Friday, April 23, 2010

Daily News columnist Gonzalez: DDDB "ignited a much-needed public debate over what kind of city New York wants to become"

New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, in a sympathetic column headlined After 6 years against Atlantic Yards, Daniel Goldstein takes the money and leaves, connects Daniel Goldstein to Jane Jacobs:
Goldstein, a Web designer, was refusing to move. Only two years earlier, he had bought a new condo in the neighborhood for $590,000. He had this wild-eyed idea that the people of a community should be consulted before the government condemns their property to make a rich developer even richer.

Goldstein was a tireless organizer of his neighbors in Prospect Heights. He urged them to resist Ratner and his powerful backers, Mayor Bloomberg, former Govs. George Pataki and Eliot Spitzer and Gov. Paterson.

The group those neighbors founded, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, became an amazing grassroots movement.

Back in the 1960s, a little old lady named Jane Jacobs fought Robert Moses, when the legendary masterbuilder sought to bulldoze the Lower Manhattan Expressway through the heart of our city. Now a computer nerd named Goldstein and his group waged their own David-and-Goliath battle against the new masterbuilders.
I don't know if I'd use the term "amazing." Resourceful, energetic, and significant, but not past the tipping point.

Then again, Gonzalez has seen many more development disputes and they often rely on deep pockets (see West Side Stadium, Columbia expansion) or can't muster sufficient presence to slow the steamroller (Yankee Stadium).

The role of ACORN

Gonzalez picks up the thread:
But another powerful grassroots movement was backing Ratner. The developer was a big contributor to ACORN. He had promised ACORN head Bertha Lewis that one-third of the housing would be affordable and that her organization could manage that portion.
Actually, the initial promise was 50% affordable, only to be quickly broken by the addition of condos, which weren't explicitly mentioned.

The conflict

Gonzalez offers a quick summary:
Ratner also spread his money to other black organizations and businesses in Brooklyn, and the conflict over Atlantic Yards sometimes took on racial tones.

Still, Goldstein's movement, like that of Jane Jacobs, ignited a much-needed public debate over what kind of city New York wants to become.

Jacobs won her fight and stopped that monstrous expressway. Develop Don't Destroy lost its fight, but it came closer than our leaders dare admit to stopping Atlantic Yards.

The group tied up the project for so long that Ratner had to import a Russian billionaire investor just to keep it alive.
It wasn't just the opposition; it was also the credit crunch.

Also, the question of "what kind of city New York wants to become" depends significantly on the state as well as the city, given that the Empire State Development Corporation, with its "amazing powers," was allowed by the mayor to override city zoning and pursue eminent domain.

And Gonzalez, given limited space, doesn't ask what happens to DDDB and what role Goldstein might play in the "public debate over what kind of city New York wants to become."

The cost of delay

Gonzalez, in summary form, offers some context:
Ratner offered him $3 million to leave because every week of delay in getting Goldstein out was costing the project millions.
Forest City Ratner claimed delay was costing them $6.7 million a month and, even if that was exaggerated (as I suggested), the $2.5 million a month in bond carrying costs seems solid.

Beyond that, only vacant possession of the arena block would allow the sale of the Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, and the acceleration of the team's rebuilding process, an effort to turn around significant losses.

The ACORN connection

Gonzalez concludes:
Lewis, whose group took Ratner's donations for years, found time from ACORN's many recent problems to send out a nasty e-mail blast condemning Goldstein.

"This guy hasn't done one single thing for this community except to enrich himself," she claimed. "People could have been living there already had it not been for him [Goldstein]. He just is despicable."

Well, Goldstein is out. Now let's see Ratner build the affordable housing he promised.
It's not just up to Ratner; Gonzalez should've pointed to the Development Agreement, which allows delays based on an Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability. In other words, Lewis knows better.

In print

Gonzalez's column in print is accompanied by a whimsical and stupid sidebar asking "What he could buy with that $3M he just scored," giving as one of three examples an apartment worth $2.55 million--far more than the check Goldstein will get, after lawyer's fees.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:53 PM

    Is there an ongoing protest against this clearly illegal development? I have heard nothing; nor have I heard any negative publicity about the Nets Arena. What gives?

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  2. Well, I don't think the courts would agree it's illegal (other than the case in which the state was required to do a supplemental environmental review). There have been multiple protests, most recently around the Sept. 28, 2012 opening of the arena, though activism has understandably declined.

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