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June 30, 2011


threecee via flickr

Barclays Center Arena construction & Jay Z ad
Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

New billboard of Jay Z overlooking the construction of the Barclays Center Arena of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 8:26 AM

The ESDC conducted an internal audit of Atlantic Yards, but we can't see it; in response to my FOIL request, most was redacted

Atlantic Yards Report

Some web searching led me to learn that the Empire State Development Corporation had conducted an internal audit of Atlantic Yards project activity sometime last year.

So I filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. I got a response (embedded below), but it wasn't very helpful.

Overall bill of health

As the first paragraph of the Executive Summary states:

Internal Audit completed a review of Atlantic Yards (AY) project activity processed and conducted through ESDC The review revealed that disbursements in connection with the project funding agreement were made in accordance with funding agreement terms and project costs were adequately supported by documentation.

Nearly all redacted

What else did the audit reveal? Were better procedures needed at all?

Well, we don't know, because nearly everything else was redacted, under a FOIL exemption that provides that an agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that are inter-agency or intra agency materials which are not:

  • statistical or factual tabulations or data
  • instructions to staff that affect the public
  • final agency policy or determinations
  • external audits

OK, I get it, but then why redact nearly all of it? Why not simply deny me the document? Otherwise it leaves the impression that there may be some less positive news that's not getting out.


Posted by eric at 8:21 AM

If Empire State Development's newly-adopted Mission Statement emphasizes job creation, shouldn't there be some oversight regarding Atlantic Yards jobs?

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what's the mission of the Empire State Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development)?

Well, the agency no longer uses the phrase "New York Loves Business," but its Mission Statement and Performance Measures, adopted this past April and embedded below, state the following:

Mission Statement
The mission of Empire State Development is to promote business investment and growth that leads to job creation and prosperous communities across New York State.

Performance Measures

  • Customers served: number and types (private, public, not-for-profit); size of entity by number of employees; MWB status
  • Financing provided and leveraged: amounts of ESD support, other public support, private investment
  • Jobs projected to be retained and created
  • Regional and industry breakdowns of assistance, jobs retained and created, and leveraged investment

Hearing on jobs needed

If that really is the mission, then shouldn't they be concerned about the number of jobs created by the Atlantic Yards project, and whether the help offered to get Forest City Ratner low-cost financing under the federal government's EB-5 program actually creates new jobs?

Maybe Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who now chairs the Corporation's Committee, can hold an oversight hearing and ask a few questions.


Posted by eric at 8:16 AM

NY Times Tries to Buff Ratner Image With "News" of Arena Alliance With Tone Deaf BAM

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

So this, apparently, is what The Times deems to be front page arts newsworthy: Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Academy of Music board member, former BAM board director, minority owner of the Nets, majority owner of a basketball arena and roughly 18 acres of a demolition zone/interim surface patking lot is, maybe, going to allow the Brooklyn Academy of Music to hold "three or four shows a year" in the taxpayer subsidized billion dollar arena named after Barclays.

Newsflash for The Times: just because your business partner comes to you with an exclusive story doesn't mean it is anything more than a press release. And pretty much the only time Bruce Ratner himself will talk with The Times or any reporters is when his company feeds you the news.

Speaking of irony, as Bruce Ratner does below, isn't it just a wee bit ironic that the Brooklyn Academy of Music is so tone deaf about the Atlantic Yards project?


Posted by eric at 8:08 AM

June 29, 2011

Battle for Brooklyn

Filmspotting contributors Kamaria Porter and Alex Wilgus review the new movie "Battle for Brooklyn," which was part of the Chicago Underground Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center and is currently playing in New York.


Kamaria Porter's review contains the most apt misnomer we've come across in a long, long time: Atlantic City Yards.

Even after scandal, outcries from the community, alternative plans, and the credit crisis, Goldstein and company cannot break the momentum of Atlantic City Yards. As the project breaks ground in a star-studded ceremony, Goldsteins leads a protest march and must barrel through police and private guards to get to his home. The fight is over and Goldstein has to move out with the new family he's built in the intervening years. Yet, he's become a different person -- agile with the press, steadfast with private guards trying to limit his access to his home, and connected to the community he's worked to preserve.


Posted by eric at 10:20 PM

Atlantic Yards Developer Promises Change After State Official Cites Violation

Last night's contentious meeting also covered parking and landscaping concerns.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

Like Bruce says, he doesn't care.

Following a meeting in which a state official admitted that developer Forest City Ratner was in violation of an agreement by not having a community liaison at the Atlantic Yards site full time, the company agreed to mend its ways.

This morning, Joe DePlasco, a Forest City Ratner spokesman said via e-mail that while the company already has “two people who are on the site consistently and full time at least two days a week,” from now on the developer “will ensure that there is at least one person always on the site during working hours.”


NoLandGrab: How do we get that gig? "Full time at least two days a week?"

Posted by eric at 9:54 PM

Ratner feeds exclusive to Times, which hypes plan for BAM to bring three or four events to Atlantic Yards arena

Atlantic Yards Report

The article does quote a critic:

But as with all things related to Atlantic Yards, the cultural plans have their doubters. Michael Galinsky, the director with his wife, Suki Hawley, of the new documentary “Battle for Brooklyn,” which chronicles the years-long fight against the project, was skeptical that the Barclays Center would deliver on all its promises to the neighborhood.

He pointed to the changes in the original Atlantic Yards plan, from the departure of the architect Frank Gehry to the exclusion of a rooftop track to the number of jobs created.

“Any time the arts has more of a venue that’s a wonderful thing,” Mr. Galinsky said. “But the question then becomes at what cost to public process.” He added, “this is a much greater benefit to Ratner from this P.R. perspective than it is to BAM.”

Mr. Ratner said the partnership with the Brooklyn Academy was not meant to appease critics. “I don’t care,” he said, then corrected himself. “We care a tremendous amount about the community, but we don’t do it to get credit,” he said. “We must do stuff here because we think it’s good to do, not because it just happens to make a splash. Everything has to be substantive. Most of it has to be as substantive as possible.”

Actually, Ratner doesn't respond to Galinsky's substantive points, which should've led the reporter to be skeptical of the enterprise she'd embarked on. But they didn't fit the presumed storyline.

If Ratner does "care a tremendous amount about the community," maybe he should be asked about paying for rat abatement. Or how people are going to walk on narrow Dean Street sidewalks to the arena. But the Times didn't cover the meeting last night.


NoLandGrab: Go with your first answer, Bruce. You don't care.

Related coverage...

NetsDaily, In the Battle of Brooklyn Values, Nets Score a Cultural Victory

Noted arts & culture site NetsDaily calls it a coup for Bruce.

It's a tiny number of dates --the Nets have booked 150 out of a promised 200+ events so far-- but the arrangement will give the arena an advantage in the continuing war with critics over the value of putting an 18,000-seat sports facility in brownstone Brooklyn.

NLG: Uh, no.

Posted by eric at 9:49 PM

In Alliance, Nets Arena to Offer Arts

The New York Times
by Melena Ryzik

The munificent Bruce Ratner is going to give the people culture along with sub-par basketball.

It’s been a springboard for Brooklyn nostalgia, a debate about urban design and the politics of eminent domain and, depending on your perspective or basketball affiliation, a community uniter or divider. Now Atlantic Yards, the development that will bring the New Jersey Nets to downtown Brooklyn, will also be a cultural center.

The Barclays Center, the 18,000-seat arena at the heart of the project, will host performances by artists selected by the Brooklyn Academy of Music in a programming alliance between the two neighboring institutions, their directors said. The collaboration will include three or four shows a year and allow the academy to bring to Brooklyn work that would not fit into its theaters — the largest of which has 2,000 seats — with costs underwritten by the arena.

And since the taxpayers are underwriting the arena, ergo, the costs will be underwritten by the taxpayers.

“I always like to put things that are a little bit ironic together,” Bruce C. Ratner, the chairman and chief executive of Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the arena, said in an interview Tuesday.

Like Jobs, Housing & Hoops, perhaps?

Karen Brooks Hopkins, the academy’s president, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Ratner “called me and said that he really was hoping that this arena would be different from every arena, from the basic commercial fare.” She said she expects the performances to be “on a very large scale, large nouvelle cirque kind of work, big dance kind of things, music.”

Ms. Brooks Hopkins would not specify the artists the academy was considering for the Barclays Center, except to say that they would be culled by the academy’s executive director, Joseph V. Melillo, from around the globe. “I know that he has seen a number of large-scale works in Asia that he is very enthusiastic about,” she said, adding that, in an effort to fill seats, “we’re not married to one aesthetic or one point of view or even one audience demographic.”


NoLandGrab: What a coincidence! Bruce saw a number — 498, to be exact — of large-scale ($500,000 each) investors in Asia, that he is very enthusiastic about.

Posted by eric at 7:41 PM

Contentious meeting on traffic/parking issues around east end of AY site; ESDC says Forest City's "in violation" without daily on-site community liaison

Atlantic Yards Report

Note: I did not attend the meeting but listened to an audiotape and spoke with a couple of attendees.

Five nights after a contentious meeting (about rats) in the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street, Prospect Heights residents gathered in the same space last night to express concerns about parking, traffic, and pedestrian issues in the eastern end of the site, notably the planned 1100-space parking lot in the block bounded by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Dean and Pacific streets.

The two-hour meeting was periodically contentious, with residents expressing frustration at vague, incomplete answers, and promises of future solutions.

Beyond that, a representative of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) indicated that developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) was in violation of the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments by not having a daily on-site representative to interface with the community. (I'm waiting for the ESDC to say more.)

The meeting was sponsored by the Carlton Avenue and Dean Street Block Associations, with two ESDC and two FCR representatives present, along with an FCR contractor and a Department of Transportation rep. About 60 people attended.

Dan Schack of Sam Schwartz Engineering led off with the PowerPoint description of changes already announced, changes focused on the north and west edges of the project site. Attendees were far more interested in other issues.

Parking issues

Meeting host Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association repeated the results of a survey of illegal parking around the site done with the help of Transportation Alternatives. Of 87 cars, all but four were parked illegally. Among the rest, twelve had some sort of construction gear. Others, including fire and police offers, had either phony placards or had parked improperly even with the placard.

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for the ESDC, said she's spoken to the local precinct at least five times and Forest City at least ten times. The issue of construction workers, she said, "we've tried to solve."


Posted by eric at 2:30 PM

Atlantic Yards Watch gets $4000 in discretionary funding from Council Member James

Atlantic Yards Report

Among the many member items in the City Council's just-passed 2012 discretionary budget [PDF] is $4000 from City Council Member Letitia James to Atlantic Yards Watch:

The Atlantic Yards Watch is an initiative currently co-sponsored by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Boerum Hill Association and the Park Slope Civic Council to collect important data about the impacts from the construction and operation of the Atlantic Yards Project. The goal is to ensure the health and sustainability of the neighborhoods the project impacts.


NoLandGrab: Tish, where's the love? We're going to hike our IPO price based on that valuation.

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

The Battle for Brooklyn: Deconstructing the Unions

The Icehouse Gang
by Kevin Baker

Unions in this country have historically raised the living standards of all Americans, but they’ve also done much, much more than that. No other major institution—certainly not the business community—has been as consistently altruistic, as supportive of causes that are not directly beneficial to itself, as the labor movement.

Not so much New York’s construction unions.

Sad to say, much like construction unions all over the United States, and for many decades now, the construction trades here have insisted on blindly supporting pretty much every single building project, no matter how awful an idea it is, and no matter who is going to be hurt by it.

Is there a project in your neighborhood that’s oversized, woefully ugly, dependent upon tearing down beloved local buildings, or threatening to destroy your community altogether? Don’t worry, New York’s construction unions are in favor of it, just so long as they can spend a few weeks or months flooding your community with workers who mostly don’t live there and won’t have to deal with the consequences.

By supporting the whole “pro-growth agenda” right down the line; by remaining bastions of white privilege, by pretending that there won’t always be sufficient construction activity in New York if they don’t endorse every single, odious land grab that comes along, the construction trades systematically undermine all attempts at building a better, more just, more sustainable New York.

And in the end, predictably enough, they screw over themselves as much as anyone.


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

New wayfinding signage coming to Prospect Heights; it will focus on cultural area, but I bet there will be directions to the arena

Atlantic Yards Report

New pedestrian signage is coming in 2013 to Prospect Heights, notably the cultural area near Grand Army Plaza. I'll bet the signage also helpfully mentions the arena site up Flatbush Avenue.


NoLandGrab: OK by us. Do you want to get stopped every five minutes and asked, hey, where's the arena at?

Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

Atlantic Yards: The Future

Transitional New York

The "Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn?" Really? And the station is already there.

With the completion of the Barclays Center, the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn will no longer be just for locals but it will be a place for people of New York, New Jersey, and all visitors. In the development, a new station will arise, Atlantic Yards Barclays Center, which connects 9 lines and the LIRR becoming one of the most accessible venues in New York.


NoLandGrab: "Minutes from the Brooklyn Bridge?" Not on game nights, unless you're on a bike. And why would they lead with the bridge location when it's alleged to be "transit-oriented development?"

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

The Good News About the Bad Construction News

NY Observer
by Tom Acitelli

The Building Congress yesterday came out with an understandably bleak construction report showing sluggish growth during the Great Recession in new office space, among other things, and not holding out too much hope for the rest of 2011. This year, in fact, will mark the first since 2000 with no new office tower opening.

It could have been worse, much worse.

One of the reasons it was not: New York City did not overbuild commercially during the boom.

Had that not been the case–had the last decade been one of barn-burner construction–vacancy rates could have been a lot higher, rents a lot lower, and, eventually, construction financing and jobs that much harder to come by. Why build more when there are empty towers everywhere? (Ever been to downtown Detroit?)

The city may as yet get its chance to have overbuilt, with the World Trade Center construction and the proposed Hudson Yards; and lesser commercial undertakings like Columbia’s West Harlem expansion and whatever finally, maybe, comes up commercial-wise with Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

June 28, 2011

After 41 Years, David's Laundry Closing Today

Here's Park Slope

The "arenafication" of the North Slope has officially begun.

David's Laundry, the 41-year old dry cleaners on Fifth Avenue between Bergen and St. Marks, will be closing for good today. The shop, which closed for several months last year due a landlord dispute but re-opened with a new lease on life in January, will shutter for good this afternoon, and all clothes not picked up by then will be donated to charity.

Susan, the shop's friendly proprietor for all 41 years of its existence, was in the process of cleaning the space out when I dropped in yesterday to discuss the closure.

"The landlord sold the building," she told me, her accented voice heavy with disbelief and resignation. "They're forcing me out. We're closing forever tomorrow."

It's these small, fairly anonymous businesses, run by hard working folks, that give life to neighborhoods. Once they're gone, what will replace them? In this case, it will most likely be a chain that can afford the rents rising in anticipation of the arena going up across the street. I have a feeling that in this part of the neighborhood, there's plenty more where this came from.


Posted by eric at 10:38 PM

The traffic on 4th Ave is so bad right now you'd think there's a game at the Barclays Center

@BrooklynSpoke via Twitter


Posted by eric at 10:30 PM

Atlantic Yards ‘Rat Tsunami’ Plagues BroBos

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

What the hell is a Brobo?

As if the traffic and sports bars weren’t bad enough, the construction of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project has triggered an all-too-apt infestation of Rattus norvegicus in neighboring Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Observer makes fun of rat complaints, claims "hysteria has reached such epic proportions"

So, Matt Chaban of the New York Observer, who can be a decent reporter, didn't attend the meeting last Thursday about rat problems in the area around Atlantic Yards.

But he had to write about it, so today he applied a little 'tude, headlined Atlantic Yards ‘Rat Tsunami’ Plagues BroBos [Brooklyn Bourgeois Bohemians or Brownstone Brooklyn], providing a list of the complaints, ending with:

  • Two stolen Bugaboos, with babies attached.

O.K., so we made that last one up, but the hysteria has reached such epic proportions, it seems possible. After all, The Brooklyn Paper is worried about the hantavirus infecting BroBos this summer if things don’t get better. Given their weak constitutions, it is bound to be a deadly epidemic.

My comment

As I commented:

Matt, this is really beneath you.

If you'd attended the meeting, or read the coverage (including mine) more carefully, you'd know that many of the people affected have been there more than 40 years, and that they represent a spectrum of ethnicity and class.

So the Bugaboo reference is not just a cheap laugh, it's way, way off.

As is making fun of people who are plagued by rats.

Posted by eric at 10:17 PM

Bertha Lewis and Daniel Goldstein Exchange Words


Michael Galinsky, one of the filmmakers behind the Atlantic Yards documentary “Battle for Brooklyn,” has uploaded this deleted scene from the movie to Vimeo. Galinsky says that people who have seen the film frequently ask why ACORN isn’t featured in the movie and “the answer is you can’t do everything in a 90 minute film.” This scene from the cutting room floor, though, shows an encounter between Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s Daniel Goldstein and ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis following a press conference in which Lewis is shown talking about ACORN’s support for Atlantic Yards. Things get a little heated around the 1:55-minute mark, after Goldstein tells Lewis that a lot of tenants in the project’s footprint have already been booted from their apartments. The movie is screening at Cinema Village; more info on its official site.


NoLandGrab: Y'know, she does seem a little defensive.

Related content...

rumur via Vimeo, Bertha Lewis - ACORN scene from BfB

Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

Update #81: Battle Holds for a third week at CV - opens in BK Heights

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

We had a strong weekend at CV once again - and it's mostly people who are new to the story showing up now.

It will stay on the screen at Cinema Village for another week (twice daily 3:05 and 7:10 starting Friday) - Cinema Village is on 12th St. near University Place in Manhattan.

We are working to get a new film print made in order to open the film at Brooklyn Heights Cinema on July 6th. We'll let you know if we get it made in time.


Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

Rats! Atlantic Yards site is full of rodents

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

Neighbors of the Atlantic Yards project say that freakish, cat-sized rats coming from the construction site are invading their homes, gnawing on their cars, eating through garbage cans, and climbing up their legs.

Residents blamed the infestation on developer Forest City Ratner’s construction work in the Vanderbilt Yards, which will house the Barclays Center for the Brooklyn-bound Nets next fall.

Locals want developer Bruce Ratner to set bait beyond the perimeter of the construction site and buy high-neck metal garbage cans for their streets. Such cans are about $500 apiece, a minor expense for a developer of a $4.9-billion project. For instance, buying 20 of them would be a microscopic 0.0002 percent of the project’s cost.

A company spokesman would not comment on the trash receptacles, but said that the company has had a rodent control plan in place for two years that involves hiring an exterminator and setting and checking bait traps.


NoLandGrab: And that "rodent control plan" appears to have worked as well as their "opening-the-arena-in-2006 plan" and their "world-class Frank Gehry-design plan," among others.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Brooklyn Paper: DOH says bait applications for rat problems around arena site have jumped

The headline's a bit off, since the dispute is over whether Forest City Ratner will take control measures outside the site perimeter. But the newspaper did add some statistics that bolster the ample anecdotes:

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that the department saw an increase in 311 complaints and increased its exterminations significantly in the ZIP codes on and near the project.

The department increased its bait applications from 190 in fiscal year 2010 to 313 in 2011 for the area directly around the arena.

To the east of the arena, bait applications jumped from 179 in 2010 to a whopping 501 in 2011.

Atlantic Yards Watch, Council Member Letitia James joins irate residents in demanding action on rat problem from State, City and Forest City Ratner

A list of of approximately 30 problem locations was assembled collectively during the meeting. Besides those already reported on this site like Dean Street, 6th Avenue and Carlton Avenue, other locations included St. Marks Avenue, Park Place, Bergen Street, Greene Avenue, Pacific Street/Bears Garden, and South Portland.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

"Battle for Brooklyn" and "Page One: Inside the New York Times" Make Powerful Companion Pieces

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

If you've seen the new documentary film "Page One: Inside the New York Times" and have yet to see "Battle For Brooklyn" (or vice versa) there is a compelling argument that you should see both as the movies make powerful companion pieces.

Both films address the question of what can happen when the New York Times is not around to do its job.

"Battle for Brooklyn" is screening at Cinema Village in Manhattan (showtimes and tickets are available here.)

Michael D.D. White has published an extensive discussion of the two films on his Noticing New York blog, and though it is a long read, we deem it a must-read—especially as it hones in on some very questionable reporting and editorializing during the weeks when the Vanderbilt railyards were put out for bid in a phoney request for proposal by the MTA.


Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Another press valentine for Amanda Burden: Wall Street Journal profile of City Planning Commission Chair ignores Atlantic Yards example

Atlantic Yards Report

In a 6/23/11 article headlined Champion of Cities: With New York's High Line park expansion, Amanda Burden's urban revitalization efforts set a model for the world, the Wall Street Journal reports:

This elegant blonde with a mellifluous voice is steelier than one might expect, a useful trait for someone who is spearheading Mayor Michael Bloomberg's far-reaching effort to rezone nearly a quarter of New York City and reclaim the city's waterfront. Her populist achievements span all five boroughs and include zoning for new affordable housing in East Harlem, Brookyln and the South Bronx, as well as the massively popular High Line, an abandoned railroad track that has been transformed into a popular tourist destination in the once-gritty meatpacking neighborhood, which has seen commerce move in and property values soar in the past decade.

Chairing the City Planning Commission since 2002, Burden, age 67, has revolutionized its role in the city, transforming a once-sleepy bureaucratic agency into an activist department championing good design by using zoning as a weapon to enforce her vision.

My comment:

This valentine to Amanda Burden neglects some of more complicated aspects of her legacy, such as the city's willingness--presumably not embraced by the City Planning Commission, but with no opportunity to publicly protest--to let the Empire State Development Corporation oversee the Atlantic Yards project, with no role for the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Meanwhile, Burden has been a loyal foot soldier for Atlantic Yards, even though it does not represent the Jacobsian mantle she embraces.

10/12/06: Planning Chair Burden claims Jacobsian mantle, discards it for AY
1/15/07: Times profile of planning chair Burden maintains AY myth, suffers curious cut
10/19/09: Two profiles of Amanda Burden make and miss the same points about City Planning (and Atlantic Yards)


Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

Gunpoint mugging near Fort Greene Park

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alex Rush

Mall rat

Someone stole $9,000 were of jewelry from an Atlantic Terminal Mall kiosk on June 25.

Cops say that there are mall security videos showing the thief breaking the lock on the kiosk, near Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, at around 9 pm to steal the goods.


NoLandGrab: In some quarters, that's called helping oneself to a subsidy.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

FCR's Gilmartin makes the Crain's list of NYC's Most Powerful Women, along with Tighe, Wylde, Burden

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards point person, as well as some key supporters, make Crain's New York Business's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in New York 2011.


Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

Bring the Dodgers Home

The New York Sun

A loopy editorial from The Sun (which we thought had gone extinct a couple years ago) about bringing the Dodgers back to Brooklyn gets at least one geographical fact wrong (see the comment from Norman Oder), and includes this gem:

The idea behind the Marchman Plan, its author cabled us this morning, is that Mr. McCourt was able to run the team the way he has because he had no ties to it or to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers are currently based. Mr. McCourt was, after all, a parking lot magnate from, of all places, Boston. Mr. Marchman argues that New York “would never have tolerated the importation of some random undercapitalized guy from another city.”


NoLandGrab: Right, we'd never accept having some guy from, say, Cleveland, buy a team from, say, New Jersey, and then have to sell it to an oligarch from, say, Russia, in order to keep his boondoggle afloat. Nope, New York would never have put up with that.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

A foolish proposition

Queens Crapper

From Backyard and Beyond:

The marsh itself was mosquito-free. And tranquil-looking… but don’t let looks deceive you. Salt-marshes are one of the most productive of ecosystems, nursing fish and many invertebrates, filtering water and absorbing storm surges, pumping blessed oxygen into the air, providing food for everything from bacteria to mammals.

Green with two species of spartina, ringed by phragmites, studded with the keystone ribbed mussels, soft and hard shell clams, mud snails, fiddler crabs, and plentiful little fish in the rising tide. Is this Brooklyn? Yes, it is. A Forever Wild remnant of the salt-marshes that once ringed Jamaica Bay and much of the city. (JFK, LGA, EWR and TEB were all built on salt marshes). But “Forever Wild,” a Parks Department designation without much legal pull, doesn’t mean all that much unless we fight for it.

The EDC wants to give part of this land to Bruce Ratner so he can build a strip mall and large parking lot. The attitude is: "Who needs nature? This is NYC, damn it!"


Photo: Backyard and Beyond

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

Bloomberg's New York

Open City: Blogging Urban Change
by Jerome Chou

The administration also used zoning and incentives to encourage the development of new condominiums and public amenities like the High Line to attract and retain the highly-educated, highly-skilled people that elite businesses employ. The effects of this strategy are visible in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, but also in Harlem and Williamsburg, Flushing and Long Island City. “This is all about class,” [Julian] Brash states. “It’s really a city for the well-off.”

I spoke with Brash about Bloomberg’s New York, and the specific tools and strategies that people can use if they want to influence neighborhood change.

You mention affordable housing. Bloomberg did launch a plan to create 165,000 units of low- and middle-income housing units, in parallel with his strategy to build luxury housing.

The administration was pushed to include affordable housing in a bunch of different development plans, like Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards. I think they realized after a few years that throwing a bone in that direction would circumvent a lot of political headaches. But I think affordable housing just runs at cross-purposes with the luxury city approach.

The city’s affordable housing policy right now is gentrification. People who don’t make a lot of money—people who are middle class or upper-working class—they can move into gentrifying neighborhoods like Sunset Park or Flatbush. That’s how people get affordable housing. And those people are conflicted and full of self-loathing because they know they’re gentrifiers. That’s been the case for twenty or thirty years.


Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

June 27, 2011

Dave Zirin in Slam: "residents see [Atlantic Yards] more like an exercise in ethnic cleansing" (um, that's a bit broad-brush)

Atlantic Yards Report

In Sleep Till Brooklyn: Putting an NBA team in BK may not be a no-brainer business move, Edge of Sports columnist Dave Zirin (a DDDB advisory board member) writes:

My father was born and raised in Brooklyn. I grew up just across the bridge in Manhattan, but spent more time in Brooklyn than an agoraphobic hipster. I know Brooklyn and I know its wary relationship with the world of sports. This is a place that’s never quite gotten over Walter O’Malley, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, abandoning Ebbets Field and Flatbush Avenue for Chavez Ravine and the movie stars of Los Angeles. Yet in the decades after the Dodgers betrayal, the area built its own sense of identity.

...The borough has become the new Manhattan: the place you can’t afford to live. It’s become a magnet for chain stores and fancy restaurants. Unlike Travolta’s Tony Manero, Brooklyn isn’t the place ambitious kids dream of leaving anymore. It’s where entitled college grads dream of moving to.

If you don’t understand this dynamic, then you can’t understand the dread felt by every last Brooklynite with whom I’ve spoken about the Nets’ impending move.... Despite promises by Ratner and his flacks that the project will create “an urban oasis” in the heart of Brooklyn, residents see it more like an exercise in ethnic cleansing—the ethnicity in question being people who are actually from Brooklyn. They see rising rents, shuttered local businesses, torn down homes, and a string of the chain restaurants that seem to circle all NBA arenas. They see it making continued residency impossible.

My comment:

Dave, Please don’t fall for the cliche that Brooklyn has not gotten over the loss of the Dodgers. As Michael D’Antonio points out in his book on O’Malley, in the 1960s, the NY Times editorialized that the wounds had healed, and Brooklyn even held a rally for the ’69 Mets. D’Antonio blames Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer” for the wave of nostalgia. More here.

I think the reception will be mixed–there are certainly enough sports fans in Brooklyn and environs, and high-rollers buying luxury suites, to create a fan base.


Related content...

Slam Online, Sleep Till Brooklyn

Rare is the time I would ever pity a man worth $14 billion. But Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian Master of the Universe who owns the New Jersey Nets, still thinks he bought a team destined for greatness in Brooklyn. He still thinks that Newark, empty seats, and his current dispirited losing team, is just a holding pattern until the New Jersey Nets become the Brooklyn Nyets and start winning championships. He thinks that in these tight economic times, $14 billion will open every door. He’s in for a rude awakening.

I can argue with certainty: It is a dream, disconnected from reality, to think that the people of Brooklyn will come out in force to support this franchise. It is a dream to think that this “project” will run roughshod through the borough without more resistance to come. I’m sorry none of his well-paid advisors told Prokhorov the news, but Brooklyn will never go gently into that good night.

Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

Most Powerful Women in New York 2011

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

#35. MaryAnne Gilmartin
Executive Vice President
Forest City Ratner Cos.

A fellowship at a city economic development agency provided the springboard for Ms. Gilmartin’s career, which has changed the texture and skyline of New York City.

The 47-year-old Queens native has worked at Forest City for nearly 17 years and developed properties totaling more than 5 million square feet, including The New York Times’ headquarters and the new Frank Gehry-designed residential tower downtown.

Her toughest assignment has been overseeing the controversial $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project. In a testament to her savvy negotiating skills, Forest City officially broke ground on the project last year, and its focal point, the Barclays Center, will open in fall 2012.


NoLandGrab: OK, now we're curious. What did Gilmartin's "savvy negotiating skills" have to do with the groundbreaking? All this time, we thought it was a testament to Mikhail Prokhorov's savvy oligarching skills.

Photo: Forest City Ratner

Posted by eric at 6:54 PM

“Page One: Inside the New York Times” Reviewed; Plus The “New York Times Effect” on New York’s Biggest Real Estate Development Swindle

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White takes an epic look at Page One, the new documentary about The New York Times, framed by the paper's failings in covering its development partner's massive Brooklyn boondoggle and viewed in parallel with Atlantic Yards documentary Battle for Brooklyn. It's none to easy to summarize, so click through and have a read.

Especially fascinating: White's recounting of The Times's Atlantic Yards coverage during two crucial months in 2005.

When it comes to “The Times Effect” on local reporting and Atlantic Yards, the biggest real estate project proposed in New York City, some of the most important events occurred in a 60 day window of time May 24, 2005 to July 27, 2005 shown about a third of the way through the film “Battle For Brooklyn.”

On May 24, 2005 New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the “MTA”) put out a perfunctory RFP soliciting bids for the railyards it was planning to transfer to developer Forest City Ratner. The 42 page RFP was a palpably insincere gesture. It allowed only an absurdly short 42 days for response. It was 42 pages whereas the MTA’s comparable later RFP for its Hudson Yards railyards site ran 1,369 pages. Doubtless, all the city’s big developers correctly perceived that, as a political matter, they were NOT supposed to bid against Forest City Ratner because even though the public property of the railyards had never been bid, this was viewed as a done deal.

The Times briefly reported (May 26, 2005) the issuance of the MTA’s RFP but printed nothing picking up on its bogus character. The bogus character of that bid deserved to be major story. The brief report of the RFP came several days after the Times ran a story under a press release-style headline touting that the Ratner project would theoretically provide lots of affordable housing: Brooklyn Arena Plan Calls for Many Subsidized Units, by Michael Brick, May 20, 2005.

Goldstein’s concern about how the Times was promoting the Ratner project virtually as if its was an extension of the Times existing real estate partnership with Ratner was well founded and prescient. On July 5, 2005, the day before the MTA board planned to approve the project, not expecting the pending Extell proposal in response to its solicitation, the Times published a front-page article about the Atlantic Yards project (Instant Skyline Added to Brooklyn Arena Plan, By Diane Cardwell), when Frank Gehry's new design sketches were released exclusively to the Times. In an accompanying "appraisal" the Times architectural critic effused over the fantasy design (An Appraisal: Seeking First to Reinvent the Sports Arena, and Then Brooklyn, by Nicolai Ourousoff).

The very next day, July 6, the day of the intended MTA approval, the Times followed with another largely complimentary story about Ratner’s plans: Brooklynites Take In a Big Development Plan, and Speak Up, by Robert F. Worth, July 6, 2005. The day after that the Times had to run a story about Extell’s competing bid, “tailored to address some of the major criticisms of the Ratner proposal.” Its headline?: Brooklyn Plan Draws a Rival, and It's Smaller (by Diane Cardwell, July 7, 2005.)

Does it look like the Times stories were being selectively tailored by the Times to help the Ratner project? Certainly, Ratner knew the schedule for various events related to the bid during this window, not that it would have been appropriate for public officials to have been feeding him all these details. Ratner was therefore in a position to, in turn, feed appropriate stories to the Times.


Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

The demise of the New York Times's once-routine Forest City Ratner disclosure (as mandated by the Public Editor), and another reason why it's meaningful

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times has much less frequently been appending a once routine disclosure to its articles about Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. And that's meaningful for a reason I haven't previously stressed.

Consider, for example, the 6/24/11 blog post headlined In Brooklyn, the Rats Move Out Before the Nets Move In. No disclosure appeared, though an 11/25/09 article, Ruling Lets Atlantic Yards Seize Land, contains such a disclosure:

The company, which was the development partner for the Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company...

Disclosure dropped

No did such disclosure appear in the 6/16/11 review of the new documentary Battle for Brooklyn, the 3/17/11 article headlined Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, and, more crucially, a 3/18/11 article headlined With Federal Case and Modular Building Plan, New Attention for Atlantic Yards Project.

Why was that more crucial? Because, as the headline suggests, the Times itself is responsible for part of the new attention and, as I wrote, the Times soft-pedaled a key issue: Forest City Ratner's apparent exploitation of the federal government's EB-5 investment immigration program.

Importance of disclosure

There are at least two significant reasons why disclosure is important, and one of them I haven't previously stressed.

The more obvious reason is that disclosure puts readers on alert, as well as reporters and editors, that Times coverage should be exacting--and sometimes it isn't.

The other is simply that it should put readers, reporters, and editors on notice that Times coverage should appear in the print paper, not, as with the article on rats, relegated to the City Room blog.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: Times web site erases attribution to Public Editor Byron Calame's call for the paper's full disclosure of ties to Ratner

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Despite nearness to major transit hub, Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center mall shows contrast with European counterparts transit hub

Atlantic Yards Report

There's still too much parking around the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street transit hub, right?

From a New York Times article today--the lead story in the both the national and New York edition--headlined Europe Stifles Drivers in Favor of Alternatives (and in print, more pungently, as "Across Europe, Irking Drivers is Urban Policy"):

Michael Kodransky, global research manager at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy [ITDP] in New York, which works with cities to reduce transport emissions, said that Europe was previously “on the same trajectory as the United States, with more people wanting to own more cars.” But in the past decade, there had been “a conscious shift in thinking, and firm policy,” he said. And it is having an effect.

...It often takes extreme measures to get people out of their cars, and providing good public transportation is a crucial first step. One novel strategy in Europe is intentionally making it harder and more costly to park. “Parking is everywhere in the United States, but it’s disappearing from the urban space in Europe,” said Mr. Kodransky, whose recent report “Europe’s Parking U-Turn” surveys the shift.

Sihl City, a new Zurich mall, is three times the size of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Mall but has only half the number of parking spaces, and as a result, 70 percent of visitors get there by public transport, Mr. Kodransky said.

That should have been reported as the Atlantic Center Mall, Kodransky confirms with me, as it derives from a 3/17/11 blog post. (Forest City Ratner also operates the Atlantic Terminal Mall, and sometimes conflates the two under the Atlantic Terminal rubric.)

These issues, of course, also apply to Atlantic Yards, which includes a planned 1100 spaces for the arena and additional 2500 or so spots for the announced housing.


NoLandGrab: A less auto-centric newspaper might have headlined the story "Europe Prioritizes Pedestrians" or "For Europe, Urban Future is Now."

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

U.S. Supreme Court Threatens Campaign Finance Reform in NYC

Untapped New York
by Janos Marton

New York City’s campaign finance system, often lauded as the best in the nation, has a secret. It’s under attack.

On the heels of last year’s devastating Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for more corporate spending in elections, the United States Supreme Court may be about to severely curtail the role of public financing in elections. The case, McComish v. Bennett, involves a challenge to Arizona’s public financing system, specifically a provision granting “trigger funding” to participating candidates facing well-funded opponents. Following oral arguments in late March of this year, it appears the Supreme Court is likely to declare “trigger funds” unconstitutional, a determination that could have wide-ranging implications and affect the way we run elections here in New York.

In the case of a massive, multi-hundred-million-dollar project like Atlantic Yards or the planned Vornado Tower, where the developers stand to make far more than their colossal investment, it becomes clear why a real estate mogul might want to drop a mere million dollars to win a Council seat, if that outlay virtually assured approval of a controversial building or complex.

Trigger funds are a key safeguard against this type of brazen manipulation of the system, because they prevent all but those with Bloomberg bucks from overwhelming the political process with money. Though certainly a robust campaign finance system is not without its cost — the CFB distributed $27 million in taxpayer dollars in 2009 — the expense is relatively small in relation to its effectiveness in limiting the power of special interests in shaping government policy and public works. If the Supreme Court rules trigger funds unconstitutional, it is likely that local candidates will find themselves trapped in a financial arms race, where the temptation of selling out to special interests for campaign cash will be increasing difficult to resist.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Atlantic Yards: A Rat Tsunami

Brooklyn Breeder

As if the locals didn’t have enough to be pissed about when it comes to Bruce Ratner et al, now comes the news that an army of rats have been fanning out like a giant tsunami: infesting houses and backyards, eating peoples’ cars (insulation, anyway) and acting like rats.

Okay, that really is adding insult to injury.

I guess it should come as no big surprise that Forest City Ratner doesn’t want to take responsibility for the rat epidemic. The city DOH says it will send out investigators to evaluate the sitch but seemed to place as much blame on area ressies as Forest Ratner.

By the way, the biggest rat of them all will be at his new Dune Road estate in Hampton Bays while the poor schlubs of Prospect Heights are meeting with exterminators and trying to find a parking spot in Park Slope.


Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

June 26, 2011

CNG issues "Brooklyn 200," including Forest City Ratner, Nets Basketball, and the Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

The Community Newspaper Group, publisher of the Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life, has issued a new promotional supplement, Brooklyn 200, "celebrating the places and things that make Brooklyn special," with capsule descriptions.

It's not surprise, given that newspapers are in tough shape, that they produce such questionable products. (Quick, is there any correlation between full-page feature articles on a selected few of the 200 and advertisements bought by those subjects of feature articles?)

Among the 200, as detailed below, are Forest City Ratner, Freddy's Bar, Nets Basketball, and the Barclays Center.

And Marty Markowitz is the only person on the list, getting special mention in the category of "force of nature.

Questionable choices

There are other opportunities for raised eyebrows.

Why a mini-profile of the Brooklyner building but not the Brooklyn Flea (or Brownstoner)? Brooklyn Kickball but not the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory? Downtown law firms like Cullen and Dykman and Goldberg and Cohn, but not South Brooklyn Legal Services or Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation? Nine auto dealers but no one retailer selling bicycles or organization working on transportation policy?

Forest City and Freddy's

The treatment of Forest City Ratner is fairly straightforward, and refers to Atlantic yards as "controversial," locating the arena--unlike in the official promotional material--in Prospect Heights.

The Freddy's listing cites "its impassioned fight against the Atlantic Yards project."

(Click on all graphics to expand.)

The Barclays Center

The under-construction arena gets described as "already changing the face of the borough."

Nets Basketball

Would you believe that "there's no doubt that wen the Brooklyn Nets first hit the hardwood at the Barclays Center, they'll take the floor with the support of an entire borough"?'

You might start subtracting people afflicted by rats.

Marty Markowitz

Would you believe that even Marty Markowitz's "biggest opponents will admit that [he] is"unceasingly dedicated to trying to make Brooklyn a better place to live"?

Maybe except when he's lying about support for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by steve at 7:23 PM

How the New York Times's watchdog coverage of a supplements company could be transposed to the New York City Regional Center and EB-5

Atlantic Yards Report

A lengthy 6/21/11 New York Times article about Senator Orrin Hatch R-UT), headlined Support Is Mutual for Senator and Utah Industry, described his relationship with the supplements industry, which wants freer reign to make some self-serving claims.

One passage jumped out:

But Xango’s record illustrates how companies eager to exploit the law can go too far.

In 2006, federal regulators warned Xango that brochures improperly promoted mangosteen juice as a disease cure, not just a healthy option. Xango is among more than a dozen Utah companies cited by federal regulators over the last decade for apparent violations of the law.

Xango, whose executives are the single biggest Utah-based contributors to Mr. Hatch’s political campaigns and have drawn Mr. Hatch to its headquarters to down shot glasses of their juice, blamed a marketing company that had printed the brochures. The company also insisted that it was closely monitoring distributors to make sure they did not make inappropriate claims.

But in his talk at Xango in March, [distributor] Dr. [Vaughn T.] Johnson — who lectures across the country at other company events — used some of the same language the F.D.A. had cited in its 2006 warning letter, and he referred the sales agents to a nearby company that still sold brochures making the improper claims.

(Emphases added)

The EB-5 analogue

Why did I highlight the above?

As I wrote 12/27/10, it's stunning how George Olsen, managing principal of the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), could profess to be shocked, shocked that the firm's affiliates in Asia were deceptively marketing green cards in exchange for investments in Atlantic Yards.

As Reuters reported:

At a recent seminar in Seoul, an agent for the Kookmin Migration Consulting Co., working on behalf of the New York City Regional Center, told would-be investors if they invested in the company's latest project their permanent green cards were "guaranteed." He also implied the investors would be financing the construction of the new home for the New Jersey Nets NBA basketball team.

In a subsequent interview with Reuters, George Olsen, managing principal of the New York City Regional Center acknowledged the claims were "not accurate" - the investors will finance the rebuilding of a rail yard and some related infrastructure near the new basketball court -- and promised he would jump on Kookmin "with two feet."

"But that's what's frustrating," Olsen said. "You can't be at every seminar, you can't be at every meeting, you can't be in the room when one of these people is talking. To raise $100 million, you have to get 200 investors. That's a lot of people. So there's a certain amount of mass marketing that has to go on.

Nah. As I pointed out December 23, those same claims were made by Olsen's own point man in China, Gregg D. Hayden.

More here, including audio.


Posted by steve at 7:17 PM

CounterSpin radio show: Battle for Brooklyn filmmakers talk about the media (including me)

Atlantic Yards Report

Susan Saladoff on Hot Coffee, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky on Battle for Brooklyn

CounterSpin (6/24/11-6/30/11)

This week on CounterSpin we're talking about two new films which, while journalism is not their central subject, directly engage news media's influence and real world impact as a critical part of the stories they tell....

Also on the show: Battle for Brooklyn tracks the takeover of a New York neighborhood by a real estate developer and the efforts to resist it by community members, one man in particular who becomes the last person in his building not to take a buyout. The same events and players appeared in the corporate press too, and viewers can see the difference when voices that usually appear in the last paragraph are given central place. We spoke with Battle for Brooklyn filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky.

I'll note that the radio show (the interview starts at 12:48; also see links to audio at DDDB and NLG) begins with the host noting that "a man" at the end of the film comments that, had the media done their job, this would have been a fair fight.

That "man" is me. Later in the interview, Galinsky names me and points to my role, and the lingering, under-covered EB-5 story.

The entire interview is worth a listen. And the film is still playing.


Posted by steve at 7:08 PM

June 25, 2011

Prokhorov to lead new Russian political party, Right Cause, seen as Kremlin creation; he claims capitalism is only for risk-takers

Atlantic Yards Report

Mikhail Prokhorov's purchase of the New Jersey Nets continues to pay dividends, as that asset is the first thing attached to his name as he pursues a questionable political career.

From the New York Times, Nets Owner to Lead Political Party in Russia:

MOSCOW — The billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, was elected leader of a Russian political party on Saturday in the first foray of a prominent businessman into politics in nearly a decade.

Not that things aren't fishy:

The event suggested the start of a new political movement in Russia, and was spoken of in this way by participants, though the party’s creation was apparently coordinated with Russian government officials some time ago in preparation for Parliamentary elections scheduled for next fall. Rounding out the picture, a pro-Kremlin youth group staged a noisy protest outside.

Still, it had all the signs of a political maneuver used by Mr. Putin before, of co-opting opposition organizations by arranging to have nominally independent but in fact loyal figures take charge.

The AY description

And how does his venture into basketball get described?

In 2009, Mr. Prokhorov bought the Nets and a stake in the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn that will include their team’s new stadium. He has promised to pour some of his personal fortune into the team and apply his business acumen to obtaining players and improving the team’s performance.

Actually, he bought 45% of the arena holding company and has an option to buy 20% of the rest of the project.

If he's putting some of his personal fortune into the team, he's also using borrowed money and benefiting from subsidies wangled by his business partner, Bruce Ratner.

The AP report

The Associated Press was skeptical:

Right Cause is seen as a Kremlin creation designed to lure opposition-minded, pro-business voters, while building an illusion of competition with the ruling United Russia party ahead December's parliamentary elections.

Prokhorov said last month he was targeting second place in that vote.

President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday that Russia needs more political competition, but the Justice Ministry made a mockery of that only days later when it denied registration to a real opposition party.

Taking risks

The article quotes Prokhorov:

"Our main slogan, 'Capitalism for all,' is not true. That's not possible. Capitalism is only for people who like to take risks, who like to take this responsibility upon themselves. An intelligent, professional and fair state should give others social guarantees and support," Prokhorov said.

But Prokhorov's fortune is based not only on taking risks but also on benefiting from insider deals after the fall of the Soviet Union.

And Atlantic Yards--wasn't that an insider deal too?


Posted by steve at 9:20 PM

No suprise: NYU Schack's Stuckey intersects with EB-5 promotion

Atlantic Yards Report

The immigrant investor law, known as EB-5, has gotten a lot more popular in the past two years, because low-interest loans from immigrants more interested in green cards than returns are now available to clever investors, and the requirement of job creation can be finagled via paper calculations.

From GlobeSt.com, 6/21/11, Shopping the EB-5 Supermarket:

As access to traditional forms of capital continues to tighten, an often underlooked source of funding can help foreign investors establish themselves in the US while benefiting the American economy: the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Panelists discussed “The Art of the EB-5 Real Estate Transaction” at a conference hosted by Akerman Senterfitt in conjunction with the Urban Land Institute and the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate on Monday morning at the Cornell Club in Midtown Manhattan.

...When structuring an EB-5 project, Park asks two questions: Does it meet the legal requirements, and from an investment standpoint, will it sell? “EB-5 projects nowadays are like commodities,” Park says. “You have to think of it in the view of the investor. They want a green card and they walk into a ‘supermarket.’ You go in, look at the shelf and see all these products and if you pick a good one and you get the job, you get your permanent green card two years later.”

And if you think of it in the view of public policy, well, maybe the question is whether the project actually creates jobs.


And the article combines former Atlantic Yards point man Jim Stuckey with the clever packagers at the New York City Regional Center, who helped raise $249 million for Atlantic Yards:

The most successful EB-5 projects have demonstrated creative real estate solutions in major metros, explained moderator James P. Stuckey, divisional dean at NYU’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. With a refocus on urban manufacturing, Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, became the city’s first organization to access low-cost financing--about $60 million--through the EB-5 Regional Center program.

The article mentions the more legitimate Navy Yard program, but, really, shouldn't someone follow up on the revelations about the Atlantic Yards pitched raised by Reuters and by me? The Times has not.


Posted by steve at 9:17 PM

Atlantic Yards Rat-O-Rama

New York Times, In Brooklyn, the Rats Move Out Before the Nets Move In
By Liz Robbins

Residents living in the shadow of the Atlantic Yards arena project in Brooklyn shared horror stories on Thursday evening about cohabiting with rodents, and in the telling the rats seemed to grow to Godzilla-like proportions.


The problem, residents say, has been getting worse in the last several months as the arena for the Nets basketball team, the centerpiece of Atlantic Yards, has been rising. “We don’t have a normal rat problem,” said Karen-Ida Scott, 55, who lives on Dean Street, “we have a rat tsunami.”


No one from Forest City Ratner, the developer of the project, was there. On Friday, a spokesman for the developer, Joe DePlasco, issued a statement: “We have had a rodent control plan in place for over two years, beginning long before construction started. We are working very closely with Empire State Development and will continue to revisit the program to assess the impact. We will also continue to work with other parties, including the M.T.A., Department of Health and elected officials to address the issue.”

Fort Greene Patch, Blamed on Atlantic Yards construction, rodent sightings are on the rise, residents say.
By Amy Sara Clark

Stirred up by the digging at Atlantic Yards, rats have been a problem mostly for Prospect Heights residents, with the rodents eating through garbage cans and insulation in cars, boring through front doors and even climbing up one woman’s leg as she sat in her backyard, residents said at a meeting between area residents and city officials Thursday night.

“We don’t have a normal rat problem, we have a rat tsunami,” said one Prospect Heights woman. “I can look out in the middle of the day and see my trash cans outside my window overflowing with rats.”

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Unleashes "Rat Tsunami" On Downtown Brooklyn

Russian billionaires and bleak buildings aren't the only things the Atlantic Yards project is bringing to Brooklyn: the construction is reportedly stirring up a large rat colony, some of which are "the size of cats." At a recent meeting to address the issue, two Downtown Brooklyn residents said that the rats got into their cars' engine blocks, "leaving behind chicken bones and aluminum foil, all the while chewing on the wires." One neighbor tells City Room, "We don't have a normal rat problem, we have a rat tsunami."

In addition to the normal displacement of rats that occur during such massive construction, the workers on the construction site have "increased the amount of garbage in the area," which in kind brings more rats. A rep for Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards project, didn't show up to the rat meeting and told the paper that they "have had a rodent control plan in place for over two years," and that they're working on the problem. Maybe they can afford some easy-on-the-eyes Frank Gehry-designed rat traps?

Atlantic Yards Report, Forest City Ratner tries damage control on issue of rat infestation as Times and Patch follow up (updated)

Both Patch and the New York Times covered the meeting on rats last night (my coverage here). Both articles show Forest City Ratner scrambling to address an issue for which they likely have significant but hardly full responsibility.

Posted by steve at 9:03 PM

Behind the Brooklyn Paper's "world's best Cyclones coverage"

Atlantic Yards Report

How does the Brooklyn Paper manage "the world's best Cyclones coverage"?

Well, the page in print (which contains an article that starts on the front page) is "brought to you by Municipal Credit Union," which bought what looks to be a one-sixth page advertisement on the page, and perhaps also pays for the banner at top. MCU bought naming rights to the baseball park, so there's some syntergy there.

And the half-page advertisement on the bottom of the page, while hawking air conditioners, does contain a promotion for Cyclones tickets.

You can't blame a local newspaper, in a struggling environment, for seeking creative ways to bring in revenue.

But you can't help thinking that, without the advertising, the level of coverage might be lower. And maybe there'd be space for more Atlantic Yards coverage.

All of which leads to the question: what happens when the Barclays Center opens?


Posted by steve at 8:59 PM

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: no, the City Council never held sway (and thus campaign finance reform had no impact)

Atlantic Yards Report

In Huffington Post, New York Civic's Morgan Pehme explains how the city's campaign finance system, which guarantees candidates matching funds (unlike candidates for state offices), is in jeopardy.

The headline is Pulling the Trigger: U.S. Supreme Court Threatens Campaign Finance Reform in NYC.

I commented:

Please note that the situation regarding Atlantic Yards was even less democratic than described: "In the case of a massive, multi-hund­red-millio­n-dollar project like Atlantic Yards... it becomes clear why a real estate mogul might want to drop a mere million dollars to win a Council seat, if that outlay virtually assured approval of a controvers­ial building or complex."

With Atlantic Yards, the local City Council member, Letitia James, never got to vote, because the mayoral administra­tion agreed to have the approval process bypass the city's typical Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and instead be shepherded by the unelected Empire State Developmen­t Corporatio­n, controlled by gubernator­ial appointees­.

Even former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff has said, in hindsight, that Atlantic Yards should have gone through ULURP.

That said, ULURP has its problems and the local City Council member does not always hold sway. For example, the administra­tion, along with Council leadership­, outmaneuve­red Council Member Stephen Levin on the New Domino project in Williamsbu­rg.


Posted by steve at 8:55 PM

June 24, 2011

Susan Saladoff on Hot Coffee, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky on Battle for Brooklyn

FAIR's CounterSpin

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's Susan Saladoff sits down with the filmmaking couple behind Battle for Brooklyn.

This week on CounterSpin we're talking about two new films which, while journalism is not their central subject, directly engage news media's influence and real world impact as a critical part of the stories they tell.

Battle for Brooklyn tracks the takeover of a New York neighborhood by a real estate developer and the efforts to resist it by community members, one man in particular who becomes the last person in his building not to take a buyout. The same events and players appeared in the corporate press too, and viewers can see the difference when voices that usually appear in the last paragraph are given central place.

The interview with Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley begins at the 12:48 mark.


Posted by eric at 5:31 PM

Get Out: “Battle For Brooklyn” Earns More Screen Time

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Susan Rohwer

You’ll have more chances to catch the documentary “Battle for Brooklyn” if you didn’t make it to a screening last weekend. Theater-filling audiences at recent showings have extended the documentary’s run. Filmed over eight years, the 93-minute film depicts the process of the local Atlantic Yard development.

In New York, the film was on of the top-five grossing films last week, on a per-screen average. While other films playing on more screens grossed more overall, “Battle for Brooklyn” drew more viewers than most other movies to each of the handful of screens it was playing on. Over the last week about 1,500 people came see it at Cinema Village, where it will continue to run five times a day until July 1.

The New York Times gave it a Critics’ Pick in last week’s review and depending on attendance this weekend, the movie will continue to run at Cinema Village.


Showtimes and tickets

Posted by eric at 5:14 PM

Strike threatens $10B in construction projects

If operating engineers man picket lines when their contracts expire June 30, construction across the city will halt, idling more than 11,000 workers, according to a survey. It's happened before.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

The 2012 Brooklyn Nets might yet be the New Jersey Nets.

With a contract deadline a week away, a survey of developers has found that a work stoppage by operating engineers could silence construction on private-sector projects worth nearly $10 billion and temporarily idle more than 11,300 workers.

With the operating engineers' union contracts set to expire June 30, the Real Estate Board of New York survey shows that work could stop on commercial and retail projects spanning more than 13 million square feet and on residential sites totaling more than 6,300 units.

Projects that could be halted include Forest City Ratner's Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which employs 1,000 construction workers.

Either half of those "1,000 construction workers" must have invisibility cloaks, or Crain's needs to count again.


Posted by eric at 5:01 PM

An avalanche of rat complaints: eating garbage, car insulation, infesting houses and backyards; agencies pressed to move faster; CM James says she's "shocked"

Atlantic Yard Report

If anyone thought that complaints about rat problems in the area around Atlantic Yards were isolated carping, they could hear an avalanche of anecdote tonight at a contentious meeting that drew a diverse crowd of 60 people, many from beyond the orbit of the sponsor Dean Street Block Association.

"We don't have a normal rat problem, we have a rat tsunami," observed Dean Street resident Karen-Ida Scott.

Others described a car catching on fire from food debris dragged into an engine by rats, garbage cans torn up, kids unable to play in the Dean Street Playground, and rodents appearing, alarmingly, inside houses and on people lounging in backyards.

"I now park in Park Slope," recounted John Martinez, aiming to save his car's insulation from regular rat attacks. "If gets any further, I'll have to take a cab to my car."

Others lodged complaints from as far away as Fort Greene.

"I was shocked," commented Council Member Letitia James (left, standing), who organized the meeting, held at the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues. "The magnitude of the problem is astonishing. It requires immediate action."


Related coverage...

threecee via flickr, 2011 DSBA Rodent Meeting

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Rats invade Brooklyn neighborhoods around the Atlantic Yards

by Kaity Tong

As difficult as it may be, we'll forgo any Ratner/rats puns, since the rat invasion of the neighborhoods around Atlantic Yards is a serious problem.


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

The Battle for Brooklyn: The Moses Legacy

The Icehouse Gang
by Kevin Baker

One of the many vital issues that filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky turn a spotlight on is how little control even we here in allegedly liberal New York actually have over our government. Thirty years after he was laid out in his lead-lined coffin, with two or three stakes in his heart, a wreath of garlic around his neck, and a couple of gargoyles at this feet, the legacy of Robert Moses still lies heavy upon our collective throats.

One of the foremost ways that Moses was able to exert his will for so many decades was by removing the democracy from democracy. Over and over again, he removed legitimate government functions from legislative control, and put them in the hands of state-chartered, independent “authorities.” This seemed like a clever way to dodge the continuous venality of Tammany Hall and other political machines, and for a time it was.

But the machines and machine politics faded away, while the authorities are forever.

Essentially, the authorities function as a shadow government, dictating much of our economic future without ever having to put anything up to a vote.

Which is exactly why those elected officials, in this case Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Brooklyn Borough President and Head Buffoon, Marty Markowitz, and the Rustics, a.k.a., the New York City Council, decided to go the authorities route when they wanted to press the doctrine of eminent domain to its breaking point, and ram the Atlantic Yards project down the throats of the people of Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Letitia James: A Strong Voice during Tough Times

Our Time Press
by Mary Alice Miller

What next for Letitia James? Voters from all walks of life are asking that she run for the 10th Congressional seat when current Congressman Ed Towns eventually retires. And, why not?

James took exception to the Atlantic Yards project being taken out of the City Council’s land review process. Her vocal opposition to the displacement of her constituents via eminent domain was heard across the state. She remains firmly in support of the Unity Plan’s alternative principle that the community needs affordable housing more than it needs a sports arena.

Letitia James is an unwavering voice who speaks truth to power.


Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

B4B: Not Limping out of the Gait!


Getting ready to step into the last PTA meeting of the school year last night, friend and filmmaker Michael Galinsky limped over and leaned on my shoulder. He was suffering from a case of pretty severe sciatica. Weeks of non-stop scrabbling to get word out about his and wife Suki Hawley’s new documentary, “Battle For Brooklyn“, had finally seemed to catch up with him in the form of a pinched nerve. I’m not lowering the odds on him by a long shot. Anyone who knows Michael knows that he won’t rest until everybody —and I do mean everybody— has purchased a ticket to this very fine, albeit controversial film. And, “Battle For Brooklyn” is very much worth seeing, regardless of whether you live near the Atlantic Yards footprint or on Florida’s panhandle. Land grab deals are rampant in this country. Anyone is a potential victim of developers and politicians and what they are doing in our towns and cities. If Brooklyn can be upended, with many of its residents tossed to the curb in the process, why not you or your neighborhood?


Related coverage...

The New York Times, Movie Listings for June 24-30

★ ‘Battle for Brooklyn’ (No rating, 1:33) This documentary about the Atlantic Yards project focuses on one man who didn’t want to lose his apartment to eminent domain, but its power comes from the bigger picture it paints. Even granting that it is quite clearly anti-project, the portrait the film creates of missed opportunity and political manipulation is devastating and dismaying. (Neil Genzlinger)

NoLandGrab: The ★ means it's a New York Times Critics' Pick.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

10 Ridiculous or Ridiculously Amazing Facts

The Civilians Blog

To promote its current fund-raising campaign, The Civilians are counting down "ten ridiculously amazing or just ridiculous things that have happened to The Civilians in the past ten years."

Here's no. 9:

After In the Footprint, the following is overheard being said to Mayor Bloomberg at a meeting: “I saw a play about Atlantic Yards last night, and you were played by an empty suit!”
...followed by dead silence.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Marriage Equality Remains on the Cusp

GOP Senate majority holds back Cuomo bill as session into overtime

Gay City News
by Paul Schindler

The momentum for moving marriage equality through the New York State Senate –– which amped up dramatically on June 13 and 14, when five new supporters were announced –– remained short of its goal as Gay City News went to print on the evening of June 22.

Since June 13, advocates led by Governor Andrew Cuomo have pressed not only for the one additional supporter needed to reach the 32 votes ensuring passage, but also for the Senate Republican majority to move the bill from their conference onto the floor.

That same week [the first week of June], a list of leading business leaders supporting marriage equality was released, and included names such as Citicorp chairman Dick Parsons, Loews Corporation co-chairman Jonathan Tisch, and real estate developer Bruce Ratner.


NoLandGrab: Perhaps "do-gooder, liberal" Bruce's lobbying convinced Carl Kruger to change his vote!

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Atlantic Yards Drill Glitch Causes Rock Shower, Injures Two

Seven cars were also damaged after a spray of packed earth and stones hit Atlantic Avenue.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

The Atlantic Yards project has showered the people of Brooklyn with tons of stress, anger and frustration, but on Tuesday the site literally showered them — with golf ball-sized chunks of falling debris.

Two people were injured and seven cars damaged after a drilling accident on the site of Forest City Ratner's mega project caused rocks, packed earth and construction debris to rain down on pedestrians and cars outside of the Atlantic Yards construction site yesterday morning.

Officials are still looking into exactly what caused the drill to malfunction. In the meatime, Forest City Ratner has halted drilling while a larger shield is installed on the drill that is designed to contain flying debris.


NoLandGrab: Perhaps Forest City could convert the drill into a lethal killing machine that shoots debris at the rats that are overrunning the neighborhood.

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

June 23, 2011

Drill accident at Atlantic Yards site damages eight cars, injures a few people; contractor must submit safe work plan; problems with drill not new

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has a statement from the ESDC regarding yesterday's drilling accident on the Atlantic Yards site — the second construction accident resulting in injuries this week.

Empire State Development Corporation spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell offered more detail:

Yesterday morning a drill rig became clogged that was working inside the construction fence at Vanderbilt & Atlantic Avenues. When attempting to unclog the casing spoil jam, built up pressure caused debris to spew into the street. Eight vehicles incurred minor damage, mostly on their wind shield, roof, hood, and trunk. Three people claimed to have been directly hit by debris. Emergency services were called immediately. One man was not visibly injured, but was transported to the hospital.

The construction manager ordered the contractor to stop work, and the contractor was directed to submit a safe work plan for approval prior to being allowed to proceed with drilling. This safe work plan includes both an improved physical barrier in the form of a heavy hoist-able screen with a support crane, and by preparatory action by contractor personnel, such as clearing the sidewalk and curb lane, in the event of another casing spoil jam requiring the use of compressed air.


Posted by eric at 4:48 PM

Drill spews dirt into Vanderbilt Avenue injuring two and damaging seven cars

Atlantic Yard Watch

Thomas Tracy reports today in the Brooklyn Paper that a drill driving piles immediately adjacent to Vanderbilt Avenue in block 1121 "sent egg-sized chunks of packed dirt and small stones raining down on unsuspecting pedestrians and commuters at the corner of Vanderbilt and Atlantic Avenues on June 21- leaving two injuries and more than seven damaged cars."

The drill in question is of the same type and doing the same type of work reported to be spewing dust several months ago on this website. These types of drills at the site have been the source of community complaints for some time, particularly for the dust and noise they cause. A video in our report from April 6th shows a malfunctioning Casagrande drill spewing dust one block west from the most recent incident.


Posted by eric at 2:49 PM


Our Streets — Our Stories
The Dean Street Block Association (6th Ave. to Vanderbilt Ave.)

Please note the meeting location has changed. Please be prompt. The meeting will end on schedule.


Time: Thursday, June 23rd, 6 to 7 pm
Place: Soapbox Gallery, 636 Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt

Sponsors: Council Member Letitia James, Dean Street Block Association
Invited: NYC Department of Health, NYC Department of Sanitation, Empire State Development Corporation, Forest City Ratner Corporation

Subject: Areas of our neighborhood currently are engaged in a battle with rats. http://www.atlanticyardswatch.net/node/66 At this meeting we will review sources of the problem and develop a strategy to address them.


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Today's Atlantic Yards storyline, take your pick: a spectacular arena (as per EPSN), a spectacular rat problem (WPIX)

Atlantic Yards Report

There are two storylines to Atlantic Yards today, and never the twain shall cross: the excitement experienced by myopic sportswriters, and the dismay by arena neighbors, who focus more on their quality of life than the benefits to occasional arena visitors.


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Atlantic Yards Trash and Rats

by Monica Morales


Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

It's real -- and it'll be spectacular

Nets' future home is taking shape in Brooklyn; seeing will make you a believer

ESPN New York
by Rob Parker

Get ready for some absolutely absurd hyperbole.

On Wednesday afternoon, wearing a hard hat and following a couple of guides, I got a tour of the Barclays Center of Brooklyn, the future home of the Nets.

It's no exaggeration, no hype. A sports writer for 25 years and someone who has covered major events in just about every arena and stadium in this country, most venues don't wow me. This one, unfinished and all, did.

This billion-dollar arena will be the darling of the NBA, a must-see for residents of and visitors to the Big Apple.

For real, you could feel the energy and people buzzing around at lunchtime at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, where this palace is being built.


NoLandGrab: That "energy" was most likely the gridlocked traffic, and the "buzzing" was probably caused by the carbon monoxide from all those exhaust pipes.

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

New plan to replace Nassau Coliseum touted as a win-win, must be approved by residents, but questions linger

Atlantic Yards Report

So, it looks like the Islanders--who couldn't fit into the Barclays Center, which can't accommodate major league hockey--might get a new arena, according to this press release:

Uniondale, NY - Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano today announced an important step in creating a state-of-the-art sports-entertainment destination center at the Hub in Nassau County. Joined by New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, County Executive Mangano announced that the County has reached a lease agreement that retains Long Island’s only major professional sports team in Nassau County through 2045 should residents approve building a new arena at the site of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. According to an independent economic impact analysis conducted by Camoin Associates, a nationally recognized firm in public and private sector economic development, the agreement will generate $1.2 billion. This revenue will be used to pay off the $350 million in construction costs associated with the new arena, $433 million in debt service payments and provide an additional $403 million for the County to hold the line on property taxes. Furthermore, Camoin Associates estimates the creation of 1,515 new jobs during the arena construction phase and the creation of 3,040 permanent jobs beginning in the first year the arena is operational.

Words of caution

Is this a good deal? Well, Neil deMause of Field of Schemes wrote about this 5/12/11:

So who exactly would be paying off the bonds? As noted above, Mangano wasn't exactly saying. "Revenue from the sales tax generated by the new arena" sure sounds like a STIF [Sales Tax Increment Financing], though, which is an extremely dangerous funding method given that 1) you could just end up cannibalizing existing sales tax receipts and 2) there's always the danger that if the economy slumps, sales tax receipts will go down, and then you end up having to dip into the general fund to make the bond payments. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which took over the county's finances in January, seems to agree, issuing a statement that it's "deeply concerned" about the arena plan and its "fiscal implications for the county."


Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Republicans Support Massive Debt Increase

The Capitol
by Richard Brodsky

The former Assemblyman, noted critic of Yankee Stadium, and surprising Atlantic Yards mute weighs in on Nassau County's plan for a new Nassau Coliseum.

The county has the highest property taxes in the world, is nigh on bankrupt, has a control board running its finances and has a bus system close to shutting down. Therefore, the Republicans who control the county Legislature just approved a referendum to allow the borrowing of $400 million to build a new home for the local ice hockey team, the New York Islanders, to be paid back by those same beleaguered property-tax payers.

This follows another Republican’s successful initiatives to build three new sports facilities with taxpayer money. Mayor Michael Bloomberg structured $10 billion or so worth of deals for the Yankees, the Mets and the Brooklyn Nets. With Republicans like these, who needs Socialists?

The economics of taxpayer-built sports facilities are almost always awful, with taxpayers receiving little or no benefit in return for massive outlays of public dollars.

What Mangano and his allies have figured out is that the electorate and politicians go slightly nuts when professional sports and government intersect. All the ideological purity and defining political slogans go out the window. There’s a real pattern of distressed and broke governments cutting schools, hospitals and libraries—you name it—but finding the money to build a stadium.

The real question is whether Nassau voters will drink the same Kool-Aid. In what passes for political strategy, Mangano has scheduled the referendum for August 1, apparently on the theory that there will be little public debate, the press will not pursue the reality of the deal, nobody will be around and a targeted get-out-the-vote effort can muster enough support to pass it.


NoLandGrab: Why are stadium referenda and public hearings ever held in November? That's a rhetorical question.

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Update #79: Battle Continues

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Thanks to an overwhelming response on Sunday- we had a strong weekend and Battle for Brooklyn will continue till at least July 1st- with 5 showings a day at

Cinema Village

12th St between University Place and 5th Ave (closer to Uni)

We are also booking more cities everyday

Providence RI-(cable car cinema) run starts Aug 5 (suki and I will be there Aug 6th)

LA- (Music Hall) run starts Aug 19th (suki and I will be there)

Seattle - (NW film forum) Oct 7

Portland - tentative (will confirm soon) Oct 8

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Accident injures two and damages cars at Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

A drill accident at the eastern end of the biggest construction project in Brooklyn’s history sent egg-sized chunks of packed dirt and small stones raining down on unsuspecting pedestrians and commuters at the corner of Vanderbilt and Atlantic avenues on June 21 — leaving two injuries and more than seven damaged cars.

Witnesses said they heard an explosion at around 10:30 am as a hydraulic drill malfunctioned, sending dirt and rocks flying into the air.

“I heard this loud sound, but I didn’t know where it was coming from,” said motorist Yahya Alshemi, who was caught under a wave of mud pies. “Then rocks and dirt started falling all over my car.”

Chunks of dirt blanketed Alshemi’s car for nearly two minutes. One hunk slammed his windshield, causing it to spider web.

Two people suffered light injuries, officials said. One person was sent to a local hospital with a slight head wound. The other was treated at the scene — the former BP station at the corner of Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues.

The pile driving at the site is expected to continue for two months as part of developer Forest City Ratner’s infrastructure work on the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt Yards. The company — which is currently building the Barclays Center to house the Brooklyn-bound Nets — did not return calls.


Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Ratner is victim of inside job heist!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

Corruption breeds corruption, apparently.

Crooked monitors

A corrupt security guard stole a heap of computer equipment from an office in the Bruce Ratner-owned Metrotech Center on May 17.

An employee at 3 Metrotech Center, near Duffield Street and Myrtle Promenade, told police that she caught the shady night watchman on camera removing dozens of flat-screen monitors and computer towers in bags.

She said that the guard moved 22 monitors and 14 computers to another spot in the office. He returned after work in plain clothes and dragged out the loot.

Police arrested a 52-year-old suspect a month later.


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

The Case For Bringing The Los Angeles Dodgers (Or The Oakland A's) To Brooklyn

White Man Says Outrageous Things For Attention

A long essay about adding a third New York City Major League Baseball team is a non-starter — neither the Yankees or Mets would ever allow it.

As far as a new stadium goes, there's plenty of places in Brooklyn that could be redeveloped. And the City's past two administrations have been very friendly and accomodating toward new construction projects (see: Atlantic Yards, the proposed Jets Stadium in Manhattan, the proposed Olympic stadiums for the city's 2012 bid).

Stadium construction is a swindle. And a lot of people need to look closely at the real numbers behind that shit (see: Field Of Schemes), but NYC hasn't been as hard hit as the rest of the country in terms of the economy, and like I mentioned, they've already demonstrated a propensity to build.

NYC is also a three team town in hockey (Islanders, Devils, Rangers), soon to be a three team town in terms of basketball (Nets, Knicks, and whatever the team in Newark winds up being called), and was a four team town in baseball for a good part of the 20th Century.

Four-team town? Dodgers, Giants, Yankees and... Phillies? Red Sox? Better check the math.


NoLandGrab: The Jets' stadium project failed, and we'll just say that we find it highly doubtful that anyone in city government has the stomach for another Atlantic Yards fight.

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

June 22, 2011

Who's responsible for garbage (and, likely, rats) in and around the Atlantic Yards site? Lots of people/agencies, but someone needs to knock heads

Atlantic Yards Report

A photo essay on Atlantic Yards Watch, headlined Many failures to contain garbage in the vicinity of Atlantic Yards can be seen in photos, shows several potential sources of food for rodents inside and in the vicinity of the Atlantic Yards Project footprint.

Those responsible include residents, visiting workers, Atlantic Yards site overseers, and city agencies.

I reproduce the first few below, but let me add a conclusion: if construction workers and police officers park illegally, thus contributing to the problem, and if the police won't enforce those rules, someone needs to knock heads.

That someone would seem to be the Empire State Development Corporation, which has overall responsibility for the project.


Posted by eric at 1:40 PM

The Nets Take Their Pitch to Brooklyn

The Wall Street Journal
by Amara Grautski

Guess what, Brooklynites! That ennui you've been feeling is your inability, after 50-odd years, to get over the Dodgers.

Given that only 8% of the Nets' 2010-11 season-ticket holders hail from Brooklyn, the team has work to do before it begins play next year at its new home, the under-construction Barclays Center. Not surprisingly, the Nets are hard at work making themselves visible. Let the handshaking and baby-kissing begin.

The team has put up seven billboards and has sent its envoys out to make a spate of public appearances. In March, there was a clinic hosted by center Brook Lopez at Bushwick High School. On June 9, Johnson read the book "Salt in His Shoes" to a group of children at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

And on Friday, joined by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, former Nets center Darryl Dawkins participated in, perhaps, the acme of the team's public relations attack: a tree-donating ceremony in Fort Greene Park.

Although Brooklyn residents and business owners account for 40% of the 2012-13 Nets premium season tickets sold thus far, there's no guarantee the efforts of the Barclays-Nets Community Alliance (which invests $1 million per year in local non-profits) and other displays of affection will grow a fan base.

The borough has yet to recover from the relocation of its beloved Dodgers and the demolition of Ebbets Field—Brooklyn Dodgers T-shirts and hats are still worn at Cyclones games.


NoLandGrab: And all those Che Guevara t-shirts are worn by people who still haven't recovered from the Cuban Revolution.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Cliche alert: Wall Street Journal says Brooklyn "has yet to recover" from loss of Dodgers and Ebbets Field

The wearing of historical shirts and hats is evidence more of homage than of wound. But boosters of the team's move, including Nets Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark, like to make the connection.

To repeat... As I wrote in March 2009, Michael D’Antonio's revisionist biography of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, put Dodgers nostalgia in perspective, blaming it on Roger Kahn’s book The Boys of Summer.

The Dodgers left in 1957.

Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

Less than meets the eye: decoding Forest City's announcement of new MetroTech leases

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a closer look at a recent Forest City Ratner announcement of MetroTech leasing activity, and doesn't believe the hype.

In other words, the 365,000 square feet taken at Two MetroTech--thanks significantly to government tenants--does not quite make up for the departure of SIAC/NYSE, which, according to Crain's, lost 387,000 square feet.

Yes, the 22,000 square feet remaining to lease is relatively small, but, at least according to that January 2011 Crain's report, J.P. Morgan Chase left about 352,000 square feet at 4 MetroTech. No wonder Forest City Ratner was trying to recruit Panasonic.

At One Pierrepont Plaza, Morgan Stanley is set to renew less than half the space it leases, leaving a gap of 250,000 square feet.

It still does not bode well for the office space planned for the Atlantic Yards site.


Posted by eric at 1:10 PM

1937 Pro-Union Musical Pins and Needles Will Get a 2011 Update at the Foundry

by Adam Hetrick

"Bruce Ratner" is now a cultural touchstone.

Brooklyn's theatrical collective The Foundry will re-examine Pins and Needles, the 1937 Broadway revue first written for the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union, for a contemporary audience beginning June 22.

Pins and Needles: A New Revolutionary Musical will unite pre-existing musical material by Harold Rome and original book material from Arthur Arent with updated sketches by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, Hallie Flanagan, Sara Zatz/Ping Chong & Co., and members of FUREE.

Ken Rus Schmoll (Middletown) will direct the June 22-July 9 run at Brooklyn's Irondale Center.

The updated production will incorporate roughly 10 original songs and sketches from the original, while adding music by Josh White and Lead Belly to explore the African-American experience of the period. References have also been updated to include Donald Trump, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, the anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, as well as the passing of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.


Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

June 21, 2011

Many failures to contain garbage in the vicinity of Atlantic Yards can be seen in photos

Atlantic Yards Watch

Bruce and his construction team have been rolling out the red carpet for rats in Prospect Heights.

"Rats can be a property, block or neighborhood problem and require a coordinated response: property owners, tenants, businesses and government need to work together. Everyone has a part to play."

New York City Department of Health, Pest Control Services

The following is a photo essay from Sunday June 19th showing current potential sourcs of food for rodents inside and in the vicinity of the Atlantic Yards Project footprint:

Pile of garbage under the 6th Avenue Bridge inside the Atlantic Yards Project footprint, Sunday June 19th


Posted by eric at 10:53 PM

Parking Permits for Atlantic Yards Area Still a Big ‘Maybe’

The city will divulge little detail on how seriously it's considering residential parking permits.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

Parking in Brownstone Brooklyn is already a headache—and that’s without the extra traffic the Barclays Arena will bring to the area once the 18,000-seat arena opens for the 2012 basketball season.

To cope with the impending parking pain, residents have continually pressed the city to initiate residential parking permits—but the city has given locals little more than an ambiguous maybe.

“The community has expressed an interest in Residential Parking Permits for arena events and we are looking into a number of solutions to deal with the parking concerns in the area,” said Department of Transportation Spokesperson Scott Gastel.

“I just hope that this idea comes to fruition and it's just not a whole bunch of talk,” said Prospect Place resident Karla Andino, 25. “This stadium will be complete in no time and the city should always look out for the residents first.”


NoLandGrab: If Ms. Andino is not more careful in her word choice, she might get a condescending letter from Marty Markowitz explaining the difference between a "stadium" and an "arena." One thing she's sure to get? A neighborhood overrun by traffic.

Posted by eric at 10:44 PM

Third Avenue Shuffle

Atlantic Yards Watch
by Danae Oratowski

The biggest change last announced last week as part of the traffic plan developed by Sam Schwartz was the re-engineering of the intersection of Fourth, Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, which seeks to untangle the knot of traffic that regularly forms when three of Brooklyn’s busiest traffic arteries converge. Sam Schwartz’s plan removes the northbound lanes of Fourth Avenue between Atlantic and Flatbush, the shortest side of the triangle. Cars going north down Fourth to Flatbush will now get diverted west on to Atlantic and will then turn right on to Third Avenue in order to reach Flatbush - to get to Lafayette. The changes are intended to keep cars moving, prevent them from getting stuck in the intersections and increase pedestrian safety. But in the estimation of many living on or around Third Avenue in Boerum Hill, the plan solves one set of problems by creating another.

Residents in the area believe that a significant number of cars will try to cut over to Third Avenue south of Atlantic, driving through smaller, residential streets along the way and increasing already dangerous conditions for pedestrians. They have reason to be concerned. Third Avenue just south of Atlantic already has high traffic volumes, a history of speeding and has been the scene several pedestrian and bicycle fatalities over the last several years. (Three of the children fatally struck are depicted with ghost-like transparency on a two-story mural that looms over Third Avenue and Butler Place.) According to the 2006 FEIS, there were 610 vehicles in the single northbound lane during morning rush hour. By comparison, there were 1217 vehicles in three lanes of northbound traffic on Fourth Avenue (FEIS, Figures C1-a and b). One resident of the neighborhood described the area as a “ring of fire,” where turning cars and cars stuck in intersections make crossing the street a frightening experience for pedestrians.


Posted by eric at 10:40 PM

As legislative session winds down, Atlantic Yards governance bill moves forward in Assembly, but not in Senate

Atlantic Yards Report

Meanwhile, the bill to reform Atlantic Yards governance--to authorize the Empire State Development Corporation to create an ongoing subsidiary to oversee the project, as with nearly all sizable projects--yesterday passed the Assembly's Rules Committee.

"The Rules committee voted favorably for the bill yesterday, and it is now on the floor of the Assembly and eligible for passage," Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said today. "I am working on a full Assembly vote before the end of session. However, the prospects for passage in the Senate remain unclear."

Senate depends on Skelos

In the Senate, Skelos, the Chair of the Rules Committee, will decide whether the companion bill reaches the floor, but it first must go through Finance and Rules.

The longer the Legislature remains in Albany, the more chance for passage of the Atlantic Yards governance bill, as well as other bills that have gained less attention in recent months, according to Jim Vogel, a spokesman for Brooklyn Sen. Velmanette Montgomery.

BrooklynSpeaks has set up a link for constituents to lobby Skelos, who also can be reached via his web site.


Posted by eric at 10:34 PM

A meeting to address the rodent problem will take place June 23rd

Atlantic Yards Watch

At Council Member Letitia James' initiative, a meeting addressing the rodent problem in the vicinity of the Atlantic Yards site is to take place this coming Thursday.

Many residents believe construction at the Atlantic Yards site is the origin of the problem, through a combination of disrupted nests, neglected abatement and new food sources. Sources for food and water that sustain the rodents are also available in the nearby residential community, most particularly as a result of improperly contained garbage. The problem cannot be addressed unless the many contributing factors are addressed.

Time: Thursday, June 23rd, 6 to 7 pm

Place: Soapbox Gallery, 636 Dean Street (please note this is a new location)

Sponsors: Council Member Letitia James, Dean Street Block Association, 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt

Invited: NYC Department of Health, NYC Department of Sanitation, Empire State Development Corporation, Forest City Ratner Corporation

All are welcome. Tell your friends and neighbors.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Meeting on rodent problem in blocks near AY site to be held June 23 at 6 pm

Brownstoner, Closing Bell: Rats! A Meeting About Rodents Near AY

Posted by eric at 2:25 PM

More contrasts between Staples Community Benefits Agreement in Los Angeles and Atlantic Yards CBA

Atlantic Yards Report

I've already written about some key differences between the pioneering Staples Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in Los Angeles and the Atlantic Yards CBA, the first in New York. Notably, the coalition of 29 groups, the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice (FCCEJ), based their negotiating position on responses to flaws in the environmental review, while the Atlantic Yards CBA was signed before the environmental review began.

And, as noted by Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York in her 5/26/05 testimony to the New York City Council, testimony that was ignored by the media at the time:

Perhaps the most striking is that elsewhere CBAs are negotiated by one broad coalition of groups that would otherwise oppose a project, a coalition that includes labor and community organizations representing a variety of interests.... In the BAY case, several groups, all of which have publicly supported the project already, have each engaged in what seem to be separate negotiations on particular issues.

More contrasts

Another look at the Staples CBA (embedded below) shows that it addressed some issues still unresolved in the Atlantic Yards debate, including residential permit parking and reporting of results.

Residential permit parking remains on the table. And some elements of the Staples CBA, such as living wage jobs and community input on tenants, were ignored, as Brian Carreira pointed out in the December 2004/January 2005 Brooklyn Rail.

With Atlantic Yards, there's supposed to be an Independent Compliance Monitor, but no such monitor was ever hired, and CBA signatories--the only ones able to enforce it--have not publicly complained.


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

Nets start planting roots in Brooklyn (we mean that literally)

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

Really? This is a story?

The Brooklyn-bound basketball continues to pitch itself as a good neighbor, this time by promising to donate hundreds of trees to the borough.

In September, the team will plant 300 oaks and maples in open spaces around the borough — like in Fort Greene Park — as part of its “Trees for Threes” effort, which matches one tree with every three-point shot made during the team’s 24-58 season.


NoLandGrab: They'll need to plant about three million trees to offset all the carbon emissions that their traffic-choking arena will generate.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Brooklyn Paper covers an Atlantic Yards story (it's about tree-planting)

The Brooklyn Paper comes a little late to the media event June 17 that was the tree-planting sponsored by the Nets and the Barclays Center, but there's a story today headlined Nets start planting roots in Brooklyn (we mean that literally).

Last week, as I pointed out, the newspaper neglected to cover three Atlantic Yards-related meetings, though today's story does mention the lingering anger (which the newspaper first wrote about last month) over planned traffic changes.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Battle For Brooklyn: 5th Best Movie Of The Weekend

Bad Lit
by Mike Everleth

First reported by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the documentary Battle for Brooklyn was the 5th best movie of this past weekend, based on a per screen average. The film made a weekend gross of $11,141 playing at just one theater, Cinema Village, in NYC. These figures were derived from the website Box Office Mojo. The film is doing so well that it’s being held over at the theater until July 1. Find showtimes and ticket info on the Cinema Village website.


Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

More Four Sparrow Marsh Documentation

Save Ridgewood Reservoir

Here's an item about Bruce Ratner's wetlands-destroying, WalMart-building plan for Mill Basin marshland.

Two justifications that the parks department has been using to justify destroying part of an important wetland that is owned by the city are:

  • Four Sparrow Marsh is not parkland
  • The acreage that they want to give to developers is not part of Four Sparrow Marsh

Fortunately there is plenty of public documentation that contradicts their public statements. Below is a list of links to New York City Department of Parks and Recreation webpages and downloads with information relevant to Four Sparrow Marsh. The list also includes a few links from other city agencies. If the any of those links mysteriously disappear, let us know as we've saved all the downloads and created PDF files of the webpages...


Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

June 20, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Box Office Mojo

Battle for Brooklyn had the fifth-highest per-screen gross of any film playing in the country this past weekend. Of course, it could have been that Bruce Ratner was buying up all the tickets to keep the public from learning the truth about Atlantic Yards.

Based on this opening-weekend success, the film should attract the attention of theaters around the country. And Cinema Village has decided to hold it over until at least July 1st, with five daily showtimes.

If you saw Battle for Brooklyn this weekend, thanks for helping to make it a box-office success. And if you didn't get a chance, get out to Cinema Village (or indieScreen) this week and check it out.

Buy tickets: Cinema Village / indieScreen


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Battle for Brooklyn #5 Movie in Country on Per Screen Basis. Cinema Village Holds Film Over

Posted by eric at 4:57 PM

An ambulance at the Atlantic Yards site; worker injury described by ESDC as "slight"

Atlantic Yards Report

An ambulance was spotted this morning at the Atlantic Yards site at about 8:40.

"There was a slight injury," reported Empire State Development Corporation spokesman Warner Johnston in response to my query. "A backhoe operator (substitute for today) for subcontractor to Transit Connection contractor bumped his head on window shield while going over rocky ground. Apparently cut his forehead and there was bleeding –ambulance called. Individual was able to walk to ambulance under own power."

(Photo by Raul Rothblatt)

In April, the arena site was chosen by the city Department of Buildings (DOB) to illustrate the importance of Construction Safety Week not because it's been the site of major problems but rather as a site where there's been good communication between workers/managers and the DOB.


NoLandGrab: Good to know the injury wasn't serious. Brooklyn may not be so lucky

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Some of the Markowitz back story: if he runs for mayor, his record, and personality, will get more scrutiny

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, we learned that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who avoided a potential 2009 mayoral run thanks to the extension of term limits, is considering a 2013 mayoral race, after the implosion of Anthony Weiner's political career.

I pointed out that Markowitz would face not merely ridicule but scorn for his Atlantic Yards support, given his blatant lie to potential immigrant investors: "Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

The Post's criticism

Markowitz surely has a record to run on--he will credit his leadership for the "renaissance" of Brooklyn (debatable), but can claim innovations (some with dubiously gained private funds) like the Brooklyn Book Festival, Dine In Brooklyn, as well as a capital budget geared to big projects like his (now-stalled) Asser Levy Park bandshell.

The New York Post, in a 6/18/11 editorial headlined When beeps fly, slammed the aspirations of not only Markowitz but Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:

Truth is, beeps haven't had much on their plates since 1990, when their powers were sapped and they became figureheads with expense accounts.

Likewise the public advocate, who is nominally the No. 2 official in New York, but whose role is mostly limited to smiling and collecting a paycheck while offending no one and waiting patiently for the mayor to depart.

Well, the offices have relatively light duties, but they are what the officeholder makes of them. Stringer and other Borough Presidents have paid more attention to policy than has Markowitz.

And another Public Advocate, say Norman Siegel, might have prioritized policy more than de Blasio.

So it's the people, not the job.


Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

NetsDaily Off-Season Report #10: Battle for Brooklyn continues...or so they say


Pseudonymous blogger Net Income (we'd choose a pseudonym too were we to squander countless hours writing about the woeful Nets) weighs in on Battle for Brooklyn.

This supposedly has energized the critics who have lost all their major court battles. They like Bruce Ratner are awaiting the final and long overdue ruling from Manhattan judge Marcy Friedman on whether a new environmental impact study is needed on the project beyond the arena. In the meantime, they are pushing ideas, big and small: a new plan for the rest of the project beyond the arena, should Friedman give them a "Hail Mary" victory and ask for a rethinking of the Atlantic Yards master plan, and some additional oversight, which will require new legislation. Neither are very likely.

Their biggest enemy right now (beyond the construction workers banging away at the site) seems to be Barry Baum, the Barclays Center's indefatigable senior vice president for public relations. While the critics laud the "Battle for Brooklyn", Baum spends his days donning a construction helmet and taking reporters to the construction site, wowing them with the prospects of a new entertainment and culture center for Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

June 19, 2011

NYT op-ed: do lawyers and accountants offer the same protection against corporate misconduct that they once did? (Not KPMG)

Atlantic Yards Report

Mark. W. Everson's New York Times op-ed today, Lawyers and Accountants Once Put Integrity First, suggests:

It will take decades to fully untangle the causes of the 2008 financial crisis, but as our economy fitfully heals, it would be prudent to ask whether lawyers and accountants offer the same protection against corporate misconduct that they once did.

Three or four decades ago, investors and regulators could rely on these professionals to provide a check on corporate risk-taking. But over time, attorneys and auditors came to see their practices not as independent firms that strengthen the integrity of capitalism, but as businesses measured chiefly by the earnings of their partners.

...Lawyers and accountants who were once the proud pillars of our financial system have become the happy architects of its circumvention. Nowhere is this more the case than in the world of tax law. Companies (and wealthy individuals) pay handsomely for tax professionals not just to find the lines, but to push them ever outward. During my tenure at the Internal Revenue Service, the low point came when we discovered that a senior tax partner at KPMG (one of the Big Four, which by virtue of their prominence set standards for the others) had advocated — in writing — to leaders of the company’s tax practice that KPMG make a “business/strategic decision” to ignore a particular set of I.R.S. disclosure rules. The reasoning was that the I.R.S. was unlikely to discover the underlying transactions, and that even if we did, any penalties assessed could be absorbed as a cost of doing business.

Not just tax law, I'd point out: KPMG has a notorious role in the Atlantic Yards saga, producing a highly suspect report on the Brooklyn real estate market to bolster the state's non-credible projections of a ten-year buildout.


Posted by steve at 3:55 PM

NY Magazine's Chris Smith on Battle for Brooklyn and the "urban outrage" of AY (also, why Schumer's jobs claim is even worse than billed)

Atlantic Yards Report

In New York Magazine's Daily Intel, Chris Smith (author of a fundamental 2006 article on Atlantic Yards, writes Chris Smith on the Atlantic Yards Documentary Battle for Brooklyn:

Early in the new documentary Battle for Brooklyn, Senator Chuck Schumer appears at a rally in support of the proposed Atlantic Yards stadium and housing development. “What really enervates me about this project,” Schumer says, “are the jobs.” Sure, it’s an innocent slip of the tongue: Schumer meant to say “energizes” or “excites” or something equally booster-y. Yet he inadvertently cut to the core of this eight-years-and-counting urban outrage: “Enervate” means lacking in energy or vitality, and the promises of developer Bruce Ratner — that he was bringing world-class architecture, affordable housing, and, most important of all in his sales pitch, tens of thousands of jobs to the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues — are turning out to be expensive fictions.

First, I don't give Schumer--a Harvard graduate--that much slack with vocabulary.

More importantly, while Smith is correct that, overall, the Ratner claims "are turning out to be expensive fictions," Schumer's claim was already such a fiction. So Smith has a case for an even greater outrage.

(Guess what--former Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey, the developer's Atlantic Yards point man, disagrees.)

Office jobs vs. construction jobs

In fact, the movie deserves some footnotes. "This is a great project," declared Schumer, at the 2004 State of the Borough address, which, as the Brooklyn Paper reported, focused on Atlantic Yards. "But you know what really enervates me about this? 10,000 jobs."

Beyond Schumer's word choice, a footnote would point out that the 10,000 jobs were to be housed in speculative office space, and the developer traded that space for housing.

Another footnote might point out that, later in the film, Council Member Letitia James erroneously decried those 10,000 jobs as temporary construction jobs. Another might note that Forest City Ratner promised 15,000 construction jobs, but those are measured in job-years, so it should’ve been 1500 jobs a year.

Bogus from the start

As I've written, the figure of 10,000 jobs was bogus from the start. There was no market for that many office jobs.

Further diminishing the impact, even if there had been a market, Forest City Ratner overstated the number of jobs that could fit in the four towers planned around the arena. And it neglected to explain that most of the jobs would not be new but transferred from Manhattan.

Space cut

Now only one office tower is planned, with the other three designated for housing.

But even developer Bruce Ratner told Crain's in November 2009: “Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?”


Related coverage..."

Jim Stuckey, former president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, though fired from Forest City Ratner, show obedience to his former employer by lashing out at New York Magazine writer Chris Smith.

Smith is the shining star of biased reporting. Chris Smith on the Atlantic Yards Documentary Battle for Brooklyn


Posted by steve at 3:36 PM

Help Battle for Brooklyn Go National -- See the Movie Today, Sunday the 19th at Cinema Village

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

We know there is a lot of competition for your time, but WE URGE you to see Battle for Brooklyn today, Sunday the 19th, at Cinema Village in Manhattan. (Purchase Tickets Now)

While the Friday turnout was amazing, Saturday's was not as good as expected. It is crucial that there are large audiences on Sunday.

So, it is urgently important that you see this riveting film today, and that you call your friends and urge them to see it today as well.

If the screenings are packed today then the film will continue to play in New York and expand throughout the country. If the film does not do well today, it won't get far outside of New York.

It is vitally important that this remarkable film about our community's fight is seen by a wide national audience. By telling the story of our fight against Atlantic Yards, it tells a dramatic and universal tale of resistance to corrupt, top-down development and collusion between government and corporations against the interests of the community. It takes direct aim at kleptocracy and it shows that the most important things in life are worth fighting for. It is a film that deserves a wide audience.

>> CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS. Tickets also available at the box office. The showtimes are: 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9:15.


Posted by steve at 3:31 PM

"Battle for Brooklyn": In breaking news, Goliath beats David

By Andrew O'Hehir

In the movies, when David fights Goliath, we generally know who's going to win. In real life, of course, it tends to be the other way around, as the compact and fascinating documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" demonstrates. Compressing a seven-year civic struggle over a massive redevelopment project in the center of Brooklyn, N.Y., into 93 minutes, Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's film spins a compelling tale about the value of individual and collective resistance, even as it makes clear where power in our society really resides. Along the way, "Battle for Brooklyn" tells the story of a love affair and a new family, and reminds us that even billionaires are not omnipotent.


Posted by steve at 3:30 PM

NY Daily News down the memory hole: real estate piece buffing Ridge Hill neglects to mention the legal troubles

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Daily News offers some friendly copy on Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Westchester, under the headline City on the Hill: "New Urbanism" in Yonkers:

When people think of groundbreaking real estate projects that could change the way we live as New Yorkers, they don’t usually think of Yonkers. Until now.

Just 22 minutes up the New York State Thruway from the upper East and upper West Sides, an 84-acre project that defines what developers, architects and city planners call “new urbanism” is on its way to completion. Called Ridge Hill, this 1.2 million square-foot retail and residential complex from Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards and the Nets Arena in Brooklyn, is seeing full-throttle construction, leasing and home-buying.

The project has the New York area’s first outdoor mall, with a multiplex cinema, its own Main St. and a water, light and fire show straight out of Las Vegas. There’s a Whole Foods, Lord & Taylor, L.L. Bean, medical building, and four-phase residential component, where one-bedrooms start at $325,000. The development sits on a ridge (hence the name) overlooking the countryside, and it’s less than eight minutes from the nearest train station. The goal is to have a living experience where residents don’t need cars and can walk to restaurants, stores and medical facilities.

Missing the back story

And how did it come about?

More than a decade ago, the politicians in Yonkers asked to buy the land from New York State. After the state agreed to let the city pursue a deal, a request for proposals was issued to developers. According to Mayor Phillip A. Amicone, the Forest City vision was much more compelling and innovative than others.

“They really delivered something that no one has,” says Amicone, who estimates Yonkers will earn $20 million to $25 million in taxes when Ridge Hill is fully operational.

Um, there's just a wee bit missing here, like an oddly changed vote on the City Council, an indictment (which spared Forest City Ratner, despite its entanglement), and a pending trial.


Posted by steve at 3:27 PM

June 18, 2011

On Battle for Brooklyn day, Markowitz, Nets, allies plant tree in Fort Greene Park to promote donations

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, as the film Battle for Brooklyn opened commercially to widespread positive reviews, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and the city of New York were doing their best to promote the Nets, the Barclays Center, and the salubrious effect of the team's move in 2012.

The event: a tree donation, and a photo op, with associated advertising for the team, the arena, and a lawn care company. (There was no mention of how Forest City Ratner tried to evade paying for street trees it demolished.)

The media event drew coverage from the New York Post's Brooklyn blog and NY 1.


Posted by steve at 2:11 PM

I Went To See “Battle For Brooklyn” This Weekend and You Should Too Because . . .

Noticing New York

I went to see “Battle For Brooklyn” this weekend, the new documentary about the Atlantic Yards Brooklyn debacle. Noticing New York readers should go see it this weekend, too. You should go because it is a good film and also because it is about crucial issues that need a great deal more public attention. If you and enough others see the film this weekend at the Cinema Village (22 West 12th Street in Greenwich Village) when attendance figures are being monitored the film will get wider play and those issues will get more of the attention they deserve.

If that is all the convincing you need then hurry out to see the film, bringing friends and we can all reconnoiter latter. If you need to hear more before you’re out the door with ticket price in hand then keep reading.


NoLandGrab: Better yet, do both: read all of Noticing New York's excellent appraisal, and go see the film this weekend! Show times and tickets here.

Posted by eric at 2:00 PM

"Battle For Brooklyn" -- Go See It

The documentary "Battle For Brooklyn" is now playing at Cinema Village in Manhattan. All of these people liked the film and you probably will, too.

New York Magazine, Chris Smith on the Atlantic Yards Documentary Battle for Brooklyn

The film isn’t objective, which is fine, and appropriate: Atlantic Yards was never a fair fight. Launched during the boom years, with aggressively pro-business politicians running the city and the state, Atlantic Yards has used strategic heaps of money and a crafty marketing strategy (Brooklyn pride! Frank Gehry! Affordable housing! Jobs, jobs, jobs!) to churn relentlessly forward, even surviving the one serious threat to its existence, the great recession. What Battle for Brooklyn can only hint at, however, are the crucial political alliances that have kept Atlantic Yards alive; Mayor Bloomberg, Ratner, and the other key establishment players apparently didn’t deign to sit for interviews. That’s fitting, too, given the façade of a “public” process used to approve the massive project.

Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist, Battle for Brooklyn

Daniel Goldstein lives in a remodeled building on Pacific Street that is similar to many in New York City’s five boroughs. Priced out of the Manhattan market (I am only making a guess that this was the case for Goldstein, a graphic artist), they settle in working-class neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Long Island City and elsewhere to enjoy a roomy apartment or loft with the latest amenities. When Ratner offers the occupants of Goldstein’s building a million dollars each to move out, they take the money and run. Goldstein, a 30ish young man with a rebellious streak as pronounced as I have ever seen, decides to remain and fight. After joining Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), he begins to spend more time organizing people than on his career. His passion for the cause (and perhaps other incompatibilities) leads to the break-up his engagement. But all is not lost. He finally hooks up with and marries Shabnam Merchant, an Indo-American woman who is as dedicated to the cause as he is.

Arrayed against them and their neighbors are an enormously powerful and ruthless bloc consisting of Ratner, his top executives, and a rogue’s gallery of politicians, including the buffoonish Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz. They portray the project’s benefit in such glowing terms that you would think that they were on some kind of social uplift mission rather than a typical real estate boondoggle. Ratner is a truly despicable figure, who naturally enough became a member of Bard College’s Board of Trustees. Leon Botstein has a particular flair for recruiting limousine liberals such as Ratner, who will be sitting alongside Stuart Resnick at board meetings. Resnick is the owner of a number of “enlightened” New Agey type products like POM juice and Fiji water that put profits over sustainable development.

orgtheory.net, battle for brooklyn: social movements, countermovements, and the urban growth machine

A couple of weeks ago I saw Battle for Brooklyn, a new documentary by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley,* at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. The documentary tells the story of Brooklyn activists who fought against a real estate development planned in the the old Atlantic Yards site that ceased hundreds of homes through eminent domain in order to build a business complex and a new arena for the New Jersey Nets. Told from the perspective Daniel Goldstein, one of the community organizers leading the protests, the film provides a rare and in-depth look at the internal workings of a social movement, chronicling the emotional highs and lows as well as the process of tactical decision-making. It’s a fascinating film for a number of reasons, and I can’t recommend it enough.

mybrooklyn, Battle for Brooklyn

Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley’s new documentary Battle for Brooklyn unfolds right down the street from where we’ve been shooting My Brooklyn for the past four years. I had a chance to see the film last night at Cinema Village and highly recommend it to anybody interested in urban planning, land use, and the increasing use of eminent domain for private profit. By following Daniel Goldstein’s fight to stay in his apartment, and Develop Don’t Destroy‘s efforts to bring some sanity to the planning process, Battle for Brooklyn exposes the corrupt decision-making process behind the Atlantic Yards Project as well as some great public relations strategies (my favorite being a theater piece that takes place in front of Freddy’s bar before it is demolished). City Council member Tish James comes off really well against a cast of city politicians and developers the film skewers pretty squarely. Go see it while you can!

Posted by steve at 1:59 PM

UNITY 4 Meeting Broaches New Plan For Atlantic Yards

The Local (NY Times Blog)

Veteran organizers and newcomers packed into a community space at the Commons on Atlantic Avenue to discuss the next steps in the plan. UNITY 4 is a revision of previous plan, UNITY, which is an acronym for Understanding, Imagining and Transforming The Yards. The plan was developed by activists shortly after the Atlantic Yard development was announced in 2003.

Speakers at the meeting said that now is the time to restart the discussion about the development, and to refresh the past UNITY plan. The arena is being built, but the community can still influence what happens on the remaining parcels of land, said Daniel Goldstein from Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB).

“The majority of the site is not done being developed,” Mr. Goldstein said. “This is the next phase.”

City Councilwoman Letitia James called on DDDB and other community groups to kick off a new organizing plan. “Can we engineer the project into something to benefit the common good?” she asked the crowd.


Posted by steve at 1:57 PM

June 17, 2011

See Battle for Brooklyn This Weekend at Cinema Village. Help Our Fight Go National.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Mr. Ratner can no longer deny reality or attempt to rewrite history because our community's principled, tenacious, and epic fight, and the way Ratner's arena came to be, has been captured for all history in a new, riveting documentary: Battle for Brooklyn.

After winning Best Documentary and Best Film at the Brooklyn Film Festival last week, Clinton Hill filmmakers Suki Hawley, Mike Galinsky and David Beilinson's eight-year-in-the-making movie is making its theatrical debut this weekend.

The film opens theatrically on June 17th at Cinema Village in Manhattan (22 East 12th Street). Showtimes each day are 1,3,5,7 and 9:15.

>> CLICK HERE For Showtimes and to Purchase Tickets

With this film the developer's narrative can no longer hold, and we urge you to attend a screening this weekend and spread the work to friends, neighbors, family and colleagues.

Why is it so important that you attend a screening this opening weekend of the 17th, 18th or 19th, and why are we exhorting you to spread the word? First off, it is a riveting and remarkable film. It captures the essence of our fight in a compelling, dramatic narrative that will move you, enrage you, and make you laugh and cry. It also has universal appeal.

But also because well-attended screenings on those dates at Cinema Village will ensure that the film gets booked in well over 100 cities around the country.


Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

Update #77: Battle opens Today

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Battle for Brooklyn opens today June 17th at Cinema Village in Manhattan and for one screening a day at Indiescreen in Brooklyn.

visit http://battleforbrooklyn.com for tickets and reviews

and facebook.com/battleforbrooklyn for the most up to date news on the film

Thanks again for your support. Suki, David, Daniel, and/or I will be at almost every screening this weekend so stop by and help us get this film seen all over.

Critics pic in the NY Times and a glowing reveiw on NPR are some of today's highlights.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Sovereign Immunity, Reconfiguration of Brooklyn’s Traffic And The Peculiar Verisimilitude of Government Functions When Forest City Ratner Takes Over

Noticing New York

Here's an excellent Michael D.D. White piece on the abdication of the public role to Forest City Ratner and its consultants.

After I thought about seeing Sam Schwartz’s presentation at Borough Hall the other night it struck me that I had seen something very odd. Yes, the presentation was in the stately courtroom of Borough Hall, the carved woodwork, towering pillars and ornate ceiling conveyed the sense of governmental formality, but here was a man, a consultant hired by and working for a private developer, describing how, as a result of that developer’s project, traffic, was going to be rerouted by him all around the busiest most populous areas of the borough.

While flash animated videos showed the multitudinous streets involved (or at least those to which Mr. Schwartz was extending his formal consideration), Mr. Schwartz casually explained about the little blue stand-ins for real vehicles scooting around in the videos “did not represent the real volume of traffic flow” (which would in real life be considerably heavier) and were there only to demonstrate the sets of theoretical turn off choices drivers would have at specific streets and avenues. Perhaps, by the same token, it should be pointed out that, appearances aside, Mr. Schwartz, standing in Borough Hall showing how so much of the borough’s traffic would be reconfigured (without actually simulating the real volume of traffic flow), did not represent a real public official.

The Private Sector Without Sovereign Immunity

So this is what I am wondering: Although Forest City Ratner and Sam Schwartz as its engineering consultant may seem a lot like the government performing a government function, that is not what they are. Forest City Ratner and Sam Schwartz are private sector entities and however much they have intruded themselves into an assumption of what we would expect would be a government process they are no more actual government officials than a privately hired mall security guard.

So the question is: Can they be liable for their negligence if they do damage in this vastly extensive and impactful reorganization of the borough affecting so many neighbors? As sovereign immunity should not apparently apply to their actions, can these private entities be sued in court if the effect that the new arena and traffic patterns have is to slow response times for the police and fire departments resulting in deaths, physical injuries and property loss when their arrival is consequently delayed?


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Noticing New York on how it looks like Forest City Ratner and consultant Sam Schwartz are performing government functions

Michael D. D. White, in his Noticing New York blog, reflects on the real strangeness of the Forest City Ratner/Empire State Development Corporation session on traffic June 14, given that a private consultant hired by a private developer was explaining--at times not all too well--how public streets would be managed.

What if they're sued? White suggests:

If they are, it is probable that they would claim that, despite evidence to the contrary, they actually took no actions, that all the actions were taken by exclusively public agencies immune through sovereign immunity.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

The Times punts somewhat on Battle for Brooklyn (was film edited to make officials look bad? nah), and a review roundup

Atlantic Yards Report

The documentary Battle for Brooklyn has mainly been reviewed by film critics, assessing it first as a narrative and the second in terms of thoroughness and accuracy.

From the perspective of the directors, that must be a double-edge sword: most reviewers have been more gentle to the film than, say, someone (like me) who'd been covering the battle steadily, while some have really missed the point. ignoring some of the gaps.

Below, a roundup of several recent reviews, and some comments.


Related coverage...

NY Post, Battle for Brooklyn

You have to admire the tenacity of Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, who spent seven years documenting the sadly doomed grass-roots struggle to stop the Atlantic Yards project, a development boondoggle built around a basketball arena in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately for the film, it's clear from the outset this is a totally one-sided battle that well-connected developer Bruce Ratner is fated to win. With powerful allies like Mayor Bloomberg, (clownish) Borough President Marty Markowitz and the New York Times, Ratner gets huge economic concessions when the economy goes south.

The Village Voice, Memory Lane: A Look Back at the Campaign Against Atlantic Yards in Battle for Brooklyn

Coming to theaters just as the Barclays Center emerges from behind partitioning at the northern tip of Prospect Heights, Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley’s Battle for Brooklyn recounts the tireless anti–Atlantic Yards efforts of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn co-founder Daniel Goldstein. The documentary opens with a title-card definition of “eminent domain,” and a scene of last-holdout Goldstein standing up to the goons patrolling his condo building’s rooftop. Instances of project-proponent doublespeak follow: Podium-banging Nets owner/AY developer Bruce Ratner invokes “the royal ‘I’ ”; Chuck Schumer says that job creation “enervates” [sic] him; a Forest City Ratner VP appears to spin displacement as a grand American tradition.

The Icehouse Gang, Matt Brinckerhoff and the Battle for Brooklyn

Okay folks, here is your first, truly must-see movie for the summer: a harrowing documentary, opening tomorrow, about how in today’s America almost any wealthy businessman who wants to can find a judge to drive you out of your home. For a reason as important as…basketball.

The Times, like just about every newspaper that has reviewed The Battle For Brooklyn so far, including The Wall Street Journal, gave it a very good review—albeit objecting that it is “unabashedly slanted and as a result will probably be dismissed by those it portrays unflatteringly.”

How very Timesian! Just what is the “unslanted” side to a story where a developer convinces a city government to hand over an immensely valuable property to him, evicts all the longtime residents on that property, lies about what he’ll build there, rips off local commuters to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars…then absconds, selling the whole site off to a mysterious foreign businessman?

And “it will probably be dismissed by those it portrays unflatteringly”? Right. Like if it had all been just a little more nuanced, Bruce Ratner, and Mayor Bloomberg, and all their flunky judges and MTA apparatchiks would have been kept up at night, walking the halls, wondering, ‘Did we do the right thing?’

The Times, like so many of our elite institutions, has wandered so far from any understanding of what a true democracy should be that it really thinks convincing developer rip-off artists and the mayors who love them is what counts.

Curbed, Our Top Five Favorite Moments From Battle for Brooklyn

2.) At one point Dan Goldstein’s wife Shabnam Merchant points to a woman laughing blissfully in a pamphlet distributed by Forest City Ratner to promote Atlantic Yards. She mentions that when taking the stock photo the woman assumed the worst that could happen was that it would be used in a Herpes treatment ad. Apparently, she thought Atlantic Yards was worse.

1.) Freddy’s bar co-owner Donald O’Finn being a badass.

Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

What happened to the Brooklyn Paper on Atlantic Yards? Three meetings this week result in no coverage (so far)

Atlantic Yards Report

There were three important Atlantic Yards-related public events in the past week, with my coverage linked:

--a meeting June 11 on governance reform sponsored by BrooklynSpeaks, local elected officials, and others
--a forum June 14 on traffic changes sponsored by Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation
--a session June 15 on reviving the alternative UNITY development plan, sponsored by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, local elected officials, and others.

The events drew healthy crowds, more than 100 people for the latter two.

The hyperlocal web site Patch (owned by AOL, operating in several Brooklyn neighborhoods) covered all three events (governance, traffic, UNITY), while reporters for the Brooklyn Downtown Star, the New York Times's The Local, and others also attended some events.

Where was the Brooklyn Paper?

Maybe this explains it:

Why is Atlantic Yards no longer an important story for the Brooklyn Paper?

It's impossible to say for sure, but perhaps the newspaper's marketing alliance with the Nets (click on graphic below, from the paper's daily update last month, to enlarge) has an impact.


Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

NYC Unions Agree to 20% Wage Cut On Manhattan Residential Project

Local 157 blogspot
by Carolina Worrell

Key unions in New York City, including laborers and structural trades, agreed to a 20% wage cut yesterday, June 15 for work on Gotham West, a residential development on Manhattan’s West Side that will consist of four buildings and about 1,240 residential units, according to a recent article in Crain’s New York Business.

Following Gotham’s lead, developer Forest City Ratner Cos. has submitted an application for a labor agreement to build a residential tower, part of the first phase of its mixed-use Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

A Forest City spokesperson said it is “too premature” to say why the company applied for the agreement.


NoLandGrab: We'll take a wild guess that they applied for the agreement because they can't afford to build otherwise.

Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

June 16, 2011

Can Brooklyn Build a Pedestrian-Friendly Arena at the Atlantic Yards Site?

by Noah Kazis

The excellent Streetsblog reporter Noah Kazis looks at the transportation issues surrounding the Barclays Center, and some best-practices from around the country.

Ready or not, come September 28, 2012, Brooklyn will once again be home to a major professional sports venue. The Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards is scheduled to open by next fall, while progress on the rest of Forest City Ratner’s mega-development is lagging far behind. In the words of local City Council Member Letitia James, “All we’re getting is an arena and a large parking lot.”

James’s conclusion is perhaps a bit premature, as Norman Oder has noted at the Atlantic Yards Report, but the basic premise is right: The arena is moving ahead while the rest of the project languishes, and for a while the arena may stand all alone. The primary transportation planning challenge facing the area is how best to move the tens of thousands of people who will want to watch a basketball game or concert to and from the site in a way that is safe, sustainable and appropriate to an urban environment.

The fundamentals for a smart solution are there: The Atlantic/Pacific hub makes the area better-served by transit than almost anywhere else in the United States. Right now, though, the picture is more mixed. The state recently released its transportation plan for the arena, a plan largely in line with past promises from both the Empire State Development Corporation and the developer Forest City Ratner, which is intended to mitigate the increased traffic that the crowds heading to an arena event will bring to the surrounding neighborhoods. Many of the features, like free subway fares for certain Nets ticket holders and 400 secure bike parking spaces, will help make the Barclays Center more transit-oriented and bike and pedestrian-friendly.

But the developer is planning to build an 1,100-space surface parking lot, killing street life and inducing driving. And with some of the borough’s deadliest streets left in place as enormous traffic arteries, walking and cycling will remain overly dangerous, potentially keeping features like a temporary plaza from being much more than a hard-to-reach traffic island.

Between developer Forest City Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation and the city government, the capacity exists to make the Barclays Center a standard-setting example for urban arenas around the country, if only they have the will.


Posted by eric at 11:29 PM

Lawful Land Grab Sparks A 'Battle For Brooklyn'

by Mark Jenkins

When Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project was announced some seven years ago, its boosters — who included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Borough President Marty Markowitz — touted the scheme's extraordinary potential. But there was nothing unusual about the developer-politician alliance recounted by Battle for Brooklyn. The way this deal went down exemplifies how urban redevelopment is done all over the United States.

Atlantic Yards was conceived by an Ohio development firm, Forest City Ratner, but relied heavily on New York state and city subsidies. The project would encompass 16 skyscrapers and a new arena for the New Jersey Nets; much of it would be built on rail yards owned by the state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority. But the plan also involved acquiring several blocks of private property and — where the owners wouldn't sell — getting the state to use eminent domain: the power to seize private property for the public good.

Why did the developers need so much land? Well, perhaps because everything's bigger in New York. But it's worth noting that Atlantic Yards' designated designer was Frank Gehry, American architecture's prince of wasted space.


Related coverage...

The New York Times, In Brooklyn, Pushing Back Against a Redevelopment Plan

“Battle for Brooklyn,” a documentary about the unending mess that is the Atlantic Yards project, is unabashedly slanted and as a result will probably be dismissed by those it portrays unflatteringly. That’s unfortunate, because this film should be discouraging and dismaying for people on all sides of the project, for what it says about oversize expectations and missed opportunities.

Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley certainly know how to edit film to make public officials sound like manipulative weasels or clueless buffoons, and that’s what they do here as they tell the story of Bruce Ratner’s billion-dollar plans for a huge Brooklyn development centered on a basketball arena, and the residents and businesses displaced by it.

Actually, they are manipulative weasels or clueless buffoons.

The film is full of bombastic promises about jobs and other benefits from Mr. Ratner and the politicians who support him. With the project now a shell of its former self, they seem particularly outrageous. But it will be years yet before the definitive story of this exercise in urban reinvention can be told.

Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

Why liquor policies in and around the Atlantic Yards arena matter: a booze-fueled hockey riot in Vancouver

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Nation, Dave Zirin writes, Understanding Vancouver's 'Hockey Riot':

John Ward-Leighton also pointed out on his blog the role that the liquor lobby placed in turned an entire area around the arena into a branded "Entertainment Zone" larded with bars and free-flowing liquor.

“It was clear that a lot of of the participants in last nights riot and looting were at the very least impaired and looking for trouble," said Ward-Leighton. "This "zone" has nothing to do with entertainment and much to do with the almost criminal profit taking of the proprietors of the establishments who far from "serving it right" pour drunken idiots into the streets nightly to brawl and drive drunk....The fault for last nights idiocy was not about losing a hockey game or the police response, the bomb had its fuse lit with the myth that the only way you can have fun is to get stinking drunk.”

Why does this matter in Brooklyn? Because the Atlantic Yards arena will be located very, very close to some residential neighborhoods--far closer than the 200-foot cordon required by the city, as zoning is overridden by the state.

That means policy issues--like the timing of last call at the arena, open hours of establishments serving liquor, and policing--are all worthy of discussion.

And maybe, as suggested last night, a state subsidiary overseeing the arena, is necessary.


Related coverage...

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, New realities require new types of security planning

With the post-hockey game riot in Vancouver, after the Vancouver Canucks hockey team lost to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals, I think that every major city, including college towns where college sports are big, should have to do contingency planning for post-game riot avoidance management.

Photo: Newsphoto

Posted by eric at 11:05 PM

Nash's nuance: a hoops star recognizes there may be some angles to the snazzy Brooklyn arena he can't fathom

Atlantic Yards Report

Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, an off-season New Yorker, was interviewed in am New York:

What do you think of the new arena going up in Brooklyn for the Nets? I think it's great. I'm speaking from the outside — you know, I don't live in Brooklyn or near where that arena would be, so I'm not sure how it would impact that community positively or negatively. But as far as our league, I think it's a great place to have a building and it's a great place to have a team. New York, and Brooklyn in particular, has such a great sports tradition and it's a great sports town. So I think it's a beautiful thing for our game.

At least Nash, who's one of the NBA's stellar citizens, knows what he doesn't know. Maybe he could start with Battle for Brooklyn.


Related content...

amNY, Q&A with two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash

Posted by eric at 10:59 PM

Atlantic Yards Fight Gets Re-Energized

As construction moves forward, the emphasis shifts to 2013 elections and moving control of the site from state to local entities.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

The Barclays Center may be rising, but locals have far from given up the fight against developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards mega project.

Instead, community members have refocused their energy on trying to stop over development from coming to the rest of the Atlantic Yards site, primarily through political means.

“That site is going to be contested for decades. People think it’s all over because they see an arena going up,” said Daniel Goldstein, one of the main organizers of the activist group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, at a community strategy meeting that drew well over 100. Goldstein emphasized that the battle is far from over.

“I don’t know about you but I’m not prepared to surrender my community to a developer,” said James at the meeting. “I’m not prepared to surrender and I’m not prepared to give up.”


Posted by eric at 10:53 PM

Meeting on revision of UNITY plan draws large crowd; development principles may be applied to Phase 2 AY site, but political pressure needed

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on last night's UNITY 4 forum.

There's some new life in the Atlantic Yards opposition, it seems, as a meeting last night on the UNITY4 plan--a revision of a blueprint for an community-driven alternative use of part of the Atlantic Yards site--drew some 140 people, packing an Atlantic Avenue space known as The Commons.

While some veteran (and weary) Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn activists organized the meeting at the behest of Council Member Letitia James, the meeting not only drew people long associated with the BrooklynSpeaks coalition--once more of a mend-it-don't-end-it contrast with DDDB, now more of an ally--but those new to the struggle.

It was a preliminary meeting, to be followed up in the fall, but it was clear that the effort to revise the UNITY principles--regarding open space, transportation, multiple developers, and street connections--is as much political as anything.

And, despite the presence of three City Council members--and the support of representative state officials who were in Albany for the last week of the legislative session--it will be a challenge to wrest control from the unelected Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and to elect city and borough candidates in 2013 who support an alternative vision for the project site.

(The discussion applied mainly but not exclusively to the Phase 2 site, east of Sixth Avenue and the arena block.)

That said, there's clearly political space now, and perhaps more next year. Quoting BrooklynSpeaks' Gib Veconi, DDDB's Daniel Goldstein noted that, when the arena opens in September 2013, "that's when the outcry will really get much louder, and politicians will have to wake up, because they're going to hear a lot of complaints… or when Forest City Ratner comes back for more money, or some other favor from ESDC or the state, that's another time when a negotiation can take place."

[In an interesting piece of timing, Harvard University is reported to be considering multiple developers and smaller projects to revive a stalled major expansion.]


Related content...

The Boston Globe, Harvard may turn to partners to revive Allston expansion

Harvard University leaders will recommend today that the school take a dramatically different approach to its stalled expansion in Allston by dividing the ambitious vision into smaller projects and partnering with outside developers and investors.

The plan, scheduled to be presented today to Harvard president Drew Faust and Allston residents at a community meeting, lacks many specifics about cost, size, timing, and commitments from outside developers. But the recommendations for more modest short-term development could mark a new start for a gritty neighborhood that has been promised a building boom for more than a decade.

Posted by eric at 6:04 PM

"I was a bit confused however, by your statement that you're "...concerned that the local shopkeepers were being forced out of business by the Atlantic Yards stadium project

A few weeks ago, we reported briefly on a New York Times story about the Bergen Street incarnation of a global art project entitled "Familiar Faces, on a Larger-Than-Life Scale, Help Bring a Block Closer Together."

Borough President Marty Markowitz must've clicked on our link, because four days later, he sent the following letter to Dana Eskelson, the Bergen Street resident who made it happen (click to enlarge):

First of all, Ms. Eskelson never claimed her block was in the project footprint. Secondly, Markowitz, a former tenant organizer, should be well acquainted with the displacement effects of gentrification. And thirdly, with all the issues that Atlantic Yards raises, how could it possibly matter whether someone calls it an "arena" or "stadium?" Could the Borough President's letter be any more pedantic?

But it is nice to know that everything in Brooklyn is so rosy that the Borough President has the time to send such helpful correspondence to Brooklyn residents who are actually concerned with the well-being of local small business people.

Posted by eric at 5:43 PM


Filmmaker Magazine
by Brandon Harris

Eight years in the making, Battle for Brooklyn is Galinsky and Hawley’s in-depth portrait of the fight over this swath of Brooklyn property. Perhaps the most insightful film about urban planning and eminent domain to yet emerge, it is also a muckraking portrait of system corruption, of the ways that money causes undue influence within our political system and how the wealthy can muscle their preferred message through the media in increasingly draconian and anti-democratic ways. After playing at HotDocs, Rooftop Films and the Brooklyn International Film Festival, it opens this Friday at Manhattan’s Cinema Village and Brooklyn’s IndieScreen.

Hawley: The opposition tried so hard to effect this project and to change it. They found another developer who offered three times the money Forest City Ratner did for the rail yards. They found a developer who would have created housing and jobs without using eminent domain to remove people from their homes. The local politicians who represented the direct area were very against it and City Councilwoman James was very vocal, but she had no way of really effecting the outcome. It’s mindboggling really.

Galinsky: Part of the reason we made the movie is that we don’t approve of top down government that ignores the will of the people and the interest of the community.

Hawley: They want to run things more like a business. Communities aren’t a business. Schools aren’t a business. Human interaction is messy. It’s not simple. You have to dig in and challenge yourself and it’s not going to be easy, but our communities are going to be more successful if our leaders do that.

Galinsky: Michael Bloomberg says in the movie, “You don’t need any paper, you just need Bruce Ratner’s word.”


Related coverage...

indieWIRE, Review: ‘Battle For Brooklyn’ Shines A Light On Corruption Hiding Behind Hoops

Booting those already in place didn’t seem an issue for some, as Ratner doled out hefty paychecks to those that vacated the premises. Others held out, including Daniel Goldstein, the sole resident of an apartment high-rise who shrugged in response to Ratner’s overtures. As a result, Goldstein ended up living a Kafka-esque nightmare, the only person holding out in his empty building. We see the toll this takes as his fiancée walks out on him, but it’s a testament to the influence of Develop Don’t Destroy that this documentary also features Goldstein finding love in the arms of another and even having a child.

A.V. Club, Battle For Brooklyn

It’s a fascinating, significant story too, though it proves a little too big for Galinsky and Hawley to wrangle. This is a movie about the state of grassroots organizing in the 21st century, and how politicians and the media have stopped even pretending to stick up for the little guy; instead, they make sweetheart deals with overly optimistic businessmen, then let those businessmen control how the deal gets explained. It’s also about how Goldstein develops as a spokesman for his cause, learning to throw numbers around and hit his talking points as forcefully as the developers do, while realizing that because of the laziness of the local media, he’s going to have to explain the opposition to Atlantic Yards over and over. (The fact that this movie takes place before, during, and after the real-estate crash only underscores how a lack of diligence by our watchdogs can screw the average citizen.)

Posted by eric at 5:15 PM

Tensions still simmering over Atlantic Yards project as arena rises

by Max J. Dickstein

It's a project so big that it has reshaped a neighborhood and inspired a movie, a play and, in time, a book.

Twenty-two acres of Prospect Heights was zoned for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, 14 percent of which is being transformed into the Barclays Center set to open in September 2012. As construction continues on the arena and underground infrastructure, the past decade’s disputes about the use of eminent domain to displace residents and businesses still simmer.

And the lack of visible progress on the dilapidated non-arena portion of the parcel — developers ascribe it to the economic downturn and dozens of lawsuits by grass-roots opponents — has continued to galvanize a community that still wonders how much more of Atlantic Yards — including planned high-rises with housing and office space — will actually get financed and built, and when.


Posted by eric at 5:03 PM

Net nabe's 'park' perk

NY Post
by Rich Calder and Wilson Dizard

The dream of city residential-parking permits could become reality for neighbors of the planned Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Christopher Hrones, the Department of Transportation's Downtown Brooklyn coordinator, said the agency is looking to offer the permits as relief to residents living nearby the 18,000-seat Prospect Heights arena, which opens in September 2012 and will be the new home of the NBA's Nets.

The arena -- part of the Atlantic Yards project -- can accommodate just 1,100 cars, and neighborhood parking is already scarce.

"We need to explore how it would work. This is something we will be looking at now, and when the arena opens," Hrones said during an Atlantic Yards meeting at Borough Hall Tuesday night.

Hrones said there are no plans to look at offering the permits in other parts of the city, and it's still unclear how large an area will be studied. Any permit plan would need to be approved by the state Legislature.


Posted by eric at 4:43 PM

A Pile of Questions on Atlantic Yard Traffic Changes

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Lisha Arino

After Tuesday’s public hearing on traffic changes around the construction at Atlantic Yards and the planned Barclays Center stadium, organizers collected a pile of questions from residents on index cards.

But some attendees complained that they left the meeting with few answers.

Peter Krashes, president of the Dean Street Block Association, said that he came with low expectations for the meeting, but was still disappointed by how it went.

“I brought quite a few questions and a host of them weren’t answered, and there were specific details about the plans that weren’t discussed,” he said.

Before the hearing ended, Arana Hankin from the Empire State Development Corporation acknowledged that many questions had been left unanswered. She said the answers to all the questions will appear on Empire State Development’s Web Site within the next week or two.


Posted by eric at 4:20 PM

Will Barclays Center be a game changer on the arena scene?

by Max J. Dickstein

When the Barclays Center opens in September 2012 with three weeks of events ahead of the relocating Nets' basketball season, the new complex is expected to rival New York’s other sports venues for spectator dollars enough to alter the dynamic among the area's sports and entertainment venues. Even a winning Nets debut in the 2012-13 season — seen as a key factor for the young venue in attracting ticket-buyers and corporate sponsors — would account for only about 50 dates, but arena managers say they've booked more than 100 other events, including monthly boxing matches; tennis, college basketball and hockey games; and family shows and concerts — with plans for more than 200 events annually.

“Obviously people are going to want to go the Barclays Center at first glance because it’s new,” said NYU sports business professor Wayne McDonnell. “But you’re going to want to sustain an audience.

“If [Nets part-owner] Jay-Z does five sold-out nights there, that’s unbelievable,” McDonnell added. “But then you go from that to Long Island University playing Wagner College in a hockey game — it’s not going to sustain it.”


Posted by eric at 4:11 PM

Barclays Signs at P.S. 58 Defaced

Messages condemning rich white people were stuck to schoolyard advertising.

Carroll Gardens Patch
by Georgia Kral

The writing is on the wall.

Apparently, someone doesn't like the Barclays-sponsored signage attached to the P.S. 58 schoolyard.

Pardon Me For Asking noticed that two stickers were affixed to one of the two Barclays signs at the school.

They read, respectively:

"Crazy, Crazy (Rich) White People!"

"When Will It End?"

While the message is a bit unclear -- are the saboteurs condeming Barclays or the school? -- one thing is certain: the signs are now defaced.


Related coverage...

The L Magazine, Barclays Buys Up Naming Rights to Local Playgrounds, Too

A debate among parents has ensued, of course, of which Atlantic Yards Report has a pretty good rundown. The Patch piece sums it up as "Even...Snapple machines in school cafeterias is too much corporate encroachment" vs. "it ain’t even that big of a sign." Any sign is too big of a sign!

Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

Film depicts Atlantic Yards fight

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

Filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley noticed newspaper articles in late 2003 about a proposed basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets that was to be built as part of a condominium and office building project in Brooklyn called Atlantic Yards.

That led to eight years of filming — and now, a documentary, "Battle for Brooklyn," showing in Manhattan and Brooklyn this weekend, that depicts the multiyear fight against the plan that finally resulted in a spring 2010 groundbreaking for Barclays Center. The arena is expected to open in September 2012, although the construction timeline for the 16 skyscrapers in the original blueprints remains murky.

The 93-minute movie has opened to mostly positive reviews, although Galinsky noted that some critics thought it should have been even tougher on city and state officials and on developer Forest City Ratner. Still, the tone of the movie clearly is on the side of the project's opponents.

"The problem was that to include the all-out reality was just too depressing," Galinsky said.


Related coverage...

Daily News Sports ITeam Blog, 'Battle for Brooklyn' takes home best doc honor

Congratulations to filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky, whose "Battle for Brooklyn" was not only named the Brooklyn Film Festival's Best Documentary, but was also honored with the festival's Grand Chameleon Award, given to the best picture across all categories.

It's an important movie that demonstrates how corporate interests enlist their allies in government to enrich themselves at the public trough, even if that means running over people who don’t have deep pockets or political connections. Mayor Bloomberg has threatened to lay off thousands of teachers. How come he never threatens to end subsidies for Atlantic Yards?

To be fair, not all the politicians featured in the film come across like shills for developer Bruce Ratner. When is City Councilwoman Letitia James going to run for mayor?


Those of you who have been following this saga in the news headlines already know how this story ends. The Nets -- whom Ratner has since sold a majority ownership share to Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov -- are scheduled to begin playing basketball in the Barclays Center in time for the 2012-2013 NBA season. In other words, the corporate interests of Goliath trounced David.

Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

Lebron James Victim of Racial Double Standard

by Randy Shaw

While team owners betray loyal fans by relocating franchises to maximize profits, and players routinely sell their services to the highest bidder, the nation’s sports fans have instead concluded that Lebron James’ move from Cleveland to Miami makes him the worst person in the world. The unrelenting attacks on James over the past year reached a crescendo during the NBA finals, with criticism of almost everything about him reaching unprecedented levels. No white sports star has ever been subjected to such abuse.

That seems a little much. James has been criticized primarily for basically disappearing in the fourth quarters of games (one joke making the rounds goes "I pulled a LeBron and left work 12 minutes early") and for his classless parodying of Dirk Nowitzki's illness.

This, however, we can agree with:

How about the New Jersey Nets, whose billionaire Russian owner has not been criticized for moving a team out of struggling Newark as part of a massive gentrification scheme centered in the Atlantic Yards section of Brooklyn. This too is all about greed, but the predominant white sports community could not care less about primarily African-American Newark losing its only pro sports franchise (and the jobs it brings).


Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

The Battle For Brooklyn

Filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, who co-directed the Battle for Brooklyn, talk with Chuck Scarborough about their documentary chronciling the fight against the controversial Atlantic Yard Project.


Posted by eric at 8:19 AM

June 15, 2011

Battle for Brooklyn Recasts the Atlantic Yards Narrative

The Huffington Post
by Norman Oder

The compelling new documentary Battle for Brooklyn does not just recount seven-plus years of community conflict over the Atlantic Yards megaproject, which includes an under-construction basketball arena for the relocated New Jersey Nets plus 16 planned skyscrapers.

It shows how the media shape the public's understanding of the project. For example, at one key city council hearing, community critics of Atlantic Yards were shunted to the afternoon, by which time most of the media representatives, as well as most council members, had already left.

So, as the film opens commercially in New York City June 17, it's worth a look at developer Forest City Ratner's response.


Posted by eric at 10:49 PM

"Crazy, Crazy, (Rich) White People!": PS 58's Barclays Nets Sign Gets Tagged

Pardon Me For Asking

What Took So Long?

This is too funny. One of the two Barclays Nets signs were hung on PS 58's fence about two weeks ago, has been tagged. Someone obviously felt strongly about Barclays' naming rights of PS 58's playground and added "Crazy, Crazy, (Rich) White People" and "When will it end" on stickers now glued to the sign.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, "When Will it End?" Barclays Nets Community Alliance sign gets tagged

Posted by eric at 5:52 PM

NY1 Movie Review: "Battle For Brooklyn"

by Neil Rosen

The controversial Atlantic Yards project, which pitted city government and developers against residents and business owners, is the subject of the new documentary "Battle For Brooklyn." NY1's Neil Rosen filed the following report.

The directors of this documentary wear their heart on their sleeve and are clearly in the residents' camp, portraying the developers as robber barons and the small business owners as victims - so it's not exactly a balanced portrait.

Still, it's a fascinating story.

Money, especially in New York City, almost always wins out and the movie shows the passionate, if not often futile attempts of Goldstein to fight the wealthy and bureaucratic powers-that-be.

But if you're a New Yorker, it's a mesmerizing story and for the most part Battle For Brooklyn, provides an engrossing history lesson on this controversial project.

Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: Three Apples


Posted by eric at 1:09 PM


Brooklyn Based

The Nets arena is underway, but plans for the rest of Ratner’s 22-acre site remains a mystery, aside from a mammoth, interim parking lot. Rather than lie in wait, Develop Don’t Destroy and roughly 20 other civic groups and politicians including Letitia James and Velmanette Montgomery are inviting the public to The Commons at 388 Atlantic Ave. tonight at 7 to gain some voice and control over the development, using the UNITY Plan as a starting point.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

At forum on traffic, new concerns about unintended consequences of traffic mitigations: spillover onto and around Third Avenue

Atlantic Yards Report

As per usual, Norman Oder has the definitive report on last night's presentation of Atlantic Yards traffic, ahem, mitigation plans, including lots of video and a rundown of all the Q & A.

Before the meeting on Atlantic Yards traffic mitigations last night, held by the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner, the main objections expressed, via Atlantic Yards Watch and BrooklynSpeaks, were that the plans focused on Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, doing nothing to address traffic congestion on the eastern end of the project nor to control on-street parking by arena patrons.

Nor do the plans, which begin this month, fully acknowledge the impact of a much attenuated construction schedule.

And last night, as Forest City Ratner consultant Sam Schwartz described the previously announced plan to an audience of more than 100 at Brooklyn Borough Hall, significant new objections arose.

Schwartz also exhibited a shaky grasp of a few of the project's many details, such as the entry points to the planned surface parking lot.


Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

More Traffic Woes for Third Avenue, Courtesy Atlantic Yards

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

Get ready for gridlock.

Construction on a series of major traffic changes in anticipation of the 2012 opening of the Barclays Center arena will get underway as early as today, but residents in the arena’s footprint charge that plans to mitigate the thousands of new vehicles that will crowd the neighborhood on game days just doesn’t cut it.

In expectation of the car crowds the new arena will net on event days, developer Forest City Ratner has proposed a series of changes to traffic patterns – some slated to take effect beginning July 31.

At a hearing for the plan at Borough Hall on Tuesday night, residents were dumbfounded by the lack of plans for blocks such as State Street and Third Avenue – blocks likely to be affected by massive amounts of traffic spillover, but apparently not close enough to the arena site to be considered in the plan.

“This is a gaping hole in the plan,” said Jonathan Glazer, 51, a resident of State Street near Third Avenue.

"I'm screwed," said Daughtry Carstarphen, another State Street resident. "Traffic is going to be at a standstill. They're making all these changes on behalf of the people coming to events, they don't give a flying patookie about those of us that live there."


Related coverage...

NY1, Traffic Engineer Tries To Address Potential Atlantic Yards Bottleneck

Schwartz said the real key will be convincing those who come to the arena to take mass transit. So the plan calls for only one new parking lot with 1,100 spaces.

However, those plans were not enough for some who live nearby.

One question that was answered dealt with residential parking, and concerns that arena-goers will take up many of the precious free parking spots on the street.

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Unions agree to wage cut on major project

Reduction of 20% pledged for construction of over 500 affordable-housing units at planned block-long project on Eleventh Avenue; similar deal eyed for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

New York construction unions have reached an agreement to cut the wages of members working on a massive residential project on the far West Side by 20%, sources said. The project, which will include more than 500 units of affordable housing, is being developed by the Gotham Organization Inc.

Meanwhile, Forest City Ratner Cos. has applied to the unions for similar wage cuts as it prepares to begin construction of its first residential tower at the long-planned Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. There, at least 50% of the approximately 400 residential units will be affordable.

Spokesmen for the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, a union trade group, and Forest City declined to comment. Gotham President David Picket couldn't immediately be reached.


NoLandGrab: Bruce forgot to mention when he promised "jobs" that they would be cut-rate.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Modular plan or pressure tactic? Forest City said to be asking for 20% wage cuts for first Atlantic Yards residential tower

This confirms that, as I've suggested, the announced modular construction option has been used as a negotiating tool.

The New York Times, Squeezing Costs, Builders Take New Look at Prefab

Now, with an emphasis on materials conservation and reuse, and developers looking to squeeze costs any way they can, modular construction is getting a closer look.

Often the word prefab conjures images of inexpensive and poorly built structures like trailer homes. But proponents of prefab, many of whom shudder at the moniker, say that modular design done well is anything but cheaply built. A modularly constructed building uses the same materials as a traditional one. But because it is made in a factory, workers are not battling the elements and can construct it more soundly and with less waste, proponents say.

And less wages, proponents don't say.

“Is the technology there to do it? Yes. Is the desire? Yes,” said Christopher Sharples, a principal at SHoP Architects, which is designing a possible 34-story prefab tower for the developer Forest City Ratner at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. “In the near future, I think people are going to become more educated about what the potential of this approach could be.”

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Downtown Brooklyn Leasing Exhibits ‘Robust Health,’ Forest City Ratner Says

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Here's a shocker: of 370,500 square feet in new leases at MetroTech, 275,000 of it (nearly 73%) is being leased to the taxpayers.

With the announcement in late May by Polytechnic Institute of New York University (aka NYU-Poly) that it was expanding into 120,000 square feet of space in two buildings at the MetroTech Center, Forest City Ratner Companies, the landlord, now reports multiple new leases for its properties there and at One Pierrepont Plaza nearby in Brooklyn Heights.

“Downtown Brooklyn continues to exhibit robust health despite still-challenging economic times nationwide,” said Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO, adding that he was delighted to report that five diverse tenants have entered into new leases at 2 MetroTech Center and that Morgan Stanley has renewed for a substantial block of space at One Pierrepont Plaza.

• The City of New York has signed a 20-year lease for a 155,000-square-foot expansion, comprising the second floor, a portion of the fifth floor and a portion of the ninth floor, as well as the recent addition of the entire fourth floor. This space will house office and data center space for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

• The General Services Administration (GSA) has signed a 10-year lease for 120,000 square feet comprised of portions of the ground floor, and the entire sixth and seventh floors. The space will be home to the Internal Revenue Service and will be ready by early 2012.


NoLandGrab: One would think with the "robust health" of MetroTech leasing, Bruce wouldn't need to try to cut union wages at Atlantic Yards by 20%.

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Boondoggle Highlights Hoops, Not Homes: Interview

by Rick Warner

After everyone else in his Brooklyn condo building accepted a buyout and moved to make way for a new basketball arena, Daniel Goldstein was the only resident for an entire year. One day, he got stuck in the elevator with nobody around to help.

“It was spooky,” Goldstein, 41, recalled. “The alarm only rang in the building, the phone in the elevator didn’t work and I didn’t have a phone on me. I thought I was going to die in there, but after four hours I finally managed to push the doors open.”

Unwilling to be forced from his home, the New Yorker waged a seven-year battle to stop Bruce Ratner’s massive Atlantic Yards development in Prospect Heights. The original plans for the mega-monster contained not only the new home for the New Jersey Nets, but 16 towers containing more than 6,000 apartments.

Goldstein’s ultimately unsuccessful fight is the focus of “Battle for Brooklyn,” a documentary by husband-and-wife filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley that premieres Friday in New York.

The grassroots campaign proved “you can fight city hall,” Galinsky said in a joint interview with Hawley and Goldstein at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “When you see something wrong, you don’t have to roll over right away.”


Battle for Brooklyn opens at Cinema Village (22 East 12th Street, Manhattan) and indieScreen (285 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn) this Friday.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Preservation Makes Capitalists Nervous

Bay Ridge Journal

Here's a little historical context for Brooklyn's latest "super block" plan.

Ironically, economics professor Sandy Ikeda, who lives in beautiful, desirable Brooklyn Heights, the city's first historic district, has a problem with historic preservation.

What is it? Well, this is an economist, right? So it's about what Ikeda sees as the cost of preservation.

In 1939, 125 buildings east of Brooklyn Heights were razed to create the 21-acre urban renewal "super block" we know as Cadman Plaza -- sort of the Atlantic Yards of its day. Then, from 1947 to 1954, came construction of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) along the north and west borders of the Heights. Then in 1965, Mayor Wagner signed legislation making the Heights the city’s first historic district and paving the way for the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Cadman Plaza and the BQE, says Ikeda, have acted as a buffer between the Heights and commercial development in neighboring districts, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission has made it difficult and expensive to change the built environment in the Heights' precious 50 acres -- which is, of course, the whole point.


Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

June 14, 2011

A private developer's traffic plan won't work for Brooklyn


This evening at Brooklyn Borough Hall, a consultant hired by Forest City Ratner will present a plan to implement significant alterations to the streets surrounding the Atlantic Yards project in order to manage congestion at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues expected when the Barclays Center arena opens. The elements of the plan are taken from a five-year old environmental study which was also paid for by the Atlantic Yards developer, and which has not been updated to reflect changes to the roadway network over the intervening years. Whether Forest City’s plan will be an effective solution for the worst traffic intersection in Brooklyn remains to be seen, but there is no question it falls far short of what is required to handle the tidal wave of traffic—and stampedes of pedestrians—that its arena will generate. It is certainly not a substitute for the comprehensive transportation plan the City and State owe the people of Brooklyn.

The Forest City plan does nothing to address traffic congestion on the eastern end of the project, which is encapsulated within a residential neighborhood. It contains little information about traffic and pedestrian circulation between the arena and the 1,100 car surface parking lot, and it leaves out mitigations that would increase capacity for cars on streets and pedestrians on sidewalks described in the project’s environmental impact statement. It does nothing to address anticipated spillover traffic through the neighborhoods as drivers attempt to navigate around the project.

An even larger gap in the plan is its complete absence of any strategy to control on-street parking by arena patrons, even though the U.S. Department of Transportation identifies management of free and metered parking as one of the most important factors in a successful demand management program. Although the Atlantic Yards’ environmental study claims the project will include sufficient off-street parking to meet the projected demand on event days, it estimates that 3,000 drivers will opt to park on-street instead. Given the extreme shortage of on-street parking today in Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill and Park Slope, the potential for a catastrophe of congestion on residential streets is truly frightening, and very likely.


Posted by eric at 2:34 PM

REMINDER: Community Forum on Atlantic Yards Traffic Changes Tonight

From the "Community Notice" issued by the Empire State Development Corporation on May 23rd:

The public is invited to a forum sponsored by Empire State Development and Community Boards 2, 6 and 8 to discuss the above traffic changes. The forum will take place on Tuesday, June 14 at Brooklyn Borough Hall (209 Joralemon St) in the courtroom from 6:30pm until 8:00pm.

There will be a presentation detailing the changes and the public will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

Atlantic Yards ombudsman Taylor leaves ESDC after 3.5 years as disempowered facilitator; agency says candidates for job are being interviewed

Atlantic Yards Report

Sharp-eyed readers of the Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards page (click on graphics to enlarge) might notice that this:

has been replaced by this:

The difference? Ombudsman Forrest Taylor, who took the job in November 2007 calling Atlantic Yards a "sexy project", but soon came to experience the uncomfortable role of not-so-empowered go-between, is no longer listed.

So he won't be at the ESDC/Forest City Ratner meeting tonight about traffic changes.

In response to my query, ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell said, "Forrest Taylor has left ESD for another position and we are currently interviewing prospective candidates for the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman position."

I wouldn't bet on the ESDC re-empowering the ombudsman.


Photo: Jonathan Barkey

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

The Zoning Resolution at 50, and some lessons from Philadelphia, where a new zoning plan makes sure to incorporate community input

Atlantic Yards Report

On June 8, the Municipal Art Society, along with the New York City Bar Association and American Planning Association New York Metro Chapter, sponsored a decorous panel on the history and future of zoning in New York, with continuing education credits for lawyers and planners.

Looking through an Atlantic Yards lens, it was another reminder that other cities, in this case Philadelphia, are making a greater commitment to public input, reflect greater respect for such input, and have powerful civic institutions that counterbalance government and the private sector.

The zoning resolution, passed in 1961, is the closest thing to a comprehensive plan that New York City has, according to the MAS. But it’s not much of a plan, given that it has grown enormously--by 900 pages--with numerous amendments. Does it still adequately and comprehensively address the challenges the city faces today?


Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Battle for Brooklyn

by John Anderson

Just one thumb, sorta up, from the Hollywood trade mag.

A chronicle of the years-long grassroots resistance to the design-, delay- and deception-plagued Atlantic Yards project in New York, "Battle for Brooklyn" might have been better titled "Boondoggle in Brooklyn." A battle ordinarily requires two sides, yet this earnest, ungracefully reconstructed saga posits that opposition to the building of the New Jersey Nets' future home took place in a virtual vacuum, and that the fix was in from the start. Failed crusades don't make for very inspiring cinema, and pic seems unlikely to galvanize followers in limited release, kicking off June 17 in Gotham.

It's not that helmers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky don't have a decent story to tell: Billionaire developer Bruce Ratner had a plan and, abetted by the leading lights of New York politics, including the near-comedic Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, believed nothing could stop him: He would use abandoned Long Island Railroad Yards to build a Frank Gehry-designed arena for his NBA team, with adjacent residential housing, in the middle of a flourishing neighborhood called Prospect Heights. If any inconvenient buildings on the periphery of his project stood in the way, he would simply get the appropriate agencies of New York State to condemn them under the rule of eminent domain.


NoLandGrab: "Abandoned" railroad yard? Hardly. But we'll defer to Norman Oder to review the review.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Variety pans Battle for Brooklyn, gets a few things right, but misses some fundamentals

Reviewer John Anderson, in my view, gets a few things right, but misses some fundamentals.

The "fix was in from the start," and that didn't need to be "posited."

Did opposition "take place in a virtual vacuum"? No, but that is one potential byproduct of choosing to tell a film as a drama, without the support, however awkward, of talking heads.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

Will Barclays get naming rights to Brooklyn schoolyards too?

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently the Barclays Nets Community Alliance, which has contributed funds to the nonprofit Out2Play to rehab school playgrounds, also gets signage, as Patch reports, following up news reported earlier by Pardon Me for Asking (which has photos too).

It's a local version of the naming rights Barclays bought for the Atlantic Yards arena (after the state gave naming rights away) and Forest City Ratner bought for Barclays at the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street transit hub.

P.S. 58 in Carroll Gardens has a nice new playground (right; click to enlarge). Some parents are dismayed at the signs advertising Barclays, and some aren't.

Public funds, private layer

I'd point out that, when Out2Play seeks individual donations, they don't advertise the possibility of getting your name on a school playground. That must be reserved for bigger donors.

Out2Play explains:

Every dollar we raise from the private sector often translates into nine dollars in public funding. Each of our playspaces costs an average of $250,000.

How much did Barclays give to P.S. 58? I haven't checked, but would note that the initial $150,000 grant was supposed to help refurbish eight playgrounds.

That's less than $20,000 a playground--pretty good if you get a sign out of it too.


Related coverage...

Pardon Me For Asking, What's The Deal With Barclays Signs On PS 58 Schoolyard Fence?

...whatever monies Barclays coughed up shouldn't give the bank the right to turn a schoolyard into a place for advertisement. What's next? McDonald signs? It's kind of a slippery slope.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

June 13, 2011

Arena construction work this week will go on second shift, to 11 pm

This will be updated when I hear more from the ESDC.

Atlantic Yards Report

Though the Atlantic Yards arena is, according to a consultant working for the bond trustee, a month ahead of schedule, the Empire State Development Corporation today announced at 3:32 pm that this week there will be a second shift of construction work, from 3:30 pm to 11 pm.

Work will include:

  1. Support activities for foundation work
  2. Spray fireproofing at the Event Level and other levels
  3. Sheet metal installation at the Event Level
  4. Plumbing installation at the Event Level
  5. Miscellaneous electrical rough in and electrical support activities.

According to the ESDC, no materials will be trucked off site and there will be no concrete pours during this period--in other words, less traffic.

While deliveries will be staged for prior to 6pm, there may be some small box truck type deliveries after 6pm.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Watch, Arena block work hours to be expanded until 11 pm

A supplemental construction alert today announces that for the week of June 13, 2011 there will be a second shift of construction work on the arena. The additional hours of the work will be 3:30 pm to 11 pm.

The alert states the work will include excavation, reinforcing of steel installation, truck elevator pit wall forms and numerous other activities.

In addition it states that with a few exceptions deliveries will be staged prior to 6 pm. Site access will be through both the Dean Street and Pacific Street gates.

Posted by eric at 11:05 PM

Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Forrest Taylor leaves his post

Atlantic Yards Watch

Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Forrest Taylor has left the ESDC for a job at New York State Homes and Community Renewal, (HCR). Will the ESDC simply refill his seat, or will they reform oversight to improve the way they address impacts from the project?

Forrest Taylor was personally liked by community leaders, who found him sincerely interested in resolving problems. But Mr. Taylor's position was a difficult one. He was an advocate for the community within an oversight structure that is not transparent and lacks the staff and independent board of other ESDC projects smaller than Atlantic Yards. Until the appointment of Project Director Arana Hankin in the fall of 2010, Taylor was the only public employee ever to work full-time on the project. And in an agency that has had six leaders under four governors since Atlantic Yards was announced, Mr. Taylor’s three and a half years with the project represents an unusual example of continuity.

Mr. Taylor's potential often seemed constrained by his situation because his position had little authority or decision-making capacity within the ESDC. Despite his availability, he was often frustrated by his inability to resolve problems in a way that was satisfactory to the community.


NoLandGrab: Not quite as frustrated, however, as the community was — and is.

Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

Sam Schwartz traffic mitigation plan delivers less than was promised

Atlantic Yards Watch

This Tuesday, June 14, Forest City Ratner will present to the public the long- awaited plan to manage traffic resulting from the 19,000 visitors anticipated to come to the Barclay's Arena. The plan was created by traffic consultant Sam Schwartz and can be viewed here at the ESDC website. The public presentation will be held at Brooklyn Borough Hall, (209 Joralemon Street), from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.

Tuesday night will be an opportunity for the public to ask questions, and hopefully get answers, but it is not an opportunity for input from local stakeholders. The plan itself is a fait accompli, approved by ESDC and NYC DOT before the public - and even our elected officials - had a chance to weigh in.

What will you hear on Tuesday night? The plan largely focuses on untying the knot of traffic at the triangle of Flatbush, Atlantic and Fourth Avenues. But for those living in the immediate vicinity of the project, many questions are left unanswered. The plan does not address many of the traffic and pedestrian impacts that will result from 19,000 arena patrons coming to the site. Many of the roadway and sidewalk changes outlined in the FEIS are absent from the plan, having either been rejected with no explanation, or put off into the future. It also fails to include emergency egress or security, issues that greatly concern the surrounding neighborhood.


Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

Barclays "Advertising" on P.S. 58 Playground Has Parents Talking

The signage, sponsored by the Barclays Nets Community Alliance, has parents talking.

Carroll Gardens Patch
by Paul DeBenedetto

School, brought to you by TEAM HYPE!

New signs advertising the Barclays Nets Community Alliance at P.S. 58 in Carroll Gardens has caused a stir among some parents in the community.

The signs, which appeared on the fence earlier this month, display the Barclays Center (a.k.a. Atlantic Yards) and Nets logos, and the slogan “Building Success Together.”

Parent Melissa Dadourian, 42, felt uneasy with the signs’ placement.

“It’s kind of weird to have advertisements outside of a public school,” she said.

The signs are part of a partnership between Barclays, the organization behind development of the new Barclays Center sports arena, and Out2Play, a non-profit organization that partners with donors and corporations to renovate schoolyards in public schools throughout the city.


Posted by eric at 10:43 PM

FDL Movie Night: Battle for Brooklyn

Fire Dog Lake
by Lisa Derrick

Daniel Goldstein and Battle for Brooklyn filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley participated in a live Q & A on FDL this evening. Go to the comments for the back and forth.

"Nobody’s gonna remember how long it took. They’re only gonna look and see that it was done."

— New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on the use of eminent domain to build a basketball arena in Brooklyn.

And if it were not for tonight’s film, Battle for Brooklyn, how many would remember how long it took to build the Nets’ arena at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic, and the human cost as well?


Posted by eric at 10:32 PM

Legislators: one week left to get the state Legislature to pass a bill establishing a subsdiary to oversee Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

It seems like an obvious argument: Atlantic Yards, as a massive development project, deserves a subsidiary or authority overseeing it long-term, just as other major projects, from Battery Park City to Brooklyn Bridge Park, have their own governance entities, helping evaluate the terms of the project and revising the schedule and plans as necessary.

And the bill, in its current form, is hardly prescriptive, giving community members a fractional voice but not definitive power, as the subsidiary would be appointed by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

That argument, however, has gained relatively little traction in Albany over the last few years, as Forest City Ratner lobbying, which includes a close relationship with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and consistent Atlantic Yards support from governors, has managed to stymie any progress.

With barely a week left in the legislative session, this year the governance bill has a greater chance than before, elected officials said at a forum Saturday sponsored by BrooklynSpeaks. (Photos of the event, which drew some 60 people, by Tracy Collins.) That doesn't mean it's likely, but the bill has passed two Assembly committees, one more than previously, which gives it a fighting chance in the Assembly.

Beyond that, the dynamic surrounding the project--recognition that promised benefits are far off, and Forest City Ratner's entanglement (though not indictment) in a prominent corruption case--has changed somewhat.

BrooklynSpeaks leaders, who handed out letters to be filled out at the meeting to be sent to Albany, urged further phone calls and lobbying.


Related coverage...

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch, June 13: All Eyes On Albany

Procrastinators everywhere will recognize the flurry of activity in the halls of the State Capitol in the coming days as our elected representatives struggle to resolve tough issues before they join schoolchildren across the state on summer break.

For months, they have debated, revised and negotiated details of bills with big-time implications for many Brooklyn residents, including whether to extend rent regulations, to create a panel to oversee Atlantic Yards redevelopment or to legalize same-sex unions.

Now it's crunch time.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Two Atlantic Yards related meetings this week

Atlantic Yards Watch

Following the meeting by BrooklynSpeaks about Atlantic Yards governance on Saturday, there are two more Project related meetings as detailed from their announcements this week:

1). Forum: Sam Schwartz Traffic Mitigation Plan

Tuesday, June 14 at Brooklyn Borough Hall, (209 Joralemon Street), from 6:30 to 8:00 pm

The public is invited to a fourm sponsored by Empire State Development Coroporation and Community Boards 2, 6, and 8 to discuss the Sam Schwartz traffic mitigation plan that will begin to be implemented July 24th and will be complete before the anticipated opening of the Barclays Center in the fall of 2012.

There will be a presentation detailing the changes and the public will be given the opportunity to ask questions.

2). Unity 4 Community Meeting -- We Can Do Better Than Than an Arena, A Big Parking Lot

Wednesday, June 15 at Atlantic Commons, (388 Atlantic Avenue between Hoyt and Bond), at 7:00 pm

The meeting will include a presentation by UNITY Plan designers and architects Marshall Brown and Ron Shiffman, a discussion of the current and future status of the site and Q &A with a panel including elected officials. Your ideas, thoughts and input will be invaluable to the meeting.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Some back story on the Daily News's friendly Ratner interview today: no questions about Goldstein

Atlantic Yards Report

Daily News sports reporter Stefan Bondy produced a suck-up interview with Bruce Ratner today, and while he did quote Ratner opponent Patti Hagan, he nonetheless declared the arena "Bruce Ratner's triumph" and otherwise skated over any countervailing evidence.

And Hagan, at the Brooklyn Film Festival June 3, offered a little back story about Bondy's interview, as shown in the video below.

"You might be interested to know I got called by a Daily News sports reporter a couple of days ago," she recounted, "who said that he had been able to have an interview with Bruce Ratner, and the one thing that Bruce Ratner said, on agreeing to be interviewed, was that no questions could be asked--the name Daniel Goldstein could not be mentioned."

Actually, Goldstein is mentioned in the story, but it doesn't look like Bondy asked Ratner about Goldstein.


Video: brokeland11217 via YouTube

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

One Minute Voices – Episode 2 – Doug

Our Streets — Our Stories
The Dean Street Block Association (6th Ave. to Vanderbilt Ave.)

This is the second episode in a series of one-minute, casual, interviews with people who live and work in the neighborhood of the Dean Street Block Association (DSBA), 6th to Vanderbilt Avenues, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York. This episode is an interview with Doug, a 17-year resident of Dean Street.

Do you live or work in the area? Would you like to add about 60 seconds of your voice to the conversation? If so, contact me at tc[at]3c[dot]com.


Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

Markowitz running for Mayor? He'll have to explain why he lied blatantly about Atlantic Yards (on video) to help Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Markowitz deserves more than merely ridicule.

He deserves scorn.

His performance in a video presented to potential immigrant investors in Atlantic Yards--a dubious program offering huge savings to Forest City Ratner--as I wrote in February, is spectacular.

Markowitz claims, incredibly, "Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

He knows that's false. But it could help save Forest City Ratner some $191 million under the dubious exploitation of a federal program in which immigrant investors get green cards for themselves and their families in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments.


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Marty eyes mayor run

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Run, Marty, run!

The king of Kings now has his eye on all five boroughs.

Marty Markowitz is “strongly considering” a run for mayor in 2013, sources close to the Brooklyn borough president told The Post.

“He’s very serious about it but will take the summer to think it over,” one source said.

With Rep. Anthony Weiner sexting himself out of New York’s mayoral race, political experts say the door is wide open for Markowitz to mount a successful campaign.

However, Markowitz has also infuriated his share of constituents, including bike activists over his opposition of a bike lane at Prospect Park West. And opponents of the controversial Atlantic Yards project, which includes the arena, regularly ridicule him for being its biggest booster.

Doug Muzzio, a political-science professor at Baruch College, said Markowitz’s "great sense of humor" and being a "cheerleader" might only go so far with voters.


Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

Twitter Film Feeds: Affair, Brooklyn, Fordlandia

Bad Lit
by Mike Everleth

Here’s some underground film Twitter feeds for you to follow:

Battle for Brooklyn. The new documentary by Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky (Horns and Halos) is now out on the festival circuit and will soon be in a theater near you. Read up on the accolades it’s earning and learn more about the continuing skirmishes over Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project that the film covers. (Film to be reviewed on Bad Lit soon.) Follow @bfbrooklyn.


Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

2011 BrooklynSpeaks Atlantic Yards Community Forum

threecee via flickr

Tracy Collins was on hand with his camera at Saturday's BrooklynSpeaks-sponsored neighborhood forum on governance.


Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

June 12, 2011

Why is historic preservation under attack? Little power for urban planners and "outsize power of private developers" in urban development ecosystem

Atlantic Yards Report

Sarah Williams Goldhagen's essay on the historic preservation movement in yesterday's New York Times, Death by Nostalgia, explains why historic preservation is under attack: the world of urban planning is tilted toward developers.

She writes:

Now, nearly a half-century later, New York is home to the most high-profile attack on the movement yet: in a recent exhibition at the New Museum, the architect Rem Koolhaas accused preservationists of aimlessly cherry-picking the past; of destroying people’s complex sense of urban evolution; and, most damningly, of bedding down with private developers to create gentrified urban theme parks.

Some of Mr. Koolhaas’s criticisms are on target — but his analysis is wildly off-base. It’s not preservation that’s at fault, but rather the weakness, and often absence, of other, complementary tools to manage urban development, like urban planning offices and professional, institutionalized design review boards, which advise planners on decisions about preservation and development.

It’s that lack, and the outsize power of private developers, that has turned preservation into the unwieldy behemoth that it is today.

Her recommendation:

Instead of bashing preservation, we should restrict it to its proper domain. Design review boards, staffed by professionals trained in aesthetics and urban issues and able to influence planning and preservation decisions, should become an integral part of the urban development process. At the same time, city planning offices must be returned to their former, powerful role in urban policy.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the Bloomberg administration to endorse this.


Posted by steve at 9:27 PM

The changing face of retail: Park Heights Stationers spot to become Five Guys burger franchise

Atlantic Yards Report

Last summer, Park Heights Stationers at Flatbush Avenue and Park Place closed after 25 years, "due to the rising cost of operation," as its landlords apparently sought to get much higher rent from a retail space located in an affluent community near a subway station (B/Q).

Now, reports Patch, the new tenant will be one in the rapidly growing Five Guys burger chain.

Presumably Five Guys considers neighborhood residents its prime clientele, but I wouldn't bet against promotions aimed at arena-goers.


Posted by steve at 9:24 PM

Lawmakers Demand Public Oversight For Atlantic Yards Project

NY 1

Brooklyn lawmakers want the public to have more of a say in the Atlantic Yards project.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery are asking community advocates to round up support for the Atlantic Yards Governance Act.

The bill would allow a corporation to be set up to oversee the project and give the public a forum for feedback.

"This is a multi-billion-dollar development that is going to impact the Prospect Heights and Fort Greene and Park Slope and Boerum Hill communities," said Jeffries. "It's important to create a structure, legislatively, where we can have public involvement, transparency, and participation."

"It's the exact opposite of what was promised, and we want to ensure that the local community and local elected have a say," said Fifth Avenue Committee Executive Director Michelle de la Uz.

Leaders are trying to get Albany lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo to support the bill, which is currently in a legislative committee.


Related coverage...

Carroll Gardens Patch, In the Fight Against Atlantic Yards, Community Enters a New Phase

The bill to create an oversight panel for the Atlantic Yards construction site is currently in the Assembly's powerful Rules Committee, which is chaired by Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Speaking in an empty space, the steel girders of the rising Barclays Center visible through a window in the background, Jeffries seemed optimistic about the bill's chances of getting a full Assembly vote before the Legislature convened for its summer recess on June 20.

However, Montgomery — who saw a similar effort fail to pass through a Democrat-controlled state Senate last year — left on a more pragmatic note.

"We are dealing with an environment where money trumps almost everything," she said. "It's been our problem since the beginning."

Posted by steve at 5:36 PM

Bruce Ratner finds vindication as Nets' new digs take shape in Brooklyn, but residents still angry

Daily News
BY Stefan Bondy

In this item about the state of the Atlantic Yards project, the Daily News drinks the Ratner Kool-Aid in an abdication of journalistic responsibility. The piece is chock-full of errors.

It's a moot debate now, no longer a fistfight. Ratner was a perfect 35-for-35 in judicial decisions throughout the eight-year process, even as the recession that nearly killed his construction project forced a downgrade of sorts. He dumped the original architecture plan, a Frank Gehry design, for one less grandiose and less costly, and has put off related proposals such as the residential buildings that were supposed to be erected adjacent to the arena. Ratner says the apartments should start going up in December or January, but he's waiting on a $100 million bank loan.

Can anybody explain what 35 judicial decisions are being referenced? It's very trusting to think that Frank Gehry was ever anything more than window dressing to entice supporters and that jettisoning him wasn't part of a plan. Also, the promised housing has yet to materialize, but we should just trust Ratner that it will somehow appear ... sometime... eventually... if a loan comes through... or something.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News basketball writer declares Ratner has found "vindication" since "The proof is in the construction site"

The article begins:

Bruce Ratner's triumph stands tall on the corner of Atlantic & Flatbush Avenues, his horizontal battleground finally transformed into vertical steel beams.

Ratner and the opponents of this Brooklyn arena were never going to see eye-to-eye, no matter how many court fights, press conferences and protests were staged. But Ratner has won, in part by buying off the last remaining combatants. The proof is in the construction site. His image was damaged and his wallet is lighter, but Ratner, the millionaire developer who fought so hard to relocate local residents, feels closer to exoneration with every rivet pounded into his $1 billion project.

(Emphases added)

For whom does an arena, without all the promised jobs, housing, and open space, count as a triumph? Sports fans, maybe, but certainly not the elected officials who joined the Ratner bandwagon based on air promises.

Is "his horizontal battleground battleground finally transformed into vertical steel beams"? Not at all, if you consider that a larger piece of the battleground will become interim surface parking and other large chunks remain unchanged.

Bondy quotes his eager subject:

"Groundbreaking alone was vindication of sorts," Ratner says. "But, of course, the final frosting on the vindication cake will be when we open the doors."

The final frosting? Only for sports fans.

Posted by steve at 5:17 PM

June 11, 2011

Quotes from the BrooklynSpeaks forum on governance: "The ESDC has been the agent of Ratner during this entire time"

Atlantic Yards Report

I'll have more tomorrow (or Monday) on today's forum, sponsored by BrooklynSpeaks, on the effort to reform Atlantic Yards governance, but first, a few highlights.

The governance bill, which would establish an authority to oversee the project, must pass the state legislature by June 20, the end of the session. It has passed two Assembly committees, more than in previous years, despite what Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries called quiet lobbying by developer Forest City Ratner.

Jeffries, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery appeared at the forum, which attracted about 60 people, and all said that phone calls, emails, and other messages were needed to tip the balance, especially in the Republican-controlled Senate.

"We are dealing with an environment where money trumps almost everything," said Montgomery. "It is only the voters who are going to be able to match the leverage" of the developer.

Brennan, a critic though not a forceful opponent of the project like Montgomery or Council Member Letitia James, observed, "The ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] has been the agent of Ratner during this entire time."

And Jeffries pointed to the bypass of the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the typical land use process: "We weren't allowed to go through the ULURP process, because our mayor was in bed with Forest City Ratner."


Posted by steve at 10:02 PM

Bruce Ratner's 2 Billion Dollar Subsidy Has Produced Seven (7) Local Jobs

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

At times it varied, but Forest City Ratner, Mayor Bloomberg, Senator Schumer and a host of Governors promised anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 construction jobs on the Atlantic Yards project.

According to the most recent arena site observation report call Forest City claimed there are 360 jobs on site right now.

And according to a report from a Community Board 2 board meeting, there are 7, SEVEN, 7 as in s-e-v-e-n local jobs on site right now.

With anywhere from a 1 to 2 billion dollar subsidy for the project, that isn't just a pitiful job record...its downright enervating.

From Fort Green Patch:

...In his presentation to the full board, CB2 member Thomas Conoscenti reported on a visit by James Caldwell, president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD).

With the help of groups like BUILD, Cognoscenti expressed hope that progress could be made on ensuring that area jobseekers received preference for positions in maintenance, janitorial services and in other operations at the arena.

Despite promises made by developers regarding the economic benefit to neighborhoods adjacent to the Atlantic Yards mega-project, only seven active employees from the area were currently engaged in Barclays Center construction, according to Cognoscenti. (Emphasis added.)

Oh, there isn't a single affordable housing unit under construction, either.

Jobs, Housing and Hoops. Yeah, right.


Posted by steve at 9:58 PM

Atlantic Yards Watch: keeping track of rats, parking, traffic, and oversight (meeting today)

Atlantic Yards Report

This week there are three public meetings, one today, on traffic, governance, and the future of the Atlantic Yards site.

Atlantic Yards Watch is keeping track of several ongoing issues, as well as promoting the community forum today on reform of Atlantic Yards oversight.

When rats are a neighborhood problem, a coordinated response is required

Is the law finally going to be enforced in relation to illegal construction worker parking on Pacific Street? Answer: Not for the moment

More stories of rats in the area of arena construction come forward; Community continues to believe the source of rodent infestation is project construction

Two accidents occur within an hour on Dean Street Monday morning


Posted by steve at 9:56 PM

Brooklyn Paper suggests Battle for Brooklyn is "exhaustive new docu-ganda"

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Battle for Brooklyn an "exhaustive new docu-ganda," as per the Brooklyn Paper's summary (which is more positive than not)?


It's not exhaustive--that's impossible--and, while there are legitimate bones to pick with some of the directors' choices, that doesn't make it propaganda.

And shouldn't a newspaper that can produce headlines and stories like "Bruce breaks ground at Atlantic Yards site" (right) be a wee bit careful throwing around "ganda" terms?


Posted by steve at 9:50 PM

Watch List Highlights, Friday, June 10, 2011

The Municipal Art Society of New York

A new film opens June 17 chronicling another large redevelopment of importance to New Yorkers: the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. The eight-year-in-the-making film Battle for Brooklyn is an intimate and behind the scenes look at the seven year struggle over the Atlantic Yards project. It makes its theatrical debut starting June 17th at Cinema Village in Manhattan. Get your ticket.


Posted by steve at 9:47 PM

New videos from Tracy Collins; One Minute Voices from Dean Street

Atlantic Yards Report

Photographer and videographer Tracy Collins, a Dean Street resident, has begun "One Minute Voices,"a series of one-minute, casual, interviews with people who live and work in the neighborhood of the Dean Street Block Association (DSBA), 6th to Vanderbilt Avenues, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York. (He invites further interviews; contact him at tc[at]3c[dot]com.)

A retailer

Abdul operates the Dubai Mini Mart at 6th Avenue and Dean Street, directly catercorner from the Dean Street entrance to the arena.

"The neighborhood is changing for the good," he says, "but sometimes you see these rats running around here." Construction slows his business 20-30%, he says, so he's thankful to neighborhood residents who still patronize his store.

The store was recently renovated, and a new sign is coming. They've had the store for five years, and the neighborhood has improved, Abdul says, citing new arrivals. (In other words, I'd bet, gentrification.)

Unexplored: how long the store's lease is and whether and how it would be converted to an establishment more directly keyed to arena crowds.

A resident

Doug Stone, a 17-year resident of Dean Street near Carlton Avenue, says people are happy in the general, the Dean Street playground has improved, Vanderbilt Ave "is rocking... and it feels really good."

However, he says there's "a lot of uncertainty and anxiety" re the arena. "I think that plopping down a big arena like a giant flying saucer... is definitely going to change things. I am persuaded that the arena was a bad process and a bad decision... It might contribute to the coffers of various entrepreneurs... but as far as this neighborhood, I'm pessimistic that it's going to be a net positive."

Stone says he hopes that, in five years, "we can all say that he was wrong," but he's not optimistic. "The arena will have impacts that we literally cannot predict."

I'd add that the path from the 1100-space parking lot on the block bounded by Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues will go along residential Dean Street, where the sidewalk narrows to less than six feet in places.

Click on the link to take a look at the video interviews.


Posted by steve at 9:42 PM

Gastropub On Tap For Myrtle Avenue

Application for sidewalk cafe approved Thursday night at regular meeting of Community Board 2 in Clinton Hill.

Fort Greene Patch
by Paul Leonard

Talk about burying the lead!

Also on the agenda at Thursday night's meeting in Clinton Hill was a proposal by CB2's Education Committee to extend the exterior "safe zone" surrounding area schools from 1,000 to 2,000 feet, as well as efforts to make sure that jobs at the new Barclays Center basketball arena go to local residents.

In his presentation to the full board, CB2 member Thomas Conoscenti reported on a visit by James Caldwell, president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD).

With the help of groups like BUILD, Cognoscenti expressed hope that progress could be made on ensuring that area jobseekers received preference for positions in maintenance, janitorial services and in other operations at the arena.

Despite promises made by developers [aka FOREST CITY RATNER] regarding the economic benefit to neighborhoods adjacent to the Atlantic Yards mega-project, only seven active employees from the area were currently engaged in Barclays Center construction, according to Cognoscenti.

Emphases, ours.


NoLandGrab: Wait, what?!!! Just s-e-v-e-n people from the area are on the Atlantic Yards site? We thought BUILD's mission — they signed a Community Benefits Agreement to that effect, for heaven's sake — was to get local people jobs building Atlantic Yards.

Kudos to Bruce Ratner, Mayor Bloomberg, a quartet of governors and numerous ESDC chairpersons for solving Brooklyn's employment woes. Well done.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner's 2 Billion Dollar Subsidy Has Produced Seven (7) Local Jobs

At times it varied, but Forest City Ratner, Mayor Bloomberg, Senator Schumer and a host of Governors promised anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 construction jobs on the Atlantic Yards project.

According to the most recent arena site observation report call Forest City claimed there are 360 jobs on site right now.

And according to a report from a Community Board 2 board meeting, there are 7, SEVEN, 7 as in s-e-v-e-n local jobs on site right now.

With anywhere from a 1 to 2 billion dollar subsidy for the project, that isn't just a pitiful job record...its downright enervating.

Posted by eric at 2:07 PM

June 10, 2011

See the Atlantic Yards docu-ganda tomorrow!

The Brooklyn Paper

Look, we’re not going to lie to you: Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky’s exhaustive new docu-ganda about the Atlantic Yards mega-project (eight years and counting!) is not the best documentary you’ll ever see. But the “Battle for Brooklyn” filmmakers get major points for their painstaking approach to illuminating the horrendous process that created Bruce Ratner’s Frankenstein.

Sure, a little less hagiography on Dan Goldstein and a lot more Kelo could’ve made this an Oscar contender, but it’s worth seeing if only to relive one of the most-important chapters in the living history of Brooklyn.

Tomorrow, catch it at IndieScreen in Williamsburg.

“Battle for Brooklyn,” at IndieScreen [289 Kent Ave. at S. Second St. in Williamsburg, (347) 227-8030], June 11, 8 pm.


NoLandGrab: Calling it a "docu-ganda" does the film a disservice, since a) everything in the film is true and actually happened, and b) even Errol Louis has called it "fair" (in the "not unfair" sense).

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

Red Bulls’ Stadium Bonds Sap New Jersey Town as Condominium Visions Vanish

by Romy Varghese

A cautionary tale from across the Hudson. When will politicians ever learn that arenas and stadiums ≠ economic development?

On a May evening, soccer fans streamed down a Harrison, New Jersey, sidewalk lined with posters depicting cafes and parks that don’t exist. They were headed to the $200 million Red Bull Arena, which rises above warehouses and industrial wreckage that were to become condos for New York City commuters and transform the town.

Harrison predicted that redevelopment revenue would cover its $39 million debt to buy and clean up land under the stadium for the Major League Soccer team owned by Dietrich Mateschitz, billionaire founder of the namesake energy-drink company. Instead, most construction projects haven’t begun. The community, across the Passaic River from Newark with a per- capita income 69 percent of the state average, had its credit rating slashed and is firing police and firefighters.

“The numbers didn’t make any sense; the economics didn’t make any sense,” said George Zoffinger, who criticized the deal in 2006 as president of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, a state agency that runs sporting and entertainment complexes. “Now the taxpayers are going to pay.”

Larger communities have been stung, too: The recession undermined the finances of stadium deals in Houston and Cincinnati. Harrison, a town of 14,000, spent years wooing a soccer team, only to see its prize become a burden.

Town officials in December had to borrow $3.1 million -- 21 percent of its municipal tax collections -- to make the debt payment on the 2006 issue, and they anticipate doing so again this December, Moody’s said.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls, whose owner is No. 208 on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires, are challenging their taxable status. The team refuses to pay a $1.4 million property levy, according to Moody’s.

To close its $6 million budget gap, Harrison plans to dismiss 17 percent of its police and 29 percent of its firefighters on July 1, according to an e-mail from Town Clerk Paul Zarbetski.


Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

With new Brooklyn Nets website, promoters invoke expected Brooklyn icons: Dodgers, Brooklyn Bridge, Peter Luger

Atlantic Yards Report

A new Brooklyn Nets website, essentially confirming the (not much in doubt) fact that the team will be renamed the Brooklyn Nets, heralds the move:

On September 28th, 2012, Brooklyn will become the official home of NETS Basketball. The most populous of New York’s five boroughs, Brooklyn is home to nearly 2.6 million others as well. It is a borough rich in culture, and diversity. And while Brooklyn is well-known for its history, the future is bright.

Through this blog, we will get to know our future home. From its many neighborhoods, to its notable monuments, museums, parks, and restaurants, we’ll explore it all.

There's nothing about the new Battle for Brooklyn documentary, of course, but there are obligatory citations of the Brooklyn Bridge and Peter Luger steakhouse.


Related content...

Nets Basketball, Welcome to Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Latest consultant's report: arena still ahead of schedule, 360 people on the job in April

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the latest Arena Site Observation Report, dated 6/2/11 and based on a 4/28/11 visit (and documents made available 5/23/11), based on cash flow, the arena project is one month ahead of schedule and the transit connection two months ahead of schedule.

The report is prepared by Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee.

While "substantial completion" is anticipated by 8/27/12, the Developer is still reviewing the schedule and is working with Hunt Construction to reach an agreement, according to the report. A resolution was expected by May 2011. (Note that a resolution on that schedule has been expected since December.)

On the job, 360 people?

While the previous report, dated 5/4/11 and based on a site visit 3/24/11, stated that "240 persons have been on the job this month," based on manpower logs, the new report put the number at 360 in April.

In May, according to Forest City Ratner officials reporting at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, there were 500 workers on site.


NoLandGrab: We still find cash flow a really odd way of measuring construction progress. What if they're just over budget? As for the jobs, we can say with confidence that the numbers promised by Forest City will never, ever materialize — with or without modular construction.

Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

New FCC report: "independent watchdog function" of press "at risk at the local level;" Brooklyn hyperlocal journalism gets barely a mention

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on a new FCC study on the withering of local media outlets.

There's barely a mention of what was once called the country's bloggiest place:

The most frequent criticism of the teaching hospital model is that student journalists are a source of cheap labor and actually end up displacing their professional counterparts. The students are willing to work for “free,” earning course credit at a time when professional newsrooms are eliminating staff to cut costs. One former editor, Peter Scheer, wrote, “Does it make sense for [J-schools] to be subsidizing the accelerated dislocation of one generation of their graduates to make room for a younger generation of their graduates? In the investment world this is called a Ponzi scheme.” But Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, responded that students are doing journalism that newspapers no longer can. “With the typical metro news editor looking at a half-empty newsroom, the question isn’t whether to cover local issues with journalism students or veteran reporters, it’s whether to cover local issues with journalism students or not at all,” Lemann says. CUNY’s dean, Steve Shepard, admits that his students are “very cost effective,” but adds that without them the hyperlocal journalism in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene and Cobble Hill neighborhoods “wouldn’t get done.”

Um, that's Clinton Hill, not Cobble Hill.

And I wouldn't say that The Local, while doing some useful work, is exactly leading the pack. Nor is its hyperlocal work particularly oriented to accountability journalism, though that does crop up.


Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

Prefab—Future or Farce for New York’s Buildings?

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

In the past, The Observer has looked at the potential for the city to revolutionize its construction practices through prefabricated buildings. It’s been a dream of architects and builders for nearly a century, almost since the first Model-T rolled off the line, but it has had limited impact on construction in the country, and almost none whatsoever in New York.

But that changed when Bruce Ratner began pursuing a prefab tower for Atlantic Yards, which at 32 stories would be the largest such structure in the world. It gets very much at the issues brought up today, namely labor costs, because not only are the materials for prefabricated building cheaper, but less skilled laborers are needed to produce the projects.

Our pal Norman Oder asked a question of the panel about the prefabulous building in question, and the response from Jeff Levine, chairman of Douglaston Development, was telling. “It should act as a warning bell,” he said. “Just as our elected officials are telling us that the high cost of oil is beneficial to alternative sources of energy, whether it be wind or nuclear. But the reality is, we cannot build the perfect cost scenario, as evidenced by the lack of product going up. Having said that, alternatives are being sought. At some point, if it’s not non-union, then it’s modular. A solution will be found. We have to live somewhere.”


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Modular construction and Atlantic Yards: legitimate tactic or feint? At the least it's a harbinger, given concerns about construction costs

The New York Observer's Matt Chaban beat me to coverage of my own question at a panel on the cost of construction in New York City, in which I asked if Forest City Ratner's reported effort to consider modular construction is a legitimate tactic or a feint to coax union concessions.

I had informal conversations with some other attendees, and they leaned more to confirming my thought that Ratner's announced effort--called a "research project" by a Ratner executive--was closer to brinksmanship, just as Ratner halted construction midway through the Beekman Tower to renegotiate terms with the unions.

But, as they say, time will tell.

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

Movie Review: Battle for Brooklyn

Documentary delves into Atlantic yards controversy

The Epoch Times
by Joe Bendel

Though hardly kneejerk, the Moving Picture Institute has nurtured some of the most challenging free-market/right-of-center documentaries to sneak into theaters in recent years. Norman Siegel is a self-proclaimed civil liberties attorney so far to the left that he has lost three Democratic primaries in New York City to more moderate candidates. When they agree something is a problem, it must be awful.

The issue in question is the abuse of the state government’s eminent domain powers. Indeed, both the MPI and Siegel were involved with Suki Hawley & Michael Galinsky’s Battle for Brooklyn, the opening night film of the 2011 Brooklyn Film Festival.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, A Battle for Brooklyn review: when libertarians agree with Norman Siegel that "something is a problem, it must be awful"

Indeed, as I wrote in my review:

Battle’s directors, however, do not point out how eminent domain can make for strange bedfellows, with Brooklyn activists working with the libertarians of the Castle Coalition, or that, given that New York has the country’s most condemnor-friendly eminent domain laws, such an alliance shouldn’t be shocking. (The film is also supported by the libertarian Moving Picture Institute.)

Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

Nets' Big Losses Continue ... Even Beyond Prokhorov's Cushion


As part of his agreement to buy the Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to fund team losses in New Jersey for up to two years and up to $60 million. Forest City Enterprises, Bruce Ratner's parent company, said Monday losses continue and exceed Prokhorov's guarantee. So, FCE will have to fund them as it did in the past.

FCE's new CEO David LaRue said "entities controlled by Mikhail Prokhorov committed to fund up to $60 million of the team's losses from acquisition to the completion of the arena. We now anticipate that $60 million cap will be reached sometime in the second [current] quarter of the year, at which point Nets Sports and Entertainment, the ownership group of which we are the managing member, will need to fund the overage."


NoLandGrab: Here's betting that the NBA's first Russian owner is wishing he was the NBA's first Cuban owner.

Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

June 9, 2011

Battle For Brooklyn

The Leonard Lopate Show [WNYC Radio]

The husband-and-wife filmmaking team behind Battle for Brooklyn sat down for a talk with WNYC's Leonard Lopate today.

Filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky, talk about their documentary “Battle for Brooklyn.” It’s an intimate look at the very public and passionate fight waged by residents and business owners of Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood facing condemnation of their property to make way for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project—16 skyscrapers and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. “Battle for Brooklyn” has its theatrical premiere in New York City on June 17; it opens this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3; and will screen in the Rooftop Films summer series on June 9 in Fort Greene Park.


Related coverage...

The Lodown, Atlantic Yards and the Battle for Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 7:18 PM


Rooftop Films
by Lela Scott MacNeil

After looking at tonight’s weather forecast, we believe that the forecasted storm will be brief, and that it will be over by the time that the show in Fort Greene Park is scheduled to begin (at 8:30 p.m.) As a result, we are still planning on going ahead with the free screening of Battle for Brooklyn as planned.

If the storm does materialize during the time when the show is scheduled to start, we will delay it slightly, and begin as soon as the rain has stopped. We have looked at the radar, and believe that the storm will be brief.

Please check the website or call 718-417-7362 for more information closer to the time of the show.

We recommend bringing a blanket or a plastic bag to sit on, as the grass may be wet following the forecasted rain.

On the plus side, it looks like a brief rain shower might cool things down a little!


Posted by eric at 5:15 PM

Drilling at Vanderbilt Yard

raulism via YouTube

NY State wants to get access to the property in this video via eminent domain.


Posted by eric at 5:14 PM

Update #75: Battle launches June 17th in NYC

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

We are writing to you today to let you know that after 8 years of work, David, Suki, and I will launch the theatrical run of "Battle for Brooklyn" on June 17th. We have had several festival screenings and the response has been far beyond our wildest expectations (a few press quotes below). Everyone from politicians, to activists, to project proponents have praised the film for it's fairness and powerful storytelling.

Your Support got us this far and now we need just one small push to get this film rolling out nationwide.

Well-attended screenings of "Battle for Brooklyn" here in NYC during that opening weekend of June 17, 18 and 19 at Cinema Village will ensure that the film gets booked all around the country.

If it screens around the country at large, new audiences will learn of and be inspired by the principled and tenacious fight the community waged against the Atlantic Yards project.

We are writing to ask you to come to one of the Cinema Village screenings. (Cinema Village is at 22 E. 12th St., btw Unversity Pl. and 5th Ave.)
Most Important: Please strongly encourage your sphere of contacts to see the film at Cinema Village on June 17, 18 or 19.
The times are not up on their site yet but the film will run at 1,3,5,7, and 9:15.


Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Battle For Brooklyn

Brooklyn Based

FORT GREENE With construction of the new Barclays Center underway, and the upcoming traffic diversion along Flatbush and Fourth Ave. set to happen July 15 [NLG: actually, July 24], many of us are now seeing the ramifications of the Atlantic Yards project. But for an excellent primer on how we got here, and who tried to prevent this eminent domain abuse, see Battle for Brooklyn tonight at Fort Greene Park. The documentary by local couple Michael Galinksy and Suki Hawley traces Develop Don’t Destroy’s seven-year fight against AY on the streets and in hearings, and provides an intimate character study of Daniel Goldstein, the apartment owner-turned-activist who wages a heroic fight against Forest City Ratner. Rev. Billy will deliver a sermon at 8:30 before the free, 9pm Rooftop Films screening, followed by a Q&A with the directors and Goldstein. It then opens at Cinema Village and indieScreen on June 17.




At Rooftop Films, we are constantly working with local communities and city officials to try to use more of our city buildings for arts programming, and to keep these programs affordable for everyone. Battle for Brooklyn is a film that speaks close to our hearts and we are honored to be screening this film free in Fort Greene Park, only blocks away from the Atlantic Yards site.

Screen Daily, Standing up for Brooklyn

Over six years ago I was living in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, when I found out I had to vacate my prized apartment rental to make way for a new basketball stadium project. It so happened I was already moving to London within the month, but it was sad to know my old building on Vanderbilt Avenue – full of local character, great families who had been in the neighbourhood for decades, not to mention a unique painted advertisement for a now-defunct fried chicken restaurant – was headed for destruction.

Of course, some of my old neighbours didn’t flee the country when the neighbourhood was under threat. And their stories are chronicled in a new documentary, Battle For Brooklyn, by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley (who I know from their earlier films including Half-Cocked, Radiation and Horns and Halos).

Prospect Heights Patch, 5 Things to Know: 'Battle for Brooklyn' Showing, Silly Dilly Band and Elisa Flynn (not together), More

You need to find out how Atlantic Yards became the Barclays Center. Head to Fort Greene to see an outdoor showing of Battle for Brooklyn 8:30pm. Fort Greene Park, Corner of DeKalb Ave. and Washington Park. Free. (And bring lots of cold drinks. It's supposed to be hot tonight.)

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Ridge Hill corruption trial delayed until early next year; companion case more clear, as one of those indicted has reached a plea deal

Atlantic Yards Report

When will we understand the mystery of Ridge Hill, in which a City Council member in Yonkers and lobbyists have been indicted in a corruption case that significantly benefited Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project?

Not this month, despite indications in February that the trial would come in June.

In March, we learned that the lawyer for indicted former Yonkers Councilmember Sandy Annabi wanted a federal judge to unseal attorney Anthony Mangone's plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Case delayed

On May 27, the Journal News reported, in Convicted lawyer to testify in corruption case:

A politically connected lawyer is expected to testify against former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her cousin as part of a cooperation agreement he reached last year with federal prosecutors.

Anthony Mangone's guilty plea agreement in the Yonkers corruption case was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and spells out his promise to cooperate with and testify truthfully for the government.

The agreement does not detail which cases Mangone must testify about — but he would be a key prosecution witness in the Yonkers case.


Related coverage...

LoHud.com, Convicted lawyer to testify in corruption case

One of the crimes was redacted at prosecutors' request. Aronwald said he was told that was because it involved an ongoing investigation. He said he would ask a judge to order prosecutors to reveal that information.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

It Won’t Be Pretty: Stopping The Eisenhower National Memorial

Blog of the Courtier
by William Newton

Speaking of everyone's favorite "do-gooder, liberal"...

On Monday evening the National Civic Art Society (“NCAS”) announced the winners of their competition to design an alternative to the Eisenhower National Memorial, a monstrosity by architect Frank Gehry which will be built in part with your tax dollars, across the street from the Air and Space Museum here in Washington. You can read more about the winning entry here, and you can also follow this link to view the talk given at the event by Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Eisenhower. The winning entries presented various schemes for the Eisenhower Memorial that make use of traditional monumental design elements – such as the memorial arch, colonnade, and plinth – all surrounded by landscaping.

Regular readers are already aware of what I think about Mr. Gehry’s design. From the beginning, the selection of Gehry as the architect for this memorial was a curious one. He has made his career out of building things that are quite spectacularly ugly, and while there were many ugly things built during the Eisenhower Administration, Gehry’s vision of a monument to Ike does not fit well either with the rather conservative Eisenhower era, or the Nation’s Capital.

And in Brooklyn, the Atlantic Yards project, featuring a monstrous collapsing tower by Gehry, went back to the drawing board following years of protest from the public. Ironically, given Gehry’s above-quoted views on city planning, the project was described as a “corrupt land grab”, a “taxpayer ripoff”, and a “complete failure of democracy” by one of the leaders of a group opposed to the project.


NoLandGrab: The full post is worth a read, especially for the French translation of Gehry's "picketing Henri Ford" comment.

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

New York by Gehry

Our columnist gets a tour of Manhattan’s newest addition to the high-end, high-rise rental market.

Metropolis Magazine
by Karrie Jacobs

A funny thing happened when my boyfriend, Ed, and I went to look at the apartments at 8 Spruce Street, the 76-story tower with the shimmery, crumpled stainless-steel skin being advertised as “New York by Gehry.” Afterward, as we strolled home through City Hall Park, Ed started calculating. Could we rent his nineteenth-century Soho loft out for enough money to cover his overhead and the rental price of a twenty-first-century Gehry apartment? The apartments were on the small side, with shallow closets, so we’d have to transfer the bulk of our stuff into storage (including all the possessions that I’d recently moved into his place and have yet to completely unpack). Clearly, there would be no room for his drum set.…

“You’re serious?” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied. “It would be a different experience of the city.”

Understand: we didn’t go there to rent an apartment. I couldn’t imagine writing a big monthly check to Bruce Ratner, the man behind the odious Atlantic Yards development, in Brooklyn (where Gehry was the master planner until he extracted himself or was booted out in 2009). We just wanted to look at the place up close to see how much of the architect’s exterior bling had found its way inside. Would living inside this glittery new beanstalk of a building be any different from, say, in one designed by Costas Kondylis, New York’s most prolific residential architect?

Fear not, Karrie Jacobs fans, she didn't succumb.

For a few hours, we were ready to pack our current life into storage and start clean. The fantasy offered by this building is a powerful one. But then, we wouldn’t just be living a life of quiet contemplation in the clouds; we’d also be living in close quarters with the occupants of 902 other apartments. And we’d still be in Manhattan, which means the tower is subject to the same real estate forces that created it. Sooner or later, a low-rise neighbor—I’d bet on Pace University, directly across Spruce Street—will decide it’s a good idea to build skyward. And New York by Gehry will begin to resemble New York by pretty much anybody else.


Image: Ashley Stevens/Metropolis

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Pro-bike CB10 member not reappointed by lane foe Gentile

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kimberly Lightbody

Long-time community activist and bike lane advocate Bob Cassara has been booted from Community Board 10 after nearly 10 years, the only member of the panel who sought re-appointment but did not get it.

Insiders believe that Cassara was tossed by Councilman Vince Gentile because the two disagreed over new bike lanes — though the veteran board member wouldn’t go that far.

“Community boards are all about politics, so what can I say?” Cassara mused.

The specifics of the Cassara non-appointment remain unclear, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a prominent community board member was silenced for taking a strong position against the will of his political patron.

In 2007, Borough President Markowitz declined to reappoint 10 members of community boards near the Atlantic Yards mega-project after those board members opposed Markowitz’s beloved project.

At the time, Markowitz denied that he had purged anti-Yards members, saying also that he was seeking new blood.


NoLandGrab: Marowitz would've been more believable if he'd just claimed that his Community Board appointments had been hacked.

Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

Barclays Facade Mock-Up On Display

by Sara Polsky

ATLANTIC YARDSVILLE—A tipster passing by the corner of Pacific and Carlton the other day noticed this mock-up of the Barclays Center facade: "The mockup shows a conventional facade with nearly black panels behind the just-for-show rain-screen that returns to reveal the glass portions." And speaking of Atlantic Yards, the next screening of Battle for Brooklyn will be held tomorrow night tonight in Fort Greene park.


NoLandGrab: Tracy Collins had this news more than two weeks ago.

Photo: Curbed

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

Old Yankee Stadium and 4 Ballparks That Should Never Have Been Torn Down

Bleacher Report
by Rick Weiner

A column about lost ballparks makes the old Atlantic Yards/Vanderbilt Yard/Ebbets Field replacement error.

As the team's success increased so did the demand for tickets. With a small seating capacity and little-to-no available parking, then-Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley was prepared to build a new ballpark at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, one that would be able to accommodate the growing fanbase.

Noted developer and then-Commissioner of Buildings in New York City Robert Moses was opposed to O'Malley's plan and instead wanted the new stadium to be built on land in Flushing, Queens.

We all know how this story ends.


NoLandGrab: Yeah, it ends with us pointing out that "Atlantic Yards" is an arena and some 18 acres of vaportecture brought to us by Bruce Ratner, while the "Vanderbilt Yard" is an MTA rail-storage facility. O'Malley actually wanted to build his new ballpark on the site occupied by Bruce Ratner's infamous malls.

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

June 8, 2011

Pratt Center on 421-a renewal plans, which extend subsidies without affordability: A Luxury Housing Subsidy New Yorkers Can't Afford

Atlantic Yards Report

According to a new issue brief by the Pratt Center for Community Development, the 421-a tax exemption to support new housing, cost New York City nearly $755 million last year in foregone taxes, or two-and-a-half times the level of property taxes forgiven under the program just five years earlier.

Now, the state legislature is poised to renew it, part of negotiations on rent regulation, the Pratt Center notes that it has produced only 5700 units of affordable housing over some 25 years.

What news outlets have picked up this news? Just City Limits, as far as I can tell.

The failure of reform legislation

Brooklyn readers should note the failure of reform legislation, announced just about the time that Atlantic Yards was first approved.


Posted by eric at 7:59 AM

Battle for Brooklyn

The Leonard Lopate Show [WNYC Radio]

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky, talk about their documentary “Battle for Brooklyn.” It’s an intimate look at the very public and passionate fight waged by residents and business owners of Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood facing condemnation of their property to make way for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project—16 skyscrapers and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. “Battle for Brooklyn” has its theatrical premiere in New York City on June 17; it opens this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3; and will screen in the Rooftop Films summer series on June 9 in Fort Greene Park.


Related coverage...

The Sports ITeam Blog [NYDailyNews.com], Blogger Oder reviews Atlantic Yards doc

Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder knows more than anybody about Bruce Ratner's plans to build a massive real estate project in Brooklyn that includes an arena for the NBA's Nets, so I was eager to hear what he thought about "Battle for Brooklyn," the AY documentary that made its U.S. premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival on Friday.

Here's the nut graf of a review Oder wrote for Dissent:

"Having observed much of the story in real time, I found 'Battle' most valuable in the camera's witness to the palpable insincerity and cold-blooded indifference of the developer-government alliance. Though Atlantic Yards may not directly evoke the Robert Moses era, when massive numbers of people in New York City were displaced by large public projects, the film shows that the powers today are less blatant but still relentless. 'Battle' pays off with riveting crosscut scenes on the day of the ceremonial arena groundbreaking, March 10, 2010. Goldstein tells an interviewer, 'We should not be celebrating it today, we should be investigating it today.'"

Scene Magazine, New Film Documents Activists’ Fight with Forest City Over Atlantic Yards

Cleveland’s history is hog-tied to a number of companies, but one in particular has shaped and re-shaped the region over the course of the last century, a company that appropriately takes its corporate moniker from the 216’s shorthand: Forest City Enterprises.

Long-steered by the Ratner family, the company, which started out as a local lumber yard, is now global real estate player. But one branch of the corporate tree has been front and center in recent years: Forest City Ratner Companies, Bruce Ratner’s NYC real estate firm. This outfit is behind the Jay-Z-fronted, Bloomberg-backed, Russian billionaire-greased Atlantic Yards project, a massive facelift of downtown Brooklyn that includes the Net’s new home, the Barclay Center.

But despite the official narrative, the sailing hasn’t been smooth. The Brooklyn community fought a near-decade against the project, a righteous NIMBY struggle the size of Normandy. The quixotic push from community activist against Forest City and New York politicos was ready-made for the movies, and a new documentary on the struggle has recently been released, “Battle for Brooklyn.”

Posted by eric at 7:41 AM

The EB-5 story: WSJ offers less skepticism than Houston Chronicle; federal agency announces plan to streamline applications

Atlantic Yards Report

One of the lessons of the Atlantic Yards saga, and highlighted in the film Battle for Brooklyn, is the importance of a skeptical approach to the media.

Nowhere is such skepticism more important than in coverage of the EB-5 phenomenon, in which would-be immigrants trade purportedly job-creating investments for green cards for themselves and their families.

Despite ample evidence that the program is dubious, especially related to the Atlantic Yards project, the Wall Street Journal yesterday proceeded with some shoddy journalism, in an article headline Program Gives Investors Chance at Visa.

It's in line with the Journal's lame coverage in February, which ignored misrepresentations made by the New York City Regional Center, the first investment fund in the city that recruited investors, in signing up Chinese and Korean millionaires to invest in the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by eric at 7:20 AM

Watching Atlantic Yards Watch

Here's a round-up of the latest headlines from Atlantic Yards Watch.

BrooklynSpeaks presents community forum on reform of Atlantic Yards oversight

When rats are a neighborhood problem, a coordinated response is required

Whatever triggered the problem of rodents in the vicinity of Atlantic Yards, the community will have to work together to address the circumstances that sustain it.

Construction adds to the problem of controlling rodents because the homes of existing rodent populations are disturbed and new sources of food are created on an ongoing basis. Recent complaints about the impossibility of doing street cleaning in the vicinity of illegal construction worker parking is one example.

Video interviews put a face on the existing neighborhood around Atlantic Yards

The subject of the first of a series of one minute interviews with people who live and work in the vicinity of the Atlantic Yards Project is Abdul, one of the owners of Dubai Mini Mart at 486 Dean Street at 6th Avenue. The store sits diagonally across from the southeast corner of the Barclays Center.

The video interviews are an initiative called "One Minute Voices" by photographer Tracy Collins and the the Dean Street Block Association, 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt.

Artbridge calls for entries for an exhibition to be hung on construction scaffolding along the arena block

Posted by eric at 7:13 AM

Behind the calculated noisemaking at NBA arenas, technology for amplification

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on why you really, really ought to wear earplugs if you attend an NBA game.

...yesterday, in an article headlined Stoking Excitement, Arenas Pump Up the Volume, the New York Times reported that such hype is standard practice:

At sporting events across the nation, and in the N.B.A. in particular, noise has become a part of the show — rarely more so than in Dallas, where the Mavericks face the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the N.B.A. finals Tuesday night. It is hard to tell if the Mavericks’ favorite machine during these playoffs is Dirk Nowitzki, their star player, or their sound system.

The Mavericks’ equipment involves more than simply pumping up decibels to levels that some experts fear could contribute to long-term hearing loss. Rather, with fans spoiled by earbud fidelity and 5.1-channel home theater systems, owners like the Mavericks’ Mark Cuban have turned hosting a game into producing an event — with “assisted resonance” and “crowd enhancement,” buzzwords for insiders and euphemisms for others.

Sixty mammoth speakers hanging above the court thunder music and clamorous sound effects louder than a jumbo jet engine.


NoLandGrab: Residents living near the Barclays Center are even more concerned about what the noise will be like outside the arena.

Posted by eric at 7:06 AM

June 7, 2011

Businesses opposed to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project dragged to court

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

The state has dragged two Atlantic Ave. business owners into court to force them to let developer Bruce Ratner onto their property for construction work on his Atlantic Yards project.

The businesses are resisting, saying they fear property damage - but Ratner warns that shutting him out could delay the opening of the new Barclays Center arena.

OK, and how is that the property owners' problem?

Drew Tressler, president of Global Exhibition Services, which has been making museum and trade show exhibits at the Atlantic Ave. shop for 35 years, said he won't allow the developer to install underground steel cables known as tie-backs. He's afraid it could damage his building.

"Our building is concrete, and I really don't know what long-term effect the drilling will have on it. Concrete is brittle," he said.

Tressler said he's already dealing with noise and congestion from the project and he doesn't need any more headaches. He added the work could block him from renovating the building with new plumbing or a subbasement.

"I don't understand this," he said. "It's certainly not going to help me....I think it would bother any business owner."

The state is also suing Storage Mart, whose owners could not be reached for comment.

Ratner executive Thomas Bonacuso said the work is necessary to finish the Carlton Ave. bridge - which legal agreements say must be done before the arena can open.

"Delay in completion of work would also prevent the arena from opening on schedule" in fall 2012, Bonacuso wrote.

"The results would be devastating," he added, adding it would cost the developer "many millions of dollars."


NoLandGrab: Maybe Forest City should have thought about that before they ignored working on the bridge for a couple years once they tore it down.

Related coverage...

Curbed, Revenge of the Megaprojects

Today in Atlantic Yards opposition, the state has taken two Atlantic Avenue businesses to court because they've refused to let Bruce Ratner onto their properties for arena-related construction. One store owner has denied the developer's request to put in underground steel cables because he's worried about building damage. The developer, meanwhile, says the opposition could delay the arena opening. An argument we're sure will work well on the businesses' owners, since their properties are in line for state seizure when it's time for AY's next phase.

The Real Deal, Still more Atlantic Yards holdouts crimping Bruce Ratner's style

Joshua Rikon, an attorney for Global Exhibition Services, said eminent domain laws don't cover the kind of access the state is demanding and that the move reflects "poor planning" on Ratner's part.

Posted by eric at 1:36 PM

The Ratner response to Battle for Brooklyn: AY had (and has) "overwhelming support;" also, Errol Louis interview, Dennis Holt's bad math

Atlantic Yards Report

In an interview with filmmaker Michael Galinsky and Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein on ABC-TV, Up Close with Diana Williams, we learn Forest City Ratner's response to the film Battle for Brooklyn.

"Atlantic Yards had--and continues to have--the overwhelming support of Brooklynites, community leaders and elected officials," says the statement, attributed to paid spokesman Joe DePlasco.

"A small group of opponents tried very hard, but unsuccessfully, to stop the project. Fortunately today Atlantic Yards is under construction."

Overwhelming support? Actually, initial polls showed opposition to the project if it involved eminent domain or involved public costs.

Both, of course, are part of the project, but later polls indicated support for the project when it was said to "provide" subsidized housing. It won't. City subsidies would provide it.

Errol Louis and eminent domain

In an excerpt from an interview on NY 1, former Daily News columnist--and longtime AY booster--Errol Louis is somewhat lower key when talking to the filmmakers.

He makes the not unreasonable point that eminent domain is legal, and that those losing their property should get just compensation.

Galinsky responds that most states other than New York have reformed their laws; again, he'd have an even stronger case if citing scholars who believe New York is a real outlier.

Galinsky also challenges Louis--who has a cameo in the movie jousting with Council Member Letitia James at a press conference--for claiming that some who sold to Ratner were made instant millionaires.

"Although obviously you had a point of view, I thought you were pretty fair about trying to get everybody somewhere into the frame of it," Louis said to the filmmakers.


Related coverage...

Inside City Hall [NY1], Weiner Gets Whacked As A Taxi Plan Falters

On Friday night’s “Inside City Hall,” the filmmakers behind the documentary “The Battle For Brooklyn” discussed the bitter eminent domain fight that played out over the Atlantic Yards site. Watch the video....

Posted by eric at 1:24 PM


A|N Blog
by Julie V. Iovine

According to an in-house memo, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff is “moving on” at the end of this month.

The sweet but short memo about the critic—who this year submitted his own Pulitzer nomination package—was sent around this morning from culture editor Jonathan Landman. Ouroussoff’s plan, the memo said, is:

to write a book about the architectural and cultural history of the last 100 years, “from Adolf Loos’s Vienna and the utopian social experiments of post-revolutionary Russia to postwar Los Angeles and the closing years of the 20th century,” as Nicolai describes it.

The question is will the readers [miss him], too? The sporadic critic was known more for chasing down exotic locations and predictably championing all things Californian than analyzing local conditions and his even-handed voice sometimes had us all missing the impassioned harangues of his predecessor, Herbert Muschamp.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Architecture critic Ouroussoff leaving New York Times to write book about architecture, aiming for "social and political context"

According to the Architect's Newspaper, citing an in-house New York Times memo, Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff will leave at the end of this month to write a book that, in the words of his boss, "aspires to put a century of architecture into the kind of social and political context he always aimed for within the more limited constraints of newspaper writing."

I posted a comment, noting that both Ouroussoff and Muschamp, alas, did a terrible job writing about Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. (In other words, he missed a lot of social and political context.)

Given that the project is being developed by a firm that partnered with the New York Times Company on the Times Tower, you’d think Times critics might be careful in covering the Brooklyn project exactingly. That was not to be.

Posted by eric at 1:15 PM

Program Gives Investors Chance at Visa

The Wall Street Journal
by Sumathi Reddy and Joseph De Avila

A 38-story luxury Times Square Hotel. A medical center, hotel and condominium development in downtown Flushing. And New York City's reportedly first Proton Therapy Cancer Treatment Center.

All rely on an unusual source of funding: immigrants who invest $500,000 for a shot at a shortcut to permanent residency.

The program has its critics. They say it has been pitched at times to foreigners as a sure-fire way to get a green card or as a risk-free investment—which it's not.

Some immigrants have experienced deteriorating investments and been sent home packing after developments flop. Since all of the regional centers in New York City are relatively new, none of the investors have reached the point where they would have applied for permanent residency.

Michael Gibson, who researches EB-5 projects for investors through his Florida-based business, said it's hard to monitor what overseas agents are pitching to foreign investors.

The New York City Regional Center has raised $60 million for the Brooklyn Navy Yard and $65 million for Steiner Studios, a film and television studio in Brooklyn. The center is in the process of raising $249 million to pay for infrastructure costs for developer Forest City Ratner Cos.'s Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn, its biggest project so far.


Posted by eric at 1:10 PM

Freddy’s version2

A Daily Photo

Freddy’s, beloved dive bar of Prospect Heights, was displaced by the Atlantic Yards. Before the wrecking ball came, owners rescued the bar’s contents and brought them to the new location, on Fifth Avenue (bet. 17 & 18), in the old Ellis space. The new Freddy’s is full of character, a place for grown-ups to hang out, watch the game, and have a pint with a friend.


Photo: brooklynpix

Posted by eric at 1:02 PM

June 9th: Battle for Brooklyn to Screen in Fort Greene Park, Steps Away Ratner's Folly

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This Thursday Rooftop Films brings Battle for Brooklyn outdoors to Fort Greene Park, just blocks away from Ratner-Bloomberg-Markowitz-Pataki-Spitzer-Schumer-Paterson's disaster in progress. Details follow:

Thursday, June 9th
9:00PM Film Begins
Live performance at 8:30 by Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir

No admission for this show. More information at:

The Myrtle Avenue Hill in Ft. Greene Park, Myrtle and N. Portland, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY 11205

Enter the park at Myrtle and N. Portland and walk up the path.
Subway: G to Fulton, C to Lafayette, 2,3,4,5 to Nevins or B,M,Q, R to Dekalb


Related coverage...

Overlooked or Ignored, THE BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN: 90 Minute Documentary Film

Go see the film THE BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN. It is powerful and it does star my son Daniel. Wish he was just an actor and the film a fictional story. But this is unfortunately a real story of 7+ years, the misuse of Eminent Domain which brought great pain and misery to so very many.

Historic Districts Council, Atlantic Yards Film to Debut in Manhattan

The film is essential viewing for experts and laypeople on the issues of urban planning, eminent domain and community organizing. At the same time it has vast popular appeal as it focuses on the activists at the center of the opposition and the life changes they encounter while challenging the project on various fronts.

Battle for Brooklyn will make its theatrical debut starting June 17th at Cinema Village in Manhattan. If it does well that opening weekend, the film will be booked all over the country and the story, and lessons from it, will be viewed by a wide audience.

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

Forest City Enterprises reports earnings rise for first quarter 2011, claims Brooklyn office vacancies being addressed, must absorb Nets losses

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises, whose Forest City Ratner arm is developing Atlantic Yards, reported positive earnings results yesterday, though the company's Brooklyn portfolio may not be as rosy as some of the rest of the business.

The most significant driver of results: $42.6 million from the sale of land and air rights to Rock Ohio Caesars Cleveland LLC for construction of a casino in downtown Cleveland, where FCE is headquartered. (Here's the Plain Dealer coverage.)

AY update

In both the press release and the conference call, FCE officials said that approximately 55% of the forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena are currently under contract.

Three months ago, FCE reported the same percentage. In September 2010, the figure was 51%.

"We are also in the process of initial planning, design, and engineering for work on the first residential multifamily building at Atlantic Yards," [incoming CEO David] LaRue added.


Related coverage...

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City reports Q1 profit, sees $42.6 million boost to pre-tax EBDT from Cleveland casino deal

Monday's earnings call was the last with a member of the Ratner family at the company's helm. At Forest City's annual meeting Friday, longtime CEO Charles Ratner will become chairman of the board. He will be succeeded by David LaRue, the company's chief operating officer.

Shares of Forest City's stock (NYSE: FCE-A) closed trading Monday at $18.71, down 21 cents or 1.1 percent.

Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

Atlantic Yards 2011: Real Governance Matters

Our Streets — Our Stories
Dean Street Block Association (6th to Vanderbilt Avenues)

It’s been more than a year since Atlantic Yards broke ground, and more than four years since the project was approved. Now construction may take 25 years or longer. Promised jobs and affordable housing haven’t materialized, while hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars have been spent already.

Join the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors , Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and other local elected officials Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 2:00PM at Atlantic Terrace for a community forum on real reform of Atlantic Yards oversight. Find out what community organizations and local legislators are doing to make Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation accountable to Brooklyn and to New York City.

June 11, 2011 – 2:00pm
Atlantic Terrace
673 Atlantic Avenue
(corner of South Portland Street)


Related coverage...

phndc.org, Atlantic Yards 2011: Real Governance Matters

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

At Barclays Center, Stadium Seating Has Arrived

A monthly photo essay documenting the construction of the Atlantic Yards development and the Barclays Center, which the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets will soon call home.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown


Photo: Kristen V. Brown/Park Slope Patch

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

More trouble at Ratner’s malls

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Last week it was Crooks 3, Pocketbook Protectors 0 in Bruce Ratner's lawless local malls.

Ratner raids

Several criminals went shopping in the Atlantic Center and the Atlantic Terminal last week. Here’s what happened:

• A crook snaked his hand into a 26-year-old woman’s purse as she shopped inside the Atlantic Center Mall on May 29, taking her wallet. The victim didn’t notice that her wallet, and the $110 inside, was missing until 4:30 pm.

• A sticky-fingered thief palmed a wallet from a 29-year-old woman’s handbag on May 30 as she perused the aisles inside Daffy’s inside the Atlantic Terminal. The woman discovered that her wallet was missing at 5:15 pm, but by then the thief had already run to Target — which is also inside the mall — and spent $224 purchase with her credit card.

• An employee at Old Navy was arrested on May 31 after he swiped 70 polo shirts. Security personnel told police that the 39-year-old employee had taken the shirts on May 16.


Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

Atlantic Yards CHAOS

My BK State of Mind

The Barclays Capital Arena isn't exactly something I'm looking forward to...traffic wise.

And apparently, the residents of Prospects Heights continue to be unhappy as well. This battle has been going on for years, with the people losing to a big corporation.


Photo: Miss Dominique

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

June 6, 2011

Traffic changes around AY site delayed from July 15 to July 24 so MPT (temporary change) can begin right after public meeting June 14

Atlantic Yards Report

It has previously been reported that traffic changes around the Atlantic Yards site would begin July 15. Now, according to developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation, there will be a slight delay:

On or around July 24, 2011 Pacific Street (between Fourth Avenue and Flatbush Avenue only) will be reversed, changing from one-way westbound to one-way eastbound, toward Flatbush Avenue. To accommodate this change, a new traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue, along with a new crosswalk across Flatbush Avenue. Vehicles will be able to make right or left turns onto Flatbush Avenue at this location. This block can be accessed from both northbound and southbound Fourth Avenue.

Approximately one week later, Fourth Avenue (between Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue) will be converted to one-way southbound to improve traffic flow at the Flatbush Avenue/Atlantic Avenue/Fourth Avenue intersection. Fourth Avenue northbound traffic, including all commercial vehicles, can access Flatbush Avenue by turning left onto Atlantic Avenue, right onto Third Avenue and left onto Flatbush Avenue. Pacific Street will offer secondary access to Flatbush Avenue. No through truck traffic will be permitted on Pacific Street.

Why the change? According to ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell:

We did not want any roadway changes occurring until after the public meeting on June 14, and there is a MPT (Maintenance Protection of Traffic) plan that must be implemented before construction can begin.

The old schedule had the MPT (this is a temporary traffic change to allow for the street direction to be changed permanently) being implemented on June 1st and the final roadway change to be implemented on July 15. The new schedule calls for the MPT to be put in place on June 15, the final implementation date has been pushed back to July 24.


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Brooklyn Broadside: ‘The Battle for Brooklyn’: Film Imagines the Wrong Battlefield

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

One person deluded enough to continue claiming that Daniel Goldstein did it for the money is noted film critic and Atlantic Yards Kool-Aid guzzler Dennis Holt.

I have not seen, nor do I plan to see, the new film that is part of the Brooklyn Film Festival called The Battle for Brooklyn.

It is a so-called documentary about the six-year battle over the Atlantic Yards development.

I will not see it primarily because I lived through and wrote about just about anything of substance that took place during those many months on that project.

All the while with his head stuck firmly up his ass, a pose Holt maintains to this day.

What Neumaier fails to note is that Goldstein also retained something more than just his soul. He also accepted (or demanded) $3 million from Forest City for him to leave the apartment he owned.

If Goldstein spent six years fighting against the development, then those years netted him about $500,000 a year. Some bankers don’t make that amount of money.


NoLandGrab: Right, Dennis. Daniel "netted" $500,000 a year, if you conveniently forget that his home was taken from him so he had to buy a new one, his attorney got a hefty chunk of the settlement, and he had to pay a mortgage and bills and feed and cloth his family all the while, and so on and so on.

Holt is either, to borrow a line from Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, a warped, frustrated old man, or a complete fool.

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Brooklyn Film Festival. Battle for Brooklyn

Reclaimed Home

The Brooklyn Film Festival commenced this year with a documentary called Battle for Brooklyn. No, that’s not Sarah Palin’s take on the Revolutionary War. It’s the story of love, power, greed, deceit and dedication in the shadow of the Atlantic Yards project.

The hero of the film is Daniel Goldstein, the one guy who held out until the end. For seven years, he fought the project while staying in his empty apartment building where all of his neighbors had been bought out. He went to protests, court proceedings and had to have lived every single day of his life under severe stress not knowing where he was going to end up. He got a decent settlement in the end once there was nothing left to fight over. Funny that some people say he did it for the money. I don’t think any amount of money in the world would make me want to live like that. Someone has to fight for people’s rights and he had the chutzpah. Seven years.


Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

The Battle for Brooklyn

Meadowlands Matters [NorthJersey.com]
by John Brennan

One event that club executives won’t likely have time for is tonight’s premiere of “Battle for Brooklyn,” a 93-minute documentary that kicks off the Brooklyn Film Festival at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema.

The film, which is opening to strong reviews, chronicles the seven-year battle to get the Atlantic Yards project off the ground – and the controversial use of eminent domain.

The filmmakers have said they had no interest in demonizing Nets owners Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov, or New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

But the circumstances of activist Daniel Goldstein’s saga are such that I suspect Nets owners and city officials would be right to flinch at mere mention of this film (which I will try to see and review sometime this month, since I have covered this tale from Day One).

So the simple facts of the case would seem to lend itself to a “Joe Everyman vs. the power structure” theme for a documentary. The relatively recent practice of government using eminent domain for private benefit - rather than typical uses such as building a highway or a hospital - also is extremely unpopular nationwide.

For the Nets, the city, and the state, their side has been clear from the beginning: They say that the thousands of construction - and then permanent - jobs created, and the affordable housing units constructed, will justify the hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies to the developers.

But only a fraction of the construction jobs promised so far have developed; the project’s timeline now is for 25 years or more; and it’s not clear that some of the buildings will ever be built. The affordable housing promised also appears to be several years away, if not longer.

It’s still too soon to say that the government investment in the overall project was a financial blunder, although the public investment in the arena is not likely to ever be fully recouped. Promises by arena and stadium developers around the country also, more often than not, have proven to be overly – and, one might argue, conveniently - optimistic. We’ll know the results here eventually.


Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

New Jersey Nets intend to provide NBA fans in Brooklyn with cheaper alternative to New York Knicks

NY Daily News
by Stefan Bondy

While the owner of the Knicks is confusing and frustrating his team's supporters, the opposition is gearing up for a run at the city's basketball fan base.

Such is the state of the turf war as an arena rises in Brooklyn, representing the first legitimate threat to the Knicks' territory in 65 years.

The Nets, specifically minority owner Bruce Ratner and CEO Brett Yormark, claim there are enough basketball fans in the city to support two pro teams, professing their respect for the Knicks about a year removed from angering Jim Dolan by hanging a giant billboard above the Garden.

But there's a reason the Barclays Center was designed to be the Garden's opposite: the Nets want to be the alternative to the Knicks, not their New York City sidekick, and certainly not the same second-class citizen from across the river. There may be a lot of basketball fans in New York, but not as many who will buy tickets and merchandise. And with the Knicks raising their ticket prices about 50% for next season, the Nets are promoting themselves as the cheaper alternative just five miles away.


NoLandGrab: "Cheaper" is a relative term, since the New York Post reported in March that the average Nets ticket price would be $132 and "are expected to be among the NBA’s highest in their inaugural season in Brooklyn."

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

FCE PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Reports Fiscal 2011 First-Quarter Results

via PR Newswire

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced EBDT, net earnings and revenues for the first quarter ended April 30, 2011.


First-quarter EBDT (earnings before depreciation, amortization and deferred taxes) was $127.4 million, an increase of $56.9 million compared with 2010 first-quarter EBDT of $70.5 million. On a fully diluted, per-share basis, first-quarter 2011 EBDT was $0.63, a 70.3 percent increase compared with 2010 first quarter EBDT of $0.37.

For an explanation of EBDT variances, see the section titled "Review of Results" in this news release. EBDT and EBDT per share are non-Generally Accepted Accounting Principle (GAAP) measures. A reconciliation of net earnings (the most directly comparable GAAP measure to EBDT) to EBDT is provided in the Financial Highlights table in this news release.

Net Earnings/Loss

First-quarter net earnings attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. were $47.6 million, or $0.25 per share, compared with a net loss of $15.6 million, or $0.10 per share, in the first quarter of 2010. After preferred dividends, net earnings attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. common shareholders was $43.7 million, or $0.24 per share, for the quarter ended April 30, 2011.


First-quarter 2011 consolidated revenues were $316.9 million compared with $271.5 million last year. The year-over-year revenue variance was impacted primarily by the same factors impacting EBDT, as described below under "Review of Results."

Review of Results

An exhibit illustrating factors impacting first-quarter 2011 EBDT results, compared with results for the comparable period in 2010, is available on the Investor Relations page of the Company's web site: www.forestcity.net, and is included in the company's first-quarter 2011 Supplemental Package furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

For the three months ended April 30, 2011, the Company's combined Commercial and Residential Segments (also referred to as the rental properties portfolio) provided a pre-tax EBDT increase of $55.7 million, compared with the first quarter of 2010. The year-over-year increase was primarily the result of initial proceeds of $42.6 million from the previously announced sale of land and air rights to Rock Ohio Caesars Cleveland LLC for construction of a casino in downtown Cleveland, increased income of $7.7 million from tax credits, the ramp-up of new properties of $2.6 million, and decreased interest expense on the mature portfolio of $2.2 million. These increases in the portfolio were partially offset by reduced EBDT from properties sold of $4.6 million.



PR Newswire, REMINDER: Forest City Enterprises Fiscal 2011 First-Quarter Earnings Conference Call

Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE:FCE-A) has released its first-quarter 2011 financial results and will hold a conference call today at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss these results. Investors are invited to dial into the conference call hosted by Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer, or to listen to a live webcast of the call through www.forestcity.net.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

June 5, 2011

Up Close With Diana Williams


Daniel Goldstein and Michael Galinsky are interviewed about the Atlantic Yards Fight on the release of the documentary "The Battle For Brooklyn."


Posted by steve at 11:47 PM

ArtBridge holds competition for art to be displayed on Atlantic Yards site sidewalk shed; here are some examples they won't pick

Atlantic Yards Report

As noted in the Brooklyn Eagle and NoLandGrab, ArtBridge is holding a contest for artists to have their work displayed on a 400-foot long sidewalk shed along one side of the Atlantic Yards site.

(As NLG points out, the location is not "the heart of Downtown Brooklyn.")

Here are a couple of AY-related art exhibits that I'm sure won't get picked:


Posted by steve at 11:18 PM

News and Reviews of "Battle for Brooklyn" Continue

The Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn's Ongoing Battle
By Williams Cole

This is an interview with Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky on the release of their documentary "Battle For Brooklyn."

Rail: So how is the Atlantic Yards Project pivotal—realistically and symbolically—to the changes in Brooklyn over the last decade or so?

Galinsky: Incredibly pivotal. As George Will points out in the movie, all the city officials were saying this area is blighted and we have to redevelop it. But, really, they wanted the land because it wasn’t blighted. It was probably the most valuable piece of property in Brooklyn! And yet they’re getting to lease it for a dollar for one hundred years. A dollar for one hundred years! I mean, it’s absurd, and then they’re not paying any taxes.

Countdown to Main Street, Main Street Fete

Friday night. Main Street, Brooklyn. DUMBO seems too cool to have a Main Street, but there it is. I'm going to 37, Powerhouse Arena, a bookstore/event space, for a party celebrating the New York premier of "Battle for Brooklyn," at the Brooklyn Film Festival. I had seen cuts of the film, but the final version, with diagrams and music and storyline, starts off very hard and never lets up. It tells the story of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and its 7 year fight to stop Bruce Ratner's ill-conceived Atlantic yards project. "It's like David and Goliath," says attorney Norman Siegel, "but you know, sometimes David wins." At the end of the film, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is chortling, "No one will remember how long it took." But we are watching the film, and we remember. I finger the leaflet in my pocket inviting me to a meeting June 15th to see the Unity Plan for the area. I plan to go. I want to see what Marshall Brown, Ron Shiffman and the other collaborating urban planners are proposing. The film's wonderful hero, Dan Goldstein, and brilliant heroine, Shabnam Merchant, are tenacious, ethical and beautiful. I learned a lot and look forward to seeing it over and over. In the meantime, at 37 Main Street, the activists and the film crowd rub shoulders in one of the moments of festivity in which we catch our breath and refuel for the next round in the fight.

inversecondemnation.com, Movie Review: Battle For Brooklyn

There have been other films about eminent domain. For a fictional comedic take on the subject you can't do better than Australia's The Castle, which tells the story of a Melbourne family's challenge to a Kelo-like taking of their home. Welcome to Asbury Park is a documentary about New Jersey property owners resisting the taking of their homes. It also looks like the Kelo story will be coming to the small screen in a Little Pink House movie.

But until Battle For Brooklyn, there's never been an attempt to chronicle the massive scope of an eminent domain story -- the film takes place over seven years, itself an accomplishment -- and with such intimacy. For although the film is framed by the opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, its heart is a character study of Daniel Goldstein, the property owner who became the opposition leader, and who by the film's end remains the sole "holdout" among his 130 neighbors.

And that's where Battle For Brooklyn excels. It allows us to witness Mr. Goldstein's evolution from a bewildered property owner to sophisticated spokesman and property rights activist. In the era of reality television we have become accustomed to often-too-revealing and all-too-polished looks into the personal lives of others. Yet, Battle For Brooklyn feels different.

Posted by steve at 10:47 PM

June 4, 2011

BrooklynSpeaks sets community forum for June 11, presaging official meeting on traffic June 14, UNITY plan meeting June 15

Atlantic Yards Report

Beginning in a week, there will be three Atlantic Yards-related meetings, with the latest announced yesterday by BrooklynSpeaks, involving Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who, it should be noted, is not listed as among those involved in the updated UNITY plan.

Meeting June 11: BrooklynSpeaks

An announcement from BrooklynSpeaks:

Atlantic Yards 2011: Real Governance Matters
A Community Forum
2:00 PM, Saturday, June 11, 2011
Atlantic Terrace
673 Atlantic Avenue
Corner of South Portland St.

It’s been more than a year since Atlantic Yards broke ground, and more than four years since the project was approved. Now construction may take 25 years or longer. Promised jobs and affordable housing haven’t materialized, while hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars have been spent already. And in the near term, most of what Brooklyn may end up with is an arena and a massive surface parking lot.

How did this happen? And, more importantly, what can be done now to ensure that promised public benefits are delivered and construction impacts are reduced?

Join the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and other local elected officials Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 2:00PM for a community forum on real reform of Atlantic Yards oversight. Find out what community organizations and local legislators are doing to make Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation accountable to Brooklyn and to New York City.

Meeting June 14: Traffic

From the Empire State Development Corporation:

In addition, ESD will be hosting a public forum with Community Boards 2, 6 & 8 on Tuesday, June 14 from 6:30-8:00pm at Borough Hall in Brooklyn to discuss the traffic changes and answer questions from the public.

Here's the community notice posted at AtlanticYards.com.

Meeting June 15: UNITY Plan updated

An announcement posted by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

June 15: UNITY 4 Community Meeting -- We Can Do Better Than an Arena, A Big Parking Lot

Forest City Ratner is constructing the arena, but the rest of the demolished 22 acre site is a big question mark...except for enormous "interim" surface parking lots. We, as a community, need to fix this future for the coming decades.

In order to plan, set a better framework, and change the dynamic for the future development of the site Councilmember Letitia James, Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn invite you to UNITY 4, a community meeting on Wednesday, June 15th to discuss the community's plans for the Atlantic Yards site, with the UNITY Plan and its principles as a jumping off point.

Please mark your calendars.

Wednesday, June 15. 7pm
at Atlantic Commons
388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt and Bond)

The meeting will include a presentation by UNITY Plan designers and architects Marshall Brown and Ron Shiffman, a discussion of the current and future status of the site and Q&A with a panel including elected officials. Your ideas, thoughts and input will be invaluable to the meeting.

The UNITY 4 community meeting is sponsored by:
Assemblyman James Brennan, Senator Bill Perkins, Senator Eric Adams, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, Councilmember Brad Lander, Councilmember Stephen Levin, District Leader Chris Owens, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, Park Slope Neighbors, Park Slope Greens, Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform, Park Slope Civic Council, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats


Posted by steve at 11:23 PM

More Coverage for the opening of "Battle for Brooklyn"

Dissent, The Epic Battle Over Atlantic Yards
By Norman Oder

The sprawling saga could merit a miniseries; Battle for Brooklyn, the propulsive ninety-three-minute documentary from Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley—Brooklynites known for the 2002 doc Horns and Halos, about an ill-fated George W. Bush biographer—chooses a narrower lens. With reality show-like intimacy, the film focuses on Daniel Goldstein, a graphic designer turned DDDB spokesman, the sole owner in his condo building to refuse a buyout. We see Goldstein find himself over six years as an activist, alternately invigorated and unnerved. The David-and-Goliath portrait can be compelling, but it avoids some gray areas, and sometimes Goldstein’s personal story displaces needed context. The directors explain that they’ve crafted a film that’s more character driven than information driven. Still, the title suggests some sweep, and the film scants Brooklyn’s gentrification, the reason FCR’s repeated, if questionable, promises of affordable housing have had such heft.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would do the same exact thing,” Goldstein declares in the film’s opening lines, as a camera-from-the-sky captures the denuded project footprint, with ominous music in the background. “If I wasn’t going to fight this project, which was hitting my home and my neighborhood, what would I ever fight for?”

j.b. spins, BFF ’11: The Battle for Brooklyn

At each juncture, the fix is obviously in for the so-called “Atlantic Yards” project. State commissioners vote on the proposal despite having no familiarity with the actual details, while members of the city council cannot be bothered to hear out its critics during committee hearings. Indeed, besides Brooklyn city council member Letitia James, New York City’s politicians do not come out looking well in Battle. The arrogant standoffishness of Mayor Bloomberg is hardly surprising, but those who see Battle at national festivals will be dismayed by the clownishness of Brooklyn Borough President Marty “Party” Markowitz. (Unfortunately, New Yorkers can attest, what you see is typical of the three term incumbent.)

Over the course of Battle, viewers will pick up a heck of an education in New York state land use law, but not at the expense of the film’s central drama. At its core, this is a film about a man fighting for his home and a community struggling to stay intact. However, the policy implications of the Atlantic Yards boondoggle are obvious. Forget about property rights. Evidently, if New York’s state and local governments decide your home or business could be better utilized by someone else, they can flat-out take it. If they have to game the system with bogus declarations of “blight,” then so much the better. After all, it depresses the property values, which in turn means they can offer drastically less compensation.

Posted by steve at 10:56 PM

ArtBridge: Works in Progress


Artbridge, which describes itself as "the Chelsea-based nonprofit that transforms underutilized city spaces into canvas for the work of emerging artists ," is trying to find something to fill its third installation by holding a contest for artists. The winner will have her artwork displayed on a 400-foot long sidewalk shed along one side of the Atlantic Yards site.

Art-making is a transformative act. Pigment mixed with medium becomes paint, that paint, when applied to canvas becomes “art,” that art, when we see it on gallery walls or in the public realm, alters the world around us.

The construction process can in many ways be seen as a mirror of the artistic one; breaking ground, reconfiguring it, reinterpreting space to make it new.

With this in mind we invite Brooklyn-based artists to submit visual works that riff on, reference, or reveal something about the artistic process for consideration for our latest public installation, ArtBridge: Works in Progress,” to be installed in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn in early Fall of 2011.

NoLandGrab: Although Prospect Heights is not "in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn," ArtBridge seems to unconsciously understand the Atlantic Yards Project. With a 20 year build out period, "work in progress' describes AY all too well. Also, mirroring the way project supporters hoped that nobody would oppose Atlantic Yards, the page announcing the contest proudly proclaims: "All Brooklyn Artists -- Submit Today!"


Related coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Artbridge Announces Call for Entries For Atlantic Yards Installation

Posted by steve at 10:28 PM

June 3, 2011

Some more reviews of Battle for Brooklyn, which opens tonight at Brooklyn Film Festival

Atlantic Yards Report

My long review of Battle for Brooklyn (which opens tonight in Brooklyn, and will screen free at Fort Greene Park June 9, open in cinemas June 17, and ) is coming one of these days, but first, a few excerpts from and comments regarding other reviews.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Wall Street Journal Praises "Battle for Brooklyn"

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

Weekend Miser

The New York Times
by Rachel Lee Harris

It’s a perfect weekend for lovers of all things independent, with Rooftop Films bringing together indie bands, movies from the South by Southwest festival and a new documentary about the controversial makeover of the Atlantic Yards.

On Friday Rooftop will also help open the Brooklyn Film Festival with “Battle for Brooklyn,” a documentary that follows the struggle of Daniel Goldstein and other residents to keep their homes during the development of the Atlantic Yards project. (8 p.m., $25 includes a pass to the opening night party; Brooklyn Heights Cinema, 70 Henry Street, at Orange Street. The festival continues through June 12 at various locations: $10, $25 for a four-film pass; 718-388-4306; brooklynfilmfestival.org.)


NoLandGrab: Tonight's U.S. premiere of Battle for Brooklyn is SOLD OUT. However, there are still plenty of opportunities to see the film locally over the coming month. Visit www.battleforbrooklyn.com for a list of screenings.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Brooklyn Broadside: NYU’s Expansion Benefits From Downtown Space Here

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Triple oops! The Eagle's Dennis Holt forgets to disclose his fealty to all things Ratner.

Last week’s report on NYU-Polytechnics’s growth plan adds a new dimension and a new promise. They plan to expand by taking up space in nearby office buildings, in MetroTech space for that matter.

The plan includes Poly taking up 120,000 square feet of office space in two buildings, the ninth and 10th floors of 2 MetroTech and the sixth floor of 15 MetroTech.

This is a win-win situation for all involved. Forest City Ratner, in this case, earns income from empty, non-paying MetroTech space. NYU pays much less to rent the 120,000 square feet than if it had to build anew. And NYU also achieves a degree of planning capability it didn’t have before.


Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Coming Soon: A Town Within a City

The New York Times
by Elsa Brenner

Double oops! Just as it did on Wednesday, The Times forgets to mention its cozy relationship with Forest City Ratner Companies.

Home to a residential drug addiction center in the 1970s, and then the headquarters of a major electronics warfare company, an 81-acre site here along Interstate 87 is now being reincarnated as a mixed-use community.

The road from the property’s former identities to the new one has been long and tortuous — marked by opposition from residents, legal action by neighboring communities worried about additional traffic, and accusations of misconduct on the part of political insiders. That’s not to mention the effect of the recession, which slowed down construction of both the housing and retail components of the project.

It is now more than a decade since the idea for a townlike development was conceived in this city of 196,000 people — and sections of the $660 million Ridge Hill Village, as the project developed by Forest City Ratner Companies is called, are finally opening.


Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

June 2, 2011

Ratner says in Bloomberg interview that $100M financing for first tower is coming; no word on whether it would be modular

Atlantic Yards Report

I'm coming a bit late to Bruce Ratner's interview (and article) on Bloomberg, but here's the gist: Ratner expects to get a $100 million loan for the first tower, and that work should start around the end of the year.

Unmentioned is whether it would be modular and thus save big bucks. (As the New York Observer pointed out, $100 million seems small for that size building.) Unmentioned is whether Ratner is still seeking additional subsidies, which the city has denied. Unmentioned is the history of delays with this tower.


Related coverage...

NY Observer, First Atlantic Yards Tower Coming This Winter, Will It Be Prefab?

Bruce Ratner went on Bloomberg yesterday to discuss the state of the local economy and progress at Atlantic Yards. During the interview, he said he expects to break ground on the first apartment tower at the site by December or January.

That is pushing Ratner's promise made last fall to have the tower under construction sometime this year. He also promised renderings in the first half of the year, but here we are in June. Could this further undermine the blown 10-year timetable for the project?

Who cares, because everyone is cheerleading for the new basketball arena, even this Bloomberg reporter.

Posted by eric at 4:54 PM

Imported and Homegrown

The Wall Street Journal
by Steve Dollar

Brooklyn Film Festival
Brooklyn Heights Cinema

70 Henry St., Brooklyn, (718) 596-7070
Friday-June 12

Touting 101 films—long, short, fiction, nonfiction, animated, experimental —from 26 countries, the Brooklyn Film Festival isn't necessarily borough-centric. But it spotlights plenty of Brooklyn stories, with titles such as "Bed-Stuy: Do or Die" (about a volunteer ambulance corps made up of former gang members) and "Gowanus 83" (a comedy about an ex-con on a cab ride to hell). Nothing depicts the borough's backbone with more personality and urgency than "Battle for Brooklyn," the opening-night selection. The new documentary by Clinton Hill filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley recounts community efforts to stop developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Seven years of footage is edited into a crisp, dramatic and narrator-free 93 minutes, focusing on the remarkable story of neighborhood activist Daniel Goldstein, the last resident in a Pacific Street building marked for demolition through eminent domain. (Films also show at indieScreen, 285 Kent Ave., in Williamsburg).


Posted by eric at 4:51 PM

In legal papers, an ESDC admission slips through: the BALDC was created by the ESDC (and why that matters)

Atlantic Yards Report

Notice this line from Empire State Development Corporation legal paper's in today's other post (above)?

All income from such events would be lost, leaving this venue, financed by PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of taxes) bonds issued by ESDC's local development corporation, Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation ("BALDC"), without event income.

(Emphasis added)

It may just seem semantic, but the BALDC is actually not ESDC's local development corporation.

Rather, the BALDC was created by an essentially dormant ESDC alter ego, the Job Development Authority, which allowed it to skirt the review of the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) and Comptroller.

But if the BALDC is the product of the ESDC, then shouldn't there have been a review?


NoLandGrab: The more lies they tell, the harder it is to keep them straight.

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

One Minute Voices – Episode 1

Our Streets — Our Stories
The Dean Street Block Association (6th Ave. to Vanderbilt Ave.)

This is the first in a series of one-minute casual interviews with people who live and work in the neighborhood of the Dean Street Block Association (DSBA), 6th to Vanderbilt Avenues, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York.

This first episode is an interview with Abdul, one of the owners of the Dubai Mini Mart at 486 Dean Street at 6th Avenue. The store sits diagonally across from the southeast corner of the under-construction Barclays Center of the Atlantic Yards project.

Do you live or work in the area? Would you like to add about 60 seconds of your voice to the conversation? If so, contact me at tc[at]3c[dot]com.


Posted by eric at 9:04 AM

‘Battle for Brooklyn’ Recaps Atlantic Yards Struggle

Documentary Follows Daily Life of Goldstein

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

The new documentary The Battle for Brooklyn, which is slated to be shown several times in the borough this month, gives a powerfully portrayed account of the back-and-forth power struggle leading up to the current construction of Barclays Arena by Forest City Ratner.

For out-of-towners, it is an invaluable introduction to the facts around the struggle, which pit community residents against one of the most powerful real estate companies in the city and some of the most powerful local officials.

But for those who are familiar with the story, it seems to be a little too black-and-white, too much of a platform for Daniel Goldstein and his Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn organization. This writer believes that although there was plenty to criticize in the arena project, the truth is more complex.


Posted by eric at 8:59 AM

Ratner Seeking $100 Million for Apartment Tower at Atlantic Yards Site

by David M. Levitt and Betty Liu

The developer of the Atlantic Yards project in New York’s Brooklyn borough plans to borrow about $100 million to construct an apartment tower near the basketball arena now going up on Flatbush Avenue.

Work should start on the apartment building in December or January, Bruce Ratner, Forest City Ratner Cos. chairman and chief executive officer, said today in an interview on Bloomberg Television. The tower would join the Barclays Center sports arena as the second structure at the $4.9 billion, 22-acre project in downtown Brooklyn.

“We’ve already talked to banks and we will be able to get a loan,” Ratner said.


NoLandGrab: We'll believe construction of any Atlantic Yards housing when we see it, not when Bruce predicts it. And for the millionth time, the project is not in downtown Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 8:54 AM

Harlem Sales Ranked; Artists, Help to Beautify Atlantic Yards

by Sara Polsky

The Atlantic Yards construction site has already gotten one shot at beautification through Urbancanvas, but, well, it could use another. ArtBridge has issued a call for entries from Brooklyn-based artists with "visual works that riff on, reveal, or reference the artistic process." Entries are due by June 26, and some of them will be displayed on the Flatbush Avenue scaffolding on Atlantic Yards' south side.


Posted by eric at 8:49 AM

June 1, 2011

Nets Pitch Self-Contained Brooklyn Arena. Sure, That'll Be Great for the Neighborhood

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

We repost this in full from our friends at DDDB.

$99 - $1,500 tickets to see the Nets? That's affordable? Don't worry, on StubHub they will be.

From the Times:

2012-13 Nets Begin Pitching Premium Seats

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn still lacks a roof, seats and a basketball court. But the Nets are already pitching their fans on tickets in their new home, which is expected to open in September 2012.

On Thursday the Nets will begin selling "all-access" tickets to the general public, which include unlimited food and drink. About 4,400 seats in the lower bowl will be included, with tickets from $99 to $1,500. Nets season-ticket holders in these seats will also get first crack at tickets to other events, including concerts, boxing and college basketball.

"We want customers to come for more than the Nets," said Fred Mangione, the chief marketing officer of the Nets. "For us, the question is how we add value."

Tickets will include unlimited food and drink and the customers will come "for more than the Nets." Sounds to us like this doesn't bode well for sports bars and clubs that are clamoring to open up next to the arena.

And the unlimited drinks don't bode well for the stoops, sidewalks and olfactories in the surrounding neighborhoods.

...The Nets are introducing a new advertising campaign to jump-start their ticket sales. The ads will include pictures of Brooklyn landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and Coney Island. Famous Brooklyn natives will also appear in the ads.

We'll be very interested to see which ones, but we're sure Nelson George won't be one of them.


Related content...

Off the Dribble (New York Times NBA Blog), 2012-13 Nets Begin Pitching Premium Seats

Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

Bruce Ratner Interview


Bruce Ratner, chairman and chief executive officer of Forest City Ratner Cos., discusses the New York real estate market and the outlook for the U.S. economy. Ratner, speaking with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television's "In the Loop," also talks about the Barclays Center, a new arena in the Brooklyn borough of New York that will be the home of the Nets.

Ratner says today's ADP report of 38,000 private-sector jobs created this month is "terrible" and "much more disappointing than I would have expected" (forecasts predicted about 175,000 new jobs).

Of course, he's not exactly helping, since he promised 17,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs at Atlantic Yards, and has delivered about 100 and zero, respectively.

He also says that Mikhail Prokhorov will make a decision on his option to acquire up to 20% of the total Atlantic Yards project "sometime in the next six months."


NoLandGrab: Check out the amazing car-free Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in the animation beginning around the 5:15 mark.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Ratner: Prokhorov Will Decide in Next 6 Months if He Wants 20% Share of Atlantic Yards Housing

Nets minority owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner was interviewed this morning on Bloomberg TV. The biggest news out of the interview is that Ratner said that within the next 6 months "Michael" Prokhorov will decide whether or not to take the option he has to own 20% of the non-arena part of the project. He already owns 45% of the arena.

Ratner also claimed that the first residential building will start in December or January. If true that would be nearly a year later than claimed in 2010.

Posted by eric at 4:08 PM

Bruce Ratner among the co-chairs of planned de Blasio fundraiser

Atlantic Yards Report

Capital Tonight's Liz Benjamin reports that Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, widely seen as a mayoral candidate in 2013, is holding a 50th birthday fundraiser on June 23.

Check out the list of co-chairs (below) and see the name Bruce Ratner.

That suggests that de Blasio's essential backing of Atlantic Yards--he belatedly criticized the process, not the project--hasn't deterred Ratner. (Here's my analysis of de Blasio's due diligence.)

Is Ratner backing just one horse in 2013? Too soon to tell.


Posted by eric at 4:00 PM

The Week in Crime: Armed Robbery and Cell Phone Snatchings

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Mitchell Trinka

Who's going to protect the Pocketbook Protectors?

Atlantic Terminal Mall Theft

Four teens were nabbed by officers after stealing clothes and shoes from Burlington Coat Factory in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on May 24, police said. The teens, who had picked up $231.91 worth of items, tried to leave without paying at 4 p.m, but were approached by store security, police said. The teens attacked store security and tried to flee the store, police said. A 17-year-old, a 16-year-old and two 14-year-olds were arrested in the mall 20 minutes after trying to steal the items, police said.

No charges have been filed against the 14-year-old, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s office. The 17-year-old and 16-year-old have both been charged with robbery in the third degree, grand larceny in the fourth degree, assault in the third degree, petit larceny, criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, attempted assault in the third degree, menacing in the third degree, harassment in the second degree and two counts of robbery in the second degree, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s office.


Posted by eric at 3:50 PM

At Soapbox Gallery, an exhibition of Atlantic Yards photos, clips, emphemera

Atlantic Yards Report

At the Soapbox Gallery, a window space at 636 Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues, the current exhibit (through June 8) is "When the Ground Breaks," by Elaine Angelopoulous.

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Here's her description:

A giant window map with arranged artifacts and ephemera loaned from residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Atlantic Yards pays homage to the local community dedicated to challenge big business and government dealings surrounding the Atlantic Yards Project. Elaine Angelopoulos will conduct public events that focus on the construction project in process and in direct view across the street of Soapbox Gallery. Local residents are invited to record their stories to serve as an archive of their experiences on how the neighborhood has changed.

Ok, but the real kick comes from seeing the juxtaposition--hinted in the photo but more clear when you visit--of Forest City Ratner's happy Atlantic Yards brochures (and AY ephemera like basketball keychains) with documents and photos that suggest the larger controversy.

The video installation


Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

Atlantic Yards Construction Brings Out The Rats; Neighbors Complain

by Mario Diaz

In the shadows of the Barclays Center there is an invasion of new tenants overwhelming a quaint neighborhood like gangbusters. However, some residents along Dean Street are referring to it more as a “complete rat infestation.”

People in the neighborhood say the attacks began when construction started on the Barclays Center as well as the development surrounding it. “We didn’t have all these rats before. Sometimes you see them lying on the streets,” said one area resident.

PIX11 did see plenty of rats on flyers being distributed on cars belonging to construction workers in the area. One resident who refused to be identified told us that since the construction workers are not obeying alternate side of the street parking, the streets not being cleaned, thus the rats have more garbage to feast upon and the infestation only becomes greater.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Watch, Atlantic Yards rats make TV news

Mario Diaz of PIX11 caught up Friday with several of Atlantic Yards' neighbors concerned about the increasing number of rats infesting the streets surrounding the project.

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

Transit Hub in Maryland Gets a Second Chance

The New York Times
by Eugene L. Meyer

Oops! The Times forgets to disclose who built its headquarters building.

Many people in the mid-Atlantic region probably know this small suburban town as a train stop on the way to or from Union Station in Washington. But with Amtrak and Maryland commuter train stops, a Washington Metrorail station, buses and major highways nearby, New Carrollton seems to have everything a far-sighted developer could want.

In a five-way competition, two companies were picked to lead the effort: Forest City Washington, an offshoot of Forest City Enterprises, a publicly traded company based in Cleveland that has nearly $12 billion in assets nationally; and Urban Atlantic, a Bethesda, Md., developer. Forest City is developing a transit-oriented project, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and Urban Atlantic has done $1 billion worth of similar projects, largely in the Washington and Baltimore areas.

The project has been hampered by a widespread reputation for “pay to play” corruption in Prince George’s County, in which it is located.

The perception was bolstered last year when the departing county executive, Jack B. Johnson, was arrested on charges of taking bribes from developers. On May 18, he pleaded guilty to extortion and evidence tampering in the case.


NoLandGrab: Someone needs to explain why the "transit-oriented" Atlantic Yards project is slated for 3,600 parking spaces — and an "interim" surface parking lot that could last for a couple of decades.

Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

Big Screen Brooklyn

Brooklyn Based

This week marks the return of Brooklyn’s answer to Sundance and Cannes, the annual Brooklyn Film Festival. The cinematic fun kicks off this Friday with a screening of Battle for Brooklyn, a documentary that traces the Atlantic Yards project, and Develop Don’t Destroy’s opposition, from its roots to the contentious groundbreaking and the Goldsteins’ eventual eviction. The film will be screened at Brooklyn Heights Cinema as part of an opening night celebration that also includes an afterparty at powerHouse Arena. If you prefer your screenings outdoors in the summer, Rooftop Films will screen it again (for free) on June 9 in Fort Greene Park.


Related coverage...

Film Festival Today, Brooklyn Film Festival Opens June 3

BATTLE for BROOKLYN is an intensely intimate look at the very public and passionate fight waged by owners and residents facing condemnation of their property to make way for the controversial Atlantic Yards project, a massive plan to build 16 skyscrapers and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets in the heart of Brooklyn. Shot over seven years and compiled from almost 500 hours of footage, BATTLE for BROOKLYN is an epic tale of how far people will go to fight for what they believe in.

Lucid Culture, New York City Live Music Calendar for June and July 2011 Plus Other Events

6/3, 8 PM filmmakers Suki Hawley, Mike Galinsky and David Beilinson’s documentary the Battle for Brooklyn, which confronts the destructive effects of gentrification, notably the graft and fraud-ridden Atlantic Yards arena and parking-lot project where private property was illegally seized by a real estate swindler through an eniment domain claim. At the Brooklyn Heights Cinema; also screening 6/9 at 9 PM at Myrtle Avenue Hill in Ft. Greene Park, free; and on 6/11, 8 PM at Indie Screen, 285 Kent Ave., Williamsburg. A weeklong run begins on 6/17 at Cinema Village in Manhattan.

Posted by eric at 9:32 AM