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.
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."
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."
Brooklyn 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]
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]
• 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]
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]