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FFFP FactSheet

There are political, cultural, economic, health, class and sports reasons why Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project (BAY) -- a new arena for his recently-purchased New Jersey Nets, plus 17 buildings of commercial and residential space -- is a bad idea.

The sheer volume of anti-project reasons should give pause to those who support Ratner's initiative.

There's a lot to read here. Glance at the index and scroll down to the issues that mean the most to you. If you have time, read through the entire factsheet for the whole picture. If you're hungry for more facts, figures and analyses, head to our links page for groups and websites who've unearthed a lot of useful material.

Eminent Domain Abuse

Ratner's Demand for Public Money

The Changing Face of Brooklyn

Exploiting Sports Fans' Good Will

Government Malfeasance

The NBA

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Housing

Traffic

Culture

Health & Safety

The Arena, and Alternate Uses for It

Alternative Sites

Speculation

The MTA


Eminent Domain Abuse

A census conducted by the Prospect Heights Action Coalition (PHAC) has identified nearly 1,200 people who would lose either their homes or their jobs to make way for the BAY project. PHAC's door-to-door census counts 864 residents who will lose their homes and an additional 237 people who will lose their jobs in the condemnation zone.

Eminent domain, written into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers, was originally intended to take peoples' property for public use projects - highways, schools, hospitals, bridges - and not private developers' privately-owned projects, like the Ratner arena. In recent years, courts rulings have blurred the original definition, now calling it a "public good." Team Ratner is using that vague definition to condemn peoples homes and jobs.

When Ratner convinced the authorities to abuse eminent domain in order to build his still-unfinished New York Times tower, small owners were paid 35 cents on the dollar for their properties.

Finally, no amount of money and resettlement can replace the sweat equity that people have put into their homes and businesses...places built without government handouts and before the neighborhood was deemed "safe and developed" enough for the Bruce Ratners of the world to come in and set up shop.

What eminent domain abuse means to sports fans: we're property owners and job holders who don't want to see our neighbors' homes and jobs taken. Plus, every act of eminent domain abuse emboldens governments and private developers to take homes and jobs again and again. It could be your or my home or job next time...it could be this time.

FFFP opposes the use of Eminent Domain to take peoples' homes and jobs for a wealthy developer's privately-owned real-estate project.




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Ratner's Demand for Public Money

Forest City Ratner (FCR) is a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, a $5 billion company with projects across the United States. As the head of FCR, Bruce Ratner has made unconscionable demands on the City and State of New York governments for taxpayer dollars to fund the BAY development.

Ratner is demanding $150 million in public funds for infra structural improvements -- street repairs, new water and sewage lines, and the repositioning of the LIAR's tracks. Given New York's history of construction cost overruns, this is a low-ball estimate.

Ratner is also demanding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency, give him the air rights above the LIAR tracks he wants to build atop of. Estimates of the worth of those rights have reached a billion dollars, a figure New York State -- currently $9.3 billion in debt, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute -- simply cannot afford nor accede to.

The city and state are broke -- the public coffers cannot handle the giveaways Ratner is demanding. Forest City Ratner has plenty of money to pay for every aspect of this project, but greedily insists that the city and state fork over hundreds of millions of dollars -- and possibly billions, given the lucrative air rights above the LIAR tracks.

Bruce Ratner's New York Times tower used $177 million in Liberty Bonds for a midtown office tower, money that was originally earmarked for lower Manhattan's post-9/11 recovery.

Ratner's asking for a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) deal to help fund the project TIFs are supposed to work by having the taxes generated by the new building fund the new building's construction costs. That means city and state taxpayers must pony up the money to build Ratner's project, then hope that it generates enough tax revenue to pay us back.

Countless studies have proven that publicly financed stadium deals haven't once -- once -- economically benefitted the cities that have paid for them. In fact, often they hurt the cities -- everything from endlessly-carried debts, bonds that don't pay out, and revenue shifted from small business owners to wealthy team owners.

Even though Ratner wants to build in Brooklyn, and has already committed to this project, the city's Economic Development Corp. is assessing the project's eventual worth in order to create a package of incentives and tax breaks for Ratner. According to Newsday, the EDC would join the state's Empire State Development Corp. in offering delayed tax payments, and possibly full exemptions. It's astonishing to see the EDC and ESDC consider "incentives" for a developer who's shown how anxious he already is to build in Brooklyn.

The EDC and ESDC are also considering helping Ratner to buy out property and business owners in the condemnation zone. Bruce Ratner repaid the city at a trickle for MetroTech buyouts dating to the 1980s.

What Ratner's demand for public money means to sports fans: In the old days, a sports team own built his own arena or stadium, or leased one and paid the going rate. Today, however, sports team owners believe it's a predestined right to have the public pay for their team's venues. Whenever taxpayers shell out for a stadium, our cost-per-game goes up radically. It also means less money is available for any social services we use - subways, trash collection, fire and police protection, health care, programs to help the homeless, etc.

FFFP is absolutely against a single cent of taxpayer money being spent on Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. This includes infrastructural improvements, the MTA giving away Air Rights above the Long Island Railroad yards, Tax Increment Financing, tax breaks and incentives, Liberty Bond appropriations, and the servicing of Ratner's debt on this project for the foreseeable future.



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The Changing Face of Brooklyn

Although described as a "wasteland" and an opportunity to "build a neighborhood from scratch" by Ratner and architect Frank Gehry, there is a thriving community that cuts across class, racial and national lines. In other words, a typical Brooklyn community.

Pro-arena forces are using a sepia-colored, romantic view of yesteryear's Brooklyn -- Junior's, cheesecake, Bernard King (who lives in Atlanta), egg creams, and mostly, the Brooklyn Dodgers -- to sell Ratner's massive glass skyscrapers with large chain stores sheathed in fancy architecture. Seventeen buildings - with office space equaling the Empire State Building - will dominate the area. Towers are planned that will dwarf the Williamsburg Bank Building -- traditionally Brooklyn's tallest and most elegant large structure -- and remove from sight the WBB's clock tower, which thousands of Brooklynites set their lives to.

Ratner's comment that "Brooklyn needs a Manhattan skyline" is shows how little the man who uses Brooklyn nostalgia knows about the borough. People who want a Manhattan skyline live in Manhattan, and those who don't won't move into Ratner's BAY luxury towers. If they could afford Ratner's prices, they'd simply move into their beloved Manhattan.

The irony is that in the '60s, '70s and '80s, when this part of Brooklyn really needed new development, no one stepped forward. Our neighborhoods were seen as to ugly, too crime-ridden, too filled with "undesirable elements." It's those "undesirable elements" who, through hard, passionate work, have made Brooklyn safe enough for Ratner, other developers, and big corporations like JP Morgan/Chase and the Marriott Hotel chain to finally come a'callin'.

Marty Markowitz claims the new arena will be the new Brooklyn's "heart and soul." Sadly, the last two sports venues to lay claim to such a dubious title, Ebbets Field and Keyspan Park, ended up looking better than they were. In the 1950s, shifting community populations (i.e. people of color moving in and European decedents moving out) and the changing conventional wisdom of stadium design were blamed for the perception that Brooklyn no longer enjoyed its heart and soul, now starting to shake nervously, at the corner of Bedford and Sullivan. More recently, the promises by city officials of Keyspan Park's rejuvenation of Coney Island have fallen flat. Business there has grown by a negligible 2% in the three years the park has sat where a community sportsplex was once planned.

Local businesses - the kind Markowitz claims to love so dearly - will face enormous competition from large chain outlets. What's worse, fans attending events at the arena will have an underground walkway built to shuttle them directly from the Atlantic/Pacific subway and LIAR stations into the arena, completely bypassing local businesses. Gage & Tollner, the famous 1880s restaurant located in the Fulton Mall, closed recently after promises that MetroTech, Ratner's 1980s office complex, would provide more business than G&T could handle. In fact, MetroTech's office workers preferred eating in their company's subsidized cafeterias rather than venturing onto the mean streets of Brooklyn.

Ratner and Markowitz have provided no evidence that G&T's misfortunes won't be felt by small businesses in the BAY's long shadows.

Finally, the scale of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards is a kick in the gut for the surrounding neighborhoods. Seventeen buildings and a massive arena, the tallest building rising 60 stories and dwarfing Brooklyn's traditionally tallest edifice, the Williamsburg Bank Building and its four clock towers that Brooklynites set their lives to every day.

What the changing face of Brooklyn means for sports fans: Those of us who live in Brooklyn live here because we want to - Manhattan's too busy, to densely packed, to close to work, and for whatever reasons, we have a connection to the Borough of Kings. Sports fans here have a connection to Brooklyn's rich sports history, from school and prep sports to the playgrounds of our youth and our children's present, to the Dodgers and even the Cyclones. We also cherish the small businesses, vistas and experiences only Brooklyn can offer. Ratner's developments lack all the charm, soul and energy of Brooklyn...in fact, you couldn't ask for two more distant dynamics. Sports fans who've touched the past are lucky, because if Ratner is successful, we'll be the last generation to that never grew up in the shadows of a Manhattanized downtown Brooklyn. For sports fans outside of Brooklyn, a word of warning - if Ratner succeeds here, a template will be cast through which the same crass reshaping of your community can happen in a heartbeat.

FFFP believes that neighborhoods, in Brooklyn and elsewhere, should grow at their own rate and organically. We also support Brooklyn's growth one small business and rebuilt home at a time. Finally, we urge that New Yorkers who remember the eccentric and energetic elements of Brooklyn's storied past fight to protect the just-being-born elements of Brooklyn's future.



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Exploiting Sports Fans' Good Will

Ratner, Markowitz, Schumer, Bloomberg and Pataki are counting on sports fans to back this project. To entice us, they're using Brooklyn Dodger nostalgia, Bernard King, Brooklyn Nets jerseys, tee shirts and pennants surfacing in bootleg versions, and the guarantee that Brooklyn will somehow return to its roots as a sports mecca.

The truth is, Brooklyn is a sports mecca. From street games up through the many Brooklyn natives playing and coaching in the big leagues, Brooklyn has never lost that edge just because the Dodgers left forty-seven years ago. If anything, Brooklyn's expanded on its sports tradition with the news sports recent immigrants have brought to the borough.

The insulting thing is that Ratner has little, if any, interest in the Nets and the new arena. Rather, his intent has always been to build a huge commercial/retail/residential development. Buying the Nets (for an inflated $300 million) and building them an arena in Brooklyn is a standard businessperson's tactic...a loss-leader. Ratner will never make money on the Nets.

Instead, he's using the team to win over government officials, municipal movers-and-shakers, and most of all, us fans. From childhood dreams to grown-up infatuations with celebrities, people pay more attention sports teams' needs than most anything else. We've never seen a press conference staged at Junior's Restaurant so that developers and politicians can be seen and photographed with housing advocates. But that's just what we got for Ratner's arena project. Marty Markowitz, in particular, embarrassed himself with his desperate need to look chummy with Bernard King.

In addition, Ratner and Markowitz have told us that local high-schools and colleges will be able to use the arena when the Nets aren't there. If it's as often as those same teams are permitted access to Madison Square Garden, Shea and Yankee Stadium, it's not much of a benefit for young, aspiring athletes. The best they'll get is a PSAL or CHSAA championship.

What the exploitation of sports fans good will means: It means Ratner, Markowitz, Schumer, Pataki and Bloomberg think we're saps. They believe that sports fans are happy as long as we've got our chips, beer, wide-screen t.v. and a couch to watch it from. They believe that empty promises, shrill rhetoric, and the vague promises of a grand new sports landscape in Brooklyn will seduce us into giving our complete support to public money for a rich man, depleted city budgets for years to come, higher transit fares and diminished municipal services. It means that, ultimately, sports fans have a crucial voice in the way this thing plays out. It means that, if we stay quiet and do nothing, we'll just encourage the next owner - be it the Jets' Woody Johnson, the Mets' Fred Wilpon, or the Yankees' George Steinbrenner - the chuckle as he holds out his big hat for public handouts. Since we, ultimately, pay the salaries of everyone on the team, we have a right and a responsibility to say "you can't have a dime more until you answer to us."



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Government Malfeasance

It's bad enough that Bruce Ratner has refused to meet with worried citizens who have serious concerns about this project. It's worse that Borough President Marty Markowitz, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor George Pataki, and Senator Charles Schumer - all loud advocates of the have refused to meet with residents of the condemnation zone.

The Empire State Development Corporation is one of two state agencies that agreed to bail out Ratner's aesthetically miserable and fiscally-iffy Atlantic Center mall (located across the street from the arena's footprint). How? By taking office space in the mall. In other words, a privately-developed mall that can't keep an anchor tenant and is already receiving a quarter-century of tax breaks now has taxpayer-funded agencies renting space in it. It's a double-dep of public funds...first, the tax breaks, and now, rent from state agencies to supplement the project.

The arrangement is even cozier than a simple bailout - the ESDC is the agency responsible for implementing eminent domain procedures in New York State...the very agency Ratner needs in order to condemn and destroy the properties in his way.

In other cities, projects of this magnitude - particularly when a stadium or arena using public money is involved - are approved or rejected by a public referendum. Bloomberg, Pataki, Schumer and the toothless Markowitz have all rejected calls for a vote on the matter. Over the last several years, voters have rejected public-money-for-private-arenas initiatives.

What government malfeasance means for sports fans: We are part of the fabric of our communities. Politicians who engage in this sort of behavior rip us off sure as anyone else. Sports owners aren't the only ones taking sports fans' support for granted. Politicians exploit us to get elected. Since they won't change their stripes, we should take a few lessons and hold them responsible whenever they appear on a radio call-in talk show, in letters to the editor, when you see them or their campaigners handing out literature at a sports event, and most of all, on Election Day. Politicians may be able to brush off community activists and grassroots organizers, but they respect the collective power of sports fans. Why? 'Cause we're seen as being easily swayed to whatever schemes they're cooking up. We must prove them wrong, one misconceived arena project at a time.

FFFP endorses a state-wide referendum to let the citizens of New York State determine whether Ratner's arena complex is an appropriate use of public funds and Eminent Domain condemnations.



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The NBA

The National Basketball Association's clean reputation will be sullied if it sides with illegal condemnation, loss of jobs, and financial extortion against a financially strapped city and state.

The league requires 22 of the 29 team owners' approval in order to make the Nets' sale to Ratner official. In addition, half of the owners must approve the team's move from New Jersey to Brooklyn. On top of those votes, Ratner mus convince the league that he has the cashflow necessary to absorb the team's losses for five years, at this year's rate. Reports have set that figure at $25-40 million.

In late February, the New York Post reported that JP Morgan/Chase was only willing to loan Ratner half of the $300 million sale price for the Nets. It's entirely possible that Ratner could be to the Nets what John Spano was to the New York Islanders - a potential owner whose bark was far worse than his fiscal bite. Spano bought the Islanders in 1997, hoodwinking the NHL into believing he was solvent. He wasn't, and when his fiscal irregularities were made public, the league was greatly embarrassed. Obviously, Ratner has more cash than Spano - but one has to wonder how much more, given his constant attempts to fleece taxpayers for his projects.

The NBA must take a close look at Ratner's finances, and the numerous hurdles he faces to see the project through. Furthermore, the NBA's team owners must not simply rubber-stamp Ratner's purchase and move of the New Jersey Nets.

What the NBA's involvement means to sports fans: Presumably, the NBA cares what we think. Since we buy the tickets, purchase the merchandise, and subscribe to all varieties of NBA-sanctioned media, we have a decidedly large say in the proceedings. A call to David Stern's office (or his deputy director Russ Granik's office) from concerned sports fans will send a clear signal that this is not, to use the politicians' awkward and clumsy parlance, "a slam dunk." In addition, should Ratner succeed with the NBA's support, sports fans throughout the country will see their teams moved, their town's finances stripped away, and their neighborhoods threatened with either the loss of a team, or worse, the arrival on their shores of someone else's. Finally, when you phone up Stern and Granik (who in reality won't be so interested in talking with you) or the dozens of area sportswriters (who actually will, and the newspaper switchboards will gladly connect you), tell them you're lacking that certain fan-esque enthusiasm, as you won't ever actually be able to afford to see the Brooklyn Nets play in person. By the time you start in on how that's only the tip of the iceberg, you'll have their attention in ways non-sports fans won't.

FFFP urges the owners of the NBA to vote against Bruce Ratner's purchase of the Nets, and, failing that, to vote against moving the team to Brooklyn - where there's no arena, no financing, not enough land under his control on which to build the arena, or enough good will to support the entire undertaking. We also place the NBA on notice that if they support this initiative, they will be complicit in the tearing-down of peoples' homes and livelihoods, the destruction of an existing community, and the plundering of public money to fill a wealthy owner's pockets.



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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

The project promises 10,000 jobs. Ratner has refused to clarify this figure. Does it include temporary construction jobs? Ratner also refuses to stipulate how many jobs will just be shifted from Manhattan (thereby not creating new jobs in Brooklyn) or be low-paid chain-store positions with no benefits or pension.

For the entire BAY project, 2.1 millions square feet of office space and 300,000 square feet of retail space have been proposed. That's a 7:1 ratio of white-collar office jobs to blue-collar retail positions. The huge majority of those jobs will be already existing financial sector back-office jobs currently in Manhattan, staffed by people who just as likely live in Manhattan, Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey as they do in Brooklyn. The remaining jobs will be the afore-mentioned low-paid chain store positions or arena concessions jobs only on event-nights tossing peanuts for peanuts.

These numbers absolutely fail to address the residents of the Ingersol Houses, nearby public housing with unemployment above 50%, never mind failing to fulfill Ratner and Markowitz's claims that the project will bring a wealth of great, new jobs to Brooklynites.

Finally, the tax money drained from the public coffers to fulfill tax breaks and TIF schemes will further deny Brooklynites a shot at real job training, real public works projects, and real opportunities to gain a trade we can count on.

What the jobs issue means for sports fans: We all need jobs. We all want good ones. And despite our unfair reputation for all being neanderthal jerks, we care that there aren't enough jobs to go around. Sports fans, like anyone else, should be embarrassed that this scheme is exploiting the desperate need for jobs to make it a reality. We should also be prepared, should the Nets begin play in a new arena in Brooklyn, to walk past the ruins of hundreds of jobs and job training opportunities on our way into the arena, all the while enjoying the services of part-time concessions workers and waitstaffs at chain restaurants on the ground floors of the towers surrounding the arena - the only jobs current Brooklynites in the surround opportunities will be given a chance to apply for.

FFFP demands that Forest City Ratner stop issuing vague, speculative estimates of the number of jobs the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards may - or may not - create. Further, marty markowitz must make good on his grandstanding statements about protecting Brooklynites by holding Ratner accountable for providing real jobs for neighborhood residents, not low-wage/no-benefits/no-career positions.



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Housing

Never trust a salesperson whose numbers wildly fluctuate. Ratner has spent the last few months trotting out various figures for how many housing units the BAY buildings will contain. Lately, it's shifted between 4,500 and 5,500 apartments.

It's a given that at least 80% of these apartments will be priced at "luxury" or "market" value, so it's safe to say few Brooklynites in the surround neighborhoods will be able to afford them. More frustrating, Ratner reps have refused to set a price for what they call "moderate-priced" units.

The 80% figure comes from the 80-20 formula, a scheme the city has used to entice developers to include at least some low-priced housing in a new, large-scale development. Developers that agree to set aside at least 20% of the new units as "moderate or low-income" housing are rewarded with tax breaks by the city. With New York City's current housing emergency, the one-in-five apartments priced beyond most poorer Brooklynites won't make a difference.

And of course, 864 residents units will be destroyed to make room for this project, meaning that before there a single new apartment is built, the city will be minus hundreds of units. This is particularly painful since Ratner has announced that the residential portion of the project will be phased in over a ten year period. In other words, currently occupied apartments will be destroyed without new ones ready to take their place, and no clear timetable as to when they'll be built.

What the housing issue means for sports fans: The more luxury apartments that go on the market, the more expensive New York City gets. As the cost of living reaches the breaking point for many of us in New York, artificially-inflated apartment and home-purchase prices make it harder for us to afford things not called food and bills. Tickets to the game, for one. Jerseys and caps for another. Trips for the kids to see their heroes. Plus, many of us will find ourselves pushed out of our neighborhoods all over the five boroughs, as not only the Nets arena takes shape, but also speculation erupts over the Jets stadium on Manhattan's West Side, the new Shea and Yankee Stadiums, and several of the non-sports megaprojects.

FFFP endorses New York City Councilwoman Letitia James' call for a 50-30-20 formula to replace the 80-20 formula we expect Ratner to employ should the project be built. Under James' ratio -- one offered by most housing rights organizations when large real-estate developments are in the planning stages, 50% of the projects apartments would be offered at market value, 30% would be moderately priced and 20% would be for poor people in the vicinity of the poverty line. FFFP also protests the soulless, charachterless tall residential towers that will cast shadows on the neighborhoods new public housing, brownstones, apartment buildings and other structures that maintain the low-density feel of the surrounding communities.



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Traffic

The BAY project comes at the same time as the Downtown Redevelopment plan, an attempt to create a corporate corridor along Flatbush Avenue from the foot of the Manhattan Bridge all the way to Atlantic Avenue, where it will meet up with the BAY. development. Ratner's on figures point to six Empire State Buildings worth of new office space.

The Downtown Brooklyn/BAY combination will result in thousands of additional cars in Brooklyn every day. One environmental study has the number as high as 174,000 additional vehicular trips a day. Anyone who drives in this part of Brooklyn knows how bad it is now. One car double-parked outside of Juniors can cause backups all the way to Tillary Street.

This part of Brooklyn has some of the highest asthma rates in New York City (see below). The massive influx of additional cars will exacerbate this debilitating health concern.

Imagine Brooklyn's traffic nightmare at 6pm on a weekeday - all the new office workers who've driven will be pulling onto the streets at the same time a 7pm Nets game will see people arriving from outside the borough. There are also plans to expand Atlantic Avenue to a ten-lane highway, giving Brooklyn a Boulevard of Death to rival Queens Boulevard.

In addition, the arena plans call for parking spaces for 3,000 cars. Once those spaces go in, no amount of "take make transit" warnings will prevent far more than 3,000 vehicles arriving to fight for the limited parking opportunities.

What the traffic issue means for sports fans: if you're a sports fan who drives, you're screwed. You'll be in a vehicular standstill whenever you enter Brooklyn from the Manhattan, Brooklyn or Williamsburg Bridges, try to drive through downtown Brooklyn, or attempt to park anywhere near the BAY, Downtown Brooklyn or MetroTech projects. If you're a sports fan who walks places in the area, you'll be lucky if you can cross the street, luckier to keep from getting hit by a car on the enlarged Atlantic Avenue. If you're a sports fan who lives in the area, you'll be locked into a death struggle every day to park your car near your home, fighting with thousands of newly-situated office workers, delivery trucks, and visitors to what Marty Markowitz calls "the heart and soul of Brooklyn."

FFFP urges the BAY project be stopped, in order to keep thousands of additional cars from impacting the health of the community, the safety of pedestrians, the sanity of local car owners, and the emotional well-being of drivers caught in a state of permanent gridlock every day and evening in Downtown Brooklyn. Plans to "alleviate" traffic by having the D.O.T. study the problem will do nothing, nor will widening Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street (an actual proposal by the city planning department). Only the prevention of the entire BAY undertaking will keep traffic at the current levels...horrible, but doable.



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Culture

As previously stated, the things that make Brooklyn great - spitfire attitudes, small eccentric businesses and organically-formed neighborhoods, will all be clobbered by Bruce Ratner's development. For every pro-arena Junior's and Brooklyn Academy of Music (both safely out of harm's way, sure to have plum involvement in the new arena, and in BAM's case, a Board of Directors headed by one Bruce Ratner), there are businesses and entertainment venues that nourish the community as only locals can.

One of those is Freddy's Bar, at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue. At that location since Prohibition, Freddy's denizens have knitted a cultural tapestry full of music, literature, theater, sports and comradery. You can watch the World Series in the bar while in the Freddy's Backroom, a bluegrass/dub/jazz/punk band might be waiting to go on after Rev 99's video mix experiments. You can watch the Knicks or Rangers or crowd into the Backroom to see the annual Leonard Cohen Christmas revue.

There are also dozens of other great bars, cafes, parks, playgrounds, newspaper stands, barbershops, performance venues, stoops and street corners where the fabric of the local communities comes to life. All to be replaced by mega towers for office workers and luxury apartment dwellers who will spend a night on the town a) in Manhattan, b) eating in a T.G.I. Fridays or Houlihans located in the BAY complex instead of venturing out into what's left of the neighborhood.

What culture means to sports fans: It means we have choices beyond the ballpark, arena, gym and playground. It means meeting other fans outside of the usual places. It means meeting up with neighbors, co-workers and family, and it means blending our teams and the important games with the rest of our lives. Most of all, in the part of Brooklyn Bruce Ratner's desperately trying to recast in his own bland image, it means sparks that fly as intensely as an overtime Stanley Cup Game Seven.

FFFP supports Freddy's Bar and its amazing mix of song, literature and barlife. We also support all the culture initiatives in the region, and all the small businesses, parks and playgrounds that keep Brooklyn being Brooklyn.



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Health & Safety

Asthma rates in the neighborhoods bordering the project are among the highest in the city. The increased traffic will exacerbate the problem. There are fears that the widening of both Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues (the later to a total of 10 lanes, according to a Forest City Ratner representative) will turn both streets into Highways of Death, as Queens Boulevard is referred to in the local media.

Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, the two neighborhoods most affected by BAY, have some of the highest asthma rates in the city. The problem impacts children particularly.

The potential influx of tens of thousands of new residents, and the re-casting of the neighborhood from low- to high-density, has not energized City Hall to announce plans for greater fire and police protection, additional hospitals and clinics, or schools and other social service centers. The city's finances being what they are - the equivalent of a family living meal-to-meal - where will the money come from to service all these new residents, workers and buildings and their trash collections, kids' education, health needs and social services?

It won't come from taxes collected from Ratner's arena and commercial/office space - those valuable dollars will instead go, via the TIF scheme, into servicing the city's loans to Ratner to build the thing in the first place.

What health and safety issues mean for sports fans: For sports fans in the area, it means a matter of life and death. Increased asthma rates and the potential drain on health services taxes our city's infrastructure. No matter who or where you are in New York, the health and safety concerns should BAY be built will affect your life. As seen in the above sections, living in an overburdened, underfinanced city will make it harder to be a sports fan and more likely you won't have the time or money to devote to the team of your choice.



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The Arena, and Alternate Uses for It

There're a lot of problems with the plans for the Nets arena.

As with other numbers tossed about by the Ratner people and the politicians backing them, the arena's seating capacity keeps changing. As best as we can tell, it's right around 20,000 for basketball, more for concerts, less for the event Forest City Ratner reps love to mention at every turn - Disney On Ice.

Tickets for this arena, a brand new white elephant, will be expensive. It's one of a myriad of ways Ratner will try to pay off all the money he's extorting from New York City and State. Although he claims there will be some cheap seats for Nets games "for the community," those $10-15 tickets won't be a) plentiful or b) anywhere near the court. Illustrations on Ratner's own website (www.bball.com) show a cavernous colossus that makes the Staples Center in Los Angeles look like a cozy high-school gym by comparison.

Proposed as a glass-walled oval with a park on top (in winter, a skating rink), the arena is a city planner's nightmare. Concerns about too many people in too small a space, terrorism, overburdened mass transit, and a structure so expensive that it might have to operate nearly every night of the year to remain solvent all point to a very difficult enterprise being planned for the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

To design the entire BAY project, and the arena in particularly, Ratner has hired architect Frank Gehry, whose every mention the local press believes must be preceded by descriptives like "world-famous," "well-known," "prestigious" and "legendary." We would prefer "sheet-metal bending pompous and arrogant." Gehry is on record as saying he "looks forward to building a neighborhood from scratch," ignoring the neighborhood already there that's already been built nicely by local residents, thank you.

Because corporations and the wealthy will control all the good seats, we'll be in the upper deck, and even those seats won't be bargains. Plus, given the current model for constructing arenas, the upper deck seats will be high above the court and set far back from the first level seats. This is nothing new, as seats for working-class fans have been far from the action ever since columns were deemed too big a nuisance to lean around. But when Ratner tells you this will be a fan-friendly arena, he's lying his ass off.

Countless studies have shown that new arenas do not benefit the communities they've been built in. In fact, quite often they drain money from other businesses and entertainment venues nearby. They also don't increase the amount of money spent in a local economy. For instance, if a family spends, taking a nice round number, $1,000 a year to be entertained, they won't increase their spending when an arena opens up in their town. They'll just spend less in other places - the local movie house, bowling alley, amusement park. As a sports fan, you'll now be pressured to spend more of your advertising budget on few events per year, because of the high cost of attending an event at Ratner's new arena.

One of the selling points for the arena, aimed particularly at sports fans, is the generous offer to make it available for amateur contests. We'll throw the doors open, Ratner's people are saying, and high schools, colleges, PAL teams and anyone else can play on the same court where Jason Kidd weaves his magic.

First off, Kidd won't be with the Nets by the time this arena gets built.

Second, it won't happen, save for the occasional PSAL or CHSAA basketball championships. Economists have said that this arena, with its high overhead and TIF obligations, must have events 200 nights out of the year. The Nets only play 41 regular season games, and in a best case scenario for the arena's bean counters, another 16 post-season and a couple of pre-season matchups.

Let's say the Nets play 60 times. That leaves 140 events that need to bring in real revenues, not PSAL or CHSAA tournament revenues. Everything from wrestling to concerts to monster-truck pulls to, as the Ratner people love to keep mentioning, Disney on Ice. That's a lot of no-room-for-the-local-kids nights.

Availability is even more limited by simple arena logistics. If the Nets play on a Monday night, there's a hip-hop fest or a Pearl Jam concert on Wednesday, and the Nets are back home on Friday, that doesn't mean that Sebastian Telfair's Lincoln High can hit the arena's hardwood on the off nights. The arena will instead be in the midst of transformation from basketball floor to concert seating and back again.

NYCBasketball.com has unearthed $67 million is public funds that have been set aside for public facilities that amateur leagues can really make use of. This would correct the wrongs committed on two separate occasions when the proposed Brooklyn Sportsplex at Coney Island, featuring top-notch facilities for several sports where amateur leagues at all levels could compete, was overstepped by less necessary projects. The first time it was sidestepped was when Mayor Giuliani provided public funding, on his own accord, for the New York Mets to build Keyspan Park, home of the Class A Short Season Brooklyn Cyclones. The second is happening now, with attempts by Ratner to use this $67 million for his arena.

The simple, sad and long-established fact is that major league teams don't want kids and amateurs running around on their playing surfaces. The Ratner guarantees that his arena will be a community center open to all is a complete joke...an insulting, capricious, patronizing joke.

What the arena means for fans: extraordinarily high ticket prices, Manhattan parking-garage parking fees (if you can find a space at the arena), expensive concessions inside the arena, continued drain on public coffers to prop up the arena financially if it can't on its own, very few chances for your son or daughter to use the facility themselves. Plus, you'll be forced to choose between your traditional athletic and entertainment pursuits, and events that cost more being staged inside the new arena. Finally, if you do make it inside the arena, the seats you can afford will likely be so far away you'll wish you'd tuned in at home.

FFFP supports City and State money instead being used for the long-planned and now twice-bumped Brooklyn sportsplex, FFFP also urges sports fans to ignore the Ratner rhetoric that paints the arena as a gift to the community and see it for what it really is - a shameless attempt to seduce sports fans into supporting a massive real-estate development and commercial undertaking. We also urge sports fans to do the math: $10-15 dollar tickets won't begin to make up for all the funds we taxpayers will be forced to turn over to Ratner, one of the richer men in the region, to build this project.



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Alternative Sites

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and Letitia James have formulated alternative sites for both the arena and alternative visions for land-use of the LIAR railyards. The plans for the arena would involve Ratner demolishing his own Atlantic Center mall instead of peoples' homes and jobs, and placing the arena on a reenforced platform above Atlantic Avenue. Ratner would get his arena and no one would have to see their homes and jobs destroyed. Forest City Ratner, of course, has rejected this plan, citing interesting fears of terrorist attack in traffic beneath the arena. Interesting because Ratner's current plan involves an underground, 3,000-car garage under an arena with a glass front sitting alongside a ten-lane thoroughfare in Downtown Brooklyn.

Councilperson Charles Barron has proposed building a Nets arena in his East New York district. And of course, New Jersey still hopes the whole Brooklyn plan will fall through and the Nets will have no choice but to remain at the Meadowlands, currently planned for a massive renovation as part of the Xanadu entertainment complex.

What alternative plans mean for sports fans: You'll be able to attend a game at the arena without sitting atop the rubble of condemned homes, lost jobs and a once-vibrant community. Many Brooklynites have vowed never to set foot in the arena or give Ratner's Nets a cent of their hard-earned money. Should Ratner embrace an alternative plan, particularly one that demolishes the Atlantic Center mall to make room for his arena, he'll likely convince naysayers to support the project.

FFFP urges Forest City Ratner and the politicians currently under Ratner's spell to carefully examine and endorse an alternative plan for the arena's location - one that avoids Eminent Domain condemnations and the eternal anger from residents in the immediate area.



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Speculation

The New York Post has reported that, due to the speculative nature of Ratner's project, they're not lining up to give him loans. Whether this means that he'll ask for more public money, dip into his fortune, or back out of the project, no one's sure. We expect it to be the first option.

Regardless, the banks' refusal to rush into bankrolling the BAY is a telling sign. Perhaps they're waiting 'til the NBA approval is final. However, the NBA needs to know that the banks are willing to back Ratner before they give their approval.

As for their public stance, Ratner, Markowitz, Bloomberg, Schumer and Pataki have all given vague, speculative answers to point blank questions. Our question is this: if the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project is such a great idea, why does everyone who supports it a) sound defensive, b) trot out the same tired rhetoric about jobs, housing, community involvement and the Brooklyn Dodgers, or c) both?

No anchor tenant has surfaced for BAY's office space or retail square-footage. If it's such a great location, where are all the companies jockeying to be the first brave entity to support this project.

Banks are further worried that Ratner hasn't obtained the land he'll need for the project, the necessary permits, community support or the full backing of local politicians.

What speculation means for sports fans: In this fragile economy, we hope it's not your bank that backs Ratner's project. Banks have gone out of business making loans to less dubious undertakings than this. Even if banks do come through, it will be public money servicing some of their loans, via taxes the city should be collecting from Ratner for the usual city services.

FFFP urges all financial lending institutions to withhold funding from Forest City Ratner until it meets with local residents, community leaders and grass-roots activists. Their failure to do so is one of Ratner's largest gaffes in this entire process.



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The MTA

Bruce Ratner has been pressuring the Metropolitan Transit Authority to give him the air rights above the Long Island Railroad's Atlantic Terminal tracks. Ratner needs to build over those tracks, which stretch along the south side of Atlantic Avenue from Flatbush to Vanderbilt Avenues. Without securing the rights, his project is dead.

The MTA, a state agency, must decide whether to accede to Ratner's demands, set a market-value price (estimates of the air rights are as high as a billions dollars), or solicit bids from other developers who might also wish to develop the rail yards site. The MTA's comments have been contradictory, from assuring the public that the air rights will be sold only at market value, to determining that Ratner should get first crack at the site, since (the MTA holds) he's already developed all around the yards. (Two buildings across the street does not construe "all around the yards.")

New York State has a $5 billion budget gap this year, and the MTA is threatening to raise subway and bus fares. Yet Bruce Ratner is demanding the MTA give up one of its most valuable plots of undeveloped land, for free. This is not the kind of civic-minded gentlemen who should be given the keys to Brooklyn.

You don't have to be a Brooklyn or New York City sports fans to feel impacted. MetroNorth, the LIAR and the PATH and NJ Transit systems will all be impacted if the MTA fails to get a fair price for its air rights.

The main hub for fans taking the LIAR or NYC subway to the arena is the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street complex. It is in the final stages of a years-long rehabilitation project that was planned before the new arena was proposed. The minute they finish the job, the MTA will have an outdated transit hub at a location that desperately needs to run more efficiently than it ever has, but will be unable to do so with all the additional residents, workers and fans in the area on a daily and nightly basis.

Worst of all is that subway and bus fares, which just rose last year, are already threatening to rise again. It goes without saying that should the MTA give away the air rights to their LIAR tracks and then turn around and raise fares is about as low as it gets.

What the MTA's involvement means to sports fans: as it's going now, higher transit fares, less service improvements, repairs and preventive maintenance on the MTA's rolling stock of buses, subways and commuter railroads, and the very real possibility that the Nets' Brooklyn arena will be the most difficult to get to of any major sports venue in the tri-state area. Did we mention higher transit fares?

FFFP is against any giveaways by the MTA to Bruce Ratner. Should a deal be reached, it should only come at market value, and should be contingent on Ratner not destroying local citizens' homes and jobs just on the other side of Pacific Street from where the rail yards lie.