Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Forest City Ratner’s “Not In My Back Yard” Attitude

Here’s a quick thought. Watching Bill Maher the other night we heard an assessment that lobbyists (like, for instance, those in the health care reform debate) generally lobby for the status quo: They don’t want to see their client’s existing economic empires overturned. Those lobbying for health insurers don’t want to see the so-called “public option” for the provision of health care. Those representing the carbon fuels industries of oil, gas and coal don’t want to see any portion of the nation’s economy and efforts redirected from such exploits to something more modern even though carbon fuels contribute to global warming and even though the industries that exploit them are essentially the buggy whip manufacturers of tomorrow’s generation.

“Lobbyist” made us think of Forest City Ratner, a company that owes its entire existence to being chummy with politicians. We have commented before that Forest City Ratner isn’t really a “developer,” that it is really just a “subsidy-collector.”

Applying the thought that lobbyists lobby for industries that want protection against change, it occurred to us that Forest City Ratner is engaged in a colossal form of NIMBYism (“Not In My Back Yard”-ism) when it comes to its proposed Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. Forest City Ratner has two big government-subsidized malls adjacent to each other next to the proposed Atlantic Yards site. In other words they are the top-government-subsidized-dog in the area. It’s more than a bit monopolistic. That supremacy was going to be challenged when other real developers started developing condominiums in their back yard. (The competitors weren’t even subsidized!) “No!” said Forest City Ratner. They didn’t want this competition in their backyard. They wanted the status quo of being the only developer in the vicinity (and of continuing to rely on government subsidy and relationships.) That’s when Forest City Ratner went to government agencies to have them use eminent domain to wipe out the competition.

Yep, that seems to be the way it is: Forest City Ratner has denigrated opponents of its proposed megadevelopment as NIMBYists, yet what is motivating Forest City Ratner is that they are the biggest NIMBYists of all!

Thank goodness the MTA is now being sued by a group of legislators and community groups, challenged because it didn’t seek bids or accept bids from others (including not accepting a bid from the community coalition led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn looking to implement the UNITY plan) that would have paid the MTA more for rights to develop in Ratner’s own back yard than the Ratner firm is itself willing to pay! (See: MTA Sued To Annul Ratner's Sweetheart Atlantic Yards Land Deal, 10.13.09 and Tuesday, October 13, 2009, DDDB, Straphangers Campaign, four elected officials sue MTA, FCR to annul renegotiated Vanderbilt Yard deal.)

So, as the new lawsuit requests, let’s annul the MTA’s sweetheart contract with Ratner and put somebody else in Ratner’s back yard. They’ll even pay the MTA a higher price!

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