Friday, October 28, 2011

EDC Cancels Controversial Bruce Ratner Plan To Develop Nature Preserve Into Shopping Mall


The proposed Four Sparrow Retail Center at Mill Basin from earlier this year. NYC Park Advocates were prepared to litigate the issue.


By Geoffrey Croft

The Bloomberg administration has quietly withdrawn its controversial plans to allow Bruce Ratner to develop public parkland in Mill Basin into a shopping mall. The City's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) had proposed seizing 15 acres of Four Sparrow Marsh under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department to expand a nearby retail shopping site.

A single line announcing the city's decision appeared on the Mayor's Office Of Environmental Coordination website.

"The Four Sparrow Marsh Retail Center at Mill Basin project has been withdrawn as of September 2011."

The rest of the website page had not been updated.

The project - along with and the Prospect Park Alliance's Lakeside Skating Rink - were caught up in State Senator Carl Kruger's Corruption Probe.

According to the Federal complaint, in December 2010 Bruce R. Bender - a vice president for government relations and public relations at

Forest City Ratner (FCR)

asked Sen. Kruger for $11 million in state funds for three FCR projects in Brooklyn – including $ 2 million for the Four Sparrow Mill Basin project, and another $4 million to renovate for the Lakeside skating rink in Prospect Park near Bender’s Park Slope home. Amy Bender, Bruce's wife, is a board member for the fundraising organization Prospect Park Alliance. In a federal complaint unsealed in March, Sen. Carl Kruger (D) who represents District 27 in the New York State Senate - is accused of trading political favors for more than $1 million in bribes the past five years.

One of the public relation angles the city took was to agree to map 46 acres (out of the park's current 67 acres) of Four Sparrows Marsh as public parkland which would, in their words, "protect, in perpetuity, these tidal wetlands and coastal habitats as natural areas," under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department. The land however is already under the jurisdiction of Parks. This property was transferred to Parks Department by the City of New York on March 3, 1994 and dedicated on October 29, 1997 as a Forever Wild property.

New York City claimed that because Four Sparrow Marsh was never officially "mapped" as parkland it can be disposed of and therefore, DPR is not required to protect it. However there are many playgrounds, parklands and natural areas throughout New York City that have never been mapped, yet these sites are recognized and protected as parkland. Mapping is only one factor that is used to determine whether land can be legally protected under the Public Trust Doctrine, use is another factor. Since the entire site has always been used as parkland, it therefore should be protected under Public Trust Doctrine. The new, proposed retail use is clearly a non-park use.

EDC continues to misrepresent details of the project: in other ways as well. Under Project Highlights EDC says will involve the "creation of a new park," but fails to mention that it already is a park and they would be seizing 15 acres for a commercial use.

On page 6 of the New York City Quality Review Environmental Assessment Full Form (CEQR EAS), for question 4a, they are asked, "Would the Project change or eliminate existing open space," the response checked is "No.” According to EDC 15 acres of parkland would simply disappear without any elimination of existing open space.

There is no acknowledgment in the Environmental Assessment Statement that Four Sparrow Marsh is even under the aegis of DPR. The scoping documents coyly refer to the parkland as "City owned."

Because EDC refuses to recognize the 15 acres as parkland is refers to them as "underutilized" and therefor ripe for development purposes.

In March Sen. Kruger and developer Aaron Malinsky were both indicted on corruption charges that included, among several counts, the Mill Basin project. Malinsky was charged with bribing Kruger. Forest City was not charged, though it was enmeshed in an effort to wangle state funds from Kruger.

As the Real Deal reported, after the charges surfaced in March, Malinsky's firm "was removed by Acadia Realty Trust as a partner at City Point, a mixed-use high-rise tower" in Downtown Brooklyn.

However, Acadia has spent big bucks, in a process that's
questionable but apparently legal, to move City Point forward. As the New York Times reported this week, two years ago, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz went to bat for the project, supporting it among nearly 50 projects:
City Point received the financing, and around the same time, the lead developer on the project, Acadia Realty, gave $50,000 to a charity run by Mr. Markowitz.

Read More:

Atlantic Yards Report - October 28, 2011

A Walk In The Park - March 13, 2011 - By Geoffrey Croft

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