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Showing posts from May, 2010

Brooklyn Paper Editor Kuntzman: "Once [arena is] built, you kind of have to focus on the positives"

On the John Gambling Show last Friday, the host, after interviewing Bruce Ratner, interviewed Brooklyn Paper Editor-in-Chief Gersh Kuntzman.

One issue was Atlantic Yards and Kuntzman, who's a smart fellow, sounded dismayingly like the editor of the Pyongyang Paper.

AY and change

JG: What do you think is going to change... when Bruce Ratner gets that development over the Atlantic Yards done?

It's not "over the Atlantic Yards."

GK: Any project of that size is going to be controversial... It's going to change a lot of things, but some things people worry about more than anything, people worry about the traffic that a large arena might bring. I mean, look, this is New York City, and there's going to be traffic from things.

He's skating over things a bit, given the disruptive congestion.

It's going to change a lot of things. For one thing, you're going to have a professional major league team here in Brooklyn, and you're going to have a venue where The W…

Price drops at On Prospect Park provide another reason to doubt KPMG report on housing market

New information gives even more reason to question the KPMG report for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on the housing market in Brooklyn, a report that asserted that there was sufficient demand for the planned Atlantic Yards luxury condos for the entire project to be completed in the announced decade.

So far, judges have deferred to the ESDC's "experts," but the expert is not very reliable.

Remember, KPMG last August 31 claimed that Richard Meier's On Prospect Park was 75% sold; however, the New York Times quoted the developers as saying half the units have been sold and that StreetEasy.com documented only 25% the units as sales.

Now, the developer counts 54 units sold, with--after the consolidation of some units to make larger apartments--42 yet unsold, according to a New York Times Real Estate section article headlined Larger Units for a Richard Meier Condo.

That's still way under 75%. (StreetEasy counts 38 recorded sales.)

Prices going down

M…

New York Magazine suggests that, as notable new New York Russian, Prokhorov (Nets, Snob, etc.) is latter-day Baryshnikov

From New York Magazine's Michael Idov, in an article headlined Klub Prokhorov: The billionaire Nets owner and the creation (his creation, actually) of a new kind of New York Russian, writes: By becoming the first foreign owner of an NBA team, Prokhorov simultaneously established himself as a major figure in one of the world’s most glamorous businesses (in the world capital of the sport, no less) and a central player in New York’s biggest real-estate drama after ground zero. The scale of his trick didn’t really hit home until a May 19 breakfast photo op with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Jay-Z: a perfectly orchestrated tableau of New York relevance. The only other Russian I can think of who has managed to slip into the city’s cast of notable characters as effortlessly is Mikhail Baryshnikov. But that’s where the comparison ends. Prokhorov is the face of an altogether new kind of Russian—newer, even, than the so-called New Russians of the late nineties—that’s recently been proliferati…

Coney Island reopens for summer season, but will buildings be demolished for chain retail and condos? Also, an AY cameo in the saga of a "razzle"

The summer season has begun at Coney Island, with Astroland replaced by the new rides of Luna Park (named to echo one of the three great amusement parks, open from 1903 to 1944 and replaced by public housing).

That's the cause of much official celebration and, indeed, there are some other signs of life, such as the city's plan to move the famed B&B Carousell to Steeplechase Plaza.

However, as Kevin Baker writes in the Village Voice and the folks at Save Coney Island remind us, much remains contested, notably developer Joe Sitt's plan to demolish some historic structures on or below Surf Avenue and replace them with chain retail and restaurants--and, quite possibly, hotels/time-shares that would be turned into condos, thus leading to the demise of the amusement zone ecosystem (despite Coney's unique zoning).

(Graphic at right from Save Coney Island.)

In the saga (Coney Island's Grand Past and Grim Future: Requiem for a dreamland), Baker suggests the current machinat…

In friendly interview, Ratner claims team purchase was a "civic venture," dodges question about arena economics

On Friday, May 26, WOR radio host John Gambling, broadcasting live from Coney Island, interviewed by phone Bruce Ratner, Chairman & CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies and part owner of the New Jersey Nets.

Notably, when Ratner was asked if the arena would suck dollars from the rest of the city, he asserted it would be an "an additive to the [local] experience," thus dodging the question.

Ratner sounded kind of subdued, but maybe he's just not used to talking on the radio at 7:10 am. Gambling sounds authoritative--like, um, a radio announcer--but he doesn't know much.

Defining the project

Gambling started off by asking if arena construction had begun.

BR: We've been in construction for about a month and, in two years, we will have a brand new arena.

JG: There's more to this than just an arena.

BR: There's the arena. There's housing, both affordable and market-rate housing. It's an architecturally beautiful project. And of course the arena brings the …

Noticing New York's White puts the AG candidates on the spot re Atlantic Yards; Brodsky's in high dudgeon over suggestion he went easy on AY

In Touchstone For Whether There Will Be Change In Albany: Attorney General Candidates on Atlantic Yards and Eminent Domain, Michael D.D. White offers a long but important-to-read post. The summary: The good news with respect to the possibility of change is that at least two of the candidates for state Attorney General (the Erics) think that the job of Attorney General should entail actions designed to stop Atlantic Yards dead in its tracks. That includes, in the case of state senator Eric T. Schneiderman, investigation of likely violations of law and, in the case of former state insurance superintendent Eric R. Dinallo, use of the Attorney General’s power to issue opinions and rulings to make clear that the law is not being properly interpreted when eminent domain is abused by state officials. (We will be quoting both at length further on.)

The bad news is that if the Erics are correct and that addressing these Atlantic Yards abuses should be part of the Attorney General’s job (or at l…

Second look: fire truck going the wrong way on Dean Street; clarification: congestion caused more by closure of Pacific Street than of bridge

Yesterday I pointed to Tracy Collins's time-lapse photography of congestion on Dean Street adjacent to the Atlantic Yards footprint.

In the very brief segment below, he's pulled out the sequence in which a firet ruck leaving the station at 494 Dean Street (just out of the frame on the left) travels west against traffic on Dean Street before turning right, north, on Sixth Avenue.

Dean & 6th - Firetruck excerpt from tracy collins on Vimeo.A clarification on cause of congestion

Yesterday and in previous coverage of congestion on Dean Street, I suggested that it was caused both by the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which should reopen in two years, and the permanent closure of parts of Pacific Street.

But the bridge closed in January 2008, and the increase in traffic didn't accelerate until parts of Pacific Street closed in March. So the latter deserves most of the blame.

Below, an excerpt from a video of the corner of Carlton Avenue and Dean Street shot on May 25 at abo…

Traffic on Dean Street: Documentation of three intersections, by Tracy Collins, shows congestion and challenges

I've been using a camera as a rather wobbly tool to document traffic and street conditions in and around the Atlantic Yards footprint. Below, Tracy Collins, who's a far more able photographer, has produced some videos with far more clarity.

Dean Street will be the main (only?) route to the massive interim surface parking lot on the southeast block of the project footprint. It's already backed up, both in the morning (as I showed), and in the afternoon (as Collins shows below in the first video).

Some of that is related to the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which should reopen in two years, but moresome is related to the permanent closure of parts of Pacific Street, given that the increase in traffic didn't begin until those streets closed in March.

And the presence of double-parked vehicles could compound congestion; a vehicular accident would make it worse. There's not a lot of leeway.

So perhaps the workers counting traffic for the city (Department of Transpor…

Tracy Collins offers time-lapse photos from outside arena site, near FCR's malls, despite official discouragement

Photographer Tracy Collins did some filming yesterday, and workers at Forest City Ratner's arena site as well at the developer's mall complex didn't want him getting too close.

The documentation doesn't bring up anything unusual, but there's a value to consistent documentation. Surely Forest City Ratner is trying to control the visuals, such as with these shots of new Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Arena construction

Flatbush Avenue at Pacific Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York
May 27, 2010
2:30pm

Collins writes: Site of the Barclays Center Arena of the Atlantic Yards development by Forest City Ratner. Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall is in the background.

I was told by the construction workers (who eventually covered the gap in the fence thru which I was shooting) that I should "move along" and that "I couldn't photograph here." I told them that I could and I would as I was on a public sidewalk.
Barclays Center Arena cons…

A walk along the Dean Street project border, the path from parking to the arena block; see how the sidewalk narrows, so the state's numbers are off

Today I show two videos, shot on May 22 and May 23, that cover the same ground.

My aim was to show the transition between thriving Vanderbilt Avenue just southeast of the Atlantic Yards site, and the blighted northern border of Dean Street, where Forest City Ratner is using land cleared by demolitions (notable the Ward Bakery) for construction staging and surface parking.

Most notably, the path to the arena block from parking on Dean Street relies on a sidewalk that is very narrow in several segments, far from the "approximately 18 feet" claimed by the Empire State Development Corporation.

(In an attached table, bottom, the ESDC claims that the "effective width" is 11.5 feet on one stretch and 10.5 feet on another stretch. Not so.)

No pictures?

Turning left (west) from Vanderbilt, I continued west along Dean Street, along a fence obscured by fake greenery aimed at blocking views inside.

In the first video, at about four minutes in, when I pointed my camera at gap in the…

Plan to move Madison Square Garden across the street revived; one argument is competition with the Brooklyn arena

Madison Square Garden is supposed to be under renovation, but the plan to move it to the Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue--this time, without expansion of the transit hub--is apparently revived.And one argument by developer Steve Roth of Vornado Realty Trust involves competition with the new Brooklyn arena, according to the Times: According to these officials, the developer’s pitch to Mr. [James] Dolan and Mr. [Hank] Ratner went something like this: The renovation of the 42-year-old arena could be more expensive and more disruptive for the Knicks, the Rangers and the Liberty than anticipated. And in the end, the site would still be inferior to the new arena for the Nets that is under construction in Brooklyn.

Was the Barclays Center used to lure the 2014 Super Bowl?

Would you believe that New York Used Barclays Center To Help Lure 2014 Super Bowl, as claimed by NetsDaily?

Well, you'd have to go to the links. The evidence isn't there.

From a New York Post article headlined Apple fans all feeling Super: "America came to the rescue of New York, and that's something I think that New Yorkers have never forgotten," Bloomberg said. "This is a little bit of our chance to say thank you."

State economic development chief Peter Davidson told The Post that the under-construction Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be added to the list of venues hosting Super Bowl-week gala events, including the Javits Center and the James A. Farley Post Office.

The Jets' Johnson wasted no time in raising the possibility of a Jets-Giants championship game in four years.From a Brooklyn blog post headlined EXCLUSIVE: New Brooklyn arena in line to host events during Super Bowl week in 2014:Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Develo…

Prokhorov's modern blueprint: "brilliant, premeditated publicity move[s]" get saluted, without analysis

A New York Observer reporter gives a thumbs-up to the Mikhail Prokhorov show. From a piece headlined For 48 Hours, an Oligarch Turns on the Charm: Mr. Prokhorov was in town for 48 hours that, if spent properly and efficiently, would warm the press and thereby the public to the mysterious Russian who just a week prior to his visit was approved as the principal owner of the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets.

...During the press conference, [p.r. consultant] Ms. [Ellen] Pinchuk pursed her lips and picked at her fingers each time her client was asked tough questions: his business dealings in Zimbabwe; the team's unfortunate record (12-70); will it continue to bleed money ($42.2 million in the recent fiscal year)? By the end, her water glass was empty. Mr. Prokhorov, however, performed expertly, answering each question with a joke and giving the sort of show that kept the reporters busy taking notes.

Next came an unexpected afternoon meeting with a 28-year-old Brooklyn resident na…

Near the AY footprint, in the later part of the morning rush hour, traffic stacks up on Dean and Bergen streets (video)

Yesterday, at about 9:15 am and thus in the later part of rush hour, I took a walk to the blocks just below the Atlantic Yards footprint.

At the corner of Carlton Avenue and Dean Street, there was a lot of traffic stacked up, mainly on Dean going east.

The cause? I'd blame the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge (for another two years or so) and the permanent closure of two blocks of Pacific Street have channeled traffic to adjacent streets.

In the first video, there was even some gridlock at Carlton and Dean.

I walked west on Dean to Sixth Avenue along the sidewalk--which narrows noticeably as it approaches the arena block--wondering about the impact of a couple of thousand people walking along that same route to and from the interim surface parking in the block bounded by Carlton Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street, and Pacific Street.

Answer: it'll be very crowded. People will be walking in the street.



To Bergen Street

I then walked down Sixth Avenue to Bergen Street and filme…

A partial walk through and around the eastern end of the footprint, and an encounter with a security guard unmindful of rules on photography

Continuing the trip I took May 20 up Vanderbilt Avenue to look for blight near the eastern edge of the Atlantic Yards footprint, in the video below I walk from Vanderbilt Avenue and Atlantic Avenue south to Pacific Street, west to Carlton Avenue, and south to Dean Street.

The walk traverses part of Block 1129, which is being used for construction staging and interim surface parking. The demolition of the Ward Bakery led to the provision of significant surface space.

(Note that in the beginning of the video I identify the starting place as Vanderbilt Avenue and Pacific Street, whereas it's actually Atlantic Avenue.)



Private street?

Even though there are signs professing that the street is closed, the street remains unblocked, at least during off-hours, and I saw a few bicyclists and cars passing through. There was no guard at either end of the street, but there was a guard outside one of the buildings, presumably protecting it from any incursion.

I turned off the camera before I got to …

How about that under-the-radar Charter Revision Commission? Hearing Tuesday in Brooklyn takes on term limits

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who spends an inordinate amount of time sending out press releases commenting on every possible matter of public interest (except one), is doing something useful: casting light on the shadowy efforts by the New York City Charter Revision Commission to amend the charter regarding issues like term limits, land use, and public integrity.

There's no small self-interest, as well; Mayor Mike Bloomberg wants the commission to examine whether the Public Advocate's office should be abolished.

Hearing on term limits

On Tuesday at 6 pm, the commission will hold a hearing on term limits at Brooklyn Borough Hall. It will be webcast live. Three nationally recognized experts will testify and those wishing to testify can begin signing up one half-hour prior to the start of the forum.

The hearing on land use will be Thursday, June 24, in Flushing, Queens.

Aggressive pace

The pace, commissioner chair Matthew Goldstein admits, is "very aggressive." A draft re…

On the Brian Lehrer Show Tuesday: Marty Markowitz and "Your Anecdotal Census"

As part of the program’s ongoing Census coverage, WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show presents YOUR ANECDOTAL CENSUS–a county-by-county look at the stories emerging from each neighborhood in 2010. The series debuted earlier this month, and continues each Tuesday at 11 am through September.

Tomorrow the subject is Brooklyn. Among the guests: Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Anecdotes welcomed

Listeners have been asked how the world around them has changed in the past decade. One of the more interesting comments already posted:
Jacqueline Woodson from Park Slope, Brooklyn

I think I am one of a shrinking number of African American recent homebuyers in Park Slope. We bought our house in 2002 when my daughter was 10 months old. I had lived as a renter in the neighborhood for many years before that and have watched the neighborhood go from being racially and economically diverse (as well as having a large number of queer people living here) to being a predominantly white, wealthy, straight n…

Dellaverson, ex-MTA CFO, joins a law firm, and the Times discreetly ignores the Vanderbilt Yard deal

Gary Dellaverson, former Chief Financial Officer at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, lands at the law firm Proskauer Rose, and gets some positive words from the Times:In 19 years at the transportation authority, the mustachioed, cigarillo-smoking Mr. Dellaverson took on some of the toughest assignments at a notoriously tough agency. As chief labor negotiator, he did battle with the Transport Workers Union during the 2005 transit strike. The headache-inducing complexity of the Hudson Yards development deal was his doing (after the first developer fell through, he nailed down another in five days).The MTA's finances

The CityRoom blog post closes:Would he comment on the transportation authority’s current precarious financial situation?

“I could,” Mr. Dellaverson said, “but why on earth would I?”Why would he, indeed? Remember what he said last June about the two-day opportunity for the MTA board to consider a revised deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard: &qu…