The Atlantic Yards Redevelopment — An Arena for the Nets But Not Much for Anybody Else

It’s official. The New York Times, the newspaper of record, has now delivered the verdict: except for the Barclays Center (the new arena for the Nets) nothing much is happening on the site of the Atlantic Yards redevelopment project in Brooklyn. See Liz Robbins, In Brooklyn, Bracing for Hurricane Barclays, N.Y. Times, Sept. 23, 2012, at p. 29-30 (New York Section) – click here.  However, curbed.com of September 24, 2012, reports that the ground for the first residential tower will be broken on December 18th. Take your pick.

Take note however: The headlines in the New York Times concerning controversial redevelopment projects tend to be more upbeat than the factual contents of the respective articles warrant. And so it is here. Amidst the hoopla about expected crowds thronging to attend events in the  about-to-be-opened Nets arena, we find the following factual summary:

 After noting that the Barclays arena “stands as an island, a reminder of what is missing” we get the following grim summary: “The 16 surrounding towers — primarily residential — that were originally planned  by the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, for the 22-acre, $4.9 million Atlantic Yards project have yet to be built. The 10,000 or so jobs promised have not materialized.  Of the 2350 affordable housing units pledged out of 6,300, only 181 are planned for a first tower, and ground  for the building has yet to be broken.”

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“The developer says it will build the remainder of the project, though it could take up to 25 years, and not the 10 originally planned.”

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“This spring, Forest City sponsored job fairs for Brooklyn residents that drew more than 35,000 people — for 2000 arena jobs, 900 of which were part time.

“Build, the job training organization connected to Forest City, enrolled just 36 participants in an unpaid internship program, promising them construction jobs and union cards. [ ] Only two participants received union cards.”

And so it goes. The Atlantic Yards redevelopment project thus bids fair to join the list of other manifestly private projects that were poorly disguised as “public uses” for which private land was taken by eminent domain, only to fail either altogether or by producing something different than what the cities and the redeveloper-clients promised the voters and sold to judges.

Follow-up. Don’t miss the front-page article in today’s New York Times, Charles V. Bagli and Joseph Berger, Nets Helped Clear  Path for Builder in Brooklyn, Sept. 27, 2012, at p. A1 — click here. It’s mostly about Bruce  C. Ratner, the [re]developer of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and the history  of his dealings with the city. Though not directly about eminent domain, it’s a good read for people interested in eminent domain and how it is used in cities for redevelopment.

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