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Showing posts from February, 2011

If 29 developers are interested in Willets Point, why not the Vanderbilt Yard? Also, no Times scrutiny for Pinsky's projections

Two things jump out from a New York Times article today headlined Concern for Underclass as the City Progresses on Its Willets Point Plan:Seth W. Pinsky, president of the corporation, said in an interview that the project would create 5,300 new jobs, provide affordable housing and generate $25 billion in investment over the next 30 years. He said that 29 developers had already expressed interest, and that the city would choose finalists this spring.

But opponents of the Bloomberg plan counter that the project is speculative and environmentally unsound.Contrast with AY

First, if 29 developers have expressed interest in Willets Point, would a similarly large number have jumped at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard and/or the entire Atlantic Yards site?

But the MTA didn't reopen its RFP after Forest City Ratner in 2009 asked to renegotate the Vanderbilt Yard deal, and MTA board member Jeff Kay claimed, "But there is no other market. No one else has come…

Video (finally) of Marty Markowitz's outrageous claim to potential immigrant investors: "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards"

OK, I posted the audio 12/8/10 and a link to the video on February 2.

But Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's performance in a video presented to potential immigrant investors in Atlantic Yards is so spectacular that it deserves its own video excerpt, below.

Markowitz claims, incredibly, "Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

He knows that's false. But it could help save Forest City Ratner some $191 million under the dubious exploitation of a federal program in which immigrant investors get green cards for themselves and their families in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments.



The original video, produced by the New York City Regional Center, an investment pool, is made available by a South Korean video-sharing site. It is hard to download, so the excerpt was created the old-fashioned way, by filming the screen.

Markowitz closes by asserting that "there's nothing better than China and Brooklyn together."

There'…

A profile of the guy whose firm produced Ratner's brochures: "Josh is highly motivated by making profit"

The 2/22/11 profile in Capital NY, How former liberal operative Josh Isay became the default paid-media guy to the New York establishment, concerns SKDKnickerbocker, once known as Knickerbocker SKD.

It's an interesting piece of inside baseball, but without an attempt to evaluate the content of the firm's work. The press does such evaluation with certain political ads, but not (despite my argument) with the firm's misleading brochures for Forest City Ratner.

The article notes:Both the corporate and the political clients ostensibly benefit from the same essential asset: Isay’s knowledge of how reporters, politicians and regulators process information.
And that's why the press should take the message seriously.

Clients

The article lists several clients, but not FCR: In addition to NYSE, the firm has been hired by a host of corporate and union clients, including Thor Equities, the firm that sparred with the city over the redevelopment of Coney Island; the Rudin family, which …

Zimbalist issues guiding principles for successful arena in Edmonton; guarantees of revenues and ancillary development absent in Brooklyn

In an Edmonton Journal article headlined Case for new arena no 'slam dunk': Leading analyst says such plans can work - if conditions are right, sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, who claims he turns down 70 percent of consulting gigs offered, offers a mixed opinion on a new downtown arena:Success, he says, comes down to a few guiding principles.

These include: thoughtful planning and design; a solid financial model that places most (roughly 80 per cent) of the financial burden on the private-sector partner; upfront, iron-clad guarantees from the developer to protect local taxpayers from projected future revenue shortfalls or project cost overruns; and a binding upfront commitment by the team owner and his developer-partners to proceed with ancillary projects, such as hotels or condos.What was missing in Brooklyn

Funny, but Zimbalist didn't say that in the "study" he conducted for Forest City Ratner. (He was hired before the project was unveiled in December 2003.)

Pr…

Everyone's getting tax breaks, says Daily News columnist, who neglects the ironies of the free-market Bloomberg administration

Daily News columnist Adam Lisberg, in Everyone is getting a break because who can afford to pay retail on taxes?, points out some ironies:Every one of the biggest new private construction projects in New York is helped along by some sort of public subsidy.

The World Trade Center floats on a sea of tax-free subsidized bonds and taxpayer-funded infrastructure. Same with the Barclays Arena under construction at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.

Big hospital projects, like a new research building at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell and a tower at Mount Sinai Medical Center, get tax-free bonds from the state Dormitory Authority.

Madison Square Garden isn't getting a break on the $850 million renovation it started last year - but belongs on the list since it hasn't paid any property taxes since 1982.

"I don't think there are any projects that don't get some type of public assistance," said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, which pu…

Flashback, 2006: interim surface parking could last "for some time," predicted Brooklyn Views blogger Cohn

Architect Jonathan Cohn hasn't been writing his Brooklyn Views blog since March 2007, but he was right on the money when he wrote, on 4/3/06, about the emergence of interim surface parking and the elasticity of "interim."

He wrote:One change in the Final Scope is the admission that an unspecified amount of “interim surface parking” on the eastern part of the project site will be constructed during Phase I. (P.14). This “use” of the site could be in-place for some time. While the Phase I analysis year is 2010 and Phase II is 2016, schedules for large projects are notorious for being accurate only at the moment they are proposed.Maybe not even then. Now we know that the interim surface parking could last for decades.

That arena entrance on Sixth Avenue? It would become a main entrance for a stretch if Building 1 gets constructed

Only in December 2010 did we see images of an arena entrance on Sixth Avenue, not present in any of the previous renderings, or in the Design Guidelines, which state that principal entrances " shall be located through the Urban Room and on Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street."

But the Urban Room, west of the arena, would be replaced by a plaza, and that plaza would be closed during the time of construction if and when the flagship tower, B1, is built. That would finally produce the Urban Room.

(Click to enlarge the image below, which portrays the arena from the southeast, with cars at left going west on Dean Street and at right coming south on Sixth Avenue.)

A new main entrance

Information on the new main entrance was in the 12/21/09 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, posted by the Empire State Development Corporation and laying out Forest City Ratner's obligations:In the event development of Building 1 is delayed so that it will be constructed after the arena c…

Flashback, 2006, Gargano interview: "This site is dormant. It's on a railyard" and "the improvements... will benefit all the people from that area"

Remember Charles Gargano, the George Pataki-era Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation who had a much higher profile than any of his successors? (Remember Patrick Foye, Avi Schick, Robert Wilmers, Marisa Lago, and Dennis Mullen? Now there's Kenneth Adams.)

Gargano, who liked to be called "the Ambassador" (for his time sweating out service in Trinidad and Tobago), famously declared "we cannot stop progress, stop development. I think what we have to do is to make sure we go through the proper process to assess everything."

To his credit, unlike his more cautious (and prudent) successors, Gargano liked to meet the press, and he was challenged at times during interviews, by Brian Lehrer ("classic political evasiveness") and also by Channel 13's Rafael Pi Roman, who interviewed him for an October 2006 piece I previously covered (overview and focus on blight).

Back to the video

Now Pi Roman has posted that New York Voices piece, The Battle for…

Reopening of Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed since January 2008 (supposedly for two years), nudged from April 2012 to "summer 2012"; will it go longer?

It was inevitable, wasn't it? We knew that the Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed since January 2008, had to reopen before the Atlantic Yards arena reopens.

And now that "substantial completion" of the arena is August 12, 2012, so too has the city Department of Transportation nudged back the reopening of the bridge from the most recent deadline, April 2012, to "summer 2012."

That's not the first revision of the plan, not by a long shot.

And I'd say there's a good chance that the bridge reopening could be nudged further back to "fall 2012," if the arena opens in the fall.

Closure for four-and-a-half years?

All this means that bridge would be closed for at least four-and-a-half years, more than twice as long as originally promised in the Atlantic Yards environmental review, approved in 2006.

Above right, the previous estimation from DOT.

Original plans

The bridge, which connects Pacific Street to Atlantic Avenue and thus Prospect Heights to Fort Green…

A day after losing out on Anthony, Nets get superstar point guard Williams; he's got a contract extension to sign, but for now, it's seen as a big win

After being seen as losers to the Knicks in the (costly) effort to attract star Carmelo Anthony, the Nets yesterday got superstar point guard Deron Williams, unhappy at the Utah Jazz in exchange for point guard Devin Harris (the face of EB-5 flackery), rookie forward Derrick Favors, and more.

For Nets fans, the optimistic perspective is that Williams will sign a contract extension and help attract more stars. The pessimistic one is that Williams won't sign and will leave.

But the consensus, for now, is that the Nets made a good deal. The Record: The Nets rebounded quickly and impressively after their long pursuit of Carmelo Anthony failed, acquiring a franchise-changing player and arguably the NBA’s best point guard.The Times: In a deal that shocked the league, the Nets obtained Deron Williams, one of the game’s best point guards, from the Utah Jazz. The trade is a tremendous boost for the Nets, who badly needed a franchise star to build around as they prepare to move to Brooklyn fo…

My thoughts on the meaning of the BK Nets? Don't forget the EB-5 story, as immigrant investors are misled into thinking they're supporting an arena

I was asked today to comment for a New York Observer article "about the post-Melo fight between the Nets and the Knicks for New York's psyche. Would you be interested in sharing your thoughts as to what this team does or does not mean for Brooklyn and the city as a whole?"

My response: "I think it means that Chinese millionaires think they're investing in an arena in exchange for green cards, via the developer's dubious deployment of the federal government's EB-5 program."

Don't put on blinders

Yeah, it sounds like a non sequitur, but the point is: when it comes to sports, I lean toward Dave Zirin, who can't forget how team owners wangle profits, not Will Leitch, who willfully puts on blinders.

And the New York Observer, however worthy its effort to cruise the borough basketball zeitgeist, should also have been reporting on what surely is misrepresentation and may be fraud.

It was former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky who famously said, "…

Real public works (transportation), the mis-described "wave of development" (as of 2007), and Atlantic Yards

At the panel Roads to Nowhere: Public Works in a Time of Crisis, last night at the Museum of the City of New York, the discussion focused on the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) train tunnel between New Jersey and New York vetoed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the Second Avenue Subway, and relatively smaller fixes like Bus Rapid Transit.

All of those are infrastructure projects that drive development. None are mega-projects like Atlantic Yards, run by a single private developer. (Atlantic Yards would add a transit entrance to an existing station, thus mainly serving the arena, and an upgraded but smaller railyard, not previously requested by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.)

Why did Christie act? Jeff Zupan of the Regional Plan Association suggested it was a matter of politics, as he had inherited a project approved by his predecessor: "politicians are always thinking about cutting a ribbon in their terms in office."

Joan Byron of the Pratt Center for Com…

Gotham Gazette: CPC's New Domino plan prompts criticism of affordable housing policy, but loan recipients offer pragmatic support

In Gotham Gazette, Brian Paul, a fellow at the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development, writes critically of the city's trickle-down affordable housing policies, and Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), the lead developer on the New Domino.

Not only has CPC been willing to partner with some questionable developers--the New Domino is not the first relationship with Isaac Katan--but it has focused on (mostly) luxury development on the fringe of gentrification, with its affordable housing lending concentrated in poor neighborhoods.

(A more detailed study in Williamsburg, from 2007, concluded that inclusionary zoning—which provides increased development rights in exchange for including affordable housing—has worked well on waterfront parcels, but not on smaller upland parcels.)

An AY parallel

In July 2007, I noted Some AY echoes in Williamsburg's New Domino plan (& hype). Paul's analysis suggests another parallel, that with ACORN, which argued t…

Near arena site, O'Connor's expands, though AY-connected buyer was rebuffed

Here's Park Slope blogger Dan Myers has an interesting interview with Mike Maher, who bought O'Connor's Bar, on Fifth Avenue between Bergen and Dean, three years ago, and is expanding it with a beer garden, a backyard, and a kitchen.

And while it is not becoming an arena bar, as apparently some suitors sought, it can't not be influenced by the building just a few blocks north:
"When I was a candidate to purchase this bar from the O'Connor family, I was the only one who promised to keep the name, and the brand," said Maher. "Everybody else wanted to change the name. People connected to the Atlantic Yards offered them more money, but they sold it to me because I promised to keep it O'Connor's, and to not build condos on the roof. I think the O'Connor family would be happy with what we're doing here. They never considered the bar a 'dive,' and if you take a look around, we've always kept it spotless in here."

Maher cla…

Jeffries, Barron, James seen as leading candidates for Congressional seat now held by Towns

City Hall News reports on the expected departure of Rep. Ed Towns and his son Darryl Towns' recent appointment to a post in Albany, in Next Towns Over: The next expected Brooklyn Congressional vacancy:Now, the field for the coveted north Brooklyn seat has likely narrowed to four frontrunners: Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, Council Member Charles Barron, Council Member Tish James and, depending on whether he runs for re-election, Ed Towns himself.

There are reasons to believe Towns may not. He not only lost his chairmanship but also was very publicly bounced as the ranking member of his committee by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over fears that Towns would not aggressively combat investigations launched by the new chair, California Rep. Darrell Issa.Still, a Towns spokesman said last week that the Congressman would run again.

Barron vs. Jeffries?

Though Jeffries is reportedly preparing for a race, he was closemouthed: "Others might fantasize about a hypothetical campaign, …

As Nets lose out to (high-paying) Knicks in Anthony trade, Prokhorov takes some hits; goodbye, Devin Harris, face of EB-5 flackery?

Well, Bruce Ratner has convinced Daily News columnist Denis Hamill (who conveniently forgot about affordable housing and permanent jobs) of the importance of the in-construction Barclays Center arena, it's a tougher sell for Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who lost to the Knicks (who paid dearly in a turf war with the Nets) in the trade for departing Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony.

Writes the Daily News' Mitch Lawrence, in Mikhail Prokhorov is all talk, no action, lets Carmelo Anthony slip through Nets' fingers to Knicks:There's no other way to sum it up: Monday night was another bad night for the Nets under Prokhorov.

Just as last July was a bad month for the Nets' owner, when the Knicks got Amar'e Stoudemire and he got Travis Outlaw.

Prokhorov likes to tweak his counterpart, Garden chairman Jim Dolan. He likes to put up billboards across the street from the Garden, challenging the Knicks. He likes to send statements out of Moscow saying he doesn't want …

ESDC in 2009 promised B2, first affordable housing tower, wouldn't be delayed; is hold-up due to search for bank financing or new subsidies?

The first tower planned for the Atlantic Yards arena block is delayed yet again, even though, when the project was re-approved by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in 2009, the agency asserted that at least that building--Building 2, at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street--was on track.

According to the June 2009 Technical Memorandum:These potential delays due to prolonged adverse economic conditions would not affect the timing of the development of the arena, the transit access improvements, the construction of the new LIRR rail yard, the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge or the construction of Building 2. It could, however, delay the construction of some of the remaining buildings on the arena block as well as the Phase II sites.
It's unclear whether the delay is caused by the unavailability of affordable housing bonds, bank financing, or both.

But as of August 2009, as the Times reported, the developer was already seeking additional affordable hou…

Jesse Jackson, 1996: "Between these mountains of the ball parks and the jails was once Campbell's Soup and Sears and Zenith... and stockyards."

Once upon a time, before developers muddied up sports facility projects with mixed-use add-ons that might or might not deliver jobs and taxes and publicly-accessible open space, such projects could be seen plain.

Consider the Rev. Jesse Jackson's stirring 8/27/96 speech at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The prepared text was amplified and amended in the remarks as delivered; Jackson, among other things, went off on stadiums and called--15 years before it became more mainstream--for investment in infrastructure.

As Michael Lewis explains in his book Losers: The Road To Everyplace but the White House, Jackson abandoned his notes and became the only speaker to fully engage the crowd, addressing the issue nearly everybody had ignored: economic justice.

Sports facilities as mountain tops

Jackson said, in part: The Republicans in San Diego put forward the image, the vision of a big tent. On the cover was Gen. Powell and Jack Kemp. But clearly you cannot judge a book by its c…

Now at the ESDC, succeeding Laremont and Bloch: Leecia Eve, the almost-Lieutenant Governor, and Juanita Scarlett, veteran governmental/political hand

A reader points me to news of two executive appointments at the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), who should have some role, as had their predecessors, in Atlantic Yards.

The summaries are from The Business Council:Leecia Eve, Senior Vice President and Counsel to the Empire State Development Corporation
Ms. Eve most recently served as Vice President for Policy of the No Limits Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that promotes economic issues at home and abroad and advocates transforming American foreign policy around the world, including advancing the rights of women. She is a former partner at Hodgson Russ, Western New York's largest law firm. She served as a judicial clerk to the New York State Court of Appeals Judge Fritz W. Alexander II, Judiciary Committee Counsel to then-Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and as Senate Counsel to then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Eve succeeds Anita Laremont, who took the state's early-retirement incentive. Laremont had the u…

New York Times devotes investigative resources to Park Slope Food Co-op "scandal," ignores EB-5 story

This is pretty rich or, rather, brutally weird. Yesterday, the New York Times devoted two reporters and some 1100 words to an article headlined At a Food Co-op, a Discordant Thought: Nannies Covering Shifts:So the allegation by a Park Slope blog last week that some members were sending their nannies to fulfill their work shifts has raised eyebrows and debate among the granola-and-strollers set of greater Park Slope, and smug satisfaction among those who would rather go to Key Food. The allegation, by a blog "which goes by a name that cannot be printed in this newspaper" (Fucked in Park Slope), was worth a follow-up, a perfect story for, say, the old and departed City section.

But the coverage seems disproportionate to the Times's willingness to ignore Atlantic Yards. Meanwhile, there's a blog that kinda did some reporting about Forest City Ratner's attempt to raise $249 million from immigrant investors under the federal government's EB-5 program.

Other northeastern cities move ahead to lower mandated parking in developments; will New York replace PlaNYC 1950?

In December 2007, 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.

In Building a Greener Future: A Progress Report on New York City’s Sustainability Initiatives, released in May 2008, The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund recommended, among other things, a comprehensive study of the parking requirements in the Zoning Resolution. Last July, the Department of City Planning was said to be rethinking parking minimums in new developments in western Brooklyn and elsewhere.

Others move ahead

But nothing's happened yet, while others move ahead. Streetsblog reports, in New York Falls Behind Big Northeast Cities on Parking Po…

Winning the lottery: The speculator who damned Ratner, got $3 million for his Pacific Street property, and then gushed about the developer

So, here's a story credulous Daily News columnist Denis Hamill somehow missed: a speculator (like the guys who bought the building housing Freddy's), who slammed Forest City Ratner when it was strategic, then, after he cashed in for $3 million, praised Bruce Ratner to the skies.


Crown Heights resident Menachem Friedfertig bought this empty garage, at 622 Pacific Street, in May 2003, for $382,000, as noted in the document embedded below.

That was two months before any mention of Atlantic Yards surfaced in the press, and six months before the plan was announced.

According to the New York Sun, whose 9/2/04 article was headlined "Message to Ratner: ‘I Want My $4M’: Brooklyn Developer Looks To Cash In," Friedfertig planned a new building, with medical offices on the first floor, and five stories of condos, all permitted by current zoning, and got approval from the Department of Buildings.

He clearly felt he had lucked out, telling the Sun, "I have the winning lottery…

Credulous Daily News columnist Denis Hamill asserts "Atlantic Yards" dream real for Ratner, buys into Ratner spin, fails to check facts

Denis Hamill, the Daily News's most prominent Atlantic Yards apologist, today pens a fabulist valentine to Bruce Ratner, headlined Atlantic Yards and the Nets Barclays Arena dream real for Bruce Ratner - after 7-yr. nightmare.

First, let's check the headline. The arena might be happening, but Atlantic Yards isn't very real at all. Hamill couldn't be bothered to check, but the much-ballyhooed affordable housing is yet again delayed.

And instead of taking ten years, as Ratner repeatedly promised, the project more likely would take 25.

But that's not why--I suspect--Forest City Ratner reached out to the convenient Hamill. They need to sell some suites, and some sponsorships.

Leading off

Hamill writes: The first time I met him he was 59, and I walked with him along Dean St., where he explained his dream of building a sports arena for the "Brooklyn Nets" basketball team on this place called Atlantic Yards.There's no place called Atlantic Yards. It's the nam…