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Showing posts from November, 2010

Elected officials, traffic planners to appear at PHNDC traffic forum December 8

The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council is sponsoring an Atlantic Yards traffic forum on Wednesday, December 8, 2010, from 7:30 to 9 pm.

The location is P.S. 9 at 80 Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights.

From the blurb: Can the traffic really get worse? Unfortunately, the answer is "yes." The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council presents a forum on traffic and transit issues raised by Atlantic Yards construction and the planned opening of the Barclays Center in 2012.

* What impacts are already being felt?
* What is coming from the arena and future construction?
* What does the recent court decision mean to the community?
* What can we do now?

Speakers include Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, Councilmember Letitia James, and Ryan Lynch, Senior Planner with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Meaningful news on timetable lawsuit and CBA failure, meaningful press avoidance

Was it meaningful that two coalitions of civic groups just asked state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman for a stay on Atlantic Yards construction?

Sure. It's a longshot Friedman will stop the arena, but the petitioners--coalitions organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks--have to be taken seriously.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) knew that the project could take 25 years but only studied the impact of the official ten-year construction period.

So the ESDC must either appeal Friedman's stinging November 9 ruling on the project timetable or, more likely, produce a document that claims that a 25-year buildout would create no more burdensome impacts than the ten-year one.

Given the track record of ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF, which always produces the reports its clients want, it's likely such a document can be finessed.

But it's also likely that document will be highly questiona…

In request for stay on Atlantic Yards construction, DDDB attorney charges ESDC and FCR with malfeasance, says their lawyers breached ethical conduct

Maybe the Barclays Center arena should never have gotten started.

Maybe the arena construction is proceeding thanks only to the "malfeasance" of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) in withholding the Atlantic Yards Development Agreement until after a crucial court argument in January.

Those are the messages of a blistering legal motion filed by the attorney for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and allied groups, urging state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman to follow up her November 9 ruling on the project timetable and stay construction on the entire project.

Friedman, partly reversing a March 10 decision that endorsed the ESDC's claim that a ten-year buildout of the project was reasonable (despite the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's agreement to allow 22 years to sell FCR Vanderbilt Yard development rights), on November 8 declared that the ESDC had failed to address the impact of the Development Agree…

FCR lies about Community Benefits Agreement, claims it went into effect only when arena broke ground, avoids hiring Independent Compliance Monitor

Given that the controversial Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is such a big part of the argument in favor of the project, as suggested in The Civilians' new play, IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, the CBA is worth another look.

Notably, developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) recently lied, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that the CBA--signed more than five years ago--went into effect only when the arena broke ground this past March. (The FCR statement is on video below.)

Moreover, the developer claims that there's no need yet to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM) to provide a credible outside analysis of the CBA, despite provisions in the document to hire one "[a]s soon as reasonably practicable."

Instead of hiring an ICM, a process that began three years ago but was apparently put on hold, Forest City Ratner instead relies on its own subcontractor, Darryl Greene and his firm, The Darman Group. And Greene has such crimina…

"Sidewalk Sale": A critic's observant walk around the Atlantic Yards site

In a smartly observant essay headlined Sidewalk Sale, published initially in the New Museum's broadsheet New City Reader, critic Alexandra Lange (notable for her Design Observer takedown of Nicolai Ouroussoff this past winter), takes a walk around the Atlantic Yards site.

Among her observations:
"the sidewalks had in fact been sold, in the sense that they had disappeared"the railyard, "properly called the Vanderbilt Yard, was always a psychological moat. Now it is a physical one too."the name Atlantic Yards has "vanished," supplanted by Barclays Center, "a name designed for TV, for overhead blimp shots of the 'helmet,' (which the new arena design clearly resembles)." (I'm pretty sure Atlantic Yards isn't completely gone, and that there are plans to play it up after the arena's established.)

"Downtown Brooklyn"

And Lange agrees that p.r. and uncritical press coverage located the buildings in "Downtown Brooklyn&q…

On Flatbush Avenue, small plazas slated for an upgrade; unlike plaza slated for arena block, this involved community consultation

The (temporary) plaza planned for the Atlantic Yards arena block isn't the only plaza along Flatbush Avenue that's getting a makeover.

Several small plazas at the intersections of Flatbush and four cross streets, from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue, are getting makeovers.

And these makeovers come about via a much different process, a public charrette, meetings with the public.

The Atlantic Yards plaza was dispensed from on high, though the decisionmaking process was discussed by developer Forest City Ratner and Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects.

The meeting on the Flatbush plazas was held on September 28, one day before the arena plaza event, at a joint meeting of the Transportation Committees of Community Boards 6 and 8.

More from Brownstoner here.

From the BID

As stated on the North Flatbush Business Improvement District (BID) site: On Tuesday, September 28, NY Department of Transportation Downtown Brooklyn Coordinator, Christopher Hrones, unveiled the new conceptual designs for …

Flashback: How scout Khalid Green got hired by the Nets; his father's Ratner connection made the difference for a successful high school coach

I missed this when it was announced, but veteran Bishop Loughlin basketball coach Khalid Green, son of longtime Assemblyman Roger Green, a leading local political backer of Atlantic Yards when it was announced in 2003, got a job two years ago as a scout for the Nets.

And his father helped connect him to the job.

All evidence suggest Khalid Green, as a successful high school coach, was qualified, but, as with so much about Atlantic Yards, it sure helps to know the right people to nudge ahead on the line.

(Remember how former Forest City Ratner point man Jim Stuckey said in 2005 that he didn't know whether railyard contract McKissack & McKissack was chosen by a bidding process?)

As No Land Grab's Lumi Rolley pointed out two years ago, "A 'casual introduction' to Bruce Ratner is one of those tangible 'community benefits' of the Atlantic Yards project."

The announcement

The New York Daily News, in a 10/15/08 article headlined Bishop Loughlin coach Khalid Gr…

Coming soon? Still waiting for Best of Brooklyn web site

The web site for Marty Markowitz's not-so-transparent Best of Brooklyn charity (logo at right) is apparently "coming soon," I wrote in February 2009.

Still.

Two front pages, two weeks apart, two AY stories

The Brooklyn Paper cover this week. (Click on images to enlarge.)


The Brooklyn Paper front page two weeks ago.


Draw your own conclusions.

From theater critics, "In the Footprint" draws raves and mixed reviews; no one agrees with BPaper's claim that play would "appall" project opponents

Updated Dec. 3

Well, after a dubious pan by the Community Newspaper Group's Gersh Kuntzman (oddly and hastily endorsed by the Observer) and my mixed but appreciative review, theater critics are either raving or offering mixed reviews about IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, by The Civilians.

The key review, from the New York Times's Charles Isherwood, sums it up: This simple, scruffy-looking but smartly put-together production, written and directed by Steve Cosson and featuring songs by Michael Friedman (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”), is as fresh, inventive and frankly as entertaining as any new work of musical theater to open this fall. (He does, erroneously, refer to the "the redevelopment of the Atlantic Yards, the abandoned railway lines near downtown Brooklyn." The Vanderbilt Yard is in continuous use, and the project would be over and around the railyard. Remember, "Atlantic Yards" is a brand, not a place.)

Some mixed feelings

TheaterMa…

In the latest issue of Marty's promotional Brooklyn!! "newspaper," some Nets cheerleading but no mention of "In the Footprint"

Maybe the best way to analyze Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional "newspaper" Brooklyn!! (latest issue embedded below) is to consider it a giant block association newsletter, with Markowitz as the president of the confederation of block associations.

A year ago, I pointed out (as in the past) that Brooklyn!! avoided any mention of Atlantic Yards. That's not so this issue.

Brooklyn Beat

Nudging up against mention of the Homecrest Senior Health Fair, the Borough President’s Latino Heritage celebration, and the participation of Randazzo’s Clam Bar at the Grand Central Oyster Bar's “Oyster Frenzy" in a page labeled headlined Brooklyn Beat, we learn: Net’s [sic] new coach Avery “Little General” Johnson (center, back row) met with students of MS 51 in Park Slope to talk about positive choices and let kids know that they can “get to the next level.” He also encouraged his future fan base in Brooklyn to get ready to cheer for future NBA champions, …

Steel goes up at arena site, Markowitz proclaims full project benefits await, DDDB will seek stay on construction

As predicted by Forest City Ratner officials, they've ordered steel for the Barclays Center arena, and erection of the steel began yesterday, according to a Nets press release.

From developer Bruce Ratner: “The installation of steel is always a major milestone for a construction project,” said Mr. Ratner. “With the foundation work largely done, we are now poised to go vertical. Over the next several months, the Barclays Center will begin to take on the iconic shape that we believe will make the arena a worldwide destination and Brooklyn an international city.”And Marty Markowitz takes the opportunity to leap, without foundation, from arena progress to project fruition: “Progress on the Barclays Center spells great things for Brooklyn and its future,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “This project will bring jobs, affordable housing and economic opportunity, as well as a triumphant return to major league sports for the greatest fans in the world—Brooklynites.”NetsDai…

The Amanda Burden Open Space Award sets a new standard; could the Atlantic Yards plaza be a "signature public space"?

The Urban Land Institute (ULI), a developer-led organization, this year gave its first Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award, named for and supported by the Chairperson of New York City's Department of City Planning. (The brochure is embedded below.)

The winner: Campus Martius Park in Detroit, described as "heart of downtown Detroit’s development story and its signature public space. Surrounded by offices, residential space, and restaurants, it is a magnet for everyday visitors and high-profile events."

Would the Atlantic Yards plaza serve similarly? I doubt it.

A New York finalist

One of the finalists, by the way, was from New York: Herald and Greeley Square Parks, two triangular open spaces that form a “bowtie” at Broadway and Sixth Avenue at 34th Street.

The citation states: Upon their reopening in summer 1999, Herald and Greeley Square parks had a dramatic effect: each was immediately regarded as an urban jewel, widely used and cherished by the neighborhood’s office worker…

In Observer profile of Gehry, Beekman Tower down the memory hole: "construction stopped" and "resumed"

From a New York Observer profile this week headlined Cheek to Cheek With Frank Gehry:CRITICS AND NAYSAYERS suggest Frank Gehry isn't fit to sharpen his claws on the New York skyline given such failures as the Atlantic Yards arena, also undertaken with Mr. Ratner, and the Guggenheim on the East River, a project that Mr. Gehry insists "was never real. It was always more of a dream." Eight Spruce Street--the building's official name, though it was first known as Beekman Tower --almost wasn't real, either. At one point, soon after the September 2008 economic crash, construction stopped at 38 stories, prompting forlorn Curbed commenters to gripe, "so depressing, the resulting building is just going to be a huge, shiny, stumpy thing."

But after a two-month hiatus, construction resumed, resulting in a finished product taller than the design originally proposed. "When we started, it was lower," Mr. Gehry said. "It was 66 floors, and when you go fr…

New Brooklyn open space maps call parts of AY site well-served, but don't factor in expected new population; what's the open space ratio?

New open space maps from the Parks Department, via the Mayor's Office of Environmental Coordination, provide an apparently accurate but ultimately misleading picture of the Atlantic Yards site.

Sections of the map delineated in red are considered "well-served areas," perhaps because of their relative proximity to Prospect Park. However, should Atlantic Yards be built as planned, the ratio of open space to population will decline, raising questions about the level of service.

Only parts of the Atlantic Yards site destined for Phase 2 are currently considered "well-served areas." The arena block, which would be the first phase developed, is not.

Remember, as I wrote November 16, the delay in project timetable means the "temporary significant open space impact" could last twice as long as the period studied in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The map for CB 8

Community Board 8, at its northwest tip, includes the blocks between Dean and Pacific str…

NYC Regional Center feeling the heat? Lawyer for firm recruiting immigrant investors for AY project launches shallow attack on unnamed "blogger" (AYR)

Apparently my criticism of the emerging effort by the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) and Forest City Ratner to raise $249 million from 498 Chinese millionaires under the EB-5 immigration program has its backers concerned.

In an 11/11/10 post on EB5info.com, a web site devoted to EB-5 issues, an attorney for the NYCRC presents a tendentious, shallow attack on me.

In the post, headlined In Defense of the EB-5 Program, Miller Mayer attorney Carolyn S. Lee disserves readers by not pointing them to my original critique, as posted in the Huffington Post under the headline Green Cards for Sale? Atlantic Yards Backers Seek Chinese Investors.

That allows her to cherry-pick the evidence, evade full responses, and deny readers the opportunity to make evaluations on their own.

Notably, Lee ignores the rising tide of concern, well beyond my alleged "false and ill-informed statements," regarding the EB-5 program, which allows immigrant investors parking $500,000 in job-creating investm…