Newly and truly blighted

Half a block from where I live, a huge gaping chasm sits quiet and dormant, its future uncertain, its status clouded by controversy.

It’s the railyard at the center of the proposed Atlantic Yards development, where Forest City Ratner plans to erect a stadium for the NBA’s Nets alongside a mini-city of high-rise towers. The project would add thousands of apartments and condos, along with office and retail space, to an already severely congested area of Brooklyn. As of now the plan still stands, but two weeks ago construction abruptly stopped.

Initially, Forest City Ratner told the Daily News that pending litigation had forced them to stop work. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a grassroots organization opposed to the project, disputed that claim. DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein alleged that financial problems must have played a role in the work stoppage, since the area under construction would not be affected by either of two unresolved lawsuits filed by DDDB.

Freddy's Bar at 6th Avenue and Dean Street, a popular gathering place for opponents of Atlantic Yards, on December 15, 2008.

One of the suits challenges the usage of eminent domain to evict residents, such as Goldstein and his wife, Shabnam Merchant, who live in the project’s footprint. The other seeks to overturn the state’s determination that parts of the surrounding neighborhood were “blighted,” one of the factors that set the stage for the project’s huge scope.

News reports in the last week, including this article in the Observer, have confirmed that financial difficulties may force the developer to postpone or even abandon the project regardless of the outcome of the lawsuits. Today the Daily News reported that architect Frank Gehry has laid off nearly every employee he had working on his designs for Atlantic Yards.

Earlier this week I interviewed Daniel Goldstein. Here’s what he had to say about the possibility of the project falling through:

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