30 Issues Day 8: Atlantic Yards

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's development week and WNYC reporter Matthew Schuerman talks about what the next Mayor will face with the Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn.


Matthew Schuerman

Comments [24]

Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Eminent domain is defined as taking one's property for the use of the public, not a private owner. Acts that violate it should be outlawed all over. If the owner of the property says to a private developer that they don't want to sell their property, that should end it right there. No private developer should be allowed to use eminent domain in any way or form. Even the fifth amendment of the US Constitution defines what eminent domain is defined as, and states nowhere that private owners can use it. Just for that alone, those that don't want to sell to Bruce Ratner have a right to sue him. It's not just the Vanderbuilt Yards that is facing this issue, there is also Willets Point and parts of Manhattanville, which Columbia University plans to expand its campus on, that are being threatened by this as well, so they are not alone on this.

Sep. 30 2009 05:20 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

No, it was an awkwardly written sentence. I don’t know if Thompson’s father has money or not, but he did give him the gift of entrée into NY politics. And with Thompsons 2.1 million dollar townhouse in Harlem and ability to pay off credit card bills thousands of dollars at a time (from financial disclosures reported in the Times) my point was that Thompson isn’t exactly the everyman Mike C was implying with his shot at the billionaire. Neither of them are representative everymen, so let’s focus on things of substance.
And yes… in a perfect world, but I think it’s mostly about government giveaways and the bait and switch on Atlantic Yards than NIMBYs or BANANAs

Sep. 30 2009 01:05 PM
hjs from 11211

thompson is a millionaire's son?

Sep. 30 2009 12:30 PM
hjs from 11211

yes in a perfect world....

Sep. 30 2009 12:25 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

I think the problem is not that something’s being built, it’s the scale and frankly the public expenditure and private land taking giveaways to a private developer and sports team with the lack of support facilities (traffic management, transit upgrades, schools, etc.) The area is currently a bit of an armpit to be honest, but solidly built city-owned lower income or middle class high-rise housing would have been nice with ground floor retail or services such as clinics, schools, and daycare would have been fine with me. I could have even gone for a civics center bringing events, trade shows, conferences, and the such to BK with hotels providing jobs.

Sep. 30 2009 12:01 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Mike C from Manhattan,
You’re right… One’s a 56 year old New York native millionaire son of a political dynasty serially divorced father of one who’s held several public offices and the other’s a 67 year old Boston native self-made billionaire son of an immigrant real estate agent divorced and dating father of two who’s been mayor for 8 years.
I think I missed your point.

Sep. 30 2009 11:48 AM
hjs from 11211

if you don't like projects like this please tell me where a growing city is going to put more people.

Sep. 30 2009 11:36 AM
Shana from Clinton Hill/Fort Greene, Brooklyn

There are so many other alternatives to what to do with the Atlantic Yards and there many locations all over New York that would be better than the already traffic congested area.

Sep. 30 2009 11:36 AM
Susan from Kingston

This is a bad project that is wasting more and more taxpayer money. But every time that the Atlantic Yards project is presented by you, clips of Bloomberg's remarks dominate the presentation. Bloomberg wants it to happen because it benefits his big developer friends. Bloomberg obviously doesn't care about the working and middle class people in New York City. You seem to be siding with Bloomberg's point of view of what city life should be in my estimation.

Sep. 30 2009 11:32 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn

The problem with megadevelopment, the reason why Thompson should be clear in opposing it, is that Bloombergian-style megadevelopment doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because it is not community-oriented development that evolves from the ground up. Instead, and this is a reason to oppose Atlantic Yards on principle as well, Atlantic Yards is a developer-initiated, developer-driven project. It is the developer’s impulses towards satiating its own greedy impulses that cause Atlantic Yards to be such a negative for the Borough and the communities of New York.

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York

Sep. 30 2009 11:31 AM
Mike C. from Downtown Manhattan

To those saying that there's no difference between the two candidates, I demur. One of them is billions of dollars richer.

Sep. 30 2009 11:28 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Where does Thompson really stand on anything? (other than term limits and being against people living in multi-million dollar townhouses like himself)

Sep. 30 2009 11:17 AM
Norman Oder from Brooklyn

You're missing the forest for the trees. The differences between Bloomberg and Thompson are negligible. The questions about the project remain enormous.

Sep. 30 2009 11:15 AM
Andrew B. from New York City

I am so tired of hearing about "affordable housing" which is just a phony euphemism for government-subsidized housing.

This kind of housing works if you are well-connected, like Charlie Rangel with his four rent-controlled apartments.

If I had a dollar for every wealthy person I knew about with a 1000 dollar a month 7 room apartment, I would be rich.

Sep. 30 2009 11:14 AM
Prospect Heights Resident from Prospect Heights

New design, new plan - no need for a supplemental environmental impact statement?

MTA sells rail yards site for $20 mln upfront and a smaller footprint allowing fewer trains and more cars.

Ratner demolishes old buildings and creates 1600 surface parking? Welcome park and ride.

Blighted neighborhood? Tell that to anyone trying to buy in Fort Greene or Prospect Heights.
It is my only election issue.

Sep. 30 2009 11:11 AM
Norman Oder from Brooklyn

The CBA is not valid if Ratner sells the project:

Sep. 30 2009 11:10 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn

Thompson’s rhetoric on megadevelopment and Atlantic Yards is strange, confused and self-contradictory.

Thompson (like Avella) spoke harshly in both mayoral debates criticizing Bloomberg’s failed megadevelopments. In the second debate he was asked to list the three top failures of the Bloomberg administration and cited its failed megadevelopments.

In the first debate he grouped Atlantic Yards with the West Side stadium in similar criticism:

“Whether it’s the stadium on the West Side, whether its Hudson Yards, whether it is places like Willets Point and Atlantic Yards. . . Those projects haven’t moved forward.”

Thompson criticized the Yankee Stadium deal. The Net arena deal, the only part of Atlantic Yards actually being pushed forward, is with its projected $220 million NET LOSS for the city is essentially a rerun of all the problems Yankee Stadium posed.

But then Thompson isn’t opposing Atlantic Yards? Figure that out!

(For more details on this see:

Monday, September 14, 2009, Our thoughts on Navigating the Voter Minefields When All the Candidates Know the Words to Mouth on Development

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York

Sep. 30 2009 10:52 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn

Comment Part IV

(Yes, the list still continues)

21. Proceeding only with a portion of the project (the arean) which the city Independent Budget Office projects will be a $220 million NET LOSS for the city when the are no plans with respect to proceeding with the rest of the project.

22. Destruction of historic and worthwhile buildings in order to twist the public’s arm for support for “something” to be built and in order for the developer to amass extra windfalls of density.

23. Garishly oppressive design in the middle of brownstone neighborhoods as epitomized by giving the developer permission to have a fifteen-story illuminated and animated billboard towering over neighboring streets and buildings.

24. Giving the developer the right to privately collect all the proceeds from the right to name public places: The developer will receive $20 million a year for 20 years ($400 million in all) for the right to name what is supposedly a publicly owned arena after Britain’s Barclays bank. In addition, piling it on, the news recently came out that the developer will now also be given another asset that ought to be similarly valued, the right to name two city subway stations (and to have the NYC subway map redesigned) to feature name of that British bank in the station names, yet the developer will only have to pay 1% to the public/MTA of the annual $20 million amount it is getting from the bank for naming rights.

(That is the end of our four-part comment but that is not the end of the LONG list of special and unprecedented benefit being piled onto Forest City Ratner.)

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York

Sep. 30 2009 10:29 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn

Comment Part III

(The list STILL continues)

16. Sight-unseen approval of the project by the ESDC board without first letting the public know what the project will be.

17. The developer has been allowed to have a five year period go by during which it has not had to produce a design for an arena it actually intends to build. And all that time the project is allowed to continue despite there being no approval in place for an arena actually intended to be built. This entire five year period has gone by without the public agencies actually having any concrete or written deal with the developer.

18. City manipulation of real property tax assessments creating the risk and substantial likelihood that tax ex-exempt bonds issued to fund the arena could be declared taxable.

19. Three decades for the developer to complete the project (while creating blight and parking lots in the meantime).

20. Proceeding without a real, true and accurate cost benefit analysis or even a reasonable pretense of one.

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York

Sep. 30 2009 10:26 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn

Comment Part II

(The list continues)

11. No real commitment to provide affordable housing. As Noticing New York discussed with Betha Lewis of ACORN the first day of the ESDC hearings, anyone who earns an annual income from $38,407 to $46,086 (HUD family of four standard) is not going to be provided with affordable housing. Coming into the hearing we asked some of the demonstrators demonstrating in favor of the project whether they had incomes in that range. They said their incomes were lower, in which case ACORN did not negotiate to have any affordable units included in the project for them because the lower income units would be provided by the federal tax code in any event. Then skipping over the units ($38,407 to $46,086) that are not being provided, one finds that one is dealing with units that are renting for $3,000 a month, $2,300 a month, $1,500 a month: Units that the market would be providing anyway. In other words, ACORN basically negotiated that Forest City Ratner would provide absolutely nothing in terms of affordable housing.

12. A special exemption from the Section 421-a Real Property tax law so that the developer can escape paying real estate taxes without providing to the public the same level of affordable housing that other developers would have to provide to get benefits under that law.

13. $2-$3 Billion in no-bid taxpayer subsidies.

14. A special tax loophole to finance private arena which loophole was unconscionably shilled for in Washington by the city and state officials.

15. Preferential treatment for a developer despite risk to the public associated with the developer’s extreme financial weakness.

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York

Sep. 30 2009 10:23 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn

Comment Part I

Here are some of the benefits being piled onto developer Forest City Ratner (see the link in comment #3 above):

1. The right to 22 acres without a competitive bid. (Competitive bid was been avoided at the outset and again at the beginning of this summer when no competing was sought for a recast deal greatly more to Raner’s benefit.)

2. An exclusive monopoly by a single developer over the ownership and development of more than 30 contiguous acres of central Brooklyn.

3. Eminent domain abuse and windfall profit from that abuse.

4. Extreme unprecedented density.

5. A lower capacity railyard for the MTA and Long Island Rail Road that will not allow for needed flexibility or provide future expansion and growth.

6. Seizure of public streets, sidewalks and avenues.

7. Sidestepping proper process and ULURP.

8. Override of local zoning.

9. Bait-and-switch promotion with value engineering to save the developer money without benefitting the public.

10. Outrageously bad design and superblocking.

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York

Sep. 30 2009 10:20 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn

The way in which the recent announcement of the transfer of ownership of the Nets and the arena and interests in the AY megadevelopment was orchestrated and apparently timed so as to sidestep any discussion of public approval is indicative of how ESDC (with MTA and the city) has orchestrated piling an almost unfathomable collection special benefits onto Forest City Ratner. Respecting this recent transfer to Prokhorov, the deal was, in the works but not announced until AFTER the Atlantic Yards plan received its second approval, on September 17, from the Empire State Development Corporation. That project was September 17. The deal was announced September 23.

Sunday, September 27, 2009
Re: The Atlantic Yards Report of Our Wondering about Whether ESDC COULD Disapprove the Prokhorov Transaction

What is the LONG LIST of incredible special benefits being piled onto Forest City Ratner by means of similar public authority manipulations and orchestrations? For a starter list (there are more) see the 24 enumerated at:

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York

Sep. 30 2009 10:11 AM
Daniel Goldstein from Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards would be in Prospect Heights. It would be an attempt to extend Downtown Brooklyn.

What is important to note is that the criticism of Atlantic Yards runs the spectrum, but the original sin is the bypass of ULURP and the zoning override.

This is the huge difference between Atlantic Yards and all of the 90 some odd rezonings discussed on yesterday's show. Those all are ULURP rezonings, while AY is a literally a state takeover and zoning override, which gave Forest City Ratner whatever zoning and uses it wanted, without a vote by any legislator.

This has led to all the other problems.

And the opposition should not be diminished to complaints about building heights and design. The opposition is about a corrupt, rigged deal from the start.

Sep. 30 2009 09:09 AM
Norman Oder from Brooklyn

Will the next mayor continue to provide additional fiscal benefits--if not direct subsidies, then accelerated or transferred payments--to the project?

Bloomberg handed over review of the project to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Can we take the ESDC's review of the project seriously?

Is the construction schedule is a "useful timetable"?

What about the ESDC's "economic benefit analysis," in comparison to the NYC IBO's limited (but more rigorous) cost-benefit analysis? What did the mayor say?

What about the ESDC's claims that changes in the project were minor? A City Planning official disagreed.

What about the affordable housing promises?

What about Bloomberg's enormous disdain for Community Benefits Agreements, a posture that omits his conspicuous support for the Atlantic Yards CBA?

Sep. 30 2009 07:13 AM

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