Forest City Ratner recently purchased a property in the Atlantic Yards footprint, the company’s sole acquisition of property on the site of the delay-ridden Brooklyn project in more than two years.
The developer closed on 467 Dean Street — the 10,000-square-foot New York City headquarters of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers — on March 20, according to public records. Ratner paid roughly $3 million for the building and went into contract for the property in mid-September 2008.
The developer last purchased property in the Atlantic Yards footprint in February 2007, according to city records made public last week. Although Ratner has bought up and demolished many of the properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint, a number of others are still in private hands, including those of nine property owners and tenants who are challenging the developer’s intent to take control of them via eminent domain.
Ratner spokesperson Joe Deplasco declined to comment on the implications of the company’s purchase of 467 Dean Street aside from confirming that the transaction had indeed taken place. Deplasco also would not say whether the union would be asked to vacate the building. Union representatives did not return calls for comment.
Daniel Goldstein, spokesperson for the community activist group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, said that the 467 Dean Street sale is emblematic of the “bad faith” in which the company’s chairman and CEO, Bruce Ratner, has approached the development of Atlantic Yards.
“[Bruce] Ratner’s purchase of 467 Dean, like all of his other acquisitions, has been done under the threat of eminent domain,” said Goldstein. “It is wrong and in bad faith. And to top it off, city taxpayers are reimbursing the developer for his ill-gotten property.”
Atlantic Yards is supposed to span 22 acres and include an arena for the Nets, commercial space, thousands of market-rate and affordable housing units, and a considerable amount of open space, but the project is far behind schedule, and its future is increasingly murky.
Last week, for example, an article in the Architect’s Newspaper quoted the project’s lead architect, Frank Gehry, as saying “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” with reference to Atlantic Yards. Gehry later backpedaled him comment, saying it was “being misconstrued as a prediction of the future of the Atlantic Yards development,” and the developer issued a statement claiming that the architect “was just venting,” according to a story in the Daily News.
The project, originally slated for completion in 2006, has been stalled by numerous lawsuits; its plans have been scaled back; and Ratner has been in talks with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to restructure its $100 million payment for the Vanderbilt Railyards, which make up 8.5 acres of the Atlantic Yards site.
In a Forest City Enterprises conference call with investors yesterday, however, Ratner President Joanne Minieri said: “once this litigation is resolved, this project is ready to go. We’ve worked diligently and actively on being prepared to proceed with Atlantic Yards. We believe with respect to the arena there’s an opportunity in today’s market to finance it,” according to watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report.
There is currently one active lawsuit against the project, challenging its use of eminent domain. In addition, Atlantic Yards opponents filed a motion on Monday to appeal an earlier ruling against a challenge to the Empire State Development Corporation’s Environmental Impact Statement and Blight Study for Atlantic Yards.
Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn said the purchase of 467 Dean underscored Develop Don’t Destroy’s belief that the developer is intent on controlling all the land in the Atlantic Yards footprint, despite the project’s uncertain future.
“While Ratner struggles against litigation and the world economic crisis — making it impossible to build what he’s promised to build — this sale makes it plainly obvious that Forest City Ratner’s true goal is to control 22 valuable acres in the heart of Brooklyn with taxpayer assistance and the misuse of the state’s eminent domain powers,” he said. “If Forest City Ratner controls those 22 acres, it will not benefit anybody but Ratner, and that is what we are fighting against.”