Atlantic Yards project was not properly presented

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

George F. Will's Jan. 3 op-ed column, "In N.Y., government's eminent arrogance," attacked the Atlantic Yards project in New York because of the use of eminent domain.

Mr. Will never contacted the developer -- my company -- or supporters of the project, who include the governor, the mayor and the Brooklyn borough president. Yet he concluded that a "politically connected developer" is the recipient of largesse because the state agency leading the development can use eminent domain to obtain the remaining properties of individuals who refuse to sell. And he failed to note that my company controls 85 percent of the 22-acre site. Mr. Will also did not mention that nearly 40 percent of the site is a submerged rail yard, long a scar dividing this area of Brooklyn, and that the project will create nearly 17,000 construction jobs, 8,000 permanent jobs and 2,250 affordable apartment units.

At the start of this project, my company announced that it would try to avoid the use of eminent domain. To that end, we bought properties in the footprint, many of which were abandoned warehouses and empty lots. A group of holdouts announced early on that they were opposed to the development and pledged to sue often. They kept their word -- but lost every battle.

New York's unemployment rate is above 10 percent. Construction has all but halted there. We need to look to build in a way that can improve communities by creating mixed-income housing, jobs and vibrant centers that will attract visitors and residents.

Charles Ratner, Cleveland

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, the developer of Atlantic Yards.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company