Local media were abuzz recently when Park Slope’s hard-to-miss pink brownstone on Garfield Place went on the market for nearly $2.3 million, but The Brooklyn Paper reported yesterday that Heights Berkeley Realty, the firm selling the house, took the property off the market due to legal complications. The grandson of owner Bernie Henry, who painted the house bright pink in the 1960s, “is under investigation for forging key documents that have put a cloud over who has legal ownership of the building,” according to the Paper. As for the ostentatious color of the home, the article mentions that of course a buyer could repaint it, but one local resident commented: “It’s like anything else in life: at first, you hate it because it’s new. But then you come to love it. And then you don’t want it to ever change.” Famed Pink House Pulled Off Market in Legal Dispute [Brooklyn Paper] Park Slope’s Pink House 4 Sale [Gothamist] Photo by Karen Bonna Rainert
Representative Edolphus Towns, a Democrat from Brooklyn and the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has been relentless in his criticisms of the financial services industry, reports The New York Times, but now he himself is under fire because he opposes Republicans’ efforts to subpoena records for Countrywide Financial, a company implicated in the subprime mortgage crisis. Republicans have suggested that Mr. Towns has received loans from Countrywide’s V.I.P. program and refuses the subpoena for personal reasons. A representative of Mr. Towns said this is simply a smear campaign, since Countrywide was already investigated last year regarding its connections to Senators Christopher Dodd and Kent Conrad, with both parties coming out clean. He went to his local mortgage guy and got a normal mortgage, the representative said. The guy’s from Brooklyn and doesn’t have much money and wasn’t prominent enough to be considered a V.I.P. Whether it was later transferred through the V.I.P. program, I don’t know. But he didn’t receive any favors. The Dodd-Conrad investigation showed that the V.I.P. program expedites service but issues regular loans at market rates. Republicans plan to continue their investigation, however, to prevent companies from buying influence from government officials. Watchdog in Congress Now a Target Himself [NY Times]
The Local reported yesterday on this week’s October meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 2, during which it was announced that applications for Atlantic Terrace, the 80-unit affordable (ish) housing development at 669 Atlantic will be available November 1. According to The Local, “construction should be complete by May, followed soon after by a city-sponsored lottery.” Other topics at the meeting included the Navy Yards, the new Fulton Street business improvement district called the FAB Alliance, and zoning and how it relates to stalled construction sites. At the Board: Atlantic Terrace Coming Soon [The Local] Development Watch: Atlantic Terrace Plods Along [Brownstoner]
Atlantic Yards seems to be in the hot seat this week due to the Court of Appeals case that began on Wednesday regarding the state’s use of eminent domain to acquire land for the development project. Here’s a round-up of recent comments, from the Atlantic Yards Report, the Wall Street Journal, and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. The WSJ points out that if the Yards wins in court, its next big challenge will be “selling the development to a skeptical bond market.” The $700 million bond sale needed to fund the project comes at a time when sports spending is receding and the bond market is still shaky. The article adds: “If developers of the Atlantic Yards project don’t issue bonds by Dec. 31 to fund the arena’s construction, the debt will lose tax-exempt status, which would kill the project.” And concerning the arena’s prospective occupants, the Nets basketball team, the Atlantic Yards Report writes that there’s some jostling in New Jersey regarding what to do with the team until it moves to Brooklyn. Regarding legal matters, the Report also questions why Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries didn’t join the lawsuit against the MTA for its dismissal of due process during the sale of land to developer Forest City Ratner, especially since his neighboring assemblymembers, Jim Brennan and Joan Millman, did join. Jeffries said that participating in the lawsuit would compromise his power of advocacy, but the Report wonders if he’s simply hedging his bets. Finally, several sites made a stink that The New York Times failed to run a print article about the opening arguments of the eminent domain case on Wednesday. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn wonders whether the Times is avoiding the topic because its Manhattan tower was built with the use of eminent domain. Sale of Arena Debt Is Tough Shot [WSJ] WSJ Calls Arena Debt a ‘Toss Up’ [AYR] Newark Mayor Booker Focuses on Temporary Nets Move [AYR] Jeffries Agrees with Plaintiffs But Won’t Join Them [AYR] Something Is Wrong at the Times [DDDB] Photo by Tracy Collins
Streetsblog ran a post yesterday pointing to a Google blog post that suggests bike routes and directions will be coming to Google maps some day. Right now, Streetsblog says, New Yorkers can use the site Ride the City for bike directions, but the options for most cities in the nation are slim. And in case Google needs more encouragement, Streetsblog directs us to an online petition for Google to add bike trip tools, which already has over 50,000 signatures Google Bike Routes Almost Here [Streetsblog] Your World, Your Map [Google LatLong]
Tenants at the 59-building, rent-stabalized, East Flatbush housing complex called Flatbush Gardens (previously Vanderveer Estates) claim that the owner, Clipper Equity, is neglecting repairs in order to drive out tenants and drive up rents. “You call, but they never come to fix anything,” one tenant of 25 years told the Daily News. Needed repairs include flooring in disrepair and exposed or non-functioning outlets. Tenants also claim that Clipper began charging $30 air-conditioner fees as part of its intimidation tactics, and raised rents in stabalized apartments beyond what is legally permissible. The owners will renovate an apartment as soon as tenants vacate, tenants say, but ignore maintenance requests for occupied units. Finally, the tenants point to television and subway ads for the complex as more evidence that the owners are trying to attract new money. A Clipper spokesperson said that the owner works through all maintenance requests, and highlights $10 million in upgrades such as new elevators, intercom systems, and playgrounds. Tenants say these are simply cosmetic upgrades, and a lawyer representing them told the News, “It’s clear the landlord wants to bring in new business.” GMAPP*Shark Landlords Letting Flatbush Gardens Rot to Flush Us Out [Daily News] Rent Wars: Flatbush Gardens Achieves Stuy Town Dream [Curbed] Image by Nicholas Strini/PropertyShark
The long-awaited Court of Appeals case against Empire State Development Corporation for the use of eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards development project began yesterday. The ESDC argued that the use of eminent domain to condemn private homes and businesses was necessary to promote economic development and because the region was already blighted. The lawyers for the business and home owners, on the other hand, claimed that the state used the blight designation long after planning had begun, to justify the 22-acre condominium and stadium project, and development had been occurring on its own before Forest City Ratner bought the land. The New York Times’City Room blog brings us some key excerpts from the opening round of questioning, in which the chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, questions Philip Karmel, the lawyer for the ESDC:
The majority part of this project is market-rate housing? the judge asked. That is not the purpose of the project, your honor, Mr. Karmel replied. Is it the largest component of the project? Mr. Lippman pressed. It is a significant component, Mr. Karmel said, not quite conceding the point.
In another line of questioning, Judge Robert S. Smith, in a tone that suggested skepticism, asked Mr. Karmel if there were any limits on the state’s ability to take private land, so long as there was a public benefit. Mr. Karmel said that under current law and precedent, there was not.
Judge Smith also questioned Mr. Karmel about the state’s definition of blight. Suppose I am a developer and I want to buy on an area that is half blighted and half not, the judge asked. They can condemn the whole thing, even if only half of it is blighted? The answer, Mr. Karmel said, was yes.
Today is the last day to register for Brooklyn Film Race 2009, an annual event in which filmmakers have 24 hours to make a short piece. Filming will begin this Friday at 10 p.m., and screenings will take place some time in the next week. First place prize is $2,500 cash plus a pile of filmmaking-related schwag. Image from last year’s entry, Bare Walls, by The Back of the Bus, created in 12 hours