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Showing posts from November, 2011

Forbes feature on Gilmartin (and Pavlova) repeats developer's talking points, revisionist history

Forbes.com, in a feature aimed for its ForbesWoman channel, offers Meet The Women Behind The Brooklyn Nets, focusing on Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin and Onexim's Irina Pavlova.

Writes Jenna Goudreau, transcribing without skepticism Gilmartin's self-serving account:
Gilmartin, 47, has been a commercial real estate developer with Forest City for 17 years—seemingly as long as this project’s been in the works. The firm purchased the Nets in 2004, she explains, with the intention of bringing them to Brooklyn and building a state-of-the-art sports complex and 15 residential buildings over an old rail line running through the borough’s center. Rigorous public reviews, resident protests and holdouts, 35 lawsuits and a volatile economy resulted in years of delays.Here's what Gilmartin said, on the video below:
"So this project has been in the planning since 1994, when we purchased the New Jersey Nets, with the intention of bringing them to Brooklyn, to build a new…

Two sports columnists react to the resumption of the NBA and the meaning of Brooklyn

Grantland editor Dan Fierman, a contributor to The NBA Is Back! An over-the-top, totally ridiculously long, undeniably giddy appreciation of the return of the NBA by the Grantland staff:
One of the very hardest things about leaving Brooklyn was sacrificing a front-row seat to how the Nets move played out. The real estate battles, the simmering class warfare over the Barclays Center, and the arrival, as if from space, of the gangly billionaire from Russia was the greatest drama we had going in the borough. The storylines were ready-made: The return of professional sports to the County of Kings! The Deron Williams contract debate! Jay and Bey courtside every night!

These things were (obviously) media crack in the only city in America that has its own 24-hour cable news channel. But to me and my 30-something peers, the Nets move was more than that. Brooklyn is a borough rapidly filling with children. Schools are bursting at the seams. Teachers can't be hired fast enough. The parks ov…

The EB-5 files: federal agency stonewalls request for info on job creation by immigrant investors, reveals misleading claim about arena bonds, withholds a letter made public elsewhere

So, how exactly did Forest City Ratner and the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) aim to convince federal overseers and potential investors that the plan to seek $249 million in funds from 498 green card-seeking immigrant investors was kosher?

We may never know, since the federal agency overseeing the EB-5 program is keeping most key information under wraps. For example, the document explaining how that investment would produce--as required by federal law--at least ten jobs per $500,000 investor was redacted, deemed a trade secret.

Other documents deemed trade secrets have already been made public by other parties, suggesting that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a rather heavy hand when it comes to transparency.

No way to evaluate job-creation claim

So, while the EB-5 program is justified as supporting job creation, there's no way to evaluate that claim when it comes to the Brooklyn Arena & Infrastructure Project--said to consist of the are…

NY Court of Appeals, reversing surprise decision, OKs state economic development grants; Daily News, which saluted AY, lauds dissent by Judge Robert Smith (whose AY dissent the paper ignored)

A 5-2 state Court of Appeals decision last week (Bordeleau vs. New York State) upholding state grants for economic development wasn't a surprise, even though the court had to reverse an appellate court that gave the Tea Party-affiliated plaintiffs some measure of hope.

Yes, the state Constitution bans gifts and loans to private entities, but the state has done so for years through intermediary public benefit benefit corporations like the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), based on the premise that they are independent. (Of course, the governor controls the ESDC, as we've seen in the Atlantic Yards saga.)

And, judges are reluctant to intervene in such longstanding, however dubious, economic development policy, even if involves the largest state economic development subsidy in history, to upstate chip maker GlobalFoundries, which--no surprise--is already seeking to modify and improve the deal it got.

An editorial surprise

What was a surprise was a scorching 11/26/11 New…

So, how much did unions give up to get the Barclays Center going?

On Local 157 blogspot, "Where New York City District Council Carpenters Communicate, Connect and Stay Informed!" there's an intriguing comment posted in response to a reposting of Daily News columnist Denis Hamill's valentine to Forest City Ratner's Bob Sanna and the union workers building the arena.

Wrote the anonymous commenter:
How about some free tickets for the men who took the hit on the PLA's [Project Labor Agreements] to make it happen.

Time to have a Trades Night out when the season starts next year. You can go by the Certified Payroll records on file with the CM [Construction Manager] & Project Owner.

C'mon - set it up. Let's see if Ratner appreciates the effort and steps upForest City Ratner stopped construction of the Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street) to negotiate a PLA.

I'm not sure if Forest City simply took advantage of an existing general PLA or negotiated one specifically for the arena. But it sure seems that the developer sh…

Forest City Ratner's latest dubious claim about the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the CBA: "As the project progresses, especially, with residential, a monitor will be hired"

After I raised the issue in City Limits, and Council Member Letitia James followed up a public meeting and a press conference, we have a new pledge from developer Forest City Ratner regarding an Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement.

Responding to a comment solicited by Our Time Press (almost certainly from the notorious Stephen Witt), FCR now says it  hire such a monitor--but sometime later.

The reporter didn't bother to look at the actual document, which required a monitor years ago.

But Witt doesn't try to hold Forest City Ratner accountable. Nor does the rest of the press when it comes to the CBA.

(The New York Observer ran a front-page article this week on problems with the Columbia University CBA. No contact info for the person in charge of the Columbia CBA? Ditto in Brooklyn. No web site for the CBA? Ditto. It's just that there's a Congressional candidate, Vince Morgan, who's decided to make an issue of it in Manhattan.)

T…

Daily News columnist Denis Hamill rhapsodizes about arena construction

Daily News columnist Denis Hamill, who thinks the Brooklyn Nets can give Brooklyn a soul and who swallows Forest City Ratner promotional spin, today salutes Forest City's head of construction, Bob Sanna, "Park Slope native, also the son of a Local 3 worker."

The online headline: Denis Hamill tells why there is so much union pride in building Barclays Center in Brooklyn: Construction boss Bob Sanna is behind the Nets new basketball arena.

Sanna, to Hamill, credits developer Bruce Ratner for having the event level level "25 feet below grade," and describes the role of union workers:
“Then comes a parade of 40 trades,” Sanna says. “Local 20 guys pour concrete on the 250 steel footings, held together with metal straps, making foundation walls, forming a big fat concrete pontoon if you will, that keeps our main foundation from penetrating into the ground. The whole arena sits on this structure.”

...Under which will perform an urban symphony of plumbers, steamfitters,…

Scoop? Forest City considering Navy Yard as modular site

The notorious Stephen Witt has a purported scoop in the latest issue of Our Time Press, as the 11/25/11 article Ratner eyes Brooklyn Navy Yard for Atlantic Yards Construction is labeled "Exclusive."

It begins:
Developer Forest City Ratner is looking at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as one of three possible sites to manufacture modular units of the Atlantic Yards project, according to a source with knowledge of the project.
“The Brooklyn Navy Yard is close to the site and it would be kind of cool given its history of ship building,” said the source, adding that the other site is also in Brooklyn and the third site is in Queens.
When finalized the manufacturing site will construct prefabricated units for the world’s largest modular constructed building at 32 floors on the Atlantic Yards site. It will also be utilized for the other 14 other residential buildings proposed on the $4.5 bill project.
The source said that surprisingly there are still quite a few manufacturing sites around t…

A response to Stephen Witt, and a letter of support

The latest issue of Our Time Press contains a letter from me in response to a column by the notorious Stephen Witt. It begins:
In his column about Atlantic Yards in the Nov. 17 issue, Stephen Witt writes that that “For doing this”--consistently seeking out the views of project supporters--"opponents of the project and their media mouthpieces, including Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder, continually blasted me.”

The issue isn’t whether Witt seeks out other views, it’s that he’s an irresponsible and
unreliable writer.But there's another letter, from the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, one of those who's views Witt embraces:
I just read your column in the Our Time Press. I appreciate your consistency. I know that is has not always been easy for some individuals to be supporters of the Atlantic Yards Project. Thank God that there are individuals who believe in the benefits for the community that this project will accrue.Well, there's belief, and then there's proof.

Marty Markowitz on OWS: “I think that they have made their point, and now it’s time to go home and work."

The New York Observer reported 11/21/11:
Last week, Occupy Wall Street finally made its foray into the boroughs by way of a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. The night before the march, we happened to run into Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz last week and he had some choice words for the group. “I think that they have made their point, and now it’s time to go home and work,” he told The Transom at an event for a charity he started. “If you just stay at that location, Zuccotti Park, you are meaningless. You’re doing nothing for anyone. Go to work! You’re not going to change America staying in that park. That’s it,” Mr. Markowitz said, growing increasingly agitated as he discussed the issue.It didn't sound like Markowitz meant "go to work on political activity," but if he did, well, OWS was one example of that.

If he meant "get a job," well, that's not so easy. Even some of those selected for a highly competitive training program required by the Atl…

Deconstructing a dubious, uninformed WNYC Atlantic Yards round-up

When I saw the headline on an WNYC article today, Atlantic Yards Construction Tests Patience of Residents, I thought that maybe they'd drawn from the ongoing Atlantic Yards Watch articles and incident reports on the impact of construction, such as the recent Trucks at Atlantic Yards continue to violate site protocols, obstructing a public street.

Nah.

The article is a remarkably uninformed, "View from Nowhere" hodgepodge. It's annotated below.

The opening

Construction continues on the developer Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Disruption is worse at night, especially for Prospect Heights residents. That’s when work crews spill onto Flatbush Avenue and snarl traffic. The work is testing some residents' patience.

Christine McCoy lives nearby and shops at was the Pathmark supermarket located across the street from Atlantic Yards, which will include Barclays Arena, the new home for the Nets NBA basketball team. “The traffic is crazy. I…

Have unions "saved" Bruce yet? Not quite (though not unlikely)

I'm a little late on this but I should point out that, while the 11/23/11 Brooklyn Paper article headlined Unions save Bruce with big pay cut to get Yards going sounds like a scoop, it offers no new evidence:
Union workers are coming to Bruce Ratner’s rescue — again! — agreeing to take massive pay cuts to pave the way for the first residential building at Atlantic Yards, a cut-rate, pre-fabricated tower to rise next to the Barclays Center.

...It is unclear how much money will be lost to laborers, but carpenters make as much as $90 an hour in wages and benefits at real construction sites, but only $30 per hour when working inside the kind of factory where Ratner will build the pre-fabricated units.

Many union leaders merely shrugged when asked about the pay cuts, suggesting that if the workers don’t give back, the project might not go ahead, leaving laborers with no work at all.

“We are attempting to reach an agreement … that will work for the building trades,” said Gary LaBarbera, …

"Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown": Atlantic Yards indifference and buying the future

When I was working on the lecture I gave last August at Galapagos, I tried to come up with line to nudge those who think Atlantic Yards. is too complicated, or not worth attention because little can be done. ("Issue fatigue," as Capital New York's Tom McGeveran wrote recently.)

It wasn't original of, course, but it was resonant: "Forget it Jake, it's Atlantic Yards."

(I'd gotten the line from a friend, but a little searching sends me back to previous use by Michael D. D. White' in hiw Noticing New York, which also cited New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman's use of the term.)

Fortunately, a good number of people won't forget. So much for Mayor Mike Bloomberg's assertion, at the March 2010 arena groundbreaking, that "No one's going to remember how long it took, they're only going to see that it was done."

The source of the line

That phrase echoes that classic line from the ending of Roman Polanski's 1974 movie

The Atlantic Yards site in (crazy-quilt) zoning context

The Department of City Planning's new Zoning and Land Use application, aka ZoLa, offers a new way to find city zoning and other rules, though the department cautions that it "is provided solely for informational purposes," with no promises of accuracy.

Indeed, a look at the area around and including the Atlantic Yards site shows that the map had not caught up with reality, as Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, and between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, had not been demapped.



Moreover, several buildings remain on the site, whereas now all of those needed for the first phase are gone, and that little triangle just east of the C6-2 designation, home to the Brooklyn Bear's Garden, seems to be designated as vacant land.

But what is remarkable is the diversity of the site, a railyard north of Pacific Street zoned for low-rise manufacturing (M-1), a western parcel zoned for big development (C6-1), a south…

From the latest Construction Alert: how construction (at the arena site) "progresses as scheduled" but may require extra shifts, and "schedule maintenance" (at the rail yard) requires weekend work

There's no major news, as far as I can tell, in the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 11/21/11 and distributed yesterday by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner).

But I do want to point out some curious, recurring, "Orwellian, almost" language. The heading regarding the arena site states "Construction at the Arena Site Progresses as Scheduled."

However, the section also mentions that a second shift by the steel erector/stadia installer, while not expected in the next two weeks, will be re-evaluated after this period, while some weekday overtime may be needed and work on Saturdays will continue.

In other worse, "scheduled" progress requires overtime. Similarly, fireproof painting of the structural steel will continue on a second shift.

Also, waterproofing of the interior walls of the east storm water retention tank may be performed on a second shift. The tie-ins for the piping for the storm/…

A "Brooklyn version of Roppongi Hills"? Could densifying New York make Atlantic Yards site look like Tokyo?

I'm finally catching up on New York Magazine's 10/9/11 Urban Design issue, in which architecture critic Justin Davidson has a mostly astute essay, including a section headlined What New York Can Steal From Hong Kong Or Copenhagen, or Tokyo, or even Medellín. The building of a better capital of the world..

The section on Copenhagen has to do with livability, that on Medellín with social equity, and that on Hong Kong and Tokyo  about density (which is not defined purely as residential density):Vishaan Chakrabarti knows how to fix New York. He’s an apostle of density with a relentlessly optimistic energy and a persuasive grin, and as Manhattan city planning director, he helped shape the coming thicket of skyscrapers at Hudson Yards. Later he went to work for the site’s developer, the Related Companies. Now he runs the real-estate program at Columbia’s architecture school, prodding students to think sweepingly about design, land, and money. “This emphasis on the Copenhagen/Amster…