September 2, 2012

An AY-inflected exhibition from painter Peter Krashes: "Make it Work in Brooklyn!"

Atlantic Yards Report

Peter Krashes, a leader of the Dean Street Block Association and major contributor to Atlantic Yards Watch, is an artist, and his AY-inflected exhibition, Make it Work in Brooklyn!, will be mounted at the Theodore:Art gallery in Bushwick from Sept. 8 through Oct. 14.

(Note the image reflects and refracts a May 2008 "Time Out" rally. The title of the exhibition has an echo of the slogan from the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, "Atlantic Yards must work for Brooklyn," a goal that some Atlantic Yards activists, notably those associated with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, did not believe or embrace. However, Krashes says. "I am trying to reach beyond the specifics of all the debates related to Atlantic Yards. The title is a demand that the public's interest be honestly assessed and empowered.")


Posted by steve at 3:31 PM

May 20, 2012

Park Slope in the 1970s: abandoned buildings, empty lots, and tough-looking kids who could be dissuaded with a bat

Atlantic Yards Report

On the day of the annual Park Slope House Tour, here's a reflection on Park Slope in the 1970s, written for Dominion of New York in reaction to the Trayvon Martin case. Prof. Mark Naison's main aim was to suggest the right way to deal with "suspicious" people:

During the late ’70s, when I moved to Brooklyn, the Park Slope neighborhood I settled in was a tough place very different from the gentrified community it is now. There was a long row of abandoned buildings along 7th Avenue south of 9th Street, there were abandoned buildings on Garfield Place between 7th and 6th Avenue, and 2nd Street between 4th and 5th Avenue looked like a block in East New York or the South Bronx, with only three apartment buildings left standing amidst vacant rubble filled lots. There were tough working class kids all over, mostly white, but some black and Latino too. And muggings, break ins and car thefts were common. The street that I moved to was 6th Street between 8th and the Park. It had a mixture of old residents, artists and hip professionals. It also had a block association and I was soon recruited to help organize a security committee to protect block residents –especially senior citizens, who were especially vulnerable.

For this purpose, I kept a large metal bat near my door. When a group of tough looking kids whom I didn’t recognize came on the block, I would come out of the house with my bat... In all of those confrontations, never once did I have to use my weapon. There were a couple of times that I had to bang my bat on the sidewalk to remind them that I was serious, and potentially dangerous, but my most effective weapon was ironically, the respect with which I addressed them. (More)

It's hard to argue with Naison's lived experience, and his comment that George Zimmerman overreacted when confronting Martin and shooting him.

Putting aside the race issue, which surely compounds the level of paranoia Naison ascribed to Zimmerman, I suspect that another difference is that, back then people really did often settle disputes with fists, and young people were more amenable to Naison's offer to get to know them and perhaps coach them.

That's not to say that sports and other activities for teens aren't necessary these days, just that the best time to recruit them is before they go out looking for trouble.

But the most important difference, I suspect, is that more "neighborhood watch" people are armed, especially in states like Florida with their dubious "Stand Your Ground" laws. So a bat may be less of a weapon.


Posted by steve at 11:02 AM

March 26, 2012

This Is What Kleptocracy Looks Like

No Land Grab via Flickr
This picture of the Nets arena was taken during this past Sunday's "Occupy Town Square" held in Fort Greene.

Posted by steve at 12:01 AM

January 28, 2012

BrooklynSpeaks criticizes delay in Transportation Demand Management Plan, limited scope, failure to address parking measures

Atlantic Yards Report

A press release from BrooklynSpeaks, issued yesterday, addresses the January 26 meeting in which officials revealed that the Transportation Demand Management Plan would be delayed at least five months.

Let's see if any other press outlets (beyond this blog, and Patch) cover the news, in which BrooklynSpeaks advances the story with some specific criticisms of measures (apparently) not taken in the emerging plan.

The statement:

BrooklynSpeaks sponsors reacted to a presentation yesterday of Forest City Ratner’s planned “transportation demand management” measures meant to reduce the volume of cars traveling to events at the Barclays Center arena, scheduled to open in September 2012. The presentation was given at Brooklyn Borough Hall by representatives of Sam Schwartz Engineering, traffic consultants to the Atlantic Yards project, to a group of elected officials, city agency employees, and community leaders.


The outline of the “transportation demand management” plan (or TDM) was first disclosed in Atlantic Yards’ Final Environmental Impact Statement, published in the fall of 2006, and reiterated in project documents executed in December 2009. Among the measures mentioned in the 2009 documents are remote parking facilities near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with shuttle bus service to the arena; an HOV requirement for use of 600 of the 1,100 planned parking spaces at the on-site parking lot; free charter bus service from park-and-ride lots in Staten Island; and free roundtrip subway fare to Nets ticketholders.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) stated in June 2011 that the TDM would be released in December 2011. At a meeting with community leaders in December, ESDC stated that a draft TDM would be released in February. Yesterday, FCR stated it expected to release a draft TDM in May, four months before the arena opening. No new details of the TDM were presented.

Although Barclays Center is expected to host more than 220 events per year, most provisions of the TDM disclosed to date represent incentives for patrons to use mass transit instead of cars to travel to the arena, and may apply only to the 41 anticipated Nets basketball games. For other events, Forest City need only “encourage” event promoters to use the measures.

Kate Slevin, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said, “The limited measures offered by Forest City won’t do the trick.” She added, “Studies have shown the most effective tactics to reduce traffic involve disincentives like reducing availability of parking and increasing its cost. But these are nowhere in the plan.”

The stated goal of the TDM is to reduce the number of vehicles traveling to a Nets game by 30% of the 2,400 initially projected. However, the zone for which the effectiveness of the plan will be measured extends only one-half mile around the arena—meaning that the final TDM may have limited impact in reducing traffic on highways and arterial roads leading to the arena.

The unrealistically short radius of the TDM’s focus is a recipe for congested residential streets in nearby neighborhoods,” said Michael Cairl, president of the Park Slope Civic Council. “Simply shifting the problem a few blocks away from the arena isn’t a solution, when traffic volume upstream from the arena, and congestion in the area, are already high.”

Other cities have implemented residential parking permit (RPP) zones around sports facilities, have extended parking meter hours to prevent patrons from taking on-street spaces just as metered parking ends, and have fined venue operators when utilization goals for remote parking are not met. Atlantic Yards’ TDM thus far contains none of these measures. Agreements between Forest City Ratner and the ESDC require only one review of the effectiveness of the TDM, midway through the first basketball season. No further oversight of the program by the State or City has been agreed.

“In the five years since Atlantic Yards was approved, the developer and the State have figured out how to change the project’s architecture, rework its construction schedule, delay delivery of its affordable housing and jobs, and reduce its labor expense,” said Danae Oratowski, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “But they don’t appear to have given any further thought to how to lessen the impact of Atlantic Yards’ traffic on central Brooklyn. The City and the State have to deliver the comprehensive plan Brooklyn needs before it’s really too late.”

Posted by steve at 5:15 PM

December 25, 2011

In My Korean Deli, a few glancing mentions of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

In the memoir My Korean Deli: Risking It All For a Convenience Store, published this past March, Ben Ryder Howe describes how, not long after 9/11, he and his Korean-American wife decided to buy and run a bodega in Boerum Hill as partial repayment for the sacrifices her parents made.

It's an entertaining and charming book, especially as Howe juxtaposes descriptions of bodega travails (including working with his indomitable mother-in-law) with the culture of the Paris Review, the venerably eccentric literary magazine, run by the iconic (yet fading) George Plimpton, where he also worked.

The reviews were mostly positive, and I agree, though I usually find "remembered" dialogue in memoirs just a little too pat.

The AY mention

But I want to point to the inevitable Atlantic Yards mention:

Brooklyn is changing. Just down the street... developers from Cleveland have signed an agreement with the government to build one of the largest properties to come to New York in a generation. Skyscrapers, a hotel, a sports stadium and, amid it all, many different "cultural spaces"--this new development, called Atlantic Yards, is going to be so big that its impact will be felt for miles in every direction. Traffic will have to be rerouted, buildings demolished, their tenants relocated. Purely in terms of size and ambition, it seems like the antithesis of the people's borough. It seems more like... Manhattan.

Maybe, though, Atlantic Yards will turn out to be a good thing for us, by raising the value of our lease. maybe it will provide the sort of foot traffic, tourism and round-the-clock sales that shopkeepers dream about. maybe we'll get that Manhattan-style store we once thought of going for after all. But we won't have to wait the five or six years that the construction will likely take to find out, for even closer to where Atlantic Yards will be, the landscape is already erupting in a most un-Brooklyn way, sprouting sunlight-hogging apartment complexes with cubicle-sized dwellings rapped in unfriendly mirrored glass.

You have to try not to be sentimental about it. It makes as little sense to argue against progress and change when it comes to cities as it does with literary magazines...

It does, and it doesn't. The question is how it's done. But Howe's observation is probably not uncommon from many who gave relatively little thought to the issue.


Posted by steve at 7:12 AM

December 3, 2011

A Krashes op-ed in the Courier-Life: unanswered questions about modular plan, need for state oversight (and Forest City declined space to respond)

Atlantic Yards Report

The op-ed page of the Courier-Life chain (available only through the PDF of this week's issue) was supposed to include two perspectives on Forest City Ratner's new plan for pre-fabricated modular housing.

However, Forest City Ratner declined to respond--presumably a managed press rollout two weeks ago sufficed for its purposes--so the single piece is a critique by Peter Krashes, active in the Dean Street Block Association, BrooklynSpeaks, and Atlantic Yards Watch, headlined, "When it came to Atlantic Yards, we, the critics, were right all along."

His points: Forest City Ratner won't deliver what it long promised, there are many questions unresolved, and there's no effective oversight.


Posted by steve at 5:35 PM

October 23, 2011

At Bertha Lewis's new organization, The Black Institute, some Atlantic Yards (and ACORN) connections

Atlantic Yards Report

Former ACORN Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis, who headed the New York branch of ACORN and later national ACORN, has focused her activism not on ACORN's local successor, New York Communities for Change, but instead founded and heads The Black Institute, a new think tank that aims "to shape intellectual discourse and dialogue and impact public policy uniquely from a Black perspective (a perspective which includes all people of color in the United States and throughout the Diaspora)."

Lewis is featured in this month's Essence magazine as among the 28 most influential black women and "perhaps the most influential community organizer of our time."

Both the organization's board of directors and advisory board include people with a track record of Atlantic Yards support. Yes, such a big project does intersect with a large number of people.

However, given those connections, as well as Forest City Ratner's temporary bailout of ACORN--the developer was the organization's biggest creditor--I wouldn't bet Lewis's new organization will criticize Atlantic Yards.


Posted by steve at 10:59 PM

September 17, 2011

Carlton Avenue Association Monthly Meeting

Prospect Heights Patch

With continuous construction of the Atlantic Yards arena and housing development has brought about continuous problems with rats in the area. Many residents who live in the construction zone are constantly crossing paths with the rodents. One resident recommended that brownstone home owners hire an exterminator and check under the stoop steps for nests. They also recommend that residents collect and enter their concerns and call the 311 system to have a paper trail of all complaints in reference to the construction. Residents are encouraged to contact 311 in reference to any complaints including noise, dust, construction during off peak hours or any incidents that may potentially pose a threat to area residents.

In discussing the Atlantic Yards Project, there will be a film screening of Battle for Brooklyn on Friday October 7, 2011 at the Park Slope Co-op. The documentary explores the fight between residents and business owners facing imminent domain, corporate interests and exposes misconceptions about the project. The film is free for everyone.


Posted by steve at 6:43 PM

August 27, 2011

Yes, during a discussion of Brooklyn, its literary history and neighborhood change, an inevitable question about the Atlantic Yards arena

Atlantic Yards Report

A discussion with authors Evan Hughes and Nelson George at Fort Greene's Greenlight Bookstore touched on AY.

At the end of the brief Q&A, an audience member asked the two authors what they thought of the Barclays Center.

Hughes said he didn't see it as quite "an open-and-shut case" as fellow panelist George, who's on record as an Atlantic Yards opponent (and joined the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board). Why? Hughes thought, at least at one point, that the "jobs" might be worth it.

"They sold a lot of the borough on job creation," George commented. Indeed, I've pointed out how the numbers are ridiculous.

George again suggested that the traffic, foot and vehicular, in the area around the arena would change the character of the neighborhoods on event nights, making the streets outside the bookstore uncomfortable.

By the way, despite a Wall Street Journal article indicating he was planning to leave Fort Greene in reaction to changes wrought by the arena, George told me afterward that he is, in fact, staying.


Posted by steve at 11:31 PM

If there's no (or belated) enforcement of trucking rules, why not try... civil disobedience?

Atlantic Yards Report

I didn't get a response yesterday from Empire State Development to my 8/25/11 query about apparent violations of trucking rules at the Atlantic Yards site, as documented by Atlantic Yards Watch.

One out-of-town blog reader had an idea: if trucks continue to travel up residential Clermont Avenue, why don't neighborhood residents join up to block the street? After all, if they get arrested, they can point to selective enforcement of rules and regulations.

Well, there won't be any trucks today, because of hurricane concerns, but we'll see if anybody takes up the idea.


Posted by steve at 11:25 PM

August 23, 2011

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Full Security Study Needed Before Approval of Bollard Plan

Alan Rosner, who co-authored a white paper on arena security and terrorism issues in 2005, is urging NoLandGrab readers to ask the New York City Department of Transportation to postpone approval of Forest City Ratner's bollard plan for the Barclays Center pending a thorough security study.

In 2005, Forest City Ratner paid for a private security study. In 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation used that study to assert that closed-circuit television, along with private security guards, would meet all the security needs of the proposed sports arena. That claim, and the claim that the threat of terrorism did not warrant study in the Environmental Impact Statement, was successfully defended in court by Forest City and the ESDC.

If bollards are now suddenly required, it is only because this is a sports arena hard by Brooklyn’s largest transit hub. Yet in today’s environment, vehicle-stopping bollards are useless if a truck bomb gets too close to its target. How close is what matters most, and the design of the Barclays Center violates the city’s and every Federal agency’s standards on “close."

Just two weeks before Newark’s Prudential Arena opened in 2007, that city ordered street closings for every hockey game. Brooklyn’s busiest intersections can’t just be closed when games are played because of some last-minute, legally imposed-but-otherwise-belated security measures. Now is the time for a comprehensive look at the whole issue based on readily available New York City standards.

Judge Marcy Friedman cited Forest City and the ESDC for withholding material information from the courts in her recent decision against them. They are doing that again, this time in their petition to the Department of Transportation.

If we can’t postpone DOT's decision, don’t be surprised when some time next year city officials make a summary announcement of necessary street and/or lane changes or closings, of time and/or vehicle restrictions, etc., all being imposed for our safety… showing once again that Brooklyn, and not basketball, has been played.

The deadline for submitting comments to DOT regarding the Barclays Center bollard plan is this Thursday, August 25th has been extended until September 22nd. Comments can be sent via email to Emma Berenblit, director, at

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

June 19, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by steve at 3:55 PM

June 13, 2011

One Minute Voices – Episode 2 – Doug

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

This is the second episode in a series of one-minute, casual, interviews with people who live and work in the neighborhood of the Dean Street Block Association (DSBA), 6th to Vanderbilt Avenues, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York. This episode is an interview with Doug, a 17-year resident of Dean Street.

Do you live or work in the area? Would you like to add about 60 seconds of your voice to the conversation? If so, contact me at tc[at]3c[dot]com.


Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

June 11, 2011

Quotes from the BrooklynSpeaks forum on governance: "The ESDC has been the agent of Ratner during this entire time"

Atlantic Yards Report

I'll have more tomorrow (or Monday) on today's forum, sponsored by BrooklynSpeaks, on the effort to reform Atlantic Yards governance, but first, a few highlights.

The governance bill, which would establish an authority to oversee the project, must pass the state legislature by June 20, the end of the session. It has passed two Assembly committees, more than in previous years, despite what Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries called quiet lobbying by developer Forest City Ratner.

Jeffries, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery appeared at the forum, which attracted about 60 people, and all said that phone calls, emails, and other messages were needed to tip the balance, especially in the Republican-controlled Senate.

"We are dealing with an environment where money trumps almost everything," said Montgomery. "It is only the voters who are going to be able to match the leverage" of the developer.

Brennan, a critic though not a forceful opponent of the project like Montgomery or Council Member Letitia James, observed, "The ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] has been the agent of Ratner during this entire time."

And Jeffries pointed to the bypass of the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the typical land use process: "We weren't allowed to go through the ULURP process, because our mayor was in bed with Forest City Ratner."


Posted by steve at 10:02 PM

June 2, 2011

One Minute Voices – Episode 1

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

This is the first in a series of one-minute casual interviews with people who live and work in the neighborhood of the Dean Street Block Association (DSBA), 6th to Vanderbilt Avenues, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York.

This first episode is an interview with Abdul, one of the owners of the Dubai Mini Mart at 486 Dean Street at 6th Avenue. The store sits diagonally across from the southeast corner of the under-construction Barclays Center of the Atlantic Yards project.

Do you live or work in the area? Would you like to add about 60 seconds of your voice to the conversation? If so, contact me at tc[at]3c[dot]com.


Posted by eric at 9:04 AM

May 23, 2011

Two ironies in the pop-up Guggenheim gallery coming to MetroTech: filling Sid's space, offering respite some AY footprint residents might have wanted

Atlantic Yards Report

Aren't there a few ironies regarding the Guggenheim Museum's upcoming temporary exhibit in a storefront space in Forest City Ratner's Metrotech?

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in a 5/17/11 article headlined ‘The Gugg’ Comes to Downtown, played it straight, explaining that Tim King of CPEX Real Estate and FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin helped provide a free venue for the exhibit in the former home of Sid’s Hardware at 345 Jay Street.

What happened to Sid's?

Unmentioned in the Eagle article: about 15 months ago, as the Brooklyn Paper reported, family-owned Sid's, the first local retailer to transfer to MetroTech after the project changed Downtown Brooklyn, was moving to Hamilton Avenue.

That was, less than a year after a store representative testified before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that the arena project would bring new customers and other benefits to Sid's and its neighbors.

Belated respite

The second irony involves the “Stillspotting NYC” exhibit, which in its first incarnation will feature Pedro Reyes’ "Sanatorium."

As described by the museum:

While the vitality and stimulation of the urban environment can be pleasant, those living in or visiting densely populated areas, such as New York, can have wildly different experiences. The ever-present cacophony of traffic, construction, and commerce; the struggle for mental and physical space; and the anxious need for constant communication in person or via technology are relentless assaults on the senses. One wonders how locals and visitors can escape, find respite, and make peace with their space in this “city that never sleeps.”

The Guggenheim Museum responds with stillspotting nyc, a two-year multidisciplinary project that takes the museum’s Architecture and Urban Studies programming out into the streets of the city’s five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Every three to five months, “stillspots” are identified, created, or transformed by architects, artists, designers, composers, and philosophers into public tours, events, or installations.

Um, perhaps some of the Atlantic Yards footprint residents who had to endure enormous disruption during construction activities in 2008 could have used such repose.

“Sanatorium” will be open June 2 to 5 and 9 to 12, with advance registration required and tickets $15 for adults, $10 for museum members.


Posted by steve at 5:03 AM

May 21, 2011

Familiar Faces, on a Larger-Than-Life Scale, Help Bring a Block Closer Together

The New York Times

The Times covers an art project in reaction to the Atlantic Yards.

Led by a resident, Dana Eskelson, who was concerned that the local shopkeepers were being forced out of business by the Atlantic Yards stadium project a block away, neighbors on Bergen Street became the first group in New York to join a global art project developed by a Paris street artist known as JR.


Posted by steve at 10:59 PM

May 8, 2011

"Ratner's refute" generates more refutation and debate

Atlantic Yards Report

The Real Deal's May 1 cover article headlined Ratner's refute: Developer insists Atlantic Yards is moving forward is still generating refutation.

Check out the Comments section, which is thoroughly critical of the article, until we hit #13:

You could bother to interview any of the project opponents, some of whom won a recent court case against the project and are awaiting another important decision from the judge. However, you saw nothing wrong with using their illustration of the parking lots, while failing to give them credit for it.

Comment #11 Posted By: Eliot 05/04/11


Ratner definitely expected opposition. He was engineering astroturf support for the project in January of 2004, working with disgraced former Assemblyman Roger Green to create phony "community organizations" to sign his "Community Benefit Agreement", which has no teeth (but did get him Bertha Lewis' lips). Through his CBA proxies, Ratner waged a PR campaign against neighboring communities, painting them as rich NIMBYs so he could justify refusing to engage with them or their elected representatives on either benefits or impacts from Atlantic Yards.

Comment #12 Posted By: pher 05/04/11


Ratner is resilient. What these idiots in Brooklyn don't understand is that he has built Brooklyn. If it wasn't for Ratner, there would be no Prospect Heights, there would be no Fort Greene and no Clinton Hill. Those areas were doomed until he brought jobs and industry to that area.

Comment #13 Posted By: Anonymous 05/05/11


Regarding #13, it's the opposite. Fort Greene was landmarked in 1978, Clinton Hill in 1981. The momentum had begun well before Ratner moved into real estate development.

Comment #14 Posted By: Anonymous 05/05/11


This article was well done, and the truth of Ratner and the atlantic yards project has come about. I think the critics of Ratner need to take a hike, if it weren't for this man, downtown Brooklyn, and the atlantic yards area would still be a run down blighted area. Ratner should be honored during for all of this, rather than be put down by these NIMBYS.

Comment #15 Posted By: Anonymous 05/06/11


Regarding #15, Ratner got a good deal--an insider's deal--on a valuable piece of public property, the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard. Just look at the Hudson Yards plan for a contrast: multiple bidders at the outset. As for the the blighted 'atlantic yards area,' consider that Ratner had demolish luxury condos that had been converted from industrial space.

Comment #16 Posted By: Anonymous 05/06/11


Posted by steve at 11:46 PM

May 1, 2011

At the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street, some exhibits with Atlantic Yards reflections

Atlantic Yards Report

The Soapbox Gallery, a window at 636 Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues across from the interim surface parking lot planned to serve the Atlantic Yards arena, is hosting installations from 11 artists beginning today through June 23.

As indicated in the below press release, the installations April 3-May 7, May 15-May 21 (note that the description of Atlantic Yards is more than a tad incorrect), May 29-June 8 reflect on Atlantic Yards.

For the latter installation, as indicated in the second document, artist Elaine Angelopoulous seeks to borrow Atlantic Yards-related materials from neighborhood residents.


Posted by steve at 10:01 PM

March 19, 2011

The Prodigal Blogger Returns


A stint on a grand jury has given this blogger a chance to reflect on the poor design of Ratner projects.

There are a lot of interesting design issues to think about during jury duty–how it feels to be in a windowless room for the duration of a lovely spring day; mixing with defendants and witnesses and wardens in slow, awkward elevators; even the size of a temporary jury badge (too big to fit in a wallet) where my title (JUROR) and number are much larger than my name (which matters to almost no one). In addition, the New York State Supreme Court Building in Brooklyn was built by Forest City Ratner, the developer in the news lately for the Atlantic Yards fracas. Let me just say that if the design quality of this courthouse and the entire MetroTech development is any indication, I don’t have a lot of faith that the Atlantic Yards project will be a great civic center.


Posted by steve at 10:05 PM

March 13, 2011

Park Slope, 1978: "The Myth of Neighborhood" and the fear of blight (and some appearances by the "Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn" author)

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote recently about Suleiman Osman, author of The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York. He will appear at the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene on March 14, the Museum of the City of New York March 15 (discount admission of $6 if you mention this blog and reserve at 917-492-3395 or, Community Bookstore in Park Slope on April 6 (I will moderate), and the Brooklyn Historical Society on April 30.

And then I found the article referenced below.

Park Slope-raised (and Queens-residing) Daily News columnist Denis Hamill may do some lazy work these days (as with his softball interview of Bruce Ratner), but he used to be a superb street reporter, and this 2/13/78 article in New York Magazine, Park Slope: The Myth of Neighborhood, paints a chilling portrait of a very divided district:

Park Slope has luxury homes, slums, commercial strips, heroin supermarkets, working-class enclaves, ethnic hamlets and pockets of successful--and unsuccessful--integration. There is safety, as there is serious crime, struggle for urban survival, and pure apathy.

Hamill describes a series of dividing lines, with an affluent section along Seventh Avenue from Flatbush Avenue to Third Street, a working-class zone to Ninth Street, and below that "mostly a slum." There's an Italian zone, and a Puerto Rican one.

And while some in the more affluent section had raised their voices for civic betterment, Hamill observed that "there have been no great turnouts to protest the destruction of other parts of Park Slope.

Hamill was wrong in predicting that the scourge of abandonment and blight--starting just west of Garfield Place and Seventh Avenue--would move east toward Prospect Park, rather than be subsumed by gentrification, but it's notable that such was a credible prediction.

Things changed in a decade or so, and now, of course, even Fifth Avenue--once full of boarded-up stores--has gentrified.

So the corner of Fifth Avenue and Second Street, once "a bustling heroin bargain basement," is now home to a Thai restaurant named Song.


Posted by steve at 10:43 PM

March 6, 2011

Muddy waters at Willet: Lobbyist Richard Lipsky leading charge against redeveloping Willets' Point

Daily News
By Adam Lisberg

Richard Lipsky is against eminent domain for Willets Point and in favor of it for Atlantic Yards. What'$ the difference? Dollars from developer Bruce Ratner.

The first phase of Atlantic Yards alone required the state to condemn 15 privately owned properties.

Eminent domain allows government to seize a private owner's property to serve the greater public good — if you consider a basketball stadium or a shopping center to be a public good.

Lipsky said he's usually against it, but the Nets arena and its benefits for neighborhood kids make it worthwhile in Brooklyn.

"I don't have an absolute position on [eminent domain] but I do have a strong disposition against it," Lipsky said. "It takes a lot to push me in that direction."

He also said he only worked on Atlantic Yards' youth sports efforts programs, not its eminent domain work efforts.

Of course, Ratner could have hired him to work for Atlantic Yards just so the opponents couldn’t hire him to work against it.

"That's true," Lipsky acknowledged. "You'd have to ask them why they hired me."


Posted by steve at 9:45 PM

January 22, 2011

The Complaint Box follow-up: Atlantic Yards debate, governmental power, and more

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, my brief Complaint Box essay in the Times, Powerless in Brooklyn, generated some debate, though more about certain parts of the argument than others. Several commenters seem to agree that Brooklyn lacks borough-wide media and local government, but there weren't many solutions.


My comment in response to several comments:

  1. Yes, the Community Board system is controlled by those who appoint, though it doesn’t have to be.
  2. Markowitz is on his third (and last) term, thanks to Bloomberg’s overturning of term limits.
  3. Search on “notorious Stephen Witt” on my Atlantic Yards Report blog for a catalog of his misreadings.
  4. Atlantic Yards never had a local vote, as the city let the state override the local land use process. That, as well as numerous indicia of a sweetheart deal, drove the lawsuits. And a judge in November for the second time criticized the Empire State Development Corporation for a lack of transparency.
  5. There is a Brooklyn Daily Eagle, but it’s a small paper that does not pretend to cover the borough.
  6. Yes, the Journal is a fourth daily, My error. But it’s a niche paper for the city as a whole, much less Brooklyn. The Daily News often covers Brooklyn better than its rivals, but the coverage is still pretty thin. Cities (though not metro areas) with Brooklyn’s population–think Philly, Houston, etc.–have their own full-scale newspapers.

I should add that the Municipal Art Society has periodically done some serious work in Brooklyn, on projects like Atlantic Yards and Coney Island, and has supported neighborhood planning efforts. But shouldn’t Brooklyn have its own MAS?


Related coverage...

The Urban Omnibus, Powerless In Brooklyn

In a biting essay in the New York Times Complaint Box, Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder decries the lack of local government and local media in the “non-Manhattan” boroughs. Primarily addressing Brooklyn, Oder asserts that the absence of daily borough-wide newspapers and a concentration of city agencies in Manhattan render the other boroughs powerless, resulting in muted citizen voices. His piece inspired debate and commiseration from Brooklynites and other New Yorkers. If you have something to say on the issue weigh in here.

Posted by steve at 11:37 AM

January 21, 2011

Complaint Box | Powerless in Brooklyn

City Room
by Norman Oder

The man who launched Atlantic Yards Report as TimesRatnerReport is becoming a semi-regular fixture in the paper. This essay will also appear in Sunday's Times.

Of the boroughs outside Manhattan, Brooklyn gets the most buzz — as a tourist attraction, a “hipster brand” and an incubator of art and artisanal products. That has provoked a backlash from longtime Brooklynites and others wary of smugness from the borough’s Brownstone Belt.

However entertaining these debates, Brooklynites — and, I dare say, all of us in the non-Manhattan boroughs — share one common problem: we’re essentially powerless. We lack meaningful local government, as well as broad-based media and civic organizations.

Marty Markowitz, the borough’s president and its relentless cheerleader, says that Brooklyn has nearly everything a city needs and that fulfillment will arrive when a professional sports team, the Nets, finally moves to an arena here in 2012 or 2013.

If only that were true.

Thus, Brooklyn’s powerful developers, institutions and politicians often evade scrutiny. While local blogs and community weeklies do their part, the latter have been diminished. After Rupert Murdoch bought the independent weekly Courier-Life chain in 2006, its rival, The Brooklyn Paper, trumpeted its independence, only to suffer the same fate — a Murdoch takeover — three years later. The papers have since moved into the same building, cut the staff and published many of the same articles. In my blog,, I’ve observed how The Brooklyn Paper has muted once-tough coverage and editorial criticism of Mr. Markowitz’s beloved arena project, Atlantic Yards, which is being developed by the newspapers’ landlord, Forest City Ratner.

The upshot? While Brooklyn may make a neat T-shirt slogan and be shorthand for culinary innovation, such a focus on consumption and authenticity gives a pass to the powers that be.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Times Complaint Box essay: Powerless in Brooklyn (without meaningful local government and broad-based media, civic organizations)

I have a Complaint Box essay in the Metropolitan section of Sunday's New York Times, now online at CityRoom, headlined Powerless in Brooklyn.

It's a bit of a departure for Complaint Box, which tends toward examinations of the nuances of such things as subway etiquette or tipping, but, given the limited space for op-eds in the paper--after all, the former City section is gone--any space is welcome. (Fun fact: they don't pay for this type of reader contribution.)

And yes, in only about 500 words, my essay is less nuanced than a longer version, so let's see how the comments play out.

Comments and responses

I will update this post with some comments and responses to them.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

December 4, 2010

The Marty Markowitz Memorial Parking Lot

The Huffington Post
By Jimmy Askew

Here is a suggestion that credit be given where credit is due.

But let's not kid ourselves. The fix is in and Prospect Heights is stuck with this vibrant use of public space: a parking lot. Markowitz has been a big booster of this white elephant of a project for years now. He's attacked opponents in the press, argued that this kind of out of scale development is what Brooklyn needs, and generally been obstinate. So I suggest we make sure his legacy is remembered, and name this the Marty Markowitz Memorial Parking Lot. That way, when future generations wonder why there's a city block used as a parking lot instead of for a park or for housing, and why the traffic along Atlantic Avenue and in Prospect Heights is so miserable, they can remember: this was the man that helped make it happen. When, in 50 years, our children wonder why we tore down a neighborhood just as it was revitalizing itself and built it over with a vacant lot, they'll know that the foresight was vested in wise men like Marty. When the New York (not Brooklyn) Nets eventually abandon the Barclay Center for another location that offers them even more taxpayer money (long after FCR and ESDC abandon their plans to build the rest of the project, no doubt), at least Marty's name will live on in a useless lot that exemplifies the kind of urban blight that this project was supposed to alleviate.


Posted by steve at 7:42 AM

The Hipsters Hoop Dream Holiday Wish List

Global Grind

Here is a rather distorted history of the Atlantic Yards fight. The point this blogger seems to be making is that it's okay to support eminent domain abuse and the destruction of a neighborhood for the benefit of a well-connected developer because hipsters from Williamsburg don't.

In 2004, as northern-Jersey residents were first witnessing the imminent departure of their beloved New Jersey Nets, a new wave of immigrants descended upon a forgotten industrial neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Unlike the figures depicted in turn of the century photographs of Ellis Island, these people came not with cradled babies, nor brimming with the hopes of a life free of oppression in America's welcoming arms but, rather; they came wielding wi-fi capable laptops and the common dream of establishing an artistic community. Beatnik novels and little Ivy degrees in tow, the hipsters planted their flag in Williamsburg.


By 2009, the Nets franchise became the joint property of Bruce Ratner (the Iago of Prospect Heights), Mikhail Prokhorov (Russia's steelier version of Richard Branson) and Jay-Z (the fella who makes a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can) and the team was set to move to Brooklyn. Jersey residents lamented as Brooklynites old and new rejoiced.

Of course, as it goes when a birthday cake is cut at an office party, there was just not enough to go around. Once the announcement was made that the team would play its home games in the brand-spankin' new Barclays Center in Atlantic Yards, the Williamsburg militia, armed with Facebook statuses, blogs and Flickr accounts let their voices be heard.


NoLandGrab: It's good that anyone opposes corruption, no matter if he's a blogger who's lived in the neighborhood for 25 years or someone who just arrived yesterday.

Posted by steve at 7:31 AM

November 6, 2010

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

What about AY?

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

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

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

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


Posted by steve at 12:35 PM

Made in Brooklyn: The Civilians' Battle Over Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Rail
By Michele Travis

This article discusses the play "In The Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards" which will be performed fromNov. 12 through Dec. 11 at The Irondale Center.

However, their latest investigative theater project, In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, is a local labor. The Civilians occupy an office a block away from the Atlantic Yards site, and several company members, including artistic director Steve Cosson, are longtime Brooklyn residents. While the work of the company focuses on shaping an unwieldy ongoing conflict into a theatrical narrative, Cosson notes, “being in the neighborhood every day reminds me that it’s real” and memories of the changed surrounding streets give the project a personal resonance.

The play is based on interviews with Brooklynites who have been involved with the project. The article includes quotes from some interviews including this one from "A Blogger":

...One thing I kind of think is like, the bloggers, I kind of think we’re like a Greek chorus basically. We tell the people what’s really going on. You could do like a Greek chorus in your show. They could all be dressed like bloggers. Yeah. It’s, yeah. Typically that would be pajamas [laughs]. Occasionally in the buff. But, um, yeah.

NoLandGrab: I always post while wearing my street clothes. It seems that some bloggers are having much more fun than others.


Posted by steve at 12:05 PM

October 23, 2010

The song cycle "Brooklyn Omnibus," by the new Brooklynites who created "Passing Strange," eventually takes us to the haunted arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Last night I went to the BAM Harvey Theater to see the new song cycle, Brooklyn Omnibus, created by the musicians Stew and Heidi Rodewald, the collaborators on the terrific, quirky, Broadway musical play Passing Strange.


There was an encore, a "vampire song" on which Stew had to vamp a bit, since he'd misplaced the lyrics, but, as he sang, "only ghosts have eminent domain/we can't wait 'til the Barclays Center is done."

He continued: "Only the dead have eminent domain/it's the dead's job to drive the living insane."

In other words, even a newcomer knows it's haunted (with a nod to Thomas Wolfe's "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn.")


Posted by steve at 7:37 AM

October 17, 2010

Dean Street Block Association - Monthly Meeting – October 18, 2010 – 7:30PM

Dean Street Block Association

Monthly Meeting (Held every 3rd Monday of the month except holidays)

TIME: Monday, October 18th 7:30 – 9:00 pm

618 Dean Street, #1B


o Fall Plans:
          o Love Your Block Grant
          o Tree Bed Guards

o Atlantic Yards:
          o Project Oversight
          o Meeting with ESDC and FCRC
          o Construction Concerns
          o AY Related Traffic and Parking Issues

o Police Enforcement



Posted by steve at 8:59 AM

October 2, 2010

Neighborhood gets demolished and all they got was this lousy arena

Queens Crap

More commentary on the Atlantic Lots project:

From Develop Don't Destroy:

For his Atlantic Yards project Bruce Ratner promised a grandiose "urban room" and a tax revenue generating office tower at the gridlocked Atlantic and Flatbush intersection at the heart of Brooklyn. He also promised to build "affordable housing.”

None of that is going to happen.


Yes, but we already knew this, didn't we? Why aren't all the affordable housing advocates up in arms over this? Could it be because they got their payoffs in return for their support and never really cared about the actual housing?

Looks like the joke's on us taxpayers.


P.S. That thing is an eyesore. It's actually bringing more blight to Brooklyn rather than removing it. Ugh.


Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

September 5, 2010

Edward Dalhberg’s Brooklyn, Part I

Who Walk In Brooklyn

This blog entry is primarily a tribute to the American author, Edward Dahlberg. The blog's author points to under-appreciated work by Norman Oder and Amy Lavine as a comparison to the similarly under-appreciated Dahlberg.

Edward Dalhberg spent some of the last years his singularly fraught and brilliant life teaching at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Some readers otherwise unfamiliar with Dahlberg might know this from Jonathan Lethem’s essay “The Disappointment Artist”; while I value more of Dahlberg more highly than Jonathan, we agree on the great merits of Because I Was Flesh (1963). In 1997, while in Lawrence, Kansas, I purchased a few late-period Dahlberg books which had been deaccessed from UM/KC; an odd but cool coincidence. Were they mad or something, I wondered, or did people not care? They should! Likewise the underheralded work of Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report which— with that of article co-author Amy Lavine— has recently turned up in The Urban Lawyer, a journal edited by students and faculty of the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law. Is anyone going to get mad now? They should, like Mother Jones, be furious!


Posted by steve at 11:00 AM

July 11, 2010

PSCC Editor: "I actually believed the assurances [by] Forest City Ratner and its government enablers that the community’s voice would be heard"

Atlantic Yards Report

Ezra Goldstein moves on (to the Community Bookstore in Park Slope) after six years editing the Park Slope Civic Council's Civic News--as good a community publication of its type that you'll find--and, in his final column, admits to some initial naivete about the Atlantic Yards project.

In Six Years Before the Masthead, he writes:

I am not so hubristic to claim that my more recent articles have attained perfection, but I will give myself credit for getting better over time because I had the good sense to listen to, and learn from, the wiser people by whom I was surrounded in the Civic Council and this community. I even learned a thing or two from people who astounded me with their wrong-headedness.

I resist the temptation to use stronger negatives to describe this last group because I find it difficult to give up all pretense of journalistic objectivity. I will, however, drop a broad hint about whom I am so pejoratively inclined by saying that the early articles that make me cringe the most have to do with Atlantic Yards. In retrospect, I am astounded by my naivete. I actually believed the assurances given by developer Forest City Ratner and its government enablers that the community’s voice would be heard, and that the usurpation of power from our city council and the trampling under of our city charter were merely matters of convenience and not mechanisms to run roughshod over the pesky public, and to guarantee that there would be scarcely one iota of community input into this Goliathan project.


NoLandGrab: In most relationships, we want to think the best of others, but the lies propagated by Forest City, the ESDC, many Brooklyn politicians, and other supporters of the Atlantic Yards project have taught many of us to be more skeptical of what we're told.

Posted by steve at 8:57 AM

May 27, 2010

Atlantic Yards Confession

Old First

This blog post examines Atlantic Yards from an unusual, spiritual perspective. To begin, the post recounts a ritual blessing performed on the site. What follows is a broad history of the Atlantic Yards site, including the period when the project was proposed.

And then others came looking for power and prestige and wealth and fame. The Empire State Development Corporation had visions of empire. They wanted not community but evidence of empire. They used the power of empire over enterprise. They overpowered the small things that were growing here.

What they did here was immoral, according to the standard of the laws of God. They coveted this neighborhood, and they coveted their neighbors’ houses, and they did not love their neighbors as themselves. There were spirits here at work. The spirit of possession took over here, and the spirits of manipulation and deceit.

The media were used and the laws abused. The politicians participated and the deals were made and the payoffs paid. The judges did not do justice and the public servants were subservient. This community was ignored and others were co-opted, falsehoods were repeated, and people were removed and silenced. We were set against each other, and our motives impugned, and our persons insulted. Might was made the right. The ground was blighted by intention. Sturdy old buildings were demolished and lovely decorations were destroyed. The simmering spirits of anger and frustration were inflamed. And this is the desert we are left with. We confess it and we lament it. Requiescat in pace.

Read the full blog post for the concluding search for reconciliation and prayer for peace.


Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

A Decade of Constructive Criticism

Wall Street Journal
by Julie V. Iovine

An installation entitled "The City We Imagined/The City We Made" reviews New York real estate development for the first decade of the 21st century. The Atlantic Yards fight makes an appearance.

The data are printed on 8-by-11 sheets of color-coded paper (zoning ordinances, for instance, on orange), so you can see at a glance that there was only one rezoning in 2001—but almost two dozen in 2005. Relive Forest City Ratner's battle with assorted Brooklynites over the proposed $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development on panels for 2003 and for 2005 through 2010, as the dispute approaches blood sport. Park projects (on pink) come in sporadic waves, and it's hard to miss the oppressive reality that the scores of ambitiously designed condominiums conceived in 2007 are arriving with a thud in 2010.


Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

March 6, 2010

Got Something to Say to Gov. Paterson About (Cough) Atlantic Yards, Eminent Domain, Wasted Subsidies

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Here's your chance:

The Office of Governor David A. Paterson

Invites you to a NYS Budget Town Hall Meeting with Governor Paterson

Monday, March 8, 2010
Doors Open at 10:00 AM

Ceremonial Courtroom, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street

If you wish to attend, please RSVP to 212-681-7123


Posted by steve at 6:24 AM

March 3, 2010

Phil DePaolo on Bob Guskind

A Short Story

Williamsburg activist and Guskind fan Phil DePaolo remembered the passing of blogger Robert Guskind with a short statement this morning. I am reposting below...

Today is one year since the passing of Bob Guskind. I miss him so much and I wonder what Bob would be saying about all the developments since his passing. I know he would be thrilled and very proud of the residents of Gowanus who won a Superfund designation yesterday over the objections of the Mayor. This was very important to Bob. I know he would also be very happy that the Newtown Creek has also received Superfund designation.

Bob would not be happy about what has happened at Coney Island or Atlantic Yards. The loss of historic structures, the loss of amusement space and the overwhelming density and limited scope of the Coney plan were issues we often spoke about.

The recent ruling by Judge Gerges regarding Atlantic Yards would have angered Bob. He was a strong supporter of protecting residents from Eminent Domain abuse.

I can’t believe it has been a year since Bob passed away. But going forward I have wonderful memories of a great friend. I hope you can take a second to remember him. You can still see his writing and thoughts at and


Posted by eric at 1:16 PM

February 21, 2010

Bars of New York #5: Freddy’s Bar and Grill

City of strangers

Here's more praise for Freddy's Bar & Backroom that could make you wonder, yet again, what is the point of destroying a neighborhood to make way for a project whose public benefits continue to evaporate.

Freddy’s Bar, in downtown Brooklyn, is fighting for its survival . . . .

Lately, the bar, and its manager Donald O’finn, have been very successful at getting media attention for the bars’ plight. Everyone from the New York Daily News (appropriately) to the New Yorker have all covered the bar’s fight against eminent domain, Bruce Rattner’s mechanism to seize the land below Freddie’s and the blocks aroud it for the Atlantic Yards Development. Even Fox News had them on for an interview.


I started hanging out in the very late 90’s, when I still lived in Fort Greene. It was nice having a good bar in walking distance. In those pre-hipster days, there weren’t many bars in Brooklyn with found video loops broadcast on a TV over the bar, or that played the whole Velvet’s Banana album or the Ramones or 80’s British punk. The back room featured everything from hardcore to experimental jazz, and even if it wasn’t a ‘neighborhood’ bar in the sense that the black people up Dean, or the fireman and policeman from the adjacent fire and police stations, seemed to hang out there in any number, it still had the feel of a neighborhood bar. Donald O’finn’s found video loops, featuring everything from early cartoons to shlock horror and snippets from Bruce Lee films, were mesmerizing. A little too mesmerizing – if you went with a friend, your attention would inevitably turn toward the screen, and all conversation would stop.

I still go down occasionally. The bar, like the neighborhood around it, feels besieged and a little standoffish. Freddy’s is something of an icon now, voted best bar in Brooklyn by Time Out among others, and like all icons it has lost its casual feel. Donald Ofinn’s found video still beams from its perch at the front of the bar. For awhile last year, with the Atlantic Yards development at a standstill, I wondered if it would even go through – even the anti-Atlantic Yards/ Eminent Domain abuse clippings in the info box were looking a little worn – but a late November court decision in favor of Rattner has Freddy’s fight a new urgency. The scale of the proposed development is incredible (simulation from 2006) : what is essentially a section of mid-town Manhattan will be dropped in what had been a quiet, largely residential, neighborhood, making central Brooklyn largely unrecognizable.


Posted by steve at 8:31 AM

December 2, 2009

The Ratnerification of a neighborhood

Photographer and blogger Tracy Collins provides a snapshot of Bruce Ratner's demolition of the neighborhood by taking satellite images from 2005, from "bing maps," then color-coding the buildings.

west end


east end

The red buildings have since been "Ratnerfied" by demolition. Yellow means that the buildings are still occupied or are awaiting demolition. If you surf on over to flickr, Collins identifies each building, using the "mouseover" function.

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

November 9, 2009

Just who is this "Atlantic Yards Community" of whom you speak?

Our posting earlier today of the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Update prompted former Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods co-chair and Boerum Hill resident Terry Urban to pen a corrective note to the Empire State Development Corporation.

Dear ESDC:

Excuuuuuse me. There is no such thing as "the Atlantic Yards Community", as you address me and my neighbors when you co-broker Ratner's Construction Update opening statement, "In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities.....".

I am continually insulted at being referred to as part of a such-labeled community, when in fact "Atlantic Yards" is the name of YOUR project, NOT OUR community! If you are addressing the communities which you plan to destroy, be advised ONE MORE TIME that your project is proposed to be built in the PROSPECT HEIGHTS COMMUNITY.

The ESDC should have the final edit on how this community is addressed. If you do not wish to address us in that proper form, at least just use "Brooklyn Community", which can encompass the other area names adjacent to the 8-acre VANDERBILT RAIL YARDS. For your information, they are Fort Greene, Park Slope and Boerum Hill.

Your pointed collusion in every public relations strategy of Forect City Ratner, including this one that continually dismisses WHO WE ARE, is just one more example of the arrogant, divisive corporate attitude which has earned you the enmity of OUR communities!

Terry Urban,
Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 5:33 PM

October 22, 2009

Your 2 Cents: Daniel Goldstein Of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

NY1 News


NY1 VIDEO: Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn offers his take on the mayor's urban development policy in "Your 2 Cents," a series of on-camera, unedited guest editorials delivered by prominent New Yorkers.


Posted by eric at 4:27 PM

October 16, 2009

“Us Against Ourselves”? No, me and many others against Atlantic Yards

Not Another F*cking Blog

Photographer and Dean Street resident Tracy Collins responds to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Henrik Krogius, who mistakenly (or accidentally on purpose) wrote this week that brownstone neighborhoods "in fact don’t abut the [Atlantic Yards project] site."

This is false. The newly created Prospect Heights Historic District directly abuts the Atlantic Yards footprint. Brownstones and low-rise townhouses directly abut this site on Carlton Avenue, between Pacific and Dean Streets; on the intersection of Carlton Avenue south of Dean Street; on Dean Street, between Flatbush and 6th Avenues; on Dean Street, between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues; and on Vanderbilt Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets. (I’ve included small photos of these areas to fit them all in this email. I can provide larger and other photos if you’d like, or you can view many more here.

Tracy Collins
Dean Street, Prospect Heights


NoLandGrab: The homes pictured above would sit directly across narrow Dean Street from the entrance to the 18,000-seat Barclays Center arena. Anyone who's ever stood outside Madison Square Garden before or after a sporting event or concert understands very clearly why New York City zoning prohibits locating an arena within 200 feet of a residentially zoned neighborhood — a zoning regulation that, in the case of Atlantic Yards, has been overridden by New York State.

Posted by eric at 4:30 PM

August 15, 2009

Bloomberg’s Reign of Neighborhood Destruction: Atlantic Yards as Poster Child

Fed Up
By Daniel Goldstein

Mayor Bloomberg's failed development strategy in general, and the proposed Atlantic Yards project in particular, is the subject of this article by Develop Don't Destroy's spokesman.

And for six years he has been attempting yet another publicly subsidized professional sports facility—Forest City Ratner’s Barclays Center Arena (part of the gigantic and embattled Atlantic Yards development proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn).

In June the Independent Budget Office (IBO) testified at a State Senate hearing that the Barclays Center Arena, if built, would be a money loser for New York City. Yet the Mayor, who has told us that only his firm financial hand can guide this City, still supports and pushes for the money losing white elephant Ratner wants to build.

On June 24th he pressured the MTA Board into approving a new sweetheart land rights deal for Forest City Ratner. Just after the MTA had been bailed out, purportedly fiscally prudent Bloomberg pressured the Board to accept $20 million up front and $80 million over 22 years from Ratner for the rights to the valuable 9-acre rail yard portion of the Atlantic Yards site in the heart of Brooklyn. Never mind that the yards had been appraised at $214.5 million and Ratner had originally agreed to pay $100 million in cash at closing, after a non-competitive, sham of a bidding process.

Sole-source, no-bid contracts and cronyism for a money-losing, publicly funded arena do not demonstrate sound economic stewardship.


When Bloomberg overturned the twice-voted for term limits law it was not a surprise to anyone paying attention to the Atlantic Yards saga. Because back in 2003 Mayor Bloomberg unilaterally overrode New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) taking the decision-making power over Atlantic Yards away from Community Boards, City Planning and the City Council, and allowing a complete zoning override, thus fostering billionaire crony Bruce Ratner’s land grab. Overturning term limits was just another action in a long line of anti-democratic, strong-arm tactics.


Bloomberg has taken many steps to remake the city and its many neighborhoods in his vision of a cleansed playground for the well off. And how best to drive out the unwanted? Eminent domain is a handy tool to do that. He has wielded it with Columbia University’s expansion, the Willets Point rezoning, Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, in East Harlem, Bronx Terminal Market and, of course, for the Atlantic Yards project. Eminent domain, of course, is the government’s right to take private property for a public use. But over and over, under Bloomberg, it has been used to take private property from owners and tenants to transfer it to private interests for private purposes.

With a mayoral election approaching, Goldstein reminds New Yorkers of the opportunity to gain better develoment policies for the city.

And for the people of New York who have tried to challenge the various abuses of eminent domain under the Bloomberg reign, what does he have to say? He says that we can’t let one little guy stand in the way of progress.

He’s right, we can’t let this one little guy stand in the way of progress, and that is why he’s got to go. When crony capitalism in the name of overdevelopment, sports playpens for billionaires and excessive, cancerous growth is considered “progress” we know we’re being lied to.


Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

August 1, 2009

Jane Jacobs Invocations

The proposed Atlantic Yards project is the polar opposite of the vision of cities espoused by activist Jane Jacobs. So, it's not surprising that both Jacobs and Atlantic Yards are invoked together in these items:

The Huffington Post, The Singing Manifesto (Dedicated to Joan Baez)
By Reverend Billy

Reverend Bill preaches against big-money interests hijacking the City:

We are all erotic politicians. We use our bodies to break into public space. Then we open our mouths. It's what people do who know how to control powerful institutions while standing on the ground outside. Here in the Apple, we are warming up our voices, growing the volume of our voices from the nature of our grand, funky bodies. Why? Our city is corrupted now. So we are preparing a singing revolution against it. We're getting back to the sensuality of our citizenship, Amen?

We hear a radical sing-a-thon that rattles the windows of the $100 million campaign in City Hall. We see the city's conscience rise like a crowd singing the First Amendment before the high-rise money has passed under the table. The mayor gets a worrying memo in his jet over the Atlantic. The clowns and poets and freaks of Coney Island are singing the luxury hotels into the ground. Hell's Kitchen is singing back the mayor's shopping-and-football mall and Brooklyn harmonizes behind the solo arias of Jane Jacobs, as the 16 high-rises of the Atlantic Yards are stuck in their blue-prints.

The corporations and their politicians are watching where we put our bodies and how we raise our voices. They come running with renta-cops at the slightest suggestion of freedom. Lots of bodies down at the town square, that's trouble. What's the distance between a citizen letting out a shout in a park... and the singing revolution? An intriguing question. We do believe that the greenery around City Hall will echo with our sampling of "New York, New York" with the radical lyrics it needs: "Start spreadin' the wealth..." We will sing it in public space, on streets and sidewalks and in the parks. If each of us gets down into our fiery bodies then public space will light up again!


City Journal, Jane Jacobs’s Legacy
By Howard Husock

This review of two Jane Jacobs biographies (Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City, by Anthony Flint and Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Glenna Lang and Marjory Wunsch) includes mention of Bruce Ratner's land grab:

Treating Jane Jacobs as a folk hero, as both Flint and Lang do to varying degrees, risks misinterpreting her work as uniformly favoring the preservation of charming older neighborhoods populated by David Brooks’s “bourgeois bohemians.” But it also risks overstating the extent to which her vision has prevailed. It’s difficult to imagine her having a kind word to say, for instance, about the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where eminent-domain power is to be used for massive clearance and the construction of subsidized high-rises and a sports arena. It’s classic old-style urban renewal, dressed up with plans to use a big-name architect. Sports stadia—the only significant public works to be built in New York recently—are particularly out of keeping with Jacobs’s view that major public facilities should attract people throughout the day and night, not just intermittently. Also not fully appreciated is Jacobs’s celebration of neighborhoods like Boston’s North End, which, when she wrote about it, was a collection of brick walk-ups from which residents of modest means could watch the streets. In other words, poor neighborhoods could be good neighborhoods. (Herbert Gans’s tour de force about Boston’s late West End, The Urban Villagers, makes this point even more effectively than Death and Life.) Today, elaborately subsidized apartments for the poor continue to be supported at all levels of government, in the process creating utterly nonorganic communities, in which income groups are mixed for ideological reasons.

Chelsea Now, Quinn a Jacobs-ean nightmare

This letter to the editor expresses dismay that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn should try to align herself with Jane Jacobs when the Speaker has apparently never met a mega-development she didn't like, including Atlantic Yards:

I was appalled to see the picture of Christine Quinn unveiling a street sign honoring Jane Jacobs in Chelsea Now. Christine Quinn is about as far from Jane Jacobs as you can get, and using Jacobs’s name and legacy to try to color her own awful track record is particularly sickening.

Is this not the same politician who has received record contributions from the real estate industry and developers, whose initiatives she almost always supports? Is this not the same politician who presided over the rezoning of West Chelsea and Hudson Yards to allow huge luxury residential development with the promise of affordable housing that never materialized? Is this not the same politician who has enabled mega-developer The Related Companies to get its hands on the West Side Railyards, where they plan to build a forest of huge new luxury high-rises, hotels and office buildings—which will bring huge traffic and pollution to our neighborhood and no benefits? Is this not the same politician who, as Speaker of the City Council, has supported huge development projects over community opposition all over the city—from Atlantic Yards and DUMBO to the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights?

And now she wants to claim she is “honoring” Jane Jacobs? The greatest honor she could pay Jane Jacobs would be to resign from office.

Meredith Handelman

Posted by steve at 8:06 AM

June 14, 2009

On Brooklyn's Side

The Post has published Daniel Goldstein's response to Steve Cuozzo's rant titled ""'Net' Loss Is Devasting."

Steve Cuozzo laments Frank Gehry's departure from the Atlantic Yards project while grossly misrepresenting Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn ('Net' Loss Is Devastating," June 6).

His column tars us as "bullies," "liars" and "Orwellian-titled."

Orwellian-titled? Not even close. We're called Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn because we favor developing the eight-acre rail yard, but not Bruce Ratner's speculative 22-acre land grab. Bullying?

We've never done it. Cuozzo must have missed the May 29 Atlantic Yards Senate hearing, at which Ratner orchestrated a five-hour-long disruption. His minions taunted, shouted down and, yes, bullied elected officials and citizens seeking answers to legitimate questions that Ratner won't answer. The developer, whom Cuozzo calls "courageous," refused to testify at the hearing.

We're liars? Cuozzo can't produce one lie we've told. On the other hand, Gehry was used as a tool to gain approval of Ratner's plans and then dumped. Isn't that one of Ratner's biggest lies?

Daniel Goldstein,

DDDB co-founder, Brooklyn


Posted by steve at 2:59 PM

May 15, 2009

Atlantic Yards residents?

Photo, Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool/Not Another F*cking Blog!.

remnants of the Ward Bread Bakery
Pacific Street near Vanderbilt Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

Posted by eric at 3:42 PM

May 8, 2009

The fourth annual Brooklyn Blogfest, the plethora of candidates, and why we need more journalism

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder's rundown on last night's (fourth annual) Brooklyn Blogfest only touches on Atlantic Yards in passing, but it's a clarion call for blogging as civic journalism, and well worth a read.

Still, relatively few people in the “bloggiest place in America” (to quote, whose erroneous formulation of Clinton Hill as the "bloggiest" neighborhood was cited twice from the stage) provide what we need most: solid civic information, "holding institutions accountable on a daily basis," to quote author, "The Wire" writer, and former reporter David Simon's testimony Wednesday before Congress.

I think professional and amateur reporters using blogs can do some of that "journalism of verification," but, even as Atlantic Yards blogging may be an important example of unpaid response to a controversy, I believe it's not that easy to duplicate.

The Brooklyn blogosphere, not least because some laid-off reporters have been writing for blogs (see Aaron Short and Sarah Portlock), has begun to provide more journalism, but there's much more to cover.


Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

April 17, 2009

The Curse of the Bambini

Most people, or at least those with a passing interest in baseball, have at least some familiarity with "The Curse of the Bambino," which, according to legend, the Boston Red Sox brought upon themselves when they sold the highly touted young pitcher-outfielder Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees following the 1919 season, for $125,000.

To that point, the Red Sox had been arguably baseball's most successful franchise, winning the first World Series title in 1903, and five championships in total. The Yankees, by contrast, had never even won an American League pennant.

Following the sale of "The Bambino" to the Yankees, it took 85 more years before the Red Sox won another World Series, when they became the first team in Major League history to win a post-season series after having lost the first three games, defeating the Yankees for the pennant, four games to three, before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals for the title. The Yankees, meanwhile, won 39 pennants and 26 World Series during that stretch, becoming America's most successful professional sports franchise.

But the Yankees' unrivaled success has come to an end, thanks to the Curse of the Bambini, better known as the children of the Bronx from whom the Yankees (aided and abetted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) stole Macombs Dam Park, on which the team has erected a new Yankee Stadium, with the help of hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidy.

According to this new legend, the Yankees will never win a championship while playing in their ill-gotten ballpark. In an ominous sign of things to come, the Yankees — who doled out $423 million in new contracts to just three free agents during this past off-season, and who already had MLB's highest-paid player, the ever-popular Ster- A-Rod, on their payroll — opened their new gilded palace by losing, 10-2, to the Cleveland Indians, who, even with yesterday's victory, still possess the American League's worst won-lost record.

Cleveland, coincidentally, is home to real estate developer Forest City Enterprises, which hopes to build a heavily subsidized, eminent domain-reliant sports venue of its own, in Brooklyn, for the New Jersey Nets. Since Forest City purchased a controlling interest in the Nets, in 2004, the team's fortunes have declined precipitously, sliding from championship contention to also-ran status. Another curse, perhaps? Most likely, yes.

Back in the Bronx, the bambini, who reside in the nation's poorest Congressional district, and who suffer from some of the highest asthma rates in the modern world, have seen their beloved Macombs Dam Park, and its 400 or so stately trees, bulldozed in favor of a monument to greed. The old Yankee Stadium, which managed to draw in excess of 4,000,000 fans each season from 2005 to 2008, still sits across the street, perfectly serviceable.

The promised replacements parks, individually smaller and far less accessible than Macombs Dam Park, and which the city claimed would be open at the same time as the new Stadium, remain just a promise. Current estimates have the new parkland being ready in 2011, costing the taxpayers about twice as much as originally estimated, and don't hold your breath, which one actually needs to do in the Bronx's brownish air.

Meanwhile, the Yankees continue to advertise heavily for their Legends Suite seats, which are not, at $2,650 a pop, selling like hot cakes. That's $2,650 per seat, per game, or about one-fifth the annual per capita income for Bronx residents. It's not hard to understand why the new Yankee Stadium is cursed.

We offer our condolences to Yankee fans, who over the decades have gotten so used to winning championships that anything less feels like abject failure. Thanks to the Curse of the Bambini, no new World Series banners will grace the rafters so long as the Yankees play in this second edition of Yankee Stadium. Take solace, though, in the fact that modern sports facilities seem to miraculously become obsolete in a couple of decades; the curse could, potentially, be broken by the building of a new, 100% privately financed ballpark, built without subsidy, on privately owned land without the use or threat of eminent domain, or the complicity of government in the theft of public parks.

On second thought, you better resign yourselves to a long, long drought.

Posted by eric at 3:54 PM

April 12, 2009

Racing and Gaming in Downtown BK?

The Angry New Yorker

With all the buildings demolished to build Atlantic Yards and nothing much else happening, the whole area has turned into a rat farm.

Maybe they could just build a low-budget labyrinth and hold rat races. That way people could go bet on and watch the races right in downtown BK and not have to schlepp all the way to Aqueduct or Belmont.

Full story in the NY Daily News


Posted by steve at 7:09 AM

March 7, 2009

A Hole Grows in Brooklyn - The local economy should have been left to develop on its own.

The Wall Street Journal
By Juila Vitullo-Martin

One purpose of the proposed Atlantic Yards project was to remove blight from Prospect Heights. This opinion piece shows how, in the rush to force the development on Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner and his tool, the Empire State Development Corporation, have done just the opposite.

The ill-fated project in Brooklyn reflects a breakdown of the state and city's strategy of favoring big-government, centrally supported, highly subsidized projects over the kind of small, privately funded, unsubsidized, incremental development that was already occurring in Prospect Heights, as the area is officially known.

It seems that smaller scale redevelopment wasn't happening fast enough for government officials, eager to jump-start Brooklyn's economy. They leapt to support the developer's contention that the neighborhood was blighted, and that its property owners were therefore vulnerable to the state's exercise of eminent domain.

Now officials have a mess on their hands. The development got just far enough to do considerable damage to the neighborhood without progressing far enough to do any good. Atlantic Yards has razed 26 buildings, with government help, creating the blight its developer had argued was there all along. Now there are gashes where late-19th century and early-20th century buildings once stood.


NoLandGrab: The Vanderbilt Yard (a working railyard) is at a lower elevation than the surrounding area, so the project footprint is sometimes referred to as a "hole in the ground." Otherwise, it's refreshing to see an understanding of the Atlantic Yards boondoggle in a well-known publication such as The Wall Street Journal. Any chance that New York papers like The Times could now rethink their endorsements of the project?

Posted by steve at 7:10 AM

February 27, 2009

Mayor Bloomberg Regurgitates Ratner Hype While Ignoring Court's Challenge

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Here's what Mayor Bloomberg had to say today about the court ruling:


"The Atlantic Yards project will create thousands of jobs and generate badly-needed tax revenue. The court’s unanimous affirmation today that the review and approvals processes were comprehensive and properly completed is a big step towards the start of construction."**

Here's what the court's ruling had to say about elected folks, such as the Mayor:

..."While we do not agree with petitioners' legal arguments, we understand those arguments to be made largely as proxies for very legitimate concerns as to the effect of a project of such scale upon the face and social fabric of the area in which it is to be put. Those concerns, however, have relatively little to do with the project's legality and nearly everything to do with its socio-economic and aesthetic desirability, matters upon which we may not pass. To the extent that the fate of this multi-billion dollar project remains, in an increasingly forbidding economy, a matter of social and political volition, the controlling judgments as to its merits are the province of the policy-making branches of government, not the courts." (Emphasis added.)

That sounds like a challenge to the Mayor and other elected officials to do more than simply accept that legal Ts were crossed and legal Is were dotted. That is the purview of the court. The Mayor's purview is sound policy. We wonder, with great concern, what the sound policy is that underlies the Atlantic Yards proposal, that underlies a publicly-subsidized billlion dollar arena in the midst of the Great Recession. An arena which, by the way, would be a financial loss for the City. We wonder what the merits are and who, if anyone, is judging them outside of Forest City Ratner spin.

** Note well that the Mayor's release makes no mention of housing of any kind—market or affordable. Those, of course, are on the backburner, and the pilot light is flickering.


Posted by steve at 6:30 AM

What Was Guy Ambrosino

Gowanus Lounge

As the possible Atlantic Yards site (also known as Propect Heights) is being demolished by Bruce Ratner, Guy Ambrosino is doing–or saying–something about it. (Bear in mind, however, his statement is more of the memory and the appreciation of communal statement than it is in protest and politics.) This Saturday (2/28) from 4-5pm Guy’s What Was will be the opening of his use of raw materials acquired (good word) from the deconstruction of the Yards at the Soap Box Gallery (636 Dean St, directly across from the Yards) with an after party at Barrette (601 Vanderbilt Ave.) from 5-7pm. For more information about these events or the artist himself, check out Guy Ambrosino.


Posted by steve at 2:59 AM

February 12, 2009

More comments from our Web readers

The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper has a special item emphasizing support for the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Publisher Ed Weintrob’s editorial advocating using the federal stimulus to build the Atlantic Yards arena unleashed a torrent of responses on, our award-winning Web site. Most comments were negative, but believe it or not, some commenters sided with Weintrob:

“I agree with this editorial. The fact that it will create thousands of construction jobs is another good argument to support this project.”

Sol from Park Slope

To read the rest of the comments, please follow the link.


NoLandGrab: A number of the commenters wish to justify the proposed Atlantic Yards project with promises of job creation. We'll repeat - yet again - that the 15,000 construction jobs promised are really just 1,500 construction jobs for 10 years. Meanwhile, the one promised office tower, where one might expect as a location for well-paying jobs, is on hold indefinitely.

Posted by steve at 5:12 AM

February 1, 2009

It Came from the Blogosphere...


This is a flyer from the Fulton Area Community Crier I received in the ‘hood and I’m going on record to co-sign:
Six years ago Mayor Bloomberg and partner Forest City Ratner Companies(FCRC) launched their Atlantic Yards attack on Prospect Heights; they thought the neighborhood would be caught off guard and defenseless. Now it’s our turn to fight off the Mayor and Pratt Area Community (PACC) on target Fulton street.

Brooklyn Streets, Carroll Gardens, Mayor Bloomberg: Hoocoodanode?

I'll clap Bloomberg on the back for two things: 311 and the smoking ban. Other than that, his every instinct is utterly wrongheaded. Dan Doctoroff? The Olympics? Patricia Lancaster? Atlantic Yards? The West Side Stadium? Sweetheart deals with every billionaire developer in town (or Ohio)? The 2004 Republican National Convention? Persecution of Critical Mass? Suppression of protest of every stripe (including the February 2003 anti-war rally)?

Posted by amy at 9:40 AM

January 15, 2009

The Power Broker, 2009: Mayor Mike Bloomberg

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder leads us on a game of political connect-the-dots. He shows how Mayor Michael Bloomberg is working on an alliance with Governor David Paterson that has allowed Bloomberg to push through a change on term limits and to promote Caroline Kennedy as the next Senator from New York.

The line being drawn leads, ultimately, to developers. This point is drawn from The Village Voice's Wayne Barrett:

Barrett adds: Should Paterson choose Kennedy, he is said to be considering signing up with Knickerbocker SKD, the political consultants already tied to Bloomberg, Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and Christine Quinn, all of whom are up for re-election this year or next.

Remember, Knickerbocker SKD has produced Forest City Ratner's fliers and worked for pro-AY candidate Tracy Boyland. Examinations of power in New York City often lead to developers.


Posted by steve at 8:18 AM

December 4, 2008

Starting TONIGHT: Brooklyn at Eye Level

AK-BaEL.jpg Brit in Brooklyn, Atlantics Yards on Stage

Drawing inspiration from interviews conducted around the Atlantic Yards footprint, Brooklyn at Eye Level is a take on the Atlantic Yards story through theater, dance and music. The Civilians Theater Company will be performing the show at the Brooklyn Lyceum this week. I got to sit in on an early rehearsal to shoot it, and found it fascinating. Looking forward to seeing the finished work.

Brooklyn at Eye Level from The Civilians theatre company at the 4th Avenue Lyceum.

December 4 – 7, 2008 The Brooklyn Lyceum
227 4th Avenue
(M,R to Union St. or 2,3,4,5,N,B,Q to Atlantic)
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm
Saturday and Sunday at 3pm
Limited seating! Click here to reserve seats or call 212-730-2019

More entries from the Brooklyn at Eye Level Blog:

"But the BROOKLYN Dodgers spoke to Brooklyn as a city unto itself. And if they had been named differently or played in another part of the city, it wouldn’t have meant anything at all.” - Met’s Fan and Fourth Generation Brooklynite

“the Unity Plan would have been much better…it had affordable housing, like 80 percent affordable. It had lower, lower . . . buildings. No skyscrapers." - Public Servant

NoLandGrab: A few of the UNITY plan facts stated above are wrong. There ARE highrises in the UNITY plan, just not 500 ft. tall, and the plan calls for “60% affordable housing,” not an eye-popping 80%.

"POOR PEOPLE NEED TO BE LIFTED OUT OF POVERTY. The idea is to do away with poverty not make poverty more comfortable.” - An Elder from Around the Way

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

December 3, 2008

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Laboratory and blogatory

Brooklyn at Eye Level Blog, Community Lab: Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School

Brooklyn at Eye Level includes a number of Community Labs connecting artists with local youth groups. Last week author Carl Hancock Rux lead a workshop with students at the Hip-Hop Theater Festival’s affiliate school Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School. The workshop began with a lively discussion exploring neighborhood observations that weaved together notions of community, class, and even perspectives on vacillating trends and personal habits.

Atlantic Yards Report, Coming this weekend: The Civilians' "Brooklyn at Eye Level"

After watching Danny Hoch's one-man show about gentrification in Williamsburg, Taking Over, I wondered "if The Civilians, the not-quite-documentary theater troupe working on a project inspired by Atlantic Yards, will capture the layers involved in the AY saga."

Well, we'll see beginning Thursday, when the work-in-progress Brooklyn at Eye Level debuts at the Brooklyn Lyceum. (Reservations required; tickets Thursday-Sunday are pay-what-you-can. More here and here and note that )

While theater can add layers, it also can obscure context, especially if there's no fact-checking. All opinions are not of equal value, especially when an opinion contains facts that are untrue.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Naysayers and Yaysayers

“Ratner was trying to help all these people. He doesn’t just take your property, he offers fair market value. If you’re gonna say no cuz you wanna be in the way of progress . . ." That's one Proud Brooklynite's take on Atlantic Yards, as dramatized by the upcoming production Brooklyn at Eye Level, a theatrical investigation of the real estate development.

Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM

December 2, 2008

It Came from the Blogosphere...

NetsDaily, Yormark Denies Report He’s Headed to the Dolphins

Brett Yormark categorically denied he has committed to joining the front office of the Miami Dolphins after this season or that he had even been approached about a job. Yormark seemed stunned when asked about the job by WFAN’s Craig Carton. “I’m committed to the Nets, committed to the (Barclays Center)”. The Net CEO again said the Nets would break ground early in 2009 and be in Brooklyn by the 2011-12 season.

CAC.OPHONY, An Experiment in Digital Storytelling

Writing a term paper on the Atlantic Yards? Use Google Maps to show how construction will restrict traffic., News

The cost of the Atlantic Yards project has gone up much faster than the rate of inflation. [AYR]

NYC Communities, Community Controversy - Kelly Carter describes both sides of the coin in detail, and in the end sides with DDDB:

If people do not join the fight against the Ratner Project with Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn then they will regret it later after Atlantic Yards is complete. They will realize that from this project their community will now be dark and gloomy from the shadow that is cast over them from all the skyscrapers that are going to be built, they will have to leave earlier for work because of all the traffic of cars and public transportation, there will be an overcrowding issue from all the new apartments being built, and their community will be forced to change and be different and lost forever from the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by amy at 8:17 PM

December 1, 2008

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Press notice, pr and planning



The Civilians (“Gone Missing”) present a work in progress, which is based on interviews with the players on all sides of the controversy surrounding Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project. Dec. 4-7. (Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn. To make reservations, which are required, visit

“Ratner was trying to help all these people. He doesn’t just take your property, he offers fair market value. If you’re gonna say no cuz you wanna be in the way of progress . . . it’s gotta be this country, based on majority rules, right? So, if the majority of people want something, you can’t have the few naysayers say no, cause then you know what? You’d never make progress the rest of our lives. And you have some beautiful buildings that are gonna be built there . . . think about that one . . . the mayor approved it, the city council approved it, everybody approved of it, right? So everybody can’t be wrong and these few people are right. " — Proud Brooklynite

NoLandGrab: Here's more proof of the success of Bruce Ratner's pr machine. Only three "yaysayers" had approval of the project, representatives of the Governor, State Assembly Speaker, and State Senate Leader. Since Atlantic Yards is a state-sponsored project, the City Council had no approval over the project, and the Mayor is a primary backer, though he didn't have any formal approval.

Three "yaysayers" and a jumble of lies and misinformation, is that democracy?

“I don’t see the average family in Brooklyn, particularly a low-income family, being able to function in those buildings effectively [proposed Atlantic Yards Towers]…When we worked in Bed-Stuy, on BS Restoration Corps. . . there was this woman who leaned out her window and said, “give us affordable housing. But make sure I can yell at my kids on the street.” You just can’t do that in a 40-story building." — Urban Planner

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

November 28, 2008

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Raid and rationality

Here are some more excerpts from interviews conducted by The Civilians, as background for the new play about Atlantic Yards:

"Every time they raid me, the day before I receive a call from some real estate investor in the city that wants to buy my building. When I tell them no, you guys raid me, so what the fuck you expect from me." — Community Business Owner

"You know, I was brought up to think that the world actually is a somewhat rational place! Well it is rational, you know, this is a guy who went to law school with Pataki who was the governor at the time, he dangles, you know the elephants in front of Marty Markowitz, he dangles part ownership of a football team in front of Jay-Z, he offers free events, you know, so that poor families can bring their kids to a basketball clinic, that then gets used to create a PR video, you know?" — Rational Brooklynite

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

November 26, 2008

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Fort Greene Park

Here is an excerpt from an interview conducted by The Civilians, as background for the new play about Atlantic Yards:

“Oh, I know what disappeared! Concerts in the park! Concerts in Fort Greene Park. They got rid of those because I guess the people who live here now didn’t want the kinds of people who’d come to the concerts parking on their streets or hanging out in front of their houses. Didn’t want the noise. So those are gone. And now they got doggie fountains…where your dog could get a drink of water. Used to be your kids couldn’t get water outta those fountains, now they lowered them so the dogs can drink.” — Fort Greene resident

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

November 22, 2008

It Came From the Blogosphere...

Mole's Progressive Democrat, NEW YORK STATE FOCUS: Blogs, 2009 Candidates, Groups and Events

Bloomberg vs. Thompson on Bruce Ratner: Comptroller and possible mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is saying no more public money for greedy developer Bruce Ratner while Tsar Bloomberg is raising YOUR taxes and cutting jobs but letting rich Ratner dodge taxes.

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Friday Links Roundup

And, for your Friday fun, may we present Atlantic Yards Deathwatch. (No, we don’t know who made it).

NY Observer, The Weekly Walk-Through

IFC is airing a film bashing the media for not bashing Atlantic Yards.

Posted by amy at 9:53 AM

October 26, 2008

More Discredit of Bloomberg as Qualified Financial Crisis Leader

Noticing New York

This blog entry examines the myth that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the only person on the planet capable of leading New York City through the coming financial hard times. It's clear that he didn't make any preparations for lean years during the good times.

A discussion of how Bloomberg's policies failed to preserve and reuse valuable industrial properties includes a mention of the Ward Bakery. This beautiful, historic building is being demolished to make way for the third phase of the proposed Atlantic Yards project. With the entire project in doubt, it's likely that this demolition will result in nothing except empty lots.

We don’t want to sidetrack into the question of whether so much land associated with the industrial sector of the city’s economy should have been decommissioned. Certainly it was important to make a shift but it is important to do these things intelligently and not reflexively. The elimination of a sorely needed graving dock (dry dock) in Red Hook to create an IKEA parking lot was a mistake. It eliminated high-paying jobs while replacing them with a similar number of much lower-paying jobs. If it was essential to have IKEA (with its parking lot), we could have had both IKEA and the graving dock. The city is now looking at spending a billion dollars to replace the sacrificed dry dock. (See: Brownstowner’s June 23, 2008, IKEA Dock Destruction: 'Billion-Dollar Boondoggle'? And the New York Post’s IKEA Berth Pangs, City Dock Deal a $1b Blunder, by Rich Calder, June 23, 2008) This reflexively silly sacrificing of assets is, of course, a concern, but it is not our foremost concern in terms of the approaching budgetary perfect storm.

We could also mention, as we have before, the wonton failure to preserve for adaptive reuse historic worthwhile former industrial buildings like the Ward Bakery Building. (Sunday, October 19, 2008, Building the Right Landmarks Case; Wrong Building)


Posted by steve at 10:20 AM

October 4, 2008

Commentary on Bagli's article "Atlantic Yards Faces Another Delay"

City Room

There was quite a bit of action in the comments section of the NY Times, City Room blog in reaction to Charles Bagli's article about the latest setback for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Here's a slice:

"Another delay! The NIMBYs that are against the Atlantic Yards project need to let Ratner build it already. Let Brooklyn thrive! It can’t be all about you." — Ariel

"...the scuttlebutt I got from one of my friends who’s so far surviving at Lehman is that Barclays is potentially in over its head on the Lehman deal. I’m hoping that come November, conditions will allow Barclays to bow out, not only because I’m against Atlantic Yards, but also because I’d like my pension fund to salvage its holdings in Lehman and a $20 million name sponsorship is an unnecessary distraction." — WL

"Bruce Ratner should give up on Brooklyn. Newark has a terrific new arena that the Net’s could call home." — bsh451

"Atlantic Yards cannot be built. Everyone knows it. It’s just a matter of Ratner and the State admitting it and feeling there is some way to save face." — brookland

"Ratner is the wrong developer, with the wrong plans, at the worst time." — RWeber, Park Slope

"Stop your complaining already. I live blocks from the project and have been anxiously awaiting the Ratner project for years. I hate NIMBYISM. It’s not your land, you have no right to impede progress like this…" — mike

"Actually, Mike, it IS their land. They own it, and Ratner is trying to take it from them." — Greg

"Why hasn’t there been a single comment let alone major investigative articles concerning the very curious question about where the handful of residents who are spending millions in legal fees fighting Ratner are getting the money... Who would the new Brooklyn arena directly compete ? Answer. Madison Square Garden and its owner Billionaire Jim Dolan. Again I wonder where all the money for these legal fees is coming ??" — AH2

Note: "AH2" is personally invited to the FOURTH DDDB Walkathon on October 18.

"Sorry AH2. No conspiracy is involved in the source of financial support for the legal fees etc. of those fighting Atlantic Yards. The coalition of groups that object to Bruce Ratner’s project, with its misuse of eminent domain, have organized many large-scale and highly successful fund raising events. They also receive ongoing support from numerous contributors and volunteers who agree with their point of view re Ratopia." — Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"Although all large developments require great amounts of leveraged funding to be built, the Atlantic Yards project embodies a microcosm of the present financial crisis.... What does any of this have to do with basketball and low-income housing? About as much as a bailout of financial firms has to do with helping those in Brooklyn defaulting on subprime mortgages received through predatory lending." — Stuart Schrader

"How are they NIMBYs when they are going to be forced to move out if this project gets built rather than living with it?" — Tal Barzilai

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

September 28, 2008

Weighing Scale


Noticing New York has fun with scale, looking at the differences between renderings from the Municipal Art Society’s “Atlantic Yards or Atlantic Lots” slide show and the Environmental Simulation Center’s Atlantic Yards plug-in for the Google Earth program.

The MAS renderings do not try to recreate the distracting Gehry/Ratner abstractions and thereby do a superior job of suggesting what the contextual density and extreme mass of this project would be. For instance, in the MAS renderings, surrounding Brooklyn is crisply visible: Each doorway, window frame, existing tree and passing car window provides scale while the stand-ins for the mass of the proposed Atlantic Yards megaproject also has scale-setting windows and floors clearly indicated. The rendering is matter-of-fact-neutral right down to a very restrained daytime depiction of the 15-story animated sign that will be illuminated at night.
Like the MAS renderings, the Environmental Simulation Center modeling is good in that they concentrate in context on the actual mass and density that needs to be considered, while stripping away distracting glitz. The Environmental Simulation Center modeling is not perfect; it was generated a while ago and doesn’t reflect some of the slight size changes for the project that have been recently discussed. On the other hand it is not certain that this is relevant since it is far from clear that any of our government officials are in the habit of making Forest City Ratner commit to anything, and since nobody really knows what is going on with this project which is obviously in a state of flux. The Environmental Simulation Center modeling also allows you to examine for comparison the much more sensible density and massing alternatives that were offered by the Extel proposal, the Pacific Plan (Slide 36) and the first version of the community’s UNITY Plan.


Posted by amy at 2:20 PM

September 21, 2008

It Came from the Blogosphere...


The KnickerBlogger, Public Absorbs the Risk and Loss, Private Companies Absorb the Profit.

Wow, just like Atlantic Yards.

This Recording, In Which New Yankee Stadium Reeks of the Old

It would be naive not to recognize the true elephant in the room when it comes to all this New York building, and that’s the 9/11. In a way the architects and businessmen are saying that the only way they know to compensate for loss, is bigger, better.

The other way to look at 9/11's influence on city planning, might be, say, the threat of terrorism?

Posted by amy at 1:03 PM

Reinventing Grand Army Plaza


Hub and Spokes finds an interesting comment on the City Room blog regarding the redesign of Grand Army Plaza:

Perhaps if the Design Trust truly had any stake in what’s most appropriate for Brooklyn, or had any sense of reverence for the democratic vision of Olmstead and Vaux, this would be apparent. As it is, this effort smacks of the same lethal combination of mediocre talent, opportunism, political access, and deep pockets that made possible Atlantic Yards, Frank Gehry’s outsized, outdated superblock-style monstrosity that no doubt has Jane Jacobs tossing in her grave… oh, Bruce Ratner is a supporter of this endeavor.

We in Brooklyn need to ask, who are the people behind these efforts to “reimagine” parts of our community? Particularly if a cursory look at the cast of characters includes sleazy Manhattan developers, a nonprofit with dubious qualifications, and — I mean, take a look at the exhibit itself. It’s a Manhattan graphic and display design sensibility, “giant cubes” just slapped down in the middle of Brooklyn.


Posted by amy at 11:23 AM

September 14, 2008

The Urban Memory Project


alldaybuffet interviews The Urban Memory Project's Co-Founder and Director Rebecca Krucoff about a project that asks young people to "document the changes they see in their own neighborhoods, and helping them to develop informed opinions about the changes taking place around them."

Terms like gentrification and development have various meanings to New Yorkers these days and nowhere is it more of a hot-button issue than in Brooklyn where the proposed Atlantic Yards projects have sparked protests, rallies and many, angry T-shirt slogans.

Of course some development as a city grows and changes is inevitable. But how do we decide what we preserve, and what is worth preserving?
The students have very strong opinions (they’re teenagers after all). Many of them are anti-gentrification and development, but there are always gray areas, and it often depends on a particular issues. Does gentrification harm or help a neighborhood overall? Will the Atlantic Yards Project benefit more people than it harms? We also want them to reflect upon and consider what makes their city valuable to them, personally, as well as for the people of the city as a whole. This is why we emphasize the “personal city,” and ask students to photograph and write about places that hold meaning for them.


Posted by amy at 3:09 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...


NYC:Brooklyn hoods-Downtown

In the 1980's, much of downtown Brooklyn was demolished to make way for a complex known as MTC, which was owned by the infamous Bruce Ratner, who is the head of FCR, in the claim that it would help revitalize the area when that wasn't the case. His complex included locations for Polytechnic University and a new home for LIU. Unfortunately, it didn't help a lot as numerous businesses were priced out especially G&T in 2004 when the latest rennovation caused it to move.

If you're wondering what's (going) up in Downtown Brooklyn, this site has block by block photos...

The Anetzberger Verdict, Construction for Arena in Brooklyn to Begin Soon

The Nets are more than likely going to move to Brooklyn at the end of the 2009 season. This is also conveniently at the end of Lebron James contract. Rumor has it that Lebron will sign with the Nets (in Brooklyn) and join his friend Jay-Z. Jay-Z is the co-owner of the Nets and is working to move the team to Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: The first sentence here is missing the Borat-style "NOT" at the end it seems..., Les Brooklyn Nets en chantier

Car si Ratner veut que son projet immobilier attire les foules, il va falloir rendre la ville de Brooklyn un peu plus sexy.

Brooklyn est abondance sexy car il est, merci beaucoup.

Nets Daily, Bloomberg: “We Will Do Everything We Can to Work with Ratner”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg left no doubt Wednesday where he stands on Atlantic Yards: “We desperately need to have development and that’s a very big part of the development in Brooklyn. I don’t know that we have to put government money in, but we certainly will do everything we can to work with Ratner to get those buildings going.” Now, Critics are complaining Bloomberg doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Yet another reason to support term limits...

The KnickerBlogger, Fairweather free marketeers

Even though it was Greenspan /Clinton years that was largely responsible for this (though Bush and CO are too blame as well) the fact that the super rich bankers are being bailed out will mean that republicans will NEVER be able to oppose subsidies for the poor on any idealogical basis. In other words, coming and going, right and left, government will continue to grow -much like Atlantic yards, the very poor will be used by the very rich to break the back of and steal from, the middle class, the productive class, the civic class.

Posted by amy at 2:30 PM

September 11, 2008


NoLandGrab Community Commentary

During his travels last month through New England, communtiy activist Alan Rosner's summer reading provided a stark contrast to developments back home in Brooklyn.

Schenectady.jpg On a brief road trip through Western New England and the Hudson Valley, I picked up two free local magazines. One, Chronograph, had an article on the rebirth of Downtown Schenectady, NY. Since I attended Union College there, I read the piece. The next magazine, The Country, had virtually the same story, but about Pittsfield, MA.

The parallels jumped out. Schenectady and Pittsfield had both spiraled downwards, losing their tax bases and downtowns when their largest employers closed up shop — and for both of them, that corporation was General Electric. I’d seen the results in Schenectady on a visit years ago.

Both downtown rebirths came with new mayors who fought for their revitalization, beginning with efforts that brought local theater arts centers back to life. This led to restaurants and retail, combined with a concerted effort to support public and private investment in their downtowns and businesses.

What jumped off the pages was seeing that Schenectady consciously decided not to base their revival on the sports-venue model, while Pittsfield turned to the arts and retail after enduring a bitter, divisive fight over a baseball stadium. That story is documented in former Major League pitcher Jim Bouton’s book, Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark.

Here in Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, bit the apple offered by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and, forever after, he has pitched a false nostalgia. He turned away from using his booster energy to support the BAM cultural and arts area expansion. Instead he went for the sports stadium, and was enabled by Bloomberg and backed by Pataki’s state power brokers. Now Brooklyn faces ongoing Developer’s Blight, acres of blight-enhancing parking lots, and another 10 to 20 years of construction.

Instead of selling off the commons to inside bidders, Schenectady & Pittsfield chose to enhance theirs, to make it an attractor for their surrounding populations. Brooklyn’s gotten baited and switched.

Another example, albeit one without the false promise of a corporate sports rescue, is the Vermont city of Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain. We visited, dined & walked around downtown and found a revitalized city, based on making the downtown and lakefront walkable and enjoyable. The arts, entertainment, retail, restaurant & small business model works. It was Brooklyn’s before Marty & Bruce embraced.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

August 31, 2008

At the DEIS hearing, "an affront to common sense" on adaptive reuse

Atlantic Yards Report

Adaptive reuse of buildings in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint was brushed aside by the Empire State Development Corporation. One preservationist testifying in 2006 at the Draft Environmental Impact Statement Hearings made note of this:

...The consultants say that they examined the possibility of conversion to residential use, but they rejected it. Why? Conversion might entail altering the buildings and then the buildings would lose their integrity. To contend that historic buildings should be demolished so as to avoid changing them is an affront to common sense... and to local preservation laws. The ultimate loss of integrity is demolition, not minor alterations for adaptive re-use.


Posted by steve at 4:32 PM

From the DEIS hearing: unheeded wisdom regarding the economic claims

Atlantic Yards Report


The ongoing review of 2006's Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) uncovers testimony that questions underlying economic assumptions about Atlantic Yards. A thorough, public review has never been done.

...The benefits laid out in detailed numbers in the DEIS rely on assumptions about new residents coming from outside of the city, about all retail and office space being filled immediately, about Nets fans coming from out of state and a certain number of Nets players living one the city.

These seemingly small assumptions are the fundamental foundation of the promised benefits to the City and the State. Yet, it is not hard to imagine circumstances in which several of these assumptions might play out differently in reality. Once the foundation falters, the whole facade of economic benefit begins to crumble.

Often important assumptions appear in [FCR consultant Andrew] Zimbalist's report, but are absent from the DEIS, misleading the public. If there is solid evidence to back up these claims, it is not presented in the DEIS.

Without this evidence it is unreasonable for the public to believe in the promises made by Forest City Ratner.


Posted by steve at 6:39 AM

July 22, 2008

Top Ten Reasons why Kensington is better than Park Slope

Kensington Stories


Kensington Stories blogger Ron Lopez included this curious item among the "reasons why Kensington is better than Park Slope" (debatable, but we do believe in pride of place) in a post last week:

4 We know that “ugly” train yard on Atlantic Avenue is actually ugly, and are not fooled by the “Develop don’t destroy Brooklyn” people.


NoLandGrab: We're not quite sure how DDDB is fooling anyone, and as far as we know, nobody ever said the train yard wasn't ugly. We're also pretty certain that neither DDDB nor yours truly would be around to fool people if Bruce Ratner had proposed building a project only above the 8.3-acre railyard. It's a safe bet that had Bruce and the ESDC targeted Mr. Lopez's Kensington community, they'd have found "blight" where Mr. Lopez sees a great neighborhood (is that lovely house pictured above built to at least 60% of its available Floor Area Ratio?).

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

July 12, 2008

Cracks in the Facade


The Footprint Gazette

I know I voice a lot of complaints on this blog about the way the long term residents of this neighborhood continue to get harassed and demeaned by Bruce Ratner, Marty Markowitz and every other complicit sell out involved in this boondoggle.

But the real victim here is the structural integrity of a good strong building. One built the way they used to build them. Not like these bland Home Depot jobs that are so common. Here are some photos of some of the more recent cracks that are showing up in our building. It don't take no sleuth to recognize that that ain't good. There are also cracks extending from floor to ceiling in my apt. and I've been told by other folks in the building that they have the same cracks in theirs.

But you know what, I take it back. The real victim is us. This morning I woke up to find the gas had been turned off in our building. Earlier in the week it was the water. No notice, no nothing. Last week when they turned our water back on my toilet filled with dirt leaving it unusable for most of the long weekend. I had to have a super unlock a vacant apt. so I wouldn't have to hold it in in celebration o four nation's independence.


Posted by amy at 9:20 AM

July 2, 2008

Don't Go Chasin' Waterfalls...Not These, At Least

Fans for Fair Play

That's not a rainbow FFFP sees through the mist... it's Atlantic Yards.


Not a day goes by without a clear example of why Bloomberg's New York is such a maddening, offensive and increasingly soulless place to live.

For today's example, we offer you this:

Olafur Eliasson's "Waterfalls" -- four Erector Sets leaking water into the East River -- cost $15 million (say that with a Dr. Evil voice, especially over the $2 million in public money). The vampiric steward of our decaying city (above, right) blathered something about $59 million being generated for the city's coffers. That's government officials like Bloomberg's go-to excuse for wasting money and resources. All of NYC's new stadiums (and the one not going up in Brooklyn). Big "because we can" fartworks like this or last year's "Gates" in Central Park. The Bon Jovi concert just announced for the Great Lawn, where Mayor Mike's construct is that what's good for white rock'n'roll fans isn't good for RNC demonstrators.

River water tumbling meekly off scaffolds isn't nearly the problem that the Atlantic Yards is, of course. Dopey and disappointing as Eliasson's efforts are, they're not really hurting anyone. Well, not counting whoever could've used the $2 million the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation stuffed in Eliasson's pocket, likely at the mayor's behest.

Part of the problem is timing, as it always is with Atlantic Yards. The economy's crashing, so Ratner asks for more public money for his failing luxury-condo development. The AY arena is a billion-dollar money pit, so Ratner declares his Nets are "rebuilding," sports-world code for "we'll really blow the next few years."

Ratner, emboldened by state officials he counts as both pals and sugar-daddies/mommies, keeps pushing Atlantic Yards as though it's still 2003, when the economy, at least, wasn't one of the dozens of reasons the Atlantic Yards superblocks are such a bad idea on so many levels.


Posted by eric at 5:35 PM

June 20, 2008

Local Coverage of the Atlantic Yards Governance Act

Two local weekly papers note the proposed Atlantic Yards Governance Act legislation. This bill would cause oversight of the proposed Atlantic Yards project to be taken away from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and moved to a trust.

The Brooklyn Paper: Pols want more Yards scrutiny
By Sarah Portlock

State legislators want to take oversight of Atlantic Yards away from a development agency controlled by the governor’s appointees and give it to … a new agency controlled only slightly less by the governor’s appointees.

The bill, drafted by Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries (D-Fort Greene) and James Brennan (D-Park Slope), would replace the Empire State Development Corporation’s ongoing oversight of Bruce Ratner’s approved mega-development and hand it over to a new, 15-member panel.

It’s unclear whether the new body would have any real power to alter the $4-billion development, as Gov. Paterson, who supports the project, would have seven appointees.

Brooklyn Downtown Star: Group Wants to Put Trust in Yards Project
By Shane Miller

As plans to build a new arena for the New Jersey Nets and several residential towers in Prospect Heights flounders due to community opposition, legal troubles, and a tanking real estate market, elected officials and civic groups from the area called on a new levels of oversight and governance for the project.

The Campaign to Reform Atlantic Yards held a press conference on the steps of City Hall Monday morning to address what the coalition feels is a lack of transparency, accountability, and public involvement in the massive development project.

To meet those aims, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries has introduced a piece of legislation called the Atlantic Yards Governance Act. The bill is modeled after the Hudson River Trust Act of 1998, and it would create the Atlantic Yards Development Trust to oversee the project. The Trust would be comprised of state and city appointed officials.

The bill would also create a Stakeholders Council made up of local residents who would be appointed by elected officials, and whose task it would be to advise the Trust. “Every major state project in New York City, except Atlantic Yards, has a governance body similar to the one this legislation creates,” said Jeffries. “The best way to assure this project’s public benefits are realized, including the creation of affordable housing, is to have real oversight on the project.”


Councilwoman Letitia James threw her support behind the bill, but also reiterated her opposition to the project as a whole.

“I continue to believe the plan put forward by Forest City Ratner and the ESDC is bad for my district and for Brooklyn,” she said. “The outcome of the Atlantic Yards project is far from certain, and the current plans may be scrapped entirely, but it will always be critical to have local representation in decision-making on such a significant project.”

Posted by steve at 4:19 AM

June 15, 2008

Graphic Images from Atlantic Yards


Brit in Brooklyn

Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

May 26, 2008

Memorial Day, 2008

MemorialDayFortGreeneParkSmall.jpg The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn.

Posted by steve at 10:59 AM

April 12, 2008

It Came from the Blogosphere...


Museum Hours, Museum Hours

Also wrong were the Museum's decision at the show's gala party to honor bulldozer developer Bruce Ratner and to invite Louis Vuitton to create a faux knockoff handbag bazaar. In Marie Antoinette style, VIP guests were invited to pretend they were a poor plebian purchasing an imitation purse while paying 100 times the cost. And, get this, a portion of sales was donated to maybe the least-deserving charity ever -- the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation.


The Brooklyn Museum to “honor” Bruce Ratner, the developer who is making NYC unaffordable to average joes (and building fugly-ass malls). This comes a little more than a week after the Museum decided to donate a portion of its proceeds from Murakami’s Louis Vuitton boutique sales to the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation. (Because what we really need is more surveillance.) I’m just waiting for someone to tell me that they’ve hired Rudy Giuliani as a curator., The Atlantic Yards Ombudsman is Not In

When last heard from, the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman had finally been hired and was on the job, but today's Daily News reports that he hasn't been easy to get to see. Since November when Forrest Taylor was hired, "office renovations and ongoing meetings with city and state officials have delayed his advocacy duties." Only 60 percent of the Ombudsman's job is supposed to be spent "addressing community concerns" such as construction safety and other issues related to the big project. (Speaking of which, some work on the project was hit with a Stop Work Order yesterday by the Department of Buildings for unsafe conditions, among other things.) In any case, the Ombudsman's office on Hanson Place will open to the public, but no one can say when. And the Ombudsman himself is on vacation right now.

Posted by amy at 9:38 AM

March 29, 2008

It Came from the Blogosphere...


Who Walk In Brooklyn, Death In Gowanus: Electric Switchboard Co. RIP

WWIB mourns the coming death of one of their "favorite buildings in all of Gowanus: Electric Switchboard Co" and makes the connection between Gowanus developer Marc Freud and Atlantic Yards, as well as heaping praise on Atlantic Yards Report.

Seriously tho’, Norm’s has been on fire lately, hilariously busting the Daily News, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle manque & the unbelievably naive (or just plain dopey) yokels at ACORN, who were played so hard by Bruce Ratner but they won’t stop singing that tune for fear of admitting they were wrong from the start: oops upside your head indeed.

CultureGrrl, Brooklyn/Murakami/Vuitton: It Keeps Getting Worse

CultureGrrl connects The Brooklyn Museum, a French luxury fashion and leather goods brand, Kanye West, Rudy Giuliani, the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation, Nicolai Ouroussoff, Frank Gehry, and of course, Bruce Ratner. Phew...

The honoree of Brooklyn Ball is real estate developer Bruce Ratner, whose company, Forest City Ratner, was just taken to task by the NY Times architecture critic for "a betrayal of public trust" in planning (for economic reasons) to downsize Frank Gehry's "bold ensemble of buildings" for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards---a move that Ouroussoff declared would "only confirm our darkest suspicions about the cynical calculations underlying New York real estate deals." Isn't he the same guy who's taking the N.J. Nets out of my home state?

New Penn Station, Listen to MAS President Kent Barwick on WNYC

Today on WNYC’s Morning Edition, MAS President Kent Barwick described the public benefit of Moynihan Station and suggested that the State should consider using its powers of eminent domain to take the Garden's property. From WNYC:
“The state has been willing to use its powers to take land for Bruce Ratner in Brooklyn to do Atlantic Yards or to take land in Morningside Heights away from private property owners to give to Columbia. Those are arguable public benefits, but there’s no question about the public benefit of having a great new rail station. This is the most important project in New York and is the single most important step in getting the West Side developed which we need for the future of the city. And so the public benefit is clear and ultimately if the private property owners who everyone has been trying to deal with for years can’t be brought into a realistic arrangement then the state should consider using its powers to take the property.”

Posted by amy at 9:46 AM

March 16, 2008

The Atlantic Yards - Oil on Linen by Edward Minoff

Posted by steve at 8:40 AM

March 7, 2008

Yes, Atlantic Yards is the source of the "bloggiest" claim

Atlantic Yards Report

On the Brian Lehrer Live show, Steven Berlin Johnson, co-founder of, notes that Atlantic Yards is the reason he proclaimed Clinton Hill as the "bloggiest" neighborhood.

At about 24:00, Johnson explained, "We did a survey of America's bloggiest neighborhoods... We ran the numbers, most posts per neighborhood in all these cities. When it came back, the top five neighborhoods were all in Brooklyn. We decided Brooklyn could have only one neighborhood. So I think it was Clinton Hill, because however we defined Atlantic Yards, it was in there."

As I wrote last April, if the source of Clinton Hill's stature was Atlantic Yards, the bloggiest neighborhood should be Prospect Heights, home to almost all of the project footprint.


NoLandGrab: If ever there was a topic in Brooklyn that deserves coverage in the blogs, it's Atlantic Yards. After all, coverage of this boondoggle has been sorely lacking in the mainstream media. If only would notice that the neighborhood being most directly threatened is Prospect Heights and not Clinton Hill.

Posted by steve at 8:16 AM

Wired Deals

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn reprints a thoughtful commentary, originally posted to Atlantic Yards Report, about how judges can fail to do an independent assessment of a project like Atlantic Yards after public officials have fallen into line to endorse it.

Though they may not want to, there is no doubt that our New York justices know that they can second-guess analysis of a public agency. They don’t want to because it is an uncomfortable thing to do. Essentially they are required to make an ad hominem finding about how the public officials have conducted themselves; the courts will have to say that what they see is “unreasonable,” “in bad faith” or “arbitrary and capricious.” Either that or they need to change their presumptions- which in cases of developer-initiated, developer-driven condemnations like Atlantic Yards they probably should.

The public officials who know that a deal like this one was wired should not be surprised to be called off base. An important thing to understand is that not all deals are “wired.” Most deals handled by public officials are not. It may be strange to think that all deals, whether they are wired or not, may be subject to the same standard of judicial review, but if our judges choose not to deal with reality that may indeed be the case.

When a deal is wired, process breaks down and rationalization sets in. Public servants don’t stand up for proper process because they might lose their job or not get promoted as fast. They may believe in taking orders. But they don’t want to acknowledge that there is real harm in this. If a deal is small, a public official may disregard the skip in process as too small to pay attention to. If a deal is big, like Atlantic Yards, then the breakdown in process will lead to cumulatively bad results. Through rationalization, these bad results are probably not even acknowledged by the very public servants who have ushered through a wired deal.


Last in line to say whether the fantasy-land mis-processing of a wired project should be rejected as an unreasonable version of reality is the reviewing judge. The judge can side with reality and reject the work of the public officials. Again, it is uncomfortable to do so- Honestly speaking the public officials who did the work will acknowledge that wired deals are a very real thing- but that doesn’t mean a judge is going to want to render a real opinion that acknowledges this failure of process.


Posted by steve at 6:55 AM

February 17, 2008

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker vs. Yellow-bellied Developer


Dope on the Slope

NoLandGrab: When Jon Crow of the Brooklyn Bears Garden started telling us about the threat of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, we were all "yeah Jon, we already know about that." Then we realized he was talking about a bird...

Sapsuckers makes two kinds of holes: deep drilled narrow openings and the larger shallow patches shown here. These holes are just deep enough into the bark tissue to allow exuding of sap. The sap, as well as any insects attracted to it, is eagerly lapped up by the bird. Many other species of bird take advantage of this "strip mining" (the lousy parasites), so the yellowbellied sapsucker could be considered a keystone species.

Do the holes hurt the tree? While it's possible that a tree could be seriously damaged by such treatment, it would not be in the sapsucker's long term interest to kill its food source. As several of the gardeners present last Sunday pointed out, not one branch was girdled, so it's possible the damage will be repaired by the tree itself.

If only the yellowbellied real estate developer (Agripeta maximus1) followed a similar strategy. Unfortunately, the neighborhoods that are being pecked to death are not a meaningful resource for this wily species. There is no incentive to preserve anything, because it has no bearing on the species' future success. Our local government will always be there to toss out more seed.


Posted by amy at 12:36 PM

January 25, 2008

Bloomberg's Budget Cuts

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

These two items make the point that the sweetheart deal made with developer Bruce Ratner looks particularly foolish when the economy calls for belt-tightening.


Mayor Bloomberg proposes key service cuts and cutting $180 million from the Department of Education while handing over $205 million in direct cash subsidy to Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, as well as a blank check from city taxpayers for "extraordinary infrastructure costs."

Will the Council go for it?

Bloomberg: Economy is Highly Volatile

Bloomberg Proposes Budget Cuts Across City Agencies NY Times City Room Blog

...“No boom goes on indefinitely today,” the mayor said in a noontime news conference in the Blue Room at City Hall. “I think it’s fair to say that both the national and international economies are in a state of high volatility.”...

The Knickerblogger comments (correctly):

Yeah, Bloomberg, great time for the city and state to subsidize a billionaire developer with a poor track record's ill conceived attempt to build a highly speculative, poorly designed luxury condo/stripmall/arena complex.

Posted by steve at 4:30 AM

January 20, 2008

taking a break

The Poem A Day Project does Atlantic Yards...

she rests in a separate room, local
newspaper folded across one knee
the atlantic yards, coney island,
someone else fighting something
without a point we’ve just finished
fighting something without a point


Posted by amy at 11:52 AM

what's going on Brooklyn? (part 2, the insight)


everderame stumbles upon local politics through art...

The message was there, and somewhat clear (quite clear compared to the idiche letterings), definetly someone was trying to call attention to the dark side of the changes the area was passing through.

But What is ATURA, who is Mayor Moo Moo (hehehe) and what about the 'Ratner Plan'. Well it seemed that I need some more information now. But I knew that on the wrong side of the Brooklyn I could gather something to undestand it as a whole. On the way back - through Lafayett Ave. to Atlantic Ave. I could see more of the area development and take a glimpse of what was written in blue on the wall: the whole area was under severe remodelling.


Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

December 22, 2007

DDDB/NY Daily News on Pilots

The Knickerblogger

The Daily News's Juan Gonzalez takes a much needed look at the City's use of PILOTS (Payments in Lieu of Taxes). These PILOTS enable large corporations to avoid paying their property taxes. Of course PILOTS are a huge part of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. These payments they'll make in lieu of property taxes, instead of going into city coffers for the common treasury, will go to paying off the construction bond debt for their Barclays Center arena and to the State of New York. One year to the day since the poiltical approval of Atlantic Yards by the Public Authorities Control Board and still nobody has any idea what the amount of Atlantic Yards PILOTs will be. Nobody.


Posted by steve at 5:00 AM

November 16, 2007

CBN's open letter to ESDC: What happened to AY promises?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has issued a public letter to the ESDC asking that the agency honor its promises.

Norman Oder summarizes the issues addressed in the letter:

1) An ombudsperson to provide the public with information and to enhance the cooperation of various government agencies involved in this project has not yet been appointed. (Last month, the New York Daily News reported on the delay.)

2) The ESDC has contracted with Henningson, Durham and Richardson Architecture and Engineering, to serve as the Environmental Mitigation Monitor for the project, CBN said, but the firm's "responsibilities and activities have not been reported to the public or to elected officials." Nor has there been a public report about the Owner’s Representative for Construction Activities announced by the ESDC.

3) While the ESDC promised the creation of an Interagency Working Group "to review approved and planned work on a monthly basis," CBN said that it assumed the group has not been formed, since it would "hold open meetings to ensure that community interests are served." (It's not clear that such a group was expected to hold open meetings.)

4) The promised Transportation Working Group has met only once, to CBN's knowledge, but neither CBN nor its traffic experts from Community Consulting Services were invited.

5) While the ESDC promised to hold regular meetings with elected officials about overall progress and key project milestones, the schedule is unclear, and City Council Member Letitia James, whose district includes the largest chunk of the project site, was not invited to a recent meeting cited by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries regarding transportation issues.

Click here to view CBN's "Open Letter to the ESDC - Is Anybody Out There?"


Posted by steve at 7:38 AM

October 21, 2007

Desktop Day Double: Atlantic Yards, No



Brit in Brooklyn


Posted by amy at 10:32 AM

September 29, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...


Gothamist: Extra Extra

An interview with the creators of a multimedia presentation that represents a post-Atlantic Yards development Brooklyn.

PRNewser: Dan Klores to continue ‘The War’
Ever wonder what happened to Joe DePlasco? He' s now working on publicity for the less controversial Ken Burns "War" documentary for PBS:

This is a huge PR buy for PBS, with Klores Managing Director Joe DePlasco leading the account with a staff of four (an SVP, VP, AS, and one other). It seems like relatively easy sledding for DePlasco, whose name is strewn all over articles about the plan for a Nets stadium in Brooklyn (DKC represents Forrest City Ratner developers). The only controversy over the Burns film was the drumbeat to include Latino and Native American subjects in the final cut, which added to the quality.

Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

September 9, 2007

Chris Owens: Do Not Go Gently

Brooklyn Vs Bush

. . .with John Pinamonti and the Atomic Grind Show. The Atlantic Yards "done deal" keeps on doing it to the people of Brooklyn. But Brooklyn keeps fighting back. Make the crooks who have force fed the disasterous deal pay plenty. Freddy's and the people of the neighborhood are faced with removal by Eminent Domain Abuse and would appreciate any money you might like to donate to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal fund to fight to save Brooklyn in Court.


Posted by amy at 8:52 PM

August 19, 2007

Concert Review: Blow This Nightclub Reunion (Sort of…) at Freddy’s, Brooklyn NY 8/12/07


Lucid Culture visited Freddy's for a recent reunion of the Zombies

Since Freddy’s is in the “footprint” for the Atlantic Yards luxury housing/basketball arena complex, its days are numbered. Tonight’s show, more than just a great moment in obscure rock history, is yet another reminder of what New York stands to lose from the explosion of luxury housing. For not only are all those cheaply prefabricated, plastic-and-sheetrock Legoland highrises displacing music venues, they’re displacing the people who play there. And raising rents to the point where musicians and other artists can’t afford to live here anymore. Cities have always served as a cauldron for great artistic alchemy, and we’re witnessing their extinction on a scale greater than any other time in history. If Ratner and his cronies get their way, what was once arguably this nation’s greatest musical metropolis will become a vapid highrise suburb devoid of anything edgier than American Idol. New York is already in the midst of an artistic brain drain, and it will only get worse. Ask yourself, when’s the last time you discovered a good New York band (or artist, or filmmaker, etc.) under thirty years old? This city was once a magnet for great talent, but now nobody can afford to come here. In the absence of some cataclysmic event (or voter initiative) that puts an end to the luxury housing boom, what’s left of a vast and fertile scene won’t last much longer. Get out to Freddy’s – or Lakeside or Magnetic Field or wherever else something good is still happening – while you can.


Posted by amy at 9:27 AM

July 29, 2007

Friday Reflections: Whaddaya Mean, Brooklyn?

The Written Nerd contemplates where in Brooklyn to put a new bookstore - and in the process considers what "Brooklyn" means...

Brooklynites, both natives and those who moved here from elsewhere, are often incredibly passionate about where they live. It shows up in their willingness to engage with local issues like the Atlantic Yards project. It shows up in fierce, joyfully irrational neighborhood loyalties – how do you think Neighborhoodies got so successful? But it shows up sometimes in a sort of shamed defensiveness about the changes happening in the borough – about the fact that Brooklyn's cultural vitality can sometimes mean development that pushes out those without money to spend. Just look at the Brooklynian boards sometime for a sampling of the names those tech-savvy Brooklynites are calling each other: yuppie, gentrifier, scared white liberal. In a place with so much diversity, where the breath of fresh creative juices often means the potential for commercial exploitation, tensions are bound to exist, along with some jockeying for authenticity. It can be a challenge to navigate that. Call me naïve, but I think generally not being jerks to each other is a good place to start.


Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

July 21, 2007

Atlantic Yards, Baghdad.



Perhaps our so called elite realize they are so increasingly out of touch with 'the people' that the new architecture- knowingly agoraphobic and standoffish - is an attempt to grab as much as possible, and have a quick way to close the gates before all hell breaks loose. That is certainly the mentality of Bruce Ratner in Brooklyn - consistently he does as much as he can to carve out a chunk of territory and make sure there's no public access...and it seems with our embassy in Baghdad- what kind of country has to build an embassy like this...


Posted by amy at 9:16 AM

June 8, 2007

Opponents Of Atlantic Yards Vow To Appeal Ruling

By Roger Clark


Activists in Brooklyn say they're not giving up the fight to derail the massive Atlantic Yards project, despite yet another defeat in the courts.
The judge said the suit lacked merit, but opponents vow to appeal, arguing the project doesn't serve a public purpose, a requirement for the use of eminent domain.

“What the judge said was that even if everything that we said is true, that the project had primarily private benefit and only a small public benefit, that we would not be successful on a constitutional claim because it was sufficient for them to have a small amount of public benefit,” said Candace Carponter of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.
Some local residents NY1 talked with said opponents of the project should keep up the battle.

"Absolutely they should keep fighting,” said one area resident. “I mean this is an unjust situation."

"I think [Ratner’s] going to get his way,” said another. “We might get a five percent compromise on the plan, but I think it's worth fighting because it's the right position."

Project opponents are fighting with another lawsuit in state court, challenging the validity of the state's environmental impact study of the project. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

article/video (dialup/broadband)

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

June 3, 2007

Atlantic Yards......a bad idea


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Steve Gilliard, one of the most widely respected and beloved bloggers in all of blogdom, passed away yesterday at the age of 41. Steve always wrote with passion and with a deeply historical point of view on whatever topic he tackled. On December 22nd, 2006 Steve blogged about "Atlantic Yards," in a piece he titled "Atlantic Yards......a bad idea." His starting point was a NY Daily News editorial crowing about the project, titled "A groundbreaking coalition." After excerpting a piece of the editorial, Steve went into his analysis, concluding:
...Why do you need this monstrosity in downtown Brooklyn? Who does it serve? The five Nets fans in Brooklyn? Or rich developers, gullible "community activists" and even more gullible newspaper columnists.

His voice will be missed. May he rest in peace.


More commentary from The Daily Gotham: Remembering Steve Gilliard: Steve on Atlantic Yards

Posted by amy at 11:31 AM

May 13, 2007

Freddy’s Bar, Donald O’Finn, and Underground Video Art



One of the many, many things I miss about Brooklyn is Freddy’s Bar. This storied speak easy represents the best combination of dive bar and underground cultural mecca. Unfortunately, Freddy’s very existence is currently being threatened by Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project which, among other things, plans on bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn and making tons of money while ruining the spirit of this fine city in the process (read more about this at Fans for Fair Play).

There are many great things about Freddy’s and a million reasons to save it, but one that I want to focus on in particular is the underground video art of its manager Donald O’Finn. Having a drink at Freddy’s is not only more pleasant and significantly cheaper than any where else in NYC, but you also get a lot more than a few drinks for your visit. The television on the wall behind the bar often offers an ongoing collage of clips from various films, the pacing of which is simply mesmerizing. I was originally attracted by the videos because of their use of innumerable clips from obscure b-movies. I found myself trying to name the movie, or find some kind of reference so that I could somehow get my hands on it. After watching these videos a number of times, I began to notice a some thematic patterns for these collages. They were not meaningless montages (is there such a thing?) but rather narrative sequences that tell a series of compelling stories. In short, brilliantly imaginative stuff!


Posted by amy at 11:22 AM

March 19, 2007

The Motion carries, but what does it say?

A closer examination of what went on after the presentation of the Department of Transportation's plan to convert 6th & 7th Avenues in Park Slope to one-way thoroughfares

By Kevin Burget
Park Slope, Brooklyn posted a nice upbeat video of the Community Board 6 Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting, but having more footage from that meeting might be useful. There were many good speeches with politicians going emphatically on the record. However, more importantly, none of the triumphalism of the Brooklyn Paper's piece made its way into the single most important consequence of the meeting — the written Motion that becomes the salient part of the record.

It turns out this Motion didn't, as The Brooklyn Paper reports, "vote the proposal down." It said the proposal requires "further study."

This wasn't the impression given to those in attendance. The proposer of the Motion did actually say "we ask that the DOT [Department of Transportation] withdraw this proposal at this time; there are many questions, we want to get a lot of data." But when the meaning of the Motion was unclear to some who spoke up in the house, the Meeting Chair recapped by saying the Motion "is basically, to withdraw this proposal for 6th and 7th." This clarification met with huge applause in the end, as people did take it to be an unequivocal rejection, or statement of an intention to reject the DOT proposal at the next meeting.

The text of the motion that came out of the meeting, it turns out, makes no such intention clear, and may be reflecting the idiosyncratic bias of the motion's writer, which was neither in accord with unanimous opinion in the room, nor indeed with the definition given by the Meeting Chair. This is not a subtle distinction, as sending it back to the DOT for more study implies that people had lingering questions that were unanswered, and therefore could not decide, up or down, on the proposal.

The very purpose of this meeting was for the DOT to make a proposal and for people to ask questions. The proposal was made, all the local politicians asked questions and then gave their impressions, uniformly negative. No one asked questions about the proposal that the DOT said it could not answer at the time. There simply were no more questions, no lingering doubts.

While clearly people had much to say further against the plan and were forestalled by this precipitous calling of a Motion, all were eventually satisfied by the explanation that the Motion meant CB6's rejection of the plan to convert 6th and 7th to one-way avenues in Park Slope.

It is inaccurate and spurious of the author of that Motion to have written something less definitive. It misrepresents the community, the "ayes" of the Board Members present, and it now misleads the community at large.

I'd go so far as to say it's even a loophole for the DOT, which can go back and "study the issue" some more and come back with the very same recommendation, only now they can say they listened to the community. I do hope I'm over thinking this, but the wording of this Motion in no way says CB6 will reject this Plan, and I hope it can be corrected and a New Motion raised at the next meeting that reflects the truly universal opposition to this plan by the Park Slope community.

Footage of the meeting excerpt in question:
Wide Iris (QuickTime)
YouTube (Shockwave Flash)

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

March 9, 2007

Atlantic Yards, Invisible Borders

AYBorder.jpgA cool (in all senses of the word) slideshow, documenting the border of the Atlantic Yards footprint. Link

Artist, Christian Marc Schmidt:

Using sequenced still images, I trace paths around political and/or historical boundaries within cities, borders which may have had, or will have, a profound influence on the urban morphology of a city.

Further explanation from the artist.

My interest lies in the boundaries of the area, within which this tension is inherent. The border itself is the interface between old and new, between reality and idea. It is an anticipatory space, in which one can experience the friction or harmony resulting from the collision of ideas—the idea of now, of what the place is, and the idea of possibility, of what it could become. Programmatically, boundaries shape any future development, yet also contain the memory of what a place used to be, or what it might have been.

Posted by lumi at 10:44 AM

December 16, 2006



Cinematic Happenings Under Development

Q: As a Brooklyn boy myself it’s been interesting to see the borough change over the last few years – what’s your take?

Buscemi: I read something heartbreaking today – developers in Coney Island are going to take away Astro Land, and we’re going to lose the Cyclone. My first thought was, ‘That’s it, I’m moving.’ I can’t take it anymore. There’s been so much development. This whole thing with Atlantic Yards, the stadium coming in with sixteen high rise towers… it’s changing too much. I just think I hate to lose the character of what makes Brooklyn different from Manhattan. Manhattan’s a great city, but Brooklyn should be different from Manhattan.

Q: Is there any turning back, or is it too late?

Buscemi: We’re trying to stop it. I do work with this group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, and there is a lawsuit right now concerning the eminent domain. Hopefully if it can’t be stopped it can be scaled down considerably. But so many politicians are for it. Hopefully Spitzer, who I think is great, hopefully when he gets in it can be revisited and maybe some of the things can be reversed and it can at least be scaled down a lot.

Q: Yeah, I live in Prospect Heights. It’s depressing to imagine those big high rises looming overhead.

Buscemi: So you know. I think it’s a bad idea. It gets hard because we want employment and we want jobs, but I think Ratner has been exploiting that. I think there are ways to have jobs and affordable housing without this huge, mammoth development.


We're not sure what the Daily Graboid is on this site, but the graphic somehow seems appropriate...

Posted by amy at 10:21 AM

December 10, 2006

Hot Seat: Steve Buscemi


New York Post reminds us why Steve Buscemi is so cool - as if we needed a reminder...

Q: You've lived in Park Slope for ages. As it gets more gentrified, do you get more autograph seekers?

A: Nope, it's rare that somebody will stop me and ask for an autograph. Usually if somebody recognizes me, they don't say anything, or they just say "Hey." I'm able to live as close to a normal life as I can.

I am nervous about the Atlantic Yards going through, though - how much that'll change the whole area. I think it's just an unfortunate situation, and it's divided a lot of communities. We need jobs and housing, but I'm not convinced [this is] the solution. I hope there's a way that everybody can get what they need, but environmentally it's gonna be awful.

Q: You've been pretty active in the fight against the project.

A: Yeah, I've been involved with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. Every politician is for this project except for a few very brave ones, like Letitia James and some others in Brooklyn who aren't afraid to speak against it. Even Elliot Spitzer said that it's too big, and I'm hoping that [he] can be a positive force in either scaling this down or, you know, just changing the direction. Marty Markowitz [also] says that it's too big, and having people like that say that it's too big, and that maybe this isn't such a great idea, helps.

It's just way oversized and overwhelming, and I just don't see how it's going to be good for Brooklyn.


Buscemi will ironically be playing a rat in his newest film, "Charlotte's Web."

Posted by amy at 7:29 PM

October 24, 2006

The Long, Long Arm of the “Kelo Plus” Initiatives

by John Ryskamp

A legal analysis of "Kelo plus" ballot initiatives which seek to rein in governmental regulation under the guise of property rights by eminent domain legal scholar and activist John Ryskamp.

The assault on the scrutiny regime established by West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937), continues apace. To the amazed incomprehension, blustering, handwringing—and loss—of advocates of the scrutiny regime, state propositions have moved further to destroy the underlying doctrine of the Constitution that law rationally relates to a legitimate government purpose. The effect of these initiatives—extending the assault on government power beyond eminent domain in response to the Kelo case—is to substitute a new Constitutional doctrine: every law maintains an important fact. The initiatives—here we will discuss the representative California initiative, Proposition 90 —are not restricted to real property, and they are not restricted to fair market value. Thus, they open up the factual inquiry to evaluating and ranking facts in terms of each other, and reconciling them with each other on the basis of the concept of maintenance: this is the new Constitutional doctrine in action. We are being drawn irresistibly into a new Constitutional era, without its true significance ever being recognized, either by those who are bringing it into existence, or by those who oppose it coming into existence.


A good measure of the incomprehension of the scrutiny regime, can be taken by reading the California Legislative Analyst’s discussion of Proposition 90. Section 3, Paragraph 8 of the initiative states: “Except when taken to protect public health and safety, ‘damage’ to private property includes government actions that result in substantial economic loss to private property. Examples of substantial economic loss include, but are not limited to, the downzoning of private property, the elimination of any access to private property, and limitations on the use of private air space. ‘Government action’ shall mean any statute, charter provision, ordinance, resolution, law, rule or regulation.” Proposition 90 contains many definitions, but it does not define “property.” The Legislative Analyst does not note the absence of a definition, nor of course is there any analysis of the extension of the proposition to non-real property situations. Nor is the section of itself restricted to real property. Of course, modernly, property under the Fourteenth Amendment is regarded as “property interest” and is vast indeed. It is not even clear whether proponents of Proposition 90 knows this. But everyone will know it soon enough, once Proposition 90 passes, as it is expected to do.

Opponents of Proposition 90 consider the Proposition a “stealth” initiative because it contains the Paragraph 8 clause in addition to restrictions of eminent domain to public use. But that is not the real grounds of concern. Such anti-Kelo initiatives run into problems—not solutions—because they attempt to restrict eminent domain with respect to generalities, rather than with respect to facts. Proposition 90 is illustrative in this regard. We never get a definition of what “public use” is, only of what it is not. Section 3, including the proposed new Constitutional language, states: “(1) ‘Public use’ shall have a distinct and more narrow meaning than the term ‘public purpose’; its limiting effect prohibits takings expected to result in transfers to nongovernmental owners on economic development or tax revenue enhancement grounds, or for any other actual uses that are not public in fact, even though these uses may serve otherwise legitimate public purposes. (2) Public use shall not include the direct or indirect transfer of any possessory interest in property taken in an eminent domain proceeding from one private party to another private party unless that transfer proceeds pursuant to a government assignment, contract or arrangement with a private entity whereby the private entity performs a public use project. In all eminent domain actions, the government shall have the burden to prove public use.” The confusion here is compounded by the Supreme Court’s finding, in Kelo itself, that the term “economic development” has no logical content whatsoever, it doesn’t distinguish between one kind of eminent domain use and another. So it is unclear that Proposition 90 “hides” something in its restriction of eminent domain, because that restriction is in itself problematic.

No, the cause for concern for opponents of Proposition 90 is that Section 8 applies in situations which have nothing to do with eminent domain. Section 8 is not “hidden” by the eminent domain reform—the point is that it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with eminent domain reform. It is a freestanding assault on the scrutiny regime. Consider this very brief discussion of a few interest currently considered “property interests” under the Fourteenth Amendment:

Beyond employment the Court found “legitimate entitlements” in a variety of situations. Thus, because Ohio included within its statutes a provision for free education to all residents between five and 21 years of age and a compulsory–attendance at school requirement, the State was deemed to have obligated itself to accord students some due process hearing rights prior to suspending them, even for such a short period as ten days. “Having chosen to extend the right to an education to people of appellees’ class generally, Ohio may not withdraw that right on grounds of misconduct, absent fundamentally fair procedures to determine whether the misconduct has occurred.” The Court is highly deferential, however, to dismissal decisions based on academic grounds. The most striking application of such due process analysis, to date, is Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., in which a state antidiscrimination law required the enforcing agency to convene a factfinding conference within 120 days of the filing of the complaint. Inadvertently, the Commission scheduled the hearing after the expiration of the 120 days and the state courts held the requirement to be jurisdictional, necessitating dismissal of the complaint. The Court held that Logan had been denied due process. His cause of action was a property interest; older cases had clearly established causes of action as property and, in any event, Logan’s claim was an entitlement grounded in state law and it could be removed only ‘for cause.’ That property interest existed independently of the 120– day time period and could not simply be taken away by agency action or inaction. Beyond statutory entitlements, the Court has looked to state decisional law to find that private utilities may not terminate service at will but only for cause, for nonpayment of charges, so that when there was a dispute about payment or the accuracy of charges, due process required the utility to follow procedures to resolve the dispute prior to terminating service.

Currently, there is no awareness at any level that the “Kelo plus” initiatives have implications for these types of cases.


Most anti-Kelo proposals try to capture, for the party subject to a taking, some of the enhanced value expected from the government purpose for the property. Proposition 90 is no different in this regard. The new Constitutional language in Section 3 attempts to give force to this concept: “(5) If a public use is determined, the taken or damaged property shall be valued at its highest and best use without considering any future dedication requirements imposed by the government. If private property is taken for any proprietary governmental purpose, then the property shall be valued at the use to which the government intends to put the property, if such use results in a higher value for the land taken. (6) In all eminent domain actions, ‘just compensation’ shall be defined as that sum of money necessary to place the property owner in the same position monetarily, without any governmental offsets, as if the property had never been taken. ‘Just compensation’ shall include, but is not limited to, compounded interest and all reasonable costs and expenses actually incurred. (7) In all eminent domain actions, ‘fair market’ value shall be defined as the highest price the property would bring on the open market.” This definition necessarily brings us back to the issue of “public use,” because the initial determination of “public use” also included the way government “valued” the property. From the point of view of the scrutiny regime, this means that compensation and government purpose are mutually exclusive.

But that is not the meaning if we are not viewing things from the perspective of the scrutiny regime. In the new Constitutional epoch, the valuation section, coupled with Section 8, gives rise to the question, does the law maintain property? It’s simple enough, but does that eliminate all ambiguities? By no means. One of the first things to notice about the new Constitutional doctrine is that disputes are now being fought out along new lines. Instead of arguing about government purpose, or whether—at the level of intermediate scrutiny, for example—a law furthers an important government purpose, we are now arguing about what, in fact, is property. This inquiry was basically forbidden by the scrutiny regime, which left that determination to the political process and ratified what the political came up with in terms of a factual finding.

The interaction of the two dimensions of the “Kelo plus” initiatives, makes that impossible. It appears to make government chase its tail, but that’s fine with public opinion, as long as government does not operate on facts public opinion considers important. When government does feel it can break out of a circular argument and make a case of having an impact on an important fact, then determination becomes an inquiry into facts. This is the new Constitutional doctrine in application. All unawares, we are getting our first marching orders from the new Constitutional regime.

Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

October 20, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

OfficersRow.jpgLandmark This!, Officer's Row, Oh No!!!
An update on the fight to save the Navy Yard's Officer's Row from the wrecking ball explains many of the PR techniques being used by forces who support tearing down the historic buildings:

Another issue with this is the argument that it will benefit the Farragut Housing residents. As I said, they do need a supermarket. But is this just developer using the poor to their advantage? Make the preservationists out to be anti-poor is the method they're using (reminiscent of Atlantic Yards proponents no?)., big ups brooklyn
An artist comments on the Footprints exhibit and the contributions of his friends Mike and Eliza:

but more importantly, this show was about the proposed atlantic yards project in brooklyn. it is a massive project that includes a sports stadium and PLENTY of luxury apartments. i dont live in brooklyn and i dont know the history of the place, but having been there its really fantastic and it would be a shame to increase its density so quickly.

Fans For Fair Play, A called third strike
A Mets fan finds life lessons in a called third strike (something that Nets owner "Caring" Bruce Ratner probably wouldn't understand):

A called third strike.

Every baseball player knows you guard the strike zone.

Magic doesn't happen unless you make it happen.

City Hall isn't fought unless we do the fighting.

Posted by lumi at 6:38 AM

October 8, 2006

Welcome to the Atlantic Yards Blog

David's Atlantic Yards Blog

In the month and a half since I covered this beat I have experienced divisive opinions between different groups of people who feel so strongly passionate about this project, pro and con. There are people who feel very strongly about Atlantic Yards changing the character of their neighborhoods, and there are those who see this as an opportunity for more jobs and affordable housing. AY is a David vs. Goliath story between the little guy, the big real estate developer and government. How it all turns out remains to be certain.

As someone who is not from those neighborhoods but has been a longtime Brooklynite, I am totally neutral over this issue. I think that's a good attitude as a reporter because it won't cloud about how I feel. I think both sides make valid arguments but I can definitely step back and look at things with a slightly more objective viewpoint (although absolute objectivity is impossible).


NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards blogs are like stores on Smith Street lately - a new one every day. Welcome to the neighborhood!

Posted by amy at 1:45 AM

September 23, 2006

My Extroverted Introversion

Some of you might be following the controversy over BrooklynSpeaks and trying to figure out, who is this Brooklyn and what is she saying? Problem solved. BrooklynSpeaks has a blog. Following are excerpts to help you get the bigger picture...

I can see it both ways, and the fact that I can see it both ways makes me uncomfortable.
It makes me feel very very sick.
And maybe I'll just have to move out west.

Maybe BrooklynSpeaks doubts can be explained by her interests: playing basketball, coaching basketball and watching college basketball.


Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

August 27, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gumby Fresh, Hoop Drools

This came back to me as I watched Vince Carter and top wife-beater Jason Kidd mumble their way through a press conference organised by their boss Bruce Ratner aboout the stadium. Here's the low-down (Realplayer link) from Kidd on why he just loves his boss' project:

""He's doing it not just for the Nets, but for the community, for the youth to have role models tobe able to look up to not just for ten years but for longevity."

Carter's statement, which I haven't been able to hunt down, was if anything even less coherent than Kidd's. It's a tribute to Ratner's cynicism that he thinks that merely hauling two athletes onstage to repeat "Youth", "Goal" and "Unity" in an indeterminate order will provide the requisite publicity boost.

Capitoilette, Survivor: Atlantic Yards

Well, on the same day that CBS unveiled its brilliant new Survivor format, Bruce Ratner and friends also decided to showcase just how good a marketing strategy it is to play the race card.

By buying-off construction workers with phony claims about jobs, and housing advocates with phony claims about affordable housing (and by simply buying Rev. Herbert Daughtry), Forest City Ratner has managed to paint a portrait of a passionate and predominantly African-American pro-AY team facing off against a rather bloodless group of Anglo anti-Yarders.

It’s a powerful picture, and one that has made many a local elected official a tad antsy about weighing in against the development (Letitia James, to her credit, is a notable exception). No one in Borough or City politics wants to be against minority jobs or affordable housing, and few would want to be seen as anti-African American. I’m sure Ratner and his consultants had some idea all along that they might get so lucky.

vidiotspeak, Sorry for the light posting,

Nobody said what was really going on. Nobody talked about the fact that there is a myth called "private property" in this country. There is no such thing as private property. You may THINK you own your home. But you don't. The bank does. And even if you pay of the mortgage, you still don't own it. Just try to not pay your property taxes and see how long you get to live there. The crux of the Ratner project is the way he acquired the land -- through guise and eminant domain abuse.

Mr. Vidiot has coined a really good term for this and he doesn't want me say too much about it yet, and hopefully, he will blog about it soon. (He doesn't blog much. He'd better start. Hint hint.)

We're anxiously awaiting...NoLandGrab loves to propagate new words!

Daily Gotham, onNYTurf: Gmaps for Atlantic Yards and Williamsburg Waterfront development proposals

OMFG! I almost forgot about Will's maps. If you have not seen them, run ASAP. They totally kick ass and are an example of exactly the kind of information the city ought to be putting out for us constituents to review.

Why is it that even if we have a mayor who happens to be one of the biggest digital moguls of our era; New Yorkers cannot count on having this kind of information available on the internet and in kiosks around the city for "We The People's" review?

Dreadnaught, "Bruce Ratner promised us housing and all we got were these lousy T-shirts"

Posted by amy at 8:12 AM

August 3, 2006

Community Commentary: John Ryskamp, Open Letter to The Village Voice

VillageVoiceCoverBall-sm.jpgImmigration attorney and frequent eminent domain commentator John Ryskamp follows up this week's Village Voice cover story on residents in the Atlantic Yards footprint with a letter to the editor that outlines the legal case against eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's private development plans.

John Ryskamp concludes:

I don’t think it will take a genius to find out that private purpose has been substituted for government purpose in the Atlantic Yards case. There is already so much evidence of it in the press that it seems impossible that a judge would not grant an injunction—even at this relatively early stage—against the project on the basis that it violates minimum scrutiny because there is no government purpose, only private purpose.

Your article on the Atlantic Yards project mentioned the fact that in the Kelo case, the Court said the project could not be developer driven. My book on the response to the Kelo case, The New Constitution: The Eminent Domain Revolt and the Fourth Constitutional Epoch, will be published this fall by Algora Publishing. It contains a discussion of this important point, and perhaps your readers will find it useful for me to describe the legal struggle going on over the notion of a project being “developer driven.”

Eminent domain can be used if there is

  1. a rational
  2. relation
  3. to a legitimate government purpose.

That is, eminent domain need only pass this “minimum scrutiny” test. In the past, “government purpose” was construed so broadly by the Court that people felt they could never use it as a defense against eminent domain. In the 1984 Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff case, the Court said that the purpose need be “conceivable.” This led people to conclude that there did not, in fact, have to be a government purpose, that if government did not even have a purpose, the Court would step in and supply a government purpose.

However, the Court then realized that if there is in fact no government purpose, there is in fact no government, and the famous case of Marbury v. Madison established that under the Constitution people have a right to government. Not wanting to overrule Marbury and destroy the Constitution, the Court rethought the idea.

The Court then indicated that, in fact, there had to be a government purpose. It began in two 1996 cases. In U.S. v. Virginia the Court said that government purpose “must be genuine, not hypothesized or invented post hoc in response to litigation.” In Romer v. Evans, the Court expanded on this idea, saying that the government purpose must be “an independent and legitimate legislative end....”

Your article indicated that in the otherwise unfavorable Kelo case, there might be wording favorable to Atlantic Yards residents. There is. It is in Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion. Here’s how to determine if there is in fact government purpose. It is a list of evidence those opposed to Atlantic Yards will now obtain by deposition and document subpoenas:

“A court confronted with a plausible accusation of impermissible favoritism to private parties should [conduct]….‘a careful and extensive inquiry into ‘whether, in fact, the development plan [chronology]

[1.] is of primary benefit to . . . the developer…, and private businesses which may eventually locate in the plan area…,

[2.] and in that regard, only of incidental benefit to the city…[.]’”

Kennedy is also interested in facts of the chronology which show, with respect to government,

“[3.] awareness of…depressed economic condition and evidence corroborating the validity of this concern…,

[4.] the substantial commitment of public funds…before most of the private beneficiaries were known…,

[5.] evidence that [government] reviewed a variety of development plans…[,]

[6.] [government] chose a private developer from a group of applicants rather than picking out a particular transferee beforehand and…

[7.] other private beneficiaries of the project [were]…unknown [to government] because the…space proposed to be built [had] not yet been rented….”

In the Kelo case, the New London newspaper The Day discovered that none of these conditions had been met and, several months AFTER the Kelo decision, published an account which showed that Pfizer—the drug company which wanted the land—had approached New London and THEN New London announced it wanted to “redevelop” the area. In short, New London had simply abrogated government purpose and substituted Pfizer’s purpose.

What difference does that make? Justice Kennedy is concerned about government entities substituting private purpose for government purpose. That is why he wants litigators to go back and find out such things as, who contacted who first, what facts went into the decision-making process, and so on. Substituting private purpose for government purpose is so common now that it even has a name in political science: “capture theory,” in which private actors simply do whatever is necessary to prompt government officials to adopt their purpose. But just because it is common, doesn’t mean that it is Constitutional. When it substitutes private for government purpose, it violates minimum scrutiny and cannot be allowed.

I don’t think it will take a genius to find out that private purpose has been substituted for government purpose in the Atlantic Yards case. There is already so much evidence of it in the press that it seems impossible that a judge would not grant an injunction—even at this relatively early stage—against the project on the basis that it violates minimum scrutiny because there is no government purpose, only private purpose.

However, when attorneys defending the Atlantic Yards residents go into court to make that motion, they better come prepared to show that they have done their homework: they better take the depositions and subpoena the documents implied by Justice Kennedy’s remarks. Attorneys have become so lazy under the former lazy definition of government purpose, that they don’t do their work. The Atlantic Yards residents should bring heavy pressure on their attorneys to do the work Justice Kennedy demands.

Cordially yours,
John Ryskamp
Berkeley, CA.

Posted by lumi at 10:37 AM

July 31, 2006

Community Commentary: Law prof disputes Daily News

DavidReiss.jpgNative Brooklynite David Reiss — Assistant Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School and Community Board 6 member (Chairperson, Budget/Community Development Committee) — responds to the Daily News Editorial Board's assertion that community groups and critics of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project are "barking up the wrong legal tree," by explaining that these groups, according to the NY State legislature, are actually fulfilling their responsibility.


The editorial board of the Daily News took the members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to task last week because they were “scouring” the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), required by New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), for flaws.

The problem with that position is that that is exactly what SEQRA contemplates what members of the public are to do with a DEIS.

When enacting SEQRA, the New York legislature found that, “Every citizen has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the quality of the environment.” One of the ways that SEQRA contemplates that citizens were to contribute to the protection of the environment was by participating in the environmental review process.

SEQRA provides two important ways that members of the public can participate: by commenting on the DEIS and then by commencing litigation if they believe that SEQRA has not been complied with. It is important to note that the community has an uphill battle in any SEQRA litigation: less than 15% of SEQRA challenges to Environmental Impact Statements are successful. But – and it is an important “But” -- where a court finds that the government has failed to take a hard look at areas of serious environmental concern, it may, indeed, rule in the favor of the challengers.

Given that in New York, citizens have very few ways of making themselves heard through official channels (particularly when New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure has been suspended by the Empire State Development Corporation), it seems uncharitable for the editorial board of the Daily News to begrudge members of the public this one official outlet for their concerns, even if it disagrees with their position on the merits of the project.

Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

July 20, 2006


UrbanRoom01.jpgYou've already heard it in the press: the Draft Environmental Impact Statement doesn't cover terrorism and security issues, despite their impacts on post-9/11 urban design and the fact that Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry are proposing to build the 60-story glass-and-steel "Miss Brooklyn" atop a major transportation hub.

While the State won't study or reveal the potential impacts of putting the densest residential project in the entire US over a major transportation hub, Prospect Heights resident Alan Rosner keeps asking the tough questions and entreating the press to get some answers.

Glass-clad skyscrapers, next to a glass sports arena, above the third largest transportation hub in the city, may soon be coming to… Brooklyn. And no one has assumed responsibility for the risks Brooklyn is being told to swallow.

The State agency in charge, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), declares it will NOT address post-9/11 security issues — issues that were raised by local elected officials, the three affected community boards and more than 30 community groups, as well as at official Boro Board meetings with the ESDC in attendance.

Governor Pataki will soon be leaving Albany. Has even one reporter asked any of the candidates vying to replace him about their positions on the ESDC’s disregard of the public’s safety concerns? Somehow, the press seems to have decided there’s no story there.

Meanwhile, public officials outraged over the 40% cut in New York's Department of Homeland Security grants have remained silent on security in the heart of Brooklyn: Mayor Bloomberg, who gave over control to the State, silent; our own Mr. Security, Senator Schumer, silent.

In high-profile Manhattan, publicized security problems at the Freedom Tower led to a re-thinking of that project, ultimately resulting in a far smarter design. Terrorism concerns did not prevent development from going forward. Here in Brooklyn, the Atlantic Yards project, roughly as big, easily as consequential … well it’s … fuggedaboudit!!!

Due to the ESDC’s unique understanding of due diligence, the developer, not the State, could easily end up being the party making the following crucial public safety decisions, behind closed doors, with no oversight: * How strong should all that glass be? * Should there even be that much glass there?
* What fire ratings ought the structural steel have?

So, when do we learn who will determine our safety and well-being? And, how come no one appears interested in finding out?

What Ratner Wins By Ignoring Security
Fortunately for Ratner, project financials will not have to include 30 years of costly Terrorism Insurance premiums. For 16 towers and a sports arena, premiums could easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Will the public perhaps have to step in to cover this “unanticipated” cost? No one has addressed this question.

Also, the ESDC will never have to acknowledge that this project concentrates so much additional risk at this particular location, nor that it irreversibly alters Brooklyn’s existing risk profile. Neither will the ESDC be compelled to indicate that the alternative project proposals, without skyscrapers or sports arenas, would not create those concerns!

Finally, with State control trumping city building codes, we may be left with Ratner helping to determine: * standards for exterior glass blast resistance, * the fire ratings for the structural steel, * emergency stairwell sizes, * whether or not Fire Department radio repeaters will be installed in the high rises, * whether there will be bio-chemical detectors and proper air-circulation systems, * and a host of other critical design and construction standards.

Will cost or public safety prevail? And if “standards” are belatedly announced, will they include appropriate post-9/11 enhancements?

How Brooklyn Loses
Indirectly, the biggest cost to Brooklyn communities could be that increased risks lead property- and small-business-insurance providers to raise premiums or withdraw from the market altogether (See NY Daily News, So this is a terror target? 03/27/06).

Issues of uninsurability could affect affordable housing in ways that dwarf Ratner's pledges for the Atlantic Yards. Allstate’s response to Hurricane Katrina was to reduce its share of Brooklyn’s homeowners' insurance market (See, AP, HOMEOWNERS FAR AWAY PAY KATRINA'S DAMAGE, 06/22/06). Could this become one of those “who could ever have imagined” scenarios?

The greatest ongoing impact will likely come from the ESDC's ignoring of the traffic implications of the need for security barriers and vehicle inspections when the arena is in use, or when the Feds raise the Terror Alert Status. Likewise, since the NYPD can close streets for any security reason, the ESDC will not have to model those impacts, either. We, however, will have to live with whatever the ESDC’s Environmental Impact Statement ignores.

Indeed, the ESDC won’t have to address the implications for evacuations — or for that matter, NYPD and FDNY response times — in any sort of emergency situation. Given Brooklyn’s development-driven infrastructure overloads at the Atlantic Avenue transit station and the Flatbush, Atlantic & 4th Avenue intersections, such consequences would likely be unacceptable if publicly acknowledged.

What I haven't yet mentioned — just two years after the Madrid train bombings, a year after the London Metro bombings, and days after Mumbai’s rail bombings — is that the Atlantic Avenue station was the target of a failed suicide bomb plot in 1997.

One positive development: Ratner’s arena was originally to have sub-surface parking beneath the arena. The community protested and suddenly, it’s gone. However, it now appears that it was the NBA that determined it is unsafe to have parking beneath an arena, not any state or city agency — another story the press missed.

Alan Rosner
July, 2006

Posted by lumi at 12:23 AM

July 8, 2006

"I've been to hell, I spell it...I spell it DMV"

From an anonymous source:

I had to unfortunately go to the DMV this afternoon, which I usually do in Manhattan, but decided it might be easier to visit my local branch situated in the hideous hulking mass called the Atlantic Mall. I have only been in this mall once and as I made my way through the labryinth, I was stopped 3 times by teenagers with petitions to bring the Atlantic Yards, & NBA basketball to Brooklyn! When I got to the DMV office, there was another kid in there asking people who were standing in line to sign his petition. Of course all of them only mentioned the basketball. I told the kids I couldn't sign because I'm opposed to the plan, and also advised the three people standing near me who were about to sign not to. From what I could see, very few people were signing. And the ones who did probably just wanted to help out the kids like the way you buy M&Ms when you don't want them.

My next visit to the DMV will be in Manhattan.

Posted by amy at 9:40 AM

June 18, 2006

LEMON-AID: When life gives you skyscrapers...


For immediate release
by Peter von Ziegesar

When eight-year-old Maya von Ziegesar attended Dan Zane's concert at the Hanson Place Church last month, she learned to her dismay that the 16 new skyscrapers going up near her Fort Greene home would cast a shadow over her window in the morning. She decided to join the fight against overdevelopment in Brooklyn by setting up a lemonade stand on her stoop one Saturday morning. Two hours later, Maya and her friends Leah and Lina, had raised over $30 by passing the word and selling ice-cold lemonade to friendly passersby -- mostly local residents on their way to or from the Fort Greene farmer's market. She carried the cash donation next door to a member of the Fort Greene Association committee on the Atlantic Yards.

Pictured is Maya von Ziegesar, who with two school friends set up a lemonade stand on her South Portland Avenue stoop to benefit DDDB. Maya is eight and a Ft. Greene resident. She says: "I don't want those buildings to go up, because I don't like skyscrapers and I like waking up in the morning with lots of light."

Posted by amy at 11:49 AM

May 16, 2006

Some Views on Two Forest City Ratner Developments

Attorney Debra Cohen explains how Forest City Ratner systematically ignores the concerns of people who presently live in the communities near two local controversial project proposals, Yonker's Ridge Hill and Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.

At a recent Yonkers City Council meeting a member of the public pointed out to a developer, who was there seeking approval to build an apartment building along the Hudson River, that he had neglected to provide schematics of the view commuters at the nearby train station would have of the river and the Palisades after his project was completed. A city official standing in the wings was overheard to snort somewhat disdainfully, “What’s the big deal? When I’m at the station, I’m watching for the train not looking up at the view”.

I was reminded of this incident while reading two articles in this morning’s papers that both discussed problems developer Forest City Ratner is having with developments in Brooklyn and Yonkers. They both provoked thoughts of how one’s vantage point changes one’s “views”.

In an article in The New York Times, “Developer Defends Atlantic Yards, Saying Towers Won’t Corrupt the Feel of Brooklyn”, FCR defends its plans for a massive redevelopment that includes a sports arena and commercial and residential buildings. The developer’s world-famous architect described his vision as creating “different levels of iconicity”. A spokesman for a coalition of neighborhood groups who have joined together in response to the project say that 16 skyscrapers will be “slammed on top of and next to low-rise, historic neighborhoods. The architect calls it progress and says the project’s critics “should’ve been picketing Henry Ford”. The community people call the developer’s vision for the neighborhoods an “urban planning disaster” because the architect and the developer “continue to ignore the community”.

Traveling 20 miles north to Yonkers, the headline in today’s Journal News reads “Ridge Hill Project Proceeds Despite Court Ruling Against It.” Again developer Forest City Ratner has put forward an ambitious development plan that the surrounding communities believe must be altered or it will permanently destroy the character of their neighborhoods and quality of life of local residents.

The article describes how FCR is “forging ahead with its Ridge Hill Village proposal seeking regulatory approvals” despite a successful lawsuit by local residents that invalidated a zoning ordinance necessary for the project to move forward. FCR’s spokesman justifies their aggressive approach because, “We feel we have vast support of the vast majority of Yonkers residents and taxpayers and we are confident we can get it approved”. This in spite of the fact that critics include thousands of residents represented by every neighborhood association encircling the perimeter of the 81 acre project, who say that the developers have isolated themselves from the public and refused to give serious consideration to their concerns that the project, as presently planned, will overwhelm the area with traffic and fails to accurately delineate the economic costs and benefits it will bring to the City.

How do we reconcile the differences between Forest City Ratner’s visions for the neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Yonkers from those of the people who presently call them home? What do its executives see when they look out the window of the top floor of their massive Brooklyn headquarters? Does their view from the executive suite include the people sitting on their front stoop, watching their children play, while sharing a cup of coffee with friends? Similarly, what do they see when they look down from the top of Ridge Hill in Yonkers? Does it allow them to understand what makes each neighborhood surrounding their proposed “village” unique and strong?

Perhaps Forest City Ratner has the money and power to bulldoze its vision over the will of the people whose communities they seek to change forever. Maybe they are willing to risk their projects’ futures on the chance that people power can’t triumph over money and political connections. On the other hand, they could discover that this way of doing business is as outdated as Henry Ford’s Model T. Perhaps “progress” would be to stop “developing” communities by waging war with the people who will be their future neighbors, tenants and customers. And perhaps better developments would be the result if they came down more often from their executive suites, and the top of the hill, to appreciate the perspective of the people who look up to enjoy the view.

Also posted on YonkersTribune.

Debra Cohen is an attorney based in White Plains, N.Y. who has worked with many community groups in Westchester and New York City to support their meaningful participation in the development process.

Posted by lumi at 1:09 PM

May 6, 2006

Letter to Ratner

Dear Mr. Ratner:

I received in the mail today your awesome, multicolored, multi-photographic brochure. But, there were a number of serious, and necessarily deliberate omissions. Your publicist/PR firm/spin doctor failed to include the most important and revealing item: a pictorial rendition of your project! To be clear, there is no image whatsoever in your beautiful, utopian and, I bet and hope, very expensive mailing (how many lucky Brooklynites were targeted?), of the actual visual appearance of the buildings you are planning for the site. There are two further, glaring and deliberate omissions: (1) any discussion of, or proposal/planning for the enhanced infrastructures that would be needed to support the high influx of new residents, new office workers, new cars, etc. that your project would generate; and (2) what the cost of that indispensable infrastructure -- sewers, roadways, parking, public transportation, schools, etc. -- would be, and who would shoulder it (we the taxpayers, perhaps? You don't say!). Finally, I really appreciate the prepaid "survey" card. Too bad that it does not provide for any dissenting answers! You must really think that you are dealing with a bunch of illiterate, uninformed and disenfranchised, blighted-neighborhood dwelling Brooklynites! WRONG on all counts!

And why, pray, should we support you and your ill-designed and ill-conceived project, given what you and your pseudo architect/s have already bestowed upon us? The horrendous shopping mall at Atlantic and Flatbush? No self-respecting person could ever claim title to that abomination! The hideously ugly, irredeemably offensive Court Street Movie Theaters? C'mon!

Please delete me from your mailing list, it will be a saving to you and one less piece of junk mail I have to recycle. Thank you.

Beatrice Beccari

Posted by amy at 12:42 PM

April 2, 2006

If it looks like a boycott...

Brooklyn Papers letter to the editor:


Posted by amy at 3:25 PM

March 12, 2006

Follow the Shoes


panopticonman takes us through the newfound complexities of buying sneakers in Brooklyn:

And so what that means is I’m buying shoes made in China from a corporation whose headquarters is possibly in Europe, but like Haagen Dazs could be in located in New Jersey, buying them from a discount store located on the site once offered by the Borough of Brooklyn to the O’Malley’s for a new Ebbets Field, but which, in fact, was never really seriously considered by same as secret talks were nearing completion with Los Angeles.

And right next door to that shopping center there probably is soon to be a Trojan horse of a basketball arena erected by a canny real estate speculator named in fine Dickensian fashion, Ratner, a project which is being sold to us as a means to bring Brooklyn back into the world of major league sport where we are told that we the people of Brooklyn belong and which some of the more gullible believe.


Posted by amy at 11:08 AM

Remembering the Underberg


Muckraked! rounds up locals reminiscing about the Underberg building online:

The first building to go - brick by brick - is the Underberg Building, named for Samuel Underberg’s kitchen and grocery supply company, which sits on a roughly triangular plot of land at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue. (Photo credit: The hulking structure was immortalized in Jonathan Lethem’s 2003 bestseller “Fortress of Solitude.”

Ratner hopes to turn the site into a public plaza at the heart of his 22-acre residential and commercial complex, which includes the Nets basketball arena.


Posted by amy at 10:48 AM

February 13, 2006

Also sprach Bubbathustra

The Real Estate Observer has relaunched with a new look and a section for comments.

First out of the box to comment on the first two Atlantic Yards entries is "Bubba," who warns that "the thugs will be back" if the project falls prey to a downturn in the market and high costs for approval.

Upon word that plans for the Nets' move to Brooklyn has been delayed, the project supporter grumpily predicts that "the naysayers, NIMBY-ites and anti-everythings are losing the battle but winning the war.

Posted by lumi at 8:47 AM

January 24, 2006

"Ludicrous" lawsuit against Bruce Ratner

Daily Heights Forum

At the risk of being slammed by Errol Louis and others for cross-referencing other "world wide web" sites (see, "hyperlinks") covering Ratnerville, permit us to call attention to commentary on this weekend's Daily News editorial on Daily Heights Forum.

Posted by lumi at 2:26 PM

January 22, 2006

Must've Lost Their Train of Thought points out that the photos at the Atlantic Terminal Mall are not what they seem:

However, I noticed - as I have before - that the vintage train photos they have in some of their windows are of New York Central trains, while the LIRR's affiliation was with the Pennsylvania Railroad (its one-time owner) and Penn Station.
The pictures are wrong. They're perfunctory; the result of the kind of ignorance that comes from not caring.

Does it matter? Of itself, probably not. But it represents lapses of social memory that really are troubling.


Would Caring Bruce Ratner really make this mistake?

Posted by amy at 10:53 AM


The Eddie Kranepool Society

The worst are the schmucks in Downtown Brooklyn who are against Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. As someone who grew up just a few miles from that area let me tell you, that back in the day, the only reason you went to that part of Brooklyn was to either go to the dentist, (One Hansen Pl) to score heroin, or eat cheesecake at Juniors. And as a person of the Caucasian persuasion, as the sun went down, you better get out of town. That has all changed. The same way you can walk down Times Square with a $1,000 camera and not get a knife in your back, you can walk the streets of Downtown Brooklyn and not need mace, brass knuckles or hardware from Smith & Weston. A new arena with a hotel and shops and restaurants will be a huge boon to Brooklyn.

Hmmm...a neighborhood (not Downtown Brooklyn incidentally, which someone who "grew up just a few miles from the area" should know) comes into it's own. Knock it down!


Posted by amy at 10:44 AM

January 2, 2006

Brooklyn wildlife


From Flickr:

These were made in response to the proposed Nets arena; a lot of the discussion in support of using eminent domain to seize property and make room for the stadium centered around the idea that the area was "blighted". The plants depicted all grow in the area: the idea was [to] show the natural beauty of the area and challenge the idea of a neighborhood being blighted and expendable.


Posted by amy at 10:06 AM

January 1, 2006

It came from the Blogosphere...

Three Days in December The News Blog draws a connection between the TWU strike and Ratner's methods.

Tearing Down Brooklyn No Better Place takes a walk down Dean Street.

Mike Lupica: When Bloomberg and Pataki Say They Are Trying To Save The Gov't Some Money, Hold Onto Your Wallets reality-based educator calls out the media for missing the link between the MTA's attempted land give-aways and the strike.

Anti-Ratner Crowd Changes Its Tune Brooklyn to Harlem sees irony in Ratner foes supporting TWU workers, but not in the MTA itself.

Blogging The Telecommute Gumby Fresh is forced to shop at the "vile Ratner mall" during the strike.

Posted by amy at 11:40 AM

November 25, 2005

More on the Stuckey, Gehry, Olin AIA presentation and discussion

Some of NLG’s observations at the Stuckey/Gehry/Olin show, from the community’s perspective:

AIASlide.jpgOn Tuesday night Frank Gehry did something Bruce Ratner has not dreamed of doing – met with community members face to face in a public forum. Unfortunately no one had informed the starchitect of the nature of this meeting, as evidenced by Mr. Gehry's frequent statement that he thought he would be meeting only with his peers.

Although the hoi polloi was only allowed one comment during the proceedings, other architects and urban design professionals in the crowd took up the task of looking through the presentation of the design for the arena portion of the project, and asked the tough questions about why the design has not taken into account the community or traffic on any level. Ratner PR henchman, Jim Stuckey had his answers ready.

When asked why FCR should be allowed both density and subsidies in return for including some affordable units, Stuckey replied that the density of the Atlantic Yards project is much lower compared to the downtown Brooklyn plan (which, unfortunately, may not be studied concurrently with the AYP for EIS purposes).

Stuckey was also asked why FCR has not made any models of the impact of traffic on the busiest intersection in Brooklyn, to which he replied that FCR has been busily videotaping the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush. When it was pointed out to him that taking video is not making a model, Stuckey replied that he SAID they had made models and the audience was just not listening.

Notable additions to the presentation seemed to focus on Lauri Olin's landscape design: varieties of tree species, ponds made from runoff, and bocce and volleyball courts. The latter two items were said included as examples of activities that would not cause a disturbance near apartment buildings. In contrast to non-disturbing recreation, Olin joked that the universal threat to safety is teenage males, justifying the placement of the basketball courts in an area said to be visible from the street, so that "mothers and babies" could feel safe.

The one community question that slipped through came from Peter Krashes the president of a block association on Dean Street. He asked a traffic circulation plan, specifically where all of the traffic originating from and servicing the arena was going to end up in surrounding neighborhoods. Although he did not receive a formidable answer, he summed up community sentiment with the following statement:

"The red dot you put on the map with the pointer, Mr. Gehry, and said you don't know what that is? That's my home."

Posted by lumi at 10:16 AM

October 24, 2005

Letter to the Editor: Daily News

To the Editor,

I am one of those Brooklynites you falsely mischaracterize as a "not-in-my-backyard" "complainer" in your editorial of October 24th, entitled "A Neighborhood Grows in Brooklyn."

I, along with scores of concerned Brooklyn residents, provided thoughtful and well-researched testimony in a forum mandated by state law. The hearing lasted hours longer than planned because the Empire State Development Corporation's draft scoping document was woefully incomplete.

No one who testified at the hearing is "anti-development." Rather, we favor development that respects existing neighborhoods, doesn't rely on the abuse of eminent domain to transfer property to another "better" private owner, doesn't cheat the taxpayers, creates careers rather than dead-end jobs, and provides truly affordable housing rather than luxury condominiums.

And let me make one more thing perfectly clear: I wouldn't wish this project on anyone's backyard, let alone my own. Perhaps the Daily News's publisher, a billionaire real estate developer himself (surprise!), would like it in his?

Eric McClure
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by lumi at 9:47 PM

Daily News scoffs at Scary Gehry warnings, and misses the point

The Daily News editorial board attacked "the bizarre notion" that Gehry's Disney Hall neighborhood-heating debacle could happen at Atlantic Yards, a point I brought up as a member of Park Slope Civic Council, a group that is far from NIMBY-istic, and still has yet to take a stand on the project.

The board failed to understand that Gehry's experimental forms have often been deemed environmental hazards in themselves. The Draft Scope Environmental Impact hearing was just the place to make that point.

Consider Case Western Reserve University's Gehry project. In the winter of 2003 students and faculty found the building to be downright dangerous.

From the an Associated Press report:

In its first winter, snow and ice have been sliding off the long, sloping stainless-steel roof, bombarding the sidewalk below. And in bright sun, the glint off the steel tiles is so powerful that standing next to the building is like lying on a beach with a tanning mirror.

''You might have to walk on the road to make sure you don't get hit by ice,'' said Adam Searl, a junior at Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management. ''Maybe they should have thought about it before they had built the building. It's Cleveland. We get ice. We get snow. We get rain.''

That's falling chunks of ice and sliding snow, plus the tanning-mirror effect in "sun-drenched(?)" Cleveland. Could it happen here?

Gehry's emphasis on experimental "forms" flirts with the arrogant notion of "architecture for art's sake," a dangerous precedent that ignores people and environment, things that used to be foundation principles of architecture.

Should master builder of unintended consequences Frank Gehry be allowed to experiment on skyscrapers, highrises and a glass arena in the heart of Brooklyn? In the very least, the environmental impacts of his architecture should be anticipated and scrutinized.

— Lumi Michelle Rolley

Posted by lumi at 7:27 AM

October 23, 2005


From Kelso's Nuts:

And at the nexus of basketball, education, and Jews that aren't fun, we have Bruce Ratner, Mayor Bloomberg, and schools chancellor Joel Klein. Want to earl? Take a look at Klein's hideous face someday. Ok, here's where it all fits together in a nice package. Bloomberg and Klein (and Levy before him: not as ugly but just as mean) have no problem cutting holy hell out of the public schools budget, but are pleased as punch to offer Ratner all sorts of incentives to build his Brooklyn arena and mall. Make no mistake about this, Kelso is a capitalist. He respects anyone with the brains and balls to make bundles, but not on the public dole and not at the cost of Kelso's child's education, when Kelso is paying ALL his taxes. Kelso couldn't give a shit if the Nets play in New Jersey or Brooklyn, but he wants his son to have the full complement of after-school activities from theater arts (now gone as of Sept 2005) to all sports. So, the privatization fantasy marches on, this time through the back door, as the Kelsos of the world have to write five-figure checks to their local public schools and toss around hundred dollar bills at bake sales so the Bruce Ratners of the world can get even richer and more self-important and build even bigger, more vulgar waterfront property in Bridgehampton.


Posted by amy at 1:07 PM

NIMBY Update

From Tony Fletcher's iJamming:

The proposed Forest City Ratner “arena” at Atlantic Yards is No Longer In My Backyard, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped caring about it. To be frank, this proposed mini-city in the midst of Brooklyn’s busiest intersection was a contributory factor in our decision to sell up and move out. Only one of many factors, mind, and I would never roll over and admit defeat just like that, but honestly and truly, if the project gets built to its current design, I’ll be happy I’m no longer living nearby to reap the undeserved punishment.

And NoLandGrab just can't resist the temptation to include this quote:

Such was the scale of discontent at Tuesday’s hearing that even Borough President Marty Markowitz, who instigated the very idea of a baseball arena in Brooklyn and has served these last two years less as a people’s representative than as public cheerleader for developer Bruce Ratner, was heard to say that the project needed “scaling back.” (Was that a pig flying over Atlantic Yards? No, just Marty’s hefty ego in free fall.)


Posted by amy at 1:00 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Real Estate: BUILD gets a raise

TimesRatnerReport: "Modern blueprint"? Evidence points to increased BUILD/Ratner payments and collusion

Curbed: Atlantic Yards Brouhaha at City Tech

Field of Schemes: Nets arena gets noisy welcome

Daily Heights, 750 People Show Up For Atlantic Yards Public Hearing

Big Cities Big Boxes: Times Reports Widespread Opposition to Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project

Bag of Rocks: Save the Clock Tower

TrueHoop: Messy Doings in Brooklyn

Gurgly: Atlantic Canards

Stay Free!: Astroturf for Ratner

Brownstoner: BUILD Finally Fesses Up to Ratner Funding

Retire Mike Bloomberg: Bloomberg & Ratner Inc.

Posted by amy at 12:43 PM

October 20, 2005

The Times follows up on project opposition, but misses some angles

TimesRatnerReport analyzes today's Times story:

It's chancy to consider the significant presence of middle- and upper-class Brownstone Brooklynites--many part of community boards and civic groups charged to address the project's impact--a referendum on the project. Similarly, the press shouldn't have made too much of the predominance of Ratner supporters at previous events. What if, on Tuesday, the two dozen union members had all signed up to testify? What if BUILD and ACORN decided to bring groups of supporters, as they did for a November 2004 hearing in the same venue?


Posted by lumi at 11:11 PM

Newbies miss Millman?

It just occurred to NLG that all three reporters from the daily newspapers who covered last night's hearing were relatively new to the beat and probably are still getting up to speed on the developing story.

That would explain the fact that they all missed the significance of Assemblywoman Joan Millman's testimony.

Why all the fuss about Millman?
The Atlantic Yards project has expanded across Flatbush Avenue. That portion is in Millman's district, thus making her a strong voice in the NY State Assembly's Brooklyn coalition. Last night, she stated that she "will ask [her] Assembly colleagues, including Speaker Sheldon Silver, not to support" the project.

For your reading pleasure, you can check out Assemblywoman Millman's full statement after the jump.

October, 18 2005

Testimony Presented to:
Empire State Development Corporation

Submitted By:
Joan L. Millman
Member of Assembly, 52nd Assembly District

Re: Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project Draft Scope of Analysis

Thank you for the opportunity today to comment on the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project Draft Scope of Analysis for an Environmental Impact Statement. As the Assemblymember for the 52nd Assembly District, representing Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, and Park Slope, I would like to voice my objections to the overwhelming scale of the proposed development and then comment on the need of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to fully study the potentially harmful effects this project will have on the surrounding neighborhoods in my district.

First and foremost the preliminary plan for the proposed redevelopment at the Atlantic Yards is too large. From the time of this project’s inception we have seen a plan that brought an arena to Brooklyn with some housing attached, turned into a mega development with an arena attached. Seventeen high rises and an estimated 18,000 residents dropped into the middle of a neighborhood with low scale development will not merely change the character of that neighborhood, but will overload the existing infrastructure and impact the general quality of life for my constituents.

Thus far I have yet to see a detailed and adequate plan that will address such concerns, and I am not convinced the Environmental Impact Statement will do so. We need to take a hard look at what the potential effects of this project will be, and not just in the 1/2 mile radius as indicated in the Draft Scope, but within at least a 3/4 mile radius. Let us accurately look at the effect 18,000 people plus an arena will have on our sewer capacity, the effect 18,000 people plus an arena will have on our already crowded subways, the effect 18,000 people plus an arena will have on police and fire personnel demands, the effect 18,000 people plus an arena will have on the schools, and the effect 18,000 people plus an arena will have on already overburdened postal service. These are just some of the issues that will impact the quality of life for downtown residents.

I also want to specifically ensure that the potential effect of storm water runoff flowing into certain parts of my district is addressed. The community is fighting a long battle to improve the environmental condition of the Gowanus Canal. We need to ensure that any excess storm water runoff from the proposed project is mitigated and prevented from erasing the years of hard work that went into improving the Canal.

Also, an important concern is the sharp increase in traffic that will result from the arena, commercial development, and the thousands of units of housing. The analysis needs to evaluate how to mitigate traffic in Boerum Hill and Park Slope past the 1/2 mile boundary of study.

I would also like to address the recent addition of the proposed project that is located within my Assembly district. Site 5 is slated for construction located on top of or in lieu of the existing commercial structures. While I am not specifically opposed to development along Flatbush Avenue, I believe it is in excess in light of the already massive construction planned at the yards. Furthermore, I am concerned about the preservation of open space, specifically the community garden located within Site 5. The garden is a product of community cooperation and should be preserved.

Additionally I want to emphasize the need for the community to have significant input for this project as we move forward. I have signed a letter along with other elected officials requesting that the ESDC use fees from Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) to fund a community based study. The proper resources are needed in order to maximize the community’s concerns for a project of this magnitude.

Finally, I want to state my opposition to the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards Redevelopment Project. The government takeover of private property should be a last resort and never implemented for private gain. This plan sets a dangerous precedent and I will not support it. Additionally, if State approval is needed to use eminent domain I will not support it, and I will ask my Assembly colleagues, including Speaker Sheldon Silver, not to support it.

While the arena and affordable housing components of this project are beneficial additions to Brooklyn, the size and magnitude of the proposed project is becoming too high a price to pay. FCRC has prided itself on being a development corporation that listens to community concerns, but I have yet to see an adequate plan for solving the potentially harmful problems that this project will create. Thank you.

Joan L. Millman
Member of Assembly

Posted by lumi at 12:07 AM

October 18, 2005

BUILD's got the CLAP?

NoLandGrab hasn't been warm and fuzzy towards BUILD in the past two weeks, but we've tried to be fair. Mainly, we've let the principals at BUILD do the talking (or denying). Meanwhile, for the past month, Ratner and BUILD have done nothing but lie to the public and press.

The only person telling the truth around here is the one person who really needs the work, a resident of Brooklyn Women's Shelter in Brownsville. In Juan Gonzalez's column, she mentioned that BUILD pays well and that she worked for them before, during the election. At that time she reported to and picked up her pay at BUILD, but, to be fair (dang, here we go, being fair, when everyone else gets to lie), the worker was paid by a company called, ironically, Community Leadership for Accountable Politics (CLAP!).

Forest City Ratner denies having any knowledge of a group called CLAP. A Google search for CLAP turns up an Erik Engquist column from July, 2004 that identifies CLAP as a group "running candidates in Ft. Greene and Prospect Heights." The campaigns were managed by "local politico James Caldwell, the president of the pro-development group BUILD." Also, the lawyer listed on the NY State Department web site for CLAP is a name we heard before, Sharai Erima, Esq., the lawyer who erroneously scribbled in "$5 Million Forest City Ratner" on BUILD's IRS 1023 form.

What Engquist failed to point out, but Gonzalez did not, is that IRS rules forbid tax-exempt organizations from campaigning for candidates. And guess what: the State Department web site identifies CLAP's "entity status" as "not for profit." Oops!

Can Brooklynites fairly conclude that Ratner has paid for office space for their own astroturf organization and a group running candidates for public office?

Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

October 17, 2005

Sneaky doings at the Brooklyn Standard: How did Ratner's propaganda sheet snag a NY Times contributor?

Breaking news from the TimesRatnerReport:

schweber.jpgUn-freakin'-believable! The relationship between Ratner and the Times has just gotten even murkier.

Four stories in the latest installment of Ratner's pseudo-newspaper, The Brooklyn Standard, carry the same byline as a Times stringer? Normally the Times considers this to be a conflict of interest and a breach of ethics.

[Schweber] said he didn't write that lead story, nor another with his byline, though he did write two others, at least in some form.

Read Oder's analysis of "Schweber's" "articles" and Schweber's attempt to salvage his reputation and career at the NY Times.


On another note, Oder points out that there is something amiss with the caption "A panoramic view of Vanderbilt Yards today," in his article, "Dissecting the Fall 2005 issue of the Brooklyn Standard: more distortions, evasions, and lies."

See the four-story brick building in the center? Well, one of the tenants won't sell to Ratner, and has posted a banner outside his window that reads "I love my neighborhood and my home. And I intend to stay." Either this picture was taken years ago, before Ratner announced the Atlantic Yards plan, or that banner was excised from the picture.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 PM

October 2, 2005

It came from the Blogosphere...

Dope on the Slope:

"What is shocking is that BUILD and Ratner aren't very adept at covering their tracks. If a group with so much money at their disposal can't keep their Machiavellian machinations secret, why do we expect them to handle something infinitely more complex, like creating a vital urban space?"


"BUILD is known for invoking God. A "Connect to CBA [Community Benefits Agreement] Opportunities" document, handed out at the Forest City Ratner booth at the 9/25/05 Atlantic Antic street fair, contained this quote on the cover page of the 11-page document: God used us, the Coalition and FCRC, to achieve this so that the possibilities could be here for you. Now we must all keep and expand the faith and apply it to the task of manifesting the vision."

Israel Dating:

"what will ratner reap? downtown brooklyn development will likely draw thousands of jews seeking affordable housing, but where they will come from remains to be seen."

Posted by amy at 12:03 PM

October 1, 2005

Ratner's delusions of 'blandeur'

This open letter to Bruce Ratner printed in The Brooklyn Papers is a must-read! Written by Meir Kahtan, a former employee of Forest City Ratner, it includes such gems as the following:

Why don't locals want your project? In it, they see disclocation, not continuity. Your project doesn't belong. It doesn't belong in scale, in style, in feel, in anything.

View the letter

Posted by amy at 4:24 PM

September 29, 2005

BUILD: Bribe Us in Large Denominations (NLG Commentary)

Ratner pays community group to stump for his plan and play race card in the name of Our Lord.

Shocked, shocked! There is bribery in Ratnerville!

BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), has been exposed as “Astroturf,” a group that looks and acts like a grassroots organization, but in reality is primarily a shill for, and funded by, a large corporate entity.

Today, Juan Gonzalez's column in the New York Daily News, “Snake in the 'grassroots'” reveals that BUILD is funded by Forest City Ratner (FCR) to the tune of $5 million. We repeat, that's a tax-deductible contribution of $5 million! Moreover, BUILD executives James Caldwell and Marie Louis are making bank, raking in six-figure salaries ($125,000 and $100,000, respectively).

The rumors that BUILD was funded by Ratner have never been put to rest, since one of the founding members of BUILD, Darnell Canada, left the group, “claiming that fellow group members were seeking financial gain” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 3/26/04). Since then, FCR, BUILD and the powerful tenant-advocate group ACORN have been on the defensive, and have repeatedly denied any financial connection between the groups and Ratner.

During a public meeting sponsored by Community Boards 2,6 & 8, FCR Executive VP Jim Stuckey deflected a question about whether ACORN and BUILD were being paid by FCR by answering, “Why don’t you ask them yourself?” Stuckey later backtracked and clarified his statement to a Brooklyn Papers reporter, claiming that “he didn’t answer the question because, ‘It was insulting. Of course, BUILD and ACORN are not getting paid.’” (Brooklyn Papers, 12/25/04)

In April, 2005, BUILD’s Marie Louis called the claim “a malicious and outrageous lie.” (The NY Sun, April 29, 2005) Just last week, talk show host Brian Lehrer caught her off guard when he popped the question. When Lehrer asked Louis, “So to what extent, just by way of full disclosure, is your group funded by Forest City Ratner?," she replied, “Wow, I mean, we are not funded by Forest City Ratner.” (Brian Lehrer Live CUNY-TV, September 21, 2005)

The revelation that BUILD is lavishly funded by Ratner places the entire Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) under suspicion. BUILD is receiving direct funding and ACORN is to be awarded affordable-housing marketing and management contracts. That means that two of three groups that “negotiated” the CBA have a direct financial stake in the project. How can a group negotiate with a party from which it receives funding without undermining its authority to speak for the community which it purports to represent?

Politicians like Mayor Bloomberg and Borough President Markowitz can distance themselves from the CBA since they were not actual signatories. However, Reverend Herbert A. Daughtry (the third “community representative”), has a real PR problem. NoLandGrab is not suggesting that a man of the cloth could be bought off by Ratner, but Rev. Daughtry should probably disclose all contributions from Ratner or sever any relationship with the Ratner-funded BUILD.

Marie Louis has repeatedly cried sour grapes to the complaints by long-standing and upstart grassroots community organizations that were not handpicked by the developer to participate in the CBA. Louis contends that Ratner's door was open to any groups that wanted to negotiate: “I think when people raise all these arguments it's because they're bitter that they didn't think of taking advantage of the opportunities.” (The Brooklyn Papers, September 3, 2005)

The way BUILD has played the race card is particularly distasteful and has churned the stomachs of progressive liberals throughout Brooklyn. The tactic of dividing the community along racial lines has been employed on multiple fronts: in the news media and in public meetings.

In an article in Forward, the Jewish weekly newspaper, BUILD’s James Caldwell attempted to arouse suspicions of racism: "I don't want to make this out to be a black versus white situation, but it seems like that's what it's turning out to be." (August 04, 2005)

On Brian Lehrer’s show, Marie Louis diverted the conversation about whether BUILD was Ratner-funded by pretending to be insulted and playing the race card: “many folks coming from communities of color, we wonder why is it that folks think that we cannot think for ourselves?” (Brian Lehrer Live CUNY-TV, September 21, 2005)

ACORN head Bertha Lewis was the headliner of racially divisive chorus when she unleashed the following diatribe: “It is because of race and class that whenever you have a small group of white liberals running and screaming about something, people think it’s important. They don't have to worry about affordable housing. They don't give a damn about people of color. All they care about is preserving their little Prospect Heights community.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 9, 2005)

Invoking God and Ratner in the same breath has become a trademark of James Caldwell. In a speech that seemed a little over the top at the time, Caldwell seems to display the tact and compassion of Barbara Bush after Katrina, showing little regard for the people he claims to serve while raking in the big bucks from Ratner. Caldwell “thanked God and Ratner for the big check [to Carver Federal Savings Bank], which he said ‘gives the little people an opportunity…. This is bringing opportunity to our community,’ Caldwell said. ‘It is truly great to work with a person who was sent by God.’” (Brooklyn Downtown Star, March 24, 2005) Since then, nearly every time Caldwell has spoken in public, he has given praise to Ratner in sound bytes such as, “FCRC is truly like an angel in heaven.” (The Brooklyn Downtown Star, August 4, 2005)

While we are strolling down memory lane, revising our opinion of the entire cast of characters handpicked by Ratner, let’s not forget NY Assembly Member Roger Green. 2004 was a big year for Green. In January, he joined with other “community activists” to form BUILD. In February, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for misreporting travel expenses, which led to his disgraced resignation in June. How did the corrupt sycophant who sold out his district to Ratner get re-elected? After recent revelations, one has to wonder if Ratner cash funded his re-election campaign.

BUILD claims that three of its executive board members are also members of Community Board 8 (CB8). According to thier non-profit IRS filing these CB8 members are officers in BUILD. Two of these CB8 members, Marie Louis and Shalawn Langhorne, are reportedly drawing $100,000 in salaries from BUILD and while the other Marlene Sanders is only listed as an offier. These members of CB8 should step down from BUILD or CB8 and explain what they know about the finances of this sordid affair. Involvement in BUILD undermines their work and standing on CB8.

Shame on BUILD, Bruce Ratner and their community partners for exploiting the plight and aspirations of poor Brooklynites, trading on people’s religious beliefs, lying to the public and press and being arrogant to boot.

Last November, James Caldwell claimed “We are grass roots, and we're not at the table for ourselves. We're at the table for the community.” (Brooklyn Downtown Star, November 24, 2004) Now we know that all along, BUILD’s leaders have been fattening themselves at Ratner’s table, and their green grassroots were really cash-rich Astroturf.

BUILD shall henceforth be referred to as Bribe Us In Large Denominations.

And all that nonsense about the project being built to serve the community can be put to rest, while the rest of us discuss the project’s real impacts on our Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

September 17, 2005

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gleaming Towers of Ratnerville "Caring Bruce immediately had a great idea! He’s a land developer so he always has great ideas. And a good land developer has ideas that are great for the city. If, when you think of the city, you think of the Mayor and his homies." athletes in action

MTA Backs Ratner, Sun Rises in East "Man bites dog is news, people. Dog bites man — or, in this case, favored and pre-approved dog OK’d to bite MTA — isn’t." Gawker

Brooklyn Arena Deal Greeted with Silence "We eagerly await the Brooklyn Standard's account of the [MTA] meeting. Something tells us the whole Shabnam Merchant part may get cut out." Curbed

MTA and Ratner to Brooklyn Tomorrow "Ratner's bid was recently doubled to $100 million, only after the MTA had to ask for more because a dope would be able to understand that a cash bid of $50 million is less than Ratner's rival bid of $150 million in cold hard cash money." Gothamist

Local Catch-Up "Anyway, the FCR paper [The Brooklyn Standard] is a rah-rah Brooklyn-booster that happily glosses over controversial issues attached to the project -- like eminent domain...Ironically, some local activists believe that that is something it shares with, yes, the New York Times." Ragged Thots

Posted by amy at 11:51 AM

August 9, 2005

NoLandGrab: Can real estate speculation be a public use?

The Puget Sound situation and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) case in the 1980's are both instances where the municipality, and therefore the "public," profited from the rise in real estate prices. In Puget Sound, perhaps the result was unintended, but in Atlanta, the purpose of taking additional property was to fully realize the financial benefit of rising property values where commuters would gain access to public transportation.

Since the Supreme Court upheld the expanded the definition of "public use" to include public benefit or public purpose, what is to stop a municipality from seizing private property for the purpose of real estate speculation in order to raise money for the public?

You are thinking, "that would be absurd." However, according to the syndicated columnist Paul Craig Roberts:

"MARTA was one of the first to condemn more property than it needed to serve "public purpose." The transit authority reasoned that property surrounding a new transportation station would rise in value because of the increased ease of commuting from the site. The authority decided that since its station caused the rise in property values, it should benefit by condemning property for resale after value rose. People with condemned property blocks from the new stations sued and lost."

Though these projects were technically supposed to be for transportation infrastructure, long considered to be a fair "public use," no one can deny that real estate speculation

Posted by lumi at 12:11 PM

August 4, 2005

Rooftop Films Press Release

Rooftop Films decided to publicize our decision to not appear in the Brooklyn Standard because we hope that like-minded people and organizations will see that it is possible to turn down free publicity and that it is possible for individuals and small arts organizations to stand up gigantic nefarious conglomerates.

We also hope that people who may have heard of Rooftop Films but don't have an opinion of FCRC's Atlantic Yards project will be swayed in opposition of their project.

To further that goal, on Friday, August 12, as part of our annual "New York Non-Fiction" show, Rooftop Films will be screening a trailer for a film about the Atlantic Yards project, which should be very informative.

Click the following link to read the complete press release.


Rooftop Films recently declined an invitation to appear in "The Brooklyn Standard." The Standard is FCRC's promotional tool, posing as a community newspaper. The purpose of the publication is to promote the Atlantic Yards project by creating the impression that the community -- including arts groups like Rooftop Films -- are in support of the project. Rooftop Films doesn't agree with FCRC's plan for the Atlantic Yards, and want to do what we can to stop the development from being built. We are not an activist organization, so we can't create a campaign of signatures or boycotts or the like. But we can refuse to partake in their ruse.

Not appearing in the publication was not enough, however, because no one would know that we chose not to appear. Rooftop Films decided to publicize our decision to not appear in the Brooklyn Standard because we hope that like-minded people and organizations will see that it is possible to turn down free publicity and that it is possible for individuals and small arts organizations to stand up gigantic nefarious conglomerates. We also hope that people who may have heard of Rooftop Films but don't have an opinion of FCRC's Atlantic Yards project will be swayed in opposition of their project. To further that goal, on Friday, August 12, as part of our annual "New York Non-Fiction" show, Rooftop Films will be screening a trailer for a film about the Atlantic Yards project, which should be very informative.

For more information about Rooftop Films please visit or contact Artistic Director Mark Elijah Rosenberg at, or 718-417-7362.

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

August 2, 2005

Rooftop Films to "Brooklyn Pravda:" Respectfully take our manifesto and shove it!

Q: When does a community-based non-profit film festival and workshop draft a policy statement on development in Brooklyn?

A: When approached by The Brooklyn Standard to be featured in a story in the next issue.

In an open letter, Rooftop Films not only turned down Forest City Ratner's offer for some free press, they then went a step further and stuck up for the community. Brooklyn owes Rooftop Films a thank you for having the guts to speak out.

Rooftop FilmsAn open letter to the editors and readers of The Brooklyn Standard:

July 28, 2005

Re: Isaac Dovere's request to publish an article about Rooftop Films in The Brooklyn Standard.

Rooftop Films is a community-based non-profit which works in various ways to strengthen the neighborhoods we work in. As an organization which works closely with the physical spaces we inhabit, we have strong views about building development.

Rooftop Films believes in small and diverse development, development which benefits more people and is less of a financial risk for the neighborhood than vast development by a single large corporation—one such as the Atlantic Yards Project. Rooftop Films believes the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene would benefit from small, locally developed and owned stores, as opposed to franchises from international chains, as proposed in the Atlantic Yards project. Rooftop Films believes that the area around the project would benefit from increased foot traffic, achieved by creating more through streets, as opposed to a plan which creates more car traffic by shutting down streets.

Rooftop Films believes that in order to create sustainable low and middle-income housing which will invite low and middle-income people to live in their houses for a long time, to care about their houses and their neighborhood, and to give them the freedom to earn more money without fear of losing their housing, developers should build small housing units with buyer options as opposed to rent-controlled apartments in high-rises.

As such, Rooftop Films believes that our neighborhood, our organization, and other organizations like ours will suffer if the Atlantic Yards project is built—as the neighborhood and small businesses have suffered in the wake of Forest City Ratner Companies' other development projects, such as the Atlantic Mall, Atlantic Terminal, and MetroTech.

The Brooklyn Standard clearly states that it is published by FCRC to share information about the Atlantic Yards project. But the paper does not offer balanced and diverse opinions about the project. Rooftop Films is fundamentally at odds with FCRC and the Atlantic Yards project, and we do not wish to appear in a publication designed for the sole purpose of promoting that project.

Thank you for your time, but Rooftop Films respectfully declines to appear in The Brooklyn Standard.  


Mark Elijah Rosenberg, Artistic Director
Dan Nuxoll, Program Director
Sarah Palmer, Festival Director
Rooftop Films, Inc.

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

July 2, 2005

BCAT - Reporter's Roundtable Premier Saturday July 2nd, 9pm

The Meaning of the Supreme Court's Kelo Decision on eminent domain and public use: The Decision's Ramifications on the Atlantic Yards Proposal Panel:

Daniel Goldstein - Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Brad Lander - Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED)

Errol Louis - New York Daily News

David Reiss, Brooklyn Law School

Premiers Saturday, 9pm Time Warner/Cablevision, 56/69

Click here for full schedule

Posted by amy at 9:27 AM

June 18, 2005

'Young, Educated Black Man’ From Ft. Greene Says Bertha Lewis Doesn’t Represent His Interests

Letter to the Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Daniel McCalla of Fort Greene speaking of Bertha Lewis of Acorn:

I do know several things Bertha Lewis does not represent my interest, I 'm an unemployed, educated black man, I honestly can't afford to live in my own neighborhood. Almost everyone I grew up with in Fort Greene can't live here any more.

My block association will have to put up with the Ratner proposal. How can we trust a real estate company, that still operates behind our backs? We still have a number of black members, but I rarely see Miss Lewis at our meetings. Bertha’s statement 'All they care about is preserving their precious Prospect Heights community' is a disgrace. FCR pushed their Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal Malls on the Fort Greene Community. Ratner is obsessed with destroying historic neighborhoods, so if the white liberals, according to Lewis want to scream they can—it’s America.


Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

June 16, 2005


By Doug Hamilton

A new blockbuster sequel opened on May 24th in Brooklyn when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) quietly issued its Request for Proposals (RFP) for development of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. In this case, the original hit show was the MTA’s tragi-comedic RFP for the Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s west side.

In Episode One, the MTA bowed to public pressure for competitive bidding on its West-side property by issuing an RFP heavily slanted towards the Jets’ stadium proposal which enjoyed the advantages of an approximately two-year discussion and design period as well as support from the mayor and governor. The time period allowed for responses was ridiculously short and the only competition came from organizations with obvious political axes to grind. Not surprisingly, their hastily thrown-together submissions were roundly rejected by an MTA board packed with the governor’s appointees. The lack of genuine public debate on budgetary priorities and the site’s future is evidenced by the recent refusal of Democratic Speaker Silver and Republican Majority Leader Bruno to support the project.

Now in Episode Two, the MTA is following the same tired formula. After a virtually clandestine announcement in the back pages of the Times, the embattled state transportation agency is allowing only 43 days for potential competitors to prepare bids on a spectacularly valuable and very complicated Greater Downtown Brooklyn site that the State’s preferred developer has been working on for more than a year-and-a-half.

For those who have not been following this saga, Forest City Ratner Companies – Brooklyn’s largest developer – has been engaged for the past two years in preparing and promoting a proposal to develop 7.8 million square feet of residential, office, and retail space on the site of the Vanderbilt rail yards at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. At the urging of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Bruce Ratner – CEO of the Forest City Ratner Companies – put together an investment group that bought the New Jersey Nets in 2003 with the express purpose of moving the team to Brooklyn. The real estate deal provides a way for Mr. Ratner to cross-subsidize the arena with profits from Brooklyn’s largest development since FCRC’s MetroTech in the late ‘80s. In addition, New York City will kick in at least $143 million in direct subsidies for the arena as well as unknown millions in tax abatements. New York State, for its part, is adding $100 million to the pot for infrastructure improvements, plus its backing for a $500 million bond to finance arena construction. Finally, since the whole project is outside the Manhattan exclusion zone, it qualifies for 421a property tax abatement for a period of thirty years. The developer will defray some of this expense over time through Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILOTs), but any way you look at it, the amount of public money involved is huge, at a time of citywide fiscal belt-tightening.

The six-week period that the MTA is allowing for this project is laughably brief, given the size and complexity of the site, and falls seriously short of standard practice. If the MTA was serious about receiving competitive proposals, it would have sent RFP packages to a number of major developers directly and it would have allowed them about three months to prepare submissions. It will be a miracle if any viable developer steps up to the plate given the transparently non-competitive nature of this RFP. Nevertheless, that is what the community is trying to do. If it can find interested parties, they will at least have the benefit of several months of groundwork by dedicated neighborhood activists, including experienced urban design and transportation professionals.

Another grave shortcoming of this process is the lack of a publicly approved zoning framework for the Yards site. Currently zoned for manufacturing, our Planning Department has abdicated its responsibility to provide rational land use planning and development guidelines for this site. Consequently, Forest City Ratner has been allowed to set the terms for the debate with a grossly over-scaled proposal. If the chief criterion for a winning bid is the size of its payout, then competitors will likely be forced into the same quality of giantism that has Prospect Heights and Fort Greene up in arms over the Forest City Ratner scheme. The RFP contains some vague language about “taking into account the respective goals and needs of the MTA, the State . . . the City . . . and the community . . . “ but what this means is anyone’s guess. Does it mean that unless you have another arena in your back pocket you will not be considered? Does it mean that the community’s quality-of-life concerns will be taken seriously? These issues will not be interpreted by our elected officials because the Mayor has allowed the approvals process to be hijacked by the State, despite the inclusion of several acres of City and private land within the project footprint.

The New York business community should be deeply concerned about the message that this kind of back-room deal-making sends to the larger world of commerce. In essence, we are posting signs at all ports of entry to New York saying, “CLOSED FOR BUSINESS (Unless you have inside connections)”. A truly free and democratic market is essential to the efficient functioning of our economic system. Unfortunately, the actions of our mayor and governor simply prove that, despite the march of time, the ghosts of Tammany Hall and Robert Moses are still lurking in the back corridors of City Hall and the Statehouse.

R. Douglas Hamilton, RA
Fort Greene resident and Senior Design Strategist, Street-Works LLC

Posted by lumi at 10:09 AM

May 26, 2005

Democracy Inaction

NoLandGrab Exclusive report from outside today's public hearing

While its proponents tout Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal as the best thing to hit Brooklyn since Jackie Robinson, they sure seem to go out of their way to minimize public scrutiny of the project.

Dozens of citizens hoping to testify - both pro and con - at today's hastily arranged City Council Economic Development Committee hearing on the Atlantic Yards were turned away at the door, ostensibly due to a lack of space in the meeting room. However, given the passionate debate the project has engendered, those turned away voiced surprise that the Council would hold the hearings in an inadequately sized forum.

"It's problematic that a public hearing can be scheduled on short notice and in such a small room for an important issue," remarked Fort Greene resident and architect Doug Hamilton.

button.jpgForest City Ratner employees distributed "Jobs, Housing & Hoops" buttons and T-shirts to supporters of the proposed arena and high-rise development, including one union member sporting a "Lake Success Teamsters" jacket (stretching the concept of local job creation to a place best described as Very East Brooklyn).

Opponents of the Ratner proposal heckled the arrival of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, making a rare sojourn from his home borough.

"Marty will only leave Brooklyn for two things: his annual all-you-can-eat Caribbean cruise, and Bruce Ratner," said Eric McClure, one of those turned away from the Council hearing.

Posted by lumi at 11:12 PM