According to The New York Observer, which first reported the story, Bruce Ratner is campaigning for funds from the $789 billion stimulus package to help finance his struggling Atlantic Yards project.
The Observer reported that former State Senator Alfonse D'Amato's lobbying firm, Park Strategies, is lobbying Congress for stimulus infrastructure and transportation funding on behalf of Forest City Ratner Companies.
A representative from Park Strategies declined to comment on the report, but did not issue a denial.
Ratner's reported bid for federal bailout money was met with outrage by dozens of Brooklyn community groups and business associations - from the DUMBO Neighborhood Association to the Clinton Hill Society - that banded together to write a letter of protest to Governor David Paterson.
"The intent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the 'stimulus bill,' is to generate jobs and kick-start the economy, not to bail out projects which have been found to deaden economic growth, such as sports arenas," the 42-member coalition wrote in the letter. "New York's share of the federal recovery package should not be used for the Atlantic Yards arena and overall Atlantic Yards proposal."
While some Brooklyn business and community leaders would not comment on this latest development in the ongoing Atlantic Yards saga, preferring to wait to see exactly how much money Ratner is asking for, and for what purpose, others spoke out about the developer's move to take advantage of the stimulus money, the largest spending measure ever signed into law by the federal government.
"I think you can see by the diversity of the types of groups [who co-wrote the opposition letter] that this isn't even an issue of whether you support Atlantic Yards or not," said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a non-profit group suing to block the Atlantic Yards project. "This project in no way should receive money from the stimulus package."
Sandy Balboza, president of Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, who signed the protest, went one step further. Balboza said instead of directing funding towards Atlantic Yards, the state government should let the recessionary economy slowly force the project into oblivion.
"Atlantic Yards should just be stopped. If the economy stops it all the better," Balboza said. "Ratner doesn't deserve to be bailed out."
Ratner's chances of landing federal funding were bolstered last week when Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz advocated for stimulus money for Atlantic Yards. Markowitz has asked the MTA to use part of its share of transportation funding to build a rail yard on the site, a project Ratner included in his original plans.
The MTA has said the transportation component of the proposed Atlantic Yards site is not on its list of projects that will benefit from stimulus funding.