Skip to main content

Overstatements from the DEIS hearing: land acquisition, legal challenge, new high schools, housing

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

There were several overstatements and deceptions during the DEIS hearing, notably claims that developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) would pay for the land, that the opponents' legal case was unstoppable, that FCR would build four new high schools, and that affordable housing would be "given" out and guaranteed.

(All emphases are added.)

FCR paying for the site?

Early on, ANN HULKA, Senior Vice President - Real Estate, Empire State Development Corporation, read some boilerplate that was true at the time:
The project developer, Forest City, owns or controls approximately 87 percent of the project site inclusive of land owned by the MTA and City property. It is expected that ESDC will acquire title to the project -- the entire project site exclusive of the parcels to be retained by the MTA -- by condemnation, excuse me. All costs of site acquisition will be born by Forest City.

As we know, the city's initial $100 million contribution goes exclusively for land acquisition. A hint of that emerged in January 2007, when the city added $105 million to its contribution, and it was confirmed in March 2007.

An unstoppable legal case?

Later in the evening came some hubris about the upcoming legal challenge to the project.

DANIEL GOLDSTEIN, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: If ESDC and Forest City Enterprises insist on the use of eminent domain, owners and renters, including myself, will litigate to save our homes and businesses and no project will be built at this site for years, if ever. It is your choice. That is your decision.

And you --you have no defense against the case we intend to bring....

Well, the new state eminent domain case is still pending, but the federal case was dismissed before trial, at two levels of federal court, and then the U.S. Supreme Court was unwilling to hear it.

Four high schools?

Some project supporters were reading the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) very generously.

DESHAUN TAYLOR, a member of BUILD (Brooklyn United For Innovative Local Development): Now, as a youth activist, I engage in working with at-risk teenagers. I work with under-served teenagers. And I work with the teenage population of the New York City Foster Care System here in New York City.

And what I find is that it is appalling that 88 of 114 SURR
[Schools Under Registration Review] schools in New York City are in Brooklyn and that's something that we can do something about. Now, going into the community benefits agreement, it says that this community benefits agreement with Mr. Ratner has made a legally binding agreement to build four new high schools in Brooklyn, New York. That's what I'm talking about.

Later on, that issue was seconded.

DEBBIE TAMIFOOK, a member of ACORN: Reverend Daughtry, who at one time was against the project... came to the meetings. Everything that was asked for was granted. Everything that he was fighting for was granted. Now we're going to have a senior center included in the project. We're going to have four new schools, high schools.

School promises

The Community Benefits Agreement says nothing about Ratner committing to build four high schools. It states:
The Developers agree to work with BUILD, trade unions, local universities, local community groups and elected officials towards the creation of a High School for Construction Management and Trades to be located preferably within the Neighboring Community, and if not, then within the Surrounding Community and, if not, then elsewhere within the Community somewhere within Brooklyn. The creation of such a High School will be subject to public and/or private funding.

It also states:
SCHOOLS. The Project Developer will work with the DBEC in the creation of educational services, including the development of four (4) schools that will be located in the Surrounding Community, subject to the approval of appropriate governmental authorities. Such schools shall include:
* Cleveland Robinson Academy for Labor Studies, a charter school that will have as its focus construction technology, construction management, and entertainment technology.
* The Jackie Robinson Academy, a charter school that will have as its focus sports, science, and sports management.
* The Lewis Latimer Academy, a new vision school that will have as its focus information technology.
* The Wonder School, a charter school that will focus on music and film, including the study of the business side of the music and film industry.

What does "work with" mean?

Later in the hearing came a response concerning the legitimacy of those promises.

JEFF BAKER, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn attorney: The community benefits agreement has been touted as this wonderful, important agreement. Many people have pointed to the fact that it provides for health care facilities, community centers, day care facilities. Let me be clear, read the agreement - it specifically disavows any financial obligation by Forest City Ratner... to pay for any of those things. There is no money to do it.

Another school promise

Remember, in December 2006, after the project was approved by the Public Authorities Control Board, the Daily News massively overhyped--with the headline "Nets go High Tech: Ratner throws in new home for elite Brooklyn HS in arena deal"--a vague plan by Forest City Ratner to "work with the City, State and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough."

No such plan is part of Atlantic Yards, though a much smaller K-8 school is planned for the project.

"Giving out" affordable housing

There were also some inflated promises about affordable housing.

STATE SENATOR MARTIN GOLDEN: Atlantic Yards will not only be one of the greatest job creators for our borough that it has witnessed in decades, it will also help to address one of the most troubling issues that face Brooklyn and that's affordable housing - giving out 2,200 units of affordable housing.

The project wouldn't "give out" affordable housing; the housing depends on scarce tax-exempt bonds.

PAT BOONE, president of NY ACORN: Therefore, I do believe this project will give me joy and piece of mind for myself, on a more personal note, because I have a son who is paraplegic. And I know now that when I retire should my son decide to stay on here in New York and live on his own, I know that there will be an affordable place that he may look forward to and he can call home in the same borough where he, like his mom, myself was born.

If it does get built, there'd be a lottery for places.


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…