Friday, May 07, 2010

From Sixth Avenue to Dean Street and Pacific Street, a route no longer; Goldstein's exit interview with the Daily News; more debate on the settlement

On Monday night, I filmed my walk from the north part of Park Slope, where I live, up to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn co-founder Daniel Goldstein's apartment in the Atlantic Yard footprint.

Flatbush Avenue is obviously a significant barrier between Park Slope and Prospect Heights, and the mostly residential character of Sixth Avenue changes to significantly commercial. The scale of the block, albeit with fewer trees, remains fairly consistent, although the handsome four-story 78th Precinct headquarters at Bergen Street does stand out.

There are row houses along the west side of Sixth up to Dean Street. Cross Dean into the footprint and there's Freddy's, being dismantled, and other buildings empty or emptying.

The walk goes onto private Pacific Street, divided by a jersey barrier and blue fence, leaving Goldstein isolated, and into his building, which boasted a new doorman of sorts, a guy in the entrance passageway keeping tabs.



The exit interview

I interviewed Goldstein for background to be used at a later date. Meanwhile, the New York Daily News, eschewing the ambush style of the New York Post, asked Goldstein for an interview and he agreed to help them fill their space.

Here's the close:
"We were living basically under uncertainty every day," he said. "The ups and downs are a drain ... and it causes tension in a family and stress in a family."

The uncertainty ended March 1, when the state took ownership of his home through eminent domain. Facing eviction, he accepted the $3 million settlement to leave by today.

Though his building will soon be demolished and the Atlantic Yards project will go forward, he said it was all worth it.

"I looked for years for a place to live and I ended up in this one. ... I don't necessarily believe in fate, but this was a calling for me," he said. "We don't regret any of it."
The settlement

Daily News noted that Goldstein's "$3 million settlement two weeks ago drew both praise and criticism," but didn't say more.

I've pointed out that the deal meant far more to Forest City Ratner--a point hardly noticed by the press, fixated on the $3 million figure--and that Goldstein's takeaway, after lawyer's fees, taxes, and a comparable home, is much less, in the area of $1 million, for years of unpaid work, personal sacrifice, and difficult living conditions.

The fight to stop the project appears over, but the controversy over the project is not. (This could last 25 years or more.)

That said, given that Goldstein also agreed to diminish his activism somewhat, there's an argument, as I've written, for him to contribute some of his seemingly generous settlement to the larger cause he has represented.

The debate continues

The board of DDDB and most supporters seem fine with the settlement. Here's one Albany-based muckracker and opponent of eminent domain abuses, who expresses more conflicted feelings, writing:
No matter how I twist it, the amount seems a little– dare I say it?– greedy. Which wouldn’t be a big thing (we’re all human) if the greed of Forest City Ratner and ESDC hadn’t been such a DDDB theme– and if Dan Goldstein weren’t working so hard to paint himself as totally free of impure motives... That being said, I don’t believe what some of Dan’s more disillusioned fans are suggesting in Internet places. I don’t believe “he was just in it for the money”.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff also wrote about the contradiction of denouncing developers for taking taxpayer money and using it, indirectly, for paying for buyouts.

While the broad outline can't be denied--as long as public money is fungible--it should be noted that Forest City Ratner got $131 million specifically for previous land purchases, with the announcements coming well after the developer reaped good publicity for its seeming generosity.

The deal with Goldstein was business; Forest City Ratner loses money on carrying costs--claimed $6.7 million a month (though I questioned it)--and needed vacant possession to consummate the deal to sell the Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

And here's a comment in defense of Goldstein from the mother of a longtime footprint resident:
I understand the harassment those living in the neighborhood (not a few blocks away, but IN the neighborhood) have had to endure at the hands of the city and of the developer.

...It was stunning to me that you could even suggest that the Goldsteins should consider sharing the settlement.

Who has volunteered to share their pain and suffering?... It seems to me that Daniel and his family have paid a very high price already--higher than has been expected of anyone else.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your great documentation! Anyone not familiar with the area can CLEARLY see the blight!Ha. So many have lost their homes, neighborhood, neighbors and friends and have now seen the face of pure greed. I know I'm speaking to the choir...just have to say... AY is being built for a handful of power hungry money grubbers! But they don't always win, the users/abusers of eminent domain have been put on notice thanks to Daniel and DDDB.

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