Skip to main content

Daily News pokes at Lipsky contradiction on eminent domain; also, FCR may have hired him for youth sports, but he's been a zealous advocate

Daily News columnist Adam Lisberg yesterday took a swipe at lobbyist Richard Lipsky for some seeming inconsistency: vigorous advocacy against projects involving eminent domain like Willets Point and Columbia University, while working for Bruce Ratner on Atlantic Yards.

Lisberg writes:
At the same time, though, developer Bruce Ratner's companies are paying Lipsky $3,500 a month for "information and advice" on Atlantic Yards, the controversial project to bring apartments and the Nets basketball team to Brooklyn.

The first phase of Atlantic Yards alone required the state to condemn 15 privately owned properties.

Eminent domain allows government to seize a private owner's property to serve the greater public good — if you consider a basketball stadium or a shopping center to be a public good.

Lipsky said he's usually against it, but the Nets arena and its benefits for neighborhood kids make it worthwhile in Brooklyn.

"I don't have an absolute position on [eminent domain] but I do have a strong disposition against it," Lipsky said. "It takes a lot to push me in that direction."

He also said he only worked on Atlantic Yards' youth sports efforts programs, not its eminent domain work efforts.

Of course, Ratner could have hired him to work for Atlantic Yards just so the opponents couldn’t hire him to work against it.

"That's true," Lipsky acknowledged. "You'd have to ask them why they hired me."

An Atlantic Yards spokesman said Lipsky was hired strictly for youth sports programs.
What Lipsky's argued: CBA

If Lipsky was hired strictly for youth sports programs, he sure hasn't let that stop him from extolling Atlantic Yards for multiple reasons.

He wrote in July 2009:
A truly empowering CBA [Community Benefits Agreement] is a phenomenon that has yet to be seen in the Bronx-or any where else in NYC-with Atlantic Yards, in our view, being the major exception.
A major exception? None of the empowered CBA signatories ever raised a peep about the failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor.

What Lipsky's argued: economic benefits

He wrote in September 2008:
We can only hope so, since the arena and the team would be a huge boost, not only for the city, but for the thousands of young people that are playing ball in Brooklyn harboring the dream of playing professionally. It will be inspiring for these youngsters, and the Nets will be partnering with the amateur sports groups in the borough to channel the dreams into constructive directions for those majority of young people whose dreams are not commensurate with professional talent.

At the same time, the project will be a big economic boost for the city at a time when the both the mayor and the governor are looking to raise taxes to cover revenue shortfalls; but it hasn't been easy for FCRC (also our client)...

There are those who have criticized us for alleged inconsistency over the issue of eminent domain because of our opposition to the efforts of Columbia. That being said, the two projects substantially differ in regards to their relationship to the public interest. Forest City's going to build thousands of affordable housing units, while Columbia resists doing anything substantive for the West Harlem community-and this is without factoring in the economic and social boost that the Nets relocation will bring to Brooklyn.
Lipsky should know that it's highly questionable that the project would be a big economic boost; the studies on which the city and state relied have enormous holes.

As for the promises of affordable housing, Forest City's not going to build the units until they get subsidies, and even the first building's delayed.

What Lipsky's argued: Brooklyn Day

He wrote in June 2008:
We've always maintained that the AY project, on balance, has much good to offer Brooklyn and the rest of the city, but as the critics point out, we're paid to say that. So don't take our word for it, listen the the kids and the amateur athletic teams that turned out on Brooklyn Day to trumpet the Nets coming to the city-they know what kind of excitement and support the team will bring to the youngsters; and we still haven't touched on the housing which will follow the team's entrance.
Brooklyn Day was not exactly a day of excitement--it was an event ginned up by Forest City Ratner. But maybe Lipsky sees his Brooklyn Day advocacy as connected to youth sports programs.

Lipsky's reponse

Today, Lipsky writes:
Now, we dealt with this issue six years ago-emphasizing the importance of the Nets coming to Brooklyn:

"From the Alliance's perspective the most salient reason to join hands with FCRC, Build and Acorn is the bringing of the Nets to Brooklyn with a brand new arena. When the Alliance's Richard Lipsky was an up and comer plying his basketball wares all over the city, Brooklyn was a mecca for all BBall pilgrims. It still is, and the love for the game is beyond what even we would have imagined when we first began to evaluate the AY proposal.

The Brooklyn Nets are going to galvanize the entire borough and the team and its ownership is going to play a major role in working along with the youth leaders of Brooklyn in their tireless and unacknowledged efforts on behalf of the kids. That is why the support has been so unequivocal from these community folks."

A position that we reiterated when we talked with Lisberg
Except his position is well beyond sports.

Shady deal?

Lipsky adds:
But what Lisberg misses here-and should pursue in our view-is that our representation of WPU has always been straightforward and above board. The proponents of this massive boondoggle, however, have been underhanded from the start-improperly hiring Claire Shulman's local development corporation to engage in a successful lobbying of the city council when such advocacy is proscribed by law.

Lisberg and his Albany colleagues should be asking the NYS Attorney General, what is the status of the investigation into the Shulman matter?
That's a fair question, and it should extend to the investigation of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and its Atlantic Yards lobbying, as well.

The bottom line

Lipsky, however, misses the connection between high-profile cases, writing last October:
There is simply no way, in our view, that the confiscation of private property in West Harlem has anything to do with a public use-and the plan was hatched in the bowels of CU and emerged fully grown somehow as a state initiative-call it legerdemain.
Lipsky may think that the Columbia and East Harlem cases he's criticized are somehow different from Atlantic Yards, but that's not what the experts say.

Last month, I listened to some law professors discuss the state of eminent domain in New York. (I'll have more details in a bit.) There was an enormous amount of criticism of the doctrine laid down in the Atlantic Yards case, which essentially gives condemning agencies carte blanche.


  1. Lipsky "said he only worked on Atlantic Yards' youth sports efforts programs, not its eminent domain work efforts."

    Really? Here is an example of Lipsky only working on youth sports efforts programs (as NoLandGrab's Eric McClure keeps making clear, it's all about the kid$$$$). Lipsky wrote:

    "Goldstein also told the paper that a size reduction alone would not halt the "my way or the highway"opposition to the project. Even the linchpin of the development for so many in Brooklyn-the team and the arena- is something that this misanthrope wants to disappear. Which means that the best thing that could happen to Brooklyn would be for Goldstein to disappear from the footprint of the borough.

    His opposition to the arena, something we are going to advertise far and wide throughout the borough, means that there are now thousands of newly minted volunteers who will be delighted to man the bulldozer when the legal green flag is waived to demolish this obstructionist's abode. He has now gone from being a legitimate critic to just some self-serving crank and a pest."

    Youth sports efforts — yeah right. I guess the threats and character assassination were just freebies Lipsky thought he'd give to Ratner.


Post a Comment

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…

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…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…