Sunday, December 31, 2006

The NY Observer features 29 power families, but not the Ratners

The December 18 issue of the New York Observer, the cheeky weekly that specializes in insider coverage of the city’s professions, featured 29 power families in a number of arenas, including sports, the arts, politics, journalism, and law.

Under the rubric of real estate, there were deft profiles of the Trump, Zeckendorf, Rose, and Walentas families. David Walentas, as we know, is the man who invested in DUMBO decades ago and now reaps the rewards of the revival he steered.

But Brooklyn's biggest real estate empire, Forest City Ratner, didn’t make the list of 29. Sure, it’s a judgment call. There’s no younger Ratner joining CEO Bruce as his designated heir, as Jed Walentas will succeed his father David.

And Forest City Ratner has been subsumed into its Cleveland-based parent, the family-controlled Forest City Enterprises. However, Bruce still runs the show in New York, and there’s a most intriguing relationship between him and his brother Michael, the eminent international human rights lawyer.

Michael and the Ratners

Michael Ratner has a little-used office at Forest City headquarters in Brooklyn’s MetroTech. He and his wife, both based in Greenwich Village, make political contributions from that office to Brooklyn machine pols. He’s an investor in the Nets. And he hasn’t said a word about eminent domain or gag orders associated with the Atlantic Yards plan.

The Observer’s editorial introduction suggested that the Bruce/Michael relationship could be rich fodder for scrutiny:
And New York is a town that is defined by families. We have chosen 29 of them, and the power of family defines each, a power that supersedes any other consideration, and that is at once the clearest thing in life, and the most mysterious.

Zone defense

The again, the Observer likely was hamstrung in any attempt to probe into Ratnerian mysteries. Matthew Schuerman, the paper’s commercial real estate reporter, has done a generally incisive job covering Forest City Ratner.

However, it would have been pushing it to ask an Observer staffer to profile the family that includes a colleague, the capable Observer reporter Lizzy Ratner, a daughter of Bruce Ratner and also an investor in the Nets.

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