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We have the financial support of well over 3,500 individual
Ratner the Hold Out An excellent overview of the current limbo state of "developer" Bruce
Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal from WNYCincludes comments from BEEP Markowitz, James Caldwell from the Ratner funded
group BUILD, and rent-stabilized tenant facing eminent domain—Leigh Anderson—whose
home is in the fooprint of the proposed and frivolous billion dollar arena. Note
that there are no comments from Forest
City Ratner or the Empire State Development Corporation (they weren't even
willing to speak with the reporter).
What ever happend to Atlantic Yards? Well, it's an alluring headline, but there
should be no mistake made—"developer" Bruce Ratner is still attempting
to build his project, or some mutant version of it.
Here's the radio report with some running commentary:
NEW YORK, NY
January 22, 2009
—By now the Atlantic Yards project was supposed to be well underway, and the Brooklyn Nets were supposed to be in the middle of their first season in their new arena. But developer Bruce Ratner hasn’t broken ground or even secured the financing. Instead, he's exploring ways to cut the arena’s billion-dollar price tag. Ratner's already decided he won’t start the project’s marquee skyscraper, known as "Ms. Brooklyn," until he finds an anchor tenant. WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman takes a closer look.
ANDERSON: Somehow it is always colder in the building …
REPORTER: Leigh Anderson is a writer who has been living on the edge of a sunken rail yard for 10 years now. In 2003, she learned her 4-story apartment building was in the middle of a developer’s dream for a basketball arena and 16 apartment and office buildings, one stretching about 50 stories in the air.
ANDERSON: Okay, so this used to be a building and it’s now an empty lot.
REPORTER: About two years ago, Forest City Ratner began knocking down the empty buildings it owned, but left about a dozen standing. The landscape looks like a ghost town after the Gold Rush. But about 20 holdouts still lived where they always lived.
ANDERSON: This was supposed to be temporary during the period of construction, but now construction is totally halted, so we essentially have a big gaping hole where there used to be a bridge and a temporary bridge a block away, and nothing’s happening.
REPORTER: Anderson is part of the reason nothing is happening. She and other rent stabilized tenants sued the developer to block the seizure of their homes. They lost, but two other cases are still in front of judges.
Lawsuits always cause trouble for developers: not only do they challenge of a project, but they deter investors from loaning money. In the case of Atlantic Yards, Ratner has postponed issuing bonds for a full two years. Partly, Ratner thought no one would want the bonds until the lawsuits cleared. But now that the country is in the midst of a recession, few people want bonds period.
ANDERSON: I’m hopeful that the economy will finish what we have started in killing the project.
REPORTER: When Bruce Ratner bought the New Jersey Nets in 2004, this isn’t the way he imagined it.
RATNER: Our sense is that it will take about three years--it’ll take about three years--to build the arena.
REPORTER: Mayor Bloomberg was also optimistic at the time.
BLOOMBERG: Virtually, not 100 percent, this is New York, almost 100 percent
support of this project just tells you, this is going to go through.
REPORTER: Forest City Ratner said it would employ 1500 construction workers a year while the complex was being built. And hundreds of people would work there once it was finished. But those benefits are being postponed too. The work stoppage in November has left supporters frustrated.
CALDWELL: First thing I thought was goodness gracious we have to wait another 6, 8 months, a year before the shovels go in the ground.
REPORTER: James Caldwell is the head of Build Brooklyn, a nonprofit job placement organization largely funded by Forest City Ratner. The group used to hold meetings every Tuesday evening so people could drop by.
CALDWELL: We was averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 peoples coming in.
REPORTER: But Caldwell stopped the meetings last year because he didn’t know what to tell people who asked when work was going to start in earnest.
CALDWELL: If you keep trying to give them dates, sooner or later they will start saying, “Well, all he is doing is crying wolf. He really don’t know.” Then they will go back and tell their friends we don’t know if this will happen or not. We don’t want that word circulating in the community.
REPORTER: Caldwell says he has given up on predicting when work will start. Forest City Ratner maintains it will break ground this calendar year, but the company would not make any executives available for an interview. Nor would the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency sponsoring this project.
A Bloomberg administration official, Seth Pinsky, wouldn’t speculate on when
the project would be finished. But he says it will be–eventually.
REPORTER: The borough president still believes in Atlantic Yards. He blames
opponents for pushing the project back into a bad economy...
The project was never feasible, so if Markowitz is looking to blame we blame Markowitz
for "believing" in Atlantic Yards.
MARKOWITZ: All I can say is keep the faith. That’s all I can say is keep the faith. Because in spite of the attempts by those who frankly couldn’t care whether you are getting your affordable housing or not, we are fighting the good fight against these kinds of odd that no one could anticipate.
Markowitz is fighting the good fight? He is fighting? Ha, ha. And who is it that
doesn't care about affordable housing? Opponents and critics who have a
realistic and expedient way to develop affordable housing over the rail yards,
or BEEP Markowitz who clings to a billion dollar arena at all costs, which won't
house anyone. In this new era of responsibility the new President heralds, isn't
it time for government officials like Markowitz to stop guiding public policy
on "faith" and start injecting some reality and practicality?
REPORTER: Opponents contend the project wouldn’t have attracted so much litigation if it had been more responsive to the community’s objections. Rulings in two lawsuits are expected this spring, though there’s no telling what other appeals may be in store.
Actually opponents contend that there wouldn't have been litigation if the project
had not violated the law.
In the meantime, Ratner has to figure out just how long he can hold
out, whether he can wait out the lawsuits, and the bond market. It
looks like he will continue losing more than 20 million dollars a year so
long as the Nets play in New Jersey. He is also fighting rumors that his star
architect, Frank Gehry, has left the project. Officially, the company says
Gehry is still on board, the Nets are slated to open in Brooklyn by the end
of 2011, and the entire project will be finished by 2018.