The victims of progress

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Apartment dwellers to homeowners to business owners, both small and large, stand to lose the places they call either work or home if Bruce Ratner's $2.5 billion proposal to turn a Brooklyn neighborhood into a bustling commerce center becomes a reality.

Here are the stories of six people whose lives would change if the plan comes to fruition:

Karla Rothstein
Architect / instructor / resident
Rothstein is a mother, architect and instructor at Columbia University whose 2,500-square-foot apartment on 475 Dean Street could be seized if things proceed as planned. Rothstein and her husband Sal recently renovated their apartment, which is in a building where a comparable space is worth more than $1 million. They also just finished negotiating the terms of their 30-year mortgage. "This place is amazing from a transportation standpoint," Rothstein says. "This is a great place and I don't plan on giving up my home so that a handful of millionaires can play basketball. Typically in America there are private property rights and we never could have imagined that something like this would consume our lives."

Simon Liu
Owner, Simon Liu Inc.
Simon Liu is renowned for his work in the art industry. His company, Simon Liu Inc., creates painting supports and stretches canvases for museums throughout the world, but Liu's standing in the business world may not be able to help him keep his 10,000-square-foot warehouse at 645 Dean Street if Bruce Ratner's plan gains approval. Six years ago, Liu paid $350,000 for his space and has since put another $250,000 into it. But he fears he could stand to lose nearly $500,000 if all he is paid is the $150,000 that the land is currently assessed. "There goes my retirement money or everything that I've been building up for for the past couple years," Liu said. "Small businesses like mine don't have huge profit margins."

Donald O'Finn
Manager, Freddy's Bar & Backroom
O'Finn runs the show at Freddy's Bar and Backroom, which usually attracts an eclectic crowd. Even though the bar, which is a favorite to artists and writers, has been around for more than 70 years, O'Finn isn't optimistic he will be able to resist the push to level his place to make way for the proposed development. "I busted my butt to get this place to a level where it's at now," O'Finn says. "We had no money to advertise and no money to pay bands, but we're a happening place. We have eight or nine years left on our lease, but now some bulldozer is going to come destruct everything we worked for."

Joe Pastore
Retired teacher / resident
At 37 years, Pastore has the longest tenure as a resident in any of the 16 apartments at 473 Dean Street. "People are telling (Brooklyn borough president) Marty Markowitz they don't want things to be built here and he says, 'They're going to be built here anyway.' Well, who the hell is he? Didn't we elect this guy?" Pastore said he can be satisfied if he received market value for his place and they can help him find an apartment within three blocks of his current location.

Emmanuel Volcy
Owner, Project 51 Auto Werks
Volcy signed his 10-year lease on a building for his new auto specialty shop just five days before Ratner announced his intentions on the project. Since signing the lease, he's put $50,000 into restoring his office and shop, Project 51 Auto Werks, even though he fears that the property will eventually be taken away from him. "Ratner has the connections and the billions," Volcy said. "It's hard to fight that."

Dean Kaufman
Freelance Photographer
Kaufman, who also lives at 475 Dean Street, knows plenty about private land seizure. He used to live in Japan, where people were moved to build Roppongi Hills, a $4 billion, 29-acre residential and commercial complex. But that experience doesn't make what Kaufman is going through now any easier. "Ever since I woke up to the radio that day they had the press conference to announce this, our lives have been turned upside down. And the most frustrating thing is that we still haven't heard any information from the people who are negotiating all of this. Plenty of days I just put on my running shoes and go out because I have so much energy built over this that I'm just going to explode. Other days, thinking about what is going to happen has me drained and exhausted."

Darren Rovell covers sports business for ESPN.com. He can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.