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More testimony submitted for the Senate hearing: why eminent domain should be reformed

The issue of eminent domain and blight got short shrift at the hearing on Atlantic Yards held Friday by State Senator Bill Perkins.

One person who submitted testimony, but couldn’t attend, was Michael Rikon, an attorney since 1980 in private practice representing property owners in condemnation proceedings. (He also represents some property owners in the AY footprint.)

“In my opinion, it is fundamentally wrong to take someone’s property and turn it over to a private party,” Rikon said in his prepared testimony. “We understand that eminent domain is necessary on occasion. But the use of this most extreme power should be limited to a true public purpose. Atlantic Yards should be limited to a stadium site for the Nets.”

Interestingly enough, Rikon does not challenge condemnation for an arena whose profits would go to a private developer far more than any public entity.

After Kelo

As a result of the Supreme Court’s widely-criticized 2005 Kelo v. New London decision, which narrowly upheld emine…

Brutally weird: for "Brooklyn," substitute "Forest City Ratner"

The Daily News editorial today cites "a new basketball arena for Brooklyn."

But the arena wouldn't be for Brooklyn.

Forest CIty Ratner would get the naming rights and the revenues. Brooklyn would get a chance to buy tickets.

Pinamonti predicted it

Brutally weird? Well, John Pinamonti predicted it, in "The Burrow":

Makes me sad, yea it's such a pity
They're trying to rename Brooklyn "Forest City"

Devils owner far less bullish than Newark mayor about Nets moving to The Rock

Though Newark Mayor Cory Booker is a huge cheerleader for a potential Nets move to Newark, it appears that New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, operator of the Prudential Center, is more concerned about having the competing Izod Center close so the Rock can attract lucrative concerts.

The Record reports:
The Nets basketball team continues to play at Izod Center on a year-to-year basis as it awaits groundbreaking on a proposed new arena in Brooklyn. Asked if he would rather the Nets move to Brooklyn or to Newark, Vanderbeek replied, "Personally, I guess I would marginally rather see the Nets in Newark."

The team's financial experts are "about 50-50" on whether the added revenues and public attention for the arena from Nets games would offset losing some flexibility for the Devils on desirable weekend home dates, Vanderbeek said. He said the uncertain fate of the Nets has allowed state officials to postpone making a decision on Izod's future.

"I just wan…

Daily News to MTA: compromise with Ratner (and ignore all else)

The New York Daily News, ostensibly the newspaper of the city's working class, is owned by a real estate developer and has maintained blinkered support for Atlantic Yards, today editorializing that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should compromise on a deal with Forest City Ratner.

In an editorial headlined Net the Nets: New York must get behind a new basketball arena for Brooklyn, the newspaper urges the MTA to be "flexible... in getting the deal done."

Missing reality
While the Daily News cites an extension on the Hudson Yards deal as a precedent, the newspaper neglects to point out that an adaptation to changing conditions might also require a new assessment of costs, benefits, and subsidies, as City Council candidate Brad Lander, among others, points out.

After all, if the Independent Budget Office now thinks that the arena would be a money-loser for the city in terms of new tax revenue, maybe "netting the Nets" deserves a bit of reconsideration.
Fair …

Council candidate Lander, in testimony prepared for Senate hearing, gets tougher on AY, saying deal should be canceled

It was notable that, at the State Senate hearing Friday, the only legislators to appear in favor of the project were three (one via proxy) from Southern Brooklyn, far from the project site and the area from which Forest City Ratner executive VP Bruce Bender can always call in chits. Even Borough President Marty Markowitz neglected to show up or send an emissary.

And, though there was much extraneous testimony that had nothing to do with the hearing's ostensible purpose of government oversight, there were several people who didn't get to testify.

One would-be elected official, 39th District Council Candidate (and urban planner) Brad Lander, submitted testimony calling for legislators to pressure Governor David Paterson and the Empire State Development Corporation to cancel the AY deal. The issues he raised were ones the legislators barely touched.

(In photo, Lander is talking with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.)


His reasons: a need for a full accounting of public subsidies
a n…

Updated report on Senate hearing

For those who'd like another look, I've updated my long report on the Senate hearing Friday with photos from three photographers.

See legislators in action, government officials parrying not-so-tough questions, and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry heckling.

It also has links to all the press coverage, including Neil deMause's incisive piece in the Village Voice.

Stay tuned for some analysis Monday.

Ratner's hardball pays off: construction resumes at the Beekman Tower

The construction workers cheering for Atlantic Yards on Friday probably don't embrace the developer's hardball tactics to reduce construction costs at two extant projects.

After all, FCR stopped work halfway through the construction process of the Beekman Tower in lower Manhattan, what the New York Times calls an effort to "desperately sought to cut costs on the project."

In an article Friday headlined Savings on Labor Allow Work on Residential Skyscraper to Resume, the Times reported that work resumed this week, just as abruptly as it stopped.

The key: a cut in labor costs and cheaper construction materials and appliances. Among the other projects helped by a new agreement with unions is the tower under construction at 80 DeKalb Avenue.

Depends on the price

While proponents of the new agreement say it's worth a 20% discount, the Times suggests that's under debate:
Still, some developers say the agreement is worth far less, perhaps only 8 percent in savings, and no…

Times takes semi-skeptical look at Brooklyn arena plans, doesn't question professed 2011 opening

Well, the New York Times didn't cover the hearing yesterday, but in a long article in tomorrow's Sports section, sports business reporter Richard Sandomir asks, Will the Nets ever play basketball in Brooklyn? and concludes: maybe.

For one thing, the Nets have some $500 million--albeit over 20 years--in sponsorship commitments for the arena, notably from Barclays Capital, which bought naming rights. 
(Hm--one question no one asked--and I didn't think of: why exactly does the Empire State Development Corporation let Forest City Ratner sell naming rights to an arena that is nominally publicly-owned? The fig leaf of public ownership is necessary for tax-exempt arena bonds; FCR gets to keep the revenues.)

The cost of the arena was approved at $637.2 million in 2006, ballooned to $950 million, and now may be cut by $200 million. The Times reports that Forest City Ratner hopes to have $600 million in tax-exempt bonds sold, which would imply some portion of taxable bonds.

The Times r…

Senate hearing: no tough questions for ESDC; MTA yields on yard; IBO calls arena a loss; arena 2012; raucous AY supporters make for 8/23/06 flashback

(Update as of 10:38 am 5/31)

In some ways, the State Senate hearing held today on Atlantic Yards was eerily reminiscent of the epic 8/23/06 hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement: the house was packed--I’d estimate at least 2/3 of the crowd at Pratt Institute’s Higgins Hall--by union members and Community Benefits Agreement signatories, many wearing "Atlantic Yards Now" buttons, who raucously disrupted the hearing and, when some of their members testified, repeated old arguments for the project.

Though this was supposed to be a fact-finding hearing, the representatives of city and state agencies emerged almost completely unscathed by questions posed by the panel led by State Senator Bill Perkins, despite testifying for some two hours.

No one asked about the current timetable or cost of the project, nor challenged a stale, purported cost-benefit analysis. (Forest City Ratner, though it helped orchestrate the turnout and had uberflack Joe DePlasco in the aisles, di…