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Showing posts from October, 2011

The secret history of Forest City's prefab plans: partner modular firm charged with sneaky business, but settlement resolves lawsuit; case file reveals threat by FCR exec

The first third of this article describes the outline of the story; the rest delves into further depth. The article is based on my reading of the case file in the lawsuit described below (Kullman Buildings Corp. vs. XSite Modular), online sources, as well as additional comments from architect James Garrison. 

I contacted Forest City's spokesman this morning to ask for comment on behalf of the company and its partner XSite and was told, "As of now, they will not comment." I will post updates should they develop. 

Developer Forest City Ratner’s ambition to build modular towers at record-setting heights, which could make Atlantic Yards profitable and launch a new prefab business, has provoked curiosity, speculation, and concern since reports of such plans surfaced in March 2011.

After all, with modular construction, Forest City might cut costs and construction time considerably. Atlantic Yards, now likely to take decades, could be completed closer to the long-promised ten-ye…

From Atlantic Yards Watch and CLEXY Block Association: concern over "Future Stadium Event Traffic on Classon Avenue"

A message on Atlantic Yards Watch, headlined Future Stadium Event Traffic on Classon Avenue , from CLEXY Block Association (Classon, Lexington, and Quincy):
Over 500 people have signed the petition to address the traffic issues on Classon Avenue created by the Atlantic Yards.
Classon Avenue is clearly being targeted as the main means of egress for future event traffic to the BQE. Classon Avenue is almost exclusively a residential street, yet current levels of illegal truck usage from the Atlantic Yards (Classon is not a truck route [map excerpt above], Bedford Avenue is the designated truck route) are creating serious health and safety risks for all who live, work and travel on Classon Avenue. These unsafe conditions will be greatly exacerbated by the increased traffic associated with the Atlantic Yards events. The CLEXY Block Association is petitioning for:
1. No Left Turn designation from Atlantic onto Classon Avenue
2. Clear and prominent signage along Atlantic designating Bedford a…

On official abdication of responsibility, and cheerleading editorials

Let's take a look at an interesting column today about the impact of political and journalistic forces. I've left some identifiers blank until the bottom:
So how does [blank] it? It starts with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

No mayor in recent history has abdicated his responsibilities in [blank] as has Bloomberg.

...Second, there is the compliant media, reflected in the cheerleading editorials of the Daily News. That was the paper with the once-proud motto, to contrast it with the Post, “The City’s Honest Voice.”

That motto is as dead as the dodo.This is from Ray Kelly: Too Much Respect, from Leonard Levitt's NYPD Confidential blog, and the blanks reference police commissioner Kelly and police department oversight.

Bloomberg is only partly responsible for Atlantic Yards--the state has more responsibility--but, in both cases, they've mostly let developer Forest City Ratner take the lead, complying, for example, with Forest City's 2009 request to renegotiate its deal with …

Guilt over recycling? Consider construction waste from "the 1%"

The New York Times today prints comments regarding last Sunday's article on the recycling conundrum facing New Yorkers, headlined Lunch, Landfills and What I Tossed. One comment that made it into print, from union carpenter Gregory A. Butler:
It's fascinating that most of the commenters are focused on hectoring and lecturing the common man and woman to bring their own knives, forks, plates, napkins (and maybe even tables and chairs) from home as a means of reducing waste.

The thing is, a full 50% - 7 million tons out of 14 million tons of waste generated in this city every year - is industrial debris from construction.

Contrary to the article, we're not talking about "dirt" here. We're talking about cutoffs from metal studs, tracks and beams, pieces of scrap sheetrock, cardboard boxes that contained bathtubs, sinks, toilets and stoves, pieces of wood, sawdust, scrap electrical wiring ect ect ect.

There would probably be a lot more waste if construction workers…

In Westchester magazine, a heroic profile of FCR's Gilmartin, with some acknowledgment of controversy

Reporters aiming to profile Forest City Ratner executives have a couple of options: there's the route of total sycophancy, as with the Real Deal's portrait of CEO Bruce Ratner, or the path of complication, as with a piece in the Forward on Ratner.

Given that Westchester Magazine is one of those glossy publications with a booster-ish edge, it's unsurprising that the publication's profile of FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin emphasizes triumph: Neighbor: Edgemont Resident MaryAnne Gilmartin, Executive Vice President of Commercial and Residential Development at Forest City Ratner Companies:
She’s overseen some of the area’s largest real-estate projects. But before MaryAnne Gilmartin could become a force among New York’s developers, she had to build up something else from nearly nothing: herself.


The summary:
If the woman in front of [FCR's] 8 Spruce Street is a household name, the woman behind it is less so, though remarkable in her own right: MaryAnne Gilmartin, exec…

What's the press for? "To hold those in power accountable." But a lack of attention or sustained coverage diminishes accountability.

At the Brooklyn Book Festival Sunday, September 18, I attended a panel featuring three journalists, all Pulitzer Prize winners.

One, Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica ("an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest"), observed, "The primary function of the press is to hold those in power accountable."

That's a justification for First Amendment protections, but that doesn't mean the press consistently recognizes that watchdogrole.

That issues arises in the book Bad News: How America's Business Press Missed the Story of the Century, about the failure to anticipate the financial crisis, despite significant evidence that it was looming.

And yes, there are some observations that apply to Atlantic Yards.

The impact of under-coverage

In an essay titled "Missing the Moment," Ryan Chittum, who writes about the business press for Columbia Journalism Review, observed:
It's easy to find perfectly fine storie…

The Markowitz defense/explanation: I did it for Brooklyn (plus a letter the Times didn't print)

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has a letter in today's New York Times, responding to the newspaper's lengthy investigation of his private fundraising:
I wasn’t elected Brooklyn borough president to do nothing, and I certainly wasn’t chosen for my good looks. My office doesn’t set its own budgets, and gets only $300,000 in discretionary money for programming in a borough of 2.6 million people — less than 12 cents per person! I refuse to accept these limitations, and Brooklynites deserve better.

To make a difference for Brooklyn, I’m an aggressive supporter of economic development and proud of every project that has helped our borough reach new heights.

The nonprofits affiliated with my office have helped countless Brooklynites, sending thousands of kids to summer camp, entertaining millions at free summer concerts, playing host to the largest book festival in the Northeast and providing residents in need with toys and food during the holidays.

And to the businesses t…

Forest City: dropping Mill Basin project had nothing to do with corruption probe

The Wall Street Journal today follows up on news (as I and others reported yesterday) that Forest City Ratner's Four Sparrows Marsh Retail Center at Mill Basin has been withdrawn, explaining that it's actually dead, but--according to the developer--the Carl Kruger corruption charges have nothing to do with it.

In Plans Killed for Project Tied to Probe, the newspaper reports:
The shopping center had ties to a corruption case involving Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, but Forest City officials said that case had no connection to their decision to drop the project.

The builder believed the shopping center faced an uphill battle on two fronts, according to a person familiar with the matter: Forest City was worried about political opposition to the big-box retailers planned for the site, and the developer wanted to avoid an expected lengthy legal battle over turning city park land into commercial space.Well, Atlantic Yards faced a battle, if not an uphill one, but Forest City Ratner…

A "tough guy from Brooklyn": new book describes Vinny Viola, Nets minority owner (and the one who brought Mary Higgins Clark on board)

Had the larger-than-life Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov not emerged on the scene, the buyer of the New Jersey Nets may well have been Brooklyn-born Vincent (Vinny) Viola, former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and now chair of the firm Virtu Financial.

And Viola appears to be a colorful figure in his own right, according to The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked the World's Oil Market, journalist Leah McGrath Goodman's dishy 2011 book about NYMEX. Still, given some careless reporting, we may have to take some of it with a grain of salt.

(Photo from Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, which Viola has supported philanthropically. A retired Army Reserve Major, he still lectures on cyber warfare.)


The book also explains that Viola was the connection that brought several investors to the Nets, including novelist Mary Higgins Clark.

A "tough guy from Brooklyn"

Goodman credits Viola with managing NYMEX well in the horrific wake of the 9/11…