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BROOKLYN     Press Release Main Page

For Immediate Release: July 26, 2007

Behind Closed Doors, a Ratner Conpromise

After "Negotiations," Developer Bruce Ratner
Still Set to Reap $200 Million Tax Break from
421-a "Reform" Bill's Exclusive "Atlantic Yards" Clause

NEW YORK, NY -- If a report in today's Daily News is accurate, developer Bruce Ratner and city officials are trying to spin a 33% reduction in a special tax break legislated exclusively for the Atlantic Yards developer as a meaningful "scale back." But it's a "scale back" to a special property tax break for Ratner that should never have existed in the first place. As of three days ago, the Bloomberg administration wanted the exclusive tax provision removed entirely.

The News reports that the city and Forest City Ratner held "negotiations" over the 421-a reform bill's original special provision, reducing the exclusive tax break from $300 million to $200 million. The project's 1,930 condominium units would receive tax exemptions for 15 years rather than the 25 years originally outlined.

"Negotiated behind closed doors, this so-called 'compromise' of the 421-a special tax break exclusively for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards--a tax break unavailable to any other developer in the city, and one that should never have existed in the first place--is an offensive sham. Unless this indefensible, blatant giveaway to Bruce Ratner, which will cost taxpayers at least $200 million, is removed from the bill, reform-minded Governor Eliot Spitzer must veto the bill," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein. "Earlier this week, the Bloomberg Administration was all snarl and bluster, threatening to pull $105 million in promised Atlantic Yards cash subsidies, but today, it's apparent that the city was all bark and no bite. There is no fundamental difference between the original sweetheart deal and this negotiated sweetheart deal; the negotiated agreement is a toothless joke."

It is unclear how legislators critical of the special Ratner clause will react to reports of a non-compromise compromise, which does not fundamentally change the original special provision at all or respond to widespread criticism of the Atlantic Yards carve-out.

At a town hall meeting just two days ago, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (57th District, which encompasses the Atlantic Yards project site) called the special tax break for Ratner "offensive," and said that the developer must "comply with the [421-a] law." He added that "the government should review completely the entire merits of this project" if the special clause is not eliminated. Mr. Jeffries also called the special Atlantic Yards carve-out "economic segregation" because "[Forest City Ratner] negotiated a provision that would allow them to have all luxury condominiums and still get the tax break."

It is also unclear how ACORN's Bertha Lewis, a staunch Atlantic Yards supporter, will react to reports of this "negotiation." She has called the special Ratner provision "bad public policy."

Much like the mythical scale-back of the Atlantic Yards project--announce project, increase size of project, return project to original size, claim reduction--this so-called "scale back" of the special 421-a Atlantic Yards "carve-out" plays the same game: propose and pass legislation allowing a large, indefensible tax break that should not exist at all, reduce the size of the large, indefensible tax break that shouldn't exist, and claim it "could save the city $100 million."

Former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman said, "Ratner always asks for more than he needs, but the politicians and bureaucrats always give him more than he expects. In this case of the 421-a special provision, the so-called 'compromise' far exceeds what he deserves."

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