Ratner buyout silences critics
Real estate developer Bruce Ratner is closing in on a $32 million deal
to buy out residents of a nine-story building standing at what would be
center court of his new Nets arena project.
Residents of the Atlantic Art Building at 636 Pacific St. are being offered
up to double what they paid for their posh apartments, but few are talking
publicly about the deal.
That’s because they must agree to a gag order to get the money, sources
The waiver residents are being asked to sign prohibits them from speaking
out against the arena or attending anti-arena rallies and public hearings.
Residents are also required to take down anti-arena signs from the building’s
entranceway and doorway and are forbidden from donating money to any groups
opposing the project.
Civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel, who is representing residents
and businesses that would be displaced by the $2.5 billion retail, residential
and commercial development, called the gag order “extremely offensive
While first amendment rules don’t apply to private business deals,
“lawyers are thinking about whether there is anything that can be
done [about the gag rule],” Siegel said.
Ratner recently purchased the New Jersey Nets for $300 million and is
looking to bring them to Brooklyn. As part of the plan for the 21-acre
site — that also includes 4,500 apartments — Ratner is asking
the state to condemn over two square blocks of privately-owned land.
Barry Baum, a spokesman for Ratner, declined to comment on the gag order
saying, “We are not discussing negotiations with individual residents.”
James Greilsheimer, an attorney representing the owners at 636 Pacific
St., also declined to comment.
Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James, an outspoken opponent of
the project, said she found the gag order “very troubling.”
“This project is not a done deal, money can not buy love from the
entire community,” said James, adding, “Unless he’s willing
to have a dialogue with the larger community, he is going to continue
to face roadblocks.”
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010