It’s been a bad week for massive urban-planning projects. First came news that Madison Square Garden would be renovating instead of moving into the Moynihan Station megadevelopment across Eighth Avenue.
Atlantic Yards: Activist Clive Campbell has filed a $5 billion suit against Bruce Ratner, Jay-Z, and Barclay's bank. He's suing for slavery reparations, because of alleged slave trade ties in the history of the bank. [NYO]
Bedford-Stuyvesant: Cleaning your dog's poop is all about respect. Respecting yourself, that is. [Newyorkshitty]
Dumbo: If you want your short film to play on the big screen at Brooklyn Bridge Park, now's the time to submit it to Movies With a View. No subtitles, please. [Dumbo NYC]
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."
Bruce Ratner has plans to build Brooklyn's tallest structure using air rights from CUNY's NYC Technical College. The City Tech tower, to be designed by Renzo Piano, is being built with the collaboration of the school — and in return, they'll get a new class and lab building, built by Ratner. But there's one loser in this deal: George Westinghouse High School, which uses an auditorium and parking lot on the CUNY site where Ratner will be building. School officials only received a fax with the announcement a couple of days before a crew arrived to start work for excavation. "The principal asked the workers to leave the property, and they did," a community activist explained later. The school has rented the space from CUNY for years, and administrators have tried since September to learn what will happen to it. "They had one sit-down with construction people that ended poorly," says the activist. The school's PTA will meet with representatives of both Ratner and the Department of Education on January 19 (which would seem to make them more influential than dozens of celebrity protesters against Ratner's other Brooklyn projects, who can't seem to get a meeting with him). Ratner spokesman Lorin Reigelhaupt promises to restore lost parking spaces on-site or nearby, but neither Reigelhaupt nor the DOE will comment on the future of the auditorium. —Alec Appelbaum
Times Square: If the New York Times building is so green, how come there's nowhere to park a bike? [Streetsblog]
Atlantic Yards: Will the Yards eventually feel more like Madison Square Garden, or Newark? This blog captures the debate from the Brian Lehrer Show. [Atlantic Yards Report]
Brooklyn Heights: The Wandering Stranger of Schermerhorn Street has disappeared! And has earned himself a poetic blog elegy. [Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn via Brooklyn Heights Blog]
Brooklyn City Councilman Bill DeBlasio plans to run for borough president, and the guy who wants to replace him is part of the borough’s urbanist next generation. "I’m running," said Brad Lander, 38, who directs the nonprofit Pratt Center for Community Development. Lander, neighbors might remember, got the Bloomberg administration to include affordable-housing incentives when rezoning the Williamsburg waterfront two years ago. A savvy political operator, Lander is also popular with the brownstone-bourgeois crowd — the Atlantic Yards Report quotes him approvingly. Even Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, has battled with Lander and admits grudging respect. "He’s a bright individual," Spinola says. Having successfully fought last year to bring those affordable-housing incentives to parts of all five boroughs, Lander now wants to expand them to the entire city and require public amenities in all development. He also wants to save rent stabilization. "What I feel a lot of passion about is, shouldn’t this growth and development bring us new parks and affordable housing and jobs?" he told us. "It seems like all they bring is luxury condos." —Alec Appelbaum
Back in April,
we told you how a city competition had produced attractive, ecohealthy, and affordable housing in the South Bronx. When architect Markus Dochantschi, Zaha Hadid's onetime U.S. point man, finished second in that competition, he vowed to find another spot for his utopian plans. His sights were set on the ritzy city-owned site next to BAM, where another similar competition was running. This time, he won. Dochantschi, working with German architect Stefan Behnisch, will design 187 units, including 30 for-sale apartments and an unspecified number of affordable ones, above a retail and performance space where Fulton Street meets Ashland (near Frank Gehry's modern explosion over the Atlantic Yards). He says the scheme scatters for-sale and low-income units throughout the tower to ensure that no one section becomes less desirable than others. Instead, as the above rendering shows (and another more clearly after the jump), he "twisted the orientation" to make sure the north-south exposure was no less enticing than the east-west. As a result, he says, "hotspots" throughout the building will ensure plenty of nice light and air. He hopes the building opens by 2010. —Alec Appelbaum Local Planner Gets the Big Job [Brooklyn Papers]
Related:Mr. Ratner's Neighborhood [NYM]
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.
A federal judge this afternoon dismissed Goldstein v. Pataki, the key eminent-domain case seeking to block Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. It's a major setback for the Develop Don't Destroy crowd, right? Wrong, says Matthew Brinckerhoff, DDDB's lead lawyer. Indeed, he calls it good news. "There was an initial ruling by the federal magistrate saying we didn't belong in federal court, and now a district court has said we belong in federal court but dismissed the claim," Brinckerhoff told us. Now, he says, his clients can focus their appeal on the merits of the case — that public officials delivered the massive project to Forest City Ratner when it should have gone to multiple bidders in a public process — rather than on jurisdictional technicalities. "Given where we were, we are not worse off," Brinckerhoff said. Of course — and we're not lawyers — one would imagine it would be even better not to have to appeal at all. But Brinckerhoff is standing firm and tossing off sound bites. "This is far from over," he said. —Alec Appelbaum
Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report does some disturbing math today. Bruce Ratner's Gehry-tastic Brooklyn colossus, sold to the public as a private project with some government funds thrown in, is, in fact, backed by the government more than it is by any private source. Combining the numbers strewn about in various court documents, Oder comes up with a simple and startling detail: More than half of the projected $4 billion funding for Atlantic Yards comes from public sources. The city is in for $205 million, twice the original figure, and the state for $100 million, and just over $2 billion in tax-free bonds will pay for the arena and the affordable housing. Tax-free bonds, as you might point out, are not direct grants. That's true. But they'll allow Ratner to borrow money at very, very low rates. So they're basically a government-issued discount mortgage. Boy, do we feel like chumps, paying all that interest to CitiMortgage.
Privately Financed? [Atlantic Yards Report]
New York's electricity bills, already the nation's highest, are about to go up again — probably not by the proposed 17 percent, but definitely enough to be felt. What does that mean? Blame for everyone! Con Ed says it needs the dough to improve infrastructure and maintain its "high level of service reliability," which is a pretty good joke, especially in Queens. But the company is also blaming big, grid-taxing city projects — for instance, Atlantic Yards. Needless to say, anti-Yards activists are thrilled. "Hey New York, Bruce Ratner is going to increase your Con Edison bill," begins the latest Develop Don't Destroy missive. Oh, and it's also Eliot Spitzer's fault, says Con Ed; the governor won't build new power plants. Who else is to blame? You, of course. Can't you turn down the A/C already?
Con Ed Planning an Electric $hock [NYP]
Ratner Will Increase Your Electric Bill. Shocking. [DDDB]
Five longtime members of Brooklyn's Community Board 6 were replaced by Borough President Marty Markowitz, as today’s Times reported, and there was a pattern: All were active opponents of Atlantic Yards. It was a purge, it seemed, and even stranger one conducted by a man usually viewed by the press — us included — as a kind of lovable, pizza-eating panda in a captain's hat. The five members' terms were up, and Markowitz certainly has the power to replace them, but it's typically not done, and the move seems surprisingly Machiavellian for a man best known for his boosterish enthusiasm for cheesecake. So we called CB6 member Jeff Strabone, another Yards critic whose own term isn't up until next year — and here the plot thickened. Per Strabone, Atlantic Yards was not the real cause of Marty's house-cleaning. Nope, Markowitz is looking a step ahead.
• The Times spots an interesting pattern in the turnover pattern at a Brooklyn community board: Each of the five members tossed out this week by Borough President Marty Markowitz was a vocal opponent of Atlantic Yards. [NYT]
• A fire broke out at a stable in Chestnut Ridge, about 30 miles north of the city, killing two horses and eight ponies. Yes, eight dead ponies. Good morning to you too. [amNY]
• Closing arguments have sounded in the Braunstein case, which went to the jury last night. The defense memorably insisted the hapless kidnapper's "brain broke," and the prosecution, well, didn't really disagree — but still found intent in his actions. [NYDN]
• The latest restaurant added to the lawsuit over minimum-wage violations: Jay-Z's 40/40 Club, which joins the allegedly ultrastingy B.B. King Bar and Grill (wait, are they now just targeting musician-owned places?) and others. [Metro NY]
• And five young Long Islanders had to be Tasered at Disney World; after getting caught spitting at patrons, the four teenage siblings and a friend had apparently decided on "jumping a cop" as the optimal next-step strategy. [NYP]
Seems it’s not all lawsuits and protests in Brooklyn activists’ war on Atlantic Yards; there are cartoons, too. Disturbing, disturbing cartoons. A tipster calls our attention to MissBrooklyn.net, a new and subtly deranged wiki site for posting your own apocalyptic fantasies of what the Frank Gehry centerpiece of Ratner's project will look like. So far, the pickings are slim. The most prominent picture depicts Bruce Ratner as a sort of Evil Jew, flashing a devilish grin as he exposes a strangely buff bicep with a “Miss Brooklyn” tattoo. Instead of horns, however, this Ratner has a rat’s tail. In another bit of symbolism, a wad of dollar bills is hanging out of his zipper. We strongly prefer another cartoon, which features an MS Paint girl’s-head doodle over the Gehry model: It makes the design, an inarguable folly, into something endearing. Is it too late to work it into the actual blueprints?
• Another cop's bullet, another unarmed man dead, another immigrant family demanding justice. An off-duty Manhattan officer apparently killed a Honduran van driver who sideswiped a parked car and tried to leave the scene. An investigation is under way. [amNY]
• New York State's Republican party is beginning to line up behind Rudy Giuliani, on the logic that his candidacy will help the GOP hold the State Senate. One senator says "ethnic Democrats," i.e. immigrants, will vote Rudy. Yeah, he's got the Diallo vote all sewn up. [NYT]
• Bruce Ratner must be sweatin' about something: He's sent out letters to 700 addresses near Atlantic Yards promising residents free ACs and double-paned windows (to minimize construction nuisances). The kicker: Daniel Goldstein got one. [NYP]
• The City Council is touting the "undeniable success" of a campaign designed to inform clinics and drugstores that Plan B, an emergency birth-control pill, can be sold over the counter; some 94 percent of surveyed city stores had it available. [WNBC]
• And in lesser city initiatives, a Brooklyn assemblyman is aghast after having been hipped to the fact there are hookers on the Internet. Specifically, on Craigslist! You mean all those "18 y.o. bored females" aren't just, you know, bored? [NYDN]
Our worries were unfounded, and DDDB should be worried about us. We got this totally wrong. The federal eminent-domain suit against Ratner — brought by DDDB, charging that the Atlantic Yards project violates the U.S. Constitution, captioned Goldstein v. Pataki — goes on. This was a state suit filed by eleven rent-stabilized tenants, charging that they were given inadequate compensation to move, and it was dismissed only on a jurisdictional issue. Apologies to everyone; mortification to us.
• The key lawsuit seeking to block Atlantic Yards has been dismissed on a technicality. A group of tenants facing eminent-domain relocation failed to convince a judge they weren't offered comparable housing. [NYP]
• Mark Green, the new president and one of the marquee voices of Air America, interviewed Michael Bloomberg for the network's big relaunch next week; the ex-rivals were reportedly quite chummy, trading bad puns and agreeing on most of Bloomberg's mayoral policies. [NYT]
• This is exactly what the torturously slow dismantling of the Deutsche Bank building was supposed to prevent: A fifteen-foot-long pipe fell 35 stories from the half-stripped skyscraper, plunging into a neighboring firehouse and sending two firefighters to the hospital. [NYDN]
• Bail for the domestic-enslaving Long Island couple was set at $2.5 million for the wife and $1 million for the husband; meanwhile, a raid on the mansion is said to have uncovered the instruments of torture, which include knives and a rolling pin. [Newsday]
• And, a bomb scare shook up an elementary school in the Putnam County town of Kent after a suspicious and fragrant package was delivered to the building. But not to fear: After a Hazmat team and bomb squad got involved, an X-ray revealed it was twelve pounds of marijuana. [WNBC]
* Or maybe not a bad day at all. As explained here, we totally misread this news.
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]