Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ratner Has a Good Day and Wants You to Know

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has been winning the development war but taking it on the chin in the war for the hearts and minds of Brooklynites from his vociferous and resourceful opponents. (Celebrities signing on to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the less than enthusiastic welcome for Miss Brooklyn, etc.) So, in Ratnerian terms, yesterday was such a good day on the PR front that he issued a press release about it.

You probably already know the good news (for Ratner): A five-member panel of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled in his favor by reversing a Supreme Court disqualification of the Empire State Development Corporation's environmental attorney on the basis of a conflict of interest. And, it upheld the demolition of five buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint that Ratner argued posed a "danger" to the community. (Not that it mattered. The buildings have met their maker.)

On the PR front, Ratner's Atlantic Yards News trumpeted a Daily News column that made light of "Hollywood millionaires" that oppose Atlantic Yards and talked up "neighborhood celebrities" that support it.

A sample from the column:
Develop - Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the most prominent group opposing the proposed $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards project, recently unveiled a 33-member advisory board chock-full of famous authors and Hollywood types who live in Brooklyn. The cavalcade of stars includes Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez and "Brokeback Mountain" stars Heath Ledger and his wife, Michelle Williams.

The celebs hate the idea of building a sports arena and nearly 7,000 units of new housing in Prospect Heights. "Heath and I moved to Brooklyn for light and space and air," Williams complained in a press release.

God forbid that anybody should block the light that shines on Hollywood millionaires.

Williams and other newcomers - she and Heath have been Brooklynites for about a year - should get to know some of the neighborhood celebrities who already live in the area and support Atlantic Yards.

No. 1 on the list is Constantin (Gus) Vlahavas, the proprietor of Tom's, a diner that opened in 1936 and was once named by the Daily News as the best restaurant in New York City. " This will be a shot in the arm for us," Gus says of Atlantic Yards.
Etc. And so on.

Point taken. Gowanus Lounge understands that there are people in Brooklyn that support the project and the promised jobs and housing. Most of the opponents we're familiar with don't take issue with that. The objections revolve, instead, around the incredible mass and bulk of the project and about 16 or so highrises in low rise neighborhoods. It ain't about the light being blocked. It's about several communities threatened by excessively dense development and all of its spinoffs.

Back off on the mass and scale of the thing, and even some of those "Hollywood Millionaires" would probably like a courtside seat at a Nets game.

In other Atlantic Yards news, Editor & Publisher takes a look at the interesting and tangled relationship between the New York Times and Forest City Ratner. And, an interesting New York Observer article looks at why City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who was out front in fighting the West Side Stadium, is maintaining radio silence on Atlantic Yards.


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