’s underwriters, led by Goldman Sachs, are also preparing to sell about $700 million in bonds for the arena in October.

Some real estate executives and critics said it would be hard to sell the bonds for such an uncertain project. But Jay Abrams, a bond analyst at FMS Bonds, said there “is definitely an appetite for tax-exempt bonds in New York, and elsewhere.” The lawsuit, he added, “is not necessarily a game-killer. At the right price, there’s always a buyer for bonds.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:09 AM

August 9, 2009

How FCR "seeks protection," why the Courier-Life needs an ombudsman (never happen), and new tales from fictioneer Witt

Atlantic Yards Report

Steve Witt, reporter for the Courier-Life, has produced a lot of coverage of the Atlantic Yards fight and has just published a novel. Norman Oder implies that fiction is the kind of writing for which Witt is best suited.

After the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt last week gave pro-AY project hecklers an implicit endorsement and wrongly stated that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asked a couple of black ministers for "protection," I dissected the story and quoted one of his sources saying Witt got it wrong.

But one reader suggested a simpler response to Witt's misleading headline, AY opponents seek protection from the community.

After all, it's Forest City Ratner that has sought protection from the community; after all, no representative of the developer was willing to face questions at a public meeting for nearly three years before MaryAnne Gilmartin appeared at an informational session on July 22. And when Gilmartin left the room, she had a couple of people clearing a path for her.

...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn sent a letter, published in the paper this week under the headline "At Witt's end."

To The Editor:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) stands accused, by "reporter" Steve Witt, of community organizing and outreach.'' To that we plead guilty, as we are a grassroots, community-based organization. We are extremely proud of the widespread support we have (which has grown larger and larger, year after year, since 2004), the alliances we have made in Brooklyn and beyond, and the community organizing and outreach we have done over the years. I state this to counter the fiction published in this paper by Witt.
How long are you going to allow Steve Witt to write fiction in the news pages, and support such fiction only with anonymous allegations?
In some weird attempt to smear the Atlantic Yards opposition, gin up a conflict that doesn't exist and abet Forest City Ratner's deliberate attempts to divide the community along lines of race and class, his article headlined, "AY opponents seek protection from the community" claims that "following several raucous meetings concerning the Atlantic Yards project, opponents have put out the call for protection."
This is a wild and baseless accusation, and is offensive, absurd, and bizarre - and it is fiction. Witt fails in his attempt to suggest that DDDB and our supporters are somehow not part of the community. Sorry, Steve, but we are.
Having said that, we would like to seek protection from Witt's dangerous and incendiary brand of "journalism." Can we get some help on that?

Daniel Goldstein
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Stephen Witt replies: I stand by the story as written.

...

Well, we don't expect Witt--a reporter who took seriously the incoherent claim that AY foes "are the real land grabbers, because they took the property first and turned back what was jobs into condos"--to own up to errors.

Nor will his bosses.

The Courier-Life needs an ombudsman to handle complaints. It's a very imperfect solution--the New York Times's Public Editors have steered clear of Atlantic Yards--but at least it's a solution.

Another solution is simply more public criticism, However, the most obvious venue, a competing newspaper, no longer exists. The Brooklyn Paper, which once chronicled Witt's more colorful activities--like hugging developer Bruce Ratner--is now a sibling to the Courier-Life, both owned by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspapers Group.

After taking a look at a Courier-Life review of Witt's novel, and what it reveals about Witt, Oder concludes:

How much of what Witt writes regarding AY is journalism?

link

Posted by steve at 8:36 AM

Uncertainty for the Nets and Atlantic Yards

Those who have been following the Atlantic Yards fight for the last few years may recall a time when the proposed project was a "done deal." Strong opposition has made project supporters worry about the future.

The Cleveland Leader, LeBron James Says "Fill in the Blanks" When Asked About Free Agency Next Season

In this item, the team is seen as definitely moving, but only "in the coming years."

It was bad news for Cleveland Cavaliers fans but hardly shocking. LeBron James implied at the launch of his new shoe the Air Max LeBron VII that he plans to test the free agent waters next season. He stated:

"I signed a contract in 2006 with an option. It would make no sense for me to sign that contract if I didn't keep my options open. I'll let you fill in the blanks."

Many observers feel that unless the Cavs win a championship, the Akron native will bolt to New York City to play for either the New York Knicks or New Jersey Nets who will be moving to Brooklyn in the coming years.

Hoopsworld, NBA Teams: Who's Moving Where?

Here, an arena in Brooklyn will "eventually be built."

The Nets still hope to begin building (and sell $850 in bonds to back construction costs) by the end of the year, but the trip over the Hudson River is proving far more complicated than anyone could imagine.

In February of 2007 things looked like they were about to get under way—then someone hit the breaks

The economy plummeted, citizen groups protested the project and everything became gridlocked with legalities. Debates over eminent domain ensued all the while Nets Owner Bruce Ratner was rumored to be looking for investors to help fund the project.

The good news for Ratner and the Nets is that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is on their side. And, assuming he holds onto that post, the local government should remain accommodating.

Even though there is the perfectly new Prudential Center (home of the NHL's Devils) sitting in Newark, the Nets desire an arena of their own. Even if the Atlantic Yards project doesn't reflect architect Frank Gehry's original design, the Barclays Center will eventually be built.

Currently the Nets rank 25th in the NBA in attendance while playing in East Rutheford's Izod Center.

Sporting News, Interview with Nets Center Brook Lopez

For this item, the "team may not ever be headed to Brooklyn."

Now that Vince Carter is no longer with New Jersey, and the team may not ever be headed to Brooklyn, it's all about moving on. With the exception of All-Star Devin Harris, no player is more important to their future than center Brook Lopez. After going No. 10 overall in the 2008 draft, the Stanford product worked hard, earned minutes, and finished the year as one of the league's most promising young big men. Along with his brother Robin, Brook's currently in Dallas, serving as a mentor to the Latin American team at the adidas Nations camp.

Posted by steve at 8:07 AM

August 8, 2009

Desperate? Even before state files legal response, Daily News editorial attacks eminent domain case, ignores issues of blight and relative benefit

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder fires back at today's Daily News editorial as only he can.

Either Forest City Ratner and/or the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) are extremely anxious about the pending appeal in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, or the New York Daily News just gets anxious on its own.

How else to explain a Daily News editorial today attacking the arguments recently filed in the Court of Appeals by the nine plaintiffs. The case will be heard October 14 and the defendant ESDC has yet to file response papers.

Surely a more cogent and comprehensive editorial could be written after the ESDC files its brief and, most likely, the city of New York and other parties concerned about not curtailing the use of eminent domain file their amici curiae ("friends of the court") briefs.

Most notably, the error-riddled editorial frontally attacks the argument that eminent domain in New York State should be limited to true public use--not "public purpose," as federal Supreme Court doctrine has evolved.

But it does not address the less sweeping argument that condemnors must make an effort to assess to relative benefit to the public and to the project proponent. After all, as the plaintiffs' brief explains, the promised public benefits are radically diminished.

Also, the editorial simply claims that the AY footprint consists of 22 blighted acres, while disregarding arguments in the appeal that a good chunk of the footprint is not blighted, and that the state evaded its responsibility, as stated in the contract for the consultant conducting the Blight Study, to analyze sales and rental trends in the area.

You are urged to click on the link to continue reading about all the lies, half-truths, and even typos ("emiment domain").

link

Posted by steve at 9:18 AM

Rule for Ratner: Court of Appeals must not rewrite eminent-domain rules on Atlantic Yards

Daily News

This editorial, rife with what one could charitably call mistakes, shows why the those wishing responsible development for the Vanderbilt Yards have been forced to go to the courts. The legal system is forced to rely on facts more than the political system.

Read the whole, sorry mess for yourself -- but here're some correctives to some of the arguments:

After losing 25 state and federal court cases against the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, opponents of the project have launched their most insidious and potentially destructive legal battle to date.

Mistake: WTF? There have not been 25 court cases. And not all decisions have gone against AY opponents.

So desperate are they to block construction of an arena and 6,400 housing units on long-fallow land, they've asked the Court of Appeals to radically reinterpret the state Constitution.

Mistake: Nobody really knows when most of those 6,400 housing units might get built even if the project begins.

The court must reject the petition - must resist the temptation to establish, in an act of sweeping judicial activism, dramatically different standards for the use of emiment domain.

It should respect the findings of the federal courts, which have ruled New York's use of eminent domain to foster much-needed housing is well within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.

Mistake: Don't look to Atlantic Yards to produce much housing anytime in the next, say, decade.

Developer Bruce Ratner's ambitious plan calls for plowing $4 billion into the neglected Prospect Heights neighborhood. Twenty-two blighted acres near Atlantic and Flatbush Aves. would be transformed with thousands of apartments - including 2,250 criticially needed affordable units - commercial buildings, a school, a health clinic and a new home for the Nets. The city would be the better for it.

Mistake: The project may cost more than $4 billion, but Bruce is depending on money from you and me to pay for it. And Prospect Heights is now suffering from blight created by the developer. Also: any commercial building is on hold for the foreseeable future and any school would be paid for by the city, not the developer. An arena for the Nets is acknowledged to be a money-loser.

Ratner has bought 85% of the land, but eminent domain may be needed for the few holdouts - who, by law, would receive fair value.

Missing fact: Ratner can appear generous with his buy-outs because of a $100 million public subsidy for this purpose.

Not-in-my-back-yard naysayers have dogged the project with suit after suit claiming the state is illegally giving away the store in subsidizing the project. Each frivolous claim has been tossed out of court. Now the Court of Appeals is their last hope. The only way they can win, as they state in court papers, is for the judges to ban eminent domain for this type of development - and others like it.

Note: Please, Daily News, show us how subsidizing a development whose benefits continue to disappear is anything but a giveaway for the developer.

Having taken the case, the court needs to act expeditiously, because Ratner is fighting to keep the project alive in a weak economy. Lippman must not allow the court to be drafted into a war of attrition by never-say-die opponents.

He and his colleagues must decide the case quickly. And they must make it, for the opponents, loss No. 26.

It's understandable that Bruce Ratner is in a rush. He wants to qualify for tax-free bonds before the end of the year so he can help himself to more taxpayer money. And what will be the benefit to the public for these subsidies? No cost-benefit analysis has ever been produced by the ESDC, the tool of the developer.

link

NoLandGrab: Is it possible that the Daily News outsourced this sorry excuse for an editorial so that its staff could leave early for a summer weekend?

Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

Fan or chump? New NY stadiums blur the difference, says Metropolis writer; also, did AY distract civics from stadium fights?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notes an article by Mark Lamster in the July/August issue of Metropolis that wonders, after subsidizing stadiums, and paying exorbitant prices for game tickets, at what point does a sports fan begin to feel merely exploited?

The article looks at why criticism of the new stadiums for the Mets and Yankess might have been muted because of attention paid to other issues, including Atlantic Yards, though Norman Oder doesn't agree.

That fans are in essence paying for their own disenfranchisement has drawn harsh criticism from those who wished to save the old stadiums from the wrecking crews. “You have two ballparks that would never have been built if the people of New York had gotten to vote on it,” says Jim Bouton, an all-star pitcher for the Yankees in the 1960s and later a best-selling author and preservation advocate. “It’s against everything I believe about baseball and democracy.” The old ballparks were fully functional and, at least in the case of Yankee Stadium, of considerable historical significance. But the good-government activists who might have put the brakes on the two teams were distracted in the crucial months when stadium financing came up for debate. Preservationists were preoccupied with the fate of Edward Durell Stone’s kitschy Gallery of Modern Art, on Columbus Circle. The Atlan­tic Yards development, in Brooklyn, also commanded public attention. And, of course, there were elitists who couldn’t imagine why two crumbling baseball stadiums deserved saving at all. Against this backdrop, the most vocal critics of the two new parks, neighborhood groups in the Bronx and Queens, found themselves in the political and media wilderness. When the New York Times, in a March 2005 editorial, gave the new ballparks a backdoor endorsement—supporting them provided that the teams pay their own way—any hope of stopping the stadiums was lost. (Emphasis added)

I'm not so sure of his analysis. It was the battle over the West Side Stadium that wore out planning groups like the Regional Plan Association. Nor did Atlantic Yards, at least at the time, command so much public attention, though--given the vigor of the AY opposition and the presence of blogs like AYR and NLG--it's fair to say that the Atlantic Yards controversy produced much more homegrown media.

link

Posted by steve at 8:04 AM

The case against Mayor Mike.

Pinko Magazine

A section of this criticism of Michael Bloomberg includes mention of the proposed Atlantic Yards project. But the the author only seems dissatisfied that the project as originally proposed will never be built.

(3) He can’t get the big things done. When I look at my bulleted list above (and I LOVE a bulleted list) I can almost convince myself to vote for the Mayor. But the reality is that the visionary, big-picture projects haven’t been accomplished. Congestion pricing failed, not just because Albany wouldn’t allow it but also because the Mayor wasn’t able to win over key allies in the outer boroughs, or make a persuasive public case. The Penn Station overhaul? Didn’t happen. West Side Redevelopment, Atlantic Yards, downtown/ground zero? No, no no. They’re worse than failures actually – in the case of Atlantic Yards, the entire project has been stripped down to the bare essentials needed for the developer to make back his investment – a cookie-cutter arena and some over-priced condos. The features that could remake a city, or that showed some innovation have been stripped away.

link

NoLandGrab: The question is whether we should believe that any of the features used to gain public support for this land grab (i.e. affordable housing, open public space, starchitect) were ever anything more than empty promises.

Posted by steve at 7:40 AM

Brooklyn Paper, Courier-Life synergy (and more) leads to BoroPolitics.com

AtlanticYards Report

Local media has played a significant role in the Atlantic Yards fight, so it's logical that Norman Oder notes with interest the launching of BoroPolitics.com by the Community Newspaper Group.

First came the occasional appearance of articles by Courier-Life writers in the Brooklyn Paper, and vice versa. Now comes more synergy.

From the Brooklyn Paper: Local political junkies finally have a place to call their own on the Web.

On Friday, the Community Newspaper Group — of which this newspaper is a part — will launch BoroPolitics.com, the Internet’s only Web site devoted solely to politics, elections, issues and races in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens.

Notably, the web site seems based on the Brooklyn Paper's modern web design, rather than the Courier-Life's less successful yournabe.com.

As for "devoted," let's say that's a work in progress. Coverage, for example, of the 35th District campaign seems quit thin, given that only one article, from the Brooklyn Paper, is included. I know there are articles from the Courier-Life, but apparently they haven't yet been added.

Also, the repackaging of content has its flaws. For example, an article on the BoroPolitics.com web site about Senator Chuck Schumer's endorsement of Steve Levin in the 33rd Council District race has none of the comments, critical and supportive, attached to the original article on the Brooklyn Paper's web site.

link

Posted by steve at 7:36 AM

August 7, 2009

2009 CBN & FGA Atlantic Yards Community Informational Meeting

Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool

Tracy Collins provides the visuals from last night's "Community Informational Meeting."

link

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

At CBN meeting: why comments on AY are needed, why they might be ignored, and why they might play a role in litigation

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on last night's "Community Informational Meeting" on the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan.

Atlantic Yards may have been wounded, but it is hardly dead. Can public comments--due by August 31--hasten its demise?

Maybe, but only indirectly. That was a main message of the meeting last night held by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), a group set up initially to respond to the Draft EIS (environmental impact statement), which later became a plaintiff in the still-pending lawsuit challenging the EIS.

About 85 people attended the meeting, held at the Irondale Theater space in the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene and co-sponsored by the Fort Greene Association.

Tom Angotti, professor of planning at Hunter College, laid out a series of areas in which the latest documentation by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is insufficient. The single most important part, he said, was the argument for a modified EIS. “The project has changed enough that they have to go back and re-study it.”

article

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

Catching up with Coney Island: how CBA-like trade-offs may have sacrificed the amusement area

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, the City Council voted to approve the rezoning of Coney Island, shrinking the amusement district. What role did the Community Benefits Agreement play in giving cover to the politicians who voted for the Mayor's plan, and are there any similarities to Atlantic Yards?

[C]ritics say the rezoning passed 44-2 last week by the City Council won't save Coney Island so much as shrink the amusement area, allow the demolition of historic buildings, and, crucially, permit hotel towers south of Surf Avenue, blocking views of the beach and amusement area.
...

The enormous natural advantages of Coney--the beach and the sky--are a civic asset. If there are to be many new high-rises in Coney--and that's fine--there's ample room north and west of the central amusement area....
...

Similarly, zoning for amusements is a scarce commodity--it allows light and noise--and there's a strong argument for maintaining a larger, rather than smaller, amusement area.
...

But the City Council agreed, in part because of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)-like compromise that has little or nothing to do the amusement area.
...

Not dissimilarly, some of the promises in the Atlantic Yards CBA have nothing to do with the fundamental question: should Forest City Ratner be allowed to built Atlantic Yards at the size it wants and gain the benefits of state override of zoning and exercise eminent domain?

article

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

Forest City in the News

PR Newswire, Forest City Announces New Tenants for The Village at Gulfstream Park

According to a Forest City Enterprises press release, the retail space is "70 percent leased" at the company's mixed-use office-park/mall attached to the Gulfstream thoroughbred racetrack.

The Miami Herald, Tenants announced for Village of Gulfstream

When the Village at Gulfstream Park opens in Feb. 2010, visitors will be able to surf the waves, experience a Parisian cabaret and taste Moroccan cuisine.

These experiences are some of the latest tenants announced Wednesday by Forest City Commercial Development for the Hallandale Beach retail and entertainment complex, which has been struggling in its leasing efforts because of the economy.

The newest 13 tenants include Adrenalina, an extreme sports retailer featuring the FlowRider surfing ride; Paradis Latin Miami, a cabaret establishment, and Ta-Zin, Moroccan cuisine and entertainment.

Other new names: Apricot Lane, Aventura's Finest Hand Car Wash, Bartini's, Bobby Chan, Claudio, Claudio Shoes, Lilly McKay, Roxstar, Shoe Freak and Via Montenapoleon.

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

August 6, 2009

CBN, FGA Informational Meeting on Atlantic Yards, Tonight

Posted by eric at 5:55 PM

ELECTIONS 2009: THE RACE FOR MAYOR

Queens Ledger

The Ledger interviews mayoral challenger Bill Thompson and the incumbent himself.

Thompson

On development in the city:

I'm not against large-scale development, but I will cite two of the biggest announcements over the last ten years: Hudson Yards on the west side of Manhattan and Atlantic yards in Downtown Brooklyn. How many units of housing are there? How many jobs? What has happened since the ribbon cuttings and the big announcements? You haven't seen anything that has occurred there. I'm not against large-scale development, but I'm for smart growth in conjunction with communities and not by going around them. This mega-project that you give all to one developer isn't working. There are other models that work better...like Battery Park City.

On Atlantic Yards:

It's starting to look like a basketball stadium and one building.

NoLandGrab: Thompson has a chance to really differentiate himself from Bloomberg on projects like Atlantic Yards and issues like eminent domain (the use of which, for purposes of "economic development," is opposed by about 90% of Americans), but he just can't bring himself to actually do so.

Bloomberg

On whether the city's large-scale development projects are overly ambitious:

No, the zoning for Willets Point was started for the 1964 World's Fair and we just got it done. So for the next 10 or 15 years, I don't know how fast the economy is going to come back, but when you want to build, the zoning will have been done. That's the tough part.

NLG: In the case of Atlantic Yards, there was no rezoning — New York State has overridden local zoning. And "the tough part?" Hardly, when City Planning acts like puppets on a string and the City Council rolls over for the Mayor at every turn.

article

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Bloomberg (implicitly) misleads on AY: "the zoning will have been done"

In an interview in the Queens Ledger, headlined ELECTIONS 2009: THE RACE FOR MAYOR, Mayor Mike Bloomberg implicitly lumps Atlantic Yards, where he permitted a state override of city zoning, with other large-scale projects for which the City Council has approved a rezoning.

As for Thompson:

If Thompson were truly a critic of Atlantic Yards, he would've shown up--or sent a surrogate--to the public hearing last week.

Posted by eric at 1:41 PM

Brooklyn Land Grab Opponents Allege Government Corruption

OpenMarket.org
by Marc Scribner

Free marketeers the Competitive Enterprise Institute weigh in on the problem with ED.

The proposed Atlantic Yards project is financed in part by $1.6 billion+ in government subsidies. Forest City Ratner, the developer, is attempting to seize many of the affected parcels through eminent domain in order to construct high rise commercial and residential towers, along with a 20,000-seat arena. As noted by Daniel B. Kelly in the forthcoming Supreme Court Economic Review 2009 (ungated working paper available at SSRN), illegal pretextual takings–use of eminent domain when a deal between government and preferred private developer has already been reached–are far more common when development agencies author environmental impact statements and undertake “blight” determination studies. These analyses typically ignore current local economic trends and attempt to paint the economic landscape in the bleakest terms possible in order to convince the appropriate bureaucrats that a state-run, public-private “economic rehabilitation” plan is neccessary.

But, largely due to the poorly-reasoned majority opinion in Kelo v. New London, property owners now often face a Sisyphean task when they are forced to confront an unholy alliance between government bureaucrats and rent-seeking private developers.

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Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

Hills & Gardens
Boerum Hill’s New Voice

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Trudy Whitman

The Eagle profiles Howard Kolins, the new president of the Boerum Hill Association.

What differs from past Boerum Hill Association presidents’ tenures and [Sue] Wolfe’s and his, Kolins muses, is that neighbors had been motivated by a single big issue in the past. Now there are multiple big issues — Atlantic Yards and other large development projects, the Brooklyn House of Detention, and park remediation, to name just a few.

“But the collective impulse of the board members . . . is self-determination,” relates Kolins. “We moved here because it is a certain way, and people want to preserve that.”
...

See Part 2 of this profile next week in which Howard Kolins discusses the big issues (Atlantic Yards, the House of Detention) and the annual events that make Boerum Hill a unique neighborhood (a holiday potluck that attracts 120 neighbors, a plant sale that nets a $6000 profit.)

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Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Mets Police, Inbox: The Brooklyn Dodgers In Flushing?

The location of the once-proposed Ebbets Field replacement is again mis-ID'ed.

O'Malley wanted to build a modern ballpark above the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn (exactly where Bruce Ratner is now struggling to build an arena for the Nets), arguing that the easy access to both the LIRR and the subway would guarantee that large numbers of fans would be able to easily flock to the ballpark for years to come.

Blog commenter Norman Oder beats us to a correction (O'Malley proposed building on the site now occupied by the Atlantic Center mall).

Not true.

http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2007/04/omalley-stadium.html

team tish, CM James Restates Position on Proposed Atlantic Yards Project

Statement by Council Member Letitia James about Status of the Proposed Atlantic Yards Project

As the City Council Member representing the area in which the Atlantic Yards project is proposed, I must once again state my opposition to the plan as presented by developer Forest City Ratner, as well as its currently proposed modifications.

Curbed, Winners & Losers

The cover story in the August issue of The Real Deal is a list of the best and worst real estate deals in the year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and it's a conversation starter, for sure. Making the "best" list are such hot-button topics as Bruce Ratner's pending purchase of the Vanderbilt Rail Yards from the MTA for trinkets and exotic spices...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Get Informed on Atlantic Yards

There’s an informational meeting on Atlantic Yards tonight at the Irondale Theater, 85 South Oxford, aimed at educating anyone who would like to officially weigh in on the proposed changes to the Atlantic Yards project — the public-comment period still has three weeks to go.

The meeting, from 7:30 to 9, is presented by the Fort Greene Association and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. A team headed by Tom Angotti, an urban affairs professor at Hunter College, will answer big questions like, What has changed? How long will the project take? Where are the jobs? Where is the affordable housing? Where is the public benefit?

The Architect's Newspaper Blog, MoMA Makes for Bad Neighbor

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo, playing a baiting-and-switching villain, in this post about the fight over the Museum of Modern Art's plan to erect a 1,200-foot tower in Midtown.

[Amanda] Burden added, underscoring the commission’s concern with preserving the building as designed over other issues, “It’s very important how we memorialize and freeze critical design elements.” This way, the commissioners believe, and the applicant, Hines, seems to agree, Nouvel’s tower and nothing else would or even could be built there. It’s a valid concern (see: Frank Gehry, Atlantic Yards), but for the building’s neighbors nowhere near the top of the list.

Be sure to check out the video produced by local opponents of the MoMA proposal. Best touch: foreboding music accompanying the closing credits.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

CONVERSATION: THE SPORTS RECESSION

NewYorker.com
by Avi Zenilman

[NYer:] If I had, say 500 million or a billion dollars, and I wanted to buy a sports team, would it be worth it? Where do you think I could find value?

[Zimbalist:] Bruce Ratner wants to sell a piece of the Nets. Want me to call him up? I’ll tell him you’re interested.

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There's actually much more to the interview, and we happily leave it to Norman Oder to dissect.

Atlantic Yards Report, The $6 billion lie goes unchallenged: forgetful sports economist Zimbalist gets gentle treatment in the New Yorker

A seemingly defensive Andrew Zimbalist, Forest City Ratner's paid consultant, gets gentle treatment from the New Yorker, which should've enlisted Neil deMause as the interviewer.

The online-only interview is headlined CONVERSATION: THE SPORTS RECESSION.

Q. You were a consultant to Bruce Ratner on the Atlantic Yards project—

A. I haven’t consulted with him since I wrote my last report, which I think was in 2004.

Zimbalist issued his main report in May 2004, just in time for a City Council hearing, then updated it in June 2005.
...

Most importantly, Zimbalist's report relies on a bogus methodology: counting the incomes of new residents in a housing development. That methodology, coupled with Forest City Ratner's willingness to distort estimated tax revenues by adding them cumulatively as opposed to calculating present value (as is standard), contributed to the $6 billion lie.

Blatant hypocrisy

Zimbalist describes how stadium proponents distort the public debate:
One of the things that happens during a stadium drive is that the proponents go out and hire a consulting firm to come up with a predetermined conclusion that the stadium will be the cat’s meow for the local economy.

They hire this company, and then they publicize the results of the study, and there might be three or four or five per cent of the community, swing voters, that say, “I might not like baseball or basketball or football, but there’s a hard study that says this will help the local economy.” Those studies are used to get the people sitting on the fence, but most of the people are voting yes because they love sports and want a team.

Other than the absence of an actual vote in New York, that's exactly what Forest City Ratner did. They hired the world's most famous sports economist, who still gets a pass, even though, putting Atlantic Yards aside, there's ample reason to be skeptical of his work: three times in one year his testimony was tossed out of court or disallowed.

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

Did the MTA request a new appraisal for the Vanderbilt yard? No. Were board members officially told that was OK? Not in writing.

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for information pertaining to whether or not the $214.5 million appraisal for the Vanderbilt Railyards, issued back in 2005, still officially applied to the revised deal, or, if not, has another one been done, or, if not... then what?

The resolution passed by the board stated:

Whereas, the Boards of the MTA, LIRR and NYCT further find that an appraisal of the value of such MTA Property was previously made by an independent appraiser and is included in the record of the transaction.

So, did the MTA board get any official advice from its counsel that the 2005 appraisal, which was for $214.5 million--not $100 million, which is what FCR offered only after bidding $50 million and seeing rival Extell bid $150 million--was still legitimate?

Or that the appraisal still applied to the revised deal, with only $20 million down and the equivalent of the remaining $80 million paid over 22 years, at a generous 6.5% interest rate?

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NoLandGrab: The MTA Board's actions in late June raise serious questions pertaining to the legitimacy of the revised deal with Bruce Ratner. Certainly, the MTA has done its best to hopscotch through a legal minefield in order to accommodate Ratner, but, so far, the public authority has yet to demonstrate that it did so without breaking any laws or regulations.

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

Brownstoner: Hold off on angry letters and glassed up

80DeKalb-Bstone.jpg City Officials Call for Atlantic Yards Disclosure

If you have an angry letter for City Council Members David Yassky and Bill de Blasio regarding their apathy towards the Atlantic Yards development, hold off on stamping and sending it.... According to the press release from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, they are "calling on the Empire State Development Corporation to fully disclose plans for the Atlantic Yards project, including an updated site plan, and prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for public review."

Development Watch: 80 Dekalb Getting Close

The 36-story development that Forest City Ratner is building at 80 Dekalb Avenue topped out in May and, according to this photo we snapped yesterday, is almost all glassed up. It looks like they changed the facade a little on the upper floors, replacing the exterior panels with windows, doesn't it?

Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

Atlantic Yards day at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Two Atlantic Yards pieces from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Mayors, Brooklyn, and Atlantic Yards

Henrik Krogius reminisces about the days when City Hall didn't care about development in Brooklyn and can't understand why Brooklynites aren't as appreciative as he is of Mayor Bloomberg and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

The resistance to change is nowhere more evident than in the opposition to Atlantic Yards, a project that has been strongly supported by Bloomberg. That project, now facing a possibly drastic change in its architectural character, if not in its social and financial goals, has entered a new phase after years of delay.

That the early excitement over Atlantic Yards has gone out of it there’s no question. If a much inferior project should be what results, the opponents will have themselves to thank for the effect of all the lawsuits and other roadblocks they raised against the plan as it was. Atlantic Yards was to have been the crowning achievement of probably the world’s most famous living architect, Frank Gehry. But the cost escalation brought on by the years of delay, together with the economic slump that developed in the course of the delay, finally led developer Bruce Ratner to dismiss so expensive an architect. And, indeed, Ratner himself is now taking a subordinate role to New York State, the ultimate owner of the railyard site and, through its Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), effectively the project’s developer.

NoLandGrab: The idea that "Ratner himself is now taking a subordinate role to NY State" is wholly fantastic. When the timetable and construction are determined by Forest City Ratner and important inquiries to the ESDC are often referred back to Ratner, it's clear which way the chain of command is running.

A Better Way to Build
Raanan Geberer thinks that the Atlantic Yards take-home message to developers is that the project should have been designed with consideration of the plans of the existing residents and property owners.

[T]he project has been continuously in court during the last few years. Much has been demolished, but nothing built. And the project has created a growing, noisy opposition movement.

What can we learn from this? Maybe that one shouldn’t go about a project in the wrong way.
...
It would have been better, I think, if Forest City Ratner had done a survey of the area where he wanted to build, identifying which property owners wanted to sell and which didn’t, then designed his project around that reality, not around a fantasy world.

NoLandGrab: The situation isn't that simple. Atlantic Yards is unique — by superceding the existing local zoning with a state zoning override, the Empire State Development Corporation is ensuring that Bruce Ratner, not existing property owners, will benefit from more profitable change in density and use. So, it's hard to say that some of the property owners who eventually sold under threat of eminent domain would still have done so under the common scenario of a regular zoning change.

Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

Brooklyn’s Tallest Is Back In Atlantic Yards Plan

File this under "news you can disabuse" — Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Dennis Holt scoured the latest Atlantic Yards "Project Documents" and declared that "the tallest building in Brooklyn is back on the site," since developer Bruce Ratner's announcement that the signature tower would cap off at one foot shorter than the previous tallest building in Brooklyn didn't buy him any friends.

The arrival of the “2009 Modified General Project Plan” with all of its 45 pages and 7 exhibits is also of more than passing interest.

It requires study, especially the small print, of which there is much, and in reading the small print one discovers on Exhibit C, with no emphasis whatsoever, that the tallest building in Brooklyn is back on the site.

Building 1, which used to be called “Miss Brooklyn,” the visual keystone to the entire project, is to be 620 feet tall.

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Atlantic Yards Report, No, Brooklyn’s Tallest Is Not Back In Atlantic Yards Plan

Norman Oder explains why you can't believe everything you read, especially when the source is the credibility-challenged Empire State Development Corporation and project promoter Dennis Holt:

So, why does the document state 620 feet as the maximum when Forest City Ratner has already committed to a downsizing?

Because changing the height might represent a material change in the project, a change that the Empire State Development Corporation does not want to admit.

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

American Icons FRANKIE VALLI AND THE FOUR SEASONS Set Audience Record at Brooklyn's Asser Levy Park

PR-USA.net

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner shows up at Brooklyn BP's Marty Markowitz's free summer concert series and now he's a "luminary"?

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers FRANKIE VALLI AND THE FOUR SEASONS once again set attendance records as the popular group returned to Brooklyn's Asser Levy Seaside Park's outdoor music series and performed to an audience of more than 15,000 fans. The Seaside Summer Concert Series is the largest free outdoor music series in New York.
...
In addition to die-hard fans, luminaries seen rocking out included famed concert promoter Sid Bernstein; NY Times Publisher, Arthur Sulzberger; Sopranos actor Lou Martini, Jr., and NJ Nets (soon to be Brooklyn Nets) Owner and Urban Real Estate Developer Bruce Ratner.

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NoLandGrab: Given the hundreds of thousands of dollars Ratner has given to Markowitz's pet projects to purchase his undying loyalty, we sure hope Bruce got a good seat.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

A "great piece of real estate": Real Deal suggests Ratner got a good deal on the railyard because of financing, not price

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder comments on yesterday's Real Deal article, which identified Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as a win-win for Bruce Ratner and Bruce Ratner:

It's interesting that, while everyone agrees that the financing was a good deal for Ratner, Schechman suggests that the purchase price may be high in today's market, even though it's well under the appraised value.

Sure, prices have declined and it's hard to get loans. But this is a "great piece of real estate," in the words of Forest City Enterprices CEO Chuck Ratner.

So maybe the appropriate lens is not today's market but, as the New York Times suggested in 1994 in an analogous situation:

A rebounding economy will likely increase its value. It is wiser to walk away than stumble into a giveaway.

Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

August 5, 2009

The best and worst deals

The 15 biggest winners and losers since the crunch

The Real Deal
by Sarah Ryley

Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers — a date often referred to in "pre-" and "post-" terms in the New York City real estate market. With that in mind, The Real Deal zeroed in on the 15 best and worst deals since Wall Street's collapse and the earlier onset of the credit crunch.

The deals were selected based on interviews with real estate professionals, published reports from the past year, research and an informal survey.
...

Best: Bruce Ratner's pending purchase of the Vanderbilt Yards site in Brooklyn from the MTA for $100 million

Instead of charging developer Bruce Ratner $100 million in one lump sum for the right to build over Brooklyn's 8.5-acre Vanderbilt (Atlantic) Yards site, as originally agreed, the MTA announced in June that Ratner could pay just $20 million upfront to close on the portion of the rail yards beneath his planned arena for the Nets. Payments for the rest of the property, if he continues building, could be spread over 20 years, starting at $2 million a year in 2012 and jumping to $11 million in 2016 at an implied 6.5 percent interest rate, according to financial services firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

The original $100 million purchase price was already far below the yard's appraised value, which the MTA justified by the additional $345 million Ratner promised he would make in infrastructure improvements. Under the new agreement, however, Ratner is not obligated to spend as much on those upgrades.

Schechtman said that while the purchase price of the land may be high in today's market, "the built-in financing over a 20-year period, at a time when there is an absolute absence of construction and land financing, makes this a real coup."

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NoLandGrab: Wow, what a steal for The Bruce! And since the seller is a public corporation, Bruce's "real coup" means a "real screwing" for taxpayers. Of course, this is one deal that's still a long way from being "done."

Loyal NLG readers will recognize Sarah Ryley's byline from her days covering Atlantic Yards for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

In bid for appeal in case challenging AY environmental review, petitioners claim ESDC bias, cite absence of trend study, Catterson's concurrence

Atlantic Yards Report

More legal analysis from Norman Oder.

In a request (PDF) for the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to review the case challenging the environmental review for Atlantic Yards, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and 25 co-petitioners question whether the "bias and corruption" demonstrated by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) renders the agency's findings invalid.

The memorandum of law draws significantly on a concurring opinion by Appellate Division Justice James Catterson, which reads more like a dissent, and also points out omissions in the Appellate Division’s February 2009 dismissal of the case.

That dismissal upheld Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden’s dismissal of the case. Briefs from the defendant ESDC are due this month. The Court of Appeals, which is already considering an appeal in the separate case challenging the use of eminent domain, is not required to accept this case.

Crime stats

The February ruling, for example, neglected to address the claim that the ESDC, in the Blight Study conducted by environmental consultant AKRF, manipulated statistics to contend that the 22-acre project site suffered from more criminal activity than nearby areas. (In my coverage in February, I missed this omission.)

The petitioners note that AKRF
responded to public complaints that it had misrepresented crime data in the non-ATURA sectors by simply asserting that it had “accurately described the blighted conditions on the project site.”

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Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

ESDC resists lawyer's request for AY costs and benefits; FOIL appeal filed

Atlantic Yards Report

There's no transparency like ESDC transparency.

Those testifying last week at the Atlantic Yards public hearing were not the only ones who want to learn how the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) calculates the costs and benefits from Forest City Ratner's AY plan.

Attorney George Locker, who represents rent-stabilized residents in two buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint, has hit the wall in his Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for documents regarding any ESDC current cost-benefit analysis.

Last month, the ESDC denied Locker's request for such documents, saying they were exempt from disclosure. An agency may deny access to records that are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not statistical or factual tabulations or data, or not final agency policy or determinations.

Appeal filed

Locker recently filed an appeal with the ESDC general counsel, arguing that the documents requested are not exempt from production.
...

During an informational meeting July 22, ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin asserted that "We’re constantly looking at that analysis and updating that analysis,” a statement belied by the absence of any new numbers in the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

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NoLandGrab: Call us crazy, but we're beginning to think that maybe the ESDC has never actually done an Atlantic Yards cost-benefit analysis.

Posted by eric at 9:04 AM

After Myrick's off the ballot, no clear option for an anti-Markowitz protest vote in Borough President's race

Atlantic Yards Report

Long-shot candidate Eugene Myrick, who was trying to challenge Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in the Democratic primary, has been kicked off the ballot for having invalid petitions, leaving the only alternative to the incumbent a Republican (!) or a write-in.

(That's Markowitz, host of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Concert Series at Wingate Field in Crown Heights, joined on July 27 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and performers Anita Baker and Charlie Wilson. Photo by Kathryn Kirk. Three of the seven series sponsors are Forest City Ratner, Nets Basketball, and Barclays.)

The integrity of the process

Markowitz's lawyer, former state Senator Martin Connor, asserted (as per the Brooklyn Paper) that the challenge was to protect the validity of the process, and the Board of Elections agreed.

Now, the elimination of Myrick means that the significant slice of Brooklynites who might want to lodge an anti-Markowitz protest vote have no clear option.

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Posted by eric at 8:54 AM

ESDC - OUTLAW OPERATION: Eminent Domain in Developer Driven Development

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse

The story of a governmental organization bending over backwards to serve one of New York State's real estate barons, Bruce Ratner. Ratner is a former New York City official who was college roomates with former Governer George Pataki.

Under Pataki, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) was directed to take 22 acres in Brooklyn for Ratner's Forest City Ratner Corporation. In its 5 year effort (to date) to take people's private homes and give them to another private citizen, the ESDC has played every trick in the book, including supporting race baiting to soften the neighborhood.

In July, 2009 the ESDC stooped to a new low by having a required public hearing on a revised project plan it was not going to release until after the hearing. Will this "outlaw organization," as it was called by one state senator, succeed in further degrading New York's Eminent Domain laws so that any well-connected billionaire can point to any neighborhood and tell the ESDC to take it for him? This landmark case may well decide the future of public corporations, the limits of Eminent Domain, and the end of huge government subsidies for wealthy corporations when times are tough on the taxpayers.

With Kevin Powell, NY City Councilperson Letitia James, NY Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Assemblyperson Jim Brennan, homeowner Daniel Goldstein, mayoral candidate and performance artist Rev. Billy, former NYCLU chief Norman Seigel, and many others.

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

Atlantic Yards Opponents File Another Motion Alongside Eminent Domain Challenge

Environmental Objection Claims Government Corruption

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Ryan Thompson

On the same day that a legal brief was filed with the New York Court of Appeals in preparation for upcoming oral arguments over eminent domain, opponents of Atlantic Yards filed another brief with the same court but in a separate case.

Tuesday, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) announced that it filed a memorandum of law with the Court of Appeals seeking leave to appeal an Appellate Division-First Department judgment that upheld the Manhattan Supreme Court’s dismissal of DDDB v. Urban Development Corp.

The case — filed on Friday by DDDB itself, instead of property owners or renters who live on the proposed site — directly seeks to stop Atlantic Yards based on alleged faults with the environmental impact statement and review.

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NoLandGrab: Technically, 25 other community groups signed on this brief as co-petitioners.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) Bullish Technical Alert - Trend Up 8.7%

TradingMarkets.com

Aug 04, 2009 (SmarTrend(R) Spotlight via COMTEX) -- FCE.A | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating -- Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) is trading 1.3% higher (up $0.09 to $7.33) today on volume of 165,054 shares.

The stock has traded within a 52-week range of $3.26 and $40.49.

Forest City Enterprises is currently above its 50-day moving average of $6.35 and above its 200-day moving average of $6.85.

SmarTrend is bullish on shares of FCE.A and our subscribers received an Uptrend alert on July 27, 2009 at $6.74, which has returned 8.7% to date.

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Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Minor injuries, major horror, in Court Street multiplex fire

The Brooklyn Paper
By Robert Voris

FCRUACinema.jpgThough this didn't make the first cut of Tracy Collins's Forest City Ratner boycott list, the development company's UA multiplex on Court Street made the news when a fire forced evacuation and caused several injuries:

At long last, it was the right time to yell “Fire” in a crowded movie house as the United Artists multiplex on Court Street was briefly consumed by smoke during a crowded afternoon screening on Tuesday.

Chaos engulfed the movie theater shortly after 2 pm, as patrons, some covering their mouths, had to find their own way to the smoky lobby of the Bruce Ratner-owned 12-screen theater at State Street in Downtown.

Eight minor injuries, mostly from smoke inhalation, were reported in the fire, which apparently started in the popcorn maker and quickly forced the evacuation of all 11 floors of the building.
...
The movie theater was last in the news earlier this year when owner Ratner put it on the market, though he did not find a buyer.

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Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

August 4, 2009

word of the day: ubiquitous

Not Another F*cking Blog

Photographer/blogger (photogger?) Tracy Collins has put together a handy boycott list.

Many of us in the anti-Atlantic Yards camp try to avoid patronizing businesses and organizations which support Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plans and/or receive material support from Ratner. Boycotts like these are always less than 100%, as many businesses and institutions are often small pieces of very large puzzles of global international enterprises. Also, the entities and/or their representatives very often support many public and non-profit institutions, knowing that spreading money far and wide makes good business sense, as it’s very hard to bite the hand that feeds. To avoid contributing to Forest City Ratner’s bottom line or the balance sheets of its allies, directly or otherwise, isn’t so easy.

Those on my personal no-go list (a.k.a the Founding Partners and Sponsors of Barclays Center):

  • Forest City Ratner: Easy to avoid? They own many real estate developments (like the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center Malls, which sit north of Atlantic Avenue from the proposed Atlantic Yards site, as well as MetroTech), so keeping track of each property they own may not be simple.

  • Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls: Obvious and pretty easy. One of the closest and best stocked office supply stores, Office Max is in the Atlantic Center Mall. Also, Target will make inexpensive photo prints from Flickr in about an hour. The NYS DMV is also located here, and this branch is relatively pleasant to deal with, as far as large bureaucracies go. I can avoid all of them.
    ...

  • Brooklyn Brewery: Moderate. I really do like their beers, especially their Brooklyn Lager and East India Pale Ale. I’d drink one on someone else’s tab, like I did one too many times last night.
    ...

  • Brooklyn Academy of Music: This is tough. Great movie theater, music and dance venue a short walk from home. A representative testified in favor of Atlantic Yards at the ESDC hearings and a pivotal MTA Board meeting. This will make it very difficult for me to enjoy myself, with a clear conscience, at future BAM events. I admit I probably won’t boycott them 100% for ever and ever, ever.

  • Barclays: Easy. My finances are handled elsewhere, and I don’t think I’ll ever need what they’re peddling.

Don't boycott this post — click thru for the full list.

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Posted by eric at 9:45 PM

Who the city calls when it wants to move people

Cornerstone Group quietly steps in when city and state attempt to use eminent domain

The Real Deal
by Gabby Warshawer

The Empire State Development Corporation's go-to firm for "relocation advisory services" gets lukewarm reviews from its "clients" — property owners in the eminent domain crosshairs.

In late June, tenants and property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint received a letter stating that reps from a company called Cornerstone Group Real Estate Services would soon be paying them a visit.

The letter, which was sent by the Empire State Development Corporation's eminent domain counsel, said Cornerstone would "explain the relocation advisory services and relocation assistance that they will provide."

While Cornerstone has been in the business for decades, it does not maintain a Web site. Sources who have worked with the firm say its principals, Gary Curry and Stuart Polinsky, are publicity shy.

Nevertheless, Cornerstone is a familiar name to property owners and residents across the city who have faced eminent domain.
...

[Cornerstone is] involved in almost every case we've worked on," says Michael Rikon, a partner in the law firm Goldstein, Goldstein, Rikon & Gottlieb [NLG: no relation to DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein], which specializes in condemnation proceedings. "What they do is try to talk to people who are on the site and offer them other locations to move to."

Rikon, who says that he's known Gary Curry for around two decades, currently works on behalf of residents and property owners who have been threatened with displacement by the Willets Point and Atlantic Yards projects.

Rikon, who characterizes his relationship with Curry as "warm," says Cornerstone "had no business talking to tenants" in the Atlantic Yards footprint before the site is legally condemned, and says that the company jumped the gun by reaching out to residents and owners in late June.

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Posted by eric at 9:31 PM

Legal Round-up

NorthJersey.com, Another hurdle for Atlantic Yards project

The Bergen Record's John Brennan reports on the latest development in the legal challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental review and blight study.

The Nets’ longstanding effort to move to Brooklyn ran into another potential legal hurdle on Tuesday, as a group opposed to the Atlantic Yards arena and housing project announced it has filed papers seeking to have the “blighted” designation of the area invalidated.

The Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn group asked the New York Court of Appeals to review whether a state agency has demonstrated so much “bias and corruption” that its description of the proposed Barclays Center arena site cannot be accepted.

The appeals court — New York’s highest court — agreed in June to consider overturning a ruling allowing eminent domain to be used at the 22-acre site.

“This is a completely different violation of the law,” said Develop Don’t Destroy spokesman Daniel Goldstein, who owns a condominium within the project’s footprint.

Nets officials have indicated that bonds backing most of the $850 million in construction costs of Barclays Center must be sold by the end of the year, with a groundbreaking required within the same time frame.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Hours Before Cutthroat Deadline, Atlantic Yards Opponents File Legal Papers in Court

The Eagle makes the timing sound dramatic, but it was hardly a nail-biter.

Opponents of Atlantic Yards, who are challenging the state’s use of eminent domain, were required to file their legal brief with the New York Court of Appeals by Friday. Otherwise, their year-long case would have been dismissed.

On Friday, just hours before the strict court-imposed deadline, the petitioners filed their appellant brief. The New York Court of Appeals, which is the state’s highest court will hear oral arguments on Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, the lead attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), has requested 30 minutes for his argument in court. Attorneys for the developer, Forest City Ratner, will likely request the same amount of time when they file their respondents’ brief, which is due Sept. 10. Appellants’ reply brief, if any, is then due Sept. 25.

“The appellants’ brief compellingly outlines, starting in 1683, New York state’s founders’ and courts’ long history of strict constitutional adherence to using eminent domain for a ‘public use,’ such as highways, parks and firehouses, not for a ‘public purpose’ or ‘public benefit,’” wrote DDDB in a press release issued Monday.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hiil], Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Brief Filed

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project have filed a brief in their Court of Appeals eminent-domain challenge. The brief (read it here), filed Friday, asks the court to reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo v. New London eminent domain decision, arguing that the New York state constitution gives New Yorkers greater protection against the taking of their property than the U.S. Constitution does.

Posted by eric at 9:15 PM

Candidates waste big chance to be king of Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper
by the Politicrasher

I’ve finally got my candidates for public advocate and comptroller, thanks to last night’s Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce debate.

While most of the Democratic candidates for those esteemed offices missed the gift-wrapped opportunity to court Brooklyn’s 2-1/2-million residents by showing off a keen understanding of the city’s most populous and best borough, only Queens Councilman John Liu (running for comptroller) and civil liberties lawyer Norman Siegel (public advocate) had the guts to hit me where it counts.

In my Brooklyn gut.
...

Earlier in the night, Siegel showed the broadest awareness of Brooklyn issues.

He said he “would challenge the use of eminent domain” in development projects, saying that the state’s plans to condemn homes and businesses for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project is “developer driven,” rather than providing a clear public benefit.

article

NoLandGrab: Siegel, who in many ways has been NYC's de facto public advocate for decades, has deep support among critics of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 9:01 PM

Yassky, de Blasio, Adams sign on to request for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement

Atlantic Yards Report

I guess I was too hasty in suggesting yesterday that City Council Members David Yassky and Bill de Blasio were sitting out the debate on Atlantic Yards.

BrooklynSpeaks announces:
New York City Council members Bill DeBlasio and David Yassky today joined other City and State elected officials representing districts surrounding the project in calling on the Empire State Development Corporation to fully disclose plans for the Atlantic Yards project, including an updated siteplan, and prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for public review.

Also, before Yassky and de Blasio signed on, State Senator Eric Adams also joined the five initial signatories to the letter: Assembly Members Hakeem Jeffries, Jim Brennan and Joan Millman; State Senator Velmanette Montgomery ; and City Council Member Letitia James.

article

Posted by eric at 8:57 PM

BROOKLYNSPEAKS PRESS RELEASE: ELECTED OFFICIALS UNITE IN CALL FOR DISCLOSURE ON ATLANTIC YARDS CHANGES, NEW IMPACT STUDY

BROOKLYN, NY: New York City Council members Bill DeBlasio and David Yassky today joined other City and State elected officials representing districts surrounding the project in calling on the Empire State Development Corporation to fully disclose plans for the Atlantic Yards project, including an updated siteplan, and prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for public review.

In a letter to ESDC president and CEO Dennis Mullen, Council member DeBlasio stated that while affordable housing and jobs were needed now more than ever, “The benefits of the project should not come at the expense of transparency and public review.”

Council member Yassky said, “A vote on the modified plan by the ESDC board at this point would leave Atlantic Yards completely unaccountable to the public. When we are cutting back on the budget for schools and parks it is simply unacceptable to give massive subsidies for private development whose impacts have not been fully studied.”

The statements by the two Council members come after an earlier letter calling for a SEIS was sent by Assembly Members Hakeem Jeffries, Jim Brennan and Joan Millman; State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams; and City Council Member Letitia James. The letter was also signed by the sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks: The Atlantic Avenue LDC, the Boerum Hill Association, the Congress for New Urbanism (New York Chapter), the Fifth Avenue Committee, the Municipal Art Society, the Park Slope Civic Council, the Pratt Area Community Council, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Tri State Transportation Campaign.

link

“All of the local elected official representing the communities impacted by Atlantic Yards now agree that the ESDC should not approve the modified plan until its impacts have been disclosed in an SEIS,” said Ken Freeman, president of the Park Slope Civic Council.

The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors have expressed concern over changes to the project timeline that may result in prolonged use of the unbuilt areas of the site for surface parking, to the delay in providing stormwater management measures to reduce runoff, to the reduction of track capacity in the LIRR rail yard, and to the possibility that affordable housing commitments by the project may only slightly exceed the amount displaced thus far from demolition.

Posted by eric at 8:52 PM

TERM LIMITS BACKLASH: INCUMBENTS IN TROUBLE

From the central Bronx to the North Shore of Staten Island, an unusually high number of incumbent City Councilmembers are in tough races this year. A look at some of the issues -- and seats -- in play.

City Limits
by Jarrett Murphy

Prospect Heights Councilwoman Tish James voted against the extension of term limits, but City Limits characterizes her re-election race as "more competitive."

Other more competitive races in Brooklyn include that of incumbent Diana Reyna, the target of challenger Martiza Davila, a protégé of Brooklyn Democratic chairman and Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Letitia James, a leading opponent of the Atlantic Yards arena and housing project, is being challenged by a project supporter, Delia Hunley-Adossa, who heads a local precinct council. Al Vann also faces a potentially challenging race against seven opponents led by Drum Major Institute executive director Mark Winston-Griffith (a board member of City Limits' parent organization, City Futures, Inc.) and former police detective David Grinage.

article

NoLandGrab: We'll see how competitive the Ratner-backed Hunley-Adossa is against the popular James. It's worth noting, too, that Winston-Griffith is an opponent of Atlantic Yards, too.

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn & 25 Community Groups Ask NY State's High Court to Hear Their Appeal Challenging the Atlantic Yards Blight Designation, Charging Bias and Corruption By the ESDC

BROOKLYN, NY (August 4, 2009) — Raising substantial questions about bias and corruption in decision-making by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and 25 community group co-petitioners, filed a brief with New York's highest court [PDF]. The co-petitioners are asking the New York State Court of Appeals to hear their appeal on an adverse ruling on their case challenging the ESDC's Environmental Impact Statement and Blight Study for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development proposal.

A key issue in the case is the ESDC's designation of Ratner's handpicked development site as "blighted." The "blight" determination made by the ESDC in 2006 is required to proceed with a Land Use Improvement Project under which most of the Atlantic Yards development proposal is designated.

Earlier this year, the Appellate Division ruled that the state's "blight" designation had a "rational basis." However, Justice Catterson—one of the four judges on the panel—wrote a concurring opinion which raises substantial questions about that basis, strongly suggesting there was no rational basis, but rather a decision to facilitate Forest City Ratner in its effort to control 22 valuable acres in the heart of Brooklyn.

Catterson wrote:

"Because I believe that the New York Urban Development Corporation Act…is ultimately being used as a tool of the developer to displace and destroy neighborhoods that are ‘underutilized,' I write separately. I recognize that long-standing and substantial precedent requires a high level of deference to the Empire State Development Corporation's finding of blight. Reluctantly, therefore I am compelled to accept the majority's conclusion that there is sufficient evidence of "blight" in the record under this standard of review. However, I reject the majority's core reasoning, that a perfunctory ‘blight study' performed years after the conception of a vast development project should serve as the rational basis for a determination that a neighborhood is indeed blighted.

…ESDC's contention that as 'a matter of law,' ESDC could only look at conditions contemporaneous with the study, which was conducted years after the [project's] announcement, is ludicrous on several levels."
(Emphasis added.)

The petitioners' motion papers focus on the rationality of the ESDC's determination that the project site was "blighted," and that the ESDC improperly designated the Barclays Center Arena as a "civic project" under the Urban Development Corporation Act.

"As Justice Catterson properly noted, ESDC's failure to consider the context of existing economic development trends in Prospect Heights should make the blight determination per se irrational," said lead attorney Jeffrey Baker. "The ESDC's blight determination was clearly pre-determined, and therefore biased, arbitrary and capricious and should be overturned."

link

Specifically the petitioners have asked the Court of Appeals to address the following five issues:

  1. Whether ESDC's purposeful denial and mischaracterization of the uncontroverted economic conditions and trends in the project area, and its knowing misrepresentations of crime data in the project area, to support its "blight" determination, demonstrate a degree of bias and corruption on the part of ESDC which warrants invalidation of its determination that the area is "substandard and insanitary" for purposes of designating the project a "land use improvement project" under the Urban Development Corporation Act (UDCA).

  2. Whether ESDC's purposeful denial and mischaracterization of the uncontroverted economic conditions and development trends in the project area, in order to justify its rejection of project alternatives, demonstrate a degree of bias and corruption on the part of ESDC which warrants invalidation of its rejection of project alternatives under State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

  3. Whether ESDC was required to consider the economic conditions and development trends in the project area in order to exercise its authority to designate and undertake the project as a "land use improvement project" under the UDCA.

  4. Whether a sports arena leased for one dollar per year to a private, for-profit entity to be operated as a professional sports facility, with trivial civic benefits, may nevertheless be designated a "civic project" under the UDCA.

  5. Whether the standard of review of an agency action under CPLR Article 78 is the same as the standard of review in a taxpayer action under section 51 of the General Municipal Law.

The brief can be downloaded at:
http://dddb.net/FEIS/CTofAppeals/090730MOLctofAppeals.pdf [PDF]

All relevant case files can be found at:
http://www.dddb.net/FEIS/appeal/

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

In eminent domain brief, an effort to include recent episodes (MTA, etc.) and a reliance on Catterson's concurrence

Atlantic Yards Report

There are a couple of interesting aspects to the brief filed Friday (and announced yesterday) on behalf of nine renters and property owners challenging eminent domain for Atlantic Yards in the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. (Oral argument will be October 14.)

First, while the original case was filed in state court in August 2008--after a federal case filed in 2006 was ultimately rejected--the new brief makes ample citation of recent episodes that bolster the argument that the state is bending over backwards to accommodate developer Forest City Ratner. Whether such information and argument will be admissible is another question.

Also, in describing the action of the condemning authority, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the brief also makes ample citation of Justice James Catterson’s February 2009 concurrence in the Appellate Division’s decision upholding the ESDC’s environmental review.

Though Catterson felt compelled to concur in the result, his opinion was scathing, with the tone of a dissent. (Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which has organized and funded both cases, also is asking the Court of Appeals to consider the environmental case, in which it and 25 other groups are petitioners.)

article

Click thru for Oder's excellent analysis of the legal claims.

Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

It's Orwellian, almost: the Courier-Life's Witt salutes a heckler's veto and wrongly claims DDDB sought ministers' "protection"

Atlantic Yards Report

Some corrective journalism from Norman Oder.

The Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt this week offers not just an undiscerning round-up article on the first day of the Atlantic Yards hearing.

He also pens an "Orwellian, almost" sidebar in which he gives pro-project hecklers an implicit endorsement and wrongly states that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asked a couple of black ministers for "protection."

article

Oder's repair work is too extensive to chronicle here, so we suggest you surf on over to AYR and read it firsthand.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Atlantic Yards meeting brings out supporters and opponents

Courier-Life Newspapers
by Junico Simino and Stephen Witt

Nobody gets to the bottom of the story like Steve Witt.

Once again, as has been the case in almost every hearing regarding the project since it was announced in 2003,supporters of the project far outnumbered opponents, and amid all of the applause and ridicule, guest speakers stood up to let their opinions be heard.
...

During the meeting, protesters erupted in opposition against the project, eventually being escorted off the premises by police.

article

Related coverage...

AY opponents look to black leaders for help

Civil rights crusader Witt tries to pour a little gasoline on the race/class divide.

Following several raucous meetings concerning the Atlantic Yards project, opponents have put out the call for protection.

One knowledgeable source said that Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the main organization fighting the project, has spoken to at least two prominent ministers recently in the African− and Caribbean−American community to see if they could get some of their people out to future meetings who oppose the project.

The call comes out after a large and vocal contingent of African−Americans and construction union members, desperately in need of jobs, have shouted down the opponents, who are largely white. at two recent meetings concerning the $4 billion arena and housing project at the Atlantic/Flatbush avenue intersections.

Among the accusations being hurled against the opponents are that they are fairly new to the neighborhood, and in some cases gentrified the neighborhood in housing that was once factories with jobs.

Additionally, the hecklers note that opponents, who number a few dozen at most at the meetings, continually ask the same questions to stall the project while people in the nearby public housing developments are crying out for the jobs and small business opportunities the project may bring.

Norman Oder does some free editing and fact-checking of these stories over at Atlantic Yards Report.

NoLandGrab: Could there be a job at The Onion in Stephen Witt's future?

Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

What's missing from the Construction Update? The sidewalk used as street

Atlantic Yards Report

After the Department of Transportation approved, as part of Maintenance and Protection of Traffic (MPT), the use of a portion of the Pacific Street sidewalk at the southeast corner with Sixth Avenue as a vehicular passageway, you'd think it would show up in an Atlantic Yards Construction Update.

When the change went into effect last week, it had not been announced via the biweekly update, because, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) explained, it happened too late for the update and resulted from changes in response to a field condition.

Fair enough. But there's no reason for the latest Construction Update, issued yesterday (bottom), not to mention the revision to the MPT.

But it doesn't.

article

Posted by eric at 7:28 AM

August 3, 2009

King Marty! Markowitz’s Dem challenger booted off the ballot!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Jared Foretek

Borough President Markowitz locked up a third-term in a Manhattan board room this afternoon as the Board of Elections kicked the Beep’s Democratic challenger off the ballot.

The 10-member Elections commission unanimously ruled that political newcomer Eugene Myrick had not collected the required 4,000 signatures to earn a spot on the ballot.

Myrick had handed in more than 10,000 John Hancocks, but the vast majority were ruled invalid because the signers were either not registered voters or did not live in Brooklyn (or both!).

In the end, the commissioners credited him with just 2,637 valid signatures.

“There is nothing we can do to help you, sir,” said Board of Elections President Frederic Umane.

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NoLandGrab: The Brooklyn Paper may be underestimating the depth of pro-Atlantic Yards support ;-) for Republican challenger Marc D'Ottavio, who has accused Markowitz of not being vociferous enough in his support of the floundering boondoggle.

Posted by eric at 7:27 PM

CHOCOLATE KISS-OFF: JIMMY MACK'S CHOCOLATE BRIDE DITCHES HIM AT THE ALTAR

Gatemouth's blog [Room 8]
by Howard Graubard

Gatemouth correctly calls us out for referring to him as "anonymous" (we meant to type "pseudonymous" but the day after the ESDC Atlantic Yards hearing was way busy here at NLG and we got a wee bit sloppy) last Thursday.

But Gatemouth's reflexive dislike for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn seems a wee bit obsessive, as he cites fellow-pseudonymous blogger J. Cheever Loophole's (no, Mr. Graubard, we're not going to spend time tracking down Mr. Loophole's real identity) post about amicus briefs:

I do not think that opposing Atlantic Yards makes one reflexively anti-development. I just think that DDDB has shown itself to be so. I think a joining with far right-wig [sic] ideologues in their blunderbuss crusade against eminent domain, which the right uses to mask a far more pernicious agenda, proves it.

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NoLandGrab: If the Institute for Justice is going to file an amicus brief, they're going to file an amicus brief. And if the left is going to play deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to the abuse of eminent domain for a bloody private developer's money-pit basketball arena, then one can hardly lay the blame for the gutting of environmental regulations by right-wing nuts and the likes of Scalia, Alito and Roberts at the feet of DDDB. If so-called progressives won't reform eminent domain laws (let's remember that the vast majority of Americans find fault with the Kelo decision), which disproportionately victimize poor people of color, then the door is going to be left wide open for Conservatives to do so.

Posted by eric at 3:06 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning August 3, 2009 and August 10, 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

  • Assembly and launching of Trestle Bridge (BL1121)

  • Installation of conduit and cable within Yard (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Installation of underground water line (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Installation of Fire Protection Piping on Pacific Street wall

  • Placement of stone ballast at west end of yard in BL1120

  • 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

Infrastructure

  • 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 continues. 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.

Here's the previous Construction Update, for the weeks of July 20th and 27th.

Posted by eric at 2:43 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Challenge Asks Court of Appeals to Reject Kelo

Brooklyn Property Owners & Tenants File Appeal Brief in NY State’s High Court—The Court of Appeals

BROOKLYN, NY—Nine business and residential property owners and tenants filed their appeal brief [PDF] in the Court of Appeals (New York State's high court) on their challenge to New York State’s use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards development proposal to enrich developer Forest City Ratner.

The properties in question are required for developer Forest City Ratner to construct its proposed Atlantic Yards project consisting of the Barclays Center Arena and 16 skyscrapers.

The case—Goldstein et al. v. N.Y. State Urban Development Corporation—will be argued in Albany on October 14 at 2pm.

The owners of the properties targeted for seizure argue that the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards violates the New York State Constitution. The Court has been asked to consider a question of vital importance to all New Yorkers: Will the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Kelo v. City of New London continue to expose New Yorkers to the constant threat that their homes and businesses can be seized by the government and given to a more profitable or politically favored private enterprise, or does New York's distinct history and tradition as embodied in its Constitution protect its citizens from such abuse?

"Kelo was wrongly decided," said Matthew Brinckerhoff, a lawyer representing the property owners. "This case provides an opportunity for the New York Court of Appeals to reject Kelo and continue its proud tradition of interpreting this State’s Constitution in a manner that affords more protection to individual rights and liberties. We look forward to the argument in October."

link

The appellants' brief compellingly outlines, starting in 1683, New York State’s founders’ and courts’ long history of strict constitutional adherence to using eminent domain for a "public use," such as highways, parks and firehouses, not for a "public purpose" or "public benefit."

Nine property owners and tenants whose homes and businesses in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint have been slated for government seizure for the megaproject proposed by developer Forest City Ratner filed the original case. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) organized the case, which is funded by thousands of donations from individual community members across Brooklyn and New York City.

The brief can be downloaded at:
http://dddb.net/eminentdomain/papers/appeal/AppellantBrief.pdf

All case files can be downloaded at:
http://www.dddb.net/eminentdomain

Posted by eric at 2:24 PM

At what Forest City Ratner calls a press conference, the temporary alliance between Bertha Lewis and Marty Golden

Atlantic Yards Report

Only in the surreal parallel universe of Ratnerville will you find Republicans rallying with leaders and members of ACORN:

Though several Atlantic Yards backers (union leaders, Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City) made speeches for the cameras, the stars, so to speak, were State Senator Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) and ACORN Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis.

They make for some strange bedfellows.

The ethically-challenged Golden, for example, has long sided with the real estate industry, not tenant groups, in refusing to support the repeal of vacancy decontrol, which currently allows rent-stabilized apartments to leave the system. ACORN, of course, opposes vacancy decontrol and recently led a rally outside Golden's office.

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Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

ACORN, the disconnect in the crowd, and the absence of facts regarding affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder explore's ACORN's cognitive dissonance, which could be found in spades at last week's public hearings:

The housing advocacy group ACORN sure inspires loyalty in its followers, given that dozens showed up last Wednesday, attired in red, to the public hearing held by the Empire State Development Corporation regarding the Atlantic Yards project.

What ACORN does not do, however, is keep its members informed about details in the Atlantic Yards affordable housing agreement. Nor do those members apparently feel obligated to get their facts straight. Testimony from its members on Wednesday was heartfelt, but often distracting, erroneous, or even pie-in-the-sky.
...
Also unmentioned: ACORN, by virtue of the 2005 Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding, is obligated to publicly support the project. Also, ACORN has been bailed out by Forest City Ratner, gaining $500,000 in grants and a $1 million low-interest loan.

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Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

Stepping out, and stepping up: the absence of de Blasio and Yassky; the louder voices from Brennan and BrooklynSpeaks members

Atlantic Yards Report

Wanna know who is really for and against Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project? Never mind the stump speeches, Norman Oder has a quick check-up on which politicians showed up and which politicians stayed home:

Notable absences at the two-day Atlantic Yards public hearing held last week by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) were two Council Members, Bill de Blasio of the 39th District and David Yassky of the 33rd District, whose districts border the AY footprint.

(Whatever their other obligations, they could have sent surrogates, as did some loyal elected officials in Forest City Ratner's camp.)
...
As I've noted, de Blasio has completely muted his criticism of Atlantic Yards, and likely will not resume, given endorsements in his race for Public Advocate by several AY-supporting unions and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Yassky, however, had kept up criticism until fairly recently, but not after he was endorsed by Markowitz.

Sure, I'm speculating here on the political calculus, but consider that both de Blasio and Yassky, in their campaigns, stress independence and fiscal rectitude.

article

NoLandGrab: de Blasio has hardly wavered from his original position, that Atlantic Yards is an opportunity to build a lot of affordable housing (even though the devil is in the details). However, the hallmark of Yassky's political career has been to stand with his constituents and then abandon them to strike an ineffectual compromise and declare a win for the community.

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

Atlantic Division breakdown

Pro Basketball News
By Chris Bernucca

Though Atlantic Yards developer and NJ Nets owner Bruce Ratner will deny it, all signs indicate that the money-hemorrhaging team is positioned or a sale. From PBN's "detailed team-by-team look at the offseason."

NEW JERSEY NETS

Makeover mandate: Moving sale

Smartest move: The Nets needed building blocks and added one in shooting guard Courtney Lee, the key to the Vince Carter trade. Unloading Carter also opened up more salary cap room for next summer.

Biggest setback: The team's financial woes and the ongoing saga of the Atlantic Yards project led owner Bruce Ratner to put the team - or at least a portion of it - up for sale. That can't be good for luring free agents.

Feeling the draft: Terrence Williams was taken 11th overall and should be given a long look at small forward because it's obvious Bobby Simmons and Jarvis Hayes are not the long-term answers.

Summer fun: Yi Jianlian apparently has bulked up and is playing for China. In Orlando, the Nets and 76ers had a merged summer league team that did not provide enough opportunities for Williams and second-year guard Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Sleeper move: The expiring contracts of Rafer Alston and Tony Battie - also acquired in the Carter deal - will have value up to the trading deadline. As veterans with NBA Finals experience, they could be solid trade chips for GM Rod Thorn to move to a contender.

Biggest risk: With all the uncertainty swirling around the franchise, will any free agent really want to sign with the Nets?

Vacancies: None. Having exercised the options on all their young players, the Nets have 15 guaranteed contracts and don't appear to be a team willing to eat one to get better.

Overall grade: C. There's still some small-ticket items in the driveway. Everything must go!

link

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

August 2, 2009

CBN, FGA set AY informational meeting for August 6

Atlantic Yards Report

CBN, FGA set AY informational meeting for August 6 The Fort Greene Association and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods have announced an informational meeting August 6 "on what will possibly be your last chance to respond to this ill conceived project." (Comments to the Empire State Development Corporation are due at the end of August.)

link

Posted by steve at 9:36 AM

Moody's says FCE's bond rating is junkier, but that doesn't affect the arena bonds--yet

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines how credit ratings for developer of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, Forest City, might affect its ability to finance an arena.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn points out:
Forest City City Enterprises [FCE], the Cleveland-based parent of Forest City Ratner which is looking to float a $680 million bond for its proposed Barclays Center Arena, was given a B3 or "junk" debt rating, with a negative outlook, by Moody's [Investors Service].

But Standard & Poor's last October downgraded its rating of FCE's senior unsecured debt to junk status, as well, from BB- to B+. (At that point, FCE stock was trading at $11.91. Now it's at $7.14, after a recent uptick.)

Any difference between the ratings? And does it affect the arena?

The answer, according to the finance blogger Gari N. Corp, is yes, but only somewhat.

Does the downgrade matter?

His response: Moody's cut FCE by a little more. B3 on the Moody's scale is like B- on the S&P scale. Which is to be expected, given the bad news out of the commercial real estate business in the period between the two downgrades.

The downgrade matters, but it isn't everything. The arena financing will need to stand and fall on the credit rating of the arena. In good times for the developer, it doesn't want a terrible project dragging on its balance sheet. In bad times, the project doesn't want the parent's troubles distracting it.

But liquidity (access to capital) is important for a developer. It might need to fund cost overruns or revenue shortfalls with additional equity, and if it can't, the project has to borrow more cash just to sit around in case lenders need it. A rating cut makes it more difficult and expensive for the developer to raise money for this sort of thing. And it does, whatever the agencies say, edge a developer closer to bankruptcy, because it can't get access to financing, because some of its debt agreements might have clauses that say the developer has to repay some of its debt at a certain level (not common these days, but it happens). The agencies don't like their ratings becoming self-fulfilling prophecies, and they'd say that a weak company will fall anyway.

I'd start getting worried when FCE's rating has a C in it somewhere.

link

Posted by steve at 9:21 AM

NetsDaily Off-Season Report #16

Nets Daily

This item by NetIncome mentions how references to "New Jersey" are being dropped as a way of "regionalizing" the team, though New Jersey fans will likely consider this a betrayal. Also interesting is the observation that the domain name "Brooklynnets.com" was already taken by someone outside of the Nets organization.

New York Nets

We were intrigued by Brett Yormark’s admission this week on ESPN 1050 that the Nets are dumping all sorts of New Jersey-tainted links. They started with the uniform shorts, removing that “NJ” triangle, then they replaced “New Jersey Nets” on their stationery with “Nets Basketball”, scrubbed references to New Jersey off the IZOD Center floor and most recently and most significantly erased “New Jersey” from road uniforms, opting for the red “Nets” uniform jersey. They’re selling out, those red jerseys, said Yormark.

All of it, he noted, is part of regionalizing the team in anticipation of the move to Brooklyn. The team even hinted at one point that they might change the name of the team from “Nets” to something more Brooklyn in character, although they seemed to have stepped away from that. Yormark is on the record as saying the team will be called “Brooklyn” somethings. Certainly, they’re prepared, marketing-wise, for the Brooklyn Nets. Ratner’s organization holds the rights to brooklynets.com (note the one “n” and that brooklynnets.com is held by an opponent to Atlantic Yards.)

The Nets are prepared to go all the way with their regionalization, if need be. They hold the trademark rights for “New York Nets” and “NY Nets” and have since Ratner bought the team updated them along with the “Brooklyn Nets” and “New Jersey Nets” trademarks (as well as “Brooklyn Basketball”, “Brooklyn Hoops”, “Brooklyn B-Ball”.) “Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment”, the unit that will run Barclays Center or at least book it has a trademark and a logo, based on the old Dodgers script. Expect to see more of that.

link

Posted by steve at 8:36 AM

August 1, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Morning Trio

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Brooklyn Paper, a tale of a rebel flag trumps Atlantic Yards coverage

The Brooklyn Paper is criticized for its lack of Atlantic Yards coverage, which has become more uneven since it was bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Nope, coverage of Atlantic Yards didn't make the front page of the Brooklyn Paper this week.

It should have. There was big news ready for the paper's deadline--not just the fallout from the informational meeting held July 22 but at least the first part of Wednesday's public hearing held by the Empire State Development Corporation.

But the lead story--the most important news of the week, in the judgment of the paper's editors--concerns a Bay Ridge man who hung a Confederate flag out the window...

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Coverage of Brooklyn's biggest project--a source of unending controversy--appears on page 5 (below), with an overview article and a set of mini-interviews.

The Brooklyn Paper's coverage wasn't bad, within constraints of time and space, but the claim that supporters and opponents were merely "rehashing familiar arguments" is simply wrong.

A number of elected officials and civic groups called for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement in light of the implied changes in the project and the many unknown elements. And the failure of the Empire State Development Corporation to produce a new site plan and economic analysis, plus the inability for the police to review security before the arena design is approved, also generated outrage.

That's news. And, not all that long ago, when the Brooklyn Paper was independently owned and quite focused on Atlantic Yards--much smaller AY stories were overblown and placed on the front page. (Remember the picture of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein's baby? Or Forest City Ratner's erroneous web claim that architect Frank Gehry was born in Brooklyn?)

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The Brooklyn Paper editors surely know Atlantic Yards is a significant story. After all, they published a whole sidebar on the Letters page with excerpts from comments posted on the paper's online coverage of the July 22 information session.

"Breaking a circle or making a circle": Why divisive arguments drove Steve Espinola to "dream logic" at hearing Wednesday

Testimony at this week's ESDC Hearings included that given by Prospect Heights resident Steve Espinola. Some found Espinola's remarks puzzling and, on the face of it, illogical, but this blog entry shows his thinking. Especially enlightening is an email from Espinola.

"You're either making a circle or breaking a circle" is something a Native American elder told me. (Native Americans generally have a strong experiential understanding of the process and dynamics of land grabs.) I figured it was time to try a little dream logic or illogic to break through the dichotomous arguments. This process has been all about dividing people, destroying existing and potential connection and community. In other words, breaking a circle.

Making us define ourselves as "Pro" or "Against" on the hearing's sign-up sheet is a part of that tactic, even if it is claimed that it is for the sake of programmatic "balance." It seems to be limiting the range and potential creativity of the testimony. It's a mindset I no longer want to play into.

A room full of people had just jeered a woman who was talking about her asthma, [excerpts below] and I was shocked at the lack of empathy. I was even shocked that I was shocked. Then, Maureen [Shea] from the Green Party had made an excellent, grounded, nondivisive speech which said every rational thing I would have wanted to say, and better than I could have said it.

My first impulse was to say simply "I agree with Maureen," but I decided to talk about respectful cannibalism instead and out-irrationalize the irrational energies in the room, from as calm a place as I could muster. I didn't even want to fight the violence anymore, so I was trying to work with it, and present it as a conscious choice that had choices within it.

It wasn't a prepared speech, but I knew what I wanted to convey. Given that I had a nice, long, sweet conversation with an elderly and concerned member of ACORN afterwards, something good and connecting came out of it.

Beer summit with Goldstein and Ratner at Freddy's? Not likely

Norman Oder does a take on today's piece in the New York Times about New York City disputes that might be settled by "beer summits". One element making such a summit difficult for the Atlantic Yards fight is the need for a neutral host.

But there's no neutral host, is there? Borough President Marty Markowitz couldn't host the summit, since he's aligned with Forest City Ratner. Nor could City Council Member Letitia James, a staunch supporter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Nor could the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency charged with both overseeing and approving the project.

Maybe the only place for a beer summit--as with so many elements of the Atlantic Yards dispute--is a courtroom, particularly a court that has not yet weighed in on any Atlantic Yards case.

Posted by steve at 9:26 AM

In New York, It Takes More Than Beer to End Feuds

New York Times
By Manny Fernandez

The Times imagines a series of "beer summits", including one between Develop Don't Destroy spokesman Daniel Goldstein and land grabber Bruce Ratner.

It is easier, it seems, to get a Harvard professor and the police officer who arrested him to sit down for a beer at the White House than it is to get two New Yorkers to make peace at the corner bar.

In the spirit of the “beer summit,” in which a feud between the Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police was smoothed out somewhat at the White House on Thursday, some notable New Yorkers were asked if they would be willing to do likewise, to try to resolve their differences with their rivals by sitting down for drinks.

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Dan Goldstein, who has led protests against the Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn as the spokesman for the group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, nevertheless said he would agree to a beer with the project’s developer, Bruce C. Ratner, at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, which happens to be the de facto headquarters of Atlantic Yards opponents. A spokesman for Mr. Ratner who had promised to respond was later unavailable.

link

NoLandGrab: Awww... now isn't that cute? Instead of inserting Atlantic Yards into a puff piece, maybe The Times could give a serious revisit to the project and perhaps even rethink its editorial support of Atlantic Yards. Then again, that might put too big a strain on the relationship between the Times and its business partner, Bruce Ratner.

Posted by steve at 8:56 AM

City sidewalk, busy sidewalk! Street pedestrian walkway is now a car lane!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

This article catches up with an arrangement both bizarre and dangerous for drivers and pedestrians.

Construction near developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project produced an unusual and confusing detour on Pacific Street that has turned one sidewalk into a lane of car traffic.

Drivers and pedestrians will share the sidewalk for 12 weeks while the city installs sewers near the corner of Sixth Avenue, on the edge of Ratner’s proposed basketball arena and four-skyscraper development. A five-foot-wide path for walkers is separated from moving traffic by a concrete barrier.

This stretch of Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue is busy thanks to its proximity to the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, plus the subway stations at Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street. A reporter from The Brooklyn Paper observed pedestrians confused by where they were supposed to go, thanks to the presence of an unlabeled arrow pointing vaguely towards the truncated sidewalk.

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Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy, who lives near the corner, disputed that such sidewalk car lanes are as widespread as Gastel suggested.

“I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve been watching the intersection and makeshift road and sidewalk and someone is going to get hurt there,” he said. “It is a very dangerous situation and disruption that the Department of Transportation has apparently approved on Forest City Ratner’s behalf.”

link

Posted by steve at 8:50 AM

Jane Jacobs Invocations

The proposed Atlantic Yards project is the polar opposite of the vision of cities espoused by activist Jane Jacobs. So, it's not surprising that both Jacobs and Atlantic Yards are invoked together in these items:

The Huffington Post, The Singing Manifesto (Dedicated to Joan Baez)
By Reverend Billy

Reverend Bill preaches against big-money interests hijacking the City:

We are all erotic politicians. We use our bodies to break into public space. Then we open our mouths. It's what people do who know how to control powerful institutions while standing on the ground outside. Here in the Apple, we are warming up our voices, growing the volume of our voices from the nature of our grand, funky bodies. Why? Our city is corrupted now. So we are preparing a singing revolution against it. We're getting back to the sensuality of our citizenship, Amen?

We hear a radical sing-a-thon that rattles the windows of the $100 million campaign in City Hall. We see the city's conscience rise like a crowd singing the First Amendment before the high-rise money has passed under the table. The mayor gets a worrying memo in his jet over the Atlantic. The clowns and poets and freaks of Coney Island are singing the luxury hotels into the ground. Hell's Kitchen is singing back the mayor's shopping-and-football mall and Brooklyn harmonizes behind the solo arias of Jane Jacobs, as the 16 high-rises of the Atlantic Yards are stuck in their blue-prints.

The corporations and their politicians are watching where we put our bodies and how we raise our voices. They come running with renta-cops at the slightest suggestion of freedom. Lots of bodies down at the town square, that's trouble. What's the distance between a citizen letting out a shout in a park... and the singing revolution? An intriguing question. We do believe that the greenery around City Hall will echo with our sampling of "New York, New York" with the radical lyrics it needs: "Start spreadin' the wealth..." We will sing it in public space, on streets and sidewalks and in the parks. If each of us gets down into our fiery bodies then public space will light up again!

Change-a-lujah!

City Journal, Jane Jacobs’s Legacy
By Howard Husock

This review of two Jane Jacobs biographies (Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City, by Anthony Flint and Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Glenna Lang and Marjory Wunsch) includes mention of Bruce Ratner's land grab:

Treating Jane Jacobs as a folk hero, as both Flint and Lang do to varying degrees, risks misinterpreting her work as uniformly favoring the preservation of charming older neighborhoods populated by David Brooks’s “bourgeois bohemians.” But it also risks overstating the extent to which her vision has prevailed. It’s difficult to imagine her having a kind word to say, for instance, about the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where eminent-domain power is to be used for massive clearance and the construction of subsidized high-rises and a sports arena. It’s classic old-style urban renewal, dressed up with plans to use a big-name architect. Sports stadia—the only significant public works to be built in New York recently—are particularly out of keeping with Jacobs’s view that major public facilities should attract people throughout the day and night, not just intermittently. Also not fully appreciated is Jacobs’s celebration of neighborhoods like Boston’s North End, which, when she wrote about it, was a collection of brick walk-ups from which residents of modest means could watch the streets. In other words, poor neighborhoods could be good neighborhoods. (Herbert Gans’s tour de force about Boston’s late West End, The Urban Villagers, makes this point even more effectively than Death and Life.) Today, elaborately subsidized apartments for the poor continue to be supported at all levels of government, in the process creating utterly nonorganic communities, in which income groups are mixed for ideological reasons.

Chelsea Now, Quinn a Jacobs-ean nightmare

This letter to the editor expresses dismay that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn should try to align herself with Jane Jacobs when the Speaker has apparently never met a mega-development she didn't like, including Atlantic Yards:

I was appalled to see the picture of Christine Quinn unveiling a street sign honoring Jane Jacobs in Chelsea Now. Christine Quinn is about as far from Jane Jacobs as you can get, and using Jacobs’s name and legacy to try to color her own awful track record is particularly sickening.

Is this not the same politician who has received record contributions from the real estate industry and developers, whose initiatives she almost always supports? Is this not the same politician who presided over the rezoning of West Chelsea and Hudson Yards to allow huge luxury residential development with the promise of affordable housing that never materialized? Is this not the same politician who has enabled mega-developer The Related Companies to get its hands on the West Side Railyards, where they plan to build a forest of huge new luxury high-rises, hotels and office buildings—which will bring huge traffic and pollution to our neighborhood and no benefits? Is this not the same politician who, as Speaker of the City Council, has supported huge development projects over community opposition all over the city—from Atlantic Yards and DUMBO to the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights?

And now she wants to claim she is “honoring” Jane Jacobs? The greatest honor she could pay Jane Jacobs would be to resign from office.

Meredith Handelman

Posted by steve at 8:06 AM