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Candidates call for pressure on developer to build housing at Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily

The next mayoral administration could put Forest City Ratner under the axe for failing to build housing on the Atlantic Yards development site.

Several hizzoner hopefuls at a May 6 forum in Park Slope said they would slap the company with penalties — ranging from lawsuits to fees to denial of future contracts — for failing to honor its promise to build 6,430 residential units along with the Barclays Center.

Democratic candidate and current city Comptroller John Liu blasted the developer for failing to build the 11 housing towers between Sixth and Vanderbilt avenues in the allotted 10-year time span. Liu pointed out this was a condition of the company’s agreement to develop on the MTA-owned property and receive heavy taxpayer subsidies.

“We have this stadium and the Nets are doing better, but what else have we gotten for the tremendous investment of public resources?” said Liu. “It has not been worth the cost.”

Former Comptroller — and 2009 Democratic mayoral candidate — Bill Thompson said he would fine Forest City Ratner if it couldn’t or wouldn’t construct the residential buildings.

“If you have an agreement with the city and you don’t live up to the terms of the agreement, you owe us money,” said Thompson, adding that he had been a supporter of the controversial project because of the residential component.

Fellow Dem — and former Bay Ridge councilman — Sal Albanese echoed Thompson’s call for fees against Forest City Ratner.

“We need to clamp down on developers like these,” Albanese declared. “It’s outrageous that we give them these incentives and they go back on their word and the people of this city get snowed.”

And Democratic Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio — emphasizing the need for the promised 2,250 affordable units — suggested that the city refuse future bids from the company until it builds the housing towers.

“A lot of times, these companies want to come before the city later on and want to do things, and we can use that to our advantage,” said DeBlasio.

Even Republican contender George McDonald — founder of the homeless assistance group the DOE Fund — said he would consider suing the mega-developer to get the towers to rise.

“You make them do what they have to do, and that may mean bringing them to court,” said McDonald.

Only Democratic City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Republican grocery store magnate John Catsimatidis fell short of calling for punitive measures. Quinn only said that she wished the project had initially fallen under city rather than state review, while Catsimatidis would only lavish praise on the Barclays Center.

“I’ve been to the Barclays Center, I saw Barbra Streisand there and she did a great job,” said the Gristedes and Red Apple supermarkets owner.

The 2003 announcement of the plan to build on the 22-acre site on the border of Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope, and Prospect Heights launched a 10-year multi-million dollar legal battle from residents facing either eviction from their homes or potential changes to their quality of life. The Barclays Center — a key part of the project — opened in Sept. 2012, but Forest City Ratner said it would need an additional 15 years to complete the residential buildings it agreed to construct, much to the chagrin of supporters and opponents of the project alike.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him attwitter.com/WillBredderman.

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