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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pols speak out against Billionaire money grab

One of these images inspires jokes, the other laughs at our expense

Several area politicians in response to growing concern that the billionaire developer of the proposed Atlantic Yards Stadium project could get his hands on some Obama stimulus dollars have sent a letter to Governor Patterson excerpted below:
Assembly Members James Brennan, Hakeem Jeffries, and Joan Millman, Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky, and 52nd District Leader Jo Anne Simon sent the attached letter to Governor Paterson this past week. The letter explains why these Brooklyn elected officials feel the proposed Atlantic Yards project should not receive funds from the federal stimulus package passed last month.
The letter also suggest that people who have send their own letters to Govenor Patterson.
Brooklyn residents have expressed a similar concern, and the elected officials are providing a voice for their constituents. Please feel free to contact the offices of elected officials who signed onto this letter with any questions. Thank you.
Don't like what you're hearing? Well you can sign the online petition asking the Governor to not use stimulus money for Atlantic Yards here: []

The complete letter is at the end of this post.

For those who have no idea what Atlantic Yards is, in this blogger's opinion Atlantic Yards is a classic misuse of taxpayer dollars and taxpayer hopes by a developer intending to shove something huge and dishonest down our throats. I wrote some details of Atlantic Yards below but I'd recommend checking out both the Atlantic Yards wikipedia page and Atlantic Yards Report the site of reporter Norman Oder who from the beginning has been shining an unbiased light on what the project really is.

Here's a computer rendering projecting what the project would look like compared it's surroundings when it's done:



here's a line from wikipedia about the scale of the project:
"...since Atlantic Yards sits on 22 acres (89,000 m2), it can be expected to become the most densely populated census tract in North America, with a density of 361,000 to 490,000 people per square mile, about twice the density of the current densest census tract in the United States..."
If you can find it, you could also watch the Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns decides to destroy land and build an NBA stadium which sums up the whole issue pretty well. That episode is called "the Burns and the Bees" Here's a clip:

The point of the message our elected representatives has sent to the Governor is that it has been suggested that the developer of Atlantic Yards the proposed stadium, luxury condo and rental project which if completed would shoe-horn 20 sky scrapers into five square blocks, may be looking for Obama stimulus dollars to help complete the project which has lost funding thanks in part to the global economic crisis.

If you want to read more about the Atlantic Yards proposal (and you should since you're probably helping pay for it) here it is:

The developer Forest City Ratner (led by Bruce Ratner) had been expecting additional corporate and taxpayer dollars to help raise the money necessary to build. The project itself takes a mix of things people can support, like new housing, development and entertainment (the proposed Nets basketball stadium) and overdoes each element compounding the poor judgment is the attempt to place all of this on a few blocks at one of the most congested points in Brooklyn, the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue which itself intersects a block away with Fourth Avenue.

In simple terms it's too big for the area it's proposed to be in, the claim of affordable housing is exaggerated, the impact to the area will be damaging and considering the project was decided by governmental officials without oversight, the project has spent too many millions of taxpayer dollars. Worse the developer without a clear plan has been allowed to destroy several buildings in the proposed development area making the area look more rundown than it had been.

Another jacked-up part of this project is that the land to be used is owned by the same MTA that operates the subway and even now is crying poverty to raise the transit fares. Well the land itself was valued at $215 million and yet they allowed Ratner to buy it for only $50 which he hasn't paid after six years.

The Wall Street Journal wrote about it on March 7th:
the MTA accepted Forest City Ratner's bid of $50 million for the LIRR's rail yard, even though an appraisal valued it at $214.5 million. Extell, a Manhattan developer, later submitted a competing bid for $150 million. The MTA rejected that bid, but did negotiate with Forest City Ratner to get it to double its bid to $100 million. The MTA then accepted Ratner's new bid, even though it was $50 million less than Extell's.

The MTA hasn't seen a dime of the money yet. The opposition has waged a relentless court battle that has halted construction of the arena. Mr. Goldstein, whose condo stands smack in the middle of the proposed arena site, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit aimed at blocking the state's use of eminent domain to condemn his building.

Currently the project is being fought most intensely by local residents including a group who would be forced out if the project is allowed to be completed as proposed.

The full letter:
March 3, 2009
Honorable David A. Paterson
Governor of the State of New York
The Executive Chamber, State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Paterson,

We are writing regarding reports that Forest City Ratner is requesting funds
from the Federal stimulus package for the Atlantic Yards Project. We request that
any application or other submitted documents to the Governor’s office related to
the stimulus package be immediately disclosed to the public and the elected
officials signing this letter. In addition, there should be a public hearing and
opportunity for public comment on any application for funds. We also request a
meeting with responsible state officials prior to any decision on the use of stimulus
funds for Atlantic Yards.

It is our understanding that neither the M.T.A. nor the Empire State
Development Corporation has submitted the Atlantic Yards project to your office
as part of any list of projects for the use of Federal stimulus funds. This indicates
that Atlantic Yards is not considered a priority by these agencies at this time.

It is regrettable that the State of New York, in cooperation with the
developer, chose to override New York City’s zoning and land use laws for the
Atlantic Yards project, depriving local community boards, the Brooklyn borough
board, and the New York City Council, of what would have been their legal right
to vote on the Atlantic Yards project. As a result, the project has never been vetted
through the traditional democratic land use processes available to the community
and the people of the City of New York.

Many events have occurred which have created uncertainty and risk
regarding the 8 million square foot development approved by the State in
December 2006. The original economic and financial assumptions upon which the
approval was based have dramatically changed. At a meeting with elected officials
in December, Forest City Ratner stated that it hopes to be able to finance the arena
this summer, notwithstanding the economic climate, if current litigation against the
project is unsuccessful. If it is unable to finance the arena, it has not yet committed
to proceeding with a residential development. This is hardly a basis for the State to
commit additional funds without a full public discussion process.

We hope your office will be quickly forthcoming with the requests we have
made. Thank you.


NYS Senator 18th S.D.Velmanette Montgomery
Assemblymember 44th A.D. James F. Brennan
Assemblymember 57th A.D. Hakeem Jeffries
Assemblywoman 52nd A.D. Joan Millman
Councilmember 35th C.D. Letitia James
Councilmember 33rd C.D. David Yassky
District Leader 52nd A.D. Jo Anne Simon

cc: New York State Congressional Delegations
NYC Assembly and Senate Delegations
Timothy Gilchrist, Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and
Jeff Pearlman, Assistant Counsel, FOIL Officer, Governor’s Office
Lee Sander, Executive Director, MTA


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