Please note our new postal address when sending
contributions to the legal fund:
121 5th Avenue, PMB #150
Brooklyn, New York 11217
Our coalition consists of 21 community organizations and
there are 51 community organizations formally
aligned in opposition to the Ratner plan.
DDDB is a volunteer-run organization. We have over 5,000
subscribers to our email newsletter, and 7,000 petition
signers. Over 800 volunteers have registered with DDDB
to form our various teams, task-forces and committees
and we have over 150 block captains. We have a 20 person
volunteer legal team of local lawyers supplementing our
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
What Does MTA Chief Lee Sander's Ritual Resignation Mean, If Anything, for Ratner's Rail Yard Deal?
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director Elliott (Lee) Sander
was forced to resign last week by Governor David Paterson.
Why? Theories and rumors abound.
What does the resignation of a seemingly upright public servant mean for the negotiations
rumored to be taking place between the MTA and Forest City Ratner to restructure
the $100 million deal for the developer to purchase the rights to develop the
Vanderbilt Rail Yard—the 8-acre MTA-owned, active rail yard portion of the 22-acre
Atlantic Yards projec? Remember, the developer has yet to pay a dime towards his
winning, lowball bid.
Was Sander playing ball in those negotiations or playing hard ball? What will
his successor do?
Norman Oder takes a look-see on his Atlantic Yards Report:
MTA chief Sander's departure, will successor be more willing to compromise on
(This is one in an irregular series of articles
about issues that a State Senate committee might address when it holds a
hearing on Atlantic Yards.)
So, what to make of the forced resignation (by Gov. David Paterson) of Metropolitan
Transportation Authority Executive Director Elliott (Lee) Sander, who leaves office
It probably had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards.
However, the widespread endorsement of Sander's integrity and performance that
has surfaced, combined with reports that Sander refused to bow to a patronage-driven
pol, may mean his successor will be more willing to compromise with the reported
request by Forest City Ratner to restructure the $100 million it owes and
the developer's reported
effort to build a less elaborate railyard than promised.
Consider that, on May 8, just before his resignation, Reuters published an article
with this tantalizing quote:
Asked whether the MTA's rail yards in Brooklyn
would see a basketball arena next year, part of a residential-office complex planned
by developer Forest City Ratner, Sander said only: "I'm not in the arena business."
However, the MTA's willingness to compromise with Ratner just might help the developer
proceed in the arena business. So the Senate should ask the MTA about those payments
and about the cheaper railyard.
Journalists and commentators suggested that Sander was less at fault than his
boss. Crain's New York Business's Erik Engquist reported:
As he ousted Elliot Sander as chief executive
of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Thursday, Gov. David Paterson
promised “a widespread cleanout and cleanup of the MTA” and to start
getting it “working in an effective way.”
But observers of the agency say Mr. Sander, despite some shortcomings, was doing
exactly that and that Mr. Paterson's pledge to the New York Times was ironic
since he has faced the same criticism as the MTA. "There's nothing in his track
record to suggest he can pull it off," said Doug Muzzio, professor of public
affairs at Baruch College. "How has he managed the governor's office so far?
The New York Observer editorialized:
The M.T.A.’s outgoing chief executive,
Lee Sander, did a remarkable job, constrained as he was by politicians who often
put politics before smart transportation policy.
Dealing with electeds
Crain's offered this tantalizing paragraph:
However, part of Mr. Sander’s job was to
improve the MTA’s relationship with elected officials and the public, and
he made little progress on those fronts. That made it difficult for the agency
to persuade lawmakers to find it new funding sources when the economic downturn
began to undermine its revenues.
So that dark probability
is that Albany got rid of Sander because it wants someone less diligent and competent.
First, Albany may be salivating over patronage -- the MTA's white-collar jobs.
Sander resisted playing this game, preferring a system run by people who once
in a while think about what they're doing in between calculating their pensions.
That sounds like a reference to reports, in the New
York Daily News but not elsewhere, that Sander's resignation is tied to a
clash with Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who unsuccessfully demanded that Sander
promote his son-in-law. (Lopez denied the claims; Sander wouldn't comment.)
The capital plan and FCR's obligation
Second, Albany may want someone who'll shut up
about the fact that the MTA still doesn't have enough money for its capital plan.
What about that $100 million that Forest City Ratner's supposed to pay?
Remember, in April 2008, Sander said in a "webinar," as the Observer reported:
There was approximately a billion dollars associated
with the sale of MTA real estate assets to support that program. There are some
monies there that look like there may be challenges to proceed upon right now.
There is money there--100 million dollars associated with the sale of Atlantic
Yards, and I think many of you have read in the newspapers some of the difficulty
Forest City is having with that development, so hopefully that will proceed, but
we want to make sure that that happens—but we’re concerned about that.
In January, Sander was asked
by Crain's Editoral Director Greg David if the MTA would be "flexible at Atlantic
Yards if Forest City Ratner wins the court cases and tries to go out and finance
"I think that we have been flexible and thoughtful in all these negotiations,"
Sander responded, speaking carefully and generally.
Later, Sander was asked if the MTA would accept a replacement yard with less value.
"I'm not sure I really want to engage in negotiations with you about Atlantic
Yards," Sander replied. "The MTA has a good track record of being thoughtful and
Sander's caution might have been interpreted as showing a willingness to compromise
with Ratner. However, given what we've learned in the last few days, it might
as likely reflected an effort to not