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Times Plaza safety upgrades include new pedestrian islands at Atlantic/Flatbush; open space plan, not applauded, comes later

One huge, unmentioned irony hung over the presentation last Thursday by the New York City Department of Transportation about upcoming safety improvements to chaotic, perilous Times Plaza--notably new pedestrian islands and concrete neckdowns for those crossing Atlantic and Flatbush avenues--and the subsequent upgrading of the triangular public space.

The initial justification for the plan--first presented as a public space upgrade, then augmented with safety improvements after much public pushback--is to offset an open space deficit for workers in the area, as identified in the 2014 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. (That open space deficit is a moving target, if new office towers and thus workers arrive.)

And not only did members of Brooklyn Community Board 2's Transportation Committee and attendees look skeptically at the city's plan for that open space, Emily Weindenhof, Director of the DOT's Public Space Unit, acknowledged the…

From City & State: Gerrymandering Jersey City Unemployment to Help Kushner Projects in Jersey City

Remember the "Bed-Stuy Boomerang" I uncovered in 2011, which was used to gerrymander an area of high unemployment to enable cheap EB-5 financing from immigrant investors for Atlantic Yards?

Well, such gerrymandering continues, and in my essay in City & State, I explain how that was done for a couple of very high-profile EB-5 projects, those involving the Kushner Companies in Jersey City, one branded as Trump Bay Street: HOW JERSEY CITY UNEMPLOYMENT WAS GERRYMANDERED TO HELP KUSHNER PITCH INVESTOR VISAS:
It shouldn't be a surprise. Like some other real estate developers, the Kushner Companies, builders of two luxury apartment projects in Jersey City and owned by the family of President Trump’s aide and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have gamed the EB-5 investor visa system, getting their buildings officially located in zones of high unemployment – thanks to creative mapmaking.
These maps, previously unreported, connect Kushner's 65 Bay Street project, marketed as Trum…

So, does an "on-demand sommelier" drive 550 Vanderbilt sales? Nah. But it is *in* a neighborhood.

All publicity is good publicity, especially when your building comes first in a roundup, but there's a certain incoherence to Curbed's roundup yesterday, headlined In New York’s cutthroat residential market, experiences are the new must-have amenity, and subtitled "Perks like a fitness room and a lounge are no longer enough to lure prospective tenants."

Notably, 550 Vanderbilt is a condo building, not a rental. (One other building in Curbed's roundup is a condo; the rest are rentals.)

While 550 Vanderbilt residents might appreciate a "Neighborhood Partner Program" involving local businesses, like gardening classes and "an on-demand sommelier," it's doubtful that the condo buyers who put down deposits two years ago give a fig.

Remember, sales are "slower than anticipated," the developer acknowledged, confirming the obvious. Moreover, the recent price drops for rentals--see StreetEasy graphic at right--surely suggest that price, no…

From the latest Construction Update: more foundation piles at the railyard (but no mention of evening West Portal disruption)

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning May 22 and circulated yesterday at 3:45 pm (a bit late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners, there's not much new work, but some progress in infrastructure for the long-term buildout.

Drilling of foundation piles in the area of B5--in the Vanderbilt Yard just east of Sixth Avenue--should be completed during these two weeks. After that, drilling foundation piles in the area of B7 will begin. These are two large sites once projected to start vertical construction in 2023 and 2019, respectively.

Also, the site access ramp to the railyard. may be relocated to the western end of the block.

An evening disruption
Also, unmentioned in the update, two project neighbors last night reported noisy, disruptive night work going on at the West Portal site, with jackhammering and klieg lights at the southeast corner of Atlantic and Sixth/So…

Former site of Church of the Redeemer, near Site 5, now planned for 12-story condo building

I previously reported on how the Church of the Redeemer, on Fourth Avenue catercorner to Site 5 of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, sold for $20 million and was demolished. Now, the Real Deal reported 5/17/17, the developer Adam America is "in talks" to buy the site and build a 72-unit, 12-story condo building with commercial space on the ground floor.

Does a 12-story building "normalize" the transition from Site 5 to the neighborhood directly south? Somewhat. That said, the already approved Site 5 building, 250 feet tall, would be twice the height of the condo building said to be planned for the church site.

The unofficially proposed massive two-tower project at Site 5, involving a shift of bulk from the arena block and a new state plan, could stretch 785 feet, a much more dramatic transition. But expect any new development in that area, including the proposed 80 Flatbush plan to the north, to be used as an argument for something bigger at Site 5.

Modern Farmer, the "whopping" garden at 550 Vanderbilt, and the "massive public works project"

I've written before about puff pieces for the 550 Vanderbilt rooftop farm, and here's another, from Modern Farmer,  Brooklyn’s Newest Condo Amenity: Rooftop Agricultural Plots, complete with some glaring distortions:
But here’s one we haven’t seen much of: Rooftop gardens. That’s right: one gigantic new-construction condominium building in the heart of Brooklyn is making urban agriculture a fundamental part of its pitch. 550 Vanderbilt is a huge 278-unit building in what was formerly called, and probably still best known as, the Atlantic Yards, a massive public works project to transform a defunct train terminal into a commercial and residential zone anchored by the Barclays Center, home of the NBA-worst Brooklyn Nets.
... Because the building is so big, there are plenty of nooks and crannies to tuck fun stuff throughout its 17 stories, and what the designers came up with is a whopping 520 square-foot gardening space on a huge eighth floor terrace. (Emphases added)

Um, it'…

The Times digs--though could go farther--on Kushner family's EB-5 efforts

Kushner family's reps in China were using Trump's name for months to guarantee green cards to investors. Our story: — Javier C. Hern├índez (@HernandezJavier) May 19, 2017
This seems either unrealistic or v sloppy. Big developers w/ EB-5 a) know Chinese firms exaggerate b) see material — Eliot Brown (@eliotwb) May 20, 2017
@JesseDrucker Too bad NYT didn't get 2undermining of #EB5 premise. Middleman Nick M sed his projects don't need$. Thus no new jobs — Norman Oder (@AYReport) May 19, 2017
#EB5 investigation#EB5IsARacket
+Here's my coverage of shady Qiao Wai aka Qiaowai— Norman Oder (@AYReport) May 13, 2017

Panic at arena as loud noise--reported as gunshots--"sparks wild stampede" after Future concert

Last night, reports of gunshots at the Barclays Center at the end of a show by the rapper Future sparked a real and social media panic, as fans stampeded out, some reportedly bloody. There were no gunshots, the arena and the police said, but there was widespread alarm and dismay among attendees.

The Daily News reported, in Loud noise sparks wild stampede at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, "NYPD and FDNY officials said there were no reports of gunfire and no injuries reported." The actual cause of the noise wasn't reported.

Some attendees didn't believe all the official story. Later, Vibe reported a slightly more comprehensive explanation:
NYPD Lieutenant Tarik Sheppard shared a statement via email with VIBE on Friday night’s incident:
“The concert ended around 11 p.m. As people were exiting the Barclays Center, there was music playing over the PA system. The song that was playing had the sound of gunshots at the end. In addition, the stage was lowered and it came down fa…

The P.C. Richard case drags on, as one deadline is extended four months; Site 5 question marks remain

The fate of a potential massive project at Site 5--floated, but not officially proposed--is again delayed, thanks to an extension of time in the litigation between P.C. Richard, owner of a building on the site, and Forest City Ratner.

The electronics store last year sued to stall the planned eminent domain proceeding regarding its store at Site 5, across from the Barclays Center, claiming that original project developer Forest City Ratner promised the company space in the replacement building. 
Greenland Forest City Partners, now the joint venture developer of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, was not sued, but the separate LLC representing Greenland independent of Forest City has been served with a subpoena for a depositions and documents.
According to a document filed this week in New York State Supreme Court, the final date for all parties to disclose experts in the litigation was to have been 5/15/17, this past Monday. The parties have agreed to extensions, and now the deadline is 9/29…