^ Yes it seem like is happening... Maybe developers need to concentrate in rentals as opposed to condos.
Brooklyn -- is the development party over?
June 27, 10:38 am
55 Berry Street Residential development in Brooklyn may be hitting a wall. Units are failing to sell as quickly as they once did and fewer developers are bidding on vacant sites in the borough, even as land prices drop. Condo prices at 55 Berry Street in Williamsburg, for instance, were cut earlier this month by $128 a square foot to $658 a foot. more [Crain's]
July 3, 2006
Atlantic Yards, Still but a Plan, Shapes Politics in Brooklyn
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
It will be months, if not years, before a single brick of the Atlantic Yards project is laid near Downtown Brooklyn. But as the fall election season draws near, the unbuilt, unapproved, multibillion-dollar development is shaping up as a major political issue in this corner of the borough.
"This is a litmus test for brownstone Brooklyn," said City Councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes most of the Atlantic Yards site and who is perhaps the elected official most outspokenly opposed to the project. "But the issue is nonetheless important for all Brooklynites, whether or not you're a brownstoner, someone who lives in public housing, or you live in a condo."
Over the last two and a half years, the project's gravity has warped the political space nearby, as if a black hole had settled at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. It has bolstered some candidacies and bedeviled others here, where mostly white, affluent neighborhoods like Park Slope shade into the more diverse yet rapidly gentrifying confines of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights.
It has inspired rhetorical tiptoeing and fence-sitting of exquisite precision. And within the tangled and even incestuous world of Brooklyn politics, the fight over Atlantic Yards has warped old political alliances and drawn onetime rivals into new ones.
Ms. James parts ways on Atlantic Yards, for example, with Assemblyman Roger L. Green, a close ally of the project's developer, Forest City Ratner Companies. Their districts overlap each other as well as the 22-acre site, and Ms. James was once Mr. Green's chief of staff. "Roger and I are very close," she said recently, joking, "I consider him my shorter, older brother."
One candidate for the State Assembly has walked such a fine line on the issue that opponents and supporters alike are unsure of where he stands. At least two insurgent candidates have embraced the opposition wholeheartedly, drawing volunteers and dollars to their campaigns. Some local political clubs have experienced infighting brought on by Atlantic Yards, resulting, say some members, in a few unexpected endorsements for the fall.
Mr. Green's alliance with Forest City — the development partner in building the new Midtown Manhattan headquarters for The New York Times Company — is itself a break from the assemblyman's past. During the 1980's, he helped lead a picket of Forest City when it wanted to build high-rise office buildings on the land now home to the Atlantic Terminal mall, just across Atlantic Avenue from where the company now wants to build a thicket of residential and commercial towers.
Last year, Mr. Green helped shepherd the creation of a "community benefits agreement" between Forest City and eight nonprofit groups to provide job training, housing and other programs. Randall Touré, a former top aide for Mr. Green, now works for the company, doing community outreach.
"The issue is always about the uses of relative power," Mr. Green said of his relationship with Forest City. "There was a sense that the project was going to happen. With that objective reality, I had to position myself to get information about the project, and then use my relative power to engage in some creative problem-solving."
Patti Hagan, a Prospect Heights resident and a veteran of the neighborhood's development battles, campaigned energetically for Mr. Green during his 2002 re-election bid. When the Atlantic Yards project was announced the next year, Ms. Hagan said, she was disappointed to find Mr. Green on the other side of the issue.
"We just assumed he'd be with us," she said. "I'm just totally disappointed in him as an elected official."
Mr. Green decided earlier this year to challenge Representative Edolphus Towns, the Brooklyn congressman for the 10th District, touching off an intense battle for the Assembly seat Mr. Green is vacating. Many opponents of the project had once expected to support Hakeem Jeffries, a corporate lawyer and Prospect Heights resident who ran against Mr. Green in 2002.
But they quickly discovered that Mr. Jeffries was unwilling to take a hard line against the project.
"I spent six hours at two meetings with him," said Daniel Goldstein, the spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, an umbrella organization for community groups opposed to Atlantic Yards. "After six hours, it was unclear to us where he stood on the project."
In late May, Mr. Jeffries took out an advertisement in The Brooklyn Downtown Star, a local newspaper, in order to "make sure there was a clear position on where we stood," he said in an interview.
"Essentially, yes to affordable housing, no to eminent domain abuse, no to commercial skyscrapers, and yes to an open process," Mr. Jeffries said.
His critics found the explanation unilluminating, since the project as currently designed would involve both eminent domain and soaring commercial skyscrapers. Pressed on whether he would support or oppose the project as it stands, Mr. Jeffries first said it was "an interesting question." After some prodding, he said he would "be more inclined to support it than not," in large part because the project includes a large component of below-market housing.
Mr. Jeffries has drawn a challenger in Bill Batson, a member of Community Board 8 who strongly opposes the project. "We don't need another landmark to tell us what Brooklyn is," he said in an interview. He is supported by many neighborhood residents who share those views, and have helped him raise money and gather ballot petitions.
"If the campaign is a referendum on Atlantic Yards, that's not my doing," Mr. Batson said. "But if it is, then let it be so."
The issue may also crop up in the race to succeed Major R. Owens, who is retiring as representative of the 11th Congressional District, although the racial dynamics of the contest have so far consumed much of its political oxygen.
One of the candidates, City Councilman David Yassky, is white; his three rivals, including Chris Owens, the incumbent's son, are black. Both Mr. Owens, who lives in Prospect Heights, and Mr. Yassky, who lives in Brooklyn Heights, are counting on strong support from white voters in the borough's brownstone neighborhoods, where the project's fate — especially its potential impact on traffic and city services — has generated considerable discussion.
The two other candidates in the race both support the project outright. Mr. Owens, like his father, has taken a hard stance against the project. Mr. Yassky has said he could not support the project at its current size, but favors development on the site. His supporters include the leaders of several nonprofit groups that have signed the community benefits agreement with Forest City Ratner, however, and some opponents of the project criticize Mr. Yassky for not taking a harder line against it.
That the Atlantic Yards issue is on so many radar screens is, for the most part, a reflection of its sheer size and scope. One of the largest real estate projects in the city's history, the residential, office and arena development has the potential to affect issues as diverse as traffic, sewage runoff, school class size and housing prices.
But the project's political salience is also part of a concerted effort by opponents to build a political base in the neighborhoods of northwest Brooklyn, an effort that began to intensify last spring, when the Empire State Development Corporation began its formal review of the project's potential environmental impact.
They have traveled to Albany to lobby members of the Legislature, packed community meetings and discussions about the project, and started blogs to publicize their position. Those efforts have borne some fruit: During recent months, two members of the State Assembly, Joan L. Millman and James F. Brennan, who represent neighborhoods close to the project, have taken stronger positions against Atlantic Yards than they have in the past.
Opponents of the project have also made their presence felt among Brooklyn's Democratic political clubs. Last spring, dozens of registration forms began arriving at the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, a Democratic club in northwestern Brooklyn, roughly doubling its membership shortly before the club was to vote on endorsements in several of this year's elections. Accusations of club-packing ensued, and the club's leadership maneuvered to exclude many of the new members from some important endorsement votes.
They were later allowed to vote on the club's endorsement for governor, however, and that is how the club's generally liberal membership came to endorse Nassau County's centrist county executive, Thomas R. Suozzi, over Eliot Spitzer, the state attorney general. Mr. Suozzi opposes the project; Mr. Spitzer appears to favor it.
Politically speaking, however, opponents of the project still face an uphill climb. Bruce C. Ratner, the chief executive of Forest City Ratner, has long been a major political and philanthropic force in Brooklyn. Mr. Ratner and his top executives enjoy strong ties to elected officials and community leaders here.
Those ties are reflected, in part, by the overwhelming support for the project among the city's political establishment, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and key members of Brooklyn's delegations in Congress and the State Legislature.
"There are two ways to work in this town," said Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City. "You can try to build a consensus by meeting with people and talking to them or you can try to stack political clubs and engage in the end-justifies-the-means single-issue tactics that opponents have been using. Given that the governor, the mayor, the borough president and numerous state and city elected officials support the project, we think the former approach is the one that works."
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
Hmm... I say it will take years.It will be months, if not years, before a single brick of the Atlantic Yards project is laid near Downtown Brooklyn.
But I am also afraid that since this is getting too political that this project might not actually happened after all. It will be a big loss of opportunity to built on those tracks in the end.
Although the process is taking time, there is no doubt that it will happen. Demolitions have started, and plans are moving forward. Keep in mind, that this is one of LARGEST developments in New York City history (as the article said), it will take a bit of time to complete. I feel that we will see a cornerstone of something laid before the start of next year's 2nd quater
July 12, 2006
Promises of Atlantic Yards Draw Thousands to Meeting
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
Before an attentive audience of would-be renters last night, supporters of the $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards project hailed its promise of hundreds of apartments as a small battle won against the city’s housing crunch and a boon to Brooklyn’s plumbers, police officers and secretaries.
“People leave Brooklyn not for the good life, but because they can’t afford the good life that we already have here,” said Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president and a staunch ally of the project’s developer, Forest City Ratner Companies.
About 2,300 people attended the first of two presentations at a Marriott in Brooklyn last night, roughly one person for each of the 2,250 units of below-market-price, rent-stabilized units the company says it will build if the project is approved. Forest City Ratner officials said they expected up to 1,000 more people at the second session, which like the first was organized to provide details about the project’s rental units to those most likely to apply for them.
Forest City Ratner is the development partner in building a new Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company.
Details of the project’s below-market-price apartments, which would make up half of the total number of rental units in the 8.7 million-square-foot development, were negotiated last year with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, an advocacy group for low-income people known as Acorn. But last night’s presentations served as an early test of local interest in Forest City’s plans, and the audience members, many of them from Brooklyn neighborhoods that have seen promises of housing and jobs go unfulfilled before, listened with high hopes and some wariness.
“The information was interesting,” said Edan Greenidge, 29, a salesman who attended with his mother, Merlyn. But he added: “It’s still not too affordable. I’m still skeptical.”
Joseph Shearin, 48, a transit worker, praised the housing allotment and said he planned to apply for one of the rental apartments if the project, which is being reviewed by a state development agency, is approved and built.
“I think it’s wonderful that they’re doing this,” he said.
Forest City officials said 18,000 people responded to promotional literature that the company mailed to Brooklyn households in mid-May.
Housing is the largest component of the Atlantic Yards project, which also includes a basketball arena, offices and some retail space on a site near Downtown Brooklyn.
As currently constituted, the program would distribute the 2,250 units across five different income tiers tied to the city’s median income. All would be allocated through a lottery system run by Acorn and supervised by the city’s housing agency, with some preference going to residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, police officers and other civil service workers, the elderly, and the disabled, as required by city rules.
In the lowest income tier, a family of four making $21,270 to $28,360 a year would pay $620 a month in rent; in the highest, a family making $99,261 to $113,440 would pay $2,658 a month. About 225 units are set aside for families of all sizes in the lowest income tier, and 450 for families of all sizes in the highest tier.
Vilia Salas, 44, a bookkeeper, said she supported the project. Her only concern, she said, is that not enough units will go to “people who are really entitled to them.”
Some attendees of last night’s event, while expressing enthusiasm for the project’s hope of new housing in a borough that needs it, wondered whether the moderately priced housing was priced quite moderately enough.
“I think that certain things weren’t taken into account when they came up with the income bands,” said Sharon Reid, a college administrator.
But Mr. Markowitz and Bertha Lewis, Acorn’s executive director, said the project would constitute one of the city’s largest increases of rent-stabilized, moderately priced housing in years at a time when the city’s stock of such housing has been disappearing more rapidly than housing agencies and advocacy organizations can replenish it.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
And who might those be?Vilia Salas, 44, a bookkeeper, said she supported the project. Her only concern, she said, is that not enough units will go to “people who are really entitled to them.”
Atlantic Yards: Staving Off a Scar for Decades
By Ron Shiffman
Until this month, I have chosen not to speak out publicly concerning Forest City Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project. After participating in a planning charette sponsored by City Council Member Letitia James in 2004 shortly after the proposal was first announced and after circulating some ideas about the developer’s proposal, I decided not to speak out on the issue in part because I believed that the inclusionary housing component was an important victory and believing that a more rational plan would eventually emerge.
However, that alternative has not emerged. Forest City Ratner (FCR) and, by extension, the City and State of New York, continue to follow a process that is fundamentally flawed in pursuit of a plan that, if implemented, would scar the borough for decades to come.
Like many of my Brooklyn neighbors, I did welcome the idea of Brooklyn once again being the home of a major sports franchise. Some viable sites already existed for an arena, the most obvious being Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Center Mall, a failed design with a limited life expectancy that constitutes a major blighting on the border of Fort Greene, near the proposed Atlantic Yards site.
The mall site would not require the use of eminent domain and would allow for the phased redevelopment of the surrounding area. It would necessitate the reconstruction of the Atlantic Avenue Subway Station, including the development of a concourse to accommodate larger numbers of people, the development of an enhanced transit strategy focused on regulating auto access, maximizing pedestrian access, and emphasizing public mass transit access within Brooklyn, as well as between Brooklyn, Long Island, New Jersey and other parts of the city.
I agree that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard—a portion of the proposed project footprint-- provides the opportunity to weave together the low-rise communities of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights. While this area along the Atlantic Avenue corridor could accommodate higher densities, density is a relative term. The density proposed by Forest City Ratner far exceeds the carrying capacity of the area’s physical, social, cultural, and educational infrastructure. The Atlantic Yards density is extreme and the heights of the proposed buildings totally unacceptable.
If Forest City Ratner’s proposal proceeds at the current scale, it would constitute the densest residential community in the United States and, perhaps, Europe, with the exception of some of the suburbs of Paris. There, the oversized designs gained applause from the architectural elite before residents found them inhumane. I fear Forest City Ratner’s proposal will become the Brooklyn equivalent of Pruitt-Igoe, the notorious St. Louis public housing towers that have since been demolished. Quite frankly I do not believe that any of the decision makers from the Borough President to the Governor have a grasp on how overwhelming and out-of-scale this development is.
When the project was announced in December 2003 with endorsements from the mayor and borough president, that signaled a planning process that is both fundamentally wrong and establishes a dangerous precedent. A private developer shouldn’t be allowed to drive the disposition of publicly owned or controlled land without a participatory planning process setting the conditions for the disposition of that land.
This flawed process is compounded by the proposed misuse of the powers of eminent domain. To use “blight” as the basis for eminent domain is ironic when every indicator is that this area of Brooklyn would have seen a regeneration along the lines of Soho and TriBeCa had the Forest City Ratner plan not stemmed the revitalization process already under way. There have been four recent conversions of manufacturing facilities to housing, and, Forest City Ratner bought one site—mainly a former bakery—for $40 million, from a developer who wanted to turn it into a hotel. Any plan, thanks to a zoning revision, could have accelerated this step-by-step revitalization of the area that was already underway.
Sadly, FCR is responsible for the “developer’s blight” that now plagues the area. The only pre-existing blighting influence was the Atlantic Center mall. Everything else was subject to step-by-step private investment that would have facilitated the revitalization of the area, albeit with some displacement of manufacturing and the absence of affordable housing. While courts usually do uphold the “blight” argument, bad law does not mean good planning.
I applaud ACORN’s effort to make sure the developer includes a large percentage of affordable housing—originally 50 percent but no longer—in this development. Such inclusionary housing should become the standard for all significant housing developments in the city that use public land and public funds, and ACORN now calls for 30 percent in new projects. But I believe that those units should be located in viable, livable, and enriching environments and not crammed into out-of scale developments that do not provide adequate open space, community, and/or educational facilities.
If the basis for eminent domain is economic development, I find it hard to see how it could meet any of the criteria of the Supreme Court’s controversial 2005 Kelo decision. The Supreme Court majority approved the use of eminent domain in New London, Connecticut, in part because the plan had emanated from a defined planning process. In Brooklyn, there’s been no planning, and the sole developer and beneficiary is Forest City Ratner–signs of a sweetheart deal.
I had hoped that, in the past two-and-a-half years, the city, the developer, or the civic community would propose a viable alternative to the "Atlantic Yards" plan. The Municipal Art Society’s plan falls short because it avoids discussing the process issues and attempts to apply a design solution to a fundamentally flawed and ill-conceived plan. In the absence of a democratically accountable process and without any rational and acceptable alternative on the horizon, I believe that the FCR plan must be defeated and the process of revitalizing the rail yards completely rethought. I have chosen to support the efforts of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s and have joined the group’s advisory board.
Ron Shiffman is a professor at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the Pratt Institute, director emeritus of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, and from 1990-96 a commissioner on the New York City Planning Commission.
Protesters: Arena on slippery slope
Fight over future of jobs, affordable housing in heart of Brooklyn
by amy zimmer / metro new york
JUL 17, 2006
PARK SLOPE — Hundreds of angry Brooklynites — with strong representation from Prospect Heights and Park Slope — rallied yesterday to protest the proposed $2.5 billion project to bring the New Jersey Nets and 16 high-rises to the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.
They packed the entrance of Prospect Park at Grand Army Plaza with their strollers, bikes and dogs to rail against potential traffic jams, overcrowded subways and a radical change to brownstone Brooklyn’s skyline and character. Developer Bruce Ratner’s project, designed by architect Frank Gehry, would include 2,250 affordable units, which is roughly 30 percent of its total apartments.
But, “They’re too darn tall,” according to a sign carried by many of the protesters at the rally sponsored by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the project’s arch foe.
“This deal is coming undone,” DDDB spokesman Dan Goldstein told the crowd, despite the fact that the state’s Environmental Impact Statement, which reviews the project’s potential neighborhood effects, is expected to be released tomorrow. “It’s suffering from a long-term illness and needs to be put out of its misery. There can be an arena in Brooklyn without eminent domain. There’s a place called Coney Island.”
But Meredith Staton, a Community Board 8 member from Crown Heights, had his own gripes.
“I’m upset that people in the community didn’t show up before Ratner came up with a plan and say what we should do there,” he said. “I want affordable housing and I want jobs. That’s what grabbed the community where I live. Just look around and see how many black people are here. They’re not here. There are many affluent people here who do not represent the whole community.” He pointed out that Ratner bought more than 90 percent of property in the footprint.
“I can understand that people want to scale back the project,” he said. “You can see large-scale housing going up everywhere. In the EIS process, you can submit alternatives, but you’re not going to stop the project. It’s a state project and it will come down to three people.” They are the Public Authorities Control Board members in Albany: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Gov. George Pataki.
But Bob Law, a former radio host and Black Panther, told the crowd that “Ratner is trying to recreate how our city operates.”
“We’re not opposed to development, but we’re opposed to the process,” Law said. “When people say we are opposed to jobs, I am. I’m opposed to the temporary, dead-end jobs Ratner is offering. My community needs careers.”
Actress Rosie Perez also criticized Ratner for what she called “propaganda” — claims the project would bring jobs and housing to the poor and middle class. And she also shot at rapper Jay-Z, who has a small share in the Nets ownership. “I love you Jay, but where’s the love?” she said. “I think, in a way, he’s being used. There are other places the Nets can go.”
July 17, 2006
Crowd Gathers to Protest Size of Atlantic Yards Plan
By THOMAS J. LUECK
In the largest public demonstration so far by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project planned near Downtown Brooklyn, a crowd that may have exceeded 2,000 gathered at Grand Army Plaza yesterday in a rally condemning the project’s scale and what many called inadequate public comment.
The event was organized by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a group whose advisory board includes Brooklyn residents active in film, music and literature. The actors Steve Buscemi and Rosie Perez, both Brooklyn residents and advisers to the group, appeared briefly on a makeshift stage in front of a sign that read “Brooklyn’s Neighborhoods Say No.”
“I’m not a politician or activist,” Mr. Buscemi told the crowd. He read a poem that he said he had written to protest the project, which included the line “I’ve played a lot of crazies, but this seems insane.”
The $3.5 billion project, which would include an arena for the Nets professional basketball team, office space and 6,860 apartments, is being planned by Forest City Ratner Companies at a time of considerable residential development in nearby sections of Brooklyn.
Even aside from the Atlantic Yards project, the nearby development has provoked protests about housing displacement and strains on Brooklyn’s roads, sewers and infrastructure.
The Atlantic Yards complex, planned at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, has undergone extensive public review, and more is assured once the developer releases an environment impact statement, which is expected this week or next.
“People have legitimate concerns that we have addressed, and will continue to address,” Joe Deplasco, a spokesman for Forest City, said yesterday. Forest City Ratner is a development partner in building a new Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company.
The developer has promised to dedicate 2,250 apartments in the complex as rental units for low- and moderate-income tenants. About 2,300 people hoping to qualify for those apartments attended what Forest City described as an “informational meeting” in Downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Whether that many showed up yesterday to protest the project was difficult to judge, since people circulated from the sunny site of the rally to the shade nearby in Prospect Park. Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, estimated the size of the crowd at closer to 4,000 people.
Some in the crowd had traveled from distant parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, reflecting what may be a growing public interest in the Atlantic Yards project and the scale of Brooklyn development in general.
“I have seen what happened to Manhattan, and we should learn from our mistakes,” said Marian Goodside, a retired teacher who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and came with friends from Brooklyn Heights.
Dan Zanes, a musician and singer with a national following among children and their parents, said he considered Brooklyn’s diverse neighborhoods to be a “national treasure” that was being threatened by the Atlantic Yards project and other development.
Mr. Zanes, who performed at the rally, lives with his wife and 11-year-old daughter in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. He said the rally demonstrated a growing sense of resistance to large-scale development, even to projects that are not directly across the street.
“To a lot of people, this seemed inevitable,” he said of the project. “The problem was that the public wasn’t engaged, but that is starting to change.”
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
These three excerpts summarize how ridiculous this opposition has become. I don't even want to comment on the "They're too darn tall" statement, as I feel this has been adequately addressed on the forum. But what is this about providing careers? Since when is Ratner in the business of giving people careers? And what kind of jobs are they talking about? Is it just something longer-term than construction, or something that requires a graduate degree? I don't understand this. And finally: Can someone put Rosie Perez in her place? I'm surprised she even got a soundbite into this article. That woman lost any influence she had years ago.Originally Posted by Transic
There was a similar article in the Metro today. Some council man argued that there were no african americans in the crowd protesting the plan, and implied that they could care less about the scale of the project as long as jobs were produced. I don't think everyone is on the same page in the anti-yards camp.
Sorry I threw out the paper, so i don't have the exact quote.
As New York attracts new people and builds places for them to live, I think the careers of New Yorkers will benefit simply because the primary reason companies leave New York is the cost of living keeps rising.
I am suspicous of the "community benefits agreement." I think they will end up going to tenants that are vetted to have a high probability to support incumbent politicians interested in stacking their district, regardless of income. They should just build the apartments and let the market price them - this will create diverse communities just like it does anywhere free markets are allowed to operate without political interference.
Nonsense.Originally Posted by pianoman11686
Train yards aren't a neighborhood, anyway.