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Thread: Atlantic Yards Development - Commercial, Residential, Retail, NBA Arena

  1. #211

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    July 4, 2004

    THE CITY

    The Brooklyn Nets

    The idea of bringing a professional sports team to the city almost always sounds great - and then the calculation of cost versus benefits begins. It seems a new team requires a new sports facility, and for some reason, owners of these lucrative franchises are seldom willing to build anything without enormous infusions of public money. That is one of the major concerns about the proposal to place the Jets football stadium on Manhattan's far West Side at a cost to taxpayers of $600 million. It is also an issue when it comes to the Nets and Brooklyn. While the plans to bring professional basketball to Atlantic Avenue are in many ways more attractive than the football proposal, the scale of public investment needs closer examination.

    The amount the city and state will be asked to contribute to help the developer Bruce Ratner build the arena as part of a $2.5 billion, mixed-use 21-acre complex over Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards and on adjacent land is still being negotiated. But the public may be asked to guarantee hundreds of millions of dollars in bonded debt if the government helps pay for the arena and for significant infrastructure improvements to allow construction - including moving Long Island Rail Road tracks two blocks. The tab also could include some 3,000 new parking spaces, which will help, if only a little, to manage the influx of cars in an already-clogged corridor.

    Both proposed sports facilities in Brooklyn and Manhattan would be built over rail yards owned by the cash-short and debt-ridden Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which should not be pressured to give away its assets. The state-run authority - which lacks other new sources of revenue - should demand and get a fair market price for any land and air rights the developers at either site need.

    A study commissioned by Mr. Ratner (who is a partner of The Times in constructing its new headquarters building) shows that the government would more than get back its investment in the Brooklyn project, based on 30 years of projected new tax revenues from team salaries and new office and residential occupants, among other factors. Another study, endorsed by opponents of the development, maintains that taxpayers could lose half a billion dollars in the deal. We would like to see a third, truly independent examination.

    Local objections to the Atlantic Yards development need to be addressed, particularly concerning the thousands of additional cars and cabs that can be expected on game nights. While some residents will be dislocated and inevitably wind up feeling pushed around, the mere threat of change is not a reason to oppose the project. Neither is the use of the state powers of eminent domain, as long as the people involved are compensated fairly. Mr. Ratner seems to have been generous in buying out homeowners and moving renters. Community residents have also been promised that the development around the arena will include 4,500 housing units, half slated to go to low and moderate income earners and the elderly. To address another longstanding complaint about sports projects, Mr. Ratner says 3,000 of the 19,000 seats for Nets games at the new Frank Gehry-designed arena will be sold at levels many neighborhood residents could afford - around $15.

    A basketball arena near downtown Brooklyn is basically a more attractive proposition than a football stadium in Manhattan. The building is less overwhelming and more likely to see regular use. Both the proposed sites need economic development, but the most important need of the far West Side of Manhattan is a subway line, not a monstrous sports center. The proposed Brooklyn site, at Flatbush and Atlantic, is already perhaps the best transportation hub in the city, but the area clearly needs an additional jump-start if it is going to thrive, and Mr. Ratner's project might provide that.

    There is also, of course, the dream of giving back to Brooklyn some of the luster it lost when Robert Moses killed Walter O'Malley's vision of building a domed stadium for the Dodgers at the same site nearly 50 years ago. That dream, the housing, the cheap tickets and all the other good things are not worth risking hundreds of millions of dollars in public money and dooming Brooklyn to impassible streets on every game night. But if those issues can be properly addressed, the idea of the Brooklyn Nets is tantalizing.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #212
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    B'KLYN POL DEMANDS NEW ARENA $$ STUDY


    By PATRICK GALLAHUE
    July 10, 2004

    To clear the smoke from dueling studies of the planned NBA arena in Brooklyn, a city lawmaker wants an independent fiscal watchdog to referee.

    Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn) wrote a letter to the mayor and council speaker this week asking for the Independent Budget Office (IBO) to put out a report on the proposed arena.

    "We need a truly independent, impartial non-interested entity to study this plan," James told The Post yesterday.

    Developer Bruce Ratner bought the New Jersey Nets last year and plans to build an NBA arena for the team as the centerpiece of a $2.5 billion commercial and residential development over an MTA rail yard in Prospect Heights.

    Ratner's review claims the project will generate more than $800 million in tax revenues over 30 years.

    But a rival study — performed by a group opposed to the arena — claims the project could cost the city and state as much as $500 million.

    The Independent Budget Office said it had considered studying the proposal prior to James' request, but that it had not yet committed to putting out a full report.


    Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

  3. #213
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    "We need a truly independent, impartial non-interested entity to study this plan," James told The Post yesterday.
    :x Please give it a rest you lost already. Let the area flourish.

  4. #214

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    I always thought that New York was the one city in America that was great enough and secure enough to opt out of the insane giveaway of taxpayer funds for private sports stadiums. I guess not. Our leaders apparently believe this City is no better than Cincinatti.

  5. #215

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    July 11, 2004

    THE CITY

    Nets Stadium? Not So Fast (2 Letters)

    To the Editor:

    Re "The Brooklyn Nets" (editorial, July 4):

    Forest City Ratner's proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards development definitely needs an independent fiscal impact study, but even that is not enough. Forest City Ratner is trying to run this through the Empire State Development Corporation, a Robert Moses-like move that would remove this privately owned project from the usual public oversight and community input. This is not acceptable for something that will change Brooklyn forever and use so much of our tax money.

    By focusing on the arena in your editorial, you ignore the massiveness of the buildings. Forest City Ratner proposes a complex of 17 immense towers, including four office towers and 13 apartment towers, in an area famous for its low-rise buildings with shops on the street level.

    The housing would be on the luxury level, as Bruce Ratner's own figures indicate, with middle-income housing targeted at families earning $75,000 - more than twice the average for Brooklyn families. This is a bad deal for all New Yorkers.

    Mr. Ratner's promises of jobs and low-income housing would come at an outlandish cost. The arena is a red herring for these towers, which should be built in a much smaller scale. Basketball has virtually nothing to do with any of this. It is all about money. If it is our money, it should be our choice.

    Steve Ettlinger
    Murray Hill



    To the Editor:

    With regard to your call for a "truly independent examination" on the Brooklyn Nets arena proposal, I would like to emphasize that the economic analysis produced by Gustav Peebles and me was done independently and without payment. Furthermore, a third-party analysis would represent only one step in a comprehensive review process.

    Your editorial does not seem to recognize that there are other development options for both the Atlantic Yards and the Far West Side. The choices are not limited to a sports arena versus no development at all. A thorough review would consult the public, draw competitive proposals and account for all possible development alternatives, including ones in the case of the Atlantic Yards that do not require the use of eminent domain.

    Forest City Ratner's own data show the arena to be a money-loser, and anyone in the real estate field would recognize the scheme's office component as highly speculative. And yet we are asked to hand over hundreds of millions in subsidies without exploring options that could be both more profitable for the developer and beneficial to the community.

    It is a sad statement on how the State of New York conducts its business that a major paper like The Times does not view eminent domain as an extreme measure.

    Jung Kim
    Bronx

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    Quote Originally Posted by BPC
    I always thought that New York was the one city in America that was great enough and secure enough to opt out of the insane giveaway of taxpayer funds for private sports stadiums. I guess not. Our leaders apparently believe this City is no better than Cincinatti.
    Cincinnati was taking too huge a gamble on the construction of its new stadiums, considering the multiplied and magnified economic and social woes of that city. In New York the new sports facilities are a comparatively modest investment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BPC
    I always thought that New York was the one city in America that was great enough and secure enough to opt out of the insane giveaway of taxpayer funds for private sports stadiums. I guess not. Our leaders apparently believe this City is no better than Cincinatti.
    Sure.

    Look at it as any other city expense, like all the millions, if not billions, this city spends on social programs benefitting only a small portion of the city.

  8. #218

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    Quote Originally Posted by BPC
    I always thought that New York was the one city in America that was great enough and secure enough to opt out of the insane giveaway of taxpayer funds for private sports stadiums. I guess not. Our leaders apparently believe this City is no better than Cincinatti.
    The City gives away "taxypayer funds" for private companies located in the city. Why should sports stadiums - which are primarily for public use - not benefit as well? Especially when the stadiums will attract more revenue into the city than what is being given?

  9. #219
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    Prospects for Prospect Heights unclear
    How will Ratner’s stadium and 4,500 new housing units impact Downtown Brooklyn?



    By Matthew Strozier
    July 2004

    Last month, 28-year-old Simon Ramsey moved even closer to the Nets. He moved down Underhill Avenue to a new home on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, a few blocks from the site where developer Forest City Ratner wants to construct at 19,000-seat arena.

    But it's not the attraction of the Nets, or the planned 6.5 million square feet of residential and commercial space alongside the arena, that excites Ramsey about his new home. Ramsey, a photographer, loves Brooklyn's trees.

    "The trees along the streets of Brooklyn are incredible," he said on a sunny June Saturday as he lugged suitcases down Underhill Avenue and stood in the shade of a Brooklyn tree. "It's so hard to find trees like that in the city."

    Prospect Heights sits inside, and adjacent to, the Nets development in Brooklyn, known as Atlantic Yards. No other neighborhood will be potentially helped more, or hurt, by the barrage of construction. Altogether, there would be 4,500 housing units, 2.1 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail space, 3,000 parking spots and six acres of public open space. The stadium, at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, will sit atop the Long Island Rail Road rail yard.

    Opposition to the development is loud, but it's not clear whether it's enough to stop it. On the day that Ramsey moved down Underhill Avenue, there was an anti-Ratner rally on Pacific Street, where buildings on land needed for the development would be taken by eminent domain. The rally filled most of the block, and was a cross between old-time block party and lefty protest. One sign read, "We Love Mom & Pop Brooklyn" and another read in bold black letters, "Our Communities. Our Taxes. Our Choice."

    "This is nothing more than a land grab for the rich," City Council member Letitia James told an energized crowd.

    What the Ratner development would mean for Prospect Heights real estate is unclear, several agents said in interviews. They said it depends on how it's built, how it looks, the amenities for the area, and whether residents decide to compromise with developer Bruce Ratner.

    "I think it's a bit of an unknown," said Teri Cavanaugh, sales agent for Brooklyn Properties and a Prospect Heights resident. "A lot of it depends on how the stadium looks and how friendly it is to the surrounding area."

    "If it's like MetroTech [16-acre commercial complex also built by Ratner in the area], it won't be so great, because the construction of MetroTech is not so beautiful," she said. "If they are sensitive to the area and have it blend into the area, and if Ratner is friendly to the neighborhood around it and helps them develop commercially, it would be a good thing."

    Concerns center on the high-rise buildings that would accompany the arena, said Jim Kerby, a Douglas Elliman agent and Prospect Heights resident.

    "Right now, it seems they are proposing a severe line between a low-rise neighborhood and the buildings," he said.

    In many ways, agents said the proposed site for the Nets arena doesn't have a parallel in New York. There is no neighborhood like Prospect Heights next to Madison Square Garden. Columbia University's plan to redevelop a section of West Harlem is similar, one agent said, but not on the same scale.

    Following the resurgence and gentrification of Park Slope, Prospect Heights has gone through a real estate surge during the last decade, agents said. Brownstones in the area now sell for between $800,000 and $1.5 or $1.6 million, depending on the block and condition.

    Industrial buildings have been converted to condominiums, including the former Daily News printing plant on Pacific Street, now called Newswalk. Last month, a 1,149-square-foot unit in that building was selling for $735,000. A three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,200 square foot co-op in a prewar building on Grand Army Plaza sold late last year for $575,000.

    Prospect Heights' schools don't attract young families the way they do in Park Slope, but the tree-lined streets, relative quiet and transportation access provide plenty of incentives. "It's a very neat neighborhood," said Kerby. "It's essentially just the mirror neighborhood of Park Slope across Flatbush Avenue."

    Forest City Ratner executives say their project will be a boon to the neighborhood. Atlantic Yards will meet vital city needs, with mixed-income housing, 25,000 construction and permanent jobs and public space, said Barry Baum, a company spokesman, who released a prepared statement. "There is no doubt that Atlantic Yards will be a tremendous public benefit to Brooklyn and the city." The developer declined to comment further for this article.

    In neighborhood interviews, several residents agreed that those benefits make Atlantic Yards attractive, even as they fret about traffic and eminent domain.

    "It's all right. I'm for it," said Alexis Davis, 18. "But it's a shame that people would have to move out."

    It's also too bad, she added, that this wasn't proposed years ago when the blocks around the rail yards were far less desirable than they are now.

    Opponents say the plan would mean displacement of around 350 people, a 400-person capacity homeless shelter and 33 businesses with 235 employees, according to The Village Voice.

    The opposition calls Atlantic Yards overdevelopment, plain and simple.

    "This community is not like a city," said Kara Yeargans, 50, a Fort Greene resident who attended the anti-Ratner rally on Pacific Street. "There are a lot of mom-and-pop stores." The arena will destroy that small-scale neighborhood feel, Yeargans said.

    "It's not what I came here for. It's like Manhattan," she said. And she said the development's job promises are empty. "Young people look at this as a way to get jobs, but that didn't happen at MetroTech."

    Still, real estate turnover in Prospect Heights remains low, agents said.

    "It doesn't seem like people are running away," Kerby said.

    The concern about prices may be more in the short-term during construction, and as people wait to see how the development fight shakes out. Kerby said he sees signs of hesitancy from buyers, and some may be looking at Park Slope, Fort Greene and Boerum Hill before Prospect Heights.

    "People may just be more inclined, if they have to buy a house, to buy a house there," he said.


    Copyright 2003-2004 The Real Deal.

  10. #220

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    Brooklyn Papers

    HELLO DOLLY!
    Brooklyn planning commissioner Williams has a stake in Ratner’s Nets



    Borough President Marty Markowitz announces his appointment of businesswoman Dolly Williams (above left) to the City Planning Commission in 2002. She now also owns a piece of Bruce Ratner’s Nets.



    By Deborah Kolben
    The Brooklyn Papers

    Dolly Williams, the borough’s City Planning commissioner and a key player in Brooklyn’s development and land use review, is among the lengthy list of investors real estate magnate Bruce Ratner has secretly put together to purchase the New Jersey Nets.

    According to a list of the Nets investors, a copy of which was obtained by The Brooklyn Papers this week, Williams and her husband, Adonijah Williams, owners of A. Williams Construction, are both investors in the team Ratner hopes to bring to a new arena he envisions at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

    Williams was appointed to the 13-person commission in 2002 by Markowitz, a vocal supporter of the Nets plan who, since he took office, has touted the notion of bringing an NBA franchise to Brooklyn.

    The commission, with appointees by the mayor, each borough president and the public advocate, weighs in heavily on all development and land use projects that are subject to city public review.

    Sources confirmed that Williams’ stake in the team is nearly $1 million. Ratner has consistently declined to divulge the identy of his partners.

    Opponents of the Ratner plan this week condemned Williams’ interest in the team as a potential conflict of interest and called it “deeply troubling.”

    “She needs to remove herself from any discussion of the project or give up her interests in the team,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a community group fighting the project.

    Contacted this week, Williams said she is an investor in both the team and Ratner’s plan to build a new Nets arena, three soaring office towers and 4,500 housing units extending from Downtown Brooklyn into Prospect Heights. She said she “had not thought about” whether her company would be involved in the 8 million square feet of construction.

    “It is not a conflict, otherwise I would not do it,” said Williams, a minor investor whose nearly 30-year-old construction company is worth millions. She receives a $45,131 salary for her City Planning Commission post.


    Responding to the conflict of interest charge, Michael Kadish, a spokesman for Markowitz said, “As with any planning commissioner, we would expect that Dolly Williams would recuse herself from voting or discussing any matter before the commission in which she has a commercial interest.”

    While such a major city land use proposal would typically pass through the commission as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure [ULURP], Ratner is looking to steer the 21-acre project, half of which would be built over the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Long Island Rail Road storage yards, through a less stringent state review instead.

    His plan to build a Frank Gehry-designed arena surrounded by skyscrapers at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, would also require the condemnation or sale of 10 acres of privately owned property.

    Wayne Hawley, general counsel for the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, said he could not comment on whether Williams’ investment constituted a conflict, saying only that the board “had issued nothing public about any City Planning commissioner that may be an owner of the Nets.”

    Not surprisingly, the list of investors in what is expected to become the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets starts off reading like the invitation list to a Ratner family picnic.

    There’s the principal owner of the team, mega real estate developer Bruce, his brother, the noted constitutional rights leader, Michael Ratner, and his daughter, Elizabeth Ratner, a reporter for the New York Observer, among other Ratners.


    Two prominent investors who had already announced their intent to buy a piece of the team include Brooklyn-born rap star Jay-Z and New York Mercantile Exchange Chairman Vincent Viola. While Jay-Z (aka Shawn Carter) is on the list, Viola is not on the list, but many of his family members are listed as trustees and beneficiaries in the ownership team.

    Other noteworthy names on the investor list include Richard S. Rubin, chairman of the Brooklyn Museum, mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark, and Lyor Cohen, former head of Island/Def Jam Records who now heads Warner Music Group.

    The new investment team is made up of more than 80 entities including nearly 200 individuals. Each entity contributed a minimum of $1 million, according to sources close to the deal.

    David Carter, a sports business consultant and professor at the University of Southern California, said he was not surprised by the lengthy list of investors.

    “The price of franchises has gone sky high over the course of the last decade making it virtually impossible for a single individual to swallow the entire financial responsibility,” said Carter.

    The new investment team also includes Community Youth Organization [CYO], the former Nets ownership group, which signed on after Goldman Sachs investors bailed out of the deal earlier this month leaving Ratner $60 million short.

    The CYO is made up of more than 30 entities and 70 individuals including former Tyco executive Dennis Kozlowski, who was accused of looting $600 million from that company.

    But their investment in the team may be brief.

    “Financial arrangements between CYO and Bruce Ratner is of a temporay duration and made in order to get the deal closed,” said Edwin Stier, president of CYO. “A substantial part of that interest is going to be sold as soon as we can make arrangements.

  11. #221

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    NY Post...

    NETS' ALL-$TAR TEAM

    By PATRICK GALLAHUE



    Ratner

    August 24, 2004 -- The New Jersey Nets may have lost some stars since the NBA team was sold to developer Bruce Ratner — but the squad still has plenty of famous investors, including mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark and disgraced ex-Tyco chief Dennis Kozlowski.

    The lengthy and diverse list of investors who bought the team for $300 million and plan to move the Nets to Brooklyn has been made public for the first time.

    And if the team ever does make it to Brooklyn, it shouldn't have a hard time rustling up celebrity fans. Investors include the former head of Island Def Jam Music Group, Lyor Cohen, and Londell McMillan, a lawyer for Prince and Wesley Snipes.

    Beyoncé's business partners in a clothing line — Arthur and Jason Rabin — also have a stake in the destiny of the team, along with the siren's rapper boy toy, Shawn Carter, a k a Jay-Z.


    The crowded investment team is made up of 80 entities — comprised of more than 200 individuals — who have ponied up at least a million bucks apiece.

    And it includes some big names outside of the world of arts and entertainment, like City Planning Commissioner Dolly Williams.

    Williams was appointed to the City Planning Commission in 2002 by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, one of the project's biggest boosters.

    But opponents of the project are fuming that Williams — a city official who dictates building policy — could be a partner in the controversial development.

    "It's an apparent conflict of interest," said Patti Hagan, a member of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a neighborhood group founded in opposition to the arena.

    A spokesman for the City Planning Commission said, "The project has not been referred to the commission, and if it was, she would of course recuse herself ."

    Disgraced ex-Tyco chief Dennis Kozlowski and Fred Walsh are also among the investors.

    But they are only short-term holdovers from the previous ownership that joined Ratner so the deal could go through after a group of investors from Goldman Sachs fled earlier this month.

    Ratner hopes to have the Nets playing in Brooklyn by 2007 in a Frank Gehry-designed arena, which is to serve as the centerpiece of a massive $2.5 billion commercial and residential development over what is now the MTA rail yards in Prospect Heights.

  12. #222

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    Daily News...

    An Olympic battle
    Group fighting Nets arena appeals to IOC


    BY FRANK LOMBARDI
    DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU



    Newly unfurled banner at 624 Pacific St. in Prospect Heights joins others in voicing opposition to proposed basketball arena in area. Only this one has an Olympic twist.


    Opponents of a proposed pro basketball arena in Brooklyn are trying to embroil the International Olympic Committee in their fight with developer Bruce Ratner.

    The effort is being joined by opponents of the proposed Jets football stadium on the West Side.

    The group opposed to Ratner's Atlantic Yards site in Prospect Heights has unfurled a giant banner on the facade of an affected apartment building. The banner bears an appeal aimed at IOC President Jacques Rogge of Belgium.

    "Dr. Rogge and the International Olympic Committee, Please Don't Destroy Our Homes," reads the 10-foot-by-10-foot banner unfurled at 624 Pacific St. by a group called Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

    Today, the group's representatives and supporters will press their case at a City Hall press conference. Joining them will be several opponents of the proposed domed Jets stadium - which the city's Olympics bid envisions as the Olympic Stadium.

    They include Brian Hatch, a former Salt Lake City deputy mayor, who runs a Web site - www.NewYorkGames.org - that monitors stadium developments here.


    Hatch said both the Ratner and West Side sites are "fatally flawed." He favors building stadiums in Flushing and Coney Island.

    David Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said the group will stress that the city's bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics "should not be used to force people out of their homes to build unneeded and unwanted arenas."

    As part of its bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, the city designated the proposed Atlantic Yards Arena - where Ratner wants to move his newly purchased New Jersey Nets basketball team - for gymnastic competition.

    Joseph DePlasco, a spokesman for Ratner, was undaunted by the effort to involve the IOC in the arena fight.

    "We hope the Olympic Committee does indeed visit Brooklyn," he said. "They will see a project that has been embraced by people throughout the borough."


    DePlasco said Ratner has committed to "do all that is possible to avoid residential condemnation" and to pay owners "handsomely" for needed properties.

  13. #223

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    Havent heard much in a while. Im sure there’s a lot going on behind closed doors.

  14. #224

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    Brooklyn Papers (Sept 25 edition)

    Boards 2, 6 & 8 call for arena ULURP

    By Jess Wisloski
    The Brooklyn Papers

    It’s the largest Brooklyn development project in nearly three decades, but Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards basketball arena, office tower and housing project will not have to pass through city review.

    And that, say members of the three community boards within whose bounds the plan would be built, is just plain wrong.

    Community boards 2 (Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill), 6 (Park Slope, Gowanus, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook) and 8 (Prospect Heights and Crown Heights) all voted at their last meetings to call on city and state officials to put the plan through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

    The boards collectively agreed to introduce the votes on Sept. 8 after officials from two agencies with key roles in the proposed sale of development rights in the Atlantic Yards area to Ratner — the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) — declined invitations to speak at a town hall meeting for members of the three community boards.


    Encompassing the area from Atlantic Avenue to Dean Street between Vanderbilt and Flatbush avenues, the proposed development would include a new home for Ratner’s recently purchased New Jersey Nets basketball team, three soaring office towers, 4,500 housing units and 2 million square feet of retail space. The $2.5 billion arena plan is projected to cost city taxpayers an estimated $500 million.

    Since the MTA controls the Long Island Rail Road yards over which roughly a third of the project would be built, its support is crucial, as is that of Gov. George Pataki, whose ESDC would be needed to condemn 10 acres of private property in order for Ratner to realize his dream.

    If the ESDC sponsors the plan, it will then be able to sidestep the rigorous ULURP process that development projects of such scale would normally trigger in the city. The community boards individually drafted letters to Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appealing for assistance in getting cooperation from the agencies they control and for a mandatory ULURP to be implemented.

    The three boards “have been planning for some time to have a public education hearing at which time we’d have the ESDC explain the process which we feel is Forest City Ratner’s definition of the project. We have concerns that there’s not going to be sufficient opportunity for public comment,” said Robert Perris, district manager of CB2.

    Perris said the letter drafted by CB2 called for the project to be “subject to the preclusion of the abuse of eminent domain and for competitive bidding for the acquisition of the MTA rail yard.” Though he said the “abuse” clause could be left open to interpretation, the primary concern was the process.

    Craig Hammerman, district manager of CB6, said the members were concerned about the reluctance of the agencies to inform the public. “Our greatest disappointment is the fact that this is not a small process by any means, and that the state agencies should be willing to talk to us all about what process is going to take place,” said Hammerman. “We can never really discuss things too early. If it was city agencies we were dealing with I would have expected them to be more responsive and accountable.”

    Deborah Wetzler, an ESDC spokeswoman, said her agency declined the invitation because no decision has yet been made about the state’s involvement in the project.

    “It’s way too premature,” she told The Brooklyn Papers.

    Two activist groups — Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which formed in opposition to Ratner’s plan, and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) have previously called for an Atlantic Yards ULURP, but neither received a response from the mayor or governor.

    “The call for ULURP is getting louder and louder, and to have the three boards who are going to be affected by the project call for it is very important,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

    Both groups became vocal after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan, publicly called for the plans for a new Jets football stadium on Manhattan’s West Side to be put through ULURP, despite Bloomberg and Pataki’s efforts to tack the stadium plan onto an expansion of the Jacob Javits Center, which would not require a ULURP.

    On July 9, Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James delivered letters to Bloomberg and Council Speaker Gifford Miller asking them to ensure that the Ratner proposal be subject to ULURP. Her letter to the mayor cited a statement he made last December: “We are not at a time when we can use public funds to support an arena.”

    Gene Russianoff, an attorney for NYPIRG, charged that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, one of the staunchest political champions of the Nets arena plan, has treated ULURP as if it were merely “a device to derail the project.”

    Asked whether Atlantic Yards should go through the city review process, Markowitz, who has powers of land use oversight under ULURP, told The Brooklyn Papers in June, “ULURP is not applicable.” Contacted this week for a response to the community boards’ requests, he shied away from supporting their call for ULURP.

    “We respect the community boards and understand their position. We couldn’t agree more that whether this is a city or a state process, community participation is a must and the community’s voice needs to be heard. My staff and I have been dedicated, from day one, to establishing a process for real community empowerment for the Atlantic Yards project,” Markowitz said through a spokeswoman.
    Russianoff believes the obvious is being overlooked.

    “It’s not like ULURP is some fearsome process,” he said. “The vast majority of development proposals go through ULURP. They get researched, modified and changed.”

    Councilwoman James is already focused on the next step.

    “I’m trying to hold a meeting with the chairpersons [of the community boards],” she said, to figure out before ESDC signs on to the project in a memorandum of understanding, what might be coming and how to help their communities cope.


    She believes Ratner has an uphill battle ahead of him, though.

    “It’s going to take him a lot to do eminent domain for those who are in the footprint of the plans,” said James. “There are many people who will refuse to be bought out.”

  15. #225

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    BROOKLYN PAPERS

    Ratner close to deal with state
    ‘60 days until arena plan review’


    By Jess Wisloski

    Bruce Ratner and state and city agencies are close to signing a memorandum of understanding that would get the ball rolling on the developer’s proposed Atlantic Yards project, a Westchester daily newspaper reported this week.

    One of the soon-to-be lead agencies on the application confirmed for The Brooklyn Papers that talks with the developer were progressing and Ratner, in an interview with the Journal News, said the state public review process for his plan to build a professional basketball arena, 4,500 apartments and three soaring office towers emanating from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues was just two months away.

    “The major thing now is going through the public process, which will start probably in about 60 days. There will be hearings. That will take about eight months. And then hopefully in about a year, a year and a quarter, we’ll start construction,” Ratner told the Journal News.

    Ratner plans to bring his recently purchased New Jersey Nets to the new arena.

    A Ratner spokesman, Joe DePlasco, clarified the comment, saying the developer is “hopeful that the MOU is completed soon,” but said he didn’t know if 60 days was a target for signing such an agreement, at which time the process would be announced publicly at each juncture of review and approval.

    Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey spoke at a public meeting Thursday night, but would not comment on what stage agreements between the state’s lead agencies, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns 13 acres of rail yards over which Ratner hopes to build, and the Empire State Development Corporation, which as the lead sponsor could wield the power of eminent domain to capture the remaining 11 acres of the plan’s Prospect Heights footprint from private owners.

    “I don’t know,” Stuckey told The Brooklyn Papers when asked if the state-run MTA is involved in negotiations, bids or advances by Ratner’s group.

    When asked if any headway had been made, or if they were involved in negotiations, MTA spokesman Tom Kelly replied, “No. No. Nothing’s happened yet.”

    A spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation, however, confirmed her agency’s involvement.

    “The talks are moving along, the talks are going very well, and things are moving along rapidly. We’re working jointly with MTA and [the city Economic Development Corporation], but there are still some issues we need to work out,” said Empire State Development Corporation spokeswoman Deborah Wetzel. She said no agreements had been made by the MTA.

    At the community meeting in Fort Greene, Stuckey did say that when the MOU is signed, Forest City Ratner, which has offered to pay market-price for the MTA’s property, will hire an independent appraisal firm to determine the value of the land, and suspects the MTA will do the same. According to the MOU mandate, both of the estimates would be accessible to public scrutiny, he said.

    “An MOU is a recording of understanding,” he said. “It is not a legally binding contract, and it ultimately entitles the public to have the ability to comment,” on the process, he explained.

    Still, ardent community activists are hoping that a public bidding process may yet be in the cards.

    “There is no MOU signed on it as far as I know. There is no NBA agreement to let the Nets move, as far as I know,” said Councilwoman Letitia James at the meeting, hosted by the Downtown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition, nearly singing to the riled up audience of 200 local residents.

    “Again, I don’t know all that’s happening behind closed doors, but as far as I know there is no state legislation or city legislation [in place]. So as far as I know, and as far as you know, this is not a done deal.

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