Skip to main content

Daily News editorial slams Goldstein for "personal jackpot," lauds "generous" Ratner; will he contribute some of his settlement to the ongoing fight?

The New York Daily News, which has supported Atlantic Yards to the hilt (remember A super design for a great project, touting the now-phantom "green roof,") today slams former Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein in an editorial headlined A great big sellout: Atlantic Yards opponent made out like a bandit:
The community activist who led the long, doomed and destructive fight against Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project has made out like a bandit. Daniel Goldstein settled with the project's developer for a whopping $3 million.

After all of Goldstein's costly obstructionism, it is a wonder builder Bruce Ratner agreed to give him a penny more than Goldstein would be legally due on eviction from the condo he bought in 2003 for $595,000.

Instead, Goldstein walked away with five times his purchase price while portraying himself as a noble victim of evil forces who would never be silenced and blah, blah, blah. "Thank you, kind sir" did not enter the picture.
Behind the deal

It's a wonder? The Empire State Development Corporation, which already owned Goldstein's condo, gave him a low-ball offer of $510,000 in a condemnation funded by Forest City Ratner.

The judge in the case, according to Goldstein, said he wanted the parties to reach a settlement rather than to litigate just compensation.

It's no wonder Forest City Ratner, which claimed it was losing $6.7 million a month from delays, would be willing to pay more than the fair market value--perhaps double what Goldstein had paid--in order to get Goldstein out (and, we now see, to win some public relations points).

The editorial ignores the cost of a replacement apartment as well as Goldstein's legal fees. He more likely got a check for double the value of his apartment--money that might be seen, in part, as compensation for unpaid activism, the difficulty in living in a construction zone and a "cage," and the agreement to pack up and move in a little more than two weeks.

The "generous" Ratner


The editorial continues:
Ratner's payoff to Goldstein illustrates one of the little-told stories about the Atlantic Yards project. While some residents and owners, such as Goldstein, were railing that they were losing homes and businesses to eminent domain, Ratner was quietly reaching very generous accommodations with hundreds of others.
Even less-told, especially by the Daily News (which in 2004 published a cover story about Ratner's payouts that it never followed up), is that New York City taxpayers, thanks to decisions made quietly by Mayor Mike Bloomberg's administration, contributed $131 million toward $280 million (as of earlier this week) in land purchases on the arena block.

In other words, Ratner has been playing with public money, including hundreds of millions of dollars more in direct subsidies, tax breaks, and increased land value thanks to eminent domain and an override of zoning.

"Junk lawsuits" and the truth of AY

The editorial continues:
And now Ratner has done so with Goldstein - the lead plaintiff on a blizzard of junk lawsuits, all of which failed.

Goldstein and his band did not change New York's eminent domain laws or substantiate lurid claims of corruption in state government.

All he managed to do was to slow Ratner from bringing the basketball Nets to Brooklyn in a new arena, stave off groundbreaking for thousands of units of affordable housing and kill thousands of construction jobs.
They weren't "junk lawsuits;" as I wrote in February 2008 in response to a similar Daily News editorial, a federal magistrate observed that the first Atlantic Yards eminent domain case raised "serious and difficult questions regarding the exercise of eminent domain under emerging Supreme Court jurisprudence."

As for "lurid claims of corruption," no, there's no secret video of payoffs. What there is--and what the press hasn't covered--is a glaring contradiction between a developer and a state agency that say the project will be built in a decade and a Development Agreement, kept under wraps until after a crucial court argument, that provides 25 years.

"Personal jackpot" and the larger cause

The editorial concludes:
And, oh, yeah, self-righteous to the end, Goldstein also hit a personal jackpot that should give pause to all his followers.
As I've written, the "personal jackpot" is much less than this editorial and tabloid coverage suggests.

Many supporters of DDDB, including the organization's board, back his decision completely. After all, they weren't in his shoes; nor did they work as hard as he did.

But it has given pause to some followers; one commenter on Brownstoner wrote:
My issue...if he was really fighting this for the neighborhood, the community, why not get the most possible for himself and the most possible for the neighborhood? At least something for the *cause,* some sort of money for those not in the foot print but adjacent to it who will have to suffer through the next however many years
Another wrote:
What about the thousands of dollars of donations given to DDDB to help fund the fight? I know I gave my share. Were we just paying Goldstein's mortgage and living expenses all of these years so he could fold at the last minute and still win his final hand of poker?
He didn't fold at the last moment--he had little choice, given that the state owned his condo and the judge wanted a resolution.

Goldstein's choice


As I wrote, while Goldstein may have made an understandable and defensible decision, Forest City Ratner will have gotten a bargain if it has not only removed a physical and vocal obstacle but left DDDB and the Atlantic Yards opposition severely hamstrung.

Goldstein might well have been ready to step back from activism whatever the resolution of the court case; he's had a punishing schedule.

As I wrote, while Goldstein has the right to make a decision that's best for his family, his decision also impacts a larger struggle. By agreeing to step down from his role as DDDB spokesman, Goldstein leaves a void. Can he, through personal effort or financial donations, help ensure that the void is filled?

Goldstein, I've since learned, is not contractually precluded from financial support of DDDB or similar endeavors. He hasn't made a statement of his intentions; presumably he's busy trying to figure out where to live--not to mention that the role of DDDB and other opposition groups remains unclear.

Goldstein explained:
I have always promised that once the legal options to save my home and the homes and businesses of my neighbors were extinguished, I would have to turn my attention to what was best for my family, after years of neglecting our interests. That is what I did on Wednesday.
The Atlantic Yards controversy, however, goes beyond opposition to condemnation. Goldstein said:
I am free to criticize and speak about the project, the developer and the ESDC as much as I want. I intend to do that whenever the need arises.
So stay tuned.

From the comments

On the Daily News site, Eric McClure (of No Land Grab) wrote:
Of all the vile garbage this newspaper has printed regarding the opposition to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project during the past six years, this one tops them all in its ugly biliousness. Daniel Goldstein never asked for this fight. He just wanted to keep his home. And thousands and thousands of Brooklynites supported him in that fight -- and still do. The settlement had much more to do with how much Goldstein's home was worth to Bruce Ratner, and with the state having already seized title to his home, he had no choice but to settle. The idea that he should somehow be thankful for Bruce Ratner's faux largesse -- subsidized with hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds -- would be laughable if it wasn't so sick. Yes, it looks likely that Bruce Ratner will get to build his arena, and the Daily News is free to celebrate that misguided, ill-gotten, money-losing waste of taxpayer money. But you've embarrassed yourselves with this sneering, taunting display

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.