Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dean Street and Sixth Avenue around arena closed today/tomorrow for inspection of construction crane

A Community Notice issued late yesterday by Pacific Park Brooklyn (aka Atlantic Yards) alerted residents to temporary changes to the roadway network today 6 am to 4 pm, and tomorrow, as needed, weather permitting.

(Note that there was no explanation why there was so little notice, especially given that it's a claimed "routine inspection." Nor did this come from a government entity.)

As part of the installation of a green roof on Barclays Center, a construction crane located on Sixth Avenue will be temporarily disassembled for routine inspection, requiring the temporary, and intermittent closure of Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues and Sixth Avenue between Pacific and Bergen Streets.

Flagmen and/or Traffic Enforcement Agents will be provided to assist with vehicular and pedestrian detours, as will Variable Message Signs. Sidewalks in work zone areas will remain open only to residents and visitors.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Gridlock coming to Barclays Center northern flank? Arena expects 100 buses and 200 for-hire vehicles for NBA All-Star weekend nights

With one week's notice before event prep and two weeks before NBA All-Star Weekend, the Barclays Center today disclosed (bottom) expected traffic impacts around the event, which I think points to significant gridlock along the arena's northern flank.

Notably, though Atlantic Avenue is severely constricted by a crane for the arena's green roof, and the parking/dropoff lane outside the arena is severely constricted, the Barclays Center admits some 100 coach buses and 200 for-hire vehicles will service "arena guests and event staff both Friday and Saturday nights."

"These vehicles will arrive on the arena block for guest drop-off, stage at an off-site parking lot and return to the arenas part of a highly-controlled/scheduled pick-up program at the end of the event," the arena claimed.

Note that the drop-off poses major challenges, and previous promises of controlled and scheduled procedures, notably regarding the loading dock on Dean Street, have proven empty. That Atlantic Avenue crane was supposed to have been installed last August and gone by October, but the schedule clearly slipped.

No less of a booster than Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams opined that traffic on a Saturday afternoon outside the arena was a "mess."

Starting at 6 pm Friday and Saturday nights, and 12 pm Sunday afternoon, the arena is "prepared to welcome approximately 15,000 guests, many of whom carry a high profile and are directly involved in the production and ancillary event throughout New York City," according to the message below.

Other restrictions

As noted in the message, there will be no constraints on residential/business access to their properties, no major work overnight, and limited, though unspecified, parking restrictions.

From Feb. 7-16 vehicular traffic on Sixth Avenue between Pacific and Dean Street will be restricted to northbound vehicles.

There will be additional Barclays Center Pedestrian Traffic Managers and NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agents helping to manage traffic.

Noise-attenuated generators

"In addition to trailers and production vehicles, several generators are required to ensure live television broadcast integrity," the message states. The generators are noise-attenuated, and will be "located within the 6th Avenue broadcast compound from Saturday 2/7 until Monday 2/16."

 That's presumably the lot on the east side of Sixth Avenue, but I've never heard it called the "compound."





Barclays Center signs deal with LIU to revive Brooklyn Paramount; seems to compete with revamped Kings Theatre

Billboard had some news yesterday, Exclusive: Barclays Inks Booking Deal at Brooklyn's Paramount
Barclays Center affiliate Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment has formed an alliance with Long Island University, in which BS&E will bring entertainment back to the historic Brooklyn Paramount Theatre.
"This collaboration will bring the LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre back to life," says LIU president Kimberly R. Cline, "creating endless opportunities for LIU and our neighbors."
Adds Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, "We felt that this would be the next step in the evolution of our partnership with LIU, that we should work collaboratively and start bringing some great content there, not only for the student body, but also for the public."
The move will resurrect the 1,500-capacity venue, which opened in 1928, as an active entertainment venue for the first time in more than half a century, with the BS&E team focusing on booking emerging talent in a variety of areas, including music, comedy, and boxing. Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark tells Billboard that the Paramount represents an opportunity in the growing BS&E portfolio, and will begin hosting shows as soon as this quarter.
It's a heck of a space, and a well-located directly over the Manhattan Bridge at the DeKalb Avenue subway station. The former movie theater hosted jazz and rock shows, and was used as a gym by LIU from 1960-2005.

As Billboard points out, other venues that compete in the general space are the Brooklyn Academy of Music (though it's far less pop-oriented), Brooklyn Bowl, and the just-renovated 3,000-seat Kings Theatre (formerly Loew's Kings) in Flatbush.

The reopening of the Paramount seems to directly compete with the Kings--though it has far less space, it likely can capture some acts that can make more money from higher prices at a better located venue.

LIU says the Paramount can offer benefits to its students--the same thing they said about Barclays. Then again, the once promised "Barclays Center Community Platform" involving LIU never came to fruition.

Barclays goes country

Crain's reports:
Barclays Center has formed a three-year partnership with local country station Nash FM 94.7 to bring at least two concerts a year to the Brooklyn arena. The deal comes after the arena's first country-music show—a Luke Bryan concert in September—sold out.
Then again, Yormark is no longer apparently spewing nonsense like, "We have to educate [country artists] about the fact that there are 385 country bars in the borough."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Advice for DNC Chair on visit to Brooklyn: take a walk around the Barclays Center, and beyond

Update Feb. 2: see Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capeheart's argument that the convention should go to Philadelphia. Among the reasons for rejecting Brooklyn are those in my blog, including logistics and optics.

Dear Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz,

I understand, as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, you're on a whirlwind tour this week of the potential locations for the 2016 Democratic National Convention: Columbus, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn/New York.

I doubt you can see too much in Friday's visit, and I'm confident your hosts can show you a good time and give you the hard sell.

I'll spare you the optics (as I mentioned in my Times op-ed)--the role of a Russian oligarch and the Shanghai government reaping the benefits of crony capitalism in and around an arena named for a bank that paid a huge fine for interest-rate manipulation.

And I'll just mention as an aside that arena developer Bruce Ratner is selling the 55% of the arena his company owns, and the DNC's choice of Brooklyn would be a payoff to one of Mayor Bill de Blasio's big backers.

(Ratner, by the way, also gives to Republicans when it's professionally prudent. But he and fellow executive MaryAnne Gilmartin are part of the 119-member Host Committee.)

The logistics

But please do look at the logistics.

Maybe you'll take the subway to the Barclays Center. Once you're there, do assess the capacity of the arena plaza, which serves as the catchment arena for most arena goers (but was supposed to be the site for a tower). Then, I 'd encourage you to take this walk.

First, go southeast on Flatbush Avenue along the arena flank away from Manhattan, until your reach Dean Street.

Turn left. You're in the street, in an awkwardly shared pedestrian and bike lane caused by the untimely delay in the construction of the B2 modular tower--the "most pathetic building of the year," according to Curbed. It began in December 2012 and was supposed to take two years. Now it's supposed to be finished by the end of 2016.

Bottom line: even if they suspend construction for the week of July 25, 2016, the huge crane will still be there.

Right past the crane is the secondary entrance to the arena, along Dean Street. That's where crowds get sent when the main arena entrance gets saturated. If the convention comes to Brooklyn, the main entrance will be saturated. This has nothing to do with business owners, who understandably wish for more crowds and customers a few or more several blocks away.


The loading dock and beyond

Please keep walking and notice the two huge garage doors. That's the arena loading dock, for trucks and VIP vehicles to enter two elevators and descend to reach the event floor.

Given that trucks enter residential Dean Street, it's crucial that they be timed and managed carefully to avoid disturbing this residential neighborhood. (Do remember that, to facilitate building the arena, New York State overrode zoning that otherwise requires a 200-foot cordon between sports facilities and residential districts.)

Guess what? The record is very, very spotty. That's led to the rather peculiar situation in which operators of the Barclays Center, who otherwise promote its status as a "state of the art" venue, ask forbearance for being a "start-up."

At Dean and Sixth

As you approach the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, look left. The construction equipment is there to help retrofit a green roof--a second exoskeleton, never planned in this way--aimed in large part to tamp down bass that unaccountably escapes from the arena during certain concerts.

That huge crane will be replaced by another crane later this year, to build an apartment tower that will be under construction all through 2016. Mayor de Blasio touts it as "100% affordable," but steers clear of acknowledging how most of these units--better described as "income-linked"--would rent to middle-class households earning six figures.

Please cross Sixth Avenue. You probably don't know that the 100-foot stretch of land on the north side of Dean--the parking lot, and the three houses--are part of Atlantic Yards, er, Pacific Park Brooklyn.

The three houses, as well as the property directly north of them extending to Pacific Street, have been conveyed by eminent domain to New York State, which is working very hard to ensure all residents vacate the premises by the end of February.

So, by the time the convention rolls around, it should be a vacant lot. Then, a 27-story 100% market-rate rental tower should be built, starting in approximately July 2016.

Note how that tower counter-balances the "100% affordable" building and, in the aggregate, represents the gentrification de Blasio claims to be alleviating. Ah, but there will be a school included, a public use aimed to take the edge off the $4000-a-month apartments.

Why was this plot of land taken for the project and, in part, judged blighted? Well, the original plan to build Atlantic Yards promised four towers and the arena under construction simultaneously, which meant this 100-foot-wide rectangle was to be used for staging.

You might ask: how does a 27-story building get placed next to a row of apartment buildings four stories tall? Well, developer Forest City Ratner got the state to make that happen.

Continuing on Dean

Please continue walking along Dean Street. Do you think you're in Downtown Brooklyn, the home of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership? You're not.

At the corner of Dean Street and Carlton Avenue, you'll see some very large fences, extending into the street. That means that Carlton Avenue is so narrow that trucks regularly damage a tree. On Dean Street, commercial vehicles now have to park on the sidewalk, leading to fines.

The explanation for this is that the state wants to ensure that neighbors are protected from sound, but the fundamental issue is that a very large project has been squeezed into a very tight spot, leaving little margin for error. Something has to go.

Indeed, just yesterday dirt shot from a drill rig blew out the window of a car.

This situation might not impact conventioneers. But it's relevant as a sign of poor planning, incomplete disclosure, and the inevitable side effects of a very tight fit.

There's another "100% affordable tower" going up, at the corner of Dean and Carlton. What de Blasio won't say is that the next three buildings along Dean Street, all the way to Vanderbilt Avenue, will be condos.

At Vanderbilt

Continue to Vanderbilt, and briefly turn right. Then reflect how the state designated nearby properties on the north side of Dean Street blighted and consider this test: "If you're within five minutes of getting decent cappuccino, there can be no blight."

Please return to the corner of Dean and cross Vanderbilt, then cross Dean to the bar WoodWork, whose owner wrote an enthusiastic letter about the convention. (Click that link for my responses to the three letters critiquing my op-ed.)

"You could kick a soccer ball from our pub in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, to what we hope is the future home of the 2016 Democratic Convention," the owner wrote.

Please ask him to kick a soccer ball more than two blocks. 

After that, you deserve a drink. 

Atlantic Yards CDC meeting postponed until February 6

Isn't a bit Keystone Kops-like to announce a meeting, with an agenda, then postpone it because some people haven't been appointed yet?

A 10:22 pm message:
Dear Community,
In order to allow for the appointment of a full complement of Directors, the initial meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation is being postponed from Friday, January 30th to Friday, February 6th with the details to be confirmed. 
Sincerely,
ESD Atlantic Yards Team
Is it remotely possible the meeting could be moved to Brooklyn?

Unspecified in the NYT: when it comes to housing lotteries, the demand is most significant for lower-income units

There are a couple of odd things about the New York Times article today, Long Lines, and Odds, for New York’s Subsidized Housing Lotteries. First, it states:
The odds of winning the New York Lotto jackpot are, of course, worse (one in 22 million on a $1 play), but the housing lotteries have daunting odds of their own.
Last year, a new building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn drew 58,832 lottery applications for 105 affordable units. Not far behind was the Sugar Hill development in Upper Manhattan, which drew more than 48,000 applicants for 98 apartments.
Given the frequent use of the term "affordable," the article does not make sufficient distinction between subsidized income-linked housing geared to low-income households and that geared to middle-income ones.

Rest assured that the demand is most significant for lower-income units. That's why the middle-income Hunter's Point South Towers in Long Island City need to be advertised.

The searching Forest City?

The article states:
Developers said they had learned to start marketing the apartments early, sometimes years ahead.
“It’s somewhat like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Melissa R. Burch, executive vice president for development at Forest City Ratner Companies, which is preparing for the lottery of 2,250 affordable units at Pacific Park Brooklyn, formerly known as Atlantic Yards.
First, Burch has already left Forest City. It's far more difficult to find certain, better-off households to apply. And, of course, Forest City is not preparing for a lottery for all 2,250 units. The project will take another ten years, so it will be one building at a time.

Spare agenda emerges for meeting tomorrow of Atlantic Yards CDC; RSVP required today; members/director still a mystery

At bottom is the official announcement for the first meeting, at 2 pm Friday, of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation. Note that RSVPs must be received today, and that the meeting will be webcast.

We're still waiting for the names of the members and the AY CDC director, but yesterday the agenda, such as it is, was circulated, as noted below.

The first four items (Corporate Action) seem boilerplate.It's unclear whether President's Corporate Update is mere boilerplate too, or whether the yet-to-be-identified President will say something about, for example, complaints regardng the narrowing of Carlton Avenue and Dean Street.



Meeting information

Barclays Center/WPIX partnership already paying off, as arena MC hosts visiting reporter

In case you were wondering, that marketing partnership between WPIX 11 and the Barclays Center is paying off.

Yesterday the TV station posted this piece of fluff, Ally Love gives tour of Barclays Center hot spots. The text:
BARCLAYS CENTER (PIX11)– As NBA All-Star Weekend in February nears, PIX11 will be your home for exclusive coverage of the festivities in heart of Brooklyn.
Scott Stanford caught up with Ally Love, the Nets Arena MC, who showed him a couple of hot spots around Barclays.
It did acknowledge, at least, that "Barclays Center is a marketing partner of PIX11."

What's in the piece? Well, Stanford goes with Love down Flatbush Avenue for a meal at Sugarcane, a Caribbean restaurant that opened up exclusively for them.

Then, more strangely, they visited Rocco's Tacos on Adams Street, which is a rather long walk from the arena, and certainly more distant than numerous rival restaurants. Could it be that Rocco's has a marketing arrangement with the Barclays Center?

And that was pretty much it, unless you count Love describing her in-house duties at the arena and Stanford's exclamation that "this is going to be the place to be."


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My response to NYT letters in which Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, businesses take issue with my op-ed, support DNC

Wow, not one but three Letters to the Editor published in print in today's New York Times in response to my online-only op-ed last week. They deserve rebuttal.

And note that none of the letters responded to the situation--as I mentioned--in which two cranes, used for two towers under construction, flank the arena's secondary entrance and loading dock.

From the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
To the Editor:
Re “Holding the Democratic Convention in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit” (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, Jan. 21):
I take issue with Norman Oder’s views about Downtown Brooklyn’s readiness to host a successful Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Downtown Brooklyn is one of the East Coast’s greatest urban economic success stories, with new night life, cultural offerings and accommodations, making it an ideal location for Democrats to discuss the future of their party and our country.
Eleven subway lines and 11 different buses stop within blocks of Barclays Center, easing any concerns about unbearable traffic congestion.
Regarding the “extensive use” of EB-5 visas, a program that allows foreign investors to receive visas in exchange for a short-term, $500,000 investment, by the China-based co-owner of Barclays Center:
As the borough of immigrants, we should welcome immigrants, not demonize them, even if we disagree with their home country’s government or America’s broken immigration system. After all, when did we begin to tolerate xenophobia in Brooklyn?
Finally, while area businesses and residents deserve top-notch planning, I have no doubt that City Hall can and will deliver.
TUCKER REED
President
Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
Brooklyn, Jan. 22, 2015
First, let's remember that Tucker Reed essentially works for Forest City Ratner. A co-chair of the DBP is MaryAnne Gilmartin, the CEO of Forest City Ratner, which runs the Barclays Center (owning 55% of the operating company), is selling the arena, and is quite interested in luring the convention to highlight its property.

And Forest City Ratner is the dominant component of the MetroTech Business Improvement District, which is run by the DBP.

Second, note that I didn't write about Downtown Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn project is located in Prospect Heights, as the Times has reported numerous times.

Arguably, the arena extends the borders of Downtown Brooklyn, but the significant impacts of arena events--as with the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards--has been on the adjacent streets of Prospect Heights.

By the way, I got an email from a professional contact this morning, regarding a meeting we had last August 11, when the Democratic National Committee visited Brooklyn: "One of the reasons we were SO late getting to you from Manhattan was because of just the expedition to see about hosting the convention in Brooklyn!! Remember! The traffic was horrific."

Regarding EB-5

Finally, I wasn't demonizing immigrants. Here's what I wrote, with very tight space limits:
Perhaps the diciest symbolism regards Greenland and Forest City Ratner’s extensive use of a federal program called EB-5, which allows foreign investors to get visas in exchange for a short-term $500,000 investment (an amount that, on paper, is purported to create 10 jobs).
Greenland and Forest City Ratner have already reportedly raised some $250 million through the program; put differently, a Chinese government is making a profit by marketing American residency to its own nationals — a bizarre, if legal, twist on the law’s intent.
In other words, the investment doesn't really create jobs (the rationale for the program) and the beneficiary, bizarrely, is a foreign government.  Remember the video for "Atlantic Yards II," Forest City's second round of EB-5 fundraising, and the first (of two) with Greenland?

"We believe that this city was built and created for an immigrant population,” Gilmartin stated, somehow conflating the developer’s profit push with patriotic multi-culturalism. “And EB-5 allows folks from all around the globe, in the great tradition of this city, to come and participate in one of the most exciting developments in our country."

As Darthmouth's John Vogel of Dartmouth wrote in February 2013 U.S. News:
One of the oddities about the EB-5 program is that the U.S. government is giving out the green cards, but the entrepreneur who puts together the investment gets the money. This scheme seems inefficient and open to corruption. If our government really believes that it is a good idea to sell green cards, maybe we should drop the pretense that this is a job creation program. It might be more efficient to have the money go directly to the U.S. Treasury and reduce the deficit by billions of dollars a year. In fact, the U.S. government could auction off these green cards and perhaps raise even more money.
Local business support
To the Editor:
You could kick a soccer ball from our pub in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, to what we hope is the future home of the 2016 Democratic Convention.
Our small business is thankful to share a neighborhood and patrons with Barclays Center and the big events it attracts to Brooklyn.
At the same time, we have been impressed by and thankful for the terrific work of the New York Police Department in keeping our neighborhood safe and our traffic flowing. Every high-profile event that Brooklyn hosts is an opportunity to show off our community, our diversity, our families and our businesses.
A national stage like the Democratic Convention is a wonderful opportunity for the world to learn what we already know: Brooklyn is the world’s greatest stage. Our hope is that the Democrats will come to Brooklyn in 2016, pick their nominee and then stay and experience all that Brooklyn has to offer.
ROSS GREENBERG
Brooklyn, Jan. 21, 2015
The writer is the chef and owner of WoodWork Brooklyn, a soccer bar. 
To the Editor:
The businesses along Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, would welcome the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Barclays Center.
We understand the concerns raised by Norman Oder, but ultimately believe that the influx of thousands of delegates, members of the news media and even protesters would be good for the small businesses ringing the arena, including the more than 500 businesses in the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.
We look forward to working with Mayor Bill de Blasio to make the event a big success for everyone involved.

MARK CASERTA
Exec. Dir., Park Slope Fifth Avenue
Business Improvement District
Brooklyn, Jan. 21, 2015
WoodWork is located at Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street, so you'd need a very strong kick and some headwind to get a soccer ball two long blocks away.

It's an eight-minute walk, according to Google, to the closest arena entrance, on Dean Street just east of Flatbush Avenue.

That said, it's understandable that some, perhaps many, businesses--especially those serving food and drink--would support a big event.

(Note that in August 2013, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake visited Woodwork.)

Still, on the same day my op-ed appeared, a new coalition, the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance, emerged to express concern about the convention and calling on the mayor "to immediately appoint a point-person to coordinate government agencies and the developer with the involvement of local community boards and elected officials as a means to minimize unnecessary adverse impacts."

In other words, other businesses, especially those closest to the arena and most likely to bear the brunt of street closings for security reasons, are more wary than those represented by WoodWork and the Fifth Avenue BID.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Silver on the rocks; prosecutors querying Speaker's staff (Rapfogel?)

After a brief interim period in which his colleagues agreed to let him step aside but not down, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is on the rocks.The Times reports:
Moving to exile one of New York’s most powerful and long-serving leaders, Democrats in the State Assembly agreed late on Monday to ask Sheldon Silver to step down as speaker in the wake of his arrest last week on federal corruption charges.
The Democrats reached the decision in a closed-door meeting that stretched for hours, rebuffing a bid by Mr. Silver to keep his post by relinquishing some of his responsibilities while he defended himself against the charges.
...Leaving the Capitol just before midnight, Mr. Silver told reporters that he had not told anyone that he was resigning, and that he would meet with his Democratic colleagues on Tuesday.
“I am the speaker,” he said, adding, “I’m standing. And I’m going to be standing for a long time.”
City and State reported:
Multiple Assembly members also said the suggestion of a five-member leadership appointed by Silver was officially off the table and that the Assembly would follow house rules in replacing the speaker. According to those rules, if Silver resigns from his post, the Assembly majority leader, Joe Morelle, will become the acting speaker until a new one is voted on during an Assembly floor meeting.
But no one has agreed on a new speaker.

Comptroller Scott Stringer and then Public Advocate Letitia James were among the officials yesterday urging Silver to resign.

Silver's staff subpoenad

Will any of the investigation point deeper? (Surely federal prosecutors would first target other elected officials, as well as those doing business with the state, first the likes of those named in the investigation, then, with a lesser chance, others, like Forest City.) 

Newsday reports that "Some members of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s staff have been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors, a source said Monday."

Presumably that includes Chief of Staff Judy Rapfogel, wife of Willie Rapfogel, the now-imprisoned leader of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, which partnered with Forest City Ratner on a 
bid to develop the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area and received proceeds from a charitable event. 

They are parents of Forest City Ratner employee Michael Rapfogel whose hiring, the Times reported, was "seen internally as a way to please Mr. Silver."

The legal and the illegal

Law professor Zephyr Teachout, in an essay for the Times yesterday, wrote:
Albany is reeling, but fighting the kind of corruption that plagues not only New York State but the whole nation isn’t just about getting cuffs on the right guy. As with the recent conviction of the former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for receiving improper gifts and loans, a fixation on plain graft misses the more pernicious poison that has entered our system.
Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy.

Monday, January 26, 2015

First meeting of Atlantic Yards CDC set for Friday, in Manhattan, not Brooklyn; no details yet about board, agenda

With four days to go, Empire State Development issued a Community Advisory Monday re-affirming that the first meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, originally slated to occur in December, would indeed occur at 2 pm on Friday, January 30, as announced in December.

The new board, "responsible for monitoring the delivery of public commitments" but without clear enforcement, was established as part of the compromise announced last June, which set a new 2025 deadline to build the promised affordable housing and, essentially, finish the residential portion of the the project.

Details on the AY CDC
However, rather than being held somewhere in Brooklyn, as promised in December, the meeting will occur at Empire State Development offices in Manhattan, thus making it more difficult for Brooklynites to attend. All must RSVP by Thursday.

Nor has the state released basic information about the new AY CDC, such as the names of the appointees (the governor has nine of 14 slots), and the agenda. (I asked Empire State Development these questions on January 16, and asked again after the notice emerged today.)

One concern, surely, is the tension between getting the project done and cutting corners. Neighbors have recently reported after-hours construction and too-constricted streets, as detailed on Atlantic Yards Watch.

Who's in charge?

Nor has the identity of the AY CDC director been announced.

The recruitment ad promised a salary of $70,000 to $75,000 annually--far lower than the salary for the in-house Project Director--while requiring "5+ years as a Project Manager for large real estate development projects working with government entities and private developers."

Meeting details

COMMUNITY ADVISORY
What: The Directors of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a Empire State Development. 
When: Friday, January 30, 2015, at 2:00 p.m.
Where: Empire State Development
633 Third Avenue – 37th Floor Conference Room
New York, New York 10017 
This meeting is open to the public. Web casting of the meeting is available at http://www.esd.ny.gov/webcasts/ 
Due to 633 Third Avenue building procedures, those wishing to attend please RSVP by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 29, 2015. Members of the press should please call (800) 260-7313; Members of the public should please call (212) 803-3795.

FC Modular is hiring (which means the factory isn't quite ready)

The most recent report was that Forest City Ratner had 55 of the 157 workers back at work, so they do need new workers. The message below was circulated by Brooklyn Community Board 2.

Also note that the promises in the Community Benefits Agreement about job training leading to project work can't happen if prospective workers are require to have a year of construction trade experience.


As Silver steps aside, future cloudy, Lentol among those stepping up; real estate focus; anecdotes of avarice; reforms suggested; Golden next?

Embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is stepping aside in the wake of corruption charges, as the knee-jerk support he got from see-no-evil members has begun to erode. After all, the press has (finally) been brutal. The Times reports:
In an unusual arrangement, Mr. Silver would not quit his post. Instead, he would temporarily delegate his duties as speaker to a group of senior Assembly members.
...Under the tentative plan developed on Sunday, the Assembly majority leader, Joseph D. Morelle of the Rochester area, and the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Herman D. Farrell Jr., Democrat of Manhattan, would assume responsibility for budget negotiations.
Three other senior Democratic members — Carl E. Heastie of the Bronx, Catherine T. Nolan of Queens and Joseph R. Lentol of Brooklyn — will round out the leadership team.
Yes, that's veteran Joe Lentol of that mysterious cameo in Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill case. The Buffalo News suggests:
The likelihood of Silver temporarily stepping aside and then somehow returning if he is cleared of the corruption charges is next to zero.
The Post editorializes, Eric [Schneiderman] the silent:
If what US Attorney Preet Bharara alleges is true — that for years Assembly Speaker Silver “monetized public office” — why should it have taken a federal prosecutor to bring him down? Why wasn’t it New York’s attorney general?
Impact on DNC bid?

The Daily News reports:
When New York Democrats pledged their delegate votes to President Obama at the party convention in 2012, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver took the mic as the Empire State’s spokesman.
With the national party on the verge of picking a convention city for 2016, Silver is again in the spotlight — but this time, he’s the target of a stunning corruption probe that could tarnish the Big Apple’s chances of beating out Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio.
...A DNC official wouldn’t comment on the impact Silver’s arrest would have on the bid, but said that the “decision will be based primarily on logistics, financing and security.”
Silver and real estate

The Commercial Observer takes a look at some of the real estate issues involving Silver:
  • The World Trade Center Complex
  • West Side Stadium
  • Moynihan Station
  • Scaffold Law
  • Superstorm Sandy
Let's not forget that, as a member of the Public Authorities Control Board, he gave his blessing to Atlantic Yards, at least in part because Forest City Ratner traded office space--which might compete with his Lower Manhattan constituency--for housing.

The Post reports:
US Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the massive tax breaks granted to Midtown’s luxury One57 condo building, where a mystery buyer just paid a record $100 million-plus for the duplex penthouse, sources told The Post on Sunday.
And the Times offers Developer Who Keeps Low Profile Is Embroiled in Silver Scandal:
Unlike many other New York developers, Leonard Litwin, a shy, soft-spoken, compact billionaire, has never sought the limelight.
Yet Mr. Litwin and his company, Glenwood Management, have always stood out, for the number of luxury residential towers they have added to Manhattan’s skyline and the exceptionally generous donations Glenwood has made to state lawmakers.
Now, in his 101st year, Mr. Litwin is embroiled in a very public corruption scandal that is rocking the real estate industry and the state’s political establishment.
When Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly, was arrested on federal charges on Thursday, the criminal complaint against him included accusations that he used his powerful position to reap millions of dollars in graft by steering real estate developers, among others, to law firms that gave him a slice of their fees.
Glenwood is one of the two developers cited but not named in the complaint, according to people familiar with the matter.
Here's the tastiest passage:
While neither of the developers is accused of wrongdoing, Glenwood’s part in the case has stunned Mr. Litwin’s colleagues in the real estate industry, where he is a revered figure who, friends say, has always sought to avoid controversy. He and the company declined to comment for this article.
He's a revered figure? That's because the real estate industry has no problem with legal if ethically questionable activity like this:
His company has been a prodigious political donor, contributing over $10 million to political candidates and party committees since 2005, according to the complaint against Mr. Silver. In 2014, Glenwood also spent a total of $900,000 on eight different firms to lobby state officials, including Mr. Silver. Other developers have typically left lobbying to the real estate board.
More on Silver

Consider this handy chart from DNAinfo regarding Silver's reported and unreported income. On
Friday, the Post's Fred Dicker reported a telling anecdote:
For the better part of a decade during the 2000s, Silver told an associate, he would routinely send a $100 check each year to the campaign committee of former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
“I knew he didn’t need the money,’’ Silver told the associate with a nervous laugh.
“But I wanted to see if he would cash my check. If he did, then I knew I wasn’t in any trouble because if he was investigating me, he wouldn’t have taken the money.’’
Dicker added:

Silver didn’t knock down the suspicion that he was about making as much money as possible a few years ago when he began defending his bizarre practice of flying on the state’s dime from New York City to Albany via Washington, DC, or some other distant spot so he could pick up a few extra frequent flier miles for his personal use.
That's a bizarre story, as the Post reported in 2013:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spent $20,219 in taxpayer money over the past three years jetting from New York City to Albany — but the top-flight pol turned easy 150-mile, one-hour jaunts into epic 500-mile, five-hour odysseys in a greedy quest to rack up frequent-flier miles, according to sources and expense records.
Instead of finding cheap flights that connect directly from New York City to Albany, or taking less-costly trains or automobiles, the second-most powerful man in the state takes long, expensive detours through Philadelphia or Washington, DC.
“He brags about his ability to build up mileage,” said one Albany insider.
What needs to be done

Paul Newell, a former Silver challenger and a District Leader in Lower Manhattan district, wrote an op-ed in Saturday's Daily News, observing that "elected officials say progressive, pro-community things in public forums" but "the developers and landlords get their way behind closed doors," as with Silver's actions.

He notes that the solutions are well-known, including:
  • A ban on all outside income for New York’s legislators.
  • Public financing of elections. 
  • An open and transparent legislative process. 


Golden's moment?


U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is reportedly looking into the records of several other legislators, including Republican Sen. Marty Golden of Brooklyn, who has a curious history of directing campaign cash to the catering call his brother runs, and for which he is the landlord, as the Village Voice reported in 2008.

If Golden gets charged, that would make yet another Atlantic Yards booster in ethical trouble. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Greenland claims to avoids NIMBY; Dean Street business owner, who supports Atlantic Yards, outraged by street narrowing

From Bloomberg News via the Los Angeles Times, 1/24/15: Community challenges to development drive up project costs in nation's least affordable city:
Greenland Holding Group steers clear of Hollywood [Los Angeles] and other communities where the company may face protracted opposition, said Ifei Chang, chief executive officer of the U.S. unit of the Shanghai-based development company.
"We want to invest in a city that's more forward-thinking," said Chang, whose projects include the $1 billion Metropolis in downtown Los Angeles and the $5 billion Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. "Communities that say 'not in my backyard' might not welcome us. Those cities aren't in the picture."
From today's New York Daily News, Voice of the People:
Give Brooklyn back its street
Brooklyn: I feel harassed, betrayed and exhausted trying to live and work in the borough where I grew up. In 1999, I purchased the building that houses my business in Prospect Heights. When the Atlantic Yards project came on the drawing board, I thought of it as a positive proposition for jobs and the community. 
Fast forward to today. I don’t have a problem with any part of the construction project, now called Pacific Park. I have a huge problem with the fact that the city gave the developer half of Dean St., literally. The street now has a 16-foot construction wall, one lane of traffic and no parking lane. My business’ five trucks must park all over the neighborhood during the day and indoors at night.
In one week, we have received six parking tickets — all from the same police officer — for parking on the sidewalk while in the process of bringing trucks inside. It is so unfair to the working guy that there seem to be more obstacles in our way every day in this city. Jack Ippolito
He runs Primo Uniform Service at 606 Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. Above right is what it looks like, taken from a video

Below, thanks to Google Maps, is what it used to look like. It's a big difference.


Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: Pacific Park issues pre-Barclays photo of Flatbush and Atlantic


The photo circulated by Pacific Park Brooklyn

Beyond the link to Tracy Collins's photos, more directly available here and here, also see Kevin Walsh's survey in Forgotten New York.
By Tracy Collins
It was not a historic district: there were some empty buildings, some tired buildings, and some better buildings. But the announcement of Atlantic Yards froze all redevelopment plans. And the site certainly was not empty as portrayed in the photo above until Forest City Ratner began significant demolition.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Construction fence squeezes Carlton Avenue between Dean and Pacific, three episodes of tree damage, limited view of stoplight

The construction of 535 Carlton Avenue means a very large construction fence encroaching on Carlton Avenue. That leaves little room for error when large vehicles travel from Dean to Pacific street--and there are already casualties.

From an incident report on Atlantic Yards Watch:
On Monday morning contractors associated with Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park apparently hit a tree on Carlton Avenue. I was called by a Carlton Avenue resident who forwarded me the following text and the attached photographs.
The tree has grown on a lean so the width of the street is narrower at the top of the height of a truck and wider at street level. The tree has been damaged recently in more than one spot suggesting it has been hit more than once. There is what appears to be plastic stuck in one of the damaged areas of the tree. I agree with the person who forwarded me the complaint that Carlton appears to have been narrowed too much. It is an old, beautiful tree and I worry the tree will be damaged more.
The eyewitness stated:
On Monday morning I heard a horrendous noise from the street and rushed to my front window to discover that an EJ Electrical contracting truck was stuck by the tree in front of my house. This happened numerous times since the green wall was put up in the middle of the street. The sidewalk side of streets were to park cars and not for carrying traffic. As the streets are constructed for the rain water to run to the side gutters where normally cars are parked now with the green wall blocking the center of street all trucks and cars are forced to use the leaning gutter side of street and all cars and trucks lean toward the sidewalk which has out trees and when the trucks are loaded improperly they hit the trees. EJ Electric just removed a street light on the corner of Carlton and Dean and instead of following truck route via Dean/ Vanderbilt/ Atlantic they took Carlton to pick up and remove the street light post on the corner of Carlton/ Pacific.
I rushed outside and told the men that they were not supposed to go on this block, but they said they just wanted to go to the next corner ( not wanting to go the assigned route).
The street light post was just thrown on top of truck. It took a hoist to remove it and put back properly then they backed out of Carlton and took the assigned route on Dean etc.
It is outrageous for the city to refuse to put up a no trucks sign as we suggested to them some time ago. Why can the green wall not to be moved back by just a couple of feet?

The street was closed off for over 1/2 hour !!!!! and this was not the first time!!!!
And another report

From another report:
The construction fencing on Carlton Avenue is pinching the street too much and creating an ongoing unsafe condition. Taller vehicles like trucks and buses cannot pass through the Avenue without hitting a tree. The tree is old and beautiful and should be preserved. The damage is both to the tree and the vehicles that pass.
Today I witnessed and videotaped a truck hitting the tree while I passed by. The truck hit the tree hard, and the video turned off as I ran forward to see if the driver was alright. This is the same situation I filed an incident report about on Tuesday. The tree shows fresh signs of being hit regularly. 


The commenter also notes that "the fencing blocks the view of the stop light at Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street for drivers. The light is only visible once the car approaches the intersection."

Indeed, the traffic light becomes visible only about 26 seconds into the video below.



The third incident

Wrote Peter Krashes yesterday:
For the 3rd time this week a truck got stuck under the tree on Carlton Avenue. This morning the truck wasn't just too tall, it was also too wide. According to the resident who forwarded me the information, the truck hit the tree because of its height, and the green wall because of its width. There are fresh scratches on the green wall across from the tree.
Obviously, the risk is to the tree, the owner of the truck and the drivers, because some trucks barrel down Carlton as they do Dean. When the trucks get stuck, they block traffic. Assuming the fence is built as approved, I think DOT has approved an unsafe and non-functioning condition.
DOT should make sure Carlton Avenue is well posted with "no truck" signs and the sign on Dean Street at 6th Avenue should finally get fixed. As has previously been filed here, that sign is pivoted, making it look like trucks are banned northbound on 6th Avenue from Dean. But because I think it will be hard for the NYPD to commit the resources to guarantee no trucks or buses come down this stretch of Carlton, I think DOT should be reassessing the amount they have reduced Carlton Avenue. Right now the width causes a regular blockage.
The resident's description:
We had fun this AM, heard truck motor too long, went to window and a huge, long, very wide yellow truck with a huge street roller piggy back on stuck between Dean and my tree. went out in robe..... told driver he was not supposed to be on Carlton as it is no trucks... he said: Miss I just came down on Carlton and could not make the turn onto Dean"

"why are you taking pictures I am a city truck we do street resurfacing" I said "that does not give you the right to use no trucks streets" and he said " I am not talking to you, I am the city" I called 911 and another neighbor did the same, police took a while to show, they all blamed the Mayor for doing nothing, they had to send for a crew, dismanteled the convoy and piec by piece pulled it to the bridge where they assembled it again. This huge heavy truck had to ride on the sidewalk and at certain area the curb stone is damaged including by the fire hydrant.

Weekend Con Ed work on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt

A message from Empire State Development:
Please be advised that ConEd will be conducting work related to the decommissioning of power lines on the north side of Pacific street, between Carlton & Vanderbilt Avenues. Work is slated to take place during the weekend of January 23rd . Actual work hours are dependent upon the availability of work crews & subject to emergencies

Friday, January 23, 2015

A perilous crossing at Atlantic and Sixth avenues: construction work narrows passage, no clear path for pedestrians

Work at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Sixth Avenue has made it perilous to cross the major artery of Atlantic, as noted in a post on Atlantic Yards Watch.

A resident of Atlantic Terrace, the building at the northeast corner of the intersection, filed an incident report, and photos:
The crosswalk on this intersection has been unsafe and continuously shared between cars, trucks, bikers , construction trucks and pedestrians. The authorities, DOB, or the developers did not even bother painting a new crosswalk in a more safe location, indicating where pedestrians should cross to stay safe and away from cars. Several times a day there are no workers helping and indicating the way.
Pictures from a high floor on the Atlantic Terrace residential building on Atlantic Avenue between South Oxford and South Portland Streets show the exact intersection of 6th Avenue and Atlantic Avenue and the sequence of events of cars and pedestrians sharing the crosswalk.
Nicole Jordan, community relations manager for Empire State Development, filed a response that said, in part:
Per the previous construction alert (Two Week Look Ahead) and the one circulated on January 20, 2015 the pedestrian pathways will remain closed while steel trusses work is being conducted on Sixth Avenue. Forest City Ratner Companies will continue to have flagmen present to direct pedestrians away from the work area. 
The flagmen don't fully help

However, according to a follow-up comment by nearby resident Peter Krashes, that's not quite enough, since the flagmen seem focused on the trucks, and there's no clear path to cross:
I happened to be passing through this intersection on foot today and saw the situation the person filing the incident report is describing first hand. 
There were flagmen when I passed through, and NYPD had also posted an officer at the location. The officer focused on the pedestrians while the flagger focused on getting the construction equipment out into traffic. Thanks are due the 78th Precinct once again! 
There is a lot of traffic moving through Atlantic Avenue and 6th Avenues most times of the day. Both have been narrowed, squeezing volume into a few lanes. In the meantime, there are also a lot of pedestrians, even with all the sidewalk and crosswalk closures. The pedestrians don't really have a clearly delineated path how to cross Atlantic. It is unsettling because the traffic traveling down 6th Avenue actually passes directly over the area delineated as a crosswalk, plus construction equipment is entering and exiting onto the crosswalk from both sides.
The dirty tire tracks of construction equipment don't help. 
I think what the filer of the incident report is writing is correct: even with properly trained (and let's hope paid for by the for profit developer, not taxpayer!) help, pedestrians still need clear visual clues how to pass through the intersection. If the construction vehicles can be directed a different way, I would also try that. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

As Assembly Speaker Silver faces arrest, the question arises: could that connect to Ratner?

The New York Times has a scoop, Sheldon Silver, New York Assembly Speaker, Faces Arrest on Corruption Charges:
Federal authorities are expected to arrest Sheldon Silver, the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, on corruption charges on Thursday, people with knowledge of the matter said. The case is likely to throw Albany into disarray at the beginning of a new session.
The investigation that led to the expected charges against Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has served as speaker for more than two decades, began after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March abruptly shut down an anticorruption commission he had created in 2013.
Details of the specific charges to be brought against Mr. Silver were unclear on Wednesday night, but one of the people with knowledge of the matter said they stemmed from payments that Mr. Silver received from a small law firm that specializes in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes.
Could it reach Ratner?

And a reader already asked me: "How does the Silver corruption probe reach to Ratner? Not if, but how?"

The short answer, of course, is nobody knows. First, we can't be sure if any charges will stick.

Second, none of the clients of the law firm--at least the ones mentioned publicly--have anything to do with Forest City Ratner.

Then again, I did write, in my 2015 preview,  that "there are elected officials under indictment or investigation--state Sen. John Sampson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are the most obvious examples--who have ties, direct and indirect, to Forest City Ratner."

And if Silver is in fact caught red-handed, he might want to reduce his sentence by cooperating with prosecutors. As Phillip Anderson of The Albany Project put it:
Silver is old. He’s rich. And he’s been at the very nexus of Albany corruption for years. Silver knows where all the bodies are buried, so to speak. And it definitely looks like Bharara has the goods on him for real this time. Does Silver roll? Does he save his ass whilst doing an enormous public service to the State of New York and all of us who have suffered such corruption for so long?
I think we’re about to find out.
Silver and Ratner

So, how might Silver connect prosecutors to Ratner? Unclear. (Also, note that prosecutors tend to prioritize political corruption ahead of corporate malfeasance, which seems to be why Forest City was untouched in the Ridge Hill case in Yonkers.)

First, consider that what may seem unethical--such as Forest City Ratner's January 2008 "slush fund" contribution of $58,420 to the Silver-controlled Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee--is perfectly legal under New York law.

Was Silver's agreement in 2006 to approve state funding for Atlantic Yards as part of the Public Authorities Control Board greased by any unseemly Ratner promises? Not that we know of; Silver was reportedly most appreciative that there'd be little or no office space to compete with his Lower Manhattan district.

What about the legislature's 2007 approval of a "carve-out" that spared Atlantic Yards from reform of the 421-a law? That was supported by numerous other legislators and the Real Estate Board of New York. But we don't know.

Then there are connections to the recent grand larceny conviction of William Rapfogel, leader of the powerful Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and Silver's childhood friend. After all, the Met Council and Silver have honored Bruce Ratner, while Ratner hired Michael Rapfogel, a son of William Rapfogel and Judy Rapfogel, who just happens to be Silver's chief of staff.

"The [Michael Rapfogel] job was seen internally as a way to please Mr. Silver, say people familiar with the son’s work," the Times reported last year, though Forest City denied that. That Times article on the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area noted an unsuccessful plan in the early 1990s to direct the site to Ratner:
But months later, he and Mr. Rapfogel quietly put their weight behind yet another new plan, from a handpicked developer who included no housing. According to official memos, Mr. Silver asked city officials to approve a “big box” store, like Costco, on the site. The developer, Bruce Ratner, would build it. The sponsor would be the South Manhattan Development Corporation, which Mr. Rapfogel then headed.
Silver has been dealing with Ratner for a long time, but an unseemly alliance is not necessarily a crime. So that doesn't mean he has the goods on Ratner, or that what he knows about Ratner is more valuable than what he knows about other legislators.

But prosecutors, if successful in pursuing these initial charges against Silver, surely know there's much more to ask about Albany, the Lower East Side, and Silver's favorite developer in Brooklyn.

Nets value skyrockets, even as they lose money; "trophy asset" should drive sales figure

It's stunning, again.

The value of the Brooklyn Nets nearly doubled in the past year (from $780 million to $1.5 billion), according to Forbes, after a nearly 50% increase in the value a year earlier.

And that's from a team that's losing nearly $100 million a year--the only team to lose money last year--thanks to enormous contracts aimed to lure players.

Part of that is due simply to the league's well-positioned luck, since the Nets actually went down a notch, from the fifth most-valuable team to the sixth.

As Forbes reports:
What do you get when you combine a massive new $24 billion television contract, a nearly six-year bull market in equities creating tremendous wealth, and cheap credit? You get a massive rise in sports franchise values, with the NBA serving as ground zero for the current boom. The average NBA team is now worth $1.1 billion, 74% more than last year. It is the biggest one-year gain since Forbes began valuing teams in the four major U.S. sports leagues in 1998.
The shared league revenue contributes $298 million of the value of the Nets today, up hugely from $141 million, which itself was way down from $292 million a year earlier.

The New York/Brooklyn market contributes $543 million of value, a huge jump from last year's $297 million. The building ("stadium," though actually an arena) contributes $512 million, again up hugely from $257 million. And the Brooklyn Nets brand rose significantly, to $154 million from $91 million.

Maybe it doesn't matter that they lose money?

How much are they worth?

Forbes's Kurt Badenhausen writes:
The Nets present an even trickier valuation proposition. Mikhail Prokhorov paid $365 million in 2010 for 80% of the team and 45% of the operating rights to its home arena, Barclays Center. The club lost an NBA-record $99 million last season thanks to $206 million in player costs from salaries, benefits and $91 million luxury tax bill, another NBA record. The Barclays Center was the busiest arena in North America in 2013 and the first half of 2014, but the new owners would be on the hook for $50 million annually in bond payments, plus another $15 million to operate the building. Even so, the Nets will be valued like a trophy asset, as the rare sports property put up for auction in the biggest market in the U.S. We value the Nets and the operating lease to Barclays at $1.5 billion, sixth among NBA franchises.
(Emphasis added)

Those numbers are not correct, nor does that paragraph fully make sense to me.

Prokhorov can sell the Nets without selling his share of the arena. 

The bond debt service on the arena doesn't hit $50 million until 2038, as noted in the graphic at right, from the Official Statement for the bonds.

And it costs well more than $15 million a year to operate the building, even if that $15 million was meant to represent only 45% of the cost.

The Nets' value depends, as Badenhausen rightly suggests, on the competition for a trophy asset. They need not make money, because, as he writes, there are always deductions:
Paying $1.5 billion or more for a business losing $100 million a year doesn’t make a lot of economic sense. But in addition to joining an ultra-exclusive club, new NBA owners also benefit from hefty tax breaks. Owners can deduct the value of the intangible assets in the deal over 15 years after a transaction. This deduction can offset earnings for the NBA franchise or other businesses the owner may control. This part of the U.S. tax code applies to all business and not just sports. But the NBA and sports teams reap significant benefits because 90% or more of the purchase price can typically be deemed an intangible asset with a sports team. It is a major factor as hedge fund titans and billionaires swirl around the Nets in the coming months.
On the Nets

The Forbes page on the Brooklyn Nets states:
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov hired investment bank Evercore Partners in January to sell his majority interest in the Nets. Forest City Ratner Companies enlisted Evercore last year to sell its 20% stake in the team. The team is bleeding red ink due to its high payroll, enormous debt and low local television deal. Some of the Nets losses should be alleviated when the NHL's New York Islanders move into the Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season. The Nets' luxury tax bill last season was a record $90.6 million leading to the biggest operating loss in NBA history.
(Emphasis added)

I have no idea why the Nets losses would be alleviated once the Islanders move in. It may be that Prokhorov's revenues from his stake in the arena would rise.

(Here's an odd Crain's piece that draws on last year's valuation of the Nets but extrapolates from the seemingly overinflated $2 billion price paid for the Los Angeles Clippers, and suggests the nets would be worth more.)

The most valuable teams


Via NetsDaily

As predicted, Ratner looks to get government help--state-funded parking--for the Nassau Coliseum revamp

Where's the catch? I asked in August 2013, when Bruce Ratner's Nassau Events Center won the bid to renovate and revamp the antiquated Nassau Coliseum.

As I wrote, I have to wonder when Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano announced "a historic public-private partnership... a 100% privately financed Coliseum that will share revenue with the County at zero expense to the taxpayer."

We've since learned that Ratner will be able to sell naming rights to the project--a giveaway of sorts--and that he admitted he'd ask "the county’s Industrial Development Agency for some tax exemptions," as the Times reported.

But Professor Dennis Coates warned they might "back out of the deal at some point and come back to the county and say we need more money, and the county will be on the hook.”

From Cuomo's Opportunity Agenda
That's not what has happened (yet), but Newsday reported yesterday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed spending $150 million for several parking projects, including one at the Nassau Coliseum:
Ratner needs about 5,000 parking spots but construction of a multi-story parking garage adjacent to the arena would liberate dozens of acres of blacktop for additional development.
"A state investment in this facility would complement the current private investment and drive hundreds of millions of dollars of additional private investment at the site," Cuomo's office said in a statement.
..."This initiative will assist in creating jobs and opportunities while complementing the redeveloped Coliseum and surrounding sports-and-entertainment district," said  [Nassau County Executive Ed] Mangano.
Ratner said in a statement: “We welcome the state’s investment in parking infrastructure at the Nassau Coliseum site and thank Governor Cuomo for his efforts to spur economic development in New York.”

The life and death of that much-hyped GQ barbershop at the arena.

In January 2014, the news (Barclays Center press release) that GQ would open a barbershop at the arena generated all sorts of coverage, in the Daily News, the ObserverDNAinfo, and New York magazine, among others.

We should've noticed this statement in the press release: "the 400-square-foot barbershop will be a permanent fixture on the venue’s main concourse throughout 2014."

Because, as Times beat writer Andrew Keh reported last week on Twitter, "I'm sad to report that the Barclays Center barbershop, presented by GQ, has been unceremoniously replaced with a merchandise kiosk."

"barber in arena worst idea ever," replied one Twitter user.

Fellow Barber, which ran the shop, said on Instagram, "it was a one year project. We are on to new stuff in 2015!"

Let's put it this way: the expiration of the barbershop did not inspire nearly as much coverage as its launch. Because that's the way things work. (That said, Racked did a quick post in response to my tweet yesterday.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Times op-ed: "Holding the Democratic Convention in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit." (+ new Impact Zone Alliance, biz backing bid)

I have an online op-ed in the New York Times today, Holding the Democratic Convention in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit., arguing that there are logistical and ethical reasons to oppose bringing the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn.

Below is an illustration of one major logistical problem: an entire flank of the arena will be a construction zone, given the delay in finishing the B2 modular tower at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street and the expected start of the B3 tower this year at Sixth Avenue and Dean Street.

The two tower sites flank the secondary entrance to the arena, which is where crowds on the arena plaza are typically sent. They also flank the loading dock for trucks and other vehicles entering the building. The residential neighborhood is across the street.


The ethical reasons include the notion of an oligarch-owned arena, a project in which a Chinese government profits by marketing U.S. visas, and "affordable housing" that backs off promises to fight gentrification.

New Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance

Also today: a new coalition, the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance, emerged to express concern about the convention and calling on the mayor "to immediately appoint a point-person to coordinate government agencies and the developer with the involvement of local community boards and elected officials as a means to minimize unnecessary adverse impacts."

The group also asks asks for a "plan to promote local businesses as well as a commitment to compensate for any lost income caused as a result of access limitations necessitated by such a high security event."

The alliance includes the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, residents of Newswalk, the Dean Street Block Association (6th to Vanderbilt), the Atlantic Terrace Outreach Committee and the St. Marks Block Association.

(For those who may wonder: though this article and my op-ed emerged on the same day, I submitted a version of my essay months ago.)

An administration response to the alliance

Capital New York updates its article:
De Blasio spokeswoman Marti Adams responded by email with the following comment: “For months, the Administration has been engaging with residents, business owners, elected officials community and civic leaders and organizations, including the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance. Mayor de Blasio has been clear that this will be a collaborative process and our door remains open. We’ll continue to engage with community members as we work together to build a convention that will bring maximum benefit to the City as well as the Democratic Party. Additionally, we will name a community liaison when selected as the host city. From UNGA to the Super Bowl to the Thanksgiving Day parade, we have a long history of executing high profile events with minimal disruptions to the lives of everyday New Yorkers, and the convention will be no different.”
The Brooklyn Paper's coverage added a quote from a merchant support of the convention:
About six dozen businesses, from the neighborhood and beyond, signed onto a letter of support on Friday, telling Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic committee chairwoman, that they want to bring the convention here.
Francine Stephens, who owns Franny’s and Bklyn Larder, both on Flatbush Avenue, said she does see an uptick in business during big events, such as during the Video Music Awards.
“That night was very good for us,” Stephens said. “The people who would normally be attracted to my businesses, there were just more of them.”
She does acknowledge that during many events at Barclays people tend to go straight to the arena and then straight home. She said the mayor’s office will have to come up with a plan to encourage convention-goers to explore the area around the arena if local businesses are going to benefit.
Updated

Note this open letter to the DNC, which includes proprietors of several businesses along Flatbush Avenue, including Franny's, Pintchik Hardward, Eladia's Kids, and Woodland. Plus Dubai MiniMarket across from the arena.

Also note numerous restaurants, hotels, and tour businesses in the orbit of Downtown Brooklyn, though not in the immediate blocks around the arena.