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Showing posts from April, 2008

City agreement allows FCR to build 44% smaller Phase 1; what about NYC's extra $105M?

Despite assertions by Forest City Ratner officials that “all of Atlantic Yards... will be built," the State Funding Agreement, which the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) quietly released last month, gives the developer 6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years to build the five towers in Phase 1, and an unspecified amount of time to build the 11 towers in Phase 2.

A look at the previously-unreleased City Funding Agreement signed last September shows the developer has an even gentler deal: modest penalties for delay, plus allowance for a much smaller Phase 1 than that outlined in the General Project Plan passed by the ESDC in December 2006.

(I obtained the City Funding Agreement from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, or NYCEDC, via a Freedom of Information Law request. Warning: 13+ MB.)

The City Funding Agreement involves NYCEDC and ESDC, while the state agreement involves ESDC and the developer. There's considerable overlap between them. (Click on all g…

Revisiting that May 2004 Daily News scoop about Ratner's generous buyouts

On the front page of the 5/14/04 New York Daily News, the headline proclaimed "BONANZA."

The headline on page 5 was no less breathless: "FOR THESE CONDO OWNERS, B'KLYN NETS ARENA DEAL IS . . . SLAM DUNK; RESIDENTS GET A COOL MIL TO GET OUT OF RATNER'S WAY."

Now that we know that taxpayers will pay for nearly all the private property developer Forest City Ratner purchased in the arena block, including the building pictured, it's worth looking back at the article and, with hindsight, revising selected paragraphs.

It would have been a different kind of scoop.

Some revisions

Real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner is showing Brooklyn homeowners the money.

Revised: Real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner is showing Brooklyn homeowners taxpayers’ money.

He's turning residents of one building into instant millionaires so they'll go quietly - letting him knock down their homes to make way for his controversial $2.5 billion Nets arena and housing complex.

Revised: Taxpayer fund…

Ratner lowers our architectural expections; will Gehry ease away?

Yes, the "news" (as hinted by the New York Observer) from the fairly gentle profile NY1 ran last night of Bruce Ratner is that the Atlantic Yards developer is talking populism, not Gehry-ism:
“We need jobs, we need shopping that's appropriate and the right price and quality goods, we need supermarkets that provide food that is of quality and well-priced, we need housing, and you know what? The architecture is important, but it's not that important,” says Ratner.

"I want to do great architecture, but I have to say something, which is that, if one is going to boil life down to architecture, then you know what? It's not for me,” he adds.

Pending estrangement?

Interviewer Budd Mishkin, host of the "One On 1" series, didn't raise the suggestion, but to me it hinted as a potential estrangement from Frank Gehry. (Gehry's not mentioned at all in the piece, though models of his buildings are evident and, of course, such video segments are edited.)

After…

Congestion pricing failure may delay BRT; Flatbush route not yet on the agenda

The failure of congestion pricing threw a bit of a wrench in the city's plans for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), suggested as one solution to congestion on Flatbush Avenue, but now apparently several years away.

Though Flatbush is an obvious candidate for such service--which would have a dedicated express lane, fewer stops, offsite payment and "honor system" entrance (subject to random check), staggered stoplights, and back boarding, according to the city's pilot in the Bronx--another obvious candidate, Nostrand Avenue, was selected in 2006 for one-per-borough pilot project. It looks to be about four years away, however.

(Here's the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's site on the service, though the map for a proposed Flatbush Avenue route, at right, is no longer available.)

The PlaNYC 2030 Progress Report issued last week explains the fate of BRT, now dubbed Special Bus Service (SBS):
The first SBS corridor, on Fordham Road in the Bronx, is set to begin service in…

The PlaNYC 2030 housing update and the contradictions of AY

When PlaNYC 2030 was announced last April, I pointed out how Atlantic Yards was conspicuously absent as an example of how to build new housing, even though the plan promotes the identification of underutilized areas across the city that are well-served by transit and the exploration of opportunities to create new land by decking over rail yards, rail lines and highways.

Given that the project remains high on the mayoral agenda, the omission was curious, I noted--though I'd add today that there is a built-in excuse; as a state project, the city can claim that it has no power over the rezoning.

Gaps in the Progress Report

The PlaNYC 2030 Progress Report issued last week also understandably leaves Atlantic Yards off the maps of city-initiated rezonings (above) and rezonings with inclusionary zoning (right).

But both maps deserve some footnotes. The map at top shows a significant segment of west-central Brooklyn rezoned. The lighter-colored and irregular piece of that segment is the Downt…

PlaNYC gets praise from planners, but momentum must be sustained

While an April 14 panel consisting of community representatives and planners offered mild praise for and much skepticism toward Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 sustainability initiative, an April 23 discussion, sponsored by the NY Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association, was far more positive, though participants suggested several areas for improvement.

NY Metro Chapter President Ethel Sheffer called it “this terrific initiative” and, indeed, there was generally positive reaction. The city released a PlaNYC progress report the day before. The press release stated 117 of 127 initiatives (93%) are in progress, and about 70 percent of PlaNYC initiatives can be accomplished by the mayoral administration, while the request require cooperation from other levels of government.

“From turning our yellow and black cabs to green, beginning to plan the 8 regional parks that were never finished from the Robert Moses era, and planting more than 50,000 trees as part of our MillionTreesNY…

Flashback: in 2005, the Times reported project completion by 2011

Remember this front-page New York Times article?


The article was flawed for all sorts of reasons, notably the claim that the arena was instantly gaining a skyline. (See the skyline announced in December 2003 here.) Instead, revised designs were being released, exclusively to the Times.

But a second look shows the real whopper below.

Well, 2008-9 for the arena is of course way off. At the time, it was highly unlikely though not completely implausible, assuming a smooth environmental review process and no lawsuits.

2011: a fantasy

But could the entire project have been completed by 2011? That's ridiculous, given that the developer claimed when Atlantic Yards was announced in 2003 that it would take ten years to build.
(That statement was in a Project Overview handed out to the press; however, a different Times reporter covered that press conference and the timetable was not cited in the Times's 12/11/03 coverage.)

Ten years, of course, was the "anticipated" time frame in the…

De Blasio claims AY would have 3000 low-income units

In an interview in the Spring issue of the Park Slope Reader, City Council Member Bill de Blasio, who's running for Borough President, shows he hasn't improved his due diligence regarding Atlantic Yards.

Notably--unless he was misquoted--he claimed that the project would include 3000 low-income housing units, a significant overstatement.

Actually, the plan is to include 900 low-income rental units--at 30-50% of AMI (Area Median Income)--among 2250 affordable rentals, and 600 to 1000 for-sale affordable units, of which a "majority... will be sold to families in the upper affordable income tiers," according to the Housing Memorandum of Understanding Forest City Ratner signed with ACORN. That means households with six-figure incomes, perhaps needing a boost in New York, but hardly low-income.There are no deadlines for the for-sale units, nor penalties for noncompliance, according to the State Funding Agreement.

Also note that the AMI, $70,900 for a four-person household, i…

All in the timing: "when" but not "if," says FCR (but not on AY.com)

From the FAQ page at the Atlantic Yards web site:

Obviously, ground hasn't been broken. And the plan, at least that passed by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), may have been to phase construction over ten years, but it was hardly realistic. Now it's an impossibility, and the ESDC gives the developer a long leash. So the FAQ needs an update.

Promises of "when," not "if"

From a front-page Wall Street Journal article yesterday headlined Economy, Credit Woes Foil Cities' Big Projects:

One project being watched closely is Atlantic Yards, a $4 billion development that Forest City Ratner Cos. is building on 22 acres in Brooklyn, N.Y. After a number of court battles, the developer plans to finally begin construction on a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team by the end of this year.

However, the schedule for its planned office tower, called Miss Brooklyn, likely be will pushed back until an anchor tenant is signed given the current market …

Rally for AY "time out" to be held Saturday, May 3

No More Demolitions!
No More Changes to Infrastructure!
No More Subsidies!
No More Displacement of Residents and Businesses!

The "Atlantic Yards stall" has brought groups representing different flavors of project criticism and opposition together for a rally at 2 pm on Saturday, May 3, with a range of local political officials confirmed as attendees. The location is 752 Pacific Street near Carlton Avenue in the AY footprint, a block planned to hold "interim surface parking" that could last indefinitely. (The Brooklyn Paper broke the news, though the lead of the article says Sunday rather than Saturday and stresses stopping demolitions.)

The stated purpose--asking Gov. David Paterson for a "time out"--is certainly milder than the full agenda of Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB). Indeed, DDDB restates its opposition to the project in its rally announcement.

What does the statement that "Brooklyn needs a new pla…