(Please click here to read a statement from DDDB on Daniel Goldstein's settlement and the future of the organization.)
Thursday, April 22.
From DDDB's co-founder, Daniel Goldstein:
As has been widely reported (see the invaluable NoLandGrab
for full coverage), I reached a financial settlement with the Empire State Development
Corporation (ESDC), tool of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, to
move out of my home—which the ESDC took ownership of on March 1st—by May 7th.
I did not know, when Wednesday started, that a settlement was in store. It was
nothing that I expected to happen. I only knew that I had to defend myself against
eviction by New York State.
My day started at 9:30 in State Supreme Court where my attorney (not DDDB's)
argued against ESDC's effort to get Judge Abraham Gerges to evict my family
from our home on May 17th. I did not expect that this argument would then lead
to a settlement, so I did not have a press release prepared when an agreement
was reached around 3pm. I did not even think of the press implications because
I was thinking about my personal situation and my family, not the press. I should
have known better because clearly Forest City Ratner saw it as a big press event
and sent out a press release immediately. This has led to some misreporting.
I post this statement to clarify what has actually occurred. There is a lot
to say, so I hope you'll forgive the length, and my apologies for not getting
this statement out sooner.
Contrary to press reports I have not given up my First Amendment rights or
my involvement with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. (Ratner, though he tried
to hide it, did require this of nearly all those who sold their homes to him
years ago, and they agreed to it.) Ratner and ESDC tried very hard to force
me to agree to give up those rights and the work I do with the organization
I helped found. It wasn't enough, I guess, for Ratner to decimate my neighborhood,
take my home, and kick me out, they also felt they had to cut out my tongue.
For nearly 3 hours of talks mediated by Judge Gerges I refused to accept any
kind of gag order. I would not have taken any amount of money to do that, and
I did not.
I did agree to give up my title as "DDDB spokesman", but that's
just a title. And I did agree to remove my name from one outstanding lawsuit
which remains in court despite that. Otherwise I can do and say whatever else
I want, and my agreement explicitly states that I have maintained my First
Amendment rights. So they have not succeeded in silencing me and I am free
to criticize and speak about the project, the developer and the ESDC as much
as I want. I intend to do that whenever the need arises.
For seven years my wife Shabnam Merchant (who I met as a fellow activist against
Atlantic Yards) and I have worked and fought day after day—giving up an
income for many of those years—in an effort to help bring community-based,
democratic development to Central Brooklyn. This meant, obviously, opposing
Ratner's corrupt, developer-driven, undemocratic project.
As a co-founder of DDDB I will continue that work to the best of my ability
and as time allows. I've not been silenced, and I am not leaving DDDB as it
transitions into a new phase of fighting Atlantic Yards, exposing its corruption
and false promises, and advocating for changing the State's abusive eminent
domain laws and the way development is done in New York. And should Atlantic
Yards falter, and the land return to its contested state, DDDB will be prepared
to jump in.
Impact on the Fight Against Atlantic Yards
On March 1st, after years of litigation, ESDC took title ownership of my home.
From that day on, I no longer owned my apartment but instead became a tenant
of the State.
At that time, with that action on Ratner's behalf, there was nothing I could
any longer personally do with my home that would stop or impact the project.
Staying in my home until the sheriff came to evict my wife, child and I would
have accomplished nothing at all for the fight but would have severely harmed
After March 1st, it was inevitable that we would be forced out; it was just
a matter of when.
On April 9th ESDC filed papers requesting that the court evict me on May 17th.
Wednesday morning my attorney argued that the court should not grant that eviction.
After the argument, Judge Gerges made it crystal clear that he wanted resolution
between me and ESDC/Ratner—that day—as to when I'd leave my home.
So instead of being evicted in about 27 days and then being forced to go to
court to hope to get close to fair market value for my home (as opposed to the
extremely lowball "just compensation" offered to me by New York State,
which was nowhere near fair market value), I agreed to leave in about 17 days.
That agreement to leave ten days sooner avoids further litigation over "just
compensation," which would have cost me more time and money while accomplishing
nothing for the fight against the project.
I did not sell my home today. I had no home to sell as the state took my home
on March 1st. Contrary to what Ratner and ESDC might want people to believe,
eminent domain was used on me and many others. My home was seized by the government
to give to a private developer.
What I did do was agree to leave my home rather quickly in return for
a payment. What I did do was what I needed to do as a responsible husband
and father to make sure that my family could make an orderly transition to a
new home in Brooklyn. I was left with no good choice by the ESDC or Judge Gerges.
I have always promised that once the legal options to save my home and the homes
and businesses of my neighbors were extinguished, I would have to turn my attention
to what was best for my family, after years of neglecting our interests. That
is what I did on Wednesday.
Speaking as the "former" spokesman of DDDB I have this to say.
The fight we have waged as a community has been heroic and crucially important
to literally millions around the City and the country. We have all exposed the
project and the process as fatally corrupt. We have convinced nearly all good
people of good will that the project is a sham and a poster child for the wrong
way to develop cities. We shined a bright light on the way eminent domain is
abused in New York State to the point where there is now a legislative effort
led by Senator Perkins to reform the state's laws.
We have fought every lie, exaggeration, fudge, false promise, abuse, and misinformation
campaign tooth and nail. The project that Ratner wanted to build will never
be built. And we know that his promises, many already broken, will continue
to be broken—especially his promise to build 2,250 units of affordable housing
in ten years. It is shameful, and it is shameful that so many politicians remained
silent, and still do to this day.
And we, as a community, as DDDB and so many other community groups, will continue
to expose the project's problems and abuses.
Through the relationships and alliances amongst community groups and individuals
I am certain that it will be impossible for developers and their government
cronies to ram this kind of project down another community's throat ever again
in New York City.
They didn't ram it down ours.
While we didn't stop the groundbreaking, our voice of protest was heard loud
and clear for years before that day, and on that day. On Ratner's day of celebration,
the overwhelming media coverage (besides Beyonce and Jay-Z of course) was of
the protest of that travesty.
A legacy of this fight will be that we have proven that all that we have found
wrong with it has been shown to be legal in the view of the courts and most
legislators. The abusive laws, which favor the most powerful and entrenched
interests, must be changed.
Finally, please remember that DDDB, this community and the fight against Atlantic
Yards was never about a single person or a single apartment—or even about
a single borough. It has been, and still is, about one of the biggest failures
of government and democracy in this City's history, and its impact on the lives
of hundreds of thousands of people in the great borough of Brooklyn. Our fight
has—and this is one of the victories—given hope, inspiration and
encouragement to innumerable people that a community united can fight principled
fights worth fighting, regardless of the outcome. These are fights that have
to be fought if we are to find a way to become a working democracy, which treats
individuals and communities fairly, rather than disenfranchising and disempowering
See you at the next meeting (once I find a new Brooklyn home). And please
be in touch with DDDB.
With my great respect for all the civic minded people who have engaged in the
resistance to Atlantic Yards, to any degree at all, throughout the years. You
are heroes and YOU have the power.
Co-founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
PS. It will be interesting to see what Congressman
Pascrell accomplishes with his effort to get a Treasury Department investigation
into Mikhail Prokorov's business deallings in Zimbabwe.