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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

Happy Fifth Landgrabiversary, Atlantic Yards

Markowitz, Bloomberg, Pataki, Ratner, Schumer (Dec 10, 2003)

Five years ago today, December 10, 2003, Forest City Ratner officially unveiled its Atlantic Yards proposal. Bruce Ratner, joined at Brooklyn Borough Hall by Borough President Markowitz, Senator Schumer, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki, announced his plans to build the massive project extending east from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

(NoLandGrab is wishing the billionaire's boondoggle a Happy Birthday Atlantic Yards, unfavorably comparing the progress of the project to that of a five-year old child who would be toilet-trained and in pre-school by now.)

Bruce Ratner announced that his new arena for the Nets--the team he had just overpaid to purchase--would open to the public in 2006. The project overview released by Forest City Ratner on that December day read, on page 5: "Arena development to begin at the end of 2004, with completion set for the summer of 2006."

Today we mark five years of fighting what has become the poster child for abusive over-development, development that subverts democracy, eminent domain abuse, bad government, developer and architect hubris, opaque financing, poor planning (etc.) across the city and beyond. Today, as we mark the five year struggle against the project, Mr. Ratner's land grab is at a stand still. While his real estate speculation firm is able to demolish the properties he purchased under the threat of eminent domain, he cannot start construction of his project while it faces two legal challenges in court, and the global fiscal meltdown isn't helping either. And if the plaintiffs win either of those two pending lawsuits, Atlantic Yards cannot be built. Then Brooklyn can finally work together to develop the Vanderbilt Rail Yards in a responsible manner, that truly benefits Brooklynites, and the neighborhoods that surround the yards, utilizing the UNITY Plan.

Thank you for all of your support and activism over these five years.

Below is NY1 coverage from December 11, 2003, of the unveiling of Mr. Ratner's land grab, followed by the first major news article critical of the project (of course the article condemning the project is New York magzine's must-read article by Chris Smith from August 2006: "Mr. Ratner’s Neighborhood"):
Design Unveiled For New Nets Home In Brooklyn

Controversial plans were unveiled Wednesday for a new basketball arena in Downtown Brooklyn that could be the new home of the New Jersey Nets.

“Forget the Dodgers” – the last major professional sports team to call the borough home – “Brooklyn’s future is the Nets,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz.

The 20,000-seat arena was designed by Frank Gehry, best known as the architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. It would rise at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, on top of rail yards for the Long Island Rail Road.

"The opportunity to build an arena in a very urban setting is very unique," said Gehry. "Most of them are built out in the fields where there's lots of parking around them. This has a different character."

“We are on the threshold of restoring Brooklyn to its rightful place on the national sports stage,” Markowitz said. “Brooklyn, as everyone knows, is a world-class city, and it deserves a world-class team playing in a world-class arena designed by a world-class architect.”

The plan, which also includes a housing complex and office and commercial space, is the idea of developer Bruce Ratner, who bid $275 million to buy the Nets and move them to Brooklyn. The Nets’ owners are also considering lower offers that would move the team to Long Island or keep it in New Jersey.

"We are going to be successful at this," said Ratner. "We are going to get the Nets to Brooklyn, if it's the last thing that I do."

Continue reading (or to watch the video)

Two months after the unveiling, the first heavy-hitting, critical news column appeared in the NY Press by Dan Neal:
Nets of Plenty
Bruce Ratner wants to turn public funds into private equity with a little help from his friends.
February 10, 2004

Few New York politicians want to see Bruce Ratner fail in his quest to build the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards, which is why the project could cost him very little of his own money. By leveraging hype over the New Jersey Nets, Ratner wants to use millions in public funds in a clever, pay-us-later bid to execute an unprecedented land grab.

On nearly 20 acres of dense residential and commercial property, including the ruins of 150 housing units that would be razed under the province of eminent domain, Ratner envisions more than just a new Nets stadium. The Brooklyn Atlantic Yards (BAY) would include the 19,000-seat Nets arena plus four office towers with an estimated 2.1 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet for retail, 4,500 new apartments and a running track that converts seasonally to an ice rink.

This would not be a first for the developer. Ratner is responsible for orchestrating centerpiece projects like the New York Mercantile Exchange, the New York Times building and Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center and Atlantic Center Mall. Over the years, he has developed a casual stewardship in his business dealings with New York, most notably as the commissioner of consumer affairs under Mayor Ed Koch. He’s also a longtime chum of Gov. Pataki and other political glitterati. His inside relationship with key power brokers should allow Ratner to build the BAY for little more than the administrative costs of applying for state- and city-sponsored loans and managing bond offerings that will attract outside investors. When it’s done, Ratner will have gained one colossal equity: a $2.5-billion product, practically all paid for up-front by taxpayer and investor money.

Of the nine projects Ratner has built in New York over the last decade, he has never been shy about seeking public financing and government subsidies—in other words, tax dollars. His apologists play the urban renewal card, claiming that Ratner is sticking his own neck out by developing "under-served" areas where private money won’t dare venture, and thus his projects deserve a steady diet of city and state assistance.

The results don’t always meet expectations. MetroTech and the Atlantic Center Mall, for example, still fall short of their promise of dramatic economic stimulation. But Ratner’s experience with these projects has sharpened his knack for developing well-subsidized marquee projects that look great on the covers of city maps and phone books. He knows how to build stuff that incumbents can point to and say, "Be proud; we’re doing big things."

The Brooklyn Atlantic Yards takes that knack to another level. With his winning bid for the Nets, Ratner added the nostalgia power of bringing a professional sports team back to Brooklyn after nearly half a century. Now he’s rolling that momentum into support for fronting him the needed $2.5 billion.
Ratner’s people argue that their boss will use as much private funding as possible for the BAY, although nothing is yet set in stone. Bruce Bender, head of Forest City Ratner’s public affairs, says Ratner’s development plan is far from finished and will be refined with input from the local community. "What makes the current plan work is that the arena is directly above one of the busiest transportation hubs in the city," says Bender.

But without a written contract detailing how he plans to finance and build the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards, Ratner has the legal right to be as capricious as he wants when it comes to cobbling together his development plans...


What Ratner wants from the ESDC doesn’t require legislation or a vote. It may not even require a trip to Albany—the ESDC rents offices in Brooklyn, mercifully right inside Ratner’s struggling Atlantic Center Mall. He merely needs to ask the folks who run the ESDC for whatever he wants.

And who runs the Empire State Development Corp., the state-run company with the power to condemn private property in the interest of for-profit development?

Charles Gargano, an old friend of Ratner’s, serves as its boss. Overseeing its decisions is none other than Ratner’s old law school buddy, George Pataki.

Continue reading.
Five years later and the project's financing is still rather murky, (very murky) and Mr. Gargano and Pataki are out of the picture, replaced by Ms. Marisa Lago and Governor Paterson.

What will they do with this floundering money pit?

Posted: 12.10.08
DDDB.net en español.
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Eminent Domain Case
Goldstein et al v. ESDC
[All case files]

November 24, 2009
Court of Appeals

[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.

Appellate Divsion
Rules for ESDC
What would Atlantic Yards Look like?...
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Atlantic Yards
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