Friday, April 18, 2008

FCR, in e-newsletter, anxiously suggests readers "reach out" to elected officials

Today's New York Times editorial prompted Forest City Ratner to send out an e-newsletter quoting the newspaper's brief comment on the project and adding some talking points:
For our part, despite the changing economy, Forest City Ratner remains committed to delivering the entire project, including all of the 2,250 units of affordable housing.
(Emphasis added)

Keep in mind that when the developer uses the term "committed" it doesn't necessarily mean a firm timetable. It was Chuck Ratner, CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises, who said in March 2007, "We remain committed to our goal of opening the arena in time for the 2009-2010 NBA basketball season.”

Now, of course, the stated goal is 2010, while 2011 is the likely best-case scenario. (At right, screenshot from Atlantic Yards home page.)

Demolition or construction?

Today's message continues:
As it relates to construction, we began work on the site over a year ago, and thus far 50% of the structures on the site have been taken down. We have contracted over $42 million worth of work, with over 45% going to women- and minority-owned business. On the legal front, we had three key victories earlier this year, and in total we have had 18 court decisions in our favor.

No construction of the project has begun. The Empire State Development Corporation's "Construction Update" refers to "construction activities" such as demolition and abatement.

Note that the $42 million is less than the $55 million in public funds already distributed. As for "court decisions," that's a creative total, since the opposition in the eminent domain case, for example, won some of its (less dispositive) arguments, such as getting the federal judge to agree not to have the court abstain from the case.

Time to reach out

Today's message concludes:
Significant progress is being made each day on the project, and Atlantic Yards and all of its affordable housing as well as thousands of jobs will be a reality for Brooklyn. We encourage you to reach out to your local elected officials and remind them of the importance of Atlantic Yards.


To me, that suggests some anxiety about how the "done deal" Atlantic Yards will be treated in the political process as it goes forward. Three City Council Members--Bill de Blasio, David Yassky, and Letitia James--have called for a moratorium on demolitions, as the Brooklyn Paper reported this week.

If that puts the developer on the defensive somewhat, surely a bigger challenge--and a reason to reach out to elected officials--is the developer's stated desire for more subsidies to complete the project.

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