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Bait and switch

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Borough President Markowitz’s call for Bruce Ratner to cut costs at Atlantic Yards is a shameless attempt to provide cover for his political patron.

Markowitz, of course, is Atlantic Yards’ single greatest cheerleader — and, as such, has done nothing but salute Ratner every step of the way, even as the project’s cost to taxpayers has grown, even as Ratner’s own studies revealed huge environmental and traffic flaws and, yes, even as the cost of the publicly financed basketball arena has gone from a then-unthinkable $450 million in 2003 to the positively obscene $950 million today.

Last week, Ratner said that he would scale back the grandeur of the Frank Gehry-crafted arena — whose design was a main selling point for the entire $4-billion white elephant that is Atlantic Yards.

Predictably, this week, Markowitz put out his own press release, calling Gehry’s design no longer “economically feasible.”

And there you have it, folks: the Atlantic Yards bait-and-switch is complete.

It started near the very beginning, back in 2003 when Ratner promised that the basketball arena would be funded entirely with private money.

Almost immediately, the public was asked to front the cost of the building.

Next, Ratner promised a grand public park — with an ice rink and running track — atop that arena.

Soon after, he pulled that grand urban rug out from under us.

What followed were more promises — thousands of units of affordable housing, a Gehry-designed hotel and office tower called “Miss Brooklyn” at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, massive economic benefits for taxpayers — all of which are shelved.

Anyone who knows Bruce Ratner’s history in Brooklyn isn’t surprised. Here is a developer who always promises the stars, shoots for the moon, gets his political allies to approve the clouds — then builds a project that barely gets off the ground.

At the Metrotech office complex, for example, Ratner promised a thriving, bustling Downtown befitting a borough that would be America’s fifth-largest city. Instead, we got a quiet office park more suitable for a Midwestern backwater.

At Atlantic Yards, Ratner promised a break from this sorry past, and brought in legendary architect Frank Gehry as his calling card.

Gehry’s innovative designs dazzled state officials and local rubber-stampers like Markowitz, none of whom bothered to peel back the architect’s trademark metallic skin to see that Atlantic Yards was never “economically feasible,” even under the best fiscal conditions. Indeed, last year, Ratner admitted that he had scrapped Gehry’s “Miss Brooklyn” office tower because he had failed to line up an anchor tenant during what had been a long Brooklyn boom.

Now Ratner wants to save money by watering down the look of the Atlantic Yards arena.

Yet again, Ratner fails to deliver.

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Reader Feedback

Norman Oder says:
There had never been a market for office space in the Atlantic Yards project.
http://timesratnerreport.blogspot.com/2006/01/jobs-at-atlantic-yards-overpromised.html
Jan. 15, 2009, 10:07 pm
Pat from Bay Ridge says:
The "Miss Brooklyn" building was the only interesting part of the project. I couldn't care less about the arena, am disgusted by the public financing to this billionaire, and am happy to see the whole thing collapse.
Jan. 15, 2009, 11:47 pm
Brooklynite by birth from Now Out of Town says:
Why does this come as no surprise to anyone with just half a brain? All I hear from Marty Markowitz and the other business boosters (residents be damned) is the echo of Captain Renault in Casablanca. When Renault closed down Rick's Cafe, he did so because, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" And then the croupier handed him a fistful of money with, "Your winnings, sir."

Why, when Marty was term-limited (unless the rules are changed in the middle of the game) should he have cheered-on such a project which was ill-conceived from the get-go, displaced renters and owner alike, and saw business owners forced into selling their properties - and now he's "shocked, shocked" that the project is so overblown that it could never be built to the original specifications.

Unless Marty was promised, back in 2003, some type of position with or through Ratner, and his quid-pro-quo was to help the project get off the ground. This would have occurred when the prospect that term limits would be extended, which capped Marty's term at two, was far from certain.

What do I hear? "Your winnings, sir."

The big question which should be asked is not why Marty has changed his views on the architecture or the funding, but whether there were any promises made to him for leading the charge, and now that he may get a third term, whether he now needs to call in an IOU with Ratner.

Just a thought.
Jan. 18, 2009, 5:08 pm
John Felder from All Brooklyn says:
What is it about architectural modesty and abnegation that quickens the hearts of so many Brooklyn residents? Why is faux nostalgia and visual frumpiness so prevalent here? Why do we love the scaled back, the low, the dull ,the obscure, the under-realized?
Where's the daring?, the grand, the soaring?
Jan. 21, 2009, 3:03 pm
bruce from downtown says:
empty at grand army plaza.
Jan. 22, 2009, 7:43 pm

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