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July 31, 2008

Who’ll Save New York? Paterson’s Possible Super-Friends

New York Magazine
by Alec Appelbaum

Bruce Ratner makes a cameo appearance in this Daily Intel piece on New York State's woeful fiscal woes (but he doesn't make the cut as a "super-friend").

Governor Paterson sat alone when he confessed the state's miserable financial condition yesterday, but he can't begin to fix the mess that way. Who really thinks the hog-tied State Legislature will solve the problem it created? The speech served as a Bat signal to stir powerful New Yorkers who can put the governor's urgent message into play. We've compiled a short list of possible super-friends.
...

Douglas Durst is a model developer for public-private partnerships. While Bruce Ratner probably has his calendar full with bended-knee visits to potential lenders and tenants, and other powerful developers are terrified about paying back existing loans, the civic-minded Durst is doing well enough — he can lean on a solid base of busy buildings — to step up.

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NoLandGrab: Since Bruce's public-private "partnerships" are usually one-way streets (guess which way the benefits flow), we're glad he's not a super-friend. He remains, however, super in another away.

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

Double Dutch Gets Status in the Schools

The New York Times
by Winnie Hu

This story grabbed our attention with an eyebrow-raising sentence:

Mr. Goldstein is also negotiating with the developer Forest City Ratner to sponsor the double-dutch teams by providing $10,000 for uniforms, ropes and other equipment.

That would be Eric Goldstein, "who oversees the Public Schools Athletic League, the governing body for the city’s interscholastic sports." Not Daniel Goldstein, who has no interest in taking Forest City Ratner's filthy money.

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NoLandGrab: We hope the PSAL is more successful in its "negotiation" with Forest City Ratner than certain other government entities have been.

Posted by eric at 9:32 AM

The Yankees deal gets some more scrutiny, AY gets a mention

Atlantic Yards Report

Coverage is given to yesterday's Democracy Now! broadcast which included a segment on public subsidies for sports complexes. Congressional scrutiny into funding for the new Yankee Stadium might effect how the proposed Nets arena could be financed.

The program was hosted by Juan Gonzalez and included Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Good Jobs New York's Bettina Damani and Field of Schemes author Neil deMause.

The Atlantic Yards mention is included in this quote from Kucinich:

I can say that my subcommittee staff… is in contact with officials from both the city of New York and the New York Yankees to discuss their potential appearance in front of our Congressional subcommittee. I think that it’s very important to understand that we’re looking at a public policy matter here that relates not only to New York and not only to the Nets and the Atlantic Yard project, but it also relates to the whole country… because it’s quite possible that there are billions of dollars in tax benefits that should be going to municipalities for the purposes of repairing their infrastructure and for schools and other things and that are instead being diverted for these private sports complexes…
(Emphasis added)

Damiani points out how representatives from outside of New York City are picking up the slack to see if there will really be any benefits from subsidizing sports complexes:

The city has really washed their hands of making sure there’s any accountability on jobs and clear benefits for New Yorkers on the other side of this project, which is very unfortunate. I mean, we’re grateful for Congressman Kucinich and Assembly Member [Richard] Brodsky to get involved in this issue. Neither represent New York City, by the way. New York City elected officials—they’re filling a void, because local elected officials in New York City have refused to get involved in this project. And we need them. We need them to make sure that the promises in the press releases actually turn out to be something that we can hold them accountable for.

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NoLandGrab: Many thanks to Rep. Kucinich for running with this issue. Also, thanks to Democracy Now! for examining public subsidies for Yankee Stadium. We're looking forward to more in-depth coverage that will include the proposed Nets arena.

Posted by steve at 6:37 AM

Relief is sought as building costs soar

MetroNY
by Amy Zimmer

The New York Building Congress, of which Forest City Ratner is a member, released a report stating that New York is "one of the most expensive places to build in America."

The report looks suspiciously like a plea for the City to cater to developers as it includes such remedies as rezoning “idle or derelict industrial land.” This sounds uncomfortably like the scheme used by the State for the proposed Atlantic Yards project, where a working railyard and surrounding neighborhood were labeled as "blighted" to allow a land grab by Forest City Ratner.

The report mentions specific projects that the construction industry would like to go forward:

Already such big projects as the Javits Convention Center and the Fulton Street Transit Center have been scaled back because cost estimates far exceeded original estimates. The construction industry is concerned considering other big projects on the drawing board — the Second Avenue Subway, World Trade Center, Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by steve at 5:56 AM

All Soaped Up And Nowhere To Rinse

NoWater-FG.jpg The Footprint Gazette

Yesterday, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner left "FoGazy" and his neighbors high-n-dry, again.

The water was off for roughly two hours and I ended up wiping the soap off my body with a towel. We got an apology, just like the one we got the last time this happened. I'm done with apologies. I want accountability and solutions. This will happen again, and again we'll be apologized to. That's not good enough. Either FCR does their job better or they should be penalized and we should be rewarded for bearing the brunt of their shortcomings.

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[Idea for make-busy work for the dog days of summer: Maybe the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison could "liaise" with the community and let them know when their ultilities are gonna be shut off (like, ahead of time, for example).]

Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

Eminent domain will only be used...

[You know the rest of the punch line.]

...as a last resort.

Crain's NY Business reports that Queens Borough President Helen Marshall now backs the Willets Point plan with a few caveats, including the old cliché, that the City "use eminent domain only as a last resort."

Last we checked, eminent domain is always "used as a last resort" when the threat of eminent domain doesn't work.

Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

July 30, 2008

Field of Schemes: Congress Probes How New Sports Stadiums Turn Public Money into Private Profit

A congressional committee is investigating whether New York City and the New York Yankees wildly inflated the value of the site for the team’s new stadium to float nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds.

Democracy Now

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Good Jobs New York's Bettina Damani and Field of Schemes author Neil deMause join host Juan Gonzalez to discuss subsidies, funny stadium math — and Atlantic Yards.

DemocracyNowKucinich.jpg

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I think that it’s very important to understand that we’re looking at a public policy matter here that relates not only to New York and not only to the Nets and the Atlantic Yard project, but it also relates to the whole country, as your other guests have said, because it’s quite possible that there are billions of dollars in tax benefits that should be going to municipalities for the purposes of repairing their infrastructure and for schools and other things and that are instead being diverted for these private sports complexes.

And the question is one of public policy, one of the IRS, and in the case of the New York Yankees, questions of securities law, because of the various amounts of the appraisal, $45 a square foot versus $275 a square foot, which have a bearing on the overall cost of the project. And if the cost of the project is inflated, that’s going to be of interest to the SEC, as well as the IRS.
...

JUAN GONZALEZ: Right. And then, of course, the final irony with—because most of these stadiums have luxury boxes that are for corporations that go from $500,000 to $800,000, in the case of the Yankees, per year to rent these boxes, and of course, my newspaper, the Daily News, reported yesterday that in this deal, the City of New York arranged to have its own luxury box at Yankee Stadium available, presumably to city officials, as part of the deal for the financing. Bettina, your response to that?

BETTINA DAMIANI: It’s aptly coined the landlord suite. And it’s just another example of how local elected officials almost seem to be void of feeling that they have responsibility to the public, because they’re going to get nice seats, in the long run.

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NoLandGrab: "The landlord suite." Nice. If we taxpayers are funding the lion's share of the costs, doesn't that make us the landlords? That being the case, NLG's got dibs on the first Mets-Yankees inter-league game next season.

Posted by eric at 7:12 PM

In the Pool: Dreams of Atlantic Yards

Gowanus Lounge

AtlanticTerminalNap3C.jpg

The Atlantic Terminal Mall in summer is a great place to chill and think thoughts about the future. This image comes from Tracy Collins, of course, via our GL Flickr Pool.

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NoLandGrab: It may be a great place to chill, but look out if you try to take photos of an anti-Atlantic Yards protest counter-protest.

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

Typo? City/state letter on tax-exempt bonds backdates MTA RFP by three years

Atlantic Yards Report

Maybe it's just a typo. Maybe it's a calculated slip. But there's another misleading element in a letter that, as I and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn have contended, deserves serious scrutiny.

The 5/8/08 letter to the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department from the New York City Industrial Development Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation backdates the issuance of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's request for proposals (RFP) for the Vanderbilt Yard by three years, to 5/24/02.

MTARFPDate.jpg

The MTA's RFP was issued on 5/24/05.
...

What's the value of the 2002 date, compared to 2005? Well, maybe it's none, given that 2005 still would fall well before the October 2006 cutoff.

Then again, a 2002 date suggests that momentum for the project--which the letter says commenced in 2003--reached back even earlier.

Also, the 2002 date avoids potential consternation should regulators wonder why, if the project began in 2003 and the MOU was signed in February 2005, the Vanderbilt Yard was put out for bid only in May 2005.

That sequencing issue has been at the heart of the AY federal eminent domain case, which was dismissed by a district and appellate court and refused a Supreme Court hearing--but was never really addressed by the courts.

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NoLandGrab: Typo or obfuscation? We don't know, but we do know that once the tale-telling starts, it gets easier to do it again and again, and it's been going on with Atlantic Yards since about "May 24, 2002."

Posted by eric at 8:12 AM

The latest dispatches from behind the Green Wall

AYCompletionDates.gif Though a little shell-shocked, "FoGazy's" sense of humor remains (somewhat) intact as he finds common ground with some residents in Beijing.

Wanna Hear A Joke?
The punch line, "NETS ARENA, 10-30-09!"

A Green Wall Goes Up To Conceal Blight

An article titled "Before Guests Arrive, Beijing Hides Some Messes" appeared in today's New York Times, and it portrayed some pretty striking parallels to what's going on on our block....

Between the Green Wall and the "bullydozers," the comparisons are eerie.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Atlantic Yards Report, A modest proposal: Bruce Ratner should bunk on Dean Street

If, despite noise and disruption experienced by residents, daily life is sufficiently tolerable in the Atlantic Yards footprint, as per the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), perhaps some ESDC officials, joined by representatives of the Bloomberg administration and developer Forest City Ratner, can spend a few nights on Dean Street.

NoLandGrab: And don't forget Brooklyn Borough President and Atlantic Yards Cheerleader in Chief Marty Markowitz.

Brownstoner, Things That Go Bump in the Footprint
Bstoner tidily recaps yesterday's Atlantic Yards Report article about construction impacts and the effects on footprint residents.

The Footprint Gazette blogger added this note in the comments section:

Thanks for the empathy bxgrl. I recently had 2 different out of towners stay with me last week and they were shocked at what we deal with and appalled that this is being allowed to happen.

If you read through Norm Oder's post you can see just how foul this whole thing is. There weren't supposed to be people in these buildings at this stage in the construction, so the necessary measures to make this bearable are not in place.

Needless to say, FCR and Marty Markowitz don't give a damn, and are happy to harass us until we leave.

Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

Questions Raised Over Financing Deals of New Yankees Stadium

WNYC News Radio
By Matthew Schuerman

Details about the Congressional inquiry into the Yankee Stadium financing might seem a little off-topic, but keep in mind that the Yankees have requested additional bond financing and that Bruce Ratner hopes to take advantage of the same in order to finance the Nets arena.

The story about the Yankees deal took an interesting turn yesterday when WNYC reported the following scoop (full transcript):

The new Yankee Stadium is receiving more than $600 million in city, state and federal subsidies. Almost half of that money came in the form of tax exempt bonds issued by the city's Industrial Development Agency, or IDA. Under the bonding agreement, the IDA would have permanent access to a luxury suite at the new stadium. Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky says the agreement is another reason to question what public interest the new ballpark is serving to deserve such a high level of taxpayer support.

Though a spokesman for the Mayor has said the City hasn't decided whether or not to accept this gift, our guess would be NOT, now that WNYC has blown their cover.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn explores the possibility of thank-you gifts from Bruce Ratner (link):

If Bruce Ratner ever builds his Barclays Boondoggle Arena (fat chance) one can presume that he'll make a gift of free luxury skyboxes to numerous officials, either because:
1. He owes a lot of people in government for his boondoggle land grab, and/or 2. He can't seem to find buyers for his luxury suites, so why not give them away.

Good Jobs First's blog Clawback is reporting that Bettina Damiani, journalist Neil deMause, columnist Juan Gonzalez and Rep. Kucinich are scheduled to appear this morning to discuss the controversy on Democracy Now (9 a.m. on BCAT channel 34/67.).

Additional Coverage:

AP via amNY

NY assemblyman queries Yankees on stadium subsidy

State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky wants the New York Yankees to explain why the proposed value for land under Yankee Stadium appears inflated in an Internal Revenue Service tax estimate.

He also wants to know if the city agencies considering the team's request for public funds will get a luxury suite in the new stadium.

The Westchester Democrat raised the questions in a letter to Yankees' President Randy Levine released Monday. Brodsky has questioned the Yankees' request to subsidize the new stadium using $336 million in public funds issued by the city's Industrial Development Agency.

...

"This goes to the heart of whether it is a public project or a private project," Brodsky said in an interview. He said his review of documents concerning the project differ from public comments about the deal that would use public support to help the Yankees build their new stadium in the Bronx.

Newsday via amNY

Panel to probe land appraisals for Yankee Stadium

A congressional subcommittee hearing centered on the use of public financing to build sports complexes like the new Yankee Stadium was postponed, allowing the panel to probe deeper into why the value of land under the Bronx stadium appeared inflated on tax reports, an official said Tuesday.

The Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee -- chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) -- had scheduled the hearing Wednesday. It's now planned for sometime in September.

On Friday, Kucinich sent letters to Yankee officials, the Internal Revenue Service and various city agencies inquiring about the accuracy of land appraisals reported to the IRS. In the letter, he requested documentation detailing land value estimates and how they were calculated. He wanted the documents no later than Aug. 6.

But Assemb. Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) had already obtained some of the information Kucinich had sought and on Monday released land value estimates he said bared discrepancies.

...

Kucinich, a longtime skeptic of public subsidies for sports complexes, and Brodsky, a critic of public authorities, have questioned the Yankees' request for an additional $336 million in tax-free bonds to help complete the new $1.3-billion stadium. The Mets are also seeking about $52 million more in tax-exempt-bond financing for its new stadium. Brodsky, who earlier this month held a hearing in Manhattan on tax-free-bond financing, said he was invited to testify in the September hearing.

Posted by lumi at 4:38 AM

Forest City in the News

mffais.com, Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE) more shares bought by California State Teachers Retirement System

California State Teachers Retirement System added additional 7,792 (6.59 %) shares of Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCYA.BE), bringing their current holdings to 126,018 shares as shown by filings made public on 2008-07-28.

Tampa Tribune, Shops At Wiregrass Tenants Unveiled

The developers of the Shops at Wiregrass confirmed on Tuesday a number of tenants for their plaza that's slated to open Oct. 30.
...
The list confirmed Tuesday included: Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Yamato Japanese Steak House, Cantina Laredo and Brass Tap pub and brewery.

Also on the list were American Greetings, Aveda, Brown Shoe Closet, Cacique, Christopher & Banks, Hollister, Hot Topic, Juice Zone, Learning Express, Limited Too, Put A Cork In It and Stride Rite.

The developers of the mall, Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises and West Palm Beach-based Goodman Co., are overseeing construction of the eastern leg of State Road 56. The first portion of the $25 million, six-lane road must be finished before the mall can open.

St. Petersburg Times, Tenant list grows at Wiregrass

Three restaurants and 14 home decor, fashion and beauty retailers are joining the tenant roster at the Shops at Wiregrass, developers Forest City Commercial Development and the Goodman Co. announced today.

SouthtownStar.com, Mayor: Loss of Von Maur won't hurt New Lenox mall project

[A] would-be retail anchor store at one of New Lenox's new malls has announced it will instead build a store in Joliet. But New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann isn't drawing any connections or worrying too much about the department store's change of plans.

"It's not tit for tat," he said of Von Maur's announcement last week that it will pull out of the Forest City shopping center at U.S. 6 and Interstate 355 and instead build a new upscale department store about five miles down Interstate 80 at the Bridge Street Town Centre in Joliet.
...
The Forest City project - dubbed The Birches - will have 1.5 million square feet of retail space with three high-end retail anchors, according to the mayor. It's expected to draw shoppers from eastern and northern Will County and the western collar counties, while Joliet's mall will serve western and southern Will County, he said.

Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

July 29, 2008

Glaring gap: AY EIS ignored noise, vibration, disruptions faced by footprint residents

Atlantic Yards Reoprt

Maybe the authors of the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Study and the Empire State Development Corporation assumed that all of the remaining residents and property owners in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial project would be driven out by the time construction started.

DeanStConst-AYR.jpg

Grating, honking noise from construction equipment. Vibrations that shake buildings, enforcing a 7 a.m. wake-up call. Cracks in building walls and steps. Dust and dislodged paint in the house. Unsavory diesel and sewer aromas. Surprise cutoffs of water and gas. Long waits for restoration of utilities.

That’s life some days for the people--fewer than two dozen--living on the north side of Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues in the Atlantic Yards footprint, as massive construction equipment is used to upgrade water and sewer connections destined to help service an 18,000-seat arena and thousands of apartments.

Here’s the catch: the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) voluminous environmental review, required to disclose the potential impacts of the project, said nothing about the impact on those in the footprint, whether residents or those working at or visiting Freddy’s Bar & Backroom, on the corner.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which detailed the potential impact of the project, did acknowledge that construction activities might be “perceptible and annoying in buildings very close to a construction site.” But it didn’t acknowledge that some “very close” buildings might be on the north side of Dean Street, destined to be demolished for the project.

Read the rest of the article, which contrasts the impacts outlined in the Environmental Impact Statement with the reality of unscheduled utility shutoffs, cracking buildings, and the 345C L Hydraulic Excavator, plus bonus coverage of what our elected and appointed officials are doing about it.

Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

Accountable Development Working Group Meets this Wednesday

From Best View in Brooklyn:

The Accountable Development Working Group meets monthly to discuss and plot action around various development issues affecting Central and South Brooklyn.

This Wednesday's agenda includes presentations from Assembly Member Jeffries’ and Assembly Member Brennan’s offices on legislation to reform the Atlantic Yards project.

The meeting begins at 6 PM on Wednesday, July 30th. Join the Working Group at 621 DeGraw Street (near 4th Ave. ) It is sponsored by the 5th Avenue Committee. Call or email Dave Powell at 718 237-2017 ext 148 or dpowell@fifthave.org for more information.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

Forest City in the News

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Summit meeting today on fate of casino

Last year, Forest City Enterprises participated in one of two losing bids for the Pittsburgh slot-machine casino license. Now that the winning bidder can't get the financing to complete the project, there's a lot of handwringing going on.

Representatives of the two losing bidders for the license Mr. Barden won -- Isle of Capri and Forest City Enterprises -- would not say yesterday whether they would be interested in competing again.

"It's not an issue. It's not a question. There's a license. Someone has it. The board is deciding what to do with it," said Albert Ratner, Forest City co-chairman.

CnewsPubs.com, Shops at Wiregrass: Moe’s, Grillsmith, BJ Brewhouse, Yamato’s, Cantina

WESLEY CHAPEL – Thirteen restaurants and bars ranging from Mexican to Japanese to a brewhouse are beginning to ask for permits for the fall opening of The Shops at Wiregrass, Pasco’s second regional mall opening later this year.
...
Forest City Enterprises, based in Cleveland, and The Goodman Co., based in West Palm Beach, are developing the 800,000-square-foot Shops at Wiregrass mall.

fibre2fashion.com, Department store chain Gottschalks sells its Palmdale Store

Gottschalks Inc announced that the Company has entered into a purchase agreement to sell its wholly-owned store in the Antelope Valley Mall in Palmdale, California, to Forest City Enterprises, a Cleveland, Ohio-based real estate management and development company.

Posted by lumi at 4:01 AM

July 28, 2008

THAT '70S WOE IN RERUN

GOV WARNING OF WORST ECONOMY IN DECADES

NY Post
by Fredric U. Dicker

The Post's political maven claims an exclusive on the news that Governor Paterson is going to toss a bucketful of cold water on New York's already-ailing economic psyche.

Gov. Paterson, convinced the state faces its worst fiscal crisis since the mid-1970s, will deliver the grim news in an unprecedented special address to New Yorkers as soon as tomorrow night, The Post has learned.

The governor's address - which his aides hope will be televised by public and cable news stations - will say that plunging state revenues will force painful cuts in state services, necessitate a reduction in the state work force, possibly through layoffs, and require other difficult economic measures, source said.

Paterson is also expected to announce that he's ordered state agencies to slash spending beyond the relatively modest 3.3 percent cuts he ordered in late spring.

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NoLandGrab: So, what'll it be? We need this luxury-suite-filled arena more than ever in these tough economic times? Or, Atlantic Yards, an unsupportable commitment of public funds at a time when we all need to be tightening our belts? You can bet that Forest City Ratner's lobbying machine is going all out to convince the Gov that the Net's net is positive for state coffers.

Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

AY is a project, not a place (again)

Atlantic Yards Report

The media watchdog's work is never done.

From today's New York Post, in an article headlined LANDMARKS BLOOMBLITZ:
The proposed historic designation for Prospect Heights would cover a neighborhood bordering the megadevelopment at Atlantic Yards. Similarly, the West Chelsea district abuts the massive Hudson Yards project.

No, Atlantic Yards is a project, not a place. And nearly all of the project would be in Prospect Heights.

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Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Congress probing whether city wildly inflated value of land for new stadium

NY Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez

The News columnist probes two divergent opinions of the value of the land underlying the new Yankee Stadium — both emanating from New York City officials!

A Congressional committee has launched a probe into whether the city and Yankees wildly inflated the value of the site for the team's new stadium to float nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) last week demanded "specific documents and reports" that could show the city claimed the land beneath the new Yankee stadium was worth nearly seven times its true value.

The massive switcheroo allowed the city to sell $941 million in bonds for the stadium, which must by law be linked to a site's actual value.
...

Kucinich, who heads the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is zeroing in on dramatically different estimates the city offered for the stadium land - one of $275 per square foot and another of just $45. A hearing is set for September.
...

Why such wildly different values for the same property?

"Our assessors jacked up the numbers and the comparables for the Council to justify the stadium bonds," said a Finance Department official familiar with the project.

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NoLandGrab: Vacant land in the Bronx? $275 per square foot.

Vacant land in the Bronx? $45 per square foot.

The possibility of the United States Congress denying tax-exempt financing to the Yankees, Mets and Atlantic Yards developer and Nets owner Bruce Ratner? Priceless.

Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

AY advertising, FCR branding, and the Manhattan Media connection

Atlantic Yards Report

NYFamBklnAdSmall.jpg

Norman Oder speculates that the Atlantic Yards ad in Manhattan Media's "family lifestyle" magazine could be a makegood of sorts for Forest City Ratner's not-so-fondly remembered original foray into fake newspapers, the Brooklyn Standard.

What's a generic Atlantic Yards advertisement--featuring some dubious statements used to promote the project even before it was passed--doing in the July 2008 issue of New York Family/Brooklyn, "a glossy, vibrant city magazine that offers active, sophisticated New York parents an inviting mix of feature articles and selected tips about their interests, issues, and concerns"?

Well, the magazine comes from none other than Manhattan Media, the enterprise that previously teamed with developer Forest City Ratner on the short-lived but much-criticized Brooklyn Standard "publication." Forest City Ratner initially pledged publication "every few months."

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NoLandGrab: OK, we have to admit it. We thought the fake news in the Brooklyn Standard was as well done as the fake news in The Onion.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Where the Mobil station stood, an empty lot

Mobil-Gone.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

Less than a year ago, there was a busy (but blighted!) Mobil station at the northwest corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street.

It closed around December and, as the wide-angle photo below from Tracy Collins shows, it's all been cleared.

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Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

Kucinich probes PILOTS for sports venues

Representative Dennis Kucinich is looking into whether or not the Yankees tailored the valuation of the team's new stadium in order to justify the amount of tax-free bond financing.

This additional scrutiny of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) could affect Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena, since he's seeking the same type of bond financing, which could save him perhaps as much as $165 million.

Reuters (via Yahoo), Rep. Kucinich probes Yankee Stadium debt data

Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a statement that he "has broadened the Subcommittee's investigation of tax-exempt public financing of professional sports stadiums to include specific document requests relating to the valuation of the new Yankee Stadium."

The Yankees, which have won 26 World Series titles and are one of the world's richest professional sports teams, want a city agency to sell $350 million of extra bonds to help finance their new home.

But the Internal Revenue Service must approve the new debt. It stiffened its rules after $941 million of stadium bonds were sold for the Yankees in 2006.

The Yankees repay the bonds that were sold by making so-called payments in lieu of taxes. If the land and buildings are overvalued, the city agency can sell more debt because the payments in lieu of taxes can be higher.
...
The bond issue has gained new currency because the New Jersey Nets basketball team, who plan to move to a new stadium in Brooklyn, New York, also want the IRS to let a city agency sell more than $800 million of tax-free bonds for them. The new arena for the Nets would anchor a big development now struggling in a cooling real estate market.

MetroNY, Yankee Stadium’s worth?

To get the financing, the Yankees needed to pay off the debt with payments in lieu of property taxes, though the team has never paid property taxes. If the Yankees did pay property taxes, the IBO said, the amount would fall $29 million short of what the team needed to satisfy the debt. The city disagreed: The stadium would be valued at $1 billion, and the land underneath it was worth $200 million.

But a much lower number was offered when the city got that land appraised to satisfy a federal requirement to replace parkland with property of equal value. In a second set of appraisals obtained by NYC Park Advocates, the value of Macombs Dam Park was put at $21 million, just below the $25 million total of the replacement parcels.
...
The probe likely won’t affect the $943 million in tax-exempt bonds the Yankees have already sold, but it could stop the team — and the Mets and Nets — from getting similar financing.

Atlantic Yards Report covers the Metro coverage.

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

Forest City's New Rochelle project faces hurdles

The Real Deal
By Marc Ferris

Another controversial and possibly eminent-domain-abusing megaproject brought to you by the family from Forest City:

By any measure, Forest City Residential's proposed $450 million, 26-acre Echo Bay development in New Rochelle is a challenging one.

Extensive contamination requires a $20 million remediation, according to a city estimate. Although the site on Long Island Sound sits on an island-dotted bay that glows during the sunset, it is also located next door to a county wastewater treatment facility. And some local veterans threaten to fight the proposed demolition of the dilapidated armory building on the site.

To pull off the Echo Bay project, in May the city chose Forest City Residential, a division of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, which is also the parent company of Bruce Ratner's Forest City Ratner.

The possible use of eminent domain looms if property owners refuse to sell to Forest City Residential, much like Forest City Ratner relied on seizing private property for its massive and controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The Ratner family is probably feeling confident following the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection last month of a petition by Atlantic Yards opponents. That petition would have granted a hearing to 11 property owners and tenants challenging the government's ability to seize private homes for development.

Forest City is no stranger in Westchester. Bruce Ratner managed to overcome strong opposition to Ridge Hill Village, the largest development project ever built in Yonkers.

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Posted by lumi at 3:57 AM

July 27, 2008

Myrtle Ave. condo/supermarket project stalls, leaving just an empty space

ashland7.08.jpg

NY Daily News
JOTHAM SEDERSTROM

The Myrtle Ave. project's crumbling comes as the shaky economy has sent shivers through the real estate industry and put other large city projects in jeopardy. In Brooklyn, the controversial Atlantic Yards and Coney Island projects have faced delays and reductions in size.

Catsimatidis' project is facing the same fate.

"The economy soured, and he can't get municipal bonds to get the affordable housing," said Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Prospect Heights), an early supporter of Catsimatidis' project because of the affordable housing.

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Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

Talk to the (NY Times) Newsroom: unanswered questions about Atlantic Yards coverage

Atlantic Yards Report writes to the NY Times Metro Editor during "Talk to the Newsroom" week, and receives no response.

Mr. Sexton,

In a previous "Talk to the Newsroom" feature, in March 2007, you wrote, "Pick any major topic of the last several years in New York... The paper's coverage has been unmatched."

I'd strongly disagree with that regarding Atlantic Yards. In fact, I'd argue, the Times has a special obligation to be exacting in its coverage, given the parent company's business relationship with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, as partners on the Times Tower. (I wrote about that in a September 2005 report critiquing the Times, linked from my web site, and have continued my media criticism as part of my Atlantic Yards Report watchdog blog.)

read the rest of the letter

Posted by amy at 10:58 AM

July 26, 2008

Weds. 7/30: 4 Borough Meets in Queens with special presentation on Atlantic Yards

The next Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance meeting is coming up. Here are the details:

Wednesday July 30, 2008
Queens Borough Hall
6 pm - Legislative Committee
6:30 - 7:45 - Corporation meeting (discussing our recent election and bylaws)
7:45-9:00 - Foundation Meeting including a presentation and discussion with advocates for community input in the Atlantic Yards proposal

Directions: Take the E/F to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike

All are welcome!

Your chance to discuss Atlantic Yards with the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

Posted by amy at 1:01 PM

Was Yankee Stadium value "gamed" to issue PILOTs? Congressional probe could affect AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Was the valuation of the new Yankee Stadium "gamed" so that the foregone taxes exceeded the expected bond payments, thus allowing a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) financing deal?

That's the subtext of the inquiry launched yesterday by the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which in March 2007 and October 2007 held hearings regarding tax-exempt financing for sports facilities.

And should the subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), find the procedures sketchy, that could cast doubt on similar financing plans for Atlantic Yards arena and the new Mets stadium.

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Posted by amy at 12:58 PM

Burden: The Bloomberg Administration "committed to preserving neighborhood character"

DDDB.net

The City Council has fixed arcane zoning laws, now protecting Carroll Gardens from overdevelopment. Bravo.

But in the Times's coverage of the Council vote, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden offered this whopper:

New Limits on Builders in an Area of Brooklyn

...Ms. Burden said the change in the Carroll Gardens zoning rules demonstrated the Bloomberg administration’s commitment to preserving neighborhood character.

That's excepting Prospect Heights, West Harlem, Willets Point, Queens West, Coney Island, the Bronx's Macombs Dam Park area, Jamaica, the Lower East Side, Downtown Brooklyn, etc. etc...

link

Posted by amy at 12:49 PM

Church vs. Commerce: Parishioners Try to Take the Brooklyn Flea Down

bkflea0807.jpg

Racked has a full report from a very heated meeting about the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene. The only thing that seemed to bring the room together was an enthusiastic condemnation of Ratner's penchant for big box stores:

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery really stole the show, though, and got folks excited. "I fought against the stadium here," Montgomery said. "This is different. What is suffering in this city and state right now is small business. I'd rather support small businesses than Ratner," she said, and the whole room erupted in applause. "We have lost so many of our small businesses because we don't have the foot traffic...I want buses to stop and spend some money!" More cheering. "These big boxes are running us over!" The room went wild. Everyone can agree about that, right?

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Photo from Gothamist

Posted by amy at 12:37 PM

July 25, 2008

On further review, O'Malley got bum rap

Case can be made that Dodgers owner was pushed

Albany Times-Union
by Brian Ettkin

In a lengthy and interesting piece on Walter O'Malley on the cusp of the former Brooklyn (and L.A.) Dodgers' owner's enshrinement in baseball's Hall of Fame, reporter Brian Ettkin repeats the too-often repeated error about the precise location of the Ebbets Field successor that never came to be, with a twist.

O'Malley continued asking for help to acquire the Atlantic and Flatbush site (where Bruce Ratner would build Atlantic Yards five decades later).

OMalley.jpg

Ettkin is actually right about the location for Atlantic Yards, but he's wrong about O'Malley, who actually wanted to build on the spot that's now home to Ratner's Atlantic Center mall. He's also off on his phraseology — "would build" is different than "wants to build."

The article does offer up a number of good tidbits, including:

O'Malley offered to build a 100-percent privately financed Major League Baseball stadium, the first since Yankee Stadium had been constructed in 1923, and the land once the city acquired it.

While O'Malley's willingness to privately finance the ballpark was much different than Ratner's dependence on subsidies, O'Malley's plan, like Ratner's, relied on the use of eminent domain.

Moses considered big-league sports of minimal value to a city.

In that respect, Moses and many economists would agree.

[T]he Chavez Ravine stadium deal wasn't valid until a vote of the people narrowly passed it on June 3, 1958, and even then O'Malley had to win several court appeals filed by stadium opponents.

Unlike residents of New York City, Angelenos actually got to vote on the Dodgers' stadium plan.

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Posted by eric at 12:30 PM

MAAC Madness in Albany

Th Full-Court Press

As promised, The Press is diving into the future of the MAAC tournament. Here’s how we’ll do it: Each day, we’ll take a look at one of the sites that is likely to be in the running to host the tournament from 2012-14.
...

Since no decisions have been made and no official negotiations have taken place, none of the sites we’re going to look into are guaranteed to be hosts at any times. By the same token, just because we don’t examine a particular city doesn’t mean that city has no shot at being a host. But eight sites appear to be on the MAAC’s radar, and those are the ones The Press will delve into: Albany; Bridgeport; Buffalo; Mohegan Sun; the Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn; the Prudential Center and Meadowlands in Newark and East Rutherford; Atlantic City; and the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

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NoLandGrab: Good thing the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference didn't book its conference basketball tournament in Brooklyn for the arena's originally projected opening season of 2006-2007. We have to think that the Barclays Center is not the favorite to host the tourney, since, unlike the other contenders, it doesn't actually exist.

We'll post The Full-Court Press's report on Brooklyn's chances when it's published.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

In downtown Anaheim, the false promises accompanying Gehry's (nice) ice rink

Atlantic Yards Report

There's no doubt that Norman Oder is the ultimate Atlantic Yards tourist. This month he paid a visit to the Frank Gehry-designed practice facility for the Anaheim Ducks and filed a report.

AnaheimRink.jpg

It's not directly related to Atlantic Yards, but a look at Frank Gehry’s ice rink in Anaheim, CA, originally dubbed Disney Ice and now called Anaheim Ice, offers a cautionary tale about promises made for ambitious architecture.

Notably, the structure, when it opened in 1995, did not contain some of the Gehryesque elements announced, it did not prompt the redevelopment of nearby parcels, and, counter to the expectations of its builders, it did not spawn a national effort to teach inner-city youths ice hockey.
...
Notably, the Times review was written when the building was about to go into construction, not after it opened and was used. Thus Muschamp could gush about the building as a piece of sculpture, not a messy, living thing with blank walls backing into a major avenue, though years later, as the photo shows, there's a new development (at right in picture) bordering the rink.

Similarly, he could proclaim, improbably at the time and incredibly in retrospect--that the Atlantic Yards arena, as designed, would be an “urban garden.” (Now even the promised green roof is gone.)

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NoLandGrab: Oder was more impressed by the interior design of Gehry's ice rink than the outside, another possible omen for the Atlantic Yards arena.

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

Of course, Marty isn’t running — why should he?

The Brooklyn Paper, Letter to the Editor

LettersStamp.gif

To the editor,

Your front page story last week about Borough President Markowitz’s supposed flirtation with a run for higher office (“Beep’s run done? Expert: Marty ain’t raising money,” July 19) gives too much credit to Markowitz. Seriously, does anyone think that Brooklyn’s buffoon is actually running for mayor?

Perhaps Marty is the only one who thinks he’s fit for a promotion, but the rest of us think he’s a joke. From his steadfast pigheadedness on Atlantic Yards — that state-sponsored boondoggle whose failure makes Markowitz look dumber and dumber — to his seeming belief that the loudest person in the room must be the smartest, Markowitz reminds me day in and day out that New York can do better.

I do confess that if it weren’t for term limits, I would again vote for him for Beep. The job has no authority, so it’s perfect for this toothless tiger.

Jerry Siemens, Greenpoint

Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

Forest City in the News

Crain's Chicago Business, Von Maur plans Joliet store, won't open in New Lenox

VonMaur.gif

Von Maur has signed a letter of intent to open a store at a proposed mega-mall in Joliet, while the upscale department store chain has decided against a store at a proposed center in nearby New Lenox.
...
The decision comes as a big blow for the Birches of New Lenox, a 1.1 million-square-foot mall proposed by Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc. Because of the slowdown in the retail and housing markets, the mall’s opening was already pushed back a year to 2011.

A local developer working with Forest City on the project had said Von Maur had agreed to purchase its site there. But Mr. von Maur says the retailer never signed a letter of intent for the Birches project, and never had a binding contract there.

A Forest City spokeswoman and local executive didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Larchmont Gazette, Parking Deck and Apartment Project Transferred to Iron Oak

At the July 9 meeting, developers from Forest City Mamaroneck successfully petitioned the board to authorize the transfer of both the parking deck and the related apartment project to another entity – Iron Oak of Westchester. Both Town Administrator Steve Altieri and Town Counsel Bill Maker assured the board and residents that a contract with Iron Oak Partners would not in any way change any of the prior agreements with Forest City. The design, materials and number and types of apartments and parking spots would remain the same. However, Mr. Maker was able to negotiate an additional clause calling for the creation of a $4 million escrow account for the completion of the parking deck by April 14, 2009. Work on the housing part of the project is to begin in 45 days.
...
As readers of the Gazette are aware, the Town Board has been working with the Forest City organization for a number of years in an effort to build housing units on Madison Avenue and a parking deck on Myrtle Boulevard. The agreement consummated in October 2006 called for Forest City to finance and construct a parking deck on Myrtle Boulevard with no expense to the Town. That responsibility has now been assumed by Iron Oak.

Posted by lumi at 4:09 AM

July 24, 2008

FALLING ACORN! HOW FAR FROM THE TREE?

Noticing New York

Michael White digs into the recently unearthed ACORN scandal — and scores points for a witty headline.

Do you know about ACORN’s top-management cover-up of a million dollar embezzlement? The cover-up discovered just a few days ago lasted for eight years. I am figuring our local state and city government officials must now be in a tizzy evaluating what to do about the national housing and advocacy group.
...

As with any cover-up, the standard questions need to be trotted out for the standard basic investigative due diligence. Who knew what, and when did they know it?

Who needs to be asking those questions? Any government agency that has been doing business with ACORN, is currently doing business with ACORN, or may have planned to do business with ACORN.

In New York, we’ve definitely got some of those agencies. And in New York, there is another set of impinging questions that must, perforce, be examined concerning ACORN and the proposed $4.4 billion Atlantic Yards megadevelopment which ACORN has complicitly helped design as a subsidy sponge. A bunch of New York State agencies are going to have to ask these questions and the rest of us in the broader New York community are going to be wanting answers too.

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Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

July JOBS and SCHOLARSHIPS

Diversity in the Arts

PROJECT COORDINATOR:

The Civilians is looking for a Project Coordinator for their upcoming project, working title Atlantic Yards. Based on a process developed by The Civilians over seven years, the project will begin in November with an Investigative Phase involving artists and students conducting interviews with community members and those who have a stake, on one side or the other, in the Atlantic Yards Development in Brooklyn. At the end of this six week Phase, artists will join with community members and present a series of short form laboratory pieces based on the interviews and materials gathered. This lab presentation will ultimately feed a full-length work.
...

The position will begin in early-mid September and will be a full-time three-month position through mid-December. Salary is $615 a week. Applicants should have experience with both administrative positions as well as community based work and be comfortable with both office and field work. Applicants of color are strongly encouraged.

link

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Historic preservation, theory and practice

Joker.jpg Atlantic Yards Report responds to a NoLandGrab post:

No Land Grab points out the irony of Forest City Ratner sponsoring an AIANY (American Institute of Architects-New York) panel on historic preservation. I'll remind people that parent Forest City Enterprises embraces historic preservation, just not in Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: Irony or rank hypocrisy, it explains why no amount of preservation press elsewhere in the nation has managed to improve Bruce Ratner's standing as the Dark Lord of Overdevelopment.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

Looking back at the unanticipated impacts of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning

Today, Atlantic Yards Report crosses Flatbush to assess a recently released report about the real impacts of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning.

It’s well-known that the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning resulted in some very different outcomes than expected, given that the hot residential real estate market, coupled with changes in the back-office needs of large companies in Manhattan, made it far more lucrative to build luxury housing (and hotels) than the office space (and jobs) that the rezoning was intended to foster.

A new report, Downtown Brooklyn’s Detour: The Unanticipated Impacts of Rezoning and Development on Residents and Businesses, prepared by the Pratt Center for Community Development for FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), points out how much has changed in four years, raising concerns about the displacement of lower-income retail and residential tenants. It doesn’t suggest particular strategies, however. (Solutions aren’t simple; perhaps that’ll be another report.)

The report does remind us that an EIS (environmental impact statement) is hardly infallible, as we’ve also learned in the case of Atlantic Yards, where the EIS anticipated a ten-year project buildout that seems deeply divorced from reality.

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Posted by lumi at 4:31 AM

Forest City in the News

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City revamps proposal for riverfront convention center

The cost of building a riverfront convention center will exceed the $400 million cap set by the county, even with a substantial redesign.

Forest City Commercial Group reworked its plans for a convention center after updated estimates put the cost at more than half a billion dollars.

David LaRue, the company's chief operating officer, said Monday the redesign could shave up to $100 million in construction costs. Still, the company doesn't think it can meet the county's cap.

LaRue wouldn't give the latest project estimate but said it was "within the ballpark."

The Cleveland Free Times, Payrolls And Politics

Forest City unveiled its new design for the planned convention center. To shave a few pennies off the half-billion-dollar, publicly funded construction project, which the residents of Cleveland balked at, they decided to get rid of the stilts and not charge the county for "air rights." Um, thanks?

Posted by lumi at 3:55 AM

July 23, 2008

Say What: Vanderbilt Yards Parking Restrictions

Gowanus Lounge
TC-NoParking.jpg

This amusing image from the Vanderbilt Yards (aka Atlantic Yards site) comes to us courtesy of Tracy Collins via our GL Flickr Pool. Whatever you do, do not park in this spot. For many reasons, all of them having nothing to do with the fallen sign.

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NoLandGrab: And speaking about parking, Tracy Collins informs us that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has already turned the recently demolished 640 Pacific St. into a private parking lot.

Posted by lumi at 8:18 PM

Notes from the Underground

ceilingonfloor-FG.jpg The Footprint Gazette

Dear Diary,

Its day 844. My walls are beginning to crack and lately the ceiling has been showing up on the floor. I'm worried for our safety. Sleep has become a luxury, so frequently interrupted by the clanging of metal and the pounding of earth from what I remember fondly as 'outside'. We're blocked in now.

Click here to read the rest of the latest lonely dispatch from the heart of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards footprint and find out what Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is doing to help the survivors.

Posted by lumi at 8:02 PM

So Soon? Fares and Tolls Rise in M.T.A. Plan

The NY Times
By William Neuman

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will propose a substantial increase in transit fares and bridge and tunnel tolls next year to help close a widening budget gap of nearly $900 million, according to an official at the authority.

Though the precise amount of the fare and toll increase has yet to be determined, the authority will seek to increase the revenue it gets from those sources by 8 percent. If approved by the authority’s board, the increase would take effect next July and would follow a toll and fare increase in March of this year.

In the more than 100-year history of the subway, the fare has gone up in consecutive years only once before, in 1980 and 1981.

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NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, Bruce Ratner's bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards is still $114.5 million below the MTA's own appraisal and $50 million less than the bid submitted by Extell — go figure.

Posted by lumi at 7:48 PM

Credit crunch threatens Gehry's Hove scheme

Frank Gehry's controversial scheme for the Hove sea front has been thrown into doubt because of the credit crunch.

BD Online
by Marguerite Lazell

Looks like starchitect Frank Gehry's controversial design for an English waterfront development is going the way of the global credit crunch.

On Tuesday, Gehry confirmed his involvement with the project was over. In an interview in the Guardian with BD columnist Jonathan Glancey, he said: "Don’t go there. It was a painful experience. I guess I never did understand your planning system and all those interfering government design advisers."

Aghiros commented that the King Alfred project was not the sort of scheme Gehry was used to working on.

"The major projects that Frank Gehry has done have been funded by philanthropists, or institutions," he said. “This is a commercial proposition that needs to stand on its own feet. If it’s viable we’ll proceed.”

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NoLandGrab: Since the "scheme" Gehry is working on in Brooklyn is being funded in large part by the taxpayers, he may still be able to put that where-have-I-seen-that-before" design to work. Much in the same way that Ratner's hired sports economist Andy Zimbalist allegedly changed the name "Los Angeles Angels" to "Seattle Supersonics" to produce a report on the economic impact of the latter, it appears that Frank Gehry may be recycling ideas, perhaps with a twist, literally, of the building now known as "B1."

Separated at death?

GehryHove.jpg

AYArenaandB1.jpg

Posted by eric at 6:51 PM

Real Estate Sits Out '08 Race—For Now

NY Observer
by Dana Rubinstein

[P]erhaps what’s most striking about the real estate industry’s behavior in 2008 is its utter lack of political activity. In marked contrast to 2007, when New Yorkers had two hometown heroes running for the nation’s highest office, donations have dried up.

There are a few exceptions—the organic-farming landlord Douglas Durst recently donated $1,000 to Obama; dynasties the LeFraks and the Trumps have this year shown consistent support for McCain (both families declined to comment). But they’re outweighed by the silent majority of 2008, which has sat on the sidelines, its closed wallet planted firmly underneath its ambivalent behind, donating nary a penny to either the Obama or the McCain camp.

That majority includes SL Green’s chairman, Stephen Green; the Olnick family; Related’s chairman and CEO, Stephen Ross, and president, Jeff Blau; Jack and William Rudin; Tishman Speyer’s Jerry and Rob Speyer and Robert Tishman; Brookfield Properties’ president and CEO, Ric Clark; Boston Properties’ CEO and director, Edward Linde; Extell Development’s president, Gary Barnett; Harry and Billy Macklowe; Larry Silverstein; Bruce Ratner; Sheldon Solow; and, aside from one bizarre $2,300 donation to Mike Huckabee in January, Arthur and William Zeckendorf.

That may soon change. The Obama campaign is making a serious effort to reach out to the industry.

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NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards watchers know that when searching for campaign donations from Bruce Ratner, the key is to check for contributions from Bruce's brother Michael, sister-in-law Karen Ranucci, and other relatives.

As for Barack Obama's reaching out to the real estate industry, that doesn't exactly add up to "change we can believe in." The industry might be slow to open its collective wallet, however, since the Democratic Presidential candidate is on record as opposing the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo vs. New London.

Posted by eric at 4:15 PM

Historic Preservation Faces Sustainability Hurdles

eOculus [AIA NY Newsletter]
by Jessica Sheridan

Shamelessness or unintended irony? Forest City Ratner sponsored a recent American Institute of Architects NY Chapter forum on historic preservation.

Historic preservation projects tend to take on one of two forms: mimicry and transformation. Architects on a recent panel agreed that successful projects are a result of the latter, and in each of their practices, they strive to reduce a building to its essence, relate it to its context, and preserve its remains yet develop practical uses for the future.

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NoLandGrab: Here's an example of Forest City Ratner "reducing a building to its essence."

Posted by eric at 3:42 PM

Hudson Yards: Review of Development Proposal Designs

Noticing New York

Blogger Michael D.D. White contrasts the Yards Hudson and Atlantic, and the results aren't pretty.

Interestingly, the MTA is NOT maximizing the sales price of the land it is selling in the parallel example of Atlantic Yards. Rather than raise more money for capital or operating expenses the MTA is selling its property to the Atlantic Yards developer at a substantial write-down and collecting far less (hundred’s of millions less) than it could. In the case of the Atlantic Yards site the density of the site is being maxed out to an inappropriate degree, but the real estate value of that extra density that is being created with this maxing out is being given to the Forest City Ratner as the developer of the site rather than being captured by the MTA as in the case of Hudson Yards. (See: Friday, June 27, 2008 “No-property-tax status was supposed to raise the price of the Vanderbilt Yard”)

One last thing on Atlantic Yards, vis-a-vis Hudson Yards: The participation of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the other above named political representatives in the Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee letter on Hudson Yards reveals where Speaker Quinn and the others should stand on the Atlantic Yards. They no doubt know this. There are many parallels between the proposed Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards projects so that criticisms of Hudson Yards, which is a relatively good project (a high density project in a high density neighborhood), also apply to Atlantic Yards. At the same time, all the ways in which Atlantic Yards is different from Hudson Yards make Atlantic Yards a substantially worse project, probably the worst project being proposed in the City right now.

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Posted by eric at 3:25 PM

Ward Bakery Demolition Porn

Gowanus Lounge

WardBakeryDemo3C.jpg

Here's a photo by Tracy Collins via Gowanus Lounge of the destruction of the Ward Bakery. Whither the Landmarks Preservation Commission?

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Posted by eric at 3:09 PM

P’Heights to get protection?

The Brooklyn Paper
by Sarah Portlock

WardBakeryDemo.jpg

The city is moving toward protecting a wide swatch of Prospect Heights — but the proposed “historic district” would not bar a project that some neighbors think is the biggest destroyer of the area’s history: Atlantic Yards.

Last week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission began the process of designating approximately 12 blocks in Prospect Heights as a historic district that encompasses 870 buildings from the mid 19th- to early 20th-centuries.

The district would stretch from Flatbush to Washington avenues and from Eastern Parkway to Pacific Street — up to, but not including, Bruce Ratner’s $4-billion mega-development.

That inclusion could have saved the neighborhood — if “it had been done in time,” said Candice Carpenter, a lawyer who has worked with the anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Deciding the boundaries of the proposed historic district is a matter of determining which buildings have a distinct “sense of place” and a coherent streetscape, said Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon.

“The purpose of our agency is how to protect the historic fabric of the city’s neighborhoods, not to stop development,” de Bourbon said, noting that Landmarks primarily looks at architecture, dates of construction, and the streetscape. “It certainly may have been a part of the motivation of people who wanted us to designate the district, but that’s something that we really can’t consider.”

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NoLandGrab: OK, let us get this straight. LPC's role is to protect the worthy "historic fabric" of neighborhoods, unless that pesky fabric lies in the path of mega-developments planned by politically connected developers? The politicization of the LPC is obvious, and cries for an agency with more teeth and independence that could actually save architecturally and historically significant buildings like the Ward Bakery and Spaulding Factory from the likes of Bruce Ratner — and Mayor Bloomberg.

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Weiner Likes (Some) Mega-Development in Slow Economy

The Real Estate [NY Observer]
by Eliot Brown and Azi Paybarah

Representative Anthony Weiner, a mayoral hopeful, gave his support for a string of large development projects in the city today, saying they're important in a time of economic uncertainty.

"New York needs to continue to grow–I'm a pro-development guy," he said, speaking at a Crain's breakfast. "If you look at downtown, you look at West Side, you look at Penn Station, you look at Ratner, you look at these things–I think that you're going to see that I'm going to be advocating. I want them to be successful, particularly in this time of slow economic growth."

Then, hitting on his favorite theme, Mr. Weiner said the middle-class does not always see a clear, tangible benefit from the projects, adding, "It does create challenges that we have to solve."

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NoLandGrab: In these tough economic times, there's nothing more important than shoveling scarce tax dollars at a basketball arena. Is it any wonder that middle-class New Yorkers — and upper- and working-class NYers, too — are having trouble seeing "a clear, tangible benefit" in that?

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Zero Hour in West Harlem

Last big landowner in Columbia’s way braces for Supreme Court fight as state dangles eminent domain

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

NickSprayregen.jpg

An in-depth look at West Harlem property owner Nick Sprayregen's legal battle to save his property from eminent domain seizure for the benefit of Columbia University offers an update on Bruce Ratner's legal bills.

NEW YORK'S LAWS on eminent domain are viewed as rather favorable to the state when compared with other laws nationwide, making the climb for Mr. Sprayregen a distinctly uphill one.

Landowners in other eminent domain cases often hope that a prolonged legal battle will derail a project through a changing political landscape or economic climate. But Columbia’s plan seems prone to more stability than a typical private developer’s. The university has a multibillion dollar endowment; already owns the bulk of the land in the footprint; and has always said the expansion is a long-term proposition, and thus a two-year fight through the court system—landowners in Brooklyn have been challenging eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards project for more than a year and a half—does not seem likely to spoil the university’s plans.

Such a fight can be expensive for both sides. For Atlantic Yards, an Empire State Development Corporation spokesman said the state has spent more than $8 million on legal fees, which apply to litigation and other expenses (the state’s fees are reimbursed by developer Forest City Ratner, and Columbia University will reimburse the state for fees related to eminent domain).

Mr. Sprayregen, who estimated he has spent about $1 million so far in legal expenses and other fees, said he was prepared to commit a substantial sum to continue the fight.

“I think if we’re able to take it all the way to the Supreme Court, it will cost another $2 million,” he said. “Obviously, we now have a real legal fight on our hands.”

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NoLandGrab: The Battle of West Harlem may have led to the coining of a new term: "University Blight."

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

IN THE FRAY: If You Build It, the Jobs Won't Come

The Wall Street Journal
by Mark Yost

More evidence that publicly financed stadiums and arenas are a poor investment for taxpayers, and it's no different in the nation's Capitol.

Just a few years ago, the corner of M Street and New Jersey Avenue was not somewhere you wanted to be after dark. It was part of Washington's notorious Southeast neighborhood, rife with drugs, crime and poverty. But today, about 30,000 baseball fans flock here 80 nights a year to watch the Washington Nationals play in their new $611 million stadium.

NationalsPark.jpg

While the neighborhood is certainly undergoing a renaissance, what's uncertain is how much credit should go to the ballpark. It's a question that has been debated countless times before, over other stadiums, but the historical evidence is pretty clear.

Sports economists have long argued that publicly financed stadiums are a waste of taxpayer money. And they have the data to prove it.

Yes, stadiums do create high-paying construction jobs for a year or two. But the vast majority of long-term employment is low-wage concession jobs. A Congressional Research Service study of the Baltimore Ravens stadium found that each job created cost the state $127,000. By comparison, Maryland's Sunny Day Fund created jobs for about $6,000 each.
...

[U]nder terms of the deal, the city expects to see about $40 million a year in revenue. The smallest portion will come from the team, which is supposed to pay $5.5 million a year in rent. But just this week the Nationals began withholding payments, saying the city had failed to "complete" the stadium.

The vast majority of income is expected to come from the same people who financed the stadium: the taxpayers. An estimated $14 million a year is projected from taxes on tickets, concessions and merchandise. Another $24 million will come from a new stadium tax on D.C. businesses with gross revenues of $3 million or more. Indeed, with the exception of some housing and small businesses that have moved into the neighborhood, the vast majority of the "development" in Southeast is nothing more than taxpayer-funded public works projects.

So in the end, what did the taxpayers get other than a bill for $611 million? The Washington National's Web site advertises jobs for elevator operators, fan ambassadors and security guards. The pay is $7.50-$8.50 an hour.

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Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

What's Made Brooklyn Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)

Reason Online
by Damon W. Root

The libertarian blog picks up on The Times's recent coverage of Brooklyn Brewery's real estate woes.

Sunday's New York Times brought word of the latest twist in the saga of New York's Brooklyn Brewery and its president Steve Hindy, purveyors of various fine beers, including the great Black Chocolate Stout. Back in 1996, Hindy and partner Tom Potter set up shop at a former matzo ball factory in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, then a mostly rundown industrial neighborhood but today a thriving hipster paradise, replete with bars, gourmet shops, and luxury condos. The only problem is that now the brewery can't afford to stay. So Hindy looked to city officials for help.
...

There's a cautionary tale or two here about getting in bed with city officials and their shady real estate allies, but the worst of it has been Hindy’s support for controversial developer and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner, the driving force behind the atrocious Atlantic Yards project, a massive boondoggle that, if realized, will produce a taxpayer-subsidized basketball arena for Ratner’s Nets along with various office buildings and luxury complexes that will displace more than 40 business owners and tenants via eminent domain and other measures.

Still, what do you expect from the wolf's lair of New York's corrupt and massively regulated real estate market? As Hindy admitted to the New York Observer last year, "Things like the development at Coney Island and things like Atlantic Yards—that’s what we have to work with, and we have to make the best of it.”

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Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

Higher-resolution arena renderings suggest how close glass would be to the street

Atlantic Yards Report

AYB1.jpg

The 2008 edition of the New York Post's Brooklyn Tomorrow advertorial reproduces Frank Gehry renderings already in the Image Gallery on the Atlantic Yards web site, but the higher-resolution versions in the publication offer a clear reminder: the arena's glass walls would be quite close to the street, raising security concerns.

Remember, last fall, only after much prodding by the New York Times, Forest City Ratner acknowledged that the arena would be just 20 feet from the street at Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, the same distance as in Newark, where officials have decided to close streets during arena events.
...

Alan Rosner, who wrote a July 2005 White Paper, titled Terrorism, Security and the Proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. High Rise and Arena Development Project (PDF), has continued to follow the issue.

"The renderings for the new AY arena & towers do point to a lack of meaningful setbacks from both Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues," Rosner told me. "FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) the GSA [General Services Administration] & DoD [Department of Defense] all indicate that the single most effective mitigation for explosions is distance from the blast. By any standard 20 feet is too close to the curb."

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NoLandGrab: Elected officials who called for a comprehensive security review last November are still waiting for a meaningful response from the developer and state agencies.

Posted by eric at 8:55 AM

July 22, 2008

Top Ten Reasons why Kensington is better than Park Slope

Kensington Stories

KensingtonHouse.jpg

Kensington Stories blogger Ron Lopez included this curious item among the "reasons why Kensington is better than Park Slope" (debatable, but we do believe in pride of place) in a post last week:

4 We know that “ugly” train yard on Atlantic Avenue is actually ugly, and are not fooled by the “Develop don’t destroy Brooklyn” people.

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NoLandGrab: We're not quite sure how DDDB is fooling anyone, and as far as we know, nobody ever said the train yard wasn't ugly. We're also pretty certain that neither DDDB nor yours truly would be around to fool people if Bruce Ratner had proposed building a project only above the 8.3-acre railyard. It's a safe bet that had Bruce and the ESDC targeted Mr. Lopez's Kensington community, they'd have found "blight" where Mr. Lopez sees a great neighborhood (is that lovely house pictured above built to at least 60% of its available Floor Area Ratio?).

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

Columbia University Plan Could Impact Atlantic Yards

Opponents of Both Have Said State Abuses Eminent Domain

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Ranaan Geberer (and AP)

The Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) has given preliminary approval to Columbia University’s plan to build new housing, laboratories and other facilities in West Harlem, which may force some property owners to give up their land — an issue which is somewhat related to Atlantic Yards.

The agency also ruled that two studies had found the neighborhood where Columbia wants to build is full of old, obsolete buildings in deteriorating condition. Declaring the area blighted gives the state the power to force the sale of private owners’ land needed for the expansion.

Two property owners say they don’t want to sell to Columbia, and have vowed to fight the expansion in court.

This issue is basically similar to the Atlantic Yards battle in Brooklyn, since opponents of that sports-housing-office proposal have also filed suit against the possibility of eminent domain.

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NoLandGrab: Yes, "the issue is basically similar," but as for how Columbia's plan "could impact Atlantic Yards," we're not quite sure what the Eagle's headline writers are getting at.

Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

At MCNY panel, defending dissent and promoting the better way to develop (not like Atlantic Yards)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports from a panel discussion last Thursday at the Museum of the City of New York that went a little off-topic.

But the Civic Talk, sponsored by Henry Stern’s New York Civic and titled “What If? Battles Over Development,” was notable for some rhetorical disagreement about the nature of civic opposition and some strong opinions on the right way to develop in New York. And Atlantic Yards came up not as a good example but as something to be avoided.
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[Urban Planner Alexander] Garvin then criticized government projects and, apparently, public-private partnerships like those pursued by the ESDC: “And we would stop having this ridiculous argument that we constantly have about the government going to get involved in developing property on its own. I think the government should be not developing real estate. The government should be doing its investing in its infrastructure and its own property. And there is a great deal of it. We do not maintain our streets well. We have collapsed bridges everywhere.”

“And finally this city has begun to do the kind of investment that it did in the 19th century, and that I believe would help deal with a lot of what Al Butzel is talking about," he said. "If we stopped talking about developing Atlantic Yards or developing these things and left private property to the private owners to develop and instead spent our money on the public realm, I think we’d get a lot of work [done].”

That drew significant applause.

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Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

July 21, 2008

Love, from New York

Biloxi Sun-Herald
by Anita Lee

"Kids rule," says a mural at the Coast's latest KaBOOM! playground, built Saturday.

One of those kids would be Michael Carajohn, a 16-year-old from New York whose mother is a plastic surgeon on Fifth Avenue, stepfather Bruce Ratner owns the New Jersey Nets basketball team, and aunt happens to be Fox News political correspondent and Talk Radio maven Ellen Ratner.

Even in this family, Carajohn is no slacker. He accompanied his aunt to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina because the images he saw on television broke his heart.

"I've lived in New York all my life," Carajohn said. "I've never seen anything like that. It was inconceivable to me. I was shocked when I saw it on TV, but when I came down here, I was completely floored."

Carajohn has returned 30 times to help the community. What's more, he worked to get a basketball court built for the children of DeLisle.

On Saturday his aunt, mother and stepfather joined 377 volunteers who built the playground on the grounds of what will be the Marsha Barbour Community Resource Center.

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NoLandGrab: Kudos to young Michael, his mother, and even stepfather Bruce for pitching in to help build a new playground along the still-ravaged Mississippi coast. Some Prospect Heights residents might be down there pitching in, too, if they weren't preoccupied with trying to stop Bruce from knocking down and rebuilding their own neighborhood.

Posted by eric at 3:10 PM

Asking feds not to approve tax-exempt bonds for AY arena, DDDB criticizes city/state letter

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posted the highlights from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's (DDDB) letter to the IRS, in which the group made the case against reopening a federal tax loophole for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Some of [DDDB's] criticisms were first reported in this blog: the letter overstates how much land Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner actually controls and it fails to point out that, at least according to available evidence, the foregone property tax might be much less than the anticipated PILOT payment. Also, DDDB points out that the city and state overstate the amount of progress achieved on the project.
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At stake is a benefit --the difference between tax-exempt and taxable bonds--to arena developer Forest City Ratner worth an estimated $165 million on $800 million worth of bonds for a $950 million arena. The burden would fall mainly on federal taxpayers--hence the interest of the city and state in getting it passed. Should the “loophole” not be preserved for the arena, there might be increasing pressure on the city and state to increase local subsidies for the facility.

While DDDB’s concerns may be seen as more parochial than concerns about tax-exempt financing for sports facilities expressed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, the specific criticisms in the letter likely had not been raised previously in direct communication to IRS and the Department of the Treasury.

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Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Will LeBron be a Knick, a Net or remain a Cav?

NYC Sports
By Sam Smith

LameDuck.gif Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets are unloading large player contracts, in hopes of vying for LeBron James when his contract is up with Cleveland in 2010.

Meanwhile, not everyone is buying Bruce's story that a new arena will be ready by the 2010-2011 season.

It's a long time away, especially if you have to endure two more seasons with New York media and fans.

The Nets really don't since it doesn't look like they'll get to Brooklyn and a new arena until maybe 2011, if at all. We assume they will since they now are officially as lame as a duck with a broken leg.

Having traded Jason Kidd in February, which was a terrific move in swindling the Dallas Mavericks out of Devin Harris and a No. 1 pick in 2010 that should be in the lottery with the Mavs in full collapse, and Jefferson recently, the Nets are in full rebuilding mode.

There's an old scouting saying around the NBA that "if you are going to make a mistake, make it big."

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Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

July 20, 2008

Citigroup Puts Its Money Where Its Name Will Be

NY Times
RICHARD SANDOMIR

What will happen to naming rights deals as the economy suffers? The NY Times looks at Citi Field, which Citibank promises to follow through with, even if it doesn't make much sense for business. Barclays also sticks to its promises, while the Times sticks to its claims that an arena would be open in 2010:

Another bank, Barclays, followed Citigroup by a few months with its 20-year, $400 million naming-rights deal for the Nets’ arena near downtown Brooklyn.

Barclays, based in Britain, lacked Citigroup’s substantial presence in the United States and viewed the arena — whenever the Barclays Center’s long-delayed construction starts — as part of an aggressive domestic brand-building plan. But like Citigroup, it has had problems in the credit market, with $6.5 billion in write-downs on its banking scorecard. To shore up its capital position, Barclays recently sold $8.9 billion in new stock.

The bank, which sponsors the Premier League and a PGA Tour event in the FedEx Cup playoffs, is still linked with the Nets, who are seeking a 2010 arena opening if construction starts soon. On Friday, Brett Yormark, the president of Nets Sports and Entertainment, called Barclays a “stable and dynamic institution that is thriving in a very challenging marketplace.”

Brandon Ashcraft, a bank spokesman, said, “Barclays is fully committed to its relationship with the Nets.”

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Posted by amy at 4:00 PM

Interviews on Atlantic Yards Report, WSJ, and points north

Field of Schemes

I keep meaning to find a moment to mention the multipart interview that Norman Oder did with me and is posting in bits to his Atlantic Yards Report blog; now that segment #4, addressing the would-be savior of scandal-ridden ACORN, went up yesterday, what better time than now?

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Posted by amy at 12:22 PM

36 Hours in NYC

freddysbathroom7.08.jpg

VAPERS

Freddy's Bar figures into the best 36 hours of someone's life. How lucky are the neighborhood residents that get to visit Freddy's regularly enough to have spent 36 (non-contiguous, we hope) hours at Freddy's?

Right after the movie, we walked about three or four blocks to Freddy’s Bar which is just another highlight of some of the best 36 hours I have yet to have in my life. Freddy’s is a Brooklyn attraction for a host of reasons: affordable beer, a great old school bar, a relaxed crowd, its public attacks against the Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project (one that will further divide and gentrify this great city within a city). But if I were to be honest, the reason I love to go to Freddy’s is for Donald O’Finn’s “TV Dreams” - a never ending series of VHS tapes featuring the most tripped out and intelligent re-cuts of movie clips, commercials, and various other resources you can imagine.

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Posted by amy at 12:03 PM

On the new Yankee Stadium, two very different calculations in the NY Times (Zimbalist vs. deMause)

Atlantic Yards Report

From a 1/22/06 op-ed in the New York Times by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, headlined Fair Ball:
The Yankees are proposing a fair financial deal to the city. Nationally, during the last 15 years, the public share in stadium development costs (that is, the stadium plus roads, utilities and so forth) for professional sports has averaged around 75 percent. The Yankees are planning to spend $800 million of their own money on the new stadium (no major league baseball team has spent more than $300 million on their own playing field). The city and state together will spend about $210 million for improvements in the neighborhood. By this reckoning, the public share is only about 21 percent.

A different view

From a 7/17/08 essay by Tommy Craggs, headlined Goodbye Ghosts, Hello Hefty Tax Bill:
As the excellent book "Field of Schemes" by Neil DeMause puts it, Steinbrenner’s tenure has been "little more than one long plea for a new city-financed ballpark," a wish that will be fulfilled when the new stadium next door opens in 2009, at a public cost that DeMause estimates will be just south of a billion dollars.

Many of those public costs are not direct subsidies, as deMause explains. But the distinction sure is worth sorting out.

Why? If Zimbalist's narrow view, which excludes many benefits to the team owners, is incorrect, well, not only is his defense of Yankee Stadium untenable, so is his (easily-criticized) analysis of the impact of Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by amy at 11:58 AM

Double Edge to Brooklyn’s Success

hindy7.08.jpg

NY Times
PATRICK McGEEHAN

Brooklyn Brewery's Steve Hindy reaps what he helped sow: rising prices from the rezoning laws and out of scale projects he championed were a death knell to small, local businesses, including his...

Mr. Hindy said the company could expand its local production to more than 40,000 barrels a year, and more than double its current payroll of 35 people, if it found a space that was large enough. But that quest has left Mr. Hindy feeling unappreciated by city officials.

He was a champion of the rezoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pushed through in 2005. But now he contends that the changes went too far by allowing a variety of nonindustrial uses of land in areas that are labeled industrial business zones.
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“Once you name your company Brooklyn Brewery, you kind of take away the threat of moving to New Jersey,” Mr. Hindy said.

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NoLandGrab: We venture to bet that more than one person would appreciate the irony of "New Jersey Brewery."

Gumby Fresh adds a sympathetic yet critical missive to the discourse, concluding in this thought:

But here's the killer line. "Some landlords are holding onto industrial property with the hope that it will be rezoned for residential buildings." So all Hindy's support has done is dump a windfall in the hands of condo developers with no interest in helping Hindy get what he wants. There's an easy moral to this story. The old lady and the snake.

Posted by amy at 11:46 AM

July 19, 2008

Will Olin's open space designs surface in September? Probably not

olin7.08.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Shortly after new designs for the Atlantic Yards arena and one building were released on May 5, I wrote on May 8 that the magazine Landscape Architecture, published by the American Society of Landscape Architects, predicted coverage of Atlantic Yards in the June and September issues.

The June issue is out and the Design section did not include an article on Atlantic Yards.

When's it coming?

Should we wait until September? Nope. A revised editorial calendar, as of 6/5/08, makes no mention of Atlantic Yards.

So we're left wondering what Olin plans as temporary landscaping for empty lots that, as the Municipal Art Society suggested, might turn into Atlantic Lots.

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Posted by amy at 9:55 AM

ESDC To Further Columbia's 7M-SF Expansion Plan

nyc_columbiaproject.jpg

Globe St

The Empire State Development Corp. board of directors has adopted the Columbia University General Project Plan and authorized a public hearing to formally approve the University’s proposed expansion this fall. The $6.28-billion Manhattanville expansion project, which has had some opposition from local Harlem residents, who worry about displacement, will add up to 6.8 million sf of new facilities in up to 16 new buildings and in an adaptively reused existing building.
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The ESDC determined the 17-acre area in Harlem "blighted" on Thursday, and according to the anonymous urban affairs source, once the ESDC determines an area is blighted, it has the authority to "undertake the condemnation." The source notes that this is the same concept that was used in Atlantic Yards. In that case, the US Court of Appeals court rejected a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the state's use of eminent domain for the site.

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Posted by amy at 9:35 AM

Activism for every attention span

fist5minutes.jpg

Time Out New York
Jaime Jordan

NoLandGrab might not be a moment of zen, but we're 5 minutes of pithiness:

“The city is catering to megadevelopers while completely ignoring the needs of New Yorkers,” says Candace Carpenter of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards is probably the city’s best-known battleground, but New Yorkers are channeling Jane Jacobs all over the five boroughs. While issues like affordable housing and eminent domain drive many of these campaigns, Deborah Marton, executive director of the Design Trust for Public Space, believes that “environmental quality and sustainability” are also major concerns.

5 MINUTES!
If you don’t have time to volunteer with an agency, make a donation to the Design Trust (designtrust.org), or take a $15 walking tour with the Municipal Art Society (mas.org)—both organizations advocate for responsible use of public space. “And remain educated by reading about development issues,” says Marton. She suggests The Architect’s Newspaper (archpaper.com) or Brownstowner (brownstoner.com). If you’re following the Atlantic Yards action, though, the blog No Land Grab (nolandgrab.org) provides a pithy overview of events.

“You can yell and scream about development, but you have to contact the legislator to make a difference,” says Carpenter. “Also, elect officials who aren’t beholden to big real-estate money.” To look up your New York City Council representative, go to council.nyc.gov. At Place Matters (placematters.net), you can raise awareness about noteworthy buildings and sites in your community—thus making them harder to bulldoze—and a $50 membership in the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (gvshp.org) gives you reduced rates on events like lectures and walking tours, plus information on how to report landmark violations.

“Join your community board. That’s the main avenue for average residents to get involved,” explains Marton. “They can have an influence on everything about a new project, including use, scale and appearance.” For meeting and membership details, go to nyc.gov/cau. If you’re more interested in preserving the city skyline, GVSHP had two job openings at press time (gvshp.org/employment.htm). And if you’re in it for the really long haul, consider a career in urban planning: The American Planning Association’s New York Metro Chapter (nyplanning.org) provides information on approved courses and employment opportunities.

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NoLandGrab: TONY Left out Brooklyn's favorite form of activism...wearing DDDB t-shirts.

Posted by amy at 9:13 AM

July 18, 2008

National ACORN's (episode of) scandal, and NY ACORN's dubious Brooklyn stadium deal (in 2000)

Atlantic Yards Report

ACORN founder [and former national director] Wade Rathke wrote 3/1/07 on his blog about AY:

Surprisingly, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the divide among the Park Slope liberals and others who were unwilling to join us in making the diversity of the community the core issue.

As Norman Oder examines ACORN NYC's role in a previous Brooklyn stadium controversy, you gotta worry that Rathke's head scratching might be genuine; if so, he missed the part about how Bertha Lewis cut a deal and sold out her coalition partners, who, incidentally, fought on.

The result was a win-win for everyone involved: local stakeholders benefitted from the renovation of the Parade Grounds, the Mets built the minor league ballpark in Coney Island (a location much better served by public transporation) and jobs were created.

But Bertha Lewis's penchant for being a solo broker for the community left one journalist a little suspicious. From Oder's interview with Neil deMause:

Q. Was there a parallel with the Atlantic Yards affordable housing agreement signed by ACORN?

A. It just happened much earlier in the Nets deal. She sold out or bought in, depending on how you want to put it, very early. Ok, fine, if you’re going to give me what I want, then I’ll go for it. There are arguments for doing CBAs [Community Benefits Agreements] where, if developer does do enough things for the community, then that’s OK, people buy in.

The problem of course is that Bertha didn’t get together with everybody in the community and say, OK, let’s figure out what the community wants, and let’s present a list of demands to Ratner and, until you make us all happy, we’re not going to go along with it. It’s that I’m going to cut a deal for myself and everybody else is then the enemy.

So, yeah, speaking of people who’ve lost credibility. I mean, ACORN’s done a lot of good things, and I’m sure Bertha has done good things in her time, but she definitely has this capacity for selling her support for projects based more on narrow self-interest of her and the organization rather than what’s good for community or the city. That’s disappointing, to say the least.

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NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that ACORN stands to profit financially from Atlantic Yards by acting as the administrator for the project's affordable housing component.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

One Mystery Solved, One Mystery Remains

DoorNub-FG.jpg The Footprint Gazette

See that lil nubbin there in the photograph? That's new. That wasn't there in the time before AY. That was just installed last week or so. What does it mean? It's not a button. I know cause I pushed it. I think it's a magnet or some sort of tracking device.
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I wish it was one of those things near store entrances that "bings" when someone walks in. Maybe it is actually. Maybe some FCR base command unit gets a "bing' when we come and go.

Maybe every time we walk out Marty Markowitz gets a little less sad about the Dodgers leaving.
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Sometimes a man in a uniform comes and touches it.

Well, that mystery remains. But a different mystery was solved! The mystery of "why is my apartment always filled with dust and why does it constantly shake and vibrate and reverberate with clanging" was solved!

I made a video that shows the nasty culprit:

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Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

Two Local Stadium Projects Face Different Futures

The NY Sun
By Evan Weiner

Mayor Bloomberg on Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject:

"The development in Brooklyn is going ahead," Bloomberg said in an interview Monday. "I think, given the economy, some of the construction will be a little bit slower. But the arena is going to get done on time, and the New Jersey team is going to move over there.

"I think it is going to be great for Brooklyn," he continued. "Brooklyn is a sports borough if there ever was one. If you take a look at the new Shea Stadium, the design is based on Ebbets Field. It is really a continuation of the sports legacy that New York has had."

Either Mayor Bloomberg actually believes that local team owners are footing the bill for new venues or he doesn't know when to stop lying, to a reporter who covers the business side of sports no less! Amazing.

Bloomberg said he thinks sports "should stand on its own" and "can stand on its owner" when it comes to owners such as the Steinbrenner family in the Bronx footing the bill for a new Yankee Stadium, Ratner in Brooklyn, and the Wilpon family in Queens picking up the tab for a new Mets ballpark. But the city (and state) is still heavily subsidizing the two new baseball parks and the Brooklyn arena with significant tax breaks, tax incentives, and funding for infrastructure (Bloomberg declined to comment on city subsidies).

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NoLandGrab: Is it possible that the Mayor doesn't know that NYC's direct contribution to the Atlantic Yards project can be spent on land acquisition?

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Someone needs to do the due diligence at Atlantic Yards

letter2theeditor.gif An excerpt from a letter to the editor, penned by Alan Rosner, published in The Brooklyn Paper:

Had [Atlantic Yards] gone forward as planned, any number of risks would have had time to play themselves out. Just think: the social experiment of residential density twice that of anything ever attempted in all of U.S. history; creating super-blocks, despite decades of adverse experience; overwhelming Brooklyn’s 50- to 150-year-old infrastructure; overwhelming both vehicular and public transportation capacity; the traffic implications of protecting three Homeland Security Department terrorist targets.

Today’s disconnect between the law and reality could not be starker.

No matter the arguments presented [during the appeal of the state environmental review], the project being argued over is no longer the project laid in court papers.

This case is now only about who will have control of 22 contiguous acres in the center of Brooklyn.

The Nets aren’t required to come here and the housing in the second phase of the project may never be built it’s all left up to Ratner.

The courts cannot be counted on to address this sort of a problem.

What the (naked) emperors of this state need to do is require an honest study of the environmental injuries that a sports arena and acres of parking will inflict on surrounding communities and the borough at large.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Nets introduce Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons

InsideHoops.com
By Randy Zellea

Don't forget, it's 100% about basketball:

Last week the New Jersey Nets introduced Yi Juanlian And Bobby Simmons to local media.
...
While the conference did revolve around basketball, there was plenty of talk about marketing, not surprising since Jianlian is expected to bring added international attention to the team.

Bruce Ratner talked in his opening statement on how excited he was as this was the a new chapter in Nets Basketball. Later during the Q&A, Bruce was asked if this was a basketball move or marketing move, to which Ratner insisted that this was a 100% basketball decision. The marketing aspect is a bonus as this will help them in the future when they move to Brooklyn. Ratner reminded everyone that basketball decisions are made by Rod and Kiki.

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NoLandGrab: Actually, one local group has determined that it's 18.6% about basketball.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Here's what they're saying:

ANGRYNYER, Bloomberg’s latest racist rezoning disaster in the making.
One New Yorker detects a pattern with all of the land-grabbin' megaprojects:

Why hasn’t Bloomberg been called on this racist rezoning agenda? Harlem, LES, Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, Dutch Kills… all minority areas.

NoLandGrab: Wonder how these projects have actually affected diversity in the city overall. Unfortunately, if it has, it will be too late by the time someone has some real figures.

The View from the Bleachers, New York Times Weighs in on Yankee Stadium
Hey, we aren't the only ones not holding our breath waiting for the day that the NY Times "asks a few more serious questions about the Atlantic Yards project before it’s too late."

It seems that quite a few of my more recent posts have been along the lines of “I’m a New York sports fan who has serious reservations about new New York sports stadia.” Especially with two projects in particular: Atlantic Yards, and the new Yankee Stadium.

Now, in today’s New York Times, Tommy Craggs has weighed in with a criticism not only the cost of the new stadium in the Bronx, but whether it is necessary at all....

The irritating irony of this, as with many other building schemes in New York, is that the Times only pays lip service to the opposing voices to these projects, usually when the deal is done and dusted and it’s too late to turn back.

Culture of Congestion [The NY Sun], Battery Park City on a Weekday Evening

Among New York's mega-projects-in-progress, I'd thought that Brooklyn Bridge Park on Brooklyn's East River waterfront was doing okay financially. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, all is not so well, according to a Daily News article that appeared recently:

But rising costs, bureaucratic delays and ongoing legal battles have caused the price tag to double — sparking fears that not all the amenities will be built. Some 1,200 luxury condo units are still in the works along the park and will make payments in lieu of taxes to pay for the park's upkeep.

(I've blogged about the pros and cons of BBP here.) I just hope it doesn't go the way of Hudson Yards, the World Trade Center, Moynihan Station, and Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Here are some of the latest developments from New York City's two other highly controversial eminent-domain-abusing megaprojects.

It sorta makes you wonder how New York City managed to survive with all of this "blight."

WEST HARLEM, MANHATTAN

MetroNY, Columbia tiptoes further uptown

Columbia University’s $6.28 billion plans to expand north of 125th Street passed another approval hurdle Thursday when a state agency’s board gave the nod for the school’s plan to add 6.8 million square feet of space to West Harlem.

Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage’s Nick Sprayregen — the largest hold-out property owner in the area — was unsurprised by the vote. “It went according to script,” he said. “It’s a charade.”

Columbia, which would get the state to exercise eminent domain to oust the two remaining commercial property owners if the plan is approved, said it would not do so for the seven residential buildings.

Sprayregen doesn’t buy it. “After 2018, they can exercise eminent domain against residential buildings, occupied or not,” said Sprayregen, who has filed several lawsuits against the school during his four-year fight.

The NY Sun, Columbia Expansion Expected To Get Boost From 'Blight'

This should come as no surprise to those who've followed Atlantic Yards and NY State's determination that the area was "blighted."

The two remaining parcels of privately owned land in the footprint of Columbia University's proposed expansion are expected to be deemed part of a "blighted" area, according to sources with knowledge of a report that will be presented to and voted on by the Empire State Development Corp. [Thursday]. Adoption of the report's finding would set the stage for a legal battle over the possible use of eminent domain by the state.

WILLETS POINT, QUEENS

Excerpt from a press release issued by the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (full release after the jump):

OPPOSITION TO MAYOR'S LAND GRAB AT WILLETS POINT INCREASES

COALITION GROWS STRONGER, LARGER DESPITE BLOOMBERG ADMINISTRATION'S EFFORTS

With Five New Members, Coalition Represents Majority of Land Ownership

NEW YORK, NY July 17, 2008 – The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA), the group of land and business owners fighting the Bloomberg Administration's attempt to steal their property through abuse of eminent domain, today announced that five new businesses have joined the coalition. As a result of these additions, the coalition now represents more than 53 percent of the private land owned in Willets Point despite the Bloomberg Administration's attempts to divide the community.

"Our resolve is stronger than ever, and our numbers are growing larger despite the city's weak attempts to divide us," said Thomas Mina, a member of WPIRA. "With these new members, our coalition now represents more than 53 percent of the private property in Willets Point. That should send a clear message to this administration that we will never allow them to take our property just so they can give it to a politically-connected developer. This should also send a clear message to all those in Queens who think they can roll over us. This fight will never end until they stop trying to destroy our businesses, steal our land and kill the American dreams of our parents and grandparents."

OPPOSITION TO MAYOR'S LAND GRAB AT WILLETS POINT INCREASES

COALITION GROWS STRONGER, LARGER DESPITE BLOOMBERG ADMINISTRATION'S EFFORTS

With Five New Members, Coalition Represents Majority of Land Ownership

NEW YORK, NY July 17, 2008 – The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA), the group of land and business owners fighting the Bloomberg Administration's attempt to steal their property through abuse of eminent domain, today announced that five new businesses have joined the coalition. As a result of these additions, the coalition now represents more than 53 percent of the private land owned in Willets Point despite the Bloomberg Administration's attempts to divide the community.

"Our resolve is stronger than ever, and our numbers are growing larger despite the city's weak attempts to divide us," said Thomas Mina, a member of WPIRA. "With these new members, our coalition now represents more than 53 percent of the private property in Willets Point. That should send a clear message to this administration that we will never allow them to take our property just so they can give it to a politically-connected developer. This should also send a clear message to all those in Queens who think they can roll over us. This fight will never end until they stop trying to destroy our businesses, steal our land and kill the American dreams of our parents and grandparents."

Council Member Diana Reyna said, "The city must acknowledge the increasing number of business and landowners opposing their redevelopment plan. The City's lack of consideration for the hundreds of small businesses and their thousands of employees at Willets Point is a direct contradiction to their vowed commitment to protect and retain industrial and manufacturing businesses in NYC. The city is betraying and turning their backs on these hard-working men and women and their families."

The five new coalition members are St. John Enterprises, United Steel Products, Shea Auto Repair, Trading Used Auto Parts and Empire Group and represent more than 120,000 square feet of land. With the additions, coalition members now cover 24 acres of the approximately 45 acres of privately owned land in Willets Point -- or more than 53 percent of the land. Each of the businesses have long-standing ties to Willets Point, including St. John's Enterprises with 36 years in the same location.

Georgiou Charalambos, co-owner of Shea Auto Repair for 28 years said, "I am in jail with the city. I don't know what to do. I can't move, I can't sell my property. I'm 66 years old and I want to retire, but I am stuck. No one from the EDC has talked to me. They just the want the property."

Alfredo Franza, vice president of United Steel, a family business with 50 employees, said, "With Community Board 7 and the Queens Borough President supporting this takeover plan, we know that we have a fight ahead and we felt it was important to show a united front with our neighbors."

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall is expected to announce her formal support of the administration's development scheme in the coming weeks, despite the strong turnout by WPIRA members and employees at a recent hearing at Borough Hall. Several WPIRA members testified at the hearing, to combat the city's campaign of misinformation to get approval on the redevelopment project without a formal plan or identification of a developer.

"Helen Marshall should do the right thing and stand with the property owners and the working families of Willets Point and reject this plan," said Jerry Antonacci, WPIRA member. "At the very least, she should show some independence and make clear that her support is contingent on the city agreeing to not use eminent domain to take private property. Unfortunately, Marshall has continued the city's long neglect of Willets Point and refused to provide us with basic city services such as sanitary sewers despite the property tax bills we pay year after year. Hope springs eternal, so we call again on Marshall to side with working families over powerful developers."

###

The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA)

The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA) is dedicated to the development, improvement and growth of the Willets Point area by the businesses that reside there, and not by development schemes in which eminent domain is used to forcibly evict and raze those businesses. http://www.WPIRA.comwww.WPIRA.com

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

NY Times Building Altered Due to Climbing Trend

NYTimesBuildSide.jpg Architectural Record covers Forest City Ratner and The NY Times Corporation's response to being the proud owners of the tallest ladder in the world.

When the New York Times Building opened in late 2007, critics marveled at the 3-inch-diameter ceramic rods covering the façade of the 52-story skyscraper—the first glass tower with a sunscreen to be built in the United States. But last Wednesday, dozens of the trademark, and evidently climber-friendly, rods were removed just hours after the third person in five weeks attempted to scale the building. The decision was made as a safety measure to prevent future daredevils from mounting the high-rise that cost more than $1 billion to construct. Increased security in the area after the first stunt clearly was not enough to deter thrill seekers.

The 1.5-million-square-foot project was designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), based in Italy, with FXFOWLE in New York. The firms are working with The New York Times Company and its development partner, Forest City Ratner, to create measures that “will reduce and hopefully limit access to the ceramic screen of the building,” says Bernard Plattner, a partner at RPBW who oversaw the project. The New York Times Company has declined to comment on any changes to the building, although The New York Times newspaper reports that permanent glass panels will be installed to hinder access to glass canopies, which climbers have used as stepping stools to the rods.

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Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

July 17, 2008

A 311 call to Bloomberg: why is my AY-related FOIL request languishing?

Atlantic Yards Report

"Customer service" remains an oxymoron as Norman Oder waits for a response to a past-due FOIL request.

DearNorman01.gif

I filed a FOIL request with the mayor's office on May 8 and received a response dated May 19 from Counselor to the Mayor Anthony Crowell, indicating that I would get a response "within twenty days or less informing you of the status of your request."

I'm still waiting.

link

NoLandGrab: Hey Norman, maybe you can still call the Mayor at home.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

In court, the not-so-credible Professor Zimbalist gets shredded twice

Atlantic Yards Report

Professor Andrew Zimbalist's interview with Brain Lehrer this week marks the second time in as many months that the well known sports economist has faced tough questioning.

[Zimbalist's] credibility was further undermined last month when he testified as an expert witness in a trial in Seattle over the departure of the Sonics for Oklahoma City.
...
One spur to the settlement, surely, was the poor performance of expert witness Zimbalist, whose stint on the stand provoked headlines like "Sonics defense shreds professor's report" and "Sonics lawyer stymies sports economist."

The Sonics' lawyer rubs Zimbalist's face in the professor's own boilerplate report:

Zimbalist was there to describe the tangible and intangible values of the team, but, as the 6/17/08 Post-Intelligencer reported, in a blog headlined "Defense rebounds with ugly flurry against plaintiff's economist," the going was tough:

Sonics lawyer Paul Taylor then tore into Zimbalist, basically accusing the author of taking the same report he wrote for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2005 and using it for the Sonics, showing Zimbalist several passages from both reports and revealing striking similarities, almost to the word, nearly destroying Zimbalist's credibility.

Taylor, who lost out on many exchanges with former Seattle Center director Virginia Anderson on Monday, pounded away at Zimbalist, an embarrassing conclusion to a shaky day for the city.

Apparently the lack of peer review of Zimbalist's work has been an issue before:

Taylor even pointed to another legal proceeding in which Zimbalist lost credibility. In an opinion issued 1/7/08 in the antitrust case Kentucky Speedway vs. NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation, Kentucky-based federal judge William Bertelsman wrote:

Zimbalist’s approach… has not been tested; has not been subjected to peer review and publication; there are no standards controlling it; and there is no showing that it enjoys general acceptance within the scientific community. Further, it was produced solely for this litigation.
...
Still, the judge's criticism of Zimbalist’s novel approach sounds a lot like... Zimbalist’s not-peer-reviewed study for Forest City Ratner, produced solely to get the project passed.

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Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Sports Economist Battered in Blogosphere

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (dddb.net):

[T]he interesting news event over the past two days has been watching the multimedia dust-up between Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist (one-time sports arena critic and author of the laudatory FCR report on Atlantic Yards) and Norman Oder from Atlantic Yards Report, who needs no introduction in this space. The exchange has also been enlightening for students of the changing dynamics of the media landscape.

For Prof. Zimbalist it started innocently enough, with an appearance on the Brian Lehrer show in this All-Star week ostensibly to discuss the economics of baseball. But early on host Lehrer began to home in on Zimbalist's apparent new enthusiasm for the tax-exempt financing that the Yankees (and the Nets) are seeking, finally saying with some surprise "So you’re really a defender of the Steinbrenners, on these various controversies?"

Zimbalist began a quick verbal tap dance but it was too late.

Click here for a the highlight reel.

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

With Threat of Fare Hike, More Ideas for MTA to Save

The Knickerblogger

How can the MTA demand a fare increase when they are giving money away to billionaires like Bruce Ratner - in down turned economic times, no less?

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Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

July 16, 2008

I.R.S. Could Crimp Bloomberg's Big Plans

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The Observer's lead real estate reporter takes an in-depth look at New York City's furious efforts to preserve tax-exempt financing for its favorite son, Bruce Ratner.

As the Bloomberg administration scrambles to get its development projects in the ground amid a slowing economy and a waning political term, two major planned initiatives the city has championed face a formidable hurdle: the Internal Revenue Service.

For the financing plan for the Atlantic Yards housing and sports arena complex in Brooklyn, and for one being considered for the planned middle-income-housing mega-complex at Hunter’s Point South in Queens, the city would need a favorable ruling from the I.R.S. or face substantially higher costs for both projects. Negative rulings from the federal agency could result in tens of millions of dollars in added costs, putting up new obstacles to major developments that have already seen ambitions scaled back.

For both projects, the city wants to use tax-exempt financing, a method that lowers costs substantially—perhaps more than 15 percent—with the bulk of the savings coming out of federal tax revenues.

And, at least in the case of Atlantic Yards, the I.R.S. is rather wary, as it has called the financing method a “loophole” that it has ordered closed.

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NoLandGrab: We haven't rooted this hard for the IRS since "The Untouchables."

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Author deMause on Zimbalist: "a lot of people don't take him as seriously"

Atlantic Yards Report

Journalist Neil deMause's thoughts on the impact of Professor Andrew Zimbalist's Atlantic Yards economic impact analysis:

I don’t think it's destroyed his reputation by any means, but I think there are a lot of people who don’t take him as seriously as they used to. I certainly don’t. I used to think he was somebody who you could go to and would give you a straight answer based on his years and decades of study. I’ve just seen too much work by him that seems to be bending over backwards to make a project look good. His response, when I ask him about it, is What do you know, you’re not an economist.

I’m like, Yeah, I know I’m a journalist. That’s why my job is to question the economists. So, if the numbers don’t add up, I’ve got a calculator. So it’s been very difficult. Andy has always been a prickly guy in the best of times and he’s never taken kindly to people disagreeing with him on stuff.

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NoLandGrab: Yesterday, the prickly professor sent a follow-up note to Brian Lehrer, after facing tough questioning on the local weekday radio talk show.

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

State Must Release Columbia Expansion Papers, Court Rules

City Room [NY Times blog]
By John Eligon

Good news for property owners in West Harlem fighting the forced seizure of their property for Columbia University expansion plans.

A state appellate court on Tuesday upheld a decision ordering the Empire State Development Corporation to release documents regarding the expansion of Columbia University to a group that opposes the plans.

The court voted, 3 to 1, to uphold a June 2007 decision by Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich of State Supreme Court that said the corporation’s decision to hire a consultant that also worked for Columbia was a conflict of interest. That conflict meant that correspondences between the corporation and the consultant were not exempt from public disclosure laws and needed to be released, Justice Kornreich ruled.

But the appellate court did find that certain documents were indeed exempt and did not need to be released.

The state in 2006 hired the consultant Allee King Rosen & Fleming Inc., or A.K.R.F., to conduct a study to determine whether the state would be justified in using its power of eminent domain to condemn property sought by Columbia for its expansion. A.K.R.F. was already working with Columbia on the expansion.

Consultants dealing with state agencies may be exempt from public disclosure laws, but in this case the judges found that a conflict of interest nullified the exemption in certain areas.

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NoLandGrab: AKRF was hired to conduct the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

Atlantic Yards Report, Appellate court upholds ESDC/AKRF conflict in Columbia case

In a somewhat similar case regarding Atlantic Yards, a Supreme Court Justice ruled that it was improper for a lawyer to work simultaneously for developer Forest City Ratner and the ESDC--but the ruling was overturned when the appellate court found the representation was consecutive rather than simultaneous.

Unresolved: what exactly are the ESDC's guidelines regarding consecutive representation? How much of a gap must there be?

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Marty Markowitz Must Go

Lucid Culture

Brooklyn Borough President and Atlantic Yards Cheerleader in Chief Marty Markowitz gave folks their money's worth at a free outdoor concert:

Last night at Wingate Field, Markowitz had the nerve to shill for the [Atlantic Yards] project in front of an all-black crowd (ok, there were two white people there) who will be the first to suffer when plastic-and-sheetrock luxury highrises start to pop up in Crown Heights. If he wasn’t so old, one would have thought that he’d just mainlined an ounce of coke. The guy would. Not. Shut. Up. On and on he rambled, kissing the ass of every local politician he could think of, shilling shamelessly for the corporations who sponsor his pet project, summertime outdoor concerts.

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Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

Deconstructing Professor Zimbalist's dubious defenses of his radio appearance

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently Professor Andrew Zimbalist got pretty rattled during an on-air interview with Brian Lehrer, who had done some homework and referenced Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report blog — rattled enough to send in a follow-up email trying to explain himself.

Norman Oder posted a rebuttal of Zimbalist's analysis in a running commentary.

AZ: Clearly, a group of people are angry about the economic impact report I wrote for FCRC. I stand by that report. It does not contradict anything in the scholarly literature and it does not contradict anything that I have written. I explain this clearly in my report. While it is true that I was paid for writing this report, it is also true that I voiced support for the project before I talked to anyone at FCRC. (Incidentally, the Mets are also using the same tax exempt/PILOT scheme to finance their new field and the team is also paying for the lion's share of development expenses.)

He stands by the report? That's an empty statement, given that he claimed that "Forest City Ratner was simply taking advantage" of existing tax exemptions rather than the special benefits noted by the Independent Budget Office's September 2005 report on Atlantic Yards.

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NoLandGrab: "It does not contradict anything in the scholarly literature?" Yeah, and "mission accomplished" in Iraq, oil prices are at historical highs because of shadowy faceless "speculators" and jackalopes are real if you want them to be.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

LPC to Look at Prospect Heights Historic District

From a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article about recent progress in the effort to secure landmark status for a large portion of Prospect Heights:

The MAS [Municipal Art Society], PHNDC [Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council] and the hundreds of residents who have written letters to the commission believe that the neighborhood’s rich historic architecture — with blocks of beautiful Italianate and neo-Grec rowhouses, interspersed with churches, small commercial and apartment buildings — is threatened by the Atlantic Yards project, a proposal by the developer Forest City Ratner to build 16 towers and a sports arena on a 22-acre site adjacent to the neighborhood.

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Posted by lumi at 4:20 AM

July 15, 2008

Developer Cuts Back on Plans for Tower to House Baseball’s Cable Network

The New York Times
by Charles Bagli

A 21-story office building planned in East Harlem for Major League Baseball is shrinking.

The tower’s developer, Vornado Realty Trust, had planned to begin construction in April on what would be the home for professional baseball’s newly created cable network, which is scheduled to make its debut in January with 50 million subscribers.

But, according to real estate executives and city officials, Vornado’s inability to finance the $435 million project, known as Harlem Park, has delayed construction and is doing what critics who had complained about the tower’s size could not: reduce its height by about a third. That is in part because the developer seems to have had problems signing up other tenants for the building.

Vornado is now considering a revised plan for a 14-story building at 125th Street and Park Avenue and renegotiating its lease with Major League Baseball, the executives and officials said.
...

It is the latest example of the difficulty developers have had in trying to borrow money for projects amid the national debt crisis, even projects that only a few months ago seemed to be on the fast track. After completing the excavation for his Beekman Tower project downtown, the developer Bruce Ratner had to stop work for three months while his company went from bank to bank putting together the construction financing.

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NoLandGrab: Judging from the most recent developments in the financial and real estate markets, securing financing, especially for mega-projects, is going to get harder before it gets easier.

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

Sports economist Zimbalist criticizes "bogus" economic impact studies, fails to look in mirror

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on yesterday's appearance by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, and all we can say is that for the sake of his professional reputation, the Professor is lucky that Brian didn't open the phones to the speed-dialing AYR blogger.

So there he was, sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, on the Brian Lehrer Show yesterday to talk about the All-Star Game, and suddenly he had to defend his public statements supporting the Yankee Stadium deal and his not-peer-reviewed study endorsing Atlantic Yards.

Had there been an equal debate, Zimbalist would have been flattened. He continued to insist that the Yankees deserved praise for paying for their stadium, without acknowledging the host of special benefits to the team. He continued to insist that Forest City Ratner was using only as-of-right benefits for Atlantic Yards, despite ironclad evidence to the contrary.

And when challenged to resolve the inconsistency between his criticism of the West Side Stadium deal and his support for Atlantic Yards, he became defensive and suggested that the former might have emerged a decade ago, when it was actually several months after he issued his report for Forest City Ratner.

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NoLandGrab: Like "jumbo shrimp" and "military intelligence," "sports economist" is obviously an oxymoron.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Marty's On The Block

The Footprint Gazette

While it sometimes seems that Brooklyn's Borough President is everywhere at once, there's one place he's not.

MartyOnTheBlock.jpg

Recently I was leafing through a copy of Brooklyn!!, the free newspaper distributed by the borough prez's office that tends to show up in our apt. building foyer, and as I was gleefully perusing the various Brooklyn vignettes portrayed on its pages I came across the section called "Marty's On The Block." Now there's a headline I was excited to find! Finally we'll get a little attention from our borough president.

Full of hope, I scanned all the little pictures trying to find the scene where Marty Markowitz is explaining to Bruce Ratner how he had made a terrible mistake in facilitating the misery of so many nice people in and around the proposed site of the Atlantic Yards project. Well I couldn't find that shot, so maybe there's a picture in here somewhere where he's asking the utilities companies to please stop shutting off the water and gas of the tenants in the footprint. Yikes! That shot's not there either. Well jeez, there's like 25 pictures here, there must be one where he asks the construction workers to refrain from harassing the good people of Prospect Heights by slamming their backhoes into the ground so early in the morning.

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Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

Actually, it's 18.6% About Basketball...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB ran Bruce Ratner's "it's 100% about basketball" claim through the bee-ess-o-meter, and arrived at a different tabulation.

Which leads one to ponder the fact that actually, according to the KPMG report on the economics of Atlantic Yards back in December, 2006, the Arena will only be used 41 times a year for the Nets, with another 179 "non-NBA activities." What might those activities be? Well, looking at this summer's fare in another 20,000 seat arena, the Verizon Center in DC, that could include: WWE presents Monday Night RAW LIVE ("featuring Batista, John Cena, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, Triple H, Edge and More"); Pop Tarts Presents American Idols Live – 2008 Tour; Women of Faith; and George Michael's first North American tour in 17 years.

That means in actuality, the Nets Arena is approximately 18% about basketball, and 82% about....other stuff. But when you're asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, it's probably not quite so effective to say that most of the time you'll be featuring Pop Tarts, George Michaels and really big guys in tights....

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NoLandGrab: NLG's 10-year-old nephew would actually be okay with it being "100% about the wrestling."

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

HOLD 'EM ACCOUNTABLE: DEVELOPER FILING PROPOSED

A City Council bill would require those who use public subsidies to spell out a project's public impact.

CityLimits.org
by Lauren Victory

With controversy erupting around practically every major new development in New York City – the new Yankee Stadium, Ground Zero and Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, to name a few – concerned citizens have been looking toward the public review and approval process for a stronger voice. The help they seek may have arrived recently, in the form of the introduction of City Council Bill 801, titled Community Impact Reports.

Aimed at those seeking economic development benefits such as direct project subsidies, low-interest financing, tax benefits, tax-exempt financing, and tax-exempt bonds and grants, the bill would require the developer of each project to submit a comprehensive report to City Council outlining the intended social and economic effects of the project on the surrounding communities. Organizations in contract with the city for the purpose of providing social services, or those that create affordable housing units exclusively, are exempt from the requirement.

“We need to have a way to monitor the benefits that are given to developers,” said Councilman Thomas White Jr., a Queens Democrat who chairs Council's Economic Development Committee. Around the city, such benefits are legion: In fiscal year 2006, the New York City Industrial Development Agency alone granted at least $700 million in tax breaks to individual firms.

Councilman Albert Vann, in consultation with Councilmembers White, Bill de Blasio, Letitia James and others, created the bill to "help us to understand how city funds are being used in communities, to help them directly," according to Vann’s legislative director, Dottie Conway. Introduced June 29, the bill is now being further shaped by feedback and is not yet scheduled for a hearing or a vote.

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NoLandGrab: Critics question how effective this legislation might actually be, and some see it as just another spin on City- and State-mandated environmental reviews, which are produced by the developer and always seem to arrive at the same, ain't-this-great outcome.

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

July 14, 2008

The Future of Baseball

The Brian Lehrer Show
WNYC Radio

Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder dominates the comments section — and scores an on-air mention — during Brian Lehrer's interview with the author of the Forest City Ratner-commissioned "economic analysis" of the Atlantic Yards project.

Should taxpayers’ money fund gleaming new stadiums in a time of economic downturn? On the eve of the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium, sports business expert Andrew Zimbalist gives his take on the future of America’s favorite pastime.

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NoLandGrab: Zimbalist's claim that "the Yankees are paying the full freight" of the $1.3 billion cost of their new stadium is pure fantasy, and calls into question "the Ol' Professor's" credentials as an economist. Field of Schemes author Neil deMause has a far more realistic estimate, updated in June, which shows that it's the taxpayers, not the Yankees, who are carrying the load.

Posted by eric at 12:24 PM

Newark watching the finances as arena finishes its emergency system

The Newark Star-Ledger
by Maura McDermott

PrudentialCenter.jpg

Next month, the Newark Downtown Core Redevelopment Corp. will launch a national search for a firm specializing in financial performance and maintenance of arenas, said William Crawley, the agency's chief operating officer. The agency oversaw construction of the arena and now must make sure it lives up to its promises.

The goal is to make sure the Devils pay the city what they owe, maintain the arena properly and stay competitive, Crawley said.
...

Hiring an expert to analyze the arena's performance is a wise decision, said Howard Bloom, publisher of SportsBusinessNews.com.

"It's the responsible thing to do to make sure the taxpayers get as much of a return on their investment," Bloom said. "It's a matter of checks and balances."

The agency also aims to have the management firm measure how the venue stacks up against its competitors, Crawley said.
...

The trouble would come if the Nets build their planned arena in Brooklyn, adding to the competition from the Izod Center in the Meadowlands and other nearby venues, Bloom said.

New Jersey officials have sought to attract the Nets to Newark, but owner Bruce Ratner insists he will break ground on a Brooklyn arena by the end of the year.

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NoLandGrab: Should Bruce Ratner actually succeed in building Atlantic Yards, close monitoring of the revenue due taxpayers would certainly be wise. But if history is any guide, his elected and appointed enablers in City government would likely just take his word for it.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

FCR consultant Zimbalist (in 2003): "no rationale" for federal subsidy of projects like AY arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Ever wonder why Forest City Ratner consultant Andrew Zimbalist, the esteemed sports economist, titled his report (first issued in May 2004) on the developer's project Estimated Fiscal Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New York State Treasuries?

Well, the report was aimed at getting city and state officials to back the project. And they did, like lemmings--as did editorialists.

But this was no "solid and verifiable analysis," as Frank Rashid of the Tiger Stadium Fan Club at a 3/29/07 hearing told Congress should be required for publicly funded projects.

After all, had Zimbalist calculated the impact on the federal treasury, well, he would've had to tell the truth and call it a loss from that angle, given that the subsidy for tax-exempt bonds--now worth perhaps $165 million to FCR--falls largely on federal taxpayers. (The arena has more than doubled in cost since Zimbalist issued his report in 2004, so the federal tax exemption has grown significantly.)

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Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

Are the Nets' roster moves partly in case the team might be sold?

Reblogging Atlantic Yards Report, reblogging Nets Daily:

NetIncome, the blogger behind NetsDaily, is a critical supporter of the Nets and their endeavors, so his musings about the front-office strategy are worth remembering, just in case Forest City Ratner turns to Plan B:

We find the Nets’ policy of not signing players for more than two years a bit rigid… and some of us are skeptical that it’s all about Lebron. We suspect it’s about cutting back on salary commitments just in case Brooklyn falls through and the team is put up for sale. Whenever any business with poor growth prospects starts cutting back on long-term commitments, selling assets, investors believe that company is “in play”, meaning up for sale.

In other words, maybe the Nets are clearing space to sign superstar LeBron James, a friend of part-owner Jay-Z, when he becomes a free agent in 2010. Or maybe not.

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Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

Landmarks May Stem Atlantic Yards Area Development

The NY Sun

The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission is holding a hearing tomorrow to "calendar" a proposed historic district for the Prospect Heights neighborhood, the first significant step needed for the area to receive the protected historic district status.

While none of the footprint of the current Atlantic Yards project would be affected by the proposed designation, it would create a surrounding area that could hinder further expansion.
...
The Municipal Arts Society, the group organizing the legal opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, the opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council are applauding the city's move for historic designation.

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Atlantic Yards Report, Missing the point on the Prospect Heights landmarking & AY

Norman Oder thinks that The NY Sun conflated the stance of serveral community groups:

Those most supporting the landmarking process are not major opponents of Atlantic Yards; the Municipal Art Society, for example, wants to "mend it, not end it," via the BrooklynSpeaks coalition. Given the scope of the proposed district, the headline would better have read: Landmarks May Stem Prospect Heights Overdevelopment.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

July 13, 2008

Funds Misappropriated at 2 Nonprofit Groups

The NY Times
By Stephanie Strom

NYC ACORN, the group that signed the Atlantic Yards affordable housing pact with Bruce Ratner, and which professes to advocate for the underserved, has been concealing a dark secret for several years. Even after the discovery of the misappropriation of nearly a million dollars by the founder's brother, the national organization decided not to disclose the fact to its own board and continued to keep the brother on the payroll.

NYC ACORN Director Bertha Lewis, who signed the housing agreement with Bruce Ratner, is now interim national director.

A whistle-blower forced Acorn to disclose the embezzlement, which involved the brother of the organization’s founder, Wade Rathke.

The brother, Dale Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million from Acorn and affiliated charitable organizations in 1999 and 2000, Acorn officials said, but a small group of executives decided to keep the information from almost all of the group’s board members and not to alert law enforcement.

Dale Rathke remained on Acorn’s payroll until a month ago, when disclosure of his theft by foundations and other donors forced the organization to dismiss him.

“We thought it best at the time to protect the organization, as well as to get the funds back into the organization, to deal with it in-house,” said Maude Hurd, president of Acorn. “It was a judgment call at the time, and looking back, people can agree or disagree with it, but we did what we thought was right.”

The amount Dale Rathke embezzled, $948,607.50, was carried as a loan on the books of Citizens Consulting Inc., which provides bookkeeping, accounting and other financial management services to Acorn and many of its affiliated entities.

Wade Rathke said the organization had signed a restitution agreement with his brother in which his family agreed to repay the amount embezzled in exchange for confidentiality.

Wade Rathke stepped down as Acorn’s chief organizer on June 2, the same day his brother left, but he remains chief organizer for Acorn International L.L.C.

He said the decision to keep the matter secret was not made to protect his brother but because word of the embezzlement would have put a “weapon” into the hands of enemies of Acorn, a liberal group that is a frequent target of conservatives who object to its often strident advocacy on behalf of low- and moderate-income families and workers.

Wade Rathke said he learned of the problem when an employee of Citizens Consulting alerted him about suspicious credit card transactions. An internal investigation uncovered inappropriate charges on the cards that led back to his brother.

“Clearly, this was an uncomfortable, conflicting and humiliating situation as far as my family and I were concerned,” he said, “and so the real decisions on how to handle it had to be made by others.”

The executive director of New York Acorn, Bertha Lewis, who has been named director of an interim management committee set up to run the national group’s day-to-day operations, said Dale Rathke was paid about $38,000 a year but that none of that money was used to pay back Acorn.

article

NoLandGrab: This makes you wonder what else ACORN has been keeping from its constituents and supporters. Keep in mind that ACORN stands to profit financially from Atlantic Yards by acting as the administrator for the project's affordable housing component.

Posted by lumi at 4:28 PM

Prospect Heights Historic District Advances

revised_study_area-300x216.jpg

Gowanus Lounge

The creation of a Prospect Heights Historic District is making progress. The Landmarks Preservation Commission will “calendar” the district this Tuesday (7/15), which is the first step in formally creating it. This would lead to a public hearing and a vote on the District on October 28. Per a release from the Municipal Art Soceity, which teamed with the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Corporation to push for the district, the Chair of the PHNDC says: “The Landmarks Commission has obviously recognized the threat posed to the character of one of Brooklyn’s most well-preserved brownstone neighborhoods. The pressure from the Atlantic Yards project and other recent developments are of grave concern to the hundreds of local residents who have written in support of historic designation for Prospect Heights.”

link

Posted by amy at 4:02 PM

In Marty's Brooklyn!!, Kanye but not Bruce at the Brooklyn Ball

martykanye.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the latest issue of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional Brooklyn!! newspaper is out and, as in the past, Atlantic Yards gets short shrift: I couldn't find a mention. (It's not online yet, but here are past issues.)

However, as the snapshot at right suggests, there was an opportunity. According to the caption, hip-hop star Kanye West "performed at the Brooklyn Museum's Brooklyn Ball, celebrating the opening of artist Takashi Murakami's retrospective." Unmentioned: the guest of honor was Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, and the event provoked a forceful protest.

link

Posted by amy at 3:57 PM

Nets face lean years, Brooklyn or no Brooklyn

NewsOK.com
by Ian O'Connor

Let us get this straight. Bruce Ratner says it's "100% about basketball" at the same time that he's scuttling Nets' salaries faster than he's knocking down buildings in Prospect Heights. All so the team can position itself to sign Jay-Z protege LeBron James in 2010 (wink-wink, we're not tampering, David Stern). In the meantime, James's Cleveland Cavaliers, a legitimate NBA contender, are nearing the point where they will have enough salary cap room to sign another legit star to help LeBron bring a championship to Cleveland — while the Nets are riding an express elevator to the NBA's cellar.

The Bergen Record's Ian O'Connor lays out the hazards of wishing upon a star in the NBA.

The Nets have been busy clearing salary cap space, office space, locker room space, a parking space, all kinds of space for James. They weren't just getting rid of Richard Jefferson when they made the trade with Milwaukee for Yi and Bobby Simmons; they were getting rid of Richard Jefferson's wage.

But way back when, before he spent a summer acquiring Allan Houston, Chris Childs and Larry Johnson for the Knicks, Ernie Grunfeld told me the most frightening scenario for an NBA executive is clearing out money under the salary cap and then finding nobody worthwhile to take it.

"That happened to Chicago, after Michael Jordan,” Rod Thorn said. "They had significant cap room and they tried to give it to Tracy McGrady, and they tried to give it to (Kevin) Garnett at different times and it didn't work.

"That's the misnomer about having cap space … . If you have a team that's just not very good, to think that you are going to get a top quality free agent is kind of pie in the sky.”
...

Sure, the Nets have Jay-Z and their pending palace, which probably won't be ready until the start of the 2011-12 season. With Ratner losing an estimated $40 million a year in the Meadowlands, and with the purchase of the team setting him back $300 million, the Nets are expected to have cost their owner nearly $600 million by the time he lands in Brooklyn.

At those prices, Ratner will want to make a splash in the new digs. And nobody splashes quite like LeBron.

But will the Nets be good enough to even make James' Fave Five?

article

NoLandGrab: You'd think Bruce Ratner would have learned his lesson about coveting things that aren't his when he started eyeing Daniel Goldstein's apartment.

Posted by eric at 1:43 PM

July 12, 2008

Cracks in the Facade

crack7.08.JPG

The Footprint Gazette

I know I voice a lot of complaints on this blog about the way the long term residents of this neighborhood continue to get harassed and demeaned by Bruce Ratner, Marty Markowitz and every other complicit sell out involved in this boondoggle.

But the real victim here is the structural integrity of a good strong building. One built the way they used to build them. Not like these bland Home Depot jobs that are so common. Here are some photos of some of the more recent cracks that are showing up in our building. It don't take no sleuth to recognize that that ain't good. There are also cracks extending from floor to ceiling in my apt. and I've been told by other folks in the building that they have the same cracks in theirs.

But you know what, I take it back. The real victim is us. This morning I woke up to find the gas had been turned off in our building. Earlier in the week it was the water. No notice, no nothing. Last week when they turned our water back on my toilet filled with dirt leaving it unusable for most of the long weekend. I had to have a super unlock a vacant apt. so I wouldn't have to hold it in in celebration o four nation's independence.

link

Posted by amy at 9:20 AM

The Prospect Heights Historic District moves forward

lpc_draft_study_area.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

From a press release issued yesterday by the Municipal Art Society:
On Tuesday, July 15 the Landmarks Preservation Commission will “calendar” the Prospect Heights Historic District, the first step toward protecting one of Brooklyn’s finest – and most endangered – historic neighborhoods.
...
Prospect Heights is rich in historic architecture, with blocks of beautiful Italianate and neo-Grec rowhouses, interspersed with churches, small commercial and apartment buildings. Located just north of Prospect Park, the neighborhood has seen few changes since it was first developed in the late-19th Century. Today it is threatened by the Atlantic Yards project, a proposal by the developer Forest City Ratner to build 16 towers and a sports arena on a 22-acre site adjacent to the neighborhood.
...
Given that the Municipal Art Society has on previous occasions described the AY site as part of Prospect Heights, I'm going to consider that "adjacent to the neighborhood" line a lapse. My previous reportage on the landmarking effort is here and here.

link

Posted by amy at 9:12 AM

Nets land Najera, NBA's tenth most marketable player (they already have #9)

nbamarketable7.08.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

The New Jersey Nets have signed free agent forward Eduardo Najera, who's hardly a star, but is the NBA's only player from Mexico. He's one of the four players bannered on the NBA's Spanish-language site (above; click to enlarge) and is deemed by MSNBC to be the league's tenth most marketable player.
...
The Nets also just acquired Yi Jianlian, who notches #9 on MSNBC's list, though he, like Najera, is not a star like the other eight on the list.

link

Posted by amy at 9:01 AM

Forest City in New York News

stanns7.08.jpg

Probation Office to Share Building With Elite Brooklyn Hts. School Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Not only is the Brooklyn House of Detention looking to expand in Boerum Hill, but now a federal probation office is set to open next month at 147 Pierrepont St. (One Pierrepont Plaza) in Brooklyn Heights, the same building that houses middle and high school classrooms and a computer center for the prestigious Saint Ann’s School.
...
According to Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, the probation office has signed a 10-year lease for the space. It is owned by Forest City Ratner, who Garoppolo says, “did their due diligence in checking us out. They met with our officers, looked at our current space and had about 100 questions for me. They realized that [for the neighborhood] it wouldn’t be any different from having the US Attorney’s office there.”

Some like Seaport plan’s tower, others say build a school Downtown Express

Unless General Growth Properties adds a school to its plan to overhaul the Seaport, Community Board 1’s leader won’t support the plan.
Julie Menin, chairperson of the board, made that clear when she spoke Tuesday night at the first public meeting on General Growth’s plans for Pier 17. General Growth hopes to build a 495-foot hotel and condo tower in the Seaport, along with lower-rise retail, a boutique hotel and a large open plaza.
...
The neighborhood already has a 76-story tower going up on Beekman St., she said. Developer Forest City Ratner is building the tower, which will contain a new K-8 school.
“It’s all the high-rise we need and more for the next millennium,” Brown said.

Posted by amy at 8:53 AM

July 11, 2008

When Ratner says it's 100% about basketball, it's time to check the b.s. meter

Atlantic Yards Report

Netsstore.com.jpg Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner insists that "It’s 100 percent about basketball," but local sportswriters aren't buying it and neither is the skeptical Norman Oder, who recaps the coverage and breaks down the pr doublespeak.

I suspect that Bruce Ratner does, in fact, let his basketball pros make (at least most of) the basketball decisions. However, the line between basketball and marketing, between sports and business, as the Nets have shown with their sponsor-stuffed web site, is virtually non-existent.

article

NoLandGrab: The Nets just posted a $7.2-million loss for last quarter and the team is looking fairly mediocre on paper — we shudder to think what kind of shape the team and its finances would be in if it wasn't "100% about basketball."

Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

Back to Work: Demolition of Ward Bakery Resumes

From Brit in Brooklyn:

WardDemoResume-BIB.jpg

After a brief pause due to a stop work order, the destruction goes on.

Atlantic Yards Report, Some more views of the AY footprint & the Ward Bakery demolition
Norman Oder just posted additional photos, with captions, taken by Adrian Kinloch of Brit in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 4:26 AM

Nets Slather on the Reassurances

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (dddb.net):

This has become the week of the Great Reassurance, as Nets spokespeople ramp up a vigorous campaign to convince the world that the Nets are really coming to Brooklyn. Both No Land Grab and Atlantic Yards Report have excellent rundowns on the action, ranging from wooing 40 fans at the Barclays Center showroom in the The New York Times building, to a press conference in which Bruce Ratner seemed to slide the actual opening date a bit further out into the next decade.

And what about Bruce Ratner's attempt to reassure New Jersey fans that getting to the game will be a cinch?

DDDB listens in on the Nets Daily comments, where "Trenton" has bad news for Bruce Ratner:

Personally, I would not drive up to the Meadowlands, hop on a bus, then ride to the game, hop on the bus again and drive home.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:11 AM

Forest City in the News

The New York Times, After 3rd Climber, Times Alters Its Building’s Facade

The New York Times began removing dozens of the distinctive horizontal ceramic rods that sheathe its year-old building in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon, hours after a man climbed up the side of the skyscraper. It was the third time such a stunt had occurred in the last five weeks.

The alteration of the facade of the 52-story tower, which was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and opened last year, represented a reversal for The Times, which had insisted that it would not remove the rods after two men scaled the building on June 5, using the veil of rods as a ladder.
...
The official also said that The Times had increased security after the June 5 episodes, but that its efforts had recently been reduced, for reasons that were not immediately clear. It appeared that Mr. Malone had breached one of the plywood barriers placed on the glass canopies encircling the building after the earlier climbs, the official said.

Asked about the statements by the official, Ms. Mathis declined to comment.

The tower is jointly owned by The Times and Forest City Ratner, its development partner.

The rods have been widely recognized as a trademark feature of the tower. They were designed to let sunlight through while limiting heat, helping the building use energy more efficiently. Representatives of Mr. Piano could not be reached for comment about the decision to remove some of the rods.

Reuters, Suburbs feeling the pinch as fuel prices soar

While home prices in the suburbs have crashed, apartments in city centers are in demand. Home builders across the country are frantically trying to unload land they had intended for new subdivisions. And planners are rethinking how they can meet demand for housing.

One such place is Stapleton, on the site of what used to be Denver's airport. Its developer, real estate company Forest City, puts homes within walking distance of schools and stores while linking them to the workplace by public transportation.

TransCanadaRadio, Forest City Lovers: Delightfully engaging

In the heart of Canada’s largest city, Forest City Lovers — Kat Burns (vocals/guitar/piano), Kyle Donnelly (bass/guitar/vocals), Mika Posen (violin/piano/vocals) and a string of drummers — have strived to tame the urban wilderness and add some melody to the chaos.

Posted by lumi at 3:54 AM

Dave Chappelle Fundraiser Turns Out Even Worse Than You Could Imagine

Gawker

Yesterday, The Brooklyn Paper published an account of the Dave Chapelle no-show at a fundraiser for anti-Atlantic Yards US Congressional candidate Kevin Powell. The night was capped off by when an Atlantic Yards-friendly reporter from a rival paper took a turn at the mic.

Later in the day, the Felliniesque episode landed on Gawker, complete with a YouTube clip.

Bad news for Real World cast member-turned Congressional candidate (D-Pop Culture) Kevin Powell: Dave Chappelle totally spaced out on Powell's fundraiser in Brooklyn last night, costing him the crucial Chappelle-fan vote! The comedian was supposed to headline the fundraising show, but never appeared, possibly because he is crazy. Then Chris Rock refused to go on too, in solidarity! And it only got worse for Powell: a drunk journalist, for chrissake, tried to grab the mic and steal the show [UPDATE: And there's a video!]:

NoLandGrab: To be fair, no eyewitnesses stated that Witt was "drunk," though we can attest that he is a "journalist."

Posted by lumi at 3:40 AM

July 10, 2008

LEBRON-TO-NETS IS MATTER OF WAIT-&-YI

NY Post
by Jay Greenberg

Why, if you bought the spin, you'd think that Yi was Yao, and the Nets weren't the also-ran franchise they've become under the stewardship of Bruce C. Ratner.

Rod Thorn brought the Nets out of the wilderness once, so is trusted by Bruce Ratner to do it again. But it's not the owner, actually LeBron James, who will be the ultimate judge of Yi Jianlian, Devin Harris, Sean Williams and whatever other pieces Thorn has in place by 2010.

Whether from Brooklyn, Manhattan or Oklahoma City, the free-agent-to-be James will get his basketball money to the max. Hardly does LeBron need to play two blocks or one borough away from Madison Avenue to be any more the recognizable pitchman he already is.

If James's good buddy Jay-Z is part-owner of a bad team because Yi hasn't amounted to much more than a 7-foot hill of string beans, the Nets will pay big time for not having made a better trade of a valuable commodity like Richard Jefferson.

In the meantime, with groundbreaking at the Atlantic Yards scheduled for November and court challenges being knocked down like Yi does 15-footers, it's mostly Vince Carter vs. the wolf at the door at the Meadowlands. Although the wolf, like the patrons, must first find the door through Xanadu construction.

article

NoLandGrab: It's all about the basketball. It's all about the basketball. It's all about the basketball. It's all....

Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

Nets going 'international'

Newark Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

"It's a landmark day for this franchise," crowed jubilant owner Bruce Ratner, looking out over a full practice gym that included more than 40 Chinese media. "We got two terrific players. This region is very heavily Asian and Chinese. We now become a real international team."
...

Ratner, whose goal is to move the Nets into a borough that has a dense Chinese community -- there are 250,000 people of Chinese descent in Brooklyn -- says he knows that he must sell substance before cultural appeal.

"Success on the court is our best (method for) tapping into any market. Winning is the most important thing," the owner said. "On top of that, we do have a tremendous Chinese-American market in the tri-state area. If we have success, we will tap into that market in a major kind of way.

"But it's 100 percent about basketball."

article

NoLandGrab: Repeat after Bruce: "All about the basketball. All about the basketball. All about the basketball. All about...."

Posted by eric at 3:53 PM

Of Bard, and The Bard

Culturist [WNYC blog]
by Claudia La Rocco

This feeling was reinforced by the setting, Frank Gehry’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Gehry, though Canadian born, has been based in Los Angeles for decades, and his extravagant buildings have always seemed, to me, to represent a particularly American vision of the world - one that, depending on my frame of mind, can come off as wonderfully hopeful and expansive, or terribly wasteful and vulgar:

FisherCenterBardCollege.jpg

This was my first trip to Bard, and I was expecting to find the Gehry building utterly out of place on the gorgeous, verdant campus, like a gaudy spaceship that has crumpled to earth in a remote forest. But this one, unlike many Gehry buildings, won me over, prompting the first nice thoughts I’ve had about the architect since he clambered into bed with the Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner. The photo doesn’t really do justice to the odd delicacy of the building’s shimmery skin, which reflected the changing light as day shifted into night. The image, instead of alien machines, was of an alien itself, pulsing with strange life against a backdrop of plush evergreens.

article

NoLandGrab: "Verdant campus?" You mean, like this?

Posted by eric at 3:22 PM

MCMLV-Redemption At Last And The Plot Thickens

Random Fandom Red Sox NYC

O'Malley tries to get clearances to build Atlantic Yards. Robert Moses found ways to block this.

link

NoLandGrab: Moses blocked it, alright, but we're pretty sure Walter O'Malley never uttered the name "Atlantic Yards." That moniker is purely a Bruce Ratner marketing invention.

Posted by eric at 3:07 PM

With Yi Jianlian, the Nets Hope to Go Global

The New York Times
by Harvey Araton

Thinking expansively, going global, the Nets invited a billion Chinese to stream a news conference Wednesday on njnets.com and to communicate with the newly acquired forward, Yi Jianlian. Alas, the linking of the Far East to East Rutherford was apparently no instant triumph of digital interaction.

YiJianlian.jpg

At least Jeff from Hackensack was poised to post a query for Bobby Simmons, another new Net who hails from the less exotic basketball hotbed of Chicago.

New ventures take time, require patience, not unlike the building of an arena in densely populated Brooklyn and the development of a 20-year-old 7-footer, who in a tailored suit looks like a devotee of the Slim-Fast Diet.
...

Bruce C. Ratner, their principal owner, said that long-range planning was part of the process after the in-season trade of Jason Kidd, but he bristled when asked if the Yi deal was more of a marketing ploy.

“It’s 100 percent about basketball,” he said.

article

NoLandGrab: Sure, Bruce, like Atlantic Yards is 100% about "Jobs, Housing & Hoops."

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

Nets definitely coming to Brooklyn in... (um) 2010-ish, during the season, we think

Bruce Ratner's Nets organization has been doing an elaborate dance for years, trying to keep fans stoked for a move to Brooklyn, though the big day keeps getting pushed back.

NY Daily News, Yi helps Nets matter again

Yesterday, in a fit of honesty, Bruce Ratner placed the date during 2010-2011 season, perhaps close to the end, as NY Daily News reporter Julian Garcia reports on the paper's blog:

Owner Bruce Ratner revealed that the team is still scheduled to move to Brooklyn after two more full seasons in New Jersey but that the move may not occur until the middle of the 2010-2011 season, perhaps even toward the end of it. He said groundbreaking on the new Brooklyn arena is to begin in November.

NY Daily News, Nets' move to Brooklyn may not happen until 2010-2011

In Garcia's follow-up report for today's paper, Ratner's PR henchman Barry Baum tries his best to explain what his boss meant to say (perhaps for the benefit of investors?):

The Nets are still scheduled to move to Brooklyn. But as for exactly when that will happen, not even owner Bruce Ratner can say.

At the press conference to introduce new players Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons Wednesday, Ratner acknowledged that the move, which in recent months had been pushed back to the start of the 2010-2011 season, may not occur until that season is already underway. Ratner said that the move could occur late in the year.

Ratner's spokesperson, Barry Baum, clarified the remarks, saying that the team has acknowledged for awhile that the move may not occur until the 2010 "calendar year" as opposed to before that season.

"When (Ratner) says late in the year, he means late in 2010," Baum said.

Atlantic Yards Report, "Brooklyn is happening"? Nets brass now promise 2010-11 season
Back in mid-May, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report had already predicted that 2010 probably meant December 31, 2010. In the wake of Ratner's fumble, Baum's recovery attempt, and an increasingly tight construction timeline, Norman Oder thinks that 2011 makes more sense:

Less than two months ago, Forest City Ratner promised an opening during the 2010 calendar year. So team officials continue to hedge. Given the three-year bridge reconstruction schedule, 2011 still looks to me like a reasonable best-case scenario.

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

Closing Bell: Ward's Bakery Rubble

Yesterday, "Closing Bell" on Brownstoner featured a current view of the Ward Bakery demolition.

WardDemoBack-Bstoner.jpg

Brownstoner also posted on the filing of the appeal of the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement ("Appeal Over Atlantic Yards Suit is Filed").

The comments section features the prerennial debate between those who don't know what they are talking about and those who are sure that those-who-don't-know don't know what they are talking about, versus those who don't care and those who have too much time on their hands (at least we think).

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

After 3 Climbs, Facade at Times Building Is Altered

City Room, blog of The NY Times
By David W. Dunlap

Back in 2002, Bruce Ratner characterized the facade of 620 Eighth Avenue, the building co-owned by Ratner and the Times, as "pretty." Yesterday, after a third person climbed the building, the facade was deemed a "pretty" serious security threat and workers began removing ceramic rods.

NYTFacade-NYT.jpg

The screens of ceramic rods that float in front of the clear glass curtain wall are in many ways the building’s signature. “The complexity comes from the skin, the surface of the building actually vibrating, working with the weather,” Renzo Piano, the architect, said in 2001. Likening it to a “fabric of ceramic,” he called the screens a “suncoat” — as opposed to a raincoat — that would cut the transmission of light and heat into the interior, thereby permitting the use of clear, rather than tinted, glass.

Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Companies, which developed the building with the Times Company, said in 2002: “Mr. Piano refers to the skin as lace. I’ll use a word — it’s not an architectural word — to describe it: pretty.”

The scene was anything but pretty on Wednesday afternoon as four workers, standing on a canopy along the 41st Street side of the building, unclipped the rods from their frames and began piling them on a hand truck to be taken away.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

Nets to Ticket Holders: “Brooklyn is Happening”

Nets Daily covers a special reception meant to remind Nets fans "'Brooklyn is happening' in spite of various reports."

Officials added that the team still “anticipates” playing in the Barclays Center during the 2010-11 season and expects to have an official ground-breaking at the site later this year.

In other news from the reception, Nets Daily reports that the team plans to build a new practice facility somewhere in Brooklyn, adopt a new logo (we suggest our logo redesign), launch a local Chinese in-language campaign, provide a shuttle bus to service the 35% of New Jersey season-ticket holders that they anticipate will follow the team to Brooklyn, and offer season tickets at comparable prices to those of the Knicks.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

Fat and Sad and Caught in a Fire

The Footprint Gazette

Never mind having to carry gear around the Green Monster, FoGazy wonders how emergency services are supposed to access his building, and what 7 a.m. construction activity is doing to his health.

GreenMonster-FG.jpg

As it turns out, our building almost never catches on fire, which is great, but we have had a few gas leaks in the last couple years where firemen did have to rush into our building to take care of business. I am pretty sure if we had an emergency now we'd have to fend for ourselves. Fancy that, our building at risk and city agencies can't help.

Also in the hazardous to our health category is the fact that at 7am sharp every weekday morning our building starts shaking and echoing with sounds reminiscent of a Jurassic robo-battle. My work also requires me to work late many nights, so sleeping in is how I get my z's. The ruckus makes that difficult so I consistently sleep less than is optimal. According to a recent NYTimes article sleep deprivation can lead to high blood pressure, depression, being over-weight and diabetes. Meaning I'll be too fat and sad to get out my building when it catches on fire.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

The Chappelle (No) Show; Comic skips Powell fundraiser

The Brooklyn Paper

The local reporter better known for his affection for Bruce Ratner and the controversial Atlantic Yards project than his comedy routine took the mic at a Kevin Powell fundraiser:

Stephen Witt, a reporter from the New York Post-owned Courier-Life chain, seized the microphone to try his hand at stand-up comedy during the delay.

“What do you know about Brooklyn 99-cent stores?” asked Witt, who last made headlines for hugging Atlantic Yards Bruce Ratner at a 2006 rally. “Have you ever been so broke that you had to put something on lay-away at a 99-cent store?”

Witt’s quip was met with boos.

“I could have been funnier, but I wasn’t too bad,” said Witt, who left the stage after a single joke.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:14 AM

July 9, 2008

Nets just watch sales of summer, poised to keep Nenad Krstic

NY Daily News
by Julian Garcia

[Nets' president Rod] Thorn, GM Kiki Vandeweghe and principal owner Bruce Ratner have all admitted in recent weeks that the Nets are looking down the road than the upcoming season, or even the one after that, while still hoping to keep the team "competitive." Ratner has called it a "rebuilding" phase. Thorn called it "retooling."

article

NoLandGrab: And loyal fans and season-ticket holders of the New Jersey Nets might want to call it quits.

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

When Worlds Collide, Kevin Powell stays Real

Brooklyn Born

KevinPowellBrooklynT.jpg

Original Brooklynite and blogger Um from Brooklyn encounters Congressional candidate and Atlantic Yards critic Kevin Powell at the Afro-Punk skate park over the recent holiday weekend.

Kevin Powell did share (in addition to his skater cred) his opposition to the current Atlantic Yards project. Making my vote for him more likely although it would be great if anyone had been asked to vote on Atlantic Yards at all.

article

NoLandGrab: "UBB" has some wise words for all of us to live by in the "About Me" section of his blog.

Posted by eric at 9:01 AM

Appeal filed in case challenging AY environmental review; hearing will be in September

Atlantic Yards Report

The last (for now, at least) major legal obstacle to the Atlantic Yards project moved forward one major step Monday as Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and 25 co-plaintiff organizations appealed state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden's January 11 dismissal of a challenge to the project’s environmental review.

(A new eminent domain case is expected to be filed in state court after being dismissed in federal court, where it was aimed because plaintiffs felt that venue offered a better shot. Another case in state court challenges the project timetable.)

While courts typically give much discretion to evaluating agencies, it will be interesting to see whether (and how) the state appeals court agrees that it’s OK to designate a building built at less than 60% of allowable development rights as blighted, or that it was legitimate to consider a professed ten-year project buildout as legitimate in the face of a mountain of evidence--including the construction schedule attached to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)--to the contrary.

(The insta-snarks at New York magazine’s web site said the appeal was the work of “Atlantic Yards haters.” It might be equally said that the appeal was the work of "haters-of-government-fudging.")

NoLandGrab: More snark from Atlantic Yards-hater haters at Curbed.com.

The appeal brief contends that the FEIS submitted by former Gov. George Pataki's Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) was fatally flawed; success in this case would not necessarily block the project but would require a new EIS and a new vote by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB).

Along with the ESDC and PACB, defendants in the case include the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR). A response from the defendants is expected in August and oral argument will be held in September; the defendants had requested that oral argument be held in the spring.

article

The NY Sun, Atlantic Yards Opponents File Appeal
The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Another Atlantic Yards Appeal Challenges Environmental Review

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

Tish's Footprint rap goes viral

The Daily News caught wind of Letitia James's rally speech, which was remixed and distributed by The Footprint Gazette:

NY Daily News, Ready to go viral

The revolution will be downloaded.

A local blogger has created a minor sensation by mixing a rousing anti-Atlantic Yards speech by councilwoman Letitia James with a guitar riff and drums.

Since Thursday, "The Letitia James Remix" had been downloaded more than 3,000 times from Prospect Heights blog The Footprint Gazette and other sites.
...
"Now it's official - I'm the coolest council person," said James (WFP-Prospect Heights)...

NoLandGrab: It took a remix for Letitia James to finally come clean and admit what we've known all along, that she is way cooler than the snivelling wonks and wannabees that typically skulk around council chambers.

The Footprint Gazette, In the news

We did it. We became part of the story. It's every bloggers dream... And it's nice to get a little recognition for my work. You know what would be even nicer? Having access to running water when I wake up.

NLG: No running water? That makes"FoGazy" this summer's hottest blogger.

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Center Hold, Your Friendly Neighborhood
NYC makes one blogger's list of candidates of Best Planned Cities, with a few caveats, gratis the New York Department of Shitty Planning:

[T]he truth is that New York’s planning department has been heading down hill since the 70’s and 80’s saw development of government housing projects in all 5 boroughs. Schools have attempted to improve by segmenting themselves into smaller, more focused institutions but are facing the same problems their behemoth predecessors endured. And the biggest building project New York has seen in decades, Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards Project, is an ostensible humanist project at best.

In the wake of this weekend's column by Michael O'Keeffe in the Daily News, two different blogs note that sportswriters seem to have the sharpest eye for political commentary:

Washington Square Park, NY Daily News: “Kiss my grass, Mayor Bloomberg” by Michael O’Keefe

I’m impressed by sports writers. They inject passion and reflect on history in a way that, for the most part, political writers and media covering City Hall don’t. If politics was covered the way sports is, perhaps more people would know what was going on and the world … our City … would be a different place.

DDDB.net, The Sportswriter Gets it Right

It's interesting that among mainstream New York newspapers, it's often the sports writers who have most pithily summed up the Atlantic Yards and Yankees deals for the corporate welfare exercises they are. As noted below, city columnist Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News deftly skewered the Yankees job promises last week. And then in the Sunday Daily News, sportswriter Michael O'Keeffe followed up with this observation about the state of big-money sports in the City of New York.

Note: Juan Gonzalez covers local issues for the Daily News, not sports.

Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

Forest City in the News

Forest City Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject is mentioned in a quote in an opinion piece covering Cleveland's costly and floundering convention center.

One critical point is that municipalities are subsidizing nearby hotels to serve the convention centers, even though they are privately developed and owned. The idea seemed farfetched until we stumbled over an article about a Forest City hotel project in Pittsburgh that's awaiting subsidies.

Cleveland Indy Media Center, WHERE'S IS THAT MEDICAL MART THAT IS COSTING US 40 MILLION A YEAR

I e-mailed Heywood Sanders, professor of Urban Studies in the Dept. of Political Science at Trinity University at San Antonio and a long-time student of issues involving convention centers. I wanted to find out his current outlook on new convention centers, and particularly Cleveland’s situation.

“The prognosis looks grim,” writes Sanders as he notes that a number of major urban development projects – naming Ballpark Village in St. Louis, Grand Avenue in Los Angeles and Atlantic Yards (Forest City project) in Brooklyn – “are being scaled back or halted.”
...
“Add that all together with a convention market that remains overbuilt, with a number of cities trying to bail out their centers with publicly-financed large hotels (mentioning Portland, Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas, Kansas City and our Columbus),” and the outlook, as he says, is “grim.”

Sanders concludes, “Frankly, I never thought the Medical Mart was a workable deal. I don’t think MMPI (Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.) is in any rush to do it now. And if the county moves ahead on its own, well…”

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Westin expansion stalled, but Hilton on the way

The county won't subsidize a convention hotel that would not provide at least 400 new rooms -- a number that's necessary to meet the 1,000-room threshold needed to attract major conventions, Onorato said.

Cleveland developer Forest City Enterprises Inc., owner of the Westin Convention Hotel, has worked with the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, owner of the convention center, as the developer of a proposed hotel projected to cost $104 million.

Plans were to provide a $34 million subsidy from state gambling proceeds to supplement Forest City's private contribution for the project.

Onorato, though, said it might be necessary to solicit proposals from other developers. Forest City indicated recently that, because of increasing costs, it might reduce the size of such a facility to about 300 rooms.

Brian Ratner, president of East Coast development for Forest City, said yesterday that the company remains involved in the project. Forest City has been waiting for the Sports & Exhibition Authority to award the public funding, he said.

Posted by lumi at 4:06 AM

TONIGHT: Eminent Domain Flicks

Splitting Hairs in Forest Hills

Brooklyn Matters is on a double feature with a film about the Willets Point fight against the City's use of eminent domain.

EDFlicks.jpg

The Newtown Historical Society is proud to present its first public program, consisting of two free educational films about eminent domain issues in Brooklyn and Queens - Brooklyn Matters and Beyond the Curbline - followed by a brief discussion with affected landowners featured in the videos.

Where: The Community Room at the Shops at Atlas Park
When: Wednesday, July 9th, 7pm

Entrance for community room is next to Amish Market. Take elevator to 3rd floor.

Light refreshments will be served.
For more information, please call 718-909-3831.

link

Posted by lumi at 3:49 AM

July 8, 2008

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: DDDB and 25 Co-Plaintiffs File Appeal in Lawsuit Against the Empire State Development Corporation, MTA & PACB

Plaintiffs Seek to Overturn Supreme Court Decision on Suit Seeking to Annul Fatally Flawed Environmental Impact Statement and Approval of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Proposal

NEW YORK, NY- Late yesterday, twenty-six co-plaintiff groups filed their appeal [PDF] in New York State Appellate Court seeking to overturn Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden's January 11th ruling. Their appeal challenges the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and approval of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal. The appeal alleges that the FEIS submitted by former Governor Pataki's Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) was fatally flawed on substantive and procedural grounds. Annulment of the FEIS would require the undertaking of a new and credible environmental impact analysis by Governor Paterson's ESDC, and a new vote by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) for the 22-acre real estate development project proposed in Prospect Heights and Park Slope, Brooklyn. Defendants on the suit include the ESDC, the PACB, the MTA and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC).

The plaintiffs believe that the case, DDDB et al. v ESDC et al., was wrongly decided, on a number of grounds, by the lower court. The appeal focuses on the plaintiffs' charge that the lower court erred in numerous respects, including the following:

  • The State's determination that the project site is "blighted" was illegitimate, and manufactured by the developer to take valuable private property via eminent domain.
  • The State had no authority to approve the Barclays Center Arena because it is not a "Civic Project" as defined under the Urban Development Corporation Act (UDCA) .
  • The State violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) by failing to consider the possibility of terrorism and other security breaches on the Project.
  • The State violated SEQRA by grossly misrepresenting the project's construction timeline, thereby minimizing the project's impacts, and not requiring adequate mitigation.
  • The State violated SEQRA when it failed to adequately study alternative locations for the proposed Project, including locating the arena in Coney Island.
  • The PACB violated SEQRA by approving the project without considering its environmental impacts and failing to make its own SEQRA findings.

"The ESDC's rush to reach the pre-determined outcome of its Atlantic Yards review before the end of the Pataki administration led to a fatally flawed environmental review, and violations of its statutory procedures and responsibilities," said lead attorney Jeffrey Baker of Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore. "Our appeal seeks to overturn the Supreme Court ruling from January, and annul the environmental review and approval of 'Atlantic Yards' by Charles Gargano's Empire State Development Corporation, the Public Authorities Control Board, and the MTA, necessitating an urgently needed fresh look from Governor Paterson, his new ESDC and MTA, and the PACB, which has two new members on the three-member board since the approval of the project in December, 2006."

The legal appeal has broad support from the community with co-plaintiff groups representing all of the communities surrounding the project site, and well beyond, including: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the 41-member coalition Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), New York Public Interest Research Group/Straphangers Campaign (NYPIRG), Sierra Club, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), Fort Greene Association, Society for Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill Association, Crown Heights North Association, Park Slope Neighbors, Fort Greene Park Conservancy, and Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, as well as fourteen other community organizations and block associations.

All legal papers filed can be found here: www.dddb.net/FEIS/appeal
A summary of the original complaint can be found at: www.dddb.net/FEIS/summary.php

The co-plaintiffs are:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Inc.
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc.
NY Public Interest Research Group/Straphangers
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID)
Sierra Club
Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association
The Brooklyn Bear's Gardens Inc
Bergen Street-Prospect Heights Block Association, Inc.
Boerum Hill Association
Brooklyn Vision, Inc.
Carlton Avenue Association
Carroll Street Block Association (5th to 6th Ave)
Crown Heights North Association, Inc.
Dean Street Block Association (4th to 5th Ave)
East Pacific Block Association
Fort Greene Association
Fort Greene Park Conservancy
Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
Park Slope Neighbors
Park Place-Underhill Avenue Block Association
Prospect Heights Action Coalition
Prospect Place-Brooklyn Block Association
Society for Clinton Hill
South Portland Avenue Block Association
South Oxford Street Block Association
Zen Environmental Studies Institute

DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition advocating for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.
We oppose Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" proposal in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
We are supported by over 4,000 individual donors from the community.
www.developdontdestroy.org

Posted by eric at 1:40 PM

Our "by-the-numbers" mayor and his not-so-free-market approach to Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Bloomberg-WABC.jpg

So yesterday, in an article headlined Titans Seek New York Mayor in Bloomberg’s Mold, the New York Times reported that leading business executives, including Jerry Speyer (#1 on the Observer’s list of most powerful people in real estate), hope for a mayor who has the luxury of “financial independence, his lack of party affiliation and his corporate, by-the-numbers approach to management,” and, in the words of one interviewee, “not beholden to special interests.”

Amid a general shower of praise for Bloomberg, the Times allowed that his “administration is considered an ally to many corporations, especially developers.”

What the newspaper didn’t do is examine how a by-the-numbers approach to management might be contradicted by a look at Bloomberg’s treatment of developments like Atlantic Yards, where he’s broken promises, failed to scrutinze the development closely, and falsely claimed the free market was at work, even as sports teams benefit enormously from monopoly rules that enforce franchise scarcity and provoke cities and states to bid against each other by offering subsidies, an issue to be discussed in detail below.

Meanwhile, his administration is busy lobbying in Washington to ensure that a “loophole” (in the words of the chief counsel of the Internal Revenue Service) remains to allow tax-exempt financing for the Yankees and Mets stadiums, both under construction, and the Atlantic Yards arena.

In other words, the Bloomberg who imposed the once-politically unpopular smoking ban and pushed for congestion pricing loses track of his principles when it’s time to construct monumental sports structures where, not coincidentally, there are ribbons to cut.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:07 AM

You know you live in The Footprint when...

The Footprint Gazette

-Your toilet fills with dirt and then stops working right before a holiday weekend when no plumbers are available.

-A hairline crack appears from floor to ceiling in the center of your apartment.

-Your computer hard drive dies at the end of a long day of dust and vibration from construction. (ok maybe that one is just a coincidence. Then again, maybe it ain't)

-The green wall in front of your apartment keeps getting longer

-Taxis have to drop you off a block away, because you aren't agile enough to scale said wall.

-You messed up your good pants learning that you aren't agile enough to scale said wall.

feel free to add your own...

NoLandGrab: You know you live in The Footprint when you live in the City, but yer singin' country.

Posted by lumi at 4:01 AM

July 7, 2008

Net Losses Mounted Last Quarter

Nets Daily

MoneyDowntheToilet.jpg

The everything-Nets blog cites a report from Sports Business Journal about the latest lop-sided Nets loss — and it wasn't on the hardwood.

The Nets lost $7.2 million last quarter, more than double last year’s total, according to new filings by Forest City Enterprises. FCE is Bruce Ratner’s corporate parent and the team’s leading investor. It holds a 21 percent stake in the team but is responsible for around 31 percent of the operating losses. FCE has said it will continue to bolster team finances, expecting a large return when the team moves to Brooklyn.

link

NoLandGrab: We wonder how those Nets owners who aren't relying on their investment in the Nets to leverage Brooklyn's largest-ever real estate deal are feeling about mounting team losses.

Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

ESMIN'S FUNERAL TO BE ON THE CITY

NY Post
BY David Seifman

Mayor Bloomberg announced yesterday that the city would pick up the funeral expenses of the 49-year-old Brooklynite, who was left to die on the waiting-room floor of Kings County Hospital's psychiatric emergency room on June 19.

The mayor also said developer Forest City Ratner had agreed to pay to fly Green's relatives here from Jamaica and back, and to fly the body there.

article

Gothamist, City Will Pay Funeral Expenses for Woman Left to Die in Hospital Waiting Room

Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

"Song of Brooklyn" a flawed oral history, ends with... AY

Atlantic Yards Report

No joke, Bruce Ratner gets nearly the last word in Marc Eliot’s "Song of Brooklyn." Norman Oder is critical of the "oral history" of Brooklyn's reliance on printed (not oral) material, and put off when misty-eyed nostalgia is favored over a truer examination of Brooklyn's diversity.

SongofBrooklyn.jpg

Then we get to... Atlantic Yards, and a mangled analysis of tax revenue and timeline. We get secondhand quotes from Markowitz, from Daniel Goldstein (called "Goldman" in the book) of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), from DDDB supporter actress Rosie Perez, and New York magazine writer Chris Smith, from his August 2006 feature article.

A New York Observer article by Mark Lotto offers another quote--again, not really oral history--about how every generation bitches about the one that came next. And the final quote comes from Bruce Ratner; it appeared originally in the first edition of the egregious Brooklyn Tomorrow:

“We are fortunate that we have the resources and the vision to leave behind a city that is greater than the one we inherited... Brooklyn, in many ways, is a model for the change our city is experiencing. Twenty years ago, when Forest City Ratner opened in the downtown area, we were called foolish. Many thought the area, long in disarray, could not be developed and would not attract jobs. Today Brooklyn is celebrated as a world-class destination, the home to diversity in all of its glory, with great food, parks and cultural attractions. We are proud to be part of both our borough’s past and its future."

I strongly doubt Bruce Ratner ever spoke those words aloud.

Eliot’s conclusion: “And that may be the prevailing sentiment.”

A reader has to wonder how he reached that conclusion: Did he toss a coin?

article

Posted by lumi at 4:28 AM

July 6, 2008

Kiss my grass, Mayor Bloomberg

NY Daily News
by Michael O'Keeffe

News sports columnist Michael O'Keeffe wonders why the City of New York refused to grant a permit for a 2004 Iraq War protest on Central Park's Great Lawn, but is more than happy to accommodate a Bon Jovi concert sponsored by Major League Baseball.

But given how Bloomberg has consistently put the greed of the sports teams - especially the Yankees, Mets and Nets - over the needs of ordinary citizens, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

As Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez pointed out last week, City Hall is backing a Yankee request for $366 million in additional tax-exempt financing to complete the new Yankee Stadium - a very expensive handout for a private business that employs a tiny number of New York residents.

Lawyers for Willets Point businesses, meanwhile, say the city has refused to provide even basic services to the neighborhood for years. So is it coincidence or conspiracy that the city has decided to use eminent domain to throw out the junkyards and body shops just as the Mets are putting the finishing touches on their nearby new stadium?

Bloomberg, meanwhile, has been a shameless cheerleader for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, which has become an international synonym for a shameless corporate land grab.

article

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Five reasons to package Nets, Isles in Nassau

Newsday
by Mark Herrmann

Developer Bruce Ratner is having a great deal of trouble lining up financing for his proposed Barclays Center arena. Given those difficulties, here is a suggestion to move the Nets into a refurbished Nassau Coliseum as part of the Lighthouse development, and why that might make good sense.

Here is a logical solution that will not displace a single person from his or her Brooklyn apartment, will offer LeBron James a chance to be near his favorite borough and will end the longest-running wandering saga in New York sports.

It is time, finally, after 41 years and six stops, to give the Nets a permanent home. And no, it is not the most expensive arena in the world, the planned $950-million Barclays Center in the very iffy $4-billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

The real answer is to bring them home once and for all to the new Nassau Coliseum.

No offense to developer Bruce Ratner or his dream of building a lavish new Nets-oriented community in Brooklyn, and not to throw cold water on the euphoria from a big win in court and a hint from James that he might sign with the team in two years. But economic experts have said in the past few weeks that the shaky economy and new rules about tax-exempt bonds are going to make it tougher than ever to build the Nets' palace. And it hasn't exactly been going full steam up to now.

article

Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

The corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, circa 1845

Atlantic Yards Report

VBYards1845.jpg

This is a look back at documents and photos of how the Vanderbilt Yards came into existence. A "must read" for train nerds, and a pleasant look at historical online resources.

Check out this post on Whitman's Brooklyn for a look south on Flatbush Avenue crossing Atlantic Avenue. A contemporary photo is below, showing the P.C. Richard/Modell's complex, aka Site 5, the southwest corner of the Atlantic Yards site.

You might wonder: why was the train continuing, rather than stopping at an Atlantic Avenue terminus? Well, according to this LIRR history site, the rail line actually started at the East River. Here's some more history from Arrt's Arrchives, plus a look at the Vanderbilt Yard, aka the Carlton Avenue Freight Yard and Vanderbilt Avenue Freight Yard.

link

NoLandGrab: Sometimes Atlantic Yards supporters like to refer to the Vanderbilt Yards (which comprise about one-third of the proposed Atlantic Yards Development) in terms like "a hole in the ground." This is generally meant to convey the idea that the entire area is blighted. Here's a reminder that there is a working rail yard there. Any blight in the neighborhood is now courtesy of demolitions by Bruce Ratner.

Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

Spinning: SCOTUS on Atlantic Yards, and a Skyscraper

Culture of Congestion [NY Sun blog]
By Sanford Ikeda

The last time I blogged about Atlantic Yards, a group of local residents in the footprint of the project had petitioned the Supreme Court to halt the use of eminent domain to evict them from their property, on the grounds that the proposed complex is not sufficiently oriented toward public rather than private use.

Last week the Brooklyn Paper reported, in "Supremes Sing the Blues to Yards Foes," that the High Court denied without comment the 11 property owners' request that the High Court take up case, which has been rejected by two lower federal courts — though the court did reveal that Justice Samuel Alito, a known skeptic of eminent domain, voted to hear the case.

Too bad! However, the SCOTUS Blog suggests that Justice Alito's vote to hear the petition indicates that opponents of the use of the government's takings power in such instances have at least one sympathetic ear on the Court.

link

Posted by steve at 6:52 AM

Hot dog clause in financing of new stadium gives taxpayers heartburn

NY Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez

This was an excellent preview of some of the issues covered this past Wednesday in State hearings presided over by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. It was not included in this past week's NoLandGrab coverage, but it is now.

Questionable promises of jobs in exchange for public funding, efforts to use an IRS loophole for financing a sports facility and requests for additional public financial support are all things that the Yankees and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner have in common.

Call it the secret Hot Dog Giveaway.

The Yankees could be allowed to operate up to 25 vendor pushcarts outside the new stadium as part of a secret provision the team negotiated with the city and state for parking garages being built with public financing.

The "hot dog" clause - never made public until now - would kick in if the Yankees don't get 600 free year-round parking spaces.

That little goodie is just one ofseveral revelations buried in thousands of pages of documents and e-mails about the stadium project that city officials recently gave Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester).

Brodsky, who heads the assembly committee that oversees public authorities, demanded the documents after learning last month that the city's Industrial Development Agency was backing a Yankee request for $366 million in additional tax-exempt financing to complete the Bronx project.

The new request comes on top of the $942 million in taxexempt bonds the Yankees have received.

Brodsky has scheduled a public hearing today on the entire project. It islikely to be the toughest public review the $1.3 billion stadium has received.

"The more you see of authorities like the IDA, the more you realize they act like old-style Soviet commissars," Brodsky said. "No one has elected them, they're not accountable to anyone, and they operate in secrecy."

article

Posted by steve at 6:15 AM

July 5, 2008

A true-crime tale in "Atlantic Yards"? Not quite

brooklynnoir3cover.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

The "noir" we're most familiar with would have thugs with fedoras hanging around the footprint for the proposed Atlantic Yards project, but Norman Oder, who is apparently catching up with his summer reading, has encountered "Brooklyn Noir 3: Nothing but the Truth". This is a noir of a much more recent vintage.

The crime fiction collection Brooklyn Noir was the first in Akashic Books' highly-successful "Noir" series, which now extends to dozens of anthologies. Now Brooklyn Noir 3: Nothing but the Truth has been published, the first true-crime collection in the series.

The Table of Contents lists not just the chapters but the neighborhoods they're set in, so I was intrigued to see that the collection includes a memoir titled "The Ghetto Never Sleeps, Mister Policeman," by Robert Leuci and set in a neighborhood designated as Atlantic Yards.

Is Atlantic Yards a place? Nope; it's a project. (If you want an AY crime story, check the statistics.)

link

NoLandGrab: One might think of Norman Oder as the Barton Keyes (check the Pacific All-Risk Insurance Company) of the Atlantic Yards beat. (It's the July 4th weekend, you might have time to Google it.)

Posted by steve at 9:17 AM

July 4, 2008

Get The Hell Off My Lawn

Footprint Gazette

Dedicated to Forest City Ratner:

Oh get the hell off of my lawn
Didn’t wanna write no country song
But you left me no choice, now go on git goin’.

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

An economist says no eminent domain for sports facilities

Atlantic Yards Report

Rolnick-AYR.jpg

During the 10/10/07 hearing, Professional Sport Stadiums: Do They Divert Public Funds From Critical Public Infrastructure?, held by the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Arthur Rolnick, Senior Vice President and Research Director, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (but speaking for himself only), made the case against tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities, then got an interestting eminent domain question from ranking minority member Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

The answer:

Rolnick: Sir, my -- my view on eminent domain and the spirit of eminent domain, it's an abuse to use eminent domain to take from one private company and give to another. Eminent domain was strictly supposed to be used to take from a -- to build a public institution, a library, a school, not a sports stadium. So I have a lot of trouble.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

From Texas or Russia, Ohio or Colombia, Finding Themselves in New York

The NY Times

Folks from all over the world make NYC their home — one worries about Atlantic Yards and the like:

Nicole Guishard has lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, for the past five years — ever since her student internship in physical therapy turned into a full-time job. Born in Columbia, Md., she likes living in the close-knit neighborhood. But Ms. Guishard, 33, worries that the feel of the neighborhood will be compromised by large new projects like Atlantic Yards. “There’ll be way more traffic, and way more people in the subway,” she said.

article

NoLandGrab: Curiously, though every new local development project increases the burden on our infrastructure, Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project is different. The project's Environmental Impact Statement determined that there would be little adverse impact on traffic and the subways should Atlantic Yards be built.

Posted by lumi at 4:24 AM

Learning From the WTC Rebuilding Fiasco

Culture of Congestion [NY Sun blog]
By Sanford Ikeda

Congratulations Mayor Bloomberg, you are now holding a straight flush of mismanaged overdevelopment:

As if all the havoc visited upon almost every single one of New York's recent public-private mega-projects — WTC, Hudson Yards, Moynihan Station, Atlantic Yards — hasn't been enough to caution the mayor. Mr. Bloomberg continues to push ahead with a major-redevelopment of Willets Point, Queens.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:24 AM

July 3, 2008

Lawmakers Debate Public Funding Of New Stadiums' Construction

NY1

SethPinskyNY1.jpg

The plan to use public money to help build the Bronx’s new Yankee Stadium and the Mets' new CitiField in Queens came under fire at a state Assembly hearing in Downtown Manhattan Wednesday.

The city's Economic Development Corporation wants to use hundreds of millions of city-issued tax-exempt bonds to help finance the projects, but some lawmakers object to such use of the public purse.
...

Two years ago, the city issued $920 million in tax-exempt bonds for Yankee Stadium and more than $500 million in tax-free loans to the Mets.

But now, the Bronx Bombers want as much as $360 million dollars more –- preferably through more city-issued tax-free bonds.

City officials defended the practice.
...

But while supporters originally touted 1,000 new jobs would be created by the new stadium, the Yankees disclosed in this document that only 15 new permanent jobs would be created.

article/video [dialup/broadband]

Posted by eric at 9:56 PM

Movies At McCarren Park!

newyorkshitty.com

SummerStarz2008.jpg

Congratulations, Bruce Ratner, your company is now synonymous with "undesirable corporate sponsor!"

Town Square is hosting a series of movies this summer at McCarren Park. I cannot say I am too pleased by the sponsors, among whom are Forest City Ratner and Greenpoint Landing “A Park Tower Development” (which sounds ominous. Whatever it is, I am certain we’ll have the pleasure of finding out soon enough.*), but the line-up looks decent. Of particular interest to yours truly is July 30th: “Country Night” whose cinematic feature will be Blazing Saddles, arguably the best Mel Brooks film ever made.
...

* If anyone knows what this is, please enlighten me.

link

Posted by eric at 9:36 PM

Writing the New Newspaper

Politics as Puppetry

Atlantic Yards Report gets a nod, and The New York Times a tweak, in this critique of "traditional" newspapers.

NewYorkTimesBuilding.jpg

Yes, in the future, we may not have full time reporters. That does not mean we won’t have real journalism - it just means the people writing will have to be something other than merely reporters (who, despite “rubbing shoulders with a cop, a defense attorney or a distressed family in a Red Cross shelter” often fall into their own absurd or asinine habits that keep them from being effective). More likely we will have savants and celebrity, either people working, living then writing about it from the grounded perspective of an area-specific Savant (see Atlantic Yards Report or Brownstoner for New York examples), or folks who capitalize on their name or style to build readership....

link

NoLandGrab: Though Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report may diplay savant-like charachteristics, it should be noted that he is a journalist by profession.

Posted by eric at 9:14 PM

Taken To School In The 64th

The Daily Politics [Daily News Blog]
by Elizabeth Benjamin

Paul Newell held his first official press conference of the campaign season this afternoon, during which he assailed Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for his relationship with mega-developer Bruce Ratner, who is building a combination apartment building/school known as Beekman Tower in the 64th AD.

Silver's campaign spokesman Jonathan Rosen hit back, calling it "a little strange" that a candidate seeking to represent an area so sorely lacking in schools would open his campaign by opposing the construction of one.

While admitting Lower Manhattan does indeed need schools, Newell maintained district residents were "blackmailed" by Ratner, with Silver's assistance, because his project qualifies for city tax breaks.

article

NoLandGrab: Mr. Rosen is omitting several important facts, such as: 1) this will be the most expensive school ever built in New York City; 2) Ratner is receiving both Liberty Bonds and a special, double-the-normal-term 421-a exemption; and 3) Paul Newell's not the only one who used the word "blackmail" in reference to Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 9:00 PM

Serve's Up

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

No byline on this story, which is no surprise, since it reads like a straight press release.

Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment (BSE), in partnership with Atlantic Yards and the AVP Crocs Tour, is bringing professional beach volleyball back to Brooklyn with the Third Annual AVP Crocs Tour Brooklyn Open from Friday, July 18 to Sunday, July 20 on Coney Island.

article

Posted by eric at 8:41 PM

At Assembly hearing, Brodsky questions Yankees’ deal; more AY subsidies hinted

Atlantic Yards Report

At a joint hearing yesterday of several state Assembly committees regarding tax-exempt bond financing for the New York Yankees, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky faced forceful scrutiny from Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a vocal foe of “Soviet-style bureaucracies,” his term for the unelected city and state authorities and agencies that have steered such deals.

NYSAHearingYanksBonds.jpg

Though Brodsky said he still hadn’t made up his mind about the legitimacy of the Yankees’ request for additional tax-exempt bonds—under what the Internal Revenue Service describes as a “loophole”--he did offer this statement at the end of the three-hour hearing: “I dislike public benefits for private parties when the public at large is being starved in so many ways.” And if that’s a description of sports facility finance, he added, “so be it.”

The Atlantic Yards arena and the New York Mets stadium both were discussed only glancingly, but yes, there were hints of the additional subsidy request Forest City Ratner is expected to make.

Read the rest of the article to learn more about parallels to Atlantic Yards and how the Public Authorities Control Board approval of the financing of Atlantic Yards "occurred after a regulation was on the table that would effectively shut out tax-exempt financing for the arena."

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE:
amNY, Mets join Yanks in seeking tax-free funds for stadium
MetroNY, Fans forgotten part of Yanks’ new park
The NY Sun, Yankee Stadium Bonds Request Defended as Good for the Bronx

Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

A Bird’s Eye View of the Atlantic Yards Site

Gowanus Lounge

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Here to close out our broadcast day on this day before the day before the long Fourth of July weekend and the true, official start of summer festivities, is a view from above of the Atlantic Yards site. It’s interesting because you don’t often get the perspective from this side from above. This is the segment of the site where the Frank Gehry office building and arena would go, showing the current status of site clearance.

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Posted by lumi at 4:17 AM

Don't be so sure LeBron is coming

The Newark Star-Ledger
By Steve Politi

The Nets have a plan, and apparently it goes beyond short-term oblivion. They are going to do everything possible to position themselves for the free-agent class of 2010 in hopes of landing the best player in basketball. They want to build a kingdom in Brooklyn and give King James the throne.

That is...

IF ... the new arena is actually completed. Owner Bruce Ratner keeps winning his legal battles, but there still remains the small matter of finding $1 billion to build the thing in this difficult economic market. The Nets might want to have a few girders in the ground before they start making those LeBron jerseys.

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Posted by lumi at 3:26 AM

July 2, 2008

City on Yanks Bond Details: Reply Hazy, Ask Again Later

Runnin' Scared [The Village Voice blog]
by Neil deMause

Once again, we have to ask, if these deals are so good for us taxpayers, then why won't the public officials who orchestrate them just tell us the truth? The Village Voice's Neil deMause filed the following must-read report from today's Assembly hearing on subsidies for the new Yankee Stadium.

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As promised, state assemblymember Richard Brodsky held a hearing this morning into the Yankees' latest request for $350 million (or so - see below) in city-backed tax-exempt bonds to help pay for extra doodads for their new stadium. The surprise: On the hot seat for the entire three-hour hearing was a single witness, Economic Development Corporation president Seth Pinsky, who at times struggled to come up with detailed responses to the questions posed by an increasingly impatient Brodsky.

Pinsky did explain one mystery right away: The reason no one can agree whether the additional Yankees bonds would total $350 million or $400 million or what is that the team hasn't submitted a formal request to the city, and won't until the Internal Revenue gives its blessing to the deal. "The Yankees have submitted a partially completed draft application to the [Industrial Development Agency] to put their project into the IDA queue," said Pinsky, and city lawyers have begun drawing up the paperwork, but nothing will go forward unless the IRS rescinds proposed rules that would have the effect of making the bonds more expensive. (Pinsky insisted no bond buyers would touch them at any price, effectively making them unusable for sports projects.) Likewise, a new set of bonds for the Mets (estimated by Pinsky at "tens of millions" of dollars) and promised financing for the Nets' Atlantic Yards project are on hold until the IRS comes to a decision.

Even the rough guesstimates in the Yanks' preliminary application, though, were not revealed at today's hearing - Pinsky's office had redacted them in the documents supplied to Brodsky. (At this point, visible steam all but shot out of the assemblymember's ears.) Pinsky insisted that letting on what the Yanks plan to spend their newfound money on could hurt their bargaining position with suppliers - leading Brodsky to snort that if the team wanted to keep the details a secret, CEO Lonn Trost shouldn't have gone bragging about them to reporters.
...

Most of the hearing, though, was spent pressing Pinsky on why exactly the city needed to help finance the Yankees project in the first place. (Though the EDC chief rightly noted that the bulk of the tax-exempt bond costs would hit the federal government, the overall construction project is estimated to cost about $596 million in local subsidies, $419 million of that from the city.) Brodsky noted that in a "deviation letter" issued by the IDA to explain why the Yanks were being let out of the city's Uniform Tax Exemption Policy, the agency claimed that without public aid, the team would leave town:

Brodsky: Who in the IDA was told by the Yankees they would leave?

Pinsky: I don't recall.

Brodsky: Was anybody in the IDA told that?

Pinsky: I don't recall.

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Posted by eric at 6:20 PM

Don't Go Chasin' Waterfalls...Not These, At Least

Fans for Fair Play

That's not a rainbow FFFP sees through the mist... it's Atlantic Yards.

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Not a day goes by without a clear example of why Bloomberg's New York is such a maddening, offensive and increasingly soulless place to live.

For today's example, we offer you this:

Olafur Eliasson's "Waterfalls" -- four Erector Sets leaking water into the East River -- cost $15 million (say that with a Dr. Evil voice, especially over the $2 million in public money). The vampiric steward of our decaying city (above, right) blathered something about $59 million being generated for the city's coffers. That's government officials like Bloomberg's go-to excuse for wasting money and resources. All of NYC's new stadiums (and the one not going up in Brooklyn). Big "because we can" fartworks like this or last year's "Gates" in Central Park. The Bon Jovi concert just announced for the Great Lawn, where Mayor Mike's construct is that what's good for white rock'n'roll fans isn't good for RNC demonstrators.
...

River water tumbling meekly off scaffolds isn't nearly the problem that the Atlantic Yards is, of course. Dopey and disappointing as Eliasson's efforts are, they're not really hurting anyone. Well, not counting whoever could've used the $2 million the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation stuffed in Eliasson's pocket, likely at the mayor's behest.

Part of the problem is timing, as it always is with Atlantic Yards. The economy's crashing, so Ratner asks for more public money for his failing luxury-condo development. The AY arena is a billion-dollar money pit, so Ratner declares his Nets are "rebuilding," sports-world code for "we'll really blow the next few years."
...

Ratner, emboldened by state officials he counts as both pals and sugar-daddies/mommies, keeps pushing Atlantic Yards as though it's still 2003, when the economy, at least, wasn't one of the dozens of reasons the Atlantic Yards superblocks are such a bad idea on so many levels.

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Posted by eric at 5:35 PM

Kavanagh to Question New York City Industrial Development Agency on Failure to Control Yankee Ticket Pricing

Kavanagh Will Question Agency Officials at Public Hearing on Yankee's Request for Additional Public Financing

Yonkers Tribune

At a public hearing today Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan) will continue his efforts to protect sports fans and taxpayers by questioning the New York City Industrial Development Agency on its failure to control ticket pricing at the new Yankee Stadium—a venue that has so far received $920 million in tax-exempt bonds to aid in construction.

"We're pouring hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-free bonds into a facility that no average New Yorker will be able to afford to get into. It's crazy." said Kavanagh, a member of the State Assembly's Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions and Committee on Cities which are jointly holding the hearing with other Assembly Committees. "We need a law to require affordable tickets at the new Yankee Stadium, the new Shea Stadium, the Atlantic Yards Arena, and other venues around the state that seek public money. We have a responsibility to ensure that public money is used for public benefit."

Kavanagh and 30 of his Assembly colleagues recently introduced legislation (A11692) that would limit ticket price increases by sports franchises that receive public subsidies for their facilities and require that a percentage of tickets at these facilities be sold at prices affordable to people of modest means.

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NoLandGrab: Better yet, how about just eliminating the subsidies?

Posted by eric at 4:07 PM

PRESS RELEASE: INSURGENT ASSEMBLY CANDIDATE PAUL NEWELL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST CORPORATE WELFARE

Silver Sides With Developer Forest City Ratner On Tax Abatement Against Community Board Wishes

Lower Manhattan, New York, July 2, 2008 -- Appalled by the recent news that Forest City Ratner had threatened to halt construction on the Beekman Street school if the city did not come through with a 20-year tax break, 64th District State Assembly candidate Paul Newell said he blames Speaker Sheldon Silver, who recruited Ratner for the project, for delaying the construction.

"We have been waiting for this school for far too long to allow it to be held up at the whims of Bruce Ratner's development schedule," said Paul Newell. "Once again, Shelly Silver has sided with his big money donors over the interests of Lower Manhattanites. The corporate welfare of millions of dollars in unwarranted tax breaks to Bruce Ratner is an insult to New York City's children in this time of fiscal belt tightening."

Newell will be holding a brief press conference Thursday, July 3, 2008 at noon in front of the Beekman Tower at the corner of Beekman and William Streets.

Construction on the Beekman Street school, planned for the lower levels of the Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan, started in October 2006, but its anticipated opening has already been delayed several times. The elementary school isn't slated to open its doors until the fall of 2011.

State laws regulating 421-A tax abatements changed June 19, and under the new provisions, Forest City Ratner will only have been eligible for a 10-year tax exemption, not a 20-year one. Community Board members were forced to grant the abatement because they did not want to risk the future of the project. "We don't want to do anything to jeopardize the financing of the school," Julie Menin, Chairperson of Community Board 1, told the Downtown Express.

"Our children's education is too important to be auctioned off to one of Sheldon Silver's biggest campaign donors to the tune of $60,000 in soft money contributions," said Newell.

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This week, Jennifer Berkley joins the Newell Campaign as Communications Director. Berkley, a former journalist, devoted the last year and a half to Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in New York. Originally from Brookline, Mass., Berkley, 33, lives on the Upper East Side.

For more information, please contact Communications Director Jennifer Berkley at 917-843-5669 or Campaign Manager Evan Hutchison at 646-415-8273.

Community Organizer and Health Education Activist Paul Newell is running for State Assembly in District 64 against Speaker Sheldon Silver. Newell, 33, was born and raised in Lower Manhattan.

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning June 30th, 2008 and July 7th, 2008

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner provide the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities.

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions. All work has been approved by appropriate City and State agencies where required.

In addition to the activities described below noise attenuation and vibration monitoring measures are underway in connection with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments dated 12/08/06.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our project Ombudsperson at: 212-803-3233 or AtlanticYards@empire.state.ny.us.

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Continue excavation and installation of tiebacks in Southeast Gas Station (block 1121, lot 47).
  • Continue construction and debris removal from block 1121.
  • Continue hauling soil from block 1121.
  • Completion of north foundation for cable bridge.
  • Completion of south foundation for cable bridge.
  • Completion of temporary access ramp structure.
  • Drill coffer dam piles at Carlton Avenue Bridge, Pacific Street elevation.
  • Prep west abutment of trestle for concrete placement.
  • Continue drilling trestle piles.
  • Continue trenching for cable duct-bank

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 30, 2007.

  • Demolition is underway at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) and will continue throughout this two week period.
  • Demolition will begin at 195 Flatbush Avenue (block 1127, lot 1) within this two week period.
  • Demolition will resume at 585 Dean Street (block 1129, lot 81) within this two week period.

Utility Work

All utility work scheduled to take place in Flatbush Avenue will only take place at night (between 10PM and 6AM) as mandated by DOT.

  • The first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations is underway and is expected to continue through the end of the year. Work will continue on Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues and on Sixth between Pacific and Dean Streets. Night time work began on Flatbush Avenue at Dean Street and continued north along Flatbush. Work is complete on a new sewer chamber on Dean Street near Flatbush.
  • Transit ducts on Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street will be relocated. This work is expected to continue over the next three months. All work taking place in the sidewalk will occur during the day. Pedestrian walkways will be maintained.

Private Utility Work

The work described below is managed and contracted by the respective private utility companies, as indicated.

  • ConEd will be installing conduits on Dean between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and working on a feeder at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
  • Verizon will be splicing cable on Pacific Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
  • Time Warner Cable and Keyspan will be working at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Does the Future of Atlantic Yards Really Hinge on LeBron?

Gotham Gazette [The Wonkster], Can Lebron James Save Bruce Ratner?

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A little background for the non-SLAM Magazine-reading set: The James here is Lebron, who is buddies with rap mogul and Nets minority owner Jay-Z. The Nets’ principal owner is Forest City Ratner, which wants to move them to an as-yet unbuilt, 18,000-seat, Forest City-developed, Frank Ghery-designed arena in Atlantic Yards by 2010. James, arguably the world’s most marketable athlete, becomes a free agent in 2010. He currently plays in Cleveland, which we’re told is a much less interesting and exciting place than New York.

Could James’ apparent interest in Brooklyn have any impact on Atlantic Yards?

Bleacher Report, Please No More LeBron to New York Talk

Is anybody else as sick as me with the oversaturated coverage of LeBron’s supposedly inevitable move to one of the New York teams come 2010? It’s good to dream, but can someone please tell me when this became fact?
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Yi brings China with him, which, in turn brings a lot of money. Keep in mind New York has the biggest Chinese population in the U.S. There is plenty of money to be made overseas in China. Naming rights money, shoe deal money, endorsement deals, suite money for the new arena.

Because of Yi, Nets games will now be seen on 50 plus stations in China. Three hundred million Chinese play basketball and one billion watch NBA games. Some months the NBA brings in more revenue from China than it does in North America.

This move had to be done. The Nets were losing $40 million a year, the heaviest debt-to-assets load of any professional sports team, according to Forbes magazine.

NoLandGrab: With the Nets, real estate comes first, with marketing a close second. Putting a winning team on the floor, well....

NY Daily News, With inexperienced roster, Nets front office looks to add veterans

However, Thorn, Vandeweghe and owner Bruce Ratner have admitted they are not willing to sacrifice the future just to give the Nets a better chance in the upcoming season. Although no executives have said so, speculation is that the Jefferson trade, which brought 20-year-old 7-footer Yi Jianlian and veteran forward Bobby Simmons to New Jersey, was all about setting up a possible run at future free agent LeBron James.

NLG: No Nets' executives have said so because saying so would be tampering.

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

Does Beekman “blackmail” presage AY subsidy push?

Atlantic Yards Report

Even though Forest City Enterprises CEO and Bruce Ratner's cousin Chuck Ratner declared to investors, "We still need more” subsidies for Atlantic Yards, you don't really think that the Ratners would actually threaten and blackmail local government officials to make sure they got their way?

Once upon a time, "Bruce Ratner said that the project 'will be almost exclusively privately financed,'" and consider that the "Atlantic Yards project is not, however, as far ahead as Beekman Tower, which already has financing." Nevertheless, tantalizing clues remain.

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Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Rich taking over the city, poor paying for it

amNY

From Letters to the Editor:

If you want to know why so much over-building is going on, why there are so many tax breaks to the rich baseball teams, and the 'eminent domain law' being used to get rid of small businesses and renters, you can look no further than the mayor's 'ex' deputy mayor, billionaire Dan Doctoroff.

It is doubtful that the mayor can think of all this by himself. They're both getting richer by "killing" the poor. One would think monies would be available to fix the transit system, create affordable housing and give the parks back to the people, instead of giving it all to the rich. What a legacy for Bloomberg.

Michael Perez, Manhattan

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NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure that the ex-Deputy Mayor is not a billionaire. Yet.

Posted by steve at 4:52 AM

So, why aren't naming rights counted as sports facility subsidies?

Atlantic Yards Report

From part deux of an interview with Neil deMause, the Brooklyn-based author of "Field of Schemes" explains why there's absolutely no good reason why the public shouldn't benefit from lucrative naming-rights deals, and how that relates to the creative financing scheme, dubbed PILOTs:

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There’s no reason for this to be private money. If the public is building the stadium, if the public is owning the stadium, why should the team get to slap a name and get the money from it, or consider the money from it that pays off the stadium as paying off their share.

Y’know, I rent; if I decide to put a giant billboard on the roof of my house here--if my landlord lets me do it, I really don’t think he could let me keep all the money from it. If I say, I’d like to move into your apartment, but in order to pay my rent, I have to put a big billboard outside, he’s going to look at me as if I had two heads.
...
It’s very odd that the state will own everything about the arena except the part that makes money.

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[Photo: Atlantic Yards developer and NJ Nets owner Bruce Ratner announcing the arena-naming-rights deal with Barclays Bank.]

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

Beveridge Fizzy On Future

The New York Observer
By Tom Acitelli

According to Dr. Andrew Beveridge, from an interview on demographic and socio-economic trends in NYC, projects like Atlantic Yards will be a burden to New Yorkers, or not, depending:

How will New York City be remembered from 2001 to the present? Like, the 1950s were extreme growth. The 1970s were a slow decay.

Let’s say we have a real problem. Things like Yankee Stadium, Atlantic Yards, Citi Field—the way in which those things have been financed … you’re looking at gimmicks that are kind of like gimmicks that happened before the last financial crisis, in the 1970s, where all the tax revenue goes to finance development projects and you don’t have any extra spillover. If it turns out we have a downturn, that may be what the Bloomberg years are remembered for: putting up a lot of projects that turned out to be very difficult to finance.

If you had a real downturn, things could be really bad because you have all of these obligations that have been rolled up and it would be hard, probably, to meet them; so that’s sort of like the dark view.

If, on the other hand, even if we have a fairly short—what’d they call it—adjustment in the real estate market but the long-term growth continues, then this will all probably look like a real good idea.

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Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

July 1, 2008

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Here is some of the coverage regarding the vote by Queens Community Board 7 that gave advisory approval to the City's plan for Willets Point, Queens. This is another land grab that doesn't yet have a plan or a developer, but will use eminent domain to displace businesses already established in the area. Look for the City to claim the area as being blighted, although the cause of the blight is the City having neglected to provide basic services to this area for decades.

AP via MetroNY: NYC board votes for site near new Mets stadium

A community board in Queens has voted in favor of a plan backed by Mayor Bloomberg to develop a 60-acre site into a new neighborhood of homes, shops, offices and entertainment.

Community Board 7 approved the plan 20 to 15 early Tuesday morning that would transform the gritty area known as Willets Point, near the Mets' new baseball stadium.

About 70 people spoke before the board at the meeting that began Monday evening and lasted into the next morning.

Willets Point land and business owners -- along with hundreds of their employees -- protested the meeting.

Among many concerns, including traffic congestion, the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association says the project lacks a developer or a formal plan.

1010 WINS: Repeats the same AP story, but also includes an audio report by Sonia Rincon.

The Daily News gives an indication of some of the political jockeying that went on before last night's vote by Queens Community Board 7.

Community Board 7 playing hardball on Willets Point redevelopment by John Lauinger

Community Board 7 has threatened to nix Mayor Bloomberg's Willets Point redevelopment plan Monday night unless the city consents to giving the Queens Borough Board a binding vote on the proposal.

The community board is balking at being forced to vote on the plan when the city hasn't even purchased the roughly 60-acre industrial zone near Shea Stadium.

"They're asking us right now to sign off unconditionally on a hypothetical plan without a developer and without funding," said Chuck Apelian, who heads the community board's special committee on Willets Point.

Crain's New York article prior to the vote (by Daniel Massey):

Willets Point project faces key test Monday night

“This is the opportunity to make sure we get good development and good give-backs to the community,” said Chuck Apelian, chairman of the board’s Willets Point committee. “We’re not going to let the city drive its economic engine through our land.”

The board is most concerned with giving the Bloomberg administration the go-ahead on a major project that would displace 260 businesses before the city has bought the land and picked a developer. Members are worried the plan could change and that they would be giving the administration a blank check for a valuable piece of land that abuts the new Citi Field in northeastern Queens.

“How can we convey it without knowing what they’re going to do?” Mr. Apelian said.

Posted by steve at 8:26 AM

City Portraits: Upstart Could Bring Hip-Hop To The Hill

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City Limits
By Curtis Stephen

Kevin Powell is the lone challenger running this September against Representative Edolphus Towns in Brooklyn's 10th Congressional District. This lengthy profile of Powell mentions his opposition to the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

Yet as his candidacy receives the support of both the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats – a political club headed by Chris Owens, son of former U.S. Rep. Major Owens of Brooklyn – and the advocacy group Democracy for New York City, Powell is fully aware of the symbolism. If elected, he would become the first and the most identifiable member of the hip-hop generation ever to serve in the U.S. Congress. On national issues, both Powell and Towns oppose the war in Iraq and support a single-payer healthcare system. But while campaigning on Memorial Day, Powell told practically every resident he encountered about the catalyst for his candidacy: The incumbent’s "absent and ineffective advocacy" on a host of local needs. "What we need in Congress from this district, as we enter a new presidential administration and a new decade, is active leadership that deals with the concerns of regular working-class people," he says.

Chief among those concerns, Powell maintains, is Forest City Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards redevelopment project that has won Towns’ backing. "We still don’t know what is going to happen there," says Powell, who is skeptical about how many of the plan’s 6,430 rental apartment units will be retained for low- to moderate-income households in the future. "Building $300,000 condos on Flatbush and Myrtle doesn’t factor in people in the $20,000 to $30,000 annual salary bracket who are being priced out," he adds. He argues that future development projects in the borough should be more inclusive, citing the housing initiatives provided by the Park Slope-based Fifth Avenue Committee to lower-income folks in south Brooklyn.

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Posted by steve at 7:46 AM

C.B. 1 approves Ratner’s tax break just by saying no

Downtown Express
By Julie Shapiro

And if you didn't have enough reasons to loath Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, check out this un-freakin'-believable report of how his company, Forest City Ratner, used the planned public school in the already heavily subsidized Beekman Street tower to "blackmail" (an observer's word, not ours) Manhattan's Community Board 1 into approving the all-luxury-rental residential tower for a 421-a tax abatement, at the last minute, before the new rules came into effect.

Forest City Ratner executives threatened to halt construction of the new school on Beekman St. unless they receive a 20-year tax break from the city.

At an emergency meeting of Community Board 1’s Executive Committee June 18, Forest City said funding for the pre-K-8 school and 76-story apartment tower was in jeopardy. In March, Forest City closed on $680 million in construction financing for the project, but MaryAnne Gilmartin, an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, said the money could disappear unless Ratner also receives a 20-year 421-a tax abatement.

Without the abatement, “Work would certainly stop on [the] site and then we would have delays,” Gilmartin said.
...
“I don’t think the project or the school were ever really in jeopardy,” said Paul Hovitz, a board member. “I think they were manipulating us [into helping them get the abatement]. We were being blackmailed.”

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NoLandGrab: As if you didn't already know that the folks at Forest City Ratner play hardball 24/7, keep in mind that this project is already receiving Liberty Bonds, ostensibly in exchange for building the school, which the company was threatening to delay even further unless it received a tax-abatement worth millions.

Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

Author deMause on tax-exempt bonds, PILOTs, & TIFs

Atlantic Yards Report

NeildeMause-CSpan.jpg Sometimes Norman Oder isn't the brightest guy in the room, as revealed in his interview with journalist and sports-business reporter Neil deMause.

Regarding "the arcane world of tax-exempt bonds:"

Q. I’m flabbergasted that I and a lot of other people looking at Atlantic Yards didn’t really know this.

A. No one understands this. When it started coming up for the Jets project, they were going to use this end run, PILOT [payments in lieu of taxes] payments; instead of calling it rent, they would say, “OK, it’s PILOTs,” even though they claimed it wouldn’t actually be subject to property taxes, because it’s on public land. They said this isn’t rent, it’s tax money, even though it’s a special tax just for them. The Jets thing never happened, the Yankees and Mets used the same structure, got away with it and now the Nets are trying to use the same thing.

Click here to read what is probably the best explanation of the history of payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Building New Venues for Wealthy Team Owners).

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Enterprises Announces Recent Financings

The Earth Times

330JayStPropSk.jpg

CLEVELAND, June 30 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) (NYSE: FCEB) today announced three recent financing transactions, totaling more than $100 million, in the Company's national portfolio of operating properties and in its development pipeline.

"These transactions, all of which closed within the past 30 days, reflect our continuing ability to access capital to finance our portfolio and to fund development," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and CEO. "They also are indicative of the strong relationships we have with lenders and other sources of funding."

  • At the Mesa del Sol mixed-use development in Albuquerque, NM, the Company closed a $31.6 million loan for construction of a 210,000 square foot office building for a unit of Fidelity Investments. In January, 2008, Fidelity announced it would locate a new operations center at Mesa del Sol. Huntington Bank was the lender.

  • At the MetroTech Center mixed use/office complex in Brooklyn, the Company closed a $45 million fixed-rate, permanent financing with Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale (Nord LB) for 330 Jay Street (also known as 12 MetroTech Center). The 1.1 million square foot building is fully leased.

  • At the Station Square mixed-use development in Pittsburgh, the company secured a $25 million mortgage for the Commerce Court office building from Bank of New York. Commerce Court, which was acquired by the Company in February, 2007, is a seven-story, 378,000 square foot office building that includes ground-floor retail space.

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NoLandGrab: It was recently reported on Brownstoner that 28 of the 33 stories at 330 Jay St. were purchased for $499,401,179 by NYC.

We're not sure how the $45-million loan mentioned above figures in.

Note that in this uncertain real estate-investment climate, Forest City flexes its muscles with a press release, when the company secures some more financing.

This press release also ran in Crain's Cleveland Business.

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Nets owner Bruce Ratner says rebuilding doesn't mean losing

NY Daily News

Now that the NJ Nets have officially started their rebuilding phase, how the heck does Ratner convince NJ fans to care about a lame duck team that he plans to move to Brooklyn one of these days?

But just because the team is planning that far ahead doesn't mean it has lost focus on the more immediate future.

That was the message team owner Bruce Ratner sent Monday to fans in New Jersey who may be worried that the team is going to sacrifice the next two seasons to make a splashy debut in Brooklyn. Although the Nets traded Richard Jefferson last week in a move that had as much to do with finances as it did with strategy, Ratner insisted that team president Rod Thorn and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe are not giving up on the final two years in New Jersey.

"It's just not true," Ratner said at a press conference to introduce the team's three draft pick. "Rod will always be as competitive as possible every single year that he possibly can. If he does some rebuilding, at the same time he'll try to be competitive. It has nothing to do with Brooklyn or New Jersey or any other place.

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The Newark Star-Ledger, Nets 'R' looking to future

"Yeah, it's a rebuilding effort," Nets owner Bruce Ratner conceded yesterday, when the team brought in three guys barely a year out of their teens to underscore their predicament. "Maybe people don't like to use that word. But at the same time, when you rebuild, you try to make yourself competitive ... It's hard to do."

Blogs.NYPost.com, Good Evening, Ladies and Germs...

And columnist Fred Kerber posted this on the NY Post blog:

Owner Bruce Ratner was on hand. While he admits the team is in "rebuilding" mode - Thorn preferred to call it "re-tooling," he insists the Nets are not giving up on their dwindling days in New Jersey. And he neatly side-stepped the LeBron James issue for 2010. Everyone on the planet sees the Nets clearing cap space to make a run at Jay-Z's pal.

"Yeah, it's a rebuilding effort. Maybe people don't like to use that word, but at the same time, when you rebuild you try to make yourself competitive," Ratner said. "I don't want to acknowledge that we'll hit bottom. We'll do everything we can to make ourselves competitive."

And as per Joizee versus Brooklyn, Ratner said, "We make sure that this is a regional team, and make sure all fans are happy. On the sports side, it's always to win. Rod has never been told anything different, and never will be. Our job is to win and build the best team we can - whether we're in Brooklyn, whether we're in New Jersey. Whatever we do this year, the goal is the same and always will be."

And finally, on King James, is there a plan to get him here?

"We really don't (have a plan). Our plan is to put ourselves in the best position all the time. 10-11 is a year when there are a lot of free agents, and we want to be in a position where if one comes our way we're able to do that," Ratner said.

Fox Sports, Nets making way for LBJ, Class of 2010
For those of you who want to understand how LeBron James figures into the mix, Peter Vecsey explains:

By my count, the Nets are the 23rd team to set their sights on the free agent Class of 2010.

Clearing cap room two years ahead of time on the belief James' outwardly magnetic bond with Nets' minority owner Jay-Z (it's not as if he rhymes as tight as Biggie Smalls) will influence him to forsake his home state of Ohio is like building an elaborate spec house just across the Brooklyn Bridge in today's saggy, baggy real estate market.

Yet here we have intrepid Nets' owner Bruce Ratner (from Cleveland), no less doing both!

ESPN, LeBron aware that Nets, Knicks looking to snag All-Star in future

LeBron James has kept speculation alive that he's seeking an eventual trade to the Nets:

It appears, judging from James' comments Monday, that the Nets might be James' preferred destination if he opts out of his contract in the summer of 2010 and becomes an unrestricted free agent.

James listed New York as his favorite city Monday (his hometown of Akron, Ohio came in fifth behind Washington D.C., Dallas, and Los Angeles) as he took part in a one-day USA Basketball media blitz, and he also gave an answer to a follow-up question that'll make Knicks president Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D'Antoni cringe.

"My favorite borough? Brooklyn," James said, choosing the proposed future home of the New Jersey Nets over the borough of Manhattan, where the Knicks play their home games. "Brooklyn is definitely a great place here in New York City, and some of my best friends are from Brooklyn, so I stick up for them."

Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

Some questions for the Assembly hearing tomorrow on Yankees' tax-exempt financing (and what about the Nets?)

Atlantic Yards Report

On Wednesday morning, the Assembly Standing Committee On Corporations, Authorities And Commissions, chaired by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, along with three other committees, will hold a joint hearing in Manhattan in order to look into "the request for increased public financing for construction of a new Yankee Stadium in New York City."

While a focus on the Yankees is understandable, an exclusive focus is curious, given that less than three weeks ago Brodsky issued a press release stating that the hearing would examine the New York City Industrial Development Authority's "practices and procedures for issuance of public debt with respect to sports facilities for the Yankees, Mets and Nets."

I asked Brodsky's office about the narrowing of focus; when I get a response I'll publish it.

Even if the hearing does not specifically address Forest City Ratner's expected request for $800 million in tax-exempt financing (though DDDB assumes it would), any scrutiny of the city agency's effort to get a "loophole" grandfathered in for the Yankees seemingly would apply equally to sports facilities sought by the Mets and the Nets.

Read on for the list of Norman Oder's questions for the hearing.

Posted by lumi at 4:27 AM