Bruce quietly buying up Prospect Heights

The Brooklyn Paper
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Over the past several months, developer Bruce Ratner has been quietly plowing his way through Prospect Heights, purchasing everything property owners are willing to sell.

So far he has bought up a crumbling furniture warehouse, a luxury condominium building and, just recently, he closed on a four-story brick building where he plans to build the tallest tower in Brooklyn.

The six-block stretch between Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues, home to upwards of 400 people, has never been so popular.

That’s because Ratner, principal of Forest City Ratner, is now looking to construct Atlantic Yards, a residential, retail and commercial development centered around a basketball arena to house his newly purchased New Jersey Nets on that site.

Just last month the developer purchased 624 Pacific St., a four-story brick building off Flatbush Avenue, which is home to four rent-stabilized apartments.

Each tenant living there received letters in the mail dated July 14 informing them that that the building had been sold to an entity known as “Arena Nominee Sub F, LLC,” and that rent checks should be sent to Forest City Ratner’s main office at Metrotech.

The tenants, mostly artists and writers, are opposed to the project and have placed anti-arena banners reading “No land grab” and “Hell no we won’t go” along the outside of the building.

Will Lashley, a film and video editor who has lived in the building for nine years, said he was concerned about what is going to happen.

“We have not been offered anything,” said Lashley, who has consulted with an attorney about what will happen to them if Ratner wants to tear down the building and put up another in its place.

“I don’t want to lose this apartment, what am I going to do. It’s going to change my entire lifestyle. I might have to leave New York altogether,” said Lashley who pays “well under $1,000” for his one bedroom apartment.

The previous owner of 624 Pacific St., K.C. Shemtov, who described his profession as “buy low, sell high,” is also negotiating to sell his own offices just a few doors down at 640 Pacific St.

Shemtov declined to comment on the selling price for either building.

In order to build the 8-million-square-foot Atlantic Yards project, including a 19,000-seat arena and 17 towers, Ratner will either have to buy-out or ask the state to use eminent domain to condemn over 11 acres of private property.

The loudest objection to the plan has been over the issue of eminent domain — the power of the state to condemn private land for public use — and in order to quell those cries Ratner has taken to purchasing property throughout Prospect Heights.

Just last week, Ratner finally closed on a deal with residents at the posh Atlantic Art Building, a 32-unit luxury condominium at 636 Pacific St.

News of that deal made headlines a few months ago when word got out that, as part of the agreement, owners were banned from speaking out against the project and would have to designate two people to speak in favor of it.

One resident, Daniel Goldstein — a leader of Develop Don’t Destory Brooklyn, a group opposed to the project — has refused to sell.
Ratner’s other purchases include a mattress and furniture warehouse at 585 Dean St. that houses Frederick’s Furniture.

Several other buildings within the 21-acre footprint have also sold in the past two months, but Ratner declined to confirm if he was the buyer. The city’s Department of Finance takes several months to process real estate transactions.

Tenants at 812 Pacific St., a four-story building at the eastern end of the project near Vanderbilt Avenue, learned that the building had recently sold.

“I’m not too thrilled about it,” said Maria Gonzalez, who has lived in 810 Pacific St. for 31 years and is afraid that her building is next. “There are lot of memories here.”

“We are not discussing that at this time,” said Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Ratner when asked this week about which properties the developer had purchased.

While some developers have been selling their land, others have refused.

Henry Weinstein, who owns close to one acre of property including a 20,000-square-foot vacant lot and a seven-floor storage facility on Carlton Avenue stretching between Pacific and Dean streets, said he has no intention of selling.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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