November 26, 2012

What's up with

We ceased publishing regular daily updates to NoLandGrab on Saturday, September 29th, 2012.

For continuing in-depth news on the Atlantic Yards project, we recommend you tune your internet dial to the following websites:

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Watch

Develop — Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Noticing New York

Thanks for sticking with us these past eight-plus years!

— The Editors

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Opponents of Atlantic Yards Are Exhausted by a Long, Losing Battle

The New York Times
by N.R. Kleinfield

Eric McClure got to 19,268 blog posts. Enough. It was time, he decided, “to hang up my keyboard.”

Eight years ago, after having sold an advertising business, he joined the convulsive battle over what would fall and what would rise on a plot of land in the heart of Brooklyn, 15 blocks from where he lived. Now he was spent. As the final editor on the blog (succeeding his wife), he halted daily posts on Sept. 29, to start sifting for the next chapter in his life.

Neglected home projects summoned his attention. Mr. McClure began refinishing his front door. He painted a bathroom.

He finds he can wake up in the morning without his first thought being Atlantic Yards.

From its initial stirrings in 2003, the huge Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn evolved into something of a reluctant career for a panoply of passionate opponents, not all of them aligned and with uniform priorities, but who saw democracy being trampled in the interest of a developer whose methodology they found offensive. It has been a clenched battle in which eminent domain was used to gobble up homes and transform a neighborhood.

It has gone on and on and on.


NoLandGrab: We thought it would be ironic to resume publishing, albeit briefly (sorry, devotees), to post an article about us ceasing publishing.

Photo: Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, As predicted, Times reports on how Atlantic Yards opponents are exhausted by losses; neglects to cite court win, other news validating critique

I can't say I didn't predict it, the New York Times feature today headlined Opponents of Atlantic Yards Are Exhausted by a Long, Losing Battle. The Times, I wrote last month, would report that opponents were diminished and disempowered.

Which they are--duh. Some have left the neighborhood or left town. Then again, so too have many paid exponents of Atlantic Yards, including Forest City Ratner's two point men (both of whom left under ethical clouds), several state executives, union executives, as well as a criminal lobbyist and a criminal legislator. (Where was the headline "Atlantic Yards Proponents Shamed, Indicted, Convicted"?)

Then again, the (nearly all) unpaid activists--groups organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks--also won a big lawsuit, requiring Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing and shepherding Atlantic Yards, to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), to study the community impact of a project lasting 25 years, not ten years, as long promised.

There's no mention of that lawsuit in this article. Nor, for that matter, recent news that validates the "opposition's" critique of Atlantic Yards: the demise of Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD, and the slippery behavior of developer Forest City Ratner in challenging project tax assessments and then withdrawing that challenge.

Nor any connection between the opposition and the Times's belatedly tough coverage of developer Bruce Ratner this past September, describing as "his reputation for promising anything to get a deal, only to renegotiate relentlessly for more favorable terms"?

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

September 29, 2012

Under Barclays Center oculus, groups challenging Atlantic Yards call for reform, joined by Occupy and two who "drank Ratner's Kool-Aid" but changed their minds

Atlantic Yards Report

Five groups challenging the Atlantic Yards project, bolstered by some Occupy Wall Street participants and two former project supporters, held a press conference this morning on the Barclays Center plaza, moving under the oculus (which dripped somewhat) to get out of the rain.

"Welcome to the tale of two Brooklyns," said Candace Carponter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, leading off the event and citing the arena as an example of "crony capitalism." The groups' goals include a plan that prioritizes "the creation of housing affordable to working families in Brooklyn" (for which, however, Ratner's modular plan may be billed as a solution) and to reform project oversight.

"Many Brooklynites may attend events here," Carponter declared, but profits will be reaped by the developer Forest City Ratner and the retail chains. She didn't mention Mikhail Prokhorov, majority owner of the Nets and 45% owner of the arena.

(Videos by Jonathan Barkey.)

Drinking "Ratner's Kool-Aid"

Carponter introduced two people she described as having drunk "Ratner's Kool-Aid," including "my friend" Kathleen Noreiga, who demonstrated for the project as a supporter of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), the controversial job-development organization.

Noreiga (video start) is one of seven people (of 36) who went through BUILD's highly competitive 15-week, pre-apprenticeship training program lawsuit and filed suit last November regarding what they say were guaranteed jobs and union cards at the arena.

"Instead of providing us with jobs and training, we were made to do heavy labor, including demolition and debris removal, at a private house in Staten Island for our instructor's private company," she said. The seven plaintiffs have sued for payment for their unpaid training.

A message to Jay-Z from a Marcy neighbor

Umar Jordan, he of the dramatic pro-project testimony in August 2006--"If you haven't been to the Marcy Projects, you haven't been to Brooklyn"--was introduced by Carponter as having "since determined that Brooklyn has been played."

Jordan was forceful but brief: "I need you to call the police and tell them that we've been robbed. Brooklyn's been robbed. This is not a personal attack on you, Jay-Z. We've been robbed, and I've seen people go to jail for less."


NoLandGrab: You know what they say — if you haven't somehow been screwed by Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards boondoggle, you ain't from Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

Occupy TV: Barclays Center Candlelight Vigil

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Highlights from the moving speeches at last night's candlelight vigil at Barclays Center where clergy, elected officials and community organizations emembered the people and families displaced by the Atlantic Yards project’s use of eminent domain, as well as recognized those at risk of displacement today, and families still in need of affordable housing.


Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Barclays Center debut: no traffic nightmare and empty (paid) parking spaces (on a work night), but still reasons for concern: narrow sidewalks mean paparazzi gridlock and later a flood of people blocking Atlantic Avenue

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder serves up a typically comprehensive report on last night's opening of the laser-shooting Barclays Center.

Traffic flowed fairly well outside at the Barclays Center debut with Jay--Z last night, and the event appeared relatively orderly, given the sold-out house, which drew a crowd wearing everything from flashy nightclub duds to Brooklyn Nets gear.

Though he'd been on many stages around the world, Jay-Z told the crowd, "Nothing feels like tonight, Brooklyn." (While the fans I spoke to all said they enjoyed the show, and people chanted "Hova" as they left--and, of course, inside--I heard multiple secondhand reports, including this tweet, that said that Jay-Z's performance, actually, was subpar.)

"Welcome to the house that Bruce built" was flashed across the arena screen, as reported on Twitter; I countered that developer Bruce Ratner had a "wee bit" of government help.

Perhaps the most prominent disorder, according to reports on Twitter, was lots of pot-smoking inside the arena, as well as a wait, which lasted until about 8:45, just to get past security into the building.

The vigorous promotion of transit coupled with mostly pleasant weather and the generally young audience meant few drove automobiles--at least to paid parking. (Watch out when Streisand appears.) The surface parking lot, in fact, was perhaps 20 percent full.

Lots, lots more if you click through.


Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

Atlantic Yards Deconstructed opening reception

Thank goodness for digital photography. Otherwise, Tracy Collins would need a cut of Bruce Ratner's $billion-plus Atlantic Yards subsidy to pay for all the "film" he's shot over the past nine years documenting Ratner's boondoggle.

Photographer Tracy Collins has been chronicling the rapidly changing urban landscape since the Atlantic Yards project was announced in 2003. His exhibit Atlantic Yards Deconstructed traces the “on the ground” impacts of the development over the past 9 years through photography, video and other media.

Stop by for the opening reception Saturday, September 29 from 6:00 to 800PM at the Soapbox Gallery, 636 Dean Street (a block and a half from the arena).


Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

FUREE March for Housing, Jobs and Justice

Be sure not to miss today's events protesting Bruce Ratner's basketball arena bait-n-switch.

FUREE's 10th Annual Convention concludes with a 4:00pm march for accountable development starting from Bridge Street and Willoughby Street, and ending at Barclays Center.

Join FUREE and local residents for a march through communities under attack from greedy developers and their friends in government.


Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

September 28, 2012

Atlantic Yards, It's A Crime! Community Organizations Join to Call for a New Plan at Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards – It's A Crime! Community Organizations Join to Call for a New Plan at Atlantic Yards Brooklyn Was Promised Much More Than an Arena

On the day of the opening of Barclays Center, a coalition of community organizations today joined in a protest of Atlantic Yards' failure to deliver on the promises of local jobs and affordable housing used to win approval for the $5 billion project, and called on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York to present a new plan for the site that prioritizes public benefits over the development of luxury housing.

BrooklynSpeaks, Brown Community Development Corporation, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) and the Fifth Avenue Committee were joined by numerous civic groups and block associations in demanding that the State:


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

As 40/40 Club opens the night before arena debuts, a vigil and march draws 150 people, James, Montgomery

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael D.D. White, in the photo at right, captures an image from the vigil last night that drew about 150 people to gather outside the Barclays Center and then circle it twice in fairly quiet protest. Inside Jay-Z's 40/40 Club was opening for a private, pre-arena-opening party, as detailed in the New York Post video at bottom.

White's photo captures the "Boondoggle Basics" flyer given out by protesting groups (more events today and tomorrow; rain venue 669 Atlantic Avenue, corner of S. Portland Avenue) framed by the digital advertising in the arena oculus for the 40/40 Club.

The main sponsors are Brown Community Development Corporation, BrooklynSpeaks, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the Fifth Avenue Committee, and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), which took different postures on Atlantic Yards before it passed, with only DDDB going to court to try to block the project.

Since then, for example, DDDB and BrooklynSpeaks were joined in a successful lawsuit challenging the inadequacy of the environmental review, given that 2009 deal revisions gave developer Forest City Ratner 25 years to build the project. A Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) has been ordered but has not yet begun.

Perhaps two dozen people came from Occupy Wall Street; some intended to sleep overnight, but the police seemed unwilling to allow that.

Below, there are several more videos, most of them brief, that I shot.

Click through for more coverage of last night's protest.


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Scene in Ratnerville

NoLandGrab's Senior Asian-American Correspondent, Lumi Rolley, filed this report from NLG's Mobile One at 5:45 this morning from Brooklyn's Flatbush and Fifth Avenues:

Security presence in the now un-cordoned plaza. Occupy tenants sleeping in front of Nets shop. Four news vans, that weren't there yesterday, already parked in unloading zone and one talking head getting ready in the media bullpen.

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

WNYC on arena opening: ACORN's Lewis claims CBA was legitimate (but where's the compliance monitor?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder cleans up a flawed WNYC report on the opening of the Barclays Center, and the controversy surrounding it.

As Barclays Opens, Neighbors Still Grumble, reports WNYC. Those grumbling neighbors--could it be that Bruce Ratner doesn't keep his promises (as noted by the Observer).

The most interesting part of the article concerns the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which prompts Candace Carponter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to call it unenforceable, and Gib Veconi of BrooklynSpeaks to point out the inherent conflicted role of signatories, which rely on Forest City Ratner for support.

Why can't neutral experts on CBAs make this point as well?

Ratner's support

WNYC reports:

As of 2005, Forest City Ratner provided more than $100,000 to BUILD to begin to develop community outreach. The developer also committed at least $50,000 in funding to DBNA.

Hold on--these groups have received hundreds of thousands of dollars--surely over $1 million for BUILD, which in the most recent year got $340,000--from Forest City.


NoLandGrab: BUILD apparently could use another $115,000, toot sweet.

Related content...

WNYC, As Barclays Opens, Neighbors Still Grumble

Here's the best part, regarding the much-derided (and totally worthless) Community Benefits Agreement...

The document even called for a meditation room to be built inside the arena.

“I can’t tell you exactly where it is, but there is a meditation room [in the arena], that will be open during events, a non-denominational quiet space for people to get away from the arena,” said Ashley Cotton, executive vice president of External Affairs for Forest City Ratner Companies.

As Norman Oder writes: "The arena's opening tonight, so perhaps they will find it by then."

WFUV, Some Brooklyn Advocacy Groups Upset with "False Promises"

With the NBA gearing up soon, a lot of hoopla is surrounding the Barclay's Center and the Nets first season in Brooklyn. Michelle de la Uz says that's not helping. She says too many people are focusing on the entertainment side of the stadium, and ignoring the needs of local residents.

"We're not hearing about when is the housing going to be built, to what extent is it going to be affordable, or what size families will be able to live in the properties," she said.

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY AT 11am FILM SCREENING TONIGHT 8pm Atlantic Yards – It’s A Crime! Events on September 28, 29 Brooklyn Was Promised Much More Than An Arena

As Barclays Center Opens, Series of Events Highlights Failures of Atlantic Yards and Demands for Change

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Please note the alternate locations indicated below for rain contingency

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28 (arena opening day)

11AM: Press conference @ Barclays Center
At the MTA Entrance in the Daily News Sponsored Plaza in Front of Barclays Center
NOTE: In the event of rain, the press conference will be indoors at 669 Atlantic Avenue, corner of S. Portland Avenue [ Map ]
Hear from individuals impacted by the project including former project supporters, former supporters who are now plaintiffs in federal lawsuit against Forest City Ratner and B.U.I.L.D, as well as organizers, and find out from planning experts what needs to happen at the project site going forward.

12PM - 4PM: Popup actions all around the Barclays Center

5PM: Virtual rally—tweet #BarclaysCenter and @AYCrimeScene for housing and jobs now.

4-6PM: Occupy Wall Street Guitarmy’s Teach-in in Response to Jay-Z Comments

8PM: Free outdoor screening of Battle For Brooklyn (
@ Dean Playground Ball Field, just half a block from the arena
(Dean St. between 6th Ave. and Carlton Ave. MAP)
NOTE: In the event of rain, the screening will be indoors at 669 Atlantic Avenue, corner of S. Portland Avenue [ Map ]

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Two Competing Messages, Differently Illuminated: Announcement of Opening of Jay-Z 40-40 Club And Candles Walked Around “Barclays” Arena In Protest

Noticing New York

The above image (click to enlarge) is a photograph taken at tonight’s Candle Light Vigil led by local politicians and clergy: A mega-bright Barclays “oculus” promotion for the opening of the Jay-Z 40-40 Club, the mega-wattage illuminating it paid for by the tax bills Jay-Z and the “Barclays” Center don’t pay . . . and candles walked counterclockwise twice around the arena in community protest illuminating the alternative message for the evening.

The community events protesting the arena's opening continue tomorrow and Saturday.


Posted by eric at 12:16 AM

September 27, 2012

Job-training group BUILD, signatory of CBA and Atlantic Yards booster, on shaky ground with budget, back taxes, and spending (Nets tickets, rent, precinct council), according to former CFO's complaint to NY AG

Atlantic Yards Report

This is shocking! Who ever would've expected such a thing?!

Norman Oder has today's big exclusive.

The job-training organization Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), a controversial but intensely loyal source of community support for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards, is on shaky ground, its former Chief Financial Officer has charged in a complaint (bottom) to the New York State Attorney General.

BUILD, which formed as Atlantic Yards was unveiled and has relied on Forest City for free office space/utilities and most of its funding, has seen its budget run low, even as it owes more than $115,000 in back payroll taxes, according to the complaint.

Moreover, the letter charges that CEO James Caldwell has spent money irresponsibly, including for Brooklyn Nets tickets ($8700), rent for five individuals, a car payment, clothing for a subordinate, and for the 77th Precinct Community Council, which he heads. Larger sums were allegedly misallocated to items seemingly part of BUILD's mission--like MetroCards for trainees, part of $38,201 for transportation--but not authorized by its funders.

BUILD's former CFO Lance Woodward, fired August 1 in what he contends was a wrongful act, has urged the Attorney General's Charities Bureau, which oversees non-profit organizations, to investigate. He asks for Caldwell be removed from BUILD, a new board established, and restitution of misallocated funds.

His letter, backed by voluminous appendices, charges Caldwell with misallocating and misappropriating more than $120,000 from 1/1/11 to 8/31/12, using BUILD checks and its credit card.

There's clearly deep tension between the two men, though they were once quite close. Some have described Woodward as "like a son" to Caldwell, who helped the younger man get his footing after he was once homeless.

The dismissal letter Caldwell provided Woodward cited insubordination, failure to perform duties, and lack of proper supervisory performance--none of which, according to Woodward, were the subject of written or verbal warnings.

Do read on.


Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Nets Helped Clear Path for Builder in Brooklyn

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli and Joseph Berger

Shark Synergy week continues in The New York Times!

Look at that determination and resolve!

Bruce C. Ratner did not pretend to be much of a basketball fan when he paid $300 million in 2004 for the New Jersey Nets. Before long, the team had the worst record in the National Basketball Association, and he had a reputation as one of the worst owners in professional sports.

But he also had the leverage he needed to pull off a real estate megadeal.

The purchase was the most glaring demonstration of Mr. Ratner’s single-minded dedication to a goal: building a 22-acre, $4.9 billion project in the heart of Brooklyn, the largest development project in the borough’s history. Though the Atlantic Yards plan also called for residential towers, a significant portion of which will be subsidized, he sold it to the public as a way to finally bring professional sports back to the borough.

“So, how did we get here?” Mr. Ratner asked last week, almost giddy, at the ribbon cutting of the nation’s most expensive basketball arena, the Barclays Center. “We first needed to buy a basketball team, and against all odds we did it.”


NoLandGrab: "Against all odds?" He must be delusional. The game was rigged in Ratner's favor from day one. "How did we get here?" You lied, cheated and connived your way, that's how.

Photo: Richard Perry/The New York Times

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report Front-page New York Times profile of Bruce Ratner buries the lead: "promising anything to get a deal, only to renegotiate relentlessly for more favorable terms"

In which we leave the dissection to Norman Oder...

A front-page New York Times profile of Bruce Ratner, headlined Nets Helped Clear Path for Builder in Brooklyn, contains enough criticism (and one new revelation about Ratner tactics) to avoid being a puff piece, but it barely touches on all the reasons for criticism.

But what if the article had proceeded from the observation lower down in the article, regarding "his reputation for promising anything to get a deal, only to renegotiate relentlessly for more favorable terms"? That might have led to the Culture of Cheating.

Ratner claims “We’ve kept every single promise we’ve ever made,” which is simply a lie.

His new mantra, apparently, is "they said we'd never build" the arena. No one ever counted that as a promise. Rather, he promised, "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops." He got rid of the office jobs, plans to cut down the construction jobs, fudged about the arena jobs, etc. Culture of Cheating.

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

The Barclays Center Gets Illuminated By The Illuminator: "World's Most Crooked Bank"

Atlantic Yards Report

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Barclays Center Gets Illuminated By The Illuminator: last night the Illuminator came to the side of the Barclays Center and projected several messages.

Below is one of them, declaring the scandal-enmeshed Barclays, which bought arena naming rights, "World's Most Crooked Bank."

Go to DDDB for the rest, including "Eminent Domain Abuse" and "Occupy."


Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

PHNDC: report concerns about arena impacts to Atlantic Yards Watch, 311, 911, and/or the 78th Precinct

Atlantic Yards Report

As the Barclays Center arena opens tomorrow, September 28, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, a sponsor of Atlantic Yards Watch, reminds us that the impact on streets and sidewalks--traffic, crowds, drivers searching for parking--remain unknown.

To report concerns about the arena:

1) Call 911 (note complaint tracking number) to report any incidents that require immediate police attention. (Remember to note your complaint tracking number.)
2) Call 311 (note complaint tracking number) or the 78th Precinct (718-636-6411) to report any issues that are not emergencies but require attention the evening of an event, such as illegal parking, cars on sidewalks.
3) Go to Atlantic Yards Watch to file reports, ask questions, and upload video and photos, or call 760-569-6374. Incident reports are read regularly by the Mayor's Office liaison for Atlantic Yards, Empire State Development, and Forest City Ratner.

A calendar of arena events is available on the Barclays website. PHNDC will ask the Barclays Center to make the calendar more easily scannable for residents and develop other communications to keep the community informed about events and developments at the site.


Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

Daily News goes rogue: critics "filed 200 eminent domain lawsuits"

Atlantic Yards Report

From a not completely cogent Daily News article posted last night and headlined Barclays Center set to dazzle at Brooklyn’s new Crossroads of the World: As top acts line up to schedule a gig at the gleaming new arena, critics continue to curse its arrival:

Critics — who filed 200 eminent domain lawsuits protesting what they called a “sham” environmental review process — say the 2,250 affordable housing units promised, along with rail renovations and open space, still have not been provided.

Um, there were two eminent domain lawsuits, plus another challenging the act of condemnation.

And those suits challenged the taking of private property, not the environmental review.


NoLandGrab: Perhaps the naming rights to the "Daily News Plaza" have addled their brains (even more than usual).

Related content...

NY Daily News, Barclays Center set to dazzle at Brooklyn’s new Crossroads of the World

Here's the buried lead...

So far, only 200 of the 2,000 new jobs produced by the arena are full-time, Forest City Ratner officials conceded.

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

9/28 8pm Indoor Location for Battle for Brooklyn in Case of Rain is 669 Atlantic Avenue

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Should it rain for the Friday, September 28th, 8pm outdoor screening of Battle for Brooklyn the indoors venue is:

669 Atlantic Avenue, Corner of Atlantic and South Portland. [Map]


Posted by eric at 9:16 AM

September 26, 2012

Anticipating Fallout From Lobbyist’s Legal Cooperation

The New York Times
by Thomas Kaplan and David W. Chen

The halls of the New York State Capitol have for years provided a happy hunting ground for prosecutors and ethics investigators.

Over the last six years, 27 elected officials in Albany have been indicted, convicted, censured, or otherwise accused of misconduct, according to a running tally maintained by the New York Public Interest Research Group. The allegations have been diverse; they include a senator attacking a photographer and an assemblyman having an affair with an intern.

Now, it seems probable that the list will grow: Richard J. Lipsky, a well-known city and state lobbyist convicted of bribing former State Senator Carl Kruger, has been secretly cooperating with the federal authorities, suggesting that other elected officials could soon find themselves in trouble with the law.

Elected officials, and perhaps the developers who bribe them?

“I thought, ‘Who did Lipsky turn on?’ ” said State Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who has pushed to improve ethics rules in Albany. She added, “I bet many people in elected office and in the lobbying world said to themselves, ‘I wonder if it’s X.’”

Solve for X. Here's a hint.

His clients in recent years have included the Red Apple Group, which operates the Gristedes supermarket chain, and the developer Forest City Ratner, and he gave tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to officials at the city and state levels.

“A lot of members who started with me are no longer here because they are being housed elsewhere,” City Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn observed Tuesday. She would not be surprised, she said, if Mr. Lipsky tried to reveal “some sordid and/or illegal relationships,” given his extensive dealings with the City Council and the number of big projects the Council has debated.

“A lot of people are bracing themselves for what tomorrow holds,” Ms. James said. “I just hope it’s not any of my colleagues.”


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Catching up: Powell on Ratner; permit parking; Lipsky talks; new arena sponsors

Norman Oder weighs in on this, and other, news.

Does this mean he'd implicate Forest City or local officials involved with Atlantic Yards? I doubt the former, and have no idea about the latter.

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

NY Times Attacks Courageous Brooklyn Anti-Development Activist

by Randy Shaw

Does it really take indy media from the other coast to figure this out?

Daniel Goldstein spent years battling the Atlantic Yard Development project in Brooklyn, which saw Forest City Ratner---the development partner with the New York Times Company for its headquarters-- skirt the democratic process and every jobs and affordable housing commitment it made to the community. The rigged approval process for the mammoth project was upheld by New York’s highest court, and the Barclay Center soon opens---without any accompanying affordable housing units. The Times has apparently not forgiven Goldstein for opposing Ratner, for it ran a huge September 25 story on a neighbor’s opposition to Goldstein’s adding an extension on his single family home. Unlike Atlantic Yards, which required massive rezoning and a gift of public land to the developer, Goldstein’s project complies with existing zoning---but that did not stop the Times from analogizing opposition to his extension with Goldstein’s protests against Atlantic Yards.

Goldstein lost his activist struggle and related lawsuit, and because his home was taken by eminent domain, he was compensated to move. He relocated to Brooklyn’s South Park Slope neighborhood, likely seeking to live in peace after devoting his life to defeat a project that symbolizes---as much as any Robert Moses outrage---how New York City development interests avoid democratic control and ignore community concerns.

But after the NY Times learned that Goldstein is building an extension on his house, the paper concluded that the critic of Atlantic Yards has set off “a real estate battle of his own.” Does this new battle involve thousands marching in the streets in protest, as occurred with Atlantic Yards? Is Goldstein following Ratner’s lead and seeking massive zoning variances and public subsidies for his “development”?

The obvious answer to both question is no.

Sounds like a classic case of next- door- neighbor nimbyism. Yet the Times attempted to compare this neighbor’s opposition to the thousands of community residents who joined with Goldstein in a multi-year struggle to stop the decimation of a residential community. The Times was so committed to falsely and maliciously portraying Goldstein as a hypocrite toward development that it highlighted its story on the front page of the national edition.

I’m sure Bruce Ratner and his buddies at the NY Times Corp. are having a good laugh over the story, but neither can ignore the fundamental truth: None of Forest City Ratner’s promises about jobs and affordable housing at Atlantic Yards have been implemented, and attacking Goldstein only remind readers of this record.


NoLandGrab: In fact, the opposition to the Atlantic Yards project has only landed on the front page of The Times twice — when Goldstein reached his settlement for compensation for his home after it was seized, and now this nonsense. And people wonder if the paper has an objectivity problem? Cancel our subscription.

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

Creators of Atlantic Yards film, Battle for Brooklyn, Talk Opening of Barclays Center, Jay-z, Corruption, and More (Pt. 2)

Runnin' Scared
by Jason Lewis

Yesterday we introduced you to Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, co-directors of the film Battle for Brooklyn.

The film follows Brooklyn apartment owner Daniel Goldstein and his fight to save his home from real estate developer Bruce Ratner and other powerful New York City figures and officials seeking to displace residents from their homes in order to make way for Ratner's Atlantic Yards development project.

Michael on hosting a free screening on the night of the debut concert event at the Barclays Center:

Michael: [The screening] starts at 8 p.m. and Jay-z goes on at about 10 p.m., so they can stop by and see it. What would happen is, they would enjoy the movie and they would enjoy Jay-z. No one is saying that Jay-z isn't incredibly talented, and I think he's pretty awesome at what he does. I don't think there's anyone better -- well there's a few people better. But, the point is, it's not us versus them, it's more of a having information versus not knowing.

There's going to be a certain amount of protest, but certainly not aimed at the people going to see Jay-z. It's really aimed at getting the media to pay attention to the fact that every promise was broken, and that the system is rigged against the average person. That's really what it's about. I have no problem with anyone going to see Jay-z. I have no problem with anyone going to see the Nets. I do want them to know what happened, so that when this kind of thing happens again, people will have a little bit more knowledge and a little bit more ability to make it better for the public.

Will you do something like this again?

Michael: Hell no! It almost killed us. We spent eight years on this project.

Suki: That shows why it was so difficult for the media to even begin to tell the story. It was very complex, complicated. It took eight years. It was just a difficult story, that's very hard to convey in an entertaining way. I felt like we did a pretty good job. Once again, we tried to more like Frank Capra than Michael Moore. In the sense that we wanted to tell a compelling story and a universal story rather than a political polemic.


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Ten Little Indians Style: Wings Aflame, Moths Around The Flame of Eminent Domain Abuse Find Themselves Crashing Out Of The Picture In Succession

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White sings a dirge for those perpetrators of Atlantic Yards who didn't make it to last week's arena ribbon-cutting.

It is happening in real life: They are dropping like flies! Remember the many “Ten Little Indians” films . . . quite a few remakes were made of the beloved yarn, derived from the Agatha Christie’s classic mystery tale? You remember the plot: A select little club of invitees (enticed for a frolic to a mysterious island) get picked off one by one and swiftly the ominousness and inevitable direction the scheme unfolding is understood by everyone, audience together with the crew of characters in the story itself: Pretty soon the group’s population is going to be brought to zero by the death-dispensing machinations of an unseen hand. Hence the other well known title for the story, “And Then There Were None.”

Spoiler Alert!: A key feature of the plot is that all of the doomed visitors had it coming, they all had previously been complicit in the deaths of others but escaped notice or punishment.

So it is with the cast of Atlantic Yards perpetrators. In real life they seem close to replicating what, although it was fun, seemed like a preposterously contrived plot!


Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Atlantic Yards – It’s A Crime! Events on September 26, 27, 28, 29

Brooklyn Was Promised Much More Than An Arena. As Barclays Center Opens, Series of Events Highlights Failures of Atlantic Yards and Demands for Change

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Click through for a full rundown of activities, which begin tonight with a screening of Battle for Brooklyn.


Related content..., Atlantic Yards Crime Scene Weekend


Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

An open letter to the New York Times Public Editor: when it comes to Atlantic Yards, the editor heading the Corrections desk denies reality

Atlantic Yards Report

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

On Saturday, Sept. 22, I attempted to get the New York Times to correct three clear, easily checkable errors in the upcoming Sept. 23 cover story in the Metropolitan section by Liz Robbins about the new Brooklyn arena, headlined In Brooklyn, Bracing for Hurricane Barclays.

I wrote to, among other people, Senior Editor in charge of Corrections Greg Brock, last month lauded by your predecessor as leading a "powerful engine of accountability."

My experience with Mr. Brock, unfortunately, has gone in the exact opposite direction: a tendency to downplay, disavow, and evade errors, coupled with a reflexive nastiness that is unworthy of that position.

The upshot: the uncorrected errors led to a less skeptical view of the controversial Atlantic Yards project than the facts would suggest.

Please take a look at this verbatim correspondence, augmented only by graphics and slight punctuation changes.


NoLandGrab: Seriously. The Times's reticence at correcting Atlantic Yards-related errors is warped, and embarrassing.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Times' Corrections Desk, Headed by Greg Brock, Denies Reality When It Comes to Atlantic Yards

The New York Times Company, which partnered with Forest City Ratner to use eminent domain to build its new headquarters, has a problem. They are, overall, soft on their former development partner, editorially in favor of their development partner, and they have a "corrections editor" who refuses to correct clear errors of fact—errors which consistently shine a better light on the developer than the facts would and that impugn project opponents.

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

September 25, 2012

A Treat Grows in Brooklyn

NY Observer, Editorial

The Observer should've quit while it was ahead.

The new Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn has become a reality after nearly a decade of discussion, debate, compromise—and hard work. The neighborhood, the borough and indeed the entire city will reap the project’s benefits for decades to come. Developer Bruce Ratner deserves congratulations for his determination and his vision, now realized.

The owner of the Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov, said the arena could become a milestone in Brooklyn history—like the famous bridge that bears the borough’s name. That claim might sound outlandish, but remember that the arena is part of a larger, even-more ambitious plan to redevelop Downtown Brooklyn. When the entire Atlantic Yards project is done, Mr. Prokhorov’s boast could easily become reality.

That's odd, 'cause they located the project in Prospect Heights.

The Barclays Center will get another burst of attention on Nov. 1, when the Nets play their first regular-season NBA game against the Knicks. But as the season wears on, attention will focus on the rest of Mr. Ratner’s vision. He plans to build a series of more than a dozen buildings on 22 acres surrounding the arena. Ground will soon be broken for a 32-story skyscraper that will be home to more than 350 apartments—and half of them will be reserved for tenants with low or moderate incomes.

We've been hearing the "ground will soon be broken" line for at least three years. And only a literal handful of the apartments planned for the first tower will be big enough, or cheap enough, for families earning the borough's median income.

The development will continue to create hundreds of construction jobs in the years to come, and when the project is complete, Downtown Brooklyn will have a new look and a new vibe.

That's too bad, because Ratner promised thousands of construction jobs, not hundreds, and when — or more accurately — if the project is completed, it'll still be in Prospect Heights.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Observer: A Treat Grows in Brooklyn (and forget our reporting)

Norman Oder points out that the Observer is run by a real estate magnate. Surprise, surprise.

Posted by eric at 10:51 PM

Crooked Kruger lobbyist names names for feds: Court docs

NY Post
by David Seifman and Bruce Golding

A longtime lobbyist who pleaded guilty to bribing crooked ex-pol Carl Kruger has been spilling his guts about “numerous other persons” under investigation by the feds, bombshell court papers revealed today.

Richard Lipsky “provided substantial assistance” related to “ongoing law-enforcement investigations” in a bid for leniency, according to the Manhattan federal court filing.

Prosecutor Glen McGorty didn’t identify any of the targets by name and redacted the details of Lipsky’s cooperation, but one political insider said the revelation would send tremors through City Hall and the Albany statehouse.

“Anyone who’s ever had any dealings with him is going to be nervous,” the insider said.

And nobody's had more dealings with Lipsky than Forest City Ratner.

Lipsky was busted by the FBI last year as part of what prosecutors called an “extensive investigation” into public corruption.

Days before his arrest, agents executing a search warrant found more than $100,000 stashed in a safe in his apartment, and another $4,000 in “crisp, large denominational bills” stuffed into a suit jacket.

During the raid, he also spoke on the phone to an unidentified “political operative” to spread the word that the feds had closed in, according to court papers.

Hmm, wonder who that could be?

Lipsky, whose clients included retailers and unions, portrayed himself as a fighter for the “little guy.”

Yes, little guys like Shorty Bruce Ratner.


Related coverage...

True News, FBI Has Kruger Lobbyist Talking - Pols Panic

Mr. Lipsky Was A Lobbyist for Bruce Ratner
Enjoy Your Tax Payer Stadium Opening Ratner

Posted by eric at 1:43 PM

Mayor’s Tale of Recovery Hasn’t Been Reality for Some

The New York Times

The only Times columnist to really take a pointed look at Forest City Ratner's Culture of Cheating does so again.

New York’s leaders and titans are a wonderfully self-congratulatory lot. To listen to them and watch their posturing, you might guess that the recession was a summer thunderhead long ago blown out to sea.

There’s the ubiquitous Bruce C. Ratner, the developer who convinced New Yorkers to deeply subsidize his new luxury arena in Downtown Brooklyn without so far having produced a single apartment of the affordable housing he promised. He draws loud cheers from the artisanal-cheese-munching, Russian-oligarch-digging, Jay-Z-loving, “Please, please boost my property values” set.

There are the college presidents, of Cornell and New York University and Columbia, competitive men about town who find themselves in a gold rush as they attempt to turn the East Village, Roosevelt Island and West Harlem into dormitories with sidewalks.

And there is, of course, our mayor, a billionaire of rapidly appreciating net worth, who felt compelled to travel to Washington to lecture Democrat and Republican alike on why they need to pay closer heed to New York City, where jobs flow like vintage cabernet.

The mayor’s claims would come as a revelation to Stephanie Rosario, 20, and Woodeleine Beaujour, 19, two young women strolling down Newkirk Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on Sunday. They appeared well shielded from the bright light of our economic miracle.


NoLandGrab: Nobody loves artisanal cheese more than we do, but you don't hear us cheering.

Related overage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Michael Powell: Bruce Ratner, One of the Self-Congratulatory Plutocracy

At least there is one columnist who gets that the most important stories are not about Daniel Goldstein being harassed by a neighbor. Michael Powell, keep at it.

Posted by eric at 1:26 PM

Culture of Cheating: the highly promoted but very elusive $15 Brooklyn Nets tickets; all gone, some ticket reps have claimed misleadingly

Atlantic Yards Report

Want a cheap seat to see the all-new Brooklyn Nets, the team that completed an astonishing makeover this past July? It won't be easy.

Though single-game tickets went on sale yesterday (after a pre-sale), none of the promised 2,000 $15 seats--a prime talking point for team boosters and a real contrast with the NBA rival Knicks--were available.

The best price was $22, plus an $8 service charge. For a family of four, that would be $120, plus any additional service charge.

Still, the promise sounds good. The Daily News recently reported that "Two-thousand seats costing $15 have been set aside for sale on game day."

Actually, the amount set aside is far more fuzzy, since some seats have been sold as season tickets. Also, during the push to sell season tickets--now topping 10,000, a real jump for the team--some fans were told by ticket reps that the cheap seats were sold out.

Those tickets were seemingly off the table even before majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov opened his wallet by trading for Joe Johnson and re-signing Deron Williams (now dubbed "Brooklyn's Backcourt"), and otherwise shaking off the curse of New Jersey.

Such misleading tactics represent another example of the Culture of Cheating behind Atlantic Yards and the Barclays Center.


Posted by eric at 1:21 PM

Skip the Entertainment, Groups Want Jobs and Housing from Atlantic Yards

MetroFocus []
by Georgia Kral

The Barclays Center is built. The ribbon has been cut. To open the Brooklyn arena, none other than Jay-Z (also an investor in the home-team Brooklyn Nets) is playing eight shows starting Friday night — and they’re all sold out.

While much of New York City and the region hears the cheers emanating from the offices of elected officials like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the neighborhood groups that have long questioned the Atlantic Yards development, a larger project of which the Barclays Center is just one piece, continue to cry foul.

“We want to make sure nobody forgets how this project came to be,” said Daniel Goldstein, the founder of the anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), speaking for members of his group. “In our minds, this project to date is a failure.”


Posted by eric at 1:09 PM

Creators of Atlantic Yards film, Battle for Brooklyn, Talk Opening of Barclays Center, Jay-z, Corruption, and More (Pt. 1)

Runnin' Scared
by Jason Lewis

With the opening concert at the Barclays Center slated for Friday, we caught up with Michael Galinksy and Suki Hawley, creators of the critically-acclaimed film, Battle for Brooklyn.

In a two-part interview, the Voice brings you a series of excerpts from our conversation with Michael and Suki as they gear-up for a free-screening of their movie up-the-street on from the Jay-z Concert on Friday night.

What's your response to Bruce Ratner calling the film all lies in a recent New Yorker Magazine article?

Michael: It's disconcerting that someone who has that much access to power can make a statement like that - that continues the narrative that somehow the movie is untrue. When in fact, everything in it was fact checked. We made so sure that there wasn't anything out place. So to call it all lies, or to declare that Dan Goldstein is lying, is kind of surreal really.

Suki: It's very surreal, but also from a PR perspective, it makes sense. What I find surreal is that New York Magazine just printed that without any kind of rebuttal or any chance for the writer to take a look at the film and decide for himself. Instead he referred to Ratner as a mensch for even considering Dan a formidable opponent.

Michael on what viewers can expect from the film:

Michael: People haven't seen it, and they hear this thing about it being all lies or whatever. The truth is, it is very much It's a Wonderful Life. It's more of a Frank Capra Film than a Michael Moore film. It's a movie...there's not a lot of facts, there's not a lot of figures. There's very little that could be held up, even possibly, as a lie. That's what's so disconcerting about that kind of statement being taken at face value.


NoLandGrab: Here's our offer to Bruce Ratner — we're happy to give you space on this blog to elucidate for our readers what's not true in the film. What's that? We can't hear you. Yeah, we thought so.

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

September 24, 2012

Weekend of Events Spotlight Unfulfilled Promises at Arena

Civic News
by David Herman

With the Barclays Center arena ready to open on Sept. 28, a wide range of community groups have organized “It’s a Crime” weekend, a series of events that will draw attention to promises far from fulfilled on the surrounding Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Rather than protest the arena itself, the multiple events that kick off on Thurs., Sept. 27, will highlight what New York State, New York City, and developer Forest City Ratner Companies promised to the people of Brooklyn, and address what has to be done now to ensure critically needed jobs, affordable housing, and other public benefits are delivered.

Events for the “It’s a Crime” weekend include:

  • Thurs., Sept. 27, 7 p.m.: a candlelight vigil with Brooklyn clergy, elected officials, and community organizations to remember people and families displaced by the Atlantic Yards project’s use of eminent domain, as well as recognize those at risk of displacement today. Gathering point will be close to the arena entrance, at Pacific Bears Community Garden, corner of Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street. Click here for more information on exact meeting location.
  • Fri., Sept. 28 (arena opening day): 11 a.m., press conference at Barclays Center, in front of the Pacific Bears Community Garden; 12- 4 p.m., popup actions all around Barclays Center; 5 p.m., a virtual rally (tweet #BarclaysCenter and @AYCrimeScene for housing and jobs now); 8 p.m., free outdoor screening of the documentary Battle For Brooklyn at the Dean Playground Ball Field, just half a block from the arena (Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton Avenues)
  • Sat., Sept. 29: 6-8 p.m., opening reception for photographer Tracy Collins’ exhibit, “Atlantic Yards: Deconstructed,” at the Soapbox Gallery, 636 Dean St. The exhibit traces the “on the ground” impacts of the development over the past nine years through photography, video, and other media.

For more information on these and other activities, head to the AY Crime Scene website.


Posted by eric at 8:46 PM

Ratner and Prokhorov's Arena is Built for a Bank, Not Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Some of the press gets it. Barclays Center was built for a bank, a scandal ridden one at that, and one which Mark Jacobson describes thusly in his excellent NY Mag cover story, "The Nets are owned by a Russian oligarch and will play in an arena named for a bank (which reportedly paid $200 million for the naming rights) whose senior officials in France voluntarily handed over names of its Jewish employees to the ­Nazis, a hedge just in case the Germans won the war. Oh, yeah, let's go bang a thunderstick for them."


NoLandGrab: Yay, team?

Posted by eric at 8:02 PM

Times jumps on year-old story: Goldstein's the heavy because of legal home renovation (and what about violations of construction protocols in building arena?)

Atlantic Yards Report

As we were saying...

Norman Oder's take is worth republishing in full.

Almost a year ago, the Daily News published a tabloid-y article equating Atlantic Yards foe Daniel Goldstein's as-of-right home expansion project, which angered his immediate neighbors, with Goldstein's opposition to the mega-development that used eminent domain, public subsidies, and other governmental help.

Gothamist and the Observer were more sober in their follow-ups, the former getting Goldstein's neighbor-to-be to admit she said she hoped his house burned down.

Today, as if payback for the more-skeptical-than-previous (but still too gentle) Sunday article on Atlantic Yards, the New York Times publishes another version of the story, headlined For an Old Foe of Atlantic Yards, a Smaller-Scale Battle, portraying Goldstein as the heavy.

The comments so far either suggest Goldstein is a hypocritical NIMBY or, as one wrote:

Just because Ratner built the Times' new HQ, does that mean it needs to do his dirty work and trash his enemies for no obvious reason?

It strikes me as a dubious use of Times resources--but perhaps a path of least resistance--to focus on this story rather than the more important story of repeated, blatant, documented violations (with no penalties and little enforcement) of construction protocols and truck rules regarding the construction of the Barclays Center.

Fun with photo angles

From the article posted today/Robert Stolarik for NY Times

It also strikes me as a rather irresponsible decision to choose a photo shot from the perspective of someone's foot; that skews our view of the addition. 

By contrast, the Times regularly publishes architectural renderings that provide an unrealistic "hovercraft" or "helicopter" view--it's done so more than once regarding Atlantic Yards.

NY Times 9/28/10


Posted by eric at 7:28 PM

Culture of Cheating: the hollowness of the Atlantic Yards CBA, as chair (and lead speaker of events) runs organization that does nothing about construction impacts (despite obligations)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), more than seven years in, may be a "work in progress," as CBA Coalition Chair Delia Hunley-Adossa acknowledged at the Barclays Center ribbon-cutting event Sept. 21, but she pointed to recent results, such as helping get locals hired for the arena and beginning the process of distributing free arena tickets.

Still, it was a glaring irony that Hunley-Adossa spoke at this event, given that her organization, the obliquely named Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, is supposed to address environmental issues regarding project construction, and has done precisely nothing in the face of repeated, glaring, documented (photos, video) violations of construction protocols.

In other words, the document, which on paper is supposed to provide community safeguards, instead was turned into a vehicle to generate community support, with Hunley-Adossa, who distinguished herself MCing project rallies, the most obvious exemplar. It's another example of the Culture of Cheating.

I had written that the CBA gives BEE nothing to do, stating, "Therefore, the Developer shall be in compliance with this Agreement by following the state mandated [environmental] process."

That's not quite true since BEE's precursor, the CBA signatory, was to establish a "Committee on Environmental Assurance to address short- and long-term environmental issues that may affect the surrounding community," as noted by a consultant's recent report on the numerous failures to safeguard the community.

That committee has never been announced. Nor has the promised Independent Compliance Monitor to oversee CBA implementation been hired. Nor has BEE done anything about project impacts (though it apparently has run The Basketball, Reading Literacy and Health Program). Hunley-Adossa has no listed qualifications to run an organization concerned with the environment.


Posted by eric at 4:22 PM

9/26, 7pm: 2 Days Before Barclays Center Opens, "Battle for Brooklyn" Screens in Park Slope

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

From the Park Slope Patch:

Filmwax presents BROOKLYN RECONSTRUCTED: Battle For Brooklyn

Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 7:00 pm

The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
53 Prospect Park W, Brooklyn, NY | Get Directions »
$5.00 suggested donation

With the Barclays Center set to open on 2 days later on September 28th, Filmwax's screening of BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN is all the more poignant. The Filmwax series, BROOKLYN RECONSTRUCTED, continues with its 4th screening of this very important documentary.


Posted by eric at 4:12 PM

Operating engineers again protesting outside the Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

They brought about two dozen people for an informational protest--not a picket line--for the Sept. 21 Barclays Center ribbon-cutting, but this morning brought what seemed to be a few dozen more. About 20 jobs are at stake.


NoLandGrab: Where's the giant inflatable Ratner?

Photo: AYInfoNyc

Posted by eric at 3:23 PM

Up Close: Atlantic Yards Project


Tish James and DDDB's Candace Carponter offer a little reality to offset Marty Marowitz's fantasy version of Atlantic Yards and the Barclays Center.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In rebuttal to Markowitz, CM James and DDDB's Carponter appear on Channel 7

Would you ever set foot into that arena, asked Williams.

James said, "I was invited [to the opening], and I respectfully declined. I want to hold true to my principles." She then segued into campaign mode, saying she wanted to "make sure we can address the poverty we continue to see in the city of New York and provide jobs..." I suspect she may have to leave herself an out to visit the building.

"I'll never go there," Carponter said. "And it's heartbreaking to me, I understand its important to a lot of people in Brooklyn. For me, what's more important... to allow the project to go forward the way it's designed at this point is just wrong... What we hope is they allow more developers to come in... so whatever gets built gets built a little more organically, a little less high rise, more open space... certainly lots more affordable housing."

Of course there's a tension there too, because Forest City Ratner argues that only by building big can they build the subsidized housing.

Posted by eric at 3:07 PM

Markowitz has his (wrong) mantra: Atlantic Yards area "not a bedroom community" (and project will be a "masterpiece of urban planning")

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz sure has chutzpah. His latest mantra, repreated in at least three interviews, is that those living near the Barclays Center arena, or displaced, should not be complaining. In the 9/21/12 Crain's New York Business, he declared:

"Time will soothe ruffled feathers," he said. "I do not believe this is a bedroom community."

In the comments, Dean Street resident Tracy Collins replied, with links:

Literally right across Dean Street and 6th Avenue from the arena are many actual bedrooms.

What Markowitz ignores is that the state overrode city zoning barring sports facilities from within 200 feet of residential districts.

Click through for more analysis of Markowitz's rantings to New York Magazine and WABC's Diana Williams.


Posted by eric at 2:52 PM


What does the Brooklyn of the new Barclays Center have to do with the Brooklyns that came before it? A native son walks among the ghosts.

New York Magazine
by Mark Jacobson

This week’s big Brooklyn branding moment is the opening of 18,200-seat Barclays Center, which will begin its run with over a week of performances by the Marcy projects’ favorite son, Jay-Z. There was some New-Old Brooklyn symmetry to that. In the early nineties, not counting the Pepper and Potter car dealership (“Picky People Pick Pepper and Potter”) and the Dime Savings Bank sign on which the E was always burned out, the first thing the Brooklyn traveler saw upon exiting the Manhattan Bridge was a billboard for Kool G Rap’s current knowledge drop, Live and Let Die. The poster featured a pair of men hanging by the neck as other thugs in ski masks fed what looked like slices of pizza to Rottweilers—like, welcome to the BK, baby!

This was when Jay-Z was still Shawn Carter, going to school on Kool G Rap’s multisyllabic rhyming technique. Amazing how far a brother can go in this land of milk and honey if he manages not to get shot or put in jail. The synergetic J not only “inspired” the ambience of Barclays Center’s premier luxury suites, the Vault ($550,000 per year apiece, with a three-year minimum purchase), but he is also credited with helping design the stark black-and-white branding logo for the arena’s lead tenant, the Brooklyn Nets.

“Jay-Z’s design is the Brooklyn Brand!” declared Marty Markowitz, the blustery borough president, whose main claim to fame may be that any Brooklyn comic, living or dead, can “do” him in their sleep. Jay-Z’s logo was “the absolute distillation of the borough’s ability to charm you off your feet and be in your face at the same time,” Markowitz proclaimed. “Simple, classy, and tough, with a big B in the middle. It says: Brooklyn! Everyone understands that.”

Well, maybe not everyone. By the thrum of the BQE, a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect peered up at a large billboard done up in the Jay-Z design featuring a picture of Joe Johnson, the Nets’ recently acquired shooting guard. “Hello Brooklyn,” the ad said. “I’m No. 7, Joe Johnson … six-time NBA all-star and lifelong Razorback.”

“Vat is this razorback?” asked the Satmar, furry shtreimel on his head in the August heat. Given the answer, he said, “Trayf from Arkansas, this is basketball, this is Brooklyn?”


Posted by eric at 2:29 PM

For Former Opponent of Atlantic Yards, a Smaller-Scale Battle

The New York Times
by Elizabeth A. Harris

Perhaps needing to make up with its development partner for a reasonably reported — and therefore damning — story on the Barclays Center ribbon-cutting, The Times discovers a year after everyone else that Daniel Goldstein bought a new home.

Since last year, however, Mr. Goldstein has been at the nexus of some far more localized real estate tension. He has been building an extension on the back of his new home in South Park Slope, and from the very start, relations with both of his next-door neighbors have been bumpy.

It began in the backyard, when one neighbor, Kathryn Roake, saw Mr. Goldstein’s architect through the fence and was told the plans. According to Mr. Goldstein, the conversation concluded with Ms. Roake saying she hoped that his house burned down.

Not everyone is a sociopath, though.

Many people on the block have no problem with Mr. Goldstein’s extension. Nancy Carpenter, who, along with her husband, bought Ms. Frost’s home, said she was excited for the new neighbors to move in. Ms. Carpenter fears, however, that the Barclays Center will overwhelm its neighborhood, and she called Mr. Goldstein’s campaigning against the project “honorable.”


Posted by eric at 2:13 PM

The Barclays Center: Built for a Bank, Not for Brooklyn or the Nets

NY Observer
by Kit Dillon

The Observer doesn't buy the hype.

Welcome to the grand opening of the Barlcays Center—through the Calvin Klein VIP entrance, past the American Express box office and into the Geico atrium—the sometimes home of the Brooklyn Nets. Because in truth, this is the bank’s home and everybody else are its guests. Today it is the press corps’ turn, and we have been welcomed in the grandest of style. Fresh orange juice, hot quiche and chocolate-covered strawberries abound, though none of the twee Brooklyn food that will soon be sold at the very Brooklyn concession stands.

As one reporter mentioned to another, “Remember the good ol’ days?” Would that be when Brooklyn had a team or when journalists could afford their own meals, or even a few sweet years ago, when this was still a hole in the ground, neighbor fought neighbor and the banks were booming?

But it was Charles Ratner, the chairman of Cleveland’s own Forest City Enterprises and cousin of the man behind the Barclays Center, Bruce Ratner, who thanked Barclays most openly for being so steadfast a partner even in these difficult economic times. “Can’t say enough about Barclays bank,” he crowed. One can only imagine that it is easier to remain steadfast in troubling economic times when you’re helping to manipulate international interest rates.

Singlehandedly bringing hope back to Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner declared, “Championships will be won here!” He does know which team he bought, right?


NoLandGrab: Let them eat [a Barclays Center] cake!

Photo: Kit Dillon/NY Observer

Posted by eric at 1:54 PM

Yet One More Bald-Faced Lie From Bruce Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The NY Times' article, "In Brooklyn, Bracing for Hurricane Barclays" has an accompanying slideshow, which includes a photo of Bruce Ratner in his arena with this caption:

Bruce C. Ratner, the chairman and chief executive of Forest City Ratner Companies, which built the New York Times' Midtown headquarters, is proud of the arena. "We have changed the landscape, we will have created a beautiful work of art, and created a place for entertainment and sports that will be wonderful for generations," he said. "Our biggest critics complained that the arena wasn't built. Now that the arena is done, they switched to something else."

Mr. Ratner must think we are all idiots, because that is an absurd, bald-faced lie.

Our biggest complaint is that his project is a corrupt land grab. And the fact that many community organizations (not including the ones that partnered with Ratner in the bogus Community Benefits Agreement) are attempting to hold him accountable for the broken promises of 10,000 permanent jobs and 2,250 affordable housing units.

We can assure Bruce that one complaint he's never heard from us is that the arena wasn't built. Quite the opposite.


NoLandGrab: "The delirious Bruce Ratner."

Posted by eric at 1:44 PM

In Brooklyn, Bracing for Hurricane Barclays

The New York Times
by Liz Robbins

They talk about it as if it were a force of nature.

“We’re bracing ourselves, almost like hurricane preparedness, where you go out and tape the windows and buy the candles and you are not sure if it’s going to come — and if it does, if it’s ever going to get back to normal,” said Susan Doban, an architect who lives with her family on Bergen Street in Park Slope.

“It’s like a volcano,” said Lenny Goodstein, taking a break from renovating his brownstone in Prospect Heights. “We don’t know where the lava is going to land.”

For some, the uncertainty is almost apocalyptic. “It’s the end of the community as we know it,” said Michelle de la Uz, the director of a nonprofit housing organization in Brooklyn, “and the beginning of something new. What that ‘new’ is, we don’t yet understand.”

On Friday, the Barclays Center arena, wedged into the borough’s busiest intersection like a giant, rusty bread basket, will open after nine years of operatic disputation and delays: community lawsuits over New York State’s ability to seize private land and over the developer’s obligations; the collapse of the real estate market; the replacement of a star architect; the rescue from a Russian oligarch; racial friction; rats; traffic; and unfulfilled promises.

Into this den of contention move the Brooklyn Nets, a professional basketball team (with its own pockmarked past) that once again gives the borough a reason to cheer.

Amid the festivities, though, the arena stands as an island, a reminder of what is missing. The 16 surrounding towers — primarily residential — that were originally planned by the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, for the 22-acre, $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project have yet to be built. The 10,000 or so jobs promised have not materialized. Of the 2,250 affordable housing units pledged out of 6,300, only 181 are planned for a first tower, and ground for the building has yet to be broken.


Photo: Victor J. Blue/The New York Times

Related coverage...

The New York Times, Ready or Not

Prospect Heights Patch, Barclays Center Opens With Pride and Protests

NY Daily News, Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center opens for business with a ribbon-cutting ceremony

Crain's NY Business, Mayor: With Barclays, Brooklyn has 'arrived'

NoLandGrab: Huh? Sure, Mike, Brooklyn didn't earn the "tres" label until we got this rusty hunk of boondoggle.

NY Daily News, Brooklyn Nets finally feel at home as Bruce Ratner cuts ribbon and Mikhail Prokhorov basks in opening of Barclays Center

Meadowlands Matters [], Musings on the Barclays Center ribbon-cutting ceremony, inside and out

Grantland, Brooklyn's Barclays Center Opens for Business (and Basketball)

Architizer, It Really Got Built! A Grand Opening For Brooklyn’s Barclays Center

Can't Stop The Bleeding, Monument To Bruce Ratner’s Avarice & Greed, Stil Not Universally Embraced

Gideon's Trumpet, The Atlantic Yards Redevelopment — An Arena for the Nets But Not Much for Anybody Else

The Atlantic Yards redevelopment project thus bids fair to join the list of other manifestly private projects that were poorly disguised as “public uses” for which private land was taken by eminent domain, only to fail either altogether or by producing something different than what the cities and the redeveloper-clients promised the voters and sold to judges.

Reason Hit & Run, Reason TV Replay: Billionaires vs. Brooklyn's Best Bar: Eminent Domain Abuse & The Atlantic Yards Project

After nine years, numerous lawsuits, and one egregious case of eminent domain abuse, Brooklyn's Barclays Center officially opened on Friday. Two years ago Reason TV covered the neighborhood's fight against the stadium and talked with the owners of Freddy's bar about their efforts to save their business.

amNewYork, Barclays center expected to have huge opening despite polarizing boro

New York Amsterdam News, An arena's grown in Brooklyn

Gib Veconi, treasurer of the Prospect Heights Development Council, spoke with the AmNews after the protesters held a news conference of their own. He had something to say to those who file Ratner's baby under the label of capitalism.

"It's not capitalism when the public money is being spent," said Veconi. "Capitalism is using my money to build something. Not using your money. The public put $300 million of direct aid into this project...Not only that, but the value of the tax-exempt bonds, the value of the zoning overrides, the value of the other tax breaks that the project has received, it runs into billions of dollars." Veconi said that money could've been better used to help with job creation or housing.

"The people have a right to be outraged," Veconi said.

The Brooklyn Paper, It’s open! Ceremonial ribbon-cutting marks Barclays Center debut

“Brooklyn has arrived,” Bloomberg said. “It’s a great day.”

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Hoopla in the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn

The New York Times, Editorial

With an official ribbon-cutting on Friday, Brooklyn celebrated the opening of a lavish sports and entertainment center featuring the Brooklyn Nets (formerly of New Jersey). This is generally good news for the borough and the city. It elevates what had been an underdeveloped area into a vibrant hub for basketball fans, shoppers and followers of such superstars as Jay-Z, who owns a club in the complex. For an older generation, the arrival of a major-league sports team may help fill the emptiness left by the departure of the Dodgers for Los Angeles in 1957.

Amid all the razzle-dazzle, however, it is worth reminding residents as well as the Barclays Center developer of promises made nine years ago. Forest City Ratner Companies, which is building the $4.9 billion project, originally sold the city on the arena plan because it would provide at least 2,250 affordable apartments, 8 acres of open space in the 22-acre project and 10,000 jobs.

Company officials said this week that they would, at some point, make good on those promises. The recession and numerous lawsuits from opponents have slowed down their progress, according to MaryAnne Gilmartin, an executive vice president of the company.

On Friday, Bruce Ratner, chairman of the development company, announced that he would break ground on the first of 14 residential buildings in December. The first building is supposed to offer 181 units of affordable rental apartments, which leaves more than 2,000 affordable units to be finished by 2031.

In some ways, it feels as though the developers got their dessert first — the splendid arena that will draw crowds and superstars starting on Friday night. Now for the meat and potatoes.


Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

September 23, 2012

The Times takes a balanced-ish look at "Hurricane Barclays," but still significant omissions (like construction violations, Ratner on timetable)

Atlantic Yards Report

Given the general press cheerleading for the Barclays Center, as well as the New York Times's pattern, in news coverage, of leaning toward the developer's narrative, it's somewhat refreshing to see a more balanced article on the front of the Metropolitan section today, headlined In Brooklyn, Bracing for Hurricane Barclays.

In fact, the article implicitly (and belatedly) demolishes the dangerously fanciful formulation that the Times peddled in the fall of 2005, that "the project's seemingly inexorable movement suggests that Mr. [Bruce] Ratner is creating a new and finely detailed modern blueprint for how to nourish - and then harvest - public and community backing for a hugely ambitious development."

Today's piece even includes the now-infrequent disclosure that Forest City Ratner "built The New York Times’s headquarters in Midtown Manhattan."

At the same time, even this 2,700-word article can't capture some of the nuances in the controversy, and there are both gaps and errors that obscure what I call the Culture of Cheating.

One small but important one: the Barclays Center arena is portrayed as occupying the triangle serving as its plaza. Actually, the arena occupies most of the space between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue (see schematic at top of blog). This isn't the first time the Times has gotten the map wrong.

Omissions worth noting:

  • no mention of the repeated construction and traffic violations documented on camera by Atlantic Yards Watch and a consultant's report (and papered over by Ratner)
  • no explanation of how the state agreed to give Forest City Ratner 25 years to build the project, rather than the promised ten, how the state held back official documents in a lawsuit (it and FCR eventually lost) over the timetable, and how Ratner claimed ten years “was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in”
  • no mention of the community request for a "Neighborhood Protection Plan" modeled on the Wrigley Field example
  • no mention that the state overrode city zoning prohibiting sports facilities within 200 feet of residential districts


NoLandGrab: The New York Times article could be called pretty good coverage of the Atlantic Yards project -- if it had been done when it might have made a difference as to whether a new Nets arena would be built.

Posted by steve at 10:39 PM

September 21, 2012

Before the Barclays Center ribbon-cutting, a protest casts harsh light on Atlantic Yards' broken promises (though most media steer clear)

Atlantic Yards Report

The elaborately staged Barclays Center ribbon-cutting event this morning, a testament to political power, corporate might, legal muscle, and significant chops regarding architecture, design, and construction--and, I'd contend, the "Culture of Cheating"-- drew a huge media crowd for what was more a celebration than anything else.

But the loyal opposition--a coalition of five organizations, best-known of which is Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB)--was there to protest the broken promises regarding jobs and affordable housing and to remind people how the deal got done. In other words, the ground sure has shifted, but there are still grounds to not forget.

The 8:15 a.m. protest initially gathered catercorner to the arena at the northeast corner of Atlantic and South Portland avenues, but moved across the street to the sidewalk outside the arena. Some 40 local residents and "bobblehead" figures representing the project's powerbrokers cast harsh light on Atlantic Yards, though, as the Record's John Brennan observed, "with a line already building, most media members kept their spots rather than get close to the 'performance art."

Indeed, as Brennan suggested, there was some loss of energy compared to the March 2010 groundbreaking; I think that's not only because of the indubitable fact of the arena, but also because too much of the press has lost interest.


Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Posted by eric at 10:20 PM

The LIBOR Fixer Center (aka Barclays Center) Ribbon Cutting

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The Land Grab Players present the LIBOR Fixer Center (aka Barclays Center) Ribbon Cutting:


Posted by eric at 10:07 PM

Political Turnout for Barclays Center Ribbon Cutting Pretty Pathetic

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

So, Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards, right Markowitz? And it has widespread political support? Right?

Wrong. Besides Bloomberg and Marty Markowitz, and Lieutentant Governor Duffy (not even Gov. Status Cuomo would show his own face, on this the day that Brooklyn "arrived," as Mayor Bloomberg declared at the ribbon cutting), the only Brooklyn elected officials that came to the hoopla ceremony at the Barclays LIBOR Fixer Center were:

Assemblymembers Lentol, Camara and Brook-Krasny, Senator Golden, and Councilmembers Vann, Gentile, Recchia, Mealy.

Eight Brooklyn elected officials. In a borough of 2.6 million.

Pretty telling wouldn't you say?


NoLandGrab: Here's the latest Vegas line on the chances of these Assembly and Council members ending up indicted. Lentol, 7-1. Camara, 4-1. Brook-Krasny, 8-1. Golden, 5-2. Vann, 4-1. Gentile, 6-1. Recchia, 2-1. Mealy, 8-1.

Posted by eric at 9:59 PM

Video: The Barclays Center Opens

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Michael Galinsky

Protesters and politicians gathered at the Barclays Center this morning for the arena’s formal ribbon-cutting and Michael Galinsky, filmmaker and contributor to The Local, captured the scene on camera.

Mr. Galinsky is one of the co-directors of “Battle for Brooklyn,” a documentary which examines Atlantic Yards project development and the local opposition to it.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Battle for Brooklyn director's take on arena ribbon-cutting, with animated Markowitz in an interview

The video gives a flavor of the arena interior, shiny and new and getting high marks, as well as the animated, and almost-frothing Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

"It was the right thing to do for Brooklyn and New York," he declares. "I never ever, for one moment, no matter what names I was called, no matter the disgusting, despicable emails and letters and personal, direct innuendos that I had to read over the years, no matter what, that was yesterday, this is today. Done! It's over. Here it is, it's open, it's gone." He claps his hands. "You can look for all the controversy you want--I look for the beautiful things."

NoLandGrab: Stay crazy, Marty.

Posted by eric at 9:44 PM

Operating engineers protest arena ribbon-cutting, saying Ratner affiliate has failed to negotiate

Atlantic Yards Report

About two dozen members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 30, gathered this morning outside the Barclays Center, for an informational protest, not asking anyone to honor a picket line.

Union business rep Bill Lynn said members work at other sports facilities and entertainment venues and manage machinery such as refrigeration equipment, but the arena has refused to negotiate with the union. About 20 jobs are at stake.

"They're looking to try and hire workers and not talk to the union that would represent them," Lynn said, adding that he didn't know whether the workers would be non-union or represented by a different union.

"What they're looking to do is offer substandard wages and benefits," he posited, suggesting that he didn't even think that Bruce Ratner knew what an offshoot of his company was doing. The union is headquartered in Richmond Hill, Queens, but the majority of the people he brought, said Lynn, were from Brooklyn.


Photo: Tracy Collins

Posted by eric at 9:38 PM

Photos from the Barclays Center event: the triumphant trio; scrolling thanks, "neighborhood" food, and a CBA tribute

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posted a handful of photographic round-ups of today's arena desecration dedication.


Photo: Nancy Seisel

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Approaching the Barclays Center for the ribbon-cutting event: photos

Atlantic Yards Report, The Barclays Center exterior: finished from one angle, not quite from another

Posted by eric at 9:29 PM

Barclays Center Opponents Protest Arena With Derisive Mock Ribbon-Cutting

by Aaron Marks

This morning, protestors gathered outside the Barclays Center to stage an alternate ribbon cutting ceremony, airing grievances that the Atlantic Yards project has broken its promises of jobs and affordable housing. In lieu of rally cries and speeches, the protestors opted for a slightly different tactic: theater. Indeed, nothing brings the rich and powerful to their knees like ACTING.

With their faces hidden behind two-foot high glossy masks of politicians, the protestors appeared more like a theater troupe than pitchfork mob. Shouts of, "Is anybody wearing Cuomo? Who wants to be Paterson, it's a non-speaking part!" emerged from the pit of around thirty community organizers, who presented a short play satirizing the politics and back room deals which helped build the Barclays center, scheduled to open today.

While their approach may have been non-traditional, the issues they protested are serious. We've known since last year that Atlantic Yards would not be as job friendly as initially promised: Only around 100 out of a promised 1,500 jobs were created for local Brooklynites. But if jobs weren't created, at least the project would be building affordable housing for Brooklyn families, right?



Posted by eric at 2:53 PM

2012 Barclays Center Arena Ribbon Cutting

threecee via flickr


Posted by eric at 2:41 PM

Culture of Cheating: how state agency withheld document giving Forest City Ratner 25 years to build Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

A good reminder that without heaping helpings of corruption and subterfuge, the Barclays Center would have never been built.

This updates and distills an article posted 4/13/12.

After the March 2010 Barclays Center groundbreaking, Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica commented, "It was a hustle in broad daylight by Caring Bruce Ratner from the start."

The hustle wouldn't have worked without help from Forest City Ratner's partner in government, the Empire State Development Corporation, aka Empire State Development (ESD). It as clear an example of the Culture of Cheating as any.

ESD had recently completed a clever, devious move, withholding the Development Agreement for Atlantic Yards, thus obscuring a project timetable that gave Forest City 25 years to build the project, rather than the long-promised ten years.

Now courts have said definitively that the ESD chose expediency over candor, in order to get Atlantic Yards re-approved in 2009 and to enable that groundbreaking. Now a supplementary environmental review is necessary.

Moral victory

However little the decision may change things on the ground, it's a moral victory and an important message about honest government and the lack thereof.


Posted by eric at 2:27 PM

Officials Mark Completion Of Barclays Center At Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

CBS New York

After much delay, officials marked the completion of the Barclays Center at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it “a great day for Brooklyn and a great day for New York City,” while Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov promised a top-notch product for Brooklyn’s new hard court.

I can assure you: we are bringing a team worthy of this great arena and worthy of Brooklyn,” Prokhorov said.

We've been assured of a lot of things, and we expect the same result from Prokhorov's assurances. Speaking of which...

Demonstrators from the group Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn held a protest at Friday’s ceremony.

They claim Ratner has not followed through on promises to provide good jobs and cheap apartments to residents displaced by the mega-project.

"Claim?" It's not a "claim." It's fact.


Mounted police delivering horse s**t to augment bulls**t being served up to media (Photo: Jonathan Barkey)

Related coverage...

ESPN New York, Mikhail Prokhorov vows title sooner

Later, he added that "I still expect a championship within three years." When he bought the team in 2009, Prokhorov said the Nets would win a championship in five years.

AP via, Brooklyn has its own pro team again with opening of Barclays Center

Cue the Dodgers faux-nostalgia...

The Nets will be the borough's first big-time sports team since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles 55 years ago.

That departure is still a sore point for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was a boy at the time the Dodgers left town.

AP via Time, Decades Later, Brooklyn Has Its Own Pro Team

It was like a death in the family for Brooklyn baseball fans when their beloved Dodgers left the borough behind in 1957 for the California coast.

Times were grim for Brooklyn back then. Residents were leaving en masse for the suburbs. Crime was on the rise. And there was little hope that the borough’s plight would improve.

“When the Dodgers left, it was another punch in the face to the fact that Brooklyn’s best days may not be ahead, but may have been behind us,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was 12 years old at the time. “It was depressing.”

"Depressing?" Not nearly as depressing as Bruce Ratner getting away with a subsidy-stuffed land grab. Not by a long shot.

Bleacher Report, Exploring the Barclays Center and New Home of the Brooklyn Nets

The Barclays Center emerges from the corners of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues like a hulking ship moored on an urban island, surrounded on all sides by steady flows of two-way traffic.

Like many New Yorkers, I was waiting for something more to be done with the building’s façade, but have since grown to embrace the Center’s off-color aesthetics.

CNBC, New Arena, New Brand: NBA's ‘Brooklyn’ Nets Are Cool

Brett Yormark know he can always count on CNBC...

"Jay and I collaborate on a lot of different things," said Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets and the Barclays Center. Yormark admits, he actually has him on speed dial.

What's cooler than that?

Gothamist, Sneak Peek: Barclays Center Opens Today

Posted by eric at 1:48 PM

Protest Planned Prior to Barclay’s Ribbon Cutting Today

Only The Blog KNows Brooklyn

This morning is the official ribbon cutting and press tour of the Barclay’s Center, that big rusty waffle iron of an arena that was built on Atlantic Avenue in the site of the former Atlantic Yards.

Prior to that event, at 8:15 am (at 669 Atlantic Avenue) members of a consortium of Brooklyn community organizations that opposed the arena will display giant bobbleheads of Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, Borough President Markowitz, Bruce Ratner, Mikhail Prokhorov, and Senator Schumer.

In effect, these community groups including Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Brown Community Development Corporation, BrooklynSpeaks, Fifth Avenue Committee, are creating an alternate ribbon cutting ceremony and press conference.

Of course it’s too late to try to prevent the arena which is built and ready to open. But it is pertinent to vocally protest the many unfulfilled promises, among them affordable housing and local jobs.


Posted by eric at 1:22 PM

is the barclays center a crime scene?

Gates + Throop

Info compiled by Fort Greene Peace!

As you all know the Barclays Center Arena is opening at the end of this month. There are several events happening under the banner “It’s A Crime!” to raise awareness of the unmet promises of real affordable housing (2,250 promised and none built), living wage jobs (10,000 promised and none delivered), and end to the secret deals and the use of eminent domain for the benefit of the wealthy developers.

Fort Greene Peace will be helping to spread the word at the Farmers’ Market and the BAM Block Party on Saturday. If you can help out with an hour or two or more please let us know at


Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

No Land Grab to cease regular publishing next week: clearinghouse for news was aimed at fighting Atlantic Yards, not watchdogging it: the "switch" has arrived

Atlantic Yards Report

See, Norman Oder is filling the void we're about to create already.

I and others relied on NLG to be the complete archive of Atlantic Yards-related news, and I know others relied on NLG for summaries of my often detailed posts.

I can hardly blame McClure, who shouldered most of the work in recent years, for deciding not to become an archive of the flood of Barclays Center-related news.

I will likely do more round-ups in the future, but will not aim to be comprehensive.

Why did I not shut the blog down, I've been asked, when the construction of the Barclays Center began in 2010? Because the blog was not about "stopping" the arena, it's about looking at a complicated, challenging, and ever-changing story, and trying to hold those in power accountable.

Is the blog sustainable? Not in an open-ended way, but I don't have an expiration date, either.


Posted by eric at 1:09 PM

No Vacancy, or, why does New York City have a housing shortage, with so many vacant apartments?

by Gregory A. Butler

How dare Gregory Butler rain on Bruce Ratner's big ribbon-cutting.

As every poor or working class New Yorker knows, the city has a chronic shortage of decent affordable housing. Single poor or working class adults routinely live with roommates, many people live with relatives rather than setting up housekeeping on their own, families often live doubled up with distant relatives or even families they aren’t related to because, in the words of populist former mayoral candidate Jimmy McMillan, “the rent is too damned high” in this city.

Indeed the rents are too damned high – an average 2 bedroom apartment in Upper Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx or Brooklyn rents for about $ 1,800 a month. In the rest of Manhattan, an average studio apartment (one big room with a kitchen off to one side and a bathroom) rents for around $ 2,500/mo. If you need a 2 bedroom, it’s around $ 4,000/mo!

Those are the prices for “walkups” (apartments in buildings with no elevator, where you may have to walk up seven flights of stairs to get to your apartment). These apartments aren’t that big either. The average studio is around 250 square feet – a “large” (by New York standards) 2 bedroom might be 1,400 square feet. Almost always, electricity and gas are extra.

Needless to say, not a one of the 20,000 apartments [NLG: Actually 6,430 units, of which 2,250 are pledged to be "affordable" rentals] that billionaire [NLG: Actually, multi-Millionaire] Bruce Ratner is building in Prospect Heights will be affordable to the average working class or poor New Yorker, not even the so called “affordable” ones.


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

September 20, 2012

Round-up: Crain's says environmental review may begin soon; Yormark says arena will be 100% complete (nah); Times touts arena food as hyper-local; Veconi on affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder wastes no time stepping into the void about to be left by NoLandGrab.

Crain's New York Business reports, in Many crises later, Barclays Center to open:

Perhaps the most interesting news [sic] to expected to emerge from the event will be the date for breaking ground on the first of the 16 residential towers Forest City plans for the site. Sources said that although the date would be announced Friday, the company has not yet decided whether to use modular or convention construction to build it. Forest City had promised to break ground by the end of the year. It wants to use modular construction to save money, but first needs to reach a deal with the unions to go down that path.

The article recognizes that Forest City and the state lost a lawsuit, and the latter is required to do a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the impacts of a 25-year project buildout:

Opponents are wondering why that study hasn't started, and they're hoping that government officials will put more pressure on Forest City to move at a faster pace to provide the jobs and affordable housing that were promised as a part of the project...

"There has never been enough supervision of this project," said Gib Veconi, treasurer of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, a preservation group that opposed the project. "We need more transparency."

A spokesman for the Empire State Development Corp. said environmental consultant AKRF will conduct the environment review. He noted that the agency has been working on a draft scope of the review with hopes of beginning the public scoping later this fall.

So get ready for another round of public meetings.


NoLandGrab: Another round of public meetings? Homey don't play that. If there's one thing we learned from the Atlantic Yards approval "process," it's not to play the game when someone else makes the rules. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more politely stopping when our allotted three minutes are up. Mic check? MIC CHECK!

Posted by eric at 9:49 PM

Many crises later, Barclays Center to open

The 675,000-square-foot arena at the center of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will host its first event Friday. Watch for possible news on the 16 planned residential towers.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

Um, the arena opening is the crisis.

Nearly nine tumultuous years after it was first announced—a span of time marked by multiple protests, at least seven lawsuits, a global financial crisis, the involvement of a Russian tycoon and the firing of a star architect—the Barclays Center at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards is slated to be officially unveiled on Friday.

The 675,000-square-foot arena at the center of Forest City Ratner Co.'s massive project is set to host its first event when Jay-Z, the Brooklyn native and minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets, opens a sold-out concert series in the venue that will serve as the home of the basketball team. Various officials will be on hand Friday to cut the ribbon on the arena, including Forest City Ratner chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who bought the majority of the team and 45% of the arena in 2009.


Posted by eric at 9:42 PM

Capital New York's McGeveran: phase 1 of Ratner's rehabilitation is successful, but next phase will be harder; also, Hamill's "two-page gloat"

Atlantic Yards Report

Capital New York co-founder Tom McGeveran, who opposed the Atlantic Yards arena, writes in an email to subscribers (not on the web, thus reproduced in full), a thoughtful, more supportive-than-not essay, headlined "Bruce Ratner's apology to Brooklyn, Part One":

The builders of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn will have much to celebrate at tomorrow's ribbon cutting, having made it through legal battles, financing troubles and architectural disputes to get to the opening of the giant arena.

The mood will be different outside, where some vocal Brooklynites who opposed the arena will gather. They're the ones who protested first the seizure of property to cobble the site together and then the effect the arena would have on the sensitive intersection of residential neighborhoods like Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope and Boerum Hill, at the crossroads of which Barclays sits.

As it turns out, the arena itself is a beautiful structure, in stark contrast to developer Bruce Ratner's previous building forays in the neighborhood. Both 1996's Atlantic Center mall and 2004's Atlantic Terminal Mall are blights, and did much to make the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues feel like some windswept highway off-ramp halfway through Connecticut, in some exurban nowhere.

I'm not totally shocked that this Ratner project came out so differently because Ratner went, in the end, with SHOP, a local architectural firm that's big on both ambition and humanness. Partner Gregg Pasquarelli has the kind of genuine excitement for this project that you just don't see with rabid capitalist-architects who want to build houses for banksters.

The arena is striking, sure, and memorable. Beauty, of course, will be in the eye of the beholder, and I've heard a real spectrum of opinions already.

There's more.


Related content...

Capital New York, Bruce Ratner's apology to Brooklyn, Part One

Posted by eric at 9:28 PM

A Farewell to Arms...

Norman Oder's "Morning round-up" is an apropos jumping-off point for us to announce that we will cease publishing NoLandGrab on a daily basis next week.

We are immensely grateful to our loyal readers and occasional contributors for your great support, but the time has come for us to hang up our keyboards. This is the 19,146th post on our current publishing platform, which was launched on January 31st, 2004, and there were a fair number of NoLandGrab posts prior to that. In some instances, a post might have covered as many as a couple dozen individual news items. So we've burned up a lot of bandwidth, and a few editors. It's entirely possible that we've reported on 100,000 stories about Atlantic Yards, and that seems to be about enough.

We launched NoLandGrab as a clearinghouse for news about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. We thought the community (and media) would benefit from having a one-stop shop for what was being reported about the project, as well as a venue for the dissemination of information about the fight against what we believed was, and is, a corrupt abuse of eminent domain, a sinkhole for scarce public dollars, a subversion of democratic process, and an urban-planning disaster — among other abuses.

We also intended NoLandGrab as a means of fighting to stop Atlantic Yards, not watchdogging the project as it took shape. And with tomorrow's ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the Barclays Center, the project — or at least the "switch" — is taking shape. The "bait" — most of the promised jobs and all of the affordable housing — have yet to materialize, and whether they ever will remains to be seen.

As Atlantic Yards Report has expanded from original reportage to covering a good chunk of the news that we do, with the emergence of Atlantic Yards Watch as a nitty-gritty watchdog site, with the regular contributions of Noticing New York, and with the continuing web presence of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, project-watchers won't want for information about Atlantic Yards — though admittedly we do the job with superior wit and irony. Those aforementioned sites should consider that a challenge to which they will surely rise.

We will, however, reserve the right to weigh in when we observe something particularly galling — we're looking at you, Andrea Peyser and Denis Hamill — but we won't be covering the latest news about Barclays Center concert announcements or Bruce Ratner's or Brett Yormark's latest bald-faced lie (unless, of course, it's particularly bald-faced and galling).

Thanks again for reading our work.

Good afternoon, and good luck.

—The Editors

Posted by eric at 12:53 PM

Morning round-up: NY1 on Battle for Brooklyn; Daily News' cramped view of protests; columnist Hamill plays reliable tune (and gets front page!); Post takes odd swipe at arena's lack of Barclays ATMs

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Daily News columnist Denis Hamill, professional Brooklyn nostalgist and Queens resident, reliably pens Brooklyn's Barclays Center is a rallying cry for borough that has been absent of a major sports team since Dodgers left town in 1957:

This rising tide will float all boats.

Which is why the NYC Independent Budget Office concluded that the arena would be a net loss for city taxpayers.

He writes:

But mostly, I think how lucky the kids of Brooklyn will be not to have to catch an F train to Times Square and then change to a 7 to go root for the Mets of Flushing, Queens. Or take the train all the way uptown into the distant Bronx on the mainland of the United States to cheer for the pinstriped Yankees.

How lucky they’ll be not to have to travel to Manhattan to see the Knicks or the Rangers or the Golden Gloves finals at Madison Square Garden.

What fantasy world does he live in? For most events, there will be few tickets available that are affordable to most "kids of Brooklyn."

Check out the cover. Hamill's description is:

It was an under-developed section of prime Brooklyn in the shadow of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, then the borough’s tallest, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Flatbush and Atlantic, once a place where hookers strolled, will now become the Hollywood and Vine of Brooklyn as borough native Jay-Z opens the arena with eight sold-out shows that begin Sept. 28.

A place where hookers strolled. Yeah, a while back. Also a "great piece of real estate," as Forest City Enterprises Chuck Ratner once said--and they got it with no competition for the full site and only one bidder responding to the belated RFP for the Vanderbilt Yard.

The New York Post, in Banking airball: Barclays has no game despite its $400M arena deal, suggests it's a problem that there will be no Barclays ATMs at the Barclays Center arena.

I think that's the least of their problems; there's that LIBOR scandal they'll be trying to live down for a while. And it's not a $400 million naming-rights deal; the sum was cut to $200 million plus unspecified additional payments.


NoLandGrab: But mostly, we think how lucky people who never read Denis Hamill's columns are.

Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

Brooklyn Holds Court: Documentary Outlines Controversy Surrounding Barclays Project

by Shazia Khan

Michael Galinsky, the director of "Battle for Brooklyn," wants to make sure that no one forgets just how the Barclays Center took center court.

"I love basketball," Galinsky says. "I'm a huge basketball fan. I don't think it negates the fact, though, that the process was really ugly and corrupt."

The film follows Brooklynite Daniel Goldstein's fight against developer Bruce Ratner, whose eventual use of eminent domain cleared the way for the arena, the cornerstone of his Atlantic Yards project. Towards the end of the more-than-eight-year process, Goldstein's condo is among the private properties seized for the project.

"Atlantic Yards was supposed to have been about jobs, housing and hoops," Goldstein says. "It was not supposed to be just about basketball and what's happening in these coming weeks is just basketball, just an arena. That's not what was promised and that's not why Ratner received so many public subsides, received the use of eminent domain.

"Battle for Brooklyn" premiered last year but it's set to have a nationwide release next week. Screenings around town include a showing at the Dean Playground Ball Field, just a stone's throw from the arena. The film will screen there next Friday, the same night the Barclays Center opens.

"We knew there was going to be so much press and hoopla about the arena," Galinsky says. "We wanted to make sure that people remembered what really happened."

link [with video]

Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

Last man standing in the way of Barclays Center plan to picket ceremonial ribbon cutting

Daniel Goldstein and members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn plan to let developer Bruce Ratner know that they're not going away.

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin and Corky Siemaszko

The big shots will be congratulating each other when Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center opens Friday, but some of the little guys will be jeering.

Daniel Goldstein and members of his anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn plan to picket the ceremonial ribbon-cutting — and let mega-developer Bruce Ratner know they are not going away.

“We intend to remind people that Ratner . . . has yet to make good on promises he made to provide good jobs and cheap apartments when he got the go-ahead to build the arena,” he said.

For Goldstein, 41, the fight against the Barclays Center is not academic, it’s personal. He was the last thing standing in the way of Ratner’s plans to level part of a Prospect Heights neighborhood and build an arena. In many ways, he’s the public face of the controversy over eminent domain, offering a critique about crony capitalism and greed later picked up by the Occupy Wall Street movement.


Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

The Culture of Cheating: the developer's original Atlantic Yards map was much smaller, which suggests an arbitrary map of blight (and Forest City wanted to buy the Devils)

Atlantic Yards Report

The decision to declare the Atlantic Yards site blighted, a necessary precondition to the use of eminent domain, has long been suspect for several reasons:

  • developer Forest City Ratner drew the map of the 22-acre project site, with the oddly missing gap in the south-central block
  • the Blight Study conducted by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) concerned only the footprint of the project
  • the consultant conducting the Blight Study was hired to conduct a "Blight Study in support of the proposed project"
  • the consultant, AKRF, had always found blight as directed
  • the consultant, though initially charged to do so, did not compare market conditions on the project site with conditions nearby (Prospect Heights was already a hot neighborhood, and even pro-Atlantic Yards legislator Roger Green said the area was not blighted)
  • the criteria for blight, such a properties built out to less than 60% of allowable development rights, were arbitrary and never promulgated to warn property owners
  • blight was not raised as an official justification when Atlantic Yards was announced

That should be enough to suggest that the Atlantic Yards eminent domain process qualifies as the Culture of Cheating.

But wait, there's more.


Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Will Gov. Andrew Cuomo attend Barclays Center ribbon-cutting tomorrow? At very least, a Cuomo bobblehead at counter-ceremony (and maybe a housing announcement)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Governor of New York State is the key public official in charge of Atlantic Yards: because it's a state project, overseen and promoted by Empire State Development, the gubernatorially-controlled state authority, the buck stops at the governor's desk.

Gov. George Pataki was a crucial early booster, attending press conferences in support of the project, Gov. Eliot Spitzer maintained support, and Gov. David Paterson attended the March 2010 arena groundbreaking and famously pronounced that Atlantic Yards would have "job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen."

In the media advisory announcing the official arena ribbon-cutting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not listed as among the attendees, which include Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Borough President Marty Markowitz. I queried the Governor's office and got no response.

That doesn't mean he's not coming. Cuomo's schedule seems to be updated day-to-day. He's in Albany today. I'd bet he wants to make it; elected officials tend to think such events provide good publicity.

Then again, given that Cuomo is ultimately responsible for the very limited oversight of Atlantic Yards, he couldn't be thrilled about facing questions about reforming project governance--or seeing himself as one of the two officials targeted as responsible for the project's failure to deliver promised benefits.


Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

September 19, 2012

Wednesday Winners (and Losers)

Mobilizing the Region


Forest City RatnerAtlantic Yards Watch has revealed that the neighborhood near Brooklyn’s Barclays Center has been plagued by regulation-flouting trucks in the area on construction business, a condition that has reportedly grown even as project developer Forest City Ratner assumed control of an arena loading dock earlier this month. “With apparently no enforcement taking place,” AYW writes, “the consequence is a wide range of adverse impacts on the community: trucks idling for long periods; use of unauthorized truck routes; and blocking of bus lanes, bike lanes, no standing zones and travel lanes. Travel and the quality of life on Dean Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenue is particularly affected.”


Posted by eric at 10:09 PM

Atlantic Yards Developers Continue to Dodge Agreements on Affordable Housing

The Surreal Estate
by Elise Goldin

I’m sure that it comes as no shock that developer Forest City Ratner continues to weasel its way around this promise. Despite next week’s opening of the shiny New Barclay’s Center, affordable housing will not even begin construction until sometime this Fall. City Limits details how current plans for affordable housing, known as “Tower 2” differ from original promises:

Housing is more geared towards middle income than low, rents more than $2,700 a month and fewer family sized units than promised…Only nine of the 35 subsidized two-bedroom units would go to households currently earning less than $35,856 for a family of three (with rents at $835 monthly), while 17 would be reserved for the highest affordable income “band,” those earning 140-160 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), or between $104,580 and $119,520 for a family of three.

The community’s initial optimism about Atlantic Yards and its potential benefits has waned rapidly, thanks to a lack of transparency on the part of HDC and Forest City Ratner. Aside from a few feeble protests, New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has stood by as Forest City Ratner continues reduce the number of family-sized units in Tower 2. Though the city has refused to provide Ratner with additional subsidy when asked, it has allowed the developer to adjust the number of 2-3 bedroom apartments in order to save money. This essentially limits the number of low-income families who will be able to call Atlantic Yards home, and welcomes single, shorter term and higher income residents. These adjustments to Forest City Ratner’s affordable housing plan were made in secret.


Posted by eric at 9:56 PM

Alternatives To The Scandalously Spawned, Scandalously Named Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” Center: Protest & Locally Nurtured Concerts

Noticing New York

The kleptocratic story of how the Forest City Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov “Barclays” Center Brooklyn basketball arena was spawned and inflicted through to its imminent completion is an ugly one. And then there's the name. . . The arena could have been named after any corporation ponying up some advertising dollars. . and whatever name the arena, squeezed into its Brownstone Brooklyn location ultimately brandished, it was likely to be deemed an irksome synonym for ignominy. Nevertheless, the demon gods overseeing the project’s incubation managed to short-cut more directly to ensure that result: This public-paid for piece of Brooklyn sports the name of “Barclays,” the bank whose association with the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal appropriately evokes the arrogant primacy our society puts on having the interests of the 1% supersede those of the 99%.

There Are Alternatives!

It's good to know that there are alternatives when the onslaught of publicity for the arena makes it seem almost obligatory for every citizen to celebrate the arrival of this first slice of the Forest City Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov mega-monopoly conceptualized as "Atlantic Yards," nominally 22 newly-bequeathed acres but actually a monolithic total of 30+ developer-controlled contiguous acres. No, Not so . . There are clearly superior alternatives to feeling obligated to join the celebration or start attending arena events: The arena’s arrival can be protested, and in preference to the arena’s plans for what sounds like some overgrown concert performance confections there are enticing homegrown local alternatives that offer the more intimate embrace of time spent with performers who may actually be more moral and truer to their roots.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Yards: "Culture of Cheating" or an actual "crime"?

Michael D.D. White writes in Noticing New York:

Mr. Oder takes issue with whether Atlantic Yards can be technically described as a “crime,” suggesting that, more accurately, it is just part of the “culture of cheating,” the rubric under which Mr. Oder has been running a series of articles summing up how the mega-project has, across the board, been based upon strategies of deception and bad faith. But denying the crime here overlooks how the government, itself, was used as an instrument of theft which is, after all, the definition of “kleptocracy,” where a politically connected elite steal from the less advantaged.

Those keeping careful score as to what defines a “crime” will tell you that in these situations the real crime isn't what is technically illegal, it is what gets redefined as legal in order to permit such behavior. To give just two examples: That kind of redefining is what happened when the state and federal constitutional prohibitions on seizing private property for private benefit (including constitutional protections recently voted upon by New Yorkers) were rewritten out of existence by state agency skulduggery supported by judicial fiat (meaning that property that neighbor and senator Charles Schumer clearly knewwasn’t “blighted” was pretextually deemed to be so by collusive government officials so it could be taken by Ratner). And that kind of scrapping of laws on the books is what happened when the MTA decided that it didn’t have to comply with recently enacted public authority reform legislation designed to prohibit its rigged deal with Ratner because it was sure no one was going to make them follow the law.

So the real crime is what gets defined as legal? I get his point, but Michael Kinsley famously observed that the real scandal in Washington is what's legal, not illegal.

So as long as "crime" retains an actual relation to the criminal code, I'll stick with "cheating."

Posted by eric at 9:23 PM

"They played Brooklyn": Bed-Stuy's Umar Jordan, whose dramatic testimony boosted Atlantic Yards in August 2006, now says he's disgusted

Atlantic Yards Report

We don't want to say we told you so...

For one intense day in August 2006, Umar Jordan, a streetwise black man from the ‘hood--an ex-con turned handyman, youth worker, and community organizer--was as eloquent an exponent for Atlantic Yards as anyone, baiting opponents whom he claimed didn’t care about the real Brooklyn.

“If you haven't been to Brownsville or East New York, Flatbush, you not from Brooklyn," Jordan pronounced at a charged public hearing, "you just visiting." The room, hot and crowded with more than 800 people, erupted in roars.

Jordan was a bit of a mystery guest: he had not previously spoken up in the Atlantic Yards debate and soon vanished from it.

Still, his bravura performance was such that, three months later, in a New York Times article, Perspectives on the Atlantic Yards Development Through the Prism of Race, Jordan’s speech provided the lead anecdote, albeit with no more information about him.

Today, however, Jordan is bitter and angry about Atlantic Yards, seeing little impact on those “real” Brooklyn communities he knows, with few of the many promised benefits delivered. He’s a huge basketball fan, but Jordan says he’ll never attend a Brooklyn Nets game.

“We weren’t fighting for a stadium, we were fighting for young men in this [housing] project, and other projects... to have an opportunity to get a job, or at least go through an apprenticeship program to train them for jobs,” he states, interviewed recently at the Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “We were so deceived by the powers that be it was ridiculous.”

"They played Brooklyn, they played all of us," Jordan declares, with characteristic certainty. "We just got shook. Game over. We got played. The whole of Brooklyn got played."

Jordan, it might be argued, got played somewhat himself and might be experiencing some sour grapes. But he doesn’t see it that way. And the story he tells illuminates just how "community" support got promoted.


NoLandGrab: ...but we told you so.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Former Atlantic Yards Supporter Umar Jordan is Disgusted: "They played Brooklyn. They played all of us."

We feel for Mr. Jordan and take no solace in saying we told you so. We really don't. Though we wouldn't mind an apology for the caricature he made of project opponents for simply standing up for their beliefs.

We'd love for Mr. Jordan to join us at the upcoming AYCrimeScene events next week centered around the arena opening.

Posted by eric at 12:51 PM

The Culture of Cheating: does Yonkers trial show Forest City as “good corporate citizen”? Prosecutors say developer avoided "significant concessions"

Atlantic Yards Report its desperate effort to get its 81-acre Ridge Hill retail/residential project past the Yonkers City Council, Ratner’s firm had rewarded a fixer--a clear case of looking at “the economics.” FCE and its subsidiaries are no stranger to aggressive lobbying and strategic spending, but this time Forest City Ratner seemed to cross a line--an ethical one, if not a legal one.

Shortly before the trial, the two key Forest City executives expected to testify, government relations chief Bruce Bender and his deputy Scott Cantone, let it be known they were leaving to form a consulting company.

Was this a purge, or perhaps damage control? Given the duo’s subsequent testimony--how Forest City hired a Yonkers operative for a no-show job after he helped get a City Council Member to flip her vote on Ridge Hill--their departure didn’t look routine.

Rarely does the development dance get described in such excruciating detail, complete with profane email messages and hold-your-noise hiring. This was the Culture of Cheating--no, not for Atlantic Yards, but with the same developer and many of the same players.

As the trial proceeded, Crain’s New York Business columnist Greg David, generally a friend to developers, commented that Forest City Ratner must be relieved that its “See no evil, hear no evil” posture in Yonkers got so little attention.

About six weeks after the trial began, on March 29, the fixer, Republican Zehy Jereis, and the Council Member, Democrat Sandy Annabi, were convicted on all counts, including the giving and receiving of corrupt payments and, in the case of a second project, extortion. Whatever the verdict, as David suggested, Forest City Ratner’s reputation had already been tainted--and far more than when the indictment emerged in January 2010.


Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

Atlantic Yards protesters list demands: new plan, reformed oversight, more developers, environmental review, new regulations

Atlantic Yards Report

Organizers of the Atlantic Yards Crime Scene web site and upcoming protest events centered around at the Barclays Center opening weekend have fleshed out the website that debuted earlier this month, with, among other things, a list of demands:

When it put the economic interests of a single private developer before critical promised public benefits, the State of New York failed its obligation to the people of Brooklyn and the taxpayers of New York.

We demand that the State now:

However understandable these demands, they depend on a political configuration that doesn't yet exist. Still, I'd expect at least some more attention to public input as the project goes forward.


Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Whatever Happened to the [In]famous Atlantic Yards Redevelopment Project?

Gideon's Trumpet

We just came across an admittedly partisan but revealing post by the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn folks ([DDDB] 9/12) which informs its readers that the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards redevelopment project — the one that was judicially approved in Goldstein v. Pataki – is having problems. In a nutshell, these folks tell us that apart from the basketball arena, nothing much is being built there. In their words:

“After $300 million of taxpayer dollars, and nearly $1.6 billion in special breaks, government favors and below market public land sales, and two and one half years after the arena groundbreaking, not a single one of the promised 2,250 taxpayer subsidized, “affordable” housing units is under construction, and of the 10,000 “permanent” jobs promised, the developer has announced only 105 full time jobs and 1,900 non-living wage jobs. There is no groundbreaking scheduled for the first of 15 planned residential towers, and the office tower that was to provide space for those 10,000 jobs is unlikely to be constructed in this generation, if ever.”

Sounds like Kelo all over again, doesn’t it?


NoLandGrab: Sure it's partisan. It's also true.

Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

September 18, 2012

Atlantic Yards - It's a Crime! Schedule of Events for September 26, 27, 28, 29

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards – It’s A Crime!
Events on September 26, 27, 28, 29
Brooklyn Was Promised Much More Than An Arena

As Barclays Center Opens, Series of Events Highlights
Failures of Atlantic Yards and Demands for Change

Click through for the full roster of events.


Posted by eric at 1:32 PM

The Culture of Cheating: Forest City gets the inside track with the MTA, then gets to revise the deal (though the MTA could have recognized its leverage)

Atlantic Yards Report

The spanking new Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway entrance is an undeniable asset to the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, and the city of New York. But in this public-private partnership, the subway station will serve arena patrons more than anybody--and Forest City Ratner won't pay for additional service.

Moreover, the key parts of the developer's transaction with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), notably the payment for development rights over the Vanderbilt Yard, and the subsequent development thereof, still wait, thanks in part to FCR's ability to get in on the ground floor in 2003 with no competition for years, then renegotiate the deal in 2009.

Did it have to be that way? Maybe not.

Yes, there’s a “fundamental asymmetry” in complex projects that favors a developer, because it “can generally leave the project and even the city while politicians cannot,” as planning professor Lynne Sagalyn warned in Times Square Roulette, her epic 2001 epic analysis of redevelopment.

With Atlantic Yards, however, the public had more power: Forest City was desperate to move the money-losing Nets from New Jersey into a profitable new arena, larded with luxury suites and sponsorships enabled by the country's richest media market, and to get tax-exempt bonds sold by the end of 2009.

Instead, when Forest City asked to renegotiate, the MTA, controlled by the governor and mayor, complied. This is the Culture of Cheating from another angle: less deception than an inside deal from the start.


Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

Weds, Sept 19, 6:30pm: Free Screening and Panel Discussion of Battle for Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Fifth Avenue Committee Invites you to a Panel Discussion and Special Screening of:

Battle for Brooklyn

Wednesday, September 19
6:30 - 8:30 pm
Old First Reformed Church
729 Carroll Street between 6th & 7th Avenues

With the Barclays Center arena less than two weeks from opening, and promised jobs and affordable housing nowhere in sight, the battle for accountability at Brooklyn's largest development project is just getting started. Join us to find out what we can do to make sure the future of Atlantic Yards won't be like the past.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with FAC's Executive Director Michelle de la Uz as moderator, Michael Galinsky, and Suki Hawley, producers of the documentary, Rev. Clinton Miller, Brown Memorial, Gib Veconi of BrooklynSpeaks and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Councilwoman Letitia James (invited).


The screening is free.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

September 17, 2012

Brooklyn Holds Court: Road To Barclays Center A Long One, Developer Says

by Jeanine Ramirez

Brooklyn is getting ready for a new era as it welcomes its first professional sports team since the Dodgers left town. All this week NY1 is taking a look at the impact of the Nets and the Barclays Center on the community, on the borough and on the national stage. In part one, Brooklyn reporter Jeanine Ramirez has an exclusive interview with the developer and a look at how the controversial project evolved.

The Barclays Center is getting its finishing touches and developer Bruce Ratner is happy with what he sees.

"Even I was a little surprised at how magnificent and beautiful it is. I almost started crying because it's been a long haul, a long time," says Ratner.

[Sniff, sniff.]

We're a little [sniff, sniff] choked up ourselves [sniff, sniff]. In fact, we need a moment to collect ourselves.

[Sniff, sniff.]

article [with video]

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Ratner calls arena "public building," says "I think everyone right-thinking realizes that this was well worth it"

"I think everyone right-thinking realizes that this was well worth it," Ratner tells Brooklyn reporter Jeanine Ramirez, implicitly suggesting that the New York City Independent Budget Office, which called the arena a loss for the city, is wrong-thinking.

"That's the right place for a public building like this," Ratner tells his interviewer, which prompts some editorial pause:

But whether a privately owned arena is a public benefit sparked much debate and prompted lawsuits over the use of eminent domain.

The debate continues. After all, while the building may be open to the paying public, Ratner famously told Crain's New York Business 11/8/09, "Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."

Posted by eric at 10:11 PM

Community Sweepstakes for Barclays Center tickets Sept. 21, about a week after announcement; no plans yet regarding community-sponsored events

Atlantic Yards Report

About a week after a public announcement regarding community organizations--in Community Boards 2, 3, 6, & 8--eligible for Barclays Center tickets, the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) will hold its first "Community Tickets Program Sweepstakes."

The event will be held on Friday, Sept. 21, at the House of the Lord Church at 415 Atlantic Avenue. The DBNA is run by House of the Lord Presiding Minister Herbert Daughtry and seems to function as an army of the church.

Note that RSVPs for the event are due by Wednesday, Sept. 19, though it's not clear when applications are due for this first sweepstakes. Applications for the overall program are due 11/30/12.

It seems to me that organizations with advance notice of the DBNA's plans would have been far better prepared to enter the sweepstakes. I also suspect that some organizations outside those four community boards will make a case that they should be eligible for the sweepstakes, as well.


NoLandGrab: Let us take this opportunity to remind the DBNA that a sweepstakes is defined as a game of chance — not a game of "to whom do we and Bruce owe a favor."

Posted by eric at 10:01 PM

Klores' Brooklyn basketball essay in Times has glaring omission: Oder

NY Daily News Sports ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

Sounds like Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder really liked Dan Klores' sweeping essay on Brooklyn and basketball in Sunday’s New York Times. But Oder also points out a glaring omission in the piece.

Klores, identified as a “Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and playwright,” is also the founder and chairman of the public relations firm that has represented Forest City Ratner, the company behind the Nets’ Barclays Center, since the Atlantic Yards project was first announced.


Posted by eric at 9:44 PM

The Culture of Cheating: Forest City's effort, through Kruger, to get taxpayer money to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how a Forest City Ratner executive, asked in July 2009 if the would seek more subsidies, responded, “Forest City does not expect to ask for more subsidy?" Not only did Executive VP later request $10 million more in housing subsidies, so too did Executive VP Bruce Bender try to get state funds to repair the Carlton Avenue Bridge the developer was supposed to fund.

The corruption charges that surfaced in March 2011 against then-state Senator (and now-imprisoned) Carl Kruger portrayed a chummy relationship between Kruger and Bender, who not only tried to get money for the bride but also for the Lakeside Center project in Prospect Park. (Bender's wife is on the Board of Directors of the Prospect Park Alliance.)

Though the conversation between Kruger and Bender occurred in December 2010, the charges cast in new light some of Kruger's over-the-top support for Atlantic Yards, including his Brooklyn aria at an August 2006 environmental review hearing and his accusation in May 2009 of Metropolitan Transportation Authority intransigence regarding a renegotiation of the Vanderbilt Yard deal.

And they showed Forest City's relentless--if, in this case, unsuccessful--push to offload its obligations on the public. That's savvy business, but its closer to the "culture of cheating" than to "civic developer" status that Bruce Ratner professes.


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

The Net Effect on Sports, Economy and Community

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Michael Randazzo

The Brooklyn Public Library, which infamously wouldn't display a painted portrait of Daniel Goldstein it termed "hagiographic," had no problem hosting a one-sided panel discussion entitled "Sports and the Economy: A Win-Win for Brooklyn."

With the Barclays Center set to open Sept. 28, the Brooklyn Public Library hosted a panel discussion Wednesday called, “Sports and the Economy: A Win-Win for Brooklyn,” focusing on the overlap of sports, business and community.

In the event’s lead-off spot was Borough President Marty Markowitz, who trumpeted what he considers his signature accomplishment: returning the Nets to New York.

The panel examined how the business of professional sports meshes with the complex demographics of the city’s largest and most economically diverse borough. Mr. Mierswa touted the Barclays Center as the culmination of the Nets’ carefully orchestrated efforts to build community. He mentioned numerous examples of local connections, from donating money to neighborhood playgrounds to supporting such institutions as the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.


NoLandGrab: One slanted panel's win-win is another Independent Budget Office's net loss for taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

September 15, 2012

Atlantic Yards Deep Thoughts: Big Gulp and Mayor Bloomberg Logic Edition

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Apparently Big Gulps are bad, and Big Land Grabs are good.


Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

September 14, 2012

The Culture of Cheating: Nets/arena CEO Yormark says "what I'm most proud of is the cultural fit for Barclays" (unmentioned: the LIBOR scandal)

Atlantic Yards Report

An exchange in a 9/11/12 Billboard Q&A, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark on the Brooklyn Brand, Jay-Z, $1 Billion Building, has some unintended resonance regarding the "culture of cheating" and the elephant in the room: dishonest behavior by Barclays.

A big part of this project is the 20-year naming rights deal with Barclays. How much did it mean to you to get that deal done?
*That's a great question, because when I look back on my career, it's probably one of those top two or three highlights... There were a lot of doubters, but they weren't doubting my ability, they were doubting because of all the planned new buildings in the market... They're like, "you're the last one to get yours, so you're probably going to need some help." They doubted the project, the merits of Brooklyn, lots of different things. And we nailed it. For me, what I'm most proud of is the cultural fit for Barclays.
(Emphasis added)

Tell me about that, it just seems so unlikely.
You can either do it for the money or you can do it for the partnerships, and thankfully, in our case we did it for both reasons. Financially, they made a very appealing offer to us, but more important than the financials is, we just believed in Barclays and Barclays believed in us, and that goes to the highest levels.

Of course, Yormark was talking about commerce, about branding Brooklyn, about mutual promotion.

But think about it: "the cultural fit for Barclays."

If Atlantic Yards, as I've contended, represents the "culture of cheating," then isn't Barclays a perfect fit?


Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

My Atlantic Yards tour, September 23, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Municipal Art Society's list of tours: Sunday, September 23, Urban Debate: Atlantic Yards:

11:00 AM - Atlantic Yards Report watchdog journalist Norman Oder leads a walk around and beyond the controversial Atlantic Yards site, home to the new Barclays Center arena, opening on September 28. While visiting Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, Oder will discuss the history and future of the ambitious project (announced in 2003 and aimed to include 16 towers), the debates over urban design, architecture, public process, and eminent domain, and the challenge of fitting an arena into a site which offers excellent public transit access but also encroaches on an established neighborhood. Cost: $20 / $15 Members.

Note: tickets are limited; the location is provided when you pay.


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Markowitz on the "good jobs" at the Barclays Center: "if you don't have a job, you can't pooh-pooh it"

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, speaking at a Brooklyn Public Library "Power Up Breakfast" 9/12/12, offered continuing rhetoric about the jobs at the Barclays Center and a new--though questionable--defense.

"Sports brings us together as a community and as a nation," Markowitz said. "It's the social thread that binds us together and gives us something we can collectively take pride in."

Sure, people may be interested in a team, and enjoy watching it. But should we be taking pride in a privately-run sports entertainment corporation?

Markowitz on jobs

"Traditionally, sports stimulate our economy and create jobs. Thanks to the magnificent Barclays Center.... roughly 2000 New Yorkers will have good jobs, full and part-time jobs, that will bring in money and create jobs for many local businesses as well, surrounding the area," Markowitz declared.

Whether they're good jobs is very much in doubt, since part-time workers without other income would likely qualify for food stamps, as I've written.

But Markowitz was undeterred. "Now, those who oppose the arena pooh-pooh jobs, but you know what--if you don't have a job, you can't pooh-pooh it," he said.


NoLandGrab: Oh, yeah?! Just watch us. Pooh, pooh; pooh, pooh.

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

September 13, 2012

I don't usually email you...

...probably for good reason.

Deb Goldstein, sister of Daniel Goldstein and t-shirt designer extraordinaire, received the following email this morning.

From: Beyonce Knowles
Date: September 13, 2012 9:55:25 AM EDT
To: Deborah Goldstein
Subject: I don't usually email you

Deborah --

I usually don't email you -- but I have an amazing invitation I have to share.

Jay and I will be meeting up with President Obama for an evening in NYC sometime soon. And we want you to be there!

Until midnight tonight, if you pitch in $25 or whatever you can, you'll be automatically entered to be flown out to join us.

I've had the honor of meeting President Obama and the First Lady a few times -- and believe me -- it's an opportunity you don't want to miss.

Don't worry about the airfare and hotel, it's taken care of. And you can bring a guest.

But the countdown is on -- this opportunity ends at midnight:

Can't wait to meet you!




NoLandGrab: They could've met at the Barclays Center groundbreaking, but Deb was corralled behind police barricades while "B" was on the inside.

Posted by eric at 1:13 PM

The Culture of Cheating: Ratner claims efforts to comply with construction regulations, but record tells a different story (and the state backed off plan for $10K/day fines)

Atlantic Yards Report

Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner, appearing 9/11/12 on Bloomberg Television's "Surveillance," managed to smoothly rewrite the history of Forest City Ratner's (FCR) noncompliance with construction protocols (noise, dust, traffic) and the state's failure to stop such violations.

The failure, actually, goes beyond FCR's noncompliance and a TV host's inability to be skeptical. It implicates the "culture of cheating"--nothing illegal, but a framework that lets private interests trump public interests.

The failure goes back to the December 2009 Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC) that FCR negotiated with Empire State Development, the state agency that has the dicey duty of both overseeing and promoting Atlantic Yards. The MEC was supposed to bind Forest City to construction practices that protected the neighborhood.

In fact, according to documents I viewed via a Freedom of Information Law request, the state at one point sought a $10,000 daily penalty for violations of the MEC. Forest City opposed the penality. The developer clearly prevailed--though the documents I saw didn't explain how the resolution was achieved.

Think about it: even assuming that the state first issued a warning in response to violations, Forest City could have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars--likely millions--for letting its subcontractors cut corners in the breakneck effort to get the arena and associated infrastructure finished under a tight deadline.


Posted by eric at 12:54 PM

An odd Times blog post about plans to screen Battle for Brooklyn: arena is reality, battle lost, but filmmaker "argues" the story remains relevant

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times's City Room, noticing just one aspect of the counter-programming planned in response to the Barclays Center opening, yesterday published a short article about plans to screen Battle for Brooklyn.

In On New Arena’s Big Night, a Rebuttal Down the Street, the Times reported:

Though the arena is now a reality, and the battle the movie tracked has long been lost, [filmmaker] Mr. [Michael] Galinksy argues that his documentary remains relevant.

“There’s a real tendency to want to forget,” he said of the contentious process. “But that’s how these things repeat themselves.”

A spokesman for the Barclays Center declined to comment.

My comment, as posted:

Yes, the battle tracked in the movie has been lost, but declarations of victory are rather premature. Forest City Ratner promised "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops."

The result so far: hoops (and concerts).

In other words, the benefits used to sell the project--and the significant government help, subsidies, and tax breaks--haven't been delivered.

Beyond that, does one have to argue that a documentary about recent history remains relevant?


Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

September 12, 2012

On New Arena’s Big Night, a Rebuttal Down the Street

City Room
by Elizabeth A. Harris

After years of conflict and construction, the Barclays Center will finally be open for business Sept. 28, and Jay-Z, a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets, will perform a sold-out show to christen the arena his team will call home.

But at that very moment, less than one block away, some of the people who opposed the project hope to put on a show of their own.

A documentary called “Battle for Brooklyn,” which follows the multiyear fight against the Atlantic Yards development, will be screened by the filmmakers at 8 p.m. on the arena’s opening night, just about as close to the action as they can get without buying a scalped ticket.

The filmmakers have applied for a permit to show the movie at Dean Playground, just down the block from the Barclays Center. Vickie Karp, a spokeswoman for the parks department, said the permit is under consideration, and if approved, it will move on to the Police Department for a sound permit.

If the permit is rejected, Mr. Goldstein said he and the filmmakers hope to show the documentary in one of two locations nearby, both on private property — thus requiring no city permit — and both less than half a block from the arena. The use of those locations had not been confirmed, Mr. Goldstein said. Admission will be free, wherever the screening takes place, he said.


Posted by eric at 6:25 PM

Victory lap: in Bloomberg interview, Ratner calls arena "whole big good," claims "we've done a huge amount" to placate neighborhood

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder dissects another insipid Bloomberg TV love-fest with Bruce Ratner.

Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner, speaking yesterday with Tom Keene, Sara Eisen and Scarlet Fu on Bloomberg Television's "Surveillance," got the typical hero treatment from unskeptical business reporters.

Asked Keene, "What did you learn about NIMBY, not in my backyard?"

"Too much," responded a grinning Ratner. "When you live around a project and near a project of this size, it's likely that you will be opposed to it.... And it's understandable on one level. On the other, when you look at the whole big good, it's not understandable."

The "whole big good" that says the arena's a loser for the city, according to the Independent Budget Office?


NoLandGrab: Ah, we get it now. This isn't a real interview. It's a Second City spoof starring Eugene Levy.

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

An Occupy protest coming in response to Jay-Z's comments, but will it be just before his Sept. 28 concert?

Atlantic Yards Report

An Occupy Wall Street affiliate is planning a protest of Barclays Center/Nets part-owner Jay-Z regarding his comments on Occupy, though I suspect that the announced time, 6 pm on Sept. 28, will be adjusted once planners recognize how difficult it will be to get near the arena in the hours before the first event.

(Note that those Brooklyn organizations behind the Atlantic Yards Crime Scene protest are planning other events, including a 9/27, 7PM candlelight vigil at the Barclays Center and a 9/28, 11AM press conference there, but nothing after 4 pm that day other than tweets and a movie screening nearby. I suspect they recognize that the combination of event-goers and massive security would make any gathering impossible.)

Also responding to Jay-Z was Russell Simmons, one of the relatively few hip-hop figures (producer, entrepreneur) who has the wealth and stature of Jay-Z (though, obviously, not the same adoring fans). Simmons wrote on Global Grind, in part:

As a person who cares deeply about Occupy Wall Street, I have to honor their year-long effort and educate my long-time friend, Jay-Z. This weekend, he was interviewed by the New York Times where he discusses OWS, where he was quoted as saying “I’m not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?” If he understood it and endorsed the movement, it would make a big difference to poor people. As the same man that said he would pay more taxes if it helped educate more children and create affordable healthcare, Jay-Z's words matter. He was honest enough to say that he didn’t understand it. A lot of Americans don’t. He was also honest enough to recognize that there are some in the 1 percent who "deceiving" and "robbing," so I know in his heart he gets it. I know he is a compassionate person who cares about the poor, so I'm certain if I had two more minutes with him, I could change his mind.


NoLandGrab: Jay's one of the few people who's deceived and robbed as a member of the 99% and the 1%.

Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

The Culture of Cheating: after Forest City claimed "We do not expect to ask for more subsidy," they started asking for more

Atlantic Yards Report

It wasn't a lie, but it sure doesn't look like forthrightness, either. Consider it part of the "culture of cheating" that pervades Atlantic Yards.

Let's go back to a July 2009 Q&A sponsored by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), as a prelude to a public hearing on re-approval of the Atlantic Yards plan, and one of the few times Forest City Ratner executives have been subjected to challenging questions from the public.

"Has Forest City Ratner asked the city and/or state for additional subsidies, including 'extraordinary infrastructure costs'?" asked moderator Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6, reading a question from the audience. "If so, how much and, to Forest City Ratner, do you anticipate asking for more subsidies?"


Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

Atlantic Yards Deep Thoughts: Rusty Facade Edition

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

It makes perfect sense that the Barclays Arena is all about the facade, since "Jobs, Housing & Hoops" was just a facade.


And here's another...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Deep (Rhetorical) Thoughts: Eminent Domain Down The Memory Hole Edition

Is the media going to remember that eminent domain was used by New York state to seize and demolish people's homes and businesses so Forest City Ratner could build a money losing arena, or just do daily fluffs and puffs of Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark?

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

September 11, 2012

Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark on the Brooklyn Brand, Jay-Z, $1 Billion Building
by Ray Waddell

Like a modern-day P.T. Barnum without the charm, Brett Yormark keeps on burnishing the legend of Brett Yormark.

Brett Yormark, CEO, Brooklyn Nets/Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates the Barclays Center, is a self-proclaimed "brand guy," and as such he knows a great brand when he says one. That would be Brooklyn.

Since joining the Nets organization in January of 2005, Yormark has reinvented the culture of the organization. Yormark's mission has been to make the Nets the most accessible, inventive, fan-friendly, and community-active team in sports. And that mission will come to bear physically in the form of the Barclays Center, the Nets' new home beginning for the start of the 2012-13 NBA season.

Billboard: How did the New Jersey Nets to end up in Brooklyn at the new Barclays Center?

Brett Yormark: Bruce Ratner had the vision of bringing sports and entertainment back to Brooklyn and building a mixed-use development at Flatbush and Atlantic for the arena and the team, which really would be the anchor of this renaissance of downtown Brooklyn. It took a little longer than expected. There was a little opposition. But I give all the credit to Bruce for persevering, having the vision, and sticking with that vision.

Anchor the renaissance? The renaissance has been happening for more than a decade. The arena is more likely Brooklyn's jump-the-shark moment.

I'd agree, the arena feels very "Brooklyn." I've rarely seen a venue built to integrate so completely into its neighborhood, and reflect the vibe of that neighborhood.

Oh, God. Mike Wallace this guy is not.

You're absolutely right. SHoP Architects and Ellerbe Beckett, they've done an incredible job of truly speaking to the borough and integrating the architectural flavor of the building in a way that really fits the borough. The grittiness of the weathered steel exterior really speaks to the strength of Brooklyn, and the boldness of it. The terrazzo flooring across the concourse, the black ceilings, exposed loft-type environment, I really think they've captured it all.

It gets better.

A big part of this project is the 20-year naming rights deal with Barclays. How much did it mean to you to get that deal done?

For me, what I'm most proud of is the cultural fit for Barclays.

Come again?

Tell me about that, it just seems so unlikely.

You can either do it for the money or you can do it for the partnerships, and thankfully, in our case we did it for both reasons. Financially, they made a very appealing offer to us, but more important than the financials is, we just believed in Barclays and Barclays believed in us, and that goes to the highest levels.


Posted by eric at 11:01 PM

Atlantic Yards: The Treachery of Promises

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

A raft of Governors from Pataki to Cuomo, and Mayor Bloomberg approved taxpayer subsidies, eminent domain and below market public land sales for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. In return the developer was supposed to deliver (with our tax dollars) 2,250 units of "affordable" housing over ten years. Two and one half years after the groundbreaking of the Barclays Center Arena not a single housing unit has broken ground.

While not indictable, unfortunately, this is criminal.

Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, this is not acceptable and something has got to change at the Atlantic Yards site. Jobs, Housing....whoops, just isn't working.


Posted by eric at 10:38 PM

Jay-Z's Got 99% Problems, and a Barclays Center Protest Is One

The Atlantic Wire
by David Wagner

Jay-Z has drawn the ire of Occupiers yet again, this time over quotes he dropped in his Zadie Smith-penned The New York Times T Magazine profile. This isn't the first time Jay-Z and Occupy have feuded. Last November, Jay-Z pissed off the Zuccotti Park set by selling Occupy Wall Street knock-off shirts without donating any profits to the movement. OWS called the rapper a "bloodsucker," but Jay-Z emerged from the spat mostly unscathed. After all, Occupiers were too busy trying to not get kicked out of their campsite to focus on Jay-Z too much. But this time, the 99 percenters have a more targeted plan of attack for shaming the rap mogul. They're taking their beef to Jay-Z's big opening-night concert at the Barclays Center, turf he partially owns.

Jay-Z has always seemed somewhat supportive of the Occupy movement in theory, but he questions its goals and rhetoric. "What’s the thing on the wall, what are you fighting for?" Jay-Z asks in the quotes that reignited the feud. "I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?" As a firmly-established member of the 1 percent, Jay-Z is most bothered by Occupy's demonization of everyone in the top-tier. "Yeah, the 1 percent that’s robbing people, and deceiving people, these fixed mortgages and all these things, and then taking their home away from them, that’s criminal, that’s bad. Not being an entrepreneur. This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on."

Funny, we don't remember Hova having even one problem with New York State taking people's homes away to make room for the Barclays Center.

Occupy-affiliated group Guitarmy took to Tumblr to set Jay-Z straight about what they're working towards. They write, "We have spent one year on the streets organizing for exactly the things Jay rapped about in his early days, ending urban poverty, ending Stop & Frisk and police use of lethal force, of returning dignity and hope to the everyday people of New York City." Guitarmy plans to make sure Jay-Z gets the message by protesting his grand opening concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sept. 28th.


NoLandGrab: What do we want, Jay? We want a travesty like Atlantic Yards to never happen, ever, anywhere.

Related coverage...

Pitchfork, Occupy Wall Street to Stage Teach-In at Jay-Z Concert After Jay Questions Movement

As the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street approaches, the movement's Guitarmy group has announced a teach-in for September 28 outside Jay-Z's concert at the new Brooklyn arena, the Barclays Center. (You may remember the Guitarmy from this spring's May Day protest.) Jay-Z is a part owner of the Nets, the basketball team that plays at the Barclays Center.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Barclays Center, A Great Monument to Crony Capitalism, Invites Protest

Hold it right there Hova. Surely, with Jay Z's 1/15th of one percent ownership of the Nets and 1/5th of one percent ownership of the arena the rap mogul is aware that his partners, Forest City Ratner with the help of a raft of Governors and Mayor Bloomberg used eminent domain against people to do just that—"take their home away from them"—all for the benefit of one of the ultimate one-percenters Mikhail Prokhorov.

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

New video exposes the Culture of Cheating: Markowitz admits Brooklyn is not "1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards," as he told Chinese investors, but asserts, jocularly, it's "980 percent"

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz made a video in the fall of 2010, claiming that Brooklyn was "1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards?"

Such misleading support helped Forest City Ratner raise some $228 million in cheap capital from immigrant investors via the federal government's EB-5 program, an effort I've been dissecting for two years under the rubric "Anatomy of a Shady Deal."

Well, I finally got Markowitz to explain himself--sort of--and he admitted he was wrong, though not by much.

Valuable help

Markowitz's shilling, as well as cheerleading from city and state officials, helped the developer save tens of millions of dollars from 456 investors, given that the would-be immigrants, who park $500,000 in a purported job-creating enterprise in exchange for green cards for themselves and their families, care little about earning interest.

The middleman--in this case a federally-authorized investment pool called the New York City Regional Center--loaned the money to Forest City at below-market interest, and gets to keeps the spread.

The loser? The public, since the intent of the law is to create new jobs, not simply to increase the profits of a developer by allowing it to substitute cheaper capital for existing capital, as seems to be the case here.

Thus Markowitz's role also highlights my new, ongoing Culture of Cheating series that aims to provide a framework for viewing the Atlantic Yards saga.


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

As EB-5 "visas for job creation" program faces renewal vote today, the Daily reveals that an investigation into waste, fraud, and abuse has begun

Atlantic Yards Report

Federal overseers are apparently following the vastly obvious clue that not all is right with the booming EB-5 program, which grants wealthy foreigners green cards for themselves and their families in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments marketed by private investment pools known as regional centers.

In 'INVESTOR VISA' PROBE: Federal program trading foreign finance for citizenship comes under scrutiny, The Daily's Sarah Ryley (ex-Brooklyn Eagle) reported yesterday:

A burgeoning immigration program that gives wealthy foreigners and their families a chance at citizenship if they lay down big cash is under scrutiny by Homeland Security and the Securities and Exchange Commission, The Daily has learned.

...Jay Peak Resort in Vermont has used $200 million to transform itself into a year-round destination. And the developer of a new basketball arena for the Brooklyn Nets has collected $228 million to replace costly conventional financing.

But many projects have gone bust and some are in legal disputes that allege fraud, casting doubt on the immigration agency's ability to effectively monitor the program....

Last month, Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General launched an investigation to determine if the program is "effectively administered and managed to detect and deter fraud, waste, abuse, while avoiding national security threats," according to the internal announcement obtained by The Daily.

Beyond the legal disputes, there's much evidence of misleading marketing, as shown in videos from web sites in China regarding the Atlantic Yards investment.


Related content...

The Daily, ‘INVESTOR VISA’ PROBE: Federal program trading foreign finance for citizenship comes under scrutiny

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Agency, Developer Wrestle Over Atlantic Yards Affordability

Affordable Housing Report

Culture of Cheating? You betcha.

The much-delayed first housing tower at Forest City Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn, where half the 363 units have long been promised for “affordable housing,” seems poised to get millions in city housing bonds. While this 32-story building—on which Forest City aims to break ground this fall—would broad-ly meet the pledge the developer signed with housing advocacy group ACORN to ensure that 50 percent of the rentals be subsidized, it otherwise diverges from that promise. Not only would it contain far fewer family-sized units than pledged, those two-bedroom, two-bath units will be disproportionately geared to middle-class families, not low-income ones, with rents more than $2,700 a month. It also differs from what city housing officials aim for in mixed-income affordable housing financing, as well as what Forest City proposed in previous underwriting submissions to housing officials.


Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

September 10, 2012

Atlantic Yards and the Culture of Cheating

Atlantic Yards Report

This page launched on Sept. 10, 2012 and will be updated.

The Barclays Center opens Sept. 28, 2012. The parade of entertainment and Brooklyn's first arena surely will provoke much media attention.

The looming, metal-clad arena, unmistakable at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, forming a new node just past long-accepted downtown boundaries, has been enough to convince some journalists, like a New York magazine sportswriter who willfully puts on blinders when it comes to the political implications of sports, that the “battle is over, and Bruce Ratner won it.”

That, however, depends on amnesia, or ignorance: a dismissal of the enormous claims of Atlantic Yards benefits, and belief in Ratner's assertion that “Nobody will remember what we had to do to make it happen.”

But Atlantic Yards, announced in December 2003, approved in December 2006 and again in September 2009, will be remembered, not just for its promises of 16 towers and arena, "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops," but "what we had to do."

Atlantic Yards and the Barclays Center have provoked neither indictments nor investigations. It's not a crime--despite the metaphorical use of the term by those planning protests for the opening weekend.

It’s almost all legal--well, judges this year confirmed serious civil illegality: that the state had evaded the required environmental review. Though too late to affect the arena, that meant one official finding that the project is tainted.

There's no legal corruption. But Atlantic Yards relies upon what I'd call a "culture of cheating," a term inspired by The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, a book by business ethicist David Callahan.

It's an ends-justify-the-means shamelessness and betrayal of promises that pervades the project, involving, at various times, project promoters, consultants, lawyers, and community partners. And that cheating has been too often ignored or papered over by the press.


Posted by eric at 2:05 PM

The "Civic Developer" and the Culture of Cheating: how Bruce Ratner backed off promises to build Atlantic Yards in ten years and to build conventional towers with union labor

Atlantic Yards Report

There's nothing criminal about Atlantic Yards, nothing corrupt--at least nothing found or even investigated.

But many people feel uneasy about the project and the process, suspicions validated by a finding of serious civil illegality--the state's failure to study the impacts of a 25-year buildout.

That failure, left unresolved when the Barclays Center opens Sept. 28, was linked to the signing of a Development Agreement in 2009 after the project was approved. The Development Agreement, which gave developer Forest City Ratner 12 years to build the first towers on the arena block and 25 years to build the project, was initially withheld from public and legal scrutiny.

It's part of a pattern that pervades the Atlantic Yards saga. I call it the "culture of cheating," drawing on The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, a book by business ethicist David Callahan. (The book doesn't deal with Atlantic Yards, though an update could.)

Developer Bruce Ratner has made two self-sabotaging--if rather little-noticed--statements that back up charges of cheating:

  • he repudiated the ten-year timeline to build the project previously endorsed by his company and the state
  • he claimed that high-rise, union-built affordable housing isn't feasible, even though that's what he long planned and the state approved twice

Ratner's been using the word civic a lot, but it's a weasel world. It means "relating a city," or to citizenship, but it does not necessarily denote the public interest. Ratner seems to be saying that, as long as he's building in the city, he's somehow helping the city. The reality is a bit more complicated, since he also gains things like public subsidies, tax breaks, and eminent domain.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

When Big Projects Stall

Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, Like Others Across the Country, Brings Mixed Results

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

We covered Norman Oder's coverage of this Journal piece this weekend — here's the source article.

Partially-built mega-projects dot U.S. cities.

In New London, Conn., a piece of land once eyed for a sprawling waterfront development with a hotel, office space and residential, is still fallow seven years after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of eminent domain to take homes on the site. The new mayor, Daryl Finizio, says now the city is hoping to start on a residential development on a portion of the 90-acre site by mid-2013, but for now the site is without the new neighborhood and the envisioned tax revenues.

In downtown Los Angeles, developer Related Cos. hasn't been able to build a set of skyscrapers proposed at the market's peak that were planned on lots in the downtown area in a $3 billion development known as Grand Avenue. The developer recently opened a park, and has said it is considering changing the project to get it going beyond a mid-sized building it plans to soon begin. But public officials are still contending with ownership of the vacant lots.

In New Jersey, the $1.9 billion mega-mall previously named Xanadu has been stalled for three years, and a new developer working with the administration of Gov. Chris Christie is trying to restart work and enlarge the project to include more entertainment. Officials were counting on thousands of jobs and improvements to a swampy area of the Meadowlands.

In the case of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, benefits were crucial to tempering a vocal community opposition when the project was approved in 2006. As the centerpiece of the development, the arena was supposed to be designed by famed architect Frank Gehry with a roof adorned with grass and a running track. The New York-based developer, Bruce Ratner, also pledged to reserve nearly one third of 6,400 planned apartments for low and middle-income families, along with a community health-care center and other givebacks.

But these and other selling points have been deferred, or in a few cases scrapped, as the company has struggled to get the larger project off the ground amid a chilly climate for new development.

Changes such as the decision to drop Mr. Gehry, were necessary given the decline of the real-estate market during the recession, Forest City executives say. "You need to be flexible and to be nimble," says MaryAnne Gilmartin, an executive vice president at Forest City. "The alternative would be to let the project die of its own weight."


Related coverage...

Willets Point United, When Big Projects Fail

The WSJ has a fascinating article on the failed promises of the Atlantic Yards project-and Eliot Brown's take on this is a cautionary tale for all of the grandiose promises still swirling around the Willets Point development.

That gets us to the affordable housing pledge the city has made over at Willets Point-and why we have called it a "Wimpy" deal-the likelihood of any of the original promises being kept is closer to nil. This means that, when all is said and done, the city will be taking the property of small owners and handing it over to Sterling Equities and Related to build a lucrative mall for the crony capitalists-shafting not only the property owners but the public as well.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

September 7, 2012

"It's a Crime!" New web site targets Atlantic Yards failures, announces vigil, protests geared to arena opening weekend

Atlantic Yards Report

A new web site, Atlantic Yards Crime Scene, has appeared, targeting secret deals, crony capitalism, and the failure to deliver "a plan that puts families, communities, and the public first."

The four sponsors--Brown Community Development Corporation, BrooklynSpeaks, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE)--also announce a series of protest actions during the opening weekend for the Barclays Center, not specifically targeting the arena.

  • 9/27, 7PM: Candlelight vigil @ Barclays Center
  • 9/28, 11AM: Press conference @ Barclays Center
  • 9/28, 12PM - 4PM: Popup actions @ Barclays Center
  • 9/28, 5PM: Virtual rally—tweet #BarclaysCenter and @AYCrimeScene for housing and jobs now
  • 9/28, 8PM: Free outdoor screening of Battle For Brooklyn @ Dean Playground (Dean St. between 6th Ave. and Carlton Ave.)
  • 9/29, 4PM: FUREE March for Housing, Jobs and Justice @ Bridge St. and Willoughby St. (this march to Barclays Center concludes FUREE’s 10th Annual Convention @ 80 Willoughby St. 12PM-4PM)

The web site will be updated, and there's an @AYCrimeScene Twitter account.


Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

AY District Service Cabinet to be replaced by Quality of Life Committee; "Day 2 Task Force" gearing up for arena opening, but details murky (what about Atlantic Antic?)

Atlantic Yards Report

The big news yesterday at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting yesterday was the Barclays Center's scramble toward the finish line, with a delay in the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy and silence about once-promised pre-opening events.

However, government officials also shared other significant information, including not-yet-clear plans for a "Day 2 Task Force" to address arena operations and a transformation of the District Service Cabinet--a bimonthly morning meeting that included agency officials, elected officials and developer Forest City, with no public input--into a committee meeting in the evenings to focus more narrowly on quality-of-life issues.

While that transformation should increase input from neighbors, both as committee members and visitors, the impact on accountability is less clear, given that the District Service Cabinet has sometimes been the venue for Forest City to face probing questions from elected officials about Atlantic Yards issues beyond quality of life.


Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

Brooklyn residents last gasp complaints over Barclays arena traffic and garbage before opening Sept. 28

Prospect Heights complain and worry about what's about to happen to their neighborhood

NY Daily News
by Reuven Blau

Residents near the Barclays Center lashed out at Forest City Ratner officials Wednesday over anticipated parking and trash problems before the arena opens in three weeks.

More than 150 angry Prospect Heights locals showed up at a meeting to complain about how the neighborhood was soon going to be taken over by thousands of cars and revelers expected for each basketball game and concert.

“You put an arena in a residential area and that's what's going to happen,” said Anthony Reves, 30, as he walked home after the meeting started at Latin Evangelical Free Church at 506 Bergen St.

FCR official Ashley Cotton told the audience the bright lights outside the arena would be turned off from 1 to 5 a.m. night and delivery trucks would be assigned to a specific route on main roads in an effort to reduce traffic down residential blocks.

Before the meeting started, community activist Tracy Collins, 48, stood outside reminiscing about the six year struggle. “I don't expect much to come of this,” he said.

Asked if he'd be attending events at the arena, he responded, "I don't envision myself paying money to see something at Barclays. I feel like I've already paid enough."


NoLandGrab: Wow, a whole four hours! We're surprised they didn't start out at two hours and say they'd been merciful.

Related coverage...

threecee via flickr, 2012 Barclays Center Arena Neighborhood Protection Plan Meeting

Speaking of Tracy Collins...

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

DIRECTV and Brainstorm Media partner to Present Socially Relevant and Critically Acclaimed Documentaries on TV and in Theaters this Fall

“Something to Talk About” to Feature Broadcast Premieres of Award-Winning Documentaries, including “Battle for Brooklyn,” and “Big Boys Gone Bananas!*,” Exclusively on DIRECTV’s Audience Network and in Theatres


DIRECTV’s Audience Network, known for its daring entertainment programming, will take viewers a step further into the realm of the deeply provocative with the premiere of Something to Talk About, a series of socially and culturally relevant documentaries presented in association with Brainstorm Media, beginning in October exclusively on DIRECTV. In certain cities, the films will be screened in theaters starting in late September and, in select locations, will include live discussions following the screenings.

The twelve-part series will kick-off with the broadcast premiere of BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN, on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT which will be followed by BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT. From award-winning and acclaimed writers and directors, each documentary will include a special, hosted introduction and will conclude with a filmmaker interview that provides an update on the current state of the documentary issue. The films will also be available on DIRECTV on Demand, DIRECTV Everywhere, on home video and via electronic sell-thru.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Neighbors in the News: Barclays, Books, and The Bachelorette

Park Slope Stoop

Today, WNET talks to watchdog journalist Norman Oder, who’s been hawkishly documenting the Atlantic Yards Project since 2005 on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report. For regular AYR readers, the interview covers pretty familiar turf: Atlantic Yards’ “culture of cheating,” the lack of substantive media coverage, the next phases of the project, post-Barclays. But if you’re not tracking the Oder’s daily posts — and even if you are, (although at a certain point, go look at some cat memes or something, you deserve it!) — it’s worth a read. (Technically, Oder’s actually in Ditmas Park, but given his PS cred, we’re claiming him.)


Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

September 6, 2012

Battle for Brooklyn, About Atlantic Yards Fight, To Screen Nationwide and In 5 Boroughs

Battle for Brooklyn, The True Story of How the Soon-to-Open Barclays Center Arena Came to Be, To Screen Across the Nation and In All Five Boroughs

Press Release via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

At the 2010 groundbreaking ceremony for the Barclays Center, just one portion of the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, Mayor Bloomberg intoned, "No one's going remember how long it took. They're only gonna look and see that it was done."

Battle for Brooklyn will ensure that, despite the Mayor’s wishful thinking, people won’t forget.

Amidst the growing hoopla and hype of the Brooklyn Barclays Center September 28th opening, Jay-Z concerts and the Brooklyn Nets arrival on the scene, the other story of the eight year fight and controversy that swirled around the arena and the rest of the Atlantic Yards project, the critically acclaimed, award-winning feature film, Battle for Brooklyn, will premiere at select theaters across the nation and screen in each of New York's five boroughs.

New York City Dates:

Wednesday, September 19 -- Brooklyn
Park Slope’s Old First Brooklyn Church - presented by the Fifth Ave Committee

Tuesday, Sept 25, 9pm -- Brooklyn
Indiescreen, Brooklyn

Tuesday, Sept 25 -- Staten Island
ETG cafe on Staten Island

Wednesday, Sept 26 -- Brooklyn
Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society as part of Brooklyn Reconstructed

Thursday, Sept 27 -- Manhattan
Maysles Cinema in Harlem

Bronx and Queens screenings TBA

Nationwide Dates:

Chicago, September 24, 7pm at Facets

Fort Lauderdale, September 24, 7pm at Cinema Paradiso

Washington, D.C., September 25 at West End Cinema

Seattle, September 25 at the Northwest Film Forum

Bellingham, WA, October 1 at Pickford Film Center

Dallas, October 1 at Studio Movie Grille

Nationwide screenings of the film will include a recently filmed Q & A with the filmmakers and the film’s protagonist and a discussion after the film with the audience.


Posted by eric at 10:10 PM

Residents to Barclays Owners: You Have the Clout to Protect Our Neighborhoods

If Ratner has the power to build the arena, it has the pull to ensure adequate police and sanitation services, those living near Atlantic Yards said at public meeting.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

You know you're in trouble when you're relying on Forest City Ratner to protect your neighborhood.

Frustration bubbled over last night at a public meeting discussing how to handle illegally parked cars, litter-strewn yards and other anticipated problems once the Barclays Center opens later this month.

Of the some 100 people who came to Bergen Street’s Iglesia Latina Evengelica two blocks from the arena, there seemed to be a number of new faces along with the seasoned regulars leading to fresh reactions to familiar responses from Forest City Ratner, which is developing the Atlantic Yards site.

But for such issues as residential parking permits, rats and double-parked cars, Ratner officials said they didn’t have jurisdiction outside of their property to help with such matters and directed residents to consult with the the NYPD and Department of Sanitation.

While this response is expected by repeated meeting attendees, several newer participants at last night’s meeting responded with pique, saying that if Ratner has the political pull to get the arena built, they had the influence to get resident-only parking permits passed in Albany and to make sure the police and sanitation departments have enough manpower to provide adequate enforcement and services.


Posted by eric at 9:51 PM

Wary neighbors express concern about arena's operating impact; Council Member Levin suggests "facts on ground" after opening will spur changes; FCR nudges position on permit parking

Atlantic Yards Report

A wary, worried audience of Barclays Center neighbors--perhaps 120 people--came to a Prospect Heights church last night to hear two Forest City Ratner executives explain how the arena will interact with and impact neighbors and to provide an update on a proposed Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP).

The latter was proposed by three civic groups, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Boerum Hill Association, and the Park Slope Civic Council, and includes such things as increased trash pickup, a dedicated hotline for community concerns, and residential parking permits (RPP).

Despite the cordial presence of Forest City’s Ashley Cotton and Jane Marshall, the developer has bent only a little; for example, it will fund garbage pickup on key corners on Dean and Pacific streets on the path to the Barclays Center from the on-site parking lot, but will not address the routes arena-goers will take to local subway stations.

The question of parking

The biggest issue, clearly, is parking, with residents facing an already competitive search for on-street parking fearful that an influx of arena-goers seeking free parking will flood the neighborhood, despite exhortations to use mass transit and pre-pay for spaces area parking lots.

"It's going to wreck our neighborhood," one attendee exclaimed.

Council Member Steve Levin, a supporter of the NPP and so-far nixed residential permit parking (RPP), gave a philosophical prediction: “I think the facts on the ground are probably going to be significant enough that a lot of things are eventually going to be adopted.”


Posted by eric at 1:10 PM

The Beat Goes On: Q&A With Atlantic Yards Watchdog Journalist Norman Oder

MetroFocus []
by Georgia Kral

MetroFocus spoke with [Atlantic Yards Report's Norman] Oder about the ongoing Atlantic Yards story, press coverage of the development and the “culture of cheating.”

Q: The Barclays Center is built. Will those who have been fighting the development for so long continue to do so?

A: There’s been a shift in that some of the activists and organizations most involved with fighting Atlantic Yards have receded. They’re not gone and as I understand it there’s something going on with a broad range of groups for the weekend the arena opens.

The fact that the arena is opening is neither here nor there when it comes to accountability. The broad story [of Atlantic Yards] is about accountability.

Q: Do you feel the entire Atlantic Yards development has been shrouded in deceit?

A: This is not my off-the-cuff personal opinion, it’s a considered judgment based on immersion in the subject. There are numerous examples of what might be called the culture of cheating.

The Community Benefits Agreement promised an independent compliance monitor [to monitor the project] but they’ve never hired one and instead Forest City Ratner [the developer] self reports. In 2010, Bruce Ratner was interviewed by Matthew Schuerman on WNYC and he said 10 years had never been the timeframe for completing Atlantic Yards. Schuerman said that was the time they [Forest City Ratner] had consistently projected. That looks like cheating to me. It’s not criminal, but it’s misleading.

Lot's more where that came from.


Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

September 5, 2012

Unbuilt towers and a hovercraft perspective: what's wrong with common Barclays Center rendering (plus an accurate panorama from Tracy Collins)

Atlantic Yards Report

With a project on which nothing is on the level, it's no surprise that the renderings are crooked, too.

What does the Barclays Center really look like? A common rendering from SHoP Architects (used on the official Atlantic Yards web site and an arena operations presentation) appears at right, misleading viewers with unbuilt towers and a hovercraft perspective.

The image, for example, appears on Time Out, which says:

The controversial Atlantic Yards development—stalled by eminent-domain lawsuits and recessional money woes—took nearly a decade, but finally the project's centerpiece, the 18,000-seat Barclays Center, will begin hosting events in September. Most notably, the arena will be home to the borough's first major pro sports team since the Dodgers left in 1957, when the Brooklyn Nets start the 2012–13 NBA season. Before they hit the court, team minority owner Jay-Z will christen the space with an inaugural series of concerts....

What it really looks like

Photographer Tracy Collins went to the north side of Atlantic Avenue outside the Atlantic Terminal mall and attempted to duplicate the perspective, coming up with the image below, a panorama of four photos.

What's wrong

In a discussion with Collins, we discerned several distortions in the rendering by SHoP.

First, the hovercraft effect. Collins's photo is shot at eye level, about six feet up. The rendering appears to be the work of someone standing on his shoulder. Note the height of the subway entrance.

Second, the rendering portrays the arena as far less broad than in Collins's panorama. Had he moved further east down Atlantic Avenue to Fort Greene Place to be more precise--and to line up the edge of the subway entrance with the letters R and C of "BARCLAYS," the arena would have stretched even more horizontally. It would have been wider, and the canopy would have been even more prominent. It might have been impossible to get "BARCLAYS CENTER" fully in the photo.

Third, consider that in the SHoP image, the Atlantic Center mall is roughly the same height as the arena. Collins's panorama suggests that the arena, which peaks at 137 feet, is bigger.

Fourth, take a look at the tiny automobiles along Atlantic Avenue in the rendering. The vantage point in the SHoP image is actually closer to the Atlantic Center mall on the north side of Atlantic, but the cars are far smaller than in Collins's panorama.


Panorama copyright Tracy Collins; permission required for re-use

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

I'll be talking about Atlantic Yards on WBAI today at 4 pm on "Talk Back!"

Atlantic Yards Report

I'll be talking Atlantic Yards jobs, housing, and more at 4 pm today on Hugh Hamilton's Talk Back! news/talk show specializing in political discourse and public policy on WBAI, Pacifica Radio, in New York 99.5 FM (show streaming/archive). There should be time for callers.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

Neighborhood Protection Plan meeting tonight; I'd bet on a concession; some pending questions; AY DSC meeting Thursday

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on a couple imminent meetings.

Tonight, a Neighborhood Protection Plan meeting with Forest City Ratner
When: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 7:00pm
Where: Iglesia Latina Evengelica, 506 Bergen Street (between 6th and Carlton Avenues)

Protecting quality of life for residents around the arena

Join Ashley Cotton and Jane Marshall of Forest City Ratner in a discussion about protecting the quality of life of those living and working near Barclays Center once it opens. Issues include crowd control, safety, clean streets and sidewalks, traffic, parking and more. Bring your questions and concerns.

Local elected officials and civic groups have proposed a Neighborhood Protection Plan, modeled on plans of other sports facilities around the country. The plan can be read here.

Another key meeting will be Thursday at 9:30 am at Borough Hall: the bi-monthly meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which includes involves city and state agencies and offers an opportunity for elected officials, though not the public, to ask questions.

Expect an update from the "Day Two Task Force" headed by the elusively quiet Lolita Jackson, the city official tasked with coordinating city agency responses to arena events.

Also, perhaps, we'll hear about the promised but not yet implemented sub-committee on quality-of-life issues.


NoLandGrab: Maybe it's us, but wouldn't a more effective Neighborhood Protection Plan have involved doing everything possible to stop the thing from being built in the first place?

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

September 4, 2012

That's the Story: While Barclays Opens The Job Promises Go Broken

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

As the local, national, and international media starts ramping up Forest City Ratner's and the Nets' hoopla machine it behooves the same media to start reading the only journalist actually covering Atlantic Yards on a daily basis since 2005 — Norman Oder. This isn't in order to play any game of we-toldya-so, but rather so these journalist don't come across as foolishly getting lost in the smokescreen of the glitz and hoopla. We mean, how boring will it be to just read over and over "rah rah rah, isn't Barclays great." That doesn't make for interesting reading or historical accuracy. Because, while sure, big events and pro sports are exciting, the true story of the Barclays opening is what isn't happening.


Posted by eric at 9:09 PM

Here Comes the Arena! What Happened to the Atlantic Yards Jobs? (10,000 office jobs gone; 15,000 construction jobs lag; arena jobs talked up; existing jobs used for low-cost financing)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder publishes a condensed history of Atlantic Yards' broken promises, a must-read for anyone who's not 100% familiar with the sordid history of Bruce Ratner's basketball-themed boondoggle.

When the Atlantic Yards mega-project was announced in December 2003, developer Forest City Ratner, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and their allies promoted “Jobs, Housing, and Hoops,” with bright blue buttons perfect for a local's lapel.

Nearly nine years later, the Barclays Center opens Sept. 28 with a string of Jay-Z concerts. The Brooklyn Nets debut in October. But there's far more hype than evidence of the “jobs” and “affordable housing,” which prompted so much public passion.

Could it be that Atlantic Yards, that 16-tower, borough-changing behemoth, is first about basketball and entertainment? Wasn't the public assistance--the subsidies, tax breaks, override of zoning, eminent domain, and more--justified because of the promises of the full project?

Yes, but for now the big winners appear to be mogul Bruce Ratner, the arena majority owner*, and his partner Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's second-richest man and the Nets' majority owner. They get to milk a new media market for the team and arena, reap rewards from luxury suites and sponsorships, and leave the doldrums of New Jersey behind. The value of the Nets has already boomed, according to Crain's New York Business.

(*Ratner owns 55% of the arena operating company, with Prokhorov the minority partner. The arena is nominally owned by the state, to enable Forest City to get tax-exempt financing, which saves the developer perhaps $150 million.)

Meanwhile, Forest City, with the help of Markowitz and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, has done its best to promote Potemkin successes, while hoping that everyone forgets the promises about jobs and housing, or that the New York City Independent Budget Office called the arena a net loss for the city.


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Barclays Center Opens September 28: Will Brooklyn's Worst Fears Materialize? Brooklyn, NY
by Ellen Freudenheim

After years of public controversy, Barclays Center is actually opening its doors on September 28th, starting with a blockbuster series of concerts by part-owner Jay Z.

The stadium isn't, um, an architectural wonder. OK.

But....Will there be horrific traffic jams? Will people take public transportation? Will locals love it or be bent out of shape? Will the 1 AM bar closing time prove a public nuisance or a boon to local businesses?


Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Brooklyn Nets: 30 Pictures In 30 Days; Barclays Minus 27 Days

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger

We don't usually waste bandwidth posting items from "Mike from Bensonhurst," who's now counting down the days until his life is complete, but this piece is so wrong and dishonest, we had to put it up.

Groundbreaking Day ~ March 11, 2010

After years of delays and legal wrangling, Groundbreaking Day finally arrived. Six years after Bruce Ratner announced his intention to move the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, the developer finally got to bask in his long awaited moment of inglorious satisfaction. But to watch Bruce Ratner speak from the dais was to watch him savoring his finest day. Even he admitted, for a time the project seemed doomed. Interestingly, the major groups in opposition to Atlantic Yards expected to attend Groundbreaking Day ceremonies showed up numbering in the tens and tens of people. That's right - the displeased and protesters alike never showed up to voice their discontent; not en mass anyway. Pictured above is a rather small and harmless gathering of curious pedestrians and other intrigued passers-by along Sixth Avenue. Back on Atlantic Avenue, the barricaded sidewalk closest to the tent where ceremonies were to be held was void of any clearly defined or coherent opposition to the project as well.


NoLandGrab: That shot is of arena supporters, most likely rounded up by one of Bruce Ratner's astroturf groups. Back in the real world, hundreds turned out to protest (Mike from Bensonhurst must've missed them), as evidenced in Adrian Kinloch's photos below.

Related content...

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger, Brooklyn Nets: 30 Pictures In 30 Days - Barclays Minus 26 Days

In yesterday's installment, Mike from Bensonhurst thanks the people who've been smoking (illegally) in the Dean Street playground, uprooting (illegally) No Parking signs, and cursing residents whom they keep up all night.

To all those involved in the construction of Barclays Center - Thank You for all the work you've put in so far. Enjoy a well deserved day off and Happy Holiday to you and yours.

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

September 3, 2012

When the press is lied to, shouldn't it fight back? With politics, that's started, but with Atlantic Yards, stenography too often rules

Atlantic Yards Report

The press is getting better, right? See this overview by PressThink blogger and media theorist Jay Rosen of NYU, which cites, among other things, the notably bold news headline from the Times's 8/31/12 article Facts Take a Beating in Acceptance Speeches:

Representative Paul D. Ryan used his convention speech on Wednesday to fault President Obama for failing to act on a deficit-reduction plan that he himself had helped kill. He chided Democrats for seeking $716 billion in Medicare cuts that he too had sought. And he lamented the nation’s credit rating — which was downgraded after a debt-ceiling standoff that he and other House Republicans helped instigate.

And Mitt Romney, in his acceptance speech on Thursday night, asserted that President Obama’s policies had “not helped create jobs” and that Mr. Obama had gone on an “apology tour” for America. He also warned that the president’s Medicare cuts would “hurt today’s seniors,” claims that have already been labeled false or misleading.

The two speeches — peppered with statements that were incorrect or incomplete — seemed to signal the arrival of a new kind of presidential campaign, one in which concerns about fact-checking have been largely set aside.

Yet the press not infrequently stenographically reports, without corrective comment, misleading, deceptive, or self-servingly incomplete statements about Atlantic Yards from developer Forest City Ratner.


Posted by eric at 1:34 PM

August 30, 2012

T-Shirt Designer on the Rough Edges of Brooklyn Development

Metro Focus []
by Toby Milstein

Deb Goldstein, 40, of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, is the witty designer behind MissWit. Her t-shirt company unwittingly got its start when the shirt she made for some friends, simply stating, “And I want to thank Harvey Weinstein,” was displayed in the window of a Brooklyn store in 2003.

Goldstein also happens to be the sister of Daniel Goldstein, who founded the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn campaign against the Atlantic Yards project that built the Barclays Center that is the new home to the Brooklyn Nets. Goldstein lost his own home to the development’s eminent domain claims. One of MissWit’s latest creations is “I’m still calling it Atlantic Av – Pacific St,” an obvious takedown of the transit hub’s newly minted name, Atlantic Avenue – Barclays Center.

Q: What are your thoughts about the Brooklyn Nets shirts?

A: That’s one Brooklyn design that I do actually have an opinion on. I understand why people have it. I get this idea that it’s exciting that there’s going to be a team about Brooklyn. I certainly don’t begrudge anybody who is wearing it. I think that most people who are wearing it were not involved, might not live right nearby [the Barclays Center] and don’t really know what it took to get there. I think it’s a terrible design but it doesn’t drive me crazy. Seeing the arena and the mess in that area makes me crazy.


NoLandGrab: Get your "I'm still calling it Atlantic Av—Pacific St" t-shirt today.

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

Wearing Brooklyn Pride

‘I’m Still Calling it Atlantic Av – Pacific St’

Metro Focus []
by Christina Knight

Brooklyn residents wearing the “I’m still calling it Atlantic Av – Pacific St” shirt, left to right: Lara Ewan and Kevin M. Thomas, 58. Photos left to right by Robyn Shepherd and Kevin M. Thomas.

Lara Ewan, musician and Brooklyn resident

Q:Where did you get that shirt? What does it mean?
A: I got this shirt from Deb (the designer) when I met her at Freddy’s on Fifth Avenue. The phrase on the front is a reference to the name change of the Atlantic/Pacific subway stop. They’re changing the name to Barclays Center, and frankly, I don’t know anyone in Brooklyn who’s in support of that center or the name change.

Kevin M. Thomas, photographer and resident of Park Slope/Gowanus

Q:Where did you get that shirt? What does it mean?
A: I got it as a token of my support for those who are trying to bring about sane development. Ramming the stadium through at the behest of the oligopolist Ratner, well, that bugged me, a lot.


Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

August 29, 2012

State Liquor Authority approves Barclays Center liquor license, but nudges back cut-off to 1 am from 2 am; may revisit issue if operators claim hardship; neighbors see small victory

Atlantic Yards Report

In less than an hour, the State Liquor Authority this morning approved the Barclays Center liquor license--for 53 outlets--as requested, except for one key change arena operators resisted but to which they eventually relented.

They had requested a cut-off of alcohol sales to 1,800 VIP customers to go one hour after an event, or as late as 2 am, an absolute deadline requested by Brooklyn Community Board 6. The SLA imposed a 1 am cut-off, subject to revision should the arena argue hardship (in getting some promoters to commit to shows), and subject to the arena demonstrating a track record of operating compatibly with the community.

Arena operators initially resisted the change, but agreed reluctantly. Arena neighbors saw it as a small victory, a recognition of the unusual placement of the arena in a residential neighborhood.

"It was good to see the board paid attention to the concerns the community raised," Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) said after the meeting. "I think it was positive that they are intending to get community input if there's any further changes."

Still, he said, a cut-off closer to 10 pm was what many neighbors sought, and "we'll continue to keep a close eye" on arena operations.


Posted by eric at 2:41 PM

Lawsuit seeking unpaid wages for BUILD trainees could expand, as plaintiffs' lawyers get OK to contact other 29 trainees

Atlantic Yards Report

The number of potential plaintiffs could grow in the lawsuit against Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) and others for failure to pay trainees for roughly two months of work they did helping build a house on Staten Island.

Seven of the 36 people in a coveted Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program filed suit last November in federal charging not only violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act but also that they were promised union cards and careers.

The suit not only targets BUILD but Forest City Ratner, which supported the organization, a Community Benefits Agreement signatory, as well as individual executives, along with the company that did the training.

The lawsuit, though the charges were narrowed, survived a motion to dismiss. Now the plaintiffs can try to add some of the other 29 people from the program, but only for the claim of unpaid wages, not damages for the promised union cards.


Posted by eric at 2:09 PM

Realignment of police precincts means less role for two Community Council Presidents who head Forest City Ratner-supported CBA groups

Atlantic Yards Report

Though no one's said this publicly, it seems to me that the announcement that the 78th Precinct will oversee the Barclays Center arena and the rest of the Atlantic Yards site suggests that not only will the two precincts previously having a piece of the site (77th, 88th) have less of a role, so two will the presidents of the precinct Community Councils.

And those two presidents have offered Forest City Ratner significant legitimacy over the years, transposing the credibility they gained in neighborhood service to fledgling organizations, known by the acronyms BUILD and BEE, that signed the "historic" Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) and then were financially supported by the developer.

(By contrast, Pauline Blake, president of the 78th Community Council and a member of Community Board 6, has not been an active Atlantic Yards opponent, but she has questioned the impact of the project on the surrounding neighborhood.)


Delia Hunley-Adossa, president of the 88th Precinct Community Council, also heads Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), the renamed First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee, and ran for City Council in 2009.

Though BEE is ostensibly in charge of environmental assurances for the CBA, it has ignored community concerns--as related in a recent report--and done nothing publicly regarding Atlantic Yards other than to serve as a cheerleader.


James Caldwell heads the 77th Precinct Community Council, a community base that led to his role in Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), a jobs advocacy group, and his eventual presidency, despite no particular background in that field.

Caldwell has been a fervent advocate for Atlantic Yards, calling developer Bruce Ratner, more than once, "like an angel sent by God."


Posted by eric at 2:02 PM

Details on Not-So-Affordable Atlantic Yards Apartments


Atlantic Yards Report writer Norman Oder reported in The Brooklyn Bureau that the first Atlantic Yards tower, on which work is scheduled to start this fall, will contain fewer family-sized units than promised and will be “disproportionately geared to middle-class families” with rents coming in at more than $2,700 a month.


Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

August 28, 2012

Hoops outranking Jobs, Housing at Atlantic Yards so far in Brooklyn

Meadowlands Matters []
by John Brennan

So on the one hand, one shouldn’t be too surprised that current affordable housing projections have been greatly scaled back. Oder’s research indicates that as of Nov. 2011, only 20 of the 175 subsidized units in a 363-unit first tower (whose construction could be underway by the end of the year) were planned to have more than one bedroom – a far cry from half. After negotiations with city and state officials, a total of 36 subsdized units were worked out to be two bedrooms in the first tower.

But just nine of the 363 total units would be two-bedroom, low-income (rents of $835 per month), Oder found, 10 more two bedroom-units would be for moderate income and middle income households – and 17 of the 36 of the total affordable two-bedroom units will feature rents of more than $2,700 (and perhaps nearly $3,000) per month. The latter are designed for families of three making a total of roughly $100,000 to $120,000 – not a princely sum in New York City, but not quite as “affordable” as some would describe the word.

To be fair, it is true that about half (now 181) of the 363 units do fall into the subsidized category, so the 50 percent figure is basically met – when one includes the 90 one-bedroom units and 65 studio apartments.

But that mix didn’t exactly seem to be what those passionate supporters – many of them parents – had in mind dating back to those 2005-09 meetings.


Posted by eric at 8:56 AM

August 27, 2012

Agency, Developer Wrestle Over Atlantic Yards Affordability

Documents reveal tense negotiations between city housing officials and Forest City Ratner over the kind of affordable housing the first Atlantic Yards residential tower will provide. Turns out it's different from what the developer promised.

City Limits
by Norman Oder

Different from what Bruce Ratner promised? Shocker!

The much-delayed first housing tower at Forest City Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn, where half the 363 units have long been promised for "affordable housing," seems poised to get millions in city housing bonds.

While this 32-story building—on which Forest City aims to break ground this fall—would broad-ly meet the pledge the developer signed with housing advocacy group ACORN to ensure that 50 percent of the rentals be subsidized, it otherwise diverges from that promise. Not only would it contain far fewer family-sized units than pledged, those two-bedroom, two-bath units will be disproportionately geared to middle-class families, not low-income ones, with rents more than $2,700 a month.

It also differs from what city housing officials aim for in mixed-income affordable housing financing, as well as what Forest City proposed in previous underwriting submissions to housing officials.

Documents unearthed via the Freedom of Information Law, and further queries, show that only nine of the 35 subsidized two-bedroom units would go to households currently earning less than $35,856 for a family of three (with rents at $835 monthly), while 17 would be reserved for the highest affordable income "band," those earning 140-160 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), or between $104,580 and $119,520 for a family of three.

The documents also reveal that the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) protested Forest City's initial plans for Tower 2, saying there were too few family-sized units.

HDC's counterproposal did not hold Forest City to its promised goal that 50 percent of the affordable apartments, in terms of floor area, be devoted to two- and three-bedroom units. But Forest City insisted on modifying the deal further, and HDC mostly relented.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From City Limits: How the first Atlantic Yards tower got more $2,700/mo. subsidized apartments (but nobody told the public)

Though no one said so publicly at the one public hearing regarding the tower, not only does the number of family-sized units fall behind Forest City's promises in the Housing Memorandum of Understanding and Community Benefits Agreement that 50% of the units, in square footage, be two- or three-bedroom apartments.

Also, the only way the total (20% of subsidized units) was achieved was to skew the units toward households earning six figures.

The documentation I discovered, via Freedom of Information Law request to the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC), offers insight into the otherwise oblique public comments by Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall last March at a meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

August 26, 2012

New York Times Public Editor says goodbye without a word about Atlantic Yards/Forest City, offers dubious praise for corrections desk

Atlantic Yards Report

If the job description of The New York Times's Public Editor includes "drive Norman Oder to distraction," then the office has been a resounding success.

New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane says goodbye after two years without a word about Atlantic Yards and Forest City Ratner, despite ample opportunity to weigh in on such basic things as whether and how the Times should disclose its business relationship to Forest City, or even the glaring decision to devote such Sports section real estate to photos of Brooklyn Nets advertising.

From his column in tomorrow's paper, Success and Risk as The Times Transforms:

Two years ago, when I wrote my “why on earth” column, I suggested that the pace of change called for a re-emphasis on “transparency, accountability, humility.” Looking back now, I think The Times could do better with these.

The Times is hardly transparent. A reader still has to work very hard to find any Times policies online (though some are tucked away there), and there is still no place where Times editors speak on the issues. As for humility, well, The Times is Lake Wobegon on steroids (everybody’s way above average). I don’t remember many autopsies in which, as we assembled over the body, anyone conceded that maybe this could have been done differently.

The strong suit, though, is the corrections desk, led by Greg Brock, where thousands of errors are somehow adjudicated every year. This is a powerful engine of accountability, unmatched by any other corrections operation I have seen, and a potential foundation element for a portal where The Times could prominently display “transparency, accountability, humility.”

A failure of accountability

Actually, errors aren't always adjudicated well, nor does Brock display “transparency, accountability, humility.”

He's actually kind of a dyspeptic character when challenged, not only by me but by, for example Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog (re ACORN/pimp coverage).


NoLandGrab: Oder is doing Brock a favor in calling him "dyspeptic," since the latter's exchanges with Oder actually make him sound like a sniveling weenie.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The new Times Public Editor sees role as "smart aggregator" and "forum organizer" (which should mean more attention to public critiques)

Imagine what acknowledgment of public critiques might bring. The Public Editor would actually have had to take seriously the evidence that the Barclays Center naming rights deal was closer to $200 million than $400 million, rather than let his assistant blow me off.

Then the Public Editor would link to news that the evidence was valid.

With Atlantic Yards, as I wrote yesterday, there would be ample opportunity for further inquiry.

Atlantic Yards Report, Times quietly replaces misleading Atlantic Yards graphic, without correction

Atlantic Yards Report, Has the Bloomberg administration "built" more than 130,000 units of affordable housing? No, but that's not what the Times reported

Atlantic Yards Report, Is the arena "a month ahead of schedule"? Times stenography takes Ratner at face value

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

August 22, 2012

The backlash to NY Mag writer's portrait of "pleasant and affable" Bruce Ratner; in 2003, sports biz reporter transcended "engaging" Ratner to note, "people are doing this to make money"

Atlantic Yards Report

The backlash to Will Leitch's big, conclusory New York Magazine Barclays Center feature ("This is no longer... an example of private might overcoming public interest") continues, thanks to the author's admission in a sidebar:

* We talked to a ton of people for this story, but without question, the most pleasant and affable person we talked to was ... Bruce Ratner. The controversial — to say the least — real estate magnate is not known for this warmth and cuddliness, but in all honesty, his aw-shucks demeanor was disarming, to say the least. (This is not entirely because he thought our son was cute, though he did and that never hurts.) We don't know if he'll be happy with everything that's in the story, but for a guy who had a whole theatrical documentary made about how awful he is, we were surprised by how likable we found him in person.

Well, "we" clearly didn't talk to enough people--not even colleagues--who might give "us" a more rounded perspective.

Turning on the b.s. detector

The thing is, journalists don't have to know about the gag orders and the broken promises and the lobbying/p.r. spending that are part of Forest City Ratner's hardball business practices.

They just should be professional and turn on the b.s. detector. For example, here's Matthew Futterman, then a sports business reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger, talking on the 12/12/03 Brian Lehrer Show:

I like Bruce Ratner very much personally. He’s a very engaging person, he’s very enthusiastic, and I think he’s sincere, he has his heart in the right place, but it’s amazing how similar he sounds to the people who wanted to build the arena in Newark five years ago, in terms of, y’know, 'we’re doing this for the community, and we’re doing this for the kids, it’s important for them.'

Doc director responds

And Leitch dissed Battle for Brooklyn, which he may not have actually watched. Director Mike Galinsky responded in a comment:

I try to stay out of the fray but I take exception to the idea that "Battle for Brooklyn" was devoted to making Ratner look bad. This kind of dismissive throw away line about our 8 years of work plays into the FCR playbook, and its simply not true. In fact major project proponent Errol Louis, on NY1's Inside City Hall, called the movie very fair, as did James Caldwell from BUILD when he saw it. As you can see from the link you posted, over 100 NY Times readers have given it an average 5 star rating and a slew of positive reviews. I'm curious to know if you saw it yourself or if you are simply quoting Bruce Ratner. What the film does do is follow the opposition, which was largely denied a hearing in the main stream press. To qoute your colleague Chris Smith from a year ago (well before the current FCR charm offensive) "Battle for Brooklyn is at its best showing how Atlantic Yards used the pretense of democracy to enrich the powerful, but how it also energized actual citizens to fight the good fight. Seeing the girders climb for the Nets' new home, though, there’s little comfort in being noble losers." Articles like yours give creedence to both Ratner's and Bloomberg's idea that "No one's going to remember how long it took. They are going to just look and see that it was done". Our goal is to explode this myth of power and try to help people to remember so this kind of corrupt kleptocratic nonsense isn't so easy to pull off next time.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

The Cloud Over BK's 'Transformer' -- Nets Arena Leaves a Community Behind, Ignored

Black and Brown News

Brooklyn's Transformer has arrived. It is here to stay. There is nothing to stop it. Still, to the protect the public's best interest, there is an urgent call for Governor Cuomo's oversight.

In September, the new Brooklyn Nets Arena -- Barclays Center -- will open with a spectacular concert, featuring Brooklyn-born rapper, Jay-Z. Despite eight years of protests, community-developer wrangling, legal challenges and the displacement of residents and small businesses, proponents and fans of the massive real estate development will finally see the project come to life.

Still, for many, all is not fair, or right, in this high-stakes game of real estate and economic development versus public and community interests.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

August 21, 2012

"Honor, Integrity and Playing by the Rules" out of style, as Ratner says, "No one will care what we had to do to make it happen"

Atlantic Yards Report

In the big New York magazine feature yesterday on the Barclays Center, arena developer Bruce Ratner was quoted by Will ("Bruce-Ratner-was-affable-to-me") Leitch:

Ratner doesn’t worry about his personal legacy; once, during another meeting, he pointed to famous buildings nearby and noted that no one knows the names of the people who built them. The world is a “long, big place,” he said. One hundred years from now, “Brooklyn is going to be an epicenter of this country, and this place will be at the middle of that. No one will care what we had to do to make it happen.”

I agreed that people 100 years down the road won't care, but the point is a distraction: the Atlantic Yards towers and arena that Ratner builds likely won't exist.

The real issue, as commenters on New York's web site, Brownstoner, and DDDB pointed out, to quote "Montrose Morris," is this:

Yeah, that really is an outrageous statement. So I guess the ends justify the means. That's a slippery slope, and if that comment is his legacy, well, I'd rather be nobody, too.

Ends justify means: Independent Compliance Monitor

The list of ends-justify-the-means examples is long, but let's take just one example: the Independent Compliance Monitor promised under the "historic" Community Benefits Agreement Ratner (CBA) signed in 2005. It doesn't exist.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner Implies That There Was Indeed Something Wrong With How He Pursued Atlantic Yards

[Ratner] says one hundred years from now, "No one will care what we had to do to make it happen." That's quite a legacy he wants for himself. But more importantly it implies that there indeed was something wrong with how they made it happen, and right now a lot of people do care about the corrupt manner in which his firm and his enablers in NY state and city government made the money-losing, neighborhood-killing Barclays Center happen. The implication is correct.

Posted by eric at 12:32 PM

Task force addressing quality-of-life issues won't emerge until Sept. 6, after liquor license meeting, rather than before, as once requested

Atlantic Yards Report

There will be a task force addressing quality-of-life issues regarding the Barclays Center arena, but it did not meet, as Community Board 6 initially requested, before the State Liquor Authority (SLA) held a hearing on the arena liquor license, nor will it meet before the SLA board votes on the license.

(There is a meeting tomorrow night at the 78th Precinct regarding somewhat more narrow public safety issues. A quality-of-life committee presumably would also address things like parking and sanitation, among other things.)

As part of its conditional support for the Barclays Center liquor license, Brooklyn Community Board 6 requested in May "that the applicants establish a community advisory task force whose purpose would be to meet periodically and on a regular basis to monitor and discuss quality of life impacts that the arena will have on its surrounding communities."

Such a task force could come out of an existing entity such as the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, stated the letter, which stressed that the advisory body "should be appointed and convened without delay and we believe it should meet at least once prior to the 500-foot hearing we are expecting the SLA to schedule on this application."


Posted by eric at 12:26 PM


Affordable Housing Institute: US
by David A. Smith

In June, we rediscovered that, as anyone knows who’s trolled Facebook or compared an executive’s bio or Web site photo with the reality, what we present is usually more appealing than what we actually are – and when it comes to winning bids or approvals for big complex urban properties, the trinkets developers use to adorn their otherwise homely and money-grubbing schemes usually include affordable housing.

After the successful bid, the gewgaws are returned to the box and forgotten, as I demonstrated in Discarding the ornaments....


Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

New Series: It Happened

Steel, Brick, and Stone

Introducing a new series, “It Happened.” Explore the past and present of important historic sites, and listen along on Broadcastr!

For the debut, Steel, Brick, and Stone presents the Battle of Long Island, or “Battle of Brooklyn,” fought during the American Revolutionary War.* As the events unfolded in 1776, so will the posts in this series.

*Not to be confused with Battle for Brooklyn, or the war against eminent domain abuse and Bruce Ratner’s plan to move the Nets to the borough, fought by some of the best people ever.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

August 20, 2012

NY Mag on Barclays Center: battle is over, Ratner won (um, what about "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops"?)

Atlantic Yards Report

The headline on the major New York magazine feature on the new Brooklyn arena is this: Game Time: The fighting is over; Bruce Ratner’s Barclays Center is here. Now that he’s built it, will they come?


Now it's surely legitimate to ask how well the arena might sell tickets, which is the ultimate question in the subheading--though, curiously enough, one big variable is missing: the (cramped) potential for pro hockey.

But to mostly dismiss the history, the ongoing controversy, and the current challenge of operating the arena is just a little myopic. (Hint: even arena-goers might care that the Barclays Center lost its general manager and that operators will have mere weeks, rather than months, to test the building. Or that the parking doesn't quite work.)

Author Will Leitch writes:

This is no longer a public debate, or a public outrage, or a theoretical construct, or an example of private might overcoming public interest. That battle is over, and Bruce Ratner won it. It is now part of the new Brooklyn reality. It is the centerpiece of how the borough, and the city, will be seen for generations to come. It is undeniably here.

The lingering controversy

Well, yeah, it's here. As one commenter tried to remind the author, Atlantic Yards was supposed to be about "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops," not merely an arena. What about the people who bought into that?

And another pointed out, there's still public outrage, but the author didn't bother to talk to anyone outside arena backers and sports folks.


Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

August 16, 2012

The Count: In Midst of Barclays LIBOR Scandal, Big NY Times Story About Jay-Z Promotion of Barclays Center Mentions “Barclays” Twice, Scandal Naught

Noticing New York

If you wonder whether I am counting. . . I am.

Yesterday I posted a Noticing New York article observing that the biggest “Barclays” story in the New York Times, in fact the only story that comes up in a long list of stories if you search the Times site for “Barclays” is the Barclays LIBOR scandal. I therefore suggested that the Times start appropriately contextualizing its stories about the “Barclays” Center (the Ratner/Prokhorov basketball arena), opening awkwardly in the very midst of this scandal, by referring routinely to the arena as the “problematically-named Barclays Center” or something else of that informative ilk.

I wondered whether the Times would begin to do so or continue compartmentalizing the news. I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. No sooner had I posted the Noticing New York article than an article went up on the Times site (which was then featured on the next day’s front page) that was about Jay-Z’s promotion of the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” Center: The 1587-word story, ripped straight from the developer-subsidy collector’s press-releases, skillfully managed to mention the arena’s troublesome “Barclays” name only twice and to never mention the scandal associated with that name at all.


Posted by eric at 10:19 PM

August 15, 2012

FCRC removes trees planted by residents, shrinks landscaping around arena parking lot

Atlantic Yards Watch

Bruce Ratner's "civic development company" just ripped out yet more trees in Prospect Heights.


An existing area of greenery planted and maintained by community members was removed yesterday by FCRC. To the left above is the work in progress on Carlton Avenue between Pacific and Dean Streets. To the right is the former appearance of the block. The sidewalk forms the western perimeter of what will be the new arena patron parking lot.

If the plantings had been allowed to remain, the area may have been the single place around the arena patron parking lot to meet the 7 foot landscaped perimeter standard required of other parking lots in NYC. Instead, the landscaped perimeter will apparently be reduced to 4 feet on Carlton Avenue like the other sidewalks surrounding the lot.

The arbor vitae were planted in that location three years ago. They were paid for by the private contributions of the residents of the block and a grant from the Citizen's Committee. They replaced similar plantings installed in the same location years earlier by the developer Boymelgreen. As part of the grant, and also at the community's request, NYC Parks placed a number of street trees along the street in that location.

FCRC and the State have rejected calls from local residents and the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for the site to meet NYC DCP guidelines for the landscaping of surface parking lots. Features of the lot that have already been built, such as the setting of the fence line only 4 feet inside the property line, already do not conform.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

August 14, 2012

TONIGHT 7pm: double-screening of The Vanishing City and Battle for Brooklyn



Posted by eric at 1:06 PM


Madame Noire
by Brande Victorian

A lot of you were feeling Harry Belafonte’s remark last week that Beyonce and Jay-Z have turned their back on social responsibility. Though many of you argued that Jayonce don’t have any obligation to give back to the community, most agreed that social activists they are not.

One person who obviously doesn’t agree with this claim is Beyonce herself—or her people. Today Bey’s rep sent an email to the Wall Street Journal, which was said to be “An abbreviated list of the unselfish work Beyoncé has done and continues to do.” According to WSJ:

The list included co-founding The Survivor Foundation “a multi-purpose community outreach facility in downtown Houston”; donating “100K in 2008 to the Gulf Coast Ike Relief Fund to aid Texas victims of Hurricane Ike”; performing in “MTV’s Hope For Haiti Now! Benefit in addition to making a generous monetary donation,” among many other charitable activities.

Though those efforts are certainly worthy causes, I don’t get the feeling that this was the type of social responsibility Mr. Belafonte was speaking of. As a man who has taken a stand against racism, sexism, and war, I imagine his reaction might be that anyone can throw money at an issue, the question is what do you stand for?


NoLandGrab: Presumably Mrs. Z didn't include this performance among her charitable acts.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

August 9, 2012

Harry Belafonte Calls Out Jay-Z and Beyonce for Selfishness

Kulture Kritic
by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Harry Belafonte, who did a great deal of work for the black community during the Civil Rights Movement, is making no secret of the fact that he’s very disappointed in many young black celebrities when it comes to to social activism. Speaking this week with the Hollywood Reporter, Belafonte pointed out Jay-Z and Beyonce as prime examples of what he’s talking about.

THR: Back to the occasion of the award for your acting career. Are you happy with the image of members of minorities in Hollywood today?

Belafonte: Not at all. They have not told the history of our people, nothing of who we are. We are still looking. We are not determinated. We are not driven by some technology that says you can kill Afghanistans, the Iraquis or the Spanish. It is all – excuse my French – shit. It is sad. And I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is black.

Jay-Z is the same man who earned over $63 million dollars last year and only gave $6,000 to charity. Unfortunately, this has become par for the course in a world where poor black people are not nearly as fashionable of a cause as gay white kids from the suburbs. Poor black kids can’t buy your records, rendering them effectively useless.

So, while Beyonce and Jay-Z speaking up on marriage equality is a politely cute form of activism, you have to agree with Belafonte that today’s artists are taught not to care about anyone other than themselves. At best, we might get a photo op at a charity event, but the real pressure to sacrifice for those who are suffering is lost as millions of us forgive celebrities for being unwilling to use their power to make the world a better place. The rule is simple: If you’re rich, we love you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a former crack dealer (Jay-Z), brag about murdering women and children (Lil Wayne) or sleep with middle school kids on the weekends (R. Kelly). Money is used to wash away all sins, and people are quicker to disrespect an icon like Harry Belafonte before they challenge celebrities to do more than tweet pictures of their newborn baby.


Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

August 8, 2012

TONIGHT: Arena Community Impacts meeting with Councilmember Levin

This meeting notice came to us via email...

The next Arena Community Impacts Meeting with Councilmember Stephen Levin will be on Wednesday, August 8, 6:30pm at the YWCA (second floor gallery), corner of Third Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.

1) Transportation. Chris Hrones from NYC Department of Transportation will attend to explain the upcoming changes, construction and answer all DOT questions.
2) Police Precinct lines. The borders have changed... what are they, and how will that affect our neighborhoods?
3) Brief updates on Sanitation, Rats, and Liquor.

Chris Hrones from NYC Department of Transportation
Arana Hankin from NYS ESDC
Sam Pierre from the Mayor's Task Force on the Arena

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

August 3, 2012

Assemblyman and Congressional Nominee Still Keeps Subway Office Hours

by Georgia Kral

A half-block from the 78th Precinct and practically in the shadow of the controversial Atlantic Yards development, residents stopped and talked with Jeffries about the hot topics that residents of Prospect Heights and Park Slope are most likely affected by: affordable housing, development in the area and of course, the soon-to-open Barclays Center — the heart of Atlantic Yards.

Many of the area’s residents have come to terms with the fact that the Barclays Center is happening, said Jeffries. While a group of residents fought a long legal battle to stop the arena and the entire project from coming to the area, most people have shifted their focus.

“Before construction began, concerns were about whether it [Atlantic Yards] could be halted. Then it shifted moving on to concerns about how to deal with quality of life issues,” said Jeffries. “There’s still an active group of residents in Prospect Heights who are committed to mitigating the adverse impacts of the project.”

And over time, Jeffries added, there has been an acceptance of the reality of the development.

Kathryn, a resident of nearby Park Slope for 16 years who did not want to give her last name, agreed with Jeffries’ assessment of the state of the protest against Atlantic Yard.

“It’s a done deal, unfortunately,” she said. “But as residents it’s important for us… to continue to be proactive.”


Related coverage...

Prospect Heights Patch, Hakeem Jeffries Holds 'Subway Office Hours'

Ralph Vernon, a Prospect Heights resident for more than 40 years talked to Jeffries about how he is thankful for the jobs that the Barclays Center will bring, but is worried about the increased rent that will come along with the neighborhood becoming a destination.

“Times are tough and a lot of families are struggling,” he told Metrofocus. “This is affecting people who live here. People will have to move out.”

NoLandGrab: It's nice that Hakeem Jeffries is talking to constituents about the Barclays Center, but nearby residents don't need him to be their shrink — they need him to do something about it.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

July 27, 2012

Closing Bell: Brooklyn Film Series Explores Gentrification


Yesterday Film Wax kicked off a monthly film series called “Brooklyn Reconstructed.” It explores “gentrification, eminent domain, public subsidies for luxury developments, political corruption, rising rents and neighborhood revitalization [as] underlying themes in most Brooklynites’ day-to-day lives.” The first film in the series was My Brooklyn, which will be followed by The Domino Effect, Battle for Brooklyn, The Vanishing City, Made in Brooklyn, Gut Renovation, and Last Summer in Coney Island. All films are screened at The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture at 53 Prospect Park West. See the full schedule of events here.


NoLandGrab: If you missed Wednesday's screening of My Brooklyn, it's being shown again locally on Tuesday, July 31st, at 6:30 p.m., at Park Slope United Methodist Church, 410 6th Avenue at 8th Street.

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

July 26, 2012

Promises, promises: how the ESDC said care would be taken at the construction site, how complaints have been documented, and what might be done about noise

Atlantic Yards Report

As I wrote yesterday, a new report validates neighbors' concerns about disruptive Atlantic Yards constructions, and documents suggest that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and its environmental monitor have condoned a cover-up of a Forest City contractor's falsification.

Some 19 months ago, an ESDC attorney--in retrospect, not so wisely--assured board members that all commitments to mitigate neighborhood concerns would be followed.

The comment came in the wake of the ESDC's breakneck preparation (via consultant AKRF) that a 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout would not result in any community impacts not disclosed in the agency's previous study of an official ten-year buildout and a five year delay.

Such a finding, in a Technical Analysis (not to be confused with a Technical Memorandum issued in June 2009), was ordered by Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, who ultimately ruled that it was inadequate, and that the agency had to perform a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to look at a 25-year buildout.

Board member's concern

After receiving the Technical Analysis (though with no evidence they'd had time to review it), the ESDC board on 12/16/10 unanimously approved the findings.

After the vote, public policy consultant Joyce Miller, as of June 2010 a new board member, offered a small olive branch to community members who'd expressed dismay and incredulity that a 25-year buildout, however attenuated, was no worse than a ten-year one.

"Having lived next to a construction site," said Miller, who lives on the Upper West Side near Riverside South, "I'm sympathetic to some of the complaints that are being made and I would like to know and be reassured that some of the complaints regard to construction hours, et cetera, noise you can't do anything about, obviously, pile drivers are pile drivers, but that care is taken to ensure that regulations and laws regarding the maintenance of the construction site, the hours of construction site, et cetera, the safety of the construction site, are all adhered to."

"Yes," came the response from ESDC attorney Robin Stout.

Actually, as the report compiled for Atlantic Yards Watch indicates, care has not been taken to follow the rules.


Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Atlantic Yards Violations and Cover-up


It appears the Nets have "discounted" their concern for Prospect Heights residents, as well.

A new report validates neighbors’ complaints about disruptive Atlantic Yards construction, writes Norman Oder in the Atlantic Yards Report. The sleep of the neighbors seems to have been sacrificed so developer Forest City Ratner could rush to finish the arena in time for the first Jay-Z concert Sept. 28. The report also suggests the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and its environmental monitor condoned a cover-up, he continues. Check out the full post here along with a Daily News article on the topic here.


Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

July 25, 2012

Atlantic Yards construction violations: not just neglect, but also a cover-up of "documentation falsified by the contractor"

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not the crime, it's the coverup. OK, it's the crime, too.

A new report, commissioned by the community initiative Atlantic Yards Watch, catalogs violations in depressing detail, suggesting that neighbors' interests have been sacrificed in developer Forest City Ratner's rush to get the Barclays Center finished for that first Jay-Z concert Sept. 28.

The state agency overseeing the project, Empire State Development (ESD, aka Empire State Development Corporation), has barely enforced the official mitigation protocols, nor have other agencies stepped up, according to the report. (ESD recently lost a lawsuit, and must analyze the community impact of a potential 25-year project buildout.)

Forest City Ratner's response was predictable. Spokesman Jonathan Rosen told the Daily News, “We take every complaint from our neighbors seriously and work hard to address them and meet our commitments to the community.”

A cover-up condoned

Maybe not so much. Not only has ESD neglected oversight, documents suggest the agency and its environmental monitor, Henningson, Durham & Richardson (HDR), have condoned a cover-up of a Forest City contractor's falsification.

Forest City was supposed to hire its own On-Site Environmental Monitor, meeting daily with contractors and observing site conditions. But the developer dragged its feet.

"During the second quarter of 2010, HDR expressed concerns with lack of oversight," the new report states. "Chuck Baldwin of Turner Construction was hired to handle the position until mid-July and HDR noted an improvement in on-site compliance."

However, that compliance relied on a wink and a nod, according to documents I discovered.

Each week, HDR compiles an "Atlantic Yards Field Inspection Report" for ESD. According to the non-public draft of the May 20, 2010 report, monitor Baldwin passed on to HDR sobering information: five pieces of heavy equipment lacked the required diesel particulate filter, aimed to reduce asthma-causing exhaust.

HDR "asked Chuck if FCRC has been keeping daily inspection reports for each piece of heavy machinery," according to the draft report. "He stated that while they have been maintaining this documentation, it had been falsified by the contractor." (Emphasis added.)


Posted by eric at 2:53 PM

Report validates neighbors' steady complaints about Atlantic Yards construction: "continual violations and difficulty with enforcement"

Atlantic Yards Report

So, maybe the neighbors near the Atlantic Yards project, who have filed complaints and reports about a never-ending stream of construction-related violations--late-night noise causing sleepless nights, dust clouds, illegal parking, jolting vibrations, use of residential streets for truck routes--will be taken more seriously.

And, as the opening of the Barclays Center arena approaches Sept. 28, perhaps officials will recognize that careful monitoring is necessary to ensure against untoward impacts.

A new report, prepared for Atlantic Yards Watch by a veteran environmental consulting firm, concludes that the Forest City Ratner and its contractors, bent on getting a huge project finished by a tight deadline, have regularly failed to comply with mitigation protocols officially agreed to, and that other mitigations were implemented late, poorly, or unevenly.

The report, Evaluation of Construction Air Quality and Noise Commitments and Mitigations, was conducted by Sandstone Environmental Associates of Metuchen, NJ and first previewed in the Daily News.

Sandstone was paid by Atlantic Yards Watch, via a $4,000 grant from Council Member Letitia James; the company does not limit work to community groups, as it was hired by Forest City Ratner for its Ridge Hill Project.


Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

July 24, 2012

Atlantic Yards arena construction ignores tough regulations to reduce noise and pollution, new report claims

Complaints of "...sleepless nights...dust...(and) vibration damage" from nearby Prospect Heights residents

NY Daily News
by Reuven Blau

Construction crews racing to finish the Brooklyn Barclays Center are ignoring strict regulations to reduce noise and pollution, a new report by critics has found.

In 2006, developer Forest City Ratner agreed to keep the site safe for Prospect Heights residents, by limiting late night work; constantly washing down trucks from dangerous dust; and requiring heavy duty vehicles to use main streets in an effort to avoid residential blocks.

But the study by Sandstone Environmental Associates, an environmental consulting group, concluded that many of those strict precautions were being ignored at the arena and other related sites.

“The construction mitigation measures can be considered a failure for numerous citizens who have experienced extremely loud noise, consecutive sleepless nights due to 24/7 construction activities, clouds of fugitive dust, vibration damage, and other impacts,” the 71-page study said.

Apparently, someone needs to help the perps understand the meaning of "committed."

“As the report acknowledges, Forest City committed to strict rules governing construction noise, dust and traffic mitigation that go above and beyond New York City's own building code because we are committed to minimizing disruption to our neighbors,” Jonathan Rosen said. “We take every complaint from our neighbors seriously and work hard to address them and meet our commitments to the community.”


Related content...

Atlantic Yards Watch, Study finds many problems remain after years of reports showing noncompliance with environmental commitments were submitted to ESDC

An analysis of documents submitted by the environmental consultant HDR retained by ESDC to monitor compliance with Atlantic Yards' noise and air quality protocols has found that the agency has been advised of significant areas of non-compliance on an ongoing basis since construction began in 2010. The analysis is contained in a report prepared for AYW by Sandstone Environmental Associates of Metuchen, NJ. Sandstone also found that some air and noise mitigations originally planned were likely inadequate, several planned mitigations were implemented late or not at all, and others that had been implemented unevenly were not being enforced either by FCRC, ESDC or City agencies.

Click through for a lengthy list of the ways Forest City Ratner is failing to meet its "commitments to the community."

Posted by eric at 10:12 PM

Brooklyn Reconstructed

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Update #88

Battle continues to roll across the country and we are gearing up for dozens of screenings timed to the opening of the Arena. Mayor Bloomberg says at the end of the film, "No one's gonna care how long it took. They are just going to look and see that it was done." We think that the film is helping to disprove this idea, and we are working robustly to make it less true everyday.

I am also writing to let you know about a series that starts tomorrow at the ethical culture society in Brooklyn with My Brooklyn. It's called Brooklyn Reconstructed and it features at least 7 films (one a month). Battle for Brooklyn plays on Sept 26th - 2 days before the arena opens. There's a nice article in the L magazine about the series. All of the films are extremely thoughtful and well made. Before Isabel Hill made Brooklyn Matters she made "Made in Brooklyn". You'll laugh, you'll cry, you punch a politician in the eye.


Posted by eric at 10:05 PM

July 19, 2012

“Barclays” Center Opening Pending, Will Empire State Development Sue Barclays Bank?: ESD Says The Question Is Being Reviewed By ESD Counsel’s Office

Noticing New York

As previously covered here, Baltimore and a number of other municipal governments are suing Barclays Bank in connection with its LIBOR benchmark interest manipulations. (See: Saturday, July 14, 2012, Will The Empire State Development Corporation (ESD), The MTA, NYC And New York State Sue Barclays Bank?) It therefore seemed logical for me to wonder whether the state’s Empire State Development agency and other state and local governments in New York would also similarly be suing Barclays.

ESD’s press office confirmed to me that the question is in fact “being reviewed by our counsel’s office.” In other words, in that respect they are like the MTA.

I also asked whether ESD would, alongside the MTA, confirm:

• That ESD is similarly outraged about the apparent market manipulation.


• That ESD is similarly committed to do everything possible to protect ESD.

The press office’s response was that ESD “cannot comment further at this time.”


Related content...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Testimony Rips Latest Ratner Request for More Atlantic Yards Subsidies

Very few people knew about yesterday's New York City Housing Development Corporation" (NYC HDC) public hearing on $92 million in tax-exempt bonds for the first Atlantic Yards tower. And even less information was available about the building the bonds would fund.

But local activist, lawyer, former state housing official, and Noticing New York blogger Michael D.D. White was at the hearing to give testimony ripping apart Ratner's request for more subsidies based on the history of the Atlantic Yards project to date....

Posted by eric at 11:02 PM

Boiling Brains Over Easy

The Free School Apparent

The other afternoon I stood at a Park Slope bus stop near to the start of 5th Avenue. I have known this neighborhood for a long time. I have watched it’s slow and steady development over the past 30 years. Sections that would have been considered dangerous to stroll in, now sport cafes and high end restaurants, clothing stores, bike stores and many other signs of gentrification. And looming at the end of 5th Avenue is the growing creature known as the Barclay Center. A structure so out of place, it is shocking to see it there. Kind of like Gamera, the fire breathing Japanese turtle monster who battles Godzilla.

The Barclay Center is the future home of the Jersey Nets. The project has had problems from the beginning. (for more info on the impact of this project can be found at the blog Brooklyn Speaks) The major concern of the community is the blight it was about to bring to Brooklyn. Where neighborhoods have been going through steady improvements over the past few decades, Bruce Ratner’s plan is trying to make an instantaneous change to the area, which he is doing. The traffic is a disaster. And all of this was known right from the start. Studies have shown that stadiums of all kinds have never done ANYTHING for the communities around them. (see Jim Bouton’s comments, former NY Yankees pitcher) On the contrary, they tend to invite poverty and indigent characters. Stadiums are not patronized by the people who live near the stadium. Folks tend to drive in, watch the game, and then leave. Everywhere I have seen a stadium, whether here or abroad, the areas around them are always impoverished. This includes Madison Square Garden, which if you should visit at the wee hours of the morning, you will find a city of homeless people living on the streets around the arena. This with a sprinkle of drunken white people left over from the previous night’s event peeing and puking on the streets.


Posted by eric at 7:23 AM

July 18, 2012

Noticing New York's Hearing Testimony Re New York City Housing Development Corporation's Subsidization of Ratner's Atlantic Yards Mega-Monopopoly

Noticing New York

The New York City Housing Development Corporation held an important hearing today on its proposed very substantial subsidization of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly. Here is Noticing New York's testimony.

Delivery of scarce-resource subsidy to Forest City Ratner for out-of-scale development hogs and misdirects subsidy that could and should be better used elsewhere, including smaller developers and not-for-profits with a better chance of it benefitting minority developers.

HDC needs to pay attention to the unhappy saga of abuse. None of us has amnesia about Ratner’s misdeeds and we are not about to get it.


Related coverage...

Raulism via YouTube, Noticing New York's Hearing Testimony Re New York City Housing Development Corporation's Subsidization of Ratner's Real Estate Megamonopoly

Posted by eric at 7:18 PM

July 17, 2012

Tomorrow! HDC hearing on $92 mln in bonds for Brooklyn Atlantic Yards

Good Jobs New York Subsidy Alert

Sorry for so many updates to the July subsidy alert. But, in addition to the new information released by the Industrial Development Agency last week, we recently learned of a hearing related to Brooklyn Atlantic Yards.

The New York City Housing Development Corporation is holding a hearing tomorrow, July 18 at 1:00 pm at 110 William Street, 4th Floor conference room regarding a proposed $92 million bond offering for the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project. Because the website of the New York City Housing Development Corporation has no details of the proposal, much less a mention of the hearing (now that's an "F" for transparency!) the only details available are on Norman Oder's "Atlantic Yards Report" website and below. Unfortunately, the lack of transparency means we don't have materials to share with you. GJNY will attend the hearing tomorrow and post on our website any materials that are made available.


Posted by eric at 11:36 PM

UPDATE: Sunday Best - Battle For Brooklyn


Did you watch tonight's Sunday Best documentary, Battle For Brooklyn. As promised, we have an update on Daniel Goldstein and the Atlantic Yards project.

Filmmaker Michael Galinsky recently sent us this update:

'It is now July 2012. The main character of the film, Daniel Goldstein is getting ready to move his family to a new home in the neighbourhood after renting steps from his old home for the past 2.5 years. The arena is nearing completion and the realities of how the project came to be are starting to become better known. We like to think the film has helped with that a great deal. At the end of the film, Mayor Bloomberg, who supported the project and is a central figure in pushing it forward, states, "No one is going to care how long it took. They're just gonna see that it was done." This is simply not the case.'

If you missed the documentary, we're rescreening it this coming Wednesday at 11.25pm (ABC2) or you can catch-up on iview from tomorrow.



Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

July 16, 2012

A-Yards Backers Lose Their Appeal

Civic News
by David Herman

Honestly, they never had much appeal to start with.

In a final defeat for Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation, the New York State Court of Appeals has upheld an earlier ruling that requires a supplemental environmental impact study (SEIS) for the Atlantic Yards megaproject.

The court denied the appeal by the developer and the agency to overturn State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman’s 2011 decision ordering a new study of the effects of construction on surrounding communities over a 25-year period.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

July 12, 2012

First Atlantic Yards tower: modular plans still unresolved, but tax-exempt bonds proceeding, with hearing on July 18

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner this week began what its construction chief called “very very minor” work on the foundation and piles for Building 2, the first residential tower.

But it hasn’t decided whether to pursue modular construction, as negotiations with unions--who, expecting higher-paying jobs on site, aggressively supported Atlantic Yards--are unresolved.

Meanwhile, the New York City Housing Development Corporation is proceeding with the issuance of nearly $92 million in tax-exempt bonds to support construction. A hearing July 18, during which public comment will be accepted, will be held at 1 pm in Conference Room 4 A/B at 110 William Street, 4th Floor, in Lower Manhattan.

No further information is available as of now, which kind of retards public comment. The NYC HDC apparently published the notice in the New York Post this weekend, but no community people--including Council Member Letitia James--knew about it until Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall volunteered it at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting this morning.

The hearing

“I just wanted to mention it,” Marshall said, during the meeting at Borough Hall. “The notice went out, and we didn't see any reaction on the blogs.”


NoLandGrab: Reaction? We're with Jay-Z pal Trey Anastasio on this one.

Posted by eric at 3:35 PM

Forest City: we need agreement with labor before loan available to go modular (plus EN-R's account of "drug dealers, gangs and prostitutes" plaguing AY site)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder critiques the Engineering News-Record's big Atlantic Yards package. Some highlights:

Forest City has started foundation work, but at least according to the article, they're still not sure:

"We need an agreement with labor before we can get a bank loan, and [we] are working on both," says Gilmartin. "We are all optimistic, but if we run into a problem, we will build conventionally."

FCRC expects to start the first of three buildings in phase one by year's end. The other two are planned to follow, each six to nine months apart.

They've been saying "six to nine months" for a while.

Rewriting history

One article, Fancy Footwork To Steady the Course of Brooklyn's Controversial Atlantic Yards Sports Village, begins with a truly fantastical lead:

Fifteen years ago, the 22-acre plot for the $4.9-billion Atlantic Yards sports village in Brooklyn, N.Y., was an eyesore. For more than 20 years, drug dealers, gangs and prostitutes had populated the neighborhood. Many buildings were vacant. "Blighted Brooklyn" was a more fitting moniker than the familiar "Brownstone Brooklyn."

My comment:

That's quite a lead paragraph. For fiction.

"Drug dealers, gangs and prostitutes" just a block away from the 78th precinct?
How about checking out
or a description of when the hookers (but not gangs/dealers) roamed, a lot earlier
or the court decision on "relatively mild conditions of urban blight"
And no one, even the developer, calls it a "sports village."


NoLandGrab: Though, as we wrote, it is a sports village.

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

BK designer creates shirt in protest of Barclays subway name

News 12

A Brooklyn shirt designer has unveiled a new shirt in protest of the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station changing its name to reflect the arrival of the new Barclays Center.

Deb Goldstein is selling shirts that read "I'm still calling it Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street," as a way of showing that she won't forget the original name of the subway station.

Click the link to watch the story (Cable TV subscription may be required).


Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

July 11, 2012

Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting tomorrow: "Day Two" task force; DOT parking study; updates on jobs, construction, operations, first tower

Atlantic Yards Report

Y'know those bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meetings, where Forest City Ratner shares updates with involved agencies, and provokes few questions beyond (usually) Council Member Letitia James? The ones where video and photographer are banned?

The next one is 9:30 tomorrow at Borough Hall, and Borough President Marty Markowitz's office, for the first time, decided to share the agenda with the press. I've interpolated commentary in italics.


Posted by eric at 1:45 PM

Improvisation with wiring at Atlantic Yards

Raulism via YouTube

Remember a week ago when manholes near the Barclays Center keep spouting flames, homes and businesses suffered days without power, and Con Ed said it had nothing to do with arena construction?

Yeah, right.

These wires on Dean Street, just west of Vanderbilt Avenue, show a level of improvisation reminiscent of contemporary art installation. One suspects, however, that there might be a functional purpose behind apparent homàge á John Cage.


NoLandGrab: “'We already have engineered for that, separately from the surrounding community,' said Chris Olert, [Con Ed's] assistant director of media relations. Engineered?

Posted by eric at 1:21 PM

July 10, 2012

Sunday Best: Battle For Brooklyn

ABC Television (No, not that ABC)

Our Aussie friends who might not unable to make it to Perth on July 13th can kick back in front of their tellies two nights later, as Battle for Brooklyn airs on the Australian Broadcasting Channel.

ABC2 | Sunday, 15 July 2012 at 8.30pm

About the series

Sunday nights on ABC2 is the home of Sunday Best, an outstanding collection of game-changing and thought-provoking feature length documentaries. We've done the work to bring you the best must-see intelligent docos that are just too good to miss. Hosted by Kristy Best.

Battle For Brooklyn

Battle for Brooklyn follows the story of reluctant activist Daniel Goldstein as he struggles to save his home and community from being demolished to make way for the densest real estate development in US history.


Posted by eric at 10:38 PM

Slope bar cry: Freddy’s hosts ‘last call’ for pre-renovation O’Connor’s

The Brooklyn Paper

We're still calling him Donald O'Finn!

A Prohibition-era dive bar that got booted to make room for the Atlantic Yards mega-project will toast a rival pub that’s at risk of losing its old-time-y charm as it undergoes a makeover to prep for Barclays Center crowds.

David O’Finn, the owner of the newly relocated Freddy’s Bar, is organizing a “last call” for O’Connor’s, a Fifth Avenue Irish pub in the midst of a major renovation its owner has said will “modernize it a bit.”

He says the July 11 shindig, which starts at 8 pm and goes until closing time, will be a chance for regulars and former employees of O’Connor’s to celebrate the bar’s past iteration now that it’s shuttered for rehab work in the months before the Brooklyn Nets play their first home game just blocks away.

“You do a last call,” said O’Finn, who once worked as a bartender at O’Connor’s before finding a gig at Freddy’s. “I was sad that I didn’t get to say goodbye.”


Posted by eric at 3:24 PM

While Prokhorov opens wallet for stars, community facing the Barclays Center arena won't see money for more cops, new railyard, increased subway service, worker training

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Nets fans, led by the pseudonymous Net Income (aka Bob Windrem) are thrilled by the emergence of the team's big-spending owner, who's on the cusp of landing Dwight Howard, as I wrote today.

But Prokhorov and especially his partner Bruce Ratner are pretty chintzy on the other end. Prokhorov saves from all the deals that Ratner, his partner on the arena, has made. And Ratner, rather than dig deeper into his corporate pocket or trade a greater share of ownership for Prokhorov's cash, has tried to save on many aspects that might make the project more "civic."

Here are a few things Ratner hasn't paid for or won't pay for:

  • an Independent Compliance Monitor for the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)
  • wages for trainees in a much-promoted training program that was mandated in the CBA, now subject of a lawsuit
  • a replacement railyard the size initially promised
  • increases in police coverage generated by the arena
  • increases in subway service generated by the arena
  • a residential permit parking program, as in a model CBA
  • the removal of street trees (though Ratner eventually coughed it up)
  • increased garbage pickup on blocks near the arena (this is unresolved)

This saves Ratner well over $100 million, just on the railyard. The rest are, relatively speaking, modest expenditures, though the police and subway costs should be among the more substantial.

And that's not even mentioning the significant direct subsidies ($271.5+ million), the giveaway of naming rights ($200+ million), tax breaks, low-cost land, and other benefits for the project. The New York City Independent Budget Office called the arena a money-loser for the city.


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Berman’s Children

by Andrew Jacobs

An interesting piece exploring the common threads tying together the historic preservation movement, eminent domain, and Atlantic Yards.

Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights Historic District comprises over 850 buildings, mostly Neo-Grec, Romanesque, and Renaissance Revival rowhouses from the mid- to late 19th century. The District occupies the bulk of a parallelogram formed by Eastern Parkway and Atlantic, Flatbush, and Washington Avenues. Of the 102 historic districts in New York City’s five boroughs, only four are larger than the one in Prospects Heights.

At the northern edge of the District sits the construction site of Atlantic Yards. Infamously, the twenty-two acres of land were in part purchased by Forest City Ratner (FCR) and in part handed over by the state of New York through the exercise of eminent domain. Announced in 2003, Atlantic Yards was initially to contain a Frank Gehry–designed complex of residential towers and an arena for the Brooklyn (née New Jersey) Nets. Since then, largely economic troubles have led to a cost-conscious redesign — Gehry’s out, prefab’s in — and a de facto extension of the completion schedule from ten to twenty-five years.

Efforts to designate the Prospect Heights Historic District began in 2006 and came to fruition in the summer of 2009. The Yards, in some sense, created the District.


Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Some art screening for the broadcast parking lot right next to residences (but no rendering of the trucks that will occupy it)

Atlantic Yards Report

Empire State Development has posted renderings of "public art screening" for the lot at the northeast corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenues that will house broadcast trucks covering events at the arena across Sixth Avenue.

The aim is to make the perimeter more aesthetically pleasant, and it certainly improves an empty lot, but those trucks are going to stick out a lot more. I doubt many such broadcast support lots serving other arenas are flush against row houses. The three adjacent houses are privately owned, though subject to eminent domain as the project moves forward.

The two lots flush against Dean Street, in the rendering above and at the bottom right of the rendering below, were occupied by houses that Forest City Ratner demolished in 2008. The rest of the property was an empty lot.


Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Film Review – Battle For Brooklyn

Reel Review Roundup
by Julian Wright

Oy! Loyal Down Under NoLandGrab readers won't want to miss this upcoming screening in Perth — on Friday the 13th, no less.

Battle For Brooklyn

Directed by: Suki Hawley, Michael Galinsky

Starring: Daniel Goldstein, Shabnam Merchant, Letitia James, Bruce Ratner

Four stars

What would you do if you discovered the land your house sat on was earmarked for a commercial development? Not only your house would be demolished to make way for it, but hundreds of other people’ s homes and businesses as well. Would you take the money offered to you by the developer and relocate? Or would you stay and fight? Daniel Goldstein stayed and fought a long, exhausting and drawn out fight in this familiar David versus Goliath story of a community that would not lay down to a conglomerate that wanted to bulldoze an old and established section of Brooklyn full of history for a sports arena and a few skyscrapers.


Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

July 9, 2012

Atlantic Yards Deep Thoughts: Bad Bank Edition

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Should Bruce Ratner, Mikhail Prokhorov and Bob Diamond's arena be called The House That Eminent Domain Built or the LIBOR Fixing Arena?


NoLandGrab: Don't forget Jay-Z! Never have so many written so much about so little ownership.

Posted by eric at 11:17 PM

Doing The Wrong Thing: Spike Lee Won't "Get Into the Politics of the Barclays Center"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

"I'm not going to get into the politics of the Barclays Center; the thing is, it's up, it's a reality, and that's just that."

Yeah, that is a good point. Really, history shouldn't be discussed at all because whatever happened is now" a reality and that's just that."

Spike Lee has spent a career discussing the politics of both current and historic events. But somehow the politics of the BARCLAYS Center is off limits? Even with the current, very current, scandal in which the bank is embroiled?

C'mon, this can't be the same Spike Lee who once said, "I think it is very important that films make people look at what they've forgotten."


Posted by eric at 11:09 PM

Spike Lee: "I’m not going to get into the politics of the Barclays Center; the thing is, it’s up, it’s a reality" (but "I just hope people take mass transit")

Atlantic Yards Report

From Will Leitch's interview in New York Magazine's Vulture with a famous Brooklyn-born Knicks fan, Spike Lee Talks Obama, the End of Mookie's Brooklyn, and the Hollywood Color Line:

Q. Your offices are three blocks from the Barclays Center. Do you think the Nets will change Brooklyn?
A. I am happy for Brooklyn, but I’m not leaving my beloved orange and blue. And I just cannot wait. One of the biggest nights in New York City sports history is going to be the first Knicks-Nets game in Brooklyn. That is going to be huge. That is going to be war.

Q. What do you think of the stadium?
A. I do not know the specifics about how people got moved out and all that stuff. I’m not going to get into the politics of the Barclays Center; the thing is, it’s up, it’s a reality, and that’s just that. It’s here; you have to deal with it. Negative and positive; I can deal with it. Jay-Z is going to christen it in September with his concert: you’ve got Barbra Streisand coming. The Nets will be playing there in the next NBA season, and Brooklyn has their first ­major-league team since the Dodgers fled after the 1957 season, the year I was born.

I'm not going to get into the politics of the Barclays Center is an understandable and not uncommon hedge, but given that Spike Lee had gotten into the politics of so many things it's a bit of a dodge.

Exactly. In the interview, Spike gets into education politics, city politics, Presidential politics, race politics, gay-marriage politics — but he doesn't want to talk about land-grab politics. Cop out.

Warnings about traffic

Lee continued with a warning:

But I do know this: I just hope people take mass transit. I hope they take it when they are coming from Long Island, because you know you have the Manhattan Bridge and you have the Brooklyn Bridge. The Manhattan Bridge comes [begins drawing on a napkin] … If you come up the bridge right on Flatbush ­Avenue, you come off the Brooklyn Bridge, you make a left on Tillary, and you are on Flatbush Avenue. Flatbush and Atlantic is the Barclays Center. I predict traffic is going to be so jammed that you are going to be on Canal Street in Manhattan trying to get over the Manhattan Bridge. It is going to be crazy. People have to use public transportation.

Well, yes, but people have been saying that for years.


Related content...

Vulture [New York Magazine], Spike Lee Talks Obama, the End of Mookie’s Brooklyn, and the Hollywood Color Line

Will Leitch's interview with Spike Lee is well worth reading. It's a real shame that the otherwise outspoken and thoughtful Lee took a pass on the Atlantic Yards fight.

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

July 6, 2012

Is Schneiderman Giving a Pass on Possible Illegal Lobbying on Redevelopment Effort Favored by a Major Donor?

naked capitalism
by Yves Smith

An alert reader pointed to a new post by Norman Oder, who has been following the so-called Atlantic Yards project, a $4.9 billion proposed “redevelopment” for part of Brooklyn proposed by Bruce Ratner of Forest City Development.

What caught his eye was that Schneiderman had secured a settlement from three groups, one New York City’s “economic development agency” and two local development corporations. This triumverate was pushing local legislators to support development projects in Willets Point in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn.

But Oder raises the question: why didn’t Schneiderman also pursue the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which operates in pretty much the same manner? Might it have something to do with the $12,500 that Ratner gave to Schneiderman’s 2010 campaign?


Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

The Day: Maybe It’s Time To Hug a Cyclist

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Gersh Kuntzman

The sister of Atlantic Yards opponent extraordinaire, Daniel Goldstein, has joined a tiny part of the fight against the mega-development, creating T-shirts featuring the slogan, “I’m still calling it Atlantic Av–Pacific St,” a protest against the renaming of the station to mention the Barclays Center. Deb Goldstein told Patch that she was inspired by Paul Lukas’s “I’m still calling it Shea” shirts, which are popular with Met fans who miss the team’s original Flushing home.


NoLandGrab: Not just "tiny" — the shirts come in sizes all the way up to XXL.

Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

July 5, 2012

Barclays' claim: "we’re dirty-clean, rather than clean-clean"

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the Huffington Post, branding experts don't think the stigma facing Barclays will last, or Barclays Bank Scandal Unlikely To Taint Brooklyn Nets' Fresh Start. So one p.r. expert:

"I think on both the NBA totem pole and in New York professional sports, the Nets don't exactly rank very well in terms of brand value or brand awareness, so Barclays won't really make it worse for them."

But maybe those following the Barclays Center will remember some choice bits, such as from today's New York Times, Barclays C.E.O. Resigns as Bank Frames a Defense:

When Barclays bank manipulated key interest rates to bolster profits during the 2008 financial crisis, senior executives said they were following a common practice that regulators implicitly approved, according to documents released by the bank and authorities.

...Even as [top executives] resigned, Barclays published documents indicating that some executives thought they were responding to an implied directive from the Bank of England, Britain’s central bank.

Investigators disagree, saying that Barclays "never explicitly told regulators that it was reporting false interest rates that amounted to manipulation," and the bank has been charted with helping other banks do the same thing.


Related content...

The Huffington Post, Barclays Bank Scandal Unlikely To Taint Brooklyn Nets' Fresh Start

The curse of the naming rights continues. Just as the Brooklyn Nets are about to settle into the brand-new Barclays Center, the bank for which the NBA team's arena is named has plunged into scandal. The British bank has been ordered to pay $450 million in fines for manipulating global interest rates and several executives have resigned.

Liz Goodgold of Redfire Branding echoed Shankman. "It’s important to remember that this is not front-page news outside of the finance community," she said. "More Americans, for example, are aware and intrigued by the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes split than in the nuances of this brouhaha."

NoLandGrab: And that's what makes America such a great nation.

NY Times Deal B%k, Barclays C.E.O. Resigns as Bank Frames a Defense

In one call on April 2008, a Barclays manager acknowledged to the Financial Services Authority that the bank was understating its Libor submissions. “So, to the extent that, um, the Libors have been understated, are we guilty of being part of the pack? You could say we are,” the Barclays manager said, according to regulatory documents.

“I would sort of express us maybe as not clean clean, but clean in principle.”

Or, as one Barclays official told the British Bankers Associations, the organization that oversees Libor, “we’re clean but we’re dirty-clean, rather than clean-clean.”

NLG: If you don't thin it's cool for Brooklyn's biggest transit hub to carry the name of a "dirty-clean" interest-rate rigging bank, add your name to this petition asking the MTA to scotch the deal that changed the name of the Atlantic Av-Pacific St station.

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

July 4, 2012

Declare Your Independence, Brooklyn, From Disgraced British Banks

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Happy Independence Day!

With this petition, you can declare your own independence from the disgraced manipulators at Barclays Bank, which is slapping its logo all over Brooklyn and on that UFO at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic.

Have a great holiday.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Missing from the AG's settlement with NYC EDC: a mention of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

There was something curious about an announcement yesterday by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, first reported by the Wall Street Journal in City Agency Admits Illegal Lobby Effort:

New York City's economic-development agency and two related organizations admitted in a settlement Monday that they illegally lobbied the City Council on behalf of projects at the heart of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's redevelopment agenda.

The concessions came after a three-year probe by the state attorney general's office. Investigators found that the Economic Development Corp. worked behind the scenes with the groups—called local development corporations—to nudge lawmakers to support projects in Willets Point in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn.

"These local development corporations flouted the law and lobbied elected officials, both directly and through third parties," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

Where's the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership?

But there was no mention of seemingly similar activities by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which lobbied the city for the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning and the state for approval of Atlantic Yards.

I queried the Attorney General's office yesterday about whether the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership had been given a clean bill of health (and, if so, why), or whether an investigation was continuing. I didn't get an answer.


Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

July 3, 2012

From AY Watch: construction vehicles on Sixth Avenue sidewalk force pedestrians into street; no one takes charge to diminish hazardous conditions

Atlantic Yards Report

Those traversing Sixth Avenue at about 3 pm yesterday adjacent to the Barclays Center site had to contend with some hazardous conditions, as documented on Atlantic Yards Watch. There was no passageway on the west side of the street, as a construction fence extends to the sidewalk.

On the east side of the street, a dump truck was parked on the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians walking north, including women pushing baby carriages, into an area of the street set off from traffic by construction cones, then cutting past a parked earth mover. No one directed pedestrians.

Later, as seen in the first video below, some pedestrians were forced outside the cones by parked cars, apparently from construction workers. And, as seen in the second video, some pedestrians walking south along the east side of the street found themselves on a precarious path in between the construction fencing and the traffic.


Posted by eric at 1:56 PM

July 2, 2012

How about that: the first Community Benefits Agreement, the purported model for Brooklyn, contained a residential permit parking program

Atlantic Yards Report

The pioneering Staples Center Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) has long been portrayed as an inspiration for the Atlantic Yards CBA, as shown in the article at right from the short-lived 2005 Brooklyn Standard promotional "publication."

However, the CBA in Brooklyn was signed only by allies of the project, as opposed to a broader coalition in Los Angeles, as has long been pointed out.

Where's parking?

And, as I wrote in June 2011, the Staples CBA concerned several issues ignored in the Brooklyn document, including a residential permit parking program.

Given the concern about the latter in evaluating the Atlantic Yards Transportation Demand Management plan, its worth a look at what was promised to Los Angelenos: developer support for the enactment of RPP, and funding--up to $25,000 a year for five years--to defray the costs.

The CBA also touched on issues of traffic and security, though not in such detail. But it's still notable that "community protection" was not considered antagonistic to "community benefits." In Brooklyn, those certainly can seem in tension.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

June 28, 2012

Is There Any Point to an Atlantic Yards SEIS? You Bet

Prospect Heights Patch
by Gib Veconi

Picture this: You draw up plans for a new house. You find a well-known contractor who says he’ll need twelve months to build them. A few weeks before the project is supposed to start, you’re still finalizing an agreement with the contractor. One day, he calls up and says he’s got resource problems. Instead of twelve months, now he’s going to need two and a half years. Which would you do?

A. Agree to let the contractor have his way, and get somewhere else to live for the extra year and a half.

B. Find another contractor who can get the job done sooner.

Most of us would choose option B. Not the State of New York. In the summer of 2009, Forest City Ratner made just such an offer to the Empire State Development Corporation when it asked to extend the construction schedule of the Atlantic Yards project from ten to twenty-five years. Not only did ESDC agree to the extra fifteen years, it pretended that the schedule hadn’t even changed so it wouldn’t have to answer to the public or its own board.

Instead, for a change of such magnitude, ESDC was required to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS). Although it primarily focuses on environmental impacts, under State and City environmental guidelines, an SEIS also must consider alternatives to the proposed plan. In 2009, those alternatives surely would have included reducing schedule risk by bringing in additional development teams.


Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Consistently inconsistent: Marty Markowitz wants the Barclays Center (liquor license, metal detectors) to be treated like other sports facilities--except regarding its fundamental placement in a neighborhood

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, in recent comments on the proposed liquor license for the Barclays Center and the plan to use metal detectors, has had a seemingly consistent message: treat the Brooklyn arena the same as any other sports facility.

The inconsistency? From early on, the Brooklyn arena was not treated the same as any other sports facility.

The state agreed to override city zoning that bars sports facilities from being within 200 feet of residential areas, as well as override many other zoning rules.

So the tight fit of the arena into Prospect Heights has to be recognized, as even Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams--whose agency overrides the zoning--acknowledged this week, pointing to the dicey operation of the arena loading dock, with no ramp or holding area for trucks.


Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

You Still Have Time to Complain About Barclays Center Traffic

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

The public comment period on the Barclays Center traffic and transit mitigation plan has been extended to July 3 — giving you another week to lodge your complaint or register your support.

The long-overdue draft plan was presented in May — and promised fewer parking spaces for cars, and more mass transit, to discourage driving.

Still, many issues remain to be resolved — so read the plan and send your comments to the Empire State Development Corporation at by July 3.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

June 27, 2012

Atlantic Yards faces a small setback

The state's top court ruled that the developer must forecast the Brooklyn project's effects over 25 years of construction, not 10.

Crain's NY Business
by Ian Thomas

Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corp. must conduct a new supplemental environmental impact statement of the Atlantic Yards project, as the New York Court of Appeals revealed Tuesday that it would not hear an appeal of lower court rulings.

The developer and the state's development arm opened themselves up to the legal challenge by modifying the plan in 2009.

The plan for the Brooklyn project, which includes the nearly complete Barclays Center and was first unveiled in 2003, was changed when it became clear that it would take far longer than the original estimate of 10 years to complete because of the recession and lawsuits filed by opponents. They successfully argued that the environmental impact should examine the effects on the neighborhood from 25 years of construction.

"We're pleased the court did not hear the appeal," said Jeffrey Baker, a partner at the law firm of Young Sommer, which represents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a community group that was involved in bringing the original lawsuit back in November 2009. "This is an opportunity for the government to rethink and reformulate this project."


NoLandGrab: Let's be clear — the plan was never "changed." The 10-year claim was pure hogwash from the start. And the project will take far longer than 10 years to build due not to the recession or (completely warranted) lawsuits, but because there was no way it could ever have been built in 10 years.

Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, State Loses Final Appeal in Atlantic Yards Fight

Tuesday’s ruling ends more than a year of appeals by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). There is no additional avenue for appeal.

Posted by eric at 5:39 PM


Brooklyn Magazine
by Henry Stewart

The MTA recently renamed the "Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street" subway station, where nine train lines cross, "Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center" after a deal with developer Forest City Ratner, which pays $200,000 a year for the rights. But nativist activists unhappy with the coming stadium now have a t-shirt to display their outraged pride, the Atlantic Yards Report reports. Deborah Goldstein, sister of Develop Don't Destroy founder Daniel Goldstein, designed the shirt, which reads, "I'm Still Calling it Atlantic Pacific."


Related coverage...

Can't Stop The Bleeding, An Alternative Birthday Gift For Deron Williams

Posted by eric at 5:22 PM

At (belated) meeting on arena operations, some specifics on parking, questions about loading dock and traffic agents, and a flat statement that the public will pay for extra police

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports in depth on last night's arena-perations meeting.

A long-awaited meeting last night on Barclays Center operational issues--parking, security, sanitation--was deemed useful but frustrating by community members who’ve been watching developer Forest City Ratner plow ahead with arena-related construction, even without official approvals.

“This is a start, six months late,” observed Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association, noting the tight timetable before the arena opens Sept. 28. He said he told Empire State Development Corporation CEO Kenneth Adams, a convenor of the Borough Hall meeting, that he almost didn’t attend because he was so frustrated by Forest City’s decision, for example, to proceed on the planned surface parking lot without a work permit.

The Barclays Center operational team, which did most of the talking, delivered a good amount of boilerplate, as well as occasional specifics, such as the configuration of parking lot and planned entrances and exits. Krashes pointed out, however, that a lot of questions remain unanswered, such as the location of Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEAs) to steer traffic so it doesn’t overly impact the residential neighborhood, or plans for emergency and fire service in the neighborhood. (Neither was the location of pedestrian managers noted.)

Community consultation will continue, but mainly after the arena opens.

Adams led off by saying that ESD, the Borough President’s Office, and Forest City will convene an Atlantic Yards quality-of-life committee once the arena opens. It will involve state and city agencies, and unlike the bimonthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which meets during work hours, will “meet regularly, in the evenings.” Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for ESD, is working on it.

Forest City’s Ashley Cotton added that a community affairs officer would be hired for the arena.


NoLandGrab: As long as these committees and staff positions continue to serve purely to push information at the community rather than to actually collaborate with it, they're essentially meaningless.

Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

New Barclays Center Subway Stop Inspires Protest T-Shirt
by Leslie Albrecht

A local T-shirt designer upset that one of Brooklyn's oldest and busiest subway stops has been renamed for the new Barclays Center wants to keep the station's former name alive — in 100 percent cotton.

Deb Goldstein, owner of T-shirt design company Miss Wit Designs, has created a shirt emblazoned with the declaration, "I'm still calling it Atlantic Av-Pacific St" — a reference to the former Atlantic-Pacific subway hub in Downtown Brooklyn, which was quietly rechristened Atlantic Av-Barclays Center in May.

Goldstein, a 15-year Brooklyn resident who now lives in Sunset Park, is selling the $14 T-shirts online and is looking for a local store to carry them.

She said the garment is a subtle, wearable protest against the controversial arena, slated to debut in September with a concert by Jay-Z, a co-owner of the Brooklyn Nets.

Goldstein, the sister of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn co-founder Daniel Goldstein, has long been involved in fighting the arena and the surrounding Atlantic Yards development. She's put her sloganeering shirts to work for the cause in the past, getting garments made for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 12:52 PM


F'd in Park Slope

Serious nightclubbers recently endured a major blow to their future party plans when it was announced that bottle service will not be allowed at the borough's most controversial giant wicker basket building, the Barclays Center. This is bad news for anyone who aspires to live like P. Diddy or needs an entire bottle of Grey Goose during a basketball game, but somewhat positive news for concerned citizens of Park Slope.


Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

New York State Court of Appeals denies ESDC and Forest City Ratner appeal of order to revisit 2009 Atlantic Yards plan


In a final defeat for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) in their attempt to illegally extend construction of the Atlantic Yards project from 10 to 25 years, New York State’s highest court today denied their motion to appeal a July 2011 decision ordering a revisit of a 2009 modification to the plan and additional environmental analyses. ESDC and FCRC lost their previous appeal by a unanimous decision of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division. The denial by the New York State Court of Appeals means that the July order by Justice Marcy Friedman will stand, and the supplemental environmental impact study (SEIS) must proceed.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Court of Appeals: Forest City and ESDC Must Conduct Environmental Impact Study Based on 25-Year Atlantic Yards Timetable

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

At meeting on arena operations, the shadow of today's court decision; also, while state agency seems open to new governance entity, developer Forest City Ratner remains opposed

Atlantic Yards Report

There was a slightly surreal air to a long-scheduled meeting tonight regarding Barclays Center operations, notably security, parking, and sanitation, held at Brooklyn Borough Hall. (I'll have a full report in the morning.)

After all, Forest City Ratner External Affairs VP Ashley Cotton, a recent hire, led off by asserting that “we have learned that transparency and sharing details as we go is the best policy,” only hours after the state Court of Appeals rejected leave to appeal--filed by the developer and the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards--of a decision saying that the defendants had failed in such transparency.

No one mentioned that case until Gib Veconi, who as a leader of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and BrooklynSpeaks was a prime mover behind the suit, brought it up near the end of the two-and-a-half hour meeting.

“At this point, when we can see a draft scope of analysis for an SEIS?” Veconi asked Kenneth Adams, CEO of Empire State Development (ESD). He was referring to the Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement ordered by a lower court to analyze the worst-case impacts of a 25-year project buildout, as opposed to the long-professed ten-year schedule (and the alternate delayed scenario, covering 15 years, that ESD considered when it re-approved the project in 2009).

“Obviously we have to obey the court's order,” Adams said. “We'll start working on it.”

Given that it’s been nearly a year since state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman initially ordered the SEIS, Veconi countered, “our hope would be to see the scope of analysis”--the precursor to the actual study--in the very near future.”


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Live Blog: Barclays Center Operations Round Table Discussion at Borough Hall

Welcome to the live blog of Tuesday night's round table meeting between state and Barclays Center officials and community organizations on the subect of the plan for security, sanitation and parking once the 19,000-seat arena opens Sept. 28.

6:23 p.m.: Empire State Development Corporation head Kenneth Adams says that he will soon create a Barclays Center quality of life committee.

6:35 p.m.: John Sparks, Barclays Center's head, is going over the season calendar: 82 NBA games, 41 at home. Starts in mid-October. We're forecasting to do 225 events. There will be hockey at a pre-season event. There will be two ice shows, about 50 concerts, and 26 games of college basketball including the "Barclays Classic" triple header. The Ringling Bros. Circus will also perform. There will be between 14 and 25 boxing events.

6:40 p.m.: Barclays officials are working with the Department of Sanitation to make sure the area around the arena will be kept clean. Sparks also notes that they take security very seriously because one bad patron can affect the experience of all the "guests."

NoLandGrab: Much the same way one bad arena can affect the experience of all of the neighborhoods' residents.

Posted by eric at 12:07 AM

Court Rejection of Appeal Means Atlantic Yards Will Undergo New Environmental Review

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner has lost his fourth court decision in a row. Today NY State's high court, the Court of Appeals, rejected the developer's (and the Empire State State Development Corporation's) request to appeal the lower court's unanimous upholding of the Supreme Court order that Atlantic Yards must undergo a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

The suit, originally brought by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and other community organizations, has had a long and winding path. At the core the case is about the State's bogus claims (and subsequent impact study) that the project build out would be 10 years, when in actuality it will likely be 25 years at minimum, and thus the attendant impacts will be substantially different then the ones studied.

The ruling today and the previous ones show, thankfully, that NY courts can actually be a check against public agencies running amok on behalf of private interests.

The ruling also means that the bulk of the Atlantic Yards project will undergo an SEIS, which will include a public hearing.

The time is now for ESDC and Governor Cuomo to intervene to insure that Forest City Ratner doesn't hold a huge chunk of Prospect Heights hostage for the next generation.


Posted by eric at 12:01 AM

June 26, 2012

Court of Appeals denies effort by ESDC, Forest City to appeal timetable case; state must analyze impact of 25-year buildout; will leave cloud over project as arena opening approaches

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner's legal losing streak continues...

Yes, the Empire State Development Corporation will have to conduct a court-ordered analysis of the potential 25-year impacts of Atlantic Yards construction after all, leaving a cloud of concern over the project--and a rebuke to the state agency--as the Barclays Center proceeds to a September 28 opening.

The project was long expected to take ten years, but document signed in late 2009 gave developer Forest City Ratner 25 years.

More like long claimed to take ten years. Everyone knew there was no way it would get done in ten years, especially those making the claim.

The state agency, as well as Forest City, had sought to appeal a unanimous Appellate Division decision upholding a lower court's requirement of Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The state Court of Appeals, in a decision issued without elaboration, denied permission for such an appeal. (Had the appellate court been split, an appeal would have been automatic.)

The decision to seek an appeal rather than pursue the SEIS and evaluate the impacts of an extended buildout had rankled community members who'd gone to court, in cases filed by two coalitions, led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks.

The lower court ruling required an SEIS to evaluate Phase 2 of the project, the towers planned east of Sixth Avenue and the arena block, thus sparing the arena. However, many questions remain regarding the parking lot planned to serve the arena, located on the southeast block of the site, destined ultimately for towers.


Posted by eric at 3:22 PM

From n+1, "Berman's Children": how a key Supreme Court case furthered both the eminent domain that enabled Atlantic Yards and the landmarking that shaped the neighborhoods nearby

Atlantic Yards Report

In the latest issue of n+1, attorney Andrew Jacobs offers an intriguing take on Atlantic Yards, titled "Berman’s Children" (subscribers only), explaining how the legal doctrine that enabled the state power of eminent domain--and the not-so-transparent agency overseeing the project--also brought us the Prospect Heights Historic District, and, of course, the earlier historic districts in the radius of the development site, thus creating enduring tensions from an expansion of state power.

"Efforts to designate the Prospect Heights Historic District began in 2006 and came to fruition in the summer of 2009," Jacobs writes. "The Yards, in some sense, created the District."

Jacobs finds a thread of connection in Suleiman Osman's The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn, who explains how postwar, post-industrial New York faced both "urban modernism and antimodern, romantic urbanism."

The former, including eminent domain, relied on experts "without electoral accountability to build the modern city." The latter, at least at the beginning, was outside the system:

As Osman writes, “The historic landscape was born in the wake of the modern projects. One could not exist without the other.”
Osman’s book is full of sentences like these, connecting the phenomena of early gentrification with a common sense of paradox. The brownstoners’ aversion to suburbia “mixed an anticorporatist critique of ‘tickytacky’ tract homes . . . with a veiled disdain for their provincial denizens.” ... To Osman, our ambivalence about how Brooklyn and places like it have changed in the last sixty years is not a failure of nerve. Rather, it is a reflection of the shape-shifting motivations and actions that wrought that change. Today, Prospect Heights’ struggle against Atlantic Yards is a sort of sequel to Brooklyn Heights’ against Cadman Plaza.

Yes, but I'd add that the struggle has been much more than Prospect Heights. Organizations from equally storied neighborhoods like Park Slope and Fort Greene, notably including longstanding residents, also have struggled against Atlantic Yards. And the failure of the public sector to deliver benefits like jobs and subsidized housing has left room for private companies to proclaim public goals.


Posted by eric at 10:51 AM


F'd in Park Slope

Were you also a bit miffed to hear that the linkATLANTIC/PACIFIC SUBWAY STOP WAS RENAMED THE BARCLAYS CENTER STOP? Now you can wear that big eye roll on your sleeve with an link"I'M STILL CALLING IT ATLANTIC/PACIFIC" T-SHIRT via Miss Witt Designs.


Related coverage...

2nd Ave. Sagas, T-Shirt of the Day: A Brooklyn subway landmark

Miss Wit Tees is selling these for $14 a pop. That’s one way to fight a Bruce Ratner-inspired naming-rights deal. The protest language:

You can tear the buildings down, and run folks out of town, and spin your tales of heroism. Billionaires come, and billionaires go. Names change, streets are bulldozed, neighborhoods divided, but these coordinates remain the same. Change is great, destruction ain’t. When the name becomes Atlantic/Housing Way we might sing a sweeter tune. You can call it the Barclay’s whatever, but I’m Still Calling it Atlantic Avenue Pacific Street!

This ain’t the first time I’ve heard these sentiments. Based on the city’s collective experiences with the Triborough Bridge renaming, I have a feeling the discarded Pacific St. moniker will live on well beyond its elimination from the subway map.

From Russia With Dunk, Barclays Center Opponent To Distribute T-Shirts

I think the opposition to the Nets’ move to Brooklyn puts more pressure on the team to succeed quickly. If the Nets continue having losing seasons and attracting few fans, Barclays Center opponents may be more justified in claiming that the Nets wasted a Brooklyn neighborhood.

NoLandGrab: Whether the Nets go 82-0 or 0-82 doesn't change anything. A corrupt land grab is a corrupt land grab.

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

Jeffries vs. Barron: Head-to-Head On the Issues

Comparing the positions of both Democratic candidates for the newly created 8th Congressional District in Central Brooklyn.

Bed-Stuy Patch
by Paul Leonard

It's decision time.

With voting set to begin Tuesday in this year's first-of-a-kind early summer primary, registered Democrats in the 8th Congressional District will make a choice between Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Councilman Charles Barron.

To help voters decide, here is a head-to-head matchup of the respective candidates' views on important issues based on a mix of Patch's own reporting, the reporting of others, or statements in the public record.

Atlantic Yards


Fiercely opposed. As a Congressional candidate, Barron has emerged as one of the most forceful critics of the soon-to-be-opened Barclays Center and the rest of the Atlantic Yards redevelopment project—calling on residents to boycott Brooklyn Nets games and arena concerts such as Jay-Z's planned series of shows in September.


Highly critical. Compared to Barron, Jeffries' position on Atlantic Yards redevelopment has been more nuanced, with the Fort Greene Democrat calling for more oversight in the form of an Atlantic Yards Governance Act that would create an independent board to keep the best interests of the community in mind.


NoLandGrab: One man's "nuance" is another man's fence-sitting.

Related coverage...

People of Color Organize!, On the Smears Against Charles Barron: A Letter to MoveOn

Joan P. Gibbs takes issue with MoveOn's support for Jeffries.

I write to express my opposition to your recent email concerning the congressional race in the eighth congressional district in Brooklyn, New York and to tell you why I will voting for Charles Barron on June 26, and, hopefully, in November, notwithstanding my disagreements with his statements and actions referenced in your email.

I am voting for Charles Barron on June 26 because he has been one of the most consistent champions for affordable housing, jobs, health care, public education (from pre-school to graduate school) as well as well as an outspoken critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, Charles is one of a few elected officials York City who has consistently opposed the Atlantic Yards project, another issue of great importance to many, including myself, in the eighth congressional district.

Over the years, I have attended many marches rallies on the aforementioned issues where I have seen or heard Barron speak. I have nothing against Hakeen Jeffries, his major opponent. However, I have rarely seen or heard him at these marches and rallies. I recently saw Jefferies at the “Silent Anti-Stop and Frisk March’; however he was not at the rally against Atlantic Yards the week before. In short, on balance, I believe that Charles is the candidate who most passionately represent and fight for the issues and concerns of the residents of the eighth congressional district.

Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

June 25, 2012

Sports Glummery

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White bills this as a post [about] sports fandom [in which you are] going to get to read about Jane Jacobs quoting evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould on the subject of baseball using language you have to look up in the dictionary.

(Above, a cartoon by Mark Hurwitt, that perhaps doesn’t precisely coincide with what I am saying in this article, except at the very end. More about Mr. Hurwitt here. Judy Gorman, Mr. Hurwitt’s wife, a singer musician whose repertoire includes a number of activist protest songs- including Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows”- is performing at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema on Wednesday night, June 27, 1912, at 9:00 PM. I am expecting that one of her songs will be “Everybody Knows” – See DDDB’s open letter to Mr. Cohen mentioning this song.)

Even without putting adolescence into the mix, sports fandom seems to be frequently accompanied by a lack of critical thinking, an abandonment of judgement. That doesn’t mean that sports fans should be denied their own choices, but when such a lack of critical thinking and judgment is abused as an opportunity to hurt others who are not in a position to look out for themselves it becomes highly objectionable. Children and student athletes shouldn’t be taken advantage of, just the same way as I object, when the lack of critical thinking associated with sports fandom is abused to divert my taxes into the pockets of the wealthiest or to spearhead their unfair land grabs at the expense of the poor and others through eminent domain abuse.

When sports fandom collides with critical thinking about abuses it would seem that it ought to be a teachable moment where we as adults can educate the younger generation that there are limits that should not be surpassed in the name of uncritical fandom: Why then is it that we so often feel that it must instead be the reverse and that adult judgment, knowledge and experience must succumb to the childish urge to cater to fandom at all costs?


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Behind the revision of the railyard deal: MTA says it leaves agency whole, won't try to put a dollar figure on work so far, says disruptive work to meet deadline not expected

Atlantic Yards Report

As noted on June 7, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that developer Forest City Ratner, which successfully revised the Vanderbilt Yard development rights deal to build a smaller, cheaper replacement railyard and to attenuate payments, has managed to save cash flow by renegotiating another aspect of the schedule with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Instead of beginning the permanent railyard this June 30, as indicated in an MTA Staff Summary dated 6/22/09, the official start date has been moved back 18 months to 12/31/13, with terms disclosed to the MTA board members on June 4.

Now that I have the underlying documents and posed questions to the agency, I can attempt answers at some of the lingering questions:

  • Does Forest City save money? Probably.
  • Does it leave the MTA where it wanted? Yes, but thanks in part to the agency's own delays.
  • Will a concentrated schedule mean noisy late-night work? No, they say.
  • Can the schedule be extended/relaxed again? Surely.
  • Does Forest City have the upper hand? Looks that way.


NoLandGrab: Next time you curse the fact that the bus you used to take no longer exists, or wait 30 minutes for a subway, or find yourself in a filthy '60s-era subway car, don't curse the MTA — they're just following orders from their parent company, Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

June 24, 2012

A t-shirt: "I'm still calling it Atlantic Av-Pacific St"

Atlantic Yards Report

The renaming of a subway station Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center, courtesy of $200,000 a year naming rights deal the Metropolitan Transportation Authority signed with Forest City Ratner, doesn't sit well with everyone.

From t-shirt maker Miss Wit (aka Deborah Goldstein, sister of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn co-founder Daniel Goldstein):

You can tear the buildings down, and run folks out of town, and spin your tales of heroism. Billionaires come, and billionaires go. Names change, streets are bulldozed, neighborhoods divided, but these coordinates remain the same. Change is great, destruction ain't. When the name becomes Atlantic/Housing Way we might sing a sweeter tune. You can call it the Barclay's whatever, but
I'm Still Calling it Atlantic Avenue Pacific Street!

The t-shirts ($14) are still in production, with an approximate ship date 7/7/12.


Posted by steve at 8:15 AM

June 22, 2012

Barclays Center bans bottle service at Jay-Z's 40/40 Club

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Or at least they say they do. As with everything else about the Atlantic Yards project, another bait and switch is hardly out of the question.

High-rolling Brooklyn Nets fans will have to get their hard liquor by the glass at Jay-Z’s proposed 40/40 Club in the Barclays Center.

A week after the Chris Brown vs. Drake bottle-throwing melee at SoHo hotspot W.i.P., Barclays Center reps made a point of assuring state liquor officials that there will be no bottle service — except for champagne and wine — at arena director Jay-Z’s latest outpost of his club mini-chain.

During a State Liquor Authority hearing in Manhattan Wednesday night, Ashley Cotton, a spokeswoman for arena developer Forest City Ratner, said that suite holders will, however, be able to buy bottles of hard liquor.

“The 40/40 Club will have no bottle service,” said Cotton, who defined such service as “bottles of hard liquor” like gin and vodka “being sold at inflated prices of up to $600 ... to be purchased and drank all at once in a club setting.”


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Barclays Nixes Bottle Service as Liquor License Application Moves Forward

Community groups continued to voice their deep concerns regarding the prospect of late-night drinking at Barclays Center at a public hearing regarding the arena's liquor license application in Harlem Wednesday night.

At issue for many critics of the plan was proposed alcohol service during the fourth quarter of basketball games, after events and previously undisclosed operations at a 1,800-person capacity Courtside Club, Vault suite area and a brand-new Brooklyn outpost of Jay-Z's 40/40 club.

NY Daily News, Jay-Z's 40/40 Club at Barclays Center, new Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn, won't have liquor bottle service

Neighbors of the arena are still worried about drinking at the venue. At a public hearing Tuesday night, neighbors presented a petition protesting the venue’s plan to sell alcohol until 2 a.m. They asked that alcohol sales be cut off at 10 p.m.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], State Considers Allowing 2 A.M. Booze Sales inside the Barclays Center

“The [community] boards were not informed about the clubs’ later hours of operation prior to their deliberations,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and a Prospect Heights resident. “The boards [should] take public testimony on new information regarding the arena clubs prior to voting on a revised resolution of support.”, Jay-Z's Barclays Center 40/40 Club Won't Have Bottle Service

Locals' fears multiplied when the news broke that the 40/40 Club would open a location inside the new arena. The upscale restaurant, co-owned by Jay-Z, has a Flatiron District location where high rollers can shell out for bottle service packages such as the $3,000 "Hollywood" package, which includes two bottles of Champagne, two bottles of vodka, one bottle of whiskey or cognac, and one bottle of tequila.

Metro, No bottle service at 40/40 Club at Barclays Center

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

June 21, 2012

At arena liquor license hearing, CBs 2 & 6, despite dismay over post-event service, maintain support for license; CB 8, BrooklynSpeaks call for earlier cutoff; Forest City apologizes for poor communication, says no bottle service at 40/40 Club

Atlantic Yards Report

Extensive coverage of last night's Barclays Center liquor license hearing via Norman Oder.

Barclays Center operators Forest City Ratner dodged something of a bullet last night, as representatives of Brooklyn Community Boards 2 and 6 came to a State Liquor Authority hearing in Harlem to say that, however much they're dismayed about the "obfuscation" or "untimely disclosure" of the arena's plans for post-event alcohol service, they're not ready to rescind their support for the liquor license.

Surely contributing to that was a letter sent this week by arena general manager John Sparks that indicated that, despite the request to serve alcohol for an hour after events at three venues (holding up to 1863 people), "we expect there to be little demand" for service in the fourth quarter or after NBA games, as well as little demand at most other events, though there "may be special, post-event functions" after some concerts, "limited to a select group."

Also, he said, most events would end well before midnight, though concerts and boxing could end between 11:30 pm and midnight.

Meanwhile, Forest City Ratner External Affairs VP Ashley Cotton apologized for a presentation before CBs 2 and 6 in April by an arena lawyer who said that liquor service would stop before events ended. "We just handled this poorly," she said. She later clarified that there would be no bottle service--marked-up bottles of hard liquor--at Jay-Z's 40/40 Club, though it would serve bottles of wine and champagne, and arena suites would be able to maintain bottles of liquor.

Opposition from CB 8, BrooklynSpeaks

Meanwhile, Community Board 8, which does not include the arena site (which is split within CBs 2 and 6) but does encompass the parking lot and residential streets on which arena patrons will walk, weighed in with strong opposition to the plan as presented, saying the SLA should play a role in "managing this risk," with a cut-off time that is early--he suggested 10 pm--and uniform.

"We just feel residents need their sleep more than patrons need an extra drink," said Robert Witherwax, 2nd Vice Chair, who suggested that CB 8 residential streets could bear the largest brunt of arena foot traffic.

Gib Veconi of BrooklynSpeaks noted that 1300 people had signed a petition in support of a 10 pm cut-off, and that the coalition, along with several elected officials, backs a Neighborhood Protection Plan, borrowed in part from the neighborhood experience of Wrigley Field in Chicago, that aims to respect the arena's tight setting.

Given that most events would end well before midnight, Veconi said he didn't see why arena operators want to preserve their capacity to serve alcohol until 2 am, rather than agree to an earlier cutoff.


NoLandGrab: And the award for the evening's best gobbledygook goes to Lori Raphael of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, who testified that permitting alcohol service until the ridiculously late hour of 2 a.m. would "ensure optimal use of a prime asset."

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM


Affordable Housing Institute : US
by David A. Smith

Here's a lengthy yet entertaining look at media coverage of the Atlantic Yards affordable-housing bait and switch.

When it comes to Atlantic Yards’ excruciating development process, the affordable housing has always been a political ornament – a sparkling bauble prominently featured in the submission, proffered as a reason why the applicant should be given concessions today in anticipation of repaying that with goodies tomorrow.

The contrasting tone between the two pieces, Times and Journal, is remarkable. For the Times, everything is sunny:

Almost six months before the Barclays Center opens its doors to the Nets, Brooklyn’s first major professional sports team since the lamented Dodgers —

A classic bit of Pollyanna nostalgia. The Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1955 and the Mets arrived in 1962, but as the Mets play in Queens, not Brooklyn, and call themselves New York, not Brooklyn, why then there is a hole in the city’s psyche that no amount of affordable housing can fill.

— the reality is that the Atlantic Yards project has already done the very thing that critics feared and supporters promoted: transform surrounding neighborhoods prized for their streets of tree-lined brownstones and low-key living.

Shops along the workaday stretch of Flatbush Avenue south of the arena that for generations sold unglamorous products like hardware, paint, plumbing supplies, prescription drugs, even artificial limbs [Things New York Times editors are unlikely to buy? – Ed.], are seeing new businesses pop up that sell high-heel shoes for $3,500 a pair, revealing party dresses, exotic cheeses and, of course, high-priced martinis.

This, the Times would have us believe, is progress.


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

June 20, 2012

State Liquor Authority Hearing on the Barclays Center Liquor License Application, Wednesday, June 20

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This Wednesday, June 20th, at 7 p.m., the New York State Liquor Authority will be holding the second of two public hearings on the application by Brooklyn Events Center LLC and Levy Premium Foodservice for the liquor license for the Barclays Center. While the hearing is taking place in Harlem, if you live anywhere near the arena site, you might want to consider making the trip.

As with just about every other aspect of the Atlantic Yards project, the liquor license application is yet another bait and switch. From our friends at BrooklynSpeaks:

Barclays Center has applied for a license that would allow it to keep serving alcohol into the early hours of the morning. At a public meeting in April, arena representatives described an intent to serve patrons in accordance with NBA rules that require liquor sales to end after the third quarter. But after Barclays Center received conditional support from Community Boards 2 and 6, it was revealed that the arena plans to keep open clubs with a capacity of 1,800 up to an hour after events have ended—as late as 2:00 AM. And the recent announcement of one of Jay-Z's 40/40 Clubs being located in the arena raises the possibility of bottle service for hundreds of late-night customers.

Tomorrow night, we need your help to let the New York State Liquor Authority know Barclays Center's plans to sell liquor won't work for Brooklyn.

Here are the details on the hearing:

SLA hearing on Barclays Center Liquor License Application
Wednesday, June 20th, 7:00 p.m.
New York State Liquor Authority
317 Lenox Avenue
Manhattan [Map]
Take the #2 or #3 subway to 125th Street

From Bergen Street and 6th Avenue, the subway trip is barely more than 30 minutes, and the SLA headquarters is a stone's throw from the 125th Street station.


Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Judge says lawsuit filed over "sham" training program can proceed, with key claims remaining against Forest City and BUILD; other claims dismissed

Atlantic Yards Report

In a preliminary victory in the case filed by by seven (of 36) participants in a pre-apprenticeship training program (PATP) promised as part of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), a federal judge this week agreed not to dismiss potentially costly claims that Forest City Ratner is responsible for failure to pay unpaid wages to the trainees for their entire training program, which plaintiffs' attorneys call a "sham."

Federal Judge John Gleeson did dismiss several aspects of the case filed against Forest City, executives Bruce Ratner and Jane Marshall, BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), and BUILD CEO James Caldwell, but he rejected a motion to dismiss key claims, including the most contested claim during a court argument last month: whether Forest City and BUILD constituted "joint employers."

The argument concerned the plaintiffs' claim that, by signing the CBA, which promised the PATP, and funding and directing BUILD, that Forest City Ratner was responsible for the program. One plaintiff, recounting how he was promised a union card and a union job, said "I was robbed," when the case was announced last November.

An attorney for Forest City, BUILD, and their individual officers argued that the facts don't support "the economic reality test" as established in case law. But attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that this case was unusual, and Gleeson agreed, in his 19-page decision (below):

However, I cannot conclude at the pleadings stage that it was unreasonable, as a matter of law, for the Plaintiffs to rely on promises of union membership and jobs made to a small number of PATP participants by a major real estate enterprise that would employ tens of thousands of union workers.

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege sufficient facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.

The legal process of discovery had already begun, and will continue, as plaintiffs' attorneys, who include Matthew Brinckerhoff, the chief lawyer on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, probe the relationship between Forest City and BUILD.

Plaintiffs' attorney Nicole Salk, who said Gleeson "really understood the main arguments," estimated that it would take at least six months before the next phase, which could be a motion for summary judgment, or a trial. Settlements in such cases are possible as well, though the plaintiffs this week just got more leverage.


NoLandGrab: Let's cut to the chase. The relationship between Forest CIty Ratner and BUILD is as follows: Forest City Ratner = BUILD, and BUILD = Forest City Ratner.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Federal Lawsuit Against Bruce Ratner and His Partnter B.U.I.L.D Will Move Forward

Time for Bruce Ratner to book another big act for his (and Mikhail Prokhorov's) arena, lest the press start paying attention to this federal lawsuit he is on the wrong end of....

NLG: Is Bad Company touring? That'd be fitting.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Foes of Jay Z's Barclays Center Link Up With OWS for Opening Day Protest

"Jay-Z's Barclays Center?" Huh?

Occupy the Barclays Center could be in the works.

The new arena doesn't open its doors for more than three months, but its critics are already busy prepping for an opening day protest — and they've invited members of the Occupy movement to join them in planning the demonstration.

"They can mobilize a lot of people very quickly, and if there's a project that typifies the One Percent, it's Atlantic Yards," said Jo Anne Simon, a founding member of Brooklyn Speaks, a coalition of local groups opposed to the Barclays Center and the surrounding Atlantic Yards development.

Brooklyn Speaks, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and other Atlantic Yards activists will meet Tuesday night to plan a rally for Sept. 28, when Jay-Z will break in the new 18,000-seat arena with a concert.


Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Opponents Plan Best Way To Protest The Barclays Center

Despite the fact that meeting organizers expressly stated that the meeting was off the record and asked press not to report on it, The Local couldn't let that stand in the way of service to the community:

The Local attended due to the importance of the matter and the public interest in knowing what was said.

NoLandGrab: Mightn't The Local do the public interest a greater service by going undercover at Forest City Ratner or the Empire State Development Corporation? The meeting was open to anyone who wanted to attend, but it would've been nice if they'd respected the ground rules.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

“Urbanology” film series explores the design of cities

OKCMOA Newsroom

Attention loyal NoLandGrab readers in Oklahoma City: here's the perfect way to kick off your weekend.

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Urban Land Institute of Oklahoma, presents five new films that explore the effects of urbanization on modern life. The film series runs June 21-24, 2012, and will conclude with a panel discussion about Oklahoma City’s urban development. All screenings will take place in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s Noble Theater.

Battle for Brooklyn provides an intimate look at the very public and passionate fight waged by the residents and business owners of Brooklyn’s historic Prospect Heights neighborhood, who are facing condemnation of their property to make way for the polarizing Atlantic Yards project, a massive plan to build 16 skyscrapers and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. Battle for Brooklyn screens Friday, June 22 at 8pm followed by a Skype Q&A with director Michael Galinsky.


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

June 19, 2012

Federal Court: Lawsuit against Forest City Ratner and BUILD to Move Forward

Press Release via South Brooklyn Legal Services

Bruce Ratner suddenly finds himself on a prolonged courtroom losing streak.

A federal judge in Brooklyn has decided that a group of Brooklyn residents may move forward on their lawsuit against Forest City Ratner and related entities based on unpaid wages and broken promises. In a 19-page decision, Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York held that the plaintiffs, participants in a sham job training program created by the Atlantic Yards developers and Brooklyn United for Innovative Development (BUILD), may proceed on their central claims against the defendants.

The decision affirms that the plaintiffs properly stated claims for unpaid wages under federal and state labor laws against all the defendants, who plaintiffs allege jointly operated the Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program (PATP). Judge Gleeson determined that although the trainees were not employees in the ordinary sense, they may still be entitled to be paid for their work. The judge held that all the defendants, including Bruce Ratner, may be liable for unpaid wages.

The court also found that the defendants may have engaged in deceptive acts or practices in violation of the New York General Business Law. The court based this determination on the allegations that the defendants recruited a large number of potential trainees with misleading promises of union membership and jobs. According to the decision, this constitutes a “sufficient public impact” to show a broad effect on consumers at large.

While some claims were dismissed as to certain defendants, the judge affirmed all the key aspects of the legal basis for the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. The defendants argued that the developers could not be held to promises to deliver union jobs. However, Judge Gleeson stated: “I cannot conclude . . . that it was unreasonable, as a matter of law, for the Plaintiffs to rely on promises of union membership and jobs made to a small number of PATP participants by a major real estate enterprise that would employ tens of thousands of union workers.”

For more information, please contact South Brooklyn Legal Services’ Nicole Salk at 718-237-5544 or Sarah Dranoff at 718-237-5578.

Posted by eric at 4:41 PM

A question for the SLA hearing on the Barclays Center alcohol service plan: how many other arenas serve VIP customers after the announced third-quarter cutoff, and does the NBA have an unannounced exception to its rules?

Atlantic Yards Report

As the second day of a two-part hearing on the Barclays Center liquor license approaches tomorrow (7 pm, State Liquor Authority offices in Harlem), several questions remain, notably one regarding whether the arena plans to follow NBA policy, and whether that policy includes a previously unacknowledged exemption.

According to arena operators, they plan to offer alcohol service to up to 1,800 VIPs for an hour after NBA games, as well as an hour after all events.

They say that's in compliance with the NBA, and have said they plan to follow NBA guidelines.

That remains in question, since the NBA for more than seven years has had a cut-off after the third quarter, with no announced exception for high-rollers. In April, a lawyer for the arena said publicly that alcohol service would end after the third quarter, with no mention of exceptions.

No one will confirm for me whether that NBA policy includes such an exception, nor which other NBA arenas, if any, offer such an exception.

At the hearing tomorrow, the administrative law judge should be told to pose these very specific questions directly to the applicants for the liquor license:

  • For NBA games, do most/all other arenas, like Madison Square Garden, cut off alcohol service arenawide after third quarter?
  • How many are they like the Barclays Center plan, allowing alcohol consumption for those in VIP sections, for an hour after games? If so, which ones?
  • Does Barclays Center need a waiver from NBA guidelines? Or are those not binding? Or do they not apply to VIP seats?

(Other issues likely to come up regard Community Board 8's expected request for an earlier cutoff time than the announced 2 am, as well as concern about whether Jay-Z's 40/40 Club will offer bottle service.)


Posted by eric at 1:35 PM

Barclays bar fray: Neighbors angry about Jay-Z bar’s late last call

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

Rap mogul Jay-Z will open a sprawling, high-end sports bar inside the Barclays Center — but neighbors have 99 problems with a plan to serve booze until 2 am at the posh lounge.

The Brooklyn-born superstar plans to launch a Kings County version of his popular Manhattan venue the 40/40 Club inside the new Nets arena, complete with a 350-seat restaurant and a space for events.

“There is no better home for [it],” Jay-Z said last week.

But frustrated neighbors claim Barclays Center operators evaded mandatory public review by applying for a single liquor license for the entire arena — and only revealing their plan to allow “luxury” vendors such as the 40/40 Club to sell booze until 2 am after gaining the endorsement of Community Board 6.


NoLandGrab: Yes, the 40/40 Club is so popular that Jay emailed us a 60%-off coupon this very morning.

Posted by eric at 1:01 PM

Brooklyn's 4th Avenue Corridor Architecture Slammed in Wall St Journal: Hope for "Brooklyn Boulevard?" Brooklyn
by Ellen Freudenheim

And, tomorrow June 19th, Develop Don't Destroy, the community-based organization that seeks to have some influence over what remains of future planning around the controversial Atlantic Yards, will be holding a "kickoff" meeting to organize a protest demonstration at the Barclays Center opening, saying "Atlantic Yards promised jobs, housing and hoops. All we're getting is hoops, parking lots, a demolition zone, an imminent traffic/parking fiasco, rats , and the Borough's biggest bar."


That meeting takes place tonight, at 7p.m.
at Brown Memorial Baptist Church
484 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn

More info.

Posted by eric at 12:44 PM

June 18, 2012

American Society of Landscape Architects calls for sustainable design for Barclays surface parking lot

Atlantic Yards Watch

The New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NYASLA), an organization of landscape architects in New York City, Long Island and Westchester, has submitted a letter to ESDC CEO Kenneth Adams about the plans for the surface parking lot for Barclays Center patrons on block 1129. NYSLA expresses "dissatisfaction" with the proposed plans, and calls for a more sustainable plan that benefits NYC "through vegetation, shade, a minimized carbon footprint, stormwater management and pervious parking surface materials." The heart of their recommendations is that the lot meet NYC DCP standards, and that it be constructed using green technology.

The group writes that it finds the proposed design "troubling, potentially dangerous to long-term public health, averse to maintaining environmental quality and inconsistent with NYC’s intent to strengthen the economy, combat climate change and enhance quality of life through thoughtful and environmentally beneficial design."


Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

Landscape architects' organization says Atlantic Yards parking lot ignores sustainability; calls for increased greenery, better use of stormwater, programming when space is unused

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's plan to not meet Department of City Planning standards for the surface parking lot associated with the Barclays Center--thanks, according to the developer, to a state override of zoning*--has generated extensive criticism, not only from Atlantic Yards Watch, but more recently from a leading professional organization, which warns of "higher-than-average temperatures in the neighborhood as a result of the heat island effect."

In a letter sent 6/12/12 to Kenneth Adams, President/CEO, Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project, the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NYASLA) commented that the parking should be more sustainable, adding "vegetation, shade, a minimized carbon footprint, stormwater management and pervious parking surface materials."

"Such an approach is more respectful of the quality of life of adjacent residents and businesses," wrote NYASLA President Denisha Williams and Past-President, Policy Committee Tricia Martin.

*The letter notes that the exemption from city guidelines is because of the lot's status as a temporary lot--but it could last for more than a decade.


NoLandGrab: The next time Forest City Ratner is "respectful of the quality of life of adjacent residents and businesses" will be the first time Forest City Ratner is respectful of the quality of life of adjacent residents and businesses.

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Nets announce Barclays Center restaurant will be a Jay-Z 40/40 Club. Is bottle service on the menu?

Atlantic Yards Watch

The Brooklyn 40/40 club appears to follow the model of Jay-Z's other locations in Manhattan and Atlantic City. Those locations are open until 4:00 AM and 5:00 AM, respectively. At the Manhattan club, the schedule lists events that begin after 10:00 PM most nights of the week. If the Brooklyn location is covered by the liquor license currently under review by the State Liquor Authority, the Brooklyn location would presumably close at 2:00 AM based on a recent letter from Barclays Center's attorney to CB6.

40/40 Clubs in Atlantic City and Manhattan prominently feature bottle service. In recent months, proposals for new restaurants Prime 6 and Kemistry Lounge offering bottle service have found stiff resistance from local neighbors. At its May 2 general meeting, Community Board 6 denied Kemistry's application for a full liquor license. At the same meeting, CB6 granted conditional approval to the Barclays Center application based on representations made by Barclays Center management at an April public meeting that liquor service would end before the fourth quarter of NBA events. Since that time, it has been revealed that the Barclays Center would also operate clubs that will continue to serve alcohol up to one hour after events, as late as 2:00 AM. The 40/40 announcement comes less than a week before the second of two hearings in front of the State Liquor Authority regarding Barclays Center's license.


Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Bottle Service At Barclays Center Might Cost It A Liquor License

by Rebecca Fishbein

Looks like the Barclays Center's hitting some snags when it comes to getting sauced: this week, Community Board 8 agreed to ask the State Liquor Authority to put a hold on the arena's liquor license. The decision was announced Thursday at a CB8 general meeting in Prospect Heights, and came on the heels of the recent revelation that Jay-Z would be opening a 40/40 club outpost at the arena, which, like its high-end Chelsea counterpart, would include (gasp!) bottle service.

The SLA will hold its second out of two public hearings on June 20, whereupon it will decide on the Barclays Center's boozy fate.


Related coverage...

mcbrooklyn, More Than 9,300 Apply for 1,900 Part Time Jobs at Barclays

Many of the jobs are likely at the Barclays' many bars, nightclubs and restaurants which will spill thousands of drunken, brawling patrons out into the surrounding residential streets at 2 a.m.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM


A/N Blog
by Tom Stoelker

Mayor Bloomberg evoked Fitzgerald today when he announced the deal between Sterling Equities and Related Companies to revamp Willets Point. “Today the ‘valley of ashes’ is well on its way to becoming the site of historic private investment,” the mayor said in a statement, referring to the gritty midpoint between Gatsby’s West Egg manse and Manhattan. The plan pegs its success to a mega entertainment/retail hub just west of the stadium, that sounds very much a part of a trend in projects that used to be called malls, but are now called retail/entertainment attractions.

More like distractions.

That the housing comes so late in the game has got more than few politians up up in arms. The Daily News reported early this week that City Coucilmember Karen Koslowitz was not pleased. It’s a pretty sensitive topic that was initially raises in The Wall Street Journal last month, which cited Willets Point and Atlantic Yards as examples of where housing was used to win favor with the locals but ends up being the last component of the project scheduled for completion.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

June 15, 2012

Community Board 8 agrees to request curbs on arena liquor license, cites bottle service from Jay-Z's 40/40 Club, concern about late-night drinking, and information not previously available to CBs

Atlantic Yards Report

The saga of the pending Barclays Center liquor license--actually, some 54 separate licenses--took two twists yesterday.

First, arena operators announced the presence of Jay-Z's sometimes controversial 40/40 Club, apparently to include bottle service. Then Brooklyn Community Board 8, hitherto absent from the debate, unanimously agreed to ask the State Liquor Authority (SLA) for an earlier cut-off time at a massive facility just past its borders.

The 40/40 Club announcement, like nearly every news release regarding the Barclays Center, was surely strategized to drive headlines, and it did.

The timing--after the liquor license process is well along--may also have been strategized to avoid Community Board scrutiny. (The SLA holds the second day of a two-day public hearing June 20 at 7 pm at its office in Harlem.

When representatives of the arena and Levy Premium Foodservice made presentations to Community Boards 2 and 6, beginning in April, there was no mention of the 40/40 Club, or bottle service, a mode of distribution that provoked CB 6 to express disapproval of the liquor license application, given that it's usually limited to less residential areas.

Beyond that, the Community Boards were told that alcohol service at the arena would end, as per league standards, by the end of the third quarter of NBA games, and before the end of other events.

Only after the two CBs expressed conditional support for the license, with most conditions easily met, did the applicants acknowledge that 1,800 VIPs--the equivalent, perhaps, of nearly two dozen neighborhood bars--would be allowed to drink for an hour after the end of each event. The SLA is statutorily required to consider Community Board input, rather than general public input.


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

Catching up: optimism about arena-area retail rents, unmet promises in Williamsburg, auditions for Brooklyn Nets dance team

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up some stories that we missed, too. Here are some shortcut links:

The Wall Street Journal, Brooklyn Waits on Promise of a Park

It has become a familiar scenario across the city, as large developments such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Willets Point in Queens move forward: The promises made by the city and developers to overcome opposition change over time or are delayed long into the future.

The Real Deal, How the Barclays Center will transform Brooklyn retail leasing

NY Observer, Nets Debut Dance Team (Containing Only One Native Brooklynite) and Its Cheeky Moniker: The Brooklynettes


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Enough False Promises of Affordable Housing Development!

The SurReal Estate
by Elise Goldin

Meanwhile, in real news...

There is a major lack of affordable housing in New York City, and everyone knows it. When the government pushes large scale development projects, it is often the promise of jobs and affordable housing that win community support for the project. In the case of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn (the site of Barclay’s Center, the new Nets arena) developers promised to build over 2,000 units of low and middle-income housing. But as the arena’s construction is nearing completion, where is the affordable housing?


Photo: Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

June 14, 2012

From the Committee for Arena Justice: request for more oversight, new financial penalties, and an independent compliance monitor

Atlantic Yards Report

What exactly did the Committee for Arena Justice, the organizers of the rally held this past Sunday, ask? Well, a copy of a letter displayed at the rally (bottom) shows that they want to see more benefits for Central Brooklyn--in a sense asking for developer Forest City Ratner to comply with pledges initially made.

To some degree the failure to deliver benefits, as Forest City would say, has to do with delays in implementing the project. How to fix that? Well, the committee wants new penalties on the developer--but the state has shown no inclination to revise contracts that give Forest City a long leash.

Fox guarding henhouse?

The other request seems far more achievable. As I wrote, the signatories of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), who negotiated such benefits, seem muzzled, by contract, dependence, or prudence, unable to even publicly demand the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the CBA, leaving Forest City Ratner, as one speaker put it, the fox guarding the henhouse.

So the committee's request for an Independent Compliance Monitor is merely asking the developer to fulfil a pledge it made years ago--and that shouldn't be as politically difficult. Can project boosters, or those on the fence, really defend that?


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Clergy Lead Protest to Hold Ratner and NY State Accountable on Atlantic Yards Promises

In the wacky world of Atlantic Yards, project critics and opponents are trying to keep the developer and his backers accountable for their promises, while the developer's partners and project proponents remain silent on the developer's broken promises.

Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

June 13, 2012

At daytime SLA hearing on Barclays Center liquor license, some community dismay, but support from Markowitz, a stack of letters, and a judge who kept looking for Community Board input

Atlantic Yards Report

Does the Barclays Center deserve to be treated pretty much like any other sports facility in the area, in terms of its liquor license, or should there be some curbs resulting from the arena's tight fit into Prospect Heights, just as Wrigley Field in Chicago has a 9:30 pm cutoff and limited night events?

A few Brooklynites yesterday argued the latter, during the first phase of a two-part public hearing held by the State Liquor Authority (SLA). But given that the SLA is directed to weigh input from the local Community Boards, and the latter have already expressed their support for the liquor license, such concerns now have less weight.

Administrative law judge Raymond Di Luglio more than once indicated that the venue--if not the precisely the license--was "a fait accompli," noting that the SLA's job is not only to respond to neighborly concern but to find out if the liquor license is in the public interest.

Arena operators brought a group of lawyers, officials, and even a lobbyist, with two black cars waiting outside. After the second phase of the hearing June 20, Di Luglio will issue findings to be shared with the SLA officers.

Contrast with MSG; serving later for NBA games

Actually, in one way, Barclays Center operators seek even more latitude than Madison Square Garden (MSG). The Brooklyn arena plans to keep serving alcohol to VIP patrons for one hour after all events. While MSG offers such latitude for most events, it does not allow after-event liquor sales during NBA games.

The NBA cutoff is the end of the third quarter; I'm checking to find out how many arenas allow such after-game sales, in seeming contravention of the cutoff, and whether the Barclays Center needs a waiver from NBA guidelines.


Related coverage..., Barclays Center Reps Expect 'Neighborly' Crowds in Late-Night Booze Bid

In a letter backing the Barclays Center liquor-license application, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said the late-night cutoff time for alcohol sales was necessary to allow the Barclays Center to "fully deliver a world-class sports and entertainment venue" on par with Yankee Stadium or Citi Field.

But a spokesman for Brooklyn State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery slammed that comparison followingTuesday's hearing.

"This is not like Yankee Stadium or Citi Field or Madison Square Garden," said Montgomery spokesman James Vogel. "This thing has people living 45 feet across from it. It's in the middle of residential neighborhoods; it doesn't have a surrounding buffer of parking lots and highways the way Yankee Stadium and Citi Field do."

Brownstoner, First SLA Hearing Held For Barclays Liquor License

The hearings come after both local community boards had given their conditioned approvals–but only in the absence of disclosure by arena operators revealed that some parts of the arena would serve alcohol as late as 2 a.m.

Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

June 12, 2012

June 19th 7pm: Kickoff Meeting to Plan Demonstration at Barclays Arena Opening

On Tuesday, June 19th Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, BrooklynSpeaks, the Brown (Memorial Baptist Church) Community Development Corporation and Occupy groups invite you to a kickoff meeting to organize a protest demonstration at the Barclays Center opening.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards promised jobs, housing and hoops. All we're getting is hoops, parking lots, a demolition zone, a traffic/parking fiasco, rats, and the Borough's biggest bar. An arena alone nets nothing for Brooklyn.

Amidst all the hoopla around the arena opening in September and various big act bookings, we must not allow the public, the press and elected officials to forget how Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov's billion dollar arena came to be and all the bait-n-switching that has gone on enabling Ratner to control, and hold hostage, 22 acres in the heart of Brooklyn for an illegitimate project.

On June 19th join us and participate in planning for the September 28th demonstration at the arena opening.

Spread the word, we want your ideas and your active participation.

Tuesday, June 19 at 7pm
at Brown Memorial Baptist Church
484 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn


Posted by eric at 10:45 PM

Video: In April, Community Boards were told alcohol service would end by beginning of fourth quarter of NBA games and before end of events. No exception for VIP seats was mentioned.

Atlantic Yards Report

Oversight or deliberate obfuscation?

So, what exactly were Community Boards 2 and 6 told about the cut-off time for alcohol service at the Barclays Center arena? There were not told a belatedly-released detail: that, for a segment of high-rollers, some 1800 people (as clarified at a State Liquor Authority hearing this morning), service could go one hour after all events.

Now 1800 people is about 10% of the arena capacity for basketball, a little less than the capacity for concerts, so it may seem like a relatively small number--especially compared to figures reported in the press, like 5,400. But that also could be seen as the capacity of a dozen reasonably-sized bars.

At a joint meeting of the Community Boards, 4/10/12, Robert Skene, an attorney for Levy Premium Foodservice, co-applicant with Brooklyn Events Center (an affiliate of Forest City Ratner), presented the plan, in a bureaucratic but clear enough voice.

"The client intends to follow the NBA policy, which is no service at the beginning of the fourth quarter. So the end of the third quarter will be the cutoff time," Skene said. "For concerts and other family-oriented events, there will be a cutoff time before the end of the event, but that particular time is going to be deemed appropriate for each event."


Posted by eric at 10:32 PM

Barclays Center Has Bieber, Jay-Z on Schedule, But No 'Community Events'
by Leslie Albrecht

Big name acts like Justin Bieber, Barbra Streisand and Journey are booked to perform months from now at the Barclays Center, but the new arena hasn't scheduled any of the so-called "community events" intended to raise money for local non-profits.

The neighborhood-boosting events were promised in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, which spelled out how locals would benefit from the new arena which is set to open in September with a Jay-Z concert.

In addition to a pledge to provide jobs for public housing residents, the Community Benefits Agreement called for the Barclays Center to be "available to community groups for at least 10 events per year, at a reasonable rate, with net proceeds from such events to be used to support non-profit community organizations."

So far, none of those events have been scheduled, said Barclays Center spokesman Barry Baum.

"It's too early for that."

Must be "too early" for any affordable housing, too.

"They're very actively scheduling big ticket events, but like with everything else that's supposedly for the public, they haven't focused on (the community events)," said Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of the anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

"Everything that was sold as a benefit to the community, from the housing to the jobs to the open space — they're all on the back burner."

Goldstein noted that it's never been made clear exactly what a "community event" is and how the events will be organized.

"What does it even mean, a 'community event?'" Goldstein said.


Posted by eric at 10:17 PM

Meeting June 26 on Barclays Center operations: security, sanitation, and on-site parking lot; expect some debate over Forest City Ratner's scope of commitment

Atlantic Yards Report

After public meetings on transportation issues regarding the Barclays Center arena, Borough President Marty Markowitz's office has announced a meeting June 26 for community stakeholders:

Your organizations are invited to Brooklyn Borough Hall to join Kenneth Adams, President and CEO of Empire State Development, FCRC, and elected officials (or their representatives) to discuss Barclays Center arena operations with a focus on security, sanitation and the parking lot (Block 1129).

This meeting will be held:

Tuesday, June 26th @ 6pm
Community Room
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street

Following the format of Transportation Working Group meetings, participation in this round-table discussion of arena operations is limited in order to keep the meeting size manageable.

Only one representative from each group was supposed to RSVP to Luke DePalma, Director of Policy and Planning.


Posted by eric at 10:12 PM

Details from Barclays Center liquor license application: no info about after-hours service, but list of bars, entrances detailed, Jay-Z's role

Atlantic Yards Report

As the first of two State Liquor Authority public hearings on the Barclays Center liquor license approaches at 11 am today, the license application from Levy Restaurants reveals some new details about the plans, and those behind them.

However, it does not shed any light on the revelation that alcohol service in "premium, limited access areas of the Arena such as the suites, clubs and the restaurant," alcohol service would continue for an hour after events, no later than 2 am--a detail not disclosed to Community Boards 2 and 6 as they considered, and ultimately supported, the license.

Hence the request by local elected officials for further review. (I don't know if the Community Boards have responded yet--the CB 6 executive committee met last night--but expect discussion of the issue today.)


Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

June 11, 2012

At clergy-led rally for arena justice, some new voices, some ironies, and a request for new oversight; "we're not just going to get caught up in the [Nets/Jay-Z] hype"

Atlantic Yards Report

In the annals of Atlantic Yards rallies, yesterday's rally catercorner to the nearly-finished Barclays Center arena, was on the not-huge side, perhaps 130-150 people, but with new energy sparked by the several clergypeople, as well as four elected officials, two of them longtime project opponents representing the Atlantic Yards site.

And part of the message--bring the promised jobs and affordable housing now--came not without irony, as it echoed the message from Atlantic Yards proponents, issued when the project faced legal or jurisdictional roadblocks.

Then again, those proponents seem muzzled, by contract, dependence, or prudence, unable to even publicly demand the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) they signed, leaving Forest City Ratner, as one speaker yesterday put it, the fox guarding the henhouse.


And the Coalition for Arena Justice, organized by Rev. Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church, wants something more structural: stronger oversight for the project, with a role for representatives of local elected officials and local stakeholders. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not indicated such a willingness, but, as noted in the flier at bottom, there are significant contrasts between promises and results, the latter permitted by gently-written state contracts.

Click through for much more coverage, including video.


Photos by Adrian Kinloch

Related coverage...

Carroll Gardens Patch, Brooklyn Clergy Turn Against Barclays Center Developer

After nine years of largely holding their peace—and praying for promised affordable housing and jobs—several Brooklyn clergy members forcefully spoke out against Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner at a planned rally Sunday in Fort Greene.

"Enough is enough," said Rev. Clinton Miller, pastor of Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill, to a cheering group of around 80 protesters in front of the Atlantic Terrace housing complex. "We've waited to see what happened."

Miller led a group of religious leaders in announcing the formation of a faith-based Committee For Arena Justice made up of 25 Brooklyn congregations calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to hold Ratner to promises made to the community regarding affordable housing and jobs.

"We the people of Brooklyn have been sold a bad bill of goods," Miller said.

Brownstoner, Churches Rally for Jobs and Housing at Atlantic Yards

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

B'klyn neighbors frustrated about Barclays Center worker invasion

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Yet another way in which the ESDC has completely abdicated responsibility protecting the quality of life around the Atlantic Yards site.

Rats and noise are one thing — but turning a neighborhood playground into a hangout for construction workers is just too much, say a band of Brooklyn neighbors near the rapidly rising Barclays Center arena.

The burly, foul-mouthed workers have virtually turned the children’s oasis into their own turf – lounging on benches, smoking cigarettes and then harassing neighbors who complain, residents told The Post.

The invasion has scared off many Park Slope and Prospect Heights parents and nannies, who say they had taken children to the Dean Street public playground between Sixth and Carlton avenues for years but now feel too intimidated to go back.

It’s our neighborhood amenity, and now we feel like we can’t even go there anymore. They curse and have no respect,” said a 40-year-old mother who lives a block away with her 7-year-old daughter.

Other neighbors complain that the workers congregate on local stoops as well.

Civic leaders have asked the developer to station a security guard at the playground but to no avail.

A Forest City Ratner spokesman said the firm has “discussed” the playground “issue” with arena contractor Hunt Construction, the NYPD and the Mayor’s Office, adding police “should be notified” and potentially issue summonses if anyone is breaking the law.

However, residents say calling the cops has been ineffective because they generally can’t get there quick enough to catch the workers in the act.


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

A successful private-public partnership and one less so

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

And the MTA giveth to Bruce Ratner, and Ratner keeps takething away — over and over again.

In New York, one of the more problematic public-private partnerships has concerned the Atlantic Yards project. While more of a direct sale, Bruce Ratner’s obligations involved transit. In a nutshell, the MTA gave Ratner a sweetheart price for the air rights to the Vanderbilt Yards in Brooklyn with the original promise of a new nine-track train yard for $225 million. In 2009, the MTA agreed to a reduction in the size of the train yard. Ratner would have to build only a seven-track facility instead. A sweetheart deal had just gotten sweeter.

Now, we learn that despite a guaranteed delivery date of 2016, Ratner is facing delays in the construction of the train yard. As The Wall Street Journal reported last week, the delays are due to “higher-than-expected costs and a sluggish economy.” These same excuses have been percolating around the Vanderbilt Yards for years.


Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

June 8, 2012

Fears of a Tight Fit for Brooklyn's Arena

The Atlantic Cities
by Norman Oder

As the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn builds toward a September 28 opening, the buzz surrounds mostly the shows: a series of Jay-Z concerts, a return of Brooklyn-born singer Barbra Streisand, and home court gigs for the newly-renamed Brooklyn Nets of the NBA.

But the public controversy dating back to the 2003 launch of the larger Atlantic Yards project persists. One current concern: neighbors fear a flood of drivers seeking free, on-street parking and visitors boozing it up at both arena events and the mushrooming number of bars just east of downtown Brooklyn.

The arena's snug setting, thanks, in part, to New York State's willingness to override city zoning that prohibits sports facilities within 200 feet of residential districts, has compounded concerns.

Arena-goers' vehicles and exuberance could disturb the peace on some nearby blocks, notably those near the surface parking lot being built at the southeast end of the irregular, 22-acre site, flanked by the "fingers" of the Prospect Heights Historic District, known for its collection of late 19th-century row houses.


Photo: flickr/Gunni Cool

Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

At announcement of gospel shows, Sharpton claims (!) Ratner "has lived up to everything he said and more" (!?!)

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, so yesterday the Wall Street Journal had a scoop about Forest City Ratner's pulling back on its obligation to build a replacement railyard--a boring, process-y infrastructure story, right?--but the Barclays Center announced two new gospel shows:

  • GRAMMY award-winning gospel great and Brooklynite Hezekiah Walker and his Love Fellowship Choir
  • 2012 Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound™ Gospel Celebration, the country’s premiere and most prestigious gospel music experience
  • plus ‘The King’s Men’ (already announced)

Daughtry, Sharpton, and head-spinning claims

The arena's in-house scribe had a report, Gospel has a home, on the press event, "a rousing two-song preview." But the real news, in my reading of Ben Couch's account wrote, concerned the massaging of history:

Joining Ratner and Walker as speakers were Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, Pastor of The House of the Lord Church and Founder of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance. Both spoke of the commitment Ratner made to ensuring the community was included in the Atlantic Yards project, and more importantly – his commitment to following through on their agreements.

Daughtry traced the roots of their relationship to 2004, when the DBNA first came to an agreement with Forest City Ratner on fostering arena programs, as well as the development of a state-of-the-art health center and an intergenerational complex. Sharpton pointed out that the setting proved fitting because Daughtry’s leadership helped to define the Community Benefits Agreement that swayed those with questions to support the project.

But credit DNAinfo, in Praise the Lord! Barclays Center Christened as Gospel's New Home, for some stunning quotes:

It was nearly eight years ago that The House of the Lord church hosted another press conference, where officials from Forest City Ratner Companies and the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance announced that they had hammered out a Community Benefits Agreement to guarantee that locals would benefit from the Atlantic Yards development, said the church's pastor, Rev. Herbert Daughtry.

With the arena now poised to open in September, Daughtry praised Ratner for delivering on promised amenities like a health center and meditation room at the new arena.

Sharpton echoed those comments. "I can say without contradition [sic] that Bruce Ratner has lived up to everything he said and more," Sharpton said to a hearty round of applause. "He is an example of what corporate accountability and partnership is all about."

But some critics disagree. The watchdog group Brooklyn Speaks is holding a rally Sunday June 10 to demand stronger oversight of housing and jobs promised as part of the arena deal.

Some critics disagree is what NYU scholar Jay Rosen calls the "View from Nowhere," the false middle, the inability to do any analysis (and, btw, BrooklynSpeaks is only a part of the rally).


Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

Reverend Sharpton, Perhaps Inhabiting a Parallel Universe, Praises Ratner for Fulfilling Promises

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner got state approval or his project based o promises of 2,250 units of "affordable" housing and 15,000 permanent jobs. He's deliverd a money losing arena and parking lots. Yet, here is Reverend Al Sharpton (via today at a press event touting gospel concerts at Ratner and Prokhorov's House that Eminent Domain Built:

...With the arena now poised to open in September, [Reverend Herbert] Daughtry praised Ratner for delivering on promised amenities like a health center and meditation room at the new arena.

Sharpton echoed those comments. "I can say without contradiction that Bruce Ratner has lived up to everything he said and more," Sharpton said to a hearty round of applause. "He is an example of what corporate accountability and partnership is all about."

Actually, there is plenty of contradiction. The four big promises of job creation, affordable housing, so-called "blight removal," and the creation of open space have all amounted to big failures two years after the arena groundbreaking. Contraray to Sharpton's mind-boggling comments, Bruce Ratner has lived up to nearly nothing he has said about Atlantic Yards.


Related content...

NY1, Barclays Center To Host Gospel Events

"It's right, quite appropriate," said Bruce Ratner, the CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies. "Brooklyn is first the borough of churches and second, it is a major place for gospel."

Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

June 7, 2012

As protest approaches June 10, another protest will be planned for the arena opening

Atlantic Yards Report

DDDB reports on "a church organized demonstration near the arena site June 10th and a June 19th planning/brainstorming meeting to kick off organizing for a demonstration at the arena opening."

Both involve Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill, which is stepping up its role in the Atlantic Yards fight. The rally June 10 is at 3 pm, at the corner of Atlantic and South Portland. (Here's my preview.)

On June 19 at 7 pm, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, BrooklynSpeaks, the Brown (Memorial Baptist Church) Community Development Corporation and "Occupy" are holding a kickoff meeting to organize a protest for September 28, when the arena opens.

The meeting's being held at Brown Memorial Baptist Church, 484 Washington Avenue [map].


Posted by eric at 10:21 PM

Documents from Community Board 6 show those approving Barclays Center liquor license didn't know arena clubs would be open one hour after events

Atlantic Yards Report

Applicants for the Barclays Center liquor license intend to keep clubs for high-rollers--up to some 5,400 people, according to the New York Post--open one hour after events, which was not explained when the applicants sought support from community boards, as noted by Atlantic Yards Watch.

Indeed, the Community Boards didn't know that. Consider a very diplomatic 5/11/12 letter, from Brooklyn Community Board 6 Chairman Daniel Kummer, to the State Liquor Authority, regarding the proposed Barclays Center liquor license:

Lastly, our board conditioned its support of the application on the imposition of certain temporal limitations with regard to service of alcohol at arena events: (i) that the applicant stop serving alcohol after either the end of the third quarter during NBA games, or one hour before the end of any other event, and (ii) that in any case alcohol service should end no later than 2:00 a.m. These conditions were proposed and approved at our general board meeting on May 9 rather than at the committee level, thus there was not an opportunity to discuss them with the applicants prior to the board’s vote. However, we are hopeful that the applicants will agree that these service limitations are a reasonable and modest accommodation that should provide some measure of assurance and relief to our community without negatively impacting the arena’s business model in any material way.

(Emphasis added)

It was not unreasonable to impose this, because, as committee meeting minutes note:

Client intends to follow NBA policy (i.e.; no service in fourth quarter of the game). Other events cut-off time before end of event decided on and [sic] event basis/

The State Liquor Authority has two hearings scheduled on the arena liquor license.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

State Liquor Authority schedules second hearing on Barclays Center liquor license, on June 20 at 7 pm

Atlantic Yards Report

Beyond the 500-foot hearing regarding the liquor license for the Barclays Center scheduled on June 12 by the State Liquor Authority (SLA), the SLA has has scheduled a second hearing at 7 pm on Wednesday, June 20, at SLA offices in Manhattan.

SLA spokesman William Crowley said that hearing was scheduled in response to a request from state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who has asked for a hearing to be held in the evening, and in Brooklyn. He said it was SLA policy to hold 500-foot-rule hearings at their offices.

Such hearings, he said, are presided over by an Administrative Law Judge, who writes up a finding of facts. If there is opposition to the application, then the decision is made by a three-member board of the SLA.

In this case, there is opposition, so that SLA board could meet to consider the application on July 10 or July 25, in sessions that go for hours, include numerous applications, and are webcast.

Crowley said there's no time limit on public comment, but comments should be germane to the application. Written comments are also welcomed.

He noted that the statute states Community Boards are seen as expressing the intent of the community. However, as suggested by Atlantic Yards Watch, CB 2 and CB 6 did not know that liquor sales at arena clubs could last until 2 am, one hour after an event.


Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Rat-astrophy! Rodents run wild near arena, neighbors say

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

First comes the Ratner, then come the rats.

Big fat rats are building elaborate underground colonies, gnawing through trash cans, and even climbing into cars near the under-construction Barclays Center, where a booming rodent infestation has gone from gross to totally out of control, neighbors say.

“It’s a huge, insane invasion,” said Emilia Sherifova, who lives in north Park Slope. “They’re getting bigger and bigger — and more brazen.”

Residents have long blamed the infestation — evidenced by frequent rodent sightings and rat-roadkill dotted streets — on the soon-to-open basketball stadium, saying the huge construction project disturbed the critters and pushed them into surrounding neighborhoods.

The uptick infuriates neighbors and business owners who say Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and his company, Forest City Ratner — which last year paid for 600 rat-proof trash cans in an attempt to thwart the problem — ought to step it up and bait the entire perimeter of the construction site.

Barclays Center spokesman Barry Baum said the arena has had a rodent abatement program in place since construction began and that stadium officials have worked with city and state agencies to rid the area of rats.


NoLandGrab: If Forest City's Transportation Demand Management Plan is as efficacious as their rodent abatement program, residents are in for a real treat.

Posted by eric at 9:43 AM

Live Blogging: Atlantic Yards Area Community Impacts Meeting

Wednesday night's meeting is on sanitation issues. Can't make it? Get the blow-by-blow here.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

We're here at Wednesday night's Arena Community Impacts Meeting organized by Park Slope/Boerum Hill Councilmember Levin will discuss sanitation and transportation issues. We'll be live blogging it (timeline is newest at the bottom).

6:19 p.m. There are about 40 people at the meeting, which is taking place in the basement of the Pacific Library.

The Department of Sanitation's Community Affairs Officer Iggy Terranova is discussing sanitation. Going to put one garage in charge of cleaning up around the arena (like one precinct will be responsible for policing it). They haven't determined which garage yet.

6:25: Question from an area resident: How do we get garbage cans that are not "rat feeding stations"? (He's referring to the regular mesh ones.)

Terranova: The only way to get a "high end" garbage can is if you get someone to sponsor it.


NoLandGrab: Shouldn't one cost of taking over half of Prospect Heights be that Forest City Ratner pays for the garbage cans?

Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

June 5, 2012

Arena Community Impacts Meeting

Prospect Heights Patch

The next Arena Community Impacts Meeting with Councilmember Levin will discuss the newly-released transportation plan.

Additional speakers include a guest official from the department of sanitation.

25 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (Pacific Street Library - Brooklyn Public Library)
June 6, 2012
6 p.m.


Posted by eric at 1:03 PM

An effort to appeal Atlantic Yards timetable case: is dispute about routine delay, or agency deception and failure to study 25-year impact?

Atlantic Yards Report

The battle over the Atlantic Yards timetable--whether the state should have studied the community impacts of a 25-year buildout for a project long said to take a decade--is the longest-lasting Atlantic Yards court case and the first one with clear victories for project opponents and critics.

At issue is whether a change in timing of a project whose fundamental elements seem unchanged is a fundamental change.

And, depending on which side you consult, it's either a dangerous intervention by the judiciary into agency discretion or the last check on an out-of-control agency that failed to tell the public that it faced 25 years of construction, extended surface parking lots, and lingering vacant lots.

The challenge by two community coalitions was originally dismissed by a state Supreme Court judge, then reopened and ultimately reversed, with that decision unanimously backed by a state appellate court. Now the Empire State Development Corporation, the agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, and developer Forest City Ratner have asked the Court of Appeals to agree to hear an appeal.

Such an appeal is not automatic, given the unanimous nature of the intermediate court's decision, so an agreement to accept the appeal would suggest that the Court of Appeals--which conveniently ignored certain arguments in its November 2009 decision upholding eminent domain for Atlantic Yards--is leaning toward reversal.

If the appeal is denied, then the ESDC would have to conduct the Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) ordered by the lower courts.


Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

Riot porn from Kanye and Jay-Z

The music video for "No Church in the Wild" depicts a graphic riot scene and shows the resonance of dissent
by Natasha Lennard

A review of a new Jay-Z/Kanye West music video includes a reminder that the former is firmly rooted in the 1%, and that his sidekick is just a d**k.

Of course, none of this is to say Kanye or Jay-Z should be praised as agents for revolutionary change. Jay-Z, aside from celebrating a life of unadulterated excess, is a key voice behind developer Bruce Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which has been widely criticized for pushing people out of their homes and failing to provide affordable housing and jobs. Meanwhile, Kanye is a famous jerk; he walked by Zuccotti Park once to check out Occupy Wall Street last year, but, again, he is mainly a jerk.


Posted by eric at 12:32 PM

June 4, 2012

Atlantic Yards site "now cleared but formerly blighted"? So claims Forest City Ratner in legal papers

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes us on a trip to ESDC's bizarro world...

Sometimes something in a legal document makes your head spin. For example, consider a passage from Forest City Ratner's motion for leave to appeal the court decision ordering the Empire State Development Corporation to study the community impacts of a 25-year project buildout.

(I'll have more on the overall legal battle tomorrow.)

AY site now cleared?

On p. 7 of the document, Forest City Ratner's attorneys state that Atlantic Yards "is a major public-private undertaking that is intended to revitalize a now cleared but formerly blighted 22-acre site in Brooklyn."

(Emphasis added)

The blight's still here

It is neither "now cleared" nor "formerly blighted."

Indeed, the main "blighting" influence, the below-grade Vanderbilt Yard owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, still operates. Forest City Ratner has yet to pay for that land, nor to build a deck and then housing.

Moreover, several pieces of the 22-acre site remain privately owned/controlled, including three houses on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue, and the P.C. Richard lease on Site 5, known as the Shops at Atlantic Center, on the block bounded by Pacific Street and Flatbush and Fourth avenues.

As to whether the site is "now cleared but formerly blighted," consider that most of Block 1129, the southeast block of 1129, will serve as a "cleared" surface parking lot.

And surface parking lots, according to the Empire State Development Corporation's Blight Study, are underutilized and thus blighted.


Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Flashback: ESDC attorney once assured court that Forest City have "to bring the Project to completion by 2019, with sanctions imposed for any failure to do so"

Atlantic Yards Report

Way back in January 2010, as the last major Atlantic Yards legal case faced its first hearing, I pointed to a key point of dispute. In retrospect appears to be either a glaring untruth or, more charitably, an incredibly misguided prediction about the state of New York's capacity to negotiate with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Which is Norman Oder's nice way of saying it's clearly a big, fat lie.

It's worth another look.


Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

May 31, 2012

May 31st, One Night Only: Battle for Brooklyn at Brooklyn Heights Cinema

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

If you haven't seen it yet, Thursday is your chance to see the critically acclaimed and Oscar short-listed documentary about the fight against Atlantic Yards on the big screen.

Battle for Brooklyn will screen on Thursday, May 31st, at 8:30pm at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema (70 Henry Street).

The film is more important than ever as Forest City and some elected officials are making every effort to bury the controversial history of the project with happy talk of successful arena shows and ticket sales (see open letter to Barbra Streisand and Leonard Cohen).


Posted by eric at 1:02 PM

Protecting Neighborhoods from an Oncoming ‘Onslaught’

Civic News
by David Herman

The Park Slope Civic Council, the Boerum Hill Association, and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council have created a Barclays Center Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP) that sets up a series of guidelines to minimize the impact of the oncoming arena on surrounding communities.

“Long-standing and historic residential neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity of Barclays Center (Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope and Prospect Heights) need protection from the onslaught of vehicular traffic, patron activity and negative externalities caused by this type of magnet destination,” the plan states. The NPP was needed because various planning documents for the Atlantic Yards megaproject “only minimally address mitigation of the operation of the arena on adjacent neighborhoods.” (You can download a PDF of the plan here.)


Related coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Neighbors want protection from Barclays hordes

“I used to visit my brother in Wrigleyville, Chicago, right next to Wrigley Field, and I was amazed at the orderliness of the neighborhood as a whole after events there. That’s because they have an active neighborhood protection plan there,” said [City Council Member Steve] Levin.

Many of those who who attended yesterday's event felt that Sam Schwartz’s recently unveiled traffic management plan, officially sponsored by the Barclays Center, was incomplete.

Brownstoner, A Summary of the Barclays Neighborhood Protection Plan

Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

Legal Implications Surrounding the Brooklyn Nets’ Move to the Barclays Center

Ruling Sports
by Richard Braun

These guys are a little late to the party...

Whenever a new stadium is approved to be built or remodeled for a team, such as what has recently been approved in Minneapolis for the Vikings and in San Francisco for the Warriors, the controversy typically revolves around how these facilities are financed. The Brooklyn Nets, however, face a different series of legal issues as they prepare to move into their new home, the Barclay’s Center.

That should be faced, not face.

Back in 2003, real estate developer Forest City Ratner proposed the Atlantic Yards project – a multi-billion dollar plan to develop the Vanderbilt Yard and Prospect Heights, a neighborhood just outside downtown Brooklyn. Headed by then-Nets owner Bruce Ratner, the plan would come to include the future home of the Nets, the Barclays Center. About half of the proposed area was already owned by the city, but various private parties owned the remaining half. To acquire control of the remaining half, the state declared the area blighted and seized the property using eminent domain.


Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

May 30, 2012

Churches organize "Justice at Atlantic Yards!" protest for June 10; accountability and oversight might come before housing and jobs

Atlantic Yards Report

In a sign of a new configuration of Atlantic Yards criticism, a group of churches, mostly from central Brooklyn and led by Rev. Clinton Miller of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill, is organizing a "Justice At Atlantic Yards" protest on June 10.

Protesters, including parishioners from some 25 congregations, as well as others from the overall Brooklyn community including some active Atlantic Yards critics from BrooklynSpeaks, will gather at 3 pm at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and South Portland Avenue, just north of the Barclays Center arena.

Several elected officials are expected to speak, though the line-up isn't yet set. Miller has a longtime close relationship with Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who joined state Sen. Eric Adams and Assemblyman Karim Camara at a press conference in January expressing their outrage at the lack of results.

Listed after Miller on the poster are the Rev. Mark Taylor of Church of the Open Door in Fort Greene and the Rev. Conrad Tillard of Nazarene Congregational United Church of Christ in Bed-Stuy. Some of the church leaders involved have previously expressed concern or opposition, while others have not. Project opponents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn are promoting the rally, too.


Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Coverage of the Neighborhood Protection Plan: the tabloids show up, but not the Times (or the Brooklyn Paper)

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a roundup of the coverage of the Neighborhood Protection Plan unveiled yesterday. Note the absence of the Brooklyn Paper and the New York Times, neither of which sent a reporter, though maybe the former will play catch-up. (I'm waiting to see if the Times's blog The Local has coverage.)

New York Daily News: Pols push for parking taxes, early booze cutoff in plan to shield neighborhoods when Barlcays Center opens

New York Post: Brooklyn arena foes turn to Chicago's Wrigley Field for improvements:

The plan offers no estimated costs. However, those who penned it want Forest City Ratner to dip into the millions of dollars it'll save annually after recently dropping a car-traffic-reduction plan to provide free MetroCards with Nets tickets.

Coverage is expected in the Brooklyn Eagle.

NY1: Community Presents Plan To Preserve Life Quality Around Barclays Center, plus mostly critical email about the arena (with some pointed exceptions), on The Call.

News12: Barclays Center neighborhood introduces protection plan (link goes to log-in page, but story available from home page): "I'm always pessimistic when it comes to Forest City Ratner," says interviewee Nancy Cogen, a business owner in Boerum Hill.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

May 29, 2012

Elected officials, community groups propose Neighborhood Protection Plan: new policies, oversight, and funding commitments aimed to mitigate impact of arena on residential neighborhoods

Atlantic Yards Report

At a press conference this morning, City Council Members Stephen Levin and Letitia James, along with state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, announced the Barclays Center Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP), a set of initiatives "aimed at mitigating safety and quality of life impacts expected to result from locating the Brooklyn arena within residential neighborhoods."

The plan, which addresses not only transportation issues left out of last week's Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan but also police, signage, sanitation, and more, is also backed by Council Member Brad Lander and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.

It was put together by the three community organizations behind the Atlantic Yards Watch initiative: the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Park Slope Civic Council, and the Boerum Hill Association.

As noted in the press release, the NPP addresses not only policies to be instituted (and paid for) by the Barclays Center operators, but also efforts at regulation and enforcement by state and city agencies. Several examples--paying for street cleanup, for a police hotline, and for traffic enforcement agents--are drawn from experiences around Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the Cubs support various community initiatives.


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Civic Groups Ask Barclays to Do More to Prevent Driving to Games

To protect residents from the onslaught of traffic, sanitation, parking and other issues expected when the Barclays Center opens in the fall, area civic leaders released a “Neighborhood Protection Plan," that calls for dozens of measures that include everything from residential parking permits to a garbage cans for every corner within a half-mile of the arena.

The plan’s creators called the plan an “olive branch” to open the door with Barclays officials for open and honest discussion.

“We’re looking forward to having a good neighbor and someone who wants to be part of the community. That requires dialogue,” said Boerum Hill Association president Howard Kolins.

Posted by eric at 10:40 PM

Atlantic Yards’ Transportation Perception Management Plan

Prospect Heights Patch
by Gib Veconi

This one eluded our grasp last week.

In Chicago, the City Council passed a “Neighborhood Protection Plan” ordinance that governs on-site and remote parking for Wrigley Field, shuttle bus service, and residential parking permits for neighborhoods near the stadium. The New Jersey State Legislature enacted a “Special Event Parking Surcharge” to discourage patrons of Newark’s Prudential Center from driving to events.

In Brooklyn, we get Forest City Ratner’s Transportation Demand Management Plan (known as the TDM), presented yesterday in meetings at Borough Hall by the developer’s traffic consultant “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz.

Mr. Schwartz is one of the most respected traffic engineers in the country. He was the NYC Commissioner of Transportation in the Koch administration. But at his presentation to the community last night, Mr. Schwartz seemed a little like the Wizard of Oz.


Posted by eric at 10:09 PM

Sen. Montgomery asks State Liquor Authority to move Barclays Center hearing to Brooklyn, hold it at night

Atlantic Yards Report

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who represents the Atlantic Yards site and has been a longtime opponent of the project, has asked the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to change the location and time of the agency's required hearing on the Barclays Center liquor license.

The 500-foot rule hearing, required when there are other nearby establishments, is currently scheduled for 11 am on Tuesday, June 12 at the SLA office at 317 Lenox Avenue in Manhattan, at 126th Street. Community boards, as well as civic groups, have asked for assurances of outreach and other arena-related plans, though the community boards have not backed 10 pm cut-off of liquor sales.

The SLA is expected to approve the application; the question is whether the process will impose any conditions on the operator.

Making the hearing more accessible

Montgomery asked for "a weeknight evening in the downtown Brooklyn area," according to her letter, below.

"As you are aware, she wrote, "this is arguably the largest application Brooklyn has ever faced. While I appreciate the concerted effort your offices must be exerting to process this complicated application in a timely manner, my office has been inundated with calls from residents and organizations objecting to the current date, time, and location."

It would be a disservice "to both the applicant and the community," Montgomery wrote, unless all potentially affected parties get an opportunity to speak.


Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

June 10th: Clergy Led Demonstration for Justice at Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Sunday, June 10th at 3pm, at the Corner of Atlantic and South Portland...

Join the Committee for Arena Justice*, community members, religious leaders and local elected officials to demand stronger oversight and the housing and jobs promised by Ratner:

*Committee for Arena Justice is a coalition of Central Brooklyn Clergy including Rev. Clinton M. Miller, Rev. Mark Taylor, Rev. Conrad Tilard, Rev. Lemuel Mobley, Rev. Washington Lundy, Rev. Dr. Cleotha Robertson, Rev. Dr. Clive Neal, Rev. Michael Sniffen, Rev. Ivan Washington, Rev. John Merz, Rev. Linda Bell, Rev. Shaun J. Lee, Rev. Daran H. Mitchell, Rev. Reginald L. Bacchus, Rev. Willie Wade Jr. and others.


Posted by eric at 10:57 AM


Coordinated set of initiatives necessary to ensure safety and quality of life in residential communities after September arena opening


Today, City Council Members Stephen Levin, Letitia James and Brad Lander announced the Barclays Center Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP), a set of coordinated initiatives aimed at mitigating safety and quality of life impacts expected to result from locating the Brooklyn arena within residential neighborhoods.

The NPP calls for policies to be instituted by the Barclays Center operators as well as regulation and enforcement to be carried out by State and City agencies covering arena operations, public safety, pedestrian circulation, sanitation, open space, and traffic.

Among the proposals included in the NPP are:

  • NYPD’s 78th Precinct be responsible for policing the arena as well as enforcement of traffic and parking rules, protection of pedestrian safety and regulation of public behavior within a one-half mile radius around the arena block.

  • NYCDOT install signage clearly directing pedestrian and vehicle traffic, including directing vehicles to use 4th Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, 6th Avenue north of Flatbush Avenue, and Vanderbilt Avenue, instead of residential streets in Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope and Prospect Heights.

  • The State authorizes and the City implements a residential parking permit program in the above neighborhoods.

  • Barclays Center provide at least one additional street basket at each corner within a half-mile radius of the arena, as well as be responsible for emptying all street baskets within the half-mile zone and cleaning sidewalks on blocks between the arena and five nearby transit stations and the arena’s parking facilities by 8:00 AM on each day after an event.

  • Barclays Center provide annual funding, as established by the NYC Parks and Recreation Department, for a Parks Associate position to serve the two existing impacted public open spaces near the arena, Dean Playground and South Oxford Park.


“The plans announced by Barclays Center to date won’t be enough to protect and preserve the residential character of the neighborhoods surrounding the arena,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “We need both swift action by the State and City governments, as well as real commitments from Barclays Center, to address the impacts of arena operations before the arena opens in September. We are here to partner with Forest City and the Administration to address these issues, but that means everyone has to have a seat at the table.”

“State overrides of New York City zoning regulations allowed Barclays Center to be built among residential neighborhoods,” said Council Member Letitia James. “But so far, the State and the City have stood on the sidelines while important decisions about traffic, pedestrian safety, parking and sanitation have been left up to a private developer. I urge the Mayor’s office and City agencies to take up the proposals in the NPP with all possible diligence, and work with local elected officials to get them implemented quickly.”

“The State must take an active role to manage the impact of an arena operating in a residential district,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes nearly the entire Atlantic Yards site, and many of the surrounding neighborhoods. “The Neighborhood Protection Plan is a road map of common-sense initiatives that have proven effective in cities like Chicago and Newark. Brooklyn deserves the same.”

Elected officials representing the neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope and Prospect Heights have previously expressed support for some of the proposals contained in the NPP, such as the issuance of residential parking permits.

“The traffic on event-nights after the arena opens is likely to be atrocious,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “The measures contained in the Neighborhood Protection Plan—collaboratively developed by community stakeholders—are sorely needed. I look forward to working with my colleagues in State and City government to get them implemented.”

Forest City Ratner Companies recently released the provisions of a long-delayed Transportation Management (TDM) plan intended to incentivize arena patrons to use mass transit when traveling to Barclays Center events. The TDM has been criticized for not including disincentives which have shown to be more effective at changing driver behavior.

The full Neighborhood Protection Plan is available at:

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

WSJ on delayed Atlantic Yards affordable housing: no mention of modular gambit or KPMG report that said project was indeed buildable

Atlantic Yards Report

There are a couple of interesting things unsaid about Atlantic Yards in today's Wall Street Journal round-up focusing on that project and Willets Point, Housing Pieces Delayed: 'Affordable' Apartments That Helped Sell Big Projects Have Yet to Materialize.

Unmentioned, however, is the state agreed to give Forest City 12 years to build the first three towers and 25 years for the whole project, despite projections that the 16 towers would be finished in a decade.

The meaning? Bumps in the road or lies on the way?

According to the Journal, the "delays speak to broader challenges of building housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income families in New York, once the main focus of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's housing agenda."

Well, yes, and no. The delays also speak to the willingness of the state to commission a dubious report from KPMG claiming that the project could be built in a decade, and the willingness of a now-retired Empire State Development Corporation official to dismiss the Kahr report, commissioned by community groups, that was far more pessimistic.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Forest City: Building Affordable Housing at Atlantic Yards ‘Turns Out Not To Be So Easy’

As in the case of Atlantic Yards, it’s much easier for a developer to say what the public wants to hear and then fudge, delay and renegotiate its way out of the tough stuff later on. MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, said that the developer really did intend to make one-third of the residential units at the Downtown Brooklyn location affordable, “But it turns out not to be so easy.”

NoLandGrab: We're shocked! Shocked! And we bet ACORN New York Communities for Change[ing Your Name] is, too.

Willets Point United, Unaffordable Hosing

Is this why the city council approved the use of eminent domain? We don't think so. The Journal lays this out and we invite rational folks to ponder the future: "In recent weeks, the Bloomberg administration reached a tentative deal with the Related Cos. and Sterling Equities to redevelop a large industrial swath of land at Willets Point, in a plan that now calls for housing to be built as a third step with a groundbreaking by 2025, according to people familiar with the matter. The companies would first spend years building a hotel, and a large retail center in the area before moving on to constructing the housing in an unproven and polluted site near Citi Field."

Yeah sure, that will happen. This is the classic bait and switch with the Wilpons as the master anglers-hooking a land grab that they have been envisioning for over twenty years. Having already hosed the tax payers with their stadium deal the Wilpons have won the daily double-and have done so by crafting an illegal lobbying scheme that created a phony not for profit to camouflage their own self interest. Hats off to them!

But shame on the city-and the city council needs to take a long hard look at this scam.

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

May 24, 2012

In Memory of Preservationist Everett Ortner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

We received news yesterday that Everett Ortner, who amongst so much else was a DDDB Advisory Board member, has passed away.

You can read more here about Mr. Ortner's life.

We express our condolences to all of his relations and loved ones.


Posted by eric at 12:32 AM

May 23, 2012

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn gives Streisand and Cohen a history lesson on Barclays Center

Sports ITeam Blog []
by Michael O'Keeffe

Better add The Biebs to the salutation.

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A., according to a song by Leonard Cohen. But Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) says it's just an empty lyric when it comes to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

DDDB has written an open letter to Cohen and Brooklyn native Barbra Streisand about their plans to perform at the Barclays Center later this year. It's worth sharing with the rest of New York.

Click through for the full text.


Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

In brief, somewhat cryptic remarks, city official says task force is pushing to improve conditions around Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

This morning's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting was almost exclusively about the Transportation Demand Management plan that aims to get arena-goers to use public transit.

But Lolita Jackson, the mayor’s director of special projects (and not quite ombudsman on quality-of-life issues), for the first time spoke publicly at moderate length, though her remarks were relatively brief and a bit cryptic.

A task force of agency officials, Jackson said, has done “three walkthroughs” (presumably beyond the Atlantic Yards site itself) and “did discover some conditions we were able to alleviate very quickly.”

The response includes “ some enforcement from NYPD,” presumably to limit parking violations; outreach from Department of Health rodent export Dr. Bob Corrigan to businesses; and an effort to more efficiently collect information regarding project-related issues delivered via 311 calls.

Beyond that, Jackson said, work is ongoing to establish protocols regarding arena operations, such as sanitation. More information on that work will be offered at the next District Service Cabinet meeting, scheduled for an unspecified date in July, some two months before the arena opens.


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

May 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Barbra Streisand & Leonard Cohen Re: Barclays Arena Shows

Before Playing Barclays Arena Superstars Urged to Learn About History Behind Despised Atlantic Yards Project

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Dear Ms. Streisand and Mr. Cohen:

We at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the grassroots community non-profit organization that led the fight against Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project and advocated for inclusive, democratic development, write to you regarding your scheduled performances at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The billion dollar, publicly subsidized Barclays arena is the only component of the larger Atlantic Yards project under construction.

We understand the excitement your fans feel about your upcoming shows in Brooklyn and we do not question your right as artists to play whatever venue you choose to play, or your fans' right to enjoy your performances.

However, as artists of your stature and caliber, as artists with a history of philanthropy, social justice and civil liberty advocacy, and protest lyrics, we strongly urge you to take on every citizen's responsibility to learn about the history behind the venue you are associating yourselves with.

We believe you won't like what you discover.

Click through for the rest of this must-read letter.


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Building Blocks: South Portland Avenue

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Kyle Thomas McGovern

In the second installment of our new Building Blocks column, The Local spoke with Peter Vitakis, the president of the South Portland Avenue Block Association. Mr. Vitakis has led the organization, which oversees the block between Fulton Street and DeKalb Avenue, for seven years and has been a resident of Fort Greene since 1979.

Q. How did you originally get involved with neighborhood activism?

A. When I had just moved into the neighborhood, we were just exchanging notes in terms of renovations. Little by little, there were other outside developments coming in, such as Atlantic Center Mall, and that was of concern because it was going to affect us, with its traffic and truck routes. All of the surrounding blocks were very much in favor of Atlantic Center’s development at that time. So, I joined an active committee to fight. We were the only block that sued [developer Bruce] Ratner.

What are some concerns you have for the neighborhood?

A. Primarily the ongoing traffic re-routings in the area and I like to know about new projects in the immediate vicinity. And quality of life preservation, street beautification — we take care of our trees very well. South Portland is a two-way street that’s interrupted by a one-way street between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street and we’d like to keep it that way because it protects these two blocks from northbound traffic and the residential quality, not only of South Portland, but also of the neighborhood in general. And over the years, I’ve noticed that the city, in connection with developers, try to be one or more steps ahead of us so that we’re tripped over. That I find difficult.

It seems that the neighborhood’s concerns are being dismissed over and over again and we’re not paid any heed.


Photo: Kyle Thomas McGovern/The Local

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

May 19, 2012

"Everybody Knows": Leonard Cohen, the Barclays Center and remembering how "the fight was fixed"

Atlantic Yards Report

Legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen's coming to the Barclays Center on December 20, sure to attract a large if not sold-out house.

After all, he's a legend. As the promo describes it, Cohen's "a master songwriter, musician and poet whose stunning body of original work" cites "W.B Yeats, Irving Layton and Walt Whitman as literary influences."

But the Cohen lyric most appropriate for Brooklyn's glistening but tainted new arena is this, from the song "Everybody Knows": "Everybody knows the fight was fixed: the poor stay poor and the rich get rich."


On 9/17/09, as I reported, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) re-approved Atlantic Yards on developer Forest City Ratner's preferred terms, allowing--in ways we didn't fully learn until later--a 25-year project buildout, deferred payments for land needed via eminent domain, and payments for the developer's "soft costs" previously not permitted.

Michael D.D. White, lawyer, urban planner, and writer of the Noticing New York blog, testified (full text) with gravity and anger, warning that the arena had been calculated, by the New York City Independent Budget Office, to be a net loss for the city.

"ESDC’s phantom arrangements involving no designs, leave ESDC with absolutely no negotiating leverage to insist on benefit or counteract Forest City Ratner’s future blackmailing of the public for subsidy," White warned. "You shower Forest City Ratner now with additional multimillion dollar benefits such as excusing it from its railyard obligations, and we can expect that you will similarly shower more benefits upon them in the future, again without quid pro quo. What you are doing is destructive of neighborhoods, the city, our public finances, destructive of government and destructive of the basic fabric of trust required for a civilized society."


Posted by steve at 8:49 AM

May 17, 2012

Building the Next New York: the RPA's recommendations for mega-projects implies avoidance of Atlantic Yards pattern, though report suggests no verdict yet on project

Atlantic Yards Report

With "advocacy" groups like RPA, who needs developers?

The Regional Plan Association has just issued Building the Next New York: Recommendations for Large Real Estate Projects, which offers some sober criticisms of Atlantic Yards while analyzing a range of large development initiatives in order to propose some recommendations.

The business-oriented, rational RPA--self-described as "America's oldest and most distinguished independent urban research and advocacy group"--says it's too soon to come to a verdict on Atlantic Yards, a project it offered support mixed with suggestions for reform.

However careful in not making such a judgment, the RPA surely learned some lessons from Atlantic Yards. "These projects are enormously complex and can take a generation or more to build," said RPA President Robert Yaro. "This makes it essential to maintain both flexibility and a public stake throughout the life of the project."

That sounds like an acknowledgment that the significant changes in Atlantic Yards should not have been surprising--but that the government agencies approving those changes should have done more to represent the public interest.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

May 16, 2012


The Lafayette Gardens

Justice at Atlantic Yards! Justice for Brooklyn!
Join residents, clergy, community leaders and elected officials for a rally to demand the promised housing, jobs and stronger oversight.
June 10, 2012, 3pm - c/o Atlantic & South Portland Aves.


Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

May 15, 2012

The "moral limits of markets" and the Atlantic Yards impact: naming rights, sponsorships, and visas for sale

Atlantic Yards Report

Yes, the luxury suites and sponsorships needed to pay for the enormously expensive Barclays Center are part of a questionable trend. So is the credit to the Barclays Nets Community Alliance for playgrounds it has helped refurbished. And so is the green-cards-for-jobs scheme used to save Atlantic Yards developer tens of millions of dollars.

In case you missed it, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on Sunday wrote This Column Is Not Sponsored by Anyone, taking off from Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel’s new book, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. (Here's an excerpt from The Atlantic).

Sandel might be thought of as the anti-Brett Yormark, as the Nets/Barclays Center CEO has tried to monetize nearly everything to do with the team/arena, and, in the wake of experience finding sponsors for soccer jerseys and NASCAR gear, is ready to sell sponsorship space on NBA uniforms.

He told Sports Business Daily, "You can monetize this in ways you can’t monetize any other kind of marketing inventory." Indeed. Because the arena and team are, in the words of developer Bruce Ratner, a "civic" endeavor.


Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

May 14, 2012

More than 1,000 Brooklynites call on Governor Cuomo and the State Liquor Authority to end liquor sales at Barclays Center by 10:00 PM

Local elected officials join call for policies to limit impact of arena crowds on residential neighborhoods


The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors announced today that more than 1,000 Brooklynites have signed an online petition calling on the State to limit the hours of liquor sales at the Barclays Center arena, with a final cut-off time of 10:00 PM. The petition was first posted on BrooklynSpeaks’ web site on Monday, May 7.

“The response to BrooklynSpeaks’ petition says volumes about public concern for safety and neighborhood quality of life following the opening of the Barclays Center,” said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic Leader of the 52nd Assembly District. “The arena operators and concessionaires have an obligation to do what is reasonable and responsible to ensure that crowds leaving events late in the evening don’t disrupt residential life.”

Said City Council Member Stephen Levin, whose district includes the neighborhoods of Boerum Hill and Park Slope adjacent to the arena, “Residents don’t understand why Barclays should be reluctant to accept a 10:00 PM limit on liquor sales, when the same concession operator has a 9:30 PM curfew at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Barclays has a responsibility to ensure that rowdy crowds will not be spilling into our residential communities late at night, causing problems for the families who live here.”

“The only reason Barclays Center is being built at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues is because the State allowed overrides of City zoning regulations that would have prevented an arena being sited next to homes,” said Council Member Letitia James, who represents the adjoining neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. “We now need the Governor and the State Liquor Authority to ensure we don’t end up with an all-night bar, too.”


Posted by eric at 4:48 PM

State seeks to reverse Atlantic Yards decision

The Empire State Development Corp. insists that its earlier approval of the $5 billion project was not illegal, as it had examined the impacts of delays in construction as required.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

The Empire State Development Corp. filed a request on Friday to appeal an earlier court ruling which said that the agency illegally approved changes to Forest City Ratner's massive Atlantic Yards project in 2009 by failing to examine how the long-term construction would affect the neighborhood.

The agency must get permission to appeal because last month's decision by the Appellate Division of New York state was unanimous in affirming a July 2011 lower court ruling. That earlier ruling said that the Empire State Development Corp. violated the law by not conducting another environmental study of the $5 billion project when the plan was modified in 2009.

However, the project’s opponents believe that there is a very slim chance that the ESDC will be allowed to appeal because two courts found it acted illegally.

“We are disappointed in ESDC’s decision to bring an appeal instead of working with the community to make the project better and just do the environmental impact study,” said Jeffrey Baker, a partner at the law firm of Young Sommer, which is representing Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a group opposed to the project. “The appeal is a waste of resources.”


Posted by eric at 4:36 PM

ESDC files request to appeal decision ordering new environmental review, says “shadow of uncertainty" shrouds project's Phase 2

Atlantic Yards Report

Some people monoliths don't know when to quit.

Yes, Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, is not accepting defeat. It is seeking to appeal a unanimous loss last month in the Appellate Division, which upheld a lower court's requirement that a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) be conducted to examine the impacts of a 25-year project buildout.

The effort may seem like a long shot, but state Court of Appeals has proven friendly to Atlantic Yards before--remember the November 2009 eminent domain decision. It must first agree to accept the appeal. The key part of the ESD's motion:

The Appellate Division's order requiring that a SEIS be prepared to study the impacts of a delay in the Project's construction schedule is an unprecedented expansion of SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] that would interfere not only with progress being made on the Atlantic Yards Project, but with the progress of other large-scale projects that are subject to delays due to adverse economic conditions or other circumstances.

"Shadow of uncertainty"

I'll have more once I see Forest City Ratner's expected companion motion, and the petitioners' response. But the ESD contends that the court decision "casts a shadow of uncertainty on Phase II of the Project," a shadow elongated by the preparation of the SEIS and the inevitable legal challenges it will prompt.


NoLandGrab: Any "shadow of uncertainty" has much more to do with the giant overreach of the Atlantic Yards project, and the shakiness of its developer's financial wherewithal, than with the state's court-ordered requirement to produce another sham environmental impact statement.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

May 10, 2012

Community Board 6 votes to support liquor license with 2 am cutoff, far from BrooklynSpeaks' request of 10 pm

Atlantic Yards Report

In a very modest nod toward recognition of some neighbors' concerns, the full Community Board 6 last night voted to approve a liquor license for the Barclays Center with cut off of sales by 2 am, after the third quarter of NBA games, and one hour before the end of other events, whichever comes first, as noted by Patch.

Arena officials had previously said they planned to follow the NBA policy of a third-quarter cutoff, and to end sales one hour before events conclude. The law typically allows sales until 4 am. In this case, the 2 am cutoff would go into effect only for events that lasted past 3 am, surely an unusual occurrence.

Request for earlier cutoff

BrooklynSpeaks and other groups have requested a 10 pm cutoff, noting the 9:30 pm example set by Wrigley Field in Chicago--nestled completely in a residential neighborhood, even more so than the Barclays Center.

However, proposals to pass a cutoff of 10 pm or even midnight did not pass the board, whose committee last month did not address a cutoff time. The board's vote is only advisory; the decision will be made by the State Liquor Authority.

"It's good to see the board stipulate a cut off time for non-NBA events, but the late limit of 2 am is a blow to residents of Dean Street and other blocks near the arena," Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, said last night. "As of tonight, more than 900 people have signed BrooklynSpeaks' online petition calling for a 10 pm limit, clearly more appropriate for a residential neighborhood."


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, CB6 Approves 2 A.M. Last Call for Alcohol Sales at Barclays Center

Nica Lalli, a member of CB6 and Park Slope resident said that it is the board’s responsibility to vote on restrictions on how long the Barclays Center should sell alcohol.

“If this is an opportunity to stipulate hours, I think we should take that opportunity,” Lalli said, explaining that the board recommends hours and regulations for every bar and establishment that stands before them to apply for a liquor license.

Before the vote, Richard Bashner, another member, said that he was “troubled” by the “absence of restrictions” Levy Restaurants would have if the board did not vote on a recommendation.

Bashner, along with Lalli, suggested that alcohol should stop being sold at half time during NBA games, 45 minutes before the end of any other event and a hard cutoff time of 10 p.m., whichever came first.

Park Slope Patch, Brooklyn Speaks Circulates Petition on Barclays Liquor License

“Wrigley Field has a 9:30 p.m. cutoff during night games,” [Brooklyn Speaks's Gib] Veconi said, explaining that Levy Restaurants also runs the food and beverage program at the Chicago-based stadium. “I don’t think the people in Brooklyn deserve less respect than people in Chicago.”

Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

Building Blocks: South Oxford Street

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Kyle Thomas McGovern

Today, we begin a new column, Building Blocks, which will profile the men and women behind the best streets in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. For the debut, The Local spoke with Abby Weissman, president of the South Oxford Street Block Association, which oversees the block between Fulton Street and DeKalb Avenue, and a resident of Fort Greene for 14 years.

How did you originally get involved with neighborhood activism?

When my wife and I first moved in, we met all of the people on the block and that was the organization. Althea Buchanan, the woman who was the president before me, died, and a lot of things came up that somebody had to take care of, notably the tree guard project and the fight against Atlantic Yards. I became the lead organizer. There was nobody else who was willing or who had the time.

What are some concerns you have for the neighborhood?

I’m wary about Atlantic Yards and all the bars opening. The neighborhood is becoming like Williamsburg, like a party zone. When the arena opens, who knows what’s going to happen? Thankfully, we’re on the other side of Atlantic Avenue, but there’s still going to be a big quality-of-life impact here.


Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

So complain-y! The Times's Streisand coverage treats "neighborhood critics" as making allegations, not winning a big court case

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times, heretofore uninterested in the number of jobs at the Barclays Center arena, goes long in the CityRoom blog and in today's paper with A Daughter of Brooklyn, Now Known as ‘Barbra,’ Will Return to Perform.

This passage gives a nod to larger issues:

Because of Ms. Streisand’s identification with Brooklyn, the Streisand concert is a feather in the cap of the promoters of the arena, which will hold 220 entertainment events a year. Concerts by Jay-Z, Leonard Cohen and Andrea Bocelli are scheduled, as well as the roughly 40 home games of the newly christened Brooklyn Nets basketball team. The developers have been fighting neighborhood critics who say the crowds and traffic will overwhelm quiet small-scale neighborhoods. News of the concert was first mentioned on a blog that tracks the issue, Atlantic Yards Report.

Getting all complain-y

Isn't it unfortunate that developer Forest City Ratner has to be fighting "neighborhood critics," who sound so complain-y. The "he said, she said phrasing" sounds like another example of "the usual tumult," the Times's dismissive August 2009 phrase regarding the public process concerning the re-approval of Atlantic Yards.

The thing is, there's reason to get all complain-y.


Related content...

City Room, A Streisand Encore, 5 Decades Overdue

The concert gets its own creation myth:

Bruce Ratner, the developer of Barclays Center, said that two years ago he received a phone call from Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn’s borough president, urging him to call Martin Erlichman, Ms. Streisand’s longtime manager, about arranging a Brooklyn concert.

“He said, ‘This is possible but I have to discuss it with Barbra,’ ” Mr. Ratner recalled of his conversation with Mr. Erlichman.

Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

May 7, 2012


Brooklyn Born

Brooklyn reborn. Welcome back.

I wondered about this particular post that you're reading. It has been a while since I've added anything to this blog. Nearly one year. and longer still since I wrote consistently. That's probably closer to three years since I updated posts consistently.

When I started this blog my goal, as is stated, was to add a voice to the cacophony on Brooklyn Bloggers, many of whom seemed, new, to put it coy and lightly. I also wanted to tell Brooklyn stories. Stories I thought people would like and maybe had experienced themselves, but that were not widely distributed or spotlighted. Another goal was creative discipline, I wanted an outlet that I could pour my energy into, and a production structure to reliably present content as well as reminding myself that I was the creative professional my resume claims me to be. I was also, like many people very under-employed and needed something to do with my free computer time other than checking my checking account and iCalendar to see exactly when I was likely to be broke and homeless. And let us not forget the dragons. Dragons like the beasts to be know as Atlantic Yards, and the Barclays Center and the 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee and a rule breaking Mayor in search of a third sheet, all in need of righteously fueled raging blog posts to be written in hopes of defeating and sending them all back to their misconceived caves. All that and more was why I started writing this blog.


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

May 4, 2012

Tonight: eight years of Atlantic Yards distilled into 20 minutes (and a few laughs)

Atlantic Yards Report

There are still a few tickets left for nerd nite nyc tonight at Galapagos in DUMBO, starting time 9 pm. My presentation, in about 20 minutes, will be more entertaining than this blog. That was a requirement....


NoLandGrab: God, we hope so.

Click the link for more info on Norman Oder's talk, which actually will be quite entertaining — no, really — and visit for details on the Atlantic Yards tour Oder will be leading on Saturday.

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

ESD CEO Adams says agency seeks ways to formalize public input on Atlantic Yards "before the project's done 25 years from now"

Atlantic Yards Report

(L-r.) Carlo Scissura, Arana Hankin, Ken Adams, Justin Ginsburgh. Photo and set by Tracy Collins.

It's actually not on the video, but there was a telling moment during the meeting May 2 held by Empire State Development (ESD) CEO Kenneth Adams with Atlantic Yards community stakeholders.

Adams was ruminating on the obligation he acknowledged for his agency "to be more responsive than we were as an agency in the past."

While ESD is still figuring it out, based on discussions with elected officials, Adams said they were open to a "formal structure for community input over the long life that we expect the project to have."

"25 years from now"

"Again, it's not a secret that there have been legislative efforts to do that," he continued. "So that sort of prompted my original interest, in conversations with Senator [Velmanette] Montgomery and Assemblyman [Hakeem] Jeffries, Council Member [Letitia] James and Council Member [Steve] Levin."

"We're having discussions, and we're open to doing it," he said. And that would be "a way to formalize a system for us to be more helpful, more responsive... before the project's done 25 years from now."


Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

May 3, 2012

ESD’s Adams: Surface parking lot spaces halved (concession to neighbors or reality?); governance entity possible (ditto); appeal unresolved in SEIS case; meeting on transportation plan set for 5/22, then 30 days for comments

Atlantic Yards Report

In his second meeting with Atlantic Yards stakeholders in eight months, Kenneth Adams, CEO of Empire State Development (Corporation), the state agency overseeing the project, last night had some welcome news: the planned surface parking lot for the southeast block of the project, which was estimated to have up to 1,100 spaces, would have fewer than half that amount, obviating the need for noisy stackers that could compound gridlock.

The news was welcomed, albeit somewhat warily, by the two dozen people at Borough Hall, representing various neighborhood and merchant groups in the orbit of the Prospect Heights project.

While the lot, according to state documentation, could hold up to 1,100 spaces, and an application to the city Department of Buildings said 722 spaces, the genial Adams, a Brooklynite familiar with nearly all of the two dozen people in the room, said it would be under 550 spaces.

Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association called the result “good,” though he noted that the site, bounded by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Dean and Pacific streets, could only accommodate about 520 surface spaces, according to calculations by local residents. “We've been expecting the number of 520 for some time.”

Follow the link for more about parking, and many other details of last night's meeting.


Related coverage...

NY Post, Nets’ Brooklyn parking plan hits the skids

The state has put the brakes on an unconventional parking plan at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn that critics feared would have created neighborhood traffic nightmares.

Stack-parking — a time-consuming process that uses hydraulic lifts to stack anywhere from two to four cars atop one another — won’t be used, as previously planned, at a surface parking lot under construction next to the Nets’ new home.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

The Early Word: Clinton Hill Filmmakers Help Kick Off Two-Decade Retrospective

A showcase of the work of Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Paul Leonard

Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, creators of the recent Atlantic Yards doc, Battle For Brooklyn, will help kick off a retrospective of their nearly 20-year body of work with Half-Cocked, a film about a bunch of kids who steal a van full of musical gear and go on the road through the South. Brooklyn Heights Cinema, 70 Henry St. 8:30 p.m. $11.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

May 2, 2012

Welcome to Brooklyn

Rumur via Vimeo

As we neared the end of "Battle for Brooklyn" our good friend Ras approached us with a song called "Welcome to Brooklyn". Dan and his family only had a short time left in their home so we hustled over with Ras and had him perform the song outside as Dan, Shabnam, and Sita walked away. It was a really nice moment- but it didn't give us the room we needed at the end of the film for other information. Ultimately it didn't fit as the end credits song. With the Hello Brooklyn campaign going on we thought we'd share Welcome to Brooklyn. We shot this 2 years ago today- May 2 2010.


Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

May 1, 2012

ESD CEO will again meet with select community reps; state agency has since lost big court case; despite changed dynamic, no sign of bending (but effort to restrict media)

Atlantic Yards Report

Some seven months after Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams met with select community representatives regarding Atlantic Yards, Adams will reprise such a meeting at 6 pm on Wednesday, May 2 at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

While the Nets' branding juggernaut proceeds and state officials have expressed no qualms about the project, community questions should have a bit more weight, given an appellate court decision last month slamming the state's oversight and continued obfuscation about plans to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

Indeed, yesterday, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council asked Adams's boss, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg to stop the scheduled construction of a surface parking lot for the project, given that the release of plans for the lot has been delayed six months and there had been no response to residents' concerns.

New restrictions on meeting

Early yesterday, I queried Arana Hankin, the ESD's Atlantic Yards project director, regarding the ground rules for the May 2 meeting. She directed me to James's aide Alfred Chiodo, who told me that the ground rules were the same as last September.

In a later message, however, he followed up, stating, "we will be asking those reporting on meeting to refrain from taking photographs or taping." I asked for an explanation, but didn't get one.


Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

April 27, 2012

Caption Contest

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn via Facebook


Photo: Debbie Egan-Chin/NY Daily News

Posted by eric at 3:16 PM

Brooklyn Heights Cinema Showcases ‘Rumur Films’ Thursdays In May

Brooklyn Heights Blog
by Chuck Taylor

The Brooklyn Heights Cinema will showcase the “Rumur Films Retrospective” each Thursday evening in May, featuring five flicks by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, the pair behind Brooklyn-based production studio Rumur.

Galinsky & Hawley have been making innovative social documentaries for two decades, including 2011’s “Battle for Brooklyn” (showing at BHC May 31), a 93-minute doc that, according to New York magazine, shows “how Atlantic Yards used the pretense of democracy to enrich the powerful, but also energized actual citizens to fight the good fight.” Their other films comprise 1994’s “Half-Cocked” (May 3), 1999’s “Radiation” (May 10), 2002’s “Horns and Halos” (May 17) and 2005’s “Code 33” (May 24).

Kenn Lowy’s Brooklyn Heights Cinema is located at 70 Henry Street. More information is available here, with synopses of their films here.


NoLandGrab: You can also catch the film tonight, at Brown Memorial Baptist Church.

Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

April 26, 2012

Barclays Center building aims for transparency, but Atlantic Yards project evades it: transportation plan, parking details delayed until late May

Atlantic Yards Report

The buzzword for the Barclays Center arena, insists developer Bruce Ratner in the New York Post exclusive video below, is transparency: transparency from the street, where passersby will be able to see the scoreboard, and from the concourses, where attendees will not be obstructed from the action at hand.

However much transparency may be a design feature, it is most assuredly not a feature of the overall Atlantic Yards project.

Release of the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, aimed to push arena attendees toward public transportation rather than cars, had been delayed yet again, to May 22, given the re-scheduling of the planned Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting from May 3.

No explanation was issued for the rescheduling. That means, for example, that Forest City Ratner's plans for the interim surface parking lot, on which construction starts May 1, will not be revealed until three weeks later.

Forest City can build a lot up to 1,100 spaces, but the larger capacity would require stackers, which neighbors believe would add noise and delay. (I asked the developer yesterday for an update, and was told it would be issued at the meeting.)

Dismay over delay

Local elected officials and community stakeholders have already expressed dismay over the delays--and this adds to that.

The TDM plan was originally supposed to be released in December, then was delayed until February, then delayed until May--early May.


NoLandGrab: If anyone can come up with a promise kept by Forest City Ratner, please let us know.

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

In today's Times, the lead story regards loss of $19M (or so) taxpayer funds; compare that to coverage of the MTA deal

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's New York Times, lead story, headlined Company Admits It Bilked Clients on Big Projects:

The giant construction company that worked on Citi Field, the renovation of Grand Central Terminal and scores of other high-profile projects has admitted to a huge fraud scheme in which it overbilled clients for more than a decade and has agreed to pay $56 million in fines and restitution to avoid criminal charges, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

...The scheme carried out by the company defrauded government agencies and private developers of about $19 million, much of it tax money, Ms. Lynch said at a news conference. She was joined by officials from several other agencies to announce a deferred-prosecution agreement.

But the amount is most likely far higher because prosecutors said they believed that Lend Lease conducted the practice for decades and that it extended to other companies.

So, um, some $19 million, most of it tax money, was misappropriated? That's news.

But when Forest City Ratner renegotiates a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to save much more than that--well, that's buried in an un-bylined short.

Yes, one's a crime and the other a politically freighted negotiation. But there's a similar bottom line: a cost to the public, and a private gain.


NoLandGrab: Stealing is stealing, whether it's sanctioned by government or not.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

April 25, 2012

The Barclays Center and Local Businesses

Journographica Class Blogs
by Adrian Szkolar

A Stony Brook University journalism student looks at small business hopes for a positive arena effect.

With the New Jersey Nets set to relocate to Brooklyn this upcoming September, local businesses have a sense of hope that with fans flocking to the games, there will be more potential customers.

“I’m positive there is some impact,” said Asandoh Jones, an instructor at New York Chess and Games, a local chess shop on Flatbrush Avenue which mainly relies on revenue from chess lessons. “The question is, we’re wondering how good it will be for business, it certainly can’t hurt.”


NoLandGrab: Jobs, Housing & Chess!

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

No ‘Kemistry’ — Slope group votes no on club’s liquor license

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

A proposed nightclub called Kemistry Lounge features some bad elements, according to a civic group representing Brownstone Brooklyn.

A Community Board 6 committee voted unanimously on Monday to reject a liquor license request for a sprawling Flatbush Avenue venue near the soon-to-open Barclays Center after neighbors complained it would bring noise and nuisance to the community.

The proposed live music venue — which wants to offer bottle service and dancing — would keep nearby residents awake at all hours and bombard a neighborhood that’s already oversaturated with boozy nightlife establishments, committee members said.

“People in the area feel more and more put upon — there’s been a cumulative element when it comes to liquor license applications,” said CB6’s Gary Reilly.


NoLandGrab: No doubt the Empire State Development Corporation believes that liquor license applications near the Barclays Center are at "acceptable levels."

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

April 24, 2012

Community Board 6 committee supports arena liquor license with stipulations; Veconi warns that the CB, which didn't take comments, gave up leverage

Atlantic Yards Report

At the end of a meeting that lasted more than three hours, including perhaps an hour devoted to the controversial Kemistry Lounge application, the Community Board 6 Public Safety/Environmental Protection/Permits/Licenses committee agreed to supports a liquor license for the Barclays Center subject to the same conditions under which Community Board 2 and its committee approved it.

That means that, while the applicant, Levy Premium Foodservice and Brooklyn Events Center, must set up a community liaison and also make sure the arena moves ahead with security, sanitation, transportation plans, there’s essentially no roadblock--not that it was assumed that the State Liquor Authority (SLA) would deny the application.

And while dozens of Prospect Place-area residents showed up to weigh in on Kemistry, there was virtually no one there to comment on the arena application, which provoked huge discussion two weeks earlier. (Those concerned about Kemistry didn't stick around.)

No public comment

Nor was public comment taken. That left Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, who has argued, for among other things, a cut-off in time for liquor sales, quite frustrated.

At the end of the meeting, Veconi approached committee chair Gary Reilly and said that, while the committee had been “doing a super job,” it was “unconscionable” to not take public comment and to approve a resolution with no enforceability.


Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Critic suggests Atlantic Yards "needed a Jane Jacobs to stop it;" I suggest that a failure of eloquence was by no means the largest failure

Atlantic Yards Report

Architecture critic Alexandra Lange, who wrote a devastating takedown of Nicolai Ouroussoff, talked about her new book Writing About Architecture with Project for Public Spaces. An excerpt from the discussion:

In the last chapter of my book I discuss Jane Jacobs, and how she might have reacted to the Atlantic Yards project. I think it needed a Jane Jacobs to stop it — an advocate as eloquent about the costs, and the alternatives, as those seductive Gehry renderings — and for whatever reason, one did not appear. But the activist spirit was by no means dead. It just got diffused into activist non-profits and activist blogs and activist essays. The diffused media landscape made it easier to follow the saga week by week, but perhaps made it harder for any one person to become the voice.

Norman Oder goes on to offer a bit of a rebuttal. And while Jane Jacobs was, well, Jane Jacobs, Daniel Goldstein has nothing to be ashamed about.


Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

April 23, 2012

Community Board 6 committee tonight hears presentations on liquor license applications for Kemistry Lounge and Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

The last two items on the long agenda for a Community Board 6 Public Safety/Environmental Protection/Permits/Licenses committee meeting tonight involve a controversial venue near the Barclays Center and the arena itself, about which the committee postponed a vote, requesting further community outreach:

Continued presentation and review of an on-premises liquor license application submitted to the State Liquor Authority on behalf of Kemistry Entertainment Group dba Kemistry Lounge at 260 Flatbush Avenue (between St. Mark's / Prospect Places).

Continued presentation and review of an on-premises liquor license application submitted to the State Liquor Authority on behalf of Levy Premium Foodservice, LP and Brooklyn Events Center, LLC at the Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Avenue (between Flatbush/5th Avenues).

The meeting starts at 6:30 pm. The location:
Prospect Park YMCA
357 9th Street, 7th floor
(between 5th & 6th Avenues)


Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

April 21, 2012

From DDDB: "A Ratner's Gallery of Cronies, Friends, Partners, Fixers and Shrill Supporters"

Atlantic Yards Report

From DDDB, A Ratner's Gallery of Cronies, Friends, Partners, Fixers and Shrill Supporters, "Yesterday marked the latest indictment of Forest City Ratner cronies, partners and strident Atlantic Yards supporters/operatives."

Read on for the list, which includes (as per DDDB language):

  • Salvester (Sal) Zarzana,
  • Disgraced State Senator Carl Kruger
  • Disgraced Atlantic Yards lobbyist Richard Lipsky
  • Disgraced former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi
  • Disgraced Yonkers GOP operative and fixer Zehy Jereis
  • He who feels no sense of disgrace James Stuckey
  • James Caldwell, currently being sued in federal court


Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

April 20, 2012

AY down the memory hole: Forest City Ratner's malls identified as "crime epicenter," again contradicting Atlantic Yards Blight Study, which absolved them

Atlantic Yards Report

Of all the dubious work that the ubiquitous environmental consulting firm AKRF has done on Atlantic Yards, its crime study, aimed to support the conclusion that the Atlantic Yards footprint was blighted, was most clearly bankrupt.

Remember, AKRF suggested that a little-populated, railyard-dominated section of footprint, rather than Forest City Ratner's two malls, was responsible for the crime spike in Sector E of the 88th Precinct. But it never checked with the cops to square their observations and statistics with the surely self-serving numbers reported by the malls.

From the New York Times's blog The Local today, Our Crime Epicenter: The Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center Malls:

The Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls aren’t just hubs for Fort Greene shoppers and commuters — they’re also the neighborhood hotspots for criminals.

The adjoining shopping centers, owned and developed by Atlantic Yards master builder Bruce Ratner, have been the site of at least 26 reported crimes, and countless other thefts, making it the singular crime epicenter in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill’s 88th Precinct.

From the Atlantic Yards Blight Study:

For example, while there were 39 robberies in sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security records indicate that no robberies occurred that year at Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal. Similarly, while there were 115 grand larceny crimes reported for sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security force recorded only one incident of larceny that same year. Although crimes catalogued by the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal security staff are not necessarily the same as those catalogued by the NYPD, the relatively low number of crimes reported at the shopping centers indicates that the high crime rate in sector 88E is more likely a result of crimes occurring on the project site than in Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal.

I've been reporting on the malls' crime problems for years. As I wrote in March 2009, the police had said that the malls were responsible for the area's crime problem.

Helpful study

But AKRF's work was very useful to Forest City Ratner and its enablers. Remember, Jim Stuckey, then president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, straightfacedly told WNYC talk show host Brian Lehrer in July 2006, "The crime in these [AY footprint] areas is substantially higher than areas around it."


NoLandGrab: Like AKRF, Stuckey was never one to let the truth get in the way of a paycheck.

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

A Ratner's Gallery of Cronies, Friends, Partners, Fixers and Shrill Supporters

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

It's getting easier to count Atlantic Yards supporters who haven't gone to jail or been indicted, but DDDB takes a shot at it.

Yesterday marked the latest indictment of Forest City Ratner cronies, partners and strident Atlantic Yards supporters/operatives. Here's the tally:

Click through for more, as the list goes on. And on.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Just another day on residential Dean Street: a construction worker improvises a public pissoir; meanwhile, workers park motorcycles on Pacific Street sidewalk

Atlantic Yards Report

Don't worry, this kind of thing will NEVER happen once the arena's open and 18,000 15,000 12,000 how ever big a crowd the Nets or Rush can muster are streaming out onto local residential streets after an event. Right, ESDC? ESDC?

Are residents around the Atlantic Yards site somehow overwrought when they bring up the possibility of arena attendees relieving themselves in the neighborhood?

Well, the photo at [right], from Atlantic Yards Watch, captures what appears to be a project construction working using the wall of a building on Dean Street near Carlton Avenue as a pissoir. As noted:

The man's hardhat, neon vest under his arm and the union logo "Laborers" on the back of the jacket clearly indicate that he's working on the AY project.

I'm not 100% certain, but I'd say it's a very good bet. This location, by the way, is just across the street from the site planned for interim surface parking--a reason to heed this caution from AY Watch:

Construction workers continue to have an adverse impact on the community with respect to noise, illegal parking, garbage and - in this case - other sanitation issues. Another example of why Forest City Ratner should be responsible, especially when the arena opens, for sidewalk cleanliness in a larger area than just the sidewalks inside the project.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

See Battle for Brooklyn at Brown Memorial Baptist Church, April 27th

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

April 19, 2012

Ex-Carpenters Union official Zarzana, Atlantic Yards cheerleader, charged with extortion and identified as soldier in Genovese crime family

Atlantic Yards Report

As Phil Reisman and John Murtagh were saying...

Salvester (Sal) Zarzana, former head of a Carpenters Union Local and a prominent cheerleader for Atlantic Yards, has been charged with extortion and identified in a federal indictment as a soldier in the Genovese organized crime family.

Click through for all the sordid details.


Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

April 18, 2012

Michael Galinsky, Guggenheim Fellow

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation

Congratulations to Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky, who's been named a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow.

Michael Galinsky
2012 - US & Canada Competition
Creative Arts - Film-Video

For the past twenty years, Michael Galinsky has been making films with Suki Hawley. After making two narrative features (Half-Cocked in 1994 and Radiation in 1999), they began work on the documentary Horns and Halos (2002), which they completed in partnership with David Beilinson. Since then, they formed the collaborative production studio Rumur. In 2011, they completed and distributed their fifth feature (third with Beilinson), Battle for Brooklyn. It played in over twenty cities and was recently named one of the fifteen notable films of 2012 by the American Library Association. They are currently working on several documentary and narrative film projects, including Conception, which explores the nature (and nurture) of family, and will use the Guggenheim Foundation grant to focus on that film. In addition they are in the middle of production on Story of Pain, a film about the pain epidemic and the pioneering work of Dr. John E. Sarno.


Posted by eric at 1:56 PM

Love-Hating Brooklyn and the Atlantic Yards

Curbed NY
by Dave Hogarty

The half-assed New York Times piece on the arena effect spawns more, since it's The Times.

For all of its winking fun, however, the Times does point out that the neighborhood around the Atlantic Yards is walking a tightrope between bemoaning rapid change and getting caught in the doldrums of protracted development. Massive plans that were meant to utterly transform the Atlantic Yards over 10 years are now projected to take 25 years, forcing residents to "tolerate vacant lots, above-ground arena parking and Phase II construction staging for decades."


Related coverage...

Planetizen, Nowhere Near Completion, Brooklyn's Mega-Development is Already Changing the Neighborhood

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Effect: Is it Changing Retail For the Worse?

Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City's Atlantic Yards project brings change to Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Will A Bigger, Taller, Rezoned Midtown Be Bloomberg's Legacy?

by Garth Johnston

Mayor Bloomberg has made many plays over his two-and-a-half terms at leaving a lasting physical legacy, but none really worked out. The maybe-too-short One World Trade isn't really his, the Jets stadium never happened (and neither did the Olympics), Atlantic Yards is enriching a few while alienating many of the locals—and don't even get us started on CityTime. So what's a billionaire from Boston to do? Well, according to the Daily News, try and rush through rezoning to rebuild the area around Grand Central taller! Sleeker! With less soul! Yup, views of the Chrysler Building could soon be but a memory.


Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

April 16, 2012

Times op-ed: EB-5 program lacks credibility, needs reform, but "solutions are straightforward" (really?)

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times op-ed today, Making Visas-for-Dollars Work, suggests that the EB-5 program can and must be fixed. Writes author Ann Lee a senior fellow at the center-left think tank Demos and the author of “What the U.S. Can Learn From China”:

Given how many high-worth investors are clamoring to enter the United States, the program could have a significant effect on American unemployment. Indeed, it has brought in some $1 billion over the last fiscal year, and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has called for the program to be “radically” expanded over the next few years.

Unfortunately, the program is so rife with fraud and corruption that it could actually have the opposite impact and deter investment. To regain its credibility, the program must make a number of changes to enable more transparency and demand more competence from its operators.

The most egregious problems with the EB-5 program can be found in its 218 regional centers, which work with private-sector brokers to identify local investments and direct foreign participants to them. Examples abound of centers and brokers playing down risky investments and misrepresenting how the program works, including a promise that EB-5 investments are guaranteed by the federal government — when the government in fact does nothing of the sort. Many investments have failed to create the required 10 jobs and even gone bankrupt, leaving the investor without his money or his green card.

That's not the half of it. It goes far, far deeper, such as misrepresenting the project itself. And the regional centers do not merely "work with private-sector brokers," that's what they are: private businesses.


Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

April 13, 2012

Court: More environmental analysis needed at Atlantic Yards project

Meadowlands Matters []
by John Brennan

As is (sadly) all to often the case, the Bergen Record's John Brennan is more on top of the Atlantic Yards story than most of his New York City brethren.

A New York State Appellate Court panel – in upholding New York Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman’s ruling from last July – dismantled the case made by the project’s backers, including ESDC, piece-by-piece.

To clarify up front for Nets fans who know that the $1 billion Barclays Center is scheduled to open in September: this ruling does not derail that opening.

But it does complicate matters for project developers who, in a second phase, are supposed to complete work on most of the 16 skyscrapers around the arena. That work, while of no direct impact on North Jersey sports fans, is of great importance in Brooklyn communities to when – or whether – the project ever produces anywhere near the jobs and affordable housing numbers touted when the project was in its pre-development stages years ago.

Sounds like ESDC has some ‘splainin’ to do. I’ll be curious to see if the mainstream New York media digs deeper, considering we have a multi-billion New York City project here – and successive court rulings rebuking the judgment of the state agency that is supposed to be the people’s watchdog to make sure the project rolls out properly.

Emphasis, ours.


NoLandGrab: If the ESDC hadn't failed to disclose material information, New York State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman would likely have required a supplemental environmental review and state reauthorization that would have prevented Bruce Ratner from beating the December 31, 2009 deadline to secure tax-free financing, rendering him unable to raise the funds necessary to build. Therefore, from this point forward, we'll be referring to it as the "fraudulently constructed Barclays Center."

Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Atlantic Yards Foes Win In Court, But Impact is Unclear

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project — whose basketball arena is nearing completion at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues — are demanding changes to the mega-development in the wake of an appellate court ruling today that officials violated state environmental law by allowing the project’s developer far more time to finish the job.

Proponents, or better put, Forest City's state lackeys, are singing a different tune...

Empire State Development Corporation Director Arana Hankin issued a statement: “Although Empire State Development is disappointed with the decision, we are fully committed to building a world-class development that will bring thousands of jobs and affordable housing to Brooklyn. The decision does not prevent the arena opening this fall, nor does it affect any aspect of Phase I development, and we will continue working toward the full build-out of the project.”

WNYC, Court Upholds Atlantic Yards Project Ruling

Brooklyn Council Member Letitia James who has long criticized the project said "its clear that if the facts regarding the impact of the development two years ago, the resulting decision would have halted construction." She added that she believes the decision will affect some of the community enhancing parts of the plan. "We can be almost certain at this point that the jobs and housing originally promised will not come to fruition any time soon...."

New York Magazine Daily Intel, Appellate Court Rebukes State Agency for Backing Atlantic Yards

The ruling also backs community claims that there was something fishy about how the state agency went to bat for Forest City Ratner's $4.9 billion project. When the state chose not to study the environmental impact of an extended 25-year buildout in 2009, it helped Forest City meet a crucial deadline and save more than $100 million on tax-exempt bonds.

Reuters, Appeals court calls for review of Atlantic Yards project

An attorney for Develop Don't Destroy, Jeffrey Baker, said his clients were "pleased that (Thursday's) ruling vindicates everything we've been saying since 2009."

"What's disappointing is that we now have further proof from this court that the arena would never have even started construction if EDSC and Forest City Ratner had been honest about the process," Baker said.

Prospect Heights Patch, Appellate Court Orders Additional Review for Atlantic Yards Project

The Brooklyn Blog [], Appellate panel confirms state review of Atlantic Yards was illegal

AP via NBC New York, Court: Atlantic Yards Need Environmental Review

Posted by eric at 2:04 PM

How the appellate court, in its way, backed up Lupica: "It was a hustle in broad daylight by Caring Bruce Ratner from the start"

Atlantic Yards Report

After the March 2010 Barclays Center groundbreaking, Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica commented, "It was a hustle in broad daylight by Caring Bruce Ratner from the start."

The hustle wouldn't have worked without help from Ratner's partner in government, the Empire State Development Corporation, aka Empire State Development (ESD), which had recently completed a clever, devious move, withholding the Development Agreement for Atlantic Yards, thus obscuring the project timetable.

Now the ESD, courts have said definitively, chose expediency over candor, in order to get Atlantic Yards re-approved in 2009 and to enable that groundbreaking. However little the decision may change things on the ground, it's a moral victory and an important message about honest government and the lack thereof. That's news, though not everyone thinks so.

"But the reason why we think Forest City will go forward with this project, and we have every reason to believe so, is that we have a Development Agreement with Forest City that requires it to do so," agency attorney Philip Karmel said in court in January 2010, as detailed below. "I don't know what else ESDC can do."

Well, it could have released that document, which would have revealed how the developer had 12 years to build Phase 1 and 25 years for Phase 2, rather than incentives to get the whole thing done in a decade.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Brooklyn Critics Finally Win, But It Won't Effect Barclays Center


"Won't effect Barclays Center?" Who writes this stuff? NetsDaily should maybe pony up a few bucks to hire a real, actual journalist to navigate the perils of effect vs. affect.

After years of trying, critics of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards finally won a significant victory when a state appeals court ruled unanimously that later stages of the construction will need a new environmental review. The ruling does not affect either Barclays Center or the three high rise apartment towers planned around the arena.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

April 12, 2012

Atlantic Yards Loses in Court. Court Slams ESDC and Orders New Project Review


Unanimous Appellate Court Decision Slams ESDC, Forces NY State to Do Supplemental Review and New Approval of Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project

Golden Opportunity for Governor Cuomo To Fix the Atlantic Yards Debacle

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), BrooklynSpeaks and all of their co-plaintiff community groups have won another victory in court over the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner—their second in a row.

In a unanimous decision, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court today found that Justice Marcy Friedman correctly ruled in July 2011 that the ESDC's 2009 approval of Atlantic Yards' Modified General Project Plan violated State environmental law.

The decision upholds the lower court's order that the ESDC initiate a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and new approval process on Phase 2 of the Atlantic Yards project, which includes the bulk of the 22 acre project and the bulk of the non-arena portion of the demolished site.

A public hearing on the SEIS will be mandatory.

"The fact is that the project should never have been approved at all—it is entirely illegitimate," said DDDB's legal director Candace Carponter. "The tragedy here is, but for the blatant misrepresentations to the Court by Forest City Ratner and ESDC, it would been determined in 2010 that an SEIS was required and that would have stopped construction of Barclays Arena. ESDC's dishonesty has allowed that to go forward and the community is already feeling the adverse impacts that have long been forecast. We hope that ESDC will abandon its servile devotion to Forest City Ratner and start representing the citizens of this area."


Posted by eric at 3:46 PM

Appellate Court smacks down ESD, upholds decision ordering new study of long-term Atlantic Yards impact, requires new approval of Phase II

Atlantic Yards Report

(This will be updated.)

In a unanimous decision with almost no chance for appeal, a state appellate court has unanimously upheld a lower court's decision to require the state to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement regarding the second phase of Atlantic Yards and to re-approve the second phase.

In other words, the state should not have misled the public with its irrational insistence that Atlantic Yards could be built in a decade rather than, as is likely, a much longer period, even 25 years, as allowed by a belatedly released Development Agreement.

Nor did the state analyze the possibility of a scenario "in which area residents must tolerate vacant lots, above-ground arena parking, and Phase II construction staging for decades."

The case, known as Matter of Develop Don't Destroy (Brooklyn), Inc. v Empire State Dev. Corp., involves two sets of petitioners, a coalition led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and another led by members of Brooklyn Speaks. Both the Empire State Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development) and Forest City Ratner were defendants.

The decision has no impact on the Barclays Center arena, but complicates Forest City Ratner's plans regarding Phase II and casts a further shadow over the questionable approval process for the project. It also endorses skepticism about whether the promised jobs and affordable housing will be delivered in the long-promised ten years.

The defendants can appeal, but given the unanimous decision and the emphatic language, it's very unlikely.


Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

BREAKING: State Court of Appeals agrees that 2009 Atlantic Yards plan was approved illegally

BrooklynSpeaks sponsors demand Governor and Mayor intervene to reduce project impacts, deliver promised housing and jobs

BrooklynSpeaks via press release

In a unanimous decision, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court today found that Justice Marcy Friedman correctly ruled in July 2011 that the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) 2009 approval of Atlantic Yards’ Modified General Project Plan violated State environmental law. Among other changes, the plan renegotiated in 2009 between the State and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) extended Atlantic Yards’ construction schedule from 10 to 25 years. Justice Friedman’s order that the ESDC conduct additional environmental analyses and revisit the project plan will remain in effect.

“ESDC’s decision to appeal was deeply disappointing both to the community and to its elected representatives, who had pressed the agency to comply with the court order,” said Jo Anne Simon, 52nd District Democratic Leader. “Now that the Appellate Division has upheld the lower court’s decision, we strongly urge Governor Cuomo to act to restore credibility to this process, and direct his agency to conduct a thorough and transparent assessment of the environmental impact of this project on central Brooklyn that involves our communities in a meaningful way.”

BrooklynSpeaks sponsors had argued against the appeal, contending that ESDC fast-tracked its approval of the 2009 schedule concessions demanded by Forest City in order to allow FCRC to meet a deadline necessary for its arena bonds to qualify as tax-exempt. “ESDC’s actions saved the developer hundreds of millions in interest payments,” said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, “but at the cost of thousands of units of affordable housing being delayed for decades. The Appellate Division ruling gives the Governor an opportunity to put the project’s public benefits back on the schedule promised.”

The Appellate Division rejected arguments by ESDC and Forest City that the impacts of 25 years of construction to surrounding neighborhoods were likely to be less severe than if Atlantic Yards were completed in 10 years, writing that such a conclusion “is not based on any technical studies of the environmental impacts of protracted construction. It is supported by the mere assertion that the build-out will result in prolonged but less "intense" construction and that most environmental impacts are driven by intensity rather than duration.” Significantly, the Appellate Division noted that ESDC “failed to consider an alternative scenario in which years go by before any Phase II construction is commenced — a scenario in which area residents must tolerate vacant lots, above-ground arena parking, and Phase II construction staging for decades.”

“In the two years since this suit was filed, nearby communities have had a ringside view of continued violations of Atlantic Yards’ stated commitments on air quality, noise and truck safety,” said Danae Oratowski, Chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “Less than six months before Barclays Center opens, we have yet to see the developer’s plans for parking and traffic management, or the City’s plans for crowd control and security. Today’s ruling should be a wake-up call for Mayor Bloomberg to engage the community and work together both to limit the impacts of continued construction, as well as to reduce the effect of the operation of an arena amid historic residential neighborhoods.”

“ESDC not only has allowed Forest City Ratner to steamroll local residents and their elected representatives, but has also played a role in violating State law to the developer’s advantage,” said Howard Kolins, President of the Boerum Hill Association. “Taken together with recent revelations of Forest City’s connection to political corruption cases in Brooklyn and Yonkers, today’s ruling shows the need to reform oversight of Atlantic Yards is more urgent than ever. The New York State Assembly has already passed legislation requiring ESDC to create a subsidiary to oversee the project. We now need swift action on the bill by the State Senate, and a commitment by Governor Cuomo to ensure Atlantic Yards is accountable to the public.”

Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

Barclays Center liquor license follow-up: CB2 approval, Patch coverage

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up the stray coverage of the Barclays Center liquor-license hearing.

In CB2 Toasts Barclays Center Booze Permit, The Local reports:

Community Board 2’s vote rubber-stamped a committee’s approval one night earlier of the license in exchange for promises to involve the community and crack down on underage drinking and post-game filth. That approval came after intense debate, but there was little discussion by the full board last night.

“Barclays Center, here we come!” hailed CB2 Chairman John Dew after the vote.

My comment:

Despite Mr. Dew's triumphant tone, I'm not sure this article should share it. The resolution approved includes fairly onerous reservations. Some regard expected but delayed actions: transportation and security plans.

The Community Advisory Committee is doable, but there was no sign it's actually coming. And, as the article indicates, Levy opposes the use of ID readers.

Also, we didn't hear what Levy and developer Forest City Ratner think of a review of the license in one year, but it's unlikely they're thrilled about it.

I'd add that there may be a divide on the board, with Dew having fewer reservations about the Barclays Center than some CB 2 members. I'll note that one CB 2 member told me after the committee meeting Tuesday that they were forbidden to talk to the press.

Patch report

This morning Patch produces Community Residents Have Reservations About Barclays Center Liquor License, a thorough article that's only about a day late.

The article, like the WNYC coverage, included a reference to one supporter I didn't mention in my article:

However, not everyone in the room was against approving the liquor license. David Vendley, the co-owner of Calexico, a restaurant on Union Street, said that the community should support Barclays and their liquor license.

“I like to drink beer at games, but I don’t want to get drunk. To lump everyone who drinks at arenas together and say that selling liquor is going to create an unruly group of people in a gross assumption,” David Vendley said.

Vendley has a point, but the committees are concerned because there's just much less of a margin for error, given the arena's location.


Related content...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], CB2 Toasts Barclays Center Booze Permit

Park Slope Patch, Community Residents Have Reservations About Barclays Center Liquor License

WNYC, Neighborhood Raises Concerns About Alcohol at Barclay's Center

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

April 11, 2012

Make Barclays Liquor Sales Work for the Community

Prospect Heights Patch
by Gib Veconi

Here's a bit of common-sense commentary from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council's Gib Veconi.

Let’s be clear: The question is not whether Forest City Ratner has hired a reputable, experienced firm to run the food and beverage concessions at the Barclays Center arena. The question is not whether the arena will enforce State laws against underage drinking and patrons walking out the doors with drinks in their hands. And the question is most certainly not whether Barclays Center should be like all other U.S. sports facilities, which are able to serve alcohol. Let’s assume the answer to those questions is yes.

The real question is on what terms Barclays Center should be granted a license to open a bar with 18,000 seats. And right now the answer is, we don’t know.

We don’t know because Barclays has yet to release a code of conduct for its patrons. We don’t know because the NYPD hasn’t yet announced a plan for maintaining order and safety before and after arena events. We don’t know because Forest City Ratner has yet to explain how the parking lot two avenues east of the arena is going to be operated. And we don’t know because the representatives from Barclays who attended last night’s meeting of Community Boards 2 and 6 could not even commit to a time after which sales of alcohol at the arena would be cut off.

It’s not even clear that the arena operations team has thought through its crowd control strategy yet. At last night’s meeting, Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association pointed out that the largest exit from Barclays Center is onto residential Dean Street. David Anderson of arena operator AEG stated that patrons would be directed away from Dean Street and on to Flatbush Avenue. That won’t work—Mr. Anderson apparently did not realize that an 1,100-car parking lot for arena patrons lies two avenues to the east down Dean Street.


NoLandGrab: Geography's hard! We're confident all other aspects of arena security are under control though, right?!

Posted by eric at 10:49 PM

As Brooklyn Paper whiffs on liquor license story, Veconi (on Patch) points out the unknowns--and how arena operators don't (yet) get it

Atlantic Yards Report

So what if the Brooklyn Paper's print deadlines might cut into coverage of Tuesday night events.

Would you believe the newspaper ignored the joint Community Board meeting last night on the Barclays Center liquor license?

It did.

(Former Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman, now at The Local, did a solid job covering it.)

Instead, the newspaper brings us the news and fluff listed at right.

Patch, by the way, had a reporter there, but I haven't seen a story yet.


Posted by eric at 10:41 PM

One of these things is not like the other...

At last night's joint Community Board 2 and 6 hearing on the Barclays Center liquor-license application, arena Director of Security David Anderson and Dean Street resident and activist Peter Krashes had the following exchange, according to Atlantic Yards Report:

Peter Krashes of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Dean Street Block Association, observed, "You all get the idea that you're going to be operating the arena in a relatively unique situation... Our neighborhood is going to be integrated into the operational plans of the arena. We have bedrooms facing the street. We have kids who have to go to school the next day and are going to have an arena event happening on a Thursday night... You guys have a special obligation."

(At [right] is Krashes on residential Dean Street, the straightest path between the arena and the planned interim surface parking lot.)

He asked Margolin and David Anderson, director of security, for examples in other cities where they have made it work. Secondly, he asked, how does the community keep them accountable, given that, in his opinion, "we've had a lot of problems with accountability leading up to this point... you can say you're going to sell two drinks per ID, but... If people walk down the street, yelling and shouting on Dean Street, how do we hold you two accountable?"

Anderson responded, "The experience I've had as far as dealing with an arena in a neighborhood, I've had a few, one was United Center in Chicago, which was just on the West Side of Chicago. We had the same situation, there's a similar situation, and when I came on board here, I understood everything that you guys were going through here....

Apparently not. Here's the "same situation" in Chicago, via Google Earth:

Maybe he means the "same situation" once Bruce Ratner finishes transforming Prospect Heights.

Top photo: Norman Oder

Posted by eric at 1:53 PM

Community Board committees say inevitable Barclays Center liquor license should not go forward without community outreach, negotiation

Atlantic Yards Report

Committees of Brooklyn Community Boards 2 and 6, urging attention to the Barclays Center's unique placement in and near residential districts, both last night urged caution to the operators of the Barclays Center arena, saying they were unwilling to support the venue's inevitable liquor license without reservations.

After a 2.5-hour hearing in a standing-room only meeting room at the 78th Precinct stationhouse just a block from the arena site, a CB 6 committee tabled any vote on the liquor license, then voted to urge the applicant, Levy Restaurants, to set up a community liaison group to address residents' concerns.

(Photos and set by Tracy Collins)

A CB 2 committee voted to approve the license, but with heavy reservations, including issues that are related but not exactly in Levy's hands: developer Forest City Ratner's issuance of a transportation demand management plan, which was promised in December but has been delayed until May, and a clarified arena security plan, which involves coordination of arena operations with the New York Police Department, which has yet to assign a precinct to be in charge of policing the arena.

The full boards also will make their recommendations, and then have a chance to again weigh in when the State Liquor Authority holds a hearing on the 500-foot rule, required when there are other nearby establishments. The SLA is expected to approve the application; the question is whether the process will impose any conditions on the operator.


Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Mixed Drinks as Two Community Boards Send Different Messages of Temperance

Two Brownstone Brooklyn community boards sent different messages of temperance to Barclays Center officials who were seeking approval for the arena’s liquor license last night — but both boards agreed that arena operators need to do more to ensure that quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods will not be destroyed by thousands of boozed-up basketball fans.

“This is a win,” said Councilwoman Letitia James, the Fort Greene Democrat who had demanded that the liquor license bid be suspended until “all of those outstanding issues can be resolved.”

“There will be drinking and driving,” said Hildegaard Link, a member of Community Board 6. “How many more dead bicyclists and pedestrians to we need? This is not a joke.”

NY Post, Net ‘shot’ blockers

“We have so many new bars coming and now they want to set up 57 stations in the arena to sell liquor. It’s just too much,” said Community Board 6 member Pauline Blake.

threecee via flickr, 2012 Barclays Center Arena Liquor License Public Meeting

Posted by eric at 1:37 PM

Mikhail Prokhorov in his own words

The InterNets []
by Stefan Bondy

The Daily News, in just publishing a transcript of Nets' principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov's comments to the media yesterday, is actually doing us a favor by not layering on the fawning NetsDaily-type "most interesting man in the world" blather.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov spoke to the media today at the construction site of the Barclays Center. This is what he said:

Opening statement: When I bought a share of the Barclays Center together with my partner, we had a joke, that I became a partnership in a hole. But now I’m quite happy that we are all here. And with my partner Bruce Ratner and I, we held on to that vision. We saw the future. And we saw that it will be really a wonderful venue for all the Brooklynites. And we saw that it will be a joy and excitement for all the community. The Nets, like the arena, is still under construction. It’s on the building stage and I will keep my prediction of a championship. I will do my best, together with my friends, together with my partners, we will make the Brooklyn Nets the champions of the NBA. And I am very committed to this.

Thoughts on arena? It’s not my first visit to the arena. Now it looks really good. So I think just welcome the 21st century. I’m sure it will be the best arena in the world. And I am proud to have a partner like Bruce Ratner and we can do together a great miracle. So now we have practically the state of the art arena, and we need to have a genius team. All this combination will give another emotion, another joy, another excitement to the great borough, Brooklyn.

What will it take to build Nets to title contender? So first of all I want to tell that we need to be very patient because it’s easy to have a good team, and playoff team. And it’s very difficult to make a championship team. We need to be really patient. We need to go really slow step to find the best pieces for the team. Not only just really good players. But we need to have the players which can be one very strong single team. Just team spirit. What we need. And we are really on the right way.

If it's "easy to have a good team," what's stopping the Nets from achieving even mediocrity?

Mr. Proky, in your visits what do you think of Brooklyn? So I think I read the article in the Daily News that said that every 9-out-of-10 Brooklynites quite happy for the arena for the team moving. And I feel that Brooklyn deserves a professional team since the time the Dodgers left in 1957. And of course I know there is some kind of skeptical criticism, and of course it’s impossible to make happy just everyone....


NoLandGrab: "It’s impossible to make happy just everyone?" Could it be that Mr. Prokhorov is reading NoLandGrab, too, and not just nonsense from the Daily News?

Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

Atlantic Yards and 311: An open letter to Mayor Bloomberg

Atlantic Yards Watch

Recently, we were informed by representatives of your office that all callers reporting Atlantic Yards incidents to 311 would be required to identify the location of the incident as “620 Atlantic Avenue” so 311 would be able to identify the report as being related to Atlantic Yards. This is the case even if the incident being reported is blocks away from 620 Atlantic Avenue. Frankly, we don’t think this is going to work. For the last eight years, thousands of people living near the project have been used to thinking of the site as “Atlantic Yards” or “Barclays Center,” in part because Forest City Ratner has spent hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of dollars publicizing those names. Nobody recognizes “620 Atlantic Avenue.” However, we were told that enabling the 311 system to key incident reports to “Atlantic Yards” or “Barclays Center” would require the entire system to be rewritten.

We admit we found this hard to believe. It doesn’t seem possible that 311 is unable to take a report based on a common place name instead of a street address. We doubt many people know the street addresses of Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, or Citi Field, for instance. We would like to think that a person calling 311 about a problem at the Grand Army Plaza subway station would be able to be served.


NoLandGrab: Maybe there should be a separate phone number for reporting ceaseless Atlantic Yards infractions. Do you think 666 is taken?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Yards Watch: maybe "620 Atlantic Avenue" isn't such a good ID for AY-related incidents

Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

April 6, 2012

Devils say didn’t commit to community centre

AP via Yahoo! Sports
by David Porter

Pay attention, folks. You're getting a sneak preview of Brooklyn, 2017.

The New Jersey Devils' top executive took issue Friday with Newark Mayor Cory Booker's recent harsh criticism of him, particularly accusations that the National Hockey League team reneged on a promise to construct a community centre as part of its deal to build the Prudential Center arena five years ago.

Booker ripped chairman and managing partner Jeff Vanderbeek on Wednesday in a news conference in front of the arena, a day after arbitrators ruled in favour of the Devils in a long-running dispute with the city over arena parking revenue. Booker indicated that the city's lawyers were considering legal recourse.

Among other colourful descriptions, Booker called Vanderbeek a "Grade-A huckster" who came to Newark with "a mouthful of promises and pocketful of lies."

One of the unfulfilled promises, Booker said, was that the Devils would build a community centre next to the arena in downtown Newark, the state's largest city.


NoLandGrab: "Vanderbeek" is Jerseyian for "Ratner."

Posted by eric at 11:23 PM

April 5, 2012

Brooklyn’s Class A woes

Borough’s Downtown market sees highest availability in office space in more than a decade

The Real Deal
by Adam Pincus

The Atlantic Yards office tower(s), and its bogus 10,000 permanent jobs, coming never.

The office market in Downtown Brooklyn was once going strong with a full slate of long-term leases, and a roster of financial firms like Bear Stearns & Company, which were locating back offices there to flee expensive Manhattan rents.

But today its high 90 percent occupancy rate masks a staggering 26.8 percent availability rate — from downsizing tenants and expiring leases in its 8 million square feet of modern, Class A office buildings. That’s according to fourth-quarter 2011 figures, the most recent available from commercial firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

The growth of vacant and available space has been a long time in the making, as financial firms reduced head counts, moved staff overseas, or decamped to New Jersey.

The availability rate — measuring space vacant now or available over the next 12 months — in Downtown Brooklyn’s modern office space is among the highest in the nation.

Developer and landlord Forest City Ratner controls most of the market, with about 5.2 million square feet in six buildings. Most of those buildings are in the Metro Tech Center complex, as well as three additional buildings, including 1 Pierrepont Plaza.

Forest City has just 3 percent vacancy in its portfolio, data from CoStar Group shows. But it acknowledged that about 18 percent of the portfolio is available, either directly through Forest City or indirectly through existing companies in the form of a sublease.


NoLandGrab: There's a shocker — Forest City Ratner officially claiming a low vacancy rate, while reality begs to differ.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

April 4, 2012

Rumur Inc: Neighborhood Beat Prospect Heights

Brooklyn Independent Television

BRIC Community Media talks with Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley about their oeuvre.

Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley are documentary filmmakers, husband and wife, and are the co-directors of Battle For Brooklyn, a film 8 years in the making , that chronicles the struggle of a man and a community fighting to save their homes in the wake of the construction of The Barclays Center Arena. We recently visited them and discussed their intriguing projects; past, present and future.


Posted by eric at 10:51 PM

Let’s Make a Deal! How Mike’s Mild-Mannered Closer Seth Pinsky Got the City Building Again

Dan Doctoroff's protégée picks up the mantle for PlaNYC.

The New York Observer
by Nitasha Tiku

If picking up the mantle for PlaNYC means building lots of parking lots, then Seth Pinsky is right on track.

“There are no permanent obstacles with Seth,” said Mr. Doctoroff. Mr. Lieber put it more bluntly: “He wears the other guy out.”

Some blame that stance for the chaotic denouement of the tech campus competition. “There’s a line that Stanford left because Seth was too difficult to deal with,” the source said. Those privy to negotiations say Stanford was taken aback by the binding legal penalties involving factors outside of their control.

“I’m not sure anyone really knows what happened there,” Mr. Pinsky said. “I think developers are used to dealing with cities that just write a check and say, ‘Will you just swear on a Bible that you’ll do this?’”

Bruce Ratner is used to dealing that way, anyway.

Meanwhile, community advocates and urban planners decry the EDC’s corporate structure and lack of transparency. “They pass for being a government agency, and in fact they have more power than many of the line agencies under the mayor,” said Tom Angotti, director of the Center for Community Planning and Development at Hunter College and the author of New York for Sale, who noted that by the time neighborhoods are consulted, the EDC has typically already made up its mind.

“If [closing deals] is the only criterion, he’s been a success. But for me that’s not the only criteria, nor should it be for the public. The question is what’s the quality of the deals,” added Mr. Angotti, a technical advisor to the alternative plans for the arena at Atlantic Yards. He cited the Brooklyn stadium as an example of selecting a more suburbanized approach over a plan that would benefit locals. “It divides three neighborhoods instead of uniting them and it just creates another giant super block in the middle of Brooklyn.”


Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

St. Louis Humanities Festival April 13 and 14

Local institutions partner to launch first annual event

Washington University in St. Louis
by Liam Otten

A heads-up to all our loyal readers in St. Louie...

Later this month, the Center for the Humanities at Washington University — in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council, Webster University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis’s Center for the Humanities — will present the first annual St. Louis Humanities Festival.

The two-day event, which takes place Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14, will feature talks by Shelton Johnson, a novelist and Yosemite park ranger, who is featured in Ken Burns’s film series The National Parks; and Brian Turner, an Iraq War veteran-turned-poet.

Rounding out the schedule will be a screening of the controversial documentary Battle for Brooklyn, followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Michael Galinsky.


Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

April 3, 2012

Channel 13, New York’s Premier Public Television Station, Provides Promotion For The Ratner/Prokhorov Barclays Basketball Arena: What To Do About It?

Noticing New York

All right, I have to admit it. This article is structured as crescendo of rage. So the further you read the more you will find that is absolutely appalling. I am writing about Channel Thirteen's promotional endorsement of the Bruce Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov basketball arena being built where the brownstone neighborhoods of Park Slope, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Prospect Heights converge.

The very beginning of February (February 3rd) I was watching evening TV when an intrusion presented itself on Channel 13, the city’s premier public television station, a station I gratefully thank for presenting programs such as the probing and analytical issue-oriented “Frontline,” “Nova” which frequently covers environmental important subjects as global warming, “The American Experience, which provides overviews of the American past and many more public affairs oriented programs including such things as local coverage of State of the State and City and budget addresses by the governor and mayor. What intruded into my theoretically `commercial free’ public television evening was a promotion for the new publicly-harmful “Barclays” basketball arena being developed by Bruce Ratner and Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Follow the link for much more.


Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

April 2, 2012

Another planned bar/lounge on Flatbush Avenue, Kemistry, provokes concern over exit on residential street, "nightclub" plans

Atlantic Yards Report

We'd missed this story last week, and planned to post it today, but Norman Oder beat us to the punch — as per usual.

Not surprisingly, there's another controversy over a lounge/nightclub planned near the Barclays Center arena at a location that fronts on busy Flatbush Avenue but had a rear exist on a residential street.

In this case, as described by Park Slope Patch and Brownstoner last week, it's The Kemistry Lounge International, which has a placeholder website, but a Facebook page, now offline (but cached), alarmed some neighbors.

(The name, as pointed out by a Brownstoner commenter, is apparently a nod to Kem Owens. The location is 260 Flatbush Avenue, noted on the map.)

The concerns

The main concerns seem to be:

  • whether there will be an exit onto Prospect Place
  • whether the 245-person capacity space will be a nightclub with rowdy people out late

The first issue seems relatively straightforward: bar owners told Brownstoner that the back exit would be used only as an emergency exit. Surely that can be negotiated.

The second issue may be tougher to pin down. If the lounge will have dancing only for private events, as Patch reported, how often would they be? If, in the words of co-owner James Brown, "It won't be a nightclub," what does that mean?


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Nabes Don’t Want Upscale Lounge on Flatbush Ave.

Prospect Place is a quaint and quiet residential block—and most of the neighborhood wants to keep it that way.

Last night, at the Community Board 6's permits and licenses committee, twenty or so residents of the tree-lined street voiced serious concerns about the proposed 245-person capacity restaurant and bar/lounge called Kemistry Lounge, which is on Flatbush between Sixth Avenue and Prospect Place.

Joe Marvel, who has been living on Prospect Place since 1975 and lives right next to the new development’s plate glass exit on Prospect Place, is worried about his quality of life.

“The whole neighborhood will be affected by this place’s throbbing music at all hours of the night and there will be an uptick of loitering and urinating,” Marvel said. “In no way are we opposed to business, but we are opposed to clubs.”

After the meeting, Kemistry's James Brown said he wasn’t discouraged, but rather that a negative reaction was “par for the course.”

“I think it is good and the community’s concerns are legitimate,” Brown said. “We want to make changes and adapt our environment to their concerns so we can work and live together.”

Brownstoner, Slope Residents Worry About Another Arena-Area Club

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

March 31, 2012

"Hey, you! Out there! I've got kids trying to sleep!"

Atlantic Yards Watch

Your peaceful night's sleep, courtesy of Mr. Sandman Bruce Ratner...

Loud noises at night have triggered multiple incident reports filled with the exasperation of local residents in the last several days and weeks. One Dean Street resident last night shouted "Hey, you! Out there! I've got kids trying to sleep!" to a worker banging his crowbar against a fender in the staging area at 10:30 PM. In another case a resident on Vanderbilt reports a vibration so impactful artwork fell off the walls at 12:15 AM.

A resident on St. Mark's Avenue reports "intense pounding/crashing noises coming from the construction site as I write -- "and we are 3 blocks away with sound-proofed windows! ... How is this permissable?" St. Marks Avenue is uphill from the construction site and some rear windows have an unobstructed path for sounds emanating from the construction site. The filer reports noise extending to 1 AM on Wednesday night.

Another filer from Pacific Street reports two "extremely noisy" nights in a row and that "the loud beeping sound of the trucks with loud bangs and booms stops me from sleeping. I can still hear it even with ear plugs." The filer also complains about the "bright white stadium lights that shine directly into my bedroom window." The lights are railyard lights installed to faciliate LIRR repairs that can only be executed when the railyard is dormant, but have been retasked by FCRC for use now by construction crews. The filer asks, "Does anyone take these complaints seriously or will I have to takes matters into my own hands and seek legal advice?"


NoLandGrab: The answers are, respectively, "no" and "yes."

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Yards Watch: residents exasperated by loud noises at night; state agency asks Forest City not to use noisy hoe ram

The "jackhammering" sound, 1:30 am, March 22

Posted by eric at 11:50 PM

March 27, 2012

Protesters march in opposition of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project

NY Daily News Sports ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

A few dozen protesters marched from the Occupy Town Square rally in Fort Green Park to the Nets’ Barclays Center on Sunday to make the connection between Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project and the crony capitalism that sparked the Occupy movement.

The protesters brought The Illuminator, a van equipped with a projector that allowed them to display images on the exterior walls of the still-under-construction arena. Ratner’s mug – “the face of kleptocracy,” according to the protesters – looks a little like the great and powerful Oz splashed on the arena wall.

The most striking thing in the video from Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, the team behind the powerful “Battle for Brooklyn” documentary, is the number of police officers who gathered en masse in response to a peaceful march.


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

March 26, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn

Gavin Smith via Vimeo

Did you miss out on Occupying Atlantic Yards last night? Here's the animated slideshow that was projected, via The Illuminator, onto the side of the half-built Barclays Center.


Posted by eric at 7:50 PM

Illuminate Atlantic Yards

Rumur via Vimeo

On March 26th after Occupy Town Square in Fort Greene, a group of protesters marched to Atlantic Center Mall and did some mic checking. They then marched across the street to the arena site where they focused attention on the process by which the arena came to be.


Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

2012 Occupy Atlantic Yards

threecee via flickr


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

The Occupy movement comes to the Barclays Center arena: "This is what kleptocracy looks like"

Atlantic Yards Report

After Occupy Town Square gathered in Fort Greene Park yesterday, a smaller group (as per The Local) of a few dozen marchers moved first to Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall, home to big box stores, then moved to the in-construction Barclays Center arena, accompanied by "the Illuminator," a van that projected images on the wall of the structure.

(Photo and set by Tracy Collins.)

"This is what kleptocracy looks like," marchers chanted, and "the Illuminator" broadcast photos of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and former Governor George Pataki.

Would the 99% have made a diff?

The marchers surely were the 99%, compared to a big developer, but they were not huge in number nor demographically a full cross-section of Brooklyn.

"If the 99% concept had existed during the Atlantic Yards fight, would we have won?" asked Stuart Schrader on Twitter.

My response: "Good question. But Atlantic Yards backers claimed to be helping Brooklyn's most vulnerable, via the CBA."

That said, the 99% concept surely would have made the fight more interesting, and complicated--and perhaps caused some media outlets and civic groups to look harder.


Related content...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: We Were ‘Occupied’

ayinfonyc via YouTube, Occupy Brooklyn vs. Ratner

More ayinfonyc videos...

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

March 25, 2012

Will Brooklynites embrace the Nets? Will the bitter history be forgotten?

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Based, in Nets Gain—and Losses, as this question:

Next year has the potential to be a long season, which could add to the frustration Brooklynites are already likely to feel amid all the talk of eminent domain, traffic jams and affordable housing bait-and-switch that already surrounds the Barclays Center, the Nets’ arena.

So what does it mean to Brooklyn basketball fans if, in fact, our new home team sucks?

The answer? Some still support the Knicks. Others have jumped on the wagon.

One calls Mikhail Prokhorov "the Russian Mark Cuban, so he’s going to want to win at all costs,” which doesn't take account of Prokhorov's strikeouts so far on big-time stars like LeBron James and Dwight Howard.

The writer, Van Sias, agreed with the need for patience regarding the team and project:

Or, as my wife, Nancy Gannon, the great philosopher puts it: “Best-case scenario, they’re awesome and just eff up my parking. Worse-case scenario, they suck and they eff up my taxes and my parking.”

My comment:

How does the difference between the Nets being "awesome" or "sucking" affect whether they "eff up my taxes" (or, to be more precise, "somewhat eff up the city budget because the arena causes a loss, according to the Independent Budget Office)?


Posted by steve at 11:35 PM

March 23, 2012

BusinessWeek takes look at "dodgy" EB-5 program, cites AY figure at $228 million; Forest City claims money is going to infrastructure, but documents suggest it's just replacing land loan

Atlantic Yards Report

In Coming to U.S. Costs $500K With Dodgy Job Plan, Bloomberg BusinessWeek takes a critical look at the fast-growing EB-5 program, in which developers and others have found a source of cheap financing: immigrants and their families can get green cards for themselves and their families if their $500,000 investment creates ten jobs.

The investigation, which looks at several projects, takes a somewhat critical look at Atlantic Yards, and reveals some new information: a total of $456 million raised, not the announced $498 million, and a questionable explanation for how the money is being used. But it leaves some lingering questions unanswered or unaddressed.

Overall, the portrait of EB-5 is tough, citing limited federal oversight:

Projects aren’t rigorously vetted and have been hyped by operators and brokers, and immigration authorities have botched visa claims and stranded investors and their families, according to lawsuits and participants critical of government supervision.

Several of the projects described are fairly small time, involving a few million dollars, not the $400 million-plus Brooklyn project.

AY and jobs

The article states:

In one case, Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards real-estate development, immigrant investors are putting about 30 percent of the capital into one pool financing the project, and claiming all jobs that pool is expected to create, according to George Olsen, managing principal of New York City Regional Center LLC.

The EB-5 program rules don’t demand enough proof that promised jobs, however they’re calculated, will be generated, said Jose Latour, a Miami immigration lawyer who co-owns American Venture Solutions Regional Center LLC in Florida.

“There’s no accountability,” he said. “Atrociously inflated projects are going to result in a lot of rejected green card applications.”

Latour may be right, but that's not an apt criticism of the Atlantic Yards EB-5 venture. In that case, the applications have been approved. The question is whether that approval meets the letter of the law (apparently) and the spirit of the law (dubious).


Related content...

BloombergBusinessweek, Coming to U.S. Costs $500,000 With Job Plan

Civic leaders in El Monte, California, saw the Transit Village development planned for land around the bus station as a way to revitalize downtown.

Developers John Leung and Jean Lang pitched it as something else to wealthy Asians: a ticket to a U.S green card.

The pair solicited $500,000 from a South Korean eager to win a resident visa through a federal program designed to stimulate job creation. The developers’ company went bust, the investor doesn’t have a green card and Transit Village didn’t produce any jobs in El Monte, a city of about 120,000 east of Los Angeles. Leung and Lang said they did nothing wrong. City officials said federal authorities didn’t do enough.

“Little El Monte stepped up to expose these people,” said Rene Bobadilla, the city manager. “Where the heck is the federal government?”

If the Feds aren't going to crack down on a couple of two-bit California developers, who's going to police Bruce Ratner?

Some claims about job generation are dubious, said Michael Gibson, a Tampa-based investment adviser who vets EB-5 deals for foreigners. When a project “substitutes EB-5 capital for more expensive bank financing or bond funding or even equity,” he said, “that isn’t really creating new economic activity. It’s margin for the developer.”

The Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., is borrowing $228 million in EB-5 money for a $1.4 billion infrastructure and arena fund that’s paying for a new subway entrance, parking facilities, municipal water and sewer line upgrades and other work in the vicinity of Barclays Center, according to Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the company. The arena, which is being built for the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets, will be an anchor of the $4.9 billion development, planned to include up to 6,430 housing units and 247,000 square feet of retail space.

The loan money is coming from 456 foreigners through the New York City Regional Center, according to Olsen, the managing principal. Forest City first asked for EB-5 money to pay off loans to the company from a unit of New York-based Gramercy Capital Corp., a real estate investment trust. When USCIS ruled against that, the plan was revised, Olsen said.

As Norman Oder points out in his coverage of the Businessweek story:

Hold on. There's no $1.4 billion infrastructure and arena fund. There is a purported $1.4 billion infrastructure and arena project, a fiction created to market a portion of the overall Atlantic Yards project to investors.

The money for the arena, and infrastructure, was already in place when the then-$498 million investment was marketed to potential investors. There was an existing arena project, funded mainly by $511 million in bonds, plus private equity and city and state subsidies. And the subsidies were supposed to go to infrastructure, in the main.

Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

March 16, 2012

Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet round-up: Ken Adams appearance; Carlton Avenue Bridge schedule; parking lot; first tower delay; NYPD questions; new 311 instructions; worker statistics

Atlantic Yards Report

Even Norman Oder can't keep up with Norman Oder. Here's his own round-up of his seven posts on yesterday's Atlantic Yards meeting.

Yesterday's Atlantic Yards District Cabinet meeting featured an appearance from the state's top economic development official, Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams, a Brooklynite.

Adams apologized to not coming to an earlier meeting, but said he has many constraints on his time. He said he was mostly present "as an observer and listener"--indeed, he only spoke privately to visitors.

He reflected that he had come to what he deemed a helpful meeting on Atlantic Yards last September. (Some community members might be a little more critical.)

"You all know Arana [Hankin], and she is the way to get to me," he said. "Arana is so very helpful to us at the agency, in being the point person for the project."

Hankin said another community roundtable with Adams will be held sometime in April. The next Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 3.

The round-up

Is the Carlton Avenue Bridge on schedule? Forest City and ESD say yes, but it depends on what "schedule" means

New instructions for 311 complaints related to Atlantic Yards: always use "620 Atlantic Avenue" as address; ongoing issues regarding rodents, noise, vibrations

Greening the planned surface parking lot? Maybe, maybe not, as Forest City says it's trying to shrink the capacity

Forest City: optimistic about first modular building, adding 2 BR units (but still not meeting pledge); construction won't start until after arena opens

NYPD: no decision has been made regarding precinct assignment for Barclays Center

Forest City: TA work is "going extraordinarily well" (except that's not what bondholders are told)

Forest City: average of 623 workers, 196 Brooklyn residents; job fairs coming for arena-related jobs


Posted by eric at 3:01 PM

57th Assembly candidate Mosley criticizes broken Atlantic Yards promises, "toothless" CBA (but last November saluted CBA signatory BUILD and Forest City Ratner)

Atlantic Yards Report

Walter Mosley, a candidate to succeed his friend Hakeem Jeffries as the Assemblymember for the 57th District, spoke last night at a forum for candidates sponsored by Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform. The rival candidates are Olanike Alabi and Martine Guerrier.

"I love basketball," Mosley said. "But there were promises for basketball, promises for jobs... promises for affordable housing. But unfortunately, the developer has broken our trust. The developer has broken those promises."

"We now have a toothless document called a CBA [Community Benefits Agreement], that really serves no one in the community," Mosley said, speaking to an organization that included many critics of Atlantic Yards.

A different tune

I should point out that, when speaking last November at a ceremony for customer service training graduates organized by CBA signatory BUILD, Mosley was more effusive about the CBA and the developer:

"We are blessed that we have a group like BUILD, a company like Forest City Ratner, who did not ignore the necessity to occupy Central Brooklyn, to make sure places like Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bed-Stuy, and Ocean Hill, Brownsville, people who live in those communities have an opportunity to make a difference... I've got to occupy Central Brooklyn. We've got to make sure that people in Central Brooklyn are working.”


NoLandGrab: Sounds like Walter Mosley would be just as tough on Bruce Ratner as Hakeem Jeffries has been... Charlie Rose-tough.

Posted by eric at 2:39 PM

March 14, 2012

District Service Cabinet meeting tomorrow; questions about police, modular plan, Carlton Avenue Bridge, parking, and more

Atlantic Yards Report

The next Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting will be at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Thursday, March 15, from 9:30-11. The meeting, which never quite gets to all the substantive Atlantic Yards issues out there, still typically generates some important information.

I don't have the agenda, but here are a couple of the issues I hope/expect to be addressed.


Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

March 1, 2012

Battle for Brooklyn: Upcoming Screenings in The Bronx, Manhattan, Minneapolis, Boise, & Boston

Battle for Brooklyn

You don't have to be Canadian to see Battle for Brooklyn in the next three weeks...

March 3, 2:00pm - Salem, Massachusetts
Salem Film Fest - Cinema Salem

March 6, 5pm - Columbia University, Upper Manhattan
Rosenfield Building, Hess Commons (722 W. 168th St.)
Sponsored by Group for Community Recovery at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health
Q&A Follows with Mike Galinsky & Daniel Goldstein

March 8, 7pm - Bronx, New York
Bronx Documentary Center (614 Courtlandt Avenue (@ 151st St.)
Sponsored by South Bronx Unite: Stop FreshDirect
Panel with Mike Galinsky & Daniel Goldstein, and Bronx activists

March 12 & 13 (2 screenings each night) - Minneapolis, MN
Trylon Microcinema

March 18 - Boise, Idaho
The Flicks

March 19, 8pm - Boston, MA
The Docyard (Brattle Theatre)

March 20, 7pm - Boston, MA
The West End Museum, Preservation Film Festival (150 Staniford Street)
Q&A Follows with Michael Galinsky


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

Barclays has lesson for arena advocates

Edmonton Journal
by Paula Simons

Edmontonians are debating the merits of a proposed new arena...

But as Battle for Brooklyn, an award-winning documentary film by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley illustrates, it's easy for municipal politicians and civic boosters to get swept up in the excitement of glitzy arena proposals without considering all the economic and social costs.

"No arena or stadium ever ends up being a net benefit," Galinsky says. "How much public investment is there per job? When is that money going to come back? There's a cost to these things, and who's going to bear it? The public."

Galinsky's film, which plays in Edmonton this Sunday as part of the Global Visions Film Festival, documents the fight between the developers of the Atlantic Yards project, Forest City Ratner, and a group of feisty Brooklynites opposed to the project.

It's like a giant shell game, as municipalities scramble to lure or retain pro sports teams with shiny new facilities, promising taxpayers wonderful economic and social benefits, which may or may not materialize. And the more a community like Newark or Brooklyn or Edmonton suffers from an inferiority complex, it seems, the more vulnerable it is to the pressure and the promise.

"I think it's because we're all so easy to roll over and we don't pay attention," says Galinsky.

"We look at our politicians and we think, 'They can't be that out of their minds.' And then it turns out that they are."


Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

February 27, 2012

Next Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting: March 15, not March 1 (and ESD's Ken Adams will be there); Transportation Focus Group to meet March 8

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meetings, held about every two months, are usually interesting, since they provide an opportunity for involved agencies interact, and for Forest City Ratner to undergo questioning by the few elected officials (and their designated staffers) who care.

And some news--such as plans for Transportation Demand Management, or affordable housing--tends to surface.

At the last meeting, held 1/26/12, it was announced that the next meeting would be Thursday, March 1. That date, less than two months away, has now been pushed back to Thursday, March 15, from 9:30 to 11 am at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

One key issue is transportation, and the next meeting of the Atlantic Yards Transportation Focus Group--which incorporates community members in an advisory role, with representatives of ESD and the Borough President's Office present--will be held March 8 at 6 pm at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

The meeting is open to the press and public, but the only participants in the round-table discussion are designees from invited community groups.


Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

February 24, 2012

Atlantic Yards: Beyond Barclays

City Limits

Here's a brief Atlantic Yards photo essay.

What came next was eight years and counting of very public neighborhood strife: protests and lawsuits by residents angered at the use of tax dollars and state eminent domain powers to tear down two city blocks of buildings to benefit a private developer; accusations and counterclaims in the wake of Ratner signing a "community benefits agreement" to promise jobs and affordable housing to local groups in exchange for their endorsing the project.

All that—aside from a few straggling lawsuits — is done now, and the Barclays Center basketball arena is now taking shape at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush, with its grand opening set for this September.


Photo: Pearl Gabel

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

February 17, 2012

Louder than ever

Your complete guide to the 9th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Missoula Independent

Here's a tip for our many loyal readers in Big Sky Country — don't miss this award-winning doc.

Battle for Brooklyn

Big Sky audiences should already be familiar with the work of filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley. In 2004, the duo took top honors at the inaugural Big Sky Documentary Film Festival with Horns and Halos, the story behind a controversial George W. Bush biography that almost never saw the light of day. This year, they could win again for Battle for Brooklyn.

The new film doesn't hold the immediate sex appeal of a prominent presidential candidate and allegations of drug use. Brooklyn is about eminent domain. But the consequences of that wonky legal term, and the people who engage in a vicious fight to define its meaning, make for one powerful film.

Showing: Sat., Feb. 18, at 10:15 a.m., at the Wilma.


Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Judicial Panel Skeptical of ESDC and Ratner in Atlantic Yards Courtroom Drama

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On Tuesday the state and Forest City Ratner lamely argued their appeal in front of a NY State Appellate Court panel which was not buying their contorted arguments. They were appealing the case the community won in which it was ruled that they are required to do a new environmental review for the bulk of the Atlantic Yards project.

Here is a round up of the court room drama...


Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

February 16, 2012

City Limits package on Atlantic Yards: Bertha Lewis accepts Forest City's failure to live up to housing promises, still thinks AY will live up to its billing

Atlantic Yards Report

City Limits, via its new Brooklyn Bureau, has published a package of stories on Atlantic Yards. While the package serves as a reasonable overview, recognizing considerable uncertainty about neighborhood impacts and jobs/reveneus, the publication--with some contributors new to the project--misses the chance to dig in some ways.

Take Traffic, Noise & Hope: Atlantic Yards Still Elicits Mixed Views. Of course it does: residents living near the arena are understandably alarmed by the prospect of a surface parking lot and traffic, while business owners, however dismayed by construction, understandably welcome new crowds.

That's not the issue. The issue is whether the state, in overriding zoning to squeeze this project into the northern section of Prospect Heights, bordering--at least on two edges--a residential district, bent over backwards too much for developer Forest City Ratner.

That's what the battle February 14 in court--unmentioned in this package--was all about.

False framing on housing issue

The article headlined Opinions Harden Over Atlantic Yards Housing could better have been framed, perhaps as "Forest City Ratner Reneges on Promises, Maintains Support from Advocate Lewis (Who Owes Them)."

This issue is not "opinions" but accountability.


Related content...

Here are some excerpts from The Brooklyn Bureau's package, which suffers from a good bit of redundancy among the individual pieces.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Opinions Harden Over Atlantic Yards Housing

Facts be damned, Bertha Lewis continues to blame everybody but herself and Bruce Ratner.

Rather than cast aspersions on the community benefits agreement, former ACORN head Bertha Lewis blames economic conditions and litigation for reshaping the Atlantic Yards deal.

“What we should have done is allow those in power to negotiate for us and pat us on our heads,” said Lewis. “Deal after deal, one agreement after another, if you don’t have someone overlooking that, things happen.”

Um, what?

Lewis says she speaks with Ratner two or three times a month. She sometimes frames the housing issue in racial terms, claiming that some who opposed the Community Benefits Agreement privately lambasted the idea of having a “high-rise ghetto.” She remains convinced the project will live up to its billing.“You will see the first building go into the ground this year. We build housing, we don’t build arenas. If I didn’t believe [in this project] and to put faith with works, then what’s the point? No, I’m a true believer, so that’s why I’ve got to dig in every month.”

NoLandGrab: OK, Bertha, name names. We don't know anyone who has actively fought Atlantic Yards who was or is opposed to a large affordable-housing component. The community-supported UNITY Plan calls for a larger proportion of affordable units than that outlined in your so-called Community Benefits Agreement. Give up the race-baiting b.s., already.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Brooklyn's Arena Is Coming. What's Coming Next?

Lost in all the tabloid headlines has been a deeper question: Now that the first stage of Atlantic Yards is set to arrive, what will Brooklyn get for its near-decade of discord? What will the project—possibly the biggest single change to arrive in the borough since Robert Moses rammed the BQE through a half-dozen neighborhoods in the 1950s and 60s—mean for Brooklyn residents, workers, and businesses?

In some ways, the argument that Atlantic Yards prompt eight years ago persists today. The impact of the project on rents, businesses, the job market and quality of life is no clearer now because of the delays and uncertainty surrounding every aspect of the Ratner plan but the Nets arena.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Traffic, Noise & Hope: Atlantic Yards Still Elicits Mixed Views

As the opening approaches and the plan evolves, opponents of the project are claiming vindication. Business owners hold out hope for a silver lining amid what they say are mounting problems related to construction and traffic. And supporters of the project are curiously silent. BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), a group which initially supported the project and accepted funding for job training from Forest City Ratner, did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment. Once billed as a linchpin of community support for the Ratner plan, BUILD hasn't posted a new press release to its website since 2004.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Nets Arrive, Questions Remain At Atlantic Yards

Already, there are hopes (and fears) of the impact of 18,000 fans a night pouring out into the streets, bringing both spending money and noise and traffic to the neighboring brownstone blocks. At the same time, elected officials and construction workers are nervously eyeing the empty lots that remain around the arena, where promised — but as yet unscheduled — condo towers are supposed to provide both housing and some of the 25,000 new jobs that developer Bruce Ratner promised would result from his Atlantic Yards master plan.

"We get closer and closer to opening day, and there's so many things that we just don't know," says Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, which abuts the Atlantic Yards development site on the north.

Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

February 15, 2012

ESDC asks appellate court to deny full study of 25-year Atlantic Yards impacts (and alternatives); some judges skeptical, others wonder what harm it would do

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on yesterday's Atlantic Yards court hearing.

It was a somewhat uphill battle yesterday for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), asking a state appellate court panel to overturn a lower court’s order that the agency study the impact of a 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout, solicit public comment, and conduct a public hearing.

A couple of the five judges were clearly skeptical of the state, with one citing the ESDC's "obstinate adherence" to the long-professed ten-year buildout.

Others, taking in the objections from the defendants, questioned whether a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)--which would analyze those extended impacts and even consider alternatives to Phase 2, since as revising the project to diminish impacts or welcoming new developers--would really cause any harm.

Then again, questions from the bench do not necessarily indicate how a court will rule after analyzing the legal papers.

Atlantic Yards was approved in 2006, with a ten-year buildout, then revised in 2009, as Forest City reopened settled deals with the ESDC (regarding the timing of condemnations) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (regarding the payment of railyard development rights and the configuration of a replacement railyard), in order to save money.

As part of the 2009 approval, as the defendants stressed, the state did analyze the impacts of 15-year buildout (in the 2009 Technical Memorandum). In response to a lower court ruling by Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, the state produced a document (the 2010 Technical Analysis) arguing that a 25-year buildout would not create any impacts not previously disclosed.

But that document was inadequate, argued the lawyers for the petitioners, community coalitions led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks.

At the heart of the 35-minute argument before the Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan was whether an intense buildout of the 17-building project over a decade would be worse than an extended, if less intense, buildout over 25 years. The state says yes, the petitioners say no.

The legal dispute does not affect the building of the arena, nor the towers around it, but does address plans for and impacts of Phase Two of the project: the eleven towers east of Sixth Avenue, including those to be built on a platform over the Vanderbilt Yard.

A decision is expected in about two months. An appeal is not automatic unless two of the five justices dissent.


Related coverage..., An arena grows in Brooklyn – but it’s complicated

The Bergen Record's John Brennan stands out among mainstream media reporters for his dedication in covering the Atlantic Yards story.

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner was in court in Manhattan on Tuesday – Valentine’s Day – arguing against critics’ claims that they have a sweetheart deal with New York State to develop the project on any timetable they choose.

First things first: This last remaining lawsuit, eight years into the saga, will not impact construction of the Nets’ $1 billion Barclays Center arena near downtown Brooklyn nor its scheduled opening in September. That is the first of more than a dozen buildings scheduled to go up – eventually.

And that’s where this legal action comes in: If the project’s original 10-year timetable is now more realistically a 25-year one for full buildout, is a Supplemental Environmental Impact statement required?

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], How Long Will It Take to Build Atlantic Yards? No One Knows

Even the lawyers don’t know when Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project will be completed — if it will be completed at all.

That bombshell — and the equally explosive prospect of a massive parking lot just south of Atlantic Avenue taking up promised park space for more than a decade — were the highlights of yesterday’s appeals court hearing to consider whether the 16-skyscraper arena, commercial and residential project is so delayed that Mr. Ratner must perform a new environmental impact statement to analyze the effect of the longer buildout.

“This is the 13th and 14th litigation about the Atlantic Yards project,” [Empire State Development Corporation attorney Philip Karmel] said. “If we had a supplementary [environmental impact statement], there’d be yet another litigation.”

NoLandGrab: Well, if it was of the same quality as its predecessor, yes there would.

Posted by eric at 4:49 PM

February 14, 2012

Appeals court argument Tuesday: should state have systematically examined impact of 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout? Is another public hearing needed?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder previews today's Atlantic Yards court hearing...

In an argument [this] afternoon lasting no longer than 30 minutes, lawyers for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner will argue to a state appellate court that a trial judge overstepped her boundaries in ordering the agency to systematically examine the environmental impacts of a 25-year project and to reassess the second phase of Atlantic Yards.

In turn, lawyers for two community coalitions, led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks, will argue that the decision by Justice Marcy Friedman--which came after a skein of rulings--should be upheld, and a public hearing must be held. (Legal papers are here.)

The case will be heard during the 2 pm session Tuesday at the Appellate Division, First Department, at 27 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Given that this appeal argument is eighth on the calendar, it may not be heard until 3:30 or later, though those attending probably should get there by 3 pm.

The legal dispute does not affect the building of the arena, nor the towers around it, but does address plans for and impacts of Phase Two of the project: the eleven towers east of Sixth Avenue, including those to be built on a platform over the Vanderbilt Yard.

On a broader note, the case, addresses whether the state agency essentially cheated to ensure that Atlantic Yards would move forward--and whether judges, who generally defer to state agencies if they display a mere "rational" basis for their decisions, are willing to more aggressively protect the public interest.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Valentine's Day Court Argument on Ratner's Sweetheart Deal

What better day than Valentine's to further discuss, in court, the sweetness of Bruce Ratner's sweetheart deal?

Posted by eric at 1:25 PM

Edward Carter — Lost One Year Ago, But His Legacy Lives On

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Serge Avery

As part of its coverage of Black History Month, The Local remembers long-time activist Ed Carter, who passed away one year ago.

“He was not ashamed to be outspoken” when he fought for the disenfranchised, his friend, Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint), said at the funeral last year.

He was especially outspoken about the controversial Atlantic Yards mega-development, which Mr. Carter opposed. Choice soundbite: Brooklynites are not “about to kiss any developer’s ass” and support the project.

Councilwoman Letitia James wrote that Carter “was a social justice legend, royalty throughout Brooklyn, and could be a royal pain sometimes — another reason why he so dearly loved.”


Photo: The New York Times

Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

February 13, 2012

Barclays Center in Brooklyn will create parking and traffic problems

Fury at B’klyn arena parking plan

NY Post
by Rich Calder

An unconventional plan for parking at the new Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn has critics predicting a neighborhood traffic nightmare.

Stack-parking spaces — which use hydraulic lifts to stack anywhere from two to four cars atop one another — are expected to fill roughly half of an 1,100-spot parking lot going up next to the NBA Nets’ arena in Prospect Heights, according to renderings commissioned by project critics based on approved plans.

With nearly a square block— bordered by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, and Dean and Pacific streets— designated to be the only on-site event parking lot for many years, the renderings show what many feared: It’s mathematically impossible to fill a state-mandated 1,100 spots there without stacking spaces.

No current New York pro-sports venue uses stack parking.

The concern, neighborhood residents say, is that hydraulic systems and valet service associated with stack parking slow the entry and exit of cars from the lot, potentially creating bumper-to-bumper traffic on surrounding streets and sending antsy drivers to seek the area’s few remaining curbside spaces.

“Getting cars up and down after events and in and out of the lot will be a time-consuming, major undertaking that’s never been studied,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, one of three civic groups that commissioned the renderings.

New surface parking lots of this size require tree-lined medians to absorb heat and storm water, but that city law doesn’t apply here because it’s considered “temporary parking.” Under a scenario where the medians were enforced, the lot would only be able to hold about 500 spots, according to additional renderings.


Rendering: BrooklynSpeaks/Original Photo: Jonathan Barkey

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Worries Aired About Stack Parking Next to Arena

A rep for Forest City says the developer is “conducting an analysis that we hope will allow” the firm to avoid using stack parking.

NY1, Report: Parking Woes Stack Up Outside New Brooklyn Arena

A possible parking plan at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn has critics fearing a traffic nightmare when crowds emerge from an event all at the same time.

The Real Deal, Critics predict Barclays Center parking nightmare

Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Atlantic Yards in Court as State/Ratner Appeal Ruling Requiring New Review

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB issued the following media alert today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2pm**
Oral Argument in State Appellate Court on Atlantic Yards Case

Valentine's Day Oral Argument in Ratner/NY State Appeal Of Ruling Requiring New Atlantic Yards Environmental Review

NEW YORK, NY—What better day than Valentine's to further discuss, in court, the sweetness of Bruce Ratner's sweetheart deal?

On Tuesday, February 14, oral argument will be heard in State Appeals court on an appeal filed by Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation. The partners in the Atlantic Yards project are attempting to overturn a July 2011 ruling, in favor of a community coalition led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks, requiring a new Environmental Impact Statement for the bulk of the Brooklyn development project, which has been floundering over the two years since groundbreaking took place for the arena portion of the project.

Should the Ratner and ESDC appeal fail, the state agency and Forest City Ratner will have to issue a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, hold a public hearing on that review, and vote to approve or disapprove the new review. The fundamental issue in the ruling under appeal is whether a 25 year (or more) build out of the project will have new and different impacts than the now discredited claim by the developer and the state that the entire project (16 towers and the arena) will be built by 2019. (Most of the project site is expected to be parking lots and vacant lots for up to a decade.)

Details below:

Tuesday, February 14th at 2pm**
Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court
27 Madison Avenue in Manhattan (between 25th and 26th Street)

(**The day's argument calendar begins at 2pm. This appeal argument is 8th on the calendar. So we can only estimate when the argument will take place. It is likely to start between 3:30 and 4, and not too likely before 3:30. If you plan on attending we suggest arriving shortly after 3pm.)

The back-story to the ruling, which ordered the ESDC to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, now under appeal is long and tortured. For more about that we recommend reading Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report account of the case history. Mr. Oder has also provided these in-depth reviews of the State and Ratner's appeal brief and the reply from the community coalition defending against the appeal.

What is the significance of this lawsuit and the appeal?

In early December Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation filed legal papers appealing last July's ruling in the community's favor that the state agency acted irrationally, and misled the court and public, when it approved the modified project plan for Atlantic Yards. The court ordered the agency to undertake a supplemental environmental review of the project.

While the arena construction moves ahead for a September 2012 opening, the rest of the project is a huge question mark, which requires some semblance of a meaningful environmental review, something it has yet to receive. This review must include a public hearing.

Should Forest City and ESDC prevail in their appeal, the supplemental review and public hearing will not occur and the project will, yet again, evade a proper review of the impact it is having and is going to have on Brooklyn.

As long as Forest City Ratner continues to fail to deliver on its promises while maintaining its stranglehold on 22 acres in the heart of Brooklyn, the community must demand its opportunity to have a say in what happens to our neighborhoods; upholding this ruling is one important step towards that goal.

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

February 10, 2012

Temporary construction regulation nailed to two trees on Pacific Street

Atlantic Yards Watch

Could it be because all the metal sign poles had already been removed?

A temporary construction regulation establishing no parking in the vicinity of the Carlton Avenue Bridge reconstruction has been posted to two trees on Pacific Street. Signs associated with "Maintenance and Protection of Traffic" (MPT) are obtained and installed by a contractor for FCRC. It is illegal to nail into street trees in NYC. The fine of $150 dollars for each posting is doubled when the sign is nailed to the tree.

No notice of a change to the MPT on Pacific Street was included in the most recent construction alert. Approximately 4 to 5 parking spaces have been eliminated.


NoLandGrab: We're most surprised that they could even find trees to illegally nail the signs to, given how Bruce Ratner has already chopped down a Forest's worth of trees in Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

February 9, 2012

Reisman: Forest City Ratner exec's resignation conjures up Sandy Annabi case

The Journal News
by Phil Reisman

You can make something out of this ... or not.

But the timing is interesting, to say the least.

Bruce Bender, a key executive vice president for Forest City Ratner — the developer that created the $630 million Ridge Hill retail colossus in Yonkers — has resigned from the firm. Along with a partner, Bender is starting a political consulting firm.

News of his departure was first reported on Liz Benjamin’s Capital Tonight blog.

Curiously, it comes a week before the commencement of a federal corruption trial starring former City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, who was charged in 2010 with selling her vote for the Ridge Hill project, as well as for another lower-profile project in Yonkers, in exchange for cash bribes.

Bender played a major role in squiring the controversial Ridge Hill deal through the bureaucratic maze of permits and approvals.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Journal News columnist: timing of Bender resignation seems curious, spokesman won't say whether he'll testify in upcoming trial; Forest City issues "terse kiss-off," names Bloomberg official to new external affairs role

Like me, Reisman thought that it was curious for Forest City executive Bruce Bender to leave his job just before the federal corruption trial involving the firm's Ridge Hill project, since Bender played a key role in getting the project going.

Unsatisfying answers

Reisman writes:

Even though no one at Forest City has ever been implicated in the bribery scandal, questions about what Bender (and possibly others) knew about the scheme have lingered ever since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced the indictments two years ago.

Will Bender be called to testify?

I put the question to Bender through a spokesman, George Artz, but did not receive a response Wednesday.

...Asked if the upcoming Ridge Hill trial had anything to do with his exit, Artz said it did not.

“He’s long wanted to do it,” Artz said. “There is always something happening every moment of time — and 12 years is a long time for anyone to be in one place.”

Forest City issued a terse kiss-off Wednesday: “Bruce Bender has decided to leave Forest City Ratner Companies to pursue other opportunities. Everyone at FCRC wishes him the best.”

Reasons for doubt

OK, we have:

  • no answer regarding whether he'll testify
  • neither Forest City nor Bender's new firm coordinating the news (I contacted Forest City two nights ago but never heard back)

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Forest City Ratner's Lobbyist Bruce Bender Is Leaving. Why? "Simply Time to Go"

We admit we don't know the reason for Bender's departure. All we do know is that February 14th begins a federal corruption trial involving Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers in which Bruce Bender is the unnamed and unindicted co-conspirator in a case where the briber and the bribee were indicted while the beneficiary of the bribe, Bruce Bender's firm, wasn't.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

February 8, 2012

Super Bowl 2012: Are Sports Stadiums Ripping Off Cities?

International Business Times
by Roland Li

Um, yes?

When the New York Giants and New England Patriots battle in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, they'll be playing in a stadium that was largely financed by taxpayers.

Don't worry, you didn't miss it. We missed this article.

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis cost roughly $720 million, with the majority of costs financed by state and city taxes increases. The Indianapolis Colts, valued at $1.06 billion by Forbes, contributed $100 million and pays $250,000 per year in rent.

The stadium was projected by planners to contribute $2.25 billion in economic benefit over ten years and create 4,200 new jobs and 4,900 temporary construction jobs. But there's never been a conclusive study that directly ties the construction of new stadiums to economic growth, and some critics dispute the positive benefits of stadiums, which have collectively received around $20 billion in U.S. subsidies in the last two decades.

But the most controverial arena has been Forest City Ratner's Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Conceived in the early 2000s, the project received $511 million tax free bonds in 2009, but had to clear lawsuits challenging the use of eminent domain to seize private property. A design by Frank Gehry was later dropped in favor of SHoP to cut costs, and prefabricated steel is being used on residential towers for more savings. The arena is set to open later this year.

Although Kroessler declined to speculate on the potential for tax subsidies for the next generation of stadiums, the trend appears to be continuing throughout the country.

"I don't see any great pushback," said [John Jay College professor Jeffrey] Kroessler.


Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

Brooklyn Beep presses for NYU expansion, Apple in borough

The Real Deal
by Candace Taylor

Other speakers at today’s roundtable included Bob Sanna, an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner Companies, and Brooklyn landowner Michael Pintchik, both of whom spoke about the under-construction Barclays Center.

Meanwhile, retail rents along Flatbush Avenue across from the arena now exceed $100 per square foot, said Pintchik, who owns Pintchik Discount Hardware in Park Slope and a number of other buildings in the area.

In a sign of the intense interest in area retail, the Flatbush Avenue site of 96-year-old Triangle Sports hit the market last week. Ofer Cohen, the founder and president of real estate service firm TerraCRG, which has the listing, told The Real Deal after the event that his firm has already gotten around 150 inquiries about the building.

For his part, Pintchik said he has plans to develop two six-story, mixed-use buildings along Flatbush near the arena.

When it comes to tenants, he said his company is “not big on fast-food chains,” preferring to “keep the local flavor” instead, with retail tenants who are “artisanal,” “independent,” “quirky,” or “edgy.”


NoLandGrab: Unfortunately, too many landlords, unlike the forward-thinking and community-friendy Mr. Pintchik, care only about money.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Jay-Z brings his act to Carnegie Hall, steps up charitable work

Atlantic Yards Report

Jay-Z played Carnegie Hall last night, in a benefit for his Shawn Carter Foundation (which supports college education) and he apparently nailed it.

The concerts last night and tonight, as well as a fundraising carnival last September that raised more than $1 million, suggest Jay-Z is stepping up his support.

However, as The Daily reported yesterday, in 2010, it raised only $218,849, with most coming from a company owned by a fan. It distributed $124,000 in scholarships that year, plus $23,744 on college tours for potential scholarship recipients and $20,223 for a toy drive in Bed-Stuy.

Shouldn't it be enough for stars to donate their services to raise money? Maybe, maybe not.


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

Brown Memorial Baptist Church’s Weekend Rededication

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Erin Horan

More than 500 patient parishioners attended Saturday’s rededication of the fabled Brown Memorial Baptist Church, whose crumbling sanctuary reopened after two years of renovations.

The congregation has been inside the Washington Avenue edifice since purchasing it in 1958. Since 2000, the flock has been led by the Rev. Clinton Miller, who has stepped up the church’s activism, most notably by opposing the Atlantic Yards project, which promised basketball and jobs for local residents in the new Barclays Center.


Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

February 6, 2012

New commercial to follow "Jay-Z's rise from selling CDs out of the trunk of a car "

Atlantic Yards Report

Relying on a behind-the-paywall WWD article, New York Magazine reports:

Jay-Z's forthcoming commercial will be called "From Marcy to Madison Square," and show black-and-white footage that follows Jay-Z's rise from selling CDs out of the trunk of a car in Marcy Projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant to headlining concerts at Madison Square Garden. It'll reportedly air on MTV, BET, and TNT during NBA basketball games.

Um, I thought Jay-Z's rise relied less on selling CDs than other product.


Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

February 1, 2012

February 14: a day of reckoning for Forest City Ratner? Cases involving Atlantic Yards timetable and Ridge Hill corruption charges go to court

Atlantic Yards Report

Tuesday, February 14, may be a day of reckoning for developer Forest City Ratner, as two key court cases proceed in Manhattan.

Sometime after 2 pm, there will be oral argument in the appeal filed by FCR and Empire State Development in the case challenging the state's finding that there was no need for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to analyze the impacts of a 25-year buildout.

In a victory for community petitioners, a judge ruled that such an SEIS was needed.

The case will be heard in the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, 27 Madison Avenue. I've already written about the first two legal exchanges: the appeal brief from ESDC/FCR and the reply from the petitioners. The appellants get the last word, so I will write shortly about their reply.

The Ridge Hill case in Yonkers

On February 14, jury selection begins in federal court regarding the Ridge Hill corruption case, which touches on Forest City Ratner, though the developer was not charged. The case, which could take a month to try, will be heard by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in courtroom 14C of the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street.

Will Forest City staffers or lobbyists be called to testify?

I'll have a preview article about the case in the next week or so.


Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

Markowitz will promote Barclays Center hockey (exhibition game!) in State of the Borough, won't close door on mayoral run, but seems resigned to sitting it out; not sure "son" (gray parrot) understands his legacy

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who gives his invitation-only State of the Borough address tonight, apparently will be promoting future events at the Barclays Center.

As Newsday first reported yesterday, the Islanders will play the New Jersey Devils in a preseason game on October 2; it's the first NHL game in Brooklyn.

(Would you believe the New York Times devoted a Metro section article to the game, Testing the Ice Where Hockey Was an Afterthought, with credits to four reporters? The Times sure didn't cover the failure to provide the promised Transportation Demand Management plan, or the failure to provide promised larger affordable housing units.)

According to a Courier Life report issued before the official announcement, he indicated he'd be pushing for NHL hockey. Markowitz was appearing at the Bay Ridge Community Council's Presidents' Luncheon, held, not coincidentally, at the Bay Ridge Manor, long owned by state Senator Marty Golden and his family.


Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

Did an "emergency situation" really preclude alerting neighbors to overnight work last Saturday? Permit for crane was issued 11 days in advance

Atlantic Yard Report

Let's take another look at the explanation given for the disruptive overnight work beginning last Saturday at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Sixth Avenue.

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development, stated:

The work that was occurring this weekend was being done by the LIRR and had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards. The LIRR is typically very good at notifying us of work that they need to do after hours so that we can inform the community, especially when it relates to Atlantic Yards. But apparently there was an emergency situation in the yard this weekend and they had to get in there very quickly.

Well, maybe it had "nothing to do with Atlantic Yards," but, given that reconfiguration of the LIRR's Vanderbilt Yard is part of the project, it seems like there's some connection, even if not formally part of the Forest City Ratner-led work.

"Emergency situation"?

It's even more doubtful there was an "emergency situation." After all, it's hard to get cranes on short notice.

And, it turns out, the (almost surely) related Department of Transportation permits were issued January 17, eleven days earlier. The permits were for work on Atlantic between Sixth Avenue and the block immediately to the east, South Oxford Street,beginning Saturday, January 28.

Three sequential permits, listed below, were issued the same day.

Given that the announced purpose purpose was "Mobile Crane to Lift Electrical Equipment," and that's what happened, I trust that the permits applied to the work indicated in the photo above. I've asked Hankin for any further explanation, and will update this post if I learn more.


Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

January 31, 2012

planners + Atlantic Yards: community advocates or development cheerleaders?

“The planning debate of the decade: Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn. The argument isn’t just about Atlantic Yards, however: it’s about what we want our country to look like next.”

Landscape Urbanism
by Peter Chomko

Over the past couple weeks, the Penn School of Design and Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts have teamed up to get the Philadelphia intelligentsia talking about, of all things, an out-of-town city planning dispute. Not just any planning dispute, of course, the planning dispute. You know one: Brooklyn, the Nets, Russian oligarchy and organized crime, Jay-Z. Atlantic Yards.

Um, what planning?

You’ll notice that the words “Atlantic Yards” aren’t linked to anything. That’s deliberate: Given the heated debate those two words frequently give rise to, I’m avoiding taking anything that even looks like a position on the issue. Because this particular post isn’t actually about Atlantic Yards. At this point, “Atlantic Yards” (the cause it’s become, not the physical space) isn’t actually about Atlantic Yards anymore. It’s about a country emerging, e-v-e-r–s-o–s-l-o-w-l-y, from a long and deep recession, and what we want the country that emerges to look like.


NoLandGrab: No, we're pretty sure everything is about Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

January 30, 2012

Bowing to Change

Brooklyn's Triangle Sports Feels the Pressure From All Sides

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila

There goes the neighborhood — courtesy of Bruce C. Ratner.

A family-owned sporting-goods and apparel store on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn is calling it quits after 96 years in business, another sign of changes sparked by the coming of the nearby Barclays Center arena complex.

Feeling the pressure from big-box stores and the weak economy, Triangle Sports has put its building up for sale in hopes of finding a store or restaurant itching to be close to the multiuse sports, retail and residential project rising across the street.

"It's getting harder and harder for a smaller, independent retailer to survive," said an emotional Henry Rosa, one of the partners behind Triangle Sports, who started working in the shop as a teenager in the 1960s.

More change is on the way for the area around Barclays Center as it prepares to open this fall. National retailers and Manhattan restaurateurs have been quietly scoping out properties around the arena, real-estate brokers and property owners said.

"Is it going to look like Madison Square Garden?" said Geoffrey Bailey of real-estate service firm TerraCRG, which is marketing the Triangle Sports building. "It's going to look like Brooklyn's interpretation."

"This trend is going to accelerate in a monumental way as we get closer to the arena opening," said Timothy King, managing partner with CPEX Real Estate.

But longtime Triangle Sports shoppers said they were sorry about the news that the business was closing.

"It's a symbol of things that have been here a long time," said Liz Fader, 75 years old, from Boerum Hill. "This is just another example of this loss of community."


Related coverage...

Here's Park Slope, Triangle Sporting Goods Up For Sale

This sadly seemed inevitable: After 96 years occupying the prime corner of Fifth Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, and Dean Street, Triangle Sporting Goods has put itself, and the building it calls home, up for sale.

Posted by eric at 5:12 PM

Daniel Goldstein on Edge of Sports Radio

Edge of Sports Radio via Sirius Satellite Radio

Edge of Sports host and The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin talks with Daniel Goldstein about Atlantic Yards, beginning around the 28:40 mark.


Posted by eric at 5:05 PM

January 27, 2012

Delay in transportation plan for arena dismays residents, CM Levin; lack of info about area garages hampers efforts to reduce surface parking lot in residential neighborhood

Atlantic Yards Report

The delay in the release of the long-awaited Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, from once-promised December to now-promised May, has distinct real-world consequences, notably stalling the efforts of Prospect Heights residents to argue for a reduction in the size of the planned 1100-space parking lot on Block 1129, bounded by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Dean and Pacific Streets.

The availability of parking garages elsewhere might buttress their case, but more than five years after the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was completed, Forest City Ratner contractors are newly analyzing available spaces in parking garages near the project site.

During meetings yesterday of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet (made up of affected agencies and elected officials) and the Transportation Focus Group (including neighborhood and civic groups), representatives of Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE) did not discuss the emerging plan in great detail, but described the research process (e.g., surveys of attendees), the plan to select a vendor to manage parking, and shared how incentives for mass transit, including marketing, had reduced the number of drivers at other sports facilities, such as the Prudential Center in Newark and CitiField in Queens.

The pre-sale of parking spaces in local garages, plus parking in remote garages (with free shuttle buses), is aimed to steer drivers away from residential streets.

However, several residents expressed qualms about the effect in neighborhoods around the Barclays Center, given the failure, for example, to establish residential permit parking (RPP), which would deter out-of-area drivers looking for free on-street spaces.


NoLandGrab: They've had more than eight years to work on this. Is it any wonder residents around the arena site have zero confidence in the efficacy of the "plan?"

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

First residential tower now delayed until spring or summer; Forest City admits "goal" of including more larger units won't be met; CM James says developer's not meeting commitment

Atlantic Yards Report

Say what you will about creepy Jim Stuckey — he wasn't so nearly prone to ineffectual blathering as Jane Marshall.

For the umpteenth time, Forest City Ratner has pushed back the projected groundbreaking for the first Atlantic Yards residential tower, Building 2 (B2), at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street flanking the Barclays Center arena. Now the groundbreaking could be spring, as most recently projected, or summer.

Also, as acknowledged today at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, Forest City will not meet its "goal"--purportedly guaranteed by the Community Benefits Agreement and long promoted by the developer--of ensuring that half of the subsidized "affordable housing" would be (in square footage) devoted to larger units of two and three bedrooms.

"It doesn’t dilute our desire to meet the commitment in the future," insisted Forest City executive Jane Marshall at the meeting, held at Borough Hall.

"I understand your desire," responded Council Member Letitia James, skeptically. "I desire to be thin, and young"--the audience chuckled--"but that’s not going to happen. The bottom line is that, there was a commitment, there was a promise. There’s a need in the neighborhood... I would hope you would honor your commitment to the community.”

Forest City Ratner's partner ACORN, or its successor, was supposed to hold the developer to its housing pledge, but Bertha Lewis, who promoted the project because of the pledge, has not yet questioned the commitment.

Click through for Norman Oder's timeline of Forest City's moving Building 2 "goal" posts — which have now been moved 10 times in a little more than two years.


NoLandGrab: Forest City's repeated delaying of housing construction sure helps our confidence in all their other promises — but surely they'll deliver with the Transportation Demand Management plan or the reopening of the Carlton Avenue bridge. Right?

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Eye on the Politics of the Atlantic Yards Project

Our Time Press
by Mary Alice Miller

What, OTP couldn't send crack(ed) reporter Stephen Witt to the presser?

For all the good that they do, occasionally, local elected officials do something that makes you want to say, “Hmmm?” Last Sunday, State Senator Eric Adams teamed with Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Karim Camara to call “Foul” over “Failure of Barclay Arena Developer to Score on Community Givebacks.” Claiming that “many of the community benefits promised by the developers — including job creation, a public safety plan and the inclusion of affordable housing – have failed to materialize,” the trio announced “their plans to introduce legislation that establishes a subsidiary corporation for Atlantic Yards oversight and development.” The group calls on Kenneth Adams, president of the Empire State development Corporation, to “implement oversight changes in the Atlantic Yards development project” which “will ensure transparency and accountability to protect public resources invested in the project.”

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, a staunch critic of the Atlantic Yards development as it was proposed and funded, was not invited to the presser. Neither were Assembly members James Brennan or Joan Millman. Montgomery is the Senate sponsor of the bill; Brennan and Millman are co-sponsors of the Assembly bill. Oddly, Adams has not yet co-sponsored the Senate bill.

Where was the concern expressed this week by Adams, Jeffries, and Camara during five years of displacements, eminent domain law suits, and skepticism from other elected officials and community members over Forest City Ratner’s inflated job and affordable housing estimates. Why is legislation calling for “changes in the governance of the Atlantic Yards Project, the development that includes Barclay Arena, future home of the New York Nets” being announced now?


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Who was missing from the press conference last Sunday? Sen. Montgomery and other Atlantic Yards critics

Mary Alice Miller, the Our Time Press reporter/columnist who bluntly asked three belated critics of Atlantic Yards "Where were y'all?" last Sunday, offers her take, in Eye on the Politics of the Atlantic Yards Project.

Unrelated but intriguing was the news yesterday that the GOP-proposed Senate redistricting would pit two sitting Democratic Senators, as reported by City and State NY:

Brooklyn State Sens. Eric Adams and Velmanette Montgomery’s residences are now in the same Senate district, spokespersons for both the Senate Republicans and Democrats confirmed, potentially putting the two colleagues in the position of running against one another.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised a veto.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

January 26, 2012

A couple of big Atlantic Yards meetings today

Atlantic Yards Report

The first meeting today (as I previously wrote) is the bimonthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, is open to the public, at Borough Hall at 9:30 am. The expected topic is the long-awaited Transportation Demand Management plan.

The second, at Borough Hall at 6 pm, is an invite-only event regarding community groups' response to general traffic/transportation issues.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

January 25, 2012

Is Atlantic Yards Good for Brooklyn? A Public Call to Host a Town Hall Meeting With Michael Ratner

The Nation
by Dave Zirin

As reported by Michael O’Keeffe in yesterday’s New York Daily News, I have issued a formal request to Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights to co-host a film screening of the documentary Battle for Brooklyn. The documentary describes the efforts in Brooklyn to resist the Atlantic Yards basketball arena/housing development project, which will upturn twenty-two acres in the heart of the borough. That has meant protesting eminent domain evictions, sweetheart backroom deals, the prospect of accelerated gentrification, the tearing down of historic buildings and the use of taxpayer subsidies. Mr. Ratner is an investor in this project, spearheaded by his brother, Bruce Ratner, a high powered real estate magnate. Michael Ratner is also a hero of mine. His work opposing the Patriot Act, torture as policy, and the War Powers Act is an inspiration to anyone who cares about civil liberties and real freedom. In other words, not freedom the way Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul talk about freedom—the freedom to destroy the environment, smash unions, or build a pipeline through your backyard—but the freedom to actually assemble, debate, discuss and live in an open society.

But Michael Ratner is also an investor in this incredibly controversial project. He has never commented publicly about the constitutionality of how eminent domain was used to remove people from their Brooklyn homes and businesses. He has never explained why someone of his sterling reputation would involve himself in a project that symbolizes for so many residents the profits of the few over the needs of the many. Maybe he believes that this kind of massive development project is completely constitutional. Maybe he thinks that it’s in the best interests of Brooklyn. Maybe he believes that the Ratner family will profit mightily from the project, which will in turn support the good works of the CCR. I have no idea. As a boy with Brooklyn roots, I’m certainly open to his arguments, but it would be good to actually hear them. Given Michael Ratner’s profile as a civil libertarian, I honestly believe he has an obligation to be public and transparent about his involvement.

That is why I am issuing the following offer to Mr. Ratner: let us co-host a showing of the documentary Battle for Brooklyn. The film, which was shortlisted for an Academy Award, is remarkably gripping and would provide a terrific basis for a townhall conversation about the merits of Atlantic Yards, the constitutionality of eminent domain for private benefit and whether sports arenas are answers to the vexing problems of urban development and job creation. I already have agreements secured from several movie theaters willing to host such an event as well as a commitment from Daniel Goldstein, the protagonist of Battle for Brooklyn, to attend. You and I can both make brief statements and then open it up to the crowd. To Mr. Ratner: I can be reached at Let’s hold this event soon, in a comradely amicable setting, that allows us all to clear the air and educate the public about whether Atlantic Yards is in the best interests of Brooklyn not to mention in accordance with the kind of free, open and just society you have spent a lifetime championing.


NoLandGrab: Michael Ratner: "OK, so long as I can bus in 500 construction workers and ACORN members and give them free sandwiches."

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, David Zirin Publicly Invites Developer Bruce Ratner's Brother Michael to Discuss Atlantic Yards

Until now the media and icons on the left have stayd away from Michael Ratner's financial involvement in Atlantic Yards. No more.

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

From Atlantic Yards Watch: "urina" trash on Pacific Street

Atlantic Yards Report


Neighborhood opposition to the expected cluster of bars and restaurants near the Barclays Center includes concern that inebriated patrons will use the neighborhood as a urinal. That generated unsurprising mocking response from the bravely pseudonymous contributors at NetsDaily.

However, as noted on Atlantic Yards Watch, a version of the "urina" is already in place. Construction workers have been discarding bottles of urine as neighborhood trash for months.

That bottle in the photo below, in a tree bed on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues? Not apple juice. Maybe it would be less noticeable if the workers didn't park in a residential neighborhood.


NoLandGrab: Classy, like everything else about this project.

Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

Federal agency overseeing EB-5 immigrant investment program confirms that it will continue to let states gerrymander districts of high unemployment

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote 1/11/12 how a revised draft memo on EB-5 Adjudications Policy, issued that day by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), punted regarding the practice by states of gerrymandering maps to ensure projects aimed at immigrant investment were located in areas of high unemployment.

And that allows for a lower investment level, $500,000, rather than $1 million, for those seeking green cards and their families.

Last month, in a front-page article, the New York Times put the gerrymandering issue on the national agenda, forcing USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas to acknowledged concern about the spirit of the legal provision which aims to help high-unemployment districts.

The Times article, which focused on the odd maps approved for New York projects (including what I've dubbed the "Bed-Stuy Boomerang" involving Atlantic Yards), even generated an editorial chiding the federal agency.

But the memo issued earlier this month stated that the USCIS would continue to give deference to the lines drawn by the state.


NoLandGrab: We suppose it's too much to ask for that boomerang to come back and hit Bruce Ratner in the tuches.

Posted by eric at 12:02 PM

NY State Appeal of Atlantic Yards Sweetheart Deal Ruling in Court on Valentine's Day

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Happy Valentine's day courtesy of the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner.

Oral argument on NY State's and the developer's appeal of the ruling that went against them in DDDB et al. v. ESDC et al. has been scheduled for....Tuesday, February 14th at 2pm in the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court (27 Madison Avenue in Manhattan.)

What better day to further discuss, in court, the sweetness of Bruce Ratner's sweetheart deal.


NoLandGrab: Will they be the Appellate of our eye?

Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

UPDATE: 'Battle For Brooklyn' Doesn't Make Oscar Cut

Park Slope Patch
by Paul Leonard

Update, 10:48 a.m.: We received the following from "Battle For Brooklyn" co-director Michael Galinsky on today's Oscar news:

"We are really pleased by the energy that being on the short list gave the film. It's been on screen in NY almost every week since June and it will continue to show ... We are very pleased to see that our friend Marsh Curry's film "If A Tree falls" was recognized. So many incredible films are being made right now. It's truly a golden age of documentary."

On Monday, the film will screen at the American Can Factory at Third Avenue and 3rd Street to bring attention to proposed zoning changes in Gowanus, according to Galinsky.


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

January 24, 2012

'Battle For Brooklyn' Doesn't Make Oscar Cut

Announced this morning, list of nominees leaves out Atlantic Yards doc.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Paul Leonard

Weeks after making a list of 15 Oscar hopefuls, it's official: The Clinton Hill filmmakers behind the Atlantic Yards documentary, "Battle For Brooklyn," won't be strolling down the Kodak Theater's Hollywood red carpet after all.

The film, which has been shown across the country to acclaim, was left off of the list of five nominations announced in Los Angeles Tuesday morning.

Among the docs that did make the cut was Wim Wender's 3-D "Pina," an ode to the director of an innovative dance company that continues its run at BAM Rose Cinemas through this week.

Other films on the list include "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," a film tracking the aftermath of the Robin Hood Hills murders in Arkansas, and "If the Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front," which featured the story of one of ELF's members caught by police.


NoLandGrab: Paradise Lost 3, for one, was panned by The New York Times. We wuz robbed.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

Sports editor of 'The Nation' asks Michael Ratner, Bruce Ratner's brother, to screen 'Battle for Brooklyn'

NY Daily News Sports ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, is a hero to many people for his work for human rights and civil liberties.

He’s also an investor in brother Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development, which includes an arena for the NBA’s Nets, which has prompted some former admirers to write him off as a phony and a limousine liberal, a hypocrite who speaks out when a government razes Palestinian homes but is silent when government seizes Brooklyn apartments.

Progressive media – or at least one member of it – is finally calling out Ratner for an explanation.

Dave Zirin, the sports editor for The Nation, challenged Michael Ratner, via his Twitter account, to co-host a showing of the documentary “Battle for Brooklyn” and explain his support for the controversial project.


Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

January 23, 2012

Atlantic Yards Not Nearly As Brooklyn Job-Friendly As Claimed

by Garth Johnston

You guys are never going to believe this, but remember when Forest City Ratner kept telling us that its Atlantic Yards Project would bring thousands of jobs and units of affordable housing to Brooklyn? They lied! Not only are there fewer (prefab) buildings going up than initially promised, but the steadily rising stadium, now known as the Barclay's center, has been a disappointment jobs-wise, too.

None of this is actually new (remember those "interns" who sued Ratner when it reneged on a promise of jobs and a union card?) but its the response from the Ratner cake that is the icing on the camp. First off, they're all "Over 20% of all contract dollars to date have gone to [minority] firms, the highest percentage in the city"—which, fair enough—but then the company's spokesman goes on to say that litigation (*cough* Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn *cough*) and "the economy" have "impacted" the number of jobs created. So yeah, its not Forest City Ratner's fault they aren't doing what they promised they'd do—its Brooklyn's fault for complaining and holding the whole thing up.


Related coverage...

threecee via flickr, 2012 BrooklynSpeaks Atlantic Yards Governance Press Conference

Park Slope Patch, Pols Criticize Forest City Ratner's Promises at Rally

The Atlantic Yards website touts that the project would create “more than 16,000 union construction jobs plus over 8,000 permanent jobs,” but a report by Merritt & Harris said that as of November there were 645 construction workers on the job.

Posted by eric at 6:19 PM

Times Public Editor Brisbane gingerly moves to embrace more fact-checking, offers warnings; I suggest Atlantic Yards as a subject, offer examples of misleading coverage

Atlantic Yards Report

"He said, she said?" They'd both prefer truth to "news."

New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane, fresh off his "Truth Vigilante" exploration, yesterday gingerly surveyed the new media world of dedicated fact-checking outlets/efforts. He pronounced himself somewhat chastened:

Newspaper journalism’s traditional way of dealing with spurious claims, meanwhile, isn’t satisfying readers. Often derided as the “he said, she said” approach, this method entails finding and quoting someone to counter a claim, thereby offering a form of balance but no resolution. This sufficed in the past, for many at least, but now many readers are asking for more aggressive rebuttals.

I heard this loud and clear last week when I asked readers on my blog whether they wanted more fact-checking in straight news articles and they said, resoundingly, yes.

James Fallows, author of “Breaking the News” and a national correspondent for The Atlantic, told me it is incumbent on reporters to correct falsehood, not just balance it.

I posted a comment:

If the Times is going to do some non-political fact-checking, why not start with the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where so many facts promulgated by elected officials and the developer are supremely questionable, and the newspaper too often acts as a stenographer?


Posted by eric at 1:24 PM

Brooklyn Arena Criticized on Hiring

The Wall Street Journal
by Heather Haddon

As the Barclays Center arena slowly progresses in Brooklyn, elected officials are calling for the developers to make good on the affordable housing units and thousands of jobs promised to accompany the development.

Nearly two years after it broke ground, the development has created less than a thousand jobs, fewer than the 1,500 slots a year developer Bruce Ratner had promised to bring to the area, elected officials said Sunday.

"The project was presented as a field of dreams but has turned into a cemetery of broken promises," said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who was joined by fellow Brooklyn Democrats Sen. Eric Adams and Assemblyman Karim Camara during a news conference on Sunday.

About 100 of the jobs created have gone to workers from the five Brooklyn neighborhoods surrounding the $5 billion sports arena and housing complex, but they have mostly been retail positions, not well-paying ones in construction, Mr. Jeffries said.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Press Conference Over ‘Broken Promises’ at Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards report has an extensive post about the press conference noting that three have had “nuanced and/or supportive positions toward Atlantic Yards” until now and that their about-face likely represents the fact that two are running for office at the moment, as well as representing how many of their constituents feel about the development at this point.

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

Q&A with Kickstarter’s Yancey Strickler

by Alexandra Marvar

Kickstarter is an online pledge system for financing creative projects—a pioneer of the “crowdfunding” movement when it was founded two and a half years ago. In that time, thousands of projects from design to dance have come to life thanks to the website, but the most prominent and profitable category has been film. So far on Kickstarter, 4,500 film projects have run their course, and a fair share of those are finding real world success with help from the funds—and fans—they’ve rallied.

Cinespect sat down with Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler to discuss the magic of Kickstarter’s collaboration with the Sundance Institute, how many dinners with Russian oligarchs it takes to fund an indie film, and how crowd-sourcing support for films is shaking up the industry.

I don’t have a film background, I’ve had to get a crash course this year, but I had always imagined that someone like Jim Jarmusch just sat in a castle somewhere and looked at camera lenses for twenty hours a day and was like, “That one.” And, that’s how a filmmaker spends their time. But, I realize now that as a filmmaker, you are a perma-fundraiser. You’re having weird dinners with oil barons from Oklahoma, and Russian oligarchs, to try to get 100,000 dollars out of them, and meanwhile you cast their, you know, second mistress in the lead or something in exchange… There’s a really dirty part involved in how you have to fund these things.

Russian oligarch-funding was a non-starter for Battle for Brooklyn. Good thing there was Kickstarter.

What are some stand-out examples of Kickstarter film successes?

There’ve been a number of films that have had real world success. There’s a film called “Resurrect Dead”—a really, really interesting documentary about these weird signs that are imprinted into the asphalt, and it’s a guy trying to figure out what that is. He got picked up by Focus, won best documentary director at Sundance… He was cleaning houses before that. And he was shooting this on nights and weekends when he had time for five years. And suddenly he’s a filmmaker. That one’s really neat.

Two of our very earliest documentaries are short-listed for the Best Documentary Academy Award right now. “Battle for Brooklyn” is a documentary about the Atlantic Yards Project. They raised $25,000 the first year of Kickstarter, which was by far the largest film we’d had at the time. Also up for Best Documentary is “The Loving Story,” another really early one—I backed both these projects—a documentary about Virginia vs. Loving, the Supreme Court Case that first legalized interracial marriage.


Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

January 21, 2012

Behind the "Atlantic Yards Now" button: a 24-hour turnaround

Atlantic Yards Report

As I've been noodling around some databases for small business and MWBEs (minority- and women-owned businesses enterprises), I found one interesting mention:

Creation of "Atlantic Yards Now" button. 24 hour turn around

Those were given out to union workers and other project supporters in advance of the 5/29/09 state Senate oversight hearing on Atlantic Yards held at the Pratt Institute.

The buttons were produced by Concept Marketing & Promotions Inc., led by Ellen North, a WBE that was hired by the public relations firm Geto & DeMilly ("Shaping public policy. Creating strategies that generate change").

The tab: $475.


Posted by steve at 10:13 PM

January 20, 2012

The Big League Lie: Do Sports Really Matter to Your Community?

Aaron Gordon recounts the story of how one man fooled a city with the promise of professional basketball.

The Good Men Project
by Aaron Gordon

Kids playing stickball on the street. Arguing about last night’s game with your barber. Whatever it is, so many of us consider sports to be a fundamental aspect to a healthy community. Not only do we believe this, but it makes sense, too. Our surroundings, both physical and intangible, are part of who we are. Professional sports teams are part of our identity as well, so we conflate professional sports with other aspects of our community. But this is wrong, and smart businessmen have learned to exploit the error.

Local elites socially construct ideas such as community self-esteem and community collective conscience to help them reap large amounts of public dollars for their private stadiums.

That quote comes from the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, published in 2002, four years before the Atlantic Yards project was approved, and before the documentary Battle For Brooklyn was filmed. After attending a screening of the film and speaking with the directors, I now see the notion of professional sports as a community entity isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous.


Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

Responding in timetable case appeal, community coalitions charge ESDC with "fabrication," "sham," and "cover-up" for not analyzing impact of 25-year buildout; argument likely in February

Atlantic Yards Report

The two community coalitions challenging the state's failure to study the effects of a 25-year project buildout have filed a joint brief responding to the dual filings by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner that appeal a lower court's decision finding the ESDC's actions arbitrary and capricious for failing to order a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

The legal dispute does not affect the building of the arena, nor the towers around it, but does address plans for and impacts of Phase Two of the project: the eleven towers east of Sixth Avenue, including those to be built on a platform over the Vanderbilt Yard.

On a broader note, the case, which should be heard in a state appellate court in Manhattan in February, addresses whether the state agency essentially cheated to ensure that Atlantic Yards would move forward.

As the plaintiffs--coalitions led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks--argue, had the ESDC been forced to conduct an SEIS, the agency, which approved a new Modified General Project Plan in September 2009, would have had to delay approval until 2010.

That would have forced Forest City Ratner to miss a crucial end-of-2009 deadline to get federally tax-exempt arena bonds sold. And that would have cost the developer at least $100 million more.


Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

'In the Footprint': Unfocused tale of a real estate grab

Philadelphia Inquirer
by Toby Zinman

From the same people who booed Santa Claus...

Although Philadelphia audiences may care theoretically about the issues, we can't care much about the place names, the street names, the delis, the mom-and-pops that go the way of mom and pop. And because the show is a retrospective of the battle over Atlantic Yards, it is really just whining and hand-wringing; it's over before the show begins, so there is no need, much less inclination, to jump to our feet, fists in the air. This is especially so because the characters are so unappealing and the show is so unfocused (probably a function of both a messy script and fuzzy direction by Steve Cosson).


Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

January 19, 2012

BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN -- Michael Galinsky and Daniel Goldstein interview

Filmmaker Michael Galinsky and activist Daniel Goldstein talk private property, holding out, and standing ovations.

Killer Movie Reviews via PRX
by Andrea Chase

Filmmaker Michael Galinsky used the synchronicity that brought him together with Daniel Goldstein when making BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN, the story of how a private developer invoked Eminent Domain to seize private property, including Goldstein's. The resulting film has been shortlisted for an Oscar, and at the screening I attended in San Francisco, brought an audience to its feet. When I spoke with them, the conversation covered what it was like for Goldstein to be trapped in an elevator after everyone else had moved out, how a developer can circumvent local authorities, and how the Occupy Movement has helped get the film booked around the country.


Related content...

SF Gate, The Watch

The Oscar buzz was almost audible as an industry-heavy crowd piled into a recent screening of the documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" at Dolby. Most stuck around for the Q&A with director Michael Galinsky, as well as "BFB's" focus, Brooklyn resident-turned-Atlantic Yards-opponent Daniel Goldstein, and activists fighting a 49ers stadium in Santa Clara. Opined the director, whose film screens tonight at the Roxie: "It's a local story, happening in every locality.", Movie review: 'Battle For Brooklyn' shows that a couple can fight City Hall

In some ways "Battle For Brooklyn" resembles Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life" but even more so his "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" in its look at a relentless couple who fearlessly keeps fighting City Hall and its powerful allies at the expense of a social life and time to breathe, as the couple awakens a community and galvanizes a fight against a corporate and government structure that puts political roadblocks and legal linguistic contrivances in front of the resident taxpayers at every turn.

Unyielding in its fervor and outrage, and personified by the divided working-class community members and long-time small businesses facing closure, "Battle For Brooklyn" is undeniably a piece of advocacy, even if unintended.

Posted by eric at 5:38 PM

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn takes Gotbaum to task for support of Ratner

NY Daily News Sport ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

Former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum’s recent rush to defend Nets’ minority owner Bruce Ratner shows that when it comes to New York politics, the fox is quite welcome in the hen house, according to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

“We don't remember her doing any meaningful public advocacy as Public Advocate but she sure hopped to it as Ratner Advocate when Ratner called,” DDDB says on its web site.

Gotbaum is the former elected official who once said she would support Ratner’s plans to build the massive Atlantic Yards project, and its arena for the woeful Nets, because the developer told her he would not use eminent domain to acquire Brooklyn real estate.

Gotbaum is apparently willing to overlook Ratner’s fib. She wrote a letter that appeared in The New York Times last week that praised the developer for always demonstrating the “highest ethical standards.”


Gotbaum does have her fans, however...

@ShellySilver via Twitter: Betsy, we miss you. As your letter to the editor reminds us, you were everything a Public Advocate should be.

Posted by eric at 4:37 PM

For two documentary makers, the Oscar phone call that may or may not come

Independent Weekly
by Craig D. Lindsey

Well, we're down to the wire, folks. Next Tuesday morning, the Academy Award nominations will be announced, and people in the motion picture industry will likely have spent the night wide awake and wondering if a film they worked on, or if they themselves, will be nominated for that most golden of statues. While the well-lauded likes of Meryl Streep will perhaps be content to sleep in, for others, a nomination could have a galvanizing effect on their films and careers.

In this latter category are two documentary filmmakers with Triangle ties. Nancy Buirski, director of The Loving Story, and Michael Galinsky, who co-directed Battle for Brooklyn with his wife Suki Hawley, may be around that morning to first receive the news. Or they may be notified secondhand, like when they heard last November of their films being on the shortlist for documentaries eligible for Oscar contention.

"Someone wrote to me to congratulate me," remembers Buirski. "I wasn't sure what it was about."

As for Galinsky, he found out via the social network grapevine. "Someone posted it on my Facebook page," he says. "I screamed so loud, I scared the interns. I did!"

It makes sense for Buirski and Galinsky to be shocked and surprised by the news. For both filmmakers, it's only been their first time out making a theatrical, documentary feature—and already, there is the possibility that they could become Oscar nominees, a designation that would be an extraordinary reward for the time and effort they put into their flicks.


Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

An imaginary dialogue between Bruce Ratner and Bruce Bender: how talking up transit (vaguely) might distract from the Ridge Hill case

Atlantic Yards Report

Last March, after the charges surfaced against (now-guilty) state Senator Carl Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky, including a profane exchange between Kruger and Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, I wrote an imaginary dialogue between Bender and his boss, Bruce Ratner.

Maybe they've had another conversation recently.

BB: I have an idea.

BR: I'm listening--

BB: Did you hear about Richard Ravitch? Last week he said that the city's crumbling transit infrastructure is a huge problem, and business leaders lack public spirit, and I quote, "keeping the Bush tax cuts, keeping the government from regulating them and making sure they’re too big to fail."

BR: And what's wrong with that?

BB: Nothing's wrong with that, of course. (Chortles) That's what we do too, more or less. The last part, at least. (Beat) But we need the transit system.

BR: We're an urban company.

BB: Damn straight. We have offices and malls that rely on the subway. And--

BR: --an arena.

BB: An arena that needs subways and buses running well, more of them, in fact. And the LIRR.

BR: Especially the LIRR.

BB: We're not talking about the Islanders yet.

BR: Who said anything about the Islanders?

BB: So this is what we can do.


Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

Review: Battle for Brooklyn

Doc Geeks
by Kristy Hutter

Unlike the Occupy movement, the Battle for Brooklyn had a resilient leader – one who wasn’t going to back down for anyone, not the mayor, not a reverend, not a Russian Billionaire, and not even the world’s most celebrated hip-hop icon.

Directed by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, the film chronicles Brooklyn resident Daniel Goldstein’s fight against private developer, Bruce Ratner, who wants to buy the borough’s historic Prospect Heights neighbourhood, tear it down, and replace it with 16 skyscrapers and an arena for the New Jersey Nets (the team he owned at the time). Known as the Atlantic Yards project, the venture was slated to be the densest real estate development in U.S. history – a plan that divided neighbours, many who actually welcomed the prospect of construction jobs, affordable housing and million-dollar buyouts.

In its role as a pulpit for the activists, the film is extremely successful, divulging wrongdoings that most of us would abhor. Battle for Brooklyn exposes corruption of corporate ownership, sloppy reporting by local and national media, and the ease with which people sacrifice what they believe in just to get their hands on a fat wad of cash. Not to mention, it portrays rap legend Jay-Z – part owner of the New Jersey Nets – as a corporate blockhead who disregards the plight of his fellow brooklynites, a bold move considering he often claims to “represent” his native district till the day he dies.

What puts Battle for Brooklyn in a class of its own is the filmmaking process? The directors dedicated seven years to the fight, documenting every detail and development of the process for more than half a decade.


Related content...

BeyondChron, “Battle for Brooklyn:” Powerful Film Shows at Roxie Theater Tonight

San Franciscans can see Battle for Brooklyn this evening.

In October 2009, I wrote an article about activists waging an incredible struggle in Brooklyn to prevent a publicly subsidized sports arena and highrise office developments at Atlantic Yards. A film of this campaign, “Battle for Brooklyn,” shows at the Roxie Theater at 16th Street near Valencia tonight at 7 and 9 pm. It should not be missed. The film is on the short list for an Oscar nomination in the Best Documentary category, but its populist message has found it not reaching wide distribution. Tonight offers a great chance to see how power is exerted in major cities in today’s world, with Atlantic Yards being among the most notorious examples.

Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

Is America shutting the door on expats?

After an eight-year battle to become a US citizen, London-born Sebastian Doggart looks at how the Obama administration has tightened the defences of Fortress America

The Telegraph
by Sebastian Doggart

Bruce Ratner's favorite immigration program is the one place where America's borders have not been solidified.

The Obama administration has overseen an escalation of America’s greenbacks-for-Green-Cards policy. These visas are called EB5s, and getting them has become a whole lot easier recently. Their cost has dropped from $1million to $500,000. The requirement that an EB5 investor should employ at least 10 workers is rarely enforced. EB5s have been used to refinance troubled schemes, including, in my own neighbourhood of Brooklyn, the blighted Atlantic Yards project. The subject of a powerful, new documentary called Battle for Brooklyn, this highly controversial scheme was backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and sought to evict local residents to build high-rise buildings and a new stadium for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. When financing dried up after the 2008 financial crisis, developer Bruce Ratner had to find new financial instruments to pay for construction. These included raising $249 million from 498 investors, mostly from China and South Korea, in exchange for EB5 Green Cards, as well as the sale of the Nets to Russian oligarch and presidential candidate, Mikhail Prokhorov.

For anyone not in the one per cent, the locks on the gates to America have been fortified.


Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

January 18, 2012

Ratner Advocate, Former NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Defends Her Developer Chum

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This story tells you everything you need to know about politics in New York City where the most strident advocacy the city's former Public Advocate has done is in defense of her power elite buddy Bruce Ratner and his development firm.

To come out of the woodwork to defend the ethics of one of the most ethically challenged developers around is just plain astounding...but its what you do for an ol' chum.


Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Betsy Gotbaum vs. reality: Ratner "has always demonstrated the highest ethical standards and behavior"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder weighs in on former NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's "astonishing letter" to The New York Times.

The highest ethical standards and behavior?

Then why did Forest City Ratner give a no-show job to the consultant charged with bribing the Yonkers council member who changed her vote to green-light the developer's Ridge Hill project?

Gotbaum was endorsed in 2005 by the Times, which cited her opposition to the West Side Stadium with no mention of her record regarding Atlantic Yards. As I wrote 9/7/05:

Conspicuously absent is any mention of Gotbaum's indefensible record on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan (which also would require hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars): in a nutshell (as she even told me when I ran into her on the campaign trail), she's for the project, unless there's eminent domain; then she's against it. But Bruce Ratner told her there wouldn't be any eminent domain, so she trusts him--even though several landowners within the proposed project footprint have vocally indicated their intentions not to sell, and that the Memorandum of Understanding between Ratner and the state includes eminent domain.

Of course, there was eminent domain. Gotbaum kept quiet.


NoLandGrab: We'd forgotten about Betsy's ridiculous "Bruce told me there wouldn't be any eminent domain" shtick. FIVE MORE BOGUS POINTS!


Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Still No Compliance Monitor At Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Zach Campbell

We don't often think of the Eagle when it comes to insightful coverage of Atlantic Yards, but reporter Zach Campbell takes a good, hard look at the utter flimsiness of the project's CBA.

Community Benefit Agreements have a rare history here. They are meant to serve as tools for reconciliation between developers and affected communities — developers can give their projects more legitimacy through the incorporation of public input, while the residents themselves have a vehicle through which they can push for changes to benefit the community and preserve a neighborhood in the face of drastic changes.

In Brooklyn, though, things have worked out a bit differently.

The CBA required the Executive Committee to hire an independent compliance monitor “as soon as reasonably practicable” after its formation, presumably soon after the document’s signing in 2005. The contract holds the position as its primary means of enforcement; it is referred to in almost every section of the CBA.

The compliance monitor is meant to serve as a community enforcement mechanism, and is the only legally binding tool by which the other CBA groups can make sure the developer plays by the rules. Today, six-and-a-half years after the contract was signed, five years from when the EC began accepting proposals for the job and nearly two years after the site’s groundbreaking, the position of independent compliance monitor for Atlantic Yards is still vacant.

The developer has long disputed its contractual obligations per the CBA. More recently, it has begun to say it will hire the compliance monitor for the second (non-arena) phase of construction. “They [FCR] are going to retain a compliance monitor per the CBA, but they are going to wait until the housing phase,” said Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for the developer.

Julian Gross, a CBA lawyer who has written extensively on the other three major CBA agreements in New York history, says it is usually considered a conflict of interest to have financial agreements between developers and the community groups involved.

“New York CBAs are not written for accountability — many are drafted in such an egregiously one-sided manner that it’s clear that there wasn’t really a back and forth,” Gross said. “They are trying to get the credibility of a real CBA without them being a real enforceable agreement.”


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Where's the Independent Compliance Monitor for the CBA? Brooklyn Eagle article elicits evasive response from CBA signatories

Even though the enormous flaws in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement--most glaringly, the failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM)--have been manifest for a while, journalists have pretty much ignored them.

So credit the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Zach Campbell for following up, in an extensive article, headlined Still No Compliance Monitor At Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, which elicits some curiously evasive responses.

It further quotes me as writing, “If the executive committee hardly meets, hasn’t decided yet [when to hire an ICM], and has members whose groups are financially tied to or dependent on Forest City Ratner, what incentive do they have for an Independent Compliance Monitor?”

So what do the CBA signatories say?

James Caldwell of BUILD blamed lawsuits for delays.

Lennox Britton of the New York State Association of Minority Contractors, said, “I’m sure they’ll get to it.”

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance doesn't mind: "The point is that I feel, whether they [FCR] have reneged on promises, I’m not concerned about it.

Bertha Lewis, the former CEO of ACORN, did not respond to Campbell's query, while he found three of the other signatories hard to find.

Note that Lewis in May 2006 defended the CBA by noting that it calls for an independent monitoring body that “does not have a dog in this fight” to oversee implementation.

Brownstoner, Where’s the Promised Atlantic Yards Compliance Monitor?

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

NPR and PR Blitz

by Michael Galinsky

This morning on NPR I heard two stories within moments of each other that have a direct connection to “Battle for Brooklyn”. The first was a story about the St. Louis Rams, and the fact that they will likely leave St. Louis for a city with deeper pockets. The second was about how the majority of millionaires in China are looking for a way out, and that many are doing so via the EB-5 program.

It seems every story seems to point back to an abuse of the government/business relationship cycle. Yet the vast majority of these pieces don’t acknowledge this reality, and bury the lede by following the script. This is what Occupy is about. Perhaps the tide is turning, though the PR blitz is in full effect, so it remains to be seen whether or not people can take back the power.


Related content...

NY Daily News Sports ITeam Blog, Occupy Wall Street has been a boon for 'Battle for Brooklyn'

We wrote a few months back how "Battle for Brooklyn," the critically praised documentary about the fight over Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, reflected the anger and frustration that prompted Occupy Wall Street. Now, Press Action, a D.C.-area website dedicated to news analysis, reports that OWS has been a boon for "Battle for Brooklyn."

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

A Call For Governor to Step In and End 'Cycle of Litigation' at Atlantic Yards

Community group wants renewed focus on promised affordable housing at the site.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Amidst a back-and-forth legal war over the environmental effects of the timeline of Atlantic Yards development, at least one community group is now asking for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step in and make affordable housing at the site a priority.

“Brooklyn needs Governor Cuomo to step in to end the cycle of litigation, and get this project to deliver on its promises,” said Deb Howard, executive director of the Pratt Area Community Council. “It’s time to move beyond the past failings of the Empire State Development Corporation, and focus on building the affordable housing and providing the jobs the community so desperately needs—now, not in 25 years.”

The call to Albany coincides with ESDC and Forest City Ratner's recent appeal of a July 2011 court decision ordering further environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project, and the subsequent legal response taken this weekend by groups like BrooklynSpeaks and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Sure, Status Cuomo will get right on it — as soon as he builds his mega-casino-convention center in the chic downtown neighborhood of Ozone Park, Queens.

Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Brooklyn activists call on Cuomo to bring resolution to AY saga

The legal tug of war started in 2009 when the Empire State Development Corp. allowed Forest City Ratner a 15-year extension on the construction timeline at Atlantic Yards. This summer a court ordered an environmental review of the consequences of the prolonged construction timeframe, which ESDC and Forest City Ratner subsequently appealed. This week, several other activist groups — including Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn — filed legal documents against that appeal.

But the Pratt Area Community Council wants to bypass the legal jostling by getting Cuomo to coerce a resolution.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

January 17, 2012


Celluloid Dreams

Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky sat down for an interview with San Jose public radio station KSJS's Tim Sika. Their interesting conversation begins just past the two-minute mark, and runs for about 24 minutes.

link / listen


Closer to home, Battle for Brooklyn is making its New Jersey premiere tonight as part of The University of Orange's Jan Term: Real Cities series, at Luna Stage in West Orange, at 7:30 p.m. Michael Galinsky and Daniel Goldstein will be on hand for a Q & A.

Luna Stage
555 Valley Road
West Orange, NJ [map]
Suggested donation $10

More info / Directions

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Occupy Movement Reignites 'Battle for Brooklyn'

Press Action

The producers of Battle for Brooklyn attribute the documentary’s growing success to the Occupy Wall Street movement’s focus on how government institutions operate on behalf of the wealthy few in the United States.

When it was released in April 2011, Battle for Brooklyn, a documentary about a community in Brooklyn fighting real-estate developers who want to build a basketball arena and numerous other buildings, received positive feedback from reviewers and the public.

But as the Occupy movement caught fire in September 2011, Battle for Brooklyn started getting noticed by an even larger audience, said Michael Galinsky, speaking Jan. 15 at a screening of the film at the Artisphere complex in Arlington, Va. Galinsky co-directed and co-produced the film with his wife Suki Hawley.

Battle for Brooklyn addresses the same issues targeted by the Occupiers: corporate greed, crony capitalism, undemocratic institutions and community destruction.


Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

January 16, 2012

Some "Truth Vigilantism" toward a 2005 New York Times account of AY arena costs

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder, the Charles Bronson of truth vigilantes, injects a little sodium pentathol into a 2005 New York Times story.

I didn't start writing about Atlantic Yards until late 2005, so I'll apply some retrospective "Truth Vigilante" treatment to Stadium Games: Give and Take And Speculation; What the Teams Want And What the City Gets, a 1/16/05 New York Times articles about the proposals then in play:

Nonetheless, the mayor and Gov. George E. Pataki are on the verge of approving three new sports sites -- a football stadium for the Jets, a baseball stadium for the Yankees and a basketball arena for the Nets -- that will require a combined public investment of at least $1.1 billion.

It is not easy to assess precisely what the taxpayers will get out of their investment, which is equivalent in cost to a major Manhattan skyscraper or 25 schools with 600 seats each. In part, that is because the economic benefits are based on studies commissioned by the teams themselves, and promoted by the government sponsors of the projects.

What about AY?

So, what did it say about Atlantic Yards?

The Nets arena in Brooklyn will require a public investment of about $200 million and the condemnation of several blocks of housing and stores. New York will get a basketball team back from New Jersey and an arena with a public garden on top that is intended to serve as an anchor for a residential and commercial development. The arena could also be used for high school or college games.

Well, the public direct investment is nearly 50% higher now, while there are numerous other subsidies and opportunity costs, leading the New York City Independent Budget Office, in 2009, to pronounce the arena a net loss for the city.

The public garden? Long gone.

Arena as anchor for residential and commercial development? Not so much. Maybe leverage for subsidies.


Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

January 13, 2012

Forest City Ratner's designated lurker, the powerful Rapfogel family, and the developer's ties to Sheldon Silver

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's designated lurker at certain public events is easy to spot, a round-faced young guy who wears the kipah of an observant Jew: Michael Rapfogel, who comes from a family thisclose to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Rapfogel, who works in FCR's government relations department, was taking notes outside an April 2010 courthouse interview after Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein settled and agreed to move--the latter's attorney called it spying.

Rapfogel was, curiously enough, at Brooklyn Borough Hall just before the 12/12/11 meeting concerning a Transportation Working Group, though he didn't stay for the event.

And Rapfogel was across the street (with basketball coach/political consultant Thomas "Ziggy" Sicignano) on 11/15/11 watching the press conference held by Council Member Letitia James announcing a lawsuit filed by seven people who said they were promised construction jobs and union cards after going through an FCR-paid training program.

The Rapfogel connection

Rapfogel holds the title of Vice President--relatively low on the totem pole where such titles later get prepended with "Senior" and "Executive"--but I doubt he's a random hire. Sure, he's got a law degree, so he's competent, but he's also part of a family with crucial political ties. And he's survived while Forest City Ratner has downsized its staff.

His father William Rapfogel serves as the head of a major charity, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and is an old friend of Silver, and his mother Judy Rapfogel is Silver's chief of staff.


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Two Atlantic Yards Meetings January 26th

Atlantic Yards Watch

There will be two meetings addressing Atlantic Yards issues taking place at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Thursday, January 26th.

The next Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet will meet from 9:30 am to 11 am. Members of the public may observe the meeting. The agenda has not yet been announced, but given the meeting's timing, it is likely to focus on the transportation demand management plan for Barclays Center.

The second meeting is a follow-up to the December 12, 2011 meeting on traffic issues related to Atlantic Yards. The meeting has the format of a roundtable discussion in which invited community groups can each appoint one representative to participate. Representatives of FCRC and NYCDOT will join the group. The meeting will begin at 6 pm.

Both meetings will be held in the Community Room at Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From AYW: Two Atlantic Yards on January 26: District Service Cabinet and transportation group

I'd add that there was considerable concern at the meeting last month over the content and timing of the much-promised Transportation Demand Management plan.

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Film Listings

San Francisco Bay Guardian
by Kimberly Chun

Hey, Northern California NoLandGrab readers! You can catch Battle for Brooklyn at the Roxie tonight and next Thursday.


*Battle for Brooklyn Posed as neither a left nor a right issue (though George Will does drift into view at one improbable moment), Michael Galinsky's powerful documentary does the exhaustive, long-haul work of charting the fight between residents and business owners in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights as they oppose the condemnation of their property — oh-so-inconveniently in the way of the proposed Atlantic Yards, a mammoth Frank Gehry-designed development involving a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets and more than a dozen skyscrapers. The scrappy residents and activists, led in part by graphic designer Daniel Goldstein, face seemingly unbeatable forces: developer Forest City Ratner, which looks to Eminent Domain to seize a community's land, whether it likes it or not; a complicit and corrupt state and city government; and other members of a diverse, divided community who are clamoring for the jobs that Ratner's PR machine promises. Galinsky imparts the impact of the project — and its devastating effects on the neighborhood, despite alternate proposals and the recent real estate bust — over the course of eight years, with hundreds of hours of footage, time-lapse images, and a fortunate focus on one every-guy hero: Goldstein, who loses a fiancé and finds love at the ramparts, while his home is shorn away, all around him. Along the way, the viewer gets an education on the infuriating ways that these sorts of boondoggles get pushed through all opposition — the corollaries between this struggle and, say, the building of the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara are there for the viewer to draw.


Related content...

Reason Hit & Run, ATTN, DC & SF Reasonoids: Battle for Brooklyn, and The Tragedy of Urban Renewal are coming to an art house near you!

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

January 12, 2012

New York State's Atlantic Yards Appeal Briefs Dissected by Norman Oder

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Norman Oder takes a long look at New York State's briefs on appeal of the Supreme Court ruling that requires the Empire State Development Corporation to undertake a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. ESDC argues that the court usurped agency discretion. The ESDC certainly knows a thing or two about usurpation, such as usurping all NYC zoning laws and 22 acres of Brooklyn to construct a money-losing arena and massive parking lots for a politically connected developer.

But we digress. The plaintiffs on the case, which include DDDB, have made clear, and the court agreed, that the ESDC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its decision making "process."


Posted by eric at 11:34 PM

In new briefs, ESDC and Forest City ask appeals court to overturn decision ordering new environmental review for Phase 2 of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The battle over the last remaining Atlantic Yards lawsuit continues in court, with new briefs from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner.

The state agency, decrying an "unprecedented judicial usurpation of agency discretion," slams state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman for imposing what it says are her views on how to analyze the potential impact of an extended project buildout lasting 25 years, rather than the officially announced ten years.

Similarly, Forest City denounces "an unprecedented expansion and distortion of SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act], and an improper substitution by the court of its judgment for that of ESDC."

Thus, contends the agency, her decision, which required the ESDC to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding Phase 2--the eleven towers outside the arena block and Site 5--should be reversed both because judges should defer to agency decisions, as well as "the record here, which makes clear that ESDC took multiple SEQRA 'hard looks' at the impacts of the Project under various construction schedules."

The briefs by ESDC and Forest Citywill get a response from the two coalitions (led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council/BrooklynSpeaks) that brought the (now-combined) lawsuit.

The twist

But the whole thing's a bit surreal.

Why? Because statements made outside the record by developer Bruce Ratner make a mockery of the agency's longstanding claims the project would last ten years. Moreover, a regular pattern of construction-related abuses means that the mitigation plan created by and cited by the state is less "robust" than asserted.


Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

'Battle for Brooklyn': It's not just a New York story
by Andrew Beaujon

Battle for Brooklyn is a documentary film about the Atlantic Yards project, which attempted to parachute a new neighborhood, including a basketball arena, into downtown Brooklyn. The only problem? There was already a neighborhood there.

So why should we care about it here? You can't swing a Twitter client in Washington without hitting some nimrod who'll tell you New York's got better food, better coffee, and a better arts scene. Now we have to hear about how much more cinematic their civic problems are than ours?

But: the city of Alexandria has floated the idea of using eminent domain to get its waterfront-redevelopment plan going. Maryland considered using eminent domain to keep the Preakness in Baltimore. And the District recently argued that it could strong-arm tenants out of the Skyland shopping mall whether or not the plan to replace them was viable.

Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's film begins with a press conference in 2003 where the famous architect Frank Gehry enthuses about the possibility to "build a whole neighborhood practically from scratch," demonstrating a hubristic tenor that carries through the movie, as the developer Forest City Ratner steamrolls community opposition groups, city government, the courts, and not least the New York press.

"This film scholar in Italy said it's like a Frank Capra film except the hero loses," Galinsky says. "I said it's exactly like a Frank Capra film. At the end, he is profoundly whole."

Battle for Brooklyn shows at Artisphere on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; tickets are $7 and Hawley, Galinsky, and Goldstein will do Q&As at each showing.


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards

Jan. 18-29, $27-$30, Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St., 215-898-3900,

Philadelphia City Paper
by A.D. Amorosi

Yo, NoLandGrab readers in the City of Brotherly Love!

A love for labor drove American theater in the 1930s (a la playwright Clifford Odets) and the Brits of the 1950s (think John Osborne) with scripts devoted to hardball union discussions, social woes and wages. Making it musical is now the job of The Civilians, a self-described "investigative theater company" dedicated to documentary-style theater. In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, written and directed by Steven Cosson with songs by Chestnut Hill's Michael Friedman, looks at the history of the controversial Brooklyn railyards project and how it's continued to cause positive and negative reactions throughout that blue-collar area.


NoLandGrab: Mostly negative. And it's hardly just a "railyards project."

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

January 11, 2012

Podcast: Atlantic Yards, Part III

The Civilians Blog

This week's episode is from our interviews about Atlantic Yards, the complicated and controversial development in Brooklyn at the site where the new Barclay's stadium is currently being constructed. We hear from some of the key players on both sides of the fight, passionately discussing topics like gentrification, what makes a neighborhood, change, affordable housing, and more. This week features Jennifer R. Morris as Jezra Kaye, a member of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn; Heather Alicia Simms as Bertha Lewis, the head of ACORN; and Joaquin Torres as Saul Zarzana, a union member who supports the project; and Joaquin Torres leading the cast in "The Neighborhood Song" by Michael Friedman.


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

January 10, 2012

A shout-out for AYR from NY Times columnist Powell

Atlantic Yards Report

Yes, New York Times columnist Michael Powell, who wrote this morning on the curious role of Forest City Ratner in corruption cases--beneficiary, but unscathed--has read some pieces in this blog.

Hence this tweet:

If only more people at the Times were reading.


Posted by eric at 9:54 PM

Bruce Ratner “Walked Between the Legal Raindrops”

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

That is Michael Powell’s assessment of the Brooklyn developer in his column in today’s Times, noting that Mr. Ratner is involved in at least two corruption scandals involving state politicians.

Who says The Times never goes after Mr. Ratner. Not that the paper managed to stop either of the projects while they were in the works.


NoLandGrab: The Observer's caption for the photo above is "Rain man." We had a different movie in mind: The Godfather.

Photo: Getty Images

Related coverage...


Cleveland's Roldo Bartimole — a little bit Norman Oder, a little bit Daniel Goldstein, a little bit Patti Hagan — weighs in on Bruce Ratner's Singin' in the Rain routine.

Equally disturbing, the Times today reveals that "Mr. Ratner... would haul in $726 million in special public benefits" from development in NYC. Indeed, Mr. Ratner (Bruce) is related to our Forest City Ratners. The article points out he is "Developer No. 1" and "Developer No. 2" in two corruption cases in the city, though he isn't charged in either. The article notes that Bruce Ratner "walked between the legal raindrops."

Development and Corruption seem uniquely tied so often. But, hell, money is involved so why not?

Posted by eric at 9:42 PM

“Battle for Brooklyn” playing this weekend. Meetup?

Market Urbanism
by Emily Washington

A heads-up for NoLandGrab readers in the District...

For readers in the DC area, the movie Battle for Brooklyn is playing at the Dome Theater in Arlington this weekend. The film explores eminent domain in the Forest City Ratner development at Atlantic Yards. It will be playing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with a Q&A with the directors Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley after each screening.

Battle for Brooklyn has received positive reviews and has been shortlisted for and Oscar. The film follows the work of Daniel Goldstein, the Jane Jacobs-style community activist who has been leading the losing battle against eminent domain.

I’m planning to attend the movie this Sunday, January 15th at 6:00 pm. If any of you would like to go to that showing as well, would you like to meet up for drinks before or after? I would suggest Galaxy Hut but I’m open to somewhere closer to the theater also. If you’re interested, please comment or send me an email at


Posted by eric at 9:32 PM

Controversy as Muse–Atlantic Yards-Inspired Art

Brooklyn Based
by Jordan Galloway

An article about Atlantic Yards-themed art ends on an, ahem, curious note, with reporter/fabulist Stephen Witt comparing himself to Jonathan Safran Foer and Dostoevsky.

Stephen Witt, a writer and AY-reporter for the Brooklyn Daily blog, is currently fine-tuning what he says is the seventh of eight drafts of The Street Singer, a satirical novel about AY and the artistic community of Brooklyn. He plans on self-publishing it in June if it fails to find a publisher before then and calls his work a roman a clef of his early life as a street musician in the city, re-set in the six months leading up to the arena’s ground breaking.

“I think it works really good as a satire,” he said. “A lot of journalists and artists really beat me up over my coverage of Atlantic Yards. I think history will show I covered it right.” When asked whether he’s capitalizing on the situation with the Barclays Center set to open in September, his response was succinct. “Absolutely,” said Witt. “It’s a timely novel. I am definitely capitalizing on it. It’s timely. It’s a news angle. I’m capitalizing on it in the same way [Jonathan Safran Foer] capitalized on the World Trade Center with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” He added, “Dostoevsky used to take ideas from the newspaper. My say is as good as anyone else’s say.”


NoLandGrab: "It think it works really good?" We're guessing eight (drafts) isn't enough.

Posted by eric at 2:03 PM

A Developer Between Legal Clouds

The New York Times
by Michael Powell

Even Bruce Ratner's development partner can connect the dots. Will US Attorney Preet Bharara catch on next?

This is corruption’s high season in New York.

Nearly every week, a politician or a lobbyist indignantly denies charges, crows at hung juries or mumbles teary admissions of guilt before an implacable judge.

Last week, the lobbyist Richard Lipsky stood in a courtroom to acknowledge bribe-making. His partner in crime, Carl Kruger, the former state senator and a Brooklyn Democrat, had taken his tear-soaked turn two weeks earlier. They face years in prison.

A few weeks from now, in the same courthouse, a Democratic Yonkers councilwoman and her cousin, the city’s Republican Party chairman, are expected to stand trial. They are accused of bribery, extortion and tax evasion.

The Brooklyn and Yonkers cases are not simply about wayward politicians. The cases share an intriguing tie to the developer Bruce Ratner, who in project after project deploys lobbyists and politicians to change zoning ordinances and chase down rich packets of subsidies.

I should emphasize that Mr. Ratner has walked between the legal raindrops. Federal prosecutors have not implicated him or his company, Forest City Ratner, in either of these corruption cases.

But he figures prominently enough that the indictments identify him as “Developer No. 1” in Brooklyn and “Developer No. 2” in Yonkers. In Brooklyn, he has pushed the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development, including an arena and residential towers. Forest City Ratner was the development partner for the headquarters of The New York Times Company.

Click through for a rundown of the evidence.


NoLandGrab: It's worth noting that the story's original headline, visible at the top of the article window, was "In Corruption Scandals, Recurring Ties to a Developer, Forest City Ratner." Wonder why Forest City got erased from the headline.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Times columnist focuses on "intriguing" Ratner tie in two corruption cases

New York Times columnist Michael Powell, in A Developer Between Legal Clouds, offers some much-needed connections between “Developer No. 1” in Brooklyn and “Developer No. 2” in Yonkers and some corruption cases that curiously left Forest City Ratner a beneficiary yet legally unscathed.

I think the case in Yonkers--where Forest City gained the benefit of a City Council vote thanks to a vote gained by bribery, and never explained giving the indicted briber a no-show job--involves the developer more than the case in Brooklyn, where lobbyist Richard Lipsky and former state Senator Carl Kruger had a range of clients and beneficiaries.

The Yonkers case should go to trial soon, and then, perhaps, we will learn some answers to the question of, as I've written, the mystery of Ridge Hill.

A Gotham column unafraid to take on the powerful

Powell's been a columnist since only May 2011, and since then has been unafraid to look critically at the power structure in the state, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Would that he or someone like him had covered, say, the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking in March 2010.

True News, NY Still Has A Poll Tax and the True News Wags the NYT Again

True News takes credit for lighting a fire under the Grey Lady.

On January 5, Right After the Ratner lobbyists took a plea True News wrote a story

True News Asked what Did Bruce Ratner Know and Do About the Lipsky Bribe?

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

After Beyoncé Gives Birth, Patients Protest Celebrity Security at Lenox Hill Hospital

The New York Times
by Nina Bernstein

Speaking of Jay, it sounds like he took a page out of Bruce Ratner's book and eminent domained the maternity ward at Lenox Hill Hospital, which — betta look on a map — ain't in Brooklyn.

Lenox Hill Hospital went all-out to protect the privacy of Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z, whose daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, was born there on Saturday.

At one point, another father, Edgar Ramirez, 25, said, security guards kept him out of the neonatal unit for three hours while his wife and newborn were waiting for him. At another point on Saturday, a guard declared that “the floor is on lockdown,” Ms. Nash-Coulon said, and told her that if she left the neonatal unit, she would not be allowed back in to see her babies.

“It was just really disgusting,” said Ms. Nash-Coulon, 38, who is still recovering from her C-section, while one of her twins remains in the hospital. “We really believe the hospital is culpable in this because they didn’t let us know what was happening. And the security of our children is at risk when you cover security cameras.”


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The fallout from a celebrity birth: other parents complain that security required by Jay-Z/Beyonce hindered their visits

It's tough out there in celebrity-land. Jay-Z and wife Beyonce had their baby, and they're rightfully delighted.

But the security plans instigated apparently on their behalf--the cordoning off of sections of the hospital, and the blocking of certain visitors--has prompted a backlash.

Click through for links to other news stories.

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

The Book of Hov: Clinton Hill pastor gets inspiration from Jay-Z

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

A new pastor in Clinton Hill gets his gospel straight from Jay-Hova.

Presbyterian minister Jamison Galt kicked off his inaugural sermon at Christ Church on Lafayette Avenue on Sunday night, preaching to a crowd of roughly 100 souls about Jay-Z, the self-described savior of hip-hop.

Galt is a fan of Jay-Z’s songs, but during his sermon, he trashed one of the rapper’s most publicized business ventures.

Jay-Z owns a small portion of the New Jersey Nets, the basketball team scheduled to move into the Barclays Center at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues this fall as a part of developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega project. Despite plans for a “meditation room” in the arena that could host a house of worship, Galt compared the Atlantic Yards development and similar projects to the Tower of Babel, calling them “massive monument[s] ... without god.”


NoLandGrab: Amen!?

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

‘Battle for Brooklyn’ shoots and scores

'Battle for Brooklyn' offers a scathing look at the the process of building a new sports center for the Brooklyn Nets.

The Chicago Maroon
by Michaela Cross

It's not just a boondoggle, it's a movie!

Making a documentary is an uncertain art. There is no real way a director can ensure that the people and events being filmed will develop into an interesting story and the time they are investing will be paid back in full. Battle for Brooklyn, directed by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, stands as a shining example of what happens when documentaries turn out right, when interesting people and events come together to create a fascinating journey and do it in front of a camera.


Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

The Battle for Atlantic Yards comes to Penn, bookended with megaproject forums

Plan Philly Eyes on the Street

It's not just a boondoggle, it's a musical!

Development can make for sensational drama, which is just what the the docu-musical, In the Footprint: The Battle over Atlantic Yards promises for its 16-show run at Penn’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

In the Footprint follows the polarizing issue of Brooklyn’s huge, controversial Atlantic Yards development as it transpired through political channels, developer maneuvers, the use of eminent domain, and emotional neighborhood opposition. In the Footprint will premiere in Philadelphia with its run at the Annenberg Center’s Harold Prince Theater January 18-29, by The Civilians.

PennDesign will bookend the performances with two community forums called, Megaprojects: Can we balance individual and social good?, featuring Penn faculty members in conversation with developers, real estate experts, politicians, and journalists.


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

January 9, 2012

A profile of Prokhorov on MSNBC by Robert Windrem, who does not acknowledge he's also "Net Income," chief editor of Nets Daily

Atlantic Yards Report

Who knew? We never had "Net Income" pegged for being a real journalist!

So who wrote the stylish, reasonably thorough, and only slightly skewed profile on MSNBC's Open Channel, dedicated to "investigative reporting by NBC News," headlined Meet the NBA tycoon and rapper's friend who could be president of Russia.

One Robert Windrem, described as a senior investigative producer for NBC News and a Nets season ticket holder.

Simply describing him as a "Nets season ticket holder" is just a tad inadequate. He's also Net Income, the ubiquitous, prolific pseudonymous main editor of the NetsDaily web site.


NoLandGrab: Windrem also triples as "Bobbo," the insulting, factually deficient sometime-commenter to Atlantic Yards Report posts.

Related coverage..., Meet the NBA tycoon and rapper's friend who could be president of Russia

"The most interesting man in the world?" Windrem needs to get out more.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Atlantic Yards Worker Reprimanded for ‘Amen’ Corner

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Minty Grover

A construction worker at the Atlantic Yards project was reprimanded by his bosses last month, fellow employees said, after he painted a seemingly non-controversial bit of Yuletide graffiti on an under-construction kiosk — the word “Amen” in big red block letters.

The holiday greeting — truncated because the worker didn’t have enough paint to write “Merry Christmas,” one worker said — wasn’t visible from the streets around the rising Barclays Center basketball arena, but it was clear to see from the top floor of the neighboring Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls as well as the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower across the street.

The extent of the reprimand remains unclear, but the worker was not fired, said construction workers, who wouldn't give their names out of fear of reprisal. The religious graffiti has since been partially covered up with concrete as part of the contruction of the subway entrance at the front of the arena at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

A spokesman for Bruce Ratner, whose Forest City Ratner Companies is building the arena as part of its larger Atlantic Yards development, said that the reprimand was deserved.

“It is inappropriate to write anything that is not authorized on a construction site,” said the spokesman, Joe DePlasco.


NoLandGrab: In the overall scheme of things, it seems much less worse than the usual Atlantic Yards construction worker behavior.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

This Week in Kickstarter

Kickstarter Blog
by Michael McGregor

We're not even a full week into 2012 and, not gonna lie, we're feeling pretty good about the upcoming year, impending Apocalypse and all! All kidding aside, it's been a pretty productive week in the Kickstarter universe and, as always, we're happy to share a few things we've found exciting.

We were busy hosting a screening of RUMUR's Battle for Brooklyn for press and backers. Why, you may ask? Because, the film, which chronicles the eminant domain case surrounding Atlantic Yards, the future home of the Brookyln Nets, has been shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, and as part of the process the film is screening all over the country, in an effort to build momentum before the Oscars. Not gonna lie, we love Battle for Brooklyn and we love the Oscars, so we're just happy we could join the process. It. was. fun. And the movie is awesome, so if it's playing in your town, go see it!


Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

January 7, 2012

Whither Brooklyn's turning points? Some came well before the Atlantic Yards plan

Atlantic Yards Report

If Atlantic Yards is a symbol, as per Crain's, of Brooklyn's renaissance, we should remember that Bruce Ratner's vision, announced in late 2003, emerged well after Brooklyn had begun to be validated.

In a 1/4/12 Critic's Notbook essay titled How the View from the Critic’s Perch Has Changed, Times interim restaurant critic Eric Asimov offered a contrast between writing about restaurants today and a decade ago. Among his observations:

Brooklyn? Sure, Brooklyn is now full of wonderfully exciting restaurants. It’s really a second or third wave, though. I wrote a piece back in 2000 [A Defining Moment in Brooklyn, 3/29/00] noting an earlier Brooklyn explosion. It’s interesting to see how many of those restaurants are gone, though the ones that survived and prospered — Saul, Diner, the Grocery, Al di Là, to name a few — are really good.

Fun quote from that earlier piece:

The new age on Smith Street began on Dec. 21, 1997, when Mr. [Alan] Harding, formerly the chef at Nosmo King in Manhattan, opened the bistro Patois, the first of the new restaurants. ''Our rent was $900 when we started, and I figured if nobody came, I could live there,'' Mr. Harding said. ''Now rents have tripled.''


Posted by steve at 10:44 PM

January 6, 2012

LiC contributor Jackson Truax’s 2011 Top 10 (plus 5)

Living in Cinema
by Jackson Truax

Looking back at the 218 new movies I’ve seen this past year, here’s a celebration of those I can’t stop talking or thinking about, and those I’m jumping at the chance to write about again. My top ten list is comprised of the films that were “released” this year, that would qualify for most Oscar categories or other year-end awards.

4. Battle for Brooklyn – Dirs. Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley

The RumuR Inc. production team of David Beilinson, Suki Hawley, and Michael Galinsky crafted the most viscerally powerful, enraging, and dangerous documentary of the year. Battle for Brooklyn follows graphic designer turned reluctant community organizer and activist Daniel Goldstein as he fights to save his Brooklyn neighborhood from being seized by a government that’s been bought by billionaire developer Bruce C. Ratner. Every frame delivers a sense of populist outrage and danger, and Galinsky (in his capacity as Director of Photography) follows Goldstein into one confrontation after another, ranging from the streets of Brooklyn to the hearings where the voice of the community is either ignored or shut out all together. Though Goldstein falls into his role of the voice of the people accidently, the audience witnesses him evolve into the ultimate everyman’s spokesperson, marching into enemy territory with the unrepentant attitude of Bob Dylan walking on stage plugged-in for the first time. Suki Hawley edited together a film that in 93 minutes is equal parts polemic, character study, a David-and-Goliath tale, and shows enough of both sides of the issues to never veer off into propaganda. The Academy has shortlisted the film for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.


Catch Battle for Brooklyn locally this weekend at indieScreen in Williamsburg. Our loyal Left Coast readers can see the film tomorrow and Sunday in Santa Monica followed by Q&A sessions with Michael Galinsky.

Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

After 15 months, still waiting for response to a Freedom of Information Law request regarding ESDC official's trip to China to support Forest City Ratner's EB-5 sales efforts

Atlantic Yards Report

So, how far did New York State go to assist Forest City Ratner in its efforts to raise a low-interest loan of $249 million from immigrant investors seeking green cards under the federal government's EB-5 program?

After 15 months, I'm still waiting for a response to my Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the Empire State Development Corporation. Nothing's changed since I wrote about my request nearly five months ago, in August.

Still, thanks to New York Times coverage of EB-5 gerrymandering, there's now much more concern about whether New York State bends the rules to help favored projects. So there's even more reason the state should practice transparency.


NoLandGrab: Yeah, how's that transparency thing coming along, Status Cuomo?

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

January 5, 2012

In Lipsky guilty plea, no mention of Forest City Ratner connection

Atlantic Yards Report

In lobbyist Richard Lipsky's guilty plea yesterday, there was no mention of Atlantic Yards or the unnamed developer, Forest City Ratner, that was among his clients.

It was about paying referral fees to now-disgraced Sen. Carl Kruger for clients Kruger directed his way, and then expecting Kruger to help him in Albany.

Though the indictment and legal complaint indicated that Kruger allocated $500,000 to a client of Lipsky--actually the allocation was at the request of Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, but to his wife's charitable cause--there was no evidence of whether Kruger did so at Lipsky's request.

Lipsky, whose Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog was frozen after he was charged last March, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of bribery.

Though he faced a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, Crain's reported that Lipsky made a deal with prosecutors to serve 57 to 71 months, or slightly less than five years, at best. He will be sentenced by Judge Jed Rakoff on May 4, 2012.


Related coverage...

The New York Times, Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Paying Bribes to a State Senator

Over three decades, Richard J. Lipsky built a reputation as a staunch lobbyist for the underdog, even though his side did not always win and his clients were sometimes more establishment than mom-and-pop.

NoLandGrab: Yeah, underdogs like poor lil' Bruce Ratner, whom Lipsky defended from Daniel Goldstein Incorporated.

Crain's NY Business, Richard Lipsky admits guilt in bribery scandal

Forest City Ratner hired him in 2006 to advance its $5 billion Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn. A related corporate entity snagged him to pave the way for an East Harlem shopping mall anchored by a Target. The moves were widely attributed to the developer's desire to prevent Mr. Lipsky from stirring up and advocating for the little guys, his traditional constituency.

Brooklyn Daily, Lobbyist: I bribed Kruger

A deep-pocketed lobbyist who worked for Forest City Ratner Companies admitted to funneling more than $250,000 in bribes to former state Sen. Carl Kruger in an attempt to buy favor for his clients from the disgraced rep.

Richard Lipsky, who was employed by the developer of the Atlantic Yards arena and residential high-rise project for five years, told Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rackoff that he had an “implicit agreement” with Kruger that payment to the senator — which he euphemized as “referral fees” — would benefit his clients.

One of his biggest clients was Forest City, which paid Lipsky $4,000 a month to help line up legislative support for its many real estate development projects. Forest City also paid him an additional $2,750 a month to promote the Atlantic Yards project.

The Wall Street Journal, Lobbyist Lipsky Admits to Bribery

"I acknowledge that my actions were in violation of the law and I knew that they crossed the line," Mr. Lipsky, 64 years old, said during the proceeding in federal court in Manhattan. "I accept responsibility for my conduct and incredibly poor judgment and I am truly sorry for the serious consequences to my family, my clients, the government, the court and the people of the state of New York."

City & State, Heard Around Town, Jan. 5, 2012

The crowd that gathered in Manhattan Federal Court yesterday to hear lobbyist Richard Lipsky plead guilty to two bribery charges was befitting a man who made more calls to reporters than perhaps any lobbyist in New York City history. Most of the two dozen people on hand to hear Lipsky confess were from the forth estate – and many, no doubt, had been bombarded with story pitches from Lipsky over the years. Even up to the time Lipsky ultimately agreed to his plea, he was relentlessly leading efforts to submarine the Willets Point development in Queens under a thinly veiled pseudonym. So what will Lipsky do with all that boundless energy in prison? As Lipsky and a small group of relatives descended in the courthouse elevator following his guilty plea, he for once had nothing to say.

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: Looking Back at 2011 in Brooklyn: It’s Not Just Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Well out of ideas after his many years at The Eagle, Dennis Holt is content to regurgitate some recent tripe from the Times.

The New York Times got into the act with a series of forecasts, and the comments on Brooklyn are worthy of note because they reflect what the Times editors believe are the major events coming our way. The section on Brooklyn focused almost totally on the Atlantic Yards story.

But the editors are not sure which of two forecasts will come true: “When the sports arena that anchors the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project finally opens in September ... it will undoubtedly transform Downtown Brooklyn. But will the 19,000-seat Barclay’s Center help its neighborhood become an epicenter of entertainment and commerce as most officials predict? Or will it be a vortex of traffic, trash and other civic headaches, as some residents fear?”


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

January 4, 2012

Prokhorov and Ratner Preparing to Move Semi-pro Team into Naked Arena

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

One has to wonder, what exactly are Bruce Ratner and Mikahil Prokhorov planning on bringing to Brooklyn. A team that can hardly call itself professional and a naked arena?

The New Jersey Nets, once again, are stinking up the joint and the Barclays Center arena is in jeopardy of being facadeless come projected completion in September 2012 now that the custom manufacterer of the rusty panels has gone belly up.

Will the arena in Brooklyn be ready when the semi-pro Nets are ready to move? That is now a question worthy of a "no comment" from Forest City Ratner.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Barclays Center Facade Maker Goes Out of Business

Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Hawaii Premiere Of "Battle for Brooklyn" - Oscar-Contending Docfilm Of Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Fight

Inverse Condemnation

Today was the Hawaii premiere of Battle For Brooklyn, the Oscar-shortlisted documentary film about the Atlantic Yards case. We're introducing the film and conducting a question-and-answer session after each showing.

Today's two screenings were followed by lively questions from the audience. Here are links to the key posts on the case, in the event you want to find out more...


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

January 3, 2012

Lobbyist Is Expected to Plead Guilty in Bribery Case

The New York Times
by Benjamin Weiser

Why, we just noticed that Richard Lipsky hasn't updated his bombastic, pompous blog since the day before he got pinched on bribery charges. DA got your keyboard, Lipsky?

Richard J. Lipsky, a prominent lobbyist who was charged in the bribery conspiracy case that also ensnared State Senator Carl Kruger, was expected to plead guilty on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Mr. Lipsky’s plea would come just two weeks after Mr. Kruger resigned from the Senate and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in the broad conspiracy case that has been seen as spotlighting the pervasive issue of corruption in Albany. Mr. Kruger faces up to 50 years in prison when he is sentenced in April by Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

Mr. Lipsky was one of eight defendants originally charged in the matter, and was scheduled for trial this month.

Another of his co-defendants, Robert Aquino, the former chief executive officer of Parkway Hospital in Queens, was expected to plead guilty on Tuesday, leaving just one defendant facing trial.

It was not clear on Tuesday morning to what charges Mr. Lipsky and Mr. Aquino would plead guilty. Lawyers for the two men declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is prosecuting the case.

Mr. Lipsky, who is in his 60s, has long portrayed himself as an advocate for the underdog; he has been a frequent presence in City Hall and in the State Capitol in Albany, and has had a reputation as a pugnacious fighter for his clients.

"Underdogs" like these:

Mr. Lipsky’s clients included... a real estate developer that has since been identified as Forest City Ratner.


Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

Atlantic Yards in 2012: massive buzz for an arena opening, the ubiquitous Barclays, a first tower unveiled, a huge local mess (?), inevitable surprises (a modular twist? Carlton Avenue Bridge delay?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder gazes into his crystal computer monitor...

What's next in 2012 for Atlantic Yards? Some things we can predict, but other issues are up in the air. And, as I suggested in the 2011 round-up, Atlantic Yards always seems to bring some new twist, so expect something unexpected (though I have a few guesses).


Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Battle for Brooklyn | Jan 7 and 8 at 5pm


Catch the Oscar-contending Battle for Brooklyn this weekend at Williamsburg's indieScreen.

tickets / more info

And our faithful readers in Beantown can circle March 19th on your calendars.


Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

January 1, 2012

Brooklyn blooms again, but not for all

Atlantic Yards project caps a decade of growth for borough, yet some areas remain mired in poverty.

Crain's NY Business
by Patrick Wall

When the roar of 18,000 Brooklyn Nets fans rocks the Barclays Center to life this fall, some will hear it as the clearest announcement yet that Brooklyn has arrived.

As Borough President Marty Markowitz put it, the sparkling new arena near downtown Brooklyn “will host the kind of events you used to have to leave Brooklyn to enjoy.”

To proponents, the Nets' arena at Atlantic Yards is the exclamation point of the Brooklyn Renaissance—a flourishing of creativity, construction and coolness over the last decade.

But critics note that Brooklyn's economic gains have occurred predominantly in the northwest corner of the borough, where the Atlantic Yards development is situated. The neighborhoods in the central and eastern parts of the borough remain poor, and Brooklyn's overall poverty and unemployment rates outstrip the citywide numbers.


NoLandGrab: And some critics, like, say, us, note that the alleged economic gains from Atlantic Yards are illusory for anyone not named Bruce C. Ratner.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Crain's points to Atlantic Yards as symbol of Brooklyn's bifurcated blooming, but misses the irony of unfulfilled promises

There's a huge, unmentioned irony here: Atlantic Yards may be a symbol of Brooklyn's progress, but, employing relatively few locals, has not delivered the jobs and housing promised, nor proven a good investment of public dollars.

A gloomy future

The article concludes:

Just as there is no consensus on the root of Brooklyn's economic inequities, there is no concerted effort to address them. Instead, city planners and private developers tinker with economic issues on a project-by-project basis.

“There hasn't been, to my knowledge, a really comprehensive plan done under the auspices of any government agency,” said Brooklyn Economic Development Corp. President Joan Bartolomeo.

Maybe one could start by assessing whether the money spent on Atlantic Yards helped narrow Brooklyn's economic inequities.

Posted by eric at 6:42 PM

"How Brooklyn Got Its Groove Back": an analysis of the borough's rise, and those left behind (and, I'd suggest, why that helped bring us AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Autumn 2011 issue of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, Kay S. Hymowitz offers How Brooklyn Got Its Groove Back: New York’s biggest borough has reinvented itself as a postindustrial hot spot.

And, while not about Atlantic Yards (except for one mention), it presents a useful framework, based on personal experience and reportage, for some of the changes that brought us here, while offering more background on the enduring economic divide sketched this week in Crain's.

(It's on the Atlantic Cities' list of ten best CityReads of 2011.)

An AY mention

In the section under rezonings, Hymowitz writes:

Brooklyn also benefited from the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations’ rezoning of fallow industrial neighborhoods for “mixed” uses, so that residential, commercial, and light-industry buildings could occupy the same area. These decisions have met with fierce resistance, with Brooklyn’s gentrifiers—ironically, given their historical role in changing the borough—among the most vociferous in arguing that grabby real-estate interests and their friends in government are driving out an indigenous population. Bruce Ratner’s much-reviled Atlantic Yards project, which took advantage of the government’s bullying eminent-domain powers, lends some credence to the charge. But mostly, Brooklyn’s transformation has come from the ground up. In the beginning, as Osman observes, gentrification spread because “a few families decided to cross” Atlantic Avenue, the southern boundary of Brooklyn Heights. The rezoning that finally took place decades later was simply bowing to reality: large factories were gone for good, and young singles and families wanted in.

For Atlantic Yards, it must be pointed out, there was no rezoning, just an override of zoning.


Posted by eric at 6:33 PM

Marie Louis, Chief Operating Officer of BUILD, 1972-2011

Atlantic Yards Report

2011 goes out on a somber note.

Marie Louis, Chief Operating Officer of Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), died December 23, 2011, after a six-month battle with cancer.

Her family asked that, in her honor, people register to be bone marrow donors.

I'll write more about Louis at a later date, but want to share the obituary, provided by her family, which appears in this week's Our Time Press. It also was distributed at her funeral service this week.


Posted by eric at 6:23 PM

December 31, 2011

Fucked in Park Slope: A Year in Review

F'd In Park Slope

10, The Atlantic Yards Project And Battle For Brooklyn

While nearly everyone in our neighborhood is familiar with the Altantic Yards Project that started back in 2003, this year's documentary Battle for Brooklyn consolidated those eight years into a cohesive -- and possibly Oscar-nominated -- film. The ambitious project, spear headed by private developer Bruce Ratner, was initially proposed as 16 new skyscrapers and a giant sports arena for the city of Brooklyn. In the process, people were forced out of their homes and a community was divided: while many strongly opposed the looming eviction of nearly 1,600 tenants whose property fell into the footprint of the design plan, some residents supported the project for the promise of jobs and the excitement of having a major sports team in our neighborhood.


In November, a group of local unemployed construction workers announced a lawsuit against Bruce Ratner for failing to provide promised jobs and wages to work on the Atlantic Yards project. It's likely that Ratner offered this "Community Benefits Agreement" to cool some criticism and gain support of local politicians.

This past year the Barclay Center itself has given us some blog-worthy news: it almost made Kim Kardashian's ass move here, has the worst rendering artist in the history of rendering artists, announced an integration with our beloved BAM, will be hosting Jay-Z shows and has made the traffic in that area worse than it already was.

Are you there, Bruce? It's me, Kerri.

You suck.


Posted by steve at 5:22 PM

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2011

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Missing from this review of Atlantic Yards news, is the admission by developer Bruce Ratner that the affordable housing long promised as part of the project is not possible.

Love it or hate it, 2011 was the year the Atlantic Yards project really got under way. Construction has been moving rapidly on Barclays Center – future home of the Nets basketball team -- and the physical fact of the arena’s presence in the Brooklyn landscape began to overshadow the project’s use of eminent domain and other controversial development practices in the news coverage this year. But construction has not been without strife. (A so-called “rat tsunami” was one of the unpleasant side effects of the large construction site).

And the years-long community struggle against the project will not soon be forgotten thanks to Battle for Brooklyn , a documentary released in 2011 about the Atlantic Yards project that is reportedly on the short list of possible Oscar nominees.

In other Atlantic Yards news, the project’s developer, Bruce Ratner, announced in November that they planned to use prefabricated, modular construction for the residential towers planned for the site – meaning that the majority of construction would take place in a factory and the pieces would be assembled on site. If the plan goes forward, Brooklyn will be home to the tallest prefabricated or modular steel structure in the world.


Posted by steve at 5:10 PM

Brooklyn’s Predictions for 2012

Brooklyn Heights Press
by Mary Frost

Two items of this list include references to the Atlantic Yards project.

John Torenli, sports writer, Brooklyn Eagle:
The Nets scheduled arrival in Brooklyn in November will go off as planned. Don’t be surprised if Orlando center Dwight Howard joins point guard Deron Williams for the Opening Night festivities at the Barclays Center. Nets owner Mikail Prokhorov will not win the Russian presidency.


Ed Breslin, proofreader, Brooklyn Eagle
...Gridlock will finally become reality on Flatbush and Atlantic avenues as the Nets open in the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn.


Posted by steve at 5:04 PM

December 30, 2011

Open and Shut: The 2011 Edition


Atlantic Yards Anxieties

The arena’s going up, but many nearby residents cast aspersions on the planned opening of several businesses perceived as catering primarily to arena visitors. The controversy over a bar/restaurant called Prime 6 got the most press. After the owner announced the joint wouldn’t, as some feared, be a strip club, residents still pushed for strict operating hours and complained about plans to offer bottle service. The state approved a liquor license but it has yet to open. Meanwhile, a gastropub announced plans to open at 604 Pacific Street, and a liquor license was eventually approved with a stipulation that no dancing be allowed. No doubt these won’t be the only new businesses near the arena to battle the community boards.


Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Movie Review: "Battle For Brooklyn" -- Lessons For Honolulu Rail From A Reluctant Activist

Inverse Condemnation
by Robert H. Thomas

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser today published my movie review of "Battle For Brooklyn," the documentary about the Atlantic Yards eminent domain fight, on the op-ed page. Check it out here or below. More importantly, if you are in Honolulu next week, come to one of the four screenings (details and link to ticket purchase below).


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

December 29, 2011

A look back at 2011: the arena rises, construction troubles, a reconfigured community response, the modular surprise, an enduring lack of oversight, and the lingering impact of Battle for Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder runs down the Atlantic Yards year that was.

Even if the volume was turned down somewhat, it was not a quiet year in Atlantic Yards.

When I wrote my "What's next in 2011" post on 1/4/11, I pointed to "Accountability issues, timetable questions, and a reconfigured community response, with BrooklynSpeaks rising, DDDB receding."

That was mostly right, though hardly the full story. After all, as I wrote, "I wouldn't be surprised if there's a new Atlantic Yards twist."

The surprise in 2010 had been "the astonishing effort" to market Atlantic Yards to immigrant investors seeking green cards. The 2011 surprise was Forest City Ratner's revelation that it was planning to build the long-delayed first tower, and the rest of the project, via untested modular construction. (That's still not firm.)

Accompanying that statement was the astonishing admission by developer Bruce Ratner that union-built towers with affordable housing had never been viable. While that contradicted some eight years of his and backers' statements, it produced few ripples.

While I pointed to "a push to sell Nets tickets and suites, and further evidence of Forest City Ratner/Barclays strategic philanthropy," I didn't fully anticipate the impact of the arena rising and how the Nets and Barclays Center operators would strategically dole out announcements, including the unsurprising team name, to generate press coverage.

Along with the arena and railyard work, which soon stretched to after-hours work, came a steady stream of complaints about the impact of construction--parking, garbage, traffic, and noise, as well as a seeming weekly (if not daily) pattern of violating various promises and rules, all documented via Atlantic Yards Watch, a key new player in the community response.


Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

Bruce Ratner's Exercise in Bland

The Wall Street Journal
by Robbie Whelan

Up until now, the design story of Bruce Ratner's mega arena and mixed-use project at Atlantic Yards has involved a feeling of betrayal and then later, a sense of partial redemption.

Now there's a new chapter with the unveiling last month of Mr. Ratner's plans for the residential component of the project. This one could be titled "Playing it Safe." The design for Atlantic Yards' apartments doesn't offend, but ultimately they serve as an unsatisfying conclusion to the story.

Actually, many critics of Atlantic Yards find this highly offensive, especially since the "cutting-edge Frank Gehry design" and "15,000 unionized construction jobs" were key elements of Bruce Ratner's massive bait-and-switch.

Critics who long for great architecture are unlikely to be appeased by the design of the first apartment building.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Ratner ‘Playing it Safe’ With Atlantic Yards Design?

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

Brooklyn’s Top Stories of 2011


Atlantic Yards Starts to Take Shape

As it has for several years running, Atlantic Yards dominated Brooklyn news in 2011. Construction on the Barclays Center arena has progressed at a steady clip this year. The project continued to be controversial and a magnet for lawsuits, however. This fall the Empire State Development Corporation and developer Forest City Ratner appealed an earlier ruling in favor of project opponents. In that case, community groups challenged the ESDC’s 2009 approval to increase the duration of the project’s construction from 10 to 25 years, arguing that a new environmental review was necessary given the new time line. Meanwhile, another lawsuit against the mega-project was filed in November by workers who said they hadn’t landed union jobs they believed were promised after completing a training program. With the arena construction in full swing, nearby residents complained about a rat tsunami, as well as traffic changes that had been implemented and less-than-desirable “Atlantic Yards businesses” opening. While construction has yet to begin on any Atlantic Yards buildings aside from the arena, Forest City Ratner applied for building permits for the project’s first residential building and made headlines with the news that the company was considering a prefab structure for that and subsequent towers in the development.


Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

People We've Met: Angelina Jolie, James Caan and other stars we spoke to in 2011

Joe Neumaier remembers talks with Michelle Williams, Drake Doremus, Joe Berlinger and more

NY Daily News
by Joe Neumaier

The News's movie critic looks back at the year in film.

In June, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky — the filmmakers behind one of the year’s best documentaries, “Battle for Brooklyn” — talked about good and bad changes in the borough they love and live in. Joining them was Daniel Goldstein, one of the most impassioned voices in Hawley and Galinsky’s film about the fight surrounding the Atlantic Yards project.

The first thing Galinsky noticed when we all sat down? That I was holding a coffee from a local deli, not a Starbucks “Venti.”


Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

Curbed Awards '11: Adventures in Urban Planning

It's time to make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to the most deserving people, places and things in the real estate architecture, and neighborhood universes of New York City. Yep, it's time for the Eighth Annual Curbed Awards!

by Dave Hogarty

Bruce Ratner takes the Bronze and the Gold in 2011!

3) The roof is raised at Barclay's Arena, literally! And Italian classical soloist phenom Andrea Boccelli turns up his nose at MSG to perform at the Atlantic Yards arena in December 2012.

1) Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project has gone from starchitect Frank Gehry's sweeping redesign of Prospect Heights to the proposed installation of the world's tallest pre-fab modular rental tower. Hurray?


Posted by eric at 9:12 AM

December 28, 2011

Battle for Brooklyn | Dec 27-29 at 8pm


Battle for Brooklyn is playing tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. at indieScreen in Williamsburg — your last chance to see the Oscar-contending film in 2011.

tickets / more info

You also have until 9:43 p.m. this Thursday to make a pledge to Battle for Brooklyn's Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the Academy Awards push. A $35 donation will secure a signed pre-release DVD — your last chance to grab a DVD for some time.

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

Battle for Brooklyn, "community," and the Occupy Wall Street parallel (the massive NYPD response to protest)

Atlantic Yards Report

On watching Battle for Brooklyn yet again, I notice things I didn't emphasize the first time around in my review, things that make the movie both more frustrating and more valuable.

For example, the term "community" is a slippery concept in multiple ways. The movie portrays tensions over the Community Benefits Agreement, ginned up by developer Forest City Ratner to create the appearance of responsibility to the community.

But the "community" of opposition to Atlantic Yards--portrayed, though not sufficiently explained--depends less on those living/working in the project footprint than on those in the surrounding neighborhoods, those who must bear the brunt of the project's impacts.

The film has a neat narrative arc, following the path of activist Daniel Goldstein, but it can leave the impression that the fight is over. Yes, the fight to stop the project is over, and the amount of activism diminished, but, community concerns continue, such as over the lack of a transportation plan as the arena opening approaches.


Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Million-Dollar Visas

The New York Times, Editorial

The Times has a big, fat blind spot — and it obscures 22 acres in Prospect Heights.

The federal government’s investor visa, created in 1990, gives foreigners a chance at green cards if they invest $1 million to build a business in the United States that creates at least 10 jobs. Investing in an area with high unemployment would cut that price in half.

The program, known as EB-5, has led foreigners to invest in projects around the country, like factories, resorts, shipyards and other enterprises in designated poor areas in need of jobs. A report in The Times last week found that EB-5 applications have nearly quadrupled in two years, to more than 3,800 in the 2011 fiscal year.

But the program has spawned cynical practices that are stretching the rules and violating the spirit of the law. Some participants in New York, the report found, are pouring money into development zones that are misleadingly labeled as high-unemployment areas to qualify for the lower $500,000 investment threshold, but are not poor or underdeveloped.

For example, a $750 million office tower in the mid-Manhattan diamond district has raised 20 percent of its financing through the EB-5 program. This was made possible through a trick of mapmaking in which state officials counted the number of unemployed people in the census tract next door, which includes Times Square, to justify calling the whole area a high-unemployment zone.

Likewise, the gerrymandered lines of the development zone in Lower Manhattan near Wall Street skirt the wealthy enclaves but cross the East River to enfold a public-housing project in Brooklyn. Visa-seekers have used this district in three separate projects to qualify for the $500,000 discount.


NoLandGrab: Is it just coincidence that The Times fails to mention the grandaddy of EB-5 abuse, their development partner Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Times editorial criticizes EB-5 gerrymandering, ignores Atlantic Yards example, as well as other EB-5 abuses

What's missing

Well, it's good that the Times is taking EB-5 issues seriously, but it's glaring that one of the key projects to take advantage of this gerrymandering, the Atlantic Yards project, went unmentioned. (Is that the "spirit of the Times," channeled through the publisher, a former business partner with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner?)

It's also notable that the Times does not recognize that the intent of Congress--to create jobs--is subverted in other ways, such as giving immigrant investors credit for jobs created by money contributed by taxpayers, or by allowing dubious calculations of indirect job creation.

MichaelBenjamin2012's Blog, Using Poor NYers as window dressing…Again! – UPDATED

Projects such as Atlantic Yards, the Battery Maritime Building, and the International Gem Tower have used questionable maps and the EB-5 program to attract foreign investors. Blogger Norman Oder and Reuters have revealed that manipulation of the program extends beyond deceptive zoning districts to misrepresentations and flat-out lies told to potential Chinese and Korean investors.

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Hip Hop and the (Near) Future

The Huffington Post
by Eric J. Henderson

Ness touches a particular bundle of nerves that are base ingredients: futurism, hip hop, and the "occupy" spirit long before the tents went up.

I was introduced to him by actor and dj, DJ TAbu, who showed me his first EYE2025* salvo, "Pedalin." He sharpens his political angle to deliver part I of the vision:

"...set in Ratner Heights, (the area formerly known as Fort Greene/Clinton Hill/Downtown Brooklyn, now owned entirely by construction mogul/re-gentrification king Bruce Ratner). EYE2025*Chapter1 is a dystopic vision of the future, a future that is rapidly approaching. Blurring the lines between genres, the music twists and turns through sounds [on a] mission to bring to light the world of the have-nots, and send out a call to arms to rise up, educate and build community."

That's old school hip hop -- basic political agitation -- but it's also near future for a new age, especially if you live near the Atlantic Yards he's talking about, flashpoint for the Battle of Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

December 27, 2011

Year In Review: Top Real Estate Stories of 2011

The biggest real estate stories of the year include the commercial development of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the reverberating effects of Atlantic Yards

Carroll Gardens Patch
by Peter Saalfield

This week Carroll Gardens Patch is looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2011.

We continue today with real estate. In 2011, gentrification marched onward as home prices rose, developers unveiled new building plans, and several stores and restaurants were forced out of business by rising rents.

As the neighborhood searches for the right balance between the old and the new, construction continues to cause contention. For every person who supports development, there is another who opposes it. In 2011, disagreements arose over a few issues in particular.

Spillover from Atlantic Yards

The massive Atlantic Yards construction project, supported by politicians such as Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, has been ruffling feathers for years—and it isn’t even finished. Critics have accused the developer, Bruce Ratner, of lying about the number of jobs that would be created and exaggerating other positive effects for the surrounding neighborhoods.

A particular concern of the people of Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill is traffic and parking. With the main feature of the project—a new stadium for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team—still a year away from completion, traffic has already been disrupted and is poised to get worse.


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

Cartographic Excess

Words in Space
by Shannon Christine Mattern

Last week we drew to a close our second year of Urban Media Archaeology, a graduate studio in which my 15 students; my Technical Associate, the ever capable Rory Solomon; and I work together to map historic media networks. Last fall, in the inaugural section of the class, our students mapped everything from the history of walking tours, to movie company headquarters, to Daily News delivery infrastructure, to the social lives of East Village zines, to key sites in carrier pigeon history. This semester the projects were no less innovative; we mapped “media actors” in the debate over the Atlantic Yards development; data-driven systems of graffiti removal; the spatial history of the Young Filmmakers Foundation (intended to seed a larger map of youth media organizations in New York); the evolution of street signs in Manhattan since the late 19th century; the old West Side Cowboys of Chelsea (this project, one of my favorites, involved “ontography“; see below); the changing landscape of independent bookstores in Manhattan and Brooklyn; the social networks of the Soho Fluxus community; 100 years’ history of theaters around Union Square; key individuals and places in the history of subway graffiti; the spatial history of the Bell Telephone system; the forgotten histories of official memorials and murals in East Harlem; surveillance networks in Corona, Queens; locations in Woody Allen’s films; and historic jazz performance venues.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

December 23, 2011

An open letter to the city's new Atlantic Yards sort-of-ombudsperson: when there are construction miscues, try to avoid saying "Sorry, it won't happen again"

Atlantic Yards Report

Dear Ms. Lolita Jackson (Director of Special Projects at the NYC Office of the Mayor),

You've apparently just started working on Atlantic Yards issues as the city's new sort-of-ombudsperson, just as you've been doing on the Second Avenue Subway, as you say, "bring[ing] together city agencies to address quality of life issues for businesses and residents that are adjacent to large infrastructure/construction projects."

I hope you don't mind a bit of unsolicited advice.

You haven't had a chance to issue what has become a common mantra from both Forest City Ratner (FCR), the developer, and Empire State Development (ESD), the agency in charge:

Sorry, it won't happen again.

That's what FCR and ESD said after neighbors (via Atlantic Yards Watch) blew the whistle on generators that were making an infernal racket.

That's what ESD said--more or less; they later issued a letter--after neighbors (via Atlantic Yards Watch) cited widespread violations of truck routes.

That's what ESD said after neighbors (via Atlantic Yards Watch) showed how railyard flood lights were left on all night without warning.

That's what ESD said after neighbors (via Atlantic Yards Watch) spotted a contractor disposing of powder on Pacific Street.

You don't want to say it yourself, do you? Shouldn't the government--the representatives of the public--do better?

Shouldn't there be more of an effort to stave off such problems in the first place, or to penalize infractions?

Or is the developer really in charge?


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

December 22, 2011

Immigrant investors seeking green cards now own mortgage on development rights for Atlantic Yards tower; more mortgages coming

Atlantic Yards Report

Chinese millionaires are closer to owning a piece of the Atlantic Yards project.

Immigrant investors now own a $24.7 million mortgage on the 1.24-acre site for B12, the first of seven development parcels promised as collateral for a low-interest loan to developer Forest City Ratner.

More such mortgages are coming, a state official says, indicating that proceeds from the $249 million low-interest loan garnered through the EB-5 visa program are being delivered.

Forest City Ratner is thus transferring portions of a longstanding high-interest loan to the cheaper capital raised via Brooklyn Arena Infrastructure and Transportation Improvement Fund, an affiliate of the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), a private investment pool authorized to recruit immigrant investors.

It looks like the large majority of the cheaper capital will replace that existing loan rather than be used, as Forest City officials once said, to build a new railyard.


Posted by eric at 12:51 PM

Free Rat-Proof Garbage Cans for Residents, Again

Forest City Ratner and Council Member Letitia James are providing free trash cans to residents to address continued rat problem.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Free rodent-proof garbage cans are now available for all Prospect Heights residents, thanks to Council Member Letitia James and Forest City Ratner. The heavy-duty, plastic cans with lids are approved by the Department of Health.

More like thanks to Council Member Letitia James's persistent prodding of Forest City Ratner.

Forest City Ratner first offered free trash cans to residents back in August, as part of a “rodent control strategy.”

The trash cans are now available to all residents and business owners within Prospect Heights. They can be picked up at the office of Council Member James, 50 Hanson Place, between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Bring an I.D. and proof of address when picking up, and call (718) 260-9191 to confirm availability.


NoLandGrab: Yormarketing genius should be announcing the inking of the "official resident trash can sponsor" any day now.

Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

Curbed Cup Elite 8: (3) Atlantic Yards vs. (6) DoBro


It's a battle between a phony neighborhood and a phonily named neighborhood — and it's not close.

Half the field has already been eliminated in the Curbed Cup, our annual award to the New York City neighborhood of the year. This week we'll have one matchup per day—with the polls left open for 24 hours—and by Friday only four contenders will be left vying for the prestigious fake trophy. Let the eliminations continue!

AY's opponent in this round? Downtown Brooklyn. One commenter and Curbed operative wrote of the neighborhood's transformation this year: "Never mind the Brooklyner, Brooklyn Fare, the new consolidated subway hub, Aloft hotel, or Dekalb Market, but soon there will be Shake Shack, the new Dieterle spot, H&M, a new residential complex, and so on. Subway access is awesome; walking access around Brooklyn is just as good." (And hey, the Shake Shack just opened!) Another commenter points to the makeover of the BAM area and the sales and rental success stories the 'hood's had this year. So which 'hood should advance to the next round?


Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

The Good News of 2011

Stone Circles at The Stone House

A film about the Atlantic Yards fight ranks high on a North Carolina list of the best things of the year.

3. “The Battle for Brooklyn” film about fight against Bruce Ratner”s development debacle, on list of possible Oscar nominations for best doc.


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

December 21, 2011

Why will railyard floodlights be illuminated at night? Because the policy changed

Atlantic Yards Report

As I wrote yesterday, it seems quite possible that floodlights at the railyard will be illuminated until 11 pm for many months, through next summer.

That leads to scenes (via Atlantic Yards Watch) such as the illumination (at 7 pm) as seen from the Newswalk building on Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues.

The policy regarding the lights has apparently changed, as Peter Krashes notes on Atlantic Yards Watch, in Nighttime use of railyard floodlights may continue until September 2012.

A belated Forest City response

About a week after an inquiry via the Community Liaison's voice mail, Community Liaison Brigitte LaBonte answered AY Watch, in part:

The lights are required to provide visibility for the workers, and to ensure safe working conditions. To minimize the impact to those adjacent to the yard, the lights are directed downward and into the Yard, and away from residential buildings.

However, as noted by Krashes:

Residents note that while the lights are directed downward, spillage on the sides of the lights is intense and flows directly into nearby residences. No adjustments to the floodlights redirecting their beams away from residential building have been made to compensate for their increased use.


Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Brooklyn's Top 25 News Stories Of 2011

The L Magazine

9. Atlantic Yards Ascendant (Meh.) After years of lawsuits and controversy, construction began on the Barclays Center, its shell rising up above Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. Jay-Z announced the basketball team would be called “The Brooklyn Nets” (whoop-dee-do), while the bar Freddy’s—an icon of the displaced—opened a new location in South Slope. Oh, and those local jobs for construction workers don’t seem to be materializing. Shocking.


Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

December 20, 2011

Deconstructing Marty Markowitz on Atlantic Yards blame (it's all the fault of lawsuits), residential permit parking, and his claim of being underpaid

Atlantic Yards Report

Better sit down for this one.

In a recent interview by Roberto Perez on The Perez Notes, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gave what likely will remain his standard line on Atlantic Yards: it all would've worked out if there had been no lawsuits.

Well, that ignores the fact that developers of large, multi-phase projects must plan for up-and-down development cycles, and, as already noted by DDDB and NLG, developer Bruce Ratner admitted that his announced plan was never feasible.

The question

At 10:06, host Perez opened up the mike: "Borough President, talk a little bit about Atlantic Yards. There are both sides, of course, the people who are upset about eminent domain, people who are upset that the jobs, supposedly promised by Bruce Ratner have not materialized, and the job training, and the people that are upset over gentrification. Talk about some of the positives of the project, and what do you think of the overall so far, there's a lot of development left that's part of the final project that hasn't happened just yet."

The answer

Markowitz took to it like catnip: "Well, let me just say that, if the folks that opposed this hadn't tied the project up for seven years in litigation, Atlantic Yards, a good piece of it would have been built. The affordable housing would've been on its way. The Nets would be playing in the arena and defeating the Manhattan Knicks. I'm sure, I'm confident. And people would've been working, and it would've been the jobs that were promised. Because when this project was first proposed, the economy was strong in new York and in America. Sadly, seven years of lawsuits that sucked up time, money, and everything else and then we get into the middle of a deep recession."

Wait, the developer originally promised 10,000 office jobs in four office tower. That was bogus from the start. Now there's one office tower planned.

Damning the critics

"Listen, now the critics are complaining that there's not enough jobs," Markowitz continued. "Before, they couldn't care less about the jobs. They couldn't care less about the jobs. They couldn't care less about affordable housing."


NoLandGrab: Sure, Marty, we couldn't care less about any of that stuff. But what we really don't care about is bringing a lousy pro basketball team to Brooklyn — especially on the taxpayers' dime.

Posted by eric at 1:36 PM

Nighttime use of railyard floodlights may continue until September 2012

Atlantic Yards Watch

And God Bruce Ratner said, Let there be light.

The floodlights in the Vanderbilt Railyard are being used to extend construction work hours to as late as 11:00 PM many days of the week. In the spring of 2010, LIRR told community members the lights would be used infrequently to enable work that could not be executed in the day while the railyard was operating. At that time there was no mention the lights would be used for construction.

The policy for use of the lights has apparently changed. According to ESDC Project Director Arana Hankin, LIRR and the FCRC contractors working on the Carlton Avenue Bridge are negotiating an agreement for the use of the lights that includes extending construction work hours. The rebuilding of the Carlton Avenue Bridge is not a LIRR project, although its completion is dependent on various elements of railyard construction being finished. The lights are planned to be used until reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge is complete, which must be prior to the time the arena opens in September 2012. It is unclear to what extent the lights will be used when construction in Vanderbilt Railyard continues with the replacement of the permanent railyard. It is anticipated to be complete in 2016.

Although the work currently taking place only involves a small number of workers in limited locations, all of the lights in the yard are turned on. On Tuesday, December 6 the lights were left on until 3:30 AM without notice to the community.

Click through for photos of how the lights obviate the need for nearby residents' interior lighting (thereby lowering electricity costs!) and how reading is easy any time (saving people's eyesight!).


Posted by eric at 1:22 PM

From Atlantic Yards Watch: Generators at Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street disrupt residents

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on yesterday's Atlantic Yards Watch post on noisy generators.

Who wants to live near generators, especially when the decibel level gets stratospheric?

So, is "noisier equipment," as per the memorandum, situated "at locations that are removed from sensitive receptor locations and are shielded from sensitive receptor locations wherever feasible," provided with significant noise shielding?

Apparently not:

Although the Memorandum specifies a "minimum 8 foot height perimeter barrier (constructed of 3/4 thick plywood), with a 16 foot hight barrier (of 3/4" thick plywood) adjacent to sensitive locations, including locations along Pacific Street, Dean Street, and Flatbush Avenue opposite residences," there are no barriers of that description installed in this location. The generators are separated from residences by a chain link fence that does not shield noise.

Yesterday, I contacted the state and city officials in charge of Atlantic Yards construction issues, but didn't hear back yet.


Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

Psst, you want to buy a green card? It’ll cost you $500,000

KPCC/Southern California Public Radio

A federal program, known as EB-5, was created by Congress during the recession of 1990 to offer foreigners a way to earn a green card by investing in American construction projects.

The program is so successful that applications have quadrupled in the last two years. The minimum investment in the program was set at $1 million, but if the project is in a rural area or a place where the unemployment rate is fifty percent above the national average, the minimum investment is $500,000. The program is intended to encourage more development and job growth in poor areas, but some evidence suggests that, through selective use of census statistics, state officials are using gerrymandering techniques to designate development zones as having high unemployment in areas that are actually economically flourishing.

link / listen

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, EB-5 controversy makes CA public radio show; CA rep says state doesn't bend rules

Yesterday, the Patt Morrison Show, on KPCC/Southern California Public Radio featured a segment taking off from the New York Times's coverage of how EB-5 projects in New York City stretch the rules.

The first guest on Psst, you want to buy a green card? It’ll cost you $500,000 was Times reporter Patrick McGeehan, who gave a basic summary of his article, explaining of state officials "string together census tracks" to claim projects are located in high-unemployment areas, thus allowing a more attractive minimum investment to those seeking green cards: %500,000 versus $1 million.

McGeehan used the term "little private investment banks" to describe the middlemen, formally known as regional centers, who earn both fees and the spread between the low interest the borrower is paying and the no-interest paid by those seeking green cards.

He also noted that the EB-5 program is dependent on "theoretical" job creation, based on a formula.

The program, he said, "was used quite effectively in Vermont, to build ski resorts... Now the problem is these big shiny projects... like a pro basketball arena in Brooklyn [are] stealing away the oxygen."

Actually, though the Atlantic Yards EB-5 project was pitched as an investment into the arena, does not involve a piece of the arena.

NY Observer, New York [Hearts] EB-5 Visas

The Farragut Houses, which like many city housing projects suffers from especially high unemployment, is actually included in three different EB-5 zones, including Atlantic Yards. Whether anyone in the houses is actually benefiting from the jobs is unknown. Whatever the ethics of the program, it should at the very least be helping them.

NoLandGrab: And who wants to bet that it's not?

Forbes, Job Creation Program Stretches Claims About Low-Income Neighborhoods

One example: the huge $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. To attract financing under the EB-5 program, the developer, Forest City Ratner, has claimed the project is going up in an oddly-shaped zone that stretches more than two miles from the site and includes low-income parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Longtime journalist and Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder, author of the Atlantic Yards Report blog, has used Freedom of Information Act requests and translators to comb through piles of documents. Oder has described the developers’ supposed project area as “the Bed-Stuy boomerang,” akin to a gerrymandered political district.

Oder has written more than 100 articles on the EB-5 program and he tells me the gerrymandered districts only scratch the surface of EB-5’s many problems.

Curbed, Green Cards Go For Real Estate Cash in Visa Deals

In a bid to finance real estate projects, developers have been ferreting out the hungry, tired, and poor already in NYC to qualify for the creation of special development zones, so they can sell visas to wealthy foreign investors.

Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

Project: Atlantic Yards Media Actors

Urban Research Tool

I've mapped traces of an actor-network involved in transforming representations of the Atlantic Yards redevelopment project in Brooklyn. The green circles represent sources, like The New York Times, mapped based on their headquarters, the black dots represent individual articles/videos/etc and the purple stars represent interviews I've conducted and edited. The map covers two events so far, about which I've written short essays to guide you through the map. Essay 1: Ratner's Announcement. Essay 2: Freddy's Bar.


Related content...

Urban Media Archaeology, Evaluating My Atlantic Yards Media Actors Map

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Battle for Brooklyn | Dec 27-29 at 8pm


Catch Battle for Brooklyn at Williamsburg's indieScreen next week.

Dirs. Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley.
93min | Doc | US | 2010.
Brooklyn Film Festival’s Grand Chameleon Award 2011.

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.

link / tickets

Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

December 19, 2011

Update #8: The role of the dissident

Battle Campaign via Kickstarter

Today I saw that Marty Markowitz once again used the leverage of his office to make the case that the Atlantic Yards project would be almost built if it wasn't for the complaining gentrifiers.

Using the power of office to demonize those who raise important questions leads us to a quote from a more powerful politician and profound thinker. Vaclav Havel died yesterday. On the nature of opposition to power he had this to say:

"You do not become a dissident just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society." —Vaclav Havel

Some dissidents get beaten down. Others overthrow corrupt regimes and become President.


Posted by eric at 11:15 PM

Times, in front-page story, critiques gerrymandering in New York's EB-5 projects, gets defensive response from feds; unmentioned are other rules being stretched

Atlantic Yards Report

In a front-page article today headlined Rules Stretched as Green Cards Go to Investors, the New York Times jumps on one aspect of the EB-5 story, the gerrymandering to ensure that immigrant investor projects qualify as located in high-unemployment areas.

The Times cites the International Gem Tower in the diamond district, the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan, and yes, Atlantic Yards (as I wrote 12/9/11), as taking advantage of gerrymandering. The Battery Maritime Building's Targeted Employment Area, the Times reveals, even "jumps across the East River to annex the Farragut Houses project in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn."

Unmentioned: other rules being stretched regarding EB-5, such as the lack of actual job creation (defined via murky, non-public reports by hired economists), or the credit given to immigration investors for investments made by others, including taxpayers.

Also unmentioned is the enormous, sometimes deceptive hype behind project promotion, as well as the participation by city and state officials in such promotion--and the finder's fee to the New York City Economic Development Corporation in brokering EB-5 deals.

In other words, the problem goes much deeper than gerrymandering.

Diminishing AYR impact

Describing me as a "local blogger," while not inaccurate, also is imprecise, and diminishes my experience as a journalist. It makes it harder to believe that I might have written more than 100 articles investigating the EB-5 issue.

Moreover, the paragraph leaves the impression that the gerrymandered map was publicly known, and that I merely named it. Rather, the issue was first reported on this blog, based on documents gathered via a Freedom of Information Act request.


Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Rules Stretched as Green Cards Go to Investors

The New York Times
by Patrick McGeehan and Kirk Semple

Look who just caught on! In typical half-assed fashion, The Times barely scratches the surface of the EB-5 green cards-for-cash scam, a story on which they would have whiffed completely if not for Norman Oder's dogged reporting.

Affluent foreigners are rushing to take advantage of a federal immigration program that offers them the chance to obtain a green card in return for investing in construction projects in the United States. With credit tight, the program has unexpectedly turned into a mainstay for the financing of these projects in New York, California, Texas and other states.

The number of foreign applicants, each of whom must invest at least $500,000 in a project, has nearly quadrupled in the last two years, to more than 3,800 in the 2011 fiscal year, officials said. Demand has grown so fast that the Obama administration, which is championing the program, is seeking to streamline the application process.

Still, some critics of the program have described it as an improper use of the immigration system to spur economic development — a cash-for-visas scheme. And an examination of the program by The New York Times suggests that in New York, developers and state officials are stretching the rules to qualify projects for this foreign financing.

"Examination?" That's a bit much.

These developers are often relying on gerrymandering techniques to create development zones that are supposedly in areas of high unemployment — and thus eligible for special concessions — but actually are in prosperous ones, according to federal and state records.

The giant Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which abuts well-heeled brownstone neighborhoods, has also qualified for the special concessions using a gerrymandered high-unemployment district: the crescent-shaped zone swings more than two miles to the northeast to include poor sections of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. A local blogger and critic of Atlantic Yards, Norman Oder, has referred to the map as “the Bed-Stuy Boomerang.”


Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

Marty Markowitz Spreads Holiday Cheer With Bogus Blame and Divisiveness

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

If the folks who supported Atlantic Yards, such as its biggest (as in loudest) cheerleader Marty Markowitz, hadn't attempted to construct the largest single-developer project in NYC history by overriding local zoning, bypassing the votes of all city and state elected officials, utilizing eminent domain for private gain, giving away public assets through sweetheart deals, providing special deals and subsidies totaling somewhere near $2 billion, and breaking housing and jobs promises left and right all while ignoring community input without ever sincerely seeking it, perhaps Atlantic Yards would not be the most reviled development plan in all of New York.

And now, despite all of that plus the growing realization among the non-partisans that the project and its one accomplishment—a money-losing arena—is a clustermess in the heart of Brooklyn, the Borough President is sticking to the absurd line that it is the community advocates' fault the project is a failure. Taking it yet one step further Markowitz astonishingly claims that the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov's benefit was somehow a good thing.

Why do we bring all of this up? Well just look at what holiday cheer Markowitz is spreading.


Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

December 16, 2011

Barclays Center traffic changes screwed Boerum Hill, residents say

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

The city’s efforts to tinker with the traffic flow around the Barclays Center to reduce congestion near the under-construction arena have not only failed, area residents say — they’ve actually made things worse on Third Avenue in Boerum Hill.

The city started tinkering with the traffic lights on Third Avenue between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in August, when traffic on the stretch increased after changes were made to traffic flow to accommodate the coming Prospect Heights arena.

Residents said that the adjustments — including shunting Flatbush Avenue-bound Fourth Avenue traffic to Pacific Street or Third Avenue — has resulted in massive backups not only on Pacific Street, but all the way to State and Schermerhorn streets.

“In order to cross, you really have to weave in and out of traffic,” said Martha Kamber, the executive director of the YWCA on Third Avenue. “There’s also a lot of honking and cars regularly run red lights. It’s very messy.”

Messy, and perhaps unsolvable.

There may simply be nothing that the city can do, given the amout of traffic that is trying to get into and around Downtown.


Related coverage...

Carroll Gardens Patch, Efforts to Reduce Congestion Around Barclays Center Are Not Working, Residents Say

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

The Culturati Caucus

New York Magazine

Brooklyn Academy of Music Associate Producer Darrell McNeill (at least until Bruce C. Ratner gets his daily glimpse of NoLandGrab) strays from the party line in New York Magazine's 2011 culture round-up.

Over the past month, we quizzed 97 New York culture mavens (and some visiting luminaries) on the best movies, tweets, and other artistic artifacts they’ve encountered this year. The tallies were anything but scientific, but they nonetheless surfaced a few conspicuous crowd-pleasers—plus, as expected, quite a number of ardent endorsements of everything from Ellen Barkin’s Twitter profanity to DIY architecture at Zuccotti Park.

Battle for Brooklyn —Darrell M. McNeill


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM


The BK Buzz

We at The BK Buzz attended a screening of the new documentary Battle for Brooklyn last night at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture in Park Slope as part of the Rooftop Films series, “Films for the Occupation.”

The film is an intimate and rigorous investigation into the seven-year long fight between a neighborhood and one of the largest real estate developers in the country, Forest City Ratner. And with all the buzz it’s generating, it’s no surprise that the film has been shortlisted in the Documentary Feature category for the 2012 Academy Awards. So check out the trailer below and if you like what you see, the people behind the film have set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise money in order to distribute the film to a larger audience.


NoLandGrab: That Kickstarter effort is nearly half way to its goal — click here to help them go all the way.

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

December 15, 2011

EB-5 News Blog: continued uneasiness in China about marketing of EB-5 projects to immigrant investors

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently there's continued uneasiness in China about marketing of immigrant investor projects, as detailed in the EB-5 News Blog, compiled by Brian Su, head of the EB-5 China Market Council and an EB-5 consultant in Illinois.

On 1/9/11, I pointed to five reports in Su's blog about Chinese officials cracking down on abuses or expressing concern. More recently, Su's EB-5 News blog reported 12/12/11, Report from China: Beijing Exit & Entry Service Association Issues Warning on EB-5 Program:

Beijing Exit & Entry Service Association recently issued a risk warning notice to local Chinese emigration agents and potential investors on EB-5 regional center program. The year of 2011 has been a very busy one for many Chinese emigration brokers that promote EB-5 projects to Chinese investors; various EB-5 projects have been marketed to Chinese investors, and the EB-5 regional center activities in China have been alarming to Chinese emigration trade associations around the country.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, A view of EB-5 regional centers from the inside: marketing key to success, as is endorsement by local government, even though it's a private project

A 4/5/10 report by the Portland (OR) Development Corporation on the possibility of setting up a regional center to market EB-5 investments contains some interesting insights, based on calls to current regional center providers.

The report notes that marketing overseas is crucial, which means local government is rarely the applicant, because it lacks such marketing resources. A minimum of $600,000 is needed to set up, apply, and administer a regional center.

However, endorsement (or the appearance thereof) by local government is critical (as suggested in my coverage of the Atlantic Yards EB-5 venture in China) because it indicates political support, provides the appearance of financial stability, and plays well with investors from China, the largest source of EB-5 funds.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Valery Jean, Executive Director of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, on FUREE's 10th Anniversary Party

Runnin' Scared
by Steven Thrasher

Today we're talking to Valery Jean, Executive Director of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE). FUREE (whom we've interacted with several times this year, including during our coverage of Mary Lee Ward's foreclosure) is celebrating 10 years of stirring up trouble in Brooklyn on behalf of poor and working class New Yorkers trying to hold on.

So that enormous Ratner development is going up and will open next year. How big a loss do you think Atlantic Yards is, from your point of view

How big a loss is it to the community? We know we can't stop development, but it can happen in a way that's responsible and fair, and in which it gets input from the community. The loss here was that there were major opportunities for the city and the state for what could have been a positive impact on the community.

[Atlantic Yards] wasn't developed on a human basis, but for the needs of the developers. The loss - and what we're learning is that things can be learned from every situation - is that if there were sound and effective community benefit laws, it wouldn't have led to the loss of jobs and homes which can totally devastate families on many levels, including the diversity of what those families look like.

For me personally, I grew up on Vanderbilt, near Atlantic Yards. When I go back, it's nothing like I remember it at all. We're hoping there are still opportunities out of it, but it's also a wake up call for our community.


Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

The 13 Best Political Films of 2011

Looking back at the movies that moved us most.

by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd 2011, we felt the tremors, and a clutch of political films and documentaries both presaged and inspired the increasing awareness and resolve we’ve seen smattering across the globe. You’ll see some of these in the Oscar nomination lineup, but all of them are must-see.

13. Battle for Brooklyn (dir. Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley) Oscar shortlisted

For over six years, residents of downtown Brooklyn battled Bruce Ratner, one of the largest real estate developers in New York, for the heart of the neighborhood. After the state and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, invoking eminent domain, rezoned and seized the area known as Atlantic Yards, Ratner began developing his vision: a huge sports arena for the Brooklyn Nets, several skyscrapers (including mixed-income housing, the “mixed-income” part of which was eventually scrapped), and area for mass retail which some fretted would attract national chains and dilute the community reliance that’s been a part of downtown Brooklyn for decades. But most devastatingly, the land on which the new development was proposed already held apartment buildings and other living units. Set to be razed, its occupants and neighbors, some of whom had lived in the buildings for decades, embarked on a battle for their lives and principles. This compelling documentary chronicles the fight. (Upcoming screenings all across America, available on DVD soon.)


NoLandGrab: Note that Ratner has not "scrapped" plans for "mixed-income" housing. However, when and if any housing gets built is anybody's guess.

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

Curbed Cup 1st Round: (3) Atlantic Yards vs. (14) East Harlem

Curbed NY
by Sara Polsky

C'mon, NLG readers! You're not going to let the new "neighborhood" of Atlantic Yards advance to the quarterfinals, are you? Vote now.

The Curbed Cup, our annual award to the New York City neighborhood of the year, is kicking off with 16 'hoods vying for the prestigious fake trophy. This week we'll have two matchups per day, and all the results and the full tourney bracket will be reviewed on Friday. Voting for each pairing ends in the wee hours the next morning. Let the eliminations commence!

The drama has mostly quieted (except for the cinematic kind), but it's still been a big year at Atlantic Yards—so big that we're giving it its own neighborhood category. The roof is on the way up at the Barclays Center. And Forest City Ratner announced that the first residential tower at Atlantic Yards will be modular construction, to break ground in early 2012.

Which should advance: Atlantic Yards vs. East Harlem


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

December 14, 2011

The dramatic juxtapositions of Brooklyn prosperity and poverty, and looking again at the TEAs

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, I described how state officials agreed to gerrymander maps of Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) to ensure that the Atlantic Yards Project, as well as a project at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, were located in high unemployment zones for the purposes of attracting immigrant investors under the EB-5 program.

Such gerrymandering was possible only because New York, and especially Brooklyn, contains dramatic juxtapositions of prosperity and poverty, juxtapositions highlighted by decades of recent gentrification, which has had little impact on entrenched poverty in housing projects.

Indeed, a map (below) from WNYC via The Local points out such juxtapositions.

According to The Local:

With a average income of $9,001, the second-poorest census tract in the city is in Fort Greene, WNYC reported. The Ingersoll and Walt Whitman Houses are inside that tract, the darkest red area on the displayed map.

...Two tracts over from Ingersoll and Whitman, No. 183 has an average income of $83,105.


Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

December 13, 2011

At community meeting on Atlantic Yards transportation issues, call for "buy-in" on Forest City Ratner's (delayed) plan, frustration that so little is in place, new study of baseline issues announced

Atlantic Yards Report

Funny that Forest City can put double- or triple-shifts on for construction (keeping nearby residents up all night), but the same urgency is absent when it comes to completing a transportation plan that might be those residents' only chance of avoiding an arena-generated traffic nightmare.

A long-awaited meeting last night on community input regarding Atlantic Yards transportation issues--a prelude to a Transportation Working Group (TWG)--generated significant community frustration that so little was in place less than ten months before the Barclays Center arena begins operations.

“This project, and its arena, opens in ten months,” declared Gib Veconi, an activist in the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and BrooklynSpeaks. “We just heard we haven't figured out where the satellite parking lots would be. By the same token, we don't know what happened with the sidewalk plan that shows narrower sidewalks, fewer travel lanes... We don't know what the parking plan for Block 1129 is, which is in the middle of a residential neighborhood..”

He further asked how Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEAs) would be deployed, and how the three police precincts that touch on the site would divide their work.

“Early next year,” responded Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of the project. About 30 people attended the meeting at Brooklyn's Borough Hall.

But Hankin faced considerable criticism that too little had been revealed, and that a crucial Transportation Demand Plan (involving incentives to reduce use of cars, free MetroCards, cross-marketing with local businesses, remote parking, and more) would be made available “in the first quarter,” rather than, as promised earlier this year, by the end of 2011.

Community approval?

Indeed, Veconi galvanized the audience by proposing that the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan--which, unlike the forthcoming arena security and operations plans, requires approval by ESD and the city Department of Transportation (DOT)--be subject to community buy-in.

Many in the audience clapped, and Veconi suggested that the vote could be by those present, or by nominees of elected officials representing the neighborhoods around the project site.

“We can think about it,” Hankin said with a smile, in response to Veconi’s initial proposal.


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Civic Groups Ask DOT, State for Veto on Atlantic Yards Traffic Plan

Atlantic Yards-area civic leaders asked state and city agencies to give them veto power over Forest City Ratner’s plan to help reduce the traffic onslaught when Barclays Arena opens next fall.

The request came after area community groups were invited by the Brooklyn Borough President’s office to participate in an Atlantic Yards “transportation working group.”

Posted by eric at 1:33 PM

Mayor assigns Director of Special Projects to address Atlantic Yards quality-of-life issues (she's already doing that regarding the Second Avenue Subway construction zone)

Atlantic Yards Report

Though Atlantic Yards is a state project, not a city one, the Mayor's Office is apparently stepping up and assigning a top staffer to ensure a better response to quality-of-life complaints and to ensure interagency cooperation.

(Have they been reading Atlantic Yards Watch and/or tracking 311 calls?)

Council Member Letitia James, at a meeting at Borough Hall last night on AY-related transportation issues, announced that she had recently met with a a representative from the Mayor's Office, "who is now an ombudsman for Atlantic Yards."

I think James was using the term loosely, but the staffer she named, Lolita Jackson, indeed has Atlantic Yards in her portfolio. Jackson, until June 2011, was Mayor Mike Bloomberg's chief liaison for all Manhattan related community issues.


Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

Exclusive Hawaii Premiere: Battle for Brooklyn, Academy Award Contending Documentary About Eminent Domain

Inverse Condemnation

Aloha to our loyal Hawaiian readers — Battle for Brooklyn is coming your way.

A reminder: on January 3 and 4, 2012, at 1:00 and 7:30 p.m. each day, the Honolulu Academy of Arts Doris Duke Theater is presenting the Hawaii premiere of Battle For Brooklyn, the Academy Award-contending documentary about the Atlantic Yards eminent domain fight. We are lucky enough to have the exclusive Hawaii showing of this important, informative, and entertaining film. More information (and ticket purchase) from the Academy of Arts web site here.


Posted by eric at 1:03 PM

December 12, 2011

A modest proposal to Gov. Cuomo: why New York State should hire that AY Watch camera guy to fill the Atlantic Yards community outreach position

Atlantic Yards Report

When he's not busy decimating transit funding or cutting opaque budget deals in Albany's back rooms, Governor Cuomo is busy ignoring Atlantic Yards. Norman Oder thinks he should hire a local who does pay attention.

To: Governor Andrew Cuomo

From: Norman Oder/Atlantic Yards Report

Since I know you take a special and granular interest in state personnel issues, I wish to alert you to one prominent un-filled position, that of Atlantic Yards--Manager, Community & Government Relations. It was announced as an "immediate opening" way back on June 21.

We in Brooklyn wonder why no one's been hired, given the daily violations--or seeming violations--of construction rules at the Atlantic Yards site and the regular complaints by residents.

Could it be that developer Forest City Ratner, whose CEO has been not ungenerous to you, has a veto? Is Forest City's trying to save on paying the salary for that position? Or does understaffing represent a convenient excuse for paltry oversight, as documented on Atlantic Yards Watch?

Clearly, there's a crying need to have someone to respond and even allow the state, as Project Director Arana Hankin might say, to be proactive. (You might lose that nagging "Status Cuomo" nickname, too.)

After all, Atlantic Yards Watch daily documents incidents involving noise, improper truck procedures, double parking, and more.

It is, you might admit, a salutary example of citizen input. It's also pretty damning. The photos and video don't lie. You're lucky most in the press suffer from Atlantic Yards "issue fatigue."

Still, when asked, Ms. Hankin is left to offer belated explanations for such things as why railyard lights were on all night.

If you look closely at Atlantic Yards Watch, you'll see that the single most prolific contributor goes by the handle 700PacificW.


Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

December 10, 2011

Battle of Brooklyn roundup: Blogger questions Nets plan for cheap financing for new arena

Daily News
BY Michael O'Keeffe

Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder may be the only journalist digging deep into the Nets' attempts to raise cheap financing for Bruce Ratner's massive arena-and-skyscrapers project by offering green cards to Chinese investors. His latest post explains how state officials gerrymandered the project's map to include sections of Bed-Stuy to convince federal officials that Atlantic Yards is in a high-poverty, high-unemployment area. If the feds buy the state's argument, investors could get much-coveted green cards for themselves and their families by investing $500,000 in the project, not the $1 million required for a project in a more affluent area.

"Is this kosher?" Oder asks. "Well, it seems to violate the spirit of federal immigration law - especially since the targeted census tracts are not being helped much by the project - but likely not the letter."

Also, congratulations to Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky, the Brooklyn filmmakers whose critically acclaimed "Battle for Brooklyn" has made the Academy Awards short list for best documentary. The filmmakers have initiated a Kickstarter campaign to raise $9,000 to promote the film.

The directors will answer questions when "Battle for Brooklyn" is shown at the Stranger Than Fiction Series at the IFC Center in the Village on Tuesday. Daniel Goldstein, the protagonist of "Battle for Brooklyn" will appear with Hawley and Galinsky at the Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society when they show the film as part of the Brooklyn Rooftop Films Presents series.


Posted by steve at 3:49 PM

December 9, 2011

The Bed-Stuy Boomerang: how state officials gerrymandered a map to help Forest City Ratner recruit immigrant investors and save big (and how the EB-5 program is riddled with such practices)

Atlantic Yards Report

Just when you think the Atlantic Yards green-cards-for-cash scheme couldn't get any more crooked, Norman Oder unearths a crooked map.

Public officials have done much to help developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) recruit Chinese investors to provide a $249 million low-interest loan in exchange for green cards--and now there's new evidence.

We knew that officials from New York City, New York State, and Brooklyn wrote letters to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency overseeing the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program, to get Atlantic Yards approved as an investment vehicle.

And we knew that Empire State Development Corporation official Peter Davidson joined a road show in China to hype the project before potential investors, misleadingly claiming that Atlantic Yards "will be the largest job-creating project in New York City in the last 20 years."

Now, evidence suggests that two New York State agencies helped gerrymander a map of Brooklyn unemployment--beginning at the Atlantic Yards site (in blue) in Prospect Heights, omitting more affluent census tracts nearby, and extending east to encompass poorer tracts in Bedford-Stuyvesant. (I'm dubbing the map "The Bed-Stuy Boomerang.")

The map ensured that the promoters of the EB-5 project could tell the needed 498 immigrant investors that the project was located in a Targeted Employment Area, featuring high unemployment. That meant investors had to put up only $500,000, rather than $1 million.

By getting this EB-5 project off the ground, the state helped FCR save more than $140 million, by my estimate, on a $249 million loan.

And it could help the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), a private investment pool federally authorized to attract purportedly job-creating investments, reap some $50 million.


NoLandGrab: Hello, New York Times, HELLO! While you're devoting an entire Sunday magazine to Hollywood, you're missing out on rampant fraud and abuse being perpetrated on behalf of your "business partner."

Related coverage...

Field of Schemes, New York gerrymandered arena district to aid Nets' green-card-for-arena-funds deal

For those unfamiliar with the nuances of Brooklyn geography, the left end of what Oder calls "the Bed-Stuy Boomerang" is mostly old warehouses along the Long Island Rail Road tracks. The right end, meanwhile, loops up into Bedford-Stuyvesant — and not its rapidly gentrifying western edge, but the still-impoverished middle. Neatly omitted, meanwhile, are the largely affluent brownstone blocks of Fort Greene to the project's north, Park Slope to the southwest, and Prospect Heights to the south.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Senators show enthusiasm for EB-5 regional center program; questions raised about level of investment, length of term; a skeptic vs. Sen. Leahy

Atlantic Yards Report

The EB-5 program of investment immigration--at least via its most popular incarnation, the regional center program--has been booming, with the number of regional centers, privately owned (mostly) investment pools set up to recruit immigrants seeking green cards, growing from some 35 to 200 in three years.

However, the regional center program is a pilot program, extended five times for 19 years, and set to expire at the end of September 2012. So Congress has begun considering making the program permanent, and the Senate Judiciary Committee 12/7/11 held a hearing on a bill (Creating American Jobs Through Foreign Capital Investment Act) sponsored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to do just that.

The only cosponsor so far is Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), but, as at previous Congressional hearings, most legislators seemed positive about a program Leahy called “as much of a win-win program as one could think of.”

Two of the three witnesses program boosters, and the few Senators skeptical seemed more exercised by the rare intersection between EB-5 and illegal immigration than questions of fraud and enforcement.

Still, one Senator put it plainly, that the program is selling green cards.

And the program’s one prominent critic, David North of the (right-wing) Center for Immigration Studies got his due, suggesting that the U.S. scrap the regional center program, that it delivers results that have been poorly documented, and that Senators should not be seduced by positive anecdotes. At the least, he said, the minimum investment--which hasn’t been raised since 1993--should be increased.

Some skepticism

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) offered some skepticism, suggesting that “we need to enact reforms to make the EB-5 regional center program worthy of its goals.”

“At the end of the day, one fact remains,” Grassley declared. “The program is simply a way for wealthy investors to buy a green card, not only for themselves but for their families. No skills or management experience is needed. One only needs to write a check... While taking a financial risk... is admirable, evidence suggests that it’s not doing enough to spur job creation.”

But he didn’t drill down very far.

As usual, however, Norman Oder drills down much farther. Click through for more.


Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Schumer endorses EB-5 bill making regional centers permanent, cites projects in New York (City Point?!), avoids Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, didn’t attend a hearing 12/7/11 on making permanent a provision that allows regional centers--federally authorized private (mostly) investment pools--recruit immigrant investors under the EB-5 program.

But Schumer is the first co-sponsor on a bill by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to renew the program, and he did offer an enthusiastic statement for the record, applauding “a program that has done so much good in New York State, and which needs to be made permanent.”

“In New York State, we have 9 USCIS-approved regional center projects that are doing a world of good to create good-paying American jobs,” Schumer said, glossing over the fact that, at least with the Atlantic Yards investment, the job-creation calculation is extremely dubious.

The list, including City Point

Schumer proceeded to list five projects, conspicuously omitting the largest, Atlantic Yards, but mentioning--news to me--that the City Point project in Downtown Brooklyn by Acadia Realty Trust has raised $200 million in EB-5 funding.

(Graphic from NYCRC Chinese web site promoting the project.)


Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

So why were the railyard lights on all night? Because railyard contractors got permission. Why weren't residents given an alert? The state dropped the ball.

Atlantic Yards Report

The state seems to drop the ball a lot when it comes to Atlantic Yards construction oversight.

As documented on Atlantic Yards Watch, high-intensity sodium flood lights were on through the night on Tuesday night, until about 3:25 am, even though the latest Construction Alert said they were supposed to go off at 11 pm. (Before this week, they were supposed to go off at 7 pm.)

What happened? Atlantic Yards Watch observed:

As SOP the ESDC/FCR continues to allow changes to construction work restrictions THEN informs community after the change occurs thus aggravating residents even more by failing to enforce what they publish to whitewash what is actually happening.

And that is exactly what happened.

I checked with Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for Empire State Development, who responded:

The EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] projected overnight and extended hours of work on the Atlantic Yards sites. The contractors had the appropriate permit to conduct work in the yard overnight. A supplemental construction alert should have been sent out to notify area residents. We will be certain to do so the next time last minute overnight work needs to occur.

Another lingering question, as noted on Atlantic Yards Watch:

Why is the entire rail yard illuminated when they are only working @ the far north east corner of the rail yard?


Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

'Battle for Brooklyn': The American Way

by Cynthia Fuchs

Early on, Goldstein puts his finger on one part of the problem, as he begins to call Ratner’s invasion and use of power “un-American,” then backtracks and says, “You know what, it is American. It’s the American way.” Other parts emerge as Ratner makes deals with the city (in particular securing the right to build on the MTA rail yards) and, the film reveals, a seemingly grassroots organization, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (B.U.I.L.D.), is paid $5 million by Ratner. And yet another factor is indicated (if not exposed outright) when a series of “community meetings” either prohibit community members’ entrance or are scheduled so that community members do not cross paths with Ratner representatives, and several legal appeals look briefly auspicious and then fail.

Gehry claims that the project is an “opportunity to build an arena in a very urban setting, which is unique—most of them are built out in the fields, where there’s lots of parking around them. This has a different character, and we’re trying to understand it and work with that.” The film shows, however, that no one on the corporate or government side of this “opportunity” engages with this “different character.” The battle, which is waged on both sides for years, ends badly for the resistant residents. Still, Goldstein says, “If I had it to do all over again, I’d do the same thing.” As the film closes over time-lapsed imagery of the construction underway, you’re too aware that other residents, in other places, will have this opportunity.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

December 8, 2011

Battle Campaign

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

The Battle for Brooklyn filmmakers have launched a new Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the film's Academy Awards push. Click here to chip in (it's tax-deductible, too!).

We have worked on Battle for Brooklyn for 8 years, during which we have seen the film slowly build support and gain momentum among a wide and diverse audience. Raising $25k on Kickstarter - after striking out on two dozen grant applications - was a big UP. Finishing the film and premiering at Hot Docs was a huge UP. Launching it in theaters in NYC and LA has led to critical acclaim. Self-distributing the film this way got us qualified for the Academy Awards. We also had an amazing time at the Brooklyn Film Festival, where the film won the Grand Chameleon Award.

Now that awards season is in full swing, Battle is in the running for some of the big ones. However, there are a lot of expenses involved with getting a film qualified for these awards. We need to make an expensive Digital Cinema Package ($6,000 for that alone!), advertise, travel, and hire publicists. At a bare minimum, we need to raise 9K. 100% of the money raised will go towards our efforts to bring the film to as wide an audience as possible.


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

If Bruce Ratner says "it's taken us a while to get there on the architecture," why do prefab plans look like Atlantic Lots?

Atlantic Yards Report

From the New York Observer's 12/7/11 article The Mod Squad: Will Bruce Ratner Transform the Way New York Builds, or Is Prefab Another Project Too Far?:

“It’s taken us a while to get there on the architecture,” Mr. Ratner told The Observer last month on the day he unveiled his new plans for a modular approach at Atlantic Yards. “We did a lot of work to make sure it was something appropriate, in fitting in with the arena and a good reflection on Brooklyn, the city and our country.”

Oh, really?

The Atlantic Yards resemblance, and disavowal