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April 30, 2010

Public radio show State of the Re:Union visits Brooklyn and AY in broadcasts this weekend

Atlantic Yards Report

WNYC this weekend will focus on Brooklyn, including Atlantic Yards, in its mini-series State of the Re:Union. It be broadcast Saturday May 1 at 2 pm and Sunday May 2 at 8 pm on AM820 and streamed live on www.wnyc.org.

The promo:

State of the Re:Union visits New York City's most populated borough to examine how this diverse collection of communities handles the friction of change, the pull of tradition, and discovers that special something that makes this neighborhood so celebrated.

New York's most populous borough, Brooklyn, is ever-evolving. Brooklyn has been celebrated as everything from a bastion of industry to a refuge for immigrants from around the world. This episode of SOTRU charts Brooklyn's evolution, celebrates the diverse communities and explores both sides of the dilemma that high-rise condos and gentrification has brought.

Segments include:

ATLANTIC YARDS IS__: Atlantic Yards is the biggest development project in the history of Brooklyn. With 17 high-rise buildings for housing and commerce, and a new basketball arena, it would be the densest residential community in the country. The development, though not built yet, has already, and will continue to, profoundly alter the chemistry of the neighborhood in which it's being built.


Posted by eric at 2:28 PM

Freddy’s- Last Days

Not Another F*cking Blog

Freddy’s Bar & Backroom, a neighborhood watering hole for decades, and more recently, a center of Atlantic Yards opposition, will close its 485 Dean Street location for good tonight. Although the bar will relocate several blocks away into Park Slope, I don’t think it will ever be the same.

I shot this time lapse video on April 29, 2010 just before sunset. In the hour I stood watch over my camera, as it recorded buildings in their last days, some seized via eminent domain and all soon to be demolished for a basketball arena, I was treated to local history lessons from some who were born on the block and have lived in the neighborhood their entire lives. Stories from a time when the neighborhood would not have been considered “a great piece of real estate,” in the words of Forest City Ratner CEO Chuck Ratner.

  • Stories about the social club at 487 Dean Street, across 6th Avenue from Freddy’s, where kids waited in line to play Donkey Kong, the hot, new video game. That building has been demolished.
  • Stories from a man who rented the apartment directly above Freddy’s, as well as several other apartments in the footprint, some of which have already been demolished.
  • Stories about fresh-baked treats from Pechter’s Bakery, which used to operate in the now demolished Ward Bread Bakery.
  • Stories about the Chunky candy factory, about the Fort Greene Meat Market at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
  • Stories about playing stick ball behind the 78th Precinct building, probably using Spaldeens (those famous pink rubber balls), which used to be manufactured at the Spalding Building (the large brick building on the right in the video).
  • Stories about other local spots in the hood like The Hut and Winner’s Circle, now long gone.

So, this is your last chance to enjoy a pint or three at Freddy’s and take a glimpse back into a small corner of Brooklyn history before it’s gone. See you tonight.


Posted by eric at 2:15 PM

Last Call Looms at Freddy’s, in the Path of Atlantic Yards

The New York Times
by Kareem Fahim

Sometime next week, workers will start digging under the floor of a bar where a bartender known as Johnny Seatcovers poured an ocean’s worth of whisky, where police officers and anarchists alike shouted to be heard above the music, where young bands got their start and Blue Oyster Cult played a late-career gig.

For more than 70 years, the bar has stood at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn.

By Sunday, the patrons will have to drink elsewhere, as workers begin to hunt for asbestos, prior to demolition, and within a few months, all traces of the bar that was called Freddy’s will be gone, brought down to make way for the Atlantic Yards development project.

At different times and depending on whom you ask, the bar now called Freddy’s was a neighborhood haven for working-class drinkers, the CBGB’s of Brooklyn or a fountainhead of activism, creativity and dissent. In a cigar box kept behind the bar, locals stashed their house keys, and the bartender would cash regulars’ checks, according to David Sheets, 49, Freddy’s resident historian, who worked at the bar for a few years in the late 1990s.

On Sunday afternoons, the old-timers argued about politics, and on holidays, the owner let Mr. Sheets cook five-course meals, the tables decorated with flowers from his backyard.

“This was an extension of my house,” said Mr. Sheets, who lived a few doors away, and has also been forced to move by Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: While all too happy to sentimentalize Freddy's now, The Times a) fails to disclose that it's the paper's development partner that's about to bulldoze the place, and b) that the paper has editorialized in favor of exactly that.

Related coverage...

The New York Times, Freddy's Bar & Backroom Slide Show

WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, Open Phones: Farewell To Freddy's

After 70 years, Freddy's Bar in Prospect Heights is closing -- a casualty of the Atlantic Yards project. Listeners call in with their toasts to the neighborhood institution.

Will you miss Freddy's? Post your salute to Freddy's (not your rant) here! Start it with "I'd like to propose a toast..."

Atlantic Yards Report, Freddy's final night, the lost "patina that the patrons created," and the music/voices of Pinamonti ("The Burrow") and RebelMart ("Brooklyn Is Dying")

For a long time, I wasn't much of a fan of Freddy's Bar & Backroom, which closes its Dean Street location tonight, having taken a settlement in the wake of eminent domain.

Until the mayor banned smoking in bars and restaurants, I wasn't a fan of any bars, actually; they were just too smoky. And I'm not a big bar-goer.

But a lot of people who live in walking distance have their own Freddy's story, and here's what I'll remember most: Freddy's is where I discovered John Pinamonti.


Today, patrons of Freddy’s Bar will raise their beers one last time. In the past few years Freddy’s has been the epicenter of the Atlantic Yards Barclay’s Center controversy.

NY Examiner, Fred's Bar to close in Prospect Heights on Friday, April 30

Oh, God, not Fred's, too!

Fred's Bar, a real loon of a good time jukebox and live musician drag is having its last day at its Atlantic Yards Location on Friday April 30, 2010.

New York Kills Me!, because it razes places that matter to people

A final fuck you Forest City, Atlantic Yards and, while we're at it, fuck you too Goldstein.

NLG: "Goldstein?" Surely they mean "Goldman Sachs" or "Marty Golden," since Freddy's would've likely been razed long ago if not for the efforts of Daniel Goldstein.

Kath and Alex in Brooklyn, Last Call at Freddy's

We hung out a lot at this Prohibition-era bar when we first moved to Brooklyn (some might say too much). Alex has played many gigs here in their Backroom. I gave him a surprise 30th birthday party there, and we regularly brought Cameron with us as we had a beer or two. We have so much personal history here, it's tragic to us that this wonderful old bar has fallen victim to a heinous abuse of eminent domain.

The L Magazine, Sad Things: Freddy's Bar to Serve its Last Beer on Friday

We knew it was coming, but still, every now and then you have Capra-esque dreams of the little guy pulling one out against the implacable greed of the big, rich dickhead. Not this time, though, as Freddy's Bar will be serving its last beer this Friday, before Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards project comes in with the condos and what-not.

Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

Barclays Center Ad Campaign

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB has a little Photoshop fun with Barclays' recently launched taxi-top ad campaign.


Related coverage...

Noticing New York, Barclaying Up The Wrong Tree: "Brutally Weird" Advertising That Hits “Home” In All The Wrong Ways

Who thunk that one up? (Clunk!) And what were they thinking? What were they thinking?

The advertising for the proposed Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays Center” super-subsidized Nets basketball arena is so “brutally weird” to borrow a favorite trademark phrase from Norman Oder’s Atlantic Yards Report.

How incredibly tone deaf can an advertising copywriter be to promote what is one of the most notorious modern icons of eminent domain abuse as:

“Your Home Away From Home”

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

Schumer Says Atlantic Yards Area Is Not Blighted. Doesn’t See AY As A Ratner Mega-Monopoly, But Could His Support Wane?

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White recounts a conversation with Chuck Schumer, and wonders if the Senator's support for Atlantic Yards isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Among other things, we discussed whether the no-bid Atlantic Yards effectively leverages the housing subsidies it is getting. Supplying the Senator with documentation that Atlantic Yards is not leveraging its housing subsides effectively could conceivably get the Senator to withdraw his support for the project if it is provided in a manner so as to be sufficiently incontrovertible. Such documentation, however, is already available and we are not overly sanguine about politicians, Schumer included, paying attention to facts over politics and campaign contributions when it comes to Atlantic Yards.

So might Senator Schumer further reconsider his support of the mega-project? (In fact, is there maybe even an indication of the possibility of ebbing support when he uses the phrase “not as much” saying: "The reason I supported it, and it’s still part of it, not as much but still, is affordable housing.") If there is no “blight” as he assures us he knows there isn’t, then it’s illegal. And as for the inappropriate use of housing subsidy, surely our calculations that there is approximately $638.67 million in housing subsidies involved should convince him that the amount is substantial. Our review of what Ms. Bertha Lewis of ACORN “negotiated” should convince him that the community is really getting virtually nothing in terms of true affordable housing. And the testimony of urban planner Ron Shiffman and Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, ought to convince that the subsidies can be far better used and leveraged elsewhere.


NoLandGrab: Schumer's recent Harry Reid fundraiser, hosted by none other than the Devil himself, would indicate otherwise. Plus, at this point, does Schumer's support — or lack of it — really matter?

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Post columnist: "If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably just the media not doing its job."

Atlantic Yards Report

Columnist John Crudele, writing in the New York Post:

So if you read outrageous stories like the one on new-home sales, remember the old adage: "If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably just the media not doing its job."

That old adage applies elsewhere. Did the media ever critique the Forest City Ratner brochure excerpted at right?

That photo suggests that the far west segment of the railyard--one of 7+ blocks--would somehow become a full project with smudgy greenery and red-topped buildings.

Actually, it's slated to become half the arena block.


Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

April 29, 2010

It came from the Blogosphere...

A Good American Wife, Nutritional Values

We picked up a Twix and headed to the Atlantic Yards, a horrifying construction project that is kicking people out of their homes but has the up side of entertaining toddlers with large moving trucks. Once we were done watching Eminent Domain in progress, we headed to the Atlantic Center, where we ended up in the toy aisle of Target. How did that happen? I'm not sure. I was buzzing off an influx of chocolate-cookie-caramel.

Brownstoner, Freddy's: Where's It Gonna Be?

As previously mentioned, the owners of Freddy's have accepted a small payment from Forest City Ratner to move to a new space at 4th Avenue and Union Street. We scoped out the intersection and there only seem to be two possible spaces for Freddy's to move into. One is 4th Avenue entrance of Maria's Mexican Bistro (which is now only operating out of 669 Union Street, around the corner). The other is the grated space at 228 4th Avenue, which is located between two delis and definitely had some lights on inside when we snapped this photo. Any thoughts on which of these places (or perhaps another nearby space) is the bar's most likely new home?

Brooklyn Vegan, Freddy's is closing on Friday, but opening somewhere else

Oxygen Rich Environment, Government and Property Rights

Now, a man in the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn, who was the only holdout in an eminent domain case, has finally acquiesced. You can read about it on Volokh.

The man was bullied and forced out when his property was seized under eminent domain. Why? A politically connected developer wanted the property.

The Volokh Conspiracy, Last Atlantic Yards Property Owner Agrees to Sell His Land Under Threat of Condemnation

On the plus side, Goldstein’s dogged resistance to these condemnations helped focus public attention on the problem of eminent domain abuse. The state court decision upholding it is an important setback for property rights. However, many other state courts have gone the other way over the last 15 years. During that time, numerous state supreme courts have invalidated Kelo-like “economic development” takings under their state constitutions — including Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina (see this article for cites to these cases). Only the Atlantic Yards case and the Connecticut Supreme Court’s narrow 4–3 decision in Kelo itself have gone the other way.

Brownstoner, Closing Bell: Barclays on Message

A tipster spotted this mobile outdoor advertisement for a certain small development project coming soon to a blighted area near you.

Images: Brownstoner

Posted by eric at 1:25 PM

Gut Instinct: So Long, Fred

JOSH BERNSTEIN blows a goodbye kiss to Freddy’s

New York Press
by Joshua M. Bernstein

BY THE TIME many of you read this, the end will have come for Prospect Heights dive Freddy’s. Its destruction has been destined for seven years, ever since developer Bruce Ratner announced plans to bulldoze swaths of the central Brooklyn neighborhood and build luxury skyscrapers and a stadium housing the New Jersey Nets, which, happily, just completed one of the losingest campaigns in NBA history.

Sure, the lawsuits, rallies and hamfisted eminent domain gave residents and businesses dwelling in the Atlantic Yards footprint a kernel of David-versus-Goliath hope, but really: Ratner had billions of reasons to shoehorn this project into the neighborhood, doling out political donations like Halloween candy, soliciting sweetheart tax breaks and and enlisting the slobbering boosterism of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Please, come on out and support your Nets, Brooklyn,” I can hear him beg, as local interest flags after another 12–70 season.

But the pleasure I’ll take in watching Marty drown his sorrows in Junior’s cheesecake is trumped by the sadness I feel at Freddy’s closure. This quirky, curios-strewn tavern, where you could catch a banjo player one night, before building dioramas the next and participating in a spelling bee, will serve its final pint on April 30. After seven years of fighting, and staring down the wrecking ball, Freddy’s owners’ resignedly accepted a settlement from Ratner.


Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Fixing Community Benefits Agreements

The Huffington Post
by John Petro

But there is widespread agreement that the CBA process, if you can call it a process, is broken in New York City. Today's New York Times highlights a recent report that outlines some of the problems with how CBA's are negotiated, implemented, and enforced in New York City.

After all, the Atlantic Yards development had a CBA attached to it. But there were questions about whether the community was truly involved in the negotiation process. Clearly the resistance and lawsuits did not stop after the CBA was signed. Clearly some communities felt left out of the process.

There are questions of accountability, especially when grant payments are made by the developer to community groups. And what if a developer does not deliver on the promised benefits? Who has the power to enforce the CBA? Remember that CBAs are private agreements between the developer and the community--the city is not officially involved in these negotiations--and that CBA's do not carry the power of law.


NoLandGrab: We don't think it's a stretch to say that the Atlantic Yards CBA bears primary responsibility for the huge and growing concern over CBAs.

Related coverage...

City Limits, Strong Feelings About Yankee Stadium Deal? Too Bad.

City comptroller John Liu in February blasted what he said was "a string of broken promises to communities and questionable involvement by some government officials" in development deals from "Atlantic Yards to Yankee Stadium to the Columbia University expansion." Liu announced a task force to "establish standards…that ensure benefits for the public when private developers receive benefits from the public."

That task force is now meeting. But its meetings are closed to the public.

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

BrooklynSpeaks: Promises Broken!


Over the past few weeks, representatives of BrooklynSpeaks have been reaching out to the media, government officials and community organizations, in an effort to highlight the significant reduction in affordable housing, jobs, open space and other public benefits included in the final 2009 Atlantic Yards proposal, versus what was promised in the original 2006 proposal. Three representatives from the organization, Michelle de la Uz, Jo Anne Simon and Gib Verconi attended Monday night’s Community Board 2 (CB2) Executive Committee meeting to discuss these differences, and to propose the creation of a Stakeholder Council to oversee the Development going forward.

Some of the major differences (2009 vs. 2006):

• Buildings: Arena + 3 building by 2022; from, arena +16 buildings by 2016
• Affordable Units: 300 units by 2022; from, 2250 units by 2016
• Open Space: 1 acre of open space + 7 acres of parking; from, 8 acres open space
• Jobs Created: 3,600 annual average first 30 years; from, 10,000 permanent, 15,000 construction
• Construction Duration: 25 years, with extensions possible; from, 10 years
• Arena Economic Benefit: Loss of $8 million over 30 years, from, $25 million gain over 30 years


Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner's $3M payout speeds billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's take over

NY Daily News
by Mitch Lawrence and Michael O'Keeffe

When Nets owner Bruce Ratner agreed last week to pay $3 million to last Atlantic Yards holdout Daniel Goldstein to move from his Brooklyn apartment by May 7, most press accounts noted that the payout made sense because delays in construction of the Barclays Center were costing the developer $6.7 million a month.

But there was another reason why Ratner was willing to pay Goldstein far more than other residents who stood in the way of his wrecking balls: The sooner Goldstein moved, the sooner Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov could take over the Nets and start rebuilding a laughingstock team that won just 12 games this season.

"The state's rush to push me out was to serve Prokhorov's interests and the Nets' interests and not the public interest," Goldstein told the Daily News. "It had everything to do with Prokhorov and ownership of Nets. It didn't have anything to do with housing or jobs."

Goldstein's attorney Michael Rikon, an expert in condemnation law, said people pushed from their homes by state officials exercising eminent domain authority are typically given six months to move after the state takes control of their property. Ownership of Goldstein's apartment was transferred to the Empire State Development Corp. on March 1, and on April 9, ESDC filed documents requesting that a court evict Goldstein and his wife and daughter by May 17 - the day before the draft lottery, in which the Nets are favored to land the No. 1 pick.


Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Urbanism, authenticity, and the suburban lives of several people running Atlantic Yards (AKA a "major zoning exception")

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards may be a public-private project, according to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), but developer Bruce Ratner famously said, "This isn't a public project."

That means the single most influential person regarding Brooklyn's biggest project is Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin, who lives in the Westchester suburb of Edgemont.

As depicted in a cropped Google satellite photo, her home looks more like an estate than a house. Would Gilmartin lie to maintain her privileged lifestyle?

On authenticity

Why make a big deal of the contested term authenticity? Well, it's prompted new discussion, thanks to Sharon Zukin's book Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places.

And some of those overseeing Atlantic Yards have taken pains to establish their (somewhat tenuous) Brooklyn bona fides; remember how former Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) CEO Marisa Lago testified she'd gone to the dentist at the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building and claimed to enjoy bicycling in Brooklyn?

Or how Metropolitan Transportation Authority Acting Executive Director Helena Williams reminded the audience at an oversight hearing that the Long Island Rail Road was born in Brooklyn?


Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

April 28, 2010

Goldstein's attorney responds to Gilmartin's quote that sticking point in settlement was money: "This is an absolute untruth."

Atlantic Yards Report

Eminent domain attorney Michael Rikon wrote a letter to Stephen Brown of the Brooklyn Paper regarding the article (misleadingly) headlined Ratner exec: Goldstein was in it for the money! Gilmartin: 'He was in it for the money!'.

I read your story in which you quote Forest City executive [MaryAnne] Gilmartin saying "the sticking point was how much money he wanted." This is an absolute untruth.

I know that you were in court. After the argument, ESDC’s attorney asked for a conference. The reason was simple: its papers were defective as a matter of law. It could never obtain an eviction order on the Order to Show Cause it presented for a Writ of Assistance. We had a conference before the Court, first together and then individually. At this point is was only me. My son Joshua joined me much later as he was finalizing an Order to Show cause for Judge Gerges’ signature on another case.

The amount of money was calculated based on what our appraiser had indicated would be the fair market value of the Goldstein Condo, it also included amounts representing the estimated cost for temporary housing, moving storage and moving the stored items back to a final location together with relocation benefits as required under the Uniform Relocation Assistance Act. It also included my firm’s legal fees and an amount representing the two-week factor to vacate.

ESDC and Forest City had three law firms in Court that day with about 20 other employees, executives, in-house counsel and consultants. When it went into the Judge’s robing room, there were at least six lawyers.

After each session as negotiations progressed, we each conferred with our client. It is impossible for Ms. Gilmartin not to have known what was happening step by step.

The money never really changed. The amount was agreed to early in the process, perhaps within the first half hour.

What took six hours was Forest City’s insistence that Daniel Goldstein agree never to say a word about the project. His response was that he would never agree to waive his First Amendment rights for ten million [dollars] and would leave if that was a condition.

I report that to the Judge and he spoke to Daniel. When the Judge realized the caliber of the man in front of him, he agreed that it would be wrong to condition a settlement on such a waiver. Thereafter, the language which was made part of the settlement was drafted by the judge and agreed to.

In short, Forest City should be ashamed of itself for planting statements it knows were false. It is unseemly for a large developer to act in such a mean and vindictive manner. This conduct does not reflect well on it and tarnishes the fine reputation it once had for dealing fairly with condemnees.

When we left the Court, I told Daniel that I was proud to represent him. I still am.

Michael Rikon

(I've cleaned up a few typos in the note from Rikon and link to my Rikon disclosure.)


Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

Greetings from Scott Turner: Let’s Start Not Forgetting

via Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn

Scott Turner is flying from Seattle (where he recently moved) for Friday night’s closing party for Freddy’s. It’s like meeting someone at a funeral: great to see you, sorry it had to be for this.

Hi, all…

I’m a long way away — in a land where the daytime high in the mid-50s was swell in February and a drag in mid April. A land where bike riders think they’re Lance Armstrong, where it doesn’t rain as much as New York. A land where I can see and hear freight trains, cargo ships and landing planes out my front window. A land where here, too, a dumb-ass government has spent years shoving a rich-person’s development project down everyone’s throats.

…a land not too far to grieve over the passing of Freddy’s Bar & Backroom.

That would be this Friday, April 30, at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue — the future site of not a school, not a health clinic, not an AIDS or cancer research center, not a job-training facility, not an emerging small business, not an artists’ colony, not a community center, not one stitch of affordable housing, not open space or green space or free space or peoples’ space. The future site of some ancillary structure connected to a Russian oligarch’s basketball team’s arena.


Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Farewell to Freddy's! Beloved watering hole near Yards closes for good on Friday

Courier-Life Publications
by Stephen Brown

Follow the link for some interesting Freddy's history.

Hipsters, old-timers, and barflies will raise their glasses at Freddy’s Bar for the last time on Friday — making a final toast to a Prohibition-era watering hole, but one man won’t be there: the man whose name is on the awning.

Freddy Chadderton, who sold the bar to its current owner in 1996, lives on Long Island — but at age 82, he isn’t looking back at his salad days.

“I had a good run,” he told us this week.

But Chadderton is one of the few people connected with this bar that isn’t crying at least a bit in his beer this week, recalling a neighborhood joint that apparently has to be torn down so that Bruce Ratner can build a basketball arena.


Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

ACORN & Chuck Schumer beat hipsters & firemen

Washington Examiner
by Timothy P. Carney

I’ve written in the past about the development of the Nets (basketball) new arena in Brooklyn — a development that has involved eminent domain, subsidies, and race-baiting. This week, we get the news that the final holdout, and the loudest voice against the development, has accepted the theft of his house and his eviction, pocketed a $3 million settlement, and moved out.

The story intrigued me because it was big intramural battle on the Left. On the winning side are Chuck Schumer, developer Bruce Ratner, and ACORN. On the losing side are liberal, ill-shaven, bespectacled hipsters (including some of my friends).

The dividing line isn’t color or political affiliation. It’s people with access to government might vs. people without access to government might.


NoLandGrab: Carney has the big picture right, but he sells a diverse Atlantic Yards opposition short by describing opponents primarily as "hipsters."

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Community Pacts Questioned in the Zoning Process

The New York Times
by Terry Pristin

Now, in a report that is likely to have considerable influence on policy makers, the New York City Bar Association has urged the city to stop allowing community benefits agreements to be part of the zoning approval process. The report warns, among other things, that the agreements could create an opportunity for corruption.

Ya think?

“It is our recommendation that the city announce that it will not consider C.B.A.’s in making its determinations in the land-use process,” the bar association said in the report last month. The report, which was in the works long before the armory proposal was defeated, also urged the city to declare that it would no longer play a role in “encouraging, monitoring or enforcing the agreements.” The report acknowledged that there was no way to prevent developers from making deals with community groups. But it said the city should get involved, if at all, only when the developer was seeking a public subsidy.

And when don't developers seek a public subsidy?

In recent years, city officials have opposed these private agreements on the ground that the city review process provides ample opportunity for community groups to seek concessions from developers. But previously, the Bloomberg administration championed or helped foster the agreements for projects like the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn; the Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market, a Related Companies project; and the expansion of Columbia University.

Of course, in the case of Atlantic Yards, there was no city review process.

While acknowledging that many residents believe that the city’s formal zoning process, known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or Ulurp, “fails to adequately consider or protect their interests,” the bar association report raised these and other questions about the private agreements:

¶Do the groups involved in the C.B.A. truly represent the community or are they simply seeking advantages for themselves?

¶Are they experienced enough to strike a good bargain with the developer, or will they sell out too cheaply?

¶Could benefits that require public subsidy — like affordable housing, for example — be awarded to a particular neighborhood to win acceptance of a project rather than on the basis of where these benefits are needed most?


NoLandGrab: The Atlantic Yards CBA, of course, fails all those tests, and badly.

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In Times, City Bar task force members warn against CBA abuses; Atlantic Yards examples are actually more egregious

A New York Times Real Estate page (Square Feet) article today headlined Community Pacts Questioned in the Zoning Process takes off from the critical report on Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) issued last month (my coverage).

Notably, while the article makes but a glancing reference to Atlantic Yards, the abuses referenced all relate to projects that go before the City Council; Atlantic Yards didn't even face that level of oversight, given that it was shepherded by the unelected Empire State Development Corporation, ignoring the role of both the local Community Boards and the local Council Member.

Moreover, the report contains what might be considered a slap at ACORN, given that one influential lawyer warns against a Council Member designating which affordable housing group should be selected. In the case of Atlantic Yards, there was not even that minimal level of local involvement; the decision was made by Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

At panel on eminent domain, Siegel describes abuses, proposes reforms; defender of status quo ignores problems raised in Columbia and AY cases

Atlantic Yards Report

For those of us who have seen civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, victorious so far in the effort to block eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion, speak on panels or testify before an oversight hearing, most of his critique yesterday on "The Use (or Misuse) of Eminent Domain in NYC" at New York Law School (video) was not unfamiliar.

Siegel made some compelling points about eminent domain abuses, but more intriguing was the respondent, land use use attorney Ross Moskowitz, who offered a full defense of the status quo, warning of abuses--notably, the potential for holdouts to distort the process--while ignoring the problems raised in both the Columbia and Atlantic Yards cases.


Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

April 27, 2010

At what point does the “subsidy” become “unscrupulous?”

NYC Restorations

Atlantic Yards yes, ferries no?

A recent article from the NY Daily News about their shutting down a shuttle from Rockaway Beach to Manhattan had this to say:

Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson explained to the packed room of riders at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club how the city was subsidizing nearly $20 per passenger trip on the ferry. Wolfson noted this was a far cry from the 56 cents per subway ride the city provides in subsidies for each straphanger.

“The clear metrics that were established to determine whether or not this would be a success have not been met,” Wolfson said.

So what are the clear metrics that were established? What makes this a success or a failure, according to the Mayor’s office? Why is the city’s subsidizing of the ferry a failure when the financial exceptions made for the creation of a baseball or football stadium is deemed a success?

So let’s get back to the original question – at what point does the subsidy become silly? Why is the metric used for public transportation seemingly thrown into the bin when we look at stadium construction, or expensive condo units? Why does the MTA shut down umpteen bus lines and an entire subway line because of budget cuts, and how can we then afford to foot the bill for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development? How can the deputy mayor say on one hand that the subsidies for the Rockaway ferry are untenable, but on the other, that Yankee Stadium was a giant success and boy-oh-boy Atlantic Yards is going to be an even bigger one?

I think we’ve gone past silly into surreal.


Posted by eric at 11:45 PM

Surprised? MTA Restructures the Hudson Yards Deal; Developer Cherry Picks More Benefit While Public Keeps the Risk

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White is back, with a look at how the MTA is following the proven-unsuccessful model it developed with the Vanderbilt Yard giveaway in its negotiations with developer Related Companies over Manhattan's Hudson Yard.

In light of the New York Times report today about delays and proposed developer-favorable modifications with respect to the West Side’s 26-acre Hudson Yards Project we would like to note how it confirms and hearkens back to concerns we raised a long time ago. (Railyards Deal May Still Be Weeks Away, by Michael M. Grynbaum, April 26, 2010.) Are we really that much smarter than the MTA’s board? Or are we just more attentive to protecting the public interest?

So the MTA is structuring a new plan. As is typical with so-called public-private partnerships where what is public and what is private is confused and up for grabs, the public is taking all the risk and the private developer (now getting a lower price and having less obligation) is cherry-picking to get all the benefit.

Here is some advice for "frustrated" MTA board members: You wouldn’t be getting in these kinds of binds if they abandoned the ill-advised practice of doing these single developer mega-deals and you wouldn’t be surprised with so little time to think about things if you were reading some of the Noticing New York articles where we consider these critical issue ahead of time.


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, First the Vanderbilt Yard, then Hudson Yards; the MTA seems ready to cave to a developer's revised deal

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is still at the mercy of developers who (apparently) have the ear of the governor and mayor who control the authority.

Now the issue is a revised deal for the Hudson Yards, which gets far more incisive treatment from Michael D.D. White, as described below, than from the New York Times.

The "bum's rush"

From a Times article today headlined Railyards Deal May Still Be Weeks Away:

Members of the authority’s board, who received details of the deal on Sunday, expressed frustration that they had no time to review the plan before being asked to approve it. “I really feel that in these big developer deals we get the bum’s rush,” said Doreen Frasca, a board member. The finance committee issued no recommendation on the plan.

And last June?

When the revised Vanderbilt Yard deal was revealed last June 22, Frasca said, "This is just an observation, and I know staff has worked very long and hard on this, including into this weekend, but I note that it's one month shy of four years since the board accepted the Forest City Ratner proposal, and this committee and this board is being given less than 48 hours to understand the complexities and vote intelligently... I think that's pretty outrageous. Why do we have to vote on Wednesday?"

"Well, of course, you don't," MTA CFO Gary Dellaverson responded. "It's entirely at the board's discretion to accept or reject or send back to the negotiating table... I think that, in terms of why must it be now in the summer versus in the fall, I think it really relates to Forest City's desire to market their bonds as a tax-exempt issuance [by a December 31 deadline]."

Two days later, Frasca, saying she'd studied the deal intensely, signed on. Maybe she'd gotten a phone call, as well.

Posted by eric at 11:28 PM

The Future of Arts Funding

WNYC Radio

Atlantic Yards, poster child for colossal wastes of taxpayer money, makes a cameo appearance in today's Soundcheck Smackdown over public funding of the Arts, around the 28-minute mark.

Joel Meyer: "Tom writes, 'as an arts lover, as long as governments continue to spend my tax money on sports stadia, I welcome the help for the arts.'"

Nick Gillespie: "That's a strong argument against funding for sports stadiums. New York, the Atlantic Yards project, currently undergoing a destruction of a thriving neighborhood in Brooklyn."

John Schaefer: "That's a whole 'nother Smackdown."

Nick Gillespie: "Absolutely, it's all of a piece, it's all corporate welfare."


Posted by eric at 10:37 PM

Idling dump trucks block Pacific Street, pinning drivers in: photos

Atlantic Yards Report

A photographer reports from Pacific Street: some 12-15 dump trucks being used for Atlantic Yards were parked idling and lined up throughout the block of Pacific Street between 6th and Carlton Avenues.

This blocked some drivers for up to an hour. Had the fire department needed to use Pacific Street or had mistakenly turned down Pacific, it would have been a dangerous mess, he says.


NoLandGrab: Who wants to bet this type of thing was never mentioned in the "Construction Impacts" section of the Environmental Impact Statement?

Posted by eric at 10:27 PM

Ratner exec: Goldstein was in it for the money!

Courier-Life Newspapers via NYPost.com
by Stephen Brown

Forest City Ratner, the company that turned prevarication into an art form, would have you believe that Daniel Goldstein was only in it for the pay day, while Atlantic Yards is a, um, civic project.

Forest City Ratner officials abandoned their diplomatic talk on Tuesday to explicitly portray Daniel Goldstein, who ended his long holdout in the Atlantic Yards footprint for $3 million last week, as an opportunist looking to make as much money as possible.

Countering Goldstein’s own spin that his fight against Atlantic Yards was a principled stand against eminent domain abuse, Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President MaryAnne Gilmartin told us that last week’s final negotiations did not bog down due to Goldstein’s insistence that he be allowed to continue criticizing the project, but simply over how much money he could get out of developer Bruce Ratner.

"Spin?" Does anyone think it's remotely plausible that Daniel Goldstein held out for six years so he could squeeze a few more bucks out of Bruce Ratner?

“The sticking point was how much money he wanted,” Gilmartin said.

When pressed for more details, Gilmartin, who was touring the Atlantic Yards site with two others, shifted back to the immortal language of the press release.

“We’re glad to have vacant possession and are moving forward,” Gilmartin said. “This is a great moment for the project.”

Later, Goldstein called Gilmartin’s assessment simply false.

“The money amount was settled pretty quickly,” he said. “The sticking point that led to nearly four hours of discussions was Ratner’s insistent desire to bind me to some sort of gag order.

“Apparently, taking my home and razing my neighborhood wasn’t enough for them,” he added.


NoLandGrab: Classy, MaryAnne, very classy.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Courier-Life: (unreliable) Gilmartin says sticking point for Goldstein was money; Goldstein says it was the gag order

Um, how is it that Goldstein has a "spin" but the Scarsdale-dwelling Gilmartin has an "assessment"?

Given that the developer has consistently wrung additional subsidies and concessions out of public bodies, it's fair to say that Forest City Ratner always been the "opportunist looking to make as much money as possible."

Posted by eric at 10:01 PM

Public Advocate de Blasio criticizes Bertha Lewis's comments about Daniel Goldstein (not)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder imagines what NYC Public Advocate would (and should) say about Bertha Lewis's crass criticism of Daniel Goldstein.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who issues a stream of public statements and comments on issues local and national, failed to say anything about the Atlantic Yards arena groundbreaking last month. And this is what he didn't say about his longtime ally Bertha Lewis of ACORN.


Posted by eric at 2:23 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!...

The New York Times, Eager to Rebuild Willets Point, City Faces Legal Fight From Property Owners

It is one of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s signature projects — the sweeping transformation of Willets Point, a slice of Queens that has long been among the city’s most neglected pieces of real estate. And a little over a year ago, it seemed like a done deal.

The City Council approved the proposal, which would sweep aside the car-repair shops, junkyards and small factories in the shadow of Citi Field to make room for 5,500 apartments, parks, office buildings, stores, restaurants and a hotel.

Many of the largest property owners agreed to sell to the city, and the city could use eminent domain to force out those who refused.

But a convergence of a Park Avenue lawyer known for toppling big projects, a sawdust maker bent on keeping the family business where it has been for decades, and a pair of highway ramps that exist only on paper threatens to doom Mr. Bloomberg’s grand vision.

Posted by eric at 1:58 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gideon's Trumpet, Was the Decision to Use Eminent Domain for the Atlantic Yards Project a Part of the Democratic Process? Don’t Be Silly.

The familiar reason offered by the U.S. Supreme Court (most recently in the Kelo case) why judges are so supinely deferential to what they characterize as “legislative” decisions to use eminent domain, is that aggrieved citizens have recourse to the democratic process, and are free to elect other “legislative” officials, more in harmony with their views. But if you think about it, that’s nonsense. The decision to condemn a particular property for a particular “public use” — whether genuine or feigned — is at best made by unelected government functionariers, such as highway commissions or redevelopment agencies.

For an insight into just how insulated from the democratic process was the decision to implement the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, read Norman Oder’s discussion of this topic at http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2010/04/greg-david-of-crains-gets-it-very-wrong.html. A good read, that.

So when the Supreme Court says that the “legislative” decision to condemn is “well nigh conclusive,” it only surrenders its traditional function of interpreting the constitution and its duty to do so under the checks and balances doctrine. After all, we are endlessly told that it is the courts in general and the Supreme Court in particular who are the interpreters of constitutional provisions. So how come they abruptly lose their ability to perform that function when it comes to the “public use” clause of the Fifth Amendment?

The Cross Pollinator, Understanding Bloomberg’s Love Of Atlantic Yards


"Mr. Bloomberg bought an estate in Bermuda, called Stokes Bay, by 1998. He demolished the 2,620-square-foot house and commissioned a local architect to replace it with a $10 million home nearly three times its size in Tucker’s Town.

"Even by Bermudan standards, it was flashy: five balconies, four bedrooms, seven bathrooms, an in-ground pool and space for four cars, all hidden by a gated driveway, according to documents on file with the Bermuda Department of Planning."


What are the odds that the 2620 square foot house he demolished was blighted? Pretty slim.

Do rich powerful men like to rip perfectly fine buildings down to build a monument to their egos? Looks that way.

Does Mayor Turtleburg understand Bruce Ratner’s desire to rip down an entire neighborhood so he can build an airplane hangar stadium so the worst team in the NBA can stink up Brooklyn? Looks that way.

Posted by eric at 12:32 PM

Atlantic Terminal and Center malls are crime magnets

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Claire Glass

It appears that the Empire State Development Corporation's master plan for alleviating the blighting influence of crime in the Atlantic Yards footprint is to turn the land over to the man who presides over the neighborhood's center of criminal activity.

Target trouble

The Target in the notorious Atlantic Terminal Mall was yet again the scene of crime last week, when a fast-handed perp stole a victim’s wallet while she shopped on April 19.

The victim told cops that she got to the checkout line at around 7 pm and discovered the missing property when she reached into her pocket to pay. She quickly called to cancel her credit cards and found that the thief had already done some shopping at her expense.

Marshall’s matters

Yet another shopper at the notorious Atlantic Center Mall was burglarized by a sneaky perp on April 19.

The victim told cops that she got to the Marshall’s store inside the mall, which is between Fort Greene and S. Elliot places, at around 2 pm, but didn’t notice that her purse was missing from her cart for another 20 minutes.


Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

Daniel Goldstein, last Yards holdout, speaks!

The Brooklyn Paper, Op Ed
by Daniel Goldstein

For nearly seven years, at considerable personal risk, I used my home to fight the abuse of eminent domain and Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. Without my home, the misguided project — opposed by a fierce community movement I came to lead — could not happen. With no democratic political process available to the community, the not-so-simple act of keeping my home was the best way I could affect what was clearly a fixed deal.

But I never promised to be an ineffectual martyr.

On March 1, the state took title to my home, effectively ending the possibility of winning the fight on eminent domain grounds. Those who wish to deem me a “sellout” are flatly wrong. After condemnation, I had nothing meaningful left to sell that might affect the fight or achieve a single one of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s goals.

The state sought a court order to evict me on May 17. Facing that — and a judge who wanted the parties to resolve the eviction — I agreed to leave on May 7 rather than the 17. Ratner also demanded a gag order and complete disassociation from DDDB. I refused both demands, affirming my First Amendment rights.

The media, agape at the settlement figures — though never agape at the size of Ratner’s public subsidy — missed some key things last week:

In the past six years, Ratner’s representatives approached me four times, offering to buy me out in exchange for my abandoning key eminent domain litigation, which threatened their project. Each time, they knew that the opposition to Atlantic Yards would suffer a huge blow if I sold my home.

I rejected a settlement every time I met with Ratner’s people, instead offering to help facilitate a negotiation with the community about the project. That, however, was of no interest to them.


The Brooklyn Paper also invited ACORN's Bertha Lewis to pen her own op-ed. Given the chance to temper her crazy talk from last week, she submitted the very same rant.

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

Would-be replacements raise for Harry Reid

by Manu Raju and John Bresnahan

Sen. Chuck Schumer invited Harry Reid to spend Monday morning with him in Brooklyn, where some of Schumer’s well-heeled friends opened their checkbooks to help the Senate majority leader’s struggling reelection bid.

So, there Schumer was Monday morning, introducing Reid to the big-money developers of the New Jersey Nets’ new $4.9 billion facility in Brooklyn. Schumer told the developers that he and Reid had been “through war together,” and he called the Nevadan his “foxhole buddy,” according to someone who was there.

Monday’s fundraiser was headlined by Bruce Ratner, the real estate mogul who owns the Nets — and who has donated more than $127,000 to Democrats in recent years.

While Schumer’s office won’t say how much money the event raised for Reid, cash poured in from a number of developers and real estate types. The event came just hours before a procedural vote on a plan to rewrite the rules for Wall Street, but Reid’s office stressed that the donors who turned out Monday weren’t bankers or Wall Street officials — and that, in fact, many work for Ratner’s company as well as for electrical and construction companies.


NoLandGrab: OK, time for a shower — we feel filthy just reading that. Remember when Bruce Ratner actually claimed he'd sworn off making political contributions? Kidding!

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Russian Billionaire Is White Knight for the Nets

The New York Times
by Howard Beck

In an apparent effort to expand its flagging advertiser base, The New York Times is starting to sound an awful lot like People Magazine.

Prokhorov is relatively young, wealthy, charming, tall, athletic and adventurous, a modern-day renaissance man with an air of cold war mystique. He could pass for a Bond villain, or a double agent in a Tom Clancy novel. The NetsDaily blog has dubbed him “the Most Interesting Man in the World,” after the suave fellow in the beer commercials.

As an N.B.A. owner, Prokhorov may have a unique advantage: himself.

He will be one of the league’s youngest owners, its tallest (6 feet 8 inches) and, aside from Charlotte’s Michael Jordan, its most athletic. He is an expert skier, a competitive basketball player and an avid kickboxer.

His public image is undeniably cool, and surely appealing to the young athletes he will soon try to recruit.

In a YouTube video that was professionally shot and put to music, Prokhorov performs aerial stunts on a Jet Ski.


NoLandGrab: As Norman Oder points out below, though The Times fails to acknowledge it, the business partner of their business partner is their business partner. Which might help explain the teen-pop magazine treatment of Prokhorov.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Times Sports section buffs Prokhorov, ignores unflattering details; shouldn't the Times disclose business relationship?

Beck, with the assistance of two Times reporters, quoted the following sources in the article: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, agent Marc Cornstein, former CSKA Moscow (and Prokhorov employee) Ettore Messina, former CSKA president Sergei Kuschenko, and Russan sports journalist Andrei Mitkov.

Beck writes:

When a “60 Minutes” interview veered into sensitive areas, like his 2007 run-in with the French police over suspected prostitution, Prokhorov defused the tension with humor and an impish smile.

What's missing

Here's what's missing from the piece: questions about Prokhorov's business practices, including alleged sanctions-busting in Zimbabwe; Prokhorov's use of sports as a platform for business investment in the United States; and Prokhorov's belief that, despite the Kremlin connections that fostered his wealth, he's a self-made man.

Missing from the article is any disclosure that Prokhorov, slated to buy 80% of the Nets, would also own 45% of the Atlantic Yards arena in partnership with a Forest City Ratner entity.

Forest City Ratner was the New York Times's business partner in the Times Tower, and the Times still (intermittently) discloses that relationship.

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

In City Hall News article, Markowitz credits Chief of Staff Scissura for lowering the heat on AY; remember testimony to MTA?

Atlantic Yards Report

From a City Hall News article headlined The 20 Most Influential Unelecteds: That most New Yorkers Have Never Heard Of:


Chief of Staff, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

...“He said, ‘Here is how budgeting works, here is how to appoint community boards,’” said Brad Lander, the new Council member from Park Slope and one of Scissura’s luncheon companions. “He has a sense of how things work and he is willing to be helpful and share that knowledge.”

Scissura calls himself the “consigliere” to the colorful borough president, and says his job description is simply “everything.”

Markowitz credits him with helping reach out to communities affected by the Atlantic Yards and Domino developments.

“If we aren’t able to get everyone to agree all the time, Carlo is at least able to lower the heat,” Markowitz said. “Plus, I value his judgment. He has a great ability to present all sides of an issue.”

What's missing

Hold on. Scissura's surely an able aide and amiable fellow, but lowering the heat?

Remember his testimony last June before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, channeling Markowitz?


NoLandGrab: We always find it charming when unelected pubic officials describe themselves as mobsters. Don't you?

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

April 26, 2010

Last Atlantic Yards holdout agrees to leave

Darla Miles reporting

Here's a local TV news story from last week that eluded our normally trusty search efforts.


Posted by eric at 4:46 PM

Atlantic Yards for College Credit

From The New School's summer Continuing Education catalogue:

The Politics of Urban Megadevelopment NPOL3184
A 15 session(s). Tues. & Thurs., 4:00 PM-5:50 PM, beg. June 8. $595.00
Register: Non-Credit   General Credit
Petra Todorovich

This course explores the politics and the process of implementing complex urban development projects in the New York metropolitan region, focusing on several recent case studies: the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site; the proposed Olympic Stadium/Jets football stadium on Manhattan's far west side; the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn; and the MTA financing package that passed the New York state legislature in spring 2009. Taught by an urban planner who has been centrally or peripherally involved in all of the cases mentioned, students learn about the complex forces and the diverse interests affecting the physical landscape of New York City and its surroundings. Topics include the challenges of building political support, financing large projects, gaining community consensus, navigating the environmental review process, shaping public opinion and media coverage, defining public interest, and the roles of the civic community and advocates. (3 credits)


Additional coverage...

Curbed, Development Battles Become Homework

Some of the city's most controversial megaprojects have wound up in the curriculum for a New School summer course on urban planning. Atlantic Yards, the World Trade Center rebuilding and the Jets Stadium/Hudson Yards fiasco will all be examined and explained over 15 sessions, earning the young planners of tomorrow a hard-fought three credits. The class costs $595, but at the end each student gets a $3 million buyout.

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Sweet Spot

Metropolis POV
by Mason Currey

Rafael Viñoly, architect of Williamsburg's controversial New Domino project, is selling that project as the anti-Atlantic Yards.

Viñoly, at least, seemed confident that his firm’s plan was better than Brooklyn’s other long-drawn-out and highly controversial redevelopment project, Atlantic Yards. “If you recall—with all due respect to Frank—the Yards were a design and, you know, you had to buy it,” he said. “We think we have achieved a middle ground, this attempt to bridge between the limits of urban design and some suggestions to the betterment of architectural design.”


Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

Stop The Pork Lawsuit Appeal To Be Heard

Ground Report
by Richard Cooper

The Stop The Pork Lawsuit whose butchery in the New York court I reported previously (Stop The Pork Lawsuit Butchered In Supreme Court) will have its appeal heard on Monday April 26th according to Buffalo attorney James Ostrowski. The lawsuit contends that corporate welfare in New York violates our state's constitution. I contributed to the legal fund and was added as one of the plaintiffs.

The suit names as defendants Governor Paterson, the Senate and Assembly leadership, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and various corporations, including IBM.

The Empire State Development Corporation is the principal driver in New York of both corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse, including Atlantic Yards and the NY Times headquarters scheme I dubbed Time$cam.


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Despite FCR's announced demolition plans, building at 752 Pacific may become developer's construction headquarters

Atlantic Yards Report

Though Forest City Ratner executive Maryanne Gilmartin has said in court papers that the developer plans to demolish the building long owned by Henry Weinstein at 752 Pacific Street for parking, another court document suggests that the six-story building, renovated into office space, more likely will serve as offices during the construction phase of the arena.

That makes sense on two levels. First, it would be an expensive and lengthy process to demolish such a staunch building.

(Gilmartin, in paragraph 37 of the affidavit below that's part of the Order to Show Cause, says it would take "several months to perform the work necessary to prepare for an actual demolition" of 636 Pacific Street, the taller but much narrower warehouse-turned-condo building where Daniel Goldstein lives, and approximately five months for the actual demolition.)

Second, Forest City Ratner will be demolishing the similarly staunch Spalding Building, now home to project offices, at Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street, thus leaving a significant gap.

(Photo taken December 2008 by Tracy Collins)


Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

The denunciation of the ESDC's condemnation push that was never resolved, but surely influenced the Goldstein settlement

Atlantic Yards Report

Why did Forest City Ratner settle with Daniel Goldstein last Wednesday for $3 million? The most obvious reasons were to save the alleged $6.7 million monthly cost of delay it alleged, and to pave the way for Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's purchase of the Nets, which was depending on vacant possession of the site.

Another reason--and a reason for Goldstein to settle--was that Kings County Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges pushed for a settlement. He didn't want to adjudicate the case, nor preside over an eviction that could easily have become a media event.

Given the Empire State Developmeny Corporation's initial and ridiculous lowball appraisal of his apartment, Goldstein had to calculate his vulnerability to pursuing the case and getting a check that was worth far less than a replacement apartment.

That said, it would have been of significant interest had the case continued, because, at least according to a response from Goldstein's attorney, the ESDC was way out of line.

Click through to learn why.


Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

Greg David of Crain's gets it very wrong: "New Yorkers, through their political process" decided "Atlantic Yards was in the best interest of the city"

Atlantic Yards Report

In a column headlined An eminent name in domain debate, Crain's New York Business editorial director Greg David defends eminent domain for Atlantic Yards while, astonishingly, neglecting to acknowledge how local elected officials were ignored.

I always tell that story to my class on the New York City economy when we study commercial development issues. Then I explain how the indomitable Brooklyn gadfly Daniel Goldstein—who last week finally gave up his long fight to stop the Atlantic Yards project—convinced me the mayor was right.

Historically, eminent domain allowed governments to seize land for public purposes such as roads, schools, parks and airports. In Kelo, the Supreme Court said it was constitutional for states and cities to take private property on behalf of private interests for a public purpose such as improving the economy.

The complications are obvious. The government is putting the interests of one private party, in this case Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, above those of another, in this case some existing Brooklyn residents and businesses.

Critics of the Kelo decision say that the doctrine is unfair and creates opportunities for abuse by powerful interests and that developers like Forest City can and should use their resources to buy out the other parties.

But Mr. Goldstein wasn't interested in the money. He grudgingly sold his condo last week only because his choice was to accept a $3 million offer today and move out in two weeks or wait two months for a court to evict him and award him less money. He could have gotten much more months ago, maybe years ago.

He didn't do that because his mission was to impose his vision of what was best for Brooklyn, even though New Yorkers, through their political process, had decided that Atlantic Yards was in the best interest of the city.

Without eminent domain, he would have succeeded.

Hold on. Goldstein was reacting to the developer's vision, one the city supported from the start. There was no political process, no role for the City Council, no role for any local elected officials. In fact, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff told the New York Observer in December 2007:

“I am a huge believer in the ULURP process. I think it makes sense. It allows the issues to be aired in an appropriate way. If it happened again, and the state were to ask if I would encourage them to take Atlantic Yards through the ULURP process, I would say yes.”

The project was approved by the board of the unelected ESDC and the state funding was upheld by the Public Authorities Control Board--the "three men in a room": the governor, Assembly Speaker, and Senate Majority Leader.

Goldstein's comment

Goldstein wrote in response:

Mr. David, your argument almost made some sense until the very end. I wasn't trying to "impose my vision on what was best for Brooklyn even though New Yorkers, through their political process, had decided that Atlantic Yards was in the best interest of the city."

There WAS no political process. Not a single elected official ever voted on Atlantic Yards. ULURP and NYC's zoning laws were overridden, and the unaccountable, unelected ESDC and MTA made all the key decisions. New Yorkers had no political process to make any decisions about Atlantic Yards.

That is the fundamental problem with Atlantic Yards that so many have been shouting and fighting about all this time.

Furthermore, all of the benefits of Atlantic Yards, including the arena and the housing, could have been built without using eminent domain, without taking my home. All of them. But that wouldn't have been the huge gift to Forest City Ratner that the use of eminent domain has been.

So while I and many others certainly have ideas of what would be good for Brooklyn and what urban planning ideas could work and wouldn't work, I didn't impose my vision on some publicly and politically approved project. I resisted, along with thousands of others and numerous politicians, the imposed vision of one developer.


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

An eminent name in domain debate

Crain's NY Business
by Greg David

The former Crain's editor swings and misses — yet again — at the use (and abuse) of eminent domain.

In the aftermath of the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision on eminent domain—the famous Kelo v. City of New London case—I tried to explain my uncertain views on the topic in a Dec. 5 column:

“The once-esoteric legal doctrine of eminent domain has put me in the middle of an unusual lobbying blitz. On one side are people who support important development projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn or the expansion of Columbia University, both of which will need to involve eminent domain. On the other is my daughter, who has taken up the issue as part of her American government class and is sure eminent domain needs to be outlawed. More and more, I think my daughter is right.”

At 9:30 that Monday morning, my phone rang. “Hold for Mayor Bloomberg.” Then came the voice, unmistakable and firm. “I couldn't disagree with you more,'' the mayor said. “Without eminent domain, we will get nothing accomplished in this city!”

I always tell that story to my class on the New York City economy when we study commercial development issues. Then I explain how the indomitable Brooklyn gadfly Daniel Goldstein—who last week finally gave up his long fight to stop the Atlantic Yards project—convinced me the mayor was right.


NoLandGrab: We'll leave it to Norman Oder to dissect this column and its one giant factual error. However, we've written before about how Mr. David never really questioned the abuse of eminent domain, only pretending to do so to avoid a family squabble. In fact, we challenge Mr. David to produce one example of his wrestling with the issue since that December 5, 2005 column.

Historically, eminent domain allowed governments to seize land for public purposes such as roads, schools, parks and airports. In Kelo, the Supreme Court said it was constitutional for states and cities to take private property on behalf of private interests for a public purpose such as improving the economy.

The complications are obvious. The government is putting the interests of one private party, in this case Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, above those of another, in this case some existing Brooklyn residents and businesses.

Critics of the Kelo decision say that the doctrine is unfair and creates opportunities for abuse by powerful interests and that developers like Forest City can and should use their resources to buy out the other parties.

But Mr. Goldstein wasn't interested in the money. He grudgingly sold his condo last week only because his choice was to accept a $3 million offer today and move out in two weeks or wait two months for a court to evict him and award him less money. He could have gotten much more months ago, maybe years ago.

He didn't do that because his mission was to impose his vision of what was best for Brooklyn, even though New Yorkers, through their political process, had decided that Atlantic Yards was in the best interest of the city.

Without eminent domain, he would have succeeded.

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

April 25, 2010

The Holdout

New York Times

From the "Week in Review:"


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Parsing the Times's misleading summary of the Atlantic Yards settlement

From the New York Times's Week in Review today:


The News Daniel Goldstein, above, the last holdout standing in the way of the giant Atlantic Yards redevelopment in Brooklyn, agreed to accept $3 million in return for surrendering his apartment and ending his active opposition.

Behind the News Mr. Goldstein, who paid $590,000 for his condominium in 2003, became the standard-bearer for opponents of the $4.9 billion mixed-use project when he refused to move. If he had not reached a deal with the developer, Forest City Ratner, he faced eviction by the state government, which had lost patience with the delays and had condemned his property.

The annotations

He was the last residential holdout.

Atlantic Yards isn't redevelopment.

He agreed to accept $3 million in return for surrendering his apartment in about two weeks, and because a judge pressured both sides to make a deal that day, thus leaving Goldstein vulnerable to a lowball payout and a fairly swift eviction date anyway.

It's not at all clear what active opposition means, given that Goldstein (who was likely to step back in some way) has continued to slam the project.

Forest City Ratner had ample reason to make a deal, given that it claimed delays were costing $6.7 million a month. It had received $131 million in taxpayer money for (until then) $280 million in land purchases.

It wasn't that the state government "had lost patience with the delays and had condemned his property." It was that the state government had already condemned properties for Atlantic Yards--via a dubious blight finding--and the judge had lost patience with delays.

Actually, the state government has enabled delays by signing a Development Agreement that gives Forest City Ratner 25 years, rather than the officially promised ten years, to complete the project.

The Times has not reported on this Development Agreement.

Nor did the Times, in this brief summary, disclose its business relationship with "the developer, Forest City Ratner," in building the Times Tower.

Posted by steve at 10:13 AM

Lupica on Goldstein: "the guy didn't get into this to get rich, he got into this to fight for his neighborhood"

Atlantic Yards Report

Unlike the nasty New York Daily News editorial board, sports columnist Mike Lupica joins metro columnist Juan Gonzalez in taking a sympathetic view of the settlement to which Daniel Goldstein agreed this week:

Daniel Goldstein, of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, held out against the Atlantic Yards project, and Caring Bruce Ratner, longer than you believed anyone ever would.

He was the last guy in the building and the last guy on the block, and it was like being behind enemy lines.

So I'm glad he got his $3 million from Ratner.

I wish it had been more, because the guy didn't get into this to get rich, he got into this to fight for his neighborhood, and that doesn't make you a hustler like Ratner, it makes you a good, tough New Yorker.

(Of course, as noted, after lawyers fees and a finding a replacement apartment, it wasn't close to $3 million.)


Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

Fight Worth Fighting Is a Fight Worth Fighting Untill the Very End

The Cleveland Leader

The powerful Cleveland Ratner family has finally pushed the Daniel Goldstein family out of its Brooklyn, N. Y. home. But they haven’t shut him up.

And it cost them $3 million, not the $500,000 deal first offered.

Goldstein says that he took the offer without a pledge to keep quiet about it. Although he had to step aside as chief spokesperson of the citizen organization – Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) – he didn’t sign on, as usually happens, to retreat from speaking about the project.

“Contrary to press reports I have not given up my First Amendment rights or my involvement in Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn,” said Goldstein.

Bruce Ratner, head of the development firm called Forest City Ratner, is building the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn – a housing, retail and arena development.

Goldstein has led a vigorous citizen’s revolt against the project. It seems to me a model of opposition nationally for citizen’s groups fighting rapacious development that destroys communities.


Posted by steve at 8:44 AM

April 24, 2010

AY Report: Tabloid Mindset, Condemnation Hearing, Post Acts As Doofus,

The tabloid mindset: context regarding the Goldstein settlement is not taxpayer support for Ratner's purchases but the opinions of 2004 neighbors

Not long ago, I got a call from a tabloid reporter about a non-Atlantic Yards matter about which I had some expertise.

I told the reporter that the information they sought maybe wasn't the appropriate approach, that they should pursue a more complicated but incisive take on the case. I was ignored. The story line had already been set by an editor.


Not dissimilarly, both the New York Daily News and the New York Post thought the proper way to contextualize the settlement reached by Atlantic Yards condemnee Daniel Goldstein and Developer Forest City Ratner was to compare that settlement to ones made by Goldstein's neighbors in 2004.

(It was unmentioned that those settlements, unlike that of Goldstein, included full gag orders.)

Justice Gerges, "Atlantic Terminal," the ESDC's bad faith, and the side deals involved in "just compensation"

If anyone going to the hearing last Wednesday in Kings County Supreme Court thought Justice Abraham Gerges was going to look incisively into the Atlantic Yards condemnation case, there was a small but telling reason for doubt even before the hearing started.

Gerges referred to the case not as Atlantic Yards but Atlantic Terminal, just as he had at a 1/29/10 hearing in which those facing condemnation attempted to block it.

Atlantic Terminal refers to (take your pick) a longstanding urban renewal area (of which the Atlantic Yards site contains a part), a train terminal, and a mall, not a complicated and controversial development project.

Gerges's goal, apparently, was to ensure that the condemnation case was resolved that day, with no more expenditure of judicial resources nor the bad publicity of an actual eviction.

The New York Post claims that the state upped its offer to Goldstein (and kinda misses the rest of the story)

Of all the doofus coverage of the judge-pushed settlement in the condemnation case involving Daniel Goldstein, Adam Bonislawski's post in the New York Post real estate blog, headlined New York State not such a great negotiator actually tops the Times's CityRoom post about how Goldstein might move to places like New London, CT.

Wrote Bonislawski:

We were actually all set to write a sympathetic post about how Atlantic Yards holdout Daniel Goldstein was getting screwed by the state , which was lowballing him with a $510,000 offer on the 1,290-square-foot Prospect Heights condo he bought for $590,000 in 2003.

And, well, then this happened -- the state upped its offer to $3 million, an offer that Goldstein, not being insane, quickly agreed to. And while we're happy to see the whole business resolved, it does make us wonder if maybe the state is not so good at the whole bargaining thing, and if maybe this is part of why we pay so much in taxes. Seriously, how did those negotiations go?

State officials: We can offer you $510,000 for the apartment.

Goldstein: That's too low.

State officials: Ok. How about $3 million then?

Goldstein: Done!

State officials: Fantastic! [High-five]


My comment:

Forest City Ratner funded the settlement, not the state. The developer has gotten $131 million already from taxpayers to buy $280 million worth of land. The developer claims it's losing $6.7 million a month from delays. So there was certainly some logic to paying $3 million, especially since it includes weakening the leading opposition group.

Posted by steve at 8:55 AM

Atlantic Yards Still Faces Legal Loose Ends

By Mark Fass

Activist Daniel Goldstein may have been the most visible and most vocal opponent of the Atlantic Yards project, but his settlement with the project’s developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., does not mark the end of the legal battle against the $4.9-billion development.

Goldstein agreed Wednesday to move out of his condemned apartment, step down from his position as spokesman of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and take his name off all pending Atlantic Yards litigation in exchange for $3 million. However, four actions intended to thwart the downtown Brooklyn project remain ongoing. Three of those actions have been dismissed at the trial level and plaintiffs have filed notice of appeal. The fourth has yet to be heard.

Two of the actions challenge the modified general plan affirmed in September 2009 by the Empire State Development Corp., the public authority that invoked condemnation. The petitioners, including DDDB, contended that because the construction of Atlantic Yards may take 25 years and the project’s environmental impact statement evaluated only a 10-year period, the development corporation should be required to prepare a supplemental statement.


Posted by steve at 8:43 AM

The Goldstein Legacy: Man of principle or sellout?

The Brooklyn Paper
By Stephen Brown

This article includes achievements of Atlantic Yards opponents.

“We’ve done a lot of what the media should have been doing — what well established good-government groups should have done,” Goldstein said. “Watchdogging minute details of an attenuated process. Every false statement, exaggeration and broken promise has been exposed.”

So, what concrete accomplishments can Goldstein and his Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn actually point to?

“We have convinced nearly all good people of good will that the project is a sham and a poster child for the wrong way to develop cities,” Goldstein said. “We shined a bright light on the way eminent domain is abused in New York State to the point where there is now a legislative effort … to reform the state’s laws.

“We’ve exposed the way eminent domain is used and abused in New York as a tool for the most powerful interests in the state,” he added. “It’s on everyone’s radar. … I don’t think any developer will try to things this way again.”


Posted by steve at 8:13 AM

A great big sellout: Atlantic Yards opponent made out like a bandit

Daily News

This editorial tries to tarnish Daniel Goldstein's reputation just as it ignores the real bandit of Atlantic Yards: Corporate-welfare swilling Bruce Ratner.

After all of Goldstein's costly obstructionism, it is a wonder builder Bruce Ratner agreed to give him a penny more than Goldstein would be legally due on eviction from the condo he bought in 2003 for $595,000.

Since Ratner is in a rush to receive hundreds of millions in state and city subsidies, it's no wonder at all that Ratner was willing to negotiation with Goldstein.

Here's a hilarious try to paint Ratner as a giver of "warm fuzzies" even as, with the help of his tool, the ESDC, he holds the threat of eminent domain over residents and businesses:

Ratner's payoff to Goldstein illustrates one of the little-told stories about the Atlantic Yards project. While some residents and owners, such as Goldstein, were railing that they were losing homes and businesses to eminent domain, Ratner was quietly reaching very generous accommodations with hundreds of others.


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News editorial slams Goldstein for "personal jackpot," lauds "generous" Ratner; will he contribute some of his settlement to the ongoing fight?

The New York Daily News, which has supported Atlantic Yards to the hilt (remember A super design for a great project, touting the now-phantom "green roof,") today slams former Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein in an editorial headlined A great big sellout: Atlantic Yards opponent made out like a bandit:

Posted by steve at 7:48 AM

The Eagle's Holt: bad math and blind spot regarding ULURP

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes aim at faulty analysis in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle by Dennis Holt.

The Brooklyn Eagle's Dennis Holt, in a Brooklyn Broadside headlined In Atlantic Yards Delays, State, City, Community Were the Losers, offers some very shallow analysis:

I have been asked if I begrudge the project’s lead opponent, Daniel Goldstein, netting $3 million from a final deal with Forest City Ratner.

No, I don’t. If you assume a seven-year time span for this project to date — 84 months – and subtract what he paid for his home — $590,000 — from the $3 million he is receiving, that comes out to about $28,000 per month.

No, that's not even close. First, subtract more than $600,000 in legal fees. Then double the value of his home, at least, to find a comparable place.


Holt observes:

And it’s not so much that Goldstein is a big winner, there are two losers. One is the city and the state, the other is the community.

The latter first. The approach followed by the project’s opponents was a take-no-prisoners one, winner take all. The opponents did not attempt to bargain with the developers on anything — number of buildings, where they will be located, building heights, the size of the open space, schools and other public amenities ... nothing.

The opponents didn't bargain because the only bargain--the allegedly arm's-length bargain--was between the state and the developer.

There was no place for the community to bargain. Such bargaining typically occurs when projects go through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, and the local City Council Member has a voice. Atlantic Yards avoided ULURP.


Holt writes:

The city and state lose. Had the original time frame been honored, both governments would by now be getting taxes, fees, licenses, concessions and the like. People would be earning a living, a fair number by now.

There would a domino effect of new businesses in the area by now, not directly related to the project but in place because it’s there.

I have in no way the ability to calculate the sums of all these losses, but I wish someone would try to. These are the kinds of things no one thinks about when developments are planned or announced.

Yeah, I wish someone would try to, as well. I can say that any calculations of benefits by the developer and the government agencies backing the project are full of holes.


Posted by steve at 7:33 AM

Atlantic Yards’ Final Foe Falls

New York Restorations

Here's another reaction to Bertha Lewis' over-the-top criticism of Daniel Goldstein.

So, wait. ACORN was bailed out by the Ratner group, and now she’s claiming that these new buildings will provide housing to New York’s poor and low-income families? Are you kidding me? How “affordable” will these new apartments be? (I’m actually sorta not snarking here – I’m honestly curious what “affordable” really means to these folk.)

How is this not amongst the most despicable of conflict of interests? Regardless of how much low-income housing the Atlantic Yards provides, this just smacks of croneyism and nasty back-scratching.

Look, I’ve no real problems with ACORN. They were exonerated of wrong-doing, whatever. But what on God’s Green Earth is this woman doing, gloating over the creation of a stadium and condos on a piece of public property offered to Ratner at below-market-value? My head is exploding right now.


Posted by steve at 7:24 AM

Two More On Daniel Goldstein

Two quick items on the deal made with Daniel Goldstein.

The BrooklynInk, New Yorkers Still Fuming Over Goldstein’s Surrender

The headline for this item implies anger at Daniel Goldstein, but it appears that the anger is directed at developer Bruce Ratner, Michael Bloomberg and their dependence on eminent domain and corporate welfare.

Local news and blog sites reporting on Daniel Goldstein’s decision to accept $3 million for his home on the Atlantic Yards site have found that New Yorkers are fuming.

One reader on the Daily News voiced her abhorrence for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to allow Bruce Ratner to build the new Nets stadium. “Now MADOFF Gloomberg can say he has created jobs by hiring hot dog and beer vendors to sell hot dogs and beer at the New Nets Arena,” said the reader.

Another reader does not think the building up of New York City universities is making it better. “I am sickened by all the eminent domain abuse under the tsunami of community crushing development under Bloomberg; the mass displacement. Please don’t forget Manhattanville, Columbia U.’s abuse of eminent domain as just one example. NYU and Cooper Union, NY Law, SVA, The New School all confused the E. Village with dorm fodder and sent a message — history destroyed and community not welcome.”

Urban Omnibus

Atlantic Yards opponents are feeling conflicted this week as Daniel Goldstein, founder and now-former-spokesperson of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, agreed to sell his apartment to Forest City Ratner for $3 million. City Room reports that with Daniel Goldstein’s agreement to sell his condo in Prospect heights, the “last man standing in front of the Atlantic Yards bulldozer has stepped aside.” This a few days after another headlining hold-out, Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, announced plans to close up their Dean St. digs and move to a new location.

NoLandGrab: No conflict here. Nothing has happened that changes Atlantic Yards to anything but a cover for a land grab for a politically-connected developer.

Posted by steve at 7:06 AM

April 23, 2010

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn on Future of Organization and Daniel Goldstein's Settlement

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The following is a statement from Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn's...

Board of Directors:
Reverend Dennis Dillon
Ruth Goldstein
Jezra Kaye
Bob Law
Ron Shiffman

Steering Committee:
Candace Carponter
Lucy Koteen
Gloria Mattera
Eric Reschke
Scott Turner

As many of you know, our colleague, Daniel Goldstein, co-founder and spokesperson for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, reached an agreement on Wednesday with New York State and Forest City Ratner to vacate his home by May 7th. With little leverage - a state Supreme Court judge had already allowed the state to take title to his home on March 1st - Daniel was forced to relinquish his role as spokesperson for DDDB in order to secure a reasonable settlement for his family. While we are saddened to lose him as a spokesperson, we wholly and unequivocally support his decision.

As Daniel made clear in the statement he issued yesterday, however, he will continue to play a key role with DDDB as we fight on against the Atlantic Yards project, and he refused - at the risk of scuttling the settlement entirely - to agree to the gag order that Forest City Ratner so badly wanted him to accept. And most of you will not know this: over the past 6 years Daniel rejected four attempts by Ratner to get him to drop the two key eminent domain lawsuits on which he was lead plaintiff.

It is impossible for us to adequately express our admiration for, and our gratitude to, Daniel for the incredible work he's done over the past six-and-a-half years on behalf of DDDB and the broad coalition of property owners, tenants and community groups fighting Atlantic Yards. While he has certainly not been alone in this fight, he was the only one among us who owned a home on the spot on which Bruce Ratner wanted to build center court. Without Daniel and his principled desire to stay in his home, this fight would likely have been over long ago. Thanks in large part to Daniel's steadfastness, and to your efforts and financial support, our battle for justice goes on.

While Daniel has played a critical and tireless role, he'd be the first to say that the fight against Atlantic Yards is much, much bigger than Daniel Goldstein, and about so much more than one man trying to save his home. It's about putting a stop to eminent domain abuse, backroom deals, the squandering of public assets, transparency in government and the workings of democracy - and making sure something like Atlantic Yards never, ever happens again, anywhere. The thousands of you who have donated your hard-earned money and your time to DDDB to fight Atlantic Yards have done so to save a neighborhood, and a borough, a city, and a state, from eminent domain abuse and the ugly corruption of public process.

That's why we will continue to press the fight in court, pursuing the Article 78 lawsuit seeking to compel the Empire State Development Corporation to issue new Determinations and Findings for the Atlantic Yards project, along with the suit seeking to overturn state approval of the Modified General Project Plan, for which we filed a motion to reconsider on April 8th based on clear evidence that the state intentionally omitted critical evidence from the public record. And it's why we will continue to push state and city officials to find the political will to stop or alter the project. And why we'll continue to work with elected leaders like state Senator Bill Perkins to pass legislation that fundamentally protects the rights of home and business owners in New York State from eminent domain abuse.


DDDB and Daniel have stood for, and continue to stand for responsible development. We continue to stand by our principles. We have never opposed development and never opposed affordable housing. We have advocated for responsibly developing the rail yards—through a democratic process with real community input—with affordable housing and truly accessible open space. We have fought against the abuse of power that subverted the City's democratic land use review processes, and misused the power of eminent domain that resulted in the taking of Daniel's home and the homes and businesses of many others. It was a misuse of a power that in the past—and in this instance—victimized many, especially people not as fortunate as Daniel to have had the ability to wage a fight against the abuse of that power.

All of us are sick and tired of Bruce Ratner and the ESDC and Atlantic Yards, with good reason. It's never been a fair fight, and the deck has been stacked in Ratner's favor from the very start. But fights worth fighting are worth fighting to the end. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is not giving up the fight, Daniel Goldstein isn't giving up the fight, and we know that you're not willing to give up the fight, either. As Daniel wrote yesterday: see you at the next meeting.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

On the radio, Goldstein says judge pushed for deal and FCR wanted to accelerate Prokhorov takeover of the Nets

Atlantic Yards Report

The John Gambling Show on WOR/710, home to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's weekly softball radio interview, was not going to be a terribly sympathetic forum this morning for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein, given this summary:

The founder of the anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and plaintiff in numerous unsuccessful suits against the $4.9 billion project — has reached an agreement to move out of his condo on Pacific Street in Prospect Heights. Why?

But Goldstein made a lot of points in just six minutes.


Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

FCR spent $1.13 million on New York lobbying in 2009, including the second-largest (or likely largest) single contract

Atlantic Yards Report

Developer Forest City Ratner spent $1,127,598 in 2009 on city and state lobbying, just outside the top ten spenders in the state and perhaps the largest sum for any real estate developer.

Forest City Ratner's spending, almost exclusively through the Atlantic Yards Development Co., includes what the New York State Commission on Public Integrity calls the second-largest lobbying contract in the state, $466,421 with the law firm Fried Frank.

However, my analysis of the underlying data shows that AYDC actually paid $812,528 to Fried Frank for lobbying, with nearly $690,000 in the second half of the year.

That would make it easily the largest contract. (I'll contact the Commission and see if they revise their data.)

Why so much in the second half of the year? Some of the heaviest lifting came in the late spring, when Forest City Ratner managed to get the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to revise the Vanderbilt Yard deal and to get the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to issue a revised Modified General Project Plan (MGPP).

So it's possible some of the second-half payments went to earlier work. Or maybe they had more to do with the ESDC's September 2009 passage of the MGPP or the December 2009 "arm's length" negotiation of the Development Agreement.

According to state lobby data, Fried Frank lobbied both the MTA and the ESDC, as well as the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the New York City Law Department, and the New York City Transit Authority.


Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

After 6 years against Atlantic Yards, Daniel Goldstein takes the money and leaves

NY Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez

A must-read from a Daily News columnist who gets it.

Back in 2005, Jim Stuckey, a top aide to real estate mogul Bruce Ratner, gave me a tour of the Atlantic Yards site.

Stuckey proudly pointed to the architectural model in his office, to the new Nets arena, to the 16 high-rise housing towers - most of them market-rate - and to the retail shopping complex.

"Where is Dan Goldstein's apartment on your site?" I asked.

Stuckey placed his finger in the middle of the arena's footprint.

"Then you have a problem," I said. "Until you get Goldstein out, you can't build - and that won't be easy."


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News columnist Gonzalez: DDDB "ignited a much-needed public debate over what kind of city New York wants to become"

New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, in a sympathetic column headlined After 6 years against Atlantic Yards, Daniel Goldstein takes the money and leaves, connects Daniel Goldstein to Jane Jacobs:

Goldstein, a Web designer, was refusing to move. Only two years earlier, he had bought a new condo in the neighborhood for $590,000. He had this wild-eyed idea that the people of a community should be consulted before the government condemns their property to make a rich developer even richer.

Goldstein was a tireless organizer of his neighbors in Prospect Heights. He urged them to resist Ratner and his powerful backers, Mayor Bloomberg, former Govs. George Pataki and Eliot Spitzer and Gov. Paterson.

The group those neighbors founded, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, became an amazing grassroots movement.

Back in the 1960s, a little old lady named Jane Jacobs fought Robert Moses, when the legendary masterbuilder sought to bulldoze the Lower Manhattan Expressway through the heart of our city. Now a computer nerd named Goldstein and his group waged their own David-and-Goliath battle against the new masterbuilders.

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

NBA: Expect Prokhorov to take Nets reins in May

NY Post
by Fred Kerber

Could it really be that Forest City Ratner (and the NBA) wanted the Atlantic Yards footprint cleared of all human life by May 17th so Mikhail Prokhorov could be present for the NBA draft lottery?

Soon ... not as soon as some suspect ... but soon.

Like less than three weeks soon.

That's when Russian billionaire Mikhail is expected to take over ownership of the Nets, an NBA spokesman said yesterday.

With the vacant possession issue resolved and all pertinent tenants and businesses due out of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards site by May, the league expects Prokhorov to be approved "by the middle of the month [of May],'' the league said.

Prokhorov needs the approval of the Board of Governors, a foregone conclusion. The board does not need to gather to vote and could do so by teleconference. Approval might lead to Prokhorov sitting on the dais at the May 18 lottery.


NoLandGrab: Remember when the Knicks won the 1985 draft lottery, which allowed them to select Patrick Ewing first overall? Many draft watchers believed the lottery was fixed. Who wants to wager that the Nets' 25% chance of winning this year's draft lottery is more like 100%?

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Last shot $cores

7th-floor arena holdout beat penthouse deal

NY Post
by Rich Calder and Dan Mangan

Interesting idea by the Post to talk to some of Daniel Goldstein's former neighbors, all of whom, unlike Goldstein, were unwilling to put ideology first.

The owner of the penthouse in the last building standing in the way of the planned Nets arena in Brooklyn accepted $1.88 million to go away, but the occupant of a much less desirable apartment scored a real slam-dunk payday -- a sky-high $3 million.

Actually, that "much less desirable apartment" was incredibly desirable — to Bruce Ratner.

Daniel Goldstein's deal for his seventh-floor apartment not only makes way for the controversial project, but it stunned his former upstairs neighbor -- who sold her penthouse for $1.12 million less nearly six years ago.

"Wow," Holly Tingley, 40, said yesterday when told of Goldstein's windfall for his condo at 636 Pacific St. in Prospect Heights, where he and his family were the last people remaining. "He held on a long time.

"I had the penthouse apartment and he still did better," said Tingley, a mom of two.


NoLandGrab: No offense to Ms. Tingley, since we don't know what we would have done being in her, or Daniel Goldstein's, shoes, but if it were about money, Goldstein wouldn't have fought the project until he was the last man standing.

Related coverage...

Raw Cotton Blog, A tree dies in Brooklyn

So, the last holdout in the Atlantic Yards dispute reached agreement to sell his condo for 3 mil and give up running the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn group that has been actively opposing Ratner and co. They subject to the laws of capitalism just like we are. The state used eminent domain to take over his property in the interests of big capitalists. Downtown is gonna be a mess. It's already crazy over there. It is just a sign of the times as they move in and push us out.

Soon, the poor and working folk won't be able to afford Brooklyn, maybe they won't be able afford New York at all. It is the laws of capitalism, there is nowhere left to "develop" in Manhattan, so now they want to export their capital to Brooklyn and in a couple years Brooklyn won't be Brooklyn. Brooklyn Stand Up!!!

NLG: If more of Brooklyn had stood up like Daniel Goldstein, maybe the outcome would have been different.

Epoch Times, Forest City Ratner Settles With NYC Residents Over Atlantic Yards

One main opponent of the Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn came to an agreement with the company.

Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

ACORN’s Bertha Lewis Goes a Little Nuts on Last Atlantic Yards Holdout

Daily Intel [NYMag.com]


Yesterday, the last man yet to be evicted from his home to make way for the Atlantic Yards development, David Goldstein, agreed to move out for $3 million. Can you blame the guy? Goldstein, the spokesman for the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn group that had been fighting Atlantic Yards, was going to be evicted anyway, but was given millions of dollars to leave early.

But ACORN's Bertha Lewis — we thought ACORN had shut down, but okay — doesn't see the logic of Goldstein's decision, according to an absolutely savage e-mail she sent out to reporters last night.

Yeesh. The irony of it all is that ACORN got its own payoff from Bruce Ratner to support and provide political cover to the Atlantic Yards project. Granted, in exchange, ACORN solidified the promise of affordable housing in the development — but it was also set to make millions off of marketing the housing and deciding who gets to live there, according to a former employee. ACORN was also saved in 2008 by a $1.5 million loan provided by Ratner when it was embroiled in financial trouble. Maybe Lewis is just jealous it wasn't $3 million.


Related coverage...

Queens Crap, ACORN leader sends out frightening e-mail

It's sad that Bertha Lewis and ACORN took the side of the developer when the population they serve has historically been the biggest victim of eminent domain abuse. She has no right pointing fingers at Goldstein for accepting money from Ratner when she did the same damn thing years ago.

SWGA Politics.com, ACORN: Gone, but not forgotten

Now, maybe it’s just me, but where the hell does this woman get off expecting to have a right to someone else’s property? Yes, Goldstein settled and got more than he would have gotten purely with eminent domain. So what? I don’t blame him. The authorities would have taken the property and given him fair market value for it…fair market value in 1982 that is. So he negotiated for more than that. Good for him.

Reason Hit & Run, More Classy Commentary from ACORN's Bertha Lewis

I received the email reproduced below from an anonymous source. I just contacted Bertha Lewis and she verified for me that she is indeed the author. What a class act.

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

Brutally weird City Room post suggests neighborhoods with development fights as potential homes for Goldstein

Atlantic Yards Report

A notably trivial post on the New York Times's City Room blog, headlined For Developers’ Foe, Suggestions for the Next Battleground, whimsically suggests that Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein might want to move into a development fight elsewhere, such as Manhattanville; New London, CT; and New York University.

The post is so sloppy that, regarding Willets Point, Queens, it claims that "[t]he city headed off an eminent-domain squabble." It hasn't, as a glance at the Willets Point United site would show.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

April 22, 2010

Last Atlantic Yards Holdout Agrees to Move

Fox 5 New York
Carolyn Gusoff reporting

Daniel Goldstein sure doesn't sound like a man who's been gagged.

Daniel Goldstein waged an epic battle against the huge Atlantic yards project that will swallow up his Prospect Heights home. The battle ended Wednesday with a settlement. He'll get nearly $2.5 million more than he paid for his condo.

But he doesn't sound like man who will be cashing a check for $3 million.

"I have to be thankful that I'm not being completely screwed," he said Thursday. He said his lawyers will get a lot of that money.


Posted by eric at 11:14 PM

Last Night's Winner: The Almighty Dollar


Why is it always the sports blogs and writers who see through the hype? We reprint Deadspin's incisive analysis in full.

In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like Daniel Goldstein, the last man standing between the Nets and their shiny Brooklyn arena, who just got $3 million to sit down. That stinks.

Goldstein is the founder of "Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn," a rag-tag band of community organizers who opposed the idea of dropping an ugly basketball arena on top of the busiest intersection in Brooklyn. His house also sits on the land that New Jersey Nets owner/scummy real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner needs to fulfill his terrible, terrible dream. Goldstein bought his condo for $590,000. The developer offered him $510,000 to get lost. He sued everyone he could to stay put. Ratner, the mayor, the city, the state, they guy who invented concrete. He became a major thorn in their side—but he lost. A lot.

So with his house seized under eminent domain and the state making plans to evict him, Goldstein is taking the money and packing it in. For $3 million, he is moving out, stepping down as DDDB's spokesman and agreeing in writing to not "actively oppose the project." He had no choice really—his lost cause was truly lost—but at least his fight to stop this swindle wasn't a total negative for him.

And this is an awful, awful swindle. Ratner convinced those in power that a downtown basketball arena was a good idea by hiring Frank Gehry to design a massive complex of offices, apartments, and shops that would rise and glitter above the court. Then Gehry was fired and most—perhaps all—of the buildings except for the arena will never be constructed. (The only thing Brooklyn needs less than a new arena is more empty condos.) The construction will clog one of the most highly-congested areas of New York City, with a giant eyesore that will distort already troubled traffic patterns. Worst of all, it is being paid for by tax-free government bonds—a nice assist for the billionaire Ratner—and built on land seized by the state to give to a private real estate developer. Even George Will (not exactly a well-known defender of the little guy) agrees that this is a terrible abuse of eminent domain that takes from the public to benefit private wealth. Nothing about the Atlantic Yards project can be considered a good thing, unless you're one of business people or politicians who will profit from it.

Nobody wants this. Yet it can't be stopped, because the rich always win.

Goldstein wins too, because at least he will be able buy a new house and hopefully erase most of his legal bills. (He also met his wife while protesting the project, so that's nice.) Ratner wins because that's one less bump to steamroll on his road to dumping this sorry idea on the lap of Mikhail Prokhorov. Mayor Mike Bloomberg wins because he'll get to stand at the ribbon cuttings and brag about the handful of "jobs" he created, although I'm sure he would never leave Manhattan just to watch a basketball game. Jay-Z wins because he's still Jay-Z and now he doesn't have to try and convince his buddy LeBron to move to Newark.

Everyone wins ... except Brooklyn. More traffic, more crowds, more noise, more corruption ... and they now have to root for the Nets. That may be the saddest part of all.


Posted by eric at 11:06 PM

Daniel Goldstein, Shabnam Merchant and The Fight Against Corrupt Development


Daniel Goldstein and Shabnam Merchant, leaders of the fight against the corrupt development proposed by Forest City Ratner at the Atlantic Yards, negotiated a settlement to leave their apartment quickly. This has been reported in the press as "selling their home." They did not sell their apartment: it was seized by eminent domain. They were able to negotiate the terms of their leaving. They have been leaders in an historic fight, which has helped many of us to understand how developers pull off these deals to steal people's homes and change our cities without our consent. The Development Don't Destroy Brooklyn website has helped to expose every detail of how the process unfolded. This is a great contribution to all of us.


Related coverage...

Reason Hit & Run, Eminent Domain Abuse Finally Forces Daniel Goldstein Out

Much like the news that Freddy's Bar is closing at the end of the month, this is sad but not really shocking. These folks were up against an atrocious Supreme Court precedent, the state and city of New York, and a corrupt and politically-connected real estate tycoon. Thanks to their long battle, this shameless case of eminent domain abuse got some of the scrutiny that it deserves.

Field of Schemes, Atlantic Yards opponent takes $3m to vacate site

That whole Zimbabwe sanctions thing notwithstanding, the path to construction of the Nets' new arena in Brooklyn seems to be getting smoother of late. First, Freddy's Bar, which has been a main gathering point for arena opponents and even installed chains last year so patrons could help it resist eviction, announced it was moving to a new location, though owners promised to continue to fight the project. And then yesterday, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn leader Dan Goldstein agreed to take $3 million from developer Forest City Ratner in exchange for vacating his condo apartment by May 7.

Gothamist, Goldstein: "I Refused to Accept Any Kind of Gag Order"

Despite accepting $3 million in exchange for moving out of the Atlantic Yards, longtime Bruce Ratner enemy and last Atlantic Yards holdout Daniel Goldstein insists he is not giving up the fight. "I've not been silenced, and I am not leaving DDDB as it transitions into a new phase of fighting Atlantic Yards," he said in a press release sent out this morning. He claims that at yesterday's hearing with the Empire State Development Corporation, he had no idea he would be offered a settlement, and did not have a press statement ready. However, "Forest City Ratner saw it as a big press event and sent out a press release immediately," which Goldstein says led to biased reporting.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City reaches settlement with vocal opponent of Atlantic Yards project

The most vocal opponent of a Forest City Ratner Cos. project in Brooklyn has settled with the developer, the New York arm of Cleveland's Forest City Enterprises Inc.

WCBS-TV, B'klyn Arena Holdout: 'I Don't Feel Like A Winner'

Activist Daniel Goldstein isn't popping any champagne corks Thursday even though, as the last holdout, he's getting $3 million to move out of his Brooklyn condo to make way for the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Goldstein fought a five-year battle to stop the project. But since it's going forward he says he's doesn't feel like a winner.

"Ratner's a winner. He's got control of 22 acres in the heart of Brooklyn that he got cheaply on a no-bid deal that makes him a winner," added Ratner. "It's abuse of eminent domain. It's abuse of billions in tax subsidies."

Gideon's Trumpet, The Atlantic Yards Settlement - Lowball Thwarted, or a Big Score Made?

The moral also seems to be that sometimes it may be cheaper to pay off a determined holdout, than to go to the mat with him. It would be interesting to learn what this caper has cost both the city and the redeveloper, considering the cost of litigation and delay.

NJ.com, Come May, will prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov be playing the lotto?

There’s a rumor circulating that Daniel Goldstein’s phone rang as soon as he received his lovely ($3M) parting gift from Ratner Inc. On the line was Brett Yormark, asking him if he wanted to buy a suite. We can officially confirm this rumor as “not necessarily true, but sounds really plausible.”


Websites and blogs dedicated to opposing the Atlantic Yards project have published myriad opinions on Daniel Goldstein’s $3 million payout to vacate his apartment.

The following items, which we include solely as part of the Atlantic Yards record, fall into the following categories: Daniel Goldstein was in it for the money (patently absurd); OMG, Daniel Goldstein made a mint (not really, and let's remember how much it was worth to Ratner to settle); Daniel Goldstein shouldn't have settled (moronic — the state already owned his home); Daniel Goldstein should move to another neighborhood threatened by eminent domain (just plain dopey). Proceed at your own risk.

BOCOCA Land, $3 Million? When Do You Want Us Out?

Housing Watch, Brooklyn Development: Atlantic Yards' Last Holdout Gets Monster Settlement


Culture Monster [LA Times blog], Yet another chapter in the Atlantic Yards saga

NY Post.com Real Estate blog, New York State not such a great negotiator

Cobble HIll Blog, Open Thread – Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn or What Would You Do with the Money?

City Room, For Developers’ Foe, Suggestions for the Next Battleground

Posted by eric at 10:05 PM

Still early in the fight for Atlantic Yards accountability


Daniel Goldstein has made a tremendous contribution to public awareness of the issues of process, transparency and equity associated with the Atlantic Yards project. It is regrettable that he and many others have been forced to leave their homes.

The struggle for reform of Atlantic Yards oversight, however, is just beginning. Before the project even broke ground, the Empire State Development Corporation had negotiated away most of the public benefits promised at the time of Atlantic Yards’ approval in 2006. And the agency agreed to allow the developer 25 years to build the project, tremendously magnifying the impact of its construction on the surrounding communities.

Decisions made about how the modified plan is implemented will have a huge effect on the project's neighbors and the people of Brooklyn. It's also unlikely that the 2009 modified plan will be the last time Forest City or its successors seek changes to what's been approved for Atlantic Yards. That’s why the sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks continue to advocate for accountability in decision-making on Atlantic Yards, and the meaningful involvement of the community in the future of development at the site, using all the means at our disposal. Over the last several months, we’ve heard this call joined by elected officials, journalists and even in the written decisions of our courts. This fight goes on for all concerned Brooklynites and New Yorkers.


NoLandGrab: BrooklynSpeaks last week asked the NY State Supreme Court to rehear its lawsuit challenging the ESDC's 2009 approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan.

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, BrooklynSpeaks salutes Goldstein, says it's "still early in the fight for Atlantic Yards accountability"

Posted by eric at 9:31 PM

Atlantic Yards bitterness, take 2: the Bertha Lewis diatribe against DDDB's Goldstein

Atlantic Yards Report

Bertha Lewis, Forest City Ratner's partner in the Atlantic Yards affordable housing agreement, on Wednesday night "unleashed a vitriolic diatribe against Mr. [Daniel] Goldstein, the public face of opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, painting him as an obstructionist who masked self-interest with local activism," to quote Eliot Brown in the Observer.

It's a far cry from the tame excerpt quoted in the New York Times today.

There's a thread of logic--Goldstein will continue to be asked, even by some Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn supporters, whether he'll contribute some of his seemingly generous settlement to the larger cause he has represented. And until he does that, he'll be vulnerable to criticism that he was representing only himself. (Others, of course, don't question his decision.)

Daniel Goldstein has dedicated himself to fighting Atlantic Yards for the past six-plus years, and has made as much of a contribution as anyone to the "larger cause." Anyone who criticizes his settlement — made with a wrecking ball hanging over the heads of his family — should try to imagine what it would be like to have one's home taken by the state for a corrupt corporate land grab. Count us among those who don't question his decision.

Credibility questions

But Lewis is hardly credible in claiming she represents "low and moderate income people" (perhaps 40% of the subsidized AY housing would be market-rate) or that DDDB's opposition obstructed affordable housing (affordable housing depends on subsidies, and there were long problems with volume cap).

She's silent on the Development Agreement, which provides ample opportunity for delays in subsidized housing, thanks to an Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability.

She doesn't acknowledge that she's contractually obligated to support the project.

And she doesn't acknowledge that, when ACORN was reeling from an embezzlement scandal, Forest City Ratner bailed it out with a $1.5 million grant/loan.


NoLandGrab: Bertha's just sore that she took Ratner's money but didn't retain her First Amendment rights — she has to fluff Atlantic Yards and do Ratner's bidding so long as she's on the payroll.

Related coverage...

Gothamist, ACORN CEO Flames Atlantic Yards' New Millionaire Gadfly

ACORN has all but dissolved in the wake of the hidden camera "pimp" scandal, which was followed by Congress cutting off funding for the organization. In New York, the group has reformed as New York Communities for Change. Lewis is not involved, and she told the AP on Tuesday that ACORN was "on life support." Last month a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled that it was unconstitutional for Congress to cut funds for ACORN without conducting a formal investigation, but earlier this week a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the ruling. With little money coming in, Lewis probably has more time to send nasty e-mails about enemies to reporters.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards' War of Words

Guess who's not happy about Daniel Goldstein's $3 million agreement to leave the Atlantic Yards footprint after a years-long fight? ACORN's Bertha Lewis, an, ah, acquaintance of developer Bruce Ratner.

Brownstoner, Bertha Lewis Celebrates

Posted by eric at 7:37 PM

Atlantic Yards bitterness, take 1: an eavesdropper from Forest City Ratner outside the court room

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner and its employees continue to impress with their classy actions — and their political ties.

From John Brennan's coverage in the Record, headlined Holdouts' deal clears way for Nets arena in Brooklyn, of the scene outside the courtroom yesterday.

Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn was describing the settlement he'd reached with Forest City Ratner:

During the interview, Goldstein’s attorney, Michael Rikon, asked for the identity of a man lurking nearby and who appeared to be taking notes electronically via a hand-held device. The man said he was Michael Rapfogel, a vice president with Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer.

When Rikon asked the reporters to move down the hall, Rapfogel followed and continued to eavesdrop.

A Michael Rapfogel is son of William E. Rapfogel, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, a powerhouse social service organization.

William Rapfogel is a longtime friend of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who funds his agency generously. And Rapfogel's wife Judy is Silver's chief of staff.

In 2008, developer Bruce Ratner was honored by the Met Council. It's all in the family.


Posted by eric at 7:26 PM

Bertha Lewis, ACORN CEO, Not Happy for Daniel Goldstein

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Bertha Lewis, the CEO of the housing advocacy group ACORN—a powerful political force before it was mostly dissolved and reconstituted amid scandal—has some harsh words about Daniel Goldstein, the last holdout in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project who on Wednesday agreed to vacate his apartment for $3 million.

In an email sent Wednesday night to reporters, Ms. Lewis unleashed a vitriolic diatribe against Mr. Goldstein, the public face of opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, painting him as an obstructionist who masked self-interest with local activism.

The harsh words illustrate the tensions that still run strong more than three years after the project was approved. ACORN, led by Ms. Lewis, ended up partnering with developer Forest City Ratner and signing onto a Community Benefits Agreement that pledged more than 2,000 units of low-income housing for the project. Her group's decision proved controversial, and the opponents such as Mr. Goldstein then portrayed her as a turncoat who sold out to developer Forest City Ratner. Forest City indeed became an ally of ACORN's after the deal, later giving the group financial assistance. And like other signatories to the CBA, there is good reason to think ACORN, or perhaps a successor organization, would receive financial gain from overseeing the below-market rate housing. [Emphasis, NLG]


Related coverage...

Reason Hit & Run, Atlantic Yards and the Despicable Bertha Lewis

Of course, Lewis is much more than just a “housing advocate who supported the project,” she was the CEO of ACORN, a group that signed a contract with Bruce Ratner “to publicly support the [Atlantic Yards] Project by, among other things, appearing with the Developer before the Public Parties, community organizations and the media as part of a coordinated effort to realize and advance the Project.” In return, Ratner pledged to include a certain amount of “affordable housing” in the project, units that ACORN stood to make a fortune from marketing and managing. As the New York Post reported, “Anita MonCrief, a former ACORN official-turned-whistleblower, estimates the anticipated deal could bring the group $5 million to $10 million annually over multiple years.”

And the money didn’t stop there. In 2008 Ratner bailed ACORN out to the tune of $1.5 million dollars after the news broke that Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, had embezzled nearly $1 million from the group back in 2000 and the national leadership had covered the crime up for eight years. The financial fallout from that scandal threatened to ruin ACORN until Ratner stepped in with a $1 million load and a $500,000 grant. This desperately-needed cash kept ACORN alive and allowed it to keep providing cover for Ratner’s corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse.

Posted by eric at 12:49 PM

Daniel Goldstein and the 7 year itch

NoLandGrab obtained a copy of the email below, sent last night to reporters by ACORN chief organizer, and Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory, Bertha Lewis.

All we can say is that we hope Ms. Lewis gets the professional help she so obviously needs — this is not the work of a well person, nor one with a healthy grip on reality.

From: Bertha Lewis
Date: Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 8:04 PM
Subject: Daniel Goldstein and the 7 year itch

Finally, the itch that was Daniel Goldstein has been scratched and scratched out. After almost seven years of flawed strategies, smear campaigns, stupid tactics, disingenuous rhetoric and total disregard for people who have lived in the downtown Brooklyn community for years before he even thought about coming here; finally he got what he really wanted. A Deal. Not for the community he claimed to love so much, but for the only beneficiary of his community of one, himself, Double Dealing Danny Goldstein. How utterly despicable for him to be in the newspaper today whining that he did not have enough time to move, and had nowhere to go because he was being stiffed by the State and Forest City Ratner, when low and behold, all the time, he was negotiating, not for the community , but for himself. Well good riddance and don’t let the door hit ya’. Low and moderate income people have had to wait years for housing while he obstructed the Atlantic Yards Project that could have been well over half done by now. He never had to worry about housing so he did’nt care how long other people had to wait. Behold, the Gentrifier. He has slandered and denigrated not only me but my organization and my members relentlessly. What benefit has he delivered to the community? None except for his own pocket. Well, the housing at Atlantic Yards will be built, and the day after he moves out, which I hope will be sooner rather than later, the building that he squatted in these past years should be razed to ground immediately, and salt poured into the soil, so that never again can the likes of one of the biggest shakedown artists in Brooklyn return. We will still be here, we will still be fighting for the all the people that Danny spurned and used for his own enrichment. We hope that now everyone in Brooklyn and New York can see him for what he really is and can see what his actions cost Brooklyn. I hope whatever he settled for was worth the pain and misery he caused to so many people who just wanted a decent place to live in Brooklyn and who just wanted a decent job and a place for their family. Now that the flim flam man is gone, they can finally see it on the horizon.

Bertha Lewis

Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

System worships Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

To the editor,

A church facility on a taxpayer-funded, or taxpayer-backed, facility of any kind is a sinister, mocking circumvention of the constitutional separation of church and state (“Church of Hoops,” April 9).

Although this will surely be perceived by some as “progressive,” it is, in truth, literally criminal. Let us be adult enough to recognize, once and for all, the cynical “playing” of the system by Bruce Ratner and those linked to him.

Either that, or we really are the fools and suckers that they believe us all to be?

Burt Bloom

West Brighton


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

$3 million vs. $131 million and 25 years

Atlantic Yards Report

It is dismaying but unsurprising that the news coverage about Daniel Goldstein's settlement to vacate the apartment he and his family occupies focuses mainly on the $3 million payment by Forest City Ratner (worth considerably less to him), but does not mention the $131 million that city taxpayers have contributed to pay for nearly half the property the developer has purchased or the Development Agreement that sets a 25-year deadline for the project, rather than the ten years promised by the developer and the state.

Yes, the surprising settlement is news, and worthy of debate. But so is the larger context.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

Last Atlantic Yards holdout sells his condo for $3 million

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Goldstein, the most public face of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the group that nearly broke the project's back through mounting litigation, reached the deal yesterday to sell his three-bedroom Prospect Heights apartment to Ratner.

Goldstein paid $590,000 for the condo in 2003 -- only months before Ratner revealed his Atlantic Yards project, which besides an 18,000 seat arena is set to include 16 skyscrapers of residential and commercial space.

Ratner, who purchased the Nets in 2003 and used his pitch of bringing the team to Brooklyn to help get approval for his 22-acre project, is awaiting NBA approval to sell a majority stake in the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

GlobeSt.com, Atlantic Yards Holdouts Reach Agreements

Earlier this week, another prominent holdout, Freddy’s Bar and Back Room, announced that it too had reached an agreement to relocate from the project’s footprint. In a statement, manager Donald O’Finn says, “The owner of Freddy’s has had to consider those employed at Freddy’s as well as his own situation, needing employment and food on the table. He made a difficult decision to pull out in such a way as to keep the contents of the bar and move it into another location. If we wait for condemnation we might sacrifice too much.”

Queens Crap, Atlantic Yards opponent accepts settlement

So who the hell is the winner here?

  • Daniel and his family lost their home as well as 7 years of their lives fighting against this project. Sure they have money, but after paying the lawyer, paying taxes, and finding a comparable home, there really won't be much profit made.

  • Forest City Ratner has lost many millions of dollars and their project has been drastically downsized.

  • ACORN pretty much has lost everything.

  • The MTA is in dire financial straits in part because they accepted a low ball offer from Ratner for the right to build above their train yard.

  • The City (meaning us) is left with a boondoggle project that we will be forced to pay for one way or another over the next few decades. There is more likely to be acres of parking lots than affordable housing and the best case scenario gives us a shitty basketball team, a bunch of permanent but part time minimum wage jobs, and a huge a traffic headache in return for allowing the destruction of a neighborhood that was actually doing fine without intervention.

  • Worst of all, we still have the country's worst eminent domain laws on the books, which will continue to be used on the little guy by corrupt developers and politicians. Hopefully, awareness of the work done by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and other groups fighting this abuse will lead to an eventual change in the law.

THESE BASTARDS, Cheap Blogging Crutch - 4.21.10

It's a Nice Neighborhood, But it Could be Making More Money
The Atlantic Yards project, the ~$4 billion eminent domain "development" that's about to gut my neighborhood, just cut a check to the last holdout, Daniel Goldstein, general in the war against bullshit. And that, as a decidedly lame fictional character once said, is that.

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter, Daniel's statement on yesterday's deal

Yesterday I met Dan at court to follow up his eviction hearing. When I got there I found that after a long negotiation he had made an agreement to leave his condo 10 days earlier than the ESDC wanted in order to receive a reasonable financial settlement- rather than the low ball offer he was proffered. As he was at court as a tenant being forced from the home he had previously owned he wasn't thinking of it as a DDDB press day. As such, when FCR released a statement after the court hearing he was inundated with press calls and unable to get a statement out until late last night.

mole333's blog [The Daily Gotham], Ratner's Plans Progress: Statement From Daniel Goldstein, Victim of Eminent Domain Abuse

Since Bruce Ratner and his businesses, Forest City Ratner (which he officially runs) and the Empire State Development Corporation (which he seems to unoffically own) have been using the court settlment reached by Daniel Goldstein and the ESDC that finally forces him out of his apartment for their own PR purposes, and since they are misrepresenting the situation to pretend eminent domain abuse wasn't used to force Mr. Goldstein and his family out of their home, Mr. Goldstein has released the following statement....

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Atlantic Yards Aftermath

This morning, Mr. Goldstein released a statement about the settlement via DDDB, saying that he has not given up his First Amendment rights to protest, and that Forest City Ratner created a media circus by promptly sending out a press release as soon as the settlement was agreed upon, which he did not expect to happen yesterday.

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

$3 Million Deal Ends a Holdout in Brooklyn

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

The Times put the settlement story on its front page.

For the past six years, Daniel Goldstein has been at the center of just about every rally, house party, concert and lawsuit opposed to the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project near Downtown Brooklyn.

He wielded a bullhorn and had a lightning-fast e-mail response to every incursion by the developer Bruce C. Ratner on the 22-acre project site at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. As the project advanced, and every one of his neighbors abandoned his building on Pacific Street, Mr. Goldstein remained with his wife and child, vowing never to be dislodged from their seventh-floor condominium.

But on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Goldstein, the last residential holdout in Mr. Ratner’s way, agreed to walk away from his apartment by May 7 for $3 million. Mr. Goldstein, 40, also agreed to step down as spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the main group opposing Atlantic Yards. And he said he would withdraw from any litigation and not “actively oppose the project,” although he said he held on to his First Amendment rights.

“There’s no end to the criticism and opposition to the project,” Mr. Goldstein vowed.

Still, the settlement marked the end of a David-versus-Goliath fight that has captivated Brooklyn for years — or, depending on one’s position on the issue, thwarted its progress. Councilwoman Letitia James, a longtime ally of Mr. Goldstein’s, said that some opponents of Atlantic Yards “will obviously be disappointed, but not dissuaded” from fighting the project.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Bertha Lewis, described simply as "housing advocate," disses Goldstein; Times ignores ACORN bailout

From the New York Times's front-page article, $3 Million Deal Ends a Holdout in Brooklyn:

Bertha Lewis, a housing advocate who supported the project, bid Mr. Goldstein “good riddance.”

“Low- and moderate-income people had to wait years for housing while he obstructed the Atlantic Yards project,” she said.

Hold on. Affordable housing depends on subsidies, not this project; that's why the Development Agreement, which the Times has chosen to ignore, offers the option to cite an Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability.

And since when is Bertha Lewis merely a "housing advocate"? She represented ACORN when it signed the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding with Forest City Ratner. And FCR later bailed out ACORN with a $1.5 million grant/loan.

NoLandGrab: Bertha Lewis is not merely a "housing advocate" — she's also full of crap. Bruce Ratner has owned perfectly habitable buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint for years, but hasn't housed anyone. He could have been building housing for low- and moderate-income people on property he controls in the footprint, but he only cares about building a basketball arena so he can unload the Nets. Daniel Goldstein's building, of course, sits near center court of the planned arena, not in the way of any housing. And where was Bertha when Bruce Ratner evicted several homeless families from their footprint shelter on Martin Luther King day? Some "housing advocate."

Atlantic Yards Report, What has the Atlantic Yards fight been about?

From the New York Times's coverage today, $3 Million Deal Ends a Holdout in Brooklyn:

Mr. [Daniel Goldstein] Goldstein helped build a coalition of 21 groups that said the project’s high-rises and density would overwhelm the neighborhood and make its clogged streets virtually impassable.

From Mr. Goldstein, 3/12/10: What Is Atlantic Yards? A Complete Failure of Democracy:

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.

What have they made happen? A bait and switch of epic proportions and a failure of democracy, mixed with corruption, notable even in New York State. Each branch of government--judicial, executive and legislative--has passed the buck to the other. None have acting responsibly or with principle or courage to stop the largest project proposed in Brooklyn's history, which has trampled on too many rights.

The project--entirely dependent upon massive and unaccounted taxpayer subsidies, eminent domain abuse, a giveaway of city streets, a no-bid sweetheart MTA deal, a complete override of all local zoning and numerous zoning regulations--never came before the city council or the state legislature for a vote. No elected official ever voted on the project. The results are a symptom of this.

Posted by eric at 9:16 AM

Goldstein statement cites pressure from judge, explains rationale for settlement; can his functions be replaced and can DDDB continue its activism?

Atlantic Yards Report

While the news, according to the Daily News's tabloid non-analysis, is that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein "scored" $3 million--actually, much less after attorney's fees, as I explained--the bigger questions are both answered and left open in a long statement Goldstein released late last night.

Goldstein noted that he hadn't expected a settlement nor thought of the press implications but "I should have known better because clearly Forest City Ratner saw it as a big press event and sent out a press release immediately."

The full statement is below, but let me focus on three things:

  • what drove the settlement
  • the impact on pending court cases
  • the impact on the Atlantic Yards fight

The bottom line: a bargain for FCR?

The bottom line, as I see it, is that, while Goldstein may have made an understandable and defensible decision, Forest City Ratner will have gotten a bargain if it has not only removed a physical and vocal obstacle but left DDDB and the Atlantic Yards opposition severely hamstrung.

While Goldstein indicates that the AY fight is far from over, it remains unclear what will become of DDDB, or how Goldstein will participate in it and/or support it.


Posted by eric at 9:09 AM

Statement From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Co-Founder Daniel Goldstein

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB issued the following statement from co-founder Daniel Goldstein this morning.

As has been widely reported (see the invaluable NoLandGrab for full coverage), I reached a financial settlement with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), tool of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, to move out of my home—which the ESDC took ownership of on March 1st—by May 7th.

I did not know, when Wednesday started, that a settlement was in store. It was nothing that I expected to happen. I only knew that I had to defend myself against eviction by New York State.

My day started at 9:30 in State Supreme Court where my attorney (not DDDB's) argued against ESDC's effort to get Judge Abraham Gerges to evict my family from our home on May 17th. I did not expect that this argument would then lead to a settlement, so I did not have a press release prepared when an agreement was reached around 3pm. I did not even think of the press implications because I was thinking about my personal situation and my family, not the press. I should have known better because clearly Forest City Ratner saw it as a big press event and sent out a press release immediately. This has led to some misreporting. I post this statement to clarify what has actually occurred. There is a lot to say, so I hope you'll forgive the length, and my apologies for not getting this statement out sooner.

Contrary to press reports I have not given up my First Amendment rights or my involvement with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. (Ratner, though he tried to hide it, did require this of nearly all those who sold their homes to him years ago, and they agreed to it.) Ratner and ESDC tried very hard to force me to agree to give up those rights and the work I do with the organization I helped found. It wasn't enough, I guess, for Ratner to decimate my neighborhood, take my home, and kick me out, they also felt they had to cut out my tongue. For nearly 3 hours of talks mediated by Judge Gerges I refused to accept any kind of gag order. I would not have taken any amount of money to do that, and I did not.

I did agree to give up my title as "DDDB spokesman", but that's just a title. And I did agree to remove my name from one outstanding lawsuit which remains in court despite that. Otherwise I can do and say whatever else I want, and my agreement explicitly states that I have maintained my First Amendment rights. So they have not succeeded in silencing me and I am free to criticize and speak about the project, the developer and the ESDC as much as I want. I intend to do that whenever the need arises.

For seven years my wife Shabnam Merchant (who I met as a fellow activist against Atlantic Yards) and I have worked and fought day after day—giving up an income for many of those years—in an effort to help bring community-based, democratic development to Central Brooklyn. This meant, obviously, opposing Ratner's corrupt, developer-driven, undemocratic project.

As a co-founder of DDDB I will continue that work to the best of my ability and as time allows. I've not been silenced, and I am not leaving DDDB as it transitions into a new phase of fighting Atlantic Yards, exposing its corruption and false promises, and advocating for changing the State's abusive eminent domain laws and the way development is done in New York. And should Atlantic Yards falter, and the land return to its contested state, DDDB will be prepared to jump in.


Impact on the Fight Against Atlantic Yards

On March 1st, after years of litigation, ESDC took title ownership of my home. From that day on, I no longer owned my apartment but instead became a tenant of the State.

At that time, with that action on Ratner's behalf, there was nothing I could any longer personally do with my home that would stop or impact the project. Staying in my home until the sheriff came to evict my wife, child and I would have accomplished nothing at all for the fight but would have severely harmed us.

After March 1st, it was inevitable that we would be forced out; it was just a matter of when.

On April 9th ESDC filed papers requesting that the court evict me on May 17th. Wednesday morning my attorney argued that the court should not grant that eviction. After the argument, Judge Gerges made it crystal clear that he wanted resolution between me and ESDC/Ratner—that day—as to when I'd leave my home.

So instead of being evicted in about 27 days and then being forced to go to court to hope to get close to fair market value for my home (as opposed to the extremely lowball "just compensation" offered to me by New York State, which was nowhere near fair market value), I agreed to leave in about 17 days. That agreement to leave ten days sooner avoids further litigation over "just compensation," which would have cost me more time and money while accomplishing nothing for the fight against the project.

I did not sell my home today. I had no home to sell as the state took my home on March 1st. Contrary to what Ratner and ESDC might want people to believe, eminent domain was used on me and many others. My home was seized by the government to give to a private developer.

What I did do was agree to leave my home rather quickly in return for a payment. What I did do was what I needed to do as a responsible husband and father to make sure that my family could make an orderly transition to a new home in Brooklyn. I was left with no good choice by the ESDC or Judge Gerges.

I have always promised that once the legal options to save my home and the homes and businesses of my neighbors were extinguished, I would have to turn my attention to what was best for my family, after years of neglecting our interests. That is what I did on Wednesday.


Speaking as the "former" spokesman of DDDB I have this to say.

The fight we have waged as a community has been heroic and crucially important to literally millions around the City and the country. We have all exposed the project and the process as fatally corrupt. We have convinced nearly all good people of good will that the project is a sham and a poster child for the wrong way to develop cities. We shined a bright light on the way eminent domain is abused in New York State to the point where there is now a legislative effort led by Senator Perkins to reform the state's laws.

We have fought every lie, exaggeration, fudge, false promise, abuse, and misinformation campaign tooth and nail. The project that Ratner wanted to build will never be built. And we know that his promises, many already broken, will continue to be broken—especially his promise to build 2,250 units of affordable housing in ten years. It is shameful, and it is shameful that so many politicians remained silent, and still do to this day.

And we, as a community, as DDDB and so many other community groups, will continue to expose the project's problems and abuses.

Through the relationships and alliances amongst community groups and individuals I am certain that it will be impossible for developers and their government cronies to ram this kind of project down another community's throat ever again in New York City.

They didn't ram it down ours.

While we didn't stop the groundbreaking, our voice of protest was heard loud and clear for years before that day, and on that day. On Ratner's day of celebration, the overwhelming media coverage (besides Beyonce and Jay-Z of course) was of the protest of that travesty.

A legacy of this fight will be that we have proven that all that we have found wrong with it has been shown to be legal in the view of the courts and most legislators. The abusive laws, which favor the most powerful and entrenched interests, must be changed.

Finally, please remember that DDDB, this community and the fight against Atlantic Yards was never about a single person or a single apartment—or even about a single borough. It has been, and still is, about one of the biggest failures of government and democracy in this City's history, and its impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the great borough of Brooklyn. Our fight has—and this is one of the victories—given hope, inspiration and encouragement to innumerable people that a community united can fight principled fights worth fighting, regardless of the outcome. These are fights that have to be fought if we are to find a way to become a working democracy, which treats individuals and communities fairly, rather than disenfranchising and disempowering them.

See you at the next meeting (once I find a new Brooklyn home). And please be in touch with DDDB.

With my great respect for all the civic minded people who have engaged in the resistance to Atlantic Yards, to any degree at all, throughout the years. You are heroes and YOU have the power.

Daniel Goldstein
Co-founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

PS. It will be interesting to see what Congressman Pascrell accomplishes with his effort to get a Treasury Department investigation into Mikhail Prokhorov's business deallings in Zimbabwe.

Posted by eric at 8:44 AM

April 21, 2010

Your Home Away From Home


As the last homeowner in the Atlantic Yards footprint was forced to sell his condemned property, the irony of the headline on this taxi-top advertisement, photographed today in Manhattan's East Village, was no doubt lost on the creative geniuses who dreamt it up.

Mad Men, indeed.

Posted by eric at 10:57 PM

The Times, unmindful of the Development Agreement, claims Ratner "eventually plans" 6,000 apartments and office space in 16 towers

Atlantic Yards Report

From the New York Times's coverage of Daniel Goldstein's settlement:

The developer has already started work on a $1 billion basketball arena for the Nets, the centerpiece of Atlantic Yards, and eventually plans to build 6,000 apartments, office space and possibly a hotel in 16 towers. At least 30 percent of the units are to be for moderate and middle income tenants.

(Emphasis added)

That's completely speculative and highly unlikely. That's the announced plan, as approved by the state. We have no idea what the developer plans.

But the Development Agreement allows a project to be far, far smaller, with no penalty. And Forest City Ratner now plans four buildings (including the arena) in Phase 1, rather than six.

That won't add up to 16 towers.


Posted by eric at 10:43 PM

Daniel Goldstein agrees to sell, Round IV

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Goldstein, Foe of Ratner, To Leave Apartment In $3 Million Deal

Goldstein said the fight against Atlantic Yards as such is not over and that the development should not have been proposed in the first place. However, he says, “my main priority now is finding a new place to live for myself and my family.”

Gawker, Last Pure Man in Brooklyn Sells Out

Sellout news! Daniel Goldstein, the last Brooklyn guy who'd refused to sell his homes to make way for the massive and inevitable Atlantic Yards project, is selling his condo to the developer for $3 million—more than five times what he paid for it just seven years ago.

Goldstein fought the good fight and we're not knocking him one bit; we would have sold out long before bidding hit the $3 million mark. If nothing else, idealism can be used for economic gain!

set speed aka onehansonplace.com, Daniel Goldstein strikes it rich

The last holdout in the Atlantic Yards fight against Ratner cashes in with $3MM. Well-deserved, since his sweat equity was worth so much more than anyone else's. Wonder where he's going to move to.

The Star-Ledger, Deals with holdouts clear way for Nets' Atlantic Yards arena development, report says

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Atlantic Yards Holdout Agrees to Move

Journalism Now, Can everyone be bought?

NoLandGrab: Funny question, considering the source. If more journalists had dug more deeply into the crooked Atlantic Yards, especially in the mainstream media, Daniel Goldstein would not have been compelled to sell.

Posted by eric at 10:25 PM

DDDB's Goldstein settles for $3M (or less after attorney's fees), agrees to leave May 7, will take a step back from anti-AY activism

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder kicks off round three of the coverage of today's biggest real estate news.

After hours of negotiations following some brief but charged arguments in Kings County Supreme Court today, Daniel Goldstein, the spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn agreed to accept $3 million from Forest City Ratner--far more than the original low-ball $510,000 offer for his three-bedroom condo--in exchange for leaving by May 7 and reducing his prominent role in the Atlantic Yards opposition.

"The agreement today was in part about the value of my apartment, but more so it was about them, ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation], wanting me out quickly," Goldstein said. "They paid to get me out quickly."

Goldstein and his family are the last remaining occupants of a 31-unit building at 636 Pacific Street, in the heart of the arena block. His neighbors also made deals as a group in 2004, taking a significant profit (thanks to public funds reimbursing Forest City Ratner) and agreeing to a gag order.

"I cannot retain the title of spokesman," said Goldstein, who has long been DDDB's most prominent public face and activist, calling attention to "failure of democracy" with the project. "I can do whatever else I want, and it is stipulated that I can maintain my First Amendment rights."

After the settlement made by Freddy's Bar & Backroom, it's an acknowledgment by a vocal opponent of the inevitability of the arena, if not the project as a whole, and the power of the state in eminent domain cases in New York. The courts had already rejected eminent domain lawsuits and transferred title to the ESDC.

Was the settlement fair? From the perspective of Forest City Ratner, which claimed delay was costing them $6.7 million a month, it was surely worth the cost, given that they are tamping down a vocal opponent and weakening DDDB.

Beyond that, he agreed to leave faster than had been previously requested and much faster than in most eminent domain cases.

According to a legal motion filed earlier this month, Forest City Ratner claimed it had spent $280 million to buy property for Atlantic yards; unmentioned was that city taxpayers had contributed $131 million.

From the perspective of the ESDC, whose eminent domain counsel was funded by FCR and which worked hand-in-glove with the developer, surely it's worth it.


Posted by eric at 7:30 PM

Foe of Brooklyn arena project agrees to leave


Here's round two of stories about what it was worth to Bruce Ratner to convince Daniel Goldstein to sell him his home.

The last holdout in a long-running battle with the developer of an NBA arena in Brooklyn has agreed to sell his home on the site.

Daniel Goldstein and his family agreed in court Wednesday to leave their condo by May 7 in a settlement with the developer, Forest City Ratner Cos.

Goldstein founded Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which has filed several lawsuits seeking to block the Atlantic Yards development and has been the project's most vocal critic for years.


More coverage...

Bergen Record, Holdouts' deal clears way for Nets arena in Brooklyn

The Nets’ Barclays Center Basketball Arena drew a critical step closer to a 2012 opening date Thursday, when long-time opponent Daniel Goldstein accepted a $3 million offer on his three-bedroom condominium.

The offer is almost six times the amount offered to Goldstein at the start of several hours of separate negotiations among Goldstein, New York State officials and Forest City Enterprises executives. Judge Abraham Gerges of New York Supreme Court — the equivalent of New Jersey Superior Court — oversaw the negotiations.

The windfall did not change Goldstein’s opinion of the $5 billion multi-use project.

“It’s an illegitimate project that never should have gone forward,” Goldstein said. “And it still shouldn’t.”

Daily Intel [NYMag.com], Dan Goldstein, Atlantic Yards’ Last Holdout, Steps Aside for $3 Million

Daniel Goldstein was one of the last seven holdouts in the way of the $4.9 billion dollar project, even though he had technically already been evicted and was being forced to sell by a court ruling upholding the state's right to seize the land under him by eminent domain. As of this morning, he was the only person left living on Pacific Street in Prospect Heights.

NY1, Forest City Ratner Pays Millions To Have Atlantic Yards Residents Relocate

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner said today it reached a monetary agreement to have the remaining residents relocate from the area of the multimillion-dollar high-rise and sports arena project in Downtown Brooklyn.

Crain's NY Business, Last Atlantic Yards holdout grabs golden goodbye

“I’m not pleased that I’m leaving my apartment; I’m not pleased that the development is going forward,” said Mr. Goldstein, who lives in the three-bedroom apartment with his wife and young daughter. “But there was nothing more I could possibly do to fight this project.”

On Wednesday morning, there was a hearing before a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge to set an eviction date for those still in the footprint to vacate. Mr. Goldstein says the judge asked the parties to see if they could strike a deal and three hours later the agreement, which requires him to leave by May 7, was struck.

“I’m not an idiot. I knew this was going to happen,” said Mr. Goldstein. “I just wanted to get a price that I thought was fair.”

He said if he continued to fight, he would just rack up more legal fees and then might only be awarded what the courts decided was fair value. Even though he lost the battle, Mr. Goldstein says he doesn’t have regrets about his stance.

“I feel good that I fought for so long and that we had the presence that we had,” he said.

Gothamist, Update: Holdout No More! Goldstein Will Move for $3 Million

The long-time chief critic of Bruce Ratner and the Atlantic Yards project agreed today to a $3 million deal to move out of his home.


The Awl, Founder of Anti-Atlantic Yards Group Is Last NYC Real Estate Winner!

Posted by eric at 6:26 PM

BREAKING: Last holdout accepts Ratner’s $3M! He’s out of footprint by May 7

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

Daniel Goldstein, who has led and personified the fight to stop Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards boondoggle, has today accepted an offer to vacate his home — really the only option that New York State had left him.


Daniel Goldstein is now the $3-million man.

After nearly seven years of steadfast opposition to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards — a personal and political protest that made him the last resident of the project footprint — Goldstein accepted the lucrative offer on Wednesday and will leave the project’s footprint by May 7.

The move comes after he was left with no other options once the state condemned his Pacific Street property via eminent domain last month.

He said he was relieved, but still personally affronted by the $4-billion mega-project — the subject of years of protest and more than a dozen lawsuits.

“If I’m going to be forced out of my home in quick measure, I’m going to be paid for it,” he said. “Of course, I would rather the neighborhood be restored.”

But Goldstein’s big payday came with caveats — which also apply to his wife.

• He must withdraw from all lawsuits and not file any others against the Atlantic Yards project.

• He cannot actively oppose the project — or as Goldstein explained it, “I can’t lie down in front of the bulldozers, which I wasn’t going to do anyway.”

• He can no longer be the spokesman of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, but will remain a member.

Goldstein’s lawyer, Mike Rikon, explained that the sticking point of during two hours of negotiations on Wednesday in the chambers of Justice Abraham Gerges in Downtown was Ratner’s demand that Goldstein relinquish his right to speak out against the project.

In the end, Ratner backed down because “[Goldstein] would have walked away from any offer if he lost his First Amendment rights,” Rikon said.

The Goldstein deal comes only two days after project opponents lost their main watering hole, when Freddy’s Bar at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue announced it would be moving to Park Slope after making its own deal with Ratner.

If Freddy’s was the “war room” for opponents, Goldstein was their general — an articulate spokesman and behind-the-scenes player who helped orchestrate numerous protests and legal challenges to the Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: Proponents of Atlantic Yards will surely seize upon the settlement to hurl yet more nasty invective in Daniel Goldstein's direction. But to the very end, his fight has been one deeply rooted in principle, and with the state having been given the legal green light to take his home, the responsible thing to do was to look out for his family's future. Certainly, they'd much prefer for their home to be theirs, and not Bruce Ratner's.

Additional coverage...

City Room, Daniel Goldstein, Last Atlantic Yards Holdout, Leaves for $3 Million

The last man standing in front of the Atlantic Yards bulldozer has stepped aside.

Daniel Goldstein — founder of the anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and plaintiff in numerous unsuccessful suits against the $4.9 billion project — has reached an agreement with the project’s developer, Forest City Ratner, to move out of his condo on Pacific Street in Prospect Heights.

The release from Forest City was short on specifics and did not even speak Mr. Goldstein’s name.

“We are not going to discuss the details of the agreement,” Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the developer, said in the statement. “Forest City Ratner has from the start worked very hard to compensate and to assist residents who owned or rented homes in the footprint. They made that commitment at the start of the project over six years ago and today are very pleased that as construction is in full force they were able to accomplish that goal.”

Yeah, right.

Michael Galinsky, a filmmaker who has been making a documentary about Mr. Goldstein and Atlantic Yards called “Battle of Brooklyn,” said that “to not have made some kind of agreement at this point would have been irresponsible.”

He added: “It was either move out in two weeks, or move out in two months and take what the state offered.”

NY Daily News, Last Atlantic Yards hold-out Daniel Goldstein folds; makes $3M deal with Ratner to leave apartment

As part of the agreement, Goldstein and his family will move out of their apartment by May 7.

They had been facing eviction on May 17 after the state took the property through eminent domain.

The state had initially offered Goldstein $510,000 for the apartment that he bought in 2003 for $590,000.

NY Post, Last Atlantic Yards holdout cuts $3M deal to go

There’s no longer anyone standing in the way of the Nets coming to Brooklyn.

Daniel Goldstein -- the public face of an opposition group that nearly killed Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project through mounting litigation and the project's last holdout – reached a deal today to sell his to Prospect Heights condo to developer Bruce Ratner for a cool $3 million, sources told the Post.

NLG: Bill Pascrell is one person still standing in the way.

NY Observer, Final Atlantic Yards Holdout, Daniel Goldstein, Sells to Ratner for $3 M

For more than three years, Daniel Goldstein has lived with no neighbors.

A passerby to his 31-unit building at 636 Pacific Street every night will see just one apartment light on, surrounded by a sea of black windows that stand in the footprint for a new arena for the New Jersey Nets. Condo board meetings consist of himself and executives with Forest City Ratner, the developer trying to build the arena that bought out the rest of his building.

And for half a decade, he has been the face of opposition to Bruce Ratner and his planned $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, protesting every step of the way, pointing out flaws with every step of the project, and working with other opponents to file lawsuit after lawsuit to stop the development.

Today, he is a holdout no longer.

He may still remain a member of DDDB and say what he likes about the project, a point he held strong on in negotiations, according to his attorney, Micheal Rikon.

"He is allowed to make any statements that he wants and exercise his First Amendment rights—which was, believe it or not, a key point in the final negotiations," Mr. Rikon said. "He was perfectly willing to walk away from the settlement if it meant stopping him from expressing his opinions."

WNYC Radio, Last Atlantic Yards Hold Out Agrees to Move

Daniel Goldstein was a website designer when he moved into a converted warehouse in Prospect Heights. That was just months before one of the largest developers in the city, Forest City Ratner, announced that it wanted to build a $4 billion, 22-acre complex on the site. Goldstein's apartment would be somewhere in the seats of the basketball arena. He refused to sell, and became the voice and force of the opposition. Goldstein founded the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which filed several lawsuits to halt the project.

In February, the state won title to his apartment. He reached a final agreement to move during a break in a court proceeding that would've set his date for his eviction.

Posted by eric at 5:10 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!...

The Columbia Spectator, Eminent domain appeal set for June

On June 1, at the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany, the Empire State Development Corporation will appeal the surprise December court ruling that declared the use of eminent domain for Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion illegal, according to the Court of Appeals website.

In January, ESDC—the state body that approved, in December 2008, the use of eminent domain for the University’s Manhattanville project—formally appealed the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division decision of December 2009, which argued that the expansion of a private university does not constitute a “public use,” as required under eminent domain law.

The two parties have exchanged legal briefs during the several months since ESDC filed its formal appeal. As the appellant, ESDC filed a brief on March 9, and the respondents will file their own brief on April 23. The respondents include Norman Siegel and David Smith, who represent Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage owner Nick Sprayregen and gas station owners Gurnam Singh and Parminder Kaur, the only remaining private property owners in the expansion area who have not struck land deals with the University. ESDC will have a final opportunity to respond to the brief on May 10, before oral arguments are heard in Albany on June 1.

“We’re looking forward to the argument before the Court of Appeals,” Siegel said. “We feel strongly that the Appellant Division’s decision should be affirmed. This is an important case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation.”

But the Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of eminent domain in the recent past, which some say could be indicative of its upcoming ruling on Manhattanville.

“ESDC believes that the decision of the Appellate Division with respect to the Columbia Project is inconsistent with established law, as most recently articulated by the Court of Appeals in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp., and we expect that it will be reversed,” Elizabeth Mitchell, public affairs officer for ESDC, said in an email, referring to the recent Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

But Smith said that there is reason to remain optimistic, pointing to the extensive legal research he and Siegel have been doing in preparation for the case.

“Any time you have an appeal of this magnitude, you are endeavoring to do the best job that you can,” Smith said. “We have built a huge record that contains thousands of documents that show the collusion between Columbia and the people who did the blight studies, as well as Columbia and the ESDC.”

...and the Garden State doesn't.

AP via 1010WINS, Appeals Court Reverses New Jersey Eminent Domain Ruling

A New Jersey court has dealt a setback to a shore city's efforts to redevelop its downtown area in the latest chapter in one of the state's longest-running eminent domain disputes.

In a ruling released Friday, a three-judge panel held that the city of Long Branch has not demonstrated that a downtown area it designated as blighted in 1996 is in need of redevelopment.

Property owners sued the city, but a lower court ruled in favor of Long Branch in 2007 and the city filed condemnation proceedings against the properties in 2008.

The Rev. Kevin Brown, whose Lighthouse Mission has been in the middle of the affected area since 1990, said he was "elated" by the decision.

"I knew what they were doing and I knew what they were doing was wrong," he said. "I had to decide to pack up and get out of the way or stick it through, and decided I would stick it through."

New Jersey Eminent Domain Law Blog, Eminent domain won't happen on Long Branch Broadway Corridor

Here the court arrived at a conclusion similar to the decision in City of Long Branch v. Anzalone, and City of Long Branch v. Brower, which both involved the MTOTSA neighborhood. The appellate panel, led by one of the judges who heard the Anzalone case and two who did not, invited Long Branch to revisit the blight issue and attempt to meet “the substantial, credible evidence” standard for proof of blight.

The city will not be able to prove blight under this standard. Why not dismiss outright? That’s the law.

This does not mean that redevelopment is dead, but it does means that eminent domain abuse, as practiced by some municipalities on behalf of politically connected developers, will not be tolerated. Municipalities will have to be more creative in their redevelopment efforts. This will force real negotiations for acquisition of properties.

Posted by eric at 1:10 PM

Two more Target robberies

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Claire Glass

With criminal activity commonplace in his two shopping malls, imagine what Bruce Ratner will be able to do for the local police blotter with an 18,000 seat arena.

Target trouble

Beware Target customers, yet another week of thievery has gone down at the Atlantic Terminal Mall store. Here’s a round-up:

• A perp got away with more than $2,000 worth of electric razors and luggage on April 11. When an employee noticed the missing shavers, at around 7 pm, he called the cops and provided a surveillance tape of the crook getting away with the goods.

• A thief nabbed a wallet from a victim’s purse on April 12 while she did her shopping. The victim told police that when she got to the checkout line, at around 10 pm, she noticed her wallet was missing.


Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

Congressman parries bid by billionaire for basketball team

Financial Times
by Catherine Belton

A bid by Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire, to expand into the US sports world via the acquisition of the New Jersey Nets basketball team is running into trouble amid calls for a closer investigation of his Renaissance Capital investment bank's business dealings.

In a letter this week to the National Basketball Association, Bill Pascrell, a congressman for New Jersey, calls for a closer investigation of Renaissance Capital's alleged ties with Dmitry Kluyev, who was convicted in Russia in 2006 of illegally seizing shares in Mikhailovsky, a major metals plant.

According to legal filings made in a New York court, it is suggested that Mr Kluyev is at the heart of a fraudulent tax rebate scheme that cost the Russian state more than $330m (€245m, £214m).

"The New York filing highlights an apparent working relationship between senior executives of Renaissance and the convicted Russian . . . Dmitry Kluyev, who has been described in Russian courts as a 'business partner' of Renaissance who had 'regular dealings' with senior Renaissance executives," Mr Pascrell writes, according to a copy of the letter dated April 19. "I expect the NBA to hold its business partners to a higher standard."


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Ranking New York’s top legal wranglers

A look at the 20 NYC law firms with the biggest real estate divisions – and at how they’ve dealt with the downturn

The Real Deal
by Alison Gregor

Some firms have dealt with the downturn by milking fees from deals that have gotten fat at the public teat.

In 2009, for example, Fried Frank represented developer Forest City Ratner in connection with the sale of over $500 million in tax-exempt bonds for the financing of the new Barclays Center, the planned arena for the Nets, the centerpiece of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The firm also represented the developer in completing arrangements with the state, city and MTA for development of the entire Atlantic Yards project, which broke ground last month.


Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

Goldstein is now, officially, the last Yards holdout

The Brooklyn Paper
by Andy Campbell

The Atlantic Yards project’s most-outspoken opponent is now officially the last holdout.

Daniel Goldstein, who lives in a Pacific Street condo that’s been condemned by the state and will be torn down by developer Bruce Ratner to make way for his $1-billion Barclays Center arena, earned that status after the developer inked deals this week with seven other residents of the project footprint, who have accepted a relocation deal.

“We have successfully worked to find comparable or better housing for every family in the footprint except one,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, the Forest City Ratner executive in charge of Atlantic Yards. Gilmartin’s statement did not mention Goldstein by name.


NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner obviously hasn't been trying very hard. Though they're crying that they're losing $6.7 million a month because they haven't been able to take possession of all the condemned property, the offer on the table for Daniel Goldstein's home is less than what he paid for it seven years ago, and less than half what some other people in his building were paid. It doesn't take a very smart businessperson to figure out that paying another $500,000 for Goldstein's condo will save them several million dollars, but no one's ever accused Forest City of being smart businesspeople — they're just very smart subsidy collectors.

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, ESDC Seeks Final Evictions Today

Based on a post on Atlantic Yards Report, however, [Goldstein's] recalcitrance could have more to do with practicality than principle at this point: He's still being low-balled on the value of his own apartment ($395 per square foot compared to a market average of $475 in Prospect Heights) and has only been offered apartments in two buildings so far. The final screwing in a screwed up process.

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Daniel Goldstein and his family are the last residents fighting Atlantic Yards eviction battle

NY Daily News
by Ben Chapman and Erin Durkin

And then there was one.

Daniel Goldstein and his family are now the only residents fighting eviction from the Atlantic Yards site after seven other families agreed to leave by next month.

Goldstein said he'll challenge a motion to kick him, his wife and 1-year-old daughter out of their Pacific St. condo by May 17.

Meanwhile, the last of the seven other families signed an agreement Tuesday with developer Bruce Ratner to leave by May 7.

Elizabeth Nazario, 36, who was packing up the Pacific St. apartment she shares with two teenage sons Tuesday in preparation for a move to Sunset Park, said she's happy with the deal. "I don't have any problems with it," she said. "I'm very comfortable with moving."

But neighbor Wanda Candelario, 51, said she didn't want to leave - noting her special needs daughter's school and doctors are nearby. "I'm not very happy," she said. "[But] they told me I had to go."

Lawyer Mike Rikon, who represents Goldstein and the storage company, said it was rare to seek evictions so soon after property is condemned - and charged that officials are trying to punish Goldstein for his vocal opposition to the project.

"I've been practicing eminent domain law exclusively for 41 years and I've never seen this," Rikon said. "There is no question it's vindictive and mean."


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Orwellian, almost: mayor claims commitment from Ratner to build affordable housing in first tower, but it's really the other way around

Atlantic Yards Report

I finally figured out why Crain's New York Business last month proclaimed as news that the first apartment tower in the Atlantic Yards project would consist of at least 50% subsidized, "affordable" units.

Because Mayor Mike Bloomberg said so.

And, at the time, I didn't notice how "Orwellian, almost" it was, given that the mayor claimed that he'd gotten a commitment from developer Forest City Ratner, while the real news was that the developer could only make a commitment if he was ensured scarce city subsidies.

(Forest City Ratner has long promised that the first tower would be 50% subsidized, as in this 5/5/08 press release, also embedded below.)

From the press release

On the occasion of the March 11 arena groundbreaking, the press release from the mayor's office deviated from the official press release (both embedded below), in part, by adding this:

In the first phase of development, which includes four buildings, Forest City Ratner Companies committed that at least 30 percent of the housing units would be income-targeted. Mayor Bloomberg also announced today that the City has secured an additional commitment from the developer to ensure that at least 50 percent of the units in the first residential building will be affordable to a mix of low-, moderate- and middle-income families.

(Emphases added)

An additional commitment from the developer?

Forest City Ratner won't build subsidized housing unless there are sufficient affordable housing subsidies; that's in the Development Agreement, which allows for eight renewable one-year delays in the absence of subsidies.

So the news was really that Bloomberg has implicitly made a commitment to subsidize that tower.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, If Bloomberg's fortune comes from selling financial information, should he be trusted on such municipal issues? Not when it comes to AY

New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis, in a column yesterday (Mayor Bloomberg right on the money in supporting community banks) hailing Mayor Mike Bloomberg's effort to change a state law and allow government agencies to put their money into community banks and credit unions, wrote:

The movement will get a huge boost if New York City government follows suit, particularly with the added credibility supplied by a mayor whose personal fortune was earned selling financial information.

It's a plausible observation, but, when it comes to the mayor's performance on Atlantic Yards, it doesn't hold water.

Spinning for Ratner

Rather, Bloomberg has been more than willing to spin for Forest City Ratner, though he and his staff haven't completely gotten their ducks in a row. Consider the press release issued March 11 on the occasion of the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking.

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Hearing at 9:30 am on "writ of assistance" sought by ESDC to compel Goldstein family and two businesses to leave

Atlantic Yards Report

Daniel Goldstein and his family are the last residential tenants facing eviction in the Atlantic Yards footprint, as the others have settled, according a statement issued by Forest City Ratner yesterday and picked up by the New York Daily News and the Brooklyn Paper.

The seven households either will get apartments in “the first new residential building at Atlantic Yards” or, on average,$80,000, plus $5,000 to assist with relocation, according to a statement from FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin.

Hearing this morning

That leaves Goldstein and two businesses--Pack It Away Storage and Henry Weinstein's office building and adjacent lots--to challenge the Empire State Development Corporation's motion at the condemnation hearing this morning.

It will be held before state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges at Kings County Supreme Court, 320 Jay Street, 17th Floor, beginning at 9:30 am (and there's usually a considerable wait to get through security).

Accelerated schedule

The ESDC seeks a "writ of assistance" to compel the remaining condemnees to leave the Atlantic Yards footprint by May 17 under threat of eviction.

That's a rather accelerated schedule for eminent domain cases, given that Gerges's opinion was issued March 1, and, as I reported yesterday, the state has both low-balled Goldstein on the value of his condo and shown him apartments that are both much more expensive and with some serious drawbacks.


Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

April 20, 2010

ESDC/FCR say eviction delay past May 17 would "cripple" Atlantic Yards, but claims of continued losses and jeopardized benefits seem overblown

Atlantic Yards Report

On the eve of a crucial court hearing regarding the fate of condemnees still in the Atlantic Yards footprint, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner (FCR) are arguing that the failure to evict those occupants by May 17 would cause "enormous harm" and significant financial losses to the developer.

It is unclear how many of the six households (15 people) and three businesses yet to reach agreements with the developer will resist the condemnation, but a response to those legal arguments--likely stating that this is unusually swift for a condemnation cast--will be filed tomorrow, before a 10 a.m. hearing before state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges at Supreme Court in Brooklyn, 320 Jay Street.

According to my preliminary analysis, several ESDC/FCR claims overstate the damage anticipated, emphasize the costs without acknowledging significant subsidies, and fail to provide sufficient detail to establish the argument for speed.

(Also see my coverage of FCR's claims regarding Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal strategy and alternative condos offered project opponent Daniel Goldstein. Note that, beyond those totaled above, some other businesses and residents remain in the footprint, but have reached agreements to leave.)

ESDC affidavit

ESDC attorney Charles Webb summarizes the argument made in an affidavit from the developer:

Delay in achieving vacant possession would halt work on the Project, causing enormous harm by (i) prolonging the time in which FCRC must carry the real property and the Project's overhead without generating income, which costs FCRC $6,700,000 per month, (b) prolonging the Nets basketball team's operating losses of approximately $35 million a per year arising from its New Jersey location, and (c) jeopardizing the delivery of 2,250 affordable housing units, and significant public amenities, including a new transit entrance and eight acres of publicly accessible open space.


NoLandGrab: The ESDC's and Forest City's claims about financial hardship are completely undermined by their penny-wise, pound-foolish obstinacy when it comes to buying out Daniel Goldstein...

Atlantic Yards Report, After low-balling Goldstein on condo value, ESDC (via consultant) suggests comparable condos from lawsuit-plagued complex

Maybe it is getting a little personal.

Not only have the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and its real estate consultants low-balled Atlantic Yards uber-opponent Daniel Goldstein regarding the value of his Pacific Street condominium, the only alternative apartments it has shown him are either part of a lawsuit-plagued complex or very close to the Atlantic Yards construction zone.

And while the ESDC's consultant provided a list of only five condos, a simple search of a real estate web site turns up dozens of potential purchases in Prospect Heights and adjacent neighborhoods.

The alternative apartments are listed in an affidavit that's part of an ESDC package of legal papers aiming to convince state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges to evict all condemnees from the Atlantic Yards footprint by May 17. A hearing will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Supreme Court in Brooklyn, 320 Jay Street.


Goldstein, the spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), and his family are the last remaining occupants of a 31-unit condo building at 636 Pacific Street, a former warehouse converted in 2002.

The condo is in a crucial spot on the arena block, and Forest City Ratner, which is funding the condemnations, wants him out of there as soon as possible so his building can be demolished for construction.

So it would be in the interest of the state and FCR to ease his departure as quickly as possible, with an offer closer to market price and a longer list of alternatives. That hasn't happened.

NLG: Here's hoping that their mean-spirited parsimony costs Forest City many millions more.

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

End Credits

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

The other day our friend Ras stopped by while we were editing. He sat down and played us a song that he'd been working on called "Welcome to Brooklyn". After a verse I whipped out my camera and shot this little video. We all thought the same thing. The song would be great for the end of the film. I was picturing him singing it live by himself on Pacific Street. He had a slightly different vision. A few hours later he stopped by with a full band and they wanted to record it RIGHT THEN. Since I don't have a studio myself I've put out the call through facebook etc and I haven't gotten an offer just yet. So if you have a studio and want to help out... give us a shout.


Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

Curtain to fall on last Atlantic Yards holdouts

Expected court order to seal the fate of the remaining 35 residents and businesses; Freddie's [sic] Bar on Dean Street, host of many an anti-project party, to close April 30.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

By May 17, all the people that live in or run businesses in the Atlantic Yards' footprint will be evicted, if the Empire State Development Corp. has its way.

On Wednesday, the ESDC will ask Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Abraham Gerges to sign an order that will remove all occupants in the area where Forest City Ratner is slated to build a massive commercial, residential and retail project anchored by an 18,000-seat arena for the Nets on a 22-acre site. There are currently 32 residential occupants and 3 businesses remaining on the property acquired by the ESDC. Freddie's [sic] Bar on Dean Street, which hosted countless protests against the project over the last several years, will finally close its doors on April 30.

An ESDC spokeswoman said that the agency couldn't predict what date the judge would set or whether he would make a decision on Wednesday. However, she said that the agency didn't believe the date would be significantly later than May 17.


NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner is "slated" to build an arena — it's anybody's guess as to the rest of it. And is it that hard for Crain's and Theresa Agovino to spell "Freddy's" correctly, a bar that's been around since Prohibition and which has figured prominently in the six-and-a-half-year-old Atlantic Yards saga?

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Last call for Brooklyn's Freddy's Bar as it bows to Atlantic Yards

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Call off the sheriff.

Atlantic Yards holdout Freddy's Bar, facing eviction to make way for developer Bruce Ratner's megaproject in Brooklyn, will shut its doors at the end of the month and reopen at a new location, its manager said Monday.

Patrons had vowed to chain themselves to the bar and force law enforcement to physically eject them, but now they say they'll go peacefully.

"I love this fight, but ... I'm sick of this sword of Damocles thing," manager Donald O'Finn said. "I want to get on with it."



Additional coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Freddy’s Bar, eminent domain poster child, to close on April 30

The bar will serve its last tear-filled beer on April 30.

The announcement signals a much-less colorful conclusion for the beloved dive, which has spent the last few years as a jocular, though no less serious, foil to the developer. Through the seven-year Atlantic Yards saga, Freddy’s earned plenty of media coverage for a welter of stunts, including taking Brooklyn Lager off the menu after the Williamsburg-based brewery signed a deal with Ratner; decapitating effigies of eminent domain and banks with a guillotine covered in Pabst Blue Ribbon labels; and having barflies don oversized masks and give interviews as key “villains” like Ratner, Borough President Markowitz and Mayor Bloomberg.

O’Finn added that “Freddy’s Next Bar” will continue to oppose Ratner’s mega-project.

“As far we’re concerned we’re not through — we’re just moving to another corner of the ring!” he said.

Grub Street, Freddy’s Bar Gives Up the Fight, Will Move to New Location

Amid a few parting shots at developer Bruce Ratner, O’Finn reveals that within two or three months, the doomed bar will hopefully open at a new address (still not locked down) on Fourth Avenue near Union Street.

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter, Freddy’s

Yesterday it was announced that Freddy's Bar is moving. For the last few months the fighting Freddy's have been doing yeoman's work in bringing attention to the situation. While there were no shortage of people willing to chain themselves to the bar in order to save it, the responsibility of throwing all of the bartenders out of work was a bit much to bear. They struck a deal to save the bar by moving it to a new location.

Reason Hit & Run, Last Call at Freddy's Bar

Freddy’s, the great Brooklyn bar that has been fighting the good fight against New York’s eminent domain abuse in the Atlantic Yards case, will be closing its doors at the end of the month, with April 30th set as the last day of business.

Bad news, but hardly shocking, given that Freddy’s, homeowner Daniel Goldstein, and the other heroic resisters were battling the combined forces of New York state, New York City, the Borough of Brooklyn, the Empire State Development Corporation, and politically-connected developer Bruce Ratner.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Freddy’s Closes, Hot Bird Opens

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Freddy’s Bar Moving to Park Slope’s 4th Avenue

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

FCR affidavit regarding DDDB's litigation strategy relies on one not-so-reliable Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter

Atlantic Yards Report

Having Forest City Ratner cite your reporting in an Atlantic Yards-related affidavit is kind of like winning the anti-Pulitzer.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, thanks to columnists Dennis Holt and Henrik Krogius, has been a longtime cheerleader for the Atlantic Yards project.

But it's neither Holt nor Krogius but courts reporter Ryan Thompson whose conclusionary and loaded language regarding Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's (DDDB) legal strategy is crucial to Forest City Ratner executive Maryanne Gilmartin's affidavit in support of an eviction order.

The affidavit is part of an ESDC package of legal papers aiming to convince state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges to ensure that all condemnees leave the Atlantic Yards footprint by May 17. DDDB is not a party to this case, though DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein is a condemnee.

A hearing will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Supreme Court in Brooklyn, 320 Jay Street.

DDDB's strategy

While delay is surely a calculation, Thompson suggests that DDDB's litigation strategy is solely about delay, rather than any legitimate effort to hold government accountable.

Thompson, it should be pointed out, was the reporter behind the scoffing report, cited Saturday, that Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn asked "the court to consider new evidence that DDDB claims was not available at the time of the oral argument in January."

Choosing to cast doubt on DDDB's "claims," Thompson failed to point out that the Development Agreement was, in fact, not made public for nearly a week after the oral argument.


Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

April 19, 2010

Pascrell responds to Stern, provides (slightly) more details about Prokhorov in Zimbabwe, raises question of ties to Russian mob

Atlantic Yards Report

Rep. Bill Pascrell, whose allegations about prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov's business dealing in pariah state Zimbabwe were brushed off by the National Basketball Association, is fighting back, questioning the league's willingness to approve the billionaire.

After being told he'd provided no information "demonstrating or even suggesting" that Prokhorov or his related companies conducts business with those on the sanctions list, Pascrell sent a letter citing "specific examples of Renaissance Capital’s business with individuals and entities that have close ties to the Mugabe regime."

Those examples were hedged as "reportedly" and he carefully asserted that Prokhorov is violating "the spirit" of the sanctions rather than formally violating them.

(I wrote last week how Renaissance Capital, of which Prokhorov owns nearly half, said its CEO specifically avoided an investment summit so as to not violate sanctions, even though a government newspaper said Renaissance Capital had confirmed its participation.)

The Russian mob?

Beyond that, Pascrell asked whether the NBA has have examined documents filed last year in the Southern District of New York alleging Renaissance Capital has had a long-standing relationship with Russian organized crime, notably ties to an alleged scheme to defraud the Russian government of $230 million (as reported by Bloomberg on 7/31/09).

No backup documents were provided regarding Pascrell's charges, though I did find an declaration from a representative of Hermitage Capital Management, which seeks to prove it was a victim of fraud.

It is unclear how seriously the Treasury Department is pursuing Pascrell's initial request that it look into Prokhorov's activities.

Pascrell also provided the NBA's response to his initial letter. Both documents are embedded below.


Posted by eric at 10:35 PM

No sleep at 752 Pacific: ESDC tries to take possession by cutting lock; Weinstein replies in kind; then tenants and subtenants show up

Atlantic Yards Report

It's been a wild and woolly few days at 752 Pacific Street in Prospect Heights, where, not long after property owner Henry Weinstein got his tenants and subtenants evicted on April 15, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) tried to take control of the property that night and those tenants also returned today.

A changed lock

Late on the night of April 15, Weinstein told me, he passed by the building and was surprised to see half the lights on the sixth floor illuminated. He'd shut off the circuit breakers, so he thought a timer might be at work.

The locks were secure. The next day, however, he couldn't get into the building.

"Unbeknowsnt to me, someone had cut off my lock and replaced it," Weinstein said. That was the ESDC, whose counsel told him that the agency, not Weinstein owned the building.

On Saturday, April 17, Weinstein spoke with an employee of Grubb Ellis, the managing agent, who told him that a guard and been hired and, if he wanted to get into the building, he could get a key when the workweek began.

Weinstein said no, that he had legal possession of the building. So, on Sunday, he cut off the new locks and installed his own--after first showing the 77th Precinct the paperwork that indicated he had possession.

ESDC position

ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell told me, "It is our position that ESDC was within its rights to have the locks changed at 752 Pacific on April 16th as ESDC became the owner of the property as of March 1st. Yesterday Mr. Weinstein broke the lock at 752 Pacific Street and replaced it with his own. For the time being ESDC will not seek to change the locks again. ESDC's motion for a writ of assistance as to 752 Pacific Street, among other properties, will be heard this Wednesday before Justice Gerges. We will apprise Justice Gerges at that time of what has recently transpired with respect to the property."

The ESDC wants Gerges to set May 17 as a final date to compel condemnees to leave the footprint, though a few, including Weinstein, are expected to oppose it.


NoLandGrab: The ESDC's predilection for acting in bad faith is matched only by its predilection to act like a sullen teenager. "For the time being ESDC will not seek to change the locks again?" That's an actual statement from a state agency? Good grief.

Posted by eric at 10:21 PM


Letter demanding NBA conduct a thorough investigation comes in response to letter of last week dismissing issues

PATERSON – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) today responded to the National Basketball Association with a letter outlining the public record business dealings of Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire and prospective owner of the New Jersey Nets. The letter cites specific examples of Renaissance Capital’s business with individuals and entities that have close ties to the Mugabe regime. U.S. economic sanctions in Zimbabwe have been in place since 2003.

Furthermore, the letter asks the NBA whether they have examined documents filed last year in the Southern District of New York alleging Renaissance Capital has had a long-standing relationship with Russian organized crime, and in particular, its ties to a scheme that led to the embezzlement of over $100 million from the Russian treasury.

The response from the NBA to Rep. Pascrell last week is attached.

The text of today’s letter is attached and follows below:

April 19, 2010

Mr. David J. Stern
National Basketball Association
645 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10022

Dear Mr. Stern:

I am in receipt of a letter from Mr. Joel M. Litvin, the President of League and Basketball Operations, dated April 13th in response to my inquiry regarding the National Basketball’s vetting of Mr. Mikhail Prokhorov and his reported business dealings in Zimbabwe.

I appreciate the quick nature of your reply, although I must express my disappointment in the lack of seriousness which the NBA appears to be approaching these new and troubling allegations against Mr. Prokhorov and his business affairs.

Since I was first elected to the House of Representatives, I have been a member of the Human Rights Caucus, and followed closely the devastation and suffering that the regime of Mr. Mugabe has brought upon the people of Zimbabwe. Consequently, I believe that any allegations that Mr. Prokhorov has engaged in sanction busting in Zimbabwe must be investigated with the seriousness and respect that the laws of the United States deserve.

While Mr. Prokhorov has categorically stated that he has no dealings whatsoever with anyone on the sanctions list in Zimbabwe, there is significant evidence to the contrary. He is a 50% owner of Renaissance Capital, which in June 2009, reportedly sponsored an economic forum in Harare, Zimbabwe, and offered foreign investors special access to government officials, including those on the United States’ sanctions list. Renaissance Capital is also reportedly a shareholder in CBZ Holdings, one of the largest banks in Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe is the bank’s largest shareholder.

It is clear to me that Mr. Prokhorov has violated the spirit of the sanctions the U.S. has in place against the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. It is unlikely that anyone can do business successfully in the Zimbabwe financial services sector without engaging the Mugabe government and its henchmen. Zimbabwe remains an emerging market with poorly defined institutional and regulatory environments which Mr. Mugabe has actively worked to dominate both politically and economically.

In addition to the concerns raised by Renaissance’s connections to the Mugabe regime, we have become aware of additional disturbing allegations made against Mr. Prokhorov’s investment bank here in the United States.

Specifically, based on documents filed last year in the Southern District of New York, it appears that Renaissance may have long-standing working relationships with Russian organized crime. The court filings in New York describe in detail Renaissance’s connection to a complex tax rebate fraud in Russia through which it is believed at least $106.9 million in taxes paid from a Renaissance-managed investment fund was later embezzled from the Russian treasury through the payment of fraudulent tax refunds. In addition, the New York filing highlights an apparent working relationship between senior executives of Renaissance and the convicted Russian mobster, Dmitri Klyuyev, who has been described in Russian courts as a “business partner” of Renaissance who had “regular dealings” with senior Renaissance executives. It is alleged that the proceeds of the $106.9 million fraud and similar schemes were ultimately channeled out of Russia via U.S. banks based in New York.

I make no judgments as to whether Mr. Prokhorov violated our laws, which is why I have asked the Secretary of the Treasury to investigate his business in Zimbabwe and make a determination.

However, your assertion that because Mr. Prokhorov is a Russian national he is immune to the laws of our land is unfounded. Mr. Prokhorov will most certainly have U.S. business interests after becoming the owner of the New Jersey Nets. Renaissance Capital operates a US subsidiary and leases office space in New York. To my knowledge, Brooklyn, not overseas, is the only possible future home for the Nets under consideration, so if Mr. Prokhorov hopes to attend games he will certainly be within the United States’ jurisdiction.

In the face of all this information, which was gathered only from public documents and press reports, I find the NBA’s apparent non-investigation of Mr. Prokhorov’s businesses very troubling. I would assume that a business relationship between a potential owner and a country subject to U.S. sanctions and links to organized crime would raise red flags in your vetting process. However, according to press reports, a Renaissance Capital spokesman has stated that the company was not even contacted by the NBA’s investigators. Your most recent letter brushes off these accusations as if they are of little importance or merit, as if the only qualification to be an owner of an NBA franchise is to not be found guilty of violating our sanctions laws.

I expect the NBA to hold its business partners to a higher standard. The NBA occupies a unique place in the public life of the United States, and every team in the league – and their owners – are holders of a special trust. The connections drawn between Russian organized crime and Mr. Prokhorov’s Russian investment bank, as well as the prior allegations of sanctions busting in Zimbabwe deserve the close scrutiny of your organization.

I would like to inquire again as to the nature of your vetting process into Mr. Prokhorov’s business and finances, and whether his business activities in Zimbabwe and his investment bank’s relationship to Russian organized crime were scrutinized by the League.

Thank you.


Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Member of Congress

Posted by eric at 10:10 PM

Unable to wait and protest condemnation, Freddy's plans to close on Dean Street after April 30 and move to a new location

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite a media-friendly plan announced last December to install "chains of justice" so bar-goers could chain themselves to the bar to resist condemnation, Freddy's Bar & Backroom, the much-lauded Prospect Heights dive bar and no-cover eclectic art space, will close for relocation after a April 30 event and celebration, and prepare for relocation.

Patrons and supporters of Freddy's will laud the spirit of resistance--fighting a government and developer with far bigger resources--but must confront a fundamental hurdle.

"Unfortunately, in order to assure our capacity to keep Freddy's alive in another location, and keep people employed," manager Donald O'Finn said, "we have to move the contents of the bar in a particular timely fashion to 'lock down' the next space, and thus we will not be facing an eviction situation in which a protest by chaining ourselves could happen."

"The owner of Freddy's has had to consider those employed at Freddy's as well as his own situation, no one being billionaires here, needing employment and food on the table, he made a difficult decision to pull out in such a way as to keep the contents of the bar and move it into another location," O'Finn explained. "If we wait for condemnation we might sacrifice too much."

Presumably the settlement offer was deemed sufficient, or at least a good start. The Empire State Development Corporation has asked a judge to set a May 17 deadline for condemnees to leave, though some are expected to resist that at a hearing in Kings County Supreme Court on April 21.


Posted by eric at 8:14 PM

Freddy's Bar is not closing, it's moving

Here's the full statement issued today by Freddy's Bar & Backroom manager Donald O'Finn.

Freddy's Bar is not closing, it's moving.

We are presently in negotiations with a landlord who is not a billionaire at 4th Ave and Union Street.

We will be having a Victory party on April 30th to celebrate what the little guy has been able to do in fighting a billionaire and the corrupt government agency that he controls. We feel we have dealt fatal blows to Ratner's organization. The nets will not be sold to an international criminal, because the NBA can't afford to be associated with organized crime.

Freddy's Bar is not giving up the fight, we stand in solidarity with Prokhorov's sanctions-busting victims in Zimbabwe, and with the people of Yonkers who are paying the price for a Ratner bribery scandal. We will continuing to stand against the corruption that has dominated our lives for the last 7 years, and are looking forward to moving out from under this sword of Damocles.

Forest City Ratner will leave Brooklyn a thousand years before Freddy's Bar does. . . they have missed mortgage payments on their Metrotech Center, and the Yonkers and Zimbabwe sanctions busting scandals are criminal acts. The question is will they run out of money first, or face prosecution first. I am sure that both will happen.

The move is about the employees, and the business. We're little guys. We can't run our business into the ground as Ratner has and still survive. We have a lot of mouths to feed and we are not billionaires. The move is strategic. Very soon "Freddy's Next Bar" will be standing tall, and Ratner will be in rubble, with no stadium, and hopefully with justice and karma finding him. This is a guy who closed a family homeless shelter in the dead of winter.

In order to assure our capacity to keep Freddy's alive in a another location, and keep people employed... we have to move the contents of the bar in a particular timely fashion to "Lock down' the next space, and thus we will not be facing an eviction situation in which a protest by chaining ourselves could happen. The Chains ("The Chains of Justice") have served their purpose...to raise awareness of corruption, and they will move with us, forever installed on that bar as a symbol of a united community and that community's power for affecting change.

The owner of Freddy's has had to consider those employed at Freddy's as well as his own situation, needing employment and food on the table. He made a difficult decision to pull out in such a way as to keep the contents of the bar and move it into another location. If we wait for condemnation we might sacrifice too much. I can't yet confirm the location since everything is moving very fast, and it is not locked down yet, but the area we are hoping to secure is on 4th Ave near Union Street.

We hope to open this new space as soon as possible, 2 or 3 months hopefully. The email address will not change... nor the web address.

Freddy's has been the culmination of everything I am and everything I ever wanted in a bar.

I could not be prouder of Freddy's, it's community, and it's accomplishments.

Freddy's is not an address, it is an idea.

I'll See you at "FREDDY'S NEXT BAR"...the first one is on me!

Posted by eric at 6:40 PM

Freddy’s Bar an Atlantic Yards Holdout No Longer

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Photo: Amy Greer/NoLandGrab

Freddy's Bar & Backroom, the unofficial clubhouse of the Atlantic Yards resistance movement, has been forced to throw in the towel in order to survive.

It seems the "chains of justice" will not be necessary.

Freddy's, the insurgent dive bar in the footprint of the Brooklyn Nets arena-to-be, is set to close at the end of the month. According to an announcement sent out Monday by manager Donald O'Finn, the bar will forgo a confrontation with a sheriff and a demolition crew, and will move to an undisclosed new location near Fourth Avenue and Union Street.

This contrasts with earlier statements made by bar diehards who promised to stand until the bitter end—installing "chains of justice" with handcuffs to the bar—but now the inevitability of the property takings, apparently, has set in.

The bar and its clientele have been virulent critics of the planned arena and related Atlantic Yards development, acting as a ground zero of opposition, posting various news articles of developer Bruce Ratner's troubles throughout the years. The bar even stopped carrying beer from the Brooklyn Brewery after its owner made clear his support for the Atlantic Yards project.


Related coverage...

Fork in the Road [Village Voice blog], Freddy's Fight Comes to an End: The Bar Will Close May 1st, BUT Will Relocate to New Space This Summer

Following a fake eviction notice from its landlord last month, Freddy's Backroom & Bar is now really and truly being kicked out of its Dean Street space at the end of the month. Freddy's will open its doors in Prospect Heights for the last time on May 1st (with a victory party being held April 30), but manager Donald O'Finn promises that the bar is not dead: it's moving to new digs on Fourth Avenue and Union Street.

"Freddy's has been the culmination of everything I am and that I always wanted in a bar," says O'Finn, who helped lead the effort to stop Bruce Ratner's development project in order to save his bar, as well as his neighbors' homes and businesses. "We made a lot of progress in the fight against eminent domain and did a lot of harm to The Atlantic Yards Project... And we are proud of that."

Eater, Freddy's Bar, Defeated by Atlantic Yards, Plans Relocation

After a December eminent domain ruling in favor of Bruce Ratner, the man behind the giant 22 acre Atlantic Yards development, the owners of well known Brooklyn dive within the footprint o' death, Freddy's Bar, prepared for a massive fight against the bulldozers. They dug their heels in, called out the media, and promised they would chain themselves to the bar before letting it get leveled for this massive entertainment complex.

Not so much anymore.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards, the Sword of Damocles

After trying Bruce Ratner bobbleheads, a PBR guillotine, and the old Chains of Justice, anti-Atlantic Yards agitator Freddy's Bar is moving. The bar's owners report they're in negotiations with a landlord at Fourth Avenue and Union Street and hope to reopen in two or three months, avoiding eviction from their current spot. The owners are "looking forward to moving out from under this sword of Damocles," but to keep the anti-AY sentiment alive, they're taking the Chains of Justice with them, "forever installed on that bar as a symbol of a united community."


Freddy’s Bar, one of the most vocal opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, will be moving to new digs in the Gowanus/Park Slope area at Fourth Avenue and Union Street. Bar loyalists had earlier threatened to chain themselves to the establishment at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue to prevent destruction of the watering hole in the name of making room for the impending Brooklyn Nets complex, the Observer reports.

Cobble Hill Blog, Freddy’s Bar & Backroom Moving to Fourth and Union

Barflies, freaks, misfits and malcontents rejoice! The evil forces of “Eminent Domain” will not kill the legendary Freddy’s Bar & Backroom which sits in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards development project. The bar announced today that they’ll moving to a new location at Fourth Avenue and Union Street in Park Slope.

Resistance 3.0, Freddy's Bar Closing and Opening New Location

Our last show at Freddy's went great so we inquired about another gig. This is the response we got...

I have good news & bad news.
The bad news is..... Freddy’s last day of business @ this address will be April 30th, so all bookings after that date unfortunately have to be canceled, I am very sorry.
Good news.....We are not closing, we are moving!
& we will re-open! Better than new!
We will continue to do live music and events and have the best party in town.

Posted by eric at 6:20 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, AY: Brooklyn Speaks Joins Timeline Challenge

While the Empire State Development Corporation approved the Atlantic Yards project for the second time last September, the deal details—the penalties and incentives to get the project done—weren't resolved until the master closing in December. And then the ESDC waited a full month to make the voluminous print documents available to reporters and others willing to visit the agency's office in business hours. That Development Agreement, which Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report wrote about in late January lent credibility to what critics of the Atlantic Yards project have been saying for years: That there's no way Forest City Ratner's going to complete construction within the ten-year time frame and that the penalties for not doing so are as small as the wriggle room for avoiding them is large. (Back in April 2009 ESDC chief Marisa Lago even said on record that the project was expected to take "decades.") What's the problem with that? Well, the original Environmental Impact Statements, upon which the courts have relied, only evaluated the impact of the area being subjected to construction for a decade and twenty five years of construction could obviously take a bigger toll.

MultifamilyInvestor, New York City Multifamily Developer Evicted From Atlantic Yards

Troubled developer Shaya Boymelgreen may have lost LibertyPointe Bank to a federal takeover due to bad real estate loans, but at least he had his office, at 752 Pacific Street. Until this week.

Owner Henry Weinstein evicted Boymelgreen’s employees from their six-story commercial building, now part of the Atlantic Yards development site, for two of Boymelgreen’s sins: First, he illegally sold his lease to developer Forest City Ratner. Second, well, he just didn’t get around to paying his rent to Weinstein.


In the past month or so I've encountered some songs by Gabriel Kahane, a musician from my neighborhood. Underberg is my favorite track—I've found myself listening to it a few times in a row lately. Turns out that Underberg is also the title of the first and longest section of Fortress; both seem to refer to this building (aw geez, don't get me started on Atlantic Yards) and to evoke a sense of nostalgia, though if you listen close, not everything was so great back in the good old days.


The economics of real estate development and its cultural implications are far beyond the scope my knowledge (and, by extension, this essay), though I generally see the urban growth and decay as intrinsically organic, where the organism could variously be considered on the scale of the block, neighborhood, city, state, etc. For example, Atlantic Yards will certainly redefine its immediate vicinity for years to come, but the massive, purportedly destructive influx of wealth—concretely as edifices; abstractly as cultural capital—is not necessarily artificial: it represents the continued evolution of Brooklyn, New York City and the Tri-State Area as a whole.

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Democrats accuse GOP candidate of taking shady donations

Dayton Daily News
by Laura A. Bischoff

The Ohio Democratic Party charged that Rep. Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for state treasurer, took campaign contributions from three men with “criminal financial histories.”

State Rep. Mandel, R-Lyndhurst, received $13,000 from Elliot Broidy who pleaded guilty to bribing the New York state controller; $1,000 from Brian Chisick, whose company settled a lawsuit over deceptive loans for $60 million; and $11,300 from Roger Hertog, whose company paid a $250 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission and settled a lawsuit with the state of New York for $600 million.

Thursday, April 15, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Josh’s donors committed bribery, ravaged pension funds and engaged in deceptive practices that forced people out of their homes.”

"Deceptive practices that forced people out of their homes?" Why, that's the specialty of another of Mandel's donors.

His tab includes $3,919 in travel paid for by Forest City Enterprises, a Cleveland company that employs Mandel’s father-in-law and $2,392 in travel paid for by RPM International, a sealant and chemical company.


Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

Prokhorov takeover of Nets imminent

NY Post
by Fred Kerber

Neither rain nor snow nor congressmen from New Jersey nor vacant possession rulings shall keep Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov from his appointment as the owner of the Nets.

That was NBA Commissioner David Stern's stance yesterday at his press conference following the Board of Governors meeting in Midtown, where he insisted Prokhorov passed the league's thorough background checks and now stands to gain ownership of the Nets by mid-May or June at the latest.

"Mr. Prokhorov has made it very clear to us that this is a transaction he wants very much to close. And we have no expectation other than it will close hopefully in May.

"No expectation other than it will close hopefully in May?" Not exactly strong language from the famously potty-mouthed Commish.

[If not], then it'll be June, but it's going to happen," Stern said, noting the league has delayed approval of the sale until the "vacant possession," the clearing of all residents and businesses from the Brooklyn site of the team's new arena, is settled.

Congressman William Pascrell (D-N.J.) this week called for an investigation because one of Prokhorov's firms does business in Zimbabwe. The NBA claimed Pascrell misinterpreted the law, which "doesn't apply to Mr. Prokhorov, but if it did, he would be in complete compliance."

Now the NBA is the National Bar Association, correcting federal lawmakers about federal law.

With so much awaiting the Nets -- the draft, free agency, the naming of a coach -- Stern said Prokhorov could seek "an acceleration" of the closing should vacant possession snarl.


Additional coverage...

Bergen Record, NBA may speed up approval of Mikhail Prokhorov

Stern said if the hold-up lingers because of protests regarding the Brooklyn arena site, the NBA could expedite the approval.

The Nets have to hire a coach and have all that money for free agency and need their owner to sign off on transactions.

"I think that if it got to be draft time, I think there might be an acceleration of the closing in any event, even without the vacant possession," Stern said.

"I think if I were Mr. Prokhorov, I think I would wait for vacant possession, unless it got a little bit late."

Bergen Record, Nets think big, but there are many ifs

The two biggest words in the Nets’ off-season are if and could.

If the Nets win the NBA draft lottery and get John Wall, it could improve their chances of getting LeBron James or Dwyane Wade in free agency. If James leads the Cavaliers to the title, he could leave Cleveland and his relationship with Nets part-owner Jay-Z could help the Nets land him.

Then again, if the Nets would have been in Brooklyn already, the odds of luring James would be much better.

Regardless, with new Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov expected to be onboard by July 1 and his probable dislike of the words no or ‘nyet,’ and Jay-Z expected to be involved in the recruiting of free agents and the eventual promise of Brooklyn, the Nets will make strong pitches for James and Wade.

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Three months after AY was approved last year by the ESDC, the Development Agreement allowed for even gentler deadlines

Atlantic Yards Report

Would you believe that, in three short months last year, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) took gentle deadlines for the Atlantic Yards project and relaxed them further?

Um, yes?

In doing so, it made further mockery of its dubious claim that the Atlantic Yards would be completed in a decade.

The ESDC's September 2009 approval of the Atlantic Yards 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) proposed penalties for delays on only the first three towers and claimed, vaguely, that Forest City Ratner would have to "use commercially reasonable efforts" to build the project in ten years.

That was all to come in a secretive process, the professed arms-length negotiation of the Development Agreement.

And when those documents were signed in December 2009, the state agency provided even more generous deadlines regarding those first three buildings, no teeth to the term "commercially reasonable," and an completion date of 25 years.

The timing of the ESDC's release of the development agreement would be comical if it weren't so deeply corrupt.

Delayed revelation

The penalties were not revealed until January--when the Development Agreement was finally made available for inspection to those of us willing to visit the ESDC offices.

That was one week after the oral argument in a state Supreme Court case challenging the ESDC's professed ten-year timetable in the project--and two weeks after the ESDC initially said the documents would be made available.

Was the ESDC's unwillingness to reveal the Development Agreement before the oral argument an effort to avoid uncomfortable facts? It sure seems so.

The Development Agreement's provision of a 25-year deadline is now the subject of two motions--by groups allied with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklySpeaks--asking state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman to reconsider her decision deferring to the ESDC's ten-year timetable. (The Development Agreement was also not entered into the record of the case.)


Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

April 18, 2010

Brucie and Bloomie Fight For Planet Blandora

by Karl the Druid

Last week's charges that Mikhail Prokhrov's Zimbabwe dealings might prohibit him from buying the Nets seemed to prompt the creation of this image (and a few others - check out the link and scroll down).

Planet Blandora


Posted by steve at 8:10 AM

AY Report: Emininent Domain For MSG, Development Agreement Coverage Missing, FCR Exec Fights Major Zoning Exceptions

Lupica on Dolan vs.Prokhorov (or anybody), eminent domain for MSG

New York Daily News Sports columnist Mike Lupica, in his column today, takes a few swipes at James Dolan, CEO of Cablevision, chairman of Madison Square Garden, and thus principal owner of the Knicks, whose woes have been caused largely by some unwise management decisions:

Incidentally, whom do you think Knick fans would like to have own their team right now, Dolan or the Mikhail Prokhorov?

You don't actually have to answer, it was a kind of a rhetorical question.

You know why they'd pick Prokhorov?

Because they'd pick anybody over the guy they have.

...I don't mean to harp on this, but why CAN'T we use eminent domain to seize the Garden from Dolan the way the city and state seized all that real estate in Brooklyn for Caring Bruce Ratner?

So, a kerfluffle at a coffee bar was bigger news than the Development Agreement? At least the Brooklyn Paper beats the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Coverage of how the ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, withheld the Development Agreement (which reveals that the developer has 25 years to build Atlantic Yards) until after court cases had been decided should have made for some great reporting opportunities for Brooklyn media outlets. Except the Brooklyn Paper has been slow to jump on the story.

The subordinate story, first published online April 8, concerns the request that Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman reconsider her dismissal of a case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's 2009 approval of Atlantic Yards, given that a belatedly released Development Agreement gives the developer 25 years to build the project, rather than the officially announced ten years. (Here's my coverage.)

It's not surprising that the Brooklyn Paper would choose more recent stories to highlight in print.

But the fact remains: the newspaper hadn't covered the Development Agreement previously (here's the Atlantic Yards section), even though I broke the news in January.

I have to think that a pre-Murdoch version of the Brooklyn Paper would've jumped on that news.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle doesn't want to believe what happened.

At least the Brooklyn Paper took the allegations seriously. By contrast, note the distinctively skeptical tone in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's coverage, headlined Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards Will Take Over 25 Years, New Legal Documents Claim:


In what appears to be part of the never-ending litigation involving Atlantic Yards, DDDB now claims that the state’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) intentionally withheld documents from the court, so that the court would rule in ESDC’s favor.

Well, was the evidence available at the time of oral argument or not? It wasn't.

Was it intentionally withheld? It sure seems so.

Brutally weirder: Forest City executive (who falsely claims FCR's project are as-of-right) leads fight against Major Zoning Exceptions

Remember Forest City Ratner executive Bob Sanna, fighting an allegedly out-of-scale building in his hometown of Millburn, NJ, with deceptive claims that all of his own firm's project are as-of-right?

It's gotten brutally weirder.

According to a 4/13/10 report on NorthJersey.com, "Sanna, a trustee of the Concerned Neighborhood Association, finished the evening handing out buttons: 'Stop Major Zoning Exceptions.'"

What is Atlantic Yards if not a "Major Zoning Exception"?

As the Scope for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for AY stated:

It is anticipated that ESDC, in consultation with the City of New York (City), will: override the New York City Zoning Resolution with respect to use, bulk, (including height, setback, and floor area), signage, parking, and other requirements; the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Plan as it relates to Site 5 and 6A; and the City Map to discontinue and acquire City streets.

Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

April 17, 2010

AY Report: Call for Friedman to Rehear, Amoral Sports Fans, Local Coverage Missing From Papers, Did Something Happen Near "Atlantic Yards?"

Atlantic Yards Report

BrooklynSpeaks, citing delayed Development Agreement (and bad KPMG data), also asks Justice Friedman to rehear case challenging 2009 ESDC approval

There's another call for judicial scrutiny of that pesky Atlantic Yards Development Agreement, which gives 25 years to build the project (rather than the ten years officially announced), not released until after an oral argument in January in the case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP).

Just as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and 19 allies earlier this month asked Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman to reopen the case she dismissed March 10, so too have the members of BrooklynSpeaks and area residents who posed a lawsuit that was combined with the DDDB case.

"Now that the agreement is available," said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic Leader of the 52nd Assembly District, "it’s clear that ESDC’s approval of the Atlantic Yards’ Modified General Project Plan was illegal. The ESDC didn’t require the developer to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) even though the agency was willing to agree to allow construction to extend well beyond the 10 year period that had been evaluated in the 2006 EIS."

Lessons for Brooklyn: sports fans can easily overlook a taxpayer-funded stadium and a star's questionable behavior

Two articles in the past week point to the tendency of sports fans to overlook anything--including a taxpayer bailout and a star's borderline criminal behavior--as long as the experience is impressive and the team wins.

That's consistent with the observation that most Nets fans won't care how a new arena came about, just that it exists, and houses a better team.

(For example, here's a comment on NetsDaily about prospective owner Mikhail Prokhorov: "All I care about is his Basketball leadership as owner. Like every other politician in the US, who cares what they say or think. For me, this is all about the NETS!")

What newspapers don't say: what they are no longer covering

Gene Roberts, the retired executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and managing editor of the New York Times, recently told journalists gathered at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York for the annual George Polk Award that cutbacks in journalism deserve much more attention in the press itself.

Interestingly enough, his signal example, the Baltimore Sun, which serves a metro area of two million people, has seen its staff cut from 347 to 133 in seven years.

And in Brooklyn?

Direct comparisons to Brooklyn (nearly 2.6 million people) are impossible, but consider that there are a handful of reporters assigned by the city's three dailies to their Brooklyn bureaus for metro news, and obviously a passel of staffers who cover beats (from schools to development to food) that ultimately include Brooklyn.

The bottom line, I believe, confirms Brooklyn College professor Paul Moses's observation about Brooklyn's place in the local mediascape: Nowhere in the country do so many people get so little local coverageL.

So, did that shooting of a parole officer really happen "near Atlantic Yards"?

From a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article headlined Parole Officer Expected to Recover After Downtown Brooklyn Shooting:

SCHERMERHORN STREET (AP) — A parole officer is recovering from a bullet wound after an ex-convict shot him in the shoulder at a Downtown Brooklyn office Thursday.

The officer, 49-year-old Samuel Salters, was taken to Bellevue Hospital on Friday and is expected to recover. The shooting occurred around 7 p.m. Thursday at the state Division of Parole reporting office on Schermerhorn Street near Atlantic Yards.

(Emphasis added)


The shooting occurred as close or closer to the following well-established places:

  • Long Island University
  • Junior's Restaurant
  • The Brooklyn Hospital Center
  • Fort Greene Park
  • Williamsburgh Savings Bank (aka One Hanson)
  • Atlantic Terminal Mall

Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

THIS SATURDAY NIGHT, APRIL 17th Fightin' Freddy's night ~ Screening of FBR Eminent Domain Standoff at 8 pm!!!

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse

Freddy's is located at: 485 Dean Street Brooklyn, NY
That's the corner of Dean Street and 6th Avenue in Brooklyn.

This Saturday, April 17th, Nick Shimkin of the Kings County Cinema Society will be hosting a Fightin' Freddy's night with readings, live music, short films, and a midnight movie…

As part of the Fightin' Night Freddy’s Brooklyn Roundhouse will screen it’s latest TV show that covers the eminent domain protests at Freddy’s from the last several months.

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse (FBR) was conceived at Freddy’s bar as a BCAT and MNN public access TV show in March 2006. The show’s purpose has always been to provide a forum for the community’s voice, which had no say in the Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and to win the fight to demand community input for the local Brooklyn neighborhood, businesses and residents, and to stop dubious, wasteful, & unsustainable over-development and eminent domain abuse. For the past 5 years FBR has strived to turn the train of eminent domain around by focusing on community leaders, artists, musicians and activists from Brooklyn all against Atlantic Yards. Roundhouse refers to a circular building for housing and switching locomotives, and lent itself nicely to the community’s desire to turn things around. Since its conception FBR has grown to cover other local & national issues threatening everyone’s civil liberties. Issues range from the use of Special Administrative Measures (SAM’s) to incarcerate and torture U.S. citizens here in NYC, to corporate industrial threats to our water supply; bridging borough, city-wide and national topics that infringe upon everyone’s constitutional rights and threaten our communities placing these topics into local historical context and tunneling into action.

We hope you will join us this Saturday as we celebrate Freddy’s bar and give thanks to our media endeavors that sprang from Freddy's wondrous backroom. Whatever happens, Freddy's Bar and the Fightin' Freddy's will continue to fight against the corruption that has come to Prospect Heights.

Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

Watchdog Role Essential in Tough Times, Says Liu

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

This coverage of a briefing held by City Comptroller John Liu mentions a question of oversight of Atlantic Yards. Liu seems to have some idea of what could be done but is not articulating what that would be.

As far as Brooklyn specifically is concerned, one reporter asked Liu about oversight of the Atlantic Yards Project. Atlantic Yards, said Liu, “goes far beyond land use. … For me the problem is not what benefits [such as the controversial Community Benefits Agreement] have been negotiated, but to ensure that agreements are realized to ensure actual delivery” of jobs and affordable housing.


Posted by steve at 8:04 AM

April 16, 2010

Weinstein prevails, if only temporarily, after a bitter (and delayed) eviction on Pacific Street

Atlantic Yards Report

After nearly seven months of delay, Prospect Heights property owner Henry Weinstein finally saw his tenants and subtenants evicted yesterday from 752 Pacific Street, an industrial building turned office building in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

"It's a hollow victory, because I'm probably going to lose my property in a month or two," acknowledged Weinstein.

He nevertheless expressed satisfaction that he had prevailed in a process by which his tenant, developer Shaya Boymelgreen, allied with Forest City Ratner (FCR) to suggest that an acre of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards side was "controlled" by FCR, thus minimizing the need for eminent domain.

"They thought they were going to run me over," he said. Weinstein sees that process as an attempt to devalue his property and thus save FCR tens of millions of dollars. And he says his tenants owe him hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent.

Need to break in

While an eviction notice was posted on the door at 752 Pacific on Wednesday, it was not visible to me when I walked by Wednesday night--though a similar notice was visible at the adjacent parking lot. Weinstein said the notice on the door had been ripped down.

Weinstein said the tenants had been uncooperative, unwilling to open the building on Tuesday, when he was denied access when he tried to visit with a representative of Forest City Ratner and the Cornerstone Group, a real estate firm acting as the ESDC's consultant. On Thursday, Weinstein had to have the locks broken with a crowbar and a drill.


Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Property owner Henry Weinstein evicts developer Shaya Boymelgreen from Atlantic Yards site

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Tenants were evicted from the Atlantic Yards site Thursday - but it wasn't by the state and it wasn't to make way for the controversial project.

Pacific St. property owner Henry Weinstein - who opposed losing his six-story building to eminent domain - booted a developer from the property for allegedly illegally selling his lease to Bruce Ratner and failing to pay rent.

Embattled developer Shaya Boymelgreen was evicted by the sheriff's office from the office building he had rented from Weinstein.

"I never met such dishonest people in my whole life, and all of it done for Bruce Ratner," said Weinstein.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Weinstein Boots Boymelgreen from Pacific St.

The ESDC issued a statement that Weinstein no longer had the right to evict tenants since the state took title to the building on March 1. Weinstein admitted it was a lost cause. "It's sort of like a hollow victory," Weinstein said. "Although I was able to right a terrible wrong, it's happening too late to save my property from eminent domain."

NoLandGrab: The ESDC, of course, failed to mention that it has yet to pay Weinstein for his property.

Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

April 15, 2010

Eviction at 752 Pacific

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

752 Pacific Street near Carlton Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

April 15, 2010

The Sheriffs Office evicted the tenants of Henry Weinstein's building at 752 Pacific Street.

This (probably?) ends the dispute between Henry Weinstein (752 Pacific Street owner), Shaya Boymelgreen (leaser) and assorted sub-leasers.

NoLandGrab: Weinstein's victory may sadly be fleeting, since his title was transferred to New York State last month after Judge Abraham Gerges ruled against property owners contesting condemnation.

Posted by eric at 11:59 PM

Justice Gerges visits the footprint to look at AY site properties (and encounters an eviction unrelated to the case before him)

Atlantic Yards Report

Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges took a walk this morning around the Atlantic Yards footprint, visiting the properties that face condemnation, a requirement in any such case.

It was scheduled before a hearing was set April 21 in Kings County Supreme Court regarding timing issues. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) will argue that Gerges should require occupants to vacate their properties no later than May 17; lawyers for the condemnees will resist that as premature.

Presumably the visit will help Gerges assess valuation issues as well as the legitimacy of the ESDC's argument for urgency in the process.


Posted by eric at 11:59 PM

Big finish

Mega-projects forge ahead

NY Post
by Max Gross

In just about every real estate cycle, you’ll find the wild-eyed dreamer — the person who makes the case that the moment is ripe to try something new. Something expensive. Something labor-intensive. Something that will change the face of the city as we know it.

Of course, these dreamers only get a hearing during the boom years. Everything changes with a bust. But, yes, we admit that these visions can get pretty far afield before their patriarchs are led to a padded cell.

Our most recent real estate cycle was no different.

Some huge projects got under way over the past decade. Many of them involved hundreds of millions of dollars (in some cases, billions) in investment and years of work. And a surprising number are soldiering on — economy be damned.


Yes, the Nets are getting their arena.

It’s been a long time coming. There were a lot of disruptions along the way. “Obviously, the timing of Atlantic Yards, that’s been deferred,” says Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “The original plans that we were so excited about back in 2004 — obviously the world’s changed.”

But after court challenges, protests and a deal with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, ground was broken last month on the Nets’ Barclays Center, set to open in the spring of 2012. (Jay-Z and Beyoncé were in attendance.) The Barclays Center is the crown jewel in the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, which will include 6,430 new housing units (2,250 of which will be affordable). And Atlantic Yards is its own jewel in Downtown Brooklyn’s crown.


NoLandGrab: The Nets are getting their arena if Mikhail Prokhorov didn't violate U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe's Mugabe regime.

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post real estate section says Atlantic Yards is among megaprojects that "forge ahead"

What? How can the Post be sure it will include everything they say? I guess there was no reason to read the Development Agreement that 1) gives the developer 25 years to build the project, 2) offers the option of building the project 44% smaller, without penalty, and 3) provides for ample extensions if there's a lack of affordable housing subsidies.

The implies less a jewel than an ongoing construction site.

If Atlantic Yards is a jewel in Downtown Brooklyn's crown, it's a jewel off a dogleg, since it doesn't even fit into the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's map.

Posted by eric at 11:33 PM

Could New Jersey end up with another NBA team after the Nets leave?

Evan Weiner Sports Comments

An era in New Jersey sports history ended earlier this week when the New Jersey Nets National Basketball Association franchise played the team's final game in the East Rutherford building that once was named after New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne. For the next two seasons the Nets will call Newark home and then it is onto Brooklyn — maybe.

The new building was the lure for [former Nets' owner Roy] Boe just like the new building in Brooklyn was the target of Nets owner Bruce Ratner's affections although Ratner probably looked at the Nets' moving to Brooklyn as strictly part of a real estate deal.

We can be sure that Ratner looked at this strictly as a real estate deal.

The Nets' 35-year New Jersey run will end in 2012, if an arena grows in Brooklyn. But that does not necessarily mean that New Jersey cannot get another NBA team even though one-time New Jersey resident and NBA Commissioner David Stern about five years ago trashed New Jersey politicians saying "you blew it" when Nets owners could not get an arena built in Newark.


Posted by eric at 11:26 PM

Detailing Columbia University's Eminent Domain Abuse

Reason Hit & Run
by Damon Root

Armin Rosen, a Columbia University student journalist and senior editor at The Current, the university’s “journal of contemporary politics, cultural, & Jewish affairs,” has a long and highly detailed account of Columbia’s eminent domain abuse in its attempt to control the West Harlem neighborhood of Manhattanville, where the university wants to build a fancy new research campus.

There’s plenty more ugliness to the story, including overwhelming evidence that the Empire State Development Corporation (the state agency which wields the power of eminent domain) actively colluded with Columbia in order to produce the very conditions that would then allow the state to seize property on the university’s behalf. Thankfully, New York’s courts have actually been paying attention. In a sharp ruling last December, the state’s Supreme Court Appellate Division condemned Columbia and the ESDC’s actions in no uncertain terms.

The next step is the state’s highest court, which I'm sad to say recently gave the thumbs up to eminent domain abuse in the Atlantic Yards case. Perhaps this time they’ll get it right.


Posted by eric at 11:20 PM

In Boston, the mayor criticizes "developer's blight" and threatens eminent domain

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how Vornado's Steve Roth explained the strategy of sitting on a property in Manhattan to hasten blight and extract more concessions?

Well, now he's meeting his match--a mayor who's willing to take the wheel rather than let the developer drive.

Chances of that happening with Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards site? Very unlikely.


Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

Mayor Battles Vornado in Boston

The Wall Street Journal
by Christina S.N. Lewis

Here's an unlikely twist — the mayor of a big U.S. city using the threat of eminent domain against (mega)developer blight!

Real-estate mogul Steven Roth is widely respected as the chairman and driving force behind Vornado Realty Trust.

But not in Boston.

The city's mayor, Thomas Menino, sent a scathing letter to Mr. Roth last month in which he threatened to have the city seize a major development site from a Vornado-led group for failing to build there in a timely way.

The mayor's threat represents a new front in the use of "eminent domain," a legal process under which private owners can be forced to sell their property to a city or state to make way for a project in the public interest. The tactic is often viewed as a bane to small, private owners and a boon to cities and developers. But in this case, Boston is threatening to use the process to force a developer to build—and being hailed by the public for it.

Roth has admitted publicly letting past project sites lie fallow in order to force cities to up their subsidy offers.

The New York Observer quoted Mr. Roth as saying at a lecture at Columbia University, "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."

Mr. Roth also said that he was waiting for the "price to go up a lot" before he built, according to the article.

The controversy doesn't appear to have hurt Mayor Menino. He turned a former political liability into a gain, and the public and local businesses are now backing his unconventional approach.


NoLandGrab: Here's hoping that Menino is sincere, and that this isn't all some charade to further line Vornado's pockets. In fairness to the Boston mayor, it does sound like he's serious.

Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

Home at The Atlantic Yards

by Katherine Krause

After years of lawsuits, protests and fighting it looks like Bruce Ratner’s mega real-estate plan Atlantic Yards is actually going to happen. It will be the second largest construction project in NYC, after the World Trade Center. The courts ruled that eminent domain, which is typically used in cases of highways or airports, could be used to take away private citizens homes and businesses so that we could have more condos and the Brooklyn Nets. Alexa Williams and Sean Ilnesher are among the last people left who have been trying to stay in their house, despite the mail not being delivered, cameras being placed on their property and their electric being shut off. To illustrate why they want to stay in their building, which will soon be turned into a parking lot, they painted a mural this weekend with simply the word “home.” The video after the jump is a sweet and up-lifting documentation of a sad moment for both them and for Brooklyn.

Untitled from katherinekrause on Vimeo.


Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

Byrne to Run: The (New Jersey!) Nets Exit the Meadowlands

The Awl
by David Roth

A long-time (New Jersey) Nets fan laments all the errors of the Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark era.

All those cartoonish "Tales of Jersey" villains—Jersey City's Frank Hague and his 30 years of graft-intensive mayoralty; clowns like Hague's successor, "The Little Guy" John V. Kenny; venal flyweights like Joseph Vas and a dozen others like him—turned out to be nothing compared to Nets' owner Bruce Ratner and his marketing guru, Brett Yormark. Those slick motherfuckers came across the river to Jersey, bought the Nets from the gaggle of hapless millionaires that had mismanaged the team for decades, and showed a state that knows from ruins how ruination is done. On Monday, in a swamp-bound, half-empty arena dwarfed by the nearby hulk of a failed "destination mall" called Xanadu, an embarrassingly outsized chapter in my life closed with a half-assed Nets loss to the mediocre Charlotte Bobcats. I was too worn out, both by the experience of the game and Ratner's tenure as Nets owner, to even feel bad about it.

Ratner bought the Nets in 2004, in order to make a new Nets arena on Flatbush Avenue—originally one of those crashed-UFO Frank Gehry designs, then a widely derided pseudo-fieldhouse, and now a compromise between the two: the centerpiece of his plan to redevelop Atlantic Yards. If it ever gets built, the arena will be a very lucrative revenue source, but for the past six years Ratner has been stuck actually paying rent to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for the privilege of playing in the erstwhile Byrne Arena. With his debt reaching levels untenable even for real estate developers, Ratner will soon sell the Nets to Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, unless Prokhorov's dealings with Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe derail the sale. So, yes: a class act all around. And yet still, somehow, something both sully-able and sullied by Yormark's assaultive marketing.


Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Atlantic Center Security


We were as surprised as anyone that this week's 88th Precinct police blotter didn't include any reports of crime in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, but according to this Brownstoner forum post, all is not peaceful in Ratnerville.

I not too long ago returned home from a shopping trip at Atlantic Center. My Target browsing was cut short by a HUGE group of angry, shouting, cursing, teen boys. I sensed a melee brewing, so I got the hell out of the store. To my dismay, the teens followed right behind me. The group began to disperse on the escalators, but quickly reconvened on the main level. More shouting and cursing, including threats of violence continued. Myself and another woman split up to find some type of security or random police officer who may have happened to be in there. Approximately 5 minutes later, we bumped into each other again, neither of us having found anyone of authority to diffuse the situation. I figured I did my best and decided to just go home. As I stepped out onto the Flatbush Avenue exit, the groups of teens began running towards each other hurling insults and threats of imminent bodily harm. I damn near had to toss myself into oncoming traffic to avoid the ensuing melee.

Does Atlantic Center have no security officers? Do the police not patrol this place? Who the hell knew that Target could be such an anger inducing place in the early evening? (All of this happened around 4:45-5:00pm)


Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

ESDC says it has no specific allegation regarding Prokhorov, notes that Ratner remains obligated to construct arena

Atlantic Yards Report

I got a response yesterday from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to questions regarding charges by New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell that prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov had violated sanctions in Zimbabwe.

I also asked whether the ESDC had ever officially approved Prokhorov's role and conducted any investigation into him.

"ESDC is unaware of any of the specific allegations, or facts, in this manner and therefore cannot respond to questions," responded spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell. "We also choose not to respond to hypothetical investigations and determinations."

"As part of the December 23, 2009 Master Closing, ESDC did recognize that the team might be sold to an entity controlled by Mr. Prohkorov – subject to review and approval by the NBA," she added. "We expect that Mr. Prohkorov will be approved by the NBA and that the team will be sold to Mr. Prohkorov in accordance with the terms of the sale agreement. Regardless of any such sale, the obligation to construct the arena will remain with Forest City Ratner (acting through their affiliates)."


Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

479 Dean now vacant

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

Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

Funniest man in Russia

One commenter on Atlantic Yards Report got right to the point about Atlantic Yards and prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokorov's economic activities in Zimbabwe:

The only thing in dispute is the fancy legal shenanigans of it all. But really, does the NBA want to have its image tarnished by this clear and obvious association? And further, do we want to be supporting it with our tax dollars? When we give Prokhorov money HERE, he has more to spend THERE. No doubt about that. Just ask him.

When a Russian journalist from the Prokhorov-owned SNOB magazine (the name says it all) offered the richest man in Russia a chance to respond, the flippant oligarch made Marie Antoinette look like Mother Theresa.

Nets Daily, Prokhorov Jokes: "Perhaps I Should Get Acquainted With Mugabe."

He jokingly told a writer for his "Snob" magazine that the charges and resultant publicity are part of "typical American phobia" regarding Russians, adding, "I was expecting something like this."

He compared himself to a character in a classic Russian comedy who is wrongly accused of robbery.

"It's the same with me and Zimbabwe," he added sarcastically. "It got me thinking, maybe I should go visit Zimbabwe, get acquainted with Mugabe."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, In SNOB Prokhorov Jokes "Perhaps I Should Get Acquainted With Mugabe"
Сноб Медиа, Михаил Прохоров ответил на обвинения в связях с режимом Мугабе (machine translation)

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

April 14, 2010

A mural inside the footprint offers a simple statement: "home"

Atlantic Yards Report

DDDB points to a new mural at 38 6th Avenue, a former industrial building turned residence that would be demolished for the Barclays Center arena.

And who are the residents? Alexa is Alexa Williams, an artist who lives in the building, sandwiched between Freddy's Bar & Backroom (to the south) and the Spalding Building, used by Forest City Ratner for offices and to house the Community Liaison Office, to the north.

The owner of 38 Sixth Avenue is a firm controlled by her father, Peter Williams Enterprises, the lead petitioner in the pending case asking that the Empire State Development Corporation be compelled to issue a new Determination & Findings to pursue eminent domain. A hearing is scheduled for May 12.

Sean is Sean Ilnseher, a location manager for television shows.


Posted by eric at 11:02 PM

Home: 38 Sixth Avenue, Barclays Center Arena Footprint

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This mural is at 38 6th Avenue. The home would be demolished to build Mikhail Prokhorov's and Bruce Ratner's Barclays Center arena. Its residents would be displaced for that money-losing arena proposed to be built in the middle of a housing crisis.

There are paint markers at Freddy's Bar and Backroom for others to add thoughts, names, or whatever else as illustrated below:


Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Bloomberg and Friends, Digging Brooklyn’s Grave


Actually, it's the groundbreaking ceremony for Atlantic Yards. But same difference.

Take special notice of the bolts of vengeful white lightening streaming down from the angry skies, and the vipers leaping from the poisoned ground. Oh wait—those are streamers.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

Pascrell doesn't buy Prokhorov defense, but evidence regarding sanctions-busting is unclear (and one main holding may get a bye)

Atlantic Yards Report

There's nothing more definitive regarding whether a firm tied to prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has participated in sanctions-busting in Zimbabwe.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, who initiated the controversy, told The Record that he wouldn't take the denials at face value.

Still, Pascrell didn't offer any specific new information.

And while sanctions expert Usha Haley was more certain, she wasn't quoted by the Village Voice as giving specifics: "They have been working with Zimbabwe's officials that have been banned by the U.S. government — there's no doubt about that."


Additional coverage...

Field of Schemes, Prokhorov's Zimbabwe ties: Violation or loophole?

The big question here is what the U.S. Treasury Department, which has jurisdiction over sanctions law, will do, and they ain't talking. Though they do have a really impressive list of things they can do to sanctions violators, if they want.

The Star-Ledger, Good news for the NJ Nets: The season is almost over

New Jersey congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. has not backed down from his charge that Mikhail Prokhorov’s relationship with Zimbabwe could be illegal, and reiterated his call for the Treasury Department to investigate whether U.S. laws were broken.

ProBasketballTalk [NBCSports.com], NBA backs Prokhorov in deal with Zimbabwe

This was never about human rights. This was never about Zimbabwe. This was about New Jersey and political aspirations.

In this case, [Congressman Bill] Pascrell is up for election this fall -- one he will likely win, he's held this seat for 14 years already. But this futile gesture was designed to get his name in the headlines fighting for New Jersey against big, bad New York and the Russian guy taking their team away. Pascrell knew this would go nowhere. However, all he had to do was write a letter and a press release and he gets his name in the paper, shows he cares about New Jersey. The rights of the oppressed in Zimbabwe have nothing to do with this. It's about an American election.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Hoops or Human Rights? Congressman Pascrell Wants Some Answers

The question is will Treasury drive to the basket? Will any elected official in New York take it to the hoop (it being a hard look at possible violations of bipartisanly created US sanctions). The question, actually, is quite simple. What's it going to be: human rights, or basketball?

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Russian billionaire denies Mugabe links despite CBZ shares

SW Radio Africa News

Investigations by Newsreel show that Prokhorov, through his Renaissance Capital investment bank, snapped up a significant shareholding in the government owned Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe Holdings in 2007. The shares were bought from South Africa’s ABSA. The following year in 2008 they purchased a further 15 percent stake in CBZ, buying shares from the Libyan Arab Bank. Analysts at the time said Renaissance Capital was consolidating its shareholding in CBZ through block share purchasing.

The saving grace for Prokhorov, as exiled investment banker Gilbert Muponda explains, is that CBZ Holdings is not on the US targeted sanctions list.


Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Construction Period Signage: "in the spirit of promoting community interaction and the creation of an attractive streetscape"

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Master Closing documents released by the Empire State Development Corporation:



Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

April 13, 2010

Pascrell not buying Prokhorov denial of Zimbabwe dealings

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

Rep. Bill Pascrell fired back Tuesday at a statement by a company run by billionaire Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, denying that it had business dealings in Zimbabwe.

He said he still wants Treasury officials to investigate the matter, and he also criticized the National Basketball Association’s vetting of Prokhorov, who is considered the richest man in Russia.

“It is reasonable to hold the NBA accountable to do what they said they would do — actually investigate Mr. Prokhorov and his business affairs, and determine whether or not he is worthy of owning an American franchise,” Pascrell said in a statement. “The latest news would lead us to conclude he may not. I have a feeling this will play out like so many basketball games - both sides will go back and forth, and it will be the final few plays that determine the outcome.”


NoLandGrab: Prokhorov better hope it doesn't play out like a Nets' basketball game, in which case, he could be cooked with five minutes to go in the 2nd quarter.

Posted by eric at 11:29 PM

War of Words Heats Up Over Prokhorov's Zimbabwegate

Runnin' Scared
by Neil deMause

​It's Day Three of the Great Zimbabwe Flap, and the rhetoric over a New Jersey Congressman's challenge to Russian bazillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's purchase of the Nets is heating up. Prokhorov fired back at Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-My-Constituents-Don't-Want-to-Drive-Through-Two-Tunnels-to-Watch-the-Nets-Lose) yesterday, calling the charges that he'd violated economic sanctions against Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe "erroneous," and saying that "we have no dealings whatsoever with companies or individuals on the sanctions list."

The NBA — which has already put on hold Prokhorov's approval as the new Nets majority owner (and minority owner of the planned Barclays Center arena) until the state figures out how to unchain Freddy's patrons and clear the arena site — chimed in that Prokhorov was fine in their book, issuing a statement reading in part: "U.S. companies are not prohibited from doing business in Zimbabwe; rather, they are prohibited from conducting business with specifically identified individuals or entities in that country. The NBA is aware of no information that Mr. Prokhorov is engaged in business dealings with any of these individuals or entities."

To at least one sanctions expert, though, Prokhorov's Zimbabwe dealings are far from trivial. Usha Haley, an Economic Policy Institute research associate who told the Post that Prokhorov was engaged in "sanctions-busting," tells Runnin' Scared that she doesn't buy the metals magnate's defense: "They have been working with Zimbabwe's officials that have been banned by the U.S. government — there's no doubt about that."

Read on for much more with Haley about Prokhorov and Mugabe and how companies and rogue nations skirt sanctions. deMause concludes:

If Prokhorov were somehow sidelined, however, it would likely lead to the demise of the entire Atlantic Yards deal, since his cash is key to Bruce Ratner's razor-thin margins. The betting lines still have to have this as a longshot, but stranger things have killed development deals in this town.


Posted by eric at 2:29 PM

ESDC pushes for eviction order by April 21; lawyer for some condemnees says timeline is unlikely, given judge's desire to avoid role of sheriff

Atlantic Yards Report

After yesterday's hearing on the case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) 2006 Determination & Findings to pursue eminent domain, I also inquired about a hearing April 9 before Kings County Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges regarding the condemnation process.

Bottom line: the ESDC wants to get an eviction order after an oral argument in court on Wednesday, April 21; attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff thinks it's unlikely.

What happened April 9

Brinckheroff said that the lawyers discussed "very specific details of the valuation process," including the provision of advance payments, which are necessary in order for people to seek new premises even though they may no longer have title to their property.

ESDC lawyer Charles Webb, according to Brinckerhoff, said such payments would be available within two weeks of fulfilling certain conditions.

"They also presented an order to show cause," said Brinckerhoff. "They want to make a motion requesting an order allowing them to get the sheriff to evict everybody. That was made returnable for argument on April 21."

Soon or later?

That could lead to a writ of assistance, essentially an order of eviction issued by the court. "There's a very strong argument that it's incredibly premature," Brinckerhoff said. "Normally that's a process that takes many, many months."

The ESDC's justification, he said, is that "the developer is losing something like $7 million a month" on carrying the property. (He later said he wasn't certain of the figure; I haven't seen the document yet.)


NoLandGrab: If that's the case, than the ESDC and Forest City Ratner could solve the problem by making reasonable compensation proposals to the property owners, rather than the ridiculous low-ball offers they've put forth.

It's actually somewhat comical that the state and city have been profligate with Ratner, but now that only a handful of property owners remain, and they're this close to completing site assemblage, they open their wallets — and moths fly out.

Posted by eric at 2:09 PM

Case challenging ESDC's 2006 eminent domain findings put on hold until May 12; ESDC asks for case to be moved or dismissed

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR reports on yesterday's Atlantic Yards hearing in state Supreme Court, at which a new hearing date was set: May 12th at 11 a.m.

The six plaintiffs--five of them already having seen title transfer to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)--want the agency to issue a new Determination & Findings (D&F) to justify the use of eminent domain, given that Atlantic Yards has changed so much since the 2006 D&F was filed.

The ESDC wants to move the case from state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman in Manhattan to Justice Abraham Gerges in Brooklyn, contending that, given that he's overseeing the condemnation process, it's the appropriate venue, and he's already resolved the issues in a very similar case.

Friedman said she would allow motions making such a request to be filed, but said that no inference should be drawn from her action. She also admonished the parties not to file any new motions without the "prior leave of the court."

Which judge sought

Last month, while ruling for the ESDC in a case challenging the agency's approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan, Friedman nevertheless criticized the ESDC's "deplorable lack of transparency."

So presumably the ESDC would rather face a judge other than Friedman.


Posted by eric at 1:57 PM

NBA, Prokhorov's firm fire back on Zimbabwe issue; contradiction over report on Harare summit (and did the ESDC check?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up all the news about Zimbabwe, including conflicting reports about the whereabouts of a Prokhorov manager, denials from the NBA, Bruce Ratner's claim that "everything is in great shape" and what the ESDC knew — and when did they know it.

On Sunday, the New York Post broke the news that New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell, who'd previously asked the NBA to investigate Mikhail Prokhorov and obviously doesn't want the Nets to leave his state, asked the U.S. Treasury Department to investigate whether the investment bank Renaissance Capital--of which Prokhorov's firm Onexim owns nearly half--violated U.S. sanctions in dealing with Zimbabwe.

"Mr. Prokhorov reportedly controls nearly 50% of the investment bank, which recently sponsored an economic summit in Zimbabwe this past February on behalf of the government," Pascrell said in a letter.

On a weekend, that generated a lot of heat, but not much light. The Treasury Department sanctions don't apply to all business in Zimbabwe, just with certain persons and entities.

I asked the ESDC Sunday if it had any response to Pascrell's charges and whether the agency had ever officially approved Prokhorov's role and conducted any investigation into him.

I haven't gotten a response yet.


Related coverage...

Deadspin, Today In "Holy Crap, This Guy Is Buying An NBA Team": Prokhorov Does Business With A Dictator

New Jersey legislator Bill Pascrell Jr. is calling for an inquiry that into the sale of the Nets because prospective owner Mikhail Prokhorov may or may not have done business with reigning Dictator of the Year, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. Of course.

Rep. Pascrell may be onto something, or he may just be a Congressman from New Jersey that doesn't want whatever cash the Nets generate for the state going to Flatbush and Atlantic in Brooklyn. Whatever the case, I think we can now say that Mikhail Prokhorov is a phenomenon the likes of which the NBA has never seen. If he's not flying models into some remote alpine resort, he's canoodling with one of the worst people in the world. The guy makes Donald Sterling look like George Bailey.

NY Post, NBA backs Nets buyer

The NBA threw an elbow at a New Jersey congressman yesterday, claiming he was "misinformed" when he blasted the Russian billionaire who wants to buy the Nets over his business dealings in Zimbabwe.

[NBA spokesman Mike] Bass said there's no indication Prokhorov dealt with any of those people or entities. Prokhorov's representatives said his company has always strictly complied with US rules regarding Zimbabwe.

NoLandGrab: And who wants to bet "there's no indication" the NBA has any clue about whom Prokhorov's companies did or didn't have dealings with?

SportsBusiness Daily, Ratner, NBA Dispute Claims About Mikhail Prokhorov's Zimbabwe Ties

Nets Owner Bruce Ratner yesterday said that he is confident his sale of the franchise to Mikhail Prokhorov and the team's planned move to Brooklyn "will both go through...."

NLG: By "confident" Ratner means "crossing his fingers."

Posted by eric at 1:40 PM

Bruce Ratner reflects on past with Nets, looks to future under Prokhorov

The Internets [NYDailyNews.com]
by Julian Garcia

Bruce Ratner talking basketball sounds almost as phony as Bruce Ratner talking international sanctions.

"I’m gonna miss this place," Ratner said of the Meadowlands arena. "It’s been six years of ownership and we were fortunate to be in the playoffs three times and three times we didn’t make it. Obviously it was a difficult year. The team stuck with it though and the last third of the season they played hard and the last 12 games they won five. So I think we’ll do well next year."

"I think we thought we’d win 25 or 30 games and we did worse than that," Ratner said. "But the purpose was to try to get ourselves better and I think we’re in a great spot. We’ll have a great draft choice opportunity and there’s also free agency. So I think we’ll be great. We’ve got three or four very good players."

As for the transfer of power, Ratner said "everything is in great shape" despite accusations by New Jersey Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell that Prokhorov is violating U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe by doing business with that country.

"It was inaccurate," Ratner said of Pascrell's accusation. "Not accurate."


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Noted Basketball Genius Bruce Ratner Gives an Exit Interview on the Nets; Denies Zimbabwe Problem

International human rights law expert and basketball genius Bruce Ratner attended the Nets' final (losing) game at the Meadowlands IZOD Center last night.

It was inaccurate," Ratner said of Pascrell's accusation. "Not accurate."

Interesting. Both inaccurate and not accurate. What is certainly accurate is that Bruce Ratner will go down in history as one of the worst sports team owners ever.

Posted by eric at 1:28 PM

Nets Are Looking Ahead to a Fresh Start in a New Home

The New York Times
By Jonathan Abrams

This take on the Nets' last game ever at the Izod Center explains the lack of nostalgia.

The Nets join several New York-area sports teams — the Yankees and Mets and Giants and Jets — to find a new home. But the Nets’ departure is different. They announced intentions to move to Brooklyn several years ago, ostracizing much of the fan base.

Since then, the organization slashed payroll and traded recognizable faces. They lost millions of dollars each year while performing for what can kindly be described as a tidy crowd.

In an addendum to this article, the issue of Mikhail Prokhorov's alleged dealings with Robert Mugabe was addressed. Guess what -- the NBA says there's no problem. Hopefully, the Treasury Department will heed Congressman Bill Pascrell's call for a real review of Prokhorov's Zimbabwe dealings.

An N.B.A. spokesman said the Russian oligarch Mikhail D. Prokhorov was still on pace to acquire majority ownership of the Nets, despite a congressman’s denouncing Prokhorov’s dealings in Zimbabwe. “U.S. companies are not prohibited from conducting business with specifically identified individuals or entities in that country,” the spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement. “The N.B.A. is aware of no information that Mr. Prokhorov is engaged in business dealings with any of these individuals or entities.” The response followed a New York Post article that stated that Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat, asked for Prokhorov to be investigated for violating economic sanctions with business in Zimbabwe. Prokhorov’s Onexim Group called it “erroneous media reports.”


Posted by steve at 9:44 AM

Former Nets coach Larry Brown leads Charlotte Bobcats to 105-95 victory over former team in final Meadowlands game

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

The Nets completed a 12-69 season and have played their last game ever at the Izod Center and will be moving to Newark next season. The occasion was barely noted.

And when it was over, there was a strange pall over the entire proceedings. Principal owner Bruce Ratner, who hadn’t shown up more than a handful of times this season – and as eager as anyone to move the team to Newark next fall – was one of the few who stood and applauded the team when the buzzer went off.


Posted by steve at 9:33 AM

Attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff

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

Posted by steve at 9:20 AM

Brief hearing on last Atlantic Yards case is anticlimactic; more motions to be filed, with argument May 12

Atlantic Yards Report

Though certainly a vigorous argument over the merits of the last Atlantic Yards case to face an initial hearing (as opposed to an appeal) may be possible, it didn't happen this morning, as lawyers argued briefly about procedural issues, delaying an argument until May 12.

The Empire State Development Corporation wants to move the case from state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman in Manhattan to Justice Abraham Gerges in Brooklyn, contending that, given that he's overseeing the condemnation process, it's the appropriate venue, and he's already resolved the issues in a similar case.

A lawyer for the property owners, however, says that that shouldn't happen because, among other things, one of the property owners in this case was not a party to the previous case and the legal grounds are different.


NoLandGrab: Far more likely, the ESDC and Forest City Ratner don't want to have Justice Friedman, who was seemingly quite skeptical of certain of their arguments in another recent case, decide their fates.

Posted by eric at 12:09 AM

April 12, 2010

Nothin’ but nyet! Jersey lawmaker says Ratner’s savior is illegally in bed with Mugabe!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

Bruce Ratner’s sale of his financially troubled Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets hit a major obstacle on Sunday as a New Jersey congressman brought a full court press of allegations involving the would-be new owner’s shady business dealings in Zimbabwe.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D–New Jersey) is demanding that the federal Treasury Department investigate Mikhail Prokhorov’s investments in the notorious rogue nation — which may constitute a violation of U.S. sanctions against Robert Mugabe’s regime.

“This is of great concern,” Pascrell told Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in a letter dated April 11. “Mr. Prokhorov has extensive business dealings in the United States, including his most-recent efforts to purchase the New Jersey Nets. … Zimbabwe is ruled under a brutal, autocratic and repressive regime.”

The United States’ strict sanctions — renewed by President Obama last year — forbid people with interests in the U.S. from also conducting most types of business in Zimbabwe.

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner had no comment. A spokesman for Prokhorov did not return a phone call and e-mail.


Related coverage...

Daily Transom [NYObserver.com], Yet Another Twist to Atlantic Yards

Just when it looks like the Atlantic Yards deal couldn't possibly be derailed--when even the Nets' new owner brandishing his Kalashnikov to 60 Minutes isn't enough to dissuade the N.B.A. from taking him--there comes this, from the Post.

Apparently, Mikhail Prokhorov might have ties to Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe, and a New Jersey congressman wants to know all about it.

Bruce Ratner's nightmare continues.

Can't Stop The Bleeding, Zimbabwe Illegit: New Nets Owner Has Business Experience In Place Even More Corrupt Than Jersey

Of course, Prokhorov isn’t an American citizen. And double-of-course this sadly probably isn’t going to do anything to impact the creepy oligarch’s ownership of the Nets or the development of Bruce Ratner’s redevelopment of South Brooklyn — architecture critics have already dubbed the ambitious underhaul “Little Tampa,” at least in my mind. It’ll take a lot more than dealing with the monster who absolutely shredded the country he helped create to disqualify a very rich man from buying a franchise in the NBA. The difficult part is coming up with what that could possibly be, short of not having enough money.

The Source [WSJ Blog], Of Billionaires, Basketball and Banned Investments

Could a New Zealand financier’s investments in an African dictatorship derail a lanky Russian billionaire’s dream of owning a U.S. basketball team?

In response to questions from The Source, Renaissance Capital replied with the following statement:

Renaissance Capital is fully aware of the sanctions imposed by the United States on certain Zimbabwean persons and companies and takes its compliance obligations extremely seriously. Contrary to erroneous reports in the press, we have at all times strictly complied with all laws and have no relationship with sanctioned individuals or companies.

SW Radio Africa News, Mugabe, the Russian billionaire and basketball

Exiled investment banker, Gilbert Muponda, is familiar with Renaissance Capital’s involvement in Zimbabwe and told Newsreel; ‘They specialize in emerging markets that have a high return, but high risks, and they are experts at quantifying and spreading risk.’ He told us although the company did what any investment bank would do (i.e. seek opportunities) this was in violation of US targeted sanctions and the lawmakers in that country had a good case to charge them.

Found In Brooklyn, Dasvidania to Atlantic Yards Investor Mikhail Prokhorov?

Will an investigation lead to Prokhorov leaving the Atlantic Yards project? We can only hope! The whole project has reeked of corruption from day one yet somehow is a project funded by the taxpayers who will end up with nothing but a sports complex instead of a neighborhood.

ESPN New York with AP, NBA OK with Prokhorov's deals in Africa

The NBA is standing by its (very rich) man.

Prospective New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov came to his own defense Tuesday and was backed by the NBA after a congressman accused the Russian billionaire's company of violating sanctions and U.S. law by doing business with the government of Zimbabwe.

"Onexim Group takes very seriously the issue of law and sanctions as applied to Zimbabwe," Prokhorov said in a statement released through his company during the Nets' final game at the Meadowlands. "Contrary to erroneous media reports, the company and all of its holdings have always been in strict compliance with all United States and European rules regarding Zimbabwe and have had no dealings whatsoever with companies or individuals on the sanctions list."

"Onexim Group and Mikhail Prokhorov have been open and transparent about all their business dealings throughout the extensive NBA review process, and they intend to maintain this position going forward," the statement said.

International human rights law expert and NBA spokesman Mike Bass attempted to set the record straight.

"Congressman Pascrell is misinformed," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. "U.S. companies are not prohibited from doing business in Zimbabwe; rather, they are prohibited from conducting business with specifically identified individuals or entities in that country. The NBA is aware of no information that Mr. Prokhorov is engaged in business dealings with any of these individuals or entities.

"Mr. Prokhorov's application is still on track to be voted on by the NBA Board of Governors once a firm date is set for the State of New York to take full possession of the arena site," Bass said.

Posted by eric at 11:45 PM

Congressman's Letters to Timothy Geithner and David Stern on Prokhorov and Zimbabwe

via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Press Release from NJ Congressman Bill Pascrell:

Rep. Pascrell Calls Upon Treasury Department To Investigate Mikhail Prokhorov's Business Dealings In Zimbabwe; Asks Nba Commissioner If Issue Was Raised During Vetting Of Russian Billionaire Vying To Buy The N.J. Nets

Prokhorov's interests in Zimbabwe in violation of U.S. sanctions, according to The New York Post

PATERSON—U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) today called upon U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to investigate would-be New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov upon revelations in today's edition of The New York Post that the Russian billionaire has been doing business in Zimbabwe. Prokhorov's dealings in the nation oppressed by dictator Robert Mugabe's regime are in apparent violation of U.S. economic sanctions that have been in place since 2003.

The congressman also wrote today to NBA Commissioner David Stern asking if the basketball league became aware of Prokhorov's business interests in Zimbabwe during the thorough background check it pledged to conduct.

Click thru for the full text of the letters.

Posted by eric at 11:38 PM

Where to Live in 2014

Everyone wants to spot the next Soho or Park Slope. Ten real-estate experts offer their nominees.

New York Magazine
by S. Jhoanna Robledo

Prospect Heights
Chosen by:
Jonathan Butler, founder of Brownstoner.com.
If Butler were in the market, he says he’d be looking here. “It’s got some Park Slope in it but a little Williamsburg, too”—that is, brownstone warmth plus some bite. “You can’t read a magazine or a blog without seeing another bar or restaurant opening on Vanderbilt and Washington Avenues,” says Butler. His tip: stick to streets not directly affected by Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: There are streets not directly adjacent to Atlantic Yards, but streets not directly affected by Atlantic Yards? If Bruce Ratner realizes his dream, there's a decent chance they'll all be a nightmare.

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Prospect Heights in 2014: great, if you avoid "streets not directly affected by Atlantic Yards"

I'd add that the "blighted" strip of Vanderbilt Avenue with cool restaurants and bars is adjacent to that massive planned interim surface parking lot.

Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

The rhetoric of contempt, from Rwanda to NetsDaily; who's in charge?

Atlantic Yards Report

Some rhetoric about the Nets and Brooklyn sounds disturbingly like the rhetoric that preceded the Rwandan genocide.

From Dances with Devils: A Journalist's Search for Truth, by Jacques Pauw:

A few months earlier, [Professor Leon Mugusera] had made a speech in the western prefecture of Gisenyi. Elizaphan quoted what the professor had said of Tutsis: "The vermin must be liquidated. Know that the person whose throat you do not cut now will be the one who will cut yours. Wipe out this scum!"

Norman Oder then offers up a sampling of typically vile comments posted to NetsDaily.

The commenters on the NetsDaily blog, of course, are pseudonymous.

The site is essentially run by two people. One is known as NetsDaily; he's the manager in charge (including oversight of comments), but not the more prolific poster; he does not express strong opinions about the Brooklyn move.

The other is known as NetIncome; he is the editor, the more prolific poster and commenter, and a highly opinionated, sometimes bullying supporter of the Brooklyn move.

Neither pay enough attention to the rhetoric. Is it because one of them has helped shape an atmosphere of significant animosity and both run a blog in which no named person is accountable?


Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Lessons from Hastings: no tradeoff between economics and environment; the need for reasoned argument; the goal of sustainable development

Atlantic Yards Report

The legal and procedural battle behind Atlantic Yards is so fraught--did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) really withhold the crucial Development Agreement until after oral argument in January regarding the project timetable?--that it's refreshing to see that some people believe in ideals.

A slate of three candidates in the suburban village of Hastings-on-Hudson was elected in March 2009 under the banner Hastings Forward, and a look at their web site (thanks to Google's cache but no longer available), pointed to an essay "Living Well in Our Landscape: Environmental Responsibility and Civic Community in Hastings," by Bruce Jennings.

(Why was I noodling around Hastings Forward? It was supported by Hastings resident Philip Karmel, the ESDC's lead outside lawyer in the Atlantic Yards cases.)

The highlights

Notably, Jennings argues that knotty issues "do not involve a choice between environmental conservation and economic development," since framing a trade-off wrongly "implies that economic development exists somehow in a vacuum unaffected by natural systems."

Rather than pit development against nature, he suggests that the issue is "responsible, careful development and economic improvement within the context of a sustainable relationship between human activity and natural system."

Moreover, a true forum "is not a shouting match, an occasion to assail one’s opponents" but "a space of civic imagination and reasoned, deliberative argument," he writes, suggesting that the result can be "adequately protective and sustainable modes of development."

Does that sound much like the ESDC process?


Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Analysis shows Nets lost $64M in latest fiscal year

SportsBusiness Journal
by John Lombardo

The expected closing of the New Jersey Nets sale to Mikhail Prokhorov comes after the team lost $64 million in the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, 2010, based on a SportsBusiness Journal analysis of quarterly earnings filings by the team’s parent company.

article [subscription or trial registration required]

NoLandGrab: If Bruce Ratner manages Atlantic Yards as well as he's managed the Nets, watch out.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

N.J. lawmaker seeks investigation into Mikhail Prokhorov's business ties, Nets ownership deal could be threatened

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-Passaic) has fired the first political torpedo aimed at Mikhail’s Prokhorov’s purchase of the Nets, and it is directed at the Russian’s business relationship with the corrupt and repressive government of Zimbabwe.

Pascrell, admittedly opposed to the Nets’ move to Brooklyn in two years, has asked the Treasury Department to investigate the ties between Prokhorov’s corporation, Onexim, with the African nation, which has been under U.S. sanctions for seven years for human-rights violations.

It is a violation of federal law for American citizens and companies or their subsidiaries to do business with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.


Related coverage...

NY Post, Pol whistles Nets owner

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner should investigate Mikhail Prokhorov's association with Zimbabwe's oppressive regime before the Russian billionaire is allowed to purchase the Nets and move them to Brooklyn, a New Jersey congressman said yesterday.

"I would respectfully request that you investigate all of Mr. Prokhorov's business dealings in Zimbabwe, specifically the February 2010 economic summit, and whether they violate the United States' sanctions regime against the country," Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) wrote in a letter to Geithner.

"The government of Zimbabwe suppresses freedom of speech and assembly, and reportedly restricts access to food in opposition areas," he said.

The Hill, Congressman wants probe into Russian potential buyer of NBA team

"This is disgusting," Pascrell said, according to the Post. "Obviously, the Board of Governors of the NBA didn't do their job properly when they vetted this deal."

NoLandGrab: Actually, the NBA did do their job properly, which was to approve Prokhorov no matter what. What they didn't do properly was the job.

National Legal and Policy Center, Prokhorov NBA Bid Gets Scrutiny; ACORN-Funder Ratner Needs Russian Billionaire to Build Brooklyn Arena

Ratner’s plans rely not only on Prokhorov’s investment but also on millions of dollars in tax breaks and a $400-million naming deal for the arena, to be known as Barclays Center. Barclays is Britain’s second largest bank. It seems like a variety of interests win if Ratner’s project is built. But they do not include ordinary Brooklynites, or the already-overextended American taxpayer.

Curbed, Actress Buys at 141 Fifth; Zimbabwe Delaying Atlantic Yards?

New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell is demanding a government inquiry into hopeful Nets buyer Mikhail Prokhorov's business dealings in Zimbabwe, which Pascrell says might have violated federal rules. Between that and the postponement of the NBA's vote on the sale of the Nets, Prokhorov's probably wishing he had that meditation chamber built already.


Though the NBA insists he’s completely vetted, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is facing increased scrutiny by a Congressman who questions his company’s business dealings with Zimbabwe.

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 4/12/10 EDITION

The NBA thus far has not commented on the newest accusation that an investment bank owned by Mikhail Prokhorov’s firm Onexim, did business with the U.S.-sanctioned Zimbabwe.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, NBA, Nets, Prokhorov & Ratner Mum on Zimbabwe Sanctions Busting Story. Geithner Asked to Investigate

It should be noted that in 2001 all of New York's Congressional delegation voted for the sanctions. And two elected officials who have now moved on to higher places were amongst the bill's four co-sponsors—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.

Wonder what they would think if it becomes clear that there has been a whitewash to allow Prokhorov to flout US laws.

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

Oral argument today; court session begins at 9:30 am

Atlantic Yard Report

Will Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman start the case at 9:30 am or hear other cases/motions before then? I can't be certain, but there are several other cases facing motions, so it's a good bet there will be a delay.


Posted by eric at 9:04 AM

TODAY: April 12, 9:30 AM. Oral Argument in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Related Case - NOTE VENUE CHANGE

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Please note that the venue has changed to 60 Centre, Room 335 (NOT 80 Centre)

Legal arguments in the following lawsuit will take place on Monday, April 12th, at 9:30 AM in Manhattan.

9:30 AM
New York County Supreme Court
60 Centre Street

Oral argument on Article 78 lawsuit seeking to compel the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to make new Eminent Domain Procedure Law (204) findings and determinations.

A number of property owners and tenants in the footprint brought this lawsuit in January 2010 arguing that the eminent domain takings were based on a 2006 approved plan that no longer exists. If the property seizures are going to occur, they must be for the drastically altered current plan—a basketball arena and one building—not for the project originally conceived with the promise of 2,250 affordable housing units, 16 towers and 10,000 jobs. The case argues that the ESDC must make new findings and determinations under the States's Eminent Domain Procedure Law.

Posted by steve at 7:47 AM

April 11, 2010

It came from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn...

Political Leaders Need to Explain How Apparent Prokhorov Sanctions Busting Was Missed or Ignored

It appears that the US Treasury Department's sanctions do not allow the kind of business connections prospective Nets owner and prospective 45% owner of the Barclays Center Arena has with Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is considered by many to be one of the world's worst tyrants and the US has sanctioned him for this. It appears that Bruce Ratner's partner in the whole Atlantic Yards boondoggle has violated these laws.

Whether or not Mr. Prokhorov's extensive holdings in Zimbabwe—in light of his involvement with an American business enterprise—violate US law, remains to be seen. But clearly his involvement with the Nets, Ratner, New York City and State is unsavory.

Because of this, Ratner's project must come to a complete halt until the results of a federal inquiry into potential sanction violations by Mr. Prokhorov are known.

And the NBA must come forth and explain if they simply missed this information in its Prokhorov vetting process (and why?) or saw it and ignored it. Whether the latter or the former, David Stern has a lot of explaining to do.

NBA Shoots Big Airball on Prokhorov's Background Check

On April 8th, in The Star Ledger, NBA President Joel Litvin said:

"[Barclays Center Arena] Site possession is the only thing impacting the timing of the [NBA's] vote [on Prokhorov's ownership of the Nets]. The documentation of the Nets’ purchase and the background investigation of Mr. Prokhorov have been complete for some time."

Well, Mr. Litvin's basketball cartel may have completed its investigation of Prokhorov, but it clearly forgot to look at certain things or ignored some big red flags out of desperaton to land the billionaire's big bucks.

Lots of Egg On David Stern's Face With Prokhorov's Extensive Holdings in Zimbabwe

It's not a good week to be NBA commissioner David Stern, whose background check on Mikhail Prokhorov appears to have been as porous as the Nets 2010 defense.

Posted by eric at 10:54 PM

Sanction-busting Investigation Could Threaten Nets Deal, Atlantic Yards

Runnin' Scared

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) tells the Post that he's requesting a Treasury Department investigation to see if Mikhail Prokhorov, the russian investor who's trying to buy stakes in both the Nets and the planned Nets Arena in Brooklyn, has violated Bush-era sanctions against doing business with associates of Robert Mugabe and his government in Zimbabwe. Prokhorov's Onexim Group, which has offices in the United States, holds a 50% stake in Renaissance Capital, which has extensive holdings in Zimbabwe.

This is not good news for Bruce Ratner, who is depending on Prokhorov's investment to get his Atlantic Yards project built.


Related coverage...

Gothamist, New Nyets Owner May Have Done Business With Mugabe

Mikhail Prokhorov's plan to buy the New Jersey Nets may be put on hold as officials look into his possible Zimbabwean holdings. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of the Ways and Mean Committee will look into whether Prokhorov's companies in Zimbabwe violate rules that forbid American citizens, companies, and subsidiaries from doing business with President Robert Mugabe, known for his frequent human rights violations.

Prokhorov's Renaissance Capital investment bank has interests in various Zimbabwean companies and banks, and was the financial sponsor of an economic forum in Zimbabwe, which is a violation of the sanctions.

These violations could cause a block on the Nets deal, which could mean trouble for the Atlantic Yards project, which has already been delayed by eminent-domain lawsuits.

The Huffington Post, The NBA's Dirty Partner

With an estimated worth of $13 billion, Prokhorov is currently the richest man in Russia. But there are nice ways to get a billion dollars and there are not nice ways to get a billion dollars. One classic not so nice way is you deal with people nobody else will deal with. Like, for instance, Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe.

One could argue that if Prokhorov wants to profit by doing business with Mugabe, well, that's his business. Unless he wants to do business here in the United States. where it happens to be illegal. The United States slapped sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2003. In 2008, sanctions were further strengthened by that old softie on human rights, President George W. Bush.

So, Mugabe must be pretty bad. But how bad?

Last year, Mugabe was rated the worst dictator in the world by Parade magazine (not exactly a left leaning bleeding heart publication.) His government denies voters their rights, brutalizes the opposition, censors the press, abuses women, inducts children into the army, and criminalizes homosexuality. His regime has a record of torturing students, journalists, even Americans. His country is recognized as one of the global leaders in the trafficking of human lives for forced labor and sexual exploitation. His nation is a place where human rights activists disappear forever.

Shorter answer: Mugabe is very bad.

Ironically, one of the reasons the U.S. government finally cracked down on Mugabe was because of his regime's habit of "government backed land grabs." It seems the Russian oligarch might actually find this kind of behavior attractive, since the Atlantic Yards project he's investing in here is the worst government backed land grab to hit New York since they buried Robert Moses.

NBC Sports, Prokhorov guilty of skirting sanctions?

American businesses and their associates are prohibited from dealing with the repressive, widely condemned regime of Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe. Pascrell notes that the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is "financed partly by the taxpayer," and this inquiry (if it happens) could seriously complicate what had been a smooth vetting process.

NBA FanHouse, Despite New Concerns, NBA Maintains Comfort With Prokhorov's Finances

The NBA hasn't directly responded to Pascrell's charge its investigation of Prokhorov -- compulsory with every change in team ownership -- was "disgusting." In a statement given to The Post Saturday and reiterated to FanHouse Sunday, a league spokesman defended the background check, calling it "very extensive and stringent" and reiterating that nothing disclosed caused the NBA pause in its recommendation of approval to the other 29 team owners. Prokhorov needs 23 of 29 votes to be approved by the league.

When asked Sunday by FanHouse whether Pascrell had asked the league to re-open its investigation of Prokhorov or deny Prokhorov's ownership bid outright, NBA officials declined to comment. The NBA also declined to answer questions on who ran the background check, whether the background check for Prokhorov was undertaken with any more depth than those used for previous ownership bids, or whether the league planned to re-open its investigation.

Fox Sports, Nets ownership deal may be in trouble

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter, It ain't over till it's over

We are continuing to make progress on our cut.

Meanwhile...... things are not looking good for the project.

Posted by eric at 10:29 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Bombshell Threatens Future of Atlantic Yards

Mikhail Prokhorov's Business Dealings in Zimbabwe Appear to Flout US Sanction Laws

Congressman Calls for Investigation

New York, New York—The New York Post has published a bombshell exclusive which puts the Barclays Center Arena and Atlantic Yards project in jeopardy.

The Post is reporting that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, with his extensive business dealings in Zimbabwe, may be violating United States sanctions against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell is calling for a federal inquiry.

Mikhail Prokhorov is the prospective owner of the New Jersey Nets (having conditionally bought the team from developer Bruce Ratner) and a prospective 45% owner of Ratner's proposed Barclays Center Arena in Brooklyn. The project cannot be built without his infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Post reports:

Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, wants to know if companies controlled by Prokhorov in Zimbabwe violate federal rules that forbid American citizens and companies, and subsidiaries set up in the United States, from doing business with brutal strongman Robert Mugabe, his regime or associates.

"This is disgusting," Pascrell said. "Obviously, the Board of Governors of the NBA didn't do their job properly when they vetted this deal."

"[The arena is] being financed partly by the taxpayer, and the public has a right to know," he said.

"Looks like sanctions-busting to me," said Usha Haley, an expert on US sanctions at the Economic Policy Institute.

She said companies find administrative loopholes, which include setting up a web of corporations, to get around the sanctions.

"It looks like this company is setting up administrative layers that are obfuscating the effects of the sanctions. It's done all the time," she said.

"Ratner's project must come to a complete halt until the results of a federal inquiry into potential sanction violations by Mr. Prokhorov are known. We call on Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, New York's Congressional delegation and all of our elected officials to demand a complete halt of the Atlantic Yards project until the facts can be determined. We demand that New York's Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the office of US Attorney General Eric Holder begin their own inquiries. We simply cannot be giving city, state and federal tax dollars and breaks to Mr. Prokhorov if he is flouting sanctions imposed by the United States," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein. "The Barclays Center Arena and Atlantic Yards definitely cannot be built without Mr. Prokhorov's wealth, so the project must not move forward if it turns out it cannot be funded."

"This has been the long-term attitude toward Ratner and his project—the people charged with protecting our interests turn the other way and ignore improprieties to give the developer what he wants. And the NBA is so desperate to bail out Bruce Ratner and to get a wealthy international owner that, despite their claims, they failed to do a proper investigation of Mikhail Prokhorov," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter. "This should outrage our elected officials, in particular Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Schumer, who have all unconditionally supported Atlantic Yards. It appears Prokhorov is being permitted to ride roughshod over sanctions properly imposed for gross human rights abuses, and yet, he is being welcomed with open arms for what? Not for the good of the people, but to build a taxpayer-subsidized, money-losing arena on a foundation of eminent domain abuse. It's just plain wrong."

A US Treasury Department summary of the sanctions includes the following:

PROHIBITED TRANSACTIONS - Executive Order 13391 prohibits U.S. persons, wherever located, or anyone in the United States from engaging in any transactions with any person, entity or organization found to: 1.) be undermining democratic institutions and processes in Zimbabwe; 2.) have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support to these entities; 3.) be or have been an immediate family member of a sanctions target; or 4.) be owned, controlled or acting on behalf of a sanctions target. Persons, entities and organizations referenced in Annex A of the Executive Order are all incorporated into OFAC's list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs). Prohibited transactions include, but are not limited to, exports (direct and indirect), imports (direct and indirect), trade brokering, financing and facilitation, as well as most financial transactions.

Foreign branches and representative offices of U.S. companies, as well as U.S. branches and representative offices of foreign companies are considered U.S. persons for purposes of these prohibitions. (Emphasis added.)

Posted by eric at 10:17 PM

Sunday Comix: Our illustrator imagines Ratner’s ‘meditation room’

Brooklyn Paper
By Cristian Fleming

After reading about Bruce Ratner’s “meditation room” in the new Barclays Center, artist Cristian Fleming imagined what it might be like.

Bruce Ratner's Meditation Room


Posted by steve at 8:19 AM

Tycoon's tyrant ties threaten Nets deal

New York Post
By Isable Vincent and Melissa Klein

A New Jersey congressman says he will demand a government inquiry into Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire poised to buy the New Jersey Nets, for his extensive business dealings in Zimbabwe -- a bombshell that could blow up the $200 million team deal and threaten the future of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, The Post has learned.

Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, wants to know if companies controlled by Prokhorov in Zimbabwe violate federal rules that forbid American citizens and companies, and subsidiaries set up in the United States, from doing business with brutal strongman Robert Mugabe, his regime or associates.

"This is disgusting," Pascrell said. "Obviously, the Board of Governors of the NBA didn't do their job properly when they vetted this deal."

He said the project received tax-exempt bonds.

"It's being financed partly by the taxpayer, and the public has a right to know," he said.

Prokhorov's Renaissance Capital investment bank has interests in the Zimbabwean stock exchange, banks, a cellphone company, mining and a swanky, private big-game reserve. The company is intertwined with Onexim, the $25 billion Prokhorov-controlled investment fund behind the deal to bring the struggling NBA team to Brooklyn.

Pascrell said he will ask the Treasury Department, which oversees the sanctions, to investigate Onexim. In 2008, Onexim became a 50 percent owner of Renaissance Capital, which has been actively investing in Zimbabwe since 2007.

According to its Web site, Renaissance Capital has offices in Manhattan and was the financial sponsor of an economic forum in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare that provided foreign investors special access to government ministers in June 2009 -- which experts say is a violation of the sanctions.

In February, the company's Africa-based CEO, Andrew Lowe, participated in a business panel with a Zimbabwean official banned from entering the United States.

"Looks like sanctions-busting to me," said Usha Haley, an expert on US sanctions at the Economic Policy Institute.


If the department steps in to block the Net deal, it could cause major problems for developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development project.


NBA Commissioner David Stern recently told "60 Minutes" that Prokhorov passed a background check and "nobody has come up with any reason why he shouldn't be an NBA owner."

"Mr. Prokhorov went through a very extensive and stringent vetting process," a league spokesman told The Post yesterday. "The background and financial investigations have been completed, and there was nothing that was disclosed that would cause us not to move forward with his application for Nets ownership."

But a spokesman for Renaissance Capital in Moscow told The Post that the question of Prokhorov's dealings in Zimbabwe did not come up during the NBA security checks.


Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Prokhorov's business dealings in pariah Zimbabwe provoke requested federal investigation that could throw a wrench into pending Nets deal

It's not over 'til it's over, apparently.

The formal transfer of the New Jersey Nets to a new majority owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, has been delayed from the previously-announced mid-April date because the state does not have "vacant possession" of the part of the Atlantic Yards site needed for the initial phase.

But there's a much bigger potential wrench into the deal. A New Jersey Congressman's request for an investigation of Prokhorov's business dealings in international pariah Zimbabwe, according to a New York Post exclusive, "could blow up the $200 million team deal."

That's hardly clear; we must see what the Treasury Department, which oversees sanctions regarding Zimbabwe, has to say.

Rep. Bill Pascrell has previously asked the National Basketball Association (NBA) to investigate Prokhorov's fitness to buy the Nets, but the NBA found nothing amiss. Of course, the NBA has reason to welcome a deep-pocketed owner who can help internationalize the game.

Posted by steve at 7:53 AM

Local Group Works to Improve Community One Flower at a Time

Undaunted neighbors of Atlantic Yards work together on Neighborhood Beautification Day

WHO: Dean Street Block Association, 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt; Councilmember Letitia James invited.

WHEN: Saturday,April 17th, 11:30 AM

WHERE: Dean Street between 6th Avenue and Carlton, Brooklyn

VISUALS: Residents will be distributing free window boxes and planters, as well as planting flowers and hand building wooden guards in street tree beds. Local residents and young children dressed as flowerswill work on a street tree bed.

WHY: The beautification day is part of the Love Your (NYC) Block Campaign. The campaign is a partnership between neighborhood groups, Citizens Committee for New York City and NYC Service. As part of the campaign, the Dean Street Block Association received a cash grant along with direct support from the Departments of Parks, Sanitation, and Transportation. These city agencies worked with the block association on tree planting and cleaning up a city-owned lot. In addition, the block association has requested studies to improve traffic and pedestrian safety, as well as a replacement light fixture for Dean Playground.

The members of Dean Street Block Association work collectively to address many community concerns and interests,with a focus on making their neighborhood safer, greener and more livable. They have had success in difficult circumstances, from helping raise 1.4 million dollars of private money for Dean Playground to bringing attention to Atlantic Yards construction safety problems. They have held a publicized public meeting every month since 2004.

For More Information Contact:
Peter Krashes
Dean Street Block Association, 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt

Posted by steve at 7:49 AM

Nets rookie Terrence Williams gets lesson, boost from Bucks veteran Jerry Stackhouse

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

The following item can be found in the "Notes" section of this Nets article:

The Nets are not making any official comment about the league’s decision to wait out the site possession issue at Atlantic Yards before approving of the regime change. But some team officials fear that the ownership transfer to Mikhail Prokhorov could take weeks, if not spill over into the summer, as the legal process runs its course.


Posted by steve at 7:38 AM

April 10, 2010

Overstated allegation that Yonkers pol was indicted for "accepting a bribe from Ratner" subject of heated exchange among lawyers in remaining AY case

Atlantic Yards Report

Attorneys for the ESDC fulfill their role as the tool of developer Bruce Ratner when they become sensitive to an allegation that Ratner offered a bribe.

Forest City Ratner's murky role in the controversial Ridge Hill corruption case--mentioned indirectly but not implicated--has become the subject of some heated exchanges between lawyers on opposite sides of the only Atlantic Yards case that remains to face an initial hearing.

Williams vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development Corporation, or ESDC) goes to court Monday.

It's not likely that Ridge Hill will come up--the larger issue is whether the Development Agreement, not unveiled until January, should trigger new Determination & Findings (D&F) needed to pursue eminent domain.

But Ridge Hill hangs like a cloud over the developer, even though a lawyer for property owners challenging the state overstates what has been alleged.


What actually happened is murky, but the indictment does not charge Annabi with "accepting a bribe from Ratner." It lays out a sequence in which Annabi is charged with accepting corrupt payments from Zehy Jereis, who got a no-show job from Forest City Ratner.

As I wrote, the role of the developer is questionable, making it dubious that the ESDC considers the developer a "good corporate citizen." It's unclear why the developer was not considered a target by prosecutors, or why Forest City thinks it has a clean bill of health.


Posted by steve at 9:00 AM

Arena Foes Back in Court as NBA Delays Vote

By Paul Bubny

Arguing that crucial documents had been withheld from the public record, opponents of the Atlantic Yards project filed a motion Thursday asking the New York State Supreme Court to reconsider its March 10 ruling against them. Later on Thursday, the NBA’s board of governors announced it was postponing a vote on Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s purchase of the Nets, who would play their games at the project’s centerpiece arena.


Seeking to delay the completion of that relocation for as long as possible, the group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and 19 other community groups filed papers asking for another round in court. They argue that ESDC didn’t release documents showing that Atlantic Yards would take 25 years to complete until after oral arguments had been heard in January. The March 10 ruling by Judge Marcy Friedman "hinged on whether or not there was a rational basis for ESDC to claim the project would take 10 years."


NoLandGrab: DDDB is seeking to halt relocations, not delay them.

Posted by steve at 8:51 AM

Atlantic Yards holdouts refuse to leave, force postponed Nets sale

The Real Deal

This item helps to clarify why some residents of the Atlantic Yards footprint are staying put, despite letters from the state telling them to vacate.

There are a few holdouts left in the footprint of the New Jersey Nets' new home in Downtown Brooklyn, and despite losing their bid to block the state's use of eminent domain to boot them from the site, they're still not going down without a fight. Last month, the state sent letters to the home and business owners saying they had to leave by April 3. The letters were ignored because the state hadn't yet paid for the seized land, so eviction proceedings couldn't get off the ground, plus, the holdouts are challenging the value of the properties. Evictions could take months, and in the meantime, the residents are holding up the sale of Bruce Ratner's majority stake in the Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. The NBA Board of Governors announced yesterday that it would indefinitely postpone a scheduled April 16 vote on the sale until "a firm date is set for the state of New York to take full possession of the arena site." Ratner broke ground on the new $800 million Barclays Arena in Atlantic Yards last month and is looking to move the team there by 2012.


Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

Nets Seek Lebron James, Rights to Brooklyn Stadium Location

Sports Fans Coallition

Would-be owner of the New Jersey Nets Mikhail Prokhorov has wasted no time in declaring his intent to sign Duke Basketball Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski for an astounding $14 million a year to take the bottom-feeders of the NBA to the top. Likewise, this bull in a china shop has bought his tickets to the Lebron James sweepstakes this off-season hoping to sign the free agent in time to name the new stadium ‘the house that James built’.

The only problem with that dream scenario for the Russian Billionaire who would stand to become the first overseas owner of an NBA franchise is that the property in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards, is not yet in the hands of the state of New York. A vote by the collective NBA ownership was set to take place this week, but was delayed a week due to this all important detail.

According to the NY Times, “Mr. Prokhorov is paying $200 million for 80 percent of the team and 45 percent of Barclays Center, the team’s arena that is being built near downtown Brooklyn as part of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project. He will also finance up to $60 million of Nets losses until they move into the arena and be responsible for 80 percent of the team’s debt of $207 million.”

All that appears to be on the up and up until you read how the state of New York is fighting to take people’s land to get the deal done. New York residents’ tax dollars at work indeed.


Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

April 9, 2010

Did Gerges decision in March moot final Atlantic Yards case? Same grounds, new context. Oral argument Monday should be vigorous.

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has a preview of Monday's Atlantic Yards legal showdown.

The one extant Atlantic Yards lawsuit (not counting the effort to reopen another) approaches an oral argument at 9:30 am on Monday, April 12.

The suit (Williams vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation), filed by several property owners facing condemnation, challenges the Empire State Development Corporation's failure to issue a new Determination & Findings (D&F) based on the argument that the project changed so much from 2006--when it was supposed to be completed within a decade--that there was no longer a basis for an eminent domain finding.

After all, the Development Agreement signed last December 23 but not revealed until January 25, gives the developer six years to build the arena, 12 years to build Phase 1, 15 years to start construction of the platform, and 25 years to finish the project.

At essence is this:

This case presents the question of where – on the continuum from no changes to the factual basis for an [Eminent Domain Procedure Law] § 204 determination to profound material changes – a case must fall before those changes merit an order compelling a condemning authority to supplement, amend or renew its determination.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Eminent Domain Standoffs in Brooklyn featuring the Fightin' Freddy's

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse via Found in Brooklyn

Sabine Aronowsky has put together this video covering protest actions which have happened in the last 5 months around the Atlantic Yards area. There is footage of the protests on the day of the "ground breaking" as well as all the events that happened at Freddy's Bar & Backroom.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

NBA: No Nets sale until land is in hand

Field of Schemes

The NBA Board of Governors announced yesterday that it will likely postpone next week's scheduled vote on Mikhail Prokhorov as new majority owner of the New Jersey Nets until the state of New York has acquired all the land for the team's planned Brooklyn arena. "The Board will vote on Mr. Prokhorov's purchase of the Nets once a firm date is set for the State of New York to take full possession of the arena site, which the team expects to occur in the near future," said league official Joel Litvin.

For those scoring at home, there's still one lawsuit pending against state seizure by eminent domain of several properties, charging that the Atlantic Yards development plan has changed so much since 2006 that the state's original eminent domain justification is no longer valid. Oral arguments take place Monday morning; check Atlantic Yards Report for up-to-the-minute reports.


Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

April 8, 2010

Nets ownership transfer to Mikhail Prokhorov delayed again

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

The NBA won’t approve Mikhail Prokhorov’s purchase of the Nets after all -- at least not next week, anyway.

The vote by the Board of Governors, originally scheduled for Friday, April 16th, will be postponed until the site-possession issue is resolved, because tenants have yet to vacate the area within the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project that includes the $800 million Barclays Center.

And there is still no clear timetable with which to clear that barrier, however, according to NBA President Joel Litvin.

“The Board will vote on Mr. Prokhorov's purchase of the Nets once a firm date is set for the State of New York to take full possession of the arena site, which the team expects to occur in the near future,” Litvin said.

“Site possession is the only thing impacting the timing of the vote. The documentation of the Nets' purchase and the background investigation of Mr. Prokhorov have been complete for some time."

Once the Nets and Prokhorov achieve what is known as “vacant possession,” the league is expected to hold their ratifying vote via teleconference or e-mail.


Additional coverage...

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], Atlantic Yards holdouts holding up Nets sale to Russian billionaire

The NBA Board of Governors yesterday announced it was indefinitely postponing its scheduled April 16 vote on developer Bruce Ratner’s sale of majority interest in the struggling franchise to Russia’s second-richest man because a few holdouts have yet to buckle to the state’s use of eminent domain to take their homes and businesses to build the $800 million Brooklyn arena.

AP via NESN.com, Vote on Sale of Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov Will Probably Be Delayed

Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov is probably going to have to wait a little longer before becoming the new owner of the New Jersey Nets.

Prokhorov agreed last December to buy 80 percent of the Nets and 45 percent of the new arena from Bruce Ratner's Forest City Ratner Cos.

The Nets have endured a dreadful season, posting an 11-67 mark with four games left in the regular season, clinching at least a tie for the worst record in the league this season.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nyet to Nets

Despite a report that soon-to-be Nets owner Vladimir Prokhorov was willing to pay him between $12-15 million per year, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski refused to express any interest in taking the job.

"Vladimir" Prokhorov?

Krzyzewski said in a statement prior to leading the Blue Devils past Butler in Monday’s NCAA Championship classic that “you would be flattered if someone would offer you a job, but I would not be interested.”

Attention Brooklyn Daily Eagle! See the stories above so you don't repeat the error below (which we've helpfully underlined):

Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who is expected to officially take over Nets ownership from Downtown developer Bruce Ratner next week, is determined to bring a big-name coach to the franchise prior to its expected arrival in Brooklyn by 2012.

Posted by eric at 10:46 PM

DDDB, allies aim to reopen case based on Development Agreement that gives Forest City 25 years to complete AY; ESDC claims those provisions trumped

Atlantic Yards Report

Pointing to the curious delay by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in releasing the Atlantic Yards Development Agreement until after a key January 19 oral argument in the case challenging the ESDC's 2009 approval of the project, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and 19 community groups have asked that the case be reopened.

The Development Agreement, as I've written, gives developer Forest City Ratner 12 years to build Phase 1 and 25 years to build Phase 2. Meanwhile. the ESDC maintained the project would take a decade, a finding to which Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman reluctantly deferred in her March 10 ruling dismissing the case.

"ESDC's continuing use of the 10 year build-out was supported—albeit, in this court’s opinion, only minimally—by the factors articulated by ESDC," she wrote, with one of those factors being the ESDC's professed intention to ensure that Forest City Ratner used "commercially reasonable" efforts to finish the project in a decade.

However, wrote DDDB attorney Jeff Baker in an affirmation filed today:

As set forth below, ESDC did not obtain a commitment from FCR to use commercially reasonable efforts to complete the project by 2019 and in fact signed an agreement that extends the completion of project until at least 2035. Thus, where the Court previously found that ESDC’s rational [basis] was only “minimally” supported, since one of the essential elements is demonstrably false, the Court should reconsider its decision in light of the new evidence.

Bad faith

The petitioners might have gone even farther, charging bad faith. Remember, the Development Agreement, signed December 23, 2009, was not released until January 25, about three weeks after ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell told me the documents would be made available.

ESDC response and defense

Mitchell told the Brooklyn Paper that the agency will oppose the motion and expects to prevail.

Still, the ESDC has offered a rather weak defense of the timeline discrepancy in a motion to dismiss the only extant case, which challenges the failure to issue a new Determination & Findings:

Their allegations... [of delay] are inconsistent with the plain terms of the Development Agreement, which requires that the Project be constructed in accordance with the 2009 MGPP. See Development Agreement at pp. 4-5 (“Project Description”); p. 10 (requiring that the 2009 MGPP requirements be satisfied); p. 4 (requiring that FCRC use commercially reasonable efforts to complete the entire Project by 2019); p. 21 (requiring that the Project “shall have not less than the required Project Site Affordable Housing Units,” a term defined at page 15 of Appendix A to mean the 2,250 affordable housing unit required by the 2009 MGPP).

Baker noted that “commercially reasonable” appears in only one place, and is not defined.


Additional coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Suit: ESDC lied to judge about Yards timetable

The state development agency leading the Atlantic Yards project got a favorable ruling in a key opposition lawsuit by withholding information about the mega-development’s construction timetable from a judge, a new appeal filed today charges.

The missing information was contained in a “closing document” signed by the Empire State Development Corporation and developer Bruce Ratner that allows Ratner to take 25 years to finish the project, instead of the 10 years that the lawyers had argued during the suit itself.

That closing document was made public eight days after the case was heard by Judge Marcy Friedman — and project foes now claim that if she’d had all the information, she might have ruled differently.

In fact, Friedman’s ruling, issued in March, hinted as much.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards Will Take Over 25 Years, New Legal Documents Claim

Atlantic Yards will take over a quarter century to build, claims the lead opposition group in a new motion filed in court this week.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that was dismissed by the Manhattan Supreme Court earlier this year, has filed a new Motion to Reargue/Renew, asking the court to consider new evidence that DDDB claims was not available at the time of the oral argument in January.

The Motion to Reargue/Renew, filed on Wednesday, has a return date of April 29 at 9:30 a.m. in the Manhattan Supreme Court.

Posted by eric at 10:22 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

A Momma Grows In Brooklyn, Big Day - Part One: Old School Yogini

Today, I went to a yoga class for the first time in many, many months; I renewed my distaste for the Atlantic Yards "project"; and I yelled at several tourists. It was a big day - so big, in fact, that I have decided that it warrants three separate posts because God knows I do not want to subject any reader to a never-ending story about one day.

Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn, Has The “Golden” Era Passed? Atlas Poll Indicates Frustration with Bay Ridge Prince

Insurgent Brooklyn Republicans are running a poll about the future of State Senator (and Atlantic Yards booster) Marty Golden, with whom they're less than enamored. One piece of evidence against Golden:

Earlier last year, the Senator was palling around with ACORN’s Bertha Lewis at an Atlantic Yards meeting.

Be sure to help vote "the Republican Marty" out his party's good graces.

Architecture and the Urban Landscape [Cleveland.com blog], Cleveland Coalition invites the public to brainstorm design of the Rock Ventures casino in Cleveland on Friday

The city of Cleveland is hell-bent on building a casino within its borders, which is always a sure ticket to economic resurgence and a better quality of life. But never mind that — wanna bet on who owns or controls every one of the sites under consideration?

Veysey said the discussion on Friday will focus on how a casino might be built west of Huron Road behind Tower City Center or within a renovated Higbee Building off Public Square.

Both sites were part of four specified by their legal descriptions in Issue 3, the constitutional amendment approved by voters in November, which enabled casino gambling in Ohio and gave Rock Ventures the right to own and operate casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati.

At the March 5 gathering, experts said that proposed sites on Scranton Road Peninsula and the West Third Street Peninsula made little sense, so the coalition wants to zero in on the other two, Veysey said. All four sites are owned or controlled by Forest City Enterprises.

Posted by eric at 10:03 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: DDDB Files Motion Asking Court to Reconsider Case Against Atlantic Yards Project Approval

Motion Follows New Evidence New York State Intentionally Omitted From Legal Record

New York, New York— The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) held back the critical Atlantic Yards Development Agreement from the public and the legal record.

These key governing documents provide ample evidence that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project would take at least 25 years to construct. ESDC did not release these documents to the public until after the January 19th oral argument in the case Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and 19 community groups had brought to challenge the September 2009 ESDC approval of the project.

In light of this new information, today the community groups filed a motion requesting that the court reconsider its decision to deny the community groups' challenge.

They've asked the Court (New York State Supreme Court, New York County) to reconsider its March 10th ruling and to allow oral argument that considers the revealing information in the omitted documents.

The ruling on the original 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.

In the ruling [PDF], the Court wrote:

"Under the limited standard of SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) review, the court is constrained to hold that ESDC's elaboration of its reasons for using the 10 year build-out was supported — albeit, in this court's opinion, only minimally — by the factors articulated by ESDC." (Emphasis added.)

The Court had no choice but to ignore the crucial Development Agreement documents that prove the project would take at least 25 years, because the ESDC had not made them part of the public record, and had not accurately reflected the elements of that agreement.

If, as the Court ruled, the ESDC's rationale was "only minimally" supported before, it would seem that that minimal support erodes entirely due to the facts subsequently revealed in the Atlantic Yards Development Agreement.


In the motion filed today, the petitioners' argue that "where the Court previously found that ESDC's rationale was only ‘minimally' supported, since one of the essential elements is demonstrably false, the Court should reconsider its decision in light of the new evidence."

The "demonstrably false" element is that ESDC did not obtain a commitment from Forest City Ratner to complete the project in ten years (2019) but, rather, signed an agreement that actually extends the completion of the project until at least 2035.

"We think the Court will recognize that the ESDC's argument, and therefore the ruling, was egregiously incomplete, lacking the essential document that worked against their entire rationale that the project would take ten years. Reconsideration of the case is necessary because of the self-contradicting and revealing information ESDC intentionally held back from the Court and the public," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter.

The motion papers can be found at: www.dddb.net/MGPPsuit.

Posted by eric at 1:05 PM

Forest City Ratner Foundation: still supporting BAM, the Brooklyn Museum, and Markowitz's concert series

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's "Foundation" appears to work more like a quid pro quo lobbying operation than a charitable organization.

It may be more of the same, but the latest Internal Revenue Service report from the Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation--which I called shadowy because of its lack of transparency--is still telling.

As with the return through the year ending 1/31/2008, the latest return, through the year ending 1/31/09, shows that the single largest recipient of the developer's largess, by far, was the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation (a fundraising effort led by Mayor Mike Bloomberg), gaining $1 million out of the approximately $1.5 million total dispensed.

Gifts in Brooklyn

But the foundation also plays a role in maintaining friendly relationships with some important institutions and neighbors. Thus Polytechnic University, Forest City Ratner's original partner in MetroTech, got $100,000.

The foundation also gave $100,000 to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Bruce Ratner has been a BAM Trustee since 1989 and chaired its board from 1992 until 2001. BAM has unequivocally supported the Atlantic Yards project.

It gave $165,000 to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, up from $125,000 in the previous year. In April 2008, shortly before the foundation delivered $100,000, Bruce Ratner was honored by the museum, an event that provoked a sometime bitter public protest.

For the second straight year, Borough President Marty Markowitz's Martin Luther King Jr. concert series got $100,000.


Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

April 12, 9:30 AM. Oral Argument in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Related Case

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Legal arguments in the following lawsuit will take place on Monday, April 12th, at 9:30 AM in Manhattan.

9:30 AM
New York County Supreme Court
80 Centre Street

Oral argument on Article 78 lawsuit seeking to compel the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to make new Eminent Domain Procedure Law (204) findings and determinations.

A number of property owners and tenants in the footprint brought this lawsuit in January 2010 arguing that the eminent domain takings were based on a 2006 approved plan that no longer exists. If the property seizures are going to occur, they must be for the drastically altered current plan—a basketball arena and one building—not for the project originally conceived with the promise of 2,250 affordable housing units, 16 towers and 10,000 jobs. The case argues that the ESDC must make new findings and determinations under the States's Eminent Domain Procedure Law.


Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

April 7, 2010

Nets see sunny skies ahead with new owner

Bergen Record
by Al Iannazzone

Playing for an owner who spends unthinkable millions to make his team good and players happy was Devin Harris’ old life. It seems he will return to it.

The Nets’ point guard was spoiled playing for Mark Cuban in Dallas. Future Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s net worth is roughly $13.4 billion — or $11 billion more than Cuban, according to Forbes. By all accounts Prokhorov wants to spend on the Nets.

He plans to offer Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski $12 million to $15 million per year to be their coach and general manager. That got the attention of Harris and other Nets, regardless of whether Prokhorov gets his man.

"I don’t think anybody knows really what to expect," Harris said after Tuesday’s practice. "Really, anything is possible with this guy."


NoLandGrab: One thing they can expect — given Prokhorov's control of the internet — is no more Twittering by Terrence Williams or CDR or anyone else.

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Suit: Marty ran the Beep’s office like a frat-house

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

We weren't going to touch this story, thanks to our great willpower, but then former Marty Markowitz Chief of Staff Greg Atkins raised Atlantic Yards in his deposition.

Borough President Markowitz turned his office into a macho frat house featuring sexist jokes, double standards and possible violation of campaign regulations, bombshell court documents revealed this week.

New details about the inner workings of Markowitz’s top staff have emerged from the sex discrimination suit brought by Markowitz’s former communications director, Regina Weiss, which portray a work environment filled with dim-witted chauvinist wisecracks and even “volunteer” work for Markowitz’s re-election campaign.

The descriptions of the goings-on come straight from Markowitz himself, along with former chief of staff, Greg Atkins, in depositions the two took under oath.

But one final detail hints at the rampant machismo at Borough Hall. Markowitz’s testosterone-fueled staff was so full of bluster that it even had lengthy internal discussions on how best to pick a fight with The Brooklyn Paper because the Beep had become irked with the paper’s hard-hitting, award-winning coverage of the Atlantic Yards project.

“At a staff level [there were] numerous discussion about how they [The Brooklyn Paper] were going about their … unfair and unbalanced coverage of Atlantic Yards,” Atkins said, adding that the staff discussed cutting off The Paper from the borough president’s regular press releases.

“I was not sure if it was ever agreed upon,” he said. “I certainly wished it.”

Brooklyn Paper Editor Gersh Kuntzman declined to comment.


NoLandGrab: Wonder what kind of fight they were contemplating picking with NoLandGrab? Go ahead, we dare you to cut us off from your regular press releases. Ouch.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Deposition in lawsuit says Markowitz was upset about Brooklyn Paper's (former) Atlantic Yards coverage

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

April 6, 2010

Kremlin Control of Russian Internet Rising, OSC Says

Security News
by Steven Aftergood

The Russian-language internet is increasingly subject to control by the Russian government and its allies in the private sector, according to a new report (pdf) from the DNI Open Source Center (OSC). Except for a vocal minority of bloggers and human rights activists, the Russian public is mostly indifferent to or even supportive of government controls on the internet, the OSC report said.

“Over the last several years, pro-government oligarchs have accumulated significant stakes in the leading portals of the Russian Internet [or Runet]. Between them, they own the majority of the most popular Russian social networking sites and the majority of the most popular Russian websites,” the OSC found.

“While media outlets owned by government companies have not yet shown signs of censorship, the leadership and owners of these Russian investment companies are close to the Kremlin and may be willing to cede their business interests to government priorities,” the OSC report said.

So, for example, “Oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who is known to cooperate with the Kremlin, owns RosBiznesKonsalting (RBC), which has been quietly gobbling up Russian Internet (Runet) domains, holding 21% of the Runet’s sites, according to its last annual report in 2007, including Loveplanet.ru, the second-most popular online dating service in the Runet.”


NoLandGrab: Ha! Mikhail Prokhorov might own 21% of Russia's internet, but he'll never get his hands on NoLandG...bzzzz...bzzzz...ZZZZZAAAAPPPPP!...мы хотели бы предложить извинения Брюс Ратнер.

Дополнительные покрытия...

Сети ежедневно, Прохоров, цитируемых в докладе разведки США по контролю Кремля Интернет

Не все гласности Михаил Прохоров получил на этой неделе была положительной. "Доклад тайне" опубликовал анализ американской разведки, предлагая Прохоров и другие олигархи помогают получить контроль Кремля Интернета в России.

Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

Who wins? Atlantic Yards isn't "a loser for everyone," but Barclays, Prokhorov, Nets fans, and arena-goers aren't the public at large

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder contends that there are a number of Atlantic Yards winners — most all of them in on the fix.

Just before the groundbreaking, on March 10, Chris Smith of New York Magazine wrote an online article headlined Why the Atlantic Yards Is Currently a Loser for Everyone, Even Ratner.

With all due respect--Smith generously cited me--I think he looked at the issue too narrowly. There are a bunch of winners, but they're just not the public at large, for whose ultimate benefit subsidies, tax breaks, and the extraordinary power of eminent domain were presumably justified.

There was never a legitimate cost-benefit analysis for the project as a whole, so all assessments will remain forever murky. But they give much room for pause.

The New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), which did the most careful (partial) study, called the arena a loser for the city but not the state. I think the IBO was too generous, because it didn't factor in the state's giveaway of naming rights, worth more than $200 million.

And the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) economic impact analysis of the project as a whole is far from credible.


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

Lots of beatings

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Claire Glass

No beatings, thankfully, in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls, just the usual allotment of petty larcenies.

Target trickery

A fast-handed offender stole a woman’s wallet from out of her purse while she was shopping at the notorious Target in the Atlantic Avenue Terminal on March 29.

The victim told cops that the purse was on her shoulder the entire time that she was in the store, which is near the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, but when she got to the checkout line at around 4 pm, she noticed that the wallet had been picked.

It’s just the latest purse-snatching at the store, which makes virtually weekly appearances in our Police Blotter.

Steal bucks

A thief swiped a woman’s purse at the Atlantic Terminal Mall on April 4 — but she didn’t realize it until she was paying for a cup of coffee later in the day.

By that time, the thief had already rung up $425 in charges on the purloined credit card.


NoLandGrab: We still think that's Bruce Ratner's Russian sugar daddy, Mikhail Prokhorov, could do wonders for crime deterrence in Ratner's malls.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Architect's Newspaper Blog, The Public-Private Pit

Matt Chaban reports on a recent Eliot Brown Observer piece about the shocking public price tag for the new World Trade Center.

It’s a pretty sad reality for what was supposed to be a grand gesture in the face of tragedy. But pulling back from all that good will and high hopes, with the comfort of hindsight, it becomes clear this was just another development deal in New York City, possibly the granddaddy of them all. Look no further than Atlantic Yards or Columbia or, hell, the original World Trade Center itself to be reminded that this is just the way business gets done in this town. Which only begs the question, “How long until the next bailout?”

BNET On the News, Meet the Crazy Developers Building New Retail Centers Now

Just what America needs right now: a new mall or three. Yet there’s been a steady trickle of new retail centers breaking ground in the past few months, from California to Florida.

There’s already nearly 50 square feet of retail space for every man, woman and child in the U.S., and current retail vacancy rates are approaching 13 percent. Some existing malls currently sit abandoned and are being auctioned off.

Here’s a look at some of the developers starting new shopping-center projects. They’re either just plain crazy or extremely patient when it comes to getting a return on their investment. Our money’s on the former, but some of these developers are very big players in the mall world.

In Florida, The Village at Gulfstream Park opened in February, weighing in at nearly 500,000 square feet. This one’s near a racetrack, and the theory is to feed off the track’s visitors. Developer is $12 billion dollar powerhouse Forest City Enterprises (FCE) in Cleveland. Forest City lost $31 million last year but still has cash on hand to develop new malls. Also coming from Forest City is South Bay Center, a new 100,000-square-foot complex across from South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach. The Galleria’s got a million square feet, but apparently that’s not enough to serve local southern California shoppers.

Brooklyn Born, Missed it Monday: Easter Sunday Edition

Easter Sunday in Brooklyn
I got around yesterday but not over to Ch'uch which I guess was just as well that I didn't because none of my clothing even comes close to the finery that familys were styling all over the borough. I caught up with one of those families after making a painful dash in search of a B45 bus stop (resulting from another Atlantic Yards failure, which I will be raising the ruckus about soon)....

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

Papa Dish Sings to Save Freddy's

Indie Sounds

As many will know, longtime music venue Freddy's Bar & Backroom in Brooklyn faces extinction as a result of the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

There has been considerable opposition to the proposed redevelopment, which seems unlikely to deliver the benefits once stated by the developer and NYC's political top brass - and Freddy's regulars have threatened to chain themselves to the bar when eviction day comes.

It seems, though, that through the use of eminent domain legislation, the bar's fate is now sealed. But that didn't stop local singer/songwriter and activist Papa Dish from writing Keep Your Hands Off Freddy's Bar ...

Click here to listen

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

The DBP's "Downtown Development Story" and the Atlantic Yards asterisk

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder comments on Dennis Holt's column yesterday about Downtown development projects.

Holt acknowledges that "no one really knows right now" how many of the announced 6430 apartments would be built" and thus that, without the AY figures, the numbers under planning don't seem so impressive.

Still, he concludes by accepting the DBP's figures:

The Partnership's new score card is thus a very useful format, and tells the story of the building of a new Downtown Brooklyn in a more meaningful manner. The totals are impressive. They include $9.7 billion spent to create 22,615,000 new square feet of built space, and 14,481 new housing units.

But there's no assurance that figure is being spent or will be spent. Remember, only 24% of that square footage has been built.


Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

Partnership’s Report Details Downtown’s Development Story

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

More than six years into this thing, and Dennis Holt is still insisting that the Atlantic Yards site, snug in the midst of the low-rise Brooklyn Neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Park Slope, is somehow part of Downtown Brooklyn.

Looking at this new statistical method, one very important element leaps out at you: How the Atlantic Yards project dominates the Downtown Brooklyn numbers. For example, of all the cost estimates, the Yards account for 41 percent of the total. About 44 percent of the new residential units are for Atlantic Yards, and the entire Yards site takes up almost 38 percent of all the space.

The sports arena part of the planned project -- Barclays Center -- takes up a relatively small part of the total project numbers.

At the moment, no one really knows how many of the planned 6,430 housing units will be built.


NoLandGrab: Actually, Bruce Ratner probably knows, and it's probably a lot less than 6,430, too.

Posted by eric at 12:03 AM

April 5, 2010

NBA executives having trouble gauging prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

Rumors that pending Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is prepared to offer Duke University men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski $15 million dollars a year has NBA insiders perplexed.

Until then, he has succeeded in confusing the opposition, judging by the outlook of three chief executives — all presidential-level NBA men requesting anonymity so that they can offer candid opinions about Nets business — who aren’t sure whether Prokhorov is bold, publicity hungry or stupid.

“With so much rumor and speculation going on with this guy, I have problems with the legitimacy of anything before he takes control of the team,” one executive said. “First they were going after Jerry Colangelo. Then they were hiring the Toronto GM (Mauricio Gherardini). They’ve already hired and fired three coaches, from what I’ve read. I don’t think they have anything remotely close to a strategy, but I know this much: If it’s not Rod Thorn who’s formulating it, they already have problems.”

“The Nets are different,” the second executive said. “They can’t sell their history, or even loyalty, since they’re moving to Brooklyn in two years and might take 5 percent of their fans with them. So they need something to hang their hats on. I think they know they have to overspend somewhere — that’s just the way it will be — and the coach might be the place to do it.”


NoLandGrab: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Five percent of their fans? Claims of big Atlantic Yards economic benefits are rooted in the preposterous claim that 30% of Nets ticket buyers (a critically endangered species) will follow the team to Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 11:54 PM

NYT op-ed argues against skybox tax subsidies, (indirectly) undermines Forest City Ratner's plan for the Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

It's pitched mostly as a baseball piece, tied to the new season, but today's New York Times op-ed, Throw Out Skybox Tax Subsidies, could just as easily been written to explain how the new basketball arena in Brooklyn is being funded and marketed.

Richard Schmalbeck, a law professor at Duke, and Jay Soled, a professor at the Rutgers Business School, write:

UNTIL the 1970s, Major League Baseball was a populist sport. Bleacher seats cost as little as a dollar, meaning middle- or even working-class fans could afford to take their families to a game a few times each season.

But in the years since, tickets to baseball games — along with other professional sports events — have skyrocketed in cost. Over the last two decades, the average ticket price for a Chicago Cubs game has increased 265 percent, more than four times the inflation rate. Add in parking, concessions and souvenirs, and a family trip to one of this week’s opening day games could easily cost a few hundred dollars.

There are many reasons for the price explosion, but a critical factor has been the ability of businesses to write off tickets as entertainment expenses — essentially a huge, and wholly unnecessary, government subsidy.

That means that anyone who wants a good seat is in competition with businesspeople wielding deductions--and that ballparks are today designed with fewer seats but more luxury skyboxes.

For arenas, too

The same could be said about arenas. There are to be 104 suites at the Atlantic Yards arena, down from a once-projected 170. The team's interim home, the Prudential Center in Newark, has 82 suites, nearly three times as many as the 29 suites at the Izod Center.


NoLandGrab: Yes, yet another subsidy for Bruce C. Ratner.

Posted by eric at 11:48 PM

New Rochelle takes steps to preserve armory artwork

by Hannan Adely

Bruce Ratner, conservator.

The large paintings that hang in the city's armory show vivid scenes of naval military history, ranging from a life-size portrait of a tugboat to ships in training after the first world war.

The paintings, though, are losing their life as the building around them continues to deteriorate and drip.

Now, the city is taking steps to protect the artworks. With support from veterans and the city's Municipal Art Commission, city officials approved a $19,000 contract to remove and store the artworks for the next year.

The $19,000 tab to store the four paintings will be paid by developer Forest City Enterprises. The company agreed to pay for future years, too, as long as it continues to have an agreement with the city to develop the land, said City Manager Charles Strome.

Forest City had initially planned to demolish the armory as part of its $450 million Echo Bay project and put up a community center in its place. The company is revising its plans because of the downturn in the economy, so the fate of the armory is unclear.


NoLandGrab: Forest City's act of generosity likely means that it expects to be getting back many times the amount of its "gift" in additional subsidies.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Barclays' Bob Diamond under the gun in the UK; another look at his platitudes at the groundbreaking

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on recent criticism of Barclays President Bob Diamond emanating from the UK.

The Barclays Center naming rights agreement is a savvy form of deal-making. Consider the sequence:

  • The state (Empire State Development Corporation) gives away naming rights to Forest City Ratner
  • Forest City Ratner sells the naming rights to Barclays
  • Barclays uses the deal as a marketing platform to grow in the United States

Smart business, most likely. Public giveaway, for sure.


Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

That outrageous claim from the groundbreaking: "We did not at the time appreciate that Atlantic Yards would be such an important economic engine."

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines one of the Atlantic Yards project's oldest and most durable flights of fancy.

An outrageous claim from the press release (below) issued with the March 11 groundbreaking deserves another look:

“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. [Bruce] 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.”

Oh, come now.

The fact that they can start construction in this financial environment is less "testament to the lasting appeal of New York City" than the lasting appeal of Brooklyn and New York for Barclays Capital and Mikhail Prokhorov to gain entry to the American market--and a testament to Forest City Ratner's ability to wrangle additional subsidies and sweeteners.

And Forest City Ratner was making the "economic engine" claim early on, however dubious it was then and it remains now.


Posted by eric at 6:36 AM

April 4, 2010

In profile of Justice Stevens, another reflection by author of Kelo opinion that it was settled law but lousy policy

Atlantic Yards Report

One flaw in a 3/22/10 New Yorker profile of soon-to-retire Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, headlined After Stevens: What will the Supreme Court be like without its liberal leader?, was a failure to mention Stevens's controversial opinion in the 2005 Kelo v. New London eminent domain case, which prompted most states (though not New York) to pass laws tightening the practice of eminent domain.

Today's New York Times profile of Stevens, headlined At 89, Stevens Contemplates Law, and How to Leave It, partially remedies the situation:

Often, he added, the law requires a certain result, as in the court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which allowed local governments to use the power of eminent domain to take private property for business development.

“The Kelo case was one of my most unpopular opinions, and that was one where I thought the law really was pretty well settled on the particular point,” he said.

Asked if he would have answered the question presented in the case differently had he instead been a legislator, Justice Stevens said probably yes.

“One of the nice things about this job is that you don’t have to make those decisions,” he added. “Very often you think, in this particular spot I don’t have to be deciding the really hard case about what should be done. Which is one of the reasons why the function is really quite different from what people often assume.”

The question, then, is why legislators have not acted more prudently.


Posted by eric at 10:28 PM

Lord Mandelson gets personal over banker’s pay

The Times of London
by Rachel Sylvester and Katherine Griffiths

Barclays President and Jay-Z fan Bob Diamond is catching some heat from the Lord for his excessive pay package.

Lord Mandelson has singled out the president of Barclays as the “unacceptable face” of the banking sector in one of the most vitriolic attacks on financiers since the financial crisis.

The Business Secretary, who said 12 years ago that Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes”, said that Bob Diamond was socially useless and paid an unjustifiable amount of money.

Mr Diamond, 58, who is American-born, is the number two at the bank and head of its highly profitable investment bank.

Lord Mandelson told The Times: “If you look at Bob Diamond, who took £63 million in pay — that to me is the unacceptable face of banking. He hasn’t earned that money, he’s taken £63 million not by building business or adding value or creating long-term economic strength, he has done so by deal-making and shuffling paper around.”

He added: “If anyone could justify that I’d like to see them do so. Just because somebody is very rich, it doesn’t mean to say different standards of morality apply to them.”


NoLandGrab: Lord Mandelson apparently has a quaint, merry-olde-England sense of morality, since over on this side of the pond, different standards of morality most definitely apply to the very rich. Exhibits A and B: Ratner, Bruce and Prokhorov, Mikhail.

Posted by eric at 10:15 PM

New Net Ready to Dig Deep

by Jason Keidel

In about two weeks, the NBA will approve the sale of the New Jersey Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, extending David Stern's dream of infusing the league with international money and flavor.

Mr. Prokhorov promises to invest in the franchise, which stands in stark relief against Bruce Ratner, the penurious owner whose primary goal was to buy land in Brooklyn for the team rather than procure top talent for the team.


NoLandGrab: Land, we might add, which in some cases wasn't for sale.

Posted by eric at 10:08 PM

As demolition proceeds, will they paint the wrecking ball to look like a basketball?

Atlantic Yards Report

From BallparkTour's web site on Ebbets Field:

The park was demolished in 1960 (later the same baseball-painted wrecking ball would also be used to demolish the Polo Grounds), with the light poles moved to Downing Stadium on Randall's Island. In its place was constructed a block of high-rise apartment buildings, the Ebbets Field Apartments; down the block is a school named after Jackie Robinson.

(Emphasis added)

So, as more demolition at the Atlantic Yards site proceeds, will they paint the wrecking ball to look like a basketball?

NoLandGrab: You could, instead, paint a wrecking ball to look like affordable housing, but who knows when that might be built?


Posted by steve at 10:17 AM

April 3, 2010

Coop to Purchase Key Food Property on Fifth Avenue

Linehater's Gazette
by Al Dente

The big news in the April 1st edition of the Park Slope Food Coop's Linewaiter's Gazette is that the famous cooperative supermarket is expanding — to the detriment of an infamous real estate developer.

The Coop first heard of the possibility that the property was going on the market last year. It’s a large parcel of land on trendy Fifth Avenue, making it irresistible to real estate developers. In fact, Bruce Ratner, the controversial developer of Atlantic Yards, expressed a serious interest, saying, “I think that it’s important to keep constructing more luxury condominium towers in this part of Brooklyn.” Other developers were interested as well, but Ratner was the most serious contender. He was in negotiations with the mayor’s office about tax breaks for the property when the Coop stepped in and made an offer. Ratner made a counter-offer and a bidding war ensued.

However, Ratner eventually withdrew from negotiations when the mayor’s office refused him eminent domain status for the property, leaving the Coop with the winning bid.

article [PDF]

NoLandGrab: You can't make this stuff up — or maybe you can.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

The Future of Fourth Avenue, Atlantic Yards traffic, and the lessons of top-down planning

Atlantic Yards Report

I only attended part of last month's The Future of Fourth Avenue Forum sponsored by the Park Slope Civic Council (PSCC), so I missed the tangential discussion of Atlantic Yards.

In the PSCC's Civic News, Ezra Goldstein reports:

[The Department of City Planning's Purnima] Kapur came under mild fire later in the forum, when several audience members asked why the city had not mandated storefronts as part of 4th Avenue’s upzoning. Kapur responded that the city had offered incentives encouraging storefronts instead of blank walls or worse—the street level garage vents at the Crest, at the corner of 2nd Street, have become the poster child for callous development—but that it was not normally city policy to make such demands of builders. Shouts of “Why not?” could be heard from several places around the crowded room.

In answer to that question, 39th District City Council Member Brad Lander, who spoke briefly at the end of the forum, pointed out that the way things have been done in the past is not necessarily the way they need to be done in the future. Policy can be changed, he said.

He cautioned, however, “It is easy to come up with good ideas, but harder to organize and build a broad base of support.” If people take that next step, he said, “I would love to work with an active community group on the future of 4th Avenue.”

Lander was echoing a sentiment that pervaded the forum: not only that changing 4th Avenue will require getting organized from the ground up, but that it’s better to do things that way. That sentiment extended very much to the Atlantic Yards project, whose impending presence at 4th Avenue’s northern terminus came up in several questions from the audience.

Atlantic Yards is widely seen as a throwback to the top-down planning of 50 years ago and as the antithesis to the kind of community-based planning espoused at the forum. Lander and [Community Board 6 District Manager] Hammerman both argued, however, that if the battle against the project is indeed lost, there is still much that a well-organized community can do to mitigate its worst effects. Atlantic Yards, for example, would be an impetus for even more traffic along 4th Avenue, increasing the difficulty of its transformation from thruway to livable street.

“The key,” said Hammerman, “is to make sure that we are a strong community that can stand together.”

It won’t be easy getting organized, getting political, building a community. After Atlantic Yards, it won’t be easy convincing some people that it’s worth the effort, that the grassroots stand a chance against the powerful and connected. But there was inspiration in the air at the forum on the future of 4th Avenue, and a definite sense that an important step had been taken toward the transformation of our neighborhood’s troubled roadway into something worthy of our love.


Posted by steve at 9:39 AM

April 2, 2010

Brooklyn casts a wary eye on the Nets

ESPN New York
by Chris Smith

The New York Magazine columnist, who authored the hands-down most incisive mainstream media report on the Atlantic Yards battle, weighs in with some resignation as a guest columnist for ESPN.

You have a nephew who has been a screwup his entire life. The guy has some talents and redeeming qualities -- a sense of humor, a willingness to keep trying -- and the problems aren't all his fault: Irresponsible parents and sheer bad luck deserve large shares of the blame. But for years the kid has blown every chance he's been handed, often spectacularly and sometimes dangerously, necessitating the repeated intervention of police officers and doctors. Because he isn't your kid and because he has lived a decent distance away, you've been able to choose when to pay horrified attention.

Until now. You're still confused about the specifics, but somehow a series of divorces, bankruptcies and court orders have awarded you custody. If that weren't scary enough, you're being compelled to build an addition onto your house for this perpetual embarrassment to live in.

Anxious? OK: Multiply the disruption, expense and uncertainty by a factor of 1,000. Now you sort of understand what Brooklyn feels like waiting for the Nets to arrive.


Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov making smart moves as he starts rebuilding New Jersey Nets

by Mitch Lawrence

Mikhail Prokhorov has yet to be approved by the NBA Board of Governors, but that hasn't stopped him from becoming the Best. NBA. Owner. Ever. Or maybe it's just that he isn't Bruce C. Ratner.

Smart guy, that Mikhail Prokhorov.

"They should be excited about the new owner," said Phoenix's Steve Nash, after the Suns' win in the Meadowlands on Wednesday night. "He's got incredibly deep pockets, and, in many ways, a positive attitude as far as spending. I think he will build a winner. If you have money and you're a good businessman and you're willing to spend, you can be successful. It seems that teams will struggle when they're not willing to spend."

Don't remind the Nets of that kind of owner. They had one in Bruce Ratner, king of the penny-pinchers. But now they get Prokhorov, richer than rich, and a smart guy to boot.


Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

In Forest City conference call, Atlantic Yards cited as example of FY 2009 milestones

Atlantic Yards Report

A relieved and optimistic--but still cautious--set of Forest City Enterprises (FCE) executives held their quarterly (and annual) conference call yesterday with investment analysts, and Atlantic Yards was highlighted as an emblematic success of the past fiscal year, which ended 1/31/10.

Moreover, in the Q&A segment, unlike in previous calls, the analysts had no questions about Atlantic Yards. From their perspective, it seems, the project is a done deal.

Leading off

FCE CEO Chuck Ratner led off by stating that "we feel a lot better" than they did a year ago and even "three short months ago."

He cited a number of success in the past three months, including the closing of a new revolving line of credit, completed debt exchanges, and "the master closing at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and [we] held a groundbreaking for the Barclays Center arena in that project."

AY as example

He singled out "Atlantic Yards alone as one example of what we were able to accomplish in 2009 and early 2010," citing:

  • they "successfully addressed a major land loan" [with Gramercy Capital]
  • "tax-exempt bonds... have been issued at an attractive rate"
  • "lawsuits opposing the project are almost behind us"
  • they "identified a great partner [Mikhail Prokhorov] who plans to take a majority interest [80%] in the team and a significant interest [45%] in the arena"
  • they began construction on the arena
  • and executed the master closing

"It was quite a to-do list, but our New York team, led by Bruce Ratner and Joanne Minieri, achieved all of those milestones," Ratner said.


Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Banks, Basketball, and Property Rights

Through eminent domain, the future home of the NBA laughing-stock Nets will soon be the former home of proud Brooklyners.

Pajamas Media
by Scott Bullock

Institute for Justice senior attorney Scott Bullock represented the plaintiffs in the Kelo v. New London Supreme Court case.

On March 11, Barclays Capital took out a full-page ad in the front section of the Wall Street Journal to declare that it is “proud” to celebrate the groundbreaking for the new Barclays Center in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn. If Barclays had even a modicum of respect for private property rights and the free market, it would be deeply ashamed.

The future home of the NBA laughing-stock Nets will soon be the former home of proud Brooklyners. These folks are losing their homes and businesses through eminent domain for a basketball court and other private development projects of billionaire developer Bruce Ratner.

Ratner did not have much difficulty courting virtually the entire New York political establishment to his side. All he had to do was claim that a sports arena and luxury residences would generate more tax revenue than neighborhood pubs and modest condos. With the promise of extra taxes, officials became all too eager to declare this up-and-coming neighborhood “blighted” and condemn the properties on Ratner’s behalf. Ratner also succeeded in hiring the scandal-ridden ACORN to provide political cover for the development project by loaning the group $1 million and giving it $500,000 outright. And because the Nets have been hemorrhaging money, Ratner also partnered with Mikhail Prokhorov, the unscrupulous billionaire Russian playboy, who now owns a share in the Nets and in the arena.

Is this what Barclays meant by the “teamwork and excellence” mentioned in its ad?


NoLandGrab: Two minor corrections — there's no way in hell that Bruce Ratner is a billionaire, and ACORN was already bought off prior to the million-dollar loan and half-million-dollar "grant."

Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

Wondering about the Atlantic Yards Interim Developer? You're out of luck searching the records of tax haven Delaware

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder probes the murky world of Delaware-based corporations to try to turn up some information on a company set up by Forest City Ratner, which can't possibly share too much information with the public and government officials.

Master Closing documents signed on 12/23/09 make reference to not only the Atlantic Yards Development Company, LLC (AYDC), an affiliate of Forest City Ratner, but also Brooklyn Arena, LLC and AYDC Interim Developer, LLC.

(Click on graphics to enlarge)

How might we learn more about the AYDC Interim Developer? Well, the Master Closing documents tell us more than the Delaware Division of Corporations.

Below is a graphic from the documents, which indicates that various outside investors own 41.76% of the Atlantic Yards Development Company (AYDC), which is a subsidiary of the AYDC Interim Developer, while the managing members of AYDC is a Forest City Ratner affiliate:

Looking to Delaware

More than 50% of all U.S. publicly-traded companies and 63% of the Fortune 500 have chosen Delaware as their corporate home. The state cites "modern and flexible corporate laws, our highly-respected Court of Chancery, a business-friendly State Government, and the customer service oriented Staff of the Delaware Division of Corporations."

Critics like law professor David Brunori say Delaware registration "is a vehicle for avoiding otherwise legitimate tax liabilities at a time when states need money badly.”


NoLandGrab: That's a nice, simple chart, no?

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Mail's In (Nets April Edition)

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

The Star-Ledger's Nets beat reporter answers reader mail.

Hey Dave: Very suspicious about this Prokhorov guy, aren’t you, my man? You just warming up to be the killjoy next year?

Neither, Tully. But even you have to admit this cloying affection he’s received has a Jonestown vibe to it. Obviously, it’s nice to have an owner with a bank account and a competitive nature, and I love the idea of an owner coming from another culture, because that’s what a global league should be about. But it’s not so nice to have an owner who readily admits he could cash out in five years because he’s operating this venture as a business and nothing more – which in the end will look like a metaphorical middle finger directed at his fan base. I’m not naïve enough to think that owners operate their teams as a public trust anymore, but anyone who uses the term “strategic investment” when it comes to sports deserves some strategic skepticism. Let’s just wait to see what he does with management before we pull out the pom-poms: If he brings in his gaggle of junior managers to learn the ropes under Thorn (who, by the way, should be given the courtesy of picking his own staff, if not his successor) this could easily turn into a debacle. It will be Mikky’s first big decision, and it will speak volumes about whether he cares more about “strategic investments” than he does the NBA virtues as tradition, management discipline, team chemistry, fan loyalty, etc.

How quickly Nets fans forget. The current owner is about to divest himself after six years of owning the team — the ultimate "strategic investment" that greased the skids for an epic Brooklyn land grab.

Click thru for more Q & A on the Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov, Bruce Ratner and more.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From Dave D'Alessandro's mailbag: on Prokhorov and the Brooklyn move

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

Finally, the Nets have a prayer! New arena to have ‘meditation’ room

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

Call it Zen and the art of basketball!

The Brooklyn Paper has learned that the Barclays Center will be the first sports arena to feature a meditation chamber — an intriguing element that is one of the few unreported details of the widely covered home of the future Brooklyn Nets.

The concept was envisioned by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, the fiery pastor of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church on Atlantic Avenue, who has played a behind-the-scenes role to acquire various “community benefits” from developer Bruce Ratner.

This meditation room appears to be one of them.

“The idea is to say to people there are values in reflection, contemplation,” explained Daughtry, who gave the convocation at the groundbreaking ceremony for the arena last month.

“Whenever you’re in the arena, you can go to meditate.”

Daughtry suggested that the “meditation room” was a watered-down version of what he initially wanted in the arena: a chapel.

“I got plastered for that,” he said. “You can’t use public funds for religious purposes.”


NoLandGrab: Public funds? Didn't Bruce Ratner famously say that "this isn't a public project?"

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Brooklyn Paper gets all excited about Daughtry's "meditation room" (aka "atrium")

Norman Oder pours a little cold water on The Brooklyn Paper's story.

That link goes back to the Brooklyn Paper's coverage, which neglected to point out Daughtry's claim that the project site was a "long-neglected, rodent-infested, garbage-strewn strip of geography." Nor did the Brooklyn Paper's coverage of the state Senate oversight hearing last May point out Daughtry's regular heckling.

An "atrium" and the CBA

Daughtry has previously (as reported) called it an "atrium," but the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) says "Meditation Room."

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Bookshelf: The Battle for Gotham

Metropolis Magazine
by George Beane

At first glance, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything exemplary in the layout of Willets Point, Queens, with its jumble of auto repair shops, junkyards, and the cars, broken down and not, that litter the spaces between buildings. The city hasn’t built sidewalks there—neither has it installed sewers—so the main drag is both street and sidewalk, and the neighborhood looks more like Mumbai than Queens. When Roberta Brandes Gratz makes that observation in her new book, The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, she means the comparison as a kind of praise, a compliment to the neighborhood’s industriousness and gritty entrepreneurship. Willets Point, like the infamous Dharavi slum outside Mumbai, might be messy, but it’s also, in the best sense of the word, urban.

For the past two decades or so, and particularly since 2001, the city has pursued two alternative and somewhat contradictory paths in its efforts to grow the municipal economy and increase available housing. On the one hand, megaprojects like the new Yankee Stadium, Atlantic Yards, and Columbia University’s proposed Manhattanville campus expansion recall an old-fashioned top-down planning approach, development subsidized by the government and pushed through over local opposition. These projects’ economic gains are conjectured, and almost never examined after their completion. On the other, initiatives like the DOT’s recent expansion of bike lanes and the creation of Hudson River Park, which reclaimed fallow city land and unused piers, invest in the adaptive reuse of existing infrastructure and allow local neighborhoods to flourish. Gratz lauds those projects, condemns the ones she sees as out-of-scale, and suggests an approach to future development that hews closely to her interpretation of Jacobs’s work. In that spirit, she proposes modest infill development to increase density—building on empty lots and changing zoning regulations to encourage growth in the city’s less populous areas.


Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Special Report: Questioning the Status of the Lighthouse Project

Let There Be Light(house)

Islander fans clinging to the idea that their favorite hockey team will end up at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn would do better to hope for a Sunday visit from the Easter Bunny — at least no one's published evidence that the Easter Bunny doesn't exist.

Meanwhile, the only words from Queens and Brooklyn are from inconsequential mouthpieces in each district, such as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and the Queens Chamber of Commerce President. Not one word has come from the horse's mouths except when Bruce Ratner said that it was "unlikely" when citing the Isles to Brooklyn scenario. That could be a clear indication that Wang and company have no interest there and might have shutdown shop until Queens begins in earnest down the road. However, even though Brooklyn has many natural disadvantages, it has one major advantage: the arena is financed and currently under construction. After the painful Lighthouse process, with a better-funded opposition beginning to sharpen its knives in Queens, would Mr. Wang really want to go back to that well?


NoLandGrab: "Unlikely" is one of the truer words Bruce Ratner has ever uttered. And the arena is not yet under construction, nor is it fully financed yet, since arena infrastructure bonds remain unsold.

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

April Fools’ Online Pranks Satirize Atlantic Yards

Is Project Being Stopped To Save Rare Snail? Read On

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Eagle gives more ink to April Fools jokes than it has to the news that Forest City Ratner didn't make a mortgage payment due two weeks ago on one of its Metrotech buildings.

Forest City Ratner’s still-controversial Atlantic Yards development, with its Barclays Center arena as its centerpiece, Thursday served as the inspiration for two April Fools’ pranks.


Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

April 1, 2010

ESDC leader jokes that he'd like to move Atlantic Yards "off our portfolio;" AKRF's tab tops $5 million; new owner's rep signed after conflict

Atlantic Yards Report

This, incredibly, is not an April Fools gag.

Humor, sometimes, masks deep discomfort.

The Atlantic Yards project is apparently such a hot potato that last week Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman-designate Dennis Mullen joked that Atlantic Yards is "a project that I would like to move off our portfolio."

The comment came about 24 minutes into the March 26 ESDC board meeting (agenda, webcast).

The ESDC board and staff had just concluded discussion about the city takeover of Brooklyn Bridge Park, initially a state-city project.

Moving on to AY

"Rachel, you're up," Mullen said, pointing to Rachel Shatz, Director of Planning and Environmental Review. "You're going to talk to us about Atlantic Yards--a project that I would like to move off our portfolio."

There was healthy laughter around the boardroom table in New York.

"No comment," said one person.

More laughter.

"Oh-kay," said Shatz jocularly. "Thank you."

"Did I actually say that out loud?" Mullen mused, on video from the Albany office.

More laughter.


NoLandGrab: Haha! $5 million for AKRF! You're slaying us, ESDC!

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

DDDB's April Fool's joke: "The Arena Can Wait. Affordable Housing Now"

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR, ever the spoilsport. For those of you who haven't bothered to look at the calendar, the mcbrooklyn item below was also dated April 1st.


Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

Forest City Ratner News Release: "The Arena Can Wait. Affordable Housing Now!"

via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This shocking news release from Forest City Enterprises just landed in our mailbox.



The Arena Can Wait. Affordable Housing Now.

Forest City Ratner Prioritizes Affordable Housing
Over Barclays Center Arena
In Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Project

CLEVELAND, Ohio and BROOKLYN, New York - April 1, 2010 - Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCE.A and FCE.B) today announced that the Barclays Center Arena for which it broke ground just three weeks ago, is going on the backburner so the development firm can break ground on the affordable housing units it has long promised to construct for Brooklyn.

Bruce Ratner, chairman and chief executive officer of Forest City Ratner Companies, the company's New York-based subsidiary, and other Forest City executives, were joined by New York Governor David Paterson, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Barclays PLC President Robert E. Diamond, Jr., NETS investor and cultural icon Shawn "JAY-Z" Carter, and many other community leaders to happily announce that they realized the depravity of constructing a money-losing, billion dollar arena in the middle of housing crisis and will immediately commence construction of affordable housing towers.

Bruce Ratner announced, specifically, that all preliminary work on the arena would cease immediately so that the construction crews could begin constrcution of the residential towers, all fourteen of which Ratner said would be built within five years.

Forest City has told Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Sports & Entertainment that Barclays Center may be a good business venture for him and his ownership of the Nets may be good for his portfolio, but that they are sorry, the priority must be housing over bread and circuses.

Click thru for lots more.


Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: Chinese Farmer And Son Light Themselves on Fire To Protest Land Sale, And The Shanghai Bulldozers Pause For Just Two Hours

Business Insider
by Joe Weisenthal

Moral amnesia is one of those signs of a telltale bubble that doesn't show up in official statistics.

When people become indifferent or ignorant about actual human suffering, that might be all you need to know.

So it is with that in mind that we present this Shanghai Daily piece (with key parts bolded by us) that's just chock full of moral amnesia in real-estate crazy China.


Farmer Tao and his 92-year-old father set themselves on fire when a 100-strong team led by a township chief set out to tear down their home and their pig farm.

The farmers had found the compensation they were being offered far too low.

The son died and the father was injured - but, according to Beijing Times, that did little to distract the team from their destructive mission.

Yes, the incident caused a two-hour delay, but the home and the farm were pulled down while the remains of the victim were still lying nearby.

One report suggests that officials there wanted to have the demolition completed before April 1, when a new relocation law would make forced relocation more difficult. This is likely an exaggeration of their respect for law.

That a villager chose to end his life in such a violent way can only dramatize the futility of any resistance.


Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Russian's wealth will be overall Nets gain

Irish Times
by George Kimball

The Irish Times assesses the New Jersey Nets' past, present and future (not an April Fools joke).

The scenario posed by a dodgy Russian zillionaire acquiring a moribund franchise and attempting to buy his way to a championship is, of course, a more familiar tale across the ocean than in the US. And while Prokhorov’s name has been familiar to basketball fans in both Brooklyn and New Jersey since September (when he provisionally acquired an 80 per cent stake in the Nets contingent on his relocating the franchise from the latter to the former), it is safe to say until the 60 Minutes episode aired, most Americans probably thought Prokhorov was the guy who wrote Peter and the Wolf.

Just how thorough this [NBA] “investigation” will be remains to be learned, but since some of the people doing the investigating have fairly checkered pasts of their own, the best guess is: Not Very. Put it this way: neither [NBA Commissioner David] Stern nor any of Prokhorov’s prospective brethren owners seemed disturbed in the least by the revelations of Sunday’s 60 Minutes episode.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Top 10 Real Estate Stocks with Highest Short Interest: JOE, EJ, FCE.A, CHLN, MPG, OHI, FOR, CBG, MGRC, PICO

China Analyst

Below are the top 10 Real Estate stocks with the highest short interest as a percentage of total shares outstanding. Two Chinese companies (EJ, CHLN) are on the list.

The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE) has the 1st highest short interest in this segment of the market. Its short interest is 18.7% of its total shares outstanding. Its Days to Cover is 45.64, calculated as current short interest divided by average daily volume. E-House (China) Holdings Limited (NYSE:EJ) has the 2nd highest short interest in this segment of the market. Its short interest is 9.1% of its total shares outstanding. Its Days to Cover is 6.76, calculated as current short interest divided by average daily volume. Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCE.A) has the 3rd highest short interest in this segment of the market. Its short interest is 8.2% of its total shares outstanding. Its Days to Cover is 10.8, calculated as current short interest divided by average daily volume.


NoLandGrab: The relatively high short interest in FCE is an indication that a goodly number of investors believe the stock is ripe for a fall.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

EPA Orders Atlantic Yards Project Halted as Rare Species Discovered


Adding yet another delay to the Atlantic Yards process, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered all work stopped at the future Barclays Center Arena site after research scientists identified seven rare, endangered, or threatened plant and animal species there, or about 5.5% of the plant population and 1.9% of the fauna.

Forest City Ratner's planned $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project includes a basketball arena plus a number of high-rise buildings.

A two-year study of the site, required by environmental laws but overlooked as developer Bruce Ratner successfully fought off a series of lawsuits centered around eminent domain and other legal issues, came to the surprising conclusion that the immediate area provides critical habitat for several unique wildlife species such as the Chittenango ovate amber snail, in addition to other documented rare and threatened plant species.

The Chittenango snail is New York's most endangered native animal, and was once believed to exist only at Chittenango Falls State Park in Central New York.

"Frankly, we were pretty shocked," said Dr. Fran Milsner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

"This is totally ridiculous," said Robert Pragnetti, one of developer Bruce Ratner's lawyers. "It's a blighted area. We blighted it ourselves. There's no way in the world anything's going to be living there."


Posted by eric at 10:36 AM