Monday, May 13, 2013

Ratner honored as Urban Land Institute Legend; says "we did a good job [re eminent domain] but we can always do a better job"

The New York Chapter of the Urban Land Institute--a major organization for real estate professionals--last week honored Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner as an ULI Legend, citing professional achievement and distinguished service. I'll offer some comments in counterpoint to the tweets below

The summary is headlined “You Can’t Do What We Do Without Being an Optimist”: Bruce Ratner Shares Insight with ULI New York:
On May 8, ULI New York celebrated Bruce Ratner’s legacy, accomplishments and invaluable commitment to the City of New York as we honored him as our 2013 Real Estate Legend. Greg David, an award-winning columnist and former editorial director for Crain’s New York Business moderated a dynamic discussion with the iconic developer and owner.
With decades of experience in the real estate industry, Mr. Ratner discussed his experiences, both positive and negative, from the beginning of his career in City government and leading up to his current role as Executive Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC). Mr. David highlighted a career full of achievements and innovative projects, including Barclays Center, the B2 building, which will be the world’s tallest tower built using modular construction techniques when completed, Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center, New York by Gehry at 8 Spruce Street and the New York Times building.
On Twitter
I thought it was "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops."
Being "liberal" is why he gives campaign contributions to Republicans?
What about significant spending on p.r., lobbying, and campaign contributions?
Not delivering the promised jobs and housing is not "having it any other way"?

What about eminent domain?
Well, let's unpack that rather fractured and fragmentary statement. Ratner may have been referring to his company's efforts to buy property under the threat of eminent domain and avoid condemnation.

Indeed, some of the offers did seem generous, though the upside for Ratner--increased development rights far beyond those available to current owners--was far greater. And the city did reimburse his company for some $100 million of those seemingly generous land purchases.

As for the exercise of eminent domain, that was done by the state. Then again, given that the consultant chosen by the state (AKRF) was hired to prepare a blight study in support of the proposed project" rather than a study of neighborhood conditions----and Forest City paid for it all--maybe that does qualify as a job done by the developer.

Regarding the legal battle over eminent domain, let's quote New Jersey law professor Ronald Chen, not exactly a fervent libertarian, who observed, "My personal view is the New York Court of Appeals basically abdicated any meaningful role for the judiciary in determining whether a blight designation even passed the laugh test."

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