Longstanding opponents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and Brooklyn Speaks got a favorable response last month and will have a hearing tomorrow, Dec. 22 (State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, 60 Centre Street, IAS Motion Part 57, Room 335). At issue is a motion for a stay on the construction of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development. The plaintiffs charge collusion to deceive the court on an environmental impact statement. It appears that this is clearly the case. This is more than what stopped the infamous Westway project years ago.
How, you might wonder, does Bruce Ratner's mega-development inspire such sustained assault? Let's see some basics:
- The state government entity running the show, the ESDC, seems to have withheld some important information when it got its final clearance to proceed back in December of last year, and Judge Friedman kind of put them on warning.
In sum, they got permission to tear down a sizable chunk of Brooklyn real estate and take it over via eminent domain because they promised to deliver some benefits to the city. An essential element was delivering jobs and housing within a ten-year time frame. Problem is, all along the ESDC and FCR were thinking of a 25-year build-out, which means that the benefits kind of disappear.
This reminds me of the way I feel when someone in my home promises to do the dinner dishes, but while I assume that means the sink will be empty this evening -- a nice benefit -- the person who promised intends on doing them only some time in the upcoming week. Sure, I will still get a benefit -- a clean sink, new housing, whatever -- but that week with a dirty sink -- or two decades (20+ years!) with a 1,100 car surface parking lot instead of buildings -- kind of wipes out any and all promised benefits.
- We're paying for much of this. Close to $2 billion in subsidies. And now, even though the financing is in place and all the jobs that will be created have been figured out, Forest City Ratner is going to China of all places to get close to a quarter million dollars from Chinese investors who, with our government's assistance, will get about 500 green cards through abuse of the federal EB-5 program.
FCR intends to use this low-cost, subsidized money to reduce its loans here; obviously no new jobs will be created. It's a little complicated on the surface but if you dig deeper, as others have done, you'll see it just seems to be a scandal.
- Instead of thousands of jobs being created, only about 100 union workers have been hired so far. The projection, despite the millions of taxpayer dollars committed to the project because of job creation, is that this number is going to peak at 600. That's right - a measly 600 jobs, per FCR's executive in charge of this fiasco, MaryAnne Gilmartin herself. You have to wonder how people like her sleep at night. I hope her friends at the Ratner-created job-training group BUILD are screaming at her right now, which would be about the only appropriate response to such chicanery.
As recently as last year the figure the ESDC gave the peak as 3,710 jobs. The ESDC and FCR often sold the project by saying they'd create 10,000 or even 17,000 jobs, using the job-years figure (usually without disclosing the deception). Now the peak figure is only 600. This is beyond shameful and for me, one of the biggest black marks on the whole thing.
Meanwhile, we still mourn the loss of the well-thought-out bid for the MTA railyards by Extell Corporation--one that was $50 million more than the bid that FCR ultimately made. Extell just got approval for its Riverside Center development by going through community and city processes. No need for them to give the rules an end run.
That's why there's still a fight.