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Showing posts from May, 2008

The (relative) silence about the long-delayed Ingersoll Community Center and the breadth of blogs

When, earlier this month, I covered (for the Brooklyn Downtown Star) the annual convention of FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), which advocates for low-income women of color, many in the housing projects of Fort Greene, I was surprised to learn that the Ingersoll Community Center, under construction for more than six years, still isn't open, in stark contrast to the steadily rising condos nearby. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), whose web site says not-so-clearly that the center has been "rebuilt," now promises it will open in the fall.

(Photo from New York Daily News. Graphic below from NYCHA site.)

It's a story of promises unfulfilled, one that deserves far more scrutiny, but the media coverage has been scant. I found an 8/31/01 Daily News article indicating that the contract had been awarded. A 4/16/04 Brooklyn Eagle article reported that completion was anticipated by December 2004. A May/June 2005 City Limits article noted that t…

PlaNYC 2030 and the need for parking policy

Last December, I described how Mayor Mike Bloomberg's much-praised PlaNYC 2030 contains a glaring omission, a failure to address the antiquated anti-urban policy that mandates parking attached to new residential developments outside Manhattan, even when such developments, like Atlantic Yards, are justified precisely because they're located near transit hubs. I called the current situation PlaNYC 1950.

(Ironically enough, the Empire State Development Corporation, which will override several aspects of city zoning to facilitate the Atlantic Yards project, chose not to override the city's parking policy.)

Last month, a year after Bloomberg's plan was announced, a watchdog group identified parking policy as among six administrative initiatives in order to implant the principles of sustainability into the city's governmental structure.

According to Building a Greener Future: A Progress Report on New York City’s Sustainability Initiatives, by The New York League of Conserva…

AY ten-year timetable realistic or p.r. scheme? ESDC, residents battle in court

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has filed legal papers asking for a state court to dismiss the lawsuit filed April 30 that charges that the ESDC’s willingness to give developer Forest City Ratner 12+ years to build Phase 1 of Atlantic Yards violates a provision of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL). The suit also requests a new public hearing to evaluate the benefits of the amended project.

In arguing against the lawsuit, filed by 13 residential tenants in two buildings within the project footprint, the ESDC curiously claims that the courts should view Bruce Ratner’s May 4 Daily News op-ed asserting a 2018 completion date as more credible than his interview in the March 21 New York Times regarding the project’s stall, and that the penalties facing the developer for delaying the project are “draconian.”

Ten-year timetable realistic?

While the lawsuit, filed on behalf of petitioners who have lost two other suits filed by attorney George Locker, attempts to break new le…

"Voodoo" actuary provokes firestorm, but "voodoo" economist for AY gets a pass

The New York Times and others have rightly made a big deal out of the scandal that an actuary paid by unions was relied on by the State Legislature in its estimate that a bill that would offer early retirement to city workers would not cost a cent. But a not too dissimilar reliance on a partisan source regarding Atlantic Yards raised nary an eyebrow.

The May 16 Times article, headlined Unions Bankrolled Analyst Vetting Pension Bill, made the front page. Later that day, faced with a storm of press criticism, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver decided that any bills with fiscal notes prepared by that actuary would be placed on hold, with new, more objective analyses sought. The headline on the Times's City Room blog: Speaker Tosses Work of ‘Voodoo’ Actuary.

Critical editorial

On May 24, the Times's editorial page was in high dudgeon, in an editorial headlined Have We Got a Deal for You:
Just when it appears that the New York State Legislature has hit bottom, we find a false floor. The …

At West Side hearing, Brodsky questions subsidies, muses about eminent domain for MSG

Presumably, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) confirmation Thursday of a second developer, the Related Companies, for the Hudson Yards project, after original bidder Tishman Speyer pulled out, somewhat undermined the rationale for the Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, chaired by Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, to assess the status of various projects on Manhattan’s West Side.

So it’s understandable that the hearing held Friday attracted modest press coverage. To Reuters, the story was Brodsky’s provocative but somewhat theoretical suggestion that the city consider using eminent domain to condemn Madison Square Garden to effectuate a version of the Moynihan Station project. To the New York Observer, the story was MTA chief Lee Sander’s suggestion that the agency might add bus rapid transit or light rail to the West Side district, on top of the 7 line subway extension. WNYC radio reported a related story about how the Moynihan project,…

The "will to blog" and the need for distinctions

Way too many people have already commented on ex-Gawker editor Emily Gould's self-referential New York Times Magazine cover story, Blog-Post Confidential, but I have to complain not so much about Gould but about her editors.

New York Magazine's Daily Intel got there first:
What troubles us about Gould's oncoming article is not that it will be a rehash of everything we've seen before. It's that people will mistake her perspective on the Internet, writing, and fame as the perspective of an entire generation of bloggers.

The "will to blog"

Indeed, this paragraph from Gould's essay stopped me cold:
The will to blog is a complicated thing, somewhere between inspiration and compulsion. It can feel almost like a biological impulse. You see something, or an idea occurs to you, and you have to share it with the Internet as soon as possible. What I didn’t realize was that those ideas and that urgency — and the sense of self-importance that made me think anyone woul…

The FCE annual report looks like the NYT Magazine

The cover of the Forest City Enterprises (FCE) annual report, featuring the highly-successful New York Times Tower, jointly developed by FCE subsidiary Forest City Ratner with the New York Times Company, not only uses the typeface from the New York Times Magazine but also is printed on paper of similar dimensions and heft, as opposed to the narrower dimensions of previous reports.

If anyone else did this, there might be some grumbling, but I bet Forest City can get away with it.



A recent New York Times Magazine cover.

Two more the Times got wrong early on

Wouldn't it have been nice if they'd gotten it right? And shouldn't they correct it? Looking back at early New York Times coverage of the Atlantic Yards project, a couple of errors surfaced.

In a 1/23/04 article headlined Bid for a Brooklyn Sports Complex Faces Challenges From All Sides, the Times reported:
The arena would sit on what is now the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt storage yard. Mr. Ratner needs the railroad to move the 11 tracks crisscrossing the nine-acre site to the east.

He also needs the state to condemn four blocks to the east of the rail yard, which includes the homes of 864 people and businesses with about 200 jobs.
(Emphases added)
As the page from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn reminds us, the arena would be built over not just the railyard. Also, he blocks extend south rather than east.
The first error, as I've pointed out before, is particularly important, because an arena built just over the railyard would not have required eminent domain…

Jeffries says Assembly should hold AY hearing; FCR instead offers breakfast update

While the State Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions is holding a hearing today on the progress of development projects on Manhattan's West Side, there's a strong argument for a hearing to assess the status of the Atlantic Yards project as well.

Whether that hearing, including representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner, will get scheduled is another question. Assembly leadership--apparently Speaker Sheldon Silver--has so far balked, according to Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.

Joint committee hearing

Jeffries, who represents Prospect Heights and the AY footprint, is a member of the Corporations committee. He said last night that he and two neighboring legislators--Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who chairs the Oversight, Analysis and Investigation committee, and Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who chairs the Cities committee--want to hold a joint hearing of their committees regarding Atlantic Yards, given the u…

Ward Bakery update: injured worker in good condition

Several people asked me about what happened at the Ward Bakery on Tuesday, after a worker was seen being removed on a stretcher and a stop-work order issued.

Empire State Development Corporation spokesman Warner Johnston offers this update: "The injured worker appears to be in good condition and we expect him to be released today. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital... and my understanding is that he was kept over night for evaluation."

"With regards to the cause of the incident, the investigation is still being conducted," he added. "I don't have specific information to share until the investigation is complete." The stop-work order suggests a rotted beam as a possible cause for the collapse of a section of the floor.

(See pictures on Tracy Collins's blog.)

At MAS, AY as an example of a neighborhood planning struggle

When it comes to discussions of “David vs. Goliath,” the subject of a Municipal Art Society (MAS) Planning Center Forum on May 14, Atlantic Yards is an inevitable subject, though--as I’ll note below--the politics of AY means that more than one set of parties might consider themselves “Davids.”

(Photos by Jonathan Barkey)

The panel addressed the issue of “neighborhood planning in the face of large-scale development,” and planner/architect Stuart Pertz, in his introduction, noted that some projects are inherently large, and only work if built on a large scale. “Unfortunately, it often gets out of hand,” he said, suggesting that “Goliath in development has extraordinary leverage, using powerful lawyers, contractors, planners, and unions.” Then again, he said, “there are many Davids.”

So how empower communities? Anthony Borelli, Director of Land Use in the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, said the office has tried to even the playing field by offering land use training f…

The Manhattan Borough President stresses land use

As noted in the discussion May 14 at the Municipal Art Society, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has advanced ahead of the other borough presidents in stressing the importance of land use issues and in training Community Board members on land use issues.

A series of screenshots (click to enlarge) helps tell the story. Note, for example, how Community Boards and Land Use get two tabs at the top of the page.


Like other borough presidents, Stringer offers a page on ULURP.


Unlike the other Borough President, Stringer has urban planners devoted to community boards, as well as planning interns to offer additional help.


Particularly useful is the Land Use 101 presentation--one example is below.


Brooklyn

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's web page describes a range of roles and issues, including a certain amount of borough promotion. ULURP appears somewhat lower on the page.


Applications for Community Boards appear further down the page.



Queens

The web page for Queens Borough P…

Stop-work order at Ward Bakery

[Updated: 11:05 am] Demolition at the Ward Bakery between Pacific and Dean streets was met with a stop-work order because the work is alleged to undermine an adjacent building and also because of an injury.

While the overview indicates it's been resolved, Department of Buildings spokeswoman Kate Lindquist says, "The Stop Work Order is not 'resolved.'” (The word is used by DOB as an administrative tool to track complaint dispositioning.)

(Photo by Tracy Collins.)

She offered this explanation, "The Stop Work Order was issued on Monday after a worker, employed by Gateway Demolition, was injured during demolition work. The worker was brought to a nearby hospital. The Stop Work Order remains in effect. Workers are able to conduct remedial work to maintain a safe site – such as removing loose debris and tools – but demolition remains halted at this time. The Stop Work Order will remain in effect until the engineer of record, Thornton Tomasetti, fully assesses the structur…

Brodsky on West Side deal: subsidy info needed

From yesterday's New York Times, in an article headlined New Developer Signs $1 Billion Deal to Transform West Side Railyards:
“Until we get a handle on the level of subsidies involved, there’s no way to determine whether this is a good deal or a bad deal,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Democrat from Westchester who is holding a hearing on West Side development on Friday.

Last week, I reported on similar comments. "Developers have learned the fight is about the subsidies," Brodsky said. "That distorting element is so powerful we don't know how much to give, what is proper." That, he said, makes it hard to assess "what exactly is the public good."

The same questions could be raised about the Atlantic Yards deal, where, for example, the amount of scarce housing bonds needed was not made public until after the project was approved.

Gehry's dutiful B1 charade and the marketing of naming rights

In for a dime, in for a dollar--or many, many thousands of them. The opportunity to build his first arena, and maybe even "a neighborhood practically from scratch", means starchitect Frank Gehry dutifully participated in a charade over the name of the flagship Atlantic Yards tower, which is now--as predicted by me and NoLandGrab--up for a naming rights sponsorship.

The New York Observer's Real Estate blog reported yesterday:
Bruce Ratner is looking for a new name for the signature office tower in his $4 billion-plus Atlantic Yards project.

The Frank Gehry-designed tower was known as “Miss Brooklyn” until it was shrunk, redesigned and re-unveiled in April under a new, more staid moniker: “B1.” It turns out that that name, too, may change, should developer Forest City Ratner, led by Mr. Ratner, find a tenant eager enough to attach its name to the building.

B1 was the original moniker.

Gehry's statement

“The design for Miss Brooklyn, which we now call Building One, has become…