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Showing posts from July, 2014

Second look: agreement announced last month suggests residents displaced since 2006 can get preference in affordable housing lottery

The press missed it--in part because it wasn't highlighted--but the Atlantic Yards housing agreement announced 6/27/14 includes an important element that could help those already displaced from the neighborhoods around the Atlantic Yards project get a shot at the community preference for subsidized housing.

Of the affordable units, 50% will be set aside in the lottery for residents of the four nearby Community Districts, so ties to those districts help enormously, given the likelihood the lottery will be oversubscribed.

As stated 7/4/14 on the web site of Brooklyn Speaks, which negotiated the agreement:
Affordable housing at Atlantic Yards is expected to be awarded by lottery; residents of Brooklyn community districts 2, 3, 6 and 8 are expected to receive preference for 50% of such housing, consistent with federal fair housing law. The NYC Letter expresses the intention of the City of New York to consider former residents of districts 2, 3, 6 and 8 who have been displaced since th…

At announcement of affordable housing seminars, celebratory air out of sync with reality of some not-so-affordable units

It's surely progress, the series of seminars announced yesterday to inform people how to apply for affordable housing lotteries, helping them ensure they properly fill out applications and try to clean up their credit.

But the press conference yesterday at Borough Hall, led by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, with several elected officials, developers' representatives, and nonprofit organizers, had an air of celebration and triumph out of sync with the reality.
"They're removing the 'No Vacancy'' sign," declared an effusive Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. "1100 [affordable] units will no longer be out of reach for the everyday Brooklynite."
"This is so Brooklyn can stay in Brooklyn," declared 35th District Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who said the idea for seminars grew out of conversations she had on the campaign trail.
"We are extremely proud of our affordable housing program at Atlantic Yards," declared Fores…

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Correction: Forest City's plan is to build over East River Plaza, not Atlantic Center mall

I erred, and apologize:  Forest City informs me the plan is to build over East River Plaza, not Atlantic Center. See background here.

So please consider the below as background for the plan, if/when it emerges, to build over Atlantic Center. It is approximately the same amount of space.

Forest City Ratner has begun dropping hints that it's preparing to build 1 million square feet--perhaps in three towers--over the Atlantic Center mall, a long-hinted plan that was never formally part of Atlantic Yards but directly adjacent to it.

That could add some 1,000 apartments--maybe all market-rate--to the coming density of the Atlantic Yards project, which would include 6,430 apartments in 14 to 15 towers, plus another tower (if ever built) devoted to office space

BisNow reported yesterday, almost in passing:
Forest City Ratner keeps interior design and construction in house, which makes taking on entitlement risk a little less scary, says the company's Melissa Burch. Forest City Ratner is …

In EB-5 criticism, Daily News doesn't connect dots to Atlantic Yards; industry pushback on Fortune story leans on Buffett buff

Yesterday the New York Daily News offered this brief editorial, A wheely big deal, subtitled "$150 million from Chinese nationals to help build the Staten Island Ferris Wheel":
You know the enormous Ferris wheel project planned for the North Shore of Staten Island? It just got a huge cash infusion: $150 million, through a federal program that lets affluent foreigners and their families get temporary visas when they invest at least $500,000 in U.S. job creation. In this case, the lucky rich visa-holders-to-be are 300 Chinese nationals.
And you thought immigration policy was broken. My comment: "Same goes for Atlantic Yards: $249 million. Through deceptive marketing."

Somehow the Daily News didn't connect the dots. But maybe that's because no other news outlet beyond this blog has reported on the Atlantic Yards deal, and the Staten Island news emerged last week.
On the New York Wheel

The Staten Island Advance reported 7/24/14, New York Wheel gets financial bac…

Is the marriage of Jay-Z and Beyoncé on the rocks?

Is the marriage of Jay-Z and Beyoncé on the rocks? It's tough to trust an extensive but anonymously sourced New York Post Page 6 article, headlined Inside the crumbling marriage of Jay Z and Beyoncé:
They are one of the most famous couples on earth, yet intensely private — rarely allowing a glimpse of anything but the picture of a marriage and partnership that is constantly, blissfully happy.
But a source who has been close to Beyoncé and Jay Z for years tells The Post that all is not well — and hasn’t been for quite some time.
This is the first peek behind the firewall that is Beyoncé and Jay Z Inc. — what drew them together, why they’re headed for a split and why love was never the thing that held them together. If the allegations are ever confirmed, they'd remind us how the Jay-Z mystique, compounded by his mega-celebrity wife, was used to sell the Barclays Center, via their concerts and their paparazzi-drawing presence at the basketball sidelines.

At 10 MetroTech, some familiar complaints regarding Forest City construction methods

Maybe neighbors of 10 MetroTech need their own version of Atlantic Yards Watch, say 10 MetroTech Watch.

First, on 7/18/14, Fort Green Focus reported Rockwell Place Residents Concerned By Demolition & Dust At 10 MetroTech:
Continued demolition work at the site called 10 MetroTech Center (alternately 625 Fulton Street) is filling 1 Rockwell Place with potentially harmful dust, says a letter written by building residents to Public Advocate Leticia James.
The letter, which 1 Rockwell resident representatives Sandra Mullin and Laura Tucker say they are also sending to City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, andBorough President Eric Adams, alleges that site developer Forest City Ratner only began using wet methods to mitigate dust from the demolition after complaints were made–and that they believe FCR should pick up the bill for their apartments being cleaned of said dust. As the work includes demolishing an 1800s candy factory, residents are especially worried …

REBNY, the governor, and the enduring influence of big real estate on Albany (and an Atlantic Yards flashback)

Yesterday's New York Times investigation, Cuomo’s Office Hobbled Ethics Inquiries by Moreland Commission, concludes: While the governor now maintains he had every right to monitor and direct the work of a commission he had created, many commissioners and investigators saw the demands as politically motivated interference that hamstrung an undertaking that the governor had publicly vowed would be independent. The article describe how Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office shut down an effort to subpoena the Real Estate Board of New York, which ultimately provided information voluntarily (though it's not clear how much).

Investigators also discovered "an unusually direct memorandum sent by Steven Spinola, the organization’s president, asking members to donate to Assembly Democrats," and sought to highlight: discovery of email correspondence from a major New York City builder, Extell Development, about a coming fund-raiser for Mr. Cuomo tied to his birthday. The email discusse…

Fortune dissects EB-5: "The dark, disturbing world of the visa-for-sale program"

Fortune magazine today offers a deep investigation into the EB-5 immigrant investor program, The dark, disturbing world of the visa-for-sale program, by Peter Elkind and Marty Jones.

The narrative focuses at length on a notorious case in Chicago, “World’s First Zero Carbon Platinum LEED-certified and 100% Allergen Free convention center and hotel complex,” promoted by Anshoo Sethi, which was clearly fraud.
But Elkind's investigation confirms and deepens much of what I've reported: that the program itself is inherently suspect:
Today EB-5 commands bipartisan support—and it’s booming. Believers tout the program as a “win-win-win” that helps immigrants and U.S. workers, and provides valuable investment in American communities. A trio of billionaires—Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Sheldon Adelson—recently endorsed the program in an op-ed column in the New York Times.
But because the EB-5 industry is virtually unregulated, it has become a magnet for amateurs, pipe-dreamers, and ch…

Rapfogel sentenced to 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison; questions remain unanswered about Forest City connections

From the press release yesterday, A.G Schneiderman And Comptroller DiNapoli Announce Sentencing Of Former Met Council Director:
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced that William Rapfogel, former executive director and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council), has been sentenced to 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $3 million in restitution to Met Council. The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that Rapfogel and his co-conspirators stole approximately $9 million from the taxpayer-funded nonprofit organization in a 20-year grand larceny and kickback scheme. Rapfogel personally stole $3 million and used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle.

...From 1993 to 2013, Rapfogel served as the head of Met Council, a New York State not-for-profit organization that provides the poor and elderly in the New York City area with social, economic, housing, food and emergency financial assis…

Honors and complications: on Dean Street parking lot fence, a plaque for BUILD's Marie Louis

Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) may be defunct and in court.

But there's a more positive perspective on its legacy, a plaque--surely temporary, and movable--honoring BUILD's Chief Operating Officer Marie Louis, who died in late 2011 of cancer.

The plaque is affixed on Dean Street just east of Sixth Avenue on the fence--otherwise occupied by Artbridge canvas--enclosing the parking lot mainly used by satellite TV vans. It was put up about a week ago, quietly, according to James Caldwell, BUILD's former CEO, because Louis "always did things behind the scenes."

Developer Forest City Ratner helped Louis with medical treatment, Caldwell noted. "A year later, after BUILD closed, I asked them if they would put up something in her memory," he said, "and they [ultimately] did it." He said he expected the plaque will be moved.

Indeed, the house next to the parking lot, a…

Transition at ESD: Roy and Lynch depart, newbie in-house replacements to be succeeded by subsidiary?

Those on Empire State Development's distribution list for the two-week Construction Alerts might have noticed something different about the one released yesterday, since it was sent by Nicole J. Jordan, ESD's Director of Community Relations, rather than Derek Lynch, ESDC's recent manager of community and government relations for Atlantic Yards.

And a look at ESD's Atlantic Yards page shows that Paula Roy, who was Director of Atlantic Yards, no longer appears.
I got a statement from ESD: "Paula recently left to pursue a new opportunity at [New York City] HDC {Housing Development Corporation] and Sam Filler is now Director of Atlantic Yards. Derek also recently left and Nicole Jordan is now Director of Community Relations for Atlantic Yards."
Though Roy and Lynch were relatively recent hires, the transition suggests even less continuity for Atlantic Yards at the state level and, accordingly, more clout for developer Forest City Ratner. And it may mean less over…

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: pace of modules increases, to 246 of 930

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert (below), dated and distributed July 21 by Empire State Development after preparation by Forest City Ratner, there were some 57 modules delivered to the B2 modular tower in a two-week period, far more than 24 in the previous two weeks and even 48 in the period before that.

The total is now about 246 of 930 modules. [UPDATED] Should a pace of 50 every two weeks be maintained--which depends on the factory--the modules could be delivered in just 28 weeks. There's surely additional work after that, but it's possible the building could be finished much closer to its previous December 2014 completion date rather than a year later.

Also, work promised in the previous alert--such as constriction of Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street for construction activities--has begun or is expected to begin.

Below are some verbatim excerpts from the report.

B-2 Tower, Modular Residential



Erection of 9th floor is complete and the 10th…

Engineering firm offers optimistic look at Atlantic Yards modular project (but doesn't mention delay)

In a 7/11/14 article in the in-house Arup Connect, Engineering the Factory Built Tower, David Farnsworth of Arup, the structural and mechanical engineering firm behind the Atlantic Yards B2 modular project, offers an intriguing and optimistic look at the future of modular.

However, he writes that the building will be "completed later this year," though developer Forest City Ratner, which is building the tower via the FC Skanska joint venture, has said it's one year behind schedule, expected to open in late 2015.

Once the modules are delivered from the factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he writes:
The lift process can take as little as ten minutes per module. Considering trucking restrictions, delivery logistics, and rigging, it would be entirely feasible to erect 12 modules and associated braced frames in a normal workday. With 36 modules per floor, this could equate to a floor every three days. That would be fast. The most recent pace, however, was 24 modules delivered …