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Pols call Olympic arena plans a land grab - Brooklyn Paper

Pols call Olympic arena plans a land grab

Flanked by East New York Councilman Charles Barron (far left), state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s Daniel Goldstein (far right) former Salt Lake City Deputy Mayor

Opponents of Bruce Ratner’s plan to build a basketball arena in Prospect
Heights joined forces with opponents of a planned football stadium on
Manhattan’s West Side this week.

The two plans both figure prominently in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s
bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to New York.

At a press conference on the steps of City Hall Tuesday, members of the
two groups, joined by an Olympic bid expert, charged that the Bloomberg
administration was merely using the Olympic effort to push the two projects
through.

“This is really about a land grab wrapped in Olympic rings,”
charged Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn,
a group of residents fighting Ratner’s plan to build an arena combined
with skyscrapers and apartment towers on 21 acres of land stretching east
from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

That 800,000-square-foot, 19,000-seat arena, which Ratner wants as a home
for his recently purchased New Jersey Nets, was included in a modified
2012 Olympic plan as a venue for all gymnastics events, a highlight of
the summer games.

At the Aug. 24 news conference, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, whose district
includes the Jets stadium proposed for the far west side of Manhattan
— another proposed Olympic venue — called the bid a “a
phony Olympic scam.”

“We don’t need to get this stadium going for the Olympics,”
said Gottfried, refuting claims by the mayor and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctororff,
who heads the NYC 2012 effort, that shovels must be in the ground by 2005
to strengthen New York’s bid.

Organizers of Tuesday’s rally also hoisted up a banner on a four-story
building on Pacific Street earlier this week that would face the wrecking-ball
if Ratner’s plan goes through.

Under the Olympic symbol of interlocking rings, the sign read: “Please
Don’t Destroy our Homes.”

“This is about real estate, not the Olympics,” said Brian Hatch,
who was deputy mayor of Salt Lake City during preparations for the 2002
Winter Olympics.

Hatch, who now lives in New York and runs a Web site that tracks the city’s
2012 bid, has said the mayor’s plan is “too costly, too complicated,
too congested and too controversial to win.”

Hatch also criticized the city for trying to begin construction on Olympic
venues before receiving a nod from the International Olympic Committee,
a move, he says, no other successful city has ever undertaken.

Connecting the bid to controversial projects that are facing community
opposition and require the taking of private property under the governmental
power of eminent domain, which both the Nets and Jets plan require, could
significantly hurt the city’s chances of snagging the Olympics, said
Hatch.

Jennifer Falk, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg, called the opponents claim
“disengenuous.”

“The Atlantic Yards project was announced months before the decision
was made to use this spectacular arena,” said Falk. “It is disingenuous
for those opposed to any kind of development whatsoever in this city to
assert otherwise.”

New York is one of five finalists to host the 2012 games along with London,
Paris, Moscow and Madrid. The International Olympic Committee will make
its final decision next July.

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