Friday, April 23, 2010

On the radio, Goldstein says judge pushed for deal and FCR wanted to accelerate Prokhorov takeover of the Nets

The John Gambling Show on WOR/710, home to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's weekly softball radio interview, was not going to be a terribly sympathetic forum this morning for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein, given this summary:
The founder of the anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and plaintiff in numerous unsuccessful suits against the $4.9 billion project — has reached an agreement to move out of his condo on Pacific Street in Prospect Heights. Why?
But Goldstein made a lot of points in just six minutes.

No-bid deal

"Forest City Ratner owns 22 acres in the heart of Brooklym that it got through a no-bid deal and the use of eminent domain," he said, correcting Gambling's description of an "arena project" by saying that the developer claims it will build 6430 units of housing.

"Supposedly it's a project about affordable housing," Goldstein said, noting that there are no designs for any of the towers.

"There's going to be conflict and controversy for decades to come," he said. (Unmentioned: what will DDDB do and how might he contribute.)

Settlement pressure

Gambling asked what forced Goldstein into the situation where he had to reach a settlement.

"After many years of legal battles and political battles," Goldstein said, "on March 1, the state of New York took ownership of my home. There was nothing legally I could to to get back ownership... There was nothing more I could do personally with my property to stop the project."

(I suggested that, while the remaining legal case Goldstein left is a longshot, his departure does diminish it.)

On April 10, he noted, the state filed papers to get him evicted by May 17. After court argument Wednesday, "the judge said he wanted to get the parties to resolve this issue on that day, which, after about four hours, is what occurred."

In other words, Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges wanted a compromise, not an ugly eviction proceeding.

Why they made the deal

"I no longer owned my home. The deal that they wanted to make was getting me out quickly," Goldstein said. They wanted to accelerate what was going to inevitably happen and one needs to ask: why did they do it? And they it, in the main, because they need the Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, to take over ownership of the Nets. And that could not happen until they got me out. And why do they need him to take over ownership? Because he wants to rebuild the Nets and be ready for the free-agent market.... That was the reason they need to move quickly. They gave a whole host of other reasons to the court. But that was the main reason."

Court papers discussed timing of demolition work. Prokhorov can't take over until there's vacant posession in the arena footprint. I'd add that the developer was also losing $2.5 million a month in servicing the arena bonds and claimed delay costs $6.7 million a month.

Selling out?

"People need to understand--there's been a lot of press coverage here--there's two pieces of misinformation," Goldstein said. "One is that I sold out. I had nothing left I could do personally to fight the project. And over the past seven years, four times, Forest City came to me to try to buy me out, and I refused. I refused because I could still fight their project in court and politically, as far as using my home to fight their project. That was no longer the case. I could've sold out many times over the years, and I did not. I only did it when there was nothing left for me for do."

"But they didn't offer you three million dollars before, either," Gambling suggested.

"They would've offered me much more before," Goldstein responded. "They wanted me to drop my lawsuits."

Gambling asked if Forest City Ratner had actually made an offer.

"They were prepared to make me large offers," Goldstein asserted, noting that the eminent domain lawsuits could've stopped the project--though he acknowledged no numbers were mentioned. "The conversation stopped when I said I wasn't dropping the lawsuits."

(Presumably Forest City Ratner would have calculated its costs of defending the lawsuits in composing an offer, as well as the longshot likelihood of a loss in court.)

Gag order?

"Also, it's been reported that I agreed to some sort of gag order," Goldstein said. "Well, I wouldn't be talking to you if that were the case. I continue to maintain my free speech rights and I'll continue to be a critic of the project."

Well, he's been an opponent of the project. Was the term critic an acknowledgment of the project's forward motion? Or is it that he agreed to no longer “actively oppose the project," a vague term that may well be unenforceable?

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