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Atlantic Yards gets a deal so sweet it's sick

NY Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez spells out Ratner's latest "special" "secret" "sweetheart deal," which we like to call the Ratner Clause:
Atlantic Yards gets a deal so sweet it's sick

Bruce Ratner, developer of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards Nets arena and mega-housing project in Brooklyn, is about to get another special, secret, sweetheart deal from our state politicians.

How special is it?

Over the weekend, Vito Lopez, the powerful Brooklyn Democrat who heads the state Assembly's Housing Committee, quietly inserted wording tailored for the Ratner project into a new state property tax exemption bill.

How sweet is the deal?

It's worth at least $100 million in real estate tax exemptions and possibly as much as $170 million for the market-rate condos Ratner plans to build on the site, one housing expert estimates. It also allows Atlantic Yards to charge hundreds of dollars more in rent per month for "affordable" units than any other other developer of similar housing.

How secret was the deal?

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) says he did not learn of the provision until the eve of the vote, even though Atlantic Yards is located in his district. Bertha Lewis, the head of NY ACORN, says the same thing. ACORN has been a huge backer and partner of Ratner because of his promise to build 2,200 affordable units out of the proposed total of 6,400. But yesterday even Lewis branded this "special carve-out" for Atlantic Yards "bad public policy."

The new tax exemptions are on top of the $300 million in direct subsidies that city and state officials have already showered on Atlantic Yards.

There's more coming. Ratner has applied for $1.4 billion in stateauthorized tax-exempt bonds to finance his 16 high-rise towers.

"It's unfortunate that this developer seems to have an addiction to the government's cookie jar," Jeffries said. Still, Jeffries voted for the overall tax exemption bill. He did so, he said, because it will expand a decades-old incentive program for developers, known as 421-A, to some minority neighborhoods and create more affordable housing...

We agree with Assemblyman Jeffries that overall it's a good bill, but the Ratner Clause is an unacceptable and astounding piece of pork, even for Albany. Assemblyman Jeffries can still ask Governor Spitzer to veto the bill unless the Assembly and House sends him one with the Ratner Clause excised. You can express this opinion or your own to Assemblyman Jeffries here:
Albany Office: 518-455-5325
Brooklyn District Office: 718-596-0100
and you can email him here: [email protected]
We suggest calling both offices and emailing.

Gonzalez continues his withering column:
The special provision, says Brad Lander, director for the Pratt Center for Community Development, will let Ratner charge an average of more than $350 per month in additional rent for the "affordable units" in Atlantic Yards.

Even more importantly, the Council's version does not grant any tax exemptions to buildings that contain only luxury units. The Lopez bill specifies that as long as 20% of the entire project contains affordable housing, all buildings in the project will be tax-exempt.

Since Ratner plans to build as many as four all-luxury condo buildings, all units in those buildings would be exempted from real estate taxes for 25 years.

Depending on the number of units, it could mean from $100 million to $170 million in lost real estate taxes to the city, Lander says.

Officials at Forest City Ratner Cos. refused to talk about the special legislation Lopez crafted specifically for their project.

Since the Senate is expected to quickly pass the Lopez bill, only Gov. Spitzer can stop this special tax deal.

The question is: Will he?
That is what we are wondering too. Is Governor Spitzer going to stick to his policy of reform, or will he let this one pass. We strongly believe that this is the proper place for Governor Spitzer to be the first elected official on the state level to simply say "no, no more favors for Forest City Ratner." You can express your opinion on the Ratner Clause to Governor Spitzer here:
Call: 518-474-8390
or go here to email the Governor:

We suggest calling and emailing.
Posted: 6.22.07
What would Atlantic Yards Look like?...
Photo Simulations
Before and After views from around the project footprint revealing the massive scale of the proposed luxury apartment and sports complex.
Eminent Domain Lawsuit
Goldstein et al v.
Pataki et al

Click for all briefs and info on the federal lawsuit alleging that eminent domain for "Atlantic Yards" violates the U.S. Constitution.

Status Report.
DDDB comments on the June 6th decsion and coming appeal.

Click for in-depth coverage of the March 30th court hearing

"Atlantic Yards" cannot be built if plaintiffs win this suit.
[See ownership map]
EIS Lawsuit
DDDB et al v ESDC et al
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Click for in-depth coverage of the May 3rd court arguments.

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Atlantic Yards
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