Skip to main content

The Ratner response to Battle for Brooklyn: AY had (and has) "overwhelming support;" also, Errol Louis interview, Dennis Holt's bad math

In an interview with filmmaker Michael Galinsky and Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein on ABC-TV, Up Close with Diana Williams, we learn Forest City Ratner's response to the film Battle for Brooklyn.

"Atlantic Yards had--and continues to have--the overwhelming support of Brooklynites, community leaders and elected officials," says the statement, attributed to paid spokesman Joe DePlasco.

"A small group of opponents tried very hard, but unsuccessfully, to stop the project. Fortunately today Atlantic Yards is under construction."

Overwhelming support? Actually, initial polls showed opposition to the project if it involved eminent domain or involved public costs.

Both, of course, are part of the project, but later polls indicated support for the project when it was said to "provide" subsidized housing. It won't. City subsidies would provide it.

(The film will screen free on June 9 at Fort Greene Park and open in New York theaters on June 17. The filmmakers will be on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show June 9.)

AY under construction?

Williams commented at the end of the FCR statement, "And you make the argument: not really."

"There's an arena," responded Goldstein. "The rest of the site is demolished and all we're being promised is parking lots."

Not quite--Forest City Ratner is now talking about finally launching the long-delayed first residential building. But the project is way behind the promises.

Why tell the tale?

Galinsky explains a justification for the film: to change the narrative, as propounded by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg at the March 2010 groundbreaking, "No one's going to remember how long it took, they're only going to see that it was done."


What's accomplished?

Williams, playing provacateur, suggests that Goldstein, as the film's protagonist, isn't a hero, since heroes accomplish things, "but nothing's changed... state courts ruled against you."

"I would argue that plenty changed," Goldstein responded. "The project was heralded as this great thing, this done deal.. if you talk to people about Atlantic Yards now, it's a disaster."

Galinsky said that Goldstein stood by his principles and also found a new life, with a wife and child.

Going down with the ship?

But Golstein didn't go down with his apartment but negotiated a deal, Williams observed.

"New York State seized my apartment," Goldstein said.

"They gave you money... several million dollars," she added.

"They compensated me for two things, taking my apartment, and kicking me out against my will... they made me whole," Goldstein said.

Forest City Ratner got far more in public largesse than it transferred to Goldstein, and Goldstein, after the costs of moving, taxes, an attorney, and a new apartment, didn't take home nearly as much as people think.

(Brooklyn Daily Eagle columnist Dennis Holt actually thinks Goldstein earned $500,000 a year. Nah.)

The eminent domain issue

Williams asked if Galinsky feels "like you've created any change in the way people see eminent domain."

Galinsky pointed out that the film has just emerged, so has yet to have had a big influence.

He said that "all the politicians who represented the area, they were all against it," which isn't quite true, given that Assemblyman Roger Green was a supporter, his successor Hakeem Jeffries rode the fence, and Rep. Yvette Clarke, in contrast with her predecessor Major Owens, supports the project.

He added that there were "only two politicians from Brooklyn at the groundbreaking." That was an exaggeration--but it was notable that so few attended, and none from the immediate area.

Galinsky noted that "New York has one of the worst records on eminent domain" and that, after the Supreme Court's controversial 2005 Kelo decision, 43 states changed their laws, but New York has not.

I'd add that even mainstream law professors believe that New York law, as evidenced in the Atlantic Yards and Columbia cases, needs reform.

Community input

"Do you ever feel like the community had any say?" Williams asked.

Goldstein responded that no local elected official, city or state, got to vote, and that, had the project gone through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, it would have been changed, and been seen as more legitimate.

What's the lesson?

Williams asked what her interviewees want people to think after seeing the movie.

Galinsky suggested a more careful reading of the press.

Goldstein said he hopes people "realize that the project is not what it may have seemed" and that people are inspired to try to fight back.

Errol Louis and eminent domain

In an excerpt from an interview on NY 1, former Daily News columnist--and longtime AY booster--Errol Louis is somewhat lower key when talking to the filmmakers.

He makes the not unreasonable point that eminent domain is legal, and that those losing their property should get just compensation.

Galinsky responds that most states other than New York have reformed their laws; again, he'd have an even stronger case if citing scholars who believe New York is a real outlier.

Galinsky also challenges Louis--who has a cameo in the movie jousting with Council Member Letitia James at a press conference--for claiming that some who sold to Ratner were made instant millionaires.

"Although obviously you had a point of view, I thought you were pretty fair about trying to get everybody somewhere into the frame of it," Louis said to the filmmakers.


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…