Today’s news:

Ratner finally moves ahead with residential Yards tower

The Brooklyn Paper

Developer Bruce Ratner moved forward this week with the construction of the first of his long-stalled residential buildings in the Atlantic Yards mega-project, filing city paperwork to begin a 33-story building adjacent to the Barclays Center.

The 368-unit building — which may be either a conventional tower or a controversial pre-fabricated structure — would rise on Dean Street just east of Flatbush Avenue, next door to the under-construction, 19,000-seat Barclays Center.

Ratner’s Executive Vice President MaryAnne Gilmartin said that construction could start this winter after a “year-end ground-breaking.”

Designs for the building are being finalized, but Gilmartin confirmed that Ratner’s team is “still designing both prefab and conventional alternatives” — with a final design decision expected by the end of the year.

Ratner floated possibility of constructing a pre-fab building earlier this year — a balloon that was immediately shot down by the developer’s union allies.

“Clearly, prefab housing is not what we expected,” said Richard Weiss, a spokesman for Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79. “The only reason we [supported the project] was for jobs for our members.”

Weiss said a pre-fab building could costs hundreds of construction jobs — positions that Ratner promised during the controversial approval process for the $5-billion project, which has been stalled by the weak economy.

The Barclays Center is the highest-profile piece of Atlantic Yards, but commencement of the first residential building would represent a major step forward for the larger project, which occupies a 22-acre footprint stretching from Flatbush to Vanderbilt avenues.

Ratner had said as recently as last year that he would not move forward on residential construction at Atlantic Yards until the national economy improved.

But the latest move to obtain city building permits would get the developer closer to fulfilling his promise to create 2,250 units of affordable housing and public open space at the sprawling superblock site. Half of the first tower’s nearly 400 units would be set aside at below-market rents.

But that promise is a glass that’s half full to opponents.

“It might be a milestone for Ratner,” said Daniel Goldstein, who sued the builder before being evicted from his home inside of the project footprint. “But it’s a long, long way from what they promised.”

The filing of building permits was first reported by Brownstoner.com, a website.

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al pankin from downtown says:
this is good news for downtown to move this long stalled project foward on what was a real dump of an area for the past fifty years.. if there weren't so many waste of time lawsuits this would have been a better project with a better looking arena... all the stalling took it's toll...
Aug. 24, 2011, 5:36 am
steve from DT says:
I agree Al, a few very vocal people "looking for a cause" held up and downsized this important project for years. It's amazing how seemingly smart people can be so stupid. That's NY.
Aug. 24, 2011, 8:45 am
freddy from slope says:
really guys...

did you really think about the dump for 50 years statement?

that would state that beginning in 1960 it was a wasteland.

some investigation to back it up please.

just because ratner is getting the upper hand doesnt make all his past actions ( or the city's actions ) good, just more politically powerful.

your incredibly lacking in depth comments show you just don't get it.
Aug. 24, 2011, 9 am
daisy from sunset says:
FYI, Al Pankin, it was noted by a judge in one of those "waste of time" lawsuits how one side of the street was blighted (a "dump" as you put it) and the other side was a flourishing neighborhood.

Were you honestly ever on Pacific Street in that area before Ratner started tearing down buildings? It held expensive, newly renovated condos. Hardly a "dump"

And the homes on Dean St - people had lived there for decades in not-dumpy brownstones. Freddy's was a thriving bar and music venue.

And what about all the businesses Ratner forced out. Were they wasting their time for the past 20, 30 or 50 years? Doubtful they would have stayed so long if it was all a "dump"

You're welcome to your opinion but please check your facts before you state it.

Same for you, Steve, regarding the "very few" people who were opposed to the project. For starters, there are over 50 community organizations opposed to the project and at least seven thousand petition signers.
Aug. 24, 2011, 11:56 am
Joe from Park Slope says:
Al and Steve, the Stadium is closer to the Park Slope and Ft. Greene Area than it is to downtown Brooklyn, so how you see it as a win for that area is beyond me. The stadium is the worst thing that could happen to this area.
Aug. 24, 2011, 12:42 pm
Lawrence from Park Slope says:
July 16, 2011
Local Groups Victorious in Atlantic Yards Lawsuit

On July 13, New York State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman ruled that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) acted illegally in 2009 when it approved changes to the Atlantic Yards project that increased the amount of time allowed to developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) to complete the project — from 10 years to 25 — without first studying the impacts of prolonged construction to the surrounding communities.

In her decision, the judge lambasted ESDC for its “continuing use of the 10-year build date [that] was not merely inaccurate; it lacked a rational basis given the major change in deadlines reflected in the MTA and Development Agreements.”

After concluding that the 10-year build date lacked a rational basis, Friedman went on to address ESDC’s poor attempt to fill the void with a quickly put together technical analysis: “Notably, the Technical Analysis is silent as to the impacts on neighborhood character and socioeconomic conditions of vacant lots, above ground arena parking and constructing staging, which may persist not merely for a decade, but, as petitioners aptly put it, for a generation.”

The judge has ordered the ESDC to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS), hold a public hearing on the SEIS, and reconsider the 2009 modified general project plan in light of the new SEIS.

The lawsuit was filed in November 2009 by BrooklynSpeaks, an initiative of civic associations, community-based organizations, and advocacy groups concerned about the future of development at the Atlantic Yards site. (The Park Slope Civic Council is one of the coalition's sponsors.) The case was originally decided in favor of ESDC and FCRC in March 2010, on the basis of representations made by ESDC as to the terms of its master development agreement with FCRC prior to the agreement being made available to the public. After the agreement was released and was found to contain no performance guarantees for a 10-year build out, the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors successfully argued for the case to be reopened.

The BrooklynSpeaks groups were elated and called on Governor Cuomo to investigate the project. “This decision sends a clear message that no State authority or politically connected real estate developer can be above the law when the future of our neighborhoods hangs in the balance,” said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic leader of the 52nd District. “We expect an investigation into how this was allowed and call on Governor Cuomo to now take decisive action in reforming oversight of Atlantic Yards, ESDC’s largest project.”

Al Butzel of the Urban Environmental Law Center, which represented the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors, said: “After reviewing ESDC’s justification for not preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement, the Court correctly concluded the agency lacked a rational basis for approving the developer’s proposed changes to the project. It was clear to us that the approval of the plan was rushed through illegally in order to enable FCRC to meet a deadline necessary for its arena bond financing.”

The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors had argued that decades of extended construction, including the use of large portions of the site for a 1,100-car surface parking lot, would have a blighting impact on the surrounding communities. “Two years after Atlantic Yards’ revised plan was adopted by ESDC, the project has yet to deliver any significant jobs for the people of Brooklyn, and its affordable housing is literally nowhere in sight,” said Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee. “FCRC has moved forward with paving land where working families used to live. Now, there is an opportunity to make Atlantic Yards accountable to the public and ensure that the promised benefits of jobs for local residents, affordable housing and open space are delivered without further tax payer subsidy or delay.”

“Although this decision marks a major victory for the community, litigation against the ESDC and FCRC was never our first choice,” said Danae Oratowski, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “With no local elected officials having a vote in the approval process, and faced with decades of construction blight, we were ultimately left no other options. We now look forward to reforms at ESDC that will allow us to move forward constructively.”



Aug. 24, 2011, 4:14 pm
John from the slope says:
The stadium will bridge downtown with brownstone brooklyn-its a great thing for Brooklyn and a true markers of its renaissance.
Aug. 24, 2011, 7:52 pm
Frank from Furter says:
John what have you been smoking. It will do nothing for Brownstone Brooklyn and less for Downtown Brooklyn. Downtown Brooklyn is already undergoing a renaissance caused by opening new residential buildings in what used to be back office space. Fulton street is changing because of that(Shake Shack, Pinera Bread H and M and others) none of which have anything to do with the Stadium/Arena at all. In fact the Arena will not encourage that but discourage it. Look at Madison Square garden and see if it caused positive change in the neighborhood there.
Aug. 24, 2011, 7:58 pm
Pete from Windsor terrace says:

As someone who works in real estate, I can say nothing good about The Atlantic yards project.
It's too big, in the wrong place, and will be built- against enormous local opposition- by an out of control
State Agency in concert with a guy who is using the taxpayers money when plenty of private developers would
have developed that area with private capital.
That is one Bruce Ratner, a creepy buddy of former Gov.Pataki, who never tells the truth about anything: Witnesshis recent prevarication on the number of jobs the project would bring.
Aug. 24, 2011, 9:35 pm
harriet from north side of mount prospect says:
If you really think building housing is important, then answer me this: How many dollars of public subsidies went to build each unit that Ratner is building? And should taxpayers subsidize housing construction in a neighborhood where croissants cost $4?
Aug. 24, 2011, 9:49 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I can never understand why there are those who will believe anything that Ratner tells them. In reality he cares next to nothing about communites, he just uses them to help him push it forward. When it was this area ever really blighted? Was it ever said to be blighted long before he wanted to build there? I don't think so. Even Roger Green, who supports this project didn't think it was blighted. Studies that were found by taking his own numbers found that the two lowest levels of income will not even be living there. In other words, who is it really going to be affordable to? For those who didn't know, what was torn was a number of lowrise apartments, local businesses, and former factories that were converted to residential property with such defined achitecture only to be torn down for something that can go just about anywere. Just to let you all know, this isn't Ratner paying for it, the money is comming from the entire state.
Aug. 24, 2011, 10:34 pm
Josef from downtown says:
1. Al and Steve demonstrate that they are clueless. This project was held up because (a) building a stadium, housing and office space are controversial (I would say illegal and immoral) uses of eminent domain, and (2) Mr. Ratner's original plans would have placed undue strain on local infrastructure and service provision - tons of new kids to school, sewage to pump, drivers for the streets to absorb, etc, and Ratner was not interested in bearing any part of the burden of updating those crucial services and infrastructure.

2. Harriet, I call BS on your exaggeration - croissants are still $1.25 from the breakfast cart people. I should know: I love croissants, and I ain't rich, so take your aspersions with you and go jump in a lake.

3. Doubters like Frank and Joe are entitled to their opinion, but I am excited for an NBA team to be located closer to my house.

4. Nevertheless, I think that Mr. Ratner (and all developers) should basically not be allowed to build luxury housing. This city does not have enough affordable housing. How to incentivize more affordable housing is a complicated economic question, but it is clear that the city's "trickle-down" policy of letting the market handle housing construction has led to the construction of only luxury housing, with the idea apparently being that the most affluent will move into the newest, most luxurious places and everywhere else will lose its sheen and become available to the slightly less affluent all the way on down the line to railroad apartments in Ridgewood.
Aug. 30, 2011, 4:13 pm

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