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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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We have the financial support of well over 3,500 individual donors.

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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

Carlton Avenue Bridge Could Be Closed for 3, or Potentially 5, Years

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) told an appellate court last year that the Carlton Avenue bridge, which is a major connector between Prospect Heights/Park Slope and Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, would be taken down by Forest City Ratner and reopened in 2 years. Forest City Ratner and the ESDC also made the same representation to the public and to elected officials—that this closure would only last two years—from January 2008 to January 2010.

But Ratner and ESDC were knowingly misleading everyone as shown in documents acquired by Norman Oder and revealed today on his Atlantic Yards Report. When those 2 year representations were made to the public, Ratner and NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) had already signed an agrreement that Ratner could take at least 3 years to rebuild the bridge and potentially up to 5 years.

It's just the latest example of unaccountability and non-transparency by the state and city agencies and the "developer," where the community—people who walk or drive places and expect speedy emergency services unhindered by unnecessary street closures—gets the short end of the stick.

From the Atlantic Yards Report:

Despite announced two-year timetable to replace Carlton Avenue Bridge, contract gives FCR three years (and maybe more)

The Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed on 1/23/08 and currently half-demolished, was supposed to to be closed two years for reconstruction.

However, the contract for bridge work--which I obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request--gives developer Forest City Ratner three years before penalties kick in, and even longer in case of unavoidable delays. (Excerpt below.)

That three-year window has never been made public, as far as I know, and I got only a cursory explanation of why it was allowed.

“We negotiated an agreement with FCR which met our mutual needs," New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesman Seth Solomonow told me. "The project end-date does not preclude the possibility of earlier completion.”

That's true, but it doesn't explain why no one announced that 36 months might be an end-date.

Moreover, as I describe below, "unavoidable delays" could extend the deadline to 60 months, or five years, to finish the job, without penalty--and loose contract language could stretch that deadline even more.

Reaction: "completely unacceptable"

I informed Terry Urban, co-chair of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the AY environmental review, of the deadline and asked for comment. "It is completely unacceptable that the DOT gave Forest City Ratner three years, plus possible extensions, to re-open the Carlton Avenue Bridge, while representing to the electeds and the community that the work would only take two years," she said.

"But it is shocking that the ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] represented to the appellate court that the work would be completed in two years, although as the lead agency on the project, it was unquestionably aware that the DOT contract gave FCR three years," she added. "Now work on the bridge has completely halted, without explanation or a restart date, and it is clear that there is no government authority with the will or desire to protect the community from Forest City Ratner."

Two-year estimate

The two-year estimate was in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (p. 17-23 of the Construction Impacts chapter, above) produced by the ESDC. And was cited in an ESDC Memorandum of Law (p. 13, PDF) filed 1/25/08 in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

Asked to comment, City Council Member Letitia James, who lives north of the bridge in Clinton Hill, contended, "The reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge is related to the now doomed Atlantic Yards project. The reconstruction of the bridge was not necessary. The bridge provided me and others safe passage to Prospect Heights and Park Slope. Governor [David] Paterson should return the bridge to a state of good repair and reopen it immediately to the community."

I noted that the bridge reconstruction is a city, not a state project; James pointed out that the state has overall responsibility for Atlantic Yards. The ESDC, of course, says reconstruction was necessary to enable a new railyard in the project. Then again, if there's no project, there's no need for a railyard.

Contract questions

In a legal document filed 1/25/08, Forest City Ratner attorney Jeffrey Braun stated:
The Carlton Avenue bridge is being closed and dismantled in accordance with a contract between FCRC and the City of New York. FCRC is contractually obligated to the City to rebuild the bridge...

After I filed a FOIL request, the DOT provided the Carlton Avenue Bridge Construction Agreement) It allows for up to 36 months for completion, with extensions possible for "unavoidable delay."

It was signed 12/17/07, a year and nine days after the ESDC approved the project. Similarly, the State Funding Agreement for the project, signed in September 2007, provides far more lenient deadlines than in project documents approved nine months earlier.


What are the penalties if the bridge isn't rebuilt? The document states:
Subject to Unavoidable Delay, in the event that Developer fails to Substantially Complete Developer Work by the Date of Substantial Completion, Developer shall pay DOT liquidated damages of ten thousand dollars ($10,000) per day until the Bridge is Substantially Complete...

However, those damages might not kick in after three years.

Continue reading.

Posted: 1.28.09
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Eminent Domain Case
Goldstein et al v. ESDC
[All case files]

November 24, 2009
Court of Appeals

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EIS Lawsuit

DDDB et al v ESDC et al
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