City Used Eminent Domain for BAM Cultural District

While researching Friday’s post about the Danspace tower getting killed, we stumbled across something interesting: In January, the city acquired six properties in the BAM Cultural District via eminent domain. All six properties were within the block bounded by Fulton Street, Ashland Place, Lafayette Avenue and Rockwell Place. We should have noticed this earlier, as the BAM properties were actually acquired as part of a larger eminent domain grab that included several lots within the footprint of Willoughby Square Park. We reported that news back in January when it happened. How do people feel about the use of eminent domain in this case?
Another BAM Building Gets Tabled [Brownstoner]
City Secures Rest of Willoughby Square Park Properties [Brownstoner]

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  • Whatever it takes to create our own lincoln center. Compared to what was done there to get land, this is straight up business. Of course will be some time until things are built.

  • Unfortunately the building pictured had been leased out to youngish entrepeneurs and they had just finished renovating it to be a performance space when the e.d. process stopped them dead in the tracks. Thus while I appreciate the use of e.d in cases where there is a true public good (and this project seems to be one), it has had the effect of creating a dead zone for who knows how long.

  • Hey – as long as its not for private use and kicking out old factories and poor poor small business owners….oh; wait….I mean this is a travisty….oh wait, I’m late to the co-op for my shift…..

  • yes, dead zone is issue

    those two leasees and their brokers may have know what was coming and ought to have given high profile of site but it was outrageous that the lease went ahead… more there than meets the eye i hear, on all sides

  • I’ve also heard the Amber entrepreneurs were well aware of the future of that site; it’s a bit of a mystery why they proceeded anyway. Can anyone spill?

  • Chris and zinka are correct. At this point, there is really nothing to be gained by retelling the story, other than cheap titillation.

  • I agree BAM would be a great asset to the area, and the use of eminent domain here most likely was for the greater good. But I’m truthfully very uncomfortable with eminent domain as we think about it today. It just seems to become easier and easier to use (or abuse)it. AY is a case in point.

  • I think that building is in the property on the map named 2, which was the only lot that had any development. The rest of the lots were the large parking lot where I used to park regularly. There’s been talk for a long time that this whole block would be sewpt up in the BAM district redevelopment.

  • how soon they forget. hotel granada was torn down cause poor people lived there.

    the only differnce between this an any other slum clearance is that they waited 15 years before they could scam money to build where they tore down.


    just how much “culture” will be in this ditrict? and how much residential?

    strong armed gentrification raises its head yet again.

    business as usual indeed.

  • “just how much ‘culture’ will be in this ditrict? and how much residential?”

    Culture: renovated Strand Theater (home to BRIC, BCAT and UrbanGlass), new Danspace rehearsal and performing space, Irondale Center, 80 Hanson Place converted to office space for creative enterprises, rejuvenated Brooklyn Music School, expanded Brooklyn Academy of Music, and permanent homes for Mark Morris Dance Group and Theater for a New Audience.

    Residential: three new buildings–Fulton Street between Rockwell and Ashland, Lafayette and Ashland, and the southern part of the triangular block bounded by Flatbush, Lafayette and Ashland.

  • bingo g_man…

    -“renovated” strand(which was a theater)
    -“renovated” irondale/church space (which was a big open space already)
    -“renovated” 80 hanson place for office space (which was office space)
    -“renovated” Brooklyn Music School(will the music school stay when st annes takes it over?)
    -“renovated” building for mark morris

    “new danspace” with tower replacing a pre-existing cultural center with large residential tower.

    2 additionl residential towers.

    looks to me like a whitewash of renovation of EXISTING cultural resources with a developer payday of residential dollars boondoggle.

    lets look at the true signal to noise ratio of $$$.

    how much of the $$ is spent renovating existing spaces? how much is spent building new residential?

    we can better build the boro without this stylized graft.

  • I’m curious: I thought the Irondale Theater came into the Lafayette Presbyterian Church without significant BAM financial assistance…Am I correct or completely wrong?

    Yes, the destruction of that hotel was a bit atrocious. In fact, a lot of money was put into replacing the windows and other work not many years before the City closed it and then POOF! One day it was gone! …well, maybe it took some time…we were abroad for a little while and was shocked when it was both gone and a lousy parking lot was on the spot upon our return.

    I always figured there was some asbestos issue with the building that they felt would be too costly to “abate” to continue its use but this is just my crazy idea.

    Frankly, that area has been a bit of a mess for years but part of it the problem is the neglect and piecemeal takeover by BAM over the years, years when many lots have sat empty or buildings ripped down for nothing.

    The rather ugly Mark Morris building was a small two-storey store with marble carvings and big plate glass windows upstairs. They let that building fall to pieces with a multi-year more-derelict-by-the-year scaffold around it. It was atrocious and collected garbage…was very, very poorly handled.

    BAM has had its eye on the area all around it since the 70s and before. They haven’t been afraid to use their “non-profit”, “arts organization” veneer to push intimidate locals.

    The triangle bounded by 4th Avenue, Flatbush and Pacific Avenues was sold to BAM by the City for a nothing. It was parking for a long time and then the community garden that rejuvenated a large piece of it. Meanwhile, BAM sold much of the land to FCR for a large profit and the community garden got chopped short and had to battle it out for years.

    This highlights, to some extent, BrooklynForLife’s premise that all this BAM development is a dressing up of for-profit developer takeover. It seems BAM has played the rôle of stepping stone which, although possibly not initially intentional, ended up whitewashing and/or delaying proper scrutiny of private developer profit.

    Isn’t it probable that having all the land E.D.’d for “a cultural institution” will not preclude ownership of any eventual buildings from being privately held by for-profits while BAM and company simply ends up with reasonable long-term rent deals. Or, maybe the flipside of that: BAM owns the buildings and has the liability and a developer gets a relatively cheap 99-year lease that becomes an exceedingly valuable thing in its own right.

    Also, (and this is an ongoing issue), a number of us in the neighborhood wouldn’t mind at all if the “BAM Triangle”, the little park at Lafayette and Fulton, could return to its originally promised open hours and if were maintained a little (much) better. Thank goodness at least the sinking sidewalks look like they’ve been fixed for now!

    A green spot accessible to the public…a place to sit in the shade in high summer is sorely needed at that spot. There is one gate, the placement of which speaks to the triangle’s focus only toward BAM and away from the community. And I wonder if they even bother to open enough to align with the Parks Department’s new 2009 requirement that community gardens have 20 open hours per week from April 1st to September 30th.

    I know, I know, it is open sometimes on weekends, no? It is just that it seems to be closed just about every time I walk by.

    I’m sure BAM staff members are reading this. Take this as notice that making the BAM Triangle much more accessible to the public would be a noticed and appreciated PR move vis-à-vis the community. Although it is small, it might be a spot for a community involved landscaped garden like the much larger Jefferson Market garden in Greenwich Village. That garden is a “community garden” but it is much more a manicured, institutional/professionally-managed garden because the members follow the hired landscaper’s directions and plans and rarely, if ever, deviate…there are no scraggly tomato plants to be seen. It more like a pocket park in a rather ritzy part Paris.

    Maybe BAM should put together a slimmer-than-slim budget, do some communications and PR and amass a group of volunteers to spruce up the BAM Triangle and turn it into a show stopper…I wouldn’t mind being part of this for one.

    Did I deviate from the topic?

  • BAM as Lincoln Center, give me the reflecting pools, fountains, and great green spaces I only wish. What I see is a great design on Flatbush gone, the new building to the North gone and etc. Brooklyn seems to always gets rooked; just look at the LIRR schedule.

  • Huh? The Mark Morris building is new, as is the Theater for a New Audience. A scaled back arts library, which I didn’t mention the first time cause that seems kind of tentative for now, would also be new. BAM’s expansion is a new building. The Danspace center is new–what existing cultural center did it replace? All I remember is a liquor store.

    And, bkn4life, you make renovation sound like something you do over a weekend. Hardly. If it was so easy, why was the Irondale space under-utilized for so long? Should the city build BRIC a whole new facility ’cause renovation is just so second-class? The other thing you ignore is the residential buildings contribute in their own way to the vitality of the neighborhood. Or perhaps you’re a fan of surface parking lots, in which case this is utopia. I don’t think the facts support your case.

    BrooklynGreene, the BAM Cultural District isn’t a project of BAM, so your comment about who funded Irondale’s renovation is off base. As for the BAM triangle, it continues to be structurally unsound despite whatever positive signs you saw on the sidewalks. Don’t expect any good news here for a while.

  • wrongo g_man.

    i could care less whether bric gets a new space or not. the bam cultural district is $650,000,000. that is an absurd amount of $$ to not end up with 10 theaters. anything else is a ruse. i said look at the relative dollar amounts and you will find that culture isnt the reason its happening. so using public dollars for the “cultural district” is a misnomer at best.

    i saw the bid prospectus when the state had the mark morris building up for auction(it was removed from the auction one week prior). that is not a “new” building. it is a modernish retrofit of a perfectly fine old building.

    the irondale space was underutilized because the first name tenant sought(twyla tharp) bailed out right around the time she got the billy joel musical(movin out). i suspect brooklyn was gonna be real work. and since i attended flea markets and such in that space in the late 80s/early 90s the revisionist history of never used for decades is a bit of a stretch.

    look, i am all for culture, but its time to have some public discourse when public dollars are used purportedly for public things but really are sly development arrangements.

    and dont get me started (any more than i am already) about the ratner involvement with the granada hotel.

    the main problem brooklyn has is no one on this board, NO ONE has a 15-20 year plan of about how they are going to foster a better brooklyn. at least not beyond their own home and flipping properties to maintain their lifestyle. ratner is successful here because he poked around 25-30 years ago and has put some serious $$ into property.

    and if you think the bam cultural district isnt driven by bam, well that should be its own thread.

    once more, follow the $$, observe the proportions. it is disturbing and enlightening all at once.

  • Happy to follow the double-dollar-signs. Tell me where you got the $650M number, preferably from the actual budget.

    I didn’t say BAM isn’t driving this initiative, just that they weren’t writing the checks.

    I am old enough to remember the Grenada. I cannot believe people are getting nostalgic about it. It was a blight on the entire neighborhood.

  • Post-script:
    Budget line ED-D380, Project ID BAMMUSIC: $13,265,000
    Budget line PV-D264, Project ID PV264-Sal: $7,000,000

    So, now we’re only looking for the other $629,725,000
    Past years? “Out” years? Harvey’s Swiss bank account?

  • g man, those numbers are what BAM receives on an annual basis to operate. They are a CIG — the City owns their building and provides significant annual funding.

    BAM is also getting City capital dollars for their new theatre.

    These numbers have nothing to do with the BAM Cultural District. BAM has nothing to do with the BAM Cultural district other than geography. All of the organizations building and moving in are completely independent.

  • doreen, you are incorrect. The numbers above are from the FY10 capital budget and have nothing to do with operating expenses. I am familiar with the Cultural Institutions Group. The “Sal” in “PV264-Sal” is short for “Salvation Army,” the site of the planned BAM expansion.

    Yes, all the organizations are independent. The BAM Cultural District is a planning scheme, not a cabal.

  • g_man:

    salient point #1:

    The BAM Cultural District was conceived as a $650 million effort to revitalize the area by converting vacant and underused properties into spaces for arts organizations.


    arts, not housing. the usual flat out scam.

    with$650,000,000 for arts they could renovate every derelict theater in the boro. can you say loews flatbush? or that one out in coney island.

    salient point #2:

    Ms. Lutfy said she and Harvey Lichtenstein, chairman of the corporation, would still take part in the planning. (Mr. Lichtenstein, citing a family illness, referred calls to Ms. Lutfy.)

    Nope Lufty has nothing to do with the BAM. Harvey either.

    Nope, the Bam wont have anything to do with planning the Bam cultural district. The BAM just “happens” to sit in the middle of a district named after it.

  • bkn4life, the article you reference states that the city has $74M allocated for the cultural district in FY06-09. This number is more consistent with the budget numbers I posted at 11:06. The (2006) $650M figure you cite is total expenditures by all parties, not the city. That includes, solely for example, the roughly $50M for the new Theater for a New Audience.

    By now I suppose I should, but I don’t understand the point you are trying to make. This is a redevelopment project anchored by a broadening variety of cultural institutions in proximity to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The city is able to use eminent domain (to get back to the original post) because this has been part of an urban renewal area for decades. Is your criticism that the New York Times didn’t make this sufficiently clear?

    I am really confused about your second “salient point.” Jeanne Lutfy and Harvey Lichtenstein were part of the BAM Local Development Corporation, which was subsumed by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership around the time of this article. Lichtenstein was at BAM for years and the cultural district was conceived, as I said before, to revitalize the entire area around BAM. To paraphrase, BAM drove the agenda but the LDC and now DBP are independent, quasi-public entities implementing the “cultural district” redevelopment plan. “Lincoln Center” only goes so far as an analogy.

    I am really trying to be responsive, and don’t have an agenda when it comes to this project, but I feel like I am responding to a ill-defined and moving target.

  • Interesting…it sounds like some people here know a little bit about what’s going on! Let’s have a lively dinner party!!! It’ll be like New York in the 60s and 70s when we thought we had important things to discuss!

  • Ahh, the 60s and the 70s. What little I remember of those decades, I remember well.

  • Ah…the arguing at those dinner parties and cocktail parties…Hhhh…nostalgia. It just doesn’t happen any more like that…or maybe I don’t get out…or maybe it’s the generation…?

    No. I think it’s the times…they have a’changed. Things are so uptight in some ways now.

    As my grandfather used to say: “Ehch!”

    Actually, it’s probably better now in some ways…it’s just that fewer people seem to clue in now…or ask questions…

  • g_man:

    its not the institutions, its the pork attached to it.

    what you are responding to is my general distaste when a cultural development plan will be mostly a residential development deal. it stinks.

    wrt theater for a new audience…

    $50,000,000 for a 299 seat theater. get a grip. that is way out of line of any realistic costs. 10000 square feet comes outto $5,000/square foot. or $166k PER seat.

    that is flat out offensive. we dont need more high end status driven theater. we need more theaters. this is just a way for the wealthy to milk the middle class who dont pay enough attention.

    brooklyn isnt a new mini manhattan to be abused. it needs to be nurtured and respected. neither is present.

    a reasonably rigorous look at the numbers highlights its flaws. and there are many.

  • Well after all that, we should now have another drink…and take a cab home.