Skip to main content

Public park, indy ESDC, "derelict stretch"? Looking back at the eminent domain argument

As the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case gets another day in court Friday, it’s worth taking another look at a few questionable statements made by defense lawyers during the 2/7/07 hearing.

Would the project really bring public parks and public housing? Is the ESDC really independent? And was Forest City Ratner the only developer that might be interested in a "derelict stretch" near Brooklyn's busiest transit hub?

[The quotes are from an official transcript, which nonetheless contains flaws in transcription.]

AY: public parks, public housing?

Lawyers for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) have challenged the plaintiffs’ efforts to invoke the 2005 Kelo v. New London case, in which the Supreme Court indicated it would look askance on what seemed to be a sweetheart deal. Kelo, noted ESDC attorney Douglas Kraus, was about eminent domain for economic development, while Atlantic Yards, he noted, is about the removal of blight—not an element in Kelo.

He added, “And neither were any of the other indisputably proper public purposes that were served by the Atlantic Yards project in this case, such as the construction of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of infrastructure improvements, the creation of public parks and recreational facilities, and the construction of public housing.”

Kraus, however, overstated the case. The subsidized housing within Atlantic Yards would not be part of the city’s public housing system, nor would the publicly-accessible open space be part of the city park system.

ESDC board independent?

Also at issue is whether the ESDC is an independent agency or an arm of the Governor’s office, especially given that former Governor George Pataki’s chief fund-raiser, Charles Gargano, was named to head the agency. Moreover, as I wrote in December, large donors to Pataki were named to the ESDC board.

According to state courts and the Second Circuit, declared Assistant Attorney General Peter Sistrom during the hearing, the ESDC “is not the state. It is independent of the state, and one of the reasons it is independent of the state is because it is not controlled by the Governor, even though he appoints some, not all, of its members. And even though some, not all, of the members serve at his pleasure, the courts have repeatedly held it is not the state. The whole purpose of it is to create independently [sic] of the state.”

Perhaps, but an information sheet from the State Comptroller’s Office indicates that all the members who served when the board voted on the Atlantic Yards project were gubernatorial appointees. (Click on Staff and scroll down.)

FCR attorney on “derelict” Brooklyn

Was Forest City Ratner taking a big risk by proposing this project? Yes, according to FCR attorney Jeffrey Braun--even though the Prospect Heights neighborhood was on a steady upswing, as noted in New York Times Real Estate section coverage.

“I don’t think the fact that, you know, Forest City Ratner allegedly initiated this has any relevance,” he said. “I mean, frankly, this is not the crossroads of the world, Times Square, where many developers would like to have an opportunity to build. I mean, this an extremely derelict stretch—no, we’re talking about the Vanderbilt Yards—which is an open trench that’s what we’re talking about.”
[Note: I previously reported the term “completely derelict” .]

However, Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner three weeks ago called the Atlantic Yards site “a great piece of real estate.” Many developers might indeed covet such a site, or just the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.

A private developer's plan

Braun continued, “We’re talking about a private developer allegedly, who came up with a plan for remediating and eliminating this scar on Brooklyn and that’s what happened here and I don’t think that the Court ought to be establishing or recognizing a rule that’s invented by plaintiff’s counsel that would discourage a developer and penalize a developer for coming to the public agencies with a good idea and here that was of a long process and the plan was approved by a public, a public officers, not by Forest City Ratner.”

Whether it's a constitutional violation is up to the court, but it's doubtful that other railyards--extremely valuable pieces of land, given the city's shortage of available land for construction--will be treated in the same way.

After all, urban planner Alexander Garvin, author of the definitive text The American City : What Works, What Doesn't, has recommended that the process for developing a platform for development over Sunnyside Yards in Queens requires a feasibility study with input from "engineers, traffic analysts, site planners, and real estate entrepreneurs.”

Tomorrow, I'll preview the arguments in the hearing Friday.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …