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How "6 Reasons to Be Wary of Public-Private Partnerships" applies to Atlantic Yards

Last April, Laura Barrett, the National Campaign Director for the grassroots network Gamaliel and Transportation Equity Network, wrote 6 Reasons to Be Wary of Public-Private Partnerships for Rooflines, the blog of the National Housing Institute, which also publishes Shelterforce.
The latter was the site for some fierce debate about the Atlantic Yards project, with Shelterforce's writer, John Atlas, defending the deal struck by ACORN, and later writing a book about ACORN with an Atlantic Yards chapter.

So it's interesting to note that public-private partnerships, praised by President Obama, have, according to Barrett, a mixed record, as "political cronyism and financial desperation have contributed to these six troubling trends."

Let's see how much the trends she identified apply to Atlantic Yards:
Little or no democratic oversight: Yes, Atlantic Yards is run by a state agency accountable only to the governor, and that agency currently has one employee solely dedic…

Brooklyn real estate: a hot market has to be good news for Forest City Ratner (but why 25 years for AY?)

I recently watched the videos from Terra CRG's Brooklyn Real Estate Summit held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in May, summarized by the 5/10/13 Brooklyn Daily Eagle as Brooklyn Real Estate Summit: Brooklyn is hot, getting hotter, with a quote from a participant: "Demographics is destiny; the borough is changing."

All of this has to be good news for the developers of Atlantic Yards, aiming to market luxury rentals and later condos.

It also could be fuel for critics who, in the pending Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement, argue that the 25-year permit for Forest City Ratner's buildout should be reduced, and that the sites in Phase 2 be bid out to other developers.

Keynote: Deputy Mayor

In the opening keynote (video), Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel cited record population, jobs, housing units, and tourists, including a 16% growth in employment in Brooklyn during Bloomberg's three terms, though he acknowledged that certain areas, such a…

Forest City CEO: Barclays Center rank in ticket sales "important" measure but, given start-up cost, "not the ultimate outcome" (forecasted revenues at 84%)

Last Wednesday, Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, held an Investor Day Conference in Washington, DC, and while the discussion leaned toward Washington-related projects, they did discuss the Barclays Center and larger Atlantic Yards project. (Here's a rough transcript from Seeking Alpha, as well.)

CEO David LaRue noted the recent news from Billboard magazine that the Barclays Center was number one in terms of concert/family show revenue (not sports) for the first half of this year. "So, overall, I think that equates to about 183 events that we've had since we've opened, over 50 concerts at Barclays Center," he said. "It's an important measurement, but not the ultimate outcome. As we've said, our goal is to stabilize Barclays Center in 2015, '16 with the New York Islanders moving to the center."

As noted on page 21 of the slide presentation, the Barclays Center has 84% of forecasted contractually obligated revenue in hand,…

On Aug. 3, my Atlantic Yards tour; on Aug. 4, my Atlantic Yards talk (plus essay: "The Barclays Center Emerges, Overshadowing Atlantic Yards Skepticism")

My Atlantic Yards tour Saturday, August 3, via the Municipal Art Society:
Atlantic Yards: Urban Debate, Arena Debut
10:00 AM - Join Atlantic Yards Report watchdog journalist and guide Norman Oder on a walk around and beyond the controversial Atlantic Yards site, home to the new Barclays Center arena, and 16 planned towers. While visiting Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, we will discuss the context, history, and still uncertain future of the ambitious project (announced in 2003), and the debates about urban design, architecture, public process, and eminent domain. Current issues involve the developer's plans to build the world's tallest modular tower, the mostly favorable reception of the arena, sited adjacent to a transit hub yet still frustrating some neighbors, and the court-ordered environmental review for the project's second phase. $20 / $15 Members. Note: pre-paid tickets only.

My Atlantic Yards mini-lecture 1:40 pm, Sunday, August 4, part of the Boog City Poetry &a…

Jay-Z responds to Belafonte: "my presence is charity"

The blog Madam Noire, drawing on a Rap Radar interview (about 6:46 of Part 2) with Jay-Z, writes, JAY Z RESPONDS TO CRITICISM FROM HARRY BELAFONTE AND SAYS “MY PRESENCE IS CHARITY”.

(Note: the video embedded below starts at about 3 minutes in.)



This follows up from a beef that Jay-Z addressed on his latest release, regarding how civil rights veteran Belafonte criticized Jay-Z and Beyonce for doing too little in regard to social responsibility. (I've edited the Madam Noire transcript a bit):“I’m offended by that because, first of all, this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am, just like Obama's is. Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation and outside of America is enough... Just being who he is. You’re the first black president. If he speaks on any issue or anything, he should be left alone... Of course we want to challenge him to do better, but I felt like Belafonte just went about it wrong. The way …

Flashback, 2003, from the Cleveland Scene: "Ratner said Atlantic Yards 'will be almost exclusively privately financed.' The word to watch is 'almost.'"

When the Atlantic Yards plan was unveiled in December 2003, one of the most prescient analyses came not from the local media but from the Cleveland Scene, an alternative weekly in Cleveland, home of Forest City Enterprises, parent of New York's Forest City Enterprises.

The headline was Ratners take on New York: Where the public trough is a tempting buffet. And however much the language seems loaded, well, look how it turned out.

The Scene reported 12/17/03:
It appears that Cleveland's favorite welfare queens, the Ratners, are up to their old tricks, this time in Brooklyn.
Last week, with rapper Jay-Z and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg by his side, family scion Bruce Ratner unveiled plans for a new neighborhood of shops and condos, all centered on a basketball arena that, if he has his way, will someday house the New Jersey Nets.
The arena's designer would be Frank Gehry, the famed architect who created Case Western Reserve's Peter B. Lewis Building, remembered for …

At Brooklyn Real Estate Summit, statement that "we're very proud of" Barclays Center noise fine provokes titters

At the 5/9/13 Brooklyn Real Estate Summit at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, BAM's Katie Dixon (at 26:46 of this video) said it had sometimes been hard to locate BAM: "Now, we say, we're very near the Barclays Center, everyone knows the location. That's really transformative."

"Well, I like to say it's the only place the Atlantic and the Pacific meet, at Flatbush Avenue," followed up broker Chris Havens, the host of the panel.

Havens, who has an edgy sense of humor, continued archly: "Also, we had a very important milestone. The arena got a $3200 noise violation fine, that you saw on the news. That was for the Rihanna concert. So we're very proud that that happened, and hopefully that will happen again."

The audience tittered.

(Actually, the fine was for Swedish House Mafia, not Rihanna, though there were noise complaints regarding that concert, which was just a few days before the real estate summit. The city has not successfully levie…

City Council votes ten-year renewal for Madison Square Garden

Capping a surprisingly effective lobbying effort by the Municipal Art Society, the Regional Plan Association, and Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, the New York City Council voted yesterday 47-1 to renew Madison Square Garden's operating permit for only ten years in order to effectuate a revamp of Penn Station below..
The Garden, which is just finishing a renovation costing nearly $1 billion (begun after a plan to move to Moynihan Station dissolved, and with the expectation of a renewal in perpetuity), "barely acknowledged" the deadline, the Times reported.
A move in ten years is not guaranteed. The Garden won't have to move until and unless the city, likely with much help from the state and feds, comes up with a plan to fix Penn Station. The Garden surely will lobby the next administration for changes.
And surely the Garden would make a case for significant subsidies, tax breaks, or revenue generating ideas (naming rights, anyone?) if it had to move.
But …

"Brooklyn's not for sale," then (Atlantic Yards protesters) and now (Carpenters Union)

It's notable how the chant "Brooklyn's not for sale" can be appropriated for multiple purposes.

It was used frequently during the Atlantic Yards battle, including at the March 2010 protest over the arena groundbreaking.



The unions come around?

By contrast, most unions preferred the phrase "Build It Now" and rallied vigorously for the project, as in June 2008.

Now, as it turns out, the Carpenters Union is protesting the compensation (and representation) of conversion workers at the Barclays Center with a persistent inflatable rat (and video).

And they're fighting the general trend toward nonunion work in Brooklyn, as at the 5/9/13 Brooklyn Real Estate Summit at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The phrase? "Brooklyn's not for sale."



Inside, broker Chris Havens, hosting one panel (at 7:20), offered a joke: "Local's 79's outside. And I like to say, If you're not getting picketed, you're not doing a big enough job."

Billboard numbers show Barclays ahead of MSG in concert/family show revenue, but the Garden earns more per event

While the Barclays Center ranked first in the United State for concert tickets sold, according to Pollstar, far outdistancing Madison Square Garden (MSG), the numbers were closer regarding overall ticket revenues for concert and family shows (not sports).
MSG apparently pulled in far more revenue per show, which suggests that, once the Garden's renovations are done, it will be more competitive.

As the New York Times reported:
Overall, Barclays ranked No. 2 worldwide in ticket sales with $46.9 million, second to the O2 Arena in London, with $119 million, Billboard reported. Madison Square Garden was fourth with $39 million. Meadowlands Matters reported:
Three of the top four U.S.-grossing arenas are in this region — No. 2 overall Barclays Center in Brooklyn ($46.9M), No. 4 Madison Square Garden in Manhattan ($39.5M), and No. 8 Prudential Center, which in the United States also trailed the sixth-ranked Staples Center in Los Angeles ($36.2M).
The Newark arena sold out 11 of 41 events, …

Barclays Center releases August event calendar: the big event is the MTV Video Music Awards

The Barclays Center has released its August event calendar, which includes six nights of concerts, and five days associated with the MTV Video Music Awards.

Note that surely the Justin Bieber and Beyonce concerts will sell out, but the expected attendance--surely limited by the set--is expected 14,500 and 13,500.


Here's the July calendar.

From the latest Construction Alert: Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth closed two days next week for crane

The latest bi-weekly Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, (below) dated July 22, was distributed yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by Forest City Ratner, but in this case--unlike the practice in most weeks (bottom)--the state agency didn't even bother to reformat it with new letterhead.

Notably, Dean Street will be closed between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues on July 29-30, next Monday-Tuesday.

There's continued at the modular tower, B-2, including:installing reinforcement steel for foundation wallspouring the concrete Foundation Walls. reinforcement and pouring concrete for the Dean Street transfer foundationconstruction of and tie in the foundations grade beams at the Arena Exit northwest corner. New work at B2 includes:
Interconnect the Con Edison Vaults, electric and plumbingCon Edison may work within Dean St to install the Tower 2 temporary electrical service. We do not have a specific date...Crawler crane will be delivered to the site on July 29th and be …

Bruce Ratner reflects on career: "I am a big public interest person. But I need to make money."

That's the Atlantic Yards developer, Bruce Ratner, on the back page of BloombergBusinessWeek. Maybe it's the format, which understandably focuses on the positive, but not there's nothing critical, other than some potentially self-sabotaging statements.
Bruce Ratner: How Did I Get Here contains a quote that to many will be unexceptional: "I came from Cleveland. Back in the 1980s, Brooklyn wasn't such a great place, so I would joke, 'Coming from Cleveland, anything looked good.'"

As I commented, in the past, rather than comparing 1980s Brooklyn to Cleveland, Ratner has instead gushed regularly about the borough where his business is located. Consider his interview last year with Charlie Rose.
"So why Brooklyn?" Ratner asked rhetorically. "Brooklyn, I think growing up for me, I grew up in the 50s, you had the Brooklyn Dodgers, everybody great that I knew of, whether it be Jackie Gleason, or Walt Whitman, who I read about in college and hig…

On NPR: "Jay-Z and Beyonce were kind of used as pawns to help the developers..."

OK, Jay-Z may be "bulletproof" in the music market, as some experts say, but some remember lingering taint from the role the hip-hip entrepreneur and cultural force played in the building of a certain Brooklyn arena.

From NPR, 7/19/13, Getting Real On Race After Zimmerman Verdict...
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:  I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now it's time for our weekly visit to the barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week - our writer and culture critic Jimi Izrael, with us from Cleveland. Fernando Vila is the director of programming for Fusion. That's a joint venture between ABC and Univision. He's with us from Miami. Sportswriter and professor of journalism Kevin Blackistone is here in D.C. And also here in Washington this week - Mario Loyola. He's normally with us from Austin, where he is with the National Review magazine and the Texas…

Details for MTV Video Music Awards emerge: three days of street closings near arena Aug. 23-25; no public meeting scheduled yet

The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment yesterday circulated an unsigned "Dear Resident" letter from MTV regarding the channel's popular Video Music Awards program, which will broadcast Aug. 25 from the Barclays Center and require three days of street closings nearby, though only street will be closed the first day.

Residents will get passes to park in the surface parking lot associated with the neighborhood, and sidewalks will be open to residents of the impacted streets--Sixth Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street; Dean Street between Flatbush and Vanderbilt Avenue, and Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton Avenues--but there are no other announced benefits or compensation for the inconvenience.

Residents, however, were informed about how to purchase tickets for the event. MTV's plans previously alarmed locals, given the failure of anyone from MTV or the mayoral agency to attend a recent public meeting on qualify of life issues related to the …

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: subway naming rights in the Times, cheery news in the Brooklyn Paper

From a New York Times article today headlined M.T.A. Considers Selling Rights to Name Subway Stations:
The authority experimented with station naming rights in 2009, when the confluence of stops at Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn was renamed “Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center” as part of a 20-year, $4 million sponsorship deal. An initial version of the article credited Barclays for buying the sponsorship, but after I pointed out on Twitter that it was Forest City Ratner, it was fixed, with a link to previous Times coverage that identified Forest City as the buyer..
Unanswered was why Forest City spent the monty, but, as I wrote in my analysis of the MTA negotiations, it was understandable that, without a Gehry arena and the attendant delays, the developer was under pressure to adjust the deal.
The Brooklyn Paper down the memory hole
There's a cheery article on the Brooklyn Paper website headlined Greenmarket sprouts at the Barclays Center. Ther…

After press conference unveiling expensive new Nets, owner Prokhorov lauded (but what about all the public support?)

It's front-page news in the New York Times, the unveiling of the Brooklyn Nets' expensive new players, For Nets’ Prokhorov, $183 Million Is No Object:
It should be clear now that Mr. Prokhorov, a 48-year-old Russian billionaire, renowned playboy and aspiring politician, did not come on a peace mission. He came to conquer the N.B.A. by setting a standard for unbridled spending and general audacity.
That truth was unmistakable Thursday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Nets introduced two pricey new stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to join the three pricey stars the team already had.
The Nets’ payroll next season will surge to a league-high $101 million, triggering a league-record luxury tax bill of about $82 million. In three years, Mr. Prokhorov has morphed from the N.B.A.’s international man of mystery into a Russian George Steinbrenner — only taller, richer and with a cool accent.
...Fourteen of the N.B.A.’s 30 owners are billionaires, according to Forbes. But few …

Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues closed on Saturday, maybe Sunday, for work at B2 site

A message from AtlanticYards.com echoes one placed on cars parked on and around Dean Street: Community Notice
DEAN ST. BETWEEN FLATBUSH & 6TH AVES. WILL BE CLOSED
Saturday, July 20th (& Sunday, July 21st if necessary)
to install Con Edison vaults at the B2
construction site at the corner
of Flatbush Ave. and Dean St.
This work is expected to start at 7:00 am and conclude by 9:00 pm. The street closure will start at 3:00 am.
Access to Barclays Center loading dock is being coordinated via 6th Avenue.

After demise of Kemistry, operators plan a club for teenagers with arcade games and "latest electronics"

The (revised?) team behind the controversial lounge/nightclub Kemistry proposed for 260 Flatbush Avenue near Park Place, which was yesterday denied a liquor license by the State Liquor Authority, now plans to organize a social club for teenagers, with arcade games and electronic devices.

Given the reported high rent at the space, whatever goes in there must be calculated to reap significant revenues. Perhaps the denial of the license, as well as the departure of partner Leonard Bartletto from the liquor license process, caused a re-think regarding whether a liquor license would be viable.

A message from Kemistry: new plans

Below is the unsigned message I was sent early this morning from an account previously used by project manager Damali L'Elie to send me a message about Kemistry:
Kemistry restaurant lounge is sadden by the decision of the community. We had all intention in complying with the matters at hand. Kemistry restaurant Lounge hired a sound professional, who did a whole …

SLA Chairman: problem of leaking bass from music venues "slips between the cracks" when it comes to regulation

Residents living near the Barclays Center are not the only ones to complain about leaking noise from musical, though the scale--an arena, as opposed to a nightclub--is unusual.

Yesterday, at State Liquor Authority (SLA) hearing that included a thumbs-down for Kemistry, the agency heard many other issues, including complaints about a loud bar on Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side.

"Is it problems with the bass?" asked SLA Chairman Dennis Rosen sympathetically. "I think that's one of the things that slips between the cracks on these [noise] codes." Of course, that's the main responsibility of the city Department of Environmental Protection.

A bit later Rosen brought up the issue: "Let's say I'm on the second floor [above the club], and my apartment vibrates from the bass. That would be awful."

Well, the residents near the arena aren't right above the Barclays Center "club"--not, at least, until the first tower is built--but…

Kemistry kaput: SLA denies liquor license to controversial lounge/club aimed for Flatbush but backing into residential Prospect Place

Update July 18: Those behind Kemistry now plan a social club for teenagers.

Kemistry, a lounge/nightclub planned for Flatbush Avenue but with a glass back wall at Prospect Place, was emphatically denied a liquor license today by the State Liquor Authority, which cited widespread opposition from the community regarding late hours and planned bottle service.

Compounding that opposition, neighbors' skepticism about Kemistry was fueled by late-emerging news (via DNAinfo) that one of the two partners in the business, Leonard Bartletto, had been arrested on selling marijuana in March, but had not informed fellow partner James Brown or the SLA.

Though Brown said today that he was willing to buy Bartletto's share and make some partial concessions regarding the scope of bottle service, SLA officials were unmoved, but instead cited the widespread community opposition.

In this case the burden was on Kemistry, planned to host 225 people on two levels. If an applicant for a liquor licens…

Not quite as promised: oculus, set to broadcast Nets press conference, was supposed to be programmed for games, events, maybe feed of Prospect Park

Get ready for a crowd on the arena plaza, given the hype around new Brooklyn basketballers Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, and Andrei Kirilenko. The BrooklynNets announced yesterday:
The Brooklyn Nets will hold a press conference on Thursday, July 18 at 12 p.m. to introduce the team's newly acquired players.
We are welcoming fans to come to The Daily News Plaza outside Barclays Center and watch the press conference on the oculus. The press conference will also be televised live on the YES Network and streamed live on brooklynnets.com. That finally, and rather partially, fulfills a promise to use that digital display screen for more than advertising.

However, the press conference is a form of advertising, rather than a more civically virtuous activities suggested nearly years ago.

The promise: a programmed display screen

The 9/28/10 press release announced designs for the arena plaza:
The Barclays Center Oculus, which will extend over a 5,660 square foot section of the pla…

Barclays ranks first in U.S. for 2013 concert ticket sales, third in world; MSG lags, but also has many more sporting events (as of now)

It's clear that a lot of people, myself included, didn't recognize exactly how many musical acts would glom onto a (mostly) well-run new indoor venue accessible via public transit.

But the data suggest that not only is the Barclays Center far outdistancing less accessible arenas like the Nassau Coliseum and the Prudential Center, it's well ahead of Madison Square Garden, though that designation deserves an asterisk.

As the L Magazine pointed out yesterday, the 2013 mid-year report from concert-ticket tracker Pollstar shows the Barclays Center third in the world in ticket sales--nearly 660,000 in six months, and first in the United States, behind venues in London and Manchester,

MSG & hockey

While the L tweaked "poor Madison Square Garden hanging out down there in the number 29 spot," it should be noted that MSG currently houses two professional teams, not one, which means that 45 or so hockey games fill dates in Manhattan, nudging out concerts.

MSG typically …

Despite official statements, idling continues on pad outside Barclays Center, and beyond

Less than a week ago, as I reported, trucks were idling on the Barclays Center "pad" adjacent to the loading dock, despite official statements, by a state official, that idling is neither allowed nor tolerated.
That problem continues. A report posted yesterday on Atlantic Yards Watch details buses idling or generators running not just on the pad, but across the street in the satellite uplink parking lot, and even in the neighborhood. The report links to several videos.
Initial photos, such as the first photo below, do not indicate any visible connecting cables to the arena, meaning that idling vehicles were running under their own power. Later photos suggested some cabling from the arena to support any internal electronics.



Kemistry lounge (or bottle-service club) faces liquor license hearing tomorrow; neighbors slam increased hours, commitment to bottle service, disingenuous behavior

Remember Kemistry, the self-described "restaurant, bar and lounge" (or, as neighbors contend, bottle service nightclub) planned for Flatbush Avenue near Prospect Place, with a back emergency exit on a residential street?

The establishment, with a capacity for 225 people, faces a hearing before the State Liquor Authority (SLA) Wednesday, July 17, with an array of neighbors, Community Board 6, and local elected officials opposing it.

The objections focus on Kemistry's plans to stay open late every night (and until 4 am on Saturday and Sunday), its commitment to bottle service, and a pattern of apparent disingenuous behavior.

(My query to Kemistry went unanswered.)

The hearing, which includes many other applications, begins at 10 am at the SLA office at 317 Lenox Avenue near 126th Street in Harlem, near the 125th Street stop on the 2 or 3 trains. It also should be webcast.

Also see coverage in DNAInfo, which quotes neighbors' attorney Peter Adelman: "Having ano…