Wednesday, November 30, 2016

461 Dean: the lights are on, but is anyone home?

Last night, I snapped the photos below of 461 Dean Street, the modular rental tower flanking the Barclays Center, which developer Forest City Realty Trust, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, said was open for business. (It's the only Pacific Park residential building not owned by the Greenland Forest City Partners.)

The lights are on, but is anyone home? The evidence isn't definitive, but there are a couple of clues that suggest that many if not all of those apartments are not occupied yet.

First, as noted in the photo at right, shot from Flatbush Avenue near Dean Street, there are no shades or curtains in the apartments with lights on. If people were really living there, well, they'd look more lived-in.

Similarly, there are no shades or curtains in the lower-floor windows shown in the photo directly below, shot from Dean Street near the arena loading dock. Nor are there in the upper floors.

More importantly, those top floors--though its not easy to tell from the photo--are above floor 19, which is the top floor, among 32 residential floors, that has been approved for a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy.

As I wrote earlier, this month, as of 10/27/16, the developer had a 3% lease commitment at 461 Dean. Presumably that applied to the 50% market-rate units, and/or the retail, not the 50% below-market "affordable" units, for which there was a lottery.

As of mid-month, the building was officially opened for leasing, with the first tenants expected to move in by the end of the month.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

de Blasio dubiously claims no conflict in asking Rosen for advice on Barclays visit





By the way, note the coverage *after* I raised some of the issues (for which I was not credited):
11/25 Post;  11/29 Post; 11/29 Post; 11/29 WSJ; 11/29 Daily News; 11/29 Post editorial.

As Chinese real estate companies reassess strategy in U.S., Greenland somehow claims no Pacific Park delays

The Wall Street Journal today, in Chinese Developers Reassess U.S. Projects, wrote:
Some Chinese real-estate developers are lowering their profit expectations on U.S. projects or shelving them entirely as frothy prices and rocky partnerships force them to rethink their strategies in the American market.
Swelling supply of high-end New York condominiums could result in losses for some Chinese developers, analysts said. A push to partner with U.S. developers on other projects, meanwhile, has brought unexpected legal spats and other delays.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government is expected to limit the export of investment capital.

The Pacific Park example

But check out this summary:
In Brooklyn, a deal between Shanghai-based, state-owned conglomerate Greenland Holding Group and Forest City Realty Trust on a 22-acre, 15-building mixed-use project in various stages of construction is facing stiff headwinds.
Forest City earlier this month said it took a $307.6 million impairment charge for the project, called Pacific Park Brooklyn, and said it plans “to delay future vertical development.”
“We revised the schedule due to a number of factors, including almost unprecedented concentrations of new rental supply in downtown Brooklyn, which will take time for the market to absorb,” said Forest City CEO David LaRue.
A spokesman for Greenland USA denied there will be delays and said it is “meeting the goals and targets that were established when we invested in 2014.
(Emphasis added)

Denied there will be delays? That does not compute, because, as stated above, the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners, according to Forest City, plans “to delay future vertical development.”

That quote needed a little more pushback from the WSJ, as in "reality says otherwise."

As for meeting the goals/targets established in 2014, yes, they're building two "100% affordable" buildings. Otherwise, as shown in the 2014 site map I annotated last month, they're way behind.


Next Quality of Life Community Meeting postponed six weeks, to January; Precinct Council meets tonight

With no explanation as to why, Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, yesterday rescheduled the Quality of Life Community Meeting from December 13 to Tuesday, January 24, 2017, six weeks later.

As per usual, the meeting, once known as the Quality of Life Committee and then the Community Update, will take place at 6 pm at:
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place, 1st Floor Conference Room
Impact of delay

The delay means that instead of a six week gap between meetings--the standard has typically been two months, or eight weeks--there will be a 12-week gap, or nearly three months. But the six-week gap was caused by bunching of previous meetings after delays.

This next delay makes for less oversight, and fewer public questions about project operations and impacts. After all, though the state (and developer?) apparently decided unilaterally to postpone the meeting, there are ongoing concerns that neighbors were ready to raise.

I wonder if the much-promoted move-ins to the 461 Dean rental tower and the 550 Vanderbilt condo tower are going slowly enough that developer Forest City Ratner (for 461 Dean) and Greenland Forest City Partners (for the rest of the project) would rather not face questions in December.

The announced--but hardly certain--2017 schedule for Quality of Life meetings is below.

Meanwhile, some Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park public safety-related issues may come up at tonight's monthly meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, at 7:30 pm, at 65 Sixth Avenue.


With many Brooklynites at risk of homelessness, Atlantic Yards can't help much to "solve Brooklyn's housing crisis"

"58% of all New Yorkers have inadequate savings to pay for expenses like food, housing, and rent in an emergency," declared the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) in a recent report (chart at bottom),  "How is Economic Opportunity Threatened in Your Neighborhood?"

That led to headlines like DNAinfo's Most New Yorkers Are Roughly 1 Paycheck Away From Homelessness: Study and Gothamist's More Than Half Of New Yorkers Are One Paycheck Away From Homelessness, Says Study.

2006 flier from developer Forest City Ratner
The statistics are compiled by Community District/Community Board. Below are statistics for the four Community Boards in which residents get a preference for 50% of the units in each Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park housing lottery.

First are the statistics for those whose who are at risk of homelessness, then stats indicating the percentage of rent-burdened households:
  • Community Board 2: 51%/37%
  • Community Board 3: 67%/54%
  • Community Board 6: 48%/35%
  • Community Board 8: 63%/50%
No wonder, as described in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, only 50% of New York City voters say they can afford to live here, while 47% say they can't afford it. It's even worse in Brooklyn, where 45% said they could afford to live here and 52% said they couldn't.

Managing growth, and the AY angle

Recently, in the New York Post, Nicole Gelinas wrote Elite cities are pushing out the working class:
Places like New York and San Francisco aren’t dealing with growth very well. “Build more houses” is a rather obvious solution. But people who already live in a neighborhood have a say. They moved to Greenwich Village or the Upper West Side because they liked those neighborhoods, and don’t want them changed by high-rise towers.
And when we build more houses for middle-class and wealthy people in less-expensive neighborhoods, their presence makes that neighborhood more expensive.
One solution is to build subsidized housing. But our best practical efforts yield us 20,000 apartments a year, and the subsidies they require push housing costs up for the people who aren’t lucky enough to win the literal affordable-housing lottery.
In other words, the people who get the subsidized Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park apartments, especially the fraction for low-income households, will be very lucky and very happy. There will be a lot more unlucky people still struggling.

Gelinas noted that even our infrastructure doesn't support growth any more. (She didn't mention suggestions like adding an F train express, which would stimulate growth in deep Brooklyn, or creating a more regional transit system to support growth in New Jersey.)

What to do?

Gelinas's conclusion:
One crazy idea: Maybe cities and suburbs that aren’t on the East and West coasts should look to what we do that makes us so expensive, and copy the good parts. That would include neighborhood density, which often means small-scale apartment buildings not far from stores, plus transit, parks and libraries, and low crime.
Another idea--ambitious and controversial--comes in the Real Estate Weekly article headlined Chris Ward wants to make Red Hook a model for urban redevelopment:
Aecom’s Southwest Brooklyn vision, which includes Red Hook and the Columbia Waterfront District, covers 246 acres, about eight times the size of Hudson Yards.
...AECOM’s idea for Southwest Brooklyn calls for extending the 1 train to Red Hook and adding two separate stations, adding high-rise development with an interconnected park system, and two new schools, adding affordable housing, streetscape improvement, and an accessible and more resilient waterfront.
The vision calls for up to 45,000 units of housing to be built, to a total of 45 million square feet.
I recognize the skepticism, but, as REW noted:
But in a city with a serious housing crisis, more than 50 percent of residents rent-burdened, and a need for more jobs to match the population growth that is expected to add one million new residents in the next 25 years, Ward argued that a vision this grand is necessary.
“One of the main things we were focusing on when looking at this and thinking about the fabric of the city, is that no development leads to gentrification,” said Ward.
The lesson is that we need much bigger thinking--and, ever unlikely, federal support--to create a more equitable city.

Monday, November 28, 2016

How tall is 550 Vanderbilt? 40 feet above what they say (and it's allowed)

Also see coverage regarding 535 Carlton and 461 Dean.

Remember how the condo tower 550 Vanderbilt was described by developer Greenland Forest City Partners as "[n]estled at the intersection of five of the borough’s most desirable neighborhoods"?

I focused on that bizarre geographic description, but project neighbor/opponent Patti Hagan pointed to the bizarreness of using the verb "nestle," which means, among other things, "to settle snugly or comfortably" and "lie in an inconspicuous or sheltered manner."

Well, it's not inconspicuous at all, especially that extra height shown at right, still covered in scaffolding.

Note Prospect Heights resident Gib Veconi's recent tweet:
Indeed, while the building is officially 202 feet tall,  the height is defined--as is typical--as the "maximum height of the last occupiable floor." A Department of Buildings document indicates 40 feet for bulkheads. That's nearly 20% taller.

According to the project's Design Guidelines, "Rooftop mechanical equipment and elevator and stair bulkheads may exceed the maximum building heights" as long as they're set back from the street at least ten feet, do not exceed 20% of the building's lot coverage, and add more than 40 feet of height.

That may be typical in the city, but it also further challenges the developer's claim that the building is "nestled" into the neighborhood.


Another view of the elevations, below.

How tall is 461 Dean? 37 feet above what they say (and it's allowed)

Also see coverage regarding 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt.

So, is 461 Dean Street (aka B2) really 322 feet tall, as stated in the developer's public presentation (excerpt at right), in Department of Buildings filings, and as listed in the Maximum Heights document prepared by Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project?

Not quite.

The height is defined--as is typical--as the "maximum height of the last occupiable floor." So the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat lists the building height as 359 feet, which is 37 feet taller than the official height. That's 11.5% taller.

Document filed with DOB shows
top floor is 322'; click to enlarge
Indeed, the DOB says the last residential floor is Floor 32, while Floors 33 and 34 include a fire pump room and a generator room. Plus mechanical equipment on the roof.

According to the project's Design Guidelines, "Rooftop mechanical equipment and elevator and stair bulkheads may exceed the maximum building heights" as long as they're set back from the street at least ten feet, do not exceed 20% of the building's lot coverage, and add more than 40 feet of height.

That may be typical in the city, but it also further challenges the developer's claim that the buildings are somehow "nestled" into the neighborhood.

After all, as shown in this Instagram view from September, excerpted below, 461 Dean represents an abrupt change from the streetscape to the southeast in Prospect Heights.


What it means

Because 461 Dean is some 360 feet in height, the 360-degree view produced by the developer in the photo below, from the building web site, is rather misleading.

First, views from 461 Dean will vary according to floor. And no one is going to get a view from the top of the mechanicals, which makes Atlantic Terminal 4B, the 310-foot public housing tower at left, look tiny.

How tall is 535 Carlton? 37 feet above what they say (and it's allowed)

Also see coverage regarding 461 Dean and 550 Vanderbilt.

Photo from July 2016
So, is 535 Carlton (aka B14) really 184 feet tall, as listed in the Maximum Heights document prepared by Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project?

Not quite.

The height is defined--as is typical--as the "maximum height of the last occupiable floor."

That's 181 feet, according to this document filed with the Department of Buildings.

But then add 37 feet for the bulkhead and mechanicals. That goes to 218 feet, or a little more than 20% more than permitted. See screenshots below, and clock to enlarge.

And with the rooftop mechanicals, the 19-story building reaches 221 feet, according to the building permit on the Department of Buildings' web site. That's 20% taller.

According to the project's Design Guidelines, "Rooftop mechanical equipment and elevator and stair bulkheads may exceed the maximum building heights" as long as they're set back from the street at least ten feet, do not exceed 20% of the building's lot coverage, and add more than 40 feet of height.

That may be typical in the city, but it also further challenges the developer's claim that the buildings are somehow "nestled" into the neighborhood.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

From NY Slant: the questionable Cuomo-Mangano relationship

Nick Powell's 11/21/16 essay/report in City & State/NY Slant, INSIDE ANDREW CUOMO’S QUESTIONABLE FRIENDSHIP WITH INDICTED NASSAU COUNTY EXECUTIVE ED MANGANO, deserves a closer look. Writes Powell:
But unlike Cuomo’s relationship with Senate Republicans such as Dean Skelos (convicted last year on corruption charges) and John Flanagan, which he could at least justify under the guise of government functionality, the roots of his friendship with recently indicted Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano are far more complicated and perplexing.
Mangano, along with his wife, Linda, and Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, was charged in October with 13 counts of corruption for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for funneling $437,000 in county contracts to a local restaurateur named Harendra Singh....
Mangano’s tenure as county executive has been marred by irresponsible fiscal stewardship, near blatant flouting of campaign finance laws and a pay-for-play contracting system largely rubber-stamped by hand-picked Cuomo allies.
What began for Cuomo as an association of convenience, competitiveness and expediency steadily evolved to full-on enabling of Mangano’s ethically murky behavior, particularly as it pertains to Nassau’s finances and contracting process, which a county district attorney in 2014 called “a recipe for corruption.”
There's lots more, including questionable donations to a Republican club, favors apparently engineered by Cuomo, and lighter state oversight over Nassau.

Concludes Powell:
At a time when Cuomo appears to be finally taking statewide ethics reform seriously after years of kicking the can down the road and blaming the Legislature for lacking the “appetite” to get it passed, it’s easy to wonder how much of Mangano’s behavior could have been avoided had the governor’s hunger for a “mandate” not taken precedent over sound fiscal management of one of New York’s most populous counties. Instead, Cuomo’s coziness with Mangano and his former aides is an indelible stain on his credibility in leading this renewed charge toward good government.
And that's without a mention of Mangano's longtime relationship with Republican ex-Senator, now lobbyist, Alfonse D'Amato. Or the transactional relationship between D'Amato and Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, who made campaign contributions to D'Amato's PAC that, evidence suggests, were then routed to Mangano.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Flashback 2006: faith in a real-estate executive's promises, on video

I've written about this before, but the more I think about it, this testimony at the 9/18/06 community forum, part of the public input on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, speaks both to the project's troubled history as well as the hope people invest in, well, real-estate executives known for extravagant promises.

“I’m a member of BUILD [Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development],” declared Anthony Wright, a working class black guy, heavy-set, with a grey-flecked goatee and white knit cap with “Allah” on it. “I’m also a member of the streets.”

Wright, clean of drugs and alcohol for 16 years, spoke as if at a revival. Work--thanks to BUILD, one of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatories--could make a huge difference.

"Because, see, when you go to one of them minimum-wage jobs and you come home with two hundred and thirty five dollars and the rent is, you know, nine hundred dollars, it just don't add up," Wright declared. "So I want to take a hit off the pipe"--he mimed it--"or smoke some reefer, or drink some alcohol to try to medicate the feelings of pain, you know, and disgust that, you know, I can't make it."


Video excerpt from Brooklyn Matters, by Isabel Hill

"But with Bruce Ratner's project, y'know, I really know, in my heart, and I'm not going to say I believe, I'm going to say I know, that it can change a lot of people's lives," he continued. " Y’know what I'm sayin': with the apprenticeship programs, and with the affordable housing, everything that I believe that this man is bringing to us is beneficial."

Wright's precarious position--and the deep need of many in Brooklyn--fostered not just sympathy for Atlantic Yards, but deep belief, despite the project's flaws and question marks. Elected officials and other leaders had done too little to foster opportunity in Brooklyn and share the benefits of prosperity.

But the project was delayed, the economy changed, and Ratner renegotiated many terms. That affordable housing, much of it for people well above Wright's (presumed) income bracket, is coming only now, ten years later.

The pre-apprenticeship program would not be funded until 2010, after many complaints from BUILD, and would dissolve in rancor, with a lawsuit settled ambiguously in 2015.

One lesson, in retrospect, is that such deep need deserved more attention before this project launched. Another is that promises must be locked in--or they're not promises. Another is that the question marks raised by critics and opponents deserved credence.

I've tried to find Anthony Wright, but haven't been able to yet. I'd like to learn his thoughts today.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Flashback: touting equitable development, de Blasio suggested Atlantic Yards (!) as template

Well, this tweet sure caught my eye, as Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke 11/1/16 at Crain's 2016 NYC Summit.
That was questionable Nov. 1, and it was even more questionable a few days later after the project's original developer, Forest City Ratner, confessed its investment was essentially worthless.

There's a broader context for de Blasio's remarks, and that too deserves skepticism.

Preparing for growth, but when do 9M people arrive?

The premise of the summit was that New York had better prepare for growth, with housing, transportation, and other infrastructure, and Crain's New York Business on 10/301/16 published 12 firms envision ways for New York to absorb 9 million residents, including:
  • Repurposing existing track beds to allow light-rail commuter lines and commercial development
  • Suspended tram line encircling the five boroughs and parts of New Jersey
  • Develop airspace above Metro-North rail beds to increase housing and unite neighborhoods
  • Extend the No. 1 subway to Red Hook, Brooklyn
  • A hotel, residential, convention and park complex to bring the Javits Center to its full potential
  • Transforming unused space under elevated infrastructure into public plazas
  • Adding multiuse buildings to underused schoolyards
All projections deserve caution, however, because the Bloomberg administration in 2007 launched PlaNYC 2030 (see 2011 update), assuming that the city would have 9 million people by 2030. That's not going to happen.

Now the projection is by 2040. As Justin Davidson pointed out 6/29/16 in New York magazine, chief demographer Joseph Salvo revised the timeline after the 2008 recession.

Where and how to build (taller & denser)

The Daily News quoted academic Mitchell Moss as saying "vast areas of the city" could add housing, including--in the newspaper's paraphrase "Red Hook and the Atlantic Ave. corridor in Brooklyn and several parts of the Bronx."

The mayor also talked about expanding light rail, if the BQX streetcar succeeds, and ferries, as Crain's reported. Crain's also supplied some top quotes from summit panels, including:
“We don’t have a good way to have that conversation without pitchforks and torches coming to your house.” —Jerilyn Perine, executive director, Citizens Housing & Planning Council, on ostensibly reasonable but nonetheless controversial ideas for housing more New Yorkers, such as right-sizing rent-regulated and public-housing units, legalizing basement apartments, and allowing buildings with only small or dormitory-style units
“When people ask, Which bridges are yours? I say, The ones with no tolls on them.” —New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who did not seem proud of the toll-free status of city bridges but nonetheless declined to take a position on tolling them because, she noted, Mayor Bill de Blasio has not yet done so
“It creates an intrinsic inefficiency to the process, but it’s part of the burden of functioning in a democracy instead of a dictatorship.” —former MTA chief Richard Ravitch on the anti-corruption, environmental-protection and other measures involved in the awarding and building of public projects
But the big news, as the Daily News summarized it, is that de Blasio thinks "the city will need to be taller, denser, and conquer neighborhood fears that development will force locals out."

Watching de Blasio: authenticity

So let's go to the videotape (below), starting at 16:47.

"What's become attractive is having a lot of wonderful people in the same place," declared de Blasio, pivoting to characterize such people as those seemingly coveted by millennial marketers. "People want to be in an urban environment. They want access to culture. They want access to talent. They want access to business partners. They want to live some place exciting and engaging. They want authenticity.

Oh, the authenticity gambit, so often played with Atlantic Yards.

"And I think we can all say, the neighborhoods of New York offer authenticity, in all its forms," de Blasio said. "And we're proud of that. No one's ever accused New Yorkers of being inauthentic. What you see is what you get. And that is a great calling card in this world today."

Wait a sec. The notion of personal authenticity--telling it like it is--is not the same as, say, repurposing a building in Williamsburg and calling it The Ice Cream Factory.



"We have the attributes, because every major economic sector is so well represented, because so many key businesses are here, we have the attributes that attract talent, that retain talent, that give opportunity to people who grew up here," de Blasio continued. "All of that is happening simultaneously. We have extraordinary academic institutions, we have an extraordinary health care sector. We have the things that facilitate positive growth in so many ways.

That began to sound like Bloomberg's "luxury city," but that's not de Blasio's goal.

A city for all?

"And it's important to recognize that we have to protect that reality," the mayor continued. " And when I say that, it gets back to the notion of keeping this a city for everyone. I've often talked about the fact that there is a secret sauce here. There is something about New York that made us so great over many, many generations. And yes, even when we were experiencing trouble, we still were that creative center, we still were that entrepreneurial center."

Note that "secret sauce" struck me as a variant of "special sauce," a phrase oft-used by Comptroller Scott Stringer, a de Blasio critic and potential rival.

"What is that special ingredient? It is to me, unquestionably, diversity, unquestionably the fact that we've been an open city," de Blasio continued. "A city of strivers, a city of people who believed they could do something that hasn't been done before. And that correlates to being a city that's open, in a sense of affordable, open in a sense of being tolerant and inclusive. This is what works for us."

Neighborhood wariness

de Blasio then tried to thread the needle. "And this is why there's so much concern in neighborhoods all over the city, about the changes people see around them," he said. "It's not just that human beings, inherently, have a certain nostalgia to us, a certain appreciation for the things that we know and love. It's that people fear the kind of change that will displace them. They fear the kind of change that'll leave them out."

"And they fear a gilded city," he said. "By the way, there are examples around the world that would validate that fear. There are cities, famously in Western Europe, where the cities themselves increasingly became places for people of means, and working people were forced out to the periphery. And I don't think that's worked out so well for a lot of our European cousins."

Actually, that's happened to a significant degree  in New York City already, but de Blasio wasn't saying so.

"I think New York City's magic is that everyone's mixed together: a typical New York City subway car represents more diversity than people in many parts of the world experience in their lives," he said. "And we think it's normal. We think it's an everyday reality. And that's part of what makes us great."

Well, it would make us greater if there were more subway lines, and more frequent service.

"And we have to foster and protect that. That's why an emphasis on addressing income inequality, and emphasis on addressing an inclusive society is not only morally right, in my opinion, it is practically right, as well," he said. "Because this formula for the city has worked in such a sustained fashion, we need to cherish it. We need to protect it."

Growing the right way: creating inclusion

"But that is not, by any stretch, an endorsement of not growing," de Blasio said at around 20:33 of the video. "I think we have to grow. I think it's inevitable that we grow. I think we have to grow the right way, however.  I want to reference the editorial this morning, in a wonderful publication called Crain's, which makes a really important, and one we talk about often. I understand why there are people in this city, again, who bristle at growth, bristle at development. They look at development, not unfairly, through a prism of their past experience. They look at development, in their eyes, as an agent of inequality, of separation. An agent of creating a neighborhood beyond their grasp."

"A lot of people experience that. A lot of people went through that," he continued. "And so it's not unfair to say: is that what new development will mean as well. Well, the Crain's editorial points out something I learned a long time ago as a City Council member in Brooklyn: that it's true, there are types of development that can exacerbate inequality and reduce inclusion. There are also types of development that can increase inclusion, that can open up opportunity. And we have to have a good and clear civic conversation about what that difference is."

Quick, let's go to that editorial, headlined Shaping New York's future requires not only foresight, but guts, which praised the "bold if not prescient" proposals it solicited and observed that "tight restrictions on building exacerbate inequality.

The Brooklyn example: Atlantic Yards

"I had an experience in Brooklyn many times," he said. "I had it around the Atlantic Yards development, but I had it around smaller developments as well. Where neighborhood folks, again, I understood why they feared development, I understood why they didn't like the notion of potentially more traffic or congestion, or parking spaces being taken up. That's normal, that's fair."

Actually, a lot of neighborhood folks also thought that developer Forest City Ratner was gaming the system (which it did, though it hasn't worked out well for them).

"But the argument I would make, and this goes back over a decade: do you believe in an economically diverse city or not? Do you believe in an inclusive city or not?" de Blasio continued. "If you believe in an inclusive city, we have to create affordable housing. And the only way we get affordable housing is through development."

(Emphasis added)

The only want to get affordable housing is through trickle-down development, with mostly market-rate units? That's the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park example and it's surely not the only example--the city can manage a larger amount of affordable housing if it already owns the land.

But the Atlantic Yards housing just isn't very affordable, which surprises some who look likely, and seemed to surprise one density proponent who thinks public officials demanded too much of the developer:



Doubling down on development

"We have to create jobs for working people. The only way we get that is through development," de Blasio continued.

Not so.

"Real economic development has nothing to do with real estate, and this is something Jane [Jacobs] taught us in The Economy of Cities," author Roberta Gratz said at a summit in October 2010. "Economic development is an activity that comes first. The buildings to house it comes second."

"It is fair to say we need ground rules; we need the kind of development we can believe in," de Blasio said. "We need it to be transparent and consistent. That's all more than fair. But the notion of locking things down the way they are, as the editorial points out today, the danger in that is that it bakes in inequality. It doubles down on inequality."

Sure, but remember, it's not necessarily binary: the opponents of Atlantic Yards proposed a counter-plan for significant density over the public property, the Vanderbilt Yard. Their name was Develop Don't Destroy not "Bake In Inequality."

de Blasio pointed neighborhoods where development "has occurred without framework or ground rules," contrasting it with rezonings his administration has proposed, which guarantee affordable housing and other public goods.

Those rezonings, however well-intentioned, have come generated a good deal of skepticism, partly because of the mixed results of projects de Blasio has championed, and also because affordable housing does not always track a neighborhood's need.

Interestingly enough, at about 35 minutes in, de Blasio raised the issue that likely hampers the truly wholesale change New York City needs in areas like housing: the historic lack of federal support.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Orchestrating the grassroots: "agents of the city" document dump shows fevered response to my #DNC2016 op-ed

A pre-Thanksgiving document dump in response to a lawsuit from media outlets shows the consultant BerlinRosen and its co-leader Jonathan Rosen intimately involved with its client Mayor Bill de Blasio, which raises questions because the firm also represents firms doing business with the city, like Forest City Ratner, which then owned a majority share in the Barclays Center operating company.

Notably, the documents (posted in full by NY1) show BerlinRosen and mayoral advisors, in January 2015, feverishly responding to my online op-ed in the New York Times arguing against having the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Brooklyn, drafting op-eds, letters, and tweets from supportive public officials and business people.


"How many immediately surrounding local businesses can we get lte's [Letters to the Editor] in today?" wrote Rosen to colleagues and de Blasio advisors on 1/21/15, the day of my essay. "How many do we have ready to pitch a counter story to ny1 or another outlet - we need to isolate Norman and these groups?" (H/t Seth Barron.)

The term "these groups" surely refers to the newly formed Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance (BCIZA), which expressed concern about the convention's local impact.

Interestingly, as with the letters that the Times did publish (in print), none of the responses directly responded to my point that "The convention would ripple farther than boosters admit." (Here's my take on those Times letters.) In the end, as I wrote last July, for NY Slant, de Blasio was probably glad the DNC didn't come to Brooklyn, given the protests and logistical challenges in Philadelphia.

Orchestrating the grassroots

BerlinRosen, as noted by the Post, "was being paid by the mayor’s nonprofit, Campaign for One New York to promote the city to the Democratic National Committee." It also represented the Barclays Center, the proposed venue, and developer Forest City Ratner.
As shown in the email string at left, BerlinRosen's Dan Levitan wrote, "Preference on our end to start for now with grassroots effort - letters to Times and comments to Dana Rubinstein at Capital -- a few tweets at her would be great too."

A little later, mayoral Chief of Staff Laura Santucci wrote, "Mayor just said he wants a counter op-ed too. Any reason not to do both?"

BerlinRosen's Andrew Friedman even suggested, "Is a joint Op-Ed from [Brooklyn Borough President] Eric Adams and [former BP] Marty Markowitz feasible? have them say that events of this magnitude are no problem for Brooklyn."

BerlinRosen worked fast. Later that day, as Levitan wrote to colleagues and mayoral advisors, the firm had drafted letters to the Times from several people, and were asking for "supportive tweets," gaining at least one quickly from the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District in Park Slope.

An op-ed signed by Adams and local businessperson Francine Stephens (of Franny's and BKLN Larder) was circulated, apparently rejected by the Times, and eventually published in the Daily News. Just as Midtown stays open for business during the week-long United Nations General Assembly every year, so too will Brooklyn during the four-day convention."

The fact was/is, no event of that magnitude had occurred successfully, and City Hall had not explained how many streets would have to shut down while Brooklyn stayed "open for business."

The Cumbo effect

The document dump reveals that Council Member Laurie Cumbo didn't quite deliver what City Hall wanted. "Can we get her to draft a LTE that we can give to the Times focusing on the community benefits?" Mayoral aide Chandan Sharma wrote.

Meanwhile, she was drafting an overblown 1,076-word op-ed, which somehow claimed, "Not selecting Brooklyn to host the Democratic National Convention would be a loss of insurmountable and epic proportions." a prediction that didn't exactly come true.

She also brought up an issue surely way off topic to City Hall: "Tragically, the brutal murder of NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, by a man who has a long history with mental illness, has brought the City of New York to a level of deep morning [sic] and reflection."

That got whittled down to a shorter letter claiming, "But since the arena opened, the Barclay’s Center [SIC] and the NYPD have done a tremendous job listening to and addressing community concerns. We have hosted some of the biggest events of the last few years with minimal disruption." Again, that avoided the question of the much larger ripple effect of such a convention. 

"We should be very sensitive to her version," wrote mayoral advisor Michael DeLoach at one point. "She has worked on it for a while and sent to many council members to edit/review. Fine with changes but we should try to be respectful -- she has great pride in authorship."

The mayor and Jason Collins

Another document shows de Blasio in March 2014 bringing up the optics of honoring Jason Collins, the Net who was the first (openly) gay player in the NBA. "Nets are back in bklyn tmrw -- first time since he signed. Do we want to do anything to honor him?" wrote de Blasio. "Cc'ing Rosen since he represents Barclay's Center."

Indeed, Rosen was wearing a couple of hats there. He suggested that de Blasio and son Dante "buying cheap regular guy tix up in the stands to watch and he tweets" during the first  etc. Big schedule commit obviously. Checking with Nets if they have anything else planned."

That apparently didn't happen, though de Blasio did welcome Collins in a tweet.

(Update: the New York Post. in De Blasio consultant reportedly used City Hall to promote clients, cited the above episode, among others, getting the deflective response from Rosen: aid, “Like all PR firms we regularly deal with the press offices of elected officials to coordinate scheduling, event logistics and to respond to information requests." Rosen did more than that, but rather suggested strategy.)

The coverage

From NY1's Grace Rauh, Mayor's Office Releases Hundreds of Pages of Emails Between de Blasio and 'Agent of the City' (which includes links to the document dump):
Jonathan Rosen's influence extends deep inside City Hall in ways more extensive than previously known.
New emails released by the mayor show Rosen is invited to major policy meetings and included in high-level internal discussions.
But while he may be treated like a top City Hall advisor, he is far from an official one. He runs an influential private consulting firm, BerlinRosen, with clients who have business before the city, including powerful real estate firms. And the state now considers some of the work he does to be lobbying.
From the Wall Street Journal, Mayor Bill de Blasio Releases Some Email Correspondence With Political Consultant:
The emails showed close ties between Mr. Rosen’s firm, BerlinRosen, and a number of city efforts, like a failed push to have the city host the Democratic National Convention and an unsuccessful effort to secure a tax increase for universal prekindergarten. Mr. Rosen frequently had access to top City Hall aides, including the budget director, the mayor’s top political aide, the mayor’s scheduler and a number of his top communications officials. His firm often corresponded with City Hall about clients or scheduling events.
In one email, Mr. de Blasio himself emails aides about Barclays Center, a Brooklyn basketball arena, and adds Mr. Rosen, telling his staff that Mr. Rosen represents the facility.
It showed BerlinRosen helping an effort to criticize other cities competing for the Democratic National Convention, particularly Philadelphia, which eventually won the bid.
From the New York Times, Emails Released by Mayor de Blasio’s Office Detail Reliance on Outside ‘Agents’:
While the emails do not provide new information related to the state and federal investigations into Mr. de Blasio’s fund-raising, they shed light on the details of assembling favorable commentary from those who are aligned with the mayor’s causes or have donated money to him. One email contained a list of hundreds of official “validators” — people who could be counted on for a good quote.
“Here’s who I am shooting for,” Ross Offinger, a fund-raiser for the mayor, wrote on January 2014 about providing a list of prominent real estate and business leaders. The list included donors and bundlers for Mr. de Blasio whom the mayor was going to contact in connection with the his universal prekindergarten program. The email went to the first deputy mayor, Anthony E. Shorris; two top aides; and Mr. Rosen.
“Can we take this off official thread please,” one of the aides, Peter Ragone, replied. (Mr. Phillips said that Mr. Ragone had been acting cautiously but that the conversation was “entirely appropriate for government email.”)
The New York Post's article, Lobbyist acted as member of de Blasio admin, email dump shows, shows the prominence of Bruce Ratner, who was listed as one of the four developer's already on-board:
A high-powered lobbyist was treated as a member of the administration and included in discussions with senior mayoral aides...
...Other email strings reflect the blurred lines between de Blasio’s fundraising operation and governing. In one string from Jan. 21, 2014, campaign aide Ross Offinger forwards a list of “real estate and business leaders “I am shooting for” to Wolfe, Shorris, Rosen and Ragone.
The list includes developers Bruce Ratner and Jed Walentas, as well as Gina and Tony Argento, whose company Broadway Stages is now being probed by the feds. Offinger was approaching them to raise money for de Blasio’s political non-profit Campaign for One New York, which is also under federal investigation.
After Offinger sent a list of more than a dozen potential donors to hit up, Ragone suggests that perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to communicate over official channels.
“Can we take this off official thread please,” he wrote.
From Politico NY, City Hall releases hundreds of pages of emails with top political consultant:
Rosen's staff consulted at length with City Hall over planning press conferences in which BerlinRosen clients were participating. Rosen also was involved in two of the mayor's early priorities: the successful effort to expand pre-kindergarten and the failed attempt to host the Democratic National Convention. In those cases, Rosen was also working for the mayor's now-defunct political organization, Campaign for One New York, which is under federal investigation.
More details

Preparing for a 1/30/15 visit to New York and Brooklyn by DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, mayoral advisors and BerlinRosen staff discussed "flacking Celeste," or giving Daily News columnist Celeste Katz details on the visit, as she sought "anything like something she'll eat, whether barclays will be lit up with anything special on the jumbotron, anything like that -- story really needs a little more color."

According to the itinerary, when Schultz's "motorcade leaves Penn Station, Dan Gross will call [the Barclays Center's Terence] Kelly to turn on DNC sign at [the arena] oculus." After the Barclays Center tour, a community meeting at the Cubana Cafe in Park Slope was to include an o
verview of community outreach, including "acknowledgement and explanation of community opposition / concerns."

"Other major points to hit by TBD: ability to handle large scale events on a regular
basis, community experience in proximity to Barclay’s center," the memo said.


In another email, Rosen circulated the transcript of a Ratner interview on Bloomberg TV, in which the mogul defended the mayor's plan, as stated by the anchor, to "tax the rich."

"I don’t mind it – I can afford it," Ratner said. (My coverage of other aspects of the interview.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gilmartin says FCR once (when?) budgeted $12M for new subway entrance, which cost $73M

In Public-private partnerships key to infrastructure overhaul, Real Estate Weekly reported on a recent panel:
Maryanne Gilmartin, whose company Forest City Ratner built Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn and is in the process of building several residential buildings in Pacific Park nearby, admitted that even in the best of circumstances, the process of completing infrastructure in NYC can be an onerous task.
“Infrastructure is an ugly business in this town,” said Gilmartin. “It’s the iceberg; it’s not the 20 percent you see, it’s the 80 percent you don’t.”
When Forest City Ratner was constructing the Barclays Center, part of the plan included renovating a subway entrance in front of the arena, which they had budgeted $12 million for. When it was finally finished, after two years, they had spent $73 million.
“It took us two years to renovate the subway entrance, which is the same two years it took us to build a billion dollar arena,” said Gilmartin. “That’s the problem with infrastructure.”
(Emphasis added)

Wait a sec. First, the subway entrance is key to arena functioning, so it's not like the developer could have avoided proposing and executing this addition to the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center station. So it wasn't so much the public waiting for this "infrastructure overhaul" than a private entity expecting directed benefit.
Click to enlarge

Two years earlier, project budget near final sum

More importantly, though the article might leave the impression that the costs rocketed up from $12 million to $73 million over two years ending 9/28/12, when the arena opened, that's not so.

The screenshot at right is from a 6/10/10 report from a construction consultant to the arena bond trustee. By then, it indicates clearly that total project hard and soft costs neared $72 million.

Forest City may have budgeted $12 million for that subway entrance at some fuzzy previous time, but, then again, it estimated much lower sums for arena construction over the years.

The difference is that payments in lieu of taxes can pay off arena bonds, while infrastructure is tougher to pay for.

No wonder the arena was less of a financial success than the developer once presumed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

FCR says "overall schedule is fixed," but when will project be done: 2025? 2032? 2035?

Now that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park faces unspecified delays, confessed earlier this month by Forest City Ratner's (FCR) parent Forest City Realty Trust (FCRT), when will the project get done? We don't know.

A Bloomberg article 11/17/16 about how FCR's market-rate rentals at 461 Dean face significant competition noted that parent Forest City Realty Trust took an accounting loss on the delayed Pacific Park project:
"We remain committed to bringing the entire project to completion, but there are a number of existing and near-term market factors that we must consider,” MaryAnne Gilmartin, CEO of Forest City Ratner, said in an e-mailed statement. Those include the new development supply, rising labor costs and the resolution of issues surrounding a New York affordable housing program, she said.
While the overall schedule is fixed, and we will meet it, there is flexibility in terms of individual buildings, especially given the amount of work underway,” she said.
(Emphasis added)

That is the same line that Gilmartin deputy Ashley Cotton used at a meeting last week. But she would not provide a specific timetable.

So we don't know what the overall schedule is.

Looking more closely: 2025? 2035?

Cotton also said that "the Greenland Forest City joint venture is fully committed to Pacific Park and our obligations under our government agreements," which means a new permanent railyard, a deck, and a May 2025 deadline for the project's affordable units, about 1,470 (out of 2,250) of which remain to be built. 

That deadline comes with $2,000/month fines for each unit not built--that's $1 million per month if there are 500 units outstanding--though that could be delayed if they invoke lack of subsidies. (Or, perhaps, there could be another renegotiation. After all, Atlantic Yards is a "never say never" project.) 

But even if the joint venture does build the 2,250 below-market units by 2025, that doesn't mean they have to finish all the commensurate 2,250 market-rate rentals and 1,930 condos (200 of which are supposed to be below-market) by then.

CFO Bob O'Brien of parent Forest City Realty Trust said in an 11/4/16 conference call with investment analysts that the firm's financial model "extends to 2035, 20 years from now."

As I wrote, that doesn't necessarily mean project completion by 2035, but it's a pretty strong clue that the project won't be finished by 2025.

The 2035 date may represent stabilization of income, but presumably that's two-to-five years after which the final building is constructed. 

The developer does have until 2035 before it defaults and would lose the right to develop the project.

Why 2032 might make sense

Another important date is June 1, 2030, which is when the last of 15 annual payments of about $11 million for Vanderbilt Yard development rights is due to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

According to the 6/22/09 MTA staff summary, when Forest City Ratner renegotiated its deal to buy those development rights, the payments have an implied interest rate of 6.5%, a gentle figure. That offers reason for the developer to wait, as long as other factors, including subsidies and the cost of construction, remain challenging.

From MTA Staff Summary
There is incentive to speed up payments: only such payments unlock each development parcel. But if they wait until June 1, 2030 to make that final payment, then start construction of the final tower, that suggests project completion no earlier than 2032.

It's all more complicated, though, since it's likely that market-rate and affordable units will be combined in several buildings, and the market for the former--currently tight--will fluctuate. If Forest City must meet that 2025 affordable housing deadline, then a good number of market-rate units must be built by then.

More details on plan for railyard development space

The 2014 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, Project Description, lays out the process:
• An FCRC affiliate is granted the right “from time to time” until June 1, 2031 [sic] to purchase any of the Air Space Subparcels, subject to certain conditions. One such condition is that FCRC has constructed the new LIRR rail yard in accordance with the Yard Relocation and Construction Agreement (which is discussed below).
• At the closing of such Air Space Subparcel, MTA is to deliver fee title to such Subparcel to a specified FCRC affiliate or its designee. It is anticipated that ESDC will be the designee, and will simultaneously lease such Air Space Subparcel to an affiliate of FCRC. The FCRC affiliate that has so acquired the Air Space Subparcel for the Project is granted the right to convey its rights in such Air Space Subparcel to another entity (such as a third-party developer) subject to certain conditions.
• The MTA may terminate FCRC’s right to acquire the Air Space Parcel if the new LIRR rail yard is not completed by 90 days after September 1, 2016, subject to certain extensions and payment of per diem fees.
Note that the June 1, 2031 date should be a year earlier, as far as I can tell. Also note that the deadline for the railyard has been extended to Dec. 1, 2017, and could be extended again.

Also from that Project Description:
• FCRC is obligated to have substantially completed construction of the entire platform within 25 years from the “Project Effective Date” (i.e., May 12, 2035), subject to specified force majeure and other provisions.

From the latest Construction Update: no new work announced

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Nov. 21 and circulated yesterday at 12:55 pm (late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP), there's no new work going on.

That's because nothing in the document is marked with an asterisk or in red, which are used to indicate new work. Still, a comparison between the document and the previous Construction Update does show a few changes.

Sewer work was described as "substantially completed, no upcoming work scheduled during this reporting period."  Weekday and weekend work in the Vanderbilt Yard will not, during this period, require working hours to be extended to 7 pm.

After-hours work

As in previous weeks, there may be Saturday and weekend work. Saturday work could occur at B2 (461 Dean), B3 (38 Sixth), B11 (550 Vanderbilt) , B12 (615 Dean Street), and B14 (535 Carlton Avenue). Second-shift work was not announced for B2, however, as in previous weeks until the previous update. Weekend electrical utility work will continue at the LIRR rail yard.

As stated in the past twelve construction updates, demolition at Block 1120, the railyard block between Sixth and Carlton avenues, could commence upon receipt of Department of Buildings and Department of Transportation permits. A community notice will be distributed.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Though 461 Dean was a financial debacle (@ $539K/unit), Forest City still claims it saved 20% on construction costs

Check out these passages from news about the "opening" of the 363-unit 461 Dean, aka B2. From Architectural Digest, 11/17/16, The World's Tallest Modular Skyscraper Welcomes Its First Residents:
Ninety percent of construction was completed off-site, at the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard. Not only was this welcome news for neighbors, but it also cost developers 20 percent less than building a traditional skyscraper.
From Business Insider, 11/16/16, The world's tallest modular apartment building just opened in New York City — take a look inside:
Its developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, built 90% of 461 Dean in its factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. That allowed them to save 20% on construction costs, Forest City's VP of residential development, Adam Greene, tells Business Insider.
This is Trump-world fantasy time. The Yormarkian Greene has been peddling that 20% line for a while, and also claiming that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park buildings are "very low density."

No savings

Let's recall that the developer aimed to save 20%, thanks to concurrent work on-site and in the factory, but instead recorded an impairment charge--an accounting loss--of $146.3 million, as I reported in February 2015. The developer had to prematurely pay off a tax-exempt loan it surely would have wanted to maintain. An activist outside investor classifies B2 as among Forest City's "value destructive transactions."

The total project cost for 461 Dean/B2, which Forest City once "estimated to approximate $162.1 million, after giving effect to the impairment," rose to $195.6 million, according to a August 2016 investor presentation, excerpted below. 

At 363 apartments, that's nearly $539,000 per unit. As Eliot Brown of the Wall Street Journal tweeted, "Well that seems unsustainable." Indeed, it was, and the new Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture decided to proceed with conventional construction for subsequent towers. Meanwhile, Forest City and former modular partner Skanska are suing each other over cost overruns regarding B2.


Low income from apartments in Brooklyn

According to the slide below, from a November 2016 investor presentation, Forest City is earning only a microscopic .1% in Net Operating Income from its two apartment buildings in Brooklyn DKLB BKLYN (aka 80 DeKalb) and 500 Sterling Place.

That is a small sample. It may have something to do with the luxury apartment glut in Boorklyn. It also may have to do with past problems (better now?) at 500 Sterling.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

From NY Communities for Change, criticism of de Blasio's not-so-affordable housing (except for AY)

From the New York Times yesterday, Mayor de Blasio’s Political Standing Improves After Trump Win, but Perils Remain:
“We’re still waiting to see whether a Goldman Sachs housing agenda continues at City Hall,” said Jonathan Westin of the advocacy group New York Communities for Change, referring to the city’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, Alicia Glen, who is a former executive at the financial company. “Or whether this populist uprising of Trump and others is going to spur something different.”
Mr. Westin criticized the mayor for counting as affordable a large number of units built during his administration that are too expensive for many of the city’s poorest. “The policies of moderation are failing us,” he said. “I think there’s space for the mayor to move aggressively to the left. If he doesn’t, there’s space on the left for someone to jump in.”
Westin's right, except he and his organization have a notable blind spot when it comes to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park affordable housing. Remember his December 2014 comment upon the groundbreaking of the "100% affordable" 535 Carlton?

“This is a testament to what’s possible, in terms of real affordability for New Yorkers. Pacific Park Brooklyn is a model for the shared vision of a New York that works for all,” said Jonathan Westin, Director of NY Communities for Change.

Below is the affordability. (And keep in mind it will be paired with a 100% market-rate building.) See how many are for middle-income households, who are a small fraction of the city's population, and surely not the city's neediest.


Barclays Center is one of "The New Shapes of New York" (but how public is that plaza?)


The New Shapes of New York declares the Times today, in a cover article in the Metropolitan section. From Matt A.V. Chaban's introduction:
Today, apart from the Empire State or Chrysler Building, there are few icons of the skyline. The buildings outlined above, however, may someday be worthy of appearing in a Times Square souvenir snow globe. These are the projects that have captured the imagination of more than a dozen shapers and observers of the city consulted by The New York Times for their perspective on the new standouts.
You may not recognize these silhouettes, but in time, you will.
The Barclays Center

From the Times:
The home of the Nets and Islanders was built across the street from Robert Moses’ unrealized Dodgers stadium, though the arena was almost unrealized, too, after years of lawsuits over the use of eminent domain.
Barclays Center has become one of the most important new public spaces and landmarks in the city, part of a larger narrative of the transformation of Downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Cultural District. Despite all the criticism about Atlantic Yards and the history of the development, the Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue crossroads is an important part of the city’s future and growth. Part of that is a network of pedestrian-oriented public spaces that connect people, transit and multiple uses.”
Justin Garrett Moore, Executive director, Public Design Commission
That's a disappointingly narrow response, because the open space is accidental, and the preservation of this "public" plaza is being used to argue for a huge shift of development rights across the street.
New York by Gehry

Also in the mix is another Forest City Ratner building, though the developer is unnamed:
This 904-unit luxury tower may be an unusual symbol of Lower Manhattan’s rebirth, but with roughly $200 million in post-Sept. 11 bond financing, the 76-story edifice is a reminder of the many ways the area has been reshaped since 2001.

“I have no claims for aesthetic competence, but the Gehry building certainly looks nice enough to me as an economist who loves cities. The fact that it’s residential matters a lot. If anything, New York, and particularly downtown New York, has a mismatch between its residential needs and an abundance of commercial space. New York is at its healthiest when it is profoundly mixed use, when it is residential and commercial and recreational all at once. I like the fact that the apartments aren’t just apartments for billionaires. They’re not particularly cheap — it’s still New York — but it’s rental. They’re midsized, a lot are under 1,000 square feet. The fact that it has a school on the bottom floors is nice as well.

Edward Glaeser, Author of “Triumph of the City”; Harvard economics professor
Ah, there are certainly things to like about this building's design, but that capsule description omits all the question marks, such as the use of triple tax-exempt financing for luxury units.

Remember the developer crowing about being able to use tax-exempt bonds for market-rate units? And that school that Glaeser likes, well, there was blackmail behind it. And the developer played chicken with construction unions to lower costs.

Available one-bedroom units range from $3,570 to $4,880. At 461 Dean, they range from $3,125 to $3,425.

What about 432 Park Avenue?

Also of note is the citation of 432 Park Avenue, the skyscraping cubic tower, the tallest apartment building in the city, which  gets kudos from a major real estate broker. “This building is all about seeing forever," says Elizabeth Stribling. "As for its design, it has this pure elegance, something that’s simple and won’t go out of style... Many people don’t like it because they see it as an eyesore, because you can see it from everywhere. On the other hand, that’s what people thought of the Eiffel Tower.”

But the Eiffel Tower was built for the public, not private interests.

From what I've heard from locals and visitors, 432 Park is almost universally loathed. Opinions about the Barclays structure are far more mixed.