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An Atlantic Yards lexicon--and more contributions welcome

More than four years after the announcement of Atlantic Yards, and just in time for the Atlantic Yards quiz coming Thursday, herewith a selective and unscientific lexicon of memorable words, phrases, and quotes regarding the project.

You're welcome to nominate your own contributions to the list, either in email directly to me or by posting comments.


“Absolute absence of democratic process”—New York Magazine’s Chris Smith on the AY approval process

A.R.E.A. Bagels, formerly A.R.E.N.A. Bagels—a 5th Avenue bagel baker that changed its name after protests from patrons

“Antibuilders, antidevelopment brigade, antidevelopment crowd, antidevelopment groups, antidevelopment protesters, anti-development yuppies…liberal... serving as sentries guarding the walls of the Central Brooklyn ghetto.”—Errol Louis’s invective toward AY critics

"Are you stuck on stupid?"—William Stanford (aka “Mr. X”) on scheduling a community forum on Primary Day, at 8/23/06 DEIS hearing

“A Super Design for a Great Project”--Daily News editorial headline 5/15/06 on Frank Gehry's design

“Atlantic Yards Carve-Out”—the provision that gave FCR special bonus in the revision of the 421-a tax law

“Atlantic Yards Community”--ESDC "doublespeak" (according to Lumi Rolley) for a place that doesn't quite exist

"Blank check"--phrase used by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to describe the option for government entities to pay "extraordinary infrastructure costs" ofr the AY project

“Blight should not be determined by a private party.”—plaintiffs’ attorney Jeffrey Baker at 5/3/07 hearing before State Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden

“Bloggiest”—’s designation of Clinton Hill as the nation’s bloggiest neighborhood; I’ve challenged that, arguing that the main reason is Atlantic Yards, which would be mainly in Prospect Heights

"Blood Money"--Brooklyn Paper headline regarding the Barclays Capital naming rights deal

““Bring Basketball to Brooklyn”—the initial pitch for Atlantic Yards

“Brooklyn is a world-class city and we deserve Atlantic Yards”—Borough President Marty Markowitz, before the 8/26/06 DEIS hearing

"Brooklyn Matters”—title of Isabel Hill’s documentary on Atlantic Yards

“Brooklyn Standard”—FCR “publication” that came and went

“Brooklyn Tomorrow”—Courier-Life/New York Post June 2007 insert of advertorial puffery

“Brutally weird”—Quote from Jason Flores-Williams I applied to Errol Louis and other curious episodes in the AY adventure

“Build a whole neighborhood practically from scratch”—Frank Gehry upon the AY announcement 12/10/03

“The Burrow”—John Pinamonti’s haunting AY tune, part elegy, part fight song

“Businesses don’t have to invest in hard-to-develop areas.”—Jim Stuckey to Mike & the Mad Dog on 1/18/07, re Forest City Ratner's business plans


“Can it work for Brooklyn?”—Municipal Art Society June 2006

“Coalition of conscience”—Assemblyman Roger Green’s assessment of the public and union officials backing AY, before the 8/23/06 DEIS hearing

Community Liaison Office—the hardly-visible outpost Forest City Ratner set up in the former Spalding building

“Dark Genius of Joe DePlasco”—TimesRatnerReport (my predecessor blog) on FCR’s once-prominent flack

"The debate over Atlantic Yards is not a debate about race or class, it’s a debate about sensible development versus destructive development"--DDDB's Daniel Goldstein, on the Brian Lehrer Show

(De)Construction of the Neighborhood—subtitle of photographer Tracy Collins’ book on Atlantic Yards

“Develop Don’t Delay Brooklyn”—Errol Louis column headline, later taken up by the Daily News, a play on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

“Downtown Brooklyn”—the developer’s persistent mis-location of the project, belatedly corrected by the New York Times

“Drunken sports fans won’t be urinating in the backyards of the luxury condos. They’ll be peeing on the stoops of the rest of us.”—Kristyn LaPlante of Park Slope Neighbors, at the 8/23/06 DEIS hearing

“Economic segregation”-Hakeem Jeffries on the "Atlantic Yards carve-out," version one, at least

“Either we are going to have a model for how to build mixed-income housing, or we are just flapping our lips.”—ACORN’s Bertha Lewis, before the 8/23/06 DEIS hearing

“Emergency demolition”—the justification for Forest City Ratner's February 2006 demolitions of five properties; though a decision at the Empire State Development Corporation was pending for five weeks, the developer made no attempt to warn the public

(An) "entirely sane extension of Downtown Brooklyn"--the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Henrik Krogius on Atlantic Yards

“Extreme density”—Phrase popularized by AYR regarding plans (since reduced) for more than 300 apartments per acre

“Friendly condemnations”—former Empire State Development Corporation Charles Gargano’s frequently-used term for the state’s intention to condemn properties owned by developer Forest City Ratner; the tenants disagree


(A) "Garden of Eden grows in Brooklyn”—Herbert Muschamp, New York Times architecture critic, upon the unveiling of the AY project, 12/11/03

“Gehry, Thy Name is Eminent Domain”—graffiti created by Patti and Schellie Hagan's graffiti in Prospect Heights (photo by Adrian Kinloch)

“Get real about traffic and parking”—Borough President Markowitz, before the 8/23/06 DEIS hearing; however, most of his recommendations didn't get much immediate traction

“Go back to Pleasantville”—activist Umar Jordan’s crack at Tal Barzilai, an Atlantic Yards critic who (unlike most critics, who are Brooklynites) happens to live in suburban Pleasantville, NY

“Growth is good but growth has its limits.”—City Council Member Letitia James, at the 8/23/06 DEIS hearing

“He’s gotta raise $2.5 billion”—Mayor Mike Bloomberg on the radio 1/23/04 on developer Bruce Ratner, using the initial project cost figure and bypassing significant subsidies and tax breaks

“I call on Errol for a little more intellectual rigor.”—Assemblyman Richard Brodsky to columnist Errol Louis regarding the latter’s take on subsidies

“I cannot prioritize traffic jams and shadows over housing and jobs.”—teacher M’Balia Rubie, at the DEIS hearing

“If this project passes [state review], it’s 50/50 baby”—Bertha Lewis, after 2/28/06 housing debate, on the ratio of subsidized and market-rate housing

“I’ve come out against the use of eminent domain to build a basketball arena.”—Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, treading carefully

“I was born in Brooklyn. I was raised in Brooklyn. I grew up in Brooklyn,”—Assemblyman Roger Green, at the DEIS hearing

“If his clients or if other members of the community think this was really a terrible project, they can express themselves in the next election…”--ESDC lawyer Douglas Kraus (right), in court 2/7/07

"It's The Scale, Stupid"--Jonathan Cohn of Brooklyn Views offering a bottom-line analysis

“If this doesn’t come out for Ratner, it’ll be a conspiracy against blacks”—James Caldwell, BUILD

“If you’ve never been in the Marcy projects, you’re not from Brooklyn.”—Umar Jordan, at the DEIS hearing

“Instant gentrification”—City Council Member Charles Barron regarding Atlantic Yards

“Is that Pacific, at the bottom of the project?”—ESDC board member Charles Dorkey, at the 12/8/06 meeting when the board was about to approve the project

“It is, after all, America”—then FCR executive Jim Stuckey on the Brian Lehrer Show 7/19/06, regarding the developer’s right to seek a profit

“It’s a great piece of real estate”—Forest City Enterprises executive Chuck Ratner 3/6/07 on the site that the state calls blighted

“It’s all about being here”—slogan last year at the Nets’ home, then the Continental Airlines Arena, in the Meadowlands

“It’s Orwellian, almost”—FCR’s Stuckey to the New York Times, challenging citizens’ criticisms of the developer’s lack of openness

“Jobs, Housing, and Hoops”—the initial Atlantic Yards slogan

“Legally-binding Community Benefits Agreement”—the mantra in brochures produced by the developer

“Liar flier”—term used by opponents to describe FCR’s brochures

“Liberal, do-gooder”—Frank Gehry’s term for himself and Bruce Ratner

“Like so many things in life, it was just a matter of money.”—Bruce Ratner, in 6/26/05 New York Times Magazine interview, on the winning bid for the Nets

“Live. Work. Play.”—the first Atlantic Yards flier


"Mad Overkiller"--nickname given to yours truly by sometime antagonist Errol Louis

“Making omelets without breaking eggs”—Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff 2/1/07 on the city’s post-Robert Moses capacity to build big without antagonizing communities

“Miss Brooklyn”—Frank Gehry’s name for his signature tower (occasionally called “Ms. Brooklyn”)

“My ego trip”—Frank Gehry 5/15/06 on Miss Brooklyn

“Newcomers who made out like bandits”—Errol Louis on people who sold their apartments to FCR

(A) "new urban form, however, more likely analogous to a spaceship landing in a field than a unifying element in the community”-Park Slope Civic Council, testimony on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement

"Not Just Nets"
--The Brooklyn Paper's recognition that Atlantic Yards was about more than basketball, and Brooklyn development is about more than AY

Pacific Crest Research—shadowy polling firm that seems to be working for Forest City Ratner

“Privately financed” (almost exclusively)—the developer’s explanation of how the project would be financed

Privately-negotiated affordable housing bonus-AYR term for AY density

“Projects change, markets change”—FCR’s Stuckey offers a laconic (and not quite credible) explanation on the switch from office space to condos

“The project will provide…”—Curious syntax used by ESDC, the developer, and pollster Craig Charney that omits the role of actors like the developer and government

Ratlantic Yards (and other rat-related jibes)--The unfortunate consequence of a developer having an easily parodied name

"Ratzilla Attacks Brooklyn”—New York Magazine cover line

“Response to criticism”—the New York Times’s assessment of FCR’s token scaleback

(The) "right project, in the right place, at the right time for Brooklyn.”—Borough President Marty Markowitz, who not long before was calling for an arena in Coney Island


“Same site” as proposed new Dodgers stadium—repeated error by New York Times and other media outlets regarding the planned arena location

“Screecher seats”—term used by Forest City Ratner to describe 2000 $15 seats to be available at the arena

"Serious and difficult questions”—U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy's ruling 2/23/07regarding the exercise of eminent domain under emerging Supreme Court jurisprudence

"Sexy project"--New ombudsman Forrest Taylor, on Atlantic Yards, a phrase he seems to have dropped

“The $6 billion lie”—AYR on AY economic projections

(A) "stadium for the Nets is a good idea. But 17 high rises?"—Pull quote for 11/13/05 John Manbeck op-ed in the Times, confusing stadium with arena

“They would’ve been picketing Henry Ford.”—Frank Gehry on project critics, in a phrase that launched Stuart Schrader's blog

“Tout of Bounds”—New York Post headline on requirement that apartment sellers praise FCR

“[like a goddamn] tsunami…. So, if I could stop one iota of gentrification, I’ll do it.”—ACORN’s Bertha Lewis, at 2/28/06 housing debate, on the AY housing deal

Urban Room—both the building that would lead to the arena and the open space created by demolitions

Walk/Bake/Kids Disco/Quiz Don’t Destroy—fundraisers or events sponsored by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn

“Wealthy white masters”—DDDB’s Daniel Goldstein, in an intemperate email to a New York Daily News reporter

"We cannot stop progress."—ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano, on New York Voices, October 2006

“We don’t have nannies”—Union worker John Holt dissing Atlantic Yards opponents, at the 9/18/06 community forum

“We’ve been suffering, before anybody even thought about livability”—Bertha Lewis on the tradeoffs regarding AY, at housing debate 2/28/06

“What was a pretty active area has been emptied”—Dean Street resident Peter Krashes to WNYC on the view from Dean Street

“Yes in my backyard”—columnist Errol Louis, and flier distributed (and held by, among others, Hasids from Williamsburg) before DEIS hearing

“You’re the victim”—community activist Darnell Canada, warning at 8/23/06 DEIS hearing of consequences of AY plan doesn’t pass, portrayed memorably in Brooklyn Matters


  1. How about this one?- but do we file it under “A” or “R”?

    “R-TIFC-PILOT” agreement (pronounced “Artifice-PILOT”- or “Return Total Intercepted For Costs-PILOT”). An R-TIFC-PILOT is unlike any typical “Payment In Lieu Of Taxes” agreement because it is designed so that instead of any payments going into city coffers like taxes all payments are intercepted to relieve the developer (Ratner) of responsibility for costs which would normally be his, including publically paying for the entire arena thereby making it a 100% gift from the government of a $637.2 million (and counting?) asset the public could have owned. (If the public owned it, the public would collect the profits from it.)

    Yoo-hoo! Calling IRS auditors- Will they catch on to this (overly?) arrogant contrivance?

  2. Norman,

    Three proposed additions to your lexicon:

    1) I only had a chance to skim your list, but it seems to me that there is one important established term that is missing:

    'ASTROTURFING" -- See Wikipedia for an extended definition and history of the term. Here's a selection from the Wikipedia article: . . "astroturfing" refers to imitating or faking populous ("grassroots") opinion or behaviour. (I'm thinking that the term might apply to what Fred Siegel was talking about -- and what you later asked him about -- at that panel on modern architecture and cities.)

    2) "EXTERIOR decorating" -- This is, in my opinion, the activity that most architects and planners (including most community groups) are REALLY engaged in when they claim to be doing "urban planning." In "exterior decorating" the values of aesthetics (often a narrow, elitist set of aesthetic values at that) triumph over practical real life economics and what people actually value about cities -- whether they realize it or not (e.g., Lewis Mumford / the RPa vs. Jane Jacobs). (Related terms: exterior decoration; exterior decorators.)

    3) "Sixth Avenue on Acid" (or "Le Corbusier's 'La Vielle Radieuse" on acid"). A succinct description of the asserted urbanism of the Ratner program and Gehry design.

    -- Benjamin Hemric


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