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November 30, 2010

N.J. Nets vs. N.Y. Knicks ~ Don't Ignore The Buzz

New York Knicks vs. New Jersey Nets: You're Lying If You Don't Believe There's A Different Buzz About This Now.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger

The naysayers can down-play this all they want. "They" will point to the fact the 6-11 Nets still play in front of sparse crowds in Newark and to their abysmal record last season. The Nets also had their off-season hopes unrealized to a large extent while the Knicks overhauled their roster with 10 new players including Amare Stoudemire. I will cede the fact this is not the sexiest rivalry in the Metro area, the NBA, or in Sports. I know. The fact both franchises have struggled mightily in recent years pretty much means both teams and fan bases are starting from scratch in a sense. The Nets had to dismantle their Conference Championship teams and drifted into obscurity out in the No-Man's MeadowLands. The Knicks' fan base just wanted to get as far away from the Isiah Thomas Inferno as possible. Madison Square Garden even "had to" initiate a complete renovation because of the damage wrought by Demolition Zeke. And of course, the building of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn should not go under-spoken.

What started when Bruce Ratner announced plans to bring the team to Brooklyn was just a flare in the middle of nowhere. No one ever could get a feel for the news with all the "what ifs". But, here we are. I drove by the Barclays site today. There's steal beams rising like mighty Red Woods. We build from this and keep moving forward.


NoLandGrab: [Yawn.] We're sorry — what did you say? [Yawn.] BTB must be mistaking our snoring for buzz.

Posted by eric at 10:48 PM

1,100 Space Parking Lot at Issue in Latest Atlantic Yards Fight

by Noah Kazis

The latest round of the knock-down drag-out fight over the Atlantic Yards project is underway, and it’s all about parking. At issue is a potential 1,100-space surface parking lot that would be located between Pacific and Dean Streets, just west of Vanderbilt Avenue. That lot has been portrayed as temporary, “interim” parking by the Empire State Development Corporation and project developer Forest City Ratner, but could sit there generating traffic for up to 25 years. Last week several groups filed a motion to halt construction until the environmental impacts of the project are studied more fully.

The basic question is whether the environmental review for Atlantic Yards needs reworking in light of the fact that development could take up to 25 years, rather than the ten-year construction schedule originally put forward by ESDC and Ratner. (Be sure to check out the invaluable Norman Oder for all the details.) If construction is really going to take an extra fifteen years, the argument goes, the true impacts on things like traffic, noise, and air quality weren’t ever disclosed, in violation of environmental law. That argument got a boost in the courts a few weeks ago, and the legal battle now hinges on whether or not to halt construction.


Image: Municipal Art Society/Aerial Photo by Jonathan Barkey

Posted by eric at 4:48 PM

Meaningful news on timetable lawsuit and CBA failure, meaningful press avoidance

Atlantic Yards Report

Was it meaningful that two coalitions of civic groups just asked state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman for a stay on Atlantic Yards construction?

Sure. It's a longshot Friedman will stop the arena, but the petitioners--coalitions organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks--have to be taken seriously.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) knew that the project could take 25 years but only studied the impact of the official ten-year construction period.

So the ESDC must either appeal Friedman's stinging November 9 ruling on the project timetable or, more likely, produce a document that claims that a 25-year buildout would create no more burdensome impacts than the ten-year one.

Given the track record of ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF, which always produces the reports its clients want, it's likely such a document can be finessed.

But it's also likely that document will be highly questionable. After all, the state never studied the impact of an "interim" surface parking lot that could last for decades.

Press avoidance

And publications like the Brooklyn Paper and New York Observer, which readily covered the Forest City Ratner press release last week that steel had arrived at the arena site, have so far ignored the latest story on the lawsuit.

The only news outlet to cover it so far is the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, via Ryan Thompson (FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin's favorite reporter), who called the decision an "unusual, but possibly meaningless, legal victory."

No, no matter what happens, it's not meaningless.

Journalists and others who think the Atlantic Yards story is ovah simply have closed their minds.


Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

In request for stay on Atlantic Yards construction, DDDB attorney charges ESDC and FCR with malfeasance, says their lawyers breached ethical conduct

Atlantic Yards Report

A must-read from Norman Oder on yesterday's request by community groups for a stay on all Atlantic Yards construction.

Maybe the Barclays Center arena should never have gotten started.

Maybe the arena construction is proceeding thanks only to the "malfeasance" of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) in withholding the Atlantic Yards Development Agreement until after a crucial court argument in January.

Those are the messages of a blistering legal motion filed by the attorney for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and allied groups, urging state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman to follow up her November 9 ruling on the project timetable and stay construction on the entire project.

Friedman, partly reversing a March 10 decision that endorsed the ESDC's claim that a ten-year buildout of the project was reasonable (despite the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's agreement to allow 22 years to sell FCR Vanderbilt Yard development rights), on November 8 declared that the ESDC had failed to address the impact of the Development Agreement, which it had kept under wraps and which allows 25 years for project construction.

Friedman remanded the proceedings "to ESDC for findings on the impact of the Development Agreement and of the renegotiated MTA agreement on its continued use of a 10 year build-out for the Project, and on whether a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is required or warranted."

Why a stay is needed

Leaving the timetable to the ESDC, however, is not what the petitioners want.

(The parties met this morning with Friedman to establish a hearing schedule in the case; an argument on the motion for a stay, has been scheduled for noon on December 22, though that date is subject to change)

Argues DDDB attorney Jeff Baker in an Affirmation (below), a stay of all construction is needed to maintain the status quo, not just to prevent further harm to the environment, "but to assure that ESDC makes an honest appraisal of the potential environmental impacts of the project and seriously considers the consequences of a 25-year construction schedule."

Baker argues that, had the Development Agreement (referred to as the MDA, or Master Development Agreement), been presented to the court in a timely manner, and had the ESDC and FCR been truthful to the court, the project would not have gone forward without a new evaluation of environmental impact.

And that would have delayed project approval beyond the end-of-2009 deadline to get crucial tax-exempt bonds issued.

“Put simply, the ESDC colluded with Forest City Ratner to deceive the Court. Unless and until the ESDC follows the Court order, any work at the project site would be in violation of state environmental law and an affront to the community that would have to live with Ratner’s developer’s blight for decades,” said DDDB legal director Candace Carponter in a statement.

BrooklynSpeaks, the coalition of groups in a companion case, also filed for a stay.


Related coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Judge Asked to Halt Atlantic Yards Construction

In a last-minute attempt to stop construction at Atlantic Yards, and in connection to some of the last litigation remaining in the courts on the topic, a Brooklyn community group announced Monday that it has filed a motion to halt work on the multibillion dollar project in Prospect Heights.

The motion filed in Manhattan Supreme Court last week asks a judge to order a halt to construction at Atlantic Yards, where an NBA basketball arena for the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets has begun to be built. The motion, which was filed by community groups including Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and BrooklynSpeaks, is in response to an unusual, but possibly meaningless, legal victory that was achieved earlier in the month.

After years of losing litigation battles and many months after a judge ruled against petitioners’ claims that the massive Atlantic Yards project would take much longer than 10 years, a judge now seems to agree and granted a motion to reargue. The next court date is set for Dec. 22.

NoLandGrab: "Possibly meaningless?" One could say the same about ESDC's prior legal victories if Judge Friedman halts construction.

NetsDaily, Critics Try One Last Time to Stop Arena

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Asks Court to Stay All Construction On Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project Site

Current Work on Project Is Illegal Under Court Ruling and State Environmental Law

Court Argument Scheduled for December 22

On Wednesday, November 24, twenty community organizations led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) filed a motion with New York State Supreme Court seeking to halt all construction at developer Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project site.

An argument on the motion for a stay, in front of State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, has been scheduled for noon on December 22nd (that date is subject to change).

The motion for a stay follows the November 9 decision from Justice Friedman finding that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) lacked a rational basis for assuming that Atlantic Yards project would be completed in ten years when the agency approved the project's 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP). Specifically the ESDC hid a key development agreement from the court.

Justice Friedman ordered the ESDC to reconsider the need for a supplemental environmental impact statement based on the 25-year construction schedule provided for in the Development Agreement between ESDC and Forest City Ratner. ESDC had analyzed Atlantic Yards as a 10-year project and repeated this unsupported claim to the court. The Court's order requires a new analysis by the ESDC. Until and unless the ESDC complies with the Court order by undertaking a new analysis of the project's timetable and impacts—with a rational basis—continued work on the project would be illegal under state law.

In the stay motion papers, DDDB attorney Jeffrey S. Baker states that all construction work must stop until ESDC complies with the Court order, to allow work to continue would be "rewarding FCR and ESDC for their malfeasance."

The papers also state that only because Ratner and the ESDC "colluded in their misrepresentations to the Court" could arena construction begin. And that "ESDC failed in its public obligation to evaluate the Project honestly in the context of its known schedule for completion." And that Forest City Ratner, "motivated by profit, used its influence with ESDC to avoid meaningful review, although it never intended to complete the project within the supposed ten-year timeframe and, to the contrary, was actively negotiating contracts providing far longer timeframes."


A stay of all construction is needed to maintain the status quo, not just to prevent further harm to the environment but DDDB argues, "to assure that ESDC makes an honest appraisal of the potential environmental impacts of the project and seriously considers the consequences of a 25-year construction schedule."

One of the key consequences and impacts of a 25-year construction schedule is a paved 1,100 car "interim" surface parking lot taking up much of the second phase of the project site. The ESDC has yet to study and disclose the impacts of such a massive parking lot.

"Put simply, the ESDC colluded with Forest City Ratner to deceive the Court. Unless and until the ESDC follows the Court order, any work at the project site would be in violation of state environmental law and an affront to the community that would have to live with Ratner's developer's blight for decades," said DDDB legal director Candace Carponter.

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

PRESS RELEASE: BrooklynSpeaks sponsors file for stay of construction at Atlantic Yards site

On Wednesday, November 24, several BrooklynSpeaks sponsor organizations filed a motion with New York State Supreme Court seeking to halt construction activities at the Atlantic Yards site. The motion comes after a November 9 decision from Justice Marcy Friedman finding that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) lacked a rational basis for assuming that Atlantic Yards project would be completed in ten years when the agency approved the project’s 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP). Justice Friedman ordered the ESDC to reconsider the need for a supplemental environmental impact statement based on the schedule provisions of the Development Agreement between ESDC and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC). That Agreement was made public only after a January 2010 court hearing during which the ESDC misrepresented its ability under the Development Agreement to ensure Atlantic Yards would be completed within ten years.

BrooklynSpeaks’ motion seeks to stay construction until ESDC has responded to the Court’s order. “Because the ESDC approved the 2009 MGPP without a reasoned basis for assuming Atlantic Yards would be complete in ten years, the agency violated New York State environmental law. As such, the work proceeding at the site now is underway illegally,” said Al Butzel, attorney for the BrooklynSpeaks petitioners. “ESDC and FCRC had a responsibility to disclose the true extent of the renegotiated construction schedule. They should not be rewarded and allowed to continue as if they had complied with the law.”

“If nothing happens, FCRC will soon begin to raze buildings, grade and pave an entire city block in Prospect Heights to create 1,100 parking spaces for arena events,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “Although they say it’s an ‘interim’ parking lot, under the MGPP, it could stay that way for up to 25 years. The State needs to disclose the noise, traffic, and air quality impacts of that likely scenario before moving forward.”

“The difference between 10 and 25 years is a long time to wait for affordable housing,” added Deb Howard, Executive Director of the Pratt Area Community Council. “The Governor and the Governor-elect can no longer ignore the fact that a State authority, appointed by the executive, has misrepresented a major development project to the Court and to the people of New York State. The ESDC has abdicated its obligations to the public purse and the public interest. Now it’s time for the Governor to put the interests of the people above those of a powerful real estate developer and commit to reform of Atlantic Yards governance.”


Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Mangone Pleads Guilty to Bribing Annabi-More Indictments Coming

Rising Times

U. S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced this week that disgraced Westchester attorney, and political operative Anthony Mangone pled guilty in Federal Court to conspiracy, bribery, extortion, and tax evasion charges. In his allocution of guilt before Judge Judge George A. Yanthis, Mangone confessed that he and Zehy Jereis has given former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi $40,000 in cash to influence Annabi’s vote regarding the Longfellow development project with Milio Brothers Developers. Annabi has pled not guilty and has continued to proclaim her innocence.

Mangone, Annabi and Jereis were indicted last January and charged with conspiracy, bribery, and extortion in connection with the Longfellow development project, and the Ridge Hill Development project. Annabi was also charged with giving false statements, corruption and tax evasion.

No information was provided by the Feds on what Mangone has told prosecutors about Longfellow and Ride Hill, providing Annabi with cash and gifts, and any other information he may know about Westchester politics and the court. These sealed records will be opened once Mangone is charged in March of next year.

Prosecutors also allege that Annabi switched her vote on the Ridge Hill project only after Jereis was awarded a $60,000 consulting contract by Ridge Hill developers Forest City Ratner. Jereis is alleged to have made over $100,000 in payments to Annabi over her years on the council.


Related coverage...

Talk of the Sound, Coincidence? Plea Deal in Forest City Ratner Investigation Just One Day After Ground Breaking Ceremony at Ridge Hill

Ceremonial shovels finally hit the ground at Ridge Hill development

Elected officials and developers wielded polished steel ceremonial shovels yesterday not far from where Whole Foods and L.L Bean stores will rise as part of the Ridge Hill project, this city's biggest redevelopment project to date.

Lawyer in Yonkers-Forest City Corruption Case Pleads Guilty

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ANTHONY MANGONE pled guilty today in White Plains federal court to conspiracy, bribery, extortion, and tax evasion charges.

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Sextet mugs duo

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Everyday is "Black Friday" (for crooks, anyway) at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls.

Secret swipes

The Victoria’s Secret inside the troubled Atlantic Terminal mall on Flatbush Avenue was too hot for cops to handle this week. Here’s why:

• A devil with a taste for women’s delicates swiped more than $2,000 in merchandise from the lingerie store between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue on Nov. 27.

Twenty miracle bras and 100 lacy thongs were taken as holiday shoppers converged on the store at 9:40 am, police were told.

• A thief swiped a woman’s purse as she shopped inside the same store on Nov. 26. The woman’s bag was hanging from her baby’s stroller when it was taken at 4:35 pm, but was found in a trashcan a short time later — stripped of cash and credit cards.


Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], This Week in Crime: Impounded Car Stolen from Precinct

-A woman was walking home from Atlantic Terminal on Lafayette Avenue on Nov. 15. She noticed an unknown man following her at around 3 a.m. As she walked, another man crossed Cumberland Street, grabbed her from behind, and demanded that she get down on the ground and be quiet, police said. The first man grabbed the victim’s bag and ran. A 16-year-old suspect was arrested. The victim was not injured and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office released no information on charges against the suspect.

-An unknown suspect removed credit and debit cards from a woman’s bag at the Atlantic Center Mall on Nov. 19 at 5 p.m.

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

The Knicks Aren’t About to Let the Nets Claim Brooklyn for Themselves

New York Magazine
by Joe DeLessio

More Knicks vs. Nets foolishness.

Remember how, back during the height of LeBronmaina, the Nets erected a billboard near Madison Square Garden with the heading "The Blueprint for Success?" It appears the time has come for the Knicks to fight back with some targeted marketing of their own. Earlier this month, the Knicks erected a Brooklyn-specific billboard just blocks from Atlantic Yards, the future site of the Nets' new arena. (You can read about the billboard here; just don't spend too much time reflecting on this quote, from a concerned hoops fan from Bed-Stuy: "Putting a billboard up like that so close to the Barclays Center, it's like putting a mosque near Ground Zero. I'm up in arms about this.") Then over the weekend, MSG — which, like the Knicks, is owned by the Dolans — aired a commercial for tomorrow's Knicks-Nets game in which the narrator explains, "Hey Nets, you can walk like us, you can talk like us, but you ain't never gonna be like us." Your move, Prokhorov.


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

In The Footprint

Soundcheck [WNYC Radio, FM 93.9]

Tuesday, November 30, 2010, 2 p.m.

The Atlantic Yards project began with grand ambitions for a basketball arena, skyscrapers and housing in Brooklyn. It ended up dividing communities – and inspiring a musical called “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards.” Writer and director Steven Cosson and composer Michael Friedman talk about turning community activism and state-agency acronyms into music. And, the cast performs songs from the show live in our studio.


Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

November 29, 2010

FCR lies about Community Benefits Agreement, claims it went into effect only when arena broke ground, avoids hiring Independent Compliance Monitor

Atlantic Yards Report

Given that the controversial Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is such a big part of the argument in favor of the project, as suggested in The Civilians' new play, IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, the CBA is worth another look.

Notably, developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) recently lied, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that the CBA--signed more than five years ago--went into effect only when the arena broke ground this past March. (The FCR statement is on video below.)

Moreover, the developer claims that there's no need yet to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM) to provide a credible outside analysis of the CBA, despite provisions in the document to hire one "[a]s soon as reasonably practicable."

Instead of hiring an ICM, a process that began three years ago but was apparently put on hold, Forest City Ratner instead relies on its own subcontractor, Darryl Greene and his firm, The Darman Group. And Greene has such criminal baggage he was forced to withdraw from a widely-criticized bid for the Aqueduct "racino."


NoLandGrab: We bet those CBA signatories are feeling pretty good about Forest City's promises right about now.

Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

New City Reader: Sidewalk Sale

Design Observer
by Alexandra Lange

I was reminded of her song the other day, when I took the bus to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Center Mall, across the street from the hole in the ground that will one day be the Barclays Center. Groundbreaking for the project happened on March 11, 2010. So much organization, demonstration and emotion had gone in to preventing that day from happening; so much organization, calculation and presentation had gone in to making it happen. In the aftermath, what is there?

On my most recent visit the first thing I noticed was that the sidewalks had in fact been sold, in the sense that they had disappeared. Pedestrians can no longer walk along the south side of Atlantic Avenue, as that side of the street has disappeared behind jersey barriers and a construction vehicle lane that extends from Flatbush past Sixth Avenue. The short section of Fifth Avenue that used to connect Park Slope directly to the Atlantic Center Mall (without going all the way around the triangle at Atlantic and Flatbush) is gone, as is the Carlton Avenue bridge. The train cut, properly called the Vanderbilt Yard, was always a psychological moat. Now it is a physical one too.

On the Flatbush side of the point, the sidewalk has simply been halved, creating a tight corridor between the onrush of traffic and the high construction fence, all the way to Dean Street. The first block of Pacific, as promised, has disappeared. You can barely hear the excavation over the traffic and can’t see it at all. If you loop around to Pacific on Dean, you find trash and sticklike trees, and a general sense of neglect. No one cares about this street anymore.

If you just moved to the area, the arena might sound like a good idea. Anything would be better than this. What was everyone fighting so hard to save? In the meantime, the rest of us hurry by on the little sidewalk we have left.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, "Sidewalk Sale": A critic's observant walk around the Atlantic Yards site

In a smartly observant essay headlined Sidewalk Sale, published initially in the New Museum's broadsheet New City Reader, critic Alexandra Lange (notable for her Design Observer takedown of Nicolai Ouroussoff this past winter), takes a walk around the Atlantic Yards site.

Among her observations:

  • "the sidewalks had in fact been sold, in the sense that they had disappeared"
  • the railyard, "properly called the Vanderbilt Yard, was always a psychological moat. Now it is a physical one too."
  • the name Atlantic Yards has "vanished," supplanted by Barclays Center, "a name designed for TV, for overhead blimp shots of the 'helmet,' (which the new arena design clearly resembles)."

(I'm pretty sure Atlantic Yards isn't completely gone, and that there are plans to play it up after the arena's established.)

"Downtown Brooklyn"

And Lange agrees that p.r. and uncritical press coverage located the buildings in "Downtown Brooklyn" in order to:

naturalize the height of Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn tower, and invoking the threat of eminent domain to argue that they would be saving a blighted area.

Everything possible was done to ignore the real context, the adjacent neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, which look better today than they did in 2003.

Posted by eric at 9:10 AM

Knicks or Nets? Yawn.

The Brooklyn Paper

Two bloggers, who blog about the Knicks and Nets, debate why Brooklynites should root for their respective teams, in a waste of Brooklyn Paper bandwidth.

Nets will become Brooklyn
by Jaime Oppenheim

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minor owner Jay-Z speak the borough’s language: swagger. They are unapologetically and unrelentingly authentic in everything they do. The duo’s “Blueprint for Greatness” marketing campaign had less to do with puffery and more to do with stating intentions. The Nets are going to reach the same heights Prokhorov and Jay-Z have reached in building their respective empires. It’s not arrogance, it’s confidence. It’s Brooklyn.

In the end, the battle for Brooklyn’s basketball fandom isn’t likely to be determined on the court. Neither the Nets nor the Knicks are poised for substantial success in the immediate future. Your basketball allegiance will come down to which organization you feel most connected to. When the Nets move into the Barclays Center in 2012, their foundation will settle deep into Brooklyn’s soil, all the way down to the open wound left when the Dodgers were uprooted and moved to Los Angeles over 50 years ago.

NoLandGrab: Authentic? Like dropping Shawn Carter for Jay-Z?

Nets are carpetbaggers
by Mike Kurylo

In order to convince Brooklynites to stay loyal to the New York Knicks, I could portray the New Jersey Nets as “carpetbaggers.” The Reconstruction-era term describes those that move to a new location to exploit the locals. I could mention that the Nets are unstable with regards to their location, having multiple homes during their short existence (Long Island Arena, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Rutgers Athletic Center, and Izod Center). I could imply that Brooklyn will be their new home until their next new home, and like the Dodgers before them they could head for another city. I could mention the Nets miserable history, and as bad as the Knicks have been recently the Nets have been worse. Just last year, the Nets lost a franchise high 70 games.

Posted by eric at 8:52 AM

November 28, 2010

Arena/ A.R.E.A Bagel Battle Back On?

Here's Park Slope

You may remember the battle that raged back in 2007 over the naming of a new bagel place on the north end of Fifth Avenue "Arena Bagels." Some area residents were so up in arms over the Atlantic Yards project that they refused to support any business alluding to it, even if there was no direct connection. After some time owner Ravi Aggarwal finally decided to relent and rename the shop A.R.E.A Bagels, which it's remained ever since.

Old habits die hard, though, and Ravi's always resented being "pushed around" into changing his bagel store's name. I noticed this sign in the window the other day:


NoLandGrab: And maybe Bruce Ratner will buy all his bagels there.

Posted by eric at 9:49 PM

New Jersey Nets: 3 Men Get Thorn Out

Bleacher Report
by Leslie Monteiro

Former Nets President Rod Thorn must really miss working with marketing "genius" Brett Yormark.

When Rod Thorn left the Nets this summer, something was not right. He would not have left the franchise in turmoil. He's not a quitter.

Thorn was eager to work for Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets' new owner. He knew he could win with the billionaire's money. Unfortunately, that marriage was shorter than Tony Parker and Eva Longoria's.

When Thorn took the Sixers job this summer, people had questions about his decision. The answer came when he told New York Post's Peter Vecsey that he hated working for Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

Yormark fired back, saying the Nets have work to do after Rod's 12-70 season last year. Those were fighting words by both men, and it became clear that Thorn's departure was ugly.

Yormark's assertion on Thorn is amusing. Only he knows why he thinks he is the expert. He was hired to market the team, but he failed miserably. Now he thinks he can operate a franchise?

If one guy has to go, it's Yormark. He embarrassed the organization by yelling at a fan last year. He ripped fans for not going to games. He did everything possible to alienate people in New Jersey by marketing to New Yorkers.

What does Prokhorov see in him? Yormark has done a fine job of BSing his way for years. He is part of the problem. Unless he goes, this franchise will go nowhere.


Posted by eric at 9:35 PM

On Flatbush Avenue, small plazas slated for an upgrade; unlike plaza slated for arena block, this involved community consultation

Atlantic Yards Report

The (temporary) plaza planned for the Atlantic Yards arena block isn't the only plaza along Flatbush Avenue that's getting a makeover.

Several small plazas at the intersections of Flatbush and four cross streets, from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue, are getting makeovers.

And these makeovers come about via a much different process, a public charrette, meetings with the public.

The Atlantic Yards plaza was dispensed from on high, though the decisionmaking process was discussed by developer Forest City Ratner and Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects.

The meeting on the Flatbush plazas was held on September 28, one day before the arena plaza event, at a joint meeting of the Transportation Committees of Community Boards 6 and 8.

More from Brownstoner here.

From the BID

As stated on the North Flatbush Business Improvement District (BID) site:

On Tuesday, September 28, NY Department of Transportation Downtown Brooklyn Coordinator, Christopher Hrones, unveiled the new conceptual designs for the corridor along Flatbush Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to Plaza Street. These conceptual designs calls for the transformation of the 6, 7 and 8 Avenue Triangles into public space and the redesign of the Carlton Avenue for pedestrian safety.

This plan came out of a charette the BID hosted in June 2008 partnering with Project for Public Space. With a grant from SBS, The North Flatbush Avenue BID hired New York based urban landscape designers, W-Architecture and landscape LLP. Now with almost 3 million in capital funding, DOT has contributed conceptual plans for the 6th, 7th and 8th Avenue Triangle parks as well as the small Carlton Avenue triangle.

Many of the plans calls for expanding the triangle, adding new planters, benches, tables and chairs, bike racks and reconfiguration of the 6th Avenue Victorian clock. In the future, the BID hopes to host events and sidewalk fairs in these public spaces.


Posted by steve at 9:52 AM

A New Push to Rescue Xanadu Mall Project

The New York Times
By Charles V. Bagli

This article is about the hurdles faced by attempts to resume the stalled construction of Xanadu, a retail and entertainment mall in New Jersey.

Noted is the difficult faced by Forest City in finding tenants for the Ridge Hill project being constructed.

The retail environment is particularly challenging. In nearby Yonkers, Forest City Ratner has leased only 35 percent of its 1.2-million-square-foot retail and entertainment complex at Ridge Hill, while another developer, O’Neil Properties Group, is marketing its recreation and retail project 30 minutes south of Manhattan in Sayreville, N.J.


NoLandGrab: A A list of tenants on the Ridge Hill web site confirms that there's not so much demand for new retail space lately.

Posted by steve at 9:42 AM

November 27, 2010

Flashback: How scout Khalid Green got hired by the Nets; his father's Ratner connection made the difference for a successful high school coach

Atlantic Yards Report

I missed this when it was announced, but veteran Bishop Loughlin basketball coach Khalid Green, son of longtime Assemblyman Roger Green, a leading local political backer of Atlantic Yards when it was announced in 2003, got a job two years ago as a scout for the Nets.

And his father helped connect him to the job.

All evidence suggest Khalid Green, as a successful high school coach, was qualified, but, as with so much about Atlantic Yards, it sure helps to know the right people to nudge ahead on the line.

(Remember how former Forest City Ratner point man Jim Stuckey said in 2005 that he didn't know whether railyard contract McKissack & McKissack was chosen by a bidding process?)

As No Land Grab's Lumi Rolley pointed out two years ago, "A 'casual introduction' to Bruce Ratner is one of those tangible 'community benefits' of the Atlantic Yards project."


Posted by steve at 8:19 AM

The latest from Atlantic Yards

A Daily Photo of Brooklyn, New York

Things are happening at Atlantic Yards; construction proceeds. A guy who was taking pictures next to me can’t wait for the sports arena to be finished. He was telling his friend that he can practically hear the sound of a bouncing basketball.


NoLandGrab: If you wait for those quieter moments, you can hear the sucking sound of all the city and state subsidies being siphoned off for an arena that will provide no economic benefit.

Posted by steve at 7:50 AM

New York Photos of the Week Nov 13 - Nov 26

The Wall Street Journal

The first steel beams are erected at the Barclays Center at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Roughly 10,500 tons of steel will be used in creating a new arena for the New Jersey Nets. (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


Posted by steve at 7:43 AM

November 26, 2010

Coming soon? Still waiting for Best of Brooklyn web site

Atlantic Yards Report

The web site for Marty Markowitz's not-so-transparent Best of Brooklyn charity (logo at right) is apparently "coming soon," I wrote in February 2009.



NoLandGrab: 1,131 days and counting.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

A thrilling look at a boro haul

NY Post
by Frank Scheck

Even by the daunting standards they've set for themselves, the Civilians' latest effort is a stretch. "In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards" is the musical-theater equivalent of years' worth of news about the Brooklyn development. In documentary-theater style, the show details the uproar caused by Bruce Ratner's plan to develop 22 acres of downtown Brooklyn for high-rise housing and a sport arena.

It's complicated, but the show, written and staged by Steven Cosson, makes it go down easy, helped along by Michael Friedman's jaunty score.

Performed just several blocks away from the project site itself, "Footprint" is as entertaining as it is enlightening. Clearly impassioned, it never stoops to polemics.


Related coverage...

The American Scholar, Tales of ‘South Pacific’

Ukulele Ike is my favorite symbol of the era when the point of a musical was the star, not the story, and I thought of him last week when the ultimate opposite of those shows opened at a theater in Brooklyn. In the Footprint dramatizes the long community fight over a plan to develop a 22-acre tract, called Atlantic Yards, into a complex of tall buildings that would tower over Brooklyn’s nearby residential neighborhoods.

Its songs and monologues are drawn from hundreds of interviews with residents, businessmen, politicians, legislators, lawyers, state and city officials, activists, and bloggers who have been involved for much of the past decade in a textbook case of urban land use. Public agencies mentioned in the show’s songs include the New York State Urban Development Corporation, and one song explains the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, concluding with the phrase “And that’s how eminent domain works.” Definitely not a ukulele act.

NetsDaily, A Musical About Atlantic Yards Critics? Surely We Jest? Nope

"We laughed, we cried, we sang about ULURP." (That's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, for the uninitiate.)

That seems to be the general consensus about a new theatrical production, indeed a musical, that tries to tell the story of the Atlantic Yards controversy, going back to 2004. That's when Bruce Ratner bought the Nets and announced he was moving them to Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

In general, reviews of "In the Footprint," are positive, with the New York Times' Charles Isherwood offering what must be considered a rave, calling it "fresh, inventive and frankly as entertaining as any new work of musical theater to open this fall."

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

Hoop Dreams: Steel Erection Going Up at Ratner's Barclays Center

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Here's a story we failed to observe on Tuesday.

The Atlantic Yards play opened last night in Brooklyn, but the real drama is onsite at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic. A ballet of steel beams is dancing as the arena-that-almost-wasn't gets underway. No more digging, no more demolishing—it's all up from here for the SHoP-designed Barclays Center, the future home the Brooklyn Nets.

A spokesman for developer Forest City Ratner said the project remains on schedule, meaning it should be finished by the summer of 2012, with time to spare before the start of the season. Plans also remain in place to unveil designs for the first apartment tower early next year and to break ground on that project, which would be 50 percent affordable, by the summer. A second tower will follow six to nine months after that. Ratner is still seeking financing for the project, including the somewhat controversial EB-5 visa program, which is still awaiting federal approval.


NoLandGrab: Unless, of course, project opponents succeed in their quest for a stay on further construction. Then all bets are off.

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Two front pages, two weeks apart, two AY stories

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper cover this week. (Click on images to enlarge.)

The Brooklyn Paper front page two weeks ago.

Draw your own conclusions.


Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

No gravy this year, just Russian dressing (the gravy was used up on Forest City Ratner's taxpayer gravy train). Here we are, nearly seven years after Ratner announced his project, and all we know is that the developer is building the money-losing arena he promised with no other promises on the horizon. Instead, we have 22 acres of developer's blight.

On a more serious note, we offer our gratitude at this time of thanks giving to all of our supporters over the past 7+ years.

We wish you and your loved ones a very happy holiday.


NoLandGrab: Right back at ya, DDDB!

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

In the latest issue of Marty's promotional Brooklyn!! "newspaper," some Nets cheerleading but no mention of "In the Footprint"

Atlantic Yards Report

Maybe the best way to analyze Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional "newspaper" Brooklyn!! (latest issue embedded below) is to consider it a giant block association newsletter, with Markowitz as the president of the confederation of block associations.

A year ago, I pointed out (as in the past) that Brooklyn!! avoided any mention of Atlantic Yards. That's not so this issue.

Brooklyn Beat

Nudging up against mention of the Homecrest Senior Health Fair, the Borough President’s Latino Heritage celebration, and the participation of Randazzo’s Clam Bar at the Grand Central Oyster Bar's “Oyster Frenzy" in a page labeled headlined Brooklyn Beat, we learn:

Net’s [sic] new coach Avery “Little General” Johnson (center, back row) met with students of MS 51 in Park Slope to talk about positive choices and let kids know that they can “get to the next level.” He also encouraged his future fan base in Brooklyn to get ready to cheer for future NBA champions, the Brooklyn Nets!

The September visit prompted a dubious photo and caption in the New York Times. (How to "get to the next level"? The story of the Nets and Atlantic Yards offers numerous avenues surely not explored by the coach.)

Notably, Markowitz eschews the opportunity to recommend to fellow Brooklynites that they might learn something by going to see The Civilians' somewhat less rah-rah performance of IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards. Instead, he takes the safe route and recommends The Nutcracker.


NoLandGrab: Around here, we're thankful for Norman Oder — and that January 1, 2014 is only 1,132 days away.

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Those Who Fight Back Get Trampled in In the Footprint

The L Magazine
by Henry Stewart

In the Footprint is necessary viewing for every Brooklynite and, really, every American—it's a Times-hating, Markowitz-trashing People's History of the Atlantic Yards Project that lays out, in plain and often emotional terms, a decade of corruption, activism and David-and-Goliath loggerheads. Structured as vignettes punctuated with musical numbers, this patchworked political vaudeville is relevant in a way that theater rarely is; it feels not only of the general moment but current up-to-the-second, as if revisions are made every night based on refreshed RSS feeds. The show digs into the ongoing development of Prospect Heights' prime-real-estate rail yards (and the surrounding blocks) from every conceivable angle—from barbershop banter to an open letter by Jonathan Lethem—addressing gentrification, racial tension, class divisions, democratic process, the mechanisms of capital investment, and more. Banks' "red lines" are explained. So is ULURP—in song! It's stirring, rousing and overwhelming: it makes you want to chain yourself to a fence, lie down in front of a crane, spit in Marty Markowitz's face, or bury your head in your hands and cry.

The show tackles basic American values: it's about ordinary people fighting to preserve their homes and the thuggish capitalism that negates the democratic ideals we profess as a country to hold dear. (The sparsely used songs by Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson's Michael Friedman are usually civic-minded, explaining bureaucratic or socioeconomic issues in a vernacular style, adopting tricky rhythms and non-singsong lyrics while maintaining a catchy charm.) The show's smart enough not to embrace a too-simplistic moral binary of developer vs. everyman—the righteous heroism of Hagan and Goldstein, for example, is called into question in a late scene. But, in the end, In the Footprint creates a damning and cynical portrait of Brooklyn-New York politics that feels easily extendable to represent all of America. The fate of 900 people stands in for the fate of a community, of a county, of a city, of a country—where the interests of the wealthy steamroll those of the working-class, and those fighting back are as fucked as those already trampled.


Related coverage...

Sean Elder, Mad all over

Ever been to see a play, staged a block from your house, about an issue that you were personally engaged in for five years? Neither had I. But having just come back from In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards at the Irondale Center, next to the Lafayette Presbyterian Church, was kind of like having personal history repeat itself, practically in my bedroom.

As my wife said when we went to see Fair Game, the movie about the Valerie Plame affair, “It makes you mad all over again.”

Difference was we weren’t personally involved in the hoax the Bush administration concocted to get us into Iraq, and 100,000 lives and a half a trillion dollars weren’t lost in the battle with Bruce Ratner over Atlantic Yards. Just a neighborhood or two, a poignant fact captured terrifically by the six cast members of In the Footprint.

The whole side-splitting, gut-wrenching tale is brought to quick life, and early death (kind of like the Atlantic end of Fifth Avenue) — we were out of there in under two hours. That was about the time that Ratner, Bloomberg, Pataki and all the other crooks who concocted this canard thought it would take them to run away with a big chunk of BK real estate. As members of the advisory board of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, we helped slow them down; I was instrumental in getting Jonathan Lethem involved (he is represented in the play), and we hosted a fundraiser at our house, featuring readings by Jhumpa Lahiri and Jennifer Egan that raised nearly 25 grand for the legal battle against Ratner and his take-it-and-like project. But that kind of money is peanuts to people like him and the Russian billionaire who helped salvage the deal.

Which is precisely the point.

NYTimes.com, Theater Talkback: Giving Thanks in a Thankless Season

Times theater critic Charles Isherwood gives thanks for current theater productions that aren't turkeys.

Last but by no means least, the enterprising troupe the Civilians reminded us that great theater in New York City is not confined to the narrow strip of self-absorption known as Manhattan. “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards,” the company’s entertaining, insight-rich show about the controversial redevelopment plan in Brooklyn, restored my faith in the ability of theater artists to engage meaningfully with the world, here and now.

New York Magazine, Theater Review: In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, is Social Theater At Its Best

Ideals aside, we all know we're puppets of forces much larger than our little selves. So it's comforting, when Big Money rips a big hole in Brooklyn, to see docu-theater troupe The Civillans rush in like avenging macrophages, to fill the bleeding void with smart art. In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards is a thoughtful, head-and-heart history of the mostly-disastrous Nets stadium development project, and the latest work of Civilians artistic director Steve Cosson, co-writer Jocelyn Clarke, and composer-adjutant Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, This Beautiful City).

Deploying their time-tested techniques--i.e. performing in spoken-word, scene and song the unexpurgated text of interviews conducted by company members with a wide variety of citizens, civil servants and partisans on all sides--the Civs sort through the fallout from the largest eminent domain seizure (and mass relocation of city residents) since the Robert Moses era: The half-shadowy, half-hapless, distinctly Iraq-era push to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn and restore "dignity" to a borough that's been scoreless since the Dodgers bounced in 57. (Oh, and plus: Condos!)

Footprint is social theater at its querulous best, picking up the significant slack left by a vitiated journalism.

BroadwayWorld.com, The Civilians Host IN THE FOOTPRINT Benefit 12/1

The renowned, investigative theatre company The Civilians - whose newest work IN THE FOOTPRINT: THE BATTLE OVER ATLANTIC YARDS - will host a benefit performance of the play on Wednesday, December 1 at 8 pm at the Irondale Center (85 S. Oxford St.) in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

The event -- entitled "A Celebration of Brooklyn Artists and Writers" - will begin at 6:30pm with a wine and hors d'oeuvres reception followed by a performance of IN THE FOOTPRINT.

The host committee for the December 1 event includes Brooklyn-based artists and writers Jennifer Egan (Found Objects), Laurie Eustis (of Lapham's Quarterly), Amitav Ghosh (Sea of Poppies), actor Logan Marshall-Green (TV's Dark Blue), Emily Mortimer (Match Point and Lovely and Amazing), Pulitzer-Prize winner Lynn Nottage (Ruined) and Academy Award-winner Marisa Tomei.

Tickets to the benefit are $100 (including a tax-deductible donation of $75) and can be reserved by calling 718 230 3330 or online at www.thecivilians.org.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

Is the Domino Developer Out of Money?

The L Magazine
by Henry Stewart

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo as the yardstick for bait-and-switch development projects.

Last week, a rumor circulated suggesting that CPCR might not have the resources to continue with the Domino project—rumors that the developer denied. "There is absolutely no validity to those rumors," Richard Edmonds, a spokesman for the Domino project, wrote in an email. "Domino is proceeding on schedule, with a groundbreaking on the upland parcel in late 2011."

As CPCR fought for zoning changes that would allow its 2,200-unit, 11.2-acre project to move forward, many in the community worried that the developer might win approval but then sell the project to another developer. CPCR promised a generous 30 percent affordable housing component to the project—well-above the 20 percent required by law, which helped to win it the support of many local groups—but only as a non-legally binding promise of the sort a cash-strapped developer could later go back on, particularly under pressure from a new business partner.

These aren't the only promises on which CPCR could renege. Consider the five blocks of promised waterfront-parkland that would provide access to that part of the East River in Brooklyn for the first time in roughly 100 years. That could, conceivably, be scrapped as a result of "financial strain." Preserving the historic DOMINO sign—another CPCR promise—could be deemed too costly; retaining noted architect Rafael Vinoly's design could prove unduly pricey and be replaced with something even more garish. (Something similar happened with Atlantic Yards when the Frank Gehry design that helped win the project approval was eventually scrapped, because of "cost concerns," in exchange for a brutish concrete slab.)


Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

Frank Gehry Doesn't Like Donald Trump's Hair

by Jen Chung

These two kind of deserve each other, no?

The Observer accompanied architect Frank Gehry on a visit to Beekman Tower, the luxury residential skyscraper at 8 Beekman Street. Apparently Gehry told developer Bruce Ratner to make the building shorter than the Trump World Tower, so they wouldn't have to deal with Donald Trump (Beekman Tower ended up being taller). And Gehry added that after he turned down a Trump project, they were once at the same function, "I tried to shake his hand and he said, 'I don't talk to people like you.' So he doesn't talk to me... I don't care... I don't like his hairdo anyway." Trump told the Observer, "Maybe I just don't find him interesting. It doesn't mean I don't like him."


Posted by eric at 9:17 AM

November 24, 2010

Elevator provides lift for this thug

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

The erection of steel for Bruce Ratner's basketball arena is hardly the only crime in the neighborhood.

Purse pluck

A sticky-fingered hoodlum stole a woman’s handbag on Nov. 19 at the notorious Atlantic Center mall.

The victim told cops that she was in the Marshall’s inside the mall between Fort Greene Place and S. Portland Avenue at around 5 pm when the thief reached into her bag to take a digital camera and some credit cards.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Steel goes up at arena site, Markowitz proclaims full project benefits await, DDDB will seek stay on construction

Atlantic Yards Report

As predicted by Forest City Ratner officials, they've ordered steel for the Barclays Center arena, and erection of the steel began yesterday, according to a Nets press release.

From developer Bruce Ratner:

“The installation of steel is always a major milestone for a construction project,” said Mr. Ratner. “With the foundation work largely done, we are now poised to go vertical. Over the next several months, the Barclays Center will begin to take on the iconic shape that we believe will make the arena a worldwide destination and Brooklyn an international city.”

And Marty Markowitz takes the opportunity to leap, without foundation, from arena progress to project fruition:

“Progress on the Barclays Center spells great things for Brooklyn and its future,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “This project will bring jobs, affordable housing and economic opportunity, as well as a triumphant return to major league sports for the greatest fans in the world—Brooklynites.”

NetsDaily rounds up the ritual coverage.


The Brooklyn Paper, Ratner is finally a man of steel as first girders go up

Project opponents were far less effusive about the work — particularly in light of a recent court ruling that found that the state agency overseeing the development withheld information to avoid having to examine the project’s negative impacts.

“We believe that they have no business going forward,” said Candace Carponter, the legal director for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which has opposed the development. “They are rushing to get as much in the ground as they can before we seek a stay from the court.”

NY1, Steel Beams Rise At Site Of New Brooklyn Arena

Prospect Heights Patch, Steel is Erected

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], Nets Brooklyn arena finally taking shape

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Barclays Arena ‘Goes Vertical’

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

From theater critics, "In the Footprint" draws mostly raves; no one agrees with Brooklyn Paper's claim that play would "appall" project opponents

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, after a dubious pan by the Community Newspaper Group's Gersh Kuntzman (oddly and hastily endorsed by the Observer) and my mixed but appreciative review, theater critics are pretty much raving about IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, by The Civilians.

The key review, from the New York Times's Charles Isherwood, sums it up:

This simple, scruffy-looking but smartly put-together production, written and directed by Steve Cosson and featuring songs by Michael Friedman (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”), is as fresh, inventive and frankly as entertaining as any new work of musical theater to open this fall.

TheaterMania's review calls the show "often-compelling" though it acknowledges the challenges:

There's a lot of matreial here to squeeze into 100 minutes, and while director Steven Cosson does an admirable job, the staging can feel unfocused.

Critic Aaron Riccio writes on his That Sounds Cool blog:

It is also one of the year's most sincere, clever, and enjoyable shows, period.


Related coverage...

The New York Times, A Brooklyn Civics Lesson, Offered in Word and Song

As subjects for musical comedy go, it would be hard to fathom anything less promising than the legal intricacies of the concept of eminent domain. Or, for that matter, the socioeconomic diversity of the crazy quilt of Brooklyn neighborhoods. The great Stephen Sondheim himself might find it tricky work to make lyrical magic of the relationships among the various civic entities charged with approving land-use deals in New York City.

Yet these matters are rhapsodized in song with style and wit in the spirited new show from the Civilians, “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards,” which opened on Monday night at the Irondale Arts Center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, within a demolition ball’s swing of the site in contention.

It is not hard to discern where the sympathies of the show’s creators ultimately lie. Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president who was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the multibillion-dollar redevelopment proposal, is depicted as a yapping basketball. Frank Gehry, the renowned architect whose signature pencil-shaving design for the arena is represented by a twirling disco ball, is heard pontificating fatuously about his “iconic” buildings in Spain and Los Angeles and the tower he refers to as “Miss Brooklyn,” one of more than a dozen in the original plans.

As for Bruce Ratner, the prominent developer behind the project — let’s just say that should anyone offer Mr. Ratner a pair of tickets to the show, he would be wise to decline. Mr. Ratner might be marginally more welcome at a Nets game in New Jersey this season.

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

...the real stars of the show are local residents, who were interviewed by The Civilians, a self-described investigative theater company that incorporated the neighbors’ words into the script and into lyrics.

“I felt that a play could tell that story in a different way than a newspaper article or journalism,” said Steve Cosson, the director and co-writer. “Since a play is social and it brings an audience in, and it’s a community experience, I just think there’s a particular value to the art form.”

WNYC Radio, Atlantic Yards Gets Musical Treatment

For this production, the actors were also the reporters. Greg McFadden plays half a dozen characters, including Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz and architect Frank Gehry. He interviewed all the people that he plays on the show and said he tried to absorb everything, from their beliefs to the rhythm of their voice. “It’s nerve racking to portray someone who is a real person and who is going to come see what you’re doing with their words and their cause and their life really,” he said. “So you try to be as faithful as you can to them.”

Cosson says that if the play sounds too much like reality, well, that is the idea. “It’s not a satire, it’s not a sketch comedy, it’s all authentic. It’s all people represented by actors, but real people are fascinating idiosyncratic creatures.”

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

The Amanda Burden Open Space Award sets a new standard; could the Atlantic Yards plaza be a "signature public space"?

Atlantic Yards Report

Honestly, we thought this story had to be from The Onion.

The Urban Land Institute (ULI), a developer-led organization, this year gave its first Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award, named for and supported by the Chairperson of New York City's Department of City Planning. (The brochure is embedded below.)

The winner: Campus Martius Park in Detroit, described as "heart of downtown Detroit’s development story and its signature public space. Surrounded by offices, residential space, and restaurants, it is a magnet for everyday visitors and high-profile events."

Would the Atlantic Yards plaza serve similarly? I doubt it.


Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

November 23, 2010

New Brooklyn open space maps call parts of AY site well-served, but don't factor in expected new population; what's the open space ratio?

Atlantic Yards Report

New open space maps from the Parks Department, via the Mayor's Office of Environmental Coordination, provide an apparently accurate but ultimately misleading picture of the Atlantic Yards site.

Sections of the map delineated in red are considered "well-served areas," perhaps because of their relative proximity to Prospect Park. However, should Atlantic Yards be built as planned, the ratio of open space to population will decline, raising questions about the level of service.

Only parts of the Atlantic Yards site destined for Phase 2 are currently considered "well-served areas." The arena block, which would be the first phase developed, is not.

Remember, as I wrote November 16, the delay in project timetable means the "temporary significant open space impact" could last twice as long as the period studied in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.


Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

BARCLAYS CENTER PRESS RELEASE: Steel for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Begins to go Vertical

World-Class Arena on Schedule to Open Summer 2012

via NBA.com

The erection of steel began today at the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the arena, said today. The first components for vertical construction, including beams, girders and trusses, will be used for the main arena, façade support and the canopy.

“The installation of steel is always a major milestone for a construction project,” said Mr. Ratner. “With the foundation work largely done, we are now poised to go vertical. Over the next several months, the Barclays Center will begin to take on the iconic shape that we believe will make the arena a worldwide destination and Brooklyn an international city.”

“Progress on the Barclays Center spells great things for Brooklyn and its future,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “This project will bring jobs, affordable housing and economic opportunity, as well as a triumphant return to major league sports for the greatest fans in the world—Brooklynites.”

Steel erection will begin between the Event and Main Concourse level and progress east in a clockwise direction. Most of the initial activity will be along Atlantic Avenue.

One hundred tons of steel arrived at the site last week. Approximately 10,500 tons of steel will be used for the Barclays Center. The structural steel is being fabricated by Banker Steel Company in Lynchburg, VA. Steel will be erected in the field by J.F. Stearns Company and Ironworkers Local 40 using Liebherr LR 1300 and 1350 crawler cranes.

The Barclays Center is on schedule to open in the summer of 2012.


NoLandGrab: The erection may not last long, as opponents of the arena are sure to follow their November 9th legal victory with a motion to stay construction activities.

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

Cheek to Cheek With Frank Gehry

NY Observer
by Chloe Malle

Given Frank Gehry's critical role in the selling of Atlantic Yards, his elevator might eventually be going in the other direction.

"Where would you like to go?" a construction worker asked. Everyone was in hard hats.

"Uh, we're going to 37, take us to—" someone started to say.

"Heaven!" Frank Gehry chimed in. "We'd like to go to heaven. Press heaven!"

As the recently installed elevator at 8 Spruce Street floated soundlessly upward, Mr. Gehry, the building's architect, stood facing the closed doors, his hands laced together in front of him.

Joe Rechichi, a project manager with developer Forest City Ratner; Mr. Gehry's chief of staff, Meaghan Lloyd; his daughter, Brina Gehry; his son-in-law, Daniel; and a construction worker on the 76-story building—the tallest downtown—were along for the ride.

"Heaven, I'm in heaven, and dah dah ... Who's that?" Mr. Gehry asked the group.

"Fred Astaire," answered Ms. Lloyd.

"Yes, you're right, it was him." He continued humming the Irving Berlin melody.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In Observer profile of Gehry, Beekman Tower down the memory hole: "construction stopped" and "resumed"

From a New York Observer profile this week headlined Cheek to Cheek With Frank Gehry:

CRITICS AND NAYSAYERS suggest Frank Gehry isn't fit to sharpen his claws on the New York skyline given such failures as the Atlantic Yards arena, also undertaken with Mr. Ratner, and the Guggenheim on the East River, a project that Mr. Gehry insists "was never real. It was always more of a dream." Eight Spruce Street--the building's official name, though it was first known as Beekman Tower --almost wasn't real, either. At one point, soon after the September 2008 economic crash, construction stopped at 38 stories, prompting forlorn Curbed commenters to gripe, "so depressing, the resulting building is just going to be a huge, shiny, stumpy thing."

But after a two-month hiatus, construction resumed, resulting in a finished product taller than the design originally proposed. "When we started, it was lower," Mr. Gehry said. "It was 66 floors, and when you go from a 66-floor building to a 76-floor building, there's a big cost implication. So I had to prove it, but when you saw the models of the building, it was obvious that the proportion got a lot better."

In the November 2009 unveiling of the facade. Mr. Gehry took the stage and looked straight up at the 76 stories. After a three-second pause, he turned back to the audience, "No Viagra!"

The phrases "construction stopped" and "construction resumed" suggest some sort of independent force of nature affected construction. Actually, developer Forest City Ratner stopped construction in order to renegotiate with the unions.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

In the Footprint

by Chris Kompanek

SPOILER ALERT: This review includes information about one scene in In the Footprint, that, should you intend to see the show, you might not want to know in advance.

The Civilians are known for crafting docu-musical theater works that explore complex issues, mining grey areas to create nuanced portraits of born-again Christians and porn stars alike. Their often-compelling new show, In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, at the Irondale Center, charts the struggle of residents and businesses to fight real estate developer Bruce Ratner from seizing their property under the eminent domain law. While the show features actors portraying Ratner, mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the focus is clearly on the other side.

The intermissionless show opens with company member Colleen Werthmann welcoming the audience before launching into a series of questions, including asking for a definition of eminent domain. The seating is on two risers that face each other, making it easy for Werthmann to divide the group into teams and assign points accordingly. It's a jarring approach that transforms us from strangers in a room into a community and makes us aware of the faces sitting across the stage. At the end of the short exercise, she confesses that the game was rigged as the music swells and the cast fills the stage.

It's a chilling moment that underscores a theme of the show -- how democracy can be subverted by powerful corporate interests and the citizens who tried to make a stand. Among the most vividly portrayed opponents of the project is Daniel Goldstein (played by Greg McFadden), an apolitical guy who finds himself taking a stand for the first time in his life when he refuses to sell his condo, even as all his neighbors cut deals and move out. The primal idea of home also resonates with longtime residents of surrounding Fort Greene who have seen their neighborhood become unrecognizable as gentrification progressed, and fear being priced out of their homes.


Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

New Jersey Nets Looking Bad in 2010-2011

FSN Sports

Something's lost in translation here, but the bottom line is that the Nets are still bad.

NBA wagering on-line woes could not get any worse to the New Jersey Nets following they went 12-70 survive season in 1 from the worst seasons from the history of your NBA. The Nets have opened at the on the web sportsbook as a +9500 longshot to acquire the NBA title, but there is lengthy term optimism towards the long term.

New Owner — Bruce Ratner was not just one particular of the worst owners inside the NBA, he’s 1 in the worst owners in all of sports. Ratner is finally out as he simply lacked the bucks to create a legitimate go of it plus the Nets are now owned by Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov. The brand new ownership has the money to bankroll a contender and ground has been broken on a brand new arena in Brooklyn. Prokorov has talked about a 5 year window for the Nets winning a title and that might be a small ambitious.


Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

November 22, 2010

NYC Regional Center feeling the heat? Lawyer for firm recruiting immigrant investors for AY project launches shallow attack on unnamed "blogger" (AYR)

Atlantic Yards Report

Looks like someone is unhappy that Norman Oder turned over a rock, and the EB-5 visa program crawled out.

Apparently my criticism of the emerging effort by the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) and Forest City Ratner to raise $249 million from 498 Chinese millionaires under the EB-5 immigration program has its backers concerned.

In an 11/11/10 post on EB5info.com, a web site devoted to EB-5 issues, an attorney for the NYCRC presents a tendentious, shallow attack on me.

In the post, headlined In Defense of the EB-5 Program, Miller Mayer attorney Carolyn S. Lee disserves readers by not pointing them to my original critique, as posted in the Huffington Post under the headline Green Cards for Sale? Atlantic Yards Backers Seek Chinese Investors.

That allows her to cherry-pick the evidence, evade full responses, and deny readers the opportunity to make evaluations on their own.

Notably, Lee ignores the rising tide of concern, well beyond my alleged "false and ill-informed statements," regarding the EB-5 program, which allows immigrant investors parking $500,000 in job-creating investments to get green cards for themselves and their families.

Broad dismissal

Lee begins:

When there is misinformation in the public about the EB-5 program, attorneys in the trenches of this area have a duty to set the record straight. To permit otherwise leaves our clients – investors and regional centers – having to defend themselves against individuals and organizations maligning the EB-5 program for other ends.

I have an individual in mind. The Internet has given this person a wide-reaching forum to vent his ire against a large urban development project. His medium is his blog. As with many projects of this scale, this one involves a partnership of private and public funds. EB-5 capital is a component. In a down economy hostile to immigration, the EB-5 program has become an easy target for this individual, who is dedicated to the downfall of the overall project and who has latched onto the EB-5 part of the project for his latest criticism.

Lee, without using my name, suggests that I'm an venting amateur, rather than a journalist who's covered Atlantic Yards for a blog for more than five years and has been a critic credible enough to write for the New York Times and to co-write a law review article.

So too does the pointer blog on EB-5 Visa News, headlined New York Regional Center Coming Under Unfair Attack:

It’s one thing to have a discussion, but propaganda by a lone blogger is unfair.

Rather than focus on my arguments, they prefer to attack me. Meanwhile, lawyers representing the immigrant investors stand to earn $14,750 per client, while the NYCRC would earn a project issue fee of $38,000 per client.

That means Miller Mayer and the NYCRC have no small incentive to ensure the project succeeds. (Miller Mayer represents the NYCRC and immigrant investors.)

Oder's full post is well worth a read.


NoLandGrab: Carolyn Lee is so upset that she won't utter the name Norman Oder, nor link to his criticism — for fear that more people might discover the truth about the Atlantic Yards EB-5 scam.

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

The ongoing Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights

mheidelberger2000 via flickr

Matt Heidelberger documents yet another obstacle erected by Bruce Ratner, the man for whom New York State bulldozed all obstacles in the way of his land grab.


Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Just Like the Real Thing, Almost No One Will Like Atlantic Yards Play

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Could anyone have hoped to make an interesting play out of Atlantic Yards? On the one hand, it seems to have all the drama and excitement necessary: heroes and villains, race and class issues, a beautiful Brooklyn setting. On the other hand: internminable lawsuits and ULURP.

Fort Greene-based theater company The Civilians appears to have gone with the latter route in its new show, "In the Footprint," which even includes a song about the city's land-use review process.

The Brooklyn Paper's theater critic found the play, basically a series of monologues drawn from interviews with the key players in the real-life drama, to be confusing and overly wonky—the sort of thing only those well acquainted with the project would understand, and thus would have no reason to see, it would seem.


NoLandGrab: That's a patent misreading of opponents of the Atlantic Yards project. Having been shafted at nearly every turn, they're only too happy to embrace something — including a theatrical production — that gives some validation to what they've been saying all along. And by many accounts, In the Footprint does just that.

Related coverage...

Off Broadway World, The Civilians Host Talk Backs In Conjunction With IN THE FOOTPRINT, Kicks Off 11/20

The award-winning investigative theater company The Civilians will present a series of "Talk Backs" during the world-premiere run of the company's newest show, IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, performing now through December 11 at the Irondale Center, 85 S. Oxford St. in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Tuesday evening (8 pm) and Saturday matinee (2 pm) performances of IN THE FOOTPRINT will be "Neighborhood Nights" featuring post-show discussions. (Brooklyn residents will receive a special discount to these performances. For more info, visit www.thecivilians.org). The talk backs will feature an assortment of guests with expertise and first-hand experience with the play's subject matter: the years-long controversy surrounding the plan to develop the 22-acre Atlantic rail yards in Brooklyn, on a site that is a mere two blocks from the Irondale Center. The discussions will focus on such relevant topics as urban planning, Brooklyn history, affordable housing, eminent domain, and how decisions that affect the shape of New York City are made.

Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

Six Months Into "The Prokhorov Era", He and Nets Rebuilding...Patiently


"Net Income" continues his love affair with Mikhail Prokhorov.

It's been six months (and nine losses in 13 games) since Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets from Bruce Ratner after what seemed to be an interminable wait.

Prokhorov has invested or committed about a half billion in the Nets, when the amounts he paid for pieces of the team and arena ($200 million), agreed to pay off in corporate debt ($175 million), accepted in future losses ($60 million) and invested in arena infrastructure ($77 million) are tallied up. Then, there's the $4 million he's committed to break the lease at the IZOD Center and the millions he's invested in basketball operations.

Most of that money, say team insiders, has long been transferred or spent.

Is he getting his moneys' worth? In terms of product on the court, no, not yet. In terms of positive publicity for his worldwide businesses, oh yes. It's inconceivable that "60 Minutes", the New York Times Sunday Magazine or Bloomberg TV would have spent so much time on him if he was still just the gold and aluminum baron of Siberia. As he has said, it's the best business card in the world.

So how goes "The Prokhorov Era" for Nets fans? Tighten the straps on your hard hat. Lots of work left to do.

And while "The Rock" is a dramatic improvement over the Izod, the Nets rank 28th in raw attendance and 24th in percentage of seats filled...in spite of big discount deals with ticket re-sellers. Jay-Z has only been to one game. To make matters worse, the Knicks just had their most successful West Coast swing ever while the Nets had a frustrating, mediocre run in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. So much for the "Blueprint for Greatness".


Posted by eric at 8:55 AM

Japanese developers tour Jersey City's Newport as example of transit-oriented smart growth

The Jersey Journal
by Amy Sara Clark

Atlantic Yards must be the example of how not to do things.

A delegation of 16 Japanese developers toured Newport Wednesday to get ideas on how to successfully develop residential and commercial properties around a railroad station.

The stop was part of a weeklong tour that also includes Grand Central Terminal, Queens Center Mall, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the Potomac Yard Project in Alexandria, Vir., and the Wisconsin Place shopping center in Chevy Chase, Md.


NoLandGrab: In Japan, real estate developers are known as "Yakuza." Here, too.

Posted by eric at 8:34 AM

November 21, 2010

Jay-Z's new book Decoded is anthology, catalogue, memoir of his creation of a persona; no AY; bio next year should dig deeper

Atlantic Yards Report

So, is there anything about Atlantic Yards, and his fractional ownership of the Nets, in Jay-Z's new book Decoded?

Not really, at least according to my quick skim of the book at the bookstore. It's not an autobiography. The New Yorker, covering Jay-Z's recent appearance at the New York Public Library, described the book as "part memoir, part carefully annotated lyrics anthology, and part visual catalogue."

Click on the link to read about the Shawn Carter and the cultivation of his alter-ego, Jay-Z.


Posted by steve at 11:32 AM

Columnist Lee Siegel on Mayor Mike Bloomberg: "Tammany Hall with a Carnegie Hall face"

Atlantic Yards Repot

Without mentioning Atlantic Yards, New York Observer columnist Lee Siegel, in a pungent column headlined Boss Pinstripes: Bloomberg Isn’t a Democrat, or a Republican, or an Independent. He’s 18 Billion Dollars., summarizes how Mayor Mike Bloomberg does his job:

The surprise that greeted Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement of the exceptionally unqualified Cathie Black, the former chairman of Hearst Magazines, as the city's new schools chancellor was par for the course. The very fact of Mr. Bloomberg as mayor is an ongoing surprise. His political ascension in New York is as unnatural an event as a typhoon in Ohio.

In a capital of the world that has always prided itself on a rich public life, Mr. Bloomberg is devoted to managing government like a private enterprise. To go from the hot banter of Lindsay's, or Koch's, or even Giuliani's news conferences to Mr. Bloomberg's petulantly ignoring a question by saying, "I have a city to run"—yes, well, that's what we want to talk to you about, if you have a minute—is to go from being a rambunctiously engaged citizen of New York to feeling like the frustrated client of a remote service provider. In a place that demands colorful candor from its mayors, he is secretive and peremptory, hiring Ms. Black without any kind of public discussion...

And in the city of the Draft riots, and the Columbia student protests, and Stonewall, and bohemian dissent, and bristling intellectuality, and Baldwin, and Mailer, and Steinem, and Hamill, and Kramer (Larry), and William F. Buckley, for heaven's sake—in this primordially independent and troublemaking place, Mayor Mike buys himself the right to run for an unprecedented third term, and then carpet-spends his way to an easy win.

Chutzpah? Try contempt. The chutzpah would be to defy him. But he gets his third term with no more than a hushed protest from his once-ferocious city-state. Under Mr. Bloomberg, the city that never has to sleep has become the city that doesn't make a peep.

Worth mentioning: a likely reason why mayoral rival Bill Thompson never took the gloves off: the mayor poured money into pet project of the Comptroller's wife.

The influence on media

Siegel writes:

Mr. Bloomberg's gravitational force affects everyone who might be in the business of consequentially criticizing him. (For example: Go after him, and you can forget about opining on the Bloomberg L.P.-funded Charlie Rose Show.) His enveloping wealth produces all the effects of corruption without, itself (as far as we know), being corrupt.

Well, the New York Times has produced some reasonably tough coverage of Bloomberg's appointment of Black. And the Daily News has reported civic concern.

But the editorial pages report to the publishers and, as with Atlantic Yards and term limits, they seem to be getting in line. Today the Daily News opines, Mayor Bloomberg must get Cathie Black as schools chancellor if mayoral control means anything.

The Daily News front page that reported the Black pick summed up the response with the word, "HUH?" over the question, "No education experience, kids went to private school - she's perfect to run our struggling schools! Right?"

Bloomberg is convinced she is. His opinion demands respect, given his track record in identifying talent and the fact that mayoral control of the schools means mayoral control of the schools.

The power of the (lack of) paycheck

Seigel writes about machine politics upended:

Machine politics derives its staying power from putting the "little people" on the payroll. Mr. Bloomberg doesn't need to do that. He puts business-executive friends like Robert Lieber, Daniel Doctoroff and Patricia Harris—many of whom shuttle back and forth between his media business and his mayoral administration—in charge of the payroll and centralizes the system so seamlessly that top-down management performs the ordering function of a political machine. The whole thing stinks of undemocracy. When Mr. Bloomberg's rich appointees boast that they are taking only one dollar as an annual salary, they want to demonstrate a public servant's self-sacrifice. But what they are really doing is displaying an investor's indifference to the relationship between money and work. They are redefining responsibility in government. If the public doesn't pay their salary, then they are not accountable to the public. The result is Tammany Hall with a Carnegie Hall face. Mr. Bloomberg is not Boss Tweed. He is Boss Pinstripes.

Such a business arrangement recalls somewhat the role of Susan Rahm, a volunteer helping the Empire State Development Corporation manage the Atlantic Yards project at the request of then-Governor Eliot Spitzer. To whom was she accountable?


Posted by steve at 11:21 AM

November 20, 2010

Transportation, MTA funding in trouble due to focus on short-term fixes, according to Ravitch report (which doesn't mention Vanderbilt Yard)

Atlantic Yards Report

A new white paper issued by Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch (embedded below, via Capital Tonight) sets out a sobering portrayal of the transportation challenges faced by the state Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), suggesting that the daily trials faced by MTA commuters may increase:

The $28 billion, five-year MTA Plan set out in October, 2009 faces a gap of at least $10 billion for its final three years. The MTA is in the middle of its largest system expansion in more than four decades, and there is now legitimate worry that the MTA will have great difficulty in finding resources sufficient to complete its current slate of mega-projects, including the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway and the Long Island Railroad’s East Side Access Project. On these two projects alone, the MTA is short $3.5 billion. Should the MTA fail to fulfill its local funding obligations for these projects, the federal grants that the MTA has received for the projects would need to be fully repaid--$284 million for the Second Avenue Subway and $1.25 billion for East Side Access. Given the prohibitive amounts of these repayment obligations, the part of the MTA capital program that is at most risk of non-funding is the MTA’s “core program,” which funds state-of-good-repair and normal replacement projects for New York City Transit and the commuter railroads—rebuilt tracks, upgraded signals, new subway and rail cars.

Unmentioned in the report: the MTA's willingness to sell capital assets, like the Vanderbilt Yard, in processes that privilege a single developer, like Forest City Ratner.

Follow the link to an in-depth review of the Ravitch white paper that indicates a transportation system about to go into decline and portrays an agency that is over-extended financially and in need of greatly improved management.


Posted by steve at 8:34 AM

A letter to the Courier-Life (and Brooklyn Paper) on coverage of the Friedman decision

Atlantic Yards Report

Uneven coverage in the New York media, in general, and in the Brooklyn Paper specifically, continues to prevent an understanding of the issues surrounding the Atlantic Yards project.

I sent this letter to both the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, which published identical articles, in the Brooklyn Paper as Yards foes win a big case that will not likely change a thing.

There's no Letters page in the Brooklyn Paper, but my letter is published this week in the Courier-Life under the headline "Nervy claim."

Note that italics indicate words added by the editor, while bold indicates words in my original letter that were not published:

Your recent coverage described the state Supreme Court's decision slamming the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for its questionable behavior regarding the Atlantic Yards timetable as a "meaningless victory" for Atlantic Yards foes ("Yard foes win a big case," Nov. 12).

That's rather conclusory. Neither the ESDC nor developer Forest City Ratner made such a claim. In fact, a day after the decision, an executive from Forest City Enterprises, FCR's parent company, seemed somewhat unnerved as he discussed the issue. (See my coverage at http://bit.ly/dAEYON.)

It's unclear at this point whether the ESDC will appeal the decision--and have to further defend its behavior--or whether the agency will produce a document that asserts that a 25-year buildout (as opposed to the ten-year buildout that was studied) would have little impact on the community around the project site. Either tack invites more litigation.

As Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman noted, courts typically defer to administrative agencies, but "judicial review must be 'meaningful." In this case, a meaningful review meant that the corporation's delay in releasing the Development Agreement it negotiated--an agreement kept under wraps until just after a crucial court argument--didn't get a pass.

Evidently, And that meant that someone official agreed that the process behind Atlantic Yards was just a little fishy. That's meaningful.

Norman Oder Park Slope

Oder, a journalist, writes the Atlantic Yards Report blog.

The slight edits--the omission of my credits--serve to diminish my authority a bit.


Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

November 19, 2010

In the Footprint Benefit Hosted by Marisa Tomei and others December 1

Via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


Posted by eric at 10:38 PM

Nothing about Atlantic Yards at Gehry's Pratt appearance

Atlantic Yards Report

I couldn't get into the Frank Gehry appearance at the Pratt Institute November 10, but according to the Brooklyn Paper (Cheery Gehry not weary of theory), those of us interested in Atlantic Yards didn't miss much:

The world’s most-renowned living architect, Frank Gehry, stopped by Pratt University last week to impart some sage-like wisdom to students and never mentioned that his greatest failure, the Atlantic Yards development, was only blocks away.

...Appearing completely at ease, Gehry reminisced about his early days in the architecture business, long before he would design the Guggenheim Musuem at Bilbao, or the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

The students hung on Gehry’s every word, and laughed generously at his jokes.

Actually, it's the Pratt Institute, not University.


Posted by eric at 6:16 PM

Yes, state law required that Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet should have been announced to the news media

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a new marketing slogan we're offering Bruce Ratner free of charge:

Atlantic Yards — nearly seven years old, and still as opaque as ever!

At that Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, which I covered (and was the only news media rep present), Carlo Scissura, Chief of Staff to the Borough President, and City Council Member Letitia James said that proper notice had been given.

However, state law clearly requires notification to the news media, and that didn't happen.

From StateOpen Meetings Law, according to the Committee on Open Government:

§104. Public notice.
1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before such meeting.
2. Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.
5. When a public body has the ability to do so, notice of the time and place of a meeting given in accordance with subdivision one or two of this section, shall also be conspicuously posted on the public body's internet website.

Recording allowed

State law also allows recording:

  1. Any meeting of a public body that is open to the public shall be open to being photographed, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise recorded and/or transmitted by audio or video means. As used herein the term “broadcast” shall also include the transmission of signals by cable.

  2. A public body may adopt rules, consistent with recommendations from the committee on open government, reasonably governing the location of equipment and personnel used to photograph, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise record a meeting so as to conduct its proceedings in an orderly manner. Such rules shall be conspicuously posted during meetings and written copies shall be provided upon request to those in attendance.*

* Shall take effect April 1, 2011


Posted by eric at 5:49 PM

Online, expanded Brooklyn Paper review of "In the Footprint" claims show "betrays" project opponents and will "delight" developer Bruce Ratner. Nah.

Atlantic Yards Report

A funny thing happened to the review of IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, as it appeared in three Community Newspaper Group outlets this week.

It got brutally weird, morphing from a general criticism to an unfounded assertion that the show "betrays" project opponents and will "delight" developer Bruce Ratner.

The initial review, my response

On YourNabe.com/Brooklyn Graphic, the review was headlined The drama of Atlantic Yards: "In the Footprint" retells a story best left to the historians, not the playwrights.

(The review was attributed to "The Butcher of Flatbush Avenue Extension," who is, almost certainly, Brooklyn Paper Editor Gersh Kuntzman, who was at the show I saw.)

In this week's print Brooklyn Paper, that review reappears under a different headline: Yards on center stage: Mega-development is subject of play at Irondale Center [PDF].

That review calls it "an unsuccessful theater production," an assessment which I countered in my own review, which considers the show a mixed bag, given the attempt to pack seven years into 95 minutes, but absorbing and certainly provoking discussion.

The review morphs

The Brooklyn Paper's online review, however, contains a far more pointed headline, Yards drama will delight Ratner, appall opponents and confuse everyone else, and two additional paragraphs.

First, after talking to a half-dozen "opponents" after the show, I found no one "appalled." Like me, they thought it was worth seeing but a mixed bag.

Second, there's no way Bruce Ratner would be delighted by a show that portrays him as speaking through a toy crane--essentially a heartless piece of earth-moving equipment--or his ally, Borough President Marty Markowitz, as speaking through a basketball.


Posted by eric at 5:39 PM

Yards drama will delight Ratner, appall opponents and confuse everyone else

The Brooklyn Paper

To the reams of paper, scores of legal proceedings, hours of hearings and years of anger over Atlantic Yards, you can now add one more thing: an unsuccessful theater production.

“In the Footprint,” a new play by the Fort Greene–based Civilians company, takes one of the most important stories in the history of Brooklyn — the battle over the $4-billion mega-development and basketball arena — and turns it into a series of strident monologues that will leave uninformed theatergoers with more questions about the project than answers.

And it will definitely leave opponents scratching their heads over the “betrayal” by the theater company.

Given the trials and tribulations that [Bertha] Lewis’s ACORN has undergone over the past two years, it’s surprising that Donnetta Lavinia Grays’s take on the widely discredited Lewis is so effective at balancing what could have easily been a knee-jerk, anti-Yards play. But Grays’s effective monologue is one of the few truly dramatic moments in the entire 90-minute affair, which instead plays out like a series of one-sided arguments.

Arguments, in fact, that end up leaning noticeably towards the pro-Yards side, as the portrayal of Lewis and Caldwell combine into a completely rational case in favor of the project as a job creator and economic development tool. Meanwhile, Colleen Werthmann’s portrayal of Hagan turns a proud fighter into a collection of ticks, twitches and irrationality.


NoLandGrab: We've heard the opposite from more than one Atlantic Yards opponent — a belief that the show is decidedly critical of the project. Guess we — and you — will just have to see for ourselves.

Posted by eric at 5:18 PM

The Center for Constitutional Rights Shame

Frum Forum
by John Podhoretz

NeoCon John Podhoretz is none too enamored of Michael Ratner's selectivity when it comes to Constitutional rights.

[The Center for Constitutional Rights] is run by Michael Ratner, who conveniently espouses a hate-America and evils-of-capitalism philosophy even as he swims in his own family’s real estate billions. (His brother Bruce is, among other things, the Machiavellian developer of Atlantic Yards, the Brooklyn megaproject.)


Posted by eric at 5:11 PM

Historically Speaking: Journal of Malfeasance in Old Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by John Manbeck

Malfeasance is not a good deed going unpunished. It’s a mistrust of public office. As such, it is part of our current political scene; it is not unknown in Brooklyn. Our current Brooklyn Eagle keeps a police blotter of today’s malfeasance as did the Eagle of yesteryear.

The term had more panache in the 19th century; today’s press might refer to “crooks” rather than malfeasance, although the crime is similar. In 2003 Judge Victor Barrow was accused of taking bribes and kickbacks, sentencing him to a six-year prison term. Officials from the city, state and MTA have been accused of malfeasance in the eminent domain take-overs of property in the Atlantic Yards case. So the word has a second life.

To quote George Washington Plunkitt, “I seen my opportunities and I took ‘em.” It still happens in Brooklyn and elsewhere.


Posted by eric at 5:04 PM



Is there a gender angle to the Atlantic Yards fight?

Similarly, the Atlantic Yards project revolves largely around this perceived danger of not developing the area versus the perceived danger of developing it. The argument in favor of the project is not necessarily gendered, but does center around the blighted-ness of the area and the prostitution and other illegal activity that was at some point characteristic of that region. The argument against the plan discusses the gentrification of a diverse area and transforming something that was already organically revitalizing itself. In that sense, the opposers of the development are trying to convince people to embrace the diversity and the dangers of the city and recognize that those are integral parts of NYC. Although, the gender and women aspect does not play a key role in the Atlantic Yards debate, the role of duality and recognizing the difficulties of the city is central to both sides of the argument.


NoLandGrab: "The prostitution and other illegal activity that was at some point characteristic of that region?" Well, there's plenty of illegal activity in the region of Bruce Ratner's malls. As for prostitution, there've certainly been a few politicians and state agencies willing to pimp for Bruce, too.

Posted by eric at 4:50 PM

Extension of the Number 7 Subway Line to New Jersey: An Exciting Infrastructure Idea (With Only One Hidden Big Oops)

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White critiques the mayor's notion to extend the number 7 subway line to New Jersey.

It would be particularly thrilling to see the idea implemented because, according to a story in today’s New York Times, this idea, like the creation of the High Line, was one that officialdom first rejected and ignored when it was identified and promoted by grassroots members of the community.

We gather from this that in the Bloomberg administration “thinking totally out of the box” constitutes listening to community suggestions.

If the Bloomberg administration wants to listen there are plenty more community activists willing to offer “thinking” that is “totally out” of the Bloomberg administration’s “box.” The Coney Island community is suggesting that many more amusement area acres be preserved at Coney Island* along with historic buildings that define the area’s heritage. And wouldn’t it be nice, as activists suggest, to see the sun and feel the sea breeze when arriving at the Coney subway station? Then there is the community’s UNITY plan for development of Vanderbilt Yards where, instead, the Bloomberg administration is allowing free rein (free reign?) to the developer-centric notions of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner that he should have a 30-acre, 40-year mega-monopoly. Among other things the UNITY plan calls for the development of this area to be split up and properly bid out to multiple developers.

(* If more acres were preserved maybe historic boardwalk businesses would not now be getting evicted. In our eyes, recent Coney evictions proclaim that the amusement district was made too small, given that there is no space to share with authentic Coney Island history. And what sense does it make in terms of “economic development” to throw out time-tested and resilient businesses in the middle of an economic recession? A petition on the subject available here.)


Posted by eric at 7:11 AM

November 18, 2010

The Civilians' In the Footprint tries to pack seven years into just 95 minutes; hits and misses, but still memorable, provocative

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder dons his theater-critic hat once again.

In 2008 the first iteration of The Civilians' investigation of the Atlantic Yards conflict, Brooklyn at Eye Level (my review), was billed as a preliminary piece, so it could be forgiven some experiments, including dance numbers and student monologues.

Now, nearly two years later, the final play with music, IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, has emerged. While it’s an improvement over Brooklyn At Eye Level, and uses the theatrical form creatively in various places, it strains to tell an impossibly sprawling story in a single act.

Still, for anyone interested in Atlantic Yards, it’s entertaining, and should spur further conversation and debate. It’s playing at the Irondale Center in Fort Greene through Dec. 11, with several performances followed by discussions.

Click thru for Oder's weighty review.


Related coverage...

Noticing New York, In the Footprint’s Composer/Lyricist, Michael Friedman, Was Previously an Urban Planning Consultant!

Catching up with our theater-going led to several surprising discoveries. One of them is that Michael Friedman, the composer/lyricist of "In the Footprint" the currently playing musical play about Atlantic Yards by the investigative theater troupe The Civilians, was previously an "urban planning consultant"! Gosh Golly, talk about overqualifying for a job dramatizing an urban disaster. Mr. Friedman certainly has all the bases covered. In fact, more of what we found out concerns just how many more bases he has got covered this fall.

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

Cheery Gehry not weary of theory

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

The world’s most-renowned living architect, Frank Gehry, stopped by Pratt University last week to impart some sage-like wisdom to students and never mentioned that his greatest failure, the Atlantic Yards development, was only blocks away.

Gehry came to the university to address students from the School of Architecture, though it seemed the entire student body was begging ushers for a seat inside the auditorium.

And like any celebrity, Gehry kept the crowd waiting, showing up about 30 minutes late to his own talk — though the throngs of buzzing students did not seem to mind in the least.

Gehry’s modesty, casual dress, and colloquial style did nothing to diminish his presence. Nor did his Atlantic Yards designs projected onto the stage before he arrived, though the developer, Bruce Ratner, fired Gehry last year to go in a different (and cheaper) direction.



The New York Times, Frank Gehry (a Part Owner) Helps Develop a Landmark

This Times story actually has nothing to do with Gehry's Brooklyn appearance, or Atlantic Yards, but it's noteworthy for a number of reasons: the starchitect's interest in preserving a worthy modernist building rather than creating "a neighborhood practically from scratch"; that people will throw money at you just for being famous; and, best of all, the most absurd nautical commission ever:

Mr. Gehry was happy when the Camins group subsequently put the building in the market. And, he said, he was even happier when he learned that the Manhattan developer Richard Cohen (who was once married to the TV newscaster Paula Zahn) had decided to buy it. Mr. Gehry was at the Cohen-Zahn wedding in 1987, and he is now designing a sailboat for Mr. Cohen.

We recommend that Mr. Cohen keep the life-vests handy.

Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

From Conservapedia to Brooklyn Rock

The Indypendent
by Steve Wishnia

How about something good and something homegrown? Two new CDs by Brooklyn rock singer-songwriters, RebelMart’s Amalgamated Saboteurs Local 21 and Lorraine Leckie’s Martini Eyes, fill the bill.

RebelMart is the one-man band of Scott M.X. Turner, who previously played in the Spunk Lads — “a long-lost English ’77 punk band” — and the Devil’s Advocates. (Disclaimer: I’ve played with Turner in two bands.) He’s a fiercely political songwriter who frenetically flays a frayed-paint Telecaster [electric] guitar. An Irish-American Joe Strummer might be a good place to start your imagination.

Turner was active in the campaign to stop developer Bruce Ratner from demolishing several blocks of Brooklyn (including his favorite venue, Freddy’s Bar) for a taxpayer-supported real-estate scheme. Disgusted after that campaign lost, he decamped for Seattle. As a result, Amalgamated Saboteurs Local 21 has a lot of songs about defeat, laments for a doomed Brooklyn. “Ruby’s Bar still wears the crown, but Thor’s hammer is a-comin’ down,” he rages on the opening track. The music leaps eclectically but cohesively, from ’77-punk blast to driving acoustica to dubwise groove to Celt-flavored balladry. “The Devil Down in the Water,” Turner’s Hurricane Katrina song, gets transformed into a dirge with a tolling bodhrán drum.

The album encompasses Americana from the 7 train to the Dust Bowl, contrasting Seattle’s “first ever Hooverville” with its latteand- computers image, and mourning the lonely, alcoholic death of Stephen Foster, “like a 19th-century rock star,” Turner said at a recent show in Brooklyn. It closes with a harmonica moaning like a dying prairie campfire.


Click here to preview the songs and buy the album via iTunes.

NoLandGrab: Lost? We have not yet begun to fight.

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

Brooklyn's New Politicos

Lincoln Restler crashed the gates of the Democratic political machine, now what’s next for the bespectacled wunderkind?

New York Press
by Dan Rivoli

A stalwart of the fight against Atlantic Yards — and a prolific photographer/videographer — makes an appearance in an article about Brooklyn's youthful Democratic Party reform movement.

Raul Rothblatt, who owns a worldmusic management company, got involved in city politics because of Atlantic Yards, a development only a short walk from his Prospect Heights apartment. He found the club to be an access point for politically motivated people, especially the growing number of new arrivals.

According to Rothblatt, “It’s not easy to find out about local stuff.” Rothblatt is also the first vice president of Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, so he has experience in political clubs, but the reform clubs in the borough were started during the Vietnam War. Try as they might, attracting newer and younger members is difficult. “In a lot of existing clubs, often, the members are older,” Rothblatt says.


Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

Review & Comment: Weight of the Apple

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

The Eagle's Krogius laments the fact that Bruce Ratner doesn't get his name into the new edition of The Encyclopedia of New York City.

In the age of Google and Wikipedia, Yale University Press (in conjunction with the New-York Historical Society) has not been deterred from issuing a 9-pound second edition of The Encyclopedia of New York City. Its editor-in-chief is once again the eminent urban historian and Columbia Professor Kenneth T. Jackson. It runs to 1561 pages, up from 1350, in an 8 ½-by-11-inch format, with three columns to the page in fairly small 8-point type ($65).

Among the new Brooklyn entries are those for Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Cyclones, DUMBO, and Atlantic Yards. The DUMBO entry, by independent historian Cathy Alexander, runs to one column and summarizes both the area’s history and recent development, not omitting references to controversy. The brief Atlantic Yards entry, by Norman Brouwer, skims over the subject, noting dispute but not naming the developer (Bruce Ratner) or original architect (Frank Gehry).


NoLandGrab: Maybe their spell-checker thought "Bruce Ratner" was a dirty word.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

An Eyesore Growns [sic] in Brooklyn

Gotham Gazette, The Wonkster
by Gail Robinson

This is old news, but it still holds true.

Barclays Center may never host an NBA champion but it already has a distinction: novelist and urban expert James Howard Kunstler has named it the eyesore of the month (for October; sorry we caught up with this a bit late.)


Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

November 17, 2010

Over the 38-year term for arena bonds, lots of unknowns: continuing revenue, cost of renovations

Atlantic Yards Report

In ratings reports regarding the Atlantic Yards arena, Standard & Poor's assessed both the strengths and weaknesses of the project, justifying a rating of BBB-, or the lowest run of investment grade.

One weakness:

The 38-year debt term is longer than most comparable rated projects.

Well, it's true that the comparably rated bonds for the Yankees' and Mets' new stadiums have 40-year terms, but baseball stadiums generally endure longer than arenas and the two baseball teams have established track records in New York City.

The unknowns: who pays for renovation?

But there are two unknowns that I haven't seen addressed in the bond materials and ratings.

First, the arena would inevitably have to be renovated, given the track record of numerous arenas, as detailed below.

Second, the analyzed revenue--e.g., from naming rights and sponsorship deals--covers a term far shorter than 38 years.

Short life spans for some arenas

In Seattle, the Washington State Pavilion (1962) was remodeled as the Washington State Coliseum, which in 1967 became home to the Seattle SuperSonics and was rebuilt 27 years later as Key Arena. Some 13 years after that, team owners were unsuccessful in getting public funding for a renovation or new arena, and the team moved to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season.

The Miami arena, completed in 1988, lost the Miami Heat in 2000 to the American Airlines Arena. The Florida Panthers left, as did concerts. The arena was sold via an auction in 2004 and demolished in 2008.

The Orlando arena opened in 1989 and, within eleven years, was deemed obsolete. A new arena will open later this year, 21 years later.

The Nets' most recent home, the Izod Center at the Meadowlands, opened in 1981 and lost the team just this year, 29 years later.

None of the four arenas noted above had the luxury suites and premium seating that are now standard.

Still, new bells and whistles surely will become standard. The Atlantic Yards arena won't last 38 years without a major renovation, or becoming obsolete. Who's going to pay?


NoLandGrab: "Who's going to pay?" That's obviously a rhetorical question, because we all know the answer, and it ain't Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

Nets could leave Brooklyn after 30 years, not 37, if arena bonds are paid

Atlantic Yard Report

I hadn't noticed this earlier, but if the financing is paid off early, before the 38-year term, the Nets (or whatever their name will be) could leave the Atlantic Yards arena after 30 years.

From the Empire State Development Corporation's 2009 Modified General Project Plan:

The Nets will also enter into a non-relocation agreement with the City and ESDC pursuant to which the team will agree to play substantially all of its home games at the new Arena for the life of the PILOT Bonds but in no event no less than 30 years.

From the bond offering statement:

New Jersey Basketball's obligations under the Non-Relocation Agreement will terminate on the earliest to occur of (i) the thirty-seventh (37th) anniversary of the effective date of the Non-Relocation Agreement, (ii) the abandonment of the Arena Project prior to the date of the opening of the first season or (iii) the thirtieth (30th) anniversary of the effective date of the Non-Relocation Agreement if on or prior to such date all bonds, debentures, loans, credit facilities or other financing or liability issued, facilitated or incurred by the Issuer in connection with the acquisition, construction, development or operation of the Arena Project have been indefeasibly paid or otherwise satisfied in full.


NoLandGrab: 30 years should be considered the maximum, since "contractual obligations" between professional sports franchises and their arenas and stadiums are about as reliable as Bruce Ratner's jobs and affordable-housing promises.

Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

Lawyer may plead guilty in Yonkers public corruption case

by Timothy O'Connor

Politically connected lawyer Anthony Mangone appears headed toward a guilty plea in the Yonkers public corruption case where he and two other political figures are accused of conspiring to sell a city council member's vote.

"We've had extensive discussions toward a disposition of this case," said Mangone's lawyer, James DeVita, during a brief pre-trial hearing Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. "I don't think Mr. Mangone will be going to trial."

Mangone is accused along with former Yonkers Republican Party Chairman Zehy Jereis and former Democratic City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi in a plot to extort $30,000 from developer Franco Milio for approval of the Longfellow School project.

Jereis and Annabi are also accused of conspiring to sell her vote on the controversial $630 million Ridge Hill project.

Mangone, a former protege of longtime Republican state Sen. Nicholas Spano, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, as have Annabi and Jereis.

He declined to comment as he left court yesterday.

His lawyer also declined to comment.


NoLandGrab: One wonders if perhaps Mangone and his attorney were less tight-lipped with investigators regarding Mangone's knowledge of Annabi's role in approving Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project.

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

The struggle with unemployment in Brooklyn

City Beats
by Julia Pyper

It’s after six o’clock on a Friday night when 30-year-old Tracy Gibbs-Brown flips through her notebooks where she’s compiled the names of 140 jobless people.

Come Monday, she has to do check-ins – calling and asking everyone how their job search is going. She also has to assist the more than 25 new and returning individuals who come into her office every day looking for work. It’s nearly seven by the time she heats up the lunch she didn’t get to eat at noon. After a quick break, she gets back to work.

“Our clients are underemployed, under educated, and under experienced. It’s very difficult to find them jobs,” said Gibbs-Brown, a job developer and career counselor for the Brooklyn United For Innovative Local Development (BUILD) office in Downtown Brooklyn.

Brooklyn has the second highest unemployment rate in New York State with 10.8 percent, second only to the Bronx at 13 percent. A large part of BUILD’s mission, since it was created in 2004, is to generate employment and help communities achieve financial self-sufficiency. As of September 2010, a new way BUILD is helping people find work is through their pre-apprenticeship program, which teaches participants hands on construction skills and starts them in the process of becoming labor union members.

But many in the Brooklyn community are outraged that the program is funded by Forest City Ratner, the development company behind the controversial $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards basketball arena and apartment complex project. Atlantic Yards, which will be built in Prospect Heights, has many people in the poorer areas of the borough are furious over what they see as an uneven distribution of development. Those who live by the site are upset over the 10 years of construction that lie ahead.

“But it’s going to create a lot of jobs,” said BUILD pre-apprenticeship professor Gausia Jones, 31. “I’m looking forward to 10 years from now when they say BUILD was at the forefront of it. We got on the project and we put some people to work, which is the most important thing. After that they can go and help their families and help themselves and be productive citizens.”

Construction has not yet begun, but exactly how many jobs the project will generate is unclear. Before BUILD opened its Downtown Brooklyn office in 2007, it already had approximately 7,000 people registered in its database, most having heard through word of mouth that Forest City Ratner was hiring pre-apprenticeship participants. Another 1,000 were processed shortly after the office opened. But of the 8,000 people who ultimately signed up, there was only funding for 30 men and women to take the 15-week program.


NoLandGrab: Residents upset by the prospect of 10 years of construction are going to be really ticked by the 25 years or so that it will actually take.

Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

Client 9 (Spitzer): Divided by 3, No 2 Ways About It

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White reviews the new Eliot Spitzer documentary Client 9, with a heaping side dish of Atlantic Yards.

Darren Dopp, who resigned as Spitzer’s director of communications over his own role in the Troopergate scandal, suggests that a primary reason Spitzer’s outing lead to ouster was that the “reservoir of good will was empty” drained by Spitzer’s “combative style.” That is probably largely true, especially if the phrase “combative style” incorporates Spitzer’s near vendetta-based crossing of ethical lines in pursuing his adversaries together with his hypocritical holier-than-thou superiority. Still, Spitzer might have had access to a deeper “reservoir of good will” if he had also not been hypocritical about the basic principles for which he was elected. Noticing New York would have been much more reluctant to see him hurried out of office had he been doing and saying the right things with respect to Atlantic Yards. He wasn’t and David Paterson, the Lieutenant Governor, was standing promisingly in the wings with a history of opposing eminent domain abuse. (David Paterson is obviously another politician whose hypocrisy helped usher him quickly out of office.)


Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Partridge Family star’s feathers ruffled over city’s handling of Tobacco Warehouse bid

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

Atlantic Yards pops up not once, but twice, in an article about the latest murky dealings at Brooklyn Bridge "Park."

“I felt like this was Atlantic Yards again and Bruce Ratner was stacking a meeting with his union supporters,” said Judi Francis of the watchdog group Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund.

It is the second time in two weeks that the full media and public were not properly notified, as is required by state and federal law, for what should have been a public meeting at Borough Hall. The earlier illegal meeting involved the Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights.


Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

November 16, 2010

The Five Best Stories Jay-Z Told Last Night at the New York Public Library

by Amos Barshad

Actually, the stories aren't so hot, but one of them is semi-relevant.

On the lessons he's learned from BFF Ty Ty, of “still sipping Mai Tais” fame:
“My friend Ty Ty, he let his son [come] to a very important event with a costume on. It was the groundbreaking ceremony for the Nets, he was sitting in front of me, it was very distracting, with this Batman suit on. I was thinking, That's quite odd. But that's just the strength in his conviction. His son, that's what he wanted to wear — and he's not going out telling him, you can't do that. He's letting him figure it out on his own. I'm sure when he sees the pictures, it's not going to be a bright spot for him.”


NoLandGrab: Not odder than these costumes.

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

With delay in project timetable, "temporary significant open space impact" could last twice as long as the period studied in the Final EIS

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember all those promises of Atlantic Yards open space, as demonstrated in a flier sent to Brooklynites in 2004?

Even though the amount of planned open space was increased from six acres to eight acres, there's long been reason to doubt promises that the open space--not a park but privately managed--would be delivered in a decade.

And a state Supreme Court decision last week regarding the project timetable casts doubts on the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which concluded that the "temporary significant open space impact" upon completion of Phase I "would be eliminated by the open space provided in Phase II."

An extended "temporary" situation

After all, the "temporary" situation, as studied, was to last only six years, given that Phase 1 was supposed to be finished in 2010 and Phase 2 by 2016. (The timetable change approved last year simply nudged everything back three years.)

However, the Development Agreement imposes penalties on the project as a whole only after 25 years, so it's not unlikely that the entire project would take 25 years to finally deliver the promised open space. (It's also possible that the entire project won't be built, thus eliminating some of the promised open space.)

Even if Phase 1 takes ten or 12 years, that could mean 13 to 15 years of the "temporary significant open space impact."

Shouldn't the potential doubling of the "temporary significant open space impact" have been studied?


Posted by eric at 9:07 AM

Knicks to Brooklyn: We are your team

The Brooklyn Paper
by Joe Melillo and Stephen Brown

Remarkably, the Brooklyn Paper devoted two reporters to this non-story.

The New York Knicks have decided that it’s not enough to battle the Nets on the court — the team is now taking the fight to the streets of Brooklyn in hopes of recruiting fans of the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets.

A huge billboard at Flatbush and Seventh avenues urges drivers on their way towards the Barclays Center site to defect to the Manhattan-based basketball team.

The local intelligentsia is up in arms.

“Putting a billboard up like that so close to the Barclays Center, it’s like putting a mosque near Ground Zero,” said basketball fanatic Chris Tucker of Bedford-Stuyvesant. “I’m up in arms about this.”

“We’re insulted because the Knicks are coming in here while we’re trying to get a basketball team,” said Flatbush resident Chiloupe Washington.



Additional (believe it or not) coverage...

Gothamist, Knicks Invade Atlantic Yards with New Billboard

Photo: Joseph Melillo/The Brooklyn Paper

Posted by eric at 8:34 AM

This cop could see the future

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Purse pinch

A sticky-fingered thief made off with a woman’s purse inside the Atlantic Terminal on Flatbush Avenue on Nov. 8 as his victim tried on a coat.

The woman put her bag down inside the store between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 4:30 pm. After sampling some outerwear, she turned back to her purse, but it had already been pilfered.


Posted by eric at 8:29 AM

November 15, 2010

"Our history is the borough right now": the Nets' selling point is their new home's "authentic" history

Atlantic Yards Report

A Wall Street Journal article today, headlined Selling Tickets the New Jersey Way, contrasts the two teams playing in Newark's Prudential Center:

Their starkest difference relates to their home state; the Devils have embraced New Jersey, while the Nets are increasingly shifting their focus to a future in Brooklyn that is slated to begin in the 2012-2013 season at a new arena in Atlantic Yards.

"Unfortunately, New Jersey never gave the team enough support on a consistent basis," said Fred Mangione, the Nets senior vice president of ticket sales and marketing, though he added, "We market and sell in New Jersey like we're never leaving."

Still, the team's Midtown headquarters is an ode to the outerborough. The team may be pitching wealthy potential suite-holders from Manhattan in Manhattan, but the marketing pitch is all Brooklyn.

Of course, the Nets' attachment to Brooklyn is all manufactured. As I explained last June, the Barclays Center markets "brownstone" and "loft" suites, and a canvas bag distributed at the groundbreaking places the giant arena next to the Brooklyn Bridge.

"New residents are using this idea of authenticity to soften their entrance into Brooklyn," observed academic and former Brooklynite Jonathan Silverman at the Dreamland Pavilion conference in October 2009.

Of course, to establish that history they had to demolish buildings with their own history, such as the Spalding sporting goods factory recycled into handsome lofts or the Ward Bakery, moribund but certainly with significant potential for rehabilitation, as with a Newark cousin.


Posted by eric at 12:53 PM

Selling Tickets the New Jersey Way

The Wall Street Journal
by Sophia Hollander

An article about the ticket-selling challenges faced by the New Jersey Devils and the New Jersey Nets is most noteworthy for this factoid: the Nets may actually have managed to unsell some Barclays Center suites in the past four months!

"It's all about Brooklyn and it's all about the building," said [Fred] Mangione [Nets senior vice president of ticket sales and marketing], who said the team has commitments for 30 suites, though they have not begun selling regular tickets to the new building. "Yes, the team is there, but it's just as important for us to pitch the concerts and the boxing and everything else."

Regular readers of NoLandGrab or Atlantic Yards Report will recall this AYR item from July 12:

Either Nets Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark was spinning very, very hard back in 2008 or Nets suite sales have really slowed down--or both.

Since May 2008, 26 months ago, they've only sold nine suites, by my count, given that 26 were sold to insiders and the total sold is now 35.

(It's also possible that some who initially committed have backed out.)

Opening promises

On 5/5/08, Crain's New York Business reported:

Already, 20% of the 130 luxury boxes have been sold to “friends and family,” says Nets Sports Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark.

That's 26 suites.

In an 11/17/08 interview with the never-skeptical Alexis Glick of Fox Business News, Yormark stated, "We’ll be in Brooklyn for the 11-12 NBA season. We’ll probably be in Brooklyn actively in the summer of 2011. So give us a little time to gain some traction. We’ve presold our suites to the tune of about 30 percent."

That would mean 39 suites, if the total at that time was still 130. Or that would mean 30 suites, if the number had dipped to 100 (as was announced ten months later, in September 2009).


Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

falcon at Vanderbilt Railyard

raulistic via flickr

At least one resident hasn't vacated the Atlantic Yards footprint.

link [video]

NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner has tried to evict the bird, but every time he gets close, the facon just flies to another perch.

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

What's different today from Jane Jacobs's time? The Village Voice, and the journalistic milieu

Atlantic Yards Report

I've written periodically about The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, by Roberta Brandes Gratz.

When the book was issued in the spring, Gratz spoke at a bookstore in SoHo and, at one point, recalled the battle to stop Robert Moses from building a highway through that then-transitional neighborhood.

"There was a very important element, which we don't have today, and that was the Village Voice. Mary Nichols of the Village Voice was totally in [Jane] Jacobs's camp," Gratz said. "Because the daily press paid very little attention to these issues. The Voice was out there, so the press was on top of it."


Posted by eric at 8:09 AM

November 14, 2010

From Bed-Stuy stoops, 21 years later, to Absolut stoops

Atlantic Yards Report

Seeing the posters advertising Absolut Brooklyn via an idealized version of Brooklyn stoops (and reading Clay Risen's kinda-late meditation in The Atlantic's food blog, How Spike Lee and Absolut Vodka Sold Out Brooklyn), I was reminded: stoops were crucial to Lee's most enduring work, Do the Right Thing, which emerged in 1989, a time when Brooklyn was much rougher.

Set in a Bedford-Stuyvesant subject to very little gentrification, the stoop was not just the neighborhood porch but also where conflict played out. As one description of the plot has it, "Da Mayor walks by Mother Sisters' stoop, and the lady denounces him as a drunken fool."

Then there was another stoop-side confrontation, as described in this teaching guide:

Buggin' Out shows up, declaring that Mookie is "the man." As he turns to go on his way, a white property-owner wearing a Boston Celtics shirt accidentally steps on his Nike Air Jordans. Yo! YO! This white man is lucky that "a black man has a loving heart."

Does this have anything to do with Atlantic Yards? Only in the macro sense: some people (on both sides of the conflict) are shaped by 1989, and others by 2010.


Posted by steve at 12:21 PM

Two letters on the Times Magazine's Mikhail Prokhorov cover story

Atlantic Yards Report

So, how many letters did the New York Times Magazine publish today regarding its generous profile two weeks ago of Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov?

One, and it was an attaboy.

Letter: The Playboy and His Power Games

Chip Brown’s article about the New Jersey Nets’ owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, was fascinating, but it omitted a strand of the billionaire Russian’s life story that could have been illuminating. In addition to his roles in banking and industry, Prokhorov has been president of the Russian Biathlon Union for over two years, and he is credited with turning around a moribund organization tarnished by doping. It would have been interesting to read more about Prokhorov’s work in that sport, since the Nets seem to be in need of a similar reversal.

Williamstown, Mass.

My letter

Here's a letter they didn't publish:

The profile of Russian billionaire and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov ("An Oligarch of Our Own," Oct. 31) fails to answer who, exactly, is "us" (other than a Nets fan who was unwilling to reveal his name).

As to whether Prokhorov has "the cash to save a reeling franchise," consider--unmentioned in the article--that the oligarch has more to spend thanks to the subsidies, tax breaks, and eminent domain for the new arena (of which he owns 45%), which also will raise the value of the team. Had Prokhorov been the team's owner before the Atlantic Yards project was approved, it would have been much tougher to have justified all that governmental help.

The article suggests that Prokhorov, in trying to build a winning basketball team, faces heavy "pressure to live up to expectations." Prokhorov bought the team in order to become a household name in North America and open up investment opportunities. The Times's mostly uncritical article has already helped him live up to those expectations.

Norman Oder

The writer, author of the Atlantic Yards Report blog, is writing a book about the project. In June 2010, he wrote an essay for the Times, "A Russian Billionaire, the Nets and Sweetheart Deals."


Posted by steve at 12:16 PM

Buildings Come Down, Walls Go Up

Prospect Heights Patch
By Graydon Gordian

Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner acknowledged in September that, because of the economic downturn and litigation regarding the Atlantic Yards development, certain aspects of the plan to develop the railyards along Atlantic Avenue would be delayed.

With an increasingly unclear timeline for completion, we feel the best way to know exactly what's going on is to track the development's progress ourselves: brick by brick.

That's why, every month, we'll be taking a look at the progress the crews down on Flatbush and Atlantic are making. As the Barclays Center and the rest of the development rise along Prospect Heights' Northeastern corner, we'll take note as each beam is raised and each wall is erected.

Since we last checked in on the development, much has changed. 636 Pacific St., which formerly housed Freddy's Bar, was torn down, and concrete walls were erected in the bowels of the construction site.


NoLandGrab: 636 Pacific was the building where DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein's condo was located, not Freddie's Backroom. A small error can be forgiven for anyone who plans to follow construction of Atlantic Yards for the next 25 years.

Posted by steve at 12:01 PM

November 13, 2010

Parking policy reform may be part of PlaNYC 2.0; it would be a bit late for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Streetsblog reports:

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith dropped an intriguing hint this afternoon about the upcoming revision of New York City’s long-term sustainability plan. “We are looking at parking as part of @PlaNYC 2.0,” he tweeted.

Now, there’s a lot that needs to happen between today and Earth Day 2011, when the update is due. “Looking at” parking needs to become acting on it, and “parking” needs to include big changes to both on- and off-street parking. Even so, with the exclusion of parking policy being one of the great holes in the original PlaNYC, this could signal a breakthrough.

The AY angle

Indeed, as I wrote 12/24/07, in a post headlined PlaNYC 1950: why parking shouldn't be required at apartment projects like Atlantic Yards:

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's much-praised PlaNYC 2030 contains a glaring omission, a failure to address the antiquated anti-urban policy that mandates parking attached to new residential developments outside Manhattan, even when such developments, like Atlantic Yards, are justified precisely because they're located near transit hubs.

Note that about 2500 spaces are planned to support the 6430 apartments, while 1100 are to support the arena.

Should reforms go through, it's likely they would be enacted well before most if not all of the apartment parking would come online for Atlantic Yards.

However, the state overrode city zoning, so even if the PlaNYC policy became retroactive, it's not likely it would impact Atlantic Yards--unless the developer, a governance entity, and local officials agreed to change policy voluntarily.


Posted by steve at 8:24 AM

In Brooklyn Paper, Shake Shack and racist cabby seen as bigger news than court ruling slamming ESDC on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

There you have it. Among the articles the Brooklyn Paper considers more important than this week's Atlantic Yards court decision are ones concerning the arrival of Shake Shack and the arrest of a racist cabby.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper is sure to tell us the court decision is unimportant:

The state agency overseeing the Atlantic Yards mega-development purposefully withheld information on the project’s timetable to avoid having to reexamine the project’s negative impacts, a judge ruled on Tuesday in what appears to be a meaningless victory for foes of Bruce Ratner’s project.

As I commented:

It's curious that the Brooklyn Paper can so confidently assume that this is a "meaningless victory." The day after the decision, an executive from Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of developer Forest City Ratner, was somewhat unnerved as he discussed the decision. He didn't call it "meaningless."

Note that the deck beneath the YARDS FOES WIN A CASE headline is even more conclusory than the text: "Judge says state lied, but ruling won't change a thing."

Battle over?

By the way, the article in the companion Courier-Life chain, on p. 16, is paired with a longer feature article on The Civilians' play In the Footprint.

The article begins with an inaccurate claim:

The battle over Atlantic Yards may be over, but it's still brewing on stage.

Yes, the battle to stop the arena from construction is over, and most (but clearly not all) of the legal fight is over. And, yes, activism has diminished. But the controversy is not over.


Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

FCR's Morgan Stanley Building, Brooklyn Heights, issues of scale, and questions of government help

Atlantic Yards Report

Long before there was the grown-up boondoggle of Atlantic Yards, there was the little baby boondoggle of 1 Pierrepont Plaza in Brooklyn Heights.

In a profile of Steve Spinola, president of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the New York Observer leads with an anecdote involving Brooklyn and, yes, Forest City Ratner:

Developer Bruce Ratner came to Steven Spinola for help in 1985. Mr. Ratner needed to get tenants for his planned MetroTech Center in Brooklyn, and Mr. Spinola was Ed Koch's economic development chief. Part of his job was to keep tenants in New York, and Morgan Stanley was thinking about moving its back offices to New Jersey.

"They were trying to convince Morgan Stanley to go to MetroTech... They asked me to go to a meeting with Morgan Stanley to discuss and to tell them that the city was ready to encourage them to do whatever."

...After Mr. Spinola's meeting with Morgan Stanley, the prospects for a deal looked dim. "We went down in the elevator. I turned to Bruce Ratner and I said, 'There's no way you get them to MetroTech.' I said, 'But I have a site on Pierrepont Street that's currently a garage. And one of my guys came to me two months earlier and said, "The city's about to give a new lease for this garage. We oughta have a cancellation clause in case we ever need it."'"

..."So I called up City Hall, I asked for it, they gave it to me. So I said to Ratner, 'Can you spend the weekend coming up with a design for a building on that site? I'll sole-source it to you if we can get Morgan Stanley to be the principal tenant.' And we made that deal."

The groundbreaking took place outdoors on the job site in 1986, Mr. Spinola remembered. Residents of Brooklyn Heights were protesting outside. They didn't want something so decidedly un-Heightsy—a bank back office, of all things—in their neighborhood.

In the 1980s, the city faced a real need to transform Downtown Brooklyn, so sole-source deals might have been somewhat more defensible. But they're still questionable as a policy.


Posted by steve at 7:28 AM

Atlantic Yards Returns to Court on Date Unknown, For Reasons Unknown

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Ryan Thompson

After years of losing litigation battles, opponents of Atlantic Yards were victorious in court this week, but the victory appears to have come too late. Many months after the judge ruled against petitioners’ claims that the multibillion-dollar project would take much longer than 10 years, the judge now seems to agree and has granted a motion to reargue.

The date for reargument has not been set. And many opponents of the project wonder what impact the case could have, when the land has already all been seized or purchased, and the construction of the Nets basketball arena has already begun. Perhaps some of the tangential buildings that are planned will be affected, some people close to the project hypothesized.


NoLandGrab: Yep, there's no reason to to go on with this, except that the ESDC lied. We've come to expect that from the tool of developer Bruce Ratner.

Posted by steve at 7:18 AM

Art Installation Adorns Atlantic Yards

Prospect Heights Patch
By Graydon Gordian

Here's another dispatch from the "Lipstick On A Pig" department.

Whether you support or oppose the Atlantic Yards development, most people can agree that the construction site isn't exactly the prettiest plot of property in the neighborhood.

However, if you happen to walk past the chain-link fence that shields the site's northern border, you won't see rusty metal, wafting dirt or idle cranes. You'll see an intricate and colorful geometric pattern stretching along Atlantic Avenue.


NoLandGrab: If you happen to walk next to this fence, you'd better cross the street. You're in the middle of 5 lanes of traffic.

Posted by steve at 6:46 AM

In The Footpring/The Battle Over Atlantic Yards - World Premiere

The Civilians

In the Footprint begins its run.

November 12 – December 11, 2010
Irondale Center
Fort Greene, Brooklyn

In the Footprint, a new play with music, tells the story of Brooklyn's largest development project in history. The play examines the conflicts that erupted in the case of Atlantic Yards through to their current resolution in an attempt to discover how the fate of the city is decided in present-day New York and what can be learned from this ongoing saga of politics, money, and the places we call home. The play is constructed from interviews with real life players in this Brooklyn epic, including local residents, business owners, Daniel Goldstein, political leaders such as Letitia James and Marty Markowitz, activists, union members, and community leaders.


Posted by steve at 6:03 AM

November 12, 2010

Get Your Sewage Raw at Atlantic Terminal

YouTube via Brownstoner

Bruce Ratner bestows yet another lovely gift on Brooklynites.

[Warning: the video contains adult language — and is perhaps the worst-made documentary ever.]


Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

From "Intractable Democracy": Ron Shiffman on ACORN, Atlantic Yards, and shifting his position on CBAs

Atlantic Yards Report

In Intractable Democracy: Fifty Years of Community-Based Planning, a new collection of articles and interviews by and with people associated with the Pratt Institute City and Regional Planning Program, there's an interview with former Chair Ron Shiffman, who elsewhere in the book is saluted by Village Voice writer Tom Robbins as deserving the award for translating community advocacy to "the everyday needs of everyday people."

Given the tensions over community advocacy highlighted by the Atlantic Yards fight, with Shiffman opposing ACORN, a longtime ally, the interview is quite timely, especially given that those general tensions are given voice in the new play by The Civilians, In the Footprint.

(ACORN's Bertha Lewis is in the play, though Shiffman is not.)

Does ACORN really believe that Atlantic Yards opponents like Shiffman are, as founder Wade Rathke recently suggested, "among the vast community who were not moved by the need for affordable housing in Brooklyn"? The interview suggests otherwise.

Read on for an excerpt.


Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

Prokhorov draws scorn in Russia for proposal to increase work week to 60 hours (!) and change labor contracts

Atlantic Yards Report

This is a bit reminiscent of Bruce Ratner's threat to cut Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower in half.

Even as he's getting good (if shallow) press in the United States for his "exotic" status as entrepreneur, ladies' man, and owner of the Nets pro basketball team, Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov is feeling a bit of heat at home for a proposal that seems so anachronistic there must be another agenda.

In Prokhorov's Shock Modernization, the Moscow Times reports:

On the eve of National Unity Day, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, or RSPP, sent its own unique gift to the country’s workers. Kommersant reported that RSPP had prepared draft amendments to the Labor Code to increase the workweek to 60 hours and replace standard work contracts — the most common type of contract among employees containing no fixed terms — with fixed-term contracts. Another innovation dreamed up by the RSPP’s human resources committee, headed by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, would give employers the right to act unilaterally to make changes to employment contracts “for economic reasons” and would reduce the period required for giving notice to employees that such changes are imminent from two months to one month.

Is this for real? Apparently so, as it's been reported by AOL and the Moscow News.

Part of a feint?

In the Moscow Times, Boris Kagarlitsky, director of the Institute of Globalization Studies, suggests there may be some strategy afoot:

But it is possible that the proposal for a 60-hour week was intentionally leaked to reporters to first create a false panic — and then to take the idea off the table, presenting it as a “compromise” to labor groups. It could also have been intended to divert attention away from less controversial amendments to the Labor Code that would restrict the rights of employees — fixed-term contracts, for example — that they can now try to sneak through the Duma without any public discussion.

But the problem is that the public outrage has gone beyond whatever the RSPP anticipated.


NoLandGrab: Only 60 hours? Nets' CEO Brett Yormark works that many hours in a day. Just ask him.

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

Civilians' In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards Begins Nov. 12

by Adam Hetrick

The production will run through Dec. 11 at the Irondale Center, which is located two blocks from the Atlantic Yards, the proposed real estate project that would erect high-rise commercial and residential buildings in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, as well as a basketball stadium for the New Jersey Nets. The project has met with both resistance and support from community members and public officials.

For single tickets, priced $35, visit Irondale. The Irondale Center is located at 85 South Oxford Street in Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 9:32 AM

Closing Bell: Atlantic Yards Urban Canvas

by Emily Nonko

We noticed an art design go up along the construction fence along Atlantic Avenue, although it's hard to get a good look at it with all the traffic whizzing by. Turns out this is the first installation from the Urban Canvas Design Competition which selected four pieces to go up temporarily on construction fences and sidewalk sheds. We couldn't get a great picture of the whole thing but it extends about 200 feet.


Posted by eric at 9:25 AM

November 11, 2010

Why was the court decision on the Development Agreement so late? It wasn't the petitioners' fault

Atlantic Yards Report

Oh, snap.

Too Little, Too Late: Atlantic Yards Opponents Finally Win a Court Case, reports the Observer.

Yards foes win a big case that will not likely change a thing, suggests the Brooklyn Paper.

Neither publication bothered to cover the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) belated, delayed release of the Development Agreement in January, nor the oral arguments in the case in January and June during which the document was very much at issue.

(Updated and corrected: the Observer didn't cover the oral argument in January, but the Brooklyn Paper did, though I earlier said it didn't.)

Had they bothered to do their job, they and others in the press might have recognized that the reason this new decision might be "too late" is because the ESDC didn't play fair, not because those filing suit were delaying things.


Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

The Civilians' In the Footprint debuts tomorrow; post-show discussions planned for many performances; who directed the background "theater"?

Atlantic Yards Report

The investigative theater troupe The Civilians, following up its preliminary 2008 piece on Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn at Eye Level (my review), tomorrow debuts IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards.

The play with music will be performed at the Irondale Center in Fort Greene from November 12 through December 11. It's written and directed by Steven Cosson, co-written by Jocelyn Clarke, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.

The web site promises a post-show discussion series "about the real-life issues from the play related to the Atlantic Yards development and our changing community."

November 16 at 8PM: Conversation with the Artists
November 18 at 8PM: Conversation with the Artists
November 20 at 2PM: Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee
November 23 at 8PM: Conversation with the Artists
November 29 at 7PM: Brad Lander, New York City Council Member
November 30 at 8PM: Stephen Levin, New York City Council Member
December 2 at 8PM: Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Studies & Planning at Hunter College
December 4 at 2PM: Daniel Goldstein, Co-founder of DDDB and last resident to leave The Footprint
December 6 at 7PM: Conversation with the Artists
December 7 at 8PM: Letitia James , New York City Council Member (Invited)
December 9 at 8PM: Stacey Sutton, Urban Planning Professor at Columbia's Architecture Grad Dept.

Most of those leading discussions, excepting the artists, are opponents or critics of Atlantic Yards, though Council Member Levin, whose base until very recently was Bushwick and Ridgewood, has been a mild supporter while expressing concern.

It would be interesting, to say the least, to see someone from Brooklyn United for Innovative Urban Development (BUILD) or another Community Benefits Agreement signatory leading the discussion.

The conflict has been epic theater, but the director--in the grand scheme of things--has been more Forest City Ratner than anyone in charge of the public interest.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Voice warns Cuomo to steer clear of lobbyists, says closest firm to governor-elect is DKC (which works for Ratner)

Atlantic Yards Report

Wayne Barrett's cover story in this week's Village Voice, headlined PECKING ORDER: Andrew Cuomo Goes to Albany, Where Lobbyists Are Waiting, offers a blunt warning to Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo to change the way he does business in Albany.

I wouldn't bet on it, but Barrett lays down the line:

If he doesn't take dramatic executive order action in his early days as governor to blunt the sway of lobbyists, they will chip away at his credibility, and voters will come to believe over time that all that has changed are the names of the ins and the outs. He can finance his next campaign without them. He can't restore public faith in state government with them.

Dan Klores firm has direct pipeline

Guess what: the firm with the most direct pipeline to the new governor is DKC, the firm that Forest City Ratner hired to massage its message. (This goes unmentioned in the Voice, which hasn't covered Atlantic Yards very closely.)


NoLandGrab: We're preparing ourselves for the Status Cuomo.

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Court loss or not, Yards moves ahead

The Brooklyn Paper
by Christian Fleming

This week, Roofus says what everyone knows: There is no stopping Atlantic Yards.



Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

‘Green School’ Work Site Rocks 72nd St. Homes

Owners Fear Dirt, Noise, Darkness Will Cloud Their Properties

Bay Ridge Eagle
by Harold Egeln

Meanwhile, for other Brooklynites, "Atlantic Yards" is a synonym for "nightmare."

Yes, a new school is wonderful and needed, all agreed. But its construction is already making life a little less wonderful for its neighbors, who brought their concerns directly to the NYC School Construction Authority through Community Board 10.

“This is our smaller Atlantic Yards-type dispute,” resident Joe D’Angelo said, claiming his backyard usage may be curtailed during the construction.


Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

Latest Peek at Atlantic Yards Construction Site


BTB gets all misty over the prospect of a pro sports franchise in Kings County.

It seems like a millennium has passed since the original plan to bring the Nets to Brooklyn was announced back in 2003. It was a long, rough and tumble, hard fought struggle for Bruce Ratner, and still, his problems have not subsided. There was a time when Brooklynites, to include myself, thought this project and the eventual relocation of the Nets would never happen. And while much of the greater Atlantic Yards project is still in questionable status, the Barclays Center site is buzzing with activity. Mikhail Prokhorov has since been added to the equation as the team's new principle [sic] owner and the appreciable progress being made in construction have excited this Brooklynite. It is with great anticipation I await the Nets arrival into the Borough and by that, reinstating our Professional status; stripped from us in 1957. Two years is still a long ways away and anything can happen between now and then. But this giant concrete circle in the ground at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush is a signal that our day is coming.


NoLandGrab: "Principle" owner? There's nothing principled about Atlantic Yards.

Photo: BrooklynTrolleyBlogger

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

November 10, 2010

Atlantic Yards: Judge Slams State Development Agency for "Failure of Transparency"

The Huffington Post
by Norman Oder

In today's New York Times, the Arts section features a long article on a play with music that dramatizes the Atlantic Yards development controversy in Brooklyn, another work from the impressive investigative theater company The Civilians.

Meanwhile, the Times ignores a long-awaited ruling in the last remaining Atlantic Yards lawsuit, which laid bare just how the state cut corners to favor developer Forest City Ratner, allowing a 25-year buildout while insisting the arena-plus-towers project could get done--and bring benefits like new tax revenue and affordable housing--in just ten years.

To the surprise of many, state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman not only ruled for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and other project opponents but also slammed the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the state's economic development agency, for "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency" and "totally incomplete representations" in legal papers.

The importance of the ruling

No, the decision won't stop construction of the Barclays Center arena, which is already under way and slated to be finished by the fall of 2012. It likely won't impact construction on the arena block, as the Development Agreement the state signed with Forest City Ratner contains specific penalties regarding delays in the first three towers.

However, either the ESDC will have to file an appeal--and be forced to defend some very questionable behavior--or issue more findings justifying its analysis of the entire 16-tower project.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Court Ruling Ensures History Will Not Forget How Atlantic Yards Went Down

On the Huffington Post Norman Oder explains the significance of yesterday's Atlantic Yards court ruling against the Empire State Development Corporation. The ruling ensures, once and for all, that history will not forget what and how it all went down in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn under the watch of Bloomberg, Pataki, Spitzer and Paterson.

Posted by eric at 10:40 PM

Judge Rebukes State Agency Over Atlantic Yards Timetable

City Room
by Andy Newman

It comes too late to halt construction, but a judge has issued a stinging rebuke to the state agency overseeing the $5 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, finding that it made “totally incomplete representations” in legal papers about how long it would take the project to get built, in “what appears to be yet another failure of transparency.”

On Tuesday, the judge, Marcy S. Friedman of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, ordered the agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, to justify its decision to require only a 10-year environmental impact statement. The agency’s own agreement with the developer, Forest City Ratner, allows 25 years for construction of the project, which includes a basketball arena, currently being built, and 16 residential and commercial towers. Forest City Ratner officials have acknowledged that the 10-year timetable was a best-case scenario.


Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Legal Setback for Atlantic Yards Project

Opponents of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development celebrated a legal setback for the project yesterday, as a New York State Supreme Court judge ordered the Empire State Development Corporation to re-open the question of whether a further environmental review is needed.

NY Observer, Too Little, Too Late: Atlantic Yards Opponents Finally Win a Court Case

Maybe there is hope for those opposed to Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project after all. Or at the very least, some vindication.

Yesterday, State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman ruled that the Empire State Development Corporation erred in producing a modified timetable for the project last year, when it finally won state approval, and thus violated the state's environmental review process.

The courts have criticized the project before, but none have ever ruled against it, arguing that it is the legislature and its constitutionally mandated authorities, such as the ESDC, whose responsibility is to determine right from wrong when it comes to eminent domain and the like. This time, though, Friedman found the fecklessness to be actionable.

Gothamist, A Rare Victory for Atlantic Yards Foes

"With today’s ruling it is more evident than ever that the new governor has a job to do with the Atlantic Yards debacle," Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn co-founder (and former holdout) Daniel Goldstein told the New York Post. "The blight Ratner has created in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn can be fixed if Cuomo is willing to take the much-needed fresh look at Atlantic Yards that [yesterday’s] court ruling demands."

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Opponents Actually Win One

Atlantic Yards Report explains that while the ruling will not immediately effect construction, it could subject the Atlantic Yards project to further arguments in court.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Judge Orders Reassessment of 25-Year Atlantic Yards Project

Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council said, “The Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) varied so drastically from the plan initially approved by the ESDC in 2006 that it could not escape the notice of the Court, and the decision today has confirmed that the Empire State Development Corporation must disclose the impacts of the Atlantic Yards project it agreed to, not the one it wishes would be built.”

Photo: H. Spencer Young/The Local

Posted by eric at 10:25 PM


Congratulations to DDDB and Community on Ruling Against Atlantic Yards Development

State Supreme Court Justice Marcy S. Friedman issued a ruling today granting the motion by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), and other petitioners. The judge sided with DDDB and associated neighborhood groups stating that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) did not properly consider the full 25-year schedule of the Atlantic Yards development project. The judge sent the case back to ESDC requiring a detailed, reasoned basis for its findings and support.

Justice Friedman criticized ESDC for the lack of transparency in its approval of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, highlighting that the environmental review process is meant to be an open process involving the public, as well as other interested agencies.

“The Court properly found that ESDC misrepresented the facts of the contracts and there were no requirements that FCRC complete the project,” said DDDB lead counsel Jeffrey S. Baker of the Albany, New York law firm of Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore, LLC. “ESDC’s lack of transparency was not just with respect to its own deliberations, but extended to trying to hide material facts from the Court. We are very pleased that Justice Friedman did not tolerate that behavior.”

Council Member Letitia James said: “It’s time that Forest City Ratner Corporation sit down with the community and incorporate aspects of the UNITY plan into his project, which focuses on affordable housing and buildings that compliment the community. Unfortunately, the taking of homes and businesses by eminent domain in absence of proper findings has already happened. I hold my ground and continue my objection to this entire development, the process, the land grabbing, and the waste of public funds. In light of Justice Friedman’s ruling, it’s critical that Governor Elect Andrew Cuomo examine the overall plan for the Atlantic Yards project, and meet with the community. Lastly, congratulations to DDDB, Prospect Height Neighborhood Development Council, and the community for their perseverance and victory.”

Posted by eric at 7:35 PM

Court ruling apparently leaves Forest City Enterprises a bit unnerved; executive at Investor Day says "we continue to evaluate the situation"

Atlantic Yards Report

Perhaps Judge Friedman should order Forest City Ratner to start dismantling their foundation.

During an Investor Day event today, with investors and investment analysts in attendance at the Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater in Washington, DC, Forest City Enterprises offered a confident update on its projects and its progress, and a notably less confident assessment of the court ruling yesterday regarding Atlantic Yards.

Chief Operating Officer David LaRue, who had to consult a recently-prepared script regarding the ruling, stated, "There is, just with regard to the Atlantic Yards project, while we're there, there was news that came out yesterday, we want to make sure we address it, immediately, what we know. Yesterday the state Supreme Court made a ruling that--Justice Friedman issued a ruling--which for the first time was in favor of the opponents of Atlantic Yards and against the EDC, the Empire State Development Corporation."

(Actually, in New York, the EDC is the New York City Economic Development Corporation, while the state agency is the ESDC.)

Tentative tone

"This is different--last spring she actually ruled in favor on this particular issue, which is the environmental impact study that was done," LaRue continued, in a tone far more tentative than in the rest of his presentation. "Uh, what's she's asked the EDC to do in this regard is to go back to reconsider the impact on the environmental study regarding an extended development period which we were able to negotiate, which gave up to 25 years for development of the project, versus a ten-year base plan that was used."

What he didn't tell the audience is that the judged slammed the ESDC for "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency" and "totally incomplete representations" in legal papers.


Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Despite official efforts to downplay news, Friedman decision represents severe rebuke to ESDC; why did several news outlets ignore it?

Atlantic Yards Report

At the Atlantic Yards arena groundbreaking in March, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg soothingly declared, "[N]obody's going to remember how long it took, they're only going to look and see that it was done."

The official line regarding yesterday's ruling by state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman seems similar: "Nobody's going to remember how it got done, they're only going to look and see that it was done."

“Nothing was announced today that’s going to impact construction,” Jeff Linton, a spokesman for Forest City Enterprises, parent of Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner, told Bloomberg Business Week.

An Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) spokeswoman--who didn't respond to my queries--told the Brooklyn Paper that the agency was “reviewing today’s ruling, which does not enjoin construction taking place on the Atlantic Yards project.”

Why it's important

Well, it won't stop current construction, but it could impact future construction. And, despite the Brooklyn Paper headline (Yards foes win a big case that will not likely change a thing), the case will, at the very least, provoke the ESDC to issue more findings justifying its ten-year timetable.

That timetable is less and less defensible--and that could lead to additional lawsuits, possibly affecting Phase 2 of the project. The upshot: people can and will very much remember how it got done.

Also, despite attempts to downplay the ruling, it's news when a judge rebukes the ESDC for "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency" and "totally incomplete representations" in legal papers.

In other words, the agency in charge of economic development in the state behaves somewhat like a guy on Craigslist trying to rent you an apartment he doesn't quite own.


Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

Judge sides with Atlantic Yards opponents on environmental review, rips ESDC for 'another failure of transparency'

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

A state judge today ordered the Empire State Development Corp. to revisit its environmental review for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project, saying the 10-year build-out plan it is working off of isn’t justified and that new findings are needed.

In today’s decision, Friedman also ripped ESDC for not being forthright and providing her with a copy of the Master Development Agreement.


Related coverage...

7online.com, Judge rips environmental review of Atlantic Yards

A New York judge is ripping into state officials for mishandling the environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project.

Bergen Record, Judge agrees to hear further arguments in Atlantic Yards case

Opponents of the multibillion-dollar Atlantic Yards project — part of which includes the Nets’ new arena planned for a 2012 opening — won a rare court victory Tuesday, when a state Supreme Court justice agreed to accept further arguments in a long-running court case.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and other opponents have argued that the Empire State Development Corp. for months withheld from the court that the development agreement had been amended to allow a 25-year build-out for most of the project.

Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman agreed in the 21-page ruling, saying that the state agency must offer an explanation why a new environmental review — which could substantially stall the project — is not needed, even though the previous 10-year deadline is no longer in effect.

Develop Don’t Destroy official Candace Carpenter called on ESDC to “suspend all construction on the project” in light of the ruling.

Prospect Heights Patch, Judge Rules in Favor of Atlantic Yards Critics

In her opinion, Justice Marcy Friedman wrote that the Modified General Project Plan, which says Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner Companies will need far longer to complete the Atlantic Yards development than was initially approved in 2006, raises "a substantial question as to whether ESDC's continuing use of the 10 year build-out has a rational basis."

Bloomberg Businessweek, Atlantic Yards Judge Questions Environmental Review

A New York state court judge ordered Empire State Development Corp. to re-examine whether a further environmental review is needed for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn that will include offices, housing and a sports arena.

“Nothing was announced today that’s going to impact construction,” Jeff Linton, a spokesman for Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, said in a phone interview.

The Brooklyn Paper, Yards foes win a big case that will not likely change a thing

The state agency overseeing the Atlantic Yards mega-development purposefully withheld information on the project’s timetable to avoid having to reexamine the project’s negative impacts, a judge ruled on Tuesday in what appears to be a meaningless victory for foes of Bruce Ratner’s project.

Still, opponents were glowing over their first major court victory in the seven-year saga to block Bruce Ratner’s 22-acre, 16-tower mini-city sprawling east from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

“The record … lacks any expert opinion or analysis of the impact of a potential 25-year delay in completion of the project,” wrote Friedman in her ruling.

NY Daily News (Your Borough), Top state court rips agency over Atlantic Yards timetable

Reuters, NY agency must revisit Atlantic Yards impact: judge

Posted by eric at 9:17 AM

In Brooklyn, Dramatizing Real Discord

The New York Times
by Melena Ryzik

Why, The Times previews the Atlantic Yards musical, but seems to have missed yesterday's court decision. Click through to read the whole story, though — it's worth it.

“So there’s ULURP,” begins the second song in a new musical about Brooklyn. “ULURP is the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure/Which required community involvement and public review/Of all kinds of New York City land-use projects.”

If this seems like something you might read in the notes of a community board meeting, that’s because it is. The song goes on to define the Empire State Development Corporation and the New York State Urban Development Corporation (E.S.D.C. and U.D.C., for musicality) and describe how they function together. “And that’s how eminent domain works!” it concludes. Jaunty, no?

For Steve Cosson, a founder of the inquisitive musical theater troupe the Civilians, dramatizing this wonky subject led to a fertile multiyear examination of politics, race, democracy, money and community, centered on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Titled “In the Footprint,” the show mines the New Yorkiest of obsessions — real estate — to present a layered portrait of a city and a neighborhood changing, sometimes under duress. “Atlantic Yards: The Musical!” it’s not.


Related coverage...

YourNabe.com, The Atlantic Yards saga is now a play

The battle over Atlantic Yards may be over, but it’s still brewing on stage.

Over? It ain't over 'til the judge lady sings.

“It’s a very important story for Brooklyn, important story for New York City, and it’s important in and of itself,” said director Steve Cosson, whose play opens at the Irondale Center in Fort Greene this Friday. “Theater is first and foremost about conflict, and the whole Atlantic Yards saga has no shortage of dramatic conflict.”

“The characters are sophisticated about gentrification, and the play seems to humanize the people involved,” said Tom Angotti, an urban affairs professor at Hunter College. “The human drama was much more complex than this gross idea in the press, that it was all about opposition by selfish, middle class homeowner who were gentrifiers and here was this benevolent developer who was going to build affordable housing and bring jobs, which all turned out to be rhetoric and public relations.”

Posted by eric at 8:59 AM

Nets to Become "Brooklyn Ballers"? Fuggedaboutit! Says Team


Sam Amico of FOX Sports quotes a Nets "insider" as saying the team won't be known as the Nets once they move to Brooklyn, and that "Brooklyn Ballers" is one name being "floated". Amico adds that the team will have to be called "Brooklyn". The Knicks "don't want another 'New York,' and word is, they made a stink about it." Amico adds that he prefers "Brooklyn Dodgers".

Before the Nets-Cavaliers game reached halftime, a team spokesman called the report totally false.


NoLandGrab: Our guess is that, given yesterday's court ruling, the team will be called the New Jersey Nets.

Posted by eric at 8:54 AM

Big Real Estate's Super: Steve Spinola Has Run REBNY But How Will He Get on With Another Cuomo?

NY Observer
by Zeke Turner

You might not believe this, but in New York City, real estate and politics are the same thing!

Developer Bruce Ratner came to Steven Spinola for help in 1985. Mr. Ratner needed to get tenants for his planned MetroTech Center in Brooklyn, and Mr. Spinola was Ed Koch's economic development chief. Part of his job was to keep tenants in New York, and Morgan Stanley was thinking about moving its back offices to New Jersey.

"They were trying to convince Morgan Stanley to go to MetroTech," said Mr. Spinola last Friday, sitting at the lunch counter at Junior's near Times Square, his left hand surrounding a Diet Coke with lemon as he recalled his rise to prominence. "They asked me to go to a meeting with Morgan Stanley to discuss and to tell them that the city was ready to encourage them to do whatever."

Mr. Spinola was wearing a dark brown, three-button suit with a black-and-gold Real Estate Board of New York lapel pin. For the past 24 years, REBNY has been the seat of Mr. Spinola's power. He's the longest-serving president in the century-plus history of the city's largest trade group and arguably the most powerful real estate lobbyist in the state. He faces his sharpest challenge in years in dealing with an incoming governor, Andrew Cuomo, who has an electoral mandate and also a need to work with a real estate industry whose interests do not always jibe with his party's political machinery.

After Mr. Spinola's meeting with Morgan Stanley, the prospects for a deal looked dim. "We went down in the elevator. I turned to Bruce Ratner and I said, 'There's no way you get them to MetroTech.' I said, 'But I have a site on Pierrepont Street that's currently a garage. And one of my guys came to me two months earlier and said, "The city's about to give a new lease for this garage. We oughta have a cancellation clause in case we ever need it."'"

"So I called up City Hall, I asked for it, they gave it to me. So I said to Ratner, 'Can you spend the weekend coming up with a design for a building on that site? I'll sole-source it to you if we can get Morgan Stanley to be the principal tenant.' And we made that deal."


Posted by eric at 8:48 AM

FCR's 80 DeKalb, past marketing claims of LEED certification, and the "track" to LEED

Atlantic Yards Report

Once lying becomes your m.o., it gets hard to tell the truth about anything.

Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb rental tower bordering Fort Greene Park is 97% rented, a rental agent tells Brownstoner, occasioning a round of generally positive comments about the building's location and layouts.

Except this one:

I am a resident at 80 Dekalb. There have been some pretty egregious issues of misrepresentation by the sales department here. They, of course, are denying all of it. But we have organized a group of concerned residents (our first meeting had over 120 people in attendance), sent letters, had a meeting with management(Rose Associates) and ownership (Forest City Ratner), and are continuing to press them to follow through on the promises they made during the sales cycle. The promises had a lot to do with this being a "green" building. They are claiming to have LEED Certification in their ads. It is not LEED Certified. And it is anything but energy efficient, despite claims they are making to the contrary. Frustrating stuff, to say the least, particularly because the rents here are really high and the claims of incredibly low electricity bills enticed the majority of that current 97% of tenants to rent here.

Changing the tune on LEED

Actually, these days they're not quite claiming LEED certification, but they sure are hinting it; the graphic on the web site (at upper left right) indicates that the building is "designed for LEED certification."

Forest City Enterprises asserts that the building is "on track for LEED Certification with the U.S. Green Building Council."

Last November, a broker told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle it was "targeting LEED certification." However, at the same time, the web site (as noted on AYR) was claiming "LEED certified."


Posted by eric at 8:41 AM

November 9, 2010

Court Slams NY State on Atlantic Yards, Rules For DDDB

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn issued the following email appeal shortly after today's court ruling was announced.

While the impact of the Court's ruling is unclear, what is clear is that there is likely to be more legal action by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn which will impact the Atlantic Yards project. We are going to need your help:

Please consider a tax-deductible donation to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

It is getting to be that time for year-end gift-giving. Let's keep the pressure on Bruce Ratner & Co.

Posted by eric at 5:23 PM

Brooklyn Hellmouth Opens, Begins Devouring the Young

by Joey Arak

OK, or maybe it's just a "collapsed back plate in the catch basin" of the sidewalk. Either way we're blaming Bruce Ratner.

· The sidewalk that swallows women whole! [Brooklyn Paper]


Photo: Stefano Giovannini/The Brooklyn Paper

Posted by eric at 5:17 PM

Judge Rules in Favor of Develop Don’t Destroy!

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn

Big News: State Supreme Court Justice Marcy S. Friedman issued a ruling today in favor of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and other neighborhood groups, criticizing the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for “what appears to be yet another failure of transparency” in its approval of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

Justice Friedman granted the motion by DDDB and the other petitioners for reargument of her March 10, 2010 position. She held that the December 2009 Master Development Agreement should have been provided to the Court and having now reviewed that agreement, Justice Friedman found that the ESDC did not properly consider the full 25-year schedule.


Related content...

NetsDaily, Critics Win Right to Re-Argue Case, But Arena Construction Will Continue

After more than 30 losses in federal and state courts, critics of the Atlantic Yards project have finally won a case, but the state court decision does NOT halt construction on Barclays Center and is unlikely to slow it down either.

NoLandGrab: "More than 30 losses?" Show us a list. Of course, NetsDaily being a Nets fan blog, it knows from losses.

Posted by eric at 5:12 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: DDDB Wins Atlantic Yards Lawsuit

Court Rejects NY State's Misrepresentations About Completion Of Atlantic Yards, Sending Project Back To Empire State Development Corp For Reconsideration

State Supreme Court Justice Marcy S. Friedman issued a ruling today in favor of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and associated neighborhood groups, slamming the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency" in its approval of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Justice Friedman granted the motion by DDDB and the other petitioners for reargument of her March 10, 2010 ruling. She held that the December 2009 Master Development Agreement should have been provided to the Court and having now reviewed that agreement, Justice Friedman found that the ESDC did not properly consider the full 25-year schedule. Justice Friedman has sent the case back to ESDC for reconsideration, requiring the ESDC to provide a "detailed, reasoned basis for [its] findings."

"We are thrilled with the Court's decision," said, Candace Carponter, Esq., chair of DDDB's Legal Committee. "It has laid bare the pattern of lies and deception by ESDC and Forest City Ratner that underlie this project. We have always contended that the project will take decades to complete, if ever and the supposed public benefits of affordable housing and open space would never happen. Instead we are faced with decades of developer created blight in an area that may never be redeveloped due to ESDC's and FCRC's malfeasance."

DDDB argued that ESDC had violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) when it considered a 10-year time frame for completion of the project, despite contract documents which demonstrated a 25-year schedule. ESDC had argued that it would require Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) to use "commercially reasonable efforts" to complete the project by 2019. DDDB argued that the only contractual agreements between ESDC and FCRC had penalties and some guarantees for some of Phase I of the project, but there were essentially no guarantees for Phase II and it might never be built. Since most of the purported public benefits (affordable housing, open space, new school space) were included in Phase II, it affected the SEQRA determination.

In today's decision, Justice Friedman chastised ESDC for not being forthright to the Court and not providing her with a copy of the Master Development Agreement and for arguing at the January 2010 hearing that there were meaningful obligations in the development agreement, when they knew that was not case. Given the fact that ESDC misrepresented the facts to the Court and that the ESDC Board did not ever consider the 25-year schedule when it issued its SEQRA decision in September 2009, the Court has sent the matter back to ESDC to reconsider its decision.

Ms. Carponter continued, "Justice Friedman's decision puts the entire project in doubt. ESDC approved the project as an integrated development with a variety of alleged benefits. ESDC cannot proceed with just an arena or only with Phase I without considering the lasting effects of the resulting blight caused by FCRC. Such a truncated project is not what was contemplated or approved by New York State. We call upon ESDC to suspend all construction on this project which is so wasteful of public resources and consider a feasible and comprehensive development that is consistent with the surrounding area."


DDDB co-founder Daniel Goldstein said, "With today's ruling it is more evident than ever that the new Governor has a job to do with the Atlantic Yards debacle. The blight Ratner has created in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn can be fixed if Governor Cuomo is willing to take the much needed fresh look at Atlantic Yards that today's Court ruling demands."

"The Court properly found that ESDC misrepresented the facts of the contracts and there were no requirements that FCRC complete the project" said DDDB lead counsel Jeffrey S. Baker of the Albany, New York law firm of Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore, LLC. "ESDC's lack of transparency was not just with respect to its own deliberations, but extended to trying to hide material facts from the Court. We are very pleased that Justice Friedman did not tolerate that behavior."

Posted by eric at 5:00 PM

BrooklynSpeaks Press Release: Court says State failed to properly consider impacts of extended Atlantic Yards construction

Today, New York State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman found that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) unreasonably failed to properly assess the impacts of twenty-five years of extended construction at the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn. Judge Friedman’s ruling was entered following a motion by BrooklynSpeaks petitioners to reargue an earlier decision by the Court in favor of ESDC and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC). The BrooklynSpeaks petitioners asked Judge Friedman to review the Development Agreements executed subsequent to the ESDC’s approval of the Modified General Project Plan but which were withheld from public disclosure until after oral argument on the petitioners' original motion.

In her opinion today, Judge Friedman echoed BrooklynSpeaks’ concern, stating “The Development Agreement has cast a completely different light on the Project build date. Its 25 year outside substantial completion date for Phase II and its disparate enforcement provisions for failure to meet Phase I and II deadlines, read together with the renegotiated MTA Agreement giving FCRC until 2030 to complete acquisition of the air rights necessary to construct 6 of the 11 Phase II buildings, raise a substantial question as to whether ESDC’s continuing use of the 10 year build-out has a rational basis.” The Court accordingly ordered ESDC to reassess its reliance on the 10-year build out schedule in failing to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the 2009 MGPP.


“The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors hail the court’s decision as a victory for all of the communities who have been shut out of the Project’s decision-making process. It vindicates years of concerns expressed by the communities surrounding Atlantic Yards that the State of New York never properly assessed the impacts of this Project, and seems to have labored mightily to avoid doing so,” said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic Leader of Brooklyn’s 52nd District.

Said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, “The Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) varied so drastically from the plan initially approved by the ESDC in 2006 that it could not escape the notice of the Court, and the decision today has confirmed that the Empire State Development Corporation must disclose the impacts of the Atlantic Yards project it agreed to, not the one it wishes would be built. Until ESDC provides an appropriate response, the petitioners will seek to enjoin so-called ‘interim’, but blighting, project features, such as the razing of existing buildings in the Phase II footprint to create giant surface parking lots.”

“We expect the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to perform a full, serious, and unbiased environmental review based on conditions in the neighborhood at the time of announcement of the Atlantic Yards project, and considering the outside completion dates to which the agency is willing to agree,” said Michael Cairl, President of the Park Slope Civic Council. Added Howard Kolins, President of the Boerum Hill Association, “We further call on the Legislature and the Governor of the State of New York to implement oversight controls for this Project commensurate with its size and the amount of public subsidy it is to receive.”

Posted by eric at 4:38 PM

Justice Friedman slams ESDC for "yet another failure of transparency," says 10-year buildout wasn't justified, requires ESDC to make new findings

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards story just got a little more interesting.

Citing "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency" on the part of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a state Supreme Court justice today handed Atlantic Yards opponents and critics their first clear-cut victory.

Justice Marcy Friedman ruled (decision below) that, while the ESDC claimed that a ten-year buildout of the project was reasonable, it failed to address the impact of the Development Agreement, which it had kept under wraps and which allows 25 years before penalties kick in for the project as a whole.

What's the impact?

The impact of her ruling, however, may not fundamentally change anything. Friedman did not stay construction of the arena or associated infrastructure.

She granted the motions of the petitioners--groups associated with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council--and remanded the proceedings "to ESDC for findings on the impact of the Development Agreement and of the renegotiated MTA agreement on its continued use of a 10 year build-out for the Project, and on whether a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is required or warranted."

Presumably, the ESDC will find a way to justify its decisions--despite the recent acknowledgment by Forest City Ratner that the ten-year buildout was a best-case scenario.

Then again, it may be tougher to make such justifications--thus opening up the possibility of more litigation.

Read on for Norman Oder's top-line analysis of this breaking story, which he'll be adding to as more reaction comes in.


NoLandGrab: What say you, Governor-elect Cuomo? The Status Cuomo, or something different?

Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

ACORN founder says AY opponents "not moved by the need for affordable housing," loves that ACORN stiffed Ratner, thinks developer's still smiling

Atlantic Yards Report

ACORN founder Wade Rathke, on his Chief Organizer blog, is bemused by ACORN's filing of bankruptcy, but offers some reflections on the AY angle:

The biggest debt was the controversial $1M loan from Forest Ratner, the Atlantic Yards and Nets arena developer in Brooklyn that has been so contentious. ACORN had negotiated a community benefits agreement [CBA] there for badly needed affordable housing, which unfortunately has not been built in the downturn. Opponents of the project are legion among the vast community who were not moved by the need for affordable housing in Brooklyn for a host of regions.

He's typing a bit fast--"regions" for "reasons," "Forest Ratner" for "Forest City Ratner"--and misses the central point: the CBA won't guarantee the affordable housing. Only sufficient public funding will do so.

Forest City Ratner essentially achieved a private rezoning by promising affordable housing, then got the opportunity to delay it based on lack of subsidies. Project opponents who supported the Extell bid for the Vanderbilt Yard supported a plan that would have included significant affordable housing.

And project critics/opponents include some established housing groups like the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Pratt Area Community Council.

Note that, while Rathke calls it a controversial loan, it was controversial more inside ACORN than outside, since it was essentially ignored by the media.

Internal tactics

Rathke continues:

In a shrewd move to consolidate support for her candidacy as the chief staff member of ACORN, Bertha Lewis in the fall of 2008 negotiated a combination deal with Ratner to prove her fundraising prowess involving about $400,000 in grants and $1M in loans, despite onerous repayment and penalty terms. With the voter registration crises swirling around ACORN, Bertha pulled the one string where she had leverage from her New York base — damn the torpedoes — realizing that Brooklyn was so polarized around Atlantic Yards and ACORN that it would hardly matter much more, and the likely criticism was secondary to her desperate need for bridge money while she waited for funders to grow a backbone. I love the fact the fact that in the end, she stiffed him, and I bet he’s still smiling in spite of himself. He’s a big time developer, so he knows what it means to go bankrupt and short folks when the pieces don’t come together, and a million plus was still a fair deal to have a friend in Brooklyn in the scale of things.

Rathke's right that, during the tough times, Forest City Ratner owed ACORN as much as anyone.

And he's right that Ratner's probably still smiling. After all, Forest City Ratner executives were all chummy with Lewis at a public meeting last week.

Note: the total in grants was $500,000, not $400,000.


NoLandGrab: Writing on our chief Atlantic Yards opposition blog, we have this to say.

We opponents of Atlantic Yards (including organizations like the Fifth Avenue Committee and Pratt Area Community Council that, unlike Forest City Ratner, actually build affordable housing when it's not the cost of doing business for a major multi-billion-dollar boondoggle and land grab) were plenty moved by the need for affordable housing. Which is why so many of us advocated for the UNITY Plan and it's large affordable-housing component.

However, we weren't moved by promises of affordable housing being used as a Trojan Horse excuse to seize homes, ladle out a billion dollars in subsidy, and line the pockets of a politically connected developer under the guise of some not-so-affordable affordable housing. Topped by some needless, manufactured class and race warfare courtesy of Bertha Lewis.

How many affordable units are you expecting in that billion-dollar basketball arena?

Related content...

Wade Rathke: Chief Organizer Blog, ACORN’s Bankruptcy: Not Debts, Cash Flow

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

A critic lauds Gehry, suggests Ratner's behavior as a corporate citizen is not something "an architect can do anything about"

Atlantic Yards Report

The school of blind Frank Gehry worship is alive and well.

"Frank Gehry is the most important, imaginative, and obsessed architect since Louis I. Kahn, wrote Gerry Coulter, a sociologist and critic at Bishop's University (Sherbrooke, Quebec) in a long essay last spring in the online magazine Euroart titled Form, Function, and Context: Frank Gehry.

The essay includes a strong defense of Gehry's role in Atlantic Yards, with Coulter dismissing the idea that an architect bears any responsibility for his client. It's a rather narrow view, but surely not an uncommon one.

Miss Brooklyn

Coulter, drawing on secondhand reports, praised Gehry's no-longer-viable flagship tower:

Miss Brooklyn presses the broken line to its extreme which have caused opponents to charge him with being "entirely a-contextual" (Curbed, 2006). To the contrary, what Gehry has done is to take the idea of the private dwelling, no longer feasible as New York continues to grow skyward, and "stacked" individual units on top of each other to make his artful tower. Gehry told a reporter from the New York Daily News: "I spent a lot of time looking around Brooklyn, seeing what it is, what it has been in the past. And there's a kind of friendly messiness that I found. This is a way of expressing that" (Sederstrom, 2009). This may be one of Gehry's more successful efforts to introduce a passionate player into a specific context in a highly sensitive manner.

At the time of writing it appears that this Miss Brooklyn may not be built as resistance to an insensitive developer combined with an economic downturn are likely to see the project halted. One wonders though, in twenty-five years, when Brooklyn has accepted taller buildings (as it must for New York to continue to deal with its inherent land problem), if we might not look back on this artful project as a missed opportunity? Gehry has certainly left a deep challenge to any architect who wishes to work on this site in the years to come.

Yes, some people ambivalent about Atlantic Yards say the project would've been enhanced had Gehry remained.

However, the entire arena block--in which the towers were to be integrated into the arena, thus buffering an arena in a residential neighborhood--has been redesigned to save Forest City Ratner money.

The architect and the developer

Coulter writes:

His involvement in Atlantic Yards has led to a sustained criticism of Gehry which constantly seems targeted at something other than the architect. There is understandable resistance to building upwards (in an old residential low rise area), and there are concerns about the cost of the new units displacing existing Brooklyn-ites. Both of these are valid concerns but are not matters of concern for architects but for city planners and local politicians. On the cost of units and the lack of social housing, Gehry, who enjoy's building in Europe which has much more regulation, notes that this is a problem general to the United States: "there are no clients for social housing in America. There is no program, no nothing. City planning? Forget it. It's a kind of bureaucratic nonsense. It has nothing to do with ideas. It only has to do with real estate and politics" (Academy of Achievement, 1995).

(Emphasis added)

The issue in Brooklyn went beyond scale and displacement. Surely not all architects would agree with the notion that they should have no concern about the process behind the project.

What about eminent domain? Gehry wouldn't answer when asked about it.


NoLandGrab: The Great Man was just following orders, after all.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

From "Intractable Democracy": the revival of Myrtle Avenue required leadership, investment, and neighborhood involvement, not eminent domain

Atlantic Yards Report

In Intractable Democracy: Fifty Years of Community-Based Planning, a new collection of articles and interviews by and with people associated with the Pratt Institute City and Regional Planning Program, there's a fascinating account of the revitalization of Myrtle Avenue in the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn.

The bottom line: while Myrtle Avenue, once dubbed "Murder Avenue," had declined, its revival stemmed from prudent investment, strategic leadership, and neighborhood involvement, not by any declaration of blight and the attendant use of eminent domain.

In other words, Myrtle Avenue was seen as something that could bloom if carefully tended, not as something that should be cleared by the state, as with the Atlantic Yards site.


NoLandGrab: You can be sure that if Bruce Ratner had wanted Myrtle Avenue, it would have suffered a very different fate.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Talk of the Town: Prokhorov, at Snob party, demurs (but says in mag that he is not interested in politics)

Atlantic Yards Report

Rebecca Mead of the New Yorker attended the launch party, at a penthouse apartment at 200 Eleventh Avenue, of thes American debut of Mikhail Prokhorov's Snob magazine. She writes:

Among those present was Mikhail Prokhorov, who, being six feet eight inches tall, had the advantage of occupying a more congenial elevation. “I’m just a guest,” Prokhorov said, waving off further conversation as he stood in a corner, surrounded by diminutive satellites in suits. (The current issue of Snob features him in more voluble mode: in an eight-page Q. & A., he reveals that he does not know how to use a computer, that he is not interested in politics, and that he likes New York. “It’s perhaps the only city in the world where the energy reminds me of Moscow,” he says. “In all other major cities, I generally fall asleep.”)

Well, he may say he's not interested in politics, but, rest assured, those to whom he delegates--and partners like Bruce Ratner--will pick up the slack.


NoLandGrab: We would generally fall asleep at one of his lousy team's games, too, if not for the ceaselessly annoying canned noise.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

G, this is troubling

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Rob me twice

A woman alerted cops on Nov. 1 that thieves stole her wallet not once but twice in separate incidents in the Pathmark in the Atlantic Terminal.

The septuagenarian victim told cops that someone stole her wallet from her purse — for the first time — while she shopped at the supermarket Atlantic and Flatbush avenues on Sept. 9 at around 1:30 pm. The second time, her wallet was swiped from her purse on Oct. 23 at around 3:20 pm. She lost a credit card — which had unauthorized charges on it — as well as a Metrocard and Social Security card.


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

November 8, 2010

Cuomo's Urban Agenda: vague regarding housing and transportation, but rhetoric about community development promises local consultation

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has an Urban Agenda (details in PDF), which sounds good in places, but is also vague and cautious. He was been criticized for issuing it too late and not grappling with big challenges like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Interestingly enough, when it comes to affordable housing, Cuomo says nothing about mega-projects and suggests, with perhaps more hope than anything else, that the federal government could play a much bigger role.

While the little press coverage focused on the politics of the agenda (e.g., outreach to the black community), the MTA, and housing, the document contains some impressive boilerplate in the direction of good planning.

Should such rhetoric be followed and Community Development Blueprints be created, projects like Atlantic Yards would be much more difficult to achieve, given the rhetorical importance given to community consultation.

But that's not necessarily how development gets done, especially when developers like Bruce Ratner have given campaign contributions and have the governor's ear.


Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

Urban Renewal’s Human Costs

A history of postwar Manhattan developments shows the pitfalls of mass planning.

City Journal
by Anthony Paletta

An otherwise insightful review of a new book about New York City's post-war embrace of large-scale "urban renewal" projects jumps to one faulty conclusion about the present-day versions.

Fortunately, enthusiasm for such large-scale efforts eventually declined as urban renewal’s human costs became apparent—and very apparently a miserable symbol of democratic decision-making in the Cold War. Yet similar impulses endure. While it is harder today to remove residents, there seem to be few obstacles to forcing out local businesses—whether from the site of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn or in the Bloomberg administration’s Willets Point redevelopment proposal. The lure of massive redesigns has diminished but not vanished.

As Daniel Goldstein will attest, and the court records will show, it ain't that hard at all to remove residents, either.


Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

NBA's Financial Situation: David Stern's Conflicting Message About the Thunder

Bleacher Report
by Phil Caldwell

After hearing David Stern’s rhetoric this past summer, perhaps Seattle’s barren professional basketball scene might soon be shared by another 32 cities? This past July, the hated commissioner claimed the NBA was losing “huge amounts of money” and put the number in the $350 to $400 million range for the 2009-10 season alone.

If that is anywhere close to truth, perhaps Seattle ought to be celebrating escaping this mess, rather than mourning their lost franchise?

Stern has an impossible, conflicting task this year. While trying to convince skeptical city council members across the nation to pony up hundreds of millions to replace arenas barely two decades-old, he’s also pleading poverty in an effort to lower the NBA players' salary structure.

Sources confirm the poverty argument, listing that the teams losing money include Atlanta, Memphis, Detroit, Miami, Orlando, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Indiana, New Jersey, Minnesota, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Philadelphia—news that makes Seattle and Vancouver fans a bit gleeful.

Build new billion-dollar arenas using public taxpayer money for a league that is losing hundreds of millions? How does this make sense?


NoLandGrab: Why, that's a good question. One way around having to answer is by circumventing the city council via a state override, since New York's state government — and its courts — seem to be plenty gullible.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Bloomfield redevelopment reveals glimpse of Depression-era town

The Star-Ledger
by Aliza Applebaum

Holy cow! A Forest City Ratner demolition actually created (well, re-created) something.

A rare glimpse of Depression-era Bloomfield is on display just steps away from the town center, where two old-time advertisements painted on the brick side of a Washington Street building have been unveiled after being covered up since the 1930s.

The ads were uncovered in early 2009 when the adjoining building, at 80 Washington St., was torn down by developer Forest City Ratner as part of the town’s redevelopment plan. The building, which had been home to the Seven Hills restaurant since 1971, was sold to the town.

Of course, this being a Forest City Ratner project, the nostalgia trip is only temporary.

Now the advertisements, and the wall they’re painted on at the corner of Washington Street and Lackawanna Place across from the train station, are slated to be razed too, as part of the town’s redevelopment plan.


NoLandGrab: Forest City may be nostalgic, too — for the days before New Jersey's Superior Court reined in Bloomfield's use of eminent domain.

Photo: Jerry McCrea/The Star-Ledger

Posted by eric at 9:47 AM


ArtsEmerson, Rob's Blog
by Rob Orchard

We just hosted a two week workshop of a piece about the “repurposing” of a 22 acre tract of land in Brooklyn. It’s called, IN THE FOOTPRINT:The Battle for Atlantic Yards. The company creating the work, THE CIVILIANS, will begin previews this Friday in New York and open to the press on November 22nd. They then return to Boston for a week of performances here beginning on January 19th. They gave an informal run-through in the rehearsal room yesterday and the progress made in these past two weeks was palpable. I can’t wait for you to see the results. Like everything the CIVILIANS do under the direction of Steve Cosson, it’s a wonderful mix of story telling, irony, wit, intellectual rigor, movement and music (by Michael Friedman currently represented on Broadway with his music for BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON). Here we have another example of a young, pioneering company re-imagining the theater for their own times.


Related coverage...

The New Yorker, Talk of the Town

The Civilians première a play with music about the controversial Atlantic Yards development, in Brooklyn. Written by Steven Cosson and Jocelyn Clarke, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman. Cosson directs. Previews begin Nov. 12. (Irondale Centre, 85 S. Oxford St., Brooklyn. 866-811-4111.)

Posted by eric at 8:52 AM

November 7, 2010

Nets tickets on deep discount via Groupon

Atlantic Yards Report

It's no surprise that tickets to Nets games can be had for a song; after all, as the Record reported upon the season opener, those looking online could find a "$200 list-price ticket for $50, a $40 ticket for $10, or a $20 ticket for an amazing 47 cents."

Yesterday, Nets tickets went on sale via the Groupon group buying service, offering $100 list price tickets for $35 and $200 tickets for $75. Spectators can choose from five different weekday/Sunday games against the Atlanta Hawks, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Washington Wizards.

The deal "tipped" (reached the minimum) yesterday with 50 bought; now the total is 759. Every little bit must help, from the Nets' perspective, but that's still fewer than 152 tickets per game.

Is the failure to sell more tickets a sign that Newark and environs is unready to support the Nets? That the team isn't compelling? That "sports entertainment" has a rather high cost? I suspect the latter more than anything.


NoLandGrab: The most interesting thing about the Nets continues to be the owner.

Posted by steve at 1:17 PM

After bringing public art to the Atlantic Avenue construction fence, what about "icebergs" for the empty lots on the Atlantic Yards site?

Atlantic Yards Report

A bone has been thrown to the public in the form of a clever artwork that is a colorful painting on the construction fence surrounding the construction site of the new Nets arena. In light of the imminent Atlantic Lots, this blog post suggests an additional art installation to cover up acres of non-development.

And while no one has yet discussed it regarding Atlantic Yards, one architectural firm has suggested a solution for the many stalled construction sites across the city.

The Icebergs NYC project, according to Woods Bagot both solves a problem and creates an opportunity:

Big in volume and light on resources, like their namesakes, these 100% recyclable structures have been designed to turn stalled construction sites into unique, multi-purpose spaces. Icebergs NYC provides an iconic venue for a variety of functions, while creating a revenue stream on an otherwise dormant site. Designed for quick assembly and disassembly, the modular structures are constructed of a steel frame topped by inflated pillows of ETFE to create a dynamic, memorable form. Transportable in a single shipping container, Icebergs can quickly be set adrift to sites in cities around the world.

Further coverage

Here's 6/21/10 coverage in Crain's, headlined Designer Floats Iceberg Idea for Stalled Building Sites:

"Owners and developers are spending money every day to cover these idle sites, and people are hesitant to build on them in the meantime," [Woods Bagot New York Principal Jeff Holmes] said. "We wanted to make something high quality with a real presence to attract top-notch venues."

So, the firm is proposing flexible and modular spaces that can be put in the place of these vacant lots, but can also be quickly removed if and when the primary stalled project is resurrected. Woods Bagot created modular steel beams with a thin film of plastic stretched over them. The coating weighs less than one-tenth that of a typical roof structure much less glass curtain wall, but has high insulation qualities.

The firm, which was founded 141 years ago in Adelaide, Australia, has yet to build any icebergs, but it is in talks with several developers. Eventually Woods Bagot hopes not to have a few of them floating temporarily around New York but around the nation as well, where stalled sites are nothing if not more common than they are here.


Posted by steve at 12:56 PM

November 6, 2010

Tracy Collins breaks it down: the Knicks' "You Us We Now" Brooklyn outreach

Atlantic Yards Report

Click on the graphics to enlarge, and click here and here for Tracy Collins's photos, taken at Atlantic Avenue near Cumberland Street, at the border of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, and Seventh and Flatbush Avenues in Park Slope.

The former is actually in the Atlantic Yards footprint, on a building that's supposed to be torn down--but we'll see.

The Knicks are reaching out to YOU (the Republic of Brooklyn) with US (the original ball team of the Empire State), claiming WE (are unstoppable together), and that NOW (is the time to represent), and that BROOKLYN STAND UP.

They're clearly trying to (re)assert their foothold in an area that will be primed with Nets propaganda for years to come.


Additional coverage...

Prospect Heights Patch, Knicks Erect Banner in Atlantic Yards

Nets Daily, Knicks Increasing Brooklyn Presence

Posted by steve at 12:48 PM

MAS Summit: why the "civic community" is vital (and how they stayed out of the AY fray)

Atlantic Yards Report

If fully built, Atlantic Yards would be the the largest development in Brooklyn's history, yet it seems to have barely appeared on the radar of some civics groups.

The Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City Oct. 21-22 offered another opportunity to reflect on how some major civic groups stayed out of the Atlantic Yards fray.

Panelist Richard Kahan, a winner of the Jane Jacobs Medal for lifetime service, suggested that the "the power of civic community" has been misunderstood when developers make sure they get an endorsement from the mayor but forget about organizations like the MAS, the Parks Council, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA).

"The first developer to figure that out was [Donald] Trump, who said, 'if I have a partnership with the civics, the government can't say no," Kahan observed.

What about AY?

Forest City Ratner took that to another level, recruiting support from a few established community groups for the Community Benefits Agreement, and helping create and fund more than half the eight signatories.

What about Kahan's list of larger civic organizations? The Parks Council--I think it's now New Yorkers for Parks--sat out the debate, the MAS was a mend-it-don't-end-it latecomer, and the RPA offered a convoluted statement, criticizing the process and Phase 2 but essentially endorsing the arena block and the project.

Organizations like the once-tough Citizens Union also feared to criticize a project that might mean economic development.

That left Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn without some potential major, experienced allies.


Posted by steve at 12:35 PM

Times finally corrects error claiming Ratner took possession of entire AY site

Atlantic Yards Report

From a September 28 New York Times City Room post headlined Latest Design Is Unveiled for Atlantic Yards Plaza: This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 5, 2010

An earlier version of this post stated inaccurately that Mr. Ratner had taken possession of the entire 22-acre Atlantic Yards site. Because condemnation is taking place in phases, he has possession of only a portion of the site.

It shouldn't take so long to get such a simple correction made.

The back story

When the article emerged, I filed a online comment that evening regarding the error.

The next day, I filed an official request for a correction through the proper channels and wrote to reporter Charles Bagli directly. He acknowledged the error but, for whatever reason, no correction emerged.

On October 24, I posted another comment regarding the error, as I wrote October 28.

Today I wrote to the Public Editor, with copies to the news desk in charge of corrections and the reporter. That did the trick--without having the Public Editor intervene.


Posted by steve at 12:25 PM

Made in Brooklyn: The Civilians' Battle Over Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Rail
By Michele Travis

This article discusses the play "In The Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards" which will be performed fromNov. 12 through Dec. 11 at The Irondale Center.

However, their latest investigative theater project, In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, is a local labor. The Civilians occupy an office a block away from the Atlantic Yards site, and several company members, including artistic director Steve Cosson, are longtime Brooklyn residents. While the work of the company focuses on shaping an unwieldy ongoing conflict into a theatrical narrative, Cosson notes, “being in the neighborhood every day reminds me that it’s real” and memories of the changed surrounding streets give the project a personal resonance.

The play is based on interviews with Brooklynites who have been involved with the project. The article includes quotes from some interviews including this one from "A Blogger":

...One thing I kind of think is like, the bloggers, I kind of think we’re like a Greek chorus basically. We tell the people what’s really going on. You could do like a Greek chorus in your show. They could all be dressed like bloggers. Yeah. It’s, yeah. Typically that would be pajamas [laughs]. Occasionally in the buff. But, um, yeah.

NoLandGrab: I always post while wearing my street clothes. It seems that some bloggers are having much more fun than others.


Posted by steve at 12:05 PM

Fulton Mall is not there yet

The Brooklyn Paper
By Faith Hope Consolo

This article gushes about changes coming to the Fulton Mall (ahem, "luxury retail corridor") in downtown Brooklyn. This view includes the idea that the introduction of more chain stores will then lead to the opening of hip restaurants. It's difficult to predict the future will be for this shopping strip, but the author makes a pretty big stretch by predicting significant pedestrian traffic from the office workers of Bruce Ratner's soul-numbing Metrotech Center as well as from the arena goers of Atlantic Yards, about a half mile away.

The concentration of the youth-market stores will easily attract buyers from the entire borough. Add to the mix the proximity to Metrotech Center and the Atlantic Yards, and a constant flow of foot traffic in the pedestrian mall is almost a guarantee.


Posted by steve at 8:26 AM

November 5, 2010

No Brooklyn Brewery Beer Hall for Phony Island, After All

Grub Street

Yesterday the Times' City Room blog reported that Brooklyn Brewery was rumored to be negotiating to open a beer hall in Phony Island — which is what we’re calling it from now on, thank you very much. The Post also wrote today that “sources said” Brooklyn Brewery was the favorite to operate a beer garden. But don’t boycott the brewery just yet: An operations employee there, Brian Dochney, tells us (and we believe him) that it’s absolutely not true, and indeed all mention of Brooklyn Brewery has mysteriously disappeared (without a correction) from the City Room post. “The article was supposed to read a Brooklyn brewery, not the Brooklyn Brewery,” he says.

“We have no involvement in that, and no plans for a Coney brewery. It was literally a typo that makes us look like the big bad wolf. It’s misinformation, and we’ve been chasing our tail around the Internet trying to put out fires.” Dochney adds, “We want our reputation to be for supporting the classic Brooklyn things — it’s funny it’d be us they mention.” Actually, a Brooklyn Brewery beer hall might’ve been the best of all evils. We’ve said it before: If a Dunkin’ Donuts on the boardwalk can happen in Seaside Heights, it can happen here.


NoLandGrab: Ah, yes. The "classic Brooklyn things": a Russian oligarch's plaything, a British bank-tagged basketball arena, scores of Chinese investors, eminent domain abuse, etc., etc. Which may explain why opponents of Atlantic Yards are still boycotting the Brooklyn Brewery.

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

At first, non-promoted AY cabinet meeting, Forest City Ratner brings staff and support, gets warm welcome, talks parking, construction

Atlantic Yards Report

Just when you thought Atlantic Yards couldn't get any less transparent. Thank goodness for Norman Oder.

Remember the promise at the 9/29/10 meeting on the planned Barclays Center plaza that there would be regular meetings, with representatives of government agencies, community boards, elected officials, and the Empire State Development Corporation, along with developer Forest City Ratner?

Well, the first meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet was held yesterday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, lasting about 70 minutes, going through issues like construction progress, parking, and traffic.

The hosts were the Brooklyn Borough President's Office and Council Member Letitia James, but it was really the Forest City Ratner show, with MaryAnne Gilmartin, the developer's Executive VP, and her colleagues doing most of the talking.

The cabinet will meet quarterly to discuss construction and other issues. About 40 people attended, most because they had to be there and, while some of them (notably James) brought questions, there was no opportunity for members of the public to pose questions on the spot, as is the protocol for a "working meeting.

It was a convivial event, with Empire State Development Corporation Project Manager Arana Hankin heaping praise on Forest City Ratner's cooperation. The only other ESDC staffer there was project ombudsman Forrest Taylor, and when James had a question about parking as reported in an ESDC document, it was answered by FCR's attorney. (As I wrote, the answer was wrong.)

Future CBA discussions?

The closest thing to contention came when Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman questioned why a future meeting would examine the Community Benefits Agreement, a private deal between Forest City Ratner and eight community groups, which excluded community boards.

James, an Atlantic Yards opponent, indicated that she felt a responsibility to represent constituents who had expressed concerns about CBA implementation, and Carlo Scissura, the Borough President's Chief of Staff, similarly said the CBA was something they had to deal with.

Dean Street blocked

Another moment of concern surfaced when James described how double- and triple-parking outside a church on Dean Street had blocked the Fire Department at one point; FCR said it was exploring offering temporary access to a project site parking lot on Sundays.

Little public notice

Why didn't you hear about the meeting beforehand? Because, while the meeting was not closed to the public--there is an open meetings law--it was not promoted to the public, nor were those invited encouraged to tell their constituency.

Thus neither elected officials nor community boards sent out notices. I heard about it secondhand. (See bottom for my somewhat tense exchange with Scissura and James.) No date has been set yet for the next meeting.


Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

When was Block 1129 parking increased to 1100 spaces? At Borough Hall meeting on construction issues, the answer (from FCR, not ESDC) is wrong

Atlantic Yards Report

All Forest City and ESDC double-talk aside, Prospect Heights residents are staring at an absurdly large, and life-altering, number of surface parking spots in their near future.

The size of the parking lot on Block 1129, the southeast block of the Atlantic Yards site, was increased to 1100 spaces in a rather non-transparent fashion last year, and the issue was further obscured yesterday at the first meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet.

The cabinet will meet quarterly to discuss construction and other issues. (I'll have a separate report on the meeting later this morning.)

The person designated to answer the parking question, Forest City Ratner (FCR) attorney Melanie Meyers, gave a misleading answer regarding parking.

So no one learned that FCR and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) agreed to increase the size of the parking lot not once but twice, from 944 to 1044 and then to 1100, a 16.5% increase. Nor that the explanation for the second increase is rather disingenuous.

The first increase was disclosed in the June 2009 Technical Memorandum, but the second wasn't disclosed until the December 2009 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, which didn't surface for months.


Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

Andrew Cuomo: How will he do with his shot at 'day one?'

by Sean Kirst

The more things change...

It struck me the other night, as I watched Andrew Cuomo make his acceptance speech, just how surreal the events of the last 48 months have been. It was only four years ago that we elected Eliot Spitzer, and I think most New Yorkers assumed we'd have him for governor for at least eight years - at which point he'd look toward Washington D.C. In any event, I went back and found the column I wrote when Spitzer was elected; an awful lot of it still goes for the attorney general who's becoming governor, this time around:


For Eliot Spitzer, this is Day One.

That's the theme he's used throughout his long campaign for governor. Today, at least symbolically, that time has come. George Pataki will have a month or two to clean out his office, but Spitzer becomes the one calling the shots.

Spitzer has supported the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, yet he remains so keenly aware of community concerns in his native New York City that he wisely called last summer for additional time to review the project. Compare that with what Spitzer did at almost the same time in Syracuse: One of his campaign aides, behind the scenes, lobbied Councilor Bill Ryan, a Democrat, for a quick "yes" vote on the equally complicated billion-dollar final deal for the Carousel Center expansion, Ryan said.


NoLandGrab: Fear not, Syracusians. You can rest assured that Eliot Spitzer didn't spend a second more contemplating Atlantic Yards than he did your Carousel Center project. It was all an act.

And don't hold your breath for anything different under Andrew Cuomo. We sure aren't. His pockets have already been lined with Bruce Ratner's money.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Nets Set Up Web Cam at Arena Site


Starting Thursday, there will be regular imagery updates on construction progress at Barclays Center, the Nets have announced. The imagery will be provided by EarthCam, which uses daily imagery to create time-lapse videos of construction sites, as it did with the New Meadowlands Stadium. Tracy Collins, a critic of Atlantic Yards, has been posting his own time-lapse videos of demolition and construction on Vimeo.

As part of that announcement, the team states the first structural steel will rise at the arena in “less than two weeks” and that concrete has already been poured “on more than 50%” of the arena foundation.


NoLandGrab: Of course, Forest City Ratner has had countless spy cams trained on the site for years — some of them on other people's property.

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

Dean at 6th in the mist

threecee via flickr

Dean Street at 6th Avenue
looking west along Dean Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

November 4th 2010

The Barclays Center of Atlantic Yards is under construction at this intersection. The rear of the arena would be along 6th Avenue, the cross street in this video, which runs north-south (right-left). Dean Street runs background-foreground (west-east).

It's difficult to imagine 18,000 arena patrons flooding this residential neighborhood.


Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Tonight and beyond: King Con

The Beat

Here's one we missed, unfortunately — mild-mannered Norman Oder appearing on a panel at King Con, Brooklyn's own comic book festival.

***THURSDAY, November 4***
9pm ATLANTIC YARDS, COMICS, & THE CHANGING FACE OF BROOKLYN: What would Batman be if his Gotham was all Gristedes and Forever 21…(Bed Bath and Batman??) How is the Seepage of Suburban Sprawl affecting the artists who create here? Panelists Stuart Moore, Norman Oder, Simon Fraser and more


King Con continues through the weekend at the Brooklyn Lyceum. More info here: www.kingconbrooklyn.com

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Sign of the times! Trader Joe’s admits its crime problem

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

Forest City Ratner's Fort Greene malls have some new competition.

Managers of the Trader Joe’s on Court Street have confessed — albeit in its own cheeky way — that the store is a magnet for criminals.

A new sign at the entrance to the popular supermarket at Atlantic Avenue offers shoppers this friendly reminder:

“We know it’s hard to focus with so many amazing values in the store, but please keep a close eye on your belongings!”

The tone of the sign seems innocent enough, but the goings-on at the grocery store have been anything but.

Pickpockets have stalked the quirky grocery store with regularity since it opened in 2008, making it one of the usual suspects in our weekly crime blotter, alongside the Planet Fitness on Duffield Street (“Planet pilfer”!), the Macy’s on the Fulton Mall (“Menace at Macy’s”!) and the Bruce Ratner-owned Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls near the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues (“More malling”!).


Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

November 4, 2010

Gehry's speaking at Pratt November 10 (on "Architecture and Beauty"); chances of getting in low, but he should field some AY questions

Atlantic Yards Report

Though the Pratt Institute has announced that architect Frank Gehry will speak at the School of Architecture's fall 2010 lecture and events series at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, November 10, don't expect to get in.

Thank goodness. We were afraid we were going to have to listen to the great man's pompous platitudes and another hackneyed story about a "Brooklyn bride."

The event, to be held at Memorial Hall Auditorium is free and open to the public, but priority will be given to Pratt students and faculty members with valid ID at 2:30 p.m. Members of the public will be admitted at 2:50 p.m. should seating be available.

No press access for me

I asked for press access and was told that "we are at capacity for press seating... Please note that we have an extremely limited number of press seats and that seating priority at the event will be given to Pratt students and staff members."

I asked which news outlets had priority, so we know where to look for coverage, and also asked if the event would be taped/webcast.

I didn't get a response.

Questions Brooklyn might have for Gehry

That's too bad, because Brooklyn is the place where Gehry should be asked if he has second thoughts about wanting to "create a neighborhood practically from scratch," about letting Forest City Ratner keep him from meeting with the community, about cracking that Atlantic Yards protesters "should have been picketing Henry Ford," and whether he thinks an outdoor plaza can work at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.


Posted by eric at 10:52 PM

Prokhorov learning from Ratner, places item about mogul watching demolition of Goldstein's building (and eating at "nearby" Peter Luger)

Atlantic Yards Report

According to an item fed to NetsDaily editor Net Income (according to the Times Magazine "a 65-year-old New York-based television producer anxious to keep his old- and new-media identities separate"), Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov and a group of a dozen people on Saturday "watched quietly from a nearby vantage point" the demolition of 636 Pacific Street, the building housing Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein's former condominium.

As the photo, from Prokhorov's Onexim Group hints, that "nearby vantage point" is the roof of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center mall.

According to Mr. Income's triumphant report:

After spending about 20 minutes looking at the site and the construction plans, Prokhorov and the group went to lunch at the nearby Peter Luger steakhouse, where they dined on porterhouse, creamed spinach and cheesecake for dessert. There must have been some champagne too.

Looking for Luger

For those more familiar with Brooklyn, Peter Luger (B), which is in Williamsburg, is not exactly nearby the mall (A), which is in Fort Greene, or the Atlantic Yards site, which is in Prospect Heights.

Still, you can bet that Prokhorov media guru Ellen Pinchuk has been learning from Forest City Ratner consultant "dark genius" Joe DePlasco.


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Gehry returns to the borough of his greatest failure

NY Post
by Stephen Brown

He's baaaaaaack!

Starchitect Frank Gehry will return to the borough where he proposed his most ambitious design — and became his greatest failure — next week.

In one of his first public appearances since he was fired by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner in 2009, Gehry will speak at the Pratt Institute on Nov. 10.

Gehry will converse with Julie Iovine, the executive editor of The Architect’s Newspaper, the publication that he famously told in 2009, “The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn—I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

It is happening, though not with Gehry. The Barclays Center arena, and perhaps the larger, still stalled project, is now being designed by SHoP Architects.

The one significant idea from Gehry’s design that appears to remain part of the Barclays Center design is the “Urban Room,” an 80-foot glass-walled atrium that will serve as the base of a skyscraper at the front of the arena, as well as a public space.

That would be the imaginary "Urban Room," since Ratner has no plans to build any office tower at this juncture, and possibly ever.

Frank Gehry at Pratt Institute Memorial Hall [200 Willoughby St. between Classon and Washington avenues, (718) 636-3514], Nov. 10 at 3 pm.


Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

November 3, 2010

Rider Rebellion and Reverend Al Tell Albany to Stand Up for Transit

Streetfilms via Streetsblog

Rev. Al Sharpton got religion, and a little case of amnesia, at a rally last week protesting MTA fare hikes and service cuts and Albany politicians' predilection for raiding transit funds. The segment begins around the 2:15 mark.

Streetfilms Shortie: Vote Transit! Rally from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

"The question is, who in Albany's gonna vote for the people? Everyone has got slick commercials; not one commercial explains how we have a state that can find money to build stadiums and developments, but can't find money for people to ride to work and to school every day on mass transit."

Say what, Reverend Al? You support Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn basketball arena "100%" (and you supported the West Side Stadium, too), but we don't remember you ever complaining about Ratner's sweetheart deal for the Vanderbilt railyard, or the re-sweetened payment terms.


Posted by eric at 9:59 PM

Acorn files for bankruptcy

Among the controversial community-organizing group's biggest creditors: Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, owed $1 million for a 2009 loan.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

Beleaguered community organizing group Acorn filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Tuesday, marking the end of a tumultuous two-year period in which attacks by conservatives and its own missteps proved too much to overcome.

In a statement on Acorn's website, Chief Executive Bertha Lewis said she saw the end “coming for some time,” and blamed the group's downfall on “a political onslaught” that caused the organization “irreparable harm." Acorn had become a GOP target by registering 3 million voters in swing states that turned blue in the 2008 presidential race. But it also made blunders of its own, including shoddy record-keeping and its founder's cover-up of his brother's $1 million embezzlement from the organization.

Seven different Acorn entities made Chapter 7 filings Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn. In the main filing, the group listed a little over $4 million in liabilities, including $1 million owed to Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards mega project. Forest City had lent Acorn the money in 2009, after Ms. Lewis took over the national organization.


Posted by eric at 4:21 PM

ACORN files for bankruptcy; if FCR doesn't get its $1 million loan repaid, it still will have reaped far more in value from ACORN's support

Atlantic Yards Report

It looks like Forest City Ratner may not get its money back.

According to a post yesterday by CEO Bertha Lewis on ACORN's web site, the national organization, which earlier this year relaunched as separate state organizations (such as New York Communities for Change), has declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy as funding dried up in the wake of (mostly trumped-up) scandal.

Still, as I've written, it's notable that ACORN has gotten very little bad press concerning two far more legitimate issues: the cover-up of an embezzlement by its founder's brother and the $1.5 million loan/gift bailout of the national organization by developer Forest City Ratner.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as "liquidation," allows the organization or individual to keep exempt property and have the rest of the property sold by a court-appointed trustee.

The loan

According to ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief, the $1 million loan, half delivered 8/1/08 and the other half on 10/1/08, was granted at an annual interest rate of 4.58%, with 36 monthly payments from 6/1/09 through 5/31/11. If ACORN missed payments, after 30 days the interest rate would rise to an annual rate of 18%--an interest rate that alarmed some ACORN board members.

How much of this has been paid back? We don't know, but the bankruptcy filing hints that FCR didn't get repaid.

Then again, the developer has gotten well more than $1.5 million value out of ACORN's and Lewis's support for Atlantic Yards, given the importance of ACORN in getting official approval of the project at the size requested.


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

MAS Summit: Moynihan Station seen as transformative project (not AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22 featured a panel on a project all participants deemed transformative to the city.

Atlantic Yards? No, Moynihan Station, the transformation of the Farley Post Office into a train station worthy of the city's biggest commuter hub, the underground and much-maligned Penn Station, and the attendant development of the Far West Side of Manhattan.

Sure, the summit was held at a venue adjacent to Penn Station, so a Moynihan Station panel--especially given the groundbreaking that week--made sense.

But had the summit been held in Brooklyn, they could not have made the same arguments or predictions. It's simply impossible to see Atlantic Yards as transformative in the same way. There would be, at most, one commercial building, not dozens.

In fact, it's more likely that Atlantic Yards will linger, as it takes far longer than initially promised for most or all of the planned apartment towers to be constructed.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

November 2, 2010

ACORN Press Release: The end of an era: ACORN files Chapter 7 bankruptcy

End of an era? Or end of an error? Bertha Lewis — still defiant in her self-delusion — announces ACORN's bankruptcy filing.

... we will be filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy by close of business today.

We have seen this coming for some time. Our chapters closed in the first quarter of the year. We have spent our remaining resources trying to dissolve the organization with integrity, while continuing to respond to the extremist attacks. Allegations and reports will continue to try to undermine all that ACORN has done, often searching for evidence from long before I became CEO.

Thank you to all our members, supporters, funders, friends and allies who helped ACORN carve out a deep and lasting place in history. Let us all learn from the past, and march boldly into the future. ACORN will live on in the hearts of the people it served, and as those of us who fight for justice know, "THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED".


NoLandGrab: Does this mean Bruce Ratner won't be getting his money back?

Posted by eric at 9:56 PM

636 Pacific Street is history

Tracy Collins via Vimeo

636 Pacific Street is history from tracy collins on Vimeo.

formerly 636 Pacific Street near 6th Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

Today is the day that 636 Pacific Street ceased to exist. Now all of the buildings that used to stand in the footprint of the Barclays Center Arena (the blocks bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, 6th Avenue and Dean Street have been demolished.

The Barclays Center is the first of possibly 17 buildings for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project by Forest City Ratner.

This time-lapse video was shot on October 30, 2010.


Also on Flickr.

Posted by eric at 4:03 PM

MAS Summit: City Vitals shows New York's strengths (talent, innovation) and weaknesses (percentage of voters, separation of rich/poor)

Atlantic Yards Report

A couple of years ago, I remember asking a couple of then-colleagues whom they were voting for in local elections. They had no interest in voting.

Indeed, while New York certainly comes out high in several lists of key urban attributes, it's quite low--43rd out of 50--when ranking the number of votes cast in the November 2004 presidential election divided by the voting age population of the metropolitan area.

That's one intriguing finding in City Vitals, a report that documents four key elements-- talent, innovation, connections and distinctiveness-- that drive prosperity in urban environments.

So it gives some perspective on how New York City can in many ways thrive even as citizens and communities feel a disconnect with government, such as when projects like Atlantic Yards are "done deals" despite formal opportunities for public input.


Posted by eric at 3:57 PM

‘C’ ya later! Three muggings in same subway station

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls are doing their part to boost the crime rate in Fort Greene, despite the de-population of the Atlantic Yards footprint, which the Atlantic Yards Blight Study erroneously claimed was the breeding ground for neighborhood crime.

Cruel quintet

Five teens attacked a 16-year-old at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues during a bloody Oct. 26 altercation.

The victim had just exited the crime-addled Atlantic Terminal Mall at 3:20 pm when the thugs jumped him, slashing open his face and hand during the violent exchange.

We smell a rat

A thief swiped a pocketbook from a 19-year-old woman during a Oct. 29 celebration inside Chuck E. Cheese on Flatbush Avenue.

The woman told police she put her bag down inside the eatery, which is part of the crime-ridden Atlantic Terminal Mall between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue, at 5 pm. When she returned a half hour later, the bag had disappeared.

Workers found the woman’s bag later that night, but the iPod and credit cards inside were gone.


Posted by eric at 3:46 PM

As the Boardwalk Is Remade, 9 Fixtures Are Told to Leave

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

The Las Vegasfication of Brooklyn continues apace.

From behind the bar at Ruby’s, hard on the Boardwalk in Coney Island, Cindy Jacobs Allman commiserated with customers and other business owners slowly grasping that their livelihoods — as well as a familiar part of the city’s landscape — would soon be gone.

Nine longtime Boardwalk tenants, including familiar places like Ruby’s, Shoot the Freak and the Beer Garden, were told on Monday that their leases would not be renewed.

The news came from Central Amusement International, which has a long-term city lease for the 3.1-acre seaside amusement area and the Boardwalk. The company said it wanted to extend its “vision of a resurgent Coney Island.”

Translation: "Not like Coney Island at all."

But the nine businesses that are part of that past have until Nov. 15 to shut down. Ruby’s, for example, has been a fixture on the Boardwalk since 1934, and the pathway nearby is named after its founder, Ruby Jacob.

“We just heard this devastating news,” Ms. Allman said. “We are a throwback to the past. We make people feel good. To think we’re not going to be part of the new Coney Island is just very sad.”

Anthony Berlingeri, who owns Shoot the Freak and Beer Island, said he was angry that longtime business owners were being expelled, much as stalwarts were evicted during the redevelopment of Times Square and the site of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 3:29 PM

Matt Damon: Working Families Party Mouthpiece

Big Government

Even Andrew Breitbart's web sites can be right twice a day.

It looks like Matt Damon’s been overdosing on Kool-Aid again. He’s apparently doing the bidding now for the ACORN spawn, Working Families Party.

Former Working Families Party co-chair and NY state co-chair Bertha Lewis was also once the CEO and Chief Organizer of the mighty ACORN, before it disbanded from its national brand name to a multitude of local and statewide affiliates under different names (thanks to those infamous prostitution tapes).

Ms. Lewis departed from the WFP organization in February this year, in the wake of the federal investigation of its for-profit company, Data and Field Services over claims it was using their company to skirt around the city’s stringent campaign finance laws. In the end, the feds decided not to file any charges against WFP; however, the investigation resulted in the organization’s restructuring to create firewalls between the for-profit company from the rest of WFP.

Let’s also not forget the sordid story behind real estate mogul Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner. The infamous Atlantic Yards project in NY is a multi-year long story of buyoffs, intimidation and corruption, not to mention the audacity of a massive land grab. Bertha Lewis and the WFP, initially opposed to the land grab because of their concerns about the “gentrification” of Brooklyn, quickly turncoated on their Brooklyn neighbors as soon as Ratner offered Lewis a $1.5 million bailout and a 50/50 deal on housing in his future high-end condos.


Posted by eric at 3:22 PM

Jay-Z to Jeezy: 10 Rappers Who Should Run For Political Office

by Chris Yuscavage

Why couldn't a rapper with a rap sheet hold office — plenty of other crooks in New York already do.

So today, in honor of Rhymefest's announcement and voting day tomorrow, RapFix came up with 10 other rappers who should consider running for political office. These guys would definitely get our vote if they ever decided to put their names on a ballot.

The Rapper: Jay-Z
The Political Office He Could Hold: Borough President of Brooklyn
His Qualifications: Jay's been holding BK down through his music for more than a decade now. But, more importantly to the people of NYC's biggest borough, he's been influential in helping bring the NBA's New Jersey Nets to BK's Atlantic Yards complex, a move that should help the local economy. It's also put him in touch with BK's current Borough President. So, how long until President Carter becomes, well, President Carter?


NoLandGrab: If experience tells us anything, it's that nearly anyone can hold the office of Brooklyn Borough President.

Posted by eric at 3:14 PM

November 1, 2010

The Charter Commission's missed opportunity to address real change, and the "Morton's fork" faced by voters Tuesday on term limits, reform package

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder attempts to sift through the absurdly confusing, non-reformist Charter "reforms" on Tuesday's ballot. What's a voter to do?

New York City voters on Tuesday will turn over their ballots to see two ballot referenda in small type, the relatively minor but not unimportant results of a Charter Revision Commission, appointed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, that, this summer, heard much concern about issues such as land use reform.

Instead, the commission devised a question on term limits that's quite cynical--the current three-term limit, enacted after the City Council did Bloomberg's bidding, would be replaced by the old two-term limit, but not apply to current incumbents.

And, rather than offer yes-no voting on several other issues, the commission--claiming it was told that ballot strictures required it--lumped seven disparate reform measures into one vote.

On term limits, cynicism time

Wrote Craig Gurian in a Remapping Debate commentary headlined And then they’ll say we ratified their scheme:

We won’t know the outcome, of course, for another week. But there is something that we can safely predict. If voters reject the [term limits] proposal, those apparently believing in the divine right of municipal officials to a third term will say: “See, voters really don’t want us limited to three terms.” If voters approve the proposals, they will describe the outcome as: “See, voters think that relaxing limits to permit three terms is a good idea.” Heads the New Royalists win; tails we lose.

Will press coverage do anything more than uncritically convey the spin that term limit extenders choose to rationalize the ultimate outcome? As the Journal’s Riley put it two years ago: “[T]here's something deeply disturbing about a local press corps that lets the political class get away with it.”


Posted by eric at 10:39 AM