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About DDDB
Our coalition consists of 21 community organizations and there are 51 community organizations formally aligned in opposition to the Ratner plan.

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"Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."
Bruce Ratner in Crain's Nov. 8, 2009

The Atlantic Yards Saga: 2007's Biggest Stories
Happy New Year

A whole heck of a lot went on in the Atlantic Yards saga during 2007. With much difficulty we tried to choose the BIGGEST stories of the year, from a Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn perspective. There were many more BIG stories, but we chose the following by category and in no particular order (we'd figured you'd have a lot of down time over the long weekend):

> Biggest Beneficiary of PILOTS:
Bruce Ratner.

PILOTS, or Payments in Lieu of Taxes, are a mechanism by which developers either don't pay any property taxes, or pay a percentage of what their property taxes should be. In his December 20th article, "Deals that lead to lost property taxes," Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez wrote that the "undisputed king of PILOTS is real estate developer Bruce Ratner." This is true without even counting the PILOTs for Atlantic Yards--foregone property taxes that Ratner would use to pay off the bond debt on his private arena and pay to the state, instead of the city, on the non-arena portion of Atlantic Yards. Yup, the public pays for that arena.


> Best Kept Secret
(a 3-way tie):
1.
The total public cost of the project continues to be a secret, just as it was at the end of 2006. Our estimate is here.

2. The total amount of housing subsidies and tax breaks Forest City Ratner expects to receive. It could reach well over $1.5 billion in government backed financing.

3. The total amount of PILOTS for Forest City Ratner's project.


> Biggest Mystery (Unsolved):
Jim Stuckey's Departure
.
The unceremonious "resignation" of Forest City Ratner Executive VP and Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey on June 13th. Crain's New York Business broke the story without any skepticism about the terms of the resignation. That same day on his Atlantic Yards Report Norman Oder wondered, what many others were, and are still, wondering:
Was Stuckey fired? Well, we can't be certain, and Stuckey did lead Atlantic Yards past some significant challenges (though others remain). Still, whenever an executive leaves without a new job, seeking "new challenges," and when the accompanying press release makes no effort to honor him for his accomplishments, there's no celebration going on.


> Biggest Mystery (Solved):
Barclays Center Arena only 20 Feet from the Street
.
For years Forest City Ratner never divulged the distance between its proposed arena and the streets abutting it--Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. This setback distance, significant for security purposes, started coming under greater scrutiny in October when Newark police officials decided to close the streets abutting the new Prudential Center arena for terrorism protection because it stood only 25 feet from its abutting streets. For weeks Forest City Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation and the NYPD stonewalled when asked for the distance. Finally, on Thanksgiving eve the developer told the New York Times that some portions of its glass-walled Barclays Center arena would be only 20 feet from Flatbush and Atlantic prompting more questions from project critics, opponents and supporters; such as "how is Brooklyn different than Newark?"


> Biggest Lawsuits (a 2-way tie and one honorable mention):
1. Goldstein v. Pataki
Thirteen property owners and tenants continue to press their lawsuit against the ESDC's use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, charging that it is an abusive use which violates the US Constitution. The plaintiffs argue in court in February and defeat 3 motions to dismiss by the defendants but lose one in the Eastern District Court of New York. In July the plaintiffs appeal the lower court's decision in the 2nd Circuit Court of the United States, in front of a panel of three judges, to argue that the taking of their property is not for a public use. As of January 1, 2008, that court's decision is pending. If plaintiffs win their case and keep their properties, Atlantic Yards as we know it can't be built.

2. DDDB et al v. ESDC et al
Twenty-six community groups, political clubs, civic groups and environmental groups, let by DDDB, file suit in April challenging the state's Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement and overall approval of the project. In May the case is heard, in a marathon argument, in State Supreme Court by Justice Joan Madden. Strong arguments are made that the state's required blight determination is illegitimate and that the arena does not fit the state's definition of a "civic project." As of January 1, 2008, Justice Madden's decision is pending.

Honorable Mention: Eugene Greene v. Bruce Ratner
Former Nets investor Eugene Greene sues Bruce Ratner in May for allegedly breaking a promise that Mr. Greene would "play a key role in the team's organization" in return for rounding up millions in investor dollars. "We need money, money, money," Ratner said, according to court papers. "And you need to get it for us." The claim filed by Mr. Greene says that when he confronted Mr. Ratner about the alleged broken promises, Mr. Ratner said, "I don't remember exactly what I said. As you know, I have a memory problem."...


> Biggest, Most Enduring Myth:
1. "Atlantic Yards is a Done Deal".
There is no such thing as a "done deal" in a democracy with a functioning judiciary and an attentive public. Not even Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project with its millions spent on lobbying and public relations. With still no construction under way for the project, this has been proven again in 2007.

Honorable Mention: Atlantic Yards Will Create a Net Gain of Affordable Housing
In January we had a chance to catch our breath and read deeper into the ESDC's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). What we found was that though the project proposes 900 low-income units, the FEIS says that there could be 2,920 households at risk of indirect residential displacement. Even if we include all of the "affordable" units, 2,920 outpace the proposed 2,250 (most of which are skewed to higher income bands). It is possible that there then would be a net loss of "affordable" housing.


> Widest, Intentional, Indefensible Loophole:
421a "Ratner Clause"
Reform-minded Governor Eliot Spitzer signs into law a much needed change in the outdated 421a tax break for residential development. But the bill Governor Spitzer signs includes a special clause or loophole only for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, in a deal cut by Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez. The loophole allows Bruce Ratner to receive a tax break for buildings that contain no affordable housing at all, while all other developers only get the break if they build affordable housing on a per building basis. Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez called it a "deal so sweet it's sick." Even Mayor Bloomberg didn't like the Ratner "carve-out," though he changed his tune once some other modifications to the bill were made, but left the Ratner clause in. The Times called the bill a "flop", in part because of the loophole. And The Brooklyn Paper editorialized strongly against the bill because of the "Ratner Clause."


> Biggest Controversy Over Biggest Naming Rights Deal
Ratner Signs $300-400 Million Deal With Barclays Bank While Black Leaders Condemn Lucrative Agreement

In January, with great fanfare and a glitzy event at the Brooklyn Museum, Forest City Ratner and Barclays Bank announced that the bank would pay the developer $300-400 million for the exclusive right to slap its brand and logo all over the developer's arena. With full branding blaring for the phantom arena (see below) Barclays marketing exclaimed "It's time the world gave something to Brooklyn," and boy would the bank be "giving it to Brooklyn."

Within days of the announcement, black leaders from Brooklyn--project supporters, critics, and opponents (including former Assemblyman Roger Green and his successor Hakeem Jeffries, and Reverend Herbert Daughtry)--condemned the deal with the bank because of its alleged historical involvement in the slave trade and with the apartheid regime in South Africa.


> Most Premature Naming Rights Deal
Barclays Commits $300-400 Million in Arena Naming Rights Before Ratner Owns Land to Build Arena

Despite the fact that Ratner still does not own the land he needs to build his proposed arena--because other private owners own the land and are defending their constitutional rights in court, and the deal on the rail yard still hasn't closed--Barclays Bank and Forest City Ratner announce their lucrative naming rights deal for a phantom arena.


> Best Misnomer
Barclays Center Arena Called a "Publicly-owned Arena"

If it's a "publicly-owned arena" why does Ratner get the $300-400 million naming rights? (See above). Simple answer: it's not a publicly owned arena, even though the state's lawyer called it that at a court hearing in October.


> Pettiest Political Payback:
Borough Prez Markowitz Doesn't Reappoint Community Board 6 Members Who Voted Against Atlantic Yards
Enough said. The story of the "purge" is here.


> Largest Percent Increase in Direct Cash Subsidy in Shortest Time:
105% From NYC to Forest City Ratner form December 2006 to January 2007
In late January, about one month after the Public Authorities Control Board (Silver, Bruno, Pataki) approved the Atlantic Yards project, Mayor Bloomberg's budget was released. The budget included $205 million in direct cash taxpayer subsidy to Forest City Ratner for Atlantic Yards. When the project was approved the direct cash from the city was $100 million.


> Most Frequent Wolf Crying About Arena Opening
Forest City Ratner and Its Arena.
When the project was unveiled in December 2003, Forest City Ratner said the arena would open for the 2006 basketball season. When the project was approved in December 2006, the developer said the arena would open for the 2009 basketball season. In December 2007, Ratner once again cried wolf and told the NY Times, after it was abundantly clear to everyone, that the arena would open for the 2010 basketball season. But there is ample evidence that the earliest the arena could open would be for the 2011 basketball season. That is, of course, if it ever opens at all.


> Biggest About Face:
Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff Admission Atlantic Yards Should Have Gone Through ULURP.
The original sin of Atlantic Yards is that it bypassed the city's democratic Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Critics, opponents and even supporters, on the whole, agree that the process by which Forest City, NY City and NY State, have tried to move Atlantic Yards forward has been atrocious. Yet government officials from the Governor to the Mayor and his deputies on down have never admitted even this much; consistently they have defended the state override of ULURP, the City Charter and local zoning.

That is until December when, one day after announcing his resignation, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff told the NY Observer: “I am a huge believer in the ULURP process. If it happened again, and the state were to ask if I would encourage them to take Atlantic Yards through the ULURP process, I would say yes.”

Doctoroff's admission came four years after Atlantic Yards (and its ULURP bypass) was announced, and one year after the project received approval from 3-men-in-a-room. It was a little, but it was not too late. As Councilwoman Letitia James told The Brooklyn Paper: “What does he mean, ‘If it happened again?’ It’s still happening. This is not a done deal. Dan Doctoroff is still in office and he should pick up the phone, call the governor and get this project reviewed again, this time through ULURP.”

The Brooklyn Paper editorialized about Doctoroff's admission, in an editorial headlined "Doctoroff's Disaster."


> Most Abrupt About Face:

The New York Times on the Arena Setbacks.
(See "Biggest Mystery" above.) On November 8th the NY Times reported that "renderings of Atlantic Yards show the arena about 75 feet back from Atlantic Avenue and about 150 feet from Flatbush Avenue."

Two weeks later on November 21st the "Paper of Record" published a story stating:
"On Wednesday, a spokesman for Forest City, Loren Riegelhaupt, offered an updated response to a reporter’s inquiries: At its closest point to the street, the arena will be set back 20 feet from both Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

That is the same distance as the arena in Newark. This new information prompted another question: What makes the Atlantic Yards arena sufficiently different from the Newark arena that it will not require street closings?
"

To date the "Paper of Record" has not published a correction of the first article.


> Most Difficult Extraction of Financial Disclosure (Albeit Incomplete)

Via Lawsuit, Assemblyman Jim Brennan Gains Access to Some of Ratner's Financial Documents.
The ESDC, the state development agency supposedly overseeing the Atlantic Yards project, never saw a business plan from Forest City Ratner, yet it approved the project in December 2006. When Assemblyman Jim Brennan and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery had their October Freedom of Information (FOI) request for financial documents rejected by the ESDC, the two legislators took the ESDC to court to force the disclosure of the financial documents since they should have been part of the public record. The ESDC moved to dismiss the FOI case, but after the court hearing Forest City Ratner "agreed" to turn the documents over to the legislators. The documents were subsequently handed over to the NY Times, which published an article--"Official Sees Possible Risk in Big Project in Brooklyn"--on July 1st. Sill, many questions remain about the public and private financing of the project.


> Widest Citywide Demonstration of People Power:
New Yorkers Against Eminent Domain Abuse at City Hall
Over one hundred New Yorkers, from Prospect Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Willets Point and West Harlem rally at a City Hall press conference on a sweltering June day to call for an end to the abuse of eminent domain in New York City. The Atlantic Yards Report covered the event and wrote: [City Councilwoman Letitia] James said eminent domain was "stealing property for individuals in high places," adding that "the Mayor cannot talk about [PlaNYC] 2030 and support eminent domain." She said she hoped the Atlantic Yards case challenging eminent domain—currently pending appeal in federal appellate court—goes all the way to the Supreme Court...

Closing the rally, DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein (right) declared, "When they say it's a public use just because they say it's a public use, it doesn't mean it's a public use." He offered the same mantra substituting the word "blight" for "public use." "The mayor says often, ‘you can't let one guy' stand in the way of development," Goldstein continued. "We're not 'one guy.'"



> Most Discussed and Mysterious Parapet Collapse:
Ward Bakery's Parapet
In late April Forest City Ratner's demolition contractors knock the stone parapet off of the historic Ward Bakery building in the proposed project footprint, sending tons of debris crashing down on to Pacific Street on top of parked cars. Nobody is hurt, fortunately. The ESDC suspends all demolitions. Shortly after that suspension, the ESDC allows resumption of all demolitions. In August the Daily News exculsively reported that the collapse was avoidable and that precautions should have been takend: "Building's collapse no surprise: Ratner knew of damage to Ward building, but didn't halt demolition - report."


> Best Example of Starchitect Supernova and/or Black Hole:
Frank Gehry Gets Sued by M.I.T.
Atlantic Yards "starchitect" Frank Gehry gets sued by M.I.T. for flaws in the Stata Center he designed for the school. The NY Post wonders if he has become "Frank Lloyd Wrong," and the Brits wonder if his "bubble has burst." And the "smart kids" at MIT had a mouthful to say about Gehry's M.I.T. "masterpiece."




Posted: 12.29.07
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Eminent Domain Case
Goldstein et al v. ESDC
[All case files]

November 24, 2009
Court of Appeals
Ruling

[See ownership map]

EIS Lawsuit

DDDB et al v ESDC et al
Click for a summary of the lawsuit seeking to annul the review and approval the Atlantic Yards project.

Appeal briefs are here.

2/26/09
Appellate Divsion
Rules for ESDC
What would Atlantic Yards Look like?...
Photo Simulations
Before and After views from around the project footprint revealing the massive scale of the proposed luxury apartment and sports complex.

Click for
Screening Schedule
of
Isabel Hill's
"Atlantic Yards" documentary
Brooklyn Matters


Read a review
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Atlantic Yards
would be
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Gentrification
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