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Atlantic Yards Watch

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Showdown at the Brooklyn Museum

Developer Bruce Ratner is slated to receive an award tonight at a fancy gala, and opponents of his Atlantic Yards project will be there to make sure he doesn't enjoy it.

Chris Smith: Ratner Showing Fear, At Last?

Atlantic Yards
Here's the argument Bruce Ratner's lawyers won't be making in court: "Please hurry up and make a decision on the lawsuits challenging Atlantic Yards, judges, because the delay is cutting into our profits." But while the sentiment goes unvoiced, that's what Ratner's current posturing is really all about. Last week Ratner's representatives filed papers with a state appellate panel seeking to expedite a ruling because "the credit markets are in turmoil at this time … There is a serious question as to whether, given the current state of the debt market, the underwriters will be able to proceed with the financing for the arena while the appeal is pending."

Ratner, Lopez Do Business the Old-Fashioned Way

Bruce Ratner
Major decisions and policy changes often seem to come out of nowhere in Albany, thrown together in the late-night rush to beat the close of a legislative session. But when it comes to Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards, the foundation for such maneuvers has been quietly in the works for years. And last night, the savvy stroking paid off for him yet again. It'll cost you, though.

Ombudsmania Comes to Brooklyn

Attention, urban megaproject buffs (and perhaps the newly ombudsunemployed Barney Calame), the Empire State Development Corporation, the state entity that green-lighted Bruce Ratner's lawsuit-plagued Atlantic Yards, has a fascinating vacancy about to open up: Atlantic Yards Ombudsman. Fun! Our imagined job listing: Short job description: A community liaison between the agency, elected officials, and the public. Expanded job description: A volunteer willing to stand up in the multiparty crossfire over the project as it lumbers from the demolition to the construction phase — while a sizable opposition lobby calls the whole thing illegal. One of the tasks is "minimizing disruptions" to the process, which may put you in the awkward position of papering over ESDC's own previous findings. Another is providing the media with fresh information on the project, which means your every word will be viciously parsed by dozens of entities with their own agendas. Workplace hazards: Daily flurry of Develop Don't Destroy press releases (the current headline on DDDB.net: "Ombudsperson Schmombudsperson"); collapsing buildings. Compensation: Not nearly enough. Ombudsman slated for Brooklyn project [Metro NY] Ombudsperson Schmombudsperson [DDDB]

And So the Demolition Begins

The battle of Atlantic Yards has moved from the rarefied arena of the literary think piece through various political fights and ongoing court battles to, now, the simplest setup possible: In one corner, protesters; in the other, bulldozers. Yesterday, Forest City Ratner began knocking down four of the fifteen buildings around Flatbush Avenue it has slated for demolition. About a hundred Develop Don't Destroy stalwarts — that's the group's turnout estimate — met the machines with some chants and signage, although no one tried to actually halt the demolition. The DDDB word is that Ratner is being hasty on purpose — to create a sense that Atlantic Yards is a fait accompli, even with an eminent-domain lawsuit hanging over it and a more thorough environmental review being demanded as we speak. It's hard to shake a guilty feeling that, crude as the tactic is, Ratner may be succeeding. There's something pre-deflated about a protest sign reading, as one did yesterday, "These Demolitions Are Premature." Premature?! How about "illegal"? "Criminal"? We know they're not, technically. But you're a protest sign; you can say these things! Develop Don't Destroy Release [DDDB.net]

Why Protest When You Can Sue?

In the battle over Atlantic Yards, events in a lower Manhattan courthouse this afternoon amounted to a shot blocked by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn chief Daniel Goldstein. As nobody can avoid knowing, Goldstein has led a coalition of civic groups petitioning to stop the megaproject by suing in federal and state court over its environmental and legal review. Goldstein and fellow protestors planned to block alleged demolition by developer Forest City Ratner tomorrow at 8 a.m. but instead went to court today to seek a temporary restraining order. By 5:30, FCR had "graciously" agreed to avoid demolition this week, Goldstein told us. A judge will rule on the restraining order by Friday, he says, so there will be no protest tomorrow morning. (Sleep in, enraged Brooklynites!) A FCR spokesperson confirmed that he had been in court all day and promised no demolition tomorrow. Goldstein warned that Monday could be a different story. —Alec Appelbaum

Another Lawsuit, and More Construction

The Atlantic Yards standoff has entered a stage probably best described with the help of a folksy simile, maybe something about a man haranguing a bear that, meanwhile, is quietly chewing his leg. How so? Well, today there's news of the fourth and latest lawsuit against Forest City Ratner, this one filed by Assemblyman James Brennan. It demands that the Yards' business plan be made available for public scrutiny. On the ground, meantime, there's conspicuous activity (deliberately so, say critics): Bulldozers are humming, an old bus parking lot is gone, and asbestos is being ferried out of a Pacific Street building in preparations for demolition. Come to think of it, the situation is beginning to look less like a standoff and more like a game of chicken. But, then, we wonder if Brennan even needs to win his suit for it to be a success: Demanding transparency on a high-profile city project is probably not the worst thing to do if you're running for city comptroller. UPDATE: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's indefatigable Daniel Goldstein emails to point out that the most recent lawsuit against Ratner, fresh out of the legal oven, was filed today by 26 co-petitioners seeking to annul the Yards' environmental-impact statement. The Brennan suit has been kicking around since last month. The more the merrier! Clearing of Atlantic Yards’ Site Proceeds as Legal Thicket Grows Denser [NYT]

Bruce Ratner Swings His Ball

It has begun. As you read this, Bruce Ratner's bulldozers should be moving in on a defenseless bus depot on the eastern edge of the Atlantic Yards site. Depending on your point of view, this is either an uplifting bit of symbolism or the rough equivalent of Bambi's mother getting shot by hunters. For the Daily News, which seems capable of looking at the multi-skyscraper megaproject only through the prism of basketball, everything's coming up roses: "The Brooklyn Nets arena has finally got game," its coverage begins. Naturally, the ever-indignant Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn takes a different tack.

Atlantic Yards: Now Twice As Expensive (for the City)

Guess what tidbit slipped in almost unnoticed among the ecstatic fiscal prognostications of Bloomberg's recent budget speech? Turns out Mayor Mike — in between doling out tax breaks like the Republican he purports to be and money for the arts like the Democrat we know he secretly is — hasn't forgotten his pal Bruce Ratner. He is doubling the city's direct subsidy to the Atlantic Yards megaproject. Yup, City Hall is now set to kick $205 million across the Manhattan Bridge; for context, that's more than 5 percent of New York's overall budget surplus. How did the mayor avoid media hoopla over this? (Other, that is, than a dutifully outraged press release from Develop Don't Destroy?) Here's how: The funding is for "infrastructure improvements" that are supposedly independent of the construction. They just happen to be, um, concurrent with it. Sometimes we forget that, taxer or spender, Bloomberg is first and foremost a businessman. Bloomberg's Budget Doubles Subsidy For Atlantic Yards [NYS]

Bruce Ratner Will Ensure You Have Overpriced Coffee

Speaking of the inexorable march of franchised coffee, we noticed something interesting while idly gazing at some Atlantic Yards plans today. While much about Bruce Ratner's project is still up in the air — Miss Brooklyn's size, the project's time line, the exact numbers of jobs it will create and people it will push out of their homes, who will win Daniel Goldstein's lawsuits — one thing, however, is set in stone, at least according to sketches provided by Frank Gehry's office. Atlantic Yards will definitely have a Starbucks. Photos: Atlantic Yards Project [amNY] Earlier: Old East Villager Distressed By Starbucks Influx; Also, Sky Is Blue

Chris Smith on Atlantic Yards: The ‘Times’ Screwed Up

So there it is on today's front page: "State Approves Major Complex For Brooklyn; Vote on Atlantic Yards Caps 3-Year Conflict." And it is correct that the Public Authority Control Board — really George Pataki, Joe Bruno, and Sheldon Silver — yesterday signed off on Bruce Ratner's $4 billion stadium-and-skyscraper project. But what was truly "capped" was a farcical, corrupt political process and three years of irresponsible, lazy coverage by the Times.

Weekend Watch: Yards Supporters Approve It; Yards Opponents Sue to Block It; Earth Spins on Axis

Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn juggernaut kept churning through the weekend, as two residential buildings in the way of his Atlantic Yards dream moved closer to a date with the wrecking ball. The Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency that's been pushing this megaproject all along, unanimously voted to condemn any and all structures that stand in its way. Ratner's Forest City already owns the buildings in question, having thoughtfully bought them two years ago; what it doesn't own, and has little authority over, are some of the tenants' stabilized rents. Thirteen of the affected residents immediately banded together and sued. The charge: You can't condemn a building without officially erasing the tenants' leases first. The question is now, and surely not for the last time, in State Supreme Court. Which should hold up that wrecking ball for at least a little bit. A Nod for Atlantic Yards, and Then a Lawsuit [NYT]

The Highbrow Case for Atlantic Yards

For some time now, it's seemed that the richer, whiter parts of Brooklyn were opposed to Bruce Ratner's gargantuan Atlantic Yards project, while the poorer, minoritier parts were in favor. The development, including lots of market-rate housing, some below-market housing, and a future Brooklyn Nets stadium, has always attracted a weirdly disconnected array of reactions: Most blue-collar local residents welcomed it (more jobs, retail, etc.), while highbrow liberals — looking out for the people! — were aghast. (Entitled NIMBYism? Wishful suckerism? Who knows.) Was it possible, then, to be a pro-Yards guilty intellectual? Yes! Acceptance is just another twist of pretzel logic away, as demonstrated by the contrarian post-ironists at n+1. The stadium, writes Jonathan Liu, is a great idea precisely because it's all wrong for the borough. It's our ossified idea of what's right for the borough (brownstones, more brownstones) that's the problem, he says. Or something. Whatever he's saying, it seems Atlantic Yards has — finally! — reached the "Backlash to the Backlash" point on our Undulating Curve. A Sporting Chance [n+1] Mr. Ratner's Neighborhood [New York Magazine]