This week, Bruce Ratner finally answered one of our questions. This is great news for readers of The Brooklyn Paper, who have become frustrated at constantly seeing the phrase “Forest City Ratner declined to comment” at the bottom of virtually every article about Atlantic Yards — a phrase that is the result of the developer’s blanket policy of not answering legitimate questions.
Ratner’s spokesman did return a call for this week’s story on the developer’s pledge to preserve a valuable piece of artist Sol LeWitt’s legacy. Readers can judge for themselves whether the story [which is on page 14] is fair and balanced — like the rest of our critical, but accurate, Atlantic Yards coverage.
Our job is to get the company’s position in the paper, something we take seriously at this newspaper — which remains the only publication that is covering Atlantic Yards with the due diligence it deserves. Our commitment to accuracy is why we ALWAYS call and e-mail Forest City Ratner officials before printing any Atlantic Yards story.
But the company never answers. Last week, we found out why.
In a Crain’s New York Business article about this paper’s intense coverage of the biggest development in Brooklyn’s history, a Ratner vice-president, Bruce Bender, resorted to a factually inaccurate bit of paranoia to defend his company’s silence:
“They call you names, attack your friends, accuse you of being dishonest and mean,” Bender said of our award-winning reporters, though neither he, nor Crain’s, cited a single example of any such nonsense.
We think our questions remain eminently reasonable — but you decide. Below, we are presenting a long — though far from full — list of questions that Forest City Ratner has declined to answer over the last 12 months. And remember, when the company dodges our questions, it is evading its responsibility to tell YOU, the taxpayer, vital details of a project that state officials rubberstamped on your behalf:
1. Explain how the Nets arena will be financed so there is no confusion.
2. Explain why the 30-year public revenue projections for Atlantic Yards dropped from $1.5 billion to $943 million over the summer.
3. Explain how a company plan to close part of Fourth Avenue and divert Flatbush Avenue–bound traffic onto Pacific Street will help solve gridlock.
4. Disclose how many people are currently employed at Metrotech and the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls? [The figures were vital to a story about why Ratner’s jobs projections have historically fallen short.]
5. Please give us the same company statement that FCR sent to Metro, a free daily, regarding stories about a possible delay in the Atlantic Yards construction timeline.
6. Explain why FCR ranked third on the list of biggest state lobbyists last year.
7. Explain how much money FCR has spent on local philanthropy in Brooklyn.
8. Disclose how much money Ratner’s partners in the “Community Benefits Agreement” have received so far.
9. Please comment on reports that FCR’s arena partner, Barclays Bank, profited from slavery, the Holocaust and apartheid.
10. Explain how Bruce Ratner felt after being hugged by Courier-Life Publications reporter Steve Witt.
11. Explain why virtually none of the investors in the Nets are based in Brooklyn.
12. Comment on the negotiations that took place between the city and FCR regarding a possible downsizing of the project.
13. Comment on a report that Atlantic Yards would be the densest Census tract in the country.
14. Tell us how many gallons of sewage the project will send to the frequently over-capacity Red Hook treatment plant.
15. Comment on the latest lawsuit filed against FCR [repeatedly asked].
16. Explain the public subsidies that are underwriting the 2,250 units of below-market-rate rentals that are part of Atlantic Yards.
17. Explain whether those units will be side-by-side with the market-rate units or in other buildings.
18. Comment on a judge’s decision that a deal between FCR and developer Shaya Boymelgreen was “improper.”
19. Comment on a court victory by a resident of the Atlantic Yards footprint who claims he was arrested at FCR’s behest.
20. Explain why a full business plan was never provided to state authorities.
We think these questions — and the dozens of others that couldn’t fit in this space — are reasonable. Of course, we invite your comments — and those of Bruce Ratner, too.