Develop-- don't destroy: BrooklynAction buttons

Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" proposal in Prospect Heights, in the heart of historic Brownstone Brooklyn envisions a 22 acre footprint–1.3 times that of the World Trade Center site–and includes a 20,000-seat arena, 17 tower buildings ranging from 30 to 55 stories., 7,300 housing units, and 628,000 sq. ft. of office space

Development and job creation are to be encouraged, to be sure, but not on these terms. Here is a short list of what is wrong with the proposal.

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Secret Backroom Deal

The biggest development project ever proposed for Brooklyn was negotiated behind closed doors between the developer, the government and the MTA. It was then presented to the people living there and in the surrounding neighborhoods as a done deal.

Tax-payer Dollars Diverted to a Private Development
The cost of the project to city and state taxpayers is estimated to be a LOSS of at least $506 million*. In the prime location selected, developers should be paying the taxpayers for the right to develop, not the other way around.

No-bid "Award"
Ratner has been gifted MTA/LIRR land that should have been subject to a genuine open bidding process. The MTA gave the land to Ratner for $100 million. Ratner had one competitor, Extell Development Company, which outbid Ratner by bidding $150 million. The MTA's own appraised value of the 8.5 acre rail yard is $214.5 million. The MTA has budget gaps of: $540m for 2005, $1.2m for 2006, and $1.3m for 2007, and $10b in debt.

Evading the Public Process
In the 1960s, many neighborhoods rebelled against official top-down urban renewal plans that wiped out whole blocks and displaced thousands. ULURP was set up in the mid-1970s to allow neighborhoods to review and vote on most major land use changes, including urban renewal plans, zoning changes, and the acquisition and sale of city-owned land. In the past two years Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff are reviving the Robert Moses era by trying to push through the West Side Stadium and the Ratner Arena Highrise Plan using the arm of the State to bypass the process that was set up for public and political debate, discussion and decision making.

Eminent Domain Abuse
13 acres of the 21-acre site would be acquired through eminent domain or through the threat of eminent domain, whereby private property will be condemned, seized and transferred, by the government, to a private developer. Due to public outcry, many property owners have been offered deals to sell to Ratner, while some have been left out in the cold. Those who want to keep their homes or businesses and fight the project are told that if they do not sell, they will be condemned. Homeowners and property owners are terrified and by using only hearsay and rumor in the press, Ratner has succeeded in having many owners ask him to buy their property even before the project had been officially announced! This points to how much power this one man has over homeowners who have such little faith in the government to protect their 5th Amendment rights. This use of condemnation through eminent domain, taking private property and giving it to a private entity is abusive, unconstitutional and has nothing to do with the original intention of the law. It will be challenged in court.

Long Term Community Residents
The footprint is occupied mostly by tenant residents, many of who have been living there for 30, 40, 50–60 years in rent stabilized apartments. Several of their buildings have been sold to Ratner, and these people, many of who speak no English, have received no communication from Ratner regarding their fate. They will eventually be ripped out of their homes and communities where they have lived all their lives and will be hard pressed to find affordable housing elsewhere. Tenants living in the footprint of the proposed development have not been made any offers and are the most vulnerable to eminent domain.

Constitutional Rights–Being Forced to Choose
Ratner has imposed lifetime gag orders on those who sold their property to him. They cannot associate with or donate money to groups founded to oppose the project. At Ratner's bidding they have to speak to the press and at public hearings from a script he gives them. They have to take down all signs and banners of opposition and pressurize and give weekly reports on the holdouts who refuse to sell. These people, some of whom were working with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, have essentially been forced to choose between their first and fifth Amendment rights.

Diversity and Affordable Housing:
People from 26 ethnicities currently occupy the footprint. A study commissioned by Ratner predicts that the 4500 new rental units would be primarily geared toward wealthy residents new to New York, with triple the median income of current area residents. Pratt Area Community Council (PACC), a community development corporation concerned primarily with the preservation and development of low and moderate income housing in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bedford Stuyvesant has stated that without vetting the project through the ULURP process: "The full range of potential harms include: a decreased availability of affordable housing, increased displacement of low and moderate income residents, and decreased racial, economic, and cultural diversity in contiguous neighborhoods ... all resulting from the effect of these Plans in intensifying market forces."

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Originally Ratner claimed the project will bring in 10,000 permanent jobs. In the most optimistic scenario, the cost of each job created will be around $45,000 to the taxpayer, which is 28% higher than the federal limit on cost per job created for projects receiving economic development funds. Furthermore, most of these jobs will go to white-collar office workers. The jobs created are calculated by counting the square footage of commercial space to be created and dividing this by 150 square feet (the area of an office cubicle). In other words, "jobs" means we'll build space to house 10,000 office workers in a city with a glut of office space. But now Ratner is building space for only 2,300 jobs, and its likely that at most only 700 of those jobs will be newly created jobs. Many people talk about the jobs that the arena itself will provide. Ratner says that there will be about 400 arena jobs. But Ratner's front man for the proposal, VP Jim Stuckey, said that those jobs will be subject to union rules and may be filled with current employees.
Simply put: there is no guarantee about number of new jobs created, and no guarantee that these jobs will go to those in most need of jobs in the surrounding community.

Big mall franchise stores will be brought in, displacing the mom-n-pop Brooklyn businesses.

Refusal to Consider Alternatives
It is the job of the city planners to decide where an arena should be built, not a private developer acting as sports team owner. It should the right of the communities to determine how their neighborhoods are transformed–not a private developer. The community has come up with an alternate plan for the rail yard site. The plan, called The UNITY Plan can be found here:

    This plan calls for:

  • Developing the rail-yards alone; not touching the adjacent land, which has been developing organically over the decades.

  • Pizza and Eggs: Dividing up the taxpayer-owned 8.5 acre rail-yard plot into 8 slices and selling them to the highest bidder, rather than putting all our eggs in one basket.

  • Creating affordable housing that will be owned by individuals rather than rented out by millionaires.

  • Scale of development will be in keeping with that in Brooklyn–from 8 to 12 stories, rather than from 30 to 60 stories.

  • Allow for up to 70% of the housing envisioned in Ratner's Plan.

  • Allow for more retail space than envisioned in Ratner's Plan. This retail space will be owned by local Brooklyn business owners rather than big-box franchises.

  • Create additional streets that will knit the neighborhoods and Fort Greene together, rather than demapping streets and creating a wall of highrises to divide up the neighborhoods. Put the project through the ULURP process to allow for public input and debate.
Extell Development Company based its proposal to the MTA on the UNITY Plan and the community development principles that grew out it.

Brooklyn's future should be determined by the people who live here, not by 200 millionaires who each contributed a minimum of $1 million into Bruce Ratner's investment scheme.

What you can do
Visit for information, or call us at 718-362-4784.

Get involved. Volunteer. Donate.
Together, we will defeat this taxpayer-subsidized sweetheart deal.

*Data from the June 1, 2004 study "Estimated Impact of Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Arena and 17 High Rise Development on NYC and NYS Treasuries" by Jung Kim and Gustav Peebles (

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