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Showing posts from March, 2012

Atlantic Yards Watch: residents exasperated by loud noises at night; state agency asks Forest City not to use noisy hoe ram

From Atlantic Yards Watch:
Loud noises at night have triggered multiple incident reports filled with the exasperation of local residents in the last several days and weeks. One Dean Street resident last night shouted "Hey, you! Out there! I've got kids trying to sleep!" to a worker banging his crowbar against a fender in the staging area at 10:30 PM. In another case a resident on Vanderbilt reports a vibration so impactful artwork fell off the walls at 12:15 AM.
A resident on St. Mark's Avenue reports "intense pounding/crashing noises coming from the construction site as I write -- "and we are 3 blocks away with sound-proofed windows! ... How is this permissable?" St. Marks Avenue is uphill from the construction site and some rear windows have an unobstructed path for sounds emanating from the construction site. The filer reports noise extending to 1 AM on Wednesday night.
...These complaints follow last week's about late night jackhammering a…

The Yonkers corruption case and the chances for a reversal

The Journal News, in Skeptical judge in Annabi case may consider bid to dismiss, reports that U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon had questioned the nature of a conspiracy in the corruption case in which former Yonkers City Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis, were convicted:
The primary argument by defense lawyers William Aronwald and Anthony Siano was that there was no evidence of any quid pro quo or meeting of the minds that Jereis’ payments came with the expectation Annabi would vote as he directed.

Prosecutors... countered that they had ample evidence of Jereis’ payments and Annabi’s official action and that the linchpin proving the corruption was the lengths the two went to to conceal their financial relationship..Flaws in theory of the case?

The article quotes lawyer and political consultant Michael Edelman, who gave even odds to a reversal, at least on the corruption counts. (Annabi was also convicted of tax and mortgage fraud.)

The article states…

After Atlantic Terrace sells out condos, a search for a restaurant or gastropub close to arena for ground-floor space

Brownstoner reported March 29:
Atlantic Terrace, the co-op on Atlantic Avenue with both market- and affordable-rates units, has sold out. The buildings hits the milestone about one-and-a-half years after hitting the market. Heather Gershen, the director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, said “we’re very pleased from both the timing and the pricing perspective” and that all units are expected to close within the year. It obviously took longest to sell the market-rate units; I pointed out last October that the pricing was way less than Forest City once expected, though if Forest City's modular plan comes to fruition, its costs will be lower, and the prices also will fall.

Eatery/drinkery coming?

At Atlantic Terrace, the developer is seeking a tenant to rent the three ground-floor commercial spaces, which could be combined. The listing points out that it's directly across the street--actually catercorner--from the Barclays Center arena:
11,200 Square Feet-Divisible+/- 200 Feet of Fron…

Forest City execs to investment analysts: arena revenues should stabilize in 2014; open to partner on AY housing (but don't need one), "well-positioned" in NY market for "multifamily products"

In a conference call today with investment analysts, Forest City Enterprises executives today didn't reveal much new about the Barclays Center arena, but added a bit of a gloss on details.

Chief Financial Officer Bob O'Brien said company executives had an opportunity to see the arena, calling it "a pretty amazing thing."

He said they were "pleased" with progress on the contractually obligated income for the arena, which he said would stabilize in 2014, the second year of operation

Note that the rise from 56% to 64%, while not insignificant, does not point to them reaching close to 100% by the time the arena opens.

AY housing

"Can you talk about the residential entitlements at Atlantic Yards," asked analyst Sheila McGrath in the lingo peculiar to those talking about the business of development. Is the company thinking of bringing in a partner?

Matt Messinger, Executive VP at Forest City Ratner, responded: "We’re focusing our efforts at the mome…

In Daily News, Bruce Ratner packs multiple lies into one sentence: "For 100 years, this was a train depot in the middle of downtown Brooklyn."

Bruce Ratner tells the New York Daily News, "For 100 years, this was a train depot in the middle of downtown Brooklyn. Now it’s the greatest arena I’ve ever seen.”

No, it wasn't.
About half the arena site was a railyard used to store and service trains. The rest consisted of buildings where people lived and worked, as well as a public street.
Nor was that a depot, in the common definition: a "building for railroad or bus passengers or freight."

Nor was it "in the middle of downtown Brooklyn" but rather in Prospect Heights. And even if you consider the arena site an extension of Downtown Brooklyn--as Forest City surely will argue--it's by no stretch of the imagination in the middle.
"Extreme joy"

The cheerleading piece is by real estate correspondent Jason Sheftell, known for real estate hype. At least the author doesn't call it Downtown Brooklyn:
Even in midconstruction, there are moments touring the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights whe…

Local fallout regarding Yonkers trial: newspaper laments corruption, columnist argues that, in the end, Ridge Hill is good for Yonkers

The Journal News has a good package of articles and commentary (and video) responding to yesterday's convictions, on all counts, of former City Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis.

The editorial, Annabi trial ends, but corruption will linger, stated:
The smitten-cousin defense, novel and intriguing as it was, ultimately was no match for common sense, or the Rolex watch, car payments, airfare, cash or other valuables that moved between former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her distant cousin, one-time Yonkers Republican Party Chairman Zehy Jereis, convicted Thursday of all charges in their federal corruption trial. There was some plausibility to that defense, actually, given that Jereis also went through a dramatic personal makeover, including a 150-pound weight loss, which he said was motivated by his desire for Annabi.
Then again, as prosecutors pointed out, the checks to Annabi came from a joint account Jereis shared with his wife, while he a…

Developer comments on Yonkers verdict: "This trial was not about the actions of Forest City Ratner" (not quite)

A tidbit from the expanded New York Times coverage of the Yonkers corruption trial verdict:
“This trial was not about the actions of Forest City Ratner,” the company said Thursday, adding it had “no knowledge of the financial relationship between Ms. [Sandy] Annabi and Mr. [Zehy] Jereis.” Well, it wasn't, and it was about Forest City Ratner.

After all, would Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, who ran the government relations office and hired Zehy Jereis as a reward for his helping get Council Member Sandy Annabi to flip her vote, still be with Forest City if there weren't some clouds over that behavior?

Yes, Bender and Cantone testified, they had no knowledge about the financial relationship between Annabi and Jereis. But they also made no effort to check for his criminal record, or to request the reports Jereis was supposed to send in to validate his no-show consulting job. And they made sure he got paid.

That, as Greg David of Crain's New York Business--generally a friend …

Forest City reports additional losses on Nets, 64% of forecasted arena revenues under contract

Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, issued full-year and fourth-quarter earnings today, citing record-setting EBDT (Earnings Before Depreciation, Amortization and Deferred Taxes) of $1.61, compared with $1.59 per share for fiscal 2010.

However, for 2011, the net loss attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc., was $86.5 million, or $0.52 per share, compared with net earnings of $58.0 million, or $0.34 per share, in 2010.  Why? Forest City made less money on property sales and joint ventures, and lost money by deciding "to strategically reposition the company's land business through sale or other disposition."

Nets losses, arena revenue

Losses on the Nets also hurt, as the company is absorbing additional losses after the amount in the red exceeded the $60 million cap on losses accepted by team owner Mikhail Prokhorov when he bought the team.

The company also reported that some "64 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the [Ba…

In Yonkers corruption case, Annabi and Jereis found guilty on all counts, after more than four days of deliberation

After five weeks of testimony and more than four days of deliberation, a federal jury today found former Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis, guilty of several corruption counts, including extortion and  conspiracy to give and receive corrupt payments, regarding Annabi's vote flips to support two development projects, including Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill.

Neither was charged with bribery (which was in the initial indictment) but rather "corrupt payments," related to the $174,000 (including a $60,000 loan promptly repaid) Jereis gave to Annabi over seven years, offering down payments for real estate and paying her bills.

Jereis claimed it was for love. Annabi didn't testify, though her lawyer argued that, even if she was leading on a sugar daddy, that wasn't a crime. Jurors apparently concluded that, even if Jereis desired Annabi, as he testified, he had mixed motives. Prosecutors said friendship was not an excuse.

(J…

Watching the Nets in Newark: an inexpensive trip, but not necessarily a bargain

The hype mounts for the Barclays Center, though less so for the team that will play there.

With an interior based on the basketball-first Conseco Fieldhouse (now Bankers Life) in Indianapolis, it's supposed to be a great place to watch hoops, though if the talent on the court isn't much, the novelty of a new building will wear off faster. (See some snark from Orlando, as well as doubts even from Nets fans.)

And recently, as even the fan site NetsDaily acknowledged, it was a Bad Day For Nets Front Office, with the team, widely described as the frontrunner in the race to sign superstar Orlando center Dwight Howard, was unable to land Howard, who will stay for one more year. Though the team traded for a solid but aging player in Gerald Wallace, the likelihood that star guard Deron Williams will decamp for Dallas has grown.

(Imagine: what if the sports press, with its willingness to report rumors and other unverified, not-quite-sourced statements, turned its focus, for just one da…

Yonkers trial jury today enters fifth day of deliberations

From the Journal News:
All the parties have fallen into a "wait and see" rhythm, prosecutors in an office downstairs, lawyers for [defendants Sandy] Annabi and [Zehy] Jereis at the defense table. Jereis spent much of the day in the hallway outside U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon's 14th floor courtroom. Annabi sat reading the Bible in a conference room. She said she couldn't talk to a reporter while the case was pending, but pointed out one passage that was her focus, Psalms 7, entitled God the Vindicator, and said simply that's what she was counting on.
Also in the courtroom, as I observed yesterday afternoon: several journalists, a couple of supporters of the defendants, and several investigators on the project. And, yes, a Forest City Ratner rep.


FAC's Michelle de la Uz is appointed (by de Blasio) to City Planning Commission

Well, on a City Planning Commissiondominated by mayoral appointees, one person can't sway the body, but it's certainly a non-Bloomberg-esque move for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio to appoint Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Perhaps de la Uz, whose group is a member of BrooklynSpeaks, may have some advice for the Planning Commission on the surface parking lot planned for the southeast block of Atlantic Yards.

At the very least, she might provide some real-world perspective on the project (as, presumably, Borough President Marty Markowitz's appointment, Shirley McRae, also does).

A press release from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:
DE BLASIO TO APPOINT MICHELLE DE LA UZ TO CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio today announced he has designated Michelle de la Uz as his appointee to the City Planning Commission. De la Uz has more than twenty years of experience in public service and real estate development. Since 2004, de la Uz has served as…

Bruce Ratner on fawning CEO Radio: "I always felt kind of special" traveling to Brooklyn

You wouldn't expect a series of minute-long interviews last month with Bruce Ratner on CEO Radio, a collaboration between WCBS NewsRadio and the Wall Street Journal, to be too hard-hitting. After all, the show's slogan is upbeat:
Ray Hoffman interviews CEOs about their business practices. Learn what it takes to be at the top of your business game! But there are some nuggets amid the puffery, although the package can't match the awesome duet earlier this month between Charlie Rose and Ratner.

Part 1

Ratner, says the host, "may be the most important figure in the history of Brooklyn since the Dodgers left," given the work his firm has done "to transform the face of Brooklyn, including now the new Barclays Center."

The most important figure? Well, Ratner's certainly up there, but I bet supporters of longtime Borough President Howard Golden would disagree.

But when he was growing up, that wasn't his goal. "I came out of the '60s, and so I th…

"We're on schedule," says FCR construction executive Sanna, but he doesn't sound certain

There's an intriguing quote from Forest City Ratner construction chief Bob Sanna in a NY1 puff piece (mostly) on the Barclays Center, keyed to a visit from Nets Coach Avery Johnson.

(Surely the headline, Nets Coach Takes His First Tour of Barclays Center, is overstated. It's the first time he visited the building since the roof was enclosed.)

"We're on schedule," Sanna said, in a slightly defensive tone. "I mean, in this kind of business where you're outside all the time and materials are coming from all over the United States, any one thing can drive your schedule, but we're on schedule right now, scheduled to complete in September."

That leads to the question: if they go off schedule, what will it take--more overtime, opening the arena without the rebuilt Carlton Avenue Bridge--to get back on schedule?

Jury to begin fourth day of deliberations in Yonkers trial

After three days--not quite full days, since yesterday ended at 2:30 pm--a federal jury is still weighing corruption charges against former Yonkers City Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis.

As noted by the Journal News, the jury yesterday "asked today for the testimony of Jereis and former co-defendant Anthony Mangone, who claimed to have passed along a $20,000 bribe to Jereis in 2006 to influence Annabi's vote on the Longfellow housing project in her district."

There was no such claimed bribe regarding Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, but prosecutors argued that the stream of payments from Jereis over seven years induced Annabi to vote as he wished. Defense attorneys pointed to the absence of any agreement to do so, and argued that Annabi changed her vote because of concessions.

On Monday, Hezi Aris of the Yonkers Tribune described what could be gleaned by courtroom observers:
Shouting matches that seemed to give rise from passi…

"Brooklynized" water gets low marks in NY Mag's Approval Matrix

New York Magazine's Approval Matrix doesn't think much of the Barclays Center's embrace of "Brooklynized" water devised in Florida:


"Jersey Strong, Brooklyn Ready"? Nets' focus on Brooklyn has its drawbacks, scribe says

How well is the Nets' "Jersey Strong, Brooklyn Ready" slogan working? Not so well.

Wrote New York Daily News beat reporter Stefan Bondy 3/24/12:
With injuries and long losing streaks mounting, the Nets have looked increasingly unmotivated and resigned to losing - an offense more understandable considering their lame-duck status in New Jersey, the lack of support at the Prudential Center and the constant focus on Brooklyn.

Thirty-five years in New Jersey is coming to a fitting, anonymous end. Bondy tweeted last night:
Theres a marketing movement and nonstop talks about Brooklyn while most of players are on expiring deals. Tough circumstances for a coachTreating fans like celebrities

Meanwhile, Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark is focusing on Brooklyn. "I had a meeting with Jay-Z six months ago," he told Sports Business Journal, according to NetsDaily. "He said your goal is to make sure that everyone leaves feeling like they were a celebrity that night…

From the latest Construction Alert: new rail track, progress on Carlton Avenue Bridge, delay in traffic mitigation work, creation of surface parking lot to start May 1 (though no plans announced)

Below are some excerpts from the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 3/26/12 (and embedded below), and released yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by Forest City Ratner.

The highlights include:installation of new rail road track in the west end of Block 1120progress on the North Abutment of the Carlton Avenue Bridgeremoval of an access ramp to the arenawork on the remaining traffic mitigation work will begin in late April, not merely Aprilwork on the surface parking lot should begin May 1, though no plans have been announcedstreets lights and curbs are being installed on Flatbush AvenueBelow, I've bolded the notable changes from the previous alert.

Arena Site/Deliveries & Site Access
• Hunt has demobilized the access ramp at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue. The main gate and delivery ramp is now and will remain for the future at Pacific Street and 6th Avenue. The access route to the Pacific gate remains posted at the site and is the sam…

Jonathan Rosen, public affairs consultant for Forest City (and many others), honored by Crain's

Hey, ever noticed this gent at an Atlantic Yards meeting?

He's p.r. man Jonathan Rosen of BerlinRosen, one of Crain's New York Business's "40 Under 40" honorees.

He started in politics, working for state Senator (now Attorney General) Eric Schneiderman, then joined Valerie Berlin, Schneiderman's chief of staff, on Mark Green's mayoral campaign.

After some more campaigns, the duo in 2005 founded BerlinRosen. Crain's reports:
In just six-plus years, their communications consultancy has grown into a team of 20 strategists that is in the middle of campaigns shaping public policy in the city, the state and, increasingly, the country. Its revenues have increased every quarter as the firm has expanded well beyond its roots on the left.

Mr. Rosen is a top strategist for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and real estate titan Bruce Ratner. Recent clients include the nationwide group Rock the Vote and a co…

Al Pirro: Forest City Ratner (ex-)lobbyist, lawyer, and dinner guest from Mob Wives (according to the Post, though he denies it)

Al Pirro--lawyer, lobbyist, and estranged husband of former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro--was a small but not unimportant character in the federal corruption trial involving former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her mentor, political fixer Zehy Jereis.

(The jury's still deliberating, by the way, after two full days.)

Pirro served as a lobbyist for developer Forest City Ratner, which desperately needed Annabi's vote to get its Ridge Hill retail/residential project passed.

While Pirro was mentioned in testimony by several witnesses, he was never called to testify himself--perhaps because prosecutors recognized that, with his felony record of tax fraud (and rumors of mob ties), Pirro might be red meat to defense attorneys.

A boozed-up dinner

Now, according to the New York Post, there's another reason to be wary of Pirro: he can be a nasty, threatening drunk.

The paper's exclusive, based on anonymous sources, describes what a witness likene…