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The Atlantic Yards is a mixed-use commercial and residential development project of some 16 high-rise buildings, under construction in Prospect Heights, adjacent to Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene in Brooklyn, New York City. The project covers the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area, with parts extending into the adjacent brownstone neighborhood. Of the 22-acre (89,000 m2) project, 8.4 acres (34,000 m2) is located over a Long Island Rail Road train yard.
- 1 History
- 2 Elements of the project
- 3 Transportation
- 4 Public opinion
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The project's name, devised by developer Forest City Ratner, relates to the rail yard located between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street. Officially, the Long Island Rail Road yard is called the "Vanderbilt Yard" by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (named for Vanderbilt Avenue that crosses over on its way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard). The specific stop for the LIRR is the Atlantic Terminal, the westernmost stop of the Atlantic Branch of the LIRR. Easy access by rapid transit and suburban rail, and the desirable brownstone housing stock nearby made it a target for speculative development.
The Atlantic Yards project is being developed and overseen by Forest City Ratner, an arm of Forest City Enterprises, of Cleveland, Ohio and the original master plan and some individual buildings were by architect Frank Gehry. Gehry was removed from the project in June 2009. Since September 2009, the new arena design has been a collaboration between Ellerbe Becket and the Manhattan architectural firm SHoP. No other building designs have emerged as of July 2010; while Atlantic Yards, overseen by the Empire State Development Corporation, is supposed to be a public-private project, Bruce Ratner told Crain's New York Business in November 2009.
On June 23, 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal of the federal eminent domain case. The case was refiled in state court, with slightly different arguments; in November 2009, the project cleared what the New York Times called the "final major obstacle" when the New York Court of Appeals dismissed the final challenge to the legality of eminent domain. Further challenges to the implementation of eminent domain ensued, and were dismissed in March 2010. The most prominent member of the neighborhood opposition, Daniel Goldstein, agreed under pressure to a settlement in April 2010, allowing for vacant possession, the sale of the Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov, and the release of arena construction bonds from escrow.
The Barclays Center, for which groundbreaking for construction occurred on March 11, 2010, was opened to the public on September 21, 2012, which was also attended by some 200 protesters. It held its first event with a Jay-Z concert on September 28, 2012.
Elements of the project
Land to be used
The proposed development is sited in an increasingly desirable neighborhood in New York City. Prospect Heights has seen remarkable explosion of real estate values.
The bulk of the 22-acre (89,000 m2) project site was a mixture of public streets, private homes and small businesses. Forest City Ratner bought much of this private property and has benefited from the state's use of eminent domain to acquire and close the streets.
The Public Authorities Control Board, which effectively ended the West Side Stadium plan, approved the state financing of the Atlantic Yards plan in December 2006.
The area around the Atlantic Terminal has been slated for redevelopment in the past, but plans for the area emerged only piecemeal. In the mid-1950s, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley proposed that the city condemn a nearby site where he could then have built a new stadium for the ball club to replace Ebbets Field. City officials refused to condemn the property for subsequent sale to O'Malley on the grounds that they did not consider a privately financed baseball park to be an appropriate public purpose as defined under Title I of the Federal housing act of 1949. In 1958, O'Malley relocated the Dodgers to Los Angeles.
The Barclays Center is the new home arena of the National Basketball Association's Brooklyn Nets, which was purchased by a group led by principal developer Bruce Ratner with the intention of making it and the arena the centerpiece of the whole project. This will bring major league professional sports to Brooklyn for the first time since the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, California after the 1957 season. The arena’s design once included an ice skating rink and a green roof. An NBA basketball team now owned primarily by Russia's second richest man Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets began playing at the Barclays Center arena in 2012. Formerly the New Jersey Nets, the Nets re-branded themselves when they moved to the Barclays Center. Prokhorov is an avid basketball fan, and, with 80 percent ownership in the Nets, he has become the first Russian owner of a major U.S. professional sports franchise. The deal was necessary for Ratner, who was risking losing tax-exempt financing and the Barclays naming-rights deal if he did not break ground within three months' time. The New York Islanders of the NHL will move to the Barclays Center in 2015.
Ground was broken on the first residential building at Atlantic Yards, B2, on December 18, 2012. The building will have 363 units, 50% of those units will be affordable. In March 2011, The New York Times revealed that Forest City Ratner is considering building a 34-story apartment building out of prefabricated units. If constructed, it will be the largest prefabricated structure in the world. As such, it is likely to face new engineering challenges, and it is not yet certain whether it can be constructed economically. However, if construction turns out to be feasible, the move is likely to save considerable building costs, because construction in a factory is cheaper than at the field site. While satisfying affordable housing advocates, it is likely to anger construction unions, who have been major supporters of the project. At 32 stories tall, B2 will be the tallest building in the world built using modular technology. The housing component of the project has been criticized for its urban density. The construction of a 34-story prefabricated building, while not the first prefab high-rise in the city, would be the largest. However, B2 will be completed in late 2015—more than ten years after Atlantic Yard's commencement—instead of 2014, the original expected completion date. It was only 13% complete as of April 2014[update].
One or two buildings in the Atlantic Yards project would be used for office space, though as of 2010[update] there is little office market. Retail space would be built at the ground level of buildings.
The project is sited above the train yards belonging to the adjacent Atlantic Terminal, from which it gets its name. Atlantic Terminal which serves the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road. Formerly called Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Terminal is the westernmost stop on the Long Island Rail Road's (LIRR) Atlantic Branch. It is the primary terminal for the Far Rockaway, Hempstead, and, on weekdays, West Hempstead Branches. By transferring at Jamaica, access is available to all other LIRR branches except the Port Washington Branch. The location is also served by a number of bus lines.
The development sits near the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue. It is one of the biggest, and the most congested, intersections in Brooklyn. The increase of car traffic to the area caused by extra housing and the construction of an arena has been frequently cited by critics as a major reason for their opposition to the project. According to the Environmental Impact Statement, the addition of more than 15,000 new residents would not significantly impact vehicular traffic, a claim contested by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. While traffic was a concern to some it has been noted that there has not been an increase in traffic associated with the arena opening while there has been a large increase in subway and Long Island Railroad use.
The Atlantic Yards project, at its western end, would be adjacent to the Atlantic Avenue – Barclays Center subway station, the largest subway station in Brooklyn and the third largest transit hub in New York City, serving the 2 3 4 5 B D N Q R trains of the New York City Subway. The project features a new $76 million subway entrance near the front of Barclays Center. The Lafayette Avenue (A C trains) and Fulton Street (G train) metro stations are also nearby.
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (March 2011)|
The Community Benefits Agreement
The October 22, 2005 edition of The Brooklyn Paper revealed that the Forest City Ratner (FCR) company had paid large sums of money to organizations, offering what they've presented as grassroots neighborhood support for the proposed Atlantic Yards development. Back on December 20, 2004, six months before the so-called "community benefits agreement" (CBA) was drafted, a non-governmental pact between the developer and community groups, the 501(c)(3) filings of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) stated it would receive $5 million from Bruce Ratner's company in exchange for support. BUILD president James Caldwell is being paid $125,000 a year, and two other BUILD executives— Mary Louis and Shalawn Langhorne— are receiving $100,000 a year, according to the IRS document. Additionally, the development company has also paid $50,000 to Reverend Herbert Daughtry, another CBA endorser. His organization, Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, is commissioned to help create an inter-generational center as part of the Ratner plan to "retain staff to begin to develop a program to create these facilities."  The political arm of BUILD, Community Leadership for Accountable Politics (CLAP), is apparently folding.
A Community Benefit Agreement, that claimed to be modeled on the first of its kind for the Staples Center in Los Angeles, was signed on June 27, 2005 between Forest City Ratner and a consortium of community groups to provide a range of benefits for the community. Many of these community groups are led by long standing and prominent leaders including Bertha Lewis, Executive Director of ACORN, James Caldwell, ED for Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development and Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of House of the Lord Church. One of the controversies surrounding the CBA is the definition of "community," and many local groups contend that they will not be included. Among the benefits accruing to the community as defined under this legally binding agreement are:
- Affordable housing (for households earning up to $109,000 a year – 50% set aside with various degrees of affordability as set out in the agreement),
- 35% minority, and 10% women contractors hired during construction
- Senior housing (10% set aside of all rental units)
- Health care center within the project
- Six acres of open space for use by the public free of charge on the project site
6 acres (24,000 m2) of open space for a project this size is considered woefully inadequate by city standards. Also, it is important to note that this is not the same as public space, rather it is private space open to the public at the owner's discretion. The developer will get this space after current publicly owned streetscapes will be privatized.
Signatories to this agreement are All-Faith Council of Brooklyn, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD, Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA), Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium (DBEC), First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee (FATHC), New York State ASssociaiton of Minority Contractors (NYSAMC), Public Housing Communities (PHC). Copies of the full CBA are available at the offices of each of these organizations.
While the Staples Center CBA included hundreds of community groups—many who did not originally support the project—the Atlantic Yards CBA signatories all supported the project before signing on. One group, BUILD, has been shown to have repeatedly lied about the funding it received from the developer. A quick review of the CBA will show that it holds almost no meaningful sanctions against the developer, yet it requires that ACORN publicly promote the project. These and other reasons have thrown considerable doubt on the document.
The known amount of total payments to CBA signatories from the developer is $538,000.
In a Huffington Post blog, Daniel Goldstein called Atlantic Yards "a corrupt land grab," "a taxpayer ripoff," "a bait and switch of epic proportions," and "a complete failure of democracy." Goldstein, who co-founded Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and was the last remaining homeowner (the condo apartment he owned is where the arena's center court is now located) had his home taken by eminent domain by New York State on March 1, 2010 after nearly 8 years of court battles. At that time New York State took sole ownership of his home and moved to evict him, his wife and toddler daughter. At his eviction hearing on April 21, 2010 Brooklyn judge Abraham Gerges forced the Empire State Development Corporation and Mr. Goldstein to settle on an imminent eviction date (May 7) and the constitutionally required just compensation for the home they had seized. The compensation was for $3 million, $760,000 of which went to Mr. Goldstein's attorney Mike Rikon.
FCR eventually boosted its bid to $100 million, and said the overall value of its bid was higher than the appraised value, which was validated by the courts.
Forest City Ratner offered the condo owners in 636 Pacific St. $850/sq. foot, the condo owners at 24 Sixth Ave (Spalding Buildings) $650/sq. foot and undisclosed amounts to renters. Sellers of condos signed a nondisclosure agreement, termed a "gag order" by opponents.
The project is endorsed by the MTA and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been strongly supported by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who sees this project as the opportunity to finally produce the business district in Downtown Brooklyn that was intended with the construction of the Williamsburg Savings Bank but was halted by the Great Depression. The project has also been endorsed by three former governors during its pendency since 2003 (George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer, and David Paterson), and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who control the state agencies—Empire State Development Corporation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority—that are key to the project. The most fervent public support has come from former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who saw the project as the opportunity to bring professional sports back to Brooklyn. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, former Congressman Edolphus Towns, Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, former State Senator Carl Kruger, and former Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. have also supported the project.
Job development in the boroughs outside of Manhattan has been part of Mayor Bloomberg's agenda and, in this case especially, has been seen as a way to stem the tide of companies leaving New York City for New Jersey and other locations. While rents in Manhattan are prohibitive for some companies, offering lower rent office space in the boroughs may be a way to keep jobs in the City and maintain the tax base that sustains municipal services. Spearheaded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the project has received the approval of the Empire State Development Corporation.
The project received crucial support from affordable-housing advocates, because at least 30% of the project's units would be reserved for tenants that are low-, moderate- or middle-income. One of the more prominent members of this group has been ACORN, which signed the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding with developer Forest City Ratner in 2005.
Construction workers have been another group of strong supporters for the project.
The most vocal opposition group is a nonprofit named Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. Three of the four local elected representatives in the neighborhood also oppose the project. Other organizations that are opposed to or seek to scale back the project include: 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, Boerum Hill Association (BHA), Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), Committee For Environmentally Sound Development, Creative Industries Coalition (80 local businesses, galleries and collectives), Democracy for New York City (DFNYC). Other neighborhood organizations that are critical of the project are gathered under the banner of 'BrooklynSpeaks', which initially eschewed a litigation strategy but in 2009 finally went to court, in a case combined with one filed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn charging that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) failed to consider the impact of an additional fifteen years of construction on the surrounding neighborhood when it approved a renegotiated project plan in September 2009. In November 2010, New York State Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman ruled in favor of the petitioners, ordering the ESDC to either provide a justification for its continued use of the original ten-year construction schedule, or otherwise conduct a supplemental environmental impact study. BrooklynSpeaks and DDDB subsequently sought a stay of construction in advance of ESDC's response to the Court order.
The Development has been opposed by a variety of well established community groups in the area and by Letitia James, the New York City Council member for the district. Critics point to the lack of transparency of the project, the lack of democratic review of the process, mixed successes of Ratner's previous projects, the threat of eminent domain to remove residents for a commercial interest. Under the project, 68 residential or business properties would be seized and razed; it would also cause increased traffic congestion, light pollution, gentrification, and crowding.
Newark mayor Cory Booker campaigned for the New Jersey Nets to abandon plans to play at Atlantic Yards, and instead relocate permanently to the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, already home to the New Jersey Devils and Seton Hall Pirates; however, he later embraced the team's interim move to Newark, from fall 2010 to 2012.
Popular liberal blog Left Behinds criticized Gehry's Miss Williamsburg design:
|“||...[The design is like] some giant grey Transformer clomping its foot down on Park Slope. And imagine when in a few years all those pristine white beams get coated in soot from the neverending [sic] traffic jams that are projected as a direct result of this development (have you ever tried to drive through Flatbush or Atlantic during rush hour or on a weekend?). It'll be a Transformer's giant grey dirty foot. ... A well-designed development would be built on actually unused land (such as the Yards themselves) not on top of people's homes nearby. It would take into account the neighborhood character of Brooklyn as well as the technical limitations of traffic and sewage.||”|
On February 14, 2006, New York State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead ruled in favor of the dismissal of attorney David Paget as the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) outside counsel. Paget, who has been advising the ESDC in its environmental review of the Altantic Yards project, had previously also worked for FCR companies until October 2005. Justice Edmead concluded that the appointment of Paget to the ESDC represented a conflict of interest, calling it "a severe, crippling appearance of impropriety." Furthermore, Justice Edmead gave the ESDC 45 days to find a new attorney to meet the standard of "objective public interest."  On May 30, 2006, the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed Justice Edmead's the decision. "The motion court misapprehended material facts and misapplied the applicable law in granting the petition to the extent of disqualifying Paget and his law firm from representing ESDC," Justice Milton Williams wrote for a unanimous panel.
An issue concerning wastewater management was brought up during a preliminary environmental impact assessment of the project, catching the attention of Carroll Gardens residents. According to the March 4, 2006 edition of The Brooklyn Paper, the sewage created from the development will flow into antiquated city-run sewer and waste treatment systems — which overload when it rains. The result, is that allegedly 27 billion US gallons (100,000,000 m3) of untreated wastewater will drain into waterways around the city each year, including 13 spigots on the Gowanus Canal. 
Lawsuit by community groups
In late October 2006 community groups filed a lawsuit in federal court against Bloomberg, Governor George Pataki, Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner and to stop the project. The plaintiffs are charging that the project would not serve public use, as required by legal tradition. The suit is being led by Matthew Brinkerhoff  The suit is 'Goldstein v. Pataki.'
The lawsuit was prompted by an open letter to the Village Voice, which appeared on the www.nolandgrab.org website. This letter stated that Justice Kennedy's Kelo concurring opinion could be used to attack eminent domain as a violation of minimum scrutiny, which says that government policy (including an eminent domain use), must be rationally related to a legitimate government purpose.
- Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area
- Atlantic Terminal Mall
- Downtown Brooklyn
- Fort Greene, Brooklyn
- Forest City Enterprises
- Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project – in Manhattan, a redevelopment project also over a LIRR yard
- MetroTech Center
- "Forest City - Offices - New York - Forest City Ratner Companies". Fcrc.com. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Bagli, Charles V. (2008-03-21). "Slow Economy Likely to Stall Atlantic Yards". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Davidson, Justin (2009-09-13). "Bruce Ratner Tries to Save Atlantic Yards With New SHoP Architects Design". New York. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- "Atlantic Yards Project". Esd.ny.gov. 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Agovino, Theresa (2009-11-08). "Ratner faces Atlantic Yards hurdles". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Slow Economy Likely to Stall Atlantic Yards By CHARLES V. BAGLI New York Times March 21, 2008
- Bagli, Charles V. (2009-11-24). "Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn Clears Final Major Hurdle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- "Statement From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Co-Founder Daniel Goldstein". DDDB.net. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Bagli, Charles V. (2010-04-21). "Last Atlantic Yards Holdout to Leave for $3 Million". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Durkin, Erin; Hutchinson, Bill (March 11, 2010). "Atlantic Yards Ground-Breaking Event Marked By Politicians, Pop Star and Protests". Daily News (New York). Archived from the original on March 14, 2010. Retrieved March 11, 2011.
- "Barclay’s Center Opens In Brooklyn". nymn.com. September 28, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2012.[dead link]
- Confessore, Nicholas (2006-12-21). "State Approves Major Complex for Brooklyn". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- James, Ian. "New Jersey Nets Sold to Russian Billionaire". BET-US. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Bagli, Charles V. (2011-03-17). "With Federal Case and Modular Building Plan, New Attention for Atlantic Yards Project". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Trefethen, Sarah (2012-12-19). "Ratner ‘knocking up’ Atlantic Yards". Real Estate Weekly. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
- Schuerman, Matthew (2006-07-18). "Prisoner of Atlantic Avenue". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Chabann, Matt (2011-03-17). "Prefabulous? How Atlantic Yards Could Revolutionize New York City Real Estate". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Budin, Jeremiah (21 April 2014). "Completion Date for First Atlantic Yards Tower Pushed Back". Curbed. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- mta.info—Brooklyn Bus Map
- Berger, Joesph (2013-02-19). "Neighbors Predicted Chaos. Now They’re Just Irked.". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-26.
- Sheftell, Jason (2012-09-13). "First look at the $76 million Barclays Center subway station". Daily News. Retrieved 2013-02-26.
- Santa, Carmine. "The Brooklyn Paper: Brooklyn’s real newspaper". Brooklynpapers.com. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- Goldstein, Daniel (2010-03-12). "What Is Atlantic Yards? A Complete Failure of Democracy". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Gallahue, Patrick (2004-06-16). "Tout of bounds". New York Post. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- "Brooklyn Borough President". Brooklyn-usa.org. 2010-03-11. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- "Nets Helped Clear Path for Builder in Brooklyn". The New York Times. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- Confessore, Nicholas (December 9, 2006). "A Nod for Atlantic Yards, and Then a Lawsuit". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Bondy, Stefan (7 August 2012). "Spike Lee WILL NOT wear that Brooklyn Nets cap". New York Daily News.
- "Atlantic Yards must work for Brooklyn". BrooklynSpeaks. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- "sponsors file for stay of construction at Atlantic Yards site". BrooklynSpeaks. 2010-11-29. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Goldstein, Joseph (October 27, 2006). "Atlantic Yards Project Abuses Uses of Eminent Domain". The New York Sun. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- "The New Jersey Nets Are Welcomed To The Prudential Center" (Press release). City of Newark, NJ. 2010-03-05. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
- "Left Behinds: Frank Gehry to Brooklyn: Drop Dead". Leftbehinds.blogspot.com. 2006-06-19. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- "Develop- don't destroy. Wed, June 4, 2014". Dddb.net. 2006-02-14. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- Santa, Carmine. "The Brooklyn Paper: Brooklyn’s real newspaper". Brooklynpapers.com. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- "DDDB Spokesman Goldstein on Eminent Domain Lawsuit on Fox News". DDDB.net. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- The New York Times's topic page
- Atlantic Yards Report a watchdog site, written by journalist Norman Oder
- The New York Observer's coverage
- New York Daily News coverage
Websites with bias for/against the project:
- Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the project's main opposition group
- BrooklynSpeaks, an alliance of community groups critical of the project, not allied with DDDB
- BUILD advocates for the project and partners in the Community Benefits Agreement
- noLandGrab an anti-project compendium of news/blog coverage
- The local weekly Brooklyn Paper's coverage