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March 20, 2011

The Real Question to Ask About the Ratner Bait-and-Switch Approach on Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

This blog posting begins with a listing of the depressingly familiar bait-and-switch that has become the hallmark of Atlantic Yards.

A List of Ratner Atlantic Yards Bait-and-Switches (incomplete)

This most recent episode means that an incomplete list of the bait-and-switches that have been `foisted’ upon the ESDC to date now includes the following:

  1. Cheap, untested, modular construction instead of premium `starchitect' (Frank Gehry) design (or high quality materials) for the residential portions of the project

  2. The revamping of the basketball arena Gehry design to an airplane hanger design dressed up with a theoretically temporary metal lattice work wreath. That arena is also smaller than promised and apparently can’t accommodate a hockey team, not that the surrounding Brooklyn Brownstone community should actually be happy if it could.

  3. A shift from a swift 10-year build-out of the megadevelopment to a schedule that (like the now 40-plus-year development of Roosevelt Island) will take the protraction of “decades” to complete.

  4. Constructing, in return for the MTA’s contribution of land, a significantly downscaled train yard with 7 tracks rather than 9 or the original 10, which reduced and minimized train yard will not provide the MTA with the flexibility it needs for long-term plans.

  5. A ditching of promised green space both in permanent and immediate terms.

  6. A substantially lower, in fact pathetically paltry, purchase price for public land paid out over time and at the developer’s option rather than upfront. The developer also gets an artificially low interest rate courtesy of the taxpayers puts down just 20% to start and doesn't having to pay the bulk of the already discounted price the government had previously accepted, a remaining $80 million, until 2031.

This kind of thing would not go on but for the cooperation of New York State and tool of developer Bruce Ratner, the ESDC.

I am not surprised that the first thing a friend asked me upon hearing of this latest bait-and-switch was: “Do you think that Ratner intended this all along?” Whether Ratner intended this particular bait-and-switch all along is not the question. What is important, as we have pointed out before, is that ESDC worked from the beginning to put the Forest City Ratner organization in the driver's seat, giving it, without bid, exclusive rights to this megadevelopment in such a way that Ratner could always shortchange and blackmail the public with frequent bait-and-switches thereafter. This setup for bait-and-switches was certainly intended by Ratner and consciously facilitated by ESDC officials from the get-go. So whether or not Ratner intended this particular bait-and-switch is not important: He intended a framework in which he could pull off this bait-and-switch or any other bait-and-switch he could think of.

Is Ratner really intending to carry out this most recently proposed bait-and-switch or is it just blackmail to get the state and city to give him more money? Does it make a difference? The result is the same; the public has been gypped. And thank you very much ESDC; this comes courtesy of you.

The blog post ends by suggesting how Governor Cuomo could act in the interest of the state by putting an end to the Atlantic Yards project and, instead, work for development that produces real benefits.

One simple, efficacious way for Cuomo to send Ratner packing would be to simple settle the current environmental lawsuit before Judge Marcy Friedman in favor of the myriad community plaintiff organizations that joined together to bring it. In fact, looking at this switch to modular prefab, Atlantic Yards Report has just added one more reason why that lawsuit should be settled in the plaintiffs’ favor: See, Thursday, March 17, 2011, Does modular construction mean a new environmental review is needed for Atlantic Yards? Settling in the plaintiffs’ favor would give us all one dead Ratner project. It would also mean an end to the current structure that locks the state and city into being the victim of a constant round of bait-and-switch operations throughout the foreseeable decades. Your move, Governor Cuomo.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Noticing New York: if Ratner was considering modular construction for a year, that plan was hatching even as he saluted unions at the groundbreaking

Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White, in The Real Question to Ask About the Ratner Bait-and-Switch Approach on Atlantic Yards, offers a partial list of bait-and-switches (e.g., Frank Gehry, timetable, railyard, less money down) facilitated by the government.

Notably, White points out that Ratner was already considering a modular construction plan that would "shaft the unions" even as he saluted them at the groundbreaking last year.

Also, in a second post, White suggests Ratner might be bluffing the unions, as he did with the Beekman Tower, which was halted at the half way point for renegotiation.

Posted by steve at March 20, 2011 8:58 PM