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January 3, 2010

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.


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 January 3, 2010 9:19 AM