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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 Rail Yard to Nowhere: Ratner's Quest for an Atlantic Yards Federal Bailout

Developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) is reportedly lobbying federal and state officials for a bailout to further prop up its heavily subsidized and massive $4 billion Atlantic Yards proposal.

FCR is attempting to get a piece of New York State's share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the "Stimulus Bill"). Former New York Senator Al D'Amato is lobbying on the developer's behalf; presumably, other lobbyists are hard at work talking with the Paterson Administration as well.

Bailing out the Atlantic Yards project with federal stimulus funds would turn Ratner's project into the poster child for misuse and abuse of the recovery bill. The project, of course, is already subsidized to the hilt at the expense of the city, state and federal taxpayer, including the developer's effort to secure a triple tax-exempt arena bond with a federal subsidy estimated to be worth $165 million.

FCR, apparently, is attempting to secure stimulus funds by claiming Atlantic Yards is a "transit project," since they are obligated to construct a new rail yard. They are arguing that this work is worthy of prioritization by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which will oversee the disbursement of a reported $1.3 billion in stimulus funds.

FCR secured the development rights to the MTA's eight-acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard, despite a bid less than half the site's appraised value, in part because it had committed to building a new, "state-of-the-art" rail yard. The sole purpose of the new rail yard, however, is to facilitate the construction of the proposed arena – not the fulfillment of any transit need expressed by the MTA in 2005 when it approved the sale to FCR; nor is a new rail yard outlined in the MTA's 20-year projected-needs assessment. FCR had committed to the MTA and the public to building this new rail yard and paying for it because the new yard was only necessary for its project.

It is clear that FCR committed to building and paying for a new rail yard in September 2005 (when the MTA agreed to sell the development rights to FCR) because the developer needed a new yard, not because the MTA wanted or needed one. The Brooklyn Paper reported at the time:
...[Former MTA Chairman Peter] Kalikow argued that Forest City Ratner would be spending its own money on a public railway that would be made state-of-the-art.

To that, [Former MTA Board Member, and sole dissenting vote, Mitch] Pally noted, "The MTA, alone, would never have built any modifications to the Atlantic Yards," and said he'd looked at the 20-year projected needs assessment for the agency, which mentioned nothing about upgrading the Long Island Rail Road yards at Atlantic Avenue.

"[The rail yard] works fine the way it is. Forest City Ratner money is not being used to substitute for projects the LIRR wants to do," Pally said. "We're now going to spend money on projects we don't want to do, never wanted to do and don't need? It makes no sense."...
And NY1 reported at the time:
...An appraisal commissioned by the MTA, meanwhile, put the cash value [of the Vanderbilt Yards aka Atlantic Yards] at $214 million, not counting infrastructure improvements.

"If the appraisal is right, then we should get $214 million. We're not getting the full value," said Pally.

"The $214 is some guy's idea of what's it's worth," said MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow. "We don't have that deal. We tried to get it, we don't have it. This is what we have."

What the MTA also now has is a promise to make major improvements to the Atlantic Yards, at a cost to Ratner of $345 million.

"That's not built with funny money - that's built with real cash," said Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey...
Now it turns out that FCR is lobbying hard to relieve itself of its commitment to the MTA and the public – and to relieve the taxpayers of a large sum of "real cash."

Apparently FCR's agreement to pay for a new $345 million rail yard was neither ‘real cash' nor ‘funny money,' but rather an IOU the developer never intended to fulfill and would now like taxpayers across the nation to cover.

Prior to FCR's current effort to obtain stimulus funds, it was reported that the developer was seeking new and additional cash subsidies from New York City and State. An April 14, 2008 NY Post article noted that NY State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) "warned that Ratner must deliver what was promised when the state approved the project in December 2006."
"All the big projects -- the 7-line, downtown Manhattan, Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards -- they're all hanging by a thread, and the notion the taxpayers are going to invest money while the developers don't meet their commitments, if that's what people expect, there is going to be a fight about it," said Brodsky, who chairs the Assembly committee that oversees state entities that approved these projects.
That fight is now engaged.

The Political Calculus

As reported by the New York Observer, Senator Charles Schumer and Governor Paterson both passed the buck when asked last week if Atlantic Yards would receive stimulus funds. Specifically, a conference call exchange went like this:
Reporter: There's been a lot of chatter on the blogs about whether Atlantic Yards is a candidate for this infrastructure spending. Is it? Will it receive...

Mr. Schumer: I don't know enough details to answer that. Governor?

Mr. Paterson: I have no idea. I thought that Schumer knew.

Mr. Schumer: I thought you knew.
As a sure sign of the political hornet's nest an Atlantic Yards bailout would be, no elected official has been willing to suggest Atlantic Yards should receive stimulus funds, except for the project's diehard cheerleader, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

But in The Brooklyn Paper, new Brooklyn Congressman Mike McMahon bluntly stated, "I do not see Atlantic Yards as a priority for the money from this package."

Posted: 2.16.09
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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?...
Photo Simulations
Before and After views from around the project footprint revealing the massive scale of the proposed luxury apartment and sports complex.

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

Read a review
Atlantic Yards
would be
Click image to see why:

-No Land Grab.org

-Atlantic Yards Report
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-A Child Grows in Bklyn
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-The Real Estate
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-OnNYTurf-Atlantic Yards
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