Skip to main content

The Times’s continued blind spots in its eminent domain coverage

Today, the New York Times takes a long look at eminent domain in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The article’s a competent round-up, portraying some victims of eminent domain abuse sympathetically while giving advocates, who consider it an important tool in the redevelopment toolbox, their due.

If you live in New York City, however, the article doesn't come in your print edition. Rather, it's appears only in the Times's Sunday regional sections (Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut), headlined Now You Own It, Soon You Don’t?. The cover story in the City section, available to purchasers in New York City, concerns explorers of abandoned places like tunnels.

A way out?

Maybe the placement of the article made it easier for the Times to fail to acknowledge that its parent company is a beneficiary of eminent domain, for the new Times Tower in Manhattan. Or to mention the eminent domain donnybrook concerning Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and developer Forest City Ratner, the same developer that has partnered with the Times Company in building the Times Tower.

Sure, reporters have to pick and choose, but the Times does point out how, in the wake of legislative inaction in all three states, in New Jersey, the courts have stepped in, assisted by the state’s Public Advocate, overruling the designation that “unproductive” properties—as in, not built out to full zoning rights—are blighted. That’s further stopped a major development plan in Newark. As I’ve written, were Atlantic Yards in New Jersey, the new rules might stymie the project.

And the Times, of course, never covered the May 3 court hearing in the suit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, during which Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden expressed skepticism about the designation of blight.

The pattern is dismaying. In a front-page round-up article on eminent domain in February 2006, the Times similarly failed to mention Atlantic Yards or the Times Tower. However, three months later, when Mayor Mike Bloomberg defended eminent domain as a priority, the Times in its coverage acknowledged the newspaper company's own history.

Region trailing

In today's article, the Times quotes an opponent of eminent domain abuse:
“New Jersey and New York are among the worst states in the country for eminent domain abuses — New Jersey is really awful,” said Dana Berliner, a senior lawyer at the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va., which represents residential and business owners facing condemnation. “What’s interesting is that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are some of the few states that have not managed to pass any decent legislation.”

The Institute for Justice has criticized the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.

Effect in Brooklyn

And what have others done? The Times reports:
Other states have instituted more precise definitions of blight, set minimum compensation levels above market value for the owners of seized properties and restricted eminent domain to more traditional public projects like schools and roads. The legislative changes have been driven by an unusual alliance of conservative Republican property-rights advocates and liberals interested in the rights of lower-income people.


A more precise definition of blight and a limitation to "traditional public projects" would certainly have slowed, if not stymied, eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.

The Times reports on changes in Connecticut:
The law that [Gov. Jodi]. Rell signed requires that municipal legislative bodies approve eminent domain seizures by a two-thirds majority and that property owners be reimbursed at 125 percent of fair market value. It also built in other protective measures for property owners.


And were those changes transposed to New York, eminent domain for Atlantic Yards would not have been decided by four unelected and not-so-informed board members of the Empire State Development Corporation, but instead a supermajority of elected officials.

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…

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…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…