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Atlantic Yards, Inch by Inch

You can sue, sue, sue—but nothing ruins megaplans like a crashing economy.

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2003
12/10: Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner unveils the original plan: Frank Gehry will design a Nets basketball arena plus 2.1 million square feet of commercial space and up to 4,500 apartments. The project will cost $2.5 billion and will open in 2006. The Times says it “reflects a city that has regained its faith in the future.”

2004
1/21: Ratner (with investor Jay-Z) purchases the Nets for $300 million.
3/28: A new community-activist group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, organizes a rally on Pacific Street.

2005
7/5: FCR’s complete plan is submitted to the MTA. The scale has increased; several buildings will be more than 40 stories tall.
9/14: The MTA awards development rights to FCR after it doubles its rail yards bid to $100 million.
December: FCR announces plans to demolish six nearby buildings it owns on the grounds that they are dangerously unstable.

2006
3/31: Bowing to political pressure, FCR downscales by 5 percent, although the project is still larger than originally planned.
5/11: Gehry’s tallest tower, the 620-foot “Miss Brooklyn,” is unveiled. Condos are expected to sell at $889 a square foot.
7/16: 2,000 protesters rally in Grand Army Plaza.
10/26: In federal court, activists allege that New York State is abusing its eminent-domain rights; it’s the first major lawsuit filed (as distinct from roughly ten minor legal skirmishes) against the project.

2007
2/20: Demolition work begins.
4/5: DDDB files a second major lawsuit, now focusing on FCR’s environmental-impact study.
6/6: Lawsuit No. 1 is rejected. Plaintiffs appeal.

2008
1/11: Lawsuit No. 2 is rejected. Plaintiffs appeal.
2/26: Meanwhile, FCR again scales back, this time for economic reasons: Miss Brooklyn shrinks by 40 percent and gets 109 feet shorter.
3/21: Ratner says the sagging bond market may delay work.
5/5: Another redesign. Miss Brooklyn is gone; Gehry calls his new design “more festive.”
6/5: FCR sponsors a “Brooklyn Day” rally. Scheduled guest Al Sharpton fails to show.
6/23: The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal of lawsuit No. 1. A third major lawsuit—also about eminent domain, this time in state court—is filed.

2009
1/9: FCR starts “value engineering” Gehry’s arena design, cutting costs by more than half.
1/22: FCR in talks with the MTA to restructure its $100 million payment.
2/8: Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz suggests that Atlantic Yards receive federal stimulus money.
2/26: A state appeals court rejects lawsuit No. 2.
3/7: A Journal op-ed: “Atlantic Yards has razed 26 buildings, with government help, creating the blight its developer had argued was there all along.”
3/24: Gehry says, “I don’t think [Atlantic Yards] is going to happen.” Ratner responds: “Atlantic Yards will get built.”

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