Exec: Arena for mall a no-go

The Brooklyn Paper
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Armed with wooden models, Los Angeles architects and a small pack of publicists, Forest City Ratner officials told attendees of a Park Slope town hall meeting Thursday night what they didn’t want to hear.

The faltering Atlantic Center mall will not come down. And a planned arena for developer Bruce Ratner’s Nets basketball team will not be moved.

That news came as a disappointment to a group asking Rater to shift his proposed 19,000-seat arena north a bit so that it would traverse Atlantic Avenue, replacing much of the mall, so that they will not have to lose their homes.

The public forum on the proposed Atlantic Yards development project, which also includes office and residential towers on land extending east into Prospect Heights from the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, was hosted by the Park Slope Civic Council.

Addressing more than 200 people who packed the auditorium of PS 282 on Sixth Avenue at Berkeley Place, Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey shot down those ideas.

“[Shifting the arena] would require bridging over 350 to 500 feet of Atlantic Avenue,” Stuckey explained, adding that the planners would have to build 50 feet high because of terrorism concerns. “It would create potentially unsafe conditions,” he said.

But members of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a group of Prospect Heights residents who will have their condos, co-ops and businesses condemned if Ratner’s plan proceeds, disagreed.

As part of the $2.5 billion Atlantic Yards plan, which proposes soaring office buildings and 13 residential towers built fortress-like on new mega-block, Ratner plans to build over the Long Island Rail Road storage yards and ask the state to use its power of eminent domain to seize more than two square blocks of private property.

Residents have hired lawyer Norman Siegel, former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, to fight the proposal in court.

Joel Towers, an urban designer and resident of 475 Dean St., who sat on Thursday’s town hall panel, advocated for a plan that would not require taking any property.

“He doesn’t need to take our homes,” Towers said of Ratner.

Instead, Develop Don’t Destroy is pushing for plans that would remove eminent domain from the equation and require Ratner to tear down his own failed Atlantic Center mall just across Atlantic Avenue and use the space to build the arena.

While the developers and opponents did not see eye to eye, many saw the forum — the first neighborhood meeting attended by both the developers and opponents of the plan — as a step in the right direction.

“We’re at the beginning of what’s going to be a lengthy exhaustive process,” Stuckey said. “We see this as being the first of what will be many public meetings and public forums in Brooklyn.”

Many opponents complained at the meeting that they have had to “fight to be heard” and are asking for more community involvement.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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