Friday, December 16, 2005


"Developers' blight"? Demolitions of six buildings to begin next month

Six buildings owned by Forest City in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint will be demolished next month, after an engineering firm determined major structural damage. The New York Times reported, in a 12/16/05 story headlined Another Step for Downtown Brooklyn Project:
"The question is, God forbid that a building collapses, God forbid that a falling brick hits someone in the head, or that there's a fire," said Bruce Bender, the developer's executive vice president for community affairs. Mr. Bender said the firm was providing warning of the plans in part to defuse criticism from opponents of the project....
Five of the buildings - two former auto-repair garages on Pacific Street, two unoccupied apartment buildings at Dean Street, and the Underberg Building on Atlantic Avenue - are near the western end of the project's proposed site. The sixth is farther east, on Dean Street near Carlton Avenue.

Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, told the Times: "To justify eminent domain, Bruce Ratner wants to argue that this neighborhood is blighted. It is not. This is his attempt to create developers' blight."

The responsibility, at least according to the Times article, is murky. On the one hand, "a tour of the interiors reveals the damage done by years of wind, rain, and insufficient maintenance." On the other, each building suffers from water damage that means floors and ceilings are on the verge of collapse, and "[s]ome of the damage has occurred only in the past few months."

So it's not clear whether earlier efforts to stabilize and waterproof the buildings--as was done to preserve other buildings in the neighborhood, an argument against claims of blight--would have worked.

Note to the headline writer: the project won't be in "Downtown Brooklyn," despite numerous mentions of that term in the press. The Times's 10/19/05 coverage used "near Downtown Brooklyn," while 7/5/05 coverage used "east of Downtown Brooklyn." This new Crain's article on eminent domain makes the same error.

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