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September 30, 2008

Bad Economy Could Lead to Naming Rights Changes

Sports Business Radio

Host Brian Berger picks up on the NY Post's coverage today of how the latest delay to Atlantic Yards might affect the Barclays naming-rights deal.

You may recall that the Nets, who are co-owned by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z are hoping to make a serious run at signing LeBron James when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2010. They were also hoping to open the Barclays Center in the fall of 2010 and unveil their new superstar at the same time.

Now that plan seems to be in serious jeopordy. You can bet that if the $400M naming rights deal from Barclays goes away, the Nets will have to rethink this entire project - and their ability to sign someone like James to a max contract.


Posted by eric at 4:09 PM

Which New York Buildings Would You Demolish?

City Room {NY Times Blog]
by Sewell Chan

The Times's blog picks up on a weekend article by architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff pondering whether some New York City buildings are so ugly they should be torn down, and cites an amNY list compiled in June.

The story reprises that amNY list, which included one of Bruce Ratner's lovely Brooklyn malls, but adds an odd parenthetical note:

Atlantic Center (giant mixed-use project), Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, Brooklyn


NoLandGrab: Actually, the Atlantic Center is just a crappy mall. However, we could all save New York City the trouble of having to tear down Bruce Ratner's "giant mixed-use" Atlantic Yards project by stopping the white elephant from ever being built in the first place.

Posted by eric at 3:35 PM

Déjà delay all over again, redux

The stories about more Atlantic Yards delays just keep on comin'.

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Project Further Delayed By State Court

In light of yesterday's ruling, Ratner says the groundbreaking "may" be delayed another six months. The developer is also waiting for the IRS to rule on whether he can use tax exempt bonds to pay for the $1 billion arena, which he intends to build first. He's also struggling to line up financing for the rest of the $4 billion project, doesn't have an anchor tenant for the office tower, and city officials have not shown much enthusiasm about his recent request for $100 million more in taxpayer subsidies.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards 'Will Go Forward'

Bruce Ratner declares "let me be clear," yadda, yadda, "will go forward," yadda, yadda, "all the more important," yadda, yadda, "committed as ever," yadda, yadda, "ensure that it goes forward," yadda, yadda.

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Arena, 2012? The Nets likely have four more seasons in New Jersey

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder stays one step ahead of the mainstream media as he tries to pin down the constantly slipping timeline for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena:

Bruce Ratner admitted yesterday that a state appeals court decision not to dismiss the pending eminent domain lawsuit "may" delay an announced December groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards arena by six months. It almost certainly will do so--and could delay it even longer.

That means that the long-promised 2010 arena opening, already discredited by Ratner's own words (after promises of openings in previous years went by the wayside), is impossible.

Also, though Ratner previously told investors the arena would open in 2011, it's highly unlikely the arena would open that year. An early 2012 opening seems more likely. Given the difficulty of moving a team in mid-season, that suggests, in the best-case scenario, that the New Jersey Nets would not become the Brooklyn Nets until the fall of 2012.

That means four more seasons in the creaky Meadowlands--2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12--unless there's a move, say, to Newark.

Oder reviews the timeline math, explains how the Barclays naming-rights deal was not fully examined in recent coverage, and how a renegotiated deal with the banking giant would presage the need for more subsidies.


Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

Déjà delay all over again

Here are today's local headlines covering news that the State Appellate Division decided against the Empire State Development Corporation's motion to dismiss the eminent domain case, filed by nine property owners in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

As we noted this weekend, the campaign to justify the project just took a new turn. Now Atlantic Yards is a must-needed economic engine to drive the city, heck even the country, out of the current fiscal crisis. This coordinated campaign was in evidence by Ratner's statement released to the press and Borough President Marty Markowitz's comment to the Brooklyn Paper.

Also, both daily tabloids noted that this isn't the first delay — originally the Nets were supposed to be playing in their new arena in 2006.

Headlines and highlights:
The NY Sun, Atlantic Yard Project Suffers a Setback
Remember, our country needs Atlantic Yards more than ever:

"While the Appellate Division Second Department's decision to hear the case may delay the project for approximately six months let me be clear that the project will go forward," Mr. Ratner said in a statement. "Atlantic Yards will be built and it will create thousands of needed jobs and affordable homes. This is all the more important as our City and country confront one of the most difficult economic downturns in history. We are as committed as ever to the development of this project and will continue to work with the City, State and local leaders to ensure that it goes forward."

NOTE: The Associated Press is reporting that today's edition of The NY Sun will be its last. As the ONLY New York paper that consistently voiced an opinion against taking people's homes and businesses for private projects, The Sun will be missed.

The Brooklyn Paper, Case against Atlantic Yards moves forward

It's not just litigation that's standing in the way of Bruce Ratner's dream of building an arena and the densest residential community in the nation:

Though Ratner downplayed the delay, opponents of the development pointed out that Ratner recently told The New York Times that he plans to “break ground” in December, but it is unclear how he will be able to do that given that his $400-million naming-rights deal with Barclays has not been finalized, the Treasury Department is seen as increasingly unlikely to change a key rule in Ratner’s favor, public officials are balking at a recent request by Ratner for $100 million more in taxpayer subsidies, and key financing — already in jeopardy before the credit crisis — has not been lined up.

Most important to the current case, Ratner does not yet own all the land on which he intends to build.

Marty sez that Brooklyn needs Atlantic Yards:

“I am disappointed [by the court ruling],” said Borough President Markowitz. “I truly believe that in the current economy, Brooklyn needs the kind of investment that Atlantic Yards will bring — the union jobs and affordable housing it will create. Projects like this one are catalysts for job creation and growth, and Atlantic Yards is a very important part of the effort to help Downtown Brooklyn.”

NY Daily News, Legal snag to delay Nets arena project
Remember, this isn't the first timeline delay:

When announced in 2003, the arena was to open in 2006, but mounting delays last year forced the Nets to postpone a move to Brooklyn until at least 2010.

From PR 101: when you run out of spin, then say nothing:

A Ratner spokesman declined to say if a planned December groundbreaking for Atlantic Yards will have to be postponed.


Is the Barclays deal in jeopardy? Barclays does a spin move:

Also up in the air now is the record $400 million naming-rights deal with Barclays Bank, first reported by The Post in January 2007, which is expected to help offset the cost of the arena.

That is now in question because the deal was contingent on Ratner's having his entire project financing set by the end of November, which is now impossible.

When asked if an extension would be negotiated, a Barclays spokesman skirted the question but said, "We look forward to breaking ground with our partners in Brooklyn."

When Ratner announced his plan for Atlantic Yards in 2003, he had hoped to move the Nets to Brooklyn by the 2006-07 season.

amNY, Brooklyn arena could be delayed another 6 months

Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM


NY Post

Columnist Steve Cuozzo's inventory list of "just-done [real estate] deals that give hope it isn't the end of the world" includes Bruce Ratner's Times Tower:

The Government of Flanders, which represents Belgians in that region, and technology outfit Autonomy Inc. signed for a total of 13,000 square feet on floors owned by Bruce Ratner at the New York Times tower.


Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Forest City in the News

Westchester.com, Report On Westchester Multi-Housing Market

A report on condos and apartments in Westchester indicates that the market is still strong due to a low vacancy rate. More inventory is slated to come to market with two large-scale projects in the pipeline:

Significant projects (100+ units) that are under construction include Avalon Bay White Plains that will consist of 417 rental apartments; and Forest City Ratner Companies’ (FCRC), Ridge Hill Village in Yonkers, a mixed-use project featuring 1.3 million sq. ft. of retail space, 160,000 sq. ft. of office and research facilities, and a hotel and conference center. Ridge Hill’s residential component will comprise up to 1,000 apartments, of which 200 will be for over-55 active adults and 135 will be affordable.

Dallas Morning News [City Hall Blog], Cluster of downtown Dallas buildings slated for new redevelopment plan

A portion of Forest City Enterprises's project in Downtown Dallas has stalled, but the city has a Plan B:

...City Hall gave the buildings to Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprises as part of redevelopment plan -- subsidized by about $70 million in public money -- centering on the conversion of the long-vacant Mercantile Bank Building into apartments and retail space. Forest City agreed to begin redeveloping them into more than 200 apartments, or face a series of $250,000 penalties payable to the city government.

Today, the four Atmos buildings remain empty with no redevelopment plan in motion. But that could soon change with a potential change in building ownership.

See, Forest City has already forked over one $250,000 penalty payment to City Hall with the prospect of more looming. After three such penalties, Forest City would by contract forfeit the buildings -- and Dallas City Hall would again become their owner.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

September 29, 2008

Atlantic Yards Faces Another Delay

City Room [NY Times Blog]
by Charles Bagli

The developer of the ambitious Atlantic Yards arena and residential complex in Brooklyn said Monday that the project could be delayed for another six months after a state appellate court failed to dismiss a court challenge brought by opponents of the $4 billion project.

Earlier this month, the developer Bruce C. Ratner vowed that he would break ground in December on the long delayed project, where he plans to build an office tower, 15 apartment buildings and a basketball arena for the Nets.

The developer has fended off a number of lawsuits brought by critics of the project over the past two years. He and state officials had expected that the state Appellate Court would also dismiss the latest suit, which sought to block the state from using eminent domain to seize private property for Mr. Ratner’s project.

Instead, the court denied a motion to dismiss the suit, opening the door for oral arguments in the case next spring.


NoLandGrab: Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation rolled the dice, and they crapped out. If they hadn't gambled on a dismissal, they could have moved the case along much more quickly. Is it possible that deteriorating conditions in the lending market forced them into making a bad bet?

More coverage...

TheDeal.com, Barclays deals with Lehman staff, plans to hire 1,500 more

Off the beaten track, Barclays gave a shout-out to Brooklyn, saying it remains committed to a proposed basketball arena at the Atlantic Yards despite an unfavorable court ruling on the $950 million project.

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog] Setback for Atlantic Yards: Motion to Dismiss Denied

The Stop Shopping Monitor, Major setback for Atlantic Yards

Newark Star-Ledger, Nets' move to Brooklyn may face further delay

The Knickerblogger, Ratner Suffers Setback, the Conspiracy Theory Version

Posted by eric at 5:48 PM

Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking on Pause for 6 Months

Eminent domain lawsuit allowed to go forward

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

While the plaintiffs lost a similar case in federal court, the state proceedings will delay the project right as a recession is threatening.

The project's developer, Forest City Ratner, had announced that a groundbreaking on the Barclays Center basketball arena would take place by the end of this year.

But a ground can't be broken before the project secures financing, and the financing won't come before all litigation is resolved. In an official statement today, the developer, Forest City Ratner, says it is confident it will build the arena.


Posted by eric at 4:39 PM

Barclays committed to Brooklyn arena

Court setback imperils Atlantic Yards ground breaking but bank statement is a boost.

Crain's NY Business
by Matthew Sollars

Barclays Bank says it is committed to the planned basketball arena at the Atlantic Yards project despite a court setback which imperils a planned ground breaking.

A state Appellate Court panel Monday rejected a plea by the state’s Empire State Development Corp. and Forest City Ratner to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the use of eminent domain violates the state constitution. A group of 9 property owners and tenants opposed to the project filed the state suit after a similar lawsuit arguing eminent domain violated the U.S. Constitution was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

“While the Appellate Division Second Department’s decision to hear the case may delay the project for approximately six months let me be clear that the project will go forward,” Mr. Ratner said, in a statement.

The developer also stressed that the project could boost the city during an economic downturn. "Atlantic Yards will be built and it will create thousands of needed jobs and affordable homes," he said.

Barclays Bank has agreed to pay an estimated $20 million per year for the naming rights to the proposed arena, and is believed to have a clause which allows it to back out the deal if construction on the arena is not started by the end of November.

“We look forward to breaking ground with our partners in Brooklyn,” said a Barclays spokesman.


NoLandGrab: Talk is cheap. Let's see what Barclays does when the end of November comes around — will they be donning hard hats and wielding silver shovels in Prospect Heights, or mailing in their cancellation notice while trying to grapple with the increasingly grave global financial crisis?

Posted by eric at 4:23 PM

Construction convert steeled for Yards

Crain's NY Business
by Wendy Davis

Crain's, which seems to support any New York business initiative no matter how misguided it may be, has named the president of Forest City Ratner to its "New Influentials" list.

Joanne Minieri


Forest City Ratner Cos.

Named president of Forest City Ratner in October 2007, Joanne Minieri oversees one of the city's most ambitious and controversial projects. The $4 billion, 8 million–square–foot Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn is to include more than 6,400 apartments, retail space, a hotel and an entertainment and sports arena that will be home to the Nets basketball team.


Posted by eric at 2:00 PM

Developer unveils Gehry-designed development

by Paul Foy

A developer of a Frank Gehry-designed "community from scratch" who actually admits he can't raise the money to do the project? Nope, it's not Bruce Ratner, who's still in denial, claiming a December groundbreaking in the face of much evidence to the contrary.

A developer unveiled a scale model Wednesday for a Frank Gehry-designed "masterpiece" community but acknowledged he would have a difficult time raising billions of dollars for the project.

"I expect the financial markets will soften and things will get better," said [developer Brandt] Andersen, a 31-year-old software entrepreneur who started uSight while still a student at Brigham Young University. He sold the company in 2004 and turned to real-estate development.

Andersen said he hopes to get started on The Point in two or three years along Interstate-15 about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City.

The Point development differs from Atlantic Yards in that it would be built on an 85-acre parcel on which nothing other than nature previously existed. But Frank Gehry seems to be reading from the same script.

"It's a community from scratch that has everything that a community needs, on a gorgeous site in a great part of the world."

"We're not going to do these things just for the glory or PR. We're going to do things that are real," Gehry said. "It's not just phony-baloney."


Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

Atlantic Yards Timeline Not Getting Shorter


That business about having a groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards development by December? It might happen, but it's likely to be symbolic because key litigation about the project will now drag (at least) through next year. On Friday, a State Appellate Court panel rejected a motion to dismiss the key eminent domain lawsuit against the big development, the one rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court that has been refiled in state court.


Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Suffers a Setback

Two weeks ago, the NY Times reported that an Atlantic Yards groundbreaking might take place in December. That's looking almost impossible now, and not because of the Wall Street meltdown.

These guys reproduced the DDDB press release without additional comment:

Yonkers Tribune, Court Rejects New York State's Effort to Dismiss Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

Queens Crap, Setback for ESDC in Atlantic Yards case

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Major Setback for Ratner's Atlantic Yards Plan

Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

PRESS RELEASE, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: Court Rejects New York State's Effort to Dismiss Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case

Ruling is a Major Setback for Bruce Ratner's Proposed Project and the Empire State Development Corporation

Property Owners and Tenants Will Get Their Day in Court Next Year

BROOKLYN, NY— A State Appellate Court* panel has rejected the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) motion to dismiss Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation—the Atlantic Yards eminent domain lawsuit filed by nine property owners and tenants with properties in the footprint of Forest City Ratner's foundering megaproject proposal. The case was filed on August 1st of this year.

The ESDC unsuccessfully tried to dismiss the petitioners' case, which charges that New York State's use of eminent domain to seize private homes and businesses for developer Forest City Ratner's (FCR) Atlantic Yards project violates the New York State Constitution's public use, due process and equal protection clauses, as well as low-income resident requirements.

The petitioners' victory is a major setback for FCR and the ESDC. FCR President/CEO Bruce Ratner recently told The New York Times that he plans to "break ground" in December. Ratner does not own the land he needs to build his proposed arena and skyscraper project, and is attempting to have New York State seize the land for him by eminent domain.

"Though Ratner claims that he'll ‘break ground' for his Atlantic Yards proposal in December, he cannot do so unless New York State uses eminent domain to seize the owners' and tenants' properties and give them to him as planned. But the plan is now in doubt," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn** Legal Director Candace Carponter.

The Court has given the ESDC until October 15th to file its answer to the petitioners' complaint. According to the normal briefing schedule, petitioners will then file their brief on January 15th, 2009. The ESDC would reply in mid-February and petitioners would file their answering brief at the end of February. Oral argument would then most likely be scheduled for sometime in March or April and a decision would presumably come somewhere between late spring and fall of 2009.

"The seizure of my clients' homes and businesses is unconstitutional. We are pleased that the Court has recognized the merit of our case and will now hear the arguments in full," said lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. "We are confident that when we finally have our day in court, we will show that New York State's condemnation and seizure of my clients' homes and businesses for Forest City Ratner's enrichment violates New York's Constitution."

The initial complaint to the Court and the briefs on the motion to dismiss for Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation can be downloaded at: www.dddb.net/eminentdomain

The Court's order denying the motion to dismiss can be found at: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/motions/2008/2008_84057.htm

* Note: The case at issue is not an appeal; it is a complaint that originates in the Appellate Division. New York State law requires that all eminent domain challenges must be initiated in the Appellate Court, rather than the lower court—the Supreme Court.

** Note: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, in our effort to defend the homes and businesses of members of our community, and to advocate for their rights, organized the eminent domain lawsuit, and raises the funds to support it.

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

DDDB is 501c3 non-profit corporation supported by over 4,000 individual donors from the community.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Groundbreaking, 2008? Eminent domain case survives motion to dismiss; hearing no sooner than March

Atlantic Yards Report

The State of New York was denied a quick win by the courts and instead prolonged Forest City Ratner's timetable to clear the Atlantic Yards project of all legal encumberances:

The chances for anything more than a faux Atlantic Yards groundbreaking in 2008 have now plummeted, after an attempt by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to short-circuit the pending state eminent domain case has been denied by an appellate court. That means an oral argument would occur no sooner than March, with a decision some months after that.

The decision denying the ESDC's motion to dismiss, apparently on procedural grounds, doesn’t give the plaintiffs the edge in a long-shot case similar to the one that already failed in federal court, which was seen as more hospitable to such a challenge. But it does undermine the unrealistic timetable regularly promoted by developer Forest City Ratner and complicates the arena naming rights deal with Barclays Capital.

FCR has pledged multiple times that a groundbreaking would take place in November or December, notwithstanding the likelihood that pending legal cases and the unavailability so far of tax-exempt bonds would jeopardize the project.

FCR could still hold a groundbreaking on land it already owns, but it can’t raise funds to build the arena until the lawsuits are cleared. The pledge of a 2008 groundbreaking likely was keyed to the requirement that the $400 million Barclays deal requires arena financing to be closed by November--seemingly an impossibility now.

Norman Oder posted this analysis, followed by a thorough explanation of the court papers filed, on his blog.

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

Ruling on lawsuit against Mansfield is set for Thursday

By Robert Cadwallader

Who woulda thunk that developer Forest City would be at the center of a lawsuit alleging that the company benefited from backroom dealings, involving a questionable land deal and tax incentives?

Sure, that kind of stuff goes on all the time in Cleveland and Brooklyn, but check out what's going on in Mansfield, TX, just outside of Ft. Worth.

A judge could rule Thursday on a lawsuit saying the city held illegal secret meetings, conducted questionable land deals and offered questionable tax incentives related to The Shops at Broad Street retail center.
The city and one-time City Council candidate Valerie Mantos are set to square off in a summary judgment hearing before Judge Bonnie Sudderth of the 352nd State District Court in Fort Worth. The city is asking Sudderth to rule in its favor without a trial.

However, last week Mantos filed an amended petition that expanded its complaints about how the city provided the 105-acre site and incentives for the planned 1.2 million-square-foot retail complex.

Read the rest of the article to hear some familiar themes.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

September 28, 2008

How's That Anchor Tenant Search Going for Ratner's Atlantic Yards?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has said in the past that his firm would not build the proposed project's signature tower "Building 1" née "Miss Brooklyn" until there is an anchor tenant. That proposed building would include 650,000 sf. of office space.

How is that going to fly when it is reported that the downtown Manhattan real estate market is faring badly, let alone the "near Downtown Brooklyn" market? Ratner has resorted to direct mail solicitations this year, but DDDB thinks he might have to go further:

If cold calling and networking parties don't work, what's next: begging on hands and knees in-person?


Posted by amy at 2:48 PM

Markowitz Plays the Atlantic Yards Charade


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn also weighs in on this week's Courier article with a list of what Marty's staffer should have told him:

-Ratner literally has no plans to build Phase 2 were around 80% of the proposed "affordable" housing would be built.

-Ratner will not build his 650,000 square feet of office space without an anchor tenant, and finding an anchor tenant would be a miracle.

-Ratner's billion dollar white elephant arena would create very few new jobs and would be a net loss for the City of New York

-Well, the list is really too long to re-publish here, we've already explained how Atlantic Yards is too costly and too risky, how it is not strategic by any stretch of the imagination, and how the arena is a "frill at the edge." We've also explained how the whole blinkered effort to push Atlantic Yards forward is a charade.


Posted by amy at 2:38 PM

"Economic engine"? Markowitz repeats AY boilerplate, fails to check facts


Atlantic Yards Report looks at this week's Courier-Life article where Markowitz refers to Atlantic Yards as an "economic engine that will power our borough through lean times."

Markowitz’s “economic engine” quote comes from the Atlantic Yards web site and, while it’s true that any project creates temporary construction jobs--Atlantic Yards would be 1500 a year, but note that the choice is not between AY and nothing--and a growth in residents creates retail demand, the economic benefits of the project, compared to costs, are extremely murky.

We know the arena might be a loss. We know that Forest City Ratner's "economic engine" quote is attached to the dubious Ratner-commissioned study by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, who counts taxes from residents of new housing, while more legitimate studies--including all those by government agencies, however flawed--count taxes not from residents but from new jobs.

Moreover, the most significant factor driving tax revenues is commercial space--remember, a drop in planned commercial space cut projected AY tax revenues by nearly one-third. Meanwhile, as Forest City Ratner cold-calls to find an anchor for the unscheduled Building 1 office tower, the commercial office market in New York has tanked.


Posted by amy at 2:30 PM

Weighing Scale


Noticing New York has fun with scale, looking at the differences between renderings from the Municipal Art Society’s “Atlantic Yards or Atlantic Lots” slide show and the Environmental Simulation Center’s Atlantic Yards plug-in for the Google Earth program.

The MAS renderings do not try to recreate the distracting Gehry/Ratner abstractions and thereby do a superior job of suggesting what the contextual density and extreme mass of this project would be. For instance, in the MAS renderings, surrounding Brooklyn is crisply visible: Each doorway, window frame, existing tree and passing car window provides scale while the stand-ins for the mass of the proposed Atlantic Yards megaproject also has scale-setting windows and floors clearly indicated. The rendering is matter-of-fact-neutral right down to a very restrained daytime depiction of the 15-story animated sign that will be illuminated at night.
Like the MAS renderings, the Environmental Simulation Center modeling is good in that they concentrate in context on the actual mass and density that needs to be considered, while stripping away distracting glitz. The Environmental Simulation Center modeling is not perfect; it was generated a while ago and doesn’t reflect some of the slight size changes for the project that have been recently discussed. On the other hand it is not certain that this is relevant since it is far from clear that any of our government officials are in the habit of making Forest City Ratner commit to anything, and since nobody really knows what is going on with this project which is obviously in a state of flux. The Environmental Simulation Center modeling also allows you to examine for comparison the much more sensible density and massing alternatives that were offered by the Extel proposal, the Pacific Plan (Slide 36) and the first version of the community’s UNITY Plan.


Posted by amy at 2:20 PM

night on Dean


threecee via flickr

Dean Street near 6th Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

The five small houses on the left (487-495 Dean Street) would be demolished for Atlantic Yards. The one on the far left, 487 Dean Street, is currently being demolished. The 3 on to the right, 491-495 Dean, are occupied. The taller buildings on the right are outside of the project footprint.


Posted by amy at 2:16 PM

Build, baby build! AY is Marty's ANWR

According to Borough President Marty Markowitz, as reported by Steven Witt in this week's Courier-Life:

"The recent drop in the stock market and the weakening of the American economy underscores the importance of moving ahead with projects like Atlantic Yards."

No matter what is happening in the world around us, guys like Marty handily turn it into a reason to build Atlantic Yards:

If the economy is tanking, we must build it now for the jobs (despite the fact that there's no real timetable and a scarcity of government subsidies).

If the economy is booming and housing prices are soaring, we must build it now for the affordable housing (despite the fact that there's no real timetable and a scarcity of government subsidies).

If Brooklyn's infrastructure is overloaded and outdated, we must build it now as a catalyst for reinvestment in local infrastructure (despite the fact... well you get the idea).

If the cost of oil reaches historic highs, we must build it now to create the densest residential community in the nation around a busy transportation hub.

If Brooklyn is on top, we must build it now, because what major city doesn't have a professional sports team as its crown jewel.

If Brooklyn's brand starts waning, then we must build it now, because it was the lack of professional sports that ruined it in the first place.

Build, baby build!

And in the meantime, Markowitz will gladly accept more six-figure checks from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner for his summer concert series.

Does this remind anyone else of how the Bush administration spun its wheels for the past eight years searching for any justification for drilling for oil in ANWR?

Posted by lumi at 9:39 AM

September 27, 2008

In tale of Giuliani influence, insight into the flexibility in size of affordable housing units

Atlantic Yards Report does the math behind the mysterious sizing of affordable housing units - an equation that involves Giuliani, a felon running the HDC, and Judith Nathan:

Harding's tale involves the 80/20 program, involving 80% market-rate units and 20% low-income units, which more closely resembles Forest City Ratner's project at 80 DeKalb Avenue, rather than the Atlantic Yards project, for which the rental towers--though not the ones containing condos--would contain 50% market-rate, 30% middle- or moderate-income units, and 20% low-income units.

As I wrote, though the state Housing Finance Agency requires that 20% of the units be affordable, it requires that only 18% of the floor area be devoted to those units, thus allowing for somewhat smaller units. For 80 DeKalb, FCR plans to devote 18.6% of the floor area to affordable units.

For an earlier incarnation of Atlantic Yards, as I wrote 7/15/06, the affordable units, at an average of 675 square feet, would represent about 33% of the total number of units but only 22% of the housing square footage. Now, the 2250 units would represent 35% of the 6430 total units, and, at 675 sf, they'd represent about 24% of the 6.79 million square feet of housing.


Posted by amy at 11:29 AM

Escaped Parolee a Game-Changer for Saint Ann's Stance


Another episode in the saga of Saint Ann's school, Forest City Ratner and the development company's newest tenant, a Federal Probation Office:


"We believe that as long as the school and its neighbors are doing everything they can to ensure student safety, there is a limit to the extent to which the school can or should appropriately try to influence, block or change the environment and facilities in which Saint Ann’s has always chosen to locate itself," wrote the headmaster and board president at the time. Just two weeks into the school year, however, a 32-year-old parolee who'd already done 12 years in jail on drug-related charges, bolted from an interrogation room at 147 Pierrepont Street at 2:50 in the afternoon, ten minutes before school let out. Two armed officers pursued him on the street, where one parent reported seeing one of the officers reach for his gun before thinking better of it. On top of that, it's come to light that 53 sex offenders (six of whom are pedophiles) have been visiting the parole office, contrary to assurances initially given the school administration. Needless to say, the school administration has now changed its tune and will be asking a Federal judge to relocate the probation office to the courts.


Posted by amy at 11:24 AM

Panels: 'The Sky Is Not Falling'


Ryan Clark

Movers and shakers of CRE gathered within the towering majesty of the Roosevelt Hotel here to discuss and debate the future of New York's real estate market. Despite the downturn, the mood was optimistic.

The conference began with keynote speaker Seth Pinsky from the New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC), voicing his opinion that Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the "best mayor this city has ever seen." Pinsky pointed out that currently, New York had the highest bond rating in 80 years and that, by the end of the mayor's term, the boroughs will have "rezoned 20% of the city's land area." Listing some of these accomplishments, Pinsky rattled off a slew of ongoing projects including, the far Westside, the 11th Avenue subway expansion, Willet's Point, Hunt's Point, the Atlantic Yards project and the two new stadiums in the Bronx and Queens.

NoLandGrab: So we're guessing Mr. Pinsky thought this was more important to attend than a congressional hearing on stadium financing? And which of his rattled off slew of projects is not like the others? All but Atlantic Yards have been rezoned using ULURP.

Posted by amy at 10:06 AM

September 26, 2008

Knicks May Get Even Worse Before They Get Better

NY Sun
by Martin Johnson

This look at the future of the Knicks includes a misguided reference to Bruce Ratner's planned Nets arena.

The Nets appear to have taken an intentional step backward as part of a rebuilding effort that they hope will lure LeBron James to their lineup when the team opens its new Brooklyn arena in 2010.


NoLandGrab: We were going to correct the mistake above, but America's Public Editor, Norman Oder, beat us to the punch in the Sun's comments section.

Submitted by Norman Oder, Sep 25, 2008 10:39

The Brooklyn arena won't open in 2010. Now 2011 looks like a best-case scenario.

Posted by eric at 12:54 PM

Does AY "exist"? State judge dismisses lawsuit that challenged AY deadline and sought new hearing

Atlantic Yards Report

A lawsuit brought by tenants located in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project was dismissed by the New York Supreme Court. The Atlantic Yards Report goes into some of the specifics of the decision.

A “smaller” lawsuit involving the Atlantic Yards project has been dismissed by a State Supreme Court justice, who rejected charges by tenants in two AY footprint buildings that that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is violating a provision of state law that requires disposition of properties within a decade and should hold another hearing because the project has changed considerably.

Attorney George Locker says there will be an appeal:

Locker commented yesterday, “There is an elephant in the room. It is a project that does not exist. Choose to see the elephant, and the legal reasoning follows. Choose to ignore the elephant, and you have Judge Solomon's decision.”

He added, “In a prior but unrelated decision, the Appellate Division ordered ESDC to hold a hearing when the project that it had proposed was changed. Judge Solomon avoided the hearing issue entirely by saying it's the same project. How come Bruce Ratner won't contractually commit to a ten year project, Phase II has no time limit, but Judge Solomon finds there's no evidence it's not the same project?”

“So we will appeal to the Appellate Division, and see whether the Appellate Division chooses to see the elephant in the room. Maybe by then, the Court will have decided that the area is not blighted,” he said, referring to the September 16 argument in the case challenging the AY environmental review. “We will also give the Appellate Division the opportunity to decide whether the project exists at all."


Posted by steve at 5:42 AM

Marty: Don’t question me!


The Brooklyn Paper

This editorial calls on Borough President Marty Markowitz to explain himself in light of his criticism of the press.

Last week, Borough President Markowitz used the otherwise pleasant occasion of his annual Brooklyn Book Festival to lambaste the media — particularly the New York Post and Daily News — for a spate of recent stories that revealed a) that a slush fund of public money that he controls intentionally skirts city scrutiny; b) that his years of shilling for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from Ratner to that slush fund; and c) his “busy” schedule is filled largely with ceremonial events.

Clarification is called for on a number of items, including these two:

The inner workings of the deal he has with the Courier-Life newspaper chain to publish his “Brooklyn!!” promotional publication. A Brooklyn Paper review discovered that publicity and printing are a huge part of Borough Hall’s discretionary budget — costs that could be a payback to the Courier-Life chain for its consistently positive coverage of Markowitz.

Whether he supports Atlantic Yards because he honestly thinks the proposed 16-skyscraper, public-subsidy-devouring, ill-conceived monstrosity will improve the lives of his constituents or because his friend Bruce Ratner keeps pouring cash into Markowitz’s personal slush fund.

This issue was originally picked up by the Atlantic Yards Report; the editorial is noted there: The Brooklyn Paper says Markowitz "doth protest too much"

Posted by steve at 5:25 AM

On the Edge

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

This article talks about how Brooklynites are worried over the financial problems emanating from Wall Street. Included is this moment from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting when the new head of the ESDC, Marisa Lago, was introduced:

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce had the unfortunate luck to be holding its annual meeting on Wednesday, just as the full extent of the Wall Street collapse sank in.

At the St. Francis College podium in Brooklyn Heights, Chamber officials tried a little gallows humor.

When he introduced Marisa Lago, the new head of the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards and Brooklyn Bridge Park, outgoing Chamber Chairman Dan Holt sarcastically said, “She probably couldn’t have picked a better time” to start that job.


NoLandGrab: Despite the financial difficulties, this could be a very good time for Marisa Lago to be starting a new position, if ESDC (whose job it is to encourage economic activity in the State) was to recognize that the proposed Atlantic Yards development will have little or no economic benefit for Brooklyn.

Posted by steve at 4:55 AM

September 25, 2008


eminentdomainia31.jpg WILLETS POINT
As most of you heard, the NY City Planning Commission voted to approve Mayor Bloomberg's redevelopment plan of Willets Point in Queens.

That means that the proposed plan is headed to a vote in the City Council, the legislative body that had no vote on Atlantic Yards and rubber-stamped the Columbia University expansion plan. Watchdogs anticipate a more contentious debate over Willets Point, where a majority of councilmembers have already sided with the property owners.

Here are today's headlines:
The NY Sun, Willets Point Plan Gets Planning Approval
NY Daily News, Showdown coming over Willets Point
The Wonkster, Willets Point Approved
NY1, Planning Commission Votes To Move Forward With Willets Point Redevelopment

Because one eminent domain hearing is never enough, Noticing New York blogger Michael D. D. White sped from State Senator Bill Perkins's hearing to the NY State Appellate Court in time to catch a judicial colloquy about blight. He posted a detailed account of his eminent domain double header.

Noticing New York, Contrivance in the service of creating blight, real blight- Listen again- REAL blight

The theme for heavily-evented Wednesday, Thursday and this week as a whole is deceit, manipulation and contrivance in the service of bringing blight to our communities.

Wednesday morning State Senator Bill Perkins held hearings about the need for eminent domain reform in New York where eminent domain abuse probably outstrips such abuse anywhere else in the country.
After Senator Perkins’ eminent domain hearing there was hardly time to get to the oral argument, in the state lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review.
Once again we were considering a record of deceit, manipulation and contrivance in the service of bringing blight to our communities.

A true sign of a progressive democracy, at least the United States can hold its head up high and lay claim that we don't jail or strip property owners who fight to keep their homes, according to the last time we checked.

Ground Report, Female Chinese Land Seizure Protesters Stripped Naked & Jailed

The NY Times coverage comes to us via a local Libertarian blog, which places Mayor Bloomberg's New York in some fine company:

Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, Manhattanville, the list goes on. Whether it is China or the United States, Zimbabwe or the Middle East, a change in philosophy is needed that embraces individualism, individual liberty, private property and markets that thoroughly and consistently rejects their opposites.

The editorial board at the El Paso Times recommends that the city use eminent domain only "as a last resort" after removing the threat of eminent domain from the table. Huh?

El Paso Times, Eminent domain: Use only as last resort

Keep eminent domain as a last-ditch tool, but don't wield it as a weapon.

To quote Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, "If you have a bazooka in your pocket and people know it, you probably won't have to use it." 'Nuff said.

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

The Jane Jacobs Medals, Robert Moses, and the view beyond “Death and Life”

Atlantic Yards Report

We nearly spit our coffee this morning while reading this excerpt from Jane Jacobs's "The Economy of Cities," in Norman Oder's reflections on this year's winners of the Jane Jacobs Medal.

There’s little in The Economy of Cities about the street ballet Jacobs described in Death and Life, but there’s one tart observation that has resonance in the Atlantic Yards debate:

Nor is the process by which one thing leads to another confined to profit-making enterprises... Nor is it, as we notice from the papers, confined to useful, legal, or innocuous work... some city-planning departments take to scouting out and processing profitable deals for favored real-estate operators and also to organizing and running fraudulent “citizens’ organizations” to help overcome public opposition.


NoLandGrab: "Favored real-estate operators," "fraudulent 'citizens' organizations'?" And we thought that Atlantic Yards was special.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

Forest City in the News

TradingMarkets.com, Forest City Enterprises Declares 8 Cent Dividend

September 24, 2008 (FinancialWire) -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc.'s (NYSE: FCE) (Current Market Cap: US$3.24 Bil.) board has declared a cash dividend of $0.08 for each outstanding share of both class A and class B common stock.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City closes on financing for D.C. project

Forest City Enterprises Inc. has closed on $250 million in construction financing for the initial phase of a project in southwest Washington, D.C.

The Cleveland-based real estate company has secured financing for the first two buildings of Waterfront Station, a mixed-use redevelopment project on M Street Southwest and Fourth Street near a rail station. The first two buildings comprise 628,000 square feet of offices and retail. The office space is fully leased to the District of Columbia for government offices. The retail tenants will include a Safeway supermarket and a CVS pharmacy.

Forest City executives said the financing deal is a testament to the project's strength in tough times. The $10.9 billion company continues to make announcements about financing deals and developments, though Forest City has pulled back on some projects and is taking a more cautious stance amid financial turmoil and a tight lending market.

Construction financing for the Waterfront Station project involved the Bank of Ireland, Wachovia Corp., PB Capital Corp. and the New York branch of Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg. Bank of New York Mellon will serve as the administrative agent for the lenders.

Washington Business Journal, Forest City lands $250M for Southwest project

“Closing this nonrecourse financing in the midst of current credit-market conditions is a testament to a strong project in an excellent location, as well as to Forest City’s sponsorship, its partners and a great group of lenders,” said Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City (NYSE:FCEA) (NYSE:FCEB).

It’s also indicative of the creative approaches developers are taking to get the money to build projects. While the construction financing market was once dominated by regional and local banks, developers are increasingly turning to sovereign wealth funds, foreign banks and syndication arrangements with pools of participating banks.
The project is being developed by Waterfront Associates, a joint venture between affiliates of Forest City Washington Inc., Bresler & Reiner Inc. and Vornado/Charles E. Smith.

GlobeSt.com, $250M Finances Waterfront Station

Cleveland Scene, Conventional Wisdom
Despite the fact that siting Cleveland's new convention center behind Tower City flies in the face of the logistical needs of those who actually run and service conventions and trade shows, there's one reason that the site selection committee might have chosen the land owned by Forest City over the site where the current convention center is located:

OFFICIALLY, THERE ARE two sites in play: land behind Tower City, on the Cuyahoga River, occupied mainly by parking lots; and the current, city-owned convention center, under Malls B and C downtown. Both were evaluated by the Greater Cleveland Partnership, a coalition of major area businesses.

In August, the GCP's 13-member site-selection committee, formed at the county commissioners' behest, released a report explaining the pros and cons of both locations (available online at www.positivelycleveland.com/mediacenter/conventioncenter). The committee also announced that it had voted unanimously in favor of the Tower City location, which is owned by Forest City, whose board chairman, Sam Miller, is a contributor to many campaigns and arguably the most powerful non-elected person in Cleveland.

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

September 24, 2008

Planning Commission approves Willets Point plan

Crain's NY Business
by Matthew Sollars

The surprise here is that one of the 12 City Planning Commissioners actually voted against the Bloomberg administration's proposal to redevelop Willets Point, though City Council member Hiram Monseratte saved us the trouble by calling today's vote "a rubber stamp."

The Willets Point plan will now move to the City Council for a vote, where its fate is far from certain. A majority of council members have pledged to vote against the plan if it does not include a higher percentage of affordable housing. They have also objected to the use of eminent domain, something the city has not ruled out if it can’t come to terms with property owners to acquire the land there.


Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

It's Time for all New Yorkers to Sacrifice, Unless You Happen to Own a Pro Sports Team

The headlines this week have been full of stories about the tough times facing New York, and how we're all going to have to tighten our belts, cut back, and suffer for the greater good. Unless, of course, your name happens to be Steinbrenner, Wilpon or Ratner.

The New York Times, New York City Wants Cuts by Agencies Across Board

With an eye on Wall Street’s turmoil and New York City’s fragile economy, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered city agencies on Tuesday to cut spending by about $500 million this year and $1 billion next year.

The cuts are to be made across the board, affecting agencies including the Police Department, which must cut costs by $95 million this year, and the school system, which needs to trim $185 million.

Over all, the reductions represent 2.5 percent of the agencies’ budgets this year and 5 percent next year.

The midyear budget cuts are intended to provide a financial cushion should the city’s tax revenue, which is heavily dependent on Wall Street’s profits, drop further, as many expect.

The timing of the announcement suggests that Mr. Bloomberg may be seeking to soften the political fallout of a possible 7 percent property tax increase, which he disclosed on Monday. The spending cuts, aides said, showed that everyone, including government, will feel the pain from a slowing economy. [emphasis added]

NoLandGrab: Actually, not everyone, since the Bloomberg administration is still doing everything in its power to help the the Yankees, Mets and Nets secure tax-exempt financing for their new palaces, a scheme that will place an added burden on the same taxpayers already in the cross-hairs.

The New York Times, In Fiscal Crisis, Mayor Considers Raising Property Tax 7 Percent

Unless your property happens to be a stadium or arena, in which case, of course, the land beneath it would be conveniently tax-exempt.

As if to underscore the seriousness of the situation, Mr. Bloomberg said that while he sat next to Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, for a full inning at the final game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, “The economy was the only thing we talked about.”

NoLandGrab: Who wants to bet that the Mayor and the Speaker never once said, "hey, what if we eliminated the tax exemption on the land right beneath our arses?" Wonder how they scored those great seats?

And in related news...

The New York Times, Transit Agency Requests Review of How Contract for Special Bus Fuel Was Awarded

The MTA is launching an investigation into "a highly unusual contract that has added millions of dollars to the cost of buying diesel fuel for city buses."

NoLandGrab: Like us, you might still be waiting for the investigation into the MTA's agreement to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to developer Forest City Ratner for less than half the amount of its own appraisal — and $50 million less than rival bidder Extell Development Company was willing to pay.

Posted by eric at 12:51 PM

The Lightning Rod

Gotham Magazine
by Kathryn Wilson

No, it's not Alex Rodriguez (who's called "The Lightning Rod" by WFAN's Steve Somers) being fawned over by glossy magalog Gotham, it's everyone's favorite starchitect, Frank O. Gehry.

“People think I crumple up paper and that’s the design, which is just the opposite of what I do,” says Gehry. “You see Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain and it looks effortless. The guy practiced six hours a day! It’s the same here.”

article [PDF]

Posted by eric at 12:30 PM

Markowitz's grievance against the press, his questionable charity, and the real failure of the BP's office

Atlantic Yards Report

Hello Brooklyn! Norman Oder examines the Borough President's legacy and legitimacy:

The thin-skinned BP has had even more reason to be exercised in recent months, as the New York Post has challenged the legitimacy of the borough presidency and the New York Daily News has uncovered Markowitz’s dubious practice of relying on an in-house charity to raise funds from supporters--including developer Forest City Ratner--who otherwise wouldn’t be able to contribute such sums to his office or campaign. The Brooklyn Paper uncovered further evidence of how six-figure FCR contributions fuel Markowitz's popular concert series.
Well, let’s put aside Markowitz’s polarizing support for Atlantic Yards, which probably will define his legacy. Let’s take Markowitz at his word that programs like the book festival and his summer concert series and his teen summer jobs program are genuine efforts, however funded, to serve his constituency. Let’s take supporters of the borough presidencies at their word when they say that the offices, however politically impotent, serve as a counterweight to a strong mayor.

I think that Markowitz has not used his office to empower Brooklynites to participate in democratic self-governance, especially regarding land use issues. He has a staffer to write proclamations but won’t answer tough but serious press questions about Atlantic Yards, such as the follow-up I sought regarding his traffic recommendations.

Rather than beef up community boards with training on land use issues, as has the office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Markowitz has played politics with appointments, targeting members who didn't support Atlantic Yards. (Had Markowitz taken land-use issues more seriously, how might the AY proposal have evolved?)
Markowitz may be “on the block,” as his promotional Brooklyn!! publication regularly proclaims. And Markowitz may indeed remain politically popular. But Brooklyn is not a cult of personality.


Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

Barclays Preview

BarclaysHQ-DB.jpg An alert reader called our attention to this photo from Dealbreaker and noted, "Lehman Brothers' HQ grants us a glimpse of Flatbush and Atlantic's dystopian future."

Curbed.com offered up the requisite snark:

And who would've thunk that the Barclays name would be splashed all over a Midtown skyscraper before Brooklyn's Barclays Center even got out of the ground? They might want to rethink those naming rights and save a little cash.

NoLandGrab: According to The New York Times, Barclays can opt out of the naming-rights deal for Bruce Ratner's Nets arena in Brooklyn, if the deal isn't closed by November.

Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

Finance…and Now Politics…Complicating Arena Schedule

Nets Daily

Sports Business Journal thinks arenas with financing in place are in good shape, but those still waiting for deals — like the Nets’ Barclays Center — could face delays. SBJ says “financial support remains in doubt for building a new arena in Brooklyn” … in spite of the Nets’ oft-stated claim that ground will be broken by year’s end. Meanwhile, a change in control of the New York State Senate may hurt the project.


NoLandGrab: Could a change in the State Senate really alter the way NY State wields the power of eminent domain when Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, arguably the most powerful pol in NY, is a supporter of the project?

On the other hand, the question about what deals will get done and which ones will have to wait for better times is one to watch. Gumby Fresh recently noticed that Goldman Sachs, the same firm working on the Nets arena financing, "closed a pretty solid, if somewhat subsidy-larded financing for the Louisville Arena the other day."

Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

Should a Teardrop be Shed- Considering the Burden?

Noticing New York


This is about Battery Park City’s Teardrop Park, which I like, and the issue of superblocking. I don’t like superblocks. I am wondering whether to cry a few tears about the inconsistent philosophy of Amanda Burden when it comes to supporting the Atlantic Yards, the ill-conceived megadevelopment supported by the man who appointed her, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.


Atlantic Yards Report, Reducing Noticing New York’s Amanda Burden post to a Tweet

Michael D.D. White's analysis of City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden is worth a read, but if you don't have the time, consider that the microblogging service Twitter limits posts (aka Tweets) to 140 characters.

A. Burden. Worked on BPC. Worried about BPC teardrop park, based on superblock. Park < AY superblock. Burden likes AY. Sincere? Prob. not.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Forest City in the News

MarketWatch, Forest City Closes on $250 Million in Financing for Waterfront Project in Southwest D.C.

From a Forest City press release:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) announced today that it has closed on $250 million in construction financing for the initial phase of its Waterfront Station project in Southwest Washington, D.C.

Waterfront Station, on M Street SW at 4th Street, is a mixed-use redevelopment that will include office, residential and retail components. The site is adjacent to the Waterfront/Southeastern University MetroRail station.

The financing includes the project's first two buildings, totaling 628,000 square feet of office and ground-level retail space. The office component is fully leased to the District of Columbia for various governmental offices, and the retail component will include a Safeway supermarket, a CVS pharmacy, and other retail tenants.

NoLandGrab: Note that the office space is leased by the government. Fun fact: The City of NY is the largest tenant in MetroTech and the State of NY is the largest tenant in the Atlantic Center Mall.

The Eagle-Tribune in Massachusetts reported earlier this week that, "[Forest City] is a family-owned and family-run company that cooperates with local officials." It also works the other way around.

The Eagle-Tribune, Wall Street's woes are hitting home on Main Street.

Ironically it was the Eagle-Trib that reported on Monday that an official from the City of Haverhill "said he expects Lawrence officials will be happy with the way Forest City operates." Now that Forest City is putting the brakes on the Lawrence project, due to the credit crisis, Lawrence officials are probably not that happy.

Forest City Enterprises, a national development company based in Cleveland, Ohio, had planned to convert the Newark Paper property along the Merrimack in Lawrence into a 291-unit apartment complex. That plan is now on hold.

"The credit markets are not so wonderful," David Levey, executive vice president at Forest City Enterprises, told Kirk. "There is no financing for anything right now. It's very serious."

"I've never seen anything like this," added Levey, who has a 30-year career in commercial and residential development projects. "Three of the five biggest mortgage brokers in the nation — Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns — are no longer in business. These were very big players in the market."

The Journal News, State aid sought to preserve New Rochelle Armory

A group fighting to save an armory to be demolished for a Forest City project in New Rochelle is hoping the State of NY will step in to save the historic building.

A group of people fighting to save the city's armory from demolition has now asked the state Attorney General's Office to intervene.

"It's clear that this property has not been improved or maintained," said John Verni, an attorney representing the Save the Armory Committee. "The city has violated the deed and it should be declared that the property should go back to the state's control."

The city bought the armory from the state in 1997 for $1 on the condition that it remain park, recreation and municipal space. The armory is to be demolished as part of the developer Forest City Residential's plans to revitalize the Echo Bay waterfront with hundreds of rentals, condominiums and townhouses.

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

September 23, 2008

City, workers at odds over Willets Pt. retraining

One of the programs will focus on providing jobs in the hotel industry. But Willets Point workers, many of them in the automotive repair industry, say they would rather keep their jobs and move with their employers.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

The city is proposing that Willets Point workers it intends to displace be retrained for jobs in the hospitality industry, but the workers are happy doing what they've been doing.

“Once again, the city intentionally fails to acknowledge the existing jobs at Willets Point,” said Jack Bono, owner of Bono Sawdust Supply. “It's ludicrous for the city to create a ‘Workforce Development Program’ for people who are already fully employed.”

Willets Point workers said the city’s training program is not the answer to their problems. “That’s not a solution for us,” said Sergio Aguirre, coordinator of the Willets Point Defense Committee, which represents tenant-run businesses and their workers. “Training can be part of the solution, but we want to be relocated. Almost everybody has been working in auto mechanics for many years. We’re experienced in that.”


NoLandGrab: How about a program for retraining certain elected officials and bureaucrats for exciting careers as used-car salesmen?

Posted by eric at 4:22 PM

Is AY a game of charades, as per DDDB? Maybe, but the game isn't over

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at the dots connected by DDDB, and both agrees and disagrees.

Announcing Atlantic Yards: The $4 Billion Game of Charades, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has a good array of reasons to argue that Atlantic Yards "isn't gonna happen." I'd agree that it certainly won't happen in the way promised, but that doesn't mean that the project can't move forward in some way.

However, the dots don't necessarily connect. Three top officials, Governor David Paterson, new Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) CEO/President Marisa Lago, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, speaking generally, have expressed caution and skepticism about governmental overreach, without citing Atlantic Yards.

The project has been approved by the ESDC and the state Public Authorities Control Board. To such officials, that indicates a certain amount of momentum and inevitability, not to mention the institutional investment in the project within the state and city governments.

Questions pending

Several questions arise:

  • what is the project?
  • what is the timeline?
  • how much would the project cost?
  • will the city commit to not providing additional subsidies?
  • what are the factors regarding the building of affordable housing?
  • has the project (and timetable) changed so much it merits another round of environmental review?

Even as lawsuits and rules regarding federal tax-exempt bonds remain unresolved, the backers of the project in state and city government should be prepared to answer those questions.


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Atlantic Yards: The $4 Billion Game of Charades

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB connects the dots on the fate of Atlantic Yards, and wonders when New York's elected (and appointed) leaders will catch on, as well.

Atlantic Yards isn't gonna happen. So can we stop pretending now?

Yeah, Bruce Ratner and his government enablers continue the charade that all is well in Ratnerville—what with his planned "ground breaking" in December and all. But that's absurd, and impossible, unless they plan some nonsense ribbon cutting kabuki of shovels and fanfare signifying nothing meaningful about actually constructing their arena and skyscrapers.

C'mon. Get real.

Haven't any of them noticed we are in the biggest financial crisis since World War 2 or the Great Depression depending upon who you ask? Didn't they just watch Wall Street's meltdown? Didn't they witness an extremely skeptical State Court judicial panel on September 17th? Haven't they seen the credit market? Are they not privy to the real estate crash? Are they unaware of the office vacancy rate in NYC? Have they not heard the "NO" from government officials in response to their continual lobbying to suck more money from the taxpayer? Have they not taken note of escalating construction costs? Did they not notice that the Barclays Center Arena is the most expensive ever proposed at $950 million and is sure to rise in cost? Don't they remember saying that the project was supposed to provide "affordable" housing? Have their calendars malfunctioned to such an extent that they didn't notice that the arena that was supposed to open in 2006, at the end of 2008 still languishes with its required land still in the hands of other owners?

Surely someone with political power has noticed that Ratner no longer even shows Phase 2 of the project in his model—that's the phase that purportedly was going to bring the bulk of the "affordable" housing and the "privately-owned, publicly-accessible open space." Right?


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Brodsky: "nothing like professional sports to make public people nutty"

Atlantic Yards Report

Last Thursday, the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, held a hearing called “Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York.”

Today's Atlantic Yards Report continues its coverage of the hearing and asks:

Why use public money for professional sports facilities?
What tangible benefits result from this kind of investment?
Where's the integrity of a process that isn't honest and open about the first two questions?

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky testified as to how all logic seems to fly out the window when it comes to public subsidies for professional sports:

"[T]here is nothing like professional sports to make public people nutty," Brodsky declared, aiming to explain why private sports teams get tax breaks and subsidies they don't deserve.

Also included is a quote from New York University law professor Clayton Gillette, who testified that, whether or not a city determines any benefit from building a professional sports venue, local, not federal funding, should be used:

"Congressman, I want to be a little more reluctant than my colleagues on the dais up here and say, it depends on who the ‘we’ is. That is, a particular municipality or municipal officials going through a process that reflects the true preference of their constituents, decides that the absence of economic benefits notwithstanding, the kinds of more ephemeral benefits that Assemblyman Brodsky and Professor Humprheys are referring to, warrant a particular use of public money, then I, a fan of local autonomy, say that’s just fine, but--that public money should be the municipality's public money, if that’s a municipal decision."

"So if you mean by ‘we’ is the municipality actually internalizing all the economic effects of the decision, I have less difficulty, even though I might disagree," he continued. "What I do disagree with is the notion that, simply because a municipality says, we believe that as local residents that this is in our local interest, that that necessarily entails the use of a federal tax exemption so that nonresidents of that municipality are required to subsidize the local decision...."

A change in rules regarding use of Federal funds to subsidize professional sports facilities would drive up the cost of building the proposed Barclays Center arena for developer Bruce Ratner.


Posted by steve at 6:41 AM

Sen. Schumer on the Bailout. Schumer on Atlantic Yards.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


Senator Charles Schumer gives his considered opinion on the proposed $700 billion Wall Street bailout:

We need to put the taxpayers first, ahead of bondholders, shareholders, executives,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. “You need transparency. You need oversight to make sure this huge amount of money is spent without favoritism, in a fair way, and that people see what's going on as it happens.

But for Atlantic Yards:

Atlantic Yards deal, which Senator Schumer supports unconditionally:
Taxpayers first? No
Transparency? No.
Oversight? No.
Favoritism? Yes.
Fair? No.
People see what's going on as it happens? No.


Posted by steve at 6:08 AM

Atlantic Yards, the Musical Tragicomedy

DramaComedy.gif BroadwayWorld.com, The Civilians to Present 'Brooklyn at Eye Level'

Brooklyn at Eye Level, a long-term investigation of development in Brooklyn and its effect on neighborhood and community. For this work the company will connect artists, community members and local youth using their signature creative process grounded in documentary art. Brooklyn at Eye Level will examine the surge of development in Brooklyn, with a specific focus on the controversial Atlantic Yards project and its effect on the surrounding communities of Fort Greene, Boreum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Crown Heights, Park Slope and Prospect Heights.
The Labs and the community investigation will culminate in a week of public performances at the Brooklyn Lyceum December 4-7, 2008 featuring professional actors, musicians and dancers as well as local residents. Following the December shows, the company will use the material gathered in the fall to develop a new full-length work of theater as well as online content and several future programs to be announced.

“Though the focus will be the Atlantic Yards project, we hope to delve deeply into the issues of development, eminent domain and community on a broad level, looking at changes in many neighborhoods and how they affects people’s lives on an intimate level” explained Steven Cosson. “We are excited to begin this new theatrical experiment so close to home and are looking forward to seeing what this project reveals about our city and ourselves.”

TheaterMania, The Civilians to Present Brooklyn at Eye Level in December

The award-winning theater troupe The Civilians will present their newest work, Brooklyn at Eye Level, at the Brooklyn Lyceum, December 4-7.

This new work will examine the surge of development in Brooklyn, with a specific focus on the controversial Atlantic Yards project and its effect on the surrounding communities. The group, led by artistic director Steven Cosson, will conduct interviews with residents, business owners, politicians, and civic organizations in preparation for the show. They will also work with playwright Lucy Thurber, dance company Urban Bush Women, and composer Michael Friedman, along with a variety of local artists.

After the December performances, the company will use the material to develop a full-length theater piece, along with online content and other future programs.

Brownstoner, Closing Bell: Atlantic Yards...On Stage?

B-stoners wonder who you would cast as überdeveloper Bruce Ratner.

Between Productions, Civilian Action

The Civilians, who created the delightful Off Broadway musical Gone Missing (pictured), are taking on an entirely different subject for their next production: Gentrification in Brooklyn, with an emphasis on the Atlantic Yards project/fiasco taking shape in my backyard. (I've said before that I'd love to see something like Chicago's Millennium Park rise from its all-but-ashes, but my gut tells me all we'll get from it are empty lots and building remnants left from its clearing).

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

Haverhill apartment project almost ready for tenants

The Eagle-Tribune
By Bill Cantwell

smileyfacehardhat.jpg One city official gets happy as Forest City readies apartments in downtown Haverhill:

The first apartments of 305 in the downtown complex being built by Forest City, a development company, are almost ready to rent, said William Pillsbury, Haverhill's economic development director.

"They have a model unit that's completed," Pillsbury said last week, adding that the company expects to take prospective renters on a tour of the model soon.

He said the company expects to have its first apartments rented by late November or shortly after that.

Forest City is building the apartments in several old shoe factories in the area of Locke Street.
Pillsbury said he is happy to see Forest City investing elsewhere in the Merrimack Valley, as in the Lawrence project at the Newark Paper Mill off Canal Street. Forest City plans to build 300 upscale apartments there.

Pillsbury said he expects Lawrence officials will be happy with the way Forest City operates. It is a family-owned and family-run company that cooperates with local officials.


NoLandGrab: The family's ability to cooperate happily with local officials is Forest City's hallmark.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

September 22, 2008

Foul Ball: Congressional Committee Criticizes New Yankee Stadium Deal

The AM Law Daily
by Brian Baxter

Ohio congressman and former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is not a fan of the New York Yankees.

Before the historic baseball franchise closed out its last game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night with a 7-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, North America's most successful professional sports team was the target of political vitriol during a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday.

Kucinich, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, claimed that the Yankees and New York City officials had conspired to misrepresent the value of city land to the IRS for purposes of obtaining sweetheart tax deals from the federal government for the construction of a new stadium in the South Bronx.


NoLandGrab: The article cites unidentified "lawyers with experience in stadium financings" who defend the Yankees and the practice of tossing subsidies at sports teams, but many years of experience have shown that doing so has little economic benefit — except, of course, for "lawyers with experience in stadium financings."

Posted by eric at 3:38 PM

(*)(*)(*)(*) Yankees


Bruce Ratner sneaks into a lengthy post regarding the Yankees, owner George Steinbrenner's sordid past, their current stadium swindle, and how it all ties in with the current Wall Street tumult.

Almost all Yankees games are broadcast in New York on the YES Network, a cable station formed after the Yankees and the NBA’s New Jersey Nets got into a pissing match with their previous television home and some of that station’s owners. The Nets have since landed in the pocket of wealthy real estate mogul Bruce Ratner, but the Yankees restructured the company with a new partner and kept YES a growing concern. Today, the television network is believed to be worth $1.5 billion (about $200 million more than the Yankees themselves).


Posted by eric at 3:22 PM

Development Watch: Atlantic Terrace Rising


Another dishonorable mention for Atlantic Yards (is there any other kind these days?) in an update on the progress of the Fifth Avenue Committee's Atlantic Terrace project.


It's not looking like we're going to see any affordable housing at Atlantic Yards anytime soon (or market rate housing, for that matter), but at least a smaller project across the street at 669 Atlantic Avenue continues to chug along. Next door to the Atlantic Terminal Mall, the 80-unit Atlantic Terrace co-op project now has lots of steel in the ground, noticeable but hardly rapid progress compared to when we checked in last April. Roughly 70 percent of the apartments will be set aside for either low- or moderate-income earners.


NoLandGrab: Astute readers will remember Atlantic Terrace as the project that had to scrap plans for solar panels due to projected looming shadows from Atlantic Yards, recalling the classic "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" episode of The Simpsons (see the third paragraph after the jump).

Posted by eric at 2:38 PM

The Civilians to Develop New Theatre Work, Brooklyn at Eye Level

by Adam Hetrick

With more and more performing arts performances dealing with contemporary events, it was only a matter of time before Atlantic Yards made its way to the stage.

The Civilians will lend an exploratory eye across the East River with their latest work, Brooklyn at Eye Level, which will be presented beginning Dec. 4.

Beginning in October, the innovative theatrical troupe led by artistic director Steven Cosson will conduct interviews with residents, business owners, politicians and civic organizations in Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Fort Greene, Boreum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Crown Heights, Park Slope and Prospect Heights.

Of specific interest will be the Atlantic Yards project and its effects on Brooklyn's diverse communities. Part of the project will include labs that unite the Civilians with members of the community to explore the changing face of Brooklyn.

The Civilians will present the results of their research in a series of public performances at the Brooklyn Lyceum Dec. 4-7. The developing work will incorporate local residents with actors, musicians and dancers. Following the developmental presentations, the Civilians will hone Brooklyn at Eye Level into a full-length theatrical piece that will debut in the fall of 2009.


NoLandGrab: If Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards make it into the finished piece, we suggest the following working title — "The Lyin' King."

Posted by eric at 2:06 PM

At Kucinich hearing, the question arises: why do cities give away naming rights?

Atlantic Yards Report

Though the Congressional hearing Thursday, “Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York,” (video) focused on Yankee Stadium, the issues raised do apply the planned Atlantic Yards arena, as I wrote.

Atlantic Yards came up exactly once, near the end of the hearing, when Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), asked a basic but important question about naming rights--and got back an answer that actually underestimated the value of the Barclays Center deal.

"Can you explain how cities who build stadiums for teams typically deal with stadium naming rights?" Kucinich asked. "I’ve always been mystified at how cities can make a rather enormous investment of tax dollars, whether it’s local, state or federal, into these facilities, and then have somebody else come along and put their name on it."

Good question. You'll have to read the article if you want to know the answer.

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

Sun: eminent domain law reform may be possible (but don't hold your breath)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder, too, thinks that the New York Sun might be a bit overly optimistic about prospects for eminent domain reform in New York State.

As the article details, however, neither Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver nor Gov. David Paterson have expressed support for changes (though Paterson did in 2005, as a State Senator).

Moreover, though the article mentions Atlantic Yards, the Columbia University expansion, and redevelopment at Willets Point, unmentioned is that any new legislation might grandfather in projects already under way.

So I'd bet that a temporary commission, as proposed by the New York State Bar Association, is a more likely first step than new legislation.


More speculation...

Curbed, Big Projects Facing New Trouble After November?

The Municipal Art Society, Eminent Domain in the Spotlight

NoLandGrab: Property rights have been a traditional concern of the right, so a Democratic takeover of the State Senate wouldn't seem to increase the odds of eminent domain reform in New York.

Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

An architect of the Yankee Stadium deal was an IRS insider

Atlantic Yards Report

The AmLaw Daily blog explains that the one architect of the Yankee Stadium financing deal was a real insider:
Nixon Peabody public finance partners Bruce Serchuk and Mitchell Rapaport were retained by the Yankees and the New York City Industrial Development Agency (NYCIDA), an arm of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Serchuk, who worked in the office of tax policy at the Treasury Department and in the IRS's chief counsel office, is considered one of the primary architects of the Yankees's strategy to obtain over $940 million in tax-exempt bonds to help finance construction for the team's new stadium, set to open on April 16 of next year.


Posted by eric at 9:42 AM

Ward Bread Bakery demolition continues


Photo by Tracy Collins, via the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Tracy Collins posts another in his new series of eerie nighttime photos from the Atlantic Yards footprint.

NoLandGrab: Thanks to Bruce Ratner's own special brand of developer's blight, it's pretty eerie there in daylight, too.

Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

Civilians to work on 'Brooklyn'

Off Broadway troupe sets new show

by Gordon Cox

Off Broadway docu-theater troupe the Civilians will begin work this fall on “Brooklyn at Eye Level,” a new show about the gentrification of the New York City borough.

Piece will focus on the Atlantic Yards development and its effect on surrounding neighborhoods.

In late October a team of creatives, topped by Civilians a.d. Steven Cosson, will begin gathering material for the show by interviewing local residents, business owners, politicians and others. In addition, development labs will be held with scribe Lucy Thurber (“Scarcity”), Brooklyn dance troupe Urban Bush Women and composer Michael Friedman.


NoLandGrab: Just a hunch, but we doubt this show will be sponsored by Forest CIty Ratner.

Posted by eric at 9:16 AM

Dancers on a hot Gehry roof

The Times of London
by Tony Allen-Mills

Noémie Lafrance, a Canadian choreographer, is staging dance performances on the roofs of titanium-clad buildings designed by you know who.

One of the world’s best-known modern architects has found a new use for the shimmering steel buildings that he has turned into landmarks in cities around the world. Frank Gehry, renowned for sculptural masterpieces such as the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, wants his undulating silver roofs to become aerial dance floors.

This week, at one of Gehry’s most dramatic constructions, dancers will mix ballet with bungee-jumping as they leap across the scalloped domes of an auditorium at Bard college in Annandale-on-Hudson, 90 miles north of New York.

The performance is the first in a series of rooftop spectaculars that may ultimately be performed at nine different Gehry buildings in America and Europe, among them the Bilbao museum and the Walt Disney concert hall in Los Angeles.

As with most every Gehry project, however, there have been unforeseen problems.

The dancers wear wrestling shoes, which were found to have the best grip, but rehearsals still proved impossible at midday because of the force of the sun glinting off Gehry’s reflective steel panels.


NoLandGrab: Gehry's buildings might best be put to use by the Food Channel, with Rachael Ray frying eggs or Bobby Flay grilling a steak on the sizzling metal siding.

Posted by eric at 9:07 AM

Victorious Senate Democrats Could Target Eminent Domain

NY Sun
by Peter Kiefer

This seems like wishful thinking on the part of the conservative Sun, but there are individual senators, like Harlem's Bill Perkins, who genuinely are on the side of home and business owners.

A Democratic takeover of the Senate in November could result in changes to the state's eminent domain law, possibly complicating several of the city's largest development projects.

State Senator Bill Perkins, a Democrat of Harlem, is calling for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain and said he is willing to push for more restrictions on the use of eminent domain, provided the political climate is right in Albany.

"I don't know of too many other issues where you have such diverse and pervasive outrage," he said yesterday in an interview.

Mr. Perkins said he would be meeting with Governor Paterson this week to discuss the findings of a hearing he held last week examining the possible use of eminent domain for the proposed $7 billion expansion of Columbia University's campus. He said Mr. Paterson was "supportive" of his work on eminent domain, but said he had not discussed specifics with the governor.


NoLandGrab: The Governor, of course, called for just such a moratorium when he was a state Senator, but now that he's got the juice to actually do something about it, he's been silent on the issue.

A spokesman for the Mayor's office, unsurprisingly, claimed erroneously that the city uses eminent domain only when it's "absolutely needed for an important public purpose, and even then, as a last resort." Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Posted by eric at 8:55 AM

September 21, 2008

'Meet the Press' transcript for Sept. 21, 2008


Meet the Press Tom Brokaw asks Mayor Bloomberg how the financial crisis will affect city planning:

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: No, we're not going to make the mistake--the mistake that was made in the '70s is we stopped policing the streets, we stopped cleaning the streets, we stopped cleaning the graffiti off buildings, we stopped supporting our cultural institutions and building parks and schools and all those kinds of things. We are going to go ahead and continue those things. We may have to stretch out some construction projects, we may have to ask people to do more with less. We may not be able to have the frills at the edge, but we are not going to walk away from our city. That's the prescription for disaster. When you do that, your tax base leaves, and the rest of this country, as well as New York, are going to have exactly the same decisions to make. The taxpayers are going to have to decide do they want to have a future or not? If they don't want to have a future, then they're not going to have to pay as much now, but if they want to leave a better world for their kids, they're going to have to pay the bills up front.

NoLandGrab: We're not sure what stretching out a construction project could mean, other than allowing endless timelines. Although a project with no timeline and no public money would be great, shouldn't the taxpayers who "have to decide do they want to have a future or not" have some say in these matters?

Posted by amy at 1:20 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...


The KnickerBlogger, Public Absorbs the Risk and Loss, Private Companies Absorb the Profit.

Wow, just like Atlantic Yards.

This Recording, In Which New Yankee Stadium Reeks of the Old

It would be naive not to recognize the true elephant in the room when it comes to all this New York building, and that’s the 9/11. In a way the architects and businessmen are saying that the only way they know to compensate for loss, is bigger, better.

The other way to look at 9/11's influence on city planning, might be, say, the threat of terrorism?

Posted by amy at 1:03 PM

NYC:Brooklyn hoods-Fort Greene


Skyscraper Life's TalB posts a brief history and exhaustive photo tour of Ft. Greene, following up on last week's tour of Downtown Brooklyn:

In the 1990's, the imfamous Bruce Ratner, who is the of FCR, built the Atlanic Ctr Mall, but many Ft Greene residents called it turnning his back on them b/c there was no entrance on Hanson Pl and just one Atlantic Ave only. More recently, he got the air rights over the Altantic Terminal and made it into a mall, which has still yet to be completely filled, to go with the one he already built.


Photo, Tracy Collins.

Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

Reinventing Grand Army Plaza


Hub and Spokes finds an interesting comment on the City Room blog regarding the redesign of Grand Army Plaza:

Perhaps if the Design Trust truly had any stake in what’s most appropriate for Brooklyn, or had any sense of reverence for the democratic vision of Olmstead and Vaux, this would be apparent. As it is, this effort smacks of the same lethal combination of mediocre talent, opportunism, political access, and deep pockets that made possible Atlantic Yards, Frank Gehry’s outsized, outdated superblock-style monstrosity that no doubt has Jane Jacobs tossing in her grave… oh, Bruce Ratner is a supporter of this endeavor.

We in Brooklyn need to ask, who are the people behind these efforts to “reimagine” parts of our community? Particularly if a cursory look at the cast of characters includes sleazy Manhattan developers, a nonprofit with dubious qualifications, and — I mean, take a look at the exhibit itself. It’s a Manhattan graphic and display design sensibility, “giant cubes” just slapped down in the middle of Brooklyn.


Posted by amy at 11:23 AM

Athletes stay mum on stadium deals

NY Daily News

At a luncheon held at the Brooklyn Museum last year to celebrate Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, I tried to ask Vince Carter his thoughts on using public money for the basketball arena the Nets' owner wants to anchor the project. Carter glared at me and walked away without saying a word. It was probably the only time he played defense all season.

Despite what Vince Carter thinks, it's a valid question: How many school teachers could we hire with the $300 million the city and state have promised Ratner for the Atlantic Yards?

How many uninsured New Yorkers could get medical care with the $10 million annual property tax exemption Madison Square Garden and the Knicks and Rangers have enjoyed for decades?

Alex Rodriguez is rightfully celebrated for providing athletic opportunities for needy children. How come he doesn't say anything about the thousands of Bronx boys and girls who lost Macombs Dam Park so the Yankees could build their new stadium there?


Posted by amy at 11:14 AM

Injuries no excuse for Yankees' demise

Kingston Daily Freemen
Stan Fischler


I hope not.

As a native Brooklynite, I never liked the grandiose plans of turning the Downtown area into the mega-development that Bruce Ratner planned. Something about it smelled worse than the Staten Island landfill. Still does. Opposition has remained steadfast and, in the end, may scuttle a project that never should have been.


The Brooklyn arena will never happen. Ratner, who never gave a hoot about hoops, will sell the team and it will wind up in Newark, where it belongs.


Posted by amy at 11:12 AM

Brodsky Slides in Front of City's Stadium Plans


The New York Observer
Eliot Brown

The focus of the two men [Brodsky and Kucinich] - one a loud and often relentless critic of many Bloomberg administration policies; the other a mousy, twice-failed far-left presidential candidate—is on a complicated mechanism the city used to win tax-free financing for the new Mets and Yankees stadiums (and plans to use to finance the new Nets arena). The Mets and Yankees already have obtained their financing, but both teams want more to cover additional costs. The Nets have yet to gain approval for the financing, with plans to break ground on a new arena before the end of the year. The I.R.S. has criticized the mechanism as a loophole and has yet to rule on whether the teams can get any additional financing through the city’s structure.

Without the mechanism, for which the teams give fixed payments in lieu of taxes that pay off hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds, costs would rise substantially for each of the three teams, and in the case of the Nets, perhaps further upset an already troubled project.

At issue is the tax-exempt aspect of the financing. Under the Bloomberg administration’s arrangement, once the city-controlled Industrial Development Authority approves the financing plan, the teams are eligible to issue hundreds of millions in bonds that are free from city, state and federal taxes. Such savings can lower the cost to the teams by perhaps 15 or 20 percent.
For their part, Bloomberg administration officials are proud of their work and say they have nothing to hide in the deal, which uses a tax-free structure with a relatively minor amount of city and state investment to leverage a major federal subsidy for city projects. The financing allowed for billions in private investment, officials contend, making Mr. Brodsky’s crusade a frustrating one, especially as the financing mechanism for the Nets is up in the air.


Posted by amy at 11:04 AM

At the Atlantic Antic, another FCR/Nets presence


Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Antic, the borough's largest street festival, will be held Sunday October 5, and Brooklyn's leading developer and the associated Nets will be the lead sponsors. Last year, as far as I can tell from the press release, Sovereign Bank was at the top of the list; in 2006, Sovereign Bank was the top sponsor.

NoLandGrab: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn will be braving the sponsorship and tabling at this event. Wear your t-shirts with pride.

Posted by amy at 10:55 AM

September 20, 2008

Fact vs. Fiction vs. Fact: City statement on Yankees vs. Brodsky statement

Atlantic Yards Report presents Assemblyman Richard Brodsky's response to the city's response to his report. The discrepancy highlights include jobs, land assessment, luxury boxes, process and cost to taxpayers. From Brodsky's response:

“FACT V. FICTION”, New York City’s non-denial denial response to the facts in Assemblyman Brodsky’s Yankee Stadium Report requires only a re-statement of the City’s own sworn statements to reveal the truth.


Now: “Yankees currently project 1,000 new, permanent jobs.”

Then: Page 7 of the Yankees sworn March 2008 Core Application to the IDA.

Number of existing permanent jobs: 125

Number of jobs after completion of new Stadium: 140

Then we did the math……………………net increase: 15

Now they scramble to change what the documents reveal. Nice pivot. What did you expect them to say once the sworn data was made public?


Posted by amy at 10:05 PM

Friday Links Roundup: AY Report Edition

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning

Eminent domain was the main issue on our minds this week. Atlantic Yards was back in court, appealing the decision in the case challenging the project’s environmental review. According to Atlantic Yards Report, “While the lawsuit covers an enormous area of ground, including the definition of a ‘civic project,’ whether a ten-year project buildout was realistic, and whether the ESDC properly studied terrorism, among other issues, the final round of appeal papers focused mainly on blight.” AYR gave background on Tuesday, and covered Wednesday’s court proceedings.

AYR was also there at State Senator Perkins’ eminent domain hearing, which we attended on Wednesday, and provided more in-depth coverage.

AYR also covered Thursday’s Congressional hearing in Washington, titled “Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York,” which focused primarily on Yankee Stadium. This hearing made headlines when Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said that there is “substantial evidence of improprieties and possible fraud” in the new Yankee Stadium development.

NoLandGrab: It's a good thing that AYR is run by 20 hard-working full-time staffers, or we'd never know what was going on.

Posted by amy at 3:05 PM

A second look at the Kucinich hearing, the Yankee Stadium controversy, and the future of the Atlantic Yards arena


Atlantic Yards Report

It's worth a second look at some of the charges and countercharges that emerged Thursday in response to Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s report on the new Yankee Stadium and the hearing held by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), chair of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called “Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York”. (Hearing video is now available.)

What are the hurdles for Atlantic Yards?

1) Investigators from the committees headed by both Brodsky and Kucinich have concluded, at least on an interim basis, that city officials "gamed" the tax assessment for the new Yankee Stadium so it would be high enough to justify the amount of tax-exempt bonds requested by the team. If similar shenanigans were found regarding the Atlantic Yards arena, tax-exempt bonds might be scotched, costing the developer perhaps $165 million.

2) Even if no such subterfuge is found, the arena is still jeopardized by a proposed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule that would require that PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) fluctuate so they look like generally applicable taxes, rather than fixed so they look like bond payments. The city and state have lobbied hard to get the arena--as well as additional financing for the Yankees and Mets--grandfathered in. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn disagrees.

NoLandGrab: AYR goes on to answer 17 more of your burning questions about the hearing and Atlantic Yards such as "Can Atlantic Yards developers get arena bonds?" and "What exactly is Atlantic Yards?" Well, we do have an answer to the second question.

Posted by amy at 2:50 PM

Letter to the Editor from Alan Rosner

Linewaiters' Gazette

To the Editor,

I am writing to amplify Susan Metz’s letter “Your Role in Atlantic Yards” (AY), from the Linewaiters Gazette of 7/17/08. The Atlantic Yards (AY) project needs to be completely rethought, and this time with community input. And, yes, the Atlantic Yards Governance Act (AYGA) she talks about will confer legitimacy on a project that has violated both established process and all logic.

AY was promised as a two-phase project that would be completed in an amazing 10 years. Now, just Phase I has been granted 12 years for its completion. The project’s Phase II residential housing portion might then follow, albeit without any end date. For now what we mostly get are a sports arena and acres of “interim” parking lots. Gone are the “benefits”, the landscaped public open spaces and other amenities, the promised jobs, and of course the supposedly “affordable” housing.

Most importantly, with only a sports arena and years of “interim” parking there is no compelling reason to build Ratner’s arena at this location. The State rejected any alternative to AY that did not include both an arena and housing. Well, now where’s the housing?

What is needed is to acknowledge that an arena and 5 to 15 years of “interim” parking lots will have significant adverse impacts that no is talking about. They would include the “Developers Blight” already caused by blocks of demolished buildings; the displacement of the owners and tenants and businesses from the project’s footprint; disastrous traffic dislocations from parking lot entry & egress, along with all the cruising for free street parking; the project’s increased costs and subsidies; the loss of direct connections between the arena and the Atlantic Avenue Station; storm water run off from the parking lots without promised Phase II mitigations; the possibility of “interim” electronic signs blazing out basketball scores to cars being parked & gridlocked westbound drivers all down Atlantic Avenue….

Unfortunately while the courts are deciding who gets to control 22 contiguous acres right in the heart of Brooklyn, they are addressing AY as it was approved in 2006 and not what it has become. Waiting on the courts to decide is an abdication of the State’s responsibility to govern in the public’s best interest.

So take Susan’s advice and call or write your local elected officials, and/or Governor Paterson, to demand that this “New” but not improved project gets an honest review. Brooklyn deserves something better than this corporate land grab; a land grab that over the last four years has already blighted so much of our neighborhood.

AY’s massive impacts and minimal benefits in a time of financial contraction may yet force smarter and more contextual development. We can hope that the State takes a hard look at what AY has become - but we can also act to help make that happen.


Alan Rosner

Note: Here’s a link to a letter in the Brooklyn Paper that addresses the need for a new look at this project: http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/31/28/gk2801--letters.html

Posted by amy at 2:46 PM

September 19, 2008


NY Post
by Holly M. Sanders

How suite it isn't!

New York sports teams banking on high-priced sales of luxury suites at an unprecedented number of new stadiums and arenas could feel the pinch from the Wall Street meltdown.

Five teams - the Jets, the Giants, the Yankees, the Mets and the Nets - are building expensive venues with more luxury suites, hoping to draw corporate clients.

In the past, the Street could be counted on to be a big buyer of premium seats, but selling to financial firms has suddenly become a lot tougher in the wake of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch's shotgun wedding to Bank of America and the crisis of confidence shaking Morgan Stanley.

"With all these stadiums trying to sell luxury seats, personal seat licenses and season tickets, this is horrible timing," said Robert Tuchman, head of sports entertainment firm Premiere Corporate Events.

The Nets have sold roughly 30 percent of the 128 suites at the new Barclays Center and count financial institutions among those buyers. The suites have averaged around $300,000. The team has eight more potential buyers booked to visit its showroom, a spokesman said.


NoLandGrab: We think the Post means "the Nets claim they have sold...." We can't imagine we're the only ones who find it hard to believe that in this financial climate, some three dozen entities would plunk down deposits on suites in an arena that may never exist.

Posted by eric at 3:30 PM

The More Things Change..., Yankees Edition

The New York Times
by Richard Sandomir

This morsel comes from a story in today's Times about the coming auction of many of the original hand-drawn blueprints for the first Yankee Stadium, designed and built by the Osborn Engineering Company of Cleveland, Ohio, leading stadium architects of the early days of Major League baseball.

[Memorabilia dealer Mitch] Baker is also selling letters between the [Yankees] and Osborn, including one to Frank Osborn in which [then-Yankees' owner Jacob] Ruppert wrote, “Enclosed is a check for $3,332, minus the $88.20 you charged for taxes we don’t feel we have to pay you.” [Emphasis added]


Posted by eric at 1:58 PM

Pink Face Does Not Equal Sweeny

Gumby Fresh

Gumby wades tentatively into the game of legal prognostication, based on his first-hand account of Wednesday's court hearing on the appeal of the challenge to the Atlantic Yards blight study and Environment Impact Statement.

I can imagine the political appointees on the appellate court deciding that there's not really much that can stop the ESDC, since it was born in the late sixties when were all terrified that New York was going to hell in a hand cart, and all the good jazz musicians would move to LA. Let them get on with the sordid business of stopping the city turning into Detroit. That land was then tuppence ha'penny an acre has not stopped our real-estate-olitical complex from using the law to get very, very rich off the back of grassroots gentrification.

Still, the fact that the ESDC is still defending the study that was used to determine blight, and still insisting that the area is not gentrifying, gives me a little hope. It may not be enough to get the decision overturned, but there might be enough doubt about whether the ESDC has the power to make up blight definitions to get the decision kicked upstairs again.

But hey, I should probably stick to making awesomely bad financial prognostications rather than expanding into the awesomely bad legal prognostications business.


NoLandGrab: Gumby's admission that he thought he was the "second-worst dressed person in there" means he must have espied this correspondent seated in the court room.

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM


Room Eight
by Barry Popik

Did Barclays sign up for Brooklyn arena naming rights knowing it would be bottom-fishing for a U.S. brokerage operation?

In January 2007, Barclays paid $400 million (over 20 years) for the right to name the Brooklyn Nets arena at the Atlantic Yards the "Barclays Center." This week, Barclays paid just $250 million for Lehman Brothers' entire United States operation!

The big question here is: Was this always Barclays' plan, to take over an American investment house on the cheap?

The January 2007 announcement that the Brooklyn arena would be named the Barclays Center made no sense at the time, but makes perfect sense now. At the time, it was the most expensive naming of any sports arena ever. Barclays had no banks whatsoever in Brooklyn and a limited presence in New York City.


NoLandGrab: Had Barclays been as astute as Barry Popik suspects, it's unlikely they'd have had to write down billions of sub-prime mortgage losses of their own during the past year.

Nor is Barclays acquiring Lehman's "entire" U.S. operation for just $250 million. They're buying bits and pieces, and are paying an estimated $1.5 billion for Lehman's Manhattan headquarters building and two data centers. And as finance expert Gumby Fresh has pointed out, the Lehman purchase doesn't do much at all to help Barclays establish a retail presence in the U.S.

Still, it does appear to be a good deal for the British mega-bank.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

At Congressional hearing, criticism of Yankees deal and stadium funding; IRS says final regulation coming soon

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on what happened at yesterday's Congressional hearing on federal support for NY sports venues:

Piling on to Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s report on the new Yankee Stadium, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said yesterday that his Subcommittee’s “still ongoing investigation has uncovered substantial evidence of improprieties and possible fraud” by the stadium’s financial architects.

Kucinich chairs the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which yesterday held a hearing to which representatives of the Yankees and the city of New York were conspicuously absent, though they are expected to appear in the future.

Though the hearing, “Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York,” focused on Yankee Stadium, the issues raised have direct applicability to the planned Atlantic Yards arena.

PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) can’t exceed the amount of foregone taxes, but PILOTs for the Yankee Stadium were based on an assessment inflated aimed to justify a certain quantity of bonds, Brodsky and Kucinich charged. The same tactic might be in store for Brooklyn, given that the expected arena PILOTs far exceed the foregone taxes for the comparable Madison Square Garden.

Moreover, the new ballparks for the Yankees and Mets rely on special Internal Revenue Service rulings that allowed fixed PILOTs that conform to bond payments, while the IRS has proposed changing the rule to make sure that PILOTs fluctuate with taxes--anathema to the bond market.

That rule, expected to be finalized soon, has city officials nervous. Indeed, according to Metro, the city yesterday issued a statement that “complained of the new hurdles” to financing other projects similarly, such as Atlantic Yards. Whether Atlantic Yards might be grandfathered in under the old rules, as the city and state have sought, remains unclear, but the benefit to Forest City Ratner would be significant; I’ve estimated $165 million on $800 million of tax-exempt bonds.


More coverage...

MetroNY, D.C. grilling for stadium
Associated Press, via amNY, Congress rips new Yankee Stadium deal

Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

475 Dean


Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

475 Dean Street near 6th Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

This building would be demolished for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Our ideal ’hood

In the search for the best neighborhoods in NY, Time Out New York featured several Brooklyn neighborhoods as also-rans. Prospect Heights made the cut, despite one looming überdevelopment.


As indicated by the widespread uproar over the Atlantic Yards development, there’s a refreshingly strong sense of community in this teensy Brooklyn nabe. See what all the fuss is about on a walk through the recently proposed Prospect Heights Historic District, a 21-block area filled with beautiful architecture and carefully preserved Italianate and neo-Grecian row houses. Sip Gorilla Coffee at Joyce Bakeshop (646 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls, 718-623-7470), or hop across the street to Fermented Grapes (651 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls, 718-230-3216), where the superfriendly staff can help you choose the perfect vino. Then have a postdrinking chow on crispy wood-fired pizza from Franny’s (295 Flatbush Ave between Prospect Pl and St. Marks Ave, 718-230-0221), touted for making one of the best pies in the city—and deservedly so.— Amy Plitt


Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

New ESDC Chief Emphasizes Unity

The NY Sun
By Peter Kiefer

Though there seems to be no lack of support for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan at the Empire State Development Corporation, leadership positions are being slowly filled in the wake of former Governor Eliot Spitzer's dramatic resignation.

The Empire State Development Corp. has been without a downstate president for seven months, but its new president and CEO, Marisa Lago, is not yet ready to say when the executive charged with overseeing New York City's economic development projects will be appointed.

In her first comments since assuming the job on Monday, Ms. Lago, who will be working out of a Manhattan office, pledged to spread her attention equally across New York State and to end a perception created under the Spitzer administration that the ESDC suffers from a confusing, bifurcated leadership structure that pits upstate versus downstate.
Ms. Lago is working with the ESDC's chairman, Robert Wilmers, to find a downstate president to help coordinate financing and construction for a number of development projects, including Forest City Ratner's plans for 16 skyscrapers; an 18,000-seat basketball arena for the Nets; thousands of apartments at a site at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues; the redevelopment of Penn Station, and the proposed expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The position has been vacant since Patrick Foye resigned in March. Dennis Muller was appointed upstate president last month.


NoLandGrab: Did Ms. Lago mean unity, or UNITY, as in the community-created UNITY Plan for the Vanderbilt Railyard? If it's the latter, we couldn't agree more.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

Strategic Economic Development Would Mean Putting Atlantic Yards Out of Its Misery

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn responds to comments made by Marisa Lago, the new head of the Empire State Development Corporation:

It is refreshing to hear that the ESDC has someone at the helm who understands that "strategic economic development" is a necessity in this very shaky "down economy."

The Atlantic Yards plan, proposed in 2003 in an entirely different economy, is in no way strategic in the economy we are in now, and will be in for years to come. Whatever Atlantic Yards is today (and nobody seems to know what it is, not even NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson) it is not strategic.

Strategic economic development would include the principle at the foundation of the UNITY Plan—the community's plan for the Vanderbilt Rail Yards—which is to divide the 8-acre rail yards into multiple, smaller and more manageable parcels to attract multiple developers through a legitimate RFP to pay more to the MTA than Ratner is willing to. The multiplicity of developers would finally detach the sound and strategic development of the yards from the vice grip Ratner has had on it for nearly 5 years thus radically reducing the overall risk. No longer would the development of the yards be dependent on Ratner's fiscal health and his desperate need to move the Nets team for which he overpaid.

Strategic economic development would not include fantasies about the health of the housing market, pr jargon and empty promises about "affordable housing" and jobs; strategic economic development would most certainly not include a taxpayer-subsidized, billion dollar basketball arena plagued by financing troubles, escalating construction costs, eminent domain opposition and litigation.


Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

September 18, 2008

Yankees didn't blink when lawmakers swung

A congressional panel found the new Yankee Stadium to be a "waste and abuse of public dollars," but baseball executives and city officials stood by the project.

AP via Crain's NY Business

Crain's slapped the hugely misleading headline above onto this report from the AP, misleading because the reason the Yankees didn't blink was because they weren't even in the ballpark! No one from the Yankees was on hand to testify (it's reported that someone from the team may appear in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on October 7th), and city officials, as was reported yesterday, couldn't be bothered.

The original AP headline, which you can see here, was "Yankee Stadium deal criticized by lawmakers."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich said Thursday he found "waste and abuse of public dollars" in the financing of the new stadium under construction in the South Bronx.

Mr. Kucinich is an Ohio Democrat who heads a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee. He charged that city officials misrepresented to the IRS the value of the property, helping them to get special tax deals from the federal government and in effect dumping the cost of construction onto taxpayers. No one from the either the city or the Yankees spoke at the hearing.

"In the case of the new Yankee Stadium, not only have we found waste and abuse of public dollars subsidizing a project that is for the exclusive benefit of a private entity, the Yankees, but also we have discovered serious questions about the accuracy of certain representations made by the City of New York to the federal government," Mr. Kucinich said.

The panel's investigation found "substantial evidence of improprieties and possible fraud by the financial architects of the new Yankee Stadium," he added.

The criticism highlights tensions felt nationwide as governments increasingly support stadiums for profitable pro sports teams with multimillion dollar payrolls.

Rep. Laura Watson, D-Calif., said her hometown of Los Angeles has gone without a professional football team for decades because city officials are unwilling to pay for a new stadium.

Given the current financial crisis gripping the U.S. economy, she said it made no sense for taxpayers to pay for construction of buildings for the benefit of sports owner tycoons.

"In this country we have allowed the upper class to destroy the middle class," Ms. Watson charged.


NoLandGrab: While Yankees and City officials may be standing by the project, it's not surprising that they wouldn't want to testify in front of a Congressional subcommittee, since if they did so under oath, their "standing by the project" would likely result in perjury charges.

And shame on Crain's for such naked boosterism of the Yankees, and projects like Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards. They may call themselves the most trusted name in New York business, but preaching socialism for big corporations and sports teams and capitalism for taxpayers and small businesses is intellectually, and morally, bankrupt.

Posted by eric at 4:29 PM

A House Marked by 8 Years of Local Financial Change Now Falls Into British Hands

The New York Times
by Patrick McGeehan

In an article about Barclays' announced acquisition of the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers' midtown headquarters, The Times offers up a 90% discount to the British bank on its purchase of naming rights for the Brooklyn arena planned by Bruce Ratner.

Barclays has agreed to pay $40 million for the naming rights to the arena planned for Brooklyn that is supposed to be the next home of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. It would be called the Barclays Center. But long before the arena is built, there could be another Barclays center a couple of blocks north of Times Square.


NoLandGrab: The actual naming-rights price tag is $400 million, which you'd expect The Times to know, what with Ratner being co-owner of the paper's own headquarters building.

Posted by eric at 1:32 PM

Convention center hotel proposal scuttled

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
by Jeremy Boren

The wait for a second hotel attached to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center is about to get longer.

The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority is ending its long-running negotiations with hotel operator Forest City Enterprises over the building of a hotel that would boost the number of rooms near the convention center beyond 1,000 -- the magic number tourism experts say is needed to attract large, lucrative conventions to Pittsburgh.

Forest City wanted to build a hotel of about 300 rooms, but the authority and visitors bureau VisitPittsburgh want at least 500 rooms to pair with the 616 rooms in the Westin Hotel.

Brian Ratner, president of East Coast development for Forest City, declined to comment on whether the company would submit another proposal for the hotel.

Conturo said the cost of the hotel will be higher than the original $103 million price tag and will rely on a $34 million subsidy the state Legislature approved last year. The money comes from a slice of Pennsylvania's 55 percent tax on casino gambling.

Ratner said Forest City proposed scaling down the size of the hotel to fit the state subsidy available and combat construction costs that have increased since 2001.

"There's a certain amount of money that's available, and you have to fit the budget that's there," Ratner said, adding that he doubts the state Legislature would approve additional funding for the project.


NoLandGrab: Is this company — or its subsidiary Forest City Ratner — ever willing to risk its own money on a project? [That's a rhetorical question.]

Posted by eric at 1:20 PM

Daily News Eminent Domain Smackdown!

NY Daily News Opinion


In today's Daily News, the mixed tag-team of columnist Errol Louis and the Partnership for New York City's Kathryn Wylde (in pro wrestling parlance, they'd be known as "heels") gang up on West Harlem property-owner and Columbia University land grab resistance-fighter Nick Sprayregen (the "face," in wrestling-speak).

We need eminent domain to keep New York City growing, by Kathryn Wylde

Wylde, who gets paid very well to advocate on behalf of New York City's largest corporations (and greatest beneficiaries of property seizures), pens an ode to eminent domain.

Eminent domain has been required for most of our large public projects - from Lincoln Center, Times Square and downtown Brooklyn to affordable housing throughout the five boroughs. Without eminent domain, New York and other older urban centers could not have kept pace with demands for upgraded infrastructure, modern office facilities and increased housing stock.

Unfortunately, eminent domain is under attack. Property rights advocates believe it is unconstitutional to condemn private property for almost any purpose. Anti-development groups claim that it allows big government to collude with rich developers to override the interests of the little guy. Bills have been proposed in the state Legislature and the City Council that would limit the use of eminent domain and slow down economic development in New York at the worst possible point in the economic cycle.

NoLandGrab: We'd like Ms. Wylde to name a "large public project" in downtown Brooklyn. Seems to us they're all private.

And for the record, "the worst possible point in the economic cycle" was when some of the Partnership for NYC's member companies — like Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merrill Lynch and UBS — were making greedy, foolish investments in sub-prime mortgages and risky derivative products. With taxpayers having to bail out some of these bad bets with billions upon billions of dollars, should we also be offering up another form of corporate socialism to other Partnership for NYC members — like Forest City Ratner, Nets Sports & Entertainment, Related Companies and Tishman Speyer?

The eminent domain game is rigged, by Nick Sprayregen

Sadly for all New Yorkers, our state is the most egregious perpetrator of eminent domain abuse in our country. I should know since for the last four years I have battled the state and Columbia University - a private entity - in their threatened use of eminent domain. Columbia wants my land in West Harlem to assist the school in a planned 17-acre expansion in the Manhattanville neighborhood.

The university is in league with the state, and together they are threatening to wield this extraordinary power to take away a business my family has built over decades.

This is dead wrong.

Defenders of the system say eminent domain is necessary to allow for big economic development and housing projects to go forward. They liken today's use of eminent domain to yesterday's use, when property was condemned for the building of roads, fire houses and public libraries. Today, however, what the practice really amounts to is the state playing favorites, choosing one private interest over another - and abusing a government power that should only be wielded in the most limited of circumstances.

The game is rigged, in multiple ways.

NoLandGrab: Sprayregen explains how the deck is stacked mightily against condemnees — "blight" is in the eye of the condemnor, no jury trial, no witnesses allowed, no cross-examination, no discovery, etc., etc.

The right way to fight blight, by Errol Louis

In West Harlem, there are a couple of business owners who don't want to sell their property at any price, which Columbia and ESDC say would cripple the planned project. The most prominent holdout, a man named Nick Sprayregen, is a developer in his own right, with a considerable number of business ventures and commercial properties in Harlem, the Bronx and elsewhere.

Sprayregen has hired civil rights attorney and public advocate candidate Norman Siegel to battle ESDC and Columbia and a series of lawsuits have been launched, along with a frontal attack on New York's eminent domain laws.

Siegel and Sprayregen are perfectly within their rights to try and rewrite the law, and a re-examination of the 40-year-old rules makes sense. New York, unlike most states, gives broad leeway to agencies like ESDC to define when and how eminent domain may be applied, and only a fleeting window of time for property owners to object.

NoLandGrab: Louis fails to deal with the question of why Columbia, a private entity, should be able to develop the land owned by Sprayregen, a private owner. And no one has really offered a good explanation of why Columbia can't work around Sprayregen's property. Why should Nick Sprayregen pay the price for Columbia's failure to plan better?

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Oral Argument in Appeal on Atlantic Yards Environmental Review and Approval Focuses on Key Issue of Blight

State Appellate Court Justices Skeptical About New York State’s Blight Claim As Basis for Bruce Ratner’s Project

New York, NY— The entire 30-minute oral argument in plaintiffs’ appeal in DDDB et al. v. ESDC et al. -- the case challenging the environmental review and approval of developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development proposal –- was spent on the issue of New York State’s determination that the proposed project site is blighted.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) was required to show that the site was “blighted” in order to approve the project.

Plaintiffs have argued all along that the three distinct blocks comprising the southern portion of the project site, south of Pacific Street, are not blighted. Much to the contrary, that area was on an economic upswing until developer Forest City Ratner, with an assist by the ESDC, came along with the Atlantic Yards proposal, and therefore the court should overturn the ESDC’s blight finding because it was an arbitrary and capricious determination, and irrational.

Members of the 26 community group plaintiffs, led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, filled the Manhattan courtroom as they intently listened to the exchange between the five-judge panel and the attorneys yesterday afternoon. They heard a judicial bench that was extremely skeptical of the ESDC’s rationale for its blight determination.

“Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and our co-plaintiffs were encouraged by the judges’ questions and are optimistic about the outcome,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter.

Last week The New York Times reported that Forest City Ratner plans to break ground on its Barclays Center Arena in December, but nearly the entire article outlined the numerous financial and legal factors working against the developer’s claim. In the article Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein told The Times, “There's no way they'll get control of the land they need, get the financing, end the litigation and break ground by December.”

An account of yesterday’s dramatic court argument from Atlantic Yards watchdog journalist Norman Oder appeared on his Atlantic Yards Report. An excerpt of Oder's account follows below:

Was it déjà vu? As with the May 2007 oral argument in the state lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, the plaintiffs in the appeal yesterday exited optimistically, with a sense that the court—in this case, at least two of five appellate judges—was sympathetic toward their argument. Again, representatives of developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), along with their clutch of attorneys, exited looking none too cheery.

Notably, when a judge skeptical of the blight claim asked whether environmental consultant AKRF had ever not found blight when asked to look for it, the ESDC attorney sidestepped the question.

Then again, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden, when it came time to rule last January, came out squarely on the side of the defendants, so the questions in court hardly predict a final ruling. **Still, even a 3-2 decision upholding Madden means an automatic appeal to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, potentially stringing out the case even longer.

Justice James Catterson intervened skeptically, asking if it was possible to “measure where an area is blighted by mere reference to area?” What, he asked about issues like value or the sites’ characteristics?

Karmel said the decision was at the discretion of the agency.

“Has [environmental consultant] AKRF ever studied an area it didn’t find to be blighted?” [Justice James] Catterson asked, drawing muted titters from the audience. (He’s another Republican appointee of former Gov. George Pataki.)

[ESDC attorney Philip] Karmel didn’t answer the question directly, but said, “We are relying on cold hard facts.”

Catterson wasn’t buying it: “If there’s all of a sudden new development in a poor neighborhood, why would we characterize it as blighted?”

Karmel tried to point to the blight characteristics found in the study. Catterson, who wrote the majority opinion upholding a judge’s decision that found a conflict of interest in AKRF’s relationship to Columbia University, said that “Columbia has hired the same consultant” and found the “same blight.”

“The facts in the blight study are objective,” Karmel insisted.

“You don’t seriously argue that the blight study is solely an objective conclusion?” Catterson asked…

(Emphasis added in press release.)

The full account from the Atlantic Yards Report the back and forth between the five judge panel, plaintiffs’ attorney Jeffrey Baker and ESDC attorney Philip Karmel, and clearly describes the court’s skepticism. That account can be found at:

All appeal briefs can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/FEIS/appeal

DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.
DDDB is a 501c3 non-profit corporation supported by over 4,000 individual donors from the community.

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

At state Senate hearing, calls for reform of state eminent domain laws, notably blight

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder (he must have an identical twin, at least) attended yesterday's State Senate hearing on eminent domain, and filed his usual comprehensive report.

Opponents of governmental plans to use eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, the Columbia University expansion, and Willets Point redevelopment were at center stage yesterday at a State Senate hearing on reforming state eminent domain laws, where they and others pointed out that, in the years following the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision, New York has been among the few states that has made no effort to tighten eminent domain laws either through legislative or judicial action.

“Nowhere else in the country is eminent domain used to benefit private interests so rampantly and so brazenly,” declared Christina Walsh, a representative of the Institute for Justice, the libertarian legal organization that has led the fight nationally against eminent domain.

Harlem State Senator Bill Perkins, an opponent of the Columbia expansion who convened the hearing, called for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain in the state and a stall on the Columbia plan. He said he supported a special commission to reform eminent domain laws--a recommendation made by a New York State Bar Association task force to study changes in the 32-year-old Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL).

Among the recommendations: formally define and limit the definition of “blight,” which is undefined; give those threatened by eminent domain a chance to challenge determinations in court by calling witnesses; and even to eliminate the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment.

Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, drawing on the Atlantic Yards example, suggested that only locally elected legislative bodies, not the unelected agencies like the Empire State Development Corporation, approve the use of eminent domain.


Posted by eric at 9:13 AM

In appeal of case challenging AY environmental review, some justices skeptical of state’s blight claim

Atlantic Yards Report

Was it déjà vu? As with the May 2007 oral argument in the state lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, the plaintiffs in the appeal yesterday exited optimistically, with a sense that the court—in this case, at least two of five appellate judges—was sympathetic toward their argument. Again, representatives of developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), along with their clutch of attorneys, exited looking none too cheery.

Notably, when a judge skeptical of the blight claim asked whether environmental consultant AKRF had ever not found blight when asked to look for it, the ESDC attorney sidestepped the question.

Then again, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden, when it came time to rule last January, came out squarely on the side of the defendants, so the questions in court hardly predict a final ruling. Still, even a 3-2 decision upholding Madden means an automatic appeal to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, potentially stringing out the case even longer.

Norman Oder published a detailed account of the hearing.

More coverage...

Brownstoner, AY Arguments Heard at Appellate Court

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Is Back in Court Again

Posted by lumi at 6:56 AM

Task Force Testifes on Eminent Domain for State Senators

EDHearing.jpg From the Campaign for Community-Based Planning:

This morning, State Senators Bill Perkins and Efraim Gonzales held a public hearing on eminent domain at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building on 125th Street.

Perkins issued a statement reading, “In many instances, eminent domain is an instrument used by government, not in the context of their independently created economic development plans, but at the behest of private developers who wish for the state and city to use its powers of eminent domain to aggregate parcels of land for commercial benefit. This methodology has strained the relationship between government and communities affected by these development plans, that have at best, a vague purpose and at worst create the impression of a corporatocracy instead of true democratic governance. It will be critical to examine the original procedural structure in place to justify and exercise eminent domain.” The hearing’s intention was to gather ideas for potential legislation that would govern eminent domain at the state level.

Many familiar faces from eminent domain battles in NYC were present this morning, including: Nick Sprayregen, a property owner in Columbia University’s expansion footprint (who blogs here); Daniel Goldstein, a property owner in the Atlantic Yards footprint and member of Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn; and Dan Feinstein of the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, among many others. Julie Lawrence, a member of Brooklyn Community Board 1, delivered testimony on behalf of the Community-Based Planning Task Force, which you can read [on the CBP blog].

Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Financial crisis likely to slow NYC real estate

Associated Press, via amNY
By Amy Westfeldt

The Wall Street crisis that hit the heart of the city's financial district should slow construction of its biggest commercial real estate projects, including the World Trade Center and Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, real estate experts said Wednesday.

"Basically, people are afraid," said Tom Geurts, a professor at New York University's Schack Institute of Real Estate. "Although a project could be profitable, they are afraid to put their money in it because they don't know what is going to happen."
At the multibillion-dollar Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, developer Bruce Ratner long ago decided to postpone building a planned office tower until a major company agrees to move into the building.


MetroNY, Wall St. crisis spreads to real estate projects

A slow recover would drive down sales, increase vacancy rates, and possibly delay large-scale redevelopment projects, such as Manhattan's far West Side and Downtown Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: We presume that "large-scale redevelopment projects" includes Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn which keeps being lumped in with the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment by developer Bruce Ratner and NY City officials.

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

Marty’$ borough haul

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

The city comptroller is “very concerned” about no-bid contracts that Borough President Markowitz made on behalf of his own charity, Best of Brooklyn.

Bill Thompson, the city’s fiscal watchdog and a possible mayoral rival against Markowitz in 2009, lambasted the Beep on Wednesday for sidestepping city oversight by inking four contracts in 2005 for $24,999 each — one dollar below the threshold to trigger a review by Thompson. (After this year’s City Council slush fund scandal, the amount initiating a review was lowered to $5,000.)

And what would a local political scandal be without a giant slushie from one of the City's most-loathsome deep-pocketed developers? [Yup, the same developer who made the headlines in Jan 2004 because he no longer contributes to political campaigns to avoid the appearance of quid pro quo.]

But the line between government responsibilities and charity work is blurry. Markowitz, a longtime supporter of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, received $200,000–$350,000 from Ratner’s company last year for his concert series. And Markowitz’s Best of Brooklyn also received contributions of $15,000–$60,000 from Forest City Ratner Companies, a Ratner executive and a subsidiary.

The contributions give, at the very least, the appearance of a payback, watchdogs said.

“If it’s not illegal, it certainly raises some very serious ethical questions," Dick Dadey of the non-partisan Citizens Union told The Daily News.


NoLandGrab: This classic cartoon originally ran on NoLandGrab back in '05. Big surprise, nothing has changed.

Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

September 17, 2008

As Projects Cue Up, Louder Calls for Stricter Eminent Domain Laws

New York Observer
by Eliot Brown

It's been something of an eminent domain-filled day so far, with three events focusing on the state and city's ability to acquire private land, particularly for economic development: First a hearing, then a press conference, and a scheduled court appearance.

State Senator Bill Perkins, along with Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Efrain Gonzales, held a hearing this morning in Harlem where he said he intends to create a commission to study reform of New York's eminent domain laws. While most states saw a backlash against its use following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. City of New London in 2005, New York's laws went unchanged.

"Something has to be done," Mr. Perkins said. "We're going to put together the commission," and work to pass new legislation.


NoLandGrab: Today's court appearance was actually the appeal of the community challenge to the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, not the use of eminent domain. That state case has yet to be heard.

Posted by eric at 8:47 PM

Events, Dear Boy

Gumby Fresh

The Atlantic Yards blogosphere's resident debt-finance expert owns up to the fact that even experts make mistakes.

It's interesting that no matter how infrequently I post, it's still possible for me to drop a decent-sized clanger with pretty decent regularity. I refer, of course, to the post below, where I confidently predicted that Barclays had lost interest in the idea of building up a US brokerage business, and that financing conditions for the Atlantic Yards arena were still benign.

So, that was about 1.5 clangers. Barclays, of course, has decided to double down its bet on a presence in the US capital markets by tearing a few strips off the Lehman Brothers corpse, although how the Lehman* purchase helps it build up a retail business in the US escapes me. It's clear that John Varley and Bob Diamond have decided to fling the money of the good depositors in the banks' UK operations at empire-building in New York.

The .5 clanger is that financing conditions have headed south again. Now right now, investors love them bonds, and the "Barclays Center" (that dare not speak its name) would probably be financed using bonds. But the bonds that they love are mostly low-risk stuff, and highly-leveraged construction financings for speculative team moves don't count.


NoLandGrab: One interesting news item that popped up over the weekend was the explanation that Barclays backed out of a full takeover of Lehman because the U.S. government wouldn't cover the losses — like their naming-rights partner Bruce Ratner, they apparently know it's better to risk the taxpayers' money than their own.

Posted by eric at 6:46 PM

Blogs Note Yankee Stadium Report, Taxpayer Rip-Off

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog]

In addition to citing Atlantic Yards Report and yours truly, Runnin' Scared offers this tidbit by way of the Windy City:

From Chicago, B12 Solipsism comments, "The swindle works so well because there is always a second-string city somewhere who can be used as leverage (like when the Seattle Sonics got moved to BFE Oklahoma ). If city governments stood strong, the owners of the teams would end up financing the stadiums... Mayor Bloomberg (and Rudy 9-11 before him) and the Yankees made all sorts of grandiose claims that the stadium would be a boon to the economy, and of course, it isn't, and won't be much different than the previous stadium, other than making more money for the owners."


Posted by eric at 6:38 PM

At Congressional hearing tomorrow, Brodsky will be the sole New Yorker

Atlantic Yards Report

Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has released the witness list for the hearing tomorrow called “Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York,” and the only New Yorker is Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, whose committee yesterday released a scathing report on the new Yankee Stadium.

The president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Seth Pinsky, was scheduled to testify, but withdrew. Discussions with New York City officials about their appearance before the subcommittee are ongoing, according to Kucinich's office. Representatives from the New York Yankees will testify at hearing on October 7.


NoLandGrab: With the Brodsky report tossing around terms like "may have violated legal requirements" and "manipulated and evaded State law requirements," it's just possible that City attorneys advised Pinsky that it might not be such a good idea for him to testify under oath. Time will tell if the Kucinich committee decides to compel that testimony with a subpoena.

Posted by eric at 5:40 PM

Yankee Stadium & Atlantic Yards Follies Update


Two of the city's big three stadium and arena projects are in the news again this week (sorry Citifield, you're getting a pass, except for the Shea Stadium foul pole being up for sale). The Yankee Stadium woes and Atlantic Yards woes are different, yet similar.


Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

How Will Wall Street's Chaos Affect Atlantic Yards?

TC-OldSpalding.jpg Brownstoner

We don't know the answer to that, of course, but even before this latest Wall Street fiasco, the Atlantic Yards project was seeming particularly vulnerable. We heard last week that Forest City Ratner plans to break ground on Phase 1 (arena, a few towers) in December, though the NY Times pointed out that the project was marred by "the softening economy, the crisis in the debt markets, rising costs and a persistent group of opponents who have filed one lawsuit after another." But if folks were wondering if Phase II was ever going to happen — you know, that whole affordable housing part of it — now they wonder if we'll ever see the dawning of Phase I.


NoLandGrab: It's a testament to the impressive tentacles of Bruce Ratner that despite all the recent developments that have made it crystal clear that Atlantic Yards is a really, really, really bad idea, none of his abetters in City or State government have been willing to abandon their support for the project.

Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

In Brodsky’s report slamming Yankee Stadium deal, major questions implied about Atlantic Yards arena plan

Atlantic Yards Report

Watergate gave us "it's not the crime, it's the cover-up," but in the case of New York City's manipulation of assessed land values to help the Yankees stick taxpayers with a large bill for their new stadium, it appears to be that it is the crime, and the cover-up.

AYR's Norman Oder has the goods on the damning report issued this week by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, and what it may mean for Bruce Ratner, who's trying to pull the same scam for his planned Nets arena.

Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky yesterday released a report, The House That You Built (PDF), slamming the city on multiple grounds for its management of the Yankee Stadium deal, suggesting the willingness to grant tax-exempt bonds was based on an empty threat--a vague report, backed up without direct evidence, that the Yankees would leave the media capital of New York City for a stadium elsewhere.

Brodsky’s charges drew a fierce rebuttal from the city, which not coincidentally, was followed by an announcement that Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the only witness at a contentious July 2 Assembly hearing called by Brodsky’s Committee on Corporations, Commissions and Authorities, had withdrawn from a planned appearance at a Congressional hearing tomorrow on the Yankees deal.

No other city official will take his place. "We have informed the congressman [Dennis Kucinich] that it will not work for us," Pinsky said, according to the New York Sun. "But we remain happy to speak to him about this subject." (Doesn’t Congress have subpoena power?) Nor will the Yankees testify.

AY implications

The absence of any city representative suggests that Kucinich’s committee will have trouble publicly exploring the parallels between the Yankees deal and that planned for the Atlantic Yards arena. While Brodsky’s report doesn’t mention Atlantic Yards, it raises significant questions about the arena deal, notably whether taxpayers are paying for construction and whether the city is willing to manipulate the arena tax assessment to meet requirements for tax-exempt bonds.


NoLandGrab: We have a feeling that Mr. Pinsky's unwillingness to be inconvenienced by an Acela trip to the nation's capital isn't going to bring Congressman Kucinich's investigation to a halt.

And we do find it interesting that Pinsky and the City feel the hearing won't work for them, since we're pretty damned sure that the ripping off of taxpayers doesn't work for us.

Posted by eric at 8:54 AM

Deputy Mayor Lieber's Answers Raise More Questions About Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is focusing in on two comments made by NYC's Deputy Mayor for Economic Development (link) that seem to set the stage for more governmental assistance for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, in conjunction with further delays of the most highly touted benefit, affordable housing:

The NY Observer's Eliot Brown interviewed Deputy Mayor for economic development Robert Lieber. Mr. Lieber had some interesting things to say about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project:

Q: With Atlantic Yards, the developer wants more subsidy to build an arena and housing complex in Brooklyn. Is the city open to that?

A: We look at Atlantic Yards as an important project, and one of the things that we try and do in accommodating future growth is to try to do it around transit nodes, and that’s a prime transit node there, so we’re very, very supportive of getting that project under way. There are a number of ways we’re trying to help them do that. Obviously, we have budget concerns and budget issues that we have to be very mindful of.

That sounds like a hedge—much like Mayor Bloomberg's hedge last week—that the city may be trying to pave the way to heap more taxpayer subsidies on Bruce Ratner's folly, which is already subsidized the hilt.

The interview continues.

Q: Do you think it will ever be built out in full, to 6,400 apartments?

A: Sure. What I would say is that we want to create the conditions so that can happen. The market will determine when that happens.

(Emphasis added)

Atlantic Yards Report, Essentially undermining Ratner's pledge, Deputy Mayor says market will determine AY timetable

Norman Oder analyzes Lieber's comments:

Lieber's realistic answer, however, clashes with the assertion by developer Bruce Ratner that "We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018."

It also backs up the neighborhood and civic groups challenging the stated 2016 Build Year in the Atlantic Yards environmental review; they contend that a ten-year timetable--however realistic from a construction sense--does not comport with the reality of a megaproject, and the state should've studied impacts over a longer period.

We'll see if Lieber's comments are raised in the appellate argument today.

Posted by lumi at 7:31 AM

Yankees’ Deal May Have Violated Law, Report Says

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

New York City and the Yankees may have violated federal tax regulations and state laws in using $943 million in tax-exempt bonds to build the baseball team’s new stadium, according to a report issued on Tuesday by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky.

Saying the taxpayers are footing the bill for the $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and are getting little in return other than higher ticket prices and the loss of parkland, Mr. Brodsky, a frequent critic of the deal, said that the report stems from a review of thousands of pages of previously unreleased documents.
Mr. Brodsky and other critics have argued that the city violated federal tax regulations by manipulating the assessed value of the land beneath the stadium so that the team’s annual payment in lieu of taxes would effectively equal the annual payments to bondholders, or debt service, of $56.7 million beginning in 2010.

Mr. Brodsky’s 34-page report previews testimony he plans to give on Thursday at a Congressional subcommittee hearing sponsored by Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio that is looking into public financing for sports complexes. The Yankees plan to testify next month, while the Bloomberg administration is negotiating a date.
The Bloomberg administration successfully lobbied the Internal Revenue Service to approve the use of the tax-exempt bonds for the stadium, which did not initially qualify. But the I.R.S. later issued a proposal that would tighten the rules governing such bonds so it would be nearly impossible for this kind of financing to be used again by a profitable sports franchise.

The Yankees are awaiting a ruling on whether they can issue a second bond offering of about $250 million.

“We do things for professional sports we wouldn’t do for any other business,” Mr. Brodsky said. “When it comes to professional sports, we become socialists; for everyone else, we’re capitalists.”


NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is seeking favorable treatment by the same loophole to finance a new Brooklyn arena for his New Jersey Nets basketball team. How the IRS rules on the second bond offering for the Yankees might affect Ratner's request for a handout.

Associated Press, via amNY, Pol: Taxpayers cheated in Yankees Stadium deal

[Brodsky] said the concerns about subsidies for private businesses without direct benefit to the public could also apply to proposals to help the New York Mets build a new stadium and for a Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn.

Brodsky's criticisms, based on city, IRS and Yankees documents, include:

  • The city manipulated the assessed value of the stadium to meet requirements for an IRS tax exemption. That included using comparable land values in Manhattan rather than the Bronx to come up with the value for the new property.

NoLandGrab: Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has explained how Ratner will likely seek to manipulate the assessed property value to maximize the potential for tax-exempt bond financing [link].

  • The Yankees plan to increase ticket prices, but won't offer more moderately priced tickets to New Yorkers whose taxes will help pay for the stadium.

  • City officials didn't disclose their purchase of a luxury box and extra game tickets and apparently there is no city policy on their use.

  • The $366 million in additional funding sought by the Yankees to complete the stadium would be for a large video screen, not structural costs.

The NY Sun, City Declines To Participate In Hearing on Stadium Financing
The Sun is reporting that amidst all of the scrutiny and turmoil, City officials have decided that they won't be going to D.C. for a turn in the hot seat:

The Bloomberg administration is scrapping plans to send one of its top economic officials to testify before a congressional panel that is investigating how sports stadiums and arenas receive public financing.

The president of the Economic Development Corp., Seth Pinsky, confirmed yesterday that he would not be testifying at a congressional hearing in Washington tomorrow called by Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

Mr. Pinsky said no other representative from the city will be attending in his place.

"We have informed the congressman that it will not work for us," Mr. Pinsky said. "But we remain happy to speak to him about this subject."

MetroNY, City, Yanks no-shows in Congress

News about City officials ducking Congress focuses on the land-valuation discrepancy as documented in the Brodsky report.

The NY Times, For Stadium Seating, City Officials Demand Luxe

And if all the above hasn't pissed you off enough, here's an aside that will make your head spin:

Rank has its privileges everywhere else — so why not here?

That was the thinking, to hear city officials tell it, that drove them to demand free luxury suites and first dibs on the best available seats at the stadiums being built for the Yankees and the Mets.
Mr. Brodsky said that the perks were negotiated in secret and that the city had yet to explain, despite repeated inquiries, why they were necessary and how they will be paid for.

Posted by lumi at 6:34 AM

Sell the Naming Rights and You May Sell Much More

The NY Times

After the Allianz naming-rights deal for the Jets-Giants Stadium fell through, Times columnist Clyde Haberman ponders the cringe-factor of other deals, including the mystifying deal between Bruce Ratner, who has been courting Brooklyn's African-American community, and Barclays Bank, which still hasn't outrun its past:

The dollar-fueled passion to sell one’s name (and reputation) to the highest bidder has landed more than one enterprise in hot water. At the least, it has led some to come under unwelcome scrutiny.

After the Enron debacle, the Houston Astros decided that it wasn’t wise to play baseball in a place called Enron Field. Their playground is now called Minute Maid Park, Minute Maid being a division of the Coca-Cola Company — no model of purity itself, having paid tens of millions of dollars to make charges of racial and gender bias go away.

Closer to home, the planned arena in Brooklyn for the Nets basketball team will bear the name of the British bank Barclays. The bank has had to fend off charges, which it calls untrue, that it has historic roots in the slave trade. Of themselves, the allegations may be heavy baggage for a company to carry into Brooklyn, with its huge African-American population.

For $20 million a year, Citigroup bought the naming rights to the Mets’ new stadium in Queens, Citi Field. Citibank, a division of Citigroup, cannot claim to have always had clean hands. As recently as 11 years ago, a federal government report said that blacks applying for home mortgage loans at Citibank were three times more likely to be rejected than whites, often even when incomes were comparable. Of 12 banks studied, Citibank ranked the worst in this regard.


Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

In EIS case appeal, debate over blight and a mysterious market study

Atlantic Yards Report

Key to the battle in the lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards environmental review, the subject of an oral argument in state appellate court [today], is a document that surfaced only in mid-August, well after the lawsuit (or even the appeal) was filed by 26 neighborhood and civic groups. The document that suggests that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in its eagerness to determine blight on the Atlantic Yards footprint, ignored or omitted an investigation into market trends that was part of the initial Blight Study contract with environmental consultant AKRF.

The document, which I received via a Freedom of Information Law Request (seeking information on the issue of conflict-of-interest, not blight) shows that AKRF, in the Contract Scope for the Blight Study, was supposed to “analyze residential and commercial rents on the project site and within the study area and to analyze assessed value trends on the project site.”

No such analysis was conducted, even as claims by the plaintiffs—echoing many Atlantic Yards critics, and even some supporters—that the project footprint wasn’t blighted were dismissed as merely anecdotal.

The plaintiffs, who are appealing the dismissal of their case, want the Contract Scope to be included in the administrative record, while the ESDC and fellow defendant Forest City Ratner disagree. No decision has emerged before the hearing, but, should the judges favor the plaintiffs on this procedural issue, that would offer new support to the legal argument challenging blight.

Norman Oder reviews the briefs as a preview of today's oral arguments. Click here to read the entire article.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Another Atlantic Yards Appeal Scheduled for Wednesday

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the lead community group in opposition to Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project, is asking its supporters to attend the oral argument of its appeal Wednesday in court.

According to DDDB, the argument is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Appellate Division, First Department in Downtown Manhattan.

DDDB is the lead plaintiff in this particular lawsuit filed by several community groups who petitioned the state supreme court in April in an attempt to have the $4 billion project’s final environmental impact statement and approval annulled.

The Manhattan Supreme Court dismissed the case earlier this year. So far, the opponents of Atlantic Yards -- which has been described as the largest single-design project in the city’s history -- continue to lose each and every lawsuit and appeal that they file.

NoLandGrab: Actually, a couple "opponents" have won lawsuits in connection with the project: A suit brought by property owner Lars Williams for his improper arrest for vandalism was settled out of court; Henry Weinstein won his claim that the lease for his building was unlawfully transferred to Bruce Ratner, who made false claims that he "controlled" the parcel.

These suits were not brought by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and haven't changed the fact that Bruce Ratner is taking down every building he can get his hands on, but by conflating "opponents" and "Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn," the Eagle isn't painting an accurate picture.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

headdesk.gif Runnin' Scared, Anti-Development Rumblings in Brooklyn

According to the Village Voice news blog:

No Land Grab and Atlantic Yards Report ride herd on rapacious developers every day.

...well, at least one rapacious developer.

Ground Report, NY Governor Dubs Politicians Bloodsuckers

Libertarian blogger Richard Cooper says it takes one to know one:

Democratic New York Governor David Paterson described politicians as bloodsuckers.
Paterson is correct in his description of his colleagues. But what about himself as a governor and state senator?

Where does he stand on eminent domain, corporate welfare, and the welfare state in general? What about Willets Point, Atlantic Yards, or Manhattanville eminent domain schemes? He supported a property tax cap. But what about the sales tax, the income tax and the numerous taxes dubbed fees by the bloodsuckers? What about the state debt that has us New Yorkers in bondage? Does he support the Empire State Development Corporation?

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Friday Links Roundup

The drama continues at Atlantic Yards, where developer Bruce Ratner says they will break ground in December. Even the NY Times doesn’t seem so sure.

NoLandGrab: "Drama?" Yeah, maybe the Times's theater desk should start covering the affair.

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, New Eminent Domain Blog: My Land Is Mine

Tomorrow, the Community-Based Planning Task Force will provide testimony on the use of eminent domain in New York City at an (invite only) public hearing sponsored by State Senator Bill Perkins. We’ll put the testimony up shortly, but in the meantime, check out a new blog from Task Force supporting organization Coalition to Preserve Community: My Land Is Mine.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

An anchor tenant for Building 1? The search just got tougher

Atlantic Yards Report

The Lehman Brothers meltdown can't be good news for backers of Atlantic Yards, especially since Forest City Ratner is searching for an anchor tenant to begin construction of Building 1, the one office tower planned for now.

From a New York Times article, headlined City and State Brace for Greater Demands on Diminishing Resources:

With the prospect of Lehman’s space going on the market, the likely result will be a drop in rents at some of the city’s premier buildings and fewer new towers going up, said real estate executives, urban planners and government officials. Those that are built will probably be smaller, they said.

Look what the cat draggged in
As chance would have it, the BBC is reporting that Barclays Bank plans to purchase the Lehman Bros. headquarters for $1.5 billion. Yup, that's the same Barclays Bank that signed a $400 million naming-rights deal for the new arena to be built at Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards complex. The deal to purchase the building and other Lehman assets would make Barclays the third largest investment bank in the world.

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

Here's what happened to The Footprint trees...

FootprintTreeStump.jpg The Footprint Gazette

Fo-Gazy posted exclusive photos and video documenting the fate of "The Footprint Trees."

Today Norman Oder posed the question: "What happened to the footprint trees?"

As it turns out I snapped some pics and took a vid on the day the trees came down in early April.


Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

September 16, 2008

What happened to the footprint trees? Parks Department says replacements due only after construction

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder tries to figure out why Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is cutting down the City's trees bordering the project footprint:

Some 86 trees have been disappearing around the Atlantic Yards footprint over the past several months as preconstruction demolition and utility work has continued, prompting some community alarm, given that the tree removal was apparently not formally announced and, apparently unanticipated in the environmental review, there are still people living and working in the Atlantic Yards footprint.
[T]he dismay is such that City Council Member Letitia James said yesterday that there should be "a moratorium on the removal of any more trees, in and around the foot print." [Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Secretary Jim] Vogel suggested that the tree removals are a "p.r. stunt for the groundbreaking," pointing out that the announced project groundbreaking in November can only be symbolic.

"If the project goes through, take the trees down as you need them," he said, suggesting that the tree removals reinforce claims of blight.

Tree removal has not been mentioned in the Construction Updates issued by the Empire State Development Corporation. In fact, when I queried the ESDC and was told to contact developer Forest City Ratner, which did not respond to an e-mail query. (Shouldn't this information have been at the fingertips of the ESDC Ombudsman and also the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office?)

Then I contacted the New York City Parks Department; spokesman Phil Abramson told me, "A removal permit for 86 trees was issued in March 2008. There was no way to keep the trees in place and build what they want to build there, and transplanting them would have been risky as far as survival.

I asked for a copy of the permit; I was told to submit a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request.


Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

No Escape

The Footprint Gazette

Phone call for Fo-Gazy:

The reason it has been quiet on this blog as of late is that I've been away on the west coast a-workin'. Yet the early awakenings and construction nonsense native to The Footprint somehow managed to find their way to my hotel in California.

I got a phone call at 4:30am PST from a construction worker:


"Hey how ya doin' buddy? It's the construction workers outside on Dean St. We need you to move your car ASAP. Thanks."

Apparently my super thinks it's OK to give out my cell phone number to construction workers who are in the process of dismantling my community. There a many levels of inappropriateness here. FCR has introduced a brand new way to harass the people whose homes they are bent on destroying by not only making a mockery of their block and the civic process, but now they'll give you early morning wake up calls with things they need you to do.


Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Brodsky: city manipulated assessed value for Yankee Stadium (and a lot more)

Atlantic Yards Report

A not-so-understated press release issued [Monday] by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky about the Yankee Stadium deal indicates

1) an interim report from Brodsky's Assembly committee is coming [Tuesday];

2) Brodsky will be testifying Thursday in the Congressional hearing, which will look into not just the Yankee Stadium deal but also that contemplated for the planned Atlantic Yards arena; and

3) the city, according to the report, manipulated the assessed value of the stadium to meet the need for an IRS tax exemption.

That latter tactic, already the subject of columns by Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News, has potential parallels in the case of Atlantic Yards. Why? Only a high assessed value--likely much higher than that faced by Madison Square Garden--would be necessary to ensure that the PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) are sufficient to repay the tax-exempt bonds planned. (A lower assessed value means lower foregone taxes; the bond payments can't be higher than the foregone taxes.)

Update: The AP has responses from city officials and the Yankees.


[full press release after the jump]


Interim Report “The House That You Built” Reveals Massive Subsidies, Inflated Tax Assessment, Lack of Job Creation, Questionable Actions by NYCIDA, Luxury Suite Acquisition, Violation of IRS Requirements, Excessive Ticket Prices And Other Issues

What: Press conference to release the Brodsky Report “The House That You Built”

When: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 12:00 p.m.

Where: Corner of 164th Street and Jerome Avenue (directly behind the new Yankee Stadium), Bronx, New York

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Greenburgh), Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Commissions and Authorities, will release tomorrow, Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at a press conference being held on the corner of 164th Street and Jerome Avenue (directly behind the new Yankee Stadium) in the Bronx, THE HOUSE THAT YOU BUILT: An Interim Report Into Public Financial Assistance for The New Yankee Stadium.

The 30-page document is based on a five-month investigation into the decision by the New York City Industrial Development Agency and others to provide hundreds of millions of public dollars for the construction of the new Stadium. The findings of this investigation are detailed in the Report and include:

  • $550 - $850 million dollars in taxpayer investment resulted in the creation of only 15 new permanent jobs

  • The public, not the Yankees, is paying the costs of constructing the new stadium

  • A luxury suite was secretly acquired by NYCIDA and the Mayor’s Office with the proceeds from stadium bonds

  • The City manipulated the assessed value of the Stadium to meet the need for an IRS tax exemption

  • Sworn commitments to the IRS, the National Park Service, and state officials were not kept

  • NYCIDA may have violated existing law in its creation of massive amounts of public debt, and its failure to assure public benefits from the massive taxpayer investment

  • The City refused to protect the public from excessive ticket price increases by the Yankees

  • Independent investigations of the actions of DOF, NYCIDA, and other public and private parties must be undertaken immediately

The Report is based on a review of thousands of pages of documents, sworn testimony by City officials, and meetings with City officials. It uncovers in depth the actions and decisions that led to the Yankees receipt of cash contributions from the City and State of about $350 million, and additional subsidies of between $200 and $500 million in interest savings on IRS approved tax-exempt bonds, for a total taxpayer investment of between $550 and $850 million and how in exchange the Stadium project will create 15 new permanent jobs, and little in private investment. The Report will be presented to the United States Congress in testimony to be given by Chairman Brodsky this Thursday in Washington.

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Wall Street meltdown may swamp all New Yorkers

By David Freedlander, Garett Sloane, and Galen Moore

Atlantic Yards gets an honorable mention in an article about the cascading effects of this weekend's events on Wall St., which includes the local housing and commercial real estate market:


The crisis that wiped out the venerable Lehman Brothers and left two others financial giants struggling for life threatens to cascade across all sectors of city life, from the restaurant business to the pace of rebuilding at the World Trade Center, observers say.
The continued march of bankers with boxes -- not into new homes but out on the street looking for jobs -- will certainly soften the city's real estate market.
The fall of Lehman Brothers will also take its toll on commercial real estate, with oversupply possibly bringing prices down.
And that's not to mention possible office consolidations from the merger of Merrill Lynch with Bank of America, set against the general downsizing throughout the financial industry.
If the housing market softens, developers may get jittery and be less willing to finance all the new buildings going up, leading to lots of empty lots. And big projects like the new World Trade Center and the Atlantic Yards could grind to a halt, according to Chris Jones, a researcher at the Regional Plan Association, should financing becomes more difficult and tax revenues dry up.


Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

"Scooby-Doo! Where are you?!?"

ScoobyDoo.jpg Photo and caption by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

It appears that Scooby and The Gang are on Pacific Street in the Atlantic Yards footprint. Let's hope that they'll be able to solve the mystery of "The Giant Malformed Subsidy Sucking Development Project That Would Not Die."

Pacific Street near Vanderbilt Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

NoLandGrab: Hey should Scooby Doo really be driving without a seatbelt, while eating pizza to boot?

Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

Atlantic Yards Is Too Costly and Too Risky for NY State & City

In a radio interview last month, Governor Paterson stated, "That if [Atlantic Yards] starts to become too costly, a lot of these projects that we were for, we might have to change our mind."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn provides a litany of current costs and risks as a reminder that this is the wrong time and the wrong place for the wrong project.


Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

Brutally weird: ESDC blames project opponents for using name "Barclays Center"

Atlantic Yards Report

BarclaysCenterLogo.jpg Huh? Developer and team-owner Bruce Ratner splashes the name "Barclays Center" all over town and in the press, but according to papers filed by the Empire State Development Corporation, it's the project opponents' fault that the "publicly owned" arena appears to be a private enterprise??

In the brief from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), amid a dispute over whether a "civic project" must be publicly owned or leased to an entity with a civic purpose, the state agency strains credulity with a posture of baffling obtuseness:

Finally, Appellants labor to fortify their argument by calling the Arena the ‘Barclays Center.’ There is no record evidence that this name will be used, although this name has been reported in the press.



If there's "no record evidence," shouldn't the developer's efforts (see screenshot) to call the arena the Barclays Center hold any weight? What about the efforts of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, as in his 2007 State of the Borough address? Indeed, the appellants note that the ESDC tries to minimize the name despite the presence of the BarclaysCenter.com web site.


NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that the public doesn't see a dime from the $400 million naming-rights deal.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

Industry Insiders: Ivanka Trump, Executive Heiress

Black Book

IvankaTrump-BB.jpg From a short profile of Bruce Ratner's most famous intern:

Modeling, for me, was purely a pit stop, fun, in the moment. I worked for a year for the [Bruce] Ratner organization in Brooklyn, cutting my teeth on the business, away from prying eyes. I believed I could be effective in this field through real life training and experience outside of the fishbowl that would be the Trump Organization, where people would have been observing and watching a 22-year-old commence her first few weeks of work. I joined the Trump Organization a year-and-a-half later, and am now the vice president for real estate acquisitions and development for the organization and for Trump Entertainment Resorts and Gaming.


Posted by lumi at 4:28 AM

Bank forecloses on north Manatee development

Bradenton Herald
By Duane Marsteller

A lender is suing a Forest City joint venture to foreclose on the mortgage for a mixed-use development in Florida:

A proposed residential and retail project in northern Manatee County has become the largest casualty yet of the local foreclosure surge.

And more could follow as developers fall victim to the soft housing market, a real-estate development analyst said Monday.

Orion Bank sued to foreclose on the Arbor Park project last week, claiming Palmer Investors LC failed to repay a $15.3 million loan that was due Aug. 1. The Naples bank also wants a court-appointed receiver to manage the 483-acre site at the northwest corner of U.S. 301 and Buckeye Road.

"Upon information and belief, Palmer Investors has constructively or actually abandoned the development of the mortgaged property, leaving the same in an incomplete, insecure and vulnerable condition," the bank said in its suit.

Palmer is a joint venture between Medallion Homes and Forest City Enterprises Inc., a real-estate development company based in Cleveland. Neither company returned calls Monday.


Posted by lumi at 4:17 AM

September 15, 2008

Atlantic Yards: Information Sharing Recordkeeping, Part 8 (A Twofer)

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB continues to monitor the torrent of useful information spilling out of Forest City Ratner Companies.

In the February 26, 2008 NY Observer Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Reigelhaupt said:

“When it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned."

Read on to learn that, well, apparently there is such a thing as TMI when it comes to FCRC.

Posted by eric at 4:05 PM

More details emerge on Yankees lobbying efforts re tax-free bonds

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder wonders if Forest City Ratner's fingerprints may be on the Charles Rangel letter uncovered today by the Daily News.

Yes, the Atlantic Yards arena is part of this controversy. The article concludes:
In 2006, Akin Gump - a bipartisan firm that for years has donated thousands to both Democrats and Republicans - reported that the Yankees hired the firm to lobby the U.S. Department of Interior for "federal approval required to complete stadium relocation."

That job ended Jan. 1, 2007. Levine said the Yankees hired the law firm again three months ago - this time to represent the team in a congressional probe on the use of public funds for sports arenas. Hearings are set for this week.

Levine said the firm had nothing to do with the Rangel letter and insisted the letter was meant to serve the interests of the Yankees and other projects, such as the Mets' new stadium and developer Bruce Ratner's proposed Nets' arena in Brooklyn.

Mets officials said they had nothing to do with the letter.

A spokesman for Ratner did not return calls.

So one of the lingering questions is whether Forest City Ratner had anything to do with the letter.


Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

Rep. Charles Rangel lobbied IRS for tax breaks on behalf of Yankees

NY Daily News
by Greg B. Smith

Sure, unemployment is at its highest level in five years, the global financial system is falling apart, millions are without power along the Gulf Coast, and that knock at your door is probably someone serving you with a foreclosure notice. But don't worry — your elected officials are hard at work making sure that you and me and our fellow taxpayers are picking up a big chunk of the tab for billionaire team owners.

This must-read article shows just how deeply entwined city and state officials and sports and development interests really are — and how the system is rigged for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful.

The city and the Yankees secretly crafted a letter Rep. Charles Rangel used to lobby the IRS for tax changes that would save the team $66 million, the Daily News has learned.

They did this at the same time Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and the team's law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, raised almost $25,000 for Rangel, records show.

The law firm's political action committee also donated an additional $30,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in this election cycle. Rangel is chairman of the DCCC's board of directors and a key fund-raiser for House Democrats. Yankees President Randy Levine is senior counsel at Akin Gump.

The Rangel letter was just one weapon in the Yankees' ongoing battle to get more tax-exempt financing for the new stadium rising in the Bronx. Last year, the team got $942 million in tax-free bonds through a city agency, but the team wants $350 million more.

If the new bonds go through, the Yankees would lower their borrowing costs by $66 million on top of the $181 million they're already set to save from the first round of tax-free bonds, the Independent Budget Office estimates.

Levine said the firm had nothing to do with the Rangel letter and insisted the letter was meant to serve the interests of the Yankees and other projects, such as the Mets' new stadium and developer Bruce Ratner's proposed Nets' arena in Brooklyn.

Mets officials said they had nothing to do with the letter.

A spokesman for Ratner did not return calls.


Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

The Times corrects the "Atlantic Yards" caption

Atlantic Yards Report


More Atlantic Yards sloppiness from the newspaper that also just happens to be partners with Bruce Ratner in its headquarters building.

From today's New York Times:
A picture caption with an article in some editions on Wednesday about potential hurdles to plans by the developer Bruce C. Ratner to break ground in December on his $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn misstated the name of the railyards that the development will be built over, in part. They are the Vanderbilt Yards, not the Atlantic Yards.

The Times could have further specified that Atlantic Yards is not a place. And shouldn't it be "would be built over," not "will be built over"?

I also wonder why the correction took five days. Fact-checking should've taken about ten seconds and led to a correction the next morning. Still, that's better than ignoring corrections altogether.


Posted by eric at 9:14 AM

FCR to CB8: evasive and disingenuous on project timing, jobs, bridge opening

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's announcement in May that Atlantic Yards was moving ahead generated several questions from Brooklyn Community Board 8, which got back a response that is often evasive, vague, and disingenuous.


According to the letter, sent July 18, the developer is unwilling to commit to a start date for Phase 2 nor to commit to opening the arena only when reconstruction of the adjacent Sixth Avenue bridge is complete. The developer offers a highly-qualified pledge for interim open space and, in asserting project’s benefits, likely overestimates the number of permanent jobs in Phase 1 by a factor of two.

The letter, from Senior VP Scott Cantone, was sent to CB8 Chairman Robert Matthews and cc’d to various public and elected officials. CB8 has not yet publicly responded.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder walks readers through the math and calculates approximately 1,434 "new permanent jobs," a figure well below the 3,000 claimed by Cantone in his letter to CB8.

It's amazing how Forest City Ratner executives will make false claims for issues that are easily verifiable, which makes you wonder if they ever tell the truth, like, just for funzies. But they don't, which is why you are reading this blog.

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

Atlantic Yards Photo Pool

From photographer Tracy Collins, via the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by eric at 4:47 AM

Yonkers groups deliver wish list to downtown developers

The Journal News
By Ernie Garcia

A group in Yonkers has presented developer Struever Fidelco Cappelli a list of "community benefits" that they would like to work into a formal agreement. Ironically, the article cites Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement (CBA), which, by ignoring anyone in the community that wasn't a hand-picked supporter, is an entirely different kind of agreement than the prototype Staples Center agreement.

One of the best-known regional examples of a community-benefit agreement is in Brooklyn for the Atlantic Yards project. That agreement commits developer Forest City Ratner to jobs and small-business development, affordable housing, open space and a community health care center.


NoLandGrab: Since the Atlantic Yards CBA isn't legally enforceable, and wasn't signed by any government officials, it is more like Bruce Ratner's pledge, not a commitment. Let's hope that the Yonkers deal follows the Staples Center model instead of the infamously perverted Atlantic Yards model.

Posted by lumi at 4:07 AM

September 14, 2008

Allianz and Barclays: Joined at the hip


Fans For Fair Play

The official verdict in the Wide World of New York Stadium Naming Rights?

1) The Holocaust is offensive.

2) Slavery, English colonialism, apartheid, the Congolese civil war, supporting the Mugabe regime...not so much.

After an amazingly brief explosion of justifiable anger at New Jers-- er, New York's two NFL teams' potential naming-rights deal with Allianz, the deal is dead.
Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project down the same trash-strewn path when they inked a $400 million deal with Barclays Bank, whose history includes involvement with the U.S. slave trade, South African apartheid, European colonialism, the Congolese civil war and support for Robert Mugabe's internationally condemned regime in Zimbabwe.

In fact, Ratner went further -- he actually completed the deal. The Giants and Jets, no models of sports-industry decency, actually did the right thing and told Allianz to take a hike.
If the Allianz deal was killed after a 48-hour whirlwind of indignation, CYA maneuvers, and a corporation made to capitulate with its tail between its legs, why is Bruce Ratner's deal with Barclays still alive eighteen months later?


Posted by amy at 3:31 PM

Flashback January 2004: where's the team store in the "privately financed" arena?


Atlantic Yards Report

Along with the extreme hype, two interesting aspects emerge in a second look at the cover of the 1/22/04 New York Times Sports section.

First, the caption at left declares that the arena would be "privately financed," though that phrase didn't appear in the overview article. While no direct public subsidy had been announced--a 2/18/05 Memorandum of Understanding set out $200 million in subsidies, $100 million each from the city and the state--the Times could have been more skeptical.

After all, the 12/11/03 article announcing the Atlantic Yards plan stated:
Mr. Ratner said that the project "will be almost exclusively privately financed," although taxes derived from elements of the project will be diverted to help pay for it. (Emphasis added)


Posted by amy at 3:17 PM

The Urban Memory Project


alldaybuffet interviews The Urban Memory Project's Co-Founder and Director Rebecca Krucoff about a project that asks young people to "document the changes they see in their own neighborhoods, and helping them to develop informed opinions about the changes taking place around them."

Terms like gentrification and development have various meanings to New Yorkers these days and nowhere is it more of a hot-button issue than in Brooklyn where the proposed Atlantic Yards projects have sparked protests, rallies and many, angry T-shirt slogans.

Of course some development as a city grows and changes is inevitable. But how do we decide what we preserve, and what is worth preserving?
The students have very strong opinions (they’re teenagers after all). Many of them are anti-gentrification and development, but there are always gray areas, and it often depends on a particular issues. Does gentrification harm or help a neighborhood overall? Will the Atlantic Yards Project benefit more people than it harms? We also want them to reflect upon and consider what makes their city valuable to them, personally, as well as for the people of the city as a whole. This is why we emphasize the “personal city,” and ask students to photograph and write about places that hold meaning for them.


Posted by amy at 3:09 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...


NYC:Brooklyn hoods-Downtown

In the 1980's, much of downtown Brooklyn was demolished to make way for a complex known as MTC, which was owned by the infamous Bruce Ratner, who is the head of FCR, in the claim that it would help revitalize the area when that wasn't the case. His complex included locations for Polytechnic University and a new home for LIU. Unfortunately, it didn't help a lot as numerous businesses were priced out especially G&T in 2004 when the latest rennovation caused it to move.

If you're wondering what's (going) up in Downtown Brooklyn, this site has block by block photos...

The Anetzberger Verdict, Construction for Arena in Brooklyn to Begin Soon

The Nets are more than likely going to move to Brooklyn at the end of the 2009 season. This is also conveniently at the end of Lebron James contract. Rumor has it that Lebron will sign with the Nets (in Brooklyn) and join his friend Jay-Z. Jay-Z is the co-owner of the Nets and is working to move the team to Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: The first sentence here is missing the Borat-style "NOT" at the end it seems...

basketsession.com, Les Brooklyn Nets en chantier

Car si Ratner veut que son projet immobilier attire les foules, il va falloir rendre la ville de Brooklyn un peu plus sexy.

Brooklyn est abondance sexy car il est, merci beaucoup.

Nets Daily, Bloomberg: “We Will Do Everything We Can to Work with Ratner”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg left no doubt Wednesday where he stands on Atlantic Yards: “We desperately need to have development and that’s a very big part of the development in Brooklyn. I don’t know that we have to put government money in, but we certainly will do everything we can to work with Ratner to get those buildings going.” Now, Critics are complaining Bloomberg doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Yet another reason to support term limits...

The KnickerBlogger, Fairweather free marketeers

Even though it was Greenspan /Clinton years that was largely responsible for this (though Bush and CO are too blame as well) the fact that the super rich bankers are being bailed out will mean that republicans will NEVER be able to oppose subsidies for the poor on any idealogical basis. In other words, coming and going, right and left, government will continue to grow -much like Atlantic yards, the very poor will be used by the very rich to break the back of and steal from, the middle class, the productive class, the civic class.

Posted by amy at 2:30 PM

September 13, 2008

As busy week approaches, Yankees' deal gets more scrutiny; will AY arena be included?

Atlantic Yards Report

Next week is going to be very interesting. On Wednesday will be the State Senate's eminent domain public hearing and the oral argument in the appeal of a judge's dismissal of the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental impact statement. On Thursday, a Congressional subcommittee will look into whether city officials "gamed" valuations of Yankee Stadium to ensure that the assessment was enough to fit with bond payments used for PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes).

And in a column yesterday headlined Yanks land deal ain't fair ball, Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez revealed that Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who on July 2 held a hearing on the Yankees deal, will next week release an "interim report" on the Yankees probe.

Surely Brodsky will do so before the Congressional hearing called by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

The PILOTs problem

The Yankees deal is understandably the focus, given that, as Gonzalez wrote, in January 2007, the city assessed land under the new Yankee Stadium at ten times the market value of its neighbors--an assessment justified, city officials said, by comparing it to other stadiums around the country.

The PILOTs can't exceed the value of foregone property taxes, hence the need for a high valuation. The same situation applies to the Atlantic Yards arena.


Posted by amy at 10:07 AM

Polytechnic alumni file suit to rescind NYU consolidation deal


Atlantic Yards Report

Some two months after the State Board of Regents in late June approved New York University's no-money-down absorption of Brooklyn's Polytechnic University, a group of seven dissident alumni have filed suit (PDF) in Albany to rescind the decision, arguing the Regents’ allowed the affiliation in violation of a 2005 Polytechnic board decision to remain independent.

NYU’s consolidation effort--the school is now known as Polytechnic Institute of NYU--not only adds engineering to the university’s portfolio but provides a beachhead in Brooklyn, providing perhaps one-quarter of the real estate NYU needs to expand. The lawsuit, filed against both the Poly board and the Board of Regents, charges that the university's board failed to obtain an appraisal to establish the value of its real estate, air rights and other assets, a breach of its fiduciary duty.

State report lingers

Indeed, a report issued May 20 by State Sen. Kenneth LaValle, the chairman of the State Senate Committee on Higher Education, raised some serious questions about the deal, stating that in three instances the board did not act with the duty of care and/or loyalty required by a fiduciary, notably negotiations conducted in secret, the exclusion of dissident board members from working committees, and the failure to update a three-year-old appraisal of the university's valuable property in Downtown Brooklyn's MetroTech Center. (LaValle, oddly enough, released the report without an accompanying press release or comment.)


Posted by amy at 9:59 AM

Ratner Says He Can Do Taxable Bond, So Why Not?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asks more questions in the wake of Tuesday's New York Times article and the desired $800 million tax-exempt arena bond:

There is a very enlightening comment from Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco:
...that financing plan for the arena, known as Barclays Center, is dependent on a favorable ruling by the Treasury Department in the coming weeks that would allow Mr. Ratner to use tax-exempt bonds and a final victory over court challenges. If he is barred from using tax-exempt bonds, his costs will increase substantially for what would already be the most expensive arena in the world.
Joseph DePlasco, a spokesman for Bruce Ratner, said his company had drawn up documents for a tax-exempt bond offering that would enable them to move quickly after the Treasury Department issued its ruling. But, he said, Forest City and Goldman Sachs were also confident that they could obtain taxable financing, if needed. (Emphasis added)

We've asked this before, and we'll ask again: If Forest City Ratner admits it can build its arena with taxable bonds and can obtain taxable bonds, then why, exactly, are they pursing the triple-tax free bond? The answer is, of course, that the developer will take advantage of every government tax break or handout even as they admit they don't need to. This is because their project is about making a super profit rather than the public good, despite the PR campaign that tries to tell you otherwise.


Posted by amy at 9:52 AM

September 12, 2008

Something is Rotten in (Macombs) Dam Park

Did NYC Officials Deliberately Inflate Land Value of New Yankee Stadium to Turn Public Money into Private Profit?

Democracy Now

Democracy Now co-hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez discuss Gonzalez's column in today's Daily News about the shenanigans surrounding the City of New York's over-valuation of the land under the new Yankee Stadium.

And, of course, this is a major issue all around the country, because local governments are spending enormous sums in public subsidies and federally backed—federal tax-exempt bonds to create these huge stadium complexes. Here in New York alone, the Yankees have a stadium, a new stadium; the Mets are building a new stadium; the developer Bruce Ratner wants to build a new Nets arena. Across the river in New Jersey, the Giants and the Jets are building new stadiums. Minnesota, Washington—you go to any major city in America, they’re building new stadiums using huge amounts of public subsidies, and there are questionable practices, I think, in many of these cities as to how government officials are aiding these efforts.

article/video/audio/download MP3

NoLandGrab: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will chair a Congressional hearing next week probing the financing of the new Yankee Stadium and the Mets' Citifield — and Bruce Ratner's planned Barclays Center arena.

Posted by eric at 2:39 PM

Yanks land deal ain't fair ball

NY Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez


Q. How can it be that the land under the new Yankee Stadium is worth 17 times as much as the land under the old Yankee Stadium, which sits just a infield pop-up away?

A. Because the city appears to be colluding with the Yankees to hand the nation's taxpayers the bill for tax-exempt bonds!

In January 2007, the city assessed land under the new Yankee Stadium at 10 times the market value of virtually all other land in the South Bronx neighborhood.

The assessment - not including the new ballpark - worked out to a fair market value of $275 per square foot. But a Daily News analysis of city property records shows that city assessors said land on a dozen blocks around the site was worth an average of less than $25 a square foot.

Lawmakers in Washington and Albany are investigating whether city officials inflated the new stadium's land value to make it possible for the Yankees to pay back nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds for the project.

The Yankees deal calls for the team to begin paying back its original bonds once the new stadium opens in April through the use of something called Payments in Lieu of Taxes. IRS rules say such payments can't be higher than the official tax on the property that is being financed.

In other words, the Yankees need the highest possible assessment to be able to make their huge debt payments.


NoLandGrab: If the Yankees, or the Nets, for that matter, are permitted to issue tax-exempt bonds rather than taxable bonds, it can save them hundreds of millions of dollars in interest payments. Supporters say that most of the tax burden falls on the Federal goverment — but we're all federal taxpayers. And if the onus for funding our city's new sports venues is being spread around the nation, you can bet that we, in turn, are being handed a bill to help fund stadiums and arenas in other states, too.

Posted by eric at 1:49 PM

What Does Mayor Bloomberg Know About Atlantic Yards?

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

In the aftermath of yesterday's NY Times article with a number of bombshells including confirmation that Ratner is lobbying government officials for $100 million more in taxpayer subisides, Mayor Bloomberg was asked at a press conference if the city would provide that additional subsidy. The Mayor's response:

"I don't know that we have to put development money in, but we certainly will do everything we can to work with Ratner to get those buildings going."

It's not clear exactly what the Mayor is saying. But it's clear that Atlantic Yards is already subsidized to the hilt and in this economy additional taxpayer subsidies would be irresponsible.


Atlantic Yards Report, Remember, Bloomberg said the city would only help with infrastructure
Norman Oder reminds readers that the Mayor has been carefully crafting a distinction between City money for infrastructure and land acquisition and cash subsidy for the arena.

From the Mayor's weekly radio appearance with WABC’s John Gambling on 1/23/04:

JG: The city will spend money on this?

MB: Well, we spend--if you build a new building, we have to fix the roads in front of the building. There’s always some expenses. Fundamentally, the answer to your question is: this will be done with private money, and any city monies of any meaningful size will be debt issues financed by the extra tax revenues that come from this. So, we’re not going to have to divert money from education, or police or fire or any other part of the city to do this. No. It is private money in that sense.

NoLandGrab: The Mayor is directing taxpayer money to specific line items for Atlantic Yards in order to try to make it appear that the arena is being built with "private money." No one really believes that, in the big picture, the City subsidy isn't padding developer Bruce Ratner's bottom line.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

Taking a look at the primary; was AY a factor in the District Leader race?

Atlantic Yards Report

What to make of the primary election? Well, as it's clear that the three Atlantic Yards opponents (see the Atlantic Yards Voter Guide) didn't win, but in only one race Atlantic Yards was likely a factor and it's unclear how much.

Similarly, after the 2006 primary, I wrote that the results certainly weren't a referendum against the project--as many AY opponents sought to achieve--but they weren't a referendum for the project.

Read on for the details of Norman Oder's post-primary analysis.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

If the Sun Sets

Noticing New York contemplates life without The Sun:


Notwithstanding how ardently the public feels about [eminent domain], the Democratic establishment has ceded this issue to others. Those declaring themselves Libertarians are the most reliably opposed to eminent domain abuse, but Republicans have a somewhat better record of taking the right position on this issue and it must be recognized that Republican Supreme Court appointees- essentially the same ones who voted to put Bush in office in Bush v. Gore.- aligned against the use of eminent domain in Kelo.

With the Democratic establishment ceding this popular issue to others, the New York Times likewise cedes proper coverage of the issue to the extent that it aligns itself with the Democratic establishment. It should also be remembered that the Times, in partnership with Forest City Ratner, took advantage of eminent domain to build its new Times Tower. That use of eminent domain in that particular instance was assertedly abusive and Forest City Ratner’s pursuit of it with respect to Atlantic Yards unquestionably is.

The New York Times has been reconstituting itself as a national newspaper. In doing so it has been making its national coverage much more important than its local coverage. Therefore, to the extent that eminent domain abuse is used in New York, the issue has been doubly, or maybe triply times ceded.

Therefore I will miss the Sun.


Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

It came from the Blogosphere ...

The first two secondary sources below reporting on this week's NY Times update on Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project zeroed in on the Times's headline, announcing the groundbreaking in December, but left all the doubts and hurdles from the article on the cutting room floor:

AOL NBA Fanhouse, The Nets Begin Digging Up Brooklyn in December

The developers behind the new Barclays Center that will host the Nets whenever they get moved to Brooklyn are pretty serious about building this thing.

NoLandGrab: Like wow — we're not the only ones who think that Ratner is "pretty serious about building this thing!"

Hoops World, Brooklyn Ground-Breaking Set

This basketball blog mentions "Barclays Center" but doesn't note that Barclays has an option to walk away from the deal if the financing isn't closed by November. Such contract intricacies are better left to trading caps and figuring out who gets LeBron James:

After a series of delays, New Jersey Nets' owner and real-estate developer Bruce Ratner told government officials that the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will break ground in December. A $4-billion endeavor, the Yards will feature Barclays Center, an arena designed by Frank Gehry, along with 16 towers of apartments and offices.
With the arena getting started, the move for the Nets is inevitable. Although this departure won't be nearly as dramatic or troublesome as the Sonics move, it's something to keep an eye on nonetheless, especially with LeBron James' scheduled free-agency coming up.

SLAM, Is the Nets’ Brooklyn Home Finally Getting Built?
It appears that someone at Slam actually read the article:

At last, the Nets’ long discussed move to Brooklyn seems to be getting off the ground. In about three months, principal team owner Bruce C. Ratner plans to start on the construction of his massive business complex.

As the linked story points out, however, there are a million and one things to consider - a craptacular economy, the angry citizens of Brooklyn, financing issues, etc. - before a single shovel can be dug into the ground.

SmartBrief, Developer hopes to break ground on Brooklyn project in December

Being unaffiliated basketball, this blog is less sanguine about news of the groundbreaking.

Developer Bruce Ratner said he will start construction on a large-scale Brooklyn project in December. The Atlantic Yards site will include thousands of apartments and offices in 16 towers built around a basketball arena for the Nets. Observers note that the soft economy and debt markets may affect Ratner's ability to meet his deadline.

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

A NEW Woman

Story Corps


Sherry Castro came to our Lower Manhattan StoryBooth through NEW Nontraditional Employment for Women, one of our many partner organizations in the city. Founded in 1978, Nontraditional Employment for Women is a nonprofit organization that trains women for skilled jobs in construction and other blue-collar industries. Most of the female hardhats at work today in New York City are NEW graduates.

Sherry has worn many (hard)hats in her field of construction. After graduating from NEW, she has worked as an operating engineer, welder, metal fabricator, and mechanic on developments and infrastructures throughout the city. Some of these sites include the foundation at the new Yankee Stadium, the Van Courtland Park reservoir, the Grand Concourse (a boulevard in the Bronx), an underpass on 161st Street, and the widening of a runway at JFK Airport.

For the past month, Sherry has been working as an oiler and operating engineer on the foundation for the new Brooklyn Nets stadium at the Atlantic Yards, a $4 billion mixed-use development project. As an oiler, Sherry greases the machines and performs maintenance and oil changes on them. As an operating engineer, she operates Earth-moving machines to drive piles (a type of deep foundation) for excavation. This means digging up to 50 feet into the ground and pulling boulders as big as cars out of Brooklyn soil!


Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

West Harlem property owner Nick Sprayregen posted this petition on his new blog.

We, the undersigned, object to the use of eminent domain in the Columbia University Expansion Plan.

First, Manhattanville is not a blighted community and Eminent Domain is not needed to stimulate economic development or to eliminate blight.

Second, The Columbia Plan has been developer driven and developed principally to benefit Columbia. The taking of private property and transfering it to Columbia, a private institution, is unconstitutional and illegal because it does not constitute a “public use” and is without a dominant public purpose.

Third, since Columbia now owns over 80% of the property in the affected area and will have control over 96% of the area, Eminent Domain is not necessary or appropriate to attain any legitimate public purpose in Manhattanville.

By signing our name below, we, individually and collectively, say NO to the use of Eminent Domain in the Columbia Expansion Plan in West Harlem/Manhattanville.

Click here and scroll down to sign Sprayregen's petition.

The New York Times, A Dilapidated Tract of Queens, and a Fight to Control Its Future

If you read this article about how the City is trying to divide the coalition of large and small business owners fighting the Willets Point land grab, keep in mind that the "dilapidated tract" of the "bedraggled industrial triangle known as Willets Point" was caused by the same City that is now trying to get control of the land.

[W]hen Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled a plan last year to overhaul the area with a hotel, school and convention center, homes, offices, parks and retail stores, two distinct groups rose up in opposition.

One comprises the owners of the area’s largest businesses, who own half the land in Willets Point and who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists, consultants and political contributions to the City Council members who will vote on the city’s plan.

The other consists of auto shop workers and shop owners who rent space in Willets Point. They are, for the most part, poor and Latino, and can afford to do little more than print T-shirts denouncing the project.

In public, the two groups present a picture of perfect unity, waving signs and chanting, “Justice for Willets Point.” But in reality, each side is motivated by different concerns and fears about its survival.

The Bloomberg administration has stepped up efforts in recent weeks to find new space for the big-business owners, offering above-market prices for some of their land.

But most owners say they will not leave Willets Point and will fight the city should it try to seize their properties by eminent domain. The small-business owners, on the other hand, are willing to move, but city officials said that they could not relocate the renters until the city had acquired all the land in Willets Point. And even then, there may not be a place to put all of them.

Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

Down to the Wire for Ratner

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The New York Times reported yesterday that Forest City Ratner plans to break ground in December on its long-delayed, $4 million Atlantic Yards arena-housing-office project. Skeptics, however, say the worsening economy and a host of lawsuits against the project will make it more difficult to begin. The giant real estate firm has applied for the use of tax-exempt bonds to finance its project. At the centerpiece would be the sports arena, designed for the basketball Nets and now named the Barclays Arena. Atlantic Yards is supported by high-ranking public officials, but a lively opposition movement of neighborhood residents and artists continues to be active.


NoLandGrab: The Eagle failed to mention that the Times reported that Ratner is seeking another $100 million in direct cash subsidies from the City and that Barclays Bank has an option to walk away from the naming-rights deal for the arena if the financing for the arena doesn't close by November.

Posted by lumi at 4:17 AM

September 11, 2008

Atlantic Yards Photo Pool

Local photog Tracy Collins dropped several images and a video in the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool yesterday, including this wide-angle view of the demolition of the Ward Bakery building.


TC-Vandy-GL.jpgGowanus Lounge featured Collins's image of work in the Vanderbilt Rail Yards and Brownstoner posted thumbnails of the set and the video: Gowanus Lounge, In the Pool: At the Yards
Brownstoner, Brownstoner Flickr Pool: ThreeCee's Atlantic Yards Shots

Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

Karma Burns

Gumby Fresh

The one blogger who has insight to bond financing and the like gives his personal assessment of the news from yesterday's NY Times article. Below are a few excerpts, but if you're interested, you may want to check out the entire post.

"Freshie" on the Barclays naming-rights deal:

It certainly explains why FCR and its underwriter are insisting the deal goes down in November. Because, according to the Times' Mr. Bagli, the arena's sponsor, Barclays, can walk if the arena doesn't reach financial close in November.

Barclays must be thinking they dodged a bullet on this one. Let's assume they really thought a speculative move by a basketball team was a good way to market exchange-traded funds. The advantages right now of trying to build a retail brokerage presence in the US are pretty limited.

And while Barclays hasn't had the poor run of form of its peers, but its balance sheet is still in need of a little TLC. $20 million is the amount that Barclays could earn from a single rights issue that isn't a massive cock-up, but it's still probably mutliples of the amount that it squanders on the entire New York financial publishing industry in a year.

...on the bond financing:

And then there's the financing. I reckon, leaving the litigation to one side, that FCR could get the financing done right now. Goldman Sachs closed a pretty solid, if somewhat subsidy-larded financing for the Louisville Arena the other day. The bond insurers seem to have stablised, and right now its easier to persuade bondholders of the utility of a new basketball arena in Kentucky than of the US housing system.

...on the death knell of Atlantic Yards:

No, the Atlantic Yards project won't ever get the decisive stake to the heart. There will be a dozen cuts instead, not least among them higher financing costs, discounted naming rights, restrictions on tax-exemption, Brooklyn pols refusing to chuck any more subsidies at it, and mounting losses at the Nets. At some point, FCR's stock analysts are going to start suggesting that it goes back to nickel-and-diming government agencies on a smaller scale than through gargantuan sports-related boondoggles.

Atlantic Yards Report, The picture clouds for FCR; what might the spreadsheet say?

Norman Oder responds to Gumby Fresh's assessment of how Atlantic Yards might finally bleed to death:

You have to believe that the spreadsheet folks inside Forest City Enterprises and Forest City Ratner have done the numbers, and that the developer can incur Nets losses and the carrying costs of the land as long as the upside--including tax-exempt bonds and naming rights--is available.

If that upside changes--and there's no proof that it will, just the possibility--then the numbers change and the deal changes. Then things might get even more interesting.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM



Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

The departed "Brooklyn South": views of Prospect Heights a decade ago

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder scours the Steven Bochco cop-drama "Brooklyn South," which used as a backdrop many of the streets in and around what later became the footprint of Atlantic Yards.

FreddysBar-n-Grill.jpg Featured prominently is Freddy's Bar and Grill, the cop-bar-turned-music-pub that is under threat of eminent domain and in the path of Bruce Ratner's wrecking ball.

For those interested in Atlantic Yards, the show is fascinating because the mythical 74th Precinct uses as a stand-in precinct house the 78th, at 6th Avenue and Bergen Street in Prospect Heights, a block from the AY footprint, and there are other shots of footprint blocks. (The interiors were filmed in Los Angeles.)

Even though the vision of Brooklyn as crime-ridden can seem a cartoon, it's still notable how renovations and lowered crime have reduced "blight" both in Brooklyn and specifically Prospect Heights--even as the Empire State Development Corporation persists in its dubious claim that, absent Atlantic Yards, the project footprint would remain blighted.


Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM


NoLandGrab Community Commentary

During his travels last month through New England, communtiy activist Alan Rosner's summer reading provided a stark contrast to developments back home in Brooklyn.

Schenectady.jpg On a brief road trip through Western New England and the Hudson Valley, I picked up two free local magazines. One, Chronograph, had an article on the rebirth of Downtown Schenectady, NY. Since I attended Union College there, I read the piece. The next magazine, The Country, had virtually the same story, but about Pittsfield, MA.

The parallels jumped out. Schenectady and Pittsfield had both spiraled downwards, losing their tax bases and downtowns when their largest employers closed up shop — and for both of them, that corporation was General Electric. I’d seen the results in Schenectady on a visit years ago.

Both downtown rebirths came with new mayors who fought for their revitalization, beginning with efforts that brought local theater arts centers back to life. This led to restaurants and retail, combined with a concerted effort to support public and private investment in their downtowns and businesses.

What jumped off the pages was seeing that Schenectady consciously decided not to base their revival on the sports-venue model, while Pittsfield turned to the arts and retail after enduring a bitter, divisive fight over a baseball stadium. That story is documented in former Major League pitcher Jim Bouton’s book, Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark.

Here in Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, bit the apple offered by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and, forever after, he has pitched a false nostalgia. He turned away from using his booster energy to support the BAM cultural and arts area expansion. Instead he went for the sports stadium, and was enabled by Bloomberg and backed by Pataki’s state power brokers. Now Brooklyn faces ongoing Developer’s Blight, acres of blight-enhancing parking lots, and another 10 to 20 years of construction.

Instead of selling off the commons to inside bidders, Schenectady & Pittsfield chose to enhance theirs, to make it an attractor for their surrounding populations. Brooklyn’s gotten baited and switched.

Another example, albeit one without the false promise of a corporate sports rescue, is the Vermont city of Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain. We visited, dined & walked around downtown and found a revitalized city, based on making the downtown and lakefront walkable and enjoyable. The arts, entertainment, retail, restaurant & small business model works. It was Brooklyn’s before Marty & Bruce embraced.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking In December

The NY Sun recapped yesterday's NY Times article with this blurb for the Real Estate Week in Review:

The developer Bruce Ratner has told state and city officials that he plans to break ground in December on his long-delayed $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which will include apartments and offices in 16 towers built around a basketball arena for the Nets, the New York Times reported. Mr. Ratner, chairman of Forest City Ratner; his bankers at Goldman Sachs, and the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, David Stern, also met last week with bond-rating agencies to discuss the proposed financing for the $950 million arena. The financing plan for the arena, to be known as Barclays Center, is dependent on winning court challenges and a favorable ruling by the Treasury Department that would allow Mr. Ratner to use tax-exempt bonds. If he is barred from using tax-exempt bonds, his costs would increase substantially for what would already be the most expensive arena in the world. Mr. Ratner has asked government officials recently for as much as $100 million in additional cash for the project, citing rising costs and problems in the bond markets.


Posted by lumi at 4:20 AM

Atlantic Yards To Begin Construction By Year's End


Bloomberg-NY1a.jpg Somehow news that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is facing hurdles to keeping his pledge to break ground in December, as reported yesterday in the NY Times, turned into a puff piece for Ratner's announcement.

NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who continues to act like the City isn't spending a dime on this project, repeated his perennial mischaracterization of the deal thusly:

"We desperately need to have development and that's a very big part of the development in Brooklyn. I don't know that we have to put government money in, but we certainly will do everything we can to work with Ratner to get those buildings going," said Bloomberg.


NoLandGrab: For the record, NY City is giving Bruce Ratner $205 million in direct subsidies and the Times reported yesterday that Ratner is asking for another $100 million.

Posted by lumi at 4:00 AM

September 10, 2008

Naming Rights and Historical Wrongs

The New York Times
by Richard Sandomir

The Times's business-of-sports columnist sees big problems with a brewing deal to sell naming rights to the new Giants/Jets football stadium to the Holocaust-tainted German company Allianz, but he failed to express any similar concern over Bruce Ratner's selling of naming rights to Barclays, the British bank with Holocaust — and slavery- and war-profiteering — problems of its own.

The Giants and the Jets face moral and public-relations questions as they negotiate the possible sale of the naming rights to their new stadium with Allianz, a Munich-based insurer and financial services company with disturbing connections to Nazi Germany.

Allianz insured facilities and personnel at concentration camps like Auschwitz and Dachau. Kurt Schmitt, its chief executive in the 1930s, served as Hitler’s second economics minister and can be seen in a photograph from a rally wearing an SS-Oberführer’s uniform and delivering the Nazi salute with Hitler standing in front of him.

Like other insurers in Germany at the time, Allianz followed anti-Semitic policies by terminating or refusing to pay off the life insurance policies of Jews, and sent cash that was due beneficiaries and survivors to the Nazis.

A deal with Allianz would not be easy to sell publicly, like Citigroup’s with the Mets. The possibility of an Allianz Stadium will make some people cringe, especially in a market that is home to many Jewish people, and in which the Tisch family, which owns half of the Giants, has supported many Jewish causes.


NoLandGrab: One can argue that the Allianz and Barclays situations are not wholly equivalent, but in his January 2007 column about the Barclays deal, Sandomir devoted a scant two sentences to critics' concerns about Barclays' past: "[Demonstrators] also said Barclays profited from the slave trade yet is aligned with Ratner, who is marketing his team to African-American fans. A company spokesman said Barclays had not been involved in slavery."

The Times's headline writers may also want to consult the paper's own archive before plunging again into the murky waters of naming rights, given the similarities between the headlines on today's Sandomir column and this January 2007 column by George Vescey: Naming Rights and Wrongs Transcend Time Zones.

Posted by eric at 4:40 PM

It came from the Blogosphere... (Atlantic Yards bedside vigil edition?)


Not surprisingly, the Blogosphere is abuzz in the wake of this morning's New York Times article.

Gothamist, Ratner Vows to Break Ground on Atlantic Yards in December

Gothamist doesn't quite share Bruce Ratner's "mission accomplished" optimism.

That plucky developer Bruce Ratner is still rallying for his $4 billion plan to turn the MTA rail yards in downtown Brooklyn* into a sports arena, office and residential complex designed by Frank Gehry!

All in all, the article is a study in contrasts, with the obstacles facing Ratner seemingly more insurmountable than ever, especially given the tanking economy. Yet the developer seems to be projecting Rumsfeldian confidence.

* The rail yard is not in downtown Brooklyn — it lies between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene; additionally, the rail yard only represents about 38% of the project footprint.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Volcano Rumbles in Time for the Fall Season

Brownstoner, Plans to Break Ground on Yards, But What About Phase II?

Bavatuesdays, I heard the news today, oh boy…

This eulogy for Coney Island's Astroland finds a little solace in the increasingly murky future of Atlantic Yards.

Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards Project Needs $100M More in Public Subsidy, Etc.

Yonkers Tribune, The Atlantic Yards Deal Is Coming Undone

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Net Gains Coming

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky must've read the Times article this morning while sporting his rose-colored glasses, though we do detect a softening in his tone.

But instead of sinking hundreds of millions of public dollars into a pro basketball arena to inspire "the thousands of young people that are playing ball in Brooklyn harboring the dream of playing professionally," dare we say it would make more sense to spend that money on schools, so the 99.9% of those young people who won't end up in the NBA at least have a fighting chance?

Nets Daily, Optimism Mixes with Doubt on Arena Ground-Breaking

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Brooklyn Arena Builder Plans to Break Ground in December After Delay

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli


This must-read update on Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards arena-'n'-high-rise megaproject contains two breaking-news bombshells:

  1. Ratner has been trying to close on the deal and has been telling the press all year long that the company plans to break ground in November because "the naming rights contract [with Barclays Bank] requires Forest City to close on the land and the financing by the end of November."

    [Ratner is now telling the Times's lead real estate reporter that groundbreaking will be in December.]

  2. Bruce Ratner is asking for MORE OF YOUR MONEY TO BUILD THE ARENA.

Mr. Ratner has asked government officials recently for as much as $100 million in additional cash for the project, citing rising costs and problems in the bond markets, according to two officials who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations. The city and the state have already agreed to provide $300 million in subsidies and tens of millions in tax breaks.

[More specifically, the tally is $305 million ($100 million from the state and $205 million from the city).]


NoLandGrab: For the online version of the article, the photo is captioned, "Bruce C. Ratner in Brooklyn at the Atlantic Yards, which he has hopes to transform." Technically, he is overlooking "the Vanderbilt Yards."

"Atlantic Yards" is the brand name Ratner made up for the project he hopes to build, which, as you can tell by the photo, hasn't been built.

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), Atlantic Yards: The Deal is Coming Un-done

The group spearheading the legal fight against Ratner's landgrabbing megaproject highlights three important points from the Times article, the two listed above and the issue of whether or not the IRS will reopen the tax loophole to allow for tax-exempt bond financing.

Citing Ratner's troubles, the group calls for a time-out on demolitions so that alternative plans can be considered:

The Atlantic Yards project is hanging by a thread, yet Ratner continues to demolish a whole section of Prospect Heights and spend taxpayer dollars on project-specific infrastructure work. It's time for that to stop. It's time to move forward with a new feasible and superior vision to develop the rail yards.

DDDB thought that Joe DePlasco was "spun by his own spin for too long," when the Ratner pr flack sounded a little punch-drunk in the Times, calling Atlantic Yards "the most exciting project in the country and the most exciting arena in the world."

Atlantic Yards Report, Times: Barclays naming deal has November deadline; FCR seeks $100M in subsidies

Some analysis of the Times article from Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder:

It's doubtful that [November] deadline will be met; while it doesn't mean that the Barclays Center deal is on death row, it could lead Barclays to reconsider and/or renegotiate the deal. (FCR wouldn't comment.)

The article also states that CEO Bruce Ratner "has asked government officials recently for as much as $100 million in additional cash for the project, citing rising costs and problems in the bond markets," according to anonymous sources. (Remember, Chuck Ratner of parent Forest City Enterprises told investment analysts in April that "we still need more" subsidies.)

NoLandGrab: Regular readers will remember that the Chuck Ratner quote was excavated out of a transcript and reported on by Oder.

Despite the article's fairly critical view, Oder suggests that Bagli should have been more skeptical:

The article doesn't define "break ground." While the developer obviously could hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony, it's hardly guaranteed that pending legal cases would be dismissed, or that additional appeals or legal challenges wouldn't emerge.

The article quotes Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: “There’s no way they’ll get control of the land they need, get the financing, end the litigation and break ground by December." Indeed, even in the event the two lawsuits are cleared this year, it would still take additional time to acquire properties via eminent domain.

Note that the Times's phrase "will feature" suggests that the current plan for 16 towers is a go; evidence suggests the project is seriously in flux.

Oder fills in some blanks in response to DePlasco's confidence-building quote:

The FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco offers some spin:

While it is a tough market, we have secured more than $1.5 billion in construction loans this year so far,” Mr. DePlasco said. “And this is the most exciting project in the country and the most exciting arena in the world.”*

Well, part of that total is Liberty Bonds; another part is state housing bonds. Such tax-exempt bonds are a much better deal than taxable bonds.

NoLandGrab: In other words, the "construction loans" cited by DePlasco come from government programs and were NOT secured in the actual marketplace, which presumably will take a less sanguine view of the project.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

FCE's Chuck Ratner: "this is a time to pull back" (but not AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on yesterday's investor conference call with Forest City Enterprises executives (transcript here):

Chuck Ratner, President and CEO of Forest City Enterprises (FCE), parent of Forest City Ratner, didn't tell investment analysts yesterday anything as arresting as his claim last March that "we still need more" subsidies or his March 2007 acknowledgement that "we are terrible" at predicting when projects "go from idea to reality."

Still, in yesterday's second quarter conference call, Ratner expressed considerable caution about the timing of projects in FCE's "shadow pipeline" (or development pipeline), which includes Atlantic Yards.

So, even though Ratner claimed that the developer was aiming to close the complicated Atlantic Yards bond transaction by the end of the year, his overall tone contrasted with FCR CEO Bruce Ratner’s claim last May that the project is on track, and that “[w]e anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018.” (After all, other signs—such as the absence of renderings of Phase 2—suggest such a finishing date is doubtful.)
Immediately after saying that "this is a time to pull back," Ratner discussed Atlantic Yards, without predicting a slowdown:

Let me begin with an update on Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, our largest pipeline project. Overall, the project continues to move forward. During the first half, we received a favorable legal ruling when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an eminent domain appeal brought by project opponents.

Ratner continued with some dubious predictions of when legal cases would be resolved:

There are only two material lawsuits remaining, one concerning the project’s environmental impact statement, which will be heard and expected to be decided in the third quarter, and a state court action challenging eminent domain, which we expect to be resolved within the same time frame.

Is he saying the appeal of the case dismissing the environmental review will be decided by the end of October (the third quarter in FCE's fiscal year)? Given that oral argument is September 17, it's unlikely, not to mention the inevitable effort at an appeal, which would further delay resolution.

As for the eminent domain case, I reported that, while the defendants likely will try to get the case dismissed, it likely won’t be heard until January or later.

Chuck Ratner continued:

We’re working very closely with the city, the state, and the MTA. We continue to make progress on financing for the Barclays arena, including ongoing discussions with the rating agencies concerning the bonds. Our team is working very hard to achieve a closing on the transaction by the end of the year. There are many moving pieces on this project, as you can well imagine, and lots to do, but it is a major focus of our New York team and we’re confident that we’ll be able to make it happen.


Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

Kucinich's Subcommittee to look at stadium and AY arena deals

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently the July 2 State Assembly hearing on financing the new Yankee Stadium was just a warm-up, since some tough questions about the deals for Yankee Stadium, the Mets' Citifield, and yes, the planned Atlantic Yards arena will be raised next week in Congress.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who chairs Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, yesterday announced a hearing to be held September 18. It follows up on two public hearings the subcommittee held last year (3/29/07 and 10/10/07) that looked more broadly at some of the policy issues.

No witness list has been announced, but I assume someone from the New York City Industrial Development Authority, whose Seth Pinsky was on the hot seat July 2, will be among those present.

While no legislation has been proposed yet, the Subcommittee's concern may put pressure on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to clarify and finalize a proposed rule regarding PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to finance sports facilities. That rule could stymie tax-exempt funding for the Atlantic Yards arena--or the city and state could succeed in getting the arena grandfathered in under the ruling that allowed funding for the two baseball stadiums.

The Yankees and Mets, with the assistance of New York City and State, gained "private letter rulings" (PLRs) from the IRS in October 2006 allowing an aggressive plan for tax-exempt financing. After financing for those stadiums was approved, the IRS issued a revised regulation that would eliminate what its chief counsel called a "loophole."

New York City and State would like to see the loophole extended for additional financing for the two stadiums, as well as for the Atlantic Yards arena, which officials contend should be grandfathered in under those old rules, given that it was proposed and proceeded long before October 2006. However, the project was not approved until December 2006.


Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

September 9, 2008

“Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York"

No, that's not the name of a new book by Neil deMause and Joanna Cagan. Even better, it's the title that the U.S. House of Representatives' Domestic Policy Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Dem-OH), has given to a hearing it will hold next week on efforts by the Yankees, Mets and, yes, the Nets, to fund their new playplaces at the expense of the taxpayers.

And that can't be too comforting to the Steinbrenners, the Wilpons or Bruce Ratner.

Specifically, the hearing will address whether efforts to finance new stadiums for the New York Yankees and New York Mets and a new arena for the New Jersey Nets by issuing federally tax-exempt bonds advance the public interest; whether the U.S. Department of Treasury’s rulemaking has been consistent with the Tax Reform Act of 1986; and the legal, policy, and economic implications of the existing and proposed IRS rules regulating the structure of payments of lieu of taxes (PILOTs) permitted to finance projects funded by the issuance of federally tax-exempt bonds (i.e., the PILOT rule).

The hearing will also address alleged misrepresentations made to the IRS and investors related to the assessment of the new Yankee Stadium, whether these alleged misrepresentations affect the tax-exempt status of the bonds issued to finance construction of the stadium, and whether these alleged misrepresentations are an outgrowth of the incentives provided to state and municipal stakeholders by the PILOT rule.

Read the complete Media Advisory after the jump.

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Nathan White (202) 225-5871

Media Advisory: Hearing on Financing of New York Stadiums

Washington D.C. (September 8, 2008) – The Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing, “Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York,” on Thursday, September 18, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

This will be the third hearing held by the Domestic Policy Subcommittee examining whether the use of the federal tax code to subsidize the construction of professional sports stadiums and arenas furthers the public interest, and the first to examine alleged improprieties in the financing process.

Specifically, the hearing will address whether efforts to finance new stadiums for the New York Yankees and New York Mets and a new arena for the New Jersey Nets by issuing federally tax-exempt bonds advance the public interest; whether the U.S. Department of Treasury’s rulemaking has been consistent with the Tax Reform Act of 1986; and the legal, policy, and economic implications of the existing and proposed IRS rules regulating the structure of payments of lieu of taxes (PILOTs) permitted to finance projects funded by the issuance of federally tax-exempt bonds (i.e., the PILOT rule).

The hearing will also address alleged misrepresentations made to the IRS and investors related to the assessment of the new Yankee Stadium, whether these alleged misrepresentations affect the tax-exempt status of the bonds issued to finance construction of the stadium, and whether these alleged misrepresentations are an outgrowth of the incentives provided to state and municipal stakeholders by the PILOT rule.

Posted by eric at 6:23 PM

"BREAKING": Nets arena behind schedule

Norman "the Mad Overkiller" Oder has spent the past couple o' years telling anyone who is listening that the arena is behind schedule.

Even weirder still, by the time that Bruce Ratner gets around to fessing up, the schedule usually has already slipped even further, instantly casting doubt on anything Ratner's henchmen have to say.

This week, reporters Erik Enquist and Matthew Sollars at Crain's NY Business catch on [full article posted by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn]:

Forest City Ratner still insists that it can break ground on its Brooklyn basketball arena this year. Reality says otherwise. It will be at least 2009 before state courts stomp out two lawsuits challenging the project's environmental impact statement and use of eminent domain.
Financing projects is "almost impossible" while litigation is pending, Forest City Chief Executive Bruce Ratner has said.

Norman Oder skips the chance to say, "I told you so," and instead offers a comparison with recent coverage in The Daily News:

Atlantic Yards Report, Crain's finds FCR's projections out of line with reality

By contrast, the Daily News last month reported Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner's statement that the arena would open in 2011, with groundbreaking next year, then doubled back to give the last word to other company representatives who claimed it would open earlier and groundbreaking would occur this fall.

Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

No Rendering: Does Ratner Plan on Building Phase 2 of Atlantic Yards?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (dddb.net) is wondering when Bruce Ratner is going to release the most recent renderings of Phase II of the controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject, or if he even has any real plans to build the second phase, which, by chance, contains most of the pledged affordable housing.

In contrast with the first three sets of Atlantic Yards models and renderings, Phase II is conspicuously absent from the fourth set, released in May 2008:


But then we come to the most recent rendering of Atlantic Yards released by developer Forest City Ratner and their architect Frank Gehry in May 2008. From every angle, the model only displays Phase 1 floating in a dark vacumn—the arena and 4 or 5 skyscrapers. It's as if Phase 2 doesn't exist....does it?

It sure doesn't look like Ratner intends to build Phase 2. If the developer does intend to build Phase 2 it is bewildering as to why there is no Phase 2 in the most recent model when the first three renderings over 3 years included it.

With only Phase 1, the project would provide very little "affordable housing," even less than the meager amount of true affordablity proposed.

Does Ratner plan on selling off the Phase 2 land that he would have gained through eminent domain on private property, city streets and a well below market deal on the rail yards?

We'd like to know.

Click here to read the rest of the post and to view all four versions of Atlantic Yards renderings.

Posted by lumi at 4:04 AM

Critic Rybczynski: Gehry is challenged to adapt style to large project

Atlantic Yards Report

The article's two years old, but it only surfaced recently in full text, so it's worth considering architecture critic Witold Rybczynski's cautions about using starchitects like Frank Gehry--especially since, as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn reminded us yesterday, the latest version of Forest City Ratner's plans show only buildings in Phase 1. (I reported in May how the latest renderings were significantly less ambitious than their predecessors.)

The article, headlined Architectural Branding, was first published in Fall 2006 issue of the Wharton Real Estate Review, excerpted in Slate, and republished in the Summer 2008 issue of Appraisal Institute's Appraisal Journal, Summer 2008.

[article link from customhomeonline.com]

Regarding Gehry, he writes:

Frank Gehry has perhaps the strongest architectural franchise in the world today. Although he has built a number of small commercial projects in Prague, Berlin, and Boston, he is chiefly known for his cultural monuments, notably the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The Gehry brand is unmistakable: whimsical, sculptural, quirky buildings that don't look like buildings (and, incidentally, are difficult and expensive to build). It will be a challenge to successfully adapt Gehry's approach to a large commercial development, such as the ones that he is planning for Brooklyn and downtown Los Angeles.

Atlantic Yards would be less a commercial development than a residential one, but it would be a megaproject.

NoLandGrab: Then again, Atlantic Yards, with the challenges of design, scale and technology, is more a commercial development than, say, a single-family home, which is most often associated with residential commissions.

Though Rybczynski cautions that "branding" doesn't insure success, Norman Oder notes that, "Gehry also was helpful to developer Forest City Ratner in influencing public opinion about Atlantic Yards, thus tamping down potential opposition and getting some supporters on board."


Posted by lumi at 4:02 AM

A Way of Saying "Here I Am": Perspecta 40 Interviews Kevin Roche


In November 2006, the editors of Perspecta 40 Monster interviewed Kevin Roche at his offices in Hamden, Connecticut. We were initially drawn to the work of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates—in particular the firm's heroic projects of the late 1960s through 1970s—by the bold, rational manner in which these projects addressed scale.
[Perspecta 40]: In the case of the Interstate Highway, you mentioned cost-effectiveness as one driving mechanism that can help steer the actual form or materials being employed. I wonder if you see anything today, in current work, which is a mechanism that architects like yourself or others are employing in their work to achieve large-scale projects.

[Kevin Roche]: That is a very good question. I guess probably Frank Gehry is a good example of a person dealing with very large-scale projects such as the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. It is a very, very tough problem. How do you deal with the underlying drive to provide as much possible rental space—which is the reason the project is being built—and at the same time do that in a way that is sympathetic to the community, the urban design, and the humanist aspects of it. It will be interesting to see how that develops; it will be interesting to see how it will be experienced. Certainly he has shown his genius at providing these forms that become interesting.

It is another way of saying "Here I am." When you see this distortion of the rectilinear form into something else, it immediately arrests your attention. It is not the same old cube. It is a twist of a cube, or a bent cube, or a broken cube, an exploded cube or something else and so your attention is immediately attracted to it. You never get the message across unless you wake people up. People don't see architecture. Most people are only peripherally aware of architecture. They don't see any of the details of architecture that we worry so much about. Their preoccupations generally are elsewhere.


NoLandGrab: Most "people don't see architecture" because they are too busy experiencing it. Though Gehry has proven himself to be a masterful designer, he has been frequently criticized for overlooking, or glossing over, the context of his projects. Unfortunately for Gehry and Brooklynites, scale and context are related and the issues only become more complex for megaprojects, that is, unless they're put on the back burner.

Posted by lumi at 3:45 AM

Forest City in the News

Colorado Edition

BioRegion News, Developer Starts First Phase of 5M-Sq.-Ft., $100M Life-Sci Research Space Near Denver

Forest City Science + Technology Group broke ground last week on the nearly $100 million first phase of a project to build more than 5 million square feet of new life-science research space in a suburban city of Denver by 2033.

Project developers and Aurora, Colo., officials also hope it will help revitalize a key commercial section of the city that has struggled in the 13 years since the US Army began shutting down its Fitzsimons Army Medical Center.

The first phase of the new Colorado Science + Technology Park at Fitzsimons will include a $16 million, 65,000-square-foot life-sci building; a 163-room Hyatt Place limited-service hotel/conference center; and a 175,000-square-foot office building. The projects are expected to be completed by the fall of 2010, according to the developer.

Long-term, Forest City will build a 6 million square-foot mix of uses, “a majority” of which will be life sciences space, Jim Chrisman, a senior vice president with the developer, told BioRegion News last week.
Forest City is pursuing three types of tenants: University startups that have outgrown their incubator space; expansion-minded regional bio businesses eager to locate across from the university; and international life-sci companies interested in a US presence

“We’re working all three of those angles,” Chrisman said. “They could be anywhere, probably, from a couple of thousand square feet up to 100,000 square feet.”

How quickly the life-sci building fills will determine how soon Forest City breaks ground on additional research space, according to Chrisman. Buildings will be mostly four to five stories tall, compared with the taller buildings Forest City has developed in more urban markets like its flagship University Park at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

Denver Post, Six students to benefit from sale of house

A home built on donated land with donated labor and materials will send six students through seven years of college preparatory school when it is sold at full market value. Challenge House, built by Forest City Stapleton and New Town Builders, will open tomorrow. The home at 8907 E. 35th Ave. in Stapleton is expected to sell for about $420,000, with proceeds going to the Challenge Foundation.

The Challenge Foundation will use the proceeds to put the students through school.

Posted by lumi at 3:14 AM

September 8, 2008

Time to Vote, People


Atlantic Yards, inevitably, emerges again as an issue in Brownstoner's coverage of tomorrow's primary election.

Bill Saunders, a fixture in the area for decades, is being challenged for the position of District Leader by Walter Moseley, a former employee of Clarence Norman, supporter of Atlantic Yards and part of the Ed Towns machine. As for Saunders, he's taken firm positions on two issues that may interest Brownstoner readers: He's been a critic of the Atlantic Yards process and, along with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Councilmember Tish James, spoke up in defense of The Flea this summer when it was briefly under fire; Saunders has been endorsed by the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.


Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

No Show? No Problem For State Development Agency

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

Atlantic Yards scores a dishonorable mention in this WNYC report about how ESDC officials are rarely present at eminent domain hearings.

When the Empire State Development Corporation held hearings last week on whether to declare property in West Harlem "blighted," no board members showed up. That's not unusual for the state authority, but it would be if another agency were in charge. WNYC's Matthew Schuerman explains.


NoLandGrab: While the ESDC claims that its board members have plenty of time to "review transcripts" of testimony before they vote, the questions they tend to pose before casting their votes betrays that reviewing those transcripts ranks right behind rearranging their sock drawers on their list of priorities.

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Weekend Peek-In: Pre-Primary Report (Updated)

Runnin' Scared
By Roy Edroso

Two primary elections being watched by Atlantic Yards watchdogs headlined this weekend's round up in the Village Voice's news blog:


Kevin Powell, whose challenge for Ed Towns' Congressional seat is covered in the current Voice, unveiled a lengthy policy statement on Friday. It proposes legislation that would give high school students "paid internships that will earn them college credits and income," reduce the impact of negative credit reports on subprime borrowers and others, and mandate a "one year moratorium on foreclosures for owner-occupied homes." He also calls for an environmental impact statement on the Atlantic Yards project (though a draft EIS already exists*), recommends his own book, The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life, etc. In the Brooklyn Paper a Towns spokesman calls Powell's ideas "grandiose" and "empty" and compares them with "another 7,000-word rant on HuffingtonPost.com."

(*Update: Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn corrects our spelling of EIS, and informs us that the statement was approved in December 2006, and unsuccessfully challenged by DDDB and others. An appeal is pending.)

Noticing New York, for whom the development of Atlantic Yards is an issue, worried about Daniel Squadron because the young progressive contending for Martin Connor's State Senate seat is endorsed by prominent AY development supporters and wets (Schumer, Bloomberg, etc). But after months of asking, NNY finally got a response from a Squadron campaign advisor, who says the candidate "supports a moratorium on state aide [sic] for the Atlantic Yards project," and "has pledged not to accept any contributions linked to the developer of Atlantic Yards."


Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

City term limits, Atlantic Yards, and the question of David Paterson

Atlantic Yards Report

A reader recently wondered whether Mayor Mike Bloomberg's increasingly public flirtation with an effort to extend term limits would be bad news for the Atlantic Yards opposition.

Well, it probably wouldn't be good news, given that new blood in City Hall and the City Council might offer marginally more scrutiny of the project and might question a request for more subsidies. However, it's far less relevant than getting Governor David Paterson up to speed, City Council Member Letitia James, the project's leading political opponent, told me.

The project has gone through all its public approvals, James noted, so "the question is, what is our governor prepared to do?"

Paterson, who's got his plate full, has not yet focused on Atlantic Yards, even as the Empire State Development Corporation he controls hasn't clarified the timing and scale of the project. The funding for the project remains murky, and the developer has stated that "we still need more" subsidies.

(Paterson will be speaking at a Crain's New York Business breakfast tomorrow; let's see if anyone brings up Atlantic Yards.)


Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Your Chance to Vote on Eminent Domain Abuse

EDAbuseIssue.gif Noticing New York nominated "Eminent Domain Abuse" as a topic for the Brian Lehrer Show's “Thirty Issues In Thirty Days” series for WNYC.

The topic is as relevant as any, since eminent domain is being used for private projects all over the city and polls show that Americans are unanimously opposed to the practice.

One of the topics now nominated, courtesy of yours truly here at Noticing New York, is the subject of eminent domain abuse.

So, if you are interested in what will surely be a very well-produced event get ready to go to the Brian Lehrer show site to vote for its discussion.

The nomination (currently # 102 submitted September 04, 2008 at10:56AM) says:

Topic: Eminent Domain Abuse

To which national party do we go to address this issue? According to polls up to 90% of Americans disagree with the Kelo decision but protections are not in place in New York, on the federal level or many other places. Abuse usually involves big corporations trampling on individual rights in pursuit of profit, the kind of thing for which we often instinctively blame Republicans but Democrats seem to have largely ceded this emotional issue to Libertarian and Republican candidates and, ironically, it is the conservative Republican judicial appointees who have been willing to uphold individual constitutional rights- The same justices who might overturn Roe v. Wade. It is a federal as well as a state issue because federal funding could require no abuse. Ratner is spending hundreds of millions lobbying against this.


NoLandGrab: If any other readers are planning on nominating Eminent Domain, note in the submission guidelines that descriptions are supposed to be 30 words or less.

And speaking about Eminent Domain Abuse, Noticing New York also attended and submitted testimony at the Empire State Development Corporation's public hearing on the Columbia University land grab.

Click here for a report on the hearing and a copy of the testimony.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Payments in Lieu of Taxes: An Animated Explanation

This animated explanation of PILOTs and TIFs, both creative ways that tax revenue is diverted towards paying for government-sponsored projects, was brought to our attention by the folks at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, who posed the question, "Wouldn't it be nice if you too could use your taxes to pay your mortgage or rent?!"

NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner is hoping to use PILOTs to finance a new Frank Gehry-designed arena for his NJ Nets basketball team.

That means that, if he gets the go-ahead on PILOTs, the money that would normally be collected as property tax and flow to the State coffers, would instead be used to pay off the loan that financed the construction of the arena.

PILOTs and TIFs are a convoluted response to the taxpayer backlash against direct funding of controversial projects or simple hand-outs of subsidies.

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

City blocks: Eastern Parkway at Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights

By Amy Zimmer

Atlantic Yards lingers like a bad omen, even on the other end of the neighborhood of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn:

Five reasons to live here, visit here or stay away from here

  1. The Brooklyn Museum turns into a big free party with music, dancing, films and art on “Target First Saturdays” every month.

  2. Green space abounds with the nearby Botanic Gardens, famous for the annual cherry blossom festival in the spring.

  3. Stately buildings line Eastern Parkway, and brown­stones line surrounding blocks, but new condos are on the rise nearby.

  4. According to the 2000 Census, 51 percent of residents were black, 28 per­cent white, 14 percent Latino and 4 percent Asian.

  5. Plans for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards have many residents worried about possible destruction of their brownstone Brooklyn character.


Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Ratner in Lower Manhattan: health and education

The NY Sun, Primary Care Boost on Tap For Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan's only hospital is planning an $8 million wellness center to offer primary care services to tens of thousands of downtown residents and Wall Street employees.
Citing a residential boom in the area, hospital officials said the center will enable medical staff to care for an influx of patients, and in particular an estimated 900 families in a new residential tower across the street from the hospital that is being developed by Forest City Ratner.

NoLandGrab: The residential tower across the street from the hospital is Ratner's Beekman Tower project, designed by Frank Gehry.

Downtown Express, From war protests — Vietnam, to the school overcrowding battle

As delays loomed at Ratner's Beekman St. tower, one father swung into action:

[Eric] Greenleaf and his family live in an apartment facing the construction of the new K-8 Beekman St. school. He and other parents were counting on the school to open in fall 2009, to relieve the overcrowding at P.S. 234. But last year, from his window, Greenleaf watched work on the school’s foundation grind to a halt. Developer Bruce Ratner couldn’t get financing for the 76-story apartment tower, which would house the school in its base.

“It became pretty obvious that the school was probably not going to open on time,” Greenleaf said last week.

As months passed and the site stayed dormant, Greenleaf decided to take action: He started an overcrowding committee at Tribeca’s P.S. 234, where his twin son and daughter were in first grade.

At the end of last March, Ratner restarted work on the Beekman tower but pushed the school’s opening date to 2010, and some think with tower construction, it won’t be safe to open the school until 2011. With Beekman delayed and the green school in Battery Park City not opening until 2010, Greenleaf and others realized that Lower Manhattan children would need temporary school seats in 2008 and 2009.

He and a core group of P.T.A. members mobilized parents at P.S. 234 and P.S. 89.

NoLandGrab: By the way, the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement determined that there would be no need to create more classroom space to make way for residents of the megaproject, even though the statistics used in the study were outdated. [The law does not require the study authors to use up-to-date statistics (no joke).]

If Eric Greenleaf's tale is any indication, if Ratner builds Atlantic Yards, it will be up to parents to scramble and organize to force politicians to pay attention and come up with knee-jerk solutions to predictable classroom overcrowding.

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

Forest City in the News

The Colorado Independent, Fitzsimons’ future bright, neighborhood revitalization still uncertain

A caution about believing the hype:

Aurora officials celebrated the Sept. 3 groundbreaking of the Colorado Science and Technology Park [being built by Forest City Enterprises] on the site of the former Fitzsimons Army Hospital, another crucial step in revitalizing the north area of the city, which has developed a reputation for rundown motels and a high crime rate in recent years.

Commercial development seems to have a bright future, but the area’s neighbors will have to wait and see if revitalization spreads into the adjacent areas.

Tampa Bay Online, Shops At Wiregrass Bustling To Open

Forest City's newest mall, "Shops at Wiregrass," is set to open on October 30, though a few stores will still be under construction. Not to be missed is the faux-small-town-downtown feel:

Retail space is more than 80 percent leased, said Jim Richardson, vice president for Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, developer of the 800,000-square-foot mall.
The mall takes on the feel of an old-fashioned downtown. Building facades vary in height and style, mimicking a street where stores might have been built individually, over time.

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brooklynian, News flash: We have a primary Tues. 9/9

"Raulism" updates Prospect Heights netizens about tomorrow's primary election, including the skinny on Atlantic Yards:

We don't have many races in our district, but most of Prospect Heights is in the 57th AD. The one contested race we do have is for District Leader (male). This is a Democratic Party position, and it doesn't have much power, but it is our voice in the official Democratic Party decision making process.

As most people should know, most of the decisions in New York State are done behind closed doors, so this position is our choice for who to put in those hidden negotiations. Believe it or not, our incumbent, Bill Saunders, has been a strong independent voice. He is active in the African-American community in Fort Greene, and he has been a consistent, strong voice for our community and against the Ratner Atlantic Yards proposal.

Nets Daily, Nets Arena Bonds to Launch in November

Goldman Sachs is close to launching an $800 million bond issue for the Barclays Center, says Project Finance magazine. Quoting ”sources close to the financing”, the magazine reports Goldman is in the process of having the bonds rated, and expects financing to be in place by the end of November 2008. The new arena will be part of Atlantic Yards. The Nets say they intend to break ground on the arena in November.

Commenters, like Norman Oder, are skeptical, including "brooklyn bob" who sez:

Anonymous sources … yeah, that’s REAL reliable.

Probably the same sources that spouted a thousand previous lies for ratner.

NY Protest Calendar, 10/18 SAT: "Stop Ratnerville" walkathon Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York, “Yeah, sure. Bad for the glass.” (Inartful Clues to New York City Government?) Since many trees along the Brooklyn waterfront are suffering from "salt-shock," Noticing New York asks an important question. The answer will sound familiar to many Atlantic Yards watchdogs:

Could the damaging effect of the art-concept salt-waterfalls have been foreseen? The Brooklyn Eagle tells us that an environmental impact assessment preceded the art project: "‘An Environmental Assessment Study was done, and it was concluded that there would be no lasting impact from the project,” said Rochelle Steiner, director of the Public Art Fund.
City Hall issued a June 15, 2008 press release of the Mayor’s statements about the coming art project on WINS 1010: Mayor Bloomberg Discusses the Waterfalls Project in Weekly Radio Address. The Mayor promised “the Waterfalls will have little impact on the environment.”
Whether you want to view them as a large scale project or a small one, the Waterfalls are temporary. They might even be viewed as just an experiment and as we see, when they failed environmentally and fell short of expectations they can be turned off early. But we have much more major projects like the Atlantic Yards megdevelopments being propelled along by similar impulses and much less competence. Though the Gehry-branded megadevelopment is being treated cavalierly by the Bloomberg administration almost as if it were just another piece of concept art (Building #1 is currently to take the shape of a stack of discarded pizza boxes), it won’t be temporary and remediation won’t be as simple as turning off a spigot.

Sullivan County CBA Blog, Concord Secures Equity Financing
Though this post is off-topic, the ability to secure financing for large projects is being compared to the region's poster-project:

Even the long-heralded Atlantic Yards mega-project in Brooklyn has been delayed.

Curbed, Columbia's Manhattanville Show, Day 2: 'Diabolical Plan'
And the award for poster-project tied up in years of litigation goes to Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject, though West Harlem property owner Nick Sprayragen vows to take his fight against eminent domain all the way to the top:

The storage facility owner says he will fight the use of eminent domain to take his property all the way to the Supreme Court, a process that could hold up the Manhattanville expansion--not unlike the litigation that has tied up the Atlantic Yards plan in Brooklyn--for years.

Posted by lumi at 4:10 AM

September 7, 2008

Ny Community Council Endorsements for the September 9th Democratic primary


The New York Comm- unity Council is endors- ing the following candi- dates:

Kevin Powell for Congress 10th CD

He is the only candidate strongly opposed to the controversial Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards project, which would use eminent domain to destroy a neighborhood in order to build a basketball arena and out of scale luxury condos in the heart of brownstone Brooklyn.

Congressman Ed Towns, a machine Democrat, best know for being invisible throughout his district, except at election time, has repeatedly taken money from corporate special interest groups such as the tobacco industry. Recently his campaign fund was infused with over $12,000 worth of contributions from developer Bruce Ratner and his family and the Forest City Ratner Pac.


Paul Newell for Assembly 64th District

Paul is opposed to the real estate interests that have set the agenda in New York City which has lead to thousands of low income residents being forced out of their neighborhoods. He has spoken out against special zoning privileges for the high rise and school being built by Forest City Ratner in the 64th AD. This developer contributed $58,000 to what is considered to be Sheldon Silver's private slush fund known as the "Housekeeping Fund" and then received special considerations for his construction project.

The Council said that no candidate in the race for State Senate in the 25th district received enough votes for an endorsement. Sorry, still no help for you, Noticing New York!

Posted by amy at 11:43 AM

Palin's Hockey Rink Leads To Legal Trouble in Town She Led


Wall Street Journal shows that the "Killa from Wasilla" has a little secret about eminent domain and arenas on the public dime. Pushing a project through that was still in litigation turned out to not be the best idea:

Ms. Palin marched ahead, making the public case for a sales-tax increase and $14.7 million bond issue to pay for the sports center, which was to feature a running track, basketball courts and a hockey rink. At the time, the city's annual budget was about $20 million. In a March 2002 referendum, residents approved the mayor's plan by a 20-vote margin, 306 to 286. The city cleared roads, installed utilities and made preparations to build.

Later that year, Ms. Palin's final one as mayor, the federal judge reversed his own decision and ruled that the property rightfully belonged to Mr. Lundgren. Wasilla had never signed the proper papers, the court ruled.
After Ms. Palin left office, the city decided to take 80 acres of Mr. Lundgren's property through eminent domain. An Alaska court confirmed the city's right to do so and ordered that an arbitrator determine the appropriate price.

Last year, the arbitrator ordered the city to pay $836,378 for the 80-acre parcel, far more than the $126,000 Wasilla originally thought it would pay for a piece of land 65 acres larger. The arbitrator also determined that the city owed Mr. Lundgren $336,000 in interest. Wasilla's legal bill since the eminent domain action has come to roughly $250,000 so far, according to Mr. Klinkner, the city attorney.


Posted by amy at 11:31 AM

Delay in Bus Rapid Transit pushes possible Flatbush route further back


Atlantic Yards Report

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)--with a dedicated express lane, staggered stoplights, and perhaps new loading platforms--on Flatbush Avenue might be crucial to the success of the Atlantic Yards project, as I've written.

Now a possible Flatbush Avenue route is pushed even further into the future, because of delays in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's BRT experiment, known as Special Bus Service.
I wrote nearly two years ago that the pilot Nostrand Avenue project might not begin until 2008. Now that route is delayed four years--and a subsequent route on Flatbush Avenue wouldn't arrive until well after 2012.


Posted by amy at 11:16 AM

Scratching My Head on Who to Vote For: Connor Vs. Squadron (Vs Gyllenhaal) the 25th District State Senate Seat


Noticing New York isn't finding their dream candidate in the 25th district. NoLandGrab did not help with the summary that the race is "leaving many Brooklynites scratching their heads."

So if neither candidate is satisfactorily mobilizing to oppose Atlantic Yards is there one of them to vote for in the Tuesday primary? Is it better to vote for Squadron, a candidate who is ostensibly a reform-minded insurgent on guard against over-development who won’t prove those credentials by doing what he has a perfectly free hand to do: opposing what is obviously the worst thing happening in New York and the immediate environs of this Senate District? Unlike other problems New York City might be facing, this is one that comes signed, sealed and delivered by problem politicians. Squadron says he should be elected because he will take on important “development battles:” why won’t he prove it by addressing the poster-child? Or, is it better to vote for Connor, a 30-year incumbent who was probably taken in by the Atlantic Yards hornswaggling when it was first underway and won’t admit this now or reverse course?

NNY does have a novel solution:

Maybe I should write in a candidate. Maggie Gyllenhaal co-stared with Heath Ledger in “Dark Knight” and her brother Jake co-starred with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. Heath Ledger was on the advisory board of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn which has been a key player in halting Atlantic Yards. Voting for Ms. Gyllenhaal sounds mighty attractive.


NNY followed up to his post with a response from Squadron's campaign advisor:

Daniel supports a moratorium on state aide for the Atlantic Yards project for three reasons which must be addressed: First, it continues to be too big for the infrastructure surrounding it. Second, the eminent domain process neither followed an official procedure nor was transparent. Third, the project increasingly looks like a bait-and-switch on affordable housing, which is a critical priority and was the silver lining in the original plan.

Moving forward, Daniel has pledged not to accept any contributions linked to the developer of Atlantic Yards so no one needs to wonder who he's working for.

Posted by amy at 10:46 AM

September 6, 2008

I Think That I Will Never See...


NoLandGrab's roving photographer, Steve Soblick, found a lovely new addition to the footprint: tree stumps! The addition of the tree stumps doesn't seem to be concerning residents so much as the removal of 85 trees permitted by the NYC Parks Department. In exchange, 85 trees are to be planted elsewhere in the city. Perhaps these trees were not strong enough to survive the planned traffic/air pollution onslaught, and will be replaced by new trees that are "resistant to pollution." Or maybe Travis Clarke had the right hunch last summer when he presented his art piece "Wishing dead trees back to life."

Posted by amy at 2:40 PM

Study: sports facilities more lax about selling alcohol to underage & drunk

Atlantic Yards Report

Was Kristyn LaPlante of Park Slope Neighbors, at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, going too far when she alleged, "Drunken sports fans won’t be urinating in the backyards of the luxury condos. They’ll be peeing on the stoops of the rest of us."

Well, she was pointing out that the open space at the project would most likely be closed when arena events ended.

Warnings in new study

And a new study points out that vendors at sports facilities are often wiling to sell alcohol to minors or people visibly intoxicated. As the New York Times reported September 1, a new study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that "alcohol was sold to 18 percent of the testers who appeared under age and 74 percent of the testers who appeared intoxicated."


Posted by amy at 2:37 PM

Nets bonds to launch in November


Goldman Sachs is close to launching an $800 million bond issue for the Nets basketball team's new arena, the Barclays Arena, in Brooklyn, New York. According to sources close to the financing, the underwriter is now in the process of having the project rated, and expects the financing to be in place by the end of November 2008. The new 850,000 square foot arena will be part of a larger residential and retail complex at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, called Atlantic Yards, for which total expected investment is around $4 billion, and for which the developer is Forest City Ratner. The New Jersey Nets plan to relocate from Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and would then be known as the Brooklyn Nets.


Atlantic Yards Report sees more questions than answers in this "one-paragraph squib:"

For one, how easy is it to rate bonds for risk when major lawsuits remain outstanding?

The next question is whether the bonds will be tax-exempt or taxable. The assumption would be that he developer would prefer tax-exempt.

However, the strategy under which the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner seek tax-exempt bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena has been acknowledged by the chief counsel of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a “loophole” the agency moved quickly to eliminate.

Also, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who chairs the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has asked the IRS and Treasury Department to desist from approving any more sports facility deals based on payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOTs, pending further clarification of their policies.

Does Goldman Sachs believe that the IRS and Treasury Department will have clarified their policies by then?

Posted by amy at 2:27 PM

September 5, 2008

Politics as unusual


"Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide, The Ratner Clan Likes Ed Towns

Atlantic Yards is only one reason to remove an incumbent who only shows signs of life when he's up for reelection, but it's reason enough to loosen the Ratners' purse strings:

Four Ratners including Bruce and his extended family in Ohio, as well as Forest City Ratner's Cleveland-based parent Forest City Enterprises have contributed a total of $12,300 to entrenched incumbent Congressman Ed Towns in Brooklyn's 10th Congressional District.
Towns supports Atlantic Yards, while his September 9th primary challenger Kevin Powell opposes the Atlantic Yards project.

While the project is certainly not the central issue in the congressional primary race, the developer's largesse—coming from as far as Cleveland—shows how Ratner likes to cover all of his political bases.


Gay City, Connor, Squadron Endorsement Scramble
There's a bit of a ripple in one former candidate's endorsement of the incumbent:

Last week, [Ken] Diamondstone, who had considered another run against [State Senator Martin] Connor this year, but dropped plans for that in favor of a City Council bid next year, endorsed [Daniel] Squadron. In his appearance with Squadron, Diamondstone returned to two issues that animated his challenge two years ago - Connor's agreement years ago to a legislative package that repealed the commuter tax on those working in the city, but living outside it, and the incumbent's low profile on the controversial Atlantic Yards project which could bring massive development to the critical intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in Brooklyn. Diamondstone was outspoken in his opposition to Forest City Ratner's plans for the project.

WNYC News Radio, Race for 25th State Senate District Heats Up
Two years after the official approval of the project, Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan is still one of the sorting criteria for local candidates, though in this race things are still quite muddled:

In a hotly contested race for the 25th State Senate District, Democratic incumbent Martin Connor squared off last night against his challenger Daniel Squadron.

During the two hour debate, the 28-year-old Squadron argued he would bring new blood and change to Albany, while Connor, a 30-year-old political veteran, says his experience there is invaluable. Connor painted his opponent as a trust fund newcomer who has only lived in the district for two years while Squadron contended that Connor is part of the stagnant Albany culture that needs to be reformed. They clashed on numerous issues including the commuter tax, the smoking ban and the Atlantic Yards development.

NoLandGrab: Squadron has made cautionary statements against the Atlantic Yards project in the past, but all of his heavy-hitting political backers are big-time supporters of the project, leaving many Brooklynites scratching their heads on the way into the voting booth.


Runnin' Scared [News blog of The Village Voice], Newell Late $ Surge Brings Him Within $2.9M of Silver

Paul Newell, one of the young challengers to Sheldon Silver for his Assembly seat (Luke Henry is the other), made a shocking announcement yesterday: he raised much more than Silver -- $40,015 vs. $19,575 -- in "the most recent filing period." Most of these Silver donations, his campaign points out, come from small, individual contributors, whereas Silver's come mostly from PACs and lobbyists. Among these the Newellites mention "Albany Lobbyist William Y. Crowell, III," one of whose clients is "Forest City Ratner -- which has benefitted from Silver's strong support for its Atlantic Yards and Beekman Tower projects."

Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

State Senator to hold eminent domain hearing September 17

Atlantic Yards Report

Harlem State Senator Bill Perkins, a critic of Columbia University's plans to use eminent domain, has announced a hearing on the practice of eminent domain in New York State, to be held on the morning of September 17. (In the afternoon that day, a state appellate court will hear oral arguments in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review).

It's likely Perkins is most interested in the Columbia case, the subject of a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. It's also likely Atlantic Yards opponents will try to get on the witness list, especially because Perkins is interested in eminent domain used "at the behest of private developers" and which "at worst create[s] the impression of a corporatocracy instead of true democratic governance."

Can Perkins get anywhere? The State Senate is at this moment controlled by the Republicans, not Democrats like Perkins, but that could change in November. Still, all legislation must get through Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an Atlantic Yards supporter who's unlikely to favor changes that hamper the project.

Whether legislation emerges from the hearing, it at least will cast some light on this complex and sometimes dubious practice.


Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Hearing on Columbia Plan Elicits Emotional Speeches

The NY Times
By Timothy Williams

The Empire State Development Corporation board this week held its only public hearing before it decides whether to use eminent domain to allow for the $6.3 billion expansion of Columbia University into Manhattanville.

But while the two-day hearing featured testimony from a former mayor, members of the State Legislature and the president of Columbia University, the group that will make the ultimate decision, the development corporation’s board, was not there.

Instead, a lone hearing officer, a lawyer named Edward C. Kramer, listened stoically to more than 13 hours of often emotional testimony.

The public hearing, which was held on Tuesday and Thursday, followed a pattern: Speakers who were employed by, seeking employment with or otherwise had business ties to the university came out in support of the plan. Most other speakers opposed it.
Some speakers pointed to the absence of the development corporation’s board members at the public hearing as a sign that the agency had already decided to grant the university eminent domain rights.

But Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the development corporation, said it was the agency’s practice to hire a hearing officer during eminent domain testimony rather than having the board listen to testimony firsthand to ensure that “the process is as judicial and impartial as possible.”


Atlantic Yards Report, ESDC: hearing officer in Columbia case makes for "judicial and impartial" process

Norman Oder points out that the absence of Empire State Develop Corporation board officials at the Atlantic Yards hearings and subsequent vote had some unfortunate consequences:

No ESDC board member attended the Atlantic Yards public hearing two years ago, though ESDC staff members were there. ESDC board members, upon voting approval of the Atlantic Yards plan in December 2006, showed themselves to be rather uninformed.

NoLandGrab, reality check: The ESDC wants us to beleve that in order for the process to be "as judicial and impartial as possible," boardmembers do not attend the hearing, even though there's no evidence during the board vote that boardmembers read or understand any of the testimony. What's the point of having a hearing officer, if no one really gets heard?

This week's hearings illustrate that there's a total breakdown in the system to the point of absurdity.

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

Stuckey Unrebutted on Atlantic Yards in New Book

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

Remember Jim Stuckey, former president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, the guy charged with bringing Bruce Ratner's project to fruition who was unceremoniously "resigned" by the developer in June 2007? Well, there is a new book coming out, "In the Country of Brooklyn," which tells the Atlantic Yards story, incredibly, only through the eyes of Stuckey.

It makes us slightly nostalgic for Stuckey's spinmeister skills, but leaves us wondering: How come that guy was "resigned?"


NoLandGrab: Considering Forest City Ratner's penchant for gag orders, the reason for Stuckey's rapid and unceremonious resignation will likely remain in the dark for years to come.

Meanwhile, Norman Oder's review of the Stuckey interview is a cringefest, once you realize that Stuckey has it in his head that he is one of Brooklyn's favorite sons... (shudder).

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

In Marty's Brooklyn!!, no mention of Ratner's "Brooklyn Day"

Atlantic Yards Report


I've written more than once about Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional Brooklyn!! publication, which includes a plethora of events and people but typically downplays Markowitz's support of the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

The same pattern recurs in the Fall 2008 edition....

The only mention in Brooklyn!! of Atlantic Yards is an item, on p. 29 (of 32), about A. Stein Meat Products of Sunset Park, maker of the "Brooklyn Burger," described as "the official burger of the Cyclones and the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets."


Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Forest City in the News

RTT News, Forest City Swings To Q2 Loss; Revenues Up

Thursday, commercial and residential properties developer Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (FCE-A: News , FCE-B), reported a loss in its second quarter 2008, compared to a profit last year. Net earnings for the quarter was impacted primarily due to significant gains recognized in the prior year from the sale of company's supported-living portfolio, with no comparable asset sales in 2008. Revenues for the quarter improved 14.8% from the year-ago quarter.

The company's second quarter net loss was $8.3 million or $0.08 loss per share, compared with net earnings of $67.8 million or $0.63 per share, in the prior year quarter.

MarketWatch, Forest City Reports Second-Quarter and Year-to-Date Financial Results

From the official Forest City Enterprises press release, with some interesting info about the Nets at the end (emphasis added):

Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises, said "We are pleased with our second-quarter results and with the performance of our new property openings and mature portfolio. The progress in the quarter has brought year-to-date results in line with last year, in spite of a large first-quarter development project write off, and demonstrates the solid foundation for the business represented by our core rental property portfolio. In addition, our military family housing business contributed solidly to our results, both in the second quarter and for the first six months."
Commenting on results for the land business, Ratner said, "Our land development business has not been a significant factor in year-to-date results and continues to reflect the general nationwide softness in that segment of our industry. We see no indications of an overall improvement in the near term. Despite this ongoing softness, our inventory of land in quality markets means we are well-positioned to capitalize when a broader recovery occurs, just as we have during past real estate cycles. In addition, we continue to view current market conditions as a potential opportunity to selectively acquire additional land for future development in good markets and at attractive prices."
"Given the continued stress in the credit markets, we have placed even greater emphasis on monitoring and managing upcoming maturities, and we're pleased with our progress to date," said Ratner.
The overall operating loss for the Nets as a stand-alone business is comparable to the prior year. The Company's reported share of the loss is higher because it advanced capital to fund the team's operating losses on behalf of both Forest City and certain non-funding partners. While these advances receive preferential capital treatment, the Company reports losses, including significant non-cash losses resulting from amortization, in excess of its legal ownership of approximately 23 percent.

MarketWatch, REMINDER: Forest City Enterprises Second-Quarter 2008 Earnings Conference Call

Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) has released its second-quarter 2008 financial results and will hold a conference call on Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss these results. Investors are invited to dial into the conference call hosted by Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer.

The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Tuesday, September 9, 2008. To participate, dial 888-713-4205 using access code 93455825, approximately five minutes before the call. Tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City 2nd Quarter Earnings Conference Call. (International callers, please dial 617-213-4862)

A live webcast of the call will also be available online at www.forestcity.net .

Posted by lumi at 4:05 AM

September 4, 2008

Union demonstration at Yonkers' Ridge Hill development

The Journal News
by Len Maniace

Signatories to the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement might want to check the fine print, since Forest City Ratner appears to be having a small non-union-labor problem with its Ridge Hill development in Yonkers.


Several hundred union construction workers gathered at the entrance to the Ridge Hill development in Yonkers this morning to protest the use of non-union workers for part of the project.

The union demonstration was organized by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester and Putnam. The protest was called because one of the developers on the site ignored an agreement that called for only union workers to be used at the 81-acre parcel, according to Eddie Doyle, president of the union coalition.

"The unions are the ones who supported this project and went to the council meetings and met with council members to get this approved," Doyle said. "This isn't right."

Signing onto the agreement were the main developer for the site, Forest City Ratner, the unions, and the city of Yonkers.


NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner may be adhering to the letter of its agreement in Yonkers by using union labor exclusively for its work, but if it "sells off" part of Atlantic Yards to other developers, as is the case in Yonkers, would the CBA no longer apply?

Posted by eric at 3:45 PM

Brutally weird: in new book on Brooklyn, departed Stuckey spins for AY, sans rebuttal

Today, Atlantic Yards Report is guaranteed to make milk squirt out of your nose.

A book chapter taken from an interview with the former president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, Jim Stuckey, goes way beyond "brutally weird" or "Orwellian." In an interview held two weeks before Stuckey was quietly terminated from the development company, the renaissance man-turned-developer set down his version of events and explained how, like every great man in history, events in his formative years shaped his consciousness, leading to some of his greatest accomplishments.

JimStuckeyProm.jpg Norman Oder reviews and irons out some of the facts from this unspeakably bizarre and highly amusing chapter, which includes this prom photo, offered for publication by the subject himself.

On the heels of Marc Eliot’s awkward, not-quite-oral history, Song of Brooklyn, comes another from Florida-dwelling sports book author Peter Golenbock, In the Country of Brooklyn: Inspiration to the World, with another distorted view of Atlantic Yards, courtesy of former Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey, whose self-serving statements go unrebutted.

For example, Stuckey claims that the developer has spent its own money on land acquistions and infrastructure that the city has paid for; he asserts that the "legislature" approved the project; and he suggests that New York will turn into Detroit unless the city "steps up" and helps projects like Atlantic Yards move forward.

And, in a master stroke reminiscent of his work spinning the New York Times, he claims that the critics, not the developer, are creating a deceptive picture.

Nuff said, click here.

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

SAVE THE DATE: October 18th, Walk Don't Destroy 4

wdd4.gif Walk Don't Destroy 4: A Candlelight Walk to Shine Light on the Abuses of the Atlantic Yards Project and Raise Funds for the Legal Fight Against the Stalled Project

For this year's Walkathon, which is wholly dependent upon your active participation and sponsor solicitation, we are doing something new. The walk will take place in the twilight hours and the walkers will carry candles to shine a light on the numerous abuses of Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

The walk will commence in front of Bob Law's Seafood Cafe (637 Vanderbilt -- btwn St. Marks and Prospect Place) and conclude with an after party including free food and live music (to be announced) at the Brooklyn Lyceum (227 4th Avenue at Union Street).

Registration for walkers will start at 5:15pm in front of Bob Law's Seafood Cafe, and the walk will take place from 6:15 - 7:30pm.

You can register now and start inviting your family, friends and neighbors to sponsor you by going to: www.dddb.net/walkathon. You can also start forming walking teams, and compete against other teams to see who can raise the most funds for the the legal fight against Atlantic Yards.

Your support and participation are more important than ever as we approach the completion of the fifth year in the fight against Atlantic Yards and for responsible, democratic development.

Posted by lumi at 4:31 AM

Barclays Sees Sponsorships Opening Doors in U.S.

BarclaysPres.jpg Brand Week

Under [Barclays President Bob] Diamond's tutelage, Barclays—one of the U.K.'s largest consumer banks—has vastly increased it sports sponsorship portfolio, including: purchasing title to soccer's English Premier League in 2004; acquiring title in 2005 to the PGA Tour's The Barclays golf event in the New York area, which is the kickoff for the FedEx Cup playoffs; buying the naming rights to the 18,000-seat Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., (where the NBA's New Jersey Nets plan to relocate) for a reported $400 million, one of the most expensive naming rights deals ever. Diamond sat down with Brandweek's managing editor Chuck Stogel during The Barclays golf event in New Jersey to have a chat.
BW: Naming rights have become very popular across the entertainment venue landscape. What was the Barclays strategy in signing on with the new arena in Brooklyn, and how will you leverage the cost?

BD: We would not have done it if we thought it was expensive. We think it was an outstanding deal both for [real estate developer and Nets owner] Bruce Ratner and his businesses, and for Barclays. The revival of Brooklyn is so important for the greater New York area. It's the hub of transportation, just below the Brooklyn Center. It's the engagement with professional basketball and the 'New York' Nets, who also travel to London to play games. So, again, it's on many, many levels that we found an opportunity to invest in our brand in a major center of operations, the greater New York area.


NoLandGrab: "Brooklyn Center," "THE hub of transportation," "New York Nets"??? LOL, if you've got $400 million to throw around, you don't really have to understand or justify what you're buying.

We were wondering what Nets guard Vince Carter was doing in London this week.

Posted by lumi at 4:03 AM


VC-247.jpg Basketball 24/7

When asked about the truthiness of those "persistent rumours that the Nets may move to Brooklyn," Nets star guard Vince Carter replied, "You'll have to ask the boss."


Posted by lumi at 3:54 AM

Forest City in the News

The Columbus Dispatch, Corporate cruise able to double as storm fundraiser

Forest City Enterprises co-sponsors a fundraising cruise for hurricane victims:

Five corporations that sponsored a Mississippi River cruise Sunday night for Ohio's delegation to the Republican National Convention didn't scrimp on the booze, shrimp, salmon and sushi. They even footed the bill for an elaborate ice-carving depicting the state of Ohio flanked by elephants.

But the corporations and the delegates themselves also raised money for the American Red Cross to help victims of Hurricane Gustav. A hurried fundraising effort led by former Sen. Mike DeWine and his wife, Fran, netted $12,408 for the Red Cross from the delegation and guests.

First Energy, the American Chemistry Council, Abbott Laboratories, Forest City Enterprises and Boehringer Ingelheim, sponsors of the cruise, matched that take -- for a total of $24,816.

The Baltimore Sun, Rehabbing starts today for homes in Middle East

Forest City is starting work on some of the housing for the Johns Hopkins biotech park project, which involves rehabbing the homes of some of the hundreds of households that were displaced.

Plans call for restoring many of these homes to their late 19th-century appearance on the exterior and remodeling the interiors with energy-efficient features. EBDI [East Baltimore Development, Inc.] will kick off the project today, starting with two homes on East Chase Street.

The group says it hopes to sell homes first to relocated residents or to those whose homes are being targeted in the next phase of development. Displaced homeowners will be eligible for a new "house-for-a-house" program to allow them to trade their old homes for the renovated ones.

The Denver Post, Fitzsimons smokestack is demolished

The last residents inside the 133-foot smokestack that has towered over the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center for 90 years took flight Wednesday as a wrecking ball tapped on the bricks. The 21 pigeons circled twice and gave up as the first bricks fell, marking the beginning of a $100 million development piece of what is known as the Colorado Science and Technology Park at Fitzsimons, the latest addition in the base's 30-year redevelopment plan.
The 184-acre Colorado Science + Technology Park project already has a pair of bioscience incubator buildings and is to include a 175,000-square-foot building for University Physicians Inc.

Developed by Forest City Science + Technology Group, a division of Forest City Enterprises, the park will give businesses a chance to locate closer to medical campuses and research labs.

MarketWatch, Press release: Forest City Breaks Ground at Colorado Science + Technology Park at Fitzsimons

Posted by lumi at 3:43 AM

September 3, 2008

Columbia University Has No Right to My Land

The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed
by Nick Sprayregen

Manhattanville property- and business-owner Nick Sprayregen's op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal explains how New York State somehow always manages to find "blight" when some uncooperative landowner doesn't want to sell.

Under New York state law, in order to condemn property the state first has to undertake a "neighborhood conditions study" and declare the area in question "blighted." Earlier this summer the state released its study, which concluded that Manhattanville is indeed "blighted." This gives the state the legal green light to condemn my four buildings and hand them over to the university.

The study's conclusion was unsurprising. Since the commencement of acquisitions in Manhattanville by Columbia, the school has made a solid effort to create the appearance of "blight." Once active buildings became vacant as Columbia either refused to renew leases, pressured small businesses to vacate, or made unreasonable demands that resulted in the businesses moving elsewhere. Columbia also let their holdings decay and left code violations unaddressed.

Only a few years ago, this area was undergoing a resurgence. Virtually all property was occupied, many by long-standing family operations such as my own. Now most of those businesses are gone -- forced out by the university. Still, Columbia has not been able to freeze all positive change in the neighborhood. Just in the past few years, three upscale restaurants have opened here. They seem to be thriving.

article [Subscription required — full article after the jump for non-subscribers]

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Nicking Columbia

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who's working on Nick Sprayregen's behalf, decries the unfairness of New York State's abuse of eminent domain, an abuse he's turned a blind eye toward in the case of one of his other clients — Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

The Wall St. Journal article, con'd:

In the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the government is permitted to take private property only for "public use."

This clause was once limited to true public projects such as the construction of highways, fire houses and public libraries. But over the last 50 years it has been bastardized by the powerful (in collusion with compliant politicians and the acquiescence of the courts) into a weapon used routinely to forcibly take other people's property for nonpublic uses. What is occurring in West Harlem today is a prime example of this abuse.

Columbia University, a private institution, officially announced its desire for a new campus five years ago. The university zeroed in on the Manhattanville area of Harlem -- between 125th and 134th Streets, and between Broadway and the Hudson River. Since that time, while wielding the sledgehammer of the possible use of eminent domain, Columbia has purchased roughly 80% of Manhattanville.

My family has owned for almost 30 years four commercial Manhattanville properties. We run a self-storage business, plus we lease to various large retailers such as a discount store and a supermarket. For over four years we have been fighting the state and Columbia in their joint attempts to condemn my properties for the school's expansion.

This week, the board of directors of the state agency threatening the condemnation -- the Empire State Development Corporation -- will hold two legally required public hearings, ostensibly to give the public a chance to be "heard." I believe that this is merely perfunctory.

Under New York state law, in order to condemn property the state first has to undertake a "neighborhood conditions study" and declare the area in question "blighted." Earlier this summer the state released its study, which concluded that Manhattanville is indeed "blighted." This gives the state the legal green light to condemn my four buildings and hand them over to the university.

The study's conclusion was unsurprising. Since the commencement of acquisitions in Manhattanville by Columbia, the school has made a solid effort to create the appearance of "blight." Once active buildings became vacant as Columbia either refused to renew leases, pressured small businesses to vacate, or made unreasonable demands that resulted in the businesses moving elsewhere. Columbia also let their holdings decay and left code violations unaddressed.

Only a few years ago, this area was undergoing a resurgence. Virtually all property was occupied, many by long-standing family operations such as my own. Now most of those businesses are gone -- forced out by the university. Still, Columbia has not been able to freeze all positive change in the neighborhood. Just in the past few years, three upscale restaurants have opened here. They seem to be thriving.

There is also a conflict of interest in the condemnation process. The firm the state hired to perform the "impartial" blight study -- the planning, engineering and environmental consultant Allee King Rosen & Fleming, Inc. (AKRF) -- had been retained by Columbia two years earlier to advocate for governmental approval of the university's expansion, including the possible use of eminent domain.

When I go to court in a few months to contest the condemnation, I will face an overwhelmingly unfair process particular to New York, and to eminent domain trials. I will not be permitted to question any of the state or Columbia's representatives, nor will I be allowed to have anyone take the witness stand on my behalf. My attorney will only be provided with 15 minutes to speak to the court on a matter that Columbia and the state have been working on for over four years.

Another problem is that in New York, the precise definition of what is blighted is nowhere to be found. It is virtually impossible to defend oneself from something that is not properly defined.

I am still denied access to documents with facts surrounding the Columbia expansion plan, asked for through Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests. I filed 12 different FOIL requests and have gone to court four times. The courts have now twice ruled that it was improper for the state to refuse to hand over all communication between it and AKRF.

Still, I look forward to my day in court. I am cautiously optimistic that it will expose as unconstitutional what Columbia and the state are attempting to do.

Mr. Sprayregen is the president of Tuck-It-Away, a West Harlem based self-storage company.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Who needs "Peace, Land and Bread," when you got "Jobs, Housing and Hoops!"

Though Forest City Ratner's Russian-language liar-flier was printed in green, it sounds red.

According to NoLandGrab's in-house Russian analyst, the flier should be a hit because people from Russia are unfamiliar with overblown promises of jobs, government-subsidized housing and sports that promote the greater glory of the people.

Yes, "Everything is better in Brooklyn" and um... LET LIVE FOREVER IN THE PEOPLE'S MEMORY THE NAME AND WORK OF BRUCE RATNER!

Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

Ratners, FCE contribute to Towns's re-election campaign

Atlantic Yards Report


Four members of the Ratner family, as well as the Forest City Enterprises Political Action Committee, have contributed a total of $12,300 to the re-election campaign of 10th District Congressional Rep. Ed Towns, an Atlantic Yards supporter facing a forceful if underfunded challenge from writer and activist Kevin Powell.

This continues a pattern of Forest City Ratner/Enterprises support for Brooklyn machine politicians, though it is far more blatant. Until a Forest City Ratner contribution earlier this year to the Democratic Assembly Housekeeping Committee, controlled by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the developer had relied significantly on contributions from Bruce Ratner's brother Michael Ratner and the latter's wife, Karen Ranucci.

NoLandGrab: Though this is pure speculation, it would not be too farfetched to assume that once "Atlantic Yards Reporter" Norman Oder started to uncover the Michael Ratner-Karen Ranucci campaign finance operation, Bruce Ratner no longer saw the point in pretending that he no longer contributed to political campaigns himself.

The contributors include Forest City Enterprises executives Albert Ratner and Jonathan Ratner, both residents of the Cleveland area, Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Ratner, as well as Brooklynite Rachel Ratner, the daughter of Forest City Enterprises executive Chuck Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

"Brooklyn real estate big-wigs" battle it out in Cleveland

Halle.gif Two days ago, we noted a Cleveland Plain Dealer article that Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, was in a pickle after an appeals court upheld the "gold-clause" on the lease for the land under the Halle building in Cleveland. If pegged to the current value of gold, the $35,000/year lease could skyrocket to $1.4 million.

Yesterday, Brownstoner covered an angle to the story that we entirely missed:

Venner vs. Ratner Plays Out In Cleveland

A couple of Brooklyn real estate big-wigs have been embroiled in a bitter battle over the enforceability of the terms of a century-old lease in the heart of downtown Cleveland. The lawsuit, which has worked its way through the appeals system since it was filed back in 2006, pits Stuart Venner, who owns a number of buildings in Brooklyn, including 174 Clinton Avenue, 657 Carlton Avenue and 114 Henry Street, against development goliath Forest City Enterprises.

Today, The NY Sun details the legal ruling in an editorial.

A Golden Rent

As the opinion by Judges Harold Ackerman, Damon Keith, and Jeffrey Sutton recounts, "In the early 1930s, as part of a series of measures designed to implement the Roosevelt Administration's overhaul of American monetary policy, Congress withdrew gold from circulation and banned nearly all private ownership of it. ... And in 1933, Congress passed a Joint Resolution that declared gold clauses to be 'against public policy,' barred their inclusion in any future contract and suspended the operation of existing gold clauses by allowing all contract obligations to be paid in paper currency instead."

However, the opinion goes on, "Four decades later, Congress changed course. It repealed the ban on private ownership of gold in 1975. And in 1977, it amended the 1933 Joint Resolution, providing that the resolution 'shall not apply to obligations issued on or after' the amendment's date of enactment. ... In an effort to clarify the matter, Congress passed a law in 1996 saying that owners could enforce pre-1977 gold clauses only if the parties to a new obligation issued after 1977 'specifically agree[d] to include a gold clause' in their new agreement."

The case at hand, which was covered in these pages in June under the headline "Count Those Square Feet in Gold" and which Brownstoner.com has linked to an article on the Web site of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, involves two companies with New York City ties. The landlord, Stuart Venner, is a New York-based real estate investor. The renter is an arm of Forest City Enterprises, which is behind the big effort to develop Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and bring the Nets to play basketball there. If the gold clause is to be enforceable, Forest City's rent would escalate to about $1.4 million a year from $35,000 a year. The judges, in an opinion issued last week, found that the clause was indeed enforceable.

Images, CB Richard Ellis (cbre.com).

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

Where Does Thompson Stand, Now, On Atlantic Yards?

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

But since the Comptroller wants the Mayor to come clean [about his position on term limits], we think it would be appropriate for the Comptroller and Mayoral candidate to come clean on Atlantic Yards.

Thompson fully supported Atlantic Yards throughout its approval "process," yet as Comptroller he has never said a word about the opaque public funding of the project, or what sort of return it would or wouldn't bring for New York City.


Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

September 2, 2008

City finally responds to FOIL request, but doesn't answer "how and why" extra $105 million was provided

Atlantic Yards Report

Did it really take the Mayor's office three months to release numbers that they point out have already been made public, or was that how long it took to figure out how to NOT give Norman Oder the documents he was really looking for?

I finally got a response to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request that the mayor's office seemed inclined to ignore, but the answer wasn't exactly informative. So we still don't know exactly how Forest City Ratner managed to get the city to more than double its direct subsidy of $100 million for Atlantic Yards.
I got a response August 5 to my request for "documents, including but not limited communication between and among government agencies, developer Forest City Ratner, and lobbyists, that explain how and why the $105 million request was made and how and why the City agreed to it."


In its belated response to me, the city provided an itemized list of capital and infrastructure projects released by the Office and Management and Budget (OMB). That was it--no further explanation.

The city stated that the additional $105 "represents capital projects to support infrastructure and other capital needs in the are, some of which are independent of, but in the area of the planned Atlantic Yards project."

As far as I can tell, most of those capital project are not independent of the Atlantic Yards project. For example, the two bridge overpasses are clearly not independent. The MTA infrastructure almost certainly isn't independent, and the "transportation infrastructure" likely is not independent. The "water main improvements" most likely are related to the size of the AY project. As for "Atlantic Ave. Corridor," that's vague.

The fact remains that the city didn't answer "how and why" the request was made, and that Chuck Ratner thinks that entire $105 million goes to the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM


The COALITION TO PRESERVE COMMUNITY urges property-rights advocates to come out for tonight's hearing.


Do you want to lose your home?
Do you want your neighbors to lose their homes?
Do you want tax paying owners to lose their properties and have tax exempt Columbia take them away and replace them with biotech level #3 labs?
Do you want Harlem to lose its businesses like Floridita?
Do you want to face all the environmental hazards CU’s expansion will cause to our air, structural weakening of buildings, loss of parking & gain of traffic problems?
Do you want a bathtub (8 stories down) built on an earthquake fault?
Do you want eminent domain to be used to benefit an elitist private institution and spur gentrification?

The Empire State Development Corporation will hold a hearing to determine if eminent domain will be used for the Columbia expansion. It will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 2 and Thursday Sept. 4, at Aaron Davis Hall at City College (135th St. & Convent Ave.), east of Amsterdam Ave. (1pm & 5:30PM sessions).

We urge you to speak out this Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 5:30 – 9:00PM, 135th & Convent. Stand up!

CONTACT US: Call (212) 666-6426, 646-812-5188, or (212) 234-3002 (se habla español) or go to http://www.stopcolumbia.org/ and sign up to be on our contact list.

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

The Three C's: Condos, Classrooms and Crowding

Gotham Gazette
By James Trimarco

Bruce Ratner gets a dishonorable mention in an article about the City's failure to include more classroom space while development continues apace:

The current flurry of new luxury housing construction in New York City has created a number of quandaries for the city's public schools.

The influx of students threatens to undermine the quality of nearby schools --often the very thing that helped attract young families in the first place. To further complicate matters, the high land values that good public schools help create make it increasingly difficult for the city to obtain land on which to build new ones. Developers see the expensive real estate as appropriate for only the most profitable projects, and that does not leave much room for schools.
Things can get more contentious when a development is going up on private land. Then, communities must use the various approval procedures to try to get schools included. Requests for rezoning, the city's land use process -- known as ULURP -- and City Council votes all provide some opportunities for neighborhoods to make demands. However, the amount of leverage the community can muster depends more on whether a rezoning is needed than on the urgency of their needs.

Two current cases in this category involve Sheldon Solow and Bruce Ratner, developers not known for harmonious relations with local groups.
Of course, the arm-twisting can go both ways: Bruce Ratner, who agreed to build a school at his Beekman Plaza development in Lower Manhattan, recently threatened to cease construction on it unless he received a 421-a tax abatement valid for 20 years.


NoLandGrab: The issue of classroom space was brought up by community groups two years ago at the public hearings for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

In a nutshell, Forest City Ratner's DEIS claimed that there is plenty of classroom space in the school district that includes the Atlantic Yards footprint. Neighborhood organizations pointed out that the numbers used in the study were already outdated and that the study failed to take into account students crossing district lines to attend schools that are already, technically, overcrowded.

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

September 1, 2008

FCR's Russian outreach: "Everything is Better in Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

No, Forest City Ratner isn't trying to make nice with the increasingly restless Russian bear — they're just letting our Russian-speaking friends in the borough know that "Everything is Better in Brooklyn."


At the Brighton Jubilee on August 24, Forest City Ratner's booth distributed bilingual Russian/English fliers (below; click to enlarge) touting the Atlantic Yards project, including 15,000 union construction jobs (that's actually job-years, and it's hardly clear that will "mean jobs for Brooklynites") and 38% affordable housing (without acknowledging how long that might take or who exactly might be eligible).


NoLandGrab: Things in Brooklyn would be downright peachy if Forest City would just fold the Atlantic Yards tent and go home.

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Forest City in the News

San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland's two summers
Forest City's white elephant in Oakland stands as a cautionary tale for those who support demolishing historic structures that stand in the way of sweeping urban renewal:

[Oakland Mayor Ron] Dellums can't be blamed for the downtown Forest City development disaster, either. It should be named Ghost City.

This white elephant was financed to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by people who couldn't foresee that the housing bubble would burst. According to the Oakland Post, tenants can't pay their mortgages, and the ambitious project, for which two historic landmarks were sacrificed, might remain incomplete.

NoLandGrab: When this kind of stuff happens to Forest City in Brooklyn, New York City and State does its part by relocating government agencies into the flagging projects.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Gold-based lease could cause million-dollar rent hike for Forest City Enterprises

Forest City has benefited from of all sorts of land deals that result in a windfall, many of which are taxpayer-funded. This time the tables are turned:

Since 1982, the real estate giant has leased land beneath part of the Halle Building, a former Euclid Avenue department store of which Forest City is the majority owner. The ground-lease continues a contract signed in 1912, when the Halle brothers inked a 99-year deal to rent the property and expand their store on top of it.

The lease contained a "gold clause," a feature of real estate contracts that allowed a landlord to base his rental rate on the price of gold. The clauses were once a common way of accounting for inflation and protecting landowners in long-term deals.

For more than two decades, a Forest City entity called S&R Playhouse Realty Co. paid $35,000 a year to rent the land, based on the price of gold in 1912. But in 2006, a New York investor snapped up the land and demanded more rent.

Forest City and the new landowner, an investor named Stuart Venner, have been arguing in court ever since about whether the gold clause is enforceable.

Wednesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled that, yes, the clause still applies.

Dayton Daily News, Republicans grapple with Gustav

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City sponsored Sen. Voinovich's impromptu fundraiser for potential victims of Gustav:

Ohio Republicans who came to town for the Republican National Convention found themselves dealing with the specter of a hurricane that may yet devastate New Orleans not three years after the Bush administration was criticized for not wisely handling Hurricane Katrina.

A paddleboat cruise on the Mississippi River hosted by Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, became an impromptu fundraiser for those who will be flooded if the hurricane hits land.
The DeWines gave $1,000 and passed out pledge cards for other Republican delegates. The sponsors of the Voinovich event - First Energy, the American Chemistry Council, Abbott and Forest City Enterprises - promised to match whatever Republican delegates raised.

New Haven Register, Winchester project on track; hotel plan slows

Forest City's proposal in New Haven is still in talks, which in the current real estate market qualifies as being "on track."

Abe Naparstek, director of development for the Forest City Residential Group, said his company continues its due diligence in reviewing the massive Winchester Repeating Arms site in Newhallville for conversion to a residential-retail complex.

Naparstek said he hopes to ink a development deal with Science Park Development Corp., owners of the Winchester building, in the next few months, and is scheduled to meet with the Dixwell and Newhallville management teams in October to talk specifics of the project.
Naparstek, whose Ohio firm has considerable experience in converting landmark buildings to new uses, said they were making progress in reviewing the 17 structures on the site bound by Winchester, Munson and Mansfield streets.

"There aren’t any roadblocks, but this takes time," Naparstek said of the project.

A remedial action plan already approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection for environmental cleanup by the Olin Corp. and U.S. Repeating Arms Corp., the previous owners, would bring the site up to a industrial/commercial standard. Forest City will invest to clean it further to allow housing.

Originally, Forest City hoped to report back to the affected neighborhoods by this month, but that has now been extended until October.

Naparstek said his company has gotten "really positive reaction" from the state historic preservation office as it looks to secure federal tax credits for the project.

Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

It came from the Hotdogosphere...

hd-n-b.jpg SlamOnline.com, I like to WATCH

Sam Rubenstein is proof that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach:

I was a guest of a friend of a client of Bruce Ratner’s. The same guy who is moving the Nets and the evil incarnate of gentrification in Brooklyn. I’ll tell you what though, the man has a nice luxury box full of hot dogs and free booze. Go Nets!

City Room, What we’re looking at on the Web today…

If Atlantic Yards is your litmus test, here is the guide you were waiting for. [Atlantic Yards Voter Guide]

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM