Skip to main content

"Stop Payment": Groups say city's $100M shouldn't buy Ratner land

Maybe it was a little quixotic, since the City Council and Mayor Mike Bloomberg had come to a budget agreement on Monday, but a somewhat unusual coalition of Brooklyn community groups gathered yesterday to protest the apparent allocation of $100 million of city funds to buy land for the Atlantic Yards project.
(Photo by Shane Miller)

"'Stop Payment' for private property acquisition," read the oversized checks displayed at the press conference outside City Hall, organized by the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which has called for significant changes in Atlantic Yards but has avoided litigation opposing the project. Likely because of the budget agreement, City Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky, who have criticized the city's allocation decision, were not present at the press conference.

The $100 million is part of $205 million in city support for Atlantic Yards, which is $105 million more than contemplated in a February 2005 nonbinding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). While $105 million will go to infrastructure, the $100 million apparently has no strings attached, though officials of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) have said that it will be used to acquire land.

Better spending

The city money, protesters said, should go to mitigating the impacts of the oversize project on city services, as well as for infrastructure. Moreover, they said, it should not be delivered until a governance structure is established that incorporates public input. BrooklynSpeaks has called for such a structure since it was launched last September.

"We're calling on the mayor to ensure accountability and transparency," said Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee (above), representing BrooklynSpeaks. Even though the budget passed, the groups said, the city could still redirect the funds and push for more project oversight.

Broad coalition

Also appearing at the press conference were representatives of two groups that have not formally allied with BrooklynSpeaks in the past, an indication of rapprochement in both directions, at least on certain issues.

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) is officially neutral on Atlantic Yards but organized the most thorough criticism of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and has joined a lawsuit challenging the environmental review.

"Land acquisition should be the sole responsibility of the private developer," said CBN's Jim Vogel, who noted that CBN identified several issues needing mitigation, including traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, and an overloaded public transit system.

Also speaking was Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which has spearheaded lawsuits challenging the project. After detailing the various government benefits accruing to Forest City Ratner, he noted that $100 million represents the developer's cash payment to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the Vanderbilt Yard. In other words, if money's fungible, taxpayers could be said to be paying for that valuable site.

Unlike the other speakers, Goldstein carefully used the conditional--"if it's built"--regarding the project's prospects.

Where the money goes

According to p. 5 of the MOU, "the City's capital contribution may also be used to fund a portion of the costs of acquisition of the Arena Site (other than the MTA Properties)." However, that entire contribution was supposed to be $100 million, suggesting that some smaller segment would go to buy land. "We don't believe any money should go to land acquisition," de la Uz said.

While Forest City Ratner has already acquired some 85 percent of the project land through negotiated sales, the rest must be acquired through such sales, or via the exercise of eminent domain.

The EDC has said that the city funding will not be used for eminent domain but through future negotiated sales. Given that eminent domain purchases are at fair market value, it's not unlikely that such negotiated sales--efforts to avoid eminent domain--would be at a somewhat higher cost.

Hearing exchange

The May 8 hearing of the City Council Committee on Finance/Economic Development included this exchange between Council Member James and NYC EDC's Seth Pinsky:

COUNCIL MEMBER JAMES: The other $100 million, which is unspecified and is basically one big pot; what is that $100 million for? Does anyone have any idea?

MR. PINSKY: The $100 million will be exclusively for acquisition of land, to reimburse or pay for new acquisition of land for the project. None of it will go towards condemnation.

COUNCIL MEMBER JAMES: So this acquisition of properties that's located within a footprint which will be the subject of eminent domain, yes?

MR. PINSKY: The money, the $100 million will not go to any property that's the subject of eminent domain.

COUNCIL MEMBER JAMES: So, these are properties that you will acquire as a result of private negotiation?

MR. PINSKY: Correct.


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…