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[IMGCAP(1)]BROOKLYN, NY-Developer Bruce Ratner says the proposed Atlantic Yards project is moving forward–and he’s vowing to break ground on a basketball arena this year. On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people came together both to support and to protest the $4-billion project. A Forest City Ratner Cos. spokesperson tells GlobeSt.com that “we had about a three to one ratio, at least, of people in support to those opposed.”

[IMGCAP(2)]Community coalitions, who oppose the project, demanded that Gov. David Paterson call a “time out” on Atlantic Yards and “suspend demolitions, displacement of residents and businesses, infrastructure disruptions and further subsidies to the project so that changes to the project can be assessed and a new plan prepared with community involvement.” During the rally, assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes most of the Atlantic Yards project, said that “given the tremendous uncertainty that clouds the future of this project, we must proceed with extreme caution before demolishing buildings and blighting parts of the neighborhood on sites that may never be developed.”

[IMGCAP(3)]Councilmember Letitia James who represents the district where the project would be built, added that “I remain steadfast in my opposition to Atlantic Yards. The project has definitively proven itself to be a classic bait and switch. For this reason, the demolitions need to stop, the subsidies need to stop and eminent domain must be taken off the table. It’s time to stop blighting my district. I’m calling on Gov. Paterson to put a halt to the project. Then, my city and state colleagues and I, along with the Governor, can start over with a new plan to develop the rail yards that works for the people of Brooklyn.”

However, despite continued opposition and clouds of uncertainty surrounding the projects, Bruce Bender, EVP for government and public affairs for FCRC, reiterated that FCRC still plans to open the arena and the first residential building at the same time as previously scheduled. “Building Atlantic Yards and creating the thousands of jobs, affordable housing and billions in new tax revenue for the city and the state is more important now than when we first announced the project,” he says, adding that FCRC has contracted already over $42-million worth of union work at the site, with 45% of it going to minority and women-owned businesses.

“The site work in preparation for the formal ground breaking of Atlantic Yards is essential to the long-term success of this project. Any delays in our construction schedule created by the opposition will only result in delaying our ability to bring thousands of jobs and affordable housing units to Brooklyn,” he says.

“We anticipate a formal groundbreaking for the arena later this year,” he further explains, “followed by the first residential building by next summer. We are going to build all of Atlantic yards and all of its affordable housing; anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed or misguided.”

Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of FCRC, recently admitted that construction hasn’t happened as fast as he would have liked, but has also pointed out that FCRC has had to overcome the hurdles presented in numerous court challenges, which pushed “us into a time when the economy has slowed, and both financing and tenant commitments are more challenging to obtain,” he says. “We will build Atlantic Yards–and deliver on all of our commitments to Brooklyn.”

On Monday, FCRC released the latest images of the Frank Gehry-designed development. The new designs have been in the works since the project received public approvals in Dec. 2006. They feature the first three buildings expected to be built: Building One—B1, an office tower—the Barclays Center—Arena—and Building Two—B2, a residential tower, which pursuant to FCRC’s agreement with ACORN is expected to have 50% of its units dedicated to low and middle-income New Yorkers.

During the approval process, Forest City agreed to reduce the height of B1 to ensure it was not taller than the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, the tallest building in Brooklyn which is located across the street. B1 will now stand 511 feet and 34 stories tall, just shorter than its neighbor on Flatbush Avenue. The building, which is designed to achieve a LEED silver rating, will have approximately 650,000 sf of class A office space. Cushman & Wakefield will serve as leasing agent for B1.

The Barclays Center has also received an updated design. The Center is designed to achieve LEED certification with a goal of LEED silver and will incorporate some of the most interior and exterior amenities.

B2, the first residential tower, will be 340 feet or 34-stories tall with approximately 350 units of housing. FCRC and its Community Benefits Agreement partner, ACORN, are working with the city and the state of New York to achieve a comprehensive affordable housing program for Atlantic Yards.

FCRC again affirmed its construction schedule for both phases of the development, stating its goal was to break ground on the Barclays Center in 2008 and B2 in 2009. Both of these buildings are expected to open at the same time. The next residential tower, B3, is expected to break ground in 2010 and, B4, the final residential tower within phase one is expected to break ground in 2011. A minimum of 30% of the estimated 1,500 units on the arena block will be dedicated to low and middle-income New Yorkers. Phase two is anticipated to be completed by 2018.

“We have established an aggressive but manageable construction schedule and we are confident we will get it done,” Ratner says. “Atlantic Yards will revitalize an area of Brooklyn which has sat fallow for over 50 years. It is creating more than 15,000 union construction jobs, over 6,400 units of housing including 2,250 affordable units, generating billions of dollars in new tax revenues for the city and the state, and bringing professional sports back to Brooklyn.”

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