Imminent Domain

The Atlantic Yards (www.atlanticyards.com) are a new development proposed for downtown Brooklyn. headed by Bruce Ratner, owner of the NJ Nets, this project would install 17 new skyscrapers in Prospect Heights, as well as a stadium for the newly crowned "Brooklyn Nets." I like change. change is good. but a lot of this deal is fishy. it reeks of the now-defunct West Side Stadium deal from last year. The MTA owns "the Vanderbilt Yards," which they appraised at $214 million. they are selling this property to City Forest Ratner (the private development company) for $100 million, after an 'open bid,' where rival developers were given 6 weeks to present altenative plans to a project that City Forest Ratner has been working on for years. the MTA regularly claims budget deficits when it is time to raise the fares ($2.50 in 2007!). so why give this land away so cheaply? i AM excited by the fact that the site is being designed by Frank Gehry and Laurie Olin. I believe the duo will produce a beautiful product (gehry's expertise is unique structures, while olin's lies in intergrating surrounding area). i AM NOT excited by the use of public funds, or the liberal application of eminent domain. with a pledge of $200 million in public funds, as well as $1 billion in subsidies over the next 30 years, i have yet to see how this would be a worthwhile public investment. stadiums (stadii?) rarely increase the public coffers, and while the building of the complex will provide jobs, its intended purpose is only marginally commercial. ratner has been smart enough to gain high-profile community support from groups like ACORN and borough pres Marty Markowitz, and has even signed a Community Benefits Agreement. the CBA states that 50% of the residential building should be affordable housing. unfortunately, they are using numbers from ALL of new york city to determine Average Median Income. manhattan just destroys the curve. also in the CBA is a clause providing 7.5 acres of "public land," but even this is not clearly laid out (http://tinyurl.com/lwdfl). i'm no law-talking guy (you mean a lawyer?), but the use of eminent domain seems kind of odd in U.S. society. the supreme court decided that commercial real-estate developers have the right to invoke eminent domain if the project is in the "best interests of the municipality." my problem is this: who decides THAT? obviously the developers will have an army of litigators to present a slick presentation of the proposed project benefits. and although those ousted must be provided with "just compensation," numbers can be mutable, as the Average Median Income/ Affordable Housing issue has shown us. Unlike the West Side Stadium, i believe this project is imminent. i embrace the change in the skyline and neighborhood. i just wish i didn't have to watch the rich get richer right in front of my eyes.

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