Secret Backroom Deal
The biggest development project ever proposed for Brooklyn was negotiated
behind closed doors between the developer, the government and the
MTA. It was then presented to the people living there and in the
surrounding neighborhoods as a done deal.
Halliburton Syndrome: Tax-payer Dollars Diverted to a Private
The cost of the project to city and state taxpayers is estimated
to be a LOSS of at least $506 million. In the prime location selected,
developers should be paying the taxpayers for the right to develop,
not the other way around.
Halliburton Syndrome: No-bid "Award"
Ratner will be gifted MTA/LIRR land that should be the subject of
an open bidding process. The MTA has promised an independent appraisal
of the land, but that number will likely be low-balled. The MTA
has budget gaps of: $540m for 2005, $1.2m for 2006, and $1.3m for
2007, and $10b in debt.
Evading the Public Process
In the 1960s, many neighborhoods rebelled against official top-down
urban renewal plans that wiped out whole blocks and displaced thousands.
ULURP was set up in the mid-1970s to allow neighborhoods to review
and vote on most major land use changes, including urban renewal
plans, zoning changes, and the acquisition and sale of city-owned
land. In the past two years Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dan
Doctoroff are reviving the Robert Moses era by pushing through the
West Side Stadium and the Ratner Arena Highrise Plan using the arm
of the State to bypass the process that was set up for public debate,
discussion and decision making.
Eminent Domain Abuse
13 acres of the 24-acre site would be acquired through eminent domain
or through the threat of eminent domain, whereby private property
will be condemned, seized and transferred, by the government, to
a private developer. Due to public outcry, some property owners
have been offered lucrative deals to sell out, while some have been
left out in the cold. Those who want to keep their homes or businesses
and fight the project are told that if they do not sell, they will
be condemned. Homeowners and property owners are terrified and by
using only hearsay and rumor in the Press, Ratner is successfully
having many people living on more than 2 blocks run to him and ask
him to buy their property even before the project has been officially
announced! This points to how much power this one man has over homeowners
who have such little faith in the government to protect their 5th
Amendment rights. This use of condemnation through eminent domain,
taking private property and giving it to a private entity is abusive,
unconstitutional and has nothing to do with the original intention
of the law. Keep an eye on the US Supreme Court which may hear an
appeal of a similar case taking place in Connecticut, and once and
for all put an end to this abuse of the law.
Long Term Community Residents
The footprint is occupied mostly by tenant residents, many of who
have been living there for 30, 40, 50-60 years in rent stabilized
apartments. Several of their buildings have been sold to Ratner,
and these people, many of who speak no English, have received no
communication from Ratner regarding their fate. They will eventually
be ripped out of their homes and communities where they have lived
all their lives and will be hard pressed to find affordable housing
elsewhere. One disabled couple in their eighties have already suffered
tremendous emotional trauma over the past few months even before
the project has been officially announced.
Constitutional Rights ¨ Being Forced to Choose
Ratner has imposed lifetime gag orders on those who sold their property
to him. They cannot associate with or donate money to groups founded
to oppose the project. At Ratner's bidding they have to speak to
the Press and at Public Hearings from a script he gives them. They
have to take down all signs and banners of opposition and pressurize
and give weekly reports on the holdouts who refuse to sell. These
people, some of whom were working with ĄDevelop Don't Destroy Brooklyn',
have essentially been forced to choose between their first and fifth
Amendment rights. http://www.dddb.net/public/gag/
Diversity and Affordable Housing:
People from 26 ethnicities currently occupy the footprint. A study
commissioned by Ratner predicts that the 4500 new rental units would
be primarily geared toward wealthy residents new to New York, with
triple the median income of current area residents. Pratt Area Community
Council (PACC), a community development corporation concerned primarily
with the preservation and development of low and moderate income
housing in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bedford Stuyvesant has
stated that without vetting the project through the ULURP process:
"The full range of potential harms include: a decreased
availability of affordable housing, increased displacement of low
and moderate income residents, and decreased racial, economic, and
cultural diversity in contiguous neighborhoods ... all resulting
from the effect of these Plans in intensifying market forces."
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Ratner claims the project will bring in 10,000 permanent jobs. In
the most optimistic scenario, the cost of each job created will
be around $45,000 to the taxpayer, which is 28% higher than the
federal limit on cost per job created for projects receiving economic
development funds. Furthermore, most of these jobs will go to white-collar
office workers. The jobs created are calculated by counting the
square footage of commercial space to be created and dividing this
by 150 square feet (the area of an office cubicle). In other words,
řjobsÓ means we'll build space to house 10,000 office workers in
a city with a glut of office space.
Big mall franchise stores will be brought in to replace the mom-n-pop
Refusal to Consider Alternatives
It is the job of the city planners to decide where a stadium should
be built, not a private developer. It should the right of the communities
to determine how their neighborhoods are transformed ¨ not a private
developer. The community has come up with an alternate plan for
the rail yard site. The plan, called The Atlantic Yards Development
Workshop Plan can be found here: http://dddb.net/public/AYDWS.pdf
This plan calls for:
- Developing the rail-yards alone; not touching the adjacent land,
which has been developing organically over the decades.
- Pizza and Eggs: Dividing up the taxpayer-owned 11 acre rail-yard
plot into 11 slices and selling them to the highest bidder, rather
than putting all our eggs in one basket.
- Creating affordable housing that will be owned by individuals
rather than rented out by millionaires.
- Scale of development will be in keeping with that in Brooklyn
¨ from 8 to 12 stories, rather than from 23 to 60 stories.
- Allow for up to 70% of the housing envisioned in Ratner's Plan.
- Allow for more retail space than envisioned in Ratner's Plan.
This retail space will be owned by local Brooklyn business owners
rather than big-box franchises.
- Create additional streets that will knit the neighborhoods and
Fort Greene together, rather than demapping streets and creating
a wall of highrises to divide up the neighborhoods. Put the project
through the ULURP process to allow for public input and debate.
future should be determined by the people who live here, not by
200 millionaires who each contributed a minimum of $1 million into
Bruce Ratner's investment scheme.
What you can do
Visit www.developdontdestroy.org for information,
or call us at 718-362-4784.
Get involved. Volunteer. Donate.
Together, we will defeat this taxpayer-subsidized sweetheart
*Data from the June 1, 2004 study "Estimated
Impact of Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Arena and 17 High Rise Development
on NYC and NYS Treasuries" by Jung Kim and Gustav Peebles (www.dddb.net/public/EconReport.pdf).