Saturday, May 31, 2014

Orwellian, almost: Student winners of arena tour required to write essay, "What's the best thing about the Barclays Center?"

It's Orwellian, almost.

As indicated in the graphic below, the Invictus Youth Initiative, a program of Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (best known for distributing free tickets), held a contest in which schools could win a private tour of the Barclays Center.

Three schools were winners: Prep For Success at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights; JS 113 (presumably MS 113, whose principal is a sister of the DBNA executive director and daughter of the DBNA chairman) in Fort Greene, and PS 181 in East Flatbush.

"Bring a class or use the opportunity as an incentive for student achievement!!!" potential entrants were asked.

Boosting Barclays

Note this requirement: "Students who attend the tour must submit 1-2 page essay/composition, answering the question, 'What's the best thing about Barclays Center?'"

Isn't such a requirement the opposite of education? (Here are some more complicating perspectives on the arena.) Is being told to think one way an incentive for student achievement? 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Coming construction: delayed West Portal for LIRR means shutting down Atlantic Avenue lane (for 10 months?), closing sidewalk, major equipment

The next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, at 6 pm on June 3, will be held at the YWCA Community Room, 30 3rd Avenue. According to Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, the meeting will include "some critical construction updates."
Partial closure of Atlantic Avenue announced in 2006
for construction of West Portal; more details below

That's an understatement.

From what I've heard, and my information is indirect and incomplete because they don't send out an agenda and there's no real oversight, a frenzy of activity is slated around the arena block, with traffic lane shutdowns on Atlantic Avenue and possibly Flatbush Avenue.

The frenzy involves tower construction, railyard work, and a huge new green roof on the Barclays Center, the latter proclaimed to be beautification but also clearly an effort at damage control.

All this seems timed to start after the under-the-radar joint venture with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group closes in June.

West Portal in purple at top of center block
I'll write soon about the overall plans, but first want to focus on the significant construction planned for Atlantic Avenue at Sixth Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue work planned

The work will create the West Portal, a direct passage from the railyard into the Atlantic Terminal Long Island Rail Road station, which was supposed to have been finished while the arena was being built.

It's aimed to save time and to bolster safety, security, and flexibility. (Currently trains stored and serviced in the yard first must travel east of the railyard, then reverse direction.)

I believe they'll closing a lane on Atlantic Avenue for months, compressing eastbound traffic into two lanes, eliminating parking on the north side, and eliminating left turns onto South Portland Avenue from eastbound Atlantic Avenue traffic.

From March 2010 agreement between MTA/LIRR & Forest City Ratner

That may also mean closure of Sixth Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. That was anticipated as of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in November 2006, but no specific plans have been since announced.

A trench across some traffic lanes and the sidewalk on the south side of Atlantic would be open--at least according to plans disclosed in 2006--for ten months. Noisy equipment like an excavator, backhoe, cherry picker, and hoe ram would be used. The West Portal work would require 15 trucks a day.

This was all supposed to happen during the first phase of construction, when the arena block and the upgraded railyard were being built--but that phase was disaggregated to save Forest City Ratner money. No towers were built, and the developer got the Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Long Island Rail Road to agree to have a smaller temporary yard persist for an extended period.

None of this coming construction work has been officially disclosed, since the pending, court-ordered Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) applies only to Phase 2, east of Sixth Avenue, and assumes Phase 1 as a "background condition." Which it's not, since it's incomplete.

What it might look like during West Portal construction

The graphics below are from the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement. I don't know how much the plans have been modified.

Atlantic Yards Final EIS
From Final EIS
A look at the (once-planned) new railyard

The graphic below, in the "existing" configuration as of 2006, showed the railyard storage function in the western third of the railyard, since taken for the arena site.

The "proposed" configuration shows the new West Portal just east of Sixth Avenue. Also note that, in the "proposed" graphic, the finished railyard to the east, as proposed in 2006, would contain nine tracks. Now it would contain seven. As of now there's a temporary railyard.

Atlantic Yards Final EIS
Construction plans: a ten-month trench?

The Final EIS, Chapter 17, Construction, describes what was planned during Phase 1; that didn't happen, so what's described below likely has been adjusted somewhat:
The West Portal would connect the new Vanderbilt Yard to the Atlantic Terminal, located on the south side of Atlantic Avenue at Block 1120. Construction of the West Portal would be a “cut and cover” operation, which involves opening a large trench across several of the traffic lanes and the sidewalk on the south side of Atlantic Avenue. The trench would be too wide to be covered by steel plates and would be open for about a 10-month period in late 2008 and into 2009. At all times, at least two eastbound and three westbound lanes of traffic on Atlantic Avenue would be open. The method of maintaining traffic during this time and the potential impacts are discussed below in the “Traffic” section of this chapter. After the subterranean utilities are relocated and the structural steel installed for the West Portal, the trench would be closed, and traffic lanes reopened. After the cut and cover trench is closed, all work would be underground inside the tunnel and not noticeable to area workers, residents, or visitors. During construction of the West Portal, several measures would be taken to prevent damage and disruption to the LIRR tracks in and out of Atlantic Terminal. Walls would be erected to separate the main line tracks from the work within the West Portal area. The wiring for power and signals would be moved out of or away from the West Portal work area. During the opening of the existing tunnel wall, the work would be undertaken at night, when the tracks are not in use. In addition, a false wall to separate the existing tunnel from the active tracks would be installed to prevent any materials or debris from spilling onto the tracks.
(All emphases added)

As indicated in the graphic below, the work would start in the western third of Block 1120. Also note that the 100-foot-wide plot of land east of Sixth Avenue was supposed to serve as a "Construction Coordination Center," at least when four towers were being built along with the arena.
From the Final EIS; note that Sixth Avenue Bridge was not reconstructed
Workers and equipment

According to the FEIS:
The number of construction workers would vary depending on the actual construction operation, but would generally number between 20 and 30. The equipment would consist of backhoes, excavators, mobile cranes, cherry pickers, dump trucks, concrete trucks and many small hand tools. The West Portal would be opened with excavators, which would place the excavated materials onto dump trucks for disposal. Then the foundations and walls would be built with reinforced concrete. About 15 trucks per day would be needed for this work on the West Portal. Steel girders would then be placed to form the roof of the West Portal and the base of the reconstructed Atlantic Avenue. The steel girders would be placed with mobile cranes and bolted into place. Atlantic Avenue would then be repaved to New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) specifications and standards.
Here's a look at the equipment projected to be needed (click to enlarge):
From Draft EIS (and also in Final EIS)
Impact on traffic and pedestrians

According to the Final EIS:
....In addition, because of the temporary narrowing of Atlantic Avenue necessitated by the 6th Avenue Bridge reconstruction and the construction of the LIRR West Portal, the eastbound left-turn movement at this location would need to be temporarily eliminated to maintain two through traffic lanes. This left-turn traffic to South Portland Avenue (opposite 6th Avenue) north of Atlantic Avenue would be diverted to either South Oxford Street or Carlton Avenue. Furthermore, some of the “drop- off” areas in front of Atlantic Center would be displaced temporarily to accommodate the shifting of Atlantic Avenue traffic lanes. At the same time, because maintaining a pedestrian sidewalk across the 6th Avenue Bridge construction area may not be feasible, the east and west crosswalks at the intersection may also be temporarily closed. Along the east side of Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, utility installation would require the temporary taking of the curb lane. To maintain peak traffic flow along Flatbush Avenue, this closure may need to be limited to only off-peak or nighttime hours. The appropriate MPT for this roadway segment would be determined in consultation with DOT.
...As shown in Figures 17a-1 to 17a-6, sidewalk closures would occur throughout construction, particularly along the south side of Atlantic Avenue. In most cases, overhead protections on existing sidewalks or temporary sidewalks would be provided to standards agreed upon by DOT to maintain pedestrian flow. However, during Phases 1A and 1B when bridge reconstruction over the LIRR rail yard and the construction of the LIRR West Portal are scheduled to take place, it would be optimal to discontinue pedestrian flow through certain construction zones along Atlantic Avenue and to temporarily close the crosswalks connecting to these areas.
Lane/sidewalk closures

These were planned when Phase 1 was much more extensive so, again, I'm not sure exactly what's planned now:
 Note that the green indicates the shutdown of lanes at Sixth and Atlantic Avenues.
Previous hints

The beginning of needed work has actually been disclosed in two previous Atlantic Yards Construction Alerts. For example, the 4/14/14 Construction Alert indicated:
Test Pit work on Atlantic Avenue in the area of 6th Avenue will continue during this reporting period. Work is being performed in connection work that will be taking place in LIRR Yard. The test pits consist of small area excavations, with the purpose of the location of underground structures and utilities. The excavations will be plated and/or patched over at the end of each work day. Contractor is using saw cutters and excavator to perform the work. All work is performed in accordance with DOT permits which require that the work be performed at night (10 pm to 6 am). Work will be performed, between the time frame of March 24, 2014 and April 23, 2014. No weekend work is anticipated at this time. Part of the work may impact street side access to the Atlantic Avenue bus stop at the southeast corner of the intersection of 6th Avenue. Work dates will be coordinated with Arena operations.
Another alert reported that the work would be done "during the overnight of April 2nd and April 3rd." At the hearing on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, several people commented on the disruptiveness of such work.

After two years of "coming soon" signage, Sugar Factory will finally open at the Barclays Center

Barclays Center interior signage
Here's another example of Atlantic Yards down the memory hole, an article in the Commercial Observer headlined Sugar Factory Signs Sweet Deal at Barclays Center:
Come September, Barclays Center will be home to New York City’s second Sugar Factory. The Las Vegas-based cafe and sweetery chain signed a lease on May 15 for 4,000 square feet on the ground floor of the arena, Commercial Observer has learned. 
The asking rent in the 15-year deal at the major sports and entertainment venue, at 620 Atlantic Avenue, was $200 per foot, a source with knowledge of the deal said.
The real story is not that the Sugar Factory is coming--it's why the delay has been nearly two years. The Sugar Factor was supposed to be such lock its location was made part of the interior signage of the arena, above right.

As the exterior signage at left (at the Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street end of the arena) indicates, the Sugar Factory has been "coming soon" at the arena since October 2012.

Last year, according to the Sugar Factory itself, the sweetery was supposed to open in Fall 2013.

So the more interesting and important question is: why did it take so long, with the space fallow for two years?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Reality warp: judge in eminent domain case agrees Atlantic Yards site would've been upzoned; ESD claimed there'd be no changes without project

Remember how the Empire State Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development, or ESD), in the 2006 Atlantic Yards environmental review, claimed the project site would not "experience substantial change in the future without the proposed project... due to the existence of the open rail yard and the low-density industrial zoning regulations."

When the very reasonable possibility of a rezoning was raised, the state authority stonewalled, claiming, "While the City, if it desired, could rezone the project site, it has not."

Via Google Maps; note more capacious perspective here
before railyard excavation and also photos here
I called it one of the state authority's "least credible statements," and a judge recently confirmed that observation, denying ESD's claim that there would have been no rezoning.

In a case resolved this month regarding the value of a condemned property within the Atlantic Yards site, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Wayne Saitta agreed with the property owner's argument that the site, without the project, could have become a 12-story hotel, concluding, "Most probably, the entire M1-1 [one-story manufacturing] district in the Atlantic Yards footprint would have been upzoned."

730 Equity Corp. v New York State Urban Dev. Corp. involved an empty lot on Block 1120, Lot 35, at 730-740 Atlantic Avenue just west of Carlton Avenue. It juts into the below-grade Vanderbilt Yard.

Following that conclusion, Saitta rejected the state's claim that the property was barely worth $2 million as a gas station, and instead valued it at nearly $9.2 million, far less than the $20.6 million that the owner sought but still a major gain. (It's touted as a victory by attorney Michael Rikon of  Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon & Houghton.)

That's one layer of irony.

But developer Forest City Ratner, which pays for the land, likely still got a good deal.

On the piece of land just west of Carlton Avenue--as well as a platform yet to be built over the railyard--it plans Building 7, a 460-foot tower with 733,810 square feet. That's six times larger in bulk than the hotel, albeit over a plot that's likely twice as large and requiring an infrastructure investment, as well as payment to the MTA for the site.

The history

ESDC took title on 3/1/10, the vesting date. The court viewed the property on 9/8/11 and a non-jury trial was held on eight days in January and February, 2013. The decision was rendered 5/7/14, and reported in the New York Law Journal on 5/28/14. (Both the Brooklyn Eagle and especially the Real Deal got the story wrong, suggesting that a hotel could actually be developed.)

The sites is an irregularly shaped lot of 20,738 square feet, with a 275 foot frontage on Atlantic Avenue. At the time of vesting, the property was zoned as M1-1 and vacant. A gas station on the site had been demolished in 2001, though the owner had in June of 2001 entered into a 15-year lease--with a five-year extension--with Amoco Oil Company to operate a gas station on the site.

Competing claims

As Saitta wrote, the claimant contended that the highest and best use of the property would have been as a 12-story budget hotel, that "there is a reasonable probability that the subject property would have been rezoned from M1-1 to C6-2A absent the project." (Such zoning has a Floor Area Ratio of 6, which means a 12-story hotel could occupy half the lot.)

The condemnor, ESDC, contended that there was no reasonable probability that the property would be rezoned, and that the property could best be a gas station, parking lot, or garage. However, the condemnor's appraiser undermined that argument: the three sales she used as comparables were purchased, not for auto related uses, but to develop as hotels.

Head-spinning arguments

Saitta evaluated whether it was reasonably probable that the property would have been rezoned. He noted that the M1-1 district covers the three blocks between Atlantic and Pacific Streets, running from Fifth Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue, as well as the block directly south of the property.

Nearby blocks are mostly zoned residential. The claimant's expert, Richard Bass, cited the city's pattern of rezoning underutilized, industrial areas, and said he believed this was not rezoned because of the announcement of the Atlantic Yards project in 2003. (Duh.)

The rezonings nearby were both upzonings, such as at the 470 Vanderbilt site across Atlantic Avenue, as well as downzonings to ensure future construction would maintain the scale of residential blocks.

Here's the most head-spinning passage:
Bass also relied on the findings in an Environmental Impact Statement that had been submitted in connection with the Atlantic Yards project, as evidence that a density as high as an FAR of 8.6 would be appropriate on the site.
In other words, the state's override of zoning--rationalized in part because a rezoning would never have happened--was used as evidence that a rezoning would have occurred.

The condemnor's zoning consultant, Michael Kwartler,  "testified that it is unlikely that the site would have been rezoned to C6-2A and that such zoning would not be appropriate for the site because the property is not in a central business district and would result in several existing uses becoming non conforming."

In other words, the ESD's own consultant, said increased bulk--as the Atlantic Yards project allows--would have been inappropriate. Bizarre.

Kwartler also cited the 2001 rezoning of the north side of Atlantic Avenue, between South Oxford Street and Clermont Avenue from commercial to residential, which demonstrated that "the City was not interested in upzoning the area around the subject property."

The judge's conclusion

Saitta wrote:
Weighing the opinions of both zoning experts, the evidence presented demonstrates that there is a reasonable probability that absent the project, the subject property would have been upzoned from M1-1 to C6-2A.
Although there remained some industrial uses such as storage facilities, gas stations, and auto repair shops, the area no longer contains significant manufacturing uses.The Environmental Impact Statement submitted as part of the Atlantic Yards project describes the site as containing "long blocks that contain mainly underutilized industrial buildings". (ex 1 tab 4, p 3-7)
Though the M1-1 district was once predominately industrial, many of the buildings have been converted to commercial and residential use. It is an area of underutilized industrial sites surrounded by the residential neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Park Slope, that has become more residential over time.
The City's policy under the Bloomberg administration was to rezone underutilized industrial sites to allow for commercial or residential development. There is little reason to keep this underutilized district zoned for manufacturing when its it has been becoming more residential and commercial on its own.
He called the C6-2A zoning proposed by Bass "appropriate for this property," noting that several properties nearby, along the Atlantic Avenue corridor from Fourth Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue, had been rezoned to C6.

He noted that, in an earlier case, he'd found "no reasonable probability" of a rezoning to C6-2A, but that case involved a property on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, a block "more integrally a part of Prospect Heights than Atlantic Avenue."

Adjusting the value

Though Saitta found "that absent the project, the property would have most probably been rezoned to C6-2A," he made several adjustments to the value proposed by the claimant, including an adjustment for location, extraordinary development costs, plus a discount to reflect the costs, delay and risk associated with a rezoning

That led to a valuation of $9,186,000.

In another case, the state won

In a 6/21/13 decision, Saitta found in favor of the state in Heron Realty vs. New York State Urban Dev. Corp. The site 514-522 Vanderbilt Avenue at the corner of Atlantic Avenue, is Block 1121 Lot 42, at the northeast corner of the site.

On the date of vesting, there was a gas station with a one story building and six pumps, over 11,500 square feet. The property was encumbered by a 3,506 square foot subterranean easement in favor of the Long Island Railroad and a deed restriction that limited development of the area over the easement to two stories.

The owner (via Rikon's firm) claimed a 12-story mixed use residential and commercial building could have been built, with a rezoning to C6-2A. Thus the claimant's appraiser valued the property at $10,500,000. The state said the existing use as a gas station was the highest and best use of the property, valued at $4,300,000.

While typically the judge would analyze whether a rezoning was possible, he first concluded that the deed restrictions precluded such a 12-story building. He then made a few adjustments to the condemnor's evaluation and found a value of $5,000,000.

Forest City Enterprises CEO: importance of Greenland deal "cannot be underestimated"; board chairman says our reputation "remains fully intact" and improving

There wasn't any news, really, out of the Forest City Enterprises annual shareholder meeting, held this afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the headquarters city of Cleveland.

But for those of us with a slightly more skeptical view of Forest City, it's always interesting to hear how they talk to (and about) themselves.

"Our whole enterprise for as long as I've been here, and those who came before me, has been built on relationships," said Board Chairman (and former CEO) Chuck Ratner, introducing CFO Bob O'Brien.

Indeed, relationships are why board member Bruce Ratner, Chairman of subsidiary Forest City Ratner, makes strategic political contributions.

"Recent discussions [CEO David LaRue] and I  have have had with some investors have indicated that some are questioning whether we have lost momentum," declared O'Brien a bit later. 

"Be assured," he responded, "we are not losing sight of our ultimate goal, to drive shareholder value." 

Indeed, that is their goal, and they don't seem to mind cheating a bit.

The Greenland deal

LaRue brought up the pending resolution of the Atlantic Yards joint venture.

"We signed a definitive agreement with Shanghai-based Greenland Group for Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, which we expect to close by the end of June," he said. "The importance of this closing cannot be underestimated. It jump-starts the balance of our 6400-unit residential development in Brooklyn, which we've been working on for over a decade."

"The value creation opportunity in partnering with a firm such as the Greenland Group allows us to continue that development business and activate and for-profit [sic] these buildings," he said.

FCE's reputation

At the end of the meeting, Chuck Ratner reported on meetings he's had with governmental, financial, strategic, and individual partners, as well visits he's made to new projects.

"I just want to assure all of you," he insisted, "as our shareholders and all of whom have a collective interest in the well-being of our enterprises, that the most important asset we have, our reputation, our name, our credibility, remains fully intact and being enhanced and growing every year."

Well, he didn't show up at the recent hearing on the court-ordered Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement.

But if Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin of Forest City Ratner keep getting awards, well, Atlantic Yards may go down the memory hole.

Looking back at RPA arguments for Atlantic Yards accountability: "city-making" still needs oversight (and there's still time to comment)

It's certainly curious.

After Atlantic Yards was passed in 2006, one observation--especially from the Regional Plan Association (RPA), self-described as "America's oldest and most distinguished independent urban research and advocacy group---was that a project of this dimension needs greater public oversight during the complicated and inevitably long buildout.

That hasn't happened, though the need certainly remains and two Assembly bills--albeit without much support as of now--are pending to authorize a subsidiary to achieve such oversight.

In fact, such oversight has slackened. Until the opening of the Barclays Center, there was a bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which once provided a forum for various agencies to get updates.

It's been replaced by a Quality of Life Committee, less committee than presentation, where, the pattern has been recently, officials from Empire State Development and Forest City Ratner deliver reports and take a few questions.

A committee meeting has been scheduled for June 3, but no agenda has been circulated beyond hints of "some critical construction updates." (Translation: much previously undisclosed disruptive work is coming.)
Forest City Ratner has failed to hire the promised Independent Compliance Monitor to oversee and report back on the much-touted Community Benefits Agreement. Nor has the oversight of construction been sufficient, numerous residents have commented.

Meanwhile, the joint venture with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, which will own 70% of the project (excluding the arena and first tower) is set to become formalized next month. Many people have commented that they don't expect more accountability.

Greenland seems to be driving decision-making, deciding, for example, that the next three towers will be built via conventional means, not modular construction, touted as saving on time, money, and disruption.

Room for comment

There's still time to file comments to Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, regarding oversight issues.

The comment period on the court-ordered Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) expired May 12, but written comments on the Proposed Amendment to the Modified General Project Plan may be sent by mail or email through tomorrow, May 30.

The Proposed Amendment is relatively modest, involving the shifting of up to 208,000 gross square feet of floor area from Phase I to Phase II and reducing the once-planned 3,670 permanent parking spaces to between 1,200 and 2,896 such spaces, with fewer parking lots.

That said, ESD is supposed to respond to all comments, so it's not implausible to raise larger issues in reference to shifts in the project, especially since there's nothing precluding future changes to the project.

Also, while ESD once said it didn't have to approve the Greenland deal, the most recent explanation I got was vague, so some approval may still be pending, which would be another opportunity for leverage.

Let's look back on the previous logic for oversight.

RPA wisdom, 2007

In May 2005, the RPA's Rob Lane described Atlantic Yards as less a project--which could be built in three to five years, with  continuity in planning, funding, and oversight--than an example of "city-building.”

He wrote:
The larger questions raised by Atlantic Yards are not whether one likes Frank Gehry’s architecture (he will probably design only a few of the buildings), whether Forest City Ratner has the public’s interest at heart (why would we expect it to?), or even whether one agrees with the scale and composition of the development (my organization, Regional Plan Association, supports the major elements of the plan). Looking forward, do we have a development model that will lead to better cities, as opposed to better projects?
Lane observed there was both “too little government planning and public input in the early stages of the project, and too little public oversight for the lengthy period in which the development will take place.” In a gesture to Forest City, he suggested that the lack of continuous public oversight was matched by “a set of overly rigid design guidelines that cannot accommodate changes in architects, market demand or neighborhood needs.”

Both the public and the politicians, Lane concluded, had to “be willing to shoulder more burdens, and more responsibility.”

A push for oversight

As I wrote in June 2008, elected officials and community representatives from the BrooklynSpeaks coalition gathered to support the creation of the “Atlantic Yards Development Trust” to oversee the project. That's still pending.

Such an organization would be unlikely to fundamentally change power dynamics, but even the effort to channel public input, increase transparency, and improve accountability is unacceptable to developer Forest City Ratner and, apparently, its allies in the governor's office. 

Steps back

That hasn't happened. The developer remains in the driver's seat. In fact, things have moved backwards. And some of the few citywide groups with heft that might make a difference have either stepped away or stepped back.

The Municipal Art Society, which launched BrooklynSpeaks to help mend Atlantic Yards, not only withdrew from the organization but has since announced it will bestow its highest award to Forest City Ratner Chairman Bruce Ratner and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin.

And the business-friendly RPA, which backed Atlantic Yards with reservations, hasn't made Atlantic Yards a priority, despite some important public comments.

RPA on MTA deal

In June 2009, the RPA advised the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which was set to revise its deal with Forest City, to seek a better deal.

“While there has been little time to digest the proposal, several considerations are clear,” the RPA's Neysa Pranger testified, suggesting that project is now far different from the one approved in 2006, with “greatly diminished” public benefits. She also said that “it is likely to be years before the market recovers enough to attract new developers”--a statement I thought worthy of debate and now, with hindsight, see as silly.

However, Pranger wisely observed that it “is almost inevitable that it will need to be redesigned and renegotiated over several business cycles before it’s complete." (Hello, Chinese government-owned investors!)

“Does this new agreement retain enough benefits for the MTA and the city to proceed with a scaled-back plan?” Pranger asked. “Based on the information available, the answer is no."

Rather than open up the site to new bids, she made four recommendations for any revised deal with Forest City Ratner, including granting the MTA more future project revenues, conducting a new cost-benefit analysis and creating a new ESDC subsidiary to oversee the project and review design elements. 

The MTA board didn't bother to discuss those suggestions.

"Building the Next New York" recommendations constrast with AY reality

In May 2012, the RPA issued Building the Next New York: Recommendations for Large Real Estate Projects, which offered some sober criticisms of Atlantic Yards while analyzing a range of large development initiatives in order to propose some recommendations.

The RPA said it was too soon to come to a verdict on Atlantic Yards. However, it reflected some some lessons from the project. "These projects are enormously complex and can take a generation or more to build," said RPA President Robert Yaro. "This makes it essential to maintain both flexibility and a public stake throughout the life of the project."

As I wrote, the RPA's recommendations in many ways ran counter to the Atlantic Yards pattern. (My answers are in parentheses).

The recommendations:
  • Establish policy goals and measurable benchmarks to maximize and balance economic, social equity and environmental benefits (no)
  • Clarify the maze of state, city and federal requirements early in the process (maybe
  • Obtain public input at the beginning of the planning process to develop greater consensus (no
  • Lead with public-realm improvements such as parks, streets and plazas to lay the groundwork for private development (no
  • Connect real estate and transportation improvements (yes, but
  • Promote long-term revenue sharing among public land owners and private developers (no
  • Implement district-wide sustainability practices such as green infrastructure and renewable energy (partly
  • Maintain continuing public oversight to guide development and maintenance (no
One big contrast is Battery Park City, where the public-realm improvements came first, with new park space.

And while there's a new subway entrance, it mainly serves the developer's business needs, delivering arena-goers (and, yes, diverting a good number of drivers).

The study suggested reforms:
  • Land use and environmental review procedures should be assessed and overlapping or excessive regulations should be modified. Protections that are too weak need to be strengthened. 
  • An independent entity, such as New York City’s Independent Budget Office [IBO], should monitor project costs and benefits over time to provide greater transparency. 
  • Value recapture mechanisms such as tax-increment financing, in which the cost of new infrastructure is subsidized by anticipated higher real-estate tax revenue generated by the redevelopment project, and co-development of projects between public and private entities, should be promoted. 
Neither the first nor the third of these reforms were implemented in the case of Atlantic Yards; indeed, the public sector does not seem to have been robust enough to try "co-development."

And in a sign of how politicized cost-benefit analyses can get, in the case of Atlantic Yards, the city and state have disparaged the IBO's analysis while issuing their own, questionable analyses, for example premised on the untenable notion that the project would be built out in full over a decade.

New outpost of SoHo's Parm coming to Flatbush near Barclays Center; sports bar or restaurant likely on third floor of Atlantic Center mall

On 12/5/13, Dan Myers of Here's Park Slope observed Something Big in The Works for 208-210 Flatbush Avenue, saying the space at 208-210 Flatbush Avenue, between Bergen and Dean and formerly occupied by a medical clinic, "will next be home to a very intriguing-sounding restaurant."

Google Maps via Here's Park Slope
Though landlord Michael Pintchik only dropped hints that a “very successful Manhattan restaurateur” would open a “Brooklyn-centric” restaurant, Myers offered a list of ten restaurateurs, and guessed right.

The Daily News reported yesterday:
Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, they of the expense account mecca Carbone, will open an offshoot of their Soho hero shop Parm near Barclays Center.
“We prefer the regional or local guy compared to the national tenant,” said landlord Michael Pintchik, who owns dozens of properties near Barclays Center. “It’s easy to do business we the nationals, but for the neighborhood to thrive and interesting we want some locals.”
The red sauce revivalists, who specialized in playful takes on classic Italian-American cuisine, recently inked leases on storefronts at 208 and 210 Flatbush Avenue...
On Flatbush Avenue, where the Pintchik family controls much real estate, the new restaurant/retail outlets like Shake Shack seem to be aimed at both arena-goers and potential neighborhood visitors, a cross-over challenge that many wary of the arena feared wouldn't happen. Notably, the Pintchiks rejected Hooters.

On Atlantic Avenue, on the north side of the arena, there's less of an immediate residential presence, given two malls, and Forest City Ratner and other landlords are more embracing of chains, as noted below.

New sports bar at Atlantic Center?

The Commercial Observer reported yesterday that Forest City is looking to lease a large 20,000 square feet on the third floor of Atlantic Center, long empty, to a sports bar, bowling alley or restaurant.

They're seeking in the mid $50s per square foot, according to FCR's Kathryn Welch, who said the Applebee’s and the Buffalo Wild Wings at the developers adjacent Atlantic Terminal Mall have gotten more interest since the Barclays Center opened across the street in late September 2012.

That mall also gets more foot traffic on the floors with the restaurants and is that much closer to the subway, so it may still be a challenge, I'd add. The Tony Roma's just to the east, on the ground floor of the Atlantic Terrace building, was pretty empty the one time I went, though I hear it's busy at happy hour.

Forest City has the right to build three residential towers on top of the mall. The observer, in paraphrase, quoted agent Geoffrey Bailey of SCG Retail as saying "it would be an interesting proposition since Forest City is developing 6,000 apartments across the street, near Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues."

I think that means: time will tell how the market responds.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

So, why are Ratner & Gilmartin getting the Onassis Medal? The ends must justify the (ignored) means, and they don't fit most MAS goals.

Now there's an official page and invitation (also below) for the 2014 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal, the Municipal Art Society’s highest honor, which "is presented annually to individuals and institutions whose work or deeds have made outstanding contributions to the quality of life in New York City."

As I wrote, it's highly questionable that Forest City Ratner's Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin, whatever their significant professional accomplishments, fit with the ideals that Onassis represented.

After all, Forest City has been called “among the most ruthless and difficult developers in the city" and the company is deeply entangled with the less-than-virtuous lobbyist Al D'Amato.

Did those deciding on the award consider all this, or did they just look at the buildings, and conclude that the ends justify the means? Remember, it's a fund-raiser.

If the medal is to go to a developer, there are stronger candidates. Consider someone like Jonathan Rose, who Metropolis described as "arguably the nation’s foremost developer of affordable, environmentally sensitive, socially conscious housing projects"?

Harmony with MAS goals?

Indeed, Forest City's record doesn't necessarily fit with the Municipal Art Society's efforts to create a "more livable city by advocating for excellence in urban planning and design, a commitment to historic preservation and the arts, and the empowerment of local communities to affect change in their neighborhoods."

While the signature Forest City buildings honored in the invitation--the Barclays Center, the New York Times Tower, New York By Gehry--arguably represent excellent urban design (if not urban planning), it's hard to say they represent a commitment to historic preservation nor the empowerment of local communities.

Heck, the Atlantic Yards project is in the middle of a court-ordered Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), because New York State, with Forest City, misled the public and the court about the change in the project timetable to 25 years.

And the Barclays Center is about to get a new green roof--and extended, disruptive construction--that was never disclosed in any environmental review. That's how they roll.

It's worth looking at how Ratner and Gilmartin are described in the invitation, at bottom. Note what's not mentioned: the (delayed) commitment to affordable housing, the dubious manipulation of "community" under the much-touted (but not credible) Community Benefits Agreement, and the role of a Russian oligarch and the Chinese government in Atlantic Yards.

Ratner's bio

From the bio:
Bruce Ratner is the Executive Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, a New York-based real estate development company which he started in 1985. As one of the largest urban real estate developers in the country, Mr. Ratner has developed 44 ground-up projects in the New York City area over nearly 30 years.
That's professional accomplishment, but there are other developers with significant records, too. As I wrote, it's notable that Ratner and Gilmartin are the first developers being honored in this way.
As the majority owner and developer of Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, Mr. Ratner is recognized for bringing the first major professional sports team to Brooklyn since the Dodgers left in 1957. The arena is part of Mr. Ratner’s $4.9 billion, 22-acre mixed-use Atlantic Yards development, which will include 6,400 residential units. The first residential building, under construction now, is being built using a pioneering method of modular construction.
Yes, he brought the first major league team to Brooklyn, but also used that team to leverage a real estate deal and to avoid the empowerment of local communities. Nor is it his team any more--he sold 80% to Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov and is the process of selling his company's remaining share.

Nor is it his "Atlantic Yards development," since Forest City Ratner and parent Forest City Enterprises are in the process of selling 70% of the remaining project (excluding the arena and first tower) to the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group. So public subsidies, as well as cheap capital from the dubious marketing of green cards under the EB-5 program, will benefit the Chinese government.

Also, while modular construction is a pioneering method, we recently learned--well after the decision to honor Ratner and Gilmartin--that it's not yet working out as planned: the first building is delayed a year, and Greenland has determined that the next three towers will be built using conventional construction. So much for some of the promised benefits from modular, such as less noise, fewer trucks, and less disruption.
Mr. Ratner’s commitment to New York City is exemplified by his service on the boards of Weill Cornell Medical College; the Museum of Jewish Heritage – a Living Memorial to the Holocaust, where he serves as Chairman-Elect; and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
That represents significant service, but if board service were a qualification for the Onassis Medal, the list of moguls eligible would be a mile long.

Gilmartin's bio

From the bio:
Maryanne Gilmartin is President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, where she has led the development of some of the most high profile real estate projects in New York City, including New York By Gehry, the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, designed by architect Frank Gehry, and the New York Times Building, designed by architect Renzo Piano. She is also leading the effort to build Atlantic Yards.
OK, now we know for sure that these are the projects being recognized.
Ms. Gilmartin has been recognized as a top professional in her field by New York Women Executives in Real Estate (WX) as its 2007 “Woman of the Year,” by Crain’s in 2007 as one of New York’s Most Influential Women and again, in 2011 and 2013, by Crain’s as one of New York’s 50 Most Powerful Women.
Those are all pretty much insider awards, since the real estate industry and Crain's are not about to look at the Culture of Cheating.
As a Trustee of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), a Member of the Board of Governors of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Co-Chair of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and a Member of the Industry Advisory Board of the MS Real Estate Development Program at Columbia University, Ms. Gilmartin’s personal and professional commitment to New York City is deep.
Three of those professional commitments are intertwined with Forest City's business interests, while the fourth seems an FCR seat on the BAM board, given Ratner's long relationship. Again, however significant the service, it's hard to see how that translates into the Onassis Medal.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: Dean Street shutdown tomorrow for crane; 6th floor construction begins June 9 (after meeting); plus photos of modules

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated May 26 issued today by Empire State Development after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner, Dean Street--presumably between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues--will be shut down tomorrow "for jumping of crane," or extending it to a greater height.

No details have been provided regarding the time and extent of the shutdown.

Also, though previously the delivery and erection of 6th floor modules for the B2 modular tower was supposed to commence in June, it won't start until June 9. That means that no one at the next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, on June 3, will be in a position to complain.

(The tower was supposed to be finished by December 2014 but has been delayed a year due to problems in production. Now Forest City Ratner's new joint venture partner, the Greenland Group, has said the next three towers will be built conventionally.)

From the alert

Below, I've excerpted the alert, and bolded elements that differ from the previous alert. Note that the statement "Gravel backfilling will be completed during this reporting period" also appeared in the previous alert, so one was clearly incorrect:
• Erection of 6th floor modules will commence during the week of June 9th. Dean Street shutdown is tentative for May 28th for jumping of crane. This is subject to receipt of DOT approval. Public notification/posting will be made.• Manufacturing of 6th floor modules has been completed and erection will commence week of June 9th June. Manufacturing of 7th and 8th floors modules will continue during this reporting period. During the interim mechanical, plumbing and electrical mate line work is expected to commence.
• Approximately 117 modules have been delivered and installed to date.
• Alleyway drainage plumbing between B2 and the arena is 98% complete. Gravel backfilling will be completed during this reporting period.
• Hoist cars have been set. Installation of first tie-in to the 3rd floor will continue this reporting period. The hoist is being erected at the southwest corner (Dean Street & Flatbush Avenue) of the building. Hoist will become operational after erection of the 8th floor modules.
Photos from the Navy Yard

Photographer Jonathan Barkey recently visited the Brooklyn Navy Yard, home to Forest City's modular factory, where it certainly looked like some modules were in place.

Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, May 26, 2014

The transactional relationship between Bruce Ratner & Al D'Amato: $3 million plus a curious contribution

The transactional relationship between Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, a self-described liberal Democrat, and political operative Al D'Amato, the former Republican Senator, is more extensive than previously reported.

Yesterday I wrote about how a sequence suggests a campaign contribution from Ratner and his wife to D'Amato's Renew New York PAC, seemingly a personal kitty for D'Amato, seemed to be routed to Nassau County executive Ed Mangano, who endorsed Ratner's Nassau Coliseum deal and remains key to future negotiations. (See graphic at bottom.)

I also wrote about D'Amato's city/state lobbying and federal lobbying on behalf of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

All told, Forest City Ratner has paid D'Amato's Park Strategies more than $3 million for lobbying and consultation related to Atlantic Yards and the Nassau Coliseum.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sequence suggests Ratner donation to D'Amato PAC was routed to Nassau County executive key to Coliseum deal

The transactional relationship between Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, a self-described liberal Democrat, and political operative Al D'Amato, the former Republican Senator, is more extensive than previously reported. Beyond the article below about a curious campaign contribution, also see description of D'Amato's city/state lobbying and federal lobbying on behalf of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Forest City Ratner has paid D'Amato's Park Strategies more than $3 million for lobbying and consultation related to Atlantic Yards and the Nassau Coliseum.

Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner, who last August won the nod to revamp the Nassau Coliseum, did not--according to state campaign finance records--contribute directly to the successful re-election campaign of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who favored Ratner's bid over that of rival Madison Square Garden.

However, it looks as if Ratner and his wife, Pam Lipkin, indirectly gave Mangano's campaign $25,000. Their $12,500 contributions to lobbyist Alfonse D'Amato's PAC, Renew New York were soon followed by a $25,000 contribution from the PAC to Mangano, whose office remains involved in the Coliseum project.

It would not have been illegal for Ratner and Lipkin to make those contributions directly. However, by using D'Amato--a longtime lobbyist for the developer and close political supporter of Mangano--as a conduit, it seems the developer (a staunch Democrat) kept the support (for a Republican) from scrutiny.

(The Long Island Press, which noted that, at the County Executive's victory party,  D'Amato made "no mention of his company’s own financial connection" with Mangano, did not recognize that the Renew New York contribution to Mangano might be traced to Ratner.)

After all, Mangano has been criticized for reaping benefits from those doing business with the county. Numerous companies with county contracts, as well as others who have relationships with Nassau County, were reported last year as routing contributions through local political clubs, an unusual tactic that drew complaints from Democrats (though no fine).

Renew New York is primarily funded by D'Amato, who runs Park Strategies, and is used to distribute contributions statewide. Family members periodically contribute, but there are relatively few outside contributors, so it appears Renew New York operates as another vector for D'Amato influence.

D'Amato posted an op-ed last October 24 supporting Mangano, citing, among other things, the Coliseum revamp. He didn't mention that he was lobbying the County Executive on behalf of Ratner, that Mangano had hired his daughter, or that, just after he'd gotten a contribution from Ratner (and Lipkin), he'd direct the exact same sum to Mangano.

Former Village Voice investigative reporter Wayne Barrett called D'Amato "the most ethically compromised politician" he ever covered (with "no fucking competition for this").

Looking at the sequence

As of July 2013, records show, Renew New York had $21,412.61 available, after D'Amato had replenished its coffers with $35,000 in his own contributions. The PAC had spent $24,325 by October, so it was temporarily in the red.

On October 2, Ratner and Lipkin each gave Renew New York $12,500. Five days later, the PAC contributed $25,000 to Mangano. (Renew New York separately gave $300 to Mangano last year. Otherwise it had not given to him since a $10,000 contribution in 2009.)

The Ratner/Lipkin contributions were the only contributions to Renew New York, outside of those by D'Amato himself, during the six-month period. The couple had never previously given to the PAC.

(Later, after D'Amato's own contribution, the PAC gave $25,000 to the campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and $5,000 to the campaign of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, among others.)

Yes, money's fungible, so it can't be proven that Ratner/Lipkin contributions went to Mangano. But the sequence sure points that way. Remember, Ratner's political contributions are almost always strategic; though the developer considers himself a staunch Democrat and liberal, business considerations have always trumped ideology.

By the way, in New York City, those doing business with the city face a limit of $400 on contributions to citywide office.

What it means

The Renew New York contribution was hardly critical to Mangano's campaign, which raised a million dollars alone during the month before the election, according to Newsday. And Mangano's rival Thomas Suozzi, who formerly worked for Cablevision, did get significant support from Cablevision and MSG executive James Dolan and his parents, each of whom contributed $25,000.

But the Ratner/Lipkin contribution via Renew New York likely was aimed at maintaining good relations with the county executive as plans for the Coliseum project, including a potential second phase, remain under consideration.

A lobbying relationship

Indeed, D'Amato, who sat out the Ratner-MSG battle to get the Coliseum contract, has been paid $15,000 a month since September 2013 by Ratner's Nassau Events Center to lobby both the legislature and Mangano on “economic development activities surrounding the re-development of the Nassau Coliseum." The contract is open-ended.

A D'Amato spokeswoman told Newsday the firm “helped to facilitate introductory meetings” between Ratner and legislators. D'Amato also lobbied Mangano, as the screenshot above right indicates.

So there you have it. Bruce Ratner (seemingly) directs a contribution to Mangano via D'Amato, whom he's also paying to lobby Mangano directly. It's an endless loop--or maybe a mobius strip--of a connection.

It's odd that Ratner and D'Amato worked it this way. Regarding Atlantic Yards, Ratner's firm pays D'Amato's firm both a monthly $5000 lobbying retainer and a $25,000 consultation retainer.

Regarding the Nassau Coliseum, presumably the developer could have added a consultation payment to D'Amato and let the lobbyist do all the work transforming that money into a PAC donation and then PAC expenditure.

Renew New York used to bolster D'Amato's candidacy?

Renew New York has been very useful to D'Amato, such as in the successful 1996 push for an environmental bond act. The Times reported 9/9/96, in Pataki Courts Democrats For Bond Act:
Perhaps for the same reasons, United States Senator Alfonse M. D'Amato, who is Mr. Pataki's political mentor, the undisputed leader of the state Republican Party and a strong supporter of Mr. Dole, has also begun promoting the bond act, and breast cancer programs, in radio and television commercials that have been running on Long Island for the last week. The commercials have been financed by a political action committee associated with Mr. D'Amato, Renew New York, whose major contributors are real estate developers.
A 10/22/96 Times analysis of the TV commercial, A Family Approach to Selling a State Bond Act, concluded that it "overstates the case when it claims that Mr. D'Amato has been fighting to pass the bond act" and observed that "this ad seems like a clear effort to bolster him, particularly among moderates who care more about environmental issues than his conservative base."

In a 10/25/96 article headlined Democrat Attacks Ad for Bond Act as an Illegal Plug for D'Amato, the state Democratic Party head argued that D'Amato's fundraising was an end around federal contribution limits of $1,000 per person and $5,000 per corporate PAC.

An 11/4/96 Times article headlined Financing for Environmental Act Shows D'Amato's Influence explained that D'Amato's two PACs, Renew New York and Renew New York/Bond Act, spent nearly $1.5 million for television ads, raising money from real estate developers and out-of-state firms with business in Washington.

Times Magazine columnist Max Frankel, suggesting free or discount airtime in a 2/2/97 column headlined It's the Demand, Stupid, observed:
While the reformers in Washington struggle to close creaky barn doors, New York's unbridled Senator Alfonse D'Amato has been galloping freely beyond their horizon.
Last fall -- more than two years before his next appearance on a ballot to seek re-election -- D'Amato collected more than $2 million for television ads that shamelessly promoted his image while purporting to urge passage of a Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. The ads pictured the Senator and his family in loving embrace and featured his daughter's boasts of how he had saved New Yorkers from all kinds of pollution and maybe even cancer. The true audacity of the ads, however, lay not in their message but in their financing. Sums that far exceeded all Federal campaign limits flowed to two state committees that were named Renew New York, without any reference to D'Amato. And the largest gifts came not just from rich New Yorkers renewing their standing as the Senator's friends but also from bankers, financiers and builders all over the country who are being enriched by the actions and inactions of the Senate Banking Committee and its chairman, Al D'Amato.
Renew New York used to help municipal bond firms?

The Bond Buyer, in a 4/17/97 article headlined N.Y. Lawmaker Calls On Levitt to Widen Scope of Rule G-37, reported:
Charging that municipal bond firms are using soft money contributions to evade the MSRB's Rule G-37, New York State Sen. Franz S. Leichter has urged SEC chairman Arthur Levitt to expand the rule to cover all dealer donations to national, state, and local political parties and committees.
...Leichter's report also found that nine municipal securities firms in 1995 and 1996 contributed $511,500 in soft money to the National Republican Senatorial Committee chaired by D'Amato, and that the committee then transferred roughly $2 million from this account into the campaigns of Pataki and other state Republicans.
The report said that 12 municipal bond firms contributed $265,500 to the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act Committee, which was set up by Pataki to promote last year's $1.75 billion environmental bond act. In addition, the report said the president of one firm donated an additional $25,000 to the "D'Amato-controlled" Renew New York Bond Act Committee.
The Bond Buyer followed up with a 9/30/03 article headlined Muni Consultants Stepping Up Contributions to Issuer Officials:
Nine broker-dealers disclosed that 30 municipal securities consultants made a total of $268,736 in political contributions to issuer officials and other local, state, and federal office-holders and candidates during the first half of 2003 -- more than double the $114,588 in political contributions made by consultants during the same period three years ago.
This was one of the findings of an extensive review by The Bond Buyer of the G-37/G-38 forms that the 15 top-ranked underwriters submitted to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board during the first halves of 2000 and 2003....The review found RBC Dain Rauscher Inc. reported the most political contributions made by consultants -- $84,615 contributed by five of its 13 muni securities consultants, during the first half of 2003.
Guess the firm's biggest consultant political donor? D'Amato's Park Strategies

Park Strategies' state/city lobbying & consultation on Atlantic Yards exceeds $1.7 million since 2009

The transactional relationship between Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, a self-described liberal Democrat, and political operative Al D'Amato, the former Republican Senator, is more extensive than previously reported. Beyond the article below about D'Amato's city/state lobbying on behalf of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, also see coverage of D'Amato's federal lobbying and a curious campaign contribution Forest City Ratner has paid D'Amato's Park Strategies more than $3 million for lobbying and consultation related to Atlantic Yards and the Nassau Coliseum.

Atlantic Yards developer has spent at least $1.7 million even more to pay Park Strategies for state/city lobbying and consultation on Atlantic Yards: at least $1.7 million since 2009. It's not clear exactly what they lobbied about, but it looks like Park Strategies had a hand in Forest City's 2009 renegotiation of the deal to buy Vanderbilt Yard development rights.

The includes $5000 monthly fees for lobbying and additional fees for consultation that average $25,000 a month.

While lobbying began in 2009, the additional fees for consultation began in 2010--a reward for helping renegotiate that MTA deal? For the first six months of 2010, Forest City paid $20,000 a month; for the next six months, it paid $30,000 a month. Since then, it has paid $25,000 a month.

In most two-month periods, the firm reported no issues lobbied. That's not unusual. As Newsday reported 2/17/14, "D'Amato said most of Park Strategies' income isn't from lobbying but rather 'strategic advice,' 'designing programs' and offering expert testimony."

Then again, Forest City is already paying separately for consulting.

2014, $20,000 lobbying, $100,000 consultation (so far, four months)
No subjects lobbied
(note that the contract says they're paid $5000 a month for lobbying, but Park Strategies actually reported $20,000 paid in January-February. I'm not sure if that's a typo)

2013, $60,000 lobbying, $300,000 consultation
No subjects lobbied

2012, $60,000 lobbying, $300,000 consultation
No subjects lobbied

2011, $60,000 lobbying, $300,000 consultation

2010, $50,000 lobbying, $300,000 consultation
March-April, lobbied NYC Department of Buildings
May-June, lobbied state Senate on "BROOKLYN DEVELOPMENT"

2009, $55,000 lobbying
March-April, May-June, July-August