As if the Atlantic Yards illegal land-grab wasn't enough, billionaire developer Bruce Ratner now has his sights set on acquiring the Brooklyn Technical High School building.
In a short paragraph on page two in Bruce Ratner's gloating Atlantic Yards Approval press release from last December were two ominous sentences: "FCRC will also work with the City, State and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough." With this statement Bruce made his intentions clear; he wants the Brooklyn Tech site for residential development.
One could speculate that Ratner plans to build a new Brooklyn Tech from scratch at Atlantic Yards, or relocate the school to Metrotech. The NY Sun recently reported that “it is rumored that Forest City has plans to construct a residential condominium on the former site of Brooklyn Technical High School; the school would move to MetroTech.” In either scenario Ratner conveniently gets his hands on the current Brooklyn Tech building. He could then either tear it down and start a new residential development from scratch or convert the existing grand 1920's building into upscale lofts on the park.
The voracious builder's strategy for grabbing Brooklyn Tech is much like his "campaign" for the Atlantic Yards (remember "Jobs, Hoops and Housing?"). This time, the "carrot-on-a-stick" is a state-of-the-art, "new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech" – whether we want it or not. Apparently the altruistic billionaire Bruce has no limits to his generosity when it comes to providing the increasingly-gullible citizens of New York City with great public benefits from his projects. With this Brooklyn Tech deal, like most of his efforts, there will be generous benefits alright – but mostly to him and his pals. Besides getting the school's prime property, Ratner would also get a much-needed long-term tenant for his monstrous office buildings nearby – Metrotech.
With Downtown Brooklyn's office rentals falling, Ratner's 1980's office park, Metrotech is not looking so good lately. It has steadily lost many of its coveted corporate clients. Unfortunately for us, keeping corporations in Brooklyn and creating jobs were the main reasons we paid for this soulless office complex in the first place. Bruce is now hoping to rent out his available office buildings (and his planned new ones) to more city and state agencies, like his current tenants, which include the DMV, the ESDC, Polytechnic University, the FDNY, 911 headquarters, and a still-in-the-works "new" New York Technical College, to name a few. By renting his publically-subsidized office space back to the city and state, like say for a high school, Ratner creates another shady win-win situation for him and his company. Its a great scam, just like the Atlantic Yards': we pay for the buildings, Ratner owns them, and they collect the rent money.
It's hard to fathom how anyone thinks they can jury-rig a 1980's Metrotech office building into anything resembling the full-featured, amenities-laden Brooklyn Tech institution as it exists now – or create a new one from scratch. The grand Brooklyn Tech building was specifically designed for its many uses. But nothing is surprising when the Ratner Company is involved.
The Brooklyn Technical School of today includes multiple gymnasiums, a huge basement level swimming pool, open air rooftop handball courts, libraries with fireplaces, a metal working foundry, multi-level rooms for architectural reconstructions, laboratories of all types (including materials testing labs and an Aeronautical lab with a large wind tunnel), the second largest auditorium in the city (after Radio City), elevators with cast metal doors, WPA murals, a broadcast radio studio (complete with the large antenna that's visible from all over Brooklyn), and more. The stately 1922 art deco-styled building enjoys easy access across the street to Fort Greene Park for athletic activities such as track and tennis. It also shares close proximity to its own football field on Fulton & Clermont, which, by the way, was donated by a generous Brooklyn Tech alumni, Charles Wang (founder of Computer Associates).
In addition, Broooklyn Tech is currently in the midst of it's own alumni-funded multi-million-dollar upgrades. In late 2005 the school announced it had received a record $10 million in donations from their alumni. In their 11/05 press release they stated their commitment to the school: "Over the past 20 years, the Alumni Association has funded major projects in the school including a state of the art robotics laboratory, modernization of the school library, and the completion of a new athletic facility." Alumni, as well as residents of Fort Greene share the belief that the school is a venerable gem and should be a protected as if it was a landmark.
What the city really needs for the 21st century is not a replacement for a perfectly suitable existing school but the creation of entirely new ones. According to March 12, 2007 New York Times, Betsy Gotbaum's Office of the Public Advocate just released a report that states that despite the city's aggressive five-year, $13.1 billion school construction plan there will still be a shortage of thousands of high school seats. And this is only high schools. There is currently a city-wide shortage of seats for children of all ages, and it is only going to get worse. Ratner could build new schools, but new schools don't have existing classic buildings in prime locations that he wants.
This very issue, the extreme lack of school facilities and the impending shortage of seats was a major concern expressed by residents and community organizations in their responses to the ESDC's Environmental Studies for the Atlantic Yards last fall. With an additional 11,000 residents in over 6,000 apartments anticipated for the Yards project alone, the lack of planning for school facilities is irresponsible at the least. Bruce Ratner's solution to this legitimate criticism was his bold offer to build a new Brooklyn Tech. What a guy!
Does anyone besides the Ratner Organization think a new Brooklyn Tech is necessary at this time, and that a vastly improved, better-featured replacement is even feasible? Does anyone else wonder if our city and state government is looking out for Bruce Ratner's interests more than our own?
As our President Bush once said, "fool me once, shame on you... fool me twice, and... we won't get fooled again."
- by Abby Weissman for

On April 24, 2007 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle responded to many of the issues in this article relating to the Brooklyn Tech - Atlantic Yards controversy:
Forest City Ratner Backtracks on Proposal for New Building

For more information:
  • "Brooklyn Tech Won’t Move, Dept. of Ed Assures Alumni" from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 24, 2007
  • "Downtown Brooklyn Office Vacancy Rises" from, March 2007
  • "Atlantic Yards Aside, Ratner Sets Sights on New Tech Building" (Daily News) at BTHS News, 12/22/06*
  • "Downtown Brooklyn Is Booming" from The New York Sun, 3/1/07
  • "Fresh development squeezing some schools" from, May 2006
  • "D’Town czar Chan’s ‘lofty’ business plan" from The Brooklyn Paper, 10/21/06
  • Forest City Ratner's Press Release on Atlantic Yards approval from 12/20/06
  • "Does Ratner want the Brooklyn Tech building?" from Lumi at, 1/20/07
  • "Still waiting for details..." from Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report, 1/20/07
  • Brooklyn Technical High School's online newspaper,
  • The History of Brooklyn Technical High School on Wikipedia
  • The Brooklyn Tech High School website
* This article by Tanyanika Samuels which originally appeared in the Brooklyn edition of the NY Daily News on Dec. 22, 2006 is no longer available on the NY Daily News website. Fortunately it was reprinted on
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