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The Goldstein Legacy: Man of principle or sellout?

The Brooklyn Paper
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Is Daniel Goldstein a sell-out, or an activist who made the best of an untenable situation?

That’s the question that all Atlantic Yards followers are wrestling with in the wake of Goldstein’s stunning $3-million settlement with their nemesis, the developer Bruce Ratner.

One side says he was a hero who risked everything — including the Pacific Street home where he lives with his wife and small child — to halt a money-hungry developer who is not on the hook for the public benefits that justified the project in the first place.

The other side says that Goldstein’s settlement — which was bigger than anyone else who lived in the Yards footprint — vindicates their perception that his “principled stand” was merely a bargaining chip.

This sentiment can be read in the comments section of every story written about Goldstein’s settlement — though only Bertha Lewis of the community organizing group ACORN has thus far gone on the record to address what some see as the negative side of his legacy.

“Finally, he got what he really wanted: a deal,” Lewis wrote in an e-mail sent to the media. Her controversial group has supported Ratner’s mega-project because of the 2,250 units of affordable housing that is part of plan, at least on paper. “[The deal was] not for the community he claimed to love so much, but for the only beneficiary of his community of one, himself, Double Dealing Danny Goldstein.”

Lewis’s scathing words came as a surprise considering she has been mostly absent during the climatic final year of the Atlantic Yards pre-construction process, but Lewis told us that her e-mail was merely the result of “seven years of pent up rage coming out.”

“What incensed me so much about Daniel over the years [was his] distortion of the facts — really denigrating folks in the community. Saying you don’t understand the project, you’ve been duped, hoodwinked.”

But it’s not just longtime supporters who have questioned Goldstein’s decision yesterday. Even the Atlantic Yards Report, which has been one of the most thorough critics of the project, noted that Goldstein’s settlement also requires him to withdraw from all litigation — meaning that it is now less likely that some lingering legal issues, such as the revised 25-year buildout of the project, will ever be considered in a courtroom.

Since Wednesday’s front-page settlement, Goldstein has sought to define his own legacy, re-focusing attention away from the naysayers and back onto the movement he led — something that he deftly managed as spokesman of the opposition group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

“We’ve done a lot of what the media should have been doing — what well established good-government groups should have done,” Goldstein said. “Watchdogging minute details of an attenuated process. Every false statement, exaggeration and broken promise has been exposed.”

So, what concrete accomplishments can Goldstein and his Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn actually point to?

“We have convinced nearly all good people of good will that the project is a sham and a poster child for the wrong way to develop cities,” Goldstein said. “We shined a bright light on the way eminent domain is abused in New York State to the point where there is now a legislative effort … to reform the state’s laws.

“We’ve exposed the way eminent domain is used and abused in New York as a tool for the most powerful interests in the state,” he added. “It’s on everyone’s radar. … I don’t think any developer will try to things this way again.”

Opponents like Goldstein can also take credit for delaying the project, but the delay ended up playing a role in the firing of architect Frank Gehry, whose ambitious design was one of the project’s original selling points — and whose departure, even the developer has admitted, has made the project worse.

Ratner, for his part, has been quiet about Goldstein — though yesterday’s settlement leaves little doubt he gave a lot of thought to this longtime thorn in his side.

The developer’s recent statements have not mentioned Goldstein specifically, but the presence of numerous lawyers and two top executives, Bruce Bender and MaryAnne Gilmartin, at Wednesday’s final negotiating session in Justice Abraham Gerges’s chambers in Downtown reinforce how coveted Goldstein’s Pacific Street condo had become and how badly Ratner needed him out quickly.

Ultimately, it is a stretch to call Goldstein’s opposition to the project a victory — ground has already been broken and demolition crews are getting off the bench and taking off their warmup suits to tear down his home as early as next month.

But his dissent, along with those that stood beside him, helped illuminate a project that has been criticized numerous times by numerous judges for its lack of transparency.

His decision to not face a physical eviction only avoided a colorful moment for the media, but not much else. Goldstein was left with few favorable options: he could have chosen to fight on and face an eviction date as soon as mid-May and less money for his apartment, or take a more generous settlement. Either way, the state was going to remain his landlord — it took title to his apartment in March.

“This was the only chance to avoid a really bad situation for myself and family,” Goldstein said. “[I could have been] evicted and still not been paid anywhere near fair market value for my apartment. If doing that could have impacted the project in any meaningful way, I would have done it.”

Goldstein had lost the war once his house was seized by the state. He chose to win a small battle by getting five times more than his apartment cost in 2003 — and he gave up very little in the process. In fact, his scathing criticism of the project continues to this day — a privilege that Ratner took away from other residents in the Yards footprint who agreed to not criticize the project in exchange for the deal.

So what is Daniel Goldstein’s legacy? He lost his home in a state-sponsored land grab by a billionaire — but he also got $3 million and retained his right to criticize such alleged abuses of eminent domain.

He didn’t stop the project — and played a role in making it arguably worse.

But Daniel Goldstein didn’t choose this fight — it chose him when state development officials knocked on his condo door one day and said, “We are taking your apartment for a basketball arena.”

He said, “No.” And like him or not, that was a principled stand — one that happened to pay off in the end.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

sid from boerum hill says:
Counting other people's money? First of all the 3 million isn't tax free. he has to pay taxes on it. He has extensive lawyers fees. The Brooklyn Paper was at first against Atlantic Yards. Only a change in ownership changed the editorial approach. Did the Brooklyn paper make any money on Atlantic Yards...its hard to say.

and what constituency voted for it? there was NEVER a vote by any legislative body on the Atlantic Yards. The state(and the three men in a room) took it over with the Mayors blessing so it wouldn't have to go through the ULURP process that requires in the end a vote by the City Council. It would have passed BUT not in its present form. It would have been much smaller with a specific required low cost housing based on an accepted formula. There is no guarantee that the "low cost"-affordable housing will be such. and Berta Lewis of ACORN lineage is in no position to enforce anything. She is too beholding to the developer. How much did her organization get? was it more than Dan Goldstein netted? probably!
If built as originally planned it would have been the densest census tract in the US! Its twice(about)more dense than battery park city!
I don't oppose the Arena but I do want a reasonable amount of really affordable housing. Is that bad? Does it mean I disagree with the Mayor- you bet I do. Dan Goldstein raised all these issues. Sometimes he was obnoxious. Sometimes he wasn't. If that is the measure the third term Mayor is the same. Yes Goldstein wasn't elected but he did his best and was told by the judge settle this or else....so he settled. leave him alone...he didn't hurt you anyway.
April 23, 2010, 11:10 am
Forgetaboutit! from Brooklyn says:
It strikes your reporter as questionable that, in settling, Goldstein would withdraw from the lawsuits? Excuuuuse me, but that's what a settlement does: it SETTLES the legal and financial dispute — publicly, at least — between conflicted parties.

The settlement does NOT, as you also report, require Goldstein to be silent going forward (just that he can no longer lead the fight). This is a big win for Goldstein, since those who settled earlier WERE muzzled.

This article, once past the opening hysterics, makes it clear that Goldstein had no choice but to settle: He's lost his home in any event, and Ratner has begun to build an arena. And it does credit Goldstein for taking a principled stand.

But you're wrong in adding — perhaps to satisfy Fox's "Fair and Balanced" mandate — that Goldstein "played a role in making (the project) arguably worse."

Atlantic Yards stinks. Any protest that might have resulted in the project's being delayed and ultimately scaled back is a plus.

As for compensation … a—holes like Bertha Lewis got PLENTY of moolah out of this deal, so she's the last one to talk. Goldstein got $3 million from a real-estate developer whose projects are worth billions.

Meanwhile, let's remember what Ratner got — how many HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars?

Repeat: HUNDREDS of millions! Money fed directly into Ratner's pocks from where? FROM US — New York's humble taxpayers.

The only principle involved in this PAYOFF TO RATNER is the PRINCIPAL reflect in Ratner's bank balance.

Now THAT'S something to complain about.
April 23, 2010, 11:21 am
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
It's a shame that it takes the Brooklyn Paper until the final line of this story to answer the question it poses, with a pejorative, in the headline: that Daniel Goldstein's stand against Atlantic Yards was (deeply) principled.

Is there really any doubt that Bruce Ratner would have paid him far more if he had agreed to drop his eminent domain challenge three years ago? Of course not. Is there any doubt that Daniel and his family would have preferred to stay in their home on Pacific Street? No. And is there any doubt that he was left with no choice but to settle and look out for his family's best interest? Again, absolutely not.

His fight to stop Atlantic Yards was, is and always will be about the principle that eminent domain should not be used, either as a threat or in actual execution, to enrich a private developer at the expense of other private home and business owners. That mountains of scarce public funds should not be squandered on something so frivolous as a privately owned basketball arena. And that the citizen-residents of a community should have an actual say in the future of their neighborhood.

Daniel Goldstein has done Brooklyn proud. He didn't ask for this fight, but he sure as heck didn't run from it, when that would have been the easy thing to do. Those who criticize him should hope that they never find themselves faced with such a choice, and thanks to him, there's less chance of that happening than before the Atlantic Yards project, which he's helped make the poster child for eminent domain-abusing, subsidy-fueled, backroom boondoggles, came along.

Count me among the countless Brooklynites who are grateful that Daniel Goldstein believed that his home was worth fighting for.
April 23, 2010, 11:38 am
JudahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Legacy_"The American Dream" They/him started out saying Ratner was getting a sweetheart deal. Now if you follow their recent argument Ratner ended up with a way better sweetheart deal & the public gets an uglier arena to go drink beer & scream in. So to sum up. Ratner gets more $$$, Goldstein gets more $$ even if you take out legal fees, he's still walking away with 3x what he paid for the condo. The poor gets some jobs (gotta love trickle down economics). The NBA, Wall Street makes $$. The class structure is preserved. Isn't this the American Dream?
April 23, 2010, 11:41 am
Norman Oder says:
Meanwhile, Forest City Ratner has what looks to be the biggest lobbying contract in the state.
http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2010/04/fcr-spent-113-million-on-new-york.html

Goldstein's settlement (not worth close to $3 million to him) is both defensible and open to question.

The Brooklyn Paper's unwillingness to cover the Development Agreement--at least until it was brought up in court months later--is not defensible.
http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2010/04/so-kerfluffle-at-coffee-bar-was-bigger.html

And everything Bertha Lewis says about Atlantic Yards deserves an asterisk that explains how ACORN was bailed out by Forest City Ratner, another story I don't remember the Brooklyn Paper covering.
http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2009/04/open-letter-to-nyt-public-editor-why.html

Keep your eye on the ball, people.
April 23, 2010, 11:45 am
JudahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Norm I wonder what you are going to do now. How many more Atlantic Yards Report can you drum up. I guess you are one of those left holding the bag. Might I suggest "The NETS Report". DEPRESSING ain't it! My stomach hurts!
April 23, 2010, 4:44 pm
LS says:
One other way to look at this issue is by analyzing how greatly the effort to raze the existing neighborhood contributed to its immediate decline. So while Daniel Goldstein, and the other landholders in the path of the arena, should have experienced an increase in the value of their homes, like homeowners and commercial property owners did in neighborhoods that were similar in architecture and context, like North Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill -- instead they were stuck in a no-man's land where not one landowner was even bothering to do a decent job maintaining their possibly to be condemned property, and nobody was improving the neighborhood in any visible way. Quite the opposite. Bruce Ratner pushed it in to a decline that was stark in contrast to the renaissance that all other brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods experienced.
April 23, 2010, 8:36 pm
Steve Nitwitt from Sheepshead Bay says:
Yo Norm, let's get a new subject to write on -- and this time try to write in a way that people won't think it is dull. Did DDDB give you cash to be so biased?
April 23, 2010, 8:45 pm
Eazy D from Sheepshead Bay says:
Norm, who paid for you to sit on your butt for 5 years and blog? By the way, you can't write.
April 24, 2010, 12:04 am
Damion from Carroll Gardens says:
$2,500,000.00 profit and his condo paid off - plus all his DDDB fans and worshipers - Goldstein just waited until Ratner gave him a number he liked.

Of course, he's a sellout!
April 24, 2010, 8:24 am
F. D. Thompson from Fort Greene says:
He is a sell out. There was only one paid staff member of his don't destroy group....his wife at $48,000 a year. Thus his mortgage was being paid all this time. It was hard to find this out since she used another name....possibly her maiden name. Seven years and the man do not lose one thing. I think of all of the people who were denied a chance to work and live in that area. I do no wish
April 24, 2010, 11:48 am
F. D. Thompson from Fort Greene says:
He is a sell out. There was only one paid staff member of his don't destroy group....his wife at $48,000 a year. Thus his mortgage was being paid all this time. It was hard to find this out since she used another name....possibly her maiden name. Seven years and the man do not lose one thing. I think of all of the people who were denied a chance to work and live in that area. I do not wish him well.
April 24, 2010, 11:56 am
Anon from Brooklyn Heights says:
Sid, it is a wonder that you should advocate against the lack of transparency on the Yards fight but be in support of housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park and the total lack of transparency in how that all happened. Lawns instead of recreation. But then, with your wife being a flak for Yassky, who was also the instrument by which we continue to fight the oligarchy of Bloomberg thru overturn of term limits, perhaps you have other motives? Too bad you can't come around on the travesty of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
April 26, 2010, 11:05 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
Mr. Goldstein put up a good fight, and should be commended, for at the very least, bleeding Ratner dry (He no longer will own the Nets nor most of the development). Ratner a billionare? Not on this project thankyou.

Goldstein a sellout? Well at least he is no longer middle class. I recently realized something from the AY fight. The middle class of Brooklyn are just the richest of the poor people. The only difference is the middle class likes to take the abuse with a smile. Pathetic little people ... they just got robbed and don't even care. In the end, the biggest loser is not Mr. Goldstein, but the middle class of Brooklyn. Fortunate for him, he no longer one of them.
April 26, 2010, 5:04 pm
JudahSpechal from Bed_Stuy says:
So what happens to the people & other groups & organizations that were your ally? What was their settlement?

The FCR made sure that your settlement news went hyper-vile.

You are constantly in the news now, but the news is about the new Daniel Goldstein. Who is he? Can't you just hear the "Shaft" theme song in the background?

Your settlement killed all other opposition. Not that I care because I thought you all were a bunch of jokers.

"The last holdout settled at Atlantic Yards".

Daniel Goldstein settled! You took the $$$.

You weren't just someone who opposed the arena. You was a homeowner in the footprint. You gave the other people strength, because you was fighting for your home.

You sold out! You sold them out.

Why didn't you send the Wife & son to stay with family, then get the Marshalls paddling your spot on tape. Even your stuff piled up on the sidewalk.
That's what would of resolve "le carnivale", the frenzy, that you created.
You should have taken it all the way bro. Or maybe FCR should of offered you the $$$ back in '03.

You took the $$$.
April 28, 2010, 3:50 pm
karl the druid from prospect heights says:
'Daniel Goldstein settled! You took the $$$.'

judahspechal from bed_stuy

if its the money you're balking about

you should take note

of goldstein's incredible negotiation skills

but you will first have to save a neighborhood

if you have the moxy
April 29, 2010, 11:52 am
anon from Washington D.C. says:
If you have any information on Bruce Ratner's corruption and/or his ties to ACORN or Obama, Click "Whistleblower" at http://republicans.oversight.house.gov/
May 1, 2010, 12:57 pm
Barbara from Clinton Hill says:
Thank you again to Daniel and his family for fighting so long and so hard against NY corruption and for diligently exposing this awful project which he and his allies have done. Brooklyn needs more people like you. Bravo for a good fight and I hope you can continue as best you can and find another home in Brooklyn where there will not be another threat anything like AY.
May 9, 2010, 2:29 am
Eazy D & Steve Nitwitt says:
We're paid to make pseudonymous accusations. But we won't say who pays us.
July 16, 2011, 7:01 am

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