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The year of living Ratnerly

The Brooklyn Paper
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He doesn’t build amusement parks, but 2005 was a roller-coaster ride for Bruce Ratner.

The Brooklyn-based developer, who built Metrotech and the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, was in our pages seemingly every week, typically as the target of scorn by opponents to his Atlantic Yards mega-project.

But he also made news for his successes: obtaining the site from the MTA and making deals with some community groups.

Here’s how The Brooklyn Papers covered the Year of Ratner.

January

3 BR, TRN YRD VU: Ratner claims he will add 1,300 units of much-needed affordable and market-rate housing — and eliminated more than 1.5 million square feet of less-needed office space — at his arena-residential-commercial mega-project.

March

Well, rec-u-u-u-se me!: Borough President Markowitz, a strong supporter of the project, suffers a political black eye when his appointee to the City Planning Commission — Brooklyn’s only voice on the panel — recuses herself from review of the project. As The Papers reported, Williams and her husband own a stake in the Nets, the very basketball team Ratner is hoping to move to a new arena in Brooklyn.

Dial O for Opinion: In a stunning gaffe, a Ratner pollster called notorious Atlantic Yards critic Patti Hagan for her opinion on the project (he might as well have called President Bush for his opinion of Jacques Chirac!). Luckily for us, Hagan had her tape recorder on. “I am absolutely opposed to the whole damn thing!” Hagan told Ratner’s unsuspecting pollster.

April

Easy money: Developer Shaya Boymelgreen sold a building in the Atlantic Yards footprint to Ratner for $44 million. Just eight months earlier, Boymelgreen paid $20 million for it. That’s not a bad return on investment. Thanks, Bruce.

May

Not so fast: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announces that it is seeking bidders besides Ratner for the Atlantic Yards site.

Sealed with a kiss: Ratner gets a big wet one from activist Bertha Lewis (right) after agreeing to set aside half of his 4,500 apartment units to low-, moderate- and middle-income renters. For good measure, Lewis also kissed Mayor Bloomberg. Photographic evidence makes it clear that the famed ladies man Bloomberg enjoyed the kiss more.

June

Seizing the day: The Supreme Court rules that cities are allowed to seize privately owned property on behalf of private developers — a broad expansion of the notion of eminent domain. The cheering from Forest City Ratner headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn could be heard all the way to Bay Ridge.

July

Not so fast, part II: The MTA tells Ratner that his $50-million bid for the rail yards is not enough, even as the transit agency rejects a $150-million bid from a rival developer.

Picture this: Ratner gives the New York Times a sneak peak at Frank Gehry’s design for the entire project — but the reaction to the Vegas-style skyscrapers and Nets-logo friezes (right) is so negative that he eventually orders his “starchitect” back to his drafting table.

August

Low “Standard”: A Park Slope movie company turns down a chance to be profiled in Ratner’s supposed community newspaper, “The Brooklyn Standard” — and then publicly blasts the paper as “designed for the sole purpose of promoting [the] project.” The film company need not have worried; the Brooklyn Standard published just two issues in ’05.

September

Upping the ante: Ratner doubles his bid to $100 million — which is still less than half the $214-million value of the development rights, according to the MTA’s own appraiser — and wins control of the 8.5-acres train yard air rights.

Now you tell us?: A week after Ratner secures his deal with the MTA, Borough President Markowitz makes his first public request that Ratner downsize his mega-project.

October

Keep off!: The Papers reveals that a one-acre park on the roof of the Gehry-designed arena — which Ratner had once touted as “an exciting ... new public space [for] passive recreation and active public space for community residents” — will actually be off limits to the public. So much for the promised skating rink and hot chocolate.

Buy me love: The Papers also reveals that Ratner gave $5 million to supposed “community group” Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD). That kind of money buys a lot of friends.

November

Crackpot: Actress Rosie Perez doesn’t do opponents of the Ratner development any favors by saying that the mega-project would create unfriendly Manhattan-style neighborhoods. “When I lived in Manhattan, I knew the crackhead on my corner better than my neighbors,” she said. Ratner spokespeople immediately denied that 10 percent of their housing units had been set aside for crackheads.

He-a culpa: Frank Gehry tells a group of architects that his initial design for the Atlantic Yards was “horrible.” At the same meeting, he even posed for a photo with rabid opponent Patti Hagan (right). Amazingly, Gehry still has a job..



Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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