Sunday, May 02, 2010

Observer editorial declares "Progress in Brooklyn"

The New York Observer, which (in its Commercial Observer edition) printed an "op-ed" from Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin in February, this week offers an editorial saluting the latest AY settlement, headlined Progress in Brooklyn.

Let's recall that the Observer is owned by real estate investor Jared Kushner.

The Observer opines:
The saga of Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn may be about to reach a satisfying denouement. One of the most vocal opponents of developer Bruce Ratner’s plans for the site, Daniel Goldstein, has agreed to accept a $3 million payment for his apartment, despite having promised that he would stand his ground.
Wait a sec--he no longer owned his condo; it was owned by the state. Yes, he might have fought until the end, but that also would've exposed him to the risk of a lowball settlement.

The editorial continues:
There are no more residential holdouts on the 22-acre site, and the project’s opponents have lost one of their key allies in their long and loud opposition to Mr. Ratner’s project. The $4.9 billion plan should now move forward after languishing for far too long.
Actually, there are still several residents on the site, and they don't have to decide whether to be holdouts, because their homes would be subject to condemnation in the second phase of the project.

Affordable housing stalled?

The editorial continues:
Mr. Ratner already has begun construction of a new basketball arena, the future home of the New Jersey Nets. But his plan to build as many as 6,000 apartments—30 percent of which are designed for moderate-income tenants—has stalled while opponents like Mr. Goldstein have stood in the way, insisting that Mr. Ratner’s plan was too ambitious.
Actually, Goldstein was in the way of the arena, and the sale of the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Ratner can't build the affordable housing until there are plans for towers, and subsidies.

The editorial continues:
It surely is ambitious, and not least because Mr. Ratner has set aside so many apartments for people of modest means, at least by New York standards Mr. Ratner has tried to do the right thing, as some tenant advocates have acknowledged. But in some circles in New York, it is a capital crime to speak well of a real estate developer or to suggest that a new project might be good for any given neighborhood.
The "tenant advocates" are led by ACORN, which is contractually required to support the project, was bailed out by Forest City Ratner, and stands to benefit--via successor New York Communities for Change--from managing the subsidized housing.

Unmentioned are the clauses in the Development Agreement that allow for delays in affordable housing.

And when will it be done?

The editorial closes:
Mr. Ratner has persevered, to his credit. Downtown Brooklyn will be a better place when the Atlantic Yards project is finished. If there is any justice, Mr. Ratner’s critics will concede the point when the time comes.
Well, Atlantic Yards would be in Prospect Heights. As for when it would be finished, in April 2009, then-CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation Marisa Lago said would take "decades."

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