Forest City Ratner lobbies unsuccessfully against reform of Atlantic Yards oversight

As Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries bill to reform oversight of the Atlantic Yards project was on its way to the floor of the New York State Assembly, developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) lobbied legislators to vote against the bill by, among other things, circulating a “Memorandum in Opposition.”

The arguments in FCRC’s memo are sometimes inaccurate, misleading and outrageous, but unfortunately not surprising. The developer continues to represent itself as a concerned corporate citizen, blaming the community for delays FCRC itself extracted from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) as concessions during the renegotiation of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

FCRC extols the existing project oversight being provided by the ESDC, ignoring a New York Supreme Court Justice’s characterization of the agency’s review of the 2009 plan as having “lacked the candor that the public was entitled to expect, particularly in light of the scale of the Project and its impact on the community.” FCRC’s memo further touts its ability to “resolve any community concerns regarding ongoing construction.” We think the project neighbors dealing with armies of rodents and dozens of illegally parked construction worker vehicles probably see things otherwise.

Perhaps most interesting is the memo’s repeated references to an “additional layer of bureaucracy.” FCRC has shown itself to be nothing if not a skillful navigator of government bureaucracy in the seven years since it announced Atlantic Yards. After all, this is the developer who was able to acquire property for the project through eminent domain, and whose own executive in charge of government relations, when asked to choose where to channel member item funds, told a New York State Senator, “I don’t mind f-cking the Carlton Avenue Bridge.”

The memo’s continued references to the project’s promised jobs and affordable housing—the majority of which are indefinitely delayed—serve mostly to remind us how far Atlantic Yards has gone off the rails and how badly it’s in need of governance reform. We’re glad to see FCRC’s lobbying didn’t fool the members of the New York State Assembly, which passed the Jeffries legislation on June 24. We hope the developer and the ESDC now realize that the writing is finally on the wall, and they choose at last to become part of the solution.