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Emi Wang

The Blueprint for Undemocratic Urban Planning

Let the media blitz begin. The new owner of the New Jersey—soon to be Brooklyn—Nets, Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, has painted a towering billboard of himself, Jay-Z and the caption “The Blueprint for Greatness” by Madison Square Garden. The preposterous image (check out the link, seriously) is only the latest in Prokhorov’s media tour, and reinforces the reality that this whole process—the Nets, the Atlantic Yards, Russian billionaires—has always been just an elite game.

Last week, the Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder provided a succinct summary of the entire debacle. The development, originally promising affordable housing in addition to the arena complex, bypassed the Uniform Land-Use Review Process (a process that would have empowered local community boards, the City Council and more) in favor of evaluation by the Empire State Development Corporation, an unelected body out of Albany. Forest City Ratner purchased rights to the Atlantic railyard from the MTA at a price lower than both a competing bid and the transit agency’s own appraisal. The Independent Budget Office reported that far from fiscally benefiting from the project, the city would in fact lose $40 million over a thirty-year period.

And as I wrote last week, the decision in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation that pronounced that the state could seize private property for the development also established a precedent that was invoked in a recent ruling approving the use of eminent domain, once again exercised by the ESDC, this time in the interests of Columbia University.

So as we inexorably gear up to the opening of the Barclays Center in 2011, the sure-to-continue media charades of Prokhorov, and to a lesser extent, Bruce Ratner, only serve as a bleak reminder of what the Atlantic Yards development could have been, and where it stands in actuality today.

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Posted at 1:02 PM, Jul 02, 2010 in Cities
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