Saturday, October 29, 2011

Forest City: dropping Mill Basin project had nothing to do with corruption probe

The Wall Street Journal today follows up on news (as I and others reported yesterday) that Forest City Ratner's Four Sparrows Marsh Retail Center at Mill Basin has been withdrawn, explaining that it's actually dead, but--according to the developer--the Carl Kruger corruption charges have nothing to do with it.

In Plans Killed for Project Tied to Probe, the newspaper reports:
The shopping center had ties to a corruption case involving Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, but Forest City officials said that case had no connection to their decision to drop the project.

The builder believed the shopping center faced an uphill battle on two fronts, according to a person familiar with the matter: Forest City was worried about political opposition to the big-box retailers planned for the site, and the developer wanted to avoid an expected lengthy legal battle over turning city park land into commercial space.
Well, Atlantic Yards faced a battle, if not an uphill one, but Forest City Ratner deemed it worth it. There's always a cost-benefit analysis, and I'd bet that the corruption case was another factor in Forest City's analysis of Four Sparrows.

Post coverage

The New York Post, in Ratner scraps pol-tainted retail project, reported similarly, though with another headline that referenced the corruption charges:
The firm denied that the move was tied to Kruger’s case, saying it simply wants to focus more on projects such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. But two sources said the company also wants to avoid a costly legal battle with project opponents who do not want to see Flatbush Avenue parkland removed to make way for the commercial development.
Past help from Kruger

The Post noted:
The Post previously reported that Kruger sent former Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber a scathing letter in January 2008 threatening to sue the city because it then wanted to begin the mandatory public review process on the dealership’s portion of the Four Sparrow project, without FCR’s part. At the time, the car dealership plan was in jeopardy if the city didn’t move quickly, but FCR wasn’t ready to begin a public review – and was concerned that segmenting the project could hurt its plans, sources said. "It is our intent, and the shared intent of the community and other elected officials, to commence legal action if necessary," Kruger said in the letter.
The city ultimately gave in to Kruger’s demands, setting back the entire project three years.
In other words, Kruger was doing Forest City's bidding.

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