Property Rights

Bruce Ratner Finally Admits It: "This isn't a public project"

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Last month, New York's highest court heard oral arguments in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, which centered on the state's controversial use of eminent domain on behalf of real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner, who wants to build a basketball stadium, a hotel, and some office and apartment towers in central Brooklyn. As I've previously argued, it's a blatant case of eminent domain abuse.

And as it turns out, Bruce Ratner himself agrees with that judgement. In a startling interview with Crain's New York Business, Ratner finally admitted what his critics have maintained all along: "This isn't a public project." Here are the key paragraphs from Theresa Agovino's article (emphasis added):

In light of a financial crisis that has hobbled many developers, Mr. Ratner refuses to discuss what the project will look like, whether or not it will include an office building and even who will design the first residential tower, which he's slated to break ground on early next year.

Initially, the project called for four office towers, but by early this year, only one was on the drawing boards. Asked when it will go up, Mr. Ratner responds with a question: "Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?"

He has no intention of sharing the designs for the complex. "Why should people get to see plans?" he demands. "This isn't a public project. We will follow the guidelines."

How dare those taxpayers ask to see how their money is being spent! Keep in mind that in addition to getting the state to forcibly seize private property on his behalf, Ratner has received at least $300 million in capital contributions from the city and state of New York, as well as a host of zoning overrides, low-cost financing, property and mortgage tax exemptions, and assorted taxpayer subsidies. As Daniel Goldstein, the lead plaintiff in the eminent domain lawsuit, aptly put it:

If Atlantic Yards  'isn't a public project,' as Ratner now proudly claims, then he should return the public's money and renounce his attempt to seize properties, like my home and my neighbors' homes, that, until today's sudden and uncharacteristic brush with honesty, Ratner always said he was taking for 'public use.'

Go here for more on Ratner's eminent domain abuse.