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Showing posts from March, 2013

In Los Angeles, jobs, open space, and "new opportunities" part of pitch for Millennium Hollywood; journalist sees project as "an outgrowth of a perfect civic compost"

From a 3/28/13 Los Angeles Times op-ed essay, A real Hollywood flop: The Millennium Hollywood project is just what the city doesn't need, by former reporter Laurie Becklund:
On Thursday, the city's planning commission is likely to consider a development proposal that will affect the lives of everyone who lives in Hollywood or passes through it on the Hollywood Freeway, one of the most congested in the nation.
The 1.1-million-square-foot development, Millennium Hollywood, would be twice the size of the Los Angeles Convention Center and allow a tower nearly 600 feet high, vastly out of proportion with today's Hollywood. Its boosters say it would provide jobs, stimulate business, lure thousands of new tourists and "reinvigorate" Hollywood. The developers, a New York hedge fund and an owner of the land under Grand Central Station, are asking for an unprecedented 22-year contract to build out the sites just north of Hollywood and Vine. Indeed, the planning commission a…

Roundup: dressing spiffy at the Barclays Center, and the art within

Here are a couple of articles that, along with the Brooklyn Nets' entry into the playoffs (see photo of hew #HelloPlayoffs arena signage at right), have to be considered part of a successful arena rollout.

Dressing fancy
A regular Wall Street Journal feature on clothes at the workplace arrived 3/27/13 with What They’re Wearing at the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center:
Whether it’s dressing for a basketball game, an Alicia Keys concert or a business meeting with Jay-Z, looking sharp is a must for the employees of the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets team and their home arena, Barclays Center. That means a shirt and tie for men, who make up about two-thirds of the roughly 200 employees at the venue and a separate office at 15 MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn.
“Our CEO [Brett Yormark] really sets the standard here, so I try to take a cue from him,” says Kari Cohen, associate counsel. “I’ve never seen him in anything except for a suit and tie, and it’s always impecca…

Candidate Liu says he refused to take part in arena groundbreaking, ribbon-cutting, won't go to games, wants "real jobs, not selling popcorn"

I wrote earlier this week about Forest City Ratner-related contributions to the mayoral campaigns of Bill de Blasio, Bill Thompson, and Christine Quinn, noting how John Liu is probably (and perceivedly) the main candidate most critical of Atlantic Yards and development.

Indeed, Prospect Heights Patch reports on a visit by Liu to the Parliament Democratic Club in Fort Greene: "I've had serious issues with the whole Atlantic Yards development over the past 10 years," he said. "It was supposed to be about jobs and affordable housing, and 10 years later all we've got is a stadium and some popcorn vendors. That is not the economic development people were looking for. [Officials connected to the development] kept calling and I refused to take part in the ground-breaking; they kept calling and I never participated in the ribbon cutting; they keep calling and I'm not going to any games."

Though he hasn't looked favorably at the development thus far, Liu sa…

Flatbush avenue's Vegetarian Palate to move: arena-goers affected takeout business

From the Brooklyn Paper's Eastbound and up: Prospect Heights businesses are on the move:
“Rent over here is much higher,” said Ronald Wong, the owner of Vegetarian Palate, which will end its 11-year stay on Flatbush Avenue to move to Washington Avenue in early summer as the landlord converts the old building into condos. “It has to do with the Barclays Center. Since it opened, it has affected our dining and business.”

Wong says his brisk takeout business suffered as arena-goers started parking on the block during events and parking enforcement officers increased their vigilance — with no real uptick in orders from stadium attendees. Well, it sounds like the restaurant would be moving anyway, given the landlord's decision, but it is notable that a restaurant geared to locals would be affected by arena crowds. Some restaurants or bars manage to attract a mixed crowd, but a Chinese vegetarian restaurant is not likely to be among them.

From Crain's New York Business 40 Under 40: FCR's Melissa Burch, solving problems (and here's how it's done)

From a Crain's New York Business "40 Under 40" issue profile of Melissa Rom├ín Burch, 36, Forest City Ratner Cos., Senior vice president:
As a senior vice president of residential and commercial development at Forest City Ratner, the Harvard College and Harvard Business School grad and Upper East Side resident has been involved in every aspect of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project since its inception 10 years ago.
"I was knocking on doors, telling people I'd like to speak to them about purchasing their property," she recalled. "I was trying to acquire the New Jersey Nets basketball team and purchase air rights from the Long Island Rail Road." Now Ms. Burch is heading the project to build the first residential building on the site, a 32-story tower that will feature the tallest modular building ever constructed. "We think this is going to launch a new industry in New York," she said of the modular system.
..."A lot of what a deve…

Forest City executives conference call: rent from Islanders key to stabilizing arena income

There were a couple of Barclays Center mentions during yesterday's conference call held by Forest City Enterprises with investment analysts.

Would arena operating income, given the success of the the arena so far, stabilize before the projected 2016?

Responded CEO David LaRue, "We’re still anticipating a 2015-16 stabilization [cited in year-end results]... That’s the hockey season, when the Islanders finally move in... we have projected that $70 million stabilized NOI [net operating income] number once the Islanders are and we have the benefit of that initial anchor."

That seems to suggest that the rent from the Islanders will be key to stabilizing the operating income. But the Islanders' move was not guaranteed when they decided to build the arena at the cost projected. Presumably arena operators figured they could/would do something to increase occupancy.

"In terms of ramping up, between now and then," LaRue added, "I think the 82% of the contractual…

Forest City re-interprets Atlantic Yards Phase 1: arena block plus Block 1129, to the southeast. The platform for the blighted railyard has 15 years (and who knows when the towers rise)

Update March 29: In my initial post yesterday, I neglected to point out what I reported last October  regarding previous comments about the construction sequence; the Development Agreement, released in January 2010, gives the developer 15 years to start the platform after the project Effective Date (May 2010). So this revision has a few changes.


It's official. Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises (FCE) in a document released yesterday has confirmed that its Forest City Ratner subsidiary has no plan to build an expensive deck over the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Yard--the most clearly blighted part of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site, and a major justification for eminent domain--before building four towers on the southeast block of the site, Block 1129.

That sets up, as the graphic at right suggests, a odd map in which the "project" leapfrogs one long block between Sixth and Carlton Avenues.

That leaves the below-grade railyard waiting for an expensive deck (which can …

Bruce Ratner, who sells Brooklyn, explains why Yonkers mall is named for Westchester: "No business today can survive simply on a city or a town, it has to survive on a whole region."

Once you reach 1:21 in the video below, please make sure you have no liquid in your mouth.

The Eyewitness News story, keyed to the opening of a Legoland at Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill complex in Yonkers, resurrects an old complaint: the mall--formally "Westchester's Ridge Hill"--is named for the affluent county, not the gritty city.

Mayor, Mike Spano (once a Forest City Ratner lobbyist) asked for reconsideration, but really, that decision was made before he took office.

But then catch the snippet from Forest City CEO Bruce Ratner at 1:21: "No business today can survive simply on a city or a town, it has to survive on a whole region." Then he does that super-convincing hand-waving thing.



Yeah, the same Bruce Ratner who has sold the heck out of "Brooklyn" to the point where it dwarfs "Nets" and, not so long ago, said, "There's no better place in the world than Brooklyn."

The famous region.

Forest City Enterprises reports better year-end results, 82% of forecasted contractually obligated arena revenues (before hockey)

Along with the 10-K document that revealed Forest City Ratner's plans to delay a deck over the Vanderbilt Yard, Forest City Enterprises yesterday issued a press release, Forest City Reports Fiscal 2012 Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year Results, indicating better results, as well as an increase in contractually obligated arena income:
Fourth-quarter FFO [funds from operations[ was $77.5 million, compared with a loss of $40.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. On a fully diluted, per-share basis, fourth-quarter 2012 FFO was $0.36, compared with a per-share loss of $0.24 in 2011.
Full-year 2012 FFO was $267.4 million, or $1.27 per share, compared with $178.2 million, or $0.88 per share for 2011. The primary factor contributing to the year-over-year FFO variance was a decrease in the net loss on land held for divestiture activities of $123.8 million ($75.8 million net of tax) related to the company's 2011 decision to divest a significant portion of its land development business.
...…

Campaign contributions: Forest City bundles for Thompson, de Blasio, Squadron, even gets Republican subcontractor in Virginia to pony up

So, does developer Forest City Ratner support any candidates in the 2013 election?

Campaign finance reports suggest significant support via bundling for mayoral candidates Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, as well as some support for Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Notably, a prominent Republican executive in Virginia, whose steel company produces key components for both the arena and the first modular tower, has contributed $1,000 to Democrats Thompson and Quinn, in one case through an FCR intermediary. (Do the candidates know his company is non-union?)

Comptroller John Liu, probably (and perceivedly) the main candidate most critical of Atlantic Yards and development, has received no FCR-related contributions. (His campaign also has some ethical question marks.)

In the race for Public Advocate, where anti-Atlantic Yards Council Member Letitia James is one of three candidates, Forest City-related contributions clearly favor fundraising leader state …

At the B4 site, a caucus of empty chairs where the construction trailers once sat

There were construction trailers for quite a while below grade at the northeast corner of the arena block, the site of the future B4 tower, which is slated to be the third constructed around the Barclays Center, leaving only the flagship office tower at Flatbush and Atlantic to languish.


The trailers were removed last week from the site, at the southwest corner of Atlantic and Sixth avenues. A few chairs were left.




Barclays Center releases event calendar for April: 13 dates (plus NBA playoffs)

The Barclays Center has released the April event calendar. There are only 13 dates listed, but... the NBA playoffs start April 20 and the Nets will host at least two home games in the first round, more if that goes longer and/or they go on to future rounds. (The March calendar is here.)



"Posing for holy cards": how the press gets reminded of team/arena civic virtues, but misses more questionable issues

“News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising,” the British publisher Lord Northcliffe famously said, and while that may be sweeping, it's a good frame to analyze how and when certain press coverage emerges.

As I wrote 3/10/13, If the New York Times says so, then you know it's true: Nets Make Full Effort to Fit Into Brooklyn.

That article, focusing on an unspecified donation to a Brooklyn Boys & Girls Club by Nets/arena CEO Brett Yormark, surely was generated by a p.r. pitch. (Remember, his longtime strategy was a press release a day.)

In other words, advertising. (The story's now on Patch, since the dedication event is tomorrow.) Also advertising-like is the coverage of principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov's expression of happiness that the team would make the playoffs.

By contrast, consider the non-coverage of the news that the lowest price for Nets tickets next year will rise to $25, from a much-hyped $15 in the inaugural season.

T…

A long look at Marty Markowitz, from City Limits: Atlantic Yards brought out his "less admirable traits"

From City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau, How Sweet Was It? Marty Markowitz's Boro Hall Legacy, by Gail Robinson:
By some accounts, the Atlantic Yards controversy brought out Markowitz's less admirable traits: a tendency to scream, to see any criticism as a personal attack, to be vindictive. "He went from being a happy cheerleader to being a nasty guy, says Tom Angotti, a professor of urban affairs and planning at Hunter College and a critic of the project. He treated people against the project "as enemies, not citizens," [DDDB's Daniel] Goldstein says.

Now, with Barclays Center open, Markowitz clearly basks in its apparent success. His Christmas card last year was a paean to the arena—complete with reworked lyrics to "Winter Wonderland" such as "Barclays here, Streisand's belting, Fans will cheer, hearts are melting"—and he is said to be planning a giant farewell party for himself there.

...Markowitz has embraced a myriad of other proje…

How to fill the NYPD's (alleged) summons quota, easy: crack down on vehicles in streets outside the Barclays Center

From a 3/21/13 New York Times article headlined Stop-and-Frisk Trial Turns to Claim of Arrest Quotas:
In one recording, a man identified by Officer [Adhyl] Polanco as Angel Herran, who was a delegate in the 41st Precinct at the time, could be heard trying to convince officers that it was not unreasonable to be expected to write tickets.

“You have to show something,” he said. “You’re a police officer.”

“You mean to tell me,” he asked, that during a month of work “you haven’t seen any violations on parking, any violation, and any kind of arrest?” This is head-spinning stuff. If the NYPD truly wants to find violations, they can harvest low-hanging fruit on the streets near the Barclays Center arena around the time of events.

For months, that wasn't a priority for the 78th Precinct, though anecdotal reports suggest they have gotten tougher, for example ticketing two sedans parked in a No Standing zone on 3/21/13. That said, Atlantic Yards Watch provides a regular compendium of inciden…

Is an Arena Football League team coming to Barclays Center?

Is arena football--in which each team has eight players on a field the size of an NHL hockey rink, playing over a main surface half the length of outdoor football field--coming to Brooklyn? Well, the Arena Football League is expanding.
In the Bring the AFL to Boston blog, fan Chris Menn wrote 3/22/13:
As you may or may not know, every year the AFL commissioner gives a state of the league address where he talks about what has happened to the league such as the TV deal with CBS, the CBA settlement, and other things. What caught my eye is this little bit regarding expansion:
As we head into the 2013 season, I am as pleased as I possibly could be with our direction. We’ve got 14 markets now – and another two expansion teams on the horizon for next year –
Now as far as I know one of the two expansion markets is New York which would play in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. It'll be interesting to see which city is rewarded with the second expansion team as it would give the league an …

The costs of the circus at the Barclays Center: ticket fees, expensive programs, and children "gasping and crying"

Prices for the Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus at the Barclays Center may seem reasonable--they start at $24 but group tickets go for $16, and kids' tickets for weekday performances go for $12.

Oops. That's where the gouging starts. Would you believe that, at least via Ticketmaster, those $12 tickets come with $8.90 in fees, so they actually cost $20.90?

Then come the concessions.

While other Barclays Center events sell t-shirts and other souvenirs outside on the plaza, none display quite the hucksterism as displayed in the video below.

You've got to get your program now, before you go inside the building," the man at the yellow booth barks. " Each family must have a program.... They do autograph signing with the program."

Programs cost $15. (Update: this video suggests they're doing what they can to downplay mention of the $15 price. Perhaps this post had an impact.)

Inside, I'm told, the souvenirs are quite costly. But parents don'…

EB-5 down the rabbit hole: WSJ says "reputable businesses," including Barclays Center, have used immigrant investor funding (but it wasn't the arena)

A 3/18/13 front-page Wall Street Journal article, Chinese Investors Get Picky Over U.S. Visa-for-Cash Deal:
But as the 74-year-old Mr. von Trapp has discovered, would-be investors are getting much pickier. American businesses ranging from fast-food franchises to biofuel facilities to meatpacking plants are now competing for EB-5 funds. Some projects haven't produced the requisite number of jobs—prompting U.S. immigration authorities to withhold green cards. And word has spread about investment money disappearing in failed businesses or outright frauds.

"It's much more difficult than I anticipated," says Mr. von Trapp.

U.S. authorities say they have slowed visa approval because of fraud suspicions and defects in job-creation estimates by developers. Authorities also acknowledge their reviews of those estimates have been flawed. Last year, the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, which oversees the program, hired a half dozen economists to better assess…

What's going on at the northeast corner of the arena block? The removal of construction trailers means...

A reader asked me what was going on with the removal of below-grade construction trailers this week at the northeast corner of the arena block.



There was no explanation, but it's safe to assume that, with the near-completion of the arena, those construction trailers were unnecessary/redundant. There are no plans yet to build on that site, aka B4.

It is slated to the the third of the modular residential buildings around the arena--first, the 32-story B2, which began construction in December at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, then the somewhat shorter B3 at the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Dean, then B4 (about 50 stories) at the southwest corner of Sixth and Atlantic Avenue.

I think it's safe to assume that the developer want to make sure they can get the first two buildings right before trying one that's much larger. B3 is supposed to start six to nine months after first is completed (which should be mid/late 2014), and third building on the same sche…

For Markowitz's final State of the Borough address, an inevitable setting: the Barclays Center

It was inevitable: after holding his most recent annual State of the Borough addresses at Brooklyn College, Sunset Park High School, and the Park Slope Armory, for his final such address, on Thursday, April 11, Borough President Marty Markowitz will be at the Barclays Center arena, the most dramatic symbol of his tenure. (Attendance is invite-only.)


When he spoke previously, there was relatively light enthusiasm for the upcoming arena. This time it should be different. (After all, the arena has been winning design awards, such as this one from AIA New York.)

Then again, let's see how much people cheer for part-time jobs with no benefits.

Arena construction monitor: final completion date extended to April 30, facade issues persist

No they're not quite done yet with the arena. Nor are problems with the facade quite fixed.

According to the latest Site Observation Report by Merritt & Harris, the construction monitor for the arena bond trustee, the final completion date, listed (as it had long been) in the previous reports as 2/28/13, has now been nudged forward to 4/30/13.
Punch list work will occur on non-event days. As the screenshot at right indicates, there are 30 workers doing such punch list work.

The new report, dated 3/8/13, was released yesterday. It's based on a site visit 1/29/13, documents received 2/28/13, and an affidavit 3/8/13.
Facade issues
Despite a promise in the previous report that defective bolts would be replaced by 1/11/13, there are still open issues, as detailed in a 2/18/13 Field Observations Report from 2/18/13, including:missing anchorage detailsmissing hardwareincompletely torqued boltsskewed rod installation It's not clear from the documents how extensive the problems a…

At B-2 site tomorrow, a welding crew 7 am to 6 pm

According to a Supplemental Report to the two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Update, there will be work tomorrow at the site of the B-2 modular tower, at the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue:
A welding crew will be working at the B2 tower site this Saturday, March 23rd on the installation of bracing steel as part of the support of excavation system. Work will take place between 7:00am and 6:00pm. All work will be pursuant to Department of Buildings permit. The notice does not indicate whether this is expected to be particularly noisy.

Ringling Brothers elephants: star of the promotion and focus of the protest; also, circus operations extend arena perimeter

The Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey circus arrived yesterday in Brooklyn, and the elephants were the highlight--both for circus-watchers and protesters.

First came a staged walk-through DUMBO in the morning. As NY1 reported:
To celebrate its arrival Wednesday, a parade of eight elephants and their handlers marched across Old Fulton and Old Water Streets, wowing school kids and adults who came out to see the unusual sight.
....Borough President Marty Markowitz also proclaimed it Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus days while they're in town. Protesters were kept a block and a half away, according to Gothamist.

A New York Post article headlined Jumbo in dumbo cited the arena developer:
“I have been waiting for this moment for 10 years!” Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner yelled to the crowd of bystanders that gathered, referring to the time it took to get the arena built.An evening  protest

Before the 7 pm show, however, perhaps 150 activists from Animal De…

At Precinct Council meeting, complaints about parking problems (not just arena-related), circus set-up, idling trucks

At the monthly meeting last night of the 78th Precinct Council, there was talk about continued problems with parking--some but hardly all related to the Barclays Center--as well as the upcoming protest tonight outside the circus, and the arena’s continuing inability to manage trucks that idle in neighborhood streets.

A church's impact

One resident pointed to a line of unbroken double parked cars, on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue and St. Marks Avenue east of Carlton Avenue.

Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, the commanding officer, said it’s “safe to assume it was the church,” citing the Temple of Restoration at 515 Dean Street. “It's an ongoing problem. I've met with the church several times, we're trying to be good neighbors, trying to have a delicate balance.” Apparently such diplomacy doesn’t quite work, so he said he’d make another visit.

Robert Puca, a resident of the Newswalk building nearby, said he now was seeking street parking because his building’s garage rai…