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Showing posts from April, 2011

At the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street, some exhibits with Atlantic Yards reflections

The Soapbox Gallery, a window at 636 Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues across from the interim surface parking lot planned to serve the Atlantic Yards arena, is hosting installations from 11 artists beginning today through June 23.

As indicated in the below press release, the installations April 3-May 7, May 15-May 21 (note that the description of Atlantic Yards is more than a tad incorrect), May 29-June 8 reflect on Atlantic Yards.

For the latter installation, as indicated in the second document, artist Elaine Angelopoulous seeks to borrow Atlantic Yards-related materials from neighborhood residents.Soapbox Press Release April-june Schedule-2

Flyer Layout With Text-1

Transit-oriented development? A developer (not Forest City Ratner) says parking minimums in dense districts near transit are unwise

Streetsblog has a very interesting interview with Alan Bell, co-founder of the Hudson Companies, about parking minimums (an issue under discussion in the PlaNYC revision):Bell identified Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue as another design casualty of parking minimums, pointing to buildings like Boymelgreen Developers’ much-maligned Crest and Novo apartment buildings. The large buildings there were required to include parking, but subway lines under the street made putting it underground cost prohibitive. “[Boymelgreen] made the calculation that he’d rather sacrifice having retail on the ground floor in exchange for not putting the parking below ground, it was so expensive,” said Bell. The result is a series of buildings that are utterly indifferent to pedestrian life, presenting blank walls and parking to the sidewalk. One solution Bell proposed is revising the zoning code so that parking minimums are eliminated in medium- or high-density districts near transit. Said Bell, “Historica…

PlaNYC 2030, the questionable estimate of 1M more people, Morrone's history of erroneous NYC predictions, and the preservation movement

Will New York grow by a million people by 2030, the premise of Mayor Mike Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 sustainability effort? The latest statistics, growth of 2.1% over the past decade, suggest it's increasingly unlikely, though Bloomberg and others contest the numbers.

Still, the PlaNYC update should at least acknowledge the new numbers--but it hasn't, as Michael D. D. White points out in his Noticing New York blog:Not only have the population projections not been changed in the plan... the old numbers remain firmly anchored in the plan.A history of misplaced predictions

That got me thinking about the insightful keynote address given March 5 by historian, critic, and much-lauded guide Francis Morrone at the annual conference of the Historic Districts Council (HDC).

One theme of his address: over the past 40 years, the span of HDC's existence, many predictions have been way off. And though Morrone didn't mention PlaNYC, anyone listening would have another reason for skept…

ESDC announces extended working hours at the Vanderbilt Yard, beginning earlier, ending later, and adding Saturday work

The Empire State Development Corporation yesterday distributed a Supplemental Report to its bi-weekly Atlantic Yards Construction Update, announcing extended working hours at the site, beginning earlier and ending later, and also introducing Saturday work for at least three months: The following section has been modified to include new information:

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard/ Carlton Avenue Bridge
New Information: commencing on May 2, 2011, yard construction hours will be: 6am – 4:30pm. In addition, beginning on Saturday May 7, 2011, construction work will take place on Saturdays during the hours of 7am – 5:30pm for a period of at least three months. Work will consist of the installation of SOE [support of excavation] piles along the south side of the jobsite within block 1120 & 1121; along “the bump” on Block 1120 (Lots 19, 28 and 35) and near the former gas station on Block 1121, lot 42.The FEIS on work hours

Chapter 17, Construction Impacts, of the November 2006 Final E…

FCR may raise $40M more from immigrant investors; document confirms that EB-5 loans can be used to pay off mortgages, says nothing about job creation

An Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) document reveals that developer Forest City Ratner, which already has signed up 498 immigrant investors to offer a $249 million low-interest loan, may seek another 80 investors for a $40 million loan.

The agreement (bottom) between the ESDC and a Forest City Ratner affiliate was acquired via a Freedom of Information Law request. Though it offers much detail on how the money might be spent--Forest City has wide latitude--it says nothing about the ostensible purpose of the funding under the federal government's EB-5 immigration program: job creation.

The issue of job creation must be addressed in documents submitted to a federal agency, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The investors park their money for perhaps five years, and can get green cards for themselves and their families, assuming the claims of job creation pass muster.

More savings to FCR

The document indicates (right) that the Brooklyn Arena Infrastructure and …

Another arena-related bar coming to Pacific Street, between Players and residences

As a commenter pointed out on Park Slope Patch, another bar, Machavelle, is destined for 602 Pacific Street, what appears to be a residential building (with, apparently, mixed-use zoning) next to the furniture store that would be the home of Players, a gastropub and sports bar, which generated much concern at a Community Board 6 committee meeting Monday night.

A liquor license application for Machavelle was filed April 12, so the plans have apparently not yet been before the Community Board.

A brief YouTube video, below, is described as "New Bar Design in downtown Brooklyn across from the new Nets stadium."

For Construction Safety Week, Department of Buildings leads visit to Atlantic Yards arena site; videos show perspective on construction

Yesterday, as part of Construction Safety Week and the "Experience is Not Enough" campaign, the city Department of Buildings (DOB) offered a tour to the press of the Barclays Center site, aiming to remind workers and others about safe construction practices throughout the city.

The arena site was chosen not because it's been the site of major problems but rather an a site where there's been good communication between workers/managers and the DOB.

Here a reports from NY1, CBS radio, the Architect's Newspaper, and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which is by far the most detailed, pointing, for example, to three phases: excavation, foundation work and erection of steel.

I shot a few videos. Below, Deputy Commissioner Eugene Corcoran of the Department of Buildings speaks to the press. (Yes, the audio is obscured because of the significant noise of the site and my imperfect equipment.)



Below, a series of segments showing views of the site and an interview with the DOB's Ey…

Before press tour of arena site, community concerns about oversight, responsiveness, District Cabinet schedule

Before the press tour yesterday of the Atlantic Yards arena site held by the Department of Buildings (DOB), Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association distributed a sheet reminding reporters about the need for effective oversight of the project, such as a governance entity, common with other large projects.

He was not targeting the DOB but rather the Empire State Development Corporation, which has overall responsibility for the project.

Krashes is filmed talking with Erin Durkin of the New York Daily News and Kristen Brown of Park Slope Patch; he cited a problem with significant dust from a drill at the railyard site.

Despite sending videos to the ESDC, he said it took several weeks for the problem to be taken seriously.

Also, the quarterly Atlantic Yards District Cabinet meeting, which was supposed to be moved to a bi-monthly schedule, was instead kept at a quarterly schedule, set for May 5, he said, but that meeting has been cancelled.

(The first set of frames is rotated 90 degre…

Two walks near the Atlantic Yards site: Sixth Avenue (below Flatbush Avenue) and Flatbush; Dean Street and Sixth Avenue

Yesterday, to document the street scenes near the Atlantic Yards arena site, I filmed two walks. Both show the intersection of residential, retail, and construction.

(Yes, the handheld camera is unsteady.)

The first begins on Sixth Avenue in the north part of Park Slope, continues to Flatbush, then goes northwest to Pacific Street, across the street from the construction site.



The second begins at the northeast corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue, just opposite the construction entrance, continues to Sixth Avenue in Prospect Heights, then goes one block south to Bergen Street.

Some ambiguous words from new HPD head, City Council housing chair on Atlantic Yards affordable housing

In Point/Counterpoint: Mathew Wambua & Erik Martin Dilan, published 4/25/11, City Hall News asked new Housing, Preservation and Development Commissioner Matthew Wambua and City Council Housing Committee Chair Erik Martin Dilan to discuss various housing issues.

One was Atlantic Yards; here are their somewhat ambiguous comments, in response to the unstated but implied question that Forest City Ratner was scaling back its promises: Wambua: Atlantic Yards, I had not heard they were scaling back [affordable housing], to tell the truth. I’d heard that they were thinking about a new kind of development, which would be a modular multistory, I think 35-story modular development. But I wasn’t necessarily under the impression they were doing anything less than what they’d anticipated doing so much as different from what they’d anticipated doing.

For our product—the product we develop—for middle-income and lower-income housing, there’s huge significant unaccommodated demand, and so there’s cyc…

A gastropub and sports bar coming to Pacific & Flatbush: another incursion on residents or the best alternative near the arena? CB calls for caution

Residents of northwest Park Slope, already wary of seemingly under-the-radar efforts to install new arena-related bars near the under-construction Barclays Center, had some harsh words last night for entrepreneurs aiming to put Players Gastro Pub and Sportsbar, plus a pizza/falafel quick serve combo, in a building on Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue now home to a furniture store.

(Above left, photo from Google Maps; note that the building at left has been demolished and is the site of arena construction. The view is looking south along Flatbush.)

“We do not need a bar on Pacific Street,” commented resident Syble Henderson, who helped found the Brooklyn Bear’s community garden at the northwest corner of Pacific and Flatbush, speaking at at a Community Board 6 subcommittee meeting concerning permits and licenses.

“Historically that block has been impacted with all kinds of anti-social activities,” Henderson said at the meeting held at the 78th Precinct at Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue, …

Another chance to see the documentary on Freddy's Bar and Backroom

Vicente Rodriguez Ortega's documentary Freddy's debuted last year (review), and it will be shown tomorrow, April 27, at indieScreen, 85 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, as part of the Brooklyn Film Festival.

The blurb:Freddy's Bar & Backroom was a thriving cultural hub situated in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Open since prohibition, the bar featured a unique and colorful history. It was destroyed in 2010 to make way for the Atlantic Yards development project. This charming documentary had its World Premiere at the 2010 Brooklyn Film Festival, and captures the diverse set of characters in Freddy's community - the bartenders, the regulars, the artists and the musicians. Freddy's recently reopened in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but this film provides a window into an era of Brooklyn's history that has been permanently demolished. Tickets.

Mockup of weathered steel façade panels for arena delayed two months, should be delivered in mid-May

Remember how Forest City Ratner VP for Construction Bob Sanna said that arena subcontractors were behind on producing the pre-weathered steel for the Barclays Center exterior?

Well, another aspect of that project seems to be behind. According to the latest ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE, Weeks of April 25, 2011 through May 8, 2011, produced by Forest City Ratner and distributed by the Empire State Development Corporation: The excavation and concrete footing placement for a long term but temporary visual mockup of the weathered steel façade panels has been completed at 752 Pacific Street. The mockup panel delivery and placement of the footing was originally expected to be completed during the reporting periods covering March 7th through March 25th, however the delivery has been revised to mid-May.

On Tuesday, a Construction Safety Week visit to the Atlantic Yards site

From the Department of Buildings: Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri today announced the launch of the 7th Annual Construction Safety Week, a week-long series of events aimed at raising awareness about safe construction practices throughout the City. To kickoff this year’s events, the Department hosted a four-hour safety conference – Build Safe / Live Safe: An Inside Look at the Latest Construction Trends in New York City – at New York University in Manhattan today with more than 250 construction industry professionals to discuss new ways to improve construction operations, as well as specific trends identified in recent construction-related accidents. The Department also launched a new safety campaign, entitled “Experience Is Not Enough,” to encourage all construction workers to use proper fall protection, such as guardrails, harnesses and nets, while working on a job site. Tomorrow is an Atlantic Yards visit: On Tuesday, Department inspectors will visit the Atlantic Yards constr…

Kunpeng, consultancy promoting AY to immigrant investors in China, among firms willing to deceive regulators, according to newspaper investigation

There's new evidence that consultants helping Chinese millionaires immigrate, as in the program involving the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project," are skating toward fraud.

In this case, the evidence does not involve the EB-5 program, in which investors park $500,000 for a purportedly job-creating project in exchange for green cards for themselves and their family, but rather a similar Canadian program.

Kunpeng International, a consultant prominent in promoting the Brooklyn project as an associate of the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), an investment pool working with Forest City Ratner, has been identified as one willing to deceive Canadian regulators.

(Kunpeng's head is at right in the photo with the Empire State Development Corporation's Peter Davidson, who provided a certificate during a roadshow in China last October. That proclamation, as I wrote, elides the difference between the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project before the potential in…

A blind spot toward the ESDC, and some questions of legal ethics regarding Atlantic Yards representations

Yesterday, wry New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote about "angry" new Republican governors in Wanna Buy a Turnpike?:In Ohio and Wisconsin, angry new governors John Kasich and Scott Walker are taking economic development out of the hands of state bureaucrats and giving the job to new quasi-private entities that will be much more effective and efficient.

In Florida, where the Legislature did all that in the 1990s, the angry new governor Rick Scott has a bold plan to improve economic development by creating a State Department of Commerce that will be much more effective and efficient.

Really, just so there’s change and it doesn’t sound socialistic. “We don’t want to leave any money on the table,” said Kasich, who is planning to sell five prisons, the lottery and maybe do something with the turnpike. I’m from Ohio, and while I never did like the turnpike, I’ve always been a fan of history. I wonder if I could get a good deal on the Warren Harding homestead.Collins might wan…

Atlantic Terminal part of AY complex? Nah.

From NetsDaily: Also, here's a little viewed video of the entry pavilion of the one piece of the Atlantic Yards complex that's complete, the Long Island Railroad/New York Subway terminal across the street (and around the corner) from the arena. The terminal is a one end of an underground concourse that links nine subway lines (used to be 10 but the "V" line has been discontinued), the LIRR and the Barclays Center Transit Connection in front of the arena. The Atlantic Terminal is going to become very familiar to Nets fans.Actually, the Atlantic Terminal transit hub is not "one piece of the Atlantic Yards complex." Rather, a piece of the latter--an under-construction new passageway--connects to the terminal. (And the V line never went to Brooklyn.)

For more, see my 1/6/10 post, Atlantic Yards revisionism and the belated LIRR pavilion at Atlantic Terminal.

PlaNYC update: an Atlantic Yards mention (for water mains!) and potential reconsideration of parking requirements

On April 21, Mayor Mike Bloomberg released an an update (massive PDF) on PlaNYC 2030, the sustainability initiative launched in 2007.
Notable is an oblique mention of Atlantic Yards, as well as a nod to a major omission in the original plan: consideration of reducing parking requirements in residential developments, especially those near transit.
Previously I called the policy PlaNYC 1950, and the City Planning Commission is reportedly already studying the reduction of parking minimums.
An Atlantic Yards mention

Notably, Atlantic Yards is not described as transit-oriented development, or as the right way to develop publicly-owned property. it does get a nod under the heading "Upgrade water main infrastructure":Once water leaves our in-city-tunnels, it travels through 6,700 miles of water mains to reach our homes. These aging pipes require continual maintenance and occasional upgrades. We will build out and replace critical water supply infrastructure to support the growth of th…

Did elimination of pro hockey option at Barclays Center deceive bondholders?

Michael D.D. White, in his Noticing New York blog, thinks it might, citing "craftily negative" language in the offering statement: OK, that language says that it has “NOT” been “assumed that the New York Islanders would relocate to the Barclays Center” but doesn’t it by any reasonable standard imply that, with luck, there is a legitimate possibility Islanders or another professional hockey team could decide to relocate to the arena?

...As such, if the bonds for the arena one day default, as they could, will bond holders be able to sue on the basis that this statement misleadingly misrepresented the arena’s potential uses and revenue sources and therefore its value? If not, the non-positive statement at least says something negative about Forest City Ratner’s business ethics in its willingness to convey misimpressions with craftily constructed non-promises.

Another victory for the "Atlantic Yards" meme, as MTA critic uses term to describe Vanderbilt Yard

From a GlobeSt.com article yesterday headlined MTA Looks to Unload Midtown Headquarters:Gene Rusianoff, staff attorney for transit advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign, tells GlobeSt.com that he’s concerned that the MTA find the money it needs to fund its rebuilding program. “They need the dough,” Russianoff says. “They have a five-year rebuilding program and only funding for the first two years.” Russianoff’s main concern, he says, is that the organization not cheat itself on any property it sells. “We don’t think the MTA got a very good deal for the West Side Yards or the Atlantic Yards.”(Emphasis added)

Russianoff was using shorthand, but, as I wrote 3/29/11, actually, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority property, 8.5 acres, is called the Vanderbilt Yard.

By contrast, Atlantic Yards is the brand for a 22-acre site that includes formerly public streets, formerly private property, and some private property that neither the state nor developer Forest City Ratner controls.

The late Robert Fitch and The Assassination of New York: the loss of manufacturing was not accidental

Robert Fitch, an independent, impecunious left intellectual, freelance academic, and author of the little-known but still influential The Assassination of New York (Verso 1993, paperback, 1996), died March 4 at 72.

That prompted tributes and reflections from Doug Henwood in The Nation and Josh Mason (and others, including Fitch family members) on his blog.

The book still has resonance for today, including the portrayal of a real estate strategy (build!) as a jobs strategy, the role of the City Planning Commission in validating the power structure, the distorting impact of tax incentives on new construction, the reasons why New York is un-democratic, and the difficulty in fighting real estate proposals more complicated than building a highway through a neighborhood.

Here's the blurb for the book, which was published--as was Robert Caro's The Power Broker, by the way--at a time when New York seemed to be down for the count: In this indictment of those who have wrecked New Yor…