Council bill to target “deadbeat” developers

It’s kind of a wonder this wasn’t already the law — that you’d have to clear up existing violations before you can continue building.

(May 22nd, 2009)

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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