Thursday, February 09, 2006


The NYTimes sports section: arena a done deal or just maybe?

"Everybody knows where the Nets are going: Brooklyn," declares New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey in today's column, headlined, at least in the print edition, While Nets Are Headed East, Knicks Are Going South.

The shorthand suggests it's a done deal, but many might argue differently, given the yet-to-be-issued Environmental Impact Statement from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the likely litigation over the state's need to exercise eminent domain to assemble properties for the Atlantic Yards project, and even the hearing February 14 over developer Forest City Ratner's aim to demolish several properties in the project footprint.

And the Times itself hedges on its Sports homepage, previewing Vecsey's column with the sentence (emphasis added): The Nets may be moving to Brooklyn, but at least they still have talent and hope, unlike the Knicks.

Listening to readers?

As Eric McClure of Brooklyn wrote Vecsey today:
If the citizens of this borough have their say, the Nets will be going anywhere but. There are more than a few of us here who are opposed to handing a billionaire team owner a couple billion more in tax breaks and subsidies, opposed to giving him private land seized through the abuse of eminent domain, and opposed to letting him steal a publicly owned rail yard with the lowest bid. Not to mention all of the closed-door, back-room dealing and the web of cozy mutual back-scratching with his politician-accomplices. As bad as the Knicks are, they don't stink nearly as much as what Bruce Ratner is trying to put over on the taxpayers of Brooklyn, New York City and New York State.
(McClure wrote in his personal capacity, but he is also the Atlantic Yards Campaign Chair for Park Slope Neighbors.)

Perhaps other readers--and possibly, even Times staffers--might have informed Vecsey that his column was conclusory.

Vecsey's column also ends with another error, locating the arena in Downtown Brooklyn: The Nets are playing in an arena surrounded by new parking garages for an amusement park that will be built before they split for downtown Brooklyn. The Knicks are staying in Midtown Manhattan, but otherwise their future is fuzzy and bleak.

More about that litigation

Several community groups and residents have sued Forest City Ratner and the ESDC to block the planned demolitions, and this week three elected officials--City Council Member Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and Rep. Major Owens--have joined the case, as have four rent-stabilized tenants from a building a short way down the block from some buildings planned for demolition.

The motion to intervene on behalf of those tenants, from South Brooklyn Legal Services, points out that the ESDC approved the demolitions based on a report by Forest City Ratner's engineering consultant, even though evidence from city agencies should have given the state agency pause:
The agency should have conducted an independent investigation and not relied exclusively on a report commissioned by the developer. Had the agency even perused publicly available records pertaining to the buildings, it would have discovered that the two New York City agencies empowered to order the demolition of unsafe structures, the Department of Buildings and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, have inspected at least four of the buildings since 9/04 and at no point thought it necessary to order their demolition on the grounds that they were unsafe or in imminent danger of collapse.
For example, the Department of Buildings (DoB) visited 608 Atlantic Ave. in 9/04 and issued a violation for improper signage, see Exhibit E; in 1/05 DoB visited 463 Dean St. and 585 Dean St. and issued a boiler violation, see Exhibit E; and, fantastically, in 7/05 the Department of Housing Preservation and Development visited 463 Dean St. and, upon information and belief, issued no immediately hazardous (code `C’) violations. See Exhibit F.

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