Atlantic Yards site
It has begun: Bruce Ratner has started clearing the site of his proposed
Atlantic Yards arena, residential and office mega-project.
Workers wearing gardening gloves and knit caps arrived at the moody Samuel
Underberg Building at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues
around 11:30 on Tuesday morning to begin what will be a months-long process
of removing toxic asbestos and then demolishing the 19th-century structure.
Five other buildings nearby will follow — the historic beginning
of a project that may take more than a decade to complete and cost $3.5
In this first step this week, the workers used grocery carts to haul odd
pieces of furniture and mixing bowls still wrapped in plastic from the
Underberg building, which once housed a food supply store.
The buildings — all owned by Ratner or in contract to be sold to
him — will be demolished before the mega-project is even approved.
The initial demolition work followed a report issued by a Ratner-hired
engineer that recommended the building be torn town to prevent a collapse
due to structurally weakness.
Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights) challenged the engineer’s
“I have a serious problem with their contention that the buildings
are unsound,” James said. “At this point, it looks to me like
a show of confidence to their investors.
“They are creating blight by demolition to move the project forward,”
In a letter to the developer, James, state Sen. Velmanette Mongomery (D-Fort
Greene) and Rep. Major Owens (D-Crown Heights) accused him of starting
demolition work as a ploy to show that the neighborhood is blighted —
a requirement before land can be condemned for seizure through eminent
Ratner owns 92 percent of the residential properties within the footprint
of his project. Remaining building owners are quickly selling out.
“People from Ratner’s company call me and now I talk with them,”
said Jason Bijur, who owns a 16-family apartment building at 473 Dean
St., between Flatbush and Sixth avenues.
All over the neighborhood, longtime businesses and residents are moving
out, knowing that the Ratner project has finally entered its initial phase
— the first tangible evidence of the developer’s effort to reshape
an entire neighborhood.
“The demolition is on its way,” said Dan Kershenbaum, who packed
up a lifetime’s belongings for ninetysomething artist Louise Bourgeois,
who owned a studio at 475 Dean St.
Bourgeois agreed to be out of the building by Jan. 29, Kershenbaum said.
Ratner is paying for her relocation.
At Harriet’s Alter Ego, a clothing boutique on Flatbush, a half off
“We’re Moving” sale was in full-swing this week. The store
will close on Dec. 31 and reopen farther east on Flatbush Avenue in a
space partially subsidized by the developer.
Despite the physical manifestations of the project’s advancement
this week, the lead state agency is not expected to approve the draft
Environmental Impact Statement and Ratner’s use of eminent domain
until early in 2006.
“We believe the condemnations could start as early as May or June,”
said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop —Don’t Destroy
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010