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.
The judges were equally tough on the plaintiffs’ lawyer Matthew Brinckerhoff. As Norman Oder points out in a detailed dissection of the day, a decision is expected by Thanksgiving.
High Court Hears Arguments in Atlantic Yards Case [NY Times]
At Hearing, Judges Skeptical of Both Sides [AY Report]
Court Battle Could Determine Fate of AY [NY Daily News]
Atlantic Yards Appeal Gets Intense in Albany [Brooklyn Eagle]
Atlantic Yards Court Case Begins Wednesday [Brownstoner]
Atlantic Yards: the Profits from Eminent Domain [Brownstoner]
ESDC Approves Revised Plan for Atlantic Yards [Brownstoner]
Image by Tracy Collins
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
The Locale, a four-story, 16-unit luxury development in Greenpoint from TreeTop Development, is going on the auction block November 11, reports Curbed. This is the sign of the times that the media and real estate business have been expectingâ€”developers have already opted to unload their stagnant projects elsewhere, but this is the first in Brooklyn. The building, at 267-269 Kingsland Avenue, offers one-bedroom and one-bedroom duplex units, some with balconies and views of the Manhattan skyline. The auction will be held at the New York Marriott, 333 Adams Street, at 7:30 p.m., where bids will start at $150,000â€”as low as 25 percent of the original asking prices of $445,000 to $600,000. points out that Brooklyn condo sales dropped nearly 30 percent in the second quarter, and median sales prices fell 16 percent. GMAP P*Shark DOB
First Condo Auction Looms in Brooklyn [Crain's]
On the Block: New Greenpoint Condos Heading to Auction! [Curbed]
The Locale Auction Listing [Sheldon Good & Co]
Suit Challenges Sale of Land to Atlantic Yards Developer [NY Times]
Elected Officials and Two Orgs Sue MTA for Sweetheart Deal [DDDB]
Photo by Tracy Collins
In late September, the Gowanus Canal, polluted from sewage runoff and years of industrial waste, made headlines when Riverkeeper, a watchdog organization, threatened to sue major polluters unless they take remedial action. The Environmental Protection Agency is also considering the waterway as a possible Super Fund, which would take extensive containment measures and look for clean-up funds through litigation against present and past polluters. The Bloomberg administration opposed both these plans, offering that the city could clean the canal faster, without hampering private developmentâ€”and Friday, in a pump house along the canal, Bloomberg announced the details of his plan: a two-stage process that he expects would clean the canal within ten years. The first stage, according to The Architect’s Newspaper, consists of three capital programs to increase fresh water flow, dredge the river, and increase capacity to transport and process sewage runoff. The second, and more vague, stage involves approaching companies to help remedy some of the long-term environmental damage, with matching funds from the federal Water Resources Development Act. The city would grant oversight rights to the EPA, which could step in if the city’s program failed to meet its standards. There are no data yet concerning which plan, city clean-up or the Super Fund process, would be safer for residents or more environmentally sound. Some people have criticized Bloomberg, saying that his sudden interest in the canal isn’t just to protect private development but because Riverkeeper implicated the city’s Department of Transportation as one of the polluters. The decision has caused some polarization and frustration already; at Friday’s announcement, for example, eight supporters of Super Fund designation were barred entry to the event, while the developer Toll Brothers was allowed inside, reports the Daily News. A Bloomberg representative said that it was simply a private event for invited guests and the media. And there are other residents, on the other hand, who don’t care who cleans the canal, as long as someone does.
Riverkeeper, Feds, State Jostle to Clean Gowanus [Brownstoner]
Advocates of Super Fund Barred from City Conference [Daily News]
Flushing the Gowanus [Architect's Newspaper]
Photo by Timothy Vogel
Are B.Q.E. Lead Shacks Poisoning Carroll Gardens? [Lost City]
The Mystery of Those Metal Units over the B.Q.E. [City Room]
Lead Paint Removal on Hicks Street Bridges [TWOCS]
Photo by The Word on Columbia Street
A Property Rights Foul [WSJ]
Image by Howard Ohlhous
The MTA recently released a 25-page report outlining current and future projects to improve the F train line, which runs through Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. According to the Daily News, the MTA is going to add new cars, build barriers to protect workers and prevent delays on parallel tracks, and discontinue the policy of skipping certain stops during rush hoursâ€”a practice that, research showed, made congestion worse. Officials could not guarantee the return of express service to the F line, however, and even if express service does come back, it won’t be until 2013. State Senator Daniel Squadron of Brooklyn, who requested the MTA report, told The New York Times that the MTA is being “honest about putting facts behind what we already knew: that the F line is not working. Senator Squadron praised the MTA’s efforts, saying “We should start seeing improvements this month, and more significant improvements as we begin next year.
F Line Finally on Track for Fixes [NY Daily News]
On the F Train, the M.T.A. Confirms What Riders Know [NY Times]
Photo by Joe Holmes
Over the weekend The New York Times profiled a series of co-op or condo owners who became renters either due to the market downturn, size requirements, or both. The article begins, for example, with a family of four that moves from an 850-square-foot Upper East Side two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op to an Upper East Side rentalâ€”three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and 1,400 square feet for $5,200 per month. The praises sung for renterhood include: freedom from responsibility and anxiety, fewer financial requirements, more space, and sometimes more amenities. Some of those profiled in the article, however, miss ownership: the camaraderie in the building, the freedom to renovate and customize, the autonomy of ownership. Those profiled are primarily individuals, couples, or families who live in expensive Manhattan neighborhoods like the Upper East Side, the Upper West, or Greenwich Villageâ€”people who can afford rents of $5,000. It would be interesting to hear from readers with a wider range of incomes and locations. For example, has anyone out there had a similar experience in Brooklyn, where you have recently sold a house or apartment (either by choice or necessity) in order to become a renter?
Owners No More [NY Times]
Image by Mark Ovaska
Sukkot, the seven-day Jewish festival with origins as a celebration for the harvest, is ending today. One of the icons of Sukkot is the sukkah, a temporary hut built just for the week of Sukkot, reminiscent of the structures the Israelites built during their 40 years in the desert, following their exodus from Egypt. Here, we’ve put up ten iPhone photographs we took while biking around in Crown Heights and Williamsburg, home to large Jewish populations. You’ll notice that Jews carry around leafy branches and lemons with them during Sukkot. These come from a commandment from Moses: “On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days”.
Talima Davis and Allison Lamb sent us a note mentioning that their new cafe, Orchid, will have its grand opening this Saturday, October 10. Offering a gourmet take on soul food, the menu, according to New York magazine, lists breakfast sandwiches on sweet potato biscuits (breakfast will be served all day at Orchid), five-cheese macaroni with panko crumbs, pistachio-crusted chicken, and personal pizzas with lamb, onions, or peppers. The owners add that the cafe will, of course, offer a variety of coffees and teas as well as pastries baked on site. GMAP
Bed-Stuy Gets a Chicken and Waffles Spot [New York]
The seventh annual openhousenewyork event will take place this weekend; all told, there are over 350 events in all five boroughs showcasing New York architecture and design, and the scheduled tours and talks span a wide array of cultural key points. The line-up in Brooklyn, for example, includes a tour of the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, BAM, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Lyceum, the City Reliquary, Tom Otterness’ studio, and a long list of historical sites that may or may not be on your radar, such as the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House, the oldest home in New York City, or the St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. For the full (very full) listing, check out openhousenewyork’s website. And did we mention that it’s free?
Atlantic Yards Misrepresents Ownership [Brownstoner]
Eviction Notice at Carlton and Vanderbilt [AYR]
Photo by Tracy Collins