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Page UPDATED: MARCH 5, 2009

What is Forest City Ratner?

Download: Forest City Ratner's Proposal Submitted to the MTA (pdf)
Page 1-85  |  Page 86-end

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?

Updated 6/11/2009: We know what the project was when approved in December 2006, but nobody knows what it is today. (See: No Rendering: Does Ratner Plan on Building Phase 2 of Atlantic Yards? and Gehry, Once a Selling Point, Gone and Battle Between Budget and Beauty, Which Budget Won and Gehry Is Out as Designer of Project in Brooklyn)

16 Skyscrapers and a $950 million Arena (cost was $637 million at approval in December 2006, but has been reported as $950 million since March 2008) 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.

Atlantic Yards was publicly announced for the first time on December 10th, 2003. Currenlty Forest City Ratner says that Atlantic Yards is a $4 billion project.

Besides relying on the use of taxpayer subsidies, the project relies on an abusive use of eminent domain which would allow the State of New York to seize private properties, homes and businesses, and hand them over to Forest City Ratner to demolish. The use of eminent domain has been called unconstitutional and is currently being challenged in New York State court.

The State of New York, at Ratner's behest, has determined that the project site is "blighted" despite that fact that it is in the middle of some of the most valuable real estate in the United States.

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. If built, "Atlantic Yards" would be the densest residential community in the country by a factor of two.

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.

Atlantic Yards Site Map (Click to enlarge)

Atlantic Yards Site Plan from the Final Environmenal Impact Statement (Click for pdf)

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). (more traffic and transportation coverage at: Community Consulting)

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, $30/sq. foot,6, despite the competing bid of $150 million from Extell and the MTA's own apppraised 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 properties—homes and businesses—and give it to Ratner.

The city and state will compel taxpayers to support his profits by providing at least $2 billion in direct and indirect subsidies. It is likely that the public will be on the hook if the bonds are not paid back. (New York City has promised $205 million in direct cash subsidy and the State has promised to give Ratner $100 million in direct cash subsidy—but that is only the tip of the iceberg).

"But I Heard That..."
(Note: this is a historical document, it was last updated in 2005)
Download "Boondoggle Basics" [pdf]
Transferencia directa "fundamentos del boondoggle" en español [pdf]

"... 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.

BEFORE: Fifth Avenue Looking North

AFTER?: Fifth Avenue Looking North
From Brooklyn Views article "It's The Scale, Stupid"

"...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.

Subsidized? Yes. "Affordable?" Hardly.
UPDATED: March 31, 2008

Much of the false debate about Ratner's plan at the DEIS hearing and over the past three years has been characterized this way:

Either you are supportive of "Atlantic Yards" or you oppose "affordable housing."
The reality is that NOBODY opposes affordable housing.

What we do oppose are false claims of "affordable" housing. Look at Ratner's own numbers in the Forest City Ratner graphic below.
  • If your family earns between $21,270 to $28,360/year 225 units would be set aside for you.

  • If your family earns between $28,361 to $35,450/year 675 units would be set aside for you.

  • The Brooklyn Area Median Income (AMI) is 35,000/year.

  • That's 900 units (or 14%) out of a total 6,430 proposed units.

  • If you or your family earn less than $21,270 there is no home for you in the proposed project.
  • 83% of the ALL 6,430 units will NOT be affordable to families making less than $56,000/year.

  • 40% of the "affordable" units would be for families earning between $71,000/year and $113,000/year.

  • The units called "affordable" amount to 35% of the project, not the 50% ACORN continues to claim.

  • There would be a total of 4,180 luxury units.

  • ALL of the "affordable" units are rentals.

  • Most of the "affordable" units would not come on line until "Phase II" of the project, which currently has no timeline for construction.
  • NONE of the "affordable" housing is guaranteed. NONE. It is all dependent on tax-free bond financing coming through.
    And when/if the condo market crashes, Forest City Ratner–a publicly traded real estate firm–will have to be legally responsible to its shareholders, not to the Brooklyn community or New Yorkers desparate 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."

Instant Gentrification

Ratner sells "Atlantic Yards" as an "affordable" housing project. It is not. It is instant gentrification. See below:

click image to enlarge