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Atlantic Yards

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Bruce Ratner vs. the Homeless, Too

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• 350 residents were ordered out of a homeless shelter after a parapet fell off a Ratner-condemned building next door. Even the dourest pessimists at Develop Don't Destroy didn't think mass displacement at Atlantic Yards would already be an issue. [NYT] • So that's why the City Council wants to ban metal bats: An assistant baseball coach at East Side's Norman Thomas H.S. allegedly went medieval with one, clubbing two kids over the head for cheering on a rival team. [NYDN] • Not a week after a court confirmed activists' right to film cops at protests, the NYPD is asking a judge to give officers back the right to film protesters. Everyone's a damn auteur in this city. [amNY] • Asian American groups are steadily mounting an Imus Redux; CBS Radio is under pressure to can shock jocks "JV and Elvis" for prank-calling a Chinese restaurant with "shlimp flied lice" jokes. Shouldn't we be addressing the larger issue of why prank-calling restaurants is a marketable career option? [MediaChannel] • And Jon Corzine says "I'm the most blessed person who ever lived." Point taken, J.C.: The man is walking and talking two weeks after meeting a guardrail at 91mph. [WNBC]

And So the Demolition Begins

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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]

Judge Won't Stand in Ratner's Way

A New York State judge announced this afternoon that she won't stop Bruce Ratner from razing several Brooklyn buildings to start construction on his Atlantic Yards project. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn appeared in a lower Manhattan courtroom Tuesday to request a temporary restraining order against Forest City Ratner, keeping the developer from starting demolition pending a May 3 hearing on DDDB's lawsuit claiming in inadequate environmental-review process. Justice Joan Madden promised a decision today, and she has now denied the DDDB request. FCR showed Madden a schedule Wednesday outlining the demolition of fifteen buildings between April 18 and the end of June, she wrote. Reasoning that a restraining order "is a drastic remedy which should be sparingly used," she wrote she failed to find "factual support" that the first nine buildings on the block will "affect the nature and character of the area." DDDB chief Daniel Goldstein quickly issued a statement. "The court expressly stated that in making today's TRO decision it was not pre-judging the merits of petitioners claims filed on April 5th," he said in a press release. He has called a protest for Monday at 8 a.m. at 191 Flatbush Avenue, where he expects demolition work to begin. In the Matter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn v. Empire State Development Corporation [PDF]

Après le Deluge

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• Nor'easter weekend scorecard: 400 flights canceled, 1,500 homes left without power on Long Island, and 3,200 National Guard troops dispatched to the flooded areas. [amNY] • New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, injured in a car crash Thursday, remains under sedation at Cooper University Hospital. Corzine broke his left femur, collarbone, sternum, many ribs, and a vertebra. His prospects are good, however, after additional surgery yesterday. [NYT] • Terrible rain and wind didn't stop 200 anti-Ratner activists from making it to a rally protesting planned demolitions at the Atlantic Yards site. The developer is taking out several buildings to create a seven-acre, 1,600-car "temporary" parking lot. [MetroNY] • It's creepy enough that the New York socialite Toni Grossi-Abrams was murdered in Panama and her charred body found in a suitcase. Now the prime suspect in the case is a thrill-seeking Pennsylvania mother whose ex-husband "wouldn't put nothing past her." [NYDN] • And in more Americans-abroad mischief, a Beacon School teacher is in trouble after taking his history class to Cuba for a spring-break trip. Cuba is still illegal for Americans to travel to, of course, and students face a $65,000 fine each. The principal claims, unconvincingly, that she hasn't heard about the trip. [NYP]

Photograph, Then Destroy

The usually indefatigable Develop Don't Destory Brooklyn, which media outlets across the city can typically rely upon for Ratner-castigating press releases pegged to almost any occurrence, sent this today:

From: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 10:36:46 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Sol Lewitt Wall Paintings in Ratner Building Slated for Atlantic Yards Demo Artist Sol Lewitt, a giant in the conceptual and minimal art movements and one of the great innovators in the past 40 years, died on Sunday at the age of 78. Lewitt was famous, amongst other works, for his wall paintings … 644 Pacific Street is in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's proposed "Atlantic Yards" project, specifically in the footprint of the arena itself. In that building, once occupied by one of Mr. Lewitt's studio assistants, are at least two wall paintings by the artist. The building is in the list of the first round of demolitions the developer intends to begin in the coming weeks. These wall paintings should be photographed for historical documentation and the Sol Lewitt catalogue.
Photographed?! That's it? Either they're crappy Lewitts, or Daniel Goldstein is going soft. On Sol Lewitt [DDDB]

Another Lawsuit, and More Construction

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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]

The Starrett Sale Is Dead!

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• That $1.3 billion Starrett City deal? Yeah, not gonna happen. The Housing and Urban Development secretary is blocking the sale of the subsidized enclave to Clipper Equity. The deal's vocal opponents included Bloomberg, Cuomo, Spitzer, Schumer, Clinton, and, apparently, God. [NYDN] • Meanwhile, the demolition at the future Atlantic Yards site begins in earnest, with Ratner aiming the wrecking ball at twelve buildings on Pacific, Flatbush, Vanderbilt, and Dean — all within next week. Is it good-bye, weird Guyanese JRG Fashion Cafe? [NYP] • The dancing-rat drama is far from over. In fact, it's amping up: After its initial gaffe, the Health Department came down like a hammer on three more joints (this time, for variety's sake, Pizza Huts) owned by the same franchisee; the parent company, Yum Brands, then voluntarily closed ten more. [NYT] • And dentist Lawrence Rosenthal is suing Cory Lidle's estate for $7 million dollars, because the Yankee's fiery death had inconvenienced him. This, mind you, is the same Rosenthal of the BadDentist.com infamy. Litigious, much? [amNY]

Coney Island to Stay Low-Profile, Literally

Coney Island: Chief circus freak lauds Bloomberg for saying that luxury high-rises don’t fit Coney’s future. [Brooklyn Paper] • Lower Manhattan: The Fulton Fish Market and Sharper Image were only the start of changes to South Street Seaport. Pier 17’s up next. [Curbed] • Prospect Heights: At Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards community-liaison office, they film you while you kvetch. [Atlantic Yards Report] • Springfield Gardens: Southeastern Queens residents take to the streets to blast overdevelopment, including homes made of … foam? [Queens Chronicle via Queens Crap] • West Village: Restaurateur Keith McNally joins the street protest over a massive billboard soon to dominate the meatpacking district. [Curbed] • Williamsburg: McCarren Pool will host nine free concerts this summer, complete with Slip 'n Slide and dodgeball pit. Pasty hipsters, bring sunblock. [Brooklyn Record]

The Last Week in Minor Misunderstandings

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We wouldn't go so far as to say we've been wrong. But, by the same token, there have been a few times in the last seven days we weren't entirely right. How so? Well, we've got a Brooklyn border dispute, a misreading of what we'd call a confusingly written article, and a perhaps overbroad — but, still, we'll insist, substantively correct — critique of some recent media criticism. We'll explain after the jump.

Bruce Ratner Swings His Ball

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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)

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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]

The British Are Coming to Brooklyn, Thanks to Bruce Ratner

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Any hope of corporate bucks not dominating pro sports disappeared decades ago. But at least the Mets' new ballpark — Citi Field, they'll be calling it — will be shilling for a New York company. Bruce Ratner, on the other hand, has sold naming rights to his proposed Brooklyn basketball arena to the London bank Barclays, as the Post reports today. And in some ways that's not surprising. It underlines the methods Ratner has used throughout his campaign to build Atlantic Yards: Beat your chest about how the project is all about Brooklyn pride, but don't let that stand in the way of maximizing profits. The even more interesting aspect of this deal will take time to unfold. Every Atlantic Yards figure that Ratner has hyped — except the physical size of the project — has turned out to be smaller when it actually happens. From the number of "affordable" apartments to the number of construction jobs, everything shrinks as it gets closer to reality. The Post story cites unnamed sources to claim that the Nets' naming rights will be "the most lucrative deal ever for an arena in the United States." That story line helps further Ratner's attempts to make Atlantic Yards seem inevitable. Just don't bet your Nets at the Barclays Center souvenir sweatbands on it turning out to be accurate. —Chris Smith

It's Official: Broken Angel to Live On as Condos

Clinton Hill: The son of the owners of the Broken Angel home says new developers will help keep his parents' vision intact — and add an arts center on the lot next door! [Clinton Hill Blog and Gowanus Lounge] Fort Greene: Watchdog says documents show that Empire State Development Corporation blew off Atlantic Yards enviro-impact concerns. [Atlantic Yards Report] Midtown: Catch media artist Doug Aitkens's film Sleepwalkers (with Donald Sutherland and Tilda Swinton, no less) on MoMA's walls tonight. [The L Magazine] Park Slope: High-tech activists in Greenwood have started filming potentially illegal demolitions and posting them on YouTube. [Curbed] Upper West Side: Amid a Ben Stiller–inspired frenzy, sleepover nights at the Museum of Natural History are sold out through summer — except girls' night on April 28. Come on, girls, embrace your inner geek! [Brooklyn Vegan]

Bruce Ratner Will Ensure You Have Overpriced Coffee

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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

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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.

It's Over, and It's Over

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• The Public Authorities Control Board gave its unanimous "yes" to Atlantic Yards. In the one change that might somewhat placate borough purists, Gehry's Miss Brooklyn is now scaled down to below the Williamsburgh Savings Bank height. The big loser: Moynihan Station, sacrificed in exchange. [NYDN] • Alan Hevesi is putting an end to the sorry spectacle his troubles became for the media: The beleaguered state comptroller will plead guilty and resign from office as part of the plea deal. [NYP] • Just in time for Atlantic Yards: The city has approved a new tax break for developers that encourages them to build more lower-income housing in more areas. The Real Estate Board appears displeased, so Bloomie must be doing something right. [NYT] • A cover of amNew York explores the outrage! that met the news of the record Goldman Sachs bonuses. (The cited instances of outrage appear limited to a harrumph from one City Council member, and a Post cartoon). [amNY] • And the police finally I.D.'d the man they found wandering the streets of the Bronx two weeks ago; yesterday, we broke the case by suggesting that the cop-stumping inscription "G-A-R-F-I" on his pajamas might have something to do with the cartoon cat. Today, the NYPD claimed it was "teddy bears," clearly to hide the former incompetence. For shame! [WNBC]

Atlantic Yards Green-Lighted by State Board

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You know all that yammering Sheldon Silver has been doing about how he might not support Atlantic Yards when it comes up for a vote at the state's Public Authorities Control Board, like the way he killed the West Side Stadium and at least delayed Moynihan Station? Yeah, well, not so much. The three-member board voted unanimously this afternoon to approve the massive Brooklyn development project. Lawsuits and so forth continue, but, still, tough break, Daniel Goldstein. Atlantic Yards Project Wins State Board Approval [AP via NYT]

Say It Ain't So, Joe

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• Because not enough Albany politicians are under indictment — only seven indictments among the city's delegation in the last three years, for example — the Feds are now investigating State Senate leader and Republican top dog Joseph Bruno, along with his "private consulting business" and his love of the horseys. [AP, NYDN] • As if Sheldon Silver would let Bruno have the spotlight alone. The Assembly speaker grabs some attention, too, thanks to the vote he controls on an obscure but powerful state board that's scheduled to vote today and can make or break (or substantially delay) Atlantic Yards. To maximize the excitement, aides claim the speaker hasn't even made up his mind yet. [amNY] • We're all for brawls on the NYSE trading floor, but choking a trader may be too much. Choking a trader because he's a gloating Eagles fan and you're the son of a legendary Giants owner, well, the jury is split on this one. [NYP] • Police are helpless to identify the Asian man they found two weeks ago, clad only in pajamas, roaming the streets of the Bronx: John Doe has not been reported missing and doesn't speak English. The police thoughtfully release the information that "the pajamas had the letters G-A-R-F-I" on them. Dare we guess the name might be "Garfield"? Cops. [WNBC] • Meet Michael Ennes, who runs the "Four-Star Soup Kitchen" and feeds the needy with stuff like endives in basil vinaigrette, wine-simmered bison, and turkey with mango-ginger glaze. He also gives nutrition lectures, at which, the Times reports with uncharacteristic cruelty, "people dozed or babbled." [NYT]

It's Shelly's Turn

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• The fate of Atlantic Yards now rests with State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls one of three votes on the Public Authorities Control Board, which requires unanimity to pass a project — and he boasts an impressive megaproject kill ratio, having already done in the West Side stadium and put the brakes on Moynihan Station. If we were Ratner, we'd find some Lower East Side charities to fund right about now. [NYT] • Rudy Giuliani is out being presidential — or presidential candidate–ish, really. He's hitting the fund-raisers for "friends and family money," whatever that means; the first round starts tomorrow in midtown. He also booked a major appearance in California — the keynote address at the state GOP convention. [NYP] • The News' New Yorker of the Year: Bloomberg. Hizzoner is picked, among other things, for "restoring civility," the gun-control crusade, encouraging major construction, and defusing the Sean Bell situation. [NYDN] • Except we're not sure that last one's such a done deal: There's a growing push for police commissioner Ray Kelly to resign and for a special prosecutor to replace the Queens D.A. on the case. [amNY] • And, hardly anyone's New Yorker of the Year: Isiah Thomas, the underperforming Dolan hire who can't fire up the Knicks to win a game — but evidently has no trouble goading opponents into brawls. [NYDN]