« February 2010 | Main | April 2010 »

March 31, 2010

Our mailbag returns — and is filled with Atlantic Yards ire

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters to the Editor

The Brooklyn Paper publishes several letters, three of which we posted earlier today via YourNabe.com. This one, however, from the Fightin' Freddy's ringleader, is fresh.

To the editor,

Thank you for your cover photo of Bruce Ratner that appeared in the same issue as a full-page ad for his Barclays Center (“Dig it,” March 12). I have elderly cats who cannot always make it into the actual litter box, and I have to line the floor with paper for these times. The large ad works well for the cat who is most ill, since it’s a full page to hit. My other cat prefers target practice, however, and your front page picture of Ratner has successfully been targeted many times in both liquid and solid form, if you catch my drift.

I have long been a fan of The Brooklyn Paper, and although Atlantic Yards coverage has been scant of late, this issue makes up for it. The cats have not had as much fun since we had all those Bloomberg ads showing up in the mail last fall.

Steve de Seve, Broolyn Heights


Posted by eric at 11:26 PM

Prokhorov, Round 2: more insight from the Bloomberg TV interview, which barely lays a glove on him

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, 60 Minutes got to him first, but Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov's other TV profile/long interview, with Bloomberg TV (excerpted below) and the print Bloomberg Markets/Bloomberg Business Week, is well worth watching.

Here are some of the takeaways:

  • It's possible to interview Prokhorov without a Steve Kroft grin on your face
  • It's possible to ask Prokhorov semi-tough questions but avoid bigger ones
  • Prokhorov, despite his insider connections, considers himself a "self-made man"
  • He claims not to have political power but is "just a businessman"
  • As with the Barclays naming rights deal, Prokhorov seeks to leverage Brooklyn to gain himself a platform in the United States ("we can create excellent business unit")
  • Prokhorov was well-prepped for the media blitz, calling money just "a side effect" of business and floating the same reference to Sinatra's "New York, New York"
  • Still, he claimed not to remember spending some $19,000 on lunch at Nello in New York
  • When asked about the four days he was jailed in France on suspicion of bringing in prostitutes, he didn't assert (as on 60 Minutes) that it was fun but explained he'd been in the Soviet Army
  • Prokhorov invites footage of his kickboxing workout
  • He installed a basketball court just for the sake of his Bloomberg interview
  • A basketball was strategically placed on the shelf behind him
  • The Internets--not for him; he uses neither a cell phone nor a computer
  • The more impressed by Prokhorov, the taller he is reported to be (6'7" to Bloomberg/BW, 6'8" to 60 Minutes, 6'9" to New York Magazine's Will Leitch)

On video

Below is an excerpt. Bloomberg TV offers a profile as well as a full interview, about a half-hour.


Related content...

Bloomberg.com, Prokhorov Interview

Click the link for video of the full Bloomberg TV interview.


Stephanie Baker and Yuriy Humber for the athletic feat of reporting Mikhail Prokhorov’s all-win business career without detecting a single foul, penalty, or loss.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Stupor Size Thee: Nets’ Yormark Tries To Buy Bag Man’s Silence With A Big Mac

Can't Stop The Bleeding


While Monday’s 90-84 defeat of San Antonio assured the Nets they’d no longer challenge for the worst NBA mark of all time, dignity in the Meadowlands is sadly, short-lived. Following an embarrassing, widely-publicized confrontation with a paper bag-wearing fan, Nets exec Brett Yormark attempted to curry favor with a conciliatory luncheon/webcast earlier today, catered by a local McDonald’s. From the AP’s Tom Canavan:

“Today was another good example of us being able to tell our fans, hey, when you want a voice, you’ll get one with us,” Yormark said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “That’s who we are, the type of franchise we are and we want to be. I think resorting to a brown bag doesn’t do anyone any good and they realize that, and they were very nice and had good things to say about the franchise.”

The lunch at the team’s headquarters in East Rutherford was streamed over the Nets’ Web site although the broadcast shut down because so many people logged on, Yormark said.

“I think, in many respects, a lot of good things have come out of this,” Yormark said. “We were able to reinforce our message to season ticket holders. We don’t have any more brown bags in the building, not that we had a lot to begin with before that incident, our players seemed to rally around it and we are playing our best basketball of the season.

“I don’t know if it was a negative,” Yormark added. “It was an unfortunate incident. I try to make the most of any situation and I think I did.”


NoLandGrab: We'd be more inclined to don the bag while lunching with Yormark than while sitting courtside.

Related coverage...

Bleacher Report, Real Fans Wear Bags: A Revolution Against Inept NBA Management

“Thank you for coming to the game, paying my salary, and watching this historically horrendous 7 win, 63 loss team I’ve helped assemble.”

That’s what Brett Yormark, the New Jersey Nets Chief Executive, should have said to two fans sitting courtside during the Nets’ loss to Miami on Monday night.

Hell, he should have tattooed [it] to his face, or at least included it [in] the marketing for “Free Tax Return Night”—the worst promotion giveaway in sports history.

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

Lots of letters about Atlantic Yards

Courier-Life Publications

Here are some excerpts from this week's Atlantic Yards-centric mailbag. Click the link for the full text.

Your recent coverage of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Atlantic Yards project was disappointing — to put it mildly (“Ground broken on Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project,” March 19). Why would you quote several speakers on “job creation” without noting that there is simply no argument that this project will bring a significant number of jobs, especially in relation to the perhaps as much as $2 billion in direct and indirect public subsidies?

Certainly, given all these years to explore the question, you can do more than simply repeat boosterish claims that have no basis in fact. In a more general sense, you must also be aware that the Independent Budget Office has determined the arena itself would be a money-loser for the city.

Lee Zimmerman, Prospect Heights

We have learned as a result of the entire Atlantic Yards fiasco, is that:

  1. Governments, and particularly the Bloomberg government, actively work against the interests of its citizens and for the best interests of the billionaire elite.

  2. Elected officials can be bought and bought cheaply. After all, your paper once reported that Markowitz received in excess of $40,000 from Ratner. I wonder how much Council Speaker Quinn received for her endorsement and how much was offered to the other members of the Council. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is supposed to investigate corruption, has been awfully quiet.

  3. The citywide media is essentially worthless in uncovering corruption. It often benefits from it in advertising revenue.

  4. Billionaires take care of their own kind first; dishonest billionaires help each other more quickly.

Bob Ohlerking, Park Slope

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry gave a prayer at Ratner’s Barclays Arena “groundtaking” ceremony — and claimed that the project area was “rodent-infested” and “garbage-strewn” before Ratner showed up.

Actually, before Ratner came along in 2003, wielding the threat of the state’s power of eminent domain to steal private property, the project site was a rapidly developing, mixed-use residential and commercial neighborhood. There was nothing noteworthy as far as rats or garbage.

But over the past six-and-a-half years, under that threat of eminent domain, Ratner has indeed blighted a neighborhood that wasn’t.

Daniel Goldstein, Prospect Heights


Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

March 30, 2010

Atlantic Yards YES! School Aid NO!!

Whoops! No money for schools! But a basketball arena? Those funds are in a lock box.

The New York Times, Paterson Delays School Aid, Citing State’s Lack of Money

Gov. David A. Paterson ordered the delay of $2.1 billion in aid payments to local school districts on Tuesday, saying the state did not have enough cash to pay bills and still end the fiscal year with its budget balanced.

Mr. Paterson made the announcement after he and the Legislature failed to agree on a budget deal for the fiscal year that begins on Thursday, a deal that was expected to include provisions to cover the state’s cash crunch for the fiscal year that is ending.

The sheer size of the state’s unpaid bills underscore an unsettling truth: New York is living hand-to-mouth, the state’s solvency at risk day to day.

The delayed payments include about $924 million in aid for New York City schools.

“Once again the governor — and I’m not saying on purpose — created a scenario that hurts the poorest and neediest New Yorkers worst,” said Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers union.

That's because the governor — and we are saying on purpose — is too busy lavishing subsidies (and other people's properties) on the wealthiest and least-deserving New Yorkers (and Russians).

Separately, the Paterson administration moved on Tuesday to withhold payments due after Wednesday on current state construction projects and to delay new ones. The announcement does not affect about $10 million in emergency projects or those being financed with federal stimulus money.

And you can be sure the announcement does not affect Atlantic Yards, either. Nothing ever does.

Posted by eric at 11:54 PM

Forest City reports increased earnings, lower net loss; cites major milestones for Atlantic Yards but acknowledges risks, including need for equity

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, announced today some relatively good financial news, citing a 37.5 percent increase in annual earnings for the year ending 1/31/09 and a lower net loss--$30.7 million, or $0.22 per share, compared with a net loss of $113.2 million, or $1.10 per share, in 2008.

After cutting costs and seeing the economy recover, FCE even gained positive fourth quarter net earnings of $0.04 per share, compared with a net loss of $0.44 in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The Nets and Atlantic Yards

Still, the Nets lost a bit more in 2009 than they did in the previous year: FCE's share was $35.4 million, compared to $34.9 million.

Hence the importance to FCE that Atlantic Yards, as detailed below, was seen as reaching significant milestones.

Still, vacant possession of the project site--likely to be concluded by summer via eminent domain--is necessary for FCE to finish the transaction with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to sell 80% of the New Jersey Nets and 45% of the arena.

Also, among the development risks--required boilerplate, maybe more--is the need to "meet required equity contributions," which suggests that, however Forest City Ratner and Prokhorov have pledged to fill an equity gap, it hasn't been consummated.

Note that the press release refers to "a refinancing from Gramercy Capital on a key $161.9 million land loan for the project," but doesn't explain, as Bruce Ratner suggested at the groundbreaking, that Gramercy progressed from "our land lender" to "our partner." There's no mention of any cash flow difficulties at FCR.

Click here for Forest City's press release.


Posted by eric at 11:29 PM

Forest City Swings To Quarterly Profit

The Wall Street Journal
by John Kell

Forest City Enterprises Inc. swung to a fiscal fourth-quarter profit as the real-estate company benefited from government tax credits and fewer development project write-downs. The company, like its peers, has faced a difficult environment since the residential real-estate bubble popped in 2007, a calamity that struck just as Forest City was getting geared up to begin construction of its $4.3 billion project to remake downtown Brooklyn, N.Y., with its Atlantic Yards residential and commercial project.

Ratings agencies, meanwhile, have expressed concern about the company's debt-protection measures. Still, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services earlier this month said Forest City had sufficient liquidity to meet its funding needs through next year.

The owner of commercial and residential properties reported a profit of $6.2 million, or 4 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $45.3 million, or 44 cents a share. Total revenue climbed 1.2% to $324.3 million.


Posted by eric at 11:24 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Cleveland Frown, The Astonishingly Vapid Mikhail Prokhorov

In what one (admittedly, biased) writer called an "astonishingly vapid softball-laden happyfest" of an interview by Steve Croft of 60 Minutes, Prokhorov reveals himself as not much more than an overgrown child with a flaming Peter Pan complex, probably just what we should expect from the average person who happens to luck/steal his way into a $17 billion fortune.

Theoretically, we might admire someone who actually possesses "a cutthroat business sense," but even such a puff-piece as the one produced by CBS can't help but show how little Prokhorov's fortune has to do with anything of the sort.

Special bonus: Norman Oder sets the record straight in the comments section.

Commercial Investor Property, church property for sale Brooklyn, NY

Here's something you don't see everyday — proximity to Atlantic Yards as selling point.

This is a 4 story industrial building on Atlantic Avenue between Bedford and Nostrand Avenues.

This is one of the busiest commercial corridors in Brooklyn on the border of Crown Heights/Prospect Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant.

This is a great opportunity for an owner/user, a non-profit or a developer to be just 1.5 miles or a 6 minute drive from the proposed Atlantic Yards basketball arena, and benefit from a grandfathered-overbuilt structure in an M1-1 zoning area.

NoLandGrab: You'll definitely be wanting to take the subway rather than the car — assuming the MTA hasn't shut down the subways completely by the time the arena is open for business.

Uncle Mike's Musings, Hard to Justify "What Ifs" with the Nets

Uncle Mike looks back at three decades' worth of New Jersey Nets "what-ifs."

What if Bruce Ratner hadn't bought the team and held a fire sale in anticipation of building the Brooklyn arena? Maybe the Nets would have stayed competitive. Maybe they'd still have Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson, if not Kenyon Martin. Then again, Kidd has been one of the moodier pro athletes of his generation, so maybe he would have forced a trade anyway. He brought the Nets to 2 NBA Finals and within 2 wins of an NBA Championship (getting swept by the Lakers in the '02 Finals and losing the '03 Finals to the Spurs in 6), but he's never led any team he's been with any closer than that. Still better for the team, any team, than Stephon Marbury, the man we traded away to get him, has ever been.

That was pretty much it for the Nets. They became a lame-duck team in 2005, when Ratner bought them and announced his plans for the Atlantic Yards project, including the Barclays Center. They have now been a lame-duck team for 5 years; even the Montreal Expos were only one for 4, and it will eventually be 7 years before the move is actually made, unless new owner Mikhail Prokhorov decides he likes the 18,000 fans who will come out every night to the Prudential Center, realizes that Newark is a great basketball city (as proven by the 2 sellouts crowds at The Rock that these same awful Nets got in the preseason), and tells Ratner to get another team or else go fucksky himself.

Curbed, Three Isn't the Magic Number at Gehry's Beekman Tower

There's a problem with Frank O. Gehry's mammoth erection, and it's not shrinkage—but it's related! During the darkest days of the recession, when developer Forest City Ratner threatened to cut Gehry's 76-story Beekman Tower in half, a deal was struck to lower construction expenses on the Financial District rental tower (which will also contain an elementary school), and its full-on FOGginess was saved. But in a cost-cutting move, it was decided that the Beekman's undulating facade would only cover three sides of the building. A necessary evil, perhaps, but a total bummer.

Posted by eric at 11:07 PM

Cowboys Gone, Irving Officials Call an Audible

What Happens to NFL Hallowed Ground After Players Take the Ball Elsewhere? Bye, Texas Stadium. Hello, Tanger Outlets?

The Wall Street Journal
by Kris Hudson

Forest City is hoping to start building a pro sports facility in Brooklyn, and they're helping to replace one in Texas.

The Dallas suburb of Irving is planning for life after Texas Stadium, which will be demolished April 11.

After 1,900 pounds of explosives level the 65,639-seat stadium early that Sunday morning, Irving officials will target a similarly rare feat—redeveloping the site of a National Football League stadium for a different use.

In Irving, that site is an 80-acre parcel at the busy intersection of Texas highways 183 and 114, which about 150,000 cars pass through daily. Another 320 acres surrounding the site also are slated for redevelopment. Irving officials have enlisted Forest City Enterprises Inc., a veteran of several big urban redevelopment projects, to help plan the effort.


NoLandGrab: The article doesn't mention government subsidies, but like smoke and fire, Forest City and public handouts go hand in hand.

Posted by eric at 10:59 PM

Record price for Warriors could send team to S.F.

San Jose Mercury News
by Drew Voros

An article about the future of the Golden State Warriors holds up Brooklyn as the NBA's future gold standard.

And if you want to see what the future of NBA arenas will be, keep your eye on what is happening in Brooklyn.

Work began this month on the $1 billion (!) home of the New Jersey Nets, set to be completed in 2012.

Although the Nets arena is part of the $5 billion Atlantic Yards development that will include apartments, retail and hospitality businesses, this spectacular project with pro basketball as its centerpiece will be the new standard for the NBA.


NoLandGrab: Spectacular? We hereby present Drew Voros with a free subscription to NoLandGrab so he may learn the difference between "spectacular" and "craptacular."

Posted by eric at 10:47 PM

Sales of Oro condos reach 50 percent; KPMG report for the ESDC had the total at 75 percent last August

Atlantic Yards Report

You may find this hard to believe, but the "facts" supporting the state's Atlantic Yards legal case may have, in fact, been "lies."

There's even more evidence that the report (dated August 31, posted below) that KPMG delivered to the Empire State Development Corporation on the housing market in Brooklyn contains lies.

KPMG claimed that the Oro Condos in Downtown Brooklyn were 75% sold. That didn't ring right.

The evidence mounted. In September, Crain's reported that prices at Oro had been slashed 25%. On 1/31/10, the New York Times reported that the building was 44 percent sold.

By March, 50%

And yesterday it hit the halfway mark. A press release dated March 29, headlined Oro Condominium in Downtown Brooklyn Hits 50% Sold Mark, stated:

Downtown Brooklyn's Oro condominium, the 303-unit luxury building at 306 Gold Street, has reached the 50-percent-sold milestone with more than 152 units sold. Sales have soared at the 40-story property with 61 deals made since September 2009.

Much of the recent sales success can be attributed to Oro's new marketing strategy developed by Rose Associates when they were designated as the sales and marketing agent for the building last fall. Prices have been reduced to adapt to market conditions, and units were individually re-priced with adjustments from 6 to 25 percent. In addition, a new advertising campaign was launched late last year, the model apartments were redesigned, and the Web site was re-tooled. As a result, sales surged to an average of 10 deals per month.

If 61 deals were made since September, that means that only 91 of 303 units had been sold by the time the KPMG report was finished.

That's 30%. Not 75%. Not even close.


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

Klores, whose firm works on Atlantic Yards, tells NPR that Nets move is "gonna be great" (but maybe not the traffic)

Atlantic Yards Report

Dan Klores, whose eponymous p.r. firm handles communications for the Atlantic Yards project, appeared on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show yesterday.

And then, at about 27 minutes in, Pesca brought up the Nets.

A good thing for the city?

"What about the Nets moving to Brooklyn if and when it happens," asked Pesca. "Will that be a good thing for the city?"

"Yeah," responded the Brooklyn-born Klores enthusiastically. "It's a great thing for the city. Y'know, you gotta give those guys credit. I mean, whether you're for it or against it, boy, they stood with it.

Who's they? The developer, the DKC client Klores found no opportunity to mention, that consistently extracted more government subsidies and concessions?

"And they'll build a team--they'll build a team," he added, mindful of the meme that the Nets are well-positioned, with draft choices and cap space, to acquire better players. "I think it's gonna be great. I don't know what it's gonna do for traffic--but it's going to be great."

Yes, even Klores admits that adding more rush hour traffic to the area around Flatbush and Atlantic avenues might not be a good idea.


Posted by eric at 10:48 AM


The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Claire Glass

Another week, another purse grabbed in Bruce Ratner's mall.

Target trickster

Yet another woman’s purse was stolen at the Target at the Atlantic Terminal Mall on March 22.

The victim told police that she noticed that her bag was gone when she headed for the checkout line at 5:45 pm. She also lost three $45 Metrocards and credit cards.

Seems like the crooks are now crossing Flatbush to PC Richard, where the bigger crime is the state's use of eminent domain to terminate the store's lease.

Not very PC

Two thieves entered the PC Richard Store on March 25 and got away with more than $2,000 worth of goods.

The manager of the store, which is at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, said that the perps broke into a showroom case and grabbed the electronics at 3:30 pm.


NoLandGrab: Maybe prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov can patrol Target with his AK-47.

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Nets avoid worst record in NBA history with 90-84 victory over San Antonio Spurs

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

Break up the Nets!

Quick, somebody call hell – find out if it’s frozen over.

The Nets won their 10th game of the season tonight, and never mind that the victims — the mighty San Antonio Spurs — were missing two of their best players.

The more pertinent development was that the Nets showed more resolve in the last five minutes than they had shown in the last five months, outscoring Tim Duncan’s team 18-7 down the stretch to post a stunning 90-84 triumph before 13,053 grateful witnesses at Izod Center.

The ancillary benefit: The 1972-73 Sixers – owners of that 9-73 record – still stand alone in NBA infamy.


NoLandGrab: 10th win not withstanding, Bruce Ratner is still the worst owner in NBA history.

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

March 29, 2010

A Very Brooklyn Passover Haggadah and the world of Internet content

Atlantic Yards Report

Not even the Passover Haggadah is safe from the long keyboard of Norman Oder.

Remember, the New York Times sent a reporter to the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking who had never covered AY before, as if this were some spot news story that any warm (journalism degreed) body could have handled.

So it's small beans, relatively speaking, to watch the semi-snarky blogosphere froth up some content about their discovery of the Atlantic Yards Passover haggadah.

Flashback to 2006

This is how it happened.

NoLandGrab earlier today posted A Very Brooklyn Passover Haggadah for an Atlantic Yardseder.

No date is given, but those of us who've been around for a bit remember it popping up in April 2006 and even playing a cameo in a Times article that month headlined A Blogfest Over a Project in Brooklyn.

However, like the rest of the project, the Haggadah needs an update from four years ago. Below, a few suggestions.


Posted by eric at 10:29 PM

More Russian (Window) Dressing

The Sports Section [NYMag.com], Mikhail Prokhorov Reminds You of What Is Coming

The real news was Mikhail Prokhorov's interview with 60 Minutes, which did little to stop us from thinking he's going to be our city's 21st century Steinbrenner. In fact, we wrote a whole column about it for the magazine this week. Enjoy kicking these Nets around while you can, Knicks fans. They won't look like this for long.

New York Magazine, The Miracle Nets

As much agita as the Knicks have caused their fans this season, it’s nothing compared to the pain in East Rutherford. The team lost its first eighteen games (a league record), has employed four different coaches, is last in the NBA in attendance by a substantial margin (the Nets barely outdraw the WNBA’s New York Liberty), and needs two wins in its final eleven games to avoid the 1972–73 Philadelphia 76ers’ mark of 9-73. For a franchise as traditionally inept as the Nets, this, at last, is the nadir.

But those are all just roster machinations, the front-office push-pull that every team goes through; change, sure, but not metamorphosis. The real Nets transformation is on the executive and geographical levels. This team is about to get Ivan Drago–ed.

Prepare yourself, New York, for the force of nature that is Mikhail Prokhorov: The next-generation George Steinbrenner is a six-foot-nine Russian bachelor billionaire with a taste for the nightlife, metal music, and $19,000 lunches on the Upper East Side.

Bruce Ratner might have only wanted the Nets as a residential-zoning bargaining chip, but he’s set Prokhorov up for an easy alley-oop. Prokhorov is buying into a perfect situation, and he doesn’t even have to be seen as the bad guy: Ratner was the one on all the protest signs, not him.

NoLandGrab: To be fair, he was on some of the protest signs. Something about Russia's richest man being the beneficiary of eminent domain seizures and hundreds of millions of dollars in state and city subsidies.

Deadspin, Correction: Mikhail Prokhorov Is Your New Favorite Sports Billionaire

Last week, we pondered whether software tycoon Larry Ellison would soon become the NBA's craziest billionaire owner. Not a chance, once Mike "Mad Dog" Prokhorov suits up for the New Jersey Nets.

Prokhorov got his start selling acid-washed jeans in the late '80's (seriously) and then worked his way up through financial circles until he and a partner "won" a rigged auction to buy a gigantic mining operation from the state.

NLG: Very reminiscent of Bruce Ratner "winning" a rigged auction to buy the Vanderbilt railyard — and then renegotiating the payment terms with the money-starved MTA when he couldn't come up with the cash at closing.

Daily Transom [Observer.com], More Mikhail! Meet the New Nets Owner, Over and Over Again

He tells all three outlets that he's not an oligarch, but it's Bloomberg TV's Ryan Chilcote who grills him on how he made his money. Asked how he was able to avoid the country's corruption, Mr. Prokhorov replies: "Do you know the difference between a rat and a hamster?" And then answer it himself: "A hamster has better p.r."

NLG: Presumably, Chilcote meant Russia's corruption. Does this mean we have to start calling the Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Hamsterner?

Deal Journal [WSJ Blog], A Russian Oligarch Buys Low in Brooklyn

Mikhail Prokhorov knows a good trade when he sees one.

Will he be as lucky with his deal to purchase 80% of the New Jersey Nets and a 45% stake in the team’s soon to be built stadium in Brooklyn for $200 million?

He’s certainly buying low in terms of quality. The Nets are the worst team in the NBA.

Can't Stop The Bleeding, Mikhail Prokhorov Is Very Ready For His Close Up

It’s been quite a whirlwind media tour for Russian zillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, aspiring owner of the Jersey/Brooklyn Nets. Profiled last night on CBS’ “60 Minutes”, Prokhorov answered questions about his pending Owner With A Boner status by saying, “I like women.”

The Internets [Daily News Blog], Nets can begin to look ahead now

If Nets fans are hoping that [John] Wall becomes the next Jason Kidd, then they are praying that Prokhorov becomes the next George Steinbrenner. He hasn't even taken over the team yet, and already Prokhorov has taken on as high a profile as Steinbrenner had back in the old days. Okay, not quite. But close.

Gothamist, New Nyets Owner is Excited About the Terrible Team He Bought

NLG: For good measure, the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers clinched the title of all-time worst NBA team when the Nets managed their 10th win of the season a few minutes ago, defeating San Antonio 90-84.

Posted by eric at 9:52 PM

Nets Executive Has New Take on Brown Bagger

Off the Dribble [NYTimes NBA Blog]
by Ken Belson

Any excuse for The Times to give ink to the woeful Nets and their self-promoting promoter-in-chief.

In the long, strange trip known as the Nets’ 2009-2010 season, Tuesday may turn out to be a red-letter day on the weirdness calendar.

Brett Yormark, the team’s chief executive, will host a Brown Bag Lunch Summit where he hopes to have “a constructive discussion about the future of the Nets” with Chris Lisi.

Lisi made news when he wore a brown bag over his head during a Nets game against the Miami Heat last Monday. Yormark, whose team has just nine wins this season, lost his cool and started shouting at Lisi, who was sitting courtside — as a guest of the Nets.

Now, Yormark hopes to turn Lisi’s frustration into a positive by chatting at the team’s headquarters about where the team is headed. The discussion, which will include radio broadcasters Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw, will be streamed live on the Nets’ Web site.

Some fans, though, think Yormark is pushing the whole brown bag thing too far. Why, they say, should he look to Lisi for advice about the Nets when there are hundreds of season ticket holders who would happily share their thoughts?


NoLandGrab: Why? Because Yormark is catering to the "casual fan" and the news media — not loyal (and long-suffering) season ticket holders

Additional coverage...

AP via The Star-Ledger, Nets CEO Brett Yormark to have lunch with brown bag-wearing fan

Yormark defended his actions the next day, saying he was standing up for his team, which is 9-64 and needs one win in its last nine games to avoid matching the NBA record for fewest wins.

Posted by eric at 9:35 PM

40 Under Forty: New York's Rising Stars

Crain's NY Business

Seth Pinsky, 39
NYC Economic Development Corp.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Seth Pinsky realized his true calling was in public service. Then a lawyer with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Mr. Pinsky watched from his office as rescue workers trolled Ground Zero for weeks after the attacks, and was gripped with a desire to help the city rebuild.

That's almost as believable as the Atlantic Yards creation myth.

Two years later, Mr. Pinsky joined the Economic Development Corp., where he spent his first year volunteering for any and every assignment.

"He is one of the fastest learners I've ever been around," says Robert Lieber, now deputy mayor for economic development, who tapped Mr. Pinsky to succeed him as president of the EDC in 2007.

Mr. Pinsky played a key role in shepherding development projects including the World Trade Center, Atlantic Yards and the new Yankees and Mets stadiums. But disaster struck again in September 2008 with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, leaving him with a new mission: diversifying the city's Wall Street-centric economy.


NoLandGrab: By "shepherding," they must mean "offering obfuscatory answers to Assembly members and state Senators."

And by "diversifying the city's Wall Street-centric economy," they must mean "by heaping ever more subsidies on the city's real estate-centric economy."

Posted by eric at 9:17 PM

Celebrate Passover With Atlantic Yards Themed Haggadah!


Sure, Gothamist is just linking back to us, but we've got to keep up with those other guys. Besides, it's a funny post.

Forget being cast out of Egypt; this year Jews all over Brooklyn can sympathize with the families being evicted from the Atlantic Yards and have a topical Seder with this Atlantic Yards themed haggadah!

The youngest at the table can ask such questions as, "Why is it that in all other projects, the developer dips only into his own budget, but in the Atlantic Yards project the developer dips twice—$100 million from the state's budget and $100 million from the city's budget?"

Then once the kids find the afikoman, everyone can sing "Had Bruce Ratner only given us the Atlantic Center Mall— Dayeinu! It would have been enough!"



Curbed, Next Year at Atlantic Yards: While everyone else has been busy…

While everyone else has been busy trying to eat as much bread as possible before sundown, one Atlantic Yards obsessive decided to create an Atlantic Yards-themed Passover haggadah. There are four new questions, such as: "Why is it that Brownstone Brooklyn consists of unleavened low-rise buildings, but at Atlantic Yards Bruce Ratner wants to building seventeen high-rise buildings?"

Posted by eric at 9:11 PM

Barclays Center, Atlantic Yards and the New Jersey? Nets - Changing Brooklyn

1 Stop Over in Brooklyn

Looks like we've got some competition.

Cities change and change is hard. (I think we can all agree on that after going through the latest Health Care Debate). Some people want things to stay the same, other want change with as much people protection as possible, and others want change with the most possible monetary gain. So either you are for Atlantic Yards, against it or for it with real focus on what will happen to the people and the community. I have complied links to highlight all of the recent news in regards to Atlantic Yards and Barclays Arena and I hope you can all provide your comments in support or opposition.


NoLandGrab: Eight links? We posted twice that number just this morning. Hmm, they do allow comments, however.

P.S. We're against it.

Posted by eric at 9:00 PM

A Very Brooklyn Passover Haggadah for an Atlantic Yardseder


To help you celebrate Passover, here's a link [PDF] to an Atlantic Yards-themed Four Questions, Dayeinu and Chad Gadya.

Chag Sameach!

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

New York real estate firms set up REITs to raise cash

But badly burned banks are hesitant to make big loans

Investment News
by Theresa Agovino

Smart financing strategy or desperation move? Forest City, which recently missed a mortgage payment on one of its Metrotech buildings, looks to the Real Estate Investment Trust model to raise money.

Joining Mr. Swig in an effort to tap the stock market for cash is Forest City Ratner Cos., which hired Bank of America Corp. and Barclays PLC to explore underwriting a REIT of its retail properties. Meanwhile, American Realty Capital New York Recovery REIT Inc. is trying to raise up to $1.5 billion to purchase distressed Manhattan office properties.

What Forest City hopes to offer investors with its proposed REIT isn't office buildings but retail properties.

Forest City didn't return calls seeking comment.


NoLandGrab: This is the second time in as many weeks that Forest City has been mentioned in an article (and in a similar context) alongside a seriously struggling developer. Is it just smoke, or might there be a fire?

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

City Hall News article accepts claim of ACORN Housing's successor that it's unaffiliated with ACORN; AY housing murky but Lewis says role continues

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder debunks claims by Mutual Housing New York (aka ACORN) that they are not an ACORN affiliate.

City Hall News reports, in an article headlined ACORN Housing Arm, Battered by Federal Funding Ban, Lives On that, yes, Mutual Housing New York will continue to work on the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal.

However, the article credulously accepts the explanation that ACORN Housing Corporation was always separate from ACORN and fails to mention crucial elements in the Atlantic Yards deal, such as ACORN's pledge to publicly support the project and Forest City Ratner's $1.5 million loan/grant to national ACORN.

Not an affiliate? See page 20 of the 7/23/09 report by the Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Whatever the politics behind the report, the documents cited speak for themselves.)

Steven Kest, Executive Director of ACORN, explains to a funder that Mike Shea: Executive Director, ACORN Housing Corporation, is among “the following people... working for affiliated organizations."

(Emphasis added)

The Atlantic Yards deal

The article states:

MHANY will also be charged with leasing and marketing the roughly 2,250 units of affordable housing built at the controversial Atlantic Yards site in Prospect Heights. Advocates say ACORN’s shuttering has thrown the Atlantic Yards plan—which has already changed several times—into disarray.

“One of the big issues of course is that nobody has any idea when this affordable housing might be built,” said Jo Anne Simon, a lawyer and activist with the Brooklyn Speaks coalition, which is lobbying for accountability at the Atlantic Yards site. “And of course ACORN was there to ensure not just that it was built, they were going to be managing that property.”

Bertha Lewis, the CEO of ACORN, said in an interview that she was unsure how the Community Benefits Agreement the group signed with Forest City Ratner would have to be amended to reflect the change in organizations. But she insisted that ACORN would continue to live on in some way in order to enforce the housing provisions in the agreement.

“I don’t know what we would have to technically do,” she said, adding, “ACORN still exists, and Bertha Lewis still exists.”

ACORN's not doing much enforcing, given that the Development Agreement requires only 300 units in 12 years.

And ACORN, not merely required by the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding to publicly support the project, gained $1.5 million from the developer to limp along, bailed out temporarily, and folding only after the groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards arena.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

ACORN Housing Arm, Battered by Federal Funding Ban, Lives On

City Hall News
by Sal Gentile

The nationwide community organizing group ACORN may be shutting down, but its non-profit housing developer, ACORN Housing Corporation, lives on.

The organization, which manages and develops affordable housing units in New York, has gone through a re-branding of its own, changing its name to Mutual Housing NY. Ismene Speliotis, the group’s executive director, said that was ACORN Housing Corporation’s original name when it was founded in 1986.

Speliotis said the group is neither an affiliate nor a subsidiary of ACORN, but that it has nonetheless been hurt by Congress’s decision last year to ban federal funding for ACORN or any of its “allies,” a term Speliotis said is overly broad. A court has since deemed Congress’s decision unconstitutional, though the Obama administration is appealing.

“We’ve tried to make it clear to the government that MHANY is a separate entity, that it’s always been a separate entity,” Speliotis said. “If the law says ‘don’t fund ACORN,’ and then we say, ‘we’re not ACORN,’ and then somebody decides that we are ACORN even though we’re not ACORN, then it’s a bit of a problem.”


NoLandGrab: Sounds to us like ACORN is playing a shell game.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

It came from the Prokosphere...

Here's a rundown of stories covering the 60 Minutes, Bloomberg Markets and New York Times interviews with Mikhail Prokhorov.

Daily Transom [NY Observer], 60 Minutes Parties With Prokhorov

Steve Kroft went to Moscow for a 60 Minutes segment on impending Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and got to do all kinds of fun things: eat a dinner of Russian delicacies, go to a club with a VIP section stocked with girls, and tour the sprawling mansion of Russia's richest man.

Mr. Prokhorov, being the gentle 6'7" giant that he is, even let Mr. Kroft hold one of his favorite Kalashnikov assault rifles. And he told Mr. Kroft that he sort of enjoyed the three days he spent in jail in France for allegedly flying prostitutes into the country.

All of which might have precluded Mr. Prokhorov from owning a team in the old days of the NBA, say, five years ago, when the league was flush with cash and teams weren't giving away players to cut their losses.

Now, it doesn't seem to matter.

"I think he's a man who's passed a very tight security check, and nobody has come up with any reason why he shouldn't be an NBA owner," said David Stern, the NBA commissioner, with a straight face.

The Star-Ledger, Interviews shed light on prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov

While the '60 Minutes' piece on Mikhail Prokhorov received national attention Sunday, a profile of depth and substance was released hours later by Bloomberg Markets magazine, which details his childhood and emphasized his global ambitions.

Interviewed in Moscow and Siberia over four days by reporter Stephanie Baker, the future owner of the Nets said the term “oligarch” shouldn’t apply to him, because “an oligarch is rich and has political power. I’m a businessman. Every businessman has a relationship with the government ... I’m not into politics.”

Still, Prokhorov admitted, he last paid a bribe “15 years ago, the last time. I need to be frank.”

NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner certainly has a relationship with government. New York's seems to serve as his personal cash machine and land-procurement operation.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, 60 Minutes Parties With Prospective Nets'/Barclays Center Owner Mikhail Prokhorov

There is hagiography, and then there is billionaire worship, and then there is....partying with an oligarch.

Tonight, once respectable 60 Minutes aired a puff piece on the prospective owner of the Nets and prospective partial owner of the Barclays Center Arena—Russia's richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov. And Steve Kroft had fun doing it (expensive wine, a helicopter trip to [Siberia], clubbing in Mikhail's section of the club and a lavish meal), while Bruce Ratner probably had a great time watching it, as well, as none of the controversial issues about the Atlantic Yards project and Prokhorov's complicity were even touched upon.

NY Post, Turning around Nets 'excites' Prokhorov

The 44-year-old's first interview with American television aired last night on "60 Minutes," and though he was not able to discuss any specific plans for improving the team, he did not hesitate to embrace the challenge of turning around a team that might tie the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers for the worst record in NBA history.

"I am real excited to take the worst team in the league and turn it to be the best," Prokhorov said of the 9-64 Nets, who need one win in their final nine games to avoid tying the 76ers' mark for ineptitude.


I know a lot of people have been really excited about the change in ownership, and I am too. The biggest change Prokhorov is going to represent is in ownership’s feeling about the team. I have never met Bruce Ratner, but with what I have read about him and heard (interviews and such), it becomes apparent that putting a winning product on the court isn’t the top priority.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, "Miracle Happens": 60 Minutes Pitches Softballs to Prospective Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov

Miracles do happen, such as Russia's richest man stepping in to bail out a broke developer subsidized by New York taxpayers and the government's gift of eminent domain. THAT is a miracle.

NBC New York, Mikhail Prokhorov Introduces Himself

The dual profiles do a lot to clean up the cartoon supervillain vibe that earlier discussions of Prokhorov have given off, especially when the incoming owner said that he was buying the Nets to benefit Russian basketball.

NLG: Supervillain? It's the current owner who's a well known supervillain.

DealBook [NYTimes.com], Nets’ Likely Owner Faces America

The Times repackages its story from last night with a dash of the Bloomberg Markets interview.

NBA FanHouse, Mikhail Prokhorov on Nets: 'There is Only One Way to Go: Up'

Hoopsnotes, Prokhorov To Nets Fans: ‘Miracles Happen’

Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

The Russian Is Coming

60 Minutes

Here's the full 60 Minutes segment with prospective Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Mikhail Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses his planned buy of the Nets, his wealth and the unusual way he made most of his money in his first U.S. TV interview. Steve Kroft reports.

Watch CBS News Videos Online


Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

FCE PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Enterprises Notice of Fourth-Quarter 2009 Earnings and Conference Call

Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) will release its fourth-quarter 2009 financial results on Tuesday, March 30, 2010, after the NYSE close, and will hold a conference call with investors on Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. ET, to discuss these results. Investors are invited to dial into the conference call hosted by Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer.

The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Thursday, April 1, 2010. A live webcast of the call will be available online at www.forestcity.net.

Use the following link to pre-register for this conference call. Callers who pre-register will be given a unique PIN to gain immediate access to the call and bypass the live operator. You may pre-register at any time, including up to and after the call start time.

To pre-register, go to:


To participate on the day of the call, dial 888-713-4205 and use access code 47647890, approximately five minutes before the call. Callers without a pre-registration PIN can press *1 to bypass the instructions and speak to a live operator. Tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City Fourth-Quarter Earnings Conference Call. (International callers, please dial 617-213-4862.)

The call will be replayed from April 1, 2010, 2:00 P.M. ET to May 1, 2010, 11:59 P.M. ET. The replay number is 888-286-8010, access code 86333720. (International callers, please dial 617-801-6888.) The webcast replay will be available at www.forestcity.net.

Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

March 28, 2010

In "The Russian Is Coming," 60 Minutes' Kroft pitches softball questions to insouciant billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov

Atlantic Yards Report

Congratulations, 60 Minutes — you know you've made it to the big time of slipshod reporting when you've been "Oderized" (that goes for you, too, New York Times, but you're used to it). The remarkable Norman Oder has already dissected the Prokhorov interview.

The CBS newsmagazine show 60 Minutes is surely capable of tough investigation; in 2003, it ran a tough piece on eminent domain abuse around the country, even mentioning an episode in which the New York Times "teamed up with a major real estate developer" to get New York State to use eminent domain for a new Times headquarters.

That very same "major real estate developer," Forest City Ratner, has achieved similar success in getting the state to declare the Atlantic Yards site blighted, but that's not the story 60 Minutes wanted this time.

It sought a "get"--an exclusive interview with expected Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and, in the segment broadcast tonight, The Russian Is Coming, correspondent Steve Kroft lobbed softball questions at the billionaire, partied with him (as in screenshot at right), and generally couldn't suppress a grin from his face.


NoLandGrab: Frankly, we've seen harder-hitting reporting from Sid & Marty Krofft.

Posted by eric at 11:59 PM

Why Two-Meter Billionaire Says He’s Only NBA Owner Who Can Dunk

Bloomberg Markets via BusinessWeek.com
by Stephanie Baker

First 60 Minutes. Now a lengthy profile in Bloomberg Markets. This is starting to seem like a coordinated public relations campaign. More here about how Prokhorov got to be Prokhorov, but nothing about why he didn't attend the groundbreaking.

Prokhorov’s love of sports is part of the reason he wants to buy the Nets. He says he originally went after the New York Knicks because of their Manhattan base. They weren’t for sale. Ratner says he approached Prokhorov after hearing from NBA Commissioner David Stern that he was interested in buying a team.

Ratner, 65, had bought the Nets in 2004, for $300 million, from a holding company called YankeeNets LLC. Ratner traveled to Moscow in mid-2009 to discuss the plan with Prokhorov over dinner. Six weeks later, they made a deal.

“We hit it off,” Ratner says. “He will control the team, and we will control the arena.”


NoLandGrab: Of course, there's no disclosure that the man who owns Bloomberg Markets also owns is mayor of New York CIty, which has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies for the building of that arena.

Posted by eric at 11:44 PM

The Oligarch File: Mikhail Prokhorov Talks to '60 Minutes'

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

Why is it the sports reporters always seem to be the ones to see through the nonsense?

So when it comes to NBA ownership, it’s all about stacks of money – and a willingness to flaunt them – so that is what the CBS program made the emphasis of its 14-minute segment.

We saw Mikky at his opulent home. We saw Mikky’s Maybach. We saw a model of his $45 million yacht (where is it docked? He didn’t know) and his guns and his workout room and his, uh, food.

We get it: He’s rich, and comfortable with it.

But there was very little substance about where he came from, which is an important part of his remarkable life and success. You can’t know someone unless you know specifically what they’ve been through in life – those forces that shaped the motives and the spirit of the person involved.

The show’s producers didn’t even try.

But at least they got him to sit down for a while, as uncomfortable as he seemed in closeup.

And that isn’t to suggest that the piece didn’t have some interesting moments. During the segment that depicted all the Russian businessmen getting rubbed out by the mob or competitors in the 90s, Prokhorov came up with a Western metaphor that didn’t sound as rehearsed as the others he used: “It was Wild West,” he said. “It was a territory with no sheriff. No rules. You need to survive.”

In other segments, he came across as very disingenuous.


Posted by eric at 11:07 PM

Nets’ Likely Owner Faces a Nation

The New York Times
by Richard Sandomir

The Times covers the 60 Minutes interview, and tosses Mikhail Prokhorov a few softballs of its own. Now we know he's watched 10 Nets games this season on DVD's the team provides him, but we still don't know why he didn't attend the groundbreaking, what he thinks of the use of eminent domain to clear space for the arena, why armed men stalking Moscow-based journalist John Helmer were carrying documents from one of Prokhorov's companies — and so on.

In an e-mail response to questions, Prokhorov wrote on Sunday: “I view this investment as a business opportunity. I expect this asset to be worth around a billion dollars after the new arena is built and the team gets to the top of the N.B.A.”

Prokhorov, who first conveyed to the league his interest in buying a team in 2008, was initially focused on the Knicks before turning his attention to the Nets.

“I love huge cities: the feeling of pace, of energy,” he wrote in the e-mail message. “Outside of my hometown, Moscow, New York is the place I feel most comfortable. It was this feeling that first sparked my interest in the Knicks.”

The who?

But after seeing that the Knicks could not be acquired from Cablevision, which recently spun off Madison Square Garden as a separate company also controlled by the Dolan family, he focused on the Nets.


NoLandGrab: Though the article includes references to Atlantic Yards and Bruce C. Ratner, it does not disclose that Forest City Ratner developed the newspaper's headquarters building.

Posted by eric at 9:28 PM

Excerpt: The Russian Is Coming

60 Minutes

CBS posted a short clip of what might have been its least-hard-hitting interview ever — with Bruce Ratner's savior, prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. We'll post the full interview once it becomes available.

Mikhail Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses his planned purchase of the NJ Nets, his vast wealth and the surprisingly unusual way he made most of his money.

Watch CBS News Videos Online


NoLandGrab: Glasses of Chateau Lafite '95 drunk by Steve Kroft at Mikhail Prokhorov's dinner table?


Sexy Russian models partied with by Steve Kroft in Mikhail Prokhorov's favorite night club?


Tough questions asked by Steve Kroft of Mikhail Prokhorov during their 60 Minutes inteview?


Value to Bruce Ratner of the absence of any questions about Atlantic Yards?


Posted by eric at 8:25 PM

Nets clinch no worse than tie for worst-ever NBA team

The New York Times, Another Win Puts Nets Step Further From History

Before a surprisingly festive crowd of 13,469, Brook Lopez scored 37 points and Yi Jianlian added 31 — both career highs — to lead the Nets to a 118-110 victory, their ninth of the season. Ten games remain for them to separate themselves from the futility record and the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers of 1972-73.

Call them laughable, but seldom has a team watched by so few — the Nets are last in N.B.A. attendance — been so memorable. As they have tied a yellow ribbon around their inglorious Meadowlands residency, the Nets have been terrifyingly bad. But their timing could not be better.

Bottoming out in near-historic proportion has apparently made them a more attractive reclamation project for Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian oligarch who is poised to own 80 percent of the team, a 6-foot-8-inch would-be savior soon to ride his stretch limo to the rescue.

Has Prokhorov already begun to rub off on the Nets? After he materialized as an angel of mercy for the beleaguered owner and real-estate developer, Bruce Ratner, the Nets reached a deal to escape the Izod Center and its surrounding labyrinth of half-baked construction. Their planned palace in downtown Brooklyn — the Barclays Center — finally had its much-delayed groundbreaking.

NoLandGrab: Prokhorov, however, was noticeably absent from that groundbreaking ceremony.

NY Post, Nets win again; avoid breaking worst-ever record

Good thing Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov didn't wait until now to try to buy the Nets.

Imagine what the price tag would be. The cost skyrockets when you're hot. Consecutive-wins hot like the Nets, who not only made it two in a row for the first time this season but also won their ninth game overall last night to insure they will not be the sole owners of the NBA's worst-ever record.

NLG: The Nets returned to form Saturday night in Chicago, losing to the Bulls 106-83.

Posted by eric at 7:32 PM

Sunday AYR: Blight Patrol, Lupica On Goldstein

Atlantic Yards Report

Lupica: DDDB's Goldstein is "another guy who went up against the machine in this city and lost"

Two weeks ago, Daily News columnist Mike Lupica called Atlantic Yards "a hustle in broad daylight by Caring Bruce Ratner from the start."

Today he writes:

Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn was the hero of the whole Atlantic Yards story from the start.

It just turned out he was another guy who went up against the machine in this city and lost.

And when you had some of the biggest politicians around, starting with our imperial mayor, obsessed with not looking bad, it was like trying to stop the ocean.

The worst of it?

They didn't just throw in with a hustler like Bruce Ratner, they rolled over for Ratner and did tricks.

Go back and look at what Ratner promised once they trampled eminent domain laws for him and basically handed him that land.

And look at what he delivered.

And then try to tell yourself ground-breaking was a great day for the borough of Brooklyn and for New York.

Well, Goldstein actually wasn't there at the start (hint: Patti Hagan) and he's had a good deal of help.

But the gist of Lupica's observation was encapsulated by New York Magazine's Chris Smith, writing in August 2006:

Every time I begin to buy into the lyrical people-have-the-power rhetoric of the opposition, to fantasize that Goldstein’s impending eminent-domain lawsuit has a prayer of succeeding, or to get revved up about the density trivia, someone smacks me back into reality. Most recently, it was a prominent Democrat. "In some cases, an army of Davids could take down Goliath," he said. "But not this one. It’s a fait accompli."

Well, it's certainly lasted longer than most.

Blight patrol: new eateries thrive on Vanderbilt and Sixth avenues

According to the ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, the purpose of the Atlantic Yards project is to remove blight. Only very lax New York State law allows any part of Prospect Heights to defined as "blighted."

From the New York Post: Vanderbilt Avenue: Prospect Heights' destination for foodies and booze hounds:

Indeed, at least eight new bars and restaurants have popped up on the Brooklyn boulevard in the last two years alone.

(NY Post map adapted by No Land Grab)

Obviously the "blight" on the AY site above Dean Street west of Vanderbilt is not deterring development.

And on Sixth Avenue

From the Brooklyn Paper:

In a town full of mediocre burgers, the discovery of a new favorite is somewhat akin to waiting less than an eternity for the G train — a rare occasion. Enter the Agoulou, the West Indian-style burger at three-week-old French-Guadeloupian eatery Kaz An Nou in Prospect Heights and a very possible new favorite.

The restaurant is at 53 Sixth Avenue, just below Dean Street, the border of the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Again, the "blight" doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent.

Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

When the Nets left New Jersey the first time

By Eric Model

This article looks at the history of the New Jersey Nets team. Although the author makes the mistake that the site of the Nets arena is the same as one proposed for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he is quite right in wondering why public money is going towards a private, professional basketball arena.

And what fate awaits the Nets? Once they do or don't break the NBA record for fewest wins in a season in a couple of weeks, they'll be leaving the Meadowlands to join the Devils in Newark's Prudential Center – at least for a little while.

And will the New Jersey Nets ultimately become the Brooklyn Nets? Though it's starting to look like that scenario is getting closer to reality, only time will tell. There's still a case to be made either way.

Yes, they've broken ground for a new "Barclays Center" (no one calls it an arena anymore) at the site that a new stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers was proposed over 60 years ago. At the same time, these are tough times and perhaps there are more pressing needs for scarce dollars than to invest in another professional sports palace.

We'll see.


Posted by steve at 8:30 AM

Nets Arena Begins Construction -- Oops, No It Doesn't

If people are confused as to whether construction of a Nets arena has begun, it could be due to confusing media coverage.

Sun Sentinel, It cannot be easy being Yormarks
By Sarah Talalay

This first article, a quick look at the Yormark brothers, includes the trouble Nets CEO Brett Yormark has had in promoting perhaps the worst NBA team ever. The article seems to confuse a ground breaking with actual construction.

Brett has weathered the very public change in architects for the Nets’ planned Brooklyn arena from the world-renowned Frank Gehry to Ellerbe Beckett; difficult discussions to move the Nets on an interim basis to the Prudential Center in Newark from the Meadowlands; and continued delays on the Brooklyn project. Construction of the new arena did finally begin earlier this month.

The Star-Ledger, Nets president Rod Thorn still unsure whether he has a future with team
By Dave D'Alessandro

Dave D'Alessandro knows that arena construction has not begun and lets his readers know why.

The transfer of ownership is being held up by two things, as Thorn sees it: The Board of Governors won’t give its official approval until April 16th; and there is still a “vacant possession” issue, which means the transaction cannot be completed until the Atlantic Yards project footprint is completely vacated by area tenants, which cannot happen before April 3, according to one report.

“The land needs to be vacant,” Thorn said. “They said it is, but it isn’t.”

Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

March 27, 2010

On 60 Minutes Sunday, an exclusive interview with Mikhail Prokhorov; no sign it will look closely at Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

So Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov, expected majority owner of the New Jersey Nets, sits down for an exclusive interview with 60 Minutes, to be broadcast Sunday.

From the teaser:

Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses the Nets, his vast wealth and the surprisingly unusual way he made most of his money in his first American television interview to be broadcast this Sunday, March 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

"I am real excited to take the worst team of the league and turn it to be the best," says Prokhorov. Asked by Kroft if he really thinks he can pull it off, the 6-foot-8-inch billionaire responds, "I am confident. Do you remember in the Frank Sinatra song, 'New York, New York?' If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere," he tells Kroft with a laugh.

Given the indication that the interview will focus on Prokhorov's celebrity and likely look closely only at his fortune, my comment:

So, 60 Minutes has a "get," an exclusive interview.

Here's what 60 Minutes (apparently) doesn't get: Prokhorov, as team and arena owner, would be the beneficiary of hundreds of millions of dollars in direct subsidies; city, state, and federal tax breaks (and tax-exempt bonds); and the extraordinary power of eminent domain.

Do you think New York legislators and officials would've have slobbered quite the same way for a sports team and arena--one that the NYC Independent Budget pegs as a money-loser for the city--if they knew they were helping out Russia's richest man?

More here:





Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

March 26, 2010

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Cross Pollinator, Mayor Bloomberg Always Chooses His Rich Friends To Develop With

Blogger Steven Walcott doesn't have a very high opinion of the Mayor, but compared to his feelings about Atlantic Yards, it's a downright lovefest.

Mayor Bloomberg (aka the rich turtle or the shrimpmeister) was on the news last night to announce how he’s saving the construction at Ground Zero by throwing $600mm of NYC taxpayer money into that big hole to replace the smart investors who won’t loan to the project.

When a reporter asked about how can you commit this money when you’re cutting cops and teachers he retorted that all taxpayer monies come from economic development.

Apparently, one needn't know anything about economics to become a billionaire. Or a politician.

While I agree that economic development is really important for New York City, I don’t think we need to further develop the cancerous real estate development industry. We could use some development besides building yuppie boxes for Wall Street douchebags that may never (please God) return to NYC.

The point is the mayor continues to champion the industry that played a key role in our present bucket of shit. Doesn’t the Shrimp have any other ideas besides the one that already hasn’t worked.

I’ve been really opposed to the big piece of shit called Atlantic Yards, because it’s the same move. This is the best economic development we can come up with?

Shaping the Future of the City, Community Voices #2: Development

Hunter College student Daniel Robinson hasn't been around as long as we have, so his b.s. detector isn't fully formed. Then again, his professors aren't exactly giving him both ends of the spectrum in their speaker invitations.

For tonight’s topic about development, Maria Torres spoke on behalf of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), and Lisa Kersavage for the Municipal Arts Society of New York (MASNYC).

Both Ms. Torres and Ms. Kersavage spoke about community-level involvement and its importance. Ms. Torres encouraged us to be involved in our communities and stressed the community feedback NYCEDC always sought in its activities. Ms. Kersavage’s presentation, though, conveyed MASNYC’s community involvement more effectively.

When your competition is Seth Pinsky & Co., that's not saying much.

The presentation was replete with video clips and montages of community-level work. In Coney Island, MASNYC conducted community level workshops for Coney Island residents to express their ideas for how to improve the area. In the Atlantic Yards project, the organization worked with community members of nearby Prospect Heights and produced an application on residents’ behalf, focusing and drawing out the community’ energies to resist interference in their neighborhood from the Atlantic Yards project. One of the community’s goals was to have the neighborhood given a protected designation as an historic district. The effort, fortunately, was a success.

NoLandGrab: When the chips were down, however, MAS declined to join the BrooklynSpeaks lawsuit challenging Atlantic Yards, despite having played a key role in forming the group. And lo and behold, a couple months later, the organization's chairman, David Childs, emerged as the likely architect for additional Atlantic Yards buildings — should anything more than an arena ever get built.

Posted by eric at 9:42 PM

ACORN's Original Sin

Critics of the expiring activist group say it was driven by the vision of Saul Alinsky. If only that were true.

by Jesse Walker

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN, will shut its doors as a national operation next week. A wellspring of activism for four decades, the left-wing group has gotten more attention lately for a series of scandals, from an embarrassing embezzlement case at the top of the organization to the hidden-camera videos that captured low-level employees doling out advice on how to operate a brothel without raising red flags at the IRS. Republicans hated the group, which they loved to link to the ideas of the veteran activist Saul Alinsky, a demon figure on the right. But the primary problem with the organization—a trouble running deeper than either corruption or ideology, one with lessons for grassroots activists across the political spectrum—is that ACORN wasn't Alinskyan enough. It may have emerged from the community organizing tradition that Alinsky helped to found, but it also rejected some of his most important advice.

Advice like not getting into bed with companies whose projects you should by all rights be fighting against.

Consider one recent financial relationship. As my colleague Damon Root has reported, ACORN allied itself with Bruce Ratner, the real estate and sports tycoon who is using eminent domain to seize and demolish private homes and small businesses in Brooklyn, allowing him to build a 22-acre development called the Atlantic Yards. Under other circumstances, ACORN might have fought against this sort of mass eviction, but in this case the group agreed to lend Ratner their "political might" and "political cover." (The phrases come from ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis, in an interview with the Regional Labor Review.) In exchange, Ratner would include some allegedly affordable housing in the plan, which ACORN would (quite profitably) help to operate. Perhaps more importantly, Ratner gave the group $1.5 million at a time when it was desperately short of cash. The results, Root writes, included "large numbers of noisy ACORN members present at every Atlantic Yards public hearing, press conference, and media event—including an August 2006 event trumpeting 'community support' for the project where Bertha Lewis acted as MC."

Atlantic Yards is the sort of state-corporate partnership that earlier generations of community organizers fought against, bringing pastors and housewives and union men and business owners together to stop the threat to their homes. Saul Alinsky battled urban renewal plans in neighborhoods ranging from Woodlawn in Chicago to Chelsea in New York. Whatever flaws you might find in Alinsky's political vision, I can't imagine him endorsing Ratner's land grab.


Posted by eric at 9:28 PM

The untrustworthy men of God: how the (paid by Ratner) Revs. Daughtry and Sharpton twisted the truth

Atlantic Yards Report

While the mainstream media, and nearly all of the blogosphere, has moved on, Norman Oder is still mining the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking ceremony for important stories.

It always goes down easier when it comes from a man of the cloth, right?

Even more than politicians, they can walk up to a podium and speak with brio, no matter the facts. And the Reverends Herbert Daughtry and Al Sharpton, however slender their understanding of the Atlantic Yards, know whose side they're on.

And while they may in their hearts genuinely believe in AY, the financial contributions they've received from Forest City Ratner surely make it less likely they'd do any real research.

The invocation

He's a legend, right, the man who gave the invocation? Had any of the journalists covering the groundbreaking been to the May 2009 state Senate oversight hearing at the Pratt Institute, they would've remembered how Daughtry heckled throughout.

Or they might have remembered that Daughtry refused to say how much money Forest City Ratner contributed to his fledging Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA). Or that, in the promotional Brooklyn Standard of 2005, Daughtry called Bruce Ratner's customary manner "humble, winsome."

Talking to God, as Daughtry put it, he deceptively described the Atlantic Yards site as being transformed from a "long-neglected, rodent-infested, garbage-strewn strip of geography into a modern oasis of splendid residential and commercial dwellings."

Only Dave D'Alessandro of the Star-Ledger noticed, commenting, "There wasn’t much chance of anyone walking it back from there."


Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

March 25, 2010

Atlantic Yards YES! Teachers (and students) NO!!

NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is warning that, due to New York's severe budget crisis, several thousand teachers might soon be laid off, affecting every single city school district. Yet Klein's boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has lavished hundreds of millions in subsidies on Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn basketball palace.

NY1 News, Klein Warns Of Thousands Of Teacher Layoffs

Facing severe cuts under Governor David Paterson's proposed budget, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told the City Council's Education Committee Wednesday that 8,500 teachers could soon be laid off.

The chancellor said in a worst-case scenario the department would be forced to lay off 15 percent of math, English, science and social studies teachers.

Who needs math, English, science and social studies when you have hoops? Like Jay-Z said at the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking ceremony: ""I think about growing up in New York Ci--I mean Brooklyn, in Marcy Projects, and shooting jump shots and thinking I could make it to the NBA."

"The children of New York City schools are going to pay for the mistakes that adults made with the economy. And we have to do everything we can to stop that from happening," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

Well, not quite everything. Former UFT President Randi Weingarten was an unequivocal booster of Atlantic Yards.

"Are teaching jobs really the only place left for the budget cuts? Has the department of education again looked at its spending on service contracts? Can some cuts be focused on the central administrative offices?" asked [City Council Education Committee chairperson Robert] Jackson.

"Oh, we've been cutting the fat. And I think there is no fat. That was the whole point of the exercise today," responded Klein.

NoLandGrab: Jackson, of course, didn't ask if there were any mega-project boondoggles that could perhaps be cut instead.

Posted by eric at 10:33 PM

Nets Win a Game, Try to Win PR Battle

Bag flap turns into promotional opportunity

NBC New York
by Josh Alper

Those circumstances are what make it hard to fall totally in love with Yormark. Learning that the bag-wearer was at the game using a free ticket provided by the team makes it easier to understand the CEO's torment -- he's not the first to react that way as Elaine Benes will tell you -- but it is still hard to justify the way he responded on a couple of levels.

Since the Nets give away as many tickets as anyone (NoLandGrab sat in $120 seats last season that our host had acquired for a $3.75 handling charge), Yormark should hardly be surprised. Nor should he be upset, since a fan could easily be disgruntled regardless of the price paid. Has he never heard of "opportunity cost?"

First is the fact that he did it so publicly and drew so much attention to something that would have totally escaped notice if not for Yormark's outburst. There aren't enough people actually at Nets games these days to make something that happens at one of those games turn out to be more than an urban legend unless it gets blown wildly out of proportion. A marketing brain like Yormark's surely knows that, which makes his response a bit surprising.

That's not the worst part, though. The worst part was Yormark's statement following the incident which was full of puffery about respect for the team and respect for the fans. It's hard to swallow that in the face of the way Yormark and his cronies have gutted the team and used it as a vessel for Bruce Ratner's real estate dreams while the basketball operations fell apart.


Posted by eric at 10:24 PM

Oren Safdie Presents THE BILBAO EFFECT At Center for Architecture, Previews 5/12


Atlantic Yards, the play?

"The Bilbao Effect" became a popular term after Frank Gehry built the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, transforming the poor industrial port city of Bilbao into a must-see tourist destination. Its success spurred other cities into hiring famous architects and giving them carte blanche to design even more spectacular buildings in hopes that the formula could be repeated.

In Mr. Safdie's play THE BILBAO EFFECT -- the second play of a planned trilogy focusing on contemporary architecture -- Erhardt Shlaminger is a world famous architect who faces censure by the American Institute of Architects, following accusations that his urban redevelopment project for Staten Island has led to a woman's suicide. The play tackles controversial urban design issues that New Yorkers have recently encountered in Brooklyn as a result of the hotly-debated plans to redevelop the Atlantic Yards into an architecture-star mega-development. THE BILBAO EFFECT explores whether architecture has become more of an art than a profession, and at what point the ethics of one field violate the principles of the other.

Performances of THE BILBAO EFFECT run May 12-June 5 at The Center for Architecture (536 LaGuardia Place, between Bleecker Street and West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village); Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets are $18. For tickets call (212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or visit www.theatermania.com.


Posted by eric at 10:17 PM

NYC Comptroller Liu's CBA task force & more to come from the DuBois Bunche Center

Community Benefits Agreements
by Amy Lavine

Last week, New York City Comptroller John Liu announced the formation of his task force on Public Benefit Agreements. (Why he chose the "PBA" nomenclature is unclear.) According to Liu's website, "The Task Force will develop recommendations on best practices and draft a framework for a more effective and equitable process to guide public subsidized economic development projects in the City of New York, including accountability and enforcement mechanisms that would apply when tax dollars, rezonings, and other public resources are used to facilitate private development."

One of those three [pro-Atlantic Yards] task force members is Roger Green, the executive director of the DuBois-Bunche Urban Policy Center (and former New York Assembly member). The DBC announced that it will be undertaking its own study of CBAs, which will "review the origins of the various Community Benefits Agreements to determine their effectiveness in enhancing minority business and equal employment opportunities."


Posted by eric at 10:13 PM

What Progressives Must Learn from the ACORN Debacle

by Rinku Sen

I’ve been expecting it for months, but I was still bummed to see the official announcement: ACORN, a decades-old community organizing powerhouse, will be closing its operations permanently as of April 1.

I’m not [an] ACORN apologist. The organization had some serious quality-control issues, and hasn't always played well with others. The embezzlement could have been handled more forthrightly, for example, and in the struggle over Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards stadium project, a number of New York activists charged ACORN with cutting an inadequate deal with developers. I am struck now, though, by the ease with which a 40-year-old stalwart could be taken down with a flimsy, if concerted right-wing smear campaign. Some of the challenges ACORN faced are commonplace among progressive organizations and leaders. Loose internal oversight combined with poor media and communications skills left the organization prey to shoddy corporate journalism, all of which contributed to this outcome.


NoLandGrab: Activists don't think ACORN's deal with Forest City Ratner was inadequate — they think it was flat wrong.

Posted by eric at 8:54 PM

Mikhail Prokhorov: The Russian Is Coming

60 Minutes

Remember when 60 Minutes used to be the pinnacle of hard-hitting investigative journalism? Unless they're holding back the good stuff for Sunday's broadcast, those days appear to be over.

Mikhail Prokhorov hopes to give the lowly New Jersey Nets a brand new start of it in old New York and the challenge it poses goes right to the very heart of the Frank Sinatra song, the Russian billionaire tells "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft.

Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses the Nets, his vast wealth and the surprisingly unusual way he made most of his money in his first American television interview to be broadcast this Sunday, March 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

"I am real excited to take the worst team of the league and turn it to be the best," says Prokhorov. Asked by Kroft if he really thinks he can pull it off, the 6-foot-8-inch billionaire responds, "I am confident. Do you remember in the Frank Sinatra song, 'New York, New York?' If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere," he tells Kroft with a laugh.

Prokhorov has certainly made it outside of the U.S., amassing a fortune estimated at as much as $17 billion. His Moscow team won the European pro-basketball championship some years ago. He's a famous man in Russia, whose fortunes took off amid the collapse of communism, when he and a partner got sweetheart deals from the Russian government, making them and other "oligarchs" who had gotten similar treatment, extremely wealthy.


NoLandGrab: And now he and his U.S. partner, Bruce C. Ratner, are getting sweetheart deals from New York's government.

Posted by eric at 8:45 PM

Atlantic Yards battle is far from over

New York Amsterdam News
by Cyril Josh Barker

However, the prank does carry a sense of how many local residents and business owners feel about the coming changes to the Brooklyn neighborhood. The climate of the area can be seen by the number of elected officials who oppose the project.

[City Councilman Charles] Barron said, “I don’t trust Ratner. I don’t think eminent domain was used properly. A lot of people agree that there were better plans for this area. There is a lack of confidence from elected officials because Ratner projects usually don’t produce.”

Referencing Ratner’s MetroTech Center in 1992, which promised jobs to Downtown Brooklyn, Barron said that housing projects that sit across the street from MetroTech are still seeing a nearly 60 percent unemployment rate.

Amidst the animosity that many Black political heavyweights have against the Atlantic Yards, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a key Black clergyman in the borough, says he strongly supports the change. Daughtry gave the invocation at last week’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Daughtry told the AmNews that his organization negotiated getting a luxury suite at the Barclays Center to use as an incentive for a program that encourages students to improve their grades in school.


NoLandGrab: A luxury suite. For students. Right.

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Queens Crap, Good government group crosses the line

QC follows up on recent criticism of sleeping watchdog Citizens Union.

No call for an investigation as to how Ratner got away with bidding less for the railyards than competitors an winning the bid? No outrage over eminent domain abuse? That's some 'good government' group.

Bleacher Report, New Jersey Nets Win, Forget Breaking Sixers Record

Before Bruce Ratner bought the team, this team was actually contending for the championships.

Ratner decided to strip the team when he realized no one in New Jersey cares about this franchise. Who can blame the people of New Jersey? There's no reason for them to root for a team that is heading to NY.

NoLandGrab: No, Ratner decided to strip the team before he bought it, knowing full well that the Nets meant nothing more to him than a front for a land grab.


Gained in (re)translation?

Less than dual weeks after New York genuine estate aristocrat Bruce Ratner and his buddies in the state and city governments hold their large groundbreaking rite for the Atlantic Yards boondoggle, an forward Brooklyn protester took counts in to his or her own hands this sunrise by hacking in to a single of the signs redirecting trade around the building a whole site. Photographic justification first, around Curbed (caution: contains bad language), afterwards a little contribution from the New York Daily News: Workers private the summary around 10 a.m., but not prior to hundreds of drivers and pedestrians upon the bustling frame saw it.

It’s misleading who was at the back of the vandalism, assumingly achieved by violation a close upon the sign’s carry out box.

Steve de Seve, a internal romantic at the back of multiform new anti-Yards stunts, pronounced he had zero to do with it—but combined which most people could be the culprit.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Jay-Z, Markowitz, the cult of celebrity, and the oligarch behind the curtain

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his coverage of the March 11th Atlantic Yards groundbreaking ceremony.

It was a brilliant move, Jay-Z front and center, relying on the unsurprising shallowness of a star-struck press.

Consider that the New Jersey Nets, the team destined for the Atlantic Yards arena, is contending for the NBA record for losses.

And that the majority owner of the team--and owner of nearly half of the arena--should soon be Russia's richest oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov, a most peculiar beneficiary of significant government subsidies, tax breaks, and the extraordinary power of eminent domain.

Solution: heap attention on the celebrity who owns a tiny piece of the team.

Was Jay-Z used? Well, maybe, but you can't hustle a hustler who became a world-class celebrity.


Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

March 24, 2010

Vanderbilt Avenue: Prospect Heights' destination for foodies and booze hounds

NY Post
by Carrie Seim


With a knack for transforming barnwood into bar tops — and Manhattanites into hipsters — Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn is blossoming into New York’s new star strip.

“It’s the big kids’ Park Slope,” explains Weather Up bartender Gabe Harrelson. “Less strollers, more bars.”

Indeed, at least eight new bars and restaurants have popped up on the Brooklyn boulevard in the last two years alone.

Wait, don't they know the area's blighted? Vanderbilt Avenue is the eastern border of the Atlantic Yards footprint.

“It’s starting to gel in a very exciting way,” says Ellen Fishman, who’s lived in Prospect Heights for a dozen years and co-owns longtime Vanderbilt restaurants Aliseo Osteria and Amorina with her husband, Albano Ballerini.

“It’s urban, obviously, and yet it’s so amazingly small-town at the same time,” she says of the ’hood. “It’s like the Village of 30 years ago."


NoLandGrab: And now, close your eyes and imagine if, 29 years ago, someone had dropped a basketball arena into Washington Square Park. Got the picture?

Posted by eric at 10:49 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! Transit riders NO!!

Finally! Someone inside the MTA has spoken out about the foolish giveaway of valuable assets to Bruce Ratner for a fraction of their value, while the transit system is sliced and diced for want of money.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn’s Not on Board With Bus, Subway Cutbacks

Unfortunately, he's just a conductor — and the board wasn't paying attention.

John Ferretti, an MTA conductor, wondered aloud why the MTA had given control of the Vanderbilt Railyard site to Bruce Ratner, “a developer with a penchant for spending public money,” while the competing Extell Development bid, which would have paid the MTA $100 million more than Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan, was rejected.

Meanwhile, the usual numbskulls were out in force, decrying the cuts while conveniently ignoring their roles in bringing them about through their unflagging support for the cut-rate sale of the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner.

On Tuesday, Borough President Marty Markowitz hosted a press conference outside Borough Hall to denounce the cutbacks. On the subject of the bridge-bus cutbacks, he said, “The B51 is the only bus that takes riders from Downtown Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan, and the B39 is the only service for passengers from Williamsburg to the Lower East Side.

“These routes may not be the most heavily used, but they are absolute lifelines for riders with disabilities or who are elderly.”

Maybe those old folks can skip visits to Manhattan and join the Netsational Seniors instead!

[State Senator Marty Golden] continued by saying, “My community can not accept the complete elimination of evening service on the only bus into and out of Gerritsen Beach, the B31. There are no trains in Gerritsen Beach. How can you have an entire community with no overnight public transportation?”

Good question, Marty. Here's another one: how are your constituents going to get to Nets games when the bus doesn't run after dark, thanks to your support for hundreds of millions in subsidies for Bruce Ratner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov?

Albany and Gov. David Paterson have said they do not plan to bail out the agency. The shortfalls stemmed from reduced financing last year by state lawmakers. In addition, tax revenues from real estate transactions, which once financed the bulk of the authority, have tanked during the recession.

The Brooklyn Paper has a run down of the service cuts, brought to you courtesy of Bruce Ratner, Marty Markowitz, Marty Golden et al.

Posted by eric at 9:42 PM

Nets offering fans 'bag exchange' against Kings

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

Oh, God, didn't we beg Yormark not to stoop to this?

As you probably had guessed, Nets CEO Brett Yormark came up with a workable solution to the baghead issue:

The Nets had a “Bag Exchange” Wednesday night, when all fans were invited to turn in their bags for a nylon bag with the Nets logo on it, and a note from Yormark himself. The note read, “Thanks for letting us see your face, we hope we see it more often at Nets games – Regards, Brett Yormark.”

The team did not promote the exchange beforehand; they merely instructed personnel to identify bag-wearers and offer to make the swap. The nylon bag will also include trading cards.

But won't fans suffocate with nylon bags over their heads?

As for the original perpetrator, a gentleman from Morristown who was seated with his brother in the second row, Yormark said he invited him over for a bag lunch next week.

“We might stream it live on our website, so all the fans can enjoy a nice constructive conversation about the team, because he was expressing his disgust the other night,” Yormark said. “Again, the tickets he received were free, and I thought it was inappropriate, so he expressed himself and I expressed myself.”


NoLandGrab: "The tickets he received were free?" Of course they were — because nobody gives away more free tickets than... Brett Yormark.

Related coverage...

AP via MSNBC.com, Nets executive comes back with plan for paper bags

Nets spokesman Barry Baum said two people accepted the exchange offer by halftime.

NLG: Which means that tomorrow, the box score will indicate that 5,928 people accepted the exchange offer.

Posted by eric at 9:25 PM

Ratner on Israeli apartheid Pt.1

Michael Ratner reports on his recent visit to the West Bank

The Real News Network

Michael Ratner — Center for Constitutional Rights president, leading light of the Left, Carl Kruger campaign contributor, Nets minority owner, Forest City shareholder, and Bruce Ratner brother — visits Israel's Occupied Territories, which bear certain uncanny resemblances to... Prospect Heights!


RATNER: We were appalled by what we saw, and it was much worse than I expected. I mean, I had been, you know, very sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians, to what I've heard about how they're treated, to what—the term "apartheid" is thrown around a lot, and, sadly, what I saw was much worse than I expected. You can begin with, really, in East Jerusalem. You go to East Jerusalem, which, of course was captured in 1967 by Israel, and slowly, ever so slowly, and maybe more rapidly, Palestinians are being pushed out of East Jerusalem. Their houses are being demolished. We visited the houses of people who had—we visited the homes of people who had had their houses demolished.

The State of New York recently gained title, against the will of the owners, to several occupied properties in Prospect Heights. Those homes and businesses will be conveyed to Forest City Ratner, and demolished to make way for a basketball arena and parking lots.


RATNER: They have to get a special permission from various authorities, including, of course, obviously, the guards that they show their permission to, and that can take one, two, three days.

Since title was transferred to New York State, Daniel Goldstein and his family have been virtual prisoners in their own home, unable to have pizza delivered, with guards paid by Forest City Ratner deciding who can visit his home — and who can't.

JAY: What's the presence of the army in this situation?

RATNER: Well, the army's everywhere in Hebron. The army is on every corner.

The NYPD deployed several dozen — and possibly more than 100 — officers to suppress demonstrations during Bruce Ratner's heavily fortified Atlantic Yards groundbreaking ceremony. The show of force included rooftop spotters, counter-terrorism officers, mobile command centers and even a helicopter.


NoLandGrab: Is life in Prospect Heights like life in the Occupied Territories? No, not really. But we wonder if Michael Ratner has ever bothered to visit Prospect Heights to see what he and his brother have wrought.

Posted by eric at 1:51 PM

Ratner's bogus claim of "34 lawsuits," a skewed legal playing field, and video of the ESDC winning ugly (including a dodge regarding belated blight)

Atlantic Yards Report

Another installment in Norman Oder's post-groundbreaking analysis.

As a profession, lawyers get a lousy rap, and the constraints of the field--notably an adversarial system in which winning trumps justice--contribute to depression.

At the groundbreaking, however, developer Bruce Ratner, trained as a lawyer, boosted his brethren and, lying, claimed victory in 34 lawsuits.

Winning ugly

I'll get to the bogus number below, but the key thing to remember is that, while Forest City Ratner and its partner Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) did win, they won ugly.

Real ugly.

Just this month, Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman criticized the ESDC's “deplorable lack of transparency.”

In February 2009, Appellate Division Justice James Catterson, while concurring in a decision favoring the ESDC, wrote:

I reject the majority's core reasoning, that a perfunctory "blight study" performed years after the conception of a vast development project should serve as the rational basis for a determination that a neighborhood is indeed blighted.

In 2008, Forest City Ratner lawyer Jeffrey Braun acknowledged that, in a legal document, he had misleadingly attributed a revenue projection to the state rather than to a consultant retained by FCR.

And, as described below, ESDC attorney Philip Karmel couldn't offer a convincing answer when asked during the Court of Appeals oral argument last October to explain the discrepancy between the December 2003 announcement of the project and a much later announcement that the site was blighted.

In fact, Karmel's justification--not noticed at the time--relied on a document kept secret rather than publicly released. Either way, the Court of Appeals majority ignored it.


Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

Get used to it because it's being built

Kensington Stories

You know I’ve kept quite silent on this whole Atlantic Yards project, because I know my wife and sister in law are “morally” against the whole idea. So at Sunday dinners in Fort Greene, or the dinner table right here in Kensington, I have basically kept my big Brooklyn mouth shut and just listened. And the reason is I actually want to see a professional arena built in Brooklyn. I mean Keyspan Park is great, and so is that Aviator complex down on Flatbush Avenue. But compare to anything else around those places are basically “little toys” in the real world of pro sports.

Now, don’t get me wrong folks, if someone told me that my house was going to be squashed to build something I don’t think I’d be that happy about it. And maybe I’d even walk around with a Bruce Ratner mask with little devil horns.

But the truth is that whole area down by Union Street is a big old rat hole.


NoLandGrab: Union Street? For a guy who blogs about "growing up in Kensington and Windsor Terrace," he doesn't have much of a grasp on Brooklyn geography.

Posted by eric at 12:25 PM

Unhappy ending? Woeful Nets on verge of being NBA's worst

USA Today
by J. Michael Falgoust

USA Today catches up on the saga that is the New Jersey Nets.

With the games dwindling as the New Jersey Nets steer toward NBA-record futility, the tension mounts for players, fans and management alike.

In the locker room, there doesn't appear to be denial or anger. Only acceptance of what could be the inevitable.

"It's very realistic we might go down as the worst team in history," 10th-year guard Keyon Dooling says.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the complex at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn was March 11. Newark — a "much-needed ... sampling environment," Yormark says — is reachable by mass transit, unlike Izod Center. Ten subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road will be at the base of Barclays, 13 miles east of Izod.


NoLandGrab: A "much-needed ... sampling environment?" Does anyone know what Yormark's talking about? Does he know?"

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Sad-sack Nets fan is bag deal

NY Post
by David Satriano and Fred Kerber

...And still more Paper Bag fan vs. Yormark.

[Chris] Lisi, 20, of Middletown, N.J., was the courtside fan who wore a brown paper bag over his head Monday night, prompting an angry exchange with Nets CEO Brett Yormark. Lisi and his brother, Rob, were sitting two rows from the court with some friends when Yormark approached them.

"At first I didn't know who he was, and he said he was the Nets president," said Lisi, a former Nets season-ticket holder who works for a delivery service that counts among its customers Josh Boone. "I thought, 'Wait, Rod Thorn is the president. He's lying.'"


NoLandGrab: The lying should have tipped Lisi off that it really was Yormark.

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

(Still more) Sign(s) of the Apocalypse...

...but since they're from our good friends at Field of Schemes and DDDB, we'll let it slide.

Field of Schemes, Even street signs giving Ratner the finger

The New York Times cited a "contractor at the site" as blaming someone who cut the lock on a control box, enabling them to access a keypad and type in a new message. The New York Post, however, reported that "According to local merchants it was unlocked for days, allowing anyone to get in."

A Ratner spokesperson charged that the work of the "irresponsible prankster" had "compromised public safety" and promised a police investigation. The operator of a preschool across the street had a different interpretation: "It was hilarious."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, 4 Letters and 6 Letters Used to Express Opinion About Atlantic Yards Project

In other news, some vandals destroyed a neighborhood.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

March 23, 2010

Cursing Atlantic Yards

The Huffington Post
by Steve Ettlinger

Actually (and much to our relief), this story has nothing to do with today's now-infamous "F**k Ratner" sign hack — its headline is just serendipity. Rather, Steve Ettlinger examines Bruce Ratner's March 11th Atlantic Yards groundbreaking ceremony.

While Forest City provided lobster sliders for his guests, Ratner could hear the noisy protesters at the fences. But he did not worry about them entering. The tent was surrounded by layers of concrete Jersey barriers, extra high cyclone fences, and dozens and dozens of police. So much for a grand gesture of bringing something the public is supposed to treasure. Just as the process was calculated to avoid public input, so was the ceremony.

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church, another strong supporter, offered some words of caution in his invocation that were full of unintended irony:

"God will be angry if we misuse the people's resources," he said, "Generations of the yet unborn will rise up and curse this project."


NoLandGrab: And lo and behold, they have.

Posted by eric at 10:04 PM

(Yet More) Sign(s) of the Apocalypse

Brownstoner, Tell Us How You Really Feel

It's news to us, but evidently some people in Prospect Heights have some reservations about the mega-project that's about to take over their neighborhood.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, Not-so Mixed Messages

An Atlantic Yards protester showed some serious initiative (and skill with a set of bolt cutters) by sabotaging a digital traffic sign this morning.

Gawker, Brooklyn to Bruce Ratner: F— You

Negative role model Joe Biden's four-letter influence has taken hold, at the corner of Flatbush and St. Marks, where mischievous Brooklyn protested developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards gentrification party today. Ratner is not amused. But everyone else is!

NBC New York, Anti-Ratner F-Bomb on Brooklyn Traffic Sign

Tell us how you really feel?

Reason Hit & Run, “A spokesman for Ratner didn't immediately return a call for comment.”

Less than two weeks after New York real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner and his buddies in the state and city governments held their big groundbreaking ceremony for the Atlantic Yards boondoggle, an enterprising Brooklyn protester took matters into his or her own hands this morning by hacking into one of the signs redirecting traffic around the construction site.

Posted by eric at 9:49 PM

Hacked (F**k Ratner) traffic sign is huge news. Go figure.

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes The New York Times to task for devoting several paragraphs today to the hacked traffic sign on Flatbush Avenue while having given short shrift to more important stories.

Really, NY Times? You consider this a news story, but, say, bogus claims by the developer and the governor about jobs and tax revenues either get ignored or reprinted without analysis.

And the Times still hasn’t reported that, despite an announced 10-year buildout, the Development Agreement for the project allows for 25 years, with ample opportunity for extensions.

In other words, the traffic sign might have been hacked to:
For 25 Years

He also has something we missed, the statement by faux-indignant Ratner mouthpiece Joe DePlasco:

Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in high dudgeon, tells the Post:

Some irresponsible prankster apparently thinks it's fun to compromise public safety by hacking into the sign and changing the message. It is not funny. It is serious and offensive and, most importantly, a safety issue. We are reporting the vandalism to the Police Department."


NoLandGrab: Oh, please, Joe. Spare us the outrage and the phony concern for public safety. You want to protect the public? Give the city and state back the hundreds of millions in subsidies being pissed away on Bruce's basketball emporium so they can keep open the 20 firehouses on the chopping block and hire more cops. Want to report a crime? Turn in your boss.

Posted by eric at 9:05 PM

New Jersey Nets executive Brett Yormark regrets confrontation with bag-wearing fan

NY Daily News
by Julian Garcia

All the "F**k Ratner" sign talk today almost made us forget about Nets CEO Brett Yormark's crazy antics during the team's loss last night to the Miami Heat, a story that's getting more ink than any Nets-related story since, well, since maybe ever.

[Photo: Antonelli/Daily News]

Brett Yormark, the Nets executive who got into a shouting match with a bag-wearing fan at Monday night's game at the Meadowlands, issued a statement earlier Tuesday regarding the incident. And he wasn't exactly apologetic.

Saying Nets fans have been "great" throughout this "tough season," Yormark defended his decision to confront a fan in the second row who was wearing a bag over his head between the third and fourth quarters of Monday night's 99-89 loss to the Heat. The Nets fell to 7-63 and are on pace to break the all-time record for fewest wins in a season.

According to the fan - Chris Lisi of Middletown, N.J. - Yormark asked him why he was wearing the bag, and when he responded with a sarcastic, "Because the Nets are so good," Yormark snapped at him.


NoLandGrab: It would seem that the self-serving Yormark, based on his non-apology apology, "regrets" the confrontation because it was caught by photographers. We stand by our call for his resignation.

Related coverage...

The Star-Ledger, Nets CEO Brett Yormark issues statement on argument with fan

[Photo: Tim Farrell/The Star-Ledger]

The Nets this afternoon released a statement from the team's CEO, Brett Yormark, who got into an argument with a fan Monday night, during the Nets' 99-89 loss to the Miami Heat at Izod Center. The fan was seated courtside, in the second row of seats, opposite the Nets' bench and near where Yormark sits during games.

“Our fans have been great and they’ve stuck with us through a tough season,'' Yormark says in the statement. "I did not agree with the way this person expressed his opinion of our team last night and I let him know. It’s been a frustrating season for all of us, but I will continue to stand up for our players, our fans, and our organization. We have an exciting future ahead and we appreciate all of our fans’ support.”

Ball Don't Lie [Yahoo! Sports], Don't even try to wear a bag on your head to a Nets game

Speaking truth to power has its consequences, such as ferocious finger-pointing and getting yelled at.

Of course, Yormark had the last laugh — the bag-headed Lisi actually bought tickets to a Nets game. You win again, corporate infrastructure.

NorthJersey.com, NETS BLOG: Team CEO vs. bag-wearing fan

Earlier this season, there were a few fans wearing paper bags over their heads when the Nets lost their record 18th consecutive game to start this campaign.

Our guess is some more fans will be wearing bags tonight after the publicity this received. And Yormark probably will respond with some type of giveaway for the remaining home games to show he still appreciates the fans.

“We play for each other out on the court,” Courtney Lee said. “No one pays attention to the fans – they’re going to cheer or they’re not."

NLG: If the Nets' lack of effort hadn't clued you in, there you have it — the Nets don't care about you.

NBC New York, Humiliated by Brown Bag, Facts, Nets CEO Yells at Fan

Just when you thought the Nets' season couldn't get any worse, it did.

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Fan 1, CEO 0

In Indiana, they regard basketball as more than just a land-grab Trojan horse.

It's one thing to be lousy. It's another to be lousy and have skin so thin you can see through it.

That's pretty much the story these days for the 7-63 New Jersey Nets and their CEO, Brett Yormark, aka Mr. Sensitive.

If he'd have been smart, he'd have bought the guy a beer and offered him tickets to the next home game. Of course, if he were smart, his team wouldn't be 7-63.

Game On! [USA Today], Nets CEO takes on sack-headed fan

Beware making fun of the woeful New Jersey Nets when team CEO Brett Yormark is anywhere near, as a fan wearing a paper bag over his head learned last night.

Meantime, the fireworks failed to inspire the Nets. The 99-89 loss to the Heat was their 14th consecutive defeat at home as they fell to 7-63 and stayed on pace to break the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers' NBA record of 73 losses in a season.

NYMag.com, Nets CEO Can’t Believe Fans Think His Team Stinks

Last night, the Nets lost their fourteenth consecutive home game — they sure are sending out their East Rutherford digs with a bang — and fans commemorated the occasion as fans often do: By putting a paper bag over their heads. (To exemplify embarrassment, not to asphyxiate themselves, as far as we know.) No big deal, right? It happens.

ESPN.com, CEO, fan of 7-win Nets square off

The New Jersey Nets' sad-sack season appeared to hit another low Monday night when CEO Brett Yormark shouted at a fan wearing a paper bag over his head.

Off the Dribble [NY Times blog], For Team Management, Nets Are Not Bag-Worthy

Yormark is a relentless marketer trying to sell a miserable team that will move to Newark in the fall and to Brooklyn two years or more after that. It is surprising that Yormark has not found a sponsor for Angry Fan Bag Night.

NLG: "Relentless marketer?" How about prevaricating huckster? Our advice to Yormark, who's endless self-promotion script has him getting by on three hours' sleep a night: sleep in — after you resign.

Posted by eric at 5:40 PM

Sign of the Apocalypse

As predicted, the "F**k Ratner" sign is the biggest Atlantic Yards story since, well, since maybe ever.

NY Post, Bruce Ratner greeted with not-so-welcoming sign in Brooklyn

Developer Bruce Ratner got a special message today he’ll likely never forget when someone hacked into an electronic traffic sign near his Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, manipulating it to flash "F—- Ratner."

Ratner being a target of expletives in the neighborhood is not a shock.

He is Public Enemy No. 1 to many for convincing the state to use eminent domain to take private property and displace residents for Atlantic Yards. Turner Construction, which Ratner hired as lead contractor, earlier this month kicked off construction a few blocks away on Atlantic Yard’s centerpiece — an NBA arena for the Nets. Turner controls the traffic sign, which is supposed to inform drivers that Fifth Avenue is now closed from Flatbush to Atlantic avenues to pave the way for the project.

A white box below the large sign contains a typing pad for what is known as a "variable message" system. According to local merchants it was unlocked for days, allowing anyone to get in.

Turner workers were later seen closing up the box with barbed wire and resetting the password. One worker said it appeared that the prankster figured out the password. Another specifically blamed opponents of the project.

"They are a bunch of juvenile idiots," he said.

NoLandGrab: We know you are but what are we?

BrooklynPaper.com, UPDATE! Someone really doesn’t like Atlantic Yards (also at NYPost.com)

An opponent of the Atlantic Yards hacked into a digital traffic sign on Flatbush Avenue near developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project on Tuesday, manipulating it to flash the message, “F—k Ratner.”

Best-reader-comment award goes to "Jaimie from Brooklyn Heights":

How dare you publish this? That word is filth - I want to wash my computer screen after reading this so-called article. I would never have expected the word "Ratner" to appear on a family newspaper site.

NYMag.com [Daily Intel], Opposition to Atlantic Yards Eloquently Expressed via Electronic Traffic Sign

For two hours today, an electronic traffic sign near the Atlantic Yards development was not directing traffic at all. Instead of reading "Fifth Avenue Closed, Flatbush to Atlantic," it displayed a message of protest against the controversial Bruce Ratner–helmed project, in two simple words: "Fuck Ratner." Nobody knows the identity of the culprit who broke into the sign's control box and altered the display, but whoever they are, they probably haven't stopped laughing since this morning.

Coney Media, Consider this: Tens of thousands of your readers drive by a sign bearing an unarguably obscene word. The bloggers run it. How about you?

If you’re the NY Times, you edit the photo.

The scene is near the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, NY (planned future home to the NJ Nets). “Ratner” on the sign refers to Bruce Ratner, the project’s politically-connected developer.


Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

Hacked Traffic Sign Takes Aim At Atlantic Yards Developer

NY1 News

Yup, already more coverage of the "F**k Ratner" sign than of the fact that he failed to make a mortgage payment for 10 Metrotech last week.

But NY1 does have video! And you have to love that they got there before anyone from Forest City could reprogram the sign.

An electronic sign in Brooklyn turned a few heads this morning as it took aim at the developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards Project.

The sign, which directed a vulgar word at developer Bruce Ratner, appeared this morning on Saint Marks Avenue and Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights.

It was up for a couple of hours before crews were able to fix it.

"It's funny, there's a lot of opposition in the area for it. It affects businesses and people that live here, you know?" said another [resident]. "And I think it's pretty clever, actually."


Related coverage...

NY Daily News, Brooklyn prankster's digi-rant: Electronic traffic board rigged to read 'F* Ratner'

Be sure to take the Daily News's poll, currently logging an 85% approval rating.

Rush hour commuters in Brooklyn early Tuesday got an eyeful of a special message for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

Steve de Seve, a local activist behind several recent anti-Yards stunts, said he had nothing to do with it - but added that many people could be the culprit.

The Department of Transporation said the developer was in charge of maintaining the sign.

NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner really should take better care to protect the community from this type of affront. Can the city fine them for displaying a vulgar message?

The L Magazine, Atlantic Yards Construction Sign Expresses Opposition to Atlantic Yards

Ground may be broken and streets may be closing, but even the construction signs being used to facilitate Atlantic Yards' city-assisted mega-development in Downtown Brooklyn are opposed to the project, as evidenced by this shot of a detour sign in Prospect Heights this morning that just appeared at Curbed.

BrooklynPaper.com, BREAKING! Someone really doesn’t like Atlantic Yards

Posted by eric at 2:03 PM

Unscheduled Detour at Atlantic Yards Site

City Room
by Andy Newman

Let us make a prediction (and save Norman Oder the trouble): the hacked-sign story will get more ink than the give-away of naming rights worth hundred of millions of dollars, or the 25-year build-out, or the false hoods about billions of dollars in economic benefit, or...

Opponents of Atlantic Yards may have lost the battle to stop the bulldozers, but they have hardly given up the fight.

On Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, near where ground was broken this month on the project’s sports arena, a temporary traffic sign at St. Marks Avenue notifies drivers, “Fifth Avenue Closed, Flatbush to Atlantic.” At least it did until this morning.

At some point, someone changed the legend on the sign to a more succinct two-word instruction, the second word of which was “Ratner,” meaning Bruce Ratner, mastermind of Atlantic Yards.

The first word was one of the verbs you are least likely to read on Nytimes.com.

The identity of the sign’s tweaker remains a mystery. City Room called Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which has directed many pieces of street theater in opposition of the project over the years.

Mr. Goldstein said he had nothing to do with the modification.

“I didn’t know anything about it until someone told me they saw it,” Mr. Goldstein said, adding that the pool of potential suspects was large. “If it wasn’t obvious already, people are angry with the project.”


Related coverage...

Curbed, Inanimate Object Speaks Out Against Atlantic Yards

Electronic road sign hacking, all the rage in March '09, has made an anniversary comeback on Flatbush and St. Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights this morning. And so personal! But you have to admit, the message is certainly a lot more pithy than running through all those complicated Atlantic Yards street closures.

Brooklynian.com, F**k Ratner

Garden Grass and Crap, Don't Mess With Brooklyn

As many who live in New York City know, there is a big project set to start soon in Brooklyn designed by a man named Bruce Ratner. He will be building a massive stadium for the (Brooklyn?) Nets. It is in an area where bars, stores and homes are being shut down due to eminent domain to build this monster. In my opinion, this project is going to be a shit show. I know people agree with me since someone took it upon themselves to change a sign near the location to make their point clear.

Eastern Cynic, Ratner In Area. RUN!

While it's not nearly as funny as the zombie road signs in Austin—maybe it was an early warning about the hordes of hipsters attending this year's SxSW—anything that involves reprogramming a road sign and slagging off the Developer Who Would Be King Of Downtown Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner, gets a gold star.

Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

"F**k Ratner" on a hacked traffic sign ...

Photo by duelin' markers via Flickr

Avert your eyes from the photo below if you're sensitive about four-letter words. If you're not, click on the photo for a closer look.

... protesting the Atlantic Yards project. I got interviewed by Cablevision 12 when their reporter saw me taking pictures. Sadly I was on my way home with breakfast before I'd showered, so please don't watch.


NoLandGrab: We're not sure it was hacked. It may have been programmed by the NYC Department of Transportation, which has to deal with trying to keep traffic moving around the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Synergy! Thanks to Barclays/Nets money, the Brooklyn Historical Society highlights ex-Net (and arena promoter) Albert King in new sports curriculum

Atlantic Yards Report

Another installment in AYR's series on the Atlantic Yards ceremonial groundbreaking.

One element of the "goodie bag" that guests got to take home was a CD containing samples from Bats, Balls, Nets and Hoops: Stories of Sports in Brooklyn, the latest in a series of educational curriculum kits from the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS).

It was a nice piece of synergy and a sign that the BHS, like the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is another elite Brooklyn institution likely to show fealty to Forest City Ratner and Barclays Capital.

(The generosity in the form of donations, of course, is far less than the subsidies, tax breaks, and other concessions granted by the public to the donors. Heck, FCR was given the arena naming rights to sell to Barclays.)

Albert King front and center

On the cover of the CD--custom-produced for the occasion--was Brooklyn-born basketball player Albert King, a former New Jersey Net.

And there he was, featured on two of the six tracks.

And there were logos from Barclays and the Nets, along with an announcement of funding from the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance, which initially focused on renovating playgrounds, aiming at a different neighborhood demographic.


NoLandGrab: Shame on the Brooklyn Historical Society for getting in bed with Forest City Ratner and selling its name to a project that has already knocked down the Ward Bakery building and aims to soon demolish the old Spalding factory, whose Spaldeens were integral to Brooklyn's sports history.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

HOOPSWORLD, What’s Next For The Nets?

This is an incredibly important step forward for the franchise. At points throughout this arduous process, it appeared that the day would never come. Their were endless protests, lawsuits, and massive amounts of political red-tape to cut through, but on March 11th of this year officials finally broke ground on the $4.9 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards Project. This is vitally important to the growth and future prosperity of the franchise. The Nets have long had one foot out the door in New Jersey, but remained in a treacherous limbo as they hadn't been able to secure land in Brooklyn. This was the Nets biggest win of the season (although that isn't saying all that much).

NoLandGrab: Actually, there was hardly any "political red-tape to cut through," since the most powerful city and state elected officials were all in on the fix from the start.

New York Adventure 2010, Gehry #2

Remember Frank Gehry?

The fiscal crisis, however, got Gehry recently kicked off the Atlantic Yards project as the developer hoped to save $200 million with a less expensive and non-stainless-steel design by lesser-known architects. The surprise decision smacked of bait-and-switch but Gehry's design was not as fine as his metal designs at Bilbao, Beekman Street or the impressive Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

The Lorgnette, Essay: To be (Frank) or not to be (Frank)

Later the same year, fiscal concerns also led to his removal from the US$800m (A$886m) Atlantic Yards project in New York, on whose development he had spent six years. While this lattermost removal seems to have been effected amicably, the cause of the engagement’s termination was a budgetary trim of US$200m (A$220m) which Gehry’s design could not be made to meet.

NLG: The first figure refers solely to the cost of the arena, not the entire project.

Brownstoner, NYU Has Big Building Plans at Metrotech

As part of a 20-year plan that would see the university add six million square feet to its portfolio, New York University wants to build one million additional square feet for its engineering school at Metrotech. The foundation for the Brooklyn expansion were laid in 2008 when NYU agreed to merge with Polytechnic, whose campus abuts Forest City Ratner's office complex in Downtown Brooklyn. The Times, which broke the story this morning, reports that the architecture firm of Cooper, Robertson & Partners is working on a design for the Brooklyn expansion.

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Criminals still targeting Target

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Claire Glass

Another week, another crime spree in Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls. One wonders how he'll be able to keep his Atlantic Yards project from descending into a similar state of blight.

Target take

Once again employees and customers were victim to unlawful behavior at the Target in the Atlantic Terminal Mall. Here’s a roundup:

• A lucky shopper found a woman’s wallet on the floor of the department store, which is near Flatbush Avenue, and went on a spending spree on March 15. The victim reported that she dropped her wallet at around 6 pm in an aisle, but later discovered that someone had rung up $150 in charges on her missing card.

• A employee stole — and then used! — a co-worker’s debit card on Feb. 25. The victim told cops that she reported the card missing at around 9 pm, and store managers quickly discovered $400 worth of charges made. They confronted the greedy worker, who confessed, giving Officer Eon Adamson an easy collar.


A thief grabbed a woman’s wallet out of her shoe while she tried on another pair at the Burlington Coat Factory in the Atlantic Center Mall on March 21.

The victim told cops that the sneaky snatch must have been made while she was admiring her potential purchase at 2:45 pm. Unfortunately, the shoe had contained $200 and her cellphone.


Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Warriors Latest NBA Team to Hit Market

NBA FanHouse
by Tom Ziller

The Warriors join the Pistson as the only NBA teams officially for sale, given that sales of the Nets and Bobcats have effectively been completed. Cohan figures to get a price substantially larger than what either Bruce Ratner or Robert Johnson received, given the Warriors' excellent market location and seriously devout fan base.


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

NETS Host Local Basketball Clinic To Fight Obesity

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Press Release

On March 2, the NETS teamed up with the Lutheran Family Health Centers and Health Plus to host a basketball clinic at Sunset Park High School for 100 children from six area schools.

Children ranging in age from kindergarten through twelfth grade participated in drills and exercises alongside NETS player Josh Boone, NETS staff, dancers and team mascot, Sly.

This second annual event is part of the “Shoot for Better Health” campaign, which encourages students to score a perfect 5-2-1-0 every day. This initiave, created by Lutheran’s school health program and endorsed by the American Diabetes Association, is about: eating five servings of fruits and vegetables, limiting TV and computer time to only two hours a day, getting at least one hour of exercise a day, and drinking zero soda or sugar sweetened drinks.

As a major contributor to the program’s success, the NETS will also host an awards night in March where students will be publicly honored during a live NBA game.

“The Nets are very pleased to… provide an incentive for these children to excel in such a crucial area of their lives,” said Brett Yormark, president and CEO, Nets Sports and Entertainment.


NoLandGrab: The Nets, whose sponsors include McDonald's and Mars, will also be happy to provide these children the chance to break their healthy fast at the IZOD Center with treats like nachos, jumbo sugary sodas and cotton candy. Don't forget to stop by the M&M's candy and merchandise store!

Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

While Yormark aimed "not to alienate our core fan base," paper bag incident shows the limits of the future-in-Brooklyn strategy

Atlantic Yards Report

The hapless Nets are still playing in New Jersey, at the antiquated Izod Center, and last night Nets Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark took exception to a fan wearing a bag over his head sitting behind the Nets' bench, a clash that was noticed by many in the press.

Julian Garcia of the New York Daily News reported:

The fan claimed that Yormark asked him why he was wearing the bag and that when he sarcastically answered, "Because the Nets are so good," Yormark snapped at him.

Forget the present

Yormark surely is thinking more about the future--new players and a marketing platform. At the Barclays Center groundbreaking on March 11, there were no current Nets--they were on the road--and no one said that much about basketball.

After all, the team is on a path toward breaking the record for annual losses, a path that positions it for the best shot in the lottery for the top draft pick and thus turning the team around when it moves to Brooklyn.

"Our goal is to be the most community-active team in professional sports," Yormark said. "I can assure you that the Nets will be part of the fabric of the community like the Dodgers used to be. It will be Brooklyn's team."


NoLandGrab: Yeah, we can see it now. Brook Lopez riding the B67 to games. Devin Harris tending bar at Barbés during the off-season. CDR opening a hardware store in East Flatbush. Yeah, just like the Dodgers used to do it. Sure.

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

Paper trail shows a lack of LIRR openness on bollards

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

Newly obtained blueprints reveal that city officials were considering building the tomb-like bollards at the Long Island Railroad terminal at Atlantic Avenue and Hanson Place in 2005 — though at least two renderings were subsequently released to the public without those drastic security measures.

The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Law, show that the architectural firm on the project, John di Domenico and Partners, along with the Long Island Rail Road, were exchanging plans for the large security barriers and stone benches in May, 2005 — almost five years before those much-criticized barricades would be unveiled to the public.

Renderings of the Barclays Center variously indicate small bollards or a complete absence of bollards — and the NYPD told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 2007 that they didn't "foresee any street or land closures, sidewalk widening around the arena or the instillation of bollards."

But the blueprints also contradict a statement made by LIRR President Helena Williams to a Brooklyn Paper reporter on the day of the terminal’s opening this year, when she said that the bollards were not part of the design when construction began in earnest in 2005.

One rendering, which first surfaced in 2008 — though sources say it predates the summer of 2006 — depicts a gorgeous LIRR terminal without any bollards at all.

Another, released in 2007, depicts an entrance ringed by knee-high benches.

The reality at the entrance is quite different: The actual bollards are 50 to 52- inches high, and in some places, a mere 36-inches apart. They are massive and resemble ancient Egyptian sarcophagi.

The security measures — as well as the lack of clarity about how the measurements of the bollards were determined — have raised concerns that the nearby Barclays Center will also be ringed by mega-bollards without any public input.


Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Int’l terror expert speaks: LIRR bollards are ‘overkill’ and ‘ugly’

A counter-terrorism expert who has instructed police officers and the U.S. military on security tactics has joined the chorus of critics complaining that the mega-bollards in front of the new Long Island Rail Road terminal are “overkill,” and “excessive and ugly.”

Lionel Rawlins, a former Marine and criminology professor, took a moment from his consulting duties in Afghanistan to give The Brooklyn Paper his opinion on the tomb-like bollards at the new station at Hanson Place and Flatbush Avenue.

“I have been in counter-terrorism for a long time and have never seen such monstrosity — anywhere,” he said.

Posted by eric at 9:42 AM

March 22, 2010

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark barks at fan wearing paper bag in loss as team falls to 7-63

NY Daily News
by Julian Garcia

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark spends a lot of time extolling the "fan experience" at Nets games. Who knew that "experience" included having Yormarketing Genius get in your face for hanging a paper bag over your head in shame?

The Nets have been in the bag for months. Now their fans are, too, and that was too much for one team executive to take.

Between the third and fourth quarters of Monday night's 99-89 loss to the Miami Heat at the Meadowlands, Nets CEO Brett Yormark got into a heated confrontation with a fan wearing a bag over his head who was sitting in the second row across from the Nets' bench.

The fan claimed that Yormark asked him why he was wearing the bag and that when he sarcastically answered, "Because the Nets are so good," Yormark snapped at him. A Yormark spokesperson said he did not have any comment.

What could he say, anyway? Yormark's team fell to 7-63 last night, remaining on pace to break the NBA record for futility, set by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9-73.


NoLandGrab: Let us be the first news outlet to officially call for Yormark's resignation. At the very least, he should be forced to wear a bag over his head for the remainder of the season. And please, Brett, no silly paper bag promotions, ok?

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Touchy Yormark

Great way to build a relationship with the community of fans—give them a lousy product and then yell at them for being upset. What marketing genius!

Bergen Record, Nets can't take the Heat, lose 14th straight at home, 99-89

NO FAN FAVORITE: During the second half, CEO Brett Yormark had a heated exchange with some fans sitting across from the Nets’ bench, including one wearing a bag over his head.

The Star-Ledger, John Loyer coaches in place of Kiki Vandeweghe in Nets' 99-89 loss to Heat

Two fans wearing paper bags on their heads in the VIP seats had a heated exchange with uber-fan-friendly Nets CEO Brett Yormark during the third period.

NLG: "Uber-fan-friendly?" Apparently not.

Posted by eric at 11:20 PM

Tonight at 11:30: Tales of the New Depression on BCAT

The masterminds behind Fightin' Freddy's, who battle eminent domain abuse by day and produce cable-access television shows by night, are at it again.

Tonight (Monday) at 11:30 p.m., tune into BCAT Channel 1 for a special installment of Tales of the New Depression (formerly Brooklyn vs. Bush), a retrospective on press coverage, or, more accurately, the lack of press scrutiny of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

The show will feature IFC's "Unreliable Sources," about Forest City Ratner's possible influence over Daily News coverage of the project, coverage of the March 11th ceremonial Atlantic Yards groundbreaking — and the decidedly unceremonious Bobblehead protest of that contrived event — and the NY1 interview with Fightin' Freddy's ringleader Steve de Seve about the planned standoff to prevent the state of New York from taking Freddy's by eminent domain.

All this tonight at 11:30, on BCAT Channel 1. Those of you in Manhattan can tune in to cable-access channel MNN at midnight.

Posted by eric at 10:50 PM

Bruce Ratner's salute to Helena Williams and the MTA, Forest City Ratner's subordinate in a private-public partnership

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his series on the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking, today reporting on Bruce Ratner's shout-out to one of his favorite government enablers — Long Island Railroad President Helena Williams.

Williams, on the stage, smiled and took in the applause.

She didn't have to do so.

She could've called in sick and skipped sharing the stage with paid supporters and compromised politicians.

The MTA and the developer

For whom does Williams work, the public, the developer, or, most likely, a governor who agreed from the get-go to support this project?

Last spring, acting MTA head Williams, presumably under pressure from her board, agreed to a smaller replacement railyard worth $100 million less.

The MTA also agreed to only $20 million down for the railyard segment needed for the arena, rather than $100 million for it all, with the remaining $80 million option on the remaining parcels to be paid at a generous 6.5% interest rate. (Eliot Brown of the Observer called the renegotiation "not the agency's finest hour.")

In other words, Forest City Ratner saved $180 million in cash flow, and at least $100 million in total--plus the difference between the MTA's interest rate and a bank's interest rate.

Essentially, Williams and the MTA board turned the public agency into Ratner's bank, giving him financing when there was none to be had, as the Real Deal noted, classifying the deal as one of the best during the credit crunch.


Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

CNG watch: Courier-Life editor leaves, Brooklyn Paper's Kuntzman takes over; two chains start sharing more content

Atlantic Yards Report

Not surprisingly, the New York Post's Community Newspaper Group (CNG) has moved toward consolidating its two chains in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life.

The evidence? The departure of the latter's editor and increased sharing of copy among the two chains.

As can be seen by a close look at the Courier-Life mastheads from last week and this week, longtime Courier-Life Editor Kenneth Brown has been replaced by Brooklyn Paper Gersh Kuntzman.


Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Forest City Misses Metrotech Mortgage Payment

Crain's reported on Friday that Forest City Ratner had missed a payment on its $52 million mortgage at 10 Metrotech, which, oddly enough, isn't in the Metrotech Center but a few blocks away at 625 Fulton Street; the building counts both the IRS and Human Resources Administration as tenants. The irony of the developer embarking on a $5 billion project at a time when it can't make a payment of what can't amount to more than a few hundred grand was not lost on the folks at Develop Don't Destroy.

NetsDaily, SBJ: Prokhorov Could Wind Up Paying $700 Million for Nets

Buried in a story on team values, a Sports Business Journal chart suggests that by some estimates the price tag for Mikhail Prokhorov's Nets purchase "could be worth up to $700M". SBJ didn't break down the number, but the $700 million figure appears to be much higher than any previous estimate.

As reported, Prokhorov's Onexim Group has agreed to put down $200 million in cash; assume about $180 million in franchise debt from Forest City Enterprises, Bruce Ratner's parent company; eat $60 million in costs--including losses--sustained while the team remains in New Jersey; and purchase up to $106 million in junk bonds needed to finance Barclays Center infrastructure, for a total of around $550 million. In return, Onexim receives 80% of the team, 45% of the arena and an option to purchase up to 20% of the overall Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: Those Barclays Center infrastructure bonds are not yet sold, and with Forest City's missed Metrotech mortgage payment, they won't be looking any sweeter. Earlier reports have indicated that Prokhorov wants no part of those bonds.

NetsDaily, "Brooklyn Nets" or "New York Nets"? Mayor Won't Comment

The new renderings of Barclays Center have the words "Brooklyn Nets" emblazoned at either end of the court. Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn's Boro President, and Bruce Ratner, the outgoing owner, have called them the "Brooklyn Nets" But Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen, who broke the story of Mikhail Prokhorov's interest in the team, has twice written the team will likely be "rebranded" the "New York Nets."

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

Citizens Union board member criticizes group for support of Bloomberg; good-government group has been unwilling to challenge projects like AY

Atlantic Yards Report

One of the enduring questions regarding Atlantic Yards regards the failure of longstanding good-government organizations to make a difference. The Municipal Art Society has played a careful role, calling for major changes in design but not opposing a process critics consider fundamentally skewed.

The Citizens Union (CU), responding in December 2006 to a drastic decline in estimated tax revenues--first revealed by AYR, then picked up by the New York Times--called for a “limited delay” in the process and noted that it “does not align itself with those who oppose the project and wish to use the process of delay to kill the project, because we believe that economic development is needed so that the city can continue to be a dynamic place of business and meet the needs of a growing population.”

Of course the economic development figures remained questionable, but the CU thereafter remained silent, despite cogent criticism by not-so-radical representatives of local community boards.

The CU and the mayor

The New York Daily News's Adam Lisberg picks up another angle, citing the CU's unwillingness to take on Mayor Mike Bloomberg, praising the mayor's Charter Review Commission (which might further diminish power of community boards) and endorsing him for re-election even after opposing Bloomberg's successful effort to overturn and extend term limits.

Lisberg writes:

One of its board members, Joel Berger, resigned this month with a scathing e-mail, accusing Citizens Union of straying from its roots by cozying up to Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

"It saddens me that the organization has become so timid, conflicted and corrupt that I can no longer serve it in good conscience," Berger wrote.


NoLandGrab: 20 years from now, everyone will be claiming to have been part of la Résistance.

Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

March 21, 2010

Public Editor: Times was wrong about ACORN, should have assigned one reporter to follow narrative (and what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Today, in a remarkable but late mea/nostra culpa headlined The Acorn Sting Revisited, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt agrees that the paper misled readers by describing James O'Keefe as presenting himself as a pimp in some heavily edited videos.

Hoyt writes:

Here is what I found: O’Keefe almost certainly did not go into the Acorn offices in the outlandish costume — fur coat, goggle-like sunglasses, walking stick and broad-brimmed hat — in which he appeared at the beginning and end of most of his videos. It is easy to see why The Times and other news organizations got a different impression.

...But I am satisfied that The Times was wrong on this point, and I have been wrong in defending the paper’s phrasing. Editors say they are considering a correction.

(Hoyt, of course, has never addressed the Times's failure to cover--and later, minimal coverage--of ACORN's bailout by Forest City Ratner.)

For Atlantic Yards watchers, perhaps the key Hoyt passage was this:

The report [on ACORN] by Harshbarger and Crafts was not covered by The Times. It should have been, but the Acorn/O’Keefe story became something of an orphan at the paper. At least 14 reporters, reporting to different sets of editors, have touched it since last fall. Nobody owns it. Bill Keller, the executive editor, said that, “sensing the story would not go away and would be part of a larger narrative,” the paper should have assigned one reporter to be responsible for it.

The same goes for Atlantic Yards, where the Times sent an AY rookie to cover the March 11 groundbreaking.


NoLandGrab: But the paper covers the heck out of the Nets' silly promotions, carnival hype and community outreach, all of which have questionable news value — and always forgets to mention the business relationship between the team owner's role in developing the paper's headquarters building.

Posted by eric at 10:30 PM

AY Report: Task Force Members, Office Space Does Not Equal Jobs, NY Times Misattention

Atlantic Yards Report

On Liu's task force, supporters and opponents of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement

Norman Oder takes a closer look at the membership of New York City Comptroller John Liu's Task Force on Public Benefit Agreements.

I'll point out that the task force contains three advocates for the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA): Scott Cantone of Forest City Ratner; Richard Lipsky of the Neighborhood Retail Alliance (and an FCR lobbyist); and Roger Green, the former Assemblyman and head of the DuBois-Bunche Urban Policy Center.

It also contains two clear critics of the agreement: urban planning professor Tom Angotti of Hunter College and Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York.

Beyond that, there are several others likely to be supporters of the AY CBA, such as Kevin Doyle of Local 32BJ. There are also several likely to be critics, such as Julia Vitullo-Martin, late of the Manhattan Institute and now of the Regional Plan Association.

Could that mean, when it comes to any evaluation of the AY CBA, gridlock?

Lesson not learned by Schumer, Peyser, Hamill: “Just building office buildings doesn’t mean you’re creating jobs”

From a New York Observer article headlined The Business of Ground Zero:

This, of course, is not how office towers typically get built. Developers, particularly in a recession, traditionally must have a large private tenant in hand to get anything but a laugh from lenders, and speculative office space very rarely flies on such a large scale.

This has sparked concerns that the office towers could be slow to lease up, potentially languishing for years without enough rent to even cover the mortgage payments. “Just building office buildings doesn’t mean you’re creating jobs,” said Barry Gosin, CEO of brokerage Newmark Knight Frank. “It’s not like the field of dreams. We’ve learned that lesson before.”

(Emphasis added)

Who never got that message? Among others, Sen. Chuck Schumer and columnists Andrea Peyser and Denis Hamill, all of whom concluded that Forest City Ratner's announced plan to build office towers meant 10,000 jobs.

The New York Times pays attention to... the Nets' MC!

Would you believe that, on the cover of the Sports section yesterday, the New York Times ran a feature, headlined Leading the Nets’ Cheers, for Everything but Victories, about the travails of Marco G., the Nets' MC?


It's another example of the Times's dubious choices, promoting the Nets while downplaying and avoiding coverage about the naming rights deal and the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by steve at 9:55 AM

March 20, 2010

AY Report: ACORN Going Bankrupt, Liu's CBA Task Force

Atlantic Yards Report

Times says ACORN on the brink of bankruptcy, ignores Forest City Ratner bailout

Less than a month after news broke that ACORN's New York affiliate had re-established itself as New York Communities for Change (with many of the same staffers), the New York Times reports that Acorn on Brink of Bankruptcy, Officials Say.

Most of the blame goes to the heavily-edited "sting" videos, though no criminal wrongdoing was found on the part of ACORN staffers who gave advice to a self-described pimp and prostitute:

After the activists’ videos came to light and swiftly became fodder for 24-hour cable news coverage, private donations from foundations to Acorn all but evaporated and the federal government quickly distanced itself from the group.


But long before the activist videos delivered what may become the final blow, the organization was dogged for years by financial problems and accusations of fraud. In the summer of 2008, infighting erupted over embezzlement of Acorn funds by the brother of the organization’s founder.

Actually , the Times lightly treats the embezzlement by the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, given that the "infighting erupted" because the embezzlement had been covered up for nearly a decade.


And the Times article today completely ignores the $1.5 million loan/gift bailout of the national organization by developer Forest City Ratner.

But if Forest City Ratner can't meet its mortgage payment on a property at MetroTech, it's not likely to support ACORN any more. In fact, if ACORN files for bankruptcy, it will get protection from its creditors, and won't be able to pay back the onerous--if delayed--18% interest rate on the loan component, $1 million.

ACORN has served its purpose for Forest City Ratner, so the investment was not imprudent. Still, we now have another clue to explain why ACORN head Bertha Lewis, often front-and-center at Atlantic Yards events, was not given a role at the podium during the March 11 groundbreaking.

Comptroller Liu establishes Task Force on Public Benefit Agreements (including CBAs)

Comptroller John Liu, who has previously criticized Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs), is moving forward, by establishing a Task Force on Public Benefit Agreements, which cites, among other things, the City Bar Association's recent report calling for reforms.

From the Comptroller's web site

The Task Force will develop recommendations on best practices and draft a framework for a more effective and equitable process to guide public subsidized economic development projects in the City of New York, including accountability and enforcement mechanisms that would apply when tax dollars, rezonings, and other public resources are used to facilitate private development.

The recommendations should be guided by the following principles: accountability, transparency, inclusiveness, consistency and fiscal responsibility.

Posted by steve at 9:27 AM

Prudential Center adds jobs as Nets’ arrival approaches

By Joe St. Arney

This story about the move by the New Jersey Nets to Newark's Prudential Center gives a good idea of what kind of "economic engine" Atlantic Yards will be. The Prudential Center is adding staff in preparation for the arrival of the Nets. With only an arena and, perhaps, one residential tower, permanent job creation for Atlantic Yards looks more likely to be in the 100's, nothing like the 8,000 jobs as promised by developer Bruce Ratner and his tool, the ESDC.

Devils Arena Entertainment, operators of Newark’s Prudential Center, plans to add more than 200 employees in preparation for the arrival of the New Jersey Nets pro basketball franchise and an expanding events schedule, according to a news release.

Throughout the week, interview time slots have been available to applicants, with nearly half the positions filled by residents of the Essex County city.

The operating group plans to increase usher and ticket-taker staff again later this summer to accommodate their first season with a resident NBA team. Centerplate, the arena’s concessionaire, also plans to increase their staff by over 150 employees during that same time period.


Posted by steve at 8:51 AM

Financial Woes for Forest City Ratner

Here are two takes on the news that Forest City Ratner failed to make a mortgage payment on 10 Metro Tech Center.

Atlantic Yards Report, Despite lavish groundbreaking, two signs of cash flow difficulties for Forest City Ratner; are more subsidy tweaks on the agenda?

Things are looking up for Forest City Enterprises--its stock has more than tripled in the last year (and more than doubled the price of a stock offering), but it's still orders of magnitude below its 2007 and 2008 highs.

But Forest City Ratner, despite the lavish, well-publicized groundbreaking for the Barclays Center on March 11, has its struggles, one well-publicized via Crain's New York Business, one not really noticed at the groundbreaking ceremony.

That doesn't necessarily portend serious trouble for Forest City Ratner--though it casts further doubts on the developer's questionable pledges to build the project as proposed. At the least, it might spur the developer to push, as it did last September, to get pledged subsidies for Atlantic Yards delivered faster, and ensure that subsidies encompass a broader set of costs, thus boosting liquidity.


Norman Oder finds an additional indicator of a cash flow problem:

It snuck by nearly everybody at the groundbreaking ceremony. I watched the video (via the Mayor's web site) and there, at about 48:04, Bruce Ratner let it out briefly.

"One other very important organization, speaking of sticking with it, Gramercy Capital. They started as our land lender, our land lender!" he said, with a mix of exuberance and slight incredulity. "These economic times made them our partner."

That sounds like, in exchange for missing payments, Gramercy was given a piece of the deal.

Remember, in February 2009 we learned that the developer got an extension on a $177 million loan from Gramercy for property in the AY footprint.

A partnership is more than an extension.

Queens Crap, Ratner misses mortgage payment

Tsk, tsk. And this was looking so promising for Brucie a few years back.

So...how will Ratner build his Atlantic Yards project if he can't afford to pay the mortgage on a building he's owned for more than 2 decades?

Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

Ownership Transfer Could Slip To May; Mass Protest Is Planned

Nets Daily
by Net Income

Despite a ground breaking ceremony, the Atlantic Yards project is not yet moving ahead.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said this week that the transfer of ownership from Bruce Ratner to Mikhail Prokhorov appeared to be on track, and possibly could be voted on at the NBA Board of Governors meeting on April 16. But a reading of how evictions work seems to indicate that deadline could slip. Indeed, Nets officials are now starting to think the NBA won't get to vote on Prokhorov til late April or, more likely, early May.

The issue relates to a clause in the contract between state on one hand and Ratner and Prokhorov on the other. It requires all properties in the Barclays Center footprint to be "vacated", that is empty, before the arena lease can be drawn up. The lease is the final step in the Nets sale.

Although the ESDC has told those living in the footprint they must leave by April 3, most are unlikely to do so. The judge in the case can order an eviction at that point, authorizing officials to enforce his order. However, once an eviction order is issued, the judge can extend the deadline on a case-by-case basis, giving residents more time to relocate before authorities show up to seize their property. That process will take time, an ESDC spokesman told the Brooklyn Downtown Star, without saying how much time.

Meanwhile, a protest leader at Freddy's Bar says he's contacted eminent domain critics around the country hoping to raise an army of 6,000 protesters to stop authorities from seizing the bar. He adds he's willing to go to jail if need be. "Its going to be a big standoff," he promises.


Posted by steve at 8:35 AM

Leading the Nets’ Cheers, for Everything but Victories

The New York Times
By Howard Beck

In order to avoid taking a critical look at the Atlantic Yards project, the Times will do just about anything. They even punished a reporter by forcing him to cover a Nets game and report on the Nets' master of ceremonies.

Marco G. is yelling, because he wants to, because he needs to and because if he stops, someone at the Izod Center just might fall asleep. You’re not supposed to sleep at a professional basketball game.

“Nets fans, it’s too quiet in here!” he bellows.

It is almost always too quiet in here.

The Nets are coming down the stretch of a fantastically awful season, playing in an obsolete, half-empty arena and doing little to warrant anyone’s support — let alone his lung capacity.


The Nets have only nine games left in the Meadowlands before moving to Newark’s Prudential Center for two years and then, ultimately, to a new arena in Brooklyn. The basketball may or may not improve along the way.


NoLandGrab: The Times' coverage of the Atlantic Yards project is unlikely to improve.

Posted by steve at 8:14 AM

Brooklyn Broadside: Major Development Projects Proceed Quickly in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Dennis Holt is someone who never met a real estate development he didn't like. (He'd rather someone just hurry up and build on the banks of the Gowanus Canal rather than waste time cleaning up a toxic site.) He takes a look into his credulous crystal ball and predicts buildings without plans occupied with tenants who can't be found.

During this first quarter, as just about everybody knows, holes were dug for the official birth of Atlantic Yards and the sports arena. Thus, movement begins, after so long a delay, on what promises to be the second core center of Downtown Brooklyn.

The old, first core is itself being revamped — it started more than 20 years ago with MetroTech — and the new core already consists of the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal, the office building and P.C. Richard. It is only a matter of time before an anchor tenant comes forth to permit building a commercial building, probably above the P.C. Richard store.

NoLandGrab: Bruce Rather says: "Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?"


Posted by steve at 7:56 AM

MTA Restores Some Planned Service Cuts


"Kathy", a commenter for this story questions the MTA's dealings with developer Bruce Ratner.

I'm surprised that the sweetheart deal Ratner made with the MTA over the Atlantic Yards has never come up. He is getting something like 50 million dollars in breaks, so that was 50 million that could have been in the MTA's pockets from another developer, which would have gone a long way to prevent these cuts. Sounds like the MTA needs new management, and let the people who are doing the real work keep their jobs and keep the buses and trains running.


Posted by steve at 7:45 AM

March 19, 2010

DOT Creates Car Mayhem On Little Old Park Place

Bike Rides in Brooklyn... And Other Matters.

Blogger Matthew Weinstein reports on the traffic disaster that Bruce Ratner's street closings have wreaked on Park Place — traffic impacts that were completely unforeseen in the 4,000-page Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The term Park Place appears in only a handful of places in the gigantic ass-covering document, and only in the context of being an intersection with Vanderbilt Avenue. The traffic studies did not anticipate backups on Park Place — it didn't even analyze possible effects on that quiet residential street — so needless to say, neither did it proffer any remedies.

But take heart, Mr. Weinstein, these non-impact impacts should only persist for 30 years or so.

I'm a bicyclist and the very last person you know who would criticize the DOT for restricting car traffic. Kudos to them for all the new bike lanes in our city and other traffic-calming schemes designed to make our streets quieter, safer and more breathable and to get people out of their cars and into mass transit or onto their bikes or feet!

However! Bruce Ratner recently broke ground for his mega-development and stadium at the Atlantic train yards. Not only is this ill-begotten land-grab-of-a-scheme stinking to high heaven from corruption and public/private malfeasance, it's also creating havoc on our quiet, residential streets due to collusion, I believe, between the billionaire developer and the city to make things go smoothly ... not for you and me but for Ratner and his stadium.

If you live in Prospect Heights, you may have noticed a huge uptick in traffic on little old Park Place, a narrow, residential eastbound-only street. But you may not know the reason. Here's why. If one drives south on Flatbush Avenue - i.e. from the Manhattan Bridge heading toward Prospect Park, there are very few opportunities to turn left (eastbound). Yet, large amounts of people live in our neighborhoods to the east of Flatbush Avenue: in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights and beyond.

If you live in those neighborhoods and want to go east from Flatbush Avenue, once you pass Lafayette Avenue, you cannot turn left for almost a full mile, until you reach Park Place! That's because --

• There's no left on Hanson Place - it was closed permanently a while ago.

• There's no left on Atlantic Avenue.

• There's no left on Fifth Avenue or Pacific Street - closed permanently.

• There's no left on Dean Street - ever! (until last week one could at least make a left after 7 pm and all day Sundays).

• There's no left on St. Marks Avenue.

This traffic nightmare was "designed" by the folks at DOT and it has transformed Park Place from a relatively quiet and traffic-free street into a major eastbound thoroughfare. Long lines of traffic between Flatbush Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue are common - cars very often take several red light cycles to finally pass through the intersection at Vanderbilt.


Posted by eric at 9:41 PM

Is there a white backlash against Jay-Z?

Bol's Saturday Night Workout via XXLMag.com

Byron Crawford, aka "Bol,", bills himself as "your favorite rapper's least favorite blogger." With good reason. His recent posts on our favorite rapper's role in the whole Atlantic Yards fiasco have been riotous — and not for the faint of heart.

Here are some of the reprintable parts (rated R).

Black people might not give a shit just how low Jay-Z sinks to make even more money he doesn’t really need, but there’s only so much abuse white people are willing to take.

I figured a white Jay-Z backlash might be in order, last week, when I heard there were mad white people outside protesting the groundbreaking of the Atlantic Yards project.

But I suppose it was inevitable for Jay-Z to take a lot of the blame for the Atlantic Yards project from people who are upset about it, i.e. pretty much anyone who’s actually read up on it who doesn’t own a stake in it, if only because he was the most famous person involved. And I’m sure it didn’t help matters that he’s black, both because it made him that much easier to recognize on a stage, from a long distance, and because cracka-ass crackas in New York have got it in for powerful black people right about now. They might have been pissed at Jay-Z, even if Atlantic Yards weren’t such a colossal clusterfuck. You see how they tried to run David Paterson out of town on a rail, just because he tried to talk a woman out of laying a domestic violence rap on one of his weed carriers.


Posted by eric at 7:19 PM

Two big developers hit financing difficulties

Moinian loan goes to special servicer; Forest City misses loan payment on 10 Metro Tech.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

Might there be trouble in Ratnerville?

In another sign of distress in the city's real estate market, Forest City Ratner failed to make mortgage payment on 10 Metro Tech Center, part of its huge office complex in downton Brooklyn. As a result that loan was placed on a watch list, Trepp said.

The Forest City news is somewhat surprising because it has not been a fixture on such lists.

Many developers have faced severe challenges in repaying loans that were made when lending standards were lax and capital was plentiful as banks have subsequently severely tightened access to cash.

It is too soon to say whether the loan on 10 Metro Tech is headed for a special servicer. The loan has a balance of $52 million, according to Trepp. Tenants at the building include the International Revenue Service and New York City's Human Resources Administration.

Forest City Ratner didn't have an immediate comment.


NoLandGrab: Hmm, let's see, lobster sliders for Bloomie, Marty, Hova and the gang at the groundbreaking ceremony, or this month's mortgage payment? Ah, maybe we'll pay the mortgage next month. Hey, Proko, want to buy an office complex?

Posted by eric at 2:27 PM

Your Crime Questions Answered

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Dene Chen

Actually, no; the answers to our questions have only led to more questions.

Just when you thought the whole saga of Atlantic Yards couldn't get any more ridiculous, we get the commanding officer of the NYPD's 88th Precinct fibbing about the number of officers deployed to guard Bruce Ratner's "Green Zone" during the ceremonial groundbreaking last week.

So we went to the 88th Precinct Community Council meeting last night and, as promised, brought your questions with us. The Q&A session was with Deputy Inspector Anthony Tasso.

A representative from Census 2010 present at the meeting asked if the large volume of police present during the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking last Thursday affected the 88th Precinct’s operations. Deputy Inspector Tasso explained that with big media events where dignitaries like Governor David Paterson are present, various precincts organize a security detail ahead of time.

“We take a little bit from everyone,” he said, reporting that the total number of police present at the groundbreaking from all precincts was 32. [emphasis, ours]


32? Were there officers present who aren't attached to a particular precinct? Maybe Deputy Inspector Tasso meant "320" or "132" or "3 cops for every 2 protestors." Because anyone who was present last Thursday knows that there were far more than 32 officers present. There are at least 27 officers in police uniform visible in the photo below by Adrian Kinloch, and that doesn't count three spotters on the roof of the Atlantic Center mall, three more on the roof of 636 Pacific Street, at least one in the helicopter hovering overhead, countless more officers manning the vehicle entrance to the "Green Zone" at Pacific and 6th Avenue, many more guarding the pedestrian entrance to the "Green Zone" at Atlantic Avenue and Fort Greene Place, at least one from the NYPD Counter Terrorism team (yes, really) and many more who couldn't fit into the frame of the photo. And surely there were some undercover cops who were surely among the protestors.


Another photo, below, from Matty's Picture Blog shows at least 29 officers in uniform (click to enlarge).

Somehow we doubt that all 27 officers in Kinloch's photo are the same officers who appear in Matty's photo.

Jonathan Barkey, too, has several photos of the massive police presence in his Barclays Arena Groundbreaking photo set.

Once again, we are compelled to ask: if Atlantic Yards is such a great project, and will do so much good for Brooklyn, why does everyone have to lie about it — including something as silly and easily refutable as a gross understatement of the police deployment at the groundbreaking?

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM


Affordable Housing Institute: US
by David A. Smith

The second in a two-part series on the spurious use of "blight" to justify eminent domain takings.

As we saw yesterday, using as our text a protracted City Journal editorial essay by Nicole Gelinas, when eminent domain is used for economic development (ED4ED) with a private developer as the implementing party, the potential for mischief is simply enormous – because the law of economic gravity creates political pressure that disenfranchises the economically disadvantaged.

When the state tries to crowbar a small property holder off his land, the contest is unequal, and the politically weaker are at an enormous disadvantage.

This is a civil-rights problem, both in its abstract sense and in racial or ethnic terms, because when power is unequal, it is normally the racially disadvantaged who lose, which is why Justice Thomas so articulately dissented in Kelo.

The same power dynamics are at work in the cases being contested today, such as the billion-dollar Brooklyn struggle over Atlantic Yards.

In the twenty-first century, things are different because of the information revolution. The combination of the Freedom Of Information Act and the internet has enabled citizen journalism, neutralizing the previous power imbalance of the media, to the point where Norman Oder, an individual with no credentials other than a burning desire to uncover the truth, can out-investigate the (conflicted) New York Times with reporting worthy of a Pulitzer.


NoLandGrab: To be fair, Oder had decades of experience as a journalist, and some coursework in the law, to go along with his doggedness.

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM


Atlantic Yards Report via YouTube

At a press event outside the office of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, protesters call for Cuomo to give back a campaign donation from developer Bruce Ratner and to indict Ratner for his company's role in the Ridge Hill bribery case. Videography by Jonathan Barkey.


Norman Oder also has more on the protest here.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

Property owners must relocate soon, or face eviction

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Daniel Bush

The state has asked holdout property owners inside the Atlantic Yards footprint to relocate by April 3. If they don't, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)- it seized possession of their properties this month- will request a court-issued writ of assistance authorizing the Kings County Sheriff's department to kick them to the curb.

ESDC sent a letter dated March 4 to Freddy's Bar on Dean Street and other property owners informing them they are required to relocate within 30 days. Confusing matters however, the letter goes on to ask property owners to also continue making rent payments- to their new landlord, ESDC- “commencing April 1,” according to a copy of the relocation notice letter obtained by the Star.

So what should property holders do- continue paying rent or relocate?

Steve de Seve, who in recent months has assumed the role of spokesman for Freddy's, a neighborhood focal point for Atlantic Yards critics, said the bar has developed a defensive strategy. Organizers plan to assemble so many people at the bar the day police show up to shut it, they won't possibly be able to arrest them all. He estimated Freddy's needs roughly 6,000 volunteers.

Efforts are already underway to recruit eminent domain opponents from cities around the country who wish to rally to the cause. De Seve said he would risk going to jail over the matter. “Its going to be a big standoff,” he said.


Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

Legal payoffs, dubious payments, FCR's corporate ethics, and the continuing mystery of Ridge Hill

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder publishes another segment in his series following up on last week's ceremonial Atlantic Yards groundbreaking.

So many of them--the public supporters of Atlantic Yards on the dais--were paid, thus tainting their words.

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, who delivered the invocation, asserted that the property that Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner once called "a great piece of real estate" was some " "long-neglected, rodent-infested, garbage-strewn strip of geography."

Daughtry is a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory, and all CBA signatories receive funding from Forest City Ratner (despite Daughtry's lack of transparency).

Delia Hunley-Adossa, chairperson of the CBA executive committee, asserted the wonders of the CBA, also has ducked questions about Ratner's money.

Then there's the Rev. Al Sharpton, who came to pronounce the essential value of the project, despite his unwillingness to do any analysis. (His National Action Alliance has been funded by the developer.)

It's all perfectly legal. Not terribly savory--and rather problematic, according to a New York City Bar analysis of CBAs--but legal.

(Was Jay-Z paid? He doesn't need the money. But surely he negotiated a sweeter deal in thanks for his willingness to shift the spotlight off the Russian oligarch behind the curtain.)

The mystery of Ridge Hill

Nobody was talking about another set of payments involving Forest City Ratner, part of a deal that was much more complicated, required more political hardball, and has provoked three federal indictments.


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

March 18, 2010

Disdainful Bloomberg damns "naysayers" who delayed Ratner, says Atlantic Yards would be bigger and arrive faster "if we'd let him go ahead then"

Atlantic Yards Report

During his weekly radio appearance (audio, transcript) on WOR's John Gambling Show last Friday, Mayor Mike Bloomberg damned Atlantic Yards protesters as naysayers and made multiple dubious claims about the project.

Then again, as developer Bruce Ratner said at the groundbreaking, Bloomberg was behind the project from the get-go.

He'll be back on WOR/710 AM shortly after 8am Friday.

"You’ve got a sports crazy borough and no professional sports," he said. "You’ve got a market for shows and circuses and things like that that it’s right there. They don’t have to come from anyplace."

Yes, there might be a good market for the Barclay Center, despite the arena glut. What Bloomberg won't grapple with is whether it would be a good deal for the city, given warnings by the New York City Independent Budget Office of major losses.

"You’ve got all of Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk County. They can get there a heck of lot easier than they can get to West Side of Manhattan," Bloomberg said.

Not exactly. The Long Island Rail Road terminus in Brooklyn does offer significant rail access to Nassau and Suffolk counties, but MSG offers the same and more. (Note that the Port Washington branch, according to the LIRR map, only connects to Penn Station.)

Jobs and blight

"And there are people- and we need jobs and it’s a blighted area that’s been there for a long time," Bloomberg said, casually dispensing with two hugely contested issues.

Dissing DDDB

Bloomberg continued: "And you know there’s some people who still say, ‘Oh, no, no. It’s the wrong thing. Build, don’t destroy.’ And that sort of thing. Come on." (He couldn't even get the name of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn right.)

Who's got the vision

"This is one of the great things," the mayor said. "This is a good example- and in all fairness to Bruce Ratner, who’s fought this for seven years and the people that have delayed him made it so much more difficult and so much more expensive and he’s not building as big or as fast as he would’ve if he’d gone- if we’d let him go ahead then."


NoLandGrab: Plenty more uniformed whining where that came from.

Posted by eric at 11:44 PM

A judge said the arena was recreational; Yormark says "it’s truly about entertainment and developing a marketing platform for these companies"

Atlantic Yards Report

Warning: we recommend you read the previous post before going any further.

Nets Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark, in an interview with ChiefExecutive.net, breaks it down:

You have talked about the need for sports franchises to be “value creators.” Can you give an example?

Business-to-business [relationships have become] a critical component in sports more than ever before. This offseason, we developed a chamber of commerce that includes season ticket holders, key stakeholders, vendors and sponsors from about 500 companies. Every month we have networking sessions, and my direct report team and I guarantee each member 10 qualified meetings. We don’t guarantee you the business with those other companies, but we facilitate those introductions. So, now, when people think of Nets basketball, it’s not just about fun, entertainment, or wins and losses - it’s about helping the Nets drive your business forward, helping you be part of this trading area where you can interface with other companies and use the Nets as that common thread. And it’s driving big-time results for us.

So, this really isn’t a basketball play. You’re really a marketing platform.

Absolutely. We’re in the entertainment business, and basketball is a part of it. When you think about the 200-plus events at the Barclays Center, only 41 are Nets basketball games. And if we make the playoffs, hopefully a little bit more. But it’s truly about entertainment and developing a marketing platform for these companies.

Hmm--weren't we supposed to think that the arena was "recreational," according to state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden, who in January 2008 dismissed a challenge to Atlantic Yards as a "civic project." Even some eminent domain supporters might disagree with Madden.


NoLandGrab: When Yormark isn't telling tales, which isn't very often, his speech is so peppered with marketing gobbledygook that it's hard to discern anything of substance in what he's saying. But he's a helpful guide: when he says "big-time results" and "Nets" in the same interview, you can file that under "telling tales."

Posted by eric at 11:34 PM

Study: "People In Power Make Better Liars" (ya think?)

Atlantic Yards Report

From an MSNBC article headlined People In Power Make Better Liars:

There’s old saying: power corrupts. A new Columbia Business School study titled “People with Power are Better Liars” finds there may be truth behind the cliché.

“People in power are able to lie better,” said Dana Carney, a management professor at Columbia Business School and one of the co-authors of the study. “It just doesn’t hurt them as much to do it.”

For the average liar, she said, the act of lying elicits negative emotions, physiological stress and the fear of getting caught in a lie. As a result, she added, liars will often send out cues that they are lying by doing things like fidgeting in a chair or changing the rate of their speech.

But for the powerful, the impact is very different, according to the study:

“Power, it seems, enhances the same emotional, cognitive, and physiological systems that lie-telling depletes. People with power enjoy positive emotions, increases in cognitive function, and physiological resilience such as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Thus, holding power over others might make it easier for people to tell lies.”

Just watch Forest City Ratner's smiling Bruce Bender. Or, in that same video, Gov. David Paterson. Or Bruce Ratner. Or Nets Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark.


NoLandGrab: Interesting. Reminds us of the time BUILD COO Marie Louis was asked by Brian Lehrer on CUNY-TV about the source of the organization's funding. We're going to guess that she doesn't qualify as "powerful." Bender, on the other hand, has it down to a science.

Posted by eric at 11:21 PM

On Just Two of the Self-serving Fibs Told at Ratner's Groundtaking Ceremony

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

You'd think if the Atlantic Yards project was half as good for Brooklyn as its proponents claim it would be, they wouldn't need to make things up.

DDDB sets the record straight on a couple pernicious lies.

Correcting a couple of mythological whoppers highlighted by Ratner & Friends at their arena groundtaking ceremony:

Ratner & Friends claimed there were 34 lawsuits against his project.
There weren't.
There were eight against various abuses exhibited by the project, its process and its involved agencies.

Ratner & Friends claimed that Atlantic Yards would displace four commercial occupants and about 35 residents occupying 15 apartments.
When Ratner announced his project in December 2003 it was immediately clear that eminent domain would be used to remove all of these businesses and residents. And it was. At the time there were 33 businesses with 235 employees, 162 homes with 334 residents, and a long-term family homeless shelter housing close to 400 individuals. They all will all be gone eventually and eminent domain will have been used to clear the site.


Posted by eric at 1:20 PM


Affordable Housing Institute: US
by David A. Smith

This must-read Part 1 of a two-part series examines the use of eminent domain for purposes of economic development or urban renewal and its reliance on the murky definition of "blight." It includes a fascinating explanation of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Berman vs. Parker, a ruling that, in the ensuing half-century-plus, has been bastardized to justify just about any property condemnation. Compare the conditions outlined in Berman to conditions today in Prospect Heights to see just how twisted blight definitions have become.

Indeed, what seems an intractable policy problem – when is ED4ED (eminent domain for economic development) permissible, and when must it be prohibited? – can be reduced to a problem of boundary –what is blight? In turn, the entire problem, over which so many hours of legal wrestling have been held, can be solved easily – the fuzzy boundary has to be construed against the party with power, so either define blight objectively and observably, or eliminate it as a valid reason.

To see why, we must descend the rabbit hole of current jurisprudence, in particular the way ‘blight’ has been redefined out of all observable meaning (Part 1 of this post), and then resurface elsewhere to see how ED4ED is requisite for urban improvement (Part 2), and hence how to reconcile the competing pressures.

Under Berman, a Supreme Court enraptured with the promise of economic development allowed the District of Columbia Redevelopment Authority to demolish and rebuild a large chunk of southwestern Washington, based on the finding of ‘blight’, which in the 1954 decision was concluded to exist because:

“64.3% of the dwellings were beyond repair, 18.4% needed major repairs, only 17.3% were satisfactory; 57.8% of the dwellings had outside toilets, 60.3% had no baths, 29.6% lacked electricity, 82.2% had no wash basins or laundry tubs, 83.8% lacked central heating.”

I think anyone today would agree that even in 1954, properties without indoor plumbing, central heating, or running water, constituted blight. Indeed, under today’s laws – absent in 1954 – those buildings could be condemned as unsanitary.


NoLandGrab: Fast forward 56 years, and now "blight" means you might have a couple feathery cracks in your sidewalk or your pristine home is built to less than 60% of its allowable size. Oh, and Bruce Ratner has designs on it.

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Review and Comment: Taking Stock at 100

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

When we saw the headline, we thought the Eagle's cantankerous columnist might be celebrating a birthday — but it turns out it's the Brooklyn Heights Association that's hitting the century mark.

How to adjust comfortably to these changed surroundings is a challenge facing the Heights and its association. The BHA has been reaching both inward and outward with mixed effect. Most positively it has from the outset been a force for the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park, even though it has resisted pressure for what almost inevitably will have to be a park entrance from Montague Street. Even those who most feared public intrusion will themselves want to enjoy a more convenient access to the park. On the Heights’ northern border, the BHA has had a rather sorry history opposing the residential transformation of DUMBO, and, where it should have welcomed the imaginative proposal for Atlantic Yards farther inland, it has instead been party to the delaying tactics that have not stopped the project but cheated it of some of its unique potential as it moves forward.


NoLandGrab: If by "unique potential" Krogius means "unique potential to further line Bruce Ratner's pockets with public funds," we couldn't agree more. Of course, it's (former) property owners and the taxpayers who've been cheated most.

Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, The Day: Birdman and Bobbleheads

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will get a visit from the anti-Atlantic Yards bobblehead brigade today. They contend that Cuomo, who accepted a $5,000 campaign contribution from developer Bruce Ratner, has a conflict of interest when it comes to Atlantic Yards litigation.

NoLandGrab: Actually, Cuomo has no role in any litigation. The Bobbleheads would like to see the Attorney General investigate Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, where the bribe-taker has been indicted, but the prime beneficiary of the bribe-induced City Council vote change that allowed the project to go forward (yep, Forest City), has so far eluded charges.

Found in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Bobbleheads take on Cuomo over Tainted Campaign Contribution on Thursday

Curbed, Beekman Crane Exits; Six Left at Graceline Court; Ohms Indie Rock

Frank Gehry's 76-story Beekman Tower has lost its "scary-as-hell crane," as a tipster puts it, leaving a scary-as-hell elevator hoist behind. Forest City Ratner should charge thrill-seekers admission to take a ride in that thing. [Image: Curbed]

BleedScarlet, If they did it

Accolades continue to roll in for Bruce Ratner in the wake of last week's groundbreaking.

Former Nets coach Lawrence Frank is an excellent technician, who had his legs cut out from under him by Bruce Ratner, the worst owner in the history of American professional sports.

The Bride's Diary, New York: It's a Brooklyn Thing

Readers of this Australian bridal site might find themselves very disappointed if they're planning a starchitecture-focused honeymoon.

Cross that famous bridge from Manhattan to discover a brave new world, where funky neighbourhoods are filled with hip galleries and a happening vibe.

Actors Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard moved to a brownstone in Brooklyn with their baby daughter Ramona. Adrian Grenier from Entourage is doing an eco-renovation on his Clinton Hill property. Character actor Paul Giamatti programs the cinema selection at Brooklyn’s Rose Cinemas. The star of Waitress and the TV series Felicity, Keri Russell, picks her way through Fort Greene’s weekend market. Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly and husband Paul Bettany stroll through Prospect Park. In Brooklyn it seems there’s a celebrity on every corner.

New York magazine recently noted that since the finale of Sex And The City, the zeitgeist has shifted across the East River to Brooklyn. Downtown Brooklyn boasts $US3 billion ($3.3b) of construction projects in the pipeline, plus the controversial $US4 billion Atlantic Yards development with a Frank Gehry-designed stadium.

NLG: Not only will they not find any Frank Gehry buildings in Brooklyn, they won't find Jennifer and Paul, either — they went against the grain and moved to Manhattan.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Barclays Center groundbreaking has cheers and jeers

The Amsterdam News
by Cyril Josh Barker

With celebration and opposition, the groundbreaking ceremony was held last Thursday for the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, which has plans to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn. Several big names attended the ceremony, including Gov. David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Brooklyn-born rapper and businessman Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.”

Protesters blew whistles, held signs, chanted and used noisemakers to show their outrage against the project that many say will change the face of the neighborhood.

According to the organization Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the Atlantic Yards Project would be “instant gentrification.” DDDB believes that 64 percent of housing from the project will go toward high-income families.


Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

The Darryl Greene asterisk on minority contracting (not that Paterson noticed), the Bloomberg asterisk on the CBA, and now the City Bar's CBA critique

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his series analyzing last week's Atlantic Yards groundbreaking ceremony.

The irony was crushing: moments before New York's political luminaries posed proudly at the ceremonial groundbreaking event, a not dissimilar deal, much criticized for its lack of transparency, was being unceremoniously dumped.

Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) was gone from the Aqueduct racetrack video casino deal, and with it, a process seen as tainted by Governor David Paterson's political ambitions and the role of a shady consultant named Darryl Greene--a consultant key to the Atlantic Yards project.

And Jay-Z, the rapper and entrepreneur who drew fawning treatment from the likes of Barclays' Bob Diamond and Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz, had only days earlier extracted himself from the wrong side of the AEG deal.

The CBA irony

There was another obvious irony: even as developer Bruce Ratner and the Rev. Al Sharpton buffed the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), Mayor Mike Bloomberg refrained from pointing out that he considers CBAs to be "extortion."

Three days earlier--though it didn't surface widely until the New York Observer's Eliot Brown reported on it yesterday--the Association of the Bar of the City of New York issued a sober but tough report cautioning against CBAs:

They may be appropriate conditions to impose upon developers in return for economic development subsidies, but we urge the City to clearly and firmly reject any consideration of CBAs in the land use approval process.

(In the case of AY, there were both subsidies and an override--by the state--of the land use approval process.)

Some of the issues raised in the report--transparency, representativeness, accountability and enforceability--emanate from criticisms of the Atlantic Yards CBA. Though the report could've been much tougher on the CBA, none of these concerns surfaced.


Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

March 17, 2010

MEDIA ALERT: Bobbleheads Attack - Doing Lunch With Andrew Cuomo

Atlantic Yards Bobbleheads Take on Cuomo Over Tainted Campaign Contribution

This just in from NY Bobbleheads.

WHAT: Bobblehead Lunch Hour Press Conference

WHO: Bobbleheads of Governor Paterson, Former Governors Pataki and Spitzer, Senator Charles Schumer, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Mikhail Prokhorov, Bruce Ratner, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

WHERE: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's Office, 120 Broadway, Manhattan. Outside.

WHEN: Thursday, March 18, 12 Noon

Come to 120 Broadway, outside Andrew Cuomo's office for this highly photogenic event.

One week ago, Thursday, March 11, 2010, the controversial groundbreaking for Bruce Ratner’s Barclays Arena project took the headlines. Yet, just about all of Brooklyn politicians except the borough president avoided the ceremony. This is a strong public indication that Bruce Ratner and his bait and switch boondoggle—Atlantic Yards—is not politically favored beyond close cronies.

Nine bobbleheads, seen last week on television and in the top five political photos in The New York Times and the Washington Post, will be visiting Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo will be asked, by the bobblehead likeness of himself, to do his job for the people of New York by investigating Bruce Ratner and his company Forest City Ratner. An investigation is absolutely necessary because the evidence is nine blocks up the street at the Federal Courthouse.

But first, Cuomo must return the $5,000 contribution he has received from Bruce Ratner.

This contribution gives the appearance that Cuomo is favoring Ratner by his unwillingness to investigate Ratner, or anyone at his company, for alleged involvement in an alleged conspiracy that led to a bribe and a federal indictment of a city council member in Yonkers who flipped her vote in favor of Ratner’s Ridge Hill project.


Posted by eric at 11:34 PM

Bar Association: Reform Community-Developer Dealmaking

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The Association of the Bar of New York City doesn't seem to think all that highly of the current process by which landlords cut formal, non-standardized deals with community groups—known as Community Benefits Agreements—to win approvals for planned developments.

CBAs proliferated in recent years, particularly in the late real estate boom, as community groups and elected officials rushed to try to wrest concessions and mitigations from developers who may or may not be financially prepared to shower a bounty on the community. The use of CBAs has been criticized, in part because of the somewhat arbitrary manner in which they are formed (there is no standard for which groups end up being signatories in a CBA or participate in the negotiations with a developer, for instance), and the offerings from developers may not necessarily benefit the larger public interest, but rather just assuage a certain small constituency that happens to be negotiating the CBA.

CBAs have popped up at Atlantic Yards, Columbia University's planned West Harlem expansion, and recently at the Kingsbridge Armory development in the Bronx, which was voted down by the City Council after the requirement of a "living" wage became a make-or-break for the elected officials involved.

The well-researched Bar Association's report piles on more criticism and suggests that the tit-for-tat linking of a council land-use approval with a CBA is improper, if not illegal, given that developers are effectively buying zoning changes by paying certain community groups.


NoLandGrab: Or, in the case of Atlantic Yards, paying "community" groups that didn't exist before the developer itself created them in order to have a handful of entities that would agree to flimsy community benefits!

Posted by eric at 11:22 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! Day Care NO!!

Faced with an enormous budget gap, Mayor Bloomberg is ordering the Administration for Children's Services to shutter 16 day care centers, while he continues to lavish subsidies on Bruce Ratner's basketball arena and lobster sliders.

Gotham Gazette, Day Care Dumped

Strong Place, which is located across the street from the New York City Housing Authority's Gowanus Houses, is one of 16 day care centers overseen by the Administration for Children's Services that could close in July. More than 770 children and their families and 300 workers would be affected.

The closings are just a small part of the Bloomberg administration's plan to fill an approximately $4.9 billion budget hole.

Administration officials say the leases at the centers slated for closure are too much to cover in this recession. By closing the 15 sites, according to budget documents, the city would save $9 million in the next fiscal year and $16.3 million every year thereafter.

For the sake of comparison, the city has already given Ratner $205 million in cash. Plus countless other tax breaks. For a private basketball arena.

Two elected officials who have been stalwart opponents of Atlantic Yards are also strong proponents of keeping the centers open.

Some of the city's unions, including District Council 1707, who represents day care workers, and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, as well as a number of the city politicians are taking up Strong Place's cause.

In an ornate second floor room in Brooklyn Borough Hall on Friday, State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery joined them.

"We cannot let our families go," said Montgomery. "We have abandoned our children."

Councilmember Letitia James said federal funding could also help keep the centers open.

Of course, so could making Bruce Ratner pay his own way. But then, who would serve the Mayor lobster sliders?

Posted by eric at 5:53 PM

Bucking Beck! Rev. Clinton Miller believes in social justice

The Brooklyn Paper

Rev. Clinton Miller celebrates his ninth year at the head of an historic Clinton Hill church this week, but his reputation precedes him.

The 42-year-old Brooklyn-born ministry man has been an outspoken figurehead at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church for both the borough’s African-American and church communities — lecturing in some arenas as a politician, but mostly as a conduit for the good word.

But the Yale Divinity School graduate’s political voice is an influential one — he was sought after for his word on the Obama vote, courted the then-campaigning Hillary Clinton at a rally to honor Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has even taken a leadership role against the Atlantic Yards project. He said on Sunday that he wants his community to have access to affordable housing rather than a new Nets stadium, but noted the importance of the jobs that the project would create.


Posted by eric at 4:00 PM

Jordan, officially OK'd by owners, puts his rep on the line

by Art Garcia

This story is mostly about Michael Jordan being approved as the new owner of the Charlotte Bobcats (which means compulsive gamblers are now welcome in the owners' circle, along with landgrabbers and other people with questionable pasts). But the story includes this update:

Prokhorov-Nets deal on track

[NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam] Silver said the New Jersey Nets sale to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov remains on track to be completed in early-to-mid April.

"It would be our hope that the deal would be completed by the Board of Governors meeting," said Silver, referring to April 16 gathering of the league's owners in New York.

Silver said the financial hurdles between Prokhorov and current Nets owner Bruce Ratner have been cleared. Issues related to the new arena in Brooklyn still need to be resolved. Ground was broken last week and the Barclays Center is scheduled to open in 2012.

"What is largely holding up the Prokhorov deal are factors outside the control of either the buyer or the seller, or the league for that matter," Silver said. "Those are various legal procedures in Brooklyn. We're only a certain number of weeks away from that deal being consummated."


The news above makes clear the obvious jumping-the-gun error in this story:

Business Insider, 15 Finance Kings And The Sports Teams They Own

Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire chairman of Polyus Gold, Russia's largest gold producer, and President of Onexim Group, owns 80% of the NJ Nets.

Prokhorov only recently bought the team in September of last year. Now he's the primary owner alongside part owners Jay Z and Bruce Ratner.

NoLandGrab: The distinction between agreeing to buy the team and actually closing on the purchase was apparently lost on Business Insider.

Posted by eric at 2:39 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Last Town Chorus’ Travelogue, Brooklyn, NY: Goodbye, Chaos

Atlantic Yards stadium development and other 4th Ave atrocities underway. Goodbye again.

Vital Signs, Private Property vs Government

After all, a shopping mall or amusement park will generate more tax revenue than the quaint little homes on your cul-de-sac will. The end for the property owner is the same. See you around, folks; don't let the wrecking ball hit you on your way out.

Nicole Gelinas has written a superb article on the topic of eminent domain for City Journal that I think you'll find most illuminating. Her article is entitled "Eminent Domain as Central Planning" and in it she draws general principles from the specific ways in which state governments like New York are taking irresponsible, greed-oriented eminent domain to new levels.

Urban Playground, Historical Day in Brooklyn

History in Brooklyn, the Atlantic Yards development project breaks ground on the construction of Barclay’s Center Arena, the future home of the “Brooklyn Nets”. Everybody is not happy about the development as protesters claim that there is no economic benefit for the community, but there is no doubt that this development will bring much needed jobs, affordable housing and an economic boost to the city.

NoLandGrab: Oh, there's some doubt. Unless Urban Playground is referring to the Urban Dictionary definition of "boost."

Posted by eric at 6:50 AM

Did Brooklyn "do it again" or just get played? The endless marketing and unbearable banality of borough iconography

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his series intended "to compensate slightly for the failure of any metro columnists to show up and glean insights from the rich spectacle of the Barclays Center groundbreaking March 11," this time examining the tired, trite and cynical flogging of "BROOKLYN!," the brand.

They've already started milking it. "Brownstone" and "loft" suites planned for the Barclays Center arena. Regular invocations of the ineffable notion of "Brooklyn."

And copious use of Brooklyn iconography, as in the tote bag and hat pictured at left, among the parting gifts given to attendees at the event.

Get ready for even more "Brooklyn" as marketers for the arena gear up, and when Jay-Z--the minority owner who sucked up media attention in place of the Russian oligarch who'll soon own the Nets--wears some Brooklyn gear, well, it'll go flying off the shelf.

And when Jay-Z (as is likely) opens the arena with some concerts, expect much more "Brooklyn" in words, signs, and gear.

What does it mean?

But what is Brooklyn? Attitude? Street cred? A curated flea market? Family? Community? Desserts of high quality (as listed at right and pictured below, from the ceremony)? A massive police presence to tamp down peaceful protesters? A Borough President for Life?

It pretty much means what people want it to mean.

Brooklyn didn't "do it again."

It was done by Forest City Ratner, thanks to copious assistance from government agencies and political leaders, such as a giveaway to the developer of naming rights, subsequently sold to Barclays.

Brooklyn "didn't do it again."

Brooklyn got played.


Posted by eric at 6:07 AM

March 16, 2010


The BoxHouston.com
by The Chile

I CURIOUSLY WATCHED THE PRESS CONFERENCE HELD LAST WEEK to celebrate the New Jersey Nets (well, not quite New Jersey anymore) stadium set to be built in Brooklyn. A group of investors, led by Bruce Ratner, were joined by many prominent New York public figures to celebrate the ground-breaking of one of the highest impact economic endeavors in the history of Brooklyn. Jay-Z is part of the group of investors who bought the Nets, so of course he attended the ceremony.

Do I think Brooklyn should get an NBA team? Sure, why not? I like sports and I don’t blame residents who are excited about this project. Additionally, government and business interests become risky, yet necessary bedfellows in a capitalist society. If this project works out well, it certainly may help the city in the long-run. Simultaneously, for those who are in love with the idea of Jay-Z and Ratner bringing this team to Brooklyn, it is important to remember that many professional sports teams have financially violated the residents of cities across America. Citizens are on the weak side of the negotiation, since the residents have far more loyalty to the team than the owners have to the city. So, if Ratner and company hold the city hostage for more money in a few years, the citizens of Brooklyn will only have themselves and their elected leaders to blame.

The Jay-Z/Ratner/Nets saga is to be continued. We won’t know if this was a good decision for another 10 years.


NoLandGrab: We're going to go out on a limb here and make a prediction now: not a good decision.

Posted by eric at 11:07 PM

Fantasy Hockey

Seems that a number of forlorn hockey fans on Long Island are not yet familiar with Bruce Ratner's penchant for the tall tale.

NYI Point Blank, Brooklyn latest...Envy on the Coast vid...lineup stuff

Although Gary Bettman does not see the borough as a realistic option for the Islanders, Brooklyn’s new arena will have the capability of hosting hockey games and Bruce Ratner says Charles Wang’s team is invited. Still, Ratner is rooting for Wang to get his wish of staying in Nassau County.

“It’s an option,” said Ratner in an interview last week on WFAN. “It’s not likely, but it’s always an option. First, we have to hope that Charles Wang does get his arena built and the Islanders stay (on Long Island) and they have a great place to play. That’s foremost.

NoLandGrab: People. As designed, the arena can't accommodate hockey. Ratner keeps dangling the "possibility" of hockey to help justify revenue projections to help sell bonds. Trust us, Kansas City will grow on you. Good barbecue.

Actually, "it's not likely" are some of the truer words Ratner has ever spoken.

Save the Isles, Brooklyn is an option!

Even though Gary Bettman really talked down the idea of the Isles going to Brooklyn, Chris Botta reports that Bruce Ratner says there is still a chance.

NLG: Good grief, this is like a game of telephone.

Brooklyn Islanders, …or maybe they CAN accomodate hockey after all

Via Islanders Point Blank, a snippet from the press release handed out at the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking, announcing a partnership with IMG:

In addition to college basketball, IMG will assist BSE in staging college hockey, high-profile tennis events and high school sports at the Barclays Centers.

NLG: Yeah, and maybe Brett Yormark is telling the truth. Yeah, that's the ticket. Hockey. On ice. Yeah, that's it.

Posted by eric at 10:50 PM

Final Movie Night at Freddy’s?

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Perry Santanachote

Kings County Cinema Society has screened documentary films at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom once a month for nearly two years. Last Wednesday night, on the eve of the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking, an especially big crowd showed up. Around 40 people, twice as many as usual, squeezed into Freddy’s cramped backroom.

“It’s particularly bittersweet tonight because it’s quite possible it’s our last one here,” said Nick Shimkin, 26, co-founder of the Kings County Cinema Society. Freddy’s has received a notice to vacate the premises to make way for the Atlantic Yards development.

That notice was sent by developer — and Freddy's landlord — Forest City Ratner; it was not a court order.

A preview of Michael Galinsky’s Battle of Brooklyn, a documentary about the Atlantic Yards development, drew many patrons. Mr. Galinsky showed interview footage of Bruce Bender, from Forest City Ratner Company, riling up the crowd and sparking a lively discussion.

Kings County Cinema Society usually selects and screens locally produced documentaries that veer off the beaten path.

“It’s curated for my fellow broke friends,” said Shimkin, who reaches out to filmmakers and venues with his partner, Tobias Arturi, so movie lovers don’t have to pay $12.50 to see a good film in New York.


NoLandGrab: Surely the screenings will continue at Chuck E. Cheese or Buffalo Wild Wings or whatever other such establishments Forest City will spring on the neighborhood, no?

Posted by eric at 10:01 PM

Pols Didn't Want to Be Seen at Ratner's Arena Groundtaking Ceremony

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB follows up on Norman Oder's report this morning on who showed (and who didn't) at last week's Bruce Ratner tent show.

Granted, Ratner had an unelected Governor, a Mayor who bought a third term through a multi-million dollar power grab, and a borough president who rode that power grab's coattails all present and pronouncing science fiction-worthy numbers at his March 11th groundbreakingtaking ceremony.

But who else was there, willing to show their faces under the boondoggle tent?

Six elected officials, all but one representing districts far away from the project site, and all with deep financial and/or political ties to Ratner, his partners (BUILD), and his South Brooklyn political fixer Bruce Bender.

Atlantic Yards, they all claim, is the most important project in Brooklyn, and one of the two most important in all of NYC. So where was Speaker Quinn, Public Advocate de Blasio, Comptroller Liu or any one else from Brooklyn or beyond? (Where was Chuck Schumer, or a single member of the Brooklyn Congressional delegation?)

The poor showing gives the lie to the claimed popularity and importance of the bait and switch project. It also seems to be perhaps the biggest missed story of the day. Until now...


Posted by eric at 7:08 PM

April 12, 9:30 AM. Oral Argument in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Related Case

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Oral argument on Article 78 lawsuit seeking to compel ESDC to make new EDPL 204 findings

April 12, 2010
9:30 AM
80 Centre Street, Manhattan

Some owners and tenants in the footprint brought this lawsuit in January 2010 arguing that the eminent domain takings were based on a plan that no longer exists -- if the takings are going to occur, they must be for the current plan, which is a basketball arena and one building, not for the project originally conceived with the promise of 2,250 affordable housing [units] and jobs. So the takings require new findings and determinations by ESDC. The suit is in Manhattan State Supreme Court.


Posted by eric at 6:57 PM

Customers getting ‘Malled’

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Stephen Brown

During the same week that Bruce Ratner was breaking ground on the Atlantic Yards project, a land grab facilitated by phony claims of pervasive criminal activity in the project footprint, crooks were once again running wild in his nearby shopping malls.

Atlantic Frantic

More troublemakers stalked the Atlantic Terminal Mall at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues last week. Here’s a roundup:

• A thief swiped a woman’s purse and handed it off to an accomplice, who fled in a black livery cab in front of the mall on March 8. The victim told cops that she was buying a soda at around 4:30 pm when the thief struck. A struggle between the victim and perp concluded with the thief handing the bag off to his partner in crime. The get-away snatcher got $500.

• Will people ever learn to mind their belongings at the uber-sketchy Target? A careless woman left her purse at the cash register of the department store, only to return a minute later and find it had been snatched on March 10. The victim told cops that she was checking out at around 3:35 pm when she realized that she had left her purse. She returned within a minute, but her bag, containing $650 and a cellphone, was long gone.

And on the very day that Bruce Ratner was "officially" pinching the homes and businesses of Brooklyn property owners, and making off with hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies as well, a hapless would-be shoe thief ran into the 300-or-so cops on hand to keep protestors out of Ratner's "Green Zone."

• A misguided youth attempted to rob the Payless Shoes on March 11, but was busted by cops.

Police said that the 15-year-old troublemaker entered the shoe store at around 4:30 pm and pretended he had a gun. But while the thug was attempting to swipe cash from the register, Officer Omisanya Basil arrived and arrested him.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

#290: Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking Protest

Matty's Picture Blog

Ironically, there were more cops than protesters.
The cops actually make me feel unsafe and anxious.

And were the cops on the roof really necessary?
They did have a great view, and so did the people in Old Navy.


NoLandGrab: Unless the people in Old Navy attempted to take a photo, in which case, security escorted them from Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center mall.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

A Quiet Alarm Sounds

A multimedia art exhibit in Fort Greene examines the neighborhood-changing going on all around it.

City Limits
by David Alm

Fort Greene“The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks,” at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, 80 Hanson Place, Brooklyn. Open Wed. – Sun, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Suggested donation $4, through May 16.

Anyone who’s lived in New York for a while has done it: Walked down a familiar block and remembered the old days – even three or four years ago – when that yoga studio was a bodega, that multinational bank was a local business, and you could rent a one-bedroom apartment for under $2,000.

Depending on your politics, income and connection to a place, such changes can be a welcome sign of new amenities and safer streets, or symptoms of a kind of urban cancer. And few places in the city reflect such trends more in recent years than the neighborhoods of northwest Brooklyn. Take a walk through Fort Greene, Clinton Hill or Bed-Stuy today and you’ll barely recognize the world filmmaker Spike Lee immortalized two decades ago in his classic "Do The Right Thing."

“The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks” brings together more than 20 artists to inspire thought and conversation around these seismic shifts in New York’s fastest-growing borough. Centered at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Fort Greene, the four-month-long project combines art exhibitions with discussions, a play, a poetry reading and other events to reach beyond black-and-white diatribes and polarizing prescriptions.

With the controversial Atlantic Yards construction site looming just beyond MoCADA’s front door, “The Gentrification of Brooklyn” sounds a quiet alarm, one that grows louder the longer you listen.


NoLandGrab: "Do the Right Thing?" Not any more, apparently. Spike Lee attended Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards groundbreaking last Thursday.

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

Diamond’s shining moment amid the crisis

Financial Times
by Justin Baer

The FT profiles Barclays president, Jay-Z fan and Atlantic Yards groundbreaktaker "Diamond" Bob Diamond.

Bob Diamond sat patiently on the dais set on a cluttered construction site last week, as New York’s top civic and community leaders took turns praising the future home of Barclays Center, a sports arena to be built on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards.

“It is with great enthusiasm,” bellowed Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn’s loquacious borough president, “that I introduce you to this shining diamond.”

Eighteen months before sharing a stage with rapper Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, Mr Diamond stood under a different spotlight.

As president of Barclays, Mr Diamond starred in a thrilling chapter of the financial crisis: the UK bank’s frantic takeover of Lehman Brothers’ US securities business.


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Deep bench at the groundbreaking? There were only enough Brooklyn elected officials to play three-on-three

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his examination of last week's official groundbreaking.

Yes, Bruce Ratner had the top elected officials from the state, city, and borough behind the Atlantic Yards project, and they happily wielded shovels for the inevitable photo opportunities.

But a deep bench of supporters (to quote the Brooklyn Paper)?

Not if you consider that there were only enough Brooklyn elected officials to play three-on-three, and none of them came from close to the Atlantic Yards site. That has to indicate dismay toward the process, if not the project, a process that bypassed any local elected official.

Among the missing were Assemblyman (and Brooklyn Democratic Chair) Vito Lopez, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Public Advocate (and former Council Member) Bill de Blasio.

And, of course, the representatives of the neighborhoods closest to the site: Council Members Letitia James, Brad Lander, and Steve Levin; Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries, Jim Brennan, and Joan Millman, and state Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams.

Introductions from Markowitz

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz tummled up a storm introducing these officials, but they were a motley crew, distinguished by no particular ideology but rather connections to Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, receipt of campaign funds, and ties to Ratner-funded groups.

Click through for a rundown on the Atlantic Yards hall of shame.


Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

March 15, 2010

The New York Times and Atlantic Yards: A Pattern of Inadequate, Misleading, Mostly Uncritical Coverage. Still.

Atlantic Yards Report

For Norman Oder, Atlantic Yards has come full circle.

He first waded into the morass way back in 2005, when he wrote a lengthy, detailed report (not surprising) on The New York Times's failings in covering the proposed Brooklyn megaproject of Forest City Ratner, developer of The Times's headquarters building.

Apparently, no one at The Times has ever bothered to heed his critique.

My apologies. In my haste to shoot, process, edit, and transcribe video, then turn it into blog posts, and go to my office and do my job, I neglected to sufficiently explain how the New York Times disdained and misled its readers when it covered the Barclays Center groundbreaking.

The Times sent a reporter who had never covered the project before. Never.

Their rationale, apparently, was to send the guy available in the Brooklyn bureau. (At least they didn't send an unpaid "citizen journalist.")

I tried to warn them. On the Times's CityRoom blog, at 5:07 pm, well before deadline, I posted a comment that included my FAQ, aimed, among other things, to set the record straight about claims regarding jobs and tax revenues.

It didn't help.


Posted by eric at 9:34 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Black & Right 2010, Ex-Dealer To Co-Own NBA Team

Conservative African American journalist Bob Parks was slightly less impressed than some other media outlets by Jay-Z's role in last Thursday's Atlantic Yards groundbreaking.

As we all remember, Rush Limbaugh was considered too divisive to minority-own an NFL franchise, but it’s obviously okay for a former drug dealer-turned rap “artist” to co-own an National Basketball Association franchise.

Jay-Z’s prior bad behavior paid off.

He’ll get to exploit his hood again, and liberals accomplished a land grab that would never occur in a white, middle class neighborhood. Unions and their workers will make out like bandits and the City and State of New York will have a temporary new source of revenue so they won’t have to make those tough decisions right away.

Another great day in New York.

Coney Media, Big numbers can make the story and put it all in perspective. But too often they’re just bullshit.

Former Brooklyn Paper publisher-turned-blogger Ed Weintrob is about as convinced by the numbers as Norman Oder is.

At last week’s groundbreaking for the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn (the planned future home for the New Jersey Nets), Gov. Paterson stated as fact long discredited job-creation figures: “This project at Atlantic Yards will yield 16,000 union construction jobs and 5,500 permanent jobs right here on the site.”

The Times published Paterson’s quote — within quotation marks — along with other nonsensical projections that weren’t attributed to anyone, even though it knows many of them to be false. Now, because these numbers appeared in the Times, other media end up citing them as fact, without qualification.

A Google News search the next day picked up 418 news articles that included references to “Barclays Center” and the numbers 16,000 and 5,500.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Shopkeepers Unsure About Atlantic Yards Impact

As protesters and politicians let their voices be heard at Thursday’s Atlantic Yards groundbreaking, our reporters spoke to some local business owners about the project. The area shopkeepers we interviewed were unsure whether Atlantic Yards will be good for business. Check out the... audio slideshow for a sampling of reactions.

AutoblogGreen, Report: Prokhorov's upcoming hybrid vehicle due in 2012? [w/video]

Russian billionaire oligarch/playboy/jet-skier/soon-to-be-New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is getting into the car business.

Remember the news a couple weeks ago that Mikhail Prokhorov was planning on introducing a vehicle that would use "advanced technology"? The Russian news site RT is reporting a few more details on the upcoming vehicle.

NoLandGrab: Unless by "advanced technology" they mean "a car that can fly," Prokhorov will be better served using mass transit to get to "Brooklyn Nets" games, given the traffic havoc expected from an 18,000-seat arena plopped down at Brooklyn's worst intersection.

Right Side News, Rob Pfaltzgraff on Free-Market Movies, the MPI and the Future of Independent Films

The executive director of the right-leaning Moving Picture Institute talks about some coming films he's looking forward to seeing.

The Battle of Brooklyn explores the poorly understood phenomenon of eminent domain abuse. A feature-length documentary from respected filmmakers Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley, and David Beilinson, this film explores how real estate developers, local government, community activists, and the media have clashed over the largest single-source development project ever proposed in New York City. Widely known as the Atlantic Yards Project, this undertaking has for the past five years been a major source of contention as local residents resist a billionaire developer's attempt to use eminent domain to seize their homes and businesses. Done in the name of "development," schemes such as this one eviscerate private property rights and make a mockery of the Fifth Amendment - even as they freely exploit lucrative taxpayer subsidies, easements, and tax abatements.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Video Finish

We posted about this short film on the dueling Atlantic Yards groundbreaking "ceremonies" on Friday.

Posted by eric at 2:19 PM

Best Buy at East River Plaza Hired Less Than a Third of Workers From East Harlem

by Jon Schuppe

Here's what happens when Bruce Ratner signs unenforceable agreements with the community — or the "community."

When East Harlem welcomes Best Buy on March 26, less than a third of the people working there will be from the neighborhood, local officials say.

That’s a lower percentage than at Costco, the first retailer to open at East River Plaza, a shopping plaza that was built overlooking the FDR Drive last year with promises to take 60 percent of workers from East Harlem. Costco took 37 percent of its workers from the neighborhood before laying off scores of people.

"The fact of the matter is that we are at half of what we were looking for,” Community Board 11 Chairman Matthew Washington said.

...there’s a possibility that the goal of taking 60 percent of hires from the neighborhood, written into an agreement called a memorandum of understanding between the community board and the malls’ developers, simply wasn’t realistic.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Washington said. “We can’t put a bulls-eye on the reason for the numbers being lower than what hoped for.”

The memorandum of understanding with Tiago, a partnership of Forest City Ratner Companies and Blumenfeld Development Group, was signed after the community board agreed to allow overnight truck deliveries at the shopping center.

That document wasn’t legally binding, but was important to a neighborhood with a 17 percent unemployment rate and where a quarter of residents use food stamps.


NoLandGrab: "Wasn't realistic?" Or wasn't credible?

Don't worry, Brooklyn, surely Bruce Ratner will live up to his Atlantic Yards promises. This time will be different. No, really. That was just a Memorandum of Understanding. This is a Community Benefits Agreement.

Posted by eric at 2:03 PM

You can't make this stuff up -- Atlantic Yards edition

NY Daily News
by Elizabeth Benjamin

Hard to believe, but this one somehow eluded our grasp last week.

Jay-Z is an investor in the project, but his wife Beyonce seemed to stir up the most interest from the crowd. Rev. Al Sharpton said he wished he were seated next to her -- but Markowitz brought his own special brand of game as he introduced Jay-Z:

"Just last week I had the extreme pleasure -- the extreme pleasure -- of meeting his lovely and altruistic wife Beyonce at the opening of her new cosmetology school," he said, before taking out two 8x10 photos and waving them to the crowd.

"I have to tell you, Jay, I think she really liked me. In fact, here's proof! This is how we met. (top photo) But now let me show you the other picture! (bottom photo) Yes, Jay, that's your wife giving me a kiss -- giving me a kiss on my right cheek, and I haven't touched it since then."

The crowd was roaring, but Jay-Z wasn't smiling. Markowitz tried to hand the rapper the kissing photo; Jay-Z looked at it like it was Problem #100, then took it and placed it upside-down on the podium. Markowitz kept going:

"It's obvious she likes Brooklyn guys, we know that. And I really believe that if I had met her before you, I woulda been a contender."


NoLandGrab: [Cringe.]

Posted by eric at 1:50 PM

Atlantic Yards a "job creation" engine? Only if you believe the myths propounded by Bloomberg, Paterson, and Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Writes Norman Oder: This week and next I'll try to compensate slightly for the failure of any metro columnists to show up and glean insights from the rich spectacle of the Barclays Center groundbreaking March 11.

Here's some of the first installment.

For a project that the leaders of our city and state seem confident will help rescue the local economy, the numbers regarding jobs and tax revenues are awful fuzzy.

Not just fuzzy--but those conveying them offered very different numbers, at the very same groundbreaking event.

Would Atlantic Yards generate $5 billion in new revenues, as developer Forest City Ratner claimed, or $1.5 billion, as Governor David Paterson (at right, with Mayor Mike Bloomberg) asserted?

Would it bring "up to 8000 permanent jobs" (FCR) or 5500 (Paterson)?

Would it really lead to 25,000 total jobs, as Bloomberg claimed?

Would the project "have job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen," as Paterson claimed?

It makes you wonder why they didn't get their ducks in a row.

It makes you wonder why virtually no one in the press did any math.

Yes, maybe it's too much to expect the press to do any fact-checking--I've looked at even the most conservative assumptions mentioned above, and found them unrealistic.

But couldn't they have noticed a few contradictions, or blatant exaggerations?


NoLandGrab: We assume that last one is a rhetorical question, since Oder knows as well as we do that most of the press was too busy going gaga over Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

Posted by eric at 12:30 PM

Atlantic Yards breaks ground: Nets are the heartbreak kids

The Star-Ledger, Editorial

he bulldozers are scraping the earth at Atlantic Yards, and it appears the Nets’ long-doubted relocation to Brooklyn is all but official. Until the divorce is final, they’ll hang around for two more years at the Prudential Center in Newark, and then they’ll be gone.

You’d think it would be easy to say goodbye to a team with fewer victories than Congressional Republicans. But chances are the Nets are going to get good and sexy before they leave — like the spouse who loses the weight, gets the makeover, then runs off with, well, a Russian millionaire.

Actually, that's billionaire.

We feel a heartbreak coming on.


NoLandGrab: New Jersey's heartbreak over losing the Nets is nothing compared to brooklyn's heartbreak over "gaining" them.

Posted by eric at 12:25 PM

Prokhorov Urges Russia to Buy Greece, Commandeer Olympic Flame

Bloomberg News
by Yuriy Humber

Proko, you're killing us.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who sold most of his assets before the global financial crisis, used his first appearance on a comedy show to make fun of Greece’s budget woes, saying the country’s rich history makes it an attractive acquisition target.

“I suggest we buy Greece,” Prokhorov said on the Spotlight Paris Hilton television show on March 13.


NoLandGrab: Greece, with a national debt of 300 billion Euros, representing something like 120% of the country's GDP, is still likely in better financial shape than the New Jersey Nets, which Prokhorov really is buying.

Posted by eric at 12:08 PM

March 14, 2010

Daily News columnist Lupica: "It was a hustle in broad daylight by Caring Bruce Ratner from the start"

NY Daily News via Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder excerpts Daily News columnist Mike Lupica quoting New York Magazine's Chris Smith on Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards groundbreaking.

Daily News Sports Columnist Mike Lupica was a couple of days late, and he prudently avoided criticizing his own newspaper's pandering, but today he punctured the Atlantic Yards bubble:

At a time when the city and the state have no money to do anything, they kept plodding ahead on Atlantic Yards until they finally broke ground the other day.

And then acted as if the rest of us were supposed to cheer.

It was a hustle in broad daylight by Caring Bruce Ratner from the start.

It was always a real estate deal masquerading as a sports deal, no matter how many politicians want you to believe they're bringing the basketball Dodgers to Brooklyn.

Chris Smith was so right in New York magazine the other day:

In the end this was a losing deal for everybody, starting with the people who got moved out of their homes by a flagrant abuse of eminent-domain laws.

You wonder why nobody trusts politicians around here anymore?

Because of no-bid scams like this.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards: A Hustle in Broad Daylight From the Start

Wouldn't it be nice if all the news columnists were replaced with all the sports columnists? Then we'd really know the score.

Posted by eric at 10:11 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

NYShitty.com, New York Shitty Day Starter: Nothing’s Sacred

Inasmuch as I hate to admit it there is a great deal of veracity to be found in the above cynic’s comment. Everything is for sale in our fair city. Whether one wants to sell or not is immaterial. It’s simply of matter of money, political influence and legal chicanery. We’re the easiest city money can buy.

There are many— religious types mostly— who consider New York City to be the whore of Babylon. They may very well be correct. Whores are capitalists in the purest sense. They do it for the money. New Yorkers do it for the money. Our god is the dollar and time is money.

What has come to pass at Atlantic Yards has reduced our fair city from being a whore to a slut. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free— or better yet at tax payer’s expense?

P.S.: This post goes out to Marty Markowitz who said and I quote (from Curbed’s gritty firsthand account of this farce):

Sorry about the noise outside. Obviously disgruntled Knicks fans.


Shouts from the Stoop, I'm Glad It Happened. But Never Again

Schizophrenic blogger Alex Baldman takes both sides of the Atlantic Yards debate.

I don't understand. If you say its unconstitutional, how can you support the use of eminent domain in downtown Brooklyn?

I support it because I am a hypocrite. My desire to see Brooklyn have a professional basketball team outweighs the undeniable fact that in order to achieve that goal, the constitutional rights of many fellow Brooklynites were trampled upon. I know I am wrong to support it, but I still do.

Here is what I would love to see happen: Once the arena is build, and Lebron scores the first basket for the hometown team, I want the Supreme Court to overturn New London. I want public use to mean public use. Not private use. What happened in Atlantic Yards should never happen again. To anybody.

But I'm glad in happened in the first place.

But never again.

Joseph's Blog, Ground broken for Atlantic Yards project

Thoughts on the groundbreaking from a blog that bills itself as "Liberal Views and Pro Wrestling Coverage."

I think it is terrible that development has won in this case. For the sake [of] the supporters, the project better bring about economic benefits for the area. Meanwhile, hopefully opponents of this project can still fight it.

Bleacher Report, Grounded Houston Rockets Can Celebrate Not Being New Jersey Nets

The jokes are endless, and in many cases, accurate.

Vanilla Ice performed at halftime of a New Jersey Nets game. To make the Nets look good in comparison.

Posted by eric at 9:56 PM

Brooklyn Paper "exclusive": a photo of Bruce Ratner and some construction equipment

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper crowed that, in this week's issue, "we have a big exclusive about Atlantic Yards."

"[B]ig exclusive" apparently refers to a staged photo of Bruce Ratner posing in front of an earth-moving machine he's not qualified to operate.

[Update: as noted in the comment, the "big exclusive" is the news that David Childs talked with Bruce Ratner about working together on the residential buildings. And it is marked as an exclusive, so I apologize for the error. But I still think the staged photo, placed more prominently than the exclusive, is sucking up.]

The Brooklyn Paper's online coverage of the groundbreaking included a good, if unskeptical, overview of the event, plus a cutesy video. But the print paper? A photo of Bruce Ratner and a full-page ad on the back touting the Barclays Center.


Posted by eric at 9:50 PM

Caption This: Beyonce At Barclays Center Groundbreaking Ceremony

That Grape Juice


Superstar Beyonce supported hubby Jay-Z at the Barclays Center Groundbreaking Ceremony this Thursday (March 12th) at the Atlantic Yards in New York. The rapper / businessman spoke about the arena, which will eventually serve as the home of the NBA’s New Jersey Net’s – which the 40 year old is a part owner of.

While you can check out more snaps from the event below, I couldn’t help but request a ‘caption this’ from you all for the pic above…it’s just screaming for it! LOL.


Posted by steve at 11:32 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Extravaganza

Atlantic Yards Report

Big picture Daily News columnist shows almost as many blind spots on development as the "Big picture Mike" he criticizes

Daily News columnist Adam Lisberg casts a more-approving-than-not eye on the mayor in a column headlined Mayor Bloomberg likes the big picture, but he should keep an eye on the details, too:

Mayor Bloomberg loves to think big. The little things may need some attention.

He was in his element last week at the groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn - thousands of jobs, billions of dollars (plus more than $200 million in public subsidies), shovels, hardhats, progress.

"It took a long time to get here, yes it did," Bloomberg said as protesters blew whistles outside. "But nobody's going to remember how long it took. They're only going to look and see that it was done. And we're going to make a big difference."

Well, is Atlantic Yards a "smart bet," as the caption to the accompanying photo suggests?

Clearly if the goal is to move a professional sports team to New York City. Otherwise, the New York City Independent Budget Office has warned that the arena would be a net loss for the city.

And the largest chunk of jobs would come from office space, for which, as I've pointed out time and again, there's no market. So, while Lisberg allows that projects like Atlantic Yards stomp on neighborhood haunts like Freddy's Bar & Backroom, he misses the big picture.

Just for the record: ex-Brooklyn Paper publisher notes paper's "familiar hysterical slant"

From former Brooklyn Paper publisher Ed Weintrob's Coney Media blog:

The Brooklyn Paper (my old pub) yesterday broke a story on its Website about the prevailing practice in Park Slope (a notoriously [sic] child-friendly, “socially-conscious,” uber-liberal neighborhood that is at the heart of Brooklyn Paper country), of paying nannies off-the-books.

The story originated with Park Slope Parents, a popular local blog, which produced a beautiful 73-page chart-filled study. The Brooklyn Paper did was little original reporting (beyond publishing a column attributed to an off-the-books nanny); it simply reported someone else’s findings. The story was packaged by The Brooklyn Paper with its familiar hysterical slant — the paper called the news ”earth-shattering” — and it was quickly picked up by local blogs and, this morning, by the NY Post.

(Emphasis added)

Hoops, music (The Burrow, 2010), and groundbreaking: three videos

Three videos are on this post: A commercial for the New Jersey Nets, John Pinamonti performing his composition "The Burrow", and the he official video from NBA.com of the groundbreaking ceremony. After viewing you'll understand why those fighting the Atlantic Yards development thought of this past Thursday's ground breaking for the Nets arena as burying the soul Brooklyn.

"Massive Taxi Scam" of $8 million leads the dailies; giveaway of hundreds of millions in arena naming rights is ignored

It was a front-page story in all three daily newspapers yesterday, the story (Times coverage) of cabbies ripping off passengers for a total of $8 million over two years.

It's easy to understand why it's a big story: lots of people take taxis, and uneasiness about the fare--and the trustworthiness of cab drivers--is not uncommon.

Also, $8 million sounds like a big number. And the rip-off seems easy to understand, cut-and-dried.

By contrast, the cost of taxpayers of Atlantic Yards can be complicated and contested--see the debate between the Empire State Development Corporation and the New York City Independent Budget Office.

But we've never seen a headline, say, alerting the public that the state gave away naming rights to the Atlantic Yards arena, leading to the payment by Barclays Capital of $200 million-plus to help build the Atlantic Yards arena, and reap the branding benefits of the groundbreaking extravaganza Thursday.

Posted by steve at 8:57 AM

What Is Atlantic Yards? A Complete Failure of Democracy

Huffington Post
By Daniel Goldstein

On the occasion of Bruce Ratner's Boondoggle Celebration and Groundbreakingtaking Ceremony (must-read coverage of the event from Atlantic Yards Report, and Curbed's live blogging--lobster sliders and all) for the elite, connected, wealthy, powerful and bought out, it's time for a short multiple choice quiz...

Question: What is Atlantic Yards?

A. A Corrupt Land Grab.
B. A Taxpayer Ripoff.
C. A Bait and Switch of Epic Proportions.
D. A Complete Failure of Democracy.
E. All of the above.

Answer: E

Which raises another question: Why were so many elected officials, journalists and everyday citizens willing to look the other way?

The best answer I can come up with is that too many simply didn't care (not to discount the many many millions spent on lobbyists and PR firms).

The sad and depraved history of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project was celebrated yesterday with a ceremonial groundbreaking attended by the elected officials most responsible for greasing its skids. It is nothing to celebrate.


Posted by steve at 8:26 AM

The Value of Community Benefits Agreements

DuBois Bunche Center for Public Policy at Medgar Evers College
By Roger L. Green

Here is an attempt by former Assemblyman Roger Green to rewrite history. Missing in this bland endorsement of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement is Green's participation in setting up BUILD, which is supposed to look like a grassroots organization, but was bankrolled by developer Bruce Ratner.

On Thursday March 11, 2010 numerous dignitaries and civic leaders gathered at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to celebrate the groundbreaking for the sports arena for the Nets basketball franchise and the Barkclays Center.

This event was possible because of the historic Community Benefits Agreement that was jointly sponsored by the Forest City Ratner Development Corporation, eight non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and community based organizations.

Five years ago, while serving in the New York Assembly and representing the neighborhoods in which the arena and the Barclays Center Complex were to be sited, I felt compelled to explore a new model for community development entitled Community Benefits Agreements.

NoLandGrab: The "new model" Green came up with looks a lot like accepting a pay-off from the developer in return for supporting a development. In this particular case, the developer hired Randall Toure, a top aide to Green, to be VP for community affairs. Also, Green's son Khalid, the basketball coach at Bishop Loughlin High School in Fort Greene, has received a few thousand dollars for events his AAU team has conducted. Here's what Mayor Mike Bloomberg has said about CBA's: "I’m violently opposed to community benefits agreements,” he said. “A small group of people, to feather their own nests, extort money from the developer? That’s just not good government.


Posted by steve at 7:55 AM

Downtown Brooklyn losing its big edge

Crain's New York
By Joe Cavaluzzi

This article points out the failure of Bruce Ratner's Metrotech as large tenants seem prepared to decamp from this publicly-subsidized dead zone in downtown Brooklyn. The obvious question: Why is the ESDC, which is supposed to be about job creation, sinking taxpayer subsidies into Atlantic Yards when there is no market for additional office space in Brooklyn?

Much like New York's other traditional overflow market—the Jersey waterfront—downtown Brooklyn is suffering from not one but two setbacks. It has seen a huge dulling of its competitive edge as it competes with vastly lowered Manhattan rents, and it has seen tenants of all types and tastes reduce their space needs in response to the recession. What's more, those setbacks come at a time when several major developers are weighing plans for new office buildings—led by Forest City Ratner Cos.' plans for a vast commercial/residential project at the edge of downtown Brooklyn at Atlantic Yards, which had been mothballed for two years.

“It's hard to see who would have an appetite for large chunks of office space in downtown Brooklyn,” says Marisa Manley, president of Commercial Tenant Real Estate Representation. She notes that MetroTech and Pierrepont Plaza were both developed 20 years ago with an eye toward back-office use by big financial firms, including J.P. Morgan, Chase Manhattan and Goldman Sachs. “It's not clear that the companies that originally leased those spaces have the same appetite for space now.”

In fact, the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications is eyeing 85,000 square feet of office space at 2 MetroTech Center, part of the 434,000 square feet being vacated by Securities Industry Automation Corp., a unit of NYSE Euronext. The company's lease expires in November.


Pressure is building, however. Industry sources say that several of the area's largest tenants may not renew their leases when they come up. Meanwhile, there are some large blocks of space already on the market, including the Chase Building at 4 MetroTech Center, where Jones Lang LaSalle is currently marketing 428,000 square feet for owner Forest City Ratner. The asking rent is $30.50 per square foot.


Don't worry, New York City is happy to follow the ESDC's lead of subsidizing Bruce Ratner by shoveling more money into Metrotech, ostensibly in the name of job creation.

A combination of aggressive landlord incentives and New York City's Relocation and Employment Assistance Program attracted just a handful of tenants to downtown Brooklyn last year. Those signing long-term leases or renewals of 10 years or more for prime space at MetroTech Center were able to negotiate free rent of six months to a year, along with tenant improvement allowances of up to $40 per square foot, according to Glenn Markman, executive vice president at Cushman & Wakefield Inc. On top of that, there were REAP benefits in the form of a $3,000-per-employee tax break for 12 years, which Mr. Markman notes works out to a subsidy of about $15 a square foot.


Posted by steve at 7:35 AM

Mayor Bloomberg likes the big picture, but he should keep an eye on the details, too

Daily News
By Adam Lisberg

Mayor Bloomberg loves to think big. The little things may need some attention.

He was in his element last week at the groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn - thousands of jobs, billions of dollars (plus more than $200 million in public subsidies), shovels, hardhats, progress.


All this attention to big projects comes at a price, though.

Some of the price comes out of your pocket - water and sewer rates have skyrocketed under Bloomberg, and the city's construction debt is higher than ever before.

Some of the price comes in the changed character of a city marked by giant footprints - neighborhood haunts like Freddy's Bar and some apartment buildings replaced by a new Brooklyn arena.

And some of the price comes in opportunities lost, inattention to detail, small problems that could have been fixed before they became big ones.


History doesn't worry much about a few hundred million extra here and there. It's the taxpayers' job to look at the price tag.


NoLandGrab: Two "little details" the Mayor seems to have missed are that the new Nets arena is projected to be a money-loser by the City's own Independent Budget Office and that there is no market for additional office space and, thus, few permanent jobs generated by this project.

Posted by steve at 7:24 AM

Updating my coverage of the groundbreaking, plus more photos (and video)

Atlantic Yards Report

I've considerably updated my coverage yesterday of Thursday's Barclays Center groundbreaking event, adding to my post several videos, including the rev. Herbert Daughtry, Barclays' Bob Diamond, the CBA's Delia Hunley-Adossa, Nets marketer Brett Yormark, entertainer Jay-Z--plus the second part of Bruce Ratner's extensive remarks.


Posted by steve at 7:21 AM

Fix Your Face: Al Sharpton

Culture List

After years of fraudulently evicting people from their homes and businesses, fruitless negotiations and the loss of famed architect Frank Gehry, there was finally a ribbon cutting ceremony for the clusterf**k that is the Atlantic Yards Barclays Center project. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Jay-Z, Beyonce and some white folks that we are too broke to know personally traveled all the way to the far-away land of Brooklyn for the celebration. Thankfully, Al Sharpton’s face was on hand to keep the peace.


NoLandGrab: Developer Bruce Ratner paid for Sharpton's support of Atlantic Yards by contributing money to Sharpton's National Action Network.

Posted by steve at 7:12 AM

March 13, 2010

Transit-oriented development? Allegedly. Transit-oriented groundbreaking? Not when Dean Street's "a parking lot."

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards project has been pitched as transit-oriented development because the site borders a transit hub and is near other stations, but, as urban planner Tom Angotti has pointed out, it doesn't add any transit capacity--except, I'd add, a new entrance to the Atlantic Avenue station.

But it would add some 3600 parking spaces--PlaNYC 1950, as I've suggested--and, for an indefinite amount of time, 1044 (or more) surface parking spaces.

So a good number of people would still be driving, and that was quite clear at the Barclays Center groundbreaking on Thursday, which drew perhaps 1000 people, a good number of them coming by car.

That meant traffic was backed up on Dean Street near the site.


Among those contributing to the congestion: vehicles like the one at left, ferrying Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

On Brownstoner, "architect66" commented on the urban design of AY:

It's a lost opportunity. Development over the yards could have been better, could have connected Park Slope with Fort Greene, could have promoted more economic growth by extending and connecting commercial strips on 5th Ave, Flatbush Ave. and Vanderbilt Ave., could have provided thousands of lineal feet of vibrant streets and graceful public places, but no, this design doesn't do that. A squandered opportunity.


Posted by steve at 8:54 AM

Report: Real Estate Interests Spent $5.5M on Transport Lobbying in 2009

Streets Blog
by Elana Schor

This article shows the influence developers have on federal transportation policy. For those who wonder how Bruce Ratner gets politicians like Senator Charles Schumer to roll over and play dead for bad developments like Atlantic Yards, this article provides one good clue.

Forest City pays multiple federal lobbyists for nationwide projects from Washington, D.C., to Hawaii, and between individual donations and its political action committee, Forest City has showered federal candidates and parties with more than a million dollars since 2005.


Posted by steve at 8:31 AM

The InterNets

Daily News
By Julian Garcia

If you wanted to know what's planned by the Nets management, why would you talk to Bruce Ratner, who is about to sell the team to Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov?

They are breaking ground in Brooklyn today for a new arena that the Nets will play in. As part of the publicity campaign, Bruce Ratner went on WFAN and talked about a wide range of topics in a good interview with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. You can read about most of it in tomorrow's paper but here are a few out-takes.


Posted by steve at 8:22 AM

Childs Anchors Atlantic Yards?

The Architect's Newspaper Blog
By Matt Chaban

Architect David Childs appears ready to be the new starchitect window-dressing for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards. Advice to Childs: Check out what happened to Frank Ghery and run away.

The Brooklyn Paper bumped into David Childs last week, during the opening of his SOM colleague Roger Duffy’s new Toren condo tower, and the BKP is reporting the surprising news that both could possibly be working on some of the 16 residential towers proposed for Bruce Ratner’s nearby Atlantic Yards development.


NoLandGrab: Childs is Chairman of the Municipal Arts Society, a charter member of Brooklyn Speaks, that failed to join the group in a lawsuit attempting to block the project.

Posted by steve at 8:06 AM

Nets CEO on New Brooklyn Stadium

Fox Business

Nets CEO Frank Yormark is featured in this video segment.


Posted by steve at 7:56 AM

Barclays breaks ground with 18,000-seat basketball stadium in Brooklyn

The Guardian
By Andrew Clark

Barclay's President, Bob Diamond, will become another name in the list of those who claim to improve Brooklyn while they destroy it.

Seated alongside rap star Jay-Z, Barclays president Bob Diamond beamed cheerfully as a soul rendition of the US national anthem was partially drowned out by the din of circling helicopters and noisy protesters.

In a marquee on a disused rail yard in the New York borough of Brooklyn, hundreds of dignitaries including the city's mayor gathered to watch a ground-breaking ceremony for an 18,000-seat basketball stadium to be named the Barclays Centre under a naming deal that has cost the British bank more than $300m (£200m).


But Barclays' brand-building efforts have not been universally welcomed. One New York City councillor, Letitia James, has suggested the bank's involvement is unwelcome in an area of ethnic diversity because it did business in South Africa during the early 1980s despite that country's regime of apartheid.

And some community activists have railed against the compulsory purchase of properties to redevelop Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. Protesters outside the ground-breaking ceremony waved placards reading "stop the rape of Brooklyn" and heralding "the destruction of Brooklyn's soul day".


Posted by steve at 7:42 AM

Groundbreaking Provides Hope in Otherwise Dismal Nets Campaign

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By John Torenli

This is a profile of New Jersey Nets interim coach and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe. In this quote he tries to express his high regard for Brooklyn.

“The nice thing about Brooklyn is, it gives you instant history,” the former two-time NBA All-Star added. “It has a great tradition of sports. Obviously you are close to Manhattan. You are right there with easy access, one subway stop away.”


NoLandGrab: Vandeweghe should be proud of the "instant history" he's helped to create where the Nets are already part of Brooklyn demonolgy.

Posted by steve at 7:22 AM

Land grabbers

World Magazine

On Dec. 27, 2009, Brooklyn staged a revolt. Standing next to a 9-foot-tall guillotine made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, the manager of Freddy's Bar and Backroom read a screed from a scroll. He excoriated a developer who is using eminent domain to claim private property in the surrounding neighborhood, then stood aside as an executioner with a hood and a scythe read a death sentence: "Eminent domain, you are hereby condemned, having become a thief and a traitor." Spectators cried, "Off with its head!" as the guillotine blade fell and a head (or more precisely, a white ball with "Eminent Domain Theft" painted in red letters) rolled.

The message was clear: Don't mess with a neighborhood dive bar, or with New Yorkers who have saved to buy their own homes in a city where two-thirds of the population still rents. Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) is planning to put a $4 billion development project where Freddy's Bar and Backroom now stands. FCRC predicts that the Atlantic Yards development project will generate $5.6 billion in new tax revenues over the next three decades—but homeowners and bar-goers believe it will just seize their homes and gut their neighborhood.


Posted by steve at 7:19 AM

Government Of The People, By The Real Estate People, For The Real Estate People.

Daniel Goldstein's father condemns the Atlantic Yards development.

The decision was a blow to all who opposed the Ratner boondoggle, perhaps none more visible than my son Daniel Goldstein, the six plus year long lone holdout in his Pacific Street condominium located center court in the arena to be in the huge 22-acre footprint that will bring first a basketball arena as the home for the New Jersy Nets, fittingly the worst team in NBA history and eventually, supposedly, a dozen plus skyscrapers adjacent to what is already Brooklyn's most crowded with traffic intersctions at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.)


Posted by steve at 7:03 AM

Channels 7 and 5 Cover the Atlantic Yards Ground Taking

The many factual errors are cringe-worthy, but here is some local television news coverage.

ABC, Channel 7


Fox 5, WNYW


Posted by steve at 6:53 AM

Atlantic Yards Ground Breaking

WNYC Radio's Brian Lehrer Show

Nicoles Gelinas joined Brian Lehrer Friday morning to discuss the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking and the abuse of eminent domain.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, On Brian Lehrer: the Manhattan Institute's Gelinas vs. AY on eminent domain, blight, and affordable housing (and Ratner as a creature of the state)

Yesterday, WNYC talk show host Brian Lehrer opened up a segment on Atlantic Yards by suggesting that listeners might be surprised that opponents of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards are not just political liberals but are joined by conservatives like his guest, Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute.

Actually, he had it backwards--as a caller pointed out. Conservatives have long been opposed to eminent domain, while liberals--leading the narrow 5-4 Supreme Court majority in the controversial 2005 Kelo v. New London eminent domain case--have been much more willing to defer to state power.

The curious thing is that, in New York, where the balance tilts enormously to the state, those who might be politically liberal in general have found themselves opposing particularly egregious cases of eminent domain and thus aligned themselves with those on the right.

"It’s not unusual to see strange bedfellows, if you realize the common ground is distrust of government power," former New York Civil Liberties Union director Norman Siegel, who's challenged the Columbia University expansion, said in December.

Posted by eric at 12:46 AM

March 12, 2010

The "Green Zone..."

...formerly known as "Fifth Avenue."

With a double-perimeter, an NYPD helicopter overhead, police spotters on rooftops and hundreds of cops on the ground, the Atlantic Yards footprint was the safest place in New York City yesterday. Unless you were a lobster slider. Or justice.

Lots more of Jonathan Barkey's photos here.

Posted by eric at 11:51 PM

Barclays Arena Groundbreaking

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Dueling groundbreaking commemorations from the Battle of Brooklyn filmmaking team.

We shot a great deal for the film yesterday and threw together this short piece for the NY Times Local blog. We kept it as even handed as we could.


Posted by eric at 10:49 PM

He will survive! A timeline of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper

Here's a streamlined chronology of the Atlantic Yards project, from unveiling to groundbreaking.

Thursday’s symbolic groundbreaking of the Atlantic Yards project practically demands a look back at the long history of this ambitious and controversial project. Here’s a timeline.


NoLandGrab: It appears the paper might have a short-term memory problem, inexplicably fixing the March 11th groundbreaking on March 9th.

Posted by eric at 10:35 PM

DDDB: Setting the record straight

Gov. Paterson Tells a Humdinger at the Atlantic Yards Groundtaking Ceremony

Governor Paterson said this at Thursday's Atlantic Yards groundtaking ceremony:

"To those who supported the project, and to those who oppose the project, I guarantee that we will be scrupulous in our monitoring of the contract that Forest City Ratner signed with the state, to make sure that everything, we were promised, we receive."

First off, Paterson will be long gone before that monitoring would take place. Moreover, the state was not scrupulous in drawing up the contract, has not been scrupulous in any of its dealing with the public, and has let pretty much all "monitoring" of the project to the developer, Forest City Ratner.

Not So Fast, Bloomberg, You Don't Get to Write the Atlantic Yards History

At Thursday's Atlantic Yards groundtaking ceremony Mayor Bloomberg, in his typical arrogant manner, said, "For those that say it took a long time to get here, yes it did. But nobody's going to remember how long it took. They're only going to look and see that it was done."

Wrong, Mr. Mayor. You don't get to write history on this one, and you'll be out of office long before anything other than the arena is built. Nobody is going to forget the fight that took place over the project, and nobody is going to forget the abuse of power the project represented.

To the contrary, historians will put the project in its rightful place as one of the biggest urban planning blunders any city has ever seen.

Reverend Daughtry's Big Lie at Atlantic Yards Groundtaking Ceremony

One wonders why a man of the cloth would lie through his teeth to mouth a billionaire developer's disgusting talking points.

From NorthJersey.com's account of yesterday's Barclays Center groundbreaking ceremony:

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, one of the other speakers inside the [groundbreaking ceremony] tent, called the project area “rodent-infested” and “garbage-strewn”...

Posted by eric at 10:22 PM

We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore —Atlantic Yards groundbretaking edition

NoLandGrab Advisory: Some of the following material is rated PG-13.

Sand Through My Hourglass, GAG BAGS

So long, Brooklyn as we know it.

I know development is happening everywhere, but the scale of this is crazy and the plan itself is bogus, unfinished and heinously corrupt.

The Flatbush/Atlantic intersection absolutely cannot handle the kind of traffic this will birth. It will officially become a living nightmare.

Note to Bloomberg: BROOKLYN IS NOT MANHATTAN. It does not need a skyline to match.

Note to JayZ: Stop. This is making me hate you. Build the arena in your yard. I'm sure you have room.

And I have to do this because my insides are boiling.

A big giant FUCK YOU to the courts.

And another even more giant FUCK YOU to the MTA who took a HUGE loss on this property and are now millions of dollars in debt and dumping it all on the riders.

Bruce Ratner is a human bulldozer and his projects are proven failures. Have fun being a part of his latest.

Business Insider, Barclays Is Now The Most Hated Bank In Brooklyn

Stadium deals can be great PR for a bank -- see the Wachovia Center and Bank of America Stadium -- but they can be a disaster too -- see Citi Field.

Barclays paid a reported $400 million for naming rights to the New Jersey Nets stadium in Brooklyn. The UK bank has been rumored to be making a move on retail banking in the U.S.

But not only did they put their name behind the worst team in NBA history, they also signed on to the most-hated development project of all time. At least in Brooklyn.

Beyond police escorts, the shovel party was surrounded by a crowd of angry protesters. Brooklynites don't want to pay for the new stadium, deal with traffic, or let local buildings be torn down, according to The Brooklyn Paper.

MotherGreen & H.K.M, They Broke Ground Yall... (Atlantic Yards)

Well, it's on now. They broke ground for the Atlantic Yards and Brooklyn wept. What can I say that hasn't already been said. We don't need it, we never did. Affordable housing for who exactly Mr. Ratner? Jay Z should be ashamed of his face being used for such a nefarious act.

Brooklyn is my home. I was born in Brooklyn hospital which is not too far from the Atlantic Yards site. My father spent a significant part of his teenage years living in the Atlantic Terminal projects right up the block, so you see that area is special to me. The Nets can't even buy a win right now. They should focus on winning a game and not ruining the landscape of my beloved Brooklyn. To the politicians who stood by and endorsed this mess I say, shame on you.

Pardon Me For Asking, Protesting Ratner's Atlantic Yards Ground Breaking

After years of fighting the good fight, it had come to this: police corralling protesters behind barricades as politicians arrived for the groundbreaking ceremony in black Chevy Suburbans, safely hidden from the crowd behind tinted windows. It was a surreal scene and illustrated how disconnected our public officials and their cronies are from the citizens of Brooklyn.

Slowly, the crowd made its way towards Atlantic Avenue, along the construction site and towards the white tents which had been set up for the 'dignitaries.' In unison, protestors chanted: "Brooklyn is not for sale" and "Crooks, lock them up."

Up on rooftops, police observed the crowds' every move. Helicopters hovered overhead. (Was it really necessary to have members of the NYPD Counter Terrorism there? They must have been very, very afraid of us.)

View the slide show

Reason Hit & Run, Bruce Ratner: “Building the community from the ground-up” by Bulldozing Homes and Businesses

Serial eminent domain abuser and corporate welfare queen Bruce Ratner took out a full-page ad in today’s New York Times trumpeting his despicable Atlantic Yards stadium project in Brooklyn as a glorious opportunity for “building the community from the ground-up.” It’s an ugly yet revealing way to put it—though I suppose Ratner is feeling cocky about things.

...it's worth repeating that it’s the taxpayers, including those who could care less about basketball, who are paying Ratner to bulldoze homes and businesses, ruin lives, and build a money-making stadium for Ratner's Nets to call home. Those same taxpayers are also helping Ratner to take out offensive full-page ads in the New York Times, which typically charges in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege. As usual, it’s the victims of eminent domain abuse that pay the real price.

Bol's Saturday Night Workout [XXLMag.com], We did it again, Brooklyn

There were a shedload of people there protesting, but I heard they were all white. They at least had the sense to realize that the Atlantic Yards project is an epic fail for Brooklyn, but even they didn’t have the political clout to do much about it. They managed to tie it up in court for a couple of years before they could finally break ground on it, during which it became increasingly obvious that the tax revenue it would generate wouldn’t be anything like what they promised, and hence the public money used to build it (you get to pay for it, but only Jay-Z gets to own it), not to mention the eminent domain landgrab, was even less justifiable than initially thought, but the TIs still managed to ram it through. They seem to have a knack for ramming it through.

Queens Crap, Just remember: This we have money for

There's now talk of the City being "forced" to close 62 fire companies and fire 1,000 firefighters. You see, the City is broke, and has no money.

But we do have money for this:

Mayor Mike Bloomberg & Governor David Paterson:
Kings of fucked up priorities.

Posted by eric at 7:08 PM

Let's go, Nets! Hoop reality comes to Brooklyn with arena groundbreaking

NY Daily News, Editorial

Our friends at the Daily News, still high from yesterday's lobster sliders and champagne, do a post-groundbreaking victory dance.

New York has been on a half-century losing streak as far as sports teams are concerned. First the Dodgers and the baseball Giants, then the football Giants and the Jets left for elsewheres near and far.

That's why we've been feeling so blue for the past fifty years. Duh!

But now the pro basketball Nets are moving in. And they're coming to a new 18,000-seat arena to be built in the heart of Brooklyn. How great is that? Plenty great.

And how much greater it would be if the Nets weren't possibly the worst team in NBA history is almost too much to comprehend!

Congratulations to team owner and real estate developer Bruce Ratner on the successful completion of a seven-year battle to get moving on the so-called Atlantic Yards project in the face of no fewer than 34 lawsuits in opposition.

It's possible that the alleged number of lawsuits and legal victories has been different on every single occasion it has appeared in print.

Ratner's grand vision called for building both an arena to rival Madison Square Garden and 6,400 units of housing, much of it affordable, on a tract of land and over rail yards that have been fallow for more than 40 years.

"Fallow" must be a new slang term for "vital railroad infrastructure." Unless they mean the properties adjacent to the railyard, which were occupied by homes and businesses that were rapidly and organically re-energizing the neighborhood.

More of the same follows.


Posted by eric at 6:42 PM

Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking

Brit in Brooklyn

Photographer Adrian Kinloch snapped this shot of a man being arrested for failure to stop beating a drum in protest of a boondoggle.


Lots more of Adrian's photos via the Flickr Atlantic Yards photo pool.

Posted by eric at 5:22 PM

Atlantic Yards: Making Dangerous Streets More Dangerous

Mobilizing the Region
by Kyle Wiswall

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a member of the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, warns about more traffic mayhem (courtesy of the Atlantic Yards project) and prescribes some potential mitigations.

A report released last month by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign named Atlantic Avenue the most dangerous road for pedestrians in Brooklyn with 9 deaths over the three years from 2006 to 2008. Nearby Fourth Avenue ranked third with 6 pedestrian fatalities in the same period. Both roads ranked among the most dangerous in the entire NY/CT/NJ region, with Atlantic Avenue ranking third overall. With 20,000 additional car trips a day projected to be generated by the Atlantic Yards arena and housing project, which broke ground yesterday, these numbers may get much worse.

Many of the accidents in the report occurred near the Atlantic Yards site. For example, a 58-year-old woman was struck and killed in February of 2008 at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 5th Avenue, a 37 year old male was killed at Atlantic and Nevins in 2006, and, in 2007, a 4 year old was killed at 3rd Ave and Baltic. All of these intersections could see traffic increases due to Atlantic Yards.

Crossing congested areas like the notorious Atlantic and Flatbush intersection on foot is already tempting fate. A time lapse video posted recently at Not Another F*cking Blog vividly demonstrates the overcrowded and dangerous conditions and the Crashstat.org map below shows a cluster of injuries in this area. Sadly, it appears to be only a matter of time before more lives are claimed along Atlantic Avenue.


Posted by eric at 4:51 PM

Atlantic Yards and the Great Recession Groundbreaking

The NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The Observer's Brown, always an astute observer himself of the machinations around the Atlantic Yards project, explains in must-read fashion how government officials' willingness to accommodate Bruce Ratner, and the unsustainable feeding of the pro-sports bubble economy, made yesterday's groundbreaking possible.

There was an odd feel to Thursday afternoon's Atlantic Yards groundbreaking—one that felt almost as though it wasn't 2010, but rather, say, 2007, when the economy was vibrant and projects were popping up around the city.

A giant white party tent at the site of the Nets basketball arena-to-be in Prospect Heights quickly became filled with business leaders, lawyers, Nets investors and a celebrity or two, as a brigade of caterers passed around gourmet munchies—mini-burgers; cheesecake—squeezing in between an army of suits holding napkins that carried the new Barclays Center insignia. One after another, officials and executives key to the project—Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz—took to the lectern to address the tent, proclaiming just how pleased they were that the project was happening.

This is a very un-recession-like concept.

That Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and his Forest City Ratner got to Thursday's tent is a testament to the developer's perseverance and tenacity, pulling whatever levers he could to advance the highly controversial behemoth of a project. But in pushing the project through, it morphed, offering a cautionary tale of development with public approvals, illustrating how many of the selling points (a green roof, a world-class architect, 6,400 apartments in just a few years) can vanish when finances get tight.

Key in the tale of survival was the public sector, and its willingness to adjust earlier agreements.


Posted by eric at 4:19 PM


The Brooklyn Ink
by Mustafa Mehdi Vural

The scholars quoted here may as well be throwing darts at a dartboard, blindfolded.

Concerns over losing brownstone Brooklyn is understandable,” said Robert Snyder, an associate professor of journalism and affiliate professor of history at Rutgers-Newark who has published books on New York. “But some changes in cities are inevitable.

“Brooklyn has been suffering economically since the end of the World War II,” he continued. The borough lost its industrial base, and with it its economic vitality. As in other cities, Atlantic Yards will try “to use sports and other entertainment venues to bring commerce and trade back to the city.”


NoLandGrab: Sports and entertainment — now there's a recipe for success. Always wondered how China managed to grow its economy at 10% a year.

Posted by eric at 4:07 PM

Photos: Nets Break Ground, Protester Arrested for Drumming


Gothamist has some good photos from both inside and outside Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards "Green Zone." The one below is by Seth Wenig for the AP.


NoLandGrab: Doctors termed the chances of both of the conjoined twins surviving the operation to separate them as "much better than the chances of the Atlantic Yards project being completed in 10 years, if ever."

Posted by eric at 3:56 PM

It came from the Groundbreaktaking Ceremony...

Field of Schemes, Shovels fly at Nets arena groundbreaking

More than six years in the making, Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project (aka the Barclays Center arena, aka the place the New Jersey Nets plan to play when they finally leave New Jersey) finally had its ceremonial groundbreaking yesterday. As you might expect, there were lots of shovels brandished and giant cardboard faces donned in protest. I didn't go myself, but you can read Curbed's blog for all the gory details, including photos of trays of turkey-lobster sliders.

If the word "ceremonial" didn't tip you off (let alone the turkey-lobster sliders), nothing of substance was discussed or revealed yesterday, about when the arena will open, when the associated apartment buildings will be built, when the state plans to seize the private properties that still stand in the way of construction, or anything like that. But Jay-Z was there!

NY Post, Brooklyn shines at AY groundbreaking

“This is a big day for Brooklyn. A long time coming, actually 53 years,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz, referring to when Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers left the borough for Los Angeles.

“I’m looking forward to a new city center being created here with the Barclays Arena and Brooklyn back in national major league sports. It’s an exciting rejuvenation and frankly we deserve it,” he added.

NoLandGrab: The idea that the Nets somehow equal the Dodgers, and that Brooklyn or any other place, for that matter, "deserves" a pro sports franchise, is just utter nonsense.

Bergen Record, Groundbreaking marks start of Nets' Brooklyn arena

Atlantic Yards construction formally kicked off in grand fashion near downtown Brooklyn on Thursday, with a crowd of about 700 gathering for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the planned site for the Barclays Center basketball arena.

“I can’t believe I’m standing here today,” said a beaming Bruce Ratner, the overall project developer and the principal owner of the New Jersey Nets.

Frankly, Bruce, neither can we.

Security was tight at the invitation-only event because of concerns that protestors might disrupt the proceedings. Instead, the opponents gathered about 100 feet away with picket signs, air horns and other noisemakers.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Long-Awaited Groundbreaking Held for Atlantic Yards

[Ratner] also thanked Bob Diamond, president of Barclays Capital (not to be confused with the Brooklyn railroad enthusiast), and last but not least, “lawyers, lawyers and more lawyers.

“There have been 24 lawsuits, and we’ve won every one. We’re batting 24-and-0.”

NLG: Proving that Bruce Ratner knows as much about baseball as he does about basketball.

NY1 News, Groundbreaking Ceremony Held For Atlantic Yards Project

Opponents wearing masks of the governor, mayor and Brooklyn borough president and a crowd of angered residents and business gathered near the site to hold a mock funeral for the "soul of Brooklyn." Their chants could be heard throughout much of the ceremony.

Protesters said the controversial project will transform multiple neighborhoods surrounding the site.

"I think it's a very bad day for democracy in New York," said a protester. "It's very sad. They're supposed to stand for us, but they serve the developers. They don't serve the people."

The New York Times, After Years of Controversy, Ceremonial Shovels Come Out

Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the main community group that has fought the Atlantic Yards, pointed out that there was still one lawsuit pending. But on Thursday, he and other protesters were left to make their case in satire.

Standing under the faded green awning of Freddy’s Bar and Back Room, which sits on the project site and is scheduled for demolition, protesters wore masks of Mr. Markowitz, Mr. Paterson, Mr. Ratner and others whom they see as complicit in advancing Atlantic Yards.

Poking fun at Mr. Markowitz’s penchant for official proclamations, his doppelgänger read from an imagined scroll. “Whereas, Brooklyn’s cherished traditions of fairness and respect for all are deemed moot and quaint,” the pretend borough president read.

At one point, protesters wandered into traffic on Atlantic Avenue. The police went to corral them back to the sidewalk. One man was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Courier-Life Publications, AY protesters march on groundbreaking


Impersonator Elliot Crown, wearing a three-foot long Marty Markowitz mask, stood in front of Freddy’s Bar and bellowed.

“We’re here to mark the greatest urban planning blunder since Cleveland,” said Crown, in his best Brooklyn warble.

Park Slope resident Dennis Hurley said he initially supported the Atlantic Yards project, but lost faith once eminent domain and shrinking budgets came into play.

“Look! These aren’t derelict buildings they’re knocking down,” said the 32-year-old, motioning to the buildings around him as the protesters marched. “It’s sad they managed to get all these people out.”

Laurika Harris, 21, who lives in the area, said that she doesn’t believe that the proposed low-income housing is coming anytime soon, and doesn’t believe the stadium will help locals.

“Stadiums are self-contained. People don’t want to wander around the neighborhood,” said Harris. “They park there and eat inside the stadium.”

Newsday.com, Thousand attend groundbreaking for Brooklyn arena

At the site where the long-demonized Walter O'Malley once proposed a baseball stadium to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn, a conga line of shakers and movers Thursday staged a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for a proposed 18,000-seat arena designed to bring the Nets to the borough's Atlantic Yards site, possibly by 2012.

NLG: Six-and-a-half years and some media outlets still confuse the Atlantic Yards site with the spot where the Dodgers had wanted to build a successor to Ebbets Field. That site lies across the street, beneath Bruce Ratner's state-subsidized Atlantic Center mall.

GlobeSt.com, Amid Protests, Atlantic Yards Breaks Ground

Before the Barclays Center groundbreaking, two street corners full of protestors chanted "Shame on you!" while officials entered the ceremony. They were there to voice their concerns about a lack of affordable housing attached to the development and the eminent domain of residences and businesses in the area.

NLG: We should point out that despite claims that Atlantic Yards is "transit-oriented" development, most "dignitaries" arrived at the ceremony in SUVs or limos, including a pair of city-issue black behemoths that roared up Atlantic Avenue with sirens wailing and lights flashing. It was not, unfortunately, the U.S. Attorney with a Ridge Hill indictment.

The Epoch Times, Amidst Protest, Atlantic Yards Begins Groundbreaking

"The Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards is the first piece of what will be one of the largest private investments and job generators in Brooklyn's history," said Bloomberg. “The world-class arena will bring the Nets to Brooklyn, and the entire project will bring with it tens of thousands of construction and permanent jobs, thousands of units of affordable housing, and tremendous economic activity.”

NLG: Um, sure.

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, The Day They Broke Ground

Posted by eric at 1:47 PM

Hova! and Beyoncé!! At the Groundbreaking!!! OMG!!!!


The breathless coverage of the presence of Jay-Z and Beyoncé at yesterday's Atlantic Yards groundbreaktaking ceremony (and reports that they received the loudest applause) proves that there's one thing that makes Americans even stupider than sports — celebrity! Here's just a small sample.


“We did it again, Brooklyn! Shout out to B.I.G.,” a triumphant Jay-Z declared at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the 18,000-seat Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, the future home of the Brooklyn Nets.

If by "we did it again" Jigga means "handed over another large swath of Brooklyn to my homey Bruce Ratner," he's right!

“What I stand here and represent is hope for New York City. I’m a son of Brooklyn, I’m from Marcy Projects,” said the hip-hop mogul, one of the investors in the sports and entertainment arena. “It brings me so much pride that I’mma get a little nervous about it, but I’m very happy, I’m very excited on this day.”

GossipCenter, Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z: Barclay's Groundbreakers

Supporting her man, Beyonce Knowles attended the ceremonial groundbreaking for Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards in New York City on Thursday.

GigWise, Jay-Z, Beyonce Appear Together At Groundbreaking Ceremony

Jay-Z and Beyonce made a rare joint public appearance yesterday as they helped put the wheels in motion on a new development project in Brooklyn.

"I think about growing up in Brooklyn in the Marcy projects and shooting jump shots, thinking I can make it to the NBA.

“Now I stand here as an owner of team that's coming back to Brooklyn."


Rap mogul Jay-Z attended a New York ceremony for the launch of a new arena to be used by his NBA basketball team New Jersey Nets beginning in 2012.


NY Post, Gov's big scoop

GIRL GOT GAME! Curvacous Beyoncé turns heads yesterday at the Brooklyn arena site where hubby Jay-Z is an investor.

The Independent, A hoop dream that could boost Barclays

The British publication The Independent wasn't immune to the hype.

Bob Diamond, the Massachusetts-born president of Barclays, hopes that the duet he did with Jay-Z yesterday will help. The pair appeared together at the ground- breaking ceremony for the new Atlantic Yards basketball stadium.

There was at least one more-thoughtful treatment of Jay-Z's role in the whole affair.

The Awl, I Got 99 Problems, But Eminent Domain Ain’t One: White Brooklynites Against Jay-Z

Jay-Z has been dipping his toes in the political waters of late. First, he and Beyonce showed up at the White House (which was stellar). Then, he surfaced as entrenched in an imbroglio (not so stellar) with the New York Guv, a potential Queens "racino," and Rev. Floyd Flake, the borough’s behemoth ex-Congressman-cum-powerbroker. Then the governor, even while busy swimming in a flood of scandal, killed the deal. And yesterday, Jay-Z appeared standing shoulder-to-shoulder with dozens of New York politicos and dignitaries to take a big step towards building his dream: a stadium for the Brooklyn Nets. And lots of people are peeved about it.

The hip-hop mogul may have scored ever-more white fans since Danger Mouse and the endless iterations of Black Album riffery. But Jay-Z can count a few detractors amongst white folks in brownstone Brooklyn.

To be clear, there are plenty of non-white folks in brownstone Brooklyn who aren't too thrilled with Atlantic Yards, either.

My city councilwoman, the vivacious Letitia “Tish” James, is an ardent opponent of the project, and an ardent introducer of quirky policies. (Dammit, if I don’t think that naming a subway station in honor of Michael Jackson isn’t some brilliant legislating.) She took on a pro-Yards primary opponent, reportedly backed by Ratner, and clocked her. James has several other local officials with her rebuffing the Bloomberg-Ratner project.

And rightfully so. It looks like a monstrosity. It feels like a landgrab. It’s fueled by a Russian oligarch. Its imminent, eminent ka-thunk will likely send ripples of change through the better parts of the neighborhood. It would destroy the relative, insular tranquility of the streets. It would sanitize the gritty, inimitable Fulton Mall. Its arrival could usher in a SoHo lite, more Park Slope panache, or—God forbid—another Times Square.

But Jay-Z may never win over the diehard, anti-eminent domain brownstoners. They jeered the ground-breakers with chants of “shame on you” as they arrived. Some held oversized masks of Ratner, Bloomberg, Chuck Schumer and even Eliot Spitzer. But no Jay-Z. This may indicate the (predominately white) protesters’ (thankful) tact, rather than their lack of rage.

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

New Jersey's Loss, Brooklyn's Gain?

Or is it the other way around?

The Star-Ledger, Barclays Center groundbreaking signals beginning of end of NBA basketball in New Jersey

So Ratner was happy. His basketball team is monumentally bad, and that’s on his permanent record, but he was happy.

If you’re detached from all this, it was strange watching him. He was always a better guy than the fans and media depicted him, even if his aims aren’t always as altruistic as he claims to be. He and his powerful friends kept referring to this groundbreaking as a beginning, but if you live two bridges away — as most of us do — you get a completely different impression.

It is really an ending.

Trivia: The words “New Jersey” were uttered exactly once Thursday, and only in passing by Gov. David Paterson, as he bemoaned the loss of his beloved ABA champs to Piscataway.

There’s no sense getting maudlin about it like Paterson did, because it’s just a fact: More than anything else, this groundbreaking represented the beginning of the end of NBA basketball in New Jersey, the end of whatever emotional investment you might have in the Nets, even the end of Ratner, whose managing role expires “in two more months, probably,” he said.

NY Daily News, Bruce Ratner defends decision to move New Jersey Nets deep into New York Knicks territory

The Nets, who are wrapping up their final campaign at the Meadowlands, are slated to spend the next two seasons playing at the Rock in Newark while the Brooklyn arena is being built. And though there have been whispers that the team could stay in New Jersey beyond that time frame if the Barclays Center is not completed, Ratner emphatically said there was "no possibility" of that happening.

"Once construction starts, which is now, the timetable holds," he said.

NoLandGrab: That's Bruce, always sticking to the timetable.

Bergen Record, Editorial, The Record: Forget Nets, go Grizzlies?

On Thursday, the earth moved in Brooklyn. The tremors could be felt in Newark and the Meadowlands. The Nets are closer to leaving New Jersey.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the long-delayed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn was more than symbolic. After years of delay, the massive development, which if built as proposed will include a sports arena, housing, retail and commercial office space, is closer to reality. It will no longer be the architectural destination that might have been if Frank Gehry's vision for the development had survived the financial setbacks and a recession. But it matters little to us in New Jersey if Brooklyn is committed to mediocre architecture. What matters is not that the Nets are leaving New Jersey, but rather whether a new NBA team may come to New Jersey.

WCBS 880 via NewJerseyNewsroom.com, Chris Christie on N.J.’s budget crisis, bringing an NBA team to Newark

PAT CARROLL: Any thoughts about the ground being broken today for the New Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, the new home the Nets?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: Well listen, you know that the Nets for the next two years, because of a deal that we made in our administration will be moving to the Prudential Center in Newark. And listen I am still continue to be hopeful, that the Nets might stay in New Jersey, but even if they don't I think we now have a facility at the Prudential Center that will be showcased for other NBA teams for the next two years. And I think there might be some other NBA teams that might want to come to New Jersey and play in a beautiful place like the Prudential Center, so we're going to keep all of our options open to continue to have NBA basketball in New Jersey.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

Team hype: pomp and (questionable) promises, bitter (and near-final?) protest mark ceremonial groundbreaking for Barclays Center arena

Atlantic Yards Report

As usual, Norman Oder has the definitive summary of Atlantic Yards events — this time, yesterday's groundbreaking ceremony.

With salutes from key elected officials, a Commencement Day-worthy oration by developer Bruce Ratner (beaming amid some less engaged public officials--Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Gov. David Paterson, and Borough President Marty Markowitz), and the closing speech by uber-marketer Brett Yormark, the ceremonial--and highly-staged--groundbreaking for the Barclays Center yesterday was a testimony to dubious promises, palpable political will, and an unusual coalition involving business, labor, sports, celebrities, and (selected) community representatives, all part of the ever-changing but (perhaps in retrospect) inevitable path of Brooklyn's biggest development.


As sounds from chanting, whistling protesters outside could be heard, clearly if not loudly, inside the packed tent positioned below Atlantic Avenue at Fifth Avenue, there was much talk about sports, and ritual invocations of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was an example of the unusual grip that sports has on the country, and elected officials, where privately owned "sports entertainment corporations" can call on support from broader constituencies.

There was little talk about architecture, once a selling point for the project, given the absence of architect Frank Gehry and landscape architect Laurie Olin, featured at the opening press conference on 12/10/03.

There was indeed talk of jobs and housing and economic development--Governor David Paterson, in a moment of irrational exuberance, claimed the project "will have job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen"--but there was no announced timeline, a crucial issue in a recent court case, given the contradiction between the development agreement (25 years) and the officially announced plan (ten years).

And, with a diverse audience reported at 1000 (and many more on television), the dominant images came from Barclays Capital, which bought naming rights to the Barclays Center, a nominally publicly owned arena.

And, as noted yesterday, few elected officials from Brooklyn--and none from nearby--attended, a sign of the residual resentment and/or dismay at the bypass of local officials in the project approval and the sense that Forest City Ratner calls the shots in the public-private partnership.

Or, as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn put it, a "complete failure of democracy"--along with a "corrupt land grab," a "taxpayer ripoff," and a "bait and switch of epic proportions."

Click through for much, much more, including several videos, more on the protesting, and coverage of the events inside Bruce Ratner's fortified "Green Zone."


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

The destruction of Brooklyn's soul? Well, the diminishment of democracy and some added soullessness

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on the great Atlantic Yards groundtaking counter-demonstration.

Could today really be the "Destruction of Brooklyn's Soul Day," as proclaimed by a faux-Marty Markowitz at "Groundtaking" protest organized today outside Freddy's Bar & Backroom?

It's an easy conceit, playing off Chris Smith's August 2006 New York Magazine cover story describing the "battle for the soul of Brooklyn."

Plenty of soul?

The proprietress of the New York Times's blog The Local ventured, “As journalists, we’re neutral on the Atlantic Yards development issue, but we’ll admit to some pro-Brooklyn bias and observe that this borough has plenty of soul to go around.”

OK, so maybe burying the soul of Brooklyn is an overstatement. It's a big borough.

But remember--as "neutral" journalists so often forget--once Forest City Ratner promised an arena with a green roof. Now they show renderings of the arena with a big Barclays logo.

At the groundbreaking ceremony inside the big white tent, the names of arena sponsors hung in banners from the ceiling.

As much as organizers of the groundbreaking event found ways to invoke Brooklyn cred (Junior's cheesecake, etc.), Atlantic Yards is, above all, about more and more corporate logos.

If that doesn't bury the soul of Brooklyn, it surely adds more soullessness.

Also, as indicated by the faux-Markowitz's verbal slips, calling Bruce Ratner "mayor" and "governor," the legacy of Atlantic Yards is a diminishment of local democracy, surely a component of our soul.

The bobbleheads

The faux-Markowitz and his cohorts, including Gov. David Paterson, described as "former eminent domain opponent turned out-to-lunch eminent domain cheerleader," appeared at the ceremony. Excerpts from the remarks below.


Posted by eric at 1:00 AM


The Brooklyn Ink
by Jack Mirkinson

TBI was another media outlet with a good liveblog rundown of the day's events, complete with yet more photo documentation. Here's a snippet.

1:13 PM: More from Vinnie, at the protests: At 12:30, a thoroughly sarcastic press conference held in front of Freddy’s bar began. Men and women wearing bobblehead poster masks of Borough president Marty Markowitz, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and others, gave faux speeches to a group of 40 to 50 protesters. Daniel Goldstein, of Develop Don’t Destroy, took the mic. He wore no mask. “This is a 22-acre, no-bid land grab,” Goldstein said. “This is a celebration of eminent domain, a money-losing arena, a bait and switch…this is a celebration of everything that should not be celebrated.” After Goldstein’s speech, the protesters made their way down to the dignitaries’ entrance to the groundbreaking ceremony at 6th Ave. and Pacific and began chanting, “Shame on you.”


Posted by eric at 12:59 AM

Ratner breaks ground! Jay-Z celebrates! Others protest!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

The builder got a standing ovation from the 1,000 invited guests — a strange bedfellows of supporters from organized labor, the community group ACORN, sports fans, black leaders, and elected officials — gathered in a tent on the sprawling project site, which covers a 22-acre area between Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues, from Dean Street to Atlantic Avenue.

Ratner singled out Markowitz for praise — indeed, the Beep was the person who persuaded the builder to buy the Nets and build their new home.

“Marty, you pestered me every day,” Ratner said. “It took seven years, but we got there together.”

Later, Ratner praised his lawyers — all 150 of them — whom he jokingly called “New York’s Finest.”

“Thank you, all you brilliant litigators,” he said, referring to the cases that they won. “You’re amazing.”

The event — complete with lobster rolls and other fancy canapes — had a “to the victor belong the spoils” atmosphere, but a block away from the festivities, the roughly 100 protesters blew whistles and chanted, “Shame on you!” from Atlantic Avenue.

The protesters decried the project as an unneeded, traffic-choking eyesore that could not have been built without massive public subsidies.

“It’s horrifying,” said Sarah Edkins. “Buildings made just for profit to create a few temporary jobs erode local community.”

At the Prohibition-era Freddy’s Bar, some were solemn as they acknowledged that the final months are at hand for the watering hole that will be torn down. Other activists mocked the “villains” of the Atlantic Yards — Markowitz, Ratner and Bloomberg among them — by wearing huge masks and delivering satirical speeches.

“Who ever though that a former tenant activist — me! — could preside over eminent domain to kick tenants out of their homes?” said a man dressed as Markowitz. “What a country! What a borough!”


Posted by eric at 12:52 AM

March 11, 2010

Ratner Breaks Ground on Atlantic Yards Arena: Years Later

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

Developer Bruce Ratner finally got what he’s been waiting seven years for: the groundbreaking of the arena that will house the Nets basketball team.

And it was a grand groundbreaking at that, with several hundred movers and shakers from the city’s interlocking development, government, sports and music worlds. Gov. David Paterson was there, as was Mayor Michael Bloomberg, though the biggest buzz came when rapper Jay-Z, an investor in the Nets, entered the room with his wife Beyonce.

The normally reserved Ratner summed up the last seven years in a remarkably candid 17-minute speech that revealed just how much the poor economy imperiled the project. Two and a half years ago, he admitted to his parent company in Cleveland that the project was at a crisis point.

“No financing was available,” he recalled. “The arena plan was too expansive.”

At another point he said, “I can’t believe I’m standing here today.”

More than 100 reporters covered the event, according to a spokesman, including 20 from Russian publications. (Ratner solved his financial difficulties by selling a large stake in the Nets basketball team to the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in order to raise the capital needed for the $800 million arena.) And the food was appropriately lavish: hot cocoa in espresso cups, lobster sliders, and buttermilk panna cotta.

The controversy that has dogged the project continued right up to, and including, the groundbreaking. (And it probably will continue.) About a hundred protesters carried signs and bobble heads of the principal players from Freddy’s, a beloved neighborhood bar that will have to move to make way for the arena, to the tent where the ceremony was taking place. Their shouts and whistles could be heard inside the tent and through the official audio feed.


Posted by eric at 11:50 PM

Financial 411: The Life And Death of NYC Real Estate Deals

WNYC Radio

Matthew Schuerman reports on today's groundtaking ceremony. Pertinent audio runs from about the 1:00 mark to 1:18 (Bruce Ratner himself!) and from 1:25 to 2:45.


Posted by eric at 11:36 PM

Affordable housing deal at Atlantic Yards

Crain's NY Business
by James Comtols

Thursday's long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony for the Barclays Arena at the edge of downtown Brooklyn came with some surprises.

At the ceremony at the site of the vast Atlantic Yards development, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city has secured a commitment from project developer Forest City Ratner to ensure that at least 50% of the units in the first residential tower to be built will be affordable to a mix of low-, moderate- and middle-income families.

The developer hopes to begin construction on the first residential tower in the spring of next year and the second six to nine months later. Forest City expects work to start on the third tower six to nine months after that.


NoLandGrab: What Forest City expects, and reality, are two very different things. Forest City expected the Nets to be wrapping up their fourth season in Brooklyn next month.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Crain's whiffs on affordable housing

Norman Oder writes that Crain's surprise is no surprise at all.

Crain's New York Business thinks this is news...

Um, any all-rental building would be 50% affordable--that's the financing plan.

This represents "progress" only compared to the not-so-affordable plan contemplated for the first building, with most units at a very high Area Median Income.

Posted by eric at 11:01 PM

Ground Broken on Atlantic Yards Project

City Room
by Kareem Fahim

After years of delays and lawsuits, officials broke ground Thursday afternoon on $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project near Downtown Brooklyn.

Sitting in a tent at Atlantic and Fifth Avenues, Gov. David A. Paterson acknowledged the years of battles over the project. “As the buildings rise on Atlantic Yards,” he said, “the joblessness rate will fall here in Brooklyn.”

Meanwhile, outside the "Green Zone..."

Daniel Goldstein confronts his tormentors (Photo: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times)

A few hundred feet away, crowds of protesters, their legal options all but exhausted, hooted and whistled loudly enough to make their voices heard.

At one point, the protesters wandered into the traffic on Atlantic Avenue, and one protester, an activist with the local Green Party, was arrested for disorderly conduct, according to the police and other protesters.


NoLandGrab: The "disorderly conduct" was banging on a drum. In Ratnerville, pile drivers and all-night-long "infrasturcture" work are A-OK. Music-making? Not so much.

Posted by eric at 10:46 PM

A Sad Day for Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking

The Huffington Post
by John Petro

If all of today's hoopla caused any of you to forget why Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is Brooklyn's worst idea since the "Great Mistake of '98," John Petro of the Drum Major Institute offers up a must-read reminder.

In theory, it should be everything that a progressive urban policy analyst like me would want from a new development. Atlantic Yards would create lots of new housing immediately adjacent to mass transit lines. It would be a mix of residential, commercial, retail, and entertainment space. And it would create new affordable housing and green space.

But, somehow, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner got it all wrong. The project required two things to make it feasible: the use of eminent domain to acquire the property and hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies. Public officials justified both by proclaiming that the project would also create public benefits. But these public benefits were always dubious. And as the project has progressed, they have all but disappeared completely. Now it seems that the project will be a money loser for the city and will scar the face of Brooklyn for decades.

So what went wrong?


NoLandGrab: Next time someone asks why you oppose Atlantic Yards, or says "I don't think it'll be so bad," hand them this article.

Posted by eric at 10:26 PM

Statement by Council Member Letitia James regarding the Ceremonial Groundbreaking of Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards

He, who has money, has power, influence, and ultimately politicians.

It is a sad day in Brooklyn when basketball rules over affordable housing, schools, playgrounds, youth centers, libraries, and MetroCards for students. This ceremonial groundbreaking best represents the priorities of a few misguided men, and will do nothing to fix the budget deficits on either the State, or local levels.

The proposed Atlantic Yards Project is not about jobs or housing, but about bailing out a developer with friends in high places, for an NBA team that is the worst in the league. Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg should commit today to refuse any additional public dollars towards this boondoggle and demand that the affordable housing be built immediately.

I will now take on the fight to keep Forest City Ratner Companies true to their promises: to build much needed affordable housing, provide opportunities for local women and minority businesses, and to mitigate the adverse affects of ongoing construction and traffic congestion in this district.

I refused to celebrate with FCR today, and I renew my objection to this entire project, the process, the land grabbing, and the waste of public funds.

Posted by eric at 8:58 PM

Residents, Businesses Divided Over Benefits Of Atlantic Yards Project

NY1 News
by Roger Clark

"It's chaos around here, and I think we are heading for a lifetime of chaos around here,” said one local.

"Oh, it's total garbage," said another.

"It's a very sad day for Brooklyn,” said a third.

One concern many shared is how the area will be affected by construction.

"I'm just worried. Worried that the construction is going to take a long time and I live here, so we have to deal with the dust and the noise and the smoke,” said a Prospect Heights resident.

There is also the belief that already congested roadways will only get worse.

"We've already seen an enormous mess in traffic,” another area resident said. “Everything that they have done, they do in ways which are just extraordinarily incompetent, with no regard for the local neighbors."

"It contributes nothing to the community that anyone here can do,” said a third. “It's going to create traffic problems that nobody wants to deal with."

While the majority of people who spoke with NY1 were not thrilled with the redevelopment project, some felt the arena could have a positive impact on the neighborhood.


NoLand(LeftTo)Grab: The majority weren't thrilled? Must not've been "real folks."

Posted by eric at 8:44 PM

Bad Day for Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn

I hear the sound of a helicopter circling outside, due north of my dining room. I am guessing it’s a news copter covering the groundbreaking ceremony over at the Atlantic Yards not all that far from my Third Street apartment.

Yup, today’s the day. After years, yes years, of protest, lawsuits and outrage, today is the official groundbreaking ceremony for Forest City Ratner’s Nets arena at the Atlantic Yards.


WoeLandGrab: Might have been a news copter, or it might have been the police chopper keeping watch in case protestors stormed the "Green Zone" in search of lobster sliders and champagne.

Posted by eric at 8:13 PM

Snapshots from the Atlantic Yards "Groundtaking" Ceremony

Reason Hit & Run
by Damon Root

Reason's Damon Root has a good rundown of the day's protesting, with photos, a couple of which we've reproduced below. Click through for more.

A small and feisty group of protesters had already established themselves in front of Freddy’s Bar in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn when I arrived shortly after noon to witness today’s big groundbreaking—or “groundtaking” as the protesters put it—ceremony for the Atlantic Yards project, a 22-acre eminent domain boondoggle that will bulldoze homes and businesses in order to make way for a basketball stadium and some office and apartment towers. Despite the fact that Atlantic Yards is a classic case of eminent domain abuse, New York’s courts have shamefully abdicated their judicial responsibility and allowed this blatant land grab to proceed. So today was something of a last hurrah for the opposition, many of whom have been fighting this outrage for the past seven years. I’d estimate that a few hundred protesters had joined in by the time the crowd made its way from Freddy’s to the heavily-secured tent where Ratner and his buddies in big government gathered to celebrate their chance to demolish a neighborhood and begin “building the community from the ground-up.”

Finally, a shot of the heroic eminent domain resister and tireless activist Daniel Goldstein, who has fought the good fight for seven years and is now living like a prisoner in his own home. He’s the reason most people even heard of this outrageous government abuse in the first place. Like Susette Kelo did on a national scale, Goldstein’s greatest accomplishment may be to spark a lasting movement to reform New York’s atrocious eminent domain abuse. Here he is marshalling a massive street crossing by the protestors in order to outfox the police.


Posted by eric at 8:01 PM

Atlantic Yards ground-breaking event marked by politicians, pop star and protests

NY Daily News
By Erin Durkin and Bill Hutchinson

The Daily News is reporting:

One protester was arrested for disobeying a police order to stop pounding a drum.


Yes!LandGrab: The State can forcibly evict people from their homes for a basketball arena, but it is illegal to pound a drum at a protest. What this democracy needs is more cowbell.

Posted by lumi at 7:51 PM

Ceremonial Groundbreaking for Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn

Forest City Ratner Chairman Bruce Ratner, Barclays PLC President Robert E. Diamond, Jr., And NETS Investor and Cultural Icon Shawn "JAY-Z" Carter to Celebrate The Next Phase of Construction

Forest City Ratner Companies Press Release via MarketWatch

Follow the link below to Marketwatch for the full Forest City press release; here are some "highlights."

It is anticipated that Atlantic Yards will generate over $5 billion in new tax revenues for the State and the City over the next 30 years and will create upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs and up to 8,000 permanent jobs when the entire project is completed.

"It is anticipated?" By whom? Forest City is sticking with its phony claims of $5 billion-plus in tax revenues and 8,000 permanent jobs no matter how hollow they may be.

When we announced Atlantic Yards in December 2003, we anticipated that this project would create buzz and excitement for the borough and the City as well as needed jobs and affordable housing," said Mr. Ratner. "We did not at the time appreciate that Atlantic Yards would be such an important economic engine. The fact that we can start construction in this financial environment is testament to the lasting appeal of New York City. We are a City that continues to grow and prosper and Atlantic Yards will for many years stand as a reminder that we can build and create jobs and homes and dreams even during the most difficult of economic times."

Actually, the fact that they can begin construction in this financial environment is testament to the millions and millions in state and city subsidies Ratner is receiving, including a huge discount on land and sweetened payment terms, to boot.

Plenty more hyperbole via the link.


Posted by eric at 7:41 PM

Protests at groundbreaking for Nets' Brooklyn arena

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

Opponents of the massive Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn are protesting the official groundbreaking ceremony.

They held a mock funeral Thursday "to bury the soul of Brooklyn." The event took place in front of a bar that is scheduled to be demolished to make way for the development.

The project has been delayed by lawsuits filed by residents fighting the use of eminent domain for the $4.9 billion, 22-acre project, which includes a $1 billion arena for the New Jersey Nets. It was originally supposed to be open for the current NBA season. The arena is now scheduled to open sometime in 2012.


Posted by eric at 7:28 PM

Paterson still rues Dr. J trade at groundbreaking for new Nets arena

NY Post
By Rich Calder & Bill Sanderson

The Governor who tried to rewrite history in a recent statement placing the final blame for Atlantic Yards on the Court of Appeals cracked wise at today's groundbreaking held at the temporary tent city in Ratnerville:

Dr. J’s departure was "one of the worst days of my life — before I became governor," Paterson cracked at the groundbreaking for the Nets’ new arena in Brooklyn.

The line got a big roar of applause and a standing ovation from the crowd — no doubt a lift for a governor whose approval rating hit 21 percent in a recent Quinnipiac poll.


NoLandGrab-bed: A 21-percent approval rating isn't bad for a spineless hypocrite — this was the same Paterson who called for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain, before he incidentally became governor.

Posted by lumi at 7:17 PM

Protests mar groundbreaking for NJ Nets' NYC arena

Amid residents' protests, officials break ground for Brooklyn arena where NJ Nets will play

AP via Yahoo! Finance
by Karen Matthews

Officials broke ground Thursday on a much-delayed 22-acre development project that will bring the NBA's New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn.

As protesters chanted and staged a mock funeral for the "soul" of Brooklyn, supporters enjoyed a lavish spread catered by developer Bruce Ratner.

"Today is a great day for Brooklyn and for the soul of Brooklyn, which is very much alive," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the biggest cheerleader of the Atlantic Yards project since it was announced in 2003.

The officials spoke inside a tent at the groundbreaking site, while the protesters shouted and blew whistles outside.

"What they're going to build is a money-losing arena, maybe one or two towers and acres and acres of parking," said Daniel Goldstein, founder of the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

His wife, Shabnam Merchant, stood Thursday in front of their home, which has been seized by the state to make way for the project, although they have yet to leave. She held her 16-month-old daughter and a sign that said: "You're celebrating? We live here."


Posted by eric at 7:15 PM

Mildly insulted that the Atlantic Yards protesters didn't make a giant bobblehead for me.

"ShellySilver" via Twitter


Posted by eric at 6:53 PM

NYPD Mobilizes to Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking Protest


In what might be a dry run for Nets games, the NYPD sent out hundreds of cops to keep hundreds of anti-Atlantic Yards protestors in check outside Bruce Ratner's "Green Zone."

It's really happening: After dogged protest and a series of seemingly intractable lawsuits, developer Bruce Ratner is breaking ground right now on a new arena for the Nets, to be called Barclays Center. And the irate protests are continuing even as the ceremony—attended by Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg—takes place right now. In his speech, Borough President Marty Markowitz acknowledged the raucous demonstrators outside the press conference, but played it for laughs, saying, "Sorry about the noise outside. Obviously disgruntled Knicks fans." Ha ha, or people who are being forced out of their homes! We've heard over the police scanner that the NYPD is now calling for a "Level 3 Mobilization" (sounds serious!) to deal with the protesters.


NoLandGrab: At times, it seemed that every protestor, of which there were may have been as many as 300, had his or her own police escort, not counting the police units on rooftops, and the police helicopter. One officer informed a cyclist that a portion of Atlantic Avenue was "closed to pedestrians." When the cyclist replied that he was not a pedestrian, but a cyclist, the cop replied "well, then it's closed to bicycles." Cars, of course, were ok.

Wonder who got the tab for all the crowd control?

Posted by eric at 6:39 PM

Official Proclamation on the Occasion of the Destruction of Brooklyn's Soul

Click to enlarge [PDF].

Posted by eric at 6:32 PM

Atlantic Yards: A Scam, A Boondoggle, A Land Grab, A Bait & Switch, A Failure of Democracy

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On the occasion of Bruce Ratner's Boondoggle Celebration and Groundtaking Ceremony for the elite, connected, wealthy, powerful and bought out, a short multiple choice quiz...

Question: What is Atlantic Yards?

A. A Corrupt Land Grab
B. A Taxpayer Ripoff
C. A Bait and Switch of Epic Proportions
D. A Complete Failure of Democracy
E. All of the above

Answer: E

Corrupt Land Grab
It was a no bid deal for 22 acres of extremely valuable private and public property handpicked by Bruce Ratner in a backroom. And the sham bidding process for the rail yard was fixed from the beginning. And the devious claim that a swath of some of the most valuable real estate in New York City.

Taxpayer Ripoff
A billion dollar arena mostly paid for by city, state and federal taxpayers which will be a net financial loss for New York City. Well over $2 billion in subsidies, tax breaks and exemptions, free and cheap land and "extraordinary infrastructure costs for a private, for profit arena and predominately luxury housing. Potential massive housing subsidies at a much higher per unit rate than normal. City tax dollars use for private purchases Ratner made using the threat of eminent domain.

A Bait and Switch of Epic Proportions
The project announced by Ratner in 2003, approved and sold to the public in 2006, is no longer going to happen, including the purported benefits of "affordable housing" and public open space. Instead we'll get a money losing arena, a building or two and acres and acres of blighting parking lots.

A Complete Failure of Democracy
Each branch of government passed the buck to the other, not one taking a responsible and close look at the realities of the Atlantic Yards project demonstrated by all of the above an more. The resulting plan and evenutal degraded plan are symptoms of this failure of democracy.


Posted by eric at 6:26 PM

BACK IN THE U-S-S-YARDS: Liveblogging the Barclays Center Groundbreaking

Curbed.com's Lockhart Steele covers the heckles and jeckles behind the front lines at Bruce Ratner's groundtaking fest, replete with self-deprecating gubernatorial humor, lobster rolls and potato knishes and this shout out to architectural firms Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects from the land-grabbing developer himself, "They designed a new Barclays Center that is cool and gorgeous and awesome." [Like totally, fer sure!]


CURBEDWIRE: Jay-Z's Hardhat Style Breaking.jpg

The city has distributed this up-close photo of Bruce, Mike, Dave, Marty, Jigga and the gang putting shovel to dirt.

Posted by lumi at 6:20 PM

First impressions from the groundbreaking event: no local elected officials, cheers for Jay-Z, and Brooklyn invocations abounding

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder did manage to get inside the "Green Zone," the heavily fortified, Baghdad-style site of Bruce Ratner's ceremonial Atlantic Yards groundbreaking. Here's his initial report.

I'll offer more coverage of today's groundbreaking event later--yes, I got in--but first a few impressions.

Yes, it was an impressive party in a packed tent, though some of the speeches--even the invocation by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry--went way long.

No local electeds, but the big guns

There were few Brooklyn elected officials present, and none from anywhere near the site. Those present included State Senators Marty Golden and Carl Kruger; Assemblymen Darryl Towns and Stephen Cymbrowitz; and Council Members Darlene Mealy and Mike Nelson. (State Senator John Sampson, Democratic Majority Conference Leader, sent his regards and former Assemblyman Roger Green got a mention from Daughtry.) Oh, and of course Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the jovial MC.

For the moment, at least, that didn't make a big difference because not only has Mayor Mike Bloomberg backed the project to the hilt, so did Governor David Paterson, despite any misimpression he might have given. And no local elected officials had a vote.

But that will make a difference very soon.

Bogus numbers

While Forest City Ratner continues to claim $5 billion in new tax revenue and 8000 permanent jobs, someone told Paterson that the numbers were bogus, since he offered more conservative--though still way overoptimistic--figures.

There was a lot of talk about jobs. A lot. But the project isn't about jobs--at least not nearly as many as once promised. The numbers are way fuzzy. As are the figures regarding tax revenue.

Behind the podium, visible through the transparent wall of the tent for those at the left, was the condo building where Daniel Goldstein, the spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, lives with his family on a now-private street controlled by Forest City Ratner. ...

Goldstein and other protesters, who held an event burying "the soul of Brooklyn," could be heard chanting and whistling on Atlantic Avenue outside the tent.


Posted by eric at 6:16 PM

Post columnist Peyser still reading from Ratner's script

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder dismantles the Andrea Peyser fiction piece in today's Post.


Posted by eric at 5:20 PM

Ratner's Net gain for B'klyn

NY Post
by Andrea Peyser

The Post's ever-pissed-off-at-the-world columnist churns out some more Bruce Ratner-as-altruistic-benefactor nonsense.

For six years he's fought the good fight, endured a rough economy and a whole lot of angst. Today, Bruce Ratner breaks ground on his basketball arena, office and apartment complex in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards -- a spot that's been screaming for development since Ratner was a boy.

But Ratner doesn't begrudge the protesters' right to yell.

"We take it and we take it for what it is -- as part of a democracy."

Nice, except that Bruce was inside the groundbreaking "Green Zone" behind multiple security perimeters, while the protestors were penned behind barricades, each seemingly paired with his or her personal NYPD officer.

Here comes the good part.

This project is overwhelmingly popular with real folks around the city, despite a small and disproportionately vocal opposition.

Yeah, "real" folks. Like billionaire mayors and Jay-Z. Keepin' it real.

Now for the really good part.

Despite the drama, "I would absolutely do it again," Ratner told me. "I would do it again because I think of the importance of this project to the city. We need to build civic projects in this city."

Real folks sacrificing to build "civic" projects.

Thank you, Bruce. We apologize for our lack of gratitude.


Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

The Daily News "advertorial" on the arena groundbreaking

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not online, as far as I can tell, but today's New York Daily News includes an eight-page section with numerous advertisement for and about the Barclays Center, and one piece of text, a column by Denis Hamill (he of the 10,000 jobs fiction) reminiscing about the Dodgers.

To quote DDDB, in another context, it is not to be missed.

Yes, they're playing it as the second coming of the Dodgers, despite the obvious enormous contrasts.

Funny, but the section is not labeled "advertorial."


NoLandGrab: There was a day when the News was the working man's newspaper. Now it's owned by a billionaire real estate developer intent on puffing up multi-multi-millionaire real estate developers.

Posted by eric at 4:46 PM

Groundbreakingtaking: Round Two

Hats off to MissWit, aka Deb Goldstein, from whom we stole took via eminent domain the Groundtaking wordplay today.

MissWiticisms, GroundTAKING DAY: A Sad Surreal Day in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Pride for celebrating the thievery and grazing of a neighborhood? Wha? Shame on Bloomberg (the richest man in NYC!). Quadruple Shame on Marty Markowitz (we expect this crap from Bloomberg, but Markowitz was once a housing advocate, who has thrown his borough under the bus). Paterson (well, he is just a deer in headlights).

WNYC Radio, Atlantic Yards Project Pushes Ahead With Groundbreaking Ceremony

Matthew Schuerman reports on Bruce Ratner's big event.

The ground breaking is largely ceremonial. The site work has been going on intermittently since 2007 and the foundation won't be poured until later this year. By that point, developer Bruce Ratner assumes he'll have possession of all the properties he needs. As of two weeks ago, 22 households were still living in the footprint for the project's first phase.

Ratner originally hoped to break ground about five years ago, but he hit legal, financial and logistical roadblocks. He ended up selling large stakes in the Nets basketball team and the arena itself to the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking

Today is the day that Forest City Ratner breaks ground, cuts ribbons and moves Atlantic Yards into the project’s construction phase.

The protester camp will be “burying the soul of Brooklyn” at Freddy’s this afternoon. As journalists, we’re neutral on the Atlantic Yards development issue, but we’ll admit to some pro-Brooklyn bias and observe that this borough has plenty of soul to go around.

NoLandGrab: "Pro-Brooklyn bias?" Huh? No one is more pro-Brooklyn than the people fighting to stop Bruce Ratner from paving over Prospect Heights.

Brownstoner, Today's The Big Day at Atlantic Yards

At this point, all we can really do is hope that the whole project ends up being not nearly as ugly, congestive and delayed as many people fear.

1010WINS, Groundbreaking Ceremony for New Brooklyn Arena

A Short Story, Atlantic Yards Breaks Ground

Nut up or Shut up Development Week continues this morning with the long-anticipated (alternatively, what's an antonym for anticipated?) Atlantic Yards groundbreaking and a Broadway Triangle court hearing this afternoon, followed by a New Domino Public Hearing. Any way we can squeeze some Coney Island news in to get a double date going?

MyFoxNY, Groundbreaking For New Nets Arena

Several heavy-hitters including rap star 'Jay-Z' will be on hand Thursday afternoon for a ceremonial groundbreaking of the new home of the NJ Nets.

Shawn 'Jay-Z' Carter is part owner of the Nets.

Construction of the sports and entertainment arena is loaded with controversy.

Jay-Z World, Groundbreaking For New Nets Arena

NLG: Keepin' it real.

Posted by eric at 3:44 PM

The mystery of Ridge Hill: however FCR avoided indictment, does the developer remain (as per ESDC) "a good corporate citizen"?

Atlantic Yards Report

It's a shame that Norman Oder chose the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking day to publish this must-read story about the Ridge Hill indictments and Forest City Ratner's role in the bribery scandal, since it will likely not get the attention it deserves.

Forest City Ratner, as a developer, is resilient and resourceful, able to renegotiate deals for the Atlantic Yards project with government agencies like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

But when it comes to the federal corruption case in Yonkers, which involves FCR's Ridge Hill mixed-use project but does not implicate the developer, FCR looks more than lucky.

After all, City Council Member Sandy Annabi changed her vote to approve the project and was indicted for accepting bribes. Her cousin, Zehy Jereis, was indicted for giving them.

FCR, which hired Jereis for an apparent no-show job, was not indicted and issued a statement indicating that it had been told by federal prosecutors that neither it nor its employees was a "target" of the investigation.

If so, that suggests either that prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to indict the developer and/or that they believe the developer's cooperation justifies not seeking its indictment.

Thus, FCR not only escaped sanction for some questionable behavior--it has never explained or justified the no-show contract--it also can continue to benefit from a zoning change that was, according to prosecutors, illicitly gained.

A confounded ex-prosecutor

Is the developer bulletproof?

I spoke to a former federal prosecutor experienced in investigating corruption and fraud. Though he’s no fan of the AY project, he also emphasized that any knowledgeable practitioner of criminal law--whether for the defense or for the prosecution--would read the indictment and be left with numerous questions about FCR's conduct.

The indictment, he said, leaves a reader wondering whether FCR has--or had--potential criminal exposure or even if not, whether it engaged in conduct incompatible with participation in a public-private development.


Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Daily News columnist Louis admits qualms about project benefits, still blames opponents, ignores transparency issues, supports governance entity

Atlantic Yards Report

I admit, when I read the headline of Errol Louis's column today in the Daily News, Developer must build a bridge at Atlantic Yards, I thought that he might have tried to suss out why the Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed for an expected two years for demolition and reconstruction, would be closed for more than four years.

But no.

Rather, its Louis's big-picture reflections on the project, filled with some more qualms than before, including the cost of decking over the railyard, yet with his fundamental hostility toward those who've resisted the project, without attendant concern about issues of accountability.


Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Developer must build a bridge at Atlantic Yards

NY Daily News
by Errol Louis

If we weren't deeply skeptical — watching the Atlantic Yards project get steamrolled through will do that to you — we'd almost believe that Errol Louis was extending an olive branch.

The seven-year slog leading up to today's ribbon-cutting on the Atlantic Yards project demonstrates why New York must rethink and restructure the way it handles big land deals.

Nearly no one on either side of the debate over the planned 18,000-seat arena and 6,400 units of housing - not even the winning developer, Forest City Ratner - thinks the process was fair, balanced and rational.

There were too many lawsuits, too many unanswered questions and too many heated arguments. Worst of all, the years of bickering and delay have left behind bitterness and civic exhaustion just when we need energy, enthusiasm and public scrutiny to make Atlantic Yards a success.

State agencies and the Ratner company haven't been blameless. We still don't know who will pay to create an expensive deck over the Vanderbilt railyards, the section of the project area where thousands of units of housing are supposed to be built.

The expected cost - as much as $200 million to $300 million by some estimates - may get picked up by Ratner, or the bill may get handed to the city or state a decade from now, long after human and institutional memories of the original deal have faded.

It's also unclear what kinds of housing subsidies will be assembled to fulfill promises of affordable apartments.

I recently sat through a jarring press conference at which officials abruptly announced that the city has run out of Section 8 vouchers. Other tax incentive programs have reached limits that may or may not be curable in the near future. And locating and implementing subsidy programs will be harder now because of unresolved animosity between Ratner and anti-project leaders.

Much of it is petty. City Councilwoman Letitia James (D, WFP-Brooklyn), who represents the people who argued for killing the project long after its inevitability was clear, says she wasn't invited to today's groundbreaking. That is an unnecessary slap in the face. (James told me she will remain at City Hall working on budget issues during the ceremony.)

The best way to handle these unresolved issues - and, perhaps, start some sort of healing process - would be to create a special Atlantic Yards development district with appointees from the city, the state, community organizations and the developer.


Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Passing the buck: when it comes to Atlantic Yards, elected officials and judges say the other's responsible

Atlantic Yards Report

From state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman's decision yesterday in the case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) 2009 approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan:

At this late juncture, petitioners’ redress is a matter for the political will, and not for this court which is constrained, under the limited standard for SEQRA review, to reject petitioners’ challenge.

From Governor David Paterson's statement in response to a question on Tuesday:

"Since the project was already in implementation when I came into office, I waited for the Court of Appeals to make a decision, and they ruled the way they did."

That makes it look like, once Atlantic Yards got started, it had inevitable momentum.

But that's not so. After all, as I noted, it was a pretty "late juncture" when, last year, Forest City Ratner renegotiated deals with the ESDC and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.


NoLandGrab: It's comforting to know that New York State's appointed judges and elected unelected officials are equally cowardly.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

"We still need more" subsidy, Forest City CEO said in April 2008, and they got it

Atlantic Yards Report

Looking back, one of the most telling episodes in the Atlantic Yards saga came in a 4/2/08 earnings conference call that Forest City Enterprises (FCE) held with investment analysis.

As I wrote, in response to a question from analyst Rich Moore, FCE Chuck Ratner expressed satisfaction in the developer’s relationship with local government, and said he expects more subsidy.

Forest City Ratner, FCE's New York subsidiary, had gained $105 million in subsidy on top of the initial pledged $200 million, at the time of the call. Since then, FCR gained (beyond other stated subsidies and tax breaks):

  • a speed-up in delivery of pledged state and city subsidies
  • an additional $31 million for land purchase (allegedly from infrastructure funds)
  • a revised deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the Vanderbilt Yard, with only $20 million down (instead of $100 million), a smaller permanent yard, and a generous 6.5% interest rate
  • a Development Agreement with gentle penalties and generous deadlines (12 years for Phase 1, 25 years for Phase 2)

Upcoming--and hinted at in the call--is the developer's effort to corral scarce subsidies for affordable housing.


Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

The legacy of Atlantic Yards: not just scale but reform of eminent domain, public authorities, and (maybe) judicial review

Atlantic Yards Report

In Why the Atlantic Yards Is Currently a Loser for Everyone, Even Ratner, New York Magazine's Chris Smith points out that the AY resistance should not have been surprising:

Ratner blames the delays on those pesky eminent domain lawsuits. It’s true that the legal challenges have slowed Atlantic Yards, but Ratner guaranteed the court fights by doing a politically savvy end run around the public approval process. And the most important issues were never speed or dollars: The fight over Atlantic Yards was about community and democracy. If the legacy of Develop Don’t Destroy is that whatever is finally built on the rest of the site is more in proportion with the brownstone neighborhoods surrounding Ratnerville, the group will have done the city a service. But until then, everyone's going to continue losing: Bruce Ratner is getting an arena he wanted only as a crowd-pleasing tool to divert attention from his lucrative condo towers, and New York gets a soulless billion-dollar basketball court next to a hole where there should be human-scale housing. Happy groundbreaking day to all.

Beyond scale

With all due respect to Smith, who wrote the single best mainstream article about AY, pointing out the "absolute absence of democratic process," I think that the legacy of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the fight against Atlantic Yards may be a lot more than scale.

Rather, Atlantic Yards has helped push state Senator Bill Perkins' effort reform the state's eminent domain laws. The questionable deal for the Vanderbilt Yard has been part of the discussion of public authorities reform.

And, as evidenced both by Justice Marcy Friedman's decision yesterday in the case challenging project approval and Justice James Catterson's fiery concurrence in the case challenging the environmental review, judges bristle at laws that force them to give agencies like the unelected Empire State Development Corporation enormous deference.

That too could change.


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Forest City Ratner still claims Atlantic Yards will generate $5.6 billion in tax revenues and 8000 permanent jobs

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, The Brooklyn Ink reported that Forest City Ratner is still claiming, outlandishly and untruthfully, that the Atlantic Yards project will deliver huge financial benefits to New York's taxpayers.

Today, Norman Oder sets the record straight.

That was the notorious $6 billion lie touted by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, modified to $5.6 billion and $4.4 billion (net), touted in legal papers by FCR executives and a lawyer as a state estimate--but later withdrawn.

The most recent estimates by the ESDC suggest nearly $1.2 billion in net revenue, but that depends on an unrealistic ten-year buildout of the project, highly doubtful office jobs, an unlikely full buildout of the project of nearly 8 million square feet (the development agreement allows for a much smaller project, less than 5.2 million square feet) and a likely underestimate of costs.


Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

Big court win yesterday — groundbreaking today

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

Hours before Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for Bruce Ratner’s Barclays Center arena, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled in the developer’s favor on what is the last of the major lawsuits against the mega-project.

Justice Marcy Friedman found that the Empire State Development Corporation acted within the law when it overhauled its Atlantic Yards construction plans last year — a revision that sweetened the deal for Ratner and allowed him to put down just $20 million for the Vanderbilt rail yards and pay the rest in installments through 2030.

But Friedman acknowledged that project opponents were justified in their criticism of the way ESDC handled Atlantic Yards.

“ESDC … lacked the candor that the public was entitled to expect, particularly in light of the scale of the project and its impact on the community,” Friedman wrote.

Candace Carponter, the legal director for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of the opposition groups on the case, said that the ruling only reinforced their stance that Ratner and his state partners were allowed to undertake the major project without a public process.

“That is the legacy and hallmark of Atlantic Yards,” said Carponter. “A total failure of democracy.”


Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Groundbreakingtaking: Today's the day

NBC New York, After Years of Delays, Groundbreaking Today at Atlantic Yards

Protesters are expected to turn out in downtown Brooklyn today as construction on the controversial Atlantic Yards project is set to officially begin after years of delays and court challenges.

Gov. David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and rapper Jay-Z will join developer Bruce Ratner at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Earlier this week, streets in the already-clogged area between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues began closing to clear the way for construction on the $4.9 million project which has been stalled by court challenges, the recession and numerous changes to the original plan -- including the loss of star architect Frank Gehry.

NY1 News, Groundbreaking Ceremony Scheduled For New Nets Arena

According to the New York Daily News, 22 residents and businesses near the site have been sent letters from the state telling them they will be evicted if they do not leave voluntarily by April 3rd.

"Officials should not be celebrating today, they should be investigating today," said a resident who is being asked to vacate his home.

AP via NJ.com, Groundbreaking is set for Brooklyn home for NJ Nets

A groundbreaking ceremony is set for the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn that includes an arena for the New Jersey Nets.

Opponents plan to stage a protest near the site before the ceremony.

7online.com, Groundbreaking day for Atlantic Yards arena

It's been a bitter turf war pitting residents and businesses against the Atlantic Yards developer, but Brooklyn's new arena finally breaks ground.

The full project, all 16 apartment and office towers could take the next quarter-century to complete. But families and businesses in the area could get kicked out of the area now.

Park Slope Neighbors via Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, March 11th: Protest the Atantic Yards Ceremonial Groundbreaking

Eric McClure, who runs Park Slope Neighbors, is urging all of his friends and neighbors to heed Develop Don’t Destroy’s call to protest the groundbreaking on March 11th at the Atlantic Yards.

The Brooklyn Ink, MORNING ROUNDUP—3/11/10

The big news of the day: the massive, and massively controversial, Atlantic Yards project is set to officially begin today, changing the fabric of the borough forever.

Bay Ridge Journal, Atlantic Yards Protest Tomorrow Today

An e-mail blast from Rev. Billy today announced that there will be a mock Atlantic Yards groundbreaking and funeral for the soul of Brooklyn at 12:30 PM tomorrow today, followed by an "anti-celebration" counterpointing Developer Bruce Ratner's celebration, beginning at 1PM.

The meet-up point will be outside of Freddy's Bar at 485 Dean Street.

Brooklyn Born, Protest Atlantic Yards Ground Breaking 12:30pm today!

Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

Why the Atlantic Yards Is Currently a Loser for Everyone, Even Ratner

Daily Intel [NYMag.com]
by Chris Smith

From early on, New York Magazine's Chris Smith has grasped the utter depravity of the Atlantic Yards rip-off as well as any mainstream media reporter. We reprint his must-read Daily Intel piece in full.

Sitting in traffic on Atlantic Avenue, watching as cars spill back through the intersection with Fourth Avenue to complete a perfect triangle of honking, cursing, pedestrian-endangering gridlock with the intersection of Flatbush Avenue, somehow the realization came to more than one influential person: What we need here is an 18,000-seat basketball arena!

And finally Bruce Ratner is going to give it to us. On Thursday afternoon the developer officially breaks ground on his Atlantic Yards project. Much has changed in the more than six years since Ratner first proposed a stunning 22-acre home for the NBA’s Nets and for sixteen commercial and residential skyscrapers. Long gone is architect Frank Gehry, whose industrial-whimsical designs brought an upscale veneer to the massive heap of steel and concrete. ACORN, whose kiss of approval for the project’s “affordable” housing units gave Atlantic Yards a tinge of progressive enlightenment, collapsed even though Ratner returned the favor with a grant and loan of $1.5 million. Last year Ratner was forced to unload the money-hemorrhaging Nets to Russia’s richest oligarch. The economy has gone from boom to bust, the state and city budgets from billions in surplus to many more billions in deficit.

Yet in all that time one thing hasn’t changed: The Atlantic Yards deal is still a loser for New York. Well, that’s not exactly true, either. The fact is, the deal has gotten worse. And not — caveat lector — simply for those of us who will be living next to a huge construction zone for the next four years.

The most tangible quasi-public benefits that Ratner promised — housing and parks — have been pushed off into the unforeseeable future. Lately he’s said he’ll start work on the residential and commercial buildings in 2011, but renegotiations have extended his deadline for finishing the non-arena construction into 2035. Even that date is subject to change, however, as is the number of apartments ultimately built.

The big payoff, both for the developer and for New York as a whole, was always supposed to be generated by everything other than the arena. The projections of jobs created and tax revenues generated were always dubious, as documented on Norman Oder’s invaluable Atlantic Yards Report website. But when — or if — the fiscal benefits ever start coming in, they’ll have to be even more spectacular because the public subsidies have swollen, most recently with an MTA deal deferring Ratner’s payments for the land. The Independent Budget Office says the public tab will be approximately $675 million — and that’s merely for the arena, which the IBO estimates will lose $219 million for the city and state over 30 years.

Ratner blames the delays on those pesky eminent domain lawsuits. It’s true that the legal challenges have slowed Atlantic Yards, but Ratner guaranteed the court fights by doing a politically savvy end run around the public approval process. And the most important issues were never speed or dollars: The fight over Atlantic Yards was about community and democracy. If the legacy of Develop Don’t Destroy is that whatever is finally built on the rest of the site is more in proportion with the brownstone neighborhoods surrounding Ratnerville, the group will have done the city a service. But until then, everyone's going to continue losing: Bruce Ratner is getting an arena he wanted only as a crowd-pleasing tool to divert attention from his lucrative condo towers, and New York gets a soulless billion-dollar basketball court next to a hole where there should be human-scale housing. Happy groundbreaking day to all.


Posted by eric at 12:45 AM

Brooklyn Man Won't Back Down From Atlantic Yards Fight

NY1 News
by Anthony Pascale

Ahead of tomorrow’s official groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards project, a vigilant defender of the community says he has not given up his fight – or his apartment. NY1’s Anthony Pascale filed the following report.

Dan Goldstein has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.

“I certainly no longer feel like I'm a free citizen of New York City,” Goldstein told NY1.

But while he has been putting up a fight, he says he never thought he’d have to wage one just to get friends and family up to his seventh-floor Prospect Heights condo. He says it’s a battle to get into his apartment now that his street is fenced off and security guards are on patrol 24 hours a day.

“It’s a very strange situation that certainly doesn't feel right, to be told about who has access to my home,” Goldstein said.

“I feel that the state, Forest City Ratner have no problem making life difficult for me at this point, because there's no reason they have to make it as difficult as they've been making it over the past two days,” he said.


NoLandGrab: It goes without saying that without Daniel Goldstein, and his incredible will and determination to fight for what he believes is right, ground would have been broken on Atlantic Yards long ago. For that, many Brooklynites — and you can include we NoLandGrabbers among them — consider Daniel Goldstein a bona fide hero.

Posted by eric at 12:31 AM

Groundbreaking at Atlantic Yards comes years late

Thursday's ceremony to mark beginning of work on Nets arena in Brooklyn; building first of the residential towers expected to start in spring of 2011.

Crain's NY Business
by James Comtols

After more than six years of upheaval, lawsuits and false-starts, progress will finally be made at the sprawling Atlantic Yards site on the edge of downtown Brooklyn.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Barclays Center, the future home of the Nets basketball team, is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

While some work has been done at the site in recent months, including the completion of a temporary rail yard in December, the project is years behind schedule. Original proposals called for the arena, plus residential and office towers, to be half-finished by now.


NoLandGrab: Half-finished? The original plan had the Nets playing the 2006-2007 season in Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 12:24 AM

If Walter O'Malley sold out Brooklyn (as per new arena advertisement), who's the hero now: Ratner? Prokhorov? Barclays?

Atlantic Yards Report

According to an advertisement on page 2 of the Spring 2010 issue of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional publication Brooklyn!!, the Atlantic Yards arena (aka Barclays Center) is being promoted as repairing the losses felt when the baseball Dodgers left in 1957.

But things are a tad different these days, as I explained in an FAQ today, excerpted below.

And one question raised by the advertisement: if Walter O'Malley sold out Brooklyn, who's Brooklyn's benefactor?

Is it Forest City Ratner, led by Bruce Ratner, described by history professor Fred Siegel as "the master of subsidy.... He never builds without someone else taking the risk."

Is it Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's richest man, able to buy 80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena in a good deal, after Forest City Ratner did the heavy lifting?

Is it Barclays Capital, buying naming rights from Forest City Ratner, after the state gave them away as "part of the financing of the project"?

Could it be that there are no heroes--and that thanking "Brooklyn" is kind of meaningless?


NoLandGrab: By that logic, hasn't Bruce Ratner "sold out Jersey?"

Posted by eric at 12:16 AM

March 10, 2010

Groundbreaking signals start of Barclays Center arena

Atlantic Yards foes to hold their own counter groundbreaking

Courier-Life Publications
by Stephen Witt

While the arena and Atlantic Yards project have been underway for some time, the ceremony was called following State Supreme Court Judge Abraham G. Gerges’ recent ruling for the state’s planned seizure of property to make way for the $4-plus billion.

The project, which upon final buildout includes several thousand affordable and market-rate units of housing, will displace four commercial occupants and about 35 residents occupying 15 apartments.


NoLandGrab: Witt probably doesn't know it, but he means "will further displace," as Norman Oder points out below.

Atlantic Yards Report, Brutally weird: the Courier Life's Stephen Witt on AY groundbreaking

The Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt has a rather blinkered perspective on Atlantic Yards, writing, in an article headlined Groundbreaking signals start of Barclays Center arena:

The project, which upon final buildout includes several thousand affordable and market-rate units of housing, will displace four commercial occupants and about 35 residents occupying 15 apartments.

It should go without saying that many other people and businesses were displaced, given that so many moved under the threat of eminent domain, with the value of the deals varying considerably.

Witt, a proud outlier from the "reality-based community," is the perfect chronicler of the Atlantic Yards world.

Posted by eric at 11:58 PM

Space TALK: Commercial Realty Firm Moves to Site Close to Atlantic Yards Development

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Though groundbreaking isn't happening until tomorrow, the Eagle seems to think that "Atlantic Yards" is already a place.

he boutique commercial real estate brokerage, Terra CRG, has moved its offices to a new location across from Atlantic Yards and just off the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in Park Slope.


Posted by eric at 11:53 PM


The Brooklyn Ink
by Sierra Brown

Since the court ruling, opposition groups have begun mobilizing in anticipation of the groundbreaking. The project, they contend, has become the collective bane of a community unhappy with the development plans, which they say have changed dramatically since 2006. The new plans, they say, have largely dropped assurances to protect affordable housing and create jobs.

Forest City Ratner says that’s not the case. According to a fact sheet sent from Dan Klores Communications, a public relations firm representing the developer, the project will generate more than $5.6 billion in new tax revenues over the next 30 years and create a net positive fiscal impact of more than $1.3 billion. The fact sheet also states that the project will uphold the promise to ensure affordable housing units and create 8,000 permanent jobs.


NoLandGrab: It's astounding that, even now, on the eve of their ceremonial groundbreaking, Forest City Ratner and its proxies continue to lie, shamelessly, about the Atlantic Yards project's potential fiscal benefits. The claim of $5.6 billion in new tax revenues, fanciful to begin with, was based on a project configuration that evaporated a long time ago. The claimed net benefit of $1.3 billion has been shot full of holes many times over. And the alleged 8,000 jobs is more than double what the current project configuration could possibly generate.

We suppose that if you tell enough lies for a long enough time, it becomes impossible to remember the truth.

Posted by eric at 11:42 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... again...

Pardon Me For Asking, Come Out To Protest Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking Tomorrow

While we have been busy here in Carroll Gardens fighting for a clean Gowanus Canal and for the contextual re-zoning of our lovely brownstone neighborhood, a much bigger fight has been going on against the Atlantic Yards project.

Community activists have worked tirelessly to protect Brooklyn from Bruce Ratners wrecking balls, but corruption, greed and our self-serving politicians are a powerful force to reckon with. The objections and concerns of Brooklyn residents were disregarded at every turn.

Tomorrow a big rally is being organized to protest Bruce Ratner's groundbreaking ceremony. I will certainly be there to join my Brooklyn neighbors. Please be there as well.

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods via Found in Brooklyn, !!!PROTEST EMINENT DOMAIN at Atlantic Yards "Groundbreaking" Ceremony!!! Thursday @12:30!!!

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods today called on its dozens of member organizations and the tens of thousands of community residents of Prospect Heights, Ft. Greene, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant and Boerum Hill, and all citizens disgusted with the abuse of public process that is called Atlantic Yards, to show up for a protest to the “groundbreaking” scheduled for March 11, 2010.

Curbed, Architecture Dream Team Being Assembled for Atlantic Yards?

The Nets are hopeless, so developer Bruce Ratner is reportedly looking at other ways to infuse his controversial Brooklyn megaproject with talent. Bring on the starchitects! There are 16 residential high-rises that are still part (in theory) of Atlantic Yards, with construction on the first—for which no design has been revealed—slated to begin next spring. Ratner already sacked the biggest name of them all, so who's he looking at now? Here's one: Freedom Tower—pardon, 1 World Trade Center—designer David Childs, who told the Brooklyn Paper that he has discussed working on one of the Atlantic Yards towers with Ratner. And then Childs went and did it: He got our hopes up!

Childs added: "Bruce wants to bring in different architects, good architects, to do each of the residential buildings. That’s something I'd be very excited about. Talking to Bruce, it’s clear that he wants to do this right. He really does." If you say so, buddy. Frank Gehry was tossed off the project in a cost-cutting move, so it's unclear how much Ratner is really willing to spend to import some flashy names.

Gothamist, New Architects For Atlantic Yards?

After firing famed architect Frank Gehry in an effort to cut costs, the developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards project is in talks with the man who designed the Freedom Tower. Architect David Childs told the Brooklyn Paper that Atlantic Yards builder Bruce Ratner asked him to give plans for the proposed basketball arena a "once over," and also discussed hiring him to construct one of the 16 skyscrapers that Ratner wants to build on the site.

Reason Hit & Run, Atlantic Yards Opponent Daniel Goldstein: "I actually don’t feel like I live in New York City or a free country anymore.”

Atlantic Yards Report brings word of the latest ordeal suffered by Brooklyn homeowner Daniel Goldstein as developer Bruce Ratner and his partners in the state government move forward with their plans to build a basketball stadium on top of Goldstein’s home.

PoliticalDog101.com, Counterpoint….Freddy’s Bar in Brooklyn isn’t happy about the upcoming Nets move to Brooklyn…..

The New Jersey Nets are coming to Downtown Brooklyn…..

That’s gonna happen….it’s already started ….as you can see in the photo below…

New York City and New York State have gone to court and won it’s use of eminent domain to clear businesses and the property where the new Nets stadium will be built by a group of private investors over a Long Island Railroad yard and the surrounding area…..

My son has sent me the counterpoint here…about the people who will have to move from this 22 acre development track…..

Freddy’s in Brooklyn….. a nice looking bar….. is gonna have to relocate…..

Wood Art Word, Collective Memory

This blog item actually has nothing to do with Atlantic Yards, except this...

I went to the Asheville East End community meeting last week and got to know some of my neighbors a little better. We did some “meet and greet” activities to get us to mix up a little more. I found there were two major groups: people who had lived their whole lives in the area and people who just recently moved here. I really enjoyed myself, I’ve been wanting to connect more with my surroundings and ease up on the homesickness a little. (although I realize home isn’t exactly home anymore after reading an article on that nasty stadium in the Atlantic Yards of Brooklyn being underway, but I digress…..)

Posted by eric at 11:18 PM

East Harlem Left Disappointed by Local Hires at Another East River Plaza Store

by Jon Schuppe

Another reason why Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatories might be wanting to re-read the fine print.

In a couple of weeks, a second big-box store will open at East River Plaza, the cavernous new shopping center built with promises to provide hundreds of jobs to local residents.

But the community is bracing for more disappointment.

Early indications are that the new retail tenant, Best Buy, appears to be falling short of goals to take 60 percent of its new hires from East Harlem, neighborhood leaders say.

That apparent setback comes several weeks after a decision by the first tenant, Costco, to lay off 132 workers, leaving less than half the staff local.

The memorandum of understanding with Tiago, a partnership of Forest City Ratner Companies and Blumenfeld Development Group, was signed after the community board agreed to allow overnight truck deliveries at the shopping center. That document wasn’t legally binding, but was important to a neighborhood with a 17 percent unemployment rate and where a quarter of residents use food stamps.


Posted by eric at 11:12 PM

Despite citing the ESDC's "deplorable lack of transparency," judge defers to agency in dismissing challenge to 2009 AY approval

Atlantic Yards Report

Just this morning, I wrote that it was unlikely that the major remaining Atlantic Yards lawsuit, that challenging the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) September 2009 approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), would be embraced by a judge, given the enormous deference courts give to agencies like the ESDC.

Indeed, Justice Marcy Friedman today dismissed (PDF) that challenge, in cases brought by two coalitions of community groups, but did so with some scathing language, criticizing the ESDC’s “deplorable lack of transparency” and acknowledging that the ESDC’s use of a ten-year timeframe for the project buildout was supported “only minimally.”

As Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn noted, Friedman’s decision “ignores crucial development agreement documents that would prove otherwise, because the ESDC only released those documents after the legal record was closed”—in late January, I’d add, even though the documents were promised early in the month before the oral argument was to take place.

(According to the documents, the developer has 12 years to build Phase 1 and 25 years to build Phase 2.)


Posted by eric at 5:48 PM

BrooklynSpeaks statement regarding Judge’s decision on MGPP legal challenge

The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors are disappointed that the court did not reverse the approval of the Atlantic Yards’ 2009 Modified General Project Plan [PDF].

Although Judge Friedman ruled against the community’s petition, she criticized the Empire State Development Corporation’s rationale for continuing to rely on the previously-estimated ten-year build out as "marginally sufficient to survive judicial scrutiny under the limited SEQRA standard," and observed that ESDC’s review of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan "lacked the candor that the public was entitled to expect, particularly in light of the scale of the Project and its impact on the community." We couldn’t agree more.

Unfortunately, the judge was not able to consider documents from Atlantic Yards’ master closing because those documents weren’t made public until after the court hearing. The closing documents conclusively establish that the ESDC had no intention of requiring Forest City Ratner to deliver the project on the timeline that was described in the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

It is now clear that the project the agency has agreed to allow the developer to build will have significantly greater environmental impacts and drastically reduced public benefits when compared to those the ESDC had previously disclosed. This sad state of affairs is compounded by the fact that the only environmental impacts studied were those flowing from the 2006 Plan, and the very governmental entities charged with protecting the public from adverse environmental impacts have effectively agreed to look the other way with respect to fifteen additional years of construction.

For now, Atlantic Yards continues to stand alone as a State project with no formal oversight or meaningful public representation in decision-making. However, now that the definitive agreements between ESDC and Forest City Ratner have been made public, the BrooklynSpeaks petitioners are considering further legal options, including seeking reconsideration in light of the new documentation or an appeal. It is long past time that the special treatment enjoyed by this developer end, and Atlantic Yards is brought onto the same playing field as other large ESDC projects.

Posted by eric at 5:43 PM


Atlantic Yards Court Ruling Allows Project to go Forward Despite "Deplorable Lack of Transparency and Candor"

New York, New York—Though she decried the Atlantic Yards process undertaken by the unaccountable, unelected, governor-controlled Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) as exhibiting a "deplorable lack of transparency" and "candor" a Manhattan State Supreme Court judge today ruled that the ESDC minimally complied with the law when it claimed that Bruce Ratner's megaproject would be completed in ten years.

The ruling on the case—which challenged the ESDC's September 2009 approval the Modified General Project Plan—hinged on whether or not there was a rational basis for the ESDC to claim the project would take ten years.

The judge's decision ignores crucial development agreement documents that would prove otherwise, because the ESDC only released those documents after the legal record was closed.

All experts (except for the one paid for by Forest City Ratner) agree that the project will take 20 years at minimum and documentation and agreements show the ESDC expects the project to take at least that long. Even the former ESDC chairwoman, Marisa Lago, said the project would take decades.

"It is a very sad day for this country, and especially New Yorkers, when a court recognizes that a government agency can make a decision that is completely bereft of transparency, defies the facts, is devoid of common sense and ignores the will of the people and yet the court claims it is powerless to do anything about it," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter. "When the courts, the legislature and the governor won't hold unelected bureaucrats accountable for acting without reason or transparency, there is literally nowhere for citizens to turn."

"That is the legacy and hallmark of Atlantic Yards—a total failure of democracy."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and its 19 community group co-plaintiffs are reviewing the ruling and considering an appeal.

Posted by eric at 5:33 PM

Even before Gerges decision, footprint renters were leaving; for some, it was life; for others, it was blight

Atlantic Yards Report

This must-read story from Atlantic Yards Report recounts the human toll of Forest City Ratner's blighting of a neighborhood.

Even before Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges issued his ruling last week approving condemnation for the Atlantic Yards project, several renters who had previously pursued litigation related to the project had moved out of the AY footprint--some quite recently.

For some, changing family circumstances were a driving force.

For others, the impact of living near a construction zone--blight, essentially--made their continued presence ever more difficult.

For some, it was a bit of both.

And it left several with significant bitterness and frustration, sentiments they could express, given that the settlements preclude further litigation but do not impose gag orders.

Read on for Norman Oder's touching interviews with several former footprint residents, including the man behind the until-now-anonymous, quality-over-quantity blog, The Footprint Gazette.


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Before FCR's groundbreaking ceremony, DDDB says "bobblehead versions of the Atlantic Yards enablers will shovel dirt to bury the soul of Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

First, the official invite sent to guests (not to be confused with the press announcement) by Forest City Ratner. (Click on graphic to enlarge)

Norman Oder notes that BrooklynSpeaks has endorsed, and is trying to rally attendance for, the "counter-groundbreaking" demonstration.

Interestingly, BrooklynSpeaks, which for years kept its distance from DDDB as only the latter pursued a litigation strategy, endorsed the protest in its bulletin:

Our neighbors and colleagues Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn will be staging a two-stage counter demonstration that day. Consider taking a long lunch break and joining them to express your feelings about what’s happening – and what’s not happening (like affordable housing and jobs) – at Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

UnBeige, As of Thursday, Atlantic Yards is a Go (More Negative Reviews and Protesters Expected)

Back in November, we told you that the seemingly always troubled Atlantic Yards project was still on wobbly legs, with lawsuits threatening to shut down the new home of the New Jersey Nets. But now it looks like another hurdle has been overcome, with the news that Thursday will see an official groundbreaking ceremony to kick the development off.

Property Rights Alliance, NY Supreme Court Votes to Evict Residents and Close Businesses

Though the tenants technically have a few months before they have to be out of their apartments and condos, Ratner announced that he plans on breaking ground as early as March 11. But the residents refuse to go quietly.

Historic Districts Council Newsstand, Protest the Groundbreaking of Atlantic Yards

Nostrand Park, How Will Atlantic Yards Affect Crown Heights?

Another relatively new blog that doesn't have an opinion on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

An about-face from Ratner: after wanting Gehry to design all AY buildings, now he's said to seek different architects for each one

Atlantic Yards Report

Childs' firm, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, may be in the running for an AY tower, according to the Brooklyn Paper, which reported that he approved of the arena redesign:

“It’s a good-looking design,” said Childs, who specifically cited the building’s “industrial” outer membrane.

Critics Francis Morrone and Paul Goldberger last September slammed Borough President Marty Markowitz for suggesting that the building invoked Brooklyn's industrial heritage.

Gilmartin on architects, MAS

Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin told the Brooklyn Paper that, while FCR had talked to Childs, it was too soon to speculate on who might work on the project. The Paper reported:

“This is about finding the right architects for the challenge,” she said. “There are many architects who could create a beautiful design, but this isn’t only about design. One has to add in the challenge of building a high-rise structure with union labor and an affordable housing component. Atlantic Yards is about cracking the code on this kind of challenge.”

Gilmartin said she was gratified by Childs’s kind words, considering that he is chairman of the Municipal Art Society, a design watchdog group that has a faction that is opposed to Atlantic Yards.

MAS position

The Municipal Art Society (MAS) doesn't have a faction opposed to the project; rather, as it spearheaded BrooklynSpeaks, it has warned of serious design problems in the project, such as superblocks, and since suggested the Atlantic Lots scenario of indefinite interim surface parking.

Then again, when members of BrooklynSpeaks finally went to court last year, MAS was not part of the case.

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

‘Childs’ play: Bruce may be bringing in top architects to work on Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

Where have we heard this one before?

Developer Bruce Ratner appears to be bringing in an all-star team to Atlantic Yards — and we’re not talking about his pathetic Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets.

Legendary architect David Childs — the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill emeritus who was the lead designer of the so-called Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site — told The Brooklyn Paper that he met with Ratner earlier in the year to give the developer’s arena plans a “once over.”

“First, he brought me in to look at the arena design, which I think is very good now,” Childs said, referring to the current design collaboration between Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects.

Very good? Childs must have a hankering for a pressed sandwich.

“And then we talked about working together on the residential buildings,” added Childs, who was celebrating the opening of his firm’s signature Brooklyn building, the 38-story Toren tower on Flatbush Avenue.

“Bruce wants to bring in different architects, good architects, to do each of the residential buildings,” Childs said. “That’s something I’d be very excited about. Talking to Bruce, it’s clear that he wants to do this right. He really does.”

Wasn't hiring starchitect Frank Gehry Ratner's attempt "to do this right?" This is deja vu all over again.

Childs added that he was comforted by his chat with Ratner, given that the developer has a torturous history with architects. Before hiring Frank Gehry to design the Atlantic Yards mini-city, Ratner’s work in Brooklyn — such as the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls — was pedestrian at best.

Gehry promised to change all that, but last year, he was fired by Ratner in a cost-saving move.


NoLandGrab: To quote a great American philosopher, "fool me once....

Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

Jason Kidd: Nets will turn it around

Bergen Record
by Al Iannazzone

Ex-New Jersey Net Jason Kidd believes that when the cloud that's been hanging over the team for the past six years — aka Bruce C. Ratner — finally lifts, they might not be so bad.

With Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov set to take ownership and team president Rod Thorn expected to stay, Kidd believes things can change for the better pretty quickly.

"It's something that they'll do right," Kidd said during a phone interview. "They'll get it turned back around at some point. It's just a matter of time.

"Rod and the new owner will definitely get it back on track."


Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

For the record: an FAQ about Atlantic Yards, including timing, costs, revenues, jobs, and housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder pours a liberal dose of truth serum on his continuing series compiling the Atlantic Yards historical record.

In preparation for the groundbreaking Thursday, an FAQ to correct some misapprehensions. (Also see a gallery of images over the years and the original p.r. packet from 12/10/03.)

(Sources include my list of common mistakes and an FAQ on the new arena architects.)


Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

March 9, 2010

Burglary on your block? Check out The Brooklyn Paper’s new interactive crime map

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

The Brooklyn Paper’s most-loved column — the weekly Police Blotter — enters the modern age this week with a new feature that gives you maps of all the crimes in our coverage area, allowing you to search block-by-block, crime-by-crime or precinct-by-precinct.

Has there been a burglary on your block?

What’s the latest on the iPhone bandit?

Where are the hotspots for car theft?

It’s all now one click away.

Click here for instructions on how to use The Brooklyn Paper's new interactive crime map.

Clicking on most any point on the map will open a pop-up window with the type of crime, the date and time when the crime was perpetrated, the police precinct in which it occurred, and The Brooklyn Paper's description of the crime. In every case in which we clicked on a point on the map, it revealed a single crime — except for two locations. Can you guess what those were?

Yup, clicking on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls opens super-sized pop-up windows chock full of criminal activity — and that's just for the past 90 days.

Here the report on the latest crimes:

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter, More oyPhone trouble

More Target trauma

There were two more crimes at the Atlantic Avenue Target that came to light last week. Here’s a roundup:

• A thief stole a mom’s purse from the lobby of the building, which is near the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, while she was folding her baby’s stroller on Feb. 28. The victim told cops that this mom menace must have grabbed her purse off the floor while she was busy with the child at around 1 pm.

• An employee turned conniving counterfeiter when he tried to pay for items with fake money on Jan. 23. The fake funds amounted to over $2,500, but the crime was not discovered until last week.

Posted by eric at 11:01 PM

For Goldstein, Pacific Street is a "cage" and an unofficial eviction letter is, according to his attorney, an "attempt to intimidate"

Atlantic Yards Report

Things are getting truly strange for Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, who with his wife and child is the only resident left on Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

Goldstein lost his condo to condemnation last week and his street and two others were closed and made private.

Now that his street is closed to traffic--permanently at Fifth Avenue, and via guarded barriers at Sixth Avenue, anyone visiting Goldstein must provide advance notice, which means friends have been stopped by guards and kept him on the phone today with representatives of both Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which owns his property.

Letter from the state

Goldstein on March 4 received a letter from Charles Webb, ESDC Condemnation Counsel, informing him that "ESDC requires you to relocate by April 3, 2010 (third days after the date of this letter) so that development plans for the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project... may proceed."

He also was told by his landlord that no improvement or alterations are allowed, nor are sublets or other occupants. And he must pay rent, beginning April 1--for three days?

His use and occupancy charges are in the amount of his former condominium common charges: $534.36 per month.

Lawyer's response

Goldstein's attorney Michael Rikon (disclosure) responded forcefully (below), on behalf of Goldstein and other footprint property owners, calling Webb's letter "an attempt to intimidate our clients":

First, you have absolutely no right to inform anyone that they must vacate by April 3, 2010. You must understand that condemnees have the protection of New York's Eminent Domain Procedure Law. You cannot even suggest a vacate date until you comply with the requirements of the law.

Those requirements include a notice of acquisition and a good faith advance payment. Then the date to vacate would be set by the condemnation court.

He added that "no roadway or access to a street or highway may be interfered with."


Posted by eric at 10:27 PM

State 'cages' key Atlantic Yards holdout

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

Daniel Goldstein feels he’s being treated like an Enemy of the State.

Goldstein – the public face of an opposition group that nearly killed Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project through mounting litigation – isn’t a convict behind bars or under house arrest. But he says he’s now being forced to check with the state whenever he has visitors to his Prospect Heights condo.

Goldstein and his family are the last holdouts on a Pacific Street block between Fifth and Sixth avenues that was fenced off from the rest of the real world yesterday to pave way for Atlantic Yards.

It is now impossible to enter the Fifth Avenue side, which is closed off with cement barricades. The Sixth Avenue side has temporary barricades being guarded by security officers, who are blocking all vehicles entering the block except Goldstein’s.

The guards, Goldstein said, are even stopping friends and family walking to his home to visit him, his wife and 16-month-old daughter.

“I’ve been told I can’t have visitors unless I give advanced notice,” said Goldstein, adding he had friends already stopped by guards.

“I live in New York City and pay taxes, so there’s no way that I should be treated differently. I actually don’t feel like I live in New York City or a free country anymore.”

While his mail is getting delivered, something as routine as having pizza delivered is now problematic, he added.

Elizabeth Mitchell, an Empire State Development Corp. spokeswoman, said “we are aware of Mr. Goldstein's concerns. The goal is to disrupt Mr. Goldstein and the other occupants' lives as little as possible while addressing the safety and security issues related to the development of the project, and we will continue to work with Forest City Ratner Co. to achieve this goal.”


NoLandGrab: With all due respect to Elizabeth Mitchell, that sounds like just one more load of bulls--- from an agency that seems to specialize in it.

Posted by eric at 10:19 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, March 11. 12:30. Groundbreaking Ceremony To Bury the Soul of Brooklyn

Thursday, March 11. 12:30pm

Groundbreaking Ceremony To Bury the Soul of Brooklyn

What: Groundbreaking to Bury the Soul of Brooklyn

Who: Three foot tall bobblehead Bloomberg, Markowitz, Pataki, Spitzer, Paterson, Schumer, Cuomo, Prokhorov and Ratner

Where: Outside of Freddy's Bar, 485 Dean Street (corner of 6th Avenue)

When: Thursday, March 11. 12:30pm SHARP

Forest City Ratner will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking for the developers billion dollar Barclays Center Arena. The Atlantic Yards Project was once supposed to bring 2,250 units of publicly subsidized "affordable" housing. On Thursday, March 11, the developer, Mayor and Governor will shovel dirt for an arena that will house nobody and will be a money loser for New York City. There are no designs, renderings or models for any other part of the project.

Join Bloomberg, Markowitz, Pataki, Spitzer, Paterson, Schumer, Cuomo, Prokhorov and Ratner as they convene a Groundbreaking to Bury the Soul of Brooklyn.

Prior to their own Boondoggle Celebration at 1:30, three-foot tall bobblehead versions of the Atlantic Yards enablers will shovel dirt to bury the soul of Brooklyn. This event will feature Borough President Markowitz's Proclamation Marking the Events of the Day.

The Groundbreaking to Bury the Soul of Brooklyn will take place at 12:30 pm on Thursday, March 11 in front of Freddy's Bar in the project footprint at the corner of Dean Street and 6th Avenue.

It is not to be missed.

The Huffington Post, Why I Will Be Protesting Atlantic Yards Thursday

Steve Ettlinger will be protesting. Will you?

They may have scheduled a ground-breaking ceremony, but I just don't think the fat lady has sung yet, as far as the Atlantic Yards-Forest City Ratner-NY State boondoggle/landgrab goes.

Too much smells so bad it just can't be left alone. We've got keep on top the process, looking for the sources of those smells.

Some may ask what my motivation is. I can't speak for the over 50 civic groups and over 7,000 petition signers, nor for the 4 or 5,000 regular donors to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, but I think we all share some concerns.

Curbed, Bobblemania at Atlantic Yards

How will the Atlantic Yards agitators at Freddy's Bar commemorate the Barclays Center ceremonial groundbreaking on Thursday? By holding their own "ceremony" at the exact same time, featuring "three-foot tall bobblehead versions of the Atlantic Yards enablers" (including Mayor Bloomberg, Bruce Ratner and Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov) that "will shovel dirt to bury the soul of Brooklyn." That sounds even better than the beer can guillotine. Admit it, Ratner, you're going to miss these guys.

FREE WHITEWATER, Eminent Domain Abuse: Billionaires vs. Brooklyn’s Best Bar

It’s true that libertarians believe that government solutions are less effective and productive than private ones. It’s also true that business sometimes colludes with government to pressure other businesses. It’s an unfair partnership by which some businesses take opportunities from others, all the while allowing government to claim that it supports business.

Government favoring some businesses over others is neither fair nor efficient.

Here’s an eminent domain abuse story from New York that highlights one aspect of the undesirable partnership between government and business.

Posted by eric at 5:31 PM

More Inside Baseketball

Daily Transom [NY Observer.com], Inside the Barclays Center

Now that Atlantic Yards is all but cleared for construction, Forest City Ratner is showing off what the interior will look like.

The new renderings are almost as space-age as the recent exterior shots, with stage lights beaming around in all directions. Aside from that, it mostly just looks like an arena, though the Post has a run-down of its bells and whistles. Notably, there's a feature designed to increase home-court advantage by aiming reflective materials back at the court, thus amplifying crowd noise. Which might be a good idea if the team weren't 7-56 and probably prefers not to hear what their fans are screaming.

Metro NY, Nets arena reveals its ‘intimate’ inside face

With the groundbreaking for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development scheduled this week, the Nets released new interior images of the 675,000-square-foot Barclays Center to rise at the corner of Brooklyn’s Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. The $1 billion arena, slated to open in 2012, will create “intimate seating” to keep 18,000 basketball fans close to the action, officials said.

Famous architect Frank Gehry was ditched last year for the less expensive designs of Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects.

BOCOCALand, Barcley’s [sic] Center Interior Revealed

Expect plenty of restaurants and a whopping six clubs inside the arena which will also play host to concerts. I know there’s been plenty of controversy around this behemoth development project, but I am not well versed enough to take a particular stand on it one way or the other. Please feel free to comment and let us know your thoughts.

NoLandGrab: We know that most people don't waste spend as much time on Atlantic Yards as we do, and we know that BOCOCALand is a relatively new blog, but is anyone in Brooklyn at this point not versed enough to take a particular stand when it comes to Bruce Ratner's eminent domain-abusing, subsidy-gobbling megaproject?

Posted by eric at 5:05 PM

Rev. Flake, rapper Jay-Z exit sinking Aqueduct bid

Withdrawals come amid ongoing federal and state investigations into how AEG was picked to develop huge racino in Queens.

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

Jay-Z is pulling out of a crooked real estate deal — but it's not Atlantic Yards.

After weeks of controversy and federal and state investigations involving Gov. David Paterson's selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group to develop the Aqueduct racino, Rev. Floyd Flake and rapper Jay-Z both withdrew themselves from the project Tuesday afternoon. The defections come at a time when the deal was already foundering, and sources say that it is now coming apart quickly and could be canceled by the governor within days.

Jay-Z, who also withdrew his participation in the group Tuesday, according to sources, had a small stake amounting to 2% in AEG through an entity called Gain Global Investments Network.


NoLandGrab: As Norman Oder pointed out last week, Atlantic Yards makes the Aqueduct Racino deal look squeaky-clean. When can we expect the federal and state investigations?

Posted by eric at 4:55 PM

To move tickets (at significant but non-bargain discounts), Nets and partners resort to extreme whimsy and euphemism

Atlantic Yards Report

The web-based Groupon business, which offers discounts if a minimum number of people make a purchase, is now offering Nets tickets with a face value of $100 for $39--not much of a bargain.

And the text of the offer not only mistakes the Falcons for a basketball team, it resorts to extreme whimsy ("impressive demonstrations of talent" include "drinking from Gatorade cups") and euphemism (the team, threatening to set a record for losses, is "a few games out of first place").

But is Groupon--often the source of genuine bargains--as good in this case as StubHub?

Well, for the March 16 game against Atlanta, StubHub offers tickets in sections 104 and 118 for $10.


NoLandGrab: $39 for one ticket? You can take a whole family of protestors to a Nets game for little more than that.

Posted by eric at 2:22 PM

Some wary about Superfunded Gowanus

Courier-Life Publications
by Gary Buiso

Here's a blast from the past.

Dolly Williams, a former member of the City Planning Commission, told an overflow crowd at a public meeting last week that a potential deal fell through because of the stigma associated with the designation, which will trigger a $500 million federally overseen cleanup of the polluted canal.

“I just lost the sale. It’s because of Superfund,” said Williams, co-founder of A. Williams Construction, a general contracting firm based on Third Avenue.

She said the prospective buyer of a property on Ninth Street read about the designation, and was suddenly “no longer interested.”

Williams said a depressed real market has people already adopting a “wait and see” attitude. But the designation is going to make buyers even more cautious, she warned, making it difficult for people like Williams who, she said, “work and create [to] jump start the economy.”

In 2007, Williams, Brooklyn’s representative on the commission, was not reinstated by Borough President Marty Markowitz after questions were raised in the press about her financial stake in proposals or projects being weighedby the City Planning — including the rezoning of the Gowanus and the Atlantic Yards project.


NoLandGrab: The (self-professed) altruism of real estate developers never ceases to amaze us.

Posted by eric at 2:14 PM

For the record: a visual history of Atlantic Yards, including four generations of Gehry renderings and the successor (arena + vaportecture)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder, who's been the unofficial historian of the Atlantic Yards project, is now migrating to official status.

It's not easy to keep track of the Atlantic Yards project, so, for the record, I've compiled a file of various renderings, images, and maps of the project, including promotional material (from Forest City Ratner and the opposition), the block and lot map, the blight map, and the 2006 timetable.

Included are Frank Gehry's four (!) designs, from 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2008. Note how Phase 2 disappeared in 2008, as did Site 5, the one tower planned below Flatbush Avenue.

And note how the latest images, from SHoP, dispense from any towers at all, treating them as "vaportecture."

Click thru for the slide show.


Posted by eric at 2:06 PM

Brooklyn Streets Close For Atlantic Yards Construction

NY1 News
by Jeanine Ramirez

After years of controversy and delay, some major streets in Brooklyn closed Monday, ahead of the much-anticipated groundbreaking this week for the Atlantic Yards Project.

Fencing went up to block off Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Carleton, and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

Traffic officers did their best to help drivers get around.

"You see the traffic on Atlantic Avenue now, it's wild; it's crazy," said driver Austin James, a Fort Greene resident. "I don't know what the solution is. It's going to be a nightmare."


Related coverage...

NBC New York, Streets Close as Atlantic Yards Construction Moves Ahead

Traffic is getting snarled around the site of the planned Atlantic Yards complex in downtown Brooklyn, as streets in the area reportedly begin to close to clear way for construction on the controversial $4.9 million project.

Street closings include Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Carleton, and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, New York 1 reports. The area is already backlogged with traffic and many drivers are expecting a traffic "nightmare."

Apparently, that traffic nightmare has already begun.

Atlantic Yards Report, "Turbulence and confusion" as drivers go wrong way on Pacific Street

"I do not expect perpetual gridlock, and my name is 'Gridlock Sam,'" observed Forest City Ratner consultant Sam Schwartz at a meeting on street closings February 24. "I absolutely believe there will be turbulence and confusion the first few days this goes in."

Indeed, even though the street closings plan maintains Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues as one-way westbound, that message, on the second day of changes, has not gotten through, according to the photos forwarded to me of traffic going east. (Click on graphics to enlarge)

[Warning: Take Dramamine before viewing video.]

NoLandGrab: Is there at least a little irony in the fact that it's a New York City garbage truck going the wrong way on Pacific Street? Forest City Ratner-funded Traffic Control Agents helping drivers navigate the new street configuration don't seem to be having much of an affect.

Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

Paterson, Bloomberg, Markowitz, Ratner, Jay-Z (but no Prokhorov) scheduled for arena groundbreaking Thursday; will they let me in?

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner yesterday sent out a press release regarding the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, to be held at 1:30 p.m. at the intersection of Fifth and Atlantic avenues.

Leaders of the state (Gov. David Paterson), city (Mayor Mike Bloomberg), and borough (Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz) are expected; it will be interesting to see how many local elected officials and community board officials choose to attend.

Also present will be developer Bruce Ratner, naming rights purchaser Bob Diamond of Barclays Capital, and entertain Jay-Z, who owns a tiny slice of the team. Unmentioned in the press release is prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, scheduled to buy 80% of the team and 45% of the arena.

Is it that Prokhorov hasn't been officially approved as owner? Or is it that significant subsidies, tax breaks, and the use of eminent domain looks a little different when the beneficiary is Russia's richest man?

Norman Oder wonders if he'll be allowed beyond the velvet rope.

Note that only "officially credentialed press" will be allowed in, which can be used to keep out both self-appointed temporary journalists as well as yours truly.

I asked FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco and he said he'd check.

I'm not holding my breath. I wasn't allowed into the notorious Frank Gehry press conference in May 2006 but I was allowed into the January 2007 naming rights event, largely because I was covering it for the weekly Brooklyn Downtown Star.

But if it's a ban, it's a ridiculous one. They read my work. They know I know more about this project than the "officially credentialed journalists." They know that I'll likely cover the event in greater detail than afforded in print on on TV.


Additional coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking Set for Thursday

The first phase of Atlantic Yards will also include three residential buildings, with construction of the first starting later this year, according to the company. Several local streets were recently closed as part of the overall Atlantic Yards plan.

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards, led by the organization Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, are planning a demonstration at a site yet to be announced in the project’s “footprint.”

Not Another F*cking Blog, Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking Ceremonies – March 11th

(Un)fortunately, I won’t be there to witness the lies first hand, but all the Atlantic Yards perpetrators will be wielding their golden shovels this coming Thursday, March 11th, at 1:30pm for the ceremonial Barclays Center & Atlantic Yards groundbreaking. I expect Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s Groundbreaking Ceremony (to bury the soul of Brooklyn) to be a much more interesting event, and I am sorry that I’ll miss that.

CoStar Group, In The Pipeline: CoStar Development and Construction News for March 7-13

WCBS Newsradio 880, Downtown Brooklyn Prepares for Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking

Here on Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, huge neon signs read CLOSED.

It's to make way for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project.

link / audio

Atlantic Yards Report, "Let the evictions begin," says WCBS radio in its report on the "Downtown Brooklyn" project

It's just a 42-second radio report according to the audio but it's rather broad-brush.

"Let the evictions begin, as stretches of key avenues here in Downtown Brooklyn are now closed to make way for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project," declares Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs. "Somewhat surprisingly, many residents and business owners I'm talking to say, bring it on."

(There are no evictions yet, or court orders, despite reports of letters sent by the Empire State Development Corporation.)

The only person quoted is a guy who runs a bagel shop on Fifth Avenue and, while the store isn't specified, it might be A.R.E.A. Bagels & Bialys, which was originally--before protests--named for the arena.

"So you see it as a good business move, it's going to help you?" the reporter asks, in a helpful leading question.

Yes, replies the bagel guy.

NoLandGrab: We fully expect A.R.E.A. Bagels to revert to ARENA Bagels once construction begins in earnest.

Posted by eric at 1:07 PM


Ceremonial Groundbreaking to Celebrate the Next Phase of Construction On Atlantic Yards and Sports and Entertainment Arena in Brooklyn

Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Forest City Ratner Companies Chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner, Barclays PLC President Robert E. Diamond, Jr., NETS investor and cultural icon Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter, and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Brett Yormark, among others, will be on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards on Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 5th and Atlantic Avenues in Brooklyn (12:30 PM press set up, 1:30 PM ceremony).

While work has been ongoing at the site since last fall, and with the temporary rail yard completed last December, the March 11 groundbreaking ceremony will mark the next phase of construction on the 18,000-seat world-class sports and entertainment arena. The Barclays Center will host more than 200 events annually, including professional and collegiate sports, concerts, family shows, NETS Basketball, and much more. The first phase of Atlantic Yards will also include three residential buildings, with the first starting later this year.

WHAT: Ceremonial groundbreaking for Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards.

WHO: Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Forest City Ratner Companies Chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner, Barclays PLC President Robert E. Diamond, Jr., NETS investor and cultural icon Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter, and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Brett Yormark, among others.

WHEN: Thursday, March 11, 2010. Ceremony to start at 1:30 PM.


WHERE: Intersection of 5th and Atlantic Avenues, Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

Campaigning for Governor

WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show

Another Republican candidate for Governor, former Congressman Rick Lazio, hems and haws about Atlantic Yards and eminent domain on yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show.

The brief "yes or no" question begins around the 16:20 mark.

Lehrer: "Do you support eminent domain for Atlantic Yards?"

Lazio: "Uh, hffff, uh, I, I, I, I say yes, but a qualified yes, and I need to look at that plan more carefully to make sure that this is being done in a way that is..., that doesn't undermine the historic neighborhood...."


NoLandGrab: We would hope that after "careful" review, Mr. Lazio's "qualified yes" might become an unqualified no.

Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

Redlich Condemns Atlantic Yards Decision

Redlich for Governor

Libertarian (and Republican) gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich draws a stark contrast with equivocating sitting Governor David Paterson when it comes to Atlantic Yards.

Governor candidate Warren Redlich condemned the latest Atlantic Yards court decision. Justice Abraham Gerges upheld the seizure of homes and businesses so that developer Bruce Ratner can build apartments, office space and a sports arena in Brooklyn.

In Redlich’s view, Atlantic Yards is a symptom of the state’s problems: “Politicians reward and protect insiders, like we keep seeing in the Capitol. Eminent domain can be used, sparingly, when government takes private property for public purposes such as a road. But the Kelo decision and projects like Atlantic Yards grossly abuse eminent domain to benefit private developers connected with political leaders.”

While other states have acted to curb eminent domain abuse, New York’s legislators and governors have done nothing. New York taxpayers fund the violation of property rights in such cases as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and West Harlem in Manhattan, for the benefit of developers. Redlich would amend eminent domain laws to protect property owners.

Redlich also calls for abolishing the involved state agencies, including the Empire State Development Corporation and others. Eliminating “economic development” spending would save approximately $3 billion in the state budget.


Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

At Borough Hall, Paterson asserts he's making tough decisions, but when it comes to Atlantic Yards, he punts (with video)

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking at a budget Town Hall meeting yesterday before a friendly audience at Brooklyn, Gov. David Paterson portrayed his administration as making tough decisions, speaking the truth, and maintaining accountability.

However, when he faced a tough question about the Atlantic Yards project, he deferred to the courts, somehow ignoring the fact that, under his watch, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) both approved the project and defended it to the hilt in court.

The video below contains segments edited from Paterson's opening address; an Atlantic Yards question from Council Member Letitia James; an AY question from Noticing New York blogger Michael D.D. White; Paterson's closing remarks; and comments from Dean Street resident Peter Krashes on Paterson's unfulfilled opportunity to create a governance structure for the project.

Norman Oder has much more on the Town Hall meeting via the link.


Additional coverage...

Courier-Life Publications, Paterson comes to Brooklyn Borough Hall

Embattled Governor David Paterson came to Borough Hall Monday to talk budget, amid continued questions of his alleged misconduct.

Along the way, Paterson appeared to sidestep Atlantic Yards while addressing such issues as a tax on sugary drinks and allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores.

When asked about his support of the $4-plus billion Atlantic Yards including the Barclays Center arena, Paterson noted the project was already in place when he took office.

There has been plenty of debate on both sides of this issue, he said, noting the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of condemning property for the 22-acre project at the Flatbush/Atlantic Avenue intersection.

“Ten years from now they [proponents of the project] will be right or you’ll be right, but I didn’t want to impose on the court’s decision,” said Paterson.

Runnin' Scared, Paterson's Town Hall -- Some Other Moments of Truth, Or As Close As We Can Get

He took some small flak from council member Tish James about both Atlantic Yards and his proposed soda "fat tax" proposal which she said was "regressive." The governor, seated cross-legged in a wooden chair on a platform, said that the decision on the Yards happened on someone else's watch and that he is now just going along with an appeals court decision on it, one that "surprised him."

So nice they covered it twice?

Runnin' Scared, David Paterson Budget Town Hall: As Pointless As You'd Imagine It To Be

[Councilwoman Letitia James] asked him to fill the budget gap by closing prisons upstate, and by diverting public money from the Atlantic Yards project, which is in her district and which she considers "a waste of taxpayer dollars."

When a follow up questioner also asked him why he wasn't fighting to keep the state from paying $2.9 billion towards the Atlantic Yards "boondoggle," Paterson punted to the Court of Appeals, and tried to side-step the issue as something that was in place before he arrived and decided by the courts during his tenure beyond his control.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Paterson, at Borough Hall, Takes Break From Scandal

Several people in the audience criticized the state’s sponsorship of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, calling it a boondoggle that costs the state $7.3 billion [sic: the state's contribution, while still substantial, would be a fraction of that amount]. They called attention to the fact that Paterson, while a state senator, had made statements critical of the plan.

Paterson replied that, while he realizes that the plan is contentious on both sides, he waited to make any public pronouncement until state Supreme Court Justice Abraham G. Gerges made his ruling. Justice Gerges recently ruled that the state could take the title of land in the Atlantic Yards “footprint” from private landowners.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Paterson, Shirking Responsibility, Tries to Rewrite Atlantic Yards History

Paterson is trying to re-write history. While Atlantic Yards was unveiled and approved under Pataki, a new sweeter-heart deal with the MTA was struck with Ratner under Governor Paterson, and a Modified General Project Plan was introduced and approved under the Paterson Administration. Both of those Paterson actions took place in September 2009.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

March 10 at Freddy's: Screening of Footage and Clips from "Battle of Brooklyn"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On the eve of Ratner's ceremonial groundbreaking, the Kings County Cinema Society, "an informal organization devoted to the unfettered, unbiased love of film and the moving image in the borough of Brooklyn, and occasionally beyond" presents:

Wednesday, March 10
Wed. 3/10, 8:30pm SHARP.
Locally-made docs at Freddy's

Freddy’s Bar & Backroom, 485 Dean St. @ 6th Ave, 2/3 to Bergen, any train to Atlantic Pacific.

Total program totals under 90 minutes

Join us Wednesday March 10th for three homemade docs from Brooklyn filmmakers:

Michael Galinsky will be on hand with interview footage and clips from a rough cut of their investigation into the politics of the massive Atlantic Yards/ Barclays Center development, Battle of Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

New Brooklyn arena's interior design revealed

NY Post
by Rich Calder

The Nets should finally have a true home-court advantage when they flee New Jersey for Brooklyn in 2012 as the team’s new $1 billion digs feature enough lower-level seating to keeps fans close to the action.

With the groundbreaking for the long-anticipated Barclays Center set for Thursday, the Nets today released renderings of the arena’s basketball and concert layouts that team officials boasted offer unparalleled sight lines.

After reviewing the new renderings, Robert Boland, a sports management professor at New York University, said the Barclays Center’s interior has "a very retro feel to it," similar to Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

He said Barclays’ sight lines are better than Madison Square Garden’s – which is "no shock" because the Garden is 42 years old – but are "no better" than what the Nets currently offer fans at the Izod Center in New Jersey.

"The positive here is that there’s a lot of lower-bowl seating, which makes this is a great place to see a concert and should help the Nets sell more tickets, but it appears there’s too many seats behind the baskets that obstruct courtside views," said Boland, who rated the arena design "B-minus."


NoLandGrab: It appears from the renderings that the court-side seating is structural, which would render the arena incapable of accommodating an NHL-sized hockey rink — meaning no Brooklyn Islanders.

Related coverage...

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Update: New Renderings; Signage Debated!

Head on over to the Barclays Center website (or check out the gallery above) and you'll notice new interior renderings of the 675,000-square-foot bottle opener designed by Ellerbe Becket and New York's own SHoP (the architects once ran us through the design). A sports management professor told the Post that the arena has a retro feel and the sight lines are better than those at Madison Square Garden, but overall he rated the design a "B-minus." Feel the excitement!

Gothamist, Interior Of Planned Brooklyn Nets Arena Revealed

Two days before the official ground-breaking for the long-delayed Atlantic Yards megaproject, developer Bruce Ratner and the New Jersey Nets unveiled renderings of the interior of their planned Brooklyn basketball arena. After scrapping an original design by Frank Gehry over financial concerns and nixing a second design by the firm Ellerbe Becket after it was derided for being too dull, Ratner tapped Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects to draft up a new plan for the arena, which is dubbed the Barclays Center.

Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

March 8, 2010

It came from the Blogosphere...

Streetsblog, For Pedestrians, Atlantic and Flatbush Could Go From Bad to Worse

This time-lapse film by Tracy Collins at Not Another F*cking Blog is a telling indictment of poor pedestrian conditions at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. And depending on how Bruce Ratner's new sports arena is built out -- the groundbreaking is set for this week -- things could get much worse.

As exemplified by the crosswalk hogs in the video, this is a terrible environment for pedestrians right now. If and when the arena arrives, two things will happen: thousands of pedestrians will arrive via transit to get to games -- the more the better, but they'll need more space; and more people will be driving here, especially if there's a huge surface parking lot.

Fork in the Road, Freddy's 30-Day Notice a Fake, But Eviction Still Looms; Now Get Ready for Freddy's II

The staff over at Freddy's Bar and Back Room was a little shaken up last week after receiving what appeared to be an eviction notice demanding that they vacate the premises within 30 days. But it appears that their distress was a little premature. Per an email from manager Donald O'Finn, the notice was not valid.

"30-day notice was a head-fake from (developer Bruce) Ratner," writes O'Finn. "Not a legal document at all!"

Not that he can claim to have won his war against the Empire State Development Corporation. Last week, a judge denied the last appeal blocking the bar's seizure under eminent domain. Still, O'Finn is unruffled.


Though the eviction notice beloved Prospect Heights watering hole Freddy's was served with last week supposedly isn't legit, their closing to make room for Atlantic Yards development is eminent. We don't even want to think about it.

Brownstoner, Freddy's Gets Eviction Letter from Bruce

At the end of the day on Friday, the Village Voice reported that Freddy's Bar & Back Room, which has served as the official watering hole of the anti-Atlantic Yards movement, had received an official eviction notice to vacate the premises within 30 days. A regular, however, clarified the situation in the comments section: "Freddy's got something that was meant to look like an eviction notice. But it was just a trick by the developer. An actual eviction notice is a legal document (last night's letter was not) from the court (this was from Ratner's lawyers) and served by a process server (last night's letter came by courier.)"

The L Magazine, Freddy's, Beloved, Boozy Vessel for All Our Anti-Atlantic Yards Anger, Gets Evicted!

While some news outlets were correcting the record on Freddy's "eviction," others were running behind the curve.

Freddy's, basically the last business still operating in the Atlantic Yards footprint and a recent recipient of an L Magazine bar award, was served its 30-day eviction notice last week.

Hey, let's all go get drunk and pass out in front of bulldozers!

NY Barfly, Drunk Shopping Time / Strongest Beer in the World

Fork in the Road has a bittersweet interview with Donald O’Finn from Freddy’s Bar and Back Room, which is facing imminent closure by the city due to the Atlantic Yards project. They put up the noble drunken fight, that’s for sure.

Kings County Cinema Society, 3/10: Locally-made docs at Freddy’s

Description: Join us Wednesday March 10th for three homemade docs from Brooklyn filmmakers:

Michael Galinsky will be on hand with interview footage and clips from a rough cut of their investigation into the politics of the massive Atlantic Yards/ Barclays Center development, Battle of Brooklyn

Filmmaker Adam Chadwick and producer Bill Loerch will be on hand to introduce a rough cut of their in-progress doc Fit To Print, about the decline of the newspaper industry in America

Lastly, a screening of A Hole in a Fence (2007, 46min) about a peculiar abandoned lot in Red Hook, BK.

Runnin' Scared, Paterson's Town Hall -- Some Other Moments of Truth, Or As Close As We Can Get

He took some small flak from council member Tish James about both Atlantic Yards and his proposed soda "fat tax" proposal which she said was "regressive." The governor, seated cross-legged in a wooden chair on a platform, said that the decision on the Yards happened on someone else's watch and that he is now just going along with an appeals court decision on it, one that "surprised him."

NoLandGrab: While the Yards were launched two gubernatorial watches ago, and advanced on the last one, it's "happening" on Paterson's watch — and he could have stopped it at any time.

Posted by eric at 6:25 PM

ESDC says arena rooftop signage must meet design guidelines (which would seemingly ban it); also, arena philosophy, views from facade architect SHOP

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, so the rooftop Barclays Center logo that appears in a current rendering of the Atlantic Yards arena may just be a piece of architectural overstretch.

It seems to violate the Design Guidelines as stated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and an ESDC spokewoman hinted--though didn't state firmly--that such illuminated signage would be disallowed.


Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Want to fix Fourth Avenue? Slow ‘em down!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Andy Campbell

In all the talk about how to fix Fourth Avenue, a consensus is emerging around one single idea: slow those cars down!

That’s the new message being touted by city planners, transportation officials and residents as more and more people get on the bandwagon to turn at least the Park Slope portion of the Downtown-Bay Ridge speedway into more of a neighborhood street.

The [New York University] students will present their final proposal [for re-imagining Fourth Avenue] in May. NYU grad student Noah Levine wouldn’t release much until the proposal is finished, but we do know that Borough President Markowitz wants furniture on the sidewalks, a tree-lined portion that mimics Park Avenue in Manhattan and a wide pedestrian walkway.

But he also wants the New Jersey Nets to move to a 19,000-seat arena at the northern terminus of Fourth Avenue, which is expected to be completed in 2012 and would be something of a punctuation mark on the boulevard’s boom, which began with the 2003 rezoning that allowed 12-story residential buildings, a change in zoning that set off a wave of construction, mostly between Atlantic Avenue and the Prospect Expressway.


Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Freddy's Bar Calls Ratner the Bernie Madoff of Real Estate

NY1 News via YouTube

"Favoritism and New York State's eminent domain laws are a bad combination that means you only own your home as long as a billionaire like Ratner doesn't want it for himself. We must change this law, as 43 other states already have, to protect regular people from the government's favorite people like Ratner."


Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Brooklyn Streets Close For Atlantic Yards Construction

NY1 News

After years of controversy and delay, streets are closing in Brooklyn, ahead of the much-anticipated groundbreaking this week for the Atlantic Yards Project.

Street closings include Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and 6th, Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Carleton, and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

The project has divided the surrounding neighborhood – with some accepting the long-term goals of the construction, and others taking issue with eminent domain and the possibility of more traffic.

While many say there are some benefits as far as jobs and affordable housing, they say adjustments that could have been made were not and they plan to monitor the project very closely.

"We need to make sure the city and state are responsive, open, and are prepared to make changes when there are complaints that come forward from the community, that we have a mechanism to do so, that our complaints and concerns don't fall on deaf ears,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.


Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Calls For Ratner Arena Groundbreaking Festivities To Be Open To All Brooklynites

BROOKLYN — In anticipation of Forest City Ratner's, Mayor Bloomberg's and the Empire State Development Corporation's ceremonial groundbreaking for the Barclays Center Arena on Thursday, March 11 Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) encourages Forest City Ratner to open the festivities to all Brooklynites.

Forest City Ratner has always claimed that the arena project is for the whole Brooklyn community and that the community has always been included throughout the process. On this big day for Ratner, DDDB calls on the developer, the City and State, to prove that the project is indeed for all Brooklynites.

"We call on Bruce Ratner, New York City and State to open the Barclays Arena ceremonial groundbreaking festivities to all Brooklynites. We take Mr. Ratner at his word when he says his arena is for all of Brooklyn and that the community is very important to his company,” said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “We expect Brooklynites to be able to freely share in the day's festivities, and we sure hope that it is not just an exclusive, cordoned off event for the wealthy, powerful, connected and bought off."

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Census of Places that Matter, art opening, and the (upcoming) "vanished site" of Freddy's

Atlantic Yards Report

Someone asked me if Freddy's Bar & Backroom, fated for demolition after a court approved eminent domain, could be landmarked, and the answer is, of course, no: it's not a building of particularly architectural merit inside or out and, if the terra cotta Ward Bakery couldn't be landmarked, Freddy's sure can't.

But Freddy's, which in its Backroom last night held an opening for an art retrospective over 13 years, does deserve a spot--anyone can enter it--in the Census of Places that Matter, the very democratic list published as part of the Place Matters project created by the cultural organization City Lore and the Municipal Art Society, a design/planning organization.

I checked the Census to see if any place in the AY footprint had been entered. Freddy's was absent, but someone had written up 24 Sixth Avenue:

This was the former factory of the Spalding Company, where they used to make spaldeens, the pink rubber balls that were an iconic presence in urban America. Everywhere kids used to play games like stickball with spaldeens. Anyone who grew up in New York up to the mid-80s probably remembers them. There's a Spalding banner painted around the building along with words like football, basketball, etc.

That banner was removed when the building was renovated into loft condos earlier this decade--and now the sturdy handsome building is also slated for the wrecking ball.


Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Two weeks ago, FCR said first residential building would begin this year; now they're talking summer 2011

Atlantic Yards Report

At a public meeting on February 24, Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall said, "As we've stated publicly, we intend to begin design of the first residential building in such a way that it can break ground in the fourth quarter of this year."

An article in the past week's Courier-Life chain quotes FCR spokesperson Joe DePlasco:

Phase one of the construction is the arena block including three residential buildings.

The first of these buildings is scheduled to start in the summer 2011, with the second building six to nine months after that, and the third six to nine months after that, said DePlasco.

In other words, the schedule has already changed.


NoLandGrab: Anyone who's even remotely familiar with Forest City Ratner knows that the company and its spokespeople are incapable of telling the truth when it comes to Atlantic Yards. If DePlasco says "summer 2011," you know it's not starting in sumer 2011.

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

For the record: The vastly overoptimistic and misleading Atlantic Yards p.r. statements from December 2003 and BBall.net

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks back at some early lies over-promises about Atlantic Yards.

Below are scans--in two parts--of the promotional material Forest City Ratner distributed when the project was announced in December 2003. (They distributed the packets at a meeting several months later that I attended.)

Much has changed, and much was impossible at the start.

The arena was supposed to open in 2006 (!) and the project was estimated to take ten years to build. Neither was remotely realistic.


Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

"AY starts off an economic boom for Brooklyn contractors"? Check the evidence--and a non-independent compliance report from compromised Darryl Greene

Atlantic Yard Report

According to an article this week by the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt, AY starts off an economic boom for Brooklyn contractors.

However, the evidence is sketchy, and hardly supports that conclusion.

Moreover, the much-touted Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was supposed to generate an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM), but that has never been announced.

The only report to surface has come not from an ICM but by Forest City Ratner's own consultant on M/WBE (Minority/Women Business Enterprise) issues, the Darman Group, run by Darryl Greene, who's recently been in the news for his questionable role in the Aqueduct video casino contract.

The Darman Group was supposed to help the CBA Executive Committee hire an ICM. The most recent evidence suggests that, instead, the Darman Group has performed that function.


Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

Atlantic & Flatbush time lapse

Not Another F*cking Blog

Photographer Tracy Collins set up his camera at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues yesterday to capture the action. Notice that, despite the presence of a Traffic Control Agent, the pedestrian crosswalks are blocked by cars during nearly every signal movement.

Atlantic and Flatbush time lapse from Tracy Collins on Vimeo.

This intersection would be the northwest corner of Forest City Ratner’s 22-acre Atlantic Yards development and the site of the 18,000-seat Barclays Center basketball arena for the NBA Nets.

Traffic is typically miserable here and would only get much worse if and when Atlantic Yards is built.


NoLandGrab: If traffic control agents can't keep the crosswalks clear now, the building of the Barclays Center does not bode well for Brooklyn's pedestrians.

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

Brooklyn lodgers

The Daily Blahg
by Filip Bondy

The Daily News columnist would prefer that the Nets take up permanent residence in Newark.

On Thursday, the Nets finally, supposedly will break ground on their new arena in Brooklyn, after signing a two-year lease with Newark to play in the Rock until the 2012-2013 season.

It's a shame the move to Newark isn't more than an interim commitment. That North Jersey city and region probably can support a good NBA team. And I've become so inured to Bruce Ratner's false deadlines, it's hard to believe this groundbreaking will actually happen.

But I think it will, I think the arena will get built, and my position on this hasn't changed since Day 1:

The move to Brooklyn is absolutely great for the Nets. I'm just not sure it's so great for the borough.


Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

It’s time so seize the eminent domain debate in Massachusetts

by Shirley Kressel

Sound familiar?

Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that has taken no action to restrain eminent domain-the government’s ability to seize property rights with due monetary compensation but without the owner’s consent-after the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision finding eminent domain for private use constitutional. It seems self-evident that forcibly taking property from one owner and giving it to another for financial gain is unfair-even un-American; yet, our legislature seems reluctant to take up the Court’s suggestion that states may enact their own restrictions. The reason is a lingering-but mistaken-belief that eminent domain is an indispensable tool for economic development and tax base enhancement.

But the opposite is true. The evidence has been clear since 1964, when Martin Anderson, then with MIT/Harvard’s Joint Center for Urban Studies, published a book titled The Federal Bulldozer, an analysis of the economic impacts of eminent domain as used in urban renewal. He provided clear documentation that in the years since private-benefit eminent domain became government policy in 1949, it had cost the taxpayers hugely more than it produced, and boded to remain a liability for the foreseeable future. Indeed, Boston is today still pock-marked with several hundred acres of land taken, cleared and held tax-exempt by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, land where people and businesses would have supported vibrant community life and paid taxes for these forty or fifty years. Eminent domain drove out residents, broke up communities, and decimated the small-business base.

It’s only logical that eminent domain-like other unfair public subsidies-would have negative effects. First, this kind of government intervention props up bad business plans and encourages overblown, risky projects that would be weeded out by the private markets, often leaving the city to clean up a big mess. Aside from the empty lots scarring the city, Filenes, Columbus Center and North Point are three recent grandiose local plans that were given all sorts of land, regulatory and tax favors, only to collapse of their own overreaching weight. Pfizer, the corporation for which the City of New London seized and destroyed Suzette Kelo’s home and neighborhood, recently decided "nevermind," and moved out of town altogether, showing again, as the Wall Street Journal reported, "the futility of eminent domain as corporate welfare." Read Nicole Gelinas’s City Journal story of the Atlantic Yards project in New York, where decay and disinvestment are the result of "a half-decade’s worth of government-created uncertainty, which stopped genuine private investment in its tracks."


NoLandGrab: Why is it that the most "liberal" states, like New York and Massachusetts, give rogues like Bruce Ratner the longest leash?

Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

Developer Steve Roth: "the more the building was a blight, the more the governments would want this to be redeveloped"

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Observer piece on Vornado Realty Trust Chairman, headlined Steve Roth, Uncorked, described the developer's strategy in holding a key site at Lexington Avenue and 59th Street, later to become the Bloomberg LP tower.

The rationale--acknowledged developer's blight--sounds a lot like a strategy pursued by Forest City Ratner for the Atlantic Yards site.

The Observer reports:

There was another plus to waiting, [Roth] noted, offering a refreshingly candid developer's take on one way to pursue government subsidies:

"My mother called me and said [of the site], 'It's dirty. There are bums sleeping in the sidewalks of this now closed, decrepit building. They're urinating in the corners. It's terrible. You have to fix it.'

"And what did I do? Nothing.

"Why did I do nothing? Because I was thinking in my own awkward way, that the more the building was a blight, the more the governments would want this to be redeveloped; the more help they would give us when the time came.

"And they did."

Laughter followed.


NoLandGrab: ROTFLMAO? No.

Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

March 7, 2010

"It's a big boat--why rock it?" An episode of Miami Vice offers some food for thought regarding Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder improbably finds an Atlantic Yards lesson to be learned from those 1980's icons, Crockett and Tubbs.

"It's a big boat--why rock it?"

That could be a description of a lot of people's attitudes toward the Atlantic Yards project. The Atlantic Yards Narrative, which, as I wrote in October 2007, is created by the developer, backed by the political establishment, and too often aided by media coverage, unwilling to rock the boat.

But the quote comes from Miami Vice--as a reader pointed out--in an episode titled The Prodigal Sun, Part 2, the opening episode of Season 2.

It's worth a look (via Hulu)--and a ponder. And someone posted the segment on YouTube.

Oder recounts a confrontation between the two detectives and an amoral banker who is ultimately responsible for trying to kill them. After the banker explains his bleak worldview, Crockett has the last line, which should have particular resonance for followers of the Atlantic Yards fight.

"I can't touch you; I know that," Crockett tells Johnston. "Too many roadblocks and politics, favors. But you're dirty, Ace. And I'm patient."


Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

What is Gone is Not Forgotten:13 Years of Art in Freddy’s Backroom


Tonight, Freddy's Bar and Backroom, located in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint, is having a fund raiser/art opening.

Sunday, March 7th 6pm.

Freddy’s Bar and backroom responds to New York State Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges ruling that will allow the condemnations to move forward on the building housing Freddy’s Bar on Dean Street by holding an art retrospective of 13 Years of international as well as local art exhibited in Freddy’s backroom.

From painting to video to the Museum of Drunken Art, this show will exhibit a wide variety of fine art from Freddy’s finest artists. Proceeds will go the “Hand Cuff Fund” for the Chains of Justice that were installed into the physical Bar at Freddy’s on 12/20/09.

Artists: Katie Welty, Margot Spindelman, Steve Pauley, Nancy Drew, Lisanne McTernan, Donald O’Finn, Steve DeSeve, Dirk Richarson, Dan Sagarin, Peter Teraberry, David Strome, Andy Friedman, Haynes Atkins, and Tim Harrod.


Posted by steve at 8:06 AM

March 6, 2010

AY Report: FCR Throws Sid's Under the Bus, Nets Announce Move To Newark

Atlantic Yards Report

After testifying in favor of Atlantic Yards, Sid's Hardware (allegedly) thrown under the bus by Forest City Ratner

Last week I wrote about how Sid's Hardware was leaving Metrotech after testifying before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on behalf of Forest City Ratner's renegotiated deal for the Vanderbilt Yard.

Now we learn that Sid's has filed for bankruptcy after FCR (according to Sid's) reneged on an agreement for the retailer to get out of its lease.

It's All New: Nets tout Newark for two years (but maybe three)

With a happy talk press conference and a new web site, Nets brass, along with reps from the city of Newark, the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the New Jersey Devils yesterday launched an effort to publicize the team's interim home at the Prudential Center and the team's potential for progress via a new owner, a high pick in the NBA draft, and cap space to attract free agents.

One unresolved issue: how long they might actually stay in Newark. Nets Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark was on-message, stating it would be two years, while an NBA official and Newark Mayor Cory Booker were a little more equivocal, allowing the possibility of three years.

Given that Yormark's previous predictions have been a tad unreliable and the Newark lease has a reported two-year extension, it's best not to be too certain.

Posted by steve at 9:33 AM

The Nets Are Actually in Great Shape, If You’re Okay With Seizing Private Property on Behalf of a Billionaire

New York Magazine
By Ben Mathis-Lilley

They also, as of next week, will have an arena under construction in the middle of Brooklyn. Your elected government, having already closed a homeless shelter on behalf of Forest City Ratner, will now be evicting Prospect Heights residents and homeowners (using the threat of police force) to make room for the luxury-housing development of which the Barclays Center will be a part. Having a major sports team in Brooklyn will be exciting, but let's never forget this: Private property in a thriving neighborhood is being seized and destroyed in a 21st-century democracy so Bruce Ratner and the richest man in Russia can build a basketball stadium and luxury apartments. That the Nets' roster is in fine shape is great news, we guess, if you missed rooting for East Germany.


Posted by steve at 6:48 AM

NJ Nets officially announce their move to Newark

AP via USA Today, NJ Nets officially announce their move to Newark

Even though it's officially only for two seasons, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is hopeful that the NBA has found a permanent home in Newark.

"We're officially an NBA city now," Booker said Friday at the announcement that the New Jersey Nets will move to the Prudential Center beginning next season. "I don't care about Brooklyn or the Meadowlands. The Nets are Newark's team and we're taking full ownership of the Nets. Hopefully, we can prove a point that this city was made for basketball."

The Nets, New Jersey Devils hockey team and the city of Newark reached an agreement that will allow the Nets to play in Newark for the next two seasons -- or as long as it takes for the franchise to build the proposed Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Other Coverage:

The New York Times, Nets Laud Future Newark Home as a Bridge to Brooklyn

Posted by steve at 6:35 AM

Got Something to Say to Gov. Paterson About (Cough) Atlantic Yards, Eminent Domain, Wasted Subsidies

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Here's your chance:

The Office of Governor David A. Paterson

Invites you to a NYS Budget Town Hall Meeting with Governor Paterson

Monday, March 8, 2010
Doors Open at 10:00 AM

Ceremonial Courtroom, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street

If you wish to attend, please RSVP to 212-681-7123


Posted by steve at 6:24 AM

Blogs Jump the Gun On Evictions

These two blog entries incorrectly state that eviction notices have been delivered to businesses and residents living in the Atlantic Yards footprint. Check out the comments section in each to read the corrections.

Village Voice, Freddy's Gets Evicted, Vows to Return
By Chantal Martineau

The crew at Freddy's has been trying to keep their minds off the Atlantic Yards project that promises to destroy their bar, focusing instead on an upcoming retrospective of its artists, set to open this Sunday. But earlier this week, what appears to be the last appeal obstructing the eminent domain seizures was denied, and the project was given the green light. Then, yesterday, Freddy's Bar & Back Room got the notice it had been bracing for: the premises must be vacated within 30 days.

Brooklyn Born, Signs ahead: Atlantic Yards ready to steamroll over brooklynites

Several blogs are posting that residents in the way of eminent domain abuse aka "Atlantic Yards" ave been given 30 day eviction notices in the wake of a judge's clearing the project to proceed.

Posted by steve at 6:05 AM

BrookyTrolleyBlogger Favors Atlantic Yards

Blog author and avid sports fan, theBrooklynTrolleyBlogger, presents his argument is favor of Atlantic Yards, and completes his argument with pictures of craptacular developer blight.

BrooklynTrolleyBlogger, BREUKELEN STATION, On Nets Move to Brooklyn: Update on Barclays Center, Atlantic Yards

" Miss X,

I'm a Brooklynite. I support the Atlantic Yards Project. I'm not a supporter of people and groups opposing the project. Period. Bring on the Nets! I don't know why you'd think I was interested in what is detailed in your e-mail. Obviously you haven't checked my own updates on the project that I eagerly want completed. When you live here, talk to me. Don't e-mail me again unless it's to explain how you got my e-mail address and why you thought it was OK to contact me regarding this."

Jumpin' the Trolley, a Modern Brooklyn Pictorial, Atlantic Yards, Barclays Center


Posted by steve at 5:39 AM

Anthrax-Free Zone

The fascination continues with the story of a mailing to Kings County Supreme Court Justice Abrahama Gerges that contained white powder

The Brooklyn Paper, Judge in Yards case gets a powder-filled threat
By Stephen Brown

The judge who approved the state’s seizure of properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint earlier this week received a letter containing a suspicious white powder on Thursday, causing an evacuation of the entire 24th floor of the Kings County Supreme Court on Jay Street in Downtown.

It is unclear whether the substance mailed to Justice Abraham Gerges — which was found to be “inert,” according to cops — was sent in connection with the Atlantic Yards case, a steroid case that he is currently hearing or something deeper in the long career of this judge and former City Councilman.

BioPrepWatch, Brooklyn judge in anthrax scare
By Nick Rees

The secretary of a Brooklyn judge opened an envelope on Thursday containing a suspicious white powder, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration has announced.

Police, fire and hazmat crews responded to an emergency call just after noon from the Kings County Supreme Court Criminal Term. The 24th floor of the building, located at 320 Jay St., was evacuated and sealed off.

The letter, sent to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Abraham G. Gerges, was filled wit sh a white powder that was later found to be "inert," the spokesman said.

Gerges' secretary was decontaminated by the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit.

Speculation on the letter centers on it being a retaliatory response to a recent judicial order by Justice Gerges that transferred the tile of the land at Atlantic Yards to the state via eminent domain.

The Brooklyn Ink, More on Atlantic Yards Judge White Powder Scare

The judge who approved the state seizing property for the Atlantic Yards development got a letter laced with a white powder yesterday.

Cops say the substance was not dangerous, but weren’t sure if Justice Abraham Gerges was being targeted for Atlantic Yards, his current case – steroids – or something else in his 45 years of service.

NoLandGrab: Fortunately, the anthrax threat wasn't real. Unfortunately, the promises of Bruce Ratner to provide an economic benefit to New York via the proposed Atlantic Yards project are also not real.

Posted by steve at 4:54 AM

March 5, 2010

Forest City in the news

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sid’s Hardware Files for Chapter 11 Protection

Had To Get Out of Lease at MetroTech

After reporting on Tuesday that the popular Sid’s Hardware in Downtown Brooklyn had closed its store in MetroTech and moved to Gowanus (in Sign of the Times: Popular Hardware Store Leaves Downtown, Leaves Retail Business), the Eagle has learned that the firm has filed for bankruptcy.

“We filed for Chapter 11 protection because we had to get out of our lease,” said William Ruzzo, director of operations. “We could no longer afford to be there.”

According to Ruzzo, the hardware company had two years left on its lease and was unable to work out an agreement with its MetroTech landlord, Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC).

“At one point we had a deal on the table, but two hours before the end of a Friday — when we had to appear in court the following Monday — we heard the deal was off,” he said. “We had no choice at that point.”

Sid’s Hardware has had a retail store at 345 Jay St. in MetroTech for the past 20 years and, before that, at basically the same location but in a building that was demolished to create the MetroTech Center.

Contacted for a comment Thursday, Joyce Baumgarten, a spokesperson for FCRC, could only confirm that Sid’s did file for bankruptcy and there is a hearing before a judge in Federal Court, Eastern District, Brooklyn on Wednesday, March 10, at 3 p.m.

NoLandGrab: Let's get this straight. Forest City Ratner, which has both wrapped itself in the cloak of benevolent provider of much-needed jobs (and affordable housing) and itself renegotiated a sweetheart deal with the MTA for the Vanderbilt Yard when it couldn't meet the terms of its original obligation, has essentially forced bankruptcy on a tenant with two decades' tenure that needed a little help to make it through the final two years of its lease. And pulled the rug out from under that tenant at the last minute, after a deal had been struck.

That's the kind of company that the likes of Mike Bloomberg and Marty Markowitz have bent over backwards to accommodate. That's the kind of company that is going to control more than 50 acres of prime Brooklyn real estate. That's the kind of company that we're supposed to believe will hold up its end of a flimsy Community Benefits Agreement.

Good luck, Brooklyn.

LoHud.com, Saks Fifth Avenue pulls out of new Yonkers mall

Saks Fifth Avenue no longer intends to move into the Ridge Hill Village retail-shopping complex under construction off Interstate 87.

Ridge Hill's developer Forest City Enterprises announced Thursday that the retailer withdrew its non-binding letter of intent to locate a store at the $650 million project. Saks was to be one of the anchors for the 1.2-million-square-foot complex, according to the developer's Web site.

Brownstoner, 80 Dekalb Reaches 50% Rented Mark, Allegedly

When we checked in with 80 Dekalb in early January, the 365-unit rental being brought to you by Forest City Ratner was about 25 percent rented as best we could ascertain. Yesterday we received an email from a reader who had just toured the 36-story tower and been told by the broker that half the apartments were now rented. For what it's worth, the tipster also said that the apartments were extremely nice.

Posted by eric at 12:54 PM

Freddy's prepares for art retrospective, condemnation, move; it's the centerpiece of (libertarian) reason.tv's take on AY case

Atlantic Yards Report

With low prices, no cover for its eclectic events, and a low-key vibe, the much-honored Freddy's Bar & Backroom, slated for demolition for the Atlantic Yards project, probably qualifies as an "authentic" place as delineated in sociologist Sharon Zukin's new book Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places.

And the bar, located at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, stands in stark contrast to the plans for the Barclays Center, where as many spaces and elements are "branded" with corporate logos as possible.

Freddy's on Sunday opens a retrospective on 13 years of art, a sign that its current incarnation--morphing from a true workingman's bar to a neighborhood bar for a diverse neighborhood--is well less than 20 years old.

While some associated with Freddy's plan a last stand--chaining themselves to the bar to protest eviction--the bar is not a place of constant anti-AY fomentation.

I stopped by Monday night, after Justice Abraham Gerges had sealed the bar's fate. The Backroom was packed with people watching comedy, performed from Freddy's non-elevated "stage."

The barroom was mostly full. I chatted briefly about AY with the bartender, who had recently had to move from the apartment he rented in the footprint. Everyone else was just enjoying their neighborhood bar.


Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz Forgets His MTA, Atlantic Yards History

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gave testimony before a Metropolitan Transportation Authority hearing on March 2nd, which included this whopper:


While the MTA holds public hearings on more service and job cuts, we must consider reasons why the MTA is consistently in a financial mess.

In large part it has to do with mismanagement of assets and the sweetheart deals it makes with real estate developers. In particular, the deal it made with Bruce Ratner to sell the valuable 8.5 acre Vanderbilt Railyard for Ratner to build his Atlantic Yards arena and skyscraper boondoggle is a disgrace.

NoLandGrab: Not to mention cowardly politicians who gladly do the bidding of a powerful, campaign-contribution-doling real estate developer but lack the backbone to ensure the adequate funding of the country's largest — and most important — public transit system.

Found in Brooklyn, EPA Meeting Recap Addressing the Superfund Nomination of the Gowanus

The bad part of the night was when I got the news that Freddy's Bar and Backroom got their 30 day eviction notice from Bruce Ratner today as the final obliteration of a neighborhood continues in the name of eminent domain and the New Jersey Nets. More on that soon.

MissWiticisms, It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World Protest

At a time when many many folks including New Yorkers and Brooklynites are raising money to help one of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti, rebuild their homes and their lives, here in New York, we're tearing down buildings, razing neighborhoods for the benefit of a few deep corrupt pockets. Miss Wit has trouble wrapping her head around it.

As some Brooklyn followers may know, Monday the state agency known as the The Empire State Development Corporation, was granted through a state judge the right to seize property from 12 private landowners, to make way for Bruce Ratner's 4.9 Billionaire Net's Arena and High Rise Towers. One of those homes was Miss Wit's brother's. For that and lots of other reasons, I'm pissed!

All About Fifth, 4th Avenue Forum

Instead of our regular news feature, All About Fifth wanted to give a shout to the great forum held on the future of 4th Avenue sponsored by the Park Slope Civic Council (PSCC) last night. The panelists were top notch, the attendance was high and the engagement, real. A number of salient issues were discussed from Atlantic Yards and storm surges (not the same thing)—to the need for ground floor retail and importance of pedestrian safety.

Raționalitate, Atlantic Yards and ACORN

I've heard a lot of nasty things about the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where NJ Nets owner Bill Ratner wants to use a combination of eminent domain and state giveaways to build a heavily subsidized basketball stadium and 16 mixed use high-rises, but I didn't realize that ACORN was also in on it.

NLG: You can call him Billion Dollar "Bill" Ratner, given the huge amount of subsidies aimed at Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 12:08 PM

Freddy's Looks Back on 13 Years of Art; Should it Close, Expect Freddy's II

Fork in the Road [Village Voice blog]
by Chantal Martineau

The Voice's food-and-drink blog sits down with Freddy's manager Donald O'Finn.

Donald O'Finn has spend a great deal of time talking about his bar's struggle to survive a city-backed development plan that would see the beloved drinking hole flattened. But now, he says, the time has come to think about what Freddy's Back Room was first meant to be: a place for artists to showcase their work to the community. A retrospective of the last 13 years of Freddy's art opens this Sunday.

So, looking back, what's been your favorite part of running a bar?

It's been a dream come true, in every sense. Even in the sense of what has happened with the Atlantic Yards project. It was the ultimate test of the bar as a community. A good bar is a community. So, whatever happens, we just totally passed the test.The neighborhood, the people who come to the bar, everyone has just impressed me so much with their intelligence, how hard they worked for the right issues. When you start a bar, you're so concerned about whether it will work, and then those nights happen where you get absolute confirmation that you're the hottest game in town. And it's just such a wonderful feeling when the room is just throbbing with life and people and music... It's a wonderful thing to see that something is completely maximized. I don't think you could squeeze anything more out of Freddy's.


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

White Powder Report (and no, there's no snow — thankfully — in the forecast)

Fortunately, the white powder received yesterday at the Brooklyn Supreme Court building turned out to be less harmful than the white powder that's seemingly been falling non-stop from the sky for the past month.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, White Powder Causes Alarm in Judicial Chambers

Thursday a Brooklyn judge’s secretary opened an envelope and found a “suspicious white-powder substance” inside.

The alarming discovery, conjuring up decade-old memories of the anthrax-filled envelopes delivered in New York City after 9/11, prompted a large-scale emergency response and partial evacuation of the courthouse. According to David Bookstaver, spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, the white powder was later found to be “inert.”

The letter was sent to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Abraham G. Gerges, according to various reports. Some have speculated that the threatening package was sent in response to Justice Gerges’ judicial order that on Monday transferred title of the land at Atlantic Yards to the state via eminent domain.

Courier-Life Newspapers, Powder delivered to Judge Gerges' office

Cops are looking for the menace who sent an envelope filled with a suspicious white powder to the offices of Judge Abraham Gerges, the jurist who cleared the last roadblock against the controversial Atlantic Yards Project earlier this week.

By late Monday, cops were still trying to track down who sent the letter. It’s expected that investigators will be reviewing Gerges’ past and current cases, as well as his history in city government — he was a City Council member from 1974 to 1990 before he was elected to the bench.

Daily Intel [NYMag.com], Judge Who Approved Atlantic Yards Receives ‘Suspicious’ White Powder

Justice Abraham Gerges, the judge who last week gave the green light to the controversial Atlantic Yards development project, which will result in the displacement of Brooklyn residents from their homes over the next few months, received a suspicious white powder at the Supreme Court building on Jay Street today, causing the evacuation of the building.

Atlantic Yards Report, "White powder" sent to Justice Gerges causes evacuation; credible sources apparently include “die from mohter----er”

So, what's up with that suspicious mailing to Kings County Supreme Court Justice Abrahama Gerges that caused an evacuation yesterday of one floor of a court building?

Without a note or other evidence beyond an anonymous nasty comment on a web site that--like so many--makes little attempt to ensure credible discourse, we have no idea why the "white powder" was sent.

In comparison

Note that this incident has drawn more coverage than the news, contained in a Development Agreement made available only in late January, that developer Forest City Ratner has 12 years to build Phase 1 of the Atlantic Yards project and 25 years to build the project--both with generous options for extensions.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Dragons, Werewolves and Suspicious Packages

And lastly, yesterday the Kings County Supreme Court was evacuated when Justice Abraham G. Gerges received a package laced with a suspicious white powder. Atlantic Yards Report dissects speculations that the powder was sent as an anti-Atlantic Yards sentiment, and finds a lot of tenuous assumptions at work.

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

More confirmation that the BALDC is pretty much an ESDC alter ego

Atlantic Yards Report

Those following the Atlantic Yards saga will recall that the triple-tax-free bonds to finance the arena were issued by the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), a quasi governmental body incorporated by the Job Development Authority (JDA). This clever maneuver allowed the powerbrokers shepherding the Atlantic Yards deal to avoid going through the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which would automatically trigger a requirement that the bonds be subject to approval by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB).

However, when someone pointed out that bonds issued by the JDA are supposed to be guaranteed by the State, therefore making them automatically subject to PACB review, the powerbrokers suddently claimed that the BALDC isn't a "subsidiary" of the JDA, it's a "creation." This doesn't pass the smell test, even if it might pass legal muster.

Today, Norman Oder offers some intriguing evidence of the close ties between the BALDC and the ESDC, the agency which was sidestepped to evade PACB scrutiny.

According to documents outlining the deal for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs):

For the ESDC and the BALDC, the contact person is the same: ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin, the agency's point man on Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: The point is that powerbrokers in Albany are issuing debt, without public scrutiny, using whatever quasi public corporations suits them best, in order to create new ones, primarily for the benefit of one well connected developer.

Yes, we live in a democracy, but this deal demonstrates that there is also a very creative and cagey shadow government at work. Maybe they aren't arresting dissidents or intimidating individuals to drop charges against government officials, but they are using and creating very convoluted institutions and refining and redefining laws that are running circles around the legislature and court system. And, it takes a mind-numbingly obsessive reporter to attempt to keep track of their footsteps through the shifting sands.

Aside from an unprecedented urban planning white elephant, one of the great legacies of Atlantic Yards will be the black hole created by Public Authorities run amok.

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

The iffy requirements for Block 1129 affordable housing and even iffier gap regarding construction over the railyard

Atlantic Yards Report

The incredible shrinking benefits of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards superboondoggle now come with amazing stretching timelines able to leap decades in a single bound:

At a press conference Tuesday, BrooklynSpeaks reminded us of requirements, first reported by AYR, that Forest City Ratner has to build only 300 units of affordable housing on the arena block within 12 years.

But the developer is supposed to build more, in the part of the project--Phase 2--beyond the arena block.

As it turns out, the Development Agreement, as excerpted below, requires 500 additional affordable housing units, to be built on Block 1129, the southeast block destined for interim surface parking.

How long do they have? 25 years.


Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

Whither parking maximums for large developments near transit? DCP is moving slowly to implement some obvious recommendations

Atlantic Yards Report

Noah Kazis of Streetsblog has written an important three-part series on the reshaping of New York City and its consequences for sustainability and livable streets.

And while Atlantic Yards is not mentioned, the failures in the planning for this megaproject--some 3600 spaces--fit right into the critique.

There would 1044 spaces for indefinite interim surface parking, plus (ultimately) the 2570 underground spaces intended for the project's residential component and an additional 1100 underground spaces for the arena that would replace the surface parking.
In Part 2, The Next New York: How the Planning Department Sabotages Sustainability, Kazis wrote:

Density, however, is only one piece of the planning process. Amanda Burden's planning department has laid the foundation for transit-oriented growth, but so far failed to create conditions where walkable development can flourish.

Across the city, mandatory parking minimums are holding New York back from true transit-oriented development. Additionally, the largest development projects in the city tend to sacrifice good planning in order to satisfy demands from developers with little interest in creating walkable places. Even as the Department of City Planning takes steps toward good urbanist principles in its rezonings, planners are sabotaging that very effort.

The department's parking policy is one major impediment. By requiring most new residential developments to include a minimum number of parking spaces per unit, the department is artificially inflating the supply of parking, inducing more traffic and subsidizing car ownership.

While Atlantic Yards is not mentioned--indeed, it's not a city rezoning but an override of zoning--it fits right into the critique.


Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Zukin and Lopate discuss Atlantic Yards: scale, process, and superblocks

Atlantic Yards Report

Sociologist Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, was a guest yesterday on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show and, sure enough, Atlantic Yards came up for some semi-contentious discussion. The action went from about 5:40 to 9:00.

The discussion went a little afield--was the site really one Robert Moses had in mind or just the area?--but touched on some of the hot-button issues.

Zukin identified two problems--the scale and the process--but provoked her host by asserting AY would be a "giant attraction on top of a relatively small set of subway platforms."

Lopate pointed out that it was, after all, to be located near Brooklyn's major transit hub. (Then again, the capacity wasn't increased.)

Zukin pointed out that, if we were better at urban planning, we'd create transportation and infrastructure before such things as an arena and housing. (She returned to the issue of infrastructure first later in the program, at about 33:10.)


Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

March 4, 2010

Irony Watch (MTA Hearing Edition): A Tale of Two Marties

While there was surely a veritable parade of blowhard politicians monopolizing the microphone at last night's Brooklyn hearing on planned MTA service cuts, the outrage of Brooklyn State Senator Marty Golden and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is especially ironic, given their outspoken support for the MTA's giveaway of the state-owned Vanderbilt Railyard to Forest City Ratner for a fraction of its value, and with sweetheart payment terms, to boot. They may as well have been cutting student MetroCards in half themselves.

NY1 News, MTA Hearing Turns Rowdy In Brooklyn

Golden, who disrupted a hearing on Atlantic Yards last May, appears around the 55-second mark in the NY1 report.

"You understand what we're doing here? We're hurting people's lives. It's wrong," declared State Senator Martin Golden at last night's Brooklyn hearing.

Markowitz, who prioritizes a pseudo-replacement for his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers above all else, doesn't appear in the video, but he did speak at the hearing (click here for a transcript), saying:

"The MTA has a decision to make — it has to decide whether it is appropriate in this crisis to fund flashy "cosmetic" mega-projects in places like lower Manhattan while starving the system as a whole."

Yes, he actually said that, forgetting, we guess, his cheerleading for the public funding of a flashy, money-losing mega-project in Prospect Heights.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Markowitz discovers fiscal prudence regarding MTA megaprojects and property

Posted by eric at 4:58 PM

Suspicious white powder sent to B'klyn judge forces evacuation

NY Daily News
by Scott Shifrel

A suspicious white powder sent to a Brooklyn judge Thursday forced the evacuation of the 24th floor of the Supreme Court building.

The powder, which is still being tested, was sent to Justice Abraham Gerges, the judge who last week signed off on the controversial Atlantic Yards redevelopment project.

On Thursday, Gerges was presiding over the trial of a Staten Island doctor charged with peddling steroids.

Authorities would not comment but sources say at least one person was "decontaminated" and court officers were not allowing anyone on the 24th floor.

Dozens of emergency services vehicles and fire trucks lined outside the Jay Street building in downtown Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Don't look at us — we've shoveled enough white powder over the past month that we hope to never see the stuff again.

But seriously, no matter how one feels about Atlantic Yards or eminent domain abuse (and there are no reports at this time that suggest a connection), this type of thing — even if it's a hoax, and we sure hope it is — is completely unacceptable.

Posted by eric at 4:37 PM

The Week in Crime: Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Carl Gaines

It's official: even Bruce Ratner isn't safe from crime in Bruce Ratner's malls.

Feb. 22: The offices of Atlantic Yards Marketing were burglarized. A wireless router, valued at $1,000, was stolen from the office and a projector was damaged in the theft, which was reported at 7 a.m.


Posted by eric at 4:21 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, March 11: Two Groundbreakings to Protest Ratner's Boondoggle Ceremony

On Thursday, March 11...

Join Our Groundbreaking to Bury the Soul of Brooklyn

Then Protest Ratner's Ceremonial Groundbreaking

Thursday March 11 at 12:30pm
DDDB' Groundbreaking to Bury the Soul of Brooklyn
We will be joined by Bloomberg, Pataki, Spitzer, Paterson, Markowitz and Ratner.
Exact location (in the project footprint) yet to be determined...stay tuned.

Thursday, March 11. Reportedly 1:30pm
Join us to Protest and Drown Out the Barclays/Ratner Boondoggle Ceremonial Groundbreaking
Exact location (in the project footprint) yet to be determined...stay tuned.

Brownstoner, House of the Day: 526 Carlton Avenue Reduced

When we featured 526 Carlton Avenue as a House of the Day last September, the Prospect Heights brownstone had just hit the market with an asking price of $2,300,000. The price was knocked down to $2,100,000 a couple of weeks ago, and then to $2,000,000 earlier this week. As we mentioned back then, we think the extensive renovation that was recently done looks pretty nice but wondered whether the proximity to Atlantic Yards would hurt its chances. Apparently it has.

Sheepshead Bites, Sheepshead Bay Residents Turn Out At MTA Hearing

I wasn’t able to attend last night’s public hearing on MTA cuts, but luckily Allan Rosen, the former MTA official who critiqued the plans earlier this week, sent us the dispatch below.

Students were frustrated at having to wait hours for their turn to speak because of the MTA’s policy to allow elected officials to speak before the registered public speakers.

The main points brought out my speakers were the need not to cut student passes, the need to use a portion of the federal stimulus money to fill the deficit gap until more permanent funding can be found, a sweetheart deal between the MTA and Ratner which allowed the Atlantic Yards to be sold at below market value with terms of up to 80 years for him to complete payment to the MTA and how the MTA is wasting money by allowing 370 Jay Street to remain empty for years.

NoLandGrab: Ratner actually has 22 years to pay, but if history is any guide, the MTA will gladly "renegotiate" repeatedly, so 80 years may not be far off the mark.

A Child Grows in Brooklyn, Supreme Court weighs in on Atlantic Yards

Just in from The Fort Greene Association. (I am truly sad about this).

Fort Greene Association, Closure of Sections of Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street

City Room, Pursuing Happiness

A different set of troubles can be found at the other end of the bottles’ life cycle. Freddy’s Bar, a cantankerous Brooklyn institution, is threatened with displacement and destruction via eminent domain as part of the the Atlantic Yards project.

ReasonTV, affiliated with the libertarian magazine of similar name, has lately taken up its cause, posting a five-minute video on Wednesday that is part lament, part call to action.

“It’s not Cheers. It’s something so much darker and richer,” regular Steve De Seve explains. He is not happy that it might disappear. “What’s going on here is wrong on top of wrong. Multiplied by extra wrong.”

Posted by eric at 3:56 PM

Great Fun With the Guessing Game

The New York Times
by Howard Beck

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers routed the Nets (no surprise) last night at the IZOD Center.

In the stands, there were more Cavaliers jerseys — from every era of their existence — than Nets jerseys. James got the loudest cheers during pregame introductions, but that was relative to the meager cheers for the Nets. There weren’t enough people in the building at tip-off to actually roar for anyone.

It was hard to see what might lure James, the reigning most valuable player, to the Jersey swamp. The thousands of empty mauve seats? The incomplete ski jump in the parking lot? The sign above the viaduct that boasts North New Jersey as the “Embroidery Capital of the World?”

(Then again, the Nets will have a new home by the time James goes team shopping. They are planning a move to Newark for next season and then to Brooklyn in 2012.)

There is no question that James is at least considering the Knicks and that he has given a passing thought to the Nets.

In their latest promotion, the Nets gave some ticket-buyers a reversible jersey — with James’s name on one side and Jarvis Hayes’s on the other. It may be as close as James gets to a Nets uniform.


Posted by eric at 3:17 PM

The ESDC's dubious delays: the release of master closing documents and the claim that time doesn't affect AY benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has said a lot of questionable things about the Atlantic Yards project, but two of them deserve another look, given the events of the week.

Both were highlighted at the BrooklynSpeaks press conference Tuesday.

They are:

  • the impact of delay on Atlantic Yards project benefits
  • the delay in releasing master closing documents

Pace of benefits

In Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges's decision Monday approving condemnation of properties for the Atlantic Yards project, the judge failed to reject the state's assertion, "Whatever the pace may be for the delivery of the many public benefits of the Project, the nature of those benefits remains the same."

Really? As BrooklynSpeaks' Gib Veconi pointed out, a delay in delivering affordable housing makes a big difference.

And, to pick a non-AY example, doesn't the nature of benefits change when you get a structured settlement--annuity payments, at a discount--in place of a lump sum? Isn't that why companies now buy structured settlements?

Master closing documents

Also, as BrooklynSpeaks' Jo Anne Simon pointed out, it was quite questionable that the ESDC didn't release the Atlantic Yards master closing documents--which actually govern the project, rather than the more aspirational 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP)--until January 25.

That was six days after a hearing in a case challenging the MGPP was heard in court.

It was also about three weeks after the ESDC told me the documents would be made available.


NoLandGrab: Attention New York State taxpayers*! Feel free to pay your taxes over whatever period of time you see fit, since according to the state, timing doesn't matter.

* By "taxpayers," we mean "Bruce Ratner," who probably doesn't pay much tax, anyway. His Atlantic Yards project certainly won't.

Posted by eric at 2:31 PM

FOREST CITY ENTERPRISES PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Announces Decision by Saks To Withdraw From Westchester County Mixed-Use Project

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. today announced that it has been notified by Saks Incorporated that the company will not move forward with a Saks Fifth Avenue store at Forest City's mixed-use development, Westchester's Ridge Hill, in Yonkers, New York. Saks had previously signed a non-binding letter of intent to locate a store at Ridge Hill.

"This is obviously a disappointment, but we are fully committed to seeing this project become a world-class shopping and entertainment destination," said Rich Pesin, executive vice president of retail development for Forest City Ratner Companies, the New York-based subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises. "Westchester's Ridge Hill is one of the finest retail projects under construction anywhere in the United States, with a great location and tremendous, underserved demographics. We continue to have the support of a variety of premier tenants such as Whole Foods, Cheese Cake Factory, Cinema DeLux, Sephora and Loft, and we have ongoing discussions with other major retailers. We expect to announce additional tenants in the coming months as these discussions are finalized."


NoLandGrab: Perhaps if someone was willing to pay Saks a bribe...

Posted by eric at 2:21 PM

New condos, Oro and Toren, rise in downtown Brooklyn

Urbanite [amNY]
by Garett Sloane

Attention Stephen Witt:


The wrapping is off Toren, Downtown Brooklyn’s latest star condo tower, and with it a neighborhood is transforming.

Down the street another condo high-rise, Oro, soars above Flatbush Avenue and Gold Street, and it’s surrounded by new rental towers: the Brooklyner, Avalon Fort Greene and the Brooklyn Gold building.

The nearby BellTel Lofts just released more units on the market to hopefully catch a wave of prospective buyers.

There are new apartments to accommodate an influx of thousands of residents. Flatbush Avenue, a little dreary now, is set for a makeover by the city, and a developed Atlantic Yards would bring the Nets nearby.


Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

It came from the Witt-o-sphere...

Courier-Life reporter Stephen Witt, who has what could be called the "Forest City Ratner beat," has been busy this week.

Barclays Center to do official groundbreaking

Court decision kicks off Atlantic Yards project

With the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Barclays Center arena set for March 11, the ducks finally seem to be lining up in a row for developer Forest City Ratner.

The ceremony was quickly set last week following State Supreme Court Judge Abraham G. Gerges’ final approval ruling for the state’s planned seizure of property to make way for the $4-plus billion Atlantic Yards project.

On the flip side of the condemnation, the Atlantic Yards project comes at a time when the city has seen little major development come to fruition in recent years. The Freedom Tower, for example, remains stalled, and unemployment is over 10 percent.

NoLandGrab: "Little major redevelopment?" Witt needs to get out more. Someone returning to Brooklyn after a several-year absence would hardly recognize the place for all the new buildings populating places like Greenpoint-Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn and 4th Avenue — many of them empty or only partially filled.

AY starts off an economic boom for Brooklyn contractors

Unanswered questions remain regarding affordable housing

With the Barclays Center arena and the Atlantic Yards project officially underway, all the parties to the Community Benefits Agreement say they expect the agreement to be honored.

New York ACORN founder and current staff person for NYCC John Kest said it hasn’t been determined yet if the new organization will replace ACORN to facilitate the affordable housing.

“The board will be meeting at some point in the next month and will come to a conclusion on whether it will join the CBA,” said Kest.

FCR spokesperson Joe DePlasco said the company remains 100 percent committed to the CBA.

NLG: To Witt, the "unanswered questions" about the promised affordable housing is who'll be administering it. For most of the rest of us, the question is whether or not any of it will ever actually be built.

City to move nearly 500 workers to Downtown Brooklyn

Parasitical developer Bruce Ratner is getting another public host on which to feed.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) recently approved the Bloomberg administration’s plan to move about 460 Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) employees to the MetroTech Campus.

Under the plan, the city will lease 85,000 square feet at the 10-story 2 MetroTech building.

Both Forest City Ratner and the city refused comment on the move as the deal remains under negotiation.

NLG: "Negotiations" between Forest City Ratner and the city somehow always seem to favor the former at the expense of the taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

Correcting a misleading Daily News photo/caption regarding condemnation

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not a major detail, but a photo accompanying a Daily News article concerning a judge's decision to allow condemnations for the Atlantic Yards project includes a misleading caption:

Some of the property in the picture above will be knocked down for the Atlantic Yards project.

Actually, none of the property pictured will be demolished thanks to the decision by Justice Abraham Gerges.

Only the two buildings in the center of the photo are private property within the Atlantic Yards site, and both of them--Lots 19 and 28 of Block 1120 (see map below)--are scheduled not for the first phase of condemnation, but an unspecified later phase.

That saves Forest City Ratner cash and gives it more time to work on the upgraded railyard.


Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Hip Hop Republican, Jay-z & Billionaires vs. Brooklyn’s Best Bar: Eminent Domain Abuse & The Atlantic Yards Project

But don’t mistake Atlantic Yards as one more instance of the market-driven transformations for which New York is rightly famous. It’s actually the latest case of eminent domain abuse, where private property is seized by the state on dubious grounds and then immediately handed over to private interests for private gain.

Uncle Mike's Musings, N. Boo A.

And, only 11 more home games at the Meadowlands -- Monday, April 12, against the Charlotte Bobcats, will end the 29 years of futility at Exit 16W.

Then 2 years at the Prudential Center, and then... maybe, just maybe, the new Russian owner will see what it's like at a good new arena, and tell Ratner to go fucksky himself, and Ratner will have to get a new team for Brooklyn, and be the 3rd-most-popular team in the market.

I wonder if Donald Sterling will finally be willing to sell the Clippers? Ratner deserves that team.

NoLandGrab: And who ever thought that the Clipper's could potentially get an ownership downgrade?

NetsDaily, Critics Plan Protests, Civil Disobedience to Halt Arena

Critics of Barclays Center plan to "protest and disrupt" next Thursday's ground breaking and if nothing else works, some plan a campaign of civil disobedience to make things "as ugly and as difficult as possible" when the eviction notices arrive.

McBrooklyn, 'What Would Bob Say ?' -- Remembering Bob Guskind

DePaolo's letter -- "What Would Bob Say?" -- is a moving memorial to the mark that Bob left on Brooklyn. He writes about what Bob would be proud of today ("he would be thrilled and very proud of the residents of Gowanus who won a Superfund designation yesterday over the objections of the Mayor") and what would piss him off (what happened at Atlantic Yards).

Paul LaRosa's Here is New York, The Gowanus Canal cleanup — don’t hold your breath…

I’m not really in favor of the size of the project but I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind seeing the Nets (or whatever they will be called) playing basketball in Brooklyn.

They should have been playing there by now but a guy who refuses to move and rejects the city’s right of eminent domain, has succeeded in holding up the project for years now. What kills me is how the NY Times and others quote this guy whenever they need to hear from someone opposing the plan…as if he’s a disinterested observer.

NLG: That "guy who refuses to move," who's supported by thousands of donors and volunteers, has done nothing but exercise the rights guaranteed to him by the Constitution of the United States — how un-American!

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Countdown to Atlantic Yards, Foodies as Gentrifiers

Seven days to go. The countdown has begun to the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking on March 11, both on the Barclays Center website (which actually has a countdown clock alongside a rendering of the gleaming planned arena) and among opponents of the project such as Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which is calling for protesters to “skip work or take a long lunch” to protest at the groundbreaking ceremony.

HoopsWorld, Nets to Break Ground in Brooklyn

Having grown accustomed to digging holes for themselves, the 6-53 Nets will break ground on a new one March 11 – the Barclays Center.

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

Despite eerie parallels, more outrage over Queens video casino deal than Vanderbilt Yard bids; however, FCR, not AEG, had an 18-month head start

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Battle of the Boroughs, Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn's Boondoggle is still the heavyweight champ.

What's the difference between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) questionable procedure for disposing of the Vanderbilt Yard--the key public property inthe Atlantic Yards project--and the state's recent selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) to run a video casino at Aqueduct Raceway?

Well, there are several similar red flags, and the Vanderbilt Yard deal is clearly more of an outlier regarding one fundamental issue.

But the press and politicians are far more exercised about AEG.

Norman Oder brings us the tale of the tape:


Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

March 3, 2010

Skip Work to Protest and Disrupt Ratner's March 11th Barclays Center Groundbreaking

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Lots of us are angry, no...mad, and lots have already said 'I'll be there.'


Skip work or take a long lunch...

Join us to Protest and Drown Out the Barclays/Ratner Boondoggle Ceremonial Groundbreaking
Thursday, March 11. Reportedly 1:30pm.
Exact location yet to be determined


Next Thursday, March 11th, at 1:30pm, Forest City Ratner will stage a “groundbreaking ceremony” for the money-losing Barclays Center Arena, we presume in the Atlantic Yards project site though we do not yet know exactly where. Note there will be no groundbreaking for any "affordable housing" and the Barclays Billion Dollar Boondoggle will not house a single Brooklynite.

We use the term “stage” knowingly, since the “Atlantic Yards,” as currently conceived, cannot be built.

The ceremony of dirt shoveling pols will signify the start of prepping to eventually build an arena, not the promised affordable housing Bruce Ratner still claims he is going to build. It is a ceremony to celebrate a money-losing arena and at least 25 years of blight and interim surface parking where a neighborhood once stood.

This is why we ask you to join us Thursday to loudly protest at Ratner’s/Bloomberg's/Markowitz's/Paterson's “groundbreaking."


Posted by eric at 10:02 PM

Groundbreaking ceremony for arena (now with rooftop advertising!) set for March 11; DDDB announces effort to "protest and disrupt" event

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner has announced a groundbreaking for the Barclays Center arena at 1:30 pm on Thursday, March 11, even setting up a countdown clock.

(Apparently, Stephen Witt's "conceptual scoop" about the beginning of arena construction was insufficient.)

From "green roof" to billboard

Note that the design of the arena, above left, has evolved somewhat, with the roof--initially announced as a "green roof"--now appearing to serve as a giant billboard.

Meanwhile, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is calling for arena opponents to "protest and drown out" the event....


NoLandGrab: In one of Forest City Ratner's more outlandish examples of total bull-, er, overpromising, they at one time claimed that the roof of the arena would serve as a meadow-like sanctuary for migratory birds. Not sure if the dodo was one of the species they were expecting.

Posted by eric at 9:38 PM

Real-estate machers praying for Jehovah’s properties

The Brooklyn Paper
by Andy Campbell

More competition for Bruce Ratner's planned Atlantic Yards luxury condos.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ planned pullout from Brooklyn is huge news for the faithful, but it’s even bigger news for the real-estate market.

The Witnesses — known officially as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — announced last week that the group will move forward with an $11.5-million residential and administrative headquarters in upstate Warwick, after more than 101 years in the Heights.

Richard Devine, property manager for the organization, said he doesn’t know what will happen to more than 30 first-class properties that the Witnesses own in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. Some properties have been on and off the market for years, but now that the sect has officially announced its eventual pull-out, real-estate brokers are chomping at the bit.

“If these properties go on the market — which will take a long time, I imagine — they’ll bring in a lot more residents who will spend in arguably some of the strongest markets in the borough,” said Chris Havens, CEO of Creative Real Estate in the Heights.

“They have [a vacant lot zoned] for 1,000 units of housing right off the bridge in DUMBO, which is a big deal,” Havens said. “They’ll probably sell it at some point, but they’re smart. They’ve been watching the market literally for decades and we probably won’t see much on the market until the economy is better.”


NoLandGrab: Right about the time Ratner will be seeking a market for his condos. View of Manhattan or view of the Nets? You decide.

Posted by eric at 9:27 PM

In the mailbag: A vanquished clubhouse pol speaks, plus letters about horses, BIDs and Bruce Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters to the Editor


To the editor,

We should all thank you for your recent push for openness from the Empire State Development Corporation regarding security measures at the Atlantic Yards project (“State’s Yards terror plan: There’s nothing to see here!” Feb. 26-March 6).

Above all, thank you for finally publicizing that Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD have singled out sports venues as prime terrorist targets. Unfortunately, after six years of the mainstream media avoiding serious discussion about post–9-11 security, it probably doesn’t much matter and well just have to live with whatever is decided or ignored.

Still, it does seem that Gov. Paterson and the ESDC are clearly asleep at the wheel.

Alan Rosner, Prospect Heights


Posted by eric at 9:11 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Foreign Investors Group, Can you invest stock in the New Jersey Nets

NoLandGrab: No, but can we interest you in a nice home on the French Riviera?

The Real Deal, Slew of new rentals coming to market

Downtown Brooklyn has exploded with new rentals recently, including another project Citi Habitats is marketing, Forest City Ratner's 354-unit 80 DeKalb Avenue. But Finn said rentals in the neighborhood are "absorbing nicely," noting that Citi Habitats has rented 140 of 80 DeKalb's 292 market-rate units, with a helpful incentive in the form of two free months of rent.

The Eminent Domain Law Blog, Nicole Gelinas: Eminent Domain as Central Planning

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter, reason tv piece about Freddy's

This is a nice short that focus's on Freddy's bar- which is slated to be demolished for the arena- but not without a fight.

Posted by eric at 2:42 PM

Russian Playboy Mikhail Prokhorov Loses $53M Mansion Deposit

ABC News
by Alexander Marquardt

Guess he'll have to settle for Daniel Goldstein's home instead.

Anywhere in the world, $53 million is considered a hefty sum for a house. For one of Russia's most prominent oligarchs that's just a 10 percent deposit, and he just lost it.

A French court ruled Monday that nickel tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov would not get back the deposit he put down on a sprawling, $530 million villa on the French Riviera. He backed out of the purchase in 2008 as the global financial crisis gathered steam.

"We have lost," Prokhorov's lawyer Jean-Pierre Gastaud said after the court in the southern city of Nice made its decision. Gastaud said he would urge his client to appeal.

Prokhorov, who is 44 and a billionaire many times over, is still shopping. An avid 6'9" tall basketball fan, he is awaiting approval by the NBA for his purchase of a controlling interest in the New Jersey Nets.


Related coverage...

The Star-Ledger, Prospective NJ Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov loses $53 million deposit on world's highest-priced home

The same day, a New York judge ruled against opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, putting the Nets a step closer to moving to a new home there in 2012.

Posted by eric at 2:30 PM

Smoked out

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Claire Glass

Judge Abe Gerges's decision this week allowing the condemnation of crime-free private properties to make way for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is likely the precursor of a local crime wave, given the track record of Bruce Ratner's malls.

Buffalo bill

A perp swiped an employee’s wallet from a workers-only area at the Buffalo Wild Wings on Flatbush Avenue on Feb. 23.

The victim told cops that the theft must have happened before 9:30 am when she went into the back room to retrieve her purse. That’s when she discovered that it was gone.


Posted by eric at 2:23 PM

Billionaires vs. Brooklyn's Best Bar: Eminent Domain Abuse & The Atlantic Yards Project

reason.tv via YouTube

Must-see TV.


Posted by eric at 2:14 PM

The Nets will do anything for you to come to their games

Ball Don't Lie
by Trey Kerby

The New Jersey Nets are struggling. They have the league's worst record at 6-53. Because of that, they're last in attendance.

To combat this they've tried a few bizarre promotions over the years. First, they gave away tickets to unemployed workers, and also gave them career advice. Then, if you bought a 10-game ticket plan you got a jersey that featured not just a Net, but also an opposing player.

This Friday, the Nets will unleash another in their long line of minor league-esque promos....


Posted by eric at 1:54 PM

Phil DePaolo on Bob Guskind

A Short Story

Williamsburg activist and Guskind fan Phil DePaolo remembered the passing of blogger Robert Guskind with a short statement this morning. I am reposting below...

Today is one year since the passing of Bob Guskind. I miss him so much and I wonder what Bob would be saying about all the developments since his passing. I know he would be thrilled and very proud of the residents of Gowanus who won a Superfund designation yesterday over the objections of the Mayor. This was very important to Bob. I know he would also be very happy that the Newtown Creek has also received Superfund designation.

Bob would not be happy about what has happened at Coney Island or Atlantic Yards. The loss of historic structures, the loss of amusement space and the overwhelming density and limited scope of the Coney plan were issues we often spoke about.

The recent ruling by Judge Gerges regarding Atlantic Yards would have angered Bob. He was a strong supporter of protecting residents from Eminent Domain abuse.

I can’t believe it has been a year since Bob passed away. But going forward I have wonderful memories of a great friend. I hope you can take a second to remember him. You can still see his writing and thoughts at www.bobguskind.com and http://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/


Posted by eric at 1:16 PM

BrooklynSpeaks Atlantic Yards Presentation March 2010

via Scribd (AYReport)

BrooklynSpeaks Atlantic Yards Presentation March 2010


Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

BrooklynSpeaks: relaxed deadlines and housing minimums for AY could mean vastly diminished benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

Few have paid attention to the news, contained in a Development Agreement made available only in late January, that developer Forest City Ratner has 12 years to build Phase 1 of the Atlantic Yards project and 25 years to build the project--both with generous options for extensions.

However, with a press briefing yesterday and a PowerPoint presentation titled "From political theater to public loss," BrooklynSpeaks packaged some of the relevant information, providing new estimates of the loss to the public caused by the delayed provision of affordable housing.

I think the calculations exaggerate the losses, but even the use of more conservative assumptions would generate a significant loss.

"This is definitely a classic bait and switch situation," said Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue, a constituent group of BrooklynSpeaks, "When it comes to used cars, we have a lemon law. When it comes to hundreds of millions of dollars in lost benefit to the public, we have no protections."

"There's a tremendous amount of time value to the benefits this project was going to deliver," added Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC).

While not directed specifically at Justice Abraham Gerges's decision Monday approving condemnation, Veconi's statement rebuts the judge's questionable failure to reject the state's assertion, "Whatever the pace may be for the delivery of the many public benefits of the Project, the nature of those benefits remains the same."


Related coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Litigation Continues Over Atlantic Yards

Despite Justice Abraham Gerges’ decision Monday transferring the title of the land held by the remaining property owners in the Atlantic Yards “footprint” to the state, several lawsuits regarding the controversial development project are still pending.

BrooklynSpeaks, a community initiative, awaits the decision for its suit, filed in November 2009, which challenges the approval process for Atlantic Yards.

Tuesday, BrooklynSpeaks held a media briefing at the offices of the Fifth Avenue Committee on DeGraw Street for an in-depth discussion of what’s changed now that the final agreements have been signed. The group discussed how the public should be concerned, and the growing amount of attention that the abuses in public/private partnerships have been receiving.

Bruce Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, have said the Atlantic Yards will lead to the creation of affordable housing, construction jobs, and permanent employment opportunities for thousands of Brooklynites.

But according to data gathered by BrookynSpeaks, the benefits to the public are nothing close to what was promised in 2006.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Public Benefits of Atlantic Yards Project “Negotiated Away,” Says Opposition Group

“It’s a deal done behind closed doors with no public accountability,” said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic District Leader 52nd Assembly District. “A public-private partnership where the public is not represented.”

BrooklynSpeaks is now advocating for an oversight entity with a board that includes appointees from the community and elected officials. The organization has filed a lawsuit challenging the ESDC’s approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan and they said they expect a decision in the next few weeks.

Posted by eric at 12:57 PM

Nets arena groundbreaking set for next week after court ruling

Field of Schemes

It's not quite all over but the shouting, but just about: A New York state judge approved a court petition by the state (over landholder objections) to use eminent domain to seize land for the Nets' planned Brooklyn arena on Monday, clearing the way for construction to begin. Street closings are set to begin next Monday, with a ceremonial groundbreaking on March 11; as for evicting the remaining residents and businesses occupying buildings marked for demolition, the state Empire State Development Corporation says it "anticipates an orderly relocation taking place over the course of the next few months."

Barring a surprise injunction in one of the other remaining lawsuits, then, it looks like the Atlantic Yards project, or at least the Barclays Center piece of it, will be opening in Fall 2012 as planned — not as planned originally, mind you, but if you keep making enough predictions, one of them will be right.


Related coverage...

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Developer Will Break Ground On March 11

Regulars at Freddy's Bar, who have already built a PBR guillotine and chained themselves to the bar to protest the pending demolition of their watering hole, said they won't give up without a fight. "There's chains on the bar and a lot of people will be buying handcuffs," said project opponent Steve de Seve. It's unclear if they'll also try to use those handcuffs to arrest Ratner, as they planned to do last month.

The Brooklyn Paper, Ratner to break ground next week!

Bruce Ratner will officially break ground on his $1-billion Barclays Center on March 11, days after a crucial judicial ruling in his favor and slightly more than seven years after the project was first announced.

The ceremony in Prospect Heights will likely include Mayor Bloomberg and Atlantic Yards cheerleader-in-chief, Borough President Markowitz, wielding the ceremonial shovels.

If all goes as planned, the event will be the so-called “end of the beginning” of a project that was unveiled in 2003 and mired in delays and controversy since.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: a Groundbreaking and an Emmy Nomination

Atlantic Yards is once again on our minds, with the news that developer Bruce C. Ratner plans to break ground on March 11.

Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

In a takedown of critic Ouroussoff, Atlantic Yards is front and center

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, I've written frequently about New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, including a June 2006 critique of his first major piece on Atlantic Yards. Now, when the critic comes in for a drubbing by a peer, AY is front and center.

In a Design Observer essay headlined Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough, Alexandra Lange writes:

Should Ouroussoff turn out to be the last architecture critic, that makes it even more imperative to say: He is not good enough. He is not winning hearts or minds. He is not making a case for keeping the breed.

Near the end of the essay, Lange fixes on something very important:

It is our city the New York Times architecture critic should be trying to save, not the gargantuan works of Frank Gehry or Jean Nouvel (or Philip Johnson). They can parachute in and out, but we (and ideally the Times itself) remain to live with the consequences.

Indeed, Ouroussoff's reflex--remember his public defense of Gehry when the architect was grilled about AY?--is to identify more with the architect than the city.


Related coverage...

Curbed, Architecture Critic Ouroussoff Called Out in Epic Takedown

Is there anything juicier than a savage attack on one critic penned by another? How about when the evidence cited includes meaty topics like Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Atlantic Yards, preservationists and other matters of big-time architecture in the Big Apple? Kaboom!

Calling him "the perfect critic for the boom years," Lange echoes the oft-repeated Ouroussoff criticism that the dude is too in love with starchitects: "Yes to Gehry, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel; no to people you haven't already heard of."

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough

Design Observer
by Alexandra Lange

Alexandra Lange — journalist, architectural historian, architecture criticism professor, and Brooklynite — offers a withering, detailed and spot-on (and not just because she cites NoLandGrab) critique of New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff. The prime evidence: Ouroussoff's fawning treatment of Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards design.

Exhibits A and B in this critique are Ouroussoff’s reviews of the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. It was unclear from his first review whether Ouroussoff had ever been to Brooklyn, so grateful did he think we should be for the services of (Los Angeles) architect Frank Gehry. On July 5, 2005, he wrote:

Frank Gehry's new design for a 21-acre corridor of high-rise towers anchored by the 19,000-seat Nets arena in Brooklyn may be the most important urban development plan proposed in New York City in decades. If it is approved, it will radically alter the Brooklyn skyline, reaffirming the borough's emergence as a legitimate cultural rival to Manhattan.

To which the proud Brooklyn resident could only respond: We need Frank Gehry’s affirmation?

There are those — especially acolytes of the urbanist Jane Jacobs — who will complain about the development's humongous size. But cities attain their beauty from their mix of scales; one could see the development's thrusting forms as a representation of Brooklyn's cultural flowering.

Here Ouroussoff performs a neat trick, (mis)characterizing the opposition as a bunch of Jacobsian sentimentalists, and informing us that Gehry’s new architecture would be the borough’s best representative. Those brownstones are apparently so retrograde that they and the rest of the project’s existing context warrant only a three-sentence paragraph. Ouroussoff never bothered to orient his readers to the importance of the site, the windy, well-trafficked corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Naturally the Brooklyn bloggers had a field day with this piece, for reasons valid and conspiratorial. ←NoLandGrab reference!

Later, much later, Ouroussoff would try to make amends, when, in one of the more scathing reviews of his Times career, he told Gehry to walk away from the compromised vision.


Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Bob Guskind, 1958-2009, still missed

Atlantic Yards Report

In the wake of Brooklyn's mainstream media consolidation, Norman Oder is still haunted by the chasm of neighborhood coverage left in the wake of Bob Guskind's death.

Bob Guskind, founder of the Gowanus Lounge blog, died a year ago. He's still missed, especially since the two main weekly newspaper chains in Brooklyn are now owned by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group and renting office space from Bruce Ratner's Forest City Ratner.

Robert Guskind 1958-2009 from Blue Barn Pictures, Inc. on Vimeo.


NoLandGrab: If Bob were still with us, he would have been grinding it out this week.

Recently, there has been little good news for community activists fighting to stop or mitigate the effects of the unbelievable corruption of local government to accommodate Bruce Ratner's unprecedented real estate monopoly.

However, yesterday, the funk briefly lifted, making one victory all the more sweet, when the EPA officially designated the Gowanus Canal area a federal Superfund site. Bob's repeated visits to former industrial sites in the neighborhoods near the Gowanus Canal and Greenpoint/Williamsburg, and his photographs of the pernicious and perpetual ooze and oily sheen, gave the communities a voice and helped attract political and media attention to our toxic city.

The countless people on the front lines of the Gowanus Canal's Superfund Me campaign are missing Bob today, and would have loved to share this moment with him.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

New Nets owner lost $54M on deposit for French Riviera mansion

The NY Post
By Charles Bremner

Apparently Atlantic Yards isn't the first misguided real estate deal made by the man who is on deck to enter into partnership on the megaproject and to purchase Bruce Ratner's flagging NJ Nets.

A lump sum of $53.7 million will buy a sumptuous mansion on the French Riviera. Russia's richest man lost that amount -- and a lot of face -- when a court refused to return his deposit on the grandest villa of them all.

Mikhail Prokhorov, 44, a playboy-magnate worth nearly $9 billion who last year purchased the New Jersey Nets, was told that he could not reclaim the funds that he put down on the Villa Leopolda, a cliff-top property that he promised to buy in 2008. He backed out of the record sale, for $529 million, early last year after the recession struck the minerals and metals business on which his fortune is based.
The decision was the second blow by French justice against Prokhorov, who also owns two chalets in the Alpine resort of Courchevel. In January 2007 he was arrested and detained for four days on suspicion of flying in prostitutes for a party in the properties. He was released without charge but Moscow media depicted the incident as a deliberate insult against Russia.


NoLandGrab: Though Prokhorov is set to overpay for the privilege of owning a piece of the NBA, hard-core Nets fans are salivating at the prospect of an owner who has a history of tossing around buckets of cash.

Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

March 2, 2010

Atlantic Yards Land Grab: The Morning After

Here's a round-up of today's headlines related to yesterday's court decision transferring title to several private properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint to the Empire State Development Corporation — a placeholder for developer Forest City Ratner.

GlobeSt.com, Judge Okays Atlantic Yards Land Seizures

"The Atlantic Yards project has had a long and tortuous history, including numerous court challenges in several forums," a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge wrote Monday. Justice Abraham Gerges made this observation in the course of turning back one of these challenges; he ruled Monday in favor of the state in its December 2009 petition to seize properties within the footprint of the $5-billion Brooklyn mega-project.

Runnin' Scared, Atlantic Yards is a Go: Streets Close March 8, Evictions Expected Soon

​Get those shackles ready, Freddy's: Judge Abraham Gerges has denied what appears to be the last big appeal of the eminent domain seizures for the Atlantic Yards project.

Several businesses, including Freddy's, are denied all relief; others, including condo owner Daniel Goldstein, may file claims regarding compensation, but cannot expect to keep their property.

The judge swatted away several procedural claims, including an "unclean hands" claim of wrongful conduct in pursuit of the seizures: "Neither Ratner nor any of the affiliated companies involved in the Project are parties to this vesting proceeding, nor will a desire to realize a profit be construed as sufficient to establish conduct that is immoral, illegal or wrongful to any fair-minded person."

Daily Intel [NYMag.com], Atlantic Yards Project Gets Green Light From Judge

State officials said occupants will be evicted from their homes over the course of the next few months, though construction will begin in some areas before then. And — whaddya know? — these residents weren’t too pleased with the ruling. “It feels like I live in a state run by crooks,” Daniel Goldstein told the Daily News. And patrons of Freddy’s Bar have pledged to chain themselves to the storefront to protest the eviction.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards: It Begins

Arena signage is up and dirt has been pushed around, but the official ground-breaking ceremony for the Barclays Center will be March 11, according to the Daily News.

Brownstoner, Ratner to Break Ground on March 11th

Reactions from those who stand to be displaced by eminent domain ranged from angry to belligerent.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Enters the Property Theft Phase

Ratner's intergovernmental operative, aka political lobbyist spent weeks, we assume, coming up with a sound to rhyme with -tion, and he did: -tion and -tion.

From the Daily News:

"Today's court ruling marks the transition from the obstruction to the construction phase," Forest City Ratner executive vice president Bruce Bender said Monday.

Bender ought to be wondering when the Ridge Hill federal investigation will transition from ongoing to closed.

Anyway, he's wrong. Today marks the transition from the proposed property theft phase to the actual propety theft phase.

Reason Hit & Run, "When the most powerful forces in state government collude with the real estate industry, injustices will happen, and today is a result of that."

More ugly news for the Brooklyn property owners fighting eminent domain abuse in the Atlantic Yards project. Yesterday Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Abraham Gerges granted New York state’s petition to seize the holdout homes and businesses on behalf of real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner, who plans to build a new basketball stadium for the abysmal New Jersey Nets (a team Ratner co-owns).

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, Judge Gives Ratner the Go-Ahead for Land Grab

Everyone’s talking about yesterday’s decision by a State Supreme Court judge approving Ratner’s use of eminent domain and giving him the go-ahead for land grab.

Battle of brooklyn via Kickstarter, Title is transferred but a lawsuit could still throw a wrench in the works

Today Judge Gerges transferred title of the remaining properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint to the ESDC who will lease the entire project site- including the now de-mapped city streets - for $1.

Dan and Shabnam knew this day was coming and handled it all very well.

Daily Transom [Observer.com], Atlantic Yards Might Actually Start Next Week

Break out the virgin shovels and the pile of pre-loosened dirt.

After years of delays--which saw a host of courts rule on a litany of lawsuits--Bruce Ratner isn't wasting any time holding a groundbreaking for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

Nets Will Offer Free Tax Preparation as a Game Promotion

The New York Times
by Ken Belson

With just six victories this season, the Nets are threatening to compile the worst record in N.B.A. history. But Nets executives are still trying to persuade fans to attend the team’s last 12 home games.

Their latest promotion will be unveiled Friday, when the Nets play the Orlando Magic. New Jersey residents 18 or older who attend the game will get a coupon that they can redeem at a Roni Deutch Tax Center to get their state income tax done free.

Representatives of Roni Deutch Tax Centers — there are nine in the New York area — will be at the game to answer tax-related questions.

Alas, the Nets will not be paying their fans’ tax bills, and a similar coupon can be downloaded from Roni Deutch’s Web site. Deutch charges $29 to prepare a state income tax return and $185 for a federal return.


NoLandGrab: Maybe it's us, but articles this puffy make us think the "partnership" between Bruce Ratner and The New York Times extends well beyond the construction of the newspaper's headquarters building. Case in point — this story carried the headline "Deathly Nets Seek Lift From Another Sure Thing: Taxes" in the print edition. Did someone request a less pejorative headline for the web version*?

* A reader suggests that the headline change could have more to do with the searchable nature of the internet, and that more-creative print headlines are often made more straightforward on the web. You be the judge. We should point out that The Times, when writing about the Nets, never alerts readers that the team's principal owner and the CEO of the company that built its headquarters building are one and the same.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

In the print Times, no coverage of the AY condemnation case, but ink for a Nets promotion of questionable value

Atlantic Yards Report

I wasn't surprised to see the New York Times's coverage of Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges's decision in the Atlantic Yards condemnation case relegated to online coverage only.

While I can disagree with editorial judgment--after all, in print today is coverage of a delayed Metropolitan Transportation Authority reality show--that's part of a pattern; the Times frequently publishes AY and other metro stories online only (and, with the former, often without disclosure of the New York Times Company's ties to Forest City Ratner).

In the Sports section

But I was surprised to open the Sports section and see this article:

The Nets are offering a coupon that can be redeemed at a Roni Deutch Tax Center to get a state income tax return done free. That's a $29 value but, actually, nothing special, since, as the article states, a similar coupon can be downloaded from Roni Deutch’s web site.


NoLandGrab: It would be one thing if The Times covered the Nets with a sense of irony, but that is clearly not the case.

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Latest IRS report shows DDDB fundraising down but cash on hand up; the larger question: can DDDB play a role in light of project proceeding?

Atlantic Yards Report

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein fires back at a Ratner supporter who concluded that a dip in fundraising showed lack of support from the community, leaving watchdog Norman Oder to take a hard look at the numbers.

Tax Returns Show Critics’ Financial Support Dropping asserts the pseudonymous (and AY-supporting) Net Income of the Nets Daily blog, and that's certainly one way to read the Form 990s filed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn with the Internal Revenue Service.

Another way to read it is that, more than a year ago, cash on hand dipped dramatically after significant spending on court cases. Then the cash available stabilized, with a small increase, despite the economic downturn.
The larger question, I'd suggest, is whether DDDB will, in the face of the seemingly inevitable progress--but not quite, given pending cases--of the project, continue to raise money and play a role, if not as a legal opponent, a watchdog of sorts.

To follow the money and read Goldstein's feisty reply to "Mr. Income," click here for the full article.

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Atlantic and Flatbush time lapse

Atlantic and Flatbush time lapse from tracy collins on Vimeo.

Video by Tracy Collins.

Atlantic Avenue & Flatbush Avenue, looking east
Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope
Brooklyn, New York

March 1, 2010
1:30 - 2:30pm (approx.)

This intersection would be the northwestern corner of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development and the site of its 18,000-seat Barclays Center Arena for the NBA Nets.

Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

In decision by Gerges allowing condemnation, unwillingness to evaluate significance of changes in AY benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges's decision and explains why NY State and developer Forest City Ratner can continue to move the goal posts for the Atlantic Yards timeline and public benefits, as long as no one in the judiciary seems to be able to stop them.

It may be that no court agrees to evaluate whether the changes in the benefits to the Atlantic Yards project are significant.

That's the import of Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges' decision upholding condemnation for the Atlantic Yards project. Gerges claimed that the claims should have been filed by October--an analysis that attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff, representing those resisting condemnation, said was wrong, as described below.

And Gerges's decision portends a similar outcome in a parallel case still pending, aiming to compel the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to issue new Determinations and Findings (D&F) as a precursor to the use of eminent domain.
What about the revised MTA deal that allows for a far longer time to acquire the site? The ESDC noted that a challenge to the deal had already been rejected in December.

Gerges wrote:

Moreover, petitioner asserts that the MTA business arrangement has no relevance to the validity of the 2006 D&F because those findings relate to the public purposes of the Project, which have not changed. They also note FCRC's obligations to ESDC are dictated not by a transaction with the MTA, but by the 2009 MGPP and the implementing agreements between FCRC and ESDC. The essential terms of the Development Agreement obligated FCRC to construct the Project as described in the 2009 MGPP and to use commercially reasonable efforts to do so by 2019.

Gerges wrote that challenges to condemnation on grounds of bad faith and/or lack of public purposes should be raised--as they had been--in a challenging to the finding of eminent domain, rather than the condemnation action.

Also, he agreed that the case known as Leichter, involving changes to the Times Square plan, disallowed challenges to a revised AY plan.

Gerges wrote:

It has already been determined that the petition adequately sets forth the public uses for which the subject property is needed. The court also finds, as argued by petitioner, that the public purpose to be served by the Project was not changed by the 2009 MGPP. Moreover, to the extent that the Project has changed, the above discussed holdings in Leichter and Toh Realty clearly establish that petitioner is not obligated to begin a de novo review proceeding... In this regard, it must also be noted that the numerous judicial challenges to the Project resulted in extensive delay, as was the case in Leichter. More significantly, it cannot be disputed that the economic conditions in which the Project was proposed in 2002 have changed drastically in that the world-wide economy is now in one of the worst downturns in history.


Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Judge Approves Seizure of Homes for Ratner

Brit in Brooklyn


A Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge today ruled for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) allowing for the seizure of private homes and businesses on the Atlantic Yards Footprint.

[Right]: One of the threatened apartment buildings in the footprint, home to Daniel Goldstein and his family.


Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

March 1, 2010

Go-ahead in Atlantic Yards land grab bid

by Amy Zimmer


Let the construction finally begin: Bruce Ratner’s $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project can move forward after a state Supreme Court justice yesterday rejected a group of building owners’ and tenants’ challenge of the state’s use of eminent domain. Their legal fight against the project, claiming the condemnation was not for a public benefit but for the pockets of a private developer, lasted six years.

The Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency seizing the land, already announced permanent street closures to start next Monday.

The decision was a blow to many opponents, perhaps none more visible than Daniel Goldstein, the lone holdout in a Pacific Street condo in the project’s 22-acre footprint that will bring the arena and more than a dozen skyscrapers to Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 10:54 PM

Final Atlantic Yards holdouts to lose their property

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Reality is starting to set in for the final holdouts of the embattled Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

A state judge ruled today that the state can seize property from 12 private landowners who refused to sell to developer Bruce Ratner, so he can move forward with his long-delayed, $4.9 billion plan to build an NBA arena, housing and office towers in Prospect Heights.

Ratner, who received state approval for Atlantic Yards in Dec. 2006, is now finally planning a ceremonial arena groundbreaking — March 11 — so his New Jersey Nets can move there by 2012. However, the timetable for the project’s 16 skyscrapers remains unclear because of the national credit crunch.

"I woke up this morning owning my home but by the afternoon I was told the state now owns it," said Daniel Goldstein, a holdout who became the public face of an opposition group that nearly killed the project by using the legal system to hold up construction.

Goldstein said his group isn’t giving up yet – they can still appeal the judge’s ruling and a few outstanding lawsuits could potentially halt development – but conceded he and his family must finally begin looking for a new place to live. Goldstein moved into the condo in 2003; months later Ratner announced his plans for Atlantic Yards.

Bruce Bender, an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, said the "ruling is a major milestone that signifies Atlantic Yards is progressing, that construction will accelerate and that long-awaited benefits will begin to materialize in Brooklyn."


NoLandGrab: And who will be surprised when the lion's share of the "benefits" accrue to Forest City Ratner?

Posted by eric at 10:37 PM

Judge rules against Atlantic Yards opponents, putting NJ Nets closer to Brooklyn move

The Star-Ledger

The Nets will play their next two seasons at the Prudential Center in Newark after working out a deal to leave Izod Center and the Meadowlands. But the team still plans on being in a new arena in Brooklyn by the start of the 2012 season.


Posted by eric at 10:32 PM

Another legal win for B'klyn arena developers

AP via WCAX.com

Developers could soon break ground on the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn that includes a new arena after lodging another legal victory.

A Brooklyn State Supreme Court judge on Monday rejected a challenge by homeowners and businesses to the state's use of eminent domain for the $4.9 billion, 22-acre project.

Opponents lamented the judge's decision, but said two other court cases could stop the project "dead in its tracks."


Posted by eric at 10:28 PM

Judge gives Atlantic Yards project the green light; Ratner plans to break ground Mar. 11

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Developer Bruce Ratner is planning to break ground in Brooklyn next week on a new Nets arena after a judge handed private property to the state for the Atlantic Yards project.

"Today's court ruling marks the transition from the obstruction to the construction phase," Forest City Ratner executive vice president Bruce Bender said Monday.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges tossed a challenge to the eminent domain condemnation - a final blow to property owners who fought the wrecking ball for six years.

State officials said the occupants would be evicted in the next few months - but Ratner plans to hold a ground-breaking ceremony March 11.

"It feels like I live in a state run by crooks," said Daniel Goldstein, set to get the boot from his Pacific St. condo.

"Our state government ... has bent over backwards to give Bruce Ratner whatever he wants, including my home, and the homes of other citizens."

Patrons at Freddy's bar have threatened to chain themselves to the storefront to battle the eviction.

"There's chains on the bar and a lot of people will be buying handcuffs," said Freddy's regular and opposition organizer Steve de Seve.

"People aren't just going to put up with this ruling."


Additional coverage...


Expect preliminary construction work around the site to start heating up, in the meantime, according to the report. Evictions won’t begin until a few months.

A spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation said an “orderly” relocation is expected, but those who fight eviction will be forcibly removed by the Sheriff’s office.

Posted by eric at 10:19 PM

Flashback quote of the day: from Poletown to Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

"It is hard to imagine an economic development program that is structured in a serious way that would not survive a 'public purpose' challenge."

--Stephen Lefkowitz, former general counsel to the New York State Urban Development Corporation (now Empire State Development Corporation), National Law Journal, 6/1/81, as quoted in the 1989 book Poletown: Community Betrayed, about a notorious eminent domain case in Detroit.

Now a partner in the law firm Fried, Frank, Lefkowitz has worked on Atlantic Yards as well as MetroTech, Yankee Stadium, and many other projects.


Posted by eric at 10:11 PM

ESDC COMMUNITY NOTICE: Closure of Sections of Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street

Beginning on Monday, March 8, 2010

On Monday, March 8, 2010 by 6 AM, the following streets in Brooklyn will be permanently closed:

  • Fifth Avenue (between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues)

  • Pacific Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)

  • Pacific Street (between Vanderbilt and Carlton Avenues)

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) will become two-way and the block of Pacific Street (between Carlton and Sixth Avenues) will become one-way westbound.

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.

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

Empire State Development Corporation
Office of the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman
(212) 803-3233


Posted by eric at 9:28 PM


Weeks of March 1, 2010 through March 8, 2010 [PDF]

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

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions. In addition, during the utility work water shut offs may be required; these shuts downs are done under the oversight of DEP and property owners will be given advance notice. All work has been approved by appropriate City and State agencies where required. In addition to the activities described below noise attenuation and vibration monitoring measures are underway in connection with the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments dated as of 12/21/09.

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

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Some final wiring will be done on the lighting system. Upon completion of this, the LIRR will conduct testing of the lighting as previously reported. This testing – which entails adjustments to placement and illumination -- will be conducted at night and will take place over 2-3 nights.

  • Temp Yard Punch list – minor items remain to be completed.

  • Work continues on the relocation of the MG Set from BL1119 to BL 1120. Work entails mechanical and electrical work inside the building.

  • Installation of protection of LIRR substation A0-1 via erection of a sidewalk bridge over this equipment in BL1119 will begin.

Environmental Remediation

  • The environmental consultant has completed most of the shallow excavation and drilling to test and classify soils in blocks 1127 and 1119. Work will continue on parcels that were previously blocked with utility construction vehicles. This is prep work required in advance of any actual removal of soil from the site.

  • Continuation of water quality monitoring around the site per NYS Department of Environmental Conservation requirements.

  • In accordance with the request of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, additional monitoring wells are being installed on block 1118 lots 1 and , block 1119 lots 1 & 64 and Block 1127, lots 11, 12, and 13.


  • The contractor completed pile drilling in all areas except 5th Avenue/Flatbush intersection. Drilling will resume once the intersection is closed to traffic. Sewer pipe installation will also resume along Flatbush at that time.

  • The contractor will continue to perform ancillary work at the recently installed sewer pipe between Flatbush and Atlantic including underpinning a section of the subway vent structure and demolition of a TA manhole. The work will be completed and connected to a sewer in Atlantic Avenue once 5th Avenue is closed to traffic.

  • The contractor plans to excavate Atlantic Avenue at two locations to cut and cap an abandoned water main. The work at the location west of Flatbush will be performed at night and will be plated over every morning before rush hour traffic begins, per DOT stipulations. The location at the east will be performed during regular work hours behind barricades that will remain in place until work is completed. This work is expected to begin the week of March 1, 2010.

  • Immediately following the water main cut and cap, the contractor will dig test pits on Atlantic Avenue between Flatbush and 6th Avenue to locate the exact profile of the LIRR tunnel and existing sewer pipes. The work will be performed with the approval of the LIRR. The work is expected to begin within the next two weeks.

  • The contractor will install traffic and pedestrian safety barriers (MPT) on Atlantic Avenue between Flatbush and east of 5th Avenue to accommodate the cut and cap and test pit work described above. The barriers will remain in place after the work is complete and will be incorporated into the more extensive system of traffic and pedestrian barriers that will be installed for the arena construction. This work has been approved by the DOT and the contractor has all requisite approvals/permits.

  • The contractor will install a water main crossing BL 1118. The work will require a connection to an existing water main on the west side of Flatbush between 5th Avenue and Dean Street. All excavation in the bed of Flatbush Avenue will be performed at night and will be plated over at the end of the shift so that traffic can be restored every morning.

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


  • The abatement is complete at 624 and 648 Pacific Street and 473 and 475 Dean Street. Filings for demolition permits are in progress.

  • Sidewalk sheds and scaffolding will be installed at 624 and 648 Pacific Street and 467 Dean Streets as required by the Department of buildings.

  • Abatement filings will be submitted on additional buildings in the arena footprint.

  • Demolition of 467 Dean Street is expected to begin within the two week period.

Full Street Closures

  • Traffic rerouting and street closures outlined in the January 11, 2010 Community Notice (see attached) have been delayed until further notice.

The ESDC has finally gotten caught up posting past Construction Updates after revamping its web site. Click the links below for PDF versions of past updates.

Week of February 15, 2010 through February 22, 2010 [PDF]

Week of February 1, 2010 through February 8, 2010 [PDF]

Week of January 18, 2010 through January 25, 2010 [PDF]

Week of January 4, 2010 through January 11, 2010 [PDF]

Week of December 21, 2009 through December 28, 2009 [PDF]

Posted by eric at 7:10 PM

Atlantic Yards Project Clears Latest Hurdle

NY1 News

A state supreme court judge ruled Monday in favor of the developers of the Atlantic Yards project, saying they can seize control of 53 Prospect Heights properties surrounding the proposed Brooklyn site for the sports arena and development.

Supporters, including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, hailed the decision, saying the project will increase affordable housing, provide solid jobs and bring a world class arena to the borough.

Not necessarily in that order.

In order for the Atlantic Yards project to move forward, Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic, and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth and Vanderbilt and Carlton Avenues will be permanently closed to traffic starting next Monday.

link, with video

Posted by eric at 7:05 PM

State Owns Atlantic Yards; Brooklyn Homeowners’ Titles Taken

Judge Orders Transfer of Title After State Exercises Eminent Domain

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Ryan Thompson with Samuel Newhouse

Those who own businesses or homes in the footprint of Atlantic Yards do not own them anymore.

The land of Atlantic Yards has been condemned. And title to that land has transferred, a Brooklyn judge ordered Monday morning.

Kings County Supreme Court Justice Abraham G. Gerges confirmed Monday afternoon that his judicial orders not only granted the right for the state to take title from the private landowners, but also effected the actual transfer of title to the state.

“New York state now owns my home,” said Daniel Goldstein, Pacific Street resident and spokesman for lead opposition group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB). “Technically, a court ruled that … it’s okay for the state to steal my home and give it to Bruce Ratner.”

After years of lawsuits and litigation, after loud protests and verbal fights, after restructuring, refinancing, renaming and resizing, the Atlantic Yards process has yet to overcome all legal hurdles. Just when it seems the path is clear, another legal challenge rises up to block the construction cranes from building a project that was originally announced over six years ago.


Posted by eric at 6:57 PM

Judge Approves Land Seizures for Atlantic Yards

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The property seizures necessary for a new Brooklyn Nets basketball arena have been approved by a judge, clearing a path for a groundbreaking on the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project.

The action, for which the Brooklyn judge granted a state petition seeking the title of properties within the project's footprint, is one of the final few legal challenges opponents of the project and holdout landowners had thrown at the state in an attempt to block, or delay, the development.

In a project marked by incremental movements toward the start of construction, this one has a tangible effect: On March 8, the state announced, it will finally create its "superblocks," forever shutting down the streets within the project's footprint to make way for the development. In a statement, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn said the affected property owners and tenants "will be considering all of their legal options in light of today's ruling."

There are two other cases still pending that would stop the project, however they are not viewed by government officials or executives at Forest City Ratner, Atlantic Yards' developer, as likely to be successful.


Posted by eric at 4:48 PM

Nets arena foes lose another court case

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

The New Jersey Nets inched another significant step toward Brooklyn on Monday, as a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled against every objection raised in a lawsuit by opponents of the proposed basketball arena, housing and commercial project known as Atlantic Yards.

The ruling moves project developer Forest City Ratner and Nets owner Bruce Ratner closer to exercising eminent domain to evict the plaintiffs, as well as to receiving state approval to close several streets in the neighborhood near downtown Brooklyn, where the project is scheduled to be built. The Nets hope to begin play in their new Barclays Center arena in the fall of 2012, but construction must begin in earnest by this summer to allow for such a franchise shift.

Gerges wrote that even if Goldstein’s cynicism about the actual public benefits proves to be well-placed, that is not the issue for the court. Instead, the court must simply find whether the state “rationally could have believed” that the use of eminent domain would lead to the achievements of the goals of the developers and the state.

Goldstein had pointed to a September 2009 analysis by the city’s Independent Budget Office that the arena would be a money loser for the city and that the developers are permitted to take up to 25 years to fulfill promises related to the construction of affordable housing at the project.

Gerges ruled that Goldstein has until Sept. 1 to file claims related to efforts to use eminent domain to take his condominium.


Posted by eric at 4:36 PM

Judge Clears Hurdle for Atlantic Yards

City Room
by Charles V. Bagli

A justice in State Supreme Court paved the way Monday for the transfer of private land to the developer Bruce C. Ratner for his long-delayed $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, after rejecting a challenge by local property owners to the state’s use of eminent domain.

Homeowners and business opposed to the condemnation, which was approved by the State Court of Appeals in November, had argued that the state and the developer had failed to meet the legal requirements for condemnation, which they argued would enrich a private developer rather than create a public benefit.

Justice Abraham G. Gerges, however, denied all of their motions in an 82-page decision.

The land is being seized by a state entity, the Empire State Development Corporation, and will be controlled by Mr. Ratner’s company, Forest City Ratner.

But many of the 6,000 apartments that are to accompany the arena will have to wait. Although Mr. Ratner has pledged that at least 30 percent of the units would be reserved for moderate- and middle-income families, the developer said that it is difficult to finance residential construction in the current market. It may also take many years for a single neighborhood to absorb so many new apartments.


Posted by eric at 4:32 PM

Court upholds AY eminent domain ruling

The Real Deal

Eminent domain has prevailed once again for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in a New York State Supreme Court ruling today that clears the way for construction to begin on the Nets' new Barclays Center arena. According to the ruling, by Judge Abraham Gerges, the state can seize properties in the way of the project because the 14 claims brought forth by opponents of the plan had no "merit." Among the claims: that the state has not explicitly said the land slated for condemnation will be used for the public and that the project plan had been illegally modified.


Posted by eric at 4:28 PM

Judge Rules Against Atlantic Yards Opponents

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

The state of New York has taken title to property owned by Daniel Goldstein and other holdouts living in or running businesses in the footprint of the future Atlantic Yards basketball arena.

Judge Abraham Gerges of state Supreme Court in Brooklyn said that all rules were followed when the Empire State Development Corporation moved to condemn the properties. The homeowners had raised a number of objections, one of which was that the project had changed substantially since getting state approval three years ago.

The ruling authorized the state to take title to the properties that remained in private hands but are needed for the arena. But it still could be weeks or months before the state compensates the owners and residents are ordered to leave.


Posted by eric at 4:25 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... (Condemnation edition)

Curbed, Revenge of the Megaprojects

A State Supreme Court ruled this morning that eminent domain can go ahead in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project, despite opponents' claims that the project plan had been illegally modified. The ruling applies to the buildings developer Bruce Ratner says he needs to seize immediately, including Daniel Goldstein's apartment building and the PBR guillotine-building Freddy's Bar. It's unclear exactly when Ratner will take the property, so, Freddy's folks, better pile those PBR cans while you still can.

NoLandGrab: The state is taking title, not "seizing" the actual property immediately. That won't happen for some time — if the remaining legal challenges fail.

Drinkers Unite - Barclays Boycott, Fightin' Freddy's Handcuff Catalog

Fightin' Freddy's is compiling a catalog of places to order handcuffs.

They say they are going to take Freddy's Bar. We say, get your handcuffs and come out for the (un)eviction party. We don't know the date yet. So order today. This catalog does not want to exclude anyone, so if you have a favorite handcuff website send it along. The Chains Of Justice are mounted on the bar at Freddys so you can keep drinking while we're fighting this unfair law.

Brownstoner, BREAKING: Judge OKs Eminent Domain Seizure at Yards

The Brooklyn Paper is reporting that State Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges this morning ruled against property owners in the footprint of the Barclays Center, paving the way for Forest City Ratner to begin construction on arena. In one fell swoop, the judge rejected 14 claims by the owners as being meritless.

NetsDaily, Brooklyn Judge Rules Condemnation Can Proceed

Critics had asked Judge Abraham Gerges to halt the process, claiming project plans had changed and a new plan was needed. The ESDC expects to move quickly to condemn the properties. Land must be cleared before the Nets sale to Mikhail Prokhorov can be finalized.

ProBasketballTalk, Brooklyn Arena another step closer to reality

Great news Brooklyn -- you're that much closer to having a six-win team play in your back yard. Break out the champagne and Beluga caviar.

Brooklyn has had a professional sports team in the past, it's time they once again got to enjoy the play of some bums.

The Cleveland Leader, Dodgers Move & Ratner Arrival - Which is Worse Brooklyn?

With the Ratners having run Cleveland for the past eight or so decades, Roldo Bartimole knows whence he writes.

The departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers was a blow to the people of Brooklyn, N.Y. but the arrival of a Ratner might be more devastating to Brooklyn citizens.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, Judge Rejects Eminent Domain Challenge to Atlantic Yards

Posted by eric at 4:07 PM

Gerges dismisses challenge to condemnation; no barrier to project construction; streets to close March 8

Atlantic Yards Report

After a month, Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges has dismissed a challenge to the condemnation of property needed for the Atlantic Yards project.

While there are other extant legal challenges, there's no bar to construction, and Forest City Ratner has said it would mobilize large numbers of workers shortly after the decision.

It was followed shortly afterward by a community notice stating that Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue and between Vanderbilt and Carlton avenues would close on Monday, March 8.

That's one-week notice; at a community meeting last week, a Department of Transportation official was unwilling to specify how much notice would be needed, while City Council Member Letitia James, a project opponent, asked for two weeks.

ESDC statement

The Empire State Development Corporation issued a statement:

ESDC is pleased with today’s ruling on the Atlantic Yards condemnation hearing by Justice Gerges of the Brooklyn Supreme Court, and is looking forward to moving ahead with a project that will bring an arena, open space, affordable housing, transportation improvements and thousands of jobs to Brooklyn.

The streets condemned by ESDC will be closed as of 6:00 am, Monday, March 8, 2010, giving the community a full 7-days notice in addition to the public notice first issued in early January. ESDC is coordinating with Forest City Ratner Companies and the Brooklyn Department of Transportation to update the relevant message boards and otherwise provide notice to the community. While no formal notice period is required under law, in hearing from the community and working with the Department of Transportation, ESDC believes this additional notice period will help the community prepare for anticipated traffic changes while not overly delaying the commencement of principal construction of this eagerly anticipated project.

In terms of those residents occupying condemned property, ESDC has been and will continue to work with occupants to relocate them and anticipates an orderly relocation taking place over the course of the next few months.

Click through for a statement from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Posted by eric at 3:54 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Judge Grants New York State Right to Steal Homes By Eminent Domain for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Boondoggle

Outstanding Legal Issues Still Plague Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn, New York—A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge today, in an 80-page ruling, granted the Empire State Development Corporation's petition to take title ownership of the private properties—homes and businesses—in the footprint of developer Bruce Ratner's $5 billion Atlantic Yards boondoggle. The project consists of a proposed $1 billion money-losing arena and purportedly 15 skyscrapers though there are no renderings or models of anything other than the arena.

The property owners and tenants fighting for their rights will be considering all of their legal options in light of today's ruling.

"Several overarching legal and financial issues still plague Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, meaning today's extreme measure by New York State to seize ownership of private property is premature," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter. "There are two pending cases, one just completed briefing, and the other is awaiting a judicial ruling. Either would stop Atlantic Yards dead in its tracks and could impact today's ruling."

"Today is a very sad day to be a Brooklynite. Our state government, long mired in corruption and scandal, has bent over backwards to give Bruce Ratner whatever he wants, including my home, and the homes of other citizens. I am angry with our so-called political leaders who proudly stand by their abuse of power," said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and a homeowner targeted by New York's abuse of eminent domain for Ratner's benefit. "When the most powerful forces in state government collude with the real estate industry, injustices will happen, and today is a result of that."

"But should we win or lose the fight against Atlantic Yards, there is a bright spot. We are on the road to overturning New York's atrocious and abusive eminent domain laws. Senator Bill Perkins’ proposed legislation will bring much-needed reform to these laws that afford no meaningful protections to communities attacked by greedy developers and their political cronies.

"The abuse of eminent domain must not happen again; Senator Perkins' bill to redefine 'blight' and reform eminent domain must be passed.

"I call on my fellow citizens and elected officials across the city and state who believe that government abuse of power must be reined in, that government theft of property on the slimmest of pretexts has got to stop, to actively support Senator Perkins' bill.

"And when it passes, it will be one of the legacies of the stance I and so many others have taken against the Atlantic Yards abuses, and the stand other citizens have taken in West Harlem, Willets Point, Downtown Brooklyn, East Harlem, Port Chester, Syracuse and so many other cities and neighborhoods across the State of New York."

The judge's decision to transfer ownership of the properties to Bruce Ratner comes after more than six years of a long legal battle with owners and tenants opposing what most experts agree is an abuse of eminent domain in a state that has the worst eminent domain laws in the country.


Posted by eric at 3:31 PM

Snowy Empty

Photo by Craig C., via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Given news of Judge Abe Gerges's ruling this morning against property owners fighting the condemnation of properties they own in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's planned Atlantic Yards project, this scene of the frozen tundra (formerly the preservation-worthy Ward Bakery) in Prospect Heights is likely to be replicated several times over.

Posted by eric at 1:53 PM

BREAKING! Judge rules against Yards property owners, paving way for construction

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

State development officials can seize properties in the footprint of developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project through eminent domain, a state court ruled on Monday morning, removing the most significant legal hurdle remaining before construction can begin on the Barclays Center arena.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges ruled this morning that 14 claims asserted by condemnation opponents — including the timing of the condemnations, the legality of a modification of the Atlantic Yards project plan and even the state’s failure to use the words “public use” in a section over why the land is being condemned in the first place — had no “merit.”

Gerges’s ruling applies to properties that Ratner says he needs immediately to begin construction, including the home of project holdout Daniel Goldstein on Pacific Street and the building housing Freddy’s Bar on Dean Street.

The case was argued on Jan. 29. Gerges’s ruling was strictly on procedural grounds, contending that “the court is required to direct the immediate filing and entry of the order granting [the condemnations] unless there is merit to any of the [landowners’] defenses.”

With Gerges’s ruling, the street closures around the Barclays Center site will likely proceed quickly, though it is unclear when the actually taking of property will occur.


Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

The Day: Atlantic Yards Discord, Mojito Cuban Cuisine

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

Good morning. As the blogs have busily digested the news – and lack of news – from Wednesday’s briefing on street closings around the Atlantic Yards project, this photo of a fill-in-the-blank poster that contributor Alex van Slyck snapped on South Portland Avenue struck a chord.


Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

Daily News: Markowitz raises $122K from campaign donors for State of the Borough

Atlantic Yards Report

During Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's State of the Borough address last month came this acknowledgment:


The Daily News, which noted that Markowitz's speech lasted an hour and 15 minutes (vs. the 20-minute speech by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall), asked about the cost; a Markowitz spokesman said no numbers were available, but "his campaign inaugural committee, Bravo Brooklyn, would pick up the tab."

(Weiss is Executive Director of the MetroTech Business Improvement District, an organization with ties to MetroTech developer Forest City Ratner here's the only official mention I could find of Bravo Brooklyn.)

Following up

Credit the Daily News for following up and finding some notable numbers:

Most pols went for modest ceremonies in the poor economy, but Markowitz raised $122,000 for a State of the Borough address featuring singing, dancing and a multimedia production - plus food and beer for 1,600.

"Marty's famous for finding every opportunity to host big events on behalf of Brooklyn and not incidentally on behalf of Marty," said David Birdsell, dean of Baruch College's School of Public Affairs. "The question is whether it's politically useful. It would seem perhaps the least prudent time in recent memory to launch a big celebration of someone's ascension to office."

...Many Markowitz contributors - mostly Brooklyn developers and business owners - gave him the maximum contribution of $3,850 for his campaign and then ponied up another maximum $3,500 for his inauguration.


NoLandGrab: Like Marty says, "if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all." So mum's the word.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Untangling the "conundrum" of Carlton Avenue Bridge; crucial delays were (likely) caused by FCR's cheaper redesign of the permanent Vanderbilt Yard

Atlantic Yards Report

How did the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge--a key thoroughfare between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene--turn from a two-year project to a stalled venture lasting more than four years, scheduled for reconstruction only in time for the opening of the Atlantic Yards arena?

Forest City Ratner (FCR) executive Jane Marshall last week called it "a conundrum," blaming the delay on the complexity of reconstructing a bridge that straddles the Vanderbilt Yard, a key element of the Atlantic Yards project.

But that explanation, as well as further elaboration by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), doesn't add up.

Notably, the bridge was originally supposed to reopen by the time a temporary railyard was completed--and the latter has been accomplished.

Also, unmentioned in the explanations, a key factor in the delay was likely Forest City Ratner's effort last year--well after the demolition process had begun--to renegotiate plans for a smaller and less costly permanent railyard.

In fact, it's possible that we won't see further action on the bridge until June 2011, the date "Improved Yard construction documents" are due to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The arena might open a year later, which means the bridge might be closed for four-and-a-half years.


Posted by lumi at 4:30 AM