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July 31, 2007

Atlantic Yards Still Largest Project on the Table

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Dennis Holt

No sense in ripping into an opinion piece that locates Bruce Ratner's controversial 22-acre Atlantic Yards plan in Downtown Brooklyn — it's in Prospect Heights folks, despite what Bruce Ratner, the City and Mr. Holt claim (link).

And yes, Atlantic Yards is larger than any project that's actually slated for the Downtown Brooklyn plan, where there's plenty of "economic benefits" to go around, without having to take private historic homes on Duffield St. (see, Duffield St. Underground, More proof that eminent domain is not needed on Duffield), for hoteliers like Sam Chang, who contribute to Borough President Marty Markowtiz's campaign war chest (see, The Brooklyn Paper, Marty Money Misses Mark).

Posted by lumi at 8:11 PM

Talk of the Town

frieze.com
By Eugenia Bell

An essay on the trio of exhibits re-examining the legacy of Robert Moses notes that the controversy has triggered debate on contemporary planning issues:

For many New Yorkers the trio of shows (at the Museum of the City of New York, the Queens Museum of Art and Columbia University’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery) has also prompted discussion about some of the lengthy planning deliberations the city is currently experiencing. (Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Hudson Yards in west midtown Manhattan and the veritable impasse at Ground Zero are only the most obvious.) Thanks in no small part to the efforts of urban theorist Jane Jacobs in the 1960s, New York’s historical experience of Robert Moses’ work has led to greater community input and activism when it comes to major redevelopment projects, many of which raise the ugly spectre of one of the most reviled of Moses’ crusades – eminent domain.

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Posted by lumi at 7:45 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Streets Blog, Bike Parking on Steroids

Over half of the people who attend Giants games do not travel by car, a somewhat remarkable fact in car-crazy California. (Note to Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards bosses: Look at what San Fran is doing to encourage people not to bring their automobile to the stadium).

The Knickerblogger, Going To the Horse's Mouth
"Knickerblogger" gets his knickers all in a twist after reading last week's article in the Daily News about negotiations between the Bloomberg administration and Ratner over the special exception in the State's 421-a reform bill:

Note the last line:

A Bloomberg spokesman declined to discuss details of the negotiations but said Forest City Ratner and city officials had hammered out an agreement this week.

Since when is Forest City deciding what a tax break should be? Why negations with Forest City and not the state - the Daily News, perhaps unwhittingly has pointed out the massive corruption & influence of Forest City, perhaps the city, wishing to save time, went to the horse's mouth.

Brooklynian, Another white discharge in the Atlantic Yards footprint

Okay, this is weird. A few months ago, there was a discharge of the emergency fire retardant at the gas station on Flatbush & Dean. I was there and photographed it. ...
Well, it happened again.

Photos and video posted.

Gumby Fresh, Clean Government
A local cleaner gives Gumby Freshy the heebee geebees after hanging an 8x12 photo of Brooklyn's Cheerleader in Chief Marty Markowitz workin' the camera at a gathering of local businessmen. Now the photo is gone and Freshy wonders if the Arena Bagel Brigade had something to do with it.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 PM

Would FCR's development fee match its investment? A few clues

Atlantic Yards Report

Once again, Norman Oder goes where no other reporter has gone before. Today he connects the dots to address the question of how much of its own money Forest City plans on investing in its controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject. This is important because the development company stands to make a substantial return, whether or not they are investing skads of their own money.

Ratner-moneybags.jpg

How much money would developer Forest City Ratner put up to build Atlantic Yards? We don't know, but there are hints, not previously reported, that suggest that a good portion of the developer's investment might be covered by its developer fee alone.

NoLandGrab: Simply put, Forest City might have to put up very little, if any, of its own money, since the developer's fee itself might cover the company's "investment."

By compiling information from an Empire State Development Corporation memo made public in the lawsuit questioning the Atlantic Yards environmental review, a recently released page from Ratner's bid for the MTA railyard, and a cash-flow analysis prepared by Ratner and KPMG, Norman Oder notes that:

It's quite possible that Forest City will invest only a fraction of the now $926.2 million [private equity investment.] Add outside investors. Add cash flow from the Barclays sponsorship--say $20 million a year. Add profits from condos. Of course there are many question marks, but it could be a very sweet deal.
...
Forest City Ratner's payday, which would include not just the development fee but a segment of other revenues, could be much, much larger. So it's not implausible that the development fee could, in itself, cover a significant portion of the FCR's investment.

True, developers typically get rewarded for putting together a complicated deal. The question is how much. And Forest City sure hasn't come clean.

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NLG: Why should it matter how much Ratner plans to invest and stands to make? If it does matter, given there is an exceptional amount of public investment and subsidy involved, Ratner and the State should make these figures public. If it doesn't, then why haven't they?

Posted by lumi at 9:53 AM

Forest City Acquires Interest in 12.7-Acre Site for Commercial Development in Las Vegas

Press release via dBusinessNews Cleveland:

LasVegas.jpg

CLEVELAND -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced that it has acquired a 60 percent interest in a 12.7-acre site in downtown Las Vegas.

Forest City acquired its 60 percent interest in the site from entrepreneurial real estate developer Livework LLC, which will hold the remaining 40 percent interest in the property. The total cost of the site is approximately $136 million. KeyBank National Association was the lead lender on the transaction.

Forest City and Livework intend to work with city officials to develop a major regional transportation terminal, city office buildings and other commercial buildings on the five-city-block site, strategically located in the downtown business and city government district, which includes City Hall. The site is also located near hundreds of new condominiums currently under construction, and the 12-million-square-foot World Market Center, a mixed-use home and lifestyle design campus that consists of more than 500 furniture showrooms, and is being further expanded to include office space, a convention center and residences.

Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, said, “Forest City is looking forward to working very closely with Livework and the Las Vegas community to develop this site in one of America’s strongest and fastest-growing real estate markets. We have been developing major land projects and retail properties in Las Vegas for more than 20 years. We believe in this market and our new partners, and look forward to creating significant value for our shareholders.”

press release

NoLandGrab: Though this sounds more like a traditional mixed-use Forest City project that just happens to be in the gambling capital of the world, remember that the company has been desperately trying to break into the casino business for years:

Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

Stated Meeting: Cell Phones, Yes, Markers, No

From Gotham Gazette's overview of City Council actions by Courtney Gross:

In a counter move for the special State zoning override for Atlantic Yards, residents and business owners around Bruce Ratner's controversial project are seeking changes in zoning to protect their neighborhoods from further encroachment:

In response to the mega-development Atlantic Yards, part of the rezoning addresses preserving the commercial corridors of Atlantic Avenue and Fulton Street, but also keeps nearby areas of low-rise and historic residential rowhouses intact. The rezoning, according to Councilmember Letitia James, will ensure historic residential properties do not immediately abut gargantuan developments.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:05 AM

The not-so-natural process of Williamsburg gentrification

Atlantic Yards Report

Local ACORN Dir. Bertha Lewis has tried to sell Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan as a hedge against the rising tide of gentrification, explaining "If I could stop one iota of gentrification, I’ll do it."

Norman Oder looks at an analysis of gentrification and affordable housing in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, where inclusionary zoning and market forces may give Atlantic Yards watchdogs some clues to whether or not Bertha Lewis has a clue.

So, how well did the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning work in terms of providing affordable housing? How far along is gentrification? Some sobering observations, if not a full statistical analysis, emerge from an analysis by graduate students at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. The report, Gentrification and Rezoning, Williamsburg-Greenpoint, was produced in conjunction with The New York City Community Council.

For example, the study concludes that inclusionary zoning—which provides increased development rights in exchange for including affordable housing—has worked well on waterfront parcels, where there is both public land to be used and sufficient space to build back.

However, on smaller upland parcels where there’s less room to build bigger overall, “the inclusionary program does not appear to be enough of an incentive to encourage the development of affordable housing.” Instead, developers have taken advantage of the existing 421-a tax exemption, which, until reforms go into effect next year, does not require affordable units in exchange.

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Posted by lumi at 9:03 AM

On Federalism: Eminent Domain

I'm With Fred

Will any of the presidential candidates seek the upper hand with voters by embracing one of the most populist no-brainer issues?

If you can believe it, this week, the non-candidate and high-powered Capitol Hill lobbyist cum actor, Fred Thompson, blogged on the Kelo decision and his support for eminent domain reform legislation.

Not surprisingly, the public responded to Kelo with outrage. Since then, numerous states passed legislation aimed at curbing an abuse of eminent domain powers. In the 2006 election cycle, 12 states held referendums proposing to limit state governments’ abilities to confiscate property a la Kelo. Ten states approved the proposals, each with strong majorities.

Now, nearly two weeks ago, members of both parties in Congress introduced legislation in the House that would deny federal economic funding to state and local governments upon a finding that those governments had abused their power of eminent domain by seizing private property that would be used for private economic development. This is an important issue, and Members of Congress need to act to make sure that federal funds are not used to enable these sorts of takings of private property. Another option would be the reissuance of President Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12630, which directs federal agencies to “first do no harm” to property rights when issuing new regulations.

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Posted by lumi at 8:42 AM

July 30, 2007

Real Estate Round-Up

Brooklyn Daily Eagle rehashes last week's coverage in the Daily News that the Bloomberg administration has reached a deal with Bruce Ratner on the special carveout clause in the 421-a reform legislation. The Eagle included the claim that the new deal "could save the city $100 million."

The News reports that officials agreed yesterday to reduce the length of time Forest City Ratner is exempt from paying property taxes by 10 years, to 15 years, on the 1,900 market rate condos in the arena and high rise development.

“The tweak” could save the city $100 million.

Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt tells the News, “As far as we’re concerned, the issue has been resolved.”

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NoLandGrab: While Ratner may still stand to gain $200 million from the special treatment awarded by the tweak to the legislation, it is billed as a $100 million savings for New Yorkers — brilliant!.

Posted by lumi at 10:33 AM

Some AY echoes in Williamsburg's New Domino plan (& hype)

Atlantic Yards Report

Domino.jpgWhether local activists win, lose or draw in their fight against Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards scheme, they've made it difficult for NYC to propose any large-scale redevelopment plan that doesn't draw parallels or react against the poster-project for bad urban planning.

Today Norman Oder analyzes the New Domino plan.

I can’t evaluate whether the New Domino plan is worthwhile or not—more details need to emerge, and some significant local players, among them Community Board 1 and Phil DePaolo's New York Community Council, have yet to weigh in. A public hearing on the Draft Scope, the first step to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and potential approval of the project next year, will be held from 2 to 5 pm and 6 to 8:45 pm tomorrow at the Department of City Planning (DCP) in Lower Manhattan. (Will the room be big enough?)

But it's clear the plan deserves more scrutiny beyond the hype, especially given some parallels with the AY promotion effort.

The Mad O considers the similarities...

The New Domino would offer, like AY:

  • significant density
  • a starchitect (in this case Rafael Viñoly)
  • an emphasis on affordable housing (30 percent), requiring significant (but unstated) public subsidies
  • plans for “park space,” in the developer’s words, that’s actually “public open space,” according to DCP (4 acres)
  • a questionable solution for transit (shuttles to the distant subway, plus a water taxi)
  • endorsement by grassroots neighborhood advocates (El Puente, Churches United)
  • a fast-track plan in the summer (hearing July 31)
  • a considerable amount of parking (1450 spaces)
  • a partner-developer with a not so beloved track record (The Katan Group)

...and differences:

...besides the city review and no request for direct subsidy. AY would include no historic preservation, despite calls to save the Ward Bakery. Perhaps most notably, Refinery LLC is run by managing partner CPC Resources (CPCR), the for-profit subsidiary of Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), which has a 30-year history of financing affordable housing throughout New York.

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Posted by lumi at 10:09 AM

News for Forest City Lovers and Love-to-Haters

ForestCityLovers.jpg

[Regarding the concert poster, go figure.]

BusinessWire, Forest City Signs Office Tenant for New York Times Building

The Real Estate Observer ran news on this deal a week and a half ago, but the official press release is interesting because, as far as we can tell, this is the first time that Forest City CEO Chuck Ratner is the only quote in a company press release for a New York project. Typically the job would have fallen to cousin Bruce Ratner.

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA)(NYSE:FCEB) today announced that it has signed a new office tenant for the 1.5-million-square-foot New York Times Building, which brings signed office lease agreements to approximately 90 percent.

JAMS, The Resolution Experts, a national mediation and arbitration firm, has agreed to lease more than 31,000 square feet of office space.
...
Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, said, “The New York Times Building is quickly becoming the signature building in our office portfolio and on the New York City skyline. The interest and reaction from tenants have been wonderful. We look forward to this fall when our tenants can begin welcoming their clients and doing business in their new offices.”

NoLandGrab: Reading the tea leaves, this is a sign that the press and marketing effort is in full swing to merge the two brands, Forest City Enterprises and Forest City Ratner, after last year's merger of the New York subsidiary into the Cleveland mothership. No longer can the Cleveland-based company hold Cousin Bruce's operations at arm's length, feigning ignorance of the local tactics, the abuse of eminent domain or the size and shape of the company's projects.

inRich.com, Office buildings sold

Forest City Enterprises Inc. is expanding its presence in the Richmond area.

The co-developer of Short Pump Town Center and The Shops at White Oak Village shopping centers bought 11 office buildings in Henrico.

"We love Richmond," said James A. Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City's commercial development division. "We think it is a fabulous market."

Forest City bought the buildings from several Pruitt family companies, said Thomas E. Pruitt. His Pruitt Associates also are developers of the two shopping centers with Forest City.

The deal was completed Friday. Terms were not disclosed.

Nine of the 11 buildings are in the Glen Forest office park off Forest Avenue near Glenside Drive. The two other buildings are in the Commerce Center off West Broad Street.

The 11 buildings have a total of 600,000 square feet of space.

Pruitt said he has been approached by real estate companies in the past, but there was never real interest in selling.

But he said he and the family decided to sell because of the relationship with Forest City. "To be able to sell our portfolio to a friend who would take great care of our employees and tenants; to obtain a fair price and to provide an exit strategy for my family makes the closing a little easier for me," he said.

Posted by lumi at 9:18 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA

EminentDomainia22.jpg Duffield St. Underground, NY Times writes major Eminent Domain article, fails to mention Brooklyn
The NY Times ran a lengthy article about eminent domain in the Tri-State region, and forgot to mention Atlantic Yards, currently the largest and most ham-fisted of all the region's projects, and one being developed by their business partner, Bruce Ratner. They also neglected to mention Brooklyn altogether, where Atlantic Yards isn't the only taking in town.

The article fails to mention Brooklyn anywhere in the article, even though the Duffield Street homes are threatened with eminent domain for the purposed of economic development. Duffield Street is remarkable because the City wants to destroy a potentially important historic destination for ill-defined economic benefits.

NY Post, TASTY APPLE DANISH EYED FOR CONEY IS.
The NYC Economic Development Corporation flew in a couple of Danish bigwigs from a company specializing in running one of Europe's historic amusement parks to discuss the redevelopment of Coney Island, since Joseph Sitt's plans have failed to impress everyone.

With Sitt controlling 10 acres of prime boardwalk real estate, both he and City Hall will have to reach a compromise or risk Coney Island remaining stagnant.

The city could theoretically try taking Sitt's land through eminent domain, but Lieber said he's "not ready to go there" when asked about condemnation.

The [Wilmington] News Journal, Letters to the Editor
One reader explains why using eminent domain for a private project is un-American:

When the government takes somebody's property and turns into a library, that is a public use. But when the government takes somebody's property and turns to a richer buyer at a multiple of the price, that is not fair and not American.

I grew up in a Communist country and I came to the United States exactly because this sort of thing was not supposed to happen here.

Another reader points out the downside of some state eminent domain "reform" bills:

Delaware trumpeted the laws it passed last year as a local cure for the problem but all they actually did was make it easier for the state and municipalities to take property by laying out exactly what they needed to do.

U-T Opinion Online, Costco the bully -- of both rivals and churches

It is no coincidence that the states where [eminent domain] takings are most rampant--such as New York, New Jersey, and California--tend to be littered with densely packed population clusters. Between zoning parameters and the stubborn space crunch, it can be tricky to plunk down a new megastore in such areas. Building a new Home Depot or Target outlet in, say, the North Jersey suburbs often means razing existing homes and businesses. Most retail powerhouses have relied on municipal condemnation powers as a last resort, when negotiations with property owners have failed. Yet few have done so as frequently as Costco.

When city leaders genuflect to big-box retailers, nothing is sacred, not even church property...

World Net Daily, City ousts congregation
If you thought that condemning land for Costco was an anomaly, taking church land happens in NY State too, only when this congregation bought a building as a permanent home in which to hold services, no one told them that the town of North Hempstead was already planning to use eminent domain.

Property purchased by a small congregation in the state of New York is being seized through eminent domain by local government, which claims the property is "blighted" and zoned for business.

St. Luke's Pentecostal Church bought the property -- including a moderately-sized, run-down building -- in 1997 as a permanent home for its congregation of just over 100 members. The church has been meeting in rented facilities for more than 20 years.

But the town of North Hempstead stepped-in last year to purchase the property as part of its redevelopment project.

La Tribuna Hispanica USA, Hempstead: Gran proyecto y grandes exigencias

Not to be confused with N. Hempstead, the Town of Hempstead has its own plans to "confiscar 58 propiedades privadas (bajo la ley del "eminent domain")."

Leyó mas en español o inglés.

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

July 29, 2007

Before you try to reinvent a place, you should be able to equal it.

Veritas et Venustas

IT'S the Sixties all over again: architects, politicians and machers are promoting urban-removal mega-projects — and the people are fighting back. In the early Sixties, Jane Jacobs fought Robert Moses and helped stop a highway through the middle of Washington Square and Greenwich Village. A year or so later, Jane Jacobs, Philip Johnson and Jackie Onassis fought against the demolition of McKim, Mead & White's Pennsylvania Station, but lost, and the city suffered.

”You used to enter the city like a god, now you creep in like a rat,” Vincent Scully famously said about the new and old stations. It's funny that the buildings architects propose today even look like those 1960s buildings (before the Beatles and the Summer of Love). All Power to the People, baby.

The "villages" proposed by New York City's Deputy Mayor in their Olympic proposal are obvious examples of what I'm talking about. The Deputy Mayor even considers himself a new Robert Moses (and says Jane Jacobs was wrong). Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards is another, although Frank Gehry's architecture doesn't look neo-Sixties.

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Posted by amy at 11:48 AM

Friday Reflections: Whaddaya Mean, Brooklyn?

The Written Nerd contemplates where in Brooklyn to put a new bookstore - and in the process considers what "Brooklyn" means...

Brooklynites, both natives and those who moved here from elsewhere, are often incredibly passionate about where they live. It shows up in their willingness to engage with local issues like the Atlantic Yards project. It shows up in fierce, joyfully irrational neighborhood loyalties – how do you think Neighborhoodies got so successful? But it shows up sometimes in a sort of shamed defensiveness about the changes happening in the borough – about the fact that Brooklyn's cultural vitality can sometimes mean development that pushes out those without money to spend. Just look at the Brooklynian boards sometime for a sampling of the names those tech-savvy Brooklynites are calling each other: yuppie, gentrifier, scared white liberal. In a place with so much diversity, where the breath of fresh creative juices often means the potential for commercial exploitation, tensions are bound to exist, along with some jockeying for authenticity. It can be a challenge to navigate that. Call me naïve, but I think generally not being jerks to each other is a good place to start.

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Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

The Times’s continued blind spots in its eminent domain coverage

Atlantic Yards Report looks at the missing stories in today's New York Times eminent domain article, and explains why the article only appears in regional sections (Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut):

Maybe the placement of the article made it easier for the Times to fail to acknowledge that its parent company is a beneficiary of eminent domain, for the new Times Tower in Manhattan. Or to mention the eminent domain donnybrook concerning Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and developer Forest City Ratner, the same developer that has partnered with the Times Company in building the Times Tower.

Sure, reporters have to pick and choose, but the Times does point out how, in the wake of legislative inaction in all three states, in New Jersey, the courts have stepped in, assisted by the state’s Public Advocate, overruling the designation that “unproductive” properties—as in, not built out to full zoning rights—are blighted. That’s further stopped a major development plan in Newark. As I’ve written, were Atlantic Yards in New Jersey, the new rules might stymie the project.

And the Times, of course, never covered the May 3 court hearing in the suit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, during which Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden expressed skepticism about the designation of blight.

The pattern is dismaying. In a front-page round-up article on eminent domain in February 2006, the Times similarly failed to mention Atlantic Yards or the Times Tower. However, three months later, when Mayor Mike Bloomberg defended eminent domain as a priority, the Times in its coverage acknowledged the newspaper company's own history.

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Posted by amy at 10:59 AM

A window on the Times-Ratner relationship, from the top? Not til 2050

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times Company announced last week that it will donate its vast archives, which date back to 1851, to The New York Public Library, but the key elements for Atlantic Yards watchers probably won't be available until 2050.
...
The Times and AY

Has Sulzberger, concerned about the parent company's relationship with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, the newspaper company's partner on the new Times Tower, influenced the Times's editorial policy on Atlantic Yards? I suspect so, as in the newspaper's conflicted silence prior to the Atlantic Yards approval last December by the Public Authorities Control Board.

After all, the Times was willing to guarantee a loan to the developer. As I've written before, I don't think the business relationship means Times reporters are in the tank, though I believe the newspaper has an obligation to be exacting in its coverage, and has not fulfilled that obligation.

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Posted by amy at 10:55 AM

Now You Own It, Soon You Don’t?

times7.07.jpg

New York Times
RUSS BUETTNER

Woohoo! The New York Times has an article about eminent domain abuse! But...wait...are there two missing stories, both involving Bruce Ratner, one involving the New York Times itself?

“New Jersey and New York are among the worst states in the country for eminent domain abuses — New Jersey is really awful,” said Dana Berliner, a senior lawyer at the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va., which represents residential and business owners facing condemnation. “What’s interesting is that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are some of the few states that have not managed to pass any decent legislation.”
...
New York, which already allowed the taking of property for private use, saw its lawmakers introduce 17 related bills in 2006. But the Legislature passed only those laws seeking to ban two specific projects.
...
Mr. Brodsky introduced a bill last year calling for the appointment of an eminent domain ombudsman, compensating displaced homeowners at 150 percent of fair market value, and requiring that all condemnations for economic development be part of a comprehensive plan.

THE bill gained no traction in the State Assembly. “This is an area where there’s a lot of comfort with a bad law, and that’s unfortunate,” Mr. Brodsky said.

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Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

That's Quite a Rock

roughdiamond.jpg

Wall Street Journal

Retail prices for rough-diamond jewelry vary considerably, from $600 for a small uncut diamond set in a stainless steel ring at De Beers to $750,000 one-of-a-kind necklace of pearls and rough diamonds by Frank Gehry at Tiffany.

But because some of the usual key standards for assessing a diamond's value, such as cut and clarity, don't apply to uncut stones, it can be tough for consumers to evaluate pricing. "It's pretty much a blind purchase for consumers," says Tom Moses, a senior vice president at Gemological Institute of America, which set the widely used "4C" standards (cut, color, carat and clarity) for cut diamonds. The institute doesn't have a system for evaluating uncut diamonds.

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NoLandGrab: The "4C" standard can also be applied to the Atlantic Yards proposal: tax Cuts, division on Color lines, Clarity of the public process, and the dangling Carat. (ok, wrong carrot, but try finding a pun on carat!)

Posted by amy at 10:12 AM

July 28, 2007

On complex land-use choices and "land monopoly"

fitch_r_new_york_c.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report delves into Robert Fitch's 1993 book The Assassination of New York.

Fitch's single-focus analysis meant critics in even the left-wing Nation and Monthly Review found the book's explanations--for example, of the decline in manufacturing or the city's struggles--incomplete. But they also found the book valuable, and there are some passages of particular resonance today.

Beyond Jane Jacobs

Hence this pointed observation, which substitutes a Rockefeller for the usual culprit, Moses, and raises a larger point about current land-use battles in Brooklyn and beyond:
When David Rockefeller tried to run the Lower Manhattan Expressway through Washington Square Park, you didn't have to have a degree in planning from MIT to know it was destructive. Jane Jacobs led the charge and miraculously sent the establishmentarians back to their Westchester redoubts. But land-use choices involving housing vs. jobs; the mix of income in a housing project; the question of which jobs are really viable in an urban setting; what's the best location for manufacturing--these issues don't lend themselves to such clear-cut resistance. Everyone grasps that it is people who decide where highways go. But the notion that strictly objective force, like technology and markets, the "logic of capital," determine factory and office locations is disarming. Ideas count. (Emphasis added)

Indeed. And the issue is also the way incentives shape markets; why, for example, has Downtown Brooklyn become a home for housing, when that was not anticipated in the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning? Because tax breaks make the projects that much more attractive.

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Posted by amy at 11:51 AM

Many rail against Brooklyn building blitz - Course of the borough leaves many residents cold

brightonbeach.jpg

Courier-Life
Joe Maniscalco

De Blasio is embroiled in a pitched battle with infamous New York City architect Robert Scarano, who is currently the subject of a number of special investigations.

Scarano is now designing a controversial multi-story building at 360 Smith Street in Carroll Gardens. The councilman wants to revoke Scarano’s architectural license in hopes of stopping construction.

But members of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association have criticized de Blasio himself for not vigorously supporting their plan to rezone the community against further overdevelopment.

Others are angry with de Blasio’s stance on the Atlantic Yards project.

link

Posted by amy at 11:45 AM

July 27, 2007

IBO official confirms (sort of) that the city would lose $ on arena

Atlantic Yards Report

toilet.gif The Brooklyn Paper picked up on Norman Oder's analysis, which revised Independent Budget Office calculations that conclude the arena will be a money loser for the City:

The Paper got an IBO official to agree, sort of:

The amount of direct subsidy that the city will give Ratner to build the arena has more than doubled — jumping from $100 million to $205 million — in the two years since the city’s Independent Budget Office said the arena create “a modest” net gain of $107 million in tax revenue.

IBO Deputy Director George Sweeting said the new numbers came as a little surprise to him.

“Because the size of the city contribution has grown, the gain from the arena is certainly less than $30 million and it could be a loss,” said Sweeting, adding that the organization had no plans to do the math again.

Actually, the additional $105 million wouldn't all go to the arena block, but even if a minimum of $28.5 million were directed to the arena block--and that's likely--the city tab turns into a loss. Too bad IBO won't take another look.

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NoLandGrab: The people are going to lose money on an arena that will, according to Ratner's own figures, be making the Brucester $60 million a year.

Posted by lumi at 8:06 AM

Bloomy slightly sours Bruce’s sweet deal from the state

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman with additional reporting by Ariella Cohen

According to the Daily News, city officials reduced the length of the tax break from 25 years to 15 years, saving an estimated $100 million.

The remaining tax break would still save Ratner $200 million, the Bloomberg administration has estimated.

Bloomberg spokesman John Gallagher declined to comment on the Daily News story, saying only that negotiations were “continuing” between Forest City Ratner executives, city officials and state leaders.

But a source in the administration told the New York Post earlier this week that the Bloomberg administration objects to the “Ratner carve-out” because “pure and simple, it’s a giveaway.”

It’s the first time city officials have publicly objected to any of the billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed subsidies Ratner will receive on the Atlantic Yards project.

Forest City Ratner officials did not return repeated calls and e-mails from The Brooklyn Paper.

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Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

Marty’s blind spot

The Brooklyn Paper

MartyMarkowtiz-MP.jpg While the Brooklyn Borough President rails against a transit fare hike, he can't say enough nice things about the sweetheart deal between Bruce Ratner and the MTA (isn't that's OUR MONEY TOO?):

The Beep, a strong supporter of the Atlantic Yards project, put out an angry press release on Wednesday railing against a Metropolitan Transportation Authority plan to cover an expected $300-million deficit next year by hiking subway fares by 10 percent.

Here’s where the fancy footwork comes in.

Markowitz’s beloved Atlantic Yards project is largely being built over land that the MTA sold to Ratner in 2005 for a mere $100 million — $114 million less than the MTA’s own appraisal said the development rights were worth. In a truly open market, those rights might have even gone for more.

Not only did Markowitz not object to the MTA’s fare-busting giveaway, he loudly supported it, calling it “good for Brooklyn.”

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Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Real Deal on Prospect Heights: new condos, fluctuating prices

Atlantic Yards Report

An article in the July issue of The Real Deal, headlined Mixed prospects for Prospect Heights' new developments: Atlantic Yards plan attracted new condos, but sales at some falter, offers a mixed report on the "Atlantic Yards effect."

Will there be a glut of new condos on the market in Prospect Heights?

What about the premium price tag for the privilege of living in a starchitect design condo? Or, will living over an arena make buyers think twice?

link

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

Letters to the Editor

The Brooklyn Paper ran a few letters this week (link) that reference Atlantic Yards and the guy who really seems to run things in this town, Bruce Ratner:

Markowitz for mayor? Our readers respond

It is no surprise to me that Borough President Markowitz is raising money from large developers and other big-time political donors, yet precious little from the grassroots (“Marty money misses mark,” July 21). After all, this is a borough president who has spent the last six years doing the bidding of developers like Bruce Ratner, whose vision for Brooklyn is counter to many of Markowitz’s own constituents.

— Tom Sutton, Sunset Park

A.R.E.A.–nation

When I read your original story about Arena Bagels, I was angered that a bunch of bullies forced the store owner to change his name because they objected to anyone using a noun that brought to mind Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

But your articles showed me that the bagel store owner, Ravi Aggarwaal, was not angry about the neighbors who demanded that he re-name the store.

He taught us all a lesson in turning the other cheek.

— Nancy Melnick, Prospect Heights

Kick pols in career

We should honor Lady Bird Johnson by turning Atlantic Yards into meadows of native planted trees.

Our parks are becoming overcrowded. Maybe Bruce Ratner wants to declare the parks blighted so his cronies in elected office can condemn them and hand them over so he can build on them.

— Rhudi Eagle, Park Slope

Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

Plenty of traffic in race for Boro Prez

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

City Councilman Charles Barron has announced his candidacy for Brooklyn Borough President:

The kickoff announcement wasn’t all about race, of course. Barron, a staunch opponent of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development, also used Sunday’s press conference to attack the current officeholder, Borough President Markowitz, who strongly supports the project.

“We need to make to make sure that Brooklyn is not a borough for developers to come get rich and for working people to struggle every day,” he said. “We need a visionary leader in this office, not just a cheerleader.”

article

Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

RatnerCorporateWelfare.jpg The Albany Project, Ratner Gets $200 Million Tax Break, City "Saves" $100 Million

Remember that really sweet deal that Ratnerville was able to slip into the 421-A reform bill? The one that was exclusive the Atlantic Yards Project?
...
Now we have a "compromise" that would shave this sweet deal by a third and those who worked it out are telling folks that now the city is "saving" $100 million bucks. It's disgusting.
...
I've said it before, I'll say it again. Everything wrong with New York state politics is represented in the Ratnerville project. Corruption writ large.

And yes, Vito Lopez (D-Sleazeville), I'm looking right at you.

Brit in Brooklyn, Ratner Keeps His Tax Break

We like the Daily News' definition of "slash tax break" in their Atlantic Yards story today: Bruce Ratner gets out of paying property taxes for a mere 15 years, rather than 25 years as originally planned.

Brownstoner, Ratner Compromise Still Special Treatment

After the Mayor threatened on Monday to pull $100 million of city financing for the Atlantic Yards project if the sweetheart deal that Vito Lopez inserted into the 421-a legislation was not revised, a compromise is reportedly in the works. According to The Daily News, the city will get its $100 million back by reducing the tax-free period on 1,900 market-rate condos from 25 years to 15 years. Of course, that comes at the expense of the condo owners not Ratner himself. As the Atlantic Yards Report points out, though, the compromise doesn't change the fact that Ratner is getting special treatment by not having to play by the same affordable housing rules as every other developer.

Gothamist, Extra, Extra

Developer Bruce Ratner is closer to getting his tax-break subsidies, after negotiating with Mayor Bloomberg and the state legislature.

Nets Daily, Nets Hopeful on Luxury Box Sales
News that really bores the average Nets fan from the blog that's not an official Nets site:

In an article about a possible glut of luxury boxes at new sports facilities around New York, Crains New York Business quotes Nets president Brett Yormark as saying the team hopes to sell out all the Barclays Center’s 118 luxury suites. The team will begin selling the suites in earnest this fall with the opening of a model box at the New York Times building, which is part owned by Bruce Ratner.

The luxury suites will be part of a larger group of suites that include party suites capable of entertaining up to 60 people. All told, Barclays Center will have 170 suites, compared to 29 at the Continental Airlines Arena.
...
[Forest City Ratner] assumes that approximately 162 of 170 suites will be sold annually through a combination of first ring suites, second ring suites, courtside suites, and loge boxes. The suite price includes the price of tickets to NBA games and approximately 25 percent of other events held at the arena. In addition, it is assumed that three of the four party suites, each with sixty suites, will be sold for all NBA games on an annual basis.”

However, the same analysis warned: “Given the competitiveness of the market, both the total number of suites and the average price per suite assumed by FCRC appear to be on the high end relative to other similar arenas. NBA arenas average approximately ninety suites. Facilities in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Dallas, Toronto, and Philadelphia are the only ones that offer more than 125 suites. Other than the Palace at Auburn Hills in Detroit, all of these facilities host both NBA and NHL teams.”

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites

WEST HARLEM
The NY Times, Bracing for the Lion
Columbia is marching ahead with expansion plans that will destroy the Manhattanville neighborhood that stands in the way.

NoLandGrab: Curiously, while the Times quotes Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's figures of 15,000 construction jobs (that's 1,500 jobs over 10 years), they use the less deceptive "1,200 construction jobs a year for two decades" in this article. Now that we know they know the difference, it will be interesting to see if the Gray Lady does in the future.

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN
Duffield St. Underground, Newly Released Evidence of Buildings Communicating

Despite AKRF's denials, it certainly looks to me that the basement of 227 Duffield used to have a passageway connecting it to 225 Duffield. I have posted images and a video that show that most of the basement was constructed with stone, except for a small portion on the front part of the northern wall.

Check out the video.

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

Forest City in $607 mln sale of retirement homes

Reuters
By Jonathan Stempel

Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCEa.N: Quote, Profile , Research) (FCEb.N: Quote, Profile , Research), a real estate owner and developer, said on Thursday it has reached an agreement with Atria Senior Living Group for the sale of 12 assisted-living properties in a transaction valued at $607 million.

Eleven properties use the Sterling Glen brand name and are located mainly in the New York City area. One property is in Florida. The transaction is expected to close within 30 days, and generate about $240 million of net cash proceeds over three years to be used in other businesses.

"Current valuations for this business have increased significantly, and we have chosen to take advantage of this extraordinary market to dispose of these properties at full stabilized value," Charles Ratner, Forest City's chief executive, said in a statement.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

July 26, 2007

PRESS RELEASE, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:
Behind Closed Doors, a Ratner Conpromise

After "Negotiations," Developer Bruce Ratner Still Set to Reap $200 Million Tax Break from 421-a "Reform" Bill's Exclusive "Atlantic Yards" Clause

NEW YORK, NY -- If a report in today's Daily News is accurate, developer Bruce Ratner and city officials are trying to spin a 33% reduction in a special tax break legislated exclusively for the Atlantic Yards developer as a meaningful "scale back." But it's a "scale back" to a special property tax break for Ratner that should never have existed in the first place. As of three days ago, the Bloomberg administration wanted the exclusive tax provision removed entirely.

The News reports that the city and Forest City Ratner held "negotiations" over the 421-a reform bill's original special provision, reducing the exclusive tax break from $300 million to $200 million. The project's 1,930 condominium units would receive tax exemptions for 15 years rather than the 25 years originally outlined.

"Negotiated behind closed doors, this so-called 'compromise' of the 421-a special tax break exclusively for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards—a tax break unavailable to any other developer in the city, and one that should never have existed in the first place—is an offensive sham. Unless this indefensible, blatant giveaway to Bruce Ratner, which will cost taxpayers at least $200 million, is removed from the bill, reform-minded Governor Eliot Spitzer must veto it," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein. "Earlier this week, the Bloomberg Administration was all snarl and bluster, threatening to pull $105 million in promised Atlantic Yards cash subsidies, but today, it's apparent that the city was all bark and no bite. There is no fundamental difference between the original sweetheart deal and this negotiated sweetheart deal; the negotiated agreement is a toothless joke."

It is unclear how legislators critical of the special Ratner clause will react to reports of a non-compromise compromise, which does not fundamentally change the original special provision at all or respond to widespread criticism of the Atlantic Yards carve-out.

At a town hall meeting just two days ago, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (57th District, which encompasses the Atlantic Yards project site) called the special tax break for Ratner "offensive," and said that the developer must "comply with the [421-a] law." He added that "the government should review completely the entire merits of this project" if the special clause is not eliminated. Mr. Jeffries also called the special Atlantic Yards carve-out "economic segregation" because "[Forest City Ratner] negotiated a provision that would allow them to have all luxury condominiums and still get the tax break."

It is also unclear how ACORN's Bertha Lewis, a staunch Atlantic Yards supporter, will react to reports of this "negotiation." She has called the special Ratner provision "bad public policy."

Much like the mythical scale-back of the Atlantic Yards project--announce project, increase size of project, return project to original size, claim reduction--this so-called "scale back" of the special 421-a Atlantic Yards "carve-out" plays the same game: propose and pass legislation allowing a large, indefensible tax break that should not exist at all, reduce the size of the large, indefensible tax break that shouldn't exist, and claim it "could save the city $100 million."

Former City Planning Commissioner Ron Shiffman said, "Ratner always asks for more than he needs, but the politicians and bureaucrats always give him more than he expects. In this case of the 421-a special provision, the so-called 'compromise' far exceeds what he deserves."

###

DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.

Posted by lumi at 10:03 AM

RATNER CLAUSE CONPROMISE

The NY Daily News got the big scoop today:

ratbox.JPG Pols slash tax-break on Atlantic Yards

Under pressure from the city, developer Forest City Ratner's sweetheart tax break is getting scaled back by state lawmakers, the Daily News has learned.

Officials yesterday agreed to reduce to 15 years the length of time Bruce Ratner is exempt from paying property taxes on 1,900 market-rate condos slated for the Atlantic Yards project, a tweak that could save the city $100 million.
...
A Bloomberg spokesman declined to discuss details of the negotiations but said Forest City Ratner and city officials had hammered out an agreement this week.

NoLandGrab: Ha, ha — this is a joke, right? After holding "negotiations" with Forest City, the Bloomberg administration has come up with a "scale back" "that could save the city $100 million."

Do they mean saving the city $100 million of the $300 million the previous deal gave away? What's wrong with Ratner getting the same deal as every other developer in NYC?

DEJA VU ALERT:

NEGOTIATED?
In 2005, the MTA "negotiated" with Forest City Ratner to spice up the embarrassingly low $50M offer for the development rights for the railyards. The $100M deal they hammered out was still lower than the $150M competing offer from the Extel development company and much lower than the MTA's original $214M appraisal.

"Negotiations" always seem to end in Ratner's favor, which makes you wonder what kind of superpowers he possesses.

SCALEBACK??
Since Atlantic Yards was announced in 2003, the project continued to grow on the drawing board. In 2006, The New York Times had an exclusive that announced that Ratner decided to "scale back" the project. The Times didn't comprehend that Atlantic Yards was "scaled back" to roughly its original size.

Today's News story had the step on the NY Post's "exclusive."

RATNER-CITY DEAL NEAR ON HOUSING

After threatening to pull $100 million in subsidies from the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the Bloomberg administration appears close to a compromise over middle-income housing, sources said yesterday.

The administration, developer Bruce Ratner and state legislators have made significant progress in recent days negotiating changes to an affordable-housing reform bill passed by the Legislature.

NoLandGrab: Though the Post missed the story, it's interesting how the word "negotiating" was used again, as if Forest City is another branch of government or something.

Atlantic Yards Report confirms our suspicions that $100M savings is really just a one-third decrease in the big special gift to Ratner and explains that the special carveout still stands.

Behind closed doors, a "compromise" on the Ratner clause

Because the gist of the exclusive, published unaccountably in the newspaper's Brooklyn section--is this not of citywide interest?--is that the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" would be reduced from $300 million to $200 million because the 1930 condos would get tax exemptions for 15 years rather than 25 years.
...
Missing is the voice of any neutral analyst, but surely such person could point out that, while Forest City Ratner did expect to get tax breaks for all-condo buildings before the law changed, the justification for treating this development differently is hard to get past the average citizen, as noted Tuesday by Jeffries' constituency.

The NY Times is bringing up the rear today with their City Room blog post citing the NY Post article.

Posted by lumi at 9:11 AM

Ratner Handouts, PD Embarrasses, ‘Sicko’ Shames Us

Cleveland Leader
By Roldo Bartimole

The legendary Mad Overkiller of Cleveland illustrates how Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner learned his moves from the Cleveland clan.

Someone sent me a copy of a column from the New York News entitled, “Atlantic Yards gets a deal so sweet it’s sick.”

Welcome to Cleveland, all you New Yorkers.

Read about how head honcho Al Ratner bragged to Bartimole that Ratner family affairs were going national:

He told me that I’d have a ball observing Forest City’s operations around the country. He said that they were getting federal subsidies all over the country. I guess his comments emanated from my reporting over the years about his and Sam Miller’s local hunger for government handouts.

Bartimole breaks down a Cleveland project that's slated to suck up even more publc subsidies, and castigates the local media for lack of talent, or interest, or something....

article

NoLandGrab: The manner in which the Cleveland project gets "back in line" for more public assistance is reminiscent of Bruce's MetroTech and Atlantic Center Mall, bailed out by the City and State, respectively, which have relocated agencies to the projects in order to "mitigate" the vacancy rate.

There's also a tidy tale of how the Ratners took care of a family member of a politician who turned on the subsidy spigot. This hearkens back to the scandal in Yonkers, where the former Mayor's twenty-something son-in-law left the payroll of the local development corporation sponsoring Bruce's Ridge Hill project in a storm of protest, only to appear a year later in Ratner's employ as the "property manager" (the project was years away from being approved, much less built or "managed").

Posted by lumi at 8:43 AM

Crain's: suites at new NYC-area sports facilities should sell well

Atlantic Yards Report

NetsArena-FG.jpg

Though sports teams around the country are ripping out luxury suites, the New York-area market is an anomaly, and an article in this week's Crain's New York Business, headlined New arenas' suite deals, suggests that the planned suite-intensive Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards might do pretty well, even if it arrives later in the cycle.

Sports marketing executive Todd Parker told Crain's that the New York area has only 250 or so luxury boxes in all of its sports facilities combined, but with six new facilities expected to be completed in the three years, the total would leap to 900.

While "the competition for buyers could get intense" among the Devils, Nets, Mets, Jets, Giants, Yankees and Red Bulls, Crain's observes:

However, experts believe that the luxury-box market is in a unique position, since the city has been "starved" for corporate entertainment options but flush with cash from banks, hedge funds and law firms.

Norman Oder connects some more dots, noting that Ratner's own commissioned study from sports economist Andrew Zimbalist "assumed 'no new arena in Newark'" (it's slated to open THIS year, oops!). Crain's acknowledges some risk for Ratner, "ramping up from 29 current boxes in the current Continental Airlines Arena to some 170 suites in Brooklyn." There's also some confusion about the number of suites: Crain's reports 118, while recently released documents indicate "there would be 124 luxury suites, four party suites, and 40 loge boxes."

article

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Dear Hillary, Stop Bruce Ratner and the Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Downtown Star

One Brooklyn resident and urban development professional speaks out and implores Hillary Clinton to do the right thing:

As property owners in Downtown Brooklyn, tax payers, and registered voters, my family and U are deeply troubled by the propose Atlantic Yards Development. If this proposal is implemented, it will be the largest development project in the city and the most densely populated in the nation. As a professional with degrees in architecture and city planning and may years of service with the New York City Mayors Office of Development, neither I nor the vast majority of citizens are opposed to responsible development. However, we oppose the greed that this corrupt project incorporates—greed symbolized by the present Republican administration in Washington. We sympathize with the newly elected Governor Spitzer who has to inherit this proposal form his predecessor, Republican Governor Pataki and Pataki’s college buddy and developer, Bruce Ratner. Mr. Ratner is also the developer of two unsuccessful projects in downtown Brooklyn that required the state to relocate some of their offices to keep these projects afloat. This proposal also incorporates all the secrecy that the Bush administration has forced on our country. Why was this proposal not able to go through the City for review, including the Department of City Planning? Why is public space being advertised when it will be closed to the public? Why are 2,250 units of affordable housing being advertised when only 250 units are for incomes under $28,00? Why is this plan in conflict with the Mayors 2030 Plan? Why did the MTA accept Ratner’s bid, when today the Mayor is asking the Federal government for money to expand our subway system? Quite likely, the MTA was told to accept the bid by Governor Pataki.

more

Posted by lumi at 8:11 AM

MTA Gets Set to Raise Fares

The Villiage Voice
By Michael Clancy

When it comes to subway and bus fare increases, it isn't looking so much as a question of "if" but questions of "how much" and "when." Facing looming budget deficits, MTA executive director Eliot G. Sander said on Wednesday that the agency would seek to increase revenues from trains and buses, commuter trains, and bridge and tunnel tolls by 6.5 percent.
...
Not that an extra $100 million would solve the problem, but how's the MTA decision to let Bruce Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards, have the Vanderbilt Rail Yards for $100 million looking these days? The MTA's own appraisal valued the land at $214 million—riders aren't get that discount.

article

NoLandGrab: We couldn't have said it better.

Here's some other local coverage about the MTA fare hike, none of which mention the fact that the MTA "negotiated exclusively" with Ratner to salvage his lowball bid, which was still the lowest bid when the deal was sealed:

NY Daily News, Look out for Regular Joes
Columnist Michael Daly explains:

If Eliot Mess [Spitzer] wants to make amends for smearing the Senate majority leader for using state helicopters, he could step in and devise a way to stave off a subway fare hike.

NoLandGrab: He could also regain some of his reformer cred by getting serious about Atlantic Yards.

The NY Times, Despite Surplus of $1 Billion, M.T.A. Says Increases Loom

MetroNY, Farebox hit

MetroNY, Striking a fiscal balance
From an interview with MTA chief Elliot Sander:

How much influence can riders expect to have at the hearings?

I previously served as a member of the Taxi & Limousine Commission. We heard input through the hearings process, and we significantly changed what we did when we increased the taxi fare. So I can point to specific examples where I have acted differently in response to public hearings. We also look forward to comments on the Web site — the plan is on the Web site (www.mta.info). When you look at things like the passenger report card that we put out, we’re trying to demonstrate a track record that we do listen. Sometimes we’re able to implement changes, sometimes not.

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards critics did not find hearings to be very productive or fruitful, especially when decisions are made behind closed doors and the MTA negotiated exclusively with Ratner.

amNY, MTA proposes fare hikes

While the MTA has been riding a real estate boom, which yielded a surplus of about $940 million last year, the agency predicts a deficit next year of $965 million, growing to $2.1 billion in 2011 -- if fares and tolls do not increase.

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

July 25, 2007

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere79.jpg This week, Atlantic Yards only gets respect from a bunch of train geeks:

Gothamist, Gehry Seeks Multimillions for Archive
Upon hearing that starchitect and Atlantic Yards designer Frank Gehry wants to sell his archives for big bucks, one reader comments:

They should bulldoze his Santa Monica house and replace it with a to-scale papier-mâché model of his Atlantic Yards project made from all 5,000 of those drawings.

and another notes:

I don't even hate his buildings -- some of them are grand -- but fuuuck if AY isn't misguided.

Ditmas Park Blog, Flatbush Junction
A new mall gets compared to Atlantic Yards:

I think this may be one of these things, like Atlantic Yards, that will be nice to have at a certain distance, and maybe less so close up.

NoLandGrab: Most NoLandGrab readers would prefer that Atlantic Yards remained in Frank Gehry's archive.

Sub Chat, Atlantic Yard
Clearly, these guys don't get out much:

I saw in the NY Post yesterday that the city is making or doing work on a yard called the Atlantic Yard does anyone know anything???

"AIM" notes it is called "Atlantic Yards," "Terrapin Station" knows that "Atlantic Yards is certainly a real project" and that work has begun over the railyards, "Osmosis Jones" can't wait to check out a game, and checked media reports that work has started:

No it hasn't, I passed by there today and saw nothing (not even a trainset).

NoLandGrab: Prep work on the railyards has actually begun — for instance, tracks have been removed — and last week Brit in Brooklyn noted the appearance of a drill rig in preparation for excavation activities, which were announced in last month's construction update.

Duffield St. Underground, AKRF works boths sides of the fence again

Duffield St. activists continue to question the credibility of AKRF as more reports note the potential conflict of interest between clients in the Atlantic Yards saga.

Queen's Crap, Ratner's problem

"Crappy" links yesterday's NY Post article, which reported that:

The Bloomberg administration is threatening to pull more than $100 million in city subsidies from the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn unless a deal providing massive tax breaks for developer Bruce Ratner is drastically revised.

Posted by lumi at 11:17 AM

Jeffries calls AY carve-out "offensive"--and his base agrees

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder checked out what Hakeem Jeffries had to say at the freshman NY State Assemblyman's first Town Hall meeting and noted:

As a candidate last year, Hakeem Jeffries was a qualified supporter of Atlantic Yards. And as a freshman member of the State Assembly, he still welcomes the project’s affordable housing.

But Jeffries' posture has gotten tougher lately, and last night he delivered an eloquent criticism of the project, declaring that promised affordable housing was easily matched by government support for developer Forest City Ratner and that the “Atlantic Yards carve-out,” a tax break available only to the developer, was “offensive” because it promoted “economic segregation.” And his audience, responding to the notion of special treatment, seemed to agree.

article

Posted by lumi at 10:30 AM

「誰にとって」問題

AYWall.jpg From kmr blog:

DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYNという都市再開発の見直しを求める運動が、NYダウンタウン・ブルックリンで起きている。Atlantic Yards Projectと呼ばれるこの計画は、約9ヘクタール(約2万7千坪)の広大な鉄道跡地に、53階建ての商業・住宅の複合施設を16棟建設するというもので、敷地内にはNBAのニュージャージー・ネッツの巨大なスタジアムも併設される。メジャー開発業者が着手に向けて動き出しており、設計はフランク・ゲリー。比較的低所得層が住むこの界隈を一挙にジェントリファイし、「ブルックリンをマンハッタン化」するこの計画に対し、いくつかの住民団体が組織され、専門家・アーティストなどを巻き込んだ反対運動が展開されている。訴訟も進行中だ。

article

NoLandGrab: So-o desu yo!

Posted by lumi at 10:17 AM

Real Estate Round-Up: July 23, 2007

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Only one of the five oversight measures state officials promised for the Atlantic Yards project have become a reality, nearly three months after they were promised following the collapse of the Ward Bakery rooftop parapet, the Daily News reports.

An investigation into the causes of the collapse is still underway, but the promised ombudsman, construction liaison, and committee to oversee transportation issues and regular group meetings have yet to materialize, according to the News. A spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation, the agency sponsoring the project, says group meetings will begin soon. “This basically says that the Spitzer administration, just like the Pataki administration, is giving us empty promises when it comes to transparency, oversight and accountability,” Councilwoman Letitia James, an opponent of the project, tells the Daily News.

article

For the record:

[Not like we're counting.]

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

Mid-Summer Classic

Fans For Fair Play

We present the Fans For Fair Play Mid-Season Classic, one of our classic, patented bulleted lists. It's suitable for readers with short attention spans (the bulleted points are short) or long attention spans (this thing could go on forever!):

These stories and more...

Posted by lumi at 9:14 AM

Grand Vision

Mayor Mike’s plan for a more sustainable city is surprisingly comprehensive.

Metropolis Magazine

Karrie Jacobs gives Mayor Bloomberg a standing O for PlaNYC, with two caveats: the enormous hedgerows of luxury waterfront condos and Bruce Ratner's 22-acre Atlantic Yards megalopolis.

Unfortunately, the plan casts some of the administration’s existing policies, such as rebuilding the old industrial waterfront into glam new residential neighborhoods, as moral imperative: housing must be built on every available site. The argument is that increased supply will lead to affordability, but that equation doesn’t always work in this city. (To be fair, the plan promises 22,000 units of middle-class housing and strategies such as inclusionary zoning, which grants developers bonuses for building affordable units in or adjacent to market-rate properties.) Housing, the plan says, should also be built on sites that don’t currently exist. PlaNYC calls for methodically decking over rail yards and sunken highways to acquire large tracts. The theory is exciting, but in practice so far the approach has spawned Atlantic Yards, a gargantuan scheme conceived with indifference to surrounding communities.

article

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards critics were quick to note that Bruce Ratner's controversial plan is antithetical to nearly every principle outlined in Bloomberg's PlaNYC.

Though many urban planners currently support the concept of increased density at transportation hubs, the historic extreme density of Atlantic Yards is on an inconceivable scale that strains or counters nearly every one of the Mayor's objectives.

Now that PlaNYC is getting high fives all around, it might be the right time for the Mayor to quietly and casually withdraw his support for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 8:55 AM

Forest City Announces Completion of Secondary Offering

dBusinessNews Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB) announced that certain members of RMS, Limited Partnership have completed their resale of 1.25 million shares of Forest City’s Class A common stock through a series of privately negotiated transactions.

RMS, Limited Partnership (controlled by the Ratner, Miller and Shafran families) owns a controlling interest in Forest City. The families sold approximately 3.9 percent of RMS, LP’s aggregate holdings of Forest City stock and approximately 1 percent of the issued and outstanding common stock of the Company. The proceeds from the sale were used for charitable, tax, estate planning and personal liquidity reasons. Following the sale, the families hold approximately 30.1 percent of the total shares outstanding of Forest City Enterprises, Inc.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

He never saw a chop he didn't want to bust

NY Daily News
By Dennis Hamill

Skala.jpgDeep within Hamill's column honoring the birthday of a Bayside, Queens community stalwart lies proof that the world needs community activists more than it needs newspaper columnists:

So, I'd always stop and chat with Skala in the street, usually about developers who were overstepping their bounds. Every week, the local papers carried his letters to the editor about local issues or about his strong opposition to the war in Iraq.
...
I have not always agreed with Skala. He has not always agreed with me. Sometimes, he'd stuff my own columns through my letter slot with comments.

When I wrote a column supporting the new basketball arena at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Skala wrote in the margin: "How would you like it if they were taking your home via eminent domain?"

article

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

What a Difference Party Affiliation Makes

Cross-eyedMule.jpgDaily Gotham

Mole333 explains how a small chorus of local pols are calling out the rest of the politicians who are tyring to outdo one another by throwing money at Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan.

Everything goes screwy when Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent Mayor Bloomberg calls on the former-reformer Eliot Spitzer to veto legislation that includes a special windfall for the developer Brooklyn loves to hate.

But wait...how can Republican Bloomberg give away taxpayer money to Ratner then Independent Bloomberg complain about the state giving taxpayer money to Ratner? Wow! What a difference a change of party affiliation makes! Is Bloomberg abandoning crony capitalism along with the Republican Party? Boy THAT would be sweet!

This would be a good time for Spitzer to show us what he's worth. How about putting a stop to these giveaways to Ratner?

article

Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

July 24, 2007

Last month, Bloomy was offering a boilerplate defense of AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Mayor Mike Bloomberg seems to be coming to the realization that the Atlantic Yards project shouldn't get a special tax break and is apparently threatening to withdraw some pledged subsidies.

Is that a belated recognition that Atlantic Yards might be a drain on the public coffers or should not get special benefits? Is it part of a larger tactic to resist the state's revision of the 421-a tax break? Or is it something else altogether?

It is clear, however, that until recently, Bloomberg was offering a boilerplate defense of the project. A month ago, after Brooklyn resident Michael D.D. White wrote a thoughtful and pointed letter of complaint to the mayor, he received the following canned response, which he forwarded to me.

Click here to read the letter with Oder's comments interspersed.

Posted by lumi at 9:07 AM

We don't have Stuckey to kick around anymore

According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and a press release from the Mayor's Office, former Ratner exec James P. Stuckey made a public appearance last week as President of the NYC Arts Commission. This Stuckey sighting made us realize that things have been pretty quiet since the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President was tidily terminated by Forest City.

We don't know about you, but we sorta miss the guy.

You could always count on the quotable Stuckey to share his personal narrative with a reporter or make some outlandish claim that would tip critics off to something fishy, for example: the tale about Atlantic Yards being as dense as the Downtown Brooklyn plan led to revelations that the project, if built, would be the densest residential community in the nation; and the claim that footprint tenants would be taken care of begged watchdogs to look at the fine print of what Ratner was really offering.

Duffield St. Underground calls Stuckey's role as President of the Arts Commission "surreal," but it makes sense if you recall that Stuckey plays ten instruments.

Posted by lumi at 8:37 AM

ESDC: AKRF's work for Ratner was disclosed

Atlantic Yards Report

Though Norman Oder has been striving to document the actual timeline and relationship between the Empire State Development Corporation's consultant AKRF and Forest City Ratner's consultant for Atlantic Yards, AKRF, the quasi-governmental agency released a statement to the more project-friendly Brooklyn Daily Eagle (see, "Consulting Firm Counts Both Developer and State As Clients on Atlantic Yards"

The ESDC's statement: “AKRF’s limited work for Forest City Ratner was disclosed to the board at the Sept. 2005 board meeting at which AKRF was hired. Once AKRF was hired by ESDC, its work for Forest City Ratner stopped.”

So there's no conflict of interest when a project's consultant stops working for the developer when they're hired by the agency tasked with sponsoring and reviewing the same project?

It remains in question, however, whether the disclosure is sufficient to have confidence that AKRF's work would be in the public interest or in the interest of its former client.

I had asked the ESDC what its policy is; in other words, how "limited" must work be and what's a sufficient time gap?

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NoLandGrab: Hey Norman, maybe the ESDC will come up with an answer in due time and you can read it in the Eagle.

Posted by lumi at 8:04 AM

Gehry seeks payout for superstarchive

Gehry-Reutrs.jpgYesterday, the NY Times ran an article about how starchitect Frank Gehry is looking for top dollar for his archive.

For Architects, Personal Archives as Gold Mines

In reflecting on where a long career’s worth of architectural drawings and models will ultimately go, Frank Gehry is not focusing strictly on institutions that he feels close to — like the Guggenheim Museum, say, for which he designed a famous satellite branch in Bilbao, Spain. He’s trying to determine which place will pony up.

“I don’t want to give it away — it’s an asset,” Mr. Gehry said. “It’s the one thing in your life you build up, and you own it. And I’ve been spending a lot of rent to preserve it.”

Mr. Gehry, 78, is among a small but influential number of celebrity architects who are considering selling their archives — which can include tens of thousands of objects, from multiple large-scale models and reams of drawings to correspondence and other records — even as they continue to practice.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report wonders what hidden treasures might be contained within.

The ($$$) Gehry archive and Atlantic Yards

So, let's assume a Gehry archive would include records of interaction with client Forest City Ratner. Would it include his infamous crack about Atlantic Yards protesters, "They should've been picketing Henry Ford"? His stated willingness to meet with community members "as soon as the guys let me"? His statement that "[n]ormally I would’ve brought in five other architects," but his client wouldn't let him?

And would the public ever get a look at the renderings and models behind the door at Oz, the Atlantic Yards Information Center?

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Transfiguration 101

Yassky-GY.jpgflickr, gilly youner's photos

For you Potter fans out there, guess who was spotted by a local wizard at this weekend's Book Party in Soho.

Caption:

David "Lucius" Yassky: apparently escaping from the clutches of Lord Ratnemort, (He Who Should Not Be Paid).

NoLandGrab: There was no sign of "You know who-ner," but that doesn't mean that his spies weren't busy trying to save Christmas for Ratner Clause.

Posted by lumi at 7:38 AM

Bklyn Techie "Mau Mau" NoLandGrab!

A columnist for Brooklyn Tech's "The Survey" explains that he has perused NoLandGrab on a number of occasions, but apparently not enough to get the joke that compared him to another columnist who is frequently cited for playing fast and loose with Atlantic Yards facts.

Several readers thought that the call to "Mau Mau the Yuppies" might have been an absurd parody, but apparently not. Yesterday the columnist went on the offensive in his open letter to NoLandGrab:

Having perused your blog on a number of occasions, it’s glaringly obvious that you and your colleagues are not a guileless, altruistic bunch. Remember, Ratner is a businessman looking to make a profit. He is under no obligation to vet your complaints; quite frankly, neither would I if faced with the prospect of addressing a cabal of ad hominem-happy, third-rate Buckleys with too much time on their hands. That you’ve elected to rag on a high school paper is primary evidence of how desperate your situation has become.

[The opinion piece from Tech's high school paper appeared in a Google News Search and thus becomes part of the archived record of opinions on the project.]

The columnist goes on to describe his good fortune of never having run into the Hagan sisters:

In my daily experiences studying and shopping in Fort Greene and its adjacent areas over the past three years, I have yet to meet an individual vehemently opposed to the development.

Ironically, it seems like the piece headlined, "Mau-Mau the Yuppies, Ratner!" wasn't meant to be published, at least not with the vitriol and invective that puzzled many readers:

Thanks to the kind of miscommunication that is unavoidable in any news organization, “Mau Mau the Yuppies, Ratner” – an earlier draft (c. February 2007) of an article that was published last month that was initially planned as an editorial, hence all the vitriol – was archived on our website. Nevertheless, I still stand by most of the opinions espoused in that piece to a large extent.

NoLandGrab: We weren't ragging on the opinions, just the facts, like the one that, "Ratner has expressed interest in constructing new facilities for Tech within the Atlantic Yards complex." Ratner's plan was to build new facilities in his floundering METROTECH and turn Tech's historic building into condos, but thanks for playing and for the laughs.

The most recent "President of BTHSnews.org" posted a response attempting to analyze the quirky column and our inside-joke response, "It's Nice To Be Examined."

We're not sure that Ratner would agree that it is "nice to be examined;" remember, an ex-FCR exec described it as "Orwellian" to the NY Times.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Ratner re-signs Frank

LawrenceFrank-NYT.jpgThe NY Post is reporting that Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has re-signed head coach Lawrence Frank to a two-year, $8.6 million contract extention.

In 2004, Frank stepped in as Byron Scott's replacement mid-season, just a week after Bruce Ratner bought the team. The Times reports that since then Frank has "led the team to more victories than any coach in team history," though the historically mediocre franchise is blessed with being in the even-more mediocre Atlantic division.

Here's a sampling of the coverage: NBA.com, LAWRENCE FRANK CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
NY Post, NETS EXTEND FRANK
The NY Times, Nets Show Confidence in Frank With a Contract Extension
NY Daily News, Lawrence Nets 2-year extension
The Bergen Record, Frank wants a ring with the Nets
The Newark Star-Ledger, With extension in hand, Frank gets back to work

Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

July 23, 2007

What Ratner & Gehry won't tell you about Brownfield bucks

An article which appeared nearly a month ago in the Albany Times Union reports that Governor Spitzer is taking a hard look at NY State's Brownfield Redevelopment program, which has become a windfall for developers like Bruce Ratner.

ANOTHER WINDFALL FOR DEVELOPERS
From "Brownfields bloom green":

Critics fear the tax deals are not being used effectively for their prime intent: to convert polluted sites in poor neighborhoods to industrial, commercial and residential space.

In adopting the program in 2003, the state offered very attractive financial incentives: tax credits for 10 to 22 percent of the cost of cleaning and -- what turned out to be even more important -- all new construction without limitation. Property-tax credits are also offered for 10 years.

ATLANTIC YARDS TOO!
Today's Journal News editorial explains:

There are 123 more projects in the pipeline for approval under the program; a flurry of the approved projects were OK'd just as former Gov. George Pataki was concluding his three terms in office.

NoLandGrab: This list of projects presumably includes Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

HOW MUCH? WHO KNOWS?
From an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal:

The tax credits due to the next 123 projects “could easily be twice as much” as the $1 billion already committed, [Environmental Conservation Department Deputy Commissioner Val] Washington said.

But the state actually has no idea of the potential tax liability, since it is based on what the projects cost - and so far there is no estimate of the total tab for them.

BROWNFIELD BUCKS HELP OFFSET GEHRY PREMIUM
And if you think we're just blowing smoke, lookie who scored with another Frank Gehry-designed project:

Barry Diller, owner of the Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster and Lendingtree.com, could get tax credits totalling $157.6 million for the new $770 million Frank Gehry-designed corporate headquarters Diller is building in Manhattan's trendy Chelsea neighborhood. If that's not a windfall, what is?

Note that earlier this month, The NY Times reported that the documents recently obtained and released by NY State Assemblyman Jim Brennan "cite architectural costs of just over $12 a square foot for the project, roughly three times the industry average."

NoLandGrab: It's no secret that there's a steep premium associated with designing and constructing a cutting-edge project by starchitect Frank Gehry, but the numbers get easier to swallow when 10-22% is covered by the Brownfield program.

BROWNFIELD BUCKS, ANOTHER KNOWN UNKNOWN
The amount of Brownfield subsidy that Bruce Ratner's Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards will earn is one of the "known unknowns" that could significantly boost the total amount of subsidy for the already subsidy-rich project that, at last count, could suck up $1.9 billion in taxpayer dollars (see, Public Subsidies (For Dummies?), PDF). What's worse, is that, under the current program, we won't know the final cost of Ratner's Atlantic Yards Brownfield credits until all project's cost overruns have been run up.

WWSD?
Will Governor Spitzer dare to lift a finger against this well meaning clean-up program turned developer windfall? Last month's article in the Albany Times Union reported:

The future of the program is now is flux. Last week, Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, proposed changes that would limit the size of the tax credits to $5 million, prevent developers from speculating by reselling credits, and direct more assistance to cleanup costs instead of construction.

The tax credits already approved, along with another 29 projects where cleanups have begun, could cost the state "hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years," according to Spitzer's bill.

Posted by lumi at 10:51 AM

RATNER'S PLAN HITS BIG $NAG

TAX DEAL IRKS CITY

NY Post

VanderbiltYards-NYP.jpg

The Bloomberg administration is threatening to pull more than $100 million in city subsidies from the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn unless a deal providing massive tax breaks for developer Bruce Ratner is drastically revised.

"Pure and simple, it's a giveaway," a high-ranking city official told The Post.

At issue is an affordable-housing reform bill hastily passed by the state Legislature that included a special "carve-out" for Atlantic Yards.

Proving that you need to be a developer, an affordable housing advocate or have a mensa IQ to follow this stuff, Norman Oder emailed us to explain that the Post article mischaracterized the distinction between Atlantic Yards and other projects eligible for exemptions under the 421-a reform bill.

The Post reported:

[The bill] also exempts Atlantic Yards from a new definition of government-assisted affordable housing that limits it only to low-income households. Atlantic Yards could still include middle-income tenants.

Norman Oder explains that it has nothing to do with the middle-income tenants:

It's the other 900 units--40% of aff housing, 20% of rentals--at issue. The income threshold for them has been raised to 70% of AMI (Area Median Income), while it's 60% for everyone else to get 421-a.

The Post gets this part right:

Another provision eliminates - for Ratner only - the requirement that at least 20 percent of the housing units in each building in a complex be affordable.

Critics say it opens the door to Ratner "segregating" all of the project's 2,500 affordable-housing units into several buildings.

Aside from giving Ratner an advantage over all other overdevelopers, the arrangement could get progressively worse for New Yorkers:

"More sinister, [Ratner] can build the market-rate housing first and wait a decade to do the affordable housing or, even worse, come back after the market-rate housing is done and then say, 'We can't afford to do the affordable housing,' " an official said.

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Posted by lumi at 10:19 AM

With missing building (322 condos), AY financial projections have huge hole

SiteVMissingSm.jpgAtlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder discovers that the high-rise planned for Site V, including the 322 market-rate condos, was completely missing from a project planning document:

The omission is important.
...
[T]he numbers have been used in the projections made by Forest City Ratner and in the KPMG report (large PDF) commissioned by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) last year regarding project finances.

So the estimation regarding a internal rate of return--in this case, 9.6% for the non-arena portion of the project--omits a building. It doesn't wash.
...
So state officials who examined Atlantic Yards, including the Public Authorities Control board, missed a building.

The NY Times had its own explanation of the omission, but gets a key fact wrong. The irony is that this building was also the subject of a previously secret Memorandum of Understanding, released by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn in August 2005.

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Posted by lumi at 9:57 AM

Barron declares candidacy for Beep

Barron-NYS.jpg One of the few City Councilmembers to speak out against the abuse of eminent domain in NYC and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards announced his cadidacy for Brooklyn Borough President:

amNY, Barron plans run for Brooklyn post

One of the most outspoken and controversial members of the City Council is running for Brooklyn borough president, and he's making no secret of his ambitions for Gracie Mansion.

"We need to make to make sure that Brooklyn is not a borough for developers to come get rich and for working people to struggle every day," said Councilman Charles Barron (D-East New York).

The NY Sun, Barron Opens Candidacy For Brooklyn

Thirty-six of the council's 51 members face term limits in 2009 and council members Bill de Blasio and Domenic Recchia are among those believed to be considering a run to replace the president of Brooklyn, Martin Markowitz.

NoLandGrab: While Barron has been unwaivering in his position against Bruce Ratner's controversial plan to take private property for the Atlantic Yards superblock arena and high-rise project, Bill de Blasio and Domenic Recchia both publicly support it.

Posted by lumi at 9:41 AM

Compromising on Congestion and Campaign Cash

RoundTable.jpgGotham Gazette
By Courtney Gross and Gail Robinson

An article about the compromises and agreements reached in overtime between the City and State lists a few items that didn't get done, including the 421-a reform bill that contains the "Ratner Clause:"

Tax Credits for Housing: The legislature has approved a version of 421a, a city program that provides tax breaks to housing developers in an effort to encourage construction of affordable housing. The mayor and City Council had proposed their own version late last year. But the version approved by the legislature - and apparently authored by Assemblymember Vito Lopez of Brooklyn -- included a huge tax break for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project. And according to the city housing agency, the legislature's bill places additional conditions on developers that would hamper the city's effort to promote building of middle class housing. Bloomberg and Quinn have both urged Spitzer to veto it.

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Posted by lumi at 9:23 AM

New law muddles political donations

The Morning Journal
By Alex M. Parker

A reporter from a local daily paper in Ohio uses a campaign donation from a Forest City exec as an example of just the type of contribution that may come under stricter scrutiny under a reform bill passed last year:

In an expensive Democratic primary race against a challenger with deep pockets, Elyria Mayor Bill Grace counted on individual contributors to carry him to victory over challenger Holly Brinda in May.

His biggest donor? Samuel Miller, the co-chairman and treasurer of Forest City Enterprises, the Cleveland-based real estate behemoth -- and developer of Chestnut Commons in southeast Elyria.

Miller donated $4,000 to Grace's campaign, the largest single donation in the race. Because Ohio has no limits for local contributions, the donation was legal.
...
Election officials said it is unclear whether the current law targets just traditional government contractors -- such as those for sewer installation -- or whether it includes things like tax incentives, which cities make with businesses to bring in commercial developments, like Chestnut Commons.

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NoLandGrab: New York City's top Forest City exec, Bruce Ratner, likes to brag that he doesn't do campaign contributions. You can imagine everyone's surprise when Norman Oder revealed that campaign contributions are funneled through Bruce's brother's family.

Posted by lumi at 9:00 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA!

EminentDomainia21.gifDuffield St. Underground, Round up of press criticism of public authorities & AKRF
What's up with these public authorities that are eager to use eminent domain anywhere a developer wants them to and the consulting company that always finds a way to justify the taking? A round up some of the latest criticism reveals some patterns:

All of this raises questions of the credibility of the public authorities to use eminent domain for public purposes. The EDC admits that Duffield Street was home to Abolitionists, and it offers vague benefits of their proposed parking lot. The ESDC has been caught playing politics with their friends AKRF, and it looks like the same thing is happening on Duffield Street.

Mythsmasher, Ron Paul on Property Rights & Eminent Domain

When it comes to eminent domain, we know where Ron Paul and Hillary Clinton stand. What about the others?

NoLandGrab: Most national politicians are giving away one of the most populist issues of our time, one which spans class, party and ethnic lines.

NJEminentDomain.com, Eminent domain victory for Mulberry Street property owners
NJ property-rights attorney explains the recent Essex County Superior Court decision ruling in favor of scores of home and business owners in Newark, which spared them from a highly controversial urban renewal scheme.

While there is nothing novel about the opinion itself, the ruling is significant because it delivers another blow to municipalities seeking to blight properties without providing substantial credible evidence.

North County Gazette, Port Chester Businessman Wins Eminent Domain Battle

After seven years of litigation, a federal trial judge confirmed last week what Bill Brody has known all along—the government must provide citizens with notice before their right to challenge eminent domain expires. Further, the judge ruled, the Village of Port Chester violated Brody’s rights by failing to do so.

Posted by lumi at 8:32 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere78.jpgEducation Notes Online, The UFT is an Urban Myth; Coogee Beach Will be One Soon

Welcome to our brothers from Down Under:

Dan (native of the Williamsburg houses in Brooklyn) and Robyn (Fremantle native) Scherr have descended on the New York area. They are these activists back home fighting to save their local and beloved Coogee beach from the actions of developers. While here, they should hang out with the gang from "Develop, Don't Destroy" who are fighting Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards. It is funny how developers destroying neighborhoods in Brooklyn or Coogie use the same tactics against even small groups of critics: branding them anti-development, professional protesters, outside agitators, a vocal minority, etc, etc. They monitor every word of criticism, no matter how mild, very closely and use their PR machines to respond instantly.

Queens Crap, Getting 'Yank'ed around
The Villiage Voice reports:

Baseball's New York Yankees will get taxpayer subsidies worth $217 million more than first estimated for a new stadium, a civic group said on Friday, blaming ex-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the ballooning cost.

Did anyone one not see this coming?

"It's obviously not the first time there were major cost overruns associated with a large development project in the city," Good Jobs research analyst Dan Steinberg tells the Voice—the city's $100 million cost for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project, he notes, mysteriously "leaped to $205 million" earlier this year, while the 1970s renovation of Yankee Stadium was initially budgeted at $24 million before ballooning to a final price tag of $101 million.

Fast Hugs, How 'Sex' Ruined New York
"The Atlantic Yards" is mysteriously included in a pantheon of landmarks that symbolize New York City before Manhattan became one giant chain-store mall and was overrun with Sex-in-the-City wannabes.

SupersonicsSoul, Revue Nues

One sports blogger has some observations about Norman Oder's article on the Nets' average-ticket price increase:

Finally, also on the arena front, it turns out that Nets fans in Brooklyn (or whatever they would be called if they moves), would be looking at some pretty hefty ticket price increases with a new stadium, as reported in Atlantic Yards Report. If you read the entire article, you'll see that while there will be plenty of $15ish tickets for the regular folk, personal seat licenses and other faves of ownership will be implemented. Ironically, it will be the season ticket holders and mini-season ticket holders who will bear the brunt of the price increases, not the bleacher crowd.

Why is that ironic? Because it's the bandwagon fans who are against the stadium that would benefit the most. Meanwhile, the season ticket-holders, who take the unpopular view politically in support of the arena, that will pay the most for it. Somewhere in there is a karmaic message, I suppose.

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

July 22, 2007

Port Chester wrongly took businessman's land, judge rules

LoHud.com brings us the ultimate nightmare situation: the eminent domain case is won - after the buildings in question have been knocked down, paved over, and made into parking lots.

Brody's fight centered on whether the village had properly informed him of its intent to seize his properties. The village announced its intention in a legal ad in The Journal News in July 1999, following a public hearing on the matter. Brody then had 30 days to challenge the village's "determination and findings" regarding the project.

Brody said he didn't find out until 2000 that the village was going to seize his properties. By that time, his 30-day window had long since expired and he no longer had the right to challenge the seizure.

Largely because of Brody's case, New York state changed its eminent domain law in 2004 to require municipalities to notify property owners by certified mail or personal delivery of decisions to seize their land.

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Posted by amy at 9:38 AM

In the Times: the Public Editor looks at the Times, an affordable housing delay, and no response to "Cracker Barrel 2.0"

Atlantic Yards Report

In today's New York Times, new Public Editor Clark Hoyt, in a column headlined Tiptoeing Around the Family Business, examines how the Times has had trouble covering the challenge by a major outside shareholder to the stock structure that leaves the Ochs-Sulzberger families in control of the company.

Hoyt observes:
Amid all this turmoil [in the news industry], aggressively reported and analyzed in The Times, there has been a comparative silence in the paper about its own owners, their challenges and their strategy. From Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to Landon Thomas Jr., a business reporter who has been assigned stories about The Times, everyone acknowledges a fundamental truth: It’s hard to write about yourself.

He could have gone even further to discuss the Times's sketchy coverage of its own real estate deals, in selling its old building and acquiring land for the new Times Tower, built by the parent New York Times Company and developer Forest City Ratner. And that might have led to scrutiny of the Times's coverage of Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by amy at 9:32 AM

Mau-Mau the Yuppies, Ratner!

BTHSNews
Sean Murphy

NoLandGrab: It seems harsh to skewer a high school student's work, but this kid clearly needs some fact-checking skills. Or maybe he fact-checked with Errol Louis? In any case, an article that starts off with describing Ratner as causing a racial rift where little existed turns into a misguided attack on project opponents, then turns pro-Atlantic Yards. Keep up the good work kid - you're a shoo-in for an internship at the Daily News. Just not in the sports department.

Unlike most of his ilk, Ratner was savvy enough to realize that siding with “the community” is not a foolhardy venture, as has been evidenced by the rapturous success of both Atlantic Malls.

Here's Atlantic Yards Report on the "rapturous success" of Atlantic Center:

Cleaning up in the wreckage a political deal involving former Gov. George Pataki and former Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano, the ESDC has closed its underutilized Brooklyn office on the lightly-trafficked third floor of the Atlantic Center mall operated by Forest City Ratner.

Also, a look at the history of the Community Network Office (CNO) program offers evidence—in plain sight but not previously emphasized—that the choice of the mall for the ESDC Brooklyn office was meant as a favor to developer Forest City Ratner. The developer has had trouble filling space at the mall, which even the New York Times described in 2004 as having “dead corridors,” especially on the third floor.

Murphy goes on:

It would be extremely presumptuous in making a final statement on this issue, but it is my sincere opinion that for once in recent memory, the little guy, the lower-to-middle-class New Yorker who patronizes mom and pop record shops instead of the Virgin Megastore or Italian cappuccino bars as opposed to the latest Starbucks, has finally won.

This statement is mind-bending enough to make this article seem like a parody- perhaps it is? Ratner himself brought Starbucks, along with nearly every mall and bigbox store in America, to the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic.

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Posted by amy at 9:07 AM

July 21, 2007

In Newark, an eminent domain decision with some echoes for Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

A 14-acre plot of land one block from an urban sports arena, with modest lots, homes, and businesses, some of them empty. A redevelopment proposal with mostly luxury housing. A politically connected developer. A plan to use eminent domain. A questionable finding of blight. And a lawsuit.

Sounds like Brooklyn and Atlantic Yards? Nope, it's the Mulberry Street Redevelopment Project in Newark, where, on Thursday, a state judge shot down the plan by calling the government's finding of blight and underutilization not credible. (See Mulberry Street Area Property Owner's Group v. City of Newark, 3.8 MB PDF.)

There's little if any applicability to Brooklyn, given that the decision was based on state rather than federal law. The plaintiffs in Goldstein v. Pataki, the Brooklyn eminent domain case, draw on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo v. New London decision, but have so far been stymied in trial court.

Still, the case has some significant echoes for Atlantic Yards watchers because, in New York, the Empire State Development Corporation, the condemning agency, almost certainly would not get away with its questionable blight finding had the case proceeded in New Jersey.

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Posted by amy at 9:41 AM

Vet shooter in peerless show

callanexhibit.jpg

The Brooklyn Paper

NoLandGrab has been tipped off that Brooklyn Paper photographer Tom Callan's show includes an Atlantic Yards classic photo...(Hint: SWAK!)

Our own irascible shutterbug, Tom Callan, who has been shooting Brooklyn for the better part of three decades, has opened up his files for a retrospective of his work starting next Friday in Red Hook.

Some of our favorite Callan shots — many of which first appeared in The Brooklyn Paper — will be on display, lining the walls of the equally irascible Sunny’s Bar on Conover Street.
...
“Photographs by Tom Callan” opens at Sunny’s Bar (253 Conover St., at Reed Street in Red Hook), July 20, 8 pm. Call (718) 625-8211 for information.

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Posted by amy at 9:32 AM

Atlantic Yards: Drill Seekers

drillnotpile.jpg

Brit in Brooklyn

Thanks to a reader's tip, as well as on-the-spot observations this afternoon, we can confirm what appeared to be a pile driver is in fact a drill. A pile driver bangs and a drill screws; the cylinder at mid-left was slowly rotating. (Further confirmation on No Land Grab, which has the recent Empire State Development Corporation construction update.)

The screw is believed to have been invented by the Pythagorean philosopher Archytas of Tarentum around 500 BC.

Brit in Brooklyn regrets the error.

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Posted by amy at 9:28 AM

Atlantic Yards, Baghdad.

baghdadvay%20copy.jpg

KnickerBlogger

Perhaps our so called elite realize they are so increasingly out of touch with 'the people' that the new architecture- knowingly agoraphobic and standoffish - is an attempt to grab as much as possible, and have a quick way to close the gates before all hell breaks loose. That is certainly the mentality of Bruce Ratner in Brooklyn - consistently he does as much as he can to carve out a chunk of territory and make sure there's no public access...and it seems with our embassy in Baghdad- what kind of country has to build an embassy like this...

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Posted by amy at 9:16 AM

THE PROBLEM WITH BILL DE BLASIO

Views from the Bridge

Mr. de Blasio holds that buildings, in some cases, should not be too tall unless it would be better if they were. In that he stands shoulder to shoulder with David Yassky who has stated that the Ratner Atlantic Yards project should not be built, unless it is “done well.” In that spirit, Mr. de Blasio has gone after Scarano Architects for ‘unprofessional practices’ but he seems perfectly happy with Frank Gehry’s mega-plex dystopia. The latter apparently will create jobs whereas the former will not though he has not as yet provided the reasoning behind that assertion.

I have no brief for Scarano Architects. What bothers me is that Mr. de Blasio is a master at finding the political path of least resistance. In the one instance he is mightily worried about zoning codes. In the case of Mr. Ratner, wherever the flood of public treasure flows -- as well as the ensuing overflow to our already overtaxed sewer system -- seems fine with him.

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Posted by amy at 9:13 AM

Yanks Reach First Place ... In Stadium Subsidies

yankee7.07.jpg

Village Voice
Neil deMause

"It's obviously not the first time there were major cost overruns associated with a large development project in the city," Good Jobs research analyst Dan Steinberg tells the Voice—the city's $100 million cost for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project, he notes, mysteriously "leaped to $205 million" earlier this year, while the 1970s renovation of Yankee Stadium was initially budgeted at $24 million before ballooning to a final price tag of $101 million.

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Posted by amy at 9:02 AM

Terence Taylor, Writer, Producer, Horror Author

terence_taylor.jpg

Gothamist

The story of one Brooklyn TV writer/author's strangest experience in New York:

The strangest? That's hard, it's a strange town. In 1981 I was looking for a loft in Brooklyn with a partner, and we leased a large space in a building off Flatbush between Bergen and Dean. We struggled for months to carve a home out of a raw concrete space and failed. The relationship broke up, but not before we found two spaces for sale in a building in Gowanus, where I live now. A few years ago, as the horror that is the Atlantic Yards project began to rear its head, I read an article in a local paper that listed buildings being taken over by abuse of eminent domain. I realized that the building I would have been living in was one of them. At the time, leaving it seemed terrible, but in the long run, losing that space was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. since it got me to buy something else. I feel for the current tenants.

Only in New York. You never know if something that happens to you is good or bad for years.

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Posted by amy at 8:56 AM

Bruce Ratner eyes more Brooklyn sites

toysrus.jpg

Courier-Life
Gary Buiso

This proposal for Marine Park has all the hallmarks of a Ratner project: currently occupied space, strip malls, big box stores, dissatisfied Community Boards, street de-mapping, even the rhetoric is the same:

“This will not happen in secret,” Fidler said, alluding to the anticipated public review of the project.

At first glance, he continued, “the feeling is that this is empty city-owned land, and thus would not appear to negatively impact the community.”

Forest City Ratner declined to comment for this story.

City officials last week held an interagency meeting to discuss de-mapping two streets near the site, as well as to get input about aspects of the project.

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Posted by amy at 8:40 AM

July 20, 2007

Doubletake...

Ward-or-MissBrooklyn.jpg We did a doubletake this morning when we saw this photo on Brownstoner.

We weren't sure if it was supposed to be the translucently shrouded Ward Bakery building, or the latest model of Miss Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 11:50 AM

Atlantic Yards oversight under scope

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Almost three months after state officials promised to implement five oversight measures for the Atlantic Yards project following a partial building collapse there, only one has become a reality, the Daily News has learned.

Since unveiling the safety measures on May 7, officials have failed to appoint an ombudsman or a construction liaison, create a group to oversee transportation issues or hold regular group meetings with elected officials.

An intergovernmental group comprising four city agencies has meet three times, an Empire State Development Corp. spokesman said yesterday, but that could not immediately be confirmed.

"This basically says that the Spitzer administration, just like the Pataki administration, is giving us empty promises when it comes to transparency, oversight and accountability," said Councilwoman Letitia James, who represents the area that is to become the home of the controversial $4 billion project.

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FUN WITH MATH:
The 73 days, 12 hrs, 13 mins since the ESDC promised an ombuddy is no big deal considering that it's also been 200 DAYS since "DAY ONE" of the Spitzer administration, you know, the day, according to his campaign slogan, that "everything changes."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn just posted this response to the Daily News article:

The most important measure as far as the community is concerned is the designation of an ombudsperson available to the public. There is still no ombudsperson and therefore the public has nobody to turn to with any problems, questions or concerns about Atlantic Yards, of which there are many.

Despite the new look of this ESDC, it feels the same as the old one — the developer is running the show.

The article is also getting more play in the blogosphere:
Brownstoner, ESDC Continues To Fumble the Atlantic Yards Ball

Since making a set of five promises back in May, State officials are batting a meager .200 in their efforts to step up oversight of the Atlantic Yards project, according to The Daily News.... Is anyone really surprised?

The Real Deal, Atlantic Yards oversight lacking

The Empire State Development Corporation, which announced it would put certain oversight measures into place with respect to the Atlantic Yards project, has failed to implement most of the measures it said it would.

Curbed.com, Friday AM Linkage

Posted by lumi at 11:09 AM

Marty's base includes Brooklyn developers (but not Ratner*)

Atlantic Yards Report

MartyMoney-BP.gif

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, contemplating a run for mayor but not yet declaring for the race, has raised a respectable sum of money but remains well behind several rivals, as the Brooklyn Paper reports this week.

Among the donors of the maximum $4950, as the Brooklyn Paper notes, are developers Joe Sitt, Shaya Boymelgreen, Joshua Muss, and Dolly Williams, who just happens to be Markowitz's appointee to the City Planning Commission. (As an investor in the Nets, Williams recused herself from the Atlantic Yards discussion.)

Norman Oder pokes around looking for some Ratner-related contributions:

And where's the heavyweight, Forest City Ratner? We know that Bruce Ratner stopped giving campaign contributions but his brother Michael Ratner and sister-in-law Karen Ranucci, both Manhattan residents, have dutifully given to Brooklyn politicians. They haven't donated to Markowitz (yet).

But there is a $1000 contribution from Cheryl McKissack Felder, president/CEO of The McKissack Group, Inc. (Her name is misspelled "McKissick.") McKissack & McKissack, the nation’s oldest minority-owned professional design and construction firm, is the construction manager for the $182 million project to relocate the Vanderbilt Yard.

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NoLandGrab: It would be remarkable if Bruce Ratner continued to funnel contributions through family members, now that Norman Oder has exposed the scheme.

Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

Bagel battle ends

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

AREABagels.jpg

Arena Bagels — the Atlantic Yards–area bagelry that ran afoul of Bruce Ratner’s opponents because the shop’s name suggested that the mega-development was inevitable — is now officially A.R.E.A. Bagels.
...
Aggarwal said the periods between the letters were not just space-holders, but abbreviations of the names of his family members. More than that, he wouldn’t say.

“I am so happy how it all worked out,” Aggarwal said at Wednesday’s grand opening. “Now, people are coming in and saying, ‘Thanks for changing the name.’ They don’t need to thank me. I gave in because I want to be part of this neighborhood, this community.”

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"A.R.E.A." = Arena Rejection Earns Accolades!

A.R.E.A. Bagels (55 Fifth Avenue, between Bergen Street and St. Marks Place) is open Mondays through Saturdays, 6 am–10 pm and Sundays from 6 am–6 pm. Call (718) 230-8889 for information.

Posted by lumi at 10:02 AM

He smells a Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters to the Editor

A Park Sloper lays the blame at Ratner's feet, but calls on voters to take it out on their elected representatives:

Those newly released Atlantic Yards documents (“Yassky: Stop Ratner gravy train,” July 14) make it very clear that the 2,250 low-cost housing units that are proposed as part of Bruce Ratner’s development may, in fact, never be built.

But if not, blame Ratner. Their future is in doubt due to cost under-estimates, and this should concern every taxpaying citizen. Ratner’s project will ultimately be funded with taxpayer money solely for private use, and in the end will not benefit the community in any way shape or form, but will only further deplete already overtaxed utilities in the area and in nearby neighborhoods.

Moving forward with this project, with the assistance of city officials and planners, violates the terms of Eminent Domain laws, and is unethical. The developer, with government assistance, is knowingly seizing private property for private use under the guise of public benefit.

To add insult to injury, a recent state Assembly vote awarded Ratner a tax break estimated as being worth between $175 and $300 million.

It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to all that’s going on in our own backyards — we need to act.

If the officials we elect to protect our interests are unwilling to do so, they must be voted out of office. We’ve been complacent long enough, Brooklynites — “Wake up! Speak up! Use your vote!”

Robert Segarra, Park Slope

Posted by lumi at 9:56 AM

Congestion pricing still looms as an AY issue

Atlantic Yards Report

The dirty little secret in the pro-more-development-Brooklyn set is that traffic around Downtown Brooklyn already sucks (despite what any environmental impact statement claims) and it will continue to get worse, unless initiatives like congestion pricing are implemented.

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Posted by lumi at 9:46 AM

Amendment of 421-a Bill Could Save City Millions

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

A carve-out for the Atlantic Yards project in a housing tax break bill could be removed during a special legislative session, as legislators are pushing to block what has been called a giant taxpayer giveaway.

Last month, the Legislature approved a renewed residential tax break bill, known as 421-a, which contained expanded provisions for “affordable” housing. However the deal-making involved in crafting the bill, which has yet to be sent to Governor Spitzer for his signature, resulted in facets that angered advocates of both housing and development. The mayor has called for a veto of the bill should it not be amended, as has the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn.

The chief focus of criticisms of the bill is an exemption crafted for Brooklyn’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which Mayor Bloomberg has said could cost the city upwards of $300 million. The lead architect of the bill, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, said all parties are talking, including developer Forest City Ratner, and that there seems to be support for at least scaling back the Atlantic Yards provision.

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NoLandGrab: Is it possible that Vito Lopez is testing the waters for "at least scaling back the Atlantic Yards provision" to claim a win-win for the developer, politicians and community? "Scaling back" a handout, that's brilliant!

The history of "scalebacks" for Atlantic Yards is deceptive and murky:

In September 2006, Ratner announced a "scaleback" of the project, in a NY Times exclusive that returned the project to roughly the square footage originally announced in 2003.

In December 2006, the height of the project's signature tower, "Miss Brooklyn," was "scaled back" to one foot less than the height of the landmark Williamsburg Savings Bank clock tower. Ratner has yet to release details about the bulk and square footage of the "new Miss Brooklyn," though project critics note that the building will likely be much more massive than the clock tower.

We can hardly wait for details of the next "scaleback."

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

Home field advantage

Report: Pols bat for Yanks

MetroNY
By Patrick Arden

Though Mayor Bloomberg told everyone (and the media believed him) that George Steinbrenner would be "footing the bill” for the new Yankee Stadium, the public pricetag just went up.

But taxpayers are subsidizing the Yankees’ new $1.3 billion stadium project with direct payments and tax breaks worth more than $663.5 million, according to a new report released today by the watchdog group Good Jobs New York. This puts the deal in the same league as former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s reviled offer to go “halfsies” on a ballpark in Manhattan.

The new numbers are backed up by the city’s Independent Budget Office, which yesterday increased its estimate for the benefits gleaned from city financing of the stadium with $920 million in tax-exempt bonds, a skirting of a 1986 law that required an IRS waiver.

The report documents how the team hired former public officials — and induced current ones — to work for the project.

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NoLandGrab: Though the article isn't specifically about Atlantic Yards, long-time readers will remember that at the official unveiling of Bruce Ratner's controversial project, Bloomberg also claimed that Ratner would have to pay for the arena himself.

In addition, the City's direct cash contribution for Atlantic Yards has already increased two-fold, with no end in site, since the City has agreed to foot the bill for any "extraordinary infrastructure costs."

Between Bloomberg's track record on getting team owners to "foot the bill" and the increasing public costs for Atlantic Yards, it's amazing that anyone takes the original announcements at face value. And if the public tab is nearly $700 million when the team "foots the bill," what might that mean for taxpayers who are on the hook for "extraordinary infrastructure costs?"

Posted by lumi at 9:04 AM

"Atlantic Yards site" sighting

No matter what you think about Atlantic Yards, the project site itself has become a landmark (of sorts). In a story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle about the demand for medical office space in Brooklyn, one realtor notes that another developer is building more space, "near the Atlantic Yards site at 525 Clinton Ave."

link

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Conflict of Interest?

AKRF-ESDC-FCRC Connections Raise Questions About Objectivity of "Atlantic Yards" Environmental Review

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods' concerns regarding the objectivity of the firms responsible for the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement have been validated.

Documents released by New York State's Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in response to a lawsuit filed by State Assemblyman James Brennan have raised questions about the relationship between the ESDC, the consultant it retained to conduct the State's environmental review of the "Atlantic Yards" project, AKRF, and the project's developer, Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC).

The 600+ pages were released to Assemblyman Brennan and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery primarily in hard copy and are being shared with the press and public on request. According to detailed analysis reported on the blog Atlantic Yards Report, AKRF had been retained by FCRC in 2003 to conduct an evaluation of the economic and fiscal benefits of the proposed arena-and-high-rise development project. Atlantic Yards Report published a copy of a cover letter sent by AKRF to FCRC on September 26, 2003, which said in part that the consulting firm was "excited about the project and what it can mean to Brooklyn, New York City and the (sic) New York State."

AKRF was subsequently hired by the ESDC to conduct the state's environmental review of the "Atlantic Yards" project. AKRF's review, not surprisingly, found that the project - which would be of unprecedented scale and density - would have only negligible negative effects.

"The intent of the Environmental Impact Statement is to analyze and evaluate a project's potential pitfalls, and to provide the public an opportunity to voice its concerns," said Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) co-chair Therese Urban. "But when the firm doing the analysis has already been paid by the developer for work on the very same project, it certainly raises the specter of conflict of interest. Especially when the resulting EIS is so clearly flawed."

CBN is among 26 community and civic organizations that have sued the State of New York, seeking to annul the Final Environmental Impact Statement for "Atlantic Yards." The plaintiffs have alleged that the State failed to take a required "hard look" at the project's impacts, failed to adequately consider alternatives, and did not have sufficient basis to make a blight finding, among several other causes of action.

"The revolving door connecting consultants, developers and the state agencies responsible for big development projects is troubling at best, inappropriate on its surface, and potentially much worse than that," said Jim Vogel, spokesperson for CBN. "Forest City Ratner is one of New York's biggest developers, and it's reasonable to wonder if AKRF would jeopardize future contracts with FCRC if it were to find significant problems with FCRC's flagship project. When a developer knows that the state agency responsible for approving a project will be relying on the developer's hand-picked consultant to review their own work, prepared on the developer's behalf, I'm sure that makes the developer pretty confident of the outcome. But the public interest is not being served by this cozy arrangement."

In his inaugural address, Governor Spitzer said 'every policy, every action and every decision we make in this administration. must transform our government so that it is as ethical and wise as all of New York.' The relationship among the ESDC, its consultants, and the projects it oversees would appear ripe for such 'transformation.'


The COUNCIL OF BROOKLYN NEIGHBORHOODS (http://www.cbrooklynneighborhoods.homestead.com/ ) is a coalition of recognized diverse community groups active in Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8. CBN is comprised of 40 community organizations that have joined together to ensure meaningful community participation in the environmental review of the proposed Atlantic Yards development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
201 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Posted by lumi at 8:45 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA!

TWOFER ON THE BIGGEST LANDOWNER IN THE FOOTPRINT OF COLUMBIA U'S EXPANSION PLAN
The Village Voice, Big in Yonkers
Columbia foe buys house organ, ponders playing it

Standing in the way of Columbia's plan is one Nick Sprayregen, real estate investor, king of the Tuck-It-Away storage empire, and newly minted newspaper owner. Sprayregen owns five warehouses in the Columbia zone. He hasn't wanted to sell them, certainly not with the school continuing to threaten their seizure through eminent domain.

The NY Sun, Storage Mogul Is an Obstacle to Columbia’s Expansion

The most formidable obstacle to Columbia University’s 17-acre expansion may not be those who live within the West Harlem project’s footprint, but a New Rochelle-based storage mogul.

The largest private landowner within the area targeted for the expansion, Nicholas Sprayregen, a developer, landlord, weekly newspaper publisher, and owner of Tuck-It-Away self-storage, has spent $500,000 so far on attorneys, a lobbyist, and land-use consultants in an attempt to compel the university to scale back its proposal.

A fierce opponent of Columbia’s proposed use of eminent domain, the lively father of four has money to spend and is emerging as a critical force in the West Harlem community’s opposition to the university’s plan.

[Photo: The owner of Tuck-It-Away self-storage, Nicholas Sprayregen, on the rooftop of his building on upper Broadway, where Columbia is planning its expansion. NY Sun]

FEDERAL EMINENT DOMAIN REFORM BILL INTRODUCED IN HOUSE
LibertyMatters.org, Lawmakers Plan Eminent Domain Reform

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Ca, rarely sides with Republicans on any issue, but last week she joined Rep. James Sensenbrenner R- WI, to introduce the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2007. The bill seeks to counter the effects of the disastrous Supreme Court's Kelo decision of 2005. The Act would withhold economic development funds from state and local governments that use eminent domain for private development. The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a similar measure in 2005, but never made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Federal protections from eminent domain abuse are long overdue," said Bert Gall, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice.

Institute for Justice Press Release (PDF)

YOU FROM JOISEY?
NJEminentDomain.com, Lodi drops its eminent domain appeal
Abuse of eminent domain is a hot-button issue in the Garden State, where judges are drawing the line, the State advocate is calling for reform, and, in a surprise move, some local politicians are standing down.

The NY Times, Judge Stops Newark Redevelopment Project

A NJ judge determined that Newark's "blight" determination did not pass muster, citing campaign contributions detween developer and local pols:

A New Jersey judge effectively killed an ambitious downtown redevelopment project in Newark yesterday, ruling that the city’s decision to condemn 14 acres of property on behalf of a private developer was ill-conceived and wrong. The project, the Mulberry Street Redevelopment Project, a proposed collection of 2,000 market-rate apartments and stores in the shadow of the city’s new hockey arena, would have been the largest development initiative here in decades.

In her decision, Judge Simonelli mentioned the close links between the developers and the James administration, adding that large contributions had been made to the former mayor and the Municipal Council, whose approval was needed for the area’s condemnation.

In her decision, Judge Marie P. Simonelli of Superior Court said the administration of Mayor Sharpe James misused the state’s rules on condemnation when it declared 62 parcels “an area in need of redevelopment.” She said the row houses, mechanics’ shops and parking lots, while somewhat tattered, were not “blighted” and suggested that the decision to condemn the property was politically motivated.

NYC EDC JOB CREATION MIRACLE
Duffield St. Undergound, "Oooops" —The EDC
Demolition of the Duffield St. Abolitionist homes "is only one example" of how "the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has been busy spending taxpayer dollars destroying existing businesses as it develops new projects with dubious benefits." The EDC created just over a dozen jobs at the Red Hook cruiseship terminal, though 370 were promised.

Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

July 19, 2007

Revamping Empire State Development: stop playing politics, says report

Several readers sent in the link for an article in The NY Sun about the release of a report on the Empire State Development Corporation. Since the article didn't contain anything pointing to Atlantic Yards or the process for approving development projects, we left it on the cutting room floor until someone had actually read the report.

Guess who read it first (again).

From Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report:

The focus, in press coverage, was on technical fixes and a failed job-creation program. Only a close look at the report shows that, in key places, the analysts blame certain ESD/ESDC failures on "political patronage," "political convenience," and the "practice of favoring political over economic criteria."

In other words, a report commissioned by the administration of new Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, takes strong issue with the practices of ESD/ESDC under longtime Gov. George Pataki, a Republican.

The report doesn't mention Atlantic Yards, but there's certainly evidence that the ESDC's board, which I described as "team players and big donors," didn't closely scrutinize the project when it was approved last November.

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Posted by lumi at 9:03 AM

Atlantic Yards Pix!

Brit in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Pile Driver

This contraption, pictured in front of the shrouded Ward Bakery, is for punching foundations deep into the ground. Pile drivers are an increasingly common sight (and sound) of Brooklyn's development frenzy.

Have you noticed that Atlantic Yards observers tend to overkill everything?

The origin of the pile driver is dated variously from as far back as 5000 years ago in Scotland up to the renaissance starchitects Francesco di Giorgio and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Curbed.com, Eye on AY: Investment Opportunities at Ward Bakery!

Live on the scene of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, the doomed Ward Bakery Building—scene of the parapet collapse back in April—looms in the background, while exciting investment opportunities come to the fore. ONLY $500 DOWN, friends! Grab 'em before Bruce does!

Myske on Flickr, Targ!

Atlantic Yards - pre-Ratnerfication.

NoLandGrab: "Tar-jay" and the other national chains in Ratner's two malls adjacent to the project site IS RATNERFICATION — expect more of the same.

Posted by lumi at 8:33 AM

Give this man a Pulitzer

David Smith from Affordable Housing Institute makes the case for giving Norman "the Mad Overkiller" Oder the Pulitzer ("hear hear!") for "THE MOST DISINTERESTED AND MERITORIOUS PUBLIC SERVICE:"

Whatever you think of Atlantic Yards — and I still haven’t made up my mind, because so many things are in flux and shifting — what Mr. Oder has done represents investigative journalism of the highest order. He’s done the cause of public-private governance a huge service, all on a shoestring, fired (as far as I can tell) by nothing but altruistic motives.

link

NoLandGrab: And all along we thought that the Pulitzer motto was, "boldly going where no journalist has gone before."

Posted by lumi at 8:16 AM

High ticket prices for Brooklyn Nets

Field of Schemes compares Bruce Ratner's Nets planned average ticket price increase to another recent new sports-venue windfall:

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report notes that New Jersey Nets financial documents project a 73% hike in weighted average ticket price once the team's new Brooklyn arena opens in 2010. (If it opens then - there are still lawsuits pending.) This would be one of the larger ticket price hikes for a team moving into a new stadium, though certainly not a record: The Detroit Tigers more than doubled average prices when they moved into Comerica Park in 2000.

Also of interest to those who follow sports-venue schemes:

...is word that Nets owner Bruce Ratner expects to sell 4500 "personal seat licenses" for the right to buy selected seats, which at $4500 a pop would raise $20 million.

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Posted by lumi at 7:52 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Zoned-In, Economic Development: The Stronger Transportation Solution

One blogger repackages Atlantic Yards as a regional business center:

Rather than developing strategies to facilitate long-distance travel routes, be they from Canarsie on the subway or from Suffolk County on the LIRR, why not develop job centers throughout the region, creating job opportunities closer to the homes of the region’s 18 million? Perhaps once Downtown Brooklyn, Jamaica, the Bronx Hub, the Nassau Hub, and other secondary central business districts have emerged as competitive, diverse job centers, it will become more practical for the region’s residents to walk or bicycle – or at least drive shorter distances – on their daily commutes, relieving the region’s traffic congestion. The Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, for instance, would benefit from making office and retail space the emphasis of the project.

NoLandGrab: It sounds like a good idea — the only problem is that the track record for creating a regional business center in Downtown Brooklyn has been fairly poor:

Streets Blog, Critical Transportation Reforms Sink With Pricing

The sinking of the congestion pricing ship took other victims with it. Lost with congestion pricing was legislation approving bus lane enforcement cameras, residential parking permits, and reclassifying "block the box" as an easier to enforce parking violation.
...
Permits might make sense as a mitigation for reducing the "edge effect" of a congestion pricing zone and to prevent driving to major trip-generators like the proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: The conventional wisdom among transpo nerds is that congestion pricing and residential parking permits are necessary to mitigate some of the effects of placing an arena and 16 high-rise towers on one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn.

Pardon me for asking, Hey, We Are All Invited To Bill De Blasio's Place
After being elected to two City Council terms, Bill de Blasio is starting to hold meet-and-greets. "Pardonez-moi" blogger Katia Kelly shares one reader's email:

Bill de Blasio, everybody's favorite beamish boy, needs to sort out his loyalties about the Atlantic Yards before he starts hustling cash around here. He does not need a town hall meeting for that, just a published statement.

Of course, if you'd like to share your views on Atlantic Yards, you can drop by De Blasio's district office (2907 Ft. Hamilton Parkway) next Tuesday, July 24, 3PM-7PM.

Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

Real Estate Round-Up, News, Notes And Trends

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Compiled by Sarah Ryley

The Eagle ran a retread of the Crain's profile of the Forest City executive newly responsible for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan:

Maryanne Gilmartin, recently named executive vice president of Forest City Ratner Companies’ Atlantic Yards arena and high rise project, is profiled in this week’s Crain's New York Business.

Gilmartin, 43, had for eight years overseen the development of the company’s Renzo [Piano]-designed office tower for the New York Times, and before that served as vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. She stepped into her new role last month when her predecessor, James Stuckey, abruptly resigned without walking her through the complicated project.

The Times project and Atlantic Yards have their similarities — both are designed by celebrity architects, use eminent domain, and have risky “finances.” But Atlantic Yards, which has been the target of eight lawsuits, some still in court, will be a “severe test.”

Gilmartin “must line up financing, build the arena in two years and the entire project in 10, achieve LEED environmental certification, lure tenants and home buyers, relocate the rail yard and honor a community benefits agreement — all under the relentless scrutiny of Atlantic Yards foes,” says Crain’s.

Gilmartin, who listens to Coldplay on her iPod, says making her own happiness is the key to her success. Her husband stays home with their three kids, who she says she spends all her free time with, besides 6 a.m. daily workout sessions in her home gym.

link

NoLandGrab: In 2003, Crain's reported that Gilmartin "couldn’t find sufficiently rigorous aerobics classes. So she became a certified instructor and did the teaching herself."

Posted by lumi at 7:08 AM

Mythological

Another blogger perpetuates the myth that Brooklyn Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new ballpark on the same site on which Bruce Ratner is planning to build a new Nets arena (link to previous).

From Kelo and Beyond:

AtlanticCenterMall.jpg

HBO Sports released a marvelous documentary on the Brooklyn Dodgers, which carefully charted how Power Broker Robert Moses prompted the move of the beloved baseball franchise to Los Angeles by denying Walter O'Malley access to the Atlantic Yards, which are currently being fought over again as the future site of a basketball arena.

link

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards freaks and geeks will know this already, but for the uninitiated:

Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

July 18, 2007

Justice Madden to take more time, case status revised to "complex"

Please be advised that Index No 104597/2007 Don't Destroy Brooklyn vs. Urban Dev. Motion Sequences (01, ) has been changed from Standard to Complex and Justice Joan Madden will have 120 days to decide this motions.

This was the news from a court memo attached to an email from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

From the email:

The attached letter was sent yesterday (the date on the letter appears to be a typo) from the court to attorneys on DDDB et. al. v. ESDC et. al.

The letter is regarding the legal challenge in State Supreme Court by 26 co-petitioners to the State's Environmental Impact Statement, review and approval of Atlantic Yards.

All papers and information about that suit are here: http://www.dddb.net/FEIS

The letter states that the case has been changed from "Standard" to "Complex" and that Justice Joan Madden now has 120 days to make a decision; that is 120 days (instead of 60) from the time of the oral argument which was held on May 3rd.

Download memo

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards freaks and geeks have been holding their breath each day, expecting a decision to be handed down at any moment.

Though developer Bruce Ratner is moving ahead on any front he possibly can, this delay, no doubt, will cost the developer millions of dollars and has got to make him concerned.

Those who have been following every detail of Ratner's superblock zoning-overriding arena-highrise megalopolis have long held the opinion that if NY State's laws governing environmental reviews can't find anything wrong with Atlantic Yards, then what project could possibly be stopped? [OK, hypothetically, a sewage treatment plant in a protected watershed with the last remaining bald eagle nest might not sail through an environmental review.]

Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

Waiting for Madden: judge indicates AY decision won't come 'til September

Atlantic Yards Report explains the implications of Justice Madden's memo and provides some history:

Any interpretation of that memo is speculation, but it suggests that, while lawsuits challenging environmental reviews routinely fail, this one poses particular challenges. Indeed, Madden is faced with an almost absurdly voluminous record: 20,000-plus pages. ...
A successful suit might block the project entirely--even as Forest City Ratner has sunk significant sums into pre-construction demolition and railyard work--or require a revision of the environmental review, which could delay and change the project.

Judge Madden has heard Atlantic Yards-related cases before:

Madden is not unfamiliar with other Atlantic Yards controversies. Indeed, when Assemblyman Jim Brennan and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery sued to get access to Forest City Ratner's business plan for Atlantic Yards, Madden was the judge assigned to the case.
...
After a hearing before Madden, Forest City Ratner voluntarily agreed to turn over documents to the ESDC, which then turned them and other documents over to Brennan. Madden never issued a ruling.

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NoLandGrab: Though Norman Oder cautions against reading too much into the memo, one thing is clear — if Justice Madden was inclined to simply dismiss the case, she probably could have done so in less than 60 days.

During the oral arguments for the Brennan case, hand trucks-full of documents for the environmental case were being delivered to the court from the ESDC for the EIS case. The sheer volume of documents gave the impression that the state agency was burying the judge in paper. It's no surprise that the judge needed more time.

Posted by lumi at 8:24 AM

BROOKLYN MATTERS: Screenings

BrooklynMattersPost-sma.jpgTODAY
July 18, 6:30 pm
Quinn's Gallery, 4th Floor 35-20 Broadway (between 35th and 36th Streets)
Long Island City, Queens [map]
[Directions]
Sponsored by the Greater Astoria Historical Society

THURSDAY
July 19, 7:00 pm
AIA-Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place (between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets)
Manhattan [map]
Sponsored by the National Organization of Minority Architects

FRIDAY
July 20, 7:00 pm
Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center
748 Union Street, Bklyn [map]
Local Produce Festival
Sponsored by Spoke the Hub
RSVP: 718-408-3234

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

In move to Brooklyn, average Nets ticket price would leap

Atlantic Yards Report analyzes the ticket prices for a new Nets arena:

Thanks significantly to 170 new high-priced suites, the “blended average ticket price” for Nets games would go up dramatically, 73% for regular-season games and 64% for playoff games, upon the team's move from the Continental Airlines Arena in the Meadowlands to the planned Barclays Center arena.

The leap: from $74.98 to $129.72 for regular and preseason games, and from $90.71 to $149.18 for playoff games.

The price of most tickets likely wouldn't rise as sharply as the average--which would be distorted by the nearly sixfold increase in suites--but the projected boom in ticket revenues suggests one reason for a new arena.

The projections surfaced in a document provided by developer Forest City Ratner and unearthed by the lawsuit filed by Assemblyman Jim Brennan and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

article

NoLandGrab: Ratner's luxury-box dependent plan runs counter to an emerging trend: other team owners have been removing luxury boxes as demand has slipped due to "changes in tax laws to scandal-driven reforms on corporate entertaining."

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

Red Hook Waterfront Plant Appears Dead: Container Port to Stay

The Gowanus Lounge

For years, Atlantic Yards critics have been suspicious of jobs figures touted by developer Bruce Ratner. It started at 10,000 permanent jobs and 15,000 construction jobs. [By 15,000, Ratner actually meant 1,500 jobs x 10 years!]

The original 10,000 jobs has shrunk to 1,340, with only 375 new jobs.

Keep that in mind when checking out this story reported by the Daily News, with commentary by Gowanus Lounge:

...the $56 million cruise ship terminal in Red Hook has failed to provide the expected number of jobs. One year into operation, the terminal employed only 14 people full-time, the Daily News reported in April. The EDC in 2005 had promised 370.

The job figures--370 promised, but only 14 actual ones--should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone considering those economic impact studies that are produced to support projects and public subsidies. Decades of economic development practice around the nation are full of such contrasts between projections and reality.

link

NoLandGrab: Is it possible that Ratner's Atlantic Yards project may only cough up 14 new jobs?

Posted by lumi at 7:47 AM

421a Deal Breaks Down

The Real Estate Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

Here's one we missed from Monday.

NYC Mayor Bloomberg was hoping to add some last-minute amendments to NY State's 421-a reform bill "that would permit the 421a housing tax break to apply to subsidized middle-class housing planned for Queens West."

NoLandGrab: The Mayor has spoken out against the "Atlantic Yards carveout" on grounds that a sole developer shouldn't get special subsidies, which according to the Mayor's office could cost the city $300M. Presumably, the amendments sought by the Mayor included removal of this big gift for Bruce Ratner.

Schuerman cites an un-named real estate exec who reports that negotiations with State Assemblyman Vito Lopez have broken down:

As a result, the executive said, any changes that would undo the problems that the Bloomberg administration sees with the state legislation that passed last month will have to wait until the fall.

Schuerman updated the post with news that the Senate was passing amendments that reflected changes previously passed by the Assembly, which, "do not reflect the alterations the Mayor was seeking."

article

Posted by lumi at 7:34 AM

Fresh Lease Moves New Times Tower Toward Full

The Real Estate Observer
by John Koblin

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, "is inching even closer to full occupancy" for its Times Tower project (a joint venture with the NY Times Corporation), after sealing a deal with a new tenant, arbitration company Jams Inc.

The 35th, 38th and 44th floors are the only floors remaining for a direct lease, according to CoStar. Asking rents range from $89 per foot to $97 per foot. The 37th, 45th and 46th floors also remain on the market through subleasing.

The Times moved into the tower two months ago and has been experiencing a series of growing pains – oh, you know, maggots in the ceilings – as they adjust to the new space. Here’s hoping it works out a little better for Jams.

link

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

July 17, 2007

MaryAnne Gilmartin: Hard hat, tough skin

Crain's NY Business

Reporter Erik Engquist profiles Forest City exec MaryAnne Gilmartin, who was promoted to fill Jim Stuckey's shoes after the ex-Atlantic Yards Group President was inexplicably terminated:

MaryAnneGilmartin.jpg

For her next trick, Ms. Gilmartin will attempt a project that is five times as large and far more controversial: Atlantic Yards. Last month, Forest City Chief Executive Bruce Ratner tapped his No. 3 to lead the $4 billion development, which includes an arena, a 511-foot tower--both designed by Frank Gehry--and 15 other buildings over an active rail yard in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

No hesitation

Asked if she was chosen because Atlantic Yards and the Times building are similar--risky finances, celebrity architects and use of eminent domain--Ms. Gilmartin says, "I think I'm the most qualified person for the job."

Atlantic Yards, which faces several lawsuits, will be a severe test. Ms. Gilmartin must line up financing, build the arena in two years and the entire project in 10, achieve LEED environmental certification, lure tenants and home buyers, relocate the rail yard and honor a community benefits agreement--all under the relentless scrutiny of Atlantic Yard foes.

"I'm ready for it," she says. "I'm not afraid of anything."

article

Posted by lumi at 10:26 AM

Revolving door: consultants AKRF and Habib worked for Ratner, then ESDC

Atlantic Yards Report examines the revolving door between local and state government and development consultants.

Here it is apparently OK for:

1) a developer (in this case Forest City Ratner) to hire consultants (in this case AKRF and Philip Habib and Associates) to advise on a development plan

2) those consultants to later evaluate the environmental impact of that development plan on behalf of a state agency, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)

3) that agency to pursue the potentially conflicting goals of fostering economic development and evaluating the environmental impact of such development, and

4) the consultants' work for that agency be reimbursed by the developer.

Until recently, the courts didn't see anything wrong with consultants advising both the developer and government. But the judge in a lawsuit filed by groups in West Harlem ruled differently.

article

NoLandGrab: The relationship is only troubling when one assumes that the government is supposed to be acting in the interest of its citizens, not developers. If courts start taking good-government crybabies seriously, then nothing would ever get built anywhere, right?

Posted by lumi at 10:17 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: Big Apple Bites

NYAEDA-logo.gifWEST HARLEM
WNYC, Columbia Modifies Tone of Expansion Plan
Columbia University has announced that it will not "ask" the State of NY to use eminent domain to evict residents in West Harlem:

The Times reports that Columbia has promised residents it will make reasonable offers for West Harlem's residential and commercial properties. But, the university may still ask the state to use eminent domain to evict owners of commercial properties. Columbia owns 60% of the properties in the 17-acre area where they want to expand.

NoLandGrab: Pure PR cow pies! What happens if a handful of residents do not find Columbia's offer to be "reasonable?" You betcha that the State will attempt to go ahead with eminent domain without being asked.

And to pretend to forgo the use of eminent domain on residents, but reserve the right to seize businesses, many of which employ local residents, is hypocritical and, depending on one's position about eminent domain for private projects, possibly immoral.

DUFFIELD ST., BROOKLYN
This week, Duffield St. Underground hammers the City's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in two posts:

Anniversary of the Draft Riots

In order to destroy property, New Yorkers used to resort to wild hooligans in the street. How old fashioned! Why, the EDC doesn't need to resort to such tactics, especially with friends like AKRF.

A Snarky Parking Post
Duffield St. Underground is shocked, shocked, to find badly needed parking facilities and suitable sites:

Since I was down on Duffield today, I thought I would look to see if there are any sites that may be even more suitable to build parking. What a surprise! There already are parking facilities nearby! Maybe, just maybe, instead of destroying an important cultural resource like the Abolitionist homes on Duffield, the EDC might consider these other properties to provide facilities for automobile users.

WILLETS POINT, QUEENS
The NY Times, At a Famous Old Eyesore, the Battle Goes On
Willets Point is under threat of eminent domain (again).
Some have vowed to fight, some may move if the price is right:

Reaction has been swift in the neighborhood, where 225 businesses employ 1,800 people, according to a study done last year by Hunter College. Business owners have piled into buses to attend rallies downtown. And Councilman Tony Avella, whose district borders Willets Point, has called the prospect of eminent domain in Willets Point “un-American” and threatened to vote against the plan if the city doesn’t take care of the businesses.

It's worth noting that The Times described conditions in the "Iron Triangle" as "something out of “Mad Max,” bereft of most city services," without noting that NYC has actually withheld basic municipal services for decades.

NoLandGrab: Folks, that's called MUNICIPAL BLIGHT. Has anyone considered giving property owners a medal for putting up with governmental neglect?

Posted by lumi at 9:37 AM

Don’t Call David Adjaye a Starchitect

Lauded and pilloried (well, by one client), the U.K. sensation heads to our shores.

Adjaye.jpgNY Magazine
By Alexandra Lange

After declaring that, "Architects are good at building. They are not good at politics," architect David Adjaye ducks the question about Atlantic Yards:

Have you been following the Atlantic Yards news, since your first New York project, for artists James Casebere and Lorna Simpson, was in Fort Greene?

There are a lot of emotional discussions about new development everywhere. As an architect, I have to be an optimist.

link

Posted by lumi at 9:20 AM

Reconsidering O'Malley

NY Daily News, Letter to the Editor

Manhattan: I don't understand why Walter O'Malley gets all the blame for the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn.

He had no choice but to leave. Ebbets Field was too small and had too few parking spaces. He asked Robert Moses many times to build a new stadium at Atlantic and Flatbush, but Moses wouldn't have anything to do with it.

[Ironically, even the master of unintended consequences knew that a ballpark near Atlantic and Flatbush would create "a China Wall of traffic."]

New York can't keep teams. The baseball Giants left. The football Giants left. The Jets left. The Islanders left. New York wants teams - but it doesn't do what's needed to keep them here. And Bruce Ratner is called a rat for bringing the Nets back - to Atlantic and Flatbush, which has been an eyesore since O'Malley's time till now.

New Yorkers are never happy.

Blame O'Malley for getting rid of Branch Rickey and trading Jackie Robinson - but you can't blame him for moving the Dodgers.

Edward Drossman

NoLandGrab: Thankfully, New Yorkers are not monolithic. Being a sports fan doesn't mean that one has to support moving teams to NYC, or keeping them here, at the expense of one's neighbors.

Posted by lumi at 9:09 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere77.gifPardon Me For Asking, Bloomberg Wants To Retract Extra Ratner Money ?
Katia Kelly summarizes Mathew Schuerman's article about the Mayor's call for 421-a reform reform:

That little sweetheart deal giving Atlantic Yards Developer "Bad Guy" Ratner even more of our tax-payers money to build his Ratnerville still needs to pass across Governor Spitzer's desk. Surprisingly, Bloomberg was not too pleased about the present form of the 421a Reform and would like to make a few changes. The most important one would be to withdraw the additional $300 million dollar tax incentive for Ratner.

Brooklyn Heights Blog, Yassky Smackskies Ratsky
BHB's intro to the Brooklyn Paper article about Yassky's criticism of Ratner's pork barrel:

Brooklyn Heights' man in the City Council, David Yassky, delivered a veritable pile driver to Bruce "A Real Nowhere Man" Ratner this week...

Queens Crap, Residents protest rape of St. Saviour's

Holy Crapner!

Abandoned by the Mayor and their local Councilmember, residents — with City Councilmember Tony Avella — go head to head with a developer and hardhats in cherry pickers to save St. Saviour's, parked cars, trees, squirrels and birds.

[OK, this one has nothing to do with Bruce Ratner, but readers may be interested in reading about one of the more egregious developer-vs.-community stories we've read in some time. A tale like this would have flown under the radar in the pre-blogosphere era.]

Affordable Housing Institute, Starrett City: be careful what you wish for
While the AHI contemplates the tug-of-war over maintaining the "affordability" of Starrett City, the Atlantic Yards price tag serves as a warning:

As Senator Schumer doubtless knows, this will take either winkling the owners out of their rights, or a great deal of money to close the cost-value gap. (Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn is projected to require $1.4 billion in volume cap to produce many fewer affordable apartments.) To whom will Senator Schumer be offering money, or threatening new rent-control laws?

Brownstoner, Comfort Inn Brooklyn Bridge: Still Ugly, Now Open

The NY Times locates the new Comfort Inn Brooklyn as "near the site of the proposed Atlantic Yards complex."

Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

July 16, 2007

Brennan: many questions remain, fresh look needed

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Jim Brennan, whose lawsuit (with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery) unearthed numerous Atlantic Yards financial documents, has more questions than answers for now about the viability and future of the Atlantic Yards project.

For Brennan, scale and affordability are at issue:

“I would love to see the project get put back on the table. The thing needs to be reconfigured,” Brennan said. “I’m not someone who repudiates the project. I’m interested in rationalizing the scale and preserving the affordable housing. The scale is a community environmental issue. It’s very interesting to me that the rental housing is coming in at a cost of one-third the condos. So if you have 2 million square feet of luxury condos—if a fourth of the project eats up nearly 50% of the costs--then something in there says a downsizing could make sense.”
...
“There are clearly some irrationalities in the project,” he responded. “I’ve always had the feeling that we have the nucleus of something good, and it is surrounding by irrationality. I think the documents reveal some of the irrationalities... The project is extremely expensive. The affordable housing comes at the end, not at the beginning. And the scale of the whole development project, which is too big--these numbers show that a reconfiguration might be dramatically less expensive and still get you the affordable housing. There are just major questions unanswered.”

article

Posted by lumi at 9:10 AM

Jersey Girls

Fouling out at the Nets dance team open-call tryouts. “You’ve got to sell it!”

NY Magazine
By Arianne Cohen

jerseygirls-NYM.jpg"Intelligencer" tries out for the team:

We’re not cheerleaders, we’re dancers,” explains Shirlee Simon, 21, well moussed and fresh out of the University of Buffalo (dance major). She’s gnawing her nails alongside 200 Jersey-haired women, who are lined up outside the Nets training facility for the annual open-call dance-team tryouts. “This year, we have five dancers leaving, so there are definitely five spots available,” says Kimberlee Garris, the Nets’ entertainment coordinator. “We do this every year and publicize through a mix of talent postings and Backstage. You never know what you’re going to get.” I was there to try out, too. Strangely, even though I don’t dance, the team manager promised that I wouldn’t be the least talented wannabe there. I was probably the least tanned, though, and at 26, the oldest.

article

In anticipation of a move to Brooklyn, Ratner has been working hard to boost the on-court entertainment.

NetsDancers-NBA.jpg Though the "Nets Dancers" are "not cheerleaders," the marketing campaign smacks of a high-class strip joint, and they're available for hire (minimum two!).

NoLandGrab: What are the chances that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn will book them for their next fundraiser?

Posted by lumi at 8:51 AM

Ratner re-signs Carter

vince_carter_sig.jpgNets owner Bruce Ratner re-signed free-agent veteran guard/forward Vince Carter to great fanfare:

Bergen Record, Nets shower VC with money, affection

After giving Carter about 66 million reasons to stay, the Nets made the All-Star shooting guard feel even more wanted with Friday's news conference that was part spectacle and part tribute.

Carter returned the love before signing the guaranteed four-year deal worth $61.8 million with a partially guaranteed ($4 million) fifth-year team option, saying he has unfinished business with the Nets and that he couldn't see himself in another uniform.

The NY Times, The Nets Re-Sign Carter and Lose Moore to Kings

The pomp and pageantry suggested a major event — indeed, the Nets’ principal owner, Bruce Ratner, called it “one of the most exciting moments in Nets franchise history.”

Carter signed a contract that guarantees the Nets will be much the same team for the foreseeable future. The proceedings seemed slightly disproportionate to the act.

NY Daily News, Vince inks to stay 'home' with Nets
There was never any doubt that the Nets and Carter would come to terms:

After Vince Carter became a free agent two weeks ago, he never took a recruiting visit to another city and he told his agent not to fill him in on the details of what other teams were offering.
...
"It's all about being happy," said Carter, "and being in a place that feels like home."

As if the financial commitment to him weren't enough, the Nets went out of their way to make Carter feel wanted yesterday. The team's marching band, the Nets DrumLine, greeted visitors at the East Rutherford practice facility where the press conference was held. Inside, 50 kids from the Flatbush Youth Association and the Boys & Girls Club of Newark munched on sandwiches and candy. There were balloons, a video highlight presentation and a videotaped message from a vacationing Jason Kidd, who told Carter, "Dinner's on you until I retire."

NoLandGrab: Carter's re-signing was never in question, since he was widely regarded as Ratner's pet player.

The Nets hope that the Carter deal will counter Ratner's rap as the stingy rich guy who cut loose marquee player Kenyon Martin and is weathering a three-year decline in the franchise because he's only interested in the team in order to move it to his brand new arena in Brooklyn. The irony is that by surpassing the luxury cap to keep aging stars, Ratner is putting off a badly needed rebuilding effort.

Too bad for taxpayers that Ratner has money to blow on aging veterans, but won't forgo the "signing bonus" from the 421-a reform bill, which will cost the taxpayers an estimated $300 million.

Posted by lumi at 8:26 AM

Forest City in the News

WhashBiz Blog, via WashingtonPost.com, Forest City Picks Broker for Stadium-Area Leasing

More real estate news around the new stadium: Forest City Washington, Inc., part of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, selected CB Richard Ellis as the exclusive office brokerage firm to handle the leasing of the first office building that Forest City is developing in Southeast as a part of its sprawling, 42-acre urban mixed-used project known as The Yards.

I wrote about The Yards and Forest City Washington's president, Deborah Ratner Salzberg, a few weeks ago. [See next]

The Washington Post, A Neighborhood Rises at The Yards
Unlike Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry in Brooklyn, Deborah Ratner Salzberg is creating a neighborhood, only not "from scratch:"

Empty brick warehouses where torpedo tubes and gun barrels once were assembled will be replaced by stores, offices, restaurants and lofts. Junkyards, car-repair shops and abandoned homes will gradually give way to hotels, government office buildings and a five-acre park along the waterfront. A former lumber shed will become a restaurant pavilion for residents as well as fans who will come to the $610 million baseball stadium that the District is building for the Nationals -- the anchor for the area's redevelopment.

The Yards: This 42-acre site, once an annex to the Washington Navy Yard, is adjacent to the Nationals' baseball stadium that is scheduled to open next year. Forest City plans to turn old industrial buildings into residential and retail space; new construction includes eight office buildings and more residences, and a five-acre waterfront park.

"You really can create a neighborhood, and that's exactly what we're doing," says Deborah Ratner Salzberg, 54, president of Forest City Washington. "We are building . . . an active waterfront that will transform an entire section of this city."
...
Salzberg said she was inspired to develop retail in Washington by a Forest City project in Brooklyn called Atlantic Center, which became very profitable by bringing Old Navy and similar stores to the inner city.

NoLandGrab: The State of New York bailed the Atlantic Center mall out by moving the Department of Motor Vehicles into the complex to become the largest tenant. Taxpayers will feel better knowing that the mall is now "very profitable."

LA Downtown News, The $70 Million GLO Apartments Add Another Light to City West
Kevin Ratner is quoted in an article about "City West" in LA:

Developers are banking that City West will become the next big Downtown Los Angeles neighborhood, following the surge in the Historic Core and South Park. GLO's arrival is helping to create a critical mass of residents on the once desolate stretch.

"Obviously with Vero opening and all the stuff Palmer is doing it's going to be great," said Kevin Ratner of Forest City Residential West, which redeveloped the neighboring 1100 Wilshire building. "There's more foot traffic and it feels safer on the streets. It all adds to the sense of place. With more ground floor retail coming in, more restaurants and drugstores, it will be very helpful.

The Eagle Tribune [N. Andover, MA], Spreading their influence: Megadevelopers take aim at diner, other old properties
The fight to save an historic diner in Haverhill symbolizes the fault lines between mega developers Forest City and Bacon Communities and the town:

While some at City Hall cheer the progress made by developers, at least one city preservationist is worried Haverhill will lose a piece of its history.

Thomas Spitalere, chairman of the city's Historical Commission, said diner cars are historic landmarks and he wants Forest City to consider preserving Kenny's restaurant.

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

July 15, 2007

Sunday Comix - Masters of their Domain

mastersoftheirdomain.gif

Posted by amy at 11:59 AM

Tony Avella with Theodore Hamm

Tony_Avella7.07.jpg

Brooklyn Rail
by Theodore Hamm

Democrat Tony Avella, a City Councilman representing Northeast Queens, is running for mayor in 2009. Prior to joining the council in 2001, Avella had a long track record as a neighborhood activist as well as community board member in Bayside. In recent years, Avella, along with Tish James and Charles Barron, has been one of the few City Council members to speak out against over-development. Among other issues, Avella has challenged the Bloomberg administration on the closing of firehouses, the developer-friendly rezoning of areas including Williamsburg-Greenpoint, and the proposed use of eminent domain to benefit private development in many areas of the city.

Rail: Do you think that the City Council is currently acting as a rubber-stamp body for Mayor Bloomberg and his big development projects?

Avella: Yes, unfortunately, it really is a rubber stamp for the mayor. Let me give you a current example. At the hearing I just attended on the proposed use of eminent domain at Willets Point, the Bloomberg administration was represented by the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Only a few council members expressed concern for the many local businesses that will be condemned by eminent domain. Most of my colleagues seemed to overlook the fact that the EDC has a terrible track record in dealing with local communities. Hearing them talk, you’d think there’s nothing wrong with the EDC and that it’s doing a great job.
...
Rail: If you were elected mayor, how would you counteract the overdevelopment seen in many neighborhoods during the Bloomberg years?

Avella: Well, first of all, we’ve got to do a comprehensive re-do rezoning in the city of New York. We need to make sure that we accurately reflect the residential character of the neighborhoods. At the same time, we need to work with neighborhoods and communities to see where development can go. We need to eliminate all of the illegal construction and put some real teeth into the problem of the Department of Buildings. That agency is in total chaos. I mean, if you are a homeowner and you do the simplest little thing wrong, they’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks—but developers get away with anything. We also need to take control of the little-known, quasi-judicial agency called the Board of Standards and Appeals, which is made up of five commissioners appointed by the mayor who really have almost total power, but there’s no oversight of that agency whatsoever.

article

Posted by amy at 10:33 AM

The changing face of Pacific Street, and a shrouded Ward Bakery

PacificKinloch714.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Not so long ago there were open sidewalks and no scaffolding on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, the center of the eastern segment of the Atlantic Yards footprint. Then, after a parapet fell from the Ward Bakery, scaffolding was erected.

Now, as Adrian Kinloch (Brit in Brooklyn) shows, the bakery building (back, right) is shrouded--for safety reasons, I assume--but you still have to walk under the scaffolding. The entire opposite sidewalk is blocked off, as pre-construction work continues on the railyard opposite.

Posted by amy at 10:27 AM

City Council member items and the work of the CBA

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was set up, advocates said, to provide worker training for locals and to support minority-owned businesses.

Those may be worthy goals, though CBAs are coming in for criticism, in part because the benefits they provide might better come from a more accountable and transparent source: government.

City Council funds job training

The budget passed this year by the New York City Council includes several items touching on issues raised in the CBA and the City Council, which has not been the most transparent agency in the past, more clearly spells out who's funding what.

The budget includes $1.5 million for the MWBE Leadership Association--an organization I couldn't find on the web--to provide "entrepreneurial training on the process and procedures for doing business with the City and/or on the major public works projects."

link

Posted by amy at 10:23 AM

July 14, 2007

Hakeem and Velmanette stand up

The Daily Gotham

In the ongoing battle over Atlantic Yards, one central critique of good government advocates has been the abject failure of the legislature to do its due diligence and examine whether this project is indeed in the public interest, and therefore worthy of public dollars.

One of the myriad lollipops being thrown at Bruce Ratner is this: a 421-a tax reform bill just passed by the Assembly reformed the 421-a tax break given to developers; now, one must actually build affordable housing to receive tax breaks for it.
...
Mayor Bloomberg has called for a veto of the bill, and now, the two legislators who represent Atlantic Yards in the legislature, Velmanette Montgomery and Hakeem Jeffries, have made their displeasure known in no uncertain terms.
...
It's unacceptable on good government grounds alone to give preferential treatment to any one party. It's even more galling when a developer receives massive tax breaks and subsidies and then doesn't even have to fulfill the same requirements expected of other developers. This is crony capitalism of the Halliburton variety. Governor Spitzer should veto the bill.

link

Posted by amy at 11:16 AM

On 421-a, Brennan revises stance, FCR’s Bender distorts history

Atlantic Yards Report

As Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery this week called for developer Forest City Ratner to abandon the “Atlantic Yards carve-out” in the reform of the city’s 421-a tax exemption, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who’s been a critic of aspects of the project, seemed like the odd man out--until now.

The State Legislature has passed the revised bill but it has yet to be signed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Various forces, including the city administration, are calling for a revision or a veto. Brennan had told the New York Observer’s blog The Real Estate Observer that “It’s not a carve-out… The only thing that happened was that Atlantic Yards got grandfathered in.”

That seemed inaccurate, given that there’s a special provision that could only apply to Atlantic Yards, allowing the requirement of 20 percent affordable housing to be spread over the project as a whole rather than applied to each building, as the law otherwise would require, and also nudging up the income limit for Atlantic Yards affordable units. (Instead of requiring affordable housing at 60% of Area Median Income, at Atlantic Yards the limit would be 70%.)

Revised stance

Brennan told me yesterday he’s revised his stance: “I’ve been thinking through that a lot. The main bill I actually support. I’d still like to see the 421-a renegotiated, because I’d like to see Atlantic Yards back on the table. I had a factual misunderstanding... I would be happy if Spitzer vetoed the bill, because I’d like to see some rethinking of Atlantic Yards and the program. If he didn’t veto the bill, I still think there’s a lot of people who want to see a renegotiation.”

article

Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

July 13, 2007

The Doming of America

CommonDreams.org
By David Zirin

The building of stadiums has become the substitute for anything resembling an urban policy in this country. The stadiums are presented as a microwave-instant solution to the problems of crumbling schools, urban decay and suburban flight.

Read about how cities across the US can always find money for new sports venues, even while low test scores, overcrowded classrooms, crumbling infrastructure and firehouse closings are in the headlines.

article

Posted by lumi at 11:36 AM

NYC (it seems) might lose money on the arena, as added pledge upends IBO prediction

Another MUST-READ from Atlantic Yards Report, and it's a quickie!

By revising NYC's Independent Budget Office's calculation of net fiscal impact of Atlantic Yards, Norman Oder has discovered that:

The Atlantic Yards arena, once estimated by the city's Independent Budget Office (IBO) to net $107 million in new revenue, now looks much closer to a wash--and worse for the city.

Oder explains:

I plugged the new number into the chart, adding, as the IBO had done, a slight adjustment for debt service, thus bringing the city's cost to $206.2 million.

(Graphic adapted by Abby Weissman/SouthOxford.com)

Yards-City-Table-1REV.jpg

That would leave the city with a loss of $77 million over 30 years, expressed in present value, defined as "today's value of a future payment, or stream of payments, discounted at some appropriate compound interest, or discount, rate." Even if a minimum oft $28.5 million of the city's additional $105 million were devoted to the arena block--and that's likely--the city tab turns into a loss.

Meanwhile, if all the new city money were devoted to the arena block, the total public contribution would only barely be offset by the revenues to the state and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, leaving a net fiscal impact of little more than $1 million. (That number is likely higher.)

Oder admits that this exercise is inexact and explains how. Nevertheless, this cursory examination shows a bleaker fiscal outlook and begs for a re-examination by the City's Independent Budget Office (or any qualified third-party not named "Norman Oder") based on currently known subsidies.

article

Posted by lumi at 11:35 AM

50% profit for Ratner? Not so fast

Atlantic Yards Report

The "Mad O" oderizes this week's article in The Brooklyn Paper about City Councilman David Yassky's claim that "Bruce Ratner will reap a whopping 50-percent profit on his Atlantic Yards investment."

Oder explains:

Actually, we still don't know how much profit Forest City Ratner would make because the developer hasn't revealed how much money it will put up. We do know, according to the New York Times, that Forest City expects a 5 percent development fee on the value of the entire $4 billion project, which would mean a $200 million return.

So maybe Forest City would make 50 percent--or not. More details, and public analysis, would be helpful.

article

NoLandGrab: Readers of Atlantic Yards Report sometimes struggle to keep up with Norman Oder (i.e. NoLandGrab.org), but politicians hoping to avoid rookie errors need to pay more attention.

Posted by lumi at 11:17 AM

Narrow Streets: Pacific

Brit in Brooklyn photographed this gauntlet in Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project (link).

Since my last wander round the Atlantic Yards footprint a large new fence has been erected and a footpath closed. Pacific Street is now narrower by about a quarter.

Last week we missed this item, where the Desktop Day featured the Tasty Provisions building, which is slated to be demolished by Bruce Ratner. Get yours today!

Posted by lumi at 10:52 AM

Is Kohen Ridge Ratner?

The Brooklyn Paper
By Matthew Lysiak

Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards have become the measure against which all other developers and projects are compared in Brooklyn.

Developer Andrew Kohen wants to build a new Home Depot and hundreds of units of housing along a vacant Bay Ridge railyard, but faced an Atlantic Yards–sized backlash from local preservationists and Community Board 10.

In fact, Bruce Ratner’s taxpayer-underwritten antics have inspired an uprising by community boards against developers.

Locals fear that Kohen’s ambitions are too large for the surrounding area’s infrastructure and that the developer is more concerned about his wallet than the interests of the community (sound familiar?).

Of course, Kohen isn’t Bruce Ratner and Home Depot isn’t Atlantic Yards. In fact, in many ways Kohen is the anti-Ratner...

article

NoLandGrab: Rightly or wrongly, Atlantic Yards has become the posterproject for development run amok: every developer who pretends to "listen to the community" is a "Ratner" and every project that's out-of-scale is an "Atlantic Yards."

Frustration with the Atlantic Yards "done-deal" behemoth and all of the other changes in the neighborhood over which residents have no control may be causing knee-jerk reactions to anything new and different.

At this point, neighborhoods in Brooklyn are experiencing such rapid change that once-stable communities are observably under stress and communities that have been demanding change for years, even decades, fear being left out of the conversation.

Posted by lumi at 10:10 AM

Pols speak out (and about) 421-a reform gift for Atlantic Yards

politicos.gifThere's general backlash in the political establishment in response to the special "Ratner clause" in the State legislature's 421-a reform bill.

THE REAL ESTATE OBSERVER, Mayor Seeks to Reform 421a Reform

Mayor Bloomberg

The city wants the Legislature to make three changes: extend the abatement to government-supported middle-income housing, such as that planned for Queens West; shrink the so-called exclusion zone; and retract the $300 million additional tax break that Atlantic Yards, alone among new developments in Brownstone Brooklyn, would qualify for.

This article, by Matthew Schuerman, explains the technicalities of how the bill could be changed before the Governor has to decide whether to sign or veto.

NY State Assemblywoman Joan Millman explains that she would have signed on to State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries's letter if she wasn't on vacation:

“This is a developer who has gotten many, many tax benefits from the city and state,” she told The Observer. “This is just another piece.”

State Assemblyman Jim Brennan has an interesting take on the special exception that amounts to an estimated $300M gift to developer Bruce Ratner:

“It’s not a carve-out,” Mr. Brennan told The Observer last week. “The only thing that happened was that Atlantic Yards got grandfathered in.”

NoLandGrab: Hmm... selectively grandfathered in maybe.

THE BROOKLYN PAPER, Yassky: Stop Ratner gravy train

NYC Councilman David Yassky has spent years charting the narrow channel between supporting and criticizing Atlantic Yards. This week, Yassky finds political cover in the financial documents recently obtained and released by Assemblyman Brennan.

Also this on Bloomberg*:

Yassky’s call for an end to Ratner subsidies comes just two weeks after Mayor Bloomberg — himself a strong supporter of Atlantic Yards — finally broke with Ratner, declaring that the developer “doesn’t need” an additional special tax break handed to him by the state Assembly.

As previously reported:

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Prospect Heights) and Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Park Slope) sent a letter to Ratner asking him to “abandon … the special treatment set forth in the Atlantic Yards carve-out provision.”

BROWNSTONER, Pols Call for Ratner to Abandon 421-a Carve-Out

Local real estate blog, Brownstoner, delivers news of the Jeffries-Montgomery letter to its readers:

the two are teaming up to call out Forest City Ratner in a public letter that states:

"FCRC should publicly comply with the 421-a law, as applicable to everyone else, and build at least 20% of the condominium units in each luxury condominium building in a manner that is affordable to low and moderate income families. Anything short of publicly abandoning the special treatment set forth in the Atlantic Yards carve-out provision would justify a complete re-examination of the project by all appropriate government entities."

Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

Pols: Easy going ‘green’

The Brooklyn Paper's Dana Rubinstein is reporting that Brooklyn politicians are falling over themselves trying to brand themselves GREEN. Some, like NYC Councilman Bill deBlasio, have a record that stands in their way:

Councilman Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope)

Green initiative: Rid public schools of Styrofoam lunch trays.

Less-green initiative: Supports Atlantic Yards, which critics say will block the sun, pollute the air and befoul the water.

article

NoLandGrab: DeBlasio is also going after Brooklyn development-crook Robert Scarano again. [Wonder if the Hagans will show?] However, his support for Atlantic Yards still stands in the way of a crusade against Brooklyn developer overlords.

Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA

EminentDomainia20.jpg Capitol Confidential, Sides Of Chuck

The political blog of The Albany Times Union mentions Senator Charles Schumer's cognitive dissonance on eminent domain.

NoLandGrab: Schumer likes eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, wants to use more of it for New York City in general, and is against it for the New York State Regional Interconnect powerline project.

Loge 13, Squaring Off In The Iron Triangle

Meanwhile in the Willets Point land grab:

At the end of June, it was leaked that The New York City Economic Development Corporation published a formal request for "on-call" condemnation attorneys to aid with the development of Willets Point.

This means the EDC is asking lawyers to research property valuation and eminent domain litigation in advance of claiming eminent domain on the 250 businesses in the Iron Triangle.

The Real Estate Observer, Columbia Renounces (Some) Eminent Domain

Columbia University announced today that it will not seek to take over people’s homes through eminent domain, a huge step in addressing one of the most controversial aspects of its expansion into West Harlem.

This protects tenants and homeowners and splits the coalition against the business owners, who are still under threat of condemnation.

Duffield St. Underground, Your EDC at Work: Destroying Parking to Build Apartments, Destroying Homes to Build Parking

The EDC’s Downtown Redevelopment plan was supposed to encourage commercial construction, and instead we are ending up with new apartments. Many of these apartments were built on the several parking on Schermerhorn. Streetblog covers this quite well in “T.O.D. in Brooklyn: Turning Parking Lots into Housing.” The Brooklyn Paper also report on the new construction in “Schermerhorn rising” (June 23, 2007).

Yet while the EDC’s plan encouraged the destruction of parking lots to build homes on Schermerhorn, just two blocks to the north, it is advocating the destruction on homes to build parking lots.

Asbury Park Press, Belmar bakery not "blighted"
New Jersey is way ahead of NY State on eminent domain reform:

Last summer, Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson, assignment judge in Monmouth County, dismissed two lawsuits against Belmar filed by business owners who disagree with the borough that their commercial properties are blighted and in need of redevelopment.
...
But the higher court reversed Lawson's decision with respect to Freedman's. The Belmar Mall case is being heard by another appellate court.

"Freedman's Bakery is not a blighted area even if its design is not optimal for its commercial purposes," the court ruled in a 10-page unanimous decision issued by Appellate Judges Ariel Rodriguez, Donald G. Collester Jr. and Thomas N. Lyons.

Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

Largest Class to Date Graduates From Atlantic Yards CBA Training

Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran this press release with the requisite quote from Bruce Ratner:

The largest class to date — 57 contractors — has graduated from the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) training program in June. The newest graduates, 57 in all, received certificates at a ceremony at Medgar Evers College School of Business in Brooklyn. Apart from what it might mean to some, the Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) Atlantic Yards development means work to minority- and women-owned Brooklyn contractors, because the CBA guarantees that 20 percent of construction dollars will go those that are minority-owned and 10 percent will go to those that are women-owned.
...
Commented Bruce Ratner of FCRC, “This training gives these contractors the knowledge they need to take their businesses to the next level. That’s why it was such a crucial component of the small business initiatives that are a part of the Atlantic Yards CBA.”

article

Atlantic Yards was mentioned again in relation to initiatives for hiring women- and minority-owned businesses, this time in a report from WNYC News Radio:

Cheryl McKissack, president of the McKissack Group - a design and construction firm which was founded by her great grandfather - is starting to feel the impact. Her construction company was granted a $280 million contract to work on the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 8:22 AM

Early Steps in the Transformation of Hudson Yards

The NY Sun
By Eliot Brown

The State is planning on issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for development over the Hudson Yards:

The state is expected to invite developers to submit plans for up to about 12 million square feet of new commercial and residential development and a generous amount of open space — by contrast, Brooklyn’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project is planned to have 8 million square feet — allowing for a giant new complex to sprout in a corner of the rapidly transforming Hudson Yards district.

article

NoLandGrab: "By contrast" the State of New York NEVER issued an RFP for the Vanderbilt Yards until after the "Atlantic Yards" project was announced.

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

What’s going on under the tents?

ClevelandJewishNews.com

An article about a summer arts program in Cleveland includes this bit about sponsors, who are "Jewish-owned companies":

Funded by grants and personal and corporate donations, ArtWorks has a $180,000 budget which covers supplies and professional and student salaries. Forest City Enterprises supplied computer equipment for the music students to use, and the Coral Company has provided Shaker Square office space to house several activities. (Both are Jewish-owned companies.)

article

NoLandGrab: Actually, Forest City Enterprises is a publicly traded company, controlled and operated by several members of the Ratner family.

Posted by lumi at 8:14 AM

Make plaza Grand

The Brooklyn Paper
Letter to the Editor

A Park Sloper has a bone to pick with the proposal for Grand Army Plaza, but notes that problems at the Traffic Triangle nestled in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal sucks and is about to get worse:

I suspect that the willingness of the city to work on Grand Army Plaza with neighborhood folks is a diversion from focusing on the more serious traffic problems on Flatbush, Atlantic and Fourth avenues, problems that the Department of Transportation has ignored since at least the 1960s and whose solutions extend all the way into Manhattan.

The city has refused offers of help from professionals and watched idly as those problems are being exacerbated by all the development in Downtown Brooklyn and especially by the proposed super mega-development of Atlantic Yards.

link

Posted by lumi at 7:29 AM

HBO: The Ghosts of Flatbush

GhostsofFlatbush-HBO.jpgnew A's ballpark

Some myths die hard, like the one that Bruce Ratner is building an arena on the site coveted by Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, and thus restoring order to the universe, or at least, the lives of Brooklyn sports fans. Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall, built nearly a decade ago, now sits on the actual site.

A review of a documentary repeats the myth and notes an actual similarity between Ratner and O'Malley:

Ironically, the site previously sought by O'Malley is now the home of the Atlantic Yards project, the multi-billion dollar mixed development that will contain a new arena for the Nets basketball franchise. The site was acquired through an expensive, highly controversial eminent domain effort. The Nets would be the first major sports team to call Brooklyn home since the Dodgers left 50 years ago. The Dodgers took up residence on a hillside near downtown LA called Chavez Ravine, which was cleared through - that's right - eminent domain.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM

July 12, 2007

Would AY be finished by 2015? The Times resists a correction

Atlantic Yards Report

Would the Atlantic Yards project be finished by 2015, rather than the officially projected 2016 or a more-likely later date? That's what a reader could conclude after reading the 7/1/07 New York Times Metro section article headlined (online) Official Sees Possible Risk in Big Project in Brooklyn.

One paragraph in the article stated:

The project’s 16 towers are scheduled to open in several increments, beginning in July 2009 with the completion of the signature tower, known as Miss Brooklyn, at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, and concluding in April 2015 with a condo tower at Dean Street and Carlton Avenue.

Despite the fact that the official web site for Atlantic Yards pegs the date of completion in 2016, and that inside sources and industry experts believe it will take even longer, The Times declined to correct the record.

From The Times's reponse:

The documents we relied on cite the dates in question, and our entire story is an extrapolation and analysis of those documents. Before diving into the details, we make clear that the documents “represent only one snapshot of an ever-evolving, much-delayed project.”

Do Times readers deserve a correction, or is the "Mad O" just letting language and facts get him down?

You be the judge: link.

Posted by lumi at 9:55 AM

Schumer on Starrett City: profit shouldn't depend on government support

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, Senator Charles Schumer took a strong stance against the use of eminent domain to build an upstate power line, despite his support for increased use of eminent domain for projects in NYC, such as Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan (link to coverage).

This week, Norman Oder notes that Schumer is at it again:

The New York Times reported that, while a potential sale of the Starrett City complex in Brooklyn to one investor seems stymied by federal housing authorities, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is pressuring the seller, a group headed by Disque Deane, to ask for less money than $1.3 billion so the new owner of the 46-building complex won't significantly raise rents and change the character of the development.
...
Without opining on the fate of Starrett City, I think it's worth noting that Schumer has not extended his concern about the appropriate balance between private profit and public subsidy to the Atlantic Yards project that he supports.

article

NoLandGrab: We know we ran this photo last week, but who knew it would come in handy again?

Posted by lumi at 9:47 AM

As Buildings Rise, Construction Salaries Follow

The NY Sun
By Grace Rauh

ConstructionWorkers-NYS.jpgAn article about one reason construction costs for projects like Atlantic Yards are rising:

The city's latest building boom is giving some carpenters, electricians, and other construction professionals extra cash to pay for new homes, cars, and renovation projects.
...
The work is not expected to stop anytime soon. The construction industry is about to feel the effects of the onset of dozens of projects, both public and private. The World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and the new Yankee Stadium are just a few in the pipeline.

article

NoLandGrab: The article describes the commutes of two construction workers, who both — unsurprisingly — arrive at their work sites by public transportation.

Ratner's claim that the entire footprint of Atlantic Yards must be razed to accommodate temporary surface parking for construction workers is deceptive. Note that there is no such accommodation for projects elsewhere in the city and, as Ratner likes to remind folks, the Atlantic & Flatbush station, a hub connecting the Long Island Railroad to 11 subway lines, is very accessible.

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

No breaks for Atlantic Yards [No exenciones para Atlantic Yards]

El Diario is the first daily paper to publish an editorial against the special tax break for Atlantic Yards in the 421-a reform bill:

The bill includes a $300 million abatement, or lost city tax dollars, to the for-profit Forest City Ratner, the developers behind the oversized Atlantic Yards project. So now, Ratner will basically receive a tax abatement for no additional affordable housing. As the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development puts it, it’s a giveaway with no return.

Forest City Ratner can tick off its community compromises on its Web site but take comfort in a maneuver that Lopez should not have facilitated. He was not alone. Lopez points to the overwhelming support for his bill in the Assembly and the Senate, meaning that his colleagues signed off on a gift to Ratner.

Governor Eliot Spitzer should sign off on 421A reform. But not on a version that includes more rewards for Atlantic Yards.

link /en Español

Posted by lumi at 8:54 AM

Forest City Executive VP Sells Shares

AP, via Forbes.com

The executive vice president of real estate developer Forest City Enterprises Inc. sold 50,000 shares of common stock, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

In a Form 4 filed with the SEC Tuesday, James A. Ratner reported he sold the shares Tuesday for 61.50 apiece.

article

NoLandGrab: You know, $3.075M doesn't go as far as it used to.

Posted by lumi at 8:50 AM

How many stars can the skyline take?

If every city wants an iconic building, how will we tell when one is truly special?

The Times of London

Hugh Pearman attends the opening of the Tate Modern’s Global Cities exhibition, and realizes that we're at starchitect saturation, with Atlantic Yards designer Frank Gehry leading the way:

It’s when architects get to the point where you can’t keep track of all their work any more that the alarm bells start to ring. Big, important international landmarks have always been built, but they used to arrive rarely. There was nothing much between the Sydney Opera House competition of 1956 and the Pompidou Centre competition of 1970, for instance. Stuff got built, sure. Cultural buildings leavened the bread of spec office blocks; America went through a superscraper phase.
...
What everyone calls the “Bilbao effect”, after the jump-start impact Gehry’s Guggenheim had on the world perception of that grimy industrial city in the late 1990s, was the same as the Pompidou effect or the Sydney Opera House effect. Cultural buildings as giant sculptures, as identifiers, three-dimensional logos. That’s the aim.

One point that keeps coming up in the criticism of Frank Gehry and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards scheme:

...such is the growth of the world’s cities that, for the first time, more than half of the world’s population lives in them. That has nothing to do with landmark buildings or the globetrotting signature architects who provide them. It is all to do with finding ways to accommodate everyone. When it comes to the way people live, good ordinary buildings count for a lot more than the headline sculptural stuff. Clean air and water count for a lot, too. But that’s not something you get fees for designing.

...or free land via eminent domain.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:41 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites

EDRally-JB.jpg Coalition to Preserve Community, via NolandGrab, The Community 197A Plan Wins a Unanimous Vote at a CB 9 Hearing
Coverage of Columbia University's West Harlem land grab. Read about Community Board 9's unanimous vote for the alternative non-land-grabbing community-backed plan, Columbia's presentation to City Planning, and next week's planned meeting.

Duffield St. Underground, AKRF's Neutrality in Expansion at Columbia Is Questioned
Duffield St. isn't the only land grab under assault from suspicious findings by AKRF, which was awarded a no-bid contract to study the historical significance of the Duffield St. homes under threat of condemnation. Groups in West Harlem challenged the neutrality of AKRF and won an important court decision for release of documents.

NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards freaks and geeks will recall that AKRF conducted the highly controversial environmental review and "blight" study for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards mega-project. The findings of the study have been challenged in court and are awaiting a decision.

The [Chenango County] Evening Sun, Citizens compile list of local properties affected by NYRI

More than a thousand property owners in Chenango County would be either displaced or lose land through eminent domain if the New York Regional Interconnect power line becomes a reality, according to a list compiled by two concerned citizens.
...
“These data are only from one affected county. There are seven other counties which comprise the corridor. One can only imagine the social devastation resulting from such an action by the DOE. Thousands of citizens would be displaced and experience great privation,” [Perry Owen] said.

NoLandGrab: Perry Owen also burdened a good point with an amusing claim when he told members of the county planning board that, "There is a possibility these folks would be the first U.S. citizens to become refugees in their own land since the American Civil War.” Owens probably isn't aware that hundreds of thousands of "U.S. citizens," many of whom were part of closely knit immigrant and minority communities, were removed from their own land during the sweeping urban renewal projects of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

The Daily Herald, Prospect Heights approves eminent domain for easements
In case you hadn't heard, "The Prospect Heights City Council narrowly approved an ordinance this week allowing the city the option of eminent domain in acquiring easements...." One resident noted, "The city is only considering eminent domain if the residents refuse to sign a voluntary easement. That’s a last resort."

Posted by lumi at 7:59 AM

July 11, 2007

Jeffries, Montgomery call for Ratner to abandon 421-a "carve-out"

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, whose districts include the Atlantic Yards footprint, have publicly called on developer Forest City Ratner to abandon the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" in the 421-a law passed by the Legislature (but not yet signed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who has not indicated whether he'd veto it) and adhere to the law as it will apply to every other development in the city.

The two legislators have not typically allied on Atlantic Yards issues. Jeffries has been a cautious supporter of the project, more or less, while Montgomery has stood in staunch opposition. The legislators, in their July 6 letter, note that more than $300 million has been committed by the city and state to the project and criticize the "eleventh-hour, highly secretive deal" that led to the carve-out.

article (official press statement and full text of letter after the jump)

PRESS STATEMENT

ASSEMBLYMAN JEFFRIES CALLS ON BRUCE RATNER TO PUBLICLY ABANDON 421-A CARVE-OUT PROVISION

Brooklyn, NY -- Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, joined by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, today released a letter sent to Bruce Ratner that calls on Forest City Ratner Companies to publicly abandon the 421-a Atlantic Yards carve-out provision and adhere to the law as it will apply to every other development in New York City.


July 6, 2007

Bruce Ratner President and Chief Executive Officer Forest City Ratner Companies 1 MetroTech Center North Brooklyn, New York 11201

Dear Mr. Ratner:

As representatives of Prospect Heights in the New York State Legislature, we write with respect to the Atlantic Yards Project that you plan to build in our community, and recent events connected to the 421-a property tax exemption law.

The City and State have presently committed in excess of $300 million in government subsidies to make the Atlantic Yards development possible, notwithstanding significant public discomfort and outright opposition to the project. In order to justify the substantial government subsidies, Forest City Ratner Companies ("FCRC") has consistently touted the "innovative Atlantic Yards housing program," as you have called it.

Pursuant to this housing program, FCRC will build 4,500 rental units, with 2,250 apartments set aside for low and moderate income families. FCRC also plans to build 1,930 condominium units as part of the Atlantic Yards development. On the eve of the Public Authorities Control Board vote in December 2006, FCRC committed to build 200 of these units on-site, as condominiums that are affordable to working and moderate income families. Please confirm in writing by Friday, July 13, 2007 if this is not your understanding.

The 421-a program, as recently pass by the Legislature, if signed by Governor Spitzer, requires 20% affordability at 60% AMI, in any apartment building that receives a tax exemption. However, because of an eleventh-hour, highly -secretive deal negotiated by the Real Estate Board of New York on behalf of FCRC, an Atlantic Yards carve-out provision will permit you to evade these requirements, unlike any other development in the entire City of New York. This preferential, lobbyist-negotiated treatment is completely unacceptable and undermines the integrity of the entire project.

Accordingly, FCRC should publicly commit to comply with the 421-a law, as applicable to everyone else, and build at least 20% of the condominium units in each luxury condominium building in a manner that is affordable to low and moderate income families. Anything short of publicly abandoning the special treatment set forth in the Atlantic Yards carve-out provision would justify a complete re-examination of the project by all appropriate government entities.

Sincerely,

jeffriesmontgomerysigs.gif

Posted by lumi at 10:15 AM

CAUTION: Ratlantic Yards!

From somewhere deep within the Ratlantic Yards footprint (click to enlarge):

Posted by lumi at 9:17 AM

"Projects change, markets change"? Actually, Ratner planned condos from the start

LiarFlyer2-AH.gifWe know it's hard to believe, but Norman Oder has discovered that Ratner lied to us (image from "Liar Flyer 2").

Here's the gist of it from another Atlantic Yards Report must-read.

YOU MAY RECALL:

MAY, 2005

FCR scored a public relations coup, signing a 50/50 affordable housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the community group ACORN. The fine print, however, designated the agreement as applying only to rental units.

LESS THAN TWO WEEKS LATER

Forest City announced that the project could add 1500 to 2800 condos, because of a tradeoff with office space and the addition of another building, at Site V.

Then Ratner and ACORN told everyone that it was still 50-50, because the deal only applied to the rentals. It took critics months, if not a year, to convince reporters and the public that the highly touted 50-50 plan really only included something between 31-37.50% "affordable" units, depending upon the version of the plan (there are two).

HERE'S THE BOMB:

SEPTEMBER, 2003

According to p. 17 of a presentation (3.2 MB PDF) to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on 9/29/03, six weeks before the project was unveiled, the developer planned nearly 1 million square feet of condos, or about 1000 units at 1000 square feet per apartment.

FEBRUARY, 2004

That condo plan persisted, as shown in the excerpt of a 2/18/04 business plan.

MAY, 2004

...in a 6/28/04 document presented to the ESDC, Forest City Ratner privately repeated its intention to add condos, again citing the recommendation from the Department of City Planning that apparently about 128,000 square feet of condo space would be cut.

APRIL, 2005

However, the condo plan was not just alive, but growing. A 4/28/05 presentation (below) to the ESDC, in which Forest City sketched its version of the General Project Plan that the state agency itself would issue.

It contemplated that four of 16 towers would include condos, encompassing some 1.5 million square feet. (An alternate plan would have had condos in six buildings.) Interestingly, none of the buildings in the project's first phase would have included affordable housing.

BAIT... (MAY, 2005)

Some three weeks later, Forest City and ACORN signed the 50/50 plan to great fanfare, with no public inkling that the project would include any residential component other than rentals.

...AND SWITCH

A week after that Housing MOU press conference, with ACORN on board, Stuckey told City Council that the project plan had changed, and could contain an additional 2800 condos.

Read the full article for more details and supporting documents.

NoLandGrab: Holy prevaricators, no wonder the State and Ratner really tried to keep these documents under wraps!

Though Jim Stuckey wanted people to believe that "projects change, markets change," things between Forest City Ratner and the government remain the same.

One secret that ACORN Director Bertha Lewis will likely take to her grave is whether or not she was blindsided by or complicit in the deception. Either she was aware of the additional condos in advance of signing the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or learned about them after the fact when it was too late to protest because, according to the MOU, she was contractually obliged to "publicly support the Project."

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

MOU Wasn't True...and They Knew It.

Here's Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's reaction to news from Atlantic Yards Report that politicians knew in advance that the public tab for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan was going to be higher than what they publicly acknowledged:

Yup. State government, at least, knew that the public tab for Atlantic Yards would go much higher than the "public contribution" envisioned and disclosed in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the State, City and Forest City Ratner in February, 2005.

Moral of the story? As per the Robert Moses playbook: If you are going to mislead the public, especially on costs to taxpayers, make sure they don't know until political approval is in the bag so elected officials can then claim** that they've got to get the taxpayers to pay for their "commitments", no matter what the cost "overruns" are.

(** February 3, 2007: "We have a commitment to pay for infrastructure costs and we will meet that commitment," the mayor said.)

link

Posted by lumi at 8:13 AM

First Atlantic Yards Towers Would Contain Few Affordable Apts.

Most Would Be Built in Project’s Second Phase

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

Here's the latest news, from the documents recently obtained and released by NY State Assemblyman Jim Brennan, for those looking forward to affordable housing units at Atlantic Yards:

Developer Forest City Ratner’s business plan for the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project reveals that of the 1,580 residential units in the first phase of construction, 143 would be affordable for low-income tenants and 216 for middle-income tenants. The rest would be market-rate condos and rentals, with a 500-square-foot studio starting at $2,000 a month.

143 low-income + 216 middle-income = 359 "affordable" units built in Phase 1.

What about the remaining 1,891 (84%) "affordable" units?

The rest... would come during the project’s second phase of construction, which Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who filed a lawsuit to obtain the documents, warns could be delayed or even abandoned if the real estate market slows down.

“[The project’s financials] shows that the project is so expensive that it might fail before we ever get to the bulk of the affordable housing, and it shows that the condos are too expensive, too costly to build, and that the developer has tried to do too much,” he said.

“Many people in the community sort of intuitively saw the problems in advance — that the project was very expensive and that the affordable housing wasn’t locked in appropriately — so that all this information that came out basically just confirms the criticisms of the project,” said Brennan. “A stronger case could have been made about [reducing] the scale of the project had this information been available.”

article

NoLandGrab: Note that Brennan feels that information in these documents make the case for downsizing the project, not scrapping it all together.

Theoretically, Ratner could make the case that these documents show that the project requires even MORE public subsidy, such as the generous exception given to him in the 421-a reform bill, though that might be politically untenable, even in Brooklyn... right?

Posted by lumi at 7:57 AM

Brennan doubts affordable housing at Yards - Rental, affordable units will show little profit, state assemblyman warns

Courier-Life Publications

NY State Assemblyman Jim Brennan concluded that the Atlantic Yards affordable housing is at risk, based upon analysis of documents obtained by his office.

Courier reporter Stephen Witt says that Forest City Ratner and Bertha Lewis say it isn't so:

But both developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which forged the affordable housing component, maintained their deal remains on track for completion.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

Protesters jeer ‘Dictator Vito’ Lopez

Courier-Life Publications
By Thomas Tracy

News of the "Veto Vito" demonstration at last week's Kings County Dems annual dinner, where protesters were especially mad about the State Assemblyman Vito Lopez's big gift to Ratner. Lopez later commented, "I and the people that came in almost did not notice them."

article

Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere76.jpgMythsmasher, Senator Schumer's New York Disconnect
A Libertarian blog explains just how disconnected Schumer's position against using eminent domain for the NY Regional Interconnect is:

As a Libertarian and property rights activist, I certainly do not support the NYRI eminent domain, it would be easier to justify as being for the public goods than the corporate sports welfare and office/apartment real estate development involved in the Atlantic Yards Nets Arena.

Why would Schumer oppose NYRI and support Atlantic Yards? It should be obvious that private property rights, the market economy and individual liberty are not supported by Schumer and his odious philosophy. Let us summarize Schumerism. "Government will support voting blocs essential to electing Schumer and his allies."

Brownstoner, Hotel Handout, Few Affordable Phase 1 Units at AY
A blurb and links to two of Sarah Ryley's latest articles with more revelations from the documents obtained and released by NY State Assemblyman Jim Brennan's office.

NoLandGrab: Commenter, "David," explains that it's no big deal that Ratner plans to sell the hotel, because he isn't a hotelier? Um, Ratner has been developing hotels in NYC for some time now, but thanks for playing.

Going Coastal, Domino Sugar Refinery Could Be Largest Single Project on Brooklyn Waterfront
Atlantic Yards is the measuring stick for all other mega-projects:

It appears from a Department of City Planning (DCP) document that the Domino Sugar factory development could well be the largest single mixed-use project along the Williamsburg waterfront and the second largest — next to Atlantic Yards — proposed for Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

July 10, 2007

Fair warning? State knew AY land tab was rising when lowball MOU was signed

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's the latest revelation from the documents obtained by Assemblyman Jim Brennan's office:

The government was warned that the public tab for Atlantic Yards would likely be more than the public pledge--and that the tab would almost surely rise, as it has. But the public wasn't told.

The City and State signed the non-binding Atlantic Yards Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 12/18/05, each pledging $100 million, even though:

More than seven months before the MOU was signed, a 6/28/04 business plan (excerpt above; click to enlarge) submitted by developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) indicated that infrastructure and condemnation costs had reached $221.2 million, up more than one third in the four months between February and June 2004.

The costs for general infrastructure/sewer and transit connections had more than doubled. Also, the costs of condemnation and site acquisition for the arena block had risen from $60 million to $85 million in those four months. There was no suggestion that costs would stop rising.

There are more details in the full article, including more documents which indicate that costs have and will continue to rise, increasing the public tab.

This revelation clears up one mystery:

No wonder the city agreed this year to provide $205 million, instead of the original $100 million pledged, to the Atlantic Yards project, for a total of $305 million from the city and state. That would appear to cover increasing costs for both land and infrastructure.

An EDC official told City Council May 8 that $100 million would go to land acquisition, which apparently represents a portion of the $135 million already incurred.

But the City Council and the public should have been told, before Mayor Mike Bloomberg's budget was proposed this year, that the original $200 million pledged would not be enough.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

Ratner May Net $30 Million On Sale of Arena Hotel Site

Controversial Developer Will Sell Hotel, Not Build It Himself

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Sarah Ryley

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Forest City Ratner Companies will not be building a hotel within Miss Brooklyn, the flagship building of the developer’s arena and high-rise project approved by the state last year, according to documents obtained by Assemblyman James Brennan.

“FCRC indicated that they will not construct the [180-room] hotel, but will sell the site to a hotel developer,” said a December report on the developer’s business plan performed at the request of the project’s sponsor, Empire State Development Corporation.

At a planned 165,000 square feet, the hotel site could fetch $28.8 million if sold at the high end of the Brooklyn market, according to an estimate by Massey Knakal Realty Services partner Brian Leary. He pointed out that the “unique location” at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues has several advantages for a hotel developer.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn had this response:

“Sounds to me like its just another giveaway,” said Daniel Goldstein, who is fighting the use of eminent domain to seize his condo for the development. “Basically, it’s eminent domain being used to give the land to Ratner for free, and then he gets to sell it, which again is pure profit to him as opposed to the state and the city.”

And, as usual:

Representatives of Forest City Ratner Companies did not respond to questions for this report.

article

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted this clarification to its response above on its blog:

It appears that $30 million would not be the net profit or "pure profit" for Forest City Ratner. It appears that whatever price the developer sells the hotel for would be gross revenue and the net profit would be the sale price minus the developer's unknown expenses. So, the net profit would be some unknown percentage of the estimated $30 million sale of the hotel square footage. What is clear, just like the entire project, is that there is an enormous private benefit given to Forest City Ratner by the state's override of zoning for the developer's desired density and uses, and the use of eminent domain -- that's on the hotel and most of the rest of the project.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

July 9, 2007

Déjà vu in West Harlem

If 90-degree weather on the day of a special summertime Community Board meeting isn't enough to give Brooklynites who have been following Atlantic Yards a serious case of déjà vu, how about the news that the NAACP is coming out in support of Columbia University's expansion plans, citing "thousands of jobs" (see, NY1, NAACP Official Approves Columbia Expansion?

A couple of activists from the Atlantic Yards fight headed down to Reade St. this morning to express sympathy and support for the West Harlem groups fighting Columbia University's bid to use eminent domain to kick off its expansion plans.

The NY Sun had a pretty good article summarizing the issue, "Columbia Expansion Plan Debate Will Intensify."

Columbia's plans come straight out of the developers' playbook, and will be very familiar to those who have been paying attention to Bruce Ratner's political and public relations strategy. Here's how they compare:

TACTIC

Bruce Ratner, Atlantic Yards

Columbia University, West Harlem Expansion

PUBLIC HEARINGS HELD IN THE SUMMER, when Community Boards are not in session, over objections of local politicians and community groups.

Summer of 2006, as required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA)

Summer of 2007, as required by the NYC Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)

DEVELOPER-DRAWN FOOTPRINT TO BE DECLARED "BLIGHTED"

Blight study completed

Currently being studied

CONDEMNATION BY THE EMPIRE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

A lawsuit concerning the constitutionality of the ESDC's use of eminent domain to benefit one pre-determined private developer is headed toward an appeal in the Second Circuit

The ESDC is coming in to only do the condemnation, even though the project is undergoing the city review process.

DEVELOPER SHOWCASING SUPPORT FROM THE MINORITY COMMUNITY

Reverend Al Sharpton
Bertha Lewis, ACORN

Hazel Dukes, NAACP

CONSULTANTS AKRF GIVE DEVELOPERS THE ADVANTAGE

AKRF compiled the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement

A lawsuit revealed that AKRF was the consultant to Columbia University AND the ESDC, resulting in the forced release of documents by the courts.

There are ALTERNATIVE PLANS

UNITY Plan
Extell Bid (based on many principles of the UNITY Plan)

179-a community-based and community-supported plan

Posted by lumi at 2:55 PM

TODAY: West Harlem Press Conference Correction

The press conference for the West Harlem community groups who oppose Columbia University's land grab is at 11:30AM, not 12:30 as previously announced:

On Monday, July 9th at 11:30 PM in front of the office of the New York City Planning Commission, located at 22 Reade Street, members of the West Harlem community will hold a press conference to continue their protest against Columbia University's proposed 17 acre expansion in West Harlem. Columbia will have its second presentation before the City Planning Commission (CPC) just weeks after the City agency approved the university’s re-zoning application for its Manhattanville expansion plan.

Posted by lumi at 10:27 AM

Atlantic Yards Photobook, proceeds to benefit Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

An announcement from local photographer Tracy Collins on his blog:

per the suggestion of a friend, i've decided to donate all profit from the sale of my Atlantic Yards photo book, Atlantic Yards: [De]Construction of The Neighborhood to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn for their legal expenses.

so, for each book you buy (and they make great gifts!), i'll donate $5.05 for the hardcover and $3.05 for the softcover.

Get a sneak peak or purchase the book at AtlanticYardsPhotoBook.com.

Tracy Collins shares his passion for his neighborhood in one of the best photobooks of the neighborhood, period. "Atlantic Yards: [De]Construction of The Neighborhood" captures a moment in time in the Atlantic Yards footprint and its surrounds, complete with an informative narrative and geographical reference guide.

From NoLandGrab's original entry about the book in June:

In the Epilogue, Collins shares his feelings about the project, which seem to reflect the sentiment of the entire neighborhood:

As my home would be less than a block from the nearest hi-rise building on the corner of Dean St. and Carlton Avenue, I'm anxious, to say the least.
...
My neighbors and I will have to live with decades of construction and the consequences of whatever gets built. I'd love to have a reasonable, rational and attractive development built over the rail yards. Who doesn't? But if Atlantic Yards in its current form is what is actually built, I fear that the neighborhood in which I chose to make my home will not be merely transformed, but will be replaced.

Is Collins's book a rallying cry or a requiem? It would depend on your own thoughts and feelings about the project.

Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

My View: The Eminent Domain Casino

MetroNY, Op-Ed By Mary Campbell Gallagher

What happens when New York fails to learn from lessons of the past:

Atlantic Yards will be one gigantic, 23-acre, all-or-nothing gamble looming over Brooklyn. ...
Eminent domain for Atlantic Yards is gambling, but who pays?

Not Mayor Bloomberg. He plays by his own rules. He popped Atlantic Yards out of the City Charter process requiring a vote in the City Council, and he handed it to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Not the ESDC. It’s a state public benefits corporation playing a shell game, and nobody gets to watch. Not the City Council, either. The mayor kept them from playing.

And Ratner? He walks away richer than ever.

If we allow the government to use eminent domain to gamble away the character of Brooklyn and speculate with citizens’ property, no one will ever pay the price expect for poor jerks like us.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:31 AM

Errol Louis gloats about AY eminent domain case, but take another look

Atlantic Yards Report

Not only does Errol Louis gloat about Judge Garaufis's decision on in the federal eminent domain case, but he takes a pot shot at Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder.

The "Mad O" puts the Atlantic Yards ideologue and local pundit through some of that mind-bending analysis and challenges him to a public debate.

The lead segment of Louis’s Commerce and Community column (not online) in the Bed-Stuy-based June 16 Our Time Press is headlined "All the News That’s Fit to Spin," which might describe some of Louis’s own work.
...
As for whether I “ducked” Louis's "published invitation," keep in mind that, a year ago, he refused to answer any direct questions from me. I could play the same game and publicly invite Louis to explain why he hasn't written about numerous questionable aspects of Atlantic Yards (like, say, the $300 million in subsidies even the mayor opposes).

But I won't. Instead, I’d be happy to debate him, in public, about our respective coverage of the Atlantic Yards project and the general media coverage of the project. Maybe we could do it in front of his class (and others).

But let’s look closely at Louis’s claimed falsehoods, as well as the judge’s assessment. By my account, only one of the claims is false; the others are matters of dispute, no matter what the judge concluded.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:17 AM

A comparison of the mayors on key issues

NY Newsday

Like it or hate it, "Atlantic Yards" is attached to Mayor Bloomberg's record in the tale of the tape between two mayoral heavyweights:

DEVELOPMENT

Giuliani: His deal for new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets was scuttled by the Bloomberg administration. He is credited with cleaning up business districts, notably Times Square. He increased tax incentives to attract business to Wall Street and elsewhere.

Bloomberg: He made deals for new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets. His aggressive plan to build a West Side Stadium and draw the 2012 Olympics to New York City failed. His administration has overseen major construction projects for new housing around the city, including the controversial Atlantic Yards and Nets stadium complex in Downtown Brooklyn.

link

NoLandGrab: Three-and-a-half years after the announcement, reporters and editors still get facts muddled: it's an ARENA, not a STADIUM (yes, there's a difference), and it's still in PROSPECT HEIGHTS, not DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN.

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Mayor's mixed messages

amNY

One Brooklynite notes that the Mayor's support for Atlantic Yards is at odds with his campaign against congestion:

In addition, why then would we want a stadium in Brooklyn?

It will increase traffic so Brooklynites will have to pay to drive in Brooklyn. Easy answer, cancel the stadium in Brooklyn and stop the congestion pricing in Manhattan.

— Thomas Healy, Brooklyn

link

NoLandGrab, FYI: The Mayor's POV is that the region would not be able to stomach the historic megaproject called Atlantic Yards without first swallowing what some may call a bitter pill (congestion pricing). [Granted, the Mayor's office wouldn't phrase it in that manner.]

Posted by lumi at 8:36 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Blogosphere75.jpgBrooklynian.com, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO :: RE: BHers’ thoughts on Atlantic Yards
Strong views from someone who is not in Atlantic Yards's backyard:

IF YOU OPPOSE THIS PROJECT YOU’RE IN FAVOR OF SPRAWL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CARELESSNESS. THE OPPOSITE OF SPRAWL IS HIGH DENSITY. THE PLACE FOR HIGH DENSITY IS CENTER CITY AT THE CROSSROADS OF ALL THE MAJOR RAIL LINES AND TWO LARGEST STREETS. DEAL WITH IT. AND WTF DO YOU CARE ABOUT TRAFFIC ANYWAYS? PEOPLE DUMB ENOUGH TO DRIVE THERE CAN SIT ALL DAY, WHO CARES.

NoLandGrab: Missing from the public debate over the project, especially in several mainstream media outlets and anong Atlantic Yards ideologues, is that the project's proposed density is unprecedented, even historic. To defend such an ambitious level of density in ALL CAPS, or with an inadequate Environmental Impact Statement, is not facing facts at the least, deceptive at worst.

Just because "sprawl" is the current boogeyman of planning doesn't mean that "density" is the panacea. You don't need a degree in urban planning or a crystal ball to understand that unplanned density will have nearly as many attendant problems as unplanned sprawl.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, GREG BEYER UNDER FIRE

Louise Crawford taks a shot at a Times reporter for forgetting her favorite Brooklyn hmmm-doesn't-this-project-look-really-different-if-one-examines-it-closely bloggers and then fires back at the Atlantic Yards blogosphere:

We are a growing blogdom and we don't need to fight over who gets space in a New York Times article.

Moving On, Clinton Hill again
A couple considering a house on Classon lists this plus: "block with real potential - Fulton is next block and set to really gentrify as the Atlantic Yards take shape."

NoLandGrab: One of the ongoing debates, which will probably never be settled as a matter of fact, is whether Atlantic Yards is causing gentrification, or is benefitting from gentrification in-progress, and whether the affordable housing units in the project cannpossibly have a neutralizing affect on gentrification, as developer Bruce Ratner and his affordable housing partner Bertha Lewis claim.

Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

July 8, 2007

Man Bites Blog

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The NY Times has a fluffy article today about the blogging boom in Brooklyn. Astoundingly and inexplicably, the article makes no mention of Atlantic Yards, the borough's biggest and most controversial development plan, and the two influential, widely-read blogs it has spawned: Atlantic Yards Report and NoLandGrab.

It's not whining to suggest that there is something wrong with this omission; an article on blogging in Brooklyn without mention of these two essential and extraordinary blogs is like an article on Atlantic Yards without mention of Bruce Ratner, or a Times article about Atlantic Yards without disclosure of the company's business relationship with Forest City Ratner.

link

Posted by amy at 2:03 PM

Tax break debate flares over affordable housing

AP via USA Today

Other critics objected to an exemption in the plan that would preserve a multimillion dollar tax benefit for the developers of Atlantic Yards, a massive project in Brooklyn that will include thousands of new apartments and a new basketball arena for the NBA's Nets.

Legislative leaders delayed sending the measure to Spitzer's desk, and talks are now ongoing about possible adjustments.

article

Posted by amy at 11:11 AM

Hookers Don't Bow to Brooklyn Gentrification

Daily Intelligencer

Prospect Heights: Residents are still waiting for that Atlantic Yards ombudsman who was promised to the community two months ago. [Atlantic Yards Report]

link

Posted by amy at 11:09 AM

Sunday Comix

chucktwo.jpg

Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

AY a notable omission in accounts of the Brooklyn blogging boom

Atlantic Yards Report talks about how we got dissed by the Times, Courier-Life and Brooklyn!!!, the tabloid produced by the office of Borough President Marty Markowitz:

But it was curious, though not surprising given the sources, that three recent articles mentioning the Blogfest and the Brooklyn blogging boom, including the cover story in today's New York Times City section, ignored Atlantic Yards, notably this web site and No Land Grab.
...
It's kind of strange that the Times would omit Atlantic Yards; after all, the newspaper ran an article on the front of the Metro section in April 2006, describing AY as "the first large-scale urban real estate venture in New York City where opposition has coalesced most visibly in the blogosphere." (The account of the Blogfest on the Times blog did mention Atlantic Yards.)

article

Posted by amy at 10:59 AM

Following the Times's architecture critics down the path of concern

Atlantic Yards Report

The first three passages regard Atlantic Yards, the fourth Governors Island. No, the two projects aren't exactly comparable, but the observations are nonetheless interesting. Emphases added.

Herbert Muschamp, Courtside Seats to an Urban Garden, 12/11/05:
A Garden of Eden grows in Brooklyn. This one will have its own basketball team. Also, an arena surrounded by office towers; apartment buildings and shops; excellent public transportation; and, above all, a terrific skyline, with six acres of new parkland at its feet. Almost everything the well-equipped urban paradise must have, in fact.

Nicolai Ouroussoff, Seeking First to Reinvent the Sports Arena, and Then Brooklyn, 7/5/05:
Even in this early stage of development, the design proves that Mr. Gehry can handle the challenge better than most. His approach is a blow against the formulaic ways of thinking that are evidence of the city's sagging level of cultural ambition. It suggests another development model: locate real talent, encourage it to break the rules, get out of the way.

Nicolai Ouroussoff, Skyline for Sale, 6/4/06:
Beyond that, their collaboration points up a major change in the way cities are being built. There was a time when government took an interest in big urban planning projects. Mr. Ratner and Mr. Gehry are operating under a model by which the government plays only a marginal role. Bigger social concerns, like housing for mixed incomes, equal access to parks and transit, and vibrant communal spaces, which were once the public’s purview, now increasingly fall to developers to address or not, as they see fit.
...
Nicolai Ouroussoff, Competing Visions for Governors Island, 6/20/07:
Five proposals for the 40-acre park area at the southern half of the island offer the clearest evidence so far of what the island’s future could hold. The designs, commissioned by the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, should be regarded as preliminary sketches. After the winning design is selected next month, it will no doubt face significant revisions. Even so, the five proposals hold clues to what’s right and wrong about how public space is designed.

article

Posted by amy at 10:53 AM

Emerald city

BankofAm.jpg

Time Out New York asks, "Just how environmentally friendly are all these “green” buildings?" Questions about the "green" Atlantic Yards that have not been answered include:

  1. Wouldn't it be greener to adaptively reuse existing structures?
  2. Why did we bother with an environmental impact statement if the only means of mitigating problems are solutions like giving away air conditioners to cover up the noise?
These days Hollywood stars drive their Priuses to show that they’re environmentally conscious, and builders too rely on a desirable label: LEED. The acronym (short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the moniker of the U.S. Green Building Council’s system for assessing the greenness of a new building—that is, above and beyond the energy efficiencies and environmental requirements mandated by local building codes. But because, unlike in Europe, there are no federal policies here for green compliance, LEED has become the de facto standard in the United States. So over the past several years, having the Green Building Council certification has proved increasingly valuable to marketing a new construction. “It’s like the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval,” explains MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president for commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner, the megadeveloper behind Brooklyn’s controversial Atlantic Yards project and the New York Times building.
...
There are also complaints about how all this affects design. “Some architects find it bogus, because a developer can get certification for doing things that aren’t architectural,” explains Bill Menking, editor of The Architect’s Newspaper. “Sourcing materials from within a hundred miles of where you’re building is worthy,” he says. “But you can still wind up with the ugliest damn building you’ve ever seen.”

article

Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

News Highlights of the Week: June 30 – July 6, 2007

Architectural Record

Although it’s perhaps a statement of the obvious, Frank Gehry’s services don’t come cheap. The starchitect commands more than $12 per-square-foot, three-times the industry average, for his work on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, according to a July 1 article in The New York Times. This pricey figure, and others, was contained in documents released as a result of a lawsuit against the developer, Forest City Ratner. Critics of the controversial project contend the financial records indicate that the massive mixed-use complex is far riskier than first believed. “The affordable housing is the weakest link in a project that is otherwise financially very tight,” said state assemblyman James Brennan. “This is disturbing, because the affordable housing was marketed as the main public benefit of the project.”

link

Posted by amy at 10:33 AM

July 7, 2007

West Harlem Community Group Opposes Columbia University Expansion, Keeps Spotlight on the City Planning Commission

Two events on Monday July 9 from our friends in West Harlem:

(1) On Monday afternoon, Columbia will make a presentation at the City Planning Commission at 1:00PM on its expansion plan. CPC will hold a press conference at 12:30PM at 22 Reade Street (press release below).

(2) On Monday night, in West Harlem, there will be an important ULURP hearing and vote on the community 197A plan, in the Community Center of Manhattanville Public Houses, 530 West 133rd Street, starting at 6:30PM. Come out, speak up, and support the plan.

On Monday, July 9th at 12:30 PM in front of the office of the New York City Planning Commission, located at 22 Reade Street, members of the West Harlem community will hold a press conference to continue their protest against Columbia University's proposed 17 acre expansion in West Harlem. Columbia will have its second presentation before the City Planning Commission (CPC) just weeks after the City agency approved the university's re-zoning application for its Manhattanville expansion plan.

Over strenuous objections from West Harlem residents - including clergy, students, Community Board 9 members, tenants and local businesses within the expansion footprint facing eviction through eminent domain, and members of the community threatened with secondary displacement - the CPC voted on June 18th to proceed with the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) during the summer months. Community representatives argue that it is more difficult for Community Board 9 (CB 9) and the public to participate in this major land use issue. ULURP is the single most significant opportunity for public review of Columbia University's 7 billion dollar proposed development, one estimated to be completed in 30 years.

The Coalition to Preserve Community sent letters to Mayor Bloomberg and elected officials to protest a summer scheduling for the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) , stating that "our diverse working class community - a primarily low-income, Black and Latino (or Spanish speaking) community - will essentially be disenfranchised". Columbia has been condemned by members of the West Harlem community for its "all or nothing" heavy handed posture that critics fear will lead to the displacement of thousands and permanently alter the physical, socio-economic and cultural landscape of West Harem.

According to Tom DeMott of the Coalition to Preserve Community, the West Harlem community has been mobilized to give comments at the Community Board 9 Public Hearing on its 197A Plan on the evening of July 9th at the Manhattanville Community Center located at 530 West 133rd Street, beginning at 6:30PM. DeMott said, "The 197A plan developed by CB 9 under City Charter Section 197-a calls for sharing the community, not overpowering it, and we will be there Monday night to support that idea."

Posted by amy at 9:44 AM

What shade are you?

puke.jpg Time Out New York has cheeky instructions for how to go "green:"

What to do: Protest the Man

What you get out of it: As any college sophomore will tell you, protesting is the purest form of environmentalism, plus a great way to meet outdoorsy chicks and dudes. You can trek up to Canada to take part in a tree-sit (ingmarlee.com), but there are environmental disasters close to home. Pack your Nalgene and camp out in front of the demolition site where work has already begun on the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn—Ratner-free ’hoods are New York City’s redwoods.

Think passive resistance reeks of wussiness? Access to ecoterrorist cells can be difficult, what with them being illegal; start by making friends in the forums at the Animal Liberation Front (animalliberationfront.com). But aboveboard organizations like the ASPCA (424 E 92nd St between First and York Aves) are much tamer, and you can flyer without fear.

What the environment gets out of it: Your activism just may be what stops the Atlantic Yards project from increasing carbon monoxide levels at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues from 5.4 to 5.8ppm by 2016, as the Environmental Impact Statement predicts they will.

link
NoLandGrab: Funny that a funny little anecdote in Time Out New York can comprehend the air pollution aspects of the Atlantic Yards proposal while the Mayor cannot.

Posted by amy at 9:31 AM

In Staten Island, a development via RFP, unlike AY

Atlantic Yards Report

From a 7/5/07 New York Sun article headlined Huge Area of Staten Island May Be Up for Development:
The city is moving forward with plans to determine the future of one of the city's last undeveloped frontiers, the wetlands-filled and shipping-heavy West Shore of Staten Island.

The city's Economic Development Corporation last week put out a request for proposals for a land use and transportation plan for the area, part of an effort to devise a growth strategy for the space more than six times the size of Central Park.

Again, the city's general policy, as highlighted in PlaNYC 2030, contrasts with the development scenario leading to Atlantic Yards, where the city and state got behind a specific project 18 months before an RFP was issued for the public property (the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard) at issue.

link

Posted by amy at 9:29 AM

"There goes the neighborhood!": an exhibit on gentrification

FiveMylesPhoto.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

The flip side of those assessing real estate value on Brownstoner is the uneasiness expressed by those absorbing the tide of gentrification. That's what you'll find at the gallery Five Myles, in Crown Heights just east of Prospect Heights, in an exhibit called "There goes the neighborhood!" It opened June 23 and remains up through tomorrow.
...
Gentrification has its value, as even the Village Voice's recent article on Bushwick noted, but there can be a heavy price to pay. The interviews were conducted with residents generally dismayed about the changes, feeling threatened, and knowing others pushed out. (Where? The shelter?)

The accents are African-American and Caribbean-American, the tones questioning, lamenting, skeptical, and conspiracy-minded. One of the voices, according to Five Myles founder Hanne Tierney, has already left the neighborhood. (See TimeOut NY article.)

A question recurs: Who or what is responsible? One factor, unmentioned, is surely the 421-a tax break that subsidizes luxury housing, but there are many other reasons, some of which I'll try to look at in the future.

link

Posted by amy at 9:25 AM

RATNER RUCKUS

NY Press

Official data confirms it—New Yorkers really are paying increasingly obscene prices for apartments. Last week, Reuters reported that in sharp contrast to the majority of U.S. housing markets, Manhattan housing prices rose yet again during the second financial quarter. Unsurprisingly, rent prices continue to climb as well: The NYC Rent Guidelines Board voted recently to increase rents by 3 percent on one-year leases and 5.75 percent on two-year leases. It’s an improvement over last year’s 4.25 percent and 7.25 percent respective hikes, but for the two-thirds of New Yorkers who rent, it’s still a squeeze. In a double-edged reform bill passed last week, the state legislature is both hindering and helping the affordable housing cause. The bill provides tax exemptions for developers who provide lower-cost apartments, though it applies only in certain neighborhoods. A second appendix in that legislation, however, allots $175 million in tax breaks for the controversial Atlantic Yards project. Critics decry the pork barreling, calling it a handout for the construction of apartments that won’t be truly “affordable.” Statistics confirm their outrage: The threshold for affordable housing elsewhere in the city is a $42,600 income, but is $49,700 at Atlantic Yards. Unaffordable affordable housing? Priceless.

link

Posted by amy at 9:22 AM

New ‘Times’ Tower: ‘It's Like the Dark Ages’

20070706nyt.jpg

Daily Intelligencer

The soaring new New York Times tower — already known for its weird toilets (when flushed, they apparently sound like a kitten being strangled), its weirder elevators (no buttons, and no indication of what floor they're on), a leak problem (editor Bill Keller's office got soggy in a recent rainstorm), and a mouse problem (reported by Gawker) — still has a few more surprises between the floorboards: maggots. "It's hard to put out a newspaper when you're worried about what might fall on your head," one Times staffer told us this week. "One of the photo editors was sitting at her desk and maggots started falling from the ceiling tile on to her head."

That wasn't all. The maggots — Webster's says they're "legless, soft-bodied, wormlike larva of various flies of the order Diptera, often found in decaying matter" — were not alone. They were "followed by a rat," our source said. A dead rat, that is, "that had been eaten by the maggots." You could hear stifled screams ripple through the newsroom as word spread, said the source. "We all scanned our own ceilings for any loose tiles," the source continued. "With maggot-y ceilings and rats falling out of the air, it's like the dark ages in this building that was supposed to bring us into the 21st century."

link
NoLandGrab:Blight, or Biblical prophecy? "Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, with the sound of your stringed instruments. Maggots are spread out under you, and worms cover you." Isaiah 14:11

Either way, we now understand the paltry Times' Atlantic Yards coverage - too busy ducking their own rats.

Posted by amy at 9:08 AM

July 6, 2007

What Kind of President Would Michael Bloomberg Be?

Huffington Post
By Steve Ettlinger

The Atlantic Yards boondoggle boogeyman follows Mayor Bloomberg onto the national stage:

As a presidential candidate, Michael R. Bloomberg is likely to have problems with his positions on some local issues that have national repercussions, like the abuse of eminent domain. He's apparently for it. This goes way beyond the discovery that he had heart surgery or that he jets to a weekend home in Bermuda.

Bloomberg is rightly praised for being pragmatic and a successful manager. He has acted successfully on his own creative initiatives. But he may regret hanging tight with his billionaire neighbor, Bruce Ratner, whose Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), New York City and state's largest developer lobbyist, is trying to build the densest residential community in our country in the middle of brownstone Brooklyn, the enormous and controversial Atlantic Yards project. By being a major, public supporter of Ratner, Bloomberg puts himself in some very compromising positions. It says lots about Bloomberg's character, and it is not good.

full article

Posted by lumi at 9:06 AM

Awaiting the AY ombudsperson, as the Ward Bakery work resumes

Atlantic Yards Report

Nearly two months ago, on May 7, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) announced "new oversight measures" for the Atlantic Yards project. Among them:

ESDC intends to hire an Atlantic Yards ombudsperson who will work as a full-time liaison between ESDC, elected officials, community representatives and the general public. The ombudsperson will ensure that residents remain in the loop, and that community concerns receive proper attention.*

But no ombudsperson has yet been hired. Why? ESDC spokesman A.J. Carter responded in a statement, "Since this administration took office Jan. 1, we have focused not just on filling jobs, but on filling them with the right people. We are in the final stages of the process and expect to have the ombudsperson hired soon.”

But the lack of an "ombuddy" hasn't stopped the Deparment of Buildings (DOB) from lifting the stop-work order for the Ward Bakery building, even though the agency's investigation has not been concluded. Norman Oder scours the DOB statement for clues of what may have gone wrong back in April when the parapet fell:

From the DOB statement:

In addition, the developer has revised its means and methods plan for abatement and demolition operations to ensure the sequence of both types of work do not interfere with one another.

Oder muses:

The bolded statement above, in which the developer pledges to ensure that abatement and demolition do not interfere with one another, suggests a possible clue regarding the earlier incident.

Did a hasty effort to accomplish too much lead to the fall of the parapet? Perhaps the investigation will explain. The imposition of the "new protective measures" implies that the previous procedures lacked such measures.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:01 AM

Demolition Resumes at Former Bakery in Ratner ‘Footprint’

Partial Collapse of Parapet Halted Work This Past April

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Evan Barton

Ward-BDE.jpg

Demolition began again Tuesday on the rooftop parapet of the former Ward Bread Bakery building at 800 Pacific St.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) gave the go-ahead for Forest City Ratner Companies to continue demolition, in keeping with the ESDC’s recently announced policy of providing additional oversight for Forest City’s Atlantic Yards development plan.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:44 AM

So, Is Atlantic Yards a Rip-Off or Not?

The Real Estate Observer

Matthew Shuerman exclaims, "It’s been an odd week in the history of Atlantic Yards project."

Noting that Mayor Bloomberg is now on record against additional subsidies "going to 'a developer who doesn’t need them,'” and State Assemblyman Jim Brennan concluded that Atlantic Yards is "financially risky," the one mainstream reporter who has been closely following the project wonders, "So, is Atlantic Yards a boondoggle or a house of cards?"

article

Atlantic Yards Report, AY a boondoggle or house of cards? Some (preliminary) responses
Norman Oder takes the Schuerman challenge and examines some of the factors that ought to be considered when deciding, "Is Atlantic Yards a Rip-Off or Not?".

I haven't spent enough time with the documents unearthed via Assemblyman Jim Brennan's lawsuit to come to any overall conclusions about them. But I do think the questions of whether the project is a boondoggle or a house of cards may be disaggregated.

And all this suggests that a responsible entity like the Independent Budget Office or an academic research institute should crunch the numbers themselves.

Regarding whether or not Atlantic Yards is a boondoggle, the public still doesn't know how much of the project's $4 billion in financing is being put up by the developer, how much public subsidy will be sucked up by the project, and if that money could be spent more efficiently in other ways.

Though Oder doesn't think that Brennan actually concludes that the project is a "house of cards," he finds that "it's more a house of cards for the rentals, which means affordable housing would arrive more slowly than promised and interim surface parking lots would persist."

DDDB.net, Pick Your Poison
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn adds up the points made by Schuerman and Oder, but says that there's no reason to choose when, "It's both boondoggle for Forest City Ratner... and house of cards for the public."

Posted by lumi at 8:38 AM

Bloomberg's Insistent Call for Partisan Disarmament

Gay City, Opinion
By: NATHAN RILEY

Mayor Bloomberg is mulling over his decision to run for President. As local voices reflect on his record, one $4-billion, 22-acre, eminent-domain-abusing mega-headache keeps popping up:

Mayor Mike dislikes partisan government; that much has always been clear. He left the Democrats because that made it easier to run for mayor, and now by leaving the Republicans there would be a clearer path to run for president. His speech revealed his basic beliefs, and probably his basic campaign message should he run in 2008.

Happily for him, the emphasis on unity and bipartisan policy reflects the latest polling results. The voters believe both parties fail in addressing their problems, pollster Stanley Greenberg concluded in an article in the American Prospect.
...
Such an adversarial approach to the status quo could produce gains- but how confident are we that Bloomberg will be on our side? Recall Bloomberg's consistent defense of Con Ed during the nine-day electrical blackout in Queens last year, his indifference to rent hikes, or his recent comment about subway overcrowding - "So you stand next to people. Get real. This is New York. What's wrong with that?"

In 2005, running for reelection, hearing a complaint in Brooklyn about the enormous headaches the Atlantic Yards Project will create for local residents, he told a voter that if he lived there he'd probably be unhappy too but that the project should go forward.

Bloomberg doesn't earn high marks for empathy.

article

>

Posted by lumi at 8:30 AM

Atlantic Yards House of Cards To Collapse?

Mythsmasher quotes from last weekend's NY Times article and explains that no one should really be surprised that "that rosy predictions underly this attempt to gain wealth through government rather than the market."

If you substitute government planning for the market, then you distort economic decisionmaking. It is not enough to stop legalized theft such as Atlantic Yards. Let us abandon the failed notions of government planning and subsidy of economic development.

article

NoLandGrab: As the government continues to support taxpayer money and government intervention in the marketplace to the benefit of one developer, Atlantic Yards continues to be an rallying cry in support of Libertarian principles.

Posted by lumi at 8:28 AM

City Creates More Than 18,000 Affordable Housing Units

NY1

Atlantic Yards gets a boost from a report touting Bloomberg's affordable housing initiative:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ten-year plan to boost affordable housing may be paying off.

According to this year's figures, the city has constructed or preserved 18,472 units throughout the five boroughs.
...
Officials hope the numbers will continue to increase with the help of developments, like the Atlantic Yards project.

article/video (dialup/broadband)

NoLandGrab: With the exodus of units leaving NYC affordable-housing programs, there's no word in the article about the NET effect of the mayor's plan, nor a breakdown of how many units have been created versus those retained.

Also, to understand the effectiveness of the Mayor's program, it would help to know how many of these units target low-income households.

Posted by lumi at 8:18 AM

Veto Vito! Group Protests Assemblyman

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Jeffrey Harmatz

Several unhappy Brooklynites have taken to the streets to protest what they feel are corrupt political moves made by New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez. A rally was held outside of a Kings County Democratic fundraising dinner to protest Lopez’ involvement in the creation of the 421-a housing loophole for Forest City Ratner regarding the Atlantic Yards Development and his support for Surrogate’s Court judge candidate Shawndya Simpson. Demonstrators also took issue with Lopez holding the position of State Assemblyman while simultaneously serving as Chairman of the Kings County Democratic Committee, which they claimed to be a conflict of interest.

“We feel that County Democratic leader Vito Lopez is going against the best interests of Brooklyn is using his powers the wrong way,” said rally organizer Chris Owens, who is the president of the New Brooklyn Leadership and the son of former Congressman Major Owens. “He is creating a $100 million windfall for Bruce Ratner and promoting the election of an inexperienced judicial candidate. We want Lopez to resign as either party leader of assemblyman, Simpson to end her campaign, and Governor Spitzer to veto the 421-a legislation.”

article

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Willets Pt. biz owners protest eminent domain

Queens Times Ledger
By Philip Newman

Chanting "Hell no, we won't go," scores of workers and business owners from Willets Point rallied along with protesters from other areas against what they termed "eminent domain abuse."

The majority of the demonstrators outside City Hall gathered June 28 to publicize their fight against eviction from the "Iron Triangle" at Willets Point near Shea Stadium to make way for a development plan.
...
In Willets Point, hundreds of businesses would be ousted for the development, including auto repair and light manufacturing in the area between Shea Stadium and downtown Flushing.

Development opponents say more than 1,800 jobs and 250 businesses could be in jeopardy.
...
The demonstrators displayed signs such as "Willets Point: Playground for the Politically Connected Developer" and the motto, "Eminent Domain Abuse" with a line drawn through the words like a no-smoking sign.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

Image of asthmatic girl is used to promote New York traffic-fee plan

AP, via International Herald Tribune

NEW YORK: An image of a sad-looking little girl squeezing an asthma inhaler is being used to pressure New York state lawmakers into approving Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial plan to reduce traffic and pollution by charging motorists who drive into Manhattan.

The tag line is: "She cannot hold her breath waiting for Albany to act."

The flier is being mailed this week to 350,000 households, urging voters to call lawmakers in Albany. The state legislature would have to come back for a special session to approve the plan before a July 16 application deadline for matching U.S. federal funding.

The campaign and flier were produced by the same company that brought you the Ratner "liar flyers," and paid for by a group that has testified in support of Atlantic Yards:

A spokesman for Knickerbocker SKD, the company that produced the image, could not provide the age or name of the child featured on the flier, which was described as a stock photo. The campaign was paid for by the Partnership for New York City, a business group that is a chief supporter of the mayor's scheme.

article

NoLandGrab: This marketing campaign reminds us of a dramatic moment captured in Isabel Hill's film, "Brooklyn Matters," in which NYC Councilmember Letitia James speaks of concerns about increased traffic causing asthma rates to rise in neighborhoods where rates are already some of the highest in the nation. As she shared her sadness, dismay and outrage at having had to attend the funeral of a four-year-old in her district, in the background, a Ratner supporter from Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development poo-poos the tragedy with a dismissive wave of the hand.

If you make the call to Albany lawmakers, you may want to add a comment about the special exemption for Atlantic Yards in the 421-a reform bill, just passed by the legislature.

Posted by lumi at 7:39 AM

City is upgrading its 911 system for $1.5B

Staten Island Advance
By John Annese

If you've ever wondered how the City can possibly be MetroTech's largest tenant, check out the latest City program to call Forest City Ratner's high-rise office park home:

Police will move into a new high-tech 911 call center at Brooklyn's MetroTech Center by March 2008, and the center will be fully up and running, with fire and EMS personnel, by March 2009, he added.

article

NoLandGrab: BTW, the State of NY became Atlantic Center's largest tenant when the Department of Motor Vehicles moved into the suburban-style mall.

When Ratner can't fill his mega-projects with private tenants, government agencies come to the rescue.

Posted by lumi at 7:25 AM

Shedding Blight: Condemning Condemnation

NYAEDA-BDS.jpgQueens Ledger & Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Shane Miller

Several groups fighting the use of eminent domain joined together for a rally on the steps of City Hall last week, charging that the seizure of private land in New York City is no longer an extraordinary step to further public projects, but rather a matter of public policy meant to further large private development.

The rally was organized primarily by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which is fighting the use of eminent domain in the Forest City Ratner arena project in Prospect Heights. It also brought together residents facing the loss of their homes in Harlem due to a planned expansion of Columbia University, as well as entrepreneurs from Willets Point in Queens, who are facing a similar fate with regard to their businesses. The rally officially marked the debut of the citywide coalition New Yorkers Against Eminent Domain Abuse.

"The mayor is fond of saying, 'we can't let one guy stand in the way of development,'" said Dan Goldstein of DDDB, whose home is in the proposed arena's footprint. "Well, we're not one guy."

article

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

July 5, 2007

Would the city and state pay for school and community arena use? That was the plan

Atlantic Yards Report

ArenaFinancingSumm.gifRatner's lawyers contend that a new arena for the Nets represents a public use, which made no sense when documents released last December indicated that community groups would have to pay a $100,000 rental fee.

In the documents obtained by State Assemblyman Jim Brennan's office, Norman Oder discovers that:

There was once a plan to guarantee more public use--but it would've cost the city and state $18 million a year. Over 40 events, that would be $450,000 an event. Over 80 events, that would be $225,000 an event.

A 10/22/03 presentation by FCR to the Empire State Development Corporation, unearthed via Assemblyman Jim Brennan's lawsuit, sets out a plan in which the Local Development Corporation running the arena would offer three leases, two to government agencies and one to the developer. The developer would pay just $1. (The nominal rent is a thank you for the increased tax revenues the arena should generate, though it doesn't take into account, say, the developer's $400 million deal with Barclays Capital for naming rights.)

The document states:

One lease will be from the LDC to the City and one to the State (the "Public Party Leases") to use the arena facility at specified times for indoor state-of-the-art amateur sporting events of the Boards of Education and Higher Education, private secondary schools and colleges and community organizations. The term of the leases will be equal to the term of the LDC bonds. The City and the State would each pay $9 Million per year for a total annual rent of $18 Million for the Public Party Leases. It is anticipated that these payments would be offset by the new incremental sales and other taxes generated by the arena.

That, apparently, didn't fly. Government negotiators must have recognized it was not exactly a good deal.

Gratuitous snark alert: The reason it didn't fly is that Ratner usually convinces the City or State to bailout his project AFTER it's built, not before. [NY City is the largest tenant in MetroTech and NY State is the largest tenant in Atlantic Center.]

Why bother splitting hairs over the usage of the arena? Norman explains:

On the other hand, the failure to guarantee use by nonprofit entities would make it harder to argue that the arena, in fact, is a "civic project," an issue in dispute in the pending lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:12 AM

At the start, it was 80/20 affordable housing, not 50/30/20

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder is still sifting through the documents obtained by State Assemblyman Jim Brennan, looking for more details to clarify or correct the on-going historical narrative of Atlantic Yards.

Today he looks at affordable housing:

I've previously criticized Bertha Lewis of ACORN for saying that she got developer Forest City Ratner to include affordable housing in the Atlantic Yards development. I noted that that was the plan all along, at least since Atlantic Yards was announced publicly on 12/10/03.

Well, not exactly. Recently released documents offer clues that ACORN indeed had an impact, though not quite the one Lewis has described.

article

Posted by lumi at 7:07 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Curbed, Fun With Hard Numbers at Atlantic Yards
Here's one we missed from Monday (all of the post-this nudges must be on vacation).

A big NYT story questions the risk of the project based on analysis of previously unseen internal documents. The nub of the issue: that Ratner & Co. may be underestimating construction costs, and overestimating future sales prices, which could make building out the entire project untenable. ...what most intrigues us in the NYT piece are the detailed construction cost numbers that make it clear Ratner & Co. see nothing but boom times ahead for Downtown Brooklyn.

Matthew Lysiak Resource Guide, Brooklyn Deserves Atlantic Yards
Though the Brooklyn Paper columnist has a penchant for using "Bruce Ratner" as a metaphor for complicated backroom deal, that doesn't stop him from bellyaching about those who bellyache about Ratner.

We only wish that the columnist pay more attention to the facts: that's over $2 billion in subsidies, the deal for tenants seems to be conflated with the deal Ratner made with condo owners a couple of years ago [A million-bucks to leave your apartment? Heck you could buy a place, right?], and to compare the extreme, historic density of Atlantic Yards to "the future and the progress that comes with embracing technology" is a wild leap of the imagination.

However, Lysiak makes a few good points — perhaps Brooklynites are reaping what they sow and "Bruce Ratner" and "Atlantic Yards" have only become the symbols of all the little things that upset the gemulichkeit fantasy of a Brooklyn-gone-by.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

July 4, 2007

Eminent domination without representation is...

...really great if you're Ratner!

Last year we posted an item about the "57 property/business owners [who] declared that they were fed up with King George III of England and his failure to act in the best interests of his citizen-subjects" and how they "pledged their lives and fortunes to fight against what was essentially a 'done deal:' the arbitrary rule of law and the manipulation of legislatures to serve the purposes of a despotic power."

The list of grievances that prompted these brave men to declare independence from the Crown of England portended many of the governmental abuses that surround Atlantic Yards, the poster-project for government acting in the interest of the politically connected rather than the interest of those from whose consent it derive its powers.

Last year's list included the abuse of eminent domain, NY State's override of local laws, manipulations of existing laws, use of public money for a private project that will generate little or no tax benefit, and ignoring citizens' petitions of redress.

The list has continued to grow in the past year. As we meditate on the Declaration of Independence, consider this year's list (in no particular order) of actions in which our local and state governments have exercised their powers to benefit one very powerful developer:

This probably wasn't what the founding fathers had in mind.

Happy 4th,
"Miss Brooklyn"

Posted by lumi at 10:48 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites

july4th.jpgIn the week since groups fighting eminent domain abuse citywide got together to collectively voice their concerns, the West Harlem groups caught a break in the courts, Duffield St. Underground continues to build the case against the City, Willets Point property owners continue to make their point and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted a July 4th greeting card:

WEST HARLEM, MANHATTAN

The NY Times, Neutrality in Expansion at Columbia Is Questioned
A judge has determined that the same company that produced the report glossing over the historical significance of the homes on Duffield St., and which made the case that the Atlantic Yards footprint is blighted, lacks sufficient neutrality "to determine whether the state would be justified in using its power of eminent domain to condemn property sought by Columbia for its expansion."

NoLandGrab: The company, AKRF, is known for its ability to produce a report in which the conclusions perfectly match the opinions of the party that commissioned the report.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Columbia's Questionable Advisors
Richard Lipsky finds himself on one side of the issue in West Harlem and the other side in Brooklyn, since he's retained by Tuck-it-Away, a member of the West Harlem Business Association, and Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Lipsky makes some good points about AKRF:

Now it turns out that AKRF's talents are quite protean. The firm is not only doing the state's blight study, it is also representing the party that wants to condemn the West Harlem real estate-none other than Columbia the gem of the ocean. In its legal defense AKRF told the court that this apparent conflict wasn't really any problem since it had constructed a "Chinese Wall" within the company-something that, understandably so, Judge Kornreeich didn't find to be very credible.

Why is this so important? It is so because the blight study is what the state and Columbia will rely on to defend themselves against the inevitable litigation should the use of eminent domain be utilized to evict the West Harlem property owners. It is further crucial since the so-called blight will be determined for an area where Columbia itself has taken over the vast percentage of all of the extant property-and has purposefully allowed it all to deteriorate.

UPCOMING MEETING:
Manhattan Community Board 9
Monday, July 9, 2007
Public Hearing for 197A; ULURP Committee vote on 197A Plan to be held at Manhattanville Community Center, 530 West 133rd Street

DUFFIELD ST., BROOKLYN
Duffield St. Underground has been busy making the case for preserving the Duffield St. homes.

Public Benefits and Other Disappointments
Development under the Downtown Brooklyn Plan has run off track:

All of this raises an important question: What are the public benefits of the Downtown Brooklyn plan? If the plan is not living up to its promises, should the Economic Development Corporation continue with its eminent domain condemnation of private property? Eminent domain is only supposed to be used for some public good.

Organizing Against Eminent Domain Abuse Around New York City

Duffield Street homeowners Joy Chatel and Lew Greenstein were among the property owners who spoke about their own fight against the city to save their homes from being taken and bulldozed for a parking garage. Chatel chaffed at the notion, saying "as if this city needs more parking garages."

Citing the historical significance of the homes on Duffield St., homeowner Chatel pleaded for intervention from Albany, "Governor Spitzer, where are you?"

An emotionally charged Lew Greenstein told the crowd that it was "the little people" who are victims of eminent domain abuse and challenged the City and State to take Governor Spitzer or Mayor Bloomberg's home.

LPC Washes Its Hands of Duffield Street
The Courier-LIfe Publications reports that the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is "washing its hands" of the Duffield St. homes, even though experts testified to the possible historical significance of the homes.

Freddy's Standing Up with Video Coverage
The local program taped in one Brooklyn landmark threatened by eminent domain, Freddy's, has been covering the Duffield St. fight. Check out all three episodes.

WILLETS POINT, QUEENS

The Age, Scrap over junk as mayor tries to make a Point
News of what's happening in Willets Point reached Down Under:

The city wants to buy out the owners, but on the value of the properties now, rather than after rezoning.

If the owners refuse, the city may seize the land in a form of compulsory acquisition called "eminent domain".

NoLandGrab: Whether or not you favor the Mayor's plan for redevelopment of Willets Point, the question of who gets to profit from increased land values should concern anyone who believes in capitalism.

City Limits, WILLETS POINT TO CITY: SLOW DOWN AND LISTEN

Last week, a number of local nonprofits and politicians – including the Pratt Center for Community Development, ACORN and Queens City Councilmembers Hiram Monserrate and Tony Avella – convened a meeting of area stakeholders in order to gather input for a community plan to influence the administration's.

The area's business people and others are concerned that if City Council and the Planning Commission use the mayor’s plan as an occasion to rezone the area, as they did in the case of downtown Brooklyn in 2004, there won’t be another opportunity for community involvement, even if it comes to using eminent domain to forcibly remove property owners.

Posted by lumi at 9:51 AM

In profile of Olin, hints that the AY open space design is changing

Atlantic Yards Report alerts us to:

A very interesting profile, headlined Mr. Olin’s Neighborhood, of Atlantic Yards landscape architect Laurie Olin, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania... in the July/August issue of the Penn Gazette.

Norman Oder highlights a clue that the design, at least Olin's piece of the project, might be changing:

One intriguing excerpt:

(A recent non-disclosure agreement between his company and the Olin Partnership prevents the display of site plans and drawings in this story.)

Given that developer Forest City Ratner has long distributed an image gallery (example at right) via the Pressroom page of AtlanticYards.com, that's a curious request. I think it's safe to assume that the design is changing.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

Is a 421-a revision possible?

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's New York Business reports that "Albany insiders" say city officials have a chance of persuading legislators to change the 421-a program that offers tax breaks for housing construction but requires affordable housing in certain neighborhoods.

Presumably that would mean a veto first by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

What's up, Chuck?

Schumer-ET.jpgAs if voters are a bunch of idiots, this week NY Senator Charles Schumer came out against eminent domain abuse in Upstate New York, although he remains a big booster of the practice in New York City, especially for Atlantic Yards.

Schumer makes a good point, as reported by the Oneida Daily Dispatch, "Schumer: Don't let bureaucrats overrule states:"

"It makes no sense to give a private company the right to eminent domain," Schumer said. "Communities and neighborhoods should not have their homes taken at whim by private companies."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn takes note of the Senator's inconsistency:

Ok, we did a double-take when this article came to our inbox today. Senator Charles Schumer, a full-throated supporter of Atlantic Yards and its intended use of eminent domain (we say it's an abuse) for a private developer, went Upstate to support residents there fighting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC, no relation to FCRC) intended use of eminent domain for a private developer for a traditional public use--power lines.
...
Yes, this is the same Senator Schumer who once said the following about those critical of or opposed to Atlantic Yards (which, by the way, uses eminent domain for a private developer):

"[Borough President] Marty [Markowitz] is taking it on the chin," sympathized Schumer, "from what I call the culture of inertia, this small group of self-appointed people. If we do not grow, we will die."

He's also the same politician who promoted "making greater use of public condemnation" (eminent domain) in the Group of 35 Report.

The Daily Politics ran a blurb and a link in its daily political roundup:

The anti-Atlantic Yards faction sees some hypocrisy in Sen. Charles Schumer's opposition to the use of eminent domain for a private developer that wants to build a 200+ power line upstate.

NoLandGrab: On the face of it, it may seem that NYRI's plan is a traditional use of eminent domain, as opposed to Bruce Ratner's private Atlantic Yards project. However, at issue in both eminent domain actions is WHO is drawing the lines and making the decision about WHAT land and HOW MUCH to forcibly take.

The lack of transparency and appetite for eminent domain in the upstate and downstate takings bridge regional differences and questions of public or private use.

Posted by lumi at 8:35 AM

Happy Fourth!

Here's one we missed from last year.

06.07.02.IndependDay06.gif

Posted by lumi at 8:05 AM

July 3, 2007

Investigation Not Complete, Demo Continues

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

A statement by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in a Metro NY article, raises a serious question :

Old Atlantic Yards concerns resurface ...ESDC spokesman A.J. Carter said the Dept. of Buildings hasn’t completed its collapse investigation...

Two months ago the northern parapet wall of the Ward Bakery building in the Atlantic Yards footprint mysteriously crashed 4 stories to the ground, crushing cars, littering the sidewalk and street with tons of debris, and evacuating the homeless shelter next door for most of the day. Luckily nobody was injured.

After the mysterious event the ESDC halted all demolitions by Forest City Ratner until a more stringent procedure was in place, and until an investigation into the dangerous event occurred.
...
But yesterday abatement towards demolition re-commenced on the Ward Bakery despite the fact that the collapse investigation and its findings have not been concluded. Why?

link

Posted by lumi at 9:37 AM

When AY was first presented, the footprint was smaller

Atlantic Yards Report

Another revelation from the Forest City Ratner presentations to the Empire State Development Corporation obtained by State Assemblyman Jim Brennan is that in just a few short months, the Atlantic Yards footprint kept growing and growing.

Read about Atlantic Yards — The Project that Ate Brooklyn:

When developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) made apparently its first presentation to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the agency that was to supervise and shepherd the Atlantic Yards project, the site outline was very different from the one we now know--and, indeed, what the developer pretty much proposed three-and-a-half-months later.

In the June 17, 2003 presentation, there was no Miss Brooklyn and, aside from the arena block, development was restricted to the railyard blocks.

Then, in September, 2003, the presentation to the Empire State Development Corporation included a segment of the "Newswalk" block, and the entire block to the east, though it excluded Site V, which was added in 2005.

One question that might have bearing on the federal eminent domain case is, "Who drew the map?"

A lawyer representing the ESDC, defending a challenge to the agency's environmental review, in May resisted the charge that Forest City Ratner identified the site and drew the map. “The origin of the shape, whether from Forest City or not, has nothing to do with" whether the project qualifies as a land use improvement project under state law, said Philip Karmel.

The sequence here suggests that the developer did in fact draw the map.

Other questions and revelations from the documents:

The documents, at a cursory glance, seem to beg more questions about the genesis of Atlantic Yards than they answer.

article

Posted by lumi at 9:21 AM

The AY back story: the desired Devils, modest condemnations, "possible" govt.-backed bonds, and no blight

Atlantic Yards

On first glance at the documents obtained by State Assemblyman Jim Brennan, a back-story emerges that is quite different from the gospel according to Bruce.

AYMissionS.gif

The original goal of the Atlantic Yards project was based on sports, not the creation of affordable housing or the elimination of blight, two goals stressed today. According to a 6/17/03 Forest City Ratner (FCR) presentation (2 MB PDF) to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), unearthed via Assemblyman Jim Brennan's lawsuit to extract Atlantic Yards financial documents, the mission was to relocated both the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils to Brooklyn, "thereby stimulating economic growth..."

The document also predicts a modest need for the use of eminent domain, a quick approval and construction schedule, and "possible" government backing of bonds--all of which might be considered lowball estimates.

A deal for the Devils never materialized and the problem of having two new arenas in the region gets ignored.

The article is a fascinating look at the development of a development plan. As the Atlantic Yards project outline was growing and the timeline started slipping, the use of eminent domain widened and its justification changed (either the project's mission was altered in keeping with regional growth initiatives or to improve the justification for eminent domain).

article

Posted by lumi at 8:59 AM

Old Atlantic Yards concerns resurface

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

State Assemblyman Jim Brennan received internal documents from Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation that, "show little profit initially and need rising real estate prices to assure a profit.”

Meanwhile, the ESDC has allowed abatement work to continue at the Ward Bakery building even though an ombudsman has yet to be named; and the Dean St. Block Association is standing in for the absentee Atlantic Yards Communtiy Liaison Office.

article

Posted by lumi at 8:48 AM

Sermon for June 17, Eminent Domain

Old First

Reverend Daniel Meeter of the Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope continues to meditate on the laws of Moses, in which "private property was sacred as a gift from God."

When one king felt that these laws were a "disincentive to development," God didn't stop him from using eminent domain. But what happens to us as individuals and a society when we fail to apply "the values of the laws of God?"

Read the tale of King Ahab, where the "application to the Atlantic Yards is inescapable" and the name Jezebel finds a new meaning when she is cast in the role of the Empire State Development Corporation.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:07 AM

More Thoughts on Expansion Of the Atlantic Avenue Jail

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Editorial
By Dennis Holt

In an article about the prospects and concerns over reopening the Brooklyn House of Detention on Atlantic Ave, Dennis Holt takes a personal jab at Dan Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

What if Bruce Ratner had not gotten to the rail yards first? Would that empty space, on top of mass transit, be a target for a jail? Maybe, and I can see Daniel Goldstein starting a group called “Develop, Don’t Jail Brooklyn.”

article

Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

Bruce gets his athletic big

Williams-NYP.jpgSince getting reamed by Nets fans for letting Kenyon Martin go in his first season as an owner, Bruce Ratner has been haunted by advisors telling him to "get an athletic big."

Yesterday, the Nets introduced their first-round draft pick, Sean Willams, proof that everyone, even Ratner, deserves a second chance.

NY Post, 'BIG' ARRIVAL

"We have our athletic big in Sean Williams," owner Bruce Ratner said.

Bergen Record, Nets see Williams as next K-Mart

"We have our athletic big in Sean Williams," Ratner said before clapping. "Everybody always says, 'Ratner, get an athletic big. Get an athletic big.' So ownership is very, very happy.

"In a sense, it's like getting Kenyon Martin back. Or since Kenyon, we haven't had that athletic big who is going to have impact down there."

Newark Star-Ledger, Nets' top pick gets backing from his Mom

"I asked, 'How much a part of his past was it, what was really involved, and is he going to stop?'" Ratner said. "That was enough. Not to diminish the severity of it, but we're not talking about hard drugs. We're talking about marijuana, and a lot of people have had that kind of past."

AP via, NY Daily News, Nets introduce draft pick Williams

"My troubles at Boston College have been well documented," said the 20-year-old Williams. "I knew my stock had fallen for what had happened, but I was confident that someone would pick me and give me a second chance. I'm looking forward to moving on and getting a clean start."
...
Principal owner Bruce Ratner said the Nets "are all about giving people second chances and we believe Sean deserves a second chance."

Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

July 2, 2007

Brennan: risky rentals point to need for smaller project, guarantees

Atlantic Yards Report notes that one key point from State Assemblyman Jim Brennan's press release didn't make it into this Sunday's NY Times article:

A press release from Assemblyman Jim Brennan fills in some of the blanks left out of yesterday's murky New York Times article. For one thing, Brennan thinks the project's questionable financials point to a downsizing, as well as a requirement that the affordable housing be guaranteed.

article

Posted by lumi at 1:26 PM

Tally ho: Atlantic Yards Subsidies!

Lawmakers are throwing around billions of dollars trying to get Bruce Ratner's subsidy-laden Atlantic Yards Trojan Horse off the ground.

TallyHo.gifDevelop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has been keeping a running tally of known and unknown public subsidies for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards arena-office-housing superblock complex (download the PDF). After adding in $300-million gift via the State's 421-a reform bill*, known subsidies register around $2.11 billion and unknown subsidies will cost taxpayers, um...

A great philosopher once said, "as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know." In Ratnerville, that means, hold on to yer wallets because it's gonna suck up more public subsidies than you can imagine.

Yesterday, Gowanus Lounge noted:

While there are a number of different ways one can count the public cost of the Atlantic Yards development, the total of the taxpayer-back financing and public subsidy is a fair indicator of the level of public support of the $4 billion project... Even in the large scheme of things, the 421-a subsidy is significant.

* Governor Spizter has yet to sign the 421-a reform bill, but you gotta love any "reform" bill that lines the pockets of a single developer!

Posted by lumi at 11:41 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Here's what independent voices are saying on the Net about the Atlantic Yards financials, the special Ratner-only exception in the 421-a reform bill, and more...

Blogosphere74.jpgDaily Gotham, Crony Capitalism Comes to Brooklyn
For your summertime reading enjoyment, "Mole333" republishes an item about "crony capitalism" and suggests you add Marty and Vito to the mix.

Brownstoner, New Docs Suggest AY Project Riskier Than Thought
Brooklyn's real estate blog's take on the release of the project financials:

Bottom line: Ratner's counting on a continued rising market to bail him out. Regardless of the optimism built into the model, the biggest thing that comes out of the article is that any forecasts for a project this large that occurs over this long a time period have to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Queens Crap, Lawsuit exposes AY plan on eggshells

Looks like someone's been 'gilding the lily' just a bit.

Not another f*cking blog, Brooklyn Matters

Brooklyn Matters (http://www.brooklynmatters.com) is a great documentary that lays out the reasons why the proposed Atlantic Yards development is bad for Brooklyn.
...
I don't know why it's taken me so long to post about it on this blog, but i guess better late than never.

if you can, buy the DVD and support the cause.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, RESPONSE TO TIMES' ATLANTIC YARD ARTICLE

No Land Grab, the essential Internet portal to all Atlantic Yards information, articles, and press has an assortment of responses to Sunday's New York Times piece. Thanks to Amy over there for putting it all together.

NLG: Confusion over who's posting what has finally prompted us to take the time to figure out how to add the authors' IDs to the homepage entries (hey, we're bloggers, not tech geeks!). Previously, authors were only identified at the stand-alone pages (linked through "permalink"), "categories" and "archives."

BTW: This entry was posted by "lumi."

Posted by lumi at 10:49 AM

LAWSUIT FORCES DISCLOSURE OF ATLANTIC YARDS FINANCIAL PLANS INCLUDING RATNER BUSINESS PLAN

Data Show an Expensive and Risky Project with the Affordable Housing Most At Risk

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Corporation (FCRC) provided 660 pages of financial data concerning the Atlantic Yards Development project to resolve a Freedom of Information lawsuit by Assembly Member James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Mr. Brennan argued the case before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden with the assistance of Corey Shapiro of the law firm of Wolfson and Carroll. Mr. Brennan introduced legislation in 2006 with four other area Assemblymembers that would have limited the size of the project to 5.8 million square feet, while preserving the affordable housing.

Review of the Plans Shows Affordable Units at Greatest Risk
“Forest City Ratner marketed Atlantic Yards to the public with affordable housing as the most appealing aspect of the project. But the internal data indicate that the 4500 units of rental housing, including 2250 units of affordable housing, show little profit initially and need rising real estate prices to assure a profit,” Mr. Brennan said.

“Local elected officials and community residents had sought guarantees that the affordable housing would be built but were turned down by the State and City,” Mr. Brennan added. Both the luxury condos and the rental units are at risk if the real estate market turns sour.

[Details about the law suit and data analysis after the jump.]

The Lawsuit
Mr. Brennan filed a Freedom of Information request on October 5, 2006 with ESDC seeking financial information about the Atlantic Yards development project before the project was approved. The Pataki administration initially denied the request, but the new Spitzer administration provided limited data, principally an analysis of the project commissioned by ESDC from a consulting firm.

The lawsuit was commenced on March 1. ESDC provided additional information, but acknowledged that it did not have a current Forest City Ratner business plan when it approved the project in December 2006 during preliminary negotiations.

ESDC moved to dismiss the lawsuit at a court hearing in April. Mr. Brennan argued that the business plan was a public record, since the plan was required to be submitted to ESDC by a State and City memorandum of understanding. After the court hearing, Forest City Ratner voluntarily agreed to turn over its business plan to ESDC, which then turned it over to Mr. Brennan. Judge Madden never issued any ruling in the lawsuit. The lawsuit was resolved by mutual agreement of the parties.

Analysis of Data
The data provide values for different elements of the project as if the team, the arena and the rental housing would be sold either in 2012 or 2015. It is not known if Forest City Ratner actually intends to sell these properties, but the data measure the projects on that basis. The Nets team and the arena are given a resale value around 2012, and the rental housing, including the affordable housing, is given a resale value around 2015. The condo units are sold as they are completed, between 2010 and 2014. The investors will put in about $1.35 billion, and would realize $2 billion through the revenues and projected market values of the project, for a net profit of about $650 million.

The data show however, that the overall project is financially risky. Most particularly, the rental units could be financially precarious if the rental market turns sour. The first rental units come on line in 2010 for a meager annual profit of 3-6%. The equity investment in the rental units is $400 million, and yields a modest sum of $74 million in profit between 2010 and 2014, but is then given a market value of $555 million in 2015. Documents show Tower 4 rentals come on line in February 2010 at market rents averaging $2,854 per month, including two-bedrooms at $3,784/month. Tower 10, by contrast, comes on line in December 2013 with market rents averaging $3,754/month, including two-bedrooms for $4,979/month. Rents increase 33% in 3 1⁄2 years, about 10% per year.

Construction costs are enormous - $850,000 per unit for condos and $330,000 to $345,000 per unit for the rental housing – and those figures are from the same building, Tower 4, which is completed in 2010. Affordable housing units produced by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) average $140,000 to $160,000 per unit. Even a slight decline in the real estate market resulting in lower prices for condo sales could hurt condo profits and the project as a whole.

Conclusion
“This is information that should have been available to the public when the Atlantic Yard Project was going through its approval process,” Mr. Brennan said. “However, any member of the public should now be able to obtain the data from ESDC, which includes the Forest City Ratner business plan. Better informed discussion and debate about the plan can now continue,” he added.

“The Empire State Development Corporation should reconfigure of the project with input from the community,” Brennan said. “A smaller project could reduce overall risk, while maintaining a rational balance with the environment. The State, the City and Ratner could restructure the project to guarantee the affordable housing at the same time,” he added.

-30-

The following documentation is available on request:
TEAM AND ARENA P.588
CASH FLOW P.590
T4A RENTAL P. 606
T10 RENTAL P. 611
T4B CONDO P. 615
T4A RENTAL P. 620
T10 RENTAL P. 625
T4B CONDO P. 628

Press Release: May 12, 2006

Posted by lumi at 10:28 AM

Second thoughts on Downtown Brooklyn rezoning; James, Yassky, Markowitz call for affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Growing dissatisfaction with the direction of the Downtown Brooklyn plan brings together unlikely allies:

The Downtown Brooklyn rezoning was supposed to spur office space and thus office jobs, but instead the increased density has proved lucrative to developers who are building luxury housing.

That wasn't the plan, which has left the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership hoping for "creative industries" and boosters like Errol Louis with blinders.

Now City Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky are calling for the Bloomberg Administration to amend the plan to require affordable housing, reports the Brooklyn Paper. And Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has clashed with Atlantic Yards opponent James regarding the borough's most controversial project, also suggests it's time to revisit the plan.

There's a logic to that; the city increased the value of the land and has an argument that it should get something back in return; if not new tax revenues from jobs, then subsidized housing.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership touts 3,000 affordble housing units in the pipeline, only guess where they are... seriously, guess.

Read the rest of the article for the answer. [WARNING: Milk may come out of your nose.]

Posted by lumi at 10:24 AM

Atlantic Yards Construction update

Weeks of July 2, 2007 — July 9, 2007

Here's the latest from the Empire State Development Corporation, which has recently dubbed all those who are interested in what's happening with Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, "the Atlantic Yards Community:"

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner are providing the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities.

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions.

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • North sidewalk & north parking lane closed on Pacific Street between Carlton & Vanderbilt Avenues.
  • Support of Excavation (SOE) contractor mobilized drill rig(s).
  • Drill SOE mid-block piles.
  • Install test pile for temporary train trestle foundation piles.
  • Test pits in block 1119 to locate LIRR electrical cable.
  • SOE piles at northeast & southeast portion of block 1121.
  • Foundation piles for cable bridge in block 1120.

Abatement and Demolition Work
All work described below will comply with the additional oversight and protocols by the Department of Buildings (DOB) that were established on April 30th.

  • The installation of scaffolding and netting on the Pacific and Dean Street facades at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) has been completed. On Monday, July 2, 2007, the double-shift abatement and emergency demolition work will begin on the parapets. This combination of work is anticipated to last approximately six weeks.
  • All of the protective measures requested by the DOB have been installed, with the exception of 546 Vanderbilt, where the sidewalk bridge will be erected in this two week period.
  • Preparation for resuming abatement and demolition activities will be underway

Posted by lumi at 10:13 AM

Forest City Enterprises Inc.

$9B Giant Reaches for Complex, Diverse Deals

Multi-Housing News
By Keat Foong, Executive Editor

We missed this item last month, but it was republished on CNNMoney.com.

It's a pretty good article for familiarizing yourself with some of the history and mythology of Forest City.

JUNE 06, 2007 -- Forest City Enterprises Inc., a $9-billion NYSE-listed real estate company, is a developer at heart that pursues the creation of large, complex projects that often involve public/private partnerships.

"We are a big company, with big overhead. We do large projects well," says Ron Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Residential Group Inc. Because of its size, Forest City by definition needs to develop larger projects in order to make a difference to its bottom line.

Where does Bruce Ratner's division fit in the $9B corporate behemoth?

Last year, Forest City Enterprises strengthened its position in its largest market, New York City, through the consolidation of ownership of Forest City Ratner Cos. under its commercial group. As a result, the company increased its interest in 30 operating properties in the New York City metropolitan area and has full ownership rights to all future developments by Forest City Ratner Cos. in the market.

Though Forest City has a progressive reputation in the rest of the country, in the New York Metro area, the developer is seen as a self-serving backroom-dealing overdeveloper. What the NY division and the mother company have in common is their ability to secure tax-exempt financing and subsidies:

Ratner notes that Forest City, which won the Best Development Firm of the Year award from the National Association of Home Builders in 2006, tries to surmount high land costs by designing its projects carefully, using more creative financing including tax-exempt bonds, turning to adaptive reuse and historic tax credits and taking advantage of large-scale projects. Since the company holds assets for the long-term, it is able to tolerate lower initial yields.

The point about "lower initial yields" was discussed back in February, when a vague sketch of cash flow for Atlantic Yards was released. This document only showed cash flow until 2015, at which point profits dramatically increased. Figures after 2015 were not made available. [See, DDDB, Press Release: "Atlantic Yards" Financial Projections Fail to Shed Light on Forest City Ratner's Potential Profit"]

full article

Posted by lumi at 9:49 AM

Malls getting a little greener

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jon Ratner scores points for Forest City for sustainability and green initiatives. Is it possible that he hasn't had a look at the 22-acre superblock mega-arena-office-residential complex in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn?

FCE-BlueBirdHouse.jpg

Forest City Enterprises Inc., the owner of the Mall at Robinson, made a splash in sustainable development with a project on the site of the former Denver International Airport.

The community there had produced a detailed plan for what it wanted, including many elements considered to be part of sustainability, such as energy efficiency and paths to connect to the rest of the community.

It went well, said Jon Ratner, who worked on the Stapleton project and is now Forest City's director of sustainability initiatives. So well, in fact, the company decided the same principles might work in its other properties.

article

NoLandGrab: Forest City will have to go much farther than recycling and compact fluorescents to make Atlantic Yards sustainable.

Posted by lumi at 9:24 AM

Nets to sign Carter

Bruce Ratner delays reconstruction of Nets while looking forward to construction of Yards.

Carter-NYP.jpgIt looks like Ratner's need to keep franchise players in Nets jerseys, especially favorite son Vince Carter, is greater than the team's need to rebuild before possibly moving the team to a new arena in Brooklyn.

Ratner is in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation. If he lets Carter go, he'll be blamed for gutting the team of key players. However, signing the star guard will put Ratner's Nets on track to surpass this year's luxury-tax threshold, and keeps the team from getting serious about rebuilding. One thing's for sure, repeatedly professing his fondness for Carter probably didn't help the team's negotiating position.

Running a top NBA franchise into the ground is probably not in the original business plan for Atlantic Yards, but things sure seem headed that way.

Bergen Record, Nets' Carter agrees to four-year deal

According to league sources, Carter agreed in principle on a guaranteed four-year deal worth between $61 million and $62 million, with a partially guaranteed team option for the fifth year. The partial guarantee for the 2011-12 season is for about $4 million.

The deal cannot be signed or announced until July 11, the first day the moratorium is lifted.

NY Daily News, Nets give Vince 4 years, $61M

Though Carter was inconsistent during a postseason run that ended with the Nets losing to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, he averaged 25.2 points, six rebounds and 4.8 assists during the regular season and was terrific during a 13-game stretch to end the season during which the Nets went 10-3 to secure the sixth seed in the conference.

NY Post, WELCOME BACK, CARTER

Carter, who had the endorsement of owner Bruce Ratner as a prime bargaining chip, formally opted out of the final year of his contract, worth $16.3 million, and the Nets received notification of his intent on Saturday.

Newark Star-Ledger, Nets waste no time, give Carter 4-year deal

Their capitulation was inevitable, for one reason: Owner Bruce Ratner said in March he wanted Carter on his team despite the eight-time All-Star's disappointing postseason performance, even if a new deal vaulted the team's payroll over the luxury tax threshold, which will be set later this month at approximately $65.4 million.

Posted by lumi at 8:52 AM

July 1, 2007

On the future of Atlantic Yards, the issue is: who decides on profit v. affordability?

Atlantic Yards Report

So what's the bottom line regarding Atlantic Yards, based on today's New York Times article? The issue, to David A. Smith, an affordable housing analyst in Boston who's previously reviewed Atlantic Yards documents (but not the new ones), is the future balance between developer profit and affordable housing, and who gets to decide.

As of now, we don't know, since the Empire State Development Corporation has yet to release contract documents apparently still under negotiation. The city's housing program, which provides loans for 50/30/20 mixed-income rental buildings, would seem to require that each rental building have the promised mix. On the other hand, we don't know whether the city and state will require those buildings to be constructed by a certain date.

Lots of volatility

Smith emailed me: Even a cursory review of the financing plan materials released so far reveals that this is an extraordinarily complex undertaking, with many moving parts. The moving parts -- the financing plan, with multiple phases, multiple property uses, and multiple potential sources including subsidy and concessionary government capital -- mean volatility.

It could be a great financial and economic result, or a terrible one. With this much volatility, sequencing is key: what happens in what order, and who decides what changes are made to the development plan? If the developer has all the optionality -- that is, control over the responsive actions taken after unexpected favorable or unfavorable outside events -- and the city has none of the optionality, then it's very likely that the developer can navigate through all the complexity to a successful deal, and achieve this result by adjusting the affordable housing to be fewer apartments, to happen later in the development sequence, and to be redefined upwards. (Anyone who does business with any government agency as a counterparty knows that managing expectations over time is a critical developer skill.)

link

Posted by amy at 12:27 PM

The "Delicate Beast" Unravels

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn takes on today's Times article:

There are some errors and oddities in the article that strain credulity. One error is that the huge Frank Gehry ego-trip, aka "Miss Brooklyn," will open in 2009. That is pure fantasy, considering the developer is terribly behind schedule due to lawsuits. One oddity straining credulity is that the article claims Ratner plans on making his money from the office space rather than the lucrative 6,430 residential units. That can't be. If it were the case, why did the developer propose more residential units by reducing the office space to around 360,000 square feet down from the orginal proposal's 2.1 million squre feet? Not to make less money, one would presume.

Additionally, since Forest City Ratner has not put up the $4 billion the project is said to cost, but rather likely something significantly less, the 5% developer's fee the article says Ratner will claim becomes a much higher return on investment when one considers, well, Ratner's investment.

link

Posted by amy at 12:09 PM

Murky Times article on AY financials leaves impression Ratner deserves a long leash

Atlantic Yards Report

A Metro front New York Times article today, headlined (online) as Official Sees Possible Risk in Big Project in Brooklyn and featuring contributions from four (! ) reporters, is rather murky, but the main message seems to be this: because developer Forest City Ratner may be optimistically projecting condo revenues and construction costs, that jeopardizes the affordable housing promised as the main public benefit, and that should have been disclosed earlier. (The headline in print is "Documents Show Risk In Big Project In Brooklyn.")

It almost reads like a backhanded argument for the $300 million in special subsidies that the state's 421-a reform would provide to FCR, though that issue is not mentioned and, given that this article was likely weeks in preparation, could not have been the trigger.

Though the Times article breaks some news, notably about the condo market and construction costs, it also muddies the waters, failing to sufficiently analyze the developer's potential profit and failing to calculate the public subsidies for the project. Also, it fails to acknowledge that the developer's announced ten-year buildout may be a fantasy.

Thus the article doesn't squarely address the question posed by Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who sued to get the documents he passed on to the Times, asking "whether the Project’s size and density could be reduced without endangering its economic viability.” Instead, it leaves the impression that Forest City Ratner needs as long a leash as possible, even though it has essentially received a private rezoning for prime property.

article
NoLandGrab: As always, Atlantic Yards Report is the best place to go to read a complete breakdown of all the fact and figures described in the Times article.

Posted by amy at 12:05 PM

Official Sees Possible Risk in Big Project in Brooklyn

NY Times
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and ANDY NEWMAN

The Times publishes a lengthy article about the recently released (due to a lawsuit) internal documents from the Empire State Development Corporation. Brooklyn assemblyman James F. Brennan was one of the lawsuit participants and he is quoted in the article, calling the Atlantic Yards proposal "risky," and the weak affordable housing aspect "disturbing."

Interviews with real estate developers and brokers not connected to the project indicate that estimates of the construction costs for the project’s 6,430 apartments are low compared with some other developments in Brooklyn, where a residential building boom is pushing up construction prices. And Forest City’s projections for the future sale of the project’s roughly 2,000 condominium apartments seem optimistic, forecasting high volume at prices that have barely been tested in Brooklyn.

Mr. Brennan said he worried that Forest City could be forced to scale back or even abandon later phases of the project if the real estate market sours, putting at risk some of the 2,250 units of subsidized rental housing planned. Most of those units are scheduled to be built during the project’s later years of construction, as are most of the market-rate units.
...
The documents also provide a window into the considerable resources Forest City poured into early plans for the project, promoting it to the public, and getting it approved in a city that has proven inhospitable to some recent attempts at large-scale development. Those costs amounted to $19.5 million, according to one document, including money for litigation, public relations and Mr. Gehry’s initial designs.

article

Posted by amy at 11:53 AM

Neutrality in Expansion at Columbia Is Questioned

NY Times
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS

A state judge has questioned the independence of a state agency that is working with Columbia University to determine whether to condemn private property so that the university can expand.
...
A.K.R.F. is the state’s lead consultant on what is called a neighborhood condition study. The study is being done to determine whether the state would be justified in using its power of eminent domain to condemn property sought by Columbia for its expansion.
...
In order for a consultant to fall under the exemption from public disclosure given to government agencies, the judge said, the consultant must “not represent an interest of its own, or the interest of any other client, when it advises the agency.”

She said A.K.R.F. “lacks sufficient neutrality” for its communications with Empire State Development to be confidential under the law.

article
NoLandGrab: Perhaps the neutrality of AKRF should also be questioned in the case of the Duffield Street houses/Underground Railroad?

Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

Atlantic Yards – and the UFT

yardsuft.jpg

Education Notes Online

An article on the massive project in Brooklyn in today's NY Times points to the release of documents that were only obtained through a lawsuit.

"Critics have long suggested that the project is a taxpayer-subsidized bonanza for the developer, the project’s promised jobs and subsidized housing a kind of Trojan horse for the thousands of high-end apartments that come with them. But the developer, Forest City Ratner, and state officials overseeing the project have resisted divulging much information about the project’s financial structure, confining those criticisms to the realm of speculation." [My emphasis.]

From purely an education point of view, though there is no mention of this point in the Times article, Leonie Haimson and other critics has been pointing to the fact that with all this building, there is no provision for schools. Our May 4 post "Bloomberg Vision: A Childless NY" with a link to Leonie's comments addressed that issue.

But I always come to the question: Where is the UFT on the refusal to divulge crucial information or the no-schools issue or on the enormous amount of public money being pumped into the project? Just as the UFT took an initial position supporting the Jets stadium until they jumped on the bandwagon when public sentiment turned against it, the UFT, being part of the power structure, goes along with what the power structure wants. That is the "new unionism" - a partnership, lining up with the real estate and corporate interests – have you heard of any criticism over the enormous tax breaks for corporations while telling the members there is no money for class size reduction or new schools and relying on decades old CFE suits and phony petition drives on class size?

link

Posted by amy at 11:36 AM

Region's Indian population losing its biggest theater

bollywood.jpg

NorthJersey.com shows us that FCR is not just trying to destroy local culture and community in Brooklyn:

For the last few years the Bollywood theater, run by Bergen County resident Vijay Shah, has been the biggest showcase of Indian movies in New York and New Jersey, screening 50-plus films a year on six screens. Blockbusters can sell 10,000 tickets on a good weekend, while a more modest film might still draw several thousand moviegoers in a run, Shah said.

The changeover in the theater is being prompted by the owner of the building, Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner Companies. The Bollywood theater has been sharing the multiplex with a movie house showing second-run Hollywood films, but property owners believe a first-run house will offer better returns, said Robert Rediker, a senior vice president for Forest City. The second-run screens made the transition on Friday.

Even if Shah had found a way to extend his lease, the theater's days were likely numbered. Forest City in December received approval to demolish the building to make way for a 29-story condo and shopping center, though Rediker said those plans were on hold.

article

Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

Extra Extra

Gothamist

Mayor Bloomberg lashed out against special tax breaks that could hand developer Bruce Ratner an extra $300 million for developing Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. Mayor Mike hopes Gov. Spitzer will quash the "carve-out" benefit.

link

Posted by amy at 11:26 AM

The Times's disconnect on "sewer money" and Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

In today's Times, an editorial lambastes New York’s Sewer Money, "the millions of dollars used by lobbyists to buy New York laws and New York lawmakers."

It's an editorial about the need for systemic campaign reforms, and no names are named. Still, it puts in glaring relief the Times's failure to report in print (rather than a blog mention) about the companies and entities that spent the most on lobbying last year.

Forest City Ratner, developer of the Atlantic Yards project, came in third. Among real estate developers, FCR was first. And lobbying, as with the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" in the reform of the 421-a tax break, seems to be paying off, and the Times has not yet urged a veto.

link

Posted by amy at 11:18 AM

Yassky and James ask Spitzer and Bloomberg to withhold aid

Atlantic Yards Report

Council Members David Yassky and Letitia James, in a letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, have asked the state and city to withhold previously pledged direct subsidies for the Atlantic Yards project, citing the "Atlantic Yards carve-out" in the state's revision of the 421-a tax break.

They write:
The most egregious aspect of the carve-out is the amount it will cost taxpayers. New York City has already approved $205 million for the project, and the State has pledged $100 million. The rewrite of the 421a legislation will cost taxpayers at least an additional $100 million and could reach $170 million in forfeited tax revenue.

Because of the size of the 421a tax break for Atlantic Yards, we ask that the money previously set aside for land acquisition aid--$100 million from the City and $100 million from the State—be withheld. This $200 million should not have been allocated in the first place—there is no justification for the government to subsidize a developer’s bottom line—and now, with this latest development, any distribution of this money is inexcusable.

Note that city officials told the Times that the tax break could be worth $300 million.

link

Posted by amy at 11:15 AM

Fight Among Brooklyn Democrats Intensifies

owens.190_cityroom.jpg

NY Times - City Room Blog

The testy fight over a Brooklyn judgeship has become a family affair. Major R. Owens, who served in Congress for 24 years until January, has teamed with his son, Chris, in calling for the resignation of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party leader, Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez.

The Owenses object to Mr. Lopez’s support for a candidate for a Surrogate’s Court judgeship, Civil Court Judge ShawnDya L. Simpson. They say Ms. Simpson is far less qualified than their choice, Diana Johnson, a State Supreme Court justice.
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Chris Owens called for Judge Simpson to end her candidacy for Surrogate’s Court — but that seems unlikely. They are also pushing for legislation that would bar elected officials like Mr. Lopez from holding important party positions.

The assemblyman, they said, “has built a taxpayer-supported empire through housing and senior citizen programs.” They also blasted Mr. Lopez, chairman of the Assembly’s Housing Committee, for orchestrating a “last-minute passage of a modified version of an affordable housing bill that included a windfall provision for developer Forest City Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards project.”

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Posted by amy at 11:09 AM

Sunday Comix from The Brooklyn Paper

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Posted by amy at 11:06 AM

Sunday Comix - 421-A Christmas in July Edition: The Ratner Clause

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Posted by amy at 11:02 AM