Boondoggle Basics - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Boondoggle Basics

by -

The proposed plan would dominate the Brooklyn landscape

DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them. DDDB is opposed to Forest City Ratner's 8.8 million square foot development proposal for an arena and 16 high-rises in Prospect Heights and Park Slope, Brooklyn. The $3.5 billion project would use at least $1.6 billion in public money and would abuse the state's power of eminent domain‒taking private property from one owner to give to a private entity for a private use, instead of a public use.

Our coalition consists of 21 community organizations and there are 51 community organizations formally aligned in opposition to the Ratner plan.

DDDB believes that New York City is always about change, but we ask the question: How do we, the people, want that change to occur? We want smart collaboration that creates decentralized, diverse, exciting urbanscapes that New York and Brooklyn can point to with pride. We do not accept the abuse of eminent domain. And we do not want top down, sweetheart mega-deals that give one real estate developer carte blanche.

DDDB supports growth at the MTA's Vanderbilt Rail Yards, with truly affordable housing and career creation; that development must respect the quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods, the well-being of existing businesses, the scale of local architecture and the health of nearby residents. Zoning changes MUST benefit residents, while allowing for new uses. There must be oversight by local officials from community boards to the City Council. And most importantly there must be genuine input from affected communities.

DDDB is fighting the Forest City Ratner plan so that we can have responsible development in our community. We are fighting and will continue to fight in the court of public opinion, political opinion and eventually in the courts of law.

DDDB is a volunteer-run organization. We have over 5,000 subscribers to our email newsletter, 6,000 petition signers, and a nine-person steering committee. Over 700 volunteers have registered with DDDB to form our various teams, task-forces and committees and we have over 150 block captains.

We our funded entirely by individual donations from the community at large and through various fundraising events we and supporters have organized.

What is Forest City Ratner?

Forest City Ratner is a subsidiary of Cleveland based Forest City Enterprises, the largest publicly traded real estate development corporation in the United States. Bruce Ratner is the CEO and President of Forest City Ratner (FCR). FCR's headquarters are in the Metrotech office complex in Downtown Brooklyn. FCR is best known in Brooklyn for constructing Metrotech, the Atlantic Center Mall, and the Atlantic Terminal Mall.

What is Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards"Proposal?

16 Skyscrapers and an Arena that will cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion, according to independent analysis. While the arena is most of what you hear about the project, it is a very small part of this plan. 90% of the scheme is skyscrapers which would rise up to 53 stories high, taller than the iconic Williamsburg Savings Bank, and cast shadows as far as DeKalb Avenue in Fort Greene.

This project would fill seven large blocks, from Flatbush to Vanderbilt Avenues, and from Atlantic Avenue to Dean Street. That's almost 1.5 times the size of the entire World Trade Center site.

3-5 additional skyscrapers are also proposed by the developer on Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush, on the current sites of the Atlantic Center Mall, PC Richards, and Modells.

More Than 20 Skyscrapers?!

If you live in Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, Crown Heights, or Bedford-Stuyvesant, get ready to kiss your neighborhood goodbye. (Everyone else – get ready to see your tax dollars given to a developer instead of your schools.)

No democracy: the biggest development ever proposed in Brooklyn has had no input from the local community and will have no input or oversight from our city council, community boards, or the state legislature. The city will condemn homes and businesses, tie up tax dollars for the billionaire developer, but refuse the input of the people. An unaccountable state public corporation, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), will oversee the project and override ALL local zoning.

Why Do You Think It'll Be That Bad?

Traffic: Picture 23,000 more cars each day going through the intersection at Flatbush and Atlantic. Now picture rush hour.

Wrong use: Picture 18,000 people swarming our residential neighborhoods for Arena events 250 days a year (and imagine them trying to park).

Overcrowding: Picture 15,000 new residents living at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, but no new schools, hospitals, police or fire stations, and no traffic or public transportation improvements.

What a Deal (for Mr. Ratner)!

Bruce Ratner, the developer who wants to build this project, would lease the arena – and take all its profits – for the next 99 years at a bargain price: $1.00 (The government will throw in, for free, entire city streets and millions of square feet of development rights). Just like the Jets, he's buying the rail yards from the MTA for far less than they're worth, and for less than the competing bid, at a time that the MTA is raising fares, closing token booths and cutting service. (The MTA accepted Ratner's bid of $100 million per $30/sq. foot, despite the competing bid of $150 million from Extell and the MTA's own appraised value of $214.5 million. THAT is a sweetheart deal.)

He will not pay taxes (property, mortgage transfer or sales tax) into the NYC treasury. Instead, he will pay Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) which will go directly into an unaccountable slush fund, robbing NYC of hundreds of millions in revenue. The government is ready to use eminent domain to take people's property and give it to Ratner.

The city and state will compel taxpayers to support his profits by giving him at least $550 million in tax-exempt bonds (loans), and close to $2 billion in taxpayer money. It is likely that the public will be on the hook if the bonds are not paid back. (New York City and State have each promised to give Ratner $100 million in cash – but that is only the tip of the iceberg).

"But I Heard That..."

"... Mr. Ratner will build 'affordable' housing."

At least 69% of the units‒5,050 units‒will be luxury, market rate dwellings. Only 12% of the housing would be for people making less than $31,000 a year. The median income in Brooklyn is $32,000, so the question is: affordable for whom?

"... only Ratner will build affordable housing."

That is not true. Any developer who builds over the rail yards can build affordable housing given the same subsidies that Ratner expects.

"... it will create 10,000 permanent jobs."

This is not true. Ratner proposes to build space for 2,300 jobs. 700 might be new. None of those jobs would be guaranteed to local residents, and many jobs would be recycled from elsewhere ("retained") rather than new. Also, 11% of Brooklyn office space is currently empty.

"... The project is funded by private money."

Absolutely not. Never. Your tax dollars keep Ratner going. The public would pay nearly $2 billion for the Atlantic yards project. Taxpayers gave him $117 million to build the Atlantic Terminal Mall. We pay $1.7 million each year to rent office space at his Atlantic Center Mall and undisclosed millions more to rent 1 million square feet of space at Ratner's MetroTech. New York governmental agencies are Ratner's number one tenant.

"...This project will boost the local economy."

Ratner fills his projects with national chain stores (like Chuck E. Cheese) that send their profits out-of-state. Local small businesses are excluded from his projects, and suffer from the subsidized national chain competition. Ratner would build a tunnel from the subway directly to the arena so arena visitors will have no need to explore the neighbhorhood.

"... he will employ local unemployed minorities."

Ratner has guaranteed no such thing, and has a terrible track record on minority and local hiring. Ratner made similar promises when he built MetroTech, but broke them. He cannot be trusted.

"...Ratner is working with the community."

This is not true. He is working with groups that have become his business partners, and will be given contracts to manage parts of this project, if he builds it.

"...Only Ratner would build over the rail yards."

This is not true. Other developers are eager to build on the MTA's valuable land, but only Ratner has been offered hundreds of millions of dollars in cash, massive subsidies, a sweetheart price for the rail yards, and guaranteed re-zoning. Extell Development Company outbid Ratner for the rail yards, but the MTA's political masters gave the nod to Mr. Ratner.

"...Only a few people oppose this project."

This is not true. Three of the district's four locally elected officials, dozens and dozens of community groups and clergy leaders, and many thousands of your neighbors and fellow citizens are actively fighting to defeat this boondoggle. Fifty-three community groups are opposed to or deeply concerned about the Ratner proposal. The public is clearly opposed to the plan for housing.

So what we are saying is that this is a bad deal for Brooklyn and a bad deal for New Yorkers. It is a sweet deal for Forest City Enterprises which will earn a profit of well over $1 billion, using New York's flawed housing policy to build a predominately luxury housing enclave, in a project so extremely dense that it won't be livable for any "income band."

For more information, please visit Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

In Maspeth and Middle Village, we certainly have our own problems with rezoning and overdevelopment, but we haven't yet had to battle eminent domain that benefits no one except private developers, such as is currently happening in Brooklyn. A problem like this experienced by any city community is a battle that every city community should take notice of, as it costs us all. We should also remember that it could just as easily happen here at any time.

The original intention of eminent domain was to allow the government to pay fair market value to property owners so that they may develop land for the greater good. Most subway lines and highways were built through the city's power of eminent domain. We have asked the city to use this power in order to save St. Saviour's Church and turn it into a much needed park – something that actually would benefit the community – but sadly, our elected officials have yet to go along with this proposal. However, the government-sanctioned rape of Brooklyn remains a high priority with both our city and state administrations.