Thursday, June 30, 2016

Forest City's rep on Rent Guidelines Board suggests tactics to help struggling tenants while not burdening landlords

When in March 2015 Forest City Ratner executive Scott Walsh was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio an owner representative to the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), I noted that, given that the affordable housing in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park will be subject to rent-stabilization increases, Greenland Forest City Partners surely has an interest in steady increases in annual rents.

I also noted that de Blasio might believe that an industry representative with close ties might be more amenable to negotiation and, at least, cordial talk.

Well, Walsh has been cordial, on the losing side opposing the rent freeze de Blasio achieved, and he has proposed other tactics--such as new city/state subsidies--that might assist struggling New Yorkers while not burdening landlords.

Such proposals surely will recur in future negotiations; after all, they could make a difference to the bottom line of the Pacific Park joint venture.

As I've noted, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park units are billed as “rent-stabilized,” since all the units participating in the program see their annual rent increases determined by the RGB. But that does not mean “low-income.”

Indeed, some two-bedroom units, with rents over $3,000 (16 at the B2 tower, many more at the next two towers), have rents that well exceed the $2,700 threshold that more typically leads to units exiting rent-stabilization. Because of tax-exempt funding, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park affordable rentals participate in rent stabilization.

Leading up to the vote

Covering the hearings that preceded this week's meeting of the Rent Guidelines Board, City Limits on 4/22/16 published Can NYC’s Landlords Afford Another Rent Freeze? Along with testimony from landlords, the article reported on Walsh's statement that, despite the lowered cost of oil, landlords' costs did go up.

"The program was designed to smooth out a very supply-constrained market. The program's initial mandate was not to provide affordable housing," stated Walsh. "The city has other mechanisms to do that through NYCHA and other programs."

A 5/4/16 Wall Street Journal article headlined New York City Rent Board Riles Landlords quoted Walsh:
A series of low rent increases or freezes also could undermine current models for underwriting affordable housing developments in New York, said J. Scott Walsh, an owner member of the Rent Guidelines Board. He said without rent increases to offset rising expenses, projects would need to funded with more cash and less debt, or cut services to pay debt service.
Trying to resist the freeze

Then the 6/28/16 New York Times article on the rent freeze for one-year leases noted:
J. Scott Walsh, a vice president with Forest City Ratner Companies who represents landlords on the board, proposed increases of 3 percent to 5 percent, along with the other owner representative, Mary Serafy.
In a written statement accompanying that proposal, Mr. Walsh praised the mayor for his efforts to address the need for affordable housing but suggested steps other than rent freezes to deal with the concerns that both tenants and landlords presented to the board in testimony...“This is just trying to look at this problem holistically from both points of view,” Mr. Walsh said in an interview.
Indeed, according to Walsh's proposal, as posted on the RGB's website, he not only cordially thanked de Blasio "for his ambitious housing plan to help address the city’s housing crisis," he suggested the following solutions:
  • $150 monthly rent credit for rent burdened tenants to be paid through direct city/state subsidy
  • $300 monthly rent credit for severely rent burdened tenants to be paid through direct city/state subsidy
  • Retroactive property tax assessment and tax rate freeze for all rent stabilized buildings to tax year 2014
  • Retroactive water rate freeze on all rent stabilized buildings to October 1, 2014
  • Expansion of the One Shot Deal Program to include funding to pay for tenant moving costs, right sizing of the units and assistance in locating quality affordable housing
  • Immediate expansion of the SCRIE/DRIE programs to an income limit of $72,500 for household of 2, $63,500 for household of 1. 100% of Area Median Income 
  • Immediate outreach to all DHCR registered apartments annually with information on eligibility and how to apply to SCRIE/DRIE programs
  • Immediate reinstatement of an enhanced 421A program to ensure housing construction levels to meet the needs of our aging housing stock and growing population 
  • Direct city subsidy for all rent stabilized units that are not financially self-sustaining, including unsold non-eviction plan co-op and condo units 
  • Voluntary tenant means testing to accurately access the needs within the housing stock
  • Conversion of the RGB to a year round board to better access/determine housing solutions 

Starting Tuesday, Atlantic Avenue sidewalk between Sixth & Carlton avenues closed for six months

According to a Community Notice circulated two days ago, a new work zone on the south side of Atlantic Avenue between Sixth and Carlton avenues will be implemented beginning next week (starting as early as Tuesday, July 5) and remain in place for about six months.

That means the south sidewalk, the eastbound vehicle parking lane, and both crosswalks at Cumberland Street will be closed. The eastbound B45 bus stop on Atlantic Avenue at Cumberland Street will be closed, but the stop at the southeast corner of Carlton and Atlantic Avenues will remain open.

While the notice does not explain the work being done, the road constriction was signaled in the most recent Construction Update and surely refers to plans to demolish two buildings, part of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site, that "bump" down from Atlantic Avenue into the railyard.

Note that the public and elected officials were given different timelines regarding the constriction of Atlantic Avenue.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Progress at 664 Pacific: developer gets judge's order for access to assess adjacent site

A New York State judge issued an order yesterday that could start to resolve the impasse between Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP), developers of 664 Pacific, a market-rate rental building including a school, and the adjacent four-story 497 Dean Street.

As I reported last week, work on 664 Pacific (aka B15) has been stalled because GFCP has been unable to gain access to the adjacent site to assess it and then install protections for that site during construction.

According to state Supreme Court Justice Sylvia Ash's order (below), the owner of 497 Dean must allow access for the GFCP subsidiary to conduct an on-site pre-construction survey, a step toward the installation of needed protections before construction. But the process requires much back-and-forth.

After that, the developer's engineer must update the Support of Excavation (SOE) plan by July 20, the two sides must meet within ten days after that, then the two sides' engineers must submit two more rounds of responses. The next hearing in the case will be 9/14/16.

Delayed school?

As I wrote, when plans for the school at B15 were first discussed, the opening date was said to be September 2018. The date was since pushed back to August 2019.

However, according to an affidavit from a GFCP executive filed this past February, work on the project should take four years, which suggests, at best, a 2020 opening and, depending on progress at the site, may not make the school year beginning in September 2020. Unless that affidavit overestimated the time needed.

Forest City retail head Welch departs, was working on (delayed) Site 5 project

The Commercial Observer reported yesterday, in Forest City Ratner’s Director of Retail, Kathryn Welch, Leaving the Company:
After more than 30 years, Kathryn Welch is leaving Forest City Ratner Companies as of this Saturday, she said in an email blast with her updated contact information. It wasn’t immediately clear where she is headed.
Welch not only oversaw projects like Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, and Ridge Hill in Yonkers, but also was spearheading the planned effort to construct a major retail project at Site 5, which is delayed because of litigation.

Neither Welch nor  Forest City "immediately responded to a request for comment," according to the Commercial Observer. The lack of fanfare and seeming short notice contrasts with the more clearly amicable departure, say, of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's head.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

At meeting, Con Edison reps pledge to do better, but trucks still block sidewalks, forcing pedestrians into traffic

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in various towers, delays in the building with the planned school, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, questions about security improvements, an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. This is the final article.

It looked like an improvement in transparency and it was, but progress was limited.

At the meeting, Greenland Forest City Partners spokeswoman Ashley Cotton noted that she had gotten "an increased amount of complaints" regarding problems around Sixth Avenue, in many cases because of work by the utility Con Edison.

Since then, Cotton noted, the developers, when informed, have announced street closures caused by Con Ed. And representatives for the first time appeared at a public meeting.

They included Spencer Chow, Manager of Major Energy Services for Brooklyn and Queens, and a guy named Matt, the site project manager. (I couldn't get his last name because neither were named on the agenda, and Con Ed spokespeople did not respond to three email queries and one phone call regarding questions associated with the meeting.)

Matt explained that the work on the southeast block of the site, aimed to support not merely the two buildings under construction (B11, B14) but also the two unbuilt towers, should be complete by September. Chow noted that "the biggest part of the construction is in the beginning... when we have to dig up the ground... it's unfortunate, but it's a necessary evil."

Community pushback

"Can we do a better job in notifying the community? We probably can," Chow said, but often the work is a one-day thing. "As far as trucks that come and go, that's just the nature of our business."

He got some pushback from the audience. "Is there a reason why Con Ed trucks park on sidewalk?" asked resident Wayne Bailey, who frequently photographs neighborhood incursions on the site, adding that the lack of flaggers or barriers endangers the community.

Chow said he couldn't speak for contractors. Matt said that was subcontracted. Bailey said he'd send pictures. Matt said, "I'll reach out to the various departments and let them know."

Resident Peter Krashes asked the Department of Transportation representative present, Leroy Branch, to show the permits for the Con Ed work, so residents could figure out whether conditions were being met.

After Matt said that Con Ed adheres to permits, Krahses noted that information in the notices has been wrong sometimes, failing to indicate that a street closures goes an additional block.

Asked with whom Con Ed coordinates, Matt said, "I coordinate with the customer. At this point, I coordinate with my internal forces... once they give me a schedule, I’ll let my public affairs people know, and they’ll let Forest City know."

Chow noted that the only time a permit is needed is when they close down the street. Otherwise, "we're a self-regulated, self-certified utility.. and we have permission to work on the street."

Improvement coming?

Asked who people can contact, Toni Yuille Williams, Con Ed's Director of Public Affairs, expressed apologies, saying "we’re going to do the best job we can to minimize the public nuisance." She said residents could reach out to her and colleague Johari Jenkins.

Bailey called a photo on his phone showing a Con Ed truck blocking a pedestrian passage, forcing a family to walk in the street, given that the opposite sidewalk was unavailable.

"We're all inconvenienced," said Williams, not quite getting it.

"This is not inconvenient, it's somebody in danger," Bailey said, adding that it happens regularly.

"We need to speak to our crews about that," Williams agreed.

"Sometimes we do have structures that have to be on the sidewalk," Chow said.

"We understand, but then there’s got to be some safety device, or barricade,” countered resident Regina Cahill.

"You’re absolutely correct, I think we need to bring this back back," said Williams. Chow agreed, "We've got to do a better job."

Resident Steve Ettlinger reprised a comment he'd made earlier about Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park: "it’s atypical due its location and size... so a new approach is needed."

The problem recurs

Despite Con Ed's pledge, as Bailey's Instagram post below shows, Con Ed soon blocked the sidewalk again.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Just the usual: a waiting truck slows bus on Dean Street; idling trucks at midnight opposite arena

There's little margin for error regarding arena operations and construction logistics, as the videos below remind us.

This morning, as shown in the video below, a truck was waiting on playground Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue opposite the Dean Street playground, thus slowing the passage of traffic and making it very tough for a bus to proceed.

Some 15 minutes before the video was shot, photographer Wayne Bailey told me, he asked the driver why he was parked there rather than the staging area on Pacific Street. The driver indicated he driver understood the location of the staging area.

When Bailey returned, traffic had slowed as the bus stopped, waiting for the truck driver to fold in his mirrors to allow the bus to pass  through. He reminded the driver he was supposed to stage the vehicle around the block. The response was that the entrance was "locked."

Indeed, construction is supposed to start at 7 am. But there's no apparently no provision to accommodate drivers who get there early. Nor are there personnel to ensure this doesn't happen.

After the NBA draft

On midnight Thursday 6/23/16, four trucks involved in the load-out after the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center idled illegally for more than three minutes at the corner of Pacific Street and Sixth Avenue.

Two trucks were on the south side of Pacific facing east, while two were on Sixth below Pacific, facing north. People live very nearby and a new residential building (670 Pacific) should open later this year. And by 2020, it seems, a new tower (664 Pacific, with school) will open behind the construction fence where those trucks were idling.

From the Brooklyn Standard to the Pacific Park Brooklyn newsletter

It's the Brooklyn Standard of the digital age, for those who recall the Atlantic Yards developer's 2005 foray into promotional news, captured in the the New York Times's anomalously tough 9/3/05 coverage: "O.K., The Whole Paper is Basically an Ad."

Welcome to the May 2016 Pacific Park Brooklyn Newsletter:
Greenland Forest City Partners, the team behind Pacific Park Brooklyn, is excited to bring you the first edition of a bi-monthly newsletter focused on progress at Pacific Park and other important community news.
What's Happening at Pacific Park
Construction updates about Brooklyn’s newest neighborhood.
The last module was installed at 461 Dean Street, the 363-unit rental building which was primarily constructed right here, in Brooklyn, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The housing lottery is underway now. Apply here.
The installations of the custom facades are well under way on both 550 Vanderbilt and 535 Carlton.
There are over 1,800 units of housing under construction across six residential buildings at Pacific Park and almost 800 of these units will be offered at below-market rate. You can take the Virtual Reality tour of Pacific Park here!
Actually, two of the six residential buildings (B12, B15)  have yet to get started. Expect similarly limited candor going forward. And what--no mention of the sticker system for construction workers?

What else

The newsletter also includes "What We're Reading":
Follow the news about Pacific Park.
Learn how to apply for affordable housing at 461 Dean StreetA developer invested in virtual realityTallest Modular Building in the World Tops Out in Brooklyn
And "What's Going on Around the Neighborhood":
Things to do and places to be around Pacific Park
Four & Twenty Blackbirds is moving to the neighborhood!
The Brooklyn Public Library will host its Summer Reading Kickoff Celebration on June 9th.
The City Parks Foundation will host free tennis lessons to children this summer. Parents can register here.
And "Other exciting things happening in Brooklyn this summer:"
Target First SaturdaysKids Film FestCelebrate Brooklyn
Pacific Park Brooklyn Newsletter May 2016 by AYReport

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Visiting the branded Barclays Center plaza on the night of the NBA Draft

Remember, the plan to keep the Barclays Center plaza "permanent open space" positions it as a public amenity, rather than a branded business deal, since the official name is the Resorts World NYC Casino Plaza.

While it has some value to the public at large, the plaza is not only a revenue opportunity for the arena operators, it's also a key safety valve for arena attendees, as noted by the modified tailgate party before an Islanders playoff game in April.

NBA draft time

Indeed, as I was reminded when I visited the plaza Thursday to shoot a few photos on the evening of the NBA draft, it's also an extension of arena activities.

After walking up the stairs--branded with a Resorts World Casino ad--visitors encountered an NBA-branded Draft16 backdrop, branded with sponsor State Farm, for photos.

A State Farm advertisement blinked from the oculus. And a red State Farm booth occupied plaza space that ticketed attendees would pass. (The scalpers murmuring entreaties to buy and sell tickets, however, were an unofficial presence on the plaza.)

For third time, Nassau Coliseum re-opening date moved back, now to April 2017

I've previously reported on how the projected December 2016 re-opening date for the Nassau Coliseum--being renovated by a consortium originally led by Forest City Ratner, now principally owned by Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim--was pushed back to "early 2017" and then March 2017.

Last night Newsday reported:
When renovated Nassau Coliseum re-opens in April, 2017, major boxing events will be as big a part of the programming as six annual visits by the Islanders. Brett Yormark, who is CEO of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which will operate the Coliseum, made the announcement Saturday night.
Yormark outlined an ambitious plan to expand Brooklyn Boxing,
As far as I know, that was the first mention of the new opening date, and the continued delay was not mentioned. If it was the first mention, that was a successful example of public relations-as-distraction: the "news" of boxing at the Coliseum crowds out any scrutiny of the delay.

Didn't a Brooklyn journalist once write "Nassau must be wary about plans for Coliseum"?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Virtual reality: the real-estate press on project location, units under construction, & "public green park"

It's a bit strange to read some of the real-estate press regarding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, since some articles posit an alternate reality regarding the location of the project, the number of units under construction, the "public green park," and even the target market.

Consider the Commercial Observer's 6/16/16 article Under Construction: 550 Vanderbilt Avenue, which hails the topping off of the condo tower.


The building is said to be located "[a]t the intersection of Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street in between the Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn."

Oh, really? So Prospect Heights ends at the other three, non-Pacific Park corners of Vanderbilt and Dean? It doesn't.

Unit count

The article states:
Once completed, Pacific Park will contain a total of 6,400 residential units, 2,250 of which are affordable (1,800 units are currently underway, 782 of which are affordable).
Well, the total is supposed to be 6,430. More importantly, the only way to count 1,800 units under way is to include the B12 (651 Dean Street) and B15 (664 Pacific Street) towers, which, as I wrote, have not gone vertical. It looks like B15 will not be done until 2020.

Brownstone living

The article states:
While the building will have a 24-hour doorman, there will also be some elements of brownstone living, [Forest City Ratner's Susi] Yu said. There will be three maisonettes, units with private entryways, so occupants can enjoy “the benefits of living in a full-service building, yet having the privacy of coming through your own entry.”
There will be elements of brownstone living? Well, sure, if you count a 2-story, 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath maisonette townhouse with a private elevator and a private outdoor terrace, on sale for $4,650,000, as described in the excerpt at right.

By the way, the brands mentioned include: Carrara marble counter, premium Miele appliance package, Grohe fixtures, Carrara marble penny round tiles, LG washer and vented dryer, Kohler tub, and Toto toilet.

Don't foget the 421-a tax abatement!

Not about "uber-wealth"

The article ends with a quote from Forest City's executive:
“It can be a background of whatever you want your house to be,” Yu said. “It’s not about ├╝ber-wealth. That’s just not what Rick is about.”
OK, the least expensive listed sale for a studio at this building is $540,000, which is in contract, and the least expensive available unit is a 1-bedroom for $892,000.

I guess uber-wealth is all relative.

The virtual reality bit

Another Commercial Observer article, on the new trend regarding the use of virtual reality to market new developments, of course mentions this project:
Greenland USA and Forest City Ratner Companies started its virtual reality usage with its $4.9 billion, 22-acre Pacific Park residential project in Brooklyn, behind the Barclays Center. The firm realized the power of virtual reality when it wanted to show off what the public green park would look like.
“We knew that we wanted to start with the park,” said Adam Greene, a vice president at Forest City. “We thought that it was the most important thing to start with, because it’s a little bit unknown to people right now, since the site is a big construction [area]. We wanted to show that open space and what it was like to be in there.”
Then the developers subsequently added its condos under construction at 615 Dean Street and 550 Vanderbilt Avenue and the rental project 535 Carton to the virtual reality experience to give future homeowners and tenants a look inside the projects. 

Well, that's because the "public green park"--not a public park under the NYC Parks Department but rather publicly accessible, privately managed open space--won't be finished for nearly a decade. Also, 615 Dean is not actually under construction.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Come Together Like Brooklyn: Nets trade Young, only BK resident on team, draft BK-born Whitehead

Remember, fans are rooting for the clothes, and basketball is a business.

Yesterday, before the NBA Draft--before which the Nets had traded away first-round picks in 2016 and 2018, with a swap in 2017--the Nets traded their second-best player, Thad Young, to the Indiana Pacers for a first-round pick, and a future second-round pick.

In return, they drafted Caris LeVert, a significant talent who comes with a question mark: a history of injuries.

The Nets also traded their lower second-round pick (55) to the Utah Jazz, plus cash, for the 42nd slot. They then drafted Coney Island-born guard Isaiah Whitehead, who played at Brooklyn's Lincoln High School and then Seton Hall.

Next up is the pursuit of free agents.

The BK connection

Young and his family were the first team to live in Brooklyn, in a condo building near the Brooklyn Heights waterfront. (I hope they had a rental.) On Twitter, he thanked Brooklyn fans and looked forward to Indiana.

 Whitehead is the first Brooklyn native, and immediately the Nets' local hype began.

By the way, the Nets' web site suggests they have their platitudinous 2016-17 season marketing theme: "Come Together Like Brooklyn."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Marketing opportunity: a (smaller) Barclays Center roof logo returns, stealthily

From video via PacificParkBk
Oh, they weren't going to give up that valuable marketing real estate, were they?

A new Barclays Center logo for the arena roof (see screenshot at right) was not in any preparatory public renderings (see below left) of the recently installed green roof, but it's apparently too valuable an advertising space.

Indeed, as construction of the green roof began, Forest City Ratner's Bob Sanna told the 4/26/15 Wall Street Journal, “We are thinking up creative ways to keep the logo…We just haven’t decided where.”

Since then, around the end of the year, Forest City transferred its 55% interest in the arena operating company to minority owner Onexim, controlled by Mikhail Prokhorov.\
From April 2014 rendering by SHoP

The green roof was paid for by the new joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners, aiming to make the arena view more palatable to residents in nearby towers and to tamp down noise escaping from the venue. Surely the logo was also negotiated with Prokhorov.

Brooklyn's newest neighborhood?

It's a wee bit odd to call this "Brooklyn's newest neighborhood."

After all, the brief video, in link at bottom, shows only the finished 461 Dean Street modular tower flanking the arena, and ignores the adjacent, under-construction B2 (aka 38 Sixth Avenue) tower, which is shown in the full photo below.

Earlier version; click to enlarge
But the video, apparently shot by a drone, seems mainly a marketing device.

Smaller signage

The new signage, while quite visible from the sky and thus TV cameras on helicopters or blimps (see below), is smaller and thus less glaring than than the predecessor signage, which had a larger Barclays logo (see photo at right).

Used by permission from David Margolis of Copyright
As I wrote 4/10/13, the original Barclays logo on the roof had not been shown in renderings when the project was re-approved, and roof signage was never addressed in the Design Guidelines, approved in 2006, which addressed facade signage only.

Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing the project said, essentially, if ain't prohibited, it's permitted. Executive Arana Hankin noted that, among other things, the "sign is not illuminated" and it "cannot be seen from street-level."

Actually, while the sign was not aimed at those on the street, and not fully visible, it sure could be seen in part, as shown in the photo below. The new signage is not visible from the street, as far as I can tell.

Changing plans

Last September, Forest City CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin said the original plan for an arena green roof "needed to be value-engineered...We built the arena, it's a rubber roof, originally, with Barclays' logo on top of it, quite uninspired, and you can see it from a number of vantage points around the area." In other words, she contradicted Hankin.

"So it was a lost opportunity to some of us, but we never let go of this idea we could go back again one day and put a green roof on top," Gilmartin continued. "It really doesn't benefit the arena, it benefits the community and the residents that will live around the arena."

You bet it benefits the arena, I wrote at the time, since the green roof would help with needed noise and vibration dampening.

Now we know that the roof also benefits benefits the arena with another marketing opportunity.

On Twitter

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Was school not considered for southeast block because developer was planning to sell two sites?

Placard on construction fence at 664 Pacific
inaccurately predicts completion as "4th quarter of 2018"
Now that we know that the school at 664 Pacific (aka B15) is delayed until seemingly 2020--in February, an affidavit from the developer said it would take four years--it's worth looking back at a suggested alternative.

Local elected officials and school advocates, however concerned about the location near the Barclays Center and a police and fire station, backed the B15 plan, thinking it was worth the risk to get a dedicated middle school by 2018. That was the opening date predicted as of last year, though it was already jeopardized (and, indeed, as of this year, they started saying 2019).

The three Community Boards sharing the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site were more cautious, raising questions about the school site, within a 27-story market-rate rental building, and, in the case of Community Board 2, flatly suggesting a move.

And hindsight now raises a question: was an alternative school site not considered because developer Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP) was already considering a sale of three building sites?

Looking back

CB 2, noting that the School Construction Authority did not consider an alternative site, proposed instead "building B13, on Block 1129 (bounded by Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street, Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street), [which] has the same construction timetable as B15 but is further from the arena, the major thoroughfares, and the public safety facilities."

The "same construction timetable" referred to the already out-of-date August 2014 tentative timetable that had both buildings opening by February 2018. B13 was supposed to start construction next month, while adjacent B12 was supposed to start construction in July 2015; neither has moved ahead.

Both of those condo buildings are delayed, an executive from GFCP said last week. Both are among the three building sites--along with B4, at the northeast flank of the arena--that are being marketed to outside investors, a plan announced in April.

Consider this (as a reader pointed out): if GFCP as of last year was already contemplating selling those valuable sites, why would it complicate (or impede) the sale by proceeding with a school? (Those are the only available sites that would be built soon enough to partially mitigate a shortfall in school seats.)

In other words, it's reasonably to ask if the choice of B15 site was aimed not merely to deliver a school relatively soon--and to paper over the use of eminent domain to remove property owners-- but also to serve the developer's business needs.

Depending on the role and timing of outside investors, it's still possible that the buildout of the B12 and B13 condo towers--which should take less than two years each--will come sooner than 664 Pacific, adding even more need for school seats and raising more questions about the siting decision.

Locational concerns

Tight site: 664 Pacific is behind construction fence next to
497 Dean; across street, 38 Sixth Avenue rises
As I wrote last September, Community Board 6 wrote to support a middle school at the project site, but urged the SCA "to reconsider the location of that school to one with safer access unhindered by future construction and further removed from the Barclay Center."

The Dean Street Block Association wrote, "With the exception of proximity to transit, B15 falls short of most other building site options east of 6th Avenue depending on the variable assessed."

The questions they raised were legitimate, though school backers believed--and still believe--that proper planning can ameliorate some of the challenges.

Several of those challenges were already glaring. What no one publicly considered at the time, however, is what we now know: the decision to build such a large tower adjacent to an 8-unit residential building has generated litigation about the impact of such construction on the building.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

664 Pacific delayed by dispute with neighbor; developer (in affidavit) says buildout is 4 years; middle school pushed back to 2020 (or later)

Update:  School advocate Gib Veconi reminds me that the B15 school (aka P.S./I.S. 653) was listed on the School Construction Authority's January 2016 capital plan with an August 2019 estimated completion, which was the time frame cited at the April 2 M.S. OneBrooklyn design charrette. I'd note that, as of February 2016, the developer was saying the buildout would take four years.

From Pacific Park Brooklyn web site
"Read about the new public school we’re building," tweeted the developers of Pacific Park Brooklyn, touting the middle school planned for the base of the upcoming 664 Pacific tower, just east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets.

What they don't say: the school seems delayed for a year or more after its projected September 2018 August 2019 opening date.

Construction on the 27-story 664 Pacific (aka B15, with market-rate rental apartments) has been stalled by a dispute with neighbors.

Moreover, a court file reveals that a representative of developer Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP) in February 2016 said excavation and construction at the site would take four years. That's not the two-year buildout originally promised or the slightly extended buildout.

Placard on 664 Pacific construction fence identifies
anticipated completion as "4th quarter of 2018"
That means the previously stated September 2018 (and more recently August 2019) opening for the middle school—as well as the "Fourth Quarter 2018" anticipated completion as stated on the placard posted at the site (left)— is untenable.

Also, if the dispute over access to the adjacent property is not resolved by September, when the next hearing in the case is scheduled, further delay could jeopardize the school's opening even by September 2020.

The stalled construction process won’t resume until GFCP and the owners of the adjacent 497 Dean Street resolve a heated dispute over access to that property and the impact of a planned 36-foot deep excavation trench.

Would honest timetable have led to different site?

The timetable revelation raises a question, sure to be discussed by legislators and school advocates: did the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) know that construction might take this long when it predicted that September 2018 opening date?

Affidavit 2/22/16 from Forest City's Sonya Covington:
12 months for excavation + 36 months for construction
It seems unlikely. After all, they then had to change the opening date to 2019.

Nor does it seem the SCA was informed of the current delay. When I asked about an updates schedule, SCA spokeswoman Toya Holness responded, "We haven't made changes to any schedules."

If school officials and advocates had known the school would take four years to build, surely there would have been a more candid discussion about whether B15--a tight, 100-foot-wide site--was the right building for the school. (After all, the developer fully controls the southeast block of the site.)

Querying the developer

Without mentioning the affidavit, I queried GFCP about the current schedule. I was told they would not to comment beyond representative Ashley Cotton's statement about delays at a public meeting last week. I was advised to contact the SCA.

I then learned that SCA didn't have an updated timetable.

Earlier this afternoon, I asked GFCP to comment on the conclusion, based on Covington's statement, that 664 Pacific would take four years. When I hear back, I'll add their response.

(I also queried the Chair of the Community Board 8 Education Committee, Sharon Wedderburn, who told me all they knew was the unspecified delay indicated at the meeting last week. I queried David Goldsmith, Chair of Community Education Council 13, who said he'd been told the school would open in September 2019, which I assume comes from the SCA document at top.)

Looking at B15 site from Dean Street. 497 Dean is on right.
Safety vs. greed?

The owners of 497 Dean say the dispute regards safety, as they seek more assurances that construction plans for the 27-story building, including the excavation pit, do not jeopardize their four-story, eight-unit, 26-foot wide apartment building.

GFCP, which says it has been sufficiently transparent about its plans, hints that the dispute concerns greed, as the owners of 497 Dean seek a monthly fee during construction, and also have suggested that GFCP buy their building.

It’s hard to assess which party is right. But surely the combination of ambitious plans for a very large building, and the project's extremely tight fit on a residential block raise the stakes.

And it seems that 497 Dean, a stolid 1930 building historically offering affordable, rent-stabilized housing, is now an exhibit in Prospect Heights’ white-hot real estate market.
Image via Marvel Architects. 497 Dean is flush to tower.

Indeed, Sugar Hill Capital Partners (a private equity firm specializing in New York City real estate) bought the building in 2013 for $1.66 million, little more than two years after it sold for $970,000.

In June 2015, the firm put the building up for sale for $3.4 million, even though only three of the eight units are currently market rate. (Today, the building is off-market.)

As I wrote, the asking price--$425,000 per unit--could only be justified if the new owner aims to buy or nudge out the rent-regulated residents, raise rents (or go condo) and make a profit.

A public acknowledgment

Forest City's Cotton, representing GFCP, hinted at site-related troubles when speaking at the 6/14/16 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting.

"I just want to announce that obviously, we put up this fence, and we started work, and the site demolition has been complete since May, but clearly not more work has happened, so I want to explain what’s going on," she said.

A construction fence at the border of 497 Dean
"We have been unable to gain access to an adjacent property, which is necessary to install proper protections for their building," she said. "This access is needed to ensure that the property next door is protected."

"We tried working with the real estate investment fund that owns this property to come up with a site access plan, but were unsuccessful, so now we’re working through the court system to come up with a way to expedite access," Cotton continued. "But because of that delay, we’ve obviously not implemented the MPT [maintenance and protection of traffic] on Sixth Avenue."

(While I audiotaped the meeting, held at 55 Hanson Place, I initially missed this because I was out of the room. I rushed out to get the names and titles of two Tishman Construction speakers who were not listed on the meeting agenda. Curiously enough, as I exited the room, I was trailed by public relations representatives for both GFCP and Empire State Development, or ESD, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project.)

The problems were actually hinted in May, in a letter to ESD from concerned project neighbors:
If the State tracked relevant 311 complaints, then it would have known that construction workers had trespassed into the backyard of a neighbor of the Project, and that this had catalyzed litigation between a property owner and Greenland Forest City Partners that appears to have delayed B15.
I have since been told there was a 311 complaint, not a criminal accusation, alleging trespassing.

Slipping timetable

The delay reinforces the observation that projected construction dates are provisional. Several other buildings in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project are delayed, as well.

The August 2014 tentative project schedule produced by the developer (below), well before eminent domain was complete, ambitiously predicted a February 2018 opening for 664 Pacific.

In early 2015, ESD lawyer Charles Webb said in legal papers regarding site condemnation that the "school could open for the 2018 school year only if ESD gains control of the site by February 2015."

That seemingly was already off the table by late January, as Webb announced in court that a business at Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street had agreed to leave by March 31. Moreover, final site control was gained only in May 2015, when the state evicted the final condemnee, a former homeowner on Dean Street.

A January 2015 affidavit from Forest City Ratner Construction Chief Bob Sanna (bottom) in that case said construction could begin in May 2016 and take approximately 26 months, thus opening for the 2018 school year, but only if they got site control by February 2015.

However, this seeming delay was never addressed publicly (and I didn't make a big issue of it). Indeed, it seems to have been incorporated in the new timetable.

Sanna also noted that the developer would have to investigate the soil, soil vapor and groundwater beneath the site, as those conditions "often affect the design of the foundations of the buildings."

If this subsequent process led to the new buildout estimate of 12 months of excavation plus 36 months for construction, well, shouldn't the developer have estimated a range for the potential construction timetable?

A delayed mitigation

The bottom line is that the school, which is required to partly mitigate a Significant Adverse Impact triggered by new residents in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, was supposed to be built as soon as possible.

If the building does not open until September 2020, it's possible that six buildings (four on the southeast block two on the arena block) will already be open, plus B15 itself. If the building does not open until September 2021, even more buildings may be open by then. (Note that the timetables in the above map were tentative, and already some buildings are delayed.)

The SCA, local input, and City Council

Despite the fact that the state did not control the site until May 2015, in June 2015, SCA representative Kenrick Ou said at a public hearing that the site would go into construction in 2016 and open in September 2018.

Neighbors at the time were split, as many--under the banner of M.S. OneBrooklyn, with backing from local elected officials--advocated for a STEM-focused middle-school at the site. A smaller fraction warned about the location of the school, across the street from the arena and a fire station, and very near a police station.

Looking at B15 site from Sixth Avenue
In September 2015, as the school plan was approved by the City Council, GFCP said the building would "break ground in 2016 and open in 2018.”

The SCA's Ou told the City Council that "SCA has considered all comments received on the proposed site plan and affirms the site plan," thus dismissing concerns raised by local Community Boards. (Both CB 8 and CB 6 raised questions about the site, while CB 2 thought the school should move.)

The current delays make the few critical Council Members look prescient. Council Member Inez Barron, who ultimately abstained, had asked if the timeline was reasonable.

Ou said that the original developer, Forest City, had brought in a partner--Greenland Group--that brings resources and a new commitment to the schedule, but acknowledged that, in mixed use developments, the city cannot assure a timeline.

Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo asked, "Does this site lend itself to enable the authority to build the school should the rest of the project stall?"

No, said Ou. Arroyo voted no, saying that the SCA did not control the site.

Only later, in 2016, did the SCA adjust the timetable.

The legal dispute

According to a 2/26/16 affidavit in the current legal case by Forest City’s Sonya Covington, the project manager for the petitioner, AY Phase II Development Company LLC (an affiliate of GFCP), the developer must erect a construction fence, restricting access to a portion of 497 Dean's rear yard during the demolition of a structure located at 664 Pacific.

Because the structure to be demolished abuts the property line of 497 Dean, the required construction fence can only be installed on 497 Dean’s property (As far as I can tell, based on my visit last Saturday, that may have already been accomplished.)

B3, across the street, is already at 16 stories
The construction code also requires that developer perform a pre-construction survey of 497 Dean, prepare a monitoring plan and install monitors at 497 Dean, and provide lateral support for 497 Dean’s property during excavation and foundation work at 664 Pacific.

The code also requires that GFCP provide other protections—roof and overhead protections, and various types of waterproofing—to the neighbor during construction, but such protections cannot be designed until the pre-construction survey is completed.

Moreover, because B15 will be built with its eastern wall at the border of the site, Covington stated, construction of that wall’s exterior requires entry to and access on and from 497 Dean. For example, laborers will have to stand on scaffolding erected over 497 to perform work on the facade.

According to Covington, the two parties negotiated draft agreement over three months last year, but 497 Dean Street Residences LLC sought new counsel, and reopened issues. By late January, the parties were close, she said.

Other than discussion of the specific configuration of some proposed protection plans, the only issue left was a voluntary license “fee.” The developer was willing to pay for the time protection that would interfere with 497 Dean’s use of its property. Respondent sought a fee—in other papers identified at $5,000 per month—for the entire duration of the B15 project.

According to Covington, the talks stalled when 497 Dean sought more information, which could only be acquired after a pre-construction survey. So GFCP has asked the courts to provide access to 497 Dean for some 48 months.

“Developer currently estimates that construction will take approximately 36 months to complete after completion of excavation,” she wrote, thus confirming that previously unpublicized timetable.

“Thus, for protection and construction activities, Developer seeks entry to 497 Dean Street immediately upon the issuance of an Order, and for a period of 48 months (12 months for excavation, and 38 months for construction) thereafter (and for such longer time as may be required to complete the B15 project because of events outside Developer’s control.)”

The dispute escalates

497 Dean, in response, said it has never refused access, but only set reasonable conditions to ensure that the developer "can perform the invasive and potentially dangerous excavation work safely and without causing harm to the 497 Dean Residences.”

The owners say the requested license to enter their property should be denied, but if it’s granted, the court should grant an award of engineering and attorney fees, as well as a licensee fee to be paid by Developer

497 Dean says GFCP has failed to dig test pits on its own property near 497 Dean to gain crucial information about the type, deputy, and condition of 497 Dean’s foundation. It says that initial submissions by GFCP were marked preliminary, without sign-off from either an engineer or the DOB.

“The Petition shows that during negotiations Developer has been withholding from 497 Dean Residences critical details about the length and invasiveness of the construction,” wrote 497 Dean’s lawyer, Steven Cramer. “497 Dean has learned for the first time from reading the Petition that the entire construction process will take at least four years, the Developer will require access to its site through 497 Dean, and that Developer will have scaffolding resting on or extending over the roof of 497 Dean.”

“This is not an abstract engineering challenge for the individuals who live in 497 Dean,” he added. “The building in which they sleep every night will be inches away from a 36-foot deep hole in the ground, and then under the construction of a tower that will dwarf their homes.

Volleying back

In response, GFCP attorney Alexander Ferrini countered that the developer had provided more than sufficient information to support its request for access. He also said that it wasn’t true that the timetable was revealed only in the legal petition; rather, it was in a 2/8/16 email. (That timetable had not publicly announced to stakeholders, however.)

Cramer responded that the planned method to shore up 497 Dean—the installation of 16 tie-backs that would extend under and across the property—would remain in place permanently and constitute a permanent trespass. The developer, he said, should use other options.

Next hearing September 14, 2016
He blamed GFCP for going to court, saying that not until this litigation were details of the developer’s plans finally revealed.

In response, an engineer for GFCP said that tie-backs are routinely used and the safest method, and that leaving them underground, “abandoned in place” does not make them permanent.

He also said that test pits are “better performed” after a pre-construction survey. (That’s doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been dug earlier, however.)

On 5/31/16, in the most recent document in the file, attorney Cramer alerted the judge to “a long and improper” reply filed one day before a schedule oral argument. In fact, that oral argument was postponed, and is now scheduled for 9/14/16, as indicated in the screenshot above right.

Cramer sought permission to submit a response affidavit, or to have rival engineers both appear at a hearing.

The legal papers

Below are three in the many legal papers in the case AY Phase II Development Company LLC vs. 497 Dean Street Residences LLC, the initial petition and Sonya Covington's affidavit, then 497 Dean's reply.

Below is Bob Sanna's 2015 affidavit:

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.

Security issues came up several times at the meeting.

Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.

After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.

Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the representative for developer Greenland Forest City Partners, asked Bailey to send the video he shot of the encounter.
"We have no problem removing the individual if they're not performing to standards," Reid said.

Harassment issues

Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association followed up on the developer's new plan to have construction workers at the various sites wear color-coded stickers and identification badges to associate themselves with different sites.
While I wrote in May that, at least according to Cotton's response at a meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), new workers were not given a specific directive warning them about sexual harassment--which triggered the new system--

Steve LaSala, project director at Tishman's sites, B3 and B14, described the general safety orientation training for workers, then the company's zero tolerance for smoking and drinking. Workers are told not to engage with pedestrians or the public, and are told about harassment, he said.

About 200 workers have the color-coded stickers. When the managers see hardhats around the community, he said, "we know from color of sticker what project they're connected to." Since he got there in mid-March, " I haven't seen or heard of any type of incident."

Visibility issues

At the AY CDC in March, Cotton was 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.”
Anecdotal evidence, as well as Instagram posts, show the record is more spotty.

At the Community Update meeting, Krashes said he'd never seen workers wearing IDs, and often sees construction workers not wearing hats. He asked how many workers were using stickers and ID system.

"It's an ongoing process," LaSala said, noting that new subcontractors would come on site. "From my perspective, we have had full compliance." Still, he said, "Obviously there is a limit to what we can do when someone goes out for coffee or lunchtime or at the end of the day."

Does the ID have to be visible, asked Krashes, or could it be in a worker's pocket.

"Not always," said Reid, noting that a lanyard around a worker's neck could be hazardous if caught in a piece of equipment.

Krashes followed up by asking what percentage of construction workers are visibly wearing an ID.

Tishman safety directors Miguel Padin noted, "We're working construction, not sitting behind a computer... The thing we want is a worker to be caught up or tripped by one of these lanyards." He suggested the sticker and ID are "more of a control measure than anything else." (I'm not sure if "control measure" means internal control measure.)

"Most guys and gals keep their hard hats on when they walk around the area," Contton said, "but it's not a requirement." 

She agreed the process may need refinement. "Frankly, Peter, I admit, we've seen people without IDs, "We're going to continue to evolve and refine it.... I think your questions make perfect sense."

From the latest Construction Update: plans (again) to narrow Atlantic Avenue with MPT barriers

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday June 20 and released yesterday by Empire State Development at 12:30 pm (late) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners, some major work promised in the previous Construction Update is now expected in this period, which could further narrow Atlantic Avenue traffic with barriers.

The exact contour of the barriers is unclear.

Notably, pending approval from the Department of Transportation, installation of new MPT (Maintenance and Protection of Traffic) and mobilization of equipment along Atlantic Avenue (from LIRR Site Entrance to Carlton Avenue) is expected to begin during this reporting period. A community notice will be distributed.

Also, again as predicted in the previous Construction Update and at the Community Update meeting, demolition at Block 1120--the buildings that bump down into the railyard from Atlantic Avenue--could commence upon receipt of Department of Buildings and Department of Transportation permits. MPT could be installed on Atlantic Avenue. A community notice will be distributed.

After-hours work

Also, there will be late shift, Saturday, and overnight work. Saturday work is 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). Second-shift work also may occur at B2, which is the first tower expected to open.

Weekend electrical utility work will continue at the LIRR rail yard, and demolition of the LIRR tunnel should continue on weekends, continuous from Friday night through Sunday morning.

More changes

Also, the stalled removal of the B2 tower crane--remember, there were sparks--should resume during this reporting period. All work will be performed within the construction fence perimeter.

New work at B3 includes installation of standpipe and duct work installation. Jumping of the hoist will continue as needed as the building rises. Setback platforms will be installed once they go above the 16th floor. Installation of PE5 and PE6 (Passenger Elevator) rails will occur.

Sewer work

As announced at the Community Update meeting last week:

Pursuant to DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] permits during this reporting period mobilizing and prep work for sewer relining within the project site in Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and 6th Avenues may begin. Work involves video, cleaning and vacuuming operations. Including using a large size jet and vacuum truck and support vans on the existing sewer main below.
Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn Construction Alert 6-20-16

Monday, June 20, 2016

On video, Gilmartin spins the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park saga (which requires annotation)

Well, BISNOWTV EXCLUSIVE: MARYANNE GILMARTIN (FOREST CITY RATNER) FROM THE NEW CORNELL TECH CAMPUS - PART 1 is not really journalism. It's "content." Specifically, it's sponsored content for a publication that makes its money from events.

The blurb says "Kenneth Weissenberg, partner at EisnerAmper, and MaryAnne Gilmartin, president & CEO at Forest City Ratner, discuss the new Cornell Tech Campus, the Barclays Center, and creating new neighborhoods in New York City."

Except EisnerAmper, "one of the nation's leading audit, tax and advisory firms," is a Bisnow Content Partner, which means this is big mutual advertorial. Weissenberg serves fat pitches to Gilmartin, whose performance is Yormarkian in its casual disregard of countervailing, complicating facts.

Which is why I will interpolate comments (in italics).

After talking about the Cornell project on Roosevelt Island and the history of MetroTech,  at about 3:22 of the video below, interviewer/branding partner Weissenberg brings up Pacific Park, which--surely prepped--he dubs "transformative."

The ironies of blight

MAG: "I like to say that Barclays, and the Pacific Park project was catalytic to everything that happened in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn's rising was due to, really, the people and the unbelievable neighborhoods that make Brooklyn. (So, why was a site in gentrifying Prospect Heights considered blighted? Oh, to enable eminent domain.) The project really sits at the confluence of some of the most beautiful neighborhood in all of America. So the fact that there was a 22-acre swath of land (there wasn't; Forest City drew the map, so the state could help it acquire property it sought) that could really knit neighborhoods together and create place was a tremendous opportunity for us. I like to say, if it's not complicated, we're probably not interested. This is probably the uber example of what development, placemaking involves."

What caused delays?

MAG: "It took over ten years to put the entitlements together (no, the project was announced in 2003, the purchase process began in 2002, and the arena groundbreaking was in 2010; one final parcel of land remains in litigation) and to ready the land for vertical construction. We had over 35 legal actions (at least she's not saying "lawsuits," as was common; maybe there were 35 hearings) that really resulted in extraordinary delays (her boss, Forest City Realty Trust CEO David LaRue blamed the recession above all) and cost increases."

Long-term effort?

MAG: "This is a high barriers-to-entry business, and it's not for the faint of heart. So we are hopeless developer (I think that means committed to their work) and we are committed to long-term value creation (which is why they sold the arena operating company to Onexim and also 70% of the rest of the project, minus the B2 modular tower, to Greenland Group?), so for us, this project has been well worth the wait and the toiling to build it."

Arena as cornerstone?

MAG: "We began with Barclays, because that was the cornerstone of the project (no, there was a 2009 deadline to have tax-exempt bonds issued, and a money-losing basketball team that needed a new home), to create a building with public purpose (which, according to critic Paul Goldberger, has "more naming opportunities here than in a suburban synagogue"). What is amazing about the building is that it's world class, it's among the most beautiful, high performing arenas in all of the country, if not the world. It has a great architectural lineup that was responsible for creating the beautiful steel, the rusted steel that is evocative of Brownstone Brooklyn. My favorite aspect of the building is, when you pop up out of the subway, you can actually see the scoreboard (you mostly see advertising), so the building is welcoming to people outside its front door and inside."

A new hub?

"You've created a hub in Downtown Brooklyn (arguably extending the edge of Downtown Brooklyn, with the project essentially in Prospect Heights) that wasn't there before," says the interviewer.

MAG: "I think you're right. (such a tough interview!) In fact, we say that the oculus, when it was built was the largest oculus in the world, the oculus is to Brooklyn (in 2012, they claimed the plaza had the same role) as the clock is at Grand Central, a meeting place. So we do think it's become a place where people get together and connect, even if they're just using the unbelievable transit connection that exist beneath Barclays."

On schedule?

MAG: "So Barclays was the beginning, and we're at a point now where I'm tremendously proud of the speed with which we're putting up vertical buildings (except they're significantly behind schedule). We got a partner, a Chinese partner (actually, a Chinese boss, since Greenland Group owns 70%), and this was a groundbreaking deal, because at the time we made this deal, there was no name in the Chinese language for joint venture. So we were creating something in America that had never been done with a real estate company. So if you fast forward, in just a few years, we made an extraordinary partnership arrangement, there's been a ton of equity plowed into the real estate, and we have now 1,800 units of housing being built (that total requires counting the B12 and B15 towers, which have been designed but not gone vertical) and of that, over 800 of them (actually, 782: 181+298+303) are affordable. And that is, for Brooklyn and for all of New York City, extremely important (actually, more than half the units would go to middle-income households, a tiny fraction of the city's population), if you want to have a livable 21st-century city."

The modular tower

"You're doing a new project in a modular building, the tallest modular building," stated Weissenberg.

MAG: "Yes, I'm proud to say it is the tallest modular building in the world today. For us, it's successful if I took you through the building and you would say to me, 'MaryAnne, I don't see how this building was put together 65% off site, three miles away, in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It feels like a regular, beautiful luxury rental building." (Except for all the repairs that had/need to be done.)

Less impact from modular?

MAG: "Half of it's affordable, half of it's market rate, but the building's success is the fact that, for community benefits, less impact to the neighborhood. (which implies that the rest of the project, being built conventionally, is quite impactful, and sometimes things even fly off). It should've been a speedier construction, but with anything innovative, it often doesn't go the way you expect. (or the way they promised, many times) So we've had a number of bumps (yeah, very big ones) along the way."

Do the numbers work?

MAG: "The building stands up, it's high performing. You can put 65% of if together in a factory, and you can pick it with a crane and place it in a way on site that makes it super, super efficient. Now we just need to prove the numbers and, of course, in our business, it's about the numbers. (This specific building is a failure on the numbers.) We have a set of (aspirational) numbers that demonstrate that the simultaneous activities and the fact that it is so efficient prove it out. I'm very hopeful that the next project will finish the story around high-rise modular in New York." (OK, this first modular building was supposed to be proof of concept. Now the second one would be. After all, they want to amortize their significant R&D costs.)