Sunday, January 31, 2016

NY1's update on Atlantic Yards parrots "new neighborhood, "public park," "30 lawsuits"

NY1's Atlantic Yards Gets New Name for New Life, broadcast yesterday,  is a remarkable, if perhaps unsurprising by now, piece of lapdog journalism.

It's keyed to the topping out of the 550 Vanderbilt condo and the 535 Carlton "100% affordable" building, but the new name, of course, was announced in 2014.

From the piece:
The development initially was called Atlantic Yards after the Long Island Rail Road yard beneath Atlantic Avenue, but after some 30 lawsuits attempting to stop the project, the developers think the original name has too much history.
Pacific Park refers to Pacific Street, which is being de-mapped and turned into a public park. It's a marketing strategy to attract buyers for condos that run from $845,000 for a one bedroom to nearly $7 million for a penthouse.
In contrast, the 298 rental units at the Carlton building will be 100 percent affordable, supported by the city's affordable housing program.
"For a family of four now, it would range from $24,000 in terms of income on the lowest band up to $124,000 for a family of four for a two bedroom unit," Yu said.
My comments below

Some 30 lawsuits? Not true in the slightest. Did you ask for a count?

A 22-acre neighborhood? That crosses wide Flatbush Avenue? And takes only a part of the block between Dean and Pacific Streets?

A "public park" that is *not* a public park, because it's privately operated open space, with shorter hours and more limitations than a park?

An income range up to $124,000? Forest City's *own* chart says $138,435 for a family of four, based on a 2014 income base.

And that has risen nearly 3% to $142,394 by 2016, given the rise in Area Median Income (AMI) from $83,900 to $86,300 for a four-person household.

Nor did you mention how the affordable units in the two "100% affordable" are skewed to households earning well over $100,000. Not what the typical Brooklynite thinks "affordable" means:

These are the projected rents as of 2014 for 535 Carlton and 38 Sixth, about $3000 for a 2-bedroom unit. The numbers should now be bumped up nearly 3%.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Nets say arena doors will open 60 minutes before games, not 90 minutes (cost-cutting move?)

In a rather cryptic announcement, the Brooklyn Nets, claiming they were "committed to providing our fans with the best possible experience at Barclays Center," yesterday said they'd start opening doors to the Barclays Center starting Monday 60 minutes prior to tip-off rather than 90 minutes.

No explanation was announced, but NetsDaily quoted a spokesman for the team and arena as saying, "There were a very minimal amount of people coming early except for the big games, when we will continue to open doors 90 minutes before tip-off."

That suggests some variability, and bolsters suspicions that this is a response to lesser fan interest as well as an effort to save money at a time when arena finances are hurting. As NetsDaily noted, some fear it might foster delays in getting through security.

Policies around the NBA vary. The New York Knicks have a 60-minute door policy, perhaps reflecting the options people have to entertain themselves before the game, while the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers have a 90-minute door policy.

Forest City plans to sell modular plant; Gilmartin claims company never aimed to manufacture modules (the record says otherwise)

There's actually significant news in BISNOW EXCLUSIVE: MARYANNE GILMARTIN ON PACIFIC PARK AND THE FUTURE OF MODULAR CONSTRUCTION, a cheerful pre-Bisnow-sponsored conference interview with Forest City Ratner's CEO.

Not only does Gilmartin continue to blame former partner Skanska--described incorrectly as the original owner of the modular plant, which was a joint venture--for delays in building the B2 modular tower, 461 Dean Street, Forest City plans to sell the factory it reopened last year after buying out Skanska's share.

That means that, not only has Pacific Park joint venture partner/overseer Greenland USA apparently nixed modular construction for the rest of the project, Forest City has been unable to attract new business for apartments or even components.

At the end of November, employees were sent a 90-day notice about the plant shutting down; presumably by then the remaining modules for B2 would be finished.

Forgetting history

And, just as she claimed that the name "Atlantic Yards" was "always a working title" before the project could be renamed Pacific Park after 11 years, so too does Gilmartin stretch credulity:
“We’re not a manufacturing business,” she says. “It was always imagined that that process would be done by somebody else. We now need it to be taken on by others.” 
Gilmartin doesn't remember how Forest City Ratner's 2012 Opportunity Brief (see excerpt below) indicated that, with then-technology partner XSite Modular, they sought a "partner to establish and grow a viable, cost competitive modular factory business"?

Or maybe she just assumes no one will check.

Questions of timing

Interestingly, Gilmartin expects both 461 Dean, which is 50% affordable/50% market, and 535 Carlton, 100% affordable, to open this year. The 550 Carlton condo tower is supposed to open in early 2017.

Also interestingly, Gilmartin says Forest City is still interested in modular construction, just not as a manufacturer. Perhaps not until the ongoing lawsuits with Skanska are resolved.

Friday, January 29, 2016

No surprise: school at 664 Pacific will become middle school

As first revealed yesterday by DNAinfo after comments by New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, the 616-seat school at the 27-story, market-rate B15 tower (aka 664 Pacific) planned just east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets will become a dedicated middle school.

That's a victory for the local elected officials and advocates who sought a standalone middle-school, under the banner of MSOneBrooklyn, saying that the lack of higher-quality seats (not spaces in District 13) drove families away.

“The siting of this school addresses a critical need that has been neglected in both Prospect Heights and District 13 communities,” said Sharon Wedderburn, chair of the Education Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 8,

A lack of space for elementary school students remains as well; hence the original, if tentative, plan, for a mixed school. See debate here.

“Greenland Forest City Partners looks forward to delivering a new state-of-the-art public middle school in the heart of Pacific Park. This 600-seat school will be a tremendous community anchor for the thousands of families living in Pacific Park and their neighbors from across District 13,” Ashley Cotton, senior vice president of External Affairs at Forest City Ratner Cos., said in a statement on behalf of GFCP to the Brooklyn Eagle.

Need > location

The decision also shows that the hunger for such a middle-school trumped any dismay--expressed by some of the project's nearest neighbors and Community Board 2--about the placement of a school directly across the street from the Barclays Center and a temporary entrance should the B1 tower be built to replace the temporary arena plaza.

Moreover, there are no curb cuts for buses or deliveries. The rendering above right suggests a gathering place for students outside the B3 tower, which is not pictured.

The press release

Major win for students in Brooklyn’s District 13: NYC Schools Chancellor Fariña announces
Atlantic Yards facility will house middle school

BROOKLYN, NY, January 28, 2016: This morning, New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña stated that the new Department of Education Facility to be constructed at the Atlantic Yards project will be programmed as a dedicated middle school. The Chancellor spoke at a Brooklyn Newsmakers breakfast hosted by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

Organizers behind the M.S. OneBrooklyn vision for an intermediate school to occupy space being built at the Atlantic Yards site expressed enthusiasm over the news. In a statement, the group said, “On behalf of the more than 1,000 people who have signed the M.S. OneBrooklyn petition, we are delighted that the Chancellor has committed that the Atlantic Yards facility will be a dedicated middle school. We look forward to working with the Department of Education to leverage the arts and tech resources of Brooklyn, and incorporate dual-language curricula at this new school. Together, we can deliver an outstanding middle school experience accessible to all students of District 13.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “The residents of Prospect Heights have been heard, and our children will benefit from their advocacy in the form of a brand-new middle school that furthers their academic journeys. I am proud of the M.S. OneBrooklyn campaign and thankful that Chancellor Fariña has responded favorably to our call for dedicated middle school space in Pacific Park. The planning process to come should be an exciting and robust dialogue that includes a focus on infusing STEM curriculum and dual-language studies into high-quality classroom experiences. Congratulations to the families of District 13!"

"Today is a victory for students, parents, and community members who have been advocating for a dedicated intermediate school in District 13,” said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. “We are pleased that the DOE responded to the needs of the community, and that the needs of children and their families will be met.”

“I applaud Chancellor Carmine Farina and the New York City Department of Education for their decision to ensure all 616 seats at the proposed new public school in Prospect Heights will be dedicated to a middle school. As Brooklyn’s population continues to rapidly grow we must plan for the future, and that future includes more schools to match the ever-growing demand. I pledge to continue to work with the city administration to ensure the need for more educational facilities are met so that Brooklyn continues to be a place where families will want to live, grow and work for generations to come,” said Assembly Member Walter Mosley.

“I am so very grateful to Chancellor Farina for listening to the families of District 13 and its CEC who worked so hard and so collaboratively to build a cohesive vision for a stand-alone middle school at Atlantic Yards,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon. “I am excited to work with my colleagues and the community to build a school community that not only stresses inclusion, diversity, creativity and academic rigor, but does so by leveraging the unique arts and technology resources in this area.”

"I am very excited and pleased that Chancellor Fariña and Mayor de Blasio have heard the voices of the community and local elected officials and have made this decision for a much-needed middle school in the Pacific Park development,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “And I thank the community for their diligence on this issue most of all!"

State Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “I am overjoyed by Chancellor Carmen Fariña's announcement today that students in Central Brooklyn will have the chance to go to a great middle school. There was resounding grassroots support for this school, and I'm proud that so many elected officials worked together to fill the need for this school. It is an important development for all Brooklyn. Our kids deserve this.”

“The siting of this school addresses a critical need that has been neglected in both Prospect Heights and District 13 communities,” said Sharon Wedderburn, chair of the Education Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 8, adding, “It is essential that our children are offered facilities that can support their preparation for the future. We see this school as a first step in addressing the existing and emerging needs of traditional middle schools in Community District 8. We look forward to collaborating with our families, our community education councils and the Department of Education so that opportunities for quality schools for our diverse community will be at the forefront now and in the future.”

“We applaud the DOE's commitment to creating both new middle schools, as well as state-of-the art new facilities for existing middles, in District 13, as part of a collaborative strategy to improve current schools and develop new ones to prepare our children for future success in our city and our world.” said David Goldsmith, president of Community Education Council 13. Added CEC 13 member Rob Underwood, “The new middle school commitment for Atlantic Yards announced today, as well the redesigned M.S. 313 Dock Street School being unveiled tonight, will give Brooklyn parents new and compelling options for their middle school aged children.”

Applications for affordable units in modular tower available next month; reprising info on unit size/rents

According to a post on Brooklyn Community Board 6's Facebook page, at some point next month applications will be available for the 181 subsidized apartments planned for the B2 modular tower, aka 461 Dean Street, flanking the Barclays Center at Flatbush Avenue.

That implies that the building, which is several floors below its projected 32 stories, is on track to open this summer.

The units will be spread among low- (73), moderate- (36), and middle-income (72) households, with rents for the few subsidized two-bedroom units ranging from under $900 to nearly $2900. (Half the building will be market-rate, and those two-bedroom units should cost well over $4,000.) See graphics below.

The projected monthly rents below should be adjusted upward by about 4% (and possible more), given that the 2012 Area Median Income (AMI), upon which target percentages of AMI were calculated, has risen from $83,000 in 2012 to $86,300 in 2015.

To apply, people must contact MHANY (Mutual Housing of New York) Management, at, or 718-246-8080, x 224 or x239. MHANY, led by Ismene Speliotis, is a successor to ACORN, which signed the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding with then-developer Forest City Ratner in 2012.

Drilling down

This building, however, has far fewer family-sized units than originally promised, though the affordability range conforms to original promises. The next two "100% affordable" buildings have more family-sized units but the affordability skews significantly toward better-off households.

There is no information currently on the MHANY web site or the New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development's affordable housing lottery page. Half the units in the lottery will be reserved for residents of Brooklyn Community Districts 2, 3, 6, and 8.

One question is whether (and how much) the significant troubles suffered by the building--leaks and mold, at least in lower floors, requiring repair--will be disclosed to future residents. This building is being developed solely by Forest City Ratner, not its joint venture partner in the rest of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park (except the arena), Greenland USA.

Affordability charts, as of 2012
From NYC Housing Development Corporation: note that 2016 rents for affordable units likely will go up at least 4%.

From Forest City Ratner: note that 2016 rents for affordable units likely will go up at least 4%.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A new (old) look at the building once planned for Site 5, replacing P.C. Richard/Modell's

I published a version of this image in November 2014, after the Frank Gehry retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, but the shot below, from the updated Gehry exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that I recently visited, provides new perspective on the 2008 version of what was then called Atlantic Yards.

Atlantic Yards image approx. 2008; Site 5 at far left; photo at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, by Norman Oder
Not only does the model depict the B1 office tower looming over the arena--instead of the temporary-but-helpful-to-operations--arena plaza, it shows a cousin of sorts at Site 5, the tower aimed to replace the low-slung cinderblock building now home to P.C. Richard and Modell's. It's at the far west end of the the site (uh, "neighborhood")

When developer Forest City Ratner in 2008 released new renderings of the arena block, with the titanium-clad arena Site 5 was omitted. But Gehry, apparently, had designed a building.

Arrow points to Site 5
Today, there's no design, just a blocky massing model, as shown in this photo of the Pacific Park project model now on view at the 550 Vanderbilt condo sales office in the Flatbush Avenue retail space of the Barclays Center.

What's on tap?

And what's coming? As I reported last September, Empire State Development--the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park-- had begun a process, said to take about six months, of condemning the properties.

An affiliate of Forest City Ratner, which developed the property in the mid-1990s along with the Atlantic Center mall, owns the property housing Modell's, while the firm A.J. Richard (parent of P.C. Richard) owns the other tax lot. The state, thanks to the 2006 project approval, already has permission to condemn the full project site.

Both tax lots must be condemned to clear title and, as reported yesterday, A.J. Richard had gone to court, contending that Forest City promised replacement space in the new building. Forest City says the agreement wasn't ironclad.

The building is supposed to be a maximum of 250' feet tall and 439,050 square feet. But things could change, and state officials in October dropped a big hint that the tower might be tweaked. I reported in November, Forest City aims to bring "high-end retail" to the site, comparing it to the Time Warner Center.

There will be no public role in the eminent domain process, but more may come out in the litigation. Plans for the building surely will be discussed at periodic Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park-related meetings.

Beyond that, if the state must tweak the project plan to allow for different uses at the site, that may require approval of the ESD board. If so, that likely won't trigger a public hearing process--that takes too long, right?--but could allow for public comment at an ESD meeting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Site 5 snag? P.C. Richard sues Forest City to block condemnation, contends developer reneged on promise for replacement property

Site 5 (arrow) in model at Pacific Park sales center
The last round of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park is not going so smoothly.

As the Real Deal reported yesterday, P.C. Richard, which owns part of the Site 5 site at the western end of the project footprint, has sued to block condemnation of the property, which is adjacent to a site owned by Forest City Ratner and occupied by Modell's.

The state also will condemn the Modell's lease, as well, with a 250-foot tower encompassing 439,050 square feet, including office and retail space (and possibly residential).

Promise of replacement space?

According to the Real Deal, a 2006 letter of intent (LOI) signed by P.C. Richard parent A.J. Richard and Forest City indicated that the electronics store would get comparable space in a new building at the project site. Forest City contends the LOI was nonbinding; P.C. Richard says it was ironclad.

The LOI is under seal, but conditions have certainly changed in nine years, with the retail picture far more glossy. In other words--and I speculate--it might have been plausible to include a competitively-priced electronics store in a retail space as of 2006. Now Forest City plans high-end retail, likening it to the Time Warner Center.

The LOI was signed 12/2/06, just before official approval of the project plan by Empire State Development, a state agency with which P.C. Richard had filed comments challenging the environmental review.

P.C. Richard, which filed its suit in the first week of December, seeks a preliminary injunction to stop the condemnation and to require a "Replacement Property at the same location in the lower floors of any tower erected on that site." Forest City responded 1/15/16, denying the allegations.

Hearing next month

A hearing in New York Supreme Court, Kings County, is scheduled for 2/18/16 at 9:30 a.m. Forest City is represented by its regular firm, Kramer, Levin. P.C. Richard is represented by Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, a comparably major firm.

The eminent domain process, which was supposed to take six months, began with a 9/2/15 letter from a lawyer for the state. Given the legal action, the process likely will take longer. Then again, I suspect this is the kind of case that will be settled before trial.

The Real Deal queried representatives for both P.C. Richard and Forest City, who declined comment. Note that the suit does not name Greenland USA, which is now Forest City's joint venture partner/overseer, which is supplying 70% of the project funds going forward.

Though the original agreement did not (obviously) mention Greenland, it seems to me that Greenland could become involved.

Nor does the suit yet name Empire State Development, the condemnor, though it seeks a preliminary injunction "enjoining and estopping Defendant [Forest City], and all those acting in concert with it" from taking various actions.

Now, closure of Sixth Avenue this weekend twice as long as originally announced (weather?)

(Update: the closure will be Saturday, January 30 and Sunday, January 31, 2016 from 6 am to 5 pm, according to the notice at right.)

Something doesn't quite make sense. The sign posted yesterday, in the photo below, indicates that Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets will be closed for two days, from 6 am Saturday through 9 pm Sunday either this weekend or next.

However, the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Alert issued last week stated that the closure would be simply for "one day," to allow for "Con Ed vault excavation and delivery of the Con Ed Vaults" for the B3 tower at the southeast corner of the arena block.

At the same time, a Community Notice regarding the work--which was scheduled for last Saturday, then canceled for weather--indicated that it would proceed from 7 am to 4 pm. See excerpt below left.

Now the time period is more than twice as long. Maybe the remaining snow cover makes for complications. But shouldn't there be an explanation?

A photo posted by NWBklyn (@nwbklyn) on

Barclays Center recruiting concessions staff; hourly pay now 50 cents above fast-food minimum

The Barclays Center is again recruiting workers, this time Concessions Counter Servers and Cashiers, with a starting pay of $11/hour.

This represents a slight bump up from the $10.50/hour pay revealed last June, which is now the minimum wage for fast-food workers. Previously, there was a larger gap between the arena's $10.50/hour wage and the minimum wage of $8.75 (now $9).

Note that hiring does not at all mean there is an expansion of jobs, just an expansion of the labor pool. And an expanded labor pool is not necessarily good for workers. 

SEIU 32BJ, which represents he security guards, ushers, ticket takers, and event staffers, seeks a renewed contract that guarantees more hours for workers so they can qualify for health insurance. Presumably the concessions workers would also like more hours

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Now on Instagram: atlanticyards_pacificpk_report (with updates on sidewalks cleared and not)

Update: the Carlton Avenue Bridge sidewalk was cleared as of the morning of Jan. 27.

I'm now on Instagram as atlanticyards_pacificpk_report and last night posted updates to yesterday's blog post about uncleared sidewalks after the storm.

Bottom line: the Dean Street sidewalk was cleared, the Carlton Avenue Bridge sidewalk was not cleared. (Update/correction: while the state MTA is responsible for the sidewalk around the railyard, the sidewalk on the bridge is apparently the responsibility of the NYC DOT.)

A photo posted by Norman Oder (@atlanticyards_pacificpk_report) on

A photo posted by Norman Oder (@atlanticyards_pacificpk_report) on

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snow removal problems persist around project site

Update: By Monday night, the sidewalk on Dean Street was clear, but the Carlton Avenue Bridge sidewalk was not.

Dean Street yesterday
There's significant frustration today, especially in Queens, regarding streets that remain unplowed after Saturday's storm.

Well, there's also frustration in Prospect Heights, where the sidewalks next to the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site were not cleared appropriately, as neighbors have documented. (Here's the rule on snow removal.)

The photo at right, from this Instagram account, shows the sidewalk at 4 pm yesterday on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue, site of the 664 Pacific development. Surely that's more than 14 hours after the snow stopped, thus triggering the responsibility to shovel.

Also see this Instagram photo yesterday of Carlton Avenue between Dean and Pacific.

Below, a video shot this morning shows the uncleared sidewalks on the Carlton Avenue Bridge between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue.

While that may still formally be the responsibility of the Long Island Rail Road, Pacific Park developer Greenland Forest City Partners is working in the railyard.

And if they can't decide who's responsible, shouldn't Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, break the logjam? Shouldn't the developer and/or state agency be communicating about this?

(Update/correction: while the state MTA is responsible for the sidewalk around the railyard, the sidewalk on the bridge is apparently the responsibility of the NYC DOT.)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The road not taken: original plan was to have modular company also build B2

The transcript below right, from a 7/30/15 hearing in the endless, unresolved litigation regarding the ill-fated partnership between Forest City Ratner and Skanska USA Building to operate a factory creating pre-fabricated components for the B2 modular tower, quotes Skanska lawyer Bruce Meller:

"The original transaction had the modular company doing the construction work for B2," Meller said. "The original concept was that the modular company would take an assignment of the design, accept the design responsibilities, and then construct the work. That price was too high for Forest City."

Instead, Forest City hired Skanska to construct the tower, assembling the superstructure, placing the modules, and connecting the building systems, among other things.

Skanska blames Forest City for faulty design of the modular plan; Forest City blames Skanska's execution.

Meller brought up the issue because he was talking about changes in the various contracts regarding the project.

The road not taken

It suggests a road not taken: the Forest City/Skanska partnership, known as FCS Modular (and now FC Modular, after Forest City bought out Skanska's share, after a work stoppage and legal volleys) was going to establish a major new business.

Instead, the company was subcontracted to build module. Now Skanska is gone, and Tishman Turner Construction is building B2, aka 461 Dean Street.

FC Modular is now in danger of closing, without any new contracts pending, though it may reboot to produce modules for different kinds of buildings.

Greenland Holdings, the joint venture partner/overseer on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, is less willing--and perhaps unwilling--to consider modular for the project.

Had a company been established to build the units and the tower--and the process worked smoothly (which it hasn't)--it could have been a formidable entity.

Then again, given the inherent tensions the even smaller Forest City/Skanska joint venture experienced, maybe that would not have been a wise idea.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Artist Glenn Ligon at MOMA PS1: a 12-year Prospect Heights real estate story

Part of the Greater New York exhibition at MOMA PS1 in Long Island City (on view through March) is a piece called "Housing in New York: A Brief History, 1960-2007," by the Bronx-born artist Glenn Ligon.

The piece consists of texts about the various places Ligon had lived by 2007, the date of the piece, which consists of paragraphs of text, not any photographs.

It's notable that the last two places were in Prospect Heights, and Ligon's texts capture the neighborhood in transition, though not with complete prescience.

The first, from 1995-2002, was 168 Prospect Place. "A one-bedroom brownstone floor-through on a quiet, tree-lined street," Ligon writes. "My neighbor Herbie jokingly called the area 'Dark Slope' because the complexion of its residents was dramatically different from that of those south of Flatbush Avenue in more affluent Park Slope."

Note that Ligon is black; a white artist using that phrase likely would face criticism. Also note that the complexion of Prospect Heights residents has become much closer to that of Park Slope in the last 15 years. And note that the building in which Ligon lived two years ago listed a one-bedroom apartment for $2,700 a month.

Then Ligon bought a one-bedroom in the Newswalk condo at 535 Dean Street, "a converted factory building on the edge of the Long Island Railroad train yard. The developers, gambling that soaring real estate prices would soon extend to Prospect Heights, created condos out of what was the long-empty Daily News printing plant." They were right.

"The apartment was on the fifth floor facing west and had an incredible view of the train yards of downtown Brooklyn and New Jersey. I realized this view would soon disappear when real estate developer Bruce Ratner announced plans for a Frank Gehry designed basketball stadium and dozens of office and residential towers." (Well, 16 towers, and an arena.)

"If approved, it will be one of the largest developments ever built in the city and will dramatically change the character of the neighborhood. Facing ten years of construction and what was turning into a losing battle over eminent domain, overcrowding, and a lack of low-income housing, I decided to sell and move on."

Interesting. It was already approved, but facing legal challenges. And the ten years have turned into nearly 20 years. As for lack of low-income housing, well, there will be, but the issue is the actual amount of neighborhood-affordable subsidized housing.

Had Ligon not sold, his property would have appreciated, but the quality of life would have been tested--given what residents experience now--and face more testing.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The "residential gateway" at Pacific and Sixth? Only if you forget temporary arena entrance planned if/when B1 tower is built

Arrow to arena added; screenshot from elow
At the Community Update meeting on 12/9/15, I was surprised to hear 664 Pacific Street (aka B15) architect Jonathan Marvel describe the intersection of Pacific Street and Sixth Avenue as a "residential gateway," a designation reinforced in his slideshow (screenshot below).

Yes, there ultimately will be four residential buildings at each corner, with B3 (38 Sixth Ave., at the southeast corner of the arena block) and B15 being built shortly, B4 on the northeast corner of the arena block and B5, once a deck is built over the railyard east of Sixth Avenue, will come later. (The tentative schedule is 2019 for B4 and 2025 for B5.)

But Marvel was unaware--likely because his client didn't bother to tell him--that the "residential gateway" might, for a stretch, become an "arena gateway."

If and when the B1 tower is built to replace the temporary arena plaza, a main arena entrance will be relocated to the Sixth Avenue side of the arena, very close to the school. (See p. 29 of the Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, excerpted and attached to the screenshot below, which is from the slideshow at bottom.)

Marvel Architects slide, annotated by Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report with arrow
and excerpt from state Memorandum of Environmental Commitments
Differing interests?

That's not Marvel's problem. It may not even be Greenland Forest City Partner's problem. After all, Forest City Ratner has sold the 55% share it controlled in the arena operating company to Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Group.

The interests of the arena operator and the project developer are not always the same, with construction needs interfering with arena operations.

Consider, for example, that narrowed passageway on Dean Street at Flatbush Avenue near the arena entrance, caused by delays in completing B2, the modular tower at the corner.

But the potential problem raised the stakes for the transfer of the arena operating company to Prokhorov, which went forward only with needs staff approval from Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, despite concern from elected officials members and community members.

Of course, the growing sentiment to keep the plaza--an important safety valve for arena operations and a transition point in scale--may mean B1 never gets built. But Greenland Forest City surely won't give up more than 1.1 million square feet of development rights unless they get the equivalent value somewhere else.

"A leap of faith"

Facing questions about where buses and vehicles would do drop-offs on a block without curb cuts,
Marvel said city education agencies "aren't planning how the buses are going to arrive. It's not part of the design of the layout of the school. It's going to have to happen as management issue."

"That can evolve over time, as the building gets occupied and used," he said, suggesting onlookers "take a leap of faith."

That's asking a bit much. As I wrote,  the arena loading dock was supposed to operate seamlessly, to minimize demand on residential Dean Street, with deliveries carefully timed. That that hasn't happened.

Marvel Architects B15 Slideshow, 664 Pacific, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park by AYReport

Thursday, January 21, 2016

From the latest Construction Update: Sixth Avenue *not* closed on Saturday; murkiness on overnight deliveries (updated)

Update: Hazardous weather means that Sixth Avenue will not be closed on Saturday as tentatively planned.

The latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update, covering the weeks of January 18 and January 25, should have been issued last Friday, as a preview. Instead, it came late Wednesday morning, more than one business day late.

Sixth Avenue outside the B3 site (38 Sixth Avenue) between Dean Street and Pacific Street will be closed this Saturday--as tentatively planned--to allow for Con Ed vault excavation. Update: a notice this morning indicates the time will be 7 am to 4 pm.

Sixth Avenue between Dean & Pacific Street will be closed during this time.

At the Vanderbilt Yard, overnight deliveries were supposed to begin Tuesday night--after the notice was received--and last through Friday nights. The document states:
• Delivery and installation of the LIRR 38kV Substation, 5kV Substation, and Substation Control Buildings are expected to be completed during this reporting period. Project deliveries of the equipment will take place during overnight hours starting on January 19th through January 22nd; vehicles will access the site at Pacific and Vanderbilt and will be stored overnight in the Pacific Street staging area. Installation of the substation equipment may require overnight, extended weekday work hours and weekend hours to complete. *
Note that the "overnight, extended weekday work hours and weekend hours" cited above were not indicated in the Community Notice issued last Friday, nor does either document detail the number and extent of deliveries. Nor did I get a response to my query about the number and extent.

There will be Saturday work at the B2 (461 Dean Street), B3 (38 Sixth Avenue), B11 (550 Vanderbilt Avenue), B14 (535 Carlton Avenue), and B15 (664 Pacific Street). There will also be work up to 9 pm weekdays at B14. Night and weekend work will continue at the Vanderbilt Yard.

Below are verbatim excerpts from the document, citing new work.

B11 – 550 Vanderbilt Avenue
• Connection of the buildings to sewer and water in Pacific Street will occur during this reporting period.
B12 – 615 Dean Street
• DOB has issued an excavation permit, construction fence separating the B12 site from the B11 site has been installed, and one permanent footing has been completed.
• Site preparation and removals of any above grade structures within the site, stripping of asphalt, and general excavation and removal of top layer of material may begin during this period.
• Soil that has been classified as clean, contaminated or hazardous will be removed from the site as part of the excavation activities and brought to appropriate disposal locations.
B-15 (6th Ave and Pacific Street)
• Excavation of test pits to locate footings of demolished buildings will occur during this reporting period. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in 2016: buildings finally open; others rise; what's the surprise?

See Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park 2015 retrospective yesterday.

Some of the big Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park 2016 news has already occurred. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov canned the Brooklyn Nets coach and demoted the general manager. But expect some effort at buzz, if not competitiveness, as the Nets hire new leaders and find new players.

And, of course, an unresolved question, as Politico's Howard Megdal wrote, is whether Prokhorov, now that he owns 100% of the Nets and 100% of the Barclays Center operating company, will sell.

The New York Islanders, after a slow start in drawing fans, have begun to do better, and as the playoffs approach might tick up further.

But we won't know until late in 2016 whether, in fact, the Barclays Center arena will in 2015-16 reap the forecasted $55 million in net operating income, which would be a huge jump from the previous $38 million yet still would not allow much profit. After all, that also depends on the concert industry.

We may see further union pressure and protests regarding the contract for service workers at the arena, which is due to be renewed.

The Brooklyn Nets' new luxurious training facility in Sunset Park did not open as expected in September, but is now due next month..

The Nassau Coliseum, revamped by the Nassau Events Center, originally led by Forest City Ratner and now owned mostly by Prokhorov, is supposed to open at the end of the year, but there are already rumblings it will be late.

The buildings open

The first buildings in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project should open, including the 550 Vanderbilt condo tower, the 535 Carlton "100% affordable" rental tower, and the 461 Dean 50% subsidized/50% market modular tower. All come with some questions:
  • will the condo building meet sales targets, and/or accelerate other condo construction?
  • how many owners will be overseas buyers?
  • will elected officials and/or the press notice the lack of affordability associated with the "100% affordable" building?
  • will the modular tower, after all its troubles, reap the expected market-rate rents?
  • will Greenland USA, the lead partner in the Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture, consider any more modular buildings?
Also, with a warning notice sent to workers at the modular plant about a possible closure at the end of February, we'll see whether--if there are no new Pacific Park modular towers--the modular factory retools to make other prefab structures.

Construction should continue/begin on sites recently cleared, such as B12 (651 Dean Street) and B15 (664 Pacific), while construction should also begin on B13, the last of four sites on the southeast block and another condo building. Work on the Vanderbilt Yard continues through 2017.

Tentative plan of buildout
Changing tides?

The emergence of open residential towers, and their new residents, could change some of the vibe around the project, with the new residents enthusiastic about Pacific Park (free arena tickets?) or, if things don't go as well as planned or construction remains onerous, demanding consumers.

The scale of the project, long alarming to many, may have grown somewhat more acceptable thanks to time and the emergence if enormous towers in relatively nearby zones of Downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Still, with multiple buildings finished or going up, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park will be jarring from some perspectives. Will the developers still claim it's a "new neighborhood" or a "neighborhood from scratch"?

The assignment of the school planned for B15--a mixed elementary/middle school, or a dedicated middle school, as many local advocates seek--remains in question, but should emerge later this year.

Also in question is whether the continuing frustration experienced by neighbors regarding construction and arena operations addressed thanks to a promised--but delayed--app to track impacts.

Will the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, not so impactful in its first year, do more? A few AY CDC board members, notably Jaime Stein, have pushed for more transparency from Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, with little visible progress.

What's the surprise?

What's the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park surprise? The ones in 2015 were relatively small, but there's always something.

Perhaps it will be the emerging plan for Site 5, currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard, which may require a revised approval from the state, and offer the opportunity for public comment. (I don't expect public comment on the eminent domain process.). Forest City--er, Greenland Forest City Partners--has said it could be high-end retail, likening it the Time Warner Center of Brooklyn.

Or could it be an announcement that Greenland Forest City aims to build B1, the behemoth office tower over the arena plaza. That could be a construction nightmare, as well as a hardship for arena operations and a hazard for the school at B15, if an arena entrance shifts to its right flank.. But, as I've suggested, they're not going to simply discard 1.1 million square feet of development rights without getting something in return.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in 2015: Islanders arrive, Nets sink; buildings rise; modular revelation; a "new neighborhood... from scratch"?

Yes, I know this is late, but it incorporates some early-in-2016 episodes that connect to 2015. The 2016 forecast will appear tomorrow.

When I wrote my Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park 2015 predictions  a year ago, I cited the likelihood of multiple towers under construction and the sale of Forest City Ratner's share of the Barclays Center and Nets.

The view from Vanderbilt Avenue below the southeast block 
Indeed, the project is very much on the map, but the arena sale appeared to be a loss for the developer. Then again, parent Forest City Enterprises needed to divest so it could transition to a real estate investment trust, or REIT.

Another seemingly big issue was the--now quickly forgotten--decision by the Democratic National Committee to hold the 2016 presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia, not Brooklyn, where logistics would have been much tougher.

The sports teams, the arena, the renamings

The New York Islanders did arrive, as expected, but with a bumpier transition than anticipated, with pushback from some fans regarding poor sightlines and higher prices, and lower than expected attendance, at least initially.
Hyping the Islanders

NBA 2015 All-Star Game weekend events came to the Barclays Center, but it was a relatively subdued year, business-wise, such that an announcement, buried on New Year's Eve, revealed that the arena was losing money. (That should tick upward.)

The Brooklyn Nets had their ups and downs, with the departure of high-profile Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett leading to a strained marketing premise.

Gloomy predictions for the 2015-16 season were confirmed earlier this month--2016 round-up news early!--with the firing of Coach Lionel Hollins and the demotion of General Manager Billy King.

If there was no dramatic renaming, a la Pacific Park Brooklyn, in 2015, there were three clever renamings that were pitched as launches, as if the previous, problematic/failed ventures were forgotten: The Vault became the Billboard Lounge; the Cushman & Wakefield Theater became the Tidal Theater; and the new-for-hockey Draft Ops Club quickly became the West End Club once a cloud covered fantasy sports. 

550 Vanderbilt: 17 stories, 19 floors
Construction ramps up

Big chunks of the project site are under construction: B2 (461 Dean, modular) and B3 next to the arena, and B11 (550 Vanderbilt), B12 (615 Dean), and B14 (535 Carlton) on the southeast block. Site clearance continues for the B15 (664 Pacific) building across from the arena, between Dean and Pacific. Railyard work continues.

The last parts of the contiguous site--north of Flatbush Avenue--were taken by eminent domain, including 19th century houses. (The last round of eminent domain, for Site 5--currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell's--is under way.)

"At some point--maybe not in 2015 but surely by 2016--residents and visitors will get a stronger sense of how massive this project will be," I wrote.

Yes, they have. The 202-foot, 17-story (or is it 19-story?) 550 Vanderbilt tower reached its full height at the southeast end of the project, and an entire storefront on the Flatbush Avenue side of the arena. The real estate market has recovered so much that, not only have prices risen, the expected per square foot prices exceed previous estimates.

Though ally Bertha Lewis once called the project "Atlantic Yards or Pacific Heights or whatever," some relentless salesmanship put Pacific Park on the map. In an outbreak of stunning effrontery, the developers even called Pacific Park a "new neighborhood," and suggested--in eerie echo of words that got original architect Frank Gehry in trouble--that this might be a way to build a neighborhood "from scratch."

They also released open space designs, regularly calling the privately managed, publicly accessible space a "park."

Unfinished green roof
The B2 modular tower, and the associated factory, re-started, with the tower steadily rising. But revelations emerged--thanks to my FOIL request--that lower floors had been ravaged by water and mold. That makes it less likely any other project buildings will go modular, and evidence emerged that the factory, which has threatened to shut down, might survive only by changing its mission.

The arena's green roof, despite lots of buzz (including an unwise Reason to Love NY, from New York magazine), remains unfinished, and curiously stalled. The Brooklyn Nets' new training facility in Sunset Park did not open as expected in September, though it is now due in February. Expect much fanfare.

Construction of the West Portal to the railyard continued, and it was belatedly revealed that, oh, Atlantic Avenue would be congested a lot longer than previously disclosed. That left an opening for an odd addition to the arena scene: the advent of DropCar, a valet parking service, as well as a piece of public space somehow deeded to VIP parking.

Oversight issues

The Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), a subsidiary of Empire State Development, finally emerged, the product of a June 2014 legal settlement that led to a faster-than-previous (though slower than originally promised) project buildout. 

Though a forum for occasional moments of oversight, notably regarding the bizarrely limited notice behind Atlantic Yards meetings, and potentially a useful vehicle, the AY CDC had little impact. For example, neither it nor ESD had any role overseeing the transfer of Forest City's share in the arena operating company. No board member attended the regular Community Update meetings (though Jaime Stein ends a representative and regularly asks questions at board meetings). The AY CDC, for example, never drilled down on the limited affordability of planned apartments nor asked questions about problems at the modular tower.

Car using Dean Street sidewalk
Elected officials occasionally expressed concern, such as asking for assurances before Prokhorov bought the arena, but for some, there was far more their enthusiasm for "affordable housing" (despite its lack of affordability).

Construction and arena operations remained a headache for the project's closest neighbors--would you believe a stalled truck caused cars to use the sidewalk--and a long-promised app to track impacts has yet to appear.

The Greenland Group, the Shanghai government-owned majority owner of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park (except the arena and B2 tower), remained behind the scenes, but Greenland USA's head, based in Los Angeles, resigned quietly--was disappeared?--on a Friday night.

Community ripples

After the 2014 legal settlement, some civic groups that had a watchdog--if not oppositional--role, drew back. Stepping up somewhat was a new configuration involving the project's nearest neighbors, those feeling the brunt of impacts: the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance.

More able to draw broad support, however, were groups supporting a middle-school in the school being built in the B15 tower, though the closest neighbors were more wary of the location.

Some new businesses emerged near the arena, including a cereal bar inside a sneaker store, and others departed, but the coveted Triangle building at Fifth and Flatbush avenues remained empty.

The announced, but delayed, plan for community groups' discount use of the Barclays Center didn't get off the ground, as far as I know, but the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance did continue to build community connections--and warm feelings for the arena--by distributing more than $100,000 from a new foundation.

A lingering lawsuit regarding trainees promised construction careers as part of a Community Benefits Agreement plan was settled confidentially, so quiet no one but me bothered to write about it. Other lawsuits involving Forest City Ratner and its former modular partner Skanska continue to percolate.

The bottom line

Atlantic Yards has been full of surprises, but there was no huge surprise in 2015, just some smaller ones like the revelation of mold in the modular building.

What was belatedly clear--no real shock--was the continued lack of real transparency from the developer and government, despite gestures toward transparency.

Perhaps the most telling quote came from Marion Phillips III, a Senior VP for ESD, who described the periodic Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting as "a developer meeting," facilitated by the state.

Indeed it is. But it was earlier a Quality of Life (Committee) meeting in which residents got to help set the agenda. Not any more. Like a "neighborhood from scratch," the precursor gets forgotten.

January 2015

Mayor de Blasio claims affordable housing victory, but Atlantic Yards looks different. Developers like to talk "affordable middle-income housing."

Forest City crows about corporate citizenship, but there's a lot left out.

Nearly three years late, the first BAM-arena collaboration, involving David Byrne and color guards. The collaboration had been hyped as 3-4 shows a year.

Despite high rank worldwide, Barclays Center's second full year shows drop of 27% in tickets sold, 28% in gross revenue.

EB-5 promotion in China
Forest City Enterprises announces plan to convert to a REIT, plans 2015 asset sales including shares of Nets, arena.

No surprise: EB-5 fundraising for "Atlantic Yards III" invokes 535 Carlton groundbreaking, de Blasio photo op, royal visit.

Goodbye, Kenneth Adams: Buffalo developer Howard Zemsky named to head ESD.

Construction fence squeezes Carlton Avenue between Dean and Pacific, slowing traffic, damaging trees.

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

My Times op-ed: "Holding the Democratic Convention in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit." (New Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance. Letters in response, and my rebuttal.

February 2015

At midseason, Sports Illustrated grades the Nets a D. Prokhorov deputy Irina Pavlova laughs when reminded of Prokhorov's championship-or-get-married vow.

Nearly all condemnees in project footprint have left; state moves toward residential eviction, though evidence suggests low-ball home valuation for Jerry Campbell.

At first Atlantic Yards CDC meeting, guarded optimism; Board revealed as having two CBA members. BrooklynSpeaks expresses confidence in AY CDC.

Iron worker dies in construction accident at Barclays Center.

All-Star Weekend features more neighborhood impacts than initially disclosed.

Does the Barclays Center help local businesses? WNYC says it's mixed (and IBO says city numbers fuzzy).

The DNC goes to Philadelphia, as press finally recognizes concerns about security, logistics. Should MSG have been the choice?

Megdal: The end of Prokhorov’s Nets experiment. Nets have league's worst local TV ratings.

March 2015

Yes, they're still spending: Forest City's Atlantic Yards affiliate was seventh in 2014 city lobbying.

The "pad" outside the loading dock
A partial re-set for 2015-16 Brooklyn Nets season tickets: many prices down, though cheapest ($25) seats all gone.

Forest City gets a nice article about how hospitable it is for women to work. But the backstory is more complicated.

Guess what fell through the cracks: the "pad" next to the arena loading dock was never analyzed, even as operation spills onto the street.

Buses crowd Flatbush Avenue, residential blocks near Barclays Center to serve daytime event for Jewish students/educators. Police say it won't happen again.

Forest City says 10th floor modules in B2 prefab tower must be realigned before building higher. Questions about lower floors linger. In May, "limited interior work" planned on modules.

"Congeniality over conscience": Jewish leaders wrote letters in support for criminal Rapfogel. Dissecting Bruce Ratner's fatuous, shameless letter.

DBNA launches video challenge to highlight arena's obscure Meditation Room.

At second meeting of Atlantic Yards CDC, questions about monitoring project, managing big arena events, and adjusting that giant green wall.

April 2015

Turns out "The Most Powerful Man in Politics – Outside City Hall" is Jonathan Rosen, mayoral advisor and Forest City consultant.

Bitter lawsuits divide former Nassau Coliseum project partners Forest City Ratner and Blumenfeld Development Group.

The unexplained factor in Atlantic Yards sale to Greenland: Forest City knew modular plan was troubled. But land value has since risen, leaving bottom line murky.

In lawsuit by trainees claiming they were promised union construction jobs, Forest City/BUILD win key pre-trial victory.

Greenland's world ambitions
So much for promises: student hoops at the Barclays Center are pretty much either an all-star game or pay-to-play.

After Nets are blown out by the Hawks in the playoffs, CEO Brett Yormark thanks "the Brooklyn community and our entire fan base for your unwavering support"

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

As EB-5 regional center program faces renewal vote, questions of reform. Or should it just be killed?

May 2015

Inside Forest City/Greenland agreement: credit line for railyard (offset by EB-5 funds); loan to buy land; development fee. Despite deceptive pitch to Chinese investors, $249M in immigrant investor funds will help pay for railyard.

Part of marketing partnership, WPIX opens studio at Barclays Center; arena CEO touts "content."

MetroTech BID expands to encompass cultural district around the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as well as Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls.

After Barclays Center quarterly results dropped, Forest City again downgraded revenue expectations, to $55M. The company cited a "steady-state concert schedule."

As CUNY's Medgar Evers College holds commencement at Barclays Center, Ratner to get honorary degree. BRIC, opening Celebrate Brooklyn season, honors Forest City's Berliner.

Flatbush Avenue outside arena narrowed for one month as green roof crane installed.

EB-5 promotion in China
Ratner's Nassau Coliseum plans, a series, including the curious politics of a Community Benefits Agreement, the astonishing pitch in China for EB-5 investment, and the company's defense of a sketchy fundraising partner. Press release refers to "respected Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner." My Newsday op-ed: Nassau must be wary about plans for Coliseum.

Locks changed, 24-hour guard, moving van: an eviction on Dean Street for "a school" (+ 27-story tower, 330 market-rate rentals).

In advance of AY CDC meeting, block association questions ESD's responsiveness.

As of February, disruptive night work was not planned, but guess what: schedule creep (and overnight noise).

Barclays pays $2.4 billion for manipulating foreign exchange market. I later argue, in City & State: When Barclays Admitted a Felony, It Should Have Lost the Brooklyn Arena.

At AY CDC meeting, discussion of new app to report community impacts; ESD admits "little" institutional knowledge.

June 2015

Average price for Islanders' tickets rising 70%; despite Yormark spin, they're selling many obstructed seats.

Forest City, naming new modular leader, pushes for "new business partners" and "new business opportunities."

Barclays Center green roof, originally due by July, is supposed to be done by September. It's not.

Open space between buildings
Open space (not "park") designs released, depict project as complete, portrayed as gift to Brooklyn. "Just like a normal accessible park"? Misleading rhetoric and incomplete information. Phasing revealed for open space: southeast block by 2018, promenade at east likely by 2020; continued construction staging.

Real estate boom lifts Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park condos: prices 18% over 2009 projections for 2015, which were aggressive.

City, state, electeds help Forest City spin "100% affordable" building geared mainly to $100K+ households as a "model."

Gilmartin says that only after B2 opens can Greenland evaluate modular construction.
550 Vanderbilt advertising

"Everything you love about Brooklyn" is marketing for 550 Vanderbilt condo, which gets some fawning Times coverage. Ad calls it "a contextual extension of the surrounding neighborhood." But the tower is far more imposing than portrayed in a deceptive rendering. Gilmartin later says the project is "about the beautiful landscape that is Brooklyn, the relative low-rise nature of the neighborhood."

Selling Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park condos in China: amenities include public school, "public park."

At hearing on planned school, parents, electeds urge it be middle-school only; some residents warn about dangerous impacts near arena, construction. SCA rep knows nothing about impacts of B1 construction on arena egress.

July 2015

Hockey News says Islanders' deal in Brooklyn is unique, as arena guarantees annual sum. Will fan base shift to Brooklyn?

As $15 fast-food pay advances, Barclays Center, finally coming clean, reveals arena jobs start at $10.50/hour. It's not "living wage."

Ratner contributes $20K to Cuomo in most recent fundraising period.

So what if Prokhorov owns the Barclays Center: arena operations could clash with construction imperatives.

August 2015

From City Limits: Documents Reveal Woes at Pioneering Atlantic Yards Building. Mold,

Block party murals
Updating the retail picture: Flatbush Avenue gets a $6 cereal bar!

Wrestling, and its amped subculture, comes to the Barclays Center.

Dean Street block party is "fun," except for neighbors awakened at 5 am; distorted map fosters corporate branding; colorful murals determinedly unmoored from project. That "intricate" map celebrating Pacific Park vastly distorts project's prominence.

Barclays Center "aligns" with new Billboard Lounge, which seems to replace the Vault.

550 Vanderbilt condo building costs far more to build than rentals, could yield solid profit.

September 2015

After extensions from lender, Forest City to prematurely pay off $45M loan for troubled modular tower, plus $11.6M subordinate loan.

News flash: Nets player finally moves to Brooklyn. Thaddeus Young gets waterfront condo.

From "Hello Brooklyn" to "Represent Brooklyn": diminished Nets now emphasize team's fans.

In Bisnow's roundup, Gilmartin calls arena a "place-making juggernaut." As third anniversary approaches, Barclays Center is still on a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy..

As Islanders unveil "Brooklynified" alternate jerseys, pols offer free publicity.

B12 rendering, 615 Dean Street
B12 condo tower emerges, 278 feet, with huge units, dwarfs neighboring buildings, but materials aim for context.

Vexing delays: Atlantic Avenue near Barclays Center will be constricted through late 2017, nearly twice as long as promised.

Goodbye, Modell's & P.C. Richard; final condemnations are coming (in six months) for Site 5 development.

A profile of de Blasio: "He only cares about more affordable housing."

October 2015

Prokhorov to buy 85% stake in Nassau Coliseum operating company. Already the deal is revised.

Gehry's biographer puts on kid gloves regarding Ratner, buffs some of "Frank's" rough edges. Book party at Ratner building.

The Nets season opens. The promotions already seem heavy. Expectations are low. "The post-hype Nets begin again," and it's brutal. Note Billy Kingmaker blog from gleeful Celtics fan.

Now we know what the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership seeks: permanent incentives for office space.

Barclays swaps Cushman & Wakefield for Tidal as arena "theater" sponsor (but not naming rights buyer). Just like the Vault?

Forest City plans a new fluid harmonic disruptor at B2 modular tower, not a tuned mass damper.

Selling the $6.86 million penthouse at 550 Vanderbilt.

Outside arena
At AY CDC, a push for more transparency; are Community Updates "developer meetings"?

The railyard runaround: MTA says only approval was for work proposed before June 2014

Something different is in the works for Site 5. Hints of huge development, akin to Time Warner Center?

The marketing slogan: "If you could build the ideal New York neighborhood from scratch, what would you do?"

Questions about advertising on arena plaza and transit entrance, little explanation in response. It gets called "accessory signage."Advertising finally removed from green roof of transit entrance.

Evasiveness regarding street closing for big Tidal concert. Yes, it gets closed, with mission creep.

Note Resorts World Casino Plaza signage
The Islanders debut in Brooklyn, with mixed fan vibe, hype from de Blasio, Nets. New horn nixed. As the Islanders "Brooklynize," it's different than the Nets.

Resorts World seems to have taken over sponsorship of the arena plaza. Officials deny knowledge.

Intersection/Prospect Heights project aims to start dialogue on neighborhood change.

From the Real Deal: pros/cons of local vs. imported modular construction, plus doubts about whether Forest City can "export." Exterior panels flap again on B2 modular tower.

Forest City executive Yu hopes for 8-year buildout, likens open space to Chicago park three times larger.

November 2015

Paterson promised New York State would be "scrupulous in our monitoring," but neighbors document clogged street, demolition dust.

Developer buys auto-related lots catercorner to NE edge of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, plans apartments on Atlantic Avenue.

Three doomed Dean Street houses
What's wrong? In move to Brooklyn, attendance at Islanders games is down.

The demolition begins on Dean Street, with "blighted" 495 Dean. Passerby: "effing property stealers."

Video: congestion on Dean Street caused by truck waiting for arena loading dock causes cars to take detour via sidewalk.

Transparency? Asbestos abatement notice cites Sunday, late night work, but is absent from Construction Update.

Greenland's Chang, point person on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, resigns suddenly, in news released on a Friday night.

Nets "hit rock bottom" as they lose to Lakers, whose fans dominate Barclays Center.

Nets announce D-League team to play at Coliseum after first season next year at Barclays.

Forest City says B2 modular building cost rises $30M, cites need to re-staff factory, suggests incomplete units.

Forest City sells 625 Fulton site for $158 million; price suggests railyard was a bargain.

Newsday: Prokhorov should meet with Nassau official regarding Coliseum. Oh, three other partners are gone.

Sam Schwartz's Street Smart: too smart for own good regarding Barclays Center transportation plan.

December 2015

664 Pacific; arrow points to houses on Dean
Greenland nixes (?) future pre-fab buildings at Brooklyn site; Forest City warns of layoffs at modular plant. Modular factory may change from high-rise residential to building components.

Lawsuit against Forest City, BUILD over "sham" Atlantic Yards jobs program ends in murky settlement for 19 plaintiffs.

So, even the much-praised Los Angeles Community Benefits Agreement had its problems.

Daily News visits "swanky new West End Club" at Barclays Center; Draft Ops branding forgotten after fantasy sports shut down.

664 Pacific unveiling runs into concerns about tower's scale, tight fit of school in neighborhood. Official rendering, more imposing perspective from model,

Photo suggests VIP parking in No Standing zone outside arena on Atlantic Avenue. As DropCar named Barclays Center's official valet service, formerly public street becomes monetizable dropoff zone.

Barclays Center workers, SEIU 32BJ seek commitment for enough hours to qualify for benefits.

My PBS NewsHour essay: What’s really at stake in the EB-5 investor visa overhaul: honesty.

EB-5 renewed through next September with no changes; win for NY developers. Schumer played big role. Forest City, partner U.S. Immigration Fund big spenders on EB-5 lobbying, paying D'Amato's firm. EB-5 follies: Schenectady casino project not job-creating. EB-5 follies: New York Wheel claims different job totals, depending on audience.

de Blasio's defense of donations from developers = "the ends justify the means" (which sounds like Markowitz).

Why is 550 Vanderbilt listed at "17 stories" but has "19 floors"?

Brooklyn "again has a hometown team": how Brooklyn Historical Society hockey exhibit advances the narrative. With lower attendance than expected, Islanders games have smaller impact, but crowds briefly rowdy and loud. After Rangers/Islanders game, cursing crowds, fights, drumming, and chanting.

"Bitch, I will cut you": tension with hockey fans leads to reported Barclays Center security flameout. Barclays Center dials back on aggressive alcohol policy for hockey games, which snuck past potential overseers.

Elected officials ask Empire State Development to intervene in sale of Barclays Center (operating company) to get guarantees for community benefits and responsiveness. So do neighbors. Both get ignored.

Deal for Nets/Barclays completed, now valued at $1.7B; arena seemingly a loss; Moody's reveals dangerously low debt coverage; Prokhorov pledges community continuity.

Atlantic Yards/Nets/DBNA Community Foundation emerges, with $100K+ of awards for community groups; board revealed. I have some questions and qualms.

January 2016

The January 2016 Barclays Center event calendar shows how the Islanders make a difference

In new Fodor's Brooklyn, the notable who gets to talk Prospect Heights is... arena CEO Brett Yormark.

Not a surprise: the Nassau Coliseum reopening might be late.

Barclays Center bombshell: arena lost $9 million in FY 2015, revenues behind estimates; arena sale price below book value. Document buried on New Year's Eve. Responding to Forest City's critique of my Barclays Center loss analysis. "Epic train wreck"?

As Nets flounder, marking demise of Prokhorov's strategy, coach fired, GM reassigned.