Wednesday, December 23, 2009

After master closing, Ratner crows, installs "branded signage"; DDDB says new lawsuit coming, likely against ESDC/BALDC

After the master closing for Atlantic Yards was concluded today, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) chose not to send out a press release, but--as seen in the press releases below--Forest City Ratner expressed satisfaction and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asserted that the seeming final governmental step was by no means final, promising a lawsuit.

A lawsuit based on the status of the murky Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) presumably would go into untested legal ground. Until that and other outstanding lawsuits are resolved, it's possible that the developer won't move into certain phases of construction, but utility work and demolition is ongoing, a condemnation petition has been filed (but likely will be challenged), and executives have promised a groundbreaking by the end of January.

(Here's coverage in the Times and Observer.)

New signage

The first tangible step: Forest City and the Nets "have placed branded signage along fencing at the arena construction site," so get used to the Atlantic Yards site as a billboard.

(Photos by Tracy Collins)

Also stay tuned in a week or two for the actual documents from the closing; they just might explain the penalties and incentives behind the deal.

Some factchecking

Note that FCR's claim that AY "will create close to 17,000 union construction jobs, as well as 8,000 permanent jobs once the project is complete" is dubious.

Rather, the ESDC's 2009 Modified General Project Plan states that construction "will generate 12,568 new direct job years" (e.g., about 1257 jobs a year for a decade) and that operations "at the Arena and mixed-use development will support an annual average of 4,538 new jobs in New York City (direct, indirect, and induced)."

[Update: The 9/17/09 ESDC board memo, distributed on the day the project was reapproved, states that construction would generate 16,427 new direct job years. So FCR's number is more in the ballpark, but not precise. However, there would be 3998 permanent jobs in New York City and 4277 jobs in New York State, inclusive of New York City. That doesn't total 8000.]

And DDDB's claim that "vacant buildings" of Brooklynites will be given "to Bruce Ratner for one dollar" isn't true. Rather, city land will be given for a dollar. Ratner will have to pay some version of "just compensation" for the rest.

The FCR press release

FCRC CLOSES ON ATLANTIC YARDS: Master Closing on the Project Means Barclays Center, Thousands of Jobs, Affordable Housing and the Nets Coming to Brooklyn

(Brooklyn, NY) – December 23, 2009 – Bruce Ratner, the Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), the developer of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, announced today that FCRC, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the City of New York, and other parties have executed all necessary documents and officially closed on the project.

“Today, what has long been a vision for the future of Brooklyn becomes a reality,” Mr. Ratner said. “Six years after we announced our plan for Atlantic Yards we are very pleased to be closing on the project with our public partners. Today’s closing represents a vital step forward for New York City, one that is all the more important because of the economic challenges our City faces. The jobs we are creating today, as we set forth on the arena and one of the boldest affordable housing initiatives in our City’s history, will create a new dynamic center in this wonderful borough.”

While construction on the Barclays Center and the project site in downtown Brooklyn has commenced and is ongoing, today’s closing includes the issuance of bonds and the execution of various real estate documents, including the arena lease, financing, development, and purchase and sale agreements.

To date, 35 buildings, roughly 56% of the structures on the site, have been demolished and construction of the temporary rail yard has been completed. Removal of the Vanderbilt Yard tracks and critical upgrades to the sewer and water infrastructure in the area are underway.

Mr. Ratner thanked the Governor, the Mayor, the Brooklyn Borough President, ESDC, the MTA – Long Island Rail Road and the vast majority of the people of Brooklyn and New York who have stood by us and have long believed in the benefits and promise of Atlantic Yards.

Atlantic Yards will create close to 17,000 union construction jobs, as well as 8,000 permanent jobs once the project is complete. The project involves the redevelopment of 22 acres in downtown Brooklyn, which will include approximately six million square feet of residential space (6,430 units of affordable and market-rate housing), an 18,000-seat sports and entertainment arena to be known as the Barclays Center, 247,000 square feet of retail use, approximately 336,000 square feet of office space, and eight acres of publicly accessible open space.

FCRC and the Nets today also have placed branded signage along fencing at the arena construction site, which includes logos of the major partners of the Barclays Center. Those partners include Barclays, which is the naming rights partner, along with ADT, Cushman & Wakefield, EmblemHealth, MGM Grand at Foxwoods, Anheuser-Busch, High Point Solutions, IZOD, Jones Soda, and MetroPCS.

The DDDB press release

Governor Paterson Allows ESDC To Move Forward With Illusory Atlantic Yards and Eminent Domain Home & Business Theft Two Days Before XMAS

Despite “Master Closing” Big Legal Challenges Against Project Remain

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—Even foreclosing banks and unpaid landlords provide a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for the holiday month.

However, not Governor Paterson and the State of New York.

Without compunction, Governor Paterson and his appointees on the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) today filed legal papers to start the process of stealing the homes and businesses of Brooklynites by eminent domain, to eventually evict them and give the vacant buildings to Bruce Ratner for one dollar. Ratner would then demolish those homes and businesses in an effort to construct a taxpayer subsidized, money-losing arena—the world’s most expensive arena, Barclays Center—in the middle of a fiscal crisis and a housing crisis.

Forest City Ratner also announced that they have signed a “master closing” for the Atlantic Yards project with various city and state agencies. But Ratner failed to disclose that he was forced to put the closing and arena bond proceeds into escrow because of numerous outstanding issues, including several serious legal challenges.

The property owners and tenants fighting to keep their homes and business will vigorously challenge the legal papers filed by the ESDC today.

There are also two outstanding lawsuits against the project that would stop it cold (with oral argument scheduled for January 15th) and one pending decision by the Court of Appeals on a motion to reargue the challenge to the state’s use of eminent domain in light of the recent eminent domain decision against Columbia University.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn is also currently planning on suing, most likely the ESDC and the mysterious Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation, for bypassing the legally mandated review of the $511 million arena bond financing by the Public Authorities Control Board and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

“Governor Paterson, who once opposed eminent domain, has clearly decided that the best thing to do for the holidays is to evict men, women and children from their homes. He has decided that the avoidance of minimal scrutiny and review of the largest project in Brooklyn’s history is an acceptable way to govern. He has decided that reform apparently means allowing and supporting the same old bad faith, backdoor dealing with powerful, land-grabbing real estate developers,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “Shame on Governor Paterson for throwing good money—taxpayer money—at Ratner’s boondoggle money pit and for stealing a viable neighborhood to do it. Ratner’s project will never produce the benefits the developer and the ESDC have lied about for years, and should it go forward the Governor and other project supporters will rue this day.”

“I want to make it very clear to the Governor, the ESDC and Ratner, that Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, our scores of allied community organizations and our thousands of supporters will not easily give up our fight against Atlantic Yards,” Goldstein said.

It should be noted that there is not a single city or state politician in and around the Atlantic Yards project site that still supports the drastically altered project. And there are none anywhere, besid
es project cheerleaders Marty Markowitz and Michael Bloomberg, who vocally support it.

After six years of exposing the Atlantic Yards project as a corrupt, boondoggle financed on the backs of New York taxpayers, Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg, Sheldon Silver, Charles Schumer, and Marty Markowitz apparently have decided that the best thing for New Yorkers is to look the other way as state and city appointed bureaucrats sign papers handing over 22-acres of prime real estate to a single developer to turn into massive parking lots for decades.

The most powerful “leaders” in the state have apparently decided that the best way to change the face of Brooklyn—the best way to spend massive taxpayer subsidies, grant extraordinary tax breaks and gifts, sell public land at a sweetheart price, give away city streets, abuse eminent domain, provide a city zoning override, create millions of square feet of density for free for a politically-connected developer—is to do it without ever having any legislative, democratic oversight, and to avoid even the minimal oversight and accountability provided by the financial review of State Comptroller DiNapoli and the Public Authorities Control Board.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Norman,

    Another question for you (again recognizing the fact that you are not a lawyer). To the extent DDDB were to file suit against EDSC and BALDC over "improprieties" in the bond sale process, how could they possibly have standing to bring such a suit. I certainly understand how they would have standing in the eminent domain and environmental impact proceedings, because as business owners, property owners, tenants, etc., they are directly effected. But how could such persons have standing the challenge a State administrative proceeding? Would this be just like the suit against the MTA that was tossed last week because they didn't have standing to bring the suit?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, standing is hardly certain.

    However, in the MTA suit, the judge said the plaintiffs didn't have standing, but agreed to go to the merits on the chance that the Court of Appeals would construe the issue more broadly, given that no one else would be likely to seek to have the law enforced.

    So I wouldn't rule it out.

    http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2009/12/judge-deferring-to-mta-version-of-case.html

    The judge wrote:
    "It is not for this Court of first instance to depart from the recognized rules of standing. Nevertheless, this Court is troubled that, were standing interpreted too restrictively, hypothetically there could be no way of judicially challenging what could be a clear violation of the appraisal and bidding provisions of the PAAA [Public Authorities Accountability Act] (e.g., if a rogue agency gave away land or contract, without appraisal or any public bidding process, to an official's relative or a political crony). It is appropriately within the province of the Court of Appeals to consider whether a different standard for standing should be applied to the subject provisions of the PAAA."

    ReplyDelete