Bruce Ratner explains why Atlantic Yards needs oversight

Contact: Jo Anne Simon – (917) 685-3747
Gib Veconi – (917) 881-0401

Yesterday, Forest City Ratner Companies CEO Bruce Ratner acknowledged that Atlantic Yards won’t be built in ten years. Speaking to reporters at a presentation of the design for the “interim” plaza replacing the planned “Urban Room” in the project, Mr. Ratner said of the ten-year construction schedule promised and consistently confirmed by his company since the original unveiling of Atlantic Yards in 2003, “It was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in.” Instead, he said, “It's really market-dependent as to when it will really be completed.”

In November of 2009, several BrooklynSpeaks sponsors, together with local elected officials and individuals residing near the Atlantic Yards footprint, filed suit against the ESDC and Forest City seeking to reverse the agency’s approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan, concerned that no environmental review was performed in order to study the increased impact of extending construction an additional 15 years. The case is currently pending action by New York Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman.

In January of 2010, the master development agreement between Forest City and the Empire State Development Corporation was made available for public review. That document showed that the ESDC had agreed to allow Forest City up to twenty-five years to develop the project with minimal remedies for non-performance. The agency further agreed to sharp reductions in the developer’s commitment to provide affordable housing units as part of the project. In March of 2010, BrooklynSpeaks released a report showing the effect of the renegotiated deal on public benefits promised by the project prior to its approval.

“It’s now clear that the whole time the developer was claiming that it would deliver significant returns on the public’s investment, it never believed its own story. The benefits promised were illusory. Mr. Ratner has essentially conceded they were ginned up to justify the massive direct and indirect government funding,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “The BrooklynSpeaks analysis shows that the renegotiated project plan could erase as much as 94% of the value of the affordable housing benefits originally claimed.”

“Mr. Ratner’s comments make it obvious why a private developer cannot be allowed sole decision-making responsibility on a publicly funded project, particularly one of this size,” said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic Leader for the 52nd Assembly District. “We strongly urge the leadership of the State Legislature to take swift action on Assemblyman Jeffries’ and State Senator Montgomery’s bills to establish governance of the Atlantic Yards project.” Bills A11431 and S8193 would require the Empire State Development Corporation to create a dedicated subsidiary responsible for governance of the Atlantic Yards’ development. “There is real public outrage over the lack of oversight at Atlantic Yards. We’ve received more than 1,000 signatures supporting this critical legislation from New Yorkers who are wondering where their money went – New Yorkers want transparency and accountability at this, the largest development project in Brooklyn’s history,” Ms. Simon added.