Ratner yanks big event at Barclays due to planned protests

TRD New York /
Feb.February 07, 2014 02:15 PM

Barclay’s Center builder Forest City Ratner has informed LandlordsNY, an organization comprising property owners and managers, that it can no longer host its property management symposium at the Brooklyn stadium. The reason? Tenant related groups planned to stage a protest against the symposium’s keynote speaker Bruce Ratner, the chairman of Forest City.

LandlordsNY informed those scheduled to speak at the event, including Massey Knakal Realty Services broker James Nelson and The Real Deal’s publisher Amir Korangy, of the cancellation of the symposium in an email earlier this week, just six days before the February 11 conference.

“Barclays Center has called to let us know they can no longer host our event due to threats by one or two tenant related groups protesting Mr. Ratner, whom was slated to be our keynote speaker,” said J’Nell Simmons, executive director of LandlordsNY, in the note. “They are concerned of the negative press it will bring them and Mr. Ratner, and thus feel they can no longer host the property management symposium.”

Tenant groups including the Fifth Avenue Committee, Make The Road and Met Council on Housing were slated to protest outside the Barclay’s Center on the day of the event, Fifth Avenue Committee director of organizing and advocacy Jackie Del Valle told The Real Deal.

The protesters’ gripe: They disputed the idea that Ratner could be considered a “role model for landlords,” sources said, and wanted to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing built in accordance with Ratner’s mammoth Altantic Yards development in Prospect Heights.

Forest City inked a deal to sell a 70 percent stake in the 22-acre development to Greenland Holding Group, a state-owned Chinese investment company, in December. The firm is a still a co-developer of the $5 billion project, however.

“The building of [Atlantic Yards] has caused extreme displacement and rising rents in the neighborhoods around it,” Del Valle said. “There’s been a ton of public money given to this but no government oversight and the promised affordable housing has not been built.”

For the tenant groups, Ratner is not considered a good example for the landlords attending the symposium, she said.

“He’s going to be teaching best practices when it seems like the best practices have been going into communities, pushing out long-term tenants and building luxury condos?” Del Valle said. “New York City has become like the homeless capital of the world in the last few years and we needed to get out the word that tenants aren’t happy. We needed to school landlords on these facts of displacement.”

A spokesperson for Ratner declined to comment.

About 200 people, including those from tenant groups and other activists, were slated to attend the protest, Del Valle said.

“I’m actually surprised that they found out and that they see it as a threat,” she said. “It’s definitely our right to protest.”

Tenant advocacy groups are not the only ones bemoaning delays in building affordable housing at Altantic Yards. Public officials, including Public Advocate Letitia James, have previously voiced concern about construction of the housing being consistently behind schedule.

“Despite the overwhelming need, it’s unfortunate that there really is no oversight and no one is holding Forest City Ratner accountable,” she told the Daily News in December.

The public advocate was not immediately available for comment on the cancellation of the event.

Meanwhile, LandlordsNY told speakers that it was working to arrange a new venue for the event. Ratner will not speak at the rescheduled event, a spokesperson for the organizer said.

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