Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Another crash at Vanderbilt and Dean; residents blame the construction fence

Update: When I asked about this at the 78th Precinct Community Council meeting, the commander, Deputy Inspector Frank DiGiacomo, said he didn't know about it. (He also said my questions--there's an open Q&A for residents--should from now on go through the NYPD's central public information department.)

See below for the aftermath of another crash at Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street.

When I wrote about this phenomenon in February, police said that each of the crashes was caused by an identifiable factor, such as driver error.

Residents think otherwise, that the 16-foot green wall that extends into Vanderbilt Avenue to protect residents from construction noise has not only caused significant traffic jams but also continues to pose hazards.

As one resident pointed out in February, "the wall forces [southbound] cars into the turn lane in the center of the road, and then drivers must swerve back into the normal lane after passing through the intersection. if a driver is not paying attention, driving without a car in front, going too fast, or has driven through before the wall and has muscle memory of just driving straight through, they will drive directly into the guard bell, as all these other cars have done. The sooner the wall can be removed the better."

Perhaps this will be discussed at tonight's meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council (7:30 pm at the 78th Precinct, at Bergen Street & Sixth Avenue).

The potential parallels (and not) between Trump's Hong Kong deal and Atlantic Yards

A front-page New York Times article, headlined Donald Trump Soured on a Deal, and Hong Kong Partners Became Litigants (and in print as "Soured Deal With Hong Kong Allies Is Tale of Trump’s Extremes"), has a couple of passages with interesting parallels--or potential parallels--to Forest City Ratner's deal with Greenland USA to buy 70% of the Atlantic Yards (now Pacific Park) site, minus the B2 modular tower and the Barclays Center.

The structure of the deal:
In need of cash, he agreed to meet with intermediaries from a consortium of Hong Kong billionaires who were willing to buy the land, assume Mr. Trump’s debts and pay him 30 percent of the profits, as well as fees for helping to manage the development of the site, which they agreed to finance. It was by far the best offer he received.
This wasn't quite a full 70/30 deal, it seems because Trump wasn't responsible for paying 30% of the costs going forward. But the numbers are notable.

Selling a slice:
The project proved extremely profitable, as the New York real estate market rebounded. In 2005, the Hong Kong partners sold the development for $1.76 billion. Although it was believed to be the largest residential real estate transaction in the city’s history, Mr. Trump was furious, and contends to this day that his partners did not consult him first.
That's not what's happened so far with Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, as far as we know. The announced sale of three development sites has been coordinated, so even if Forest City, as junior party, objected internally, that disagreement has not surfaced.

Long litigation:
Nonetheless, Mr. Trump’s litigation over Riverside South dragged on for at least four years. He forced his partners to produce more than 166,000 pages of documents in court and accused them of various transgressions, including fraud and tax evasion.
So far the deal between Forest City and Greenland is copacetic, at least publicly. Not until/unless there is litigation--and, remember, Forest City and former modular partner Skanska remain embroiled in lawsuits--might we know differently.

New owners:
After the lawsuit, the Hong Kong partners moved swiftly to cut all ties to Mr. Trump. Mr. Lo sold his shares in the partnership to the Cheng family, which sold to Vornado Realty Trust, now the owner of a 70 percent interest in the Bank of America buildings.
Given the planned sale of three development sites, it's inevitable that there will be new owners of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, and perhaps multiple ones.

Monday, May 30, 2016

So Pacific Park naming is because Pacific Street goes "all the way down to the water"?

The other day I was walking on Hicks Street in Cobble Hill where I spotted a sign for the nonexistent Pacific Street (see photo at right).

At that point, it's a pedestrian path from Henry Street to the east (at left in photo), and does not continue to the west through green space and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (see map below).

Why did it catch my eye? Because, in August 2014, Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton told NY 1, in Atlantic Yards Project to Now Be Called 'Pacific Park Brooklyn':
..."This is an incredibly important name to signify there'll be eight acres of publicly accessible open space, and it connotates Pacific Street, which is a beautiful street that runs from either side of the project up into Prospect Heights, down to Boerum Hill and all the way down to the water."
Um, it doesn't. Not the most important thing, but do remember that the logic is bogus. More importantly, as far as I've been ale to learn, the partnership has not paid for the use of demapped Pacific Street for the project.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said.
When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.

A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development sites, not condos

But rather than build and sell high-end condos, now the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners is selling three development sites, B12, B13, and B4. As of 2014, the first two (see tentative buildout below) were thought to be condo sites, and B4 was supposed to be a mix of condos and market-rate and affordable rentals.

Interestingly enough, a Forest City Realty Trust executive said--perhaps mistakenly?--that those were sites for rentals.

And are they selling from strength, or weakness? 

One sign of weakness is that the design for the B12 condo tower, at 615 Dean Street, was unveiled last September but the building hasn't really broken ground. And Greenland was known for having the deep pockets to launch a building even without a construction loan.

Now they're seeking new investors "to make the project run even more expediously," in the words of Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton. And a FCRT executive said the sale was to take "advantage for demand for residential buildings," which sounds like a sale from strength.

Presumably the buyer, the price, and the percentage sold will hint at who's getting the best of the deal.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Dean Street closed next weekend for crane removal; arena loading dock accessed from Sixth Ave.

Starting overnight next Friday, June 3, through 9 pm on Sunday, June 5, the construction crane for 461 Dean Street, the B2 modular tower, will be dismantled, closing Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues. (It's been there since November 2013.)

Sidewalks "will remain open only to residents and visitors of that block," which is pretty much everybody.

Notably, the B65 bus will be rerouted to St Marks Avenue and Carlton Avenue and vehicles needing access to the Barclays Center loading dock will go down Sixth Avenue, and turn right (normally against traffic on this typically one-way street), directed by flagmen.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Culture of Cheating, Chinese version: "It’s normal. Anyone would do that.”

Do I have any specific suspicions regarding the ethics of Greenland Group, the Shanghai-based (and government-owned) parent of Greenland USA, the 70% majority owner of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park (except the B2 modular tower, owned fully by partner Forest City Ratner, and the Barclays Center operating company, owned by Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim)?


Do I have any specific suspicions about the immigrant investors, mostly from China, who are supplying over $500 million in low-cost capital under the EB-5 program, and gaining visas for themselves and their families?

No. (Though the source of EB-5 funds can be suspect.)

Do I have any specific suspicions about the expected fraction of Chinese investors buying condos in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park?


But let's just say that they're all connected to a country and business/government culture not known for integrity. And that's not the best fit for a project that, as I've written, already exemplifies the Culture of Cheating.

And, as described below, there's a new, disturbing anecdote.

Recent history

Transparency International ranks the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean); China's number is 37, and its rank among 168 countries is #83 (up 17 places from #100, although its index score only increased by one point).

From Age of Ambition
Then there's Evan Osnos's fascinating 2014 book Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, which noted (right) that paying for power was so common a new word entered the lexicon. Read the bottom:
Every country has corruption, but China's was approaching a level of its own. For those at the top, the scale of temptation had reached a level unlike anything ever encountered in the West.
Remorseless cheating

Now comes a 5/25/16 Reuters special report, Deception 101: How an industry helps Chinese students cheat their way into and through U.S. colleges.

Among other things, it describes the case of Shenzhen native Xuan “Claren” Rong, who went to the MacDuffie School in Massachusetts and used a service that a tipster said ghostwrites college applications and doctored transcripts.

(Despite the tipster contacting the University of California Davis with such concerns, the university didn't investigate until Reuters--which could make a records request of this public university--got the tipster's correspondence.)

Rong's father to Reuters "expressed no remorse" about sending a fake transcript.

“We just wanted to get in a better school,” he said. “It’s normal. Anyone would do that.”

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Forest City's Gilmartin: Brooklyn residential bet depends on spread vs. Manhattan; incentives needed for office market

There are some interesting quotes from Forest City's CEO in the Real Deal's Downtown Brooklyn’s second act: Q&A, part I: Forest City's MaryAnne Gilmartin and RXR's Seth Pinsky offer their takes.

First, the reasons

So, why did residential outpace office development after the 2004 rezoning?
I don’t think anybody, including Forest City, ever imagined the residential market would kick in like it did. We thought we’d see a third central business district thrive and an expansion of the office market as a result of the zoning, but that didn’t happen. It started with the food movement and then the artists. They all flocked to Brooklyn. Certainly, government policies, including the allowance for taller buildings to spur the office market, allowed for market forces to respond so that residential development took over.
It started with the food movement? C'mon, Smorgasburg didn't start until 2011. The artists were in Williamsburg, not Downtown Brooklyn decades earlier. (They got kicked out of DTB for MetroTech.)

People were moving to condos and rentals in Downtown Brooklyn because they offered new residential units near transit at a relatively low price point, given the price of land and tax breaks (as noted in the doc My Brooklyn). As to the "third central business district," everyone knew the projections were overblown.

Brooklyn vs. Manhattan

She was asked what kind of residential buyers/renters are coming to Downtown Brooklyn:
It’s really about the spread when living in Brooklyn versus Manhattan.... If you look at the $1,500-per-square-foot condo in Brooklyn then look at what’s available in Manhattan, there is such a stark comparison. For the same quality you’re looking at north of $2,000 a square foot in Manhattan. That’s what we’re betting on in Brooklyn. If you’re a renter, an apartment at our luxury tower at 80 DeKalb goes for $60 a foot, which nobody believed would happen in Brooklyn. But then you have a similar building in Manhattan, like the Gehry building, where rents easily pierce $80 a foot. If I’m chasing $20 of spread, I think I’ve got a pretty nice runway in Brooklyn.
In other words, luxury, luxury, luxury--aiming at people who see Brooklyn as a bargain compared to Manhattan. Greenland Forest City is aiming at around $1500 psf for 550 Vanderbilt.

(Remember how Atlantic Yards was supposed to help solve Brooklyn's housing crisis? See flier at right.)

And we'll see whether they can get $60 psf in the market-rate units at 461 Dean Street, which may have an asterisk attached, given its proximity to the Barclays Center and its history of modular troubles.

New office demand

She was asked if Downtown Brooklyn compete with neighborhoods like Dumbo for TAMI-sector [technology, advertising, media, and information] tenants and if a major company headquarters would come to Downtown Brooklyn:
The TAMI worker, the TAMI professional and student, all want to be in Brooklyn. The relative cost of a company to relocate to Brooklyn is highly compelling. The fact that there’s an engineering school going up on Jay Street, for example, allows for the creation of the new kind of 21st-century worker in Brooklyn. The traditional finance sector that was located in MetroTech has been replaced by NYU, Tough Mudder and Makerbot. 
That's because the "traditional finance sector" has shedded jobs, or moved them out of Brooklyn or remotely, so Forest City has had to scramble to find smaller tenants for MetroTech.

It's interesting that Gilmartin did not directly answer the question about a major company moving its headquarters to Brooklyn--surely Greenland Forest City, if it builds more than a million square feet of office space in the B4 tower and at Site 5 (aka the "Brooklyn Behemoth," for now on hold), would want an anchor tenant.

Biggest challenges

Asked about the biggest threats, Gilmartin cited rising land prices and the absence of the 421-a tax break:
You can’t build unless you have a tax benefit. Without it, you can’t make the numbers work. So you have to offer a combination of “as of right” benefits, including reduced energy costs and relocation benefits. Those benefits are essential to making the numbers work. It still costs the same amount to build a new building in Brooklyn as it does in Manhattan, but we have to factor 30 percent less in rent. To remove these kinds of benefits, which are renewable every few years because it’s a legislative process, would be a death knell for the emerging office market in Downtown Brooklyn. 
Land prices "are being driven up so much by demand"? She can't really complain. Didn't Forest City sell a development site at 625 Fulton for a nice sum? And doesn't Greenland Forest City control a whole bunch of development sites?

Gilmartin, like the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership she co-chairs, seeks permanent incentives to make the numbers work. Perhaps we won't see office towers rise in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park until those benefits are renewed and/or made permanent.

What's next?

Asked about upcoming deals, Gilmartin responded:
Obviously we’ve got our work cut out for us over in Pacific Park, but I’m a big believer in the office market. Brooklyn is ready for a sophisticated office tower; the idea that it could be built on Flatbush and look straight across at the Manhattan Bridge would be ideal... There’s some unused air rights that NYU has in that [MetroTech] area that could be interesting.
"Brooklyn is ready for a sophisticated office tower" sounds like "we're ready to build at Site 5," with our Shanghai government-owned partner/overseer, as long as the state agrees and we can put some expensive condos on top.

As for "some unused air rights that NYU has," well, that was a key, I suspected, to the amazingly under-the-radar 2008 absorption by NYU of Polytechnic University (which then became NYU Poly, then, after a donation, was renamed NYU Tandon).

Pinsky's take

The Real Deal Q&A is also worth reading for the answers from RXR Realty's Seth Pinsky, a former city official, who talks about how the Brooklyn office market has grown because it's closer to the workforce, how office buildings may become more attractive if residential rates soften, and why he likes the mayor's proposal for transit expansion (others disagree).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mold mystery persists at B2 modular tower: state records show unresolved, six-month wait for consultant's report

The setting of the final modules for the pioneering but troubled modular tower built in the Atlantic Yards (now Pacific Park) project drew much press coverage, as has the opening of the lottery for 181 units of affordable housing inside. (Half the units are market-rate.)

The narrative regarding 461 Dean Street, aka B2, has changed from the delays that pushed the timetable back two years, major cost overruns, the buyout of an investment partner, the unusual early payback of a tax-exempt loan, the winding down of the modular factory that was once supposed to build the entire project, and the legal battles that persist between developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) and its former construction and module fabrication partner, Skanska.
5/8/14 mold observation;
click to enlarge

But a mystery persists about just how well Forest City--and its New York State overseers--responded to problems at the building, notably the testing for possible mold, which can cause upper respiratory tract health problems.

This innovative, 32-story tower was plagued by leaks and even mold in its early stages, with the first four floors largely gutted, as documents from Skanska and the state's own construction monitor indicated.

No publicly released document shows how the mold concerns were resolved. Notably, documents I recently received show that a state monitor waited at least six months for a promised report on mold--and we don't know whether it arrived or what it said.

5/23/14 mold observation; click to enlarge
Taking "appropriate actions"?

When City Limits on 8/31/15 published Documents Reveal Woes at Pioneering Atlantic Yards Building, my report relied on state documents only through September 2014, acquired via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority with the uneasy role of both overseeing and shepherding the project.

An ESD spokesman said at the time, "When the ESD project team notified FCR that our owner's representative had observed evidence of possible mold, FCR took appropriate actions to remedy the situation."

From STV, 7/31/15 weekly report
New redactions don't leave much to go on
(Note that use of language. Indeed, most of the monitor's mentions did regard possible mold, but mold was indeed found; see screenshots above stating "Wallboard with mold in 2nd floor corridor removed" and "a thoroughly moldy upper sheetrock layer [in a third-floor mod], which was promptly removed.")

Whether Forest City "took appropriate actions" remains unclear. When I asked last year for specifics, I got the generic response regarding "appropriate actions."

Now, newly received documents covering the period through August 2015 leave lingering questions, as well as suggest a lack of transparency.

No, they don't directly contradict the ESD's August 2015 statement.

But the new documents suggest that "appropriate actions," if they came, arrived slowly, with an unresolved, six-month wait.

New document: no response after six months

Thanks to FOIL, I received copies of daily reports, through 3/31/15, filed with ESD by William King, the lead staffer for STV, the state's construction monitor.

In his final daily report, under the category of "Information Previously Requested," King noted that, on 7/16/14, he'd sent Forest City a second request for a response to 6/19/14 questions regarding leaks, mold remediation, and air monitoring to "measure potentially high mold spore counts in a unit where any mold is not visible."

On 8/13/14, he sent a third request. Two days after that, King wrote, Forest City responded that it was bringing in a second environmental consultant. After that, who knows.

From STV 3/31/15 daily report; full page here

Some six and half months later, that section of his report indicated no follow-up. The issue was unresolved, as far as the daily documents indicate.

Similarly, King's 6/6/14 query to Skanska regarding possible mold in installed, discolored drywall, had not been answered by 3/31/15. (Skanska had left the project by then.)

What about the weekly reports?

King's daily reports ceased at the end of March 2015. Why? "It was determined that weekly reports were sufficient," an ESD spokesman said in response to my query. That also reduced the opportunity for granularity and candor.

If King's questions were resolved after March 2015, we don't know, because STV's ongoing weekly reports--at least as delivered to me--compound the murkiness. They're so heavily redacted there's no mention either of his questions or the responses, if any. See above right.

From STV, 8/15/14 weekly report;
note lack of redactions
That redaction pattern suggests a government agency concerned about what information might emerge.

By contrast, STV's weekly reports issued a year earlier (see full set here) were delivered to me significantly un-redacted, with information used in my earlier article. See screenshot at left.

In those reports, STV did address concerns about leaks and construction integrity, albeit without the granularity of the daily reports.

Presumably its staffers continued to do so--but we don't know what they asked or what they found. Crucially, we don't know what Forest City's second environmental consultant said.

Previous editing?

Indeed, the previous set of STV weekly reports, though less redacted when delivered to me, may have experienced significant editing--or, perhaps, inconsistency.

Consider the report for the week ending 5/9/14, which presumably would have mentioned that second floor wallboard with mold reported in the daily report just one day earlier. Instead, it stated, "Gut ceiling and wall demolition continued on the 2nd floor."

Then again, the report for the week ending 5/23/14 did mention mold, while the associated daily reports did not.

A lingering question mark

In an interview with NY1 recently, Forest City  executive Adam Greene shrugged off the delays that doubled construction time to nearly four years.

"Because it's innovation, innovation sometimes takes a little bit longer, but that's OK," he said.

That's not clear. After all, Forest City once claimed it had "cracked the code" and promised to build the entire project via modular technology.

Now those plans are history, with new joint venture partner/overseer Greenland USA building the towers conventionally. (Greenland owns 70% of the project, outside B2, owned exclusively by Forest City, and the Barclays Center operating company, owned by Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim.)

Absent more sunlight and un-redacted documents regarding oversight of 461 Dean, a question mark about the building's history--and integrity--will persist.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Idling trucks yesterday caused by early arrival and blocked exit

Not in the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update was what happened during the first day of the two weeks covered, which was a line-up of idling trucks in the neighborhood starting by 5:30 am (well before the official 7 am start of construction).

It was caused by the early arrival of such trucks and a blocked exit path from the piece of Pacific Street that's private and used as a staging area.

From the latest Construction Update: lots of late work, including overnight sewer and LIRR work

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update, covering the two weeks beginning yesterday and released yesterday by Empire State Development at 4:03 pm (late) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners, there will be a lot of late shift, Saturday, and overnight work.

Notably, overnight sewer installation should occur at the intersection of Flatbush & Dean Street for the B2 modular tower, aka 461 Dean Street. A community notice will be distributed before the specified times. The Tower Crane for B2 may be dismantled during over the weekend of June 3.

Demolition at Block 1120--the buildings on Atlantic Avenue below the railyard, between Sixth and Carlton avenues--may begin, with new fencing (aka MPT) installed and new equipment installed.

Demolition of the LIRR tunnel wall at the West Portal (Atlantic Avenue) area may resume during this reporting period. Below grade demolition of the LIRR tunnel will be completed on weekends. In coordination with LIRR, the work will be continuous from Friday night through Sunday morning each weekend.

Saturday work is also expected at B2, at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, as well as other sites, including B3 (38 Sixth Avenue), B11 (550 Vanderbilt Avenue), B12 (615 Dean Street), and B14 (535 Carlton Avenue).

Weekend electrical utility work will continue at the LIRR rail yard.

Outside B3, jumping of the tower crane will occur in these two weeks. DOT permits will be filed.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Those lousy Brooklyn Nets TV ratings, and the diminishing cultural role of sports

In his 5/16/16 New Yorker essay, Show Them the Money: Is the sports business a bubble?, Louis Menand addresses Matthew Futterman’s new book, Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution, offering an acid observation:
For everyone knows what the social role of sports is today. It is, via commercials and endorsements, to sell stuff. And everyone knows what makes that possible: television. It did not require a revolutionary genius to figure this out.
And Futterman thinks that the business of sports is in trouble, partly because the role of stars can deform the game and every sport but football has a small audience, writes Menand:
It’s true that hundreds of millions of people watch special events like the World Cup and the Olympics, but the day-to-day audience for sports is tiny. In the United States, it amounts to about four per cent of households. Fewer than three per cent on average watch their local N.B.A. games; fewer than two per cent watch their home-town N.H.L. teams.
That's interesting, and suggests--as Brooklynites know--that the cultural presence of their "home team" is not particularly strong.

And the potential unbundling of cable bills--which charge people 20% for sports, well beyond their audience--could mean doom.

The Nets in context

Which points us to the 4/25/16 Sports Business Daily article that described the first time in at least ten years that three National Basketball Association teams had ratings above 8% of households: the Golden State Warriors had a 9.76 rating (243,000 homes), the Cleveland Cavaliers had 9.31, and the Antonio Spurs 8.71 rating.

In those smaller cities, the combination of excellent teams and a smaller universe of things to do makes for higher ratings. (In big-city Chicago, which typically supports the Bulls, the rating is 2.96, a drop after a tough season.)

The Brooklyn Nets games on YES Network? For second straight year, and the seventh in nine years, the Nets were at the bottom, this season averaging 0.46, or 34,000 homes--pretty much double the arena capacity.

Yes, the New York Knicks were only at 1.98 of households, which suggests the size of the New York market. But that's more than four times the Nets.

So the Nets have not exactly taken hold. In 2014, the NBA signed a lucrative national TV deal. Will the tide be turning?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

As concerts begin, traffic chaos, noise on nearby Pacific Street

There have been a couple of well-attended Bad Boy Family Reunion Concerts the past two nights at the Barclays Center.

And, accordingly, Pacific Street just east of the arena--constrained by construction fencing, with two-way traffic, and having one garage open to the public--has been a madhouse during the early hours of the event. The two videos below were shot between 8:30 and 9 pm.

As Wayne Bailey's title on the videos suggests, the city Department of Transportation might well consider adjusting the traffic pattern, such as restoring the street to one-way service.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

From "How Forest City Decided to Become a REIT": tax savings ended, business refined, upside from institutional investors

There are a couple of intriguing quotes in How Forest City Decided to Become a REIT, a 2/3/16 National Real Estate Investor interview with David LaRue, CEO of Forest City Enterprises, now Forest City Realty Trust (which now prefers to be called Forest City).

Forest City, he said, sought "a sustainable capital structure that translated into reducing our leverage and increasing the cash flow from the business," meaning less debt and more revenue. But they didn't join the rush to REITs initially.

LaRue restated the rationale:
From a tax standpoint, we were tax efficient. We weren’t paying substantial taxes because of our depreciation and interest expense. Our taxable income was very much managed, and we could continue to grow the business and execute on the strategies we had at that time. So it was a question from investors, and as Chuck Ratner used to tell investors when he was CEO, when it’s the right time for Forest City to do this, based upon value and based upon the market, we would do it.
Another reason was they had to divest assets, including a basketball team and arena, that wouldn't qualify under the REIT structure. As LaRue put it, "a REIT has to generate a majority of its income from real estate rent and qualified income sources and real estate related income."

The REIT bonus

Forest City was one of only a handful of real estate companies operating as C Corporations, and is now among 198 REITs traded on the NYSE. Said LaRue:
I think as you look at investors and analysts, Forest City Realty Trust as a REIT is a business they understand. They know we have to distribute and pay a dividend based on taxable income. That is a benefit to shareholders. So we have common structure that is familiar. There are requirements to operate. A certain percent of your income and your assets must be qualified assets. So what it does is allow us to continue to have the market believe that we are remaining focused in our core businesses, which are in those qualified real estate businesses.
That should draw more investors, including institutional ones, especially since REITs must distribute a larger percentage of earnings in dividends, and Forest City has resumed a dividend it suspended in 2008. And that should drive a higher stock price. (So far, it's gone down and then back up this year.) One analyst recently upgraded the stock from "Sell" to "Hold."

Harvesting losses

As I wrote 1/13/15, the previous August, on a conference call with investment analysts, Forest City Enterprises was asked about REIT plans.

"It's a process and an issue we continue to look at," LaRue said. "We still have substantial NOLs [net operating losses] that allow us as a C Corp to continue to be very tax-efficient... As we go through repositioning, and go through non-core asset sales, it gives us some additional flexibility."

In the future, LaRue said last August, "lower levered portfolio and less development on our pro-rata share... bringing in strategic partners, will point to us becoming a taxpaying entity," which means they will have used those NOLs. "We haven't picked a date, but we're heading there [toward a REIT] over that time period."

In other words, losses--including paper losses calculated through depreciation--were very helpful.

Friday, May 20, 2016

State environmental monitor: developer mainly in compliance, but new tactics coming, including signage for trucks

Beyond the security issues raised at the 5/17/16 meeting (video) of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Commission, several issues regarding the state’s oversight of project community impacts were raised.

Notably, it was disclosed that, despite a generally good record of compliance with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC) aimed to avoid neighborhood impacts, a state monitor has recommended new tactics to limit idling trucks and other neighborhood impacts.

Still, the developer does not seem to be at risk for penalties from Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project.

In context

Jennifer Bienemann of environmental monitor HDR said her firm serves as “independent mitigation monitors on five other projects” in the city, and “the program for Atlantic Yards is by far the most robust, thorough, and expansive in scope.” (Here's her presentation, also at bottom.)

For example, they visit other projects once a week, but this one four times a week. Other projects generate a monthly site report, while this requires weekly reports.

(Of course, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park is likely larger, and more likely to encroach on a residential neighborhood. Note the various problems documented under the #BCIZA tag--Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance--on Instagram. Also note that the recent revised MEC was developed after HDR, though finding the developer was generally in compliance, agreed more could be done.)

Bienemann described how HDR observes of various mitigation measures, including dust suppression, emission requirements, wheel washing, truck routing, truck queueing, “path noise controls,” and use of noise compliant materials.

“As a result of a request from HDR and ESD for the OEM [company’s On-Site Environmental Monitor] to expand the scope of the performance metrics and contextualize incidents of noncompliance, the metrics were revised in the spring 2015,” she said. “The data shows a range of approx 90 to 100 percent compliance.”

That sounds good, but it’s a tight fit, of course.

Dealing with challenges

“Even though the metrics show a very high level of compliance across the site, this is a construction project,” she said. “And with over 50 trucks coming to and from the site each, a very active construction site site, there are bounds to be incidents of noncompliance, and issues and challenges that present themselves as construction continues to ramp up.”

Issues include noncompliance with truck routes, idling, queueing requirements, and noncompliant concrete trucks being sent to the site, as well as “situations which could have been avoided if advance notice was given to OEM team to ensure proper protocols and mitigation measures were put in place.”

To improve compliance, she said, “the developer has committed to having the contractors provide written notification that protocols provided to individual subcontractors, vendors and trucking companies,” as well as plans to install signage along the Pacific Street queue area and perimeter fencing, which will warn of potential banning if protocols are not followed.

That sounds like an improvement, but does arrive somewhat late. There was no mention of sanctions against the developer.

Bienemann cited “a minor increase” involving ten noncompliant concrete trucks coming to the site since January 1, out of hundreds of such trucks. “The developer is requiring that the contractor turn away any potentially noncompliant concrete trucks unless there are extenuating circumstances that are conveyed to the OEM or developer ahead of time.”

A number of situations could have been avoided with advance notice to the OEM, she said,
including the use of noisier equipment, noise-dampening materials not being added, and “limitations in truck turning movements and oversize trailers which required revisions to the truck route.”

She also said construction managers are now required to convey the MEC requirements to workers not required to attend quarterly training.

The recommendations, she said, “were developed as a result of areas where we were seeing repeated incidents of noncompliance and where we thought there was something that could be done about it.”

Following up

AY CDC board member Jaime Stein cited repeated evidence on Instagram and from community members that noncompliance with truck protocols seems "to be a major quality of life issue.” She asked if the new signage was in place.

Bienemann said no: the recommendations were agreed to in April, and some are being implemented now. “We have a meeting next week to talk with the developer and OEM about more of the specifics, about exact language for signage, having OEM upload written confirmation from contractors.”

Stein, looking at HDR’s most recent quarterly report (from 2015), noted that most incidents were resolved quickly, but asked why 17% took up to one month and 3% took longer to resolve.

Bienemann suggested there might be “potentially structural problems,” such as fugitive dusting for which a maintenance plan then needs to be developed.

She noted that “the MEC does not cover mitigating dust from paved area” but HDR, working with the OEM and the developer, agreed it required a maintenance plan, which was developed just last week.

Atlantic Yards CDC HDR Presentation 05 17 2016 by AYReport

More synergy: Barclays Center tenant WPIX partners with promoter on boxing show, presented by arena's Brooklyn Boxing

A press release from WPIX, via 15Rounds.com, reproduced below verbatim, shows more synergy between sponsor Barclays Center and building tenant WPIX:

New York, NY – May 18, 2016 – PIX11 is pleased to announce it has partnered with DiBella Entertainment, one of the top boxing promotional companies in the world based in New York, and Barclays Center, Brooklyn’s landmark sports and entertainment arena, to broadcast “Broadway Boxing: Presented by BROOKLYN BOXING,” a 90-minute special airing on Saturday, May 21. Sponsored by BROOKLYN BOXING, Nissan of Queens, Optyx, and Azad Watches, “Broadway Boxing” will air directly following the PIX11 broadcast of the New York Mets’ home game against the Milwaukee Brewers, which starts at 4:10 p.m ET.

Hosted by boxing expert and play-by-play announcer Brian Custer and PIX11 Sports Anchor Andy Adler, “Broadway Boxing” will feature a look back at some of the most exciting moments of the series, voiced by award-winning actor Danny Aiello, and a recap of the March 30th 10-round New York State middleweight title matchup between local prospects Chris Galeano, of The Bronx, and Devaun Lee, of Queens. Galeano and Lee will be in the PIX11 studio at Barclays Center to discuss the aftermath of their heated contest.

“Broadway Boxing” will also include an interview with Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment, who launched the “Broadway Boxing” series in 2004 as a combination of live programming and taped-delayed broadcasts. “Broadway Boxing” is currently the longest running independently produced boxing series. DiBella will delve into the history of the series, the importance of club shows and how the grassroots nature of such allows the sport to thrive.

“Broadway Boxing” will feature a segment hosted by PIX11’s Andy Adler on women’s boxing, with fighters Heather Hardy, who is undefeated in six fights at Barclays Center, and Amanda Serrano in studio giving their thoughts on the growth and development of women’s boxing and the challenges females continue to face in what has predominantly been a male-driven sport.

The broadcast will preview the eagerly anticipated Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter WBA welterweight title bout that will be televised live by SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING on CBS from Barclays Center on Saturday, June 25.

“As PIX11 continues to be a local destination for sports, we are pleased to announce our second boxing special,” said Rich Graziano, President/GM, PIX11. “‘Broadway Boxing’ will air in partnership with DiBella Entertainment, presented by BROOKLYN BOXING, Nissan of Queens, Optyx, and Azad Watches, and give boxing fans a behind-the-scenes look at local boxing talent, while reaffirming our commitment to bring the highest quality sports programming to our viewers.”

“We have worked for 12-plus years developing the ‘Broadway Boxing’ brand in New York and throughout the country,” said Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. “It is the finest local television boxing series in the US, showcasing New York area and international talent and developing future stars. We are thrilled to partner with PIX11 and to introduce the series to its New York viewers. PIX11 is quintessentially New York and a media force in the tri-state area. Under Rich Graziano’s leadership, this is evidenced by its local sports programming. ‘Broadway Boxing’ belongs on PIX11.”

Sponsored by:

Founded in 1948 and owned by Tribune Broadcasting, a division of Tribune Media, WPIX-TV (PIX11) has long been regarded as a groundbreaking station in New York. In 2006, PIX11 became the flagship station of the CW Television Network and PIX11’s award winning news, successful primetime programming, off-network sitcom favorites, public affairs shows and outstanding event coverage have contributed to the station’s success. The station has been honored with numerous awards for excellence including nearly 300 Emmy® Awards (two for Outstanding Morning News Program and multiple Awards for Outstanding Newscast.) PIX11 also has a long history of local sports coverage and in 2015 became the broadcast home of the New York Yankees. PIX11 is also the broadcast station of the New York Mets, since 1999. In 2014, PIX11 announced a long-term, exclusive content and marketing partnership with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. PIX11 is also home to the New Jersey Lottery drawings. PIX11 engages with audiences across multiple social platforms; find us on Facebook at facebook.com/pix11news, on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope: @pix11news. For more information visit www.pix11.com.

In May of 2000, Lou DiBella launched DiBella Entertainment (DBE), a full-service sports and entertainment company, which has become one of the most successful promotional entities in boxing. Serving as matchmaker, television distributor, marketing advisor, and promoter, DiBella has developed an exciting stable of championship caliber, world-class fighters. DBE clearly established itself as an industry leader with the successful launch of its monthly-televised “Broadway Boxing” series in April 2004. Prior to becoming a promoter, DiBella held an 11-year tenure as the Senior Vice President of HBO Sports. He is also a well-known fixture in the film industry, having worked as an Executive Producer for the film “Love Ranch”, as an Associate Producer on “The Fighter”, and making his acting debut in “Rocky Balboa”. The President and Managing General Partner for the Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball team, DiBella proudly wears his 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series rings, as his team is the class AA affiliate to the San Francisco Giants. In 2014, DiBella was inducted into the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame. You can find DiBella Entertainment on Twitter @loudibella and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DiBella Entertainment. For more information, please visit www.dbe1.com.

Upon opening in 2012, Barclays Center brought major championship boxing back to Brooklyn after more than 50 years. Over the past four years, the BROOKLYN BOXING platform has hosted more than 100 bouts and more than 20 world title fights while giving local fighters their own shot in the spotlight. In April 2016, BROOKLYN BOXING extended its brand by creating an active wear and lifestyle apparel line that is available at www.BrooklynBoxingShop.com. BROOKLYN BOXING is proudly presented by AARP.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

As de Blasio defends "agents of the city," new scrutiny for advisor Rosen (who also reps Forest City)

From the Times, De Blasio Pressed to Clarify New Adviser Role: ‘Agent of the City’
City Hall described the ['agent of the city'] designation amid mounting scrutiny over its shielding of communications between the mayor and Jonathan Rosen, whom the counsel to the mayor described at a news conference on Wednesday as an “agent of the city.” Mr. Rosen, who corresponds and meets with the mayor regularly, is also a principal at a public affairs consulting firm, BerlinRosen, whose clients include real estate developers and nonprofits.
...The notion of designating a special class of unpaid advisers — many of whom also represent clients with business before the city — appeared to be an unusual, if not novel, approach to city governance, former officials said. City Hall, however, was careful to clarify that “agent of the city” is not an official designation.
...The determination rankled government watchdogs, who have taken issue with the mayoral consultants paid by the Campaign for One New York, in part because some of their clients do business with the city. “The public has no guarantee that he or other outside consultants are not discussing that business with the mayor,” said Susan Lerner of the nonpartisan Common Cause, referring to Mr. Rosen. “Or that he is using what he’s learned from the mayor for the benefit of his clients.”
Which include Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

Some official criticism

The Wall Street Journal reports, in New York City Mayor Averts Disclosure by Naming Special Advisers:
Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government, a state panel that is responsible for overseeing the state’s freedom-of-information law, said case law allows a consultant who is retained by a government agency to be treated like a government agency.
But if Mr. Rosen and these other advisers haven’t been retained by city government or paid by city government, they “can’t be characterized as an agent of the city,” Mr. Freeman said.
Rosen and others "have each received money from the mayor’s campaign or nonprofits aligned with him," so:
On Wednesday, when asked whether Mr. Rosen is paid by the city or private clients, Mr. de Blasio suggested the question was “willfully missing the point.”
Not so sure about that. If Rosen is paid by Forest City, why wouldn't he discuss business with the mayor?

Barclays Center (belatedly) releases May 2016 event calendar

A resident asked me what was going on at the arena last Sunday, since the event was not listed on the Barclays Center event calendar for ticketed events.

According to the Brooklyn Eagle, an annual Falun Gong conference was "expected to bring upwards of 9,000 practitioners from around the world to Barclays Center."

The May event calendar for the community, belatedly released Tuesday night, simply mentioned a "private event," without details.

(Could it be the sensitivity to publicizing an organization in conflict with the Chinese government, given that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park majority owner Greenland Group is significantly owned by the government of Shanghai? A resident reports that a pedestrian manager from Sam Schwartz Engineering said, after consulting a document, that the event was for the "Eastern U.S. Buddhist Studies Association," which I have not been able to find listed as an alternate name.)

It's unclear why the calendar wasn't released before the month began, but the delay did allow the arena to mention--in the preliminary calendars for future months, below--the recently announced Barbra Streisand concerts in August.

In May 2016, the arena has six concerts, four graduations, one comedy event, and one "private event," aka that Falun Gong conference. The largest events have already passed: Justin Bieber concerts. But this weekend should be busy with the Bad Boy Reunion concerts.

If that doesn't seem full, it's certainly more than May 2015, when there were only two concerts, as shown in the graphic further below. This year the Barclays Center had a much busier winter and early spring than ever before, given two sports teams, as noted at bottom.

The May 2015 calendar

Current calendars for June, July and August

These surely will be augmented. Note two graduations in June, as well as the NBA draft.

Note the Hillsong church conference in August, as well as the Streisand concerts.

In March and April

I neglected to publish the March 2016 and April 2016 calendars.

When a General Admission arena show takes over the public sidewalk

The review at Radio.com described the show 5/17/16 of The 1975 as a lively arena rock spectacle, with "kids forming their loyal ocean at the foot of the stage, stomping frantically onto the floorboards and snapping giddy photos in the smoke machine-created haze."

Thing is, the General Admission line, as shown in the video below, took over the Atlantic Avenue sidewalk snaking east to Sixth Avenue hours earlier, past the site for the B4 tower, narrowing access for neighbors.

Can't blame the kids for wanting to get a good look, but consider: whether a residential building, as long planned, or an office building, as now planned, is built, such arena policies create even more of a conflict.

Coming Friday and Saturday nights: Bad Boy Family Reunion shows mean "security and crowd control" measures, many vehicles

This Friday and Saturday night, the Bad Boy Family Reunion hip-hop shows, from approximately 8 pm to midnight should draw 14,000 people to the Barclays Center and could cause significant local disruption.

Because of "External Production Activity" on Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues, there will be "a significant police presence," including unspecified "security and crowd control measures."

A "significant number of vehicles servicing guests, talent and event staff" is projected.

There will be "full deployments of Barclays Center Guest Relations, Pedestrian Traffic Managers and NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEAs) outside the building to assist with traffic and general event management." We'll see how many violators get fined.

Expect updates on the Barclays Center and the NYPD 78th Precinct Community Affairs Twitter accounts. Terence Kelly of Barclays Center Community Affairs (tkelly@brooklynse.com) can be contacted if any event/arena operations issues require attention.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Security issues at AY CDC: harassed resident speaks; new arena directive rolled out; workers using ID system not alerted about harassment

At the March meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), the state entity set up to advise Empire State Development (ESD), a rather shocking account of sexual harassment and assault was diminished, in the ESD’s report, to a single incident involving one worker.

That led resident Elicia Howard to go public in the New York Daily News and at a subsequent Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting.

Yesterday, at the subsequent AY CDC meeting, Howard came to tell the board directly. Her story was part of a larger, not-quite-resolved discussion about security improvements at the site and the Barclays Center.

Notably, a new directive to arenagoers, developed for hockey games, regarding respect for the surrounding neighborhood is only now being added for other arena events.

Also, while construction workers now wear color-coded ID stickers to associate them with specific parts of the project, they are not specifically told that the initiative was developed in response to complaints about sexual harassment nor that they should be aware of that issue.

Telling her story

Howard, controlled but clearly still affected by the trauma, told her story in the section of the meeting reserved for public comment. Board members sat soberly and attentively. Her case was barely mentioned during the post-comment discussion, but she did make an impact; several board members spoke with her directly after the meeting, conveying sympathy.

“My situation was falling to the wayside,” Howard said during the meeting at Long Island University in Downtown Brooklyn, explaining her presence and citing the state's diminished account. A lifelong resident on Dean Street, she said, she returned after college.

When construction ramped up last September, harassment “gradually grew to the point where it was pretty unbearable,” Howard said, citing daily catcalling and a construction worker who felt he could follow her and draw hearts with construction dust on her car window. She felt she had no recourse, as that wasn’t a criminal offense.

In December, she said (as recounted in a letter she wrote describing a "shark tank" atmosphere), she’d returned from a red-eye flight and went to the corner store to get a snack, and didn’t feel up to engaging with the 30+ construction workers outside and inside who wanted to say hello.

One, offended at her lack of reciprocation, called her “an ugly bitch.” She went to the nearest construction site, run by Tishman, and spoke to a supervisor: “he was pretty rude, he disregarded me, told me there was nothing I could do.”

Not long after that, she was sexually assaulted—dry humped, as she described it in the letter—by fans exiting the Barclays Center after a boxing even She filed a police report. (She didn't say that it led to no resolution.)

“These are things that I feel the board should know,” Howard said, getting a bit emotional. “It's day in, day out, even on the weekends, now. And there's no escaping it, and there's nothing being done about it. And I want everyone to understand the struggle that people do go through, because it is emotionally affecting me and I’m sure it’s affecting other people. I just wanted everyone to understand that.”

A new policy

Developer Greenland Forest City Partners, more than four months later, in late April issued a color-coded ID system to associate all employees with a specific construction site. “It’s color coded, all helmets have stickers,” reported ESD official Marion Phillips III.

His colleague Joe Chan followed up with a query.

“Every single person has an ID with name and picture,” with a matching sticker on the helmet, responded Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton. “It’s about 600-plus who will be id’d,” she said, adding that, when ten new workers were hired, they'd get the IDs too.

What should residents do if they have complaints?

“If you are being harassed or assaulted call the police,” Cotton said, adding that, on other issues, they should call her or the project Community Liaison office.

What about behavior that may stop short of being a crime, asked Chan, prompting nods from Howard.

“I'd recommend that you call us,” Cotton said, expressing regret that “people prefer to post” on Twitter or Instagram. (Of course that means the issue may not get sunlight.)

“The Twitter issue has come up,” Chan said. “We've been clear: Twitter is not the best way.”

“Email is the best way,” Phillips said.

“If there are community concerns, [ESD staffer] Greg [Lynch] is on the site,” Phillips continued. “He can take the concern down.” (Again, it’s hardly clear to the public how much Lynch’s on-site observations have led to changes or enforcement.)

Drilling down: no alert to workers about harassment

AY CDC board member Jaime Stein, the most rigorous in publicly addressing the project, asked Cotton about new hires: “Are they given information as to why and what these stickers are?”

“That we are creating accountability and ID systems so that workers feel associated with our project and therefore carry themselves in a way that we would be proud of them,” Cotton responded.

“So, no specific code of conduct, just ‘we should be proud of you’?” Stein asked quizzically.

“They should not break the law, they should not sit on private property, and they should behave in a way that makes us proud,” responded Contton, “which I would strongly say relates to not sexually harassing or catcalling.”

That personal interpretation suggests there's no specific directive regarding sexual harassment. Perhaps there's a contractual barrier there, but some alert or education might not only foster better behavior but might alert workers of a collective responsibility.

Drilling down: IDs visible?

Board member Daniel Kummer asked if workers were required to wear their helmets off site, such as at the corner store or at lunch.

“They're don’t take the stuff off,” Cotton said. “They’re in their jackets and hats all the time.”

Well, not quite, as shown on this Instagram post.

Changes at the arena

Barclays Center Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly updated the AY CDC on a change in the code of conduct for arena events.

In December, working with the National Hockey League and arena officials, he said, the public address greeting added this sentence, “Barclays Center is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, and we ask that you be courteous and respectful to the community both before and after the game.”

Kelly also noted that four of five Islanders’ playoff games were sudden-death overtime, which creates a surge when everyone leaves the building. The arena, working with police, asked for “hot spot enforcement.”

He said that in the week in which the arena hosted two playoff games and two Justin Bieber concern, “over double digit summonses were issued one each of those nights.” (That number could be achieved during many arena events, I’d suggest.)

“Over 7,000 people on average took the Long Island Rail Road to and from Islanders playoff games and Bieber,” he said.

Questions raised

Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association, in his public comment, raised several cautions. “It’s difficult for community members” to actually identify workers wearing the stickers, he noted, and Howard’s arena-related harassment came not after a hockey game but a boxing event.

He noted that, as discussed at a previous meeting, Forest City had considered hiring a head of security for its malls and the arena, “we’ve also heard that's not going to happen.” (Of course Forest City no longer operates the arena, as it sold its majority share in the operating company to Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim, the previous minority shareholder.)

Krashes noted that there’s no longer visible perimeter security, which was once performed by a company that drove around in private cars. “Why are we having less security being delivered than when the project was empty lots?”

Board member Shawn Austin asked when board members would receive a response to questions and issues raised by Krashes and Howard.

“We normally respond as expeditiously as possible,” Phillips said, estimating ten days to two weeks.

Drilling down

Kummer asked if the code of conduct videos were aired only at Islanders games.

“All arena events have a code of conduct video,” Kelly responded, though his account actually revealed that a change is in process.

“There's an audio loop outside the arena,” he said, which continues for at least 30 minutes after events start. “Internally, the videos for an event such as boxing will be also updated now,” he said, citing “public address announcements for all events.”

The language for the Islanders video was approved by the NHL, he said. “We wanted to get that first out, it was a very serious matter.”

Kummer said he thought there was confusion regarding whether it was limited to hockey games, but it sounded like it was developed to use for all events.

“That’s correct,” Kelly said.

Austin asked about the overall security plan beyond announcements, noting that many people would ignore such announcements.

“We didn’t come to talk about Barclays Center security,” Cotton responded a bit sharply. (While she works for Forest City, she still represents Onexim on arena issues.) “We found out that, after Elicia [Howard] came forward, that there was a missing code of conduct as it relates to NHL” events, she said.

Kelly, she said, was announcing that the sentence he read about “residential neighborhoods” is being added to all events. “That’s the new news announced today,” she said.

“We’re trying to get any bad behavior stopped before they [arenagoers] come to the exit,” she said, noting that the Barclays Center pays off-duty police and then local police officers patrol the neighborhood.

“I think it would be helpful to get a clear security plan,” said board member Barika Williams, citing both arena security and the NYPD. “Ive been on [adjacent] Fifth Avenue after a hockey game,” she said, adding that “it is very overwhelming, just walking in the street.”

She further requested a security protocol for the rest of the site, noting that there will be children—of new residents—on site during construction.