Brooklyn needs cheap digs at Atlantic Yards, not fast cash for Ratner: Officials

Atlantic Yards goes public! Ratner puts a major chunk of the project on the chopping block, but vows to keep control
ShoP Architects

A band of politicians and civic groups is calling on the state to stop developer Forest City Ratner from selling off the majority of the Atlantic Yards development until the company fast-tracks the construction of below-market-rate housing.

The Shanghai-based developer Greenland inked a deal in October to buy the rights to the remaining, un-built towers of the stagnated project from Forest City Ratner, leaving just the Barclays Center and the under-construction modular high-rise B2 tower in the hands of the builder. But elected officials, including Fort Greene councilwoman and Public-Advocate-elect Letitia James, said the state should put the brakes on the deal and find someone new to jump-start the so-called “affordable” housing, because Brooklyn does not know Greenland the developer from the Nordic country it shares a name with.

“The governor should consider not-for-profit organizations to build the affordable housing, ones who have a track record of doing it,” James said at a Friday press conference. “Now here Forest City Ratner is, trying to kick out the plan and selling over 70 percent of his interest in this project to an organization that we really don’t have any relationship with and have no experience with.”

Greenland’s purchase includes a planned 15 apartment towers and one office building and a promise of 2,250 so-called “affordable” units, of which only 181 are in progress as part of the 383-unit B2. Officials are demanding that the state’s Empire State Development defer any sale until the state has looked at other ways to expedite construction.

“What Atlantic Yards needs is not more remote investors,” Prospect Heights Assemblywoman Joan Millman said in a statement. “It needs a careful assessment of reasonable alternatives so we can deliver on the benefits that were promised to our communities.”

Bruce Ratner’s company once pledged to have the project completed in 2016, then moved the date out to 2035 and now will not offer a finish date at all, nor a start date for additional construction. It has blamed the delays on lawsuits aimed at stopping the project from groups like BrooklynSpeaks.

“BrooklynSpeaks and those that stand with it talk out of both sides of their mouth,” said Bertha Lewis, former head of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which was contractually obligated to voice support for Atlantic Yards before the group disbanded in 2010.

BrooklynSpeaks said it sued in 2009 — after, and because, the state approved Forest City Ratner’s extended time-frame — and that the real estate company is the one holding things up with appeal after appeal.

“We filed suit to speed up the project,” BrooklynSpeaks member Gib Veconi said. “That’s been the thrust of our advocacy.”

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Tished off: Fort Greene Councilwoman Letitia James wants the state to halt the sale of the un-built majority of Atlantic Yards.
Community Newspaper Group / Ben Muessig