Senator Montgomery Asks MTA to Cancel Ratner Contracts for Atlantic Yards


The MTA Board is proposing to alter its agreement with Forest City Ratner Companies regarding the air rights and construction of a new rail yard for the Vanderbilt Rail Yards in Brooklyn. I urge this Committee and the MTA board to reject these changes. To approve these changes would be to continue the entirely questionable series of decision regarding this railyard and cast further doubt on the MTA’s ability and commitment to provide proper stewardship of this vital public authority. I urge you to reject these changes, cancel all contracts with FCRC, and issue a new RFP.

When the Atlantic Yards proposal first surfaced, the MTA hadn’t done an assessment or even prepared an RFP until goaded into action by the Community. The Board approved entering into contract with FCRC despite it’s inferior bid (compared to the Extell Corporation’s proposal) at a price far below the rushed assessment, trumpeting the inclusion of a “state of the art” railyard as the decisive factor, this despite the fact that all bidders had been informed they would have to provide such a replacement rail yard and platforming.

I have been informed the proposal being considered is for an even lower payment than negotiated, or some undetermined schedule of deferred payments, and a “temporary” rail yard until such time as FCRC feels able or willing to construct a certainly less than state of the art rail yard; less money, less rail yard, no schedule, no commitment. No responsible board should entertain such a ludicrous proposal. When will the next reduced proposal arrive from FCRC after this one is approved? This is not a reliable partner for the disposition and management of this valuable and vital property.

Last week, along with 7 other legislators, I sent a letter to acting MTA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Helena Williams requesting this hearing be delayed and that we be provided with details of the proposed changes. My colleague, Senator Bill Perkins, also sent Ms. Williams a series of questions regarding this proposal; we all still await a response.

I urge this committee and the MTA Board of Directors to not only reject these changes but to cancel all contracts with Forest City Ratner for non-compliance, and reissue an RFP. Having just endured the negotiations on the so-called “Doomsday Budget,” to do any less would further undermine the MTA’s management reputation.


Senator Velmanette Montgomery
18th NYS Senate District

(June 23rd, 2009)

BHA Atlantic Yards Development – Specific Principles

The following represent the views of the Boerum Hill Association regarding development of the Atlantic Yards/Vanderbilt Railyards site. We also support and sponsor the principles espoused on BrooklynSpeaks.Net. Please visit BrooklynSpeaks.Net today and make your voice heard!

  1. The density of the residential area should be no greater than Battery Park City at full build out which is 152 apartments per acre. (the FCR plan is 311)
  2. No use of eminent domain as part of this project.
  3. Plans to ensure adequate traffic flow and safe pedestrian circulation should be implemented before new development adds excess demands. Additional steps to address traffic and pedestrian circulation should be systemic, creative and utilize state-of-the-art approaches. (E.g., burying streets, building skyways; separate traffic, pedestrians and cyclists; traffic calming, toll equalization).
  4. No streets should be demapped. Creative use of pedestrian and/or vehicular walkways and skyways should be incentivized.
  5. Emergency evacuation plans should ensure public safety.
  6. Creative and progressive solutions to parking must be instituted and strictly enforced in order to accomplish the twin goals of disincentivizing vehicular congestion and improving air quality, including, for example, affordability of limited, but necessary parking spaces, residential parking permits for the surrounding neighborhoods, and Government permit parking limited to garage spaces.
  7. Neither “Miss Brooklyn” nor any building in the site should be any higher than 400 feet.
  8. Existing buildings should not be vacated and/or demolished until replacement design and financing are in place. Boerum Hill and the surrounding communities have lived with situation in the past.
  9. Adequate schools for the children of new residents must be built within the footprint as part of the Atlantic Yards program.
  10. Address the huge additional demands on public infrastructure – police, fire, water, sewer, post office, etc.
  11. These must include initial and ongoing costs to be borne by the city, expected construction disruption (street work, etc.), and impact on these services in the surrounding neighborhoods.
  12. The open space should be public space, physically and visually accessible to the rest of the community and include the 2 acre space on top of the arena.
  13. Signage should respect the surrounding communities in character, quality of life and color (it shouldn’t be like 42nd Street) and not cast light onto surrounding residential buildings. The major illuminated signage should be turned off by 11:00PM.
  14. The capacity of basic utilities (electric, and gas) ability to service the increased demand should be insured.
  15. Renewable and environmental sustainable energy should be provided on site (i.e., wind and solar energy) for the development and immediate area.
  16. A wind effects study should be conducted on any planned construction to prevent unnecessary localized problems.
  17. Guarantees should be made that the affordable housing will not all be left to the end, but that it built proportionally along with the market rate housing.
  18. The pervasive problems of noise must be addressed proactively – using state of the art analysis.

The BHA is also in complete agreement with the expert consultants, hired by the CBN. We urge that these educated testimonies be considered before this project is approved.

The BHA is also in agreement with the Municipal Arts Society – they criticized the non-public process of approval of this huge project – stating that this process alienated rather than involves citizens – we agree.

(October 1st, 2006)

Pacific Plan for Atlantic Yards

At the Boerum Hill Association’s June 15, 2005 meeting at the Belarusian Church, architect Douglas Hamilton presented his Pacific Plan to the Boerum Hill community and answered questions afterwards.

In addition, Mr. Hamilton distributed copies of his testimony (PDF, 199KB) to the Economic Development Committee, and his editorial “The Farce Is With Us” (PDF, 124KB) regarding the MTA RFP (Request For Proposal) process for Atlantic Yards.

(June 18th, 2005)

Atlantic Yards Unity Plan

The UNITY Development Plan is an alternative to Forest City Ratner’s proposal for the Atlantic Yards site. The Boerum Hill Association is cosponsoring a presentation of the UNITY Plan at the YWCA on Wed, Feb. 16th at 7pm.

The evening’s agenda will feature urban designer Marshall Brown presenting the UNITY Plan, a review of the efforts to develop the railyards to date, and an analysis of the potential economic impact on taxpayers of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards proposal.

Reprinted from:


What is the UNITY Development Plan?

The UNITY Plan is a community-based development vision for the Atlantic Yards site. Hundreds of people from the neighborhoods surrounding the site (bounded by Atlantic Ave., Pacific St., 5th Ave. and Vanderbilt Ave. in Prospect Heights) gathered last spring to generate ideas about how the site might best be developed to the advantage of all Brooklynites. People broke into small groups to generate ideas, fed their ideas into the larger group, and architect Marshall Brown volunteered to work out a real plan based on the community’s vision. You can download a copy of the UNITY Development Plan at:

In short, the UNITY plan epitomizes community-based, bottom-up, organic development. It is both a development *process* as well as the development *product* and may be contrasted with the kind of top-down plan that the Forest City Ratner Corporation (FCRC) is seeking to impose upon the community.

Why haven’t I heard about the UNITY Development Plan before now?

FCRC is obviously interested only in their own plan.

People who have seen the UNITY plan have been highly supportive of it. We think you will be, too. The local Community Boards, in their reactive roles, have not fostered much discussion of the UNITY plan, so this is a good opportunity to learn about it. The FCRC plan has been presented in all the papers and in several community forums, but there has been little public opportunity for discussion of the UNITY Plan.

Why should I care about either the UNITY Development Plan or the FCRC plan?

Both plans have the potential to impact all of the surrounding communities in many ways. We think the UNITY plan’s effects will be largely positive, while the FCRC plan has the potential to affect the community in a number of adverse ways. Ultimately, however, we believe that there should be a more open process, and more public debate, about the future of the railyards. Come find out more about the existing plans, and lend your voice to the process.

(February 1st, 2005)

PRESS RELEASE – Atlantic Yards Mailer to Community Constitutes False and Misleading Advertisement

For Immediate Release

For More Information: Sue Wolfe 718 858-3822, ext. 100

Atlantic Yards: Forest City Ratner Mailer to Community Constitutes False and Misleading Advertisement

Boerum Hill Association Calls for Inquiry by Department of Consumer Affairs, Better Business Bureau, and New York State Attorney General’s Office.

Forest City Ratner’s recent glossy brochure in support of the proposed “Atlantic Yards” development project, mailed to residents throughout Brooklyn, constitutes false and misleading advertising, the Boerum Hill Association (BHA) said today.

“The brochure makes all kinds of fanciful – but purely hypothetical and entirely unverified – claims about the benefits the Atlantic Yards will bring to our community. It includes absolutely no information about the size and height of the 17 buildings that will actually make up this mega-complex, not to mention even one word about their environmental impact,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, BHA board member and former President. “The brochure then tries to lure residents to ‘support‘ the project by returning a vaguely-worded postage-paid postcard in exchange for a mystery Nets ‘souvenir’! Because the postcard is preprinted to indicate support for the project, with no option for dissent, Ratner can claim each returned card as a vote of support even if ‘I oppose this project’ is written on every one.

The glossy, color brochure, filled with photos of laughing children and parents, has not a single photo of the proposed development. Instead, it merely claims, among other things, that the Atlantic Yards will bring “10,000 new, permanent jobs” – a highly contested claim for which no verifiable evidence has been offered to date. The brochure prominently displays the New York Times logo in large font, quoting favorable segments of an article from the newspaper. It then lists vague statements of support for the project from local elected officials, and then invites readers to “Send back this card and receive a free Brooklyn Nets Souvenir!” The self-addressed, bar-code stamped postcard includes a declaration of support for the Atlantic Yards, with space for the sender’s name and email address. The identity of Forest City Ratner as the project developer is entirely absent.

“It’s pretty unbelievable – pretty reprehensible, actually – that Ratner would use such a slick piece of advertising to drum up evidence of support for his project,” said Whitson. “A responsible developer – in compliance with the spirit of New York State laws prohibiting false advertising and deceptive practices – would have included real facts about its proposed project”

New York law states that any advertising which is misleading in any material respect is considered to be false advertising. An advertisement is considered misleading if it fails to disclose facts which are important in light of what is stated in the advertisement, or facts which are relevant in the light of the circumstances of the advertisement. The law also requires an advertiser to disclose its true name and address.

“It’s pretty clear to us that Forest City Ratner’s mailer constitutes false advertising under this standard of law, and we are going to seek whatever remedies are available to us under the law,” stated Sue Wolfe, president of the BHA. “We’ve been absolutely deluged with complaints and expressions of outrage from residents.” The BHA plans to file complaints with the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Better Business Bureau and the New York State Attorney General’s office.

“We are increasingly left with the impression that Ratner has no interest in real community dialogue about his project – a project that will substantially change the face of our neighborhood,” stated Wolfe. We’ve gotten no meaningful response from the Ratner people to our numerous attempts to reach out and communicate about what residents really want. Instead, we get a naked public relations ploy to hoodwink residents into expressing their support for this controversial project.”

“Instead of spending all this money on this kind of misleading – and very upsetting – advertising, Ratner should be engaging in serious discussions about how to make this project work. We know how to cooperate with developers; we are experienced in collaborative growth throughout our neighborhood. It’s deeply dismaying to us that Ratner chooses to resort to this kind of end-run around what should be a consultative process,” stated Wolfe. “We look forward to engaging in such a process with them.”

(June 8th, 2004)

BHA Position Statement on Atlantic Yards

The Boerum Hill Association supports sensible and sensitive development for the Atlantic Avenue rail yards site. Therefore, we must oppose the Atlantic Yards development proposal (“the Proposal”) as presented for the following reasons:

  1. The scale and magnitude of the Proposal as presented – a number of skyscrapers over 400 feet tall, including one which would dwarf the historic Williamsburgh Bank building by 100 feet, square footage equal to 3½ times the size of the Empire State Building and an added population estimated to equal that of Battery Park City – is overwhelming and highly unsuited for the proposed location, even without the proposed arena.
  2. The Proposal has not been reviewed as part of a transparent and meaningful process with broad participation. Such a process of review must include all stakeholders, particularly representatives of the neighboring communities who would be affected most by the development.
  3. We oppose any use of eminent domain or public financing incentives for private purposes. The Proposal remains unclear regarding the extent to which it would rely on the use of eminent domain or public financing.
  4. The Proposal would require a massive investment in public infrastructure, running into the hundreds of millions of dollars. This would include expenditures for mass transit, traffic, schools, police, fire, water and sewers to absorb the tens of thousands of people the Proposal would bring to an already extremely congested area. Any development proposal must include the details of such costs and identify who would pay for them. None of these issues has been addressed to date.
  5. The Proposal fails to provide any relevant facts to support its claims regarding the benefits that the arena and accompanying development would bring, particularly with respect to job and revenue growth. With respect to the proposed arena, a review of comparable sports facilities has shown that such benefits are negligible, while the negative economic, social and environmental impacts for surrounding neighborhoods are significant.
  6. We believe that all impacts, including environmental and economic impacts, of the Downtown Rezoning Plan and the Proposal should be studied together before either is approved.
  7. The local track record of the primary developer of the project (Forest City Ratner Companies), particularly with respect to its development of the Atlantic Center, indicates a lack of sensitivity and respect for the context of the surrounding communities.

The Boerum Hill Association is committed to cooperating with the neighboring communities to further educate our neighborhood about the Proposal and to be a voice for development that makes sense – not only for Downtown Brooklyn, but for Brooklyn as a whole.

Download PDF version of press release and position statement.

(February 10th, 2004)


On February 10, 2004 the Boerum Hill Association issued a statement expressing its opposition to the Atlantic Yards Development Proposal as presented — the construction of a 20,000 seat arena, 4 office towers ranging from 210 feet to 620 feet, 13 residential complexes ranging from 110 feet to 452 feet, and several surrounding retail buildings. The site of the proposal extends over several blocks southeast from the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, and is almost immediately adjacent to Boerum Hill.

“Our position in opposition to the Proposal is one we have reached after careful deliberation about the Proposal, studying both the information provided by the developer and those in support of the Proposal, as well as those who oppose it,” explained Sue Wolfe, BHA president. “The task force we appointed to study the Proposal has spent the past five months examining all of the competing claims as well as information that has been learned from similar development projects.”

Jo Anne Simon, head of the BHA task force examining the Proposal, explained the basis for the group’s opposition. “We don’t believe the magnitude and scale of this project, which is much more than an arena — it includes over 20 additional buildings, many over 400 feet tall – is appropriate for this location. Quite frankly, it is overwhelming, and would dwarf the surrounding residential neighborhoods and landmarks. After all, there’s a reason for the revival of the residential neighborhoods in this area of Brooklyn, and it has a lot to do with scale. This Proposal is antithetical to the success of Brooklyn’s small businesses and family-friendly communities.”

The Association’s review found many ways in which the Proposal was deficient. For example, it fails to include a full analysis of its environmental, economic and social impacts as well as a thorough accounting of the necessary infrastructure costs – in terms of mass transit, traffic, schools, police, fire, water and sewers – or who will bear such costs.

“We oppose any use of eminent domain or public financing for this project; unfortunately, the Proposal is vague, perhaps deliberately so, about the extent to which it will rely on either. It includes claims about the job and revenue growth to be generated, but it lacks hard facts and analysis. Our study of other arenas has shown us that such claims are rarely borne out, and that in many instances, actually lead to a community’s economic and social decline,” stated Ms. Wolfe. “People need real jobs, not fuzzy math.”

Ms. Simon notes, “We are very supportive of development, but only if it makes sense and is vetted in advance by the communities that will house it, as part of a broader process of meaningful public participation. The developer of the Atlantic Yards Proposal has failed to discuss its plans with the stakeholders who will be most affected by the Proposal: members of the neighboring communities. This Proposal or any future iterations of it must be reviewed together with the Brooklyn Downtown Rezoning Plan; an examination of each separately will lead to inaccurate assessments about the effects and costs they will have on the area and its people.”

Ms. Wolfe concurred. “We are committed to cooperating with neighboring communities to further educate our neighborhoods about the Proposal. ” she said. “We are experienced in working with developers to make sure our voices are heard and our needs incorporated, and you can be sure we’re going to be actively involved in this case.”

The Boerum Hill Association Arena Task Force consists of Jo Anne Simon, chair, Heloise Gruneberg, Regina Kelly, Nancy Schuh, Patricia Smith, James Vogel, Rose Weber and Sue Wolfe. For further information, please contact Jo Anne Simon at (718) 852-3528 or Sue Wolfe at (718) 858-3822, Ext 100.

Download PDF version of press release and position statement.

(February 10th, 2004)
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