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November 30, 2009

'Net' result sure beats a nut revolt

NY Post
by Andrea Peyser

Speaking of nuts, Andrea Peyser is oh so happy about last week's Court of Appeals ruling.

After years of legal combat that rivals the days of the Roman forum, the state's highest court has given a hearty go-ahead to the Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn. Finally! Sanity reigns in a borough where people will protest sunny days and rainbows if given the chance.

Actually, we'd like to expose all the crooked back-room dealing to a little sunshine.

The Court of Appeals says the small knot of resisters who've refused to sell their properties to developer Bruce Ratner -- at handsome profits, I might add -- can be displaced by eminent domain.

"Handsome profits?" Tell that to Daniel Goldstein, who's been low-balled by the ESDC and Ratner with an offer well below what he paid for his home. Which, by the way, is not for sale.

This is good news to the many New Yorkers who will win jobs and affordable homes, and bad news only to the selfish handful who'd refused to let their neighbors get a shot at prosperity.

Yes, how dare we keep Bruce Ratner from turning his ill-conceived purchase of the New Jersey Nets into a taxpayer-funded windfall?

Smack in the middle of some of the richest real estate in the city sits Atlantic Yards, a spot so blighted, it's an outrage nothing has been built there in 40 years. Now, there's a chance.

Which begs the question, why is the MTA selling publicly owned land to Ratner for less that half of its own appraisal?

Even better, big entertainment dollars will be sucked back into New York from New Jersey, where the Nets currently play. It's a win-win situation.

Except that the NYC Independent Budget Office expects the arena to cost city taxpayers $220 million over 30 years. Giant sucking sound, indeed.


Atlantic Yards Report, Post columnist Peyser's dada take on Atlantic Yards

Probably the best way to read New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser is to consider it some sort of dada performance, untethered to reality.


She continues:

Smack in the middle of some of the richest real estate in the city sits Atlantic Yards, a spot so blighted, it's an outrage nothing has been built there in 40 years. Now, there's a chance.

Atlantic Yards is a project, not a place. The "so blighted" Vanderbilt Yard is and was a working railyard; only when vacant land shrunk and land values rose did it become cost-effective to propose development.

The "outrage" is the fault of borough and city leaders who chose never to try to market this piece of real estate. And even the Court of Appeals calls the situation "relatively mild conditions of urban blight."

Posted by eric at 11:43 PM

ESDC: no tax-exempt bonds for infrastructure will be issued

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), says the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation is not going to issue tax-exempt bonds for Atlantic Yards infrastructure, as documents prepared in September suggested (as I reported this morning).

The ESDC issued a statement:

ESDC was at one time considering additional tax exempt bonds for infrastructure financing. Ultimately ESDC decided not to pursue that type of financing. Last week’s Board authorization of last week is the only financing under consideration by the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation. Additional details of the bond sale will be released once documents are finalized. There will be a formal mid-December closing and we anticipate marketing the bonds prior to that time.

I'm several hours late posting this because I was in transit, but the ESDC had a day and a half last week to tell me that the plan was off.


NoLandGrab: OK, did they only decide "not to pursue that type of financing" after Norman Oder wrote about it? Why are we having a hard time trusting anything that comes out of the ESDC?

Posted by eric at 10:58 PM


Citing today's article in Atlantic Yards Report, WNYC News Radio reporter Matthew Schuerman reported that the Empire State Development Corporation has dropped that plan to issue an additional $400 million in tax-free infrastructure bonds for Atlantic Yards, but declined to comment further.

Posted by lumi at 7:34 PM

Lipsky's gyrations on eminent domain: OK for AY, but not for Willets Point

Atlantic Yards Report

...Richard Lipsky's Olympic-style gyrations, in which the AY lobbyist says the Court of Appeals decision on AY eminent domain was fine, but the fallout from the Kelo case in New London means that the courts should back property owners (whom he represents) in Willets Point.

I'll just add that the plaintiffs in the Willets Point case, via attorney Michael Rikon, filed an amicus brief in the AY case supporting the AY plaintiffs.


Posted by eric at 1:23 PM

Revealed: state is prepared to issue up to $400 million in tax-exempt bonds so FCR could save on Atlantic Yards infrastructure

Atlantic Yards Report

While Governor Paterson is implementing $1.6 billion in emergency budget cuts aimed at partially closing New York State's $3 billion-plus-and-growing budget deficit, his administration is working feverishly (and secretively) to close Bruce Ratner's budget deficit.

According to a previously unrevealed action in September, developer Forest City Ratner could benefit from $400 million in state-authorized tax-exempt bonds for much more than the planned arena.

The recently-formed Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) is prepared to authorize up to $400 million in tax-exempt bonds for Atlantic Yards infrastructure, thus allowing FCR to save tens of millions of dollars and filling a funding gap discernible in project documents.

This raises significant questions:
--When, if ever, would such bonds be issued?
--What revenues would back bond payments?
--Could the state be on the hook to pay off the bonds?
--Would the bonds be used to build the new railyard?
--Would the full $400 million be issued?
--Why wasn't this funding mentioned in the Modified General Project Plan issued in 2006 or its update in 2009?
--How could bonds be paid off in the "delayed buildout" scenario envisioned in the Technical Memorandum (p. 55) issued in June by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)?

No disclosure

The size of this important funding component--revealed in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request--was not disclosed by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) during the public comment period earlier this year regarding the revised Atlantic Yards plan nor before the ESDC approved the plan in September.

There was no opportunity for the public to comment at the November 24 BALDC meeting authorizing arena bonds.

(The BALDC authorized up to $825 million for the arena, including $150 million in taxable bonds, though in September it set a cap of $1.1 billion. Thus, while the infrastructure cap is $400 million, that total need not be issued.)

"[W]e are issuing governmental bonds and there is no federal or state requirement for a hearing," ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell stated before the meeting. "The distinction is based on the fact that governments are already subject to a public process, in our case ESDC's prior hearings, for governmental projects."

But the public process did not include any mention of tax-exempt financing for infrastructure. Thus, the public costs of such tax-exempt bonds were not available to those examining the project, such as the New York City Independent Budget Office.


NoLandGrab: Why so secretive?

Posted by eric at 12:17 PM

Dubai and Atlantic Yards

NY Fiscal Watch
by Nicole Gelinas

“[Dubai] will not … be able to restore confidence in its solvency without support from Abu Dhabi, its oil-rich investor, neighbour and the more conservative senior partner in the United Arab Emirates. … Abu Dhabi should give whatever help is needed to bring this episode of incompetence to a close. Abu Dhabi allowed it to be believed that it was backstopping Dubai, so it should make good its promises. This will require a public guarantee of Dubai’s debts – and soon. The reputation of the whole UAE depends upon it.” — Financial Times editorial, Nov. 28, 2009

“I don’t know if I’d characterize [the state] as willing [to let Atlantic Yards' bonds default]. It’s just that the documents do not require us to make any payments.” — Jonathan Beyer, attorney, Empire State Development Corporation, Nov. 24, 2009


Posted by eric at 12:13 PM


inversecondemnation.com, Unfrozen Caveman Judges "Frightened And Confused" By Blight

Remember Phil Hartman's classic Saturday Night Live routine, "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer" --

One hundred thousand years ago, a caveman was out hunting on the frozen wastes when he slipped and fell into a crevasse. In 1988, he was discovered by some scientists and thawed out. He then went to law school and became... Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

We can't summarize the skit any better than wikipedia:

The running gag was that [Hartman] would speak in a highly articulate and smoothly self-assured manner to a jury or an audience about how things in the modern world supposedly "frighten and confuse" him. He would then list several things that confounded him about modern life or the natural world, such as: "When I see a solar eclipse, like the one I went to last year in Hawaii, I think 'Oh no! Is the moon eating the sun?' I don't know. Because I'm a caveman -- that's the way I think." This pronouncement would seem ironic, coming from someone who had, for example, just ended a brisk cell phone conversation, or indeed attended law school.

According to a 6-1 majority of the New York Court of Appeals in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corp., No. 178 (Nov. 24, 2009), New York judges are similarly so "frightened and confused" about the meaning of the term "substandard and insanitary" in the state constitution that they are incapable of reviewing takings which purportedly remedy blight.

The Daily Record, Editorial, Call this ruling a flagrant foul

An appeals court in Albany ruled last week that the state can forcefully evict homeowners and businesses who have the misfortune of occupying the section of Brooklyn where an arena for the Nets is proposed to be built. In short, they are in the way.

The locale makes no difference; this is a total abuse of power by the state. Let the state buy the property without holding the hammer of condemnation. If there are unwilling sellers, offer them more money or make other plans.

Eminent domain should be used to build highways and schools, not arenas for pro basketball teams.

The Lonely Conservative, So much for property rights in New York

Basically, the powers-that-be in New York can now label whatever property they want as blighted and hand it over to private developers. So much for property rights in New York.

Librarian's Muse, The 2009-2010 edition of the United States Government Manual

Almost every Brooklynite you talk to has a fairly strong opinion about the Atlantic Yards project. Many shudder to think about the traffic and congestion that might beset downtown Brooklyn after the mammoth project that includes an arena is up and running—and the Nets are over there, possibly losing games by the dozens (not to mention the displacement of many local residents). Others like the thought of the borough reclaiming its place as major-league in its own right, separate and apart from its flashier brother just to the west. In any event, the New York state Court of Appeals handed down its long-awaited ruling on the project November 24, holding it lawful for a state economic development agency to seize private land to build an arena.

New York Zoning and Municipal Law Blog, New York Court Of Appeals Upholds "Atlantic Yards" Condemnation

In a major decision, the New York Court of Appeals put a new gloss on the New York Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL) allowing the condemnation by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) of the so called "Atlantic Yards" area of Brooklyn to proceed.

New Jersey Condemnation Law, NY Court of Appeals Deals Blow to Property Owners In Atlantic Yards Case

The Court also refused to interfere with what qualifies as blight, even though it recognized that the bar may now be set too low as to what constitutes “blight.” However, the Court held that any such limitation upon the sovereign power of eminent domain as it has come to be defined in the urban renewal context is a matter for the Legislature, not the courts. The Court identified the only situation where it could interfere with a legislative blight determination – where the physical conditions of an area are such that it would be “irrational and baseless” to call it substandard or insanitary, but held that those conditions did not exist in Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Mayor vows NYC will go ahead with public works

Staten Island Advance

Mayor Bloomberg reaffirmed today that New York City would move ahead with a over $5 billion in key public works projects despite the recession.

Here is the text of his remarks as prepared for delivery on 1010 WINS News Radio:

"And last week, New York state's highest court moved us closer to realizing a major piece of that future, with its 6-1 decision concerning Brooklyn's proposed Atlantic Yards development. The court's ruling was a long step forward for a project that will spur intensive investment in new offices, stores, and thousands of units of new housing. It will also produce a new Brooklyn home arena for the Nets professional basketball team. All told, Atlantic Yards is expected to create some 8,000 new permanent jobs in Brooklyn. More immediately, building it is also going to produce nearly 17,000 of the new union construction jobs that New Yorkers need."


1010 WINS audio

NoLandGrab: "8,000 new permanent jobs?" That's a lie overestimate by several orders of magnitude. Even as originally planned, the project would create roughly 2,500 new jobs, if the office tower once dubbed "Miss Brooklyn" were erected. But even Bruce Ratner admits demand for Atlantic Yards office space is non-existent.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: if Atlantic Yards is so terrific, why not just be honest about it?

Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Nets Ownership Dictation Opens New Doors, May Modification Vendee Profile

Windows Live

We're assuming that English was not this post's first language.

Prokhorov was cited in an article last hebdomad naming this a "hostile bidding". Hostile or not, Prokhorov looks more interested in the squad as an investing vehicle, not as the typical sportswoman proprietor ( IE Grade Cuban, Steinbrenner, Can H,etc. ). The squad is hemorrhaging money, Bruce Ratner 's immovable company is holds founder under the economical pressure, and merely like many other American corps the Nets ( and its current ownership ) necessitated a fresh extract of cash to keep operations and hold the dreaming of travelling to Brooklyn live. The trade looks to be more Risk capital than typical squad ownership dealing, an outsider investor rendering running cash exchange for equity.

While the conference is likelily excited about the new international frontiers that go available with a Russian proprietor, could it but be that most American businessman hold shied forth from the hazard and low one-year gainfulness of sports squad ownership, and VC type investings in the wide marketplace hold virtually vanishes in that economy, squeezing Ratner to turn elsewhere.

Funding the trade with upward front cash, highly rare in what I 've seen of these type of minutes, farther supports the dealing of more VC investing than new ownership squad. Ratner apparently remains in the icon and gets new cash flowing to proceed the Brooklyn venture and will now share in the top with his gent investor, in the procedure disintermediating himself from the squad, which he holded small or no involvement in in the first place.


Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Next Steps in Atlantic Yards Fight: Goldstein on WBAI's Wake Up Call

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein was on WBAI's Wake Up Call discussing the Court of Appeals eminent domain ruling and the next steps in the fight against the Atlantic Yards development proposal.

The interview starts at 27:35 here or you can listen to it here—Monday November 30, 2009 7:00am Public Affairs.


Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

0-17: Nets match NBA’s worst start to a season

Firing the coach didn't work. Maybe try firing the owner?

When the New Jersey Nets finally reached an inauspicious NBA record, the Staples Center’s public address announcer let the crowd know all about it.

At least he had the tact to wait until the Nets were out of earshot after their 17th straight loss.

The undermanned, undertalented Nets matched the worst start to an NBA season Sunday night, with Kobe Bryant scoring 30 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 106-87 victory.

A few hours after New Jersey fired coach Lawrence Frank, the Nets had little prayer of keeping up with the defending league champions, who won their sixth straight game. Despite apparently playing hard for temporary head coach Tom Barrise, New Jersey fell behind by 27 points in the first half and went into history with yet another whimper.

New Jersey must beat the Dallas Mavericks back home in the East Rutherford swamp on Wednesday night—perhaps while playing for the club’s third coach in three games—to avoid sole possession of an embarrassing NBA record.

Guard Rafer Alston compared the Nets’ roster to an awful poker hand, saying Frank “wasn’t dealt a royal flush. It’s almost like he had a pair of 2’s, and he tried to fight.”


NoLandGrab: "A pair of 2's," and a joker in the owner's box.

Additional coverage...

NY Daily News, As New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner works on cheap, Lawrence Frank gets booted

In all three cases, the Nets took back less talent than they sent out, a doomed strategy if there ever was one. But it was Ratner's master plan. Because of his own financial woes, the Nets pared their salaries to around $57 million, only about $5 million more than the team with the lowest payroll, Oklahoma City.

So if there is anyone to blame for the current crisis, it starts at the top.

The Star-Ledger, Politi: Rod Thorn is the last reason to believe in NJ Nets

Firing Lawrence Frank now is like throwing the captain of the Titanic overboard after it hit the iceberg.

Why bother? To borrow the famous quote from Micheal Ray Richardson, the ship be sinking anyway.

The Nets kept the coach around this long for one reason: They were too cheap to hire his replacement, just like they were too cheap to keep this team from becoming a national joke.

The stain of this historic losing streak belongs on the owner’s legacy alone, which might offer fans some solace — if Ratner cared about anything but his Brooklyn real estate deal.

NY Post, Winless Nets give boot to head coach

A spokesman for Prokhorov said: "He has no comment. Bruce Ratner is still the Nets owner."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner the Destroyer

What else would anyone, any fan, expect when the owner buys a team as a tool for a corrupt land grab? The chickens have come home to roost at the Izod Center.

NBA Fanhouse, Frankly Speaking, Frank Takes the Fall

Thorn plans to meet Monday with others in the organization, including owner Bruce Ratner (assuming he can break away from his architectural sketches), to decide on the interim coach.

NY Observer, Today in Local Sports Coverage: The Da Vinci Coach

Yesterday, after an 0-16 start, the Nets finally canned coach Lawrence Frank, sparing him the ignominy of entering the record books with the rest of the team last night, as they tied the record for season-starting futility by losing number 17 in L.A.

The New York Times, At 0-17, the Nets Tie an Unwanted Record

The Times manages to publish a lengthy story on the Nets record-tying loss and the firing of Lawrence Frank without once mentioning the name of its development partner, Bruce C. Ratner.

CBSSports.com, Frank becomes cap-space casualty

But clearing the books for a move to Brooklyn -- and selling the team to someone who could actually take it there -- was more important to owner Bruce Ratner than keeping Vince Carter, who didn't want to talk about the whole thing Sunday night. Asked for his comment on Frank's firing, Carter said simply, "None. I don't want to talk about it, if you don't mind."

the east coast bias, Bye bye, Lawrence

I suppose after a coach goes 0-17 in the NBA, a firing is in order. But New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank got screwed, and screwed hard, by a team and an ownership more concerned with clearing money for this supposed move to the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn than with putting a competitive team on the floor.

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

The atrocity that is Empire State Plaza


Is it any wonder that politicians and judges in Albany just don't get it? Check this out:

You're walking in a neighborhood of 19th century townhouses...

... and you run smack into this:

New York spent $2 billion to demolish 98 acres of 19th century buildings, displacing 9,000 human beings, in order to build a sickeningly ugly collection of government buildings. Is there a worse architectural crime in the history of the world? I'm sure there must be, but...

Commenter From Inwood cites Atlantic Yards in the following:

Michael Hasenstab said at 8:59...

Governments do the sorts of horrible things to neighborhoods that they would never allow a private developer to do.

Alas, not so when the private developer is a friend & contributor.


Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

N.Y., learn from New London: It offers a critical cautionary tale on the use of eminent domain

NY Daily News
by Richard Lipsky

Ah, the irony — pro-Atlantic Yards lobbyist Richard Lipsky op-editorializing in the Daily News about New York needing to exercise restraint in its use of eminent domain. "Brutally weird," to borrow Norman Oder's favorite phrase.

While he shilled for Ratner, Lipsky has been on the right side of eminent domain fights at Willets Point and Columbia University, representing property owners. Which would seem to indicate that Mr. Lipsky's point of view adheres closely to the sources of his paychecks.

There were two major developments in the use of eminent domain this month. Now the question is which of the two will be more influential in determining the future use of this controversial power in New York.

The first landmark was the shocking decision that the Pfizer drug company was abandoning New London, Conn., taking 1,400 jobs with it. This came just over five years after the pharmaceutical giant was being hailed as the linchpin of a new economic development project that would revitalize the financially strapped town. In that effort, Pfizer and New London were aided and abetted by the use of eminent domain to force evictions of home owners and small businesses, including one named "Kelo," who unsuccessfully fought them all the way up to the Supreme Court.

As a result of the deal's collapse this month, the city is now not only stuck with a huge vacant parcel, but a $78 million bill for all of its wasted efforts.

The second development was last week's 6-to-1 ruling by New York State's highest court throwing out a lawsuit against the Atlantic Yards development and strengthening the state's hand to condemn swaths of land as blight and initiate eminent domain proceedings here. This will likely pave the way for the start of that long delayed mega-project - and more broadly, city and state officials will no doubt be emboldened, taking the court decision as their cue to employ the power ever more aggressively.

Rather than running with their court-blessed authority to condemn and take property, Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Paterson should instead be looking to the Pfizer-Kelo mess. It offers a much more relevant real-world warning on the dangers of zealous use of the eminent domain authority.


Related coverage...

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Willets Point: Empty Lots of Questions

...wherein Richard Lipsky, property rights crusader, explains why eminent domain is okay when it's used for his client, but not when it might be used against his client.

Now, we have always been cautious in our position on eminent domain-and have supported the Atlantic Yards development for a number of clearly stated reasons while, at the same time, representing Forest City Ratner, the project's developer. We believe that, in certain cases, it can be a legitimate tool for development. The case of Willets Point is not one of those times where ED makes either fiscal or public policy sense. It is too large, too costly, and way too speculative-particularly in these very scary economic times; as New London could tell you.

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

November 29, 2009

Nets fire Frank after 0-16 start

Yahoo! Sports
by Adrian Wojnarowski

Bruce Ratner's latest victim is Nets coach Lawrence Frank, handed the keys to the worst team in professional sports and then blamed for not being able to win.

The New Jersey Nets have fired Lawrence Frank, the coach told Yahoo! Sports.

Frank will not coach against the Lakers on Sunday night, when the Nets will have a chance to tie an NBA record with a 17th straight loss to start the season. New Jersey assistant Tom Barrise will coach Sunday instead.

Yahoo! Sports first reported early Sunday that Nets president Rod Thorn had made the decision to fire Frank. Thorn was expected to meet with owner Bruce Ratner on Sunday to inform him that he would replace Frank on Monday, but sped up the process after news of Frank’s imminent dismissal became public.


NoLandGrab: This is what happens when your motivation for buying a team is to use it as a beard for a land grab. Expect the team to promote from within, since having to shell out for a coach outside the organization is financially unfeasible for the money-hemorrhaging Nets.

Posted by eric at 3:30 PM

60 hours to go

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

We have just 60 hours to reach our goal-
Please consider reaching out to friends who know how important this project is - but haven't taken the time to support it just yet


we are confident that we'll make the goal- we've seen this time and again on kickstarter- a lot of people waiting till the last minute- so join the rush.


NoLandGrab: C'mon folks, let's get this film made!

Posted by eric at 1:51 PM

Woodbridge eyes financially troubled Colonia Country Club

The Star-Ledger
by Brent Johnson

Who! Who ever heard of a municipality using eminent domain to stop developers from building something where open space now lies?

Woodbridge officials are looking to buy the financially troubled Colonia Country Club and turn it into a public golf course — an effort to ward off private developers from building on the 104-acre site.

Mayor John McCormac said today the town would even go as far as using eminent domain to acquire the 110-year-old club, which he called one of the last sizeable open space tracts in the state’s sixth-largest municipality. Golf courses are considered open space in New Jersey.

“We don’t want anything to do with development there,” McCormac said.


NoLandGrab: New Jersey is rapidly building a much better record on eminent domain issues than its neighbor across the Hudson, where condemnation appears to be okay for just about anything.

Posted by eric at 1:50 PM

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday B.S. Detector

In error-filled editorial, Crain's says elected officials should reassure arena bond investors

It could be said that Norman Oder is being gentle in calling today's collection of fibs in Crain's "error-filled."

This blog entry addresses Crain's whoppers regarding public good, public opinion and finances for the proposed arena and questions the editorial's conclusions:

The editorial concludes:

That's where political leaders should come in. It is up to the mayor, the governor, the borough president and other elected officials in Brooklyn to reconfirm their support and their commitment to making this project happen in order to reassure those investors.

What does that mean? No local elected officials had a voice in deciding the project. Now Crain's says they should affirm their support to help investors and, not coincidentally, a project that would benefit Russia's richest man.

Why, for example, should local officials commit to assigning tax-exempt housing bonds for Atlantic Yards without comparing the cost per unit to other affordable housing projects?

And doesn't Crain's, the voice of the business community, have the slightest qualms about endorsing arena bonds that might--despite state assurances to the contrary--leave the state on the hook?

Lawyer for developers: expect a crisis every eight to ten years

From the Spring 2009 issue of Development magazine, the quarterly publication of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association:

[John W. Waldeck, partner and chair of the Real Estate Group at the Cleveland-based law firm Walter & Haverfield] observed that the commercial real estate industry is in the midst of its third major crisis in 30 years (the first two being the period from ’77 to ’80 and again in the early ‘90s). “If you’re an entrepreneur, is this what you have to anticipate? That once every eight to 10 years the industry will go through the ringer?” The answer clearly being yes, he advised owners and developers to “build up a substantial war chest.”

In other words, even industry peers might say that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation aren't realistic in anticipating a ten-year buildout for the project. I've suggested several reasons for skepticism.

Posted by steve at 11:31 AM

Affirming Atlantic Yards

(subscription required)

The editors at Crain's are looking at the proposed Atlantic Yards project in a rear-view mirror while wearing rose-colored glasses.

New York's highest court did more than affirm the right of the state to use eminent domain in last week's crucial ruling on the Atlantic Yards project. The Court of Appeals endorsed both the public good the project offers and the right of elected officials to implement development plans over the objections of a few holdouts. If bond investors are willing and New York politicians steadfast, Forest City Ratner will break ground in the coming months.

Nope, if the court affirmed anything, it's that the standard for "blight" set by the State of New York is pitifully low.

The basic rationale for building Atlantic Yards has been forgotten amid financing problems, legal challenges and orchestrated opposition. It is nothing less than a bet that New York has a bright future—that the surging growth of the city's population will require new residential neighborhoods near transit hubs. The sports arena is designed to kick off a project that will bring thousands of new residential units to an underdeveloped area and give Brooklyn's prestige a worldwide boost.

We at NLG have never forgotten the rationale for Atlantic Yards. It is a land grab for the benefit of Bruce Ratner.

Nobody knows when, if ever, the housing component of the project will be built. The market in Brooklyn is over-saturated with luxury housing of the type being proposed for the project. An agreement between the ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, gives him decades to build the project.

Also not well-understood is that opposition to the project has been grossly overblown. A 2006 Crain's poll found that two-thirds of New Yorkers—and two-thirds of Brooklyn residents—supported the project. There is no reason to believe that much has changed. The mayor and governor—whether Spitzer or Paterson—have never wavered. A few Brooklyn politicians have defected, but others remain behind the project. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and its earnest but small band of allies essentially demand that they dictate the terms of development in the area, not elected officials.

The 2006 poll indicated that a majority of respondents felt they didn't know much about the project. In the intervening years, it is likely that more people are aware of the project and, less likely to support it and the massive public subsidies needed to build it.

DDDB boasts 4,700 donors to its legal fund, which qualifies as bigger than a "small band." Also, no local elected officials have ever voted for this project. And DDDB has never demanded that they dictate development rights; only that local, elected representatives be allowed to represent their constituencies on this matter.

One major hurdle remains for Forest City. The company must sell tax-exempt bonds by the end of the year in a difficult market or lose access to that source of inexpensive financing. Investors must be willing to buy the bonds despite at least three new lawsuits filed in recent weeks against Atlantic Yards that theoretically could end the project and cause them to lose their money.

The idea of mounting a successful legal challenge is far-fetched. All the court decisions so far—and there have been 24—have turned back the lawsuits against Mr. Ratner. The strategy of Don't Destroy Brooklyn and its allies isn't even about the law anymore; it is about trying to scare the investors away.

Oh lord, there's that 24-court-cases number. Can anybody explain what that number really means. There certainly haven't been 24 cases.

Besides the pending legal challenges, investors might be concerned that there's something fishy about bonds being floated to finance an arena defined in 2006 but since reconfigured by 2009.

That's where political leaders should come in. It is up to the mayor, the governor, the borough president and other elected officials in Brooklyn to reconfirm their support and their commitment to making this project happen in order to reassure those investors.

Fortunately, some politicians have chosen to be responsible regarding this project. Primarily, City Councilmember Tish James and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery are fighting to keep increasingly precious tax dollars from funding a frivolous arena.


Posted by steve at 11:04 AM

Kelly: Nets, 1, residents of Atlantic Yards, 0

The Record
By Mike Kelly

You might expect that coverage of the Atlantic Yards fight from New Jersey would focus only on the possibility of the Nets leaving New Jersey. This piece shows understanding, largely lacking in New York media, that this subterfuge would have on Brooklyn.

The Nets saga is one of those stories that we all need to pay attention to. This is not just about a sports team looking for a place to settle down. This is what happens when political schemes are blended with pie-in-the-sky development deals.

Six years ago, the Nets were actually a winning basketball team. Then, New York developer Bruce Ratner slapped together a deal to buy the Nets. As part of his plan, he would move the team to Brooklyn – to a brand new arena, designed by a famous architect.


But that was not all. This new arena would be the centerpiece of a 20-acre development of offices and homes – homes for firefighters, teachers and other middle class residents. And one more thing: a neighborhood, known as Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, would be cleansed of decay. Urban renewal, by a private developer, for profit. How nice.

When people looked closer, they discovered a few things had to be moved in Brooklyn. The first was a railroad yard. The second: people’s homes.

Ratner liked to routinely refer to Atlantic Yards as “blighted.” But it turns out that people lived there – and they did not see their neighborhood the way


In a 6-1 ruling, New York’s Court of Appeals essentially said that a government does not have to announce that it needs private property to widen a highway or to expand a school. A government can now give its blessing to a private developer like Ratner and his plans to throw people out of their homes so he can build something that will earn him a profit.


Now the Nets play in the Meadowlands Izod Center with far too many empty seats. And outside the Izod Center sits that empty hulk of a failed project known as Xanadu, yet another blending of political dreams with developer schemes.

There is a lesson here, of course – to keep developers far from politics. But it will take a while for that lesson to sink in.

Meanwhile, the Nets are losing. And in Brooklyn, people may lose their homes. This is supposed to be progress.


Posted by steve at 9:05 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Below are some examples of the outrage generated by last Tuesday's ruling by the New York State Appellate Court.

Tracy Walters Blog, Another blow to private property rights

Yes, you read that right. Ratner will be partially financing the private venture on government-seized land with a tax-exempt bond issue, placing the basketball arena on equal cost of capital footing with public road projects, school construction, public utility projects and ...well you get the picture.

The 60-page decision, which can be read here, hinged on the determination that the Atlanta Yards real estate in question was blighted. The Atlantic Yards Report blog uses a quote by libertarian law professor Ilya Somin to expose the shaky foundation of this decision:

To get around this problem, the Court held that “blight” alleviation is not limited to “‘slums’ as that term was formerly applied, and that, among other things, economic underdevelopment and stagnation are also threats to the public sufficient to make their removal cognizable as a public purpose” (pp. 15–16, quoting a 1975 decision).

Obviously, virtually any area occasionally suffers from “economic underdevelopment” or “stagnation” and therefore could potentially be condemned under this rationale. Moreover, even under this expansive definition of blight, the decision states that courts can only strike down a condemnation if “there is no room for reasonable difference of opinion as to whether an area is blighted.” With respect to any neighborhood, there is nearly always “room for reasonable difference of opinion” as to whether the area is “underdeveloped” relative to some possible alternative uses of the land in question. Defining blight this broadly and then deferring to the government’s determination of whether such “blight” actually exists effectively reads the public use restriction out of the state constitution. (emphasis mine)

The public use restriction of the New York eminent domain statute is easily circumvented by the determination that the real estate in question is "blighted" and therefore presents a hazard or nuisance to the public.

If this flimsy justification for government seizure of private property becomes the uncontested law of the land, we can certainly expect exponential increases in such seizures during times of economic recession, high residential and commercial foreclosure rates, and high unemployment. Like we have now.

Viewpoints of a Sagittarian, New York State Rules in Favor of Bloomberg/ACORN Buddy on Atlantic Rail Yards Project – Eminent Domain – Brooklynites to Lose Their Homes, Businesses and Jobs

Bloomberg from day one supported Ratner, his real estate buddy, in his quest to evict tens of thousands of Brooklynites from their homes and businesses in order to make way for a new development that would include a stadium for the New Jersey Nets.

During the past several years, Brooklynites in an effort to keep their homes, jobs and businesses were at odds with the government, Bloomberg, Ratner and anyone else who supported this development. Some businesses and homeowners took the deals offered while others chose to stay put.


Furthermore, this ruling and project is another example that the government is disconnected. Earlier this week, sold out by its government, Americans lost a major battle to corporate interests and big money.

The Proud Profiteer, Imminent Domain

If you truly think there are property rights left in America, you sure must have your head firmly in ground or up your a**. Here is the most recent example of the government taking property from the little guy to give it to their rich buddies. Oh yeah, and these just so happen to be liberals, who claim the love the poor and the down trodden.


Not only does the government take your property whenever it feels like, for whatever reason it feels like, try to not pay your property taxes and see if you really own your property. Property taxes have turned us all into renters. You have to pay the local government your yearly rental fee, which they raise periodically just like all landlords. If you don’t pay, they evict you and take back the property. Then they sell the property to some one else who is under the illusion that they own the property.

So, basically you only have “rights” to the property until the government decides you no longer have the right. You can fool yourself all you want, but really eminent domain has turned into imminent domain.

Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

November 28, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Edition

Plaintiff Sheets: "welfare kings," "civic masturbation," and the Michigan cases the Court of Appeals ignored

David Sheets, one of the plaintiffs on the case recently decided by the New York State Court of Appeals is particularly soft-spoken during a press conference, but there's no masking the anger and truth in his words.

At the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn press conference on Tuesday, held after the Court of Appeals upheld the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, plaintiff David Sheets (left), a residential tenant, spoke so softly that only those close in could hear him, but the video below captures his words.

In his pointed commentary, he referenced two court cases in Michigan, a state, unlike New York, where the highest court was willing to reverse itself on eminent domain. While those cases were raised in amicus curiae briefs to the court, none of the three opinions--majority, concurrence, dissent--acknowledged them.

"It's a scam"

"I'm not an attorney, but I am a paralegal. I know my way around a legal document," said Sheets, who as a tenant is in a precarious position serving as a plaintiff in the case, since comparable housing is not at all guaranteed. "This is a scam. It's sucking up to the public trough. These are welfare kings, and it needs to be looked at that way."

There are processes on the books to guarantee public participation, he said, but "the state and developer have done everything they could think of to reduce those to nothing more than occasional acts of civic masturbation. They are utterly meaningless."

Editorializing on AY: Noticing New York's Michael White and the WSJ vs. the New York Daily News editorial

There was a method beyond Noticing New York blogger Michael D.D. White's running silent commentary on the Atlantic Yards bond deal Tuesday. Remember, and most importantly, no public comment was allowed. Here's part of White's message:

Of course, you should be worrying that these bonds will default and consequently don’t deserve a good rating. A default will negatively affect the market for all New York issuers. But that is not all you should be worrying about. Moody’s has warned that the entire state is weeks away from a substantial downgrade of its credit rating if it doesn’t close its budget gap.

Wall Street Journal editorial

The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial headlined Property Owners Get Dunked On: Another victory for the powerful over property rights, grasped the issue:

In allowing the property seizure, the Court of Appeals dodged some of the central challenges to the condemnation, including whether the Empire State Development Corporation's designation of blight in the Atlantic Yards area was applied after the stadium project had already been planned, making it a "pretext." Nor did the court take on the question—at the heart of eminent domain law since Kelo—whether economic development may be considered a public use under the New York Constitution.

Daily News editorial

Contrast the above with another (duh) wrongheaded New York Daily News editorial, headlined A Net gain for Brooklyn: High court did right by the city in Atlantic Yards lawsuit, which claimed:

On the upside, the court rendered expeditious judgment, positioning Ratner to meet a year-end deadline for financing the start of construction and - even more important - established a wise standard for the use of eminent domain in New York State.

It did nothing of the sort. It acknowledged that the standard may be very fuzzy, but said it was not the place for courts to intervene. More critique from Eric McClure of No Land Grab.

Posted by steve at 9:31 AM

Schumer's Multi-Monopoly Positions Unhealthily Muddy Debate on an Issue With Left, Right and Center Appeal

Noticing New York

Senator Charles Schumer understands the evils of monopolies when it comes to health care costs, but is just fine with supporting developer Bruce Ranter's growing monopoly on development in Brooklyn.

We bring this up because this week we found Senator Schumer talking about an issue that is near and dear to our economics-loving heart: The evil of monopolies. No dummy, Senator Schumer is apparently quite aware that the issue should appeal “left, right and center” across the entire political spectrum. Problem is that Senator Schumer has a monopoly-supporting skeleton in his closet, one we have been speaking out against strenuously: Forest City Ratner’s proposed mega-monopoly in Schumer’s hometown of Brooklyn, New York. Jeepers, not only is Atlantic Yards in Schumer’s own borough, he might even be able to see it from where he lives in nearby Park Slope. Schumer can’t dodge knowledge of the ugly details of this scam.

Consider the Senator's skepticism of a study on health care costs paid for by a health care insurer and contrast it with his support of claims made for the benefits of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Why would anyone believe that Atlantic Yards is good? Not because of the highly suspect studies funded at the instigation of and paid for by the developer. On Face the Nation Senator Schumer pointed out that “studies” bought and paid for by the industry involved ought to be rejected. Here is what he said about the health care reform study that Senator Jon Kyl was trying to promote as persuasive in the same Face the Nation debate:

Let me answer that. First the Lewin study, which Jon cites is widely discredited for one good reason--they’re fully funded by United Health, a health insurer.

Schumer went on to counter that the appropriate study figures to reference should be those of the Congressional Budget Office because “they’re not funded by anybody. They’re impartial and we both go by their readings.” Promoting the study of the CBO because they are impartial (which is definitely a good thing) is like, in the case of Atlantic Yards, promoting the figures of the NYC Independent Budget Office for the same reason: that they are impartial. These findings of the IBO which Bloomberg and the state agencies in service to the developer Forest City Ratner have summarily rejected says that the basketball arena those agencies are about to finance for the developer will be a $220 million net loss to the public.


Posted by steve at 6:25 AM

Property Owners Get Dunked On - Another victory for the powerful over property rights.

The Wall Street Journal

Supporters of the proposed Atlantic Yards project have tried to justify this land grab by Bruce Ratner by trumpeting the developer's claims for public benefits to come. This opinion piece shows an understanding of just who the real beneficiary of the development would be.

Such unabashed takings have an unfortunate history in New York state, where the political class has a habit of using its powers on behalf of well-connected private interests. Caught under the wheels are average citizens whose only recourse is to try to defend their property rights in court.

So much for that. In allowing the property seizure, the Court of Appeals dodged some of the central challenges to the condemnation, including whether the Empire State Development Corporation's designation of blight in the Atlantic Yards area was applied after the stadium project had already been planned, making it a "pretext." Nor did the court take on the question—at the heart of eminent domain law since Kelo—whether economic development may be considered a public use under the New York Constitution.

Instead, the majority argued that because the state had designated the area as blighted, the takings were therefore a "public use," and it was not the place of the court to interfere. Nevermind that the determination of blight was based largely on a study funded by . . . the aspiring developer.

Courts in New York have been famously hostile to eminent domain challenges, but 43 states have adjusted their laws since Kelo to provide stronger protections for property owners. The New York ruling vindicates Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's prediction in dissent in Kelo that "the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." Q.E.D.


Posted by steve at 6:08 AM

Atlantic Yards Decision Blow To Private Property Rights In New York

Islandlaw Constitutional Rights Pages

The definition of blight, according to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, is “Something that frustrates plans or hopes, …or something that impairs and destroys.” Both of these definitions could be used to describe the impact of this week’s Court of Appeals decision upon private property rights in New York State. Chief Judge Lippman wrote a detailed,12 page decision in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation that can be summed up in one sentence: Blight means anything the New York State Development Corporation says it means.

With this decision, New York has given the green light to private developers to try to take private property from its citizens, so long as enough money is funneled into local politician’s hands to get approvals. That’s because the Court has decided that these takings are legal if the municipal entity determines that the property is in an area that suffers from economic “blight.” Mr. Goldstein’s condo is worth about half a million bucks, a veritable slum in the eyes of the New York Court of Appeals.


It is especially troubling to me that the Court rubber stamped a decision made by the New York State Urban Development Corporation. This corporation is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation, a public authority of the State of New York. Its powers are practically limitless, and include the power to issue bonds, grant tax abatements, ignore zoning laws, and, of course, condemn land and seize property. What makes this more scary is that The Empire State Development Corporation doesn’t have a great track record in overseeing its subsidiaries.

If the State’s highest court refuses to check the power of this Leviathan, who will?


NoLandGrab: Stay tuned to see how pending and new legal challenges will affect the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by steve at 6:02 AM

On the Beat - Move to Brooklyn a Step Closer for Nets

Basketball Proespectus
by John Perrotto

This item noting this week's Court of Appeals ruling notable as it quotes developer Bruce Ratner stating his committment to the proposed Atlantic Yards project even as he unloads the New Jersey Nets.

The Nets’ proposed move from New Jersey to Brooklyn took a big step forward earlier this week when the New York State Court of Appeals voted 6-1 to uphold the state’s right to use eminent domain to remove residents and businesses that held out and tried to remain at the Atlantic Yards site. The project involves an arena for the Nets, which officials are hoping opens in time for the start of the 2011-12 season.

“Once again the courts have made it clear that this project represents a significant public benefit for the people of Brooklyn and the entire city,” said Nets owner Bruce Ratner, who is in the process of selling a controlling interest in the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. “Our commitment to the entire project is as strong today as when we started six years ago.”


Posted by steve at 5:55 AM

Picturing What Could Have Been Said If Public Officials Accepted Public Comment at the Atlantic Yards Bond Approval Meeting

Noticing New York

This past Tuesday the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (“BALDC”) met in the offices of the ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner. The purpose of the meeting was to approve the issuance of bonds.

Michael White attended the meeting and found that there was no opportunity for public comment. As a way to make his objections known, he brought a set of graphics with him that he held up in succession during the meeting.

This blog entry is a way of presenting the commentary that was not permitted by the state.

In addition to objections to a money-losing arena, there are also questions to the BALDC that should make anyone who is considering the purchase of bonds for the proposed Nets arena be wary.

  1. There are of course many questions to be asked about why you are issuing bonds with so many tell-tale loose ends. We could ask you why, for instance you aren’t reviewing and approving the involvement of Mikhail Prokhorov as a proposed principal in this transaction?

  2. Of all the multiple loose ends that make this so transaction dangerous, perhaps the most important to ask you about is this: Why are you financing an arena that is different from the one that the ESDC board and the PACB actually approved and which will be so much more risk for the bondholders? You are financing an arena which, among other things is so much smaller that it won’t be able to host a second team playing hockey.

  3. Of course, you should be worrying that these bonds will default and consequently don’t deserve a good rating. A default will negatively affect the market for all New York issuers. But that is not all you should be worrying about. Moody’s has warned that the entire state is weeks away from a substantial downgrade of its credit rating if it doesn’t close its budget gap. Governor Paterson is asking the legislature to take steps to close that gap but who can take the governor seriously when on his behalf you are still pursuing this supremely wasteful financing that is driving the state into a deeper financial hole. You are responsible for the misapplication of billions of public money to Atlantic Yards.

A Goldman Sachs banker's remarks suggest that the bonds might not be very tasty.

Before the meeting we were talking with one of the Goldman Sachs bankers involved in issuing the bonds, commenting that this must be the weirdest transaction on which they had ever worked. We were told that they had worked on some pretty weird transactions. We challenged them to name one as strange or involving so many oddities. Various other transactions were named. . . and discarded as candidates. We never came up with a transaction that even marginally approached eing comparably strange. We commented that this transaction probably had within it every element of every weird deal that had been done anywhere else that strange things were going on in New York. Our banker mentioned that he sometimes tells people he does “Tutti Frutti” deals. Then he sighed, and perhaps realizing what was more apropos to this deal, he said, “Or I sometimes tell them I do `Rocky Road.’” “This,” we said certainly involves more than one scoop of “Rocky Road.” And god knows how many scoops of something else.


Posted by steve at 5:38 AM

What Next?

Nets Daily

This consolidation of reports from multiple sources includes a explanation of bond ratings for the proposed Nets arena and why the sale of bonds by a December 31st deadline is not a foregone conclusion.

Here’s why the ratings are crucial to the project. Ratings agencies review revenue projections and other factors provided by the bond issuers. In some cases, agencies will additional equity be put into a project in return for a lower interest rate. Think of bonds as the arena “mortgage” and the $282 million in equity the Nets have put down as the “down payment”. Not everyone in the front office is as positive as Yormark about the ratings. The Nets needed to get an “investment grade” rating for the arena bonds, something BBB- or better, or they wouldn’t have qualified for tax-exempt bonds. Reportedly, they succeeded, but just barely. Beyond the tax exempt bonds, there are other, taxable bonds, to construct surrounding infrastructure. Rates on those bonds are going to be significantly higher. Originally, the Nets had hoped for rates as low as those sold to finance Yankee Stadium and CitiField. The Barclays Center bond rates will not be close to the 6.5% rate the two baseball stadiums received. Also, Cablevision, the Knicks’ parent company, will soon be marketing $500 million in bonds to finance a massive refurbishing of the Garden. Those bonds will be a better investment. It’s uncertain when they will be marketed or what effect they will have the Nets’ efforts. Carey has said the most likely investors are funds who have previously invested in sports facility bonds.

In any event, Goldman’s Carey has said the bonds will go on sale December 7. He added that Goldman and Barclays expect to have them sold by “mid-December”, or around the time of the ESDC’s December 15 “master closing”. Of course, they have to get all arena financing in place by December 31, the IRS deadline. If by that date it’s not in place, the arena bonds lose their tax exempt status. That would lead to a significant increase in bonding costs and perhaps kill the project. (There’s been some speculation by the arena critics that the deadline can be moved back. A Nets’ insider said the deadline is indeed “real”.)


Posted by steve at 5:21 AM

November 27, 2009

A Net gain for Brooklyn: High court did right by the city in Atlantic Yards lawsuit

NY Daily News, Editorial

Here's a surprise — a Daily News editorial full of untruths and half-truths in the wake of a pro-Atlantic Yards court decision.

The state's highest court has given a crucial go-ahead to plans to build a pro basketball arena and a major housing development at one of Brooklyn's great crossroads. Good for the judges. Good for New York.

There is much to like in the Court of Appeals decision regarding the Atlantic Yards project, starting with new hopes that the Nets will have a home in the city for the 2011 season and that thousands of apartments will rise on land that has been fallow for more than four decades.

By a 6-to-1 vote, the court dealt a small band of opponents a 26th straight defeat in their legal war of attrition against a project that grew only more critical as a jobs producer with the economic downturn. Hats off to developer Bruce Ratner for persevering through six years worth of regulatory approvals and lawsuits.

"Small band of opponents?" Hardly. Opposition to the Atlantic Yards project runs wide and deep. Small band of plaintiffs would be more accurate, since most of the hundreds of footprint occupants had been scared off long ago by the threat of eminent domain, bought off with taxpayer-subsidized payments that were actually below market value when the state zoning override is factored in.

It is to New York's shame that moving even the worthiest projects off the drawing boards is so difficult in a town that prides itself on getting big things done. All you need are some chanting pickets and a stack of summonses.

A worthy project wouldn't have drawn protests or lawsuits. What's worthy about building a heavily subsidized and unneeded arena while sucking scarce housing funding away from more cost-effective projects, and diverting hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in city and state funds from more important uses?

On the upside, the court rendered expeditious judgment, positioning Ratner to meet a year-end deadline for financing the start of construction and - even more important - established a wise standard for the use of eminent domain in New York State.


Lawyers for a handful of property owners - among the few who have not sold to Ratner at handsome prices - had asked the court for nothing less than a radical reinterpretation of the state Constitution. Many feared the panel would take an aggressively activist approach in keeping with a recent tendency to flex its judicial muscle.

Actually, the property owners were asking the court to rein in the radical expansion, over several decades, in the interpretation of what's fair game for eminent domain, from "public use" to "public benefit" to whatever the hell developers and politicians want.

Didn't happen. The panel declined to repudiate the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Kelo decision, upholding the taking of a Connecticut home to make way for a now-abandoned commercial development.

Instead, the majority threaded a fine needle. It affirmed that New York may take property by eminent domain only for public use - except when an area has been deemed to be blighted. The court also established that it would not second-guess a blight finding that was reasonable.

"A fine needle" through which Bruce Ratner could drive a truck. Blight is apparently whatever the Empire State Development Corporation wants it to be. The court's decision makes just about any property in New York State vulnerable to condemnation.

The Atlantic Yards zone, at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Aves., fit the blight definition well beyond reason.

With the small exception of a slice occupied by the complaining property owners, the tract has been a designated urban renewal area since 1968 and has stood vacant for all that time. Much of it is occupied by a below-grade cut for the Long Island Rail Road.

Bullshit. Only the railyard portion of the site, which constitutes little more than a third of the footprint, was part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area. While it may not be attractive, it's a working railyard, crucial to the metropolitan area's public transit system. And if it is shoddy looking, it's only because the state itself failed to maintain it properly. The "slice" occupied by living, breathing, productive taxpaying citizens is actually the majority of the site. And if by "vacant" the Daily News means occupied by a critical piece of public infrastructure and homes and businesses undergoing organic redevelopment, then they're absolutely right. If that's not what they mean, they're lying.

Now, if New York is lucky, Ratner will get to work on the arena, perhaps to be home court for Lebron James (we can dream), followed by 6,000 residential units - a third of them affordable - and 8 acres of open space. The public interest has been served.

It'll take a lot more than luck for any of that to happen. And the fact is, the public interest has been screwed.


NoLandGrab: Once again, we have to ask — if the Atlantic Yards project is so great, why not just tell the truth about it?

Posted by eric at 1:06 PM

Atlantic Yards site "blighted"? Some "reasonable difference of opinion"

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week's high court ruling has just set the bar impossibly high for New York homeowners and businesses to defend their property rights against eminent domain.

Libertarian law professor Ilya Somin calls the Atlantic Yards eminent domain decision "the first major state supreme court defeat for property rights on a public use issue since" the controversial 5-4 Supreme Court decision (2005) in Kelo v. New London, in which state courts and legislatures were invited to draw on local conditions to narrow the use of eminent domain.

Somin wasn't surprised, given New York's history of court deference to agencies such as the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the successful defendant in this case. He writes:

To get around this problem, the Court held that “blight” alleviation is not limited to “‘slums’ as that term was formerly applied, and that, among other things, economic underdevelopment and stagnation are also threats to the public sufficient to make their removal cognizable as a public purpose” (pp. 15–16, quoting a 1975 decision).

Obviously, virtually any area occasionally suffers from “economic underdevelopment” or “stagnation” and therefore could potentially be condemned under this rationale. Moreover, even under this expansive definition of blight, the decision states that courts can only strike down a condemnation if “there is no room for reasonable difference of opinion as to whether an area is blighted.” With respect to any neighborhood, there is nearly always “room for reasonable difference of opinion” as to whether the area is “underdeveloped” relative to some possible alternative uses of the land in question. Defining blight this broadly and then deferring to the government’s determination of whether such “blight” actually exists effectively reads the public use restriction out of the state constitution.

That's essentially what Judge Robert Smith said in his dissent, as well.


Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

The Record: Game-changing ruling

The Bergen Record

Soon enough, they will probably be the team from Atlantic Yards, with an 18,000-seat arena built just for them. The New Jersey Nets will become the Brooklyn Nets, and we will have lost our team.

This is not the outcome we wanted. We wanted the Nets to stay in the Garden State. If they had to move to the Prudential Center in Newark from the Izod Center in the Meadowlands, then so be it. At least they would still be in northern New Jersey.


Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

ACORN’s Flagrant Eminent Domain Abuse

David Horowitz's Newsreal
by Matthew Vadum

The relentlessly sanctimonious radical advocacy group-cum-organized crime syndicate has become the leading cheerleader for the real estate development that is slated to use eminent domain to remove the poor people it claims to represent.

ACORN, which has long prided itself on fighting the so-called gentrification of neighborhoods as rising property values force the poor to move, has taken money from the project’s developer and signed a binding agreement forcing it to stand behind the project no matter what.

In the world of corporate shakedowns it is commonplace for liberal activist groups to use the money they extract from a supposed “donor” to fund operations, but it is very unusual for a group to take money in exchange for betraying those it is supposed to represent.


Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

November 26, 2009

Did Atlantic Yards Ruling Pass the Buck on 'Blight'?

Runnin' Scared
by Elizabeth Dwoskin

Tuesday's Atlantic Yards decision, in which New York's highest court upheld the right of the state to seize private property on behalf of a mega-developer, will doubtlessly impact the lives of thousands of Brooklyn residents and be discussed for years to come.

But the court backed off from a central question: Whether the site in downtown Brooklyn is truly "blighted."

In many ways, the entire case boils down to that loosely-defined word.

In order to make the case that the project would have a legitimate public use -- a necessary criterion for granting eminent domain -- Ratner and ESDC had to convince the court that the area was blighted. (The local residents who brought the lawsuit argued that, while much of the area is underutilized, their section of it is actually a very pleasant place to live.)

Blight studies have been disputed in other New York eminent domain cases -- like the lawsuit brought over Columbia University's contentious Manhattanville expansion project -- on the grounds that they have been financed by developers with a stake in their results.

Since the Atlantic Yards case hinged on the blight question, one would expect the Court of Appeals to have debated the questions of whether the area was actually in decay. But the majority decision, at least, brushed it off.

The lone dissenter in the case, Judge Smith, took on the blight issue directly, and claimed his colleagues were sidestepping the issue.


Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Pass the cold turkey

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is thankful for all of the group's supporters and volunteers, though, this Thanksgiving, we have to settle for Russian dressing on this turkey, since all of the gravy is headed to developer Bruce Ratner's trough.


Speaking of Bruce, he should be thankful to live in a country where the government will serve up people's homes and businesses with piles of pork and gravy, to build an arena for a mega-millionaire developer, for a team owned by a multi-billionaire Russian oligarch. It's as American as apple pie borscht.

Posted by lumi at 9:48 AM

Ratner's winless Nets stay 'undefeated' ... in court

The Brooklyn Blog
By Rich Calder

As the NJ Nets have fallen from top dogs to doormats, Ratner continues his happy dance:

Meet Bruce Ratner.

He’s a Brooklyn developer who loves to boast about being “undefeated” in court -- even while his New Jersey Nets are winless on the court.
Following a favorable ruling on the eminent domain suit by a lower court in May, Ratner bragged that it was the 23rd victory “in a row” granted by the courts “in favor of the development.”

Yesterday, the bragging continued. The project’s latest “key” win boosted its court record to a perfect 24-0 – although there are still other lawsuits in play.
Ratner must break ground on the Brooklyn arena by the end of the year or risk losing crucial tax-exempt financing. He says Atlantic Yards will be built now that the Court of Appeals has ruled in the project's favor, and says that the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn by 2012.

But anyone who’s been following this project since it was first proposed in 2003 should know to expect the unexpected. Those feisty Atlantic Yards opponents are now talking about filing new lawsuits.


Posted by lumi at 9:32 AM

Nets won't go outside organization if they fire Frank

NY Post
By Fred Kerber

Frank is left to answer virtually every day questions about how he can remain so gosh-darn peppy when the executioner is around the corner. And with the Nets making national news as they approach the dubious 0-17 start achieved by an expansion team (Heat, '88-89) and the Nets West (Clippers, '98-99), the coaching death watch is on.

Names have floated. But make no mistake. The same organization that required workers to take Fridays off in the summer to save money is not going outside. If Frank is canned, one of the current staff or GM Kiki Vandeweghe (whose name pops up in discussions more and more) will likely take over. Forget experience. All those candidates have one major requirement on the resume.



NetsAreScorching, Nets on the Net: 11/26/09 Turkey Day Edition

Meanwhile, the whispers about Frank’s future continue. If Frank gets fired, his replacement will likely come from in-house as the organization continues to pinch pennies.

Another article that gathers some reaction from the 88-89 Miami Heat and the 99-00 LA Clippers, aka, the two teams the Nets could soon be challenging for infamy.

Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

Atlantic Yards Freedom-Fighters Dealt Blow In Court

Ground Report
By Richard Cooper

A local Libertarian gives his take on this week's high court ruling and calls for a statewide revolution.

The Court used a very sweeping definition of blight to include virtually anything. "Economic underdevelopment and stagnation" are highly ambiguous.

I cannot say that I am suprised by this unwelcome development favoring corporate welfare and eminent domain. New York's eminent domain statute is virtually capital punishment for property owners.


Fox News, Still Think a Man's Home Is His Castle?

According to Glenn Beck, this Thanksgiving, Brooklyn is the new New London.

The homeowners don't want to sell and the Transit Authority has a rail yard there that they don't want to move. So what does the well-connected real estate tycoon do? He goes to the government. And voila: New York's Court of Appeals upheld the state's use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Let me tell you about the last time this happened. You may remember the name Suzette Kelo. She was a homeowner in New London, Connecticut.

NoLandGrab: Actually, the railyard IS temporarily being moved, to another section of the MTA's property. According to the justices' ruling, the "mild conditions of urban blight" were "principally attributable" to the State-owned railyard, which justifies the State's use of eminent domain.

CoStar Group, NY Court: $5 Bil. Atlantic Yards Project Can Proceed

Of course, if you're a developer, yesterday's decision marks the forwards march of progress:

"We're gratified that today's ruling has once again affirmed the significant public benefit of the Atlantic Yards project," said Forest City Enterprises Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Charles A. Ratner in a statement. "Brooklyn and the entire City of New York will benefit from the substantial job creation, tax revenues and revitalization that this project will generate.

"This is an important day for Atlantic Yards," Ratner added. "While the economic outlook remains challenging and there are still hurdles to overcome, we are moving ahead with confidence and are fully committed to this great project."

Posted by lumi at 8:25 AM

Nets CEO Yormark optimistic about the bond sale, says team will recover from losing streak

Atlantic Yards Report

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark appeared yesterday on WFAN's Boomer & Carton to talk about the team and Court of Appeals' dismissal of the Atlantic Yards lawsuit.

"It was a big moment for all of us, especially Bruce Ratner," Yormark said, saluting his boss. "He's been fighting so many battles over the last couple of years and, yesterday gave him a chance to feel good about what he's done over the past couple of years."

I guess that's one way of looking at it.

"We feel really good about the financing for the arena," Yormark added. "I think you'll hear some very positive news in the next couple of days from the rating agencies."


Posted by lumi at 8:03 AM

Thankful for what? Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, that's what.

Rocky Sullivan Report

Here's Scott Turner's commentary on this week's events, from his Rocky Sullivan Pub Quiz email, published in full. [Press conference after yesterday's court decision. Photo by the excellent Tracy Collins.]

Something happened yesterday, though, that made me wanna throw myself into the brackish, mawkish pond of Thanksgiving thankfulivities.

Dan Goldstein, Freddy's Bar and other homeowners and residents lost their big eminent domain case. They'd gone to court to stop Bruce Ratner and the state's development agency, the ESDC, from taking their homes, businesses and properties so that Ratner can build the vile Atlantic Yards colossus.

By a 6-1 decision, the court washed its hands of the matter, saying it couldn't get involved in the affairs of a state agency. By that logic, they would refuse to order election commissions to let Black people vote, marriage license departments to allow mixed-race marriages, and school districts to integrate.

More to the point, if the Court of Appeals were King Solomon, it would've gone like this: "Hmmm...okay. Each of you chicks says you're the momma to this baby. Okay, first, I dunno if I'm the right guy to decide this. Second...hmmm....okay, you know what? I can't really get involved. Get out of my palace."

The one dissenting judge, Robert Smith, had harsh words for his colleagues on the bench:

[T]he majority is much too deferential to the self-serving determination by Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that petitioners live in a "blighted" area, and are accordingly subject to having their homes seized and turned over to a private developer.

...It is clear to me from the record that the elimination of blight, in the sense of substandard and unsanitary conditions that present a danger to public safety, was never the bona fide purpose of the development at issue in this case.

Another battle lost, but is the war over? Not by a long shot. Ratner has to sell $700 million in bonds by the end of the year, and there are at least four lawsuits -- and possibly more -- between him and getting the project started. All of the grandiose affordable-housing and new-jobs promises are now distant echoes, having fulfilled their one raison d'etre -- to flim-flam elected officials and people desperate for housing and work -- to support the project. It's the same model as Ratner's hitting the eject button on the Nets basketball team -- it too having fulfilled its role as a feel-good nostalgia seduction.

Oh...and that basketball team of his is now 0-14.

Besides the immediacy of the court decision, what does this have to do with the giving of thanks?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, that's what.

The group came together not long after Ratner's plans were announced in late 2003. The first DDDB event was a rally on Pacific Street, in front of Goldstein's building at what would be center court of the Nets' arena -- or rather, Barclays' arena, named for a bank involved with the slave trade, apartheid, Nazi occupation in France, the Congolese civil war and Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe. Just what Brooklyn needs.

From there, DDDB has done everything it can to stop Ratner's arrogance, architect Frank Gehry's self-absorbed dismissiveness, Mayor Bloomberg's bullying, Boro Prez Markowitz's childish cartoon pronouncements, Governors Pataki's/Spitzer's/Paterson's embrace of neighborhood decimation, and the state's wanton disregard for anyone who would question what their government is up to.

DDDB's primary goal is not to stop the Atlantic Yards. Rather, it's to develop the Vanderbilt Railyards with truly affordable housing...in scale with the neighborhood...emphasizing small businesses and not Ratner's model of big box-stores...with open-to-all public spaces...no eminent domain...none of the public money Ratner wants for his private for-profit arena and skyscrapers...truly green...and without wielding the dagger Ratner has plunged into Brooklyn's heart these last six years.

DDDB is not without its faults. To wage a political struggle faultlessly is Stepford to the core. That, and it never having happened in the history of humankind. Political strugglers make mistakes.

DDDB, though, has done done a good job because we haven't sunk to Ratner's and Bloomberg's level. We don't lie. We don't make things up. We don't play dirty tricks. We don't rip people off. We don't set fire to the dry tinder that is Brooklyn's racial and class divisions. We don't embrace the language of condescension.

Instead, we've always tried hard and played fair. We might not win. Brooklyn might not win. Perhaps, if we lose, some will say that DDDB should've played hardball.

See, it's that kind of macho crap that's gotten us into this mess in the first place. It gets us into messes all over the world. Machiavellian principles have ruined too many lives, burned too many cities to the ground, and soured the enzymes that give us life.

I've grown to love the people I work with at DDDB. It's the best campaign I've ever been a part of, and I've worked on "causes" since the early '80s. If a struggle loses sight of the humanity of the cause, it will fail. Even if, on paper, it wins. Ratner, Bloomberg, Markowitz and the others had no use for treating people kindly, right from the outset.

The abandonment of kindness isn't limited to the Ratner's key consortium players. A lot of good people in the Atlantic Yards conflagration can't tell night from day. A man like Michael Ratner, Bruce's brother, the radical progressive lawyer whose career has been about fighting the power, has lost his humanity. He has ethical blood on his hands for assisting his brother's taking of peoples homes and lives for the Atlantic Yards boondoggle. The Atlantic Yards' malfeasance is the kind he'd be in court battling against -- racism, classism, government playing rough with its populace. Yet Michael Ratner has been silent about in his own family's terrible behavior. Cross Michael Ratner off the list of good guys.

["But Michael Ratner's done such good!" you might respond. Sure, but but Justice is a 24/7 thing, and you can't be selective about it -- especially if it means your working dynamic becomes blood is thicker than ethics.]

David Sheets and Daniel Goldstein, two of the plaintiffs in Goldstein, et al. v. New York State Urban Development Corporation. Photo by Tracy Collins

DDDB and all the others groups and citizens fighting the Ratner development have a long way to go. That's because of the width and breadth of the issue -- overdevelopment and the very notion of who gets a say in their community's progress.

If Ratner is successful, it's an ominous moment at the end of the new century's first decade. At this juncture, communities, individuals, working-class people, people of color, immigrants and the wide range of traditionally-screwed groups should be gaining empowerment -- not drunk-on-power despots like Michael Bloomberg and wealthy scions like Bruce Ratner.

It just means, as always, that people need to come together and put an end to this bass-ackwards way of life.

This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the friends I've made in DDDB -- none of whom I knew before Ratner pushed his way into our lives uninvited six years ago. They're good people. Really good people, who know the difference between fighting and cheating. There's not a Thierry Henry in sight on this side of the Atlantic Yards struggle.

It could be our downfall, but this much is clear: if you win by walking all over people, it's no win at all. I'm thankful that, whenever this thing finally ends, we'll still be standing, hearts still beating, without carnage strewn about. Not carnage of our making, anyway.

I think we'll win, by the way.

It sounds like a grim way to say "Happy Thanksgiving." It's not. It's a celebration of people fighting for what they believe, and having each others' backs. It's not always pretty, but in the end, it's affection and tenderness stating for the record that, without them, struggle is an empty call.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours...

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

November 25, 2009

New York Court of Appeals Upholds Atlantic Yards Condemnations

The Volokh Conspiracy
by Ilya Somin

This outcome is not surprising. As I explained in this post, where I predicted the result, New York courts are among the most hostile to property rights of any in the country. New York is also one of only seven states that hasn’t enacted eminent domain reform of any kind since the federal Supreme Court’s controversial 2005 decision upholding “economic development” condemnations in Kelo v. City of New London.

Significantly the Court concluded that the property in question could be condemned because it is “blighted” and blight alleviation is a “public use” recognized by the New York Constitution, thanks to a constitutional amendment allowing the condemnation of slum areas. This despite the fact that it is very far from being a slum of any kind, and much of it is actually middle or lower middle class housing. Indeed, the opinion itself notes (pg. 14) that the Atlantic Yards area “do[e]s not begin to approach in severity the dire circumstances of urban slum dwelling” that led to the enactment of the blight amendment. To get around this problem, the Court held that “blight” alleviation is not limited to “‘slums’ as that term was formerly applied, and that, among other things, economic underdevelopment and stagnation are also threats to the public sufficient to make their removal cognizable as a public purpose” (pp. 15–16, quoting a 1975 decision).

Obviously, virtually any area occasionally suffers from “economic underdevelopment” or “stagnation” and therefore could potentially be condemned under this rationale. Moreover, even under this expansive definition of blight, the decision states that courts can only strike down a condemnation if “there is no room for reasonable difference of opinion as to whether an area is blighted.” With respect to any neighborhood, there is nearly always “room for reasonable difference of opinion” as to whether the area is “underdeveloped” relative to some possible alternative uses of the land in question. Defining blight this broadly and then deferring to the government’s determination of whether such “blight” actually exists effectively reads the public use restriction out of the state constitution. I highly doubt that New York state constitutional amendment allowing condemnation of “substandard and insanitary areas” (Article XVIII, Section 1 here) would have passed had it been understood to mean that virtually any area could be declared blighted and condemned. As with most other blight condemnation laws, the amendment was sold to the public as a tool for eliminating “slums” (a point the majority concedes).

Allowing government agencies to declare virtually any area “blighted” and then condemn it at will is an abdication of judicial responsibility to protect constitutional property rights.


Posted by eric at 6:52 PM

Statement by NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery on Eminent Domain Ruling

Via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Today’s Court of Appeals decision is a defeat for every property owner in the great State of New York. In finding against the plaintiffs in this landmark case, where citizens bravely persevered in the face of a state agency determined to seize their land for a misbegotten private development—the Atlantic Yards—the Court of Appeals has refused to allow New York State to join the overwhelming number of States which have clarified their eminent domain requirements in the wake of the controversial Kelo decision. New York State will continue to enable the land grab dreams of private developers. Eminent domain will not be limited to a sane, common sense definition of “public benefit” and “public use;” schools, roads, hospitals; it will instead mean whatever serves the developer of the moment, including luxury housing and a sports facility.

I thank the Court of Appeals for their considered deliberations, but I mourn their decision, and I thank my constituents for bringing this suit and fighting for all of us. I share their disappointment, but also their determination that this abuse will continue to be challenged in the courts until sanity and justice are achieved. The fight against Atlantic Yards goes on!


Posted by eric at 6:47 PM

Domo arigato, Mr. Ratner

Tokyo MX News


link [Click "Movie" to launch video]

Posted by eric at 6:34 PM

Atlantic Yards "Cloud" Lifted, But Fog Remains: What About the Bonds?

Runnin' Scared
by Neil deMause

Speaking of astute, sports-facility-boondoggle expert Neil deMause runs the numbers on Ratner's arena bonds.

So is the long-heralded arrival of Atlantic Yards finally at hand, or what? According to the front page of today's Times (echoed on its sports page), the answer is yes: Following yesterday's appeals court ruling, which dismissed challenges to the state seizing private land for the Nets-arena-and-other-stuff project, "a cloud of uncertainty that has hung over Atlantic Yards for more than a year had lifted," writes development reporter Charles Bagli, while rookie Nets beat writer Jonathan Abrams calls the ruling the "last major hurdle in the groundbreaking process."

When and whether the bulldozers will actually pull up to Freddy's, though, remains murky. That's because despite all the fuss about the eminent domain lawsuit — one of four remaining legal challenges against the project — the real hurdle facing developer Bruce Ratner is selling $800 million in bonds to pay for the damn thing. The Wall Street Journal last month declared the likelihood of the bonds passing muster with financiers as a "toss-up," and the bond issuance date has been pushed back at least once since then, with a December 31 IRS deadline fast approaching.

The real test now is whether the ESDC can secure bond rates that Ratner can afford to pay off — and there, all official answers are saying "we'll tell you later." An initial statement by ESDC that it had secured investment-grade ratings was contradicted by Bond Buyer, which got a Standard & Poor's bond analyst to confirm that no public rating had been made; ESDC later amended its statement to say it had "tentatively secured" a rating, a coinage that no doubt would have entertained George Carlin.

One possible holdup is bond insurance, which was the main bugaboo cited in that Wall Street Journal piece: Thanks to the financial meltdown, there's effectively only one bond insurer left in town, Assured Guaranty — and they've been unable to come to an agreement with Ratner's team on how much to charge to cover the Atlantic Yards bonds should the whole thing go kablooey. Yesterday's court ruling might make Assured a bit more amenable to compromise, but here again, nothing's been finalized, according to Goldman Sachs, which is handling the bond insurance talks.

How much difference does all this financial mumbo-jumbo make? Well, the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (an ESDC subsidiary spun off for solely for the purpose of issuing the arena bonds) authorized rates as high as 8 percent for tax-exempt bonds and 14 percent for taxable bonds, which is pretty much a rating of "usurious"; if the rate were really bumped up from the 6.5 percent Ratner previously said he hoped for to 8 percent, that'd mean close to $10 million a year in extra bond payments, or more than one Devin Harris worth. But what interest rate Ratner will get — and how much he'll have to pay to Assured to get it — won't be made public until next Wednesday at the earliest, which is when ESDC hopes to issue a "preliminary offer statement" spelling out the details.


Posted by eric at 6:01 PM

Atlantic Yards Decision Drama! More Lawsuits as Financing Questions Remain

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The ever-astute Mr. Brown follows the money.

The project, developed by the Brooklyn firm Forest City Ratner, received a key victory early Tuesday morning with a decision from New York's highest court, as the judges ruled 6-1 to uphold the use of eminent domain in the project.

Shortly after, the plans for financing were revealed, and the state's development agency said that the project was expected to receive an investment grade rating from the ratings agencies on hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds for the arena.

There has been skepticism that the bonds would be able to reach investment grade; failure to do so would render the project unable to receive financing ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline on the use of tax-free debt.

Now, the question becomes whether or not Forest City will succeed in selling the tax-free bonds, and then if it will be able to ward off any additional obstacles, including lawsuits, between now and the end of next month.

THE SPECIFICS OF THE financing are still unclear, though the state-run Empire State Development Corporation, said at a hearing Tuesday that the state expected $600 million in tax-free bonds to be approved as part of a complex financing agreement meant to skirt federal laws intended to bar many stadiums and arenas from using tax-free debt. (These have proved controversial when used on recent stadium deals, with critics alleging that land values were improperly inflated in order to make the numbers work. Would-be property tax payments are used to pay the debt service on the bonds.)

The ESDC said that there would also be $150 million in taxable bonds, which are far more expensive for Forest City. The stated reason? The property taxes are not excepted to be high enough to cover more than the $600 million in debt.


Posted by eric at 5:54 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Governor Paterson's Own New London

Governor Paterson's Brooklyn legacy, should he allow eminent domain for Atlantic Yards to go forward...


The Sports ITeam Blog (NY Daily News), Atlantic Yards activist Scott Turner: 'Cross Michael Ratner off the list of good guys'

In the wake of yesterday’s ruling by the New York Court of Appeals that gives Nets owner Bruce Ratner the green light to seize private homes and businesses for his Atlantic Yards project, activist Scott Turner raises some good questions about how the proposed mega-development has blurred political preconceptions.

Ratner’s brother Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, has been cheered for years by many progressives for his work for human rights and civil liberties. But he has also been named as a Forest City Ratner officer in project documents and he refuses to publicly discuss why he supports the project and why the rights of Brooklyn homeowners and business owners should take a back seat to his family’s plans. Many Brooklyn residents who once viewed Michael Ratner as a hero now look at him as just another limousine liberal.

College Sports View, The View from the Cheap Seats

Nets Basketball Fans Don’t Grow In Brooklyn
So, now Nets’ owner Bruce Ratner wins his eminent domain battle to evict homeowners and build his Atlantic Yards empire in Brooklyn. Got news for you, Brucie. Brooklynites aren’t dummies and won’t soon be drawn to that mess you call a basketball team. If you build it, they won’t come unless you can play.

MultiFamilyInvestor, Atlantic Yards One Step Closer To Compromised Development

Ratner’s optimism does not entirely reflect the realities on the ground: He and Goldman Sachs must complete a bond sale by December 31 to qualify for tax-free financing. tax-free bonds to be approved as part of a complex financing agreement meant to skirt federal laws intended to bar many stadiums and arenas from using tax-free debt.

Otherwise Forest City Ratner would have to resort to conventional financing, which could be prohibitively expensive.

Runnin' Scared, Helsinki "World Design Capital" for 2012; New York Lags Badly

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design has announced at their World Design Congress that Helsinki is the "World Design Capital" for 2012. Fast Company has a nice photo series of design highlights from the Finnish capital, and they are dazzling.

Eindhoven was the runner-up. There is no mention of New York, which figures. The designation, according to ICSID, is "appointed to cities based on their accomplishments and commitment to design as an effective tool for social, cultural and economic development." Imagine someone walking into their competition with a rendering of the proposed Atlantic Yards, or Marty Markowitz's "Potato Chip" amphitheater design for Asser Levy Park. About the best we can say for ourselves is that our fast food joints are getting slicker.

It's sad to be reminded of it, but people used to look at us in awe. Now New York just gets butt-uglier by the minute.

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter, The story in a nutshell

New York Daily News nailed it with their piece on Dan, Shabnam and Sita.

Please consider sending this story to a friend that might be interested in helping us to tell the story.

We have six days to reach our goal. With yesterday's court loss it is even more important that we get this story told.

Posted by eric at 5:20 PM

Gov. Paterson should tell potential bondholders that Atlantic Yards isn’t too big to fail

NY Fiscal Watch
by Nicole Gelinas

Fresh from a key court victory, Albany’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), via its subsidiary, the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), yesterday approved the issuance of up to $800 million in bonds for the construction of the Atlantic Yards basketball venue, sponsored by developer Bruce Ratner.

What is state and city taxpayers’ obligation here?

As A/Y blogger Norman Oder reports, up to $650 million of the financing would be tax-exempt (meaning that the state and city, as well as the feds, are losing the value of the taxes). The rest would come in taxable bonds.

Technically, the bonds don’t enjoy state backing or ESDC backing. They will rely on revenues for their repayment. Ratner will make “payments in lieu of taxes” for the tax-exempt bonds, and he’ll use money from other arena-related revenues (not well-defined at the moment) to pay back the junior, taxable portion.

ESDC officials said yesterday that the arena will garner investment-grade ratings, but none of the three major ratings agencies has released a report yet.

Are potential investors really counting on the arena’s revenue to be enough?

It’s unclear how much due diligence potential investors can do in a month on a complex financing in an uncertain investment environment that doesn’t offer many comparable benchmarks.

So, perhaps potential investors are counting on something else instead.

The possibility is that bond investors will simply rely on Atlantic Yards being “too big to fail” — that is, they’ll figure that New York State and City have invested so much political capital in the project that they’ll step in to make up for any revenue shortfalls.

Yesterday, ESDC officials didn’t exactly disabuse anyone of this notion, according to Oder’s account.

When a WNYC reporter asked if ESDC would let the bonds default “if Ratner can’t make these payments,” ESDC lawyer Jonathan Beyer said coyly, “I don’t know if I’d characterize it as willing. It’s just that the documents do not require us to make any payments.”


NoLandGrab: Caveat emptor.

Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

From the DDDB press conference: a vow to continue fighting

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on yesterday's Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn press conference, with video by Jonathan Barkey and photos by Tracy Collins.

At Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn press conference yesterday outside Freddy's Bar & Backroom, slated for condemnation, DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein was careful to describe Atlantic Yards as a "proposed project" and to say that "the fight against the abusive, corrupt Atlantic Yards development proposal is far from over."


Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

Brooklyn couple wants Gov. Paterson to stop Ratner's eminent domain win

NY Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez

For the past six years, a perfectly habitable eight-story condo building has stood virtually empty on Pacific St. in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights.

Only one of the building's 31 apartments has been occupied in that time - this in a city with thousands of homeless people and tens of thousands of families doubled up in overcrowded housing.

That lone unit is the home of Dan Goldstein, a thin, 40-year-old graphic designer who has become a hero of this country's property rights movement.

Ever since 2003, Goldstein has doggedly resisted efforts by City Hall, the state government and one of the biggest real estate developers in New York, Bruce Ratner, to seize his home through eminent domain for a huge private development project.

They spoke only hours after the Court of Appeals rejected a suit to halt the project. Some rushed to claim the fight is over, that Ratner has won. Goldstein said he was disappointed, but not about to give up.

Several suits remain, and officials have to go through hearings before they can get a court order to seize properties.

"When Gov. Paterson was a state senator, he called for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain," Goldstein said yesterday. "We're calling on the governor now to stand by his words."


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In column on Goldstein's fight, Daily News's Gonzalez suggests "a slew of politicians" has joined DDDB

From Juan Gonzalez's column in today's New York Daily News about Daniel Goldstein (lead Atlantic Yards plaintiff and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman) and his family, headlined Brooklyn couple wants Gov. Paterson to stop Ratner's eminent domain win:

But Goldstein is still in his condo, living in that dust-filled building.

Only, Goldstein is no longer alone. Thousands of neighborhood residents and a slew of local politicians have joined the nonprofit group he launched to fight Atlantic Yards. The group, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, has become one of the most effective grass-roots efforts this town has seen in a long time.

It's true that DDDB has become an exemplary grass-roots effort, in significant part to Goldstein and his willingness to organize a media strategy.

Local politicians?

But "a slew of local politicians"? Nah. The only local elected officials that have consistently stood with DDDB are City Council Member Letitia James and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

Other politicians, including Assemblymen Jim Brennan and Hakeem Jeffries, yesterday expressed dismay and opposition to the eminent domain ruling. But they haven't steadily joined DDDB but instead have often kept a wary distance.

Posted by eric at 1:09 PM

Ratner says team will move mid-season, but Times says June 2012

Atlantic Yards Report

Developer Bruce Ratner said yesterday in a statement that "the intent [is] that the Nets will play ball in the Barclays Center in the 2011-2012 NBA Season."

The New York Times reported today:

The developer expects that it will take about 28 months to build the arena, enabling the Nets to move from East Rutherford, N.J., to Brooklyn around June 2012.

The season's over by then.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder is discounting the possibility that the (0-14) Nets could, with Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and George Mikan, be headed to the NBA Finals in June of 2012.

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

Nets Have Dug a Big Hole, but Their Foundation Is in Place

The New York Times
by Jonathan Abrams

The Nets have lost their first 14 games in a start that is threatening to make their season irrelevant before the calendar turns to 2010. The long-term future, however, looks a lot brighter.

The final challenge to their plans to build an arena in Brooklyn was denied Tuesday, increasing the likelihood of the Nets’ opening the 2012-13 season there. No matter where they play that season, their two budding stars — Brook Lopez and Devin Harris — give them the building blocks for an improved on-court product.

NoLandGrab: Final challenge? The decision was a blow for project opponents, to be sure, but four lawsuits challenging the project are still unresolved.

New York’s Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge over the use of eminent domain in constructing the long-planned and long-delayed Atlantic Yards project near Brooklyn’s downtown and ushering in a new arena for the Nets.

The ruling was the last major hurdle in the groundbreaking process.

NLG: Last major hurdle? Hardly. Ratner still needs to sell $700 million worth of arena bonds, for which there may not be a market, in the next five weeks.

The present is not quite as promising. Coach Lawrence Frank and the Nets flew to Denver for their game against the Nuggets on Tuesday night barreling toward the worst start in N.B.A. history with a four-game trip in their forecast.

Their 101-87 loss dropped them to 0-14, the effects of a raft of injuries and salary purging over the last two seasons. The trip ends in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Sunday, and if the Nets return home winless, they will have matched the 1988-89 expansion Miami Heat and 1999 Los Angeles Clippers for worst start in league history.

If so, history will not reflect the injuries, the long hours of Frank, whose job is on the line, or the cost-cutting demands from the current owner, Bruce C. Ratner. Instead, the Nets may stand as holders of the league’s worst start if they lose to the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 2.

After Tuesday’s court ruling, the future appears much brighter, but how to bridge that gap is still uncertain. Ratner purchased the franchise in 2003 for $300 million, originally planning to transplant the Nets from New Jersey in time for this season.

NLG: This season? No, when he announced the Atlantic Yards project in 2003, Ratner said the Nets would begin playing in Brooklyn in 2006.


NLG:Could it be that The Times doesn't realize that Bruce C. Ratner runs the company that was the development partner for their eminent domain-abusing headquarters building? They seem to have omitted that fact from this article.

Atlantic Yards Report, No, Ratner didn't buy the Nets in 2003 to move them in 2009

NoLandGrab's Eric McClure reminds us that the original move date was 2006 and also points out some other miscues.

Would you believe that some bloggers in Brooklyn have a heck of a lot more institutional memory than the Paper of Record?

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

From the Times: a misleading "Atlantic Yards" photo, a buffing of "tenacious" Ratner, and no rebuttal to claims of benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

There are some unsurprisingly dismaying aspects to the front-page New York Times article today, headlined in print "Atlantic Yards Wins Appeal To Seize Land" and online as Ruling Lets Atlantic Yards Seize Land.

First, though the article correctly states that the state would exercise eminent domain, the shorthand headline inaccurately casts the inanimate "Atlantic Yards" as the actor.

Public benefit?

Second, the Times quotes developer Bruce Ratner, unrebutted, as saying "“The courts have made it clear that this project represents a significant public benefit for the people of Brooklyn and the entire city.”

The courts have made no such determination. Rather, the Court of Appeals decision issued yesterday was based on a record compiled in 2006 by the Empire State Development Corporation. The assertions in that record have not been vetted by the courts and there's much evidence--such as from the New York City Independent Budget Office--casting doubt on official claims.

"On the railyard"

Third, the original version of the article posted online said that the "arena would be built on an 8.5-acre railyard;" it took several messages to convince the Times to revise that description to "an 8.5-acre railyard and on adjacent property." (That's a basic error the Times has previously corrected.)

Actually, part of the arena would be built over the western segment of that railyard, occupying less than 30% of the total railyard acreage.

Another misleading photo

Fourth, and most important, the Times published a picture (above) of only a fraction of the Vanderbilt Yard, the railyard, and called it Atlantic Yards. The photo covers the railyard and a few buildings between Sixth and Carlton avenues and Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, or Block 1120, outlined in red on the map below left.


NoLandGrab: And this article could be considered error-free compared to the one in The Times' sports section, posted above.

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

Appeals Court Affirms Eminent Domain for Proposed Brooklyn Stadium

Democracy Now!

And in New York, state officials and developers behind a massive stadium project have won a key legal victory to seize private property from Brooklyn residents. On Tuesday, the court of appeals said the state can use eminent domain to seize land planned for the $4.9 billion dollar Atlantic Yards project. Opponents of eminent domain have argued its unconstitutional and lawmakers have faced calls to curb its use. The group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn says it plans to continue its campaign against the proposed stadium.

[Coverage begins at the 8:22 mark]


Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Should the Atlantic Yards project finally go forward?

Crain's NY Business

New York's highest court on Tuesday dismissed a challenge to the use of eminent domain for developer Bruce Ratner to build his $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards redevelopment project in downtown Brooklyn. Mr. Ratner plans to begin selling tax-free bonds next month to help finance an 18,000-seat basketball arena for the NBA's Nets team hopes to occupy in 2012.

Do you think the Atlantic Yards development should begin now?

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Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

Arena bonds authorized, underwriter Goldman confident, but questions remain about rating, insurance, market

Atlantic Yards Report

The news at the meeting yesterday of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) was not that the special-purpose LDC was going to approve bonds for the arena, but the numbers and terms surrounding the bonds.

And several important aspects of the bond sale remain unresolved.

While the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) said in a statement that it had "secured investment-grade ratings" for the arena bonds, the Bond Buyer checked with Standard & Poor's analyst Jodi Hecht, who said no public rating had been made, leading ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston to acknowledge that the ratings had been "tentatively secured." Nor has an interest rate been set.

Also, the bonds do not yet have insurance, a factor that adds a significant safety factor but adds to the cost. Officials of both the BALDC and underwriter Goldman Sachs said that such a "credit enhancement" was under discussion.

Check out the rest of the article, for reporting on the followup questions from the media, including Ted Phillips of Bond Buyer and Matthew Schuerman of from WNYC News Radio.

Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: Morning after news roundup

El Diario La Prenza NY, Luz verde a Nets y Atlantic Yards

La máxima corte de Nueva York falló ayer que el estado puede usar la expropiación forzosa contra los propietarios de viviendas y negocios para dar paso a un proyecto de desarrollo masivo en Brooklyn que incluye una nueva cancha de juego para los New Jersey Nets.

The Wall St. Journal, Builders Net Win in N.Y. Case

The decision is a blow to private-property owners who have argued that they are defenseless in protecting their ownership rights once a government deems their land necessary for eminent domain, or the "public good." But it boosts developers and government entities in New York that have sought to boost local economies by offering incentives for private developers.

The court's decision echoes one handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005, when the justices found it was constitutional for a New London, Conn., economic-development corporation to seize private homes and businesses to build a research campus for Pfizer Inc. That decision, Kelo v. City of New London, Conn., set off a firestorm of protest, prompting many lawmakers around the country to amend laws to prevent governments from seizing private land in some cases. New York, however, didn't change its constitution.

The article includes a video interview with Stephen Moore from the Wall Street Journal editorial board, explaining why this decision is "an abuse of what the eminent domain process was supposed to be about."

The Star-Ledger, Politi: Court ruling only beginning of what could be very long goodbye to NJ Nets

If you thought this latest court ruling meant New Jersey could say goodbye to the Nets, once and for all, a few words of advice:

Don’t start waving just yet, unless you really want to strengthen those wrist muscles.

This is going to be a looong goodbye — assuming, of course, this is really the end.

The Bergen Record, O'Connor: Ratner a winner in court, a loser on one

[W]hile he pours a bottle of champagne over his own head and throws himself a ticker-tape parade from the New York State Court of Appeals to the dormant cranes lurking outside Izod Center, [Bruce] Ratner should know something about this endless journey he took to his Brooklyn Shangri-La.

He paid a heavy price. Ratner will be remembered as a dreadful sports owner, a legacy he won’t be able to wipe out through the sobering powers of eminent domain.

Metro NY, Nets arena jumps legal hurdle

HoopsWorld, Ratner Can Move Forward

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Atlantic Yards ruling: A blow to Sprayregen?

The Columbia Spectator
By Maggie Astor

NY City is rife with eminent domain abuse. Yesterday's NY State high court eminent domain ruling has implications for other cases, including Columbia University's neighborhood-devouring expansion plan, for which, though it is a "City" project, the State has been brought in to do the dirty deed of condemning private property from owners who refuse to be coerced into selling.

From a legal standpoint, it is substantially similar to the Manhattanville issue, with opponents making many of the same arguments to challenge the legitimacy of eminent domain. Opponents of the Manhattanville project claim it does not constitute “public use” as required under eminent domain law, because Columbia is a private institution; they also dispute the state’s designation of the area as “blighted”—in a condition of economic disrepair beyond the potential for relief by natural market forces—which is another requirement for the invocation of eminent domain. Similarly, opponents of the Atlantic Yards project point to the fact that Ratner is a private developer and question the state’s determination of blight. Columbia officials and Ratner counter that while they are private developers, the projects will provide substantial public benefits.


NoLandGrab: The West Harlem case has a leg up on the Brooklyn case, because the plaintiffs have had access to some documents that may back up their view that the project was not motivated by public use. However, the high court in the Brooklyn case ignored many of the petitioners' finer points, which may undermine any legal efforts by NY property owners trying to hold on to their homes and businesses.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

PRESS RELEASE: New York High Court Upholds Eminent Domain for Private Gain

From the Institute for Justice

Arlington, Va.—The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, today announced that it would uphold the decision of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to condemn privately owned homes and small businesses to make way for wealthy developer Bruce Ratner’s so-called “Atlantic Yards” development of 16 mammoth skyscrapers centered around a basketball arena.

“Today’s decision puts homes and businesses throughout New York at risk of condemnation,” said Dana Berliner, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice (IJ), which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. “Courts have a duty to look carefully at the government’s claim that it has the right to take someone’s home or business, and the Court of Appeals has simply refused to do that.”

While upholding the taking, the New York court did not go so far as to embrace the United States Supreme Court’s much-maligned reasoning in the 2005 Kelo v. City of New London case, which held that the U.S. Constitution allows governments to condemn property for economic development alone. Instead, the Court found the takings were for a “public use” because of the ESDC’s determination that the area to be condemned was “blighted”—a determination that was based on a study paid for by the would-be developer and not even initiated until years after the Atlantic Yards project was announced.

In a dissent, Judge Robert Smith excoriated the majority for abandoning its duty to critically examine the ESDC’s assertions. “To let the agency itself determine when the public use requirement is satisfied is to make the agency a judge in its own cause,” Judge Smith wrote. “I think that it is we who should perform the role of judges, and that we should do so by deciding that the proposed taking in this case is not for public use.”

“The developer’s study did not find anything a normal person would call ‘blight,’” explained Berliner. “Instead, it found that the neighborhood was ‘underutilized’—in other words, that the developer could think of bigger things that could be built where these homes and businesses are. If that is all that is necessary for condemnation, then literally every piece of property in New York is at risk.”

The majority’s opinion frankly acknowledges that the court may be opening the door to “political appointees to public corporations relying on studies paid for by developers . . . [as] a predicate for the invasion of property rights and the razing of homes and businesses.” But, it says, preventing such abuses is not the job of the courts, advising New Yorkers to look to their legislature to fix any problems.

“New York is one of only seven states that has failed utterly to pass any kind of eminent-domain reform in the wake of the Kelo decision, and today’s opinion will only make things worse,” said IJ Staff Attorney Robert McNamara. “The state courts are looking to the legislature to fix the problem, while the legislature is apparently looking to the courts. And that means more and more New Yorkers will be looking at condemnation notices.”

“Property rights are as sacred to citizens of New York as they are to Americans nationwide, and New Yorkers have rightly looked to their courts to protect those rights,” concluded IJ President and General Counsel Chip Mellor. “Today’s opinion should be a clarion call to the state legislature that they cannot avoid this issue any longer. Now is the time to give state residents the reform and protections they desperately need.”

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

OFFICIAL STATEMENT: NY State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries

"I am extremely disappointed with the decision of the Court. The power of eminent domain is extraordinary and should only be authorized in limited circumstances where, unlike in this case, there is a clear and robust public benefit. The use of eminent domain to benefit a private developer to build a basketball arena for a team owned by a foreign billionaire is an abuse of this extraordinary power, and I hope that Governor Paterson will choose not to exercise it."

— Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries

Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

November 24, 2009

Court rules against Goldstein et al.

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

It was a depressing shoot this morning. For the last several days I have been to Dan and Shabnam's early in order to shoot as they waited for the verdict on their community's eminent domain case. The NY State Court of Appeals posts decisions at between 8:30 and 9:30. Dan nervously hit refresh on his mouse for minutes at a time waiting for the decision to get posted. At about 3 minutes after 9 today he yelled out, "It's up!" Moments later he flatly stated, "We lost."

There were no tears or hair pulling- there was work to do- press to talk to and a press conference to hold.

He had a press release ready to go win or lose- and lose went right out.

We didn't start this project with a particular beef against eminent domain. We heard about the project and we were curious and started shooting to find out what was going on. What we found out disturbed us. That sense of disturbance has only grown over the course of our shooting.

On the bright side of things- we have spent 6 years shooting and editing to make sure that this story doesn't go unnoticed. We have an incredible film that will shine a bright light on the situation. We also have an incredible community of friends and supporters who have come together to help us get this film made. We have now reached the 50% mark in our funding goal and we have a week to raise the rest.

If the over 200 people that have helped us out can take a moment to tell a few other people about our project we will reach our goal with plenty of time to spare.

While we were hoping that our main characters would prevail in their lawsuit, not only for their sake- but to bring a quick end to our shooting- we also know that this legal outcome makes the film that much more necessary.

Thanks to everyone for all the support.


NoLandGrab: Please help ensure that the story of the Battle of Brooklyn gets told — become a backer of the film today by clicking here.

Posted by eric at 7:02 PM

K-Mart faults Ratner for Nets ills

NY Post Nets Blog
by Fred Kerber

Kenyon Martin admitted he still has some warm feelings for the Nets. No sympathy for tonight when the Nuggets and Nets play, but warm feelings. And he still feels something toward the Nets' soon-to-be-ex-owner Bruce Ratner.

And it's not warm or good.

Ratner, K-Mart said this morning, is why the Nets are a mess right now.


Posted by eric at 6:51 PM

FAQ on the Court of Appeals decision in the Atlantic Yards case

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posted an FAQ on today's state high court ruling.

Basically, one justice agreed with the property owners, two didn't even think that the case belonged in the high court, and nearly all of the petitioners' arguments were ignored, i.e.:

The prize for irony goes to "mild conditions of blight":

From the majority opinion:

The land use improvement plan at issue is not directed at the wholesale eradication of slums, but rather at alleviating relatively mild conditions of urban blight principally attributable to a large and, of course, uninhabited subgrade rail cut.

This raises the question: can't such blight be alleviated in other ways, such as rezoning the land and putting it out for bid?


NoLandGrab: The ruling found that blight conditions on and caused by State property, comprising of one-third of the project site, is ample justification for the State to use eminent domain? This doesn't even pass the smell test.

Posted by lumi at 6:28 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites! P.M. Edition

NY Observer, Prospect Heights Not Dickensian, Still a Slum

The Court of Appeals is not so impressed with Prospect Heights.

Okay, so it's not as bad as a Dickens' Bleak House, the state's highest court admits, but in a majority opinion issued this morning, six of the judges agreed with the state that the neighborhood is blighted, and that Bruce Ratner should be allowed to take whatever land he needs to build the shinier, happier Atlantic Yards development.

Blight's changed, says the court. The petitioners, led by Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, "are doubtless correct that the conditions...do not begin to approach in severity the dire circumstances of urban slum dwelling described by the Muller court in 1936," wrote Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, but he added, it doesn't have to look like the Great Depression to be blight. Nor does it have to look like any of that pre-Depression blight you might have read about. "Of course, none of the buildings are as noisome or dilapidated as those described in Dickens' novels or Thomas Burke's Limehouse stories of the London slums of other days," the court wrote back in the 1950s--in a quote cited by the court.

Meanwhile, on Craig's List, Prospect Height remains "a wonderful sought after area."

Daily Intel, High Court Gives the Go-ahead to Atlantic Yards Seizures

Obviously, some complex constitutional and legal issues were the main concern here, but we wonder whether the court took into consideration that maybe nobody wants to watch the dismal 0–13 Nets play basketball, anyway.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Top Court Upholds Eminent Domain for Atlantic Yards

In its 48-page opinion, the court held that the suit by Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and other property owners should be dismissed because it was filed too late — more than 30 days after the Empire State Development Corporation’s “determination and findings” in favor of the developer, Forest City Ratner.

The court took a jaundiced view of the barrage of lawsuits — at least eight since January 2006 — filed against the project: “What has happened in this case is precisely the result that the Legislature sought to prevent when it enacted the Eminent Domain Procedure Law,” Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wrote — “the sidelining of a public project on account of prolonged litigation.”

Reason Hit & Run, “The majority is much too deferential to the self-serving determination by Empire State Development Corporation”

Not only does this disastrous 6-1 decision put every property holder in the state at risk, it represents the court’s utter failure to serve as an independent tribunal of justice. Rather than judging the facts and, if necessary, voiding an illegal state action, the court punted, arguing that determining whether or not the properties in question were actually blighted—as New York dubiously asserts—is not “primarily a judicial exercise.”

It's a sad day for the New York judiciary when six of the state's seven highest judges can't be bothered to do their basic constitutional duty.

Brownstoner, BREAKING: Goldstein et al Lose Eminent Domain Lawsuit

The ruling means that Ratner may proceed with the sale of tax-exempt bonds to finance the sports arena that is scheduled to be the first stage of the gigantic development. The construction of both affordable and market-rate housing is supposed to begin with months of the arena, but as The New York Times points out this morning, "with so many new apartments sitting vacant, analysts say it could be many years before demand will justify building so many units in one neighborhood."

NBC New York, The Nets Actually Pick Up a Win (In Court)

The Nets may have lost all 13 games they've played so far this season, but they picked up the only kind of court victory they actually care about on Tuesday. The New York State Court of Appeals ruled that the the state can use eminent domain to force tenants out of buildings slated to be used as part of the Atlantic Yards project designed to build the team an arena in downtown Brooklyn.

But those individual battles won't necessarily decide the entire war. The Nets still need to issue tax-exempt bonds before the end of the year to actually get started with construction, and the project's adversaries are still using a four-corner offense, to use basketball parlance, to delay things past that point.

Land Use Prof Blog, Atlantic Yards Wins

Not a great shocker in the result, considering NY's state court precedent on eminent domain, and the fact that New York is one of the only states without any sort of post-Kelo law (purporting) to restrict economic development takings (again, see Ilya Somin's critique of post-Kelo reform attempts). However, this is another high-profile eminent domain case in the books to annoy takings opponents. It may have an effect on public opinion and the feasibility of future large-scale redevelopment projects that require delegation of the government's eminent domain power for private land assembly. Will it add to the impact of the Pfizer pullout in establishing, as the NY Times suggested, a turning point for eminent domain? New London, like Poletown, was a project that may have been doomed from the start. Atlantic Yards is a similar pie-in-the-sky comprehensive redevelopment project, but perhaps it has a better economic foundation, with participation of a major-league sports franchise and its location in the hip borough of Brooklyn. If it fails, it will surely add to the arguments against economic development takings. If it succeeds, it will probably just egg developers on.

If it does proceed, for the sake of Brooklyn I hope that Atlantic Yards will turn out better than New London.

The Volokh Conspiracy, New York Court of Appeals Upholds Atlantic Yards Condemnations

[T]he decision states that courts can only strike down a condemnation if “there is no room for reasonable difference of opinion as to whether an area is blighted.” With respect to any neighborhood, there is nearly always “room for reasonable difference of opinion” as to whether the area is “underdeveloped” relative to some possible alternative uses of the land in question. Defining blight this broadly and then deferring to the government’s determination of whether such “blight” actually exists effectively reads the public use restriction out of the state constitution. I highly doubt that New York state constitutional amendment allowing condemnation of “substandard and insanitary areas” (Article XVIII, Section 1 here) would have passed had it been understood to mean that virtually any area could be declared blighted and condemned.
The case is also significant because it is the first major state supreme court defeat for property rights on a public use issue since Kelo. Over the last 10 years, the tide had been going the other way, with more and more state high courts applying restrictive definitions of “public use” and forbidding economic development takings of the kind upheld in Kelo, including important decisions in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Michigan, among others.

NetsDaily, Court of Appeals Permits Condemnation for Barclays Center

In a 6-1 decision, the New York Court of Appeals has turned down critics’ arguments that the state’s Empire State Development Corp. violated New York’s constitution in pursuing eminent domain to acquire land for Atlantic Yards, including Barclays Center. The ruling means the ESDC will now be free to begin condemnation proceedings against landowners. There is no appeal to the US Supreme Court.

NBC New York, Latest Legal Obstacle at Atlantic Yards Project Cleared

"They have won round one, and we still have round two to go," Brinckerhoff said. "I think everybody believes that they need to do a number of things by the end of the year, and where exactly this fits into that process I'm not sure. But the fact that they haven't yet taken the properties can't be helping them."

Dome Pondering, Taking Care of The Real People That Build These Stadiums

I understand the power of sport and business. I definitely do.

However, sports are just an avenue of entertainment and enjoyment. A mere means of theatrics, thrill, and emotion that remove us from the on-going struggle of everyday life. Sports, however, are in no way an essential part of life.

Even as an admitted fanatic of the New York Yankees and New York Knicks, I understand that as rich in history as the two franchises and their two home facilities in Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden are (or have been), they are not as important as the important things in life. They are not as important as life.

With that understanding, is why I cannot understand the constant movement for the Atlantic Yards project here in Brooklyn, NY.

With all of the perks and benfits now reduced to just a basketball and event arena, is this project even worth it?

Orange Juice, Major Court Ruling Property rights decision...Atlantic Yards

What a sad property rights update two days before Thanksgiving.

We just celebrated Veterans Day to honor those patriotic Americans, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom abroad while we are losing it right in our own back yards.

Government agencies using their “police powers” of eminent domain to take our homes and businesses when we have no desire to sell.

The AM Law Litigation Daily, New York High Court Dismisses Eminent Domain Challenge to Atlantic Yards Complex

Is there a more contentious development project in the United States than the proposed $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards housing-stadium-office mexa-plex near downtown Brooklyn?

Posted by eric at 6:11 PM

FOREST CITY RATNER PRESS RELEASE: FCRC Statement on NYS Court of Appeals Ruling on Eminent Domain Lawsuit Filed by Opponents of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn

Courts Again Side with Atlantic Yards: Jobs and Affordable Housing to Come to Brooklyn

BROOKLYN, NY—Bruce Ratner, CEO and Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, issued the following statement today regarding the NYS Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

The Court's ruling upholds the State’s right to use eminent domain given the public benefits associated with the Atlantic Yards Development in Brooklyn.

“Once again the courts have made it clear that this project represents a significant public benefit for the people of Brooklyn and the entire City,” Mr. Ratner said. “Our commitment to the entire project is as strong today as when we started six years ago. Today, however, this project is even more important given the need for jobs and economic development.”

Mr. Ratner said construction activity on the yards will continue, with the intent that the Nets will play ball in the Barclays Center in the 2011-2012 NBA Season.

In addition to Barclays, which has the exclusive naming rights, eight companies have signed on as founding partners for the arena.

The courts have ruled consistently in favor of the development. Mr. Ratner explained as well that the arena and larger development are expected to create 16,924 union construction jobs and over 8,000 permanent jobs. The tax revenues that will be generated for the City and State during the construction period are expected to exceed $240 million and after construction reach approximately $70 million a year.

NoLandGrab: 8,000 permanent jobs?! That number is only inflated about three times over from the latest plan, and without the proposed office tower — Ratner himself asked a Crain's reporter a few weeks ago "can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?" — the true number is likely fewer than 1,000.

Posted by eric at 2:50 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Here's a round-up of stories from the mainstream media and blogosphere pertaining to this morning's New York State Court of Appeals ruling on the permissibility of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

The New York Times, Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn Clears Legal Hurdle

The last major obstacle to a groundbreaking for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn fell Tuesday when New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, dismissed a challenge to the state’s use of eminent domain on behalf of the developer, Bruce C. Ratner.

Mr. Ratner, whose 22-acre development has been delayed for three years by a flurry of lawsuits, the collapse of the credit and real estate markets and a glut of luxury housing, plans to begin selling tax-free bonds next month to finance the development’s cornerstone project: an 18,000-seat basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues near downtown.

If construction begins in the coming weeks as expected, Atlantic Yards will stand out in a city where 530 different construction projects are stalled, sitting lifeless and without adequate financing in virtually every neighborhood.

NY Observer, Atlantic Yards Passes State’s Top Court

More than three years after a legal battle over property takings in Brooklyn began, it's now come to a close.

Now the state, at the request of the project's developer, Forest City Ratner, is likely to move forward on acquiring the property of the holdout landowners and tenants, a relatively small handful of individuals who have been waging this legal fight since 2006. The takings, and the project as a whole, depend on Forest City hit Dec. 31 deadline to get financing for the arena.

New York is one of just a handful of states that did not add restrictions to the use of eminent domain after the Kelo v. New London case of 2005. That case has made the news once again recently, as Pfizer, which built a facility in New London, Ct. that helped spur the city's use of eminent domain, is pulling out of the area. A large development site near the drug giant's facility still sits vacant.

WNYC Radio, Top Court Upholds Use of Eminent Domain on Atlantic Yards Project

In a 6-to-1 decision handed down this morning, the Court of Appeals ruled against property owners and businesses in the development's footprint in Brooklyn. A majority of the judges said that the area was sufficiently blighted to justify the state's use of eminent domain.

One judge, Robert Smith, dissented, arguing that blight was never a "bona fide purpose" for the development but instead a justification invented after the project was conceived.

The Brooklyn Paper, Rejection! State’s highest court turns aside anti-Yards case

The Court of Appeals ruling, written by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and joined by five colleagues, affirmed that the state’s use of its condemnation power to clear land on behalf of a private developer, is “in conformity with certain provisions of our State Constitution.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Talkin’ Takings, Part I: The Atlantic Yards Decision

Almost every Brooklynite you talk to has a fairly strong opinion about the Atlantic Yards project. Many shudder to think about the traffic and congestion that might beset downtown Brooklyn after all is up and running — and the Nets are over there, possibly losing games by the dozens (not to mention the displacement of many local residents). Others like the thought of the borough reclaiming is place as major-league in its own right, separate and apart from its flashier brother just to the west. Reaching full consensus on the Atlantic Yards project? As one might say in the rest of the country: Please forget all about that.

In any event, the New York state Court of Appeals handed down its long-awaited ruling on the project Tuesday morning, holding it lawful a state economic development agency to seize private land to build an arena.

NY Daily News, State's highest court allows Bruce Ratner to proceed with plans to develop Atlantic Yards

In a statement, Ratner said, "The courts have made it clear that this project represents a significant public benefit," Ratner said. "Our commitment to the entire project is as strong today as when we started six years ago."

Construction will continue, said Ratner, who said he expects the Nets will begin playing at the new arena for the 2011-2012 season.

AP, Court: NY can seize property for new NJ Nets arena

Reuters, NY top court rules for state in Atlantic Yards case

Ratner must start building the arena before the end of 2009 or he will lose out on $700 million of low-cost tax-free debt. Ratner still faces another lawsuit over whether the state mass transit agency sold the site for too low a price.

NorthJersey.com, Court ruling sends Atlantic Yards project forward

“It may be that the bar has now been set too low — that what will now pass as ‘blight’ … should not be permitted to constitute a predicate for the invasion of property rights and the razing of homes and businesses,” Lippman wrote.

But he added that limitations on eminent domain would be “the province of the legislature” and not the courts, except in extreme circumstances.

NoLandGrab: If Atlantic Yards doesn't count as "extreme circumstances," we're not going to hold our breath.

Crain's NY Business, Atlantic Yards developer gets OK to take land

But the politicians and community groups that have been fighting the development have vowed to continue their quest to kill the project. The court decision cannot be appealed, but there are at least four other suits pending against the project, which is slated to include sixteen towers of mostly residential units although a hotel and office building are also possible. However, legal experts said the eminent domain suit posed the greatest threat to the project.

Gothamist, Appeals Court Clears Way For Atlantic Yards

NY1, Court Rules Eminent Domain Can Be Used On Atlantic Yards Project

NY Law Journal, Atlantic Yards Project Clears Major Hurdle As Court of Appeals Upholds Use of Eminent Domain

Four of the seven judges, in a majority ruling by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, said the state had sufficiently shown that the project area containing the private parcels was "blighted" and subject to condemnation under the state Constitution, although Judge Lippman conceded that definitions of urban blight that were established during the Great Depression may have to be updated.

Judges Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Theodore T. Jones and Victoria A. Graffeo joined in the majority ruling.


With the start of the season Mark and I have been really focused on the games, so focused in fact, that there has been little attention paid to some of the off-the-court stuff happening with the Nets. Today, however, something happened that can’t really be ignored. In a 6-1 decision, the New York Court of Appeals has turned down critics’ arguments that the state’s Empire State Development Corp. violated New York’s constitution in pursuing eminent domain to acquire land for Atlantic Yards, including Barclays Center.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Opponents Lose Challenge Over Eminent Domain

In a statement, Tenacious B said, "Once again the courts have made it clear that this project represents a significant public benefit for the people of Brooklyn and the entire City. Our commitment to the entire project is as strong today as when we started six years ago. Today, however, this project is even more important given the need for jobs and economic development." He also reinforced his claim that the NBA's Nets will lose horribly play in the new Barclays Center in the 2011-2012 season.

Bloomberg News, New York May Take Atlantic Yards Property, Court Says

Andrew Brent, a spokesman for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Morgan Hook, a spokesman for New York Governor David Paterson, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

Reason Hit & Run, New York's Highest Court Upholds Eminent Domain Abuse

Very bad news out of Albany this morning: New York’s Court of Appeals has just upheld the state’s controversial use of eminent domain on behalf of real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

The Architect's Newspaper, Down to the Wire

Atlantic Yards opponents may have lost another battle in their war with Forest City Ratner as the state's highest court ruled against them today in a case challenging the use of eminent domain for the massive arena-and-condos project in Brooklyn. But with barely a month left to issue tax-exempt bonds on which the SHoP- and Ellerbe Becket-designed arena rely, the opponents knock-down, dragged-out legal strategy may have won the war.

A special bond authority created by the Empire State Development Corporation is set to begin proceedings to issue those bonds at a 10:00 a.m. meeting today, and now will have some breathing room, given the court's decision. As has long been the case with the opponent's challenges to eminent domain, the majority, in their decision took many issues with the process but ultimately found that it was not their place to overrule the legislature.

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

DDDB: new lawsuit coming because court refused to consider revised project

Atlantic Yards Report

From a statement from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

"We are disappointed, but undeterred. We lost this round, but the legal fight is not over. My clients will continue to resist Ratner's efforts to steal their homes and businesses in the New York courts," said lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady. "Because the Court of Appeals made it clear that it considered itself 'bound' by the self-serving record created by the Empire State Development Corporation prior to its December 2006 public use finding, and thus refused to consider the events leading up to the ESDC's adoption of a modified general project plan two months ago, we now intend to commence a new lawsuit seeking to compel the ESDC to issue new or amended public use findings.


Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

Court of Appeals upholds AY eminent domain 6-1

Atlantic Yards Report

In a decision (PDF) that gives the crucial--but perhaps not final--boost to the Atlantic Yards project, the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, approved the use of eminent domain by a 6-1 margin, saying that it's not the role of the courts to intervene in agency decisions, given the wide latitude in state law to decide on blight.

The case, which involves nine petitioners (homeowners, commercial property owners, and residential and commercial renters) is known as* Goldstein, et al. vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a/ Empire State Development Corporation* (or ESDC).

Project backers had long expressed confidence about the result, given the state court's general deference to agency decisionmaking, but the court's willingness to accept the case in the first place--the Appellate Division had unanimously upheld the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in the first round--had left some room for ambiguity.

Moreover, two of the seven judges seemed skeptical of the ESDC during the oral argument October 14, though the judges spent the most time on procedural issues and the attorney for the nine petitioners faced similar skepticism. One of those judges, Robert Smith, filed a blistering dissent that stated:

[T]he majority is much too deferential to the self-serving determination by Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that petitioners live in a "blighted" area, and are accordingly subject to having their homes seized and turned over to a private developer.

...It is clear to me from the record that the elimination of blight, in the sense of substandard and unsanitary conditions that present a danger to public safety, was never the bona fide purpose of the development at issue in this case.

No bar to groundbreaking

Developer Forest City Ratner still must get arena bonds sold by the end of the month, and they may be hampered by the remaining cloud of litigation and the lowered market for sports facilities, but this was the largest roadblock, and there is no bar to a promised groundbreaking in the next month or so.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which organized and funded the lawsuit (and whose spokesman, Daniel Goldstein, was the lead plaintiff), said it would file a new lawsuit because the court ruled only on the record from 2006, which promised much greater benefits than are now likely.

Forest City Ratner issued a statement:

“Once again the courts have made it clear that this project represents a significant public benefit for the people of Brooklyn and the entire City,” Mr. [Bruce] Ratner said. “Our commitment to the entire project is as strong today as when we started six years ago. Today, however, this project is even more important given the need for jobs and economic development.”

Mr. Ratner said construction activity on the yards will continue, with the intent that the Nets will play ball in the Barclays Center in the 2011-2012 NBA Season.

The ESDC issued a statement:

“Today the State's highest court, like every other court that has considered the issue, upheld the use of eminent domain to facilitate development of the Atlantic Yards Project. Empire State Development is as committed as ever to seeing the completion of this Project. With this major hurdle overcome, we can now move forward with development which will accomplish its goals of eliminating blight, and bringing transportation improvements, an arena, open space, affordable housing and thousands of jobs to the people of Brooklyn and the State of New York.”

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz issued a statement:

"The ruling by the State Court of Appeals reinforces previous decisions supporting the numerous public benefits of the Atlantic Yards project—during these difficult economic times and into Brooklyn’s bright future—including the creation of affordable housing, solid union jobs and permanent employment opportunities for Brooklynites who need work. Today’s decision from our state’s highest court marks what amounts to the final step in the legal process to make it happen. Finally, we will bring a national professional sports team and a world-class facility back to our borough after 52 years! Brooklyn’s shovels are, and have been, ready. So, let’s pick them up and get to work!”

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries issued a statement:

"I am extremely disappointed with the decision of the Court. The power of eminent domain is extraordinary and should only be authorized in limited circumstances where, unlike in this case, there is a clear and robust public benefit. The use of eminent domain to benefit a private developer to build a basketball arena for a team owned by a foreign billionaire is an abuse of this extraordinary power, and I hope that Governor Paterson will choose not to exercise it."


Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Constrained Court Rules Against Property Owners and Tenants in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

Despite Ruling, Fight Against Ratner's Brooklyn Project Is Far From Over

BROOKLYN, NY — New York's high court ruled today against property owners and tenants who had challenged the state's use of eminent domain to seize their homes and businesses for the enrichment of developer Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

In the 6-1 decision the Court of Appeals ruled that the state agency's determination to take the plaintiffs property had a rational basis under state law.

Today, November 24, at 12:30pm plaintiffs, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, members of the community, attorneys and elected officials will hold a press conference about the ruling and the fight against Atlantic Yards. The press conference will be held in front of Freddy's Bar in Brooklyn at 485 Dean Street at the corner of 6th Avenue. (Directions, 2/3 train to Bergen St, or B,D,Q,N,4,5 to Pacific/Atlantic.)

"The fight against the Atlantic Yards project is far from over. The community has four outstanding lawsuits against the project and, meanwhile, the arena bond financing clock ticks louder and louder for Ratner. While this is a terrible day for taxpaying homeowners in New York, this is not the end of our fight to keep the government from stealing our homes and businesses,” said Develop Don't Destroy spokesman and lead plaintiff Daniel Goldstein. "Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg now need to decide if they want their legacy to be the next New London—a dust bowl in the heart of Brooklyn caused by the abuse of eminent domain, because that will be the outcome if they allow the property seizures and final clearance for Ratner's unfeasible project."

"We are disappointed, but undeterred. We lost this round, but the legal fight is not over. My clients will continue to resist Ratner's efforts to steal their homes and businesses in the New York courts," said lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady. "Because the Court of Appeals made it clear that it considered itself 'bound' by the self-serving record created by the Empire State Development Corporation prior to its December 2006 public use finding, and thus refused to consider the events leading up to the ESDC's adoption of a modified general project plan two months ago, we now intend to commence a new lawsuit seeking to compel the ESDC to issue new or amended public use findings. It would be perverse and unfair if my clients homes and businesses were confiscated based on circumstances that no longer exist. At the same time, we will also vigorously defend the cases that the State will now file seeking to seize my clients' properties, which is the second barrier that Ratner and the ESDC must now attempt to overcome."


"While we are deeply disappointed in the Court's decision, our fight against the government's abuses on Ratner's behalf continues, and we expect to defeat Atlantic Yards through political and legal means", said Develop Don't Destroy legal director Candace Carponter. "It now falls to Governor Paterson to guarantee, through a binding legal contract, which the State would be required to enforce, that all the developer's promises about the project—including all of the ‘affordable' housing and the ten year construction timeline—are fulfilled. If the Governor is unable to do that, he is duty-bound to abandon this ill-fated project, and start over so the rail yards can be developed properly and realistically."

In 2005, in the wake of the Supreme Court's widely despised Kelo decision that expanded the reach of eminent domain, then-Senator David Paterson called for a state-wide blanket moratorium on the use of eminent domain.

"Governor Paterson needs to ask himself what happened to Senator Paterson's position on eminent domain. And then he needs to act on his principles," Carponter concluded.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

New York State Court of Appeals rules against Atlantic Yards footprint property owners

The New York State Court of Appeals handed up a ruling this morning In the Matter of Daniel Goldstein, et al. v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, d/b/a Empire State Development Corporation.

The court ruled 6-1 in favor of the State, permitting the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project under New York State law.

Click here to download a PDF of the 60-page decision. Much more to follow.

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

With decision in eminent domain case possible on same day arena bonds are authorized, it could be an interesting Tuesday

Atlantic Yards Report


By about 9:20 am today, we should know whether the Court of Appeals has ruled in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

If there's no ruling, then the 10 am meeting of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation to authorize arena bonds should be relatively uneventful--except, of course, for the details to be revealed about the mix between tax-exempt and taxable bonds, as well as whether they're to be used for infrastructure.
If the ruling is in favor of the state, then likely there will be a collective sigh of relief among those running the hearing, even if other lawsuits and the challenge of selling bonds in the current market represent potential snags.

And if the ruling turns out to be in favor of the plaintiffs, then expect a rather surreal meeting. Atlantic Yards would have been dealt a near-fatal blow.


ArtInfo, Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project Awaits Judges’ Ruling

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

Sometimes Sports Stadiums and Arenas Are Worth A Lot Less Than the Public Pays For Them: No Silverdome Lining to Gathering Economic Clouds

Noticing New York

In the wake of the announcement that the City of Pontiac just auctioned off the Silverdome for a mere $583K (a fraction of what it took to build it), the State of NY is poised to approve the issuing of arena bonds for Bruce Ratner's "new off-the-tax-rolls Nets basketball arena that is already calculated by the NYC Independent Budget Office to be a $220 [million] net loss to the public."

According to the Detroit News... the arena was “once called the most desirable property in Oakland County” and a quoted realty firm says the land itself “should have gone for more than that.” Apparently the arena was not considered worth its upkeep and the city of Pontiac was desperate to get the property “back on the tax rolls.” Sports stadiums and arenas on the tax rolls? There’s a novel concept that spendthrift New York City seems is absolutely unfamiliar with!
Considering the Silverdome fiasco, we here in New York we can’t help but think of our own wasteful stadiums and arenas that are taking property off the tax rolls and giving less than nothing in return.
This is a very clear warning: The mysterious value of team spirit sports euphoria that cannot, and generally is not, economically quantified is in all likelihood economic value that just doesn’t exist at all. The overall lesson to be learned is how these sports stadium and arena deals terrifically shortchange the public with stadiums and arenas that have very low true economic value.


Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

Is the closure of Fifth Avenue coming?

Atlantic Yards Report

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Update, Weeks beginning November 23 and November 30:

The traffic and pedestrian safety barriers along the north side of Flatbush Avenue and Block 1118 for sewer installation is complete for the current phase of the work. Additional protection will be installed to modify traffic in 5th Avenue upon approval from the Department of Transportation.

The Department of Transportation first tried to close Fifth Avenue in May 2007, planning to revise service on the northbound B63 bus route.


Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

Fill in the blank: "Atlantic Yards is _________."

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

This stretch of Atlantic Avenue would be the northern edge of proposed Atlantic Yards project footprint and the Barclays Center arena. The buildings in the distance would be demolished.

I don't know who put these up, but I like the informal Atlantic Yards poll. With 33% of locations reporting as of this afternoon, "POOP" and "ALMOST DEAD" are tied.


Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

NJ Nyets: ownership bashing

The delirious pile of criticism for the NJ Nets continues, with no one to blame but team owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner:

The Houston Chronicle, 0-82 season awaits hapless, ailing Nets

In the shadow of the George Washington Bridge, near an off-ramp of the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Nets are on the toll road to NBA history. In their sights is the league's worst record ever, and, with a little less effort, they could go winless.

At the moment, the Nets are 0-13.

After studying their schedule closely, I have determined it is possible — make that likely — the Nets will go 0-82.
Bruce Ratner, the Nets' principal owner, recently sold 80 percent of the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov, I am told, plans to auction off all the team's assets and convert the arena into in-laws' quarters.

If he keeps the team intact, he might want to think about an “82 Is Enough” promotion.

Examiner.com, Frank shouldn't take the fall for Nets' struggles

If the New Jersey Nets return home from the upcoming west-coast trip at 0-17, head coach Lawrence Frank might not find himself in position to take the next team trip.
In fairness to the Nets, the team has gone downhill ever since Kenyon Martin was jettisoned off to Denver. Owner Bruce Ratner looked at the Nets as a business opportunity, not a championship team. After trying to move the team for years and failing, he is now openly trying to sell the team to Mikhail Prokhorov.

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

November 23, 2009

After Rowdy Atlantic Yards Hearings, a Senate Bill to Punish Heckling

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Back in May, at a state Senate hearing on the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project planned for Brooklyn, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery started to launch into criticism of a fellow senator, Marty Golden.

Ms. Montgomery tried to scold him for disrespecting her in her own district, but she was unable to utter more than a few audible words. Despite holding a microphone to her mouth, the union workers, on hand to show support for the controversial project that eventually might promise work for them, booed, yelled and blew loud whistles until the senator stopped talking.

Ms. Montgomery apparently was not amused.

On Friday, she introduced legislation in Albany that seeks to cut down on such outbursts, barring the employer of anyone disrupting public meetings from bidding on any public contracts for five years, and allowing the state to drop those contracts still in progress.

What's a disruption?

From the bill text:

Disorderly, contemptuous, or insolent behavior, committed during a public hearing, in its immediate view and presence, and directly tending to interrupt its proceedings.


NoLandGrab: No word as to whether or not it will be known as "Bender's Law," after Forest City Ratner operative Bruce Bender, who was clearly the orchestrator of the disruptions at the May 29th State Senate hearing.

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Montgomery proposes bill to enforce public meeting decorum; why not just simply empower security guards and cops?

I think there's a much simpler solution: announce and enforce rules of decorum. Too often at public meetings related to Atlantic Yards that basic responsibility has been ignored. At the state Senate hearing, someone in charge--either the host Pratt Institute or the hearing chair, Senator Bill Perkins, or both--should have kept order.

And at the 8/23/06 public hearing held by the Empire State Development Corporation, many people talked past their three-minute limit, leading to heckling--and counter-heckling. Several people criticized the ESDC's management of the hearing. Only at the follow-up community forums was the time limit enforced by cutting off the speaker's microphone.

And during the public hearing this past July, security guards and cops were quick to maintain order.

Posted by eric at 9:39 PM

Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association Meeting, 2004

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

In 2004, the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association held a meeting to hear from the city: Hardy Adasko of NYC's Economic Development Association and Winston Von Engel of the Department of City Planning were on hand to try to explain what was going to happen with the Atlantic Yards Proposal and why the city was not going to be involved.

This is from an older cut and now an abbreviated version appears as part of a montage focusing on Daniel getting more personally involved in the fight.


NoLandGrab: The filmmakers behind Battle of Brooklyn are just a whisker short of half way to their goal of raising $25,000 toward finishing the film, with eight days left to qualify for $25,000 in matching funds. C'mon folks — we don't want our pledge returned. Help put them over the top today!

Posted by eric at 9:25 PM


Weeks beginning November 23, 2009 and November 30, 2009

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner provide the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities.

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions. All work has been approved by appropriate City and State agencies where required. In addition to the activities described below noise attenuation and vibration monitoring measures are underway in connection with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments dated 12/08/06.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our project Ombudsperson at: 212-803-3233 or AtlanticYards@empire.state.ny.us

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Installation of two stair towers from Pacific St down to Yard level. One in BL1120 and one in BL1121

  • Testing and Commissioning of Yard in progress

  • Installation of Lighting

  • Completion of Hot Water Heater / Shed

  • Completion of Temp Yard Punchlist

  • Removal of old Track in BL1119 and BL1120

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

Environmental Remediation

  • The environmental consultant will begin shallow excavation and drilling to test and classify soils in blocks 1127 and 1119. Work will continue on these blocks and 1118 for 3 months. This is prep work required in advance of any actual removal of soil from the site.


  • Infrastructure work related to installation of new sewer chambers at the intersection of 6th Avenue at Pacific Street is complete. Infrastructure work related to the installation of new a water main along the east side of Flatbush Avenue is complete.

  • The traffic and pedestrian safety barriers along the north side of Flatbush Avenue and Block 1118 for sewer installation is complete for the current phase of the work. Additional protection will be installed to modify traffic in 5th Avenue upon approval from the Department of Transportation.

  • The contractor commenced pile drilling, excavation work, and pipe and chamber installation on Blocks 1127 and 1118 in connection with sewer installation. Work will continue for 5 to 6 months.

  • During the course of this work, the contractor may encounter unforeseen underground storage tanks or other structures. In the event that this happens and where appropriate, notification will be given to the DEC and remediation steps were implemented.


  • The Abatement contractor began installation of scaffolding in preparation for the removal of asbestos at the roof at 475 Dean Street.

  • The Abatement and Demolition contractor will install sidewalk protection as required by the Department of Buildings in preparation for the removal of asbestos and demolition of 648 Pacific Street. The start of this work is dependent upon approvals by the Department of Buildings.

  • The Abatement contractor will install sidewalk protection as required by the Department of Buildings in preparation for the removal of asbestos and demolition of 467 Dean Street. The start of this work is dependent upon approvals by the Department of Buildings.

Posted by eric at 9:19 PM

Fate of Atlantic Yards project remains unclear

by John Brennan

The fate of the $5 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will not be known until tomorrow at the earliest.

The New York Court of Appeals' list of rulings today did not include a decision on the validity of the state's use of eminent domain to facilitate the construction of Atlantic Yards, which would include a new arena for the New Jersey Nets as well as thousands of condominiums near downtown Brooklyn.

The court may release its decision tomorrow; if not, the next scheduled date for rulings is Tuesday, Dec. 1.


NoLandGrab: In the words of the legendary Magic 8-Ball, "Ask again later."

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

No eminent domain decision today

Atlantic Yards Report

The state Court of Appeals issued a list of decisions today, but the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case was not included. Stay tuned for tomorrow.


Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Sportswriters blame Nets' 0-13 start mostly on Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Blame Bruce (mostly), say sportswriters assessing the New Jersey Nets' 0-13 start, which has been exacerbated by injuries to key players.

Of course, those taking the long view suggest that the Nets, assuming a new owner, a new arena, and a free agent signing to add to a reasonable core of players (when healthy), could turn around in a couple of years.


NoLandGrab: That's assuming a lot. Given a wise Court of Appeals decision, a new administration in City Hall, a new development (UNITY) Plan, and new developers, something good could be erected over the Vanderbilt Yard, too.

Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

West coast trip brings week of reckoning for NJ Nets coach Lawrence Frank

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

As this silly season drags on, [Lawrence Frank's] job becomes less relevant. Everyone knew all along that he was set up to fail. Everyone knew they told him he’d have the pieces to compete – until they decided not to touch the roster or spend a dime after draft night. Everyone knew they told him he can choose who gets to play, until they told him who has to play. Everyone knew they told him it that wins really wouldn’t matter – until they would matter. Everyone knew they told him he’d learn to live without Vince, but that he should still figure out how to win a two-minute game without his only closer.

Sometimes you even wonder whether having a coach even matters around here.

Because if [Rod] Thorn is honest about why they’re in this ditch, he’ll admit that it’s ownership – not the coach – who has ordered him to sit on his wallet and dump his best players for inferior or less durable talents.

It’s ownership – not the coach – that has this team entombed in a cement slab on the side of a highway rather than a vibrant, state-of-the-sport facility that could actually generate some excitement.

And it’s ownership – not the coach -- that is messing with Thorn’s legacy, and don’t think that part doesn’t irritate everyone who reveres The Boss inside the organization and around the NBA.


NoLandGrab: And it's ownership that is... Bruce Ratner!

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

Bloomberg architecture critic Russell: "Ratner won’t keep any promises that prove inconvenient"

Atlantic Yards Report

Yet another architecture critic has slammed the new design for the Atlantic Yards arena and offered some (misplaced) nostalgia for the forsaken Frank Gehry plan.

Still, James S. Russell, the critic for Bloomberg, grasps a fundamental issue that has eluded too many observers: "[Developer Bruce] Ratner won’t keep any promises that prove inconvenient."


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

On Forest City Ratner's monopolies and "the next great site in Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

To Michael White's very interesting Noticing New York piece on Forest City Ratner's efforts to corner a monopoly on prime Brooklyn land, let me remind readers that Chuck Ratner, CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises, on 9/9/05 told investment analysts:

"I will confess that it was less than two or three years ago we were sitting around in New York wondering where the next deals were going to come from. We had finished a whole bunch of office and we completed MetroTech and we didn't have the next great site in Brooklyn. That was one of the reasons we got so aggressive and creative, Bruce and his team did in this Atlantic Yards project. We saw that land sitting there for this last 10 years, realizing it would be a great opportunity if somebody could turn it on."


Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Arena Awaits Judges’ Ruling, Bond Sale

By James Russell

The financing for Bruce Ratner's arena at Atlantic Yards is in limbo while legal hurdles remain. Meanwhile, Bloomberg's architecture critic piles on the criticism of the slap-dash arena design :

Court rulings could come as early as this week and will likely determine whether the development moves forward or sinks into limbo.

The project has already changed drastically for the worse. It was once a glittering Gehry blueprint that would have covered the rail yards with a glass-walled arena and sprouted 16 towers wrapped in fluttering ribbons of metal and glass.

As the climate for property development went frigid, Ratner dumped Gehry and brought in a sports-design specialist, the San Francisco office of architect/engineer Ellerbe Becket Co., which was recently bought by design giant AECOM Technology Corp.

When images of the revised arena project -- a bloated, brown airplane hangar -- were greeted with revulsion, Forest City Ratner disavowed them. The developer hastily married Manhattan-based SHoP Architects with Ellerbe Becket. SHoP wrapped the brown blight in a pelt the color of rusting steel. The gambit got the arena cost down to $800 million from $1 billion, according to Forest City Ratner.

The result still smacks of hack expediency. One of SHoP’s overlapping metal bands thins as it arches into a broad porch over a bleak plaza, where Gehry had planned to build a high, glass-walled public space. Instead we would have a toad hunkering at one of the most important intersections in Brooklyn, that of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

Fans would stand soaking on the plaza on rainy days. The broad cineplex-look entry awkwardly squeezes into a much tighter gathering space and concourse. The secondary entrances have shrunk to the size of subway holes.

The spacious yet largely useless plaza and the beaklike porch occupy land slated in the Gehry plan for an iconic commercial tower once dubbed Miss Brooklyn. Ratner has promised the tower will be built. That means lopping off the beak, which would destroy what little integrity the design possesses.
Brooklyn might have been proud of the Gehry arena. Swapping it for a life-sucking eyesore suggests that Ratner won’t keep any promises that prove inconvenient.


Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Arena bonds authorization coming Tuesday: questions about transparency, PILOTs, and infrastructure spending remain

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder explains how the State of NY will approve the triple tax-free arena bonds on Tuesday, without releasing deatils beforehand and allowing for a public hearing and comment, and how various City and State agencies will have to fudge property tax estimates in order to save Bruce Ratner's as much money as possible.


Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Why the Nets are where they are today

By Al Iannazzone

The numero uno reason that the 0-13 Nets suck this year is...

Bruce Ratner: Nice man, but his interests were in real estate opportunities and buildings, not building a championship team. He bought a contender and kept cutting payroll instead of letting Rod Thorn add quality pieces that could Nets over the top.


NoLandGrab: We wouldn't accuse Bruce of being a "nice man," since actions speak louder than words.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

November 22, 2009

A collection of writings from Times architecture critic Muschamp omits his Atlantic Yards embarassment

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at what is missing from a new collection of Herbert Muschamp pieces.

The new collection Hearts of the City: The Selected Writings of Herbert Muschamp memorializes the late New York Times architecture critic (who died in 2007) in 912 pages.

Guess what: his error-filled, cheerleading 12/11/03 appraisal of Atlantic Yards, headlined Courtside Seats to an Urban Garden, is not included.

A look back at that ill-informed review:

But sometimes Muschamp got Gehry wrong. That shouldn't be lost to history, especially since developer Forest City Ratner was quick to use Muschamp's praise in its first mailer (aka "liar flier") to Brooklynites.That praise--"A Garden of Eden grows in Brooklyn"--was presented as the voice of the Times, not its Gehry-besotted architecture critic.

Muschamp's extravagant review was off-base--no, the site was not an "open railyard;" no, there was not to be "parkland;" no, the Atlantic Yards differed significantly from Battery Park City. Worse, Muschamp mooned over the rooftop open public space, but that space was quickly turned private.

Though Gehry was used to sell the project to the public--remember Kurt Andersen's interview with Bruce Ratner--Gehry was later bounced from the arena and the project.

So the Urban Room Muschamp praised is no longer a feature of the arena block until and unless an office building--for which there is now no market--is built. And the idea that "the stadium [sic] will be tucked into the urban fabric" is also scotched, because it's highly unlikely that the arena, if built, would soon be wrapped in four towers as Gehry intended.

A conclusion is drawn from a review in Architect magazine by Clay Risen, who believes regarding Muschamp that "His real project was to document the imprint left on late-century urban life by gay culture."

The story of this struggle—between corporatized urban spaces and the new urban flowering seeded by gay urban pioneers, between soulless Postmodernism and the humanistic, socially engaged work of Gehry & Co.—is the story Muschamp wants to tell us, the conventional obligations of the architecture critic be damned. It is a great story, but is it accurate? Have these architects, like urban gay culture, actually made the city better?

Early Muschamp would have said no, for the same reasons he savaged Postmodernism. Later on, though, he was unable to see that no matter how good Gehry or Nouvel might be, their projects are not exempt from the privatization of public space, the impoverishment of civil society, or any of the other social ills Muschamp linked to their stylistic predecessors.

This, then, is the third reason to read Hearts of the City: as the tragic story of a critic who becomes so emotionally invested in a cause that he loses the ability to do his job effectively.


Posted by steve at 8:27 AM

Bruce Ratner: "I'm just here to watch the game."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner's vaporteam, the New Jersey Nets, are now 0-13 after losing to the lowly Knicks. They are now headed for a 4 game West Coast swing looking to tie the record for most loses at the start of the season. What did team owner Bruce Ratner say when the Star Ledger's Steve Politi approached him?

...“I’m just here to watch the game,” Ratner said, declining to answer questions about the state of the team at halftime, and you hope he was embarrassed with what he saw.

This is basically how he has treated the massive resistance to his bone-headed Atlantic Yards proposal in Brooklyn.

Remember, the reason the Nets stink is because Ratner bought the team for a sweetheart real estate deal and then commenced dismantling what was once a championship caliber team.

If he can destroy a talented team in five years, just think what wonders he can work in Prospect Heights with his vaportecture.


Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

Mapping Out Forest City Ratner’s Monopolistic Strategy of Subsidy Collection

Noticing New York

This blog post points out how Forest City Ratner, developer for the proposed Atlantic Yards project, has pursued a strategy of sucking up available public subsidies by being the only developer considered for any given project. Atlantic Yards is a perfect example of the developer being given a huge chunk of Brooklyn real estate, and subsidies, without competitive bidding.

The ever-growing Ratner monopoly is illustrated with maps showing growth starting from 1 Pierrpont Plaza and spreading further into Brooklyn.

The post finishes with the following:

We conclude simply with this. If monopolies have always been recognized to be bad, such that we have national laws against them, and if monopolies facilitate “rent seeking” behavior that enables developers like Forest City Ratner to manipulate gains for itself at society’s loss, why is the government fostering these real estate monopolies for one real estate company’s unprecedented takeover of so much of Brooklyn? It doesn’t make sense to us but it’s a really BIG question. We hope that our mapping it out helps to visualize just how big.


Posted by steve at 7:16 AM

November 21, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report: Myth-Buster Edition

In lawsuit affidavit, the "pay ACORN $500,000 to exit the CBA" myth still has legs

From Gib Veconi's affidavit in the case filed by BrooklynSpeaks and allies challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's approval of Atlantic Yards.

All organizations participating in the [Community Benefits Agreement] were to receive compensation from [developer Forest City Ratner] to provide various services as a function of the Project. In addition, FCRC could exit the agreement at any time by paying fees of $500,000 to ACORN and the other participants.

While the first statement is true--Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin confirmed it in July--the second is not.

Rather, it's an Atlantic Yards myth that still has legs. According to the CBA, Forest City Ratner doesn't have to pay anything if it abandons the project other than $500,000 to be used by Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) to fund the Pre-Apprentice Training initiative.

Nor is a successor who buys the project bound to the CBA.

ACORN could go to court to enforce the housing obligation, but its unswerving support for the project--and bailout by Forest City Ratner--doesn't make it likely. After all, if Forest City Ratner can't build the housing because of lack of subsidies, it's (likely) off the hook.

Exiting magical world of Atlantic Yards, ACORN's Lewis, state Senator Golden diverge on health care policy

Once upon a time, in the magical world of Atlantic Yards, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis and Republican State Senator Marty Golden found common cause, with Golden saluting “ACORN, the premier low-income housing organization.” (He had to overlook their divergent stances on housing policy in general.)

On health care, though, they look to be parting company.

Shiffman: It's time for Bloomberg to align all agencies with PlaNYC

In a Streetsblog piece headlined In Third Term, Bloomberg Must Align All Agencies With PlaNYC, veteran community planner (and DDDB board member) Ron Shiffman points to Atlantic Yards:

Together with private developers, the city's Economic Development Corporation and other quasi-government entities, the planning department has embraced outmoded redevelopment plans for Willets Point in Queens, Hudson Yards on the far West Side, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and Columbia University's expansion into Manhattanville without any substantive regard to the principles and goals of PlaNYC.

These large-scale development plans fundamentally ignore the issue of sustainability. And they cast the form of the city in concrete for a century or more.

In these developments, the street is nothing more than square footage added to permit greater building heights and densities. Streets in these developments divide rather than integrate neighborhoods. Traffic lights are recalibrated, for instance, to facilitate the flow of traffic and hinder pedestrian movement by reducing crossing times. Perversely, these measures are dubbed “mitigation” in the environmental review process. Without them, the development would not be allowed to proceed. This is because the developments include more space for car parking than needed -- far above the norm in New York City -- creating more traffic and necessitating such "mitigations."

Posted by steve at 8:18 AM

Court Decision on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards Possible Monday or Tuesday

The Brooklyn Eagle
By Ryan Thompson

Tension builds over the anticipated eminent domain decision by the New York Court of Appeals even as an additional lawsuit was announced this past Thursday.

It is very possible that the New York State Court of Appeals will issue its decision on the constitutionality of eminent domain at Atlantic Yards Monday or Tuesday.


There has been much speculation that the ruling would be made before Thanksgiving, which is Thursday, but the Court of Appeals has not said anything to that effect.

If the appeal filed by landowners is successful, the plan for Atlantic Yards will either have to be entirely abandoned or dramatically redesigned, which would likely take years.

If the appeal fails, then the state will go forward with taking title of the land through a court proceeding in Brooklyn Supreme Court, which Atlantic Yards opponents will also challenge. If the state is ultimately successful, it will then lease the land to Ratner for a nominal fee, such as $1.

Ratner, however, will still have to fight the myriad of lawsuits that have been filed against his planned 22-acre project, which is expected to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn.

On Thursday, another lawsuit was filed, making it the third in less than 40 days.


This latest lawsuit, which challenges the project’s approval process, comes at a time when both sides of the legal controversy are eagerly awaiting the state’s high court to rule on the most important issue of all the cases — whether the state acted unconstitutionally in exercising eminent domain over property owners whose land sits in the proposed footprint of the Atlantic Yards basketball arena.


Posted by steve at 6:25 AM

Nets arena lawsuits are the new black

Field of Schemes

The Village Voice headline says it all: Yet Another Atlantic Yards Lawsuit! This one, filed by a group of local elected officials and community groups, charges that the Brooklyn Nets arena deal wasn't adequately evaluated by the state — which is different, mind you, from the lawsuit a similar group filed last month charging that the sale of state-owned rail yards wasn't adequately evaluated. Add in the pending eminent domain appeal and the other recent lawsuit against the state, and the number of suits in play against the project is now up to four. This can't be making the bond insurers happy.


Posted by steve at 6:18 AM

A Society Holiday

The Local (Fort Greene/Clinton Hill) [NY Times blog]
By Van Sias

The latest meeting of the Society for Clinton Hill included an update on the Atlantic Yards legal fight.

The meeting ended with an update on the fight against the Atlantic Yards project from Candace Carponter, legal director of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

“At this point, you really need a scorecard because there are so many lawsuits out there against Atlantic Yards,“ she said. “As always, we are cautiously optimistic.”


Posted by steve at 6:14 AM

Atlantic Yards nears its climax

The Brooklyn Paper
By Michael P. Ventura

This article includes a thumbnail history of the proposed Atlantic Yards project and a question as to whether the project (or even just the proposed Nets arena) will ever be built.

In 2003, Ratner finally unveiled his plan for Atlantic Yards — a 16-skyscraper residential, hotel, office and commercial complex with a basketball arena at the core. His goal was to move his just-purchased New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn — a goal that earned him the uncritical support of most of the local elected officials even though some of the people they represent (especially some who were slated to be evicted) opposed it.

The project was approved in 2006, and for a few minutes, it looked like Ratner might actually meet his goal of having a Nets tip-off in Brooklyn by 2009.

Lawsuits followed, but whatever damage they did towards undermining Ratner’s ability to raise money to finance the project, the economy has done most of that job.

To cut costs, Ratner fired the project’s main calling card — architect Frank Gehry. Then, citing his own economic woes, the developer wrested more concessions from the state, allowing him more time to build — and more time to pay for the land on which he intends to do it. Earlier this year, he even sold 80 percent of the team to Russia’s wealthiest man, Mikhail Prokhorov.

It remains to be seen whether Ratner will get shovels in the ground before Dec. 31, his last chance to qualify for tax-exempt bonds to fund the project.

If he misses that deadline, the project could be dead.


Posted by steve at 6:03 AM

Ratner and Gehry Party Ruined by Atlantic Yards

The proposed Atlantic Yards project cast a pall over the celebration between the starchitect who was canned from the project and developer Bruce Ratner during the topping-off ceremony for the Beekman Tower.

The New York Observer - Gehry Gets Topped Out in Lower Manhattan
By Eliot Brown

Developer Bruce Ratner (left) took some time away Thursday from fretting over his planned Atlantic Yards project to host a topping out soirée for his Frank Gehry-designed Beekman apartment tower, capping the vertical rise of what is to be the tallest residential building in the city.

Filling half of Beekman Street at the Lower Manhattan tower's base, Mr. Ratner and a host of union officials and others involved in the project all lauded the development--started pre-Lehman crash, when filling a luxury tower at high rates seemed a bit more realistic--before hoisting a concrete bucket up 867 feet to the building's top.

(In the meantime, the Atlantic Yards project was hit with another lawsuit.)

Gothamist - Ratner And Gehry's Beekman Tower Topped Off

Yesterday, developer Bruce Ratner and architect Frank Gehry celebrated the "topping off" of the 76-story Beekman Tower in lower Manhattan. A 10-pound bucket of concrete was lifted 900 feet onto the roof of the 1.1 million square foot skyscraper, which will have rental apartments, a pre-K through 8th grade public school, an ambulatory care center for NY Downtown Hospital, retail space, and public plazas.

Gehry, whose presence in Ratner's in-limbo Atlantic Yards project has been diminished, was in high spirits—he apparently pointed to the top of the building and said, "No Viagra." (It's his tallest building.) He told the Observer's Eliot Brown, "First of all, it’s a New York building, and so I respected the body of the New York skyscraper...We built many models of this. I holed myself up two days in a tall hotel room here and just looked at the skyline while I was designing it.” He also said the tower's undulation was inspired by Bernini.

While it may have been triumphant for Ratner to see progress on the skyscraper, he was served with another lawsuit to block the development of Atlantic Yards.

The New York Observer - rank Gehry Will Wait to Ascend His Own Tower
By Reid Pillifant

At a topping-off ceremony for his Beekman Tower yesterday, 80-year old architect Frank Gehry took to the podium and made one of those slightly randy jokes that men can get away with when they're 80. Mr. Gehry pointed his finger upright toward the 76-tower residential complex and bluntly proclaimed: "No Viagra."

Mr. Gehry said he will wait awhile to see the view from what will eventually be the tallest residential building in Manhattan. "I can't wait till it's finished. I have height freights, I'm not going to go up. I'll wait till the real elevators are in," he said. The Pritzker-prize winner told Eliot Brown that his tallest building prior to the Beekman Tower was only about 40 stories. Eliot has a slideshow of the ceremony, which was the first time Mr. Gehry has been seen in public with Bruce Ratner since Mr. Ratner scrapped his plans for Atlantic Yards.

While Mr. Gehry seemd to have a good time, the day was probably less enjoyable for Bruce Ratner, who now has another Atlantic Yards lawsuit to litigate.

Posted by steve at 5:44 AM

Eminent Domain For New Arena?


Daniel Goldstein on the proposed Atlantic Yards project and the pending eminent domain case: "It looks wrong, feels wrong, and it is wrong and I'm confident we're going to win."

Posted by steve at 5:43 AM

Foes file new suit against Atlantic Yards project, say state illegally empowered Bruce Ratner

Daily News
BY Erin Durkin

Atlantic Yards opponents fired their latest salvo against the project Thursday, charging in a new lawsuit that the state illegally handed over the reins of the project to developer Bruce Ratner.

They're asking a judge to overturn the Empire State Development Corporation's September approval of a modified plan for the new Nets arena and 16 towers.

"The agency has handed over to Forest City Ratner control of 22 acres of Brooklyn, no strings attached," said Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Park Slope), one of the plaintiffs.


Plaintiffs said the plan gives Ratner wide leeway on the timing of the project (which could take anywhere from 10 to 25 years), the design of the buildings and how much commercial space to include.

"Nowhere in the [law] is there authority to delegate to private parties decisions regarding the timing or makeup of a project. That, however, is what the petitioners submit, ESDC has done in this case - and done illegally," the suit charged.

Opponents also said changes to the project meant a new environmental study was required, since delays could leave part of the site as "a kind of urban wasteland" for decades.

Attorney for the plaintiffs Albert Butzel said that as Atlantic Yards floundered amid financing trouble and mounting legal challenges, state officials bent over backwards to help Ratner get the project off the ground. "His wish is their command. It ought to be the other way around," he said.


"We're on the verge of making Atlantic Yards a reality, a reality that means thousands of jobs," said Forest City Ratner vice president Bruce Bender. "It should not surprise anyone that opponents who pledged to sue early and often are still suing. It is what they do."

But Butzel noted it's the first lawsuit from Brooklyn Speaks, a coalition that in the past has pressed for changes to Atlantic Yards but stopped short of legal action to halt it altogether. "They finally ran out of patience," he said. "It's getting awfully late to just ask."


Posted by steve at 5:12 AM

Atlantic Yards Faces Another Lawsuit


A coalition of Brooklyn officials and community groups has filed the latest in a series of lawsuits against the Atlantic Yards project. This one focusing on revisions the state approved in September.

They say the changes made the project worse by expanding the above-ground parking area and lengthening the amount of time the developer would be given to build the office and apartment buildings. The state's economic development agency says it will defend its actions, and expects to prevail.

Until now, the coalition, called Brooklyn Speaks, had been taking a "mend it don't end it" approach to Atlantic Yards, trying to avoid litigation.

In contrast, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has filed a series of court actions dating back years. Three of their lawsuits are pending or under review.

The state's highest court is expected to decide a fourth case shortly, filed by property owners and tenants against the use of eminent domain, in the next two weeks.

Assuming that case is resolved in its favor, the developer, Forest City Ratner, plans to sell bonds to finance the basketball arena, the first part of the project, by the end of the year.


Posted by steve at 5:07 AM

Kelo v. New London, Part II – Eminent domain for Atlantic Yards in New York


This review of the eminent domain case pending with the New York State Court of Appeals includes a mention of the questionable criteria used to declare the area in the proposed Atlantic Yards project footprint as blighted and a contrast with how use of eminent domain worked out in New London.

It seems that less than half of the 22 acres of the proposed redevelopment area contain a below grade rail yard used by the MTA, and, (perish the thought) there are growing weeds and graffiti on some of the properties. Thus, the consultants rationalize, the entire 22 acres is blighted, subject to what amounts to a seizure of private property by government for use by a private developer.

And, how is that Kelo deal working out, you ask? At the time of the decision, Mr. Justice Stevens insisted that:

The city [of New London] has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue.

This carefully formulated plan essentially gave Ms. Kelo’s land to a private developer to construct a hotel, office buildings, etc. to “enhance” Pfizer’s existing nearby research and development headquarters.

Almost four and one half years after the Supreme Court’s decision, the city of New London has spent $78 million to bulldoze the properties so taken by the city, no development has occurred on that property, nor is any likely to occur anytime soon, and, were that not enough, Pfizer has announced it is closing it’s facility in New London.


Posted by steve at 4:44 AM

30 Orchard’s Dirty Laundry, Another Atlantic Yards Lawsuit


While the world awaits a court decision over the state's use of eminent domain at Atlantic Yards, a press release just went out announcing another AY lawsuit, the 936th. The details will be announced tomorrow morning, but the gist is it's a challenge to the ESDC’s approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan: "The suit contends that the plan was approved without sufficient study of the impacts of its extended construction schedule and completion risks. It also alleges that the ESDC has illegally delegated to FCRC much of its governmental power to determine the future content and configuration of the Project." A whole slew of local politicians and community groups are behind the suit.


Posted by steve at 4:41 AM

November 20, 2009

BrooklynSpeaks attorney Butzel: "ESDC has just handed over the entire keys to the kingdom to Ratner"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has more on yesterday's press conference by the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, announcing their lawsuit against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Click through for more coverage and analysis, including video footage of the event.

Though most news reports--and even Forest City Ratner, which erroneously claimed that "opponents who pledged to sue early and often are still suing"--treated yesterday's lawsuit filed by BrooklynSpeaks and allies as more of the same, the biggest news, as I pointed out, was the simple fact of the lawsuit: the radicalization of groups that once tried to negotiate with the state and the developer, and found it all came to naught.

So the rhetoric of those at yesterday's press conference at City Hall sounded remarkably DDDBesque. "We are now faced with... a ceding of ESDC's powers to Forest City Ratner to do whatever it wants over the next 20some-odd years," declared Jo Anne Simon of the Boerum Hill Association, speaking above. "We know that will not be in the best interests of the community."

Legal argument

The legal papers filed make scornful reference to developer Bruce Ratner's claims that Atlantic Yards "isn't a public project" and warn of a "failure" scenario in which the Atlantic Yards site, left mostly unbuilt, recalls the scene in New London, CT, where, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the use of eminent domain, nothing was built and key property owner Pfizer decided to leave.

"What we're trying to do is give the communities a voice in how this site is ultimately developed," stated attorney Al Butzel (right) of the Urban Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit group set up to help community groups. Butzel led the legal fight in the 1970s-early 1980s against Westway.

"Litigation is not the best of all instruments; politics is the best of all instruments," he said. "But when you have an administration like you have in New York City with its complete ties to the development community, and a state government which really isn't paying attention and an ESDC which has largely lost its focus, litigation is one of the ways you gain attention and hopefully stop this project."


Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

Newark Mayor Booker again cautious about permanent Nets move, enthusiastic about temporary one

Atlantic Yards Report

As he did during last month's radio appearance, Newark Mayor Cory Booker last night steered clear of any prognostication about a permanent move of the Nets to Newark but focused on a temporary one.

He spoke during his monthly Newark Today with Cory Booker show on WBGO. The discussion (starting about 46 minutes in) focused on the Nets moving to the Prudential Center for a season or two before a potential move to Brooklyn.

Host Andrew Meyer noted that expected new owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been reported (secondhand) as being open to buying the team at a reduced price and keeping the team in Newark. "Nets management still says the [permanent] Jersey option is moot," said Meyer. "What's the reality now?"

"The reality is we're in a powerful negotiation right now that [outgoing Gov.] Jon Corzine has brought down to the two-inch line before we can score the touchdown, which is, an agreement between the Nets, Izod Center, and Newark, to heal the wounds," Booker said, "to set a new arrangement with the Devils, which will significantly increase the revenue Newark will get... and stop having two arenas competing with each other."

"And if they don't build the [new Brooklyn arena]?" asked Meyer.

"Then we have a chance to keep the team," Booker said. He did not say, as he has done in the past, that Newark-based investors were ready to scoop up the team. Maybe everyone's been scared away by Prokhorov.


Posted by eric at 9:02 AM

Dog pile on Ratner — another Yards suit is filed

The Brooklyn Paper
By Stephen Brown

Brooklyn Speaks, a coalition of eight community groups that has taken a backseat to other opposition efforts, filed the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court on the grounds that the June modifications allow Ratner to take far longer to build the $4-billion, 16 tower arena, residential and office complex — and a longer build-out time only worsens the “blight” in and around the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues that the project is supposed to remedy.

“The Empire State Development Corporation has ignored its statutory duty to act in the public interest,” said Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Park Slope), a member of the coalition. “By approving a modified Atlantic Yards project without so much as a new site plan, let alone a committed completion date, the agency has handed over to Forest City Ratner control of 22 acres of Brooklyn, no strings attached.
An ESDC spokeswoman did not seem too intimidated by the growing chorus of opposition to the project. “This new lawsuit is similar to the lawsuit filed one month ago,” she said. “Repeating this claim, however, does not make it any more valid.


Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

What's wrong with the Nets and how can they be fixed?

The Bergen Record
By Alan Iannazzone

With the NJ Nets 0-12 start, Bruce Ratner's NBA franchise is heading towards a battle of the bums against the Knicks on Saturday.

How did this happen? Can they get out of this? Can the ’09-10 season be saved? What about next year?

According to Iannazzone, you can blame Bruce, prayer might be a last resort, the season is history, and the Nets might end up with enough cap space to sign two elite players, so there's always next year.


Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

November 19, 2009

2009 BrooklynSpeaks Atlantic Yards Lawsuit Press Conference

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

Tracy Collins has posted a handful of pictures from today's BrooklynSpeaks press conference. That's attorney Albert K. Butzel, who also argued and won the case that stopped the Westway project. Click here to view a slideshow.

Posted by eric at 11:46 PM

Frank Gehry's 76-Story Dick Joke Tops Off


You missed Frank F’n Gehry this morning at the Beekman Tower topping off ceremony. The most classic one liner ever.

Bruce Ratner is giving his speech praising unions. Blah blah blah. Then he calls up the "great" Gehry to say a few words...

Frank gets up to the mic and pauses...

He looks up to the sky and the 76-story building for about 3 seconds...

Looks at everyone and says...



NoLandGrab: We suppose this passes for humor in Ratnerland.

Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

Given no 2009 feasibility study of AY after changes, DDDB calls for new PACB review of project financing

Atlantic Yards Report

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) has sent a letter to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, State Senator Bill Perkins, and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (chairs of the respective committees on public authorities) arguing that the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) needs to convene and vote on whether to approve the Atlantic Yards project’s financing.

Crucially, the letter points out that, before project approval in 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) hired KPMG to do a report about the feasibility of the project, no such analysis was conducted before the ESDC passed the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) in September.

Unmentioned in the letter is that the ESDC did ask KPMG for an update, but only on the feasibility of the housing market over a ten-year buildout--a market study that was highly dubious.


Posted by eric at 10:52 PM

An Atlantic Yards koan: how can you anchor "vaportecture"?

Atlantic Yards Report

A caption from Crain's New York Business attached to the image below (click to enlarge):
The Nets' new Barclays Center sports complex is an anchor to the planned Atlantic Yards development.

Well, how can you anchor "vaportecture"?


Posted by eric at 9:30 PM

BrooklynSpeaks Lawsuit: News Round-up

Atlantic Yards Report, BrooklynSpeaks, pushed into firm opposition, points in lawsuit to the failure of ESDC and FCR to talk, meet, or bend

The suit in many ways echoes the previous lawsuit filed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and allies aiming to annul the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) approval of the Modified General Project Plan.

It charges that the ESDC should have conducted a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), given the delay imposed by Forest City Ratner's renegotiated deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Though the new suit adds some details and arguments, including the charge that ESDC illegally delegated to Forest City Ratner the discretion to determine the project timetable and the components included, the two cases likely will be consolidated.

ESDC response

The ESDC issued a statement:

Empire State Development Corporation will vigorously defend this action and we expect to prevail on the merits. It should be noted that this new lawsuit is similar to the lawsuit filed one month ago by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, in that the primary claim in both cases is that ESDC should have prepared a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Repeating this claim, however, does not make it any more valid.

NoLandGrab: And claiming the nonsense below doesn't make it true, either.

ESDC carefully considered whether a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement would be required. The conclusion of that analysis, which is set forth in a detailed Technical Memorandum, was that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was not required. The additional claim asserted in the new lawsuit is devoid of merit. We do not expect that either lawsuit will delay the Project.

New rhetoric

But the rhetoric of the legal complaint, which charges that the ESDC has capitulated to a private developer, and the details in an accompanying affidavit suggest that the organization--once following a "mend-it-don't-end-it" strategy--has been pushed into firm opposition by the intransigence and lack of consideration from the ESDC and developer Forest City Ratner.

In other words, even though there's some longstanding tension between BrooklynSpeaks and DDDB, BrooklynSpeaks has come much closer to DDDB's stance.

Click through for some highlights from the affidavit.

Crain's NY Business, Yet another suit filed to block Atlantic Yards

As Forest City Ratner awaits a crucial court decision that could make or break its controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, yet another lawsuit has been filed to try to block the project.

In a statement, Bruce Bender, an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, said that the company is on the verge of making Atlantic Yards a reality which will include jobs, affordable housing and a sports and entertainment arena.

“It should not surprise anyone that opponents who pledged to sue early and often are still suing. It is what they do,” he said.

NLG: Note to Bruce Bender — these are not the same opponents. But yes, unlike your company, we opponents are true to our word.

NY Post, NYC groups sue to block deal for Nets arena

The suit comes as the state Court of Appeals is soon expected to decide on separate litigation that says it would be unconstitutional for ESDC to seize private property for the project through eminent domain. Like his winless Nets, Ratner needs a victory here because he must break ground on the Prospect Heights arena by year’s end or risk losing critical tax-exempt financing.

NewJerseyNewsroom.com, New Jersey Nets' move to Brooklyn hits another snag

The Nets, with an 0-12 record, are having a tough time at home in New Jersey.

And things don't look too good regarding the prospects that they'll have a future home in New York City. The team is planning to relocate to Brooklyn, but legal issues have complicated the move.

Brett Yormark, the team's chief executive, had said in an interview that if groundbreaking did not begin by December 31, 2009 the entire project will be cancelled.

AP via NorthJersey.com, NYC groups sue to block deal for Nets arena

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Manhattan state Supreme Court. It seeks to block a Sept. 17 move by the Empire State Development Corp. to approve a delayed construction plan for the Atlantic Yards project.

NY1, Atlantic Yards Developer Adds New Lawsuit To List

"Democracy should not be done in silence and behind closed doors and without input from the community," said Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James.

Runnin' Scared, Yet Another Atlantic Yards Lawsuit!

It seems Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards boondoggle was getting another lawsuit just yesterday (it was in October, actually -- an appeal by local landholders whose property is being seized to make the big Brooklyn hole that was supposed to be a sports arena/shopping complex by now even bigger). Now state senator Velmanette Montgomery, assemblyman Jim Brennan, councilmember Letitia James, and a bunch of community groups will contend in court that the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan wasn't properly reviewed by the Empire State Development Corporation, and that ESDC has in fact "illegally delegated to FCRC much of its governmental power to determine the future content and configuration of the project."

Brownstoner, Brooklyn Speaks to File Its First AY Lawsuit

After pursuing a non-adversarial stance for the entire history of the Atlantic Yards saga, Brooklyn Speaks, the coalition of neighborhood and civic groups, is set to announce a lawsuit challenging the ESDC’s approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan.

Posted by eric at 6:07 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: Expect Big Decisions Soon on Atlantic Yards, Gowanus Superfund

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Though he almost always comes down on the wrong side of an issue, we do have to admire the crotchety Dennis Holt's obdurateness.

Within a very few days, the expected final decision on the eminent domain matter regarding the Atlantic Yards project is expected. If, as anticipated, the decision confirms the right of Forest City Ratner to acquire some private property in order to build the Nets sports arena, this could open that long-closed door legally.

If that happens, despite some other minor lawsuits still pending, Forest City is expected to sell some tax-exempt bonds, receive financing from the private sector, and break ground for the new arena, all by the end of the year.

If, however, a surprise happens and the decision is adverse to Forest City, then all bets are off, and no one really knows what will happen. In the longer sense, the area will be developed for something: it is simply too valuable a parcel to stay empty for long.


NoLandGrab: Holt's right about the land in the Atlantic Yards footprint being quite valuable, which begs two questions — why has the state agreed to sell the railyard to Ratner for far less than it's worth, and why are they lowballing the remaining property owners?

Posted by eric at 5:54 PM

In Third Term, Bloomberg Must Align All Agencies With PlaNYC

by Ron Shiffman

Co-founder of the Pratt Center for Community Development, professor at the Pratt Institute's Graduate Center for Planning, former City Planning Commissioner and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Executive Board member Ron Shiffman critiques the failures of the Bloomberg administration — and lays out a road map for how it can make good. One key aspect of that — scrapping Atlantic Yards for the UNITY Plan.

When it comes to sustainable development, the mayor's record is mixed at best. Many of his agencies -- such as the Department of Design and Construction with David Burney at its helm, the Parks Department under the able direction of Adrian Benepe, and the Department of Transportation under the energetic and farsighted leadership of Janette Sadik-Khan -- have done a fabulous job promoting and implementing the goals of PlaNYC.

Unfortunately, creativity, innovation and commitment to the principles of sustainability stop with these few agencies. Other public servants charged with planning for the future of the city have abdicated that responsibility. The Department of City Planning, despite some exemplary work on open space design and enhancing opportunities for world-class architecture, has ignored planning for the New York City of 2030. Instead, it has focused on rezoning the city as if we still lived in the 1960s, using the language and planning concepts of that discredited era rather than preparing to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Together with private developers, the city's Economic Development Corporation and other quasi-government entities, the planning department has embraced outmoded redevelopment plans for Willets Point in Queens, Hudson Yards on the far West Side, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and Columbia University's expansion into Manhattanville without any substantive regard to the principles and goals of PlaNYC.

These large-scale development plans fundamentally ignore the issue of sustainability. And they cast the form of the city in concrete for a century or more.


Posted by eric at 5:45 PM

Daily News article about the compensation issue

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

The NY Daily News has an article about the compensation issue. Tonight CNN will run a story featuring Dan - discussing Kelo.

NY didn't rule on the eminent domain case today. The decision should come on Monday or Tuesday. We'll be filming as the decision comes down.

We are at 44% of our goal. Please continue to let other people know about our efforts.


Posted by eric at 5:41 PM

My Top 10 Marketing Ideas For Winless Nets

Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

It can be argued that no team has had it harder than the New Jersey Nets.

They haven’t won a game in 12 tries this year.

They don’t have many marketable players. There’s a lack of public transportation to their arena. They’ve fully committed to leaving the market for Brooklyn and they are waiting for a new owner to take power.

To the credit of Nets CEO Brett Yormark, the team has seemingly tried everything to jumpstart attendance, from giving away jerseys that have the opposing players on them to offering $10 lower bowl tickets as part of a “10 (losses) is enough” promotion for Tuesday night’s game. On Saturday, it’s not enough that the team is playing the New York Knicks, who also are struggling, the team is bringing in Dora The Explorer to help fill the arena with more families.

I haven’t received a phone call, but if the Nets were to ask me what they should do next, here’s the list I would give them.


NoLandGrab: Once again, here's somebody giving grossly undeserved credit to Brett Yormark, CEO — not promotions director — of the worst team in the NBA. We do like the idea about signing a Globetrotter, though.

Posted by eric at 5:28 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE — DDDB to Comptroller DiNapoli: Paterson, Silver, Sampson Must Review and Vote on Atlantic Yards Financing

PACB Role is to Prevent The Kind of Reckless Borrowing Envisioned by the Ratner Project

NEW YORK, NY — Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) sent a letter to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, State Senator Bill Perkins and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (each chair committees on public authorities) explaining in detail why the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) needs to convene and vote on whether to approve the Atlantic Yards project’s financing.

The 3-member PACB is comprised of appointees of Governor Paterson, Speaker Sheldon Silver and Majority Leader John Sampson. PACB votes must be unanimous.

In sum the letter, provided below explains that the financing, cost, revenue model, design and construction timeline of Forest City Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project have changes so substantially since the PACB voted in December 2006 that new analysis and a new vote is required.

The letter also explains that the PACB must vote to approve the $700 million Barclays Center arena bond before it can be issued. Ratner has an end-of-year IRS deadline to issue the tax-exempt bond.

DDDB explains "The PACB was formed specifically to guard against reckless borrowing by the Empire State Development Corporation that could result in defaults and place the State in a moral obligation to support the bonds."

"Allowing the vastly altered Atlantic Yards financing to go forward without a review and vote by the PACB, would be not just reckless in the extreme, but illegal" said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "The Governor, who is so concerned about the State’s precarious financial situation, should convene a review of the Atlantic Yards financing and do due diligence to determine if the project’s borrowing makes any sense. The Comptroller, Mr. Brodsky and Mr. Perkins should make sure this happens."

[Click through to read the rest of the release and the letter to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.]


Posted by eric at 2:51 PM

BROOKLYNSPEAKS PRESS RELEASE: Brooklyn Community Organizations and Elected Officials File Lawsuit Against the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner; Seek to Reverse ESDC’s Approval of Atlantic Yards’ Modified General Project Plan

Prominent civic and community development organizations and local elected officials who represent the communities surrounding the Atlantic Yards Project, gathered on the steps of City Hall on Thursday, November 19th @ 11am to announce the joint filing of a lawsuit that challenges the ESDC’s approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan. The suit was filed this morning at the NYS Supreme Court of Manhattan by attorney Albert K. Butzel of the Urban Environmental Law Center, who is representing the plaintiffs.

The suit contends that the plan was approved without sufficient study of the impacts of its extended construction schedule and completion risks. It also alleges that the ESDC has illegally delegated to FCRC much of its governmental power to determine the future content and configuration of the project.

Groups and elected officials filing suit include the Atlantic Avenue LDC, the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Boerum Hill Association, the Fifth Avenue Committee, the Park Slope Civic Council, Pratt Area Community Council, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblyman Jim Brennan and City Councilmember Letitia James.

“The ESDC has ignored its statutory duty to act in the public interest. By approving a modified Atlantic Yards Project without so much as a new site plan, let alone a committed completion date, the agency has handed over to Forest City Ratner control of 22 acres of Brooklyn, no strings attached. The ESDC must address the likelihood that Atlantic Yards will continue to expand the kind of urban blight the agency now pretends the Project will remove,” said Assemblyman Jim Brennan.

As sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks initiative, the organizations have tried for three years to engage the ESDC regarding impacts of the Atlantic Yards Project on the surrounding communities. The group has advocated, among other things, for a thoughtful proposal for the governance of the Project, including a strong advisory role for local elected officials and community residents currently excluded from any meaningful participation.

“The ESDC has been singularly unable to follow through on its basic governmental obligations–and its commitments to the public—to provide transparency and oversight to the largest single-source development project in the City’s history. We have no alternative other than to bring suit in order to require a valid assessment of the long-term impacts of Atlantic Yards before further irreversible action is taken,” said Jo Anne Simon of the Boerum Hill Association.

"With each day, we learn more about how troubled and troubling this project really is. The overreaching of the developer has only been compounded by the failures of the state authority which is supposed to be in control, the ESDC. Its actions make clear that it has completely and utterly failed its obligations to the public in its efforts to do the developer’s business,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

“Atlantic Yards is a terrible project – out of place, outsized and out of bounds. It represents one more cynical partnership between government, which is supposed to serve the public interest but doesn’t, and the powerful New York City development community, which serves its own,” said attorney Albert Butzel. “This lawsuit challenges that incestuous arrangement and seeks to give the impacted communities an opportunity to participate in the planning for Atlantic Yards and help determine their own future.”

City Councilmember Letitia James, who has opposed the Atlantic Yards project since its inception, stated, “Democracy should not operate in secrecy. The proposed Atlantic Yards project continues to be led by the developer undermining our system of government and in defiance of the law. The lack of transparency, community input and proper review force a legal challenge.”

“One of the primary justifications for the ill conceived Atlantic Yards project has been the creation of much needed affordable housing,” said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee. “However, the modified plan recently passed by ESDC includes only one tenth of the affordable housing originally promised and does not even guarantee that the remainder would ever be built.”

“So far, what we have seen of public dollars being spent at Atlantic Yards has been the use of City funds to purchase and demolish homes and properties within the foot print,” commented Deb Howard, Executive Director of Pratt Area Community Council. “The result will be the clearing of land to create a massive parking lot for the arena. Blight and traffic will continue to paralyze the neighborhood for many years to come. Our neighborhood and the city tax payers deserve better,” she added.

Copies of the lawsuit can be obtained through the contacts listed above or by emailing attorney Albert Butzel: albutzel@nyc.rr.com.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

30 years, 30 stories: Our biggest news stories

The Brooklyn Paper

Brooklyn's most-controversial development project ever figures in two of The Brooklyn Paper's 30 biggest news stories over its first 30 years.

Brooklyn has changed, and The Brooklyn Paper has been through it all the way. From urban renewal to the “brownstoners” to the young urban professionals, every newsmaker we covered had, in his or her small way, a role in creating “The New Brooklyn.”

Here’s our look back at some of the biggest stories of the past three decades (in no particular order!):

18. The biggest project ever: Proposed in 2003 as the biggest development in Brooklyn’s history, Bruce Ratner’s $4-billion Atlantic Yards project — including housing and commercial components and an arena for the New Jersey Nets built around a superblock in Prospect Heights — met unexpectedly strong opposition and was stalled until the current recession forced at least a temporary cutback in its scope. As 2009 winds down, final lawsuits may be resolved to permit the start of some construction, providing financing can be had.

21. Party Marty: While many people don’t know the names of their elected officials, in Brooklyn almost everyone knows Borough President Markowitz. He can walk down any street and elicit excited cries of, “Hey Marty!” and his boosterism for the borough is infectious; despite having virtually no power to do anything, he manages to get the name “Brooklyn” repeated all over the world. But the borough is split over Markowitz’s support for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, which required a subversion of the normal city planning process, a sweetheart land deal for the developer and large public subsidies. Whether it is ultimately great for Brooklyn or not, it’s Markowitz’s legacy.


Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Empty luxury condos, government intervention, and AY housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at the call to subsidize the conversion of stalled condo buildings into affordable housing, the debate over such a program's appropriateness and potential efficacy, and the possible implications for Atlantic Yards.

The Right to the City-NYC coalition, which includes housing advocacy groups and several elected officials (including Prospect Heights Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries) held a press conference in Downtown Brooklyn on October 27 to urge the city "to convert these vacant condos into deeply and permanently affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers." (Here's CityRoom coverage.)

Others involved were City Council Members Melissa Mark Viverito, Letitia James, and Maria del Carmen Arroyo. While the group has the same general goals as the city in its Housing Asset Renewal Program (for which $20 million has been allocated), the latter is aimed at moderate- and middle-income families.

As Crain's reported in an article headlined Survey finds 601 troubled condo projects:

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.


Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

DDDB tries to manage expectation ahead of court ruling in eminent domain case

Atlantic Yards Report

In a post headlined Eminent Domain Ruling Expected Soon...What Will it Mean?, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is trying to manage expectations ahead of the anticipated ruling--it could be as early as today, next Monday or Tuesday--by the Court of Appeals in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

From DDDB:

We expect the Court to rule in the plaintiffs' favor, so they can keep their homes and businesses
If the Court does, the project is dead.

But if the Court rules against the plaintiffs,
the fight against the project is far from over.

Yes, there are other roadblocks--three lawsuits and an effort to get tax-exempt arena bonds rated and purchased in a tough market.

But the eminent domain case is the biggest one.

And, from the perspective of AY opponents, it's at best a toss-up. State eminent domain jurisprudence has been mostly in favor of condemnors. Then again, historical tides have been shifting.


NoLandGrab: The Court of Appeals did not rule today.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Home and property owners say state's offers for Atlantic Yards property adds insult to injury

NY Daily News
By Erin Durkin

Hardball eminent domain tactics begin with lowballing property owners under threat of condemnation.

Chief opponent Daniel Goldstein got a letter offering $510,000 if his three-bedroom Pacific St. condo is taken by eminent domain. He paid $590,000 for it in 2003.
"That's way low. That's ridiculous," said Slope Heights Realty broker Tony Atterbury, who added a 1,290-square foot, two-bathroom apartment like Goldstein's could fetch somewhere between $720,000 and $900,000.
Peter Williams said he was offered $432,000 for the one-story Sixth Ave. loft building where his two grown kids live - a far cry from the $2.5 million Ratner offered two years ago.

"They lowball everything," he said. "There's no way I could replace the living space that my kids are in in an equivalent neighborhood for the money they've offered me."

And Henry Weinstein said the $16 million he was offered for a 7-story office building and parking lot on Pacific St. is less than it's worth.

Weinstein - already embroiled in a complicated battle with a tenant who tried to turn the property over to Ratner without his permission - said the offer is just the latest slap in the face.

"They're bank robbers," he said. "I couldn't be more aggravated and mad than I am."


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News: other AY footprint landowners also have been low-balled

Yes, the first offer is not definitive and, should condemnation proceed, they'll get that, and hash out the rest in court. Still, the ESDC's appraiser does not appear to have read the ESDC-commissioned KPMG report, since the offer for Goldstein's apartment is below the Prospect Heights minimum.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

New market-rate units at FCR's 80 DeKalb building would be cheaper than some AY affordable housing (as of 2006!)

Atlantic Yards Report

If you have any doubts that Bruce Ratner's economic analysis and financial projections for the Atlantic Yards project are bogus, check out the figures from Ratner's other residential project the next neighborhood over.


In July 2006, Forest City Ratner projected that the most expensive "affordable" studios in the Atlantic Yards project would rent for $1861 a month.

That was over market-rate then--and it still is. Forest City Ratner's new 80 DeKalb building in Fort Greene will offer studios at $1795 a month, according to the Brooklyn Eagle.

Given that the Area Median Income (AMI) has gone up since 2006, the rent for AY units would be higher now--and likely would be even higher when and if units are built.


NoLandGrab: Yes, you heard it right, some "affordable housing" units at Atlantic Yards would be more expensive than comparable market-rate housing. That's totally sick, considering that housing advocate Bertha Lewis declared that she will "fight to the death to get this project done."

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

New lawsuit challenging AY approval to be announced today by BrooklynSpeaks members, elected officials, others

Atlantic Yards Report

Groups in the BrooklynSpeaks coalition–originally following a “mend-it-don’t-end-it policy”–today will file their first lawsuit, word of which first emerged last month.

It will be interesting to see how much this case, which challenges the Empire State Development Corporation's approval of the Modified General Project Plan and failure to pursue a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, overlaps with (and may be consolidated with) a case filed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn that raises some similar issues.

Notably, the lawyer on the new case is Al Butzel of the Urban Environmental Law Center, who led the legal fight against Westway.


The Local, Another AY Suit Tomorrow

NoLandGrab: This coalition of community groups has stood separately from the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn coalition, primarily because they were seeking to work with the State and developer Bruce Ratner to mitigate some of the environmental impacts of the project and to find a way to allow for more community input.

However, recently the process took a turn away from more input, when the Empire State Development Corporation and MTA approved changes to the project, leaving these groups out in the cold, with the understanding that a lawsuit would be the only way to make their point and advance the coalition's interests.

Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

How ACORN Profits from New York’s Eminent Domain Abuse

Bruce%26Bertha.jpg Big Government Blog

Damon Root explains how ACORN stands to benefit from eminent domain abuse at Atlantic Yards, leading ACORN head Bertha Lewis to declare, "I’ll fight to the death to get this project done."


Posted by lumi at 6:40 AM

Manhattan Awash with Stalled Construction Sites

By Nicole Bode and Serena Solomon

Manhattan is awash in stalled or delayed construction sites. Some are frozen by the downturn, or hobbling along with the help of reduced union labor costs. Others drag on, bolstered by city programs, in the hope that better economic times will return soon.
DNAinfo compiled a list of the top 10 sites around the borough where dismal financial conditions have hampered development or halted it entirely.
One site that signed up for the plan was developer Bruce Ratner's Beekman Tower in the Municipal District, a Frank Gehry-designed apartment building that almost lopped off the top 36 floors of the planned 76-story building when financing evaporated earlier this year.

Thanks to the labor savings, the project is now working overtime to reach its full height by the time it is slated to open in 2011.

The project landed on DNAinfo's list because it was forced to shut down for three months this spring while Ratner tried to drum up additional funding. The opening day for a new public school housed on the building's lower floors was pushed back from this fall to next fall, The Real Deal reported. A spokeswoman for the developer says the building's topping-off ceremony is on track for this Thursday.

Still, the agreement between developers and laborers doesn't address the newly-stringent regulations by banks who are demanding more collateral up front from developers than ever before.

And some experts predict the temporary activity created by reduced labor costs will bottom out once the projects are complete — leaving the next round of developers on their own.


Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

Forest City in the News

The first two news items underscore the deep ties between Forest City Enterprises and local governments: the development company is about the hit the jackpot in Vegas, but common sense regains consciousness in Texas.

Las Vegas Sun, New city hall bonds have given project stimulating effect

Federal stimulus funds are slated to bail out a major Forest City Enterprises project in Las Vegas.

The Star-Telegram, Too many loose ends doom deal to put school auditorium at shopping center

The Mansfield, TX, Board of Ed rejected the city's plan to build an auditorium as part of a Forest City Enterprises mall project, choosing instead to build it next to a local vocational school.

The 5-1 vote, which came shortly before midnight, ended two months of closed-door discussions on a deal give the 5,500-seat center a more prominent site — at The Shops at Broad Street, a 1.2 million-square-foot retail complex planned for U.S. 287 and East Broad.
City officials and the developer, Forest City, hoped the auditorium would help jump-start The Shops’ planning and development, which stalled during the recession.

CoStar Group, Forest City Promotes Ratner to President of Forest City West

Brian Jones, chairman of west coast development for Cleveland-based developer, Forest City Enterprises, is retiring from the company. In his place, Kevin Ratner, Forest City's current president of residential west, has been named as president of Forest City West.

Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

Ranting on the weeds of New London

NewLondon-ABC2.jpg "In legal terms, this may be the most symbolic weed-choked lot in America." — Bill Weir, ABC News

Every time someone mentions that all that's left in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London are "weeds," you gotta cringe. These are native plants! The attitude that some plants are weeds (read "blighted"), while others are more desirable, is what gets municipalities like New London in trouble in the first place.

In order to make productive use of New London's failure, the city ought to turn the lot into an eminent domain monument, where school groups can spend a few hours in a native-plant landscape and learn about eminent domain abuse from a park ranger in a replica of Susette Kelo's little pink house. Afterwards, they can visit the gift shop in the lobby of the former Pfizer R&D headquarters.

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

November 18, 2009


Event: Brooklyn Community Organizations and Elected Officials Announce Filing of a Lawsuit against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Corporation (FCRC);  Seeking to Reverse ESDC’s Approval of  Atlantic Yards’ Modified General Project Plan

Date/Time: Thursday, November 19, 2009 @ 11 am

Location: City Hall steps

Contact: Jo Anne Simon – 917.685.3747; Linda Gross, LCG Communications - 718.853.5568; 917.767.1141

Prominent civic and community development organizations and local elected officials who represent the communities surrounding the Atlantic Yards project will gather on the steps of City Hall on Thursday, November 19th @ 11am to announce the joint filing of a lawsuit that will challenge the ESDC’s approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan.

The suit contends that the plan was approved without sufficient study of the impacts of its extended construction schedule and completion risks. It also alleges that the ESDC has illegally delegated to FCRC much of its governmental power to determine the future content and configuration of the Project. Groups and elected officials filing suit include the Atlantic Avenue LDC, the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Boerum Hill Association, the Fifth Avenue Committee, the Park Slope Civic Council, the Pratt Area Community Council, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblyman Jim Brennan and City Councilmember Letitia James. Attorney Albert K. Butzel of the Urban Environmental Law Center is representing the plaintiffs.

As sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks initiative, the organizations have tried for three years to engage the ESDC regarding impacts of the Atlantic Yards project on the surrounding communities. This includes putting forth a thoughtful proposal for the governance of the project which proposed a strong advisory role for local elected officials and community residents currently excluded from any meaningful participation.

“Given the agency’s inability to follow through on commitments to provide transparency and oversight to the largest single-source development project in the City’s history, we have found no alternative than to bring suit in order to require a realistic assessment of the long-term impacts of Atlantic Yards before further irreversible action is taken,” says Jo Anne Simon of the Boerum Hill Association.

Posted by eric at 11:49 PM

Testing is under way, at least, at the temporary railyard

Atlantic Yards Report

Photographer Tracy Collins went out to the Vanderbilt Yard today and reports: "It appears that the MTA is at least testing the new 'temporary' rail yard that's being constructed for the proposed Atlantic Yards development."

The railyard is in the eastern third of the Vanderbilt Yard, between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues (and Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue). The longstanding railyard, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, would become part of the arena site. (Photo 1, 2)


Posted by eric at 11:44 PM

Eminent Domain Ruling Expected Soon...What Will it Mean?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The Court of Appeals ruling on the property owners and tenants challenge to the abuse of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards is expected to come down as soon as this week and certainly within the next 2-3 weeks.

We expect the Court to rule in the plaintiffs' favor, so they can keep their homes and businesses.
If the Court does, the project is dead.

But if the Court rules against the plaintiffs,
the fight against the project is far from over.

Remember, the fight against the project is about many issues. So should New York State get the right to seize these properties and give them to Ratner, there are still three other outstanding lawsuits against the project and more expected. Ratner is still struggling to meet his end of year IRS deadline to issue his tax-exempt arena bond, contending with chastened and wary bond credit rating and insurance agencies, and a skeptical bond market.

Governor Paterson will also have to decide if he wants his legacy to be a New London dust bowl in Brooklyn.

The community wins if the Court rules against eminent domain, but Ratner doesn't win if the Court rules for eminent domain. He just lives to see another day and the project will have to be stopped a little further down the road.

That, of course, will require your continued support for our work.

Please stay tuned...


Posted by eric at 11:37 PM

Under authority reform bill expected to be passed, below-market land sale by MTA (as in AY?) would be precluded

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Observer reports that Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and state Senator Bill Perkins have achieved success in their effort to reform public authorities, with apparently only modest pushback from Mayor Mike Bloomberg and others resisting the changes.

AY precluded?

While it might sound like it would preclude a project like Atlantic Yards, I'm not certain: it depends on who's doing the accounting, and how.

After all, though Forest City Ratner's cash bid was well below the appraisal, the MTA calculates the entire value of the bid, including transit system improvements, as well over the appraisal. The key is that the MTA apparently believes that its appraiser did not appropriately calculate the cost of a building a deck over the railyard.


NoLandGrab: Regardless of the bearing on Atlantic Yards, Assemblyman Brodsky and Senator Perkins should be applauded for introducing a wee bit of good government into Albany.

Posted by eric at 11:33 PM

Agreement Reached on Authorities Reform

NY Observer
by Jimmy Vielkind

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky just swung by to announce an agreement between legislative leaders and David Paterson to increase oversight of public authorities.

"It's an idea that is about the control of rogue institutions. I've called them Soviet-style bureaucracies. This is the end of that era," Brodsky said. "For people worried about debt reform or who are worried about secretive decision making or who ware worried about people taking political orders and about people lobbying without disclosure."

Both the State Senate and Assembly passed a bill this spring that would have strengthened the authority budget office--it will have subpoena power and will keep on file copies of required documents--create a fiduciary duty for authority board members, sell property only at "fair market value" and require review by the state comptroller of contracts over $1 million.

"The M.T.A., for example, could not longer sell property at below market value for economic development purposes," Brodsky explained. Other authorities whose explicit purpose was economic development--or housing development--could. This would preclude development projects like the Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards. The chapter amendments also reduce the number of contracts the comptroller is required to review.


NoLandGrab: Hold the champagne — we assume that he means "would have precluded developments like the Atlantic Yards" had it been passed three years ago.

Posted by eric at 11:27 PM

NYTimes Sports section salutes Yormark, calls promotion a "modest success" (*) despite failure to come close to 15,000 attendance

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Times sports reporter Ken Belson November 16:

Whether the Nets beat Indiana (4-3) is an open question. But the promotion has prompted some fans to act. The team has sold 700 $10 seats so far and expects as many as 15,000 fans to show up for Tuesday’s game, around the season average.

Belson, writing today (in an article destined for tomorrow's paper), curiously called the promotion a "modest success" despite the failure to come close to 15,000 and offers some sympathetic rhetoric ("Alas"):

The team sold 1,000 $10 tickets and gave away 500 seats to season-ticket holders, a modest success on 48 hours’ notice and on a Tuesday night against a lesser rival. Alas, the promotion did not get the Nets over the hump. The announced crowd of 11,332 was more than 3,000 under the season average and the Nets lost, 91-83.

Still, the promotion was vintage Yormark: creative, quick and value oriented. It was also a sign of how far he and the Nets are going to fill their arena and of the challenges they face.

*Update: after I first posted, that "modest success" line was edited away.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder goes on to point out that the promotion was a modest personal success for Yormark, who managed to scam several members of the press into giving him ink.

Honestly, is the guy not seriously overrated? He's CEO of a team that's now 0-12. Offering tickets to a(n allegedly) professional sporting event for $10, or, better yet, free, he only managed to fill 1,500 additional seats (maybe, given the NBA's loosey-goosey rules on what constitutes "attendance" (and c'mon, in this age of email and Facebook and Twitter and print-yourself tickets, 48 hours is an eternity). The team is going to break all previous records for losing money this season. Where's the beef?

Posted by eric at 11:11 PM

Atlantic Yards is not on the agenda for ESDC board meeting tomorrow

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation does have a board meeting tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. Atlantic Yards is not on the wide-ranging agenda, but the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is expected to get $50,000 (via the Assembly) and use it for a marketing campaign of some sort.

The authorization for arena bonds, however, is coming on November 24.


Posted by eric at 11:07 PM


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Norman Oder reports that the ESDC subsidiary the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation———the What??! Yes, the BALDC was formed months ago but you never heard about it because its establishment was not publicized. And they've never met.

But they will meet next week to "authorize" the arena bond. This means they are trying to get ducks in a row for the very troubled $700 million arena bond issuance.

BALDC was formed, basically, to issue the bonds for the arena. And who sits on the BALDC board of directors? These people:

Laura Anglin (Director of Budget)
Andrew Kennedy (Budget Office staff person)
Peter Kiernan (Governor's counsel)
Robert Godley (ESDC Treasurer)
Frances Walton (ESDC CFO)
Anita Laremont (ESDC General Counsel)

At least that is what we've been told.


NoLandGrab: Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation? Funny, we've been following this project for well nigh on six years, and we don't recall any of those folks spending a whole lot of time in Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

ESDC subsidiary to approve arena bonds on November 24

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) subsidiary Brooklyn Arena Development Corporation (BALDC) will meet on Tuesday, November 24, and authorize arena bonds. (It will also take "related actions," which will be worth a look.)

Either the ESDC knows that a favorable decision on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case will come down by Tuesday, or the ESDC, and bond rating agencies, have taken steps to put whatever bonds are sold in escrow while the case is still pending. Or maybe the bonds will be authorized but not sold until the case is resolved.


Posted by eric at 10:58 PM


What: Meeting of the Directors of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation, a local development corporation created under State Law.

Purpose: Authorization to Issue Bonds and Take Related Actions with Respect to the Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project.

When: Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.

Where: The Offices of the Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue - 37th Floor Conference Room
New York, New York 10017

The meeting is open to the public for observation only

Public please RSVP to (212) 803-3795.

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Goldman Apologizes. Ratner Arena Bond Would Lead to Same Late Regrets

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Goldman Sachs is the underwriter for the bond Ratner is struggling to have issued. Yesterday, Goldman Sachs had something to say:

Blankfein Apologizes for Goldman Sachs Role in Crisis

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., apologized for the firm’s role in some of the activities leading to the financial crisis.

“We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret,” Blankfein, 55, said at a conference in New York hosted by the Directorship magazine. “We apologize.”

Multiple press reports have stated that the problem Ratner is having is getting a good credit rating and insurance for the $700 million arena bond, and presumably part of the problem is the lack of a revenue model that could pay off the bond. A defalut on the bond would put New York State, and thus New York taxpayers, on the hook.

If Goldman goes forward with the arena bond (they have money to make in doing so) will they come back and apologize later? Wouldn't it be better to think twice before later regretting?


Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

Think of Kelo, But Remember Poletown and County of Wayne v. Hathcock Too

Develop Dont Destroy Brooklyn

Norman Oder makes a strong argument that the NY State Court of Appeals will think about Kelo when considering its own legacy when it rules on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case in the coming days.

But they should also look to and think deeply about Poletown and County of Wayne v. Hathcock.

Before Kelo and New London, Michigan courts made a horrific decision in 1981 to allow massive property takings in Poletown (the nickname of a Detroit neighborhood) for so-called "economic development." Twenty-three years later, Michigan's high court overturned that ruling, far too late for that neighborhood and the thousands who were forced out. And, as is always the case, the pie-in-the-sky benefits never panned out.

New York can and should forestall this outcome in Brooklyn.

Click through for more.


Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

Man on man crime

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Stephen Brown

The scene of this crime can't be pinned downed definitively, but it's noteworthy that the Brooklyn Paper is now referring to Bruce Ratner's emporium as the "notorious Atlantic Terminal Mall."

The Atlantic Yards blight study went out of its way to frame the project footprint as the hotbed of local crime activity, but the reality is that most area skullduggery is emanating from the Atlantic Terminal and its Ratner-owned neighbor, the Atlantic Center.


A Fourth Avenue woman had her wallet swiped off her baby stroller during a shopping expedition that started in the notorious Atlantic Terminal Mall on Oct. 30, cops said.

The woman, who, as fate would have it, works for the district attorney’s office, did not notice the crime for several days — until she checked her account and discovered that someone had made more than $1,000 in charges on her cards.

The thief might have taken the wallet off the stroller at Target, Party City, a nearby Key Food or the Associated Supermarket on Fifth Avenue — all stops on the 38-year-old victim’s itinerary that fateful day.


Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

Court ruling on Nets' Brooklyn arena looms

The Bergen Record

John Brennan reports on the countdown to the court ruling that will put wind in the sails of developer Bruce Ratner, or be the ultimate project buzz-kill.

New York's highest court resumed session Tuesday, and spokesman Gary Spencer said rulings are issued on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If the court doesn't rule this week on the project's proposed use of eminent domain at the Brooklyn site, the court's release dates for rulings next week would be Monday and Tuesday because of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

The court could take until as late as mid-December to announce its decision, but most of the 25 cases heard in October are expected to be ruled upon this month.

Here's what's at stake:

If the court allows the project to go forward, that will accelerate a scramble by the developer, Forest City Ratner, to beat three Dec. 31 deadlines:

  • The expiration date of an Internal Revenue Service ruling that would grant tax-exempt status for $600 million or more in bonds issued for construction of the Nets' arena in Brooklyn.

  • The end of a one-year extension granted by arena title sponsor Barclays Bank to remain committed to its reported 20-year, $400 million naming rights deal.

  • The deadline for the Nets to inform the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority whether it intends to leave the Izod Center for Newark's Prudential Center for the 2010-11 season.

If the court decision favors the plaintifs, the project would come to a screeching halt.


Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

Nets hope for 15,000 attendance, draw 11,332

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times reported that, based on ticket sales, the NJ Nets expected 15,000 attendees at last night's game. The Daily News reported that "Only 11,332 fans showed up."

Norman Oder adds some common sense to NBA math:

...those numbers were doubtful, given that announced attendance typically reflects ticket distribution rather than gate count.


Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

Do the judges on the Court of Appeals read the papers and think about Kelo? If so, they have to consider their legacy

Atlantic Yards Report

In advance of the NY State high court's decision on the use of eminent domain, which is expected any day now, Norman Oder wonders if the final chapter in the nation's most notorious eminent domain case to come before the federal Supreme Court will cast a long shadow on Atlantic Yards.

Do the judges read the papers?

Do they know the aftermath of the *Kelo vs. New London *case, where not only nothing was built but the company behind the plan, Pfizer, is leaving town?

The answer has to be yes to both.

And if they have any concern about their legacy, they should take a long pause before proceeding--as many legal observers were predicting--to simply reaffirm the state's power to pursue eminent domain.

After all, the legacy of a victory for the state could well be a basketball arena and a building or two--and a lot of vacant land serving as parking lots or "interim open space." In other words, a project ostensibly aimed to remove blight would perpetuate it.

And the airy promises of new tax revenues are simply bogus.


Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

Jane Jacobs Atlantc Yards Report Card: #32, 33, 34, & 35

Noticing New York's Jane Jacobs Report Card continues with four installments covering the use of eminent domain:

JJRCED-NNY.jpg #32: Is Eminent Domain's Full Cost Being Reckoned and Paid For? NO

Jane Jacobs was not 100% per cent against the use of eminent domain but her thinking involved giving its use a very high degree of scrutiny and she put forth several separate standards to apply before resorting to its use. Jacobs asserted that if eminent domain was used, the full actual value of what was being supplanted should be paid for. Probably this is an appropriate standard for social justice, especially when privately used land is being taken to be given over to another private owner for a use, which as is the case of Atlantic Yards, might even be the same use. However, there was another prime reason to require that full value be paid: so that the vitality and viability of that which must be supplanted will not be quashed but will be able to move and locate elsewhere without diminishment. She thereby sought to preserve diversity. Lastly, paying full value supported achievement of another standard, which is that the public should not use eminent domain without being fully cognizant of the actual economic trade-offs underlying the decision.

The law has not changed since Jane Jacobs' time so that payment of full value as she proposed is not required and would not be done in the case of Atlantic Yards.

#33: Is Eminent Domain Being Used with Restraint? NO

Jane Jacobs was aware that eminent domain was an extraordinarily drastic and ruthless tool which, even in those situations where it can properly be defended involves the causation of ruinous harm (even with full compensation being paid). The question then is whether it is being used with restraint. In the case of Atlantic Yards the answer is “no.” It is clear that at least one complete block, the block with the Ward Bakery building, (which wraps around another similar block that is not being condemned) is being condemned without any good reason. This block (where the historic Ward Bakery building was acquired and torn down) is the home to many other worthy buildings, such as Henry Weinstein’s, that are indistinguishable in quality from the those on adjacent property that is not being torn down. It has been noted by us and others how odd and unprecedented it is to have a historic district (the recently designated Prospect Heights Historic District) and an eminent domain site interlock like strangely configured jigsaw puzzle pieces.

#34: Is Eminent Domain Used With Public's Full Comprehension? NO

Jane Jacobs felt that if the public fully comprehended the true economic equations and balances when eminent domain was being used it would almost never be used, especially when it was proposed to transfer property from one private property owner to give it to another for “economic redevelopment” purposes. In the case of Atlantic Yards, every effort has been made to minimize public involvement and participation in an evaluative process while the developer, aided and abetted by some politicians, has promulgated misinformation and misunderstanding about the project. Among other things, the public agencies involved, like the Empire State Development Corporations have refused to do an assessment of the public costs of the eminent domain...

#35: Is Eminent Domain for Greed Being Avoided? NO

Though Jane Jacobs did not dwell on it she certainly thought that in worst case scenarios eminent domain would be wielded not just out of misguidance but with greed as an operative factor.
It cannot be regarded as an accident that the planning of the footprint was the megadeveloper’s own work. Furthermore, the peculiar wrench-shape footprint of the project highlights that the way in which eminent domain is being used is suspiciously odd.

Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

In Gowanus Canal Clean-Up, Bloomberg The Environmentalist Vs. Bloomberg The Developer

City Hall News
By Andrew J. Hawkins

An environmental impact from Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject makes a cameo in the conflict over the Gowanus Canal, being played out by environmental interests vs. developers.

Critics point to other examples to bolster their point that the Gowanus is not an isolated event. Bloomberg’s advocacy for big projects like stadiums has irked many environmentalists, who feel the mayor’s priorities have less to do with the environment and more to do with spurring economic development. Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn say the traffic impact of the planned development would increase pollution in the neighborhood. And critics of the new Yankee Stadium cite delays in park restoration and the city’s use of artificial turf as supposed evidence of the mayor’s phony environmental commitment.


Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

Book on mega-projects offers more reasons for skepticism of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder applies an Atlantic Yards perspective to his latest book report:

I wrote yesterday how the 2003 book Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment, authored by Alan Altshuler and David Luberoff, implicitly criticized Atlantic Yards in advising that overrides of local decision making are "very rarely justified" for sports facilities, since they don't serve "urgent regional needs."

There's much more in the book to generate skepticism about Atlantic Yards, as I describe below, including how project proponents have subtly shifted costs to the public sector; why the AY footprint poses a tighter fit than nearly all other sports facility siting efforts; and how mega-projects invariably involve cost escalation.


Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

November 17, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere...

Reason Hit & Run, New York's Shameful Eminent Domain Abuse

In the wake of last week’s big news that the Pfizer Corporation is pulling out of New London, Connecticut just four years after that municipality received Supreme Court approval to seize private property on Pfizer’s behalf, the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case in Brooklyn is receiving lots of well-deserved attention. In a superb article from Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Nicole Gelinas outlines New York’s shameful behavior.

It’s also worth noting that New York didn’t even start talking about blight until two years after the project was first announced. By that point, Ratner had already acquired many of the properties in the neighborhood (thanks to the state’s threat of eminent domain) and then left them empty, thus creating much of the unsightly neglect visible today.

Here’s another depressing fact: The MTA quietly struck a deal with Ratner for that below-grade railyard (the Vanderbilt Yards) as early as February 2005—without first opening the property up for competitive bidding. This prompted a public outcry, so the MTA offered prospective buyers a mere 42 days to put up their own bids. This was hardly "competitive," however, since Ratner’s plans had been in the works for years and everybody else had to scramble to meet the deadline. Still, the Extell firm successfully submitted a $150 million offer for the property, which has been appraised at over $200 million. But then Ratner bid just $50 million and won, with that figure later negotiated to a lump-sum payment of $100 million. Finally, the MTA sweetened the deal even further this past June by allowing Ratner to pay just $20 million up front, with the remaining $80 million due over the next 22 years. Now that’s a bailout!

Islandlaw Constitutional Rights Pages, Eminent Domain in New York

To protect against the abuses now permitted by this ridiculous decision, forty states passed more restrictive eminent domain laws. New York State has always prohibited condemnations that are meant for private redevelopment. But that may change soon.

The real outrage here is that the municipality isn’t arguing the general “public use” claim, which seemed unlikely to succeed. Rather, the argument is that the condemnation is required because the neighborhood suffers from economic blight. This would be a pretty good argument, except for the fact that Mr. Goldstein paid $590,000 for his condo in 2003, and the “blighted” neighborhood is filled with condos in the $600,000 range.

It remains to be seen how the court will rule, but if the “blighted neighborhood” argument is the best those seeking condemnation can do, Mr. Goldstein and his neighbors should be safe in their homes for the forseeable future.

NetsDaily, Is Mikhail Prokhorov Getting Richer?

Rumors swirl about where the Nets will play and who will own them. There are reports the current owners are having trouble arranging the financing for Barclays Center while others suggest if Brooklyn fails, Mikhail Prokhorov is “so geeked” about owning the Nets he’d be willing to keep them in New Jersey. And how will the Court of Appeals ruling affect all this?

One thing does appear certain: while all that is going on in New York, the Nets’ prospective owner, Prokhorov, is getting richer while sitting in Moscow. How much richer? Hard to tell, but the words “a lot” seem to be an accurate description. Moreover, he stands to get even richer by week’s end…again a lot richer.

The Sports Stuff Boards, What is Prokhorov's actual worth?

What is Prokhorov's actual worth?

No one seems to know the exact figure, but many believe it to be at least 2-3 times the one listed in Forbes magazine ($9.5 bn).

SportsBusiness Daily, Mikhail Prokhorov May Still Buy Nets If Brooklyn Falls Through [subscription required]

"Buy-For-Less Option" Remains For Prokhorov And Nets.


The New Jersey Nets have been selling fans big dreams about a move to Brooklyn and the landing of some marquee talent for the 2010 season. Well it appears the move to Brooklyn may be in jeopardy as reports have surfaced that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to purchase the team for a reduced rate and keep it in New Jersey.

All of this talk of re-locating is cool but the Nets are losing fans by the game....They may want to turn their attention to current basketball operations and being as competitive as possible.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 11/17/09 EDITION

On the Brooklyn front, the state is expecting to start marketing tax-exempt bonds to build the arena in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, Daniel Goldstein, Brooklyn resident and lead opponent for the anti-Atlantic Yards movement is not very happy with the offer he’s gotten from the state for his apartment.

UnBeige, Quarterback Profile Leads to Discovery of Kansas' Evil Plot to Control Stadium Design (Maybe)

Not to brag, but we have it all figured out now. Remember how you, like us, thought it was curious when you learned that the epicenter of stadium design is Kansas [or Missouri, see below]? You have Populous there, which is clearly the biggest player in the game (metaphor!), but there's also Ellerbe Beckett, who grabbed the Atlantic Yards ball from Frank Gehry and is now running it to the end zone (another metaphor!). But how exactly did the city wind up with control of the stadium-building universe?

Posted by eric at 11:39 PM

Pacers win 5th straight, drop Nets to 0-11

AP via Yahoo! Sports
by Brian Mahoney

If Bruce Ratner can do with the Atlantic Yards project what he's done for the New Jersey Nets since buying the team, we can't imagine why we've been opposing the project all these years.

Danny Granger thought the Indiana Pacers had a rough start to the season.

Try telling that to the winless New Jersey Nets.

Granger scored 22 points, Roy Hibbert tied a career high with 19 and the Pacers dropped the Nets to 0-11 with a 91-83 victory Tuesday night.

No end in sight for the Nets, on their longest skid since dropping 11 in a row to end the 1999-00 season.

Hoping to end the skid, the Nets asked their fans to show support with a “10 is enough!” plan, giving each season-ticket holder two tickets to bring additional fans. But the announced attendance was only 11,332, and now there are still no wins.


NoLandGrab: If the announced attendance was 11,332, then certainly the actual living, breathing attendance was much lower, and the more important actual living, breathing, paying attendance was, well, not much.

"11 is enough!," anyone?

Photo: Antonelli/NY Daily News

Posted by eric at 11:26 PM

Brooklyn Paper article about the ESDC's low ball offer to Daniel

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

About a month ago, Daniel Goldstein was informed that the ESDC was offering him 510,000 dollars for his apartment; an apartment that he paid nearly 600,000 for in 2003. This was a surprisingly low offer that Daniel feels was meant to punish him for fighting the project. The Brooklyn Paper ran an article about it today, following up on a very strong article by Nicole Gelinas in the Wall Street Journal.

For those of you in the New York area who are interested. We are going to do a rough cut screening of the first 30 minutes of the film- followed by a panel discussion with Daniel, Norman Siegel, Mindy Fullilove, William Stern (former head of the ESDC), and Robert MacNamara of the Institute for Justice- on Dec 10th at 7pm. rsvp to us through kickstarter and we will send you an invite with the location.

One last note. We are close to finalizing our efforts to have your pledges go through our fiscal sponsor MPI- this means that all of your pledges will be tax deductible.


Posted by eric at 11:18 PM

Be Careful What (Change of Law) You Ask For; You Might NOT Get It: Atlantic Yards and 1967's Rejected NYS Constitutional Amendment

Noticing New York

The first rule of proposing a change to the law, by passage of legislation or otherwise, is to consider if you really need the change or whether it is possible to construe the law as already saying what you want it to. Why? Because if you propose a change in law and fail that failure will forever afterwards stand as evidence you CAN’T then interpret the law as already saying what you want it to. This is for two reasons. First, proposing a change in law puts on the record the evidence that everyone and most particularly the legal experts on the subject, believe that the law DOESN’T already say what you are asking it to be changed to say, and second, when the proposed change in law doesn’t pass it shows that those who voted it down (those with authority and from whom the law flows) are opposed to modification of the law to make it say what you proposed.

All this is relevant because in 1967 New York State voters voted against a “public use” amendment to the New York State constitution proposed for the purpose of permitting the use of eminent domain for “economic development.” Even though that amendment was rejected state agencies officials are attempting to use eminent domain in exactly that way at the proposed Atlantic Yards megadevelopment site.


Posted by lumi at 6:14 PM

Tickets for nothing, Nets for free!

The NJ Nets are not only blowing out lower-level seats for tonight's game for a mere $10, but are also giving away extra tickets to season-ticket holders in hopes that they will bring along a friend or two, which would make anyone who paid face value for tonight's game a real sucker.

NY Daily News, Sean Williams emerges as bright spot for winless New Jersey Nets

The team, off to a franchise-worst 0-10 start, is giving each season-ticket holder two additional tickets for the game, with the hope that each of those fans will "bring additional friends and family to produce a packed house of cheering Nets fans."

NBA Fanhouse, Nets Make Losing a Marketing Gimmick

the 0-10 New Jersey Nets have accepted that ignoring the big, fat goose egg in "W" column is no longer possible ...

... which is why they've unveiled the "10 is Enough" promotion, which involves giving every season ticket holder two free tickets to Tuesday's game and selling a bunch more tickets to the general public for $10 a pop.

NY Daily News, New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark asks fans to show up

The team is giving away two extra tickets to every season ticket holder for tomorrow's game against the Indiana Pacers, hoping a more-crowded Izod Center will give the Nets a jolt.

Posted by lumi at 5:54 PM


As the City Council takes up consideration of the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment plan, the developer and local pols are locked in a dispute that could derail the project.

City Limits
by Jarrett Murphy

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo in a report on the battle over the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment, living-wage jobs and community benefits as an example of a project whose alleged benefits are looking very tenuous.

Behind the wage issue is a struggle over who holds the power in deciding how public land and money are used to develop under-served city neighborhoods. Pointing to other recent deals where community benefits are in doubt—like Yankee Stadium and Atlantic Yards—Diaz told an October 25th KARA rally that the push for a better deal from Related was part of "our revolution here, our new civil rights movement here, and that is economic development."


NoLandGrab: NLG pop quiz! Read the paragraph below and then guess which way the Kingsbridge Armory project will go when it comes to a Council vote.

Now the matter moves to the City Council, which along with the mayor has final say on the proposal. Related Companies, which has a number of projects besides the Armory that require government approval or assistance, has spent at least $150,000 lobbying city officials and agencies this year and donated $132,000 to municipal campaigns in the 2009 cycle; Land Use Committee chairwoman Melinda Katz, who ran for comptroller this year, was the biggest recipient with $41,650 in Related contributions. Carrion received $29,750, and Queens Councilman Eric Gioia—a member of the zoning subcommittee who ran unsuccessfully for public advocate—garnered $11,050 in Related money.

Posted by eric at 1:57 PM

NJ Nets Mailbag (Hodgepodge Edition)

by Dave D'Alessandro (and his readers)

A couple letters in Dave D'Alessandro's mailbag don't pertain to how woeful Bruce Ratner's penny-pinching has rendered the Nets.

Dave: Here in Brooklyn, they must be using invisible bulldozers, because I don’t see any on the Yards site.

JT: I’m thinking Mr. Yormark misspoke, or simply meant that the machinery is very close by and ready to begin work, which is obviously the case. I’m told that the prep work has been going on for years -- new sewage and water pipes, building the temp rail yard, etc. -- all the stuff necessary for pre-groundbreaking.

NoLandGrab: Mr. Yormark is more prone to fibbing than misspeaking.

Double D: Is there any chance that Oligarchy Ollie doesn’t pass the Stern test?

Thanks for the laugh I needed today, Tul. There was no Stern test, per se -- it was a complete whitewash, with the primer coat applied way back in August, shortly after a Ratner visit to Moscow. There was never any way they were going to turn him away: If you can let inveterate racist such as Donald Sterling into your club, who can you realistically keep out of it? And maybe he got his nine or 15 or 25 billion (we’re hearing newer and higher figures) through cronyism, Putinism, and other questionable means, but that doesn’t make him anything less than a swell guy in Stern’s eyes. So Mickey will take over the team soon, the commish will thump his chest about how he embodies and embraces noblesse oblige, and the rest of us will hold our noses in honor of the people of Norilsk, who have to inhale sulfur dioxide and other toxic dusts that come from his smokestacks as he piles up his billions.


NLG: If the Prokhorov deal was cooked in August, that would put it several weeks ahead of the "official" timeline of events.

Posted by eric at 1:47 PM

Jane Jacobs Report Card: #28, 29, 30 & 31

Noticing New York

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards overdevelopment is scoring abysmally on the Jane Jacobs report card. Today's installments examine the unintended consequences of directing massive public subsidies to a single megaproject.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #28: Observes the Goal of Creating Political Access (Inc. Goal of Countering Public Money Expenditures)? NO

Jane Jacobs was concerned with cities as working organisms. As one part of this concern, she wrote about consciously creating communities within cities that will have political access and effective influence to represent the interests of neighborhoods. Rather than respecting this as a goal, Atlantic Yards has progressed in the opposite fashion, stripping communities of their say-so about the project. When Community Board 6 voted 35-4 to disapprove of the project as proposed in the July 18, 2006 General Project Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement “because it will cause irreparable damage to the quality of life in the borough of Brooklyn,” the Brooklyn Borough President who stands apart in supporting Atlantic Yards removed members from that board on a wholesale basis. Jane Jacobs was also critical of the way that expenditures of public money were also sometimes used as a distracting sort of candy to try and nullify the political rights of voters.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #29: Using Public Participation in Shaping Cities? NO

Jane Jacobs viewed the people who live in city neighborhoods has having the most important (empirically derived) first hand expertise about their neighborhoods. She therefore believed that getting their input is a supremely critical aspect of the planning process. By comparison, she discounts the value that “experts” have to offer in the process. Normally, planning for big developments involves the public in the planning through the City’s ULURP process. In the case of Atlantic Yards, the process of involving the public through ULURP was sidestepped using a mechanism that people probably never expected would be used to sidestep projects of this magnitude after the City’s Charter was amended to create the ULURP process.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #30: Avoidance of Cataclysmic Money? NO

Part of Jane Jacobs genius was to point out that money could be destructive when it floods in faster than it can be constructively used. Even if good is “intended” by it, it can be too much of a good thing. She calls this “cataclysmic money” and identifies more than one form of it, but one of its most important forms, especially these days and in the case of Atlantic Yards, is public funding and subsidy. Even though or despite the fact that the Atlantic Yards area was, through natural economic processes, attracting substantial economic capital and creating million dollar co-ops and condos, Atlantic Yards is a supreme example of something with so many bad economic equations it would never happen except for public subsidy. That subsidy is overriding private enterprise in a huge way that ought to be offensive to conservative thinkers and liberal alike.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #31: Making Good Use of Gradual Money? NO

Jane Jacobs was supremely conscious of the good that money well and properly spent could create and was not, per se, against subsidies. However, she saw the most valuable form of money as gradual money spent slowly for gradual changes, building on and supplementing what exists. That money could come in through public spending and subsidy. Jacobs was also aware that in situations like Atlantic Yards where there is massive misdirection of public funds and subsidy into cataclysmic spending, each dollar the public spends cataclysmically creating destruction also represents a dollar that could, instead, have been spent gradually for public good. So, the misdirection of funds is, at least, a double loss to the public.

Posted by lumi at 11:15 AM

NY agency to start marketing Brooklyn arena bonds

Reuters is reporting that the ESDC expects to float the triple tax exempt bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena:

"Forest City Ratner Companies, along with Goldman Sachs, is in talks with rating agencies and finalizing the bond structure," a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation said by email. "The offering statement is being finalized; we expect to release bond terms in the next two weeks."


Atlantic Yards Report, ESDC: "we expect to release bond terms in the next two weeks"

Well, "expect to" is not the same as "will." First, it's not clear whether the ratings agencies are on board. And surely the bond sale would go more smoothly if a Court of Appeals decision comes down--as is expected, in the coming weeks--in that pesky eminent domain case.

Posted by lumi at 6:26 AM

Is the state playing lowball with Daniel Goldstein?

The Brooklyn Paper
By Stephen Brown

Bruce Ratner needs Daniel Goldstein's condo in order to demolish the building that stands in the way of a new arena for the NJ Nets:

State officials have finally put a price on Daniel Goldstein’s opposition to the Atlantic Yards project — it’s going to cost the activist $80,000.

Goldstein, the lone holdout in a Pacific Street condo building that is slated to be condemned to make way for Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena, has been offered just $510,000 for the three-bedroom unit that cost him $590,000 in 2003.

Goldstein, who runs the project’s principle opposition group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, was miffed (to say the least) at the offer.

Goldstein's lawyer suggests the possibility that the State is "being vindictive," while another lawyer, who is not involved in the case, concludes, "They’re being very punitive."

In another irony, the state condemnation process also provides a “relocation firm” to help Goldstein find a new place. But the firm’s suggested apartment only rubbed salt in the opponents’ wound: For $510,000, all he could get was a two-bedroom apartment near Crown Heights that is two-thirds smaller than his current digs.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report noted that the State's lowball figure of $395/sf stands in stark contrast to Ratner and the State's projection that condos at Atlantic Yards would fetch $1217/sf in 2015. [link]

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


Brownstoner, Goldstein Offered Less Than What He Paid for Condo

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

How to prioritize megaprojects? Avoid state intervention on behalf of local sports facilities

Atlantic Yards Report

At a panel on megaprojects November 7, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer suggested a need to prioritize, given that not all projects could go forward. And he also pointed out that many projects have regional importance.

No one tried to prioritize, but I found some guidance--implicitly critical of Atlantic Yards--in the 2003 book Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment, authored by Alan Altshuler and David Luberoff.

In a nutshell: the use of a state zoning override, the bypassing of any effective input from any legislative body and the fact that the stated goals of Atlantic Yards could have been achieved by other, simpler means, would probably lead analysts to conclude that Bruce Ratner's megaproject doesn't belong on the priority list of regional projects.


Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

An Open Letter to the People's Billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov

Huffington Post

Before the richest man in Russia actually goes through with the deal to buy the NJ Nets, for which the State of NY is poised to seize Dan Goldstein's condo, Goldstein released a "Dear Prokhy" letter in hopes of attracting the attention of the team's prospective owner, recently dubbed the "people's billionaire" by Boston Celtics CEO Wyc Grousbeck.

As you are a people's billionaire we are certain that you can understand our concerns and outrage. We mean, how would you feel if the French government seized your $634 million French Riviera Villa Leopolda and gave it to a billionaire—one of the richest men in the world—to build a football stadium? Not too good, we're sure.


Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

Pfizer Move a New Blow to Conn. City in Land Fight

With Pfizer leaving, residents of Conn. city say fight over waterfront land was unnecessary

ABC News
By Eric Tucker, AP


[Click image to launch video.]

After drug giant Pfizer Inc. announced that it was opening a new research center here, city officials aggressively moved to acquire surrounding land for an economic development project — triggering an epic fight over eminent domain that reached the U.S. Supreme Court and ended with residents being forced from their homes.

But the land where the homes once stood has remained undeveloped, and the community took another hit last week when Pfizer, a major economic engine in the city and its largest taxpayer, announced plans to close the $350 million research center and relocate about 1,500 jobs to nearby Groton.

Now some angry and befuddled current and former residents, including some who lost their homes, say the drug company's announcement reaffirms their conviction that the city never needed to pick the property rights fight in the first place. If they have lost, they say, then so apparently has the city.

"We just got so sick of hearing that we were supposed to sacrifice for the greater good," said Matthew Dery, the sales and retention manager at The Day newspaper in New London who relocated to Waterford after being forced out of a home that had been in his family for about a century. "As it turns out, there was no greater good."


Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

In Markowitz's publication Brooklyn!!, again no mention of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards is still the 800-lb gorilla in Brooklyn Borough Hall:

The Fall 2009 issue of Brooklyn!!, Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional publication, appeared in my mailbox yesterday....

With the regular "Marty's on the Block" feature, Brooklyn!! offer a seamless transition from Markowitz's campaign literature. And, as with the campaign literature, there's no mention of Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn's most controversial project, on which Markowitz has staked his reputation.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Who would've thunk it: the Nets are "my" team

Atlantic Yards Report

Nets CEO Brett Yormark sends the "Mad O" a "Dear Norman" letter:


I got this email today offering discounts. But I think the only people who can really call a team their own are in Green Bay.


Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

November 16, 2009

Getting money out of Russia: why Prokhorov might want the Nets no matter where they play

Atlantic Yards Report

The proposed purchase of a majority interest in the Nets by Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's richest man (at a reported $9.5 billion) may seem to be a toy (as per the New York Times) for the oligarch.

After all, it would cost him just $200 million down (all borrowed) plus a willingness to absorb Nets' debts and losses--hundreds of millions of dollars more--to gain 80% of the team and 45% of the arena.

But if Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner is desperate to divest a money-losing asset, maybe Prokhorov is a little desperate in his own way, given the difficulty--and importance--of getting assets out of Russia and into more stable overseas markets not subject to the heavy hand of the Russian state.

A new owner in NJ?

If that's true--and there's some evidence--then Prokhorov should follow the deal whether it takes him to Brooklyn or New Jersey.

Indeed, after ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that Prokhorov might buy the Nets even if they stay in New Jersey, a minority owner of the team confirmed to the Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro that "it is believed that Prokhorov 'might be inclined to still buy and keep it in Jersey' if the price could be worked out." (In other words, a renegotiation.)


NoLandGrab: Sure, Prokhorov might be interested in the larger Atlantic Yards real estate deal, but we sincerely doubt it. He wants to own an NBA team, not some apartment buildings. So we have a modest proposal for Mr. Prokhorov.

You've seen the Prudential Center. Nice arena, right? Great pre-season crowd. Ready to go on opening day 2010 (if not sooner). As close to Manhattan as Brooklyn is.

Here's the plan: You make a small investment in Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, say, $300,000. That's not even a rounding error for you. At the same time, you start making noise about how you think the use of eminent domain is inappropriate (maybe relate it to how the totalitarian Soviet state disrespected private property back in the old days, and how you always resented it as a kid). Then you feign cold feet on the Nets deal. And then you sit back, and wait. It won't take long. With the prospect of his rich Russian oligarch bailing, Ratner's Atlantic Yards deal will be belly-up in a matter of weeks, if not days. And then you ride back in, buy the Nets for 50 cents on the dollar, move them to Newark, and voila: You've got what you want, at a huge, Norilsk Nickel-like discount. You can thank us with a couple courtside seats for Lebron and the Cavs, and maybe one of those $19,000 lunches.

Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

No answers to tough questions for NYC EDC's Pinsky on sweet deals on stadiums

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, Seth Pinsky, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC), answered questions from readers of the New York Times's CityRoom blog about citywide entrepreneurship.

Given the circumscribed topic, it's unsurprising that, in his answers (Round 1, Round 2), Pinksy bypassed hard questions on development issues. Still, it's notable--and further evidence for Mayor Mike Bloomberg's tougher-than-predicted re-election bid--how much anger there is about the city's willingness to push stadium deals. (The state, of course, is in charge of Atlantic Yards, with the city's agreement and Pinsky's support.)

Click through for a sampling of some of the questions Pinsky didn't answer.


Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

Ghostwritten letters on health care for elected officials make NYTimes front page; FCR's orchestration of letters for MTA bid got no such scrutiny

Atlantic Yards Report

It was front-page news in yesterday's New York Times. The article, headlined In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’, described how the official record of the House of Representatives's debate on health care contains similar-sounding speeches by many legislators, ghostwritten by lobbyists.

A not dissimilar effort in 2005 orchestrated by Forest City Ratner, in which elected officials sent similar letters to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) endorsing the developer's bid for the Vanderbilt Yard, never generated such skeptical coverage, though the Times covered the issue glancingly, as I'll detail below. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

From yesterday's article:

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

In the summer of 2005, numerous elected officials and civic representatives sent letters to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority endorsing FCR's bid. I was not yet covering Atlantic Yards, and didn't see the letters until the bid surfaced as part of an affidavit in the 2007 challenge to the AY environmental impact statement.

The letters almost surely came from a template supplied by Forest City Ratner. The examples below--from federal, state, and city elected officials--all contain the same talking points, that the development "is part of the borough's ongoing evolution" and that the project is more than a sports arena.

Press coverage

No one, as far as I can tell mentioned the orchestrated letters at the time. However, an 11/6/05 New York Times article (Routine Changes or Bait and Switch?) pointed out that elected officials in letters kept promising 10,000 office jobs even though the developer had swapped office space for condos.

Click through to see a sampling of the letters.


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Reform eminent domain

The Star-Ledger, Editorial

New Jersey's largest newspaper calls for reform of state eminent domain laws, principally the tightening of the definition of what constitutes blight.

Eight years after a Connecticut town seized land under eminent domain to sweeten a package deal to lure Pfizer, the drug giant has decided to move on, taking 1,400 jobs elsewhere and leaving behind a huge office complex and acres of vacant, weedy lots. New Jersey should take heed and move swiftly to reform its eminent domain laws.

New London, Conn., is the loser in this cautionary tale for other officials who think selling the store to win corporate favor is a good idea.

The town, which gave Pfizer substantial tax breaks, also forcibly took dozens of homes under eminent domain with the promise of building an "urban village" of new homes and stores.

New Jersey needs to get moving. The state constitution allows local governments to seize private property in areas of "blight," a term loosely applied in recent years, to the great disadvantage of property owners, many of whom have fought back.

Since 2007, state and appellate court rulings have put town officials on notice.

These rulings ultimately helped Long Branch homeowners this year beat back a plan to raze their beachfront homes for private, higher-priced condominums. But residents who fought the plan also had the broken economy on their side. The downturn made the whole project considerably less appealing to the developer and town leaders, who, in better times, might have continued the court fight. Another group of homeowners might not be so lucky.


NoLandGrab: We probably don't need to remind you that the developer in the Long Branch case was none other than Forest City Ratner. [Ed. note: we confused Long Branch with Bloomfield, NJ, where a judge struck down an eminent domain taking for a proposed Forest City project. We regret the error.] New Jersey's courts have been stepping into the void that the legislature has failed to fill — are you paying attention, New York State Court of Appeals?

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

It Came From The Blogosphere...

Nets Daily - The CSKA Temptation

This is speculation about where oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov might draft players should the deal to sell the Nets to him proceed.

Mikhail Prokhorov knows international players, as do those around him. It should come as no surprise that they see European players as a rich vein of basketball talent that’s been under-prospected, under-mined. After all, he spent a lot of money stocking the CSKA Moscow roster with mostly European talent during the 13 years he owned the club.

CSKA had the Euroleague’s highest payroll before Prokhorov sold out last year, around $55 million annually. That’s just below what the Nets’ roster is being paid this year, low by NBA standards, but in the Euroleague, it’s an astronomical figure. Of the 20 highest paid European players in 2008-09, eight were on CSKA’s roster, including three of the top six and five of the top ten.

Considering Prokhorov’s history, we thought we’d take a look at the CSKA roster the last few years to see if any of them might be tempted to join their old boss should he finally get control of the Nets…and which might be valuable pieces for the Nets. Those still with CSKA might very well be tempted to move. The team’s new owners have reportedly cut expenditures by 30% this year.

As his old coach, Ettore Messina, noted this week, Prokhorov almost always left basketball decisions at CSKA to his basketball people and didn’t let his own biases play into roster decisions. He’s no Mark Cuban. Still, why not take a look at the possibilities, those players who were either developed or brought in on his watch. After all, these are the players he knows best. We broke them down into three categories: draft prospects, young prospects and NBA-ready (including three who have played in the NBA previously) plus one big wild card.

Big Government - Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed: Terror Trials in the Big Apple
by John M. O'Hara

This right-leaning blog is incensed about the announcement of a terror trial to be held in New York, but not too incensed to get in a dig at Bruce Ratner and his connection with ACORN.

Yesterday, I wrote about the curious connection that major Obama and ACORN supporter Bruce Ratner has to the Department of Justice – the very department that refuses to initiate a criminal trial of ACORN. It just so happens that Bruce Ratner’s brother, Michael Ratner, shares the terrorist coddling sympathies of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Land Use Prof Blog - Sports stadiums: if you build it, will they come?

There can't be a discussion of publicly-subsidized sports facilities without mentioning the proposed Atlantic Yards Project.

For you football fans out there, here is a Sunday post about the recurring issue in many cities about building a new sports stadium, either for the local team or to attract a new team to town. There are a lot of land use issues bound up in these controversies. Cities like to have sports teams, not just for the city's sports fans, but also very much for the broader but nebulous civic sense that the city is a "major-league" town or that it has "arrived." Claims are made about the economic development that must surely result from the construction of fancy new digs for the team. Transit and traffic issues are involved. Location: should the stadium be in the suburbs, or downtown? What will be the impact on neighborhoods? On property values and taxes? On the environment? Of course, the gorilla in the room is the question of who pays--the team or the taxpayer? People don't want to lose their team, but neither do they want to be held "hostage" by the wealthy owners' demands. Then there is the problem of land assembly. How much eminent domain will be needed?


And of course, don't forget the simmering controversy over the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, which combines a Kelo-style master redevelopment plan (and heartburn over eminent domain) with all of these issues about public involvement with bringing a new sports team (the NBA Nets franchise) to town, and the litigation in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Redevelopment Corporation.

Estate - Goldstein Offered Less Than What He Paid for Condo

On Saturday the Wall Street Journal ran an anti-eminent domain op-ed by the Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas. The writer argues that the state is masking an economic development motive in its push for the use of eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards footprint by falsely categorizing the area as blighted. AY Report notes, “not every block was thriving, but Prospect Heights was surely on the way up.” The piece also says that Develop Don’t Destroy’s Dan Goldstein is now being offered less money for his home, in the building above, than what he paid for it in 2003: “The letter they received in September informed them that the state will compensate them $510,000 for their property—less than what they bought it for and less than half of what Mr. Ratner offered to pay them for it four years ago. It’s also less per square foot than what Mr. Ratner expects to sell his luxury apartments for once they are built. ‘I think [the state] lowballs to deter people from fighting like we have,’ Mr. Goldstein told me.” Goldstein paid $590,000 for his 1,290-square-foot apartment, or $457 a foot, and the state is now offering him $395 a foot; AY Report writes that state consultants prepared a report saying that prices in Prospect Heights now start at $470 a foot and go up to $1,225 a foot.

Nets Are Scorching - Podcast Episode 9

At about the 24:30 mark of this podcast, there is discussion of how Mikhail Prokohorov would be interested in keeping the Nets in New Jersey if the proposed Atlantic Yards project falls through. Keeping the team in New Jersey would make Nets fans very happy. It would please quite a few people here in Brooklyn, too.

Posted by steve at 11:50 AM

At (up to) 94% discount, Nets try to fill seats with "10 is enough" promotion

Atlantic Yards Report

It would be tough enough to fill seats at the Izod Center for a midweek game against a non-marquee opponent, but the New Jersey Nets are also winless, at 0-10 (albeit coming quite close a couple of times).

So Nets CEO Brett Yormark (aka "Yormarketing genius") has devised a "10 is enough" promotion, offering all lower level seats for $10 when the Nets plays the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

Deep discount

Some of those seats have a face value of $175, so that's a 94% discount.


Related coverage...

NetsDaily, Nets Marketing a Losing Streak

There’s always a new chapter in Brett Yormark’s marketing playbook. There was Chinese dragon dancing; a “snowbird” ticket exchange with his twin’s lousy hockey team; reversible jerseys (sans paper bag headgear); Rent-a-Net for $25K; etc. Now, he’s promoting the team’s losing streak, offering $10 (Get it?) tickets to Tuesday’s Pacers game under the banner, “10 is Enough!” How about “Enough is Enough?”

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

November 15, 2009

Mystery solved (sort of): LIRR was working late in the Vanderbilt Yard (but how about some real-time info?)

Atlantic Yards Report

One might get the impression that the ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, doesn't much care about Prospect Heights residents. Why else does it take weeks (and the help of Norman Oder) to get answers to complaints about construction on the Vanderbilt Yards?

At a meeting October 22 of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, as I reported the next day, a resident at Newswalk (700 Pacific Street, adjacent to the Vanderbilt Yard) raised questions about disruptive work late at the yard.

That resident the next day told me that on the previous Wednesday and Thursday nights, work at the railyard "went outrageously late," to at least 11 pm.

He was unable to get 311 to log the call (which said it was a responsibility of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its Long Island Rail Road [LIRR] subsidiary) and unable to get an immediate response from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Among his concerns: workers were not watering down the dust, as required.

Well, after some delays attributable to multiple parties (the ESDC, myself, and the LIRR), I have some answers.


ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell told me that the LIRR, not the ESDC, enforces the construction guidelines at the Vanderbilt Yard.

She added:

As far as the dust is concerned, ESD asked our mitigation monitor and owner's rep about it. They performed recent site visits and observed no increase in dust. In addition, the air quality monitoring that [Forest City Ratner] FCR is required to conduct did not show any excesses. Nonetheless, we have spoken to FCR about the complaints and reminded them to take note of actual site conditions and take any measures needed to alleviate poor air quality in the vicinity.


LIRR spokesman Sal Arena confirmed that LIRR employees were working late in the Vanderbilt Yard on those dates. He added:

This was emergency electrical work near the tunnel entrance that required the use of a truck mounted on high rail equipment. However, except for emergencies such as this or critical Railroad infrastructure work, all construction in the yard takes place during day-time hours. My understanding is that there has been no late night work in the yard in recent weeks.

OK, but it would be much better to have closer to real-time explanations for all this. Remember, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said the ESDC was not empowering its AY ombudsman. But how about an Ombudsman's Blog?


NoLandGrab: Blogging is, indeed, a wonderful way to alert the community as to what's going on.

Posted by steve at 8:04 AM

Report: Nets could remain in New Jersey if Brooklyn move falls through

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

The Nets, via Ratner, Yormark, et al., have said that if the Nets don't move to Brooklyn, then abosolutely, positively, oligarch Mikhail Prokorov would drop his deal to purchase the Nets. It turns out that's not true.

Both Bruce Ratner and David Stern have stated recently that if Atlantic Yards doesn’t get under way, it’s a deal-breaker, and that Prokhorov will take his billions and go home — leaving Ratner with no other option but to seek out-of-town buyers, perhaps from Seattle.

But that might have changed in the months since those assertions.

One minority partner, who requested anonymity so he could speak candidly, said Saturday it is believed that Prokhorov “might be inclined to still buy and keep it in Jersey” if the price could be worked out.

Nets CEO Brett Yormark insists construction for a Nets arena in Brooklyn will begin in mid-December. It could be true, but he seems to forget that there are court cases and financing to get in order, first.

Yormark would only say that the Jersey option will be moot as soon as the Nets take possession of the land in Brooklyn: “There are bulldozers on the site right now,” the CEO said here Saturday. “There is preparatory activity, and we will commence construction in mid-December. We’re just as confident as ever that we’ll be in Brooklyn.”

That cannot happen until some eminent domain issues and bond sales go forward, however.


Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

The Yankee’s Hoggish New Stadium Monopoly Taxes The Rest of Us

Noticing New York

A report from WNYC on October 28 spotlights how the new Yankee Stadium sucks up economic activity from the surrounding neighborhood. This is the jumping-off point for this exercise to demonstrate that the economic benefits from subsidizing professional sports facilities are illusory. Although not a perfect parallel with the proposed Atlantic Yards development, some of the same schemes would be used to subsidize an arena for the Nets.

Topics covered include:

The concept of Atlantic Yards as a "mega-monopoly" is also covered:

Mega-monopoly probably describes Atlantic Yards better than any other single word given that:

  • The gestating seed of Atlantic Yards was a big league sports franchise. These franchises are exempt from antitrust rules and if you search the Atlantic Yards Report site you will find a lot of discussion of their monopolistic nature by economists and other experts.
  • (You will also find a lot of our own comments about Atlantic Yards as a monopoly.)
  • Atlantic Yards’ birth was midwifed by another monopolistic expedient, the award of the project to Forest City Ratner on a no-bid basis, which was essential to preclude any possible competition.
  • Its succor and the basic of sinew composition is the eminent domain abuse that chases away all other competitors and transforms what was the competitors’ into Forest City Ratner’s.
  • Atlantic Yards has been further coddled by government agencies that have lavished on it additional hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxpayers on a no-bid basis, given its extraordinarily valuable naming rights and exempted it (and these many gifts) from the requirements of appraisal and bids under the Public Authorities Accountability Act

You can also read how the Yankees have managed to avoid what would be the usual tax obligations while, at the same time, taxpayers pay for the new stadium.


Posted by steve at 7:15 AM

Kelo outcome shows Atlantic Yards risk

Village Voice By Julia

The exit of Pfizer from New London makes the author of this item question the wisdom of granting public subsidies and seizing property, via the use of eminent domain, for the benefit of developer Bruce Ratner.

Ratner already doesn't feel any particular obligation to the taxpayers providing his windfall (or the current residents being offered below-market value for their condemned properties). Last week, he told business paper Crains NY, not generally a hotbed of anti-development sentiment, that he didn't feel a need to share building plans with the public: "Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."

It's particularly striking that Ratner feels free to show such an intransigent attitude at this point, when he's facing multiple lawsuits challenging the city's actions on his behalf and a looming Dec. 31 deadline to break ground or lose the tax-free status for the project's bonds he's relying on to finish the project. Even if he manages to jump those hurdles, the Independent Budget Office says that revenues on the project won't cover debt service, much less the subsidies.

Complicating matters even more, Ratner is battling with bond rating agencies which don't want to give the project's bonds the investment-grade rating the project is relying on. If he does manage to talk them around, he's got to market the bonds, sell them, complete the legalities with the city and the MTA, and break ground in the next six weeks.

On the other hand, he has been working the refs pretty hard. He spent almost a million dollars on lobbying for the plan last year. He also has a friend in City Hall and an affluent partner, either of whom could cover his nut in an emergency out of petty cash.

All the same, given the outcome of the New London experiment in protecting corporations from the free hand of the market, perhaps the city should think twice about fighting to subsidize someone who feels comfortable telling us to go fuck ourselves before he gets his hands on our money.


NoLandGrab: This blog entry mentions the City of New York as both facing legal challenges and acting to seize property. Actually, the lead agency for this project is the Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner.

Posted by steve at 6:46 AM

New York: Where “Underutilization” Equals “Blight”

The Volokh Conspiracy

This blog entry makes note of how New York State's loose definition of blight is being exploited for the proposed Atlantic Yards project. This blog describes itself as: "The Volokh Conspiracy is a group blog. Most of us are law professors." It's not surprising, then, that the comments section is a kind of back-and-forth on constitutional issues.

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys sing “there’s nothing you can’t do” in New York. That may be true for Hova, but it’s not supposed to be true when it comes to eminent domain under New York law. A purported “public purpose” is insufficient to seize private property for economic development. So government authorities resort to “blight” designations to condemn private property they would like to redevelop. This is the strategy being used for the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project in Brooklyn. Yet as Nicole Gelinas reports, the blight designation here is a bit of a stretch, as it relies upon the condition of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s railyards, occasional weeds and grafitti, and the alleged “underutilization” of local properties. As Gelinas notes, if “underutilization” is sufficient to constitute blight, then nearly any proposed economic redevelopment project could utilize eminent domain under New York law.


Posted by steve at 6:32 AM

EB and RU Roll Along

Uncle Mike's Musings

This blog, which is "mostly about sports", the author expresses (using some strong language) the travesty of trying to move the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn when there's already a new arena available in Newark.

Why do I even bother to pay attention? They're going to be playing their home games in Brooklyn in 3 years. Or maybe 4.

Or maybe not at all. There's a report on the Star-Ledger's website in which Mikhail Prokorov, the prospective new Russian owner, may move them from the Meadowlands to the Prudential Center if Bruce Ratner, trying to sell the team even as he tries to build the Atlantic Yards project (which appears to have been all he cared about all along, the dirty cunt), can't get that deal done.

Newark is a great basketball city. The Nets had two exhibition games at The Rock that had attendance comparable to the Devils' regular-season games against non-rivals. It's so easy to figure out, a Caveman could do it! Why can't Ratner? Couldn't he make just as much money with the Nets in Newark -- and with all the questionable construction contracts floating around in New Jersey -- as he could with his Frankenstein baby in Brooklyn? Does he have to take the team I loved from 1977 to 2006 when he announced he was taking them away? Did I mention he was dirty cunt?


Posted by steve at 6:18 AM

November 14, 2009

dddb before city council hearing scene

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

On the day that the City Council planned to hold hearings on the Atlantic Yards Daniel Goldstein and Patti Hagan talked to a tv reporter about the event. The actual city council hearing was informational only. The city council had no say over the project.


Posted by steve at 9:46 AM

Views On Eminent Domain From An Eminent Blogger

Atlantic Yards Report

A defender of eminent domain: it should be a local decision (but what about AY?)

If you don't recall when you or your elected representative got to vote on the proposed Atlantic Yards project, it's because that never happened.

Two more commentators have joined the online New York Times discussion (previous coverage) regarding Pfizer's pullout from New London and the aftermath of the Kelo vs. New London eminent domain case.

Yale Law School professor Thomas Merrill, a supporter of eminent domain, writes:

I do not believe that this sad episode means we should overturn Kelo and ask federal judges to arbitrate questions about when eminent domain should be used. The solution is not to nationalize eminent domain, but to localize it. If a proposed project is one that will have primarily local benefits — like economic development — then local citizens should decide whether to pursue it, not some state redevelopment agency or the governor’s office.

Local residents will have a better idea whether a project is likely to succeed, and what impact it will have on those who are forced to move. It is particularly important that these projects be funded with local dollars — either local tax revenues or block grant monies that can be used for a variety of purposes — rather than federal or state grants controlled by people outside the community. The New London project was almost entirely funded by the State of Connecticut. This is the root cause of a series of calamities that now leave virtually everyone worse off.

(Emphasis added)

While Atlantic Yards would have both state and local benefits, it would most affect the city of New York and borough of Brooklyn. But a state redevelopment agency--the Empire State Development Corporation--is in charge. And no local elected official had a vote.

Gelinas: how the AY Blight Study is about economic development (and how the ESDC has lowballed Goldstein)

Norman Oder adds his assessment to today's piece by Nicole Gelinas in the Wall Street Journal.

Given that the justification for eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards case is blight, rather than economic development (as in the Supreme Court's controversial Kelo vs. New London decision, now back in the news), Nicole Gelinas's op-ed in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal is especially timely.

It's headlined The Empire State and Eminent Domain: A neighborhood with $600,000 apartments is declared 'blighted.'

Gelinas, who's part of the free-market Manhattan Institute, points to a state court decision that suggests that when private benefit trumps public use, eminent domain is invalid, and the failure of state voters to approve an amendment adding "public purpose" to "public use."


She writes:

So to push the Atlantic Yards project through the courts, New York state isn't arguing that it needs to take Mr. Goldstein's property for economic development. Instead, it has declared that Mr. Goldstein's neighborhood is "blighted." This allows the state to condemn property on the theory that clearing unsanitary and unsafe slums constitutes a public benefit.

In fact, the Prospect Heights neighborhood that Mr. Goldstein and his wife have made their home is hardly a slum. Prospect Heights was thriving before Atlantic Yards construction began. It's a hip neighborhood that's a short hop on the subway from Manhattan.

Well, not every block was thriving, but Prospect Heights was surely on the way up, as New York Times Real Estate section stories indicated.

The blight argument is bogus--remember, then-Assemblyman Roger Green, a supporter of the project, declared in 2005 that the neighborhood around the site wasn't blighted.


Gelinas points out that the Blight Study by AKRF cites weeds and graffiti as examples of blight--which could be removed by development. She adds:

Mainly, however, the report pointed to "underutilization" of the land, concluding that the area wasn't being used to the maximum economic benefit allowed by law. But that means the Atlantic Yards is really an economic-development project—and that the politicians along with Mr. Ratner want to manage Brooklyn's economy rather than let competitive forces continue to improve the neighborhood.

The next conclusion should be this: Atlantic Yards then is not very distinct from Kelo.

There is an unmentioned argument for eminent domain: the difficulty of assembling land for a large project. But there has to be a legitimate public use/purpose, like, say building new rail networks.


While Goldstein in 2003 paid $590,000 for a 1290 square foot apartment, now, Gelinas reveals, the state has offered only $510,000, less than half of what Ratner offered four years ago.

That offer is $395/sf, a stunning figure, given that the ESDC's consultant, KPMG, says that the current range for Prospect Heights starts at $470/sf and ranges up to $1225/sf.

Posted by steve at 8:29 AM

The Empire State and Eminent Domain - A neighborhood with $600,000 apartments is declared 'blighted.'

The Wall Street Journal
By Nicole Gelinas

This opinion piece clearly spells out how the Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, has tried to portray an up-and-coming neighborhood as blighted in order to justify the use of eminent domain. A decision from the New York State Court of Appeals on this issue is expected soon.

In September, Dan Goldstein received a letter from New York State informing him and his wife that the government was about to seize their Brooklyn apartment "In furtherance of the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project." The building would be razed as part of a 22-acre, $4.9 billion sports-complex project.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and developer Bruce C. Ratner have promised that the project will bring jobs, affordable apartments and the Nets basketball team. Lost amid these promises is the story of Mr. Goldstein, his wife Shabnam Merchant, and a few others who have spent years resisting efforts to dislodge them. The state's highest court—the New York Court of Appeals—is expected to issue its ruling in Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation any day. The case is a pivotal one in the struggle to prevent abuse of the power of eminent domain.


So to push the Atlantic Yards project through the courts, New York state isn't arguing that it needs to take Mr. Goldstein's property for economic development. Instead, it has declared that Mr. Goldstein's neighborhood is "blighted." This allows the state to condemn property on the theory that clearing unsanitary and unsafe slums constitutes a public benefit.

In fact, the Prospect Heights neighborhood that Mr. Goldstein and his wife have made their home is hardly a slum. Prospect Heights was thriving before Atlantic Yards construction began. It's a hip neighborhood that's a short hop on the subway from Manhattan.


All of this places Mr. Goldstein in an important spot. The case that bears his name is the first opportunity since Kelo for New York's highest court to affirm that the state's constitutional standard for seizing property is more stringent than the federal constitutional standard.

If the court rules against Mr. Goldstein, however, he and his wife could suffer one final injustice. The letter they received in September informed them that the state will compensate them $510,000 for their property—less than what they bought it for and less than half of what Mr. Ratner offered to pay them for it four years ago.

It's also less per square foot than what Mr. Ratner expects to sell his luxury apartments for once they are built. "I think [the state] lowballs to deter people from fighting like we have," Mr. Goldstein told me.

Mr. Goldstein should win. The state constitution supports him. If he loses, so will the owners of private property everywhere in the Empire State.


Posted by steve at 7:45 AM

Observer: as delays mount on bond sale, the clock ticks (but Ratner could still pull it off)

Atlantic Yards Repot

Norman Oder reminds us that the last two months of 2009 should be interesting for everyone following the Atlantic Yards fight.

Yesterday, I pointed out that Bruce Ratner predicted to the New York Observer that bonds for the arena would be rated and sold in mid-October. Now, the Observer's Eliot Brown reminds us that Ratner first predicted an end-of-September date.

In today's piece, headlined New Doubts About Atlantic Yards Financing as Deadline Approaches, Brown says "the project is running into trouble at the ratings agencies," which have resisted Forest City's effort to get the arena bonds rated at the crucial minimum: investment grade (BBB-) or better. Still, Ratner's confident it'll work out.

The clock ticks

Brown adds:

Forest City must first get the bonds rated, then market them, then sell them--and it's no forgone conclusion that anyone will buy them--and, finally, firm up all final agreements with the city, state, and M.T.A. on the complex real estate deal, all before Dec. 31 (with Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks mixed in). Each of these steps takes at least a few days, if not more than a week, making it hard to see how everything could get wrapped up if the bonds are not rated before the end of November, if not sooner.

ALL IS NOT TO say the deal is doomed. Mr. Ratner, with extraordinary stamina for this project and the outpouring of cash that comes with it amid a recession, has a history of executing. Further, many deals and financing arrangements go through rocky periods, where doubts are raised, before ultimately working everything out as deadlines approach.

There are lots more variables and uncertainties--read the whole piece. The gist: it's not over til it's over.


Posted by steve at 7:43 AM

This and That: November Edition

News 12

Included in these short items about the Yankees, Giants and Devils is this dark assessment of the Nets and their uncertain future.

NETS: a team that has been reduced to complete and total irrelevance. The proposed Brooklyn move has turned off fans and tuned out any real interest. Just six years ago, the Nets were coming off back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals and came within two victories of winning it all. Today, Bruce Ratner has turned the Nets back to a laughingstock. He was surely going to dump the team as soon as he got his real estate deal completed, but that story drags on and on.

Now the team is so desperate for fans they offer reversible jerseys, a no-name Net on one side and a visiting NBA star on the other. At least one is a Jason Kidd model. And he’s the visitor.

The team will likely move to Newark as early as next season. “A temporary move,” the Nets will tell you. “It was always inevitable,” says I.


Posted by steve at 7:13 AM

Follow-up on Violence From Ratner Mall

The ESDC's blight study used to justify eminent domain for the proposed Atlantic Yards project claimed a high crime rate for the area, but most of it occurs in Bruce Ratner's malls adjacent to the site. A promotional event gone out of control this past week served to emphasize this point.

The Local - Buffalo Wings Exec: ‘It Was the Perfect Storm’

The Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant at the Atlantic Terminal mall had been trying for three weeks to address growing crowds of kids coming out for the Tuesday night 50-cent wings special, a top executive said in a telephone interview today.

But a confluence of forces — the restaurant’s location in a major transportation hub, the ability of social networking to rally people, and the interest of a large number of kids wanting to gather on the night before a school holiday — all combined to set the stage for the violence that broke out later that night in nearby Fort Greene, he said.

The Brooklyn Paper - Shooting ends chicken wing gravy train at Buffalo Wild Wings
By Stephen Brown

Buffalo Wild Wings has plucked the feathers off its weekly cheap wings promotion after hordes of rowdy students descended on the sports bar, resulting in two separate shooting incidents on Tuesday night.

The three teens caught in the crossfire were not seriously injured, but that did not stop some local leaders from calling for a crackdown on the spicy appetizer emporium inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) pointed the finger at the management of the sports bar for recklessly promoting its 50-cent “Wing Tuesdays” to students.

“I want this Tuesday restaurant promotion stopped, or the lease of this business revoked,” James said.

Posted by steve at 6:56 AM

ESPN's Stein: Prokhorov wants the Nets no matter what

Atlantic Yards Report

Following up a previous mention, ESPN.com's Marc Stein writes:

It is unquestionably true that Mikhail Prokhorov's deal to buy the Nets includes a very crucial clause that enables him to walk away if the Nets' move to Brooklyn falls through. What we've heard, though, is that he's so geeked about the idea of owning an NBA team (as well as a prominent U.S.-based business) that he easily could renegotiate the price down if Brooklyn falls through and assume control of the Nets for less money even if the franchise can't extricate itself from New Jersey.

As I've suggested, whatever the lure of a new Brooklyn arena, the scarcest commodity is the team.


Posted by steve at 6:50 AM

Costco Comes to Manhattan

By Paul Bubny

This Forest City project is nearing completion. Fans of the developer will immediately recognize promises of low-wage jobs via big box stores coupled with government subsidies in order to reproduce a suburban shopping mall in New York City.

A 110,000-square-foot Costco opened its doors Thursday as the first tenant to set up shop at the East River Plaza in East Harlem. It’s the first Manhattan location for the warehouse club and the culmination of a 13-year process to develop the 500,000-square-foot retail center.


"Given the tough economic times we face, East River Plaza offers a much-needed boost to the economy of New York City," says Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of FCRC, in a release. "East River Plaza brings jobs for local residents and generates tax revenue for the city and state. It also provides Manhattan's residents and small businesses with access to quality merchandise at wholesale prices."

Ratner says the project is more than 90% leased, and will generate approximately 2,000 permanent jobs when fully occupied. The Costco has about 400 employees, mostly from northern Manhattan.


NoLandGrab: We'd love to know who will be checking to see how many of those "approximately 2,000 jobs" materialze?

Posted by steve at 5:50 AM

November 13, 2009

It came from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn...

A New London Outcome Can and Should be Forestalled in Brooklyn

Broken promises, aka highly speculative "economic development" plans," have now played themselves out in New London, Connecticut, leaving stolen homes and a dust bowl. The same kind of promises by Ratner and New York State have already been broken before the state steals private property by eminent domain.

The predictable outcome of the bogus and inflated Atlantic Yards "economic development" speculation can be forestalled by our elected officials and courts, rather than lamented in the press ten years from now. It is not too late.

With 32 Business Days Before an IRS Deadline, Ratner Arena Bond is a Struggle

Ratner said he'd float his arena bond in September, then he said early October, then late October, then early November....here we are, November 13, and there is nothing but reports about the developer's trouble getting a good rating and insurance for the tax-exempt bond.

What's the big deal?

If the state doesn't issue his arena bond by the end of 2009, he will lose the tax-exemption which most observers agree would be fatal to the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 4:56 PM

Pfizer – New London CT – Eminent Domain – Atlantic Yards

The Cross Pollinator

TCP blogger Steven Walcott adds his two cents after excerpting a couple bits from the New York Times story posted below.

Anyone who thinks that property tax reductions and promises of jobs for normal folks justifies eminent domain for corporate purposes should read this article about Pfizer and eminent domain in Connecticut.

Anyone who thinks the giant turd called Atlantic Yards is really for anything other than Bruce Ratner’s bottom line and Mayor Bloomberg’s ego/legacy are deluding themselves.

These companies expect full ass kissing and bending over, and when they don’t get it they tip out.


Posted by eric at 4:50 PM

Pfizer to Leave City That Won Land-Use Case

The New York Times
by Patrick McGeehan


From the edge of the Thames River in New London, Conn., Michael Cristofaro surveyed the empty acres where his parents’ neighborhood had stood, before it became the crux of an epic battle over eminent domain.

“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”

That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company, announced it would leave the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the United States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use.

Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.


NoLandGrab: Is it just a coincidence that Pfizer's big property tax break at its New London site will expire right about the same time it will move from that facility?

Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

New Doubts About Atlantic Yards Financing as Deadline Approaches

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Here's a must-read article summarizing all the loose threads that Forest City Ratner must somehow knit together in the next seven weeks if its Atlantic Yards project is to become a reality.

On Sept. 9, Bruce Ratner, the powerful developer scrambling to start building a new Brooklyn basketball arena for the Nets, gave a prediction: The credit ratings agencies would deliver ratings on about $700 million in bonds for the arena by the end of the month. The ratings are a necessary precursor of financing the arena, an act that must be finished by Dec. 31 to meet an Internal Revenue Service deadline.

On Sept. 30, still with no ratings, Mr. Ratner, chairman of development firm Forest City Ratner, updated the timetable: The bond ratings would be done by mid-October.

It's now mid-November, and the word remains the same from the project's backers: The bond ratings are still at least a week off--hopefully.

As the repeated missed internal schedules suggest, the project is running into trouble at the ratings agencies.

According to multiple people briefed on the situation, the agencies have been pushing back against Forest City in its attempt to get the arena bonds rated as investment grade (BBB-) or better, causing new concerns for the project. (Forest City's representatives expressed confidence they will receive the needed ratings.)

This significant hurdle comes as the countdown clock ticks. Loudly.


NoLandGrab: While things may look bleak for the project's future, Ratner's Goldman Sachs banker expresses confidence, and Atlantic Yards' six-year history has demonstrated that Ratner often manages (with a lot of help from his office-holding friends) to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

Posted by eric at 12:57 PM

Eminent Domain Outrage in Connecticut: Pharmaceutical Giant Pfizer To Leave New London, Site Of Major Housing Battle

Democracy Now!

Here's a must-watch segment from Democracy Now! on the decision this week by Pfizer to abandon New London, which seized land to build an office park around the company's headquarters, giving rise to the landmark Supreme Court case of Kelo vs. New London.

Homeowners in New London, Connecticut took on the city’s leaders after they announced plans to condemn all of the homes in one neighborhood to make way for a private development project for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The city said it would bring in thousands of jobs. After a 2005 Supreme Court ruling against the homeowners, the entire neighborhood was bulldozed. This week Pfizer announced it is shutting down its research center.

Juan Gonzalez raises the issue of Atlantic Yards at approximately the 21:30 mark.


Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

The final collapse of redevelopment plans in New London leads to new scrutiny of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The Kelo vs. New London case is experiencing some serious blowback, now that the entire rationale for eminent domain there has unraveled.

While the commentary does not directly address Atlantic Yards--where the justification for eminent domain is the removal of blight, not the pursuit of economic development--the experience in New London may nudge judges (like, say, the New York Court of Appeals in the AY eminent domain case) and legislatures toward greater scrutiny and skepticism of eminent domain.

The court decision

Remember, the Supreme Court, in its controversial 5-4 2005 decision, upheld the city of New London's plan for eminent domain because, as the majority opinion concluded:

The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including–but by no means limited to–new jobs and increased tax revenue.

Moreover, Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his nonbinding concurrence (seized on by plaintiffs in the unsuccessful Atlantic Yards federal eminent domain case), observed:

This taking occurred in the context of a comprehensive development plan meant to address a serious city-wide depression, and the projected economic benefits of the project cannot be characterized as de minimus.

(Emphases added)

The problem: Pfizer will close its global research and development headquarters in New London, ending any lingering hopes that anything would happen with the long-dormant plan.


Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Eminent-domain outrage in Conn. shows why Ratner's Yards plan stirs anger

NY Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez

It is not just New London, of course, where local governments have rushed to use eminent domain in recent years to bulldoze neighborhoods for the benefit of the rich and powerful.

Here in this town, the Bloomberg administration keeps trying to seize properties in downtown Brooklyn to make way for the giant Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Project. In Willets Point, Queens, it wants to condemn scores of small businesses for another grandiose commercial development project.

But local residents and owners, like Dan Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and Jake Bono of Willets Point United, refuse to give in.

Kelo and her neighbors in Trumbull may have lost their homes, they say, but the fight they started continues.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

A Turning Point for Eminent Domain?


When Pfizer announced on Monday that it was closing its global research and development headquarters in New London, Conn., the news reverberated far beyond the struggling seaport city. The project, part of an urban renewal effort, was the basis for a much-debated 2005 Supreme Court decision upholding government’s eminent domain rights to take private property for public use.

But the New London redevelopment never got off the ground, even after the local and state governments spent more than $80 million to buy and demolish private property to pave the way. Now comes the blow from Pfizer: how will its withdrawal affect future eminent domain battles in redevelopment projects? What are the lessons learned for urban planners and local governments?

Here's an excerpt from Paul Bass's essay, headlined Clarence Thomas was right:

The lesson learned in the City of New London’s Fort Trumbull neighborhood — or what was once the Fort Trumbull neighborhood — is that urban liberals make mistakes, big mistakes when they stand against the little guy through the misuse of eminent domain.

These urban liberals — the Democrats running New London at the time — thought they could build a “better” neighborhood by destroying generations of individual investment. And they used government power, the power of eminent domain, to do it. Eminent domain makes sense when used for public safety, but it doesn’t make sense when it means giving already powerful interests an advantage in real estate development.

Now the homes are gone and vast acres remain abandoned. Not only is Pfizer not building the new neighborhood it promised, it is closing its research and development headquarters and moving 1,400 jobs out of town.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

NetsDaily, While Waiting Court Decision, Debate Goes On

There is no schedule for the Court of Appeals to rule on eminent domain at Atlantic Yards. It could come any day or next month. Bonding for Barclays Center appears to be on hold. But in Connecticut, critics see the worst case scenario: land gets taken but the project never gets off the ground. Columnists and lawyers debate the underlying issue of when is it right to take someone else’s land for a civic project.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 11/13/09 EDITION

In a column in the Daily News, Juan Gonzalez looks at how an eminent domain case in New London, CT, is an example why Atlantic Yards opponents are so angry.

AbsurdBeats, Little pink houses for you and me

“I’m sure that there are people that are waiting out there to say, ‘I told you so,’ ” Mr. Pero said. “I don’t know that even today you can say, ‘I told you so.’ ”

Hmmm. And yet many of those screwed over by their own city retain the ability to say precisely that.

Large swaths of barren land where neighborhoods once stood, driven out not for the public good (always a tough call, but if not always justified, at least justifiable) but because regular citizens living their lives don’t produce enough profit benefit to the city.

Not that that would ever happen in New York. I mean, the Atlantic Yards project—it’s all good.


Brooklyn The Borough, This Week in Brooklyn: Mourning Jerry Fuchs

In other shoddy construction news, Bruce Ratner remains tight-lipped about Atlantic Yards, refusing to disclose to Crain’s what it will look like. "This isn’t a public project," he told the paper. "We will follow the guidelines." Brownstoner gathered a few statements that seem to imply Ratner will return all the public money he has gotten and plans to receive. The developer is waiting to see if eminent domain can be used for the site.

NoLandGrab: Rest assured, Bruce Ratner will never voluntarily return a dime of public money, which Forest City appears to view as its entitlement.

Oldhardhead's Weblog, ACORN – Nuts Crack Don’t They?

More right-wing conspiracy theories — the nut calling the kettle black.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Atlantic Yards, the CBA, and "racialized discourse"

Atlantic Yards Report

So, Atlantic Yards has been analyzed through many lenses, but environmental justice is a new one. This spring, an article published in the Journal of Sport & Social Issues bore the title Sports and Environmental Justice: "Games" of Race, Place, Nostalgia, and Power in Neoliberal New York City and, while jargon-heavy, it offers some insights, notably that "the developer co-opted the racialized discourse of social movements for economic, environmental, and social justice."

The author is University of California Davis American Studies professor Julie Sze, a former Brooklynite and author of Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice. She relied significantly on AY critics such as Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), urban planning professor Tom Angotti, and the film Brooklyn Matters.

Sze's book concerns the impacts of polluting facilities and while an arena is not a waste transfer station, there are similarities in the development battles. The irony is that some of those who might be expected to resist the imposition on the community of an arena do not do so, because they have partnered with the developer or been co-opted.


Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Ratner Family Ties: ACORN and Justice Department Plot Thickens

by John M. O'Hara

The right-leaning Big Government suspects that Democratic politics are at the heart of the ACORN-Forest City Ratner relationship.

One family’s involvement with ACORN and the Obama administration is of particular interest and elucidates the complicated web of connections and cash behind ACORN and this President.

Meet the Ratners.

Bruce Ratner is a New York real estate developer who has given thousands of dollars to Democrats including President Obama. His philanthropy also includes having bailed out ACORN with $1.5 million to pay off their embezzlement debt, a decision he stands by despite ACORN’s recent prostitution scandal and a Congressional report detailing the systemic criminal elements in the organization.

As of late, Mr. Ratner has spent thousands lobbying the Obama administration for stimulus funds for an affordable housing / basketball arena boondoggle called Atlantic Yards. Oh yeah, Ratner owns the Nets who will occupy the new stadium should he have his way. In addition to paying back Mr. Ratner for his generous support over the years, the stimulus funds would benefit, you guessed it, ACORN! What’s more, the project would be seizing property from the very poor ACORN and liberals claims to represent by invocation of the extremely controversial doctrine of “eminent domain.”


Additional coverage...

Norman Oder, however, points out that ideology has nothing to with it.

Atlantic Yards Report, A caution on the alleged Ratner-ACORN conspiracy

In a post on the conservative site Big Government, John M. O'Hara connects the dots between Bruce Ratner's Democratic campaign contributions, the Forest City Ratner bailout of ACORN, the FCR lobbying for stimulus funds, and the job of Ratner's nephew at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), concluding that this would stymie a DOJ investigation of ACORN.

Another writer for the site notes that Bruce's brother Michael Ratner, head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, has sued the federal government on behalf of ACORN.

While that does constitute some very interesting circumstantial evidence, and FCR surely has an interest in ACORN's health, we should remember that the company and its principals are not ideological in their campaign contributions. Michael Ratner, acting apparently on behalf of corporate interest, has given campaign contributions to some politicians who are far from progressive.

It's all about business.

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

November 12, 2009

Arena bonds down to the wire? ESDC likely waiting until mid-December

Atlantic Yards Report

It looks like the sale of tax-exempt bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena would occur, at the earliest, in mid-December, two months after the date once predicted by developer Bruce Ratner.

A press release (bottom) from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) today announced a meeting November 16 of the ESDC's Bond Finance Committee.

Was that regarding Atlantic Yards arena bonds? (Seemingly the latter would involve the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation, or BALDC).

No, said ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell. (The ESDC is issuing other bonds.)

Coming in December?

So, when might arena bonds be on the agenda? "We expect by mid-December," Mitchell responded.

That suggests that the ESDC--perhaps nudged by bond rating agencies?--doesn't want to issue arena bonds until and unless the state Court of Appeals rules in favor of the ESDC's use of eminent domain.

A decision is expected in the next weeks.

But a December date already represents a two-month delay for Ratner, who told the 10/1/09 New York Observer that, after bond ratings were determined in "about two weeks... then we'll start selling them."


NoLandGrab: Ratner, who once claimed his Nets basketball club would be playing in Brooklyn by 2006, has been wrong before.

Posted by eric at 10:13 PM

Meet the Ratners: Defending ACORN is Their Family Business

by Chris Berg

All in the family.

Today the Center for Constitutional Rights sued the federal government on behalf of ACORN. They are alleging that Congressional efforts to defund ACORN constitute an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder. This tired argument has been thoroughly rebutted, but the Center for Constitutional Rights is going to make it anyway. Republican National Lawyers Association Chairman David Norcross has noted that: “The actions of Congress to defund ACORN clearly do not meet the definition of a Bill of Attainder.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights is going to stand up for this corrupt organization, and I think I know the reason why. It’s all about family.

The President of the Center for Constitutional Rights is Michael Ratner. Michael Ratner is a well known liberal lawyer who has fought against the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay. He also teaches at Columbia Law School.

If you haven’t heard of Michael, that’s all right, I’m sure you’ve heard of his brother Bruce. He’s a prominent developer and owner of the New Jersey Nets. His company is Forest City Enterprises.

ACORN had been supporting Bruce Ratner’s plans for a massive new arena for the team and his surrounding real estate development plan. Last September as the embattled community organization was dealing with the repercussions of the Rathke embezzlement Ratner came to the rescue with a $1 million loan and a $500,000 grant. The money, which helped ACORN through some of its darkest days, also bought their silence as criticism of Ratner’s development became widespread.

Now we see Michael Ratner’s Center for Constitutional Rights fighting to overturn Congressional efforts to defund this corrupt organization.

These two brothers are working hard to defend this troubled organization. One brother provides the bail money while the other defends them in court.

Now it appears that one of the next generation of the Ratner family has received a political appointment at the Department of Justice. Matthew Ratner, who has worked for the Ohio Democratic Party, and who according to SEC filings is the beneficial owner of 267,117 shares of Forest City Enterprises, has received a political appointment as a “confidential assistant” at the Department of Justice.

Only time will tell if Matthew has joined the family business.


Related coverage...

AP, ACORN lawsuit raises question: Can it survive?

ACORN has been cut off by banks, the government and most of its private foundation funders, severely hampering its housing operations and raising the possibility that it will not survive in its current form, according to a lawsuit the group filed Thursday against the U.S. government.

The lawsuit claims that Congress' decision to drop all funding to the group and its affiliates was unconstitutional because it punitively targeted an individual organization.

In affidavits accompanying the lawsuit, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis and other employees paint a bleak picture of an organization damaged by a string of scandals and the loss of federal funds.

When the funding measure first passed Congress, "I thought ACORN could survive. But I underestimated the effect ... and its consequences with our other sources of funding," Lewis said. "We want to comply with every investigation, but we cannot comply if we do not have staff and are closing our offices."

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Brooklyn federal court by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of ACORN and its affiliates, seeks reinstatement of the funds.

Posted by eric at 10:02 PM

Columnist Collins says NYT "apologizes endlessly when we make an error" (nah)

Atlantic Yards Report

I think New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins does a generally excellent job, but she unleashed a brutally weird claim in today's column:

I work for a paper that rends its garments and apologizes endlessly whenever we make an error.

Not. At. All.


Posted by eric at 9:58 PM

LeBron’s silence on 2010 is golden for Cavs

Yahoo! Sports
by Adrian Wojnarowski

LBJ has locked his lips and thrown away the key when it comes to talking about his impending free agency.

No more flirting, no more indulging future teams and teammates and cities. No more talk about Madison Square Garden, no more about the Russian owner and Jay-Z headed for Brooklyn. Maybe it is all about the Cavs, all the time now. Only James can decide that.


Posted by eric at 9:51 PM

First tenant at East River Plaza opens its doors

The Real Deal

Here's one Forest City Ratner project that has actually come to fruition.

East Harlem's new big-box retail shopping center, East River Plaza, officially opened today on FDR Drive, according to a press release. The 500,000-square-foot center, developed through a partnership between Forest City Ratner Companies and the Blumenfeld Development group, will include a Target, Best Buy, Marshalls, PetSmart and Old Navy. Costco, which occupies a little over a fifth of the plaza's total space, is the first tenant to open, bringing 400 new jobs to the area. Leasing at the center largely has been considered a success; according to developer Bruce Ratner, 90 percent of the retail space has been leased out. All told, the East River Plaza will create an estimated 2,000 jobs.


Posted by eric at 9:47 PM

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Cards, Numbers 24-27

Noticing New York

After posting umpteen-thousand words on Tuesday on 300 years of the history of judicial independence, Michael D.D. White somehow managed to run off four more installments of his "Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card" series.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #24: Avoidance of “Border Vacuums?” NO

Jane Jacobs pinpointed and described a phenomena that is readily possible to observe many places in almost any city- What she called “border vacuums.” She observed how borders that interrupted the flow of the city and city streets tended to create areas of deadness surrounding them. Among other things, she observed that projects built like Atlantic Yards on superblocks visually separating themselves from the city created these borders and associated vacuums notwithstanding that they might offer paths and promenades for pedestrian travel.

Some borders damp down use by making travel across them a one-away affair. Housing projects are an example of this, the project people cross back and forth across the border (usually, in any appreciable numbers, at only one side of the project or at most two sides). The adjoining people, for the most part, stay strictly over on their side of the border and treat the line as a dead end of use.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #25: Convert Borders to Seams? NO

Jane Jacobs suggested that borders could be converted to “seams” and would not have to function as borders if along their edges there were frequent invitations that would bring users across the border. Atlantic Yards does not seem to have any lively cleverness in its design that would accomplish this though some corrections might one day get fitted in to correct some of it problems. Corrections will be more difficult in some areas like where the arena presents large blank walls more than a block long. Further, as the megadevelopment will take decades, perhaps three to four, there will be decades where with acres of parking lots and a still open cut for the rail yards little or no correction will be possible.

(Above: The seven-story tall back of the proposed arena which, straddling a closed-off street, will be nearly two blocks wide. It is likely to face acres of parking lots and open rail yards for decades.)

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #26: Allowing People to Move up the Ladder Through “Unslumming”? NO

Jane Jacobs devoted a chapter of her book to the subject of the way in which areas of cities thought of as “slums” went through natural processes to become anything but. She called the process “unslumming” but these days it might be considered much the same thing as gentrification depending on the income levels that come to prevail in an improving area. In describing this kind of improvement she countered the wisdom or dogma of the day that slums needed to torn down to be improved and that residents needed to be removed and relocated in large scale reshufflings of the population.

Atlantic Yards involves the tearing down of blocks and reshuffling of people living on them in much the same fashion as the old-style urban renewal projects of the days of yore. In much the same way, justification for the tear down and reshuffling is being offered by describing as `unhealthy’ areas that don’t believe themselves to be such and are quite busy improving themselves through natural processes.

Jane Jacobs, in realizing that the neighborhoods “unslummed” naturally with many of the same families remaining in place as the neighborhood improved realized that the poor were not just being unproductively evicted from a poor neighborhood, they were being evicted from a neighborhood that was likely a potentially wealthier improved neighborhood. In other words the less advantaged in society are being knocked off an ascending ladder.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #27: Use of Empiricism and Curiosity to Determine and Work with Actual Facts and Reality? NO

Jane Jacobs was remarkable for being able to see and understand what “experts”who had proceeded her overlooked or failed to understand and she did it by rigorously going out to observe what was actually out in the world to be observed rather than seeing what she expected, wanted to or thought she should see. If the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement is representative of what the sponsors of Atlantic Yards see, or don’t, the evidence is that they are not seeing the world of this Brooklyn site for what it is but for what they hope would justify their proposed actions. Likewise, if you go by the inaccurate descriptions of the proposed project and area in the materials the Ratner organization promulgated to promote the project.

Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Brooklyn Ink, Popcorn Fires

When an overheated popcorn machine caused smoke to billow at the UA Court Street Stadium 12 on September 13, the theater’s employees should have known what to do. After all, a similar, and more serious, fire had occurred at the Brooklyn Heights movie theater just six weeks prior, on August 4.

But according to locals who were at the theater the night of the fire, no one at the theater did anything.

UA Court Street Stadium 12, which is owned by Forest City, real estate mogul Bruce Ratner’s corporation, has had previous violations issued, mostly for elevator regulation issues, but none recently.

The theater did not say what policies it has put in place to prevent a third fire, or if it has implemented new emergency procedures if a third fire does occur.

Novel Spaces, Fidelity in Writing

I met a new novel yesterday.

Not a new idea for a novel -- I had that a few weeks ago when a conversation with a black historian gave me an idea for another vampire novel in my Testaments. Basic premise, rough outline of the story arc, new characters...I made a few pages of notes in my Moleskine on the subway and kept going.

No. This was a new novel, delivered almost as if on a golden platter, the beginning of the story, where it went, the theme and subtext, a range of interesting people I didn’t know, a few characters from the book I’m working on now in a new place in their lives, and the chance to skewer Atlantic Yards and the whole current crop of mega-developers reshaping Brooklyn around me. Sweet.

EYEBALL-BLINK COMIX, good articles on the throne

When I wrote about how I was coming out against Bloomberg last time I did not know how to link from the blogger site to sources. Now I do. Here are five articles related to my criticism of Mayor Bloomberg and his lack of personal accountability. I'm just going to list what the articles say in brief: Bloomberg supported his buddies Tishman-Speyers take over of stuytown, made Bruce Ratner his deputy mayor and gave him a sweet deal with Atlantic Yards development project.

Posted by eric at 12:49 PM

Meeting with Roger Green

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

In the winter of 2004/2005 Roger Green, state assemblyman for part of the project site, addressed the community in regards to his position on the project. This scene has become part of a montage in the film.


More than 100 people have pledged more than $7,500 to help fund the production of Battle of Brooklyn. Click here to add your support.

Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

For the New York Times Sports section, an easy story about the Nets--and two suggested tougher ones

Atlantic Yards Report

In a soft feature today headlined A Net Reaches Out to Fans, Wherever They Are, New York Times sports business writer Richard Sandomir writes about the unusual willingness of guard Devin Harris to meet with fans (in this case in Newark).

Easy story. (It also omitted disclosure of the ties between the Times and Forest City Ratner, though a column yesterday by columnist George Vecsey included such disclosure.)

I think Sandomir should follow up on a couple of real sports business stories that the Times has flubbed.

Those stories being the NYC Independent Budget Office's forecast that the planned Nets arena would be a money-loser, and the role of sports economist Andrew Zimbalist in selling the project's alleged economic benefits.


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

A Net Reaches Out to Fans, Wherever They Are

The New York Times
by Richard Sandomir

Nets guard Devin Harris sat at a table between the bread section and the produce aisle at a Pathmark here signing autographs and quietly representing a team that plays in New Jersey but wants to escape to Brooklyn.

“I’ve always been a fan of being personal with fans, to see me up close, rather than just giving money to charity,” he said, as he signed his name to the small yellow picture frames given to about 50 shoppers and fans by Western Union, a Nets sponsor that invited Harris to the supermarket, where it has a money transfer outlet.

“I just like connecting with people,” he said, a rack of Bundt cakes behind his chair.

Harris would be active under any circumstance, but he and his teammates must simultaneously maintain the franchise’s New Jersey fan base while building one in Brooklyn, where the team hopes to move in a few years to an arena that is part of the long-delayed Atlantic Yards project.

“Fans are in a tough situation,” Harris said. “They wonder where we’re going, to Newark or Brooklyn.”


NoLandGrab: Harris and his teammates must wonder, too.

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

Forest City Ratner's hand--via BUILD and the 77th Precinct Clergy Council--in some supportive comments to the ESDC

Atlantic Yards Report

Just in case you're wondering how so many people commented in favor of Atlantic Yards to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) before the most recent approval in September, well, it didn't happen spontaneously.

As the screenshot at right suggests, the Rev. Cecil Henry of Calvary Community Church made sure to not only send his comments to the ESDC, he also CC'd Forest City Ratner employee Brigitte LaBonte, who notably helped guide Delia Hunley-Adossa as she MC'd a June 2008 "Brooklyn Day" rally."

Henry is VP of the United Clergy Council of the 77th Precinct, as noted in the letter at bottom. The Precinct Community Council is headed by James Caldwell, also the head of Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development).

Note that Henry rather sweepingly claims that all the members of his church support the Atlantic Yards project.

Click through to see the email and letters from Henry extolling the project — and adhering to Forest City talking points.


NoLandGrab: At this rate, we wouldn't be surprised if workers doing prep work in the Atlantic Yards footprint were to any day now unearth a tablet containing the 11th Commandment — Thou Shalt Build Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Atlantic Terminal Mall teenage crime wave

Brownstoner, Two Teens Shot on Fulton in Fort Greene

Update 12:52 pm: We just got the official report from Captain Tasso at the 88th. Turns out there were two separate shootings last night, the one discussed above in which two teens were shot but are in stable condition, and another (also non-life threatening) one at Flatbush and Fulton; there was also a stabbing in the vicinity of Atlantic Center. All three events are being linked to the buffalo wing promotion. There was a large police presence on hand that managed to send thousands of the teens home, obviously some managed to cause problems before leaving the area; none of individuals involved in any of the incidents were from the neighborhood.

Atlantic Yards Report, Crime in the footprint: AKRF was either incompetent or lying

Tuesday night's incidents serve as a reminder of one of the big fat lies in Forest City Ratner's blight study, used to justify taking of people's homes to make way for the developer's basketball arena.

An altercation spilling out of the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in the Atlantic Terminal (not Center) Mall Tuesday night led to a shooting--and another piece of evidence that high crime in Sector E of the 88th Precinct is related to the malls, not the much-emptier Atlantic Yards footprint.

So consultant AKRF, in conducting the Blight Study for the Empire State Development Corporation, was either incompetent or lying:

Similarly, while there were 115 grand larceny crimes reported for sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security force recorded only one incident of larceny that same year. Although crimes catalogued by the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal security staff are not necessarily the same as those catalogued by the NYPD, the relatively low number of crimes reported at the shopping centers indicates that the high crime rate in sector 88E is more likely a result of crimes occurring on the project site than in Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal.

More likely? Nah. Remember, "A large percentage of our crime--particularly grand larceny and petit larceny--occurs in the malls," declared Captain Vanessa Kight, 88th Precinct Executive Officer, in March.

AKRF apparently talked only to Forest City Ratner, operator of the malls, which has an interest in minimizing the amount of crime, despite mounds of evidence (1, 2, 3, etc.). The cops weren't questioned.

Press Release: Shooting incident in Fort Greene on Veterans Day Eve alarms local residents and the community

From the office of City Councilmember Letitia James:

(Brooklyn, Nov.11, 2009) In an example of poor planning, two teens were injured by gunfire last night, possibly due to irresponsible management of the promotional event, as well as insufficient security at the Atlantic Center Mall. The incident occurred at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant’s Tuesday, 40-cent, Wing Promotion. An altercation between restaurant patrons happened in the mall, which then spilled into the streets of Fort Green, Brooklyn.

[Rest of the press release after the jump.]

“Falling on the night prior to the Veterans Day school holiday, the restaurant could not accommodate, nor provide proper security for the crowd of teens that responded to the promotion – geared to middle and high school students. The NYPD was forced to maintain order, resulting in resources being withdrawn from local streets, a burden to Fort Greene and the 88th Precinct,” said Council Member Letitia James.

“I question the marketing and management of this event, and ask that restaurants and mall management seriously re-evaluate security procedures for highly attended promotions such as the one held yesterday evening. It is my hope, and those of the community that the two injured teens have a speedy recovery.”

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Whatever happened to "Tenacious B"?

Atlantic Yards Report

Ha! Crain's NY Business changed the headline of the profile of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner from "Tenacious B - Bruce Ratner must clear yet more do-or-die hurdles at Atlantic Yards," to "Ratner faces Atlantic Yards hurdles," removing the developer's rapper handle, which had bloggers LOAO.

The Notorious "Mad O's" reaction: "Odd."


NoLandGrab: We're not sure what happened, but the change to a tongue-in-cheek headline only highlights Ratner's reputation of being thin-skinned.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

The "bloggiest" claim goes borough-wide, but deserves a big footnote

Atlantic Yards Report

The future of hyperlocal news--and the business models behind it--was the subject of a most interesting conference held today at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. (See coverage on Twitter.)

One factoid, however, deserves a big footnote. Introducing the hyperlocal landscape, CUNY's Jeff Jarvis said there are "a thousand blogs in Brooklyn alone."

There may well be that many, but only a handful or two or doing journalism (and many more conveying information in various forms). So, despite the apparent nation-leading concentration of blogs, Brooklyn hasn't yet produced a blog news network, nor should it be expected to do so.
And, for what it's worth, none of the blogs with the most content about Atlantic Yards--No Land Grab, this blog, DDDB, and Noticing New York--have a business model. (Well, DDDB is raising money.) The controversy over Atlantic Yards is a quite a motivator.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

The Coney Island comparison and the Atlantic Yards paradox

Atlantic Yards Report posted a couple of items comparing the City's attempt to redevelop Coney Island and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

On Coney deal, the government pays more than the 2005 value of land, but with the Vanderbilt Yard, the government accepts less

The City has finally struck a deal with Coney Island landowner Joseph Sitt to purchase 6.9 acres for $95.6 million. Having reportedly paid $93 million for approximately 10 acres, Sitt's tidy profit amounts to an increase in the value of the land.

Cut to Atlantic Yards, where the MTA recently renegotiated its deal with Bruce Ratner, spreading payments for the Vanderbilt Railyard over 22 years at a very generous interest rate and agreeing to allow the developer to build a replacement railyard with less capacity than the current railyard. The effective decrease in the value of the land over the railyard is another one of those curious Atlantic Yards paradoxes.

NoLandGrab: For Atlantic Yards's next trick, watchdogs like Norman Oder are keeping an eye on the land values that will have to magically increase in order to justify the triple-tax-free bonds that Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation are hoping to float before the end of the year.

Connecting the dots: How a pastor once protested the Coney Island deal but spoke up for Atlantic Yards

Pastor Guillermo Martino of the Tabernacle of God's Glory Church in Crown Heights, who testified not so coherently on June 22 before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Finance Committee in favor of the Atlantic Yards plan (video below), has a curious profile when it comes to development disputes.

In November 2007, he protested the mayor's plan for Coney Island. As reported by the Bay News, Martino was "one of the dozens of people who turned out wearing bright yellow hats carrying the message 'The Bloomberg Plan: How Much? How Long? Who Pays?'"
Martino and fellow protesters came on buses chartered by Sen. Carl Kruger, who, as the Daily News later reported, spent several thousand dollars from his campaign fund. (After all, Kruger has a huge campaign fund but an untouchable seat.)
Of course, the same questions, including those on the yellow hats, could be raised about Atlantic Yards. Note the Kruger team included not only Martino but also James Caldwell (right in photo), president of Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), who heads the 77th Precinct Community Council in Crown Heights.

NLG: So exactly what is these guys' guiding principle?

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

A Post That is Just a Bit Montesquieued

Noticing New York

The NY Times published the same argument for the importance of an independent judiciary on the same day as Noticing NY blogger Michael D.D. White, only White was referencing Atlantic Yards, which has been an ethical and political blind spot for the "Paper of Record."


Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

November 11, 2009

Ratner: Atlantic Yards Is Not a Public Project

The Huffington Post
by Daniel Goldstein

"We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!" DDDB's Daniel Goldstein reveals the essential truth behind this week's testy declamation by Bruce Ratner, who's got the federales, er, well, at least the ESDC, on his side.

"Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."

— Bruce Ratner discussing Atlantic Yards in Crain's Nov. 8, 2009

Forest City Ratner is the Brooklyn-based division of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises which is a publicly traded corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange (FCEA). Bruce Ratner is its CEO.

FCE is not a charity or a non-profit organization. Like any other publicly traded corporation they endeavor to make profits to increase shareholder value. They do this through development deals always infused with large taxpayer subsidies and gifts, which often benefit from eminent domain powers used by political friends. Broadly speaking, they are corporate welfare kings and eminent domain addicts. As such, they have served their shareholders well.

So when Bruce Ratner told Crain's that Atlantic Yards is not a public project, and demanded to know why people should get to see his plans for the project—he wasn't kidding, it's not a public project.

By nearly every standard Atlantic Yards is, indeed, a private project. But Ratner's honest, foot eating comment could not have pleased his public relations people or attorneys who have spent six years trying to convince politicians, the public and courtrooms that Atlantic Yards is a great public project, a grand civic gesture out of the goodness of the corporation's heart.


Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

The first ESDC stamp of approval

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

We posted a text link to this clip on Sunday, but the Battle of Brooklyn filmmakers sent us a YouTube link so we could embed it here for easier viewing.

The scene: the Empire State Development Corporation Board's don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it deliberations and approval of the Atlantic Yards project on December 8th, 2006.

Several years ago in a galaxy far far away a group of government officials got together to approve a multi billion dollar project and in discussing it - it was very clear that few if any of them had visited the site... or even the borough of Brooklyn to gauge the validity of the facts presented to them. I'd like to say that there was a vigorous discussion back and forth about the merits of the project, the legality of the process, and the viability of the project. There wasn't. The meeting wasn't too long- but this isn't it in it's entirety. I would say it's the meeting in a nutshell.



Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

An academic looks at NYC politics, relies on a New York Times clip file, gets Atlantic Yards mostly wrong

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week’s opportunity to have Bruce Berg, a Fordham University professor of political science, answer questions from readers on the New York Times’s CityRoom blog, sent me to Berg’s January 2008 book New York City Politics: Governing Gotham, a book that treats the West Side Stadium and Atlantic Yards as prominent examples.

In covering AY, he gets part of the story right, notably the bypass of local elected officials, but he gets a lot wrong, proving that a reliance mainly on clips from the New York Times (hardly the "paper of record" when it comes to AY) is simply irresponsible.

The "modern blueprint"

Notably, he relies on an article listed as "Confessore 2005b," which is academic-speak for To Build Arena in Brooklyn, Developer First Builds Bridges, the notorious 10/14/05 Times article that posited that Forest City Ratner had achieved a "modern blueprint" in outreach, a statement that was dubious from the start and more dubious today.

Berg should have done a lot more digging. In fact, his citation of Times articles, unencumbered by his own fact-checking or a willingness to seek out critiques of those articles, suggests that academic research ossified into a book can be far less incisive than continuing coverage via a blog.

And because academics like Berg rely on the Times, it's important for the newspaper to get things right and, when it doesn't, to correct the record. And the Times so often doesn't--still, as shown in its recent assertion that the city agreed to finance Atlantic Yards affordable housing.


Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

Judicial Review of Atlantic Yards Corruption: Laws Should Not Be A "Dead Letter"

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White tours several hundred years of the history of judicial thought to put Atlantic Yards in context.

Hamilton’s quote: “Laws are a dead letter without courts to expound and define their true meaning and operation” is from the Federalist Papers No. 22, the Federalist Papers being those collected newspaper articles in which Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay pseudonymously argued why the Constitution and its incorporated principles should be adopted. (All of the Federalist Papers were addressed “To the People of the State of New York,” New York being Hamilton’s home state.) We were thinking about this quote in regard to the proposed Atlantic Yards megadevelopment and the various litigations that have been brought to stop it. We have been thinking of the quote in relation to the obligation of the courts to stand up and assume their responsibility to act like courts and give meaning and effect to the law by stopping Atlantic Yards.

We have previously written about the increasing predilection of public development officials to disregard laws for political motivations, encouraged by the feeling that they can do so with impunity. We have also written about how whatever initial doubt might once have existed about their support of Atlantic Yards, public officials such as Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson have long since by their own actions outed the truth that their support for the megadevelopment is corrupt, a commitment to a wired deal abusing eminent domain to give developer Forest City Ratner a no-bid mega-monopoly on a swath of valuable Brooklyn real estate, no matter the harm or absence of public benefit. Laws and fundamental rights are clearly being violated: The only question is whether the courts will let those laws become Hamilton’s “dead letter” by deferring to a fictional version of reality conjured up by governmental officials wherein by pretense and pretext those government officials feign that they have not violated the law and all its basic principles.

If the courts supinely succumb to whatever manufactured fictions public officials trump up as a pretext to steal private property through eminent domain abuse then they have, in essence, abdicated their function out of existence and we are left, for all intents and purposes, without courts or law.


Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Borough President Marty Markowitz still has a few tricks up his sleeve, woos big companies

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

After eight years in office, Marty Markowitz knows Brooklynites might be getting "tired" of him.

While acknowledging he may be old hat - or shoe - Markowitz, who won reelection with 85% of the vote, said he's got some tricks up his sleeve to ward off the third-term blues.

At the top of his agenda is luring big corporations to Brooklyn to combat the borough's whopping 11% unemployment rate.

That's not all that's on his wish list: Markowitz is pushing a groundbreaking for the controversial Atlantic Yards project, and last but not least, a bigger Nathan's hot dog.


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Markowitz wish list: Atlantic Yards groundbreaking and bigger Nathan's hot dog

Well, it wasn't Markowitz who yoked the clearly frivolous--the bigger hot dog--with the highly deceptive--the groundbreaking--but the sentence does sketch the BP's rather curious universe of duties.

Should there be a groundbreaking, assuming a victory for the state in the eminent domain case and the sale of some $700 million in arena bonds--it almost surely would involve only the arena (with perhaps one tower in tow), not the project at large.

And it most likely would occur before footprint residents, owners, and commercial tenants have been removed via eminent domain.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Times columnist Vecsey: Nets should move to Newark

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey, in a column today headlined Memo: Things Aren’t That Great Here, observes that a lot of New York sports teams aren't doing too well.

Perhaps the signal example plays hoops in New Jersey.

Well, moving to Newark wouldn't make the Nets as much money as moving to a new arena in Brooklyn. But there's really no public policy argument for the federal government to subsidize another arena in the New York area.

We should see the Nets in Newark in a year, with or without Prokhorov, if only as an interim location before a move to Brooklyn. And we might see them stay, but it's too soon to tell.


Posted by eric at 9:50 AM


The Wall Street Journal, Editorial, Pfizer and Kelo's Ghost Town

Pfizer bugs out, long after the land grab.

The Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London stands as one of the worst in recent years, handing local governments carte blanche to seize private property in the name of economic development. Now, four years after that decision gave Susette Kelo's land to private developers for a project including a hotel and offices intended to enhance Pfizer Inc.'s nearby corporate facility, the pharmaceutical giant has announced it will close its research and development headquarters in New London, Connecticut.

The aftermath of Kelo is the latest example of the futility of using eminent domain as corporate welfare. While Ms. Kelo and her neighbors lost their homes, the city and the state spent some $78 million to bulldoze private property for high-end condos and other "desirable" elements. Instead, the wrecked and condemned neighborhood still stands vacant, without any of the touted tax benefits or job creation.

That's especially galling because the five Supreme Court Justices cited the development plan as a major factor in rationalizing their Kelo decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy called the plan "comprehensive," while Justice John Paul Stevens insisted that "The city has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue." So much for that.

Castle Coalition Press Release, The End of an Eminent Domain Error: Pfizer Closes in New London

Land Taken in Infamous Kelo Supreme Court Case Remains Empty More Than Four Years After Ruling

Pfizer, Inc., announced today that the company will be closing its former research and development headquarters in New London, Conn. This was a project that involved massive corporate welfare and led to the abuse of eminent domain that ultimately bulldozed the home of Susette Kelo and her neighbors in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London.

This was the same bogus development plan that five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court refused to question when the property owners of New London pleaded to have their homes spared from the wrecking ball. Justices mentioned that there was a plan in place, and that so long as lawmakers who are looking to use eminent domain for someone’s private gain had a plan, the courts would wash their hands. Now, more than four years after the redevelopment scheme passed constitutional muster—allowing government to take land from one private owner only to hand that land over to another private party who happens to have more political influence—the plant that had been the magnet for the development is closing its doors and the very land where Susette Kelo’s home once stood remains barren to all but feral cats, seagulls and weeds.

New York, of course, is one of just seven states that have not reformed eminent domain laws. It's on the table in Yonkers, among other places.

LoHud.com, Yonkers may seize downtown properties through eminent domain

Two city development agencies are preparing to forcibly take 11 downtown properties from their owners for a massive redevelopment project.

The New Main Street Development Corporation voted Thursday to ask the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency to begin eminent domain actions against the owners of 11 properties that NMSDC officials claim have been unresponsive to their purchase offers. Eminent domain is a legal mechanism that allows governments to force property owners to sell so the land can be used for a greater public benefit.

"It continues to be our goal to reach voluntary purchase agreements with as many property owners as possible," said Ellen Lynch, the YIDA president, whose agency approved the NMSDC request Friday.


Nader Sayegh, an attorney representing the owner of the gas station at Elm and School streets, said the NMSDC's attorneys have not followed up with him about negotiating a fair price, even though he reached out to them.

Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

November 10, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Refused, Return to BAM

The photograph below was sent to us anonymously. If it is unclear what it is about, please click here, or here, or here.

rozele, in which new york city votes, sorta

more interestingly, my city council member, the pretty damn right-on tish james, did not get the WFP's ballot line. you read that right: the only member of the city council ever to be elected solely on the WFP line did not get the party's nod. why? ACORN. tish james has been one of the only council members to actively oppose the massive scam that is the atlantic yards project. ACORN, one of the WFP's main funders/sponsors, is mega-developer ratner's chosen astroturf contractor. i keep meaning to write a "the real trouble with ACORN" post, so i'll spare you a more extensive rant till then, but bear this in mind when thinking about WFP. they're willing to cast aside the person who gave them their most notable electoral success - and only elected official - for taking a position that's wildly popular in her district and throughout central brooklyn, and who exemplifies what the party claims to stand for:

Real estate titans in New York City are used to running the show without interference from pesky tenants and the communities impacted by big development projects. The candidates that rode to victory in this year’s primaries have another vision: development that puts working families and neighborhoods first. Projects that build housing New Yorkers can actually afford, and that fit with the needs of New York’s neighborhoods.

that ain't atlantic yards. but it sure is tish james. and the WFP's willingness to go along with ACORN's astroturf-for-hire relationship with ratner is a sign of bad things to come.


The Nets are now officially off to their worst start in franchise history, which says a lot considering the nefarious history of this organization. However, even with the 0-7 start and half of the roster injured – including having the first player in NBA history to be diagnosed with the “Swine Flu,” I think it’s always good to put things in proper context. So, with that in mind, I have developed the “Nets Misery Index.” I’m going to take a look at some other miserable seasons in Nets history and rate each one of a scale of one to five Dwayne Schintziuses – one equaling not so miserable, and five equaling misery comparable to building your roster around Dwayne Schintzius.

NoLandGrab: We always suspected there was some intentional irony in the name NetsAreScorching.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 11/10/09 EDITION

Atlantic Yards Report is looking at AY and examining if it’s a public project, a private project, or a public-private project.

Willets Point United, Regular people hurt by government folly

The government of Connecticut clearly didn't know what was in the best interest of its citizens. They misjudged the benefits of taking people's land to give to a giant company that promised the world but delivered nothing.

The same thing is happening at Atlantic Yards and at Willets Point.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, A Keloid Scar

The abandoned New London property should serve as a warning that our vaunted decision makers sometimes simply don't know what they are doing-and plow ahead because they are programmed to act in a certain way. It is time that EDC opened up and presented all of the needed information to those whose lives will be effected by this massive redevelopment scheme. And, by the way, someone should let us all know how much it will cost and where the money will be coming from.

NLG: Richard Lipsky could just as well be speaking about Atlantic Yards as Willets Point, except for one small, troublesome detail — Bruce Ratner paid him to lobby on behalf of his Brooklyn land grab. Richard, there's still time to leave the dark side — surely Bruce dropped you from the payroll long before Frank Gehry got the boot.

FreeFastEasyMoney, The Post-Big Era: Will Small-Scale Ingenuity Replace Large-Scale Architecture?

Point of debate: Are projects like the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and sustainable neighborhoods like the Beddington Zero Energy Development in England (above) beneficial or harmful to surrounding communities? Like many such mega-projects, Atlantic Yards would eliminate existing streets, overwhelm the surrounding brownstone neighborhood and add an estimated 40,000 new car trips every day.

SI.com, Nets struggle on court, await brighter future

The deal to sell Prokhorov 80 percent of the team is contingent upon current owner Bruce Ratner selling almost $600 million in tax-exempt bonds by a Dec. 31 deadline. The Russian must also pass an NBA background check and then get approval from three-quarters of the league's owners.

If the Nets have a bright future, they're paying their dues right now.

Posted by eric at 6:04 PM

New York Has Its Share of Losers. Feel Better?

The NY Times
by George Vecsey

Ever since the Yankees won the World Series, I have been receiving messages from fans around the world decrying the domination by New York and its cable television swag.

For readers who detect parochial chest-thumping from New York, I would suggest they take a careful look at the Big Picture: the records of all of New York’s professional teams.

Meanwhile, the Nets are still in their holding pen across the river in New Jersey, winless and close to homeless. To make it worse, one of their players, Chris Douglas-Roberts, has swine flu, and is said to be resting comfortably. Best wishes for his recovery.

The Nets are trapped in the most dismal sports location in the United States — with one football stadium under construction, another perfectly good football stadium about to be demolished, a vestigial sports arena, a grotesque amusement center and parking garages looming over the swamplands, ugly as sin.

The Nets wanted to escape to Brooklyn but their owner, Bruce C. Ratner, has been thwarted for a few years because of the economy and land-use niceties there. (Forest City Ratner, Mr. Ratner’s company, was the development partner for the Manhattan headquarters of The New York Times Company.)

Now there is a prospective buyer for the Nets, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, a Russian businessman. We will see how that plays out. The Nets really should move into the Prudential Center in Newark, to get an energy boost from a city that finally has competent leadership.


Posted by eric at 5:57 PM

475 dean

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Today it became clear that FCR is planning on taking down a beautiful building, 475 Dean Street, that used to house artists. All of the owners sold to the developer because they feared that their homes would be seized by eminent domain if they didn't. Sam the Violin maker was featured in an earlier slide show but I wanted to put up most of the pictures I took in his place to show how UNBLIGHTED the apartments in this building were.


NoLandGrab: We suppose that replacing a Brooklyn violin maker living with his family in a warm, plant-filled live/work loft with a Manhattanite corporate attorney sitting in a luxury suite is the Empire State Development Corporation's idea of "blight removal."

Posted by eric at 3:09 PM

Ripping the roof

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Sabrina Jaszi

Bruce Ratner may want to think about tightening up security in his two Fort Greene malls; with crime running rampant, he could run the risk of their being deemed blighted, and then they could be seized under New York State's liberal eminent domain laws.


A shopping center prowler lifted a woman’s purse from the stroller that she was pushing through the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Nov. 4.

The victim was ready to spend at around 6 pm, but she stepped away from her stroller for just a moment, and when she returned, the handbag, which contained a Blackberry, was gone.

Luckily the baby was still there.


Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

word of the day: strategic

Not Another F*cking Blog

The latest Atlantic Yards DeConstruction Update announced that demolition prep was beginning at 475 Dean Street, which got Atlantic Yards footprint neighbor, photojournalist (that's his shot of 475 Dean) and blogger Tracy Collins's blood boiling.

Why? Why are they now preparing to demolish this building (in the photo above)? 475 Dean used to be the home of many and the place of business for others, until Forest City Ratner (FCR) bought the building (with our taxpayer money) and cleared it out. It’s been sitting vacant for years. Why, now, are they preparing to destroy an inhabitable building, in the midst of a housing crisis? Why, when there’s no guarantee that Atlantic Yards will actually happen? Can’t they wait until the Court of Appeals rules in the next few weeks? It doesn’t make any business sense to me. Granted, I’m not in the eminent domain and public subsidy development business like FCR, but it just seems like a calculated, strategic move at this point in time.

I suspect that they, FCR, made the strategic decision to convey in the strongest terms possible that Atlantic Yards is a DONE DEAL, that it is happening, that there is no Plan B, that it’s inevitable. They must act this way in order for the all so crucial sale of hundreds of millions in bonds before year end. They must keep up appearances for the bond rating agencies, for investors, for the markets, for politicians who’ve hitched their wagons to the train wreck in slow motion that is Atlantic Yards. They can’t afford to blink, to give even the slightest hint of doubt or uncertainty, as blinking now could prove fatal to the whole charade.

Much like the demolition of the historic Ward Bread Bakery building last year, FCR cannot afford the possibility of optional uses for the site. As long as a building stands, there’s the possibility of reuse, there’s the possibility of an alternate, there’s the possibility of something other than Atlantic Yards.


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, As 475 Dean Street is finally slated for demolition, the question is: why exactly now? Tracy Collins has an answer

Way back in March 2007, I wrote that Forest City Ratner planned demolition of 475 Dean Street, a former garment factory turned into artists' lofts. Now, as announced in the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Update, workers are planning to remove asbestos on the roof in anticipation of demolition.

Well, this surely is a strategic decision, but let's see if and when they demolish the Spalding Building at 24 Sixth Avenue, another renovated loft building of more pristine quality, or so I believe.

There might be another reason for the demolition. People still live in adjacent buildings on Dean Street, plaintiffs in separate lawsuits. Demolition work will make daily life that much more uncomfortable and--at least from the developer's perspective--might make them more likely to leave.

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Bruce Ratner Finally Admits It: "This isn't a public project"

Reason Online
By Damon Root

BruceRatner-NOTPublic.jpg Finally something we can all agree on:

Last month, New York’s highest court heard oral arguments in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, which centered on the state’s controversial use of eminent domain on behalf of real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner, who wants to build a basketball stadium, a hotel, and some office and apartment towers in central Brooklyn. As I’ve previously argued, it’s a blatant case of eminent domain abuse.

And as it turns out, Bruce Ratner himself agrees with that judgement. In a startling interview with Crain’s New York Business, Ratner finally admitted what his critics have maintained all along: “This isn’t a public project.”


NoLandGrab: Even Bruce is confused: it's a "public project" when he wants the state to use eminent domain to take property, override the local zoning and secure massive subsidies, but it's a "private project" when he doesn't want to answer any questions about the program, financing, profitability, timeline and purported "public" benefits.

Atlantic Yards Report, Is Atlantic Yards a public project , a private one, or "public-private"? Well, the latter, but Forest City Ratner's in the driver's seat

Norman Oder's explains that things are a little more complicated:

So, AY is a public project when it comes to public purposes and the pursuit of eminent domain. It is a public project when it comes to the use of PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to build a sports arena on tax-exempt land.

It's a public-private project when the state gives Forest City Ratner to do things--like build a deck over the Vanderbilt Yard--that it's unwilling to do. It's a public-private project when Forest City Ratner seeks access to scarce housing bonds.

But it's a public-private project with the private entity in charge when the private entity draws the map of the "blighted" project site, the private entity controls the pace, and the private entity chooses not to show what anything looks like.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Barclays Center promoters invoke borough authenticity ("Brownstone Suites") to "soften" entrance into Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Suite sales of the non-existent arena have been soft, so the marketing effort is being relaunched, with suites meant to evoke the history of Brooklyn:

The Barclays Center Showroom has been re-launched to sell suites and "to further celebrate Brooklyn and the heritage of the NETS basketball team." Among the features: "new floor-to-ceiling graphics evoking Brooklyn and its rich culture, history, and recent resurgence" plus "a historical timeline of sports and entertainment milestones in Brooklyn."

NoLandGrab: Expect the cultural and historical richness of a local TD Bank (formerly Commerce Bank) lobby.

And, of course, the Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment logo uses script that invokes the Brooklyn Dodgers.
What's up? Why are there Brownstone Suites and Loft Suites? Well, the Brooklyn strategy pursued by arena supporters sounds not unlike that practiced by others launching new retail and entertainment businesses like the bar Brooklyn Social, maintaining names, signage, or details from the past.

"New residents are using this idea of authenticity to soften their entrance into Brooklyn," said former Brooklynite Jonathan Silverman, now at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, at the Dreamland Pavilion conference last month.


Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM



The City of New London went to the mat to seize the homes of residents of the modest waterfront neighborhood of Fort Trumbull, ultimately winning a 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court to allow taking of private property for economic development purposes. The houses were razed, but the redevelopment of the neighborhood, which was meant to serve the new headquarters built by Pfizer, never occurred.

Yesterday, in a shocker to officials of New London, the company in the "company town" announced it was leaving. The Hartford Courant is reporting that Pfizer will try to sell or lease the waterfront campus, but that redevelopment of the adjacent neighborhood of Ft. Trumbull "remains a dream." While one swath of waterfront property is destined to be totally unproductive in the near future, the Pfizer campus will likely remain vacant during these difficult economic times.

Some would say that city leaders are getting what they deserve, by staking their city's future on one company, while turning their backs on long-time residents. Whether you believe in karmic repercussions of eminent domain abuse, the latest development is a cautionary tale, one that may be sadly repeated, perhaps even now, in our own backyard.

The Hartford Courant, Pfizer Inc. Plans To Vacate Its R & D Center In New London


Back in our own eminent domain-abusing metropolis, Queens Crap is reporting that demolitions for the Columbia University expansion project are "in full swing," including a building on the National Register of Historic Places, the facade of which will be moved and preserved. Sadly, Columbia, like Bruce Ratner in Brooklyn, will take down every building it can, thus making the determination of blight a self-fulfilling prophecy, and ensuring the neighborhood will remain so blighted for years to come.

Queens Crap, There goes the neighborhood...literally!

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

November 9, 2009

Pfizer abandons site of infamous Kelo eminent domain taking

Washington Examiner
by Timothy P. Carney

The private homes that New London, Conn., took away from Suzette Kelo and her neighbors have been torn down. Their former site is a wasteland of fields of weeds, a monument to the power of eminent domain.

But now Pfizer, the drug company whose neighboring research facility had been the original cause of the homes' seizure, has just announced that it is closing up shop in New London.

To lure those jobs to New London a decade ago, the local government promised to demolish the older residential neighborhood adjacent to the land Pfizer was buying for next-to-nothing. Suzette Kelo fought the taking to the Supreme Court, and lost. Five justices found this redevelopment met the constitutional hurdle of "public use."

Scott Bullock, Kelo's co-counsel in the case, told me: "This shows the folly of these redevelopment projects that use massive taxpayer subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain."


Posted by eric at 8:51 PM

Pfizer to close New London campus

The [New London, CT] Day
by Lee Howard

Pfizer, the private corporation for which the City of New London, Connecticut seized the little pink house belonging to Suzette Kelo, along with the homes of her neighbors, announced today that it is abandoning the site and consolidating operations in the nearby city of Groton.

So much for eminent domain for the purpose of "economic development."

Pfizer Inc. announced today the company will be closing its former R&D headquarters in New London, but the impact locally is expected to be minimal because New London workers will be consolidated into the pharmaceutical giant's Groton campus.

The announcement today that Pfizer will be closing six R&D sites worldwide means that 1,500 positions currently based in New London will be transferred to Groton, where about 3,500 people work.

"In Groton and New London, there will be a minimal headcount effect," said Martin Mackay, president of Pfizer's PharmaTherapeutics Research and Development division, in a conference call. "Our presence in Connecticut will be approximately the same ... it's about 5,000 now, and that number will continue, though the makeup will change around the edges."

The announced closing of the New London site eight years after it opened to great fanfare came as a blow to a city that had counted on Pfizer's multimillion-dollar facility to help revive its fortunes.

New London City officials were broadsided by the news Monday morning.

Councilor Rob Pero, who also had no advance warning, said Pfizer officials told him they would have a better idea of what was happening by mid-November.

"Why would they build a facility 10 years prior and then just move 1,500 people out,'' he said. "Why leave a complex of that nature and ship them across the bridge. I would want to know why.


NoLandGrab: And Councilor, we'd like to know why the City of New London thought it was a good idea to seize those private properties and hand them over for a company that obviously puts it own interests before those of New London.

It seems that what comes around, goes around, but the people of New London lose out both coming or going.

Posted by eric at 5:59 PM

Just who is this "Atlantic Yards Community" of whom you speak?

Our posting earlier today of the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Update prompted former Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods co-chair and Boerum Hill resident Terry Urban to pen a corrective note to the Empire State Development Corporation.

Dear ESDC:

Excuuuuuse me. There is no such thing as "the Atlantic Yards Community", as you address me and my neighbors when you co-broker Ratner's Construction Update opening statement, "In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities.....".

I am continually insulted at being referred to as part of a such-labeled community, when in fact "Atlantic Yards" is the name of YOUR project, NOT OUR community! If you are addressing the communities which you plan to destroy, be advised ONE MORE TIME that your project is proposed to be built in the PROSPECT HEIGHTS COMMUNITY.

The ESDC should have the final edit on how this community is addressed. If you do not wish to address us in that proper form, at least just use "Brooklyn Community", which can encompass the other area names adjacent to the 8-acre VANDERBILT RAIL YARDS. For your information, they are Fort Greene, Park Slope and Boerum Hill.

Your pointed collusion in every public relations strategy of Forect City Ratner, including this one that continually dismisses WHO WE ARE, is just one more example of the arrogant, divisive corporate attitude which has earned you the enmity of OUR communities!

Terry Urban,
Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 5:33 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Curbed, Ratner Pushes Anti-AYers' Buttons, They Take The Bait

As Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner battles the approximately 547 lawsuits filed against the project over the past month, Crain's drops in with a flattering profile of "Tenacious B" (which is what we're calling him from now on). The profile praises Ratner's commitment to what he calls the "civic project" that is AY, but even Tenacious B gets a little testy at moments.

Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, when will you learn not to provoke the anti-AYers? The folks at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn have already filed four reaction posts to the profile, including a dig at the Nets' 0-7 record (ouch).

Brownstoner, Ratner Tight-Lipped on AY Details

In an interview with Crain's, Bruce Ratner is guarded about the shape of things to come for Atlantic Yards, refusing to talk about the development's timeline or when/whether it will include office towers. Ratner also declines to share current designs for AY, saying, “This isn't a public project. We will follow the guidelines.” Develop Don't Destroy quickly published a rebuttal to Ratner's statement, saying, "Presumably this means he'll return all the public money he has gotten and is supposed to get and renounce eminent domain for the project."

True Hoop [ESPN.com], Moral victory for winless Nets in loss to Celtics?

Frank, team president Rod Thorn and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe are all in the final year of their contracts, and the entire organization is in a state of limbo while they wait to see if the sale of the club from Bruce Ratner to Russian oligarch Mickael Prokhorov goes through.

(Frank's No. 1 assistant, Brian Hill, decided to leave over the summer after management asked him and most of the other assistant coaches to take pay cuts, and the Nets are scrambling so far and wide for sponsors that the rotating signage on the front of the scorer's table featured advertisements, in English and Chinese, for the Agricultural Bank of China, and for a product called YiLi Low Lactose Milk).

NetsDaily, Ratner: If Court Goes Against Arena, “We’ll Figure Something Out”

Remaining optimistic, Bruce Ratner tells Crain’s that even if the Court of Appeals rules against the use of eminent domain at Atlantic Yards, “We’ll figure something out.” He didn’t describe what that “something” would be.

NYDailyNews.com, SLAM DUNKS

The NBA is hopeful that the proposed sale of the Nets to Russian magnate Mikhail Prokhorov will be wrapped up in another week or two. "But there are a lot of moving pieces involving the land and the arena, so it's still going to be very tricky," said one person familiar with the proposed deal. When he met with owners last month in New York, Prokhorov promised that once the sale is complete and he is fully ensconced as the majority owner, he plans to attend about a third of the Nets' games.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 11/7/09 EDITION

The Nets are kind of a mess right now, as duly noted by NBA Fanhouse.

NetsDaily, Would Prokhorov Keep the Nets in Jersey? ESPN Writers Disagree

Is Mikhail Prokhorov so enamored of the Nets that he’d keep them in New Jersey if Brooklyn fails? He says no. Bruce Ratner says no. David Stern says no. Two ESPN writers have different takes: Marc Stein quotes a source saying “he apparently wants to take over even if the franchise can’t extricate itself from New Jersey”. Ric Bucher says an NBA source told him “without the arena, Prokhorov’s interest fades”.

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

At panel on stalled megaprojects, AY draws implicit skepticism and indirect support (but only if there were infrastructure investment)

Atlantic Yards Report

So, is Atlantic Yards the right kind of megaproject? AY came up only glancingly during a panel on Saturday during the Institute for Urban Design's conference Arrested Development: Do Megaprojects Have a Future?, but panelists' comments, in general, offered much implicit skepticism--though some indirect support--for Brooklyn's most controversial project.

Notably, they portrayed megaprojects as mainly (but not exclusively) public infrastructure projects, such as transportation, not sports facilities.

And while one panelist, former developer Vishaan Chakrabarti, made a case for "extreme density" as a way to save energy in a steadily urbanizing world, he said such projects had to include "very intense" infrastructure investments in mass transit, parks, and schools.

Atlantic Yards, while it's supposed to include an upgraded Long Island Rail Road yard, would have no subway improvements other than a new entrance. There'd be space for as school but the new open space would be long-delayed--as opposed to beforehand, as with Battery Park City--and mostly serve the new residents rather than "Brooklyn," as developer Forest City Ratner has promised.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM


Weeks beginning November 9, 2009 and November 16, 2009

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner provide the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities.

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions. All work has been approved by appropriate City and State agencies where required. In addition to the activities described below noise attenuation and vibration monitoring measures are underway in connection with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments dated 12/08/06.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our project Ombudsperson at: 212-803-3233 or AtlanticYards@empire.state.ny.us

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

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

  • Connection to City water (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Paving of Vehicle Access Roadway throughout Yard (BL 1120 and 1121)

  • Installation of two stair towers from Pacific St down to Yard level. One in BL1120 and one in BL1121

  • Testing and Commissioning of Yard

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

Environmental Remediation

  • The environmental consultant will begin shallow excavation and drilling to test and classify soils in blocks 1127 and 1119. Work will continue on these blocks and 1118 for 3 months. This is prep work required in advance of any actual removal of soil from the site.


  • Infrastructure work related to installation of new sewer chambers at the intersection of 6th Avenue at Pacific Street is complete. Infrastructure work related to the installation of new a water main along the east side of Flatbush Avenue is complete.

  • The traffic and pedestrian safety barriers along the north side of Flatbush Avenue and Block 1118 for sewer installation is complete for the current phase of the work. Additional protection will be installed to modify traffic in 5th Avenue upon approval from the Department of Transportation.

  • The contractor commenced pile drilling and excavation work on Blocks 1127 and 1118 in connection with sewer installation. Work will continue for 5 to 6 months.

  • During the course of this work, the contractor may encounter unforeseen underground storage tanks or other structures. In the event that this happens and where appropriate, notification will be given to the DEC and remediation steps were implemented.


  • The Abatement contractor will install scaffolding in preparation for the removal of asbestos at the roof at 475 Dean Street.

  • The Abatement and Demolition contractor will install sidewalk protection as required by the Department of Buildings in preparation for the removal of asbestos and demolition of 648 Pacific Street. The start of this work is dependent upon approvals by the Department of Buildings.

  • The Abatement contractor will install sidewalk protection as required by the Department of Buildings in preparation for the removal of asbestos and demolition of 467 Dean Street. The start of this work is dependent upon approvals by the Department of Buildings.

Here are the two preceding Construction Updates, for the weeks of October 12th and 19th and October 26th and November 2nd.

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE — Bruce Ratner Says: “Atlantic Yards Isn’t a Public Project”

NEW YORK, NY — “Atlantic Yards isn’t a public project,” Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has stated in a November 8 Crain's New York Business profile.

http://www.nolandgrab.org/images/BruceRatner-Crains.jpg Crain’s reporter Theresa Agovino writes:

Yet [Ratner] doesn't know when many elements of the plan will progress, and he's agitated by questions about them. In light of a financial crisis that has hobbled many developers, Mr. Ratner refuses to discuss what the project will look like, whether or not it will include an office building and even who will design the first residential tower, which he's slated to break ground on early next year…

He has no intention of sharing the designs for the complex. “Why should people get to see plans?” he demands. “This isn't a public project. We will follow the guidelines.”

In courtrooms Ratner’s and the Empire State Development Corporation’s attorneys have argued, vehemently, that the project’s proposed basketball arena is publicly owned because New York state would “lease” it to Ratner for $1 per year. But Bruce Ratner is vehement, even angry, when he tells Crain's “Atlantic Yards isn't a public project."

“If Atlantic Yards 'isn’t a public project,' as Ratner now proudly claims, then he should return the public's money and renounce his attempt to seize properties, like my home and my neighbors’ homes, that, until today's sudden and uncharacteristic brush with honesty, Ratner always said he was taking for 'public use,'" said Daniel Goldstein, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman and lead plaintiff in the legal challenge to the abuse of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

How Bruce Ratner further undermines the ESDC's dubious AY "economic benefit analysis"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has never produced a real cost-benefit analysis for the Atlantic Yards project, because it never bothered to consider costs beyond the direct subsidies.

And it never produced an honest "economic impact analysis" or (most recently) "economic benefit analysis" because the analysis was premised on a decade-long build-out of the project. No alternative timetable was considered.

And the ESDC's analysis was further undermined in the recent Crain's profile of Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, who acknowledged there was no timetable for the project's single office tower: “Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?”
So the ESDC's numbers--$657.6 million in new city tax revenues over 30 years, on a present value basis--deserve much skepticism. First, those numbers aren't offset by costs. Second, they depend crucially on an office tower that doesn't appear in any renderings and thus hasn't even graduated to "vaportecture."


Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM

November 8, 2009

TODAY: South Portland Avenue Block Concert to benefit DDDB

South Portland Avenue Block Association

Sunday, November 8th, 2009
5:30 - 7:15 p.m.
61 South Portland Avenue, Parlor floor

A wonderful quintet of musicians, our neighbor Ahling Neu [Brooklyn Philharmonic] and her friends, will play the Mozart Clarinet Quintet. There will be refreshments, wine, a speaker from DDDB. Don’t miss this opportunity to gather with your neighbors and friends to hear fine chamber music in a beautiful space, and support the legal fund of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

The suggested donation is $20.00, but any contribution is welcome.

For additional information, call Joan at 718-624-1516; Hali at 718-858-6151; or Kathy at 718-596-7627.

Posted by steve at 11:54 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Sweep-Up

Public Use, Robert Moses, and the Atlantic Yards blight fight

As everyone with an interest in the Atlantic Yards fight anxiously awaits a decision on eminent domain from the New York Court of Appeals, Norman Oder revisits the issue and examines the use of a blight designation for the proposed Atlantic Yards project footprint.

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, wrote a column in the 10/26/09 New York Law Journal on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, headlined Public Use, Robert Moses and the Fight Over Atlantic Yards.

It was apparently written, though not published, before the 10/14/09 oral argument in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

Dunn allows for the possibility that the Court of Appeals might narrow eminent domain law, though the court had long agreed that "public use" could mean "public purpose."

After attending the oral argument, I wouldn't rule it out either, but not necessarily for the reasons Dunn cites. Rather, as I describe further below, the issue might be the state's broad use of the term "blight."

Flashback, December 2006: video of the ESDC board's pro forma approval of Atlantic Yards

This is a revisit to the ESDC's initial approval of the opposed Atlantic Yards project via video from the documentarians who are laboring to bring you the Battle of Brooklyn.

I long wished someone had videotaped the Empire State Development Corporation's 12/8/06 board meeting to approve Atlantic Yards and, thanks to the producers behind the Battle of Brooklyn documentary, we now get to see some video. (They're still raising money for the film.)

Yes, we know it was rubberstamped, as I wrote at the time, but it's worth watching ESDC official Ann Hulka, as I wrote, "uninflectedly read a boilerplate description of project changes."

“A blight study was prepared which documents blighted conditions on the project site. ESDC intends to exercise the power of eminent domain to remove these blighted conditions," Hulka reads.

And it's worth hearing general counsel Anita Laremont state that "we’re very confident" about the blight study, especially given that Laremont (in glasses in photo above) looks somewhat dismayed at the beginning of the tape.

And then there's board member Charles (Trip) Dorkey, who needs to know the location of Pacific Street, and is instructed carefully by ESDC official Rachel Shatz.

AY opponents Daniel Goldstein and Patti Hagan, interviewed after the event, are unsurprisingly skeptical and, as Goldstein points out, were notably well-behaved, given that they surpressed the urge to heckle or scream. (Hmm, at the ESDC re-approval, there was some cordial heckling, as I reported, with video.)

As I reported in 2006, there was a lot of interesting back-and-forth with ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano after the meeting. Still, this video from Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley is very telling.

Lupica: Ratner = "Donald Sterling of the Clips on training wheels"

Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica takes a shot at the owner (for now) of the Nets:

[NBA Commissioner] David Stern must be awfully proud of the job Bruce Ratner has done with the Nets.

You know who Ratner really is?

Donald Sterling of the Clips on training wheels.

Snap. He's said it before.

A look at the Atlantic Yards footprint as the clock ticks

Norman Oder catches up with photography from Tracy Collins to add:

The additional barriers and reinforced fencing suggest that utility work has stepped up. Should legal cases stymie the project, unraveling it all would be very interesting.

Posted by steve at 11:48 AM

Tenacious B - Bruce Ratner must clear yet more do-or-die hurdles at Atlantic Yards

By Theresa Agovino

This article about Bruce Ratner, although largely worshipful, shows the uncertainty of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Any day now, New York state's highest court will rule on whether eminent domain can be used to clear the site. If its use is barred, the Atlantic Yards project will most likely die. In addition, the developer faces a year-end deadline to sell $700 million worth of bonds for the arena in order to qualify for much-needed tax-free financing.

Here, even Ratner admits there's no need to build the mega-project:

Yet he doesn't know when many elements of the plan will progress, and he's agitated by questions about them. In light of a financial crisis that has hobbled many developers, Mr. Ratner refuses to discuss what the project will look like, whether or not it will include an office building and even who will design the first residential tower, which he's slated to break ground on early next year.

Initially, the project called for four office towers, but by early this year, only one was on the drawing boards. Asked when it will go up, Mr. Ratner responds with a question: “Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?”

And here we see how public subsidies do not mean the public has any say in the project itself:

He has no intention of sharing the designs for the complex. “Why should people get to see plans?” he demands. “This isn't a public project. We will follow the guidelines.”

As you might expect, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report gives a full assessment of this article: In profile, Crain's calls Ratner "tenacious;" wouldn't "desperate" and "strategic" also apply?


Posted by steve at 10:27 AM

Businesses score points before NJ Nets games


This item (requires registration on Crain's site) lauds the Nets organization for helping their sponsors to network with each other.

Sponsors of professional sports teams typically pony up big bucks to reach consumers. But a new program dreamed up by the New Jersey Nets, The Nets Chamber of Commerce, paves the way for some 400 sponsors, vendors and companies owned by season ticket holders to meet each other.


Participants, including companies like Aflac and ADT Security Services, receive invitations to game-night networking events at the Izod Center, facilitation of 10 introductory meetings with other members and access to a password-protected business-to-business Web site hosted on NJNets.com.

Already, Mr. Yormark says, HighPoint Solutions and Barclays—which bought the naming rights to Nets owner Bruce Ratner's proposed Brooklyn arena at Atlantic Yards—have made a business deal. The Nets are seeing benefits, too. HighPoint has upped its sponsorship to become the official information networking equipment provider at the new arena.

NoLandGrab: HighPoint's website mentions offices 'in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Chicago, and Los Angeles'. In addition to helping to create a false air of inevitability to the arena's construction, this article also manages to point out how the project is not really about creating economic activity in Brooklyn.


Posted by steve at 10:10 AM

November 7, 2009

Saturday Morning Quartet from the Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Would Prokhorov buy the Nets even if they don't move (to Brooklyn)? ESPN columnist says yes

I suggested two weeks ago that, though a longshot, prospective owner Mikhail Prokhorov might want the Nets even if the Brooklyn move falls through.

Mark Stein on ESPN.com discovers a similar sentiment:

While it is widely assumed (as noted in Box 1) that the Nets have to end up in Brooklyn to have any shot of keeping their hopes alive in the LeBron James Sweepstakes -- have to -- it was stressed to me this week by one plugged-in source that the same does not apply to would-be Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

The early word is that Prokhorov, whose eventual approval by fellow NBA owners is also widely assumed, is determined to be the Nets' majority owner.

So determined that he apparently wants to take over even if the franchise can't extricate itself from New Jersey.

Interesting. While there obviously would be advantages in a brand new arena with better access to New York media and a new fan base, from Prokhorov's perspective, that may not be the deciding issue. The scarcest commodity is an NBA franchise.

But you can bet that if he does become the owner of a team that stays in New Jersey (but moves to Newark), the tentative deal he has with Bruce Ratner would be renegotiated.

Nets: come meet injured players (it was their idea!)

The Nets' marketing efforts, which include advertising on practice jerseys and a reversible jersey promotion, have gotten a bit more desperate, which is not surprising, given that they're the National Basketball Association's only winless team and playing in an inaccessible, lame-duck arena.

From Julian Garcia in the New York Daily News's InterNets blog:

The team sent out a release a little while ago that says Nets players not in uniform for tomorrow night's home game at the Meadowlands will visit restaurants, lounges and other areas at the IZOD Center to meet and greet fans. And considering the state of the Nets right now, we're not talking about a bunch of scrubs who will be out there pressing the flesh.

...Usually, CEO Brett Yormark is behind these types of ideas, and he's often quoted in the releases. But president Rod Thorn is quoted in this one, which could be an indication of just how concerned the Nets are that their 0-5 start is affecting fans' interest in the team, which already has one foot in Brooklyn.

"If our players can't be on the court due to an injury, they still want to be visible and engage with the fans in the arena," said Thorn.

(Emphasis added)

Of course they do. I'm sure it was their idea. Or Thorn's. Not that he's made a practice of it during his long basketball career.

Brooklyn Paper offers a to-do list for Bloomberg, omits Atlantic Yards

A Brooklyn Paper editorial about Mayor Mike Bloomberg's challenges headlined Mike — fix this already, lists several issues for Brooklyn, which Democratic challenger Bill Thompson won.

It cites the Gowanus Canal and then Coney Island, "Bloomberg’s other main Brooklyn re-development plan," which is something of a fudge. While Atlantic Yards may not be Bloomberg's Brooklyn re-development plan--and he may be quick to pin responsibility on the state, he surely counts it as a priority.

(Also, a New York Observer round-up of expert opinion on Bloomberg's real estate challenges omits Atlantic Yards.)

On Brian Lehrer, caller asks about "enormous" AY subsidies; Liu says he will ensure benefits; why not look into PILOTs and naming rights?

New York City Comptroller-elect John Liu was on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show this morning, and he gave a somewhat vague answer when asked about Atlantic Yards by "Lenore in Brooklyn." The action begins at about 10:20.

"In these difficult times, how are you going to use your office regarding Atlantic Yards and the enormous subsidies of taxpayer money that are going towards private developer profit?" asked Lenore. "The Independent Budget Office [reported] the area for Atlantic Yards as clearly a money-loser for the city. We've also given away 400 million dollars in naming rights for the first subway station in the New York City system; we gave that away for free."

Yes, the IBO reported the arena would be a money loser, but her other statistics were off. The state gave give Forest City Ratner naming rights (which it sold for a reported $400 million over 20 years) to be used as "financing" for the project. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority sold station naming rights for a cumulative total of $4 million over 20 years.


Liu sidestepped the question somewhat, given that it was premised on the notion that the government has given away too much for the project to be worthwhile. Instead, he talked as if he could ensure that benefits would be delivered.

Posted by steve at 8:53 AM

NYC's Canyon of Heroes roars with Yankee pride.


This review of the celebration for the Yankees considers unfinished business in New York City, including the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

With all the partying going on in Lower Manhattan this week, between the hizzoner's narrow third term win with sliding poll numbers, this afternoon's festivities, and what's sure to be a raucous weekend, there's bound to be quite a shock come Monday morning. There are still unplaced teachers, classrooms in need of a reduction in rosters, a deficit to manage, and the Atlantic Yards controversy with which to grapple.


Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

Spider-Man on Broadway: The Atlantic Yards of Musicals?


The proposed Atlantic Yards project is used as an example of how not to do things.

The massive project is falling further behind schedule, it's millions of dollars in the hole, and will need a miracle to meet a looming make-or-break deadline. All we need now are a string of eminent-domain lawsuits, and Julie Taymor's wildly ambitious Broadway adaptation of Spider-Man might as well change its name to Atlantic Yards: The Musical. (Starring Harvey Fierstein as embattled developer Bruce Ratner!) Today Taymor is meeting with producers to decide whether to proceed or postpone the technically insane project, which is hemorrhaging money like Mr. Orange gushing blood in the back seat of Mr. White's car. Is it gonna be okaaay?


NoLandGrab: We'd enjoy any script for "Atlantic Yards: The Musical" that ends with the monster development dying in developer Bruce Ratner's arms as they sing the stirring "There's NO Place For Us".

Posted by steve at 8:30 AM

November 6, 2009

Owning A Russian Basketball Team Can Be Hazardous To Your Health


The irreverent sports blog broke this story about the drive-by murder earlier this week of a billionaire Russian oligarch sports team owner.

If future Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov ever invites you to watch a game in the owner's box, don't accept. Not only will you be stuck watching the Nets, there's a decent chance you'll be caught up in an assassination attempt.

Shabtai Kalmanovich, one of Prokhorov's partners in post-Soviet billionaire sports owner crime, was murdered on Monday. Kalmanovich is the owner of the Spartak Moscow women's basketball team that is famous for shelling out big bucks to sign WNBA stars like Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, and Diana Taurasi. He was also gunned down on the streets of Moscow when another car pulled up alongside his and opened fire. Yeah, not exactly a random act of violence.

Police say they believe that the murder could be linked to Kalmanovich's business activities, and maybe even "his prominent role in Russian basketball." So that must make people like Prokhorov feel really safe and secure. The NBA too.


Related coverage...

The New American, Dangerous Connections: NBA and the KGB

The official publication of the John Birch Society picks up the story, and runs with it.

The recent public assassination in Moscow of Russian oligarch and sports team owner Shabtai Kalmanovich should give NBA promoters pause regarding their headlong rush to welcome Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov as the new owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise.

But don't expect the gunning down of Kalmanovich to stop Nets owner Bruce Ratner and Brooklyn developers from salivating over the prospect of netting some of Prokhorov's billions.

There are other colors also associated with Russian joint ventures: green, for huge sums of laundered money, used for bribes and corruption; and red, for lots and lots of spilt blood. Some of the most recent blood comes from Prokhorov's old business partner, Shabtai Kalmanovich, owner of Spartak, the professional Russian women's basketball team. He was slain on November 2 in classic gangland style. Kalmanovich's black Mercedes-Benz was sprayed with submachine-gun and shotgun blasts from a passing vehicle.

The NBA is making a dangerous deal with the devil; Prokhorov is not investing his own money, it's "The Party's Gold." And the Party guards it very jealously.

Click thru for tales of Russian intrigue, the KGB, the Israeli intelligence apparatus, Stalin, Lenin, secret gold stashes, double-crosses, double-double-crosses, and more.

NoLandGrab: We can't vouch for the story's premise, but it sure makes for entertaining reading — and gives "shooting guard" a whole new meaning.

Posted by eric at 10:27 PM

If the Gehry premium is 15%, why have estimates for AY condos (sans Gehry) gone up so much rather than been reduced?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder catches Forest City in a conundrum, thanks (inadvertently, and no doubt, unintentionally) to Professor Stuckey.

A Real Deal article, headlined Forest City goes one for two with Gehry: As Atlantic Yards stalls, Beekman Tower skyscraper sprouts, quotes a former Forest City Ratner official as saying, not unreasonably, that residences in buildings designed by starchitect Frank Gehry should command a premium.

"I think people will pay extra to live in this building," Stuckey said, estimating the premium at 15 percent.

That's plausible. And that also means that Forest City Ratner should be moderating, rather than increasing, the per square foot (psf) estimates it has been making for Atlantic Yards.

Fuzzy math

In 2006, at the top of the market, the developer's working estimate for condos was $850 psf. Now, according to a report KPMG prepared for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), Forest City Ratner is counting on sales prices of $1217/sf in 2015 up to $1369/sf in 2019.


Posted by eric at 7:18 PM

New York City's Comptroller: John Liu

WNYC Radio [The Brian Lehrer Show]

New York City Comptroller-elect John Liu gets asked by "Lenore in Brooklyn" about the Atlantic Yards project, beginning at about the 10:20 mark. Says Liu:

"Large developments like Atlantic Yards... have used up quite a bit of taxpayer subsidy in exchange for promises; the promises have been slow to materialize. I will use the full audit powers of the Comptroller's office to take a look at what in fact has transpired and set each one of these projects on a timetable to actually deliver those promises."


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, On Brian Lehrer, caller asks about "enormous" AY subsidies; Liu says he will ensure benefits; why not look into PILOTs and naming rights?

Better yet, he should take a look at the Department of Finance's arena block assessments and gauge whether the agency has, as with Yankee Stadium, stretched credulity with its numbers.

And why can't he recommend a city policy regarding the selling of sports facility naming rights, which most jurisdictions simply give away (but shouldn't)?

Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Not Dem Bums

This is what they want to use eminent domain, public land and taxpayer subsidies for? This is what they want to move to Brooklyn? Ugh.

NoLandGrab: The Nets are the only NBA team that has yet to win a game this season. Bet Lebron's just chomping at the bit to be a part of that.

Bleacher Report, New Jersey Nets: Scrap Brooklyn and Rebuild in the Bronx

In light of the Yankees winning the World Series, a random thought came about: the New Jersey Nets.

Yes, I know, the Nets are possibly the worst team in the NBA right now and are lottery bound (which I will touch on later). But one can't help but look at the old Yankee Stadium and realize that there is room for two stadiums in the area.

NLG: Perfect, 'cause the Yankees and the city never really wanted to build those new parks anyway.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 11/5/09 EDITION

NAS's Mark Ginocchio posts a thought-provoking reply to a question about the Nets-to-Newark scenario.

...with Corzine out of office, I’d be curious to see if the Newark move will happen now. He and his administration seemed willing to look the other way on the Nets paying a penalty for the move, and it sounds like the Christie/GOP regime is going to beat the “fiscal responsibility” drum here.

Brokelyn, Atlantic Yards doco makers still nearly $20K shy of a movie

Here’s your easiest route ever to associate producer status on a documentary film. The Brooklyn-based studio Rumur has spent the last six years producing Battle of Brooklyn, a documentary chronicling Daniel Goldstein’s fight against the Atlantic Yards development project and his effort to save his home at 636 Pacific St.

With the help of the funding platform Kickstarter, they’re trying to raise $25,000 by December 1 to receive a matching grant that will meet the rest of their needs. You can pledge $1 (or more, they prefer) at Rumur’s Kickstarter page.

Not Another F*cking Blog, “Battle of Brooklyn” needs a swift kick

Over the past 5 years, I’ve gotten to know many involved in the fight over developer Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards. From the beginning, filmmaker Michael Galinsky and crew have been following this story on a budget that’s typical of many documentaries: next to nothing. Money’s even tighter in this economy, so they’re reaching out to family, friends, supporters, strangers and the internets for funding.

If they reach $25,000 in pledges by December 1st, they will receive a matching grant. Please make a pledge today! This is a story that must be told.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Forest City goes one for two with Gehry

The Real Deal
by C.J. Hughes

For the megadeveloper Forest City Ratner Companies, the last few months can be seen as a tale of two projects.

The worst of times seems to have taken hold at Atlantic Yards, the proposed 22-acre development of apartments, offices and a basketball arena in Brooklyn. In June, Forest City dumped architect Frank Gehry, whose eye-catching designs helped generate much of the project's initial excitement.

And last month, the Empire State Development Corporation, the state authority backing the project, had to face the state's Court of Appeals in a case about the legality of its eminent-domain actions after being sued by a community group.

But in Manhattan, after a rocky start, it seems to be the best of times -- or at least somewhat more favorable ones, for Beekman Tower at 8 Spruce Street in the Financial District.

The 76-story rental tower will be the tallest residential building in New York. Unlike at Atlantic Yards, Gehry's design (his first residential project in New York) is getting built, despite its stumbles.


Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Emmanuel Volce

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

The indefatigable neighborhood activist Patti Hagan gives a pep talk to fledgling small-business owner Emmanuel Volce, who was doing his own economic development before Bruce Ratner came along to do "economic development" — aided and abetted by New York State.

Thanks again to everyone for the support - please spread the word to friends- we're over 20% of the way there.

In the scene Patti Hagan continues to work through the project site connecting with business owners and home owners to keep them informed and energized. Emmanuel Volce owned an automotive business and had only opened several months earlier. He was extremely depressed because he had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to open his business and he didn't have much hope.


Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

The condemnation process: what might happen if the ESDC wins the eminent domain case

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what might happen if the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) prevails in the pending eminent domain case--decision expected around Thanksgiving, but who knows--and pursues condemnation of properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

In previous coverage of the ESDC's July 22 community information session, ESDC counsel Joe Petillo offered an outline, and I also asked an attorney representing potential condemnees.

The process can take 110 days, involving a 20-day process and then a 90-day process.

Meanwhile, if Forest City Ratner wants to have a groundbreaking before the end of the year, they can, but it won't be on a fully cleared arena block and it might well take place while footprint residents, including uber-opponent Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, are still in their homes.

Oh, and if the ESDC loses, well, the project would die and a new legal mess would begin.


Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

Flatbush construction

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

Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

Utility upgrade work continues in preparation for the proposed Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards development, although it's still uncertain if/when Atlantic Yards would be built.

The three buildings in the foreground (left to right: 636 Pacific, 475 Dean, 473 Dean) would all be demolished, and the Barclays Center Arena for the NBA Nets basketball team would be built at this intersection. Two buildings, 636 Pacific and 473 Dean are still occupied.

Click here to view the image with interactive mouse-over notes.

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Paterson calls special session, will include public authority reform

Atlantic Yards Report

NY Governor David Paterson has called a special legislative session for this month, and the reform of Public Authorities (i.e. Atlantic Yards sponsor the Empire State Development Corporation) is on the agenda. However, since the Public Authorities-reform standardbearer, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, would rather rail at the Yankee Stadium deal after the fact than unwind an equally twisted boondoggle yet in the works, don't hold your breath for any reforms that could get in the way of Bruce Ratner's megaproject.


Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

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.

Today's map "optimistically(?) indicates the site of the Barclays Center Arena. All buildings south of Pacific in this photo would be demolished. Many have already been torn down."

Instead of the "Barclays Center," the image shows Long Island Railroad trains having a nap in the Vanderbilt Railyard.

Click here to check out the image with mouse-over notes.

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

Forest City in the News

Reuters, Forest City Community Development Entity Receives $55 Million in Tax Credit Allocation to Stimulate Investment in Low-Income Communities
From the press release touting what amounts to a federal bailout of Forest City Enterprises:

The allocation of $55 million will go toward providing financing for real estate development projects located in specific distressed and low-income communities. This is the third time FCCDE has received an NMTC allocation, for a total of $151 million in allocations under the program.

NoLandGrab: With the company going through hard times, the "allocation" comes just in time.

The NMTC program, established by Congress in December 2000, permits individual and corporate taxpayers to receive a credit against federal income taxes for making equity investments in designated community development entities, like FCCDE. The investor receives a credit, claimed over a seven-year period, totaling 39 percent of the cost of the investment. The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund administers the NMTC program. Thirty percent of the program's $5 billion funding for the latest round of allocations came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

NLG: With all of the creative subsidies Forest City Enterprises manages to exploit, we're appalled that the company actually has to pay taxes. No wonder the company has been going through a rough patch.

ForestCity.net v2

Forest City Enterprises launches a new web site.

Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

November 5, 2009

Forest City's Gilmartin: Yes, interim surface parking would be made available beyond arena events

Atlantic Yards Report

In my coverage of the July 22 community information session sponsored by the Empire State Development Corporation, I did not report on Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin's explanation that interim surface parking--including 1044 spaces on the southeast block of the project site--would be extended well beyond arena-goers.

Moderator Craig Hammerman read a question: "Will the interim surface parking lots be used only for arena uses? If not, who else will have access to them and at what times of day?"

"They're available for the arena and they also will be managed by a third-party parking provider," Gilmartin responded. "The expectation is that, if there's demand for that parking that could be satisfied through making it available to the public, that would be the plan. So, again, at arena event nights, the parking would be targeted for arena use, but again there are many other hours and many other periods of the year when that parking could be and would be made available to others."


Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

So, could the IRS deadline for tax-exempt bonds be extended? Unclear

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner has been feeding the financial press the line that the triple-tax-free arena bonds could be parked in escrow waiting for the litigation over the project to clear. But that scenario is easier said than done and details on how the heck the bond issuers and insurers might swing this one are not forthcoming (remember these are "tax free bonds").

But what if the IRS just extended the end-of-the-year deadline?

Perhaps the deadline is firm, but the Atlantic Yards saga is always full of twists.

The relevant document is IRS Bulletin: 2008-47, Treatment of Payments in Lieu of Taxes Under Section 141, excerpted below.

(3) Transitional rule for certain projects substantially in progress. Paragraph (k)(1) of this section does not apply to bonds issued for projects for which all of the following requirements are met:

(i) A governmental person (as defined in §1.141-1) took official action evidencing its preliminary approval of the project before October 19, 2006, and the plan of finance for the project in place at that time contemplated financing the project with tax-exempt bonds to be paid or secured by PILOTs.
(ii) Before October 19, 2006, significant expenditures were paid or incurred with respect to the project or a contract was entered into to pay or incur significant expenditures with respect to the project.
(iii) The bonds for the project (excluding refunding bonds) are issued on or before December 31, 2009.

As noted in the bold text, the transitional rule requires that bonds for the project be issued on or before December 31.

That seems pretty firm, but I asked the IRS if legal challenges persist, can that deadline be extended? (While I assume that no one has yet tested that deadline in an administrative proceeding, I suspect that IRS has some general rules about whether similar deadlines can be extended because of litigation or other circumstances.)

IRS spokesman Kevin McKeon replied: "We're unable to comment due to our Disclosure Rules."


Posted by lumi at 6:29 AM

Forest City Ratner says AY is not eligible for $55 million in federal tax credits

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder is trying to uncover the details of the federal tax credit [for Atlantic Yards*]:

Well, like some other people, I'm still trying to figure out for what Forest City Enterprises got $55 million in federal tax credits, if it wasn't for Atlantic Yards.

The New York Daily News today advanced (and muddied) the story today, with an article headlined Forest City Enterprises could get $55M boost from feds [for Atlantic Yards*]. Note that the words in brackets were later excised from the article.
Well, multiple states were listed [on the tax credit]: Connecticut, District of Columbia, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania. If the feds won't tell us (and Luecht [spokesman for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund] didn't respond to three queries I sent since Friday), maybe Forest City can do so.


NoLandGrab: The developer says the tax credit isn't for Atlantic Yards and Federal "Community Development Financial Institutions Fund" won't say what projects are eligible or were on the application. Since money is fungible, it's ridiculous to pretend to be hiding something... unless they're really hiding something.

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

November 4, 2009

Press Conference about the project

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Here's today's video clip from the documentary filmmakers behind Battle of Brooklyn: a press conference early on in the fight, on the steps of City Hall, at which Daily News columnist Errol Louis accuses project opponents of bending facts, an accusation he's never laid at the feet of the frequent fabricators at Forest City Ratner.

This scene is long - we cut it early on and didn't know where the movie was headed yet. Now its a small scene as part of a long montage. We are increasingly relying on montages to help build a sense of time passing. Some of these montages grab bits of scenes that are powerful themselves but just too long for a two hour movie.


Posted by eric at 10:59 PM

Forest City Enterprises could get $55M boost from feds [for Atlantic Yards*]

NY Daily News
By Erin Durkin

The original article about the $55 million federal bailout for Forest City Ratner was posted with "for Atlantic Yards" included in the headline.

The developer of the troubled Atlantic Yards project is getting a $55 million shot in the arm from the federal government.

The money, part of $5 billion in tax credits announced by the Treasury Department on Friday, isn't specifically earmarked for the controversial Prospect Heights project.

But federal officials said it's a vote of confidence that the beleaguered developer, Forest City Enterprises, has the ability to get its projects off the ground.
Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco said Atlantic Yards was "not included in the application" and "is not eligible for this money."

But [spokesman for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund Bill] Luecht said the developer could use the money for any project located in a census tract classified as low income - and the four tracts covered by Atlantic Yards are on CDFI's list of spots that qualify. He said he could not disclose what projects Forest City had named when they applied for the money.


Coverage of the Daily News story...

New York Multifamily News, Five Shots (or $55 Million) and He’s Still Alive! Atlantic Yards Gets Another Subsidy For Make-Believe Affordable Housing.

According to the NY Daily News, “Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco said Atlantic Yards was “not included in the application [for tax credits]” and “is not eligible for this money.” Mr. DePlasco was not quoted as saying the following:

Everyone knows that money is fungible. Every dollar we get from the government frees up a dollar we would use elsewhere. Even if the government put the money in a bag with weapons-grade plutonium and an exploding dye pack, and Daffy Duck opened the bag for us, Uncle Sam still wouldn’t know we used the money for Atlantic Yards.

Manhattan Real Estate, AY developer gets $55M in federal tax credits
Real Estate Ones, Forest City Enterprises could get $55M boost from feds

Posted by lumi at 7:28 PM

Atlantic Yards Report post-election posts

Times columnist sees how Bloomberg alienated Stuy Town residents; could a Thompson focus on AY have had an impact?

Had [NY Times columnist Jim] Dwyer come to Brooklyn, he would've found voters angry about Atlantic Yards divided about whether Thompson represented a viable alternative. And Thompson's posture toward AY was a sign of (take your pick) the challenger's ineptitude or the difficulty of taking on a project that still retains some powerful backers.

Does Marty Markowitz consider the Atlantic Yards arena his legacy? He says no, others say yes

Posted by lumi at 7:21 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere125.gif I Love Franklin Ave., Last Remnant of the Original St. Mary's Getting a Makeover

Longtime Atlantic Yards watchdogs will remember the time when Bruce Ratner was eyeing St. Marys Hospital, which closed in 2005.

Washington Square Park, On Mike Bloomberg’s Mayoral “win” of Third Term, Plus Eight Articles Worth Reading (Updated: Nine!)

Lack of community input into Atlantic Yards is listed as one of Bloomberg's failings leading into his third term:

The one good thing that might come out of a Bloomberg third term is that the press and the politicians, especially in light of his narrow win, may at last stop thinking of him as such a “good mayor” and start looking more critically at his policies (and failings) on:

homelessness, poverty, construction and building, over-development, corporate giveaways, lack of affordable housing, privatization of parks and public space, rezonings destroying communities and small businesses, police misconduct (the RNC should not be forgotten), lack of public planning (not enough schools for all the new “luxury housing”), endless school testing with lackluster results and parental outrage at his educational “system,” lack of community input in just about everything (but to name a few: Coney Island, Washington Square Park, Willets Point, Atlantic Yards, Yankee Stadium, Union Square, Chinatown, Williamsburg/Greenpoint), enforcing of the “nanny state,” and more.


Recently, NAS spoke with documentary filmmaker Michael Galinsky about his project “The Battle for Brooklyn,” which follows the eminent domain battle being waged against the Atlantic Yards Development, the Brooklyn site that would contain a new arena for the Nets.

Starting today, Galinsky and his colleagues who have worked on the project are raising funds to help see their film to completion. They are preselling digital copies of the documentary and will also release media snippets on their site to help promote the film and to generate feedback.

ConeyRocks, A Great Night for Brooklyn Development

Election results from the never-nuanced ConeyRocks:

Bloomberg, Marty and Domenic all re-elected. Bloomberg even mentioned Coney jobs in his acceptance speech.

From Atlantic Yards to Coney Island year round development - We just had one great night! Go Brooklyn!

NoLandGrab: Um, haven't those three been in office for the last eight years? What'll make the next four any different, other than our getting even more sick of them?

Posted by lumi at 7:08 PM

Review & Comment: For a Better-Looking City

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle suggests that bloggers only post around 40 words to circumvent any copyright issues.

Here are 40 words mentioning "Atlantic Yards" from Henrik Krogius's column exploring the idea of a Public Design Commission:

Today, here in Brooklyn, we are still embroiled in controversy over Atlantic Yards, although its original architect whose unconventional designs spurred at least part of the conflict has been eased out. Frank Gehry enjoys a world reputation somewhat like that...


Posted by lumi at 7:01 PM

Markowitz celebrates borough president re-election

Courier Life Publications, via YourNabe.com
By Stephen Witt

He isn’t often referred to as “Party Marty” for nothing.
In his victory speech, [Borough President Marty] Markowitz thanked Mayor Michael Bloomberg for overturning the term limit law allowing him to run for a third term.

NoLandGrab: Because Markowitz knows in his heart that he's not qualified to run for anything other than "Party Marty?"

Looking ahead to his third term, Markowitz said he can’t wait to get the shovel in the ground for the $4 billion-plus Atlantic Yards project that will see the NBA’s Nets move to Brooklyn into a newly built arena at the Flatbush/Atlantic avenues intersection.


NLG: Maybe Markowitz ran for a third term in order to hang around for an Atlantic Yards groundbreaking. Bruce Ratner's megaproject was announced in the middle of Markowitz's first(!) term.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 PM

In the Shadow of Yankee Stadium, an Off Year

The New York Times
by Patrick McGeehan

The Congressional district surrounding the old Yankee Stadium was the poorest in the country. How has the new Yankee Stadium changed things?

By all reckoning, this should be the moment Saeed Alawy was waiting for. His shop, Pin Stripe Collectibles, sits just beyond the right field wall of the new Yankee Stadium, where Game 6 of the World Series will be played Wednesday night.

But Mr. Alawy and other merchants nearby said they had not benefited from the new stadium. In fact, many said that business was down significantly from previous years — running counter to predictions that the stadium would be an economic generator in the Bronx neighborhood.

For some businesses, the new stadium’s location disrupted foot traffic patterns that had been around for decades. For others, the allure of the stadium and all of its shops and food stands teamed up with the recession to siphon away too much business.

Expecting sympathy from the Yankees? Not if spokeswoman Alice McGillion is any indication.

Asked how the recession had affected the Yankees’ merchandise sales, she declined to discuss whether the team had taken in more or less money from selling souvenirs this season. “We’re not going to get into the revenues,” she said.


NoLandGrab: Where do you think mall-owner Bruce Ratner is going to steer traffic from Bruce Ratner's planned arena?

Posted by eric at 8:43 AM

Memo to Assemblyman Richard Brodsky: don't ignore PILOTs for the Atlantic Yards arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Not that this will change the mind of Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who looked into the dubious financing scheme for Yankee Stadium after the fact but hasn't seen fit to look into the Atlantic Yards arena before it goes forward, but DDDB's Daniel Goldstein sums up the case for doing so.


Posted by eric at 8:21 AM

Bloomberg's third term seen as challenge

By Jason Fink

With Mayor Michael Bloomberg winning another term, New Yorkers can expect him to continue pushing two of his biggest goals: improving school test scores and redeveloping large areas of the city.

But experts caution that the unexpected closeness of his victory and the city’s fiscal problem will blunt his agenda.
“Whatever policy initiatives the mayor has are going to be very much compromised by the city budget,” said Bruce Berg, a Fordham University political science professor.
Still, Berg and others point to several projects on which Bloomberg will likely spend political capital, including Coney Island and Atlantic Yards.


Atlantic Yards Report, Three papers, two views of reality: Bloomberg's narrow victory in the Post, Times, and Daily News online

The results are in and Bloomberg either steamrolled over or squeaked by the competition, depending on which daily newspaper you read.

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

November 3, 2009

B новостях

Atlantic Yards developments are now making headlines back in Russia, now that oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov is on tap to bailout Bruce Ratner's floundering project and the New Jersey Nyets.

TUT.BY, Российский миллиардер пропишется в Бруклине за $32 млн

Бруклинские апартаменты должны сделать рабочие визиты Михаила Прохорова в Америку по-домашнему праздничными. В сентябре стало известно о том, что г-н Прохоров получит контроль над клубом New Jersey Nets и займется строительством его стадиона. По условиям соглашения, подписанного ранее группой "Онэксим" и американскими компаниями Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) и Nets Sports and Entertainment (NSE), "Онэксим" инвестирует 200 млн долларов в обмен на 45-процентную долю в проекте строительства в Бруклине спортивной арены Barclays Center, 80% акций New Jersey Nets, а также опцион на приобретение 20% акций Atlantic Yards Development Company. Она управляет строительством жилой и коммерческой недвижимости в рамках данного проекта.

RealEstate.ru, Сводка новостей за 3 ноября от RealEstate.ru

Posted by lumi at 8:31 PM

First Public Presentation by the developer

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Here's the latest clip posted by filmmakers Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley and David Beilinson, who are raising funds via Kickstarter for their Atlantic Yards documentary, Battle of Brooklyn. Click on the link to travel back in time to March, 2004, when the Park Slope Civic Council hosted the first public presentation of the Atlantic Yards project and Frank Gehry's arena-and-high-rise designs. Remember Frank Gehry?

This is a scene that probably won't make it in the film. After 6 years and 300+ hours of footage there just isn't room for everything. This was a scene that we liked a lot because the constant laughter at fanciful claims by architects is pretty telling about how information was flowing....if one was even paying attention.

We would love to make this a 5 part series as well as a film so that we can get to all of the important information. More "deleted" scenes to come.


Posted by eric at 7:30 PM

Election Day Triangles

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White urges a vote for Bill Thompson.

The fact is that while Thompson’s errant support for some version of Atlantic Yards is a problem (he has occasionally said he doesn’t know "what" the mega-project is at this point), there is hope that with a Thompson city administration support for Atlantic Yards will ultimately (and logically) fade. There is no such hope with the stubborn Bloomberg administration, irrespective of the way Bloomberg may try to hide, misrepresent or deny his administration’s support.


NoLandGrab: We wish we could share White's hopefulness for a different Atlantic Yards outcome if Bill Thompson somehow managed an upset, but given every chance to differentiate himself from Bloomberg on development issues — seemingly his best chance to win — he's instead presented himself as Bloomberg light, a recipe , no doubt, for runner-up status.

Posted by eric at 7:07 PM

Wrong Way PILOTs Would Crash into Atlantic Yards

The Huffington Post
by Daniel Goldstein

Imagine the city told you, that instead of paying property taxes on your home you could take the equivalent of the tax you would pay and use it for your mortgage. Not a bad deal…for the homeowner.

Now, lets say—the New York City Department of Finance (DOF), for example—worked with you to inflate the tax assessment of your property because the mortgage was $200,000 but your property taxes would only amount to $50,000 over the same time period. So, the DOF increased the tax assessment you won’t have to pay in order to meet the mortgage payments.

Even better…for the homeowner. For the City’s treasury, it’s all money down the drain.

The Yankees and Mets used this scheme which let taxpayers help pay for their new stadiums. Unfortunately, the Yankees financing was investigated, after the stadium was nearly completed, by New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Plenty of evidence was found that the Yankees and the DOF were gaming the system by inflating tax assessments like the homeowner scenario above. In order to inflate the PILOT to meet the bond issuance the Yankees wanted, comparables for the Bronx assessment were found in a far-flung, and much more expensive area—Alphabet City. But nobody did anything about it. (Last month The Village Voice’s Wayne Barrett started looking more in-depth into this Bloomberg-favored scheme.)

Next up on the tax-exempt bonds tour is developer Forest City Ratner’s proposed Nets arena in Brooklyn. The big difference between Ratner’s arena and Yankee Stadium is that Ratner has yet to be approved for the bonds from the state or start construction, which means a political Sullenberger could (and should) swoop in to stop the scam before it happens.


Posted by eric at 6:55 PM

The Week in Crime: Choked and Robbed

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Kate Briquelet

Another day, another felony in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall — a major source of local crime that the Empire State Development Corporation wrongly and knowingly ascribed to the Atlantic Yards footprint to help stack the deck for "blight."

An employee at Guitar Center in the Atlantic Terminal mall reported a guitar worth $1,860 missing after conducting inventory.


Posted by eric at 6:54 PM

South Portland Avenue Block Concert to benefit DDDB

South Portland Avenue Block Association

Sunday, November 8th, 2009
5:30 - 7:15 p.m.
61 South Portland Avenue, Parlor floor

A wonderful quintet of musicians, our neighbor Ahling Neu [Brooklyn Philharmonic] and her friends, will play the Mozart Clarinet Quintet. There will be refreshments, wine, a speaker from DDDB. Don’t miss this opportunity to gather with your neighbors and friends to hear fine chamber music in a beautiful space, and support the legal fund of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

The suggested donation is $20.00, but any contribution is welcome.

To help with refreshments, please call Richard at 718-522-7081. For other information call Joan at 718-624-1516; Hali at 718-858-6151; or Kathy at 718-596-7627.

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

Survey from Nets will be used for "directional purposes" (or Newark move)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Nets are trying figure out how much (and for whom) the Prudential Center in Newark is easier to get to than the Izod Center in the Meadowlands, and thus worth an interim (at least) move for the team.

So they sent a survey to people who went to exhibition games at The Rock and they're giving away a not-so-precious commodity, free tickets, as an enticement:

Please take a couple of moments to complete this survey about your experience at the Prudential Center in Newark for our Pre-season game(s). The information we gather will be used for directional purposes to offer you and the rest of our fans the most enjoyable experience at a Nets game.


Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

On Election Day, a Bloomberg story: the mayor disavows influence on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Peter Krashes, former president of the Dean Street Block Association, encountered Mayor Mike Bloomberg on the campaign trail two Saturdays ago at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers Market.

Krashes told the mayor that neighbors near the Atlantic Yards footprint had problems with ongoing construction activities. Bloomberg responded that there wasn't much the city could do.

"He specifically said it's a state project and the city doesn't have much sway or influence," Krashes recalled. "I told him I didn't think that was true. From what I hear, you are pushing quite hard on the project."

(After all, didn't his MTA appointees lead the charge for the revision of the Vanderbilt Yard deal?)

"I said I didn't believe the project had a public benefit." Krashes recalled, "and I asked him what he thought it was." The conversation ended, however, as campaign aides stepped in and moved Bloomberg along to another appointment.


Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Uncertainty, Skepticism Around Arena Bond Offering

There was a lot of discussion last week about the viability and timing of the issuance of debt to finance the construction of Barclay's Arena, the centerpiece of the Atlantic Yards project.

Nets Daily, Stern: Prokhorov Deal Will “Probably Close” in Early 2010

While noting Mikhail Prokhorov’s agreement to buy the Nets “hasn’t been finalized”, it “will be reduced to a full-blown agreement in the next couple of weeks”, David Stern tells Business Week. Then, “the formal review process, background investigations, etc., will go into full swing” and if approved “it will probably close in the first part of 2010.” The Nets need to secure $700 million financing for Barclays Center by Dec. 31.

Red State, Introducing Angelo Maragos, Republican for New York City Council

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project makes a cameo in a report from the campaign trail of one Republican candidate for City Council:

From the start, the theme of our campaign has been the fight against illegal behavior by the WFP, and the strong special-interest influence on our opponent. We also heavily emphasized the WFP’s connection to ACORN, which has a history of shaking down real estate developers here in New York (the Atlantic Yards case in Brooklyn being a notable recent example).

NetsAreScorching, Nets on the Net: 11/2/09 Edition

By way of NetsDaily, Bruce Ratner quietly trademarked the Russian translation of “Brooklyn Nets,” two weeks before Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to purchase the team.
Two of Brooklyn’s priciest penthouses are competing for the services of Mikhail Prokhorov.

Field of Schemes, NY to sell Nets arena bonds in three weeks, maybe

We missed this pre-Halloween Neil deMause post.

Reuters reports that New York's state-run Empire State Development Corporation has set the week of November 16 for selling $700 million of construction bonds for a Nets arena in Brooklyn. Read the fine print, though, and it's less certain than that.

In other words, things are still where they were two weeks ago, with the state and Nets owner Bruce Ratner trying to convince bond rating agencies and insurers that these bonds are safe despite the growing number of lawsuits against it.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Forest City in the News

The Denver Post, Greene: Stapleton developer Forest City's poor planning pits park against school

"At Stapleton, the one thing we could never have planned for was the people."

So reads Forest City's website for the mega-development where its own lack of planning (you know, for the people) has prompted tensions over whether to build a park or a school.

The company is being showered with kudos for donating $5.5 million toward a third elementary school now that two others are overcrowded. Schools and other new projects there are funded by "tax-increment financing," a source of revenue that tanked with the economy. Swarms of young families have demanded the third school they were promised by the company.

Forest City's commitment to ante up the cash has quelled some of their uproar.

Still, residents point out that the company isn't the open- handed corporate citizen headlines suggest.

The catch is that Forest City is merely reallocating funds set aside to build a planned park. So residents might get a school, but the park they've been waiting for is on hold.

NoLandGrab: No surprises here — in Brooklyn, Forest City Enterprises has never been accused of people-friendly planning.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

November 2, 2009

Atlantic Yards YES! Aqueduct Racetrack redevelopment bidders NO!!

New York State has one set of rules for Bruce Ratner and another set of rules for everybody else.

Crain's NY Business, Aqueduct bidders told to ante up even more money

Governor David Paterson told the site's six bidders Friday that they would each need to pay the state $200 million upfront to win the racetrack's redevelopment game.

The bidding to redevelop Aqueduct racetrack into a “racino” has entered yet another round: Gov. David Paterson sent a letter late Friday to the six bidders asking each to provide proof it can pay the state $200 million upfront within 30 days of being selected.

The request would mean a revision of most of the bidders' original plans to revive the rundown racetrack by installing video slot machines at the site in Ozone Park, Queens.

Sources say the latest request—the second change in the rules in less than three months—will likely winnow down the list of potential bidders in the race.

Collecting $200 million from the winning Aqueduct bidder this year is also part of Mr. Paterson's two-year, $5 billion deficit-reduction plan, which the governor unveiled last month.

NoLandGrab: We're no fans of the boneheaded proposal to install slot machines at Aqueduct, but the terms of the deal couldn't be more startlingly different than the terms for Atlantic Yards.

Whichever company wins the bid for Aqueduct will have to pay the state $200 million within 30 days of being selected. But Bruce Ratner, who had agreed to pay the state only half that much for the Vanderbilt Yard, was given the green light by the MTA in June to put down just $20 million at closing and pay the remaining $80 million over 22 years at a discounted interest rate. Why?

Posted by eric at 9:52 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... (election eve edition)

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Challenger TKO’d by Technicality

Tish James dispatched Forest City Ratner's hand-picked candidate in the Democratic primary; one of her general election opponents just dispatched himself.

City Council Member Letitia James has one challenger fewer to worry about in tomorrow’s election: Osaretin Ighile, an independent, who was kicked off the ballot last week.

His failure to write in one number — 35, the district he is running in — made all the difference, the appellate division of State Supreme Court ruled last week.

We'd be sympathetic about his being removed from the ballot on a technicality, except for this:

He supports the Atlantic Yards project and is critical of Ms. James’s opposition to it.

“Anything that will create jobs for our community, I’m for that,” he said. “I want to make life less bothersome to the working class.”

NoLandGrab: And you can be sure that two or three decades of massive surface parking lots won't be bothersome at all.

Lucid Culture, The Brooklyn What Runs for Brooklyn Borough President

Local punk rockers The Brooklyn What have officially launched a write-in campaign for the Brooklyn Borough Presidency, an effort that actually got started a couple years back.

The local, Brooklyn raised punk rock band has been running informally since summer 2007, when lead singer Jamie Frey and guitarist Evan O’Donnell encountered current Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz at a concert in Coney Island, and informed him that they were not interested in the planned Nets arena in Prospect Heights. “Marty took one look at our shirtless, sweaty, hairy bodies and told us to ‘move out’,” Recalls O’Donnell. “From then on, it was war.”

The Brooklyn What’s Top Five Reasons not to vote for Marty:

  • The Proposed Atlantic Yards Project, which illegally uses eminent domain to give land to a private developer for a fraction of its valu, in order to build a basketball arena and several high rise condo buildings in the middle of prospect heights.

  • Marty is Corrupt. The New York Post reported that Markowitz has steered nearly $700,000 in no bid contracts to his personal non-profit, which has also been recipient of $1 million in contributions from who else? Bruce Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer

  • Marty knocked his only democratic challenger off the ballot. Thanks for the democracy, Marty!

  • Marty Endorses Bloomberg. Bloomberg has made living in this city without a million dollar salary nearly impossible.

  • Marty is Manhattan-izing Brooklyn. Skyscrapers, exorbitant rents, local treasures (Coney Island) turned into tourist traps, sound familiar?

Washington Square Park, Why you should not vote for Mike Bloomberg for Mayor Tomorrow Election Day NYC!

Tomorrow, Tuesday November 3rd, is Election Day for Mayor, City Council, and other races in New York City. The Mayoral election is very important. Please vote! — for anyone but Mike Bloomberg.

Here are some reasons why:

* The Bloomberg Administration has shown no regard – or use for – community input, planning, and participation. In fact, Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not care about maintaining the character and uniqueness of our city. That’s been evident throughout the “process” of the redesign of Washington Square Park and many other places – Yankee Stadium (destroyed parkland and corporation giveaways), Union Square, Willets Point, Atlantic Yards, etc. etc.

Found in Brooklyn, Don't Forget to VOTE Bloomberg OUT TOMORROW!!

Atlantic Yards, Coney Island, Gowanus, Williamsburg, Long Island City, the lower east side, all uglified or on their way to become uglified. Get this man O-U-T!

Posted by eric at 9:14 PM

Corrected: that $55 million in federal tax credits for Forest City would not go to arena bonds

Atlantic Yards Report

So the $55 million in federal tax credits going to an affiliate of Forest City Enterprises, as reported Friday, will not in fact be for the arena bonds, as an Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) spokeswoman initially confirmed.

The ESDC's Elizabeth Mitchell offers a correction:

ESDC is making $55M worth of bond volume capital available. It was merely a coincidence that this was the amount allocated to Forest City Community Development Entity, LLC from the federal Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. The $55M of federal New Markets Tax Credit Allocation are entirely unrelated to the Arena bonds.


NoLandGrab: When it comes to Atlantic Yards, it's rare that anything is "merely a coincidence."

Posted by eric at 8:56 PM

On Your To Way Vote, We Quizzically Ask: How “Green” Is Our Bloomberg?

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White offers up a little election eve quiz.

True or False: Bloomberg uses his environmental PlaNYC as a justification for promoting more city real estate development.

But the question with the Bloomberg administration is which came first: A love of the environment or the promotion of big development? By 2007, long before PlaNYC the Bloomberg administration was well on its away to promoting megadevelopments and most of the 100 upzonings covering a fifth of the city were in place. We have also seen, in other situations, how prone the Bloomberg administration is to the cynical use of beneficial things, for instance “affordable housing” as excuses to justify otherwise indefensible mega-monopolies like Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 8:47 PM

AY opponents James, Owens endorse AY supporter Vann in the 36th CD, neglect AY opponent Griffith

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not every day that we disagree with Tish James and Chris Owens, and agree with Errol Louis, but hey, it's election day eve.

In the race between incumbent 36th District Council Member Al Vann, who won an eight-person Democratic primary by a slim margin, and challenger Mark Winston Griffith, who came in second and is running on the Working Families Party line, you'd think 35th District Council Member Letitia James might endorse the challenger.

After all, Vann voted to overturn and extend term limits, while James was a fierce opponent of that effort. And Vann is a supporter of Atlantic Yards, attending the MetroTech tree-lighting last December, while James is the project's leading political opponent--and Griffith opposes the project.

You'd also think that Chris Owens, who ran for the 11th Congressional District in 2006 as the only candidate opposing Atlantic Yards, also might endorse Griffith.

But James and Owens are endorsing Vann, as the New York Times reports today. Along with their citation of his very long track record as a patriarch of black politics in Brooklyn, I'd have to suspect that mutual crusades and mutual favors go a long way. (James used to work for Vann. And Atlantic Yards is hardly the major issue in the district.)


NoLandGrab: Al Vann's vote in favor of overturning term limits, and his support for Atlantic Yards, automatically disqualify him; Mark Winston Griffith, despite having to run on the Working Families/ACORN line, has been outspoken about his opposition to Bruce Ratner's boondoggle.

Posted by eric at 8:28 PM

Owners 'Russian' to sell

Putting Nets playboy in penthouse

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Here's a real non-story. Two Brooklyn real estate moguls with unsold, overpriced apartments think prospective Nets' buyer Mikhail Prokhorov should bail them out (after all, he's bailing out Bruce Ratner, right?).

The owners of Brooklyn’s two priciest penthouses are warring to score a trophy tenant -- Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire playboy set to buy the New Jersey Nets and move them to the borough.

Banking on the Moscow mogul wanting a Brooklyn bachelor pad so he can be close to the Nets’ planned new arena, the landlords contacted Prokhorov’s representatives last week about their triplexes.

Both Walentas and Levine said they’ve yet to hear back from Prokhorov, and a Prokhorov spokesman said he “won’t speculate on whether [the billionaire] would be interested.”

End of non-story, but click thru if you want more.


NoLandGrab: For sale, Brooklyn-based blog offering comprehensive coverage of Atlantic Yards project, planned Nets arena and spectacular Russian billionaire oligarch. Will accept payment in dollars or rubles. $1,000,000 o.b.o.

Posted by eric at 9:05 AM

The "modern blueprint," fungible money, and why taxpayers are helping bail out ACORN and fund the AY CBA

Atlantic Yards Report

"Money is fungible, Judge Robert Smith declared during the oral argument on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case October 14 at the Court of Appeals in Albany.

His point was that $100 million in state subsidies for arena infrastructure made it easier for Forest City Ratner to build the rest of the project.
Money is fungible.

That's why the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatories were in Albany, proxies for the project and better for p.r. than a Forest City Ratner executive.

They were shepherded by a public relations representative from The Terrie Williams Agency--which has represented CBA signatories off and on since 2005. (As I wrote in October 2005, BUILD's James Caldwell told the New York Observer he didn't know who was paying for the agency that was representing his group.)

Forest City Ratner is spending a couple of million dollars on the CBA, first on direct payments to organizations with no other visible means of support.

A few of the eight organizations do have a track record before Atlantic Yards, but the most prominent, ACORN, lost support in the wake of an embezzlement scandal, and FCR stepped in last December with a $1.5 million grant/loan package. (So much for the "modern blueprint" the Times discerned four years ago, as noted below.)

Who paid for that?

We did. Money is fungible.

Well, of course, we didn't pay for it directly or necessarily in full, and it's not on the books. However, public dollars--some $305 million in direct subsidies, plus tax breaks, below-market land, and more--have given Forest City Ratner the flexibility to shift money around.


Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Markowitz campaign mailer touts "Marty's Brooklyn Story," omits Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklynites this weekend got a mailer reminding us to vote for [Marty] Markowitz, with the essential argument that the job of Borough President is to increase pride and happiness, rather than, say, to weigh in on things like land use.

...the mailer consists of endless photos of Markowitz meeting Brooklynites and presiding over things Brooklyn, including Dine in Brooklyn, the new cruise ship terminal, the Coney Island circus, and even a soccer team.

Atlantic Yards is conspicuously absent, just as Markowitz's promotional Brooklyn!! publication (1, 2, 3)--essentially, a cousin of the campaign mailer--omits or downplays the borough's most controversial project, the project on which Markowitz has staked his reputation.


Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Looks At How The Times Is Doing - It Could Be Doing Better

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to the mayoral race, the Times calls a lie a lie

From a New York Times article today, headlined In Mayoral Race, a Blitz of Truth-Stretching Ads:

As the New York City mayor’s race enters its final, combative stretch, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his opponent, Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., have unleashed a flood of advertisements that contain distorted, misleading and, in some cases, outright false claims about everything from the creation of jobs to plans for tax increases.

(Emphasis added)

Sounds pretty declarative. So why can't the Times avoid publishing a lie from a government spokesman about the Atlantic Yards site or avoid falsely referring to "[t]he city’s agreement to help finance the [Atlantic Yards housing] plan."

The Times confirms that metro news does not constitute "core coverage"

New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt writes today about cuts at the paper, in a piece headlined Recession, Revolution and a Leaner Times:

William Schmidt, the deputy managing editor in charge of the newsroom budget, said editors are focused on preserving core coverage: national, foreign, business, and culture and arts. Over the past 10 years, the paper has added seven national correspondents and 10 foreign correspondents, and has expanded the Washington bureau and the business news department. The paper is spending more than $4 million a year to feed, house and protect its journalists in war zones, Schmidt said.

Meanwhile, the metro staff, with more than 60 reporters, is still the largest, but it has been reduced by nearly 20 percent over a decade. The paper, for example, no longer has correspondents in the state capitals of New Jersey and Connecticut.

(Emphasis added)


Well, for those who'd forgotten that metro does constitute core coverage, the day's newspaper, with no pages devoted to breaking New York City news, offers confirmation.

There's now a fluffy, feature-based weekend section called Metropolitan, which circulates in the tri-state area; it succeeds multiple regional sections, including the City section.

The lead story: a marathon walk around his Park Slope block by Andy Newman, who's main job is to run The Local, the Times's blog on Fort Greene/Clinton Hill.

Posted by steve at 4:52 AM

Atlantic Yards?

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.

Today's installment cites "Atlantic Yards" in Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Terminal Mall."

It indicates, incorrectly, that Atlantic Yards would be built on the site of the Atlantic Center Mall, north of Atlantic Avenue, while it's planned to be built south of Atlantic. Does Google know something we don't?

Click here to check out the image with mouse-over notes.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

Stealth By Design

How the city is sneaking great little buildings into unexpected places.

NY Magazine
By Justin Davidson

Congratulations Bruce Ratner, your Atlantic Yards megaproject is part of the City's elite club of overdevelopment follies:

The map of Michael Bloomberg’s New York bears the scars of vast, unfinished dreams of renewal. Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, Coney Island, Willets Point, ground zero, Governors Island, the Gowanus Canal—all those glittering megaplans, derailed, deferred, or debased. Yet the Bloomberg administration can claim triumphs at a tiny scale: Station house by station house, library by library, the city has been doggedly smuggling high-level architecture to the neighborhoods that need it most.


Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Cuyahoga County government overhaul puts focus on campaign finance reform

Referendums to study campaign finance reform are on the ballot in tomorrow's election in Cuyahoga County, where Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises are big players:

Executives at Forest City Enterprises, a powerful Cleveland developer, don't seem to mind solicitations.

Albert Ratner, the company's co-chairman, and family members contributed $10,000 to Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis in his last election cycle in 2008, and they gave $14,000 to Russo in his last election cycle in 2006, reports show.

Charles Ratner, president and chief executive officer, contributed $2,000 to Rokakis. Sam Miller, another co-chairman, contributed $2,000 to Russo during the same elections.

Charles Ratner said he can't speak to why his colleagues contribute, but, "I do it because I believe strongly in the American political system and I have a great respect for people who devote their life to public service."

Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

Compensating Justly? What Is the Property Being Condemned at the Atlantic Yards Site Really Worth?

Noticing New York

This blog post examines how developer Bruce Ratner benefits from eminent domain abuse. He can both underpay for a condo he's planning to take via eminent domain and yet claim over-the-top value for the property he owns due partially to an upzoning given to him via state leadership on the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Atlantic Yards Report noted that Forest City Ratner wanted to pay Daniel Goldstein an `estimated’ $450 per square foot for his condo in the Atlantic Yards footprint while at the same time FRC is getting state agency blessing to proceed with its (no-bid) mega-monopoly based on a (suspect- we’ll get to that) KPMG market survey that says that the current condo market in Prospect Heights is $470-$1225 p/s/f. Further, as AYR notes, FCR estimated in 2006 it would get $850 p/s/f for its proposed Atlantic Yards condos.


Atlantic Yards Report “estimated” the $450 p/s/f offer to Goldstein based on the fact that during the Lehrer program Mr. Goldstein phoned in to speak about the absence of “just compensation,” saying that Forest City Ratner was offering below the $466 p/s/f Goldstein paid in 2003 explaining, "It is even below what I paid for the place... over six years ago, and everybody knows the market is not lower.”

Read the rest to see how the proposed Atlantic Yards project continues to be structured for the benefit of the developer, regardless of whatever public benefits might, or might not, come of it.


Posted by steve at 4:23 AM

November 1, 2009

The community meets with Norman Siegel

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.

In late January or early February 2004 members of the community met with Norman Siegel to hear about what they might expect in the coming months or years. Nearly six years down the road Mr. Siegel's comments are quite eerie. This is a scene from the film itself. Some of these updates will be material that isn't in the film. However, one person quoted this meeting from memory the other day so it just seemed fitting to post it here.


Posted by steve at 9:15 AM

A tight deadline to fund and finish the documentary "Battle of Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

This blog entry focuses on the efforts of filmmakers Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley and David Beilinson to find the funding in order to complete their documentary on the Atlantic Yards fight "Battle of Brooklyn".

Galinsky tells me, "Our goal at this point is to get the film ready for the Tribeca Film Festival. (The festival begins April 21, with final cuts due in March.)

And while Galinsky says, "I tend to favor films that are shorter--like 90 minutes--but I think this one will clock in at two hours."

Well, with 300 hours to pick from, even a two-hour documentary will have to compress a lot.

I also should point out that, while the producers presume a resolution of Atlantic Yards by December 31, I wouldn't put big money on it. Atlantic Yards is a "never say never" project.


Posted by steve at 9:14 AM

One City, One Future: strategies for housing, jobs, and equitable growth (that Thompson has mostly ignored)

Atlantic Yards Report

The proposed Atlantic Yards project is certainly an example of poor planning. The project has morphed from a mix of office towers and housing to primarily a market-rate housing project plus the "who asked for this?!" arena. Instead of trying to stand on its head trying to please a developer, wouldn't it be better if there were a set of guidelines that government could follow to assure sound development?

The publication, "One City/One Future" (a collaboration between National Employment Law Project, New York Jobs with Justice and the Pratt Center for Community Development) shows how the city can do a better job of meeting citizens' needs and allocating precious resources.

Norman Oder digests this publication that espouses these principles:

Raise the Standards

Government should set clear standards for economic activity in New York City, especially activity that benefits from public spending or actions. Meeting these standards -- whether they concern the quality of jobs created or the environmental sustainability of new buildings -- must be a prerequisite for anyone doing business with the city.

Invest for Shared Growth

The city and state currently spend billions keeping New York's economy humming. These investments in housing, transportation, and employment need to be designed and managed with the explicit objective of improving opportunity and strengthening neighborhoods.

Reform the Process

Planning and development must take place in an open and democratic environment, in which communities and the city work as partners, not adversaries, with the objective of building a prosperous city on the strength of livable neighborhoods.

Read through Oder's take on "One City/One Future" and you'll see that it could be possible to have a more equitable system of development for New York.


Posted by steve at 8:48 AM

ESDC’s Bond Buyer Happy Talk About Restructuring and Refunding Arena Bonds

Noticing New York

Here's an item that was missed from Friday. This blog entry takes Frances Walton, ESDC’s chief financial officer, to task for statements made for an article in the Bond Buyer. It doesn't appear that the ESDC will meet IRS tax free bonds requirements in that way it is attempting to structure bonds for the proposed Atlantic Yards Project.

We are sure that Ms. Walton (who used to be in the habit of taking our legal advice when she joined us at the state agencies where she began in public finance) knows that a bond deal that is issued in order to be immediately “restructured” is pretty dead-on target to be exactly the kind of “black box” deal that the IRS has repeatedly found doesn’t meet its requirements for tax exemption (thus making bonds taxable). We also find curious the notion that if, as Ms. Walton suggests, the “court ruling went against you” (which is to say that no arena could be built) that ESDC would “just refund the bonds.” We can definitely understand Ms. Walton’s reference to an “early call” to redeem the bonds when for various reasons the arena can’t be built, but the phrase “refund the bonds” in general public finance parlance means keeping bonds outstanding (i.e. not it's not like “refunding” a ticket price and sending people home when your headline act doesn’t show up). Issue the bonds in order to immediately refund them and keep bonds outstanding with a different structure? The IRS surely ought to like that.- Not! (We refer once more to our comment about “black box” transactions.) Why talk about keeping bonds outstanding when you find out that the arena can’t, in fact, be financed? It wouldn’t be possible. The IRS would consider that an over-issuance prohibited by the tax code, making the bonds taxable (once again) as “arbitrage bonds” (retroactively to their date of issuance).


Posted by steve at 8:20 AM