As Brooklyn residents
and elected and appointed officials digest the news that developer Bruce
Ratner wants to build a colossal, $2.5 billion residential and commercial
complex at Atlantic Terminal that would house his newly acquired New Jersey
Nets, a far less publicized major rezoning plan that would pack Downtown
Brooklyn with sweeping skyscrapers is rolling full steam ahead.

And facing the two largest development projects in the borough’s
history, some Brooklynites are fuming that the two projects are not being
considered jointly.

The Downtown Plan, a major push by the city and state to retain back-office
space in New York City, and keep corporations from fleeing to New Jersey
and abroad, would make way for at least 6.7 million square feet of office
space and almost 1 million square feet of retail space as well as some
residential development.

But while that plan courses through the rigorous city land use review
process, the neighboring Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project —
Ratner’s colossal, $2.5 billion residential and commercial buildup
centered around a 19,000-seat arena to house the Nets — will likely
skirt city review.

“You can’t look at each of these projects in an isolated manner,
we need to look at all of this as one development, they are intrinsically
connected,” said Councilwoman Letitia James, an outspoken opponent
of the arena complex whose district includes portions of both plans.

Together the two plans could add an additional 14 million square feet
of development in the greater Downtown Brooklyn area and would require
the taking of approximately 15 acres of private land by eminent domain,
a power of the state to claim property that is either deemed blighted
or is slated for projects deemed to be for the public good.

For months, the city has refused to field questions about Ratner’s
Atlantic Yards at public meetings relating to the Downtown Plan, a move
that has outraged a number of residents and community board members.

“It’s the big elephant that nobody will talk about,” said
Patti Hagan, a member of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, an anti-arena
neighborhood group that planned to pack a scheduled meeting of Community
Board 2 last Wednesday at which the board was set to vote on the Downtown
Plan with hundreds of detractors.

Those protests were aborted when the meeting, scheduled on Wednesday,
were postponed due to the snowstorm.

The vote has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 3, at 6 pm, in the auditorium
of Brooklyn Technical High School, at DeKalb Avenue and Fort Greene Place.
Hagan said her group would be there in force.

Just days after Ratner announced his $300 million purchase of the Nets,
on Friday, Jan. 23, the Department of City Planning reversed itself and
agreed to a supplemental scoping session for the arena plan’s environmental
impact study, taking into consideration the nearly 8 million-square-foot
build-out of the Atlantic Yards with regards to the Downtown Plan.

That session will be held on Monday, Feb. 23, at Brooklyn Borough Hall,
at 6 pm. The meeting will come after the community board has released
its decision on the Downtown Plan as required by the city’s Uniform
Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) timeframe.

Brian Ketcham, an engineer with Community Consulting Services, a non-profit
organization that studies traffic and transportation impacts, called City
Planning’s public meeting too little, too late.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” said Ketcham. “We think
they should stop the [ULURP] process and go back to the drawing board
and do a full-scale traffic analysis.”

Ketcham, who has gone head to head with the city over traffic concerns
related to the Downtown Plan for months, wants city planners to look at
all of the development planned for Downtown Brooklyn and the surrounding

According to Ketcham, the Downtown rezoning alone will bring an additional
17,000 cars and 95,000 subway riders each day.

The Downtown Plan and Atlantic Yards are just one part of the massive
developments that will form “the new Brooklyn,” a phrase Ratner
has used to describe the mega-construction going on in his adopted borough.

Factor in all of the development planned to rise in the surrounding neighborhoods
and you are looking at 115,000 cars and 430,000 subway riders each day,
Ketcham said.

• • •

The “new Brooklyn” would include:

•Atlantic Terminal — Ratner’s 770,000-square-foot office
tower and mall atop the Atlantic Avenue subway station. Target, Outback
Steak House and Chuck E. Cheese are scheduled to open in the mall, which
is tentatively scheduled for completion in May. Office space would be
anchored by the Bank of New York.

•Brooklyn Bridge Park — a 1.5-mile commercial and recreational
development along the waterfront from Pier 6 at Atlantic Avenue to just
past the Manhattan Bridge that would include a hotel.

•BAM Cultural District – a 14-block mixed-use cultural district
in Fort Greene, including housing, retail and artist space.

•Fairway — a massive supermarket being built in a 19th-century
warehouse at the end of Van Brunt Street in Red Hook.

•Empire Stores Shopping Mall —modeled on Chelsea Market, a 400,000-square-foot
shopping complex abutting Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park in DUMBO, to
open in 2007.

•Park Slope Rezoning — the up-zoning of Fourth Avenue to allow
for 12-story buildings between Warren and 15th streets.

•Lowe’s — a big-box home improvement center being built
by Ratner on the former U.S. Postal Service site in Gowanus at 12th Street
and Second Avenue.

•Whole Foods — a 42,000-square-foot organic foods supermarket
to be built on Third Avenue at Third Street with up to 220 parking spaces.
It would open in 2005.

•85 Jay St.— four-tower Watchtower Society residential complex
in DUMBO on one of the largest undeveloped plots of land in the city.

•Ikea — proposed Swedish furnishings giant store planned for
the end of Columbia Street at the old New York Shipyards site in Red Hook.

•Pier 7 — just south of Atlantic Avenue, the city is negotiating
with Carnival Cruise Lines to turn it into a cruise ship dock.

•Piers 8-12 — the city and Port Authority are studying future
use of the Carroll Gardens and Red Hook piers that could bring residential
and commercial development.

• • •

“We should be thrilled in so many ways that development is coming
to Brooklyn,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz, a vocal proponent
of Ratner’s acquisition of the Nets and of Atlantic Yards, the Downtown
Plan and future growth in the borough.

“In Brooklyn, we wear everything on our sleeves, and I’m no
different,” said Markowitz, adding, “I believe the arena is
the most exciting opportunity we’ve had in decades. The arena will
become the center of family life in Brooklyn. At the same time, it will
preserve the quality of life of the neighborhoods that abut it.”

Markowitz has for three years been pushing to get Brooklyn a professional
sports team.

But Tom Angotti, of Windsor Terrace, a professor of Urban Affairs and
Planning at Hunter College, has his doubts.

“The Atlantic Yards plan by itself is a major undertaking. If you
add to that the BAM expansion, the downtown expansion, the development
around Fulton Mall, you’re talking about some substantial change,”
said Angotti, who worked in the Brooklyn office of City Planning in the
early ’90s.

“They haven’t addressed the question of what the impact will
be on existing housing surrounding neighborhoods,” said Agnotti.
“It undoubtedly will jack up rents and could very well force out
more people than the new housing accommodates.”

• • •

As part of the arena plan, Ratner plans to construct 4,500 units of housing,
although he has not delineated how much of that would be affordable housing.
The downtown plan makes way for 1,000 units of housing.

At the same time, both plans require taking private land for private development.

The Downtown Plan would seize seven acres of privately owned land and
would displace 100 units of housing and 130 commercial units, according
to City Planning.

For the past month and a half, Community Board 2 — which received
the 700-plus page application just before the December holiday season
— had to hold committee hearings, host a public hearing and vote.
Board members have been asking the city to slow down the review process
so they can adequately consider the more than 20 independent actions included
in the plan.

But under the City Charter, the board has just 60 days to vote on the
plan before it goes on to the borough president, City Planning Commission,
City Council and then on to the mayor.

While the supplemental Atlantic Yards information will be made available
in several months, both the community board and borough president will
have to vote on the Downtown Plan without it.

“The board has to vote on the Downtown Brooklyn Plan handicapped
or not,” said CB2 District Manager Robert Perris.

“The [ULURP ] clock is the same for one relatively simple application
or a series of 22 interwoven applications. We have the same 60 days no
mater what, maybe the ULURP clock needs to be revised,” said Perris

The Downtown Plan’s 22 actions include rezoning, and extensions of
urban renewal areas that will allow the state to condemn property.

Responding to the loss of 21,000 city jobs to New Jersey in the 1990s,
the Bloomberg administration along with the Downtown Brooklyn Council
spent more than a year and a half creating the comprehensive plan, the
details of which were announced last April.

The mayor has pledged to fund the $100 million in infrastructure improvements
and construction over the next 10 years, with much of it coming in the
first few years, but the project would still be largely dependent on market
conditions and the ability to lure businesses and developers.

“People are afraid of change,” said Michael Burke, executive
director of the Downtown Brooklyn Council, who says the plan will secure
downtown’s place as the third largest commercial district in New
York City after Midtown Manhattan and Wall Street.

“To protect residents and businesses we have to evaluate this new
construction collectively, not individually,” said Evan Thies, a
spokesman for Downtown Councilman David Yassky.

But the key question on the minds of most residents is traffic.

Said Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association
and a CB2 Land Use committee member, “We’ll drown in cars.”