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Showing posts from April, 2015

What's a "building"? Appeals court hears challenge to DOB's approval of Forest City's modular plan

Today at a session that begins at 2 pm, a state appeals court will hear an effort to overturn a judge’s December 2013 decision upholding the New York City Department of Buildings’ (DOB) conclusion that modular construction could proceed in a factory using cross-trained workers without the presence of licensed plumbers and fire suppression contractors.

While the case was brought in response to Forest City Ratner’s B2 modular tower, should the courts rule in favor of the appellants, two industry groups representing plumbers and mechanical contractors, it could have significant ripple effects regarding the growing modular industry in New York.

At issue is whether the modules built in the Navy Yards for the tower qualify as "buildings" under the law. They clearly are not standalone structures--and at least two modules are needed for an apartment--but as nearly-finished apartments they also differ from the pre-fabricated materials or equipment which otherwise can be built offsite…

From “China’s Greenland” to the “World’s Greenland”: the vigorous (and potentially precarious) ambitions of the new Atlantic Yards majority owner

We got a good glimpse of the Greenland Group, the Shanghai government-owned company buying 70% of the remaining Atlantic Yards project, in a 3/31/14 Bloomberg News article that described its deals in Los Angeles and Brooklyn.

“In China, you climb a ladder where everything is floating and moving so fast,” Ifei Chang, CEO of Greenland U.S. Holding, told Bloomberg. “We come from a country of 1.4 billion people and a lot of economic growth.. We should all move very fast. We should catch the moment.”

As I wrote, it also suggested that Greenland, even more than Forest City, may feel no qualms about--as Chang described practices in China--stepping "on somebody else's feet."

The new 70% majority owner of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park (excepting the arena and the B2 modular tower) is an enormous, growing company that is ever more ambitious in its worldwide expansion into key urban markets, as indicated in the map above.

It's part of an effort to diversify from China's overh…

Coming clean? Greenland claims Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park would include "middle and upscale apartments"

So, what does the Greenland Group really think of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park?

Well, a partial clue on the company's English-language website emerges, despite the awkward translation into English.
It's not the errors regarding "New York Atlantic Plaza."

(Surely this was penned before the name change to Pacific Park, and not updated.)

Nor is it errors in the text, which claims the project is in the "southeastern corner of Brooklyn NY" and that it enjoys "Brooklyn’s largest central park in its southern part."

(Rather, the project is in the center-west of Brooklyn, and Brooklyn's largest central park--Prospect Park--is to the south.)
How affordable?

But this was striking: "the project aims to construct a comprehensive community with middle and upscale apartments."
Even given the translation, "middle" apartments are a rather skewed approximation of "affordable," with no acknowledgment of low-income households or the po…

From latest Construction Alert: 5-6 nights of noisy overnight work planned at Atlantic/6th; B2 work nudged back

Well, by planting the news that the planned green roof on the Barclays Center will be installed soon, developer Greenland Forest City Partners also distracted from a significantly disruptive series of work on the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project.

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update, dated April 27 and circulated yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City, there should be be five to six nights of noisy, disruptive overnight work at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Sixth Avenue.

(The document is at bottom; it was released yesterday at 6:14 pm, well after the Wall Street Journal reported on the green roof.)

No date was provided for the work, but a supplemental alert should be issued. Note that this is different from the planned one night of overnight work on Thursday, April 16 that was announced but did not come to fruition.

Though "temporary barriers with sound blankets will be installed ar…

Nets make back page of tabs after they tie playoff series with favored Hawks

The Brooklyn Nets, inconsistent but dangerous, last night tied their playoff series with the Eastern Conference top-seeded Atlanta Hawks at 2-2, having won both their games at home. That sets up the possibility of an upset.

The news was enough to make the back page of the tabloids, but only as a secondary mention.



Forest City plants green roof article in WSJ; despite promises, Flatbush crane to be installed before Atlantic crane removed

I think we now have a clue why the Atlantic Yards Community Update Meeting planned for April 22 was recently rescheduled to May 12: developer Greenland Forest City Partners wanted to plant articles about the progress of the Barclays Center's new green roof.

(They don't pitch articles about, say, their deceptive EB-5 tactics.)

The first comes today in the Wall Street Journal, a mostly positive portrayal headlined Barclays Center Prepares to Go Green, with the subtitle "Thousands of plants will form the largest green roof on a U.S. sports arena."

The gist:
Hundreds of thousands of plants will be moved to the top of Barclays Center starting this week, the final stage in a plan to complete the largest green roof ever put on a sports arena in the U.S.
Three acres of sedum, a flowering plant that is drought-tolerant and requires little maintenance, will be brought to the arena from Connecticut. The plants will cut down on noise from Barclays events and improve views for re…

MetroTech metastasizes: BID expanding to "Brooklyn Cultural District," Ratner's malls (but not Barclays Center)

Would you believe that Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center mall might be considered part of MetroTech?

Well, once the planned expansion of the MetroTech Business Improvement District (BID) is enacted, it will be.

Instead of starting a new Business Improvement District (BID) from scratch to encompass the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner's malls, and cultural institutions nearby--as was proposed but ran aground in mid-2013--a different solution has emerged.

The MetroTech BID, run by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), which is heavily influenced and led by Forest City, is expanding--in a rather jagged form to the southeast--to "create a maintenance entity covering areas of the newly-established Brooklyn Cultural District."

That includes the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), BRIC, Theatre for a New Audience, and other cultural institutions. The expanded BID would also support programming at two pla…

The mysterious case of China City of America, now Thompson Education Center, an EB-5 project upstate

I'm catching up on a lot of news related to the EB-5 program, which has helped the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park raise $477 million in cheap capital, with another $100 million to go. Perhaps the clearest summary of the lure and sketchiness of the program came in a February 2012 quote from an EB-5 fundraiser to The Daily:“It’s just a way of being able to get free money, basically, to build all sorts of projects.”

Why might Long Island businesswoman Sherry Li put $55,000 into Gov. Andrew Cuomo's re-election campaign?



I can only speculate that it's because she's trying to build a controversial, maybe fantastical project upstate called "China City of America," using EB-5 funds from immigrant investors.

Surfacing in 2013

The outline of Li's ambitious, extravagant idea first got wide play in the 12/4/13 New York Post, which, in Mysterious plans to build upstate NY ‘China City of America’, reported:
A Long Island businesswoman wants to build a massive…

A CUNY panel next Wednesday night: I'm talking Greenland and EB-5

As NHL Commissioner questions Nassau Coliseum likelihood for Islanders stint, transcript shows Yormark misleadingly said question would be resolved last year

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, apparently spooked by previous plans to revamp/replace the Nassau Coliseum that ran aground, yesterday said "I'm not sure it's fair to give the fans -- even the people who live in Nassau County -- any hope that something's coming next,"
according to Newsday's Jim Baumbach.

"I'm not going to engage with Nassau politicians on any of that," Bettman said. "They, at least to this point, they've had their time to do what has to be done. If something else materializes, you know, we can all deal with it at the time. But I'm not focused on anything going on because the track record is terrible."

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, noting the planned renovations led by Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner, countered,: "I believe that if Mr. Bettman likes the Barclays Center, he will similarly like the renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum."

I think it's certain that t…

As EB-5 regional center program faces renewal vote, questions of reform (or should it just be killed)

I'm catching up on a lot of news related to the EB-5 program, which has helped the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park raise $477 million in cheap capital, with another $100 million to go. Perhaps the clearest summary of the lure and sketchiness of the program came in a February 2012 quote from an EB-5 fundraiser to The Daily:“It’s just a way of being able to get free money, basically, to build all sorts of projects.”

Numerous real estate developers and other entrepreneurs have figured out that the path to cheap capital is the EB-5 program, particularly via regional centers, private (in almost all cases) investment pools federally authorized to raise funds overseas.
They compete especially in China, where millionaires eager to get their children into American schools or to get a stable foothold in the United States prize getting the green card and are willing to accept low interest rates. 
Meanwhile, regional centers can count temporary construction jobs as part of the requi…

After report charging favoritism in EB-5, industry advocates nervous of reforms; why shouldn't immigrant investment do more for the public?

I'm catching up on a lot of news related to the EB-5 program, which has helped the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park raise $477 million in cheap capital, with another $100 million to go. Perhaps the clearest summary of the lure and sketchiness of the program came in a February 2012 quote from an EB-5 fundraiser to The Daily:“It’s just a way of being able to get free money, basically, to build all sorts of projects.”

The political configuration regarding EB-5 is notable: there are numerous organized advocates, who get low-cost loans and earn profits, bringing investment to their locality, which understandably reels in local elected officials. Regular campaign contributions bolster such support.

Despite reasons to opposed EB-5 on fundamental levels--buying your way into the company doesn't sit right with many--or on instrumental ones--is our Rube Goldberg system effective, or should the money instead go to the government--there's little or no organized opposition.

Ho…