It’s all about money

Whether Bruce Ratner gets to build his Atlantic Yards
mega-project rests not on any eminent domain decision (he already owns
much of the private property on the site) but on government’s willingness
to put our treasuries at the developer’s disposal.

Undoubtedly, some of Ratner’s acquisitions were at least facilitiated
by the threat of eminent domain — property owners knew that if they
did not negotiate a settlement early, their property might be taken later
under less advantageous circumstances. But at this point, for Atlantic
Yards, eminent domain is not the issue.

The issue is that taxpayers are being asked to pay for Ratner’s game.

An honest discussion will put the public price tag at $1 billion or more,
not $100 million (a token down payment referenced by the Manhattan news
media). Tax breaks associated with the New Jersey Nets component of the
project — a very small part of the overall plan — alone amount
to $300 million; the gifting of the MTA’s rail yards (yes, they will
be “sold” — but in an essentially non-competitive 11th-hour
bidding process); hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure costs
(some will be masked as railroad improvements if the MTA moves its tracks
to make way for an arena) — incredibly lavish subsidies to pay Ratner
for the so-called “affordable” housing component of his project
(no, Ratner is not paying for the “affordable” housing —
you are), and more, lots more — all amount to virtually a blank check.

News coverage of the Ratner project has been — aside from that
appearing in The Brooklyn Papers (and occasional references in Mike Lupica’s
Daily News columns) — largely sanitized at best, fawningly adoring
of the developer at worst. Even newspapers that were critical of the Westside
Manhattan-Jets giveaway are turning a blind eye to what is developing
at the gold-plated Atlantic Yards. We’d love to say, “If you
don’t believe The Brooklyn Papers, read something else,” but
can’t. Everyone else is on board the Ratner gravy train.

Ratner need not have felt it necessary to publish his own “newspaper”
(the Brooklyn Standard, produced by people at one of Manhattan’s
community newspaper companies), or to subsidize Brooklyn’s other
community publications with hefty ad spending, since he already controls
almost all the news coverage in New York that deals with his project.

In the end, you, our readers, may choose to oppose — or support —
Ratner’s development. The Brooklyn Papers’ job is to provide
the facts so whatever choice you make is an educated one.

• • •

The national news media often speaks of its role in lofty terms, and talks
about Constitutional protections as though they were handed to Moses on
Mount Sinai.

At The Brooklyn Papers, some of these discussions often seem besides the
point. We’re not in bed with a Deep Throat, we’re not looking
to start or end a war, to elect or depose a president, or even find a
missing woman in Aruba. We’re also not owned by multinational publishing
empires or billionaire real estate moguls. We’re local people striving
to do our best (with varying degrees of success) to collect and print
the truth about things that affect our Brooklyn neighborhoods.

On the eve of America’s independence anniversary, we ask New York’s
high-falutin daily news media to do its job.

Simply report the news about Bruce Ratner’s project. Stop being the
developer’s tool — and his fool.