They’re Crazy From the Heat!Harlem residents suspect gentrifiers are the cause of a raccoon outbreak, a miffed man burns down his neighbor’s house on Staten Island, and government workers from separate departments deliberately, sneakily sabotage one another in the East Village. All this and more in our daily boroughs report.
Showdown at the Brooklyn MuseumDeveloper 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?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.”
Breaking: Someone Fancy Went to Mohegan Sun!Vanity Fair style arbiter Amy Fine Collins went to the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. Central Park carriage owners responded to Pink’s animal-cruelty charges by deriding them as the “ignorant comments of a B-list pop star.” Nets chairman and real-estate developer Bruce Ratner is getting married to plastic surgeon Pamela Lipkin. At Sundance, Paris Hilton gave a lap dance to Jared Leto, David Katzenberg took pictures of his privates for girlfriend Nicky Hilton, Cisco Adler got into a shoving match, Reggie Bush and Kim Kardashian made out, and Adrian Grenier lost his drumsticks. John Legend says he doesn’t get caught up with dating models and that he’s “more concerned with (his) happiness.”
Ice Cream Is Always Better With Terrace Sprinkles on TopBrooklyn Heights: A chunk of a balcony on Montague Street fell off and landed right near the bench outside Haagen-Dazs. Top that vanilla-bean cone with some period detail, indeed. [McBrooklyn]
Chelsea: What are those glowing orange footprints on Seventh Avenue below 23rd Street? A local artist’s protest against global warming — duh! [Blog Chelsea]
East Harlem: Folks up here fought hard against a slumlord — but now they allege the same bad treatment from the British firm that bought him out. [NYDN via Uptown Flavor]
Forest Hills: Very young hipsters are buying property here, saying it’s cool because it’s the home of the Ramones. Hoo boy. [Jonasan via Forest Hills 72]
Greenpoint: Here and elsewhere in the city, a new verb has been born: to Fedderize, that is, to remodel an old, quaint building into something very, very noncontextual and ugly. [Newyorkshitty]
Midwood: Some folks are accusing the Times’ real-estate coverage of overreporting the value of homes it features, such as this Victorian beauty. [Planet PLG via Brownstoner]
New Brighton: Don’t call it Static Island; A cutting-edge art gallery called SHOW, within walking distance of the ferry terminal, will open here by summer’s end. [Prodigal Borough]
Williamsburg: Are the folks behind the proposed redevelopment of the Domino Sugar factory co-opting local activists the way many say Bruce Ratner has done with Atlantic Yards? [Atlantic Yards Report]
Ratner, Lopez Do Business the Old-Fashioned Way
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.
Bruce Ratner Wins a Round in Atlantic Yards Legal Battle
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
You’re Helping Bruce Ratner Pay His Mortgage
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]
in other news
Who’s Causing Con Ed’s Rate Hike? Ratner! Spitzer! Everyone!
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]
• 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]
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]
Bruce Ratner vs. the Homeless, Too
• 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
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 WayA 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]
Another Lawsuit, and More ConstructionThe 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]
Atlantic Yards Begins Not With a Bang But With a Bulldozer in a Snowy Lot
There it is, folks: The start of demolition for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards. Reports say they’re knocking down a disused bus depot to create a temporary rail yard so that construction can begin. From the AP’s pictures, it just looks like they’re using a really big bulldozer to move some barrels and take down a chain-link fence. Either way, historic!
Earlier: Bruce Ratner Swings His Ball
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]
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 AxisBruce 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]