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Showing posts from September, 2014

On-site environmental monitor due Sept. 15 delayed one month, leaving gap as construction activities accelerate; more transparency needed

So, how about the new monitor promised to help ensure that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction--which is ramping up now--meets state requirements? It will arrive later than planned, and later than promised earlier this month.

The Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments for Atlantic Yards (p.15), issued in June, has the following clause:
2. FCRC [Forest City Ratner Companies] shall promptly seek to retain the services of a qualified engineering firm to serve as the on-site environmental monitor (“OEM”) pursuant to a scope to be reviewed by ESD [Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards], and shall use commercially reasonable efforts to retain the engineering firm to serve as the OEM on or before September 15, 2014. At the 9/4/14 Quality of Life meeting, Forest City acknowledged that timetable would not be met, but  executive Ashley Cotton said that the delay would be "very short."

I'd say "very short" m…

From the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Alert: street closures coming Oct. 10, overnight work

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Alert, distributed yesterday by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Forest City Ratner, significant work on the project site is starting this week, with street closures and overnight coming up the weekend beginning October 10.

Notably, assembly of the two cranes--one on Atlantic Avenue and the other on the B3 site at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue--needed for the green roof construction will begin on the night of Friday, October 10. The work will take place all weekend, including overnight work.

While Sixth Ave between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street will maintain at least one lane of traffic for local traffic for most of the weekend--with intermittent closures as the crane is assembled and raised--Sixth Avenue between Dean Street and Bergen Street will remain closed, as will Dean Street between Flatbush Avenue and Sixth Avenue.

Sidewalks within the work zone will remain open only to residents and visitors…

A tale of regulatory capture involving the New York Fed and Goldman; what about regulatory capture regarding Atlantic Yards?

Since Friday, a huge story has emerged, thanks to a ProPublica article and the radio show This American Life, about "regulatory capture" of the Federal Reserve, which means letting the purportedly regulated business either lead the way and/or have its goals internalized by staff charged with regulating it.

It's an important concept regarding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, since evidence of regulatory capture has emerged several times, as I explain below.

The Fed vs. Goldman Sachs

As summarized by Bloomberg View columnist Michael Lewis, in his 9/26/14 column The Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes:
Our financial regulatory system is obviously dysfunctional. But because the subject is so tedious, and the details so complicated, the public doesn't pay it much attention.
That may very well change today, for today -- Friday, Sept. 26 --- the radio program "This American Life" will air a jaw-dropping storyabout Wall Street regulation, and the public will have no trouble at a…

Department of City Planning promotes Von Engel to Brooklyn director; an Atlantic Yards cameo

The Real Deal reported on 9/19/14, City Planning appoints new Brooklyn director: Winston Von Engel's appointment comes amidst borough's development boom:
New York City’s Department of City Planning just appointed a new director for its Brooklyn office, The Real Deal has learned. Winston Von Engel, a 25-year veteran of the planning department, will direct the borough’s urban design and land use policy, guide housing and economic development initiatives, and advise the City Planning Commission on zoning issues...
“Today, Brooklyn is growing and thriving and I am particularly excited by this administration’s historic challenge to plan for, and especially the charge to plan with, communities for affordable housing and resiliency to make this a better and more equitable city for all,” Von Engel told TRD by email. He will replace Purnima Kapur, who became the department’s executive director in June.
Von Engel, a graduate of the Pratt Institute, started at City Planning as an intern in…

Second arena hockey game draws 11,823 (far less than last year); more obstructed seats than acknowledged?

Well, last September the first hockey game at the Barclays Center sold more tickets than anticipated--14,689 (of 15,813 capacity) vs. an originally expected 11,000 and got mixed reviews from fans.

This year, with less hype, and an expected 12,000 in attendance, the game between the new York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils drew 11,823.

That meant that many of the fans surprised by obstructed views--despite significant publicity that the arena was not designed for hockey--were able to move to better seats.

How many obstructed seats, really?

Two New York Times writers, however, managed to catch the Barclays Center impresario in a bit of misdirection, in Fans Come to See Isles in Future Home. Not All Succeed.:
The Conlons were not alone in their plight while attending the Islanders’ only visit this season to Barclays Center, their future home.The view from several hundred other seats at one end of the rink was also obstructed, though arena officials said many of those would not be offe…

Tonight's Islanders game another test for Long Island fan base (and neighborhood); team getting paid by arena, which gets potential upside

There's the second pre-season NHL game ever tonight for the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center, their home come fall 2015, and it's another test for managing a Long Island-based fan base.

It's also a test for the neighborhood, since, despite the promotion of the Long Island Rail Road, some fans may drive, seeking free on-street parking (though that was not publicized as a problem last year), and others may get rowdy, as some reported last year.

Taking the train

The Barclays Center web site and other publicity stress the extra Long Island Rail Road service.

As Newsday reported 9/20/14, LIRR, Barclays Center work to get Islanders fans to come to Brooklyn:
The enhanced LIRR service to and from Atlantic Terminal for Friday's game includes an extra westbound Babylon train before the game and two additional eastbound trains after the game going directly to Babylon and Hicksville. Brooklyn customers traveling to those stations typically have to change at Jamaica.
In between…

LIU magazine salutes Ratner as a "mensch and master builder." Which is probably not what Skanska would call him.

Renaissance Developer, declares the Long Island University magazine, subtitled "As Bruce Ratner (H’13) rebuilds the city he loves, the revitalization radiates to LIU Brooklyn, our students, and the communities we serve."

It begins with a notable, and wrongheaded cliche:
The beloved Beatles song “Hey, Jude” implores the title character to take a sad song and make it better. Imagine Brooklyn as the sad song; the one-time hive of opportunity for new immigrants and lifeblood of the city’s family-run business and retailing prowess nosedived into deterioration and disrepute in the shadow of the mighty metropolis across the river. But over the last decade the tune has been rewritten and given a modern beat, making it a sad song no longer. The maestro is Bruce C. Ratner, a visionary force behind the skyline-changing, landscape-shifting renaissance in Downtown Brooklyn. Somehow the decades of residential revitalization, including a series of historic districts. escaped notice.

The ar…

Overnight work Thursday exploring LIRR tunnel near Sixth Avenue

From Empire State Development (via Forest City Ratner) comes word that there will be night work and, presumably noise, at the Long Island Rail Road tunnel at 6th Avenue near Atlantic Avenue: PACIFIC PARK BROOKLYN Construction update
SUPPLEMENTAL REPORT
This is a Supplemental Report to the previously issued two week look – ahead regarding upcoming construction activities at Pacific Park Brooklyn covering the period of September 15, 2014 through September 28, 2014 The following section has been modified to include new information:
LIRR Yard Activities – Atlantic Avenue

New Information: On the night of September 25, 2014, the contractor will be doing additional work related to exploratory work for the LIRR tunnel wall across the intersection of 6th Avenue. A trench along the LIRR tunnel wall has been excavated and plated over to maintain traffic over 6th Avenue. The contractor will be conducting its work within the trench. This work will take place between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00…

FCR's Gilmartin on Atlantic Yards affordability levels, the partnership with Greenland, community engagement, and the DTB office market

Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin appeared on a panel at the Massey-Knakal Real Estate Summit held at the Brooklyn Museum on Tuesday, September 16. (I have broader coverage of the event in City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau, Where the Brooklyn Boom is Headed.)

While Gilmartin's comments on the stalled B2 modular building--saying it's not a referendum on such construction--drew some notice, she spoke about a wide range of other issues, including affordable housing in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn, Forest City's alliance with Chinese developer Greenland, and the Downtown Brooklyn office market.

On affordable housing

Gilmartin easily used the new name for Atlantic Yards, however much it for now seems unrealistic. "Pacific Park Brooklyn is in large part about affordable housing: 2250 units. With this administration, we are launching two all-affordable buildings," she noted. The towers will contain about 600 units.

"I can say that this administration …

As judge denies Forest City's request to reopen modular factory, contract with Skanska to build B2 terminated; judge orders meeting to resolve control of factory

A state judge today denied Forest City Ratner's request for a court order to reopen the closed modular factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but did order a meeting to hasten the dispute resolution process between estranged partners Forest City Ratner and Skanska.

Justice Saliann Scarpulla, at various times exasperated with each party, urged mediation between the bitter adversaries to resolve differences over running the FCS Modular factory, which could take six months to resolve and form a cloud over attempts to restart the factory, run by both companies, as some of the 157 employees drift away.
Fundamentally, Skanska blames Forest City for huge cost overruns in the stalled and delayed B2 tower, while Forest City blames Skanska's mismanagement of a fixed-price contract. That gap--worth perhaps $50 million--has fueled a series of lawsuits.
"The landscape has changed a little bit today," Skanska lawyer Bruce Meller said at the outset of the 45-minute hearing, held in sta…

Before hearing today on effort to reopen modular factory, more bitter arguments between Skanska and Forest City

As a hearing this morning approached on Forest City Ratner's lawsuit to reopen the modular factory producing modules for the stalled B2 tower at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, more legal filings yesterday detailed the increasingly acrimonious relationship between Forest City and Skanska Building, and their respective affiliates.

(See bottom for an organizational chart of all the parties involved, which include various corporate alter egos.)

Increasing contention

An affidavit from Skanksa's Richard Kennedy details an increasingly contentious relationship regarding blame for the delay in producing modules, including a "vulgar street epithet" from Bruce Ratner:
In early 2014, Skanska Building attempted to engage in constructive conversations with Forest City to resolve issues. Forest City's responses ranged from hostile to inattentive and accusatory. For example, at a meeting on January 28, 2014 when William Flemming, the President of Skanska Building, mentioned that d…

High hopes for modular: Forest City Ratner's "Opportunity Brief" surfaces

They had very high hopes. The "Opportunity Brief" dated 1//6/12 presented by Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner to potential construction partners declared a breakthrough, thanks to a "world class team of experts... who have developed a methodology to revolutionize the way we build highly technical buildings today in dense urban environments like New York City."

"Applying this R & D to high-rise construction and other markets creates a business opportunity that provides an unparalleled competitive advantage," states the document, filed in court today by Skanska, Forest City's bitter adversary in the dispute over cost overruns, delays, and the closing--temporary or not--of the modular factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

(There's a hearing tomorrow regarding Forest City's effort to reopen the modular factory.)

"Forest City is committed to building the first residential building at Atlantic Yards by utilizing the solution developed durin…

In dispute over stalled modular tower, Skanska warns: "No one knows if the building is going to leak"

Update: also see coverage of Skanska terminating contract to build B2 and purchase order for modules, as well as the Opportunity Brief Forest City presented to further the partnership.

The planned tallest tower in the world built via modular construction—stalled at ten (of 32) stories next to the Barclays Center—may be not just delayed but also defective.

The tower, known as B2 and slated to include 363 units, half of them affordable, could leak “at the thousands of joints between module fa├žade elements,” according to the construction company mired in a bitter legal dispute over the project.

"It is impossible to predict that the building when completed will perform as designed; and in particular, it is impossible to predict that the curtain wall joints will be and, over time, will remain effective barriers to the passage of air and water,” warned Skanska USA Building in a 146-page letter August 8 to estranged partner Forest City Ratner.

“[I]n simple terms, no one knows if the bui…