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121 5th Avenue, PMB #150
Brooklyn, New York 11217
Our coalition consists of 21 community organizations and
there are 51 community organizations formally
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and we have over 150 block captains. We have a 20 person
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We are funded entirely by individual donations from the community at large
and through various fundraising events we and supporters have organized.
We have the financial support of well over 3,500 individual
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.
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.
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."
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:
Five years later and the project's financing is still rather
murky) and Mr. Gargano and Pataki are out of the picture, replaced by Ms.
Marisa Lago and Governor Paterson.
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
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
What will they do with this floundering money pit?