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Showing posts from January, 2013

Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton to become one-way westbound, as parking on north side removed for railyard work

There are changes planned for Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues perpendicular to the Atlantic Yards arena block, and they involve less parking, different traffic, and railyard work.

The first clue came in a report (below) from consultant STV, which works for Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards.

The report said that the Department of Transportation was considering eliminating street parking on Pacific while Forest City continues to upgrade the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Yard.

That plan apparently has been modified.

Changes coming next week

A neighborhood resident forwarded me an excerpt from a preview of two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert scheduled to be released on Monday.

Pacific Street, which now has cramped two-way traffic, especially on event nights, will go back to  westbound one-way traffic, thus making it easier to stage construction vehicles for the B2 tower on Pacific Street east of Vanderbilt Avenue, a demapp…

NYPD: Barclays Center running smoothly overall, except for problem of idling limos; Quality of Life Committee meeting Feb. 7

Police overseeing the Barclays Center say things have gone smoothly overall, but some neighborhood complaints still surfaced last night at the monthly meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, held at the precinct, located at Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue a block from the arena..

Richard Goldstein, president of the Carlton Avenue Association, said a neighbor had reported that limos and black cars are illegally parked at hydrants regularly on “game nights”--presumably event nights--but not getting ticketed. (The law says there should be 15 foot radius from the center of the hydrant in each direction.)

Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri directed Goldstein to speak to the sergeant assigned to the arena and said complainants should call 311.

Desmond Atkins of Community Board 8 reported consistent complaints about such hired vehicles idling on streets east of the arena.

Community Council President Pauline Blake responded that the such vehicle complaints are the predominant ones emanati…

Upcoming lectures at Pratt Manhattan on public space and transportation

Forbes: value of Nets leaps 48%, to $530 million, upon Brooklyn move (were all those subsidies needed?)

The annual Forbes list of NBA team valuations came out last week, and while the Knicks and Lakers got notice for being worth more than $1 billion, the 48% rise in value of the Brooklyn Nets, bringing the team value to $530 million even before assessing the full impact of the new arena and location, is astonishing.

Forbes reported:
The increase is due to higher revenue from television, new and renovated arenas, and the NBA’s new collective-bargaining agreement, which reduced player costs from 57% of revenues to roughly 50%. The labor deal also increased the amount of money high-revenue teams provide low-revenue teams. Also, player costs went down because of the lockout, though the latter didn't affect some locked-in revenues.

Nets value leaps

The Nets were big winners:
The move from New Jersey to the $1 billion Barclays Center has transformed the team from one of the league’s financial laggards to one of its elite, with luxurious floor level suites that rent for $550,000 a year. (A…

Barclays Center still dripping rust

OK, the Barclays Center's done pretty well, as the Bruce Ratner encomia yesterday reminded us, but the arena is still dripping rust, as indicated by this video of the Atlantic Avenue side, shot last week.

Daily News: Ratner's One Pierrepont Plaza office tower gets taxes lowered $160K/year in reassessment

From the Daily News, Another break for Ratner: Barclays Center owner gets tax savings on Brooklyn Heights property:
The Tax Commission shaved off $7.8 million of the assessed value of a separate Brooklyn Heights office building owned by the controversial developer at 135 Pierrepont St. after FCR requested a reassessment, city records show.
As a result, the Bruce Ratner firm's tax bill dropped by an estimated $802,000 over five years.
That was the second tax reduction granted for the 19-story property in two years, records show.
In 2011, FCR knocked down the building's assessed value by $4.8 million, saving an estimated $496,000 in taxes over five years. The tower, also known as One Pierrepont Plaza, opened in 1987 and was built to keep Morgan Stanley back offices in New York City rather than be lost to New Jersey.

Reassessment is not uncommon, but it would be interesting to see the underlying documents to understand the rationale. Yes, the building's getting older, but has…

Ratner steps back as Forest City CEO as Gilmartin steps up; remember how Forest City was restructured in 2006 so Ratner could do more philanthropy?

Matt Chaban, the new real estate reporter for Crain's New York Business (ex-NY Observer), has a scoop headlined Bruce Ratner to step down as Forest City CEO: Developer of the vast Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn will be succeeded as CEO by company's Executive Vice President MaryAnne Gilmartin:
Brooklyn's biggest developer, Bruce Ratner, is preparing to step down as chief executive of Forest City Ratner, the New York City subsidiary of his family's Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises. Taking his place will be MaryAnne Gilmartin, who became executive vice president in 2007. The switch will elevate her to Mr. Ratner's clear No. 2, as he continues on in his role as chairman. With no comment from inside Forest City and no explanation of exactly how much the 68-year-old Ratner will give up--and how that might reconfigure the executive chairs below Gilmartin--there's not much more to the story.

But it is true, as Chaban writes, that it has been a "…

The Loew's Kings Theatre rehab begins; how much will it become borough venue for graduations?

On 1/23/13, officials held a groundbreaking for the restoration of the the 3,200-seat Loew’s Kings Theatre in Flatbush, built in 1929 and closed since 1977. It's the largest indoor theater in Brooklyn, and its ornate French Renaissance Style design is remembered fondly by old-timers (and was the site of Borough President Marty Markowitz's first date).

From a Markowitz press release:
Following preliminary work untaken by ACE Theatrical over the last three years, New York City has executed a 55-year lease with the Kings Theatre Redevelopment Corporation – a consortium of ACE Theatrical, Goldman Sachs and the National Development Council – to begin the full redevelopment and rehabilitation of the theatre. The project was financed through funding from the City, Marty Markowitz, the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group and United Fund Advisors.
...“Restoring the glory of the Loew’s Kings Theatre into a combination of the Beacon and the Apollo all rolled into one has long been a …

Kicking off mayoral campaign, de Blasio casts himself as a reformer. He never fulfilled promise to monitor Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

In his mayoral campaign kickoff today, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, according to the Times, cast himself as a reformer:
“Let’s be honest about where we are today: a city that in too many ways has become a tale of two cities, a place where City Hall too often has catered to the interests of the elite rather than the needs of everyday New Yorkers,” Mr. de Blasio said.
...Mr. de Blasio applauded the mayor’s anti-obesity and antismoking initiatives, as well as his national push for immigration reform. But he also hammered the mayor — and obliquely, a major Democratic rival, Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker — for the “back-room deal” that allowed Mr. Bloomberg to seek a third term. But de Blasio has his own blind spots, such as reliance on the ACORN and Working Families Party activists who supported Atlantic Yards to the hilt. That means he's been unwilling to hold developer Forest City Ratner to the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement it signed, even though he p…

All Things Considered covers purported EB-5 investment into Barclays Center, gets much wrong

An All Things Considered article yesterday headlined Investing In Citizenship: For The Rich, A Road To The U.S. addressed the EB-5 immigrant investor program. There was more skepticism than usual in the piece, but it still badly mangled the Atlantic Yards angle. From the transcript:
First, let's show you how the program works. It's officially called an EB-5 visa. We let 10,000 people apply here if they have the cash. Last year, 7,600 took us up on the offer. If you want to see the kind of places where the money goes, you can turn on your TV set when the Brooklyn Nets are playing hoops.....
The team just moved to Brooklyn, and they needed a place to play, and the developer had a plan. Take a crummy neighborhood with abandoned railroad tracks, put in housing, offices and that glorious new stadium for the Nets, Barclays Center. Bloomberg News reports that more than $200 million of the loans to build the project came from foreigners who were using the investment to get into the Un…

Asbestos work Monday and Tuesday at site of first Atlantic Yards tower

From 7am to 3pm on Monday, January 28and Tuesday January 29, work crews at the site of the first Atlantic Yards tower, B2, will be removing a newly discovered source of asbestos found buried under ground.

The news came in a Supplemental Report to the previous two-week construction alert issued by Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner.

It's not clear exactly where the buried boiler, source of the asbestos, was found, but the B2 site, at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street adjacent to the Barclays Center arena, was formerly occupied, in part, by both a gas station and a residential building.

The announcement:During excavation at the site, the foundation contractor uncovered an unknown boiler that was previously buried below ground by others. Samples collected from boiler insulation suspected to be asbestos containing material (ACM) confirmed the presence of asbestos.

An emergency notification was made to t…

Public meeting set for Feb. 27 to hear comments on draft scope for Atlantic Yards SEIS; written comments until March 14

How much worse would a 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout be than the ten-year buildout long promised and the 15-year scenario studied in 2009 when the project was re-approved?

Well, the state will hear comments on the design of a court-ordered Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) next month.

On 12/20/12, Empire State Development (ESD) issued a 20-page Draft Scope for a SEIS nearly six months after the state Court of Appeals rejected an attempt to appeal an appellate court's unanimous affirmation of a lower court's order to study the potential impact of a 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout.

Today, ESD announced:
A public scoping meeting has been scheduled to obtain comments on the draft scope of work for the DSEIS. The meeting will be held on February 27, 2013 from 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at St. Francis College, Founders Hall, 182 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, New York. Copies of the draft scope of analysis may be obtained from ESD’s Web site, www.esd.ny.gov/AtlanticYards, o…

At mayoral forum, Atlantic Yards draws scorn for prioritizing Barclays Center over housing; more subtle criticism is lack of family-size units (and pace)

Atlantic Yards was the subject of some scornful comments in the first mayoral debate, held last night at St. Paul Community Baptist Church in East New York, and while the episode hardly made event coverage, it did spark on Twitter.

The Daily News reported:
“It’s great that we have a new basketball arena ... but I haven’t seen one new unit of affordable housing,” [publisher Tom] Allon said, referring to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “We can’t say the basketball court comes first. Housing has to come first.”

“We’ve got popcorn vendors and no apartments,” [Comptroller John] Liu added, to wild applause.
Other coverage, not mentioning Atlantic Yards, in City and State, New York Times, NY1, and New York Post.

The event, sponsored by Metro Industrial Areas Foundation and the Daily News, drew more than 1,000 people, presumably mostly from the working-class church constituency.

I suspect that part-time jobs in the arena, however welcome they are to people out of work or able to rely on …

Video: Forest City executive misleads Council, claims that steel fabricator for Atlantic Yards modular housing is union shop

Did a top executive from developer Forest City Ratner--which proudly stresses that it only builds in New York with union labor--mislead Council Member Letitia James when she asked whether the fabricator of steel for modular housing as a union shop?

Evidence suggests yes.

The exchange came during the lengthy Committee hearing January 22 on modular construction, as excerpted in the video below. (Turn up the volume.)

James asked if any elements of B2, the initial tower being built at Atlantic Yards, would be built outside the city and state.

Yes, replied External Affairs VP Ashley Cotton, identifying the steel chassis of the modules. She noted that it's "incredibly noxious, industrial sort of work," not typically done in New York.

"Where will it be built?" asked James.

"Fredericksburg, Virginia," responded Bob Sanna, Executive VP and Director of Construction and Design Development. Cotton repeated the location. (Actually, the firm Banker Steel, which al…

Barclays Center event calendar for February released: 13 events, 28 days

The Barclays Center on January 22 released its Event Calendar for February (below). As with January (bottom), the schedule is relatively thin compared to the months of October, November, and December.

The upshot is clear: having the hockey Islanders play at least 41 home games (plus pre-season and potential playoffs) will be a great boon to the arena.

Worth noting: only 1,000 people are expected to attend the 2/10/13 basketball matchup at noon between locals Long Island University and St. Francis College. LIU's own arena (aka Wellness Center) seats 2,500, and is just up the block.

Also note that the 2/28/13 concert of Jewish cantorial music is expected to be set in the arena's theater configuration.


The January calendar


Latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: excavation work at site of B2 tower

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, Empire State Development released the periodic two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 1/21/13 and prepared by developer Forest City Ratner.

The alert notes excavation work, as well as drilling, at the site of the modular tower B2, at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street.

It also indicates that work has been nearly completed at the Dean Street Playground Comfort Station, built by Forest City as "part of the construction impact mitigation requirements." Utilities are expected to be turned on during these two weeks.

The alert mentions "punch list" work at the comfort station and at the Long Island Rail Road yard, but not "punch list" work at the arena site itself. However, such work is expected to continue at the arena until the end of February, according to the construction monitor who reports to the arena bond trustee.
Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, Jan. 21, 2013 by

At Council hearing, Department of Buildings slammed for allowing Forest City to build modular without licensed trades; did developer get city to bend rules?

Is the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) bending the rules to allow Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) to prefabricate housing off-site without the supervision of licensed plumbers, electricians, and steamfitters?

That's what both unions reps and their contractor counterparts charged yesterday at a lengthy oversight hearing yesterday (link to video) on modular housing held by the City Council's Committee on Housing and Buildings. And some said it was done at Forest City's behest.

"So, the bottom line is we're compromising safety for the bottom line?" asked Council Member Letitia James at one point.

"When it comes to exempting modular housing from the requirements of the [Building] Code, I think the answer to that is yes," replied Stewart O'Brien, executive director of The Plumbing Foundation.

Representatives of the DOB and FCR were not around to respond, having already testified. The developer stressed the myriad expecte…

Nets-Knicks game makes tabloid back covers (and Jay-Z/Beyoncé front of Post), as Ridge Hill gets a pass

The Brooklyn Nets narrowly won the big game yesterday with the New York Knicks, evening the season series, closing the gap to one game behind their rivals, and capping a remarkable 11-2 resurgence under Coach P.J. Carlesimo, who replaced Avery Johnson, fired less than a month ago.

As the graphics at right and below indicate, the news made the back page of the city's two tabloids.

Well, it was the big Sports story locally.

Then again, it's curious how none of the city's newspapers have the interest and/or resources to write about the bizarre situation in Yonkers, where Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner managed to create an apparently improper parking regime--meters and tickets--on private streets at its Ridge Hill complex.

The first couple?

Meanwhile, while most news outlets understandably put President Barack Obama (and First Lady Michelle Obama) on the cover, the New York Post went with... Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

The article was headlined Barack who!? Pols fawn over B…

Marty Markowitz, 2007: support for Atlantic Yards "focused solely on... maximizing those benefits for our residents and businesses”

In a 3/3/07 letter to the New York Times,  Borough President Marty Markowitz wrote to criticize an op-ed by Atlantic Yards opponent Jennifer Egan:“I wish that some evolution of her position had been evident, from flatly rejecting the project at all costs to working to improve it moving forward. As is the case with virtually every elected official in Brooklyn and New York City, my support is focused solely on making a project that benefits all Brooklynites and New Yorkers a reality, and on maximizing those benefits for our residents and businesses.”The response on NoLandGrab: But like many of the proponents of Atlantic Yards, we wish that some evolution of HIS position had been evident, from openly accepting the project at all costs to taking the community into consideration. Now, nearly six years later, can we say that his support has been "focused solely on... maximizing those benefits for our residents and businesses”? How about shilling for EB-5 investments that save Forest Ci…

The latest episode in the "Road to Brooklyn" series: "Road to Barclays"

"We'll be done by September... ish," says a hardhat in the opening of "Road to Barclays," the latest "Road to Brooklyn" video on Jay-Z's YouTube channel.

They did get done in time for the 9/28/12 opening, but (unmentioned) without opening up to the community as promised, and with some serious shortcuts regarding construction protocols.

Through time-lapse photography and a roving camera, we see various pieces of the arena, which has brown steel cladding, we're told, "designed to evoke the image of brownstones" and an oculus that stretches 80 feet over the arena plaza. (There's no mention that it was never supposed to be there, but rather an office building and Urban Room.)

Craig Hammerman, identified as "City Planner" rather than District Manager of Brooklyn Community Board 6, says, "There's no spotlight" at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush. "Everybody is looking at it, all the traffic engine…

Wear Brooklyn At? Nets gear repped by armed robber

The rapid penetration of Brooklyn Nets gear has been celebrated on sites like The Brooklyn Game, with posts like Rep Your Nets and Wear Brooklyn At.

The image below, from a video embedded in New York Times post on an armed robbery at a Bedford-Stuyvesant deli, probably wasn't what Nets brass had in mind.



Then again, some small fraction of people wearing Yankees gear get busted. So maybe it's another sign of the team's arrival.

About those Yankees caps

The Times reported 9/16/10 on the phenomenon of criminals disproportionately wearing Yankees caps.
One criminologist said the trend might be a result of what could be called the Jay-Zeffect.
The rapper Jay-Z has worn a Yankees cap for years — on his album covers and in his videos — and has helped turn the cap into a ubiquitous fashion accessory for urban youths (“I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can,” he boasts in one song).
Criminals might be wearing Yankees merchandise not because they are fans of the team, but …

Campaign contributions: Ratner gave to AG Schneiderman (after BUILD closed), Kings County Democrats

There wasn't a lot Atlantic Yards-related, actually, in the latest six-month campaign disclosures filed this week by candidates in New York city and state.

But a search of the database brought one contribution from the latest period and two I didn't notice last year. On 11/18/12, developer Bruce Ratner gave $5000 to Attorney General Eric  Schneiderman's 2014 re-election campaign.

That happened to be just a few weeks after the closing of Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), which had been the subject of a complaint to the Attorney General. (There's been no reported action on the complaint.)

Was there a connection? Who knows--Ratner was already giving to the AG. In May 2012, the developer also gave $5000 to Schneiderman's 2014 re-election campaign.

Earlier, in October 2010, Ratner gave $12,500 to Schneiderman's campaign that year. (Did that have any impact on the AG's unwillingness to pursue--or even…