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City lets Ratner off the hook

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Bruce Ratner downsized Atlantic Yards — and it turns out that the city gave him the green light to do so.

A newly released funding agreement reveals that the city let the Atlantic Yards developer off the hook for the downsizing he announced last month — yet will still reward him with $205 million in direct city subsidies.

The agreement, signed last September but only released this week to the Atlantic Yards Report, a Web site, allows Forest City Ratner to scale back the $4-billion arena, apartment and office project and build just the publicly financed basketball arena and two or three downsized towers by 2020, four years later and thousands of units of affordable housing less than the 16-tower full monty that was approved by state officials in December, 2006.

If he manages to build the reduced number of units within that stretched-out timetable, he would avoid any penalties.

Besides the loose time frame, the new documents also reveal that taxpayers are spending $100 million to pay back Ratner for his generous buyouts of tenants living in the arena footprint.

The newly released document reveals that city officials and Ratner were already negotiating to scale back the 6,800-unit project long before Ratner told The New York Times last month that he’d canned the signature Miss Brooklyn tower because he lacked an anchor tenant and that he had no timetable for building Phase II of the project — which includes the vast majority of the below-market-rate housing units and publicly accessible open space.

According to Ratner, the project now consists only of the publicly financed basketball arena and two or three smaller towers around it.

The result would be just hundreds of units of below-market-rate housing, not the 2,250 units that Ratner promised to build — and that has lawmakers, including those who once supported the project — seeing red.

“Whether you think the original deal was good or bad — and I think it was a bad deal — the project that he agreed to is not being built,” said Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), who will join colleagues Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) at a rally on Saturday to call for a moratorium on demolition until Atlantic Yards is renegotiated.

Forest City Ratner did not answer requests for comment.

Meanwhile, a group of residents of the footprint sued the Empire State Development Corporation yet again, claiming that any agreement that gives Ratner more than 10 years to build the affordable units violates state condemnation law.

“If ESDC or [Forest City Ratner] has no intent to materially complete Phase II of the project within 10 years … Phase II has been abandoned as a matter of law,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

“Ratner has abandoned most of the project and that has consequences under eminent domain law,” said the plaintiff’s lawyer, George Locker. “The law gives a condemnee the right to repurchase his property if the site has been abandoned.”

A spokeswoman for ESDC declined to comment, saying the agency officials “have not yet had the opportunity to review the pleadings.”

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Reader Feedback

Norman Oder says:
It's amusing that, when the Brooklyn Paper gets a story secondhand about the arrival of a winery in Red Hook, the source is "Dr. Vino, a seminal wine world blog," but this article is credited merely to "the Atlantic Yards Report, a Web site." That obscures the fact that I've been offering daily Atlantic Yards coverage and breaking news regularly for years.

See http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/31/15/31_15_red_hook_will_be.html
And the original coverage of the story above:
http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2008/04/city-agreement-allows-fcr-to-build-44.html
May 1, 2008, 8:58 pm

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