CB6 feeling shut out by Ratner

When real estate
developer Bruce Ratner pulled back the curtain on his colossal $2.5 billion
plan to convert a swath of Prospect Heights into a Frank Gehry-designed
neighborhood of apartments and offices centered around a professional
basketball arena, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

Hip-hop star Jay-Z was there. So was Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former
NBA great Bernard King. Shirley McRae, chairwoman of Community Board 2
even snagged an invite.

But nobody asked Community Board 6 to come to the Dec. 10 press conference
at Borough Hall, according to the board’s district manager, Craig

“That invitation must have been lost in the fax machine,” Hammerman
said with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
While CB6 covers Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Red Hook and
Gowanus, it also extends into one block of Prospect Heights — the
very block that’s home to most of the residents and businesses that
must be evicted by the state to carry out Ratner’s plan.

“When people ask us if we have a role to play, we are uncertain,”
said Hammerman. “We have no application before us, we simply don’t
know other than what we read in the newspapers.”

Ratner, who purchased the New Jersey Nets for $300 million last week,
wants to bring them to a 22-acre site that he is calling Atlantic Yards,
at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues over the Long Island Rail
Yards and the blocks immediately south of them, extending east to Vanderbilt

The block bounded by Pacific and Dean streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt
avenues, is also to be taken under the state’s power of eminent domain,
and lies within the boundaries of CB8, although fewer residents will be
displaced on that block than on the CB6 block. The CB6 block is bounded
by Flatbush and Sixth avenues and Pacific and Dean streets.

The arena would be built at the nexus of Park Slope, Fort Greene, Boerum
Hill, Prospect Heights and Downtown Brooklyn.

Robert Matthews, chairman of CB8, declined to comment on the plan until
the board has had a chance to discuss it, which he said would be next
week. He said both the city and Ratner had reached out to him and he received
an invite to the December press conference.

That information left Hammerman scratching his head, wondering why his
board was left out in the cold.

Ratner spokesman Barry Baum said CB6 was not intetionally left behind.
They were invited, he said, to last week’s announcement at BAM of
Ratner’s purchase of the Nets. “We invited them to this press
conference, and we look forward to working with Community Board 6,”
Baum said.

“We’re concerned, a project like it has the clear potential
to significantly alter the character of the neighborhood,” said Hammerman,
who noted that it was unclear what role the board would play in any review
of the plan.

When asked about the role of the community, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a
staunch supporter of the arena plan, said Ratner was a “class act”
who always sought community input.

But not everybody agrees with that assessment.

Ratner certainly received few community kudos for the construction of
Atlantic Center, an internally isolating mall on Atlantic Avenue that
some neighbors have not so affectionately called “the big ugly.”

Despite community pleas to open the mall up on the Fort Greene side, the
only entrances are along Atlantic Avenue, leaving residents with a big
blank wall, according to Fort Green Association president Howard Pitsch.

And, said Hammerman, Ratner came to CB6 “kicking and screaming”
when pushed to address the board about his construction of a big-box Lowe’s
home improvement store at Second Avenue and 12th Street and then took
none of the community’s concerns into consideration.

Through a spokesman, Ratner told The Brooklyn Papers this week that he
would try harder in reaching out to the community on his Atlantic Yards

“We need to increase our efforts to provide adequate forums and outreach
and to implement a system whereby there is direct contact for questions
to be answered,” said spokesman Barry Baum.