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January 31, 2010

Atlantic Yards Report: Brinckerhoff Video, Izod's Empty, Times Misses On Arena Opening

Atlantic Yards Report

Could the Atlantic Yards arena open in 2011-12? The Times won't publish a correction

It's a little like something out of Beckett, the attempt to get the New York Times to acknowledge errors in its Atlantic Yards coverage. Sure, the Times sometimes prints corrections when the evidence is overwhelming.

But too often the Times goes through gyrations to avoid such acknowledgments. Unfortunately, the readers are still misled.

Below is the latest.

The 2011-12 arena?

I sent a request for a correction to the New York Times Senior Editor/Standards Greg Brock on Friday:

Today, the Times reported in Seeking Fans in 2 States, Despite a Record of 4-40 (1/29, Metro) that "the move [to Brooklyn] is not expected to take place for at least another full season."

The current season ends in the spring of 2010. The next season ends in the spring of 2011. Today's article leaves open the possibility that the move could take place during the 2011-12 season.

However, the Times reported last month that "[t]hey hope to open the new arena by June 2012."

That's after the second full season.

And just the other day an executive from Forest City Ratner said construction of the arena (which hasn't yet begun) would take 28 months. See the end of the second video embedded here.

I recognize that the statement that "the move [to Brooklyn] is not expected to take place for at least another full season" is not technically inaccurate. But it is misleadingly imprecise. As you in October 2007 told an interviewer: I don’t know if you read our corrections much, but we often say we referred “imprecisely” to something, which means that we weren’t 100 percent wrong.

I think that this is one of those cases.

The Times's response

Brock responded promptly:

You are correct that it is not technically inaccurate. We were careful to say "at least" another full season. That much we are certain of. They may get their wish and have it going BY June 2012 as we said. Or it may be 2014, who knows what problems might be ahead. "At least" another season conveys to our readers -- who are fairly sharp little cookies -- that it's not going to be anytime real soon and that we, nor anyone, really knows.

I don't agree that this was imprecise. No correction is warranted.

...

The bottom line regarding the Nets' planned move to Brooklyn is that it won't happen within the second full season, despite the Times's willingness to leave that suggestion open.

In the Times this week, photos of the Nets (one supplied by the team) but not the empty Izod Center

Coverage of the Nets by the New York Times, Bruce Ratner's business partner seems to downplay the pitiful attendance at New Jersey Nets games.

Photos don't lie, right?

Two photos of the New Jersey Nets were published in the New York Times in the past two days, and both were more generous than they had to be. They didn't convey an essential fact of the team's season: very few people are coming to the Izod Center to watch the league's worst team.

At left is the photo that appeared (cropped somewhat, in black and white) in yesterday's print New York Times, to accompany an article headlined Wizards and Nets in One Unenchanted Evening.

It's a perfectly good photo of hoops action. But it doesn't say quite enough.

Overestimated attendance

A section of the article amplified the headline:

But for spectacles, this matchup was not one to be highlighted, not with a terrible team hosting another poor team engulfed by the worst scandal of the year. If for three hours the N.B.A. could pretend one of its games never happened, this would probably be the occasion.

The Nets have the third-lowest attendance average in the N.B.A., listed generously at 13,484 per home game. At their previous home game, against the Clippers, they announced fewer than 10,000 fans, but people at the game estimated there may not have been half that many.

Video: lawyer fighting condemnation for Atlantic Yards talks about case heard January 29 before Justice Gerges

Here's an interview that covers some of the points of last Friday's hearing as well as some "what-if's".

After the hearing Friday in Kings County Supreme Court on eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, Matthew Brinckerhoff, attorney for those challenging eminent domain, answered a few questions at a brief press conference outside on Jay Street.

Expectations from hearing

Had he had expected Justice Abraham Gerges to transfer title, as had been sought by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) or had he expected the judge to put the condemnation on hold, as he did.

"I did not expect him to issue an order today; I would've been very surprised," responded Brinckerhoff, noting the flurry of legal arguments that had been submitted in just the past few days. "He has to at least consider in some way, shape, or form all the arguments we submitted.

Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

Judge, I’m Telling You, the Car Was Grandma’s

New York Times
By Jim Dwyer

This light-hearted story starts off with a faux-mysterious tone regarding the location of Traffic Violations Bureau for Brooklyn North.

Traffic court.

To get to the one on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, you go to a big mall that all the subways on Earth run to, take the escalator up to the second floor and walk in one end of the Target, then out the other. There you are: the Traffic Violations Bureau for Brooklyn North.

Of course, the location in question is the Atlantic Center Mall, which is owned by Times business partner, Bruce Ratner. This is another example of more fluff in Metro coverage.

NoLandGrab: Isn't a mall a funny place for the Traffic Violations Buerau? Not if you're Ratner. Not only did his mall require public subsidies when first built, but now the the public keeps paying rent for the Department of Motor Vehicles, the mall's biggest tenant. And where was the Department of Motor Vehicles before moving to the mall? It was in a Bruce Ratner MetroTech building that he demolished so he could build his 36-story, luxury rental DKLB project.

link

Posted by steve at 7:38 AM

January 30, 2010

DDDB Statement: Condemnation on Hold

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

We were heartened today, but not surprised, that Judge Gerges chose to reserve his decision on the ESDC's petition seeking to condemn private properties to make way for Forest City Ratner's basketball arena and parking lots.

It's clear that Judge Gerges appreciates the gravity of the issues at stake in this case, and that he'll weigh very seriously the arguments put forth today by counsel and in the motion submitted on behalf of the property owners and leaseholders fighting to retain title to their homes and businesses.

We're confident that after he reviews the facts, he will agree with the respondents and dismiss the state's petition, denying the ESDC and Forest City the right to take title to our neighbors' businesses and homes.

link

Posted by eric at 4:59 PM

Condemnation on hold after judge promises prompt review of claims; streets unlikely to close on February 1 - Updated

Atlantic Yards Report

Usually, NoLandGrab only posts a blog entry once, but this one by Norman Oder has been substantially updated and now provides blow-by-blow coverage of yesterday's condemnation hearing.

Here are choices for Justice Abe Gerges to choose from in ultimately ruling on this case:

Gerges's focus is on the narrow law of condemnation, so it would be unusual for him to allow argument on claims that the project has changed so much--and after the chance for public comment on such changes--that the ESDC should issue a new Determination & Findings.

So he could simply dismiss the new claims filed by property owners and leaseholders. Or he could ask the ESDC to revise the petition because of technical defects. Or--the longer shot--he could look at the broader claims, or hold this case in abeyance while another court examines those claims.

...

Here is Brinckerhoff on the need to reign in out-of-control agencies (such as the ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner).

Brinckerhoff moved on to his analogy regarding the court's presumed unwillingness to transfer title if no financing were available. "What has happened is the fundamental equivalent of the project being abandoned," he said.

Gerges pointed out that courts are supposed to defer to legislative agency.

"There are limits to that deference," Brinckerhoff said, pointig to the unelected three ESDC board members who approved the plan, based on blight findings--including sidewalk cracks and underutilization--made by environmental consultant AKRF, which was slammed in the Columbia case.

"The reason we have courts is so they can rein in agencies when they go too far," he said.

"The only thing we know we're getting is an arena," he said, failing to acknowledge the one promised housing tower.

"And we know the arena is not a benefit to the public," he continued, pointing to New York City Independent Budget Office cost-benefit analysis that it would be a net loss to the city--a study to which the ESDC responded by pointing to its less rigorous benefit analysis, based significantly on taxes from that phantom office tower.

"We are entitled to raise these issues," Brinckerhoff said. "No court should stick its head in the sand. We'll go [to court] where we're told to go."

Please click on the link to get all the details on this hearing.

link

Posted by steve at 8:29 AM

Property Seizure for Atlantic Yards Is Delayed

New York Times
By Colin Moynihan

The state’s planned seizure of property in Brooklyn to make way for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project was delayed on Friday when a judge declined to rule immediately on the state’s request for final approval.

After hours of argument at a condemnation hearing by lawyers for property owners attempting to halt eminent-domain seizure and by lawyers for the state entity, the Empire State Development Corporation, that seeks to condemn the land, the judge, Abraham G. Gerges of State Supreme Court, told the lawyers, “We’ll get back to you.” He said he would rule “expeditiously.”

...

At the condemnation hearing, a lawyer for the property owners, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, urged Justice Gerges to re-examine the project before granting the development corporation title to the properties, in the Prospect Heights neighborhood near Downtown Brooklyn.

“We are asking this court to be the only court thus far to allow us to raise issues that have transpired over the last three years,” he said. “The fact that they changed so much about this project has to be heard.”

Charles S. Webb III, a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation, responded by telling the judge that current plans by the developer, Forest City Ratner, were “virtually identical” to plans that the state approved in 2006. (Forest City Ratner was also the development partner of The New York Times Company in building its new Midtown headquarters.)

link

NoLandGrab: Best comment from "Jamie" on this Times blog entry:

“Charles S. Webb III… responded by telling the judge that current plans… were “virtually identical” to plans that the state approved in 2006.”

Yes “virtually identical” if you mean “substantially different.”

Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

Atlantic Yards Condemnation Rests in Hands of Brooklyn Judge

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Samuel Newhouse

The fate of properties in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project is still in limbo after a condemnation hearing on Friday in Kings County Supreme Court. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Abraham G. Gerges decided not to issue a decision Friday, citing submissions as recent as the day of the hearing and the day before. A decision will be released “expeditiously,” Gerges said.

It was within the power of Justice Gerges to condemn the properties on Friday and transfer title to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) – a state-run construction organization that would then lease the properties seized by eminent domain to developer Bruce Ratner.

Ratner’s company Forest City Ratner would then be able to build his multibillion dollar Atlantic Yards project at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, which includes a NBA basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets to move to Brooklyn.

Community group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and home- and business-owners who will have their land seized by the state have filed a myriad of lawsuits to stop or modify Atlantic Yards. Several months ago, in the most high-profile case, New York’s highest court ruled that it is constitutional for the state to take the land in question.

...

One of the arguments by attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff (whose name is misspelled in the Brooklyn Eagle article) calls for a hard look at what really constitutes the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Lead attorney for the plaintiffs Matthew Brinckeroff said that one of the reasons that the condemnation petition is defective is that changes to the Atlantic Yards project since December 2006 have never been considered by any court.

Brinckeroff said that according to the amended project plan released in September 2009 and other sources, changes to the Atlantic Yards project include a construction timeframe increase from 10 years to up to 25 years, the possible absence of affordable housing from the project, and the reduction of the project from 7.9 million square feet to 4 million square feet.

“The Court of Appeals never examined any of these issues,” Brinckeroff said, saying that a November 2009 decision by the state’s highest court was based entirely on plans and environmental reviews from before December 2006.

“Where on the continuum from nothing changing from December 2006 to everything changing from December 2006 do we get to be heard?”

link

Posted by steve at 7:23 AM

The Antidote to Brooklyn Nets Fever

New York Magazine

Remember this when and if some sort of super-Nets team featuring John Wall and Amar'e Stoudemire tries to drape itself with borough pride when it moves to Brooklyn in 2012: Part of the process of getting the Barclays Center built involved seizing the building that housed the Pacific Dean Homeless Shelter and evicting its 80 families, in the middle of winter, on Martin Luther King Day.

link

Posted by steve at 7:20 AM

Kevin Durant: What the Young All-Star Can Teach LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

Bleacher Report
By Robert Kleeman

This sports story includes speculation about LeBron James, and asks an interesting question spawned by too-credulous coverage of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Will James bolt from his home state to become the savior for a desperate Donnie Walsh and his still-loser franchise in New York?

How about New Jersey, where the Nets are on the way to the worst record in NBA history? Never mind that ownership still has yet to break ground on that spectacular new arena in Brooklyn.

How many times has Bruce Ratner been close to "clearing the last hurdle?"

link

Posted by steve at 7:12 AM

Nets Reaching Out

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by John Torenli

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle catches up with the New York Times's coverage of a promotional event by the New Jersey Nets.

The New Jersey (soon-to-be-Brooklyn) Nets sent a pair of ambassadors and team mascot Sly to cheer up pediatric patients at The Brooklyn Hospital Center on Tuesday.

Second-year guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and rookie Terrence Williams read Curious George Goes to School before signing autographs, posing for pictures and handing out toys provided by EmblemHealth and the Nets.

link

Posted by steve at 7:00 AM

A “Kelo” Grows In Brooklyn

Loopholebill's Weblog

This blog entry is an impassioned plea for reform of eminent domain in New York State.

Here’s a quick law-lesson – - – in 2005 the Supremes ruled that Connecticut could grab private homes and businesses for the building of a research place for a drugs company. Now, fast-forward to late 2009 and lo and behold the New York High Court ruled that New York can grab around 20 acres of private Brooklyn land to build a sports arena for ( are you ready??? ) the New Jersey Nets plus, commercial and residential stuff. How the hell??? You ask… Well, after Kelo, many states changed their Constitutions to stop this crap but NY did NOT, so the developers won and the li’l property owners get some money.
NYT 27 Nov 09, p. A.3

link

Posted by steve at 6:56 AM

January 29, 2010

Condemnation on hold after judge promises prompt review of claims; streets unlikely to close on February 1

Atlantic Yard Report

No, the Atlantic Yards condemnation case was not going to be simple, after all.

After nearly two hours of oft-contentious oral argument before Kings County Supreme Court Judge Abraham Gerges--argument that, according to counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) went well beyond the proceeding at hand--the judge chose not to rule on the motions and counter-motions filed in the last two days.

"While the court will proceed promptly, the parties are entitled to a review of their claims," Gerges said at the end of the hearing, promising to "proceed expeditiously."

That means, most likely, that streets planned for closure February 1 will not close, even though developer Forest City Ratner seeks the closure of Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues for sewer work needed before arena construction will go forward--and has said it wanted that street closed even if the case was delayed.
...

Gerges was not unskeptical about the claims raised by attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff, representing several footprint property owners and leaseholders, who argued that changes in the project after the ESDC's 2006 approval of the eminent domain Determination & Findings (D&F) were so significant that a new D&F was required.

Weren't such issues supposed to be dealt with in other cases, the judge asked.

Brinckerhoff pointed out that other courts considering AY-related cases had relied solely on the record as of December 2006. "The fact that they changed the project so much has to be considered by someone," he said.

He suggested, by way of example, a situation in which a D&F had been approved but there was absolutely no financing for a project. In such a case, despite the D&F, he said, a condemnation court would not have transferred title.

He said: "The question is: where on the continuum from nothing changing to everything changing do we get heard?"

article

Posted by eric at 3:53 PM

“We can’t offer any compensation…”

Not Another F*cking Blog!

For Norman Oder, a Crystal Eagle; for photographer Tracy Collins... a t-shirt???!!!

Collins received an email from a firm competing for a Barclays Center construction contract, asking if they could use his photos for their pitch and offering him a t-shirt (yes, a t-shirt) as compensation. Collins muses:

This guy clearly has no idea who I am. Probably didn’t have enough time to google to find out that I’d probably be the last person to let him use one of my Atlantic Yards photos in a bid for a construction contract on the Barclays Center. The construction contract must be worth millions, and all I’d get is a lousy Nicholl & Dhyme t-shirt (not to mention the neighborhood-destroying megaproject almost literally in my back yard)?
...

If this is the kind of outfit that’s involved in building a “world class” arena… They’re already cutting corners to slap together a proposal they’re “putting out in the next day or two to be the metal company that does the outer shell.” Then again, are we surprised?

Be sure to click through to see the email.

article

NoLandGrab: And that proffered t-shirt? It doesn't exist yet.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, For AY photographer Collins, a not-so-enticing offer of a t-shirt

Photographer Tracy Collins, who has done yeoman work chronicling the physical state of the Atlantic Yards footprint and civic events related to Atlantic Yards, doesn't make much money for his efforts.

His work often gets used, without permission.

Sometimes commercial entities ask for permission but won't pay.

Other times they offer the smallest, and least enticing, of carrots.

Posted by eric at 3:21 PM

OCA Announces Two Crystal Eagle Award Recipients for 2010

The Eminent Domain Law Blog

The Eagle has landed — in the hands of (award-winning) journalist Norman Oder.

Owners' Counsel of America (OCA) will honor two journalists in 2010 with the Crystal Eagle Award for their remarkable journalism and unwavering effort to be critical and objective, specifically with respect to their investigative reportage and balanced analysis regarding the government’s use of eminent domain.
...

Norman Oder, freelance journalist and creator of the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report, and Robbie Whelan, Business/Real Estate Reporter for The Daily Record (Baltimore, Maryland) and freelance writer/blogger will each be honored with the Crystal Eagle Award at OCA’s tenth annual meeting on February 6, 2010.
...

Oder’s work involves regular critiques of media coverage, long-form reporting of events like public hearings and court arguments, and detailed analyses of documents like legal papers and those submitted for the state’s environmental process. He regularly gleans scoops by filing Freedom of Information Law requests and bridges the gap between legal formality and ground-level reality by showing how, for example, the state’s claims of blight in and around the project sight are suspect.

In writing hundreds of thousands of words a year over more than four years, he offers a longitudinal view of an enormously contested project, one that Kent Barwick, former president of the Municipal Art Society, suggested might be “this generation’s Penn Station,”—in that, just as the demolition of the station galvanized the historic preservation movement in the 1960s, so too the enormously questionable process behind Atlantic Yards might prompt revision of the way the city and New York state, which is considered to the most condemnor-friendly eminent domain laws in the nation, go about development and eminent domain.

article

NoLandGrab: Congratulations, Norman. Without you, we wouldn't have half as many news items to post.

Posted by eric at 3:11 PM

A Call From the Prosecutor and the FBI Agent who have NOT YET Indicted Ratner although they have Evidence in Hand.

Fightin' Freddys

Only a boondoggle as crazy as Atlantic Yards could yield twists and turns as crazy as those taking place as the Fightin' Freddys pursue justice.

BREAKING NEWS - CALL-A-THON GENERATES FIRST CALL FROM FEDS...
In a conference call between the F.B.I., the U.S. Southern District Court, and a co-organizer of yesterday's attempted Citizen's Arrest of Billionaire Bruce Ratner, initiated at 5:03 p.m. on Thursday, January 28, Jason Halpernin, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York and Michael Mazzuca, FBI Special Agent confirmed they had evidence of an alleged bribe paid... to former Yonkers City Council member Sandy Annabi.
...

The conversation lasted approximately 6 minutes. The Federal Attorney and the Special Agent informed Mr. de Seve that they were calling because the New York State Attorney General's Office had called to inform them that de Seve had evidence or information with a bearing on the bribery case.

"'I do,' I told them. Mr. Ratner has exhibited sociopathic behavior in closing the Pacific Dean Family Homeless Shelter in the middle of Winter. Locking away from use beds and a roof for up to 80 homeless families. When families come knocking at the door of the shelter to find a warm bed for their children, they will find that door locked."

"I also informed them," de Seve continued, "that the Southern District Court's delay in indicting Mr. Ratner, when they had evidence in hand, could cause an incorrect judgment to be reached Friday morning in New York State Supreme Court, by depriving Judge Abraham Gerges of having a clear view of one of the parties in the Eminent Domain case he would be ruling on."
...

De Seve also informed the callers that he believes the delay to be politically motivated, since Mr. Ratner is a campaign contributor to New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has also not acted in a timely manner to indict the Billionaire.
...

Beyond introducing himself, Special Agent Mazzuca, the person in charge of the FBI investigation of the Ratner/Annabi alleged bribe, said nothing.

"G. Gordon Liddy would have been proud of how he conducted himself. He was a rock. And said exactly as much as a rock would say."

link

NoLandGrab: Kooky? Maybe. Kookier than the Altantic Yards project? Not even close.

The Fightin' Freddys' full-court press for justice continues. Visit them here for more information on how you can help.

Posted by eric at 2:47 PM

TODAY - Come Out for Condemnation Hearing

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This Friday, January 29th, at 9:30 a.m., the Empire State Development Corporation will present its petition in New York State Supreme Court seeking the condemnation of private properties to make way for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards boondoggle.

We invite and urge you to attend the arguments and spread the word as we carry on with the fight to stop this misguided project once and for all.

Details below:

Friday, January 29, 9:30 AM

Atlantic Yards Condemnation Proceeding Oral Argument

Kings County State Supreme Court
IAS Part 74
320 Jay Street, Room 17.21
Brooklyn
[ MAP ] [ Street View ]

The property owners and leaseholders fighting the condemnation proceedings, who include DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein, Henry Weinstein and Freddy's Bar & Backroom, intend to vigorously oppose the state's attempt to take their properties and businesses against their will.

link

Posted by steve at 9:36 AM

Motion to dismiss condemnation raises procedural issues and larger argument that no findings were made for significantly changed (and delayed) project

Atlantic Yards Report

The condemnation hearing today in state Supreme Court could result in the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) taking title to property it needs in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

But attorneys for the property owners and leaseholders, in a case organized and funded by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, are pressing both narrow and broad issues in their motion to dismiss the case. Most notably, they argue that the project has changed so much that the 2006 Determination & Findings (D&F) no longer stands.

It's an unusual challenge, breaking new ground, and thus hard to assess. Judges usually grant condemnation petitions. And judges usually hesitate to substitute their judgments for agencies like the ESDC

But AY has always been complicated, and the motion to dismiss (reproduced at bottom) makes some serious claims.

So, unless Justice Abraham Gerges decides that none of it is relevant, it could be a long hearing and/or a reason to allow much more time for further argument or an opportunity to consider dueling legal arguments.

Click on the link to get details on the legal arguments.

link

Posted by steve at 7:33 AM

Times sinks toward irrelevance as it uses scarce Metro section space for Nets fluff

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times bungles the biggest story in Brooklyn even as it promotes its business partner, Bruce Ratner.

When I read this cutesy New York Times story yesterday headlined A Marketing Quandary: How Do You Sell a 4-40 Team? about a media event--a couple of Nets players coming to Brooklyn--I figured it would appear only online, in the CityRoom blog.

Surely they wouldn't put that fluff in the paper, not when there's real news about government accountability and Atlantic Yards, like the gap between the promised ten-year timetable and the more generous deadlines in the master closing documents.

But that 18-paragraph article appears in today's paper, headlined Straddling Two Arenas, Nets Woo Fans for Both.

Timetable issues

It contains the not-quite-inaccurate-but-imprecisely-generous statement that "the move is not expected to take place for at least another full season."

Had someone read the comment I posted early yesterday, they might have been reminded that a Forest City Ratner executive said the other night that the arena would take 28 months to build.

And construction has not yet begun.

link

Posted by steve at 5:17 AM

Atlantic Yards Condemnation In Court Friday

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Ryan Thompson and Samuel Newhouse

The homes and buildings remaining in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards development may finally get taken. Years after the state set out to acquire the property via eminent domain, the hearing that is expected to approve the condemnation is set for Friday in Brooklyn.

Kings County Supreme Court Justice Abraham G. Gerges is scheduled to preside over a hearing regarding a condemnation petition filed by Empire State Development Corp (ESDC). It’s the last step required for the state to take control of the land at Atlantic Yards, which the New York Court of Appeals ruled can be done via the constitutional use of eminent domain.

...

The Brooklyn Eagle thinks that attendance by members of the community at today's Condemnation Hearing constitutes packing the courtroom. Don't worry, attendance is a right and your interest is welcomed.

Members of grassroots group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which strongly opposes Atlantic Yards, are expected to pack the courtroom. DDDB spokesman and lead plaintiff in the eminent-domain case Daniel Goldstein said, “We will challenge the petition. It is defective in many respects.”

link

Posted by steve at 5:03 AM

Real Estate Interests Help Cuomo Gain a Big Edge

New York Times
By Christine Haughney

The real estate industry seems to prefer Andrew Cuomo as governor over incumbent David Paterson.

As Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo readies his candidacy for governor, one industry is helping him amass a huge fund-raising advantage: real estate.

The real estate industry, which Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo helps oversee, has been his top giver, even as it has hit hard times.

New records show that even as the industry has confronted its worst crisis in decades, developers, construction executives and real estate lobbyists have given millions of dollars to Mr. Cuomo, providing one in every five dollars over the past six months

It will come as little surprise that Bruce Ratner is on the list of donors to Cuomo.

Other prominent givers included Lloyd Goldman, an owner of the World Trade Center site; Bruce C. Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer; Steven Roth, the chief of Vornado Realty Trust; Stephen M. Ross, the chief of the Related Companies; and Richard Lefrak, whose family developed Lefrak City in Queens and owns tens of thousands of apartments.

link

NoLandGrab: Since he doesn't seem to have Ratner's backing, maybe Governor Paterson can finally give Atlantic Yards a promised "objective and fair hearing."

Posted by steve at 4:49 AM

40 Hotel Projects in Pipeline for Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

This round-up of hotel construction manages to include this whopper in figuring how many hotel rooms might exist in the Brooklyn of the future:

And this does not include the proposed hotels at Brooklyn Bridge Park (100-200 rooms estimated) and in Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Plan (150 rooms estimated in “Miss Brooklyn”).

NoLandGrab: The "Miss Brooklyn" moniker was used for a monstrous piece of office tower vaportecture designed by Frank Gehry who was long ago kicked off he project. There's no design or schedule for this building, and even Bruce Ranter says “Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?”

link

Posted by steve at 4:25 AM

January 28, 2010

DDDB MEDIA ALERT — Tomorrow: Atlantic Yards Condemnation Proceeding Oral Argument

Property Owners and Leaseholders facing condemnation for Atlantic Yards project will seek dismissal of New York State's petition to take title of their properties for transfer to Forest City Ratner

Brooklyn, NY- At 9:30 a.m. on January 29, Brooklyn property owners and leaseholders will seek dismissal of the state's petition to condemn their homes and businesses in New York State Supreme Court in Kings County. The state is attempting to gain title to these private properties in order to transfer them to developer Forest City Ratner for its Atlantic Yards project.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn continues to offer its full support to the property owners and leaseholders in their ongoing legal effort to defend their homes and businesses against Forest City Ratner's ill-conceived, politically corrupt project. Today, their attorney, Matthew Brinckerhoff, returned a motion to dismiss the state's petition, challenging both the substance of the petition and the procedure by which the Empire State Development Corporation is attempting to seize title to their properties, which, unfortunately for Forest City, continue to stand in the way of its taxpayer-subsidized basketball arena and its thousands of parking spaces.

The respondents' Motion to Dismiss and Verified Answer point out, among many defects in the ESDC's papers, that the ESDC seeks to condemn this property to support a plan long ago abandoned by the developer in favor of a much-altered project that the state freely admits - but not in front of a judge - could take 25 years to build. The papers also demand dismissal of the proceeding because the ESDC has failed to set forth the public benefits of the project, although it's expressly required by the law to do so.

DDDB and the property owners and leaseholders continue to hold out faith that the judicial system will finally expose the gross, irreparable flaws in the Atlantic Yards project, and in the governmental abuse of the public trust, and will refuse to grant Forest City Ratner the private property that it covets.

The Motion to Dismiss returned by Mr. Brinckerhoff is available for download at:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/26006140/Atlantic-Yards-Motion-to-Dismiss-Condemnation

The Verified Answer returned by Mr. Brinckerhoff is available for download at:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/25998255/Atlantic-Yards-Condemnation-Answer

WHAT:
Condemnation Hearing for Title Transfer of Private Properties Sought by Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner Companies for Atlantic Yards Project

WHEN:
Friday, January 29, 2010
9:30 a.m.

WHERE:
New York State Supreme Court, Kings County
320 Jay Street
IAS Part 74
Room 17.21
Brooklyn, New York
[Map]

WHO:
Attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP, representing Peter Williams Enterprises, Inc.; Pacific Carlton Development Corp.; Daniel Goldstein; and Chadderton's Bar & Grill, Inc., d/b/a Freddy's Bar & Backroom

Posted by eric at 9:41 PM

As condemnation hearing approaches Friday, plaintiffs organized by DDDB file challenge, aiming to stop process of taking property

Atlantic Yards Report

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) is inviting supporters to Come Out for the Condemnation Hearing Tomorrow, at which the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) will pursue what is usually a simple procedure: taking title to properties in a condemnation case.

Property owners and leaseholders organized by DDDB, as noted below, have filed a challenge to the ESDC's petition.

The hearing will be at 9:30 am before Judge Abraham Gerges in Kings County State Supreme Court, IAS Part 74, 320 Jay Street, Room 17.21, Brooklyn.

Complication and challenges

Though developer Forest City Ratner and others assume that title will pass tomorrow, paving the way for street closings and more, nothing with Atlantic Yards has been simple.

Indeed, the attorney representing some of those facing condemnation will not be there to argue about valuation--usually the main variable at issue--but about fundamentals.

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Additional coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Atlantic Yards Condemnation In Court Friday

When the ESDC takes the land from private businesses and homeowners, it is required to pay them “just compensation” for their land. What “just compensation” equates to in monetary terms must be determined by a court.

Posted by eric at 9:30 PM

2010 Coalition to Preserve Community demonstration

Photo, from a Flickr photo set by Tracy Collins.

Tracy Collins captured the action at today's Coalition to Preserve Community protest outside the Manhattan offices of Governor David Paterson and the Empire State Developerment Corporation. Demonstrators called upon the Governor to place a moratorium on eminent domain takings.

The complete slide show, featuring some familiar Brooklyn faces, is below.

Posted by eric at 8:11 PM

Tower debris shuts down Downtown

Downtown Express

Pieces of metal and plywood blew off the 76-story Beekman Tower during a windy storm Monday, damaging property and forcing street closures but not injuring anyone. Work on Forest City Ratner’s luxury apartment tower remained stopped Wednesday, and the city Buildings Dept. issued contractor Kreisler Borg Florman General Construction Company a violation for failing to protect persons and property.
...

Joyce Baumgarten, a Ratner spokesperson, said Monday’s high winds dislodged some of the metal screws that hold the building’s orange construction netting in place. Some of the screws, which are 6 to 8 inches long, popped off high floors of the building and fell to the streets below, Baumgarten said. She said the contractor would find a better way to secure the netting.

Borough President Scott Stringer sent a letter to the contractor calling the incident “unacceptable” and inviting a representative to meet with Community Board 1. The contractor referred comment to Ratner.

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NoLandGrab: We suppose Prospect Heights residents should be glad that Bruce Ratner is only figuratively screwing them, while literally screwing lower Manhattan denizens.

Posted by eric at 7:55 PM

Ratner Protesters Stage ‘Citizen’s Arrest’

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Igor Kossov

It’s hard to imagine a man in Brooklyn who has more critics than real estate developer Bruce Ratner, head of the controversial Atlantic Yards project. Yesterday morning, a dozen people gathered in front of One Metrotech Plaza, home of Ratner’s company headquarters, to attempt a citizen’s arrest of the developer.

The crime, they said, was bribery. Earlier in January, newspapers reported that Sandy Annabi, a Yonkers councilwoman,was charged with changing her vote on a Ratner development site for a bribe of $60,000 paid to her cousin. The protesters argued that Mr. Ratner should be indicted as well.

Calls made to Mr. Ratner’s office requesting comment on the attempted arrest were not returned.

“This is a case of letting Mr. Big go to catch the little fish,” said Steve de Seve, an activist who organized the gathering. A handful of representatives from advocacy groups FUREE and Picture the Homeless joined him in the street.

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Related coverage...

Gothamist, Developer Bruce Ratner Escapes Arrest By Homeless People

Posted by eric at 3:53 PM

A Marketing Quandary: How Do You Sell a 4-40 Team?

City Room
by A.G. Sulzberger

Hey, why send a reporter to read through boring Master Closing documents (which might reveal embarrassing information about your development partner's Brooklyn land grab) when you could be doing a puff piece about "Team Hype" instead?

The outreach reflects the Nets’ effort to build brand loyalty – “seeding” the fan base, in the words of the team’s chief executive, Brett Yormark — in Brooklyn, in anticipation of a long planned move to a proposed arena at Atlantic Yards. But because the move is not expected to take place for at least another full season and still faces a number of hurdles, the team has also been trying to maintain the loyalty of those New Jersey fans who are actually buying tickets.

Actually, the move will not take place for at least another two years — if ever.

This dual marketing effort would be tricky in the best of circumstances. In light of the team’s record, Mr. Yormark said the strategy had been to “sell fun, not wins” to the fans in New Jersey and “to sell hope, to sell the going-forward story” to the fans in Brooklyn.
...

In some ways the children at the Brooklyn Hospital Center were the perfect audience for athletes who had no interest in talking about the 33-point loss a few nights earlier — the team’s 11th straight defeat.

Many of the youngest were fixated on the furry mascot accompanying the athletes, Sly the Silver Fox. One boy had to keep being reminded that the men played basketball, not baseball. And others simply watched the scene unfold with the morose look common to any medical waiting room.

Sly Fox does have broad appeal, as the photo would indicate (click to enlarge).

Even the adults who recognized the players mostly offered their critiques out of earshot. One hospital employee posed for a photo with the two then retreated to the other side of the room to admit that he stopped watching the team, adding, “I don’t know what their problem is.” A doctor, while praising the young talent, called the season “embarrassing.”

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Posted by eric at 2:24 PM

Hey Kids! Who Wants to Be the Next Bruce Ratner?

Hasbro releases Monopoly: City Edition to train future real estate moguls in eminent domain, property devaluation, and rent dodging.

FastCompany.com
by William Bostwick

Congratulations, Bruce Ratner! Your name is now synonymous with everything that's wrong with the real estate business.

What do you get the next generation's up-and-coming Bruce Ratners? How about Monopoly: City Edition. Just released, the game scraps houses and hotels for industrial parks, skyscrapers, stadiums, power plants, and other urban icons. Apparently, the rules state you don't need to own all the streets on one block to start building there--eminent domain, I guess. You can also build "hazards" (like trash dumps) next to your opponents' residential properties to devalue them. Sounds like fun.

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NoLandGrab: Bruce's favorite game token? The bulldozer.

Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

Bloomberg/NYC Gave $131 Million to Bruce Ratner

The Huffington Post
by Steve Ettlinger

This whole Atlantic Yards boondoggle thing is still getting more amazing. Turns out, when Ratner bullied people into selling out by using the threat of eminent domain--totally standard and understandable--he also knew he could pay top dollar because he was using our own money to help ease his pain. My pain is formidable.
...

There is still a possibility that this scam will be stopped by a judge or Governor Paterson, and we could then expect a more rational private development or at least a more rational public/private partnership. If this happened, Mayor Bloomberg might exit his era with one less major blotch on his record.

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Posted by eric at 12:17 PM

Nets notes: Mikhail Prokhorov must wait for majority ownership

Bergen Record

Mikhail Prokhorov is expected to take over majority ownership of the Nets in the first quarter of 2010, but it probably won’t be until the very end of the first quarter.

Multiple sources said the Russian billionaire may not take control of the team from Bruce Ratner until March. It’s possible it could go into the second quarter, early April, depending on when everyone and everything is cleared from the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn - the "vacant possessions" condition that needs to be met for the sale to go through.

Prokhorov also needs to be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors, which could happen next month.

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NoLandGrab: Given the history of Atlantic Yards — remember that the Nets were supposed to open the 2006-2007 season in Broolyn — we have a feeling Mr. Prokhorov may be waiting a lot longer than that.

Also...

NetsDaily, Prokhorov Won’t Become Owner Til Spring

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Did New York City Planning Officials Sidestep Looking at the Bigger Atlantic Yards Picture?

Noticing New York

Forest City Ratner owns air rights that would allow it to build three high-rise buildings atop its Atlantic Center mall, which was constructed in such a fashion as to support the additional structures.

NNY wonders if City Planning had taken those extra buildings into account in its "review" of the Atlantic Yards project.

Given all this focus on whether the mega-project was too large, combined with the fact that Ms. Burden and her city planning officials took credit for downsizing it when they actually didn’t, we wondered whether City Planning’s review of the mega-project looked at it in terms of its inescapably larger proposed size, 19 new towers rather than 16. We think they should have. Instead, the evidence is that City Planning again played along with the effort to depict Forest City Ratner’s overall plans as being for just 16 new towers.
...

Why is it important whether the City Planning Commission or the City Planning Department dealt with the larger project as a whole rather than just participating in the manipulation of public perceptions about the project size? Because that is what city planning is supposedly about, looking at how planned city developments operate as a whole, integrating with the environment around them. The focus of City Planning officials is not supposed to be minimizing reviews and coordinating with the developers’ PR.

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Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

One Quick Call Will Help Save The Shelter, Freddy's, and Prospect Heights

Fightin' Freddys

Fightin' Freddys are mustering a phone-a-thon effort to put Bruce Ratner behind bars.

Andrew Cuomo CALL-A-THON

Give Cuomo the Message, Indict Bruce Ratner for Yonkers Bribe Today

And Keep the Pacific Dean Shelter Open Till Spring!
...

A hearing tomorrow will determine whether Eminent Domain will win by giving the neighborhood, the homeless shelter, dan goldstein's place, and freddy's bar to Ratner -- OR if we will win by having the judge say "NO."

Bruce Ratner, or his company, Forest City Ratner, of which he is CEO, have given federal authorities evidence that allegedly show FCR bribed a Yonkers City Council member $60,000, to get her to change her vote on Ratner's $600 Million Ridge Hill Project. The Council Member is being indicted. Ratner isn't.

Bribing a public official is a State Crime, prosecutable by the office of the Attorney General. And Attorney General Cuomo has not only not indicted Ratner, he's taken a $5000 campaign contribution from him.
...

Can you take 2 minutes and make a call for the cause?

Click through for your marching calling orders from the Fightin' Freddys.

Related coverage...

Found in Brooklyn, Fightin' Freddy's CALL-A-THON to Indict Bruce Ratner * Today Only until 5pm

I received an urgent press release from the Fightin' Freddys this morning regarding how a call to Attorney General Cuomo's office might help their cause to get Bruce Ratner "indicted by this Friday, Jan 29, or he will walk into the eminent domain hearing with a clean slate. And that will influence the proceedings."

"Your call will help provide the right pressure at the right time to give Judge Gerges a reason NOT to rubberstamp the state's eminent domain grab in his court tomorrow, Friday the 29th."

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Jeffries: "less than cautiously optimistic" on AY, waiting for Paterson response, says ESDC hasn't explained why governance structure isn't needed

Atlantic Yards Report

At his third annual State of the District address, held last night in the Pratt Institute's Higgins Hall, 57th District Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries spoke to a supportive crowd about three main issues, none of them Atlantic Yards, though he did answer questions about the project afterward.

His bottom line on AY: after initiating dialogue with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), he's "less than cautiously optimistic" about progress on most issues, including the use of eminent domain and the commitment to build affordable housing expeditiously. (He mentioned a letter to Governor David Paterson that he hadn't released when it was sent in December.)

Nor has the ESDC convinced him why Atlantic Yards, unlike such other large projects as Queens West or Brooklyn Bridge Park, does not deserve a separate governance structure to provide oversight over the long term. He was most animated in his frustration over that issue.

Jeffries, unlike other local legislators (City Council Member Letitia James, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and state Senator Velmanette Montgomery), has not gone to court to challenge decisions by the ESDC and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He's said that doing so would compromise his advocacy.

Thus he walks a careful line: expressing opposition to eminent domain but not standing with the main groups fighting eminent domain for the project; hoping to ensure that, if the project goes forward, there are jobs for community residents and sufficient affordable housing; and hoping to ensure that, if the project goes forward, there's a credible governance structure.

AYR also links to a video, posted on Jeffries's YouTube page, featuring an appearance on Fox News last November that included the Assemblyman and Matthew Brinckerhoff, the attorney who has argued the Atlantic Yards eminent domain cases on behalf of property owners. We missed that segment when it aired originally.

Click through Norman Oder's Q&A with Jeffries following his address last night.

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Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

A Nightmare on Atlantic

Poster by Specter, photo by Tracy Collins.

"The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks"
February 4, 2010 - May 16, 2010
MoCADA

80 Hanson Place, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York

Posted by lumi at 6:34 AM

January 27, 2010

The MTA’s big bollards are an affront to Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper, Editorial

The Brooklyn Paper is no fan of the Atlantic Terminal's massive, ugly, sarcophagus-like security perimeter, and is afraid we can expect more of the same when Forest City and the MTA team up on another nearby project.

Worse, the same pattern is playing out at the state’s Barclays Center across the street. In this case, the architecture firm SHoP has presented dramatic designs for the basketball arena — renderings that show a line of thin, architecturally reasonable bollards.

But will those renderings be tossed away in a closed-door meeting, just as the original Atlantic Terminal renderings were? We’ve asked the Empire State Development Corporation repeatedly, but the agency won’t answer.

As a result, we’ll likely get stuck with another Flatbush fortress — one that gets sprung on us at the last minute without any prior discussion with, or concern for, the public.

That’s unacceptable.

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Posted by eric at 11:51 PM

Ratner Escapes Arrest Attempt by Homeless

Cuomo Also Refuses To Respond to Atlantic Yards-Angry Protesters

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Samuel Newhouse

Homeless people and community activists gathered in Downtown Brooklyn Tuesday to make a citizen’s arrest of developer Bruce Ratner – but the real estate mogul never showed up.

The attempted citizen’s arrest was planned by patrons of Freddy’s Bar, FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality) and homeless advocates, partly in response to the closure of a homeless shelter in the footprint of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project that displaced dozens of people.

Protestors who gathered intended to arrest Ratner to make him stand trial for a corruption investigation in Yonkers connected to one of his projects, according to the protesters.

But Steve de Seve, the patron of Freddy’s Bar who led the arrest attempt, was informed by a representative of Ratner who came down from MetroTech that the developer would not appear.

“He told me that Mr. Ratner is not in the building. I informed him that Mr. Ratner is being a coward,” de Seve told the group of protesters afterward.

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Posted by eric at 11:34 PM

NBA's Worst Team Ever

Yahoo! Sports

Yahoo! Sports basketball analyst, and former NBA star, Kenny Smith says, yes, indeed, the 2009-2010 New Jersey Nets are the worst team ever to take to the hardcourt in the National Basketball Association.

Which would, in turn, make Bruce Ratner the worst owner in NBA history — in addition to being a land-grabbing, subsidy-grubbing, miserable human being.

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NoLandGrab: Who says they have no pride? The NBA's worst team ever went out and thumped the Clippers 103-87, ending their 11-game losing streak and running their record to 4-40.

Posted by eric at 10:04 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! State-of-the-art Transit Security Measures NO!!

While the MTA apparently had enough money to defer an $80 million payment from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard over 22 years, it doesn't seem to have the cash to implement anti-terror security measures intended to keep subway and bus passengers safe.

The New York Times, M.T.A. Short on Security System Cash

After the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority pledged to enact state-of-the-art security measures throughout the New York City transit system, widely considered a potential target for terrorism.

But many elements of the program, including the installation of digital surveillance cameras and motion detectors, have yet to be completed, and the authority no longer has enough money to finish them, according to a report released Tuesday by the state comptroller’s office.

“The M.T.A. is struggling to bring the security of its system into the 21st century,” the comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said in a statement. “The project is taking too long, costing too much, and there is no end in sight.”

Has DiNapoli bothered to take a look at the massive waste of money otherwise known as "Atlantic Yards?" Of course not.

Norman Seabrook, an authority board member and chairman of its safety and security committee, said he was worried that layoffs and service cuts could jeopardize customers’ safety. “We don’t have enough manpower to cover the system,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to respond properly.”

Mr. Seabrook didn't bother to show up for the vote at which the MTA's board overwhelmingly approved a sweetened sweetheart deal for Bruce Ratner.

NoLandGrab: "If you see something, say something" — unless the crime benefits Forest City Ratner.

Related coverage...

2nd Ave. Sagas, Subway safety suffering, says DiNapoli

As part of his ongoing series of progress reports into the MTA’s attempts at beefing up its security, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has released his most scathing indictment of the transit agency so far. A new report, released yesterday, says that the MTA is years behind implementing its planned post-9/11 security upgrades and may very well run out of money before completing the project.
...

Still, the MTA plans to spend what little money it has left on incremental upgrades and has defended its efforts in a statement. “Ensuring that Bruce Ratner's basketball arena gets built the safety and security of our customers continues to be the MTA’s top priority...."

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

COALITION TO PRESERVE COMMUNITY PRESS RELEASE: Protest at Paterson/ESDC Offices Tomorrow, 1/28/10

On Thursday, January 28, 2009, from 11:30 AM until 1:00PM, members of Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC) and its supporters will gather in front of the offices of Governor David Paterson and the Empire State Development Corporation at 633 3rd Ave. (between 41st and 40th Streets) to demand that ESDC reverse its decision to appeal the historic ruling of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division against the State’s seizure of private property for Columbia University’s expansion of its 116th street campus into West Harlem. Representatives from various neighborhoods facing development plans using eminent domain will join CPC members to call on Governor Paterson to declare a moratorium on eminent domain. Letters supporting both demands will be delivered to his and ESDC’s offices.

On December 3rd the Appellate Division by a 3-2 vote ruled “the exercise of eminent domain power by the New York State Urban Development Corporation (d/b/a ESDC) to benefit a private elite education institution is violative of the Taking Clause of the U.S Constitution, article 1 & 7 of the New York Constitution and the first principles of the social contract.” In a scathing decision, the court detailed a riveting account of Columbia University’s collusion with the State to gain 100% of a 17-acre parcel between 125th St. and 133rd St. and 12th Ave. and Broadway for an expansion projected to cost 6 billion dollars.

Two separate lawsuits challenging the eminent domain determination were filed by property owners in the development footprint, Nick Sprayregen, Parminder Kaur, Amanjit Kaur, and P.G. Singh. Sprayregen was represented by noted civil rights attorney Norman Siegel and attorney Philip Van Buren. Protesters will offer their continued support for property owners whom Columbia is smearing as selfish hold-outs preventing progress rather than owners entitled to decide the future of their own properties. CPC will point out Columbia’s elitist agenda and its manipulation of its political and financial connections.

Siegel and Sprayregen will address the audience. Invited speakers also include State Senator Bill Perkins, who within a day of the court ruling called on Governor Paterson to order a statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain pending legislative revision of the much-abused New York State condemnation laws. Support will be offered by and for businesses and residents in East Harlem, Queens, Brooklyn and elsewhere who are facing eminent domain abuse as part of huge gentrification developments.

Members of CPC will be picketing to support this historic victory for neighborhoods throughout New York City decimated by eminent domain abuse and to show their vital resistance to oppression by both private and government institutions. We demand NO APPEAL; NO EMINENT DOMAIN; NO DISPLACEMENT OF RESIDENTIAL TENANTS AND WORKERS; NO BIOHAZARD LEVEL 3 LABS; FULL DISCLOSURE OF PAYMENTS BY COLUMBIA TO ESDC AND RELEASE OF FOIL DOCUMENTS ORDERED BY THE COURT.

Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

Despite promise of ten-year AY buildout, ESDC deadlines allow 12 years for Phase 1, 15 years to start platform, 25 years for full project

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what kind of leverage does the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) have to get the Atlantic Yards project completed in a decade, as promised in the 2009 Modified General Project Plan and defended in a court hearing last week and in legal documents?

Not much.

The developer faces generous deadlines before damages--hardly painful--kick in, and in several cases the deadlines can be extended. Among the deadlines:

  • six years to build the arena
  • three or four years to start construction of the first tower
  • five or six years to start construction of the second tower
  • ten years to start construction of the third tower
  • 12 years to build Phase 1 (which can be much smaller than officially promised)
  • 15 years to start construction of the platform over the railyard
  • 25 years to finish the project (which can be much smaller than officially promised)

The damages Forest City Ratner faces in most cases--less than $10 million for an arena that's up to three years late, $5 million for each of three buildings if they're late--don't represent a lot of money, especially given that the developer just got a cash flow boost of $31 million to buy land.

And while the developer is still supposed to build the promised 2250 units of affordable housing, an Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability can be claimed, thus continuing to stretch the deadlines.
...

The documents support the wide belief, even among project proponents and state officials, that the project could not be built at the promised timetable. Last April, Marisa Lago, then-CEO of the ESDC, said that the project would take "decades."
...

The documents are maddeningly complex, written in legalese with Rube Goldberg-ian formulas, and multiple documents address some of the same issues. So it's certainly possible that some of my analysis is flawed. However, given the absence of any official statement of damages and sanctions, consider this a good first pass.

And the documents in the master closing clearly contradict the 2009 Modified General Project Plan approved by the ESDC in September 2009, which states:

The build-out of the Project is likely to occur in two phases, with the Project elements on the Phase I Site and the Upgraded Yard (collectively, "Phase I") anticipated to be completed by 2014 and the Project elements on the Phase II Site (collectively, "Phase II") anticipated to be completed by 2019.

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Posted by eric at 12:08 PM

At another meeting on AY street closings, FCR's Marshall faces some tough questions from the crowd

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently, Forest City Ratner's Marshall Plan didn't include answering questions they didn't want to answer.

Unlike the meeting January 21 regarding street closings for the Atlantic Yards footprint scheduled for February 1--where there was no representative from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the consultant from Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE) was a junior staffer--last night, at the 78th Precinct Community Council, the Forest City Ratner road show was at full strength.

And Forest City Ratner's Senior VP Jane Marshall found herself less la-di-da than at the earlier meeting, showing herself to be somewhat exasperated and even snippy regarding some tough questions that, to her and other meeting organizers, strayed from the narrow topic at hand.

(She's pictured at right with Sam Schwartz himself and SSE planner Daniel Schack. Photos and set by Tracy Collins.)
...

Then Michael White, the lawyer, urban planner, and blogger behind Noticing New York, got up. "Do you envision taking title before Mikhail Prokhorov is approved" as Nets majority owner, he said. "I believe your bond sale documents... say that if Prokhorov isn't approved, the deal essentially folds. And, as I understand, there are all these strange stories coming out of Russia about... attempted assassinations." (He was referring to the alleged plot against journalist John Helmer said to be associated with a company in which Prokhorov owns a minority interest.

"There are also the Forest City Ratner indictments in Yonkers," White said, referring to the Ridge Hill case, in which Forest City Ratner has been cited as "Developer No. 2" but not indicted. "I wonder if you would therefore postpone the taking."

"I don't think it has anything to do with the condemnation taking," Marshall responded. "This presentation is to answer questions about traffic. I would respectfully refer you to someone else."

White pressed on, asking if they'd take title before Prokhorov is approved.

"We believe that title will be passed on Friday," said Marshall, referring to a planned court hearing on condemnation.

"They will take title whether or not you know the arena can be constructed," White continued.

"We know the arena can be constructed," Marshall responded.

"Whether or not you know Prokhorov is going to be approved," White continued.

"Next question," Marshall said.

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Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

City shells out another $31 million to help developer Bruce Ratner buy land for Atlantic Yards

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

You can't make this stuff up. On the same day that Mayor Bloomberg traveled to Albany to argue that the proposed state budget would force the city to make $1.3 billion in cuts and lay off 19,000 workers, including police and firefighters, newly released Atlantic Yards documents revealed that the Mayor had kicked in another $31 million of the taxpayers' all-to-scarce money for Bruce Ratner's economically nonviable arena boondoggle.

The city has shelled out another $31 million to help developer Bruce Ratner buy land for his controversial Atlantic Yards project, new documents show.

That's on top of $100 million the city previously pledged to buy up property for the new Nets arena and 16-tower project, bringing the total to $131 million.

An updated funding agreement signed in October and released this week said the $31 million would be used to buy four properties on Dean St.

City officials said the subsidy won't cost taxpayers more money - instead, the $31 million will be subtracted from $105 million previously pegged to pay for infrastructure improvements around the 22-acre project site.

"No additional money has been promised or transferred," said Economic Development Corp. spokesman David Lombino.

The funding was moved because the cash-strapped developer needed more money up front - and Ratner will be contractually required to foot the bill for the infrastructure work down the road, officials said.

But project opponent Councilwoman Letitia James (D, WFP-Prospect Heights) dismissed that as an accounting gimmick - and said even if the city's bottom line remains the same, it's a slap in the face to use taxpayer money to buy property under the threat of eminent domain.

"It's a government Ponzi scheme," she said.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Did the city give Forest City Ratner $31 million more for arena land? Despite previous reports, the answer is yes (Updated)

Given that the city initially pledged $100 million in subsidies, then added $105 million, it's hard to believe there's a full ban on future subsidies, nor that future administrations would feel bound to not kick in for infrastructure subsidies.

Brownstoner, City Gives Ratner $31 Million for Dean Street Buys

The city claims that it hasn't increased the total amount of subsidies it's kicking in to the project (well, not since it first increased the total amount of subsidies from $100 million to $205 million); instead, the city argues, it just moved up some of the money that was originally allocated for later-stage infrastructure to help pay for the property purchase. The Atlantic Yards Report calls the legitimacy of the move "murky," because while it technically does not violate the letter of the 2005 non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (after all, it was non-binding!), it's clearly a bait-and-switch on the public.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Despite Threats HOMELESS WILL STILL CITIZEN'S ARREST BILLIONAIRE Today at Noon

For the Fightin' Freddy's, the show must go on! From their latest communique:

We wish to announce despite threats and tip-offs of a counter-action today by Ratner-funded groups as well as a police action planned to prevent today's event and save Mr. Ratner from arrest: The homeless people who wish to Citizens Arrest Bruce Ratner will proceed with their plan as scheduled. Also we are disgusted by tales from inside the Democratic party, that this much pressure is being applied to local political leaders to stay out of this family shelter issue or they will be punished. Andrew Cuomo wants to be Governor, and he does not want to be embarrassed by his association with Ratner over the shelter issue, or the conspiracy Mr. Big (or his "company") led in Yonkers.  We continue to support our homeless brothers and sisters in their request to keep the Pacific Dean Family Shelter open until Spring, as well as their request that Cuomo return Ratner's campaign contribution and indict him before Friday's hearing. The hearing will determine if the shelter is torn down for a parking lot.

We are asking Attorney General Cuomo to give back all campaign contributions he has received from Ratner and to indict him immediately.  And we are asking the public to come to 1 Metrotech Center (by Jay St/boro Hall subway), where Ratner has his office at high noon Today to help apprehend the man responsible for the shelter closing, and/or to come to the Attorney General's office at 120 Broadway in lower Manhattan, at 1pm to demand the indictment, and to see the check he is sending to Ratner to return his contributions. If Cuomo wants to be our leader, let's see some leadership now, instead of ducking this. Reopen the family shelter. Figures released yesterday announced homelessness is on the rise. This goes double for Brooklyn.

What: Homeless Family Advocates to Arrest Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center Developer Bruce Ratner. Will Bring Ratner to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's Office for Indictment on Bribery Charges, Coumo Will Also Be Asked to Return All Campaign Contributions From Ratner and Indict By Friday, January 29th.

When: Wednesday, January 27th 12:00 Noon, 2nd location at 1PM

Where: Forest City Ratner Headquarters, 1 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn, NY. And then whether we apprehend Ratner or not, at 12:30 pm we will take the B-51 Bus on Jay Street, between Fulton and Livingston across the Manhattan Bridge.  The bus will let us off in front of City Hall, and we will walk and ride our wheelchairs to the Attorney General's Office at 120 Broadway.

WHO: Picture the Homeless, FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), Fightin' Freddy's (patrons of Freddy's Bar, near the shelter), and City Council member Letitia James

Contact: Steve de Seve (pronounced de sev) 917 330-6147

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Noticing New York, Forest City Ratner’s Two Buildings In Brooklyn Heights Need to be Condemned!

Michael D.D. White posts photographic evidence of blight bedeviling Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn Heights buildings.

Brooklyn Heights residents better start getting ready for a lot of demolition and zoning increases because we are ready to write about the “blighted” condition of the Heights one more time: This time we are going to write about how the blocks with the two Brooklyn Heights Forest City Ratner-owned properties need to be condemned- - Lots of sidewalk cracks there too!

Runnin' Scared, Locals Plan to Arrest Bruce Ratner at Noon on Wednesday, Disappointingly Eschew Violence

The citizen posse does not promise violence, but does suggest it will be good times all around. The warrant will be served at noon on Wednesday.
...

"Nobody is going to physically abduct" Ratner, the release says, which is mildly disappointing, as they haven't a chance in hell of bringing Ratner to justice otherwise.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Arresting Bruce Ratner

There’s a plan to place Bruce Ratner under citizen’s arrest this Wednesday in response to the closing of a homeless shelter last week.

The Architect's Newspaper Blog, Gehry Windfall

Yesterday’s high winds and rain did more than make life miserable for AN staff members with holes in their shoes. They also brought a stop work order down on Forest City Ratner’s Beekman Tower.

OVERFLOW::blog, Eminent Domain Strikes Again

Today, homeless advocates and anyone else who wants to join in the vigilante fun for that matter are staging a citizen's arrest of Bruce Rutger [NLG: who?] on alleged indictments of bribery. These people aren't just standing up for their community, they're standing up for those members who need the most support. Kudos to that.

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, Greetings From Scott Turner: Simplicities

Among Scott Turner's bulleted list of the simple and obvious:

  • Bruce Ratner is a turd
  • Michael Bloomberg is a wealthier turd than Bruce Ratner
  • Atlantic Yards will disappoint the people who believe in it
  • Brooklyn Brewery still stinks for supporting the Atlantic Yards project

New York Law Journal, Firms Earn $6 Million in Fees in Brooklyn Arena Bond Sale

All of the fees were paid by Forest City Ratner, said Elizabeth Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Empire State Development Corporation, which has control over the local development corporation. A lawyer close to the deal said some if not all of the firms reduced their fees "in recognition of the economic times." The firms, which were working on the bond sale for three years, also delayed getting paid until the transaction's close, the lawyer said.

The fees, which only cover the bond transaction, reflect a fraction of what Forest City Ratner has likely spent on the controversial $4.9 billion project, which has been the subject of litigation and development delays. It is also a fraction of what firms such as Fried Frank, which has been advising the company on Atlantic Yards for six years, have earned. State records show Fried Frank earned $1.52 million in lobbying income alone from Forest City Ratner from 2006 to 2008 on Atlantic Yards issues.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

ESDC claims arm's-length negotiation of damages for AY default, but relationship with FCR has been cozy (and developer has 25 years to build project)

Atlantic Yards Report

We've suggested once before that ESDC should stand for "every statement defies credibility" — excuse us while we dust that off again.

A fundamental question in the Atlantic Yards controversy is whether the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is an enabler of projects and developers or, rather, an independent representative of the public interest.

The evidence favors the former--indeed, an ESDC lawyer once said so in court. However, in a key section of the Atlantic Yards development agreement, signed by Forest City Ratner affiliates and the ESDC, a passage improbably claims that the state and the developer have been negotiating at arm's length.

Such a claim seems aimed at dampening any questions about the damages facing the developer in case of default on various obligations associated with the project. The document essentially says that the damages would be significant but impossible to calculate, so "reasonable" damages have been negotiated.

(The agreement emerged as part of the Atlantic Yards master closing documents, first made available yesterday.)

How reasonable?

Are the damages reasonable? In a post tomorrow, I'll look in detail, but consider the outline: the transaction allegedly negotiated at arm's-length allows the developer 12 years to complete Phase 1 and 25 years to complete the entire project, with significant opportunities for extensions--even as the state and developer claim in legal papers that the project would take just a decade.

Just tonight, Forest City Ratner Senior VP Jane Marshall, speaking at a meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council in Park Slope, said that "the construction schedule is ten years," a careful locution that avoids promising that the project would actually get built in that time.

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NoLandGrab: Arm's length? More like pulling our leg.

Posted by eric at 12:24 AM

January 26, 2010

Brooklyn jobless rate continues to grow

Borough's unemployment rate exceeds city, state and national average

Courier Life Publications
by Stephen Witt

Don't worry, Brooklyn. Borough President Marty Markowitz has a plan.

“There are still far too many in our borough for whom economic and employment opportunities are few and far between, and that’s why creating jobs must remain ‘job one,’” said Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Markowitz said the borough’s high unemployment rate is deeply troubling, and his office has been proactive in creating employment opportunities throughout the borough.

This includes everything from hosting economic strategy sessions at Borough Hall to supporting job-creating projects in Coney Island, Gateway Estates Shopping Center, Atlantic Yards and the Navy Yard, he said.

link

NoLandGrab: The jobs-per-dollar of public investment in Atlantic Yards would surely make the project the least efficient jobs program in America.

Posted by eric at 11:35 PM

A Woman Burns

The New York Times
by Roger Cohen

Hypocrisy alert! In a must-read, Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen decries eminent domain abuse in China, but substitute "Brooklyn" for "Chengdu" and "New York State" for "China," accept that Daniel Goldstein is likely not considering self-immolation, and hope that government thugs won't beat Freddy's patrons chained to the bar, and things don't sound very different at all from the Atlantic Yards and Columbia University projects the paper cheers on its editorial page.

Oh, yeah, there is one difference: the Chinese land grab that Cohen recounts was for the building of a road — a traditional public use — not for a private basketball arena.

We were seated in the courtyard of Tang’s simple home, adjacent to her sister’s house, now reduced to rubble. Chickens strutted about. Tang had just emerged from the hospital. A large reddish scar cut across her forehead. She was nervous. It can be dangerous in China to speak out, to speak truth to power. Tang stood up and raised her shirt to reveal severe bruising all down her left flank.

Tears filled her eyes. She averted them. Her younger sister was called Tang Fuzhen. She’s dead now.

On that day, Nov. 13, as Tang Fuzhen yelled at the demolition brutes to stop the violence against her siblings, as she pleaded with them to leave her house intact, she doused herself three times in gasoline, saying she would set herself on fire, right there on the roof, if the beating of her family continued.

The blows continued to rain down and the self-immolation of Tang Fuzhen, 47, was added to the long list of victims of explosive Chinese development.

The nexus of that growth often comes down to real estate: Who owns it, who gets the sweet deals on it, who gets ousted, and who among Communist Party officials and their developer cronies pockets the big bucks from the infrastructure, business and residential projects that have turned China into a monumental construction site.
...

Tang Fuzhen was a successful woman. She and her husband had been in Jinhua for more than a decade, building a clothing wholesale business called Aoshiwei. They had been courted by local party officials to install their company in the area and, according to local press reports, had invested close to $450,000 in a three-story building with a factory on the first two floors and their home on the third. They had a son studying in Britain and a teenage adopted daughter.

Although once touted as model entrepreneurs — profiled in newspapers and on local TV — they had, since 2007, run into a familiar conflict in China stemming from the confluence of murky property rights, soaring real estate prices, land-hungry businessmen and rampant corruption linking party officials with developers.

“Land use is a huge issue because, in the absence of property taxes, local city authorities have to keep selling land and developing land to stay afloat financially,” one Western official told me. “Chengdu gets about 30 percent of its city budget from sales of land owned by the state or the military. The government has to keep monetizing the land through long-term leases, and of course corrupt officials want to make money by getting bribes and other gifts from the buyers.”
...

For Tang Fuzhen, who was estranged from her husband, the building local authorities coveted was at once her home and her factory. She derided the offers of compensation, a mere fraction of the market value. Official and market prices often bear no relation to each other in China. But the city, determined to build a road to a new water treatment plant, would hear none of her protests.

The conflict came to a head on that roof. Tang Fuzhen burned for a long time. Wei Jiao, her niece, was in the ambulance with her.
...

Her suicide was caught on video by a neighbor and spread across the Internet. An outcry ensued. A local inquiry found the demolition process legal, but deemed the eviction “mismanaged” and a city official was fired. Professors at Beijing University Law School wrote to the People’s Congress, in theory the highest legislative body, suggesting changes to the law to ensure compensation is adequate, that it’s paid before demolition, that violence is never used, and that owners can sue to contest eviction rulings.

These reforms are urgently needed. They would bring development and individual rights into some balance and slow the fast-money corruption machine. But the entrenched interests behind brutal expropriation are enormous.

Across China, I sensed great anger at the raging real estate game in which the party plays such a central role. On a vast half-built development in Chongqing, a dozen banners had been draped from windows: “Try to support our peasant brothers in getting the blood, sweat and tears money owed to them by the developers.”

Here in Chengdu, on entire city blocks marked for demolition, there were banners urging China’s leaders to “reflect the wishes of the people” by reforming the way land is acquired.

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NoLandGrab: Just like in New York State, except here, The New York Times is blind to the problem.

Posted by eric at 4:28 PM

The Perp, Alias Mr. Big, Seen Near Freddy's Bar Locking Children Out In The Cold

The Fightin' Freddy's

Taking heed of Dylan Thomas, the Fightin' Freddy's are (is?) not going "gentle into that good night." Here's their latest communique.

The Fightin' Freddy's, the politically active group of patrons from Freddy's Bar, Esquire Magazine's Best Bar of 2006, have temporarily suspended efforts to save the bar in order to save the neighboring Pacific Dean family homeless shelter at 603 Dean St. from being torn down.

Here is a picture, drawn late at night by a police artist of the perp. Billionaire Bruce Ratner has not only closed down the homeless family shelter in the middle of Winter ON MARTIN LUTHER KING'S BIRTHDAY, NO LESS, because he needs a parking lot for the Barclays Center (more than families need a roof over their kids' heads). He has also allegedly bribed a Yonkers City Council member. And the allegations of bribery come from . . . . himself! They are being used in an indictment against the Council member that he alleges he bribed!

If you see this man, call Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Oh, wait. Ratner is a campaign contributor to Cuomo, who has failed to indict him for being Mr. Big in a conspiracy to bribe a public official. If you see this man, and he is near homeless children, do anything in your power to drive him off. Studies show perps who attack homeless children and their parents this way can never stop. They will keep on with what they are doing to them all Winter long.

First Save the Shelter
Then Save the Bar,

The Fightin' Freddy's

Posted by eric at 3:05 PM

Nets Could Face $7.5 Million Fine if They Move to Newark

The New York Times
by Ken Belson

New New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be looking for soon-to-be-new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov to fork over some rubles.

New Jersey’s new governor, Christopher J. Christie, wants the Nets to pay a $7.5 million penalty if the team breaks its lease at the Izod Center and moves to the Prudential Center in Newark next season.

The suggestion was included in a 20-page document issued by the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Committee of the governor’s transition team. The report, compiled before the governor took office last Tuesday, focuses largely on the state’s casinos and horse racing, both of which, the committee said, were “broken.”

The report identified agreements made during previous administrations that the Christie Administration hopes to revise or undo. One is a plan created last year to allow the Nets to break their lease at the Izod Center two years early and move to the Prudential Center until their new arena in Brooklyn opens.

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NoLandGrab: No doubt, Bruce Ratner and his cronies are working on a plan by which New York State and New York City taxpayers would cough up the $7.5 million payment.

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

NBC New York, Talking About Making New York Baseball a Threesome

Maybe that nostalgic allure is like the one for men wearing fedoras or eating at automats -- two other things that often seem better than what we have today mostly because they existed before we were around. Those two won't come back, but a third team seems to be a possibility, if a remote one. According to Peter Gammons of MLB.com, the inability of the Rays to draw fans, raise revenues or secure a new Tampa stadium has people in the MLB offices talking about our area.
...

A Newark or Jersey City stadium wouldn't be hard to get to from the City, but financing the building with public money sounds like a non-starter in the current political environment.

That would also be the case for Brooklyn, a spot where you could actually see a groundswell of support for such a notion taking hold. At least, you could have seen it taking hold before the entire Bruce Ratner/Nets mess took away a viable location and turned into a boondoggle that no one wants to live through again. Maybe it's just that faux-nostalgia again, but the idea of a team in Brooklyn could have caught fire.

Without private cash doing all the heavy financial lifting, in fact, the idea of a new stadium is probably going to kill this idea before it gets off the ground anywhere in our backyard.

NoLandGrab: Or, you could claim up front, like Mayor Bloomberg did about Atlantic Yards, that the project would be privately financed, and then sneak a couple billion dollars of public money in the back door.

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, Wed: Citizens Arrest of Bruce Ratner Planned

Close a homeless shelter to make way for parking lot for the Barclay’s Stadium?

That was Forest City Ratner’s idea and it’s getting them a tremendous amount of bad press and generating a good deal of community agitation.

To make matters worse, the shelter was closed in the dead of winter, on January 15th, which is Martin Luther King’s actual birthday. Talk about bad timing.

DNAinfo, Beekman Tower Slapped by Buildings Chief for Failure to Heed Wind Warnings

A stop-work order and two violations halted construction at the Beekman Tower Monday after debris came flying off the structure forcing street closures and residents to take cover.

Turnbuckles used by contractor Kreisler Borg Florman Construction to lash down plywood on the site started falling from developer Bruce Ratner's 72-story luxury apartment building designed by starchitect Frank Gehry during Monday morning's high-winds. ...

The building received nine other violations over the past six months for failing to keep the area free of debris, and other housekeeping issues. But neighboring residents had complained numerous times to the Buildings Dept.'s Web site about falling debris, including pieces of metal sent airborne, but those charges weren't confirmed by the department.

team tish, ATTENTION: Community Notice- Construction on AY Project Begins 2/1

Please be advised that construction is about to begin on the Atlantic Yards Project on or about Feb. 1, 2010. There will be closures of sections of Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street, directional changes and bus route changes....

NLG: That's assuming that the condemnation hearing this Friday goes in the state's and Forest City Ratner's favor.

Posted by eric at 12:02 PM

Revealed! LIRR bollards are bigger than they need to be!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

BollardSizeBrooklynPaper.jpg

The controversial, tomb-like bollards around the new Long Island Rail Road terminal at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues — which were supposedly installed at the behest of the police — actually exceed NYPD counter-terrorism standards.

The department’s 2009 report, “Engineering Security: Protective Design for High-Risk Buildings,” advises that bollards “measure between 30 and 36 inches in height” and be spaced 48 inches apart.

But the granite-covered sarcophagi in front of the LIRR’s newly built Atlantic Terminal are 50 to 52 inches high — and they are far bulkier than even the most-rigid barricades in the NYPD handbook. And in some places, they are about 36 inches apart.
...

This week, the LIRR did not answer questions about why the agency would install bollards that greatly exceed the NYPD standards that [LIRR President Helena] Williams cited.

The strongest bollard cited in the NYPD security report is classified by the State Department as K-12, capable of stopping a 15,000-pound truck going 50 miles per hour. Pictures of K-12 barriers downloaded from the Web sites of bollard manufacturers show that such strength can be had without nearly as much bulk as the LIRR is deploying at Atlantic Terminal.
...
BollardsSingapore.jpg

“There’s just something so absurd about it,” said Aaron Naparstek of Streetsblog, who opposes the massive barricade. “They’ve nearly made the train station impenetrable to their own customers. They’ve literally turned our community’s public space into something that looks like a tomb.”
...

The LIRR’s decision to ring a new building with a previously unannounced security perimeter led The Brooklyn Paper to file a Freedom of Information Law request with the Empire State Development Corporation for information about what the agency is planning at the proposed Barclays Center, the basketball arena across Atlantic Avenue from the LIRR terminal.

Current renderings show a thin line of bollards, but, as the Long Island Rail Road proved this year, plans are sometimes altered without informing the public.

So far, the agency has denied The Paper’s request.

article

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

A round-up of news generated by the master closing documents

Atlantic Yards Report

We wonder if Norman Oder had to post a round-up of his posts because even he couldn't keep up with his own furious pace. And there's more to come. Be sure to watch the gripping video.

The voluminous documents that were part of the Atlantic Yards master closing, first made available yesterday by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) generated several pieces of news last night, detailed below.

The bigger news is coming shortly.

"All-affordable buildings" with no low-income units

Is new subway entrance to arena block worth $50 million (as MTA claimed)?

Did the city give Forest City Ratner $31 million more for arena land? Yes

The payments to bond counsel and underwriting counsel

Did Forest City Ratner have the power to sell naming rights three years ago?

FCR must reinforce subway supports on its own dime, but what's the cost?

More details on the arena block, thanks to new schematics

At the ESDC offices

Documents were made available only in hard copy, and in ten large binders. Jonathan Barkey, who accompanied me, shot a brief piece of video.

You can see a bit of Erin Durkin, a reporter for the New York Daily News, across the table--she was the only other press person to show up on the first day of document availability.

We were quietly supervised by a series of ESDC staffers who sat in the room to ensure, perhaps, that we didn't take any of the pages home.

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NoLandGrab: We jest, of course. Oder's tireless investigative work is, as ever, invaluable in getting to the bottom of the Atlantic Yards story — and at the messy and inconvenient details that the ESDC and Forest City don't want the public to see.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Finally, in landlord-tenant agreement, an official grant of arena naming rights; was there one in January 2007?

Atlantic Yards Report

Allowing Norman Oder access to the Atlantic Yards Master Closing documents is like giving a drink to an alcoholic. Because before you know it, he's posted one two three four five six seven entries.

When Forest City Ratner announced in January 2007 that it had signed a naming rights agreement with Barclays Capital for the Atlantic Yards arena, did it have the right to sign such a deal?

Even though I suspect that clearance for the deal was at some point secured--could they have just winged it without authorization?--documents that have surfaced as part of the Atlantic Yards master closing documents, first made available today, raise some questions.

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Posted by eric at 12:38 AM

January 25, 2010

Atlantic Yards Report Master Closing Mania!

Among the voluminous documents blog posts published by Norman Oder since he got his first peek at the Atlantic Yards Master Closing documents today are these three hot-off-the-internet pieces.

Gotta get paid: BALDC bond issue fee dwarfed by payments to bond counsel and underwriting counsel

Wonder why there's so much momentum for deals like the $511 million arena bond issuance?

Because all parties involved get paid. As part of the Atlantic Yards master closing documents, first made available today, there's a list of the funds paid various participants in the transaction.

Mintz Levin, the bond counsel, earned $2,726,633
Fried Frank, the counsel to Forest City Ratner, earned $626,684
Nixon Peabody, the counsel to the underwriters (Goldman Sachs), earned $2,325,000
Ratings agency Moody's earned $360,000
Ratings agency Standard & Poor's earned $388,080
Auditor Price Watershouse earned $60,000
Printer Bowne & Co. earned $76,618.63

New documents hint at potential affordable housing dodge: "all-affordable buildings" with no low-income units, but subsidized units at market rates

[The document] opens up the possibility of subsidized buildings that are "100% affordable," with the majority of units aimed at households earning 165% of Area Median Income, or AMI.
...

But that "fully affordable" building might be a dodge on two levels. First, most units would be unaffordable to those who most passionately advocated for subsidized housing.

Second, "affordable" units at 165% of AMI as I wrote in April and July--would easily fall into the range of current market prices.

A studio apartment for someone at 160% of AMI in 2006 would cost $1861 a month. Consider that the limit has risen to 165% and AMI has risen, even as studios at new towers in Downtown Brooklyn cost well under $1861.

Agreement says Forest City Ratner must reinforce subway supports on its own dime, but does anyone know how much it would cost?

Posted by eric at 10:32 PM

Today in Atlantic Yards Craziness: Bruce Ratner's Citizen's Arrest

Curbed

...that's only the appetizer to today's meal of AY crazy! The main course comes from a press release we received from homeless advocacy groups planning -- better sit down for this -- to make a citizen's arrest of Bruce Ratner this Wednesday.

link

Additional coverage...

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Opponents Plan To Arrest Bruce Ratner

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project have tried to halt the mega-project with murals, lawsuits, and protests. On Wednesday, they'll try a new technique: arresting Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

Found in Brooklyn, Homeless Advocates Attempt to Arrest Bruce Ratner this Wednesday at Noon

Posted by eric at 10:13 PM

High Winds Scatter Debris from Beekman Tower

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

A 15-block area near City Hall Park remains closed to pedestrians, and traffic, after high winds scattered debris from a nearby construction site.

The source of debris was a 77-story tower under construction on Spruce Street. It was designed by Frank Gehry and is owned by Forest City Ratner. Authorities say wind speeds reached 70 miles an hour or more near the top of the tower. A piece of metal was found two blocks away at City Hall Park.

On Sunday, the buildings department warned contractors to secure their construction sites because of the weather. City officials say they will keep a stop-work order in place through at least Tuesday.

article

Related coverage...

Gothamist, Construction Debris Falling From Gehry's "Beekman Tower"

A tipster informed us that Pace University has canceled all of its daytime classes (classes after 4 pm are still scheduled). According to the school, several nearby subway station exits are closed, and "[s]tudents in residences and administrative personnel now in Pace buildings should remain on campus and follow instructions of security personnel if it is necessary to go outside."

Curbed, Construction Accidents

Frank Gehry's 76-story dick joke is having trouble keeping it in its pants.

Posted by eric at 9:38 PM

Grounds Shifting

The Architect's Newspaper
by Matt Chaban

In 2005, when the Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 decision in Kelo v. New London in favor of the Connecticut town, it had a ripple effect across the country, with some 43 states changing their eminent domain statutes.In New York, the decision seemed to reverberate in a different direction. Instead of reform, a wave of new eminent domain–driven projects sprang up.

One—Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards arena cum condos plan—verges on groundbreaking while another—Columbia’s proposed Manhattanville campus—has just lost a crucial court case, with others—Willets Point, a casino for Niagra Falls—on the horizon. Now, a clutch of Albany pols are preparing to begin changing what some consider the worst eminent domain laws in the country.

Leading the charge is state Senator Bill Perkins, whose district covers much of Harlem. “I think the forces are coming together for change to take place,” Perkins said. “There is, from my observation, growing interest on a grassroots level.” As chair of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Perkins oversees the main executor of eminent domain in New York, the Empire State Development Corporation.

Among those joining Perkins is fellow senator James Alesi, a republican who represents the rural areas surrounding Rochester. “After many decades, it is time for an overhaul for what has become a double-edged sword of beneficial economic development but also deleterious theft,” said Alesi at a January 5 hearing held on eminent domain reform, the first of many planned in the coming months across the state.

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Posted by eric at 9:27 PM

Beat up before going down

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Stephen Brown and Claire Glass

Another week, another crime in Bruce Ratner's "blighted" Atlantic Terminal Target.

Trouble at Target

Once again, bandits are stalking the aisles of the sketchy Target at the Atlantic Terminal.

A cunning thief snatched an employee’s purse from a shopping cart while she was busy helping a customer on Jan. 23.

The victim told cops that her back was turned for no more than 30 seconds when the shopper-turned-thief made the grab at around 1:30 pm.

She lost an antique bag holding an iPod Nano.

article

Posted by eric at 9:15 PM

More details on the arena block, thanks to a new schematic, with building envelopes

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what happened to Frank Gehry's plan for Atlantic Yards?

Well, it's been tweaked, and likely will be tweaked even more, as a slightly more detailed design of the arena block--though not the arena--has emerged.

Well, among the voluminous documents that were part of the Atlantic Yards master closing, first made available today, are schematics (below; click to enlarge) of the arena block produced by Stantec Consulting. It includes modified building envelopes and a parking ramp.

link

Posted by eric at 9:02 PM

Is new subway entrance to arena block worth $50 million (as MTA claimed)? New mortgage doc says $28 million covers entrance plus Carlton Avenue Bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

Among the voluminous documents that were part of the Atlantic Yards master closing, first made available today, is a mortgage agreement by the Empire State Development Corporation, as mortgagor, to the city of New York, as mortgagee.

The agreement casts significant doubt on claims in court by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) that new subway entrance connecting to the Atlantic Yards arena block is would cost $50 million to build, since it requires the Atlantic Yards developer to pay only $28 million for both the subway entrance and the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

Alternatively, it suggests that, if the developer walks away, the promised new subway entrance and bridge reconstruction would cost significant additional amounts of public funds.

article

Posted by eric at 8:58 PM

Did the city give Forest City Ratner $31 million more for arena land? Despite previous reports, the answer is yes

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards master closing documents were made available publicly for the first time today by the Empire State Development Corporation.

Betcha can't guess who's first to report on their contents?

Among the voluminous documents that were part of the Atlantic Yards master closing, first made available today, is one that confirms that, despite previous reports, New York City gave Forest City Ratner $31 million for arena land purchases on top of the $100 million it originally provided.

In other words, $131 million of Forest City Ratner's land purchases in the AY arena footprint, made under the threat of eminent domain, came from public funds.

And even if that represents a reallocation of city subsidies, rather than an additional subsidy--the evidence is murky--it opens up the possibility for additional city infrastructure subsidies at some point.

Figure surfaces in December

That number was first indicated in bond documents that emerged in December, which cited certain costs incurred and to be incurred in connection with acquisition of the Premises by ESDC.

David Lombino, a spokesman for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in December told me, "The $131 million referenced is part of the total original commitment (not new money) and will go to FCR for site acquisition and infrastructure work."

That indicates both property acquisition and infrastructure. I erred in initially emphasizing that it was for infrastructure. But it appears Lombino misled me by stating that it would go for both land and infrastructure.

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NoLandGrab: Lombino once did some decent reporting on the Atlantic Yards project for the New York Sun — before succumbing to the dark side.

Posted by eric at 8:47 PM

Street Destruction, Redux (Meeting Location Corrected)

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Tomorrow provides another opportunity to ask FCR and Department of Transportation representatives just why they're in such a hurry to close the streets around the proposed Arena site. They are scheduled to appear Tuesday before the 78th Precinct Community Council, which meets at 7:30 p.m. at at the Secondary School for Law, Journalism & Research (the former John Jay High School), on 7th Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets [emphasis added].

The big question: if it turns out that the project doesn't gain title to the land at the condemnation hearing on the 29th--where the legal owners of the property promise vigorous opposition--construction can't start. At the earlier meeting on this topic, an FCR representative said the closure would be for infrastructure work on the portion of Fifth Avenue that would be covered by the Arena--but isn't it a bit premature to start destroying public streets before the developer has the land to build on?

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, On Tuesday, another opportunity for public questions about planned street closings (location updated)

Posted by eric at 8:38 PM

How Big Is Atlantic Yards Really? 16 New Buildings or 19? (Plus the Arena plus. . .)

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White looks at Forest City's prospective Brooklyn landholdings.

One thing our readers should know is that no matter whether the new megadevelopment is thought of as just the 22 acres with the new 16 towers plus arena, or the entire contiguously owned 30 acres with the 19 new towers plus arena, the entire mega-monopoly of contiguously owned development acres brought about by the no-bid gift of “Atlantic Yards” to ForestCity Ratner will, including existing already built properties, consist of the following:

• Two large suburban-style shopping malls (existing)
• One sports arena (proposed)
• 20 towers of both residential and commercial development. (One built and 19 planned.)

That 30-acre mega-development is only part of the larger (approximately 50-acre mega-monopoly) that is to be owned by Forest City Ratner mostly through eminent domain and governmental favoritism. Those 50 acres constitute a heavy preponderance of the prime densely zoned land in or near Downtown Brooklyn sitting astride the key subway lines that make Brooklyn’s best land accessible.

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Posted by eric at 8:32 PM

Homeless Family Advocates to Arrest Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center Developer Bruce Ratner

Will Bring Ratner to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's Office for Indictment on Bribery Charges, Coumo Will Also Be Asked to Return All Campaign Contributions From Ratner and Indict By Friday, January 29th.

A communique from Freddy's defender Steve de Seve hit our in-box today. Here are the highlights.

A number of community groups, homeless advocates and political leaders will go to Bruce Ratner's office on Wednesday, January 27th at high noon to perform a citizen's arrest of Mr. Ratner. While we would rather arrest Ratner for the moral crime of closing a desperately needed family homeless shelter on Martin Luther King's birthday, and during Haiti relief efforts, we will instead be arresting him to stand charges of bribing a public official in the State of New York, where such activity is against the law. Our aim is to get the Pacific Dean Family Homeless Shelter re-opened until Spring. To this end we intend to see Ratner charged before this coming Friday's hearing that could give Ratner control of the facility, which he plans to tear down to make a parking lot for the Barclays Center stadium. This is possible because of a loophole created in New York State's eminent domain law by the Supreme Court's Kelo Case that allows states to take property from one person and give it to another. 43 states have changed their laws to prevent person-to-person transfer by the state, which is a type of eminent domain employed by the Soviet Union and wartime Germany, and which was illegal in the U.S. until 2005. We believe it is important that Judge Gerges, the man who will make the decision whether or not Ratner gets the shelter and the neighborhood, know what kind of heartless and shady person he is dealing with. The lack of an indictment by Attorney General Cuomo will have a clear influence on Friday's hearing, and it must be corrected.

Nobody is going to physically abduct Mr. Ratner. We are informing him that we expect him to surrender to a police officer, in our presence, and go with us to be charged by Attorney General Cuomo. We will also be asking the Attorney General, who is now running for Governor, to give back the campaign contributions he has received from Ratner so that there is no appearance of impropriety associated with the delay in bringing an indictment.

Should Ratner elude us we will request that a warrant be issued immediately for his arrest, and that he be extradited from any place in the world that he may choose to run to.

At Forest City Ratner's request an important family homeless shelter serving predominately African-American and Caribbean-American families was closed to make way for a parking lot for Ratner's Barclays Center stadium, which is part of his Atlantic Yards project.

The shelter was closed in the Winter, on Martin Luther King's actual birthday (January 15th), immediately following the earthquake in Haiti. An emergency rally was held the next day Freddy's Bar (Esquire's Best Bar of 2006), down the street from the shelter. The rally brought together pop star Crystal Waters, F.U.R.E.E. (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), Picture the Homeless, the Dean Street Block Association, New York City Council member Letitia James, and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who pledged to put her body in front of the bulldozers should the shelter be torn down as planned. Ms. Waters closed the rally by singing her 1991 hit song, Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless). It quickly became a sing-a-long. Ratner, Barclays, and the state, whose ESDC is responsible for the eminent domain being used to close the shelter were given until the end of Martin Luther King weekend to re-open the facility.

A midnight vigil was held in front of the Pacific Dean Family Shelter on Martin Luther King Monday, to see if the Barclays Center Developer would reverse its request that resulted in the shelter closing before Spring when the weather is kinder to homeless families. There was no reply from Ratner, Barclays, or the Governor's office. And protesters vowed to keep fighting until the shelter is re-opened.
...

We are asking Attorney General Cuomo to give back campaign contributions he has received from Ratner and to indict him immediately.  And we are asking the public to come to Metrotech, where Ratner has his office at high noon on Wednesday to help apprehend the man responsible for the shelter closing, and to come to the Attorney General's office at 1pm to demand an indictment, a return of campaign contributions, and a promise not to accept any more money from Ratner.

When: Wednesday, January 27th 12:00 Noon, 2nd location at 1PM

Where: Forest City Ratner Headquarters, 1 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn, NY

Who: Homeless Family Advocates as detailed in copy

Contact: Steve de Seve 917 330-6147

Posted by eric at 8:18 PM

High Winds Bring Debris Down from Beekman Tower

The Tribeca Trib
by Matt Dunning

A large swath of Lower Manhattan remained closed to cars and pedestrians Monday evening following reports of debris falling from the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower at 8 Spruce Street.

Sustained winds of up to 45 mph and gusts approaching 100 mph began blowing small pieces of wood and metal from the upper floors of Forest City Ratner’s unfinished 77-story tower around 8 a.m. this morning, according to Joseph Bruno, Commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management. The morning-long wind and rainstorm carried debris as far as 700 feet from the tower into City Hall Park, according to Bruno.

“It’s been an unusual event, but one that I think we’ve handled quite well,” Bruno said at a press conference this afternoon.

No injuries were reported as of 5 p.m. Department of Buildings investigators have stopped all work on the tower, city Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said, but have not been able to complete an inspection of the building because of high winds.

“This is a dangerous thing that happened today,” LiMandri said. The Buildings Department had issued a wind advisory on Sunday, warning contractors all over the city to secure their sites in advance of this morning’s storm. LiMandri said investigators have not yet determined whether Kreisler Borg Florman, the general contractor on the Beekman Tower, had heeded the warning. On the upper levels of the tower, orange safety netting dangled in tatters over the edges of concrete floors.

“Today we were lucky,” LiMandri said, “and I’m telling you that contractors need to make sure that when they see a wind advisory, they need to watch the weather alerts, get out there and secure their sites. I don’t care how big or small your site is.”

Calls to Forest City Ratner and Kreisler Borg Florman were not returned as of Monday evening.

“One thing’s for sure, they’re not going back to work tomorrow,” LiMandri said.

The dangerous condition crippled pedestrian and vehicular traffic Downtown. With the outbound lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge effectively shut down, traffic was snarled at virtually every major intersection in the northeast section of Lower Manhattan.

NoLandGrab: Should efforts to stop Atlantic Yards fail, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene residents might want to invest in hard hats.

article

Additional coverage...

WNYC News Blog, Stormy Weather Forces Downtown Street Closure

Streets near City Hall are closed this afternoon as the Office of Emergency Management works to secure a construction site at 8 Spruce Street. Powerful winds knocked debris from the 72-story building early this morning. Officials with the Department of Buildings are investigating to make sure construction materials are tied down. The Office of Emergency Management advises people in the area to stay indoors. The area around Gold Street, Ann Street, and Park Row is closed to vehicles and pedestrians. Pace University canceled daytime classes, but evening classes are on. There are no reported injuries.

Posted by eric at 8:00 PM

In the New Yorker, a melancholy Talk of the Town account of the protest at Freddy's last week (and some missing context)

Atlantic Yard Report

The New Yorker's Ian Frazier went to Freddy's Bar & Backroom last weekend for the protest against the closing of a homeless shelter in the Atlantic Yards footprint. His brief Talk of the Town dispatch is headlined The Big Shoe, a reference to the impending, descending project footprint.
...

The piece closes with a visit to the shelter:

A young man in a Yankees cap and a shiny jacket with a fleur-de-lis pattern sat behind the window at the entry desk, apparently the building’s only occupant. He explained how one thing led to another until finally the residents had to move. Vans came and took them somewhere, possibly to other shelters, the young man said. “There wasn’t nothing bad about it,” he added. “It was a business that did it, not a person.”

Back at Freddy’s, people were discussing drastic measures, such as chaining themselves to the bar.

Shouldn't "the business that did it" be the starting point for analysis, not the end point? In other words, a more in-depth piece has long been due.

A comment from an organizer

Protest organizer Steve de Séve writes:

The point of the rally was not to raise a holler about Atlantic Yards in general, as the piece said. The point of the rally was outrage at the eminent domain closing of the family shelter, which serves primarily African-American and Caribbean-American families in need. Closing the shelter on Martin Luther King's actual birthday, January 15, during the Haitian earthquake tragedy was heartless.

And Forest City Ratner, Barclays Bank, and the City and State of New York should be ashamed. There are families, who as a result of sending their rent to their families in Haiti instead are risking homelessness. And there will be refugees coming to Brooklyn. The shelter is needed now more than ever.

The New Yorker oddly left out the presence of 90's pop star Crystal Waters, the granddaughter of torch singer Ethel Waters, at the rally singing her 1991 hit Gypsy Woman (She's homeless) with homeless people, politicians, and community groups including F.U.R.E.E. (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), Picture the Homeless, and the Dean Street Block Association to raise awareness that the community demands the immediate re-opening of the shelter.

article

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

THE BIG SHOE

The New Yorker
by Ian Frazier

Freddy's, the Atlantic Yards, and the eminent domain-driven eviction of homeless families from a Prospect Heights shelter are this week's Talk of the Town.

In the windows of Freddy’s Bar & Backroom, a neighborhood place at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, in Brooklyn, the neon beer signs hang upside down, as if sending out the international distress signal for bars. Freddy’s Bar & Backroom is indeed in distress, sitting as it does in the “footprint” of the massive, multibillion-dollar Atlantic Yards project, which hopes to turn an odd-shaped patch of land between Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues into a twenty-thousand-seat sports arena, etc. Sipping an ale in a corner booth by the stuffed swordfish, you can almost feel the giant shoe descending from above.

Machinery of the court system has halted the giant shoe for a couple of months. In the blocks and lots around Freddy’s, however, it’s clear that the shoe’s agents have another strategy at their disposal; i.e., a sapping operation. Empty lots where the shoe has already stomped hold the siege engines, in the form of Dumpsters, pile-driving machines, dump trucks, spools of cable, huge concrete culverts, piles of sand, lengths of lined steel sewer pipe, and heaps of twenty-five-foot, two-and-a-quarter-ton steel I-beams that appear ready to leap into the configuration of the arena—an edifice shaped like a red bicycle helmet, to judge from pictures—the moment Freddy’s Bar & Backroom is gone.

On the Saturday of Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s birthday weekend, Freddy’s held a rally to protest the closing of a homeless shelter up the street, at 603 Dean. The shelter had also suffered the misfortune of being under the Atlantic Yards shoe; threatened with demolition, the building’s owner lost his contract with the shelter’s operator, which cleared out the eighty families living there, apparently relocating them, though no one at Freddy’s seemed to know exactly where. The point of the rally was: Why kick them out now, in the middle of winter? The larger point was to raise a holler about Atlantic Yards in general.

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Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

The evolution of BrooklynSpeaks, now without the Municipal Art Society, to AY opposition (but the governance proposal remains)

Atlantic Yards Report

The presence of BrooklynSpeaks constituent groups in court January 19 for the combined case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) 2009 approval of Atlantic Yards was a watershed of sorts, a sign that the coalition, formed in September 2006 under a "mend it, don't end it" philosophy, had recognized the limits of that strategy.

Also, the presence of group members in the audience significantly boosted the contingent of project opponents in the courtroom.

Their willingness to go to court, as described further below, helped generate a split with the Municipal Art Society (MAS), the venerable preservation and planning organization that spawned the coalition and has advocated for AY reforms.

MAS supplied a significant part of the analysis behind BrooklynSpeaks's critique of AY (such as open space that seems private) as well as BrooklynSpeaks's quite reasonable governance proposal that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) form a subsidiary to oversee Atlantic Yards, just as subsidiaries have been formed to oversee other long-term projects, such as Battery Park City.

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Posted by eric at 9:17 AM

NBA Approval of Prokhorov “Days Away”

NetsDaily

The NBA Board of Governors is “days away” from approving Mikhail Prokhorov as the Nets’ new owner, according to reports. There’s also confirmation of a month-old report that the Russian billionaire has agreed to throw another $100 million into Barclays Center.
...

Now, there’s word from inside the franchise that Prokhorov has indeed committed to buying more than two-thirds of the infrastructure bonds–$100 million worth. The remainder will reportedly be marketed by Forest City Enterprises, the Cleveland-based company that is currently the team’s biggest shareholder at 23%. FCE is controlled by Bruce Ratner’s extended family.

The manner in which the debt is structured will also give Prokhorov effective control over the arena and in fact could give him actual control in one (unlikely) circumstance.

As Project Finance wrote in December, “If Prokhorov buys the subordinated [infrastructure] bonds, which are serviced through lower quality and more uncertain cashflows, and the project experiences a sustained period of weak financial performance, then in the event of a default on the subdebt, he would take control of the project.”

Critics have noted the consequences of such a default. Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report wrote, “The upshot, though, is that the enormous state effort to get the project going–the Blight Study, the use of eminent domain, the tax-exempt bonds, etc.–could turn out to provide the most significant benefits to Russia’s richest man.”

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Posted by eric at 9:08 AM

What "not a target" means in the New York Times, and why self-serving statements (like that issued by FCR re Ridge Hill) should be checked

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes The New York Times to task (again!), this time for the failings of its coverage of the recent Yonkers indictments and Forest City's possible role.

Well, I sent my post critiquing the New York Times's coverage of the Ridge Hill indictments (in which developer Forest City Ratner was cited but not indicted) and got the following response back from Senior Editor/Standards Greg Brock:

I had two editors go over your note and I agree with them that no correction or Editors' Note is warranted on any of these points. You might want to consider writing a Letter to the Editor about your thoughts on our journalistic efforts and how we could have improved this article. But there were no errors here and no violation of any ethics/standards policy that would merit an Editor's Note.

First, consider the implicit sneer (and not the first one) in Brock's invitation to me to write a letter with my "thoughts" on the Times. The newspaper has never printed a letter from me and has very little space for letters.

And my analysis does not consist of random "thoughts;" rather, it's backed up by clear evidence. We just read the evidence differently.

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Posted by eric at 8:36 AM

January 24, 2010

The Nets hit a new low, potential free agents become more wary, and Prokhorov is still seen as a savior

Atlantic Yards Report

With a blowout loss last night, the Nets are 3-40 and on track--despite claims to the contrary in the New York Times--to surpass the Philadelphia 76ers of 1972-73, who went 9-73.

From sports columnist Mike Lupica in today's New York Daily News:

You have to say that only the people having a worse winter than Martha Coakley, Senate loser in Massachusetts, are the Nets.

From Mark Ginocchio in the Nets Are Scorching blog:

As it stands, and I hesitate to say it, but THIS might finally be rock bottom for the 2009-10 Nets. Because if it gets any worse that it’s been the past two games against Utah and the Golden State Warriors, the league should really consider contracting the organization, throwing Bruce Ratner in jail for fraud and blacklisting Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe from ever having a role with an NBA roster again. Because while the Nets may technically be an NBA team, they’ve lost their last two games by a combined 65 points, allowing 113.5 points and only scoring 81.

link

NoLandGrab: It's clear watching a Nets' game these days that they aren't even trying to win, which means they have the same chance of signing LeBron James this summers as Bruce Ratner does of completing the Atlantic Yards buildout in 10 years — none.

One more thing: heckuva job, Brucie.

Posted by eric at 5:52 PM

On Tuesday, another opportunity for public questions about planned street closings

Atlantic Yards Report

Want another opportunity to discuss planned street closings in the Atlantic Yards footprint and ask Forest City Ratner why streets should be closed even if the state doesn't succeed in condemnation efforts scheduled for January 29?

On Tuesday, January 26, FCR and Department of Transportation representatives should appear before the 78th Precinct Community Council, which meets at 7:30 p.m. at the 78th Precinct station house, at 6th Avenue and Bergen Streets.

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Posted by steve at 9:06 AM

8 neighborhood bars worth leaving your neighborhood for

A.V. Club

Freddy's is included in this listing of great neighborhood bars.

Freddy's Bar & Backroom (485 Dean St., 718-622-7035, Downtown Brooklyn)
It doesn't get more Brooklyn than it does at Freddy's, which is both basic and adorned with pretty much everything you could want in a neighborhood bar. The crowd is communal and social (if you want it to be), the decor is old and decidedly not fussed-over, and that elusive quality known as "vibe" abounds for whatever mysterious reason. Freddy's is kind of a hub for the whole "Develop Don't Destroy" Brooklyn movement, too, so there's something timely and charged to go with the timeless charm.

Freddy's Bar's political organization is taking the week off from saving the bar to continue to reverse the closing of the Pacific Dean family homeless shelter that was closed, unbelievably, on Martin Luther King's birthday. With an expected influx on Haitian refugees, and increased financial pressure on Haitians in the Brooklyn community re-opening the shelter, closed and scheduled to be torn down for a parking lot for Barclays Center has become their highest priority.

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Posted by steve at 9:02 AM

Professor Hill's Men Mobs, and Law

Natural Resonance Revolution

In this quote of a speech from 2008 by Professor Rebecca Hill of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, the proposed Atlantic Yards project again appears as what is wrong with priorities when it comes to spending public money.

"Mayor Bloomberg says that CUNY is 'asking for too much,'" Hill said, nodding her head in disgust. "However, the mayor has not experienced such sticker shock when evaluating whether or not to publicly fund private construction projects for the New York Yankees, New York Mets, the Bronx terminal market, and the New Jersey Nets arena in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. CUNY is at least as important to New York City as those wealthy sports teams and real estate developers who have taken billions of dollars in tax-abatements and incentives since 2001, don't you think?"

link

Posted by steve at 8:48 AM

January 23, 2010

A Nightmare on Atlantic

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

A Nightmare on Atlantic

Fulton Street near Ashland Place
Fort Greene
Brooklyn, New York

This work is critical of the Atlantic Yards project. I'm not sure who's the artist, but is I'm assuming they're in this show:

"The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks"
February 4, 2010 - May 16, 2010
MoCADA
80 Hanson Place
Fort Greene
Brooklyn, New York

Posted by steve at 12:00 PM

The dirt on development

Crain's takes the measure of six key projects citywide and assesses the chances that renderings will become realities

By Andrew Marks

The deepest recession in decades and a financial market catastrophe that has all but dried up once-mighty credit flows have both contributed to the 550 stalled real estate development projects that dot the city, from Riverdale in the Bronx to Todt Hill in Staten Island.

For the city's biggest projects, ranging from the rebuilding at Ground Zero to the transformation of the rail yards in downtown Brooklyn into a 22-acre mini-metropolis, the normal headaches of political infighting, community opposition and myriad legal challenges now pale in comparison with the great question of the moment: When will tenants once again start banging on doors to demand more office space for their companies or more living space for their families? Only when the market shows signs of reversing its downward spiral—as assessed by measures ranging from rents to land prices—will lenders even think about further risking their battered balance sheets.

As the new year gets under way, Crain's takes a look at half a dozen of the city's biggest projects and judges their chances of completion.

ATLANTIC YARDS

Size/Scope: 22 acres; an arena and 16 mixed-use towers

Date announced: December 2003

Original cost estimate: $2.5 billion

Current cost estimate: $4.9 billion

Developer/lead government agency: Forest City Ratner Cos./None

Thanks to a Russian billionaire, the New York State Court of Appeals and an overwhelming response from bond buyers just last month, it appears that Bruce Ratner's mega-redevelopment of downtown Brooklyn will start to become a reality. At least, that's the case for the new home of the Nets basketball team, the 18,000-seat Barclays Center planned for the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues; construction could begin this month.

The overwhelming bulk of the project still awaits financing, not to mention tenants. After the dismissal of Frank Gehry last year over cost issues, the project also needs an architect.

But Mikhail Prokhorov's $200 million purchase of a majority stake in the Nets and a chunk of their new home, along with Forest City's successful sale of $511 million in bonds, has given the project something it hasn't had in months: hope.

The arena is now expected to be completed this year. But the fate of the original plan, including more than 300,000 square feet of office space, 250,000 square feet of retail, a hotel, and 6,400 apartments—2,000 of which are earmarked for affordable housing—is still in doubt.

“Taking that first step is very important, but between the economic downturn, the luxury housing glut and the state of the office market, it will be a steep climb to get all that built in the next 10 years, if not much longer,” observes Mary Ann Tighe, chief executive of the tristate region for real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis.

HUDSON YARDS

Size/Scope: 26 acres; 12.4 million square feet of commercial, residential and recreational space

Date announced: September 2006

Original cost estimate: $15 billion (including $2.1 billion for extension of the No. 7 line)

Current cost estimate: $15 billion

Developer/Lead government agency: Related Companies/ Metropolitan Transportation Authority

It may be a first in New York: At Hudson Yards, the sprawling, mixed-use project slated to be built above the rail yards west of Penn Station, the city is actually further along with its part of the project than the private developer is. The MTA broke ground early last year on the extension of the No. 7 subway line to 11th Avenue and West 34th Street, and it plans to complete the project in 2014.

In the meantime, Related Companies, which has agreed to build the planned 5.5 million square feet of commercial space, 5,500 apartments and 4 acres of parkland atop a $1 billion platform over the yards, is in a holding pattern. Last February, the developer—which stepped in after original winning bidder Tishman Speyer Properties dropped out the previous spring—requested a one-year extension on closing its $1 billion deal with the MTA.

Related's first $43.5 million payment is due in just a month, and company officials are hopeful.

“We're working diligently with the MTA and expect to meet the deadline,” says a company spokeswoman.

A crucial rezoning of the western section of the site was approved last month after the city and Related tentatively agreed to preserve or build 551 affordable apartments in the area, in addition to the 743 that were already pledged.

With both the developer and the city committed to the plan, its prospects look good in the long run.

“The opening of the subway means that something will get built there,” says Jon McMillan, a director at TF Cornerstone Inc., which is building apartments on West 37th Street that will front the yard's planned boulevard. “Once we've got the 7 line here, it will be [an example of], 'If you build it, they will come.' ”

MOYNIHAN STATION

Size/Scope: 400,000 square feet (plus 750,000 square feet of private retail and commercial redevelopment)

Date announced: May 1999

Original cost estimate: $500 million

Current cost estimate: $1.4 billion

Developer/Lead government agency: None yet/Empire State Development Corp.

The plan to shift passengers from cramped, dingy Penn Station to a new space in the rebuilt Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue has long made sense. But efforts to line up agreements from local landlords, as well as the necessary city, state and federal approvals—and cash—have repeatedly fallen short.

“It has been a case of one lost opportunity after another,” says Vishaan Chakrabarti, now director of Columbia University's real estate development program, who was a director at the Department of City Planning before moving to Related Companies to develop a public-private plan for the station in 2005.

That plan, which would have moved Madison Square Garden into the back of the Farley Building, went by the wayside when MSG pulled out in April 2008. The Paterson administration is now hoping that working out a less-grandiose scheme will finally get shovels in the ground.

“We're taking a phased approach now, and we could be poised to start the first actual work on Moynihan [this month],” says Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp.

The state has applied for $98 million in federal stimulus money to get the project rolling, but getting the funding is hardly assured.

“We think our chances are good,” Mr. Davidson says.

That money, along with another $100 million previously obtained from Washington, would let the ESDC start below-ground work to extend passenger concourses and build additional platforms to service existing tracks under Farley. The second phase—developing the station above the tracks—could go ahead simultaneously. But that would require another $400 million.

In the most hopeful sign to date, Amtrak agreed in September to move its operations, serving about 25,000 daily commuters, to the new station—should it ever be built.

Nothing is set as far as the 750,000 square feet of retail and commercial office space proposed for the rear of Farley. Discussions with private developers are continuing, says Mr. Davidson.

“The market is not yet conducive to solidifying a deal, but we have reason to be optimistic and are progressing steadily toward that end,” he adds.

GROUND ZERO/ WORLD TRADE CENTER

Size/scope: 16 acres; 10 million square feet in six office towers, memorial, museum, transit hub, performing arts center

Date announced: January 2003 (master plan)

Original cost estimate: $10 billion

Current cost estimate: $15 billion to $18 billion

Developer/Lead government agency: Silverstein Properties Inc. and Port Authority of New York & New Jersey/Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

First, the good news: The Sept. 11 memorial is on schedule to open on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The surrounding plaza, however, will not follow until 2013.

After that, the news becomes still more grim. Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg failed in their attempts last August to get leaseholder Silverstein Properties and the Port Authority, the site owner, to settle their long-running dispute over financing two of the three buildings that Larry Silverstein is hoping to build on the site. Mr. Silverstein opted for binding arbitration instead.

As recently as 2008, Towers Two and Three were targeted for completion in 2012. According to a Port Authority estimate, that date could now stretch to 2037, though Mr. Silverstein is aiming for 2016.

Tower Four, a planned 1.8 million-square-foot property that rose above grade last month, could also soon be in limbo. Although both the city and the Port Authority have committed to lease 600,000 square feet apiece, the building's 2012 completion date now hinges on resolution of a range of issues with the agency, including the schedule for the completion of necessary infrastructure.

“The dispute delays development of the entire site, not just the towers,” says Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corp. Because of the way the master plan was developed, he explains, “every element of the site is necessary for the completion of the other elements.”

No matter what an arbitrator decides, the arguments and delays will go on for years.

“The arbitration solves only one of hundreds of disputes [between Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority],” says Mr. Pinsky. “They need to agree to work together.”

Meanwhile, the transit hub is running as much as five years behind its planned 2013 completion date. 2019 now looks like the best bet for 1 World Trade Center, the erstwhile Freedom Tower.

“The government agencies have made the project much more difficult than it should be,” says Daniel Libeskind, Ground Zero's master planner. “But we used to argue about major things, and now we're down to discussing street widths.”

JACOB K. JAVITS CONVENTION CENTER

Size/Scope: Renovation of 790,000-square-foot building plus 40,000-square-foot expansion

Date announced: June 2004

Original cost estimate: $1.8 billion

Current cost estimate: $463 million

Developer/Lead government agency: Empire State Development Corp. fills both roles

The Javits Center has been lambasted as an undersize embarrassment to the nation's largest city almost since its doors opened 23 years ago. Over time, a series of proposals to expand it—and even to supplant it with a convention center in Queens—have come and gone.

After years of false starts, the latest plan has at least one thing going for it: its sheer modesty, with a downscaled price tag to match. The plan entails spending a mere $463 million on a retrofit and 40,000-square-foot expansion of exhibit space, replacement of the roof and construction of an entirely new exterior envelope.

That's quite a comedown from the Pataki administration's $1.8 billion scheme, much less the $5 billion project, including a 160,000-square-foot expansion, advanced by Eliot Spitzer.

“There's a lot less to it, but something is a lot better than nothing,” says Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers' Association, of the latest plan, which will be entirely funded by a bond issuance backed by a $1.50-per-day tax on hotel rooms that will be applied for the next 40 years. “It means jobs, and it will result in a more appealing convention center that will bring more money into the city.”

Work began last July on the extension—which includes “support” space ranging from loading docks to bathrooms—and is expected to be completed in July of this year. After that, it will serve as “swing space” for exhibitions while the entire existing structure undergoes a phased renovation, expected to be completed in full by 2013. The center's leaky black windows will be replaced with a translucent skin, and new HVAC systems will be installed.

“The Javits Center project still includes an expansion,” points out Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp. “But everyone agrees that the first need is to rehabilitate what we already have.”

WILLETS POINT

Size/scope: 62 acres; 1.5 million square feet of office, retail, entertainment, hotel and residential space for 18 acres in first phase

Date announced: Spring 2007

Original cost estimate: $3 billion

Current cost estimate: $3 billion

Developer/lead government agency: None yet/New York City Economic Development Corp.

The city's Economic Development Corp. garnered 29 responses to last November's search for developers interested in turning the Iron Triangle—a heavily polluted industrial zone of auto repair shops, junkyards and manufacturers—into a Queens version of Battery Park City. In coming weeks, the EDC will whittle that list down and send out a request for proposals to build the envisioned residential and office buildings, park, school and convention center.

Persuading the remaining land-owners in the area to sell their properties may be far harder. Working with a budget of $400 million, the EDC has bought up more than 60% of the site, and 70% of the property where the redevelopment will be concentrated. But Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist representing Willets Point United—a group of 20-plus holdout property owners—estimates that the city will need at least $700 million, based on prices paid thus far.

“It's pretty clear they're intending to use eminent domain to force out businesses that don't want to leave,” Mr. Lipsky says.

EDC President Seth Pinsky insists that his agency will continue to negotiate, but adds that his staffers will do what's needed to keep the ball rolling. In fact, eminent-domain procedure hearings could begin as soon as this month.

The EDC has scrapped its original plan of bringing in a single developer in favor of adopting a rolling, three-phased project, starting with the southernmost section bordering Citifield, that could have multiple developers.

The only bids solicited thus far have been for the $150 million infrastructure contract to bring in badly needed sewage and storm-water drainage systems. Work is expected to begin in 2011, paving the way for a planned 1.5 million square feet of retail, entertainment and commercial space, 2,000 housing units and 400 hotel rooms.

B'KLYN BRIDGE HAS A PARK TO SELL YOU ON ... REALLY!

So it took 25 years. With the official opening of the park's first phase, Pier 1, at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, slated for this winter and the first phase of Pier 6 debuting in the spring, the struggle to transform the moribund piers along the Brooklyn waterfront into a park will be over.

Almost. While money is already in the coffers to bankroll Piers 4 and 5, the joint state-city project needs another $100 million or so to finish Pier 6 and move on to Piers 2 and 3. Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp., is confident.

“We've got two years to line up the financing,” he says. “In the meantime, we'll be getting the first 70% done.”

Size/Scope: 85 acres stretching south along 1.3 miles of waterfront from the Manhattan Bridge

Cost: $350 million

Who's in charge: New York state

Completion date: 2013

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

AY supporter and real estate broker Tighe: "it will be a steep climb to get all that built in the next 10 years, if not much longer"

Atlantic Yards Report

An article in Crain's New York Business this week headlined The dirt on development: Crain's takes the measure of six key projects citywide and assesses the chances that renderings will become realities offers a sketch of Atlantic Yards and a key quote.

Why is it key? Because an Atlantic Yards supporter and real estate broker (thus an expert) expresses far more doubt about the project timetable than the "not unreasonable" ten-year buildout that consultant KPMG asserted to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

(The article is subscription-only but last night was available on the web.)

...

Thanks to a Russian billionaire, the New York State Court of Appeals and an overwhelming response from bond buyers just last month, it appears that Bruce Ratner's mega-redevelopment of downtown Brooklyn will start to become a reality. At least, that's the case for the new home of the Nets basketball team, the 18,000-seat Barclays Center planned for the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues; construction could begin this month.

[AYR: Um, it's not downtown Brooklyn.]

The overwhelming bulk of the project still awaits financing, not to mention tenants. After the dismissal of Frank Gehry last year over cost issues, the project also needs an architect.

But Mikhail Prokhorov's $200 million purchase of a majority stake in the Nets and a chunk of their new home, along with Forest City's successful sale of $511 million in bonds, has given the project something it hasn't had in months: hope.

The arena is now expected to be completed this year. But the fate of the original plan, including more than 300,000 square feet of office space, 250,000 square feet of retail, a hotel, and 6,400 apartments—2,000 of which are earmarked for affordable housing—is still in doubt.

“Taking that first step is very important, but between the economic downturn, the luxury housing glut and the state of the office market, it will be a steep climb to get all that built in the next 10 years, if not much longer,” observes Mary Ann Tighe, chief executive of the tristate region for real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis.

(Emphasis added)

Amplifying Tighe's observation

Note that cases challenging the ESDC's project approval and the likelihood of a ten-year timetable were heard in state Supreme Court last week.

Also note that Tighe is not exactly a project opponent. She has longstanding ties to Forest City Ratner and even owns a piece of the Nets.

And she wasn't exactly going out on a limb. Wasn't it last April when ESDC CEO Marisa Lago said Atlantic Yards would take "decades"?

link

Posted by steve at 8:27 AM

Jeffries to hold State of the District address on Wednesday, January 27

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries will hold his annual State of the District address at the Pratt Institute's Higgins Hall at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, January 27.

The address is 61 St. James Place at Lafayette Avenue. An RSVP is requested, to either (718)596-0100 or jeffriesh[at]assembly.state.ny.us.

According to a press release:

This will be the assemblyman’s third State of the District address since taking office in 2007. This year’s speech will mention an update on Project Reclaim, the initiative introduced at last year’s address which seeks to transform market-rate condominiums that have failed into desperately needed affordable housing. The assemblyman will also hold a discussion on the Section 3 Campaign for HUD, and legislative initiatives to combat alleged police misconduct and shootings.

In his first and second addresses, he made only glancing mentions of Atlantic Yards, so, according to that pattern, we shouldn't expect much more. Then again, AY is in the news these days.

link

Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

January 22, 2010

Cheese Whiz: Kraft Sponsors Stadium Blow-Up

MediaPost.com
by David Goetzl

Talk about an explosion in marketing messages. Kraft is sponsoring the implosion of the famed Texas Stadium -- now slated for April 11 -- as it looks to plug a new version of its Mac & Cheese brand.

With the Dallas Cowboys having vacated the historic venue, the Irving, Texas city council has a $150,000 arrangement with Kraft for naming rights on the stadium's destruction.

Companies have placed their names on stadiums for years, such as the American Airlines Center in nearby Dallas, but this is believed to be a first time for an implosion.

link

NoLandGrab: How about naming rights for neighborhood destruction?

Oh, right — Barclays.

Posted by eric at 5:58 PM

Best of Brooklyn: Guitars and Glasses

Three muses of the fight to stop Atlantic Yards — John Pinamonti, RebelMart's Scott Turner, and Field of Schemes's Neil deMause — take to the Rocky Sullivan's stage tonight in a fabulous, free triple bill.

The show marks the final Brooklyn performance by the Seattle-bound RebelMart.

More info here.

And don't forget, Friday is Lobster Night at Rocky Sullivan's.

Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

At CB 6 presentation, Forest City Ratner exec says they will push for street closings even if title is not transferred January 29

Atlantic Yards Report

A Forest City Ratner executive, plus a transportation consultant, last night discussed planned street closings for Atlantic Yards during a lightly-attended meeting of the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee. (I learned of the meeting only yesterday.)

While the plan had been previously announced and a slide show disseminated, nevertheless some news emerged.

Notably, FCR Senior VP Jane Marshall said that the developer would ask the city Department of Transportation (DOT) to close the streets on or about February 1, as planned, even if the state court hearing on eminent domain scheduled for January 29 does not result in the transfer of title to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

(Representatives of some property owners have said they'll challenge the condemnation; though the latitude for resistance is typically limited, nothing in the Atlantic Yards saga has been simple.)

Marshall said she expected DOT to at least agree to the closing of Fifth Avenue, because FCR needs the street closed to install new utility infrastructure.
...

Additional presentation January 26

Marshall said that similar presentations had not been scheduled by the other two affected Community Boards, 2 & 8.

However, there will be a presentation on the street closings Tuesday, January 26, before the 78th Precinct Community Council, which meets at 7:30 p.m. at the 78th Precinct station house, at 6th Avenue and Bergen Streets.

article

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, Scott Turner is Moving to Seattle

Scott M.X. Turner, one of the true stalwarts in the fight against Atlantic Yards, the chief fan behind Fans for Fair Play, quizmaster nonpareil, and rabble-rousing RebelMart singer/songwriter, is movin' on.

Brooklyn is losing a great one. And so is OTBKB.

Scott Turner, the writer/designer/thinker behind the weekly Greetings from Scott Turner post, is moving to Seattle. The fight against the Atlantic Yards is losing one of its most passionate activists and Rocky Sullivan’s is losing its talented pub quiz host. And OTBKB…

…OTBKB is saddened and bummed because it SUCKS to lose such an excellent contributor. But Scott says that he’s off to greener pastures: a job offer and a desire to pursue his true love: music—and who can argue with that. I have been honored to publish his posts every week and wish him the very, very best in his Seattle adventure. I even foster hopes that he will continue Greetings from Scott Turner from Seattle (will ya think about it, Scott?).

Tonight, you can hear Scott’s solo band, RebelMart at 9PM at Rocky Sullivan’s. Also on the bill are John Pinamonti and Neil deMause. It’s a great triple-bill and the last RebelMart show around here for quite sometime. Here is Scott’s farewell missive though he’s still around for another two weeks....

NoLandGrab: 53 years from now, will some future Brooklyn Borough President justify a land grab by saying, "Brooklyn hasn't had a true professional ass-kicker since Scott Turner moved west in '10...?"

Westchester Guardian Blog, ‘The Last Supper’

Was It The Pivotal Moment In A Criminal Conspiracy?

‘The Last Supper’ Five Practiced Conspirators And Sandy Annabi Meet Hours Before Her Vote Reversal

Does anyone seriously believe that any significant amount of money exchanged hands to lubricate the passage of approvals by Yonkers City Council for either the Ridge Hill development or Longfellow Senior Housing, and Phil Amicone and Nick Spano received nothing for their efforts? Of course not. Nick and Phil, between them, controlled the Republican patronage machine in Yonkers; and, as between them, Nick was clearly el Capo.
...

We are informed by an exceptionally reliable and knowledgeable source, from first-hand observation, that a certain Italian restaurant in New Rochelle was the scene of a supper meeting attended by Al Pirro, Nick Spano, Mike Spano, as well as Anthony Mangone, Zehy Jereis and Sandy Annabi on the evening before the Yonkers City Council meeting at which Annabi changed her position and voted to enable the Ridge Hill Development Project to go forward; in a sense, a Last Supper.

Does such a meeting, in and of itself, prove any wrongdoing, any bribery or extortion was occurring? No, of course not. It’s possible, just possible, that all of those Yonkers players were out to celebrate because Sandy had changed her position and advised all of them that she would be voting in favor of Ridge Hill after all, because the builder, Bruce Ratner, had agreed to contribute $10 million to the Yonkers School System.
...

As for the developers, they understand from years of doing business, that in Westchester, and particularly in Yonkers, for many decades, you don’t get the job and you don’t get through the City’s zoning, planning, and environmental approvals in a timely fashion unless you grease several palms. They simply know and accept the network of corruption as the price of doing business.

We understand the difference between those developers who can legitimately be said to have been victims of extortion, and those who routinely distribute envelopes filled with cash as a vital protocol. In either case, a serious crime has been committed when a government official has been paid off and the public trust has been breached.

Bleacher Report, New Jersey Nets: Light at the End of the Tunnel

That light at the end of the tunnel could be an oncoming train.

Bruce Ratner, who has torn apart the organization from the inside in hopes of moving the team to Brooklyn, will soon sell the team to one of the wealthiest men in the world, Mikhali Prokhorov.

Ratner had no knowledge of how to run a basketball team; he just saw the team as a means to an end in hoping to set up his Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Unloading Pistons might be tough sale for Karen Davidson

The Detroit News
by Terry Foster

An article about the potential market for the Detroit Pistons cites the New Jersey Nets as a benchmark.

According to Forbes, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley saw the value of his team decline 13 percent to $257 million. Bobcats owner Bob Johnson has debts of $160 million and his team is worth $22 million less than the $300 million he paid for it six years ago.

It's even worse in New Jersey. Nets owner Bruce Ratner announced he was moving the team to Brooklyn after buying the team in 2004. That has yet to materialize, and the team now is giving away tickets. The value of the team has declined by $31 million and is expected to be sold to a Russian businessman.

article

NoLandGrab: The reporter obviously didn't talk with Nets Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark, who would've told him that things couldn't be better in New Jersey [wink].

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

Sam Miller Is the Funniest Man in Town

The Cleveland Leader
by Roldo Bartimole

The inveterate Cleveland journalist muses about the inveterate chairman of Forest City Enterprises.

My best laugh on a trip out West for warm air came when I read on line Sam Miller’s tribute to himself as part of Cleveland Magazine’s take on Cleveland’s most powerful people.

Sam’s powerfully funny. He may have lost a few steps at 88 years old but he’s still got the great one-liners. Possibly to some he’s even believable.
...

What I can’t understand is why Cleveland Magazine doesn’t do the top charlatans in town. It would be much more interesting. Maybe it did. You just change use your imagination and switch. From Power to Faker.
...

Sam’s been one of the most evil men I’ve known in Cleveland. He’s done so much damage to Cleveland you couldn’t even hope to record it all. His fights with Dick Jacobs were a double dose of greed. The town didn’t matter to either of them as they grabbed whatever they could.
...

But you have to hand it to him. He’s truthful sometimes. He tells us that you should buy politicians early. “The very person that, let’s say, is a precinct committeeman, a relative nobody politically – one day, you wake up and discover he’s a senator for the state. When you helped him as a precinct committeeman, that he’ll never forget.” Buy early, he tells us. But Sam buys early, later and latest.

article

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Activists Rally Against Closure of Homeless Shelter to Make Way for Barclays Center

The Indypendent
by Ann Schneider

About twenty people gathered to protest the city’s decision to shut down a homeless shelter on Dean Street in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn this past Monday night.

Chanting “Governor Paterson, hear our roars, house the homeless, open the doors,” activists representing Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and F.U.R.E.E., along with other community members, spoke out against the city’s plan to tear down the Pacific-Dean shelter—which housed 88 families—to make way for a parking lot for the Forest City Ratner sports stadium, otherwise known as the Barclays Center.

article

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Spill It: Freddy's Donald O'Finn

Talking kamikazes and live poultry with the longtime barkeep

Metromix
by Jessie Pascoe

Freddy’s bartending vet Donald O'Finn has seen it all, from live chickens to threatening bulldozers. Sure, it’s a little out of the ordinary for a barkeep, but this is Freddy’s: a rowdy Prospect Heights saloon known as a second home to local lushes and for being at the forefront—literally!—of the Atlantic Yards opposition.

Set us straight on Atlantic Yards.
We have two years left in the lease and it is our intention to ride out the lease. We are not looking to break the law; we are just looking for a fair shake. If they bulldoze us, we are not finished. We are not going to quit. I always say Freddy’s is an idea, not an actual place.

Does this mean Freddy’s might relocate to a rumored Third Avenue location in the Gowanus?
I’ve thought about it. What I would like to do is get one block down into the industrial area. To be really close to the residential areas, but you don’t have to worry about neighbors.

Any civil actions planned?
There are numerous legal things we can do, but for the last year or so, I’ve pretty much just waited for a lawyer to call me and tell me what’s up.

article

NoLandGrab: You can be sure Freddy's has plenty of civil actions planned. One thing you can be sure won't happen — Frederick's at the Barclays Center.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Last Holdout of Atlantic Yards Speaks Out!

The Huffington Post
by Steve Ettlinger

Despite being delayed years beyond its original schedule and possibly on a 25 year build-out schedule, Forest City Ratner persists in pursuing its increasingly expensive dream of taking 22 acres of valuable real estate in Brooklyn with the use of eminent domain and close to a billion dollars in public subsidies. Why? Profit, mainly, of course--an estimated $1 billion (figured as 25% of the $4 billion project). But also chutzpah.

Due to my innate talent for recognizing when the pot is calling the kettle black, which is really the definition of chutzpah, I nearly laughed out loud in court on Tuesday 1/19, when Ratner's lawyer Jeffrey Braun accused his adversaries (Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and a large coalition of co-petitioners) of having chutzpah. It's the first time Forest City Ratner's folks have officially, on the record, stated both their immense sense of noblesse oblige and contempt for due process.

article

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

January 21, 2010

Tonight, 6:30 pm: FCR and DOT at Community Board 6 to talk about street closures for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Brooklyn Community Board 6 calendar

Jan 21 Transportation Committee

Briefing by representatives for the Department of Transportation and Forest City Ratner Company on the planned permanent closure of sections of 5th Avenue (between Flatbush & Atlantic Avenues), Pacific Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues and between Vanderbilt & Carlton Avenues) and related impacts.

Long Island College Hospital
339 Hicks Street
(Hicks Street at Atlantic Avenue)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
6:30 PM

link

Posted by eric at 4:38 PM

Eminent Domain is Alive and Well

Real Estate Economy Watch
by Steve Cook

This error-prone article gets one thing right — New York is one messed-up state when it comes to eminent domain abuse.

Much of the attention lately has focused on New York, one of the few states that has not passed legislation in the wake of the Kelo decision and continues to allow condemnations for economic development purposes. In 2002, Columbia University announced plans to expand its campus onto 17 acres in West Harlem, which would displace 400 residents and light industrial businesses employing more than 1,600 people. Last month Columbia University lost an appellate court decision on the grounds that it had failed to make a case for the use of eminent domain.

The New York Nets basketball team, however, won the court’s approval to build a new home for the team in the much-litigated Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, a case that is being appealed to the state supreme court. Hundreds of families live in the project’s 22-acre footprint. In another Brooklyn project, the Barclays Bank Center on Prospect Heights, the denizens of a local bar have vowed cuff themselves to the “Chains of Justice” that manager has conveniently installed on the bar. “Because people like bars and people hate banks,” explained the manager.

link

Posted by eric at 4:31 PM

Senator Schumer’s Block Is (Super) “Blighted”! (And Back to You, Marty)

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White finds that the homes of New York's senior Senator and Borough President are both endangered by characteristics of blight.

Visit the sidewalks of Senator Chuck’s Park Slope home we did and, lo and behold, it is pretty seriously blighted. There were sidewalk cracks all over the place. In fact, the problem was not confined to the sidewalks outside the senator’s apartment building: Right across the street there were still more cracks. It seems then that, like Atlantic Yards, tearing down just the senator’s block alone would not suffice: This was a case calling for superblocking! Tear down both blocks together and that way the sidewalks and streets between them could be gifted as extra real estate to the developer allowing it to build more buildings with extra density. After all, isn’t getting rid of all those sidewalks that are so peskily prone to cracks the best way of dispensing with the epidemic crack problem entirely?

As we said, our last post mentioned the report of similar blight at Marty Markowitz’s new home and since it is a quick trip from Senator Schumer’s by bike we thought we would go see for ourselves. Yes, indeed, there are lots more sidewalk cracks to ogle outside of Marty’s new home. The day we were there (the 16th) there was considerable disruption involving gas line work directly outside of Marty’s home but we were able to take in the scene nevertheless.

link

NoLandGrab: Markowitz, especially, should be careful, since he could trip and fall on one of his own cracks, and have to sue himself.

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Atlantic Yards foes protest homeless shelter closing

NYPost.com
by Stephen Witt

Steve Witt rewrites the press release.

A homeless shelter shuttered days before the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday became a cause célèbre among elected officials and opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.

The Pacific Dean Shelter, 603 Dean Street, which housed about 80 families, was closed Jan. 15 to make room for the $4 billion-plus 22-acre project.

About 30 protestors from the neighborhood, along with City Council Member Letitia James, State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and pop singer Crystal Waters, who sang her hit “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” protested last week in front of the shelter and down the street from it at Freddy’s Bar (which is also facing condemnation for the project).

This part is Witt's own touch.

Ironically, back in 2002, before the city and developer Bruce Ratner announced the Atlantic Yards project, members of the community protested the shelter coming into the neighborhood.

article

NoLandGrab: Even more ironically, Witt has been one of those promoting the myth that only newly arrived (white) gentrifiers oppose the Atlantic Yards project, so how could they have even been around to protest the shelter's opening in 2002?

Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Community rallies around Brooklyn shelter closed due to eminent domain

A homeless shelter serving a predominantly African-American population at 603 Dean Street in Downtown Brooklyn, within the planned Atlantic Yards development area, was shut down yesterday, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, through the use of eminent domain, sparking outrage in the community.

India Times, TODAY: Pop Star Crystal Waters comes to Brooklyn this Saturday

Someone on the sub-continent is reading NoLandGrab.

Since Barclays is in England, and has no branches in New York, Crystal Waters (who resides in England) is asking Barclays Bank to have a heart and request that the City keep this shelter open, at least until the spring....

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

Review and Comment: Things As They Are

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

One of the Eagle's obdurate octogenarian opinionators reflects on the 100th birthday of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

The BHA has also looked farther afield to oppose the Atlantic Yards project. In these cases it seems to have become caught up in the spirit of oppositionism that, with the advent of community boards and rules for public review that didn’t exist in Langstaff’s day, has blocked or slowed imaginative change in the borough and the city to a degree not possible in earlier times.

article

NoLandGrab: Confound those meddling community boards and oppositionists!

Krogius can rest easy, since Atlantic Yards has clearly demonstrated that "public review" is nothing more than a charade.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice], Bill de Blasio Pleads with Bloomberg to Return to the Enlightened Homeless Policies of Rudy Giuliani

[Public Advocate Bill] De Blasio also asked that the city stop directing homeless clients to substandard flophouses, and stop closing down homeless shelters, citing a couple of Manhattan centers that the Bloomberg Administration plans or is thinking about closing.

No Land Grab is unimpressed. "What prevented [de Blasio]," they ask, "from standing with the protesters Monday night who held a vigil for families being evicted from the Prospect Heights shelter in the Atlantic Yards footprint that Bruce Ratner plans to turn into a parking lot?"

The Infrastructurist, The Evening Dig: Congressional Impotence Edition

Community organizations are suing the developer of Atlantic Yards for failing to meet state environmental impact requirements in its modified plan and for threatening to “blight” the area already (wrongly?) designated as “blighted.” (Mobilizing the Region)

Gideon's Trumpet, Worms in the Big Apple

But there is one amazing item in this article. It quotes one Kathryn S. Wylde, as deploring the Kaur decision: “The Columbia decision ‘is the first thing that’s happened in New York that suggests the threat of a change in our eminent domain law.’” Oh my God! Run for the hills, folks, for if New York changes its eminent domain law that might be curtains for the civilized world as we know it. It’s frightening, that’s what it is. Quoth Ms. Wylde: “I think it’s frightening . . . “

So who is this Kathryn S. Wylde? Is she perhaps some anti-property rights type? Some radical prole? Actually, no. She is identified by the Times as chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, “a leading business group.” Yep. A leading business group supports takings of business properties of others for its own benefit. Which in New York means confiscating businesses of others, because New York law does not allow recovery of compensation for business losses suffered in eminent domain cases.

What's Good Blog, The Worst Team in Professional Basketball History

Tonight is the halfway mark for what MIGHT BE THE WORST TEAM IN PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL history. The New Jersey Nets are the laughing stock of all of sports. Rod and Kiki have been humiliated, but survive, so far with their professional and personal reputations intact. Bruce Ratner, a hot shot real estate mogul, has been allowed to torch the team right under the eyes of the embalmed commissioner David Stern.

NoLandGrab: What MIGHT BE THE WORST TEAM IN PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL history dropped to 3-38 with last night's blowout 24-point defeat in Phoenix. Way to go, Bruce Ratner!

Brooklyn Street Art, SPECTER: THE GENTRIFICATION SERIES

To use a mangled metaphor, it looks like street artist Specter has thrown his terry cloth headband into the basketball ring in the ongoing Atlantic Yards dispute between pro-development and anti-gentrification forces in downtown Brooklyn.

Photo: Jaime Rojo

Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

ESDC will make master closing documents available beginning Monday, but only if you visit their offices

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's the latest Atlantic Yards doc-u-drama:

documents.jpg

In December, I was told by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that it might take a week or two after the December 23 master closing before the master closing documents were released.

More than two weeks ago I was told that the documents would be made available "in the next few weeks."

In court Tuesday on the case challenging the ESDC's 2009 approval of Atlantic Yards, a lawyer for the ESDC pointed to a development agreement signed as part of the master closing, though he acknowledged it was not part of the case record.

And Jeff Baker, attorney for the coalition led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, questioned whether the development agreement actually covered Phase 2 of the project rather than just the arena and arena block.

So what's in there? We may soon find out, as the ESDC next week will provide in-person access to hard-copy documents--not the easiest task for those who don't have the time or mobility to go to ESDC offices.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

January 20, 2010

In the mailbag: Revolt Goes On At Freddy's

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

Atlantic Yards prompted multiple missives to The Brooklyn Paper this week.

To the editor,

Freddy’s Bar is officially in revolt against New York State’s Eminent Domain Law (“Off with his head! Freddy’s Bar unveils guillotine to slay ‘Eminent Domain,” online, Dec. 27). When the time comes for the bar to be evicted, patrons will cuff themselves to the “Chains of Justice” that Freddy’s manager Donald O’Finn has installed on the bar.

The sheriff will soon be sent in to physically remove the patrons so that the bar may be taken to make room for the Barclays Center, but we have put the state on notice that people come ahead of the banks, and we will not allow the Barclays Center to replace our corner of Prospect Heights.

Why are we announcing that we will break the law? Why are we arranging buses for eminent domain haters from around the country to join us for the inevitable standoff?
...

If the state needed our bar because it is building a hospital, or a firehouse, or a road, OK. We wouldn’t be happy, but we would abide by the law. But the current law allows the Ratners of this world to mail order other people’s real-estate from the government catalog!

We will win the fight on the day of the great siege of Freddy’s Bar. Why? Because people like bars. And people hate banks.
...

Steve deSeve, Brooklyn Heights

To the editor,

The impending street closures in Prospect Heights are not only premature, but they are being imposed with inadequate notice to the community (“Block buster! State preps road demapping around Atlantic Yards arena,” Jan. 15).

These plans were devised by the developer’s chosen consultant, handed to the Department of Transportation, and issued to the public with two weeks’ notice. There has been no opportunity for the community to comment on these plans, or suggest changes. While that is typical of the way this project has proceeded, it is not typical of the way the city has operated in recent years, and it is a disturbing return to autocratic form.
...

Finally, I question the necessity of closing Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues at this time. Since no construction will occur there for some time, why now? Is this to give more room for the extensive surface parking lots, soon to make Prospect Heights the doormat for Long Islanders who can’t be bothered to take the LIRR?

Robert Witherwax, Prospect Heights

link

Posted by eric at 11:29 PM

Panty raider

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Stephen Brown

While a barely perceptible sidewalk crack is enough to get your home condemned in New York State, if you're a politically connected real estate developer, crime in your own malls is a convenient excuse for having your government cronies hand you over someone else's property.

A thief who favors sexy undergarments stole $3,200 worth of lingerie from the Victoria’s Secret on Flatbush Avenue on Jan. 16.

An employee at the store between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue told cops that a man entered the store at around 7:30 pm carrying a large bag, which he stuffed full of underwear. The perp then left without paying.
...

Path marked

A trip to the Atlantic Terminal Pathmark turned rotten on Jan. 12, as a thief swiped $1,500 of fancy gear from a careless shopper.

The victim told cops that he had left his property unattended at the grocery store at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues for a mere five minutes around 2:30 pm when he realized it had been stolen.

Some of the more valuable items he lost included a $500 pair of sunglasses, a $300 Louis Vuitton wallet and a $400 Ralph Lauren coat.

article

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill] corroborated both crimes.

Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

In Times article on blight reform, city lawyer recognizes opportunity for "thoughtful change," AKRF relies on Thor's flack

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times reporter attended the January 5 public hearing held by state Senator Bill Perkins on eminent domain, and the article, Lesson on Limits of Eminent Domain at Columbia, offers a reasonable overview of the criticism of and support for current eminent domain laws.

(The article appears on the Real Estate page in the Business section, though it more readily could appear on the front page or in the Metro section, given that it's an important public policy issue. Still, it contains an atypically responsible double disclosure: Forest City was The New York Times Company’s partner in the development of its headquarters building on land on Eighth Avenue that was acquired by the state through eminent domain.)

Notably, the Times cites strenuous opposition from the Bloomberg administration as blocking any effort to reform state eminent domain laws in the wake of the Supreme Court's controversial 2005 Kelo v. New London decision--but a Bloomberg official says the city would not oppose “thoughtful change” in the eminent domain laws.

And ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF, which works simultaneously (Columbia University expansion) or consecutively (Atlantic Yards) with project applicants and the Empire State Development Corporation, is apparently feeling a bit of heat, relying on a public relations consultant to issue a boilerplate statement in its defense.

article

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

Annabi arrives at court in Mercedes, tells judge she can't afford lawyer

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

A former Yonkers councilwoman charged with taking $166,000 in bribes for her vote on key city projects told a federal judge this afternoon she could not afford to hire a lawyer.

AnnabiMercedes.jpg

Although she owns two homes, leases a Mercedes-Benz and earns nearly $100,000 a year, Sandy Annabi asked for a court-appointed lawyer. Chief Magistrate Judge George Yanthis granted her request in part - Annabi will be represented by federal public defender Suzanne Brody but will have to pay the reduced rate the government provides beginning in three months.

Annabi, 39, who is free on $400,000 bail, was indicted this month on bribery, extortion and other charges along with her cousin, former Yonkers Republican chairman Zehy Jereis, and lawyer Anthony Mangone. She allegedly switched her vote on two city projects in 2006 — the $600 million Ridge Hill project and the development of two delapidated school buildings — after getting regular payments from Jereis and a $30,000 payoff from the school-project developer that Mangone allegedly arranged.

article

Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Fighting a Homeless Shelter Closing

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Rachel Senatore

Photo: Rachel Senatore

We missed this story, which was posted on Monday.

The Pacific Dean Annex shelter on Dean Street sat empty last weekend. On Friday the shelter’s residents, including about 80 homeless families, had to pack up and clear out.

Like other residences in and near Fort Greene, the building — which is on Dean Street just across Atlantic Avenue in Prospect Heights — is slated for demolition to make room for the Atlantic Yards project, which will include a new arena for the NBA’s Nets. Ultimately, the shelter’s site will likely be home to a new parking lot.

Local residents and politicians gathered Saturday afternoon at Freddy’s Bar — which is also at risk of demolition — to protest the closure.

“Our homeless system is on the brink of collapse,” Councilwoman Letitia James said. “Why would we close the shelter down the block to build a parking lot?”

Maria Walles, a member of Picture the Homeless, said she is now living in a couples’ shelter in Brooklyn, but has stayed in shelters throughout the city. She said moving between shelters is psychologically draining and it hurts to see families forced to relocate.

Ms. Walles, along with many others at the protest on Saturday, was especially disappointed to see this happen so close to Monday’s holiday.

“I wish Martin Luther King was here, because he would not tolerate this,” she said.

link

NoLandGrab: Daniel Goldstein noted that housing organization ACORN was AWOL from the protests. Wonder why?

Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

New Public Advocate Assails Bloomberg’s Performance on Homelessness

The New York Times
by Julie Bosman

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is apparently making homelessness job one, so we're wondering what prevented him from standing with the protesters Monday night who held a vigil for families being evicted from the Prospect Heights shelter in the Atlantic Yards footprint that Bruce Ratner plans to turn into a parking lot?

Was it his support for the project, despite no iron-clad guarantee that affordable housing will ever be built? Was it the dearth of TV news cameras? Or is this just more "empty rhetoric" from a politician, to quote Councilmember Letitia James.

In his first policy announcement since taking office, Bill de Blasio, the city’s new public advocate, will challenge Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s record on homelessness and call on him to intensify his efforts to address the problem.

A day before Mr. Bloomberg’s State of the City address, scheduled for Wednesday, Mr. de Blasio will hold a news conference of his own at his office at noon on Tuesday, surrounded by invited elected officials and advocates for the homeless.

article

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Lawyers: Yards neighbors will enjoy decades of blight

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

State officials condemned Prospect Heights to as much as 23 years of upheaval by ignoring the implications of giving Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner more time to build his mega-development when they renegotiated their so-called sweetheart deal with the builder last summer, project opponents alleged in court on Tuesday.

Lawyers from a broad coalition of Atlantic Yards opponents made their argument in state Supreme Court in what is the final major case against the Empire State Development Corporation, the quasi-public agency supervising the project.

The plaintiffs’ main argument centered on what they believe is Ratner’s extended buildout for his 16-skyscraper residential, retail and arena project, which was originally supposed to be done by 2016.

The terms of the summer renegotiation allow Ratner to complete the project by 2031 — yet the state did not conduct a new environmental review to determine if such a long buildout would have dire consequences for the neighborhood.

article

Related coverage...

Mobilizing the Region, Brooklyn Groups: State Rushed Through Changes to Atlantic Yards

Several Brooklyn civic and community organizations, joined by local elected representatives, argued in state court today that the Empire State Development Corporation improperly rushed through major changes to the Atlantic Yards project without legally required study.

The modified plan changed the schedule for construction, delaying the finished product by 17 years and deferring the creation of public space. It expands the size of the surface parking at the site, seemingly creating the “blight” that the state has used to justify the use of eminent domain in the first place. The effects of the expanded timeline on the surrounding neighborhoods were not studied in a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, ignoring the “hard look” required under state environmental law.

In addition to altering the construction plan, the suit contends that ESDC improperly ceded decision power over future changes to the development plan to Forest City Ratner, the developer.

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

The Stuff We Could Teach Jack Bauer

The New York Times
by Clyde Haberman

With the new season of Fox's 24 set in NYC, the Times columnist suggests that fictional agent Jack Bauer could employ some novel, possibly more effective means of breaking the bad guys.

We need new techniques — New York techniques. Sit a terror suspect next to a subway rider whose iPod is turned up so high that it produces a maddening buzz. Or make him watch the repulsive health department commercials that show soda turning into globs of fat. Better yet, force him to watch the Knicks play the Nets. That’ll get him to talk.

Do such tactics amount to torture? Ask any New Yorker who has endured them.

link

NoLandGrab: The Knicks are just innocent bystanders.

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

In court argument over ESDC project approval, questions about the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard deal and the mysterious development agreement

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, if you'd read the papers in the lawsuits challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) approval of the 2009 Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), the two-hour-plus argument in court yesterday wasn't all too surprising.

But the reason some 70 people--mainly Atlantic Yards opponents including Council Member Letitia James), but also ESDC officials and Forest City Ratner executives--packed a state Supreme Court courtroom in Lower Manhattan is that the courts remain a wild card, a potential, if unlikely, brake on state power in such cases.

Justice Marcy Friedman asked marginally tougher questions of the ESDC attorney, but evinced no particular sympathies, maintaining a serious and skeptical mien throughout the proceeding.

She did not rule on a requested preliminary injunction that would stop current activities--demolition, railyard work, environmental remediation--but indicated she'd rule on the case in a few months, before significant construction.

So it's unlikely anything other than a symbolic groundbreaking would be held in the near future. Should the lawsuits succeed, the ESDC's Modified General Project Plan for AY would be annulled, as would be the subsequent resolutions and contracts--essentially setting the project back and, given the snag in arena bonds, dealing it a serious if not fatal blow.

(Photos and set by Tracy Collins)

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Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

The NY Times, Lesson on Limits of Eminent Domain at Columbia

Despite business ties to Forest City Ratner and having benefitted from the use of eminent domain, the Times takes a look at the showdown brewing over the use of eminent domain in New York City.

Noticing New York, U.S. Supreme Court to Get a Doubleheader on NYS Eminent Domain Abuse? Pretext and Lack of Due Process PLUS No “Just Compensation”

We certainly don’t want to see the basketball arena or any portion of the Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly proceed one step further. Politicians and public agencies need to come to their senses and halt it immediately. But if Atlantic Yards did proceed a few more steps we wonder if it could just be possible that, as a result, New York State would be presenting the U.S. Supreme Court with an eminent domain doubleheader, two giant eminent domain cases to be concurrently heard that would jointly define the limits of the Supreme Court’s unpopular 2005 Kelo eminent domain decision.

City Journal, Eminent Domain as Central Planning
Though not yet published on line, the Manhattan Institute's City Journal magazine has an article, by Nicole Gelinas, about eminent domain and megaproject like Atlantic Yards.

From the Coalition to Preserve Community, the group fighting the Columbia University land grab in West Harlem:

St. Mary’s Church, 521 W. 126TH Street.

And join us for a demonstration on Thursday, Jan. 28th @ 11:30am – 1:00pm at the office of the Empire State DevelopmentCorporation (633 3rd. Ave, btw. 41st & 40th Streets) as we tell Governor Patterson and Empire State Development Corporation:

NO APPEAL for eminent domain abuse,
ACCEPT THE COURT RULING

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

January 19, 2010

After court says announced change was a mistake, Atlantic Yards condemnation case back on for January 29 hearing

Atlantic Yards Report

You really can't make this stuff up:

Never mind.

After an electronic court filing indicated that the Atlantic Yards condemnation case was postponed from January 29 to March 17 and with a different judge than anticipated, court officials today said that was a mistake and the case will proceed on January 29 before Justice Abraham Gerges.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:51 PM

empty beds in an empty room in an empty shelter

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

Pacific-Dean Shelter
603 Dean Street near Carlton Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

This homeless shelter was recently vacated and would be demolished for Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: The building is being condemned via eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 7:46 PM

Martin Luther King Weekend Family Shelter Closing Midnight Vigil

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse via YouTube

New York City Councilmember Letitia James speaks at the midnight vigil to see if Governor Paterson will re-open the family homeless shelter the state closed by Eminent Domain on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Community groups have been requesting a temporary retroactive moratorium on Eminent Domain to keep the shelter open until Spring.

link

Posted by eric at 2:17 PM

Taking Atlantic Yards Delayed ‘Til Spring

Another Lawsuit In Court Tuesday

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Ryan Thompson

The court proceeding required for the state to take control of the land at Atlantic Yards, which the New York Court of Appeals ruled can be done via the constitutional use of eminent domain, has been postponed, according to the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report.

“The Atlantic Yards condemnation case, which was supposed to go to court on January 29, has now been postponed to March 17, with a change in judges from Abraham Gerges to Bert Bunyan,” the blog reports. However, an update on the blog reports that Justice Gerges was never formally assigned. Justice Gerges is a lifelong Brooklyn resident who once served as the administrative judge of the Kings County Supreme Court. He currently presides in the Criminal Term at 320 Jay St.

The Atlantic Yards condemnation case is to be heard in the Kings County Supreme Court Civil Term, 360 Adams St. However, it is not unusual for judges in Brooklyn to preside over both criminal and civil cases, when necessary.
...

When the ESDC takes the land from private businesses and homeowners, it is required to pay them “just compensation” for their land. What “just compensation” equates to in monetary terms must be determined by a court.

article

Related coverage...

Curbed, ANOTHER ATLANTIC YARDS DELAY

Atlantic Yards haters will be able to raise a pint at Freddy's for a couple more months: Norman Oder reports that the court hearing necessary for the state to condemn and seize the land within the megaproject's footprint has been postponed. The hearing was supposed to take place on Jan. 29, but now E.D.-Day (eminent domain, duh) will be March 17. That's enough time to build at least a dozen more beer-can guillotines!

Posted by eric at 2:07 PM

TISH JAMES PRESS RELEASE: CM James, Pop Singer Crystal Waters, Advocates Hold Midnight Vigil To Keep Homeless Family Shelter At Barclays/AY Open

Midnight Vigil held outside of homeless family-shelter closed prematurely by Eminent Domain for the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards Project - groups fight to keep open till Spring, and to reverse the Eminent Domain taking of the building

Elected officials and homeless advocates vow to lie in front of bulldozers to save shelter - civil disobedience may escalate to stop Eminent Domain takings

(Brooklyn, NY) - After a weekend of protests, at midnight on the MLK holiday a group of 30 angry community members, politicians, and homeless and family group members were outside the Pacific Dean Shelter until midnight last night to see if Governor Paterson would enact an emergency moratorium on Eminent Domain that would re-open the shelter. The Moratorium was requested by New York City Council Member Letitia James, who, along with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, made the request to Governor Paterson this weekend.

Unbelievably, the shelter, which serves mostly African-American and Caribbean-American families who are without shelter, was closed, in the middle of winter, on Martin Luther King's birthday, sending shockwaves throughout the Prospect Heights and Fort Greene communities. In advance of last night's vigil, protesters held a rally at nearby Freddy's Bar, itself facing eminent domain eviction, on Sat. Jan. 16, in the middle of the MLK weekend, complete with pop singer Crystal Waters, who sang her hit Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless). They want the shelter to remain open until Spring, when the weather will be kinder to homeless couples and their children.

The much-needed shelter was instead condemned by Eminent Domain by Gov. Paterson's Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) at the request of the highly contested Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project. The project is run by Bruce Ratner, the controversial developer who is currently embroiled in 3 indictment investigations involving alleged bribes to Yonkers City Council Members who subsequently changed their votes against a Ratner project, Ridge Hill, to votes for it. Many believe Ratner's political connections have been delaying his being charged in the ongoing Federal investigation. He is among the top 5 highest lobbying and campaign contribution spenders in New York State. Ratner plans to tear down the shelter for a parking lot for Barclays Center's construction. But community members, including one state senator say no way.

"I will put myself on the ground in front of the bulldozers. I will do anything I can to stop this," said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery at the rally to reverse the Eminent Domain closing of the shelter on Saturday.

link

It has been a busy Martin Luther King holiday weekend for those fighting to keep the shelter open till Spring, with the closing on Jan 15 - Dr. King's actual birthday, the rally with Crystal Waters on the 16th, calls to the Governor on the 17th, and finally the vigil as the clock counted down to midnight to see if Ratner and the Governor were going to stand by their decision to close the shelter, on this, of all Winter weekends.

The lack of response from the Governor on the Martin Luther King Birthday closing of the shelter has the protesters saying they will escalate their civil disobedience against those who refuse to let the shelter stay open till Spring.

Posted by eric at 2:00 PM

State appeals anti-eminent domain ruling

After a court ruling declared the use of eminent domain illegal for Columbia's Manhattanville campus, the Empire State Development Corporation is formally appealing the decision.

Columbia Spectator
by Kim Kirschenbaum

Those "rabid obstructionists" at the Empire State Development Corporation are using the legal system to try to stop the courts from stopping them from abusing eminent domain.

The Empire State Development Corporation is officially going forward with its appeal in favor of eminent domain in Manhattanville after losing in a surprise court decision in December.

On Jan. 8, ESDC—the state body that approved the use of eminent domain for Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion project in December 2008—formally appealed the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division’s decision last month that ruled that such use is illegal.

The Appellate Division ruling declared eminent domain—the process by which the state can seize private property for “public use” in exchange for market-rate compensation—illegal in the 17-acre expansion zone, dealing a major setback to the University’s campus development plans. The ruling argued that the expansion of an elite private university does not constitute a public use, and condemned alleged “collusion” between Columbia and ESDC in determining blight in the area.

article

Posted by eric at 1:49 PM

Seeking N.Y. land, developer twisted meaning of 'blight'

The Washington Post, Letters to the Editor

George F. Will's Jan. 3 column on eminent domain for the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Project, "In N.Y., government's eminent arrogance," focused on the perversion of "public use" to include "blight" removal and the perversion of "blight" to mean whatever land-hungry developers and their political partners want it to mean.

Developer Charles Ratner responded to the column with a misleading letter ["N.Y. project: Beyond eminent domain," Jan. 12]. Tellingly, his letter ignored the blight issue.

Mr. Ratner pretends the Atlantic Yards project site is little more than a rail yard, warehouses and empty lots. This is false. Before his firm, Forest City Enterprises, came along with its eminent domain and demolition plans, it was a gentrifying but mixed-income, mixed-use home to about 400 residents and 35 businesses.

Forest City would like everyone to think it tried to avoid using eminent domain and would use it only as a "last resort." But eminent domain was purposely a first resort -- it was the threat of eminent domain used as a gun to the heads of property owners and tenants that allows Mr. Ratner to think -- delusionally -- that he hasn't actually used eminent domain. The threat and the use are precisely the same, equally insidious and achieve the same result.

Daniel E. Goldstein, New York

The writer is co-founder and spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In the Washington Post's Letters section, DDDB's Goldstein rebuts Chuck Ratner

After Chuck Ratner responded to George Will in the Washington Post, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein gets a rebuttal letter in today's Post.

It's longer and more substantive than the only letter Goldstein's seen published in the New York Times, which, rather than print a correction, let Goldstein on 4/12/07 explain that "[o]ur organization does not merely oppose the scale of the plan."

Posted by eric at 1:34 PM

Cases challenging ESDC's approval of AY goes to court today; dispute concerns timetable, KPMG study, SEIS, affordable housing requirement

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder offers up an in-depth preview of today's court showdown(s).

Today, the Atlantic Yards legal saga hits another flashpoint, with oral argument at 2:30 pm in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, combining two similar cases, one brought by groups led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) , and another brought by groups in BrooklynSpeaks.

The last major case to go before a judge--though there could be more--challenges the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) September approval of the Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), in part because the ESDC board was not (allegedly) told the details of how the deal for the Vanderbilt Yard was renegotiated, thus creating a 22-year timetable.

And while the case cannot formally stop the (now-postponed) condemnation plans, at least not without a stay or preliminary injunction, success could delay or even doom the project. The case will be heard by Justice Marcy Friedman.

article

Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

BROOKLYNSPEAKS MEDIA ALERT: BrooklynSpeaks goes to court for accountability on Atlantic Yards

Date/Time:
Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 2:30 PM
NEW LOCATION:
NY Supreme Court, 60 Centre Street, Room 335 in Manhattan
Contact:
Jo Anne Simon – (917) 685-3747
Linda Gross, LCG Communications – (718) 853-5568; (917) 767-1141

On January 19, 2010 at 2:30 PM, New York Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman will hear arguments in a suit filed by several BrooklynSpeaks sponsors, elected officials and individuals challenging the approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan. The location of the hearing was changed this morning to Room 335, 60 Centre Street in Manhattan.

When suit was filed on November 19, Atlantic Yards’ developer, Forest City Ratner, spoke dismissively of the suit being just another in a string of litigation by project opponents. But the opposite is true. “BrooklynSpeaks’ member organizations have tried for three years to engage the Empire State Development Corporation (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. We have been forced to litigate to make this project accountable,” stated Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council.

Since the suit was filed, a mere two months ago, a chorus of new voices from across the political spectrum has risen in outrage over the questionable relationships between government agencies and private developers, including a State Appellate Division decision which struck down the use of eminent domain to acquire land for Columbia University; a new State law which brings oversight measures to the State’s public authorities (including the ESDC), an investigative hearing convened by State Senator Bill Perkins to look into ESDC’s role in both the Atlantic Yards and Columbia University land deals; and an indictment brought against a Yonkers city councilmember of taking a bribe in another Ratner project.

“New Yorkers have started to find out exactly how little Atlantic Yards’ promises of economic development and job creation are worth,” said Joanne Simon, spokesperson for BrooklynSpeaks. A few weeks before Christmas, 88 families at the Pacific Dean Annex shelter were told the facility would close on January 15th for demolition, with no relocation assistance offered by the developer. “This doesn’t bode well for the community and future actions by this developer. The public and our elected officials are seeing that the project has no effective oversight or benefits for Brooklyn,” said Deb Howard, Executive Director of Pratt Area Community Council.

More and more people agree—when it comes to the ESDC and Atlantic Yards, we’ve had enough. It’s long past time for accountability on the largest development in Brooklyn’s history or the largest sole source development in New York City history. Join us in bringing that message to court on January 19.

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

TODAY: Jan 19: Oral Argument in DDDB et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation — PLEASE NOTE ADDRESS CHANGE

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

Legal arguments in the lawsuit brought by DDDB and 19 other community groups challenging the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan approved in September will take place on January 19 at 2:30pm.

We invite and urge you to attend the arguments and spread the word.

Details below:

Tuesday, January 19. 2:30pm

Oral Argument for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation

Manhattan State Supreme Court
60 Centre Street, Room 335
Manhattan
[ MAP ]

Please note the new address above.

Posted by lumi at 7:17 AM

January 18, 2010

Nets Seem Unlikely Threat to 1972-73 Sixers’ Loss Record

The New York Times
by Howard Beck

The Times promotes the myth that the New Jersey Nets, owned by the developer of their headquarters building, Bruce C. Ratner, are not as bad as their 3-36 record — and fails to include Ratner among those hanging the team out to dry.

In 1972-73, [Fred "Mad Dog"] Carter was the leading scorer for the fantastically awful Philadelphia 76ers. He averaged 20 points, his best season to that point. The 76ers went 9-73, which stands as the worst record in N.B.A. history.

The mark is in mortal danger. The Nets — a hapless team trapped between eras, abandoned by fans and its own management — have won just three times in 39 games, for a sickly winning percentage of .077. They are on pace for six victories. They are threatening to steal Carter’s perverse sense of pride.
...

The Nets present an unlikely threat to the record books. They have an All-Star point guard, Devin Harris, and a rising star at center, Brook Lopez. Their shooting guard, Courtney Lee, started in the finals last year for the Orlando Magic. No one around the N.B.A. thinks they should be this feeble.

Yet they are that feeble. Go figure.

article

Posted by eric at 9:36 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gothamist, Homeless Shelter Closed to Accomodate Atlantic Yards Arena

A Prospect Heights homeless shelter that housed about 80 families was itself made homeless over the weekend, to make room for the controversial Barclay's Center/Atlantic Yards project. Thirty-five families have been moved from the Pacific Dean Annex shelter to permanent housing, and 45 to other shelters, over the protest of local politicians....

Though the shelter's occupants are being relocated, critics of the closure say the city's overburdened shelter system can't afford to lose beds and facilities. Tonight the shelter's supporters will hold a vigil, starting at 10 p.m., outside the shelter at 603 Dean Street. They're calling on the Governor and the developers to re-open the shelter and at least allow it to operate until winter ends.

SportsBusiness Journal, Cavs among NBA elite in sales, retention

The NBA handed out sales awards during its annual marketing meetings held recently in Brooklyn, N.Y., to eight teams having full-season-ticket sales of at least 10,000.
...

Three teams — the Celtics, Lakers and Cavaliers — were recognized for having at least a 90 percent season-ticket retention rate, while the Bulls, Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets and Washington Wizards were recognized for selling at least 3,000 group tickets per game.

NoLandGrab: In the case of the Nets, "selling at least 3,000 group tickets per game" likely means "giving away at least 3,000 group tickets per game."

Dances with Bears, MORE SNOW GAMES – WHO’S THAT ON THE SLOPES AT COURCHEVEL, AND WHAT’S IN THAT FRENCH LETTER?

Moscow-based journalist/blogger John Helmer, fresh off an alleged assassination attempt by thugs allegedly employed by Rusal, a Russian company 18.9% owned by prospective Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, has apparently not been cowed, as he reports that the alleged apology and absolution by French authorities for Prokhorov's January 2007 arrest on prostitution charges may be something other than a "mon mal" by French prosecutors.

On November 25, 2009, Le Progres published a detailed account of what it claims was the two and a half-year campaign by the Russian authorities to delay, and then to prevent the French judge and prosecutor in the Prokhorov case from completing their work. “How Russia has blocked a Lyon investigation” is the headline. The lead says: “in the name of the higher ‘interests’ of the [Russian] Federation, a judge and a prosecutor of Lyon have been unable to intervene in an affair of prostitution implicating a Russian billionaire at Courchevel.”
...

The US basketball press have been interested in the “French apology”, because the arrest, jail time, and prosecution cast a shadow over Prokhorov’s application to buy the New Jersey Nets team franchise. In several places the apology has been reported to have been followed by a lavish celebration on the ski slopes of Courchevel, hosted by Prokhorov.
...

Schittly, the case reporter at Le Progres in Lyon, said he had no knowledge of either the French apology to Prokhorov, or of the reported vindication fete at Courchevel this month.

Posted by eric at 5:47 PM

A scolding from Norman Siegel about the history of the Urban Development Corporation, founded after Martin Luther King's assassination

Atlantic Yards Report

Thanks to the full video from the January 5 state Senate oversight hearing on eminent domain, it's worth a look at the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) historical explanation for its blight studies, and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel's forceful comment, in which he suggested that the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.--whose 1968 assassination spurred the establishment of the agency--had been perverted.
...

Let me end on a personal note," Siegel said, with emotion. "Sitting here on 125th Street, walking around this building, seeing some of the names and the icons from this community, listening to the people from ESDC speak. On April 4, 1968, when Martin King was assassinated, our governor, Nelson Rockefeller, in the memory and to continue the legacy of Martin, he created the Urban Development Corporation, which is now the Empire State Development Corporation.

"There were great hopes, and great dreams, and visions of what UDC was supposed to be. I remember that. As a young kid in Brooklyn, who went south in the civil rights movement, and met with Dr. King, worked with SCLC many times--today, this agency, in the name of Martin Luther King and Nelson Rockefeller, is doing exactly the opposite of what the UDC was supposed to be set up for. The UDC was supposed to be set up in the memory of Dr. King in order to clear quote slum areas and create affordable housing for poor people and people of color."

article

Posted by eric at 7:28 AM

homeless shelter emptied

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

Pacific-Dean homeless shelter
603 Dean Street near Carlton Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

This homeless shelter for almost 90 families at 603 Dean Street was vacated on January 15, 2010. It will be demolished and this entire city block would be used as a "temporary" parking lot for the Barclays Center arena of Atlantic Yards.

A protest against the closure was held at Freddy's Bar on January 16, 2010.

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

TONIGHT: MLK Night Family Shelter Vigil

What: MLK Night Family Shelter Vigil
Where: in front of 603 Dean St., Brooklyn, NY
Who: F.U.R.E.E, Councilmember Letitia James Office, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Fightin' Freddy's
When: 10pm till Midnight, January 18
Contact: Amyre Loomis, (646) 201-8183

Posted by steve at 5:18 AM

473 Dean has been served

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

Condemnation notices
473 Dean Street near 6th Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

473 Dean Street would be demolished for the Barclays Center arena of Atlantic Yards.

To read the notices, click here to view the photo in its original size.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

January 17, 2010

In Concurrence with George Will

2log

The only way to do this justice was to reproduce the entire post.

My pal and occasional 2ommenter Aaron reveals an excerpt of his epic ode against eminent domain:

[from Act II, Battle of the Backroom]

DINGMAN
At Prospect Park the sections are prepared!

BEVERIDGE
At Bergen Street they're straining at the leash!

VITALE
Students, workers, everyone
There's a river on the run
Like the flowing of the tide
Brooklyn coming to our side!

SMITH
The time is near:
So near it's stirring the blood in their veins!
And yet beware
Don't let the beer go to your brains!
For the comp'ny we fight is a dangerous foe
With the men and the money we never can match
It is easy to sit here and swat 'em like flies
But the NBA will be harder to catch.
We need a sign
To rally the people
To call them to arms
To bring them in line!

ANGELILLO
Let us pledge ourselves to hold this bar and backroom!
Let them come in their legions
And they will be met
Have faith in yourselves
And don't be afraid
Let's give 'em a screwing
That they'll never forget!

HALL
This is where it begins!
And if I should die in the fight to be drunker
Where the fighting is hardest
There will I hunker
Let them come if they dare
We'll be there!

BRUCE RATNER [Offstage]
You at the barricade listen to this
No one is coming to help you to fight
You're on your own
You have no friends
Give up your beers - or die!

HOLLANDER
Damn their warnings, damn their lies
They will see the people rise!

ALL
Damn their warnings, damn their lies
They will see the people rise!

link

Posted by eric at 1:48 PM

AYR Sunday: Condemn Case Delay, Freddy's Rally, Letter to the Times, Senate Video

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards condemnation case postponed for six weeks after change in judges; will streets close February 1?

Updated 11 am January 17.

The Atlantic Yards condemnation case, which was supposed to go to court on January 29, has now been postponed to March 17, with a change in judges from Abraham Gerges to Bert Bunyan.

Updated: Gerges was assumed to have been the judge, but a look at the record shows that he was never formally assigned.

Why? It's unclear, but one lawyer speculated that it may be because Gerges is ultimately stepping down and wanted to avoid presiding over a case that lingered--at least in the compensation phase--past his term.

I have a query in to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Only after the March 17 hearing would the ESDC be able to take title to properties within the Atlantic Yards footprint. Usually there's little wiggle room to challenge a condemnation petition, but the lawyer for footprint property owner Daniel Goldstein (and perhaps others) said, "We will challenge the petition. It is defective in many respects."

Will streets close?

One pending question is whether streets planned for closure on or about February 1 will be closed as announced. It seems less likely.

Presumably that timing was tied to the (expected) transfer of title, given that the streets were among the properties to be condemned.

At Freddy's, James and Montgomery lead protest against closing homeless shelter

Well, I'm out of town but I got some reports back on the event yesterday at Freddy's Bar & Backroom, where Council Member Letitia James organized a protest against the city's decision to close a privately-run homeless shelter in the AY footprint. (Here's pre-protest coverage in the Daily News.)

James, as shown in the video below (via Found in Brooklyn), denounced "the destruction by a corrupt developer who believes he can pay off elected officials." (Well, Forest City Ratner gives campaign contributions to elected officials; as for payoffs, the evidence in the Ridge Hill case doesn't yet support that, though it's certainly suspicious.)

James said she'd spoken to Robert Hess, the commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), who told her that one-third of the 88 families in the Pacific Dean residence were placed in permanent housing and the rest were "shuttled" to another shelter.

She said Hess told her DHS now plans to up a shelter on Tillary Street in Downtown Brooklyn. "I asked why, he just said, 'Have a good day.'"

Why would they close a shelter down the block, to build a parking lot for the arena, she asked.

A letter to the New York Times about its misleading coverage of Forest City Ratner and the Ridge Hill indictments

This is a letter sent to the New York Times.

I write to request a correction and/or Editor's Note regarding the Times's 1/7/10 coverage of indictments in Yonkers, headlined (online) Ex-Official in Yonkers Faces Charges of Corruption.

In three instances, the article contained lapses that add up to a more positive portrayal of developer Forest City Ratner than merited by the facts.

Click through to this blog entry to see how coverage of the scandal in Yonkers by the Times is less than clear. Questions remain regarding:

More videos from the January 5 state Senate oversight hearing

These 10 video segments are from the 1/5/10 state Senate oversight hearing on eminent domain called by Senator Bill Perkins. The segments are:

Posted by steve at 9:48 AM

Video Coverage: Rally at Freddy's To Keep Prospect Heights Family-Shelter Open

Freddy's Roundhouse

link

Posted by steve at 9:38 AM

Councilwoman Letitia James "Speaks Truth to Power" in the spirit of MLK.

Found in Brooklyn

F.I.B attended the press conference held at eminent domain central otherwise known as Freddy's Bar which has become the community gathering place to organize against the Atlantic Yards Project. Councilmember Letitia James gave a rousing speech denouncing the priorities of Michael Bloomberg, Govenor Patterson, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and "other elected officials" (Bill DiBlaso anyone?) who's work with real estate developers has cummulated to this...the eviction of 88 homeless families in the dead of winter for a parking lot. And for a project that will not start for several years.

Tish James was followed by Senator Velmanette Montgomery who also spoke eloquently against the project and made a point of saying that this housing is being built for people who don't even live in Brooklyn and noted that all the luxury condos that went up in the last few years are mostly vacant. That this project will not bring jobs to the community, it will just force the community out.

...

There is going to be a vigil in front of the Pacific Dean Homeless Shelter on Monday at 10pm, the community is counting on Govenor Patterson to do right on this and reopen the shelter.

link

Posted by steve at 9:17 AM

January 16, 2010

TODAY: Pop Star Crystal Waters comes to Brooklyn this Saturday to help City Council Member Letitia James convince the City to keep a homeless family-shelter, scheduled to be closed by the City on Martin Luther King's Birthday (Jan. 15), open until Spring

Pop Star Crystal Waters comes to Brooklyn this Saturday to help City Council Member Letitia James convince the City to keep a homeless family-shelter, scheduled to be closed by the City on Martin Luther King's Birthday, open until Spring

The shelter is slated to be demolished for a parking lot for Barclays Bank's Barclays Center sports stadium construction vehicle parking. Crystal Waters’ hit, She's Homeless, will be performed in protest of the shelter closing and this massive development project

(Brooklyn, NY) - Crystal Waters, whose 1990s hit song “Gypsy Woman” is about a homeless woman that sings for her supper (“la da dee laa da da”), is coming to the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project site this Saturday to help homeless families in Brooklyn by fighting to keep a crucial family-shelter open, which is located in the footprint of the proposed Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project.

“I don't know which is colder, Brooklyn in January through March, or what the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project and the City and State of New York are doing to the homeless families on January 15. Keep this shelter open till it's warm out,” said Council Member James.

The shelter has beds for 88 families, ranging from couples to families with small children. It is scheduled to be shut down by the City of New York, and condemned by eminent domain at the request of Barclays Bank's Barclays Center (a basketball arena), and its developer Bruce Ratner on January 15. Since Barclays is in England, and has no branches in New York, Crystal Waters (who resides in England) is asking Barclays Bank to have a heart and request that the City keep this shelter open, at least until the spring - so that families who become homeless in New York’s cold winter will have access to an indoor place to sleep. During these hard economic times, let’s consider all homeless individuals, especially the many families and children who are struggling.

The City claims that families currently residing at the Pacific Avenue and Dean Street homeless shelter will be relocated. Even if the claim is to be believed, this is not the point. New York’s shelter system will still lose beds and facilities for homeless children and their parents who will need shelter from the cold, specifically during the harsh New York winter. The Barclays Center, (whose owners have decided a parking lot for its construction vehicles is more important than Brooklyn’s homeless families) is slated to be used as an arena for the New Jersey Nets, (some think the Nets is the worst team in the NBA; the team was purchased in 2009 by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov). And, even the City’s Independent Budget Office has found that this publicly subsidized arena would be a net financial loser for New York City if built.

“Owners of the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project are forcing the City to close this critical family-shelter, and allowing the state to take it by eminent domain in the dead of winter, and on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend. This is absolutely wrong and unnecessary. The community believes that nothing at all will be built in place of this homeless shelter - possibly for years and decades…if ever. Taking away beds for our City’s most vulnerable residents is simply unconscionable,” said Council Member James.

Ms. Waters will perform her song, Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless), with local homeless people to raise awareness of what owners of the Barclays Center are doing, and to encourage Barclays Bank to ask the City and State to keep the shelter open until Spring, when the weather warms up. The press conference and performance will be at Freddy's Bar, which is itself fighting eviction because of the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project.

What:

Pop Star Crystal Waters in Brooklyn to support City Council Member Letitia James and homeless families. Her hit, She's Homeless, will be performed 2pm.

Who:

Singer Crystal Waters, Council Member Letitia James, public officials, residents, and homeless advocates

Where:

Freddy's Bar, 485 Dean Street in Prospect Heights - Corner of 6th Avenue - (718) 622-7035 - (2or 3 to Bergen St. Station)

When:

Saturday, January 16, at 2pm

Posted by steve at 11:30 AM

Will there be bollards (and how big)? Security questions regarding arena still unanswered

Atlantic Yards Report

Last July, when Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin was asked about security plans for the Atlantic Yards arena, she indicated a review was forthcoming.

Her response: "As the design is not complete yet, that review will take place obviously before the closing, but we're in constant contact with the city and expect to see the police department about the changes in design in the fall."

Well, the master closing took place last month, so presumably that review has taken place. But when the Brooklyn Paper asked the Empire State Development Corporation if bollards were planned along the lines of the recent installation outside Atlantic Terminal--an increase in size from initial plans--the ESDC wouldn't provide any details.

In the Huffington Post, Daniel Goldstein (of DDDB) and Alan Rosner raise questions and concerns raised about security that have drawn public responses. They conclude with a recommendation for Governor David Paterson:

What he needs do is direct his own State Office of Homeland Security to conduct a full study once complete plans are made available but before irreversible construction starts. Right now the only security plan that exists for the arena is a five-inch curb and some cameras to take pictures with.

link

Posted by steve at 11:08 AM

Pop star Crystal Waters sings in protest of closing homeless shelter for Atlantic Yards project

Daily News
By Dick McLaughlin and Erin Durkin

A homeless shelter that housed 80 families is set to close Friday to make way for the Atlantic Yards project - and a pop star famous for a song about homelessness is jumping into the fight to stop the shutdown.

The city says all the residents at the Pacific Dean shelter - which will be demolished so the land can be used to store construction equipment for an arena for the NBA's Nets - will be relocated. But homeless advocates say it still makes no sense to remove beds from an overburdened shelter system.

"It's the dead of winter," said pop star Crystal Waters, who will perform her hit song "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)," at a rally Saturday calling on the city to leave the shelter open until spring. "I'm just asking them to have a little heart."

link

Posted by steve at 11:05 AM

At the Nets game last night, a protest against Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently there was a little protest at the Nets-Pacers game last night at the Izod Center, as eight Atlantic Yards opponents unfurled a banner that read, "Ratner trashed the Nets so he could trash Brooklyn."

(Photo and set by Tracy Collins)

It made the lead of the New York Post's game coverage:

A group of eight protestors led by Daniel Goldstein, who has led the fight against the development of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, hoisted anti-Bruce Ratner banners last night that were confiscated by Meadowlands security.

The protestors stayed in their seats, no doubt wishing they were ejected.

Watching the Nets is almost inhumane punishment. What's a four-letter word for garbage? Junk? Nope. Slop? Not here.

Go with "N-E-T-S, Nets, Nets, Nets."

From the New York Daily News:

Neither did arena security guards, who confiscated a pair of protest banners that were being paraded through a lower section. The banners ripped Nets owner Bruce Ratner, who is moving the team to Brooklyn as the centerpiece of his Atlantic Yards project, and pleaded with Nets fans in New Jersey to pull for the team to remain in the Garden State.

Scott Turner, one of the protesters, said the group chanted "Jersey yes! Ratner no!" as it held the banners up late in the first quarter. As a security guard tried to take one of the banners away, he told Turner that if he didn't surrender it, "we will call the state police."

link

Related coverage...

The Star-Ledger, Shawne Williams indicted on drug charges hours after NJ Nets waive him
By Dave D'Alessandro

The Nets also had an unwanted guest Friday night: The formidable Daniel Goldstein, the last holdout among those living in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project, brought a group of eight protesters to the game.

The Record, Pacers cruise past Nets, 121-105, at Meadowlands
By Al Iannazzone

Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein and other Brooklyn protestors shouted and held up anti-Bruce Ratner banners as they walked down a section’s steps during the first quarter. But arena security personnel took away the signs because they obstructed the view of the fans.

Daily News, New Jersey Nets fall, 121-105, to Indiana Pacers, Shawne Williams arrested on drug-related charges

New York Post, Nets torment with 36th loss

NBA Fanhouse, Brooklyn Protesters Take the Fight to a Nets Game

Posted by steve at 10:34 AM

Up and Down, "Blight" Is Everywhere: Just Glance Down “At Any Point” and Find “Blight” Smiling Back to You

Noticing New York

Due to lax New York standards, it seems that blight can be found everywhere in Brooklyn

Why is there "blight" everywhere? Because those are the new rules being used by government agencies (as represented by the Empire State Development Corporation- our leading imaginer of “blight”): “Blight” is anywhere where there is a crack in the sidewalk (and property perhaps not yet built to the full percentage of its currently permitted zoning- which is almost everywhere and potentially anywhere.)

Where do ESDC’s crack eminent domain arguments take us? According to pictures published Wednesday in stories that respectively appeared in both the Brooklyn Paper and the New York Times they lead just about anywhere and everywhere one might go in this city.

link

Posted by steve at 10:18 AM

Friday Field Trip: Freddy’s Bar And The Fight Against Atlantic Yards

Draft Magazine
By Noah Davis

Here is coverage of last week's "Toast to George Will".

DRAFTMag.com goes to Freddy’s in Brooklyn, which is in danger of being bulldozed to make way for the Brooklyn Nets arena, to check out a protest against eminent domain. Fight the man!

link

Posted by steve at 10:03 AM

Robert Moses, Atlantic Yards & Air Pollution

The Architect's Newspaper Blog
By Matt Chaban

Among the many concerns never directly addressed by the ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, is increased traffic from the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Almost exactly a month ago, the Bloomberg administration released a study called the “New York City Community Air Survey.” Years in the making, it was heralded as the first comprehensive study of the city’s air quality ever undertaken, with results that are shocking if not obvious. As the map of particulate matter above shows—and as many of us already knew—the city can be a pretty gross place to live and breathe. There are plenty more maps like this, but they all basically come to two conclusions: Where there are cars and oil boilers, there is pollution. However, the wonk in us saw something particularly interesting: Outside of Manhattan—where congestion is a whole other animal (hence hope for congestion pricing)—the pollution tracks pretty heavily along the expressways built by none other than the Power Broker himself. We even built a handy GIF (after the jump!) to illustrate this. There is one notable exception, that big brown spot in the middle of Brooklyn, which is why we’re bringing this up now.

Earlier this week, the Atlantic Yards Report reported that street closures are imminent around the Atlantic Yards site, which would presumably exacerbate traffic in the area. This has long been a concern surrounding the project, back when the EIS was just an EIS and not the basis for a Supreme Court lawsuit. But as the map and GIF above illustrate, congestion—both vehicular and nasal—were a problem at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues long before Bruce Ratner, and probably even Robert Moses, showed up. Now, as more streets are closed and the traffic only gets worse, the pollution is likely to follow. Just imagine how bad it will be on game nights?

link

Posted by steve at 9:51 AM

Robin Hood in Reverse

City Journal
By John K. Ross, Dick Carpenter

This article summarizes a study of eminent domain and that finds that "... eminent-domain abuse in New York disproportionately affects ethnic and racial minorities and those less well-off and less educated." A call is made for the New York legislature to fix eminent domain use in New York.

In November, New York’s Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, upheld the use of eminent domain to take homes and small businesses to make way for wealthy developer Bruce Ratner’s so-called “Atlantic Yards” development: 16 mammoth skyscrapers centered around a basketball arena. The court accepted the Empire State Development Corporation’s contention that the area was “blighted”—based on a study that Ratner paid for himself and which wasn’t even initiated until years after the project was announced.

The court didn’t go so far as to embrace the reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous 2005 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, which allows governments to condemn property for economic-development reasons alone, regardless of whether the property is blighted. And just a few weeks later, a lower court rejected a similar attempt to condemn “blighted” properties in West Harlem on behalf of Columbia University, which was seeking to obtain a 17-acre site for expansion. But this limitation offers little comfort to property owners in New York State, which remains the nation’s worst abuser of eminent domain. Thousands of properties remain at risk for condemnation under the absurdly lax blight standards given a green light by the state’s highest court.

...

Following Kelo, 43 states passed reforms to rein in eminent domain abuse. New York did not. In 2009, legislators in Albany introduced dozens of bills, ranging from strong reforms such as forbidding condemnation for private projects to superficial remedies like requiring another round of hearings, an additional vote on projects, and the creation of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan” prior to condemnation. As in every legislative session since Kelo, bills languished in committee.

The Court of Appeals ruling should be a clarion call to state legislators that they cannot avoid the issue any longer. The court’s deference to blight designations, and the punitive nature of eminent-domain abuse, suggest that mere procedural reforms will not suffice. To protect New York property owners, eminent domain for private development must be brought to an end.

link

Additional information...

The Institute for Justice's study can be found here.

Here's a summary of the proposed Atlantic Yards project:

In 2003, developer Forest City Ratner announced plans to build a basketball stadium and 16 office towers on 22 acres in Brooklyn. The project will displace some 330 residents, 33 businesses with 235 employees, and a homeless shelter.[17] The plan was approved, despite competing offers from other developers that would not have relied on eminent domain and would not have required an estimated $1 billion in public subsidies.[18] The neighborhood, which consists of warehouses converted into condos, light industrial businesses and a still-operating Prohibition-era bar, has been declared blighted because it sits next to an unused rail yard owned by the state.[19]

Posted by steve at 9:35 AM

January 15, 2010

Asked for current Atlantic Yards affordable housing plans, NYC HDC sends back resolutions more than three years old

Atlantic Yards Report

If developer Forest City Ratner and its government partners have concrete plans to build affordable housing at the Atlantic Yards site, they haven't yet made moves to implement them.

In a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, I asked the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for "documents that describe the current plans and timetable for affordable housing at the [Atlantic Yards] site, including the public costs/bonds involved."

What I got back was old hat: a collection (see below) of 20 documents, each a Resolution of Declaration of Intent, passed by the HDC board between 7/20/04 and 1/8/07, adding up to more than $2.2 billion in bonds.

They do not assure tax-exempt bonds for a measure of affordable housing; they simply mean that a developer may apply for such financing.

article

NoLandGrab: Once again, we guess we should just trust Forest City's "guarantee." Uh huh.

Posted by eric at 1:03 PM

For its defense of case challenging AY project approval, ESDC relies on deference to documents still under wraps

Atlantic Yards Report

The last major Atlantic Yards case to go before a judge is the one challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) September approval of the Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), in part because the ESDC board was not (allegedly) told the details of how the deal for the Vanderbilt Yard was renegotiated.

I'll have a broader preview before the court hearing next Tuesday, but first want to point to a key point of dispute between the ESDC and the groups (led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn) bringing the case, which is consolidated with a similar suit brought by groups that are part of BrooklynSpeaks.

The petitioners assert that the Vanderbilt Yard deal points to a project that would last some 22 years rather than the promised ten years. The ESDC claims they're wrong, and buttresses its case by pointing to a set of documents that has not been made public.
...

No one other than representatives of the ESDC and Forest City Ratner have seen these documents. So how can they be fairly assessed?

link

NoLandGrab: We suppose we could just trust them, right?

Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

Construction on Barclays Arena commences

NYPost.com
by Stephen Witt

The Community Newspaper Group's pro-project reporter opines on arena construction.

If it looks like construction, sounds like construction and money is spent on construction, then it’s a good bet that the Barclays Center arena at the Atlantic/Flatbush avenues intersection is already under construction.
...

As first reported locally by anti-project blogger Norman Oder in his Atlantic Yards Report, developer Forest City Ratner has also purchased $50 million worth of steel from Virgina-based Banker Steel for the arena.

article

Posted by eric at 12:49 PM

Brodsky seeks investigation of "shady, inadequate, unfunded" MTA agreement on tunnel repairs associated with Atlantic Yards (fake)

Atlantic Yards Report

Since thing are a bit slow over at AYR (only five other posts today), Norman Oder imagines the kind of press release New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky might issue if he wasn't mysteriously AWOL on the matter of Atlantic Yards.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, the watchdog of public authorities, leader on public authority reform, fierce after-the-fact critic of the Yankee Stadium deal, and putative Attorney General candidate, has chosen not to look closely at Atlantic Yards (despite occasional swipes at the MTA's failure to fulfill its fiduciary duty), so the below press release is only what Brodsky might have said.

Click through for the goods.

Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

So, would streets be fully closed? And where would NYPD parking go? Permanent spaces wouldn't come until Building 15 rises

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that the city prepares to close streets within the Atlantic Yards footprint, what about access for people still living there?

Who's in charge of the traffic mitigation plan?

What happens to NYPD parking?

There are still a few people living on Pacific Street (slated to close) and others on Dean Street (not closing). Can they get a ride home in the rain?

Click here for the answers, including analysis of the new traffic-flow plan, designed by Ratner consultant Sam Schwartz (below).

Sam Schwartz Traffic Closure Plan

Also...
MyLittleO.com, Atlantic Yards Project Permanent Street Closures

Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

Blight vs. blight: a battle of the sidewalk cracks

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, aren't those cracks [at Brooklyn Borough Hall] --cracks that are being fixed--worse than the "cracked and uneven" sidewalk (below) cited by blight-seeking consultant AKRF in the Atlantic Yards Blight Study?

article

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

‘State’ of security at Atlantic Yards? ESDC won’t tell us

The Brooklyn Paper
By Stephen Brown

Everyone’s been talking about the drastic security measures at the new $106-million Long Island Railroad Terminal on Flatbush Avenue — but state officials still won’t talk about whether a similar security blanket will envelop the proposed Barclays Center across the street.

Current renderings of Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena near the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues show a line of thin, metal, waist-high security bollards — quite unlike the massive stone tomb-like blocks that wall off the entrance to the new LIRR terminal.

Much smaller, bench-like bollards were in earlier renderings of the terminal, but were dramatically enlarged after secret discussions among the LIRR, its architect and the NYPD, officials confirmed.

Atlantic Yards watchers think the same thing will happen if the Barclays Center is built, but the Empire State Development Corporation won’t talk.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

CNG Watch: Carlton Avenue Bridge delay in Brooklyn Paper, not Courier-Life, which proclaims that arena construction begins

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews a tale of two papers:

This week's Brooklyn Paper, in its article on streets being closed to further construction of the Atlantic Yards arena--before legal challenges are resolved--mentions, albeit almost as an aside, that the Carlton Avenue Bridge would not reopen until April 2012, far longer than originally promised, as I reported.

And is that included in the report (posted first on the New York Post's web site) from the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt? No.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Nets may not be down for long

SportsIllustrated.com
By Chris Mannix

This excerpt below explains why the NBA wants the Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov. The answer is "Money. Oodles of it."

Next summer, however, the class of 2010 will yield one of the deepest free-agent crops in history. And those players would be wise to put New Jersey at the top of their list.

Really.

While New Jersey is on pace to challenge the 1972-73 Sixers' record low of nine victories, its plight isn't nearly as bad as the numbers indicate. Because sometime in the next two months ownership of the team is expected to transfer from Bruce Ratner to Mikhail Prokhorov. And Prokhorov brings something to the table that the Nets haven't had in a long time.

Money. Oodles of it.

The Russian billionaire is widely considered the wealthiest man in his country, and since news of the pending sale became public, word quickly spread throughout the league that Prokhorov is in it to win it.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

Atlantic Yards: строительство начинается

РусскийБазар.com

мультикомплекса Atlantic Yards в Бруклине начнётся первого февраля. Корпорация-застройщик Empire State Development прошла все необходимые проверки и теперь может приступать к осуществлению проекта, который считается одним из самых крупных в последнем десятилетии.

link

Fun with machine translation:

Building of gigantic [multikompleksa] atlantic yards in Brooklyn of [nachnetsya] of first February. the Corporation- housebuilder of empire of state development it is past all necessary checkings and now it can take up realizing of the project, which is considered one of the large in the last decade.

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

Brooklyn Drinkers Say No to Eminent Domain Abuse

Reason: Hit & Run
By Damon Root

Earlier this week, two of the Brooklyn activists fighting the Atlantic Yards' eminent domain abuse case appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friends to explain why real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner has no right to seize their beloved neighborhood bar Freddy’s. Check out the clip below for promises of civil disobedience (including patrons chained to the bar!) and for some classic advice from Judge Andrew Napolitano, who says, “I’m not suggesting you break the law, but...

link

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

January 14, 2010

Brooklyn Borough Hall Is Blighted and Needs To Be Condemned By Eminent Domain

BoroughHallSidewalk.jpg Sidewalk cracks were cited as evidence of blight in developer Bruce Ratner's EIS, therefore, the plaza in front of Atlantic Yards' Cheerleader in Chief's office must be blighted, too.

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Everyone knows what that means: It is blighted and needs to be seized by eminent domain and demolished, post haste.

The Brooklyn Paper reports:

A salt on Borough Hall
By Andy Campbell

Walk safely, Marty! The plaza around your Borough Hall office is now an obstacle course of disaster!

The salt-covered sidewalk outside looks like it’s been through a Moscow winter, what with wide cracks and chunks of slate sidewalk breaking away on the north side of the building near Court Street.

Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

How ESDC practices ensure that, in cases like Atlantic Yards, the developer's choice of consultants, AKRF, will work for the state

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, thanks to the oversight hearing last week, we finally have a public answer to a question I posed in July 2007, when I queried the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) about guidelines regarding hiring consultants who formerly worked on the projects that they will review.

There are virtually no guidelines. Though there's a paper-thin conflict-of-interest policy, described below, the ESDC's policy encourages the practice, essentially ensuring it will continue, absent legislative action.

If the consultant, namely AKRF, has already been hired by the project applicant--such as Columbia University or Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner--that gives them an advantage, because the knowledge gained gives AKRF a head start and thus provides a more cost-effective product in the ESDC's eyes.

While state Senator Bill Perkins considers the ESDC's policy of hiring AKRF--while it was simultaneously employed by Columbia and after it had done work for FCR--a "glaring conflict," ESDC representatives defended it at the oversight hearing Perkins called January 5.

But their defense was weak, because they claimed AKRF merely provides a factual report, leaving the lay people on the ESDC board--who've been shown to be uninformed--to determine blight.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Editor’s coffin comments make some readers sick

The Brooklyn Papers, Letters to the Editor

One reader took issue with Gersh Kuntzman's analogy comparing the huge sarcophagus-like bollards outside of the new entrance to the Atlantic Terminal to coffins.

Such an attitude is astounding, particularly in light of the so-called aborted Christmas Day airplane terror attack.

Kuntzman’s rant is childish whining at best; irresponsible journalism at worst.

The Atlantic Avenue station was a target of a bomb plot in 1997; the perpetrators admitted the attraction was its position as a major transportation hub.

And this was the world before 9-11.

— Alexander Goldstein, Brooklyn Heights

NoLandGrab: Which is why Atlantic Yards watchdogs have long thought that developer Bruce Ratner's assertion that a new arena would not require bollards to be childish and irresponsible and that a Terrorism and Security assessment should be part of the public review process.

And speaking of watchdogs, the main Atlantic Yards security watchdog himself chimes in...

For the last six years, local electeds, community groups and professionals have been raising the issue that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner claims that no special security measures are required for his basketball arena. This is counter to what both Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly publicly acknowledge.

This is the so-called real world, the one that resulted in the bollards that Kuntzman so rightfully dislikes. Pretending it’s otherwise is what gets us the after-the-fact imposition of the 21st-century medievalism he deplores.

— Alan Rosner

link to the full letters

Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere126.gif Brownstoner, Closing Bell: Barclays Center on the Map
Though photographer Tracy Collins noticed in October 2009, that "Barclays Center" had already been added to Google Maps, the word is spreading.

As Curbed noticed yesterday, Atlantic Yards is a done deal in Google's book: As the image above shows, the Internet giant has already put the Barclays Center on its maps.

SportsBusinessDaily.com, Facility Notes (subscription only)
...to hear oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit filed against developers who want to move" the Nets to Barclays Center at the proposed Atlantic Yards.

NetsAreScorching, Nets on the Net: 1/13/10 Edition

Three major NYC city streets are going to be wiped off the grid to make room for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, according to the Brooklyn Paper: Since leaping one of the last remaining major legal hurdles in late November, Ratner has moved forward with his project far more rapidly than a Nets fast-break. And in December, he sold $511 million in tax-free bonds — roughly half the money needed for the arena.

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

Pop Star Crystal Waters comes to Brooklyn this Saturday to help City Council Member Letitia James convince the City to keep a homeless family-shelter, scheduled to be closed by the City on Martin Luther King's Birthday, open until Spring

The shelter is slated to be demolished for a parking lot for Barclays Bank's Barclays Center sports stadium construction vehicle parking. Crystal Waters’ hit, She's Homeless, will be performed in protest of the shelter closing and this massive development project

(Brooklyn, NY) - Crystal Waters, whose 1990s hit song “Gypsy Woman” is about a homeless woman that sings for her supper (“la da dee laa da da”), is coming to the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project site this Saturday to help homeless families in Brooklyn by fighting to keep a crucial family-shelter open, which is located in the footprint of the proposed Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project.

“I don't know which is colder, Brooklyn in January through March, or what the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project and the City and State of New York are doing to the homeless families on January 15. Keep this shelter open till it's warm out,” said Council Member James.

The shelter has beds for 88 families, ranging from couples to families with small children. It is scheduled to be shut down by the City of New York, and condemned by eminent domain at the request of Barclays Bank's Barclays Center (a basketball arena), and its developer Bruce Ratner on January 15. Since Barclays is in England, and has no branches in New York, Crystal Waters (who resides in England) is asking Barclays Bank to have a heart and request that the City keep this shelter open, at least until the spring - so that families who become homeless in New York’s cold winter will have access to an indoor place to sleep. During these hard economic times, let’s consider all homeless individuals, especially the many families and children who are struggling.

The City claims that families currently residing at the Pacific Avenue and Dean Street homeless shelter will be relocated. Even if the claim is to be believed, this is not the point. New York’s shelter system will still lose beds and facilities for homeless children and their parents who will need shelter from the cold, specifically during the harsh New York winter. The Barclays Center, (whose owners have decided a parking lot for its construction vehicles is more important than Brooklyn’s homeless families) is slated to be used as an arena for the New Jersey Nets, (some think the Nets is the worst team in the NBA; the team was purchased in 2009 by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov). And, even the City’s Independent Budget Office has found that this publicly subsidized arena would be a net financial loser for New York City if built.

“Owners of the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project are forcing the City to close this critical family-shelter, and allowing the state to take it by eminent domain in the dead of winter, and on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend. This is absolutely wrong and unnecessary. The community believes that nothing at all will be built in place of this homeless shelter - possibly for years and decades…if ever. Taking away beds for our City’s most vulnerable residents is simply unconscionable,” said Council Member James.

Ms. Waters will perform her song, Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless), with local homeless people to raise awareness of what owners of the Barclays Center are doing, and to encourage Barclays Bank to ask the City and State to keep the shelter open until Spring, when the weather warms up. The press conference and performance will be at Freddy's Bar, which is itself fighting eviction because of the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project.

What:

Pop Star Crystal Waters in Brooklyn to support City Council Member Letitia James and homeless families. Her hit, She's Homeless, will be performed 2pm.

Who:

Singer Crystal Waters, Council Member Letitia James, public officials, residents, and homeless advocates

Where:

Freddy's Bar, 485 Dean Street in Prospect Heights - Corner of 6th Avenue - (718) 622-7035 - (2or 3 to Bergen St. Station)

When:

Saturday, January 16, at 2pm

Crystal Waters Gypsy Woman (she's homeless)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KztNIg4cvE

Picture of the shelter
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tracy_collins/4158273109/in/pool-atlanticyards

Picture the Homeless
http://picturethehomeless.org

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

January 13, 2010

2010 Atlantic Yards - permanent street closures

Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Tracy Collins has posted some photos of Brooklyn's most endangered streets, which Bruce Ratner and the State of New York are fixin' to close any day now. Click the image to play a slide show.

link

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Carlton Avenue Bridge reopening date now April 2012, in time for arena plan, more than twice the original time promised

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that streets in the Atlantic Yards footprint are scheduled for closure, residents must also confront the news that the Carlton Avenue Bridge (outlined in map) will remain closed far longer than initially promised and announced.

I wrote last August that newly-discovered details about plans for the bridge confirm that the demolition and reconstruction not only would take longer than the officially announced two years, it would take at least three years and likely much longer.

Now that's confirmed, since work will last at least April 2012, according to the city Department of Transportation (DOT). That date is shortly before the Atlantic Yards arena, if it proceeds on schedule, is supposed to open.

And that means the bridge would have been closed for four years and four months, more than twice as long as originally promised in the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

newstracker: court to hear suit concerning Nets' brooklyn site

NorthJersey.com
By John Brennan

What's new: New York's Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit filed against developers who want to move the New Jersey Nets basketball team to a proposed Atlantic Yards project near downtown Brooklyn.
...
This suit contends that the Empire State Development Corp. — the state agency overseeing the project and also a party to the suit — improperly approved a modified general project plan last September.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

January 12, 2010

Did Oleg Deripaska Really Order the Murder of a Journalist?

Robert Amsterdam

Though it has taken a couple of weeks, the news of the attempted hit on Helmer and new allegations that Rusal and Oleg Deripaska were behind it, have gone viral. On Jan. 9th, the Australian (where Helmer is originally from) published a new angle, which indicated that the attack was averted only because the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared intel with the journalist that the hit was coming his way. The Australian article got picked up by Dave D'Alessandro of the Star-Ledger over the weekend (who probably has interest in the news as related to NJ Nets buyer Mikhail Prokhorov), and since then the it has been picked up by the highly visible political blogger Matt Taibi, an old friend of Helmer.
...

Here's why the story is still so weird. So if nobody knows who controls Rusal at this point, or if the company is actually under the executive stewardship of the Kremlin at this point, than how can we be so sure that they were the ones behind this bumbling assassination job? Why wouldn't such a wealthy business group have paid off the federal security service and local police with bribes like they did in the Politkovskaya job? There seemed to be a suspiciously high level of evidence available to pin this on the company ... I mean seriously, who goes out to do something like that and carries a dossier with the company's name on it?? Furthermore, could the timing have been any worse?

Something just doesn't quite add up here, and perhaps it is just the fact that we have gotten so used to murdered journalists in Russia, that this one foiled attempt didn't even make the headlines for several weeks.

article

Posted by eric at 8:58 PM

Tuesday's Quick Hits

Crain's Cleveland Business

Forest City Enterprises CEO Charles Ratner upbraids columnist George F. Will for a Washington Post column that attacked the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. In a letter to The Post, Mr. Ratner complains that Mr. Will “never contacted the developer — my company — or supporters of the project, who include the governor, the mayor and the Brooklyn borough president,” and that the columnist misrepresented the use of eminent domain in the project.

link

NoLandGrab: Waaaaaaaaaaahhh! Chuck Ratner's crying is comical — and his complaints drip with insincerity. Will never contacted his company? So what — Forest City never reached out to the community it's planning to bulldoze. And as for misrepresenting the use of eminent domain? He's right — Will was too kind.

Posted by eric at 8:13 PM

Ridge Hill needs another name

The Journal News, Letters

As the "Battle of Ridge Hill" reignites, perhaps it should be retitled the "War of Diners and Swag," in honor of the diner meetings and bribes that truly sealed the deal, according to the government's allegations. What a disgrace these public and political figures have brought to our Yonkers. As the mayor and Yonkers City Council consider damage control — to the city's good name and the future of this now-tainted development — I strongly suggest the city demand a name change. Ridge Hill will forever connote bribery and scandal.

I have some suggestions: How about "Larkin Ridge," in honor of John Larkin; this is, perhaps, too personal but it honors the man who led community opposition to Ridge Hill. How about "Watchdog Ridge"? That would honor the neighborhood groups that banded together to fight developer Forest City Ratner. We lost the battle, but have we lost the war? We might also consider "Mt. Pataki." It was our then-governor who allowed this state site to be sold for pennies on the dollar. How would "City of Hills" sound? I'm sure someone out there has better suggestions than I do. Please send a letter to the editor.

The mayor and council should demand a name change. It would cost Forest City Ratner millions. As the developers apparently are going to skate on any wrongdoing in this case, they should be made to pay plenty for their involvement in this disgrace to our city.

Mike Breen

Yonkers

link

Posted by eric at 5:48 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Streetsblog, State Moves to Disrupt Street Grid in Atlantic Yards Footprint

If the closures do take effect, it's about to get a little harder to move between Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope, no matter how you get around. Ratner's project has already forced cyclists heading to the Manhattan Bridge to find detours around one of the safest and most convenient routes, thanks to the 2008 closure of the Carlton Avenue bridge (for which there is no end in sight).

Now, these proto-superblocks will degrade the street grid further. Will pedestrians be barred from any of the sidewalks on the affected streets? The Empire State Development Corporation, overseer of the project, hasn't responded to Streetsblog's inquiries.

Gothamist, Streets Will Be Taken Off The Grid For Atlantic Yards Project

Dan Goldstein — who lives in the Atlantic Yards footprint and is facing eminent domain proceedings for his property — told the Brooklyn Paper that the state is acting too soon. "They're taking the streets prematurely," said Goldstein, who has reportedly started looking for a new place to live. "We'll be challenging that [street seizure], which is part of [the state’s use of] eminent domain."

Runnin' Scared, Atlantic Yards Brings "Permanent" Street Closings; Ratner Writes a Letter; Haier In On Barclays Center

Roy Edroso rounds up some recent Atlantic Yards-related news.

clusterflock, Freddy’s is fighting and they’re doing it on Fox News, baby

Freddy’s is more than a bar. It’s a community, a true neighbourhood sanctuary, and a fantastic music venue. It is expected that the site that Freddy’s sits on will fit a few SUVs in the parking lot that is planned for it. Handcuffs have been installed in the bar, and there are more than enough people willing to chain themselves to the bar and go to jail to defy the bailiffs if and when they arrive at Freddy’s door.

Politics on the Hudson, The proposed Yonkers lobbyist law

Some readers have expressed interest in seeing the proposed legislation to require lobbyists to register with the Yonkers City Clerk before lobbying a Yonkers city official, so I’ve attached it in the jump.

Yesterday Councilman John Murtagh, R-5th District, issued a call to adopt the legislation before it dies in committee. He introduced it in October.
...

“If you read the indictment it says Forest City Ratner hired Zehy and he lobbied me,” Murtagh said. “I knew there was some relationship, but I didn’t know he was a $60,000 a year paid consultant.”

structureHUB, Eli Broad is definitely not Bruce Ratner, when it comes to local dealing

Bruce Ratner must look at Eli Broad with tears of envy. While Ratner has fought tooth and nail with residents, various elected officials, and skittish creditors to build his Xanadu (can Atlantic Yards still be called that after being repeatedly downsized?) in Brooklyn, Eli Broad has has had the luxury of Southern California cities fight each other just to win the right privilege of being home to his planned contemporary art museum. Of course, massive mixed-use projects with stadiums at their core are slightly different animals than relatively modest-scale art museums backed by $200 million private endowments.

Curbed, Google Cheers on Brooklyn Nets

PROSPECT HEIGHTS—Next month three streets will get wiped off the city's grid for the construction of Atlantic Yards, but a tipster points out that according to Google Maps the project's Barclays Center arena already is alive and kickin'. The patrons of Freddy's Bar will now begin a Google boycott.

NetsDaily, Arena Work Proceeding at “Fast Break” Speed

As critics promise to stay in their homes and businesses to slow Barclays Center construction, New York is moving quickly to speed it up. The city has announced the imminent closing of three small streets around the arena site. The Brooklyn Paper, in fact, reports Bruce Ratner is moving “far more rapidly than a Nets fast-break.” A city official tells WNYC that affordable housing “will follow very shortly” after the arena.

NoLandGrab: "Very shortly" means "probably never."

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Street Closures to Kick In Next Month

Get ready for the Atlantic Yards-related inconveniences to begin!

Posted by eric at 5:22 PM

Back to Background Reviews in a Sort of “I told You So” Way: Developments With Respect to Prokhorov

Noticing New York

With reports out of Moscow alleging a possible attempted hit on a muckraking Australian journalist by employees of a private-security firm connected to a company which is 18.5% owned by pending Nets owner and Russian billionaire oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, Michael D.D. White revisits his recommendation that governmental entities in New York might want to be a wee bit more discerning in their public-private partnerships.

We previously wrote on the subject of public agency background checks with respect to approving project principals and whether the public agencies bringing us the Atlantic Yards mega-boondoggle (the Empire State Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Transportation Agency with the assistance of the City of New York) would try to sidestep a background review and approval for:

Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov as a new proposed owner of the Nets basketball team, the heavily subsidized arena the team is supposed to play in, as well as the rest of the Atlantic Yards project which right now is nothing more than a multi-decade option to monopolize the development potential of 22 acres of valuable Brooklyn real estate. . .

We pretty much predicted that the agencies would engage in such sidestepping, given the hellbent determination of those agencies to continue with Atlantic Yards no matter how many project negatives emerge and accumulate. Sidestep they did!
...

Why might our ask-no-questions Atlantic Yards-loving public agencies now be regretting their decision not to do a Prokhorov background check? The latest news surfacing that an investigator doing a background review on Mr. Prokhorov would want to look into is this as phrased by Atlantic Yards Report:

a chilling charge surfacing in Moscow raises questions about Prokhorov's business interests and an alleged effort to silence a journalist.

article

Posted by eric at 2:19 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Atlantic Yards: Involvement in Alleged Corruption, Alleged Assassination and Actual Under Oath Untruths

Brooklyn, New York — It is quite a cast of characters we have amongst the Atlantic Yards sponsors, investors and developers...

Alleged International Assassination Plot
Yet-to-be-approved Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a big stakeholder in Rusal (the world's largest aluminum company), which has just been accused of putting out a contract on the life of Moscow-based journalist John Helmer.

Alleged Corruption Scandal With Federal Indictments of Elected Officials
Atlantic Yards developer (aka "Developer No. 2") Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers is at the center of a federal indictment of political officials and includes allegations of corruption and bribery for project approval vote switching. The United States Attorney's office says their investigation is ongoing.

Under Oath Lies From NY's Most Powerful Public Authority
The Empire State Development Corporation, purportedly overseeing the Atlantic Yards project, but acting as the tool of its developer Bruce Ratner, tells a substantial untruth—under oath—at a January 5th State Senate hearing.

(Note: none of these most recent shockers include the ongoing fixed/wired deal that has defined Atlantic Yards from the beginning.)

"Let's see: involvement in alleged corruption, alleged assassination and broad daylight lying under oath," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "What more needs to happen in the weird and wacky world of Atlantic Yards for the State's most powerful elected leaders—Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Paterson, Speaker Silver, Attorney General Cuomo—to stand up and say...something stinks really bad in Brooklyn and its initials are AY and FCR?"

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

Today's news quiz: "Atlantic Yards project was not properly presented"

Atlantic Yards Report

The headline "Atlantic Yards project was not properly presented" refers to:

1) the Empire State Development Corporation's failure to have consultant AKRF do a market study (as contracted) of the Atlantic Yards footprint and environs and the failure to do a study of neighborhood conditions

2) Columnist George Will's scathing (if flawed) criticism (which made New York magazine's approval matrix) of the Empire State Development Corporation's finding of blight in the pursuit of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards

3) Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner's complaint that columnist George Will didn't check with the company or elected officials before criticizing Atlantic Yards.

4) the Washington Post's willingness to print Ratner's letter without factchecking on jobs or other issues.

Answer: 3.

In Ratner family tradition, Chuck keeps on misrepresenting job creation estimates.

As for the jobs figures, the construction jobs are in job-years and the figure for permanent jobs is about double the state's estimate.

article

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

If the BALDC gets a smaller slice of the arena bond fee than the ESDC, is the bond issuance some kind of organizational shell game?

Atlantic Yards Report

Did New York State give Bruce Ratner a special discount on the financing fee for the sale of arena bonds?

One telling footnote to the Atlantic Yards arena tax-exempt bond deal is that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) gets a larger cut of the agency financing fee than the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), which formally issued the bonds and is officially--if not practically--quite separate from the ESDC.

The ESDC received a fee of $1 million and the BALDC received a fee of $533,000. Some $511 million in bonds were issued.
...

How do those fees compare to other bond issues? The closest comparison, though not a direct one, concerns new stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets. The New York City Industrial Development Authority (NYC IDA) charged developers of the stadiums both an agency financing fee and a state bond issuance fee.
...

And while direct comparisons are impossible, it appears that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner got a better deal, since the agency financing fee for the arena bonds was a lesser percentage of the total bond issue than were the fees for the stadium bonds.

article

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

The Approval Matrix: Week of January 18, 2010

New York Magazine

Both "Highbrow" and "Brilliant":

Unlikely allies: George Will echoes the arguments of anti-Ratner rabble-rouser Daniel Goldstein in a column attacking the Atlantic Yards project.

link

Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

Was AKRF really hired to do a study of neighborhood conditions? It was hired to "prepare a blight study in support of the proposed project"

Atlantic Yards Report

As noted yesterday, probably the most astounding statement during the January 5 oversight hearing on eminent domain was the statement by Anita Laremont, General Counsel of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), that consultant "AKRF does not find blight. Our board finds blight."

"AKRF does a study of neighborhood conditions," she continued. "And they give us a report, and we make a determination based on that whether or not the area is blighted."

However, AKRF, to Laremont's knowledge, has never turned in a report that doesn't lead to a finding of blight.

Following the contract

That's no coincidence. Because AKRF isn't hired to do a neutral study of neighborhood conditions.

It's hired to "prepare a blight study in support of the proposed project," as shown in the contract scope for AKRF's work for ESDC, excerpted at right, part of a document I obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.

It was hired to "[d]etermine the study area for analysis of blight conditions" and to "[d]ocument blighted conditions." It did that.

What was missing

Curiously enough, among those blighted conditions, AKRF was supposed to "[a]analyze assessed value trends on the project site, and compare to sample blocks with comparable uses in the study area, such as the Atlantic Center."

AKRF didn't do that, perhaps because it might have suggested that the project site wasn't so blighted. Or, perhaps, because it would have come closer to the task that Laremont described, of studying "neighborhood conditions."

article

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

On Brian Lehrer Show, NYC EDC's Pinsky avoids AY CBA discussion, misrepresents railyard, and claims he lives "a few blocks" from the site

Atlantic Yards Report

On yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show, Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, discussed Mayor Bloomberg's economic agenda and, not surprisingly, defended the city's posture on Atlantic Yards.

But his presentation was full of contradictions. Notably, Pinsky defended Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) only if they operate in an accountable fashion very different from the process behind the Atlantic Yards CBA.

He claimed, without foundation, that the "vast majority" of land in the Atlantic Yards site was a vacant railyard.

He expressed no doubt that 4500 affordable housing units would be built, though there's no assurance subsidies would be available.

And he claimed, in an exaggeration, that he lived just "a few blocks" from the site.

article

Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

Block buster! State moves to close roads around Yards arena

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

The construction of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards will enter a new phase next month when three major streets are permanently wiped off the New York City grid to accommodate the developer’s basketball arena.

State officials announced on Monday that Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, plus two adjacent blocks of Pacific Street, will be closed starting on Feb. 1 to accommodate construction.

The streets will not reopen if the arena is built.

article

Related coverage...

NY1, Street Closures Outlined For Atlantic Yards Project

Construction on the Atlantic Yards project is forcing street closures in Brooklyn. ...

There are public transportation changes as a result of the closings, including the elimination of the B63 bus stop on Fifth Avenue between Pacific and Atlantic.

For more information, residents are urged to call 311.

NoLandGrab: Perhaps residents should call 911 to report the theft of public streets.

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

Freddy's Bar plans sit-in over Atlantic Yards eminent domain seizure

The Real Deal

Although their establishment is set to be seized by eminent domain to make way for the Atlantic Yards development, supporters of Freddy's Bar aren't going down without a fight. In fact, Steve De Seve, a bar patron and founder of protest group "Fightin' Freddy's," and bar manager Don O'Finn have emerged as some of the most vocal opponents of the Bruce Ratner project, recently staging a video protest outside the bar at 485 Dean Street in Downtown Brooklyn, and then appearing on Fox News to make their case. The pair said they plan to stage a sit-in at the bar, during which time they and others will handcuff themselves to the building, should city officials try to forcibly remove them. "What the neighborhood has done here is absolutely astounding," O'Finn said of the support his bar has received.

link

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

NFT: Zagat Rated, NoBarclays Center

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

Freddy's Bar & Backroom
Toast to George Will &
Barclays Bank Boycott Launch
January 10, 2010

Posted by lumi at 4:08 AM

Atlantic Yards project was not properly presented

The Washington Post, Op-Ed By Charles Ratner

LOL — now the bully feels misunderstood. The eminent domain-abusing subsidy-swilling CEO of Forest City Enterprises is whining about columnist George Will's scathing piece on Atlantic Yards:

Yet he concluded that a "politically connected developer" is the recipient of largesse because the state agency leading the development can use eminent domain to obtain the remaining properties of individuals who refuse to sell. And he failed to note that my company controls 85 percent of the 22-acre site.

article

NoLandGrab: Ratner "failed to note that" his company acquired the private property it owns in the footprint UNDER THREAT OF EMINENT DOMAIN.

Posted by lumi at 3:47 AM

January 11, 2010

NBA's Nets Net Haier America As Partner For Barclays Center Arena

via NYSportsJournalism.com

Here's the Nets' press release announcing the Haier sponsor deal.

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, an affiliate of Nets Sports and Entertainment, said that appliance and consumer electronics company Haier America has signed a deal to become a long-term partner for the planned Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Barclays Center is being planned as the new home of the NBA's Nets, which seeks to move from the Izod Center in New Jersey to Brooklyn for the 2011-12 season. Haier America joins a group of companies that have already signed on as partners for the Barclays Center, including ADT, EmblemHealth, MetroPCS, Cushman & Wakefield, MGM Grand at Foxwoods, Jones Soda Co., Phillips-Van Heusen, Anheuser-Busch and High Point Solutions. Financial firm Barclays has a 20-year naming rights deal for the arena.

OK, can they give it a rest with the "2011-2012 season" nonsense already? Their own financial documents show that ain't happening.

Under terms of the deal, the “Haier Experience Store” will be part of the Barclays Center and accessible to the public from outside of the arena during event and non-event days, enabling people to "interact with the Haier brand and its array of products." Haier will also receive a fully integrated marketing platform within the arena and will be a sponsor of the Nets.

"Haier Experience Store?" Seriously?

“The sponsorship of the Barclays Center provides Haier America with an extensive platform to promote both the Haier brand and our expansive line of innovative appliances and electronics,” Michael Jemal, chairman of the board of Haier America, said in a statement. “This opportunity aligns with our expectations for future brand growth and perpetuates the roots we are building in the local community fabric with what will be one of the most technologically advanced arenas in the nation.”

"Perpetuates the roots we are building in the local community fabric?" Who writes this stuff?

There's more here, if you can stomach it.

Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

More video from the Freddy's resistance, including an appearance on Fox and Friends

Atlantic Yards Report

The YouTube channel eminentdomainrevolt is chronicling the resistance to eminent domain at Freddy's Bar & Backroom, including an appearance on Fox and Friends (!) by bar manager Donald O'Finn and video producer Steve deSeve, an interview with O'Finn.

Yesterday, on the third in a four-week sequence of media events (installation of chains, guillotine), the bar held a toast to George Will, the conservative columnist who authored a column criticizing the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards. They also came up with some creative bilingual signage--at right and below--promising a boycott of arena naming rights sponsor Barclays.

link

Posted by eric at 7:37 PM

Legal case challenging AY approval will be heard on January 19, not January 15

Atlantic Yards Report

While there are appeals requested and potential cases to be filed, the last major Atlantic Yards case to go before a judge is the one challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) September approval of the Modified General Project Plan, in part because the ESDC board was not (allegedly) told the details of how the deal for the Vanderbilt Yard was renegotiated.

That case will be heard not this Friday, as originally scheduled, but on January 19. Of course, developer Forest City Ratner and the ESDC are proceeding as if the case were meaningless (or its resolution not in question), and there's no formal bar to proceeding. Still, it could, at the least, send the project back for re-approval or, at the most, nullify the ESDC's approval.

link

Posted by eric at 7:32 PM

COMMUNITY NOTICE

Closure of Sections of Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street
Beginning on or around February 1, 2010

It is anticipated that beginning on or around Monday, February 1, 2010, the following streets in Brooklyn will be permanently closed:

Local and emergency vehicle access will be maintained as needed.

These streets are being closed to accommodate the Atlantic Yards project. Northbound traffic on Fifth Avenue can use Flatbush Avenue or Sixth Avenue to continue north; southbound traffic can use Sixth Avenue. Eastbound traffic on Pacific Street can use Dean Street; westbound traffic can use Bergen Street.

To facilitate vehicle circulation, Sixth Avenue (between Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street) and the block of Carlton Avenue (between Dean and Pacific Streets) will become two-way.

These changes necessitate the removal of the Cobble Hill-bound B63 bus stop on Fifth Avenue, between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. Passengers can use existing bus stops on Fifth Avenue (at Bergen Street) and on Atlantic Avenue (at Fourth Avenue).

Please see the detour* map below.

StreetClosings.gif

Advisory signs will be posted in advance of the closures and detour signs will be posted during the work. Traffic agents will be assigned to facilitate the flow of traffic and pedestrians.

Questions relating to this project may be addressed to:

Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office
(866) 923-5315
communityliaison@atlanticyards.com

Empire State Development Corporation
Office of the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman
(212) 803-3233
atlanticyards@empire.state.ny.us

* Doublespeakarrhea: "Detour map" implies that the closings are temporary. Developer Forest City Ratner intends to PERMANENTLY close these streets. It would have been less deceptive to call it the "Ratnerville street map."

Atlantic Yards Report, Street closures in Atlantic Yards footprint planned for February 1

The notice stated that these changes may be followed by a full closure and, indeed, that's the plan. In anticipation of arena construction, on or around February 1, the city plans to close those two streets, as well as Pacific between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues (bordering a block that would be used for interim surface parking).

Will traffic adjust? Already the changes have caused congestion, especially on busy days. Expect a lot more traffic on Sixth Avenue between Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street, which will become two-way.

Posted by lumi at 7:08 PM

Date Change for Atlantic Yards Legal Argument. Now January 19, 2:30pm

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Now Tuesday, January 19. 2:30pm

We invite and urge you to attend the arguments and spread the word.
Details below:

Tuesday, January 19. 2:30pm

Oral Argument for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation

Manhattan State Supreme Court
80 Centre Street, Room 328**
Manhattan
[ MAP ]
(**Address subject to change, check DDDB.net)

link

Posted by eric at 6:56 PM

Economic Development in NYC

WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show

As Mayor Bloomberg enters his third term, he continues to make economic development a major goal. Seth Pinksy, president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, discusses the city’s priorities for growth and development given the dire fiscal climate.

Atlantic Yards is mentioned a few times, but the main discussion of the project begins with a phone call from Noticing New York's Michael D.D. White at about the 10:40 mark.

link

Posted by eric at 4:00 PM

Goldstein: ‘I’m Not Going Anywhere…Ratner Could Go Behind Bars’

NetsDaily

Speaking at a gathering of arena critics at Freddy’s Bar, Daniel Goldstein said he decided to pick out new colors for his baby’s room after reading a federal indictment of Yonkers officials. “I’m certainly not preparing to find somewhere else to live when he (Bruce Ratner) potentially…has a new place to live behind bars”. Goldstein said he’s willing to be forcefully evicted, but again said he expects to win the six year battle.

link

Posted by eric at 3:55 PM

U.S. cities seek ways to aid property developers

Reuters

Guess which company gets the first mention in a story about government aid to real estate developers?

U.S. municipal and state governments, despite facing their own cash shortfall, are finding ways to help local property developers navigate the current downturn, in some cases rescuing projects that would otherwise fall victim to the credit crunch.

Such public-private partnerships highlight the increased role of the public sector in a business where the help of bureaucrats is typically not wanted. In atypical times, such aid may be a stepping stone toward the eventual return of private capital.

Au contraire, mon Reuters. Some companies always seeks the help of the public sector — or at least its money.

Las Vegas' city council voted last month to move its city hall, a decision Mayor Oscar Goodman called a "mini-stimulus." It is a complicated deal that frees up the building's attractive current location for the development of a district anchored by a sports arena, since Vegas hopes to attract a Major League franchise.

"The city needs something like this right now," said Eric Louttit, Vice President of Finance at Forest City Enterprises Inc., a national developer of retail, office and apartment properties.

Forest City-watchers know that "complicated deal" is a euphemism for "taxpayer-subsidized boondoggle." They also know to insert "Forest" before "city," as in "[Forest] City needs something like this right now."

Louttit, the project developer of Forest City's Las Vegas land, said that, without the move, downtown development could remain stalled for years.

"The economy is really quite bad," he said. "I don't think there's any legitimate hope of any private sector developer coming in."

article

NoLandGrab: That might sound convincing to those unfamiliar with the Forest City m.o., but bad economy or good, Forest City rarely builds anything without a heaping helping of public subsidy.

Posted by eric at 3:26 PM

Bitter Battle Brewing at New York bar

Fox News

Donald O'Finn and Steve de Seve visited Fox & Friends this morning to tell the story of Freddy's Eminent Domain Revolt.

link

Posted by eric at 3:12 PM

Moving Day for Boymelgreen

Brownstoner

Crain's reported last week that beleaguered developer Shaya Boymelgreen was set to get evicted from his Pacific Street headquarters by today, so it was no surprise that a tipster happened to see him parked in his SUV in the parking lot of 752 Pacific Street along with a couple of moving trucks. As you may recall, Boymelgreen had illegally agreed to sublet the building to Forest City Ratner as part of the Atlantic Yards development. Since a judge ruled in the landlord's favor last spring, Boymelgreen has not been paying rent on the space. The eviction is only one of many problems facing the developer. He has myriad lawsuits and financial problems involving failed real estate projects and a bank he founded four years ago.

link

Posted by eric at 2:13 PM

Freddy's "Toast to George Will" Recap

Found in Brooklyn

F.I.B attended the toast to George Will at Freddy's Sunday afternoon. Patron turnout was high in support for the boycott on Barclay's Bank and the belief that Bruce Ratner may end up behind bars for his involvement in a development project in Yonkers where bribery played a role. Click here to read coverage on that in the New York Observer.

Go to Eminent Domain Revolt to see lots of video coverage Sunday's event at Freddy's.

link

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Atlantic Yards Report: The Video(s)

Norman Oder — reporter, blogger, music video director — trains his lens on the Empire State Development Corporation.

Does ESDC board determine blight? On video, Dorkey can't find Pacific, Gargano evades Lehrer; both avoid Pinamonti's invitation to "come down and see"

It was probably the most astounding statement during the January 5 oversight hearing on eminent domain held by state Senator Bill Perkins: the General Counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), Anita Laremont, asserted that consultant "AKRF does not find blight; our board finds blight."

Now Laremont was speaking technically; legally, the board is charged with determining blight. But how does it work in practice? AKRF works for the project applicant either simultaneously (in the case of Columbia University's expansion) or consecutively (in the case of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project) with the ESDC.

AKRF gets contracts worth several million dollars to produce reports (paid for by the project applicant) on blight and environmental impact. (As of May 2007, the Atlantic Yard tab approached $5 million.) Board members, as far as I know, get no compensation. They have no special training. They're not even listed on the ESDC web site.

In new and better view on video, ESDC General Counsel acknowledges no disagreement ever with consultant AKRF

Given the availability of new video, with a better view of those testifying, it's worth another look at the sequence during the January 5 oversight hearing when state Senator Bill Perkins questioned Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Anita Laremont about the agency's record hiring consultant AKRF, which always seems to find blight when asked to report on neighborhood conditions.

The ESDC: "quasi-governmental corporation," "public benefit corporation," "economic development agency," or just an "entity"?

State law calls [the ESDC] "a corporate governmental agency of the state, constituting a political subdivision and public benefit corporation," which a federal judge has shorthanded to a "public entity."

So ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont was not incorrect in calling it (video) "my entity" during testimony at a January 5 oversight hearing chaired by state Senator Bill Perkins. But should "entities" be in charge of determining blight and eminent domain?

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Momentum strategy: Haier sponsorship deal for Barclays Center finally announced seven months after report, but is it really "lucrative" (as per NYT)?

Atlantic Yards Report

More than a year ago, on 12/2/08, Nets CEO Brett Yormark claimed there were nine founding partners, or sponsors, for the Barclays Center.

A 9/16/09 Barclays Center press release about suite sales cited eight founding partners, despite a 6/19/09 New York Times City Room blog report on Haier as "another lucrative sponsorship deal."

Strategic timing

Now, Sports Business Daily (subscribers only) finally confirms the Haier partnership "in a deal that comes two weeks after owner Bruce Ratner closed on the planned $800 million arena."

Actually, the timing might better be described as announced rather than signed the wake of the closing. It's an effort to demonstrate momentum for the arena.

Indeed, according to the summary on NetsDaily, “The closing helps us with the fence-sitters who wanted to wait until we closed on the arena deal,” said Brett Yormark.

link

Related...

SportsBusiness Journal, Haier is 9th founding deal for Nets [subscription required]

The New Jersey Nets have added appliance and electronics maker Haier as a Barclays Center founding partner, a deal that comes two weeks after owner Bruce Ratner closed on the planned $800 million arena in Brooklyn, N.Y. Nets Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Brett Yormark [said]...

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

NBA Announces: The Russians are Coming! As Putin Protege Moves to Buy NY NETS and Gains Rights to Shooting Guard Gilbert Arenas!

The Spoof!

The parody web site finds a little humor in otherwise dismal developments.

The NBA announced today it was one step closer to approving the 'buy in' of Mikhail Prokhorov, Billionaire Putin Protege for a professional basketball team, and the suspension of the suspension of Point & Shoot Guard Gilbert Arenas who was also waived to the NETS as part of the deal to end 'a messy situation' according to NBA officials.

Prokhorov, Russia's wealthiest man, and world's 40th most wealthy, with over $9B, controls the global production of Nickel, Polladium, gold, and Plutonium, the latter which has made him one of Putin's Favorites as the former KGB strongman continues to eliminate his political opposition.

A spokesman for Prokhorov, speaking on the condition of not being identified due to fear of death, said that even though Mikhail has a keen interest in sports, and is himself 6'9", he would not insert himself into the starting lineup, but would be available to 'come off the bench' in case a tragic shooting accident suddenly cut his squad short by 'one or two players.'
...

Prokhorov said he came to the aid of Gilbert due to his admiration for the player who showed an affinity for 'Russian Culture, Mores, and History,' and felt he would fit into the new make up for the woeful Nets, who he said would be now transformed into " a powerful, aggressive force that will be FEARED around the league...I fully expect to be in the championship game by the end of the season.....or else!"

article

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Russian intrigue; company partly-owned by Prokhorov said to be implicated in plot to kill journalist

Atlantic Yards Report

It's looked like the purchase of a majority interest in the Nets by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov was a walk. Maybe so, but a chilling charge surfacing in Moscow raises questions about Prokhorov's business interests and an alleged effort to silence a journalist.

It hasn't yet caused public ripple effects in the approval process being conducted by the National Basketball Association, but it certainly deserves scrutiny.

link

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

Mammatus Clouds over Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn

Photo by, floydthorp, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool

Some of the most beautiful cloud formations I've ever seen.
Taken from roof in Prospect Heights overlooking [the footprint of Bruce Ratner's] Atlantic Yards [project].

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

"Bilked" or cost of doing business

It's disingenuous to suggest, as the NY Times did in last week's article, that public officials are accused of "bilking" developer Forest City Ratner in exchange for a key vote to approve the Ridge Hill project in Yonkers. "Bilked" would suggest that Forest City was a victim of extortion, which is extremely doubtful, since the company apparently never reported the alleged "crime."

In light of a history of corruption surrounding Ridge Hill, since its inception, watchdogs in Brooklyn and Yonkers are only surprised that anyone seems to care.

Back in 2005, the same NY Times ran an article ("An Agency to Answer a City's Prayers, but Not All Its Questions") about what crawled out from under the rock called the Ridge Hill Development Corporation, as local politicians and the public sought more transparency. Included was this revelation:

Some of the corporation's directors are allies of Mayor Philip A. Amicone and former Mayor John R. Spencer, and sit on the boards of at least two other local development corporations in Yonkers. Tax documents show that in 2003, Mr. Spencer's brother-in-law, Chris Spring, had a $100,000-a-year job with the corporation, but a storm of protest followed and by 2004 he was on the developer's payroll instead.

Would anyone suggest that Forest City Ratner was "bilked" by the then-twenty-something-year-old Chris Spring, or is putting the relative of a political patron on the payroll somehow different than hiring another influential politician's cousin as a contractor? Unless, "bilked" is now a euphemism for cost of doing business.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

Atlantic Avenue: The New Boulevard of Death

Gothamist
By Jake Dobkin

Fact: Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue has now eclipsed Queens Boulevard as the most dangerous street in the outer-boroughs. Nine pedestrians were killed there from 2006 to 2009, almost twice the number of fatalities racked up in Queens. This won't come as much of a surprise to anyone who's ever had to cross Atlantic Avenue— cars and trucks use it as a highway, particularly in the stretch between Flatbush and the Brooklyn border.

Some good news: the DOT has begun adding left turn lights and increasing the the timing for walk signals, and there was only one pedestrian killed in all of 2009. But with Atlantic Yards bringing thousands more people into the area over the next several years, you can bet that the numbers of deaths will be going up.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

January 10, 2010

A Bigger Gun Problem for NBA Commish Stern? Alleged Plot To Kill Moscow Journalist

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Something this wacky — and deadly serious — could only transpire in Moscow.

Perhaps it's time for the National Basketball Association to rethink its vetting process.

What will NBA Commissioner David Stern and the NBA Board Governors (not to mention Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Paterson) think of the following, which, if true, pales in comparison with Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas' offenses...

Yet-to-be approved Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has an 18.5% stake in RuSal, the world's largest aluminimum company. RuSal is allegedly involved in either an extremly frightening intimidation plot or a straight out plot to kill Moscow-based, independent Austrailian journalist John Helmer.

The story is in the The Weekend Austrailian and has been picked up in the US, first, by Star Ledger sports reporter and columnist Dave D'Alessandro.

David Stern should do some answering...

Here's D'Alessandro's story, which includes the entirety of The Weekend Australian's piece.

The Star-Ledger, Weekend Reading Assignment: A Russian Tale

They tried to kill John Helmer this week.

If you don’t know who John Helmer is, you should take the time to find out: He’s the journalist residing in Moscow who has been a pebble in Mikhail Prokhorov’s shoe since oligarchs have been collecting their billions under the protection of a corrupt, Fascist state.

In other words, he’s the kind of journalist who turns up dead once a month or so inside Putin’s Russia.

Anyway, Helmer – a fascinating and talented fellow, if not a fair bit over the top in his pursuit of truths – claims that the RuSal aluminum giant wants him dead, that the company's moronic hit men tried to act upon it at his home on Dec. 28, and that he has very convincing proof of a connection.

And yes, if that corporate name rings a bell, Prokhorov still owns 18.5 percent of RuSal.

Here’s the link and the jump page, but the entire text is pasted below.

You’ll only find this story in the Aussie papers, because it’s being held off the web to protect against English libel threats. The only thing RuSal has more than money is lawyers, as its spokesman states plainly after the jump page:

Tip-off saves Australian journalist from Moscow plot
THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN
Jan. 9, 2010

THREE armed men have been arrested outside the home of an Australian freelance journalist in Moscow just a week after the federal government warned him it had confidential information he was in danger.

The journalist, John Helmer, said he might have been targeted because of his aggressive reporting on powerful Russian businessmen, including 42-year-old billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

The [Australian] Department of Foreign Affairs has refused to tell Helmer what information led it to fear for his safety, and appears not to have provided any such information to Russian police investigating the case.

A spokesman said last night the department “cannot provide any further details on the source of this threat information (because) it is long-standing policy of the Australian government not to comment on intelligence matters.”

Helmer said Russian police who interrogated the three arrested men told him the men said they worked for a private security company that had been acting on behalf of Rusal, the Deripaska-controlled giant, which has major interests in the Australian aluminium and bauxite industry through holdings in Queensland.

Helmer said the three men were found to be carrying a dossier on him that included photos of him and his wife, and a sketch of the layout of his apartment building.

It also had the name Rusal typed in the top corner of its first page.

Click here to keep reading.

NoLandGrab: Bet Sandy Annabi's glad that they don't deal with obstacles in Yonkers the same way they deal with them in Moscow.

Posted by eric at 7:41 PM

Dangerous Jocks on the Loose? Put Gilbert Arenas, Jayson Williams, and Plaxico Burress in the Same Room and ...

Runnin' Scared
by Ward Harkavy

Arenas keeps stoking the fires of his own destruction. A professional mocker, the Washington Wizard made fun of teammate Javaris Crittenton's weapon in their locker room (allegedly), and both drew down (allegedly). Then Arenas mocked his situation with a mock draw-down in a pregame huddle the other night. At least the basketball player's not likely to shoot anybody. Maybe.
...

And now, in the most foolish reaction to sports gunplay, the New Jersey Nets have banned gambling on their team plane, citing the Washington Wizards' card-play that ended up in gun-play.

If anything, the Nets, heading toward the worst record in NBA history, suffering with poor attendance and a beleaguered owner (Bruce Ratner), need more shooters. Like Arenas and Williams.

link

NoLandGrab: In no way do we want to minimize Gilbert Arenas' stupid and potentially lethal actions, but we feel compelled to point out that while his play-threatening of a teammate earned him an indefinite suspension from NBA commissioner David Stern, while the aforementioned Ratner's threatening of an entire neighborhood has earned him the league's unquestioned support.

Posted by eric at 7:30 PM

Are backroom deals par for the course?

The Journal News, Op-Ed
By Debra West

The controversy over payments made to insure a key vote for approval of Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers leads watchdogs to wonder if backroom deals are the way to go:

Federal prosecutors accused Annabi, the former Democratic majority leader whose term ended in December, of taking more than $166,000 in payoffs to vote "yes" on two development projects. One development, the so-called Longfellow apartments project, was small and remains unstarted. The other, Ridge Hill Village, is the biggest retail, residential and office complex that Yonkers has seen to date.
...
"This is really an isolated incident," [Geoff] Thompson said. Though government skeptics may assume that backroom deals are par for the course, it is not the case. "If it were common, it would be in the headlines every six months, and it's not."

Thompson points out that long before the indictments, other developers looked to Ridge Hill and its closed-door process as an example of how not to proceed. Forest City Ratner seemed to shut out the public, he said. Thompson does represent a group of developers — including mega-builder Louis Cappelli — who have been at work for years on a redevelopment plan for downtown Yonkers; he said the partnership has sought community input at every juncture.

If prosecutors are to believed, the $630 million Ridge Hill development was denied a fair and honest hearing; who can say how the controversy would have otherwise unfolded?

Terry Joshi is president of the watchdog group Yonkers Committee for Smart Development and a frequent critic of the many tax incentives and zoning changes developers wrest from local governments. The indictments notwithstanding, she doesn't think that backroom deals and bribes are the way business is regularly done. "The real giveaways happen right out in the open," Joshi said. "They take votes in public, in the light of day, and still just basically give developers whatever they want. That's the problem."

article

NoLandGrab: Forest City's political connections and a few well placed donations are usually all that's required to secure the megaprojects outside of meaningful public scrutiny.

Posted by lumi at 4:13 PM

Jan. 10 Eminent Domain Revolt: Freddy's Toasts George Will, Asks British Pubs to Boycott Barclays

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

C'mon Out!
...From our Comrades at Freddy's Bar & Backroom
YOU are invited: Freddy's Bar Toast to George Will - And Barclays Bank Boycott Launch

Freddy's is picking up the tab for a toast to George Will. Sunday, January 10 at 2pm.

Toast to George Will
and DRINKERS UNITE!

Bars and Pubs Boycott of Barclays Bank - our Response to the ESDC's threat of Physical Force on behalf of Barclays and their business partners.

When: Sunday, January 10, 2pm.
Where: Freddy’s Bar & Backroom
485 Dean Street (corner of 6th Ave), Brooklyn, NY

George Will's scathing column about government corruption in the Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Theft Case hit all the points: Using the the state to steal for politically connected developers; Paying consultant AKRF to find blight that only a paid consultant could find; And treating locals the way the British did in 1776. The staff and patrons of Freddy's Bar would like to thank George Will for calling out the thieves in over 450 publications, including the Washington Post. His article will be read preceding the toast.

The Fightin' Freddy's will use this event to reply to a threat by the ESDC, published in the Daily News last week, to use physical force against patrons who elect to chain themselves to the bar on eviction day to prevent the bar being taken for the Barclays Center stadium for the Nets basketball team. On Monday morning we are going on the Fox News Network to request that the drinkers of Great Britain consider joining our Boycott of Barclays Bank. Barclays Bank, Bruce Ratner, and ACORN are using the ESDC to do their dirty work, and so we are taking the fight to the source.

So come to the bar at 2pm on Sunday and we'll start our assault on Barclays Bank in style!

Freddys has launched a new website http://sites.google.com/site/drinkersunite/ to promote the Boycott.

link

Posted by steve at 11:16 AM

sunset on 475 Dean

threecee via flickr

Angry face

475 Dean Street is being readied for demolition for Atlantic Yards. This building has been vacant for years. Many artists and small businesses used to call it home.

24 6th Avenue, the building on the left, has also been vacant for years, except for the recently arrived "Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office." It had recently been renovated into condos.

All buildings on this block would be demolished for the Barclays Center arena.

link

Posted by steve at 9:33 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday: de Blasio, Arena Size

Atlantic Yards Report

Now Public Advocate, de Blasio maintains cognitive dissonance on Atlantic Yards

Bill de Blasio uses pretzel logic to justify his support of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

The Courier-Life reports on Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, in an article headlined Bklyn’s in the house: De Blasio takes new Advocate position by storm, and No Land Grab's Lumi Rolley observes that Atlantic Yards "still represents the cognitive dissonance in Bill de Blasio's efforts to advocate for the community."

The Courier-Life reports:

"Community planning is something I have spent a lot of time working on,” he said. "It’s how we think about our neighborhoods that ensures how we preserve what’s best about them. Bringing in affordable housing and preserving and protecting small business is a very large part of that.”

Yet some of de Blasio’s friends from the old neighborhood may not be applauding his moxie for long, especially since he sees the Atlantic Yards project as an example of a good government/community partnership.

"[The Atlantic Yards project] is a good example of a community benefits plan, that’s why I supported it,” he said. “The process, however, has been horrendous. It needs to be scaled down and some serious changes have to be made.

...

What de Blasio doesn't understand--despite many opportunities to improve on his due diligence (as noted in October 2007)--is that the project's scale was premised on the community benefits.

In other words, his supporter Bertha Lewis of ACORN agreed to support the project at the scale Forest City Ratner sought in exchange for the promised affordable housing (and contracts to administer it). Later, Forest City Ratner delivered a grant/loan of $1.5 million to bail out ACORN.

And, as Lewis famously declared in February 2006, "I can't do environment. I can’t do traffic." And it was people who supported the Community Benefits Agreement who supported the "horrendous" process and even interfered with a state Senate oversight hearing last May.

So, how big would the Atlantic Yards arena be? Structural engineer says it would be 750,000 square feet

Here we have a state project, but the state is unable, or unwilling, to even state its size.

This is getting interesting. Remember, as I wrote October 3, when the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on June 23 adopted the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), the arena was described as 850,000 square feet, as it had been in 2006.

On September 9, after the comment period on the MGPP had closed, Forest City Ratner announced that the new design, by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP, was for a 675,000 square foot arena.

On September 17, the ESDC Board affirmed the MGPP and the press release cited a 675,000 square-foot arena.

Now structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti, on its page for the Barclays Center, states (right) that the arena would be 750,000 square feet.

Either they're referring to some design that was not actually announced or the arena has already been enlarged in some way.

There was no mention at the ESDC board meeting of a smaller arena. And the project site plan that was part of board documents again stated that the arena would be 850,000 sf, thus contradicting the press release.

So those officially overseeing the project apparently don't know. And if Forest City Ratner really does plan a 750,000 square foot arena, shouldn't they say so?

Posted by steve at 9:03 AM

City's new image takes a hit

The Journal News [LoHud.com]
By Ernie Garcia

Here is commentary on alleged misdeeds in getting a Yonkers councilwoman to approve Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project.

In the past decade public officials have carefully crafted an image of a Yonkers on the rise.

Significant development, improving schools, better shopping and the slow but steady reinvention of downtown all promised a city that would overcome its decades-old reputation as a segregated, corrupt place.

That 21st-century profile took a blow last week with the indictment of a former councilwoman and two political insiders on charges of public corruption, extortion and tax evasion.

The charges stemmed from two development projects in the city — the $630 million Ridge Hill development and the smaller Longfellow school redevelopment project. Former Democratic Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, former Yonkers Republican Chairman Zehy Jereis and attorney Anthony Mangone were accused Wednesday of conspiring to sell Annabi's votes on the two proposals.

Jereis and Annabi were charged in both developments; Mangone was charged in the Longfellow project.

Annabi, 39, is accused of accepting more than $166,000 in cash, house and car payments, airline upgrades, a Rolex watch and a diamond-studded crucifix.

Jereis allegedly got a $60,000 consulting job from Forest City Ratner in exchange for Annabi's deciding vote for the Ridge Hill project, and he's accused of passing along bribes to her. And Mangone received $10,000 in the scam, prosecutors say.

link

Posted by steve at 8:51 AM

January 9, 2010

Atlantic Yards Saturday Morning Report

Atlantic Yards Report

The office market continues to tank, casting further doubt on AY revenue projections

Tax revenues from Atlantic Yards office buildings are pretty unlikely if the buildings aren't even in the planning stages.

As DDDB points out, a front-page article in yesterday's New York Times cites enormous vacancies in Manhattan commercial office space, casting further doubt on plans for a flagship office tower at the Atlantic Yards project.

A turnaround isn't predicted until 2014, which means an office tower wouldn't come until later, but the Empire State Development Corporation already anticipated the possibility of a delayed project buildout. The question--in yet-unveiled master closing documents--is what penalities and incentives there might be.

And, as I wrote November 9, Bruce Ratner's acknowledgment that the office tower was indefinitely stalled undermined the ESDC's rosy claims of new tax revenue.

As I pointed out, those tax revenues aren't offset by costs--an irresponsible and thus inaccurate practice. Also, they depend crucially on an office tower that doesn't appear in any renderings and thus hasn't even graduated to "vaportecture."

Looking for blight: Is Vanderbilt Avenue part of an area that is "determined to be substandard and insanitary"

What would be a good way for the state to determine blight? Whether you use the vague "substandard and insanitary" standard or prefer the "capuccino test", it's obvious that the there's no need to flatten any part of Prospect Heights in order to improve it.

So, there's no checklist to help us define blight, according to the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) testimony at a hearing Tuesday, just a report that ESDC board members--lay people who don't visit the neighborhood at issue--uses to conclude that the conditions are "substandard and insanitary."

That's pretty vague, dangerously so, according to attorney Norman Siegel, who represents plaintiffs challenging eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion.

I prefer a different definition of blight, from urban planning professor Lynne Sagalyn: "When the fabric of a neighborhood is shot to hell."

...

But a friend suggested an easier measure: "If you're within five minutes of getting decent capuccino, there can be no blight."

...

In testimony Tuesday, ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont said the statute refers to an "area [that] is determined to be substandard and insanitary."

Yes, an area.

In other words, lay people should understand that the area is not defined by the specific parcels coveted by developer Forest City Ratner but should be looked at a bit more holistically.

And then, a reasonable person might conclude that other measures less extreme than eminent domain--like a rezoning (a suggestion that, when proposed, led the ESDC to punt)--might have been effective in removing blight.

Village Voice unearths explanation for Thompson-Bloomberg "mirage" election; mayor poured money into pet project of Comptroller's wife

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson "just doesn't get it, does he?" observed No Land Grab's Eric McCLure in October. "Let us offer up some free political advice — criticizing Bloomberg for being an underdeveloper, no matter the audience, is not a recipe for a November 3rd upset."

This week, the Village Voice's Wayne Barrett writes of Thompson, "He was no doubt more mayoral understudy than overseer," and explains why, in an expose that would be all the more shocking if the daily newspapers took it seriously.

The article is headlined Bloomberg and Thompson: The (Really) Odd Couple: Now it can be told: The surprising ties between the billionaire mayor and the poor slob who ran against him. The whole thing is well worth a read, but here's the gist:

If voters had a vague sense that this was a mirage of a mayoral election, what follows is a damning set of facts that shows that these two supposed opponents were actually far more connected than we ever knew. They shared a very personal and subterranean agenda, the funding of a project dear to Thompson's heart....

The mayor has directed or triggered between $43 million and $51 million in public and personal subsidies into a museum project led by Thompson's current wife and longtime companion, Elsie McCabe-Thompson, dumping $2 million of additional city funding into it as late as September 30, in the middle of the mayoral campaign.

...

Why did Thompson look like an understudy? Because he didn't criticize Bloomberg on issues like development or Atlantic Yards. Barrett notes that, as a member of the city's Industrial Development Agency, Thompson almost always supported Bloomberg's projects. Nor did he post many tough audits, thus leaving little distinction between them.

Posted by steve at 9:17 AM

Millman Challenges MTA Cutbacks

Brooklyn Heights Blog

Assemblywoman Joan Millman takes an opportunity to remind us of the sweetheart deal between developer Bruce Ratner and the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

State Assemblymember Joan Millman, whose district includes the Heights, attended a public hearing on the MTA’s proposed service reductions, at which she ” urged the MTA to reconsider its plans to cut funding for student Metrocards, reduce Access-a-Ride service, lay off MTA employees and decrease bus and subway service.”

...

Assemblywoman Millman pointed out that “the MTA has significant real estate assets, many of which are underutilized. At 370 Jay Street, in my Assembly District, a building owned by the MTA is vacant, its valuable office space unused. Vacant MTA facilities throughout the city could be rented or sold as office space. Another example is the sale of the Atlantic Yards property to a private developer for less than half of its own appraised value”

link

Posted by steve at 9:07 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Friday Late Edition

Now available, full hearing video of January 5 state Senate oversight hearing on ESDC and eminent domain

The state Senate has posted a full video of the four-hour-plus hearing held January 5, chaired by state Senator Bill Perkins, on eminent domain, spurred by the Appellate Division's ruling that overturned--for now--the state's use of eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion.

...

But the video, especially the first hour, is worth a look, since it shows the three ESDC representatives on the spot. General Counsel Anita Laremont, at center, did most of the talking, while Executive VP Darren Bloch, at right, chimed in occasionally, and Executive Director Peter Davidson remained silent.

As the screenshot suggests, both Bloch and Davidson looked (understandably) not-so-comfortable while their agency--which Laremont perhaps more accurately called "my entity"--was on the spot.

As the video shows, Perkins started somewhat unsteadily in his questioning of the ESDC reps, then gained focus, asking persistently about the perception of collusion between the ESDC and project sponsors.

Boymelgreen will be evicted from Pacific Street headquarters owned by Weinstein, but what's next for property?

As Crain's New York Business reported Thursday, "Troubled real estate developer Shaya Boymelgreen" should be evicted from his U.S. headquarters on Pacific Street in Prospect Heights, after landlord Henry Weinstein prevailed in court.

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

Weinstein got the court to nullify the sublease. Then Weinstein tried to get Boymelgreen evicted. In October, before representatives of the sheriff's office could pursue eviction, Boymelgreen's tenants--or perhaps the developer himself--threw a wrench into those plans by trying to push him into bankruptcy. .

Last month, however, a bankruptcy judge ruled that the eviction should proceed, Crain's said.

The bigger question for Weinstein, however, is whether he can stop or stall the Empire State Development Corporation, which seeks to take title to the property in three weeks by eminent domain. He's said he'll fight "tooth and nail," and other condemnees also will resist, though the legal latitude is generally narrow in such cases.

Posted by steve at 8:55 AM

Banker Steel lands $50 million contract for NBA arena

The News & Advance
By Dave Thompson

A Lynchburg steel company has scored a contract for an NBA arena that will bring 50 new jobs to Lynchburg, company officials announced Friday.

Banker Steel officials said Friday that the company was awarded a $50 million contract to provide the structural steel for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The center, a sports and entertainment complex, will serve as the new home of the Brooklyn Nets, once their move from New Jersey is complete.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Steel contract for Brooklyn arena awarded to Virginia firm

In a sign that Forest City Ratner is serious about beginning construction of the Atlantic Yards arena, despite potential legal challenges, Banker Steel of Lynchburg, VA, has received a $50 million contract for the structural steel for the Barclays Center, according to the News & Advance.

That means an increase in employment by 25%--50 people--at the factory.

Banker Steel has produced steel for several projects in New York, including the World Trade Center monument, a Columbia University building, and Forest City Ratner's East River Plaza big box shopping center.

Less than three months ago, company owner Dan Banker lent his plane to the three -member state Republican ticket, along with Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate, according to the Washington Post.

Bruce Ratner's a Democrat, of course, but steel knows no politics.

Posted by steve at 8:31 AM

January 8, 2010

Got “Bilked?” The New York Times Biased Report on Federal Investigation Involving Forest City Ratner

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White catches The New York Times bilking readers out of accurate reporting in this must-read piece of media criticism.

What’s your definition of “bilk”? We think that these days “bilk” generally evokes the concept of someone being swindled out of something valuable by fraud, trick or deceit, as in any of the following usages in the New York Times (here and here- at the risk of going just a tad too far to be sure we make our point):

. . . Irving Picard, the trustee for the investors bilked by Bernard L. Madoff. . .

. . . where Mr. Stanford, 59, has been held since he was indicted in June on charges of bilking investors through a scheme involving Antiguan bank certificates.

Marc S. Dreier, once a high-flying New York lawyer who orchestrated an elaborate fraud scheme that bilked hedge funds and other investors of $700 million. . .
...

Times Says Ratner Was "Bilked" by Public Officials

Why do we want to be so sure of the meaning conveyed by the New York Times use of word “bilk”? Because of the story the Times wrote today about a federal corruption case in Yonkers where three individuals, two of them public officials, have been indicted for taking improper payments in connection with two development projects in Yonkers. One of them is Forest City Ratner’s $630 million, 1000-apartment, 81-acre Ridge Hill project. The Times reported that Forest City Ratner has allegedly been bilked by the public officials. Specifically, the Times article said that the indicted public officials:

. . . are accused of bilking two developers of tens of thousands of dollars and funneling the money and other favors to Ms. Annabi in return for her support.
...

Ratner, a Specialist in Public Officials, Is “Bilked”?

So the Times is reporting that Forest City Ratner, a real estate firm whose specialty is collecting government subsidies through its relentless cultivation of public officials, was outsmarted....

It sounds to us instead as if Forest City Ratner got a pretty good deal and likely everything it was bargaining for. It doesn’t look at all like it was swindled.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Was FCR really "bilked" by indicted Yonkers pols (and shouldn't an unwitting Brooklyn Standard contributor be careful writing in the NYT about FCR)?

In his Noticing New York blog, Michael D.D. White lays out the evidence to suggest that the New York Times leaned over backwards to accommodate Forest City Ratner in its story about the indictments in Yonkers.

By the way, the Times contributor who wrote the article, Nate Schweber, was a prominent, though unwitting, contributor to Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Standard Fall 2005 "publication," with his name attached to two articles that he didn't write (as well as two others that he did write, at least in some form).

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

At Senate hearing on eminent domain reform, forceful criticism of the status quo and the ESDC's answers, but reform won't happen overnight

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder offers another in-depth report on Tuesday's State Senate hearing on eminent domain.

They should have stuck around.

Though three representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), answering questions about contracting with AKRF and the operation of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), faced persistent (if not all too lengthy) scrutiny from state Senator Bill Perkins during the first hour of an oversight hearing Tuesday, they left before hearing others offer forceful criticism of both the agency's performance and the state's notoriously condemnor-friendly eminent domain laws.

After all, the ESDC representatives who spoke--Executive VP Darren Bloch and General Counsel Anita Laremont--not only admitted no qualms about hiring AKRF but were unwilling to suggest any ideas for reforms.

(The third representative, Executive Director Peter Davidson, was silent. He's their boss, but didn't join the ESDC until September.)

Assessing the ESDC

That left Perkins highly critical of their performance.

Asked about the ESDC's responsiveness, he said, "The word does not apply. Clearly, intellectually, they cannot be telling the truth that they think it's OK for AKRF, paid by Columbia for a blight study, can be the best choice for a similar kind of study by the agency. I can't believe that they believe it's no glaring conflict."

What about their openness to legislative reform?

"Upon being asked, do you have any ideas about how to do this better, to have more respect and credibility in the community... they were silent, evasive, and I thought irresponsible because, after all, they have an opportunity to be a part of change, in terms of trying to do this better," Perkins said. "So I don't think we're going to get what we're looking for from them that way… They like the status quo."

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Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

From the U.S. Attorney on the Yonkers case: "the developer enlisted the [now-indicted] Jereis," but he "demanded" a consulting contract from FCR

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner says it's not a target in the Yonkers corruption case involving former Council Member Sandy Annabi and former Republican Party Chair Zehy Jereis, but the U.S. Attorney wouldn't confirm that.

According to the prepared remarks for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, which I received today, the clues regarding FCR's role are contradictory; one sentence suggests FCR was a mover behind the alleged dirty deal, while another suggests that "Developer No. 2" might have been extorted:

In June, the developer enlisted Jereis, who had been providing Annabi with tens of thousands of dollars in secret payments, to get Councilwoman Annabi’s vote.

...And for his part, Jereis demanded, and received, a so-called consulting contract worth $60,000 a year from the Ridge Hill developer immediately after Councilwoman Annabi switched her vote.

Did FCR blow the whistle?

According to unnamed sources talking to the Daily News (as noted by DDDB), it looks like FCR was playing along:

At no time during these meetings and agreements with Jereis did Ratner go to the FBI, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

link

NoLandGrab: Oh, please. If Forest City was being extorted, Bruce could have worn a wire and exposed the plot. The feds ought to heed Deep Throat's Watergate advice: follow the money.

Posted by eric at 6:04 AM

Projects drew players, federal scrutiny

The Journal News [LoHud.com]
By Timothy O'Connor and Jonathan Bandler

More on the brewing scandal in Yonkers, involving a politician who received favors in exchange for her key vote to approve Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Wednesday in announcing the indictments that the investigation was continuing.

One politician who didn't cave to pressure from Forest City Ratner is now talking to the media:

Just hours before Annabi would formally change her vote and approve the project, Jereis and a representative of the developer, Forest City Ratner, met with Councilman John Murtagh.

Jereis, a former Yonkers GOP chairman, spent most of the 45-minute meeting trying to get Murtagh to support the project. Murtagh said Jereis told him it would be good for him politically to join Annabi and switch sides.

"The entire conversation at that point was 'bizarro world,' " Murtagh said Thursday on Journal News columnist Phil Reisman's WVOX radio program. "He's politically astute, and for him to look at me with a straight face and say that suddenly switching my vote and my opposition to this project was, quote, good for me politically, you'd have to be a fool to believe."
...
Murtagh said Thursday that he was offered nothing to change his vote. In fact, he said, no efforts by anyone, including Pirro, Mike Spano, and representatives of the Ridge Hill developer, involved anything "untoward."

Still, he said, he has a feeling there are more indictments to come in the case.

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Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

Atlantic Yards Drives Freddy's Mad

Curbed.com

Freddy's Bar, the Dean Street dive in the Atlantic Yards footprint soon to be seized by the power of eminent domain despite the bar's attempts to decapitate it, is feeling emboldened by a pair of recent events: the scathing anti-Atlantic Yards column written by George Will, and the connection of developer Forest City Ratner to a White Planes bribery scandal. Though none of this is enough to derail the project, it didn't stop Freddy's from issuing the most epic e-mail in the history of the Atlantic Yards Resistance.

The email starts:

Freddy's Bar is in a State of Revolt against New York State's Eminent Domain Law.

Click here to read the rest.

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

January 7, 2010

Yonkers pol Sandy Annabi took bribe to OK Ratner deal, feds say

NY Daily News
by Robert Gearty and Greg B. Smith

Has there ever been a more apropos federal indictment alias than Forest City Ratner's "Developer No. 2?"

Developer Bruce Ratner's company agreed to hire the cousin of a former Yonkers councilwoman if the pol dropped her opposition to one of his major projects, prosecutors and other sources say.

The stunning conflict emerged in the indictment Wednesday of Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her cousin Zehy Jereis, a former Yonkers official.

Annabi, Jereis and a local lawyer were hit with multiple charges, brought by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, in a bribery and extortion scheme.

Ratner confirmed that his firm, Forest City Ratner, was the "Developer No. 2" named in the indictment. The project at issue was a huge residential/commercial project in Yonkers called Ridge Hill.

Annabi opposed Ratner's project. Then, in June 2006, Jereis was introduced to unnamed reps of Developer No. 2 who promised to arrange a meeting with Annabi, the indictment states.

After Jereis and Annabi met with Forest City reps at a Brooklyn restaurant, Jereis asked Forest City to give him a job, the indictment and sources state.

The potential quid pro quo emerged in a June 28, 2006, "agreement in principle" in which Developer No. 2 "agreed to give Jereis a job sometime after Annabi formally voted in favor of the Ridge Hill project," the indictment alleged.

Two weeks later, Annabi switched her vote. In October 2006, Developer No. 2 signed a contract hiring Jereis as a "real estate consultant" for $60,000 at $5,000 a month.

Jereis had no real estate experience and the contract was backdated two months.

Although the contract required Jereis to submit invoices, he didn't until word leaked of an FBI investigation in March 2007. Jereis then sent Forest City seven months worth of backdated invoices.

At no time during these meetings and agreements with Jereis did Ratner go to the FBI, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

article

More coverage...

The New York Times, Ex-Official in Yonkers Faces Charges of Corruption

Oops! The Times forgot to mention that "Developer No. 2" was "Developer No. 1" of its Manhattan headquarters building!

A former Yonkers city councilwoman was indicted Wednesday on federal charges of accepting nearly $167,000 in cash and gifts in exchange for dropping her opposition to two contentious developments, including a $630 million project that is the city’s largest private undertaking.
...

The investigation began in 2008, about two years after Ms. Annabi voted to enable a $630 million residential and commercial project by Forest City Ratner known as Ridge Hill, to move forward. Shortly after Ms. Annabi cast her vote, Forest City hired Mr. Jereis as a consultant at $60,000 a year.

AP via 1010WINS, Yonkers Councilwoman Accused of Accepting Bribes

Although the indictment incriminates the unidentified developers, Bharara would not discuss why they were not named in the indictment or charged.
...

According to the indictment, the Ridge Hill developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., held a meeting with Jereis and Annabi during which Jereis asked for a consulting job. Annabi reversed her vote five days later and Jereis got a $60,000 position, it says.

LoHud.com, Yonkers residents express surprise, dismay over former Council member's indictment

Martin McGloin helped organize a group called Community First! to oppose the Ridge Hill Village project. McGloin said he was not surprised by the accusations against Annabi, who changed her opposition to both Ridge Hill and the Longfellow School at the last minute.

"I've read the indictment. Obviously they must have hard evidence for what they're putting in the indictment," McGloin said.

"There was a lot of back-room dealing among the council members with the developers," he said.

LoHud.com, Yonkers indictments: Greenburgh considers reopening lawsuit vs. Ridge Hill

The town may reopen its lawsuit against the Ridge Hill development, saying the project's environmental impact study may have been compromised if former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi took a bribe to support of the controversial development.

Greenburgh filed a suit against the developers over concerns with the size and traffic impact of the mixed-use Yonkers project near the town's border. The town settled the case in 2007, though town Supervisor Paul Feiner said he and other board members were still concerned about the traffic impact. Outside legal counsel specializing in land use advised the town to settle since the Yonkers City Council supported the project, Feiner said.
...

The Town Board could direct the town attorney to review possible legal action when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall, 177 Hillside Ave.

LoHud.com, Reisman: Scandal runs deeper than Annabi

This is the tip of the iceberg. It has to be.

No one who has spent any time watching Yonkers and its sad Byzantine history of cronyism, greed and shady deal making believes that the deal to smooth the way for a couple of major developments could possibly begin and end with only a vain councilwoman and the two political hacks.

There must be more.
...

Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District said, at Wednesday's news conference that the federal investigation into Yonkers corruption is continuing. He did not discount the possibility of more indictments.

LoHud.com, Loss of Faith, Destruction of Trust

Columnist Phil Reisman follows up today's column (above) on his blog.

It’s really come to this. Things are so bad in the way of corruption, legislative gridlock and greed that David Paterson, the governor of the greatest state in the greatest country in the world, used his State of the State Address yesterday to lecture lawmakers on the myriad ways they’ve destroyed the people’s trust.
...

His address to the 212-member den of thieves came just an hour or so after a federal indictment was handed down in White Plains accusing former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi of accepting $166,000 in bribes to, in effect, help grease the wheels for two major development projects. One of them was the $600 million Ridge Hill project, a massive undertaking by the Forest City Ratner group, which is the same outift, incidentally, that is remaking an entire neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Ridge Hill will now forever be associated with corruption—that’s how critical Annabi’s vote was. If the allegations against her hold up, then it can always be said that Yonkers can bought for the price of a condo, a Rolex watch and a couple of vacation trips.

Posted by eric at 5:35 PM

Brooklyn BackBroadside Double Dose

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

New Atlantic Avenue LIRR/Subway Entrance Fits the New Brooklyn

The decision by the MTA to finally bring the complex into the new century was not made in isolation. As has frequently happened in recent Brooklyn history, Bruce Ratner influenced matters. After the Atlantic Center was built, he made plans to build what we now call the Atlantic Terminal Mall. Then, after 9/11, he decided to build a new office building for a displaced company.

The patriotic Bruce also saw an opportunity to get his hands on a pile of federal subsidies.

And then came the master plan for Atlantic Yards across Atlantic Avenue, and independent of Ratner, the concept of a new cultural center, in and around BAM.

One did not have to have a degree in urban planning to realize that a lot more people would be coming that way, everything would be new, and it would make no sense for people to get off at a station that looked like a dump.

Moreover, Ratner, with the MTA’s hearty endorsement, planned to link the station underground with the new sports arena, and the MTA concluded it was time to get cracking. While they were at it, someone decided, why not build a whole new entrance to go along with all the other jazzy stuff coming to the neighborhood?

Only problem is, the ESDC says it won't be "feasible" for LIRR passengers to get from the train to the arena underground.

New Talent to Match Old In City Government Posts

These are [Bloomberg's] visions for the city in the decades to come — big goals supported by big development projects.

Atlantic Yards and the West Side Rail Yards will not be finished in four years, but should be far enough along to assure completion. And Bloomberg will not be content to coast along — he will want to see his Coney Island plan in movement.

Actually, it's very likely that only the arena, and maybe one of Atlantic Yards' planned 16 buildings, will be finished by the time Bloomberg leaves office (assuming he doesn't try to buy a fourth term). But Prospect Heights will have acres of surface parking lots as his monument.

Posted by eric at 4:42 PM

Boymelgreen to be booted from his HQ

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

Here's one Atlantic Yards-footprint eviction we can live with.

Troubled real estate developer Shaya Boymelgreen is slated to get evicted from his U.S. headquarters in Brooklyn by Monday, after a lengthy legal battle with his landlord.

Mr. Boymelgreen was originally scheduled for eviction last year, but the process was blocked after two companies claiming to be subleasing space from the developer attempted to push him into Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, on Dec. 11 a U.S. Bankruptcy judge ruled that the eviction should proceed. Yesterday, the Brooklyn's sheriff's office slapped a five-day eviction notice on the building at 752 Pacific Ave.

Mr. Boymelgreen has been leasing the building since 1999 from Henry Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein sued Mr. Boymelgreen in 2006 after learning the developer sold his 40-year lease on the building to Forest City Ratner without permission. The building lies within the Atlantic Yards project footprint. Forest City needs to raze the building so it can construct its development, which is slated to include an arena and 16 towers.

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NoLandGrab: The double-crossing Boymelgreen getting what he deserves shows that there's at least some positive karma in the Atlantic Yards footprint. Will "Developer No. 2" be on the receiving end of another dose? Only time will tell.

Posted by eric at 4:26 PM

Brooklyn Shelter To Close For Atlantic Yards Development

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

The Pacific Dean shelter lies on the eastern end of the Atlantic Yards footprint. It was long expected to close, although the property won't be developed into apartment towers for several years. In the short term, developer Forest City Ratner will use the land to store the construction vehicles that will build a basketball arena. That's expected to start later this year. As many as 80 families with children stay in the shelter. The Department of Homeless Services says it's already placed most of them in permanent housing and will move the remaining 20 to 25 families into other comparable shelters. Homeless advocates say the closure comes at an inopportune time, given that record numbers of poor families need living spaces.

link

NoLandGrab: The building that houses the shelter is being taken by eminent domain — the owner hadn't wanted to sell — so the city is obligingly evicting the residents.

The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council has established a fund to assist in the relocation of shelter residents. For more info and to make a donation, click here.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

At hearing, ESDC representatives defend use of consultant AKRF; Perkins slams "egregious conflict of interest" given simultaneous work for developers

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder presents much of the back and forth between State Senator Bill Perkins and the Empire State Development Corporation at Tuesday's hearing. Here's the set-up.

The ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF came in for a drubbing Tuesday at the public hearing on eminent domain called by state Senator Bill Perkins on reform of eminent domain laws and, particularly, the recent Appellate Division decision blocking the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) use of eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion.

In response to Perkins's persistent questions, ESDC officials acknowledged that AKRF always produces studies that allow the agency to find blight and that they choose AKRF through sole-source contracts despite any concern about the consultant's integrity, such as working for the developer at the same time.

(That occurred in the Columbia case; with Atlantic Yards, AKRF's work for Forest City Ratner and the ESDC was merely consecutive.).

Though they acknowledged there was no checklist to determine blight, the ESDC officials claimed that AKRF's reports were objective, factual reports on neighborhood conditions, allowing laypeople--the ESDC board--to use their "general expertise" determine blight.

And they wouldn't acknowledge any problem with their procedures nor suggest any reforms, saying that was an issue for the legislature. They described a Catch-22 situation in which they expressed an interest in hiring consultants other than AKRF but were forced to rely on AKRF because it was more capable of providing studies that would stand up in court.

That left Perkins incredulous, criticizing the ESDC board's "rubber stamp" actions and proposing that Gov. David Paterson, who in 2005 joined him in 2005 in calling for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain, intervene, "particularly the egregious conflict of interest of using the consultants that the developers are using."

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Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

The journalism of verification: FCR's statement that it's not a target in Yonkers goes mostly unquestioned, though the feds won't confirm it

Atlantic Yards Report

So, after the stunning news yesterday that Forest City Ratner was the unnamed, unindicted "Developer No. 2" cited in a Yonkers corruption scandal, the developer issued a statement saying it had cooperated fully with federal prosecutors and "has been advised by the U.S. Attorney's Office that neither the company nor any of its employees is a target of the investigation."

Does that mean they're cleared? Not exactly.

The U.S. Attorney's office would not comment when I asked them to confirm the statement. LoHud.com reported that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara "declined to comment on whether Forest City Ratner had broken the law by hiring Jereis or whether they were a target of the continuing investigation."

And, as I wrote, "not a target" could mean they're not a target now but could be in the future.

Still, other than AYR and the local LoHud.com (home of the Journal-News), the press did not try to verify Forest City Ratner's claim. The New York Times dutifully printed FCR's statement, without adding, as the newspaper did in a 5/5/08 article on the investigation, that Forest City Ratner "partnered with The New York Times to build its new headquarters."

The Daily News and the Observer also quoted the FCR statement without question. (I couldn't find coverage in the Post.)

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Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

At Senate hearing, ESDC general counsel defends BALDC, but isn't even sure she's on the board; Perkins skeptical of PACB avoidance

Atlantic Yards Report

The state Senate hearing Tuesday chaired by Senator Bill Perkins mainly concerned eminent domain reform, blight, and the curious case of ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF.

But some significant questions also were raised about the murky Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), which issued $511 million in tax-exempt bonds for the arena.

Notably, a BALDC board member--Anita Laremont, the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) general counsel--seemed unsure she was on the board, and offered questionable explanations about why the BALDC was created and why review by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) was not required.

(Photos by Tracy Collins)

And while the BALDC was described as "lessening the burdens of government," it also appears to be a way to avoid some governmental responsibilities, given that all the board members are governmental officials. "We know that the effort was to avoid PACB and to avoid scrutiny or accountability," Perkins said after the hearing.

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Columbia Spectator, Perkins kicks off hearings on eminent domain reform

Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

VIDEO: Ridge Hill Village Rising to New Heights!

While a couple of pols and a political operative are being indicted for giving and receiving bribes to approve "Developer #2's" (aka Forest City Ratner) Yonkers Ridge Hill project, we're getting a kick out of this promotional video for the "visionary mixed use development, drafted and designed by the nationally renowned Forest City Ratner Company" featuring Yonkers Mayor Philip A. Amicone.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

An Updated Map of Forest City Ratner’s 50+ Acre Prime Brooklyn Real Estate Mega-Monopoly


Noticing New York just updated the map showing Forest City Ratner's expanding empire, to "include the three new towers Forest City Ratner plans to built atop the Atlantic Center Mall we would have persisted in the mistake of helping Forest City Ratner hide 'in plain site' these three additional towers (and the full scope of FCR’s plans for the Atlantic Yards.).... The three towers typically forgotten about will constitute 1.25 million square feet of residential and commercial development over the mall."

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Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

Bklyn’s in the house: De Blasio takes new Advocate position by storm

Courier-Life Publications
By Thomas Tracy

Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" project still represents the cognitive dissonance in Bill de Blasio's efforts to advocate for the community:

“Community planning is something I have spent a lot of time working on,” he said. “It’s how we think about our neighborhoods that ensures how we preserve what’s best about them. Bringing in affordable housing and preserving and protecting small business is a very large part of that.”

Yet some of de Blasio’s friends from the old neighborhood may not be applauding his moxie for long, especially since he sees the Atlantic Yards project as an example of a good government/community partnership.

“[The Atlantic Yards project] is a good example of a community benefits plan, that’s why I supported it,” he said. “The process, however, has been horrendous. It needs to be scaled down and some serious changes have to be made.”

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NoLandGrab: Developers can rest assured that de Blasio has never really paid more than lip service to the issues involved in the massive redevelopment of our neighborhoods.

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

ESDC: Every Statement Defies Credibility?

Atlantic Yards Report, ESDC general counsel claims that ESDC board, not consultant AKRF, "finds blight"

There was a telling moment last night during state Senator Bill Perkins's oversight hearing on eminent domain.

I'll have more coverage tomorrow, but the statement below by Anita Laremont, general counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation, is worth consideration.

Laremont was responding to a series of tough questions about AKRF, the ubiquitous environmental consultant that consistently delivers the reports that government agencies need to get projects past legal challenges.
...

Laremont says AKRF just does research

"Let me just say though, to clarify one thing," Laremont told Perkins. "AKRF does not find blight. Our board finds blight. AKRF does a study of neighborhood conditions. And they give us a report, and we make a determination based on that whether or not the area is blighted."

What the board can't find: Pacific Street

Well, AKRF gets paid millions of dollars while board members show up very, very uninformed. Remember, as shown in the video below from the December 2008 ESDC board meeting, board member Charles (Trip) Dorkey asked to know the location of Pacific Street, a key block in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

The issue of blight was determined months earlier. How could he have found blight if he couldn't find Pacific Street?

Atlantic Yards Report, ESDC: master closing documents will become available... in next few weeks

Remember, contract documents signed during the Atlantic Yards master closing, rather than the more aspirational and vague Final Environmental Impact Statement and the Modified General Project Plan, are where we get to see the real oversight of the project.

Last month, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) told me it would be a week or two after the December 23 master closing before the master closing documents were released.

Now, ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell tells me it will be a little while longer:

The Master Closing documents have been finalized and remain in escrow pending title acquisition or vacant possession. The "final" documents - in unexecuted form - should be made available to the public at our offices under supervision in the next few weeks.

NoLandGrab: "Under supervision?" If there's anything that could use some supervision, it's the ESDC.

Posted by eric at 12:11 AM

Noticing New York Testimony at Senator Perkins’ Hearing on New York State Patterns of Eminent Domain Abuse

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White publishes the testimony he delivered yesterday at the eminent domain hearing held by State Senator Bill Perkins, and relates Perkins's opening remarks:

Here is some of what [Perkins] said in his opening statement to the effect that something is seriously amiss in this state when it comes to the conduct of our public officials:

The Appellate Division’s Kaur decision only affirms the need for reform. The decision noted a pattern of bad faith.

* * *

In fact, conservative columnist George Will recently published an article titled, “Avaricious Developers and Governments Twist the Meaning of "Blight.”. In it he addressed what he called the, “life-shattering power of eminent domain.” He talked about ESDC.s actions in this case and also in the Atlantic Yards case. He concluded that these are examples of “pre-textual takings” where government uses “trumped-up accusations of blight to concoct a spurious “public use. for a preconceived project.” In fact, the Kaur decision notes that the property in question was not considered blighted until Columbia decided it wanted to own it. As Mr. Will puts it, “liberty is under assault…this time by overbearing American governments.”

I could not have put it better myself. When you get someone who skews to the left as much I do, an upstate Republican like Senator Alesi, and a conservative icon like George Will to agree on public policy…you have certainly created strange bedfellows. Clearly, something is amiss. Property rights are not safe. If you own property in an area targeted by the government and you do not want to sell, you are now a hostage. You are being mugged. It’s like you have no future. It makes no sense to improve your property. You can’t sell it on the open market. It’s hard to find tenants. Everybody, including you, knows that your property is marked for destruction. That is a problem.

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Posted by eric at 12:04 AM

January 6, 2010

When it comes to details of the Barclays naming-rights deal, the Times plays "he said, she said," leaving Ratner with the last word

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times Sports section article today headlined What’s in a Naming Right? Certainly Not Cash discussed the lack of a naming-rights sponsor for the new Giants/Jets football stadium in the Meadowlands, and then gave Forest City Ratner some gentle treatment regarding its naming rights deal.
...

Who do you believe? The Nets or a document

The reporter on today's piece, Richard Sandomir, wrote a prominent article in January 2007 about the Barclays deal, but now treats the details as an episode of "he said, she said."

He writes:

The recession and the departure of the star architect Frank Gehry led to the renegotiation of some terms of the Barclays-Nets deal. According to a bond document, the arena naming rights were halved.

The Nets insist that they have given Barclays more for its sponsorship money and that the bank’s total annual payments, including fees for other rights, remain unchanged.

Have the Nets and Forest City Ratner--whose business relationship with the Times again went unmentioned--released any document that proves that claim? No. Until then, shouldn't the bond document be trusted as more authoritative?

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Posted by eric at 11:57 PM

Battle of Brooklyn progress report

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

We got a lot of great feedback from our Dec 10 screening. We made a number of changes in response to the feedback and feel that the first 30 minutes works much better now. Thanks everyone.

We have also continued to shoot. Unfortunately, on Dec 23, the state and the developer held a master closing, and hours later Daniel and the other property owners were served with papers, initiating the formal takings process. They continue to fight for their homes and businesses. Over at Freddy's prohibition era bar they are fighting fast and furious. Over the last few weeks they have:
1. Installed chains on the bar to handcuff themselves in case there is a standoff. The ESDC quickly responded that they would dragged off by force. Way to go government!!!!
2. Built a 9 ft beer can guillotine to kill eminent domain
3. Arranged a big boycott event for this weekend at Freddy's. Look for Steve de Seve and Donald O'Finn on Fox and Friends this Monday.

I'm updating this post because it was pointed out that I made it seem that the fight was over. It is far from over and I want to correct that.

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Posted by eric at 5:55 PM

Update: FCR says it's not a target

Norman Oder has amended his earlier post on federal indictments connected to Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project with the following:

Update: FCR says it's not a target

"Forest City Ratner Companies has cooperated fully with the U.S. Attorney's Office during the course of its investigation and will continue to do so. In addition, Forest City has been advised by the U.S. Attorney's Office that neither the company nor any of its employees is a target of the investigation," said Ed Tagliaferri, Senior VP, Dan Klores Communications, in a statement.

Note that the U.S. Attorney's Office would not comment when I earlier asked the same question. After I received the statement from Tagliaferri, I asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to confirm that "neither the company nor any of its employees is a target," and was told there was no comment.

NoLandGrab: What, FCR worry? Let's keep in mind that the U.S. Attorney alleges that Forest City promised and then delivered a consulting contract to the guy who bribed a Yonkers Councilmember to change her vote and approve their project.

More coverage...

NY Observer, Corruption Charges in Yonkers Development May Have Links to Forest City Ratner

A former City Council member in Yonkers and two others were indicted Wednesday on charges of corruption in a case that may have links with Brooklyn development firm Forest City Ratner. The investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office centers around Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, and two individuals who allegedly helped convince her to sell her votes on two development projects: Zehy Jeries, former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, and Anthony Mangone, an attorney.

One of those projects' developers appears to be Forest City Ratner, in connection with its planned Ridge Hill mixed-use project. Forest City was not named directly or charged in the indictment, with the papers referring only to "Developer No. 2" as the developer of Ridge Hill.

The indictment alleges that Developer No. 2 gave Mr. Jeries a consulting contract worth $60,000 in exchange for swinging Ms. Annabi to vote for the project. Ms. Annabi previously had been opposed to the project, though ultimately voted in its favor, after Forest City agreed to numerous concessions including paying more property taxes. Mr. Jeries also is charged with giving Ms. Annabi a $70,000 loan and more than $50,000 in other financial benefits from 2004 to 2008. (Ms. Annabi and Mr. Jeries are cousins.)

Runnin' Scared, Pol Charged With Corruption in Ratner (Atlantic Yards) Project in Yonkers

Forest City Ratner, currently trying to ram Atlantic Yards down Brooklyn's throat, is unnamed and unindicted and unmentioned even in the U.S. Attorney's official statement. But the case centers on its controversial Ridge Hill development. (Indictment here; "Developer No. 2" is Forest City Ratner.)
...

All suspects are innocent until they're proven guilty or unless they somehow wriggle off the hook. Except for the New Jersey Nets, the condemned property owned by Bruce Ratner. The NBA team is currently 3-31, and not even eminent domain can save it.

Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

A terminal opens in Brooklyn, over two years late

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

More coverage of the grand opening of another Bruce Ratner/MTA collaboration, Brooklyn's Long Island Railroad terminal pavilion.

In 2004, the glaringly suburban and sterile Atlantic Terminal Mall complex opened as the first part of Bruce Ratner’s plan to take over a little corner of Brooklyn that doesn’t really want him there. Yesterday, after $108 million and over 30 months past due, the LIRR’s new Atlantic Terminal Pavilion finally opened.

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NoLandGrab: Actually, the first salvo in Ratner's takeover plan was the Atlantic Center mall.

More coverage...

City Room, After a Delay, New Atlantic Terminal Pavilion Is Open

The terminal connects directly to the four-story Atlantic Terminal Mall, which opened in 2004 and is home to stores like Target and Old Navy. The developer of that $150 million project, Bruce C. Ratner, is also behind the controversial plans for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development, which would include a new basketball arena that would house the New Jersey Nets.

NLG: Commenter Norman Oder points out that City Room failed to disclose its parent company's relationship with the developer. It really shouldn't be so hard at this point, should it?

Gothamist, Critics Say Bollards At Atlantic Terminal Are Bollocks

Speaking of pointing things out, no one has mentioned that NLG broke the bollocks bollards story a month ago.

Posted by eric at 4:24 PM

Who Has the Right to Say What's Blight? Bill Perkins vs. ESDC Darling

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Blight is in the eye of the beholder — especially if that beholder is AKRF.

State Senator Bill Perkins is apparently not happy about the state's choice of consultants.

One consultant, specifically: AKRF, the New York-based firm that has established itself as the unchallenged king of environmental review in the city and state, dominating the field of government contracts.

The source of angst for Mr. Perkins is Columbia University's proposed 17-acre expansion into West Harlem and the state development agency's selection of AKRF to do a blight study. The blight study is a necessary step for eminent domain in the project, though the state's selection of AKRF has taken significant heat from the courts, which recently dealt the school a tremendous blow by blocking the use of eminent domain for the expansion. Among other factors, the use of AKRF was cited as a concern given that Columbia also used the firm to do its environmental review (the state intends to appeal the ruling).
...

The dual use of AKRF for environmental review and blight studies has happened before, notably in the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, though it was criticized repeatedly by the courts in the case of Columbia, which said AKRF's objectivity could be compromised.

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Posted by eric at 4:10 PM

Public Security in Brooklyn: A Systemic Failure of Common Sense

The Huffington Post
by Alan Rosner and Daniel Goldstein

Has New York State Governor David Paterson thought at all about the potential security nightmare posed by the planned Atlantic Yards basketball arena?

Still, blight and eminent domain abuse are not the only issues that make Atlantic Yards the Governor's headache...there is also the matter of public security. None of these issues were addressed in the Governor's State of the State Address today, but none will go away without his attention.

In the aftermath of the failed suicide bomb attack on a jet liner over Detroit, worldwide security arrangements were immediately thrown into turmoil. Institutions jumped into action, supported by elected and unelected officials alike. By way of example, Governor Paterson added his name in support of controversial body scan technology at airports, saying "...that for the time being, we're just going to have to live with some very inconvenient security measures.... It's the only way to guarantee that an airplane with 300 passengers will reach its destination."

For Brooklyn residents, flying or grounded, there is a question as to where our Governor has been on the issue of Bruce Ratner building an 18,000 seat basketball arena that both Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly call a potential terrorist target.

Should the Atlantic Yards arena get built and Governor Paterson get elected in his own right, will his words of comfort to Brooklyn be that shutting down lanes on Flatbush and Atlantic avenues is something "we're just going to have to live with."
...

What he needs do is direct his own State Office of Homeland Security to conduct a full study once complete plans are made available but before irreversible construction starts. Right now the only security plan that exists for the arena is a five-inch curb and some cameras to take pictures with.
...

Bottom line, what Brooklyn community groups really fear, and have for years now, is not an actual terrorist event here in the borough, but what happens when institutions wake up and decide they have to impose security measures where none had ever been planned. Before that happens we need adult leadership from our elected officials that doesn't pretend - as the ESDC did in court - that it would not be "reasonable" to consider terrorism when planning a sports venue next to an existing, previously targeted transportation hub. Governor Paterson should make sure that this time our predictions prove incorrect, by doing the right thing.

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Posted by eric at 3:25 PM

PRESS RELEASE: UNITED STATES ATTORNEY CHARGES FORMER DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY LEADER OF YONKERS CITY COUNCIL, FORMER YONKERS REPUBLICAN PARTY CHIEF, AND ATTORNEY WITH PUBLIC CORRUPTION CRIMES

Former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi Allegedly Received More Than $160,000 In Secret Payments; Defendants Charged With Conspiracy, Bribery, Extortion, False Statements, and Tax Crimes

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, JOSEPH M. DEMAREST, JR., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), and PATRICIA J. HAYNES, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), Criminal Investigation Division, announced today the unsealing of an Indictment against SANDY ANNABI, the former Democratic Majority Leader of the Yonkers City Council, charging her with conspiracy, bribery, extortion, false statements, and tax crimes. The Indictment also charges ZEHY JEREIS, the former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, and ANTHONY MANGONE, a Westchester County attorney, with conspiracy, bribery, and extortion in connection with two real estate development projects within the City of Yonkers which were pending before ANNABI.
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The Ridge Hill Development Project

The "Ridge Hill Development Project" was a project proposed by a large developer ("Developer No. 2") to develop an 81-acre tract of land to establish retail shopping, restaurants, office space, hundreds of residential housing units, and a hotel and conference center. ANNABI was an outspoken critic of the proposed Ridge Hill Project and voted against both the project and legislation that would allow the project to move forward despite her opposition. ANNABI, with two other City Council members and others, also filed a civil lawsuit to effectively block the Ridge Hill Project. As the City Council was considering the Ridge Hill Project, Developer No. 2 made repeated and unsuccessful efforts to convince ANNABI to vote in favor of the project.

On June 2, 2006, JEREIS was introduced to representatives of Developer No. 2, after which JEREIS told representatives of Developer No. 2 that he could arrange a meeting between them, ANNABI, and JEREIS to discuss the Ridge Hill Project. JEREIS and representatives of Developer No. 2 also had an agreement in which Developer No. 2 would give JEREIS a consulting job sometime after ANNABI formally voted in favor of the Ridge Hill Project. After two meetings held in less than two weeks, ANNABI reversed her opposition to the Ridge Hill Project and issued a press release -- drafted by JEREIS and representatives of Developer No. 2 -- informing the public of her support for the project.

Specifically, at a City Council meeting on July 11, 2006, ANNABI voted in favor of the zoning change necessary for the Ridge Hill Project. Shortly after ANNABI changed her vote on the Ridge Hill Project, JEREIS received the promised consulting contract from Developer No. 2 worth $60,000 over one year.

Click here to see the entire press release [PDF].

Posted by eric at 2:14 PM

Forest City Ratner, unnamed/unindicted, cited as giving indicted man consulting job after he got Yonkers Council Member to change vote on Ridge Hill

Atlantic Yards Report

A federal investigation of corruption in Yonkers has led to three indictments in connection with two real estate projects, one of them Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill.

And while Forest City Ratner is neither named nor indicted, the investigation is ongoing and, at least as presented by federal prosecutors, the developer's conduct seems suspect. (An indictment, of course, is an allegation based on evidence, not a conviction.)

Contract in exchange for influence to change vote

FCR is cited as agreeing to provide Zehy Jereis, the former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, a $60,000 consulting contract after he got Yonkers City Council Member Sandy Annabi once a fierce opponent of the Ridge Hill project, to change her vote.

She once said that Forest City Ratner was “probably richer than God” and was “robbing the city blind,” and served as the lead plaintiff in a 2005 lawsuit objecting to the city's approval process--but then did an about-face a year later.

According to prosecutors, the sequence of events that included the changed vote mean Annabi, the former Democratic Majority Leader of the Yonkers City Council, has been charged with conspiracy, bribery, extortion, false statements, and tax crimes. Also, Jereis, the former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, and Anthony Mangone, a Westchester County attorney, were charged with conspiracy, bribery, and extortion.

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NoLandGrab: Surely, no such shenanigans might have taken place with Forest City's Atlantic Yards project. Right?

Posted by eric at 2:09 PM

Feds: Councilwoman sold her vote 'for baubles and trinkets'

LoHud.com
by Timothy O'Connor and Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project appears to be at the center of a federal investigation into political corruption in Yonkers.

Former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi sold her vote “for baubles and trinkets,” federal investigators said today as Annabi and two connected political insiders were indicted on public corruption charges.

Annabi is accused of taking more than $160,000 in “secret payments” for casting the deciding council vote on two Yonkers development projects — the $630 million Ridge Hill development and the Longfellow development of two abandoned city schools.

Also indicted were former Yonkers GOP Chairman Zehy Jereis and political fixer Anthony Mangone, who U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said conspired with Annabi to accept bribes and no-show jobs in exchange for pushing the development deals through the city council.

“Rather than keep her word, she betrayed Yonkers residents by selling the most important assets any elected official has: her integrity and her independence,” Bharara said at a midday press conference at U.S. District Court in White Plains.

According to the indictment, Jereis was given a $60,000 consulting job in exchange for Annabi switching her vote and backing the Ridge Hill project on July 11, 2006 — the deciding vote.
...

In the winter of 2008, at least five Yonkers council members received federal subpoenas demanding records and ordering them to testify before a federal grand jury in White Plains. Annabi, a councilwoman at the time, would not say whether she had also been subpoenaed.

The subpoenas covered a range of topics, from the long-disputed $630 million Ridge Hill development to the Longfellow project, a redevelopment plan involving two shuttered city schools; and increased water rates and higher fees for building and fire safety inspections.
...

Proposed by Forest City Ratner, Ridge Hill faced opposition largely over the issue of traffic from neighborhood groups, the Westchester County Planning Board and the neighboring municipalities of Greenburgh, Hastings-on-Hudson and Ardsley.

The City Council attempted to get around the county's opposition, which would require a so-called supermajority, or five members of the seven-member council, by changing the law to require only a simple four-vote majority.

When that law was struck down in court, the Ridge Hill development appeared in peril, but in July 2006 Annabi dropped her opposition to the development, citing an agreement by Forest City Ratner to pay an additional $10 million in property taxes over three years.

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Posted by eric at 1:59 PM

Brooklyn’s Top 10 stories of the decade

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

The Post's Brooklyn beat reporter runs down the borough's top 10 stories of the past 10 years — and #1 is no surprise.

1. Atlantic Yards: Seriously? What else could be No. 1 but Bruce Ratner’s embattled plan to bring a NBA arena for his New Jersey Nets and 16 commercial and residential towers to Prospect Heights?

The story has dominated local media headlines since it was first announced in Dec. 2003. After getting state approval three years later, it was supposed to break ground within a few months. But mounting litigation by relentless opponents challenging the use of condemnation to seize private land for the plan, coupled with the recent economic downturn, nearly killed what was once supposed to be a slam-dunk.
...

The key lawsuits opposing the project have been dismissed, although two long-shot suits remain. The Nets, which were once supposed to be in the borough by 2006, now aren’t coming until at least 2012.

Even Rome got built faster.
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7. Marty Markowitz takes over as King of Kings County: He’s better known for throwing parties at Borough Hall to hand out proclamations than influencing policy, but few can argue that Markowitz – unlike the average borough president — has become a Brooklyn household name since taking over the gig in 2002.

But some political insiders say Markowitz is nothing like his loveable public image behind closed doors -- something that is highlighted by his going through seven spokespersons in eight years.

The popular borough president was a frontrunner for mayor last year until his buddy, Mayor Bloomberg, convinced the City Council it was in the city’s "best interest" to extend term limits. That was fine with Marty, who was also a lame duck and preferred waving the pom-poms for borough projects like Atlantic Yards and his proposed Coney Island amphitheater, to leading the city in a recession. The key lawsuits opposing the project have been dismissed, although two long-shot suits remain. The Nets, which were once supposed to be in the borough by 2006, now aren’t coming until at least 2012.
...

And residents specifically pissed off over his support of Atlantic Yards and the amphitheater were ready to vote for just about anyone else last year. But somehow a viable opponent never stepped forward.

Who says non-aggression political pacts are dead in Kings County?

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Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

What’s in a Naming Right? Certainly Not Cash

The New York Times
by Richard Sandomir

A Times story on the absence of a naming-rights sponsor for the new Giants/Jets football stadium in the Meadowlands touches on the Barclays deal for the planned Brooklyn arena.

For the Giants and the Jets, finding a naming-rights buyer for the new stadium will take time. If they planned to dedicate revenue from such a deal to help pay their construction debt, they will have to use money from other sources.

The market has been largely dormant and may never return to its prerecession peak, when Citigroup agreed in late 2006 to pay the Mets $400 million over 20 years to name the team’s ballpark Citi Field and Barclays followed soon after with a similarly priced deal to put its moniker on the Nets’ proposed arena in Brooklyn.

As Atlantic Yards Report will surely point out, the Barclays deal may never have been worth anywhere near $20 million per year. It surely isn't now, though the Nets still claim otherwise.

The recession and the departure of the star architect Frank Gehry led to the renegotiation of some terms of the Barclays-Nets deal. According to a bond document, the arena naming rights were halved.

The Nets insist that they have given Barclays more for its sponsorship money and that the bank’s total annual payments, including fees for other rights, remain unchanged.

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NoLandGrab: All but the most naive among us learned a long time ago not to believe anything that comes out of the Ratner/Nets industrial complex.

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Atlantic Yards revisionism and the belated LIRR pavilion at Atlantic Terminal

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on the Long Island Railroad pavilion/Atlantic Yards story with a visual examination of just how far the arena would be from the terminal entrance, and points out how some Brooklynites have a poor sense of direction:

The New York Times's CityRoom blog quoted Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, "Someday soon, this terminal will play host to the hordes who will stream in from miles around to watch the Brooklyn Nets mop up the floor with the Manhattan Knicks.”

Actually, it's in the complete opposite direction of the arena site, which is why Forest City Ratner is supposed to build an entirely new transit entrance well to the southeast, across broad Atlantic Avenue.

It's unlikely that LIRR commuters would be able to zigzag underground and exit at the arena block, as opposed to going in the opposite direction and then walking back at street level. In fact, Markowitz himself criticized the transit plan, stating in his comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:

The FEIS should examine the creation of a thru-ticketing arrangement for LIRR riders which enables them to pass through the paid zone for the subway to reach the Urban Room without payment of a subway fare. Otherwise, project generated trips via the LIRR would be required to use the existing entrance to LIRR’s street level concourse on Flatbush Avenue.

The Empire State Development Corporation responded that that wasn't feasible.

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NoLandGrab: The ESDC and MTA have twisted themselves like pretzels to accommodate Forest City Ratner in every way imaginable, but an accommodation for LIRR riders? Not feasible.

Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

Atlantic Yards Report: coffers and sewers...

Ratner, no longer a campaign contribution "refusenik," is already investing in Cuomo and DiNapoli 2010

Norman Oder examines Forest City Ratner's money trail leading to politicians that have been called upon to investigate the legality of the quasi-public corporation that issued the tax-free bonds for the arena at Atlantic Yards.

More recently, in a look ahead to next year's statewide elections, Ratner gave $5000 to Andrew Cuomo 2010. (He hasn't given to Gov. David Paterson's campaign, though Cuomo, now Attorney General, is expected to challenge the sitting Governor.)

And he gave $2000 to DiNapoli 2010, the campaign committee for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. (Both Cuomo and DiNapoli have been asked by state Senator Bill Perkins to weigh in on the legality of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation, or BALDC).

More "sewer money" from Forest City to Housekeeping accounts, including $10,000 from a Cleveland Ratner to New York Senate Republicans

Today Governor David Paterson is expected to unveil a plan to ban corporate campaign contributions, lower the maximum contribution for any candidate for state office to $1000, and cut back severely on Housekeeping accounts, where political parties can now get unlimited gifts they can dispense to candidates.

The latter was dubbed "sewer money" in a 10/19/09, a New York Times editorial headlined Fed Up With Albany, which criticized New York's "notoriously loose" campaign finance laws.

And Forest City Ratner is one of the prominent participants. I pointed out at the time that the Times missed an opportunity to criticize Forest City Ratner's January 200, contribution of $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account.

But I should have checked further. On 12/4/08, FCR gave another $3644 to the Democrats' Housekeeping account.

And if you keep following the money, it includes some bucks for New York State Republicans from a caring contributor in Cleveland with a last name that begins with "R" and rhymes with "Fat-cat-ner."

Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

Doing Damage by Doing What Isn't Needed

The Cleveland Leader

Columnist and watchdog Roldo Bartimole uses Bruce Ratner's subsidy-soaked Atlantic Yards megaproject as the mascot for one of the major things that has been ailing Cleveland:

Forest City Enterprises Al Ratner once bragged to me about how many federal subsidies he has been able to get for projects all over the U. S.

This Brooklyn project is soaked in subsidies, not unusual for these unnecessary projects. This one, as others, includes a new arena for a Ratner family professional sports team.

Isn’t it wonderful that all over the nation we are spending billions of dollars to provide work places for multi-millionaire owners and millionaire sports players while so many ordinary people have no access to a paying job?

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NoLandGrab: To Bartimole's point, unnecessary projects like Atlantic Yards require massive public subsidies in order to make it off the drawing board.

If Atlantic Yards, the densest and largest single-source private project in the history of NYC, were such a good idea, then the free marketplace could support it. It's not, so Bruce Ratner has to get the City, State and Federal governments to chip in with direct cash subsidies, eminent domain and tax breaks.

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

MYTHS & BARRICADES: Grand opening of the Atlantic Terminal entrance

AtlanticTerminalComp.jpg It took the Metro photographer's wide-angle lens to get a clear shot of the façade of the new Atlantic Terminal entrance, which the photo from the Brooklyn Paper shows is defended by a barricade of granite coffins that were deemed necessary by the MTA, even though they add a touch of hostility to Brooklyn's newest public space.

Meanwhile, the MTA is doing its best to sell the entrance as the gateway to Atlantic Yards.

TransitBlogger.com, New LIRR Atlantic Terminal Pavilion Opens

From the MTA press release:

Work on the project, begun in 2002, was done in two phases in order to coordinate improvements with MTA New York City Transit work on their subway facilities and a private developer, Forest City Ratner.
...
The new Atlantic Terminal building marks an early milestone in the overall effort to transform this area of Brooklyn. A recent court decision cleared the way for a new sports center that is to be the new home of the Nets basketball team. Additional residential and commercial buildings also are planned nearby.

NoLandGrab: To call this a milestone related to the new arena is folly. The Terminal project was started in 2002, Atlantic Yards was announced in 2003.

The Brooklyn Paper, Pols say ‘All aboard’ at new LIRR gateway

According to security experts at the NYPD, bollards would not be necessary at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, though details have not been released to the public. In light of the sarcophagus-like bollards at the new Atlantic Terminal entrance, the public should be skeptical:

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams agreed with James that the bollards are unattractive, but said that they are necessary “in this day and age.”

“We worked with the NYPD and the MTA police, who assess the risks and tell us what kind of security we need,” she said. “Do these bollards lack elegance? Yes. But they are necessary.”

NoLandGrab: Interesting that "in this day and age," the MTA head acknowledges the necessity of increased security, though these measures do not need to be identified in the formal assessment of megaprojects like Atlantic Yards.

AP, via NJ.com, Brooklyn has new transit terminal near Atlantic Yards project that will host N.J. Nets

Here's a fascinating bit of revisionist history:

The neighboring 22-acre Atlantic Yards project would include a new arena for the New Jersey Nets. The pavilion would better accommodate a surge in riders for the arena.

NoLandGrab: The planning of the new terminal did not take into account a new arena and surge in ridership.

MetroNY, Riders hail new Atlantic pavilion

City Councilmember Letitia James combats the revisionist myth:

“This area has been scheduled for renovations for years,” said James. “This has nothing to do with the possibility of that project that will overwhelm us.”

Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

Resolve to be a better person this year — with our list!

The Brooklyn Paper

[R]esolutions don’t need to be difficult. That’s why we’ve prepared this list of 10 cultural promises that you can definitely keep in the new year, easy ways to suck the marrow out of Brooklyn without feeling guilty in the morning.
...
3. Go to Freddy’s Bar

Yost-BPcap.jpg

You never fully appreciate something until it’s gone — so don’t make that mistake with Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, as good a saloon as you get in Brooklyn nowadays. Slated to be torn down to make room for Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena (whatsamatta, Bruce, you don’t think people want a bar outside an arena?), this Prohibition-era speakeasy offers a classic worn bar and booths that hail from the days when Americans were small. But manager Donald O’Finn brings just enough modern touches (like an endless loop of film montages on one of the TVs, and a steady stream of great musicians coming through) so that the place doesn’t feel like a nostalgia act. Go to this bar now before it’s too late.

Freddy’s Bar [485 Dean St. at Sixth Avenue in Prospect Heights, (718) 622-7035].

link

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

January 5, 2010

Jan 5. Senator Perkins' Hearing on Eminent Domain and Reforming New York State's Heinous Laws

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

PUBLIC HEARING NOTICE: NEW YORK STATE SENATE

Senate Standing Committee
Corporations, Authorities and Commissions
Senator Bill Perkins, Chair

Unconstitutional: What the Appellate Division’s Eminent Domain Ruling Means for the Columbia Expansion

Location – Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building
163 W. 125th Street, 2nd Floor Art Gallery
New York, New York 10027

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 – 4 P.M. to 7 P.M.

link

Posted by eric at 2:19 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Clarifying Associated Press Story On Atlantic Yards and Eminent Domain

We Aren't Going Anywhere

Brooklyn, New York—The Associated Press ran a story over the weekend headlined, "As Brooklyn NBA arena project moves ahead, hopes dim for neighborhood holdouts." It left out some key information.

(The big Atlantic Yards media item of the weekend was George Will's scathing Washington Post column about New York State's perversion of "blight" to justify eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.)

The Atlantic Yards project is not a "Brooklyn NBA arena" project. It is proposed to be 16 skyscrapers and an arena for the Nets in the middle of low-rise Brooklyn neighborhoods. The Nets and the NBA are just levers to gain 22-acres of valuable real estate in the heart of Brooklyn. The project, announced by "developer" Bruce Ratner in December 2003, bypassed all New York City and State legislative oversight, despite the fact that it would be the largest project in Brooklyn's history, would receive over $2 billion in taxpayer subsidies, breaks and gifts, uses eminent domain theft for private gain, and includes a sweetheart land deal between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"The story of Atlantic Yards is that it is a politically corrupt deal, a land grab based on the collusion of the highest levels of state government and developer Forest City Ratner," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "All the problems that result—the irrational size of the project, the traffic that would result, the extreme density without suitable infrastructure, the various negative environmental impacts, the residential displacement—are symptoms of a broken system and a corrupt process."

The AP article failed to mention two pending lawsuits against the project and two pending motions in the state's high court which challenge the project's use of eminent domain. The article also fails to mention the numerous legal challenges which will shortly come when the state attempts to take title to properties and sever leases with eminent domain.

"The article implied that I was getting ready to move out of my home, which the state wants to steal and give to Ratner to build his billion dollar, publicly-subsidized arena and the rest of his boondoggle. But I'm not going anywhere, and neither are my neighbors who live and own property in the coveted project site," Goldstein said. "We will not leave our homes unless all of our legal options to stay are extinguished. And, if need be, others still will fight for their homes and businesses beyond that."

Posted by eric at 1:03 PM

The look ahead for 2010: the final endgame and, likely, a very changed landscape

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder ponders what the new year might hold for Bruce Ratner's now-more-than-six-year-old Atlantic Yards project, and the now-more-than-six-year-old fight to stop it.

At the end of 2008, with Atlantic Yards stalled, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) solicited donations by asserting that Victory is Within Sight. At the end of 2009, following the master closing on the project and a near-final victory for developer Forest City Ratner and its government partners, DDDB's pitch was more subdued.

After all, it looks like a done deal--but not quite. Even though the master closing has been completed and the bonds have been sold, they've been placed in escrow for a year, an unusual deal kink set up to both meet Internal Revenue Service deadlines (terms grandfathered in to the end of 2009) and leave room to overcome legal and financial hurdles, even as construction activities--if not yet full vertical construction--proceed.

While developer Forest City Ratner and its government partners have the clear upper hand in getting final funding and control of the land, the challenges raise serious questions, and likely will persist at least past visible signs of project progress, such as street closings.

(And what happens if the opponents win and everything gets reversed? A very interesting mess.)

Durable fight

For the opposition, it has hardly been a flawless fight. But the six-year struggle has been remarkably durable, compared to, say, the challenge to the new Yankee Stadium, sited in a community with fewer resources in both time and money. The AY challenge is one that other community activists in the city have begun to look to for inspiration and advice.

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Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

Beyonce sings for a Khadafy

NY Post, Page Six

First it was Mikhail Prokhorov entertaining Vladimir Putin in the French Alps. Now the Post reports that Beyoncé, accompanied by her husband and Nets minority owner Jay-Z, was entertaining the wife- and servant-beating son of Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy on New Year's Eve in St. Barts. But hey, a million bucks is a million bucks, right?

Beyonce performed for an hour on New Year's Eve at a party thrown by terror-backing Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy's son, Hannibal, who has a long record of violence against women.

Beyoncé performed five songs in a sexy black leotard at the Nikki Beach club on St. Barts in front of a crowd that included her husband Jay-Z, Usher, Microsoft founder Paul Allen and Lindsay Lohan.

We couldn't confirm how much Beyoncé was paid for the gig, but last year, Mariah Carey reportedly pocketed $1 million for performing at Nikki Beach.

Some vacationers on the island were aghast. DJ Sam Young tweeted: "Jigga [Jay-Z], Beyonce & Usher were @ Nikki Beach performing for Khadafy family, WTF?"

Just a week earlier, on Christmas Day, Hannibal, 33 -- also known as Moutassim -- allegedly attacked his wife, Aline Skaf, in his suite at Claridge's in London. Three of his security staff were arrested for obstructing police. Skaf was reportedly hospitalized with a broken nose while Hannibal was whisked away in a diplomatic car.

In July 2008, he and his then-pregnant wife were arrested on charges of beating their servants in a Geneva hotel. They denied the charges, which were dropped after the servants received compensation.

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NoLandGrab: Nice folks. Wonder with whom Bruce Ratner was ringing in the new year?

Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

Freddy's faithful vow to fight Brooklyn bar's ouster for Atlantic Yards land grab with chains, cuffs

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

For six years, the weapons of choice for opponents of Atlantic Yards have been legal briefs.

But in recent weeks, Freddy's Bar and Backroom on Dean St., which faces the wrecking ball for the project, has been rolling out weapons of a different kind - heavy chains and 35 pairs of handcuffs that staff and patrons vowed to use to chain themselves to the bar.

It would sure make for good theater - but would they actually do it?

"Yeah, I would - without a doubt," said manager Donald O'Finn, who took over the Prohibition-era watering hole 15 years ago and turned it into a cult favorite.

"I'm the least political person you can imagine," he said. "I don't want to do this. I just want to . . . run a bar and be left alone, and it makes my job a thousand times more difficult. . . . But sometimes in life, you just land in this position.

The ESDC is threatening the use of force.

Empire State Development Corp. spokeswoman Beth Mitchell said the agency would get the sheriff to "physically remove the occupant[s]" if they refuse to go. "We do not anticipate this happening," she added.

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NoLandGrab: "Do not anticipate this happening?" We do.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

Atlantic Yards holdout Daniel Goldstein says he has a backup plan in case state takes condo

NY Daily News reporter Ellen Durkin reports that Daniel Goldstein has started to think about Plan B, should he and his family get the boot.

Goldstein said he's sticking with the fight to stop developer Bruce Ratner's project - but he has begun to think about a "backup plan" if the state takes his condo by eminent domain to make way for a new Nets arena.
...
If he does get the boot, Goldstein wants to stay in Brooklyn - but not near Atlantic Yards. "We definitely do not want to be anywhere near this project, whatever form it takes," he said.

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Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

ESDC representatives will testify at state Senate hearing on Columbia, eminent domain; four AY questions suggested

Atlantic Yards Report

Today's state Senate oversight hearing, "Unconstitutional: What the Appellate Division’s Eminent Domain Ruling Means for the Columbia Expansion," might get interesting: three representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) the state agency pursuing eminent domain in both the Columbia and Atlantic Yards cases, are scheduled to appear as witnesses.

(The hearing will be held from 4-7 pm at the State Office Building in Harlem. Here's coverage of a September 2008 hearing.)

Whether the ESDC reps will answer specific questions is another question, given that the Appellate Division ruling against the ESDC in the Columbia case will be appealed, and the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Atlantic Yards case are trying to get the Court of Appeals to reopen the case in light of the Columbia appeal.

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Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

StreetsBlog, Stadium Deals Drain Cities

In New York, local businesses in the Bronx have complained they're being hurt rather than helped by the new Yankee Stadium, which is designed to encourage fans to spend all of their game-day dollars within the ballpark walls. Meanwhile, Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project, which centers on a stadium for the NBA's Nets, grinds forward, with one of the last property owners holding out on the site reportedly considering moving out. Both the Nets and the Yankees deals earned a place on our 2009 Streetsie roll of shame.

FireDogLake, Here’s some quality, independent media that’s worth your time

The Atlantic Yards Report is a single investigative project that focuses on a nearly $5 billion development in Brooklyn.

The Local, Linkfest: Bees, Trees, Beer and Sardines

In the department of year-end wrap ups, Atlantic Yards Report has a comprehensive look back at 2009 in Atlantic Yards developments, or lack thereof.

The Liberty Zone, And you thought Kelo was bad!

Kelo vs. New London was one of the most repulsive, sickening infringements on the right to private property I've ever seen and the most egregiously noxious decision by the Supreme Court in decades. In it, the Supreme Court decided that the "benefits" a community reaped from destroying private property in favor of a developer outweighed the rights of private property owners. In essence, the court decided that the use of eminent domain for economic development didn't violate the constitutional limits placed on the government, and that it constituted "public use."

To me, it means that the government can seize anyone's property any time some overzealous developer wants to build a Wal Mart. It's economic development after all, and according to the Kelo case, that makes it "public use."

This is worse.

NoLandGrab: Bet you won't have a hard time guessing what "this" is.

International Liberty, Another “Eminent Domain” Scandal

Ever since the Supreme Court’s odious Kelo decision, which allowed a city in Connecticut to seize a woman’s home for the benefit of a politically-connected big corporation, there has been a deep concern that this would open the door to more examples of government-sanctioned theft. George Will is particularly (and appropriately) vicious in his analysis of how corrupt politicians in New York are seeking to steal private property to benefit a rich developer....

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

"Your views [at public hearing] will be taken into consideration"? Not by the UDC in the early 1980s

Atlantic Yards Report

Earlier today, I wrote that the public process for Atlantic Yards was mostly a formality.

And in a commentary I received today, Ross Sandler, director of the Center for New York City Law and New York Law School, similarly describes a process in which the Urban Development Corporation--the Empire State Development Corporation's formal name--avoided acknowledging that it would take the public's views into consideration.

The commentary, headlined "Empire State Development gets an earful on public hearings," appears in the December 2009 issue of NYLS's CityLand.
...

In the early 1980s I was asked to be the hearing officer for an Urban Development Corporation project located on Roosevelt Island. The project was limited and seemed worthy. On the night of the hearing, however, a large turnout of persons consistently spoke against the project. The hearing took place in a church basement and I sat in the front at a desk as the hearing officer. At the conclusion of each speaker's statement I thanked the speaker and said, “Your views will be taken into consideration.” I thought such a neutral statement was both courteous and appropriate.

After I had said the “your views will be taken into consideration” a number of times, the UDC lawyer watching over the hearing, came up behind me and whispered. “Please do not say ‘your views will be taken into consideration.' You are going beyond your authority.”

I don't have a personal view of the Columbia plan, but it is certainly a nice feeling to have a court stand up and say that the public hearings really do mean that “your views will be taken into consideration.”

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NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure that Edward Kramer, who served as hearing officer for the ESDC's public hearings on Atlantic Yards, never once claimed that “your views will be taken into consideration.” And we're also pretty sure they weren't.

Posted by eric at 12:01 AM

January 4, 2010

Nets owner hosting pal Putin

NY Post, Page Six

Soon-to-be New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is hosting Russian leader Vladimir Putin at his $30 million French Alps chalet as a thank you for officially clearing his name.

The billionaire Russian invited Putin to stay at his chalet in Courchevel after the Russian prime minister secured an apology from French authorities for dragging Prokhorov's name into a prostitution scandal.

Now Prokhorov -- Russia's richest man -- and Putin have returned to celebrate in the same resort where the false claims were made, and to ski on mountains that will be closed to the public amid tight security.

A source told Page Six: "Putin arrived on Saturday with an entourage of 100 people. He is staying at Prokhorov's chalet, which is surrounded by a ring of tight security.

"Prokhorov invited him as a thank you for officially clearing his name. It is intended to be a very secret and private visit."

Our source continued: "Putin is also a very keen skier, and entire runs and lifts will be closed for him. He and Prokhorov are so close that Putin is rumored to be lining him up for a political role. At the very least, we expect to be seeing Putin on the sidelines at a Nets game."

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NoLandGrab: That's right, folks, the Empire State Development Corporation will be using eminent domain to seize private property in Prospect Heights for the benefit of Russia's richest man, a close pal of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. We still might take Putin over Prokhorov's pal Bruce Ratner, however.

Just wondering, though, if, when we're "seeing Putin on the sidelines at a Nets game," Brooklyn "will be closed to the public amid tight security?"

Posted by eric at 11:50 PM

15 reasons why Brooklyn is New York City's borough to beat

NY Daily News
by Ben Chapman, Jake Pearson, Denise Romano AND Elizabeth Lazarowitz

Brooklyn's had a place in our hearts long before it was hip.

Sure, it's got rough spots, but that's part of its charm. And with a new decade dawning and big changes afoot, we think there's more than ever that makes Brooklyn the borough to beat.
...

Here are 15 big reasons we think Brooklyn rocks:
...

9. The borough's finally getting its very own basketball team. Okay, everybody isn't happy about that, but think of the T-shirt possibilities. With a population as big as Houston's (and bigger than Charlotte's), Brooklyn deserves it. And love 'em or hate 'em, the Nets' history-making losing streak means there's nowhere to go but up.

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Posted by eric at 11:42 PM

Crime Map 2009: Robberies

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


View 2009 Robbery Map in a larger map

More proof that the Empire State Development Corporation's blight study was a total fabrication when it came to crime in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

The Local mapped 2009 robberies and grand larcenies in the 88th Precinct, and as the map shows, not a single one was reported in the portion of the project footprint patrolled by the 88th. But guess where the Precinct's largest concentration of crimes took place? You betcha — Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls. Tear them down!

According to the police, there were 194 robberies or attempted robberies in the 88th Precinct in 2009 through Dec. 27. We have enough information about 123 of them to map them (remember we only started this site in March), and have done so here.

We threw in 27 grand larcenies of the type where someone grabbed valuables from someone’s person, because they seemed to be in the same basic category of crime — someone taking something from someone else in a person-to-person way. The only difference between robbery and this type of larceny is that robbery involves actual or threatened force and larceny does not.

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NoLandGrab: Speaking of first-responders, Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder posted the first comment, writing that "another pattern that emerges is further confirmation of deception in the Empire State Development Corporation’s Atlantic Yards Blight Study."

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Senate Democrats Look to Repair the Damage -- Before It's Too Late

Gotham Gazette
by David King

It was too late for Albany a long time ago — nothing short of a mass uprising by the citizenry will bring real change — but there is one potentially game-changing piece of legislation in the offing.

Another major piece of legislation the Senate will consider -- if Sen. Bill Perkins has anything to say about it -- is legislation to change the state's current eminent domain law. Perkins was motivated by a recent appellate court ruling that found the Empire State Development Corp. overstepped its bounds by declaring as blighted parts of Manhattanville where Columbia University hopes to build a new campus. The state backed Columbia's efforts.

Perkins has called on Paterson to declare a moratorium on the use of eminent domain and asked that the state not appeal the appellate court ruling; Paterson has indicated he plans an appeal and has not declared a moratorium. Nevertheless Perkins has hearings planned across the state, including one on Jan. 5 in Harlem. Perkins' actions could have bearing on the Atlantic Yards project as well as the Columbia case. But, according to Shafran, it is unclear where the Perkins' colleagues stand on the issue.

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NoLandGrab: Unlike the vast majority of his colleagues, who seem to care only about enriching themselves and their cronies and wielding political power, Bill Perkins actually thinks government should serve the people.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

A look back at Atlantic Yards in 2009: tumultuous change, success for arena backers, and lingering questions of accountability

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look back at Atlantic Yards, c. 2009, as only Norman Oder can.

A year ago, in a look ahead to AY in 2009, I wrote that the fate of the arena, at least, should be more clear.

Now the master closing has been completed, a close-to-final victory for Forest City Ratner and its government partners. But the arena's not a lock, given lingering and potential challenges (more on that tomorrow) led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and the timetable and contour of the rest if the project remain uncertain.

Still, what was stalled in 2008 saw major progress in 2009, thanks to governmental concessions. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) revised the Vanderbilt Yard deal. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) revised the Modified General Project Plan. The ESDC won the eminent domain case and others, and the arena bonds were issued and sold.

The replacement railyard got smaller. So did the revised arena, with a new architect, and then a new pair of architects.

Forest City Enterprises stock leaped from its low. And Bruce Ratner found Russia's richest man to take the Nets off his hands. The team--depleted by trades and injuries--lurched its way toward record losses, a high draft choice, much cap space (plus a deep-pocketed prospective owner), and, perhaps, a much brighter future.

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Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

January 3, 2010

Save the Date: January 15 Atlantic Yards Case Oral Argument

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

A date has been set for legal arguments in the lawsuit brought by community groups challenging the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan.

Friday, January 15. 11:00 AM

Oral Argument for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation

Manhattan State Supreme Court
80 Centre Street, Manhattan
[ MAP ]

Posted by eric at 10:44 PM

Citizen Journalism and Blogging

California Greening

Norman Oder gets props from a left-coast Green Party blog.

The archetype of good, knowledgeable, investigative journalism on the internet is the Atlantic Yards Report, where Norman Oder has been a major pain in the ass to developer Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Borough President Martie Markowitz and particularly to the NY Times whose every story on this issue is subjected to Oder's scrutiny and evaluated by his obviously higher standards of journalism. There are very, very few Norman Oder's around.

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NoLandGrab: By way of full disclosure, the author is a relative of one of our regular contributors, and surely pays a bit more attention to Atlantic Yards than most California Greens. Regardless, his assessment of Oder's work is spot-on.

Posted by eric at 10:27 PM

The politics of the New York Islanders

Business of Sports Examiner
by Evan Weiner

A report on the Islanders and Nassau Coliseum dangles the hockey-in-Brooklyn scenario.

Ratner, a political operative in New York City, is a lot smarter than Phoenix, Arizona politicians that were talked into building an arena that was built with perfect basketball sightlines that is virtually useless for any other sports event.

The financial difficulties of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes can be directly traced back to the Phoenix decision of the late 1980s.

The story that went around was that Ratner’s Brooklyn building was not going to be able to fit a hockey rink and would be useless for hockey and probably ice shows.

However, a person who worked on Ratner’s original arena plans said there was always a hockey element to Ratner’s plan.

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NoLandGrab: Ratner may be smarter than the Phoenix pols, and the "original arena plans" may have had "a hockey element," but the current Barclays Center plan would have to go back to the drawing board to accommodate anything more than midget hockey, as Noticing New York made clear last month.

Posted by eric at 9:42 PM

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Media Supplement

Author Jimmy Breslin: "People are getting away with murder all over the place, and the papers have a chance to say something about it"

Norman Oder knows a cure for Atlantic Yards when he sees one.

Perhaps it was sly subversion, perhaps it was guilt, but in a New York Times Metropolitan section cover story today headlined New York’s Resolutions, an effort to solicit advice for the city, the respondent placed first took a swing at the Times and its brethren:

Jimmy Breslin, 80

Author and newspaperman

First, you’ve got to find a way to get rid of Albany. They’ve got people up there — I mean, all you have to do is look at what they’re up to. For 30 years, they let this guy Bruno, for example, just go on and on and on. It’s the seat of larceny, so I say just get rid of it.

Then you have to start a real newspaper. Do the newspapers today even attack anybody anymore? They had Bloomberg winning by a mile and a half. The people know more than the newspapers and the television does. They sure knew not to like Bloomberg as much as they were told to. People are getting away with murder all over the place, and the papers have a chance to say something about it. But they just don’t do it.

Newsweek contributor Kotkin: Bloomberg needs to make a public policy shift away from projects like AY

Well, someone's responded to Jimmy Breslin's call to be tough on Mayor Mike Bloomberg, but it's not the local daily newspapers. Writes Newsweek contributor Joel Kotkin:

But as Bloomberg begins his new term, New York needs to reexamine its core economic strategy.

...Nurturing these neighborhoods will require a distinct shift in public policy. During the Bloomberg years the big subsidies have gone to luxury condo megadevelopments, sports stadiums, or huge office complexes. Consider the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn, which will include luxury housing and a new arena for the NBA's Nets; one recent report by the city's Independent Budget Office put the total subsidies provided by the city, New York state, and the transit authority at $726 million and estimated the project will hurt, not help, the city's economy over time.

Of course, AY is promoted as including more than luxury housing; the questions are how much of the subsidized affordable housing would be available to members of ACORN, which signed an agreement with Forest City Ratner, and how much the housing would cost relative to subsidized housing elsewhere.

New York Times Public Editor Hoyt focuses on freelancers, continues to ignore the Times's lapses covering Atlantic Yards

During the course of the Atlantic Yards fight, much of the New York Times' coverage has been less than stellar. A less patient person might just quit trying to get the Times to correct its coverage of the project and business partner, Bruce Ratner. But Norman Oder perseveres.

New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt today writes about three episodes in which the newspaper's ethics guidelines were not followed by freelancers.

In only one case did the violation lead to a tainted product on the page, so I'm dismayed that Hoyt played the issue so prominently--he could've put most of the column on the web. Meanwhile, he remains obdurately unaware of the Times's inability to cover the Atlantic Yards project, or to even disclose its business relationship with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

In other words, he should focus on how readers are being served.

In two recent cases--FCR's bailout of ACORN and the revision of the Barclays Center naming rights deal--the Times slipped in information either parenthetically or at the end of the article, thus downplaying significant news.

Posted by steve at 5:38 PM

The Big Apple’s Big Problem

Newsweek
By Joel Kotkin

This article takes the beginning of Mayor Bloomberg's third term to suggest a new direction for New York City. Perhaps NoLandGrab readers will not be surprised that the overly-dense and heavily-subsidized Atlantic Yards project is not the way to go towards developing family-friendly neighborhoods.

Nurturing these neighborhoods will require a distinct shift in public policy. During the Bloomberg years the big subsidies have gone to luxury condo megadevelopments, sports stadiums, or huge office complexes. Consider the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn, which will include luxury housing and a new arena for the NBA's Nets; one recent report by the city's Independent Budget Office put the total subsidies provided by the city, New York state, and the transit authority at $726 million and estimated the project will hurt, not help, the city's economy over time.

Click on the link to read how the city might be turned around.

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Posted by steve at 5:16 PM

Atlantic Yards, Bloomberg get national bad press

The Village Voice
By Julia

This article notes how Mayor Bloomberg's pet project, the proposed Atlantic Yards, is a money-loser for the city. National media is catching on, too.

The press in other places have discovered the Mayor's pet Atlantic Yards project, with a scathing AP piece on the human cost of eminent domain and a firebreathing George Will column on how much the Founding Fathers would have disapproved. Neither mentions the mayor, but both make it far more difficult for Bloomberg to frame the project as one of the triumphs of his last term, as he did as recently as last week.

Newsweek, however, was a bit more pointed about it: as an economic engine, the city's investment in building His Honor's "luxury" city is a loser

...

The author, a fellow of the Center for an Urban Future, makes the case that the financial services and media industries which support His Honor's vision of New York as a premium "luxury product" are waning, and that the city must make itself more friendly to the middle class to survive. He makes the same case today in an article for Forbes, although that one blames the problem on the self-conscious liberalism of baby lawyers, B-school graduates and "trust[a]farians," and I have no idea what to do with that.

Suffice it to say the national roll-out of the New Bloomberg doesn't appear to be going well.

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Posted by steve at 4:41 PM

AP article says "holdout hopes dim," bypasses legal challenges

Atlantic Yards Report

An AP story today headlined (on the AP wire) "Holdout hopes dim as NYC arena project moves ahead" describes life in the AY footprint for condo owner Daniel Goldstein and renter David Sheets, both of whom have resisted Atlantic Yards out of principle.

While the conditions described have been ongoing rather than ramped up in the last month, the final approvals, the eminent domain decision, and the bond sale have led both to be thinking more about where they might have to relocate.

Missing the endgame

Yes, AY is in its endgame, but the article--not unlike an October 2008 AP article that overstated the "far bleaker picture" for AY--misses some of the picture.

The new article states:

It has been years since a state authority approved Ratner's plans to replace a rail yard and existing buildings with the arena, 16 new apartment and office towers and thousands of new residents for the development, called Atlantic Yards.

(Emphasis added)

Actually, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had to revise the plan and rapidly re-approve it in September 2009. And that approval was the subject of a lawsuit that has yet to be heard. (Remember, the bonds are in escrow.)

Other legal challenges are likely. (Here's Goldstein's comment on NetsDaily about continuing to fight.)

Looking forward

The article quotes Sheets:

"If, in fighting Atlantic Yards, we've made it any easier for people to fight their own battles, then we've accomplished something," he said.

There's more to that than even the example of the Columbia University expansion cited. Can New York state really get away with allowing "underutilization" to be among the criteria for blight?

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Posted by steve at 9:41 AM

As Brooklyn NBA arena project moves ahead, hopes dim for neighbourhood holdouts

Canadian Press
By David B. Caruso

This story takes a dark view of the endgame for Atlantic Yards. The difficulties being faced by Prospect Heights residents Daniel Goldstein and David Sheets are emphasized.

On many mornings, Daniel Goldstein wakes to the sound of work crews demolishing the neighbourhood around his Brooklyn apartment. Every crash and bang is a reminder that it may only be a matter of time before the wreckers come for his home, too.

The 40-year-old and his wife and daughter are among a handful of holdouts still living on several once-thriving urban blocks being cleared to make way for a new arena for the NBA's Nets.

...

Money wasn't the issue. Nor did he have any burning love for the neighbourhood - not initially, anyway. He only bought his place a few months before the arena project was announced.

He just didn't like the idea of being pushed around.

"I made a commitment to myself that I wasn't going to be forced to sell. ... I wasn't going to be pressured or bullied," he said. "I didn't know what that would mean. But I knew I was committing myself to it."

Only now is the cost of defiance becoming clear.

After a six-year fight, the state has begun the final legal steps to seize the family's condo using eminent domain law and hand it to Ratner's company.

In November, Goldstein got a letter saying the state planned to pay him $510,000, about $80,000 less than what he paid in 2003.

That's a fraction of what Ratner was offering years ago, and nowhere near what he needs to buy a comparable place in the same part of Brooklyn.

Other remaining residents will get even less.

Years ago, Ratner's representatives offered David Sheets $75,000 to give up his rent-regulated apartment.

He turned them down, in part because they insisted he sign a gag order and stop criticizing the project.

"Essentially, they wanted me to sign away my citizenship," he said.

...

Goldstein still isn't ready to concede defeat, but he isn't blind either.

"We'll have to find somewhere to live," he said. "Look, we're human and rational. We need to think about it now," he said.

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NoLandGrab: Click through to read this lengthy item. But here's something to keep in mind: Legal and financial challenges remain for the proposed Atlantic Yards project. The fight is not yet over.

Posted by steve at 9:19 AM

Who Sacrifices Money To Uphold Their Principles In Real Estate?

Multifamily Investor

This blog entry uses the Canadian Press story that first appeared yesterday to revisit the Atlantic Yards fight and notes that the often-noted affordable housing component of the proposed project is mostly chimerical.

All too often, parties in a real estate transaction will quibble over an amount that pales in comparison to the purchase price. “It’s not the money. It’s the principle.” More specifically, it’s the principle that the other side not get the money. This same thinking applies in divorces and will disputes. Cold economic concerns give way to emotion.

In the following case, however, principle seems to be the motivator, plain and simple.

Forty-year-old Daniel Goldstein, his wife and daughter are among a handful of holdouts still living on several once-thriving urban blocks being cleared to make way for a new arena for the NBA’s Nets (Hat Tip: Canadian Press).

...

As readers of this blog know, Atlantic Yards project was supposed to provide 2,250 units of affordable public housing — the crux of the basis for eminent domain. Records released under the Freedom of Information Act, however, reveal that Forest City need only seek funding through subsidies for affordable housing. If the developer cannot secure this money, he is under no obligation to build the proposed number of units. There is no guarantee that the project will include any affordable housing.

This site and many other observers were stunned when the Court of Appeals recently ruled against Columbia University on an eminent domain matter that was factually indistinguishable from Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by steve at 8:53 AM

Nets on the Net: 1/2/10 Edition

NetsAreScorching
by Mark Ginocchio

Apparently, feelings were hurt when a column criticizing eminent domain was published yesterday.

Political columnist George Will lashes out against the Atlantic Yards Development, and becomes the latest critic to needlessly mock the Nets basketball team when trying to put down Bruce Ratner: The Atlantic Yards nonsense was compounded when Ratner, to bolster his balance sheet after the real estate collapse, sold the Nets to a Russian billionaire, who stands to benefit from Ratner’s government-subsidized seizure of other people’s property. Those people can only hope that New York’s highest court will grant their appeal for reconsideration on the grounds that Ratner’s argument is about as good as the Nets are. Through Friday, their record was 3-29.

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NoLandGrab: As of Saturday, the Nets are 3-30.

Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

January 2, 2010

Syndicated columnist George Will calls for Court of Appeals to reconsider Atlantic Yards eminent domain case

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder gives a critique of George Will's column on the use of "blight" to allow eminent domain abuse and also supplies some background on Will's position on this issue.

Syndicated columnist George Will, a conservative who played a key role in bringing the controversial Kelo v. New London eminent domain case to national attention, has weighed in on Atlantic Yards, but his timing is different: he wrote about Kelo in September 2004, before the U.S. Supreme Court had even decided to take the case.

By contrast, the challenge to eminent domain for Atlantic Yards has been dismissed in both federal court and state court, except for a longshot effort to reopen the latter case in light of a seemingly contradictory lower court ruling on eminent domain regarding the Columbia University expansion.

...

Will writes:

To seize the acres for Ratner's use, government must claim that the area -- which is desirable because it is vibrant -- is "blighted." The cognitive dissonance would embarrass Ratner and his collaborating politicians, had their cupidity not extinguished their sense of the absurd.

The condo of Daniel Goldstein, his wife and year-old daughter, which cost Goldstein $590,000 in 2003, is on part of the land where Ratner's $4.9 billion project would be built -- with the assistance of more than $1 billion in corporate welfare from the state and city governments, which are drowning in red ink. The Goldsteins' building would not seem blighted to anyone not paid to see blight for the convenience of the payers. Which is of constitutional significance.

Indeed, the area is desirable--Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner famously called it a "great piece of real estate." However, the Goldsteins' building was not deemed blighted; rather, judges are reluctant to interfere with the decision by condemnors to include non-blighted properties.

More importantly, the renovated building (Block 1127, Lot 27) is counter-evidence to the charge that the adjacent railyard, part of the blighted Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA), had a blighting effect on adjacent blocks, as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's response (article, PDF) to the Empire State Development Corporation's Blight Study pointed out.

...

Will points to the need for blight to be found so the state could deliver the properties Bruce Ratner sought. And while the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals, an intermediate court found "mere sophistry" in the Columbia case, with a Blight Study written by the same firm used in Brooklyn.

Will concludes:

The Atlantic Yards nonsense was compounded when Ratner, to bolster his balance sheet after the real estate collapse, sold the Nets to a Russian billionaire, who stands to benefit from Ratner's government-subsidized seizure of other people's property. Those people can only hope that New York's highest court will grant their appeal for reconsideration on the grounds that Ratner's argument is about as good as the Nets are. Through Friday, their record was 3-29.

That's a longshot, but the issues are important. Can "underutilization" really be used as a "blight characteristic," given that applies to enormous sections of the city?

Perhaps the Court of Appeals will take a closer look. And we'll see what comes out of public hearings and new legislation promised by state Senator Bill Perkins.

...

Will's September 2004 column, headlined Despotism in New London, began:

The question is: Does the Constitution empower governments to seize a person's most precious property -- a home, a business -- and give it to more wealthy interests so that the government can reap, in taxes, ancillary benefits of that wealth? Connecticut's court says yes, which turns the Fifth Amendment from a protection of the individual against overbearing government into a license for government to coerce indi- viduals on behalf of society's strongest interests. Henceforth, what home or business will be safe from grasping governments pursuing their own convenience?

Will acknowledged that the Supreme Court had expanded the notion of "public use" to mean "public purpose," notably in a case clearing slum conditions in Washington, DC. He wrote:

But the Fort Trumbull neighborhood -- what remains of it; many residents have been bullied into moving -- is middle class. That is the "problem": Residents are not rich enough to pay the sort of taxes that can be extracted from the wealthy interests to which New London's government wants to give other people's property.

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Posted by steve at 9:20 AM

George Will: A blight grows in Brooklyn

Merced Sun-Star

Nationally-syndicated columnist George Will takes aim at the absurd "blight" designation used to justify eminent domain abuse in Prospect Heights.

To seize the acres for Ratner's use, government must claim that the area -- which is desirable because it is vibrant -- is "blighted." The cognitive dissonance would embarrass Ratner and his collaborating politicians, had their cupidity not extinguished their sense of the absurd.

The condo of Daniel Goldstein, his wife and year-old daughter, which cost Goldstein $590,000 in 2003, is on part of the land where Ratner's $4.9 billion project would be built -- with the assistance of more than $1 billion in corporate welfare from the state and city governments, which are drowning in red ink. The Goldsteins' building would not seem blighted to anyone not paid to see blight for the convenience of the payers. Which is of constitutional significance.

The Constitution says government may not take private property other than for a "public use." By "public," the Framers, who did not scatter adjectives carelessly, meant uses -- roads, bridges, parks, public buildings -- directly owned or primarily used by the general public. In 1954, however, in a case concerning a crime- and infectious disease-ridden section of Washington, D.C., the court expanded the notion of "public use" to include removing "blight."

Since then, that term, untethered from serious social dangers, has become elastic in the service of avarice. In 2005, the court held, 5-4, that New London, Conn., could take the property of a middle-class neighborhood and transfer it to a corporate developer who would pay more taxes to the city government than the evicted homeowners had paid. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, dissenting, warned that the consequences of the decision would "not be random." The beneficiaries would be people "with disproportionate influence and power in the political process."

Enter Ratner, with plans to build a huge complex of high-rise residences, commercial properties and a basketball arena for the NBA's New Jersey Nets, which he bought. The city and state governments salivated at the thought of new revenues -- perhaps chimerical -- to waste. The problem was, and is, that people live and work where Ratner wants to build.

So blight had to be discovered. It duly was, by a firm that specializes in such discoveries. New York's highest court ratified that finding, 6-1.

But a week later, Columbia University, which has plans for a $6.3 billion expansion in Manhattan, was stymied in its attempt to wield the life-shattering power of eminent domain against several local businesses that do not want to be shattered. A state court held, 3-2, that condemnation proceedings had been unconstitutional. The court said the blight designation was "mere sophistry": "Even a cursory examination of the study reveals the idiocy of considering things like unpainted block walls or loose awning supports as evidence of a blighted neighborhood."

The idiocy was written on Columbia's behalf by the same firm the Empire State Development Corporation hired to find blight at the Brooklyn site.

The Atlantic Yards nonsense was compounded when Ratner, to bolster his balance sheet after the real estate collapse, sold the Nets to a Russian billionaire, who stands to benefit from Ratner's government-subsidized seizure of other people's property. Those people can only hope that New York's highest court will grant their appeal for reconsideration on the grounds that Ratner's argument is about as good as the Nets are. Through Friday, their record was 3-29.

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Posted by steve at 9:03 AM

The Atlantic Terrace "neighborhood" somehow lacks an acknowledgment of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Neither the Fifth Avenue Committee nor developer Bruce Ratner seem to feel that mentioning the proposed Atlantic Yards project in connection with the adjacent Fort Greene neighborhood constitutes putting your best foot forward.

The Fifth Avenue Committee's new LEED Gold, mixed-income Atlantic Terrace development is nearing completion, far faster than Atlantic Yards (which began earlier), but there's a curious omission on the official web site: no (planned) arena.

The neighborhood page of the web site states:

Atlantic Terrace is located in Fort Greene, adjacent to Prospect Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Clinton Hill and Boerum Hill. The location has so much to offer, including two public parks, multiple schools, a major hospital, and a local university—all within walking distance. The building is also adjacent to a major shopping center, the Atlantic Terminal Mall, as well as Brooklyn’s premier transit hub at the Atlantic/Pacific Station through which virtually all city subway lines pass.

Yes, and it looks like they're going to build an arena across the street, surrounded by a tower or two or four.

There's a similar omission on the web site for Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb Avenue project, as well.

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Posted by steve at 8:57 AM

Columbia Gets a Lesson in Property Rights

The Wall Street Journal
By Julia Vitullo-Martin

This editorial reviews the ruling this past December against Columbia University's use of eminent domain in its expansion into West Harlem. Questions about what might come next:

Judge Catterson also wrote that "the blight designation in the instant case is mere sophistry. It was utilized by ESDC years after the scheme was hatched to justify the employment of eminent domain but this project has always primarily concerned a massive capital project for Columbia."

Judge Catterson's decision sets up a conflict that will likely shape how eminent domain is used in the future. Just a week before he issued his ruling, New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, decided in Goldstein et al. v. Urban Development Corporation that ESDC could seize private property in Brooklyn and hand it over to Forest City Ratner, a private developer.

That case was a big setback for private property advocates, who had spent years trying to curtail the use of eminent domain and who got a bump in public support after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. the City of New London (2005) that states could seize private land as part of private development projects.

Now, in the wake of Judge Catterson's ruling, the state's Court of Appeals will likely have to take the issue up again if the case is appealed. Perhaps this time it will impose strict limits on when the power of eminent domain can be used.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat and chairman of the committee on corporations, authorities and commissions, doesn't want to leave it to the courts. He held one public meeting on Judge Catterson's ruling before Christmas and is planning a second this coming week. He also fired off a letter to Democratic Gov. David A. Paterson asking him not to appeal Judge Catterson's ruling, and to impose a "statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain" until the state legislature can pass legislation that specifies how the power can be used.

The governor hasn't decided what to do, but he doesn't have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines forever. With two conflicting court decisions and a brewing controversy, the legislature will almost certainly pass something that will force him to choose sides.

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Posted by steve at 8:31 AM

January 1, 2010

Curbed Awards '09 Neighborhoods: NIMBYs, Rants And More!

Curbed

Threatened Neighborhood Landmarks That Are Somehow Still Standing

4) World's Fair Pavilion, Queens. Seriously, how is that thing still standing?
3) Holiday Cocktail Lounge, East Village. Its 90-ish year old owner and bartender sadly passed, but somehow a second Chipotle on St. Mark's Place was avoided, for now.
2) St. Vincent's Hospital O'Toole Building, West Village. Christopher Hitchens writes, "Go and have a look while you can, because it is again menaced with demolition, along with perhaps a cluster of other West Village buildings, in order to make room for a monstrous alteration to Seventh Avenue, at just the point where the greatest number of quirky and individual streets converge." What he said.
1) Daniel Goldstein's Apartment Building, Atlantic Yards Footprint. The dude abides.

link

More 2009 retrospecti...

The Real Deal, The Real Deal's best of 2009

Top 10 biggest New York City real estate stories of the year

Here are The Real Deal staff's picks for the stories that most altered the New York City real estate landscape in 2009, in alphabetical order.

Atlantic Yards
After six years of legal battles, the New York Court of Appeals last month cleared the way for developer Bruce Ratner to move forward with plans for his $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, dismissing opponents' claims that the state had misused eminent domain laws to secure land for the development. (That's after a design by Frank don't-call-me-starchitect Gehry was removed from the plans.) Ratner announced this month that he had officially closed on the project, and then construction began. A bevy of eminent domain protests by locals ensued, including one at Freddy's Bar on Dean Street that involved the guillotining of a faceless body emblazoned with the words "eminent domain theft."

YourNabe.com, Reeling in the year that was 2009

February

Winter’s chill brought a frigid rebuke to those hoping to stymie the Atlantic Yards project, when a New York appellate panel rejected a lawsuit that charged that the Empire State Development Corp.’s environmental review of the site was inadequate.
...

December

Brooklynites were in a litigious mood this month, as Coney Island ride advocates sued the city regarding its development of the seaside amusement park. The same week, the city sued itself over the reopening of the Brooklyn House of Detention. Some lawsuits, such as the developer Bruce Ratner’s right to develop Atlantic Yards, were dismissed, while others, including TransGas Energy’s right to build a power plant on the Williamsburg waterfront, remain subject to appeal.

Posted by eric at 3:38 PM

Starting in the New Year: Domino Sugar Fight

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

A story about the controversial Domino Sugar factory project begins thusly:

Just because Atlantic Yards is (probably) now happening, that's not to say Brooklyn has seen the last of big development battles.

article

Posted by eric at 3:32 PM

What's missing in Times editorial urging Bloomberg to take care when "some bigwig wants a stadium"?

Atlantic Yards Report

Happy New Year, NoLandGrab readers! It appears that The New York Times has already broken its New Year's resolution (assuming they bothered to make it) to eliminate its big blind spot when it comes to the Atlantic Yards project of its development partner, Bruce C. Ratner.

A New York Times editorial headlined Mr. Bloomberg’s Third Term has a glaring omission:

Like all mayors, Mr. Bloomberg wants his share of monuments. He already has waterfront parks, two finished stadiums, a slew of high rises and tantalizing possibilities on Governors Island. Going forward, it will be hard for the public to stomach any big giveaways like Yankee Stadium, which, at the mayor’s urging, got billions of dollars of support, including taxpayer-backed debt, tax breaks and the use of city parkland.

“It’s a time for singles, not home runs,” said Mitchell Moss, a professor at New York University and informal adviser to the mayor. Mr. Bloomberg should use his business acumen to push for more developments with housing for moderate-income residents and public workers. The next time some bigwig wants a stadium or a fat new zoning change, the mayor should take care to demand more parks and public facilities as part of the deal. The bottom line for any development should be that it helps out more than the developer’s bottom line.

And, um, what if the mayor decides to let the state oversee the development instead, with major tax breaks, essentially free city streets and property, and an inside track on valuable public property like the Vanderbilt Yard?

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Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

Official Statement: Forest City Ratner to get 5% development fee, or $7 million minimum

Atlantic Yards Report

We've known since a July 2007 New York Times report that Forest City Ratner would get a 5% development fee while also owning a significant part of the Atlantic Yards project.

When Atlantic Yards was projected to cost $4 billion, that 5% fee would have represented $200 million. Now that AY is projected to cost $4.9 billion, that 5% fee would total $245 million.

But it could be a little more.

The Barclays Center Official Statement, prepared by underwriter Goldman Sachs, indicates that the annual reimbursement should not exceed the greater of $7 million or 5% of cumulative total Arena Project costs.

$7 million is 5% of $140 million. So if for some reason annual Arena Project costs are less than $140 million, Forest City Ratner could get a $7 million fee, which would represent somewhat greater than 5%.

Given that the arena is supposed to cost $1 billion and be built in less than three years, that seems not too likely, but you never know with Atlantic Yards.

So when Forest City Ratner says it plans to fully build Atlantic Yards because that's the only way to get a return on its investment, the development fee has to be part of the equation.

article

Posted by eric at 1:06 PM

Who Wouldn’t Want a Third Baseball Team in Town?

New York Magazine
by Will Leitch

Yesterday, Tim Marchman of Sports Illustrated floated the idea that New York City, this fine burgh in which we take up residence/store our office things, should get a third baseball team in order to help even the playing field. This is ridiculous on its face — as if the Yankees' spending and market share could possibly be slowed by some weird new team — and would never actually happen, but hey, it's the end of December, and baseball's still months away, so … let's play the no-chance-but-why-not-it's-fun game?
...

Thus: Brooklyn! Forget the Nets: Now this is an Atlantic Yards project we can get behind. Turning our Cobble Hill neighborhood into a pseudo-Wrigleyville, a fifteen-minute walk to the ballpark, would even make us waver, and we scream old Jack Buck radio calls when woken up in the middle of the night. They would have to have a second entrance for strollers.

This will never happen, in a million years. We still like the idea that a new team would try to capture the Brooklyn Dodgers spirit and end up with a stadium full of Bugaboos, chai lattes, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

article

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

As China pursues development, "nail houses" are common, as property owners seek fair compensation

Atlantic Yards Report

If you think the Atlantic Yards condemnation battle is bitter, consider the situation in China, as the New York Times reports, in an article headlined Chinese Businesses Resist Eviction by Developers:

Chinese newspapers are filled with stories of battles involving so-called nail houses, the properties whose owners and occupants are like deeply embedded spikes that refuse to give way to redevelopment juggernauts. As an unceasing real-estate boom has swept the nation, much of it orchestrated by the local governments that benefit from soaring land values, property owners and occupants often protest unfair compensation.

A standoff ensues. Shady men are dispatched. Goliath rarely loses.

In the case chronicled by the Times, David did win--a restaurant was evicted, but its owners got the full payment they sought.

link

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

So, where's the $324.8 million more for the arena going to come from?

Atlantic Yards Report

Eliot Brown of the New York Observer points to a major gap in funding for the Atlantic Yards arena, the need for $324.8 million, money not yet in hand but expected to be raised within a year.

The money would come from Mikhail Prokhorov (aka "New Investor"), additional financing, and new equity from Forest City Ratner or third parties.

FCR told investment analysts earlier this month it planned to invest $200 million in equity, but, as Brown writes, " it's not as if developers generally have $200 million just lying around." (Forest City hasn't yet publicly commented.)

And it's not clear to me what role the unmentioned taxable junk bonds would play in this.

link

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM