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October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween, Atlantic Yards Watchers

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Posted by steve at 12:50 PM

How Does A Sports Arena Qualify For $55 Million In Federal Tax Credits?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn - Feds Grant $55 Million to Forest City Ratner. Funds Seem to be for Atlantic Yards

The Federal Government has just given $55 million to "Forest City Community Development Entity, LLC" headquartered in Brooklyn. It is not clear if it is a $55 million "tax credit" or if it is a straight out grant. We're attempting to find out. It appears to be a $55 million "tax credit."

It is also not clear if all the money is for Atlantic Yards, but one would assume most of it is since Atlantic Yards is the only supposedly vertical construction project the parent company Forest City Enterprises is undertaking (according to them). We're attempting to find out.


The money comes from the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. Here is an overview of what that Fund does:

Through monetary awards and the allocation of tax credits, the CDFI Fund helps promote access to capital and local economic growth in urban and rural low-income communities across the nation.

Through its various programs, the CDFI Fund enables locally based organizations to further goals such as: economic development (job creation, business development, and commercial real estate development); affordable housing (housing development and homeownership); and community development financial services (provision of basic banking services to underserved communities and financial literacy training).

Funny, but it doesn't mention the most expensive arena in the history of humankind.

Atlantic Yards Report - Forest City gets $55M in federal tax credits for AY bonds; projects must be in "low-income communities," so how could arena project qualify?

Forest City Community Development Entity, LLC, a Brooklyn-based subsidiary of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, has been awarded $55 million in federal tax credits for "real estate retail development projects located in highly distressed low-income communities." (See pages 7 and 72 of this PDF.)

Do the tax credits "seem to be for Atlantic Yards," as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn suggests?


Updated: While I initially wrote that I doubted that the credits would be predominantly used for AY, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell confirms that the description below is "a summary of the State's agreement to allocate $55 million of State bond volume capital to the Atlantic Yards project. It is not the State providing money – rather it is the State allowing some of the capital for this project."

(The state only has a limited amount of "volume cap" for tax-exempt funding. It's unclear whether the bonds would be used for the arena, for housing, or associated retail.)


While Atlantic Yards--as DDDB notes--may be Forest City's only new project, it's not like other projects aren't ongoing, such as East River Plaza. Hence the mention of New Mexico, home of the ongoing Mesa del Sol project, or so I thought.

Then again, wouldn't it be tough to argue that Atlantic Yards--unlike, say, East River Plaza--would be located in a "highly distressed low-income communit[y]"?

I've asked the ESDC how exactly AY qualifies. (Remember, $1217/sf condos in 2015!)

Posted by steve at 8:01 AM

Would the AY arena, like the new Yankee Stadium, suck retail inside?

Atlantic Yards Report

WNYC radio this week reported on a curious phenomenon: how the new Yankee Stadium gets Yankee fans to spend more money inside the ballpark rather than on the streets around it.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn suggests that's a cautionary tale for boosters of the Atlantic Yards arena.

Is it? Surely in part. After all, the official arena web site proclaims:

The Barclays Center concourses are designed to be wide, graciously active and accommodating with well distributed food and beverage locations... Prominent, active retail spaces are integrated into the main public concourse so as to contribute to the street life and activate the internal space.


On the other hand, only some people would be arriving directly to the arena block by train or subway. Others would be taking buses or driving to parking lots, such as the interim parking lots sketched in the Atlantic Lots scenario created by the Municipal Art Society.

So those visitors would have the opportunity to go to retail outlets nearby on Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street, Atlantic Avenue, and Flatbush Avenue--likely a very mixed result, pleasing some retailers yet frustrating those in the relatively quiet residential district of Prospect Heights.


Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

Pechefsky challenges 39th CD frontrunner Lander on AY, but differences are small; will Council hold the AY hearing Lander seeks?

Atlantic Yards Report

In overwhelmingly-Democratic New York City, the winner of the primary normally wins in the general election as well. Brad Lander, the Democratic candidate for City Council in the 39th District, is being challenged by David Pechefsky of the Green Party. This blog entry compares/contrasts the two candidates who are both opposed to the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

David Pechefsky (right), the Green Party candidate for the 39th City Council District, may be a long-shot, but he's run a lively campaign, most notably challenging Democratic frontrunner Brad Lander (below, left) on the role of the Council and, secondarily, on Atlantic Yards.

Indeed, while Pechefsky critiques Lander for not having a plan to stop the project, neither does Pechefsky, though he contends that, should the City Council be able to block additional or approved-but-not-delivered funding, the project could be hampered.

Rather, Pechefsky's candidacy speaks more to reforming the City Council budget process (including member items), thus challenging a candidate like Lander who would represent a mostly progressive constituency but must also play nice with the power structure.


Posted by steve at 7:19 AM

Getting The Image Right: Forest City Ratner’s Proposed Atlantic Yards Nets Basketball Arena

Noticing New York

Here is an attempt to bring a true picture of the proposed Barclays arena into focus. Click on the link to see the rest of this critical assessment.

One picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words but we think that millions can be added (about subtracted value) by compositing the above picture with a few words it well deserves.


Posted by steve at 7:08 AM

"Eminent Decision for Brooklyn": Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse captures some key exchanges in Court of Appeals argument

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look at the latest video offering from Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse.

Most of Eminent Decision for Brooklyn, the 25-minute episode of Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse concerning the October 14 Court of Appeals hearing in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, consists of plaintiffs and supporters speaking at a press conference.

But the producers have deftly chosen some of the most telling exchanges from the argument, leading off with the astonishing exchange--reminiscent of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's fiery dissent in the 2005 Kelo v. New London case, in which Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) attorney Philip Karmel admits, in response to a question from Judge Robert Smith about "a perfectly nice house," that such a house is vulnerable to taking via the state's loose eminent domain laws.

Then, a little after 21 minutes in, the video returns to some key moments in the hearing: Smith asks if the area was gerrymandered; Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman points out there's a great deal of public subsidy behind the project; and Smith asks when exactly blight was designated as the rationale for the use of eminent domain.

Of course, there was a lot more to the hearing, including significant skepticism of the plaintiffs' arguments. But the video surely does the job of seeding criticism of the state's action, and the yet-unreformed state laws that would enable it.


Posted by steve at 7:01 AM

Well, maybe the Atlantic Yards arena bonds won't be sold on the week of November 16

Atlantic Yards Report

Some doubt as to when bonds sale will commence.

A Reuters article yesterday suggested they might. A Bond Buyer article today says it's up in the air.

And Michael White is very, very skeptical.


Posted by steve at 6:54 AM

Follow the Atlantic Yards Fight Via NoLandGrab On Twitter

NoLandGrab is now on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nolandgrab.

Posted by steve at 6:30 AM

October 30, 2009

David Sheets' Powerful Speech

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Filmmakers Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley and David Beilinson are raising money to fund the completion of their Atlantic Yards documentary, Battle of Brooklyn, via the fundraising site Kickstarter. Each day, they're posting a new clip from the more than 300 hours of film they've shot. Follow the link below to see today's clip — and while you're there, you can make a donation, too.

David Sheets lives in a rental apartment on Dean St. down the block from Freddy's bar. While a great deal of attention has been paid to owners who will lose their homes, less attention has been paid to those who live in rental apartments and will receive no compensation for the loss of their homes. David traveled with others from the neighborhood to hear arguments in the case, Goldstein et al V ESDC. At a press conference before the hearing he made a very eloquent statement that we have posted here.


Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Atlantic Yard Bonds May Be Sold, Escrowed: Official

The Bond Buyer via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
by Ted Phillips

The $700 million of bonds to finance a professional basketball arena at the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn could be sold and the proceeds placed into escrow as legal challenges to the project are resolved, an official at the Empire State Development Corp. said yesterday.

“The expectation is that they can be issued,” said Frances Walton, chief financial officer of the ESDC. “It wouldn’t be the first time that bonds have been issued with those types of legal challenges.”

The structure and the timing of the bonds are still in flux, Walton said.

Typically an issuer would structure an escrow bond “short term with the expectation that it would be coming out of escrow to be restructured. That’s one of the possibilities they are looking at,” Walton said. “But they’re also looking at the structure with an early call ... if something changes, if the court ruling went against you, you’d just refund the bonds. Those are the two different approaches.”

abridged article via DDDB

full article [subscription required]

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

On the projected arena opening day, construction schedule proves to be a fantasy

Atlantic Yards Report

Happy opening day!

Remember--today was supposed to be opening day for the Atlantic Yards arena, at least according to the construction schedule attached to the December 2006 approvals of the project by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Norman Oder says I told you so here.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

What's a Prospect Heights condo worth? ESDC low-balls Goldstein (who once walked away from $500K profit) and overpromises the public

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation had to inflate the residential-condo projections for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, so the project appears to be financially viable. On the other hand, the public-private corporation is lowballing the price for one home owner whose condo the agency is planning to seize, using the state's power of eminent domain.

If you go by what the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) offered Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein for his condo in the Atlantic Yards footprint, and compare that to the values projected by ESDC consultant KPMG, you might suffer some vertigo.

After all, KMPG agrees that Forest City Ratner could get $1217/sf for condos in 2015, a figure that represents more than double the $600/sf price that consultant (for AY opponents) Joshua Kahr thinks is currently realistic.

KPMG says that the current condo market in Prospect Heights is $470-$1225/sf, though the latter seems a major stretch, limited perhaps to a few units in the Richard Meier-designed On Prospect Park, which isn't doing well and surely must be dropping prices.

And it's more than two-and-a-half times--by my calculation--what the ESDC is offering Goldstein.

Both extremes, I suspect, are unrealistic: the ESDC is low-balling Goldstein and KPMG (and Forest City Ratner) are overly optimistic. Whether Atlantic Yards proceeds or dies, iit's unlikely Goldstein would ever (nearly) double his money, as Forest City Ratner once offered. (To be precise, his gain would've been 83%.)
Looking at the price per square foot

$466: what Goldstein paid in 2003
$850: what Forest City Ratner paid in 2005 in one building
$850: what FCR estimated in 2006 it would get for Atlantic Yards condos
$600: what Joshua Kahr estimates is the current Brooklyn condo market
$470-$1225: what KPMG says is the current Prospect Heights market
$450: what (I estimate) Goldstein has been offered


Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

The Voice's Robbins: thin press means little scrutiny of Bloomberg (and what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder contends that the media's inattention goes beyond the Mayor's record and reelection:

I'll suggest some other un-covered or undercovered stories:

  • the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) new concessions to Forest City Ratner upon re-approving Atlantic Yards in September
  • Forest City Ratner's bailout of ACORN
  • New York University's questionable absorption of Polytechnic University


Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

Forest City in the News

Associated Press, Forest City refinances office buildings in Mass

Real estate company Forest City Enterprises Inc. said Thursday that it closed on a $90 million refinancing for twin office buildings in its University Park in Cambridge, Mass.

The seven-year, fixed-rate refinancing represents about a 50 percent increase in principal over the prior financing, Forest City said in a release. Jeff Linton, a company spokesman, said additional terms of the deal were not being released.

Reuters, PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Announces $90 Million Refinancing of Tech Office Buildings at Cambridge, Mass., Bioscience Park

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Forest City refinances two Massachusetts office buildings

The real estate company, based in Cleveland, has secured a seven-year, fixed-rate refinancing for the 45/75 Sydney Street buildings through two insurance companies. The new deal represents a 50 percent increase in principal over the prior financing for the properties.

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

October 29, 2009

LeBron’s future hangs over Cavs’ slow start

Yahoo! Sports
by Adrian Wojnarowski

As soon as Mikhail Prokhorov reached agreement on the $700 million purchase price for the New Jersey Nets, sources say his emissaries were relentless in securing something they believed to be of the highest importance for the Russian billionaire: a sit-down with Jay-Z.

It is rare that an owner with such a small controlling interest in a franchise could inspire such dogged pursuit, but Jay-Z is no silent partner with the Nets. Immediately, insiders understood Prokhorov’s plans to woo Jay-Z pushed far beyond the music mogul’s global celebrity and Brooklyn roots. This was part of the Russian’s ambition to become intimately involved in the summer of 2010 and the most valued free agent in professional sports history: LeBron James.


NoLandGrab: Or maybe the billionaire oligarch with a predilection for "models and dancers" was just wondering if Beyoncé has any single friends.

Additional coverage...

WaitingForNextYear, Cavaliers Slow Start Fueling LeBron Rumors

It was bound to happen. Shortly after the buzzer sounded and curtain fell on the Cavaliers’ morose 0-2 start to the season, it was evident that the whispers would be starting the next day. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the mainstream national media is going to see the Cavs struggle as an opportunity, and they will waste no time to pounce.

Posted by eric at 9:31 PM

NYS sets big bond sale, waits on other large issues

by Joan Gralla

New York State's main economic arm will sell as much as $1.7 billion of debt during the week of November 16, although bond financing for two other developments -- Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards and the World Trade Center site -- have not yet been finalized.

Frances Walton, chief financial officer of the Empire State Development Corporation, told reporters after a Citizens Budget Commission conference that she did not expect lawsuits filed by opponents of the multibillion dollar Atlantic Yards project would block the debt issue by a local development corporation.

"The expectation is that they will be issued," she said. This would not be first time that bonds have been issued despite "legal challenges," Walton said.

"We have begun discussions with ratings agencies," she said.


NoLandGrab: Actually, according to a Wall Street Journal article two weeks ago, arena bond underwriters Goldman Sachs and Barclays had already "spent weeks in discussions with three credit-rating services and bond insurer Assured Guaranty Ltd. over ratings and terms on the bonds" — and the Journal called the odds of the bond sale succeeding "a toss-up."

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, ESDC has a planned bond sale on the week of November 16 (before any court decision comes down)

Not only is the next Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) meeting on November 19, the week of November 16 is when the ESDC will be issuing bonds, including (apparently) bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena, Reuters reports.

In other words, they're not waiting for the resolution of the eminent domain case, nor do they think any other lawsuits could stymie the project. The driver is a December 31 IRS deadline.

Bond buyers and the bond insurance company, however, had better calculate some risk, as Michael D.D. White pointed out.

NLG: Not only did White point out all the problems with the bond issue — it's likely that his blog post prodded reporters to start asking questions.

Posted by eric at 8:50 PM

The Name Game

Nets Daily

Ever since Bruce Ratner decided to buy the Nets, it has been “all about Brooklyn”. The most commonly told story about the origin of the “Brooklyn Nets” is that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz called Ratner and practically begged him to buy the team and move it to a new arena at the same intersection the Dodgers had planned to move 50 years earlier (before abandoning the borough for Los Angeles).
Now, with Mikhail Prokhorov about to purchase 80% of the team and 45% of Barclays Center, the question is whether “Brooklyn Nets” is still the plan. The team, it should be noted, also registered the trademarks for “New York Nets” and “NY Nets” the same day it registered “Brooklyn Nets”.

More to the point, a number of people last week received a curious email. One of them forwarded it to us. It read:

I am consulting for the (prospective) new owners of the Nets basketball team… and am doing a quick survey.

EVERYONE’S perspective is helpful (basketball fan, non-basketball fan, NY’er, non-NY’er…)

After the team’s move to Brooklyn, which NAME would you choose?

A) Brooklyn Nets B) NY Nets C) Brooklyn “other” D) NY “other’


NoLandGrab: We're still diggin the "Brooklyn Nyets."

Atlantic Yards Report, With a (presumptive) new owner, is "Brooklyn Nets" name still up in the air?

Could Prokhorov want the New York moniker? Maybe. But isn't Brooklyn still a brand with huge potential (if the project ever gets over the legal and financial hurdles)?

And if Brooklyn were dropped, Borough President Marty Markowitz would positively plotz--not that the name is his call. And Forest City Ratner would have to explain away that flier they sent back in 2004.

Posted by lumi at 8:49 PM

My Little O debuts, underwhelms

Atlantic Yards Report

Following in the footsteps of, oh, Brownstoner (sort of) and the New York Times's blog The Local, a new blog, My Little O, has launched to cover (and network) the vastly ignored neighborhoods of Fort Greene & Clinton Hill.
The latest piece of breaking news is nine days old, from October 20, headlined Car Accident at Atlantic Yards. Um, that's the Vanderbilt Yard.


Posted by lumi at 8:46 PM

Eminent Decision for Brooklyn

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse via YouTube

Couldn't make it to Albany for the Atlantic Yards eminent domain hearing on October 14th? Thanks to Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse, you are there.

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse traveled on the bus from Brooklyn to Albany with members of DDDB, including several of the plaintiffs, to the NY State Court of Appeals for the oral arguments in this landmark case.


Posted by eric at 1:08 PM


The Brooklyn Paper fondly plugs a reading by Courier-Life reporter Stephen Witt, although he once committed an unspeakable act.

Witt’s end

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5: Look, we take no responsibility for our Courier-Life colleague Steve Witt. He once hugged Bruce Ratner. He aggressively covered the Little People convention. And his stand-up routines sometimes bomb. But you know what? We like the guy. And better still, he’s finished a novel (something we never did). Hear him read from “American Moses,” his cross between “On the Road” and the Bible.

7 pm. Steve Witt at MoCADA [80 Hanson Pl. at South Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 230-0952].


Posted by eric at 12:49 PM

The Gamble

Weighing the risks and rewards of a Bloomberg third term

City Hall News
by Edward-Isaac Dovere

"Our view is that if we do everything conceivable to get our message out and turn our voters out, we’ll win—and the better a job we do, the more votes we get,” explained Bloomberg campaign manager Bradley Tusk. “I’m paraphrasing it, but LBJ said something along the lines of ‘If you do everything you possibly, humanly can and then a little more, you should win.’ That’s how I see it too.”

Um, doesn't he mean "if we spend everything conceivable" and "if you spend everything you possibly, humanly can?"

Many people have called for Bloomberg to seek and get control of development at Ground Zero, but to date, he has given no indication that he wants that particular albatross. Still, his frustrations at past failures simmering just below the surface, he does not seem content to have his biggest contributions to the skyline be whatever has grown out of his administration’s comprehensive rezonings over the last two terms and the new Bloomberg LP headquarters on the Upper East Side.

“We have to do the big projects,” he said at a recent press conference, his face scrunched in a grimace as he addressed the current condition of Atlantic Yards.

“Once you make a decision that you’re not facing any future elections, does it give you a greater sense of independence? It does,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who this year endorsed the mayor for the second time.


NoLandGrab: OK, one, how does Marty Markowitz, who refuses to go gracefully into the night, know what it feels like to decide one is not going to face any future elections? And two, what's preventing Emperor Mike from overriding term limits again in the future, should NYC voters be so foolish as to give him the third term he covets?

Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

Battle of Brooklyn


Filmmakers Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley and David Beilinson have been working on their Atlantic Yards documentary, Battle of Brooklyn, for nearly six years. They're trying to raise funds to finish it, and you can play a role.

Now we need your help to finish it. Our plan is to pre-sell 1000 copies of the DVD for $25. If we reach our goal of $25,000 by December 1, then we'll get a matching grant which will provide the finishing funds.

The audience is the key to the success of any film - and we're asking you to pre-buy a digital download and signed DVD of "The Battle of Brooklyn" for $25.

Eminent Domain is an issue that matters regardless of your beliefs. One of the reasons that we were so drawn to the story is that we think it's a great way to get people to think more deeply about their own relationship to partisan politics. As with Horns and Halos we know that people will leave the theater with a lot of questions. We think that's a good thing.

They will believe in the power people have to stand up and fight for what they believe in - even when it seems all hope is lost and there's no way that they can win.

Every day we'll be posting a new piece of media from the film. It could be raw footage or a scene. We encourage your feedback and comments as we continue to shape the final cut.


NoLandGrab: If every loyal NLG reader contributes just $25, it'll be enough to... well, let's just say it'll be a lot of money. And every dollar is critical, as it's all or nothing, per Kickstarter's "Learn More" page:

Why is the money given called a "pledge"?

They're pledges because money is collected only if a project reaches or exceeds its funding goal before time expires. If a project's funding goal is $5,000 and only $4,999 is pledged when time expires, no money is collected. Zip, zero. Also, no rewards will be delivered. No funding, no rewards. Everyone walks away as if nothing happened.

So pledge up!

Here's today's clip: Rev Billy at this year's walkathon

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Atlantic Yards, Shadow Government, and Albany Frozen in Amber

Mondo QT
by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

October 14th. The big chill was early, even for Albany. A press conference was being held in the park across from the New York Court of Appeals. The highest court in the state was set to hear Goldstein et al v. New York State Urban Development Corporation. The press conference speakers and their supporters were primarily Brooklynites up from The City. Veterans of the Atlantic Yards wars. Folks who’ve attended numerous court proceedings, marched in myriad demonstrations, and organized countless fund-raisers in a six year effort to keep their homes, businesses, and neighborhoods from being crushed by Atlantic Yards, the dream baby of mega developer Forest City Ratner. Eminent domain abuse is the heart of the matter.

Atlantic Yards has been pushed by three different governors (Pataki, Spitzer, and Paterson) U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, NYC Mayor-For-Life Michael Bloomberg (oops, he rescinded his support for term limits) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. The result has been tax deals, overrides of local laws, massive public subsidies direct and indirect, and eminent domain. Earlier this year there was talk of using federal stimulus funds to keep Ratner afloat.

Much of what moves Atlantic Yards flows through the New York State Urban Development Corporation. Godzilla member of the state’s Shadow Government. Defined by the New York Times as “the 800 or so quasi-private authorities that run everything from the housing projects to the New York City subways.” Though the quasi-private authorities wield government power, they aren’t subject to the same public oversight or level of transparency as actual government agencies.

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) does business as the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD or ESDC). The UDC/ESD dispenses billions in public money, overrides local land-use and zoning laws, saddles taxpayers with bonded debt sans legislative or voter approval, and has the power of eminent domain. Its mission is to help pols and players circumvent the messy tangles and wrangles of representative government that can block them from doing visionary things. If done through the ESD or any of its gazillion subsidiaries, those visionary things are protected from the public by layers of impenetrable poop.

Note to collectors of funny UDC/ESD stuff: on the same day ESD lawyers were defending the interests of Bruce Ratner in court, the Albany Times Union ran a story about the ESD awarding $4 million to Chaim Ausch, a Brooklyn-based investor and diamond merchant doing business in Albany as C&Y Albany Hotel LLC. The ESD gave Ausch millions even though he owes $615, 000 in city taxes, school taxes, sewer and water bills, and assorted fees and penalties! How Ripleys’ is that?


Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

Rev. Billy: Brooklyn’s Third-Party Candidate

Anti-Consumerism Is Windsor Resident’s Theme

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

The Rev. Billy, whose real name is Bill Talen, grew up in the Midwest but has lived in Brooklyn for quite a few years. He has lived for six years in quiet Windsor Terrace and lived in Fort Greene beforehand. He has often gotten involved in Brooklyn issues such as the Atlantic Yards project and the Coney Island development plan – both of which he opposes.

The Rev. Billy’s main theme is anti-consumerism – his organization is known as the “Church of Stop Shopping.” He opposes the “mono-culture” of shopping malls, gentrification and large-scale development in favor of mom-and-pop shops and neighborhood-based cooperation.

On the subject of his two much-better-known rivals, he says, “Mayor Bloomberg and Thompson are both proponents of an attack on neighborhoods, almost like a military assault, of chain stores [although he does like Fairway], gentrification and skyrocketing rents. There is a partnership between the city and landlords and developers, and that partnership is corrupt.


Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

Down to the wire with Dave


Green Party candidate David Pechefsky may or may not be victorious in his bid for the 39th District’s New York City Council seat next week, but he’s sure injected some sorely-needed adrenaline into an otherwise anemic election cycle.

Among the latest, his contention that the New York City Council, through the power of the purse, has the ability to scrap earmarks for Atlantic Yards and thus slay the controversial project once and for all - if only members of the city council had the political will.

In recent weeks, Pechefsky has also gone after all-important member items - those tantalizing monies allotted to city council members for disbursement to non-profits in their districts.

“As it now stands, members who are loyal to the speaker or have a constituency that the speaker cannot alienate get the most money, and those who oppose the speaker get the least,” Pechefsky says. “The only way to compensate is by horse-trading votes for money.”


Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

Noticing New York: many clouds over the planned bond sale for the Brooklyn arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael D.D. White, in his Noticing New York blog, offers a must-read, warning So Many Unchecked Approval Boxes: Why Any Sensible Bond Buyer Should Probably Steer Clear of Buying Atlantic Yards Nets Arena Bonds.

Atlantic Yards is a project with many, many moving parts, and the Wall Street Journal has reported major questions about whether the bonds could get crucial insurance, given questions about the arena's revenue-earning potential.

The whole article is well worth a read. Surely the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has considered and written off most of the concerns in White's checklist, but they don't go away that easily.


Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

A Stalled Vision: Big Development as City’s Future

The New York Times
by Russ Buettner and Ray Rivera

Here's The Times article about which Atlantic Yards Report wrote this morning.

Over the past seven years, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has presided over a historic re-envisioning of New York City, one that loosened the reins on development across the boroughs and pushed more than 100 rezoning measures through a City Council that stamped them all into law.

And when the economy was burning white hot, as it did for several years, the mayor’s plan appeared to be bold and forward-looking, a prescient decision to remake portions of the city in order to lure companies, create jobs and increase economic vitality.

But that vitality is missing in some sections of New York today, where developments spurred in part by easy credit and in part by city initiatives are now stalled or in danger of collapse.

That investigation has expanded into the activities of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which the city helped create in 2006 to help push through development plans following a broad rezoning of the area.

The city awarded the group a $6 million three-year no-bid contract. The group raised another $1.1 million in private donations, tax records show. And Mr. Doctoroff installed a top aide, Joe Chan, to run it. The partnership has become a key voice for the development of Downtown Brooklyn, inserting itself, critics say, into the debate over a plan to build a Nets area and high-rises at the Atlantic Yards. It has spent some $200,000 on lobbying expenses.


NoLandGrab: Irony alert! When we navigated to this article this morning (headline reminder: "A Stalled Vision"), the banner advertisement below appeared at the top of the page.


Posted by eric at 8:37 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

NetsDaily, 10 Questions for 2009-10?

8. Distractions much?

Sometime before Game 32, the Nets will know whether they will be moving into the richest arena in the history of the world, their every movement guided by the richest owner in the history of professional sports, or, or, or, who knows? Is this the last season at the Meadowlands and if so, will moving vans be driving a short distance or a very, very long distance? We may all become experts in bond rating minutia, Russian finance, who has money in Kansas City, Seattle and Newark, eminent domain law, everything but basketball.

9. Will anyone show up?

No matter what happens, Bruce Ratner et al have pushed the franchise into a state of disarray. Fans are disenfranchised…pun intended. The Nets are moving somewhere, to Newark, to Brooklyn, to God Knows Where, in the near future. No amount of ticket promotion, discounts, half-time shows, etc., is going to change that. Moreover, the product, while exciting and enthralling–whatever, is not likely to be very good…

The Cross Pollinator, More Reasons For Normal People To Vote Against Bloomberg

Finally, criticism of the mindless Bloomberg development of New York City. When Bloomberg says he’s not political because he has so much money, that’s such a load of crap. When these policy decisions happen, some parties benefit much more than other parties.

As evidenced by Atlantic Yards, which has benefited no one but Bruce Ratner, when Bloomberg’s policies get set up you can bet your ass it’s not for you, it’s for some rich cat he’s been drinking brandy with.

HOOPSWORLD, Is The Prudential Center NBA-Ready?

Is Brett Yormark changing his tune when it comes to the Prudential Center in Newark?

"It's been terrific," said Yormark. "Obviously it's a new arena. It has great new amenities. The fans seem to really enjoy it.

"(There is) a big concentration of fans from Essex, Middlesex and Union county – counties that we typically don't draw a lot from," he added.

"We were also surprised to realize that over 13% of the people used the rail service," said Yormark. "So, we're in a dense market that provides rail and it's a new building, so it's a great experience."

Reason Hit & Run, The Specter of Condemnation is Haunting New York

Daniel Goldstein, the lead plaintiff in the New York eminent domain lawsuit Goldstein v. New York State Development Corporation, takes to The Huffington Post to explain just how high the stakes in the case really are.

NYC Rubber Room Reporter, Mike Bloomberg's Plans For New York City Dont Always Work Out

Developers knocked down a shopping mall to make way for the grand City Point development: new apartments, a retail boulevard, a tower of commercial space. It has yet to materialize.

UnBeige, Ellerbe Becket Gets Bought Out by AECOM Technology Corp.

Becket, you might recall, has come to more prominence recently for seemingly being Populous' only rival in the stadium building game, most recently getting handed the high-profile commission to design the New Jersey Nets Arena at Atlantic Yards after Frank Gehry got booted.

MultifamilyInvestor, Stuyvesant Town, Atlantic Yards, and the Road to Hell

Two major commercial real estate disputes have been winding their way through New York’s court system. In both cases, a municipality intervenes in the free market, ostensibly for the greater good of the community. Unfortunately, those well-meaning intentions end up doing more harm than good – especially when accepted rules are either discarded or rewritten.

Plaintiffs’ properties in Atlantic Yards, like plaintiff Kelo’s house, are in otherwise good condition. Their only “sin” is that they are located within a development area. The Court in Kelo reiterated that a municipality may not take property under the pretext of a public purpose, when its actual purpose was to bestow a private benefit. (Speaking of private benefits, the proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn will cost the city nearly $40 million, according to New York City’s Independent Budget Office. By contrast, the developer stands to receive $726 million worth of public benefits for the project.)

NoLandGrab: Interestingly, MultifamilyInvestor blogger and big-time real estate broker Neil Gronowetter is a member of both the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Board of New York, two organizations that have been unrepentantly pro-Atlantic Yards.

Joshua Malbin, Sigh…Sold Out Again

At this point I’m no longer even surprised.

This is the problem with mega-developments: government officials tie their boats to them and then can’t afford to cut free when they run way off course into the middle of a hurricane.

What do they care? It’s not their money and it’s more than clear that none will ever pay a political price for their cronyism.

Posted by eric at 8:31 AM

So Many Unchecked Approval Boxes: Why Any Sensible Bond Buyer Should Probably Steer Clear of Buying Atlantic Yards Nets Arena Bonds

Noticing New York notes a litany of reasons that investors may want to pass on the arena bonds for Bruce Ratner's eminent-domain-abusing public-subsidy-scarffing compound-modifier-consuming "Barclays Center."

Pity the poor bond buyer who even thinks about buying bonds that might be offered on the market to finance the proposed Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Nets basketball arena. It is not your typical bond deal. Bond deals are usually really tight affairs, very “belt and suspenders.” We have never seen so many loose ends and approvals that are not in place. Many of those approvals may never be in place. Government officials may even try not to do what’s normally required. Do you remember when the subprime crisis resulted in underwater bonds across the commercial mortgage backed security industry? Everybody looked back in wonder and asked themselves how basic common sense requirements were ignored. The Atlantic Yards Nets arena bonds may be the municipal bond industry’s embodiment of the same kind of extreme folly: Basic standards of professional practices, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to protect the investor have simply been abandoned and one day everybody may wonder why.

Here's why.

NoLandGrab: Blogger Michael D.D. White may seem like another cranky Brooklynite who dislikes Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards overdevelopment, but he also "used to oversee the legal aspects of bond issuances for six agencies that were the state’s largest issuers of municipal bonds," so he knows WTF he's talking about.

Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

Why at least $7 million from New York City's Atlantic Yards budget doesn't belong

Atlantic Yards Report

On 9/2/08, I reported on the rather incomplete information released by New York City in response to my Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request seeking information about the city's willingness to devote an additional $105 million to Atlantic Yards, on top of the original $100 million pledge.

The city stated that the additional $105 million "represents capital projects to support infrastructure and other capital needs in the area, some of which are independent of, but in the area of the planned Atlantic Yards project."

As I wrote, most of those capital projects did not seem independent of Atlantic Yards. Among them was $7 million for reconstruction of the Sixth Avenue Bridge. However, given changes in the plan for the arena block, the bridge will not need reconstruction, as noted on page 4 of the June 2009 Technical Memorandum produced by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).
So, what happens to that $7 million? Is it simply redeployed or funneled to developer Forest City Ratner? I asked the ESDC, which told me to query the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which I did late on Tuesday, with no response as of yet.


Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

The Times takes on stalled development: barely a mention of AY but questions about the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Atlantic Yards Report

The photo attached to today's front-page New York Times article, headlined A Stalled Vision: Big Development as City’s Future, is of the CityPoint site at the Fulton Street Mall in Downtown Brooklyn, but it could just as easily have been of various parts of the Atlantic Yards site.

But Atlantic Yards--well, a segment of it--might get going, so maybe it wasn't the perfect poster child.

Still, the development deserves significant mention because it has been enormously delayed: when Atlantic Yards was announced in 2004, the arena was supposed to open in 2006; when the project was approved in 2006, the arena was supposed to open in 2009; and now it's supposed to open in 2012, though uncertainties abound.

In fact, Atlantic Yards gets barely a tangential mention in an article that touches on Downtown Brooklyn, Hudson Yards, new baseball stadiums, Willets Point, and more.

The mention follows up on an investigation by the Attorney General's office into apparently illegal lobbying by lobbyists for Willets Point, with a revelation that there may be similar questions concerning the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) when it comes to AY.


Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

Pathmark? Barclays Center?

Neighborhood photog Tracy Collins uploaded several satellite photos from Google Maps of the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, which by his estimates, judging from the state of demolition, date back to August 2008.

Here's today's installment, which sites Pathmark at the entrance to the rail yards, where they're running a blue light special on the third rail.

This is a satellite image from Google Maps. I estimate it was taken sometime in August 2008 by the state of demolition of buildings south of Pacific Street.

It places Pathmark far south of its actual location (which is north of Atlantic Avenue), and it indicated the future location of the Barclays Center arena for the Nets, if it ever gets built.

All remaining buildings south of Pacific Street would be demolished. A majority of them have already been torn down. Those left standing are still occupied.

* Click here to check out the image, with mouse-over notes that explain what buildings are still standing and what used to be there BB (Before Bruce).

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

October 28, 2009

Bust Out the Sand Chair! Ratner Buys Long Beach Spread for $2 M.

NY Observer
by Max Abelson

Is it time to start calling Bruce Ratner the "Flamingo Kid?"

...last month, he was said to be selling his 4,500-square-foot, Francis Fleetwood–designed Montauk house to an art dealer for $10 million. Leaving behind 7 acres, Mr. Ratner reportedly wanted something less expensive.

He found it.

According to a source, he bought up a relatively modest three-bedroom oceanfront house off Long Beach’s Arizona Avenue. He paid $2 million to a Manhattan couple, Seema Kalia and hedge fund manager Vedula Murti.

Listing broker Susan Solomon would not comment on the deal. “It’s an oceanfront piece of property and, you know—it’s a big piece of property and it’s on the ocean,” she said. “What do you want me to tell you?” The place looks cozy, but probably needs real renovation. “You can come in and do a little; you can come in and do a lot,” the broker said. “You want to knock it down, you can do that.”

Might Mr. Ratner, who spent $6,965,000 last year on an East 62nd Street brownstone, build something Yards-proportioned? “If somebody wants to knock that house down,” Ms. Solomon said, “they have to build something by the code.”


NoLandGrab: Unless, of course, his good friends at the Empire State Development Corporation override local zoning.

Posted by eric at 11:32 PM

And from the old-style mailbag…

The Brooklyn Paper

Yard work

To the editor,

Finally the lawsuits are piling up on the Atlantic Yards project (“New state-Ratner deal has ‘clause’ for concern,” Oct. 23). And the timing could not be better. This is because of the dishonorable deadline that Forest City Ratner and its state allies are trying to meet.

It turns out the bond scheme involving payments in lieu of taxes have been ruled illegal by the IRS. But an exception has been made for the well-connected Ratner that says he can use the PILOTS loophole, which is illegal for everybody else, until the end of the year. It is like mugging is illegal, but a judge’s son gets to mug people until the end of December before it becomes illegal for him, too. Sounds harsh? Mugging is illegal, and so are Ratner’s PILOTS.

But it’s not just the IRS that helped Ratner break the rules. The Empire State Development Corporation has violated several of the laws governing its procedures to help Ratner mug the public before the deadline.

I hope lawsuits continue to pile up. Good development with union jobs will come to the Vanderbilt Yards — if we get past the corrupt Atlantic Yards project and defend the rule-of-law in the process.

Steve de Seve, Brooklyn Heights

To the editor,

The fans of the Atlantic Yards project have obviously never tried to drive or bus up Flatbush Avenue on any given afternoon.

Creeping up to, through and beyond Atlantic Avenue is a 25-minute production.

Imagine when we have apartment buildings and a stadium to contend with.

It would truly be faster to walk!

Sue Yellin, Fort Greene

Posted by eric at 11:22 PM


Atlantic Yards Report

Shocker! From a press release from City Council Member (and presumptive Public Advocate) Bill de Blasio:



Atlantic Yards, and the transition between a border zone and a historic district, has not gotten the same attention from de Blasio.


Posted by eric at 11:18 PM

Main Street NYC Returns to 161st Street in The Bronx

WNYC Radio
by Alisa Chang

How has a heavily subsidized, gleaming new sports stadium in the Bronx helped the local economy? It hasn't. In fact, it's had the opposite effect.

The first World Series in the new Yankee Stadium begins today. In the third part of our Main Street series, WNYC returns to the shopkeepers on 161st in the Bronx.

They’ve seen their businesses suffer in the shadow of the new stadium, and the playoffs didn’t improve matters much. Many of these shops expected to do better with the new stadium. But WNYC’s Ailsa Chang takes a look at how the new Yankee Stadium is getting Yankee fans to spend more money inside rather than outside the ballpark.

Businesses just a couple blocks down 161st street didn’t think they’d be competing against a new mega-mall. Abdul Traore is managing a near-empty store called Jeans Plus. It sells Yankee souvenirs – many of them identical to the ones sold at the stadium, but about 30 percent cheaper. Traore’s been sitting on a stool by the door during the playoffs, as if waiting for customers to come in.

TRAORE: This playoff is different. Totally different. Like Saturday, I stay here until two o’clock in the morning – from the time the game start until two o’clock in the morning. I don’t even make thousand dollars.

REPORTER: Traore says in the days of the old stadium, he would make about five thousand dollars on a typical game night. His business is down 60 percent right now. And he says it’s not just the recession – it’s the new stadium. Fewer shoppers walk down 161st Street these days. For a lot of reasons. The new Metro-North station spits people right into the stadium. Fans who drive to games don’t park further down 161st and walk up anymore – they have new garages right by the complex.

NOLL: The whole point of a modern athletic facility – whether it’s an arena for hockey and basketball or a stadium for football or baseball – is to get all of the money to be spent inside the stadium.

REPORTER: Economist Roger Noll at Stanford University has looked at every stadium built in the last 20 years. In each case, he wanted to find out whether the new stadium gave a real, substantive boost to neighborhood businesses. The answer? Not a single one did. In fact, many local stores ended up doing a lot worse.


Additional coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, A Cautionary Tale for Local Businesses Around the Proposed Atlantic Yards Arena Site

WNYC radio has broadcast a disturbing story for anyone who thinks or hopes that the Barclays Center Arena will be good for local businesses on Flatbush or Atlantic or in Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill or Clinton Hill. It won't be.

As the sports economist Roger Noll makes clear, and the report emphasizes and illustrates, the whole purpose of the modern day arenas, such as Barclays, is to keep its visitors spending and buying stuff inside the arena.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

The Specter of Condemnation: What Isn't Public Use?

The Huffington Post
by Daniel Goldstein

Since Kelo 43 states have reformed their eminent domain laws. New York, as the Wall Street Journal so ironically put it, has been a holdout from those reforms. Notoriously dysfunctional Albany has barely put the issue on its radar. That’s why the first post-Kelo public use case to make it to New York State’s high court, which was argued on October 14th, is so important. Without legislative protections the court is the last place for New Yorkers to gain some semblance of assurance that their home is not just some placeholder ripe for plucking when the state thinks some “benefit” may accrue from its seizure.

As of now, though, there is basically no protection for property owners and tenants in New York. If a condemning authority, such as the Empire State Development Corporation, or New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, staples together enough pieces of paper that make speculative claims about some amorphous “public benefits”—then your home will become theirs to transfer to private developers for their enrichment.

Such is the case with the use of eminent domain for the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, which is what the Court is now considering. If public use can mean public “benefit,” then it can literally mean whatever the state wants it to mean, and leads to the non-rhetorical question: What isn’t a public use?


Posted by eric at 10:50 AM


Looking west over the Vanderbilt Railyard in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Photo, by bigaila, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 4:12 AM

FOILed: waiting for responses from ESDC (and comparing their practices with other agencies)

Atlantic Yards Report

Not all Freedom of Information Law requests are equal — Norman Oder explains why he spends way too much time at the post office.

I suspect some staffers at the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) think I'm a bit of a pest, though they're professional and don't say so explicitly. After all, I file regular Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, sometimes a couple each month.

And it usually takes a long time to get responses from the ESDC, especially compared to more responsive agencies such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

(The ESDC's public affairs office, by contrast, generally responds promptly to my queries, though the level of detail, um, varies.)

Last December, I filed a FOIL request for records explaining whether the ESDC considered the availability of tax-exempt financing for affordable housing when it was approving Atlantic Yards.

For months, I got a certified letter each month explaining that they were still looking, given that my request was broad. That's hard to judge, but it sure seemed like a long time.

In a brief public comment during the last desultory moments of the July 30 public hearing on Atlantic Yards, I mentioned the lingering request and asked for it to be resolved. I finally got a response in August. Coincidence or result? I can't be sure.


Posted by lumi at 4:10 AM

Nets making news everywhere but on the court

By Tom Canavan

There's a rich new Russian owner waiting in the wings. The new arena in downtown Brooklyn is getting closer to becoming a reality. The salary cap has been cleared to make the New Jersey Nets a player in the free agent market next summer.

Heading into the season, all the news seems to be good for the Nets, at least off the court.

This season, New Jersey's chances of making the playoffs for the first time in three years appear slim. This is a team without a star. Vince Carter, the last of the team's Big Three following the trades of Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, was traded to Orlando after last season in a deal for Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie.

All-Star point guard Devin Harris is the team leader and headlines a starting lineup that will include second-year center Brook Lopez, second-year small forward Chris Douglas-Roberts, project power forward Yi Jianlian and Lee, a second-year shooting guard.


Posted by lumi at 4:07 AM

JRG Fashion Cafe

Neighborhood photog Tracy Collins uploaded several satellite photos from Google Maps of the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, which by his estimates, judging from the state of demolition, date back to August 2008.

We're running one a day. Yesterday we featured a birds-eye view of the east end of the footprint, today we head west for a look at the block where the JRG Fashion Cafe used to stand.

This is a satellite image from Google Maps. I estimate it was taken sometime in August 2008 by the state of demolition on the triangular plot land bounded by 5th, Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

It still lists JRG Fashion Cafe and an auto shop, demolished long ago. It also has the wrong location for PC Richard & Son, which is really west of Flatbush Avenue. It would also be demolished for Atlantic Yards.*

* Click here to see the image, with mouse-over notes, on flickr.

Posted by lumi at 4:02 AM

Thompson criticizes Bloomberg on MTA, ignores AY

Atlantic Yards Report

From a press release from Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson regarding remarks today on the MTA:

Thompson said, “Our City’s economic health and quality of life depend on leadership at City Hall that speaks up for transit riders. Unfortunately, New Yorkers haven’t had that advocacy under Mayor Bloomberg. The Mayor’s top-down decision-making approach has led to two fare hikes in 15 months, service cuts, and crumbling subway stations. As fares have gone up, the Mayor and his MTA appointees have been largely silent.”
Addressing the MTA’s mismanagement, Thompson said, “I will appoint MTA Board members who are transit activists and more representatives of the riding public—unlike the Bloomberg Administration’s loyalists who have no special knowledge or even prior familiarity with transit. And my appointees will be instructed that raising fares will not be the silver bullet solution to the MTA’s mismanagement and bloated budget.”

Unmentioned: the leadership of Bloomberg's MTA appointees in revising the deal for the Vanderbilt Yard at Forest City Ratner's request--now the subject of a lawsuit.


Posted by lumi at 4:01 AM

Forest City in the News

PR Newswire, Forest City Closes Offering of $200 Million Convertible Senior Notes

From the press release issued by the parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced the closing of its offering of $200 million aggregate principal amount of convertible senior notes due 2016 (the "Notes"). This amount includes the exercise in full of the initial purchasers' option to purchase $25 million in aggregate principal amount of additional Notes to cover overallotments. Forest City received net proceeds from the offering of approximately $177.3 million, after deducting the initial purchasers' discounts, estimated offering expenses and the cost of the convertible note hedge transactions discussed below.

Retail Traffic, Forest City Issues $200M Notes

Real estate company, Forest City Enterprises, has sold $200 million of convertible senior notes, PR Newswire reports. Forest City raised net proceeds of about $177.3 million, after deducting the initial purchasers’ discounts, estimated expenses and the cost of the convertible note hedge transactions.

The notes, due 2016, were sold to qualified institutional buyers. The company is planning to use the proceeds to cut outstanding debt on its revolving $750 million credit facility and for general corporate purposes.

TradingMarkets, Forest City Enterprises raises $200 million in private placement

Forest City Enterprises, Inc., a US-based real estate company, has completed a private placement of $200 million aggregate principal amount of convertible senior notes due 2016.

Trading Markets, Forest City Enterprises Down 9.6% Since SmarTrend's Sell Recommendation

SmarTrend, our proprietary pattern recognition system, called a Downtrend for Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) on October 20, 2009 at $11.36.

Since then, Forest City Enterprises has returned 9.6% as of today's recent price of $10.27.

Posted by lumi at 3:11 AM

October 27, 2009

Support Marathon Runner to Benefit DDDB's Fight Against Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


Park Slope resident and DDDB supporter Rob Underwood will be running his 5th NYC marathon Sunday.

Sunday will also mark Rob's 4th NYC marathon in a row sporting a gold DDDB tee-shirt. In recognition of Rob's personal effort to 'Run, Don't Destroy' and our broader ongoing legal fight against Atlantic Yards, Rob would like to suggest a donation to DDDB today of $26.20 (or multiples thereof) to commemorate the 26.2 mile length of the marathon.

If you'd like to cheer Rob on, he'll be coming through the neighborhood we're fighting to defend about 11:30am. Look for the gold 'Develop Don't Destroy' shirt.


Posted by eric at 6:34 PM

Survey finds 601 troubled condo projects

Figure from grassroots alliance Right to the City-New York covers just six neighborhoods but is far above the official tally for the city as a whole

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

There are a total of 601 condominium buildings scattered across a half dozen neighborhoods in the city that have substantial numbers of vacant units or where construction has stalled, according to preliminary data compiled by Right to the City-New York, an alliance of grassroots community organizations. That figure is well above the 454 recorded by the Department of Buildings for the city as a whole.
[Emphasis, ours]

More than 150 members of Right to the City canvassed six neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn to identify buildings that feature many vacant units or stalled construction. The group, along with several members of the City Council, will announce the results Tuesday afternoon at a rally in downtown Brooklyn as part of an effort to urge the city to convert vacant condos into affordable housing.

In July, the city unveiled a $20 million pilot program, the Housing Asset Renewal Program, designed to turn unsold condos and stalled residential buildings into as many as 400 affordable housing units. Community groups and local officials like Right to the City say the housing renewal is a good start, but it is not enough to resolve the proliferation of vacant buildings, the decline in low-income housing and the city's increasing homelessness rate.

Among the 126 buildings in downtown Brooklyn, Right to the City identified Be@Schermerhorn, a 246-unit luxury condo, with a vacancy rate of more than 93%, and Forté, a 108-unit luxury condo, with a vacancy rate of more than 60%. Both buildings have been on the market for at least a year. Forté was recently taken over by its lender Eurohypo bank. The group has not identified specific buildings in the Manhattan neighborhoods yet.

“Clearly HARP is not sufficient to meet the needs for the entire city,” said Councilwoman Leticia [sic] James, who will be attending the afternoon rally.


NoLandGrab: Here's an idea — turn off the subsidy pipeline to Atlantic Yards, take back whatever other city cash Ratner hasn't already spent, and drop it all into HARP. 'Cause it's clear that Atlantic Yards' planned 4,180 units of not-Gehry-designed market-rate housing are not going to be in demand any time soon.

And who's surprised that the City of New York is grossly understating the size of the condo glut? Instead of pushing blindly ahead on Atlantic Yards and fighting the Superfunding of the Gowanus Canal, maybe they should be exercising eminent domain, paying the condo speculators the 20¢ on the dollar that their empty buildings are worth, and solving the affordable-housing crisis all at once.


Posted by eric at 4:58 PM


Dances with Bears
by John Helmer

Some very interesting stuff from the one-man Moscow news bureau, intertwining US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act prosecutions, prospective Atlantic Yards savior Mikhail Prokhorov, and term-limits overrider Mike Bloomberg. Really.

So here we are now in New York, where the mayor, a 5 foot-6 inch fellow named Michael Bloomberg, has spent $85 million to make sure noone has a chance of contesting the mayoral election against him on November 3; actually, by then he will have spent between $110 million and $140 million. With money like that, you might say the racket is already in power in New York City, and RICO is Mayor. So, you might also ask – how is it possible to file a lawsuit in a town whose mayor is Bloomberg against a Russian bad guy, whose legal exposure is that he conspired to make a lot of money, and got rid of any competition that stood in the way, mostly by paying for it to go away.

Hey Rico! Meet Micky Prokhorov – a man whose record for violating US-type stock manipulation and asset stripping regulations was allegedly so bad, an Englishman with an inherited title made the allegation in public. That man, Patrick Gillford (Lord Gillford, son and heir of the 7th Earl of Clanwilliam) made a lot of money himself working on projects which, according to Prokhorov, were paid for by Vladimir Potanin, Prokhorov’s original business partner in Moscow. Because Prokhorov was fighting Potanin for control of Polyus Gold, the listed goldmining company, whose stock they shared in roughly equal blocs, and because Gillford occupied a seat on the board as a purported independent, Prokhorov retorted in public that Gillford was toeing Potanin’s line, because he was being rewarded, and so wasn’t independent at all.

A man who works for Gillford in London named Locksley Ryan also busied himself in 2008, briefing institutional shareholders in the goldmining company. Ryan told them tales of how Prokhorov was threatening to steal the listed company’s assets, and urged them to vote against Prokhorov’s candidates for the board, and for Gillford.

A year on, and now that Mayor Bloomberg is backing Prokhorov to buy with some of his own, but mostly borrowed money, the Nets basketball franchise and a control stake in a Brooklyn real estate development, investigators from New York have been asking Gillford and Ryan to repeat what they said about Prokhorov’s business practices in 2008. But they refuse. Gillford is still sitting on the board of Polyus Gold; Potanin has cut his losses and sold out; and Prokhorov controls the company without challenge. Recently Ryan let slip: “In the end he didn’t have to steal the company’s assets, so what’s the point of repeating last year’s complaints that he might?”


NoLandGrab: We're not quite sure how to summarize, nor how to tie the threads together, so you may want to click thru and read the whole story.

Posted by eric at 4:16 PM


by Mark Ginocchio

NAS's Mark Ginocchio puts some good questions to AYR's Norman Oder. The whole thing is worth a read — here's the set-up.

As the Atlantic Yards saga has unfolded, the Atlantic Yards Report has served as a well-researched watchdog, analyzing details that were being overlooked by the mainstream press. The blog is run by Norman Oder, a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. Oder is not shy about the fact that he’s a critic of the Atlantic Yards proposal by Forest City Ratner, which would include a new arena for the New Jersey Nets. But he also prides himself of the amount of sourcing that goes into his posts.

With two new lawsuits recently filed against the project, NAS thought this was a good opportunity to talk to Oder about his recent research, and where he believes this project, and the Nets potential move to Brooklyn, may be headed.


Atlantic Yards Report, Nets Are Scorching interview with me on lawsuits, press coverage, and the unclear AY endgame

Posted by eric at 4:00 PM

Despise the Initiative Process? New York City Shows Why Progressives Need It

by Randy Shaw

An interesting perspective from the author of The Activist's Handbook.

What do Governor Schwarzenegger, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, labor activists, land use reformers, and many progressives have in common? All blame ballot initiatives for California’s current problems. California’s budget crisis has spawned such outrage over the initiative process that there is talk about new restrictions, with many progressives concluding that a onetime populist process has become a tool for the powerful to control policy. Fortunately, New York City provides a case study of a large, ethnically diverse, California-like entity where citizen ballot measures are not an option. The result? A profoundly undemocratic city where large real estate developers call the shots. Progressives who attack “ballot box planning” and other uses of the initiative process should look at what happens to NYC neighborhoods that have no ability to stop or even influence the most destructive of development schemes.

The Atlantic Yards

This Brooklyn-based project is in a class by itself for circumventing the popular will.

It’s no so much that New Yorkers would automatically reject this proposal for a basketball arena and sixteen high-rise buildings adjacent to residential neighborhoods; as bad as this idea is, what is worse is the massive level of public subsidies to enrich the private developer, along with the use of the type of eminent domain – for private profit rather than public benefit – that even pro-development conservatives oppose.


Posted by eric at 3:51 PM

MTA brake$ on S. Ferry

NY Post
by Tom Namako

Hands off straphangers' wallets!

That was the message new MTA chief Jay Walder had for agency and city officials yesterday when he vetoed any move to spend an additional $2 million in cost overruns at the new South Ferry station.

Walder said he would rather scale down the last part of the project -- an outdoor plaza connecting Staten Island Ferry service to the subway station -- than lay out any more dough.

"If we need to reduce the scope to stay within the budget, then we should reduce the scope to stay within the budget. But there is no more money," Walder told the MTA's head of construction at a public meeting.

MTA board member Allan Cappelli worried that a smaller plaza would leave ferry riders trying to get into the station "out in the rain."


NoLandGrab: While ferry riders might be left "out in the rain," all transit riders are getting soaked by the MTA's re-sweetened sweetheart deal with Bruce Ratner, a major reason that "there is no more money."

Posted by eric at 3:28 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Cobble Hill Blog, 5 Questions with David Pechefsky

Our 5 Questions with the District 39 candidates continues, today featuring Green Party candidate David Pechefsky.

If you could change one thing in your neighborhood, what would it be?
It’s difficult to choose just “one thing” - as great as our neighborhoods are there are several things that could be changed for the better. I would like to see the Atlantic Yards site developed as beautiful public open space and a mix of housing types, small businesses, and small scale manufacturing - not a sports a arena, towers, big office spaces, and chain stores. I believe this could still happen.

BROOKLYN (The Borough), Three’s A Crowd! Ahead of Election Day, Third Party Candidate Still Alive In Bed-Stuy

"It was not a given, it was not an automatic kind of thing – I had to actually think about it for a while,” said City Council candidate Mark Winston Griffith of his third party challenge to 36th district incumbent Al Vann, citing the sacrifices his wife and two small children made during the primary.

Mr. Griffith, 45, a native New Yorker and long time resident of Bedford Stuyvesant, ran against Mr. Vann along with seven democratic party challengers during the primary season, losing to the incumbent by 735 votes. Only 9,525 votes were cast in primary and the campaign has been virtually ignored by major media outlets, as the New York Times even failed to make an endorsement in the race.

“The second open question was could we win, and on that front we knew two very important things,” he continued. “One, we knew that 70% of the electorate did not vote for Al Vann, which is almost unprecedented when you’re talking about an election that so few people would have voted for not just an incumbent but someone who’s been there for 35 years and is in some ways a legend.”

Mr. Griffith opposes the Atlantic Yards project, and told Brooklyn The Borough he favors “responsible development,” and views foreclosure as the most pressing issue in the district, which has a significant population of homeowners.

NoLandGrab: Al Vann, on the other hand, supports Atlantic Yards.

HOOPSWORLD, Nets-Timberwolves Preview

The still-New Jersey Nets tip off their 2009-2010 season tomorrow night at Minnesota.

...Nets owner Bruce Ratner made a deal with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov became majority owner in order to facilitate Ratner's desire to move the team to a yet-to-be-built new arena in Brooklyn.

"Oh no, that's not a distraction at all," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said."We just focus on what we can control and we have a great practice facility. We have a great arena. We are happy for what we have."

Posted by eric at 3:10 PM

Atlas Auto Service?

Neighborhood photog Tracy Collins uploaded several satellite photos from Google Maps of the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, which by his estimates, judging from the state of demolition, date back to August 2008.

We'll be running one a day. For a peek at the rest, check them out in the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

This is a satellite image from Google Maps. I estimate it was taken sometime in August 2008 by the state of the Ward Bread Bakery, which is half demolished in this photo. It's been completely demolished now. This entire block would be completely demolished. The remaining buildings (802 Pacific, 810 Pacific, 812 Pacific, 540 Vanderbilt, 603 Dean) are show in the notes.*

This still has the location of Atlas Auto Service shown, although this building was demolished some time ago.

* Click here to see the image, with mouse-over notes, on flickr.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Google Maps' satellite photos play catch-up with Atlantic Yards site

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

How 2005 fudge from the mayor's office on AY affordable housing led the Times into a 2009 error it won't correct

Atlantic Yards Report

Back in 2005, Mayor Bloomberg's office overstated the City's role and commitment to affordable housing in Atlantic Yards, which found its way into an October 2009 article in The NY Times, which has informed Oder that the paper has no intention of setting the record straight, since the "reference to Atlantic Yards captured a specific moment in time."

[T]he Times claims that city officials were "signing off" on an "agreement" to help finance the Atlantic Yards affordable housing, even though the Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), excerpted at right, involved only Forest City Ratner's subsidiary Atlantic Yards Development Company and the advocacy group ACORN, not the city.

The error, as noted below, apparently was derived from a mayoral press release that inaccurately announced the deal as a fait accompli.

The bottom line: an error reprinted is an error, even if it can be attributed to a seemingly reliable source.

The larger context: the amount of time the Times spent in responding to me--and rather defensively denying that readers could be misled--could better have been used to print a correction or clarification regarding the article at hand.

Read the rest of the article to find out how Times staffers put their heads together and still got it wrong.

NoLandGrab: Norman Oder has a point — maybe the article "captured a specific moment in time," but it still erroneously cited "The city’s agreement to help finance the plan." There wasn't and still isn't a signed agreement with the City.

If Oder wasn't burning his time reminding the Times of this fact, few people would know otherwise.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

October 26, 2009

Hitler, Bruce Ratner and Yi Walk Into a Bar

NetsKidd via Both Teams Played Hard
by Jared Wade

It’s quite possible that this never-ending phenomenon of parodying Hitler’s emotional meltdown from “The Downfall” (which is a rather good movie in and of itself) are not funny anymore. And maybe they never were.

Still, I’ve enjoyed most of the ones I’ve watched no matter the subject, so I guess to me this whole meme is is sorta like the mom joke of the internet. I’ll still laugh even though from a comedic standpoint it’s rather dumb and easy. (Much like your mom.)

As the title suggest, this edition features Adolf as a loyal New Jerseyan pissed about the eventual relocation of his beloved Nets to Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in the video clip posted below are those of the mash-up artist(s) alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NoLandGrab, its proprietors or its affiliates. We bring it to you in the interest of serving as a comprehensive source for all news and opinion relating to the planned Atlantic Yards project.

Rated R — Contains profanity and content that some may find objectionable.


Posted by eric at 5:32 PM

Gotham Gazette and Endorsements

The Wonkster [Gotham Gazette]

Gotham Gazette does not now and never, ever has endorsed candidates. It would be a violation of our tax status and even if we could endorse candidates, we wouldn’t want to.

Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation (it says so on the site!). Citizen’s Union Foundation does not endorse candidates either.

Citizens Union Foundation’s sister organization is Citizens Union, which does endorse candidates. But those preferences play no role — none ! — in Gotham Gazette’s coverage.

In fact, Gotham Gazette does not take official stands on any of the weighty issues facing our city. We are not for (or against ) the millionaire’s tax or slashing city services. We had no position on mayoral control of schools, Atlantic Yards or what to do with the city’s garbage. And we do not urge City Council to adopt or reject any particular piece of legislation.

Our only stand — if you can call it that — is to believe that citizens should be informed about their government.


NoLandGrab: And one of the best ways to inform the citizenry is to call the government out when it intentionally misleads its citizens — which has clearly been the case with city and state support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Unfortunately, Citizens Union, "an independent, nonpartisan, civic organization of members who promote good government and advance political reform in the city and state of New York," has declined to join other good government groups in legal action to stop Atlantic Yards — and has endorsed third-term powergrabber Mike Bloomberg for re-re-election.

Posted by eric at 4:01 PM

David Stern: NBA Commish and Eminent Domain Abuser

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

David Stern is the chair emeritus of the Trustees of Columbia University. He is also the NBA Commissioner.

What do Columbia and the NBA have in common? They are both deeply involved in New York City development projects that abuse eminent domain.

Mr. Stern's Columbia University's expansion plan includes the abuse of eminent domain for Columbia's benefit. That abuse of eminent domain is pending a judicial ruling by Supreme Court First Department Appellate Division.

Mr. Stern's NBA would benefit greatly, along with Bruce Ratner, from the abuse of eminent domain to construct the most expensive arena in human history—the Barclays Center Arena, part of the Atlantic Yards plan.

Stern's 6-year long support for that boondoggle, and that abuse of eminent domain, is now pending a ruling by New York's high court—the Court of Appeals.


Posted by eric at 3:05 PM

Big Pimpin’: Will Jay-Z Shill For Atlantic Yards Project?

AllHipHop.com, Editorial
by Tolu Olorunda

Tolu Olorunda calls Jay-Z on the carpet for selling out, but that headline is a bit behind the times — Hova has been shilling for Atlantic Yards for nearly six years.

On August 11, 2004, Jay-Z became minority-owner of the New Jersey Nets. With a measly 1.47% to his name, it made no sense why more successful, majority-owners like real estate developer Bruce Ratner included Jay-Z in the dream team that acquired the Nets. Then, as with everything else, truth crushed to earth began to rise. The reason(s) why this famous Brooklynite was chosen started surfacing. Shortly after, Ratner presented his plan to relocate the Nets from East Rutherford, New Jersey, to Brooklyn, New York. And who better to use as the public face for this transaction than the Brooklyn-born Jigga man himself. (Plus, he, and only he, could help put King James in a Nets Jersey!)

So, when Jay-Z took Oprah on a tour around his old neighborhood a couple months back, and some Hip-Hop observers couldn’t keep from salivating over, as they saw it, how far Hip-Hop had come, a few of us were forced to admire from a distance—and with a sense of suspicion. One or two questions had to be answered, we figured:

Why would Oprah want to tour Brooklyn?

What’s in it for Oprah?

What’s in it for Jay-Z?

Who really orchestrated this event?

What connection does this ostensibly spontaneous, Hallmark moment have with the ongoing public relations campaign, geared in full-throttle mode, to convince Brooklyn residents that the demolition of sacred, public property is, in fact, in their interest (!), and that protesting the ambitious, $4 billion, 8-million square feet Atlantic Yards Project (AYP) would cause more harm than good?

But what influence would Jay-Z have on the protesters who refuse to eat the bread crumbs being provided them by Forest City. Would Jay-Z be a shill for Ratner? Would he be asked to restrain his people from raising hell? And what consequences would his participation in this land grab bear on Hip-Hop—itself a product of resistance and grassroots struggle?


Posted by eric at 2:10 PM

PRESS RELEASE: AECOM acquires Ellerbe Becket

Firm expands AECOM’s presence in global design market

AECOM Technology Corporation (NYSE: ACM), a leading provider of professional technical and management support services for government and commercial clients around the world, announced today that it has acquired Ellerbe Becket, a 100-year-old architecture, interiors and engineering firm.

Ellerbe Becket has seven offices in the United States and Middle East, with 450 employees providing services to clients in the corporate, government, health care, higher education, professional sports and real estate development markets.

“Some of the world’s best design companies have become part of AECOM during our history,” said John M. Dionisio, AECOM president and chief executive officer. “Ellerbe Becket’s decision to join us in order to expand the services available to its clients and the professional development opportunities offered to its employees further establishes AECOM’s position as a preeminent global design consultancy. Ellerbe Becket is a prominent firm with a similar commitment to excellence in practice and strong client relationships. Its project portfolio and geographic presence complement AECOM’s existing architectural and building engineering practices. We were particularly attracted to the firm’s expertise in the rapidly expanding global health care and sports markets. We view this as the perfect opportunity to scale our growth as a leading provider of design services, and we welcome Ellerbe Becket to our global team.”


NoLandGrab: Seems like AECOM is slowly buying up pieces of the Atlantic Yards project, per this bit from an Atlantic Yards Report piece on the Empire State Development Corporation's June 2009 board meeting:

One board member, [Kevin] Corbett, recused himself from voting. The firm for which he works, AECOM, recently acquired EarthTech, a contractor now working for the ESDC on the AY project. (I raised the issue last week and asked whether there were guidelines or rules; I didn’t get an answer, so I don’t know what impact my inquiry had.)

Posted by eric at 1:15 PM

Another Look at the Dinkins Administration, and Not by Giuliani

The New York Times
by Michael Powell

In the wake of Rudy Giuliani's none-too-subtle invocation of race politics last week, The Times's "Political Memo" column looks back at the last time New York City had an African American mayor.

Mr. Dinkins also negotiated a stadium deal that still draws applause. His administration gave the United States Tennis Association a 99-year lease on city parkland; in exchange, the tennis association built a stadium and tennis complex in Flushing Meadows, Queens, and shares the courts with the public.

The tennis deal, Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed several years ago, was “the only good athletic sports stadium deal, not just in New York but in the country.”


NoLandGrab: And after two Bloomberg-championed baseball stadiums, and a full-court press to build Bruce Ratner's basketball palace, it's still true.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Number of projected Brooklyn arena events declines to 200, but the state couldn't have adjusted revenue estimates

Atlantic Yards Report

A 9/16/09 Barclays Center press release about suite sales slipped in some new information:

In addition to NETS Basketball, most suite buyers will receive access to other Barclays Center events, anticipated to include world-class concerts, college sports, the circus, ice shows, and much more. Overall, the arena will host over 200 events annually.

That number represents a small but steady decline in Forest City Ratner's official projections and an implicit acknowledgment of a competing arena in Newark.

It also suggests that the economic projections by both Forest City Ratner consultant Andrew Zimbalist and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) were overstated, since they based sales tax assumptions on about 225 events.

And, even though the projection of 200 events obviously can't be confirmed, that number backs up the more conservative estimates made by the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO).

What happens to the projected benefits if the number of events for a Brooklyn arena declines? Back in 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation acknowledged:

If there were fewer events and lower attendance at the arena, fiscal benefits associated with the arena (sales tax on tickets, parking, and concessions) would be lower than those reported in the [Environmental Impact Statement].


NoLandGrab: This change would presumably increase the projected losses to the city, as calculated by the NYC Independent Budget Office.

Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

What happened to the Haier deal to be a founding partner at the Barclays Center?

Atlantic Yards Report

On 6/19/09, the New York Times's City Room blog reported on "another lucrative sponsorship deal [for the Barclays Center], with Haier, the giant appliance manufacturer from China," which was "expected to be announced within the next several days."

"Nothing is ready to be reported,” Nets CEO Brett Yormark said, and he was right. That deal, which would have made Haier the ninth founding partner, or sponsor, for the arena, was never announced.

Indeed, a 9/16/09 Barclays Center press release about suite sales stated:

The Barclays Center currently has eight Founding Partners, including ADT, Anheuser- Busch, Cushman & Wakefield, EmblemHealth, MGM Grand at Foxwoods, MetroPCS Communications, Jones Soda Co., and Phillips-Van Heusen.


Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

Forest City Announces Exercise of Overallotment Option by Initial Purchasers of Convertible Senior Notes


Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of the developer of Atlantic Yards, wants everyone to know about its latest move to get its balance sheet in order:

CLEVELAND, Oct. 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced that the initial purchasers of the Company's recently announced offering of $175 million aggregate principal amount of convertible senior notes due 2016 (the "Notes"), have exercised in full their option to purchase an additional $25 million aggregate principal amount of the Notes to cover overallotments.

With the initial purchasers' exercise of the full overallotment option, Forest City estimates that the net proceeds from the offering will be approximately $177.3 million, after deducting the initial purchasers' discounts, estimated offering expenses and the cost of convertible note hedge transactions. Forest City expects to use the net proceeds from the offering to reduce outstanding borrowings on the Company's $750 million revolving credit facility and for general corporate purposes, which, depending on prevailing market conditions, could include the repayment of debt with earlier maturities. The closing of the offering is expected to occur on October 26, 2009.


Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Lost in Translation

Though the purchase hasn't been finalized, the Russian billionaire playboy Mikhail Prokhorov has raised the hopes of NJ Nets fans — for once, someone with deep pockets might spend some serious dough to rebuild the team.

LaVanguardia.es, La pretemporada (División Atlántico)

Last we checked, "Ice Cube" is not the Spanish translation of rap mogul and Nets minority owner "Jay-Z":

Esto, unido a que cada vez está más cerca la reiteradamente retrasada fecha de mudarse a la Atlantic Yards Arena de Brooklyn, podría bastar para atraer a uno de los grandes nombres (no olvidemos que un accionista de los Nets, el rapero Ice Cube, es uno de los mejores amigos de LeBron James).

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

October 25, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Supplement

Atlantic Yards Report

CNG Watch: Brooklyn Paper covers the latest lawsuit; Courier-Life focuses on Jeffries

How are the local Brooklyn papers doing in covering the proposed Atlantic Yards development?

The Brooklyn Paper, which led with a hard-hitting article on a gingko tree, did publish (on p. 5) an article on the latest suit challenging Atlantic Yards, though that article was dated October 22 and the suit was filed on October 19.

Gersh Kuntzman's Brooklyn Paper article stated:

None of the prior agreements — including two approved general project plans — made the affordable housing conditional on any state or local support. Ratner was required to build the units whether subsidies were available or not.

Actually, the units were never guaranteed; I reported on the new language more than a month ago.

The Brooklyn Paper did get an optimistic quote from ACORN's Bertha Lewis, which inspired scornful skepticism from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. (Note that, while DDDB said the project would get "over $1 billion in scarce housing subsidies," it's actually "scarce housing bonds.")

And, as noted, the Brooklyn Paper published an odd editorial on the obligation to build affordable housing, blaming the state but not the developer.


The Courier-Life, not surprisingly, ignored the latest lawsuit, but made a page 2 story the seeming gyrations on Atlantic Yards by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries--an episode ignored by its sibling Brooklyn Paper.

However, given the newspaper's deadlines, it caught only the initial letter Jeffries co-signed and then his clarification, missing the legislator's public comments on Thursday night.

Adding to the story, the newspaper's Stephen Witt reported:

Some political watchdogs speculate that Jeffries signed onto the letter because of his rumored ambition to succeed Rep. Ed Towns in the 10th Congressional District. A large part of Towns’ district is in the Canarsie/Flatlands area, which both Sampson and Perry partially represent.

The construction boom is over; whither AY?

Norman Oder connects the dots to show why building the proposed Atlantic Yards project makes no sense.

From the New York Building Congress (NYBC):

The residential market has experienced a precipitous decline after an unprecedented boom period. After five consecutive years in which residential construction exceeded 30,000 new dwelling units, the Building Congress projects construction of just under 6,300 units with a total construction value of $3.5 billion in 2009. The forecast calls for 7,900 units ($4.0 billion) to be produced in 2010 and 9,900 units ($5.0 billion) in 2011. These 24,000 units constructed between 2009 and 2011 will fall 10,000 units short of what was constructed in 2008 alone.

According to the New York Times, the market for commercial space is even worse than the NYBC suggests--which, unmentioned, makes the short-term prospects for Building 1, the commercial tower planned for the Atlantic Yards project, not-so-likely, as even the Empire State Development Corporation acknowledged in June:

“They’re way too exuberant,” the developer Douglas Durst said of the report. Commercial vacancy rates are continuing to rise, he said, and rents are falling.


GlobeSt.com reports on the NYBC's breakfast:

Then, onto Brooklyn and another case of stalling at the lawsuit-laden Atlantic Yards standoff. In response to a question from GlobeSt.com, [New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth] Pinsky said, "another lawsuit is easy to file, but less easy to win." He says his agency is working very hard with the developers and the state to get the project’s details in order.

"We remain hopeful they’ll be able to make it to the financing market before the end of the year, but, this is a tricky project," he told GlobeSt.com Wednesday. "And, until everything is in place, you don’t know that it will be in place, but we remain optimistic and we hope the project will in fact move forward."

When pressed with what happens if the lawsuits do work, and there is a successful delay of the project’s successful trip to the financing markets, Pinsky stood pat, saying "we think this project is going to move forward, and that’s what we’re planning for."

DDDB says Pinsky should have a Plan B.

And what about the housing market? Presumably a decline in new construction makes it easier for the projected Atlantic Yards housing units to be absorbed, as the KPMG market study for the Empire State Development Corporation suggests. Then again, that study is not very reliable.

As a Bronx CBA awaits, challenges to labor solidarity

The idea of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), at least as pioneered in Los Angeles, is a united front presented by all parties, including labor unions. In the Bronx, as Crain's reports, unity doesn't come easy:

Organized labor's previously united front on $10-an-hour retail jobs at the Kingsbridge Armory splintered Friday, with the umbrella organization representing 100,000 unionized construction workers publicly declaring support for a redevelopment project by Related Cos. that would deliver 1,000 construction jobs to it[s] members.

No CBA has yet been signed regarding the Kingsbridge Armory.

Contrasts with AY

Regarding Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner has promised unionized building service jobs in the residential towers, thus leading to support of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, which is not a signatory of the AY CBA. Nor are the construction unions.

There are no guarantees about minimum retail wages in the AY CBA, so that hasn't been an issue--perhaps because Atlantic Yards, in contrast to the Kingsbridge Armory, is not primarily a retail project.

Posted by steve at 9:07 AM

Nets-to-Newark plan draws cautious response from leading Democrats

This article indicates that there is some negotiating left to do before the Nets will be able to leave the Izod Center for the Prudential Center.

A deal between the Izod Center and Prudential Center that would see the New Jersey Nets temporarily move to Newark received a lukewarm reaction from three leading Democrats with a long history of interest in the issue, a report in the Record said.

State Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) told the newspaper the deal rests on whether the Nets will get an arena in Brooklyn, fearing that the team could move to another city outside the area. State. Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) said in the report he is concerned about keeping the Izod Center in East Rutherford open and reserving judgment until he gets more financial detail.

And Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, who has campaigned for the state to close the Izod Center, said he doesn't want to see the state putting any money into the 28-year-old arena.

Under the deal, the Prudential Center would become New Jersey's prime sports venue -- home to Nets pro basketball, New Jersey Devils hockey, Seton Hall University basketball, indoor pro soccer and indoor pro lacrosse. The city of Newark would reportedly get more than $2 million in back rent from the Devils. The Izod Center would become the concert and family show hub for northern N.J.


Posted by steve at 8:56 AM

The Nets are coming to Newark! The Nets are coming to Newark! Maybe

The Star-Ledger
By Joan Whitlow

This article looks forward to a deal that has the New Jersey Nets coming to Newark, and especially how the deal will allow the city of Newark to recover rent owed by the New Jersey Devils.

We’ve all heard the Nets-are-coming-to-Newark rumors before. This time, there’s a really good chance that starting next season the basketball team could leave the Izod Center in the Meadowlands and play their home games in Newark.

The Nets could be here for at least two years, or longer if the team’s plan for a Brooklyn arena go from stalled, as it is right now, to definitely dead. It’s all good news, not just for Newark, but for a state that needs to keep the team on this side of the Hudson for as long as possible.

There’s more. In a now widely circulated memo from the Governor’s Office of Economic Growth, there’s a proposal to keep the Prudential Center and the Izod from beating up each other when they compete for acts. A new entity would serve as the booking agent for both. That means the Izod would stay open when the Nets leave for Newark. It sounds like a savvy economic and political solution, at least until the inevitable happens and the cost of keeping the aging Izod going will be too much of a public subsidy to bear.

The very, very good news in this deal is that Newark is supposed to get a wad of cash to cover the back rent owed by the New Jersey Devils. The hockey team is Newark’s partner in the Rock, and its presence in town has been good for the city. But the team is landlord as well as tenant in the city-owned center. The Devils control all the money and the team hasn’t paid rent in the two years the arena has been open.


Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

Yankees Claimed a Park; Children Got Bus Rides

The New York TImes
By Jim Dwyer

Put this one in the "Should Have Seen This Coming From A Mile Away" folder. This article bemoans the promises not kept and the poor deal that the City struck with the Yankees to put the team in their new stadium.

Where were the critical articles from the Times when these deals were being made? If the proposed Atlantic Yards project moves forward, can we then expect the Times to expose the incredible public subsidies and eminent domain abuse for this land grab when it's too late?

Yankee Stadium is a kind of marker of civic values, and the end of the season is a good time to measure how those values have evolved. But it won’t be easy. More than most sports, professional baseball is marinated in the cheap liquor of nostalgia. People get drunk on it and lose their judgment. So this history cannot walk a straight line.

As mayor, one of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s jobs was to serve as landlord for the Yankees. Mr. Giuliani, who made his name as a corruption buster, was able to buy four World Series rings from the Yankees for about $16,000 — which might well be less than a fifth of their retail value. Who knows if he has bells on his toes to go with the rings on his fingers, but Mr. Giuliani promised the team a sweet deal on a new ballpark.

Then Michael R. Bloomberg became mayor and canceled the Giuliani arrangements. “Everybody understands that given the lack of housing, given the lack of school space, given the deficit in the operating budget, it is just not practical this year to go and build stadiums,” Mr. Bloomberg said in 2002. “You have to set priorities, and the priorities this year do not allow for the construction of sporting stadiums.”

That moment passed. The Bloomberg administration proceeded to negotiate a new deal — turning over parkland for 40 years with no rent and no taxes, rebuilding streets and roads and a commuter rail station and letting the team use the city’s tax-free bonding capacity.


Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

Is second-round talent second rate on title contenders? Not a chance: NBA Insider

The Plain Dealer
By Brian Windhorst

After the main article, is a section titled "Dribbles" that includes this item about the possible sale of the Nets to Mihail Prokhorov.

Last week at the annual fall NBA owners meetings in New York, the group met Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who is hoping to buy the New Jersey Nets. Prokhorov, who would become the second-richest owner in the NBA behind the Portland Trail Blazers’ Paul Allen, reportedly made a good impression and took his staff out to a $19,000 dinner to celebrate the success of the meeting. He believes he could be approved for his purchase by January.


Posted by steve at 8:05 AM

Less Skeptical Views of Nets' Chances in Brooklyn

There are a few items appearing today online about the Nets. These two are grouped together because they both take a "done deal" approach in predicting the future of the New Jersey Nets. The Inquisitr seems to think that a Nets arena is already being built. Nuh-uh.

The Daily News article says that a sale of the Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov "has just about sealed the team's long-delayed move to Brooklyn." Everything's done - except for small details like the sale of bonds to finance the arena, a pending decision on eminent domain from the New York Court of Appeals, and other lawsuits pending.

The Inquistr - 2009-10 NBA preview: New Jersey Nets

Sure the Nets have new ownership, or will soon, and sure they are building a new stadium in Brooklyn, although that is a process that has brought about many, a lawsuit from many different groups of people. Now this is a team that went 35-48 last season, finished third in their division, but that they did finish 28 games behind eventual division champs the Boston Celtics. Now that Vince Carter has been traded away, projections for the coming season are even worse.


While the Nets have been in cost cutting mode for the last few years, once the new ownership is approved and that is, supposed to happen by the end of the year, that could very well change. The new owners will have lots of incentive to build a winning team to help fill their new Brooklyn home.

Daily News - Solid season for New Jersey Nets will be key to recruiting free agents in offseason
By Julian Garcia

While the Nets don't appear to be as likely as the Knicks to land the ultimate offseason prize - LeBron James - their odds certainly got better when Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to buy the team from Bruce Ratner. That deal has just about sealed the team's long-delayed move to Brooklyn, a place that would seem to be a much more attractive landing spot for James than the team's current home in East Rutherford. In fact, a temporary move to Newark starting next season, which is likely to happen, may also help.

Posted by steve at 7:39 AM

October 24, 2009

Nets to Newark: AP, Daily News, NY Post

Here is coverage of the "Plan B" for the Nets if the proposed Atlantic Yards project falls through.

AP via Daily Record - Battling NJ sports arenas could be near agreement

A more peaceful coexistence could be on the horizon for two northern New Jersey arenas that have battled each other for entertainment bookings for the last two years.

A memo written earlier this month by a chief economic adviser to Gov. Jon Corzine outlines an agreement under which Newark's Prudential Center and the Izod Center in East Rutherford would essentially divide up sports and entertainment dates.

The plan also would open the door for the NBA's New Jersey Nets to move temporarily from the Izod Center to Newark as the team awaits a planned move to New York City's Brooklyn borough.

The memo, first detailed in The Record of Bergen County, was obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

In it, Jerold Zaro, chief of the Office of Economic Growth, characterized the competition between the arenas, which sit about 12 miles apart, as "counterproductive."

"The two venues were actually bidding against each other for various events, thereby driving up costs incurred by New Jersey in attracting events," he wrote.


Meanwhile, the Nets' move to Brooklyn has been delayed by lawsuits over the proposed project to build a new arena there. The team also could incur an $8 million penalty for opting out of its current lease at the Izod Center, which runs until 2013.

Nets CEO Brett Yormark and Devils chairman and managing partner Jeff Vanderbeek did not comment Friday on Zaro's memo. Authority Chairman Carl Goldberg said Thursday an agreement that would keep the two arenas in operation was within reach.

New York Post - 'Newark' Nets get called for traveling
By Fred Kerber

The Nets might be playing their home games next season at the Prudential Center in Newark while their proposed arena is built in Brooklyn. It's all contingent on Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov completing his purchase of the team, and that only will happen with a move to Brooklyn. So the Nets are considering a move to Newark -- "strongly considering," one team official said -- during construction in Brooklyn.

"We may consider an agreement to play our home games at the Prudential Center, through the time we move to our new home," said CEO Brett Yormark in a statement that claimed the Nets would be in Brooklyn in 2011-12.

For this season, at least, the Nets will remain in the Meadowlands' Izod Center, hardly the Garden of Eden.

Daily News - New Jersey Nets may move to Prudential Center until Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project is complete
By Julian Garcia

In a statement handed out at Friday night's preseason game at St. John's, Nets CEO Brett Yormark said the Nets could abandon their outdated East Rutherford arena for the two-year-old Prudential Center in Newark while they wait for the Barclays Center to be built in Brooklyn. Yormark said that once the Brooklyn deal is finalized, "we may consider an agreement to play our home games at the Prudential Center through the time we move to our new home...in the 2011-2012 NBA season."


The two games in Newark averaged 14,255 fans. On Wednesday against the Knicks, there were 15,721 fans on hand, including several business associates of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who has agreed to buy 80% of the team from current owner Bruce Ratner.

The Nets have a lease at the Meadowlands that runs through the 2013 season and would have to pay an $8 million penalty if they were to leave early for anywhere other than Brooklyn. However, the Record of Hackensack reported Friday that officials from the Meadowlands and the Prudential Center were close to a deal that would result in the Nets moving to Newark next season with no penalty. In the agreement, the Meadowlands would host more entertainment events, such as concerts, in exchange for allowing the Nets to leave.

Posted by steve at 6:03 PM

Weekend Words of Wisdom From the Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Prokhorov spends $18,760 on lunch; an average Brooklynite could buy a candy bar (spending the same % of net worth)

OK, when prospective Nets owner--and Russia's richest man--Mikhail Prokhorov spent $18,760 on lunch ($15,007.87, according to the New York Post, plus a 25% tip), how painful was it?

Not very.

The spending represents exactly 0.00019747368421052633% of his $9.5 billion net worth.

To put that in perspective, a garden-variety mogul worth $100 million who wanted to spend the exact same percentage would only have $197.47 for a meal.

A millionaire couldn't even afford a Happy Meal, with only $1.97 to spend.

The average Brooklynite, which surely includes a broad spectrum of people, has a household net worth of $398,183. That would leave 79 cents to spend, enough for a candy bar.

That average figure is surely skewed by homeowners and others, so I bet the median net worth--with equal numbers of people on each side of the figure--is much lower, leaving that person able to buy, say, an individual Peppermint Patty.

What is it Fitzgerald once said? The rich are different.

And it wasn't Hemingway, but Mary Column, who riposted, The rich have more money.

That's for sure.

It's all negotiable: the Nets warm to the Newark option, but New Jersey legislators have their qualms

After Brett Yormark double-pinky-sweared they'd never play in the Newark, the Nets have agreed to play in Newark.

Well, Nets CEO Brett Yormark has made it official, issuing a statement yesterday, according to the Star-Ledger:

“After the master closing for our Brooklyn transaction this fall,” Yormark said in a statement, “we may consider an agreement to play our home games at the Prudential Center through the time we move to our new home in Brooklyn in the 2011-12 NBA season."

In other words, it's all negotiable, as I've written before.


But even if the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority and the operators of The Rock--the Devils and AEG-come to an agreement, they have to convince local legislators, and several prominent ones are wary, according to The Record's John Brennan.

As State Senate President Richard Codey pointed out, if the Nets move to Newark only briefly then the bargain doesn't look too good:

“What everyone is forgetting is that the Nets, themselves, determine their fate,” Codey said. “We’ll find out in a month or so if they’re going to get an arena in Brooklyn. If not, they might go anywhere — St. Louis, Kansas City, Seattle? And the deal doesn’t work for the Devils unless they have the Nets [longterm].”

So, add another endgame to the endgame. If the Brooklyn project moves ahead, Yormark and the Nets likely would want Newark as an interim home.

If the Brooklyn move dies, then the Nets are in play, with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov (likely) off the scene, and the team's future--even for the 2010-11 season--unclear.


Maybe Newark boosters are trying to figure out how--longshot--they could get Prokhorov to stick with the purchase--despite promises the deal's on only with the move--even if the Brooklyn move dies.

Though Newark ain't NYC, the idea is not without logic, or so I speculate. Prokhorov has $9.5 billion, so much that he could lose tens of a millions of dollars a year with no pain. The scarce commodity is an NBA team, wherever it's located.

A footnote on Brett Yormark's favorite interviewer, Alexis Glick

In case you're wondering about Alexis Glick, the Fox Business News host who so enthusiastically interviews Nets CEO Brett Yormark, well, the New York Observer reports, in an article headlined In Recession, Money Honeys Get Company From Grumpy Old Dudes:

WHEN MS. [Sandra] SMITH started at FBN two years ago, she was part of a crowded class of up-and-coming go-getters (Alexis Glick, Jenna Lee, Cody Willard, Nicole Petallides, Connell McShane and on and on) who were all of a type. This crowd, predominantly female, was full of fresh-faced, forward-looking optimism, and seemingly engineered by FBN chief Roger Ailes to ride effortlessly from one market high to the next and look damn good doing it

Posted by steve at 9:37 AM

The NBA x Newark: Enjoy it While You Can

Fake Hustle

This is a fan's photo essay of experiences visiting Newark's Prudential center to see the Nets vs. the Knicks. Near the end of the blog entry are despairing words about the chances of the Nets remaining in Newark.

Wrapping things up, having the Nets in Newark would really bring interest back in the waning franchise. But the NBA Lords don’t want that to happen so it’s just a pipe dream for now. Meanwhile, the people aren’t clamoring for the Barclays Center or Atlantic Yards. On another note, the traffic heading into the game was pretty bad even for Newark. Atlantic Avenue would easily be worse should people dare to drive in to the Barclays. Then again that’s why I suppose they’re building it right next to Atlantic Ave-Pacific St. Station. Oh well, it was great while it’s lasted. Now I just have to wait until spring when the league will take my team away.

NoLandGrab: Nobody can say right now what the outcome of the fight against Atlantic Yards will be. Maybe the Nets will find themselves permanently in Newark.

Posted by steve at 9:26 AM

GAME P-7: Nets 110, Sixers 88

The Star Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

Near the bottom of this article about the performance of the Nets in pre-season play is this mention of the team playing in Newark. The move to Newark is presented as an interim move until an arena is built in Brooklyn, but looks suspiciously like a "Plan B" should those plans fall through.

If you missed it, Brett Yormark made his first official confirmation about the team’s willingness to play in Newark as the Atlantic Yards project is being built.

“After the master closing for our Brooklyn transaction this fall,” he said, “we may consider an agreement to play our home games at the Prudential Center through the time we move to our new home in Brooklyn in the 2011-12 NBA season.”

Right. You already knew that, but he just figured you needed to hear it.


Posted by steve at 9:06 AM

Affordable? U.N. Puts a Questioning Eye on New York’s Housing

The New York Times
By Mike Reicher

Everybody knows New York City is an expensive place to live. But the United Nations wants to know if affordable housing is so tough to come by that it actually violates human rights.

The United Nations has assigned an official, “a special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing,” to check the city’s affordable housing. The rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, is to tour the city for the next three days with housing advocates and city officials to “hear the voices of those who are suffering on the ground,” she said.


Housing advocates will be taking Ms. Rolnik to the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn to see the results of the government’s use of eminent domain to seize property; to the New York City Housing Authority’s Grant Houses in Harlem to see how public housing residents live; and to the Bronx to meet residents whose landlords are in foreclosure.


NoLandGrab: "rapporteur - One who is designated to give a report, as at a meeting." Yeah, I never heard of that word before, either.

So, did UN "special rapporteur" on housing visit Atlantic Yards site? Not quite

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder adds clarity to this story.

So, is the United Nations "special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing," a Brazilian urban planning professor who's briefly visiting New York, actually going to see the Atlantic Yards site?


Actually, no. I called around and learned that Rolnik this afternoon is learning about displacement and gentrification issues in and near Downtown Brooklyn from her host, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE). But she has no time to visit the AY site.

The City Room post did not make it clear whether the host was a housing advocacy group like ACORN, which favors the project, or a group like FUREE or the Fifth Avenue Committee, which oppose or criticize the project.


A fact sheet prepared by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative for Rolnik's visit shows a critical stance toward AY:

Eminent Domain and Predatory Development
Developer Forest City Ratner is constructing 16 skyscrapers and a $950 million sports arena in the Prospect Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Besides relying heavily on the use of taxpayer subsidies, the Atlantic Yards project extensively utilized eminent domain, which allows the state of New York to seize private properties, homes and businesses, and transfer them to commercial developers.

Actually, eminent domain is planned but not actually used.

And maybe it's for the best that Rolnik didn't get to focus on Atlantic Yards. The housing issue would require her, for example, to sort out ACORN's role. That has flummoxed the New York Times, which has a lot more time to devote to it, and led some housing advocates to strain in ACORN's defense.

Posted by steve at 8:49 AM

October 23, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere...

Runnin' Scared, Meadowlands to Swap Nets to Newark for Concerts?

Neil DeMause follows up on the latest Nets-to-Newark developments.

Rumors of the Nets moving to Newark to join the Devils are as old as Jason Kidd's knees, but hoops-by-the-Ironbound may finally be a reality, as early as next season. After the Newark Star-Ledger reported yesterday that unnamed team sources were saying the Nets would consider a temporary relocation to Newark while awaiting their new Brooklyn digs, today's Bergen Record followed up with actual quotes from a real person — or as real as you believe "New Jersey's economic czar" to be — saying that talks are underway between the state and the Devils to ease a Nets move.

This could help solve what's a potentially huge and underreported issue for the two Jersey arenas: How to handle the arena glut that is suddenly afflicting the tristate area now that the Pru (or The Rock or whatever cloying nickname you prefer to its official corporate moniker) has joined the Meadowlands and MSG as a local venue, and which will only worsen if the Nets' Brooklyn arena ever gets off the ground.

The bigger question on everyone's lips, meanwhile, is likely to be: Would this really be a temporary move, or is it a signal from Nets owner Bruce Ratner that he's backing away from his Brooklyn dreams?

NoLandGrab: It would appear that a Newark move, even on an interim basis, would help the Nets' bottom line, especially if the state waives the relocation fee. However, to DeMause's last point above, the Nets have sworn up and down that they wouldn't play in Newark, even as a stop-over.

Gothamist, Russian Billionaire Thirsts For Expensive Wine, Mediocre Basketball

What better to follow up a meeting with a handful of NBA owners than a $19,000 lunch? That’s right, nothing, which is why Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who is looking to purchase the floundering New Jersey Nets and bring then into Brooklyn, stopped into Nello on the Upper East Side Wednesday with a few friends, the Post reported.

Their check included $825 for three orders of truffle tagliolini; $600 for four orders of truffle carpaccio; $210 for three orders of veal chops with mushrooms; and $72 for six large waters. Yes, $72 for six large waters.

The award for best blog comment goes to NannyState:

"Note to Ratner: if you want top dollar for your shitty team, just roll them in truffles."

MultifamilyInvestor, Down Goes Tishman: The Top 5 Repercussions of the Stuyvesant Town Decision

New York State's Court of Appeals just ruled that Stuyvesant Town landlord Tishman Speyer owes tenants more than $200 million in rent rebates. Might Tishman seek an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court?

The best theory in my mind invokes the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment: Private property shall not be taken for a public use, without just compensation. The owners can advance the novel argument that their money, and the value of their buildings, are being taken from them without being properly compensated. It’s a long shot, but with so much money on the line, somebody could turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse. An interesting and unintended consequence might create unlikely bedfellows: Both owners who support this argument, and detractors of the Atlantic Yards project cloak themselves in the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Opponents of Atlantic Yards have protested the project in part because the City of New York has invoked eminent domain to take private property for a developer.

NetsDaily, Deal Close to Put Nets in Newark Next Season

The Record reports the Devils and the NJSEA are close to a deal that would divide up entertainment and sports events between the Prudential and IZOD centers, sending the Nets to “The Rock” and major concerts to the IZOD. Under the deal, which has yet to be finalized, the Nets would move to Newark for the 2010-11 season and stay until Barclays Center opens, presumably in 2012. The Nets had no comment on the report.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 10/23/09 EDITION

The NBA expect to vote on Mikhail Prokhorov’s ownership stake in the Nets before the end of the year.

Prokhorov is a big-time spender. The NY Post also spies on his eating habits.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Not Everyone's a Fan

Yesterday we expressed our thanks to the Village Voice for its recognition of our work-and that of this blog-on behalf of small business, But not everyone is a fan, and the Atlantic Yards blog responded to the award with the following riposte: "WTF? Can't the Voice look beyond his SAT words--words the press should know--and consider the contradictions: NYC Lobbyist Search shows (click on graphic to enlarge) Lipsky working for Willets Point United and Tuck-It-Away, which are fighting eminent domain in Willets Point and West Harlem, respectively, while working for the Atlantic Yards Development Company and Forest City Ratner, which are hoping to gain from eminent domain in Prospect Heights."

Our good friend Norman Oder is upset because the Voice didn't go into a greater in-depth evaluation of our record? What the AY foes fail to realize, is that their fight over the Ratner project is not the sine qua non of deciding whether someone deserves either credit or opprobrium-and, if it's more in-depth analysis that they're looking for, well, there simply isn't enough room to detail all that we've done for small businesses over the past 28 years.

NLG: No one really cares who gives what award to whom, but Richard Lipsky likely will never acknowledge that his shilling for Atlantic Yards does a detriment to the small businesses he otherwise ably promotes. Lipsky's AY blind spot is clearly as big as his wallet.

Interactive Journalism, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn hosts Walkathon against Atlantic Yards

The roughly two hundred protesters marched for more than two miles through the neighborhoods that will be affected by the arena.

Cafe Habana & Habana Outpost, $40,000 Raised in DDDB Walkathon!

Yup, the walk-a-thon was a great success, almost 200 people marched through Brooklyn that day marking the fifth annual walk to raise funds for their lawsuit against the Atlantic Yards development.

March on Brooklyn, march on..!

NLG: We should note that Cafe Habana/Habana Outpost owner (and DDDB Advisory Board member) Sean Meenan contributed generously to the Walkathon's success.

Posted by eric at 4:07 PM

Development, Displacement, Leisure: Capital and Community Interests

This came our way via the NYC Grassroots Media Coalition:

"DEVELOPMENT, DISPLACEMENT, LEISURE: Capital and Community Interests"
Co-sponsored by the NYC Grassroots Media Coalition, Red Channels and Paper Tiger Television

When: Monday, October 26, 2009 at 7:30pm
Where: Brecht Forum, 451 West Street (Btwn Bank & Bethune), (212) 242- 4201
How much: Suggested donation of $6 - $15, with no one turned away.

Film Screening:
The Case Against Lincoln Center - Newsreel, 1968, 12 mins
Rezoning Harlem - Natasha Florentino & Tamara Gubernat, 2008, 40 minutes
Brooklyn Boondoggle - Meerkat Media Collective, 2009, 11 minutes
The Right to the City - Paper Tiger Television/IndyVideo, 2009, 28 minutes
Total Running Time: 91 minutes | Digital Projection

"Brooklyn Boondoggle" explores the highly controversial Atlantic Yards project, questions the trend of top-down urban development and asks, what if we were allowed to decide the future of our own neighborhoods?

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

Prudential Center, Izod Center truce appears imminent

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

Front-page news from the Bergen Record.

A truce between the Meadowlands’ Izod Center and the Prudential Center in Newark appears to be imminent — and if the deal is signed, it could have the Nets moving to Newark next fall for two seasons (or more) and the Izod Center becoming the long-term concert and family show mecca for North Jersey.

Carl Goldberg, chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, and Jerry Zaro — Governor Corzine’s economic czar — confirmed Thursday that they have been meeting for four months, at Corzine’s insistence, with Devils chief owner Jeff Vanderbeek to complete such a deal.

Those talks also have included Nets chief executive Brett Yormark in recent weeks.

Zaro said détente between the arenas is critical.

“You can’t have two venues that close together fighting each other and have that be productive for the state,” Zaro said. “The governor recognized that this was going to be a festering wound.

One wonders how having arenas in Manhattan and Brooklyn fighting each other won't become a similar "festering wound."

The Nets’ franchise is in a critical moment in its history. The team needs to win a ruling in the New York State Court of Appeals next month and sell at least $600 million in bonds for Barclays Center construction, while also breaking ground in Brooklyn before year’s end — when a crucial Internal Revenue Service tax loophole will expire. Failing any of the three, the Nets’ tentative transfer of ownership to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov would be off, and the franchise could be up for sale to the highest bidder nationwide.

If the Nets fail to move to Brooklyn, the franchise may be more attractive to local bidders if a deal to move to Newark already is in place.


Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

Atlantic Yards critic turns conciliatory

Boro Politics
by Stephen Witt

Hakeem Jeffries has of course clarified his position, but that didn't make it into the story until the seventh paragraph, nor, obviously, into the headline. Meanwhile...

[Assemblyman Nick] Perry, who represents East Flatbush, Canarsie and Brownsville, said he remains mostly supportive with some reservations about the project.

“If we can get this project off the ground it would benefit all of Brooklyn in tough economic times,” said Perry of the letter. “We just want to make sure our expectations abide to it [the CBA] and even go beyond it. We have an obligation to keep their feet to the fire.”

Perry said he does not turn a deaf ear to Atlantic Yards critics, but feels their concerns can be worked out.


NoLandGrab: We admire Perry's altruism when it comes to the CBA, since the community he represents is about two-and-a-half miles from the Atlantic Yards footprint at its nearest point. As for working out our concerns, sure, we expect that to happen any day now.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

At PHNDC meeting, Jeffries says meeting with governor needed, ombudsman not empowered; Adams invokes security (and Jeffries says feds should weigh in)

Atlantic Yards Report

Three local elected officials appeared last night at a meeting of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC), and the Atlantic Yards news came not from City Council Member Letitia James (speaking at left), who barely mentioned the project, noting that her position was well-known.

Rather, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and state Senator Eric Adams, two elected officials somewhat critical of AY but--unlike James--have not stood with project opponents in protests and lawsuits, offered some clarification of their positions.

Notably, Jeffries said he and other local elected officials seek a meeting with the state's leaders to discuss Atlantic Yards; that he didn't have editorial control of a seemingly pro-AY letter he signed; that the federal Department of Homeland Security, not just the New York Police Department, should advise on security issues; and that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had not empowered its own AY ombudsman to do the job.

Adams added that the history of a failed terrorist attack at the Atlantic Avenue terminal made a careful security review imperative, which means he can't endorse the project at this time.

(Adams and Jeffries, among others, have called for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement, which was rejected.)

Click thru for much more detail, including video clips of the meeting.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

The Brooklyn Paper, under new ownership, buffs Ratner's reputation in an editorial and blames only the state

Atlantic Yards Report

What a difference a new owner makes.

The Brooklyn Paper editorializes this week that State must keep Ratner on hook for affordable housing, but blames only the state, not the developer.

Looking back

When the Brooklyn Paper was independently owned, before the purchase earlier this year by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group, the editorial stand was a wee bit tougher.

Click thru for a look back at the good ol' days, pre-Rupert Murdoch.


NoLandGrab: There is a school of thought that says that Ratner is just doing what he's supposed to be doing — trying to maximize profit — and that government is responsible for representing the public interest, a task at which they're failing miserably. However, the press, too, has a watchdog role, and giving Ratner a pass is another miserable failure.

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

NBA seems OK with Nets playing in Newark for now

AP via Yahoo! Sports
by Brian Mahoney

The NBA doesn’t seem likely to stand in the way if the New Jersey Nets decide to move their home games to Newark.

The Star-Ledger reported Thursday that the Nets were considering playing regular-season games at the Prudential Center while an arena is being built in Brooklyn, as long as they don’t have to pay an $8 million penalty to get out of their lease at the Meadowlands.

“Where they play is their decision, subject to approval, but there’s no reason why we wouldn’t approve them playing games in a beautiful new arena,” NBA commissioner David Stern said.

Stern said he hasn’t had any direct conversation with the Nets, but was aware of the report of a potential move.

“It’s theirs to decide where, as they get ready to move to Brooklyn, where they play,” Stern said. “We don’t have a preference, it would be guided by their preference.”

Stern said NBA owners could vote to approve the sale by the end of the year. Even if the Nets play in Newark and are successful there, Stern is still convinced they will end up in Brooklyn, saying Prokhorov “intends to be an owner of the Brooklyn Nets and nothing else.”


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

Nets Sale On Agenda Of N.B.A. Owners

The New York Times
by Howard Beck

The proposed sale of a controlling stake in the Nets to a Russian billionaire will be put to a vote of N.B.A. owners by the end of the year, according to Commissioner David Stern, who spoke positively Thursday about the deal.

Prokhorov met with a subcommittee of owners Wednesday, during the league’s board of governors meeting in Midtown Manhattan. Stern described it as a “robust and lively discussion” that focused on Prokhorov’s rise from stevedore to blue-jeans salesman to banker to metals investor to billionaire.

It was Prokhorov’s first face-to-face meeting with his prospective future partners.

Stern made the deal sound almost like a given when he said, “We’re looking forward to the completion of that transaction.”

Although the league’s background check is continuing, “we haven’t surfaced anything that would cause us to have a negative opinion of him,” Stern said. “But we’re not finished.”


NoLandGrab: Unless the vetting turns up evidence of drug-running or war crimes (and we doubt they're looking all that hard), you can bet that the NBA will be thrilled to swap Bruce Ratner for Proko.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Nets eye return to Newark Prudential Center for home games

NY Daily News
by Julian Garcia

The Nets may make a pit stop in Newark on their way to Brooklyn.

After a pair of preseason games at the Prudential Center in Newark this month drew an average of 14,255 fans, Nets officials are considering having the team play its regular-season home games there instead of the Izod Center in East Rutherford, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported yesterday. The change would not occur until next season.

The Nets' lease at the Meadowlands runs through 2013 and they can opt out at any time to move to Brooklyn. However, they would have to pay pay an $8 million penalty in order to move to Newark. Unless the state waived that penalty, going to Newark is unlikely.

A spokesperson for Nets owner Bruce Ratner and CEO Brett Yormark said yesterday that they would have no comment regarding the possible temporary relocation.


NoLandGrab: Whaddya know? Nets' CEO Brett Yormark is on record as saying both that pre-season games in Newark wouldn't happen and that playing regular-season games there "is of no interest to us."

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

Nets buyer & pals hoop it up

Q: How much does a Russian billionaire spend on lunch in NYC? A: 19G!

NY Post
by Rich Calder

The planned Nets arena in Brooklyn might be a net economic loser, but the team's prospective owner might just make up for it.

Russia's richest man blew the equivalent of 552,000 rubles for lunch at one of the city's priciest restaurants as he celebrated his soon-to-be new career as a basketball baron, sources told The Post.

Billionaire playboy Mikhail Prokhorov, who is close to buying the Nets, took a half-dozen comrades to Nello on the Upper East Side Wednesday afternoon, following a meeting with NBA owners.

He concluded that they had hit it off so well, he'll have no trouble getting them to approve his plan to buy the team.

The tab and tip totaled close to $19,000 for Prokhorov and his pals.


NoLandGrab: Is there something about this guy that seems just a little too good to be true for Bruce Ratner and the NBA?

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

October 22, 2009

State must keep Ratner on hook for affordable housing

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

The nine words in the Sept. 17 Empire State Development Corporation staff memo defy all previous agreements made between [Bruce] Ratner and the state about the developer’s requirement to include a sizeable number of below-market-rate units in the mega-project.

Previously, those units were an iron-clad promise. Now, according to the new language, the affordable housing is merely “subject to governmental authorities making available … affordable housing subsidies.”

Make no mistake: Ratner has always said that he would build the 2,250 rental units with the help of taxpayers, who pay for those housing subsidies as part of a larger goal of keeping the city affordable and its neighborhoods comprised of families of mixed incomes.

Of course, we are confident that a developer of Ratner’s reputation will make good on his prior promises to build the affordable units, which gave the project virtually all of its political support.


NoLandGrab: It's impossible to tell if whomever wrote the Brooklyn Paper's editorial was smirking or rolling his or her eyes when writing that last paragraph, but as far as we're concerned, Bruce Ratner's reputation is the precise reason why we've never trusted a thing about the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 11:24 PM

Your 2 Cents: Daniel Goldstein Of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

NY1 News


NY1 VIDEO: Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn offers his take on the mayor's urban development policy in "Your 2 Cents," a series of on-camera, unedited guest editorials delivered by prominent New Yorkers.


Posted by eric at 4:27 PM

NJ Sports and Exposition Authority Must Not Release Nets from Lease

$8 Million Penalty for Breaking Long-Term Lease Should Stand

Press Release
NJ State Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39)

Bruce Ratner isn't the only one afraid of the Nets playing in Newark.

“It would be disturbing if Governor Corzine considers allowing the Nets to move from the Meadowlands to Newark without fulfilling its contractual obligation to the Izod Center. The Nets signed the contract with the Izod Center and should be held to the terms of that contract.

“The state must stop playing these two world class arenas against each other and forge an agreement that would ensure that both venues are profitable. Additionally, with the Nets project at Atlantic Yards seemingly tied up by endless eminent domain lawsuits, perhaps the New Jersey Nets should consider adding New Jersey back to their road uniforms.”


Posted by eric at 4:23 PM

It came from the Atlantic Yards Report

For first game, Nets slash ticket and concession prices 50%--plus free M&Ms

Norman Oder, who attended last week's Nets debut in Newark, just got an email from Nets point guard Devin Harris:

I wanted to thank you for coming out to our preseason game at the Prudential Center. As the season begins, it is important that we get off to a great start and now more than ever my teammates and I need the support of fans like you.

That's why I'm bringing you this 50% Off Discount when you use Offer Code THANKS for tickets to our opening night game against Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, and the Orlando Magic on October 30th at 8pm. You will also be receiving free schedule magnets, free M&M's after the game, and 50% off all hot foods, candy, select beverages at the concession stands.

Mark your calendars: next ESDC board meeting is November 19

From an Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) press release:

The next meeting of the Board of Directors will tentatively be held on November 19, 2009 at a location to be announced closer to the time of the event.

Now I can't be certain that is when the ESDC will announce and approve final leases, contracts, and other documentation regarding Atlantic Yards, but that's probably the earliest potential date. As for the arena bonds, the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) has to meet, as well.

Posted by eric at 4:03 PM

It came from Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White seems to have caught a case of Oderitis.

Owning Name Rights to Landmark Public Property. The City Behaves Inconsistently: Tavern on the Green vs. Nets Arena to Be Named Barclays

On a present value basis the value of all the name rights the city and MTA (and Empire State Development Corporation) are letting Ratner walk away with are worth about $375 million. According to the city’s complaint against the LeRoy family, the trademark for the Tavern on the Green name (with an “estimated value of $19 million”) was “‘obtained fraudulently and without the city’s `knowledge or permission’ in 1981.”

Without the city’s “knowledge or permission”? Well maybe the best way to rob the city blind is to do it right in front of the city’s face the way Ratner did.

Comment On What Is Going on With Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries: Two Things We Hope He Remembers

In the comment the assemblyman has issued available on Atlantic Yards Report Mr. Jeffries has already indicated he has not forgotten Atlantic Yards’ abuse of eminent domain.

Two other things we hope Jeffries knows should be remembered:

1.) The housing portion of the community benefit agreement provides substantially no benefit and should be considered a fraud upon the community.

2.) The mega-monopoly needs to be broken up into parcels that will be distributed by bid to multiple developers replacing Forest City Ratner.

This Is Rich! Looks Like Bloomberg is Making History.

Mr. Morrone mentions that Teddy Roosevelt ran for mayor. Teddy Roosevelt may have been wealthy (and he didn’t get to be mayor when he ran- he came in third) but we remember Teddy as a reformer. We remember Teddy as the “trustbuster” who didn’t believe in monopolies (including the sugar trust). But whose side is Bloomberg on? One pretty good indication: Bloomberg is a man who fights for monopolies like Atlantic Yards that are disastrously draining our dwindling public coffers.

Posted by eric at 3:52 PM

Newspapers Already Receive Subsidies

Reason Hit & Run
by Matt Welch

God Bless America — and subsidies!

And–never forget!–the aformentioned New York Times HQ was one of the more brazen examples you'll find of corporatism in the name of the little guy. From my 2005 column about it:

On September 24, 2001, as New York firefighters were still picking their comrades' body parts out of the World Trade Center wreckage, New York Times Co. Vice Chairman and Senior Vice President Michael Golden announced that the Gray Lady was ready to do its part in the healing.

"We believe there could not be a greater contribution," Golden told a clutch of city officials and journalists, "than to have the opportunity to start construction of the first major icon building in New York City after the tragic events of Sept. 11." Bruce Ratner, president of the real estate development company working with the Times on its proposed new Eighth Avenue headquarters, called the project a "very important testament to our values, culture and democratic ideals."

Those "values" and "democratic ideals" included using eminent domain to forcibly evict 55 businesses--including a trade school, a student housing unit, a Donna Karan outlet, and several mom-and-pop stores--against their will, under the legal cover of erasing "blight," in order to clear ground for a 52-story skyscraper. The Times and Ratner, who never bothered making an offer to the property owners, bought the Port Authority adjacent property at a steep discount ($85 million) from a state agency that seized the 11 buildings on it; should legal settlements with the original tenants exceed that amount, taxpayers will have to make up the difference. On top of that gift, the city and state offered the Times $26 million in tax breaks for the project, and Ratner even lobbied to receive $400 million worth of U.S. Treasury backed Liberty Bonds--instruments created by Congress to help rebuild Lower Manhattan. Which is four miles away.


NoLandGrab: Given this context, it's not so surprising that word of last week's Atlantic Yards eminent domain hearing never made it into the pages of The Times.

Posted by eric at 3:46 PM

Russian's positive Net result

NY Post
by Edmund DeMarche and Rich Calder

If first impressions mean anything, Russian billionaire playboy Mikhail Prokhorov’s attempt to become majority owner of the New Jersey Nets and move them to Brooklyn appears to be a slam dunk.

Russia’s richest man won over many NBA owners last night at the St. Regis Hotel in Midtown during his inaugural meeting with league brass about his plans to buy 80 percent stake in the Nets from developer Bruce Ratner, a source said.

"Everyone seemed excited over the love he has of basketball and the unlimited amount of money he can inject into the game," the source said of the closed-door session. "He can also do a lot to boost the presence of Eastern European talent in the league."


NoLandGrab: Given the success of Bruce Ratner's ownership regime, Bernie Madoff would've jazzed the other NBA owners.

Posted by eric at 3:40 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gothamist, Nets May Move to Newark While Awaiting Mythical Brooklyn Arena

John Del Signore has a good round-up of the latest Nets news.

Two preseason games at the Prudential Center in Newark have been so highly attended that the Nets are considering moving there from the Meadowlands while they wait for a new home in Brooklyn. An October 13th preseason game against the Celtics drew 12,790 fans to the Prudential Center, three times the the size of a typical preseason crowd at the Meadowlands' Izod Center. Then, a game against the Knicks drew 15,721. Those are nice numbers, but getting out of their lease could cost Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner millions.

The Nets' lease with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority runs through 2013. If the team is moving to Brooklyn, it can opt out of the lease without penalties. But decamping to Newark would incur an $8 million penalty, which Ratner is hoping the state will waive. On the other hand, insiders tell the Star-Ledger that Ratner "is reluctant to leave the Izod Center because a move to Newark could undermine the Brooklyn plans."

NoLandGrab: Staying at the Izod Center and losing a million dollars a week could undermine those plans, too. Damned if Bruce does, damned if he doesn't.


In sports, players or coaches will often tip their hats to an electric home crowd, referring to them as the 10th or 13th man on the field. But how often does an otherwise jilted fanbase come together to send a collective message to ownership about the state of their franchise? And how often does that message get sent in games that don’t actually count in the standings and are played in a city that’s not even technically considered “home field?”

With an estimated crowd of about 16,000 fans at last night’s Nets-Knicks preseason matchup at the Prudential Center in Newark, and about 13,000 fans the week before when the Nets played the Celtics at “The Rock,” fans of the “New Jersey” Nets appeared to be sending a message to those who wish to move the franchise away from the Izod Center in East Rutherford to a brand-new arena in Brooklyn: Consider Newark. And maybe, just maybe, if Brooklyn falls through, there’s a way to find your way back here. ...

There is still love in New Jersey for the Nets – especially in Newark – despite the past six year’s of drama that has seen ownership trade away its star players, dismantle its roster, switch architects to lessen costs, fight lawsuit after lawsuit, and seek help from a Russian oligarch with a checkered past. All in the name in Brooklyn.

Slam Dunk Central, Nets Liking The Prudential Center

The Nets’ lease with the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority runs until 2013; the team can opt out at just about any time as long as they’re moving to Brooklyn.

Team owner Bruce Ratner seems to be hesitant about a temporary move to Newark from their current home (The Izod Center), perhaps of his preconceived notion that the move would undermine plans for the relocation to Brooklyn and give New York state officials the impression that they’re playing one side against another.

NLG: NYS officials don't take kindly to competition, as Extell Development Corp. can attest.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, The Day: Fine Print Finally Read

New language “quietly inserted” last month into a lease proposal between the Empire State Development Corporation and AY developer Forest City Ratner appears to give Forest City a possible escape route from having to build the thousands of units of affordable housing that gave the project much of its political traction.

The 2,250 units of affordable housing are now required in the project “subject to governmental authorities making available” affordable housing subsidies.

This shifting of the ground, and the claim that it is illegal, is in fact one of the main prongs of the latest lawsuit against Atlantic Yards, filed on Monday.

Posted by eric at 2:44 PM

A Pileup of Lawsuits Slams Atlantic Yards

The Huffington Post
by Daniel Goldstein

There is some misinformation making the rounds out there about the legal fight against developer Bruce Ratner's hugely controversial Atlantic Yards development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

The misinformation has intentionally, and unsurprisingly, been spread by Ratner and the state's top business agency the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). They claim that they've "won 25 cases" and editorial boards such as The News's pick it up as gospel truth.

It's a lie.

Obviously team Ratner's point is to imply that the opposition movement against Atlantic Yards litigates frivolously.


Our adversaries' attorneys have never charged such a thing because there is no legal argument for it. No court has ever ruled that way. That's because our lawsuits have stood on firm legal and constitutional grounds.

What is the public to do when the democratic, political process governing development in New York City is bypassed entirely for the largest development proposal in Brooklyn's history, which was a fixed deal from day one? Who is to blame for litigation when legal corners are continually cut, laws violated and provocative private sector tactics go unchecked, or worse, are applauded by politicians. Where are the charges of frivolity when it comes to Ratner's, Bloomberg's and Paterson's hardheaded goal of building the most expensive arena in history, in the middle of a recession and housing crisis, especially when that taxpayer-subsidized arena would be a money loser for New York City?


Posted by eric at 1:07 PM


Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder hands out two Atlantic Yards caveats (and one "WTF"), currently marring the records of two Village Voice Best Ofs:

An asterisk attached to the Village Voice's praise for Richard Lipsky: what about the contradictions?

The Village Voice's Best of NYC 2009 issue honors Richard Lipsky as the Best Small-Business Lobbyist.

*Lipsky the lobbyist is usually found on the steps of City Hall: He's the guy in the suit, with a shock of dark hair and a brush mustache gone gray, talking nonstop into a cell-phone device in his ear. In a city where lobbyists get paid big bucks to whisper quietly to influential politicians, Richard Lipsky will have none of it.... Victims who can attest to the sharpness of his bite include the likes of Wal-Mart—defeated three times in its bid to find sites for giant local box stores. Another un-lobbyist-like tool is his nonstop blog—cloyingly dubbed "momandpopnyc.com" [actually momandpopnyc.blogspot.com]—which regularly takes journalists to task on subjects ranging from Israel to school testing. He may also be the only lobbyist now working City Hall to hold a Ph.D., which he sometimes can't help showing off: His blog posts often include words like "avidity"—which he knows the press corps will have to look up.

WTF? Can't the Voice look beyond his SAT words--words the press should know--and consider the contradictions: NYC Lobbyist Search shows (click on graphic to enlarge) Lipsky working for Willets Point United and Tuck-It-Away, which are fighting eminent domain in Willets Point and West Harlem, respectively, while working for the Atlantic Yards Development Company and Forest City Ratner, which are hoping to gain from eminent domain in Prospect Heights.

And while Lipsky is fighting big box stores, he's helping ease them in while working for FC East River Associates, which is developing East River Plaza in East Harlem.

An asterisk attached to the Village Voice's praise for Richard Brodsky: what about Atlantic Yards?

The Village Voice's Best of NYC 2009 issue honors Richard Brodsky as the Best Assembly Mouth That Roars.

If Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky could run for office in New York City, Mike Bloomberg's brazen bid for a third term might really be on the ropes. Back in January, Brodsky—a 27-year veteran Assemblyman—gave the Bloomberg administration its toughest case of conniptions yet when he released a series of startlingly embarrassing e-mails between top city aides and lawyers for the New York Yankees in their negotiations over the new gold-plated stadium. At the time, the city was getting ready to hand the Yankees another $370 million in tax-free bonds, in addition to the $1 billion it had already provided. But Brodsky, the ever-innovative chairman of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions, started digging, and came up with a treasure trove of e-mails back and forth between Bloomie's bureaucrats and Yankees lawyers. Turned out the big fight wasn't over how much to give the world's richest sports franchise, but whether or not the Spankees were going to give the city its own special luxury stadium box—plus food! Brodsky subpoenaed some very unhappy Yankees brass and city bigs to testify before him and Brooklyn Assemblyman James Brennan. The show was every bit as good as a Yankees–Red Sox face-off. Brodsky, who has been shining his legislative light into the dark corners of everything from the MTA to Indian Point for years, singlehandedly disproves the claim that no one in Albany knows how to legislate.

Sure, Brodsky has done yeoman work on Yankee Stadium and, more importantly, led the charge for yet-unresolved reform of public authorities.

But his Yankee Stadium investigation came after the fact, generating many headlines but relatively little impact on the new stadium and its funding.

Meanwhile, faced with a pending and similar funding plan for the Atlantic Yards arena, Brodsky has kept his distance, in August saying, "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."

Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

The Village Voice, Most Disgruntled Business Owner: Nick Sprayregen

New Yorkers are a generally disgruntled bunch. We live in a city where it's impossible to avoid stepping on someone else's toes, and the mere act of breathing can set a neighbor off. But even in this perturbed crowd, no one's irritation approaches that of Nick Sprayregen. The feisty and handsomely rich owner of Tuck-it-Away Self-Storage, a 300,000-square-foot warehouse off 125th Street, has achieved minor fame as the last landlord left in the footprint of Columbia University's West Harlem expansion. As Columbia has moved to fulfill its manifest destiny, taking over 17 acres of land and buying out or relocating hundreds of tenants and property owners over the past four years, Sprayregen refused to budge from his location. When Columbia declared the area officially "blighted" (a ruling that cleared the way for the granting of eminent domain), Sprayregen got his lawyer to produce hundreds of documents—obtained through the Freedom of Information Act—charging that the blight study was a rigged deal between Columbia and the state. For nearly six years, he has been fighting Columbia with every available tool, writing op-eds in the New York Post, hiring a lobbyist, and starting blogs with names like My Land Is Mine. You gotta hand it to the guy: The lawsuits have personally cost him over a million dollars, and it's a fight he may never be able to win. Columbia has hired more lobbyists and has easily outspent him, but the relentless Sprayregen presses on.

Traditional Building, Your Building, Too, Could Be Declared ‘Blight’

To most of us, “urban blight” means abandoned buildings, broken windows, and rubble-strewn vacant lots. But a number of other, seemingly minor, things can cause a property to be declared “blight” under existing law. One of the most surprising blight factors is “underutilization.”

An official “Blight Study” can be a devastating tool in the hands of the state – especially when it wants to seize private property for a politically favored project. A cynical architect friend of mine, wise in the ways of urban development, declared: “Show me an urban block – any block – and I can write a report that will show that it is “blighted.”

This reality became painfully clear to a group of us who have been trying to block an obscenely over-scaled $4-billion mega-development that a private developer – allied with politically powerful forces in New York State – has been trying to impose on brownstone Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 7:44 AM


The Brooklyn Paper

In addition, a lawsuit from BrooklynSpeaks coalition members, including the Park Slope Civic Council, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Boerum Hill Association, is expected any day now.

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

Pinsky Stays Upbeat Despite Construction Slump

By Cody Lyon

Speaking to reporters at an event hosted by the New York Building Congress, Seth Pinsky, president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, remained "optimistic" about Bruce Ratner's subsidy-sucking, eminent domain-abusing, lawsuit-laden, new-n-approved Atlantic Yards overdevelopment project:

Then, onto Brooklyn and another case of stall at the lawsuit-laden Atlantic Yards standoff. In response to a question from GlobeSt.com, Pinsky said, “another lawsuit is easy to file, but less easy to win.” He says his agency is working very hard with the developers and the state to get the project’s details in order.

“We remain hopeful they’ll be able to make it to the financing market before the end of the year, but, this is a tricky project,” he told GlobeSt.com Wednesday. “And, until everything is in place, you don’t that it will be in place, but, we remain optimistic and we hope the project will in fact move forward.”.

When pressed with what happens if the lawsuits do work, and there is a successful delay of the project’s successful trip to the financing markets, Pinsky stood pat, saying “we think this project is going to move forward, and that’s what we’re planning for.”


Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

New state-Ratner deal has ‘clause’ for concern

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kutzman

The Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman scrutinizes the dirty little secret about Bruce Ratner's new-n-approved deal with NY State:

State development officials are drafting a new deal with Bruce Ratner that will give the Atlantic Yards developer a loophole out of the project’s main selling point: thousands of units of affordable housing.

New language quietly inserted into a Sept. 17 lease proposal between the Empire State Development Corporation and the Downtown-based developer now make the construction of the long-promised 2,250 units of below-market-rate housing “subject to governmental authorities making available … affordable housing subsidies.”

None of the prior agreements — including two approved general project plans as well as the Community Benefits Agreement that Ratner signed four years ago with several local groups — made the affordable housing conditional on any state or local support. Ratner was required to build the units whether subsidies were available or not.

And such subsidies are in very short supply.
If anyone should be upset about the change in language, it should be Bertha Lewis, ACORN’s chief organizer, [Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Candace] Carponter suggested. But under the agreement, ACORN and Lewis are contractually barred from saying anything negative about the project, and, as such, both maintained their optimism this week.


Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

NJ Nets warming to the idea of a move to the Prudential Center

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

The Nets are considering playing their regular season home games at the Prudential Center in Newark while a new arena is being built for them in Brooklyn, several team officials said Wednesday night.

After drawing large crowds for two preseason games in Newark — including nearly 16,000 Wednesday for a game against the New York Knicks — the Nets are warming to the idea of spending a few years at the Prudential Center as long as they can get out of their lease at Meadowlands without having to pay an $8 million penalty.

A temporary move to Newark could happen as early as next season, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak for the club.


NoLandGrab: And then the team could just stay in Newark, if the Brooklyn land grab doesn't pan out.

Posted by lumi at 7:08 AM

Sharp Drop in Building Residences in the City

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

After five consecutive years in which residential construction in New York exceeded 30,000 apartments and houses annually, fewer than 6,300 units will be built this year, according to the latest report from the New York Building Congress, an industry trade group.
More than 460 residential projects have been delayed, nearly a third of them in Brooklyn, according to the latest figures from the city’s Buildings Department. Many analysts say it will take several years for the market to absorb all the luxury apartments that have been built recently.


NoLandGrab: And we're supposed to believe that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is really planning to keep his commitment to build 6,430 residential units in the next ten years?

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

October 21, 2009

Rent-A-Net for Just $25K

NY Observer
by Reid Pillifant

Wow, we thought Bruce Ratner was getting creative with his plan to put Atlantic Yards' investment money into escrow for awhile.

But today there's news that Mr. Ratner will attempt to stem a sieve of losses on his New Jersey Nets franchise--the team lost $77 million last year--by renting out the team's players. For $25,000 you can get courtside tickets to 10 games and, for one hour, you can have a Nets player at your beckon call.

"It will be interesting to have an NBA player come to your birthday party or come to your Bar Mitzvah or even just coming to your house for dinner for an hour when your friends are over," Nets chief executive Brett Yormark told the AP.


NoLandGrab: Or how about an hour in the hot tub, a la "The Cougar?" Creepy.

Posted by eric at 11:32 PM

Islanders Foe or Prudent Politician? Hempstead’s Murray Stands Her Ground

The New York Times
by Ken Belson and Jeff Z. Klein

Depending on whom you speak to, Kate Murray is either an hard-headed obstructionist willing to drive the Islanders out of Long Island, a principled public servant protecting taxpayers or a Republican veteran holding out for a political ransom.

Murray has been tagged with these and other less flattering labels because as supervisor of the Town of Hempstead, she and her board have the power to block, delay or approve the zoning for the Lighthouse Project, a $3.8 billion plan to refurbish the Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders’ shabby home, and build thousands of homes, offices and stores nearby. The project was first proposed in 2003 and Murray is one of its last, and seemingly most stubborn, hurdles. She says she’s only doing her job.

Politicians who get in the way of big real estate deals projects rarely get love letters from the business community, particularly during a recession when work is scarce. But when the projects include new sports venues and rabid fans are added to the mix, the pressure on politicians is even more pronounced.

In their defense, Murray and her supporters point to Bruce Ratner, the owner of the New Jersey Nets, who has spent years and millions of dollars fending off lawsuits and other problems in his quest to build the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn that includes the Barclays Center basketball arena.


NoLandGrab: The article does mention the planned Barclays Center as a potential home for the Islanders should the Lighthouse project fall through, though it correctly notes that the arena would need to be redesigned in order to accommodate hockey. With the Islanders committed to a lease in Uniondale until 2015, that seems unlikely.

Posted by eric at 11:26 PM

The Power Dozen

There is Michael Bloomberg, and there is everybody else. Here’s everybody else.

New York Magazine
by Jacob Gershman and Chris Smith

When it comes to power in New York City, Michael Bloomberg is the only game in town—but that doesn’t mean there are no other players. We canvassed the city in an extensive if unscientific vetting process, culling the selections of dozens of businesspeople, politicians, and other assorted machers.

Stephen Ross
WHO: Chairman and CEO
WHAT: Related Companies

The chief executive of Related Companies, Stephen Ross has been described as the real-estate industry’s last man standing. It’s more accurate to say he’s the only one sprinting ahead. While developers like Jerry Speyer and Bruce Ratner are running for cover, Ross is planning to form a bank to snap up distressed assets.


Posted by eric at 11:14 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Via Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Greetings From Scott Turner: Balloon Boy Hoaxters

No hot air in Scott Turner's weekly pub quiz missive:

Face it -- seeing this thing flying through the northern Colorado sky last week was just plain weird. And kinda awesome, to boot.

Bruce Ratner solves everything -- an arena designed by the firm of Gehry, Ellerbe Beckett & SHoP floating over Brooklyn, making eminent domain unneces-- what? This isn't the new arena? Durn it!

BlackBook, Autumn’s Awesome New York Adventures

Our favorite urban-planning disaster gets a dishonorable mention in this BlackBook round-up of fun fall outings.

Fort Tryon Park (Washington Heights): Visit for: The Heather Gardens, trails, hills, trails on hills, greenery, changing foliage, and an intimate secret garden atmosphere. Given to the city by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1935, this was, unlike other “presents” we’ve been given (Rudy Giuliani, the BQE, Atlantic Yards, etc), taken with open arms.

The InterNets, Thorn mum on meeting with Prokhorov

Rod Thorn would not confirm that he met with Mikhail Prokhorov today.

"No comment," the team president said.

Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, is in line to take over 80% of the Nets if he is approved by the league's board of governors and if the Nets acquire the needed funding to build an arena in Brooklyn. He is in town this week to take care of some business.

If he did meet with Thorn and other Nets higher-ups, such as GM Kiki Vandeweghe, nothing serious was discussed, like hirings and firings, etc.

"It was more social than anything else," said a source.

Noticing New York, Looping Back to What Is Less Than Healthy for the Community

How is Atlantic Yards like empty calories?

The food industry has been self-certifying the “benefit” or “smart choice” of eating such foods as Froot Loops which, by weight, is 41% sugar. Reading the statement in today’s Times of the food industry spokesman saying that he believed in the food industry’s program, we couldn’t help but think of our government development officials at ESDC:

“We believe in the science behind the Smart Choices program,” Mike Hughes, the program’s chairman, said in a statement. “We also look forward to the opportunity to participate in F.D.A.’s initiatives on front-of-package labeling.”

That sounds just like the ESDC officials putting out their press release last Wednesday after oral arguments before the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) saying that they believed the pretextual public benefits they have promulgated with respect to Atlantic Yards.

New Jersey Blogs [NJ.com], Nets at the Prudential Center: Bloggers on whether Newark is ready for the NBA

Call it Newark’s NBA tryout.

Tonight New Jersey’s largest city will complete its unofficial two-part audition to prove it can host a professional basketball team.

City officials are hoping tonight’s Nets preseason game at the Prudential Center will help make a case for the team to abandon its controversial plans to move to Brooklyn— and choose Newark instead.

Own This City [Time Out NY], Why I love Prospect Heights

“I’m certain that a prettier neighborhood doesn’t exist in all of Brooklyn,” brags TONY editorial coordinator Amy Plitt. “I lived in and around Prospect Heights for nearly four years, and loved nothing more than to wander around looking at all of the beautiful brownstones and tree-lined streets. There’s also a great sense of community here.

Freddy’s (485 Dean St at Sixth Ave; 718-622-7035, freddysbackroom.com) “This is one of my favorite dive bars in the city. The front room is small, with televisions that constantly play a loop of fucked-up videos (think Twilight Zone eps spliced with weird performance-art pieces), while the back room hosts comedy, live music and more. Plus, the drinks are cheap, and the owners are still fighting the good fight against Atlantic Yards.”

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, The Day: Jeffries Pivots, Garden Reaps Prizes

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries’s seeming rethinking of his stance on Atlantic Yards is causing some head-scratching. On Monday, he co-signed a letter (with State Senator John Sampson and Assemblyman Nick Perry) to Bruce Ratner and potential Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, calling Atlantic Yards “vital to the economy and future of Brooklyn,” commending their “recent efforts to propose new business arrangements to sustain this development” and asking for a meeting to review the project.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 10/21/09 EDITION

Atlantic Yards Report talks about how the newest lawsuits could impede forward progress at the Barclays Arena site in Brooklyn and whether or not project opponents will seek an injunction once/if construction begins.

Posted by eric at 6:54 PM

An update from Jeffries: "I remain highly critical" of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, the subject of criticism for signing a letter with a very positive posture toward Atlantic Yards, has issued the following statement backing away from the tone of the letter:

"My colleagues in the legislature, including Sen. John Sampson, the leader of the democratic majority of the New York State Senate, requested a meeting with the principal developer of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, and invited me to participate. I remain highly critical of the project and the direction it has taken in recent years. I continue to believe that the extraordinary measure of eminent domain should not be used for the purpose of building a basketball arena."

So I'm guessing he didn't write the letter he signed along with Sampson and Assemblyman Nick Perry. The question, which I suspect will be raised at tomorrow's PHNDC meeting, is why he signed it.

Jeffries added, in response to my question, "Yes, I did not draft the letter, and to the extent there is any additional uncertainty about my views toward the project, I would of course be delighted to address the issue at tomorrow's town hall meeting."


Posted by eric at 6:10 PM

Walkabout with Montrose: The Road to Prospect Heights

by Montrose Morris

This essay on the history of Prospect Heights and its environs reveals that Atlantic Yards is hardly the first example of eminent domain abuse rankling the locals.

A huge controversy occurred when the city acquired the eastern park land through the right of eminent domain, and then sold some of the land back to private developers when it was no longer needed by the city. This land was “rocky sterile land occupied only by goats and squatters”, the Brooklyn Eagle said in 1873. When the site of the park moved west, the city sought to unload some of unnecessary eastern parcels, and after much litigation and controversy, the parcels were sold to private developers for a song. Marketed as being located in the highest and most desirable part of the city, this area, roughly from present day Park Place to Empire Blvd, remained “a howling wilderness” until the 1890’s, with squatter’s shanties surrounded by pigs, goats and chickens occupying much of the land. Meanwhile, the public buildings adjacent to the park were being planned, and the developers made a fortune selling some of the same land back to the city at highly inflated prices.


NoLandGrab: We have to give the Eagle an "A" for consistency.

Posted by eric at 2:06 PM

Assemblyman Jeffries' Evolution on Atlantic Yards and His Co-signed Letter to Ratner and Prokhorov

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB looks at the history of Prospect Heights Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' stance on Atlantic Yards, and wonders what his recent letter to Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov portends.


Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Rawyal — Issues

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo (around the 1:50 mark) in Hip Hop artist Rief Rawyal's get-out-the-(anti-Bloomberg)-vote rap.


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

The 15-year time horizon for a project less than one-third the size of AY

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times reports on East River Plaza, a six-acre project in East Harlem that will soon open as a big-box vertical mall:

Looking back on his experience at East River Plaza, [developer David] Blumenfeld said that developers of complex projects needed a lot of patience. “Ten to 15 years is probably the right time horizon,” he said. “I don’t know if a lot of people have the stomach for that.”

The site was purchased 15 years ago. Partner Forest City Ratner came on board five years ago and helped speed things up.

Even with FCR's capacity to move projects, surely a 22-acre project like AY that would affect Brooklyn neighborhoods with engaged activists might take a while. Or is the state's decade-long timetable plausible?


Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

Foes of Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards hope to run out the clock before ground is broken

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Atlantic Yards opponents who filed two new lawsuits in recent days are hoping to run out the clock on developer Bruce Ratner's project, which must break ground by a year-end deadline.

The two suits, one filed last week and the other on Monday, come as Ratner tries to sell $650 million in bonds and start construction on a new arena for the NBA's Nets by Dec. 31 or lose crucial tax-exempt financing.

Jeff Baker, a lawyer for the 20 neighborhood groups that filed the suit, said they'd ask for an injunction to stop Ratner from breaking ground.

The suit charges that the Empire State Development Corp. broke the law when it approved a revised plan for the $4.9 billion project, which also includes 16 apartment and office towers.

"The ESDC cut corners in order to rush Ratner's project forward for an end-of-year IRS deadline," Baker said, adding the agency "willfully stuck its head in the sand." Plaintiffs say the plan has changed so much that ESDC officials were required to do a new environmental study before voting.


More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Daily News catches up on the lawsuit story

Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

As AY endgame approaches, would judges stop the MTA/ESDC from proceeding? Or might the pending cases affect bond sale?

Atlantic Yards Report

So, how exactly could the latest Atlantic Yards lawsuits, regarding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's deal with Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation's approval, stop progress on the project?

After all, both agencies are likely to go ahead and proceed toward a master closing--as described below--which would be void unless arena bonds are sold by January 1, 2010 or alternative financing is in place by March 1, 2010.

If construction seems imminent, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn attorney Jeff Baker stated that the group would "seek an injunction to preserve the status quo and protect our rights." If this injunction is granted, the court would probably require the group to put up a bond, the amount of which "is at the discretion of the court."


NoLandGrab: Hopefully, the judge will be somewhat sympathetic and come up with an amount the group can afford, otherwise we'll have to hold the mother of all bake sales.

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

More manuevering at the corner of Carlton and Pacific with Boymelgreen firms pushed toward bankruptcy by (alleged) tenant

Atlantic Yards Report

The saga of Henry Weinstein's properties at the corner of Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street--a six-story building and two parking lots--just keeps getting stranger.

Remember, Weinstein won a court battle to evict tenant Shaya Boymelgreen, who operated his headquarters in Weinstein's building at 752 Pacific Street and had subleased that property--without Weinstein's consent--to Forest City Ratner, allowing the developer to claim that it controlled more of the Atlantic Yards footprint than it actually did.

Then Weinstein tried to get Boymelgreen evicted. Yesterday, before representatives of the sheriff's office could pursue eviction, Boymelgreen's tenant--or perhaps the developer himself--threw a wrench into those plans.

In short, sub tenants of Boymelgreen have filed to force Boymelgreen's company into bankruptcy, which makes no sense to Weinstein, because Boymelgreen wasn't supposed to have sub tenants without Weinstein's consent in the first place, leading folks to speculate that these "sub tenants" are really controlled by Boymelgreen, who is trying to pull another fast one on Weinstein.


NoLandGrab: While Boymelgreen can't seem to get past his original double-cross on Weinstein, Bruce Ratner still has designs on Weinstein's property via eminent domain.

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

Posted by lumi at 7:03 AM

Acorn’s Woes Strain Its Ties to Democrats

The NY Times
By Jim Rutenberg

The Atlantic Yards myths persist in this recent article about ACORN's ties with the Dems and the Obama administration, through HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan (emphasis added):

Mr. Donovan included Ms. Speliotis in a group of affordable housing specialists with whom he consulted frequently, current and former city officials said.
And she and Ms. Lewis appeared to help Mr. Donovan deliver a coup for Mr. Bloomberg in 2005 when Acorn endorsed a huge Brooklyn development he was supporting in the face of local opposition.

Acorn backed the plan in return for an unusual promise from the developer, Forest City Ratner, to make half of the 4,500 rental apartments that it was proposing — along with a new Nets basketball arena — available to poor and middle-class families at below-market rates.


NoLandGrab: As usual, nothing about Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized eminent domain-abusing Atlantic Yards overdevelopment is quite as it seems.

Two years ago, Norman Oder reported on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report, that some of these "affordable" apartments would rent above market rate.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

Republican Seeks To Replace De Blasio

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Harold Egeln

Joe Nardiello, the Republican candidate for City Council in the 39th:

On Atlantic Yards and development, he said he is “a proponent of bringing the Nets to Brooklyn,” creating manufacturing in Central Brooklyn and “making Brooklyn the epicenter of solar power usage.”


NoLandGrab: Idiocracy — the candidate for "reining in high transit fares and preventing East River bridge tolls by reforming the MTA" is in favor of the MTA's sweetheart deal with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City to offer notes, refinances and extends loans

Forest City Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: FCE-A and FCE-B) plans to offer $175 million in convertible senior notes to certain institutional buyers, generating cash for purposes such as repaying money borrowed on the company's $750 million revolving credit facility.

The real estate company said it will issue notes that can be converted into shares of Forest City's Class A common stock. The notes are due in 2016.

The company provided a progress update Monday on its efforts to reduce debt and extend or refinance existing loans. The company said it has approximately 60 percent of the necessary commitments from is 14-member bank group to renew its revolving credit facility. That facility matures in March 2010.

Forest City also announced a handful of loan extensions and refinancings, including two in Greater Cleveland.

NoLandGrab: Based on this news, one gets the sense of how highly leveraged the Atlantic Yards developer is — no wonder the Ratners have to rush into a deal with a Russian oligarch to bail out the Brooklyn project.

The NY Times, A Difficult Birth for East Harlem Mall

Even by the often sluggish standards of development in New York City, East River Plaza, the big-box vertical mall under construction along the F.D.R. Drive in East Harlem, has proceeded at a glacial pace.
[W]orkers are finally preparing for the Nov. 12 opening of the shopping center’s first tenant: a 110,000-square-foot Costco wholesale warehouse club, the borough’s first. Target, Best Buy and Marshall’s will start moving in next spring. Of 485,000 square feet, only 30,000 are not yet spoken for.

The opening is coming 15 years after the Blumenfeld Development Group, headed by Mr. Blumenfeld’s father, Edward, worked with Canyon Capital Realty Advisers of Beverly Hills, Calif., to buy the six-acre site, which stretches from 116th Street to 119th Street, for $3.1 million at a foreclosure auction. Five years later, the project was approved by the City Council. In 2004, Canyon Capital sold its interest to Forest City Ratner.
The project began to pick up speed after Forest City, a partner in the development of the headquarters building of The New York Times Company on Eighth Avenue, became involved. Having a well-connected local partner added strength to the project, Mr. Blumenfeld said.

GlenviewAnnouncements.com, Navy cancels plans for additional housing in Glenview

The U.S. Navy and its private development partner [Forest City Military Communities, LLC] have canceled three-year-old plans to build 118 new three- and four-bedroom units in Glenview for military personnel assigned to Naval Station Great Lakes, Glenview officials acknowledged Monday.

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

October 20, 2009

Jeffries changes tune, calls AY "vital to the economy," wants meeting with Prokhorov; also, PHNDC Town Hall with electeds on Thursday

Atlantic Yards Report

Once upon a time (actually 5/3/08) Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said publicly, "Let's give Governor Paterson a chance to say no to eminent domain."

Now, along with legislative leaders John Sampson (beneficiary of a fundraiser held at Forest City Ratner offices) and Nick Perry, he's calling for a meeting with Bruce Ratner and prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.


Posted by eric at 11:03 PM

Prospect Heights town hall with elected representatives

The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council is sponsoring a town hall meeting with local elected officials this Thursday, October 22nd, at 7:00 p.m.

P.S. 9 Auditorium

80 Underhill Avenue (between St. Marks Avenue and Bergen Street)

Join PHNDC for a town hall-style meeting with State Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and City Council Member Letitia James. Topics to be discussed include:

  • Traffic and transportation (mass transit, street conditions, MTA)
  • Local economy (jobs, housing, small business)
  • Atlantic Yards (revised plan, new impacts)

Please bring your questions and concerns for your elected representatives!


NoLandGrab: Here's a question — hey, Assemblyman Jeffries, what gives with that letter to Bruce and Proko?

Posted by eric at 10:01 PM

Two Boymelgreen firms threatened with bankruptcy

Problems mount for troubled developer Shaya Boymelgreen, who is alleged to be $200,000 behind in his rent at his Brooklyn headquarters, 752 Pacific St.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

More shenanigans at 752 Pacific Street.

A company claiming to be a tenant in Shaya Boymelgreen's American headquarters in Brooklyn filed to push two companies controlled by the embattled developer into Chapter 7 bankruptcy last week. The tenant's legal move was made to avoid being evicted along with Mr. Boymelgreen, whose firm was slated to be removed from 752 Pacific Ave. Tuesday.

The order for that eviction, in turn, came after Mr. Boymelgreen lost a legal battle with the landlord of the building, which stands within the footprint of the huge Atlantic Yards development. The landlord, Henry Weinstein, says Mr. Boymelgreen is about $200,000 behind in his rent but that he has no knowledge or record of the developer leasing space to subtenant.

Mr. Boymelgreen's tenant, 752 Pacific St. Corp., didn't want to be ousted so it filed the petition to stop the eviction process and open a dialogue with Mr. Weinstein. The two companies named in the suit once controlled the leases to 752 Pacific Ave. and a neighboring parking lot but lost them in a lawsuit with Mr. Weinstein.

“Boymelgreen never gave us any indication of subtenants,” Mr. Weinstein said. “We just assume this is some kind of fraud.”

Mr. Weinstein added that he is talking with authorities about moving ahead with the eviction. On Oct. 8, the Brooklyn Sheriff's office slapped a five-day eviction notice on the building, which Mr. Boymelgreen began leasing in 1999.

Mr. Weinstein said he sued Mr. Boymelgreen in 2006 after learning the developer sold his 40-year lease on the building to Forest City Ratner without Mr. Weinstein's knowledge. Forest City needs to raze the building so it can construct its project on the rail yards, which is slated to include an arena and 16 residential towers.

In May, the New York state Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Weinstein could evict Mr. Boymelgreen and that Forest City was given illegal assignment to Mr. Weinstein's properties. Mr. Weinstein said Mr. Boymelgreen hasn't paid rent since June.


Posted by eric at 9:47 PM

Dear Messrs. Ratner and Prokhorov...


Are one or more of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement signatories getting nervous, or are a couple of local legislators trying to hop on the gravy train before it leaves the Vanderbilt Yard?

State Senator John Sampson and Assemblymen Nick Perry and Hakeem Jeffries sent a letter to Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov yesterday, praising the basketball impresarios for their "recent efforts to propose new business arrangements to sustain" Atlantic Yards "in these challenging economic times," while expressing concern that "all covenants previously executed" in the CBA "remain in force, and are fully executed."

NoLandGrab: ROTFLMAO. The Atlantic Yards CBA is about as firm as a bowl of Jello.

They're also seeking "a meeting with [Bruce and Proko] at the earliest opportunity to review... this vital economic development project."

NLG: We're not sure what angle Sampson (who recently held a fundraiser in Forest City Ratner's Metrotech offices) and Perry are playing, but we would've expected the normally cagey Jeffries to take pains to appear a bit more savvy.

Related coverage...

NY Observer, Sampson, Jeffries to Russian Billionaire, Ratner: Please Meet With Us

Posted by eric at 9:32 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

rumur.com, blah blah blog part deux

On Wed Oct 14th, when 40 members of the community fighting the project gathered together to take a bus to Albany to witness a court hearing about the use of eminent domain for this project, it was important for our camera to be on the bus as we needed to capture the community as it gathered together. Today I was thinking a lot about the idea of community in light of last week’s hearing. At this point, 6 years into our story, much of the physical community of the project site has been decimated. Buildings have been torn down and hundreds of residents have been moved away. Yet the crowd that gathered to ride that bus is probably more connected now than before this fight began. These people constitute a very real and physical community despite the fact that they don’t all live in apartments and houses next door to each other. They are connected by the powerful belief that the government, like the medical profession, should do no harm. They are bound by their opposition to this project- they see each other at functions related to that opposition and they connect daily through email, blogs, and phone.

As stated above, we don’t consider ourselves activist filmmakers, setting out to make a film that argues for a specific point of view. We absolutely did not start this film project with a preconceived notion of what we would capture. However, after only a few days of following characters, and interviewing the major supporters of the project, it became pretty clear to us that the film would follow those fighting the project rather than those working to make it happen.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards: Cure for Insomnia?

With 873 new lawsuits filed in the past 30 seconds (estimated), Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder wonders if the lack of media coverage lately is the result of Atlantic Yards lawsuit fatigue. He then brings up several valid points regarding the project's alleged timetable and the lack of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Sta—zzzzzzzzzz.

Bloomberg.com, Stocks on the Move

Forest City Enterprises Inc. (FCE/A US) fell 12 percent, the most since May 14, to $10.91. The developer of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, New York, said it got preliminary, non-binding commitments from a majority of its current 14-member bank group to participate in a renewed revolving credit facility. Also, the company announced $150.3 million in refinancings and loan extensions.

Noticing New York, Oral Arguments On the Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case Before the Court of Appeals: ESDC Knows Blight and Economic Development are Pretextual

During the hearing, some of the judges indicated via their questioning that they didn’t know where the restriction was or should be on taking property for “public use” if economic development was the stated (pretextual) goal. If this is the lack of restriction that would be possible in New York State when a developer initiates and without restriction draws lines around property on which he wants to get a monopoly via eminent domain, then New York protections against abuse will surely be far more lax than envisioned even by the Kelo court’s opinion.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Meetings, Readings, Flu Shots, Governor

Yet another Atlantic Yards lawsuit was filed yesterday, this one by 20 community groups, notably Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. The suit challenges the Empire State Development Commission’s approval last month of a modified version of the $4.9 billion plan.

The suit, filed in state Supreme Court, charges that in its haste to approve the project to help Forest City Ratner meet an end-of-year deadline for bonds to be issued, ESDC failed to review it the way the law requires it to. The whole shebang is laid out by Atlantic Yards Report here.

Posted by eric at 6:35 PM

Aching Devin Harris pointing back to New Jersey Nets' bench

NY Daily News
by Mitch Lawrence

NO-SHOW: Prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is in New York this week to meet with NBA owners, but team officials don't expect him to visit their East Rutherford headquarters in the coming days, or attend the Knicks game at the Prudential Center. A league spokesman said that no date has been set for a vote on Prokhorov's bid to take over as majority owner for Bruce Ratner. The Russian billionaire is expected to get the 23 of 30 votes needed to be approved, as commissioner David Stern has already strongly endorsed the proposed sale.


Posted by eric at 6:32 PM

Forest City in the News

Not "the News," exactly, since these are both Forest City-generated press releases, but newsworthy, for sure, as to the state of the company's finances.

Forest City Provides Update on Credit Line Renewal, Other Financing Activity, via Yahoo! Finance

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today provided a progress update on the modification and renewal of its $750 million revolving credit facility, and also announced extensions and refinancings among its property-level, non-recourse debt maturities.

The Company has received preliminary, non-binding commitments from a majority of its current 14-member bank group to participate in a renewed revolving credit facility. The preliminary commitments are based on a revised term sheet that is the subject of active discussions between the Company and its lenders, and are conditional on approval of the term sheet by all participating lenders, and any or all of the lenders who have preliminarily approved the term sheet may retract their approvals. Preliminary commitments to date account for approximately 60 percent of the total commitment being sought. While the Company cannot predict the outcome of this approval process and any further negotiations with the lenders, the term sheet for the extension of the facility contemplates a reduced total commitment from the lenders, increased borrowing costs, modification to the financial covenants and the addition of operational covenants. If approved, additional terms and conditions of the facility will be announced at the time of closing. The current facility is scheduled to mature in March 2010.

Forest City also closed a three-year extension of a $90.8 million loan on Two Hanson Place, the office building atop its Atlantic Terminal mall.

Forest City to Offer $175 Million Convertible Senior Notes

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA - News and FCEB - News) today announced its intention to offer, subject to market and other conditions, $175 million aggregate principal amount of convertible senior notes due 2016 ("the Notes").

The Notes are expected to be convertible, at the holder's option, into Forest City's Class A common stock at any time prior to the close of business on the second scheduled trading day immediately preceding the maturity date. The interest rate, conversion rate, conversion price and other terms of the Notes will be determined by negotiations between Forest City and the initial purchasers of the Notes.

Forest City expects to use the net proceeds from the offering to pay the cost of the convertible note hedge transactions, to reduce outstanding borrowings on the Company's $750 million revolving credit facility, and for general corporate purposes, which, depending on prevailing market conditions, could include repayment of debt with earlier maturities.

NoLandGrab: We're far from expert in corporate finance, but it appears to us that Forest City is yet again struggling to make ends meet.

It sounds like some of the company's current lenders are not too hot to extend credit to Forest City, since the term sheet "contemplates a reduced total commitment from the lenders, increased borrowing costs, modification to the financial covenants and the addition of operational covenants."

Furthermore, the $175 million in convertible notes, which are not secured, are potentially dilutive to current shares, and proceeds may be used to repay other loans that are coming due.

Finally, if market reaction is any indication, this is not good news for Forest City — Forest City stock is trading nearly 10% lower this morning.

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

New Suit Could Sidetrack Atlantic Yards

by Cody Lyon

Opponents of Brooklyn’s planned Atlantic Yards project say their plan has never been to delay the Forest City Ratner Cos. development. Instead, they say the idea is to stop it.

At least that’s what petitioning lead attorney Jeffrey Baker tells GlobeSt.com about this fourth of a series of pending lawsuits facing Empire State Development Corp., the quasi-governmental agency, and FCRC, developer of the 22-acre downtown Brooklyn site that includes a large sports arena meant to house the NBA’s Nets, currently of New Jersey. This latest legal volley was filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

But, by holding things up in court, the group may put the brakes on the project, since there’s a Dec. 31 groundbreaking deadline for Forest City Ratner to obtain tax-exempt bond status and its $400-million branding deal with Barclays Bank on the new arena, Barclays Center. The arena has been touted as the potential new home for the Nets, who have a deal with Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov who will own 80% of the team contingent upon the team's possible move to Brooklyn.

In a statement, an ESDC spokeswoman says the agency “carefully considered whether a SEIS would be required,” but determined in the end that it “was not required.”


NoLandGrab: "Carefully considered?" That couldn't have been said with a straight face. "Careful consideration" on the part of the ESDC consists entirely of "what does Bruce want?" and "what can we maybe get away with?"

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

The Times mentions FCR's bailout of ACORN only parenthetically, claims city agreed to help finance AY housing plan

Atlantic Yards Report

In a front-page article last Friday, October 16, the New York Times finally reported that the controversial housing activist group ACORN had been bailed out by a $1.5 million grant/loan from developer Forest City Ratner, a partner with ACORN New York on the Atlantic Yards project.

But that wasn't the point of the article, headlined Acorn’s Woes Strain Its Ties to Democrats.

Rather, the information was presented parenthetically, a variation of "rowback," which former Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent described in his 3/14/04 column as "a way that a newspaper can cover its butt without admitting it was ever exposed."

Beyond that, the article cited "[t]he city’s agreement to help finance the [Atlantic Yards housing] plan."

That overstates the city's commitment, which is no more than conceptual, and should be corrected, given that it could mislead readers into thinking that the affordable housing--the major source of political support for the project--is guaranteed.

Just how long has it taken The Times to get around to reporting on Forest City's bailout of ACORN?

In this case, the Times wasn't publishing an unacknowledged correction, as is typical with "rowback," but providing information it owed its readers months ago--and without acknowledging the delay or that the information had been published elsewhere.

Consider this sequence:

  • the bailout occurred in August 2008
  • a Times reporter knew about it in September 2008 (and called ACORN's actions "incredible")
  • it was reported by me in December 2008
  • I sent an open letter to the Public Editor in April 2009
  • it was mentioned in a Congressional report in July 2009
  • the New York Post mentioned it nearly a month ago

The Times's vague formulation placed the bailout in context of the long Atlantic Yards fight, but did not mention the date it occurred.


NoLandGrab: Better late than never?

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Atlantic Yards opponents file another suit

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

Atlantic Yards opponents filed yet another lawsuit Monday against a $5 billion project proposed for downtown Brooklyn that would include a new basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets.

This lawsuit charges that New York State officials last month approved a revised project plan that anticipates making affordable housing construction at the site conditional on government subsidies being made available to developer Forest City Ratner.

The project plan approved at the same time, however, does not include that condition — leading to an illegal contradiction between the plan and a pending developer’s agreement, according to the suit filed by 20 community groups within and near the project’s footprint.


Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Atlantic Yards lawsuit fatigue? News of the suit challenging the ESDC's approval of the project is ignored in the dailies

Atlantic Yards Report

Does Atlantic Yards get too much press coverage, or not enough?

So, in yesterday's print New York Times, the Metro pages brought news of Glee! The Retirees’ Talent Show. The Sports section offered For Potential Owner, a Background Check Worthy of the K.G.B.

So, was news of yesterday's suit leveling serious charges against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) regarding the Atlantic Yards approval worth an article in today's print newspaper?

Apparently not. It wasn't even worth an online article. Not in the Times, not in the New York Daily News, and not in the New York Post. (The tabs, however, each ran print Sports section stories about Nets point guard Devin Harris.)

It was covered by the New York Observer, WNYC, Crain's New York Business, Reuters, and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, plus the Record. Perhaps the once AY-focused Brooklyn Paper will catch up in due time.


Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

Padding the house at The Rock last week? Yup

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the crowd at last Tuesday's inaugural Nets preseason game at the Prudential Center may have approached regular-season levels, but they sure weren't paying full fare.

From the Star-Ledger's report:

Arena officials said about 5,000 tickets for last week's game were distributed to community groups, schools and other local organizations by foundations and others who bought them. Another 2,100 tickets were purchased for $10, thanks to a special coupon distributed by the city of Newark. Add in the complimentary tickets handed out to sponsors and more than half those in attendance watched the game from free or almost-free seats.

A co-owner of the New Jersey Devils and the arena said it was all about exposure for the facility, which may still be an alternative if the Brooklyn move falls through but--according to Mayor Cory Booker--is now being prioritized as an interim location.


Related coverage...

Newark Star-Ledger, 'The rock' puts out welcome mat

"We are building our brand," Nets senior vice president Leo Ehrline said of the decision to play the games in Newark. "This is a beautiful building and it's great for our brand."

The team plays its regular season home games at the Izod Center in East Rutherford but plans to open a new arena in Brooklyn in 2012.

Though the Nets have played preseason games elsewhere in the area, the games in Newark are creating special interest. One reason is speculation the Newark games are some kind of audition to test fan interest in the team and professional basketball.

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

October 19, 2009

Gilly Youner: Walk Don't Destroy Walkathon on Saturday

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn

Park Slope activist Gilly Youner posted photos of Saturday's Walk Don't Destroy 5 to OTBKB.


Posted by eric at 11:37 PM

What Bloomberg and Stuckey have in common: the Detroit dodge

Atlantic Yards Report

Rudy Giuliani says that if we don't reelect Mike Bloomberg, then New York City will turn into Detroit.

Jim Stuckey said that if we don't build Atlantic Yards, then New York City will turn into Detroit.

Norman Oder says not so fast:

As I responded:

Actually, New York has no chance of becoming the next Detroit, a city based on one industry, with no public transportation, and which is not exactly the country’s cultural and financial capital.


NoLandGrab: Actually, if we do build Atlantic Yards, we will become Detroit.

Posted by eric at 11:21 PM

As the Times says "Stop the sewer money" in Albany, a prime exhibit could be Ratner's $58K check to a Silver-controlled committee

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times is Fed Up With Albany.

Several commenters noted that the editorial, which covered several issues, failed to mention all-powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who, among other things, has refused to reveal the identities of his legal clients.

Also, consider that, in January 2008, Forest City Ratner apparently reversed a pledge to refrain from campaign contributions, giving $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account. That's part of the mutual closeness between the developer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.


Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

Iannazzone: Newark is better for Nets

Bergen Record
by Al Iannazzone

Here's another one that eluded our normally all-encompassing grasp last week.

When Mikhail Prokhorov comes to America next week to meet with all the NBA owners and Nets' officials, someone should make sure he visits Izod Center and Prudential Center.

Someone should take the Russian billionaire and prospective Nets' owner to Newark for Wednesday's preseason game against the Knicks, to let him see people in the seats and the lively atmosphere. Someone should take Prokhorov to Izod on the same night, when the building is empty, and tell him it won't be much different when games are being played.

Then someone should ask Prokhorov: Which do you want to play in until the proposed Brooklyn arena is built potentially during the 2011-12 season? After he says The Rock, then tell him there may be a penalty if the Nets break their Izod Center lease, which expires in 2013, but if you're willing to pay, we'll start talking to the Devils and the state.


NoLandGrab: Of course, Prokhorov may never get the chance, since his deal to take a majority stake in the Nets is contingent upon Bruce Ratner successfully sewing up the team's relocation to Brooklyn — as much fantasy as fait accompli at this juncture.

Posted by eric at 9:30 PM

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

Show-Me Daily, More Eminent Domain Courtroom Drama

The story is very familiar, although the actors are different. This time, the New York State Urban Development Corp., a government agency, assumes the role previously played by the city of New London, Conn. A chorus of concerned land owners reprise the role of Susette Kelo, the woman in the little pink house. Forest City Ratner Cos. replaces the New London Development Corporation in the role of the developer, and instead of building a Pfizer research complex, it plans to build an NBA stadium in downtown Brooklyn.

Stay tuned! If the Court of Appeals in Albany sides with the property owners and introduces additional limits on eminent domain, there will be a happy ending. If the court sides with the developers, there will be an unhappy ending, as there was in New London. This will mean that, in addition to other negative consequences, the property owners will lose their homes and the city will lose money on the project.

The Huffington Post, Tens of People Breathing Easier on Atlantic Yards Issue

The argument over the construction of a new stadium for the Nets at the Atlantic Yards project has been taking place for a few years now, but somehow it has remained surprisingly low on the radar.

Maybe it has never really been an actual scare, or maybe the dedication of a select few Brooklyn residents has been enough to keep the project at bay.

The tens of people marching on Saturday for "Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn" seemed to be the only ones aware of the situation. As the crowd bullhorned around and through the Atlantic Yards area with the help of a small brass band and a large number of police escorts, passersby and local residents seemed utterly oblivious to the reason. There were few horns honking in support and a lot of sheepish grins.

NoLandGrab: Matt Rodigheri grossly understates the scope of the opposition to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Each walker — and there were closer to two hundred of them rather than the "tens" Rodigheri describes — was representing many more people who'd pledged funds, in some cases, dozens more. And his mischaracterization does a great disservice to the 4,000 or so donors to lawsuits opposing the Atlantic Yards project, and the well-more-than-10,000 people who have signed petitions and sent postcards, letters and emails. It's that larger effort that has kept the project at bay, despite well greased political support, for almost six years.

No York, NBA owners must approve Prokhorov

Mikhail Prokhorov has agreed to a deal to gain ownership of the New Jersey Nets in principle. The deal hinges on the fate of the Atlantic Yards project which is currently in legal limbo. However, if the project does go forward, it won’t be the only hurdle Prokhorov will face. He must also be approved by 23 of the NBA’s 30 owners before he can officially own the Nets. He is scheduled to meet with several owner’s this Wednesday during one of the league’s advisory and finance committee meetings.

Black Political Buzz...., ACORN As We Once Knew It Is Gone...A Rebound Seems Impossible

And she and Ms. Lewis appeared to help Mr. Donovan deliver a coup for Mr. Bloomberg in 2005 when Acorn endorsed a huge Brooklyn development he was supporting in the face of local opposition.

Acorn backed the plan in return for an unusual promise from the developer, Forest City Ratner, to make half of the 4,500 rental apartments that it was proposing — along with a new Nets basketball arena — available to poor and middle-class families at below-market rates.

The city’s agreement to help finance the plan, hammered out among Mr. Donovan, Ms. Speliotis and others, was hailed as a breakthrough for subsidizing a substantial amount of housing for an unusually broad range of middle-class tenants.

NLG: At this point, the affordable housing is little more than a mirage and ACORN is on the canvas while the referee counts nine, while the "local opposition" is more robust than ever.

Posted by eric at 9:08 PM


by Mark Ginocchio

Here's one that snuck past us last week — NAS's interview with documentary filmmaker Michael Galinsky.

Galinksky, who resides in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, has been working on the film for nearly six years now, amassing more than 300 hours of footage. One of the focal points of his film is Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, whose Pacific Street apartment sits where the Nets’ Barclays Arena would be built.

NAS: Describe a few things that have surprised you in the making of this film. Some things you learned about the project, or the people involved that you didn’t expect.

Michael Galinksy: Honestly, working on this project has had an enormous impact on me and my view of the world. I would have to say that I considered myself pretty liberal when I started shooting, but my faith in government has been severely shaken by the process of working on this film.

I started this project because I read the initial article in the New York Times and I was struck by the fact that it sounded like a press release. As such, I was curious about what was really going on. I don’t live right by the footprint, but my daughter was going to daycare two blocks away so I was very familiar with the area.

A few years before the project was announced, my wife and I bought a beat up house and spent the next few years learning how to fix it up. When you go from being a renter to a home-owner you take a little bit more interest in your community because you become invested in it. After about 3 years we had a baby. With a baby you really start to meet the people around you- and you rely on them for information about day care, etc - You really start to build roots. Still, I didn’t even know what a community board was until I started to shoot.

As I followed the story, I saw how the government and the community interacted and it wasn’t pretty. On a basic local level, there was some responsiveness to what the community wanted; but when the politicians who made the decisions had less connection with the community, they could take the community for granted more easily.

With a project of this size, the impacts on the surrounding communities promises to be profound, yet nobody who was affected by the project was given any real opportunity to have their opinions taken into consideration.


Related coverage...

Rumur.com, blah blah blog

Earlier this week I answered some questions about our Atlantic Yards film, “The Battle of Brooklyn” for a NJ Nets fan blog, netsarescorching.com. Nets fans are interested in the Atlantic Yards story because if the project moves forward the Nets will move to Brooklyn. As the blog is focused on basketball one of the first questions was about whether or not we had interviewed anyone in the Nets front office. In this case, the point of view of the audience is basketball focused. However, our film has almost nothing to do with basketball beyond the fact that the real estate debacle we are following involves an arena. I took great pains to clarify the films point of view and our style of filmaking. What I was attempting to do was “manage audience expectations”. Our films tend to be a little different from what average people expect in a documentary. Either they expect a Michael Moore style hell ride, or standard PBS fodder. In our films we often raise questions that aren’t answered in an overly direct way. One problem that we consistently run into is that when an audience expects X and you give them Y they think that the film has failed in its goals. As such, we try to manage the expectation of the audience so that they go in knowing what to expect. In this case I explained that we aren’t activists and aren’t journalists in the traditional sense.

Posted by eric at 5:16 PM

Suit du Jour News Round-Up

NY Observer, Another Lawsuit On Atlantic Yards as Financing Clock Ticks

Once again, there's a new lawsuit seeking to stop Atlantic Yards.

On Monday morning, a series of Brooklyn neighborhood and community groups announced they had filed a suit challenging the approval of the $4.9 billion mega-project, an action that comes as the clock ticks ever closer to a Dec. 31 financing deadline that developer Forest City Ratner must meet.

The lawsuit--which challenges the approval process when the state re-approved a modified version of the project in September--is now the fifth major suit brought or organized by the main group opposing the plan, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. There have been two eminent domain suits, the second of which was heard at the state's top court last week; an environmental review lawsuit; and a recently filed lawsuit challenging the re-approval by the M.T.A., which owns much of the site.

WNYC Radio, Opponents File Another Lawsuit Against Atlantic Yards Project

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and 19 other Brooklyn groups say the latest agreement between the state and developer Forest City Ratner will keep at least some of the footprint in a blighted state for 20 years or more, as it allows Ratner to purchase the land parcel-by-parcel over that time.

The state's highest court is considering whether to accept a challenge by many of the same plaintiffs to the original deal.

Attorney Jeff Baker filed both lawsuits. "This deal's even worse because there's far less assurance that the negligible benefits that were supposed to come from this project will ever happen at all," Baker says.

A spokesperson for the state's economic development agency says officials expect construction will take only 10 years.

NoLandGrab: "Officials" are either sadly mistaken — or lying.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Lawsuit Tally Update

It's official: Atlantic Yards now has more lawsuits than the Nets have season ticket holders. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has brought its fifth suit against the project, calling a do-over on the state's environmental review of the site because the Atlantic Yards plans have changed so much since they were first proposed.

Crain's NY Business, Community groups sue to block Atlantic Yards

Allegations in the suit filed in New York State Supreme Court on Monday include charges that the ESDC failed to conduct another environment impact study of the 22-acre site as required after the deal was revised. It also includes allegations that the ESDC backed off its requirement to have Forest City build affordable housing within the project.

Reuters, Troubled Atlantic Yards project hit with new lawsuit

The ESDC, developer Bruce Ratner and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have spent six years pursuing the project which has been dogged by legal disputes, financing problems and vocal opposition from community groups and landowners.

The latest suit argues that the ESDC has illegally abandoned the statutorily mandated purpose of the project -- the removal of blight from the area.

That's after the terms of the deal were revised in June to offer sweeter terms to Ratner. Ratner had agreed in 2005 to buy the 22-acre rail yard for $100 million in cash at the time of closing. But the cash-hungry MTA is allowing him to pay just $20 million on closing and the remaining $80 million over 22 year. That will ensure the blight conditions will not be alleviated until well after 2030, the suit said.


Opponents of the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, the proposed site that would contain a new arena for the Nets, filed another lawsuit today at the State of New York Supreme Court designed to sink the project once and for all.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Never-Ending Atlantic Yards Litigation Continues

Never-ending lawsuits, perhaps not. But opponents of Atlantic Yards filed another lawsuit Monday — the second in less than a week.

Back in May, DDDB’s legal director told the Eagle that DDDB and its supporters had about a half-dozen potential lawsuits they could file in addition to the various lawsuits that were already pending over the Atlantic Yards project.

“Can we bring other challenges? Absolutely,” Candace Carponter had said. “And we will.” Carponter added that, “It just depends on who’s got more stamina” — making it clear that DDDB and Atlantic Yards opponents will not stop suing anytime soon.

However, considering the expansive amount of litigation that is pending and the additional lawsuits that could come (i.e., a taxpayer suit), legal experts wonder if Atlantic Yards construction will begin by the end of the year, as promised. If not, it would be one of many promised timeline goals that have not been met by the developer.

Posted by eric at 4:50 PM

Challenging Bloomberg Unlimited

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White, whose Friday reprise of his anti-term-limits-override testimony got a nice write-up in Saturday's New York Times, provides some free campaign advice for the ever-so-slowly-catching-on Bill Thompson.

We can envision what will happen in the next mayoral debate if Thompson, building on his suggestion that megadevelopment mega-monopolies, particularly Atlantic Yards, be broken up into multiple parcels takes on Bloomberg as sponsor of and enthusiast for the Atlantic Yards boondoggle. We would suggest the Thompson also propose that the arena and its $220 million net loss for the public be replaced with housing. Imagine Thompson saying:

* You don’t believe in competitive bids Mike? Why not?

* You don’t believe in providing jobs here and now with multiple developers working on multiple sites? Rather than in distant decades?

* You just believe in a mega-monopoly for one big developer, one that is going bankrupt to boot? Shutting out everyone else? Shutting out all the better local developers?

* You don’t want a lot more money for the MTA and it’s riders? You don’t think the MTA should get a fair market price for its yards?

* Instead of more housing you want a humongous gift package arena for Mr. Ratner at a $220 million net loss to the city with a mega-project that will inefficiently commit more than $2 billion overall in subsidies to one developer?

At that point, we believe that Bloomberg might finally find himself reaching his limits- - Imposed by the voters.


Posted by eric at 2:31 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Boerum Hill Blog, More pics from DDDB Rally

Blogger Jonathan Ross Balthaser was snapping away during Saturday's Walkathon.


LOWDOWN: A man in a fuzzy lime green bunny suit banging a drum, led Saturday's protest/walk-a-thon fundraiser for Develop Don't Destroy. The Atlantic Yards Project has been the talk of the town for some time now, with a lot of opinions on what to do with the land.

The 2.3 mile walk began at Brooklyn Borough Hall where CelebBrooklynite John Turturro helped kick things off. Next was a pit stop in front of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign office on Atlantic Avenue for some “Brooklyn’s not for sale!” chanting. The march ended with corn and cerveza at the Habana Outpost after-party in Fort Greene to celebrate raising $40,000 for their legal fight against Atlantic Yards. Check out The Boerum Hill Blog's pictorial.

NetsDaily, In Newest Ticket Promotion, Nets Offer Players

It’s come to this: A Nets’ player will make a one-hour appearance at your home, office or school if you buy four courtside tickets for 10 games. “Your Ticket to a Player” is pricey: it starts at $25,000. “If you’re a 10-year-old and you get to bring a Nets’ player to your party,” notes Brett Yormark. “Whether it’s Devin or [Terrence Williams] or Tony Battie, the value for that party goes up exponentially.”

NoLandGrab: Yormarketing Genius strikes again. What 10-year-old has $25,000 and would be dopey enough to squander it on courtside seats for 10 Nets' games?

The award for best NetsDaily commenter post goes to TheMann:

I guess next it’ll be if you purchase a half-season courtside ticket plan you can have Ratner, Yormark, and Prokhorov re-enact scenes from the 3 stooges.

Brownstoner, DDDB Holds Fifth Fundraiser Against the Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the Atlantic Yards watchdog organization, held its fifth annual Walk Don't Destroy fundraiser on Saturday, which raised over $40,000 according to the Atlantic Yards Report. City Council Member Letitia James, DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein, actor John Turturro, and about 200 others walked the 2.3-mile route, which included a stop at Borough Hall, headquarters of Borough President Marty Markowitz, a supporter of the Atlantic Yards development.

The Property Law Blog, That was the week that was - The Royale with Cheese

Over the puddle, the Wall Street Journal's brilliant legal blog discusses here a legal battle in New York over the Atlantic Yards project, a controversial plan to build an NBA arena (for the New Jersey Nets), along with stores and condos in an area of Brooklyn that has been designated as blighted.

mole333's blog [The Daily Gotham], DDDB Walkathon: Maturation of a Movement

When I first hooked up with DDDB, there was much enthusiasm, a little too much anger (justified, perhaps, but sometimes off-putting) and insufficient focus. They were made up of a bunch of community members concerned about what was going on with little experience in the public eye. Many mistakes were made early on due to lack of experience, but lessons were learned from those mistakes. The 5th Walkathon reflected the changes and lessons learned. I was struck by how the early enthusiasm, though not completely absent at this walkathon, has been replaced with something that should be much more frightening to Ratner: a kind of grim, mature determination. A sense that digging in for the long haul is what is needed. They still talk about hoping this is the last year walkathon needed, but behind that is a sense that they will keep fighting even if 100 more walkathons are needed.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, NYC Small Business Exposé

With a startling lack of irony, Richard Lipsky (who was paid by Forest City Ratner to promote Atlantic Yards) cites Mayor Bloomberg's support of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards (via Steve Malanga's City Journal piece) as an example of how bad Bloomberg has been for small businesses — which represent the lion's share of Lipsky's client base.

Malanga really leaves no stone unturned-and turns to the use of eminent domain at Willets Point to drive home just how bad the Bloombergistas have been to the little guys: "He has supported everything from the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn to a massive new development in Willets Point, Queens, which would uproot hundreds of firms. Whatever the merits of these individual initiatives (and government’s record of picking winners in business is erratic at best), eminent-domain law as practiced in New York is a virtual death sentence to most small firms."

Ground Report, Mattress Seller Causes Taxpayer Nightmares

The Empire State Development Corporation represents what is probably the most active agent for corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse in such cases as my alma mater Columbia University's land grab in West Harlem and the Atlantic Yards scheme in Brooklyn, to name some notable current examples. The Empire State Development Corporation and its counterparts eveywhere are illegitimate agents of legalized theft.

Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Calling it, for Thompson

Columbia Spectator
by Al Benninghoff

Adventures in phone banking.

Phone banking for Thompson, however, is quite a different experience.

No one that answered the phones hadn’t heard of Bloomberg. It would be hard not to. He’s spent $60 million on his campaign so far, with plans to spend another $60 million in these final weeks. He’s bought so many advertisements that people are beginning to complain that it’s overkill, but when you call voters, you can tell that the commercials’ contents are beginning to sink in. The people I was calling were spouting rhetoric found not only in his commercials and on his fliers, but in the articles that have churned out weekly covering the campaign. There are a few constant themes.

#3. Bloomberg is a businessman who has brought huge economic development projects to New York.

He’s made some big promises, but most of the big ideas Bloomberg touts never get off the ground. Ground Zero is still just a hole, the West Side Stadium project was a dud, and the Atlantic Yards project seems to have stalled.


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

AY doomed? New lawsuit targets ESDC over unrealistic project timetable, failure to issue SEIS, and failure to address renegotiated MTA deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder runs through the key claims in the lawsuit filed today against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Twenty community groups, led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), today filed suit in state court against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner (FCR), aiming to annul the ESDC's 9/17/09 approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) for what is formally called the Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project.

In essence, the lawsuit charges that the state agency, rather than take a "hard look"--as required by state law--and delay its approval process, instead bowed to the developer's timetable to move the project forward so tax-exempt arena bonds could be issued by a crucial end-of-year deadline.

While I and others have suggested that the pending eminent domain lawsuit is the only case that could formally stop the project, DDDB asserts this lawsuit could doom the project, given that it would reverse the ESDC's approval of the project--and, presumably, that the ESDC could not, in light of the charges, revise its approval in a timely and legitimate fashion.


Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: 20 Co-Petitioners Sue Empire State Development Corp. and Forest City Ratner For Illegal Actions Taken in Approval of Atlantic Yards Project

Lawsuits Pile Up Against the Besieged Project As Community Lawsuit Seeks to Annul Project's Approval on Multiple Legal Grounds

BROOKLYN, NY— The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has clearly and illegally abandoned the statutorily mandated purpose—a plan to remove "blight"—of Forest City Ratner's (FCR) Atlantic Yards development plan in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

The ESDC has stated its intention to illegally contradict the project's governing document (the Modified General Project Plan or MGPP) with a separate "development agreement" that would make the proposed Atlantic Yards "affordable" housing component completely conditioned upon the availability of public subsidies. The MGPP requires no such conditions.

The ESDC has illegally concluded that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) is not required for Forest City Ratner's substantially and significantly changed Atlantic Yards development proposal.

These are the three overall claims made against the ESDC and Forest City Ratner in a lawsuit filed today by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and 19 other community groups. The suit seeks to annul the ESDC's findings under New York State's environmental laws, and the legislation that created the ESDC.

Victory by the petitioners would doom the besieged development plan.


The lawsuit has broad community support with twenty co-petitioners representing all of the communities surrounding the project site, and beyond. Jeffrey S. Baker of Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore is the lead attorney.

"The ESDC cut corners in order to rush Ratner's project forward for an end-of-year IRS deadline. In so doing it has egregiously violated state laws governing environmental reviews and urban renewal," said lead attorney Jeffrey Baker. "ESDC willfully stuck its head in the sand regarding the new Ratner deal with the MTA [PDF]. That new deal guarantees that the project, contrary to the legal requirement to remove alleged ‘blight,' will exacerbate the ‘blight' and make it permanent."

"It has been clear for a long time that the ESDC has worked officiously to serve as Ratner's tool in government. It has once again taken numerous corner-cutting and illegal actions, which contrary to its goals, will doom the project," said DDDB legal chair Candace Carponter. "It is also a terrible shame that we have had to bring this lawsuit to expose the fact that ESDC has quietly made the ‘affordable' housing conditioned upon public subsidies, in contradiction with its approval document. Holding ESDC and Ratner accountable on the ‘affordable' housing is something that Ratner's partner ACORN should have been doing, but clearly hasn't been able to because it is financially in hock to the developer and contractually obliged to support his project."

With this new lawsuit there are now four pending lawsuits against the ESDC, Forest City Ratner, and the MTA, alleging various illegal actions taken in their six-year long pursuit of the Atlantic Yards development proposal.

The lawsuit was filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The legal briefs can be found here: http://www.dddb.net/MGPPsuit

More Details on the Legal Claims in DDDB et al. v. ESDC et al.

1. The ESDC Has Abandoned the Legally Mandated Purpose of the Project:

The ESDC has designated the entire non-arena portion of the project as a Land Use Improvement Project (LUIP) under the Urban Development Corporation Act (UDCA). But the ESDC's 2009 MGPP fails to meet, and thus violates, the requirements of the UDCA because it does not present a plan to alleviate the alleged blighting and blighted conditions at the project site, and therefore cannot be an LUIP.

The abandonment of such a plan, and thus the purpose of the project, is guaranteed by the terms of the new deal to sell the Vanderbilt Yards to Ratner, which the MTA approved this past June. That deal guarantees that the blight conditions will not be alleviated until well after 2030 or ever.

The reality is that, at a minimum, the project area will remain either undeveloped or in a long term construction phase stretching decades that will not alleviate blight but rather exacerbate it and make it a permanent condition. The ESDC has made an illegal determination under the UDCA and, therefore, has no authority to approve or oversee the project.

The development agreement that supposedly commits FCR to complete the project does not have a time limit and only requires it to build less than two-thirds of the residential units, leaving significant amount of the "blighted" area in its unattractive state.

Petitioners have always challenged ESDC's finding that the southern part of the project area is blighted. While those challenges are still pending before the New York State Court of Appeals, for the purpose of ESDC's current actions it is accepted that the ESDC's blight finding is the basis and purpose of ESDC's approval of the project. However, at this point ESDC has ignored the fact that the project will take decades, if ever, to complete and has no plan to assure that the blight will actually be eliminated. This demonstrates that the alleviation of blight was never the real intent of ESDC's approval, but was just a pretext to facilitate approvals for a favored, private developer's land grab.

Therefore, the September 17, 2009 ESDC resolution under the UDCA must be annulled.

2. The ESDC's Approval is Inconsistent on Conditions for Affordable Housing

The ESDC's Modified General Project Plan, approved on September 17, 2009, requires the construction of 2,250 "affordable housing" units within the project. This is an unconditional requirement in the MGPP. But the ESDC is apparently poised to approve a "development agreement" in contradiction with the MGPP, which states that construction of those "affordable" units are "subject to governmental authorities making …affordable housing subsidies" available to Forest City Ratner.

The ESDC Board's approval of the MGPP, which authorized its staff to enter into the "development agreement" to complete the project, is illegal as it includes a material term to avoid providing affordable housing, which is inconsistent with the MGPP.

Therefore, the September 17, 2009 ESDC resolution allowing agreements that contradict the MGPP must be annulled.

3. The ESDC Abused Its Discretion When it Failed to Issue a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)

The ESDC irrationally and unreasonably maintained that the project would take ten years to construct by ignoring the fundamental changes brought about by the new MTA transaction and other clear, expert evidence that completion of the project would extend decades, if ever completed at all.

The new deal with the MTA constituted both a substantial change in the project and in circumstances, which raised new issues concerning both the timing and completion of the project.

By failing to even recognize the new MTA terms, the ESDC failed to identify the relevant issues and take the hard look necessary to make its determination that an SEIS was not necessary. Instead, the ESDC undertook an artificial environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) that was based upon a project completion in 2019 instead of 2030 or later.

ESDC never responded to the expert report by Kahr Real Estate Services [PDF] that found the project not economically feasible and incapable of completion for at least 20 years. Instead, ESDC relied upon a report by KPMG [PDF], which unconvincingly said a 10-year time frame was "not unreasonable". Kahr Real Estate Services reviewed the recently released KPMG report and part of this lawsuit includes an affidavit from Kahr [PDF] that sharply criticizes the KPMG report as fatally flawed and inadequate to support ESDC's findings.

ESDC failed to identify substantial changes in the project and take a hard look at the potential environmental impacts and determined, contrary to the requirements of SEQRA, that an SEIS was not necessary. This was an arbitrary and capricious decision, and an abuse of discretion.

Because of this, ESDC's September 17, 2009 determination that an SEIS was not necessary must be annulled.

The co-petitioners on this lawsuit are:

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Inc.
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc.
Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, Inc.
Brooklyn Bears Gardens, Inc.
Brooklyn Vision Foundation, Inc.
Carlton Avenue Association, Inc.
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats
Crown Heights North Association, Inc.
Dean Street Block Association, Inc. (4th to 5th Ave)
Democracy For New York City, Inc.
East Pacific Block Association, Inc.
Fort Greene Association, Inc.
Fort Greene Park Conservancy, Inc.
Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, Inc.
Park Slope Neighbors, Inc.
Prospect Heights Action Coalition
Prospect Place of Brooklyn Block Association, Inc.
Society for Clinton Hill, Inc.
South Oxford Street Block Association
South Portland Block Association, Inc.

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

The "aggressive enough press"? The lapses mount, and the Atlantic Yards arena bonds issue might become a prime example

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember, Mayor Mike Bloomberg last week said he wants to get rid of the Public Advocate's office because, among other things, "we have an aggressive enough press."

The press has had a fairly weak track record on Atlantic Yards revelations.

But here are a couple just from last week's (non-daily) press, with emphases added. The last example, of course, involves Atlantic Yards.

The manipulation (or falsifying) of property values to satisfy the financing needs of sports-team owners would normally be a scandal, except in NYC, where it is just business as usual.

From Wayne Barrett's Village Voice feature this week, headlined A Bloomberg Score Card: The Mayor's Hits and Misses:

The evidence that top officials of the Bloomberg administration reversed land assessments for the Yankees deal to artificially jack up the value in order to qualify for the tax-exempt financing is overwhelming and would—in a time when a good scandal had staying power in New York—make Bloomberg wince at the thought of an election eve parade. E-mails like one from a top aide to Deputy Mayor Doctoroff explicitly said they were making the assessment "so high" in an attempt "to support the tax-exempt financing."

By December, the Bloomberg administration will replicate its scandal-ridden history of bonding these projects by supporting the issuance of $678 million in state tax-exempt bonds for the Nets. The IBO estimates that the arena will also cost the city $350 million, combining direct and indirect subsidies, concluding that it will lose at least $40 million over the life of the deal, assuming the most optimistic revenue projections. Salty Mike's response to the unstated, apolitical IBO: "I don't know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park."


Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

For Potential Owner, a Background Check Worthy of the K.G.B.

The NY Times
By Richard Sandomir

In order to approve the deal for billionaire Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov to purchase the NJ Nets from Bruce Ratner, the board of NBA owners will have to be willing to accept some ambiguity in the results of the financial/personal vetting process:

Mike Ackerman, a former C.I.A. senior operations officer who is the president of the Ackerman Group, a security firm, said the league would have to accept a certain amount of ambiguity in order to approve Prokhorov.

“When we vet Russian joint-venture partners for our clients, I tell them there is no black and white in Russia, it’s all gray,” he said. “Information can be had, but you have to be prepared to accept the grayness.”

Russian oligarchs are an unusual group of capitalists by Western standards.
The league’s investigation may never yield as complete a picture of Prokhorov as it would an American buyer. All the same, N.B.A. owners will have to decide whether the cash infusion for the Nets is worth taking a risk on a charismatic billionaire willing to bail out a franchise that has lost nearly $400 million in five years under Ratner. ...
Leagues do not reject many prospective buyers in a vote by owners. They prefer to eliminate those who fail to meet their requirements in early stages of consideration.


NoLandGrab: It's hard to believe that league commissioner David Stern would have publicly backed this deal if he wasn't confident that the owners would approve.

Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

Los Angeles, Are You Ready For Some NFL Football?

By John Adams

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he's going to sign an environmental exemption bill that will clear the way for construction of the LA Stadium.

State senators approved the bill, which would nullify a lawsuit over the project's environmental impact report by citizens in neighboring Walnut. Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the bill in support of the stadium because its impact on the local economy and its ability to generate jobs.

There will be more than 6,700 new jobs created because of the stadium, causing an addition $21 million in new tax revenue and $762 million in new economic activity, according to an LA Stadium spokesperson.


NoLandGrab: It's Bruce Ratner's wet dream — imagine if NY Governor Paterson signed a bill that would provide an exemption to supercede the Environmental Impact Statement, thus clearing several lawsuits, including one that is scheduled to be filed today.

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

Thompson’s Advocated Multiple Parcels (a la Battery Park City) vs. Single-Developer Mega-monopolies Should Boost Developers’ Bids

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White explains the difference between just-in-time manufacturing and highly subsidized megadevelopments:

There is one thing in the Observer Article that we think is misleading:

“Giving a big site to a single developer all at once—such as the 22-acre, $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project—could bring a higher bid given, among other reasons, that the developer would benefit from economies of scale and increased values as it fills out the site.”- -

- - We think that it needs to be understood that 'giving a big site to a single developer all at once—such as the 22-acre, $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project'—could bring a MUCH LOWER bid.

No doubt everyone has heard the expressions “You didn’t pay retail for that, did you?” and “I can get it for you wholesale.” Suffice it to say, retailing sales RAISES the prices a seller can charge. Furthermore, dividing huge sites into multiple parcels increases the number of capable bidders in the game and that raises the price the government will receive. Another benefit is that it mitigates risk for the government, allowing for more flexible Plan Bs (and Cs). As Atlantic Yards Report notes (and suggests may have been understood when the Observer article was authored), the lack of alternative plans can lead to costly additional concessions later on. Or the lack of alternatives can be used as political excuses to wind with a “deal on terms more favorable to the developer.”


Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

Two profiles of Amanda Burden make and miss the same points about City Planning (and Atlantic Yards)

Atlantic Yards Report

Two profiles in the past week of City Planning Commission (CPC) Chairwoman Amanda Burden take the same tack: she's led rezonings and, to her credit and (anonymously-sourced) discredit, has become a micromanager on design issues. Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Bloomberg has left her significant latitude.

Those themes can't be disputed, but both articles miss a larger issue and a smaller one. They fail to note how the CPC has become diminished, unable to truly plan, and they fail to explain how Burden has been (mostly) a loyal foot soldier for Mayor Mike Bloomberg's Atlantic Yards plan.


Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

Small Businesses to NYC: Get Off Our Backs!

City Journal
By Steven Malanga

In Bloomberg's NYC, small businesses have had an increasingly tough time...

Morton Sloan feels besieged. Over the last several years, the Bronx-based entrepreneur has watched the property taxes on the ten Morton Williams supermarkets he runs in the city swell by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Increasingly aggressive city inspectors now linger in those stores for hours, writing costly citations for items that clerks accidentally mislabel. Some of Sloan’s suppliers say they’ll no longer deliver to New York City because of the Department of Transportation’s frequent parking-ticket blitzes. It gets worse: a new Bloomberg-administration program that encourages fruit and vegetable vendors to set up on street corners has left him scrambling to match prices with competitors who don’t have to pay rent, utilities, payroll taxes, and various other expenses. And now the city wants to plunk a 60,000-square-foot supermarket into a heavily subsidized new development just blocks from two of his stores. “I’ve never received a subsidy or asked anything of the city in 35 years, except to be left alone to do business,” Sloan says. “But everywhere I look these days, it seems like the city is trying to make life tough for me.”

...at the same time that the City has increased handouts to megaprojects like Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards:

Bloomberg is also seen—for good reason—as a friend to big, sweeping, government-designed economic projects that displace local businesses through eminent domain. He has supported everything from the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn to a massive new development in Willets Point, Queens, which would uproot hundreds of firms. Whatever the merits of these individual initiatives (and government’s record of picking winners in business is erratic at best), eminent-domain law as practiced in New York is a virtual death sentence to most small firms. “If government wants to displace a small business in New York and the business doesn’t own its own property, its chances of survival are slim because government pays virtually nothing to these businesses,” says Michael Rikon, an attorney at Goldstein, Goldstein, Rikon & Gottlieb in Manhattan, a firm that specializes in eminent-domain cases. “They come to me to represent them, and I often refer them directly to a bankruptcy lawyer.”


NoLandGrab: Bloomberg already increased the direct cash subsidy for Atlantic Yards from $100 million to $205 million.

Bruce Ratner is not slated to pay property taxes nor most of the other bothersome taxes that are a part of doing business in NYC. As Leona "the Queen of Mean" Helmsley was famously quoted as saying, "Only the little people pay taxes."

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

Walking Against the Bulldozers

The Local [NY Times blog]
By Nicholas Martinez

At 2 p.m., the masses gathered at Borough Hall with poster-board placards, metal cowbells and parachute-size banners in hand. After numerous pep-rally like speeches and the group’s picketing of the building (headquarters of Borough President Marty Markowitz, the project’s biggest champion), Ms. James and the organizers, along with a police escort and a seven-piece marching band, took the crowd on a walking tour of the Atlantic Yards site on the northern edge of Prospect Heights.

Along the way, she pointed out homes and businesses marked for seizure under the city’s exercise of eminent domain, which is being challenged in court.

The walk ended with an after-party at Habana Outpost on Fulton Street. According to Atlantic Yards Report, it raised $40,000 for the fight against the project.


Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

October 18, 2009

Develop Don't Destroy Walkathon 2009 - The Day In Pictures

The weather forecast for yesterday call for rain, but the rain held off, and the Fifth Develop Don't Destroy Walkathon stepped off on schedule yesterday.

Here are three slideshows from photographers covering the event:

Amy Greer

Tracy Collins

Jonathan Barkey

Posted by steve at 12:25 PM

Tish James and Environmental Encroachment

Part of the scene at Saturday's Develop Don't Destroy Walkathon: Tish James poses with a member of the Chicago band, Environmental Encroachment.

Posted by steve at 12:24 PM

The Rest of The Atlantic Yards Report Weekend

Atlantic Yards Report

At fifth DDDB walkathon, staying power, $40,000, and creativity over a long route

Norman Oder gives complete coverage of yesterday's Develop Don't Destroy Walkathon. With all the photos and video he's included, it's just like being there -- except Oder probably won't write a blog entry about your reading his blog entry.

Despite a bracing chill and a rather arduous 2.3-mile course for the fifth annual Walk Don't Destroy fundraiser yesterday, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) attracted about as large a crowd--at least 160 people--as it did last year, though the fundraising total--more than $40,000--was down a bit from the $45,000 last year.

Buoyed by a Chicago-based marching band called Environmental Encroachment, the walkathon also included some very 2009 creative elements: bilingual signs in Russian and English (above), a reference to the recent agreement by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to purchase 80% of the Nets, and a postcard handout, using the graphic style of Mayor Mike Bloomberg's re-election campaign, challenging his position on Atlantic Yards.

Some observers, including myself, had wondered last year whether there would be any need for a fifth walkathon, given that the legal fight against Atlantic Yards, likely would be over, but that's clearly not the case.

DDDB: new lawsuit challenging Atlantic Yards environmental review will be filed on Monday

Leading off the fifth annual Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) walkathon today, DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein revealed that, on Monday, "there will be one more lawsuit filed against the Atlantic Yards project by 19 community organizations," including DDDB.

Though details are not yet available, DDDB last month threatened to file a suit regarding the failure of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to issue a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in response to changes in the project.

DDDB put most of its fundraising into legal battles. "Suffice it to say that the fundraising you've been doing all these years is going toward some very specific purposes and being well-utilized," Goldstein said.

Would you believe it? Thompson likes Battery Park City (but has ignored the UNITY plan)

Guess what? Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, according to a report in the New York Observer on a speech he gave Thursday, suggests that Battery Park City provides a better model for real estate development than the Bloomberg administration’s mega-projects.

The reason: at Battery Park City, each parcel was developed separately. (I'd add that the park space came first, not in the second phase, as with the Atlantic Yards plan.)

Of course, the UNITY plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard--the key public land within the Atlantic Yards footprint--would do just that, but Thompson has never acknowledged it.

From the DDDB Walkathon: "campaign" postcards challenging Mike Bloomberg as NIMBY

Norman Oder points out postcards distributed during yesterday's Develop Don't Destroy Walkathon that are critical of Mayor Mike Bloomberg (a supporter of the proposed Atlantic Yards Project).

Posted by steve at 11:27 AM

Councilwoman James and John Turturo leads DDDB Walkathon against Atlantic Yards project

The Boerum Hill Blog

This blog entry is mostly a photo essay. Only the text is included here. Please click on the link to get the full effect.

Community members, politicians and even a celebrity or two turned out on a chilly October day to protest Forrest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development today. Dozens gathered at Borough Hall where they City Councilwoman Leticia James and actor John Turturro, among others addressed the crowd.

The protesters marched down Court St. and on to Atlantic Ave., led Turturro and James who encouraged onlookers to say “Brooklyn if you love Brooklyn!” The crowed was buoyed by the whimsical outfits and tunes of the Magic Circus Band, who followed closely behind. The group stopped to protest in front of Michael Bloomburg’s Brooklyn campaign office, where they broke into a chant of “Brooklyn’s not for sale!”

The crowd then marched through the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush. There, Councilwoman James, bullhorn in hand, proclaimed to gridlocked motorists: “if you think traffic is bad today, just imagine it with an arena!”

The group then circled the Atlantic Yards site, crossed into Fort Greene, and ended with a party at Habana Outpost. Stay turned for more pics and video soon.


Posted by steve at 9:20 AM

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov coming to New York to finalize purchase of New Jersey Nets

Daily News
By Aleksandra Klassen and Erin Durkin

This news story quickly devolves into speculation as to where Mikhail Prokhorov will spend his leisure time during his upcoming visit. This kind of reporting plays along with the "done deal" view promoted for so long by developer Bruce Ratner. Perhaps later News coverage will address Prokhorov's possible deal more substantively.

Brighton Beach is buzzing as Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov prepares for his first visit to New York since signing a deal to buy the NBA's New Jersey Nets.

Prokhorov, 44, will sweep into town this week to meet with Forest City Ratner and NBA officials as he finalizes a deal to pay $200 million for 80% of the Nets and 45% of developer Bruce Ratner's planned Brooklyn arena, where he wants to move the team.

Brooklyn Russians had plenty of tips for spots their motherland's richest man - who's worth some $9.5 billion - might want to check out while he's in town.


Posted by steve at 9:08 AM

Eminence grise

Sean Elder

This is some description of, and the reason for, yesterday's Develop Don't Destroy Walkathon.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn held its Fifth (and we hope last) annual Walkathon today, a rather forbidding and gray fall day in our borough. The weather kept the crowds at bay; about 200 people gathered at Borough Hall to hear John “Nobody Fucks with the Jesus” Turturro (lifelong Brooklynite but a more recent convert to the anti-Ratner cause), city councilwoman Tish James (who led the troops on our protest like Delacroix’s Liberty leading the people, albeit fully clothed) and DDDB president Daniel Goldstein, all telling people not to give up.

Rather we need them to give it up; the money the organization raises all goes to the legal costs of fighting developer Bruce Ratner and his hated Atlantic Yards project. This week attorneys representing Goldstein and other property owners presented their case to the New York Court of Appeals, with mixed results. The justices seemed less than eager to redefine the meaning of eminent domain, or define public use — but they also had some tough questions for the other side.

Such as why was the residential area, where lots of working class folks live, declared blighted after the fact. “Have you gerrymandered this area to fit what the developer wanted?” asked one of the justices. (”Heck no, your honor — but with the governor, mayor and borough president all ready to lie down for us we figured we could just take what we wanted.” Okay, he didn’t say that.)

It could be weeks, or months, before the court hands down a decision but events such as this one are designed to keep hope alive. The marchers stopped about midway in front of Bloomberg’s reelection office on Atlantic Avenue. There was some general booing and chanting (”Eight years is enough!” “Brooklyn’s not for sale!”), followed by an impromptu sermon by the Reverend Billy of the Church of Life After Shopping. It was he who invoked Jane Jacobs, the patron saint of urban development opponents everywhere, and reminded us that the opposition may have more clout and money (rubles, even) than us — but they ain’t got soul.


Posted by steve at 9:01 AM

Other locales, including Suffolk, want Islanders

By Randi F. Marshall and Eden Laikin

Here's more speculation about the hockey Islanders playing in an arena that has no ice rink.

Brooklyn, meanwhile, is much further along in its effort to redevelop the Atlantic Yards area, where officials hope to break ground this year on a new arena and real estate project that would bring the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association to the borough.

Sources with knowledge of the situation say that there have been no conversations between Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and Lighthouse partners Wang and Rechler. And they say that as designed now, the arena there could not house a National Hockey League team because it doesn't meet NHL regulations.

But that's not deterring Brooklyn borough President Marty Markowitz.

"I know we would welcome them as the Brooklyn Islanders," Markowitz said. "Let's get the Brooklyn Nets playing here. Once an arena is built, all things are then possible."


NoLandGrab: The phrase "redevelop the Atlantic Yards area" is problematic. "Atlantic Yards" is the name of a development, not an area. The proposed project would be in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, and the will be bringing more developer-caused blight than any development to the neighborhood.

Posted by steve at 8:51 AM


Tokyo MX

NY1's "Sister Station" in Tokyo gives coverage, mostly using NY1's video, of the Eminent Domain case heard in Albany this past Wednesday.

(To see the video, click on the link below, and then click on the "Movie" icon.)


Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

October 17, 2009

It's Here: Walkathon 5. Saturday October 17th. Step Up to Defeat Atlantic Yards

Come on out to Borough Hall for Saturday October 17th's Fifth Annual DDDB Walkathon to fund the legal fight against Atlantic Yards. Sign in starts at 1pm and the Walk kicks off at 2pm.

Walk Don't Destroy 5, C'mon Out!

If we must cancel due to heavy rain, we will post that here around 10am Saturday morning.


Posted by steve at 8:14 AM

Five For A Saturday From The Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Another missed opportunity for Thompson: criticizing a sweetheart deal for Snapple but not FCR

From a Tom Robbins column in the Village Voice, headlined Mayor Bloomberg's School-Snack Bungle: Vending machine politics:

This was back in 2003, and it was the first big face-off between [City Comptroller Bill] Thompson and [Mayor Mike] Bloomberg. Thompson issued a scathing audit showing that Bloomberg's team had awarded the contract to Snapple without even sending a letter of invitation to other major firms who had to learn about this major opportunity through the business grapevine. Snapple, the audit showed, had been tapped for the job by a private marketing consultant named Octagon that had a bit of a conflict of interest since it already carried Snapple's parent company as a client. After other bids were received, Snapple alone was allowed to sweeten its offer.

Of course, Thompson, an Atlantic Yards supporter, never said anything about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) decision to let Forest City Ratner alone sweeten its offer for the Vanderbilt Yard, nor the MTA's decision in June 2009 to further sweeten the Vanderbilt Yard deal.

As No Land Grab's Eric McClure suggests, "criticizing Bloomberg for being an underdeveloper, no matter the audience, is not a recipe for a November 3rd upset."

NoLandGrab: One might be jealous when a colleague is quoted in the well-respected AtlanticYards report. I am.

The contradictions of the Working Families Party: responsible development and silence on Atlantic Yards

The Working Families Party has an official stance favoring responsible development that includes a democratic process. Despite the proposed Atlantic Yards development being the poster child for a development process gone wrong, Norman Oder finds the WFP to be officially neutral on the project.

With Atlantic Yards, however, the priority is the developer's vision, while neighborhood concerns--at least the neighborhoods represented by the three community boards touching on the project site--get downplayed.

The complication is that some community concerns, at least as represented by the Forest City Ratner-funded groups in the Community Benefits Agreement, are met, thanks in part to government funds funneled to the developer and then redistributed.

And where has the Working Families Party been on this? It's officially neutral on Atlantic Yards, and has criticized tax-free bonds for Yankee Stadium, but never mentioned the Nets arena.

As I wrote in June 2006, given that ACORN is a founder of the WFP, the party can't ignore ACORN's position supporting AY. But shouldn't the WFP care about a democratic planning process?

CNG Watch: Brooklyn Paper steps up on AY, Courier-Life steps back

The Brooklyn Paper has been working hard to cover the latest Atlantic Yards-related developments, the Courier Life -- not so much.

I've been critical of the Brooklyn Paper's retreat from thorough Atlantic Yards coverage, but this week credit the paper for doing its job.

This week's front page includes a reasonably thorough article (despite a lapse) on Wednesday's eminent domain argument, grouped with a separate article about the new lawsuit challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's renegotiation of the Vanderbilt Yard deal with Forest City Ratner.


The sibling Courier-Life chain, which has a later deadline, compressed both stories into one, and placed that story on page 4.

The article, headlined online as Atlantic Yards lawsuits filed and heard and in print as "Latest Atlantic Yards suit looks to void June deal," gave eight paragraphs to the MTA suit, followed by six brief paragraphs about the oral arguments.

And whom does the notorious Stephen Witt choose to quote? An attorney? A judge? Nope.

Witt writes: Also in Albany for the court hearing were several local grassroots groups who have long favored the project.

“We were in Albany to voice our support in terms of wanting to see the project move forward,” said Marie Louis, chief operating officer of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Development), which received funding from the developer as per a community benefits agreement for local workforce development.

“We also believe these frivolous lawsuits need to be put to rest because all they want to do is delay the project and kill it. The need for jobs and affordable housing is even more intense given the economic climate,” she said.

Funny, but the state's Chief Judge and others on the court didn't seem to think it was frivolous. And a New York Times report suggested that the case has "major implications for economic development across the state."

Is Atlantic Yards "this generation's Penn Station"? The meme may be spreading

From Metropolis's P/O/V blog:
New York has made sport of bad planning, from the demolition of Penn Station decades ago to the psychic mess of Atlantic Yards.

Now there's no evidence that the writer had actually heard Municipal Art Society (MAS) President Kent Barwick's late-2007 observation that Atlantic Yards might be "this generation's Penn Station" because of the "absurdity with which [it] proceeded."

So maybe the meme is getting around.

NoLandGrab: Maybe the meme can become "Atlantic Yards was almost this generation's Penn Station."

From the 2005 Kelo case to the 2009 Goldstein case: does "the specter of condemnation" hang over all property?

Norman Oder indulges in some Monday-morning quarterbacking in a revisit to his coverage of the legal battle this past Wednesday in Albany.

What I didn't point out is that I think Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) lawyer Philip Karmel might have hedged somewhat.

Perhaps he could have said that condemnation would only proceed via a “'carefully considered' development plan," to quote Justice John Paul Stevens' opinion of the court in Kelo, or within the "context of a comprehensive development plan," to quote Justice Anthony Kennedy's concurrence.

After all, eminent domain defenders, as quoted in this Governing magazine article, certainly think the policy is valuable. Surely it can be so. But even those who see its value think New York could use some reforms.

Posted by steve at 7:36 AM

Skeptical bond market could be latest hurdle for NJ Nets' Brooklyn arena project

The Star-Ledger
By Michael J. Fensom

This article gives reasons to be skeptical regarding the proposed Atlantic Yards project being built.

A Wall Street Journal report Friday indicated that the tough bond market could present the latest challenge for the Nets' Brooklyn arena project.

Of course, the first order of business for the Nets is overcoming the property-rights case levied against the team by Brooklyn residents. But, if the case is resolved in favor of the group hoping to develop the Atlantic Yards, the clock will start ticking to issue the bonds.

The developers have until Dec. 31 to issue the bonds that will fund $700 million of the arena's estimated $900 million cost, or the debt's tax-exempt status will be lost.

Furthermore, if the developers cannot get an investment-grade credit rating for the bonds, the bonds' interest rates will rise, making them unattractive to investors.

So as the Nets' hearts are set on Brooklyn, the reality of the arena project -- the linchipin of the proposed move -- still has a long way to go before coming to fruition.


Posted by steve at 7:18 AM

All In On Atlantic Yards

The Am Law Daily

An item insde "The Frank McCourt Chronicles: A Semi-Regular Look at Sports and the Law" encapsulates legal developments regarding the proposed Atlantic Yards project from this past week.

Before Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and his New Jersey Nets begin playing in Brooklyn, New York's top court must rule on a civil suit seeking to block the multi-billion dollar real estate complex that includes a new arena, offices, stores, and apartments.

Landowners represented by Matthew Brinckerhoff from New York's Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady are suing a state agency using eminent domain to seize land for the Atlantic Yards development. Bryan Cave's Philip Karmel and J. Kevin Healy and New York's Berger & Webb are advising the Empire State Development Corporation, which is seeking to sell the land to developer Bruce Ratner.

Reuters reports that Ratner must begin building an arena for the basketball team before the year's end or he will lose out on $700 million of low-cost, tax-free debt. (Consumer advocates and public officials filed another suit this week seeking to block a related land sale to Ratner.)

The appellate court is expected to rule in December.


Posted by steve at 7:11 AM

Not Seeing the Light

Long Island Exchange
By Joe Pietaro

Recent reports have hockey New York Islanders owner Charles Wang abandoning his plan to build the Lighthouse development on Long Island. This would result in the Islanders looking for a new venue. This item repeats the possibility of having the Islanders play at the arena for the proposed Atlantic Yards project, even though the arena would not be large enough for hockey.

The Atlantic Yards project may be a pipedream, but until it is dead and buried there is still a possibility it will be erected. Perhaps the Nets arena will look more attractive if there is a hockey team in place to join them. How ironic would that be? When the Coliseum was first built for the Islanders, the Nets were the redheaded stepchildren playing second banana.


NoLandGrab: "Pipedream" does not correctly describe the proposed Atlantic Yards project. If nobody has yet coined "pipenightmare," consider it done.

Posted by steve at 6:56 AM

Jane Jacobs, Star Edition

By Suzanne LaBarre

Here is another example of Mayor Bloomberg backing a project and refusing to listen to any alternatives. In this case, the City plans to build a salt shed, garbage garage and maintenance facility at Spring Street, on Manhattan's lower west side. John Slattery, the actor who has recently become well known for his role on the series "Mad Men", has lent his voice to an alternate plan called "Hudson Rise".

In this article, the proposed Atlantic Yards project again becomes the example of how not to do development in New York City, as Slattery observes the unwillingness of city officials to look at alternatives.

Slattery has a point. New York has made sport of bad planning, from the demolition of Penn Station decades ago to the psychic mess of Atlantic Yards. PlaNYC, Bloomberg’s sweeping effort to green the city, was supposed to change everything. But what’s green on paper doesn’t always translate to the street. The Department of Sanitation facility meets PlaNYC’s imperative because it’s expected to earn LEED certification even though just looking at the thing, it’s obvious there’s nothing particularly green about it. “I think some of the problems in New York City is the architecture that gets approved,” said Slattery. “This is a chance to actually implement something community-related, sustainable, and forward-thinking.”


Posted by steve at 6:05 AM

October 16, 2009

At the Board: Atlantic Terrace Coming Soon

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Jordan Shakeshaft

On Nov. 1, applications will be available for Atlantic Terrace, the 80-unit mixed-income residential development at Atlantic and South Portland scheduled to top off next month. Construction should be complete by May, followed soon after by a city-sponsored lottery.

Heather Gershon of the Fifth Avenue Committee, the nonprofit housing advocacy group that is developing the site, said that residents can expect a LEED-certified green building. “I’m pleased to report that not only are we using sustainable practices and materials, we’re actually buying the majority of our finishes locally,” Ms. Gershon said. The IceStone countertops made of recycled glass and concrete, for example, are all produced at the Navy Yard.


NoLandGrab: Let us get this straight. The Atlantic Terrace project, which was announced on June 13, 2007, will begin accepting applications for its mostly affordable units on November 1, 2009, and will be ready for occupancy probably during the summer of 2010, a scant three years from start to finish.

Right across the street, the Atlantic Yards project, which was announced on December 10, 2003, and which has received overwhelming political backing largely (and allegedly) for it promise of affordable housing, has yet to break ground almost six years later.

What, we might ask, is preventing Bruce Ratner from building affordable housing on all the empty lots he's created in Prospect Heights, with attendant good-paying union construction jobs? Could it be that Atlantic Yards was never really about affordable housing and jobs at all?

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Atlantic Terrace Applications Available Nov 1

Image via Brownstoner

Posted by eric at 4:59 PM

A Bloomberg Score Card: The Mayor's Hits and Misses

The Village Voice
by Wayne Barrett

The Voice's venerable political reporter weighs the plusses and minuses of a third Bloomberg act. One definite minus: arenapalooza.

As much as the city ought to name a hospital after Mayor Mike, it is more likely to name a stadium or arena. He has certainly spent enough of our money on them to pay for the naming rights. If he gets a pre-election Yankees World Series parade, the confetti should remind us of the bonanza of tax dollars that helped finance the stadium in which it was won.

But the fact remains that the only major projects built or to be built in the Bloomberg era—the monuments to Mike—are Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and the soon-to-be-bonded-by-the-city Nets arena in Brooklyn. Even the city-financed extension of the 7 subway line, ballyhooed by Bloomberg aides, is merely a potential pathway to Westside development, not a project itself.


That's a dismal track record, especially from a mayor who derided the job development benefits of stadium deals when he junked Giuliani's in 2002. The city is directly spending a half-billion on the two stadiums, largely for infrastructure improvements, some of which are still incomplete. It is also tapping its own supply of tax-exempt bonds, which are supposed to be used for projects of great public value, like hospitals, for $1.9 billion, subsidizing the two teams that are claiming to be building the stadiums themselves to the tune of $1.3 billion (a combination of the savings achieved through the bonds and other property, mortgage, and sales tax exemptions). The evidence that top officials of the Bloomberg administration reversed land assessments for the Yankees deal to artificially jack up the value in order to qualify for the tax-exempt financing is overwhelming and would—in a time when a good scandal had staying power in New York—make Bloomberg wince at the thought of an election eve parade. E-mails like one from a top aide to Deputy Mayor Doctoroff explicitly said they were making the assessment "so high" in an attempt "to support the tax-exempt financing."

By December, the Bloomberg administration will replicate its scandal-ridden history of bonding these projects by supporting the issuance of $678 million in state tax-exempt bonds for the Nets. The IBO estimates that the arena will also cost the city $350 million, combining direct and indirect subsidies, concluding that it will lose at least $40 million over the life of the deal, assuming the most optimistic revenue projections. Salty Mike's response to the unstated, apolitical IBO: "I don't know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park."

A Bloomberg hero, the late Senator Patrick Moynihan, attached an amendment to the IRS code in 1986 to try to bar cities from using tax-exempt bonds to finance stadiums, but the IBO reports that the city "found a way to circumvent these strictures" by technically structuring these two privately built and operated stadiums as publicly owned and leased for 99 years. The IRS originally OK'd this arrangement and then reversed itself, prohibiting such maneuvers in the future. Yet the city plans to do the arena precisely the same way, and the IRS grandfathered the arena in under its initial ruling, giving the city until the end of the year to sell the bonds. Incredibly, all of these resources have been used either to induce a basketball team to move across the river or to build stadiums with fewer and more expensive seats, neither of which is much of a public benefit. And every independent analysis re-establishes what the mayor once believed—nothing generates fewer real jobs than these television studios disguised as sports facilities.


Posted by eric at 4:58 PM

If court rules wrongly, desperate times may call for desperate takings

NY Fiscal Watch
by Nicole Gelinas

Homebuyer beware.

New York State and City are increasingly desperate for tax revenue. This desperation makes the highest state court’s upcoming ruling on whether the Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) has the right to seize private property for the Atlantic Yards redevelopment project in Brooklyn very important to private property rights here.

The most significant component of Atlantic Yards is high-rise, market-rate apartment buildings. The state has declared the property blighted, and thus fit for condemnation, not based on dangerous or unsanitary conditions, but largely on “underutilization” — that is, that people aren’t using their property to the maximum allowed under the law.

In arguments this week, one judge asked the state’s lawyer: “is it the law of New York that if I own a house in an area that the government thinks could be improved, a perfectly nice house, it’s a clean house, nothing particularly wrong with the area, but it could be better, more vibrant, more dynamic businesses, is that enough for the government to [condemn and seize] the house?”

The state’s answer: “Under New York State constitutional law, yes, it is.”

The court, then, has a chance to reassert the state constitution in the Atlantic Yards case.

If it does not, anyone who lives in an “underutilized” property — like a three-story brownstone on a lot that’s fit for a skyscraper — should be very worried. His property is only his subject to Albany’s disinclination to seize it in an attempt to squeeze out more tax revenues for the ever-insatiated political interests.


Posted by eric at 4:57 PM

“Us Against Ourselves”? No, me and many others against Atlantic Yards

Not Another F*cking Blog

Photographer and Dean Street resident Tracy Collins responds to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Henrik Krogius, who mistakenly (or accidentally on purpose) wrote this week that brownstone neighborhoods "in fact don’t abut the [Atlantic Yards project] site."

This is false. The newly created Prospect Heights Historic District directly abuts the Atlantic Yards footprint. Brownstones and low-rise townhouses directly abut this site on Carlton Avenue, between Pacific and Dean Streets; on the intersection of Carlton Avenue south of Dean Street; on Dean Street, between Flatbush and 6th Avenues; on Dean Street, between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues; and on Vanderbilt Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets. (I’ve included small photos of these areas to fit them all in this email. I can provide larger and other photos if you’d like, or you can view many more here.

Tracy Collins
Dean Street, Prospect Heights


NoLandGrab: The homes pictured above would sit directly across narrow Dean Street from the entrance to the 18,000-seat Barclays Center arena. Anyone who's ever stood outside Madison Square Garden before or after a sporting event or concert understands very clearly why New York City zoning prohibits locating an arena within 200 feet of a residentially zoned neighborhood — a zoning regulation that, in the case of Atlantic Yards, has been overridden by New York State.

Posted by eric at 4:30 PM

A Bad Deal for the MTA and Its Riders

The Huffington Post
by Gene Russianoff

Straphangers Campaign staff attorney and chief spokesman Gene Russianoff outlines the case against the MTA's railyard fire-sale to Bruce Ratner.

We wuz robbed!

With that broiling grievance in mind, the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign joined in a lawsuit this week objecting to the rotten deal that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority struck this past June for the rights to build over the Vanderbilt Yards in Brooklyn.

If this deal goes ahead - with the Forest City Ratner company - it will mean scores of millions less for the MTA's upcoming critical five-year capital plan, from buying new subways and buses to repairing the transit system's infrastructure, such as signals, track and stations.

Most of the facts of the case are not in dispute.


Posted by eric at 1:27 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Field of Schemes, WSJ: Atlantic Yards bond sale a "toss-up"

The Wall Street Journal's Serena Ng and Matthew Futterman have weighed in on the question of whether New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner will be able to sell bonds for his planned Brooklyn arena what with two lawsuits pending, and their verdict is: It "looks like a toss-up." The key, they write, is whether Ratner will be able to buy bond insurance, which would cover bond buyers in case the lawsuits are successful and the whole project has to be canceled.

Ratner could normally wait out Assured, as well as the turbulent bond market, but remember, he has a deadline: If the bonds aren't sold by December 31, his tax-exempt bond approval turns into a pumpkin, and the bonds really become unsellable. Assured, then, has Ratner over a barrel and surely knows it — that must be one fun negotiating table right about now.


While it’s still far from a slam dunk that team owner Bruce Ratner will eventually be able to move the Nets to a new arena in Brooklyn, one legal expert who has more than three decades of experience working on eminent domain cases, believes it’s doubtful that Atlantic Yards opponents did enough in Wednesday’s oral arguments in Albany to prevent Ratner from getting the property he needs for development.

William Ward, who runs the legal blog, New Jersey Eminent Domain Blog, said the justices at the Wednesday hearing before the New York State Court of Appeals asked fair and tough questions to both sides in the case. But working against the opposition is legal precedent that will likely result in another instance of forward progress for the Atlantic Yards development.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 10/15/09 EDITION

A piece in New York Magazine heaps some praise on the Nets rebuilding effort and hints that New York fans might have a tough choice to make if the Nets make their move to Brooklyn.

Al Iannazzone says that if he becomes majority owner of the team, Mikhail Prokhorov needs to break the Nets’ lease at the Izod Center and play in Newark until an arena in Brooklyn is ready to be moved into.

Washington Square Park, Freddy’s Brooklyn Roundhouse Cable/Internet Show Covers Jane Jacobs’ Event at Judson Church in Two Episodes

Freddy’s Brooklyn Roundhouse is a well produced “non-corporate media” outlet, viewed on MNN (Manhattan Neighborhood Network), BCAT (Brooklyn Community Access Television) and YouTube, which covers topics such as The Atlantic Yards, media consolidation, Eminent Domain abuse, as well as changes linked to (over) development in NYC. The program is airing a two part show from September 22nd’s Jane Jacobs event organized by Reverend Billy and held at Judson Memorial Church across from Washington Square Park.

You can watch Freddy’s Brooklyn Roundhouse weekly Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on BCAT and Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on MNN. Episodes are then also uploaded to YouTube.

No York, Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project on hold…for now

A let's-keep-LeBron-in-Cleveland blog reports on Wednesday's court hearing.

This whole process has become very complicated. The bottom line is that the court will make it’s ruling sometime around Thanksgiving. If they rule in favor of the Atlantic Yards project Ratner will have a good chance to move the Nets to Brooklyn. If the decision drags out much longer he will probably not get the support and funding he needs from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

I’m hoping that this project doesn’t work out, and you should be doing the same. If the Atlantic Yards project doesn’t materialize it makes the case for LeBron to the Nets a lot less likely.

Hoops Analyst, NBA Preview 2009-10: Atlantic Division

It appeared that Bruce Ratner was out of capital last year to invest in payroll or to keep the long talked about move to Brooklyn alive. Alas some hope is coming in Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who should be around to fund the move and, perhaps, raise payroll.

NetsDaily, WSJ: Arena Financing a “Toss-Up”

If the Court of Appeals rejects eminent domain for Atlantic Yards…no Brooklyn. If Bruce Ratner can’t get financing for Barclays Center…no Brooklyn. No Mikhail Prokhorov either. And the Wall Street Journal reports that selling as much as $700 million in bonds will be “tough” as a skeptical market wonders if the Nets can pay off all that debt from ticket sales, sponsorship deals and TV contracts. It’s a “toss-up”.

Posted by eric at 1:05 PM

Nets arena snags equity, bonds near market


The developer of a new arena for the Nets basketball team in Brooklyn, New York, has lined up an equity commitment from Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Group. It is set to come to market shortly with a roughly $700 million tax-exempt bond issue for the arena. Assured Guaranty, the last remaining viable monoline, is in line to insure the bonds.

"In line" is overstating the case, at least according to The Wall Street Journal.

The issuer and its underwriter Goldman Sachs are targeting a bond coupon of about 6.5%, or roughly 220bp over where the 30-year treasury currently stands. Project and municipal finance issuers have encountered strong issuer appetite in recent months, though spreads have widened in the last two weeks. Assured is rated AAA/Aaa by S&P and Moody's, though Fitch recently downgraded it for a second time, to AA-.

article [subscription or free-trial registration required]

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Atlantic Yards: Court of Appeals Hears Case

by Joel Stashenko

GlobeSt. posted a note that "this story appeared in a slightly different form originally in the New York Law Journal." We had that story yesterday, but we don't know what's different, so we've included a link to the GlobeSt. version below. Again, we caution that the article errs in a few places regarding details about the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

Goldstein vs. UDC NYS Appeals Court Proceedings

YouTube (Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse)

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse has posted the New York State Court of Appeals' official video of Wednesday's oral arguments in the case of Goldstein v. UDC — the Atlantic Yards eminent domain challenge.


Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

So, why did the print Times ignore the eminent domain hearing?

Atlantic Yards Report

Today, Norman Oder revisits the original raison d'etre of his blog, the pattern of shoddy coverage of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in The NY Times, in light of the developer's business relationship with the paper.

Why did editors of the print-edition Times kill the report from the "City Room" blog, covering the "landmark" oral arguments before the NY State Court of Appeals in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case?

Breaking news routinely appears on the blog when a story is filed, and is subsequently published in the print edition, or at least is summarized in the "City Room" column — not this time.

If it wasn't "interference" by the publisher, then it was "incompetence;" either way "it's sure suspicious."

Consider that the City Room post, by former Brooklyn reporter Nicholas Confessore, focused on tough questioning of the lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation and could have been balanced by some references to the skepticism the judges showed toward the attorney for the nine plaintiffs.

(Would you believe it: a New York Times article slightly unbalanced in favor of Atlantic Yards opponents?)

Surely Forest City Ratner wasn't pleased by the coverage. Did someone call the publisher's office at the Times? I don't know. Does the publisher intervene in news coverage? That is not supposed to be happen.

If not, then the only explanation is incompetence. Was a print article about a real estate fraud in Harlem, however interesting, more important than the "landmark legal test"?

That's not a tough call, but here's an easier one: Are two paragraphs about Pataki's portrait more important than even a mention of this case?


Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

Jeffries: MTA has breached fiduciary duty, but joining new lawsuit would compromise his advocacy

Atlantic Yards Report

Continuing down the well worn path, which for the past five years has tediously led nowhere, NY State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries tells Norman Oder that he chose not to join other elected officials in the lawsuit challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) re-sweetened sweetheart deal with Bruce Ratner because his "ability to forcefully and candidly advocate on behalf of the community, with the Governor and the MTA on the other side of the negotiating table, would be compromised if [he] were to be a named plaintiff in the litigation at this point in time."

Oder's analysis:

I can only speculate at the additional motives behind Jeffries' decision.
Perhaps Jeffries has calculated that Atlantic Yards is more likely than not, and that, should the project move forward, he wants to make sure that Forest City Ratner, and government agencies that could provide housing subsidies, deliver on the 200 affordable homeowner units the developer promised in December 2006 but which have never been incorporated into government documentation.


Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

Newark Mayor Booker says he's now focusing on a temporary Nets move to the Prudential Center

Atlantic Yards Report

The announcement of Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov's deal to purchase the NJ Nets threw a wrench in Newark Mayor Corey Booker's efforts to get the team to move to Newark, though Booker is still trying to strike a deal for a temporary move to the Prudential Center.


Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

Prospect Heights blight, 2009?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Post reports [from Prospect Heights]:

...“[Atlantic Yards is] not even on my radar,” says finance guy/Brooklyn blogger Kenny Eng, who bought a 1,450-square-foot three-bedroom in the Washington for $545,000 three years ago. “The part [of the Atlantic Yards site] that’s closer to me, on Vanderbilt, will probably be a parking lot for the construction workers, so I’m not too thrilled about that.”

After a moment, he adds: “That whole project is 10 to 15 years off, even more. Who knows? I could be gone by then.”

Actually, there might be a parking lot for construction workers very soon. But towers on the eastern end of the project site near Vanderbilt might indeed be a decade off, or longer.


Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

Meet the Nets. Meet the Nets? Yes, Meet the Nets. Probably.

NYMag: The Sports Section
By Ben Mathis-Lilley

Ah, if only the Atlantic Yards saga and the downturn in the economy were actually this simple...

For a few years there, it seemed like the New Jersey Nets were definitely going to move to an arena-like jumble in Brooklyn designed by the world's most famous architect. Then the project was delayed by lawsuits filed on behalf of a group of rabble-rousing locals who meet in a dive bar. Then a bunch of complicated bets based on bogus mortgages given to random people in the suburbs of Phoenix went to hell, and no one anywhere could get money to build anything, let alone an arena and massive luxury-housing development. Then the richest man in Russia decided he would pay for everything, although the architect and his expensive fancy-pants design had already gotten canned. Also, one of the main community groups supporting the project had its credibility undermined when two twentysomething kids tricked one of their representatives into talking on-camera about how prostitutes can cheat on their taxes. So if there's anything to be taken away from the story of the Brooklyn Nets, it's probably that we have absolutely no idea what's going to happen next in the story of the Brooklyn Nets.

Nonetheless, it does look like we're now closer than ever to actually seeing ground broken for an arena at Atlantic Yards.

This article is actually from the sports section, for those who are interested in a preview about the NJ Nets roster and possible trades before the team makes the planned move to a new taxpayer-funded arena, to be built on property seized by eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

October 15, 2009

Sale of Nets' Arena Debt Is Tough Shot

The Wall Street Journal
by Serena Ng and Matthew Futterman

The world's leading business publication says the sale of Atlantic Yards arena bonds is anything but a slam dunk.

As the long-running legal battle over the Atlantic Yards nears an end, developers of the New Jersey Nets' Brooklyn arena project are gearing up for their next big challenge -- selling the development to a skeptical bond market.

Right now, the planned sale of as much as $700 million in bonds to finance the project's centerpiece -- a $900 million basketball arena to be called the Barclays Center -- looks like a toss-up. The U.S. municipal-bond market, while in much better shape than six months ago, has been in a rout since the start of October. The Nets arena offering, expected to launch next month, would be the largest bond sale tied to a sports venue in more than a year.

If developers of the Atlantic Yards project don't issue bonds by Dec. 31 to fund the arena's construction, the debt will lose tax-exempt status, which would kill the project.

Goldman Sachs Group and Barclays bankers have spent weeks in discussions with three credit-rating services and bond insurer Assured Guaranty Ltd. over ratings and terms on the bonds. The developers are hoping for an investment-grade credit rating on the bonds and to issue them at annual interest rates of roughly 6.5%. Whether the debt will be insured -- which could be key to selling the bonds -- remains uncertain, as debates continue about the arena's revenue-earning potential.

Not all the parties looking at the bonds are on the same page. Bankers recently balked at some of the terms that bond insurer Assured Guaranty wants before it will guarantee interest and principal payments on the bonds, according to a person familiar with the matter. Assured is effectively the only bond insurer still actively writing new guarantees after its rivals ran into financial trouble.

Analysts say a bond guarantee would help broaden the base of potential investors that can buy the securities. "It would certainly be harder to sell the bonds if they don't have insurance," says Matt Fabian, an analyst at Municipal Market Advisors, but he adds that investor demand has improved and the bonds may appeal to funds that invest mainly in municipal debt rated "junk."


Atlantic Yards Report, Wall Street Journal calls arena debt "a toss-up," given market for sports and apparent tension between bankers and bond insurers

Nets Daily, WSJ: Arena Financing a “Toss-Up”

Posted by eric at 10:35 PM

It came from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

GOP Challenger Debates Markowitz

Two days after City Comptroller William Thompson of Brooklyn debated Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the city’s mayoral contest, Bensonhurst businessman Marc D’Ottavio faced off with Borough President Marty Markowitz in their first debate, held in Bay Ridge on Wednesday morning.

Both candidates support the Atlantic Yards project, with Markowitz noting, “It’s an historic day today.” That was in reference to the pending court actions in Albany. “Within a month the Court of Appeals will decide in favor of the project. The shovels will go into the ground on Dec. 15. In two years the sports arena will be opened.”

Brooklyn Broadside: Bloomberg’s Gowanus Stance Looks Safe To Prevail

A sharp increase of population in nearby areas has caused an increase in sewage, which, when combined with rainstorm overflow, tends to inundate the canal. The land naturally slopes down to Gowanus; that’s why there was a Gowanus creek and adjoining wetlands in the first place.

So when it pours, Gowanus and Carroll Gardens get more than their fair share of rainwater, among other things. That is why major new developments that could contribute to sewage outflows now incorporate holding tanks, such as at Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards doesn't yet incorporate anything yet, let alone holding tanks, and it's far from certain that "shovels will go into the ground on Dec. 15." Dennis Holt and Marty Markowitz can believe whatever they want, but we'll believe it when we see it.

Judges Get Extra $5K For Expenses

Thursday, however, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman did allot judges an extra $5,000 each to use for judicial expenses. Hon. Lippman made the announcement to the judiciary Thursday via a private webcast.

It was the same day he and his associate Court of Appeals judges heard oral arguments on eminent domain being used for the Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn.

Historically Speaking: Brooklyn History Moves South

Brooklyn’s history, education and culture was re-examined at the “Dreamland Pavilion” conference held at Kingsborough Community College’s Manhattan Beach campus October 2 and 3.

Brooklyn topics under discussion included practical and theoretical issues from Atlantic Yards to Russian immigrants to Coney Island.

Posted by eric at 10:31 PM

Thompson lays out an economic agenda

Mayoral candidate City Comptroller Bill Thompson is light on specifics as he offers an economic plan for the city at a Crain's forum.

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

He was more forceful in attacking the mayor’s record on development. Mr. Thompson focused on three projects that have not moved forward as quickly as the administration had hoped. “Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, Willets Point and on and on and on,” the comptroller said. “I don’t think we’ve seen much growth there.”


NoLandGrab: Bill Thompson just doesn't get it, does he? Let us offer up some free political advice — criticizing Bloomberg for being an underdeveloper, no matter the audience, is not a recipe for a November 3rd upset.

Posted by eric at 10:16 PM

Forest City Ratner’s “Not In My Back Yard” Attitude

Noticing New York

NNY paints Forest City with the NIMBY brush.

“Lobbyist” made us think of Forest City Ratner, a company that owes its entire existence to being chummy with politicians. We have commented before that Forest City Ratner isn’t really a “developer,” that it is really just a “subsidy-collector.”

Applying the thought that lobbyists lobby for industries that want protection against change, it occurred to us that Forest City Ratner is engaged in a colossal form of NIMBYism (“Not In My Back Yard”-ism) when it comes to its proposed Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. Forest City Ratner has two big government-subsidized malls adjacent to each other next to the proposed Atlantic Yards site. In other words they are the top-government-subsidized-dog in the area. It’s more than a bit monopolistic. That supremacy was going to be challenged when other real developers started developing condominiums in their back yard. (The competitors weren’t even subsidized!) “No!” said Forest City Ratner. They didn’t want this competition in their backyard. They wanted the status quo of being the only developer in the vicinity (and of continuing to rely on government subsidy and relationships.) That’s when Forest City Ratner went to government agencies to have them use eminent domain to wipe out the competition.


Posted by eric at 9:46 PM

In the Heights

Prospect Heights could be the next Cobble Hill

NY Post
by Katherine Dykstra

Talk to almost anyone affiliated with Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights, and their unofficial line on Vanderbilt Avenue is that it’s what Cobble Hill’s Smith Street was 10 years ago. By that, they mean it’s primed to become the local go-to stretch for everything from a cup of coffee and a seat outside to a locally sourced gourmet dinner. And residential developers are also a big part of this thoroughfare’s land grab.

The neighborhood’s affordability has many buyers willing to overlook the possibility of the neighborhood changing massively if and when the much bandied about Atlantic Yards ever finds its footing. And with the recent investment of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in the Nets, it’s looking more likely than ever that at least an NBA stadium will be built.

“It’s not even on my radar,” says finance guy/Brooklyn blogger Kenny Eng, who bought a 1,450-square-foot three-bedroom in the Washington for $545,000 three years ago. “The part [of the Atlantic Yards site] that’s closer to me, on Vanderbilt, will probably be a parking lot for the construction workers, so I’m not too thrilled about that.”

After a moment, he adds: “That whole project is 10 to 15 years off, even more. Who knows? I could be gone by then.”


Posted by eric at 8:43 PM

Something is Wrong at the Times

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Largest development proposal in Brooklyn's history?
Project proposed by most powerful developer in New York state with political tentacles everywhere?
Most expensive basketball arena in the history of the planet?
Eminent domain required to build that project and that arena?
New York State's high court holds argument on owners' and tenants' challenge to New York State's use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project?
Mulitple important issues relevant to the entire state, and beyond, discussed in the court room?
Blog post on the New York Times website about the argument?
Print edition article in the Post and Daily News as well as coverage by Reuters and Associated Press?
New Times tower built utilizing eminent domain?
Newspaper article on the court argument in the print edition of the New York Times.


Posted by eric at 2:08 PM

Atlantic Yards at New York's High Court

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The Observer's Eliot Brown, camera in hand, files a thorough (and entertaining) report, complete with slideshow, from the New York State Court of Appeals.

Three Years of Litigation

For the planned Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, it’s been an exhaustive three-year journey of eminent domain-related lawsuits. Starting in October 2006, challenges to the use of state condemnation for the private development have constantly been in courts, first traveling up through the federal court system and then on to the state courts.

Now the voyage is clearly nearing an end. On Wednesday, an eminent domain suit brought by business and property owners in the project’s footprint went before New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, for oral arguments. A victory here by the landowners would kill the $4.9 billion project—the planned new home of the Nets—though such a win is considered unlikely, and they’ve lost at every step of the way in their process.

The Observer headed up to join the fun in the capital, so here’s a few pictures from the day.

Click thru for more coverage, and more photos.


Posted by eric at 1:31 PM

Court Weighing Eminent Domain


New York Case Pits State Against Land Owners Opposing a New NBA Arena

The Wall Street Journal
by Suzanne Sataline

This story appeared in yesterday's print edition and in the online version of The Journal.

New York's highest court is set to hear arguments Wednesday in a case that will decide whether the state government can lawfully seize private property for a development company.

The case pits the New York State Urban Development Corp., a government agency, against nearly a dozen land owners who say the state constitution bars the government from stripping the rights of private parties to benefit a developer that aims to build a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. The developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., is currently one of the owners of the Nets.

"The state is taking my home and other people's homes, not for the public use, but to give an extraordinary benefit to the developer," said the lead petitioner, Daniel Goldstein, one of the few remaining residents within the 22-acre site slated to be demolished. "It's not a public use. For the government to take my home to enrich any developer...is wrong and I believe is illegal."


Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

Atlantic Yards Project Reaches NYS High Court

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

WNYC's Matthew Schuerman made the trek to Albany yesterday.

The state's constitution, like the federal one, says government can take private property only if it's for public use. But the definition of public use is up for interpretation.

The tenants and property owners pressing this case say the benefits to the public should outweigh the profits to the developer- but, they say, the state never bothered to make that calculation when it came to Atlantic Yards.

Lawyers for the state are arguing that a 1938 amendment to the state constitution makes that point moot, since it allows eminent domain to be used for slum clearance.

A decision is expected in the next four to six weeks, and if it favors the opponents, it could doom the project. But the plaintiffs lost a similar series of cases in federal courts.


Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

MTA Faces Atlantic Yards Suit

by Cody Lyon

A group of politicians, activists and transit activists have filed suit in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, saying the Metropolitan Transportation Authority violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005 when it sold the air rights over the agency’s Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner Cos. for development at the Atlantic Yards Project. The latest suit was filed one day prior to Wednesday’s hearing before the Court of Appeals in Albany, which seeks to challenge the Empire State Development Corp.’s use of eminent domain for the same project.

According to the lawsuit, which names the MTA and FCRC as respondents, the MTA violated state law by failing to obtain an independent appraisal for the Vanderbilt Yard property and failing to seek out competitive bids. The group is now asking the court to annul the MTA’s June agreement with FCRC. It’s reportedly the first Atlantic Yards suit brought in part by politicians.

The cheaper selling price came despite previous iterations by MTA CFO Gary Dellaverson, who had earlier valued the property at $240 million to $250 million.

A spokesman for [State Senator Velmanette] Montgomery tells GlobeSt.com that "all this would be funny if it weren’t the Atlantic Yards project." He adds, "The MTA’s actions are shocking. The fact is that the public is being hit with fare hikes and schedule cuts while giving developers a free ride."

A NYPIRG/Straphangers spokesperson tells GlobeSt.com that it’s "the riders who are getting it in the neck. They are going to lose out on improvements like new subway cars, buses and track improvements."


Posted by eric at 12:58 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... (midday edition)

Brownstoner, Oral Arguments over Eminent Domain at Atlantic Yards

The ESDC argued that the use of eminent domain to condemn private homes and businesses was necessary to promote economic development and because the region was already blighted. The lawyers for the business and home owners, on the other hand, claimed that the state used the blight designation long after planning had begun, to justify the 22-acre condominium and stadium project, and development had been occurring on its own before Forest City Ratner bought the land.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Breakfast Links

Atlantic Yards Report thoroughly details yesterday’s 50 minutes of back-and-forth between Court of Appeals judges and lawyers involved in the eminent domain suit. City Room has a somewhat condensed account.

Rose Law Group, Arizona Blog, New Jersey eminent domain argued in high court

The Atlantic Yards eminent domain project in Brooklyn faced a landmark legal test Wednesday, as the New York Court of Appeals heard an hour of arguments in a case with major implications for economic development across the state and with possible implications for other states.

E.W. Real Estate, Oral arguments over AY begin in Court of Appeals

K4V, Will New York’s High Court Stand Up Against Eminent Domain Abuse?

Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

Atlantic Yards lawsuits filed and heard

Courier Life Publications
by Stephen Witt

The Courier reports on the just-filed MTA lawsuit, and yesterday's oral arguments at the Court of Appeals.

Also in Albany for the court hearing were several local grassroots groups who have long favored the project.

The "several local grassroots groups" amounted to about a half-dozen people, including James Caldwell and Marie Louis of BUILD, and one-time City Council hopeful Delia Hunley Adossa, point person for the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, all of whom have received money from Forest City Ratner.

“We were in Albany to voice our support in terms of wanting to see the project move forward,” said Marie Louis, chief operating officer of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Development), which received funding from the developer as per a community benefits agreement for local workforce development.

Witt has used the "as per the" CBA line before, as if these groups are only taking money from Ratner because they're legally obligated to do so.

“We also believe these frivolous lawsuits need to be put to rest because all they want to do is delay the project and kill it. The need for jobs and affordable housing is even more intense given the economic climate,” she said.


NoLandGrab: "Frivolous?" Hardly. Aimed at killing the project? Guilty as charged.

Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

Judges Ponder Constitutionality of State's Use of Eminent Domain for Atlantic Yards Project

New York Law Journal
by Joel Stashenko

This review of yesterday's court arguments gets some project details wrong, but includes some interesting snippets of exchanges between the justices and counsel, including this one.

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff countered for project opponents that the nearly $4 billion Atlantic Yards, whose centerpiece would be a new arena for the NBA's New Jersey Nets, does not fit the Public Use Clause of Article I, §7 of the state Constitution.

The clause, which first appeared in the Constitution in 1821, prohibits taking private property for public use without just compensation. Mr. Brinckerhoff argued that Empire State Development failed to show how the project meets the definition of "public use" that has developed in state courts since.

"Won't it provide recreation facilities for the residents of Brooklyn, athletic facilities for school children, etc.?" Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick asked Mr. Brinckerhoff. "Is that part of the proposed plan? …That's a public purpose, right?"

"Right, but I don't think anybody can argue that its primary purpose is to provide facilities to community groups," Mr. Brinckerhoff replied. "It's primary purpose is to house a for-profit professional basketball organization."

article [subscription or free trial sub required — full story after the jump]

ALBANY - The state's highest court yesterday confronted the issue of whether eminent domain should have been used to advance a massive private development in Brooklyn.

Philip E. Karmel, arguing for the Empire State Development Corp. on behalf of developer Bruce C. Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, told the Court of Appeals that the development would replace 22 acres of largely "substandard and unsanitary" land.

"It's extremely well-established, from many, many decades that that is an adequate constitutional basis for use of eminent domain," Mr. Karmel told the judges in Matter of Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corp., 178.

See the Appellants' Brief, Respondent's Brief and Appellants' Reply Brief.

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff countered for project opponents that the nearly $4 billion Atlantic Yards, whose centerpiece would be a new arena for the NBA's New Jersey Nets, does not fit the Public Use Clause of Article I, §7 of the state Constitution.

The clause, which first appeared in the Constitution in 1821, prohibits taking private property for public use without just compensation. Mr. Brinckerhoff argued that Empire State Development failed to show how the project meets the definition of "public use" that has developed in state courts since.

"Won't it provide recreation facilities for the residents of Brooklyn, athletic facilities for school children, etc.?" Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick asked Mr. Brinckerhoff. "Is that part of the proposed plan? …That's a public purpose, right?"

"Right, but I don't think anybody can argue that its primary purpose is to provide facilities to community groups," Mr. Brinckerhoff replied. "It's primary purpose is to house a for-profit professional basketball organization."

Mr. Brinckerhoff argued that Empire State Development failed to properly make an accounting of the projected private benefits of the project to Mr. Ratner and his Forest City Ratner Companies and weigh those against the benefits to the public before allowing the project to go forward in 2006.

At that time, the state agency authorized the condemnation and taking of 123 parcels of privately owned land, or about 20 percent of the property in the project zone. Some landowners have since sold out to Forest City Ratner.

Though little or no work has been done on the project for months, Mr. Ratner has recently reached an agreement to have Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov invest $200 million in the Nets, the 18,000-seat arena and in Atlantic Yards in exchange for an ownership share in all three. He faces an end-of-the-year deadline to break ground.

There was limited discussion before the Court yesterday about the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005). Kelo allowed, with what critics called an overly broad definition of "public use" under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the taking of private land for a private development in Connecticut.

Judge Robert S. Smith did ask Mr. Karmel yesterday how Kelo related to Atlantic Yards.

"Are you asking us to follow Kelo and say that any public use is good enough, or do you acknowledge that you have to show blight here to justify the use of the eminent domain power?" the judge asked.

"The result in this case is the same whether you follow Kelo or you don't follow Kelo" based on the state Constitution and case law, Mr. Karmel replied.

State Precedent

Justices Susan Phillips Read and Victoria A. Graffeo both said at several points they wanted to know more about state precedents and how they relate to the use of eminent domain under the state Constitution.

Mr. Brinckerhoff also challenged whether public funding for Atlantic Yards—the state and the city have each pledged $100 million—is legal under Article XVIII, §6 of the state Constitution. It allows public financing for residential housing projects only when low-income units are being replaced by other low-income units.

Atlantic Yards calls for construction of about 3,000 market-value housing units and 2,250 low-income units.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman asked whether public funding was going to the project in violation of Article XVIII, §6.

"Are public subsidies going to market-rate housing here?" he asked.

"No," Mr. Karmel responded.

"There are no public subsidies going to market-rate housing?" Judge Lippman asked again.

"The only subsidies identified in the record are the $100 million appropriation by the state Legislature, which is for a state-owned arena and a state-owned rail yard," Mr. Karmel said. "The state has had the authority to fund state-run facilities of that kind forever."

Mr. Karmel said city funding for the project was not subject to Article XVIII, §6.

Filing Timeframe

The judges also probed both sides on whether the state court action before the Court yesterday was filed in a timely fashion. The plaintiffs challenging Empire State Development's approval of the project went first to federal court and, Mr. Karmel contended, missed a 30-day filing notice in state court as they were pursuing their federal claims.

"Can that serve to toll for a couple of years the 30-day requirement in the [Eminent Domain Procedure Law]?" Judge Read asked. "That seems to be the implication."

"I think there is no question that it can and it did here," Mr. Brinckerhoff argued.

The judges yesterday heard an appeal of an Appellate Division, Second Department, unanimous ruling rejecting arguments by Atlantic Yards' opponents that the project's environmental impact statement and use of eminent domain are improper (NYLJ, May 18).

The prime organizer, the coalition Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, also tried unsuccessfully to challenge the project and the Empire State Development Corp.'s approval of it in another state court action, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn v. Urban Development Corp., (NYLJ, Feb. 27), and in a federal court case, Goldstein v. Pataki, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately denied certiorari (NYLJ, June 24, 2008).

J. Kevin Healy of Bryan Cave and Charles S. Webb III and Kenneth J. Applebaum of Berger & Webb are also representing the Empire State Development Corp.

Eric Hecker of South Brooklyn Legal Services is aiding Mr. Brinckerhoff's representation of the plaintiffs.

In an amicus brief filed in support of the Atlantic Yards project, New York City's Law Department argued that many privately developed projects have been made possible in the city by the condemnation of private property.

Kelo has prompted the filing of a series of bills in the New York state Legislature concerning the use of eminent domain. In 2009, they included A1568/S1669, which would give citizens more time to contest proposed property takings, and A1570/1670, to create an eminent domain ombudsman to ensure the even-handed application of the condemnation of private property.

Again this year, none of the bills gained traction.

The Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, which represented property owners in Kelo, released a report last week in which it named New York as among the most permissive states in the country for the use of eminent domain to aid in the development of private projects. It cited recent projects sponsored by the New York Stock Exchange, Costco and Stop & Shop as among those in which private businesses benefitted from the public taking of private property.

Another Suit Filed

On Tuesday, the Straphangers Campaign of the New York Public Interest Research Group, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and several lawmakers filed another suit related to the Brooklyn Yards project.

The Manhattan Supreme Court suit alleges that the sale by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of its Vanderbilt Rail Yard to Forest City Ratner vastly undervalued the true worth of the 8.5-acre property. (See the Verified Petition and the Petitioners Memorandum of Law.)

The rail yard, owned by the MTA's Long Island Railroad Co., accounts for about 40 percent of the Atlantic Yards site.

The Court of Appeals is expected to hand down a ruling by the end of November in the case it heard yesterday.

Mr. Prokhorov's investment deal is contingent on Forest City Ratner's securing title to the remaining parcels at the site as well as financing for the project by Jan. 1.

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

Inspector Grabit

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Ben Muessig

With blight at issue in yesterday's NYS Court of Appeals hearing on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, we should point out that a key aspect of the "blighting conditions" cited in the Empire State Development Corporation's blight study was crime in the project footprint — a claim that was proved patently untrue. The real ground zero for local crime? Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls.


A crook snatched a 53-year-old woman’s credit cards while she shopped at Target at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues on Sept. 30.

In a crime that has become a regular staple of our police blotter, the thief grabbed the charge cards between 7 pm and 7:30 pm and made $136.14 of unauthorized purchases.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

At eminent domain oral argument, judges skeptical of both sides; court spends more time on process, low-rent housing issue than AY as sweetheart deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, that’s what they call a “hot bench.” In 50 minutes of argument, the seven justices of the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, peppered the attorneys on both sides of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain suit with tough questions, essentially derailing both lawyers' efforts to proceed through their arguments.

In the end, there was no way to tell how the judges would rule in the only case that can formally stop the project, but, given the multiple legal issues in play, it's plausible they could focus on just one to resolve the case, known as Goldstein, et al. vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a/ Empire State Development Corporation (or ESDC).

(Photos by Tracy Collins)

Speaking afterward, plaintiffs' attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff pronounced himself “"cautiously optimistic." While representatives of developer Forest City Ratner and the defendant Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) weren’t talking, they praised defense attorney Philip Karmel enthusiastically.


Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Review and Comment: Us Against Ourselves

Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Henrik Krogius is at it again:

The latest perversity is the concerted opposition to an expansion of Brooklyn Friends School into Boerum Hill. Just as the saying goes that no good deed goes unpunished, so no good project for Brooklyn goes unopposed. (One can only imagine the agitated uproar if Jesus were to come back to earth in Brooklyn.)

By "good project," Krogius means Bruce Ratner's eminent domain-abusing, subsidy-sucking historically dense Atlantic Yards overdevelopment:

With Atlantic Yards, too, the unease about outsiders coming in has clothed itself in a variety of more respectable arguments, including traffic (never mind that the site is uniquely well served by public transit), eminent domain (which affects a small handful of people for a 22-acre project), impact of scale on brownstone neighborhoods (which in fact don’t abut the site), and financing arrangements (as if the developer hadn’t incurred considerable risk). That’s not to say there isn’t reason for concern about what the as yet unrevealed, Gehry-less major part of the project will look like.


NoLandGrab: By "outsiders" Krogius may mean the multi-billionaire Russian oligarch that Ratner has lined up to help salvage his taxpayer-funded boondoggle.

Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

Court battle could determine fate of long-delayed Atlantic Yards project

NY Daily News
By Erin Durkin

Judges on the state's highest court lobbed tough questions at both sides Wednesday in a court case that could decide the future of the Atlantic Yards project.

Opponents charged that it's unconstitutional for the state to seize their homes and businesses for a private effort such as Bruce Ratner's Nets arena and 16-tower development.

Judges seemed skeptical of that argument.
Judge Robert Smith questioned whether a state finding that the area was blighted was cooked up as an excuse to seize the property needed for Ratner's vision under eminent domain.
[Chief Judge Jonathan] Lippman also suggested the seizure could be problematic because the project is mostly market-rate housing, possibly violating a state law on slum clearance.
State officials said in a statement they're confident the court "will recognize the many substantial public benefits of the Atlantic Yards Project."

But lead plaintiff Daniel Goldstein said if the court lets eminent domain go forward, "Forest City Ratner will get 22 acres of great real estate by stealing people's property."


Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

AP in The NY Post and Newsday

amNY-091015.gif NY Post, Brooklyners to court: It's unfair that we we're forced to sell land to Ratner The NY Post ran the AP story on yesterday's hearing of oral arguments in Albany by the NYS Court of Appeals.

Newsday's commuter freebie amNY ran a short AP item in a page 3 sidebar.

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

Brooklynites Bus to Albany to Fight Ratner

The Brooklyn Ink
By Meredith Kennedy

Yesterday, Brooklyn Ink talked to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn supporters as they waited to board the bus to Albany to hear the oral arguments in the appeal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.


Boerum Hill resident Claudia Massa was the first to arrive outside of the rundown Freddy’s Bar on the corner of 6th Avenue and Dean Street. She waited for the bus to arrive on a bench outside of the bar, where outdated press releases about Atlantic Yards hung in the window - a reminder of the long-simmering opposition.

Massa is a volunteer for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and has been fighting against Atlantic Yards for the past four years. “I took a day off of work, that’s how important it is to me,” Massa said. While Atlantic Yards development would provide employment, Massa argued, eminent domain “is not the way to get jobs.”
Michael White, a lawyer and urban planner from Brooklyn Heights, who has worked for New York State governors in the past, thinks that Atlantic Yards should be broken up into multiple projects to create more jobs more quickly. Today White’s concern is that New York’s eminent domain abuse standards are too lax. “If they let the project go forward they are accepting eminent domain,” White said. “They should know the opposition is very rational and very strong.”

Blake Morris, a volunteer attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s legal committee, has been working on the Atlantic Yards project since its inception. For Morris, today marks one completion of a litigation arc. Though he forgot to pack his sunglasses on the cool and exceptionally bright fall morning, he was looking forward to filling up the Albany courtroom, which only accommodates 60 people. “We’re going to show homegrown interest and that people are behind this,” Morris said.

For Steve Ettlinger, a local writer who lives a few blocks from Freddy’s bar, a strong public showing in Albany was essential. “Going into the courtroom is like coming up for air,” he said as the crowd began to board the bus.


Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Nets Daily, Procedure, Public Purpose Dominate Eminent Domain Hearing

A missed deadline and public purpose dominated the Atlantic Yards eminent domain hearing at the State Court of Appeals Wednesday. Judges wondered if by going first to federal court two years ago, critics had missed a deadline for challenging eminent domain in state court. They also questioned the state’s lawyers over the project’s public purpose and the extent of blight at the site. A ruling is expected next month.

inversecondemnation.com, Video Of Atlantic Yards Oral Arguments

Nets Daily, Live From Albany…Goldstein et al vs. Empire State Development Corp.

NJ Condemnation Law, Atlantic Yards Arguments Made to Court of Appeals

The New York Court of Appeals is hearing arguments today about the Atlantic Yards project, where challenges to the right to condemn were filed by several owners and interest groups. Lower courts upheld the condemning agency’s right to condemn.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards: Suit Filed Against MTA

While the Atlantic Yards' eminent domain case begins in court today, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and four elected officials filed another suit in the state's Supreme Court yesterday against the Metropolitan Transit Authority, claiming that its sale of land to developer Forest City Ratner violates state law.... According to DDDB, "an annulment [of the sale] would disallow the transfer of the property, which the developer requires for its project, including its proposed basketball arena, until the M.T.A. complied with the law."

The Cross Polinator, Congratulations on your new lawsuit, MTA

Good for you MTA, a little pre-holiday present for you. To call the MTA part of the axis of corrupt New York City bastards would be unkind, so let’s just congratulate you on a job done behind closed doors.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

An order for the court: Judges must shoot down last roadblock to Atlantic Yards

From an editorial in today's NY Daily News:

The Court of Appeals must do what two dozen courts have done: Give developer Bruce Ratner a green light to build a basketball arena and 6,400 units of housing, including 2,250 affordable units, on a grossly underdeveloped Brooklyn tract.
The right decision can be written in two words:

Get lost.


NoLandGrab: "The Daily Snooze" must be trippin', because, though there have been several lawsuits against the project, they have not been heard by "two dozen courts."

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

Atlantic Yards Appeal Gets Intense in Albany

Eagle Reporter Goes Upstate for Oral Arguments

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Samuel Newhouse

CourtofAppeals-BDE.jpg The Eagle boils down the plaintiffs arguments before the NY State Court of Appeals:

According to Brinckerhoff, in total, there are three constitutional questions that the court must examine. They are: (1) does the state constitution provide greater protections to its citizens than does the U.S. Constitution, so that the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards does not sufficiently satisfy the public use clause; (2) if, without monetary figures showing how much Ratner himself is benefiting from the project, it is therefore impossible to weigh the public good versus the private benefit, as required by the court; and (3) how to interpret the unique 1938 amendment to the state constitution that says that when taking property, if state funds are being contributed to the project, then only low-income housing can be built.


Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Atlantic Yards eminent domain oral argument at New York Court of Appeals


NJ eminent domain attorney William J. Ward explores yesterday's oral arguments before the NY State Court of Appeals.

Ward figures that the justices will be unwilling to dial back the definition of "public use" to the original intent, but may be more sympathetic to the arguments:

However, "the case could be dismissed without addressing the underlying merits or substantive issues" if the justices find the Empire State Development Corporation's argument compelling, "that the action in the state court presently before the court of appeals was not filed within the 30 day limitation contained in the statute, New York State’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL)."


Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

State’s highest court hears Yards case

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

If the seven judges of New York State’s highest court have any sympathy towards a small group of landowners suing to block the condemnation of their properties so Bruce Ratner can build a basketball arena, they had a funny way of showing it on Wednesday.

Almost half of today’s oral arguments before the Court of Appeals was consumed by a debate over whether the property owners missed a deadline for filing their appeal in the first place.


Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Forest City in the News

Dallas Morning News, Dallas City Council approves subsidy packages for Deloitte, Continental Building

Forest City just lined up more subsidies for a project in Dallas:

The Dallas City Council approved two major subsidy packages Wednesday aimed at drawing workers and residents to downtown.

A $17.5 million tax-increment subsidy was approved for Cleveland-based developer Forest City to restore the vacant and decaying Continental Building on Main Street.
In 2005, Forest City received $68 million in city subsidy, mainly for redevelopment of the Mercantile Building, which has since become one of downtown's largest apartment complexes.

The deal became one of the richest tax subsidy packages in Dallas' history but proved to be too little to restore both the Mercantile and the Continental as intended.

So the council returned to the subsidy table for the Continental on Wednesday, with the hope its redevelopment will bring downtown more of what it desperately needs – residents.

The $17.5 million in tax increment money – paid out over many years – will be used to help repay federal loans Forest City also needs for the deal.

NoLandGrab: Forest City Enterprises CEO Charles Ratner has already stated the developer's intention to seek more subsidies for Atlantic Yards.

Chicago Sun-Times, Mercy Medical Center: Chicago's clout hospital

Forest City was a key player in an insider land deal in Chicago involving two Chicago aldermen.

PR Web, Mall Seeking Top Trendsetters!

Just in time for the holidays, Forest City's Pittsburgh mall is drumming up some excitement with "Project: Style." The four top contestants will win a $150 gift card to the mall.

Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

NY State Court of Appeals: Oral Arguments Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corp

Video from yesterday's oral arguments before the NYS Court of Appeals has been posted on the court's web site at http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Goldstein.asx.

Launch in external player

Posted by lumi at 4:13 AM

October 14, 2009

NYS Court of Appeals Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Hearing

Devlop Don't Destroy Brooklyn supporters outside the courthouse this afternoon in Albany.

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

Posted by lumi at 9:27 PM

NY appeals court hears arguments on Atlantic Yards

Bergen Record reporter John Brennan made the trip to Albany to report on this afternoon's oral arguments in the appeal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

Aside from questions about whether the suit was filed in time and if the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) "gerrymandered" the project boundaries to satisfy private developer Bruce Ratner...

The judges also spent several minutes questioning whether New York law allows for eminent domain at a housing project that is not predominantly lower-income.

[Attorney for the plaintiffs Matthew] Brinckerhoff said he was encouraged by the number of questions from the judges about whether the three-block area where his clients are located can fairly be considered “blighted” along with a Metropolitan Transportation Authority-owned rail yard that occupies about one-third of the 21-acre site.

[ESDC attorney Philip] Karmel declined to comment.

In addition to project opponents and critics, some of the usual Ratner-supported supporters made the hike to Albany:

...James Caldwell, a member of Brooklyn United for Local Development, was among the courtroom attendees who back the project.

“Unemployment is so high in our community,” Caldwell said. “We’ve lived in this community for all our lives, and we waited a long time for a developer to come in and let us come to the table with them.”


NetsAre Scorching, Highlights from the Hearings

Posted by lumi at 8:56 PM

Atlantic Yards Case Goes Before Appeals Court

NY1 sister station Capital News 9 filed a report on today's oral arguments in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, including live-action footage with the Empire State Development Corporation lawyer being grilled on the blight issue.

There isn't an embed feature for the NY1 footage, so check it out here.

Posted by lumi at 8:48 PM

NY top court begins key hearing on Brooklyn project

Reuters honed in on the question of "blight" from today's oral arguments in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case:

The judges pressed for answers on Wednesday on whether New York can seize homes that are not blighted or not in areas that are economically depressed, and whether the state was subsidizing market-rate housing and misusing powers reserved for replacing slums with low-income apartments.

Developer Bruce Ratner's project would be built over the state-owned Long Island Rail Road's rail yards, and the lawyer for the landowners, Matthew Brinckerhoff, argued that the state wanted to seize the land simply because it had not been developed to the maximum allowed under zoning laws.

"What they're saying is the below-grade rail yard is unsightly, the property is underutilized," he said.

A lawyer representing the state agency using eminent domain to take the land, the Empire State Development Corporation, said the agency made a "rational determination" in concluding that the entire 22-acre site was blighted.

The lawyer, Philip Karmel, was repeatedly questioned about whether only the southern part of the site was blighted, with one judge asking whether the site was "gerry-mandered" to fit the developer's objectives.

Karmel cited as a precedent the condemnation of 13 city blocks, where small businesses were located, to build the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

Asked why the term "blight" was not used for the project until 2005 -- a few years after it was proposed -- Karmel replied that it previously was targeted for urban renewal.


NoLandGrab: To be clear, the "southern part" of the project to which Justice Smith referred was not part of the previous urban renewal scheme. This was already reported by Atlantic Yards Report: "Behind the 'empty railyards': 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence."

Posted by lumi at 8:21 PM

Atlantic Yards case hits NY's top court

AP, via Google
by Michael Virtanen


Developer Bruce Ratner's proposed $4.9 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project mainly enriches private interests, while the state constitution requires public use for taking land, attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff told the Court of Appeals.
Empire State Development Corp. attorney Philip Karmel countered the area in Brooklyn was found blighted as a whole, and this was a legitimate government use of eminent domain to take property for public purposes. Part of the site, including an old railyard, had been designated for urban renewal for decades, he said.

Judge Robert Smith said the railyard was the north end, but the south end was apparently in better shape. "Have you gerrymandered this area to fit what the developer wanted to build?" he asked.

Mr. Karmel said the detailed site study found one or more blight characteristics throughout.


The AP story was also featured on CrainsNewYork.com.

Posted by lumi at 7:56 PM

High Court Hears Arguments in Atlantic Yards Case

CIty Room [NY Times blog]

Nicholas Confessore, The NY Times's former Brooklyn-beat reporter, now stationed in Albany, reported on this afternoon's oral arguments in the eminent domain appeals:

Wednesday’s one-hour hearing featured sharp questioning from several judges over what limits the state faced when it sought to condemn private property, some of it suggesting that the judges believed that the rights of the owners had not received enough consideration from state officials.

The lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation, Philip E. Karmel, also faced sharp questioning from the court’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, that went to the heart of a key legal and political dispute surrounding Atlantic Yards: Whether it is a private real estate project seeking the patina of a public purpose to justify eminent domain, or a state-sponsored economic development project that happens to include a major real estate venture.

In his questioning, Mr. Lippman repeatedly pushed Mr. Karmel to define the project.

“The majority part of this project is market-rate housing?” the judge asked.

“That is not the purpose of the project, your honor,” Mr. Karmel replied.

“Is it the largest component of the project?” Mr. Lippman pressed.

“It is a significant component,” Mr. Karmel said, not quite conceding the point.

In another line of questioning, Judge Robert S. Smith, in a tone that suggested skepticism, asked Mr. Karmel if there were any limits on the state’s ability to take private land, so long as there was a public benefit. Mr. Karmel said that under current law and precedent, there was not.

Judge Smith also questioned Mr. Karmel about the state’s definition of blight.

“Suppose I am a developer and I want to buy on an area that is half blighted and half not,” the judge asked. “They can condemn the whole thing, even if only half of it is blighted?”

The answer, Mr. Karmel said, was yes.


The Local, Eminent Domain Probed in Atlantic Yards Case

Posted by lumi at 6:54 PM

At first preseason Nets game in Newark, crowd seems low-key, but attendance is vastly higher than the Izod Center turnout

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder goes on a field trip to "The Rock":

It depends, apparently, what you're used to. Last night's first-ever Nets game in Newark's Prudential Center (against the Boston Celtics, who won 91-88 in a last-minute comeback) drew a mostly low-key crowd that filled perhaps three-fifths of the arena.

It didn't seem much different from a lackadaisical regular season Nets game, and that, to the Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro, was a sign of success. He wrote:

The last thing one expects from a preseason game is something that actually resembles a regular-season game -- in turnout, volume, and intensity -- but the Nets actually got all that Tuesday night.
It was obvious why Newark is superior in many ways to the Izod Center, with the arena a long two-block walk from the city's Penn Station, but the Brooklyn arena, should it be built, would be even better for commuters using public transit. Those going to The Rock must cross a couple of very wide streets in pedestrian-unfriendly Newark, while a new subway connection from the Atlantic Avenue hub would offer direct access.

There's lots of parking in Newark--right across and down the street from the arena. That's because elaborate promises of urban redevelopment have yet to come to fruition. While there's a little arena-related retail and entertainment nearby, the new facility hasn't been a major catalyst.
The Rock has much better video signage (see video above) than the Izod Center, whipping digital advertising around the arena clockwise like a video game. Presumably a newer arena would have even more bells and whistles, helping Nets CEO Brett Yormark appeal to even more sponsors. Seats at The Rock are much more comfortable than at the Izod Center--duh. The staffers at the concession stands seemed equally slow.

Yes, they're still closing streets adjacent to the arena. In Newark, the building is set a block back from the two crossroads, Market Street and Broad Street, so the streets being closed are smaller ones. In Brooklyn, given the plan to build the arena up against Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, should streets close (despite local denials that that would happen), the traffic impact would be much greater.


Posted by lumi at 6:41 PM

The MTA lawsuit gets mostly ignored in print, though the "pretty rotten deal" (as per Russianoff) affects a lot of people

Atlantic Yards Report

Never mind that financial shenanigans at the MTA affect millions of people:

So, how seriously did New York's major newspapers take the lawsuit filed yesterday that challenges the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's sweeter deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard?

The New York Times relegated coverage to a City Room blog post, with a one-paragraph reference in the print paper. The New York Daily News mentioned the suit in the last two paragraphs of a page 14 article (not yet online) on today's eminent domain suit.

The New York Post took the story more seriously, with six paragraphs in print, on page 2. The freebie Metro gave it five short paragraphs.


Posted by lumi at 6:31 PM

Boymelgreen Faces Possible Eviction from Brooklyn Offices

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Crain’s New York Business reported yesterday that Shaya Boymelgreen of Boymelgreen developers, a well-known Brooklyn figure, could be evicted from his American corporate headquarters in Brooklyn this week for failing to pay about $200,000 in rent and losing a court case involving Forest City Ratner’s attempt to assemble the land for its Atlantic Yards project.
Weinstein told Crain’s he sued Boymelgreen in 2006 after learning the developer sold his 40-year lease on the building to Forest City Ratner without his knowledge.

Forest City needs to raze the building so it can construct its project on the rail yards. The New York state appeals court in May ruled that Weinstein could evict Boymelgreen and that Forest City was given illegal assignment to Weinstein’s properties, Crain’s reported.


NoLandGrab: Weinstein won the case against the Boymelgreen-Ratner doublecross, but he still faces condemnation via eminent domain by the State of NY.

Posted by lumi at 6:25 PM

Post columnist Siegel: ask the mayoral candidates to justify "massive subsidies" for new sports facilities

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards watchdogs aren't the only ones who are wondering how politicians waste taxpayer money on new sports venues with a straight face.

From fiscal conservative Fred Siegel's op-ed in the New York Post, headlined A wasted debate: B'berg, Thompson ignore economy: So here are a few questions that the panelists might want to ask if the next debate is not to be as hapless:

* Ask the mayor if his massive subsidies for the well-to-do owners of the Yankees, Mets and Nets for new stadiums can be economically justified when they're being paid for by a middle class bridling under what are already the highest taxes in the continental US.


Posted by lumi at 6:18 PM

TODAY: Oral arguments in Albany for eminent domain case

This afternoon at 2pm, lawyers for property owners and the Empire State Development Corporation will present the oral arguments in the eminent domain case before the NY State Court of Appeals.

Copies of briefs are posted on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's web site.

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

NY Court of Appeals to Hear Brooklyn Eminent Domain Case

Back in 2007, lawyer William J. Ward helped small businesses in Bloomfield, NJ successfully fight the town against the use of eminent domain for another project that was supposed to be built by Atlantic Yards overdeveloper Bruce Ratner.

From his blog entry on the case to be argued in Albany this afternoon:

The petitioners challenge the concept of “public use” and its interpretation in New York case law. Lower courts, in this case and other New York cases, have opted for a broad interpretation of “public use.” This is beyond the definition urged by the plaintiffs, who want the court to adopt a more restrictive definition of “public use,” one that is consistent with its plain meaning and the intent of the New York Constitution, adopted in 1821. Their argument runs contrary to many state court decisions supporting a broad interpretation of “public use”. This is an uphill battle, but the fact that the Court of Appeals is hearing the case gives rise to the hope that the court may want to weigh in on this issue on the side of the property owners.

The petitioners also urge the court to weigh the relative public vs. private benefits that would occur as a result of the project as called for in Aspen Creek v. Town of Brookhaven, 12 NY 3d 738. The City of New York has filed an amicus brief supporting the use of eminent domain to foster economic development. The Virginia based Institute for Justice has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs. The Insitute recently published Building Empires, Destroying Homes: Eminent Domain Abuse in New York. (Click on the link to download the PDF.)


Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

Flashback: Are the MTA or NYC responsible for upkeep of the railyards? ESDC punts

Atlantic Yards Report

In anticipation of today's court hearing on eminent domain and blight, I'll point people back to this post from 11/15/06, in which the government agency responsible for finding blight curiously was unable to assign responsibility for that blight.

Pretty much everyone agrees that, as this photo from the Empire State Development Corporation's Blight Study shows, the Vanderbilt Yard of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority deserves better treatment.

But who's responsible? Several people commented to the ESDC, saying government agencies should be blamed for neglect.


NoLandGrab: It's the beauty of kleptocracy — if government agencies didn't neglect their own properties, it would undermine the government's findings that the areas were blighted.

Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

New York MTA Broke the Law: Suit

New Terms for Rail Sale Disputed

Bond Buyer
By Ted Phillips

The Straphanger's Campaign just joined the cast that has been fighting Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, when it filed suit against the MTA. Why join the fray at this time?

“We think the MTA agreed to a pretty rotten deal with Forest City Ratner that produces little money for the transit system and that hurts the riding public,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for New York Public Interest Research Group’s Straphangers Campaign. NYPIRG, a public advocacy group is party to the suit. “They didn’t do what we think state law requires.”
Russianoff said the Straphanger’s campaign doesn’t have a position on the Atlantic Yards project but would like to the land be reappraised and its sale opened to a competitive process. The Straphanger’s main concern is that the cash-strapped MTA get a fair price for the yards to help finance its capital plans, he said.


Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

MTA lawsuit, which might affect arena financing, charges that Public Authorities Accountability Act was violated

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews what is at stake in the lawsuit filed against the MTA:

Even a successful lawsuit might not formally stop the project, but it could throw a wrench into Forest City Ratner's plan have the state sell tax-exempt bonds and for arena construction to begin this year.
The suit notes that MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson acknowledged that the transaction had to be approved quickly--the board had 48 hours--because, as he said, "it really relates to Forest City's desire to market their bonds as a tax-exempt issuance [by a December 31 deadline]."

Though this is the first time that elected officials have joined Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn in a lawsuit, there are several who are conspicuously not on the list:

Missing from the lawsuit were City Council Members David Yassky and Bill de Blasio. While de Blasio is the Democratic nominee (and shoo-in) for Public Advocate, Yassky--who testified critically about the land sale at an MTA meeting June 24--lost his bid for Comptroller and will leave office this year. Also missing was Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes the AY footprint.

Also missing were Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and state Senator Bill Perkins, who have led the push for reform of public authorities. A representative of Perkins testified critically about the land sale on June 24, as well, while Brodsky has mostly steered clear of Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: In the case of Brodsky, it is easier to rail against projects that have already been built, than to put up a real fight in the midst of corruption.

Missing from the MTA's approval of the refinancing of the project:

While the MTA claimed it did not need to follow a public bidding process, because the sale was allowed by the PAAA as furthering the public interest, there's no evidence, the suit charges, that the MTA conducted "any actual analysis of the public benefits to be gained by the sale of the Vanderbilt Yard to FCR," nor did it acknowledge the "diminishment of the Project’s anticipated public benefits."

No independent appraisal was obtained, even though the MTA Staff Summary implicitly suggested the 2005 appraisal was outdated, stating that "the Brooklyn real estate market has markedly deteriorated." Nor was the fair market value of the property every discussed.

Check out the rest of the article for the petitioner's argument that they have standing to bring suit.

MetroNY, Another Atlantic Yards suit
The Daily Politics, Odds & Ends: "Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and four elected officials sued the MTA over the Atlantic Yards project"
AP, via 1010WINS.com, Groups Sue MTA to Block Deal for B'klyn Nets Arena

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Politi: Dug-in Brooklynite holds for last shot

Newark Star-Ledger
By Steve Politi

New Jersey still has a professional basketball team, and it’s not because a passionate fan base or savvy politicians kept it here. The Nets are still here in large part because [Daniel] Goldstein dug in his heels against a billionaire developer and a political machine.

Wednesday, his fight comes down to the buzzer. The State of New York Court of Appeals will hear arguments in Albany about whether the state has the right to seize Goldstein’s home and other properties to build the Nets’ new arena and the rest of the Atlantic Yards project.

Lose this case, and there is little but financing (still no small hurdle) standing between the Nets and Brooklyn. Win it, and the project dies, and New Jersey has a chance to save its NBA team for more than a couple of preseason games like the one at the Prudential Center Tuesday night.


Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

October 13, 2009

Weak dollar, low NY property prices woo foreigners


After a year most investors would like to forget, foreign real estate buyers are being swayed to spend again in New York City by a weak U.S. dollar and property prices at levels not seen for years, say experts. Real estate brokers and analysts say they have noticed more foreign investors looking to purchase in New York -- boosting the market's recovery hopes....

Russian investors are among those leading the way with the country's richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov, recently reaching a $200 million deal to buy an 80 percent share in the New Jersey Nets basketball team and a 45 percent stake the Atlantic Yards, a real estate development in New York's Brooklyn borough where the team will play if the project is completed.


NoLandGrab: US taxpayer subsidies, eminent domain and a weak dollar... how can a foreign investor refuse?

Posted by lumi at 9:03 PM

Straphangers sue to annul sale of Atlantic Yards

Reuters is carrying news of the suit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by the Straphangers Campaign, local pols and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

The troubled Atlantic Yards project, a multibillion-dollar redevelopment in Brooklyn, came under renewed fire on Tuesday as a group of elected officials and consumer advocates filed a lawsuit seeking to annul the sale of the site.
"While the MTA is forcing service cuts and fare increases on the people of New York, they are giving Forest City Ratner just about a free ride," Senator Montgomery said in a statement.

The suit charges that the MTA violated state law that requires it to get an independent appraisal of the site and seek competitive bids.

"The MTA failed to fulfill either of these legal requirements when its board approved its new deal with Forest City Ratner on June 24th, 2009," Montgomery said.
The suit is Montgomery et al. v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority et al. in the Supreme Court of the State of New York


Posted by lumi at 8:34 PM

Atlantic Yards foes land another lawsuit

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

A day before New York's highest court will hear their case to block the Atlantic Yards project, opponents filed yet another lawsuit to stop the massive development in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, opponents, including the nonprofit group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and four elected officials, sued The Metropolitan Transportation Authority over the revised deal it struck in June to sell the 8.5 acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard to developer Forest City Ratner for $100 million.


Posted by eric at 5:07 PM

Private Developers Have No Right to My Home

It's time for New York's high court to protect homeowners.

by Daniel Goldstein

Over six years ago Bruce Ratner—a top political contributor and law school friend of then Gov. George Pataki—asked Pataki to use eminent domain to seize 22 acres of prime Brooklyn real estate and hand them over for his Atlantic Yards development plan. By way of comparison, the Ground Zero site is 16 acres. The taxpayer-subsidized project would be 16 skyscrapers and a professional basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets team Ratner bought as leverage for the land grab (and just conditionally sold to Russia's richest oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov).

These 22 acres happened to include my home and my neighbors' homes and businesses—a slice of an ethnically, racially, and economically diverse, mixed-use neighborhood undergoing steady, healthy growth.

On October 14th our landmark case challenging this abuse of eminent domain to enrich and enormously benefit a powerful and politically connected developer will be argued at the Court of Appeals—New York's high court. The oral argument and eventual ruling will be historic.

"Public use,” required for eminent domain, has come to mean something other than construction of roads, parks, hospitals, schools, railways, etc. It has transmogrified into some amorphous, highly speculative "public benefit" or "public purpose," which could be anything a developer with government "partners" declares it to be.

New York's legislature is one of the seven that has not acted. Though they did put on an act. Hearings were held in both houses. But proposals for legislation never made it out of committee and after the immediate national post-Kelo uproar subsided, the legislature moved on to its regular, and notable, dysfunction.

So everyday New Yorkers have been left unprotected and undefended by our elected officials. With such a non-responsive legislature, the only place to turn has been the courts, the great equalizer. Thankfully, we have this showdown with the state's most powerful and abusive condemning authority—the Empire State Development Corporation.

New York's Constitution says that property can be taken for a "public use." Not a "public benefit" or "public purpose." No New York State Constitutional Convention or legislature has ever seen fit to change this language or amend it. "Public use" means "public use." But again and again New York has approved eminent domain condemnation for projects, such as Atlantic Yards, that benefit private entities at the public's expense—so not only are they not for "public use," they are not even for the "public benefit." It's time for this to stop.


Posted by eric at 3:21 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... (new MTA lawsuit edition)

Field of Schemes, New lawsuit targets Ratner's Atlantic Yards land buy

With just one day to go before New York state's top court holds its hearing on the final eminent domain case against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, another court challenge has emerged: Four local elected officials, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and the ubiquitous Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn are suing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over its agreement this summer to sell land to Ratner for a cut-rate price. (An even more cut-rate price than the MTA originally agreed to, that is.)

The real question now is whether another lawsuit will make it too expensive for Ratner to get bond insurance so he can start selling arena bonds this month as planned.

More on this as it develops. In the meantime, the lesson here may be: If you're going to try a legally questionable move to gain public (and private) land for your arena project, you might not want to choose a site right in the middle of one of the city's highest concentrations of lawyers.


For those hoping that the only court we would be talking about after tomorrow was the basketball court, I am sorry, but that isn’t going to happen. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn sent out a press release this morning stating that they, along with a few elected officials and the Straphangers Campaign have sued the MTA.

This suit is yet another case that the Nets are going to have to deal with and resolve before they can put the shovel in the ground. This might not be the last one either as Mark has alluded to, there’s buzz that they want to sue the Empire State Development Corp. as well. This now turns into a clock management issue (mandatory sports term!) for the Nets and their lawyers as they continue to navigate the legal obstacles that DDDB put out.

NetsDaily, New Suit Alleges “Sweetheart” Deal on Railyard

Critics of the Nets’ new arena, along with four city and state officials, have filed suit against the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, claiming it illegally renegotiated and approved an agreement on the railyards beneath the project. Bruce Ratner had agreed to buy the yards for $100 million and upgrade it as part of Atlantic Yards, then asked that the price be stretched out 22 years and the new yard shortened.

AP via SILive, NYC groups sue MTA to block deal for Nets arena

The MTA and Forest City Ratner said they had no immediate comment.

The lawsuit is the latest of several legal challenges to the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project. The project is to include office towers and apartments as well as a basketball arena.

2nd Ave. Sagas, MTA sued over Ratner sweetheart deal

As I summarized in June, this new deal for Ratner is blatantly outrageous. I wrote four months ago:

So what did the MTA do? Well, instead of opening up the process to a new round of bidders and requests for proposals, the agency has simply sweetened the deal for Ratner. Instead of a lump sum payment of $100 million, he will pay just $20 million upfront and cover his purchase in installments totaling $80 million over the next 22 years. He will pay $2 million a year from 2012-2016 and then $11 million a year for the following 15 years. Instead of a $225 million rail facility, he will supply one with three-quarters of the original plan capacity for $150 million instead.

At the time, MTA Board members protested the deal, and now the politicians are angry. This could be a long fight for the MTA, and an injunction against the sale could impact Ratner’s ability to secure financing. He has until the end of the year to secure $700 million in tax-free bonds for the Barclays Arena.

Posted by eric at 3:10 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... (eminent domain appeal edition)

Noticing New York, Not Accepting Pretexts To Lose Sight of What Justice Requires (AYR’s Post About the Court of Appeals Wednesday Hearing on Eminent Domain Case)

One of the hypertechnical pretextual confusions the government agencies and Forest City Ratner are purposely fomenting involves whether Atlantic Yards is to be considered as an economic development project or alternately a blight removal project. In truth, it is absolutely neither, but the government would have it pretextually be whatever they can get away with.

If the mega-project is an economic development project (which government officials are probably most instinctively prone to promote it as- and often do in the press), it makes no sense that no cost-benefit analysis has been done to demonstrate its justification. If it is instead a blight removal project then it hardly makes sense for the public to be spending billions to remove “weeds” from a gentrifying neighborhood, virtually the same weeds you can find anywhere, including the borough’s best neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope. If the pretextual goal is to remove blight that still implies that there should be a “weighing” in a sort of cost-benefit fashion that more blight will be removed than created. Not so! There has been no such weighing and instead it is the reverse. Ratner’s plan creates “more” blight (actual real blight) than the ostensible blight it pretextually removes.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Court Case Begins Wednesday

The WSJ certainly chooses a side in the matter, saying that private beneficiaries like Costco, Ikea, Stop and Shop, The New York Times, and the New York Stock Exchange have all benefited from the condemnation of "small businesses, homes, and church property." The article adds: "In eminent domain cases, the political class typically uses its power to help the strongest private interests against the weakest ... Other states, like New Jersey, have seen stricter standards for eminent domain actions implemented through the courts. But New York is a draconian holdout. The Brooklyn case offers the courts a chance to tell the political class and its developer friends that they can't trample over private property rights."

21 Elephants, Eminent Domain & Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn

Forest City Ratner's huge (now half stalled) Atlantic Yards project has been controversial, particularly with regard to the use (some would say abuse) of eminent domain.

a rare political/legal/philosophical opinion from 21 elephants: Eminent domain was a tool intended to be applied with care. The bar must be set relatively high, as one of the foundations of our system was based on freedom from capricious infringements of personal and property rights. This principle has also given the US a strong foundation for commerce (along with respect for the sanctity of contracts).

Law Of The Land, Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case Heads to New York High Court Tomorrow

Posted by eric at 2:55 PM

Suit Challenges Sale of Land to Atlantic Yards Developer

City Room
by Charles V. Bagli

With the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn inching closer to a ground-breaking, opponents of the 22-acre development filed another lawsuit on Tuesday morning challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s decision to sell the developer a portion of the land in what it says is a sweetheart deal that violates state law.

The suit, filed by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and four elected officials, asks the State Supreme Court to nullify the authority’s recent deal to sell an 8.5-acre railyard at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues to the developer Bruce C. Ratner without first getting an independent appraisal and soliciting competing offers for the property.

A spokesman for the M.T.A. declined to comment on the lawsuit, the fifth filed by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. This suit, however, marks the first time that elected officials have joined them.


Posted by eric at 2:52 PM

Lawmakers sue MTA for Ratner's 'sweetheart' arena deal

by Rich Calder

The MTA today was banged with a lawsuit over a recent “sweetheart deal” it gave developer Bruce Ratner to bail out his controversial Atlantic Yards project that includes building an arena in Brooklyn for the NBA’s Nets.

The suit, filed by several lawmakers, seeks to annul the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s revised deal with Ratner in June that allows the mega-developer to pay off $100 million he owes the agency over 22 years for the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt rail yard site in Prospect Heights and also shave off more than $100 million of the $345 million in transit improvements he had promised there.

It alleges the cash-strapped agency violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act by failing to obtain an independent appraisal of the site or solicit competitive offers before agreeing to a new deal.

The revised MTA plan allows Ratner to pay $20 million up front for the rail yard, and then spread out $80 million in payments over 22 years at a bargain interest rate of 6.5 percent.

Ratner in 2005 agreed to pay the agency $100 million up front, plus provide rail yard upgrades in exchange for various state approvals needed for the project. He cut that deal despite being outbid.

The new rail yard would be reduced from what was to be nine tracks with a capacity for 76 cars -- and worth $250 million -- to seven tracks that could handle 56.

Ratner’s $100 million bid for the site in 2005 was $50 million lower than a rival proposal by Extell Development. An agency appraisal before that deal found the rail yard worth $214.5 million.

Ratner won after convincing the board the offer was worth $445 million with the transit upgrades.


Posted by eric at 2:46 PM

New Yards suit — one day before the old Yards suit

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

One day before a climactic court hearing that could clear a major legal barrier for Bruce Ratner, opponents of the developer’s residential, retail, office and arena mega-project filed another lawsuit today, this time challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s mid-summer “sweetheart” renegotiation with Ratner.

The suit, filed this morning in state Supreme Court in Manhattan by a panoply of state legislators, plus Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), the NYPIRG/Straphangers Campaign and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, seeks the annulment of that June deal to sell the Vanderbilt rail yard near the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues with just a $20-million down payment.

Opponents argue that the new law required the MTA “to obtain any appraisal of the current value of the yard [and] entertain any competing proposal for the yard.”

But when it rubber-stamped the renegotiated deal with Ratner in June, the agency did not seek new bids.

Instead, the MTA “capitulated to [Ratner’s] demand and negotiated a disposition of the Vanderbilt Yard on terms significantly more favorable to [Ratner] than were approved in September, 2005,” the brief states.


Posted by eric at 2:40 PM

DDDB, Straphangers Campaign, four elected officials sue MTA, FCR to annul renegotiated Vanderbilt Yard deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, maybe the eminent domain case is not the only court challenge that could jeopardize the Atlantic Yards plan.

I'll have more on this later, but here's one tidbit from the legal petition:
In effect, MTA agreed to finance 80 percent of FCR’s purchase of the Yard at a generous 6.5 percent interest rate, while Forest City Enterprises had a junk bond rating.


Posted by eric at 2:23 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Elected Officials, Straphangers Campaign and DDDB Sue MTA for Sweetheart Deal With Forest City Ratner

Suit Says MTA Violated State Law and Atlantic Yards Deal Between Ratner and MTA Must Be Annulled

NEW YORK, NY — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was sued today for the June 24th deal it made to sell its 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard to developer Forest City Ratner for its proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards plan in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (18th District), Assemblymember Jim Brennan (44th District), Assemblymember Joan Millman (52nd District), NY City Councilmember Letitia James (35th District), NYPIRG/Straphangers Campaign and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn filed the lawsuit. The suit was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

"While the MTA is forcing service cuts and fare increases on the people of New York, they are giving Forest City Ratner just about a free ride. We have laws in this state that forbid these kinds of sweetheart deals. You can’t short change the public to benefit a developer,” said lead plaintiff, state Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “With the Atlantic Yards, the MTA violated our legislation and the public trust. Their sale of the Vanderbilt Yard to Ratner must be annulled."

The suit seeks the annulment of the MTA’s deal to sell the rail yard to Forest City Ratner because it violated requirements of legislation meant to rein in the abuses of New York State’s public authorities. An annulment would disallow the transfer of the property, which the developer requires for its project, including its proposed basketball arena, until the MTA complied with the law.

The petitioners charge, specifically, that the cash-strapped transit authority violated the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005. Under that legislation, which former Governor Pataki signed into law in 2006, MTA was required to obtain an independent appraisal of the Vanderbilt Yard and seek out competitive offers for the property. The MTA failed to fulfill either of these legal requirements when its Board approved its new deal with Forest City Ratner on June 24th, 2009.

"We are asking the court to annul the MTA's agreement of this past June to sell the Vanderbilt Rail Yard to Forest City Ratner, because the agreement violated the procedural requirements of the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005, which were put in place to ensure that New York State's public authorities, including the MTA, adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards when selling their property. The MTA's deal to sell the Vanderbilt Rail Yard to Forest City Ratner did not meet those standards," said petitioners' attorney Randall Rasey of Barton, Barton & Plotkin.

The legal briefs for the case—Montgomery et al. v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority et al. are at: http://dddb.net/MTAsuit

The lawsuit is funded by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which is funded entirely by thousands of grassroots donations. DDDB is holding its fifth annual fundraising Walkathon to raise money for the legal fight against Atlantic Yards this Saturday, October 17th, at 2pm kicking off from Brooklyn Borough Hall. For more information and to register for the Walkathon, please visit: http://www.dddb.net/walkathon.

Posted by eric at 1:50 PM

DDDB: "New York State is Eminent Domain Holdout"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's headline leading into excerpts from The Wall St. Journal editorial, says it all, the day before the State Court of Appeals hears oral arguments in the case of Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation.

metrony091013.gif Associated Press, via Google, NY court to hear challenge to planned arena land

The Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Wednesday. Developer Bruce Ratner's proposed $4.9 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project also includes office towers and apartments, funded in part with $600 million in tax-exempt bonds to be sold by Dec. 31.

Some businesses and homeowners are challenging the Empire State Development Corp.'s power to force them out, saying the state constitution authorizes eminent domain for public uses, not enriching others.

The Wall St. Journal, A Property Rights Foul

The business daily editorializes against the abuse of eminent domain.

Article I, Section 7 of the New York constitution says private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation. Meanwhile, through a series of incentives, the state government has encouraged cities to create "redevelopment zones," aligning them against the interests and property rights of their own residents.

Under New York's procedures, residents often have to challenge the use of eminent domain before it actually happens. Once notified of a possible eminent domain action, residents or other interested parties have a mere 30 days to challenge, a condition that poses major hurdles to gather funds and organize to contest an action.

These barriers have been exploited by developers and bureaucrats in property rights fiascos across the state. According to a new report from the Institute for Justice, governments have "condemned or threatened to condemn" small businesses, homes and church property to make way for a raft of commercial development.
The Brooklyn case offers the courts a chance to tell the political class and its developer friends that they can't trample over private property rights.

NY1, Atlantic Yards Case Heads To Appeals Court

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Feeling the pressure: FCR VP in April said, "I continue to be a freaked-out developer with an arena that must start this year"

Atlantic Yards Report

From an email from Forest City Ratner Sen. VP Jane Marshall to the Department of City Planning's Winston Von Engel:

"Excellent. I continue to be a freaked out developer with an arena that must start this year; I hiccup 'tech memo', 'master closing', 'amanda must like interim conditions', and to that end must discuss with you tomorrow. Thanks."

To decode Marshall's shorthand, the arena must start this year if it is to rely on tax-exempt bonds and (likely) fulfill a naming rights agreement.

Marshall may be a little less freaked out right now. But the clock is still ticking.


NoLandGrab: It's a small comfort that the developer is feeling the pressure, when residents of the surrounding neighborhoods have been feeling the pressure of Atlantic Yards for nearly six years already.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

Mayoral battle for the city’s skyline

Thompson up against most ambitious real estate planner in decades

By Carly Baldwin

So where do mayoral rivals Michael Bloomberg and William Thompson stand on building the city?

Bloomberg embraces development to increase economic growth and tax revenue. He supports the controversial Atlantic Yards project, gave tax breaks to Yankee Stadium, and changed zoning in Greenpoint-Williamsburg and Coney Island to increase residential development.
Thompson paints himself as an advocate for tempered growth, who will protect neighborhoods from overdevelopment and demand good jobs in exchange for public financing.


NoLandGrab: Somewhere along the line, we believe that Bruce Ratner's overdevelopment was renamed "the controversial Atlantic Yards project."

FYI: Thompson is for the controversial project, though he's believes that his support represents "a very different position" from the Mayor's support.

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM


Its reputation suffering, ACORN is hampered from delivering needed counseling to lower-income New Yorkers - and it's not clear who will pick up the slack.

City Limits
By Eileen Markey

The ACORN scandal means it just got harder. The New York City office of the national group (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) that advocates for low- and moderate-income people is among the major providers of foreclosure counseling in the city.

In the organization's defense, national CEO Bertha Lewis highlights some of the group's local advocacy:

Lewis points to the New York affiliate's campaign to keep Brooklyn's affordable 5,881-unit Starrett City development from going market-rate; its lobbying in support of the 421-a program used to encourage real estate developers to set aside units for low-income people; and its record securing “economic multipliers” like food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit for 150,000 New Yorkers over the past five years as more indicative of the group's contributions to the city. Under Lewis' leadership, ACORN also supported the controversial Atlantic Yards mega-development because it included plans for affordable housing, a move that drew the ire of some usual allies.


NoLandGrab: Lewis betrayed "usual allies" when she got down with some unusual bedfellows.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

October 12, 2009

Bloomberg wants to get rid of Public Advocate position, says "we have an aggressive enough press"

Atlantic Yards Report

Mayor Mike Bloomberg says that the Public Advocate position should be abandoned:
"You should get rid of the public advocate," he said. "It's a total waste of everybody's money. Nobody needs another gadfly and we have an aggressive enough press," he said.

Well, incumbent Betsy Gotbaum hasn't exactly distinguished herself. But Bloomberg thinks the press is aggressive enough. How about the publishers who agreed to support his effort to overturn and extend term limits?


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder is too kind. The mainstream press in NYC has more or less rolled over and played dead for the Mayor.

Posted by eric at 4:55 PM

Boymelgreen faces eviction from his Brooklyn HQ

Harry Weinstein, owner of the Pacific Street building housing developer Shaya Bymelgreen's offices, says the troubled developer is $200,000 behind in his rent.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

Embattled developer Shaya Boymelgreen could be evicted from his American corporate headquarters in Brooklyn as early as Tuesday after failing to pay about $200,000 in rent and losing a court case involving Forest City Ratner's attempt to assemble the land for its Atlantic Yards project.

On Oct. 8., the Brooklyn Sheriff's office slapped a five-day eviction notice on 752 Pacific St., which Mr. Boymelgreen began leasing in 1999. The 90,000-square-foot building, which lies with the Atlantic Yards footprint, is owned by Harry Weinstein.

Mr. Weinstein said he sued Mr. Boymelgreen in 2006 after learning the developer sold his 40-year lease on the building to Forest City Ratner without Mr. Weinstein's knowledge. Forest City needs to raze the building so it can construct its project on the rail yards, which is slated to include an arena and 16 residential towers. In May, the New York state appeals court ruled that Mr. Weinstein could evict Mr. Boymelgreen and that Forest City was given illegal assignment to Mr. Weinstein's properties. Mr. Weinstein said Mr. Boymelgreen hasn't paid rent since June.


Posted by eric at 4:47 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Crain's NY Business, Get ready, Brooklyn: flood of Luxe rentals

Downtown Brooklyn is awash in fast-food shops, shoe stores, subway stops and cutting-edge culture. Now it's about to find itself inundated with something unimaginable just a few years ago: luxury rental apartments.

Next month, The Clarett Group will open the leasing office for the tallest building ever built in Brooklyn, the 54-story, 490-unit apartment tower dubbed The Brooklyner. At the same time, Forest City Ratner Cos. will begin marketing its 365-unit rental at 80 DeKalb Ave. Both are following the lead of nearby Avalon Fort Greene, which began aggressively pushing its own 650-unit entry at 343 Gold St. in September.

“This is the most rental units I have ever seen in the neighborhood,” says Joy Cox, who grew up in the area and is now a broker at Urban Sanctuary. “There are too many, too close together, and I think a lot of units will sit there for a while.”

NoLandGrab: This does not bode well, to put it mildly, for planned Atlantic Yards luxury condos and rentals.

NetsAreScorching, NEVER SAY NEWARK?

So while it’s seemingly the intention of the Nets ownership, and the NBA as a whole to have basketball in Brooklyn, I think it’s appropriate to wonder how playing two, otherwise harmless, typically under-the-radar preseason games in Newark could potentially affect the course of this long-planned and long-stalled real estate move to Brooklyn. Opponents have been fighting the Brooklyn move for years and show no signs of letting up. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has signed a letter of intent to take a majority stake of the team, but how much of that ultimately hinges on the move to Brooklyn? Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils have watched their attendance go up nearly 11 percent since they moved to Newark.

NLG: 100% of Prokhorov's deal hinges on the Nets' move to Brooklyn.

Wall Street Journal Law Blog, New York Turf War Is Headed Back To Court: What is Blight?

In New York City, turf wars are a way of life, from neighbors battling over acid jazz played at hideously loud levels to landlords plotting devious ways to get rid of their rent-controlled tenants.

We touch on this sociological point as a way of setting the stage for this week’s legal battle over the Atlantic Yards project, a controversial plan to build an NBA arena (for the New Jersey Nets), along with stores and condos in a teeming swath of Brooklyn that has been designated as blighted.

inversecondemnation.com, NY Court Of Appeals Oral Arguments In Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

Beginning at 2pm EST, the New York Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corp., the latest case involving the controversial Brooklyn Yards development and Kelo-like claims of eminent domain abuse in an economic development taking.

NLG: That's 2pm EST on Wednesday.

The Volokh Conspiracy, New York’s Highest Court to Hear Important Eminent Domain Case

New York case law is among the most hostile to property rights in the entire country, allowing the condemnation of virtually any property for any reason. For example, a 2001 state appellate court decision ruled that Times Square was blighted, allowing the condemnation of property there for the purpose of transferring it to the New York Times to build a new headquarters. New York is also one of only seven states that have enacted no eminent domain reform law whatsoever since the Supreme Court’s controversial 2005 decision upholding “economic development” condemnations in Kelo. For these reasons, I am not optimistic about the property owners’ chances in this case. However, the litigation might still do some good by focusing greater attention on eminent domain abuse in New York. Moreover, there is always the possibility that the state supreme court will change its ways, as several other state high courts have done in recent years.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Flashback to 2005

Here is a "flashback" to June 2005 when the notorious Kelo decision came down:

Ratner Discusses Possibility Of Using Eminent Domain To Help Build Brooklyn Arena
NY 1. June 24, 2005

...Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the issue should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

“Nobody thinks we shouldn't have eminent domain for some purposes,” said the mayor. “The issue is, is development one of the appropriate purposes?”

Daniel Goldstein and his neighbors say they will not give up without a fight. They say they will take their battle to court, if necessary.

Noticing New York, Thompson’s Campaign: Lacking a Clarion Message, Plus Issues of Confused “Respect”

We don’t think that Obama should be so quick to publicly “respect” a man who publicly disrespects him in return. But perhaps Obama would not be so quick to “respect” Michael Bloomberg if Mr. Thompson, as his political opponent were willing to be much clearer about all the reasons that exist not to respect Michael Bloomberg. That means he needs to stop threading needles: Atlantic Yards is clearly a paramount example. Mr. Thompson might very well find that he, himself, gains respect in the process. Yes, on one hand we have Bloomberg who is definitely too focused on benefitting developers, but wouldn’t it be nice if, on the other hand, Mr. Thompson was someone who was able to bring that kowtowing into focus.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

The eminent domain battle Wednesday: an easy call for the Court of Appeals or a fresh look at blight, "public purpose," and relative benefits?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder offers a primer on the looming New York State Court of Appeals hearing on the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's planned Atlantic Yards project, which will be argued Wednesday in Albany.

The case challenging eminent domain (Goldstein, et al. vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a/ Empire State Development Corporation, or ESDC), to be heard Wednesday in the Court of Appeals in Albany may be the only case standing in the way of arena construction, even though other lawsuits challenging Atlantic Yards are expected.

(It should be webcast, beginning at 2 pm, with oral arguments to last about an hour.)

So stakes are high. Should the Court of Appeals rely on a line of cases that have expanded the notion of "public use" to "public purpose," and which have expanded the understanding of blight from clearing slums to removal of "stagnation," it will uphold the dismissal of the case, concluding that the state constitution offers no tighter protections than does the federal one.

Should the court, however, look more expansively and closely at the case, it could raise serious questions. Consider that blight was presented as justification for eminent domain well after Atlantic Yards was announced and the menu of promised public benefits has shifted and arguably diminished, according to evidence that emerged after the project was initially passed in December 2006, a record the ESDC wants very much to exclude.

The court could also avoid both lines of inquiry by ruling more narrowly, saying the case was filed too late and/or presents no new constitutional questions.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

Forest City in the News

The Dallas Morning News, Downtown Dallas redevelopment plan to cost millions more than expected

The parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is trying to renegotiate a sweetheart deal with the City of Dallas, seeking millions more dollars in tax incentives and federal housing loans to rehab a downtown office building into condos.

To redevelop the Continental, Forest City is asking City Hall to approve a $22.5 million city tax subsidy and a $7.6 million federal housing loan.

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas could arrange city hall construction financing by year's end

The Mayor of Las Vegas is still trying to pass the complicated land-swap/new City Hall construction deal with Forest City Enterprises.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

October 11, 2009

RebelMart's Brooklyn Is Dying

RebelMartBklyn (YouTube)

For your Sunday morning entertainment pleasure:

Filmed October 2, 2009 at Freddy's Bar & Backroom, Brooklyn, New York. "Brooklyn is Dying" captures the hopes and fears of the battle against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, part of an ongoing offensive by New York City's and State's government officials against Brooklyn. For more information, go to www.dddb.net, www.nolandgrab.org and www.atlanticyardsreport.com

Posted by steve at 8:07 AM

Sunday Morning Catch-up with the Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

What's missing from today's New York Times stadium story? The Atlantic Yards arena and clarity about PILOTs

Today's New York Times covers public subsidies of a stadium in New Jersey. Norman Oder points to the missing Brooklyn connection.

Only in the last paragraph does the article take a wider view:
The Mets and the Yankees also make payments in lieu of taxes in New York City, the payments roughly equal to the debt payments the teams have to pay on their bonds. The owners of Madison Square Garden have been exempted from paying property taxes since 1982, costing New York City hundreds of millions of dollars.

You'd think the Times also would include the financing scheme for the Atlantic Yards arena, which is essentially the same as that for the baseball stadiums.

And readers of the first sentence in the paragraph above might be led astray. The Mets and Yankees are not making PILOTs to the city along with the debt payments on their bonds. They're using the PILOTs to pay off the bonds. More here.

Public authority reform still stalled; could the Vanderbilt Yard deal with Forest City Ratner have gone through had this bill been enacted?

A bill for reform of state authorities passed by the New York State legislature this past July, but has still not been signed by Governor Paterson. The bill would keep authorities from selling public property below market value. The MTA has an agreement to sell the Vanderbilt Yards to developer Bruce Ratner for well below its assessed value.

The Bond Buyer reported on one crucial sticking point:
[Bloomberg's director of legislative affairs Michelle] Goldstein said that the ability to dispose of property for less than market value provides “crucial flexibility that is necessary to undertake economic development projects and other community initiatives.” Current rules already require transparency, she said.

Requiring that property be sold or leased at fair market values allows the public to “know the real value of the subsidy,” Brodsky said. Instead of disposing of property at a discount to stimulate economic development, authorities would still be able to provide an equivalent grant, he said.

“There’s no reason in the world why an entity which is in the business of doing economic development deals could not take the proceeds of a fair-market sale and return it to the party involved in a simultaneous transfer,” Brodsky said.


Brodsky's explanation seems logical, but it gets more complicated when the entity doing the economic development deal is not the entity that's making the sacrifice.

Remember, the MTA in September 2005 decided to sell development rights to the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner at below-market rates --and before the MTA in June 2009 revised the deal to require a lower upfront payment and a 22-year payment schedule for the rest.

In both cases it was less of a boon for the MTA than a boon for the mayor, governor, and ESDC. In other words, the MTA's constituency--straphangers--bore a disproportionate impact. Had the fiduciary duty kicked in, the board members might have had cause for pause.

ESPN's Simmons: the "Russian Mark Cuban" wouldn't have been allowed to buy a team five years ago, but now might lure LeBron

From ESPN Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons' Mailbag:
1. You know the NBA is in at least a little trouble financially when it allows a Russian billionaire [MikHail Prokhorov] to buy a team. Five or six years ago, how fast do you think David Stern squashes the idea when someone says to him, "So, I guess the best way to describe him is that he's like a Russian Mark Cuban"? Two seconds? One second?

Which raises the question: Did Stern just open the door to all foreign billionaires, or was this a one-time thing? I'd argue that the NBA was soooooooooo desperate to fix this Nets situation and salvage the Brooklyn complex that it didn't care where the money came from. This was a one-time exception. We need a cash buyer. Period. I think a Saudi oil sheik would have been approved as an owner. I think Tom Cruise would have been approved. I think everyone short of a Pablo Escobar-type buyer would have been approved. It's the NBA and it's faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan-tastic … ( … -ally in need of some cash).


Still, Simmons thinks the Nets, assuming a move to Brooklyn, might now nab the hottest free agent of 2010:
This completely changes the landscape of the LeBron [James] Sweepstakes. Before, the Clippers and Zombie Sonics were the best basketball situations for him (no way for both); the Lakers were out; the Bulls seemed far-fetched; and the Knicks are such a mess that adding LeBron would have been like reliving Gretzky and the Kings all over again. But Russian Mark Cuban's deep pockets coupled with Brooklyn and a decent young Nets roster? Intriguing!

Posted by steve at 7:41 AM

In East Rutherford, N.J., New Football Stadium, but at Whose Cost?

The New York Times
By Ken Belson

This is an interesting item on how sport facilities receive public subsidies. This is a case of the new Jets and Giants stadium being built in East Rutherford, N.J.

The stadium, which is scheduled to open next year, is in East Rutherford, and the borough naturally wants to collect taxes that any private business in its borders would have to pay. But the stadium sits on land owned by the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority, a tax-exempt organization created by the state in 1971 to run the sporta arenas in the Meadowlands and elsewhere in New Jersey.

For years, the authority has collected rent from the teams to use its publicly owned stadium, and payments of $1.3 million a year in lieu of taxes. In turn, the authority has made payments to East Rutherford in lieu of taxes that cover the football stadium as well as the Izod Center and the Meadowlands Racetrack.

This year, the authority will pay the borough $5.97 million, which is equal to 21 percent of what the borough would have collected if the land were privately owned. The first annual payments of $466,000 started in 1977, the year after the sports complex opened, and have been renegotiated every decade or so.

Now, however, the Jets and the Giants are building their own stadium, team offices and practice facilities, most of them in East Rutherford. Because the buildings are privately owned, James Cassella, the mayor of East Rutherford, said the borough deserves more than what it has been receiving, a point he plans to make in negotiations with the authority.

“If the poor guy trying to run a dry cleaner and struggling to make ends meet pays taxes, should it be any different for a couple of millionaire owners?” Cassella said. “I’m just looking for our fair share.”


NoLandGrab: Why can't the Times find the space to take a close look at similar shenanigans here in Brooklyn? Once again, The Times demonstrates that is has an enormous blind spot when it comes to scrutinizing public subsidies for an arena in Brooklyn for the benefit of its business partner, Bruce Ratner.

Posted by steve at 7:22 AM

October 10, 2009

Andrew Zimbalist, 2005: "Thus, the ultimate public contribution may rise above the $200 million level" It stands as one of the most willfully naive statements in the Atlantic Yards saga.

Atlantic Yards Report

Of the many deceptions involved in promotion of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, is how much taxpayers are subsidizing this land grab. The ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, continues to make outrageous claims about the benefits of the project, but always manages to avoid mentioning the costs.

This blog entry follows the history of a ruse.

It stands as one of the most willfully naive statements in the Atlantic Yards saga.

Forest City Ratner's "sports economist for hire," Andrew Zimbalist, once said that the direct subsidies would be $200 million but allowed, "Thus, the ultimate public contribution may rise above the $200 million level."

Ya think?


Consider that the New York City Independent Budget Office, looking only at the arena and not at housing (and other) subsidies, concluded in September that there would be $260.7 million in city and state capital contributions and $13 million in lost existing property taxes, adding up to $273.7 million in losses to the budget.

Beyond that, the IBO estimated $180.5 million in lost opportunity costs for the city, $38.4 million for the state and MTA, and $193.9 million for federal taxpayers.

And that's without even considering the bestowal of naming rights, which would bring a reported $400 million. And there's a whole lot more.


Posted by steve at 7:51 AM

CNG Watch: news of downtown condo price cuts but not KPMG's Atlantic Yards market study

Atlantic Yards Report

You might think that a newspaper that covers Brooklyn would give priority to the largest proposed project for the borough. In the past, you would be right, but now, you'd be mistaken. The Brooklyn Paper has a story about price cuts for the new Oro Building, but misses a story that connects inflated sales figures for Oro to Atlantic Yards.

But there's nothing in the Brooklyn Paper, nor its Community Newspaper Group (aka Murdoch-owned) sibling Courier-Life, about the dubious KPMG report released Wednesday concerning the market for condos and rentals in the Atlantic Yards project. That report claimed that the Oro was 75% sold.

Nor did the two newspapers cover the Empire State Development Corporation's September 17 vote to approve the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

In March, Brooklyn Paper editor-in-chief Gersh Kuntzman, who regularly reminds us how both he and the paper are "award-winning," asserted that "our coverage of Atlantic Yards has not 'tailed off.'"

The evidence, however, shows that it has.


Posted by steve at 7:40 AM

Will New York’s Highest Court Deliver State Eminent Domain Abuse Standards More Lax than Kelo? Can ED’s Paramount Purpose Be Private Monopolies?

Noticing New York

Here is a review of some of the eminent domain issues concerning the proposed Atlantic Yards project. This is presented as the New York Court of Appeals prepares to hear the case of Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation this week in Albany. The question is: Will the Court take this opportunity to strengthen the rights of property owners, or allow - - weaker even than the protections against eminent domain abuse dictated by the Supreme Court Kelo decision.

New York State’s style of eminent domain is violative of what should be the fundamental constitutional protections against takings, in part because the takings of property from one private owner to favor another occur in a totally biased environment. Basic, essential due process rights are denied New York property owners, including the right to a fair fact-finding forum where government determinations can be tested with the check and balance of an adversarial process. This is covered in the just-released report of The Institute for Justice (October 2009), Building Empires, Destroying Homes: Eminent Domain Abuse in New York.


Perhaps the more important abuse in New York is the way that state officials, thus insulated from due process checks and balances, have perverted the purpose of eminent domain, essentially selling this public tool to private entities. Two cases in point: Atlantic Yards and Columbia’s Expansion. Eminent domain is now used as a tool by private entities to eliminate competition and establish monopolies. Perhaps, by definition, eminent domain can be considered a tool that at its core surmounts the normal competition of the free marketplace, but Forest City Ratner and Columbia have taken the suppression of competition to the furthest possible extremes.

Maximizing the preclusion of competition, eminent domain as practiced in the Atlantic Yards and the Columbia expansion environments is an absolutely no-bid proposition. Justice Kennedy’s pivotal opinion in the Kelo case (the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent pronouncement on eminent domain), establishes precepts that eminent domain can’t involve “impermissible favoritism” or “picking out a particular transferee beforehand,” Yet Atlantic Yards and Columbia dare to violate this by establishing their no-bid mega-monopolies at the get-go, center-staging them as the very essence of their schemes. The 22-acre Atlantic Yards site actually abuts a not terribly successful development already owned by the same owner, expanding the monopoly to some thirty or more acres. Verifying that the public purpose for establishing this monopoly is pretextual, the public agencies are providing no cost benefit analysis and the calculations that have been done (not by those agencies) for the Atlantic Yards basketball arena, the only part of the megadevelopment that may actually be built, shows that the arena is, conservatively, a $220 million net loss for the public.


Posted by steve at 6:28 AM

ATTENTION: DDDB Hosts BK Walkathon To Support AY Legal Battle

Team Tish

The Official Staff Blog of Council Member Letitia James notes next week's Develop Don't Destroy Walkathon.

On October 17th, a walkathon will be taking place to stop the Atlantic Yards project, end eminent domain abuse, massive over-development, and the destruction of the Brooklyn we know and love.

The Walkathon will feature hundreds of walkers and start at Borough Hall and finish with a community party in Fort Greene's Habana Outpost.

For more information or to sign up for the walk or to sponsor a walker visit: http://dddb.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=323520

All money raised will go towards Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s legal battle against the Atlantic Yards Project.


Posted by steve at 6:03 AM

New York Among Worst On Property Rights


The Journal News
By Phil Reisman

It’s well documented that the power of eminent domain has been greatly abused by state and local governments in recent years.

No longer employed merely as a tool to make way for roads, bridges, hospitals and other traditional public-use projects, the practice of taking private property has alarmingly morphed into something morally reprehensible and corrupt. All over the country homes and businesses have been seized to make way for private development under the pretense that the wholesale replacement of neighborhoods with large shopping centers and office parks fits under the rubric of promoting the public welfare.


A big court date is looming on the eminent domain front New York’s Court of Appeals-the state’s highest court-will hear a case in Albany on Wednesday, October 14, at 2 p.m. that will be closely watched. The case-Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corp.-challenges New York’s use of eminent domain to hand privately owned businesses and homes in Brooklyn over to private developer Forest City Ratner as part of the Atlantic Yards development.

The Goldstein case will be the first time New York’s highest court will consider limits on the use of eminent domain since the infamous 2005 Kelo v. City of New London case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the case resulted in victory for the developer and the city, it sparked a national outcry against the unfairness of taking private property for private gain.


Posted by steve at 5:59 AM

October 9, 2009

Advocates to Argue for N.Y. State Recognition of Legal Same-Sex Marriages

New York Law Journal
by Joel Stashenko

New York's highest court, which three years ago ruled that same-sex couples do not have a constitutional right to marry in the state, will get an opportunity to approach the issue from a different angle next week: Whether state and local governments can recognize same-sex marriages solemnized in jurisdictions where such unions are legal.

Two cases challenging the recognition of same-sex marriages will be heard together as the Court of Appeals begins its next session on Tuesday.

The Court also will hear cases next week and the week after challenging the use of eminent domain in one of the largest private developments in recent New York history, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and whether New York City can be held liable for injuries suffered by an elementary school teacher hurt when she stepped in to break up a fight between fourth-graders.


NoLandGrab: We don't care who marries whom, except when eminent domain abuse marries massive public subsidy — aka "Atlantic Yards."

Posted by eric at 5:00 PM

Beyond the eminent domain case, other lawsuits looming against ESDC and MTA, but can they have any impact?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder runs down once and future litigation against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Many people believe that the pending eminent domain case, to be heard in the Court of Appeals on October 14 after being rejected at the trial court and appellate court levels, is the only piece of litigation that can stop Atlantic Yards from going forward.

That may be so, and that case has to be considered an uphill battle for the plaintiffs. Both the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner have expressed confidence about success in the case.

Still, the willingness of the Court of Appeals to accept a case unanimously dismissed at the appellate division suggests that the court recognizes it needs to at least clarify whether the state constitution restricts eminent domain more than does the federal constitution. (On Monday, I'll have a preview of the legal arguments.)

And, if the court upholds the defendants, the ESDC apparently intends to pursue eminent domain even as other cases proceed.

More litigation

Meanwhile, one other appeal is still in play and three other cases should be filed soon, both by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (and allies) and the BrooklynSpeaks coalition. News of the latter's suit surfaced yesterday.

While these lawsuits may not be able to stop the project formally, they might raise sufficient questions to affect the financing of the arena. More likely, they would at least shine some light on the process behind some questionable decisions by the ESDC and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).


Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

The KPMG report, the marketing of 80 DeKalb, and Forest City Ratner's deceptive promises about AY "housing for Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner has tried very hard to suggest that the mixed-income housing in the Atlantic Yards project would be "for Brooklyn." A May 2004 brochure, the very first "liar flier," promised 4,500 UNITS OF MIXED-INCOME HOUSING FOR BROOKLYN.

The only problem: market-rate housing follows the market, natch, so renters and buyers come from anywhere.

As shown in the Atlantic Yards market study by KPMG, commissioned by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and released Wednesday, most new residents of market-rate units (4180 of 6430 units) would come from outside Brooklyn:
Although any new and upscale development in Brooklyn that offers transportation benefits similar to the Subject Property will likely attract residents from within New York City as well as the suburbs, a significant number of residents will likely come from Manhattan and to a lesser extent Brooklyn. Those from Brooklyn will likely involve "move-up" residents.
(Emphasis added)


Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

And from the mailbag...

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

To the editor,

I saw your cover story on the Russian billionaire who bought the Nets (“Shooting Tsar,” Sept. 25) and thought this: The class war continues — billionaire developer, billionaire mayor, and billionaire oligarch against the poor and middle class of Brownstone Brooklyn.

Robert Ohlerking, Park Slope

To the editor,

So this tall Russian has theoretically bought into the Flatbush Avenue failure. The interesting thing is that once again, Ratner is playing with other people’s money. This moneybags however, may prove to be more gas than substance. Just because he is living large, doesn’t mean he is a legitimate investor. Have we forgotten how respectable Bernie Madoff looked just two years ago?

And the bottom line is that this is still a stunningly ugly project that, if built, would bring unmanageable crowds to an already constipated traffic grid. How this overblown nonsense is supposed to help Brooklyn’s economy needs much explanation.

Barbara Charton, Brooklyn Heights


Plus one from the online mailbox:

I’m very disappointed in the Brooklyn Paper. I started reading your paper a few years ago when your coverage of Atlantic Yards was fresh and incisive. With this endorsement, I can only guess that corporate pressure from above has caused you to jettison all pretense at journalistic integrity. Sad.

R, Fort Greene

Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

When Public Power Is Used for Private Gain

It's time for New York's highest court to say no to eminent domain abuse

by Damon W. Root

Reason lays out the case against Atlantic Yards.

So Ratner did what most politically-connected elites do when they run into trouble: He turned to the government—including his old Columbia law school pal Gov. George Pataki—for a bailout. More specifically, Ratner partnered with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a controversial and embattled state agency with the power to bypass zoning laws and seize private property via eminent domain.

The result of that unholy union is Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, which New York's Court of Appeals—the state's highest court—will hear next Wednesday in Albany. At issue is the ESDC's use of eminent domain to seize privately-owned homes and businesses on behalf of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

It's a classic case of eminent domain abuse. Ratner isn't planning to build a bridge or a road or any other legitimate public project that might permit the forceful taking of private property. He wants to build a basketball arena, sell tickets to the games (not to mention sell broadcast rights, advertising space, concessions, and merchandise), and make a big fat profit. That's not public use, it's private gain.

So what should New York's highest court do about this corporate welfare boondoggle? Remember that New York is one of just seven states that has yet to pass any laws protecting property rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's notorious 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which allowed that municipality to seize private property on behalf of the Pfizer Corporation. As Robert McNamara, a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice, told me, "New York is one of the most egregious abusers of eminent domain in the country. With no meaningful change coming from the legislature, New Yorkers need the courts to start reining in these abuses. This case is a perfect place to start."


Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Marty is king of queens as Beep secures big bucks for gay center

The Brooklyn Paper
by Will Yackowicz

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has secured $2 million in funding for a permanent Brooklyn Community Pride Center — but certain buildings are off-limits to Brooklyn's LGBT community.

It’s the latest effort by Markowitz to secure a home for Brooklyn’s gay community — the largest in the five boroughs. Two years ago, Markowitz helped negotiate a deal that would’ve put the community center in a Bruce Ratner-owned building Downtown, but the deal unraveled over the gay community’s opposition to Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

754 Pacific Street bullet holes?

Bullets over Bruceville? When footprint photog Tracy Collins was out snapping pics of the eviction notice kicking Shaya Bymelgreen and Forest City out of Henry Weinstein's Pacific Street building, he came across a mystery.

Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool, 10/08/09.

754 Pacific Street at Carlton Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

It appears that there are several bullet holes in the roll-up gate on Pacific Street. If they are bullet holes, it appears that they would have been caused by gunfire from inside the building. I've heard that the NYPD has been called, but I don't know what they'll do, if anything.

Click here for more photos of the inside-out bullet holes.

Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

At the corner of Carlton and Vanderbilt, an eviction notice

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, Henry Weinstein got a five-day eviction notice from the Sheriff's Office evicting companies owned by Shaya Boymelgreen from a building and parking lots at the corner of Carlton Avenue and Pacific Streets.

Remember, Boymelgreen tried to assign his lease to Forest City Ratner, but lost in court. Weinstein got possession of the property on September 18.

(Photos by Tracy Collins)

Boymelgreen's willingness to assign the lease to FCR allowed the Empire State Development Corporation, likely using a map originally produced by the developer, to suggest that FCR owned or controlled some 5% more of the Atlantic Yards footprint than it actually did.


NoLandGrab: Yet another example of Forest City Ratner's duplicity. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards: Shaya Gets the Boot

As you may remember, Forest City Ratner, developer behind the Atlantic Yards, hit a little snafu in the planning stages when it claimed to own or control more land than it actually did, namely the lots at the corner of Carlton and Vanderbilt. The snafu came in the form of property owner Henry Weinstein, who fought Shaya Boymelgreen's attempt to assign his lease to Forest City Ratner. Weinstein took Boymelgreen to court and legally took possession on September 18, but according to the Atlantic Yards Report, he just received the eviction notice from the Sheriff's Office yesterday.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Remix: Envisioning a Nets Arena Gone Green

We've seen some zany re-imaginings of the Barclays Center arena and assorted other Atlantic Yards elements over the years (even contributing our own every now and then), but this one—via the blog Restless—is really something special.

The Wonkster [Gotham Gazette], The Eminent Domain State

“New York is perhaps the worst state in the nation when it comes to eminent domain abuse — the forcible acquisition of private property by the government for private development,” according to a new report by the conservative Institute for Justice.

The study goes through a litany of examples of what they see as an unfair eminent domain process here. They point out that an area need only be considered in danger of becoming blighted in order to be condemned; describe a byzantine, opaque, and unaccountable hearing process; and focus on the short window of time for property owners to protest at inadequate proceedings.

Shouts from the Stoop, The List

30 for 30 got me thinking. Here is my wish list of things I would like to see, read or watch:

I want the Atlantic Yards Project to go through and the Nets to play in Brooklyn, but if I opposed it, I would like to see Living Colour sing "Open Letter to a Landlord" in downtown Brooklyn.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 10/8/09 EDITION

Prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov believes the team will become profitable in 2011-12 once they move to Brooklyn, the Moscow Times reports.

The New York Post is reporting that Atlantic Yards opponents are preparing another lawsuit, claiming the Empire State Development Corporation accepted skewed data and failed to meaningfully engage the public during its review of the development.

Dime interviews Courtney Lee who talks about his playoff performance, his new role on the Nets and his desire to play Mikhail Prokhorov in one-on-one.

Posted by eric at 9:07 AM

October 8, 2009

Maya Lin to Atlantic Yards


Restless is always good for some unexpected architectural solution.

Seeing Maya Lin's work, left, reminded me of my simplest design for the proposed Atlantic Yards Nets Arena.

I don't care if the Nets new Russian owner is ready to spend like Bloomberg going after a fifth term, the Yards site is architecturally cursed.

This design is guaranteed to invalidate all complaints about crappy architecture and how the arena might fit into the surrounding environment -- by burying the whole thing beneath a gigantic mound covered in grass, in a style the ancients referred to as "green architecture," below right.

Fans won't care that they're buried alive. They'll be too busy watching the massive plasma TV screen hung above the court, with closeups of LeBron James diving into the laps of Siberian supermodels in court-side seats, wrapped in wolf pelts, nibbling caviar bagels, and pouring Stoli down their gullets like gas into a Hummer.

To pay off the bonds needed to complete the project, the mound can be covered with billboards, like any other arena. Then the BQE can be re-routed by the mound so there's an audience for the billboards. That swell, sustainable future is rendered below.


Posted by eric at 6:13 PM

New Atlantic Yards lawsuit to target state

by Gary Buiso

Community groups will soon file a lawsuit challenging the state’s approval of a modified plan for the Atlantic Yards project, arguing that the Empire State Development Corporation accepted skewed data and failed to meaningfully engage the public during its review of the controversial plan, this paper has learned.

The lawsuit, which has not yet been filed, will argue that Forest City Ratner’s revised project was approved in September without appropriate documentation and data, specifically an alleged under-reporting of traffic impacts. A supplemental environmental impact statement will therefore be warranted, as the project has fundamentally changed in scope, according to Gib Veconi, a member of the Prospect Heights Development Council, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Last week Veconi successfully urged the Park Slope Civic Council to agree to be co-plaintiffs on the suit, which is being organized by the umbrella group Brooklyn Speaks. The Manhattan-based Urban Environmental Law Center is expected to represent the plaintiffs.

PSCC President Ken Freeman said his group has been trying to work with the developer to improve the existing project, rather than kill it. “It is with a heavy heart that we are forced to admit that nearly three years later, all our efforts have been in vain. The project has changed significantly for the worse in that time, and our efforts have yielded no concessions.”


Posted by eric at 4:14 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Omissions and Lies in Atlantic Yards Study

And while we're talking about Richard Meier's building, let's take note that $1,225 is the maximum price per square foot listed on StreetEasy for his building, not the average, plus the fact that the building isn't even half full, even though the KPMG study claims it's 75 percent sold. Finally, Oder notes that "450 of the 2,250 subsidized 'affordable' units were to rent at $40/sf, while another 450 were to rent at $32/sf," even though current rents for Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope range between $23 and $48 per square foot already—in the case of Prospect Heights, the $40 price tag will actually exceed the neighborhood's current maximum of $39. So, in summary, we've got: false statistics, ungrounded claims, and purposeful omissions. Another day at the office.

NY Fiscal Watch, Report: NYS dominates eminent domain abuse

New York’s em-dom abuse — I wrote about this, too, a long time ago, here — has fiscal consequences. In Brooklyn, the threat of eminent domain has allowed developer Forest City Ratner to push business owners into “voluntarily” selling their property for a proposed basketball stadium / affordable-housing scheme.

The threat of eminent domain has frozen business activity in the “footprint” of the stadium and apartments towers, which is bad for New York’s fisc, and also bad for New York’s stated goal of encouraging more middle-income jobs and diversification of the economy away from Wall Street.

Further, if the project ever gets built, it will narrow the business-tax base, since it replaces tax-paying business owners with a politically connected developer who benefits from a myriad of tax exemptions.

The Socialist WebZine, ACORN: A Flesh-Eating Machine or Left–Wing Conspiracy?

Atlas describes the struggles surrounding a mega-development project proposed in Brooklyn called the Atlantic Yards project. Real estate magnate Bruce Ratner authored the project and managed to secure significant concessions from NY City and State governments using eminent domain laws to displace residents. Community opposition developed immediately, resulting in the creation of the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn coalition and dissent from prominent Democratic Party officials.

Though they seemed like a perfect fit for the opposition, ACORN’s New York leader, Bertha Lewis, did not head to the picket line, preferring, instead, the negotiating table with Ratner.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards on Ice?

Brooklyn mascot Marty Markowitz is getting a bit greedy now, demanding that a second professional sports franchise get moved to the borough.

NoLandGrab: The way the planned arena has been redesigned preempts hockey from being played in it.

Posted by eric at 4:01 PM

Greetings from Scott Turner: Walk the Walk

via Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn

Okay, any mention of a walkathon is gonna elicit a Proclaimers reference. Or Nancy Sinatra. Some things are automatic, like crying at the end of Old Yeller or that gag reflex whenever another Mike for Mayor ad comes on the t.v.

It won't be 500 miles, but two-and-a-quarter miles. It's the fifth annual Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon, colloquially named Walk Don't Destroy 5.

I'm walking in it this year. You know the drill -- Ratner, lousy development project, sixteen skyscrapers, a basketball arena, a Russian oligarch team owner, billions of taxpayer dollars wasted, no appreciable numbers of affordable housing or newly-created jobs, overwhelming traffic, exploitation of Brooklyn Dodger mythology, environmental and health concerns, blighted wasteland created by Ratner and not time, lack of democratic process, eminent domain abuse.

Wow..that's the shortest I've ever summed it up.

Stopping Ratner's boondoggle and replacing it with a project that makes sense for the surrounding communities. This is a crucial time -- the project will either proceed after New Year's 2010 or it'll be a goner.

Whether you've followed this from afar or heard me talk about it up close, you know what's at stake. DDDB's legal bill are hefty. Along with dozens of other community groups, DDDB has been fighting the Atlantic Yards for six years. Six years.

The Walkathon is what DDDB does to keep going. Walkathons...bake sales...benefit concerts...the passing of many hats...small checks from concerned citizens. DDDB has never had the hundreds of millions of private and government money available to Forest City Ratner for their endless p.r. assault. The money raised at this year's Walkathon goes to DDDB's legal fight.


Posted by eric at 3:42 PM


October 14th Press Conference and Court of Appeals Argument on Landmark Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

ALBANY, NY— At 2pm on October 14, Brooklyn residents and business owners will hear their case argued in New York's high court, the Court of Appeals. They will hold a press conference beforehand, outside the court, at 12:30.

Their landmark case (Goldstein et al. v. Urban Development Corp) challenges New York's Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) attempt to use eminent domain to seize their properties and hand them over to developer Bruce Ratner to assemble land to build the controversial Atlantic Yards project—a basketball arena and 16 skyscrapers—in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Ratner cannot construct the project without the State seizing these properties by this abusive use of eminent domain.

The Court of Appeals has been asked to decide:
> The meaning of "public use" in the State Constitution's eminent domain clause;
> Whether a Constitutional clause requiring srtictly low income housing for a "slum clearance" project subsidized by the state applies to Atlantic Yards (the project proposes mostly market rate housing);
> Whether a "public use" can be ascertained when the private developer's benefit is unknown and the "public benefit" appears to be incidental to that private benefit.

All case briefs are at: www.dddb.net/eminentdomain

(The Institute for Justice released a report yesterday documenting widespread eminent domain abuse in New York State. The report stresses the importance of the Goldstein case. It can be downloaded at: http://tinyurl.com/buildingempires)

Court of Appeals Eminent Domain Argument and Press Conference Prior to Argument

Wednesday, October 14
Press Conference: 12:30pm
Argument: 2pm

Across the Street from the Court of Appeals
20 Eagle Street
Albany, New York

Press Conference
Brooklyn residential and business owners and tenants challenging New York State's use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project.
Brooklyn citizens and elected officials supporting the property owners and tenants in their legal challenge.

Attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Thompson claims major development projects require cost-benefit analyses, but ignores Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

From Democratic Mayoral nominee Bill Thompson's speech yesterday on the economy:
Enormous staff resources and time were wasted planning a West Side Jets Stadium that was never built. Huge subsidies went to the New York Yankees for a stadium project with little local economic impact.

As Mayor, I will require that decisions to invest taxpayer dollars in major development projects undergo rigorous cost, jobs, and community-benefit analyses.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's campaign responded that Thompson "flip-flopped"--as opposed to, maybe, changed his mind--on Yankee Stadium.

Thompson ignored the Independent Budget Office's analysis that the Atlantic Yards arena would be a money-loser for the city.


NoLandGrab: We'll give Thompson the benefit of the doubt and say he "came to his senses" on Yankee Stadium.

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

State Consultant: Ratner’s Assumptions at Atlantic Yards 'Moderately Aggressive'

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The report—which was not expected to be negative given that it was commissioned by the agency sponsoring the project—looked at Forest City’s planned numbers on rental rates, sales prices and absorption for the 14 apartment towers planned for the 22-acre site. The report assumed that the project would be built over 10 years, a schedule that even Forest City has said is aggressive, but is the official timeline of the project.

The verdict: Based on current trends, Forest City’s assumptions are “moderately aggressive,” “towards the high end of the range” that the consultant looked at, but “not unreasonable.”

The consultant, accounting giant KPMG, which also did a 2006 analysis on the project for the state’s development agency, said its conclusions were based on a couple of key assumptions made by Forest City:

1) the current real estate market will have recovered by the time the apartment units come online and 2) the Subject Property will be sold at a premium compared to the market place, given the Subject Property’s location, amenities, and newly developed status.


NoLandGrab: "Location, amenities, and newly developed status" doesn't seem to be doing much for all the other struggling condo projects in Brooklyn — and none of those are smack-next-door to a sports arena and its 18,000 inebriated patrons. By Forest City's and KPMG's logic, Madison Square Garden, sitting atop Penn Station, should be surrounded by luxury buildings — rather than fast-food joints.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Did KPMG consider the Kahr report? Maybe after the fact

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that we know the KPMG Atlantic Yards market study for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) takes a far more optimistic approach than the report by consultant Joshua Kahr for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, the question is: did KPMG consider Kahr?

"Can you explain, did the KPMG report respond specifically to the Joshua Kahr report?" I asked ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin after the September 17 ESDC board meeting.

"The KPMG report was commissioned before we--certainly before I saw the Kahr report," Matlin said. "We did share it with KPMG. To what extent they looked at it and--they certainly didn't respond to it directly, but I'm sure they looked at it."


NoLandGrab: Is Matlin sure he's sure? 'Cause the conclusions are wildly different. Didn't these guys learn their lesson from Enron?

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

Prokhorov says his Nets investment is no money down, all borrowed funds

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a little bit lost in translation, but the headline is clear: Prokhorov Says Nets Will Make Profit in 2011-12, reports the Moscow Times.

Russia's richest man expressed no doubt that legal challenges would be overcome. But the big news is that Prokhorov revealed his game-changing (to Bruce Ratner) investment comes with little sacrifice.

The Moscow Times reports:
Prokhorov said that while Onexim Group has sufficient funds, it might raise the financing required from Western banks. The New York Times reported Sept. 25 that the agreement also envisioned future Nets losses, up to $60 million, that are expected to accumulate before the move to Brooklyn. Prokhorov also will be responsible for 80 percent of the team’s $207 million debt, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified executive involved in the transaction.

Prokhorov declined to provide details about the deal.

“We borrow the money and essentially give the loan to someone else,” Prokhorov said. “For that, we get the team and a share in the real estate project. To use simple language: the group doesn’t spend any of its own money.

“We are in the process of negotiating with Western banks,” Prokhorov added, declining to identify the banks or disclose the interest rate of the loans. “We will attract the full sum of the needed investment.”


Here's the original piece:

Moscow Times, Prokhorov Says Nets Will Make Profit in 2011-12

“We have carried out our due diligence. We understand the current state of the team, and we understand how it will be transformed into a successful and profitable undertaking when it moves to Brooklyn,” Prokhorov said in an interview.

“We understand the legal situation around the arena, our lawyers have attentively looked through all the documents. Under the agreements, we are protected from delays at the arena and expect that the management team will be able to deal with this,” he said.

NoLandGrab: The "management team" has been dealing with "this" for nearly six years now. We wouldn't have put our own money down, either.

Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

Blasting From the Past: Ouroussoff on a Stand-alone Arena (Two Cheers Forward, And One Absolutely Cheerless Look Backward)

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White notes some contradictions in Nic Ourousoff's musings.

Now for the Ouroussoff quote we promised at the beginning of this post.- - As noted, Ouroussoff’s “two cheers” for the doctoring elements of the SHoP design consisted of praise for elements that will only be in place for so long as the arena exists as a stand-alone structure. But in March of 2008 Ouroussoff had some exceedingly derogatory things to say about how a stand-alone arena would be “a piece of urban blight.”

Here is what Mr. Ouroussoff wrote in his March 21, 2008 article (emphasis supplied)

So if the decision to proceed with an 18,000-seat basketball arena but to defer or eliminate the four surrounding towers is defensible from a business perspective, it also feels like a betrayal of the public trust.

Mr. Gehry conceived of this bold ensemble of buildings as a self-contained composition — an urban Gesamtkunstwerk — not as a collection of independent structures. Postpone the towers and expose the stadium, and it becomes a piece of urban blight — a black hole at a crucial crossroads of the city’s physical history. If this is what we’re ultimately left with, it will only confirm our darkest suspicions about the cynical calculations underlying New York real estate deals.


Posted by eric at 9:25 AM

From hoops to hockey? Markowitz, contemplating Islanders' move to Brooklyn, disregards the planned arena's limitations

Atlantic Yards Report

Now Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz tells the New York Post that the New York Islanders, whose destination is uncertain, should come to Brooklyn.

Of course, as the Post notes--but Markowitz apparently disregards--the planned Atlantic Yards arena would not be able to accommodate hockey.


Related coverage...

NY Post, Islanders are Brooklyn's goal

Borough President Marty Markowitz yesterday threw Brooklyn's puck into the ring to land the NHL Islanders, saying, "Brooklyn is the only place they should consider" if team owner Charles Wang makes good on a threat to flee Nassau County.

"Put every place else on ice," Markowitz told The Post. "We've got lots of hockey fans, and we'd even let them keep their name since we're technically still on Long Island."

NoLandGrab: And the arena would be, technically, too small to accommodate hockey. Did Markowitz take a high stick to the helmet, or does he know something we don't?

Posted by eric at 9:09 AM

The speaker? A squeaker!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

The City Council is a big fish that stinks from the head down — or so says would-be Councilman David Pechefsky, a Green Party candidate challenging Democratic front-runner Brad Lander to represent Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens and parts of Cobble Hill and Gowanus.

David Pechefsky, Green
I will not support a Speaker who voted to overturn term limits. But regardless of who is Speaker, without the reforms I have advocated, including reform of the committee structure, reform in the hiring and retention of staff, and reform of the member item system and budget process as a whole, the Council will continue to inadequately fulfill its responsibility as a counterweight to the mayor. A councilmember who votes for Speaker Quinn has little credibility on the term limits issue and therefore on commitment to reform more generally. It would also call into question that Councilmember’s commitment and ability to stand up to the mayor on such issues as Atlantic Yards and the Gowanus Canal.

Click thru to see what the other candidates speak about the Speaker.


Posted by eric at 8:57 AM

Cooper Struts Its Stuff

The Architect's Newspaper Blog
by Matt Chaban

At last week's Jane Jacobs Medal ceremony, one guest thought the Rockefeller Foundation should have been honoring the present instead of the past.

And one attendee, speaking anonymously so as not to offend his hosts, noted that were the Rockefeller Foundation to truly honor Jacobs’ spirit, they would give the award to Dan Goldstein for his ongoing fight against the Atlantic Yards project. “They should be helping to fight the fights that are still going on, not the ones that have been decided.”

UPDATE: The paragraph above has been deleted from the story since we posted it.


Posted by eric at 8:51 AM

"Different opinions," different facts; finding more gaps in the KPMG market study of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder's first look at the KPMG "market" "study" covered the report's astronomically high real estate value projections and totally bull-sh*t made up sales figures for existing projects.

Today, Oder compares the KPMG report (released yesterday by the Empire State Development Corporation) to the Kahr report (commissioned by Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods) and stumbles over some more "gaps" in the KPMG doc.

Here, perhaps, is the most significant fabrication of the market study commissioned by the ESDC and Ratner:

Yesterday I pointed out that KPMG said that only a "modest inflation factor" could lift the average of $950/sf high value for condos (in three neighborhoods) to the $1217/sf Forest City Ratner expects in 2015.

Well, first consider that the $950/sf may not be a fair comparison, given that it's skewed by the stratospheric prices of the not-so-well-selling On Prospect Park, by Richard Meier.

Second, consider that an inflation factor of 5%--not so modest--would bring $950/sf to $1212/sf over five years. (It would actually be five years and nearly four months until that first condo building opened on 2/1/15.)


NoLandGrab: We repeat, if the Atlantic Yards project is so great, then must the developer Forest City Ratner, the ESDC, and every study they have commissioned have to stray so far from the truth to make it appear viable?

Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

PRESS RELEASE: New Report Documents Widespread Eminent Domain Abuse Across New York State

From the Institute for Justice:

New York is one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to abusing eminent domain for private gain, according to the Institute for Justice, which tracks such abuses nationwide.

The Institute for Justice, which litigated the infamous Kelo eminent domain case before the U.S. Supreme Court, today released a report that documents example after example where government officials across the Empire State used eminent domain not to create projects that would be owned and used by the public—such as a courthouse or post office—but, rather, to create private development that would financially benefit politically powerful private developers.

The report, “Building Empires, Destroying Homes: Eminent Domain Abuse in New York,” states, “Over the past decade, a host of government jurisdictions and agencies statewide have condemned or threatened to condemn homes and small businesses for the New York Stock Exchange, The New York Times, IKEA, Costco, and Stop & Shop. An inner-city church lost its future home to eminent domain for commercial development that never came to pass. Scores of small business owners have been threatened with seizure for a private university in Harlem and for office space in Queens and Syracuse. Older homes were on the chopping block near Buffalo, simply so newer homes could be built. From Montauk Point to Niagara Falls, every community in the Empire State is subject to what the U.S. Supreme Court has accurately called the ‘despotic power.’”

A copy of the report is available at: http://www.ij.org/BuildingEmpires.

Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

It came from the Netstoberfestophere...

Netstoberfest.jpg Nets Daily, Nets’ Pep Rally in Newark

From 3:30 to 5:30, Nets players, dancers and Sly will rally fans, sign autographs and put on a show for free. The team plays two of its three home games this preseason at “The Rock”–the third is at St. John’s. The event, normally held at the IZOD Center, will also feature a barbecue, interactive games and a shooting contest.

Examiner.com, Newark on Nets' mind

Although conventional wisdom has the Nets moving to Brooklyn after the team's official sale, the Nets have not phased out Newark completely.

Could this be a contingency plan if Brooklyn falls through?

NetsPortal.com, Nets to hold pep rally in Newark

The Nets have not wavered from their insistence that "there is no Plan B" beyond their intention to relocate to Brooklyn.

But that hasn't stopped them from scheduling three events in Newark this month.

Nets Daily, Yormark in London Seeking Euro Sponsors

Brett Yormark is in London “following up on leads with additional international brands”, reports New Jersey Newsroom. The brands weren’t identified, but with a British bank as an arena sponsor in Brooklyn and a Russian billionaire wanting to buy the team, Europe’s another marketing frontier for a team that wants to be a global brand. Yormark also detailed how new sponsors will show off their wares at IZOD.

Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

Out in the open

NY Post
By Max Gross and Jennifer Ceaser

Architecture junkies have had a very lean year.

Many of the city’s starchitecture projects have been shelved, like Ben van Berkel’s Five Franklin Place and the Frank Gehry design of Atlantic Yards.

But we have good news for those in search of a fix. This weekend Open House New York (OHNY) is throwing open the doors to some of the city’s most interesting spots, both old and new.


Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

Local Businesses Sponsoring Oct. 17 Walkathon

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

We want you to know that this year’s Walkathon (sign up today and start raising funds!) is supported by these gracious local businesses:

Circa Antiques Ltd.
374 Atlantic Avenue

Gnarly Vines
350 Myrtle Avenue

Habana Outpost
757 Fulton Street

Park Slope Gallery

Providence Day Spa
329 Atlantic Avenue

Yogasana Center for Yoga
90 5th Avenue

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Is Rush Limbaugh trying to play ball without a helmet?

Atlantic Yards overdeveloper and NJ Nets owner Bruce Ratner has a cameo in a story about Rush Limbaugh's bid to buy a controlling stake in the St. Louis Rams NFL franchise:

[O]wning a team is no guarantee of profit. Real-estate developer Bruce Ratner recently sold the New Jersey Nets for less than he paid for it.


NoLandGrab: Ratner's sale of the nets to Mikhail Prokhorov has yet to be executed and is awaiting the financing of the arena to close, the eminent domain case to be resolved and an approval vote by the other NBA owners.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Rower seeks an assist from the New Jersey Nets



Brooklyn native, Victor Mooney (43), hopes his original sponsor for The Goree Challenge, Mr. Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, would deliver a message to Mr. Mikhail Prokhorov.

According to media reports, Mr. Prokhorov, President of Onexim Group, is currently pursuing ownership of the New Jersey Nets from Mr. Ratner. Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Freeman Miller, spokesman for Onexim Group told Mooney, “Since you have a relationship with Mr. Ratner, you should ask for his assistance in reaching out to Mr. Prokhorov.”

Mooney hopes to make his third attempt in rowing from Africa to Brooklyn on December 1, 2009 - Worlds AIDS Day.


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Will Mooney's third (!) attempt to row from Africa to Brooklyn gain publicity (and help from Prokhorov)?

Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

October 7, 2009

What was KPMG smoking? Report claims 75% of Meier's On Prospect Park has been sold; other statistics are way off

Atlantic Yards Report

The following should be required reading for every numbskull at the ESDC who just put down the KPMG study and said, "well, there you have it — this esteemed accounting firm's report proves that Atlantic Yards is a slamdunk."

KPMG's Atlantic Yards market study, conducted on request of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), backs up the assertion that Atlantic Yards might be completed in the announced ten years, rather than, as then-ESDC CEO Marisa Lago said in April, "decades."

Well, not only are projections about condo values questionable, as I wrote earlier today, but KPMG's report has some very shoddy research. Consider that the report claims that Richard Meier's On Prospect Park is 75% sold. (Only rental buildings are pre-leased.) However, the New York Times reported September 27:
While the developers say half of the building’s 99 units have been sold, the real estate Web site StreetEasy.com documents only 25 closings through public records.

(That Meier building is almost surely the source of the stratospheric $1225/sf upper-end sales figure for Prospect Heights cited in the report.)

KPMG claims that the Oro Condos are also 75% sold. But just this week Crain's reported that prices at Oro had been slashed 25%.

What about 80 Metropolitan in Williamsburg? The report claims that it's 75% sold, but on April 30 the New York Post reported that it was just more than 40% sold.

Even the 37% figure on the failed Forte Condos is off. Crain's reported that 37 of 108 apartments had sold; that's 34%.

I'll leave it for others to fact-check the other buildings.

What's left out? The waterfront

The table, according to KPMG, "summarizes new development projects comparable to the Subject Property’s, over 100 units." But there are some curious omissions.

While the table includes the 114-unit 80 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, it omits larger (and more troubled) Williamsburg buildings like The Edge and Northside Piers. In a 7/12/09 New York Magazine article headlined The Billyburg Bust--published well before the 8/31/09 date on the KPMG report--those buildings are struggling.


NoLandGrab: We've said it numerous times before, but somehow, it yet bears repeating — if the Atlantic Yards project is so great, why does everyone pushing the project forward, and every alleged "study" extolling its virtues, have to stray so far from the truth to make it appear viable?

Posted by eric at 9:32 PM

Realistic? In KPMG report, FCR's projections for condo sales prices: $1217/sf in 2015, $1369/sf in 2019

Atlantic Yards Report

More Atlantic Yards fantasy — the projected sales prices for project condos.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has finally released the Atlantic Yards market study by KPMG, which stated, in the words of an ESDC lawyer, that it was "not unreasonable" for the 14 residential buildings (sans Site 5 and Building 1) to be absorbed in the officially announced decade.

The upshot: Forest City Ratner is counting on sales prices of $1217/sf in 2015 up to $1369/sf in 2019.

Is that realistic? Keep in mind that the Kahr report commissioned by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods was skeptical of even the $850/sf (in 2006 dollars) assumed in a 2006 KPMG report. The Kahr report cast huge doubts on the official timetable.

"Modest inflation factor"?

Even though the average high sales price in the three surrounding neighborhoods is $970/sf, the new KPMG market study states that only a "modest inflation factor" would allow the expected prices to be reached:
Mindful that these prices are based on transactions that have occurred over the past 12 months during a severe recession, the value ranges for Fort Greene ($480 - $720), Park Slope ($500 - $950) and Prospect Heights ($470 - $1,225) lend support for the FCRC’s projected sale prices when a modest inflation factor is applied given these future sales prices.

Click thru for more — including the not-so-redacted sales projections.


NoLandGrab: We hope KPMG does a better job of protecting things like clients' social security numbers, but regardless, the real story here is the Atlantic Yards project's continued reliance on pie in the sky.

Posted by eric at 4:46 PM

Stern Not Sliding Prokhorov Through

by Steve Kyler

While a lot of hurdles remain to be cleared before Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov can take control of the New Jersey Nets, the biggest of those have nothing to do with the NBA and more to do with current Nets owner Bruce Ratner clearing the lawsuits trying to block his development plans in Brooklyn.

Media outlets around the world have mistakenly reported Prokhorov has having "bought" the Nets, when in fact he has issued a letter of intent to buy the team once Ratner gains clearances in Brooklyn which is likely months away. If Ratner cannot get cleared in Brooklyn, Prokhorov isn't buying the team.

The other big misconception is that the NBA is going to go easy on Prokhorov in their background investigation, something NBA commissioner David Stern addressed this week in London. Stern was clear that Prokhorov would get the same "full and intrusive" treatment as every other potential owner, suggesting some interested investors have walked away in the past after learning how in-depth the two month inquiry is saying "it's very strenuous regarding financial ability, character and business dealings."


NoLandGrab: It's a safe bet that Prokhorov will get every benefit of the doubt in the NBA's "full and intrusive" vetting process.

Posted by eric at 1:40 PM

October 16: Pre-Walkathon Party at Freddys Featuring the Spunk Lads

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 1:23 PM

Forest City Ratner's 2005 PILOTs dodge and the IBO's 2009 recognition that tax-exempt status did not drive a higher railyard price

Atlantic Yards Report

In its 5/26/05 presentation (above) to the City Council, Forest City Ratner claimed it would voluntarily pay taxes on the Atlantic Yards arena, even though the building would qualify for an as-of-right tax abatement under ICIP, or the Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program (now ICAP).

That sounds civic-minded. From a corporate perspective, it almost sounds foolhardy: why would a profit-seeking corporation voluntarily pay taxes when it could get away with not paying them?

Taxes vs. PILOTs

Well, because they're not actually taxes. And because the savings are much greater if Forest City voluntarily pays such "taxes."

A payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) is not a tax payment. The PILOT wouldn't go into city coffers. Rather, it would be used to fund arena construction.

Why go through this Rube Goldberg exercise? Because by maintaining the site as tax-exempt, but having voluntary PILOTs, the city and state allow for the issuance of tax-exempt bonds to build the arena.

Forest City Ratner would save nearly $200 million on tax-exempt bonds, with almost all of the loss absorbed by the federal treasury, not the state or city, according to the New York City Independent Budget Office.

Click thru for more on the convoluted dance performed by Forest City and the Bloomberg administration as they strive to justify the blatant ripping-off of taxpayers.


Posted by eric at 1:02 PM

First Monday in October: An Open Letter to Sonia Sotomayor about Noticing an Eminent Reality

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White pens an open letter about eminent domain law to the newest Supreme Court justice.

I do not expect or urge that you break with precedent. Not at all. I am expecting that you would, as you expressed at your confirmation hearings, faithfully adhere and be fully bound by stare decisis. Indeed, despite frequent criticisms that the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo was flawed, the guidance in this latest pronouncement on eminent domain prescribes lots of dandy principles that we think should be properly followed to steer clear of developer-initiated, developer-driven transactions that abuse eminent domain. Among them are not picking a particular developer-transferee before a development plan exists and not concocting development plans that are “of primary benefit to ... the developer,” or “only of incidental benefit to the city.” (See: Saturday, July 19, 2008, Reality Denied!)

Given all the dandy prescriptive principles that abound in Kelo, all that remains to animate the protection of the good intentions underlying those principles is to acknowledge basic truths about real life and politics in state development agencies.

The Kelo decision was decided 5-4. When your nomination was confirmed you replaced Justice David Souter, one of the justices in the majority who voted in the Kelo decision to give the government a dangerously tricky degree of latitude to take property from one private owner and give it to another for public development. The court’s ruling in Kelo, decided without a majority opinion, was reflected in a plurality opinion of four justices (in which Justice Souter joined) and far, far more important, the skeptical, cautionary concurring opinion of Justice Kennedy.


Posted by eric at 12:51 PM

Nets' Yormark on critics: "I don't care what people think"

Atlantic Yards Report

From an unironic American Way (aka in-flight magazine) article about sports marketing twins Brett and Michael Yormark, headlined Family Style:
Some men look at things as they are and ask why. But the Yormarks look at an empty hallway or a urinal and ask, “Why not get a cruise company or a urologist to sponsor it?”


NoLandGrab: The borrowed line from Robert F. Kennedy (after George Bernard Shaw) slumming in a piece about Yormarketing Genius was our cue to stop reading.

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

Still waiting for the Times and the Public Editor to notice the FCR-ACORN connection

Atlantic Yards Report

This past Sunday, as I noted, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt, in his column about ACORN, passed on an opportunity to mention Forest City Ratner's bailout of the embattled organization.

Linked from his column was his blog, The Public Editor's Journal, which posted the letters referenced in the column.

The blog, unlike the column, accepts comments. I posted the comment at right. (Click to enlarge.) According to the official policy, "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive." This one was never approved.


Atlantic Yards Report commenter "brokeland2003" posts: "Why is the Times protecting ACORN and Ratner? Your comment was clearly on topic and not abusive."

Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

Progress in Ratnerville

Construction trailers at 487 and 489 Dean Street are a sign of "progress" in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool, 10/06/09.

Collins previously documented Ratner's destruction of the Dean Street houses that stood there.

Ratner is seeking to do the same to the following three houses.

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

Brooklyn Utopias? Artists Explore a ‘Perfect’ Borough At the Brooklyn Historical Society

More Than 30 Contribute to Exhibit

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Phoebe Neidl


Overdevelopment and the feared “Manhattanization” of Brooklyn were recurrent themes [at the Brooklyn Utopias exhibit], and few things highlight the conflicting visions of Brooklyn’s future better than the Barclay’s Arena/Atlantic Yards project. Photographer Tracy Collins displays photos of the surrounding Prospect Heights neighborhood taken over the past five years, since the controversial project’s inception. Contrasting with the images are quotes that the artist pulled from the developer’s promotional literature: “A Garden of Eden grows in Brooklyn” and “Almost everything a well-equipped urban paradise must have” -- a reminder of the hyperbolized and often-failed promises made by real estate developers.


Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

Family Style

American Way
By Chris Tucker

Yormarks-AW.jpgFrom a profile of the NJ Nets marketing genius Brett Yormark and his twin marketing genius brother Michael:

“It’s not just about business-to-customers these days but business-to-business,” Brett says of the effort. “We want to use the Nets to create interconnectivity between our partners, between sponsors and companies who hold season tickets.”

As for confidence, it’s evident in the way the brothers handle criticism. Both have drawn fire for alleged over-commercialization of their venues. Brett has been dogged by bloggers adamantly opposing the Nets’ move to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center.


NoLandGrab: The genius's devotion to "interconnectivity between... partners" explains why sponsorships are up while the team and attendance are down.

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

Condo prices slashed 25% at big Brooklyn tower

Forty-story Oro in downtown Brooklyn to emphasize bargains over luxury.

Crain's NY Business
By Amanda Fung

In an aggressive effort to boost sales, the developer of the 303-unit Oro tower in downtown Brooklyn said Tuesday that it is slashing prices of its remaining unsold condominiums by as much as 25%.

To date, just 90 units have closed and 30 are in contract at the 40-story tower in the Flatbush Avenue corridor.


NoLandGrab: And Bruce is going to start on a residential building nearby within months of breaking ground on the arena. Yeah. Sure.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

October 6, 2009

ESDC Won't Release Key Atlantic Yards Document or Come Clean on Timeline

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The public authority (ESDC) won't produce what should be a public document (KPMG's financial feasibility study) for a supposedly public project (Atlantic Yards). And senior ESDC counsel Steve Matlin twists himself in knots to explain how Atlantic Yards could, maybe, might be built in ten years because of some unknown, undetailed guesswork called "incentives."


Posted by eric at 9:23 PM

If the sale of the Nets culminated "a turgid, four-month process," how to describe the rest of the Atlantic Yards process?

Atlantic Yards Report

Would you believe that, when the Atlantic Yards project was announced in December 2003, the Brooklyn arena was supposed to open in 2006?

And the 1/21/04 New York Times, in an article headlined Brooklyn Developer Reaches Deal to Buy New Jersey Nets, thought the sales process was slow?

The Times reported:
The sale to Mr. Ratner culminates a turgid, four-month process. First there were three bidders, Mr. Ratner, who started at $275 million, and the Kushner group, which opened at $250 million and vowed to keep the team in New Jersey, and Charles B. Wang, the co-owner of the Islanders, who bid $265 million. They were later joined by Stuart Feldman, a venture capitalist who never discussed his $257.5 million offer or his intentions publicly. Mr. Wang dropped out in frustration with the process and Mr. Feldman was never a serious competitor.
(Emphasis added)


Posted by eric at 8:59 PM

Lobbying firm hosts $1000 (minimum) fundraiser for Senator Sampson at FCR's MetroTech offices

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner makes an in-kind contribution.

Forest City Ratner offices at MetroTech are the site tonight for a fundraiser (minimum contribution: $1000) supporting Senator John Sampson, leader of the New York State Democratic Conference.

The evening is sponsored by the Albany-based lobbying firm of State & Broadway. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

Forest City Ratner for years avoided direct political contributions, preferring to rely on lobbying. However, in January 2008, the company gave $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account.

So this indirect support might be seen as a way of maintaining influence, given the need for future tax breaks and other governmental goodies for projects like Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: We guess that $1,000 a plate buys Sampson's ignorance of the rude treatment — orchestrated by Forest City operatives — heaped on his colleague, Sen. Bill Perkins, at the May 29th State Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 6:57 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

NBC New York, Queens Makes Play for Islanders, New Arena

More speculation about where the Islanders might end up.

The problem is that there's no place for them to play. Queens has big plans to develop the area. They already plan to use eminent domain and vaguely Stalinist-sounding business relocation programs to clear the land so that they can build a variety of residential, commercial and public spaces. The arena is just gilding the lily. If that sounds familiar, it's probably because of the years-long Atlantic Yards boondoggle in Brooklyn which, for all its bold plans, will either fail or wind up using government intervention to hand choice real estate to a Russian oligarch at below market value.

There are already community groups lining up against the Willets Point project, but we'll just focus on the arena part of the equation since the plan is in motion with or without the Islanders playing a role. The city does not need another arena to play host to a sports team on 40-odd dates a year. Between Madison Square Garden, the two baseball stadiums, the arena and stadium at the Meadowlands, the Prudential Arena in Newark and the proposed Brooklyn arena, there's already too much competition for the non-sporting events that can actually keep these arenas from doing more than sucking down municipal money and staying empty. And that's before taking into account the zillions of other places for concerts, special events and the like in the metropolitan area.

Once you throw in the fact that all but MSG and the arena at the Meadowlands are in their infancy, it becomes clear that there's neither a need nor a justification for another new building. If the Islanders want to play within the five boroughs, let them share space with the Nets in Brooklyn because if we're going to get a building we don't need we might as well keep it full for as much of the year as possible.

NoLandGrab: Brooklyn is out — even if Bruce Ratner manages to build his arena, cost-cutting has rendered the current arena design incompatible with ice hockey.

Slap Shot [NYTimes hockey blog], Tuesday’s News of Hockey, 10/6/09: Janet Jones and the Big Gretzky Trade

slanders owner Charles Wang listens to overtures to relocate his team to Queens. Wang, frustrated that another deadline has passed without local government approval of his massive Lighthouse real estate project, which would keep the Isles at a refurbished Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, says he’s willing to “explore all options” for his team. Those include a possible move to neighboring Queens, where there is available land adjacent to the new New York Mets baseball stadium, called Citifield, or Brooklyn, where Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov has agreed to back the Atlantic Yards project that would bring the New Jersey Nets basketball team to a new arena.

NLG: Like we said, Brooklyn is not an option for hockey, because in Bruce Ratner's short-term rush to save money, he designed out the long-term option of a hockey rink.

The Huffington Post, Russia's Billionaires: The STILL Extravagant Lifestyles Of The Oligarchs

The financial crisis dealt a blow to the upper crust of Russia's financial elite last year, diminishing the worth of the country's 10 richest tycoons by about two-thirds. The number of Russian billionaires, tallied last year at just over 100, was cut in half. But despite such massive losses, Russia's richest remain powerful financiers on the world stage. Last month, Mikhail Prokhorov, currently the wealthiest person in Russia, arranged a deal to buy the the NBA's New Jersey Nets and partially fund the basketball team's new arena at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.

Mobilizing the Region, Is NYC Safer? City “Report Card” Offers Incomplete Picture

City Planning reports on several major development proposals including Hudson Yards and Lower Manhattan (Atlantic Yards, which like the downtown projects is a state-led initiative, is glaringly omitted from the list), as well as projects to encourage development in transit-rich areas throughout the five boroughs.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards: the Profits from Eminent Domain

More importantly, Warshawer obtained a contract between the ESDC and the Cornerstone Group, a firm contracted for its relocation services that has a history of questionable results.

The firm must do the same for businesses, but Warshawer notes that in 2006 Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Congressman Jerrold Nadler claimed that “the Cornerstone Group, an MTA subcontractor charged with assisting in relocation, has continuously failed to provide helpful rental listings for those forced to relocate.”

PlanNYC, Eminent Domain Debate Continues

Some claim that the ESDC has already hired a contracting relocation firm that has received a few mixed reviews in prior development projects.

Ball Don't Lie [Yahoo! Sports blog], BDL's 2009-10 NBA Preview: New Jersey Nets

For whatever reason, I'm not as dour. Mikhail Prokhorov is about to take over, and is always the case with meddling young billionaires, there's a chance he screws everything up. There's also a chance all that money works. The lows can be really low in this situation, but the payoff could also be huge. Let's go half-full with this one.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 10/5/09 EDITION

The Atlantic Yards Report notes how Forest City Ratner was missing from this year’s Atlantic Attic, Brooklyn’s biggest annual street fair.

Posted by eric at 6:07 PM

Forest City Ratner's prominent place (allegedly) in Bertha Lewis's contacts list

Atlantic Yards Report

The right-wing Red State blog was leaked a list of contacts for ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis, and Forest City Ratner is notably prominent in the word cloud, which shows frequency of contacts.

States Erick Erickson:
Above is a word cloud of the associations in the Bertha Lewis contacts list we received. Some are legitimate business dealings. Forest City Ratner, for example, is both bailing out ACORN and relying on its support for its construction projects. But others are more intriguing.

The larger the name, the greater the frequency of the name appearing in the contacts list. For many years it has been speculated that SEIU and ACORN share a common foundation. This seems to suggest as much. In fact, in at least one appearance on the contacts list, an SEIU official has an ACORN email address.

FCR's prominence

Erickson focuses on ACORN's political connections, but I consider Forest City Ratner's presence just as intriguing. FCR is more prominent than any newspaper--an obvious contact for a media-savvy organization--or governmental group.

The association with FCR may be a legitimate (if highly controversial) business dealing, but it is notable how important it seems to Lewis and thus ACORN.


Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

The ESDC still hasn't shared the KPMG report; on video, lawyer explains how AY "timeline" may be longer than ten-year "timetable"

Atlantic Yards Report

A dozen business days after September 17, when the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) approved the 2009 Modified General Project Plan, the ESDC has still not released the KPMG report that provided the basis that a ten-year timetable for the project is "not unreasonable."

In a brief press conference after the board meeting, as shown in the video below, ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin said that the ESDC would look at the issue of releasing the report "in the next few days."

Also in the interview, Matlin said he could not describe potential penalties facing Forest City Ratner if it didn't meet the project timetable because the issue was still under negotiation.

And he acknowledged a tension between a project timeline would last well beyond ten years, but an official timetable of a decade "that we expect to achieve, we want to achieve."


NoLandGrab: At the heart of the KPMG report are the financial projections for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, which have NEVER been revealed, so the public has no way of knowing whether the project is financially viable, at least viable enough to approach the much-touted 10-year timeline. One might assume that if either were the case, the ESDC would have already released these numbers.

Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

The wild card regarding arena financing; could Build America Bonds take up the slack if tax-exempt bonds were insufficient?

Atlantic Yards Report

There might be a way around a potential financing snag for the Atlantic Yards arena (or, perhaps, the affordable housing): new Build America Bonds authorized by federal stimulus funding.

(I have no inside information about this; a tipster suggested it was worth airing.)

On his Field of Schemes blog yesterday, Neil deMause wondered about limits on tax-exempt financing for the arena:

There's one other wild card here, which is that the New York City Independent Budget Office has projected that even under the expiring IRS rules, the arena project wouldn't generate enough property tax value to justify $700 million in tax-free bonds. (If you really want to know what property tax valuations have to do with tax-free bonds, start here.) It'll be interesting to see if Ratner has to take out bond insurance for the possibility of the IRS rejecting some of his tax-exempt bonds as well — and if at some point he needs to find another Russian billionaire to pay for it.

Build America Bonds aren't tax-exempt--but they are subsidized. So they can achieve the same goal for the developer: a lower interest rate than the taxable market. And, if the foregone taxes on the arena block could only support PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) for, say, $500 million in tax-exempt bonds, perhaps Build America Bonds could take up the slack.

The popularity of such bonds has shifted more than a quarter of state and local government debt into the taxable bond market, according to the Bond Buyer. New York City has sold $800 million in such bonds.


Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

Bloomberg's biographer offers gentle treatment of development issues, and barely a mention of the Nets arena (but no AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder critiques Joyce Purnick's bio of NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, where, through the lense of rezoning and development shortcomings, Atlantic Yards is the 800-lb. gorilla.

For Purnick's verdict on development issues, consider this summary paragraph (p. 4):

And in every rundown corner of the city he aggressively cleared the way for renovation and real estate development, to the chagrin of serious city planners and devotees of city landmarks, to the delight of builders, construction unions and pragmatists who share his preference for imperfect development over neglect.

A reader might conclude that casual city planners and those who care partially about landmarks are fine with Bloomberg's record. But Purnick sets up a false dichotomy between imperfect development and neglect, fails to look into project like Atlantic Yards, and does not even hold Bloomberg to his own standards, as I point out below.


Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

The Greatest Off Season in the History of the World


Did you hear? A Russian billionaire bought the Nets and is going to move them to a state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn! Crazy, right!?


NoLandGrab: Arena? What arena?

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM


By Jarret Murphy

Brooklyn's Marty Markowitz, who was elected in 2001 and considered a run for mayor before term limits were extended, faces a long-shot Republican opponent, businessman Marc D'Ottavio. A libertarian candidate, Michael Sanchez, is also in the race.

D'Ottavio says his campaign is about listening to needs that don't get much attention. "You hear about Atlantic Yards, you hear about Coney Island, the Gowanus Canal. You don’t hear about these parking garages in residential areas," or about a failing pedestrian bridge near the New York Aquarium on Coney Island, he says.


NoLandGrab: Frankly, it's pretty amazing that you hear about Atlantic Yards — it takes a lot of jumping up and down to get folks to pay attention to the largest private development project in NYC history.

D'Ottavio makes the case for the need for better outer-borough coverage.

Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

October 5, 2009

Nets: Brooklyn move is still Plan A

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

The Nets have not wavered from their insistence that “there is no Plan B” beyond their intention to relocate to Brooklyn.

But that hasn’t stopped them from scheduling three events in Newark this month.

The first, announced Monday, is a “Netstoberfest” celebration at the entrance plaza outside of the Prudential Center on Wednesday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

That will be followed by an Oct. 13 preseason game against the Boston Celtics and an Oct. 21 preseason game against the Knicks, with both games being held at “The Rock.”

“We’re promoting our preseason games in Newark,” Nets spokesman Barry Baum replied when asked why the rally is being held neither in Brooklyn nor their current home of East Rutherford.

NBA Commissioner David Stern told The Times of London on the eve of Tuesday’s preseason game in London between Chicago and Utah that his office would conduct a background check of Prokhorov that was “full and intrusive.”

“It’s very strenuous regarding financial ability, character and business dealings,” Stern said.


NoLandGrab: Will the NBA's background check be conducted by AKRF?

Posted by eric at 8:29 PM

Making money off eminent domain at AY

Renters, owners and businesses may face condemnation proceedings

The Real Deal
by Gabby Warshawer

The last remaining legal hurdle Atlantic Yards faces is a Court of Appeals hearing later this month on the project's proposed use of eminent domain. If the court finds in favor of the defendant, the Empire State Development Corporation, the properties of several renters and owners are likely to be seized to make way for the development.

Renters, owners and businesses in buildings such as 479 Dean Street, 485 Dean Street, and 636 Pacific Street in the Prospect Heights area of Brooklyn will face condemnation proceedings under eminent domain. A second phase of condemnation would include buildings like 491 Dean Street.

If that happens, a firm called the Cornerstone Group will spearhead relocation efforts on behalf of a legal team the ESDC has contracted with. As The Real Deal examined in a story a few months ago, the city and state often use the Cornerstone Group in projects involving eminent domain, but the efficacy of the firm in helping residents and businesses find new places to live or work has often been questioned.

A contract obtained by The Real Deal via a Freedom of Information Law request from the Empire State Development Corporation lays bear how much money Cornerstone is poised to make as the relocation point team on Atlantic Yards, as well as exactly how the firm is contractually obligated to help residents and businesses that need to be relocated.

Click thru for the payoff.


Posted by eric at 8:11 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Runnin' Scared, If Islanders Flee, Where Will They Go?

Neil deMause speculates on the future whereabouts of the NHL's Islanders. One place they won't be skating? Brooklyn.

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena has been mentioned in the past as well, but in its latest downsized incarnation it would have too small a floor for hockey.

Robert Amsterdam, Sports Legitimacy

I've already written on this blog that I think it's great that Mikhail Prokhorov is going to buy the New Jersey Nets NBA team, and invest himself in the success of Brooklyn. Writing in the Daily News, Alexander Nazaryan raises some interesting perspective on how different Prok's generation is from his ancestors, who arrived to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn on "rickety Aeroflot planes," and worked delivering Dominos Pizza despite holding high degrees in physics. In terms of using sports as a route to legitimacy, I think one could also point to the Kremlin, both with Gazprom's hockey and soccer efforts, as well as Vladimir Putin's personal stumping for the KHL.

Cumberland Block Association, Meeting notes and a temporary farewell

Atlantic Yards
We heard some news about Atlantic Yards from Sean. There is one lawsuit remaining. The situation has changed due to Mikhail Prokhorov's bid for the Nets.

A Short Story, Five Stories that Impressed Me

It has been a little while since I've thrown down a highlights post, and there have been a lot of good features in the past fortnight or two, so let's take a look at some can't miss important links that you should check out as you start your week.

*On the development theme, The New York Observer's Eliot Brown continues his string of excellent Atlantic Yards coverage with an insightful interview with Bruce Ratner just after the sale of the Nets.

E.W. Real Estate, Making money off eminent domain at AY

Brownstoner, Ratner Times His Bond Sales

Posted by eric at 6:20 PM

Day of reckoning nearing for Atlantic Yards?

Field of Schemes

While usually selling bonds is the final step in the arena-building process, in this case Ratner is intentionally jumping the gun a bit: He has to have bonds in place by the end of the year to qualify them for tax-exempt status before the IRS authorization turns into a pumpkin. To cover the fact that he's still engaged in at least one lawsuit over the arena project — an appeals court hearing is set for October 14 — Ratner is reportedly getting bond insurance that will reimburse bondholders in case the whole project falls apart. (Prokhorov has a get-out-of-purchase-free card in his deal for if that happens.)

There's one other wild card here, which is that the New York City Independent Budget Office has projected that even under the expiring IRS rules, the arena project wouldn't generate enough property tax value to justify $700 million in tax-free bonds. (If you really want to know what property tax valuations have to do with tax-free bonds, start here.) It'll be interesting to see if Ratner has to take out bond insurance for the possibility of the IRS rejecting some of his tax-exempt bonds as well — and if at some point he needs to find another Russian billionaire to pay for it.


Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Autumn in New York

He knew all the words….

The High Line succeeds where other projects fail (spectacularly).

I emerged in the West Village, at 12th Street and 7th Avenue. I walked west and when I got near to Gansevoort Street I realized how close I was to the entrance to the High Line, our new elevated park that I hadn’t yet been to see. So I ascended to the old abandoned railway tracks and experienced this unlikely success story for the first time. The park is wonderful. It’s beautifully designed with a crazy combination of nods to the site’s industrial past, the wildlife that overtook the tracks when it fell into disuse, and the slick urban hipness of the (overly) revitalized Meat Packing District. Because the weather was beautiful and because it was near sunset, I assumed the park would be packed with people. But it wasn’t. There were plenty of people there, but it felt very relaxed and very much like a park. In a few places where cafe tables or chaise lounges appeared, it was easy to forget you were on an elevated train track at all — it simply felt like a very peaceful urban park. It’s hard to believe this project came through with such perfection, especially given the fact that when it was first proposed then-Mayor Giulinani played Grinch by signing demolition orders for the tracks, and then of course he was replaced by Mayor Bloomberg who’s overseen one great failure of city development after another. That this project didn’t turn into another botched Coney Island or Atlantic Yards is nothing short of a miracle.


Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Divided on development and AY, Marty Markowitz and Kevin Powell talk past each other in the Dreamland Pavilion

Atlantic Yards Report

At the Dreamland Pavilion: Brooklyn and Development Conference held this weekend at Kingsborough Community College, Atlantic Yards was not only the theme of one panel but the central--yet divergent--example for the two main speakers at the inaugural dinner.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, a longtime Atlantic Yards booster, maintained his support for the project, while writer and activist (and periodic political candidate) Kevin Powell offered a more critical take on AY and the process of development.

"There's not a project in this borough more important than Atlantic Yards for this and future generations," Markowitz declared. "One of the most difficult things that I've had to tackle as Borough President is to somehow get over the limited vision of so many people, who don't think about what tomorrow will bring, only what affects me today. It's very hard, when you're in a position of leadership.... you have to begin shaping what tomorrow will bring as well as what this immediate day and tomorrow brings. And Atlantic Yards taught me that, and continues to teach me that."

Powell, noting that he'd risen from poverty thanks to education, said, "I've seen the world through the eyes of poor and working-class people, but I've also seen the through the eyes of someone who's a property owner and a business owner."

"So, as I was sitting there, at this Atlantic Yards hearing, it saddened me deeply, because you began to realize, if you're someone who cares about all human beings... and you really love people, and you really love Brooklyn... you don't want to see that kind of ugliness, because you realize that all these people, ultimately, are being manipulated, and only a handful of folks are really benefiting from this thing."


Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

At the Atlantic Antic, DDDB takes on Bloomberg; FCR sits it out; The Brooklyner and Avalon Fort Greene get a push

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder was taking in the sights at yesterday's Atlantic Antic street fair, where one local mega-developer was nowhere to be found.

While Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) maintained its presence yesterday at the annual Atlantic Antic, Brooklyn's biggest street festival, Forest City Ratner was conspicuous in its absence, with no new Atlantic Yards brochure to distribute.

Given that the developer is hardly letting up on Atlantic Yards, I assume it's a temporary, strategic retreat, just as Atlantic Yards and FCR advertising were absent for this year's edition of the Community Newspaper Group's Brooklyn Tomorrow. They don't need to win over the locals right now.

If Atlantic Yards proceeds, expect a big presence at subsequent Atlantic Antics.

One lingering visitor at DDDB's booth was Steve Levin, the winner of the Democratic primary in the 33rd Council District and almost certainly the next Council Member, replacing David Yassky.


Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

October 4, 2009

Washington Post article on ACORN's loss of foundation funding omits Forest City Ratner bailout

Atlantic Yards Report

The Washington Post reports, in an article headlined ACORN Losing Funding From Big Foundations:
The liberal political organizing group ACORN, battered by the release of embarrassing videos and allegations of financial mismanagement and fraud, has also been losing support from several major foundations.

The Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Bank of America have stopped funding the group and its affiliates over the past year and a half.

Who's made up the slack?

While not trying to be comprehensive, the Post cites two funders still on board:
One local group said it has no plans to change the terms of a $50,000 grant awarded this summer. The Collaborative for Education Organizing, part of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, sponsored a project aimed at organizing parents of District public high school students to advocate for change in the classroom.

...All of their funders are concerned, Kettenring said, but some have responded by continuing, or even increasing, their support. They include the Needmor Fund, a family foundation based in Toledo that gave about $150,000 a year to local organizations affiliated with ACORN.

Missing: a $500,000 grant and $1 million loan from Forest City Ratner.


NoLandGrab: We don't really think the Post and The Times, those bastions of liberalism, are intentionally burying the link between ACORN and the "do-gooder, liberal" Bruce Ratner, but it is one of those things that make you go hmmmm.

Posted by eric at 9:19 PM


Poetic justice, or sour economy?

Associated Press, via San Francisco Chronicle
By Katie Nelson

Eminent domain tourists passing through New London in search of the remnants of the old Ft. Trumbull neighborhood that was ground zero in the case of Kelo v. New London will find few reminders of what was.


There are a few signs of life: Feral cats glare at visitors from a miniature jungle of Queen Anne's lace, thistle and goldenrod. Gulls swoop between the lot's towering trees and the adjacent sewage treatment plant.

But what of the promised building boom that was supposed to come wrapped and ribboned with up to 3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues? They are noticeably missing.

Proponents of the ambitious plan blame the sour economy. Opponents call it a "poetic justice."

"They are getting what they deserve. They are going to get nothing," said Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff in the landmark property rights case. "I don't think this is what the United States Supreme Court justices had in mind when they made this decision."


NoLandGrab: The irony is that around this vast plot there are new lampposts installed along the new sidewalk to nowhere.

Posted by lumi at 5:58 PM

Finding a bottom in Brooklyn

A neighborhood breakdown of prime Kings County -- aka Brooklyn -- shows where prices have dropped most

The Real Deal
By Sarah Ryley

Though Lyin' Bruce Ratner tells everyone that Atlantic Yards is in Downtown Brooklyn, after reading this article about the state of residential development in Kings County, he'll be glad it isn't.

The neighborhoods of Downtown Brooklyn, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene were among the most rapidly gentrified during the real estate boom. Now, the district has also experienced the most rapid fall in median sales price, 29 percent over the past two years.

"Downtown Brooklyn has done worse than just about any other neighborhood, even worse than Williamsburg, for two reasons," said Miller Cicero's Falsetta. "The bulk of the developers in Downtown Brooklyn have been generally unwilling to cut pricing.

"And the other reason is, Downtown Brooklyn never really finished gelling as a neighborhood."

According to the article, it will take years for the market to shake out.

Robert Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services, which is marketing several distressed assets in Brooklyn, predicted prices will bottom sometime next year, at the same time unemployment peaks, and then flatten for two or three years after that.

Ultimately, he said the firm expects prices to drop an additional 5 to 10 percent.


NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, as the demand for luxury housing has evaporated, all of the assumptions that Ratner used when Atlantic Yards was first announced in 2003 are moot.

Posted by lumi at 5:42 PM

The Times Public Editor passes on an opportunity to mention Forest City Ratner's bailout of ACORN

Atlantic Yards Report

So New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt today follows up on last week's ACORN column with a piece headlined Notes About Bias, From Opposite Points of View. He begins:
LAST Sunday’s column about the coverage of Acorn prompted nearly 400 messages and online comments from readers, some convinced that The Times is suppressing news that might damage liberals, and others equally convinced that The Times is about to cave in to extremists on the right.

Hoyt, however, did not take the opportunity to reference my comment on last week's story:
There’s a far more substantial ACORN story that the Times and nearly all of the mainstream press has ignored.

Following an embezzlement scandal that led to the loss of foundation support, ACORN was bailed out last year with a $500,000 grant and $1 million loan from… Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, a developer which counts ACORN as a partner on the enormously controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Click thru for links to Norman Oder's past coverage of the ACORN bailout.


Posted by eric at 5:13 PM

Sunday Comix: Atlantic Yards Turkey

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Posted by steve at 8:08 AM

As Nets add sponsors, the ticket giveaways continue; Netstoberfest on October 7 in Newark

Atlantic Yards Report

On the one hand, it looks like the Nets keep luring more sponsors. The AP reports:
The New Jersey Nets have renewed deals with 20 corporate sponsors and signed agreements with 10 new partners in moves that will generate $4.5 million annually.

On the other hand, ticket revenues plummeted last year by nearly a third, thanks to discounts and giveaways, and it looks like the pattern will continue.

After all, as the advertisement (right) in the Newark Star-Ledger shows, the Nets and the newspaper have agreed to a deal in which $100 buys four preseason tickets with a face value of $25, plus four hot dogs and soda, and four ticket vouchers to a regular season game.

That's cheaper than a first-run movie.


Meanwhile, as a prelude to the two exhibition games at the Prudential Center in Newark, the Nets are sponsoring a Netstoberfest (why not just a "Nets Octoberfest"?) on October 7 outside the facility.

The Nets' marketing arsenal can adjust to any situation. In other words, should the Nets happen to relocate to Newark, whether temporarily or permanently, expect more such fests.

And should the team move to Brooklyn, expect a Netstoberfest (and more) in Prospect Heights.


Posted by steve at 8:04 AM

What Purnick Has Purged: The Bloomberg Bio Mysteriously Missing Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

Michael White has read Joyce Purnick’s "Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics", a mostly adulatory biography of Mayor Bloomberg. One way that the bio manages to look so lovingly at Bloomberg is to ignore his mayoralty's failures in the areas of development and urban design.

A prime example of ignoring significantly errant Bloombergian megadevelopment is Purnick’s lack of mention of Atlantic Yards. Her book contains only an oblique misleading sliver of a reference. Neither Atlantic Yards nor Bruce Ratner or his Forest City Ratner are mentioned anywhere in the book. Similarly, you won’t find mention of Yankee Stadium in the index, though there are two paragraphs about the new Yankee and Mets stadiums into which there is tucked the slight hint that there might be plans for a megadevelopment far more problematic than either stadium. On page 207 Ms. Purnick breezes through this topic area thusly:

After blocking Giuliani’s subsidies to new stadiums for the Mets and the Yankees in his first year, judging, in his pragmatic businessman’s fashion, that the city could not afford them, Bloomberg later relented. He was lavishly generous to the two teams and their ultraluxurious stadiums, as well as to a new basketball arena in Brooklyn.

The stadiums benefited (sic) from tens of millions of dollars* in city investments, tax breaks and subsides, bundled into complex deals whose true cost to the taxpayers may never be clear. The city will gain from economic activity in the long run, the mayor said, as all mayors say about sports stadiums everywhere. Rarely do the predictions meet the promise but the stadiums are built anyway.

(*Only “tens of millions of dollars”? Total public subsidies for Atlantic Yards are in the hundreds of millions aggregating up to $2-$3 billion and the subsidies that come from the state and other levels of government should not be disregarded: Those are funded with taxes from NYC taxpayers too, and divert resources from other city projects. ESDC and the MTA just piled on hundreds of millions of extra subsidy on the basketball arena alone.)


Posted by steve at 7:53 AM

Why the Russians are coming: Billionaire Prokhorov wants more than the Nets

Daily News
By Alexander Nazaryan

The author of this opinion piece feels that Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov would use a purchase of the New Jersey Nets to clean up his image. There is a suggestion that Prokhorov could take steps to do better community relations than developer Bruce Ratner - by suggesting that he follow almost the same approach as Ratner.

But in buying the Nets, Prokhorov could ameliorate the image of the profligate oligarch by reaching out to Brooklyn - and not only to its Russian population. Several prominent African-American community groups support the Nets arena. Prokhorov can recognize them by offering jobs to residents of nearby housing projects and awarding contracts to minority-owned businesses. And he can smooth the feathers of opposition groups by striking a more conciliatory tone than co-owner Bruce Ratner.


NoLandGrab: Except for temporary construction jobs, the only job creation that might be expected any time soon from the proposed Atlantic Yards project would be part-time jobs connected to the arena. As for being more conciliatory to the opposition, that would really require a reworking of the project with elected officials like Council Member Tish James. It would not appear that Prokhorov wants to change anything about the development. In short: There's not much left to offer anybody but empty promises.

Posted by steve at 7:50 AM

October 3, 2009

It Came From The Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Did the ESDC board members know they were approving a 675,000 sf arena? And should there have been opportunity to comment?

The Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, pulled a fast one at their last board meeting. They approved a Nets arena, but did not publicly acknowledge that it was 20 percent smaller than the official site plan. This move was likely done to avoid lengthy public comment and analysis.

It's very curious. When the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on June 23 adopted the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), the arena (see Exhibit A-2) was described as 850,000 square feet, as it had been in 2006.

On September 9, after the comment period on the MGPP had closed, Forest City Ratner announced that the new design, by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP, was for a 675,000 square foot arena.

MaryAnne Gilmartin's very good investment advice (so far)

On July 22, at the first community information session, Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin said that “we have assets that are, in our opinion, worth many times more” than the current stock price.

I called it a bit of a stock tip and, if you followed it, you would have done quite well. On July 22, the stock (FCEA) of parent Forest City Enterprises, was at $6.94. Yesterday, even after two days of deep percentage drops, the stock closed at $11.76.

That doesn't mean long-time stockholders are in the clear, given that stock's 52-week high was $29.47 and the stock neared $70 in 2007. It all depends on the timing...

Sale of Nets may have been part of diplomatic discussions, but the White House isn't talking

In what the Courier-Life considers a front page story, ‘Bam is mum on Nets sale:
President Obama may have weighed in on New York’s upcoming gubernatorial race, but he remains silent when it comes to commenting on Atlantic Yards. That after the White House declined comment on Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s majority purchase of the NBA’s Nets and their planned move to Brooklyn.

The Russian government, however, says President Dmitri Medvedev did discuss the sale with Obama as part of talks at the UN and during the G-20 summit, according to NetsDaily.

Posted by steve at 9:22 AM

Deal could give New York State power over hundreds of public authorities

Daily News
By Juan Gonzalez

Here is word that Governor David Paterson may be on his way to signing legislation that would make state authorities like the ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, more accountable. This change in law probably comes too late to correct the lack of accountability of state support for the proposed Atlantic Yards project. The prime sponsors of this legislation are Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Harlem state Sen. William Perkins.

It's hard to believe that any meaningful reform could come out of the Legislature these days, but this could be the exception, thanks to the dogged work of Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Harlem state Sen. William Perkins, the prime sponsors of the legislation.

The new law would:

  • Require appointees to authority boards to act in the interest of that authority and not simply follow instructions from the local mayor or the governor who appointed them.

  • Give the state Senate the power to confirm the chief executives of some of those authorities.

  • Set up an independent Authority Budget Office with subpoena power. That office would set operating rules and monitor the finances of the agencies.

  • Forbid agencies from selling public assets at below market prices unless there is a clear public purpose.

  • Require the state controller to review all major contracts issued by the authorities.


"These authorities have been Soviet-style bureaucracies for too long," Brodsky said. "We're bringing them back under the rules of American democracy."


Posted by steve at 9:20 AM

Ratner to sell $700M in bonds for Nets arena

The Real Deal

A reminder of developer Bruce Ratner's attempt to sell bonds to finance the proposed Nets arena.

Developer and current New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner will soon sell $700 million in tax-free bonds to fund a new basketball arena for his team, he said earlier this week. The bonds must be sold before the Dec. 31 Internal Revenue Service deadline. The news comes on the heels of a deal between Ratner and Russian metal tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, under which Prokhorov's holding company, Onexim, will provide $200 million in financing for the arena. In exchange, Prokhorov will receive an 80 percent stake in the Nets, a 45 percent stake in the arena, and an option on 20 percent of the rest of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, valued at $4.9 billion. [Observer]


Posted by steve at 9:12 AM

Sporting Strategy

New Jersey & Company
By Joseph Dobrian

This article features Nets President and CEO, Brett Yormark. Of course the focus is on the marketing of the Nets, but sometimes marketing can collide with reality.

This boilerplate quote from developer Bruce Ratner mentions "an arena and residential community" even though nobody can say when or if most of the residential units will be constructed. And, oh yes, let's try to connect the proposed Atlantic Yards land grab with the Dodgers.

“We are committed to bringing the Nets to Brooklyn and building an arena and residential community that will make the people of Brooklyn and the entire city proud,” says Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies and principal owner of Nets Sports and Entertainment, LLC. “There’s a tremendous amount of excitement about the Nets coming to Brooklyn. For the first time since the Dodgers left in 1957, Brooklyn will have a major professional sports team to call its own. Our goal will be to provide our fans with a great experience in what will be the best arena in the world.”

And this paragraph says that Yormark ought to repeat his marketing performance of the last few years in Brooklyn, even though that period has been marked by plummeting game attendance and millions of dollars in losses for the Nets.

Most observers predict that if Nets’ president and CEO Brett Yormark can repeat in Brooklyn the marketing success he’s had in New Jersey, the borough could enjoy a level of regional prestige that it hasn’t seen in more than half a century. Many local businesses hope that Atlantic Yards will bring in more upscale residents as well as make the borough a magnet for fun-seekers throughout the Tri-State area.

The article reads like a marketer interviewing a marketer for marketers. Yormark fans should enjoy it.


Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

October 2, 2009

How the Prokhorov deal began well before March: Goldman banker Joe Ravitch left by then

Atlantic Yards Report

Surprisingly, a Bruce Ratner claim doesn't seem to add up.

Eliot Brown explained yesterday in the Observer how Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner got in touch with Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov:
His sit-down with Mr. Prokhorov came in mid-July, Mr. Ratner said, during the one time he flew out to Russia to meet with him. “We hired Goldman Sachs,” to search for investors in the team, Mr. Ratner said. Mr. Prokhorov “was in the newspapers, he was someone who was interested in buying a team. So Joe Ravitch at Goldman approached him, and then I flew over there and spent three or four hours over dinner with him, at his house.”

However, that sequence had to have begun well before July. Ravitch left Goldman in early March, according to Deal Journal.


Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

What Forest City Ratner told Sheldon Silver (but not the public): affordable condos depend on "appropriate subsidy"

Atlantic Yards Report

As I've written, the affordable rental units planned for Atlantic Yards are not guaranteed but rather dependent on available public subsidies.

The same goes for the affordable condos promised by developer Forest City Ratner upon project approval in 2006.

Though the developer did not mention such caveats in its public announcement, it did offer such caveats in a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that I recently obtained via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. Beyond that, the pledge has never been memorialized in project documents, despite a 2009 update to the Modified General Project Plan.

This is part of a pattern; as I wrote in June, the Empire State Development Corporation, while the Atlantic Yards project approached approval in December 2006, never revealed how project funding depended on scarce housing bonds, and Forest City Ratner's 2005 bid to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ignored the need for such bonds to build the residential buildings.

Click thru for Bruce Ratner's weasel words.


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

ACORN's talking points vs. ACORN's reality: how ACORN members are clueless about the actual rents at AY affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

I already pointed out, in my coverage of the July 29 public hearing on Atlantic Yards held by the Empire State Development Corporation, that some people testifying on behalf of ACORN had no clue about the actual terms of the affordable housing agreement.

The written testimony, as I describe below, was equally uninformed.

At the hearing

During the hearing, one ACORN member, George Finley said that the deal with “Forest Ratner” made housing, including private houses, available to those earning $20,000 or less. As the housing chart below shows, very few households earning $20,000 a year would be eligible, and none for private houses.

(From the transcript: Now, in the first beginning, we asked for 50 percent affordable housing, that's rentals and also private houses, two-family houses and one-family houses. And they had to be for people who made $20,000 a year or less, less than $20,000 a year. Now just like Ms. Bertha Lewis got up here and told you that no matter what you hear in the public, we have the original contract with Forest Ratner and the downtown community of Brooklyn. So we going to ensure and assure that we have enough affordable houses and rentals and enough affordable houses that you can buy and you can pay for them before you die. You won't still be paying mortgages, you know, the rest of your life.)

This kind of misinformation misleads ACORN members and the public.

In fact, it's a reminder that, just as the recent subprime crisis involved irresponsible lenders and irresponsible borrowers, the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal involves obfuscatory and irresponsible sponsors and supporters.

Lewis's testimony

At the July 29 public hearing, ACORN CEO and Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis, in her aggressively theatrical style (at 1:30 of the video above), "And if you quote something, tell the truth and have the facts."


NoLandGrab: Back atcha, Bertha.

Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Russia!, Mikhail Prokhorov Bought the Nets Because He Read That He Bought the Nets

DO YOU KNOW how Russian oligarchs buy NBA team? They read that they bought the team, which is not true, get aggravated and buy the damn team. At least, that's what happened to Mikhail Prokhorov a few weeks ago.

Mr. Prokhorov, 44, currently Russia's richest man, explains in his LiveJournal blog how he decided to by the New Jersey Nets for $200 million dollars. "I learned that I am involved in the Nets purchase from newspaper reports. Imagine my surprise when, few days following the publication, the Nets owners approached me with the offer [to buy the team]!"

In other words, Ian Thomsen, who first broke the story on the Sports Illustrated blog, came up with a bogus, absolutely groundless rumor of some oligarch buying an NBA club. The rumor was almost ignored by the US media and barely reported in Russia. Prokhorov, however, issued a statement denying his plans to buy Nets. But the Nets owners liked the idea so much that they surprised Prokhorov with a $200 million offer, and Prokhorov accepted almost immediately.

It does sound a little fishy. But we choose to believe Mr. Prokhorov. We like to believe that a newspaper rumor can trick a mogul into buying something.

Manhattan Adult Entertainment, From Russia with rubles: a Nets gain?

This site, which bills itself as "All The News For Manhattan Escorts," picks up on the sale of the Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov — thanks to the Russian oligarch's seeming predilection for prostitutes.

Enter Prokhorov's billions. The Russian achieved notoriety in Europe when it was alleged by French authorities that he procured prostitutes from Russia to visit clients who were on holiday at France's swish Courchevel ski resort. France's then presidential hopeful Nicholas Sarkozy is reported to have uttered at the time: There's a man who wants to please. The French authorities eventually dropped the charges.

SLIPPERY WHEN NETS, Everything You Wanted to Know About the 2009 Nets...But Had Better Things To Do Than Ask

Team Name: Brooklyn New Jersey Nets

Last Year’s Record: 34-48

Key Losses: Vince Carter, Ryan Anderson, Trust of the Fanbase, $25 Million

Key Additions: Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, a scary Russian Billionaire, Ridiculous Marketing Decisions

1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?

Owner Bruce Ratner tried to start his own lemonade stand, but did not have enough money to buy one of those "LEMONADE" signs with the "E"s turned backwards. VP of Marketing Brett Yormark's summer was sponsored by Coca-Cola, Coppertone, and Stiletto's on Paterson Plank Road!


Green Party candidate for City Council in Brooklyn's 39th District David Pechefsky believes reform in that body begins with the role of the Speaker.

But the reality is that the power of the Speaker is such that unless you have a Speaker committed to devolving power or as a Council member your support is so crucial to the Speaker’s political and personal agenda, going along with the winner may get a Council member some of those things but at the expense of their independence (if they had any to begin with). So you end up with a Council Member who gets maybe $200,000 more to give to non-profits in their district but sits on the fence about a big issue (something like Atlantic Yards for example).

REPUBLICAN BLOGSPOT, Oh, No, Can Republicans Stand Up to Real Estate Interests?

A review of Tom Angotti's new book, New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, includes the following passage:

Developers continue to be strong interests. They are large forces in current major planning projects, such as rebuilding on the former World Trade Center site, developing Hell’s Kitchen’Midtown West, which included a proposed sports stadium that was halted, and Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn where local residents have objected to proposed large business developments. At Atlantic Yards, the developer agreed to make half of new rental units be for low and middle income tenants, a move that divided community opposition.

DANGER ROOM [Wired.com], The Kremlin’s Eeeevil New Plan to Rein in Bloggers

Earlier this year, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev published his own internet manifesto, which made a subtle pitch for greater state control of the online world.

So what, exactly, was Medvedev driving at? Writing at the indispensable Net.effect blog, Evgeny Morozov seems to have an answer. The Kremlin wants to create a “national consultative body” composed of internet personalities and prominent bloggers who would decide the rules for proper online behavior.

This scheme comes courtesy of Sergei Mironov, who heads the pro-Kremlin “A Just Russia” party. In a speech yesterday, Mironov said that “antisocial and criminal elements” in the online world should be subject to government censorship. And who would set the guidelines? Why, Russia’s new virtual hall monitors.

NoLandGrab: If those "antisocial and criminal elements" include those who blog about basketball-team-buying billionaire oligarchs, we say "nyets to you."

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Media kingpin Semel wanted Nets

NY Post

Terry Semel, the former boss at Warner Bros. and Yahoo!, was the secret runner-up in the battle to buy the Nets.

Brooklyn-born Semel was beaten at the buzzer by Russian playboy billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who offered to pay for the arena being built in Brooklyn as well as the team in a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But sources say Semel, who divides his time between New York and Los Angeles, had hoped to be at most of the games as the new owner.

A friend of Semel -- who has concentrated on running his investment company Windsor Media after leaving Yahoo! in 2007 -- told Page Six: "Terry loves basketball and saw this as a great way to give something back to Brooklyn."


NoLandGrab: Thanks, but no thanks, Terry.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Ratner says bond sale should start in two weeks, has no regrets about losing Nets, won't claim he got a "great deal"

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Observer's Eliot Brown managed to turn a photo op at Forest City Ratner's Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower (in progress) into an opportunity to produce When Bruce Met Mikhail: The Backstory on the Nets-Atlantic Yards Deal.

There's not a huge amount new there, though Ratner said he expects the bond sale to begin in two weeks. Would that be after the eminent domain hearing at the Court of Appeals on October 14?

He expressed no regret at losing the Nets, plausibly pointing out that a deep-pocketed owner is best for the team and diplomatically avoiding the confession that he's just not a hoops guy.

And he avoided acknowledging that Mikhail Prokhorov got a good deal or claiming it was a great deal for him.


Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

A Gehry Tower Rises

Beekman: The Ratner/Gehry Project That Wasn't Dropped

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

To anyone who treks west over the Brooklyn or Manhattan bridges each morning, a quick glance to the area just south of the Municipal Building will reveal a new addition to the Lower Manhattan skyline: a skinny, tiered concrete skeleton that's rapidly climbing upward.

The apartment tower-to-be—67 stories as of Wednesday—is a high-end rental building developed by Forest City Ratner, the firm that is desperately trying to build a new Nets basketball arena and accompanying 16-tower development near Downtown Brooklyn. And it is also—as the distinct, undulating aluminum façade now rising on the building's lower half might suggest—designed by Frank Gehry, his first residential high-rise.

(Forest City, to much criticism, dropped Mr. Gehry earlier this year from the Brooklyn project after years of planning, design and salesmanship in an attempt to significantly lower costs.)

On Wednesday, we got to take a look inside the tower, simply called Beekman, where Bruce Ratner, Forest City Ratner chairman, led us up to snap some photos a few floors shy of the top.


The photo above is by Mr. Brown, for The Observer.

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

When Bruce Met Mikhail: The Backstory on the Nets-Atlantic Yards Deal

The NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The Observer's Brown gets a few minutes with Bruce Ratner during a tour of Forest City's Beekman Tower.

By Bruce Ratner's telling, his deal to sell the Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov began in earnest this summer over dinner at the Russian billionaire’s home.

Asked whether he would miss owning an NBA team, Mr. Ratner hardly displayed remorse. He suggested that with an owner that has substantial resources (Forest City Ratner and its parent have been struggling in the recession) might be a better caretaker for the team than he.

That's a shocker, since Bruce famously said "it's 100 percent about basketball."

“It was important to go to Brooklyn, and we’re going to Brooklyn, and it’s important that we have a really good team in Brooklyn,” he continued, “and he’s going to make that more possible than I think we could, economically.”

Speaking of economics, Bruce is getting itchy to start selling bonds.

The state’s top court on Oct. 14 is hearing arguments in a key eminent domain lawsuit regarding Atlantic Yards, and while Mr. Ratner has been victorious in the courts thus far, a loss would surely kill the project. On the financing side, Mr. Ratner plans to start selling $700 million in tax-free bonds in coming weeks, which must be sold before a Dec. 31 Internal Revenue Service deadline.

“I think the ratings agencies will probably have ratings in about two weeks,” Mr. Ratner said. “And then we’ll start selling ’em.”


Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

Regarding Bloomberg, what a difference a year makes for the Brooklyn Paper

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks back at The Brooklyn Paper's editorializing from October, 2008.

What a difference a new owner makes. This week's Community Newspaper Group (CNG) editorial endorsing Mayor Mike Bloomberg, published in Brooklyn Paper and across the newspapers, stands in stark contrast to the Brooklyn Paper's stands last year.

Click thru for a trip down memory lane.


NoLandGrab: Either Gersh Kuntzman is now actually a pod person, whose body has been inhabited by some Murdochian organism, or someone else is pulling the levers when it comes to the paper's editorial positions.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Thompson claims his AY support is "a very different position" than Bloomberg's AY support

Atlantic Yards Report

On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Democratic Mayoral candidate Comptroller Bill Thompson, eschewing the opportunity to criticize Atlantic Yards as a "boondoggle" as did 2005 Democratic candidate Freddy Ferrer, instead stuck to calling for the affordable housing to be built.

And that, he asserted, showed how he differed with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has supported the project to the hilt.

The action begins at about 22:20

BL: Do you differ with the mayor at all on this point on what should happen next at Atlantic Yards?

BT: I supported, maybe not the mayor's original plan at Atlantic Yards, but I had supported Atlantic Yards based on two reasons. The large number of affordable units that were supposed to happen there, and the Community Benefits Agreement that also was happening at Atlantic Yards. Over a period of time, I'm not going to say that I haven't been concerned at the constant changes in Atlantic Yards. I still have a number of questions and continue to pay attention and monitor that. Because that project continues to change and morph. And I have to tell you, it continues to raise concern with me.

He's not monitoring it much. (The statement sounded as convincing as the statement July 22, by the Empire State Development Corporation Steve Matlin, that "We're constantly updating" the fiscal analysis of Atlantic Yards.). Otherwise Thompson would have noticed the mayor's criticism of CBAs, the lack of guarantees and doubts whether enough subsidies would be available, and the unenforceability of the CBA.


NoLandGrab: For an actually different position on Atlantic Yards, we suggest voters pull the lever for the unbought and unbowed (and well-coifed) Green Party candidate, Rev. Billy Talen.

Related coverage...

WNYC Radio [The Brian Lehrer Show], 30 Issues: Thompson on Development

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Out of Bounds

The Lamron
by Chris Caggiano

The student newspaper of the State University of New York at Geneseo gets in on the Atlantic Yards action.

Along with Prokhorov's suspected investment, Barclays Bank of London has offered to pay $400 million over the next 20 years to secure the naming rights of the arena. These two sources of foreign investment may be a last ditch effort by Ratner to avoid the collapse of the entire project.

Money is not the only issue preventing the Nets from leaving New Jersey; many attempts are being made to stop the construction. Opponents have argued that Ratner is not planning to build what he originally intended, and that his company's use of the eminent domain statute to remove current property owners in the proposed construction site is unethical. Courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of Ratner and his company Forest City Enterprises, but a final appeal case is scheduled to occur in mid-October.


NoLandGrab: How is it that a student journalist reporting from Geneseo gets more of the story straight than do some "professional" journalists reporting right here in NYC? Maybe there's hope for the future of journalism yet.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Markowitz Endorses Bloomberg for Mayor

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

Two term-limit abusing politicians have a lovefest.

These tough times, however, call for someone extraordinary, said Markowitz. The Democratic borough president compared Bloomberg, an independent and former Republican, to Chelsey [sic] “Sully” Sullenberger, the airline pilot responsible for the successful emergency landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. He stressed that in his opinion, the mayor and he share many of the same goals and support many of the same projects. These include “a 24/7 Downtown Brooklyn, the City Point project, Atlantic Yards, the continuing development of the Navy Yard, the Weeksville historic museum, the redevelopment of Coney Island” and more.


NoLandGrab: Captain Chesley Sullenberger should sue for defamation.

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

October 1, 2009

It came from the Atlantic Yards Report

It's a busy Thursday for AYR.

Comparing the AY site plan from June to September: where's Fifth Avenue?

There are a few subtle but notable differences between the Atlantic Yards site plan as distributed for public comment by the Empire State Development Corporation in June as part of a Technical Memorandum and the site plan shared with board members at the September 17 board meeting.

This plan, though containing most of Gehry's building layout, does not mention retail (surely a street-level factor). Nor does it mention a hotel (now unlikely) or a bicycle station (likely part of the plan, though it may have been moved). There's no name or date on the plan.

The ownership map is finally clarified

So, the deceptive ownership map of the Atlantic Yards footprint finally has been clarified, showing that a reasonable chunk of Block 1129, the southeast block, is not under the developer's ownership or control.

(Note the dark colors--indicating properly privately owned--in the northwest corner of that block, and compare it to the map at bottom, where dark colors indicate property under the developer's control. Click on graphics to enlarge.)

The map above was distributed to ESDC board members at their September 17 meeting. I finally got a copy yesterday.

In City Hall: James's victory, Markowitz's salute, and the BP's embrace (again) of Bloomberg

City Hall (published by Manhattan Media, which, in surely a low point, produced Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Standard "publication"), in its CHatter column, takes note of Atlantic Yards opponent Letitia James's victory over AY supporter Delia Hunley-Adossa.

Surely Hunley-Adossa's Atlantic Yards stance didn't help her cause. There's clearly not a motivated electorate in the district ready to vote against James for her position on AY. But it's more than that: Hunley-Adossa was unwilling to appear frequently at public events or answer questions, and performed poorly in two debates.

The next segment in the column shows James getting praised by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz for the largest margin of victory of any Council incumbent in the entire city.

And this morning City Hall reports that Markowitz is again endorsing Mayor Mike Bloomberg, despite grumbling that the mayor had shrunken the borough presidents' budgets. However, Markowitz has gotten lots of Bloomberg money for his concert series.

Markowitz likes to go with a winner, and surely he has read the polls that show Democratic candidate Bill Thompson way behind.

NoLandGrab: Brooklyn's Democratic standard-bearer has once again abandoned his party for Bloombucks. Of course, Bloomberg's orchestration of the term limits override handed Marty four more years.

Wrestling With Moses: a look at the work and legacy of Jane Jacobs fills in (and goes beyond) the gaps in The Power Broker

Anthony Flint’s new book, Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City, is well worth reading, as it fills in (and goes beyond) the missing chapter of Robert Caro’s epic biography of Moses, The Power Broker.

It contains two lively mini-biographies, coupled with accounts of major fights over a road through Washington Square Park. urban renewal in Greenwich Village, and the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway (aka LoMex). The first fight helped shape Jacobs's thinking about urban renewal, published before her landmark 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities; the latter two she led, the second after she’d become a national figure.

My main quibble is simply with the scope of the book. Anyone wrestling with the legacies of Moses and Jacobs, especially after major retrospectives on both at museums in New York in 2007, must tackle the latter-day conflicts between their legacies: could Jacobs’s un-slumming--a version of gentrification--truly produce the low-income and affordable housing that cities like New York need, or was the wholesale clearance embraced by Moses the answer?

Or, in a different era, is there a different set of solutions? Author (and former Boston Globe reporter) Flint, to his credit, recognizes these issues, but, as I describe below, could’ve spent more time grappling with them.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

At Saturday's Dreamland Pavilion conference, "Atlantic Yards: The Politics of P.R. "

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder is on the roster for Saturday's Dreamland Pavilion conference, and he'll be talking about the marketing of the Atlantic Yards project. He's also got some news about admissions.

Some people have asked me about attending the Atlantic Yards panel at the Dreamland Pavilion conference, held at 1:30 pm Saturday at Kingsborough Community College.

While admission to the day-long conference is $25 (plus $5 for on-site registrants), including lunch, I'm told that people who wish to attend a single panel will not be charged.

The Atlantic Yards session will be held in M-146/47, in the MAC Building.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

NY Lawyers Working Deal to Bring NBA to Brooklyn

Hogan, Simpson Advise Acquisition of Nets' Stake by Russian Businessman

New York Lawyer

While Bruce Ratner had to go hat in hand to various governmental entities in New York in order to keep his Atlantic Yards dream alive, he (and would-be Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov) apparently have no trouble paying lawyers.

Nets Sport Entertainment and Forest City Ratner Companies were advised by a New York-based Simpson Thacher & Bartlett team including partners Eric Swedenburg with associates Rhett A. Van Syoc and Daniel Layfield, mergers and acquisitions; partner Patrick Ryan, banking & credit; and partner Gary Mandel with associates Noah Beck and Aaron Cohen, tax.

Hogan & Hartson represented Mikhail Prokhorov and the Onexim Group. The Hogan group was led by London partner Todd Schafer, banking, energy, and telecommunications; with New York partners Alexander Johnson and Maureen Hanlon, mergers and acquisitions; Mitchell Lubart, real estate; and Mark Weinstein, media, sports and entertainment.

article [registration required]

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

NJ Nets land 10 new sponsors, renew 20 others

Associated Press, via USA Today
By Tom Canavan

Atlantic Yards overdeveloper Bruce Ratner really knows how to ruin a good thing. If you're against the project you now gotta think twice before eating Pirate Booty? A-a-a-a-argh!!


The New Jersey Nets have renewed deals with 20 corporate sponsors and signed agreements with 10 new partners in moves that will generate $4.5 million annually.

Nets chief executive officer Brett Yormark announced the signings on Wednesday, a day after the NBA team opened its training camp.

The renewals, which include deals with major sponsors McDonald's, Wrigley's, Vonage, LG, and Canon, are worth more than $3 million annually, Yormark said.

The 10 new sponsorship agreements with Mars, Zappos.com, LTJ Arthur, MetroPCS, CURE Auto Insurance, Electronics Expo, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Hotelplanner.com, Lucky Strike Lanes and Pirate's Booty snack food are worth $1.5 million per year.

Yormark expects to announce deals with five or more new sponsors in the next two weeks.


Posted by lumi at 7:30 AM

Obama silent on Atlantic Yards

President declines comment on Russian billionaire's purchase of the Nets

Courier-Life (via, NYPost.com)
By Steven Witt

As if Atlantic Yards isn't "brutally weird" enough, apparently the big sleeper issue is the real amount of public subsidy required to build the project President Obama's position on Atlantic Yards.

We think there's a logical thread in this article somewhere, but we are still looking:

President Obama may have weighed in on New York’s upcoming gubernatorial race, but he remains silent when it comes to commenting on Atlantic Yards.

That after the White House declined comment on Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s majority purchase of the NBA’s Nets and their planned move to Brooklyn.

Obama, a huge Chicago Bulls fan, recently decided to scrap former President George Bush’s missile defense plan in Eastern Europe in favor of a more mobile defense system, and relations between the United States and Russia appear to be thawing.

According to Prokhorov spokesperson Freeman Miller, the team’s new owner knows former Russian President and current Prime minister Vladamir Putin very well, and despite reports of some Russian Parliament members not being happy with the purchase, the sale appears to have the Kremlin’s approval.

Obama had talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at last week’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, and the White House also declined comment on whether Atlantic Yards and the sale entered into their conversation.

Questions submitted via email to the Russian government were not answered at press time.

full article

Posted by lumi at 7:21 AM

In First Interview, Prokhorov Emphasizes Russian Angle

NetsDaily caught up with the Russian oligarch's domestic pr campaign:

In his first interview since agreeing to buy the Nets and part of Barclays Center, Mikhail Prokhorov told Russia Today that he expects to bring NBA training methods home to help Russian hoopsters develop, just as the Russian owners of British soccer teams have brought home their teams’ skills to young soccer players. Prokhorov promised to spend $10 – $20 million to train Russian players.


Russia Today, Russian basketball to get NBA treatment (with Video)

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

Cannes do! Two film festivals this weekend show that Brooklyn is ready for a close up

The Brooklyn Paper

Two acclaimed film festivals will take place on different ends of the borough this weekend, and both will pay homage to the neighborhoods — and the county — they call home.
[T]he Red Hook International Film and Video Festival will screen movies about, filmed in, or related to South Brooklyn.
Fittingly, the festival will end with a screening of “Brooklyn Boondoggle,” a documentary about the controversial Atlantic Yards development.
Red Hook International Film Festival at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Screening Room [499 Van Brunt St. south of Reed Street, (718) 596-2506]. Oct. 3–4. For full schedule, visit www.redhookfilmfest.com.


Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

Dreamland Pavilion: Brooklyn and Development Conference

Kingsborough Community College
The City University of New York October 2-3, 2009 (If you plan on attending just this panel below, it is free.)


Saturday, October 3
1:30 – 3:00 p.m.: Afternoon Session I

Atlantic Yards ( M-146/47)

“Who’s Planning Brooklyn? An Alternate Point of View”
Eve Baron, The Municipal Art Society of New York

“The Yards Development Workshop Unity Plan”
Marshall Brown, Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture

“Atlantic Yards: Brooklyn’s Most Controversial Development through the Lens of Public Relations and News Coverage”
Norman Oder, Independent Journalist

“Atlantic Yards and the Cultural Logic of Monopoly Rent”
Stuart Schrader, CUNY Graduate Center

Moderator: Ted Hamm, Brooklyn Rail

Kingsborough Community College,
2001 Oriental Boulevard
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Bridges and roads NO!!

Here's another reminder that New York has priorities and where they lie.

Crain's NY Business, Kosciuszko, Gowanus top list of bad bridges, roads

When it comes to ailing bridges and elevated roadways in New York City, they just don't come any worse than the Kosciuszko Bridge and Gowanus Expressway according to The General Contractors Association of New York.

The Kosciuszko, which links the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens across Newtown Creek; and the expressway, which connects the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, on the Top 10 list of troubled New York state-owned elevated roadways and bridges in the city in terms of their structural condition. All but one of the remaining eight bridges and roadways on the list, which was released Wednesday, are in the Bronx.
“While the New York state capital program in New York City averages between $300 and $350 million per year, given the enormous needs, this funding is insufficient to meet the existing number of projects which have been red flagged by New York state engineers,” said Denise Richardson, GCA's managing director, in a statement. “Without an increase in funding, bridge and elevated road conditions will continue to decline.”

NoLandGrab: On the other hand, NYC added another $105M cash subsidy to Atlantic Yards since the project was first announced, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority just re-negotiated a better deal for developer Bruce Ratner and the Federal Government gave Ratner until the end of the year to complete the bond financing for the arena before closing the loophole on the triple-tax-free bond financing program.

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

CHatter: With Win, James Shrugs Off Forest City Ratner

City Hall News

The race between Council Member Letitia James and Delia Hunley-Adossa centered on Atlantic Yards.

Hunley-Adossa, head of the local precinct’s community council, hit James on her opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, saying the new amenities will create jobs and needed housing. But James and her supporters saw Hunley-Adossa as a mouthpiece for developer Forest City Ratner.
Taking more than 80 percent of 9,214 votes, James said the results sent a message to the Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner that the community is against the mega-project.

“Sorry, Forest City Ratner,” James said. “You got to deal with me for another term.”


NoLandGrab: The way Ratner played it, the election turned into a referendum on Atlantic Yards with the developer losing. If the aim was to unseat Letitia James or make her break a sweat, why did the normally politically savvy developer back a candidate who was so blatantly for the project, and lacked public polish?

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

Forest City in the News

CoStar Group, Village at Gulfstream Park Sets Grand Opening Date

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) has set the grand opening date for The Village at Gulfstream Park on February 11, 2010. The 490,000-square-foot (includes 80,000 sq. ft. of office space), high-end retail and entertainment destination is currently under construction on US1, just east of I-95 in Hallandale Beach, FL. According to its website, this is the first phase of the development -- it is planned to eventually be 1 million square feet, including 1,500 residences.

The Eagle Tribune, Gov. Patrick touts Haverhill's revival during visit

Massachusett Governor Deval Patrick made an appearance at yesterday's opening ceremony for a Forest City project:

The governor's visit included the official ribbon-cutting for the Hamel Mill Lofts.

Forest City Residential Group invested $80 million to rehabilitate four buildings that housed the Hamel Leather Co. until 1974.

The state assisted the project by providing $1,447,599 in low-income housing tax credits.

"This was about partnership," Patrick said.

NoLandGrab: "Partnership" is code word for massive public subsidy.

Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

Review and Comment: A Game Changer

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Henrik Krogius

A 6-foot-6 (7? 9?) Russian basketball fan not only has come to the rescue of a project whose survival was in question, but he has stirred new hopes on the American professional basketball scene and raised speculation affecting the professional sports picture in general.


Nets are Scorching, Nets on the Net: 9/30/09

In others news, an editorial about the Atlantic Yards Development in the Brooklyn Eagle paints a grim picture for opponents of the Nets move to Brooklyn: “Daniel Goldstein and his Don’t Destroyers are now waging verbal warfare against the Prokhorov Oligarchs, but they are into a game where money talks louder than insults.”

NoLandGrab: Oh, stupid us... we forgot that Prokhorov is the richest man in Russia, that settles it then — build it now!

Posted by lumi at 6:38 AM

Lost in Translation: Of Atlantic of Yards of Development of Company

The fight against Bruce Ratner's bizarro Atlantic Yards megaproject is even funnier in translation:

VOANews.com, Σε Ρώσους πουλιέται η ομάδα Μπάσκετ του Νιού Τζέρζι


According to his statement his love on the basket led him to his decision to buy team NETS, when it is transported in her new permanent residence in Brooklyn of New York. It supports that his this movement will strengthen the interest for this sport in his country Russia.

The completion of work Atlantic Yards from the constructor and [nyn] householder of team Bruce Ratner - which had paid in 2004 300 millions dollars - is henceforth impossible and the Russian presents itself at the appropriate time in order to buy not only the team, but also the 45% of new 18 thousands of places of stage, as well as the 20% of constructional company that has undertaken him.

Expert.ru, Прохоров или Абрамович?


The member of the Federation Council Of [aslambek] Of [aslakhanov] named Prokhorov's act unpatriotic, and the leader of Duma committee on gymnastics and sport of Anton [Sikharulidze] noted that, in his opinion, the money, earned in Russia, must be packed first of all in the development of local children's- youthful sport.

[T]he purchase “Of [nets]”, according to [Prokhorov], is only the aspect of the very profitable business- project, into which enter also shared participation in the building of the new arena of club in Brooklyn and option for acquisition by 20% Of atlantic Of yards Of development Of company, by the occupied building of 22 acres of the earth by the objects of commercial and habitable real estate.

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM