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Year in Yards

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The biggest real-estate project in the history of Brooklyn went from being a dream of a few politicians and a developer to a state-ordained reality this year. And every week, Bruce Ratner’s plan for a mini-city of 16 towers and an arena for the New Jersey Nets was in The Papers. Here’s a refresher course:

January

To the courts: Atlantic Yards opponents move their fight to the courts after two years of demonstrating and politicking. A lawsuit charges Ratner and the state with beginning demolition work on the 22-acre development before officials approved it.

Take my lawyer, please: The Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the mega-development, suffers a political black eye when opponents discover that the agency hired a lawyer who once worked for Ratner — and that Ratner had recommended the lawyer for the job!

February

Wrecked: Opponents take a legal hit — and five Prospect Heights buildings come down — when a court ruling allows Ratner to demolish properties before the project is approved.

Beer bashed: Atlantic Yards opponents attempt to boycott Brooklyn Brewery beer after company founder Steve Hindy hosts a party for Atlantic Yards supporters including Borough President Markowitz and four Nets cheerleaders. The boycott fizzles.

March

A numbers “game”: Ratner announces he is shrinking the project by five percent, even though the revision still leaves the project larger than it was when it was introduced. Ever-literary opponent Patti Hagan compares the move to “Alice in Wonderland.”

May

Touche, Tish: City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights), the highest-profile opponent, loses chief of staff Janella Meeks to Ratner, who hired Meeks to work in governmental relations.

June

Poster girl: Model Sahara Meer (left), whose photo appeared unwittingly in Atlantic Yards promotional material, becomes a poster child for the development’s opposition.

July

Realty check: Ratner invites thousands of New Yorkers to learn about the mostly luxury development’s below-market-rate units. Many in the crowd are confused by the high prices of the project’s “affordable” housing.

Get big, Brooklyn: The state releases a draft review of the project and ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano touts the publicly subsidized mega-development as an important step towards the Manhattanization of Brooklyn. The environmental review reveals significant impacts on traffic, schools and subways.

August

Lovefest special: Ratner holds a Yards pep rally immediately before the state’s first public hearing on the project. The lovefest was so intense that even a reporter — Stephen Witt of the New York Post-owned Courier-Life chain — gave the developer a bear hug. Thirty minutes later, the hearing devolves into a show of racial tension and class difference, with project supporters jeering jargon-laden calls for “contextual development” and opponents shrugging off the other side’s demand for the jobs the project will create.

September

Try again: A coalition of local organizations, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, calls for the state to scrap its “insufficient and flawed” environmental review of the project and start over.

October

Rejected: New Yorker architecture critic (and Pulitzer Prize-winner) Paul Goldberger slams starchitect Frank Gehry’s design for Ratner’s mini-city.

November

Hands off: A handful of tenants in the Atlantic Yards footprint files a federal lawsuit against Ratner, Mayor Bloomberg and state officials, charging them with abusing the power of eminent domain for private, rather than public, benefit.

December

Boom goes bust: State officials admit that the project will create just $944 million in tax revenues over 30 years — almost $500 million less than boosters promised five months earlier.

All over but the lawsuits: The done deal is finally done. After three divisive years, Albany’s “three men in a room” approve the project.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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