July 23, 2003: The Newark Star-Ledger reports that owners
of the New Jersey Nets have been talking to developer Bruce Ratner, who
wants to buy the NBA basketball team and build an arena for it, plus 5,500
housing units, in Brooklyn.
August 8, 2003: The Times first reports that Ratner may
buy the Nets and move the team to Brooklyn as part of a much larger development
December 11, 2003: The Times reports on FCR’s announcement
of a $2.5 billion development plan called “Atlantic Yards,” with 17 towers
designed by architect Frank Gehry, including a projected 2.1 million square
feet of commercial space and 4,500 residential units. Times architecture
critic Herbert Muschamp praises the project lavishly and incorrectly refers
to the site as an open railyard. He neglects to disclose that he has a
prior relationship with FCR and that the newspaper’s parent company has
a partnership with FCR. In a separate story, Bruce Ratner says that the
project “will be almost exclusively privately financed.” FCR press materials
use different terms: “The Arena will be primarily privately funded.”
January 22, 2004: The Times reports that Ratner and a
group of partners have the OK to purchase the New Jersey Nets.
May 25, 2004: FCR’s paid consultant Andrew Zimbalist,
a sports economist, issues the first of two reports, “Estimated Fiscal
Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New York
State Treasuries”. He projects that one-third of the estimated $4.1 billion
public revenues would be used to pay for construction and
June 28, 2004: Jung Kim and Gustav Peebles, an urban
planner and an economic historian, respectively, issue a report that criticizes
FCR consultant Andrew Zimbalist’s projections on several fronts and says
FCR’s plan would be a drain on public finances.
October 2004: FCR sends Brooklyn residents a second mass
mailing, “Frequently asked questions about the Brooklyn Nets and Atlantic
February 10, 2005: Forest City Ratner withdraws from
a planned presentation before a meeting of the Fort Greene Association,
contradicting the company’s pledge to meet with all members of the community
likely to be affected by the Atlantic Yards plan.
March 2005: The Pratt Institute Center for Community
and Environmental Development (PICCED) issues an independent report (“Slam
Dunk or Airball? A Preliminary Planning Analysis of the Brooklyn Atlantic
Yards Project”) urging caution in the development of FCR’s project, noting
that the public costs and impact on traffic have not been sufficiently
Spring 2005: The Brooklynite, a new quarterly magazine,
puts the proposed Atlantic Yards development on the cover, with a skeptical
article titled “Vanishing Vistas: Will the ‘borough of churches’ become
a borough of skyscrapers?”
May 17, 2005: FCR signs a housing Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) with the New York affiliate of the national housing group ACORN,
pledging to maintain 50% of 4,500 rental units in the development as “affordable.”
The MOU requires ACORN to publicly support the project in the press and
at public meetings.
May 26, 2005: At a City Council Economic Development
Committee Hearing, FCR VP Jim Stuckey announces a revised Atlantic Yards
development plan, one that increases the price tag from $2.5 billion to
$3.5 billion, and includes taller towers, higher density, less office
space, and additional housing: up to 6,000 or as many as 7,300 units,
from 4,500 units. Representatives from PICCED and Good Jobs New York raise
numerous criticisms of the project.
June 1, 2005: FCR’s paid consultant Andrew Zimbalist,
a sports economist, issues the second of his two reports, “Estimated Fiscal
Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New York
State Treasuries, Updated Report”. He estimates that potential project
revenue would increase by nearly 50%, owing to additional housing.
June 17, 2005: FCR distributes the first issue, dated
June/July, of its promotional sheet The Brooklyn Standard, asserting a
kinship with a newspaper from Brooklyn’s past.
June 27, 2005: FCR and eight groups sign a Community
Benefits Agreement (CBA), a first in New York City. The Times has not
pointed out that experts consider this CBA far less legitimate than those
June 27, 2005: The New York City Economic Development
Corporation (NYCEDC), in response to a Freedom of Information Act request
from project opponents, releases a previously completed memo, “Estimated
Fiscal Impacts of the Proposed Atlantic Yards Project,” which undercuts
several of FCR consultant Andrew Zimbalist’s predictions.
June 29, 2005: The Times runs an article based on the
results of a recent poll it conducted with CBS News, asking New Yorkers
about a wide range of issues, but it does not include responses regarding
the proposed Nets arena project. The full poll results, which are available
only on the Times’s web site, show that 61 percent of those polled oppose
the arena if it were to cost $200 million—a very narrow interpretation
of overall public costs—while 20% don’t know and 18% favor the arena.
July 5, 2005: The Times publishes a front-page article
about the Atlantic Yards project, in the wake of the exclusive release
to the Times of architect Frank Gehry's new design sketches.
July 23, 2005: The MTA reveals that Extell, a rival bidder
for the railyards, has bid $150 million, three times the size of FCR’s
$50 million bid. The MTA announces that the development rights have been
appraised at $214.5 million.
July 25, 2005: The New York Observer reports that FCR
is one of the top donors to the community group ACORN, its partner in
the housing agreement.
July 27, 2005: The MTA votes to negotiate rights to the
railyard with FCR exclusively, for 45 days, even though Extell has bid
three times more money and both bids are well under the appraised value.
August 29, 2005: Brooklyn’s Courier-Life newspaper chain
reports that the job development group Brooklyn United for Innovative
Local Development (BUILD), a signatory to the Community Benefits Agreement
with FCR, has moved into a FCR-purchased building in the Atlantic Yards
Sept. 1, 2005: Report
released criticizing the NY Times's coverage of the Atlantic Yards project.
Sept. 6, 2005: The Independent Budget Office (IBO) issues
a report stating that the arena portion of the Atlantic Yards project
would be a small fiscal plus, but the agency refuses
to estimate the total fiscal impact of the project, citing "methodological
limitations." The IBO does estimate
significantly higher public safety, education, sanitation costs than did
FCR consultant Andrew Zimbalist.
Sept. 14, 2005: The MTA awards the railyards to Forest
City Ratner even though the $100 million bid is less than half the appraisal.
MTA chair Peter Kalikow dismisses
the appraiser his agency hired as "some guy."
Sept. 16, 2005: The ESDC issues a Draft Scope for an
environmental impact statement regarding the project. The document reveals
that the office space (and thus jobs) has been cut by two-thirds, and
that 2800 luxury condos have been added to the 4500 rentals, of which
half would be market-rate and half affordable. The document also indicates
that the formerly promised public park on the arena roof would be private
Sept. 29, 2005: Internal Revenue Service documents show
that the fledgling job development group BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative
Local Development), a major supplier of "community" backing at public
meetings for FCR's project, has claimed
it will receive $5 million from the developer. BUILD denies any payments.
Oct. 14, 2005: The Times, reveals
that BUILD officials were lying two weeks previously when they said that
they hadn't received money from Forest City Ratner. But the revelation
is couched in an article that claims that FCR's outreach efforts are a
Oct. 16, 2005: BUILD is being paid to distribute
the second issue of the developer's Brooklyn Standard, which is full of
and includes bylines attached to stories that a reporter says
he didn't write. Perhaps because of that, the issue is not mounted on
the web, unlike the first issue.
Oct. 18, 2005: Numerous community critics, not just opponents,
about the project at an ESDC public hearing. Assemblywoman Joan Millman
comes out against the project, and supporters like BUILD are subdued.
Oct. 28, 2005: Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz,
running for reelection against a Green Party candidate (Gloria Mattera)
who has made Atlantic Yards an issue, again calls
for the project to be downsized, but won't--as will be his posture--specify
Oct. 28, 2005: Democratic Mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer
belatedly comes out against the Atlantic Yards project, and then is immediately
undercut by the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Sharpton's words lead
Nov. 27, 2005: The Times publishes an editorial
on the Atlantic Yards plan, criticizing the use of subsidies, but declaring
that "the borough deserves a sports team, so long as the price is not
too high." However, the only citation is to the limited IBO report.
Dec. 5, 2005: The New York Observer publishes a tough
analyzing the Community Benefits Agreement and the role of Roger Green,
citing established community housing and job-training groups that are
critical of the plan, and noting that only two of eight signatories were
incorporated at the time.
Dec. 5, 2005: At a hearing
at Borough Hall about traffic and the Atlantic Yards plan, engineer Brian
Ketcham says plans should be put on hold, warning, "The main entry points
to Brooklyn are all at overcapacity, without Atlantic Yards."
Dec. 14, 2005: Civic watchdog Henry Stern acknowledges
that he's absented himself from the Atlantic Yards issue because of longstanding
ties to Bruce Ratner. Architect Jonathan Cohn points
out in his Brooklyn Views blog that the taking of city streets means
the net gain in open space for the project would be four acres rather
Dec. 16, 2005: Forest City Ratner announces
plans to demolish six properties within the project footprint. The company
efforts by local elected officials to have an independent engineer look
at the buildings. Despite an engineer's claims that the buildings were
"an immediate threat to the preservation of life, health, and property,"
it takes five weeks after receiving that report for the ESDC to approve
the plan and for the developer to make any public statements.
Dec. 18, 2005: The Times Real Estate section publishes
"Living in Prospect Heights," which makes no mention of blight and places
the Atlantic Yards project within neighborhood boundaries. An erroneous
description of the project--that it would be built "over the railyards"--is
Jan. 7, 2006: Architect Frank Gehry, at a Times Talk
session in Manhattan, seems
perturbed when three Brooklynites pepper him with questions about
the proposed Atlantic Yards project, and even cuts off the questioning.
And, whether misinformed or evasive, Gehry suggests that building a mixed-use
project to accompany the arena was driven by a desire to create a harmonious
urban fabric rather than--as evidence suggests--to generate revenue.
Jan. 8, 2006: A New York Times article
on traffic at the Atlantic Yards footprint sketches the issue, ventilates
some conflicting views, but still--partly a function of space--misses
some important aspects of the issue, including the costs, the responsibilities
of public agencies, and some innovative strategies. FCR's Jim Stuckey
declares confidently that "we and the government agencies take that [challenge
of traffic mitigation] very seriously."
Jan. 18, 2006: A set of community groups, led by Develop
Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), files
suit to reverse the Empire State Development Corporation's approval
of Forest City Ratner's plans to demolish six buildings controlled by
the developer within the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards development.
The suit also argues that the ESDC lawyer, David Paget, should be disqualified
because he until recently represented Forest City Ratner on the project.
An independent engineer expresses doubts that the structures really need
to be torn down.
Jan. 26, 2006: Borough President Marty Markowitz's State
of the Borough address curiously seems to downplay the Atlantic Yards
Jan. 25, 2006: Reports on the Borough Board Atlantic
Yards Committee meeting show that officials still don't know about FCR's
plans for offsite
affordable housing, nor do they have a handle on the fiscal
impact of the project. The "transformation from a horizontal neighborhood
to an intensely vertical neighborhood" will "create ripple effects," says
Jan. 28, 2006: It's announced
that the first New York stop on the AVP Beach Volleyball Tour will be
in Brooklyn, for the AVP Brooklyn Open, August 17-20. The tour is a product
of AVP, Inc., which focuses on professional beach volleyball, and the
local marketer will be Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the affiliate
of Forest City Ratner. A temporary 4,000-seat volleyball stadium will
be built on the Coney Island beach.
Feb. 2, 2006: Those at the Borough Board Atlantic Yards
Committee meeting express concerns
about a "backwards" design process, "blocking the clock," and the zoning
bypass that would allow this project to be built at a scale beyond that
imposed by city regulations.
Feb. 6, 2006: The debate about the appropriate
scale of the project continues, as architect Jonathan Cohn calculates
a floor area ratio beyond that promulgated by Forest City Ratner, and
illustrator Jon Keegan attempts to show the scale of the project graphically.
Feb. 10, 2006: An article
in the Newark Star-Ledger describes how the New Jersey Nets may postpone
the planned move to Brooklyn for two more years, until 2010, and that
the team is renegotiating the lease. FCR officials have said they want
to expect to move to Brooklyn by 2009.
Feb. 14, 2006: Ruling at the end of a contentious hearing,
and state Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead denies
a lawsuit by Atlantic Yards plan opponents to stop developer Forest City
Ratner from demolishing five properties within the project footprint,
but Edmead also gives project opponents a partial victory, ruling that
David Paget, a lawyer reviewing the project for the Empire State Development
Corporation (ESDC), should be removed from the case because he recently
worked on the project for FCR. In the case
file, FCR officials say it costs the company $4 million for every
month of delay on the project, and 15 public officials, apparently unfazed
by parroting the developer's paid consultant, have predicted that the
project would bring $6 billion in new tax revenues to the city and state.
Feb. 16, 2006: A look at the
record of ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano raises concerns about the
agency's capacity to look objectively at the companies it works with.
He recently said he knew nothing of any conflict of interest posed by
the agency's lawyer, didn't know the agency rents space in a mall owned
by Ratner, and endorsed the Atlantic Yards project without reservation,
even before the environmental impact statement has been issued.
Feb. 18, 2006: The ESDC appeals
Edmead's decision to disqualify their lawyer, claiming that the project
has been put on hold. An examination
of the timeline regarding the demolitions raises questions about the meaning
of the terms "immediate" and "emergency."
Feb. 28, 2006: Even though community groups have been
asking for terrorism to be part of the Environmental Impact Statement,
it turns out that the issue has been off
the table from the beginning, according to the Empire State Development
Feb. 28, 2006: ACORN's Bertha Lewis vigorously defends
the 50/50 housing plan in a charged panel discussion.
March 2, 2006: A Borough Board Committee meeting on sewage
that the Combined Sewer Overflow from the project could overwhelm the
March 6, 2006: Will James of OnNYTurf, using Google Earth,
up the planned buildings from various angles, providing the most extensive
outline of the project's visual impact.
March 13, 2006: At a discussion
of Community Benefits Agreements, the Atlantic Yards CBA, the first in
the city, is conspicuously ignored.
March 16, 2006: At the final meeting of the Borough Board
Atlantic Yards Committee, a city planning official acknowledges
that the city made no attempt to develop the railyards. Plus: a history
of ATURA, the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area.
March 21, 2006: RIts reported
that Bruce Ratner has told investors that he expects approval of the project
March 26, 2006: Bill Batson, an opponent
of the Atlantic Yards project, declares for the State Assembly seat that
would include the project, as current officeholder Roger Green is running
March 31, 2006: In a press release from FCR and a Final
Scope for an Environmental Impact Statement from the ESDC, the plan is
five percent from its previous iteration, though the developer falsely
claims that the project is smaller than it was when originally announced.
Marty Markowitz says he's delighted but refuses to say that it's been
cut down sufficiently. ESDC guidelines mean that there will be no evaluation
of FCR's fiscal claims.
April 7, 2006: Critics identify
numerous flaws in the Final Scope, including an unwillingness to consider
East River transportation crossings, the emergence of an interim surface
parking lot, and some mysterious open space solutions.
April 10, 2006: A New York Times story
on some people who were forced to leave the project footprint suggests
that many of them were quite happy with their fate. Those interviewed
get a one-time waiver from the developer that allows them to talk publicly
about their experiences.
April 13, 2006: FCR debuts a new web site for the Atlantic
Yards project. It is immediately found
to be full of deceptions
April 17, 2006: Though hardly mentioned in the press,
the state legislature has approved
$66 million of the $100 million Forest City Ratner needs for infrastructure
improvements, and Gov. George Pataki is committed to providing the rest
from his own funds.