Developer Bruce Ratner visited the borough Friday to talk about his controversial plan to build a basketball arena, an apartment complex and office towers.
Ratner owns the Atlantic Terminal Mall in downtown Brooklyn, but his ownership of the New Jeresy Nets is what's got the neighborhood concerned. He plans to build a 21-acre arena for the team, as well as housing and commercial space.
A ruling made by the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday would allow Ratner to use the power of eminent domain to get the land he still needs to complete his project. That means local governments would have the power to seize homes and businesses against the will of their owners.
“Our whole goal is to try to buy the land and get people happy and relocate them, and have renters in new apartments at the same kind of price, brand new apartments, but if necessary the government will use eminent domain,” Ratner said Friday.
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that local governments can seize private property against the will of its owner, and give it to private companies to develop. In Ratner's case, that would mean a 21-acre arena for the Nets and an apartment complex in place of the Atlantic Rail Yards and the surrounding properties.
While some business and apartment owners have already sold to Ratner, the ones who haven't could be kicked out if the city resorts to eminent domain. Ratner says that could be for the greater good of the neighborhood.
“In many cases throughout this country you have cities where there's a need for jobs and a need for houses, and you have areas that are not in great shape, they are blighted, economically down, and it's been a tradition in this country, a way to redo that is through development and creating jobs, and eminent domain is a necessary part of that,” he said.
But at issue for residents is whether or not this neighborhood is actually on a downward turn.
“Prospect Heights is a thriving neighborhood that does not need this kind of development to further its growth,” said area resident Daniel Goldstein. “It's been growing for about a decade now. There are million-dollar apartments here. I’m not saying that's the greatest thing, but that does show that it is growing and it is economically vibrant.”
And at Freddy's [a pre-prohibition tavern that could be taken if the Ratner project goes through], lifelong Dean Street residents wonder why, and when, they might be kicked out of their homes.
“We are being told by the government where we have to live. It's un-American,” said neighborhood resident James Maloblocki.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the issue should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
“Nobody thinks we shouldn't have eminent domain for some purposes,” said the mayor. “The issue is, is development one of the appropriate purposes?”
Daniel Goldstein and his neighbors say they will not give up without a fight. They say they will take their battle to court, if necessary.