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October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

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Posted by lumi at 4:51 PM

Decoding FCR’s Gilmartin on Beekman Tower: condo aversion may jeopardize AY condos (or 50/50 plan)

Atlantic Yards Report

When Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin offers some insight into another local project under construction, Norman Oder speculates that the Atlantic Yards 50/50 affordable housing deal might get even murkier:

While the Beekman Tower is less a model for Atlantic Yards housing than the under-construction tower at 80 DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn, Gilmartin’s explanation of why Beekman contains rental units, not condos, may cast further doubt on the developer’s plans for 1930 condos in the Atlantic Yards project.

If the condo market is currently saturated, and the developer prefers the flexibility of rentals, then either the condos would be quite delayed or a switch to rentals would further undermine the pledge of 50/50 affordable and market-rate housing.

Also, while questions about Atlantic Yards just didn’t come up, Gilmartin’s assertion that “we just simply do not know how to give up” may be tested by trying to pursue Atlantic Yards during an economic downturn. Note also that she described "the development, community" as "change-resistant, by its very definition--we really only do things when we have to."

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Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

At ACORN, Who IS Paying Attention to Atlantic Yards?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn explains how, in accordance with a signed contract, ACORN is holding up its end of the bargain, while Forest City Ratner hasn't and can't:

In May, 2005 ACORN partnered with Ratner to build Atlantic Yards' 2,250 "affordable" housing units out of what is now a proposed total of 6,430 housing units. That partnership included the following contractual obligation between ACORN and Forest City Ratner:

As long as the Project will include the ACORN/Atlantic Yards 50/50 Program* as described in paragraph 1, ACORN agrees to take reasonable steps to publicly support the Project by, among other things, appearing with the Developer before the Public Parties, community organizations and the media as part of a coordinated effort to realize and advance the Project and the contemplated creation of affordable housing. (Emphasis added)

Three and a half years later ACORN is still fullfilling that contract to promote the project in the media (albeit not aggressively) despite what is plain for all to see: Forest City Ratner either has no intention or no ability (or both) to fulfill its commitment to that "50/50 affordable" housing program. Ratner doesn't have the money to do it, doesn't have the land to do it, and doesn't even bother to show a model of Phase 2 of the project plan which contemplated the large majority of the "affordable" units. He also has no contractual obligation with New York City or New York State to ever complete Phase 2. Our surmise is that the developer has no intention of fufilling his commitment to ACORN.

Read more about how ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis appears to be "unaware of the current status of the project."

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

Cutting the Nets?

The Architect's Newspaper Blog

Politics takes a back seat when the Borough President's planning director starts ad libbing:

As with all these things, there was a Power Point presentation, and as with all Power Point presentations, the whole thing took some time to boot up. In the interim, [director of planning and development for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz Jon] Benguiat decided to tell the story of how he became Marty’s planning direct, during which he let some shocking news about the Atlantic Yards, or at least the fate of the Brooklyn Nets, slide.

After explaining how most of the Borough President's planning initiatives are underway or completed, Benguiat added:

I’m not sure if we’re going to get the Nets or not. We should have groundbreaking in December, but we’ll see.”

The Borough President's office issued this statement for clarification:

The current state of the American economy underscores the importance of moving ahead with projects like Atlantic Yards, and I am confident the project will happen. It will create union jobs and much-needed affordable housing, as well as bring professional sports back to Downtown Brooklyn—becoming just the kind of investment magnet that Brooklyn and New York City need right now

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NoLandGrab: The moral of the story is planning geeks should be seen, not heard, and it is our patriotic duty to support Atlantic Yards at all costs.

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Who's made the AY timetable gaffe? (Jon) Benguiat or Bertha (Lewis)?

Atlantic Yards Report

Journalist Michael Kinsley famously posited that "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth."

By that measure, on Monday, when Jon Benguiat, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's Director of Planning and Development, "blurted out" (in the words of the Brooklyn Paper), “I don’t know if we’re going to get the Nets,” it was a gaffe.

Yes, it might have been embarrassing to Markowitz, an unabashed Atlantic Yards booster. However, given all the chatter about a potential sale of the team and the delays in starting arena construction, Benguiat's statement was simple candor.
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Less credible, and thus more of a real gaffe, was ACORN head Bertha Lewis's unwillingness to acknowledge any doubts about the project and its timetable.

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Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

Inside Art — Muralist in the basement

The NY Times

The assistant curator of the Jewish Museum discovered Brooklyn artist Leola Bermanzohn at last year's "Footprints" exhibit:

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On Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m., Leola Bermanzohn, a 31-year-old Brooklyn artist, can be found toiling in the basement of the Jewish Museum. Visitors can watch her work and chat with her as she paints a mural inspired by the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Called “Otiyot” (Hebrew for letters), it will be composed in a new style of Hebrew alphabet inspired by Jewish mysticism, traditional calligraphy and graffiti. It is Ms. Bermanzohn’s response to the exhibition “The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries of the Ancient World,” at the museum.
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Mr. Belasco first saw Ms. Bermanzohn’s work last year at “Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood,” a show at the Brooklyn Public Library in which artists created works related to the area selected for the Atlantic Yards development.

“It was an abstract painting,” he said. “The style and line was really strong — it smacked me in the eye.”

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Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

Public-Private Projects Grapple With Shifts

GlobeSt.com
By Erika Morphy

It may be a gateway destination, but DC has been affected by slowing investment sales like just about every other city. So the area was thrilled when Mayor Adrian Fenty announced that the District and Forest City Washington are forming a public-private partnership to build a $42 million waterfront park along the Anacostia River. Not only is it a new project -- but it is one that is receiving a significant boost from the local government.

Public-private real estate development has always been a complex affair, with the participants having to balance competing goals, such as job creation, profit motivation and tax payer approval, as they build the capital stack. Still, though, this give-and-take has usually been worth it for developers over the last several years as cities, flush with funds, happily invested in their local landscape. That DC, which last quarter began running a deficit, is still investing in these projects is a good sign, observers say. Forest City will begin construction on the 5.5-acre park, using $42 million Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes funding.

Unfortunately, though, the project may well prove to be more the exception than the rule going forward – and not just for DC, but for most cities. Simply put, these projects are suffering from twin forces: a dwindling tax base thanks to recessionary pressures, and the tight credit market.

Check out the rest of the article for a concise and comprehensive outlook on the state of public-private partnerships.

NoLandGrab: Though Forest City got the nod for the Anacostia park, the highly subsidized Atlantic Yards project, including the money-hemorrhaging NJ Nets, could sink under its own weight.

For the uninitiated, Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) is a creative device meant to be an end-run around issuing bonds directly, which, in many municipalities and states, has to go through the messy and inefficient democratic process of voter approval.

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

No Sleep Till Brooklyn

FoxSports.com, The Bleacher Report

Nets owner Bruce Ratner denied a report that he had spoken to foreign investors from Dubai and Russia about wanting to sell the team. The story cited sources that estimated that the Nets were losing Ratner up to $30 million a year.

If it's cash that Ratner needs then maybe Jay-Z should increase his stake in the team. It would only increase the likelihood that LeBron James would join the Nets in 2010. He could just sell part of his stake to James once he retires.

In their first game of the post-Richard Jefferson Era, the Nets went into Washington on Wednesday and shocked the Wizards with a 95-85 upset. Vince Carter scored 21 points. Yi Jianlian had 17 in his Nets debut and Brook Lopez had 8 points and 8 rebounds.

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NoLandGrab: Jay-Z has had plenty of opportunity to increase his equity stake in the company, but hasn't... something having to do with throwing good money after bad.

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Forest City in the News

CoStar Group, Forest City Buys Bldg. at Antelope Valley Mall for $12M

Forest City Enterprises acquired the Gottschalks building at the Antelope Valley Mall in Palmdale, CA. Gottschalks Inc. sold the property for $12 million, or about $114 per square foot.

Press release, via PR Newswire, Forest City Celebrates Grand Opening of The Shops at Wiregrass

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today celebrated the grand opening of The Shops at Wiregrass, a 646,000-square-foot open-air, regional lifestyle center in Wesley Chapel, Fla., near Tampa.
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"The Shops at Wiregrass will be a regional draw for the New Tampa area, becoming a true gathering place for the growing population of Pasco County," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer. "Along with great anchors and restaurants, it is opening with 81 percent of small-shop space committed, and with 78 percent already signed to leases, demonstrating strong retailer support for this project, even in uncertain economic times."

"This marks the Company's second successful retail opening in October, joining The Shops at White Oak Village near Richmond, Va., which opened earlier this month at nearly 90 percent leased," Ratner added.

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

October 30, 2008

The sale of N.J. Nets is no long shot

The Daily Deal
By Gerald Magpily

It's not a good sign when a professional sports team, especially an NBA franchise, markets its tickets to fans with a buy-now-pay-later plan. Yes, times are tough, but that's not the only reason the New Jersey Nets are desperately trying to fill seats. As plans to move to Brooklyn stall, fans in New Jersey are abandoning the team -- it doesn't help that the team last season returned to its losing ways -- prompting interest from bargain shoppers hoping to add a sports franchise to their personal fortunes.

The economic slowdown has also put a full court press on Nets owner Bruce Ratner. So much so that the billionaire real estate mogul turned NBA franchise owner explored selling the team over the last year, according to the New York Daily News.

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Posted by lumi at 7:34 PM

ACORN's Lewis still thinks AY's moving forward (but not paying as much attention)

Atlantic Yards Report

On WBAI radio yesterday, sociologist and City Watch co-host Bill DiFazio invited ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis to defend the organization against charges of voter registration fraud--and, at about 17:50 in, brought up Atlantic Yards. (Lewis was elevated from New York to the national role in the wake of an embezzlement scandal.)

Bill DiFazio: Maybe it’s my ignorance, but I don’t know what’s happening with Atlantic Yards any more. I never hear about the Atlantic Yards project.
(He must not have been trying that hard.)
...

Even the developer has acknowledged the likelihood of a six-month delay, but Lewis didn't acknowledge that--or whether the credit crunch might have an impact:
So, they wanted to break ground by this December, they may still be able to do that. They may be delayed by a month or so. But the only thing that's been delaying them is one court case after another. But they’re still on track. Atlantic Yards is gonna be built. It may wind up taking six months more than originally stated. But it is moving forward. It is going to be built. The thousands of affordable housing units that are going to be there are needed now more than ever, because everything else in Downtown Brooklyn is all luxury.

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NoLandGrab: "Six months more than originally stated?" Try six more years, and that'd be just to get started — if it gets started.

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

New Jersey Nets owner Ratner denies talks with investors

The Star-Ledger
By George E. Jordan

Bruce Ratner is denying reports that he spoke with investors from Russia and Dubai and has reiterated that the NJ Nets franchise is not for sale.

However, another source has come forward and confirmed earlier reports and adds that overseas investors ARE interested in the project as a real estate deal, but Ratner is hoping to unload the team as part of the deal.

Nets owner Bruce Ratner said Wednesday that he welcomes hearing from potential investors from around the world interested in buying into his NBA franchise and its planned Brooklyn arena.

But Ratner denied a report that he is already entertaining overtures from investors in Russia and Dubai as potential sources of ready cash for the team and the Atlantic Yards project that includes the arena.

Yahoo Sports, citing two unnamed NBA sources, reported Wednesday Ratner is talking, or has spoken with, separate investor groups from Dubai and Russia that want to buy the team and take control of Atlantic Yards.

The Star-Ledger spoke with another person who said Ratner has been in contact since last summer with foreign investors. "It's absolutely true," said the person, who claimed knowledge of the talks but sought anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the developer.
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The Nets released a separate statement Wednesday night that said the "Nets are not for sale."
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The person contacted by The Star-Ledger said investors from Asia, Russia and the Middle East are shopping for deals in New York City. The source said the foreign investors were more interested in Atlantic Yards than the NBA franchise.

"There's no mystery about where financing is at now. The Russians and Asians are strong and the Arabs are very strong, and they've got into a head-to-head battles over real estate in New York," the person said.

"So the Asians have cash. The Arabs have cash and Russians have cash. They want to buy the real estate, not the basketball team. But Ratner is trying to get them invested in the basketball team as well as the real estate."

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NoLandGrab: It's ironic that the NJ Nets was originally the red herring to get the land deal, but now it's the project's ball and chain.

Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

Bruceski's Netskis

Gumby Fresh

With wads of cash, Russian oligarchs have been sniffing around for new opportunities. But what does that have to do with Atlantic Yards, American sports culture, Barclays Bank, the price of oil, and baths in Midwood?

Here's an excerpt, but we recommend clicking through to get Gumby's perspective, which leads him to ruminate, "I can't help but think that the end-game for Atlantic Yards is looming."

But Bruce, if he had the faintest sense, would not have allowed the faintest hint of a rumour, true or not, that he planned to seek foreign capital to see the light of day. It's not so much that the sports fans of the Greater New York are not a xenophobic bunch (I'm thinking of you, drunken fans on the Mets' Loge level). But they're comforted by the idea that the extortionate seat and concession prices they bear are essentially being recycled within their community by local ownership.

There's appropriate symmetry to the move. Barclays Capital, which, at least for the next month or so, owns the naming rights to the arena, is also looking for Russian cash, and displaying a similar lack of tact when doing so. Barclays, see, wants to keep paying humungous bonuses to senior management, and cannot do so if it is forced to go to the UK taxpayer for more equity. But it needs to raise more equity so as to benefit from UK guarantees of its debt and deposits.

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

FCR's Gilmartin: "Every deal dies three times"

Atlantic Yards Report

Before everyone proclaims, "Atlantic Yards est mort," Norman Oder brings you these words of wisdom from Bruce Ratner's de facto project manager, MaryAnne Gilmartin:

Consider an observation by MaryAnne Gilmartin, the FCR executive who replaced Stuckey on Atlantic Yards, speaking Monday night at the Center for Architecture: "“This is a notable quotable from me, but ‘every deal dies three times.'”

She said it in recounting the saga of the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan.

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Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

Daily Denial

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is tracking the daily denials issued by Bruce Ratner, who had to drop the "H-bomb" to deny the latest slew of reports:

Another day, another Ratner denial of reports that his money-losing Nets or his floundering Atlantic Yards project are for sale.

Yesterday the Daily News reported that Ratner had been trying to unload the Nets on some investors but keep the team in the proposed Atlantic Yards arena if it's ever built. Later in the day the NY Post reported Ratner's denial of the Daily News story.

Today, after an exclusive Yahoo! Sports story reported that Ratner had been talking about selling the Nets or the Atlantic Yards project to Dubai investors or Russian investors, respectively, we get the second denial in two days.

You know the "Nets for Sale" chatter is causing serious headaches for Team Ratner because each time that talk bubbles up PR crisis managment guru Howard Rubenstein* is trotted out to deny the reports.

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Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

Lord Markowitz! Term-limit clears path for Beep-eat

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

The game of musical chairs is even more muddled with the extension of term limits and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's decision not to run for reelection.

Two prominent local pols have decided not to run for Brooklyn Borough President, clearing the deck for a third term for Atlantic Yards booster Marty Markowitz.

Barron was far more critical, yet said it would be tough to dethrone Markowitz, who surprised many people with his 2001 win as a dark horse state Senator from Flatbush.

“Marty Markowitz can be beaten if someone had the resources,” Barron told The Brooklyn Paper. “He’s a stamp of approval for any rich developer that comes in.”

But rubber-stamping projects like Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards hasn’t hurt Markowitz’s high approval ratings or undercut his war chest, which is teeming with more than $930,000 — far more than DeBlasio’s $608,000 and Barron’s $1,200.

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Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

Marty’s Yards slip is showing

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

When one of the top staffers of the Atlantic Yards Cheerleader in Chief expresses some doubt about the project, the Atlantic Yards newsreel seems more like deathwatch than a done deal:

One of Borough President Markowitz’s top staffers revealed on Monday that the deal to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn is as much of a sure thing as Shaquille O’Neal is from the foul line.

“I don’t know if we’re going to get the Nets,” the Beep’s Director of Planning and Development Jon Benguiat blurted out on Monday during an unrelated discussion about other Markowitz initiatives.

It’s unclear if Benguiat’s comment reflected Markowitz’s current opinion about the unraveling Atlantic Yards mega-project, which the borough president has staunchly championed since it was unveiled in 2003, or whether Benguiat was reflecting his own sense that the Nets may stay in New Jersey — a notion that Garden State officials have been increasingly trumpeting.

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Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

Deputy Mayor (in Newark): "look for the least necessary insertion of subsidies"

Atlantic Yards Report

Faced with a multi-billion dollar budget gap, how can NY Governor David Paterson prioritize amongst pet projects?

[L]ast night, Newark Deputy Mayor Stefan Pryor offered some common-sense advice, speaking at a panel in Newark titled The New Newark, Part 1: Maintaining Momentum for Renewal in a Slowing Economy.

He was asked how to set priorities among projects in the city.

His response: "Well, I mentioned the basic construct, which is to look for efficiency, that is to say the least dependency on subsidies. There typically is a pro forma gap in the project, a gap that has to be filled because the construction costs outstrip the potential revenue in the budget line. We want to look for the least necessary insertion of subsidies."

He added, "The other aspect of our construct is community benefits. Will a project deliver jobs for our residents? Will a developer commit to a First Source compact where jobs will go to Newark residents first? Small [and] minority business contracting and green building sustainability are among our criteria. The other thing we're looking for is whether a developer can in fact demonstrate that private sector lenders will commit to the project... And we'll be looking for other factors that will ensure that project will proceed, for example timeline commitments."

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Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

Ratner no king for queens

The Brooklyn Papers
By Sarah Portlock

Here's the story of one community group that didn't suck up to Ratner:

Brooklyn’s gay community is moving forward with a plan to create a community center in or near Downtown, even without promised space from developer Ratner.

Last year, Ratner and Borough President Markowitz had discussed providing space for the “Brooklyn Pride Community Center” in a Ratner-owned building Downtown, but the Lambda Independent Democrats, a gay political group, had a falling out with the Atlantic Yards developer and his chief cheerleader over suspicion that gays would need to support the mega-project in exchange for getting the community center.

Now, organizers of the pride center are moving full-steam ahead without Ratner.

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Posted by lumi at 4:26 AM

Forest City in the News

The Associated Press, via WashingtonPost.com, District Announces Plan for $42M Anacostia Park

The District of Columbia has reached an agreement with a developer to build a $42 million park along the Anacostia River.

The 5.5-acre park in southeast Washington will be constructed blocks away from the Washington Nationals' baseball stadium. The project is part of The Yards, a 42-acre development that will include offices, apartments and 400,000 square feet of retail space and restaurants.
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The developer, Forest City Washington, says the park is expected to be completed by spring 2010. D.C. has provided money for construction by selling a bond against future taxes that will be generated by neighboring development.

The Tampa Tribune, Shops At Wiregrass Ready For Action

A profile of Greg Lenners, The Shops at Wiregrass mall manager:

For the past decade, Lenners, 42, has worked his way up Forest City's management ladder to become the head of Wiregrass, the company's newest mall, which opens to the public at 10 a.m. today at State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
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Having opened six malls as part of Forest City's opening-day strike team, Lenners was the calm center amid the hustle and bustle surrounding him. The mall should open with 75 percent of its stores ready, he said as crews hung awnings and laid pavers.

Lenners acknowledged managing an open-air mall in Florida - where torrential rainfall is possible half the year - could be different from his years in arid southern California.

St. Petersburg Times, Pasco mall developers ask: Downturn? What downturn?

Who woulda thunk that "the controversial $4-billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, N.Y." would get a mention in an article about the opening of a mall "regional lifestyle center" in Tampa? The irony is that Forest City took special pains to plant mature trees, while they were cutting them down in Brooklyn.

At 10 a.m. today the $156-million Shops at Wiregrass opens at the epicenter of the local homebuilding collapse and the worst retailing climate in decades.

"Economies go up and down all the time, so we build for the long term," said Jim Richardson, East Coast retail development boss for Forest City Enterprises Corp., which built Wiregrass in a joint venture with Goodman Co. of West Palm Beach. "But if we tap into the pent up demand we saw here last weekend, this project will turn out wonderfully."
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The Shops at Wiregrass was built to double as a downtown for a 5,000-acre residential community with 16,000 homes, condos and apartments. The project is laid out in a nostalgia-laden crescent like a Main Street lined with parking meters and a town square. Parking garages shorten the walk and protect against the elements. Forest City bought mature trees to make the place look like it has been there for a decade.
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Cleveland-based Forest City, which boasts a $10-billion real estate portfolio, has one of the nation's most ambitious commercial development pipelines. Wiregrass is the company's fifth similar project to open this year. It is also building the controversial $4-billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

October 29, 2008

Puzzle Pieces: Proposed Prospect Heights Historic District, LPC Public Hearing

Noticing New York

Michael D. D. White reports from the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing on Proposed Prospect Heights Historic District:

AYHistoricDistrict.jpg

The Atlantic Yards megadevelopment abutting the proposed district was mentioned countless times. It was cited repeatedly as the threat which makes creation of a historic district so important. People such as Atlantic Yards opponent City Council Member Tish James were careful to refer to the “proposed” Atlantic Yards. She lingered on the word “proposed” in a deliciously savoring way.

Marty Markowitz, he of the boundless enthusiasm (and questionable “charities”), gave tribute to the threat and negativity of Atlantic Yards in a roundabout way when his boundless enthusiasm overflowed to praise for Prospect Heights as a neighborhood full of “activists.”

Click here to read the rest of the article, including White's own testimony.

Additional coverage: The Brooklyn Paper, Heights anxiety! Locals want Prospect Heights named a historic district.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 PM

MAS to Hold CLE Course on Eminent Domain

This news about a legal ed course on eminent domain comes to us via, The Campaign for Community-Based Planning:

For the lawyers out there: on Monday, November 3 at 8:30 am, the Municipal Art Society is holding a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course, titled “Public Use After Kelo: The Continuing Debate Over 5th Amendment Takings Jurisprudence.”

This course will discuss the evolution of the public use clause of the 5th Amendment, tracing its evolution up through the Supreme Court’s now famous 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London. Panelists include Matthew Brickerhoff, who argued for the plantiffs in Goldstein vs. Pataki, the eminent domain case dealing with the Altantic Yards development.

The panel will revisit Kelo, as well as the implications of Justice Stevens’ reminder that “nothing in [the Court’s] opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power.” Panelists will discuss legislative responses to the Supreme Court’s ruling, as well as recent public use litigation in state and lower federal courts. The program will conclude with a discussion of what changes, if any, should be made to New York’s own law of eminent domain.

more details

Posted by lumi at 6:58 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Bruce Ratner has yet to issue a denial that he "has listened to overtures of two prospective foreign ownership groups," as reported yesterday in the Daily News. At this point, everyone seems to be piling on the bandwagon declaring that the Nets move to Brooklyn "isn't a done deal," even basketball authority and movie director Spike Lee.

[UPDATE: Bruce's denial showed up in the next morning's press reports.]

Here's some of the day-after blowback in the blogosphere:

Gothamist, Will the Nets Ever Move to Brooklyn?

While the (now) NJ Nets act like they are headed to Brooklyn, what with new player Yi Jianlian visiting the Chinatown YMCA--and meeting Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver--earlier this week, there has been no shortage of news suggesting the Nets won't be NYC-bound any time soon.

HipHop DX, Spike Lee Says Hip Hop Changed American Politics, Race Relations

With a body of work that includes Bamboozled, Jungle Fever and Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee has never been gun shy about voicing his opinion on race relations in America.
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When the subject turned to Lee's beloved New York Knicks, he said he still held out hope of landing LeBron James as a free agent in 2010. Since Jay-Z [click to read] has a minority stake in the team, there has been speculation that James will to join the Nets when they move to Brooklyn.

"LeBron told me himself, that his decision will not be based upon his friendship with 'Hova,'" says Lee. His hopes for James to join the Knicks come as an unnamed New Jersey Nets official, tells the Bergen Record that the current financial crunch is having adverse effects on the team's hopes of moving to Brooklyn.

"Bruce [Ratner] just won’t end up with the money to do it," the official said. "Forget it."

The Business Sheet, Russians And Middle Easterners Looking At Purchasing The Nets

A few oil tycoons from different parts of the globe have taken an interest in purchasing the New Jersey Nets, according to Yahoo! Sports. The Nets are scheduled to move from Jersey to Brooklyn at some point in the next few years.
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While this report seems to amount to little less than Ratner listening to people talk, it is conceivable that he might want to unload the project and leave behind a multi-year headache.

We'd be curious to see how Brooklynites would treat the news of a sale. Would they be pleased to lose Ratner, or angry that he dragged the team into Brooklyn, disrupted the downtown area and then cashed out?

AOL, NBA Fanhouse, Bids For the Nets? From Russia, With Ca$h

NBA, meet the EPL. The Nets wouldn't be the world's first major league team to be owned by Russian oligarchs, nor would it be the last. This isn't even new for American professional basketball: Russian tycoon Shabtai von Kalmonovic has built a league in Russia which draws the top WNBA players during the offseason.

But an NBA team moving into NYC Proper within a few years ... foreign ownership would be huge news. Russian ownership might cause the fabric of the basketball universe to tear. Fans were worried about petro dollars luring LeBron to Europe. Is the reverse (LeBron drawing petro dollars to America) worse?

Posted by lumi at 6:35 PM

Nets official to Record: Brooklyn move won't happen

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Atlantic Yards imploding like the stock market, with widespread panic taking hold? Norman Oder covers the Bergen Record's report today that a Nets insider "is telling people that the move to Brooklyn will never, ever happen.

The leaks coming out of the basketball firmament just keep coming. Ian O'Connor, a columnist for the Bergen Record, writes that the Nets will stay in New Jersey, quoting Gov. Jon Corzine and finding a team official:
One longtime Nets’ official, a man who’s made big management decisions in the past, is telling people that the move to Brooklyn will never, ever happen. "Bruce just won’t end up with the money to do it," the official said. "Forget it."

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Here's the original story:

Bergen Record, O'Connor: Can fan’s broken heart be mended?

Governor Corzine approached Frank Capece at a Sunday breakfast for Union County Democrats and began prepping for surgery on the fan’s broken heart.

"You know, I think we’ll be able to keep the Nets," Corzine told Capece. "We’ve really got a shot to get it done."

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

New Jersey Nets' Boone likely to start against Wizards in season opener

The Star-Ledger
By David Waldstein

In response to reports that the money-hemorrhaging NJ Nets are looking for a new owner, a pr flack sez, no we're not:

Barry Baum, a spokesman for Nets owner Bruce Ratner, denied a report Tuesday in the Daily News that Ratner met with a group of investors within the past year to discuss selling the team.

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NoLandGrab: Presumably, this denial came out before Yahoo! Sports reported that Ratner held talks with investors from Dubai and Russia.

"Atlantic Yzards?"

Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

Nets have plan to fan interest, turn to service to fill seats

NY Daily News
By Michael O'Keefe

The economy is souring and NJ Nets attendance historically sucks, but Bruce Ratner has a plan:

The Nets, longtime underachievers when it comes to attendance, are using a seat-filling service to draw potential ticket buyers to the Meadowlands for their home opener against Golden State on Saturday.

The team is using Play-by-Play, a New York company that fills unsold seats for sports and entertainment events, to generate leads for season-ticket sales, spokesman Barry Baum said.

Oh, and we forgot to mention that the team has just started its rebuilding in earnest (read: the team is gonna suck this year):

"We have a new team and we're trying to introduce fans in the area to our team," Baum said.

Despite playing in population-dense Northern New Jersey, the Nets have struggled to draw fans to their arena in East Rutherford. The team was 21st out of 30 NBA teams last year with 15,656 fans per game.

If you're wondering how the Nets are going to give away tickets, here's how:

Play-by-Play is a New York company that charges an annual $99 membership fee, plus an $8 processing fee. In return, members are offered almost complimentary tickets (there is a $3.50 per ticket handling fee) for Broadway shows, dance performances, concerts and ballgames - events that look better to TV and live audiences with a full house.

article

NoLandGrab: We remember back in 2005, when the Nets laid claim to selling out the home opener, only to be called out on WFAN, where Mike Francesa noted, "there were so many empty seats it was a joke."

How much you wanna bet that Baum has already written the press release claiming that the 2008 home opener is "sold out?"

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Report: Ratner talked with Russians, Dubai group about ownership

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder tracks recent reports that Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has been shopping the team:

Sources are beginning to come out of the woodwork regarding Bruce Ratner's apparent efforts to sell the New Jersey Nets. First, the Daily News reported Ratner was trying to sell the team. An anonymous team spokesman told the Post that wasn't true.

Then Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Ratner talked to Russian oil tycoons not just about the Nets but the entire Atlantic Yards project. A Middle Eastern group also expressed interest to the NBA and Nets ownership.

OK, anyone with oil wealth might have to reconsider investments after the price of oil took a dive. But the accumulating reports must have project backers like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz a little antsy.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

Spike Lee Says Nets to Brooklyn "Not a Done Deal"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn noted that even movie director and Knicks-überfan Spike Lee thinks that the Nets will never make it to Brooklyn.

Spike Lee was on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show this morning discussing politics and the NBA. He said that he'd discussed LeBron James's decision where to go if he leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Lee said, "The man told me himself that his decision would not be based upon his friendship with Hova, Jay-Z. And also it's not a done deal that the Nets are moving to Brooklyn either."

The "Morning Joe" hosts responsed, "Yeah, yeah."

[Lee's remarks on LeBron, "Hova" and the Nets start around 1:10]

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Jets sell just 620 of 2,000 seat licenses

Crain's NY
By Hilary Potkewitz

The New York Jets’ unprecedented online auction of personal seat licenses ended Monday night at 10 p.m., with the team selling just 620 of the 2,000 available seats in the exclusive “Coaches Section” of their new stadium.

The auction brought in $16 million over the course of nine days, team owner Woody Johnson announced Tuesday, with an average price of about $26,000.
...
Jets executives say they are ecstatic about the results of the auction, the first of its kind and the largest sale ever on Stubhub.com. “We knew this would be a pioneering event right from the start,” said Mr. Johnson. “That’s who the Jets are, we take calculated risks, and this one paid off.”

But the team had to adjust its plans once the auction went live because bidding activity plummeted by mid-week. Mr. Johnson attributed the drop to people being at work and not able to commit to the constant monitoring of an online auction. Initially, the team released 40 to 50 seats at a time, but by Wednesday they had reduced the lots to 20 seats.

Management decided not to extend the auction past the advertised end-date, however.

article

NoLandGrab: Pro sports teams and leagues across the nation have been keeping their eye on the Jets sale of personal seat licenses, which help teams offset the cost of building new stadiums, arenas and ballparks. From our nose-bleed seats at NoLandGrab it's hard to say what last week's sale portends for team owners like Bruce Ratner.

Last year, Norman Oder reported that "Forest City Ratner expects $20 million in revenue from 4500 'Personal Seat Licenses' (PSLs) sold at $4500 each."

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

At LPC hearing on Prospect Heights Historic District, mention of the Ward Bakery and AY briefly unsettles the mood

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday’s public hearing held by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on the designation of part of Prospect Heights as a historic district, involving some 870 properties, was hardly contentious. Various interested parties, residents, neighborhood groups, and preservationists saluted the LPC for its decision to move forward in designating part of Prospect Heights as a historic district.

One question was what exactly people might say about the planned Atlantic Yards project, the blocks of which were not considered as part of the district.

When neighborhood activist Patti Hagan described paying last respects to the Ward Bakery building, the mood became a bit somber.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

AMONG HEARTLAND HOMAGES, POLS ADDRESS URBAN ISSUES

One party has stated opposition to the US Supreme Court Kelo decision, which upheld the use of eminent domain for economic development.

In New York and other cities, the use of eminent domain to clear land for economic development is always controversial, be it at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn or on the area in West Harlem where Columbia University wants to create a new campus. In their platform, Republicans weigh in on the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. City of New London, which permits governments to take land for private uses. "That 5-to-4 decision highlights what is at stake in the election of the next president, who may make new appointments to the Court," the platform reads. "We call on state legislatures to moot the Kelo decision by appropriate legislation, and we pledge on the federal level to pass legislation to protect against unjust federal takings."

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NoLandGrab: Too bad VP candidate Sarah Palin couldn't remember this plank in her interview with Katie Couric; it would have scored her big points, despite her own record of abuse during her tenure as Mayor of Wasilla.

Even though eminent domain abuse is one of the few issues that crosses party lines, the silence of the Democratic party and the lip-service paid by the GOP indicates who really calls the shots in Washington.

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Forest City in the News

Tampa Bay Oline, Optimistic, New Mall To Open

The Shops at Wiregrass couldn't have found itself with a gloomier time for a grand debut.

The new mall is opening with a likely global recession in the works and many people finding that their retirement accounts are down 30 percent or more this month.
...
The owners of the Shops at Wire- grass mall, its 72 retailers and hundreds of newly-hired store employees are betting that shoppers in this part of the Tampa Bay area are so hungry for a new mall that even a beaten-down economy won't keep them - and their money - away.
...
Like most new malls, Shops at Wiregrass is an open-air "lifestyle center," instead of an indoor mall. It aims to re-create a downtown shopping district. Mall owners Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland and the Goodman Co. of West Palm Beach arranged the 90 small mall stores in 12 separate buildings and laid them out in a semicircular pattern.

CNewsPubs.com, Q&A: We have answers to your Shops at Wiregrass questions

Q. Why is The Shops at Wiregrass not enclosed like some other area malls?

A. The configuration of The Shops at Wiregrass — it is an open-air, regional lifestyle center — lends itself perfectly to shopping as well as community activities, Lenners said. The Shops at Wiregrass will offer people the sheer experience of spending time in a park- like environment while shopping in a setting resembling a downtown-shopping district. ...
Q. How much did it cost to build The Shops at Wiregrass?

A. It cost $156 million. The Shops at Wiregrass is a joint effort of Forest City Enterprises Inc. and The Goodman Company.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

October 28, 2008

Sources: Foreign owners eye Nets

Yahoo! Sports
by Adrian Wojnarowski

Could Atlantic Yards become "Caspian Yards" or "Persian Gulf Yards?" One thing we do know — those repeated denials of Nets' sale talks are starting to ring hollow.

With tens of millions of dollars in annual operating losses and a $3.5 billion Brooklyn arena and real estate deal in peril, New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner has listened to overtures of two prospective foreign ownership groups, two league executives with knowledge of the talks told Yahoo! Sports.

The most serious advance, sources say, were made in recent months by Russian oligarchs, tycoons invested in the country’s oil industry. The Russians’ working plan would’ve been for full ownership of the Nets and control of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, one source said.

Also, a Middle Eastern group, based in Dubai, expressed interest to the NBA and Nets ownership.
...

So far, Ratner has resisted selling the franchise as he tries to revive the floundering arena project in Brooklyn. Most league officials have grown increasingly pessimistic that the economic climate will allow Ratner to obtain the hundreds of millions of dollars left to finance the construction. [NBA commissioner David] Stern declared optimism about the Nets getting the arena financed and moving to Brooklyn, but many others believe the situation is dire and ultimately unlikely to happen.

article

Posted by eric at 11:32 PM

Nets Won’t Gauge Success by Wins

The New York Times
by Jonathan Abrams

This news comes as little surprise, since during the Bruce Ratner Years, the Nets have seemed to put more emphasis on things like inking an "off-season presenting sponsor" than they have on making the post-season.

[Nets' President Rod] Thorn also said he thought teams would have to win at least half of their games to make the playoffs, as opposed to last season, when the 76ers and the Hawks, two sub-.500 teams, crept in.

When asked if he thought the renovating Nets could win that many games, Thorn said the Nets’ measurement of success this season might not necessarily be by win total.

article

NoLandGrab: Keeping the team's losses under, say, $30 million, might be viewed as a "win," too.

REACT-O-MATIC: SlamOnline.com, The Nets Have a Discouraging, Truthful Message for Their Fans

It’s not often that a pro franchise’s front office is brutally honest with its customers.
...
Don’t tell any of this to the New Jersey Nets, however, because for them, honesty is apparently the best policy. When asked what to expect of his squad this season, team president Rod Thorn had a sobering message for the fans.

NoLandGrab: This would be one of the first times Bruce Ratner's Nets have been accused of being honest.

Posted by eric at 11:09 PM

Prelude to the Opener

NYPost.com Nets Blog
by Fred Kerber

The Post's pre-season wrap includes a rebuttal to today's Daily News claim that Bruce Ratner had explored a sale of the Nets earlier this year:

A spokesman for owner Bruce Ratner denied a report that said he checked into options to sell the team.

"The story isn't true. I don't know what else to say. It's not true," the spokesman said.

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Posted by eric at 9:38 PM

Mike Francesa on Atlantic Yards

Curbed

Consumer confidence hit an all-time low this month — paralleled by WFAN sports-talk jock Mike Francesa's confidence in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

A few minutes ago, when a caller asked about a potential Nets move to Newark: "I think he will sell as soon as the Brooklyn thing dies, and it looks like it's dying. I think Bruce Ratner will sell. I don't think he has any interest in the team, other than bringing it in as the centerpiece to the new project in Brooklyn. Which, if you read and look at the opposition, and realize the climate economically and everything else, looks like it might be dead."

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Posted by eric at 9:25 PM

Power Rankings: Celtics begin on top, back and ready for more

ESPN.com
by Marc Stein

Could ESPN's final NBA pre-season power rankings hold doubly bad news for the Nets? First they rate the Nets 27th in a 30-team league, and then this:

As if a full-on rebuilding project isn't tough enough for Nets die-hards to digest, now we're being told that arena construction in Brooklyn is on hold indefinitely. Do we even bother mentioning LeBron without Brooklyn?

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NoLandGrab: If a spokesperson for owner Bruce Ratner is denying his boss has ever held meetings about selling the Nets, then we expect a denial about arena construction being "on hold indefinitely" shortly. For the record, this is the first we've heard of it.

Posted by eric at 8:32 PM

Is "adoption" really "approval"? Looking more closely at ESDC board action in July 2006

Atlantic Yards Report

"Adopted?" "Approved?" "Accepted?" "Supercalafragilisticexpealedocious?" In ESDC World, the line between the real and the made-up seems a little fuzzy.

Norman Oder tries to ferret out the facts.

In the Atlantic Yards chronology, the meaning of one action by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is a key to whether tax-exempt bonds for the project would be grandfathered in under new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.

Last week, I (like others) concluded that the ESDC's vote to adopt of the Atlantic Yards General Project Plan (GPP) at its 7/18/06 meeting likely constituted what the Treasury Department requires as "official action evidencing its preliminary approval of the project before October 19, 2006."

The issue may be more ambiguous. "Adoption" might also be seen merely as an agreement to release a "proposed" plan for public comment. On the other hand, "adoption" of a plan that receives no comment means it will go into effect, which does indicate approval.

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Posted by eric at 8:16 PM

Jobs, housing, and (not) hoops: the city's justification for arena bonds

Atlantic Yards Report

Before a Congressional subcommittee hearing Friday regarding tax-exempt bonds for Yankee Stadium (and other projects), the New York City Economic Development Corporation, whose affiliate New York City Industrial Development Authority issues such bonds, produced a document called Yankee Stadium, Fact v. Fiction (PDF).

While the document only glancingly mentioned Atlantic Yards, the framework was quite curious. The tax-exempt bonds at issue would be used only to build the AY arena, not any other components of the project.

But what's the justification for the arena? Affordable housing and job creation. Most of the latter would be related to office, retail, and building services, not the arena. And affordable housing could be built without the arena.

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Posted by eric at 7:40 PM

If Ratner was trying to sell the Nets, what might that mean?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder speculates as to what the news of Bruce Ratner's alleged willingness to part with some or all of the Nets might portend.

If New Jersey Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner, along with Forest City Enterprises, was trying to sell the team within the past year (but not walk away from plans to build the Atlantic Yards arena) as the Daily News reports today, what might that mean?

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Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Morning Scoop: Coming Clean?

HoopsWorld

Selling The Nets?: Reports from New Jersey are suggesting that Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner met with potential investors about selling the team earlier this year. The Nets have been losing massive amounts of money for some time and it's one of the core reasons Ratner was able to purchase the Nets back in 2004 for the paltry $300 million he and his partners paid for the team. The unnamed source for the New York Daily News was one of the possible investors, who said Ratner's motivations were to get "equity" in the situation and cash out some of his losses. In 2004 Forbes valued the Nets at $296 million; the 2007 value of the Nets is projected at just over $338 million.
...

The Nets new arena was originally scheduled to open in 2010, it is now looking more like 2011 and possibly 2012 before the building would be complete.

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NoLandGrab: Let us not forget that the Nets new Brooklyn home was originally originally supposed to open in 2006.

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Bruce Ratner explored Nets sale

NY Daily News
by Frank Isola and Mitch Lawrence

Here's a new twist on the "Nets for Sale" story — Bruce Ratner would sell a controlling interest in the team, but they would remain the centerpiece of his Atlantic Yards dream.

New Jersey Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner met with a group of investors within the past year about possibly selling control of the basketball operations, the Daily News has learned.

One of the investors, who did not want to be identified, said that Ratner met with investors because the Nets were "hemorrhaging dollars." The deal would not have included the Atlantic Yards project, a $3.5 billion sports arena, residential and business complex in downtown Brooklyn.

The project has been delayed by lawsuits and a weak economy, although Ratner remains committed to building the Nets a new arena.

"He was looking for equity," the investor said of the deal that is no longer on the table. "But now is not the time to sell a sports team, as the Cubs found out. Now, people are holding onto their cash."
...

In the Nets' case, due to the economy, banks are not lending money for the kind of project Ratner has planned.

The Nets have been losing from $20 million to $25 million annually for several seasons, according to a league source, who projects similar losses this season.

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REACT-O-MATIC: AOL, NBA FANHOUSE, NBA Essentials: Holy Opening Day, Batman!

Bruce Ratner might be selling a controlling share of the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets. Can anyone loan me $600 million or so?

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

October 27, 2008

Yassky's doubletalk on the term limits issue

Atlantic Yards Report

City Council Member David Yassky, known for his waffling on Atlantic Yards, today circulated a letter (full text below) explaining his equivocation on term limits.

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Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

...and your little dog too!

yourlittledogtoo.jpg Seen at yesterday's Fort Green Pups Costume Contest, an eminent-domain-lovin' overdeveloper and his political lap dog.

Full photo.

Posted by lumi at 8:00 AM

My Arena Bonds $1 billion's-Worth

Gumby Fresh

It's one thing for the IRS to give the nod to Bruce Ratner to seek triple tax-exempt bond financing for a new arena, but where is an overdeveloper supposed get these bonds and what are his prospects in a marketplace where investors are sitting on their hands?

Here are excerpts from Gumby's menu options for Bruce:

Let's look at the appetite for the arena's debt.... Here the omens are still fairly horrible. Broadly speaking, Ratner and his dudes at Goldman Sachs have four financing options:

1) Borrow the money directly from a bank. Tricky. We're mostly talking about foreign banks that would be lending him money, the same ones that are still on their knees and trying not to keel over, and such an option would not involve the use of a tax exemption, which Ratner's pretty much got in the bag now.
...
2) Go to a bond insurer to insure a tax-exempt bond issue. Things have been a wee bit quieter here.
...
3) Get a bank to insure the bonds. The Beekman Tower option. See above. You would get the tax exemption in this instance, but the capacity of the banks to support such a foolhardy venture as moving a second-tier franchise to a horrendously expensive arena in a crowded market in the middle of a downturn would be limited.

4) Issue the bonds without any kind of enhancement. Or, could Goldman Sachs threaten enough of their municipal bond salesmen with firing to get the bonds to clear? Again, tricky. The universe of buyers for highly illiquid, low-investment grade infrastructure bonds is small and incestuous.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

As Prospect Heights Historic District gets hearing Tuesday, some politic omissions

Atlantic Yards Report

From 1:30 to 3:30 pm Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will hold a public hearing on the proposed (PDF) Prospect Heights Historic District, parts of which would border the Atlantic Yards footprint. (Previous coverage.)

The hearing is important both because of its the goal, long sought by Prospect Heights residents, and because it reminds us how landmarking is a political process, especially when historic preservation intersects with the Atlantic Yards project.

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Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Caveats regarding the real estate media (#9 In Brownstoner's list) and the "Men of Myrtle"

Atlantic Yards Report

Leaving no stone unturned, Norman Oder scrutinizes Brownstoner's Top-50 list and highlights one journalist and several stories that the local media, and even Brownstoner, are overlooking.

While in the list as a whole Brownstoner understandably tried to avoid personages of city-wide influence, the single most influential journalist covering real estate is Charles Bagli, real estate and development reporter for the New York Times. Only Bagli, it seems, can get Bruce Ratner (#1 on Brownstoner's list) to sit down mano a mano, driving the citywide (and even national) discourse with articles about the Atlantic Yards stall and, less credibly, the phantom scaleback.

If and when Bagli turns his attention to the New Domino project in Williamsburg, for example, maybe the city will recognize the project is much less about historic preservation than, as with Atlantic Yards, a request to build bigger than currently allowed. (In this case, it's a city rezoning, rather than, as with AY, a state override of zoning.)

article

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Longshots

NY Daily News
By Mitch Lawrence

NYDNML081026.jpg

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

In basketball saga, is Brooklyn more like Oklahoma City or Seattle?

Atlantic Yards Report

Could it be that it is only smaller cities that need major league sports to feel "major league"?

Bruce Schoenfeld's New York Times Magazine article yesterday, headlined Where the Thunder Comes Dribbling Down the Plain, describes the transformation of NBA's Seattle SuperSonics into the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the latter city's embrace and support of the team.

The lessons for Brooklyn, I think, are mixed. Unlike some other medium and large cities, where existing major league teams suck up attention and media coverage, Brooklyn's in a big enough market to support a team, should the Nets ultimately move here.

However, the Atlantic Yards saga suggests that New York behaved more like Oklahoma City than Seattle, offering political support, lobbying, and public funds to attract the team and built the arena, while in Seattle voters approved a measure, proposed by a group called Citizens for More Important Things, that ensured that any public money toward a new arena would have to generate legitimate financial returns.

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Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

October 26, 2008

New York's Center for Architecture Marks 5th Anniversary with Architecture Week Events

Artdaily.org

This week Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin is a luminary and honoree:

NEW YORK, NY.- This month, New York City's Center for Architecture celebrates its 5th anniversary, coinciding with its participation in the citywide celebration Architecture Week. Through October 31, the Center will host parties, screenings, and talks by such luminaries as architects Nina and Daniel Libeskind from Studio Daniel Libeskind, Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin, HPD Deputy Commissioner Holly Leicht, and Henry Myerberg, moderating a discussion of the Robin Hood Foundation's library initiative.

The receptions and lectures culminate in the 2008 Heritage Ball, the prestigious annual gala, taking place on October 30 at Chelsea Piers. Honorees include the Robin Hood Foundation, MaryAnne Gilmartin, HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIA, and Studio Daniel Libeskind.

more info

Posted by lumi at 1:53 PM

Ratner Parent Company Stock Slides on Concerns over Brooklyn

NetsDaily

Forest City Enterprises, the Nets’ single largest stockholder at 23%, saw its own stock crumble this week, with one rating agency dropping its credit rating even after the IRS agreed to permit tax-free financing for the Nets new arena. Standard & Poor’s, noting FCE has already sunk $250 million into Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards–and the Nets, said it was “particularly concerned” about the project’s viability.

As usual, there's a raging debate over the significance of this news in the comments section (link).

Posted by lumi at 1:03 PM

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Double-Espresso

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder gives us two quickie items to get us going on a Sunday morning.

Lupica: Commissioner Stern is watching

A short line in Mike Lupica's column in the Daily News elicits this musing from Norman Oder:

From Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica today:
Commissioner Stern must be pretty proud of the way things are working out for the Nets, geography-wise, and attendance-wise, the whole ball of wax.

And team-less Seattle, as noted on NetsDaily, may see Key Arena get renovated.

The IRS decision this week on tax-exempt bonds was very good news, from the perspective of Atlantic Yards backers. The deadline for Barclays Capital to renew and possibly renegotiate the naming-rights deal for the Barclays Center is less good news.

And the tanking stock price, and lowering of Forest City Enterprises' credit rating makes it more difficult, though not impossible, for the developer to wait patiently on Atlantic Yards.

Does anyone think that, even if the Brooklyn arena gets built, the Nets will spend four full seasons at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands?

Vox populi on term limits vote missing from the print Times

When it comes to this week's City Council vote to extend term limits, the Times continues to show preference for back-room deals like the ones done for the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

While the New York Times published six letters on Thursday, the day of the City Council's vote to overturn and extend voter-imposed term limits, it had not published a letter since. That's a serious lapse, after all, there were 710 comments on the Times's CityRoom blog responding to the Council's vote and 105 comments after Bloomberg defended the move on the radio.

Even if the Times eventually publishes some letters, it has partly squelched the instant voices of dissent.

Posted by steve at 10:37 AM

More Discredit of Bloomberg as Qualified Financial Crisis Leader

Noticing New York

This blog entry examines the myth that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the only person on the planet capable of leading New York City through the coming financial hard times. It's clear that he didn't make any preparations for lean years during the good times.

A discussion of how Bloomberg's policies failed to preserve and reuse valuable industrial properties includes a mention of the Ward Bakery. This beautiful, historic building is being demolished to make way for the third phase of the proposed Atlantic Yards project. With the entire project in doubt, it's likely that this demolition will result in nothing except empty lots.

We don’t want to sidetrack into the question of whether so much land associated with the industrial sector of the city’s economy should have been decommissioned. Certainly it was important to make a shift but it is important to do these things intelligently and not reflexively. The elimination of a sorely needed graving dock (dry dock) in Red Hook to create an IKEA parking lot was a mistake. It eliminated high-paying jobs while replacing them with a similar number of much lower-paying jobs. If it was essential to have IKEA (with its parking lot), we could have had both IKEA and the graving dock. The city is now looking at spending a billion dollars to replace the sacrificed dry dock. (See: Brownstowner’s June 23, 2008, IKEA Dock Destruction: 'Billion-Dollar Boondoggle'? And the New York Post’s IKEA Berth Pangs, City Dock Deal a $1b Blunder, by Rich Calder, June 23, 2008) This reflexively silly sacrificing of assets is, of course, a concern, but it is not our foremost concern in terms of the approaching budgetary perfect storm.

We could also mention, as we have before, the wonton failure to preserve for adaptive reuse historic worthwhile former industrial buildings like the Ward Bakery Building. (Sunday, October 19, 2008, Building the Right Landmarks Case; Wrong Building)

link

Posted by steve at 10:20 AM

Facelift: Nets Step Back to Step Ahead

Newsday
by Ken Berger

This article looks at the struggles involved in rebuilding the New Jersey Nets. Included are growing doubts as to when the New Jersey Nets would be able to move to an arena in the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

Groundbreaking on the Brooklyn arena was delayed again last month when an appellate court declined to dismiss an appeal challenging New York State's intended use of eminent domain to seize land tied to the $4-billion Atlantic Yards project. Adding to the trouble, a clause in Barclays' $20-million-a-year naming rights deal allows the global investment firm to pull out if ground isn't broken by November.

Barclays has stated publicly that it remains behind the pro- ject, but the international credit crisis has cast doubt on every aspect of it. All of this directly affects what the Nets are do- ing on the court. James already has hinted at the attractiveness of joining his good friend Jay-Z, the rap mogul and Nets part-owner, in Brooklyn, which he described as his favorite borough during a summer event in the city with Team USA. There was no mention of Newark being his favorite outpost this side of Akron.

article

Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

Architecture can focus on L.A.'s shared spaces

Los Angeles Times
by Christopher Hawthorne

The Architecture Critic for the Los Angeles Times looks at how the current economic situation spells the end of the mega project and the beginning of another direction for architecture. Atlantic Yards is included in the list of endangered projects.

For the last several years, conventional wisdom has been gathering behind the idea that the world's most innovative architectural projects would also, increasingly, be among the very biggest. Norman Foster in Moscow. Rem Koolhaas in Beijing. Frank Gehry on Grand Avenue and at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

But a one-two punch from the faltering economy and the credit crisis is threatening to bring XL architecture to its knees, perhaps putting an end to the age of the mega-project before it ever really got going. Gehry will be lucky if his huge projects are built in piecemeal, slimmed-down form. China seems unlikely in the near term to produce a new crop of buildings to rival its 2008 Olympics class. Last week, Bloomberg News reported that Dubai was scrambling to line up fresh loans to keep its building spree from collapsing. If the leading member of the United Arab Emirates is feeling cash-strapped, it's hard to see the picture looking rosy any time soon.

article

Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

October 25, 2008

B'stoner: Ratner> Goldstein > Marty >Tish?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder slipped this one by us yesterday.

Brownstoner's list of the 50 most powerful people in Brooklyn real estate places Bruce Ratner at #1, not unexpectedly nor undeservedly, but somehow puts Daniel Goldstein, the most committed activist against the Atlantic Yards project, at #10, while Borough President Marty Markowitz comes in at #11, City Council Member Letitia James is #23, Brooklyn Democratic kingpin Vito Lopez is #31, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's Joe Chan is #32, and ACORN's Bertha Lewis is #38.

C'mon--is Goldstein more powerful than the BP, et al.? "The hardest part is the order," says Mr. Brownstoner himself. "It's kind of a silly exercise to actually rank these folks."

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NoLandGrab: A project promising "Jobs, Housing & Hoops." Brooklyn's most politically connected real estate developer. The backing of three Governors, the Mayor, the Borough President and many other elected officials. The world's most famous architect. "The most sophisticated political campaign the city has seen in a very long time, better than any professional politician has mounted to win elective office."

One could argue that Daniel Goldstein, as the embodiment of the determined grassroots opposition to Atlantic Yards, having kept the project at bay for almost five years, is underrated at #10.

Posted by steve at 10:00 AM

Testy Kucinich presses city officials on “gaming” Yankee Stadium assessment; big disagreement over “smoking gun”

Atlantic Yards Report

A Congressional subcommittee hearing, “Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York", was held yesterday by Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The hearing was mostly concerned with how Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) are being used to to enable federal funds to finance the new Yankee Stadium. A similar financing scheme is being used to pay for the proposed Nets arena.

During a charged but inconclusive Congressional subcommittee hearing yesterday, a sometimes testy Rep. Dennis Kucinich pressed officials from the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) and New York City Industrial Development Authority (IDA) on how and why an assessment for the land under Yankee Stadium leaped sixfold in a day.

...

During a charged but inconclusive Congressional subcommittee hearing yesterday, a sometimes testy Rep. Dennis Kucinich pressed officials from the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) and New York City Industrial Development Authority (IDA) on how and why an assessment for the land under Yankee Stadium leaped sixfold in a day.

The hearing aimed to examine whether city officials improperly reported to the Internal Revenue Service and prospective bond purchasers inflated values for land and buildings in order to secure more tax-exempt bonds for the construction of a new Yankee stadium. City officials said no, that in part the value was related to the cost of the expensive new building--but they couldn’t fully defend using comparable assessments from as far away as Alphabet City in Manhattan.

Atlantic Yards was hardly mentioned, but IDA head Seth Pinsky emphasized that city and state officials considered the new regulations more important to get the arena built than to get additional bonds for the two baseball stadiums, which are already under construction.

link

Posted by steve at 9:28 AM

Dog-Mat- -Icky?

Noticing New York

This item is an examination as to why Mayor Bloomberg continues to dogmatically support Atlantic Yards even when economic problems make the development look increasingly unattractive.

The facts have been changing a lot with respect to Atlantic Yards. But our “dogmatic” Mayor hasn’t wanted to change his mind and leave the mistake behind.

Our economy changed; not the Mayor’s mind. . . . The megadevelopment’s schedule changed by decades: The Mayor seems to like parking lots which might conceivably be there until he is six feet under. . . . . The project’s cost is up (Beyond what the New York State PACB approved.); by more than 50%. . .. . We’ve gone from a hypocritical Governor Spitzer to Governor Paterson, who has a history of opposing eminent domain abuse. . . . .The flimsy theory of the arena’s tax-exemption was blown.- But the Mayor is willing to embarrassingly have the city unconscionably lobby the IRS to grandfather loopholes and fake real estate tax appraisal figures to try to salvage it. .. Remember: There is no legal or binding obligation for the city or the Mayor to go through relentless gyrations to prop up the project against the public’s interest.

What does it take to change the Mayor’s mind about an acknowledged mistake? Is there no line that the Mayor would not cross in pursuing such a mistake?

link

Posted by steve at 9:14 AM

LPC Plans Hearing on Proposed Prospect Heights Historic District

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

The process for establishing the Prospect Heights Historic District continues.

A public hearing on the proposed Prospect Heights Historic District will be held Tuesday, Oct. 28, before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in Manhattan.

...

The MAS, PHNDC and the hundreds of residents who wrote letters to the commission believe that the neighborhood’s rich historic architecture — with blocks of beautiful Italianate and neo-Grec rowhouses, interspersed with churches, small commercial and apartment buildings — was threatened by the Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.

...

The public hearing is set to take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the conference room, 9th floor, at 1 Centre St. in Manhattan.

link

Posted by steve at 8:53 AM

Forest City Downgraded; Analysts "Particularly Concerned" About Atlantic Yards

The New York Observer
by Eliot Brown

Another item noting Standard & Poor's downgrade of Forest City Enterprises' credit rating.

Standard & Poor's yesterday downgraded the credit rating of mega-developer Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of Forest City Ratner, the developer of the planned Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The downgrade came as the credit markets have made the financing of new development near impossible, and Forest City, based in Cleveland and with projects in numerous regions, is no exception.

link

Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

Gringcorp Comments on Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Grincorp, also know as Gumby Fresh, responded to a post on Atlantic Yards Report concerning Standard & Poor's downgrade of Forest City Enterprises' credit rating:

The rating action was dated October 23rd, so the exemption may have been factored in. To be honest, though, while losing the tax exemption might have depressed FCE's return on the arena deal, the agencies are probably more concerned about the deal happening at all, right now, which suggests a little nervousness at the amount of spending that has gone into AY already.

link

Posted by steve at 8:27 AM

October 24, 2008

I am so proud of Marty

CONEYROCKS

MarkowitzTopless.jpg When we first read this post, we thought the author was being ironic — then we started perusing the archives.

His dreams were to bring the Nets to Brooklyn and to have his summer concerts in a new Amphitheater in a developed Coney Island. And now that term limits are extended he will be in office to make his dreams a reality! This is just great news for Brooklyn development!

link

NoLandGrab: Suffice it to say, pride is not the first thing that springs to mind in the wake of yesterday's shameful City Council term limits vote.

Posted by eric at 10:50 PM

THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 18-24: Down They Go

Playbill.com
by Robert Simonson

Frank Gehry gets bad notices from Playbill.

And here's the kicker: the Signature space will be designed by Frank Gehry. Gehry's sort of like the kiss of death in New York; whenever anybody announces he's going to build something in the city, it doesn't happen. (e.g. the Miss Brooklyn tower in Atlantic Yards; the downtown Guggenheim). Perhaps Manhattan will now finally get a Gehry creation that isn't a cafeteria that only Conde Nast employees can get into.

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NoLandGrab: "In Atlantic Yards?" We might've accepted "at," but the fact is, "Atlantic Yards" is still no more real than a theater backdrop.

Posted by eric at 10:34 PM

Number 1: Bruce Ratner

Brownstoner

No matter how one may feel about him or his Atlantic Yards project, there's little doubt that Bruce Ratner is deserving of the #1 spot on the "Most Influential" list.

BruceRatnerNo1.jpg

Anyone capable of sequestering $2 billion in public subsidies and 22 acres of private and public land (most through voluntary purchase and MTA approval, but some through still-pending eminent domain) for a single project, Atlantic Yards, has influence and then some. But even Bruce Ratner, president of Forest City Ratner, may not be mightier than a crash in the financial market, though he recently managed to fit through a loophole in the IRS’s tougher arena financing regulations. If built, Atlantic Yard's basketball arena and high-rises will change life in Brooklyn forever. If not, it could be "Atlantic Lots," blighting Brooklyn for a decades. Ratner is also responsible for three other local game-changers: Metro Tech, Atlantic Center and Terminal, and Lowe's (the first big box store in Gowanus), but his bid to build the tallest tower in Brooklyn, City Tech, fell through. At least his rental tower at 80 Dekalb looks to be on track.

link

NoLandGrab: This is not Bruce Ratner's first #1 hit.

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Number 9: The Media

Brownstoner

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? No matter, with hundreds of reporters and bloggers in Brooklyn even the mere crack of a twig can turn into a fever pitch, and as a blog, we see media as a collective force since its work product is consolidated on our pages (yes, we know this is shameless cheating). Battles over projects like the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment, Atlantic Yards and Coney Island are played out in the media daily, swaying public opinion, galvanizing activists, and selling the borough to buyers and investors.
...

A few of the many local notables: New York Post reporter Rich Calder and Daily News reporter Jotham Sederstrom break Brooklyn stories in the tabloid wars, and Brooklyn Daily Eagle columnist Dennis Holt and Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman disagree about almost everything in the local rags. Our publisher Jonathan Butler started Brooklyn’s most-read blog (our commenters, the New York magazine noted, encapsulate the “Brooklyn Wars”), and a city-wide hit with the Brooklyn Flea, bringing an average of 5,000 people into Clinton Hill every weekend. Other notable bloggers include Robert Guskind, founder of Gowanus Lounge and Brooklyn editor of city-wide Curbed, and Norman Oder, who has broken multiple stories on his Atlantic Yards Report. And speaking of Atlantic Yards, No Land Grab is the site that has tirelessly compiled every iota of media since the fight began.

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NoLandGrab: We're not tooting our own horn, we're tirelessly compiling another iota of media. Our shout-out goes to those folks above who are writing our material.

Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Number 10: Daniel Goldstein

Brownstoner

Brownstoner today is counting down the top 10 on its list of the 50 people most influential in shaping Brooklyn's neighborhoods, and #10 is smack in the middle of the Atlantic Yards fight.

DanielGoldsteinTop10.jpg

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner didn't know who he was messing with when he set out to seize the home of Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a highly sophisticated coalition of 26 community organizations leading the fight against that project. Although the group has only had one court victory to-date, which was overturned, their protests and series of lawsuits and appeals have managed to stall the project into credit crunch territory, possibly jeopardizing its financing. The court's recent decision to deny the state's motion to dismiss the eminent domain case, led by Goldstein, has pushed construction (if started) back to at least Spring 2009, and the court's decision will likely be used in other eminent domain cases involving private developers across the country. Goldstein will be the most memorable Brooklyn community activist of this decade, fearlessly (at all hours of the day) speaking for thousands.

link

NoLandGrab: We said this morning that Borough President Marty Markowitz must be peeved at not making the Top 10, so consider this salt in the wound.

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

As Forest City's stock price drops another 40%, rating agency expresses concern, including about AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on Standard & Poor's downgrade of Forest City debt.

Less than two weeks ago, Forest City Enterprises (FCE), parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, saw its stock price close at $19.79, less than a dollar over the low point of its 52-week range. (Five-year chart at right from Oct. 11 post.)
...

Now the stock has declined nearly 40%, to $11.91--note that the lowest level of the chart at right, as opposed to the one at top, is $10.

At the same time, rating company Standard & Poor's has cut Forest City's credit rating, citing "concerns about Forest City's debt load and the company's ambitious development plans in a weak economy," according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"Standard & Poor's analysts expressed concern about projects including Forest City's high-profile and controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn," the newspaper noted. The AP added, "S&P lowered Forest City's corporate credit rating and its rating on senior unsecured notes further into junk, or non-investment grade, status."

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NoLandGrab: Click here for a current Forest City Enterprises stock quote.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City reassures investors after ratings cut

Forest City Enterprises said it can manage its debt and increase its liquidity after Standard & Poor's Rating Services cut the company's credit ratings.

The real estate developer, based in Cleveland, released a statement Thursday after Standard & Poor's reduced ratings on Forest City's corporate credit and senior unsecured notes.The ratings agency lowered its ratings based on concerns about Forest City's debt load and the company's ambitious development plans in a weak economy.

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Forest City's debt rating cut

ForestCityCut.jpg

The Associated Press, via Forbes.com, Forest City: Company solid despite ratings cut

Forest City Enterprises Inc. sought to reassure investors Thursday that it can manage its debt maturities and liquidity position even after Standard & Poor's Rating Services cut the real estate developer's credit ratings.

S&P lowered Forest City's corporate credit rating and its rating on senior unsecured notes further into junk, or non-investment grade, status.

"We interpret this action in light of the macroeconomic factors impacting nearly every sector of the economy, including real estate," said Forest City President and Chief Executive Charles Ratner. "We believe Forest City and its management team are fully capable of navigating the current environment."

Ratner also said the company has access to nonrecourse financing to fund its development projects.

Shares closed earlier down $1.63, or 12 percent, at $11.91.

Full press release after the jump.

NoLandGrab: Investment analysts wouldn't characterize the NJ Nets, which is burning a mega-million-dollar hole in Forest City's balance sheet, as one of the "macroeconomic factors impacting nearly every sector of the economy."

Forest City Comments on Standard & Poor's Rating Action

CLEVELAND, OH UNITED STATES

CLEVELAND, Oct. 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) commented today on action taken by Standard & Poor's Rating Services (S&P). S&P lowered its corporate credit rating for Forest City to BB from BB+, and lowered its rating on the Company's senior unsecured notes to B+ from BB-. In response, Forest City President and Chief Executive Officer Charles A. Ratner issued the following statement:

"We interpret this action in light of the macroeconomic factors impacting nearly every sector of the economy, including real estate. These are clearly difficult times, given the condition of capital and credit markets. Nevertheless, we believe Forest City and its management team are fully capable of navigating the current environment. We have already taken a number of steps to enhance liquidity and we continue to effectively manage debt maturities for the balance of 2008 and 2009. We have also demonstrated repeatedly in recent months that we continue to have access to non-recourse financing to fund our development pipeline projects.

"Forest City has weathered many downturns and real estate cycles over 80-plus years in business and more than four decades as a public company. Our skilled, long-tenured management team has a track record of performance and demonstrated ability to consistently create value, even in challenging times. We have responded to current market and industry conditions with prudent, assertive actions that put us in a strong position for the future.

"Further, we still believe that current conditions create opportunity for Forest City, given market dislocations, and we intend to selectively and strategically take advantage of such opportunities. We are confident that over time, we will return to the growth path that has characterized Forest City for decades."

About Forest City

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. is a $10.9 billion NYSE-listed national real estate company. The Company is principally engaged in the ownership, development, management and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate and land throughout the United States.

Safe Harbor Language

Statements made in this news release that state the Company's or management's intentions, hopes, beliefs, expectations or predictions of the future are forward-looking statements. The Company's actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in such forward-looking statements due to various risks, uncertainties and other factors. Risks and factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, general real estate development and investment risks including lack of satisfactory financing, construction and lease-up delays and cost overruns, dependence on rental income from real property, reliance on major tenants, the effect of economic and market conditions on a nationwide basis as well as in our primary markets, vacancies in our properties, downturns in the housing market, competition, illiquidity of real estate investments, bankruptcy or defaults of tenants, department store consolidations, international activities, the impact of terrorist acts, risks associated with an investment in and operation of a professional sports team, conflicts of interests, our substantial debt leverage and the ability to obtain and service debt, the impact of restrictions imposed by our credit facility, the level and volatility of interest rates, the continued availability of tax-exempt government financing, effects of uninsured or underinsured losses, environmental liabilities, risks associated with developing and managing properties in partnership with others, the ability to maintain effective internal controls, compliance with governmental regulations, changes in market conditions, litigation risks, and other risk factors as disclosed from time to time in the Company's SEC filings, including but not limited to, the Company's annual and quarterly reports.

SOURCE Forest City Enterprises, Inc.

Related links:
http://www.forestcity.net
Photo Notes:http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080515/FRSTCTYLOGO
AP Archive: http://photoarchive.ap.org
PRN Photo Desk, photodesk@prnewswire.com
CONTACT:
Robert O'Brien, Executive Vice President,
Chief Financial Officer; Thomas Kmiecik, Assistant Treasurer; or
Jeff Linton, Vice President, Corporate Communication, all of
Forest City Enterprises, Inc., +1-216-621-6060

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Distrust but verify

The Brooklyn Paper

Bruce Ratner's scheme to use Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) to finance his controversial arena is one of the reasons why a skeptical press is of vital importance to a democracy:

Two years ago, we started asking questions about a city financing scheme that allows developers like Bruce Ratner to avoid property taxes — which rise as land value increases — and instead make “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” that are typically much lower than real property taxes. The Internal Revenue Service looked into it and, lo and behold, ruled that such PILOTs do, indeed, scam taxpayers. The Treasury Department this week threw out the use of PILOTs — but exempted Ratner’s Atlantic Yards because it had preliminary government approval in July, 2006.

Preliminary approval? If that’s the case, why did thousands of people line up on three hot summer nights in August of that year to testify against the project? The answer is clear: those public hearings were a sham.

And lest we forget, when the basketball arena at the heart of Atlantic Yards was unveiled in 2003, Ratner promised that it would cost $400 million and be financed privately, a flat-out lie that was enabled by our elected officials, but challenged by this newspaper. Lo and behold, the cost of the arena is now $950 million — and it will be built entirely by public money. Your money.

More reasons to for healthy skepticism here.

Posted by lumi at 6:25 AM

Some fixes coming to Flatbush/Fourth intersection, but no "silver bullets"

Atlantic Yards Report

On Tuesday night, the Transportation Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2 heard the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) detail some fixes for the congested intersection of Flatbush and Fourth avenues. However, DOT is not yet ready to take some additional steps to deal with this complicated transit hub.

It may have been prudence, not ignorance, that DOT representatives wouldn't discuss plans for Atlantic Yards--as of now, no one knows when and what would be built--but it still was odd they didn't address changes already aired (though not to be implemented?) in the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

Check out the rest of the article for details about improvements in pedestrian crossings and mitigations proposed in the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement.

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

"It's just not right": City Council term limits override recalls AY hearing plaint

Atlantic Yards Report

Who would've guessed that Mayor Mike Bloomberg's successful effort to have the City Council overturn and extend voter-imposed term limits (for themselves, Borough Presidents, and citywide office holders) would make the Atlantic Yards approval process look like an exercise in direct democracy?

The Atlantic Yards project was announced in December 2003; in September 2005, the Empire State Development Corporation began the process of the environmental review, which took 15 months.

Bloomberg's power move took all of three weeks. Of course, as with Atlantic Yards, he had supporters lined up.

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Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: From Land Grabs to THE Power Grab

Needless to say, it is not a suprise to us that this Mayor who unilaterally took the decision-making power over Atlantic Yards away from the City Council, fostering Bruce Ratner's land grab, took the next step and grabbed the power, today, with strong arm tactics. What is a bit surprising is that the body whose power was usurped by the Mayor for Atlantic Yards allowed him to do it again.

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

Brooklyn's Top 50 Most Influential No. 11 - 20

Brownstoner

MartyMarkowitz-NR.jpg Grabbing the #11 spot on the Bstoner most-influential list is Atlantic Yards Cheerleader in Chief Marty Markowitz. The thin-skinned Borough President is probably still pouting about not making the top ten, though yesterday's City Council vote to extend term limits may have bucked him up a bit:

11. The Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise mega-project has two daddies: Developer Bruce Ratner and Borough President Marty Markowitz. The exact circumstances surrounding the project's conception are murky, and for a while the comedic Beep seemed to favor an NBA arena in Coney Island, but most reports agree that Markowitz did press Ratner to carry out his dream of bringing professional sports to Brooklyn. Besides Atlantic Yards, endlessly espousing every virtue of our fair borough, and throwing his weight behind most major development projects (one exception is Thor Equities' competing vision for Coney Island), Markowitz has been influential in promoting tourism here, and likes to take credit for landing Brooklyn in Lonely Planet's list of must-see world destinations. He is also responsible for all those catchy signs with Brooklyn slogans at every bridge leading into the borough.

Click here for the rest of yesterday's list.

Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

October 23, 2008

Anti-Bloomberg Citizens Prepare for the Worst

The NY Observer

Today's Greek chorus was was wearing a DDDB t-shirt:

Downstairs, bond broker Robert Puca from Prospect Heights broke out laughing during the vote. He wore a "Develop Don't Destroy" shirt.

"We're witnessing the trashing of democracy," said his friend David Galarza of Sunset Park. Both oppose Bloomberg because of development projects in Brooklyn. (Develop Don't Destroy, of course, is a group that opposes Atlantic Yards.) All planned to attend this afternoon's vote.

link

Posted by lumi at 7:40 PM

DEFENDING BERTHA LEWIS AND THE ACORN ORGANIZATION

Room Eight
by Rock Hackshaw

Politics blogger Rock Hackshaw defends ACORN against charges of election fraud, but not against bad judgment on the part of Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis when it comes to Brooklyn mega-projects.

I didn’t agree with Bertha’s position on the Atlantic Yards development project; nor did I care to see her sucking face with Mike Bloomberg (lol) a few years ago. But then she is human, and we all do make mistakes. Backing Bruce Ratner’s project -the way it was shaped then- was not Bertha’s shining moment. She probably knows this by now.

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Posted by eric at 3:35 PM

Bad Call: N.Y. Fans Are Getting Ripped Off

WNBC.com
by Gabe Pressman

The IRS has given the New York Yankees, Mets and New Jersey Nets the go-ahead to use tax-free bonds to pay for their new homes.

The new Yankee Stadium, the new Mets Citi Field and the Nets arena in Brooklyn will all benefit from this ruling and the taxpayers of New York will be ripped off. In baseball terms, it's a foul deal and the taxpayers are the victims of a bad call.
...

Ultimately, of course, as ticket prices soar and the sale of luxury suites roll up millions of dollars in revenue for the teams, the citizens of New York will be deprived of money. We are a city of rabid sports fans, but New Yorkers will never be enthusiastic about money being taken out of their pockets.

It's a steal -- and not the kind to cheer about.

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NoLandGrab: While the IRS's extension of this tax "loophole" will cost New York's taxpayers several million dollars, it'll cost the citizens of the nation's other 49 states hundreds of millions of dollars. And to think people are angry about bailing out banks.

Posted by eric at 2:20 PM

Ratner Would Fall Short On His Bonds Under Old and New IRS Rules

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB does some calculations regarding projected Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) for the planned Atlantic Yards arena. According to IRS rules, such payments must be "commensurate" with the foregone property tax.

Ratner would be seeking to pay for the bond with about $40 million per year in PILOTs, while his property tax would be only $8 million or less.

That's not commensurate.

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Posted by eric at 2:10 PM

Is Overdevelopment Still a Threat?

City Room [NY Times Blog]

Tom Angotti, who directs the Center for Community Planning and Development at Hunter College, has written a new book, “New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate,” to be released by the M.I.T. Press next month. As its title suggests, the book argues that powerful real estate interests have often effectively hijacked land-use decisions in the city, but the book also gives examples of local groups that have organized against environmental hazards, mega-projects, urban renewal and gentrification.

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Of course, in just the last few months the fear of “overdevelopment” has been eclipsed, in some quarters perhaps, by fear that the real estate market will decline as a result of the financial and credit crises that have buffeted economies worldwide. Those concerns were the subject of a panel discussion tied to the book’s publication, on Monday evening at the Museum of the City of New York.
...

Professor Angotti was particularly critical of the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. He said that the developer of the project, Forest City Ratner, “got the state to threaten condemnation of 22 acres in Brooklyn,” and that now “there’s no way they’re going to finance it and we’re looking at probably 20 years or more of parking lots.”

Posted by eric at 2:04 PM

Connecting the opposition to Bloomberg's power grab to AY opposition

Atlantic Yards Report

We all know, thanks to some vigorous reporting by the New York Times (which hasn't devoted similar scrutiny to Atlantic Yards), that Bloomberg has used his philanthropic clout to influence testimony.

And what about Atlantic Yards? Yesterday, [blogger Michael D.D.] White tried to connect some dots:
It seems pretty simple. In an apparent quid-pro-quo for city approvals for Atlantic Yards, developer/subsidy-collector Forest City Ratner gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Mayor’s charities; the Mayor then uses his charities as an instrument of pressure to generate coerced testimony in favor of his remaining in office.

It is, of course, "apparent" rather than proven. But the philanthropic angle behind Atlantic Yards deserves as much scrutiny as the similar effort behind the term limits override. Perhaps the Times, and [Daily News columnist Errol] Louis, can take a look.

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Posted by eric at 1:52 PM

When AY GPP was "released" in July 2006, was that preliminary approval?

Atlantic Yards Report

Last we checked, words do matter. So what are we supposed to make of Norman Oder's latest discovery?

THE RULE

To grandfather in a project [for eligibility for triple tax exempt bonds], the [IRS] rule requires a governmental entity to have taken "official action evidencing its preliminary approval of the project before October 19, 2006."

"APPROVED" VS. "ADOPTED"

While the Modified General Project Plan for Atlantic Yards was formally approved in December 2006 by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a slightly different version, the General Project Plan (GPP), had been "adopted" (according to an agency press release) by the ESDC on July 18, 2006.

"PRELIMINARY APPROVAL"

Though that ESDC board action in July was likely cursory, the IRS rule still seems tailored to comments filed by the city and state regarding the definition of "preliminary approval." Thus I (and most others) concluded that the ESDC's "adoption" of the GPP qualifies as "preliminary approval" under the regulation.

"RELEASED"

Developer Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards web site does not use the term "approval" to describe the action at that July ESDC board meeting.

It does not use the term "adopted."

It uses the term "released," adding that the ESDC's action "formally started the public review process."
...
The New York Times's coverage that day used "release":

The report’s release sets into motion a public comment period. The project faces a final vote by the development corporation’s board this fall, and if it is approved, it will face a vote by the state Public Authorities Control Board.

The IRS may well consider that "preliminary approval." But the public sure didn't know it.

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NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner and his political backers are having it both ways.

To satisfy legal requirements for NY State land-use review, the plan had to be "released", "approved" and "adopted," according to a timetable set by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

On the other hand, to satisfy the recent federal ruling that grandfathered the project under old IRS rules for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs), the project needed "preliminary approval" at some point before the IRS closed the loophole in October, 2006.

Swap "release" for "preliminary approval" and you've got a loophole in a loophole.

Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

DOT Unveils Short-Term Ped Fixes Near Brooklyn Traffic Hub

Streets Blog
By Ben Fried

Though the DOT has plans to address the traffic snarl on Flatbush Avenue north of 4th Avenue, there was no "silver bullet" for Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue, though The Brooklyn Paper reports that the "project all but eliminates" the controversial plan to divert traffic from Fourth Avenue to Pacific Street.

Streets near the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the LIRR's Atlantic Terminal are set to receive a basket of pedestrian improvements that may get underway as soon as November. Speaking last night to the CB2 transportation committee and about a dozen other residents, DOT's Chris Hrones laid out plans for new pedestrian spaces and traffic signals -- including a Barnes Dance (exclusive walk signal) at the intersection of Flatbush and Fourth Avenue.

The presentation [PDF] met with a generally positive reception -- applause, in fact -- although some in the audience voiced disappointment that the improvements do not address the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue, and others expressed concern about traffic backing up onto local streets as a result of the changes. Hrones said DOT would be able to incorporate feedback into its plans, but that the work is scheduled to proceed in about three weeks. No vote was held.
...
When the subject of the Atlantic and Flatbush intersection came up, Hrones said that location was outside the scope of the project.

"At this point there's not something that jumps out that will help address the issue," he said. "In the course of this exercise we didn't find any silver bullets."

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The Brooklyn Paper, Pedestrians get a leg up Downtown

The project all but eliminates the “Fourth-to-Flatbush Two-Step,” a plan buried deep within the state’s Atlantic Yards draft environmental impact statement that routed traffic through neighborhood streets. Drivers heading north on Fourth Avenue towards Flatbush Avenue would have been forced to turn right on Pacific Street and then left onto Flatbush.

A Transportation spokesman did not respond to questions about what happened to the alleged Atlantic Yards traffic fix.

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Hard pressed to find him adequate

BloombergStairs-NYT.gif The NY Times
Letter to the editor

One Brooklynite includes Atlantic Yards as an addendum to Mayor "I wanna third term" Bloomberg's list of failed goals:

[F]ormer Gov. Mario M. Cuomo has proclaimed Mr. Bloomberg to be “spectacularly well suited to the task” to be mayor yet again. But by what standard is he thus qualified?

While Mr. Bloomberg was a spectacularly successful businessman, as mayor he has actually failed in most of his goals, including the West Side stadium and congestion pricing. Even the Atlantic Yards development is stalled. I am hard pressed to find him even adequate.
...
Perry Weiner
Brooklyn, Oct. 18, 2008

link

Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

Brooklyn's Top 50 Most Influential No. 21 - 30

BstonerTop30.jpg Brownstoner

Two superheroines of the fight against the Atlantic Yards land grab made Brownstoner's 21-30 list:

23. Whether it be Atlantic Yards, Admirals Row or the proposed homeless intake center in Crown Heights, City Councilwoman Letitia James comes out with a position early and often, and fights for it while other local elected officials sit on the sidelines measuring the political climate. She's managed to come out as a leader for multiple factions of her diverse constituency, has been known to offer free legal assistance to causes she believes in, and is a tough interrogator at City Council hearings. Her office recently launched a blog called "Team Tish."

27. Joy Chatel tirelessly fought to save her home, which a national network of historians believe was involved in the Underground Railroad, from eminent domain ... and actually won. Now the city must build its underground parking garage and public plaza around her home. Without Chatel, hundreds of pages of history on Brooklyn's role in the abolitionism movement would not have been written. As a concession, the city has already agreed to commemorate Brooklyn's abolitionist movement in the planned plaza. And if Chatel succeeds in her dream, the home will be turned into a museum, an unplanned addition to the glitzy Downtown Brooklyn overhaul.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

Did DePlasco really mean what he said?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn highlighted the following from Forest City Ratner spokesperson Joe DePlasco's recently released statement on the IRS ruling on triple tax-exempt bonds:

The tax exempt financing was always part of the plan for the development of the arena and the regulation released today acknowledges that.

Atlantic Yards Report points out the IRS regulation says no such thing and the Associated Press noted that the IRS regulation specifically said nothing about Atlantic Yards.

Since no one can figure out exactly what DePlasco is talking about, might we assume that "the plan" "the regulation released... acknowledges" was something agreed upon behind closed doors?

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

Are the Atlantic Yards Land Grab and City Official Fraud Being Used to Finance Bloomberg’s Bid for Billionaire Term Limit Exceptionalism?

Noticing New York

We must ask:

Is the Atlantic Yards land grab paying for Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to specially exempt himself from term limits and achieve a third term? For that matter, is the Mayor’s bid for billionaire exceptionalism fueled by city official’s fraud?

It seems pretty simple. In an apparent quid-pro-quo for city approvals for Atlantic Yards, developer/subsidy-collector Forest City Ratner gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Mayor’s charities; the Mayor then uses his charities as an instrument of pressure to generate coerced testimony in favor of his remaining in office.

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Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

Forest City in the News

While Forest City's stalled Atlantic Yards megaproject has become the poster project of hubristic urban pseudo-planning, taxpayer-funded boondoggles, eminent domain abuse, etc., other divisions of the Cleveland-based development company are planning ribbon-cutting ceremonies and receiving accolades:

New Mexico Business Weekly, Mesa del Sol wins international honor

Mesa del Sol received an award for technology-based economic development this week from the International Economic Development Council. The council’s awards recognize excellence in the economic development profession.

The group lauded developer Forest City Covington as “trendsetting.” It singled out what it called a unique element in the project’s master plan: the design and development of an economic base ahead of housing.

Oakland Tribune, Forest City's Uptown will help revitalize Oakland's downtown

Now, the final and perhaps most difficult pieces of [Downtown Oakland] revitalization are falling into place with the grand opening Thursday of Forest City's 665-unit Uptown Apartments in the fledgling entertainment district on a triangular wedge of downtown north of the Fox Theatre.

Collectively known as the Uptown Apartments, the buildings blanket much of the area around 19th Street, Thomas Berkley Way (formerly 20th Street), and Telegraph and San Pablo avenues.

The project is a public-private partnership between Forest City and MacFarlane Partners, and the city of Oakland Redevelopment Agency. The agency assembled the land and gave Ohio-based Forest City a financial subsidy of $54.4 million, which includes land costs.

NoLandGrab: In all fairness, it sounds like some controversial decision-making and neighborhood-razing preceded the ground breaking of the Downtown Oakland project.

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

IRS OKs Tax-Exempt Bonds For Barclays Center, Other NY Venues

SportsBusiness Daily (subscription only)

IRS officials this week ruled that Nets Owner and Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner for his planned $950M Barclays Center in Brooklyn "can use tax-exempt bonds to pay for the building, providing some rare good news for the delay-plagued project," ...

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Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

October 22, 2008

Tax-Exempt Bonds: The Evening Wrap

Here's the rundown on today's coverage of the IRS's decision to tighten a "loophole" on the use of PILOTs to finance arenas and stadia — only the Yankees, Mets and, maybe, the Nets, have slipped the knot.

IRSlogo.gif

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Project Gets Big Bond Break from IRS

These New York teams may be hard-pressed to find investors who will buy the bonds, given the current Wall Street turbulence. Not so incidentally, the ruling comes four days before Yankees president Randy Levine and city officials are expected to testify at a Congressional hearing investigating the tax-exempt financing of the new $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium. Representative Dennis Kucinich, who is holding the hearing Friday, has threatened to prosecute officials if they lied about the value of the land the new stadium occupies.

State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat, slammed the IRS decision, telling the Times and the AP, "This is the same kind of socialism for the rich, and capitalism for the rest of us that’s gotten us into the current economic mess...The rules don't apply if you've got enough juice."

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Crap Tossing V.3.5: Financing Edition

The IRS issued a ruling yesterday that has monstrously huge implications for anyone that will ever want to build a stadium or arena ever again (don't go to sleep yet...this is big). You wouldn't know it in NYC, though, because even though it impacts the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, it's playing out as an Atlantic Yards story. At issue is whether tax-free financing can be used to build Frank Gehry's $950 million arena. (Leaving aside the issue as to anyone will ever finance a facility that is sure to go above $1 billion given traditional Gehry cost overruns in the middle of one of the most massive credit meltdowns in history.) The ruling creates a loophole for projects that are "substantially in progress," while banning it for new ones.

The Angry New Yorker, Tax Free Stadiums

Hey if I want to build myself a new house, think I can get me some tax free bonds to pay for it?

Brownstoner, Treasury Dept. Hooks Up Ratner Big-Time

One potential snag for FCR: The new regs require that the bonds be issued by December 31, 2009.

Gowanus Lounge, So, Does Mr. Ratner Get Tax-Free Bonds for Atlantic Yards?

The key phrase is that it grandfathers in projects “substantially in progress.” We can see lawyers and bureaucrats arguing this point about Atlantic Yards until we live in Green-Wood Cemetery.

Be sure to check out Gowanus Lounge's reflections on the ethics of subsidizing arenas.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Ratner Spokesman Vs. Treasury Department Spokesman on IRS Regulation

Bloomberg News, New York Yankees, Mets Get Approval for Tax-Exempt Bond Funding

Village Voice [Runnin' Scared blog], Atlantic Yards Gets Tax Break, Or Not

The Times spoke to Daniel Goldstein of DDDB, who "said it appeared to him that federal tax officials went out of their way to help the developer," the paper writes, "which he said 'makes no sense' when the federal government is in the midst of a costly bailout of the banking industry." Actually it does make sense: the bailout is an attempt by the powerful to restore a failed, obviously unsustainable confidence scheme to viability; this tax break (if it is a tax break), ditto.

Posted by eric at 9:18 PM

Treasury Gets Tough On PILOTs

Tighter Regs Issued As House Panel Opens

The Bond Buyer
by Peter Schroeder

Some industry insight into yesterday's IRS ruling, including the news that said ruling increases the risk for buyers, which might in turn make the bonds tougher to sell — unless you're George Steinbrenner, Fred Wilpon, or Bruce Ratner.

The Treasury Department yesterday issued more restrictive final regulations for bonds issued by payments in lieu of taxes, just three days before a House panel is scheduled to hold a hearing questioning the use of PILOTs to finance the new New York Yankees stadium.

But the rules contain a transitional provision that appears to enable the New York Yankees, Mets and Nets to continue to issue PILOT bonds as planned without having to comply with the new rules.
...

David Caprera, a partner at Kutak Rock LLP in Denver, said the new regulations will require a shift in how many market participants view PILOTs.
...

Since the PILOTs must be tied to taxes, Caprera said the new regulations shift a small amount of risk to the bondholder, who cannot be guaranteed a fixed payment, and unexpectedly low tax revenues could jeopardize a timely payment.

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Posted by eric at 1:39 PM

Bailout! Feds save Ratner millions with new ruling

The Brooklyn Paper
by Sarah Portlock

"Joe the Plumber" has been all the rage for the past week. Now, courtesy of the U.S. Treasury Department, we bring you "Bruce the Plunderer."

bruceratner6.08.jpg

The Treasury Department has bailed out Bruce Ratner.

In a much-anticipated ruling issued late Monday, the federal agency exempted Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project from a ruling that bars the use tax-free bonds to finance stadium projects.

Atlantic Yards was apparently exempted because it is “substantially in progress” — a term defined as having received “preliminary approval of the government” and involved “significant expenditures” before Oct. 19, 2006; and having a finance plan in place that contemplated the use of tax-free bonds.
...

“It’s a slight of hand that allows the city to stick it to taxpayers on behalf of developers,” said Neil DeMause, author of “Field of Schemes,” which focuses on the massive public cost of stadium financing.

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Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

IRS to give Bruce Ratner a huge federal tax break to build arena

BruceRatnerHappy.jpg There's a lot of coverage of the IRS's ruling to grandfather in federal tax breaks for Bruce Ratner's Nets arena and a new round of bond financing for the Yankees and Mets ballparks.

Atlantic Yards Report, In IRS regulations allowing tax-exempt bonds, no need for messy democracy like an elective body
In short, the IRS decided that Payments in Lieu of Taxes would no longer be allowed for sports stadiums after October 2006. For the old rules to apply to the planned Nets arena, the project had to be underway before that. How is that possible when the project wasn't approved until the following January? Norman Oder explains the IRS's twisted logic:

Anyone watching 12/8/06 meeting of the unelected Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), with all of four board members (of seven, with one vacancy) in attendance could conclude that the project was rubber-stamped. Moreover, some board members had but a vague notion of project details.

But that wasn't the key decision made by the ESDC board. The key decision was made July 18, 2006, when the ESDC announced that it had "adopted" the General Project Plan (GPP) and "accepted" the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
...
In between, in October, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) proposed new regulations to tighten tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities.
...
Apparently, the regulations don't require action by an elective body.

A "governmental person (as defined in §1.141-1)" of the Treasury Regulations is "a state or local governmental unit as defined in §1.103–1 or any instrumentality thereof."

And what's §1.103–1? "[A]ny division of any State or local governmental unit which is a municipal corporation or which has been delegated the right to exercise part of the sovereign power of the unit."

In other words, a handful of appointees of Gov. George Pataki showed up at a meeting on July 18, 2006 and gave their OK to stacks of documents they hardly read--or didn't read at all. And that meant the project was on its way, even if the chronology sent by the city and state to the IRS was bogus.

The Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, New tax rules would allow NYC teams to float bonds

Updated tax rules issued Tuesday limit the way tax-exempt bonds can be used to pay for sports facilities but don't block the New Jersey Nets, New York Yankees and New York Mets from using billions of dollars in bonds to help pay for their new homes, state and city officials said.

The NY Times, Developer of Nets’ Arena Can Use Tax-Exempt Bonds
Lead real estate reporter Charles V. Bagli filed a story today:

Under the new ruling, federal officials essentially gave a green light for the three sports arenas, among the world’s most expensive, to use tax-exempt bonds. But tax experts said that the ruling would not allow other governments to issue such bonds on behalf of professional sports teams. The rule was adopted on Monday by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service.

Still, the New York teams may have difficulty finding investors who will buy the bonds, given the current turmoil on Wall Street and in the credit markets.
...
[Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson Daniel] Goldstein said it appeared to him that federal tax officials went out of their way to help the developer, which he said “makes no sense” when the federal government is in the midst of a costly bailout of the banking industry.

The Real Estate Observer, IRS Gives Thumbs Up to Tax-Free Bonds for Yankees, Mets, Nets [Updated]

The new IRS regulations are here [Word doc]. They grandfather in any projects that had "preliminary approval" before October 19, 2006. The baseball stadiums were approved prior to then, though Atlantic Yards did not get a final approval until the end of 2006. Still, officials seemed to be under the impression that ruling cleared all three teams to qualify for tax-free bonds.

Also, here's Forest City Ratner pr guru Joe DePlasco's statement:

“We are of course very pleased with the Treasury Department regulation. The tax exempt financing was always part of the plan for the development of the arena and the regulation released today acknowledges that. The regulation will help us move forward with a project that is critical to the on-going economic vitality of Brooklyn and the City.”

NY Daily News, IRS clears way for tax dollars to help new stadiums, arenas

Critics blasted the taxpayer subsidy as a waste of money at a time when the city and state are cutting costs in schools, mass transit and more.

"We can't fund the MTA and we're cutting back on city hospitals," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), whose committee is investigating the Yankees deal.

"This is more socialism for the wealthy, where taxpayers are asked to fund a stadium they can't afford to go to."

NY Daily News, Just call the new Yankee Stadium the House That Tax Subsidies Built
Columnist Juan Gonzalez examines the chicanery behind the Yankee Stadium financing, which just got a boost from the same IRS ruling that made Bruce Ratner happy.

The Star-Ledger, Nets get favorable ruling from IRS

The Empire State Development Corp. expects to issue an unspecified amount of tax-free bonds to fund the arena early next year, Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the agency, said.
...
Nets owner Bruce Ratner is seeking up to $800 million in tax-free financing. The IRS ruling means New York state can issue the bonds, Johnston said.

The Brooklyn plans are being closely watched in New Jersey, where some elected officials have hoped the Nets will scrap their Brooklyn arena plans and move to the year-old Prudential Center in Newark or stay at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands.

Curbed, IRS Decides Tax-Free Financing for Atlantic Yards Okay

[The IRS ruling] may or may not help the Atlantic Yards project get financed if the credit market isn't interested, but the project has won a big victory today.

Nets Daily, IRS Approves Tax-Free Bonds for Barclays Center
The blog that tracks all things Nets calls it a "big win for Bruce Ratner."

Two blogs posted Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's press release, denouncing the IRS ruling on the basis that the project wasn't approved until after the October 2006 rules change:
Yonkers Tribune, IRS Today Rules Bruce Ratner's Barclays Center Arena Not Qualified for Tax-exempt Bonds
Daily Gotham, IRS to Bruce Ratner: No Way!

Posted by lumi at 6:34 AM

Brooklyn's Top 50 Most Influential No. 31 - 40

BstonerTop40.jpgBrownstoner

Several Atlantic Yards B-list celebs landed spots on B-stoner's Brooklyn's most influential list:

32. Joe Chan, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
34. Michelle de la Uz, Fifth Avenue Committee
38. Bertha Lewis, ACORN
39. Urban Planners: Brad Lander, Pratt Center for Community Development, and Tom Angotti, Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development

link

Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

Time to Report on the Best City Council Hearing Testimony

Noticing New York

Sometimes having the right look or the best one-liner is not enough, if you're not on the list. If you thought that getting past Studio 54's velvet rope was a feat, check out NNY blogger Michael D. D. White's account of what it took to get into last week's PUBLIC hearings on the extention of term limits.

NNYCityHallCrowds.jpg

We arrived at 11:00 AM and were turned away by City Hall security because we were too early. (Former City Councilman and Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, a more familiar figure, recounting about his own testimony in opposition to the Bloomberg maneuvering says he got in at 11:00 AM.) When we returned at 2:45 we were told by security that we couldn’t come in because we were too late; we would have to wait. Then, looking at our jacket and tie, the security guard paused, “Wait,” he said, “are you going to testify?” “Absolutely,” I told him and he told me that me that they could let me in if I was on the list of people who were supposed to be let in to testify. Though I made him check the list I was, of course, not on it.

Eventually White got in and delivered his testimony sometime after 10PM. As usual, he posted his testimony online.

Read on...

Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

Comptroller Thompson: mega-projects may slow, but AY still "makes sense"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder attended a recent Crain's breakfast to give NY City Comptroller William Thompson an opportunity to clarify his views on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject:

Thompson-AYR.jpg

During a press conference afterwards, I asked him his take on Atlantic Yards and how it should go forward.

"Atlantic Yards is another one of those projects, I think--you've seen it scaled back a bit," he said. "But I think if it made sense a year ago, two years ago, it made sense a year ago, it still makes sense to move forward. You may have to look at Atlantic Yards and other projects in stages. But if those projects made sense two-three years ago, when things were booming, they make sense during slower economies, also."

I pointed out that he said at a forum in May that he didn't know what it was any more.

"It continues to be a project, y'know, other than just the stadium, and I know that other parts of it have been scaled back," he said. "I think that we do need to at least go back and revisit it and see exactly what schedule and in what stages and what is being proposed, to move in the next six months, the next year, the next two years. But I still think that if a project made sense two years ago, it makes sense now."

Thompson obviously doesn't know that much about Atlantic Yards--the project was scaled back only after it was increased in size.

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Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

Condo of the Day: Newswalk Two-Bedroom

Newswalk2BR.jpg Brownstoner

How big a discount is Newswalk getting these days for the Atlantic Yards effect? Based on this two-bedroom apartment it certainly looks cheap.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

October 21, 2008

New IRS rules stoke Atlantic Yards fight

The Internal Revenue Service issued rules Tuesday on whether the Nets basketball arena planned for Brooklyn can access $800 million in triple tax-free bonds.

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

The Internal Revenue Service issued rules Tuesday that dictate whether the Nets basketball arena planned for Brooklyn can use $800 million in triple tax-free bonds. The developer, Forest City Ratner, says it can; arena opponents say it cannot.

A layman’s reading of the IRS rules seems to support the position of the developer and its partner in state government, the Empire State Development Corp.

The issue—which like everything else concerning Forest City’s Atlantic Yards project will probably be decided in a courtroom—could determine whether the arena gets built. Forest City has said it could get private financing to build the $950 million venue, but that might not be possible in the current credit market.

The IRS rules say one condition that the arena must have met is that “a governmental person took official action evidencing its preliminary approval of the project before October 19, 2006.” The board of ESDC, the state’s development agency, approved the general project plan of Atlantic Yards in July 2006.

But the arena’s opponents will likely challenge that stipulation.

“The general project plan wasn’t legally binding, and it wasn’t anything that [Forest City Chief Executive Bruce] Ratner could legally rely on to do his project,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for project opponents.

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NoLandGrab: So if Atlantic Yards already had "preliminary approval" in July of 2006, why did we all stand in line for hours for the public hearing for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on August 23, 2006, endure a fractious, mismanaged hearing, and submit volumes of written testimony?

We knew the whole process was bogus, but this takes the cake.

Posted by eric at 9:41 PM

Tax snag arises in Brooklyn Nets development

Reuters
by Joan Gralla with Ilaina Jonas

Does she or doesn't she?

Some media outlets are reporting that today's IRS ruling on the use of tax-exempt bonds applies to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena, while DDDB contends that it doesn't. Reuters plays it down the middle.

Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner Companies on Tuesday said it believes it will be able to get the benefit of tax-free debt under new Internal Revenue Service regulations that govern so-called payments in lieu of taxes.

But a civic group, called Develop Don't Destroy, which in the past has sued to block the project that includes an arena for the Nets basketball team, hotel and apartments disagreed, saying the new tax rule "disqualifies" this debt.

The developer is seeking as much as $950 million of municipal bonds that will be repaid by so-called payments in lieu of taxes.

article

Posted by eric at 9:24 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Bruce Ratner's Barclays Center Arena Not Qualified for Tax-exempt Bonds Under Today's IRS Ruling

New York, New York -- The IRS today issued a long awaited decision on the regulation of triple tax-exempt bonds. Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Barclays Center Arena is reliant on $800 million in triple tax-exempt bonds.

Today’s ruling, including the rule titled “transitional rule for certain projects substantially in progress,” disqualifies the developer, Bruce Ratner, from getting these bonds for his $950 million arena.

"Ratner does not qualify for the tax-exempt bond he wants under the IRS ruling's requirements. There was no official government action on the Atlantic Yards arena prior to October 19, 2006 as required by the ruling. The project's approval was in December, 2006. There were also no 'significant expenditures' on the arena prior to the October date as required by the ruling," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

The IRS ruling can be downloaded at:
http://www.dddb.net/documents/IRS/IRS_REG.PDF

The relevant clauses follow:

(3) Transitional rule for certain projects substantially in progress.

Paragraph (k)(1) of this section does not apply to bonds issued for projects for which all of the following requirements are met:

(i) A governmental person (as defined in §1.141-1) took official action evidencing its preliminary approval of the project before October 19, 2006, and the plan of finance for the project in place at that time contemplated financing the project with tax-exempt bonds to be paid or secured by PILOTs.

(ii) Before October 19, 2006, significant expenditures were paid or incurred with respect to the project or a contract was entered into to pay or incur significant expenditures with respect to the project.

(iii) The bonds for the project (excluding refunding bonds) are issued on or before December 31, 2009.

link

Posted by eric at 9:04 PM

New Treasury Department regulations would grandfather in tax-free bonds for Atlantic Yards arena

Atlantic Yards Report

The White House has thus far been unwilling to endorse a new stimulus package for the American people, but Norman Oder has breaking news of a Treasury Department stimulus for billionaire team owners.

In a big boost for developer Forest City Ratner, worth perhaps $165 million, the U.S. Treasury Department has issued a regulation (PDF) that would grandfather in tax-exempt bonds for the planned Atlantic Yards arena under a rule the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service (a bureau of the Treasury Department) called a “loophole.”

The Treasury Department, not heeding a request from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to delay action until his inquiries into sports facility finance issues are concluded, on Monday filed a new regulation that, in fact, would eliminate the loophole for new projects. However, a “transitional rule for certain projects substantially in progress” would allow tax-free bonds for the arena, as well additional tax-free bonds for new stadiums under construction for the Yankees and Mets, as requested by city and state economic development agencies.
...

"The IRS's attempt to favor Bruce Ratner to the tune of an estimated $165 million on the backs of federal taxpayers, for a project that does nothing for those taxpayers, is obscene and offensive in the midst of an historic $700 billion bailout and a national fiscal crisis," commented Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

Bettina Damiani, Project Director of Good Jobs New York, noted that part of the regulation seems written to help the three sports teams: "The mumbo jumbo language that will help the NYC applicants borders on the comical. Isn’t it interesting that in the midst of what some people have called a global economic crisis, officials found the time to give more tax breaks to rich sports franchises?"

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Posted by eric at 4:27 PM

DOT to Present Ideas for Brooklyn’s Most Notorious Intersection

Streetsblog
by Ben Fried

Gridlocked.jpg

The confluence of Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth Avenues is a traffic nightmare of epic proportions right smack next to a huge transit hub and shopping center. (We hear some sort of arena and housing complex might get built there too.) Crossing the street here is an unwelcome adventure for thousands of pedestrians every day, and biking is out of the question for the vast majority of cyclists.

Now the good news: DOT is considering changes for the area -- especially the pedestrian crossings -- and the agency's ideas will get a public airing tonight at a presentation to Community Board 2. Community groups are encouraging Brooklynites to show up and share their suggestions. Here are the details:

DOT presentation to CB2 Transportation Committee
Tuesday, October 21, at 6 p.m.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights

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Gowanus Lounge, Interested in Not Being Killed Crossing Atlantic & Flatbush?

Posted by eric at 4:14 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning October 20, 2008 and October 27, 2008

In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner provide the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities.

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions. All work has been approved by appropriate City and State agencies where required.

In addition to the activities described below noise attenuation and vibration monitoring measures are underway in connection with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments dated 12/08/06.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our project Ombudsperson at: 212-803-3233 or AtlanticYards@empire.state.ny.us.

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Continue construction and debris removal from Block 1121.

  • Continue hauling soil from Blocks 1120 and 1121.

  • Complete lagging underpinning of Pacific Street wall.

  • Continue removal of retaining wall at east end of Pacific Street.

  • Complete coffer dam structure at the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

  • Complete demolition at west end of Pacific Street retaining wall and install gabion wall.

  • Continue trenching electrical duct banks in Block 1121.

  • Complete trench for electrical duct bank at AO1 (LIRR sub-Station)

  • Begin plumbing line in Block 1120.

  • Continue yard grading Blocks 1120 and 1121.

  • Assemble and install cable bridge.

  • Drill borings in Block 1121.

  • Begin delivery and assembly of temporary trestle rail bridge in Block 1121.

Abatement and Demolition Work

All work described below will comply with the additional oversight and protocols by the Department of Buildings (DOB) that were established on April 30, 2007.

  • Demolition is underway at 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) and will continue throughout this two week period.

  • Demolition will begin at 489 Dean Street (block 1128, lot 88).

  • Demolition will begin at 487 Dean Street (block 1128, lot 89).

  • Abatement is complete at 475 Dean Street (block 1127, lot 48).

Utility Work

All utility work scheduled to take place in Flatbush Avenue will only take place at night (between 10PM and 6AM) as mandated by DOT.

  • The first of three phases of upgraded water and sewer installations is underway and is expected to continue through the end of the year. Work will continue on Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues and on Sixth between Pacific and Dean Streets. Work is complete on a new sewer chamber on Dean Street near 6th Avenue. Work will begin on a new sewer chamber on 6th Avenue at Pacific Street.

  • Transit ducts on Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street have been relocated. Cable will be pulled in the new transit ducts. This work is expected to continue over the next month. All work taking place in the sidewalk will occur during the day. Pedestrian walkways will be maintained.

Private Utility Work

The work described below is managed and contracted by the respective private utility companies, as indicated.

  • Verizon will be splicing cable on Pacific Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenues and removing cable at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

Environmental Remediation

All work described below will comply with Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulations and requirements.

  • Environmental remediation efforts will begin on Block 1118, Lot 1; Block 1127, Lot 1; and Block 1119, Lots 1 & 64.

Recent Construction Updates: September 8 & 15; September 22 & 29; October 6 & 13

Posted by eric at 1:13 PM

“Charity?” We Begin to Groan

NNY-CardsMoney.jpg Noticing New York

When is "charity" not really "charity?" Noticing New York searches for the answer in the intertwined relationships among Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn, Borough President Markowitz and developer Bruce Ratner.

Charities doing the wrong thing may pocket money for themselves, but the greater good of the community suffers.

What do charities selling out at the expense of the community look like? The Ratner organization’s donations in connection with both the Markowitz and Bloomberg charities have been cited as objectionable. Let’s stick with Ratner for one more example. Bruce Ratner's Forest City Ratner runs charities and donates money for questionable purposes, questionable because they are self-serving. The end goal of their activities is to make private, personal profit and Ratner has a record of doing so at the expense of the public. For instance, the New York Observer reported an apparent result of a reported lobbying meeting that Bruce Ratner had with Mr. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris:

In December 2005, right as the debate over the Atlantic Yards complex was heating up and before the city made several crucial decisions about the project, Forest City Ratner gave between $450,000 and $1 million to a nonprofit closely associated with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Patricia Harris was responsible for coordinating charitable giving matters for Mayor Bloomberg.

article

Posted by lumi at 11:42 AM

SCHOOLS' NETS GAIN

NY Post
by Rich Calder

The Nets have yet to start building their long-delayed Brooklyn arena, but team brass are breaking ground on posh playgrounds at public schools.

The first of eight being funded with $150,000 from Nets owner Bruce Ratner and Barclays Bank, which has naming rights to the new arena, is set to be unveiled today at PS 19 in Williamsburg.

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Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

How Barclays might renegotiate the Brooklyn arena naming rights deal

BarclaysAd-sm.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

How a cheeky Dear-Bruce-ole-chap letter to renegotiate the naming-rights deal for the "Barclays Center" might go:

Frankly, we're a bit wound up.

We read those pesky blogs and soon recognized you were talking a fair bit of bollocks. The arena was never going to open in 2009. We put 2010 in our shedules.

Then we read those blogs again and learned that 2011 might be a more accurate date. Now we hear that 2012 is a more likely best-case scenario.

It's time to take another look at our contract.

As you know, the document we signed was contingent on your getting financing sorted out by the end of November.

To put it politely, things are looking a bit dodgy right now, for you and, frankly, for us.

more!

Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

Has the Times presented readers with AY information they need to make up their own minds?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder's blog started out as a white paper examining the partnership between The NY Times and Forest City Ratner and to what extent, if any, it affected the coverage of Atlantic Yards. From time to time, he revisits the topic to see if anything has really changed.

After a few choice quotes from the Times ombudsman and editor that seem to make the case for better coverage of the largest single-source private development project in NYC history, Oder finds:

When developer Forest City Ratner promoted its own "Brooklyn Day" rally, which was, as New York Daily News sports columnist Michael O'Keeffe observed, "a dud," the Daily News headlined its coverage Ratner cooks up rally for Brooklyn project.

The Times ignored it completely.

The Times has similarly ignored the information people "need to make up their own minds." It has never published any rendering of the project's scale in neighborhood context.

And, in coverage of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), the Times deemed the project a "modern blueprint", without acknowledging definitive testimony by Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York, who told City Council in 2005 about "several major differences between CBAs as they have been used in other parts of the country and the series of negotiations that FCRC is calling a CBA."

There's more, but these three examples are striking enough. In fact, "it's Orwellian almost," to reprise a comment by former Forest City Ratner front man Jim Stuckey to the credulous Times.

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Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

TODAY: Barclays, Nets and Forest City Ratner unveil new playground

From the Bergen Record reporter Al Iannazzone's blog, "In the 'Zzone":

The Barclays/Nets Community Alliance and Forest City Ratner will unveil a new playground at Public School 19 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn tomorrow at 11 a.m. It's the first of eight Brooklyn playgrounds that will be funded in part by Barclays/Nets Alliance.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

Forest City / Goodman Company Opening Shops at Wiregrass Next Week

The Co-Star Group

Forest City Commercial, together with The Goodman Company is on track to celebrate the grand opening of The Shops at Wiregrass on Oct. 30, 2008. The 800,000-square-foot open-air lifestyle center is located at SR 56 and Bruce B Downs Boulevard in Wesley Chapel, FL -- a suburb of Tampa.

link

NoLandGrab: This is the second Forest City Mall to open in as many months.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

October 20, 2008

Ivanka Trump: the New Face of Tacky?

New York Magazine

TheTrumps.jpg

The Daily Intel has changed its mind about Ivanka Trump, officially dubbing her tacky. The tipping point was her new line of microwave meals, but they cite ample previous evidence (emphasis, ours):

...we're going to go out on a limb to say most of the brands Ivanka has shilled for have fallen on the wrong side of tacky.

For instance:

Jewelry line (as seen on Home Shopping Network)
Zone Diets
MySpace
Quattro, a restaurant in Miami
Tiffany
Fox Business Network
Bruce Ratner
Celebrity Apprentice
Trump SoHo
Trump Casinos
Donald Trump

Gross, right?

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NoLandGrab: They said it, not us.

Posted by eric at 9:19 PM

Brooklyn Miracle: Slowest Project Inches Forward Overnight

Curbed

LIRRTerminalBeforeAfter.jpg

Was it just last week that this structure on Flatbush Avenue, across the street from our beloved One Hanson was kinda', sorta' noted as perhaps one of the slowest moving projects ever seen in Brooklyn. Slow enough to make a Shaya Boymelgreen condo look like the fastest building to go up in human history? Well, lo and behold, the scaffolding hiding the thing came down between Wednesday and Saturday. The bad news comes in two parts. First, the thing looks like it's going to be fugly with a capital "F." Second, with the scaffolding gone, it's easy to see that there's another 25 years of work, give or take, mostly give, remaining to be done. By the way, it will eventually the entrance to the Long Island Railroad Terminal at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center.

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NoLandGrab: That's actually Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall. The Atlantic Center is the god-awful mall across the way.

Posted by eric at 9:04 PM

Walk Don't Destroy 4 News Wrap

NY Observer, Atlantic Yards Opponents Raise $45K in Walkathon

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It's been almost two full years since the state approved Atlantic Yards, the courts have repeatedly ruled against legal challenges to the Brooklyn project, and the economy has fallen into shambles. Still, the group leading the legal fight, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, reports it brought in a considerable sum, $45,000, at its fourth annual walkathon on Sunday.

Gowanus Lounge, Annual Walk Don’t Destroy Event Draws an Anti-Atlantic Yards Crowd

The annual Develop Don’t Destroy Walkathon (Walk Don’t Destroy 4) to raise funds for the fight against the troubled Atlantic Yards project took place on Saturday night and drew a nice crowd and picked up $45,000 in the process. It was the fourth such walk against the (now, possibly stalled or, at least, seriously delayed) project.

Brownstoner, DDDB Walkathon Raises $45,000

This weekend saw 175 walkers earning bucks from 500 donors for every step they took at the 4th Annual Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Walkathon.

Posted by eric at 6:22 PM

Brooklyn's Top 50 Most Influential No. 41 - 50

Brownstoner

Every day this week, we're going to count down Brooklyn's Top 50* most influential people in shaping Brooklyn neighborhoods — by building new structures, preserving older ones, influencing property values and quality of life, speaking for thousands, or changing the course of developments, for example. Instead of listing everyone from Bloomberg to Bernanke, we mostly stuck with locals. Surprisingly still, by broadening our definition of influence beyond quantitative factors like real estate holdings and constituency, the toughest task was keeping the list down to only 50 (*so we cheated, there's actually more like 65 people on the list, and it was still hard). Ranking them in order was also tough, so please take the whole exercise with a grain of salt and sense of humor. In some cases we considered the type of entity the person represents, the potential impact of the project he or she is working on, and the extent of influence over time, distance and the number of Brooklynites affected. By all means, feel free to give us your two cents in the comments section. By the end of this week, we could have 200 people on the list!
...

50. Developer Bruce Ratner's choice of legendary starchitect Frank Gehry to design Atlantic Yards helped galvanize support for the massive project, versus if he had chosen a blander designer, as stunning architecture can have an elevating effect on a community. But Gehry's vision has also been hotly criticized as offensive to the surrounding brownstone neighborhoods. No matter, Atlantic Yards hasn't been built yet, and Gehry was recently ousted from BAM's Theater for a New Audience design team. If he ever does get something built here, he'll be in the top 20 for sure.

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Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

DDDB’s fourth walkathon raises $45K; slight decline from last year, but organizers buoyed

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has the definitive report (as usual) on Saturday's Walk Don't Destroy 4 candlelight walkathon fundraiser.

JBFifthAve.jpg

Despite significantly changed circumstances regarding the Atlantic Yards project, Walk Don't Destroy 4, the fourth annual walkathon Saturday from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, in many ways was similar to previous versions.

(Marchers on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope; photo by Jonathan Barkey.)

While yesterday’s event was a candlelight walk rather than an afternoon one, it raised $45,000 for the legal fight against Atlantic Yards, a sum only slightly less than the $50,000 raised last year. DDDB reported 175 walkers (I counted at least 160) and just over 500 donors, while at last year’s event, DDDB reported 200 walkers and 600 donors.

“Even though we're in the midst of a very difficult economy, and a presidential campaign competing for funds, our donor base continues to grow.” said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "Fundraising for the two lawsuits is an ongoing, daily effort, and the response consistently reminds us of the support we have, which is now well over 4,000 individual donors.”
...

[Goldstein] listed the potential roadblocks. DDDB has organized and funded two major lawsuits now in state court. The eminent domain case, as I’ve written, is a longshot; it will be heard likely next spring. The challenge to the project’s environmental review, while dismissed at the trial court level, gained some traction in an appellate court hearing last month.

Goldstein also noted that the Internal Revenue Service is expected to decide in the next few months whether the Atlantic Yards arena will be eligible for tax-exempt bonds under the same ruling--which the IRS chief counsel called a “loophole”--that allowed such bonds for Yankee Stadium.

Barclays Capital, which bought naming rights to the arena under a contract which mandated that financing be in place by November, “will have to make a decision, whether they want to stick with this sinking ship,” Goldstein said. (Barclays has said it’s committed to the project, but hasn’t said whether it would negotiate.)

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Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Sunday in the Park at (New) Domino; the developer (obscurely) opens the door

Atlantic Yards Report

SundayParkDomino.jpg

Norman Oder compares and contrasts the New Domino and Atlantic Yards projects.

Yesterday was an opportunity for a wide variety of Williamsburg residents to enjoy an afternoon in a remarkable space--the gritty concrete backyard of the closed Domino Sugar plant, open to the public--as the advertisement indicates--for the first time in a century.
...

But who was behind this event? You couldn't tell from the advertisement (above) in the Brooklyn Downtown Star or the Courier-Life chain.

New Domino developers CPC Resources and Isaac Katan were not real open about their role, but the posters and other materials were far less egregious than any of Forest City Ratner's "liar fliers" or fake newspapers.

The New Domino project, unlike Atlantic Yards, will go through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The four acres of open space would be mapped as city parkland, again an improvement over the Atlantic Yards open space, which would be managed by a nonprofit organization.

And, of course, there's no way we could have a "Sunday in the Atlantic Yards open space," since so much depends on superblocks, unless someone closed off Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues for a block party.

As with Atlantic Yards, however, the project is already delayed beyond its optimistic p.r.

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Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

MARTY MARKOWITZ'S MILLIONS

NY Post Editorial

Given the Post's normal predilections — like its largely unfettered support for Atlantic Yards — we can only imagine that Brooklyn Chief Executive Marty Markowitz never expected to become the tabloid's favorite whipping boy.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is nothing if not creative.

Just as money managers urge their clients to diversify their portfolios, Markowitz makes sure that his preferred non-profit groups have (other people's) cash flowing in from lots of different sources.
...

Given the tawdriness exposed in the City Council "member item" scandal, a third party needs to look at the books of Marty Markowitz and his nonprofits.

Considering that the Department of Investigations is a city agency - and reports to the mayor - that creates a conflict of interest.

Thus the logical person to take up the task would be Brooklyn DA Joel Hynes.

The sooner, the better.

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NoLandGrab: The Post misidentifies Brooklyn's District Attorney, who is Charles "Joe" (not "Joel") Hynes.

Atlantic Yards Report thinks it's possible that the Post is overstating its case:

It may look like Markowitz is fostering his reelection effort through contributions outside the campaign system. While that may not seem ethical, as watchdogs like Citizens Union head Dick Dadey have commented, it may not be a violation.

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

Doctoroff antagonist Carter wins NY Post Liberty Medal, chosen (in part) by Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Among the winners of the New York Post's seventh annual Liberty Medals, "a program that hails the hometown heroes whose can-do attitude, bravery and generosity give the city its unique spirit," under the category Lifetime Achievement, is Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, and a fervent foe of former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff.

Among the "distinguished panel of New Yorkers" who selected the winners was Bruce Ratner, President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies. Did Ratner vote for her?

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Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

Thank You For Making Walkathon 4 a Great Success!

JBWDDB4-01.jpg Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn thanked everyone who had nothing better to do could think of nothing they'd rather do on a Saturday night than help raise money for and awareness of the fight against Bruce Ratner's eminent-domain-abusin' subsidy-suckin' multi-billion-dollar arena-and-highrise megaproject.

The coalition leading the legal fight against Atlantic Yards gave thanks to the Atomic Grind Show for putting on a show at the after party and to all of the sponsors:
Mercado Social
Erica’s Rugelach & Baking Company
Cousin John's
Trois Pommes Patisserie
Le Gamin Café
Gnarley Vines
The Greene Grape
Olea Mediterranean Taverna
Chez Oskar French Bistro
Night of the Cookers
Providence Day Spa
Massage Therapy by Stana Weisburd, LMT

There are more pics of the event from photogs Jonathan Barkey and Adrian Kinloch.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

Building the Right Landmarks Case; Wrong Building

WardBakery01-NNY.jpg Noticing New York

The NY Times's handwringing over the slow pace over at the NY City's Landmarks Preservation Commission isn't going to change things as long as the current mayor is holding the reins. Blogger Michael D. D. White examines the case of a Manhattan building that was sorta saved and the Brooklyn gem that got outflanked by demolition man Bruce Ratner.

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Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

October 19, 2008

Walk Don't Destroy 4 Photos

walkdontdestroy4.jpg

NoLandGrab's Walk Don't Destroy Flickr set

Posted by amy at 3:49 PM

In the narrow term limits debate, are we missing the point?

Atlantic Yards Report questions the newspaper coverage of the term limits debate, and looks at other solutions for fair elections, such as instant run-off voting (IRV) and proportional representation (PR).

There's nothing in the New York Times. The New York Daily News offers an encomium to Bloomberg from financier Felix Rohatyn, who conveniently ignores that the term limits override would apply to the Council, the Borough Presidents and more.

The New York Post does some investigating, and discovers that Bloomberg "showered cash on key City Council members with the power to kill a term-limits extension bill in the last year."

And the Daily News reports that many of those fighting the override have personal or political agenda, though some, an observer acknowledges, are motivated by principle.

Missing the larger point

Still, we are missing a larger point about ways to improve political representation. If those fighting Bloomberg's plan are successful in gaining a referendum to address the term limits issue, they will at least have achieved a more legitimate process.

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Posted by amy at 2:03 PM

NBA expands to China, gets local subsidies, (likely) avoids local activism

nbachina10.08.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

The National Basketball Association's initiative in China is expanding big-time.

From an article in the 10/11/08 New York Times, headlined N.B.A. and Partner to Help Build 12 Arenas in China:
The N.B.A. and AEG will announce on Sunday plans to design and operate at least a dozen arenas in China, extending the league’s presence in its largest foreign market. The arenas could form the infrastructure of an N.B.A.-branded league in China.

Under their plan, the league and AEG will make modest cash investments in the arenas, but their expertise will give them substantial ownership stakes in the buildings.

The arenas are to be financed largely by local and provincial governments.
...
Given the pattern established at the Beijing Olympics, where two handicapped women in their late 70s, with the common grievance of "receiving insufficient compensation when their homes were seized for redevelopment," were sentenced to "re-education through labor" for simply applying to hold a legal protest in the area so designated (according to the NYTimes/International Herald Tribune), it's a good bet that the Chinese equivalents of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn would have some trouble getting off the ground.

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Posted by amy at 1:56 PM

No bridge to Brooklyn

NY Daily News
Mitch Lawrence joins Mike Lupica in getting in on the Atlantic Yards action. Good thing there is a sports section to take up the important urban planning stories...

Instead of putting a shovel in Brooklyn's soil, they're sprinkling dirt, rather liberally, on Bruce Ratner's dream of moving the Nets to the Atlantic yards.

That's good for North Jersey and the 38 fans who still turn out to watch a team that lost whatever relevance it had when Jason Kidd forced his way to Dallas.

But it's bad for Jay-Z when he tries to sell LeBron James on playing in Newark.

Not that there's anything wrong with the Nets heading down Route 21 and settling into the Prudential Center. Becoming co-tenants again with the Devils in their state-of-the-art facility has always made the most sense, even if Ratner continues to hold out hope that Devin Harris will one day run a break in a Frank Gehry-designed building in Brooklyn.

The more Ratner tries to keep his dream alive, the more he finds himself caught between The Rock and a hard place. Having alienated North Jersey fans long ago with his grand plans to bolt the Meadowlands, he has to realize that he's just giving them another reason not to buy tickets. It's not as if they need another one these days. The rotten economy is reason enough to stay home.
...
Ratner always thought he could waltz right into Brooklyn by 2009, but residents never lined Flatbush Ave. to toss roses his way. No matter how much David Stern lent his support to the project, lambasting the antiquated Meadowlands every chance he got, the Nets had about as much chance of settling in Brooklyn as they had of beating the Lakers in the 2002 Finals.

Now with Wall Street in chaos, Ratner can't get the financing to make Brooklyn work, so it's status quo, meaning the Nets get to stay in East Rutherford and play before a lot of empty seats.

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NoLandGrab: In fact, residents did line Flatbush last night, but not to throw roses. Pictures from this year's successful Walk Don't Destroy will be forthcoming!

Posted by amy at 12:24 PM

Barry Bonds' desperate swing

NY Daily News
Mike Lupica

The politicians, wearing their old Dodgers caps like the Nets were going to be playing in some modern version of Ebbets Field, wanted to do everything for Ratner but build a statue outside the basketball arena that would be surrounded by all the high rises.

Only it was never about the Nets.

It was about the property.

About Ratner's vision of those high rises.

Only now, all this time later, Ratner has the shorts, the way a lot of rich guys do, and needs help from government on this deal.

The way a lot of rich guys do.

And a shovel still doesn't go into the ground where the Nets arena is supposed to be.

You know why?

Because Ratner has been the one shoveling something from the start.

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Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn says Lupica "is right on target when he wonders where 'fiscally responsible' Bloomberg and 'reformer' Paterson are on Atlantic Yards. As we have said before, and Lupica says now, reform in New York State begins with the Atlantic Yards project. New Yorkers need to hear from the Mayor and Governor...now."

From Atlantic Yards Report:

Lupica's right in noting that the developer wants more subsidies. The mayor has been a big Atlantic Yards supporter, adding $105 million in new subsidies in 2007. His effort to have the City Council override voter-imposed term limits, as I've written, shares a spirit of backroom governance.

Paterson (whose name was misspelled) has been basically supportive of the project and, of course, his administration's Empire State Development Corporation is vigorously defending pending lawsuits. Perhaps one of them will cause him to question the state's finding of blight.

Posted by amy at 12:17 PM

Fixing Brooklyn-Queens Expressway: Ins and Outs Discussed at Meeting

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dennis Holt

One won’t see any physical work on “fixing up” the Downtown Brooklyn portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) and its Brooklyn Heights “cantilever” for some seven to 10 more years, but the long process of talking about it has begun.

Last week, members of the state Department of Transportation met with members of the Transportation Committee of Community Board 6 and others to begin that “long process.”

It has been known for some time that much of this 1.5-mile stretch from Sands Street to Atlantic Avenue needed some attention and some rebuilding. Just exactly what will be required is not yet determined, another reason for the “long process.”
...
[Peter] King [head of regional planning for the state Department of Transportation (DOT)], in fact, noted that extra efforts will be made to keep trucks off Atlantic Avenue, since that street will anchor two major projects within two miles of each other -- the park and Atlantic Yards. Public meetings will begin next year in part to help prepare for the critical Environmental Impact Statement, whose zone of study will be expanded far beyond the normal limits of an EIS.

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Posted by amy at 12:12 PM

October 18, 2008

TODAY: Walkathon, Oct. 18: Sponsor a Walker Today! After Party With Delphine Blue & The Atomic Grind Show

walkparty.jpg

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

TODAY: Come out and Walk to Raise Funds for the Legal Fight Against Ratner's Faltering Atlantic Yards Plan.

Due to the brutal economy, widespread community opposition, pending lawsuits and Ratner's own mismanagement, the developer cannot possibly build the project he has promised these last five years. Still, he continues his devastation of Prospect Heights and swallowing hundreds of millions of public dollars in the midst of this recession. And he does this with New York State's support. That is amoral, and it's gotta stop.

Thats why we need YOU to participate in the Walkathon

And after the walk, come to the party at the Brooklyn Lyceum, Featuring:

The global sounds of legendary New York City club and radio DJ Delphine Blue A live set from The Atomic Grind Show "mixing rock, jazz, country and other musical styles with carny attitude" (TimeOutNY).

All walkers and donors get in free. For those not walking or sponsoring walkers, entrance is a $20 donation.

Now for those of you who aren't registered for the walk or haven't yet sponsored a walker:

If you are unable to join the Walkathon you can still show your support by sponsoring one of the walker teams or an individual walker. It's quick and easy...

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 President 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.

link

Posted by amy at 9:54 AM

The Bloomberg manipulation behind the term limits override effort

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Atlantic Yards Report reports on the second (final!) day of term limits hearings:

As the Times reported today, in an article headlined Bloomberg Enlists His Charities in Bid to Stay:
Michael R. Bloomberg, who says he strictly separates his philanthropy from his job as mayor of New York, is pressing many of the community, arts and neighborhood groups that rely on his private donations to make the case for his third term, according to interviews with those involved in the effort.
...
Moreover, the representatives from five Bloomberg-supported groups that testified failed to disclose that connection during their testimony. The Daily News detailed how the Doe Fund was unlisted. The Post described lunch money being given out.
...
All five borough presidents testified in support of a bill that would give them four more years, and Brooklyn's leader cited projects under way, presumably including Atlantic Yards. The first paragraph is a direct quote from BP Marty Markowitz:
I’ve always been opposed to laws that enforce term limits. They are profoundly undemocratic. We have methods to apply term limits, they’re called elections. Look at the most recent elections: Two veteran state senators were defeated in elections in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
...
He added, “With another term, I’d have the chance to see the projects come to completion.”

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Posted by amy at 9:41 AM

The Markowitz defense: "I'm an activist and like to get things done"

Atlantic Yards Report covers the coverage of Marty's excuses in the Post and Courier-Life:

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has come out swinging in defense of his use of mayoral and developer funds, via his charities, to support his concert series and other projects in Brooklyn. The problem is that Markowitz's defense is essentially the end justifies the means.
...
And, of course, Markowitz avoids the issues. Are the Ratner contributions a way to avoid campaign finance limits? And what about those and four contracts that, as the Brooklyn Paper observed, "conveniently amount to $24,999 each"--just short of triggering city oversight.

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Posted by amy at 9:36 AM

Never Surrender

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

No one can accuse Downtown developer and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner of giving up easy. Though yet another court ruling has delayed his plans to begin construction on the state-of-the-art, $950-million, 18,000-seat Barclays Center, the Cleveland native refuses to let litigation or the crumbling economy, curb his enthusiasm for the project, which would pave the way for the arrival of our borough’s first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers got shanghaied to Los Angeles in 1957.

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Posted by amy at 9:32 AM

N.J. Sports Authority moves to keep Nets in state

AP via Press of Atlantic City

New Jersey's Sports and Exposition Authority is trying to get the NBA's Nets to stay in New Jersey.

Carl Goldberg says team owner Bruce Ratner's plan to build a new arena in Brooklyn is unlikely at best.

Goldberg says he'd like to offer the Nets a stake in the Izod Center in East Rutherford to keep it there long-term. The deal would include renovations to the arena in the Meadowlands.

The suggestion comes days after Ratner said the new Brooklyn arena would not be ready until at least 2011 - a year later than planned.

Nets chief executive Brett Yormark tells The Star-Ledger of Newark the team isn't interested in staying in New Jersey.

article

Additional Coverage:

Hoopsworld Least Likely Moved?

Posted by amy at 9:25 AM

October 17, 2008

The NY Post vs. Marty Markowitz

Markowitz-NY1.jpg

In all the recent hullaballoo surrounding the funneling of large donations by Atlantic Yards interested parties to non-profits controlled by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, we missed Monday's NY Post editorial criticizing the Beep (though the paper was quick to reaffirm its support for Atlantic Yards). What tipped us off? Today's Letter to the Editor of the Post from none other than Marty.

NY Post, BEEPING MARTY

The beep is one of the biggest boosters for developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn.

Make no mistake: We've long thought that Atlantic Yards - which includes a new arena for the now-New Jersey Nets, as well as residential and retail space - is a good idea.

Still, the amount of money being directed from the Ratner orbit to Markowitz' favorite nonprofits gives pause.

NY Post [Letters to the Editor], MARTY TO THE RESCUE

Get your facts straight ("Beeping Marty," Editorial, Oct. 13). It was my idea to bring professional sports back to Brooklyn. I advocated for Atlantic Yards, with no strings attached, and I adamantly believe that its arena, affordable housing, retail and union jobs are vital to a vibrant Downtown Brooklyn.
...

If the price of service to Brooklyn families is derision from The Post, so be it. Of course, you also want to paint borough presidents as "do-nothings," but you can't have it both ways.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

At the term limits hearing, AY opponents and supporters make their mark

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder scoured the NY Time, "City Room" blog coverage of yesterday's public hearing on the extension of term-limits for Atlantic Yards references. What would a political circus be without big-wigs, financial beneficiaries of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement and those crazy Atlantic Yards watchdoggies?

Check out Oder's hearing cliff-notes, which includes excerpts by City Councilmember Letitia James, Prospect Heights Action Coalition's Patti Hagan, preservationist Christabel Gough, Marie Louis of Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), BUILD CEO James Caldwell, Atlantic Yards opponent and blogger Michael White, and Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Secretary Jim Vogel.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Economic downturn threatens plans for Brooklyn stadium

From [Not so] SmartBrief.com:

A delay on a court ruling and the financial crisis have delayed plans for new office towers, apartments and an NBA arena in Brooklyn, New York. However, New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner, the developer of the $4 billion project, says it will proceed. A federal court is set to decide whether tax-exempt bonds could help finance the sports arena.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be deciding "whether tax-exempt bonds could help finance the sports arena."

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

October 16, 2008

Sports Authority wants to keep Nets in New Jersey long term

The Star-Ledger
By Ian T. Shearn and Dave D'Alessandro

New Jersey is trying to sweeten the pot to keep the Nets, but CEO Brett Yormark insists that the team is headed to Brooklyn after the courts rule their way. Meanwhile, the clock already ran down on Goldman Sachs's self-imposed deadline for the arena financing: IzodCenter-NSL.jpg

Calling construction of a Brooklyn arena "unlikely at best," New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority chairman Carl Goldberg said Thursday he is interested in offering the Nets a chance to take a stake in Izod Center to keep the Nets there long term.

Such a move would include renovations to the aging arena in the Meadowlands that has already lost the Devils to Newark.
...
Nets chief executive Brent (sic) Yormark said the team isn't interested in any proposal to keep the team in New Jersey.

"I obviously respect Carl, but my only reaction is that we're unequivocally moving to Brooklyn," Yormark said.
...
"The present litigation will be resolved, we expect a favorable ruling sometime in the spring, and then we'll break ground," Yormark said. "The sponsors are behind us, we continue to sell inventory to Barclay's Center, and the understanding throughout the marketplace that the project will go through has not changed."
...
Earlier this month, a self-imposed deadline came and went for Ratner's investment banker Goldman Sachs, which publicly promised to have a financing secured by Oct. 1.

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UPDATE:
Atlantic Yards Report, Offer to keep Nets at Izod Center seems like regional posturing

Norman Oder comments on the article:

A Newark Star-Ledger article yesterday, headlined Sports Authority wants to keep Nets in New Jersey long term, was a little perplexing. Does New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority chairman Carl Goldberg, who called the planned Brooklyn arena "unlikely at best," think the Nets ownership would take a stake in the Izod Center and commit to the Meadowlands?
...
The Nets, if they stay in New Jersey, would be far more likely to move to Newark, but there's no recent confirmation that such discussions are ongoing.

Posted by lumi at 8:42 PM

FBI investigates ACORN for alleged fraud

Officials say FBI is looking at results of office raids in several states

Associated Press, via MSNBC.com

WASHINGTON - The FBI is investigating whether the community activist group ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation before the presidential election.

A senior law enforcement official confirmed the investigation to The Associated Press. A second senior law enforcement official says the FBI was looking at results of recent raids on ACORN offices in several states for any evidence of a coordinated national scam.

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NoLandGrab: ACORN signed the "affordable housing" memorandum of understanding with Bruce Ratner. Should Atlantic Yards be built, the organization will be under contract to administer the "affordable housing" units.

However, if many of these allegations prove true, then ACORN might become too "toxic" to maintain its major-player status in NYC politics.

Posted by lumi at 8:21 PM

If You Build It, Will They Pay?

Luxury stadiums are on the rise. A top seat can cost $150,000. Beer costs extra.

Newsweek
By Johnnie L. Roberts and Andrew Murr

[T]he Yankees are hardly alone in finding new ways to gouge fans; their premium seats are a bargain when compared with prices in Dallas just for the right to buy a season ticket: as much as $150,000. In the latest sign of hyperinflation in the sports business, a slew of ultraexpensive venues are rising, or have been built recently, across the country from Dallas to Washington to New York—where not only the Yankees, but also the Mets, Jets, Giants and New Jersey Nets will all be getting new digs (the New Jersey Devils got a new arena last year). The total price tag for the New York-area building boom alone: more than $5 billion.

Of course, with the nation's financial system teetering, all this construction couldn't be coming at a worse time. Many of the sports industry's most golden gooses, including financial-services giants and automakers—might have a tough time scrounging up thousands of dollars for a seat these days, and might have to slum it with the hard-pressed masses in the cheap seats (meaning under $100 each at Yankee Stadium). These new sports palaces were conceived in a more conspicuous era, and as such they're replete with luxury suites, upscale club seating, catered food and any number of high-tech distractions. Each stadium has an economically stratified seating scheme that will have fans scraping their pocket bottoms or, in a few cases, even mortgaging their homes (if anyone can get a loan these days).

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Of course, Norman Oder has already posted this comment:

Though the article states that "not only the Yankees, but also the Mets, Jets, Giants and New Jersey Nets will all be getting new digs," construction has not begun on the new Nets arena in the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which faces various challenges (lawsuits, credit crisis, availability of tax-exempt bonds).

Posted by lumi at 7:37 PM

Is This the Slowest Project Ever in Brooklyn?

Gowanus Lounge

No, it's not Atlantic Yards, which wouldn't really qualify, since it hasn't broken ground, but it is located on the nearby site of another Forest City Ratner project.

LIRREntrance.jpg

This is the new entrance to the LIRR station at the Atlantic Center. It’s a replacement for the facility that was destroyed as part of the construction of developer Bruce Ratner’s megaplex that includes Target. It’s been under construction since about 1983. Well, not quite that long, but the process has been ongoing for a looooong time and one wonder what, exactly, is taking so long. Earlier this year, glass was installed causing a great deal of excitement that the building might actually be finished before 2050. Alas, there is little visible progress and, in fact, the situation for pedestrians, many of whom now circumvent the construction barricade at one of Brooklyn’s most dangerous intersections and walk in the street, has gotten worse.

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Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

A stop-work order at the Mobil station site

Atlantic Yards Report ran this photo of 195 Flatbush at the south-western tip of the project footprint, where a Stop Work Order has been issued.

As the photo shows (it's taken by AY footprint resident and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein), gas tanks have been excavated. Let's hope the Department of Buildings explains more about what's going on.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

Kucinich schedules hearing October 24 on Yankee Stadium and future of PILOTs

Atlantic Yards Report

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, yesterday announced a hearing October 24 during which Seth Pinsky, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and Randy Levine, President of the New York Yankees, are expected to answer tough questions about the deal to use PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to repay bonds for the new Yankee Stadium. The hearing also may cast doubt on a similar plan for the Atlantic Yards arena.
...
The hearing will examine not only whether the [Yankees] stadium valuation was "gamed" but also "whether the City’s efforts to stop finalization of proposed U.S. Department of Treasury regulations that would effectively prohibit the use of PILOTs in this context serve the public interest."

That larger issue points directly to the city's effort to get tax-exempt bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena grandfathered in under the same loose 2006 ruling--which the chief counsel of the IRS called a "loophole" the agency immediately proposed to close--that enabled PILOTs for the new Yankee Stadium and Mets stadium.

The difference, as I've written, is worth perhaps $165 million to Forest City Ratner on $800 million worth of tax-exempt bonds. And this issue, more than any other, may be the biggest hurdle facing the arena.

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Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

Stadiums and the Economy

The Washington Times, "Sports Biz" (blog)
By Tim Lemke

If there's one area that truly will impact the world of sports, its the credit markets, where lending has practically halted and no one is handing out tons of free cash like in the past. Any team looking to build a new arena or refinance is probably going to find themselves in a pinch.

The good news is that most of the teams entering new facilities in the next year or two had already nailed down funding before the big problems on Wall Street. The Cowboys, Giants, Jets, Yankees and Mets were well on their way to building their stadiums and should be in OK shape when their facilities open in 2009 or 2010.

The NBA's New Jersey Nets, on the other hand, are facing some problems in getting their new arena in Brooklyn.

Bruce Ratner's stalled Nets arena is the only example cited in the article, which reviews all of the recent roadblocks, from the credit crisis, to IRS rules governing tax-exempt bonds.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Bud Shaw's Sports Spin: Appreciating Braylon; the wrong market for LeBron?

Brooklyn enticement (allegedly) for LeBron James is delayed

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

A state appellate panel denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by opponents of Nets owner Bruce Ratner's plan for a 22-acre project in Brooklyn. In more practical terms, it means the Nets aren't moving to Brooklyn until at least 2011 and maybe not even then.

So perhaps now we can stop entertaining any and all rumors that say James is ready to leave Cleveland to join Jay-Z in a gleaming $950 million Brooklyn palace when his Cavs contract is up?

The facts have never been essential to the recycling of the James-to-New York story, so, nah, probably not.

link

NoLandGrab: "The facts have never been essential to" any part of Bruce Ratner's Nets arena plans.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Forest City in the News

MarketWatch, PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Celebrates Grand Opening of The Shops at White Oak Village
Buried in this press release about the opening of a Forest City mall in Virginia is some developer pillow talk:

"The Shops at White Oak Village will serve an attractive and underserved market in eastern Henrico County and offers a unique combination of power center and lifestyle center sensibilities," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer.

CoStar Group, Forest City's The Shoppes at White Oak Village Now Open

Here are some interesting details about the White Oak Village mall:

The center is a redevelopment project. The 136-acre site was once home to a Viasystems manufacturing plan. Throughout the construction process, Forest City said 77,000 tons of concrete were crushed on site and re-used for foundations, sidewalks, and structural support for The Shops at White Oak Village and added that 7,500 tons of aluminum, steel, iron, copper, and other ferrous and non-ferrous metals were also recycled.

Anchors tenants include Circuit City, JC Penney, Lowe's, Sam's Club and Ukrop's. Restaurants include Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse, Qdoba Mexican Grill, McDonald's, TGI Friday's, Tropical Smoothie, Firehouse Subs, Cracker Barrel, Chick-Fil-A, and Red 88 Buffet. Other tenants include 7-Eleven, Anna's Linens, Ashley Stewart, AT&T, Bath & Body Works, DEB Shops, Diamond Expressions, Dots, Downtown Locker Room, dressbarn, Five Below, Floor to Ceiling, Freemans, GameStop, Great Clips, Kay Jewelers, Lee Spa Nails, Lim's Menswear, Mattress Warehouse, OfficeMax, Payless ShoeSource, Pure Vision 20/20, Rack Room Shoes, Rainbow, Shoe City, Sports Zone, T-Mobile, and Wachovia.

CoStar Group, Will New Initiative to Develop Zero-Net Energy Buildings End Before it Even Begins?

Tough economic times might put the kibbosh on the Department of Energy's Zero-Net Energy Commercial Building Initiative, even before the public-private initiative has a chance to really get started.

The real estate companies involved in the program are CB Richard Ellis, Forest City Enterprises, Hines, InterContinental Hotels Group, The Opus Group, ProLogis, Regency Centers, Ryan Companies US, Simon Property Group, Tishman Speyer and The Westfield Group.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hooters closes at Station Square to make room for sports bar

After nearly 16 years at Station Square, Hooters restaurant has closed its doors.

The restaurant shut down Sunday after Station Square owner, Forest City Enterprises, exercised an option to terminate the lease.

Forest City plans to replace Hooters with Field House, a sports bar. Tom Schneck II, a Forest City spokesman at Station Square, said Field House will open next year, but did not have an exact date.

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

Self-Congratulation “Befalls” a Man Who Would Know No Limits

Noticing New York noticed that Forest City Ratner was a "Major Contributor" to The Waterfalls, the tree-killing public art project to which "Mayor Bloomberg awarded the city’s Doris C. Freedman Award..." for its contribution “to the public environment."

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Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

October 15, 2008

Will Sports Weather The Economic Storm?

National Public Radio, All Things Considered

Sports have historically been recession-proof. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis says events like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had little impact on the sports business. But, he says, in the present economic climate three issues must be considered: the credit market, corporate fallout and fans.

An excerpt:

Stefan Fatsis: You're going to see a lot more cost control with teams and leagues and then steps to keep them from losing companies and fans.

Robert Siegel: Steps such as?

SF: You're not going to see ticket prices go up much in the next year or two. Many teams are going to start offering discounts. In some sports like hockey or soccer, in the United States anyway, turnstile is still very important to the bottom line.

link

NoLandGrab: The importance of "turnstile" explains the Nets's latest season-ticket incentive program — no money down!

Posted by lumi at 8:06 PM

Kucinich Steps Up Pressure on NYC Officials

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) sent a 16-page letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday (with 12 additional pages of attachments), raising "serious questions" about Yankee Stadium land assessments, PILOTs and tax-exempt financing. Can similar questions about the still-known-as Barclays Center arena be far behind?

DDDB has the press release, along with a link to the Congressman's letter, which also includes a reminder to the Mayor:

I request that the City promptly fully comply with the Subcommittee's requests for documents that should have been produced on August 6, 2008 — over two months ago — and provide two witnesses for the upcoming Subcommittee hearing.

link

Posted by eric at 8:00 PM

The AY meme meets Mike Francesa: project is "about down the drain"

Atlantic Yards Report

The skeptical Norman Oder is tracking the Atlantic-Yards-is-toast meme, this time it makes it all the way to "Double-U-F-A-N — The Fan — New York":

No Land Grab has a clip from WFAN's Francesa on the Fan show, in which Mike Francesa, who, like many sports talk show hosts, sounds authoritative, even though he's talking through his hat.
...
Francesa was on more solid ground when he suggested that 2012 or 2013 are the earliest the arena would open--Forest City Ratner has finally started using 2011, but I think 2012 is a more likely best-case alternative.

He predicted principal owner Bruce Ratner will sell the team and it will move to Newark, where the Prudential Center has already opened.

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NoLandGrab: Typically, Mike Francesa talks through a mike, not a hat. However, when supporters stop believing, then the air of inevitability may give cover for the developer or NY State to finally pull the plug.

Posted by lumi at 7:53 PM

Today's Financial News: Atlantic Yards Edition

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Project Stalled by Economy, Experts Say

The Associated Press is responsible for the latest skeptical report on the future of developer Bruce Ratner's embattled $4 billion plan to build a Nets arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Brooklyn.

Gotham Gazette [The Wonkster], Vanishing Projects

Julian [sic] Vitullo-Martin (whose article on Brooklyn retail appears on Gotham Gazette this week), a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said she hopes Atlantic Yards will fall victim to economic woes. The city, she said, can no longer afford to subsidize the arena and residential complex in downtown Brooklyn.

Brownstoner, Nets' Move to BK Not a Slam Dunk

As of this evening, the done-deal contingent hasn't reported for duty in the comments section.

HoopsWorld, Nets Move Delayed, Again

NoLandGrab: While the author cites "pending legislation" as one of the issues delaying Atlantic Yards, we think he means "pending litigation."

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Finally Makes Our Brains Explode

What the f*ck is going on at Atlantic Yards?

The Brooklyn Optimist, Atlantic Yards Arena Delayed Yet Another Year

TrueHoop, Late Wednesday Bullets

Queens Crap, Atlantic Yards a sinking ship?

The Knicks Blog, The Recession and LeBron

Yonkers Tribune, Promises, Promises: The Yonkers Version

Posted by eric at 5:24 PM

Stop-work order at 195 Flatbush Avenue

StopWorkOrder.jpg

A stop-work order has been served on 195 Flatbush Avenue by the New York City Department of Buildings. The property, under the control of Forest City Ratner, was previously the site of a Mobil gas station, and is the planned home of "B2," the Atlantic Yards project's promised first residential building.

The stop-work order cites a failure "to comply with site safety plan program" and the absence of a site safety manager, and notes a damaged, inadequate or absent safety net or guard rail. A correspondent reports that as recently as this morning, workers were excavating old gas tanks.

View the Stop-Work Order / View the Complaint Overview

NoLandGrab: Though the Complaint Overview says things are "resolved," that's not necessarily the case. The word is used by DOB as an administrative tool to track complaint dispositioning.

Posted by eric at 4:01 PM

"Ratner's whole Atlantic Yards dream is about down the drain"

WFAN [Francesa on the Fan]

Thanks to an alert listener, who notified us about the segment, NoLandGrab has this exclusive from yesterday's Francesa on the Fan show.

WFAN sportstalk host Mike Francesa (joined by guest host Evan Roberts) paints a gloomy picture of the future of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, colored by the global financial crisis, ongoing law suits and a perceived reluctance on the part of government officials to devote even more public money to the project.

Francesa, who has generally supported the idea of moving the Nets to Brooklyn, may be slightly off in some of his facts and too quick to doom Atlantic Yards, but he very reasonably believes that the team's future will include an eventual sale by Ratner to investors who will move the Nets to Newark's Prudential Center arena.

Posted by eric at 2:08 PM

Your Name Here?

What happens to a stadium name when the company goes bust?

ABC News

EnronField.jpg

Remember Enron Field, the MCI Center and the Adelphia Coliseum? All three professional sports venues had to be renamed after the companies that owned the naming rights went bust or got mired in scandals. ABC New reports on what effect the current global financial crisis might have on stadium monikers (bonus points if you can guess the current names of the facilities above; answers below).

link

Enron Field = Minute Maid Park (Houston)
MCI Center = Verizon Center (Washington, DC)
Adelphia Coliseum = LP Field (Nashville)
Barclays Center = ?

Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

Bloomy: Marty is ‘probably’ good

The Brooklyn Paper
by Mike McLaughlin

Mayor Bloomberg offered only lukewarm support on Tuesday for his embattled ally Borough President Markowitz, who’s come under intense ethical scrutiny since The Brooklyn Paper reported last month that his private charity has received hundreds of thousands in dollars from Bruce Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer who has enjoyed strong support from Markowitz.

Government watchdogs called the charitable donations a “payback” for Markowitz’s cheerleading of the $4-billion project, and the city comptroller howled after some of the money was doled out in no-bid contracts.

This week, it got worse for Markowitz, with the New York Post reporting that Bloomberg himself also gave millions to Markowitz’s charity. The newspaper called Markowitz “reprehensible,” and demanded the elimination of the largely ceremonial borough presidents.

But Bloomberg, making a stop in Downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday, defended Markowitz and his fellow borough leaders — well, sort of.

“They [Markowitz and the four other borough presidents] are probably worth the money,” Hizzoner said.

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Posted by eric at 8:28 AM

Bishop Loughlin coach Khalid Green Nets a new job as NBA scout

NY Daily News
By Mark Lelinwalla

Holy _____! The NJ Nets are hiring the son of an early political backer of Atlantic Yards as a scout for the team.

KhalidGreen-NY.jpg

The Daily News has learned that the Nets have hired Bishop Loughlin High School coach Khalid Green as their East Coast college scout.

Apparently, the Bishop Loughlin coach has already done some work for the team:

Green previously had analyzed talent and conducted background checks on recruits for the Nets during the past two offseasons, but he is expecting a heavier workload in his new position. Green told the Daily News that he will primarily be scouting Big East games and some Atlantic 10 games, as well as enough Nets games to learn what players need on the NBA level.

Though Khalid Green admits that being the son of the former State Assemblyman helped get him "casually introduced" to Bruce Ratner, he did all of his own follow-up leg work:

Green, who starts his new job Nov.1 first made inroads with the Nets four years ago when his father, former Brooklyn assemblyman Roger Green, casually introduced him to Nets owner Bruce Ratner in downtown Brooklyn.

"He plugged me in and let me shake hands with people that normally I wouldn't have been able to meet," Green said. "I took it from there. I know how to grind. One thing led to another. I'm happy to leave Loughlin better than I found it and eager to learn more with the Nets."

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NoLandGrab: A "casual introduction" to Bruce Ratner is one of those tangible "community benefits" of the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 7:18 AM

Economy, uncertain financing plague Brooklyn arena

From the Associated Press, via San Diego Union-Tribune
By Amy Westfeldt

This report was picked up by media across the nation, including during yesterday evening's local-news break on WNYC, today's metroNY (right), and in brief in today's amNY:

Bruce Ratner's $4 billion dream for a new Brooklyn will have to wait, at least until next year.

The New Jersey Nets owner and developer has been plagued by a string of problems that have delayed his plans for a new NBA arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Brooklyn.

Ratner continues to blame a recent court ruling for delays, but financial experts paint a fairly grim picture regardless of the local opposition to the project:

“It's got more of an economic stall than a political or a legal stall,” said Michael Rowe, a sports management expert and former president of the Nets. “I think he missed the curve on when that project was financially viable and now he has to wait for it to come back.”
...
The Internal Revenue Service in 2006 proposed tightening the regulations of tax-exempt bonds to severely limit their use to pay for sports stadiums. A final decision, which could affect the arena as well as the bonds used to build stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets, is still pending. An IRS spokesman wouldn't say when a ruling is expected.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the lead bond underwriter for Atlantic Yards, declined comment on prospects for the arena financing. Barclays Capital, which signed to a $400 million deal to name the arena the Barclays Center, remains committed to the project, spokesman Brandon Ashcraft said.
...
Ratner has appealed to government officials, citing the difficulties of financing the project in a downturn, but no more help has been promised.

“Without relief from the IRS, the project will be significantly more expensive, and even more challenging,” said Janel Patterson, spokeswoman for the city's Economic Development Corporation. “But we all remain committed to seeing the project move forward.”
...
“In this credit climate, it's going to be very challenging,” said Marc Ganis, a sports finance expert in Chicago, though he and others think Ratner will eventually succeed. “It's made lending far more challenging and far more expensive, at least in the sports industry.”

Atlantic Yards Report, The AY inevitability meme turns; will a "plagued" project "eventually succeed"?

Though Norman Oder finds the Associated Press reporter Amy Westfeldt's skepticism of Ratner's recent statement noteworthy, he doesn't think the doom-and-gloom scenario is on the mark:

In the closing paragraph, in fact, the article quotes Marc Ganis, a sports finance expert in Chicago, as saying the project is seriously challenged, though he and others think Ratner will eventually succeed.

So it's a bit presumptuous for the project's leading opponent, Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, to say "This is just merely a fantasy that they're going to build this project. Yet they're moving forward as if everything's fine."

Sure, it's a fantasy that FCR would build the project at the timing and scale as announced. But, as I've written, the project--at least the arena--is very much in play. Yes, the Barclays Center naming rights deal was tied to gaining financing by November, but Barclays has said it's still committed to the project.

And, while the AP cites "penalties" attached to delays in the project, the article doesn't mention that those penalties are hardly punitive.

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

Atlantic Yards Cheerleader in Chief charity bankroll

Gothamist, City's Millions for Markowitz's Non-Profits "Doesn't Smell Right," Critic Contends

Here's definitely the snarkiest synopsis of recent coverage of funding sources of charities controlled by Borough President Marty Markowitz:

Markowitz-Goth.jpg

Wheee, the tabloids won't stop hammering Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz over the way he runs three non-profits that produce free Brooklyn events and promote tourism! First the Daily News got up in his grill over $680,496 in no-bid contracts he awarded to the non-profits, then the Post was all, What's up with all the loot the Atlantic Yards developer pours into your pet projects, Marty? Now the Post is insinuating that the $2.7 million (maybe more) in tax dollars the Bloomberg administration has funneled to Markowitz's non-profits is essentially a payoff for the beep's Bloomberg cheerleading. Politicians doling out tax money for favors? We're shocked, and so is Dick Dadey of the watchdog group Citizens Union: "It doesn't smell right that he's getting so much city funds for nonprofits serving his interest."

Atlantic Yards Report, NY Post: Bloomberg administration has given $2.7M+ to Markowitz's nonprofits
Norman Oder continues to note the silence from Bruce Ratner's development partner, The NY Times:

This time, at least, the [NY Post] story made the New York Times's Morning Buzz. But it deserves some follow-up, given that money can't hurt the mutual admiration society Bloomberg and Markowitz have fostered.

Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

Laurie Olin is(n't) working on Atlantic Yards

It depends on whom you ask

Yesterday, Norman Oder noted on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report, that Laurie Olin's web site indicated that the celebrated landscape designer is no longer working on Atlantic Yards.

OlinAY-FCR.jpg

The Real Estate Observer, Forest City: Landscape Architect Olin Still Involved at Atlantic Yards
Reporter Eliot Brown from The NY Observer called developer Forest City Ratner for comment, which provided a statement to the contrary:

...via spokesman Joe DePlasco:

"Laurie Olin has been involved from the beginning of the design process and he will be involved in the end. The eight acres of open space will be built as part of Phase 2 of the project, which has always been the case. Mr. Olin has completed preliminary work on that and will be involved going forward."

Atlantic Yards Report, FCR's fudge: Laurie Olin is (maybe) on sabbatical
Oder finally received a statement from Olin's firm and posted this on the blog:

Sure, it's possible that his role has been suspended rather than ended. If so, however, why did his office provide me with a statement that used the past tense regarding the relationship with the developer?

The statement: "OLIN completed a master plan for Atlantic Yards that we believe was a serious response to the many issues raised regarding this portion of the City of New York, and the great need for large amounts of affordable housing with adjacent well-designed, environmentally-responsive public landscape. We enjoyed a supportive and appreciative relationship with the owner/developer, the architects and the City of New York public officials. The current economic turmoil points to the truth that plans of such scope almost inevitably are realized over several economic cycles and must both be able to endure as well as be flexible to change."

NoLandGrab: No matter what the Forest City Ratner spinmeister would have us believe, it sounds like Laurie Olin considers his work on Atlantic Yards to be done [read, Ratner is no longer a paying client] and that the landscape architect does not expect that the project will be completed any time soon, nor will it actually adhere to the original project proposal.

Posted by lumi at 6:09 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Brownstoner Book Club Reads In the Country of Brooklyn
For the "real" story on Atlantic Yards from the former megaproject huckster Jim Stuckey (complete with prom photo), buy this book!

IntheCountryofBrooklyn.gif

And while there's plenty for the history buffs, some might be most interested in the latter chapters on recent Brooklyn issues: Atlantic Yards, the remaking of Coney Island and our own real estate boom. The book has a decidedly uncritical bent; he attributes our real estate boom to Ratner's Metrotech and Atlantic Center projects, and finds a pro-AY subject to interview for the chapter.

Naturally, Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder was first in the comments:

Not just a pro-AY subject but Jim Stuckey himself.

http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2008/09/brutally-weird-in-new-book-on-brooklyn.html

Brooklyn Based, Causes We Can Believe In

If your political mojo is in overdrive or the economy has you on edge, you can channel those energies into changing things in your own backyard. From donating unwanted clothes, to getting Obama in office, to caring for insanely cute kittens, we’ve uncovered local charities and causes for every commitment level.

Baby-NLG.jpgUnder "BURNING ISSUES":

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn is four years into the fight against Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, and is funding two cases that are tying it up in court. Even if they win one, Ratner or the state will likely appeal and that will cost money to defend.

What They Need: The next Walkathon is this Saturday, Oct. 18, and given the funding crunch between the presidential campaign and poor economy, donations are needed more than ever now and throughout the year.

Location: To donate or participate in the walk visit the site>>

Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

Video: Devin Harris gets hustled by London streetballer

Yahoo! Sports

Via TrueHoop, comes this humbling clip of Nets point guard Devin Harris playing a quick game of one-on-one against some random English chap in jeans and a v-neck sweater. The outcome is surprising, to say the least.

NoLandGrab: Since the Nets are all about "hope and fun," we hope Bruce signs the bloke — it would be fun.

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

Construction industry to take hit from economy

Citywide, nearly 30,000 construction jobs could be lost by 2010 due to the economy, according to a new report. Construction spending will drop 22% to $26.2 billion in the same period.

Crain's NY Business
By Daniel Massey

If you believe this report, you have to assume that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is in the eye of the credit crisis storm (emphasis added):

The credit crunch, a slowing economy and growing budget deficits will strip almost 30,000 construction jobs from the city’s workforce by 2010, bringing industry employment to its lowest level in more than 10 years, according to a report released Tuesday by the New York Building Congress.
...
The number of residential units constructed is expected to be nearly halved by 2010 to 18,500 with a falloff in spending of $2.2 billion. Nonresidential construction, including office space, institutional development and sports venues, will fall nearly 30% to $7.1 billion. And government projects—which remain the primary driver of construction activity in the city—will fall more than 15% to $14.4 billion by 2010.

article

NoLandGrab: BTW, that's 30,000 real jobs, not "Bruce Ratner jobs" (300 jobs over 100 years).

The NY Times, End Seen to New York Building Boom

From Charles Bagli's article on the same report:

The report confirms that construction and real estate activity tends to be a lagging indicator of economic health. Projects that got under way in the last two years are going forward despite a flagging economy. But experts say that new projects are being delayed.
...
The big question, [NY Building Congress President Richard T.] Anderson said, is whether the city and state will continue their commitment to capital spending on subway expansions, schools and other projects, or be forced to slash their budgets as tax revenues from Wall Street and real estate fall sharply.

NoLandGrab: The question is where does Bruce Ratner's controversial megaproject fit in this mess. NY City and State have committed hundreds of millions of dollars in direct subsidies, some below-grade work is underway, but many aspects of this large complicated project have ground to a halt and there isn't any marketplace momentum to get the project started.

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

October 14, 2008

SURE PAYS FOR MARTY TO BE MIKE'S BUDDY

NY Post
by Rich Calder

SweetMarty.jpg

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is cashing in big-time by being a favorite of Mayor Bloomberg.

Since 2003, the Bloomberg administration has handed out at least $2.7 million in taxpayer cash to three nonprofit groups Markowitz set up to fund "free" concerts and other pet projects, a Post investigation has found.

The programs funded have been instrumental in boosting Markowitz's popularity and helping him get re-elected, critics charge.
...

While political candidates face strict limits on how much they can receive in campaign funding from donors, a loophole in the law allows donors to be as generous as they want for a politician's pet projects.

Since 2003, Markowitz's nonprofits have received between $3,323,424 and $5,644,124 in taxpayer funds from government agencies, according to city Conflicts of Interest Board records.
...

The beep also is cashing in from the private sector.

The Post reported Friday that Nets owner Bruce Ratner and others involved in the controversial $4 billion plan to build an NBA arena and 16 apartment and office towers in Brooklyn donated between $680,000 and $1,075,000 to Markowitz's nonprofits since 2003. The beep is considered the project's greatest cheerleader.

article

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Landscape architect Olin leaves AY project (apparently), predicts "other architects and other hands"

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards web site touts Lauri Olin's design for the Atlantic Yards open space, but Olin's web site indicates that the landscape designer is no longer working on the project.

OlinAY.jpgOlin's office hasn't returned Norman Oder's requests for comment [Update: Oder received a statement from Olin's office late this morning], but that doesn't stop the "Mad O" from piecing together the clues:

It's not clear why he's gone. Maybe Olin's main work in master planning is done. Maybe the developer's trying to save a few bucks. Maybe it's a penalty for having gone off-message regarding the project's timetable and the role of other architects. Maybe it's that the eight acres of promised open space are so far in the future--in an unscheduled Phase 2--that there's no need to keep him on board for now.

Whatever the reason, it certainly diminishes one of the selling points for the project: Olin's role. And it means that Forest City Ratner should stop promoting Olin's role, as on its web site.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

As Economy Weakens, Sports Feel a Chill

The Wall Street Journal
By Matthew Futterman

VinceCarter-AP0810.jpg Though banks are hesitant to offer credit, Ratner unveils his no-money-down economic bailout plan!

"We're not just competing for people's entertainment dollars anymore," said Brett Yormark, chief executive of the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets. "We're going up against milk and orange juice."

Stealing a page from the retailing playbook, Mr. Yormark is trying to lure fans with a buy-now-pay-later offer that allows season-ticket buyers to attend games without paying for them until Jan. 5.

The NJ Nets ticket-sales campaign has the attention span of a puppy:

This off-season, Mr. Yormark told his sales staff to be creative. In the spring the team pledged to give back 10% of any season-ticket purchase in the form of a gas card. When the team secured the 10th pick in the NBA draft, it began slashing prices on season tickets.

Then came a buy-one-get-one-free season ticket offer. When the financial markets collapsed, taking out thousands of jobs in the Nets' backyard, Mr. Yormark instituted the buy-now-pay-later offer.

Two weeks before opening night, he remains 20% short of his goal of selling 1,600 new full-season tickets to make up for the drop in his renewal rate. The team averaged 16,900 fans per game last year.

Unlike Ratner's Nets, puppies are actually "fun":

While the Nets aren't expected to contend for a championship, Mr. Yormark hopes fans will come for a break from the reality of their financial woes. "We've never sold wins and losses," Mr. Yormark said. "We sell hope and fun."

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Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

Barclays Plans to Raise More Than 6.5 Billion Pounds

Bloomberg.com
By Ambereen Choudhury

Though Barclays Bank was originally on the list of banks to receive assistance from the British central bank, yesterday Barclays announced that it hoped to raise the capital it needs through the private market:

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Barclays Plc, the U.K.'s second-biggest bank, plans to sell more than 6.5 billion pounds ($11 billion) of shares to private investors without turning to the government for help, and said it won't pay a final dividend for 2008.

"The board expects that the additional capital will be raised from investors without calling on the government funding which has been offered to U.K. banks,'' the London-based bank said in a statement today.
...
Barclays will issue preference shares to raise 3 billion pounds by Dec. 31, and will sell ordinary stock to raise about 600 million pounds to fund the purchase of some of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.'s assets. The bank will also issue new ordinary shares to raise a further 3 billion pounds by March 31, 2009.

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NoLandGrab: The condition of Barclays Bank has been of interest to Atlantic Yards watchdogs because, in January 2007, the bank signed a $400-million arena-naming-rights deal with Bruce Ratner.

Barclays can still walk away from the deal if Ratner is unable to complete financing by the end of November.

Will balance-sheet triage cause Barclays to bail on the arena deal or will Barclays execs feel that they need the branding boost for the Lehman Brothers acquisitions?

Stay tuned...

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

October 13, 2008

Term Limits, Wall Street Bust & End of NYC Real Estate Boom

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CUNY SOCIAL FORUM

Term Limits, Wall Street Bust & End of NYC Real Estate Boom:
An analysis and presentation on the growing citywide resistance against

Bloomberg's Agenda to Gentrify Low Income Communities.

Saturday, October 18, 2008
From 3:30 to 4:50 PM
(North Academic Campus) NAC Building - Room (1/201)

New York is Home to All: Citywide Organizing Against Bloomberg's Agenda to Gentrify Low Income Communities in New York City. Join us in a round table analysis and interactive discussion on Bloomberg's racist Master Plan to ethnically cleanse New York City's low income neighborhoods by employing his weapons of mass displacement: Sell-out Elected Officials, The City Planning Department, the New York City Council, the Empire State Development Corporation, Zoning, Eminent Domain, Bogus Community Benefit Agreements and Paid Off Community Base Front Groups.

Moderator: Nellie Hester Bailey, Executive Director, Harlem Tenants Council

Panelists:

Attorney Kim Powell: BRUSH (Buyers & Renters to Save Harlem)

David Galarza: Sunset Park alliance of Neighbors (Queens)

Sergio Aguirro, Committee for Defense of Willets Point

Josephine Lee: Coalition to Protect Chinatown/Lower East Side

Tom Angotti, Urban Planner & Author (New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, 2008)

Tom Angotti's book is now for sale (much like New York, only in a good way). From the press release:

In New York for Sale, Tom Angotti tells some of the stories of community planning in New York City: how activists moved beyond simple protests and began to formulate community plans to protect neighborhoods against urban renewal, real estate mega-projects, gentrification, and environmen tal hazards.

A full list of Angotti's book presentations in Manhattan and Brooklyn available after the jump.

What is the relationship between these entities and how are grass roots groups throughout the City organizing resistance and fight back? In addition, Bloomberg is attempting to defy the democratic process by abolishing Term Limits to complete his racist development agenda even in midst of the worst economic crisis the city and nation have ever faced. A look at the scheme to overturn Term Limit as it relates to furthering the gentrification process in addition to an analysis of the end of NYC's real estate boom and its impact on development projects including Harlem's fame 125th Street!

The core of the discussion will center on the growing citywide movement to "Dump Bloomberg" in protest of the Mayor's housing program that has razed low income communities from Harlem to Sunset Park to Willets Point to make way for more profitable luxury developments catering to a wealthy elite while sacrificing working families and small businesses that built the city. While the majority of residents in the City are living from paycheck to paycheck Bloomberg's personal fortune has increased from $14 to 2$22.5 billion, making him the 8th richest person in the nation. Don't miss this critical workshop.

...

Other [panelists] to be announced including representatives from the Coalition Against East 125th Street Development Project & Movement for Justice in El Barrio. Tune in to WHCR 90.3 FM Radio for Inside Housing on Monday, October 13th from 6 PM to 7 PM for additional information on CUNY Social Forum.


New York City Book Presentations: October/November 2008

NEW YORK FOR SALE: COMMUNITY PLANNING CONFRONTS GLOBAL REAL ESTATE by Tom Angotti

Now available from MIT Press at http://mitpress.mit.edu

October 20 (Mon) Museum of the City of New York, 5th Ave @ 104 St.,

6:30 pm Manhattan. $9, $5 for Museum members

                     Panel discussion: “Are Developers Overbuilding?” Book signing follows.

October 26 (Sun) Home of Isabel Hill, Park Slope, Brooklyn

5 pm 562 4th Street, btw 8th Ave. & Prospect Park West

October 28 (Tues) Metropolitan Exchange, Brooklyn

7 pm 33 Flatbush Ave. btw Livingston & Fulton, 6th Floor

November 6 (Thurs) Bluestockings Bookstore, Manhattan

7 pm 172 Allen St., btw Stanton & Rivington

November 12 (Wed) Center for Place, Culture & Politics, Manhattan

6 pm CUNY Graduate Center, 5th Ave & 34th St., Rm. 6107

November 13 (Thurs) Brecht Forum, Manhattan

7:30 pm 451 West St., btw Bank & Bethune

November 17 (Mon) Hunter College, Manhattan

7:15 pm 68th & Lexington, West Building, 8th Floor

November 18 (Tues) Municipal Art Society, Manhattan

6:30 pm 457 Madison Ave. @ 51st St.

November 23 (Sun) Planners Network Book Club

                    Bluestockings Bookstore, Manhattan

                    172 Allen St., btw Stanton & Rivington

Posted by amy at 9:05 AM

Marty "bought and paid for"? Following up on the Post's scoop

Atlantic Yards Report

Many Atlantic Yards critics have long thought that there had to be some finacial incentive for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's illogical and unflagging support for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards arena and highrise megaproject.

Watchdog Norman Oder thinks that the issue of quid pro quo isn't that clear cut, though that's no reason for other local papers to ignore last week's revelations in the NY Post:

It's surprising that no other daily newspaper has followed up yet on the New York Post's scoop Friday that developer Forest City Ratner, as well as allied contractors, "have quietly funneled at least $680,000 to three nonprofits set up by Markowitz," promoting his charitable endeavors and concert series, and that Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union said, "Affiliated nonprofits should not be used as pseudo campaign accounts."

Just because another newspaper got there first, that doesn't mean that competitors should deny their readers important information.
...
It's impossible to prove that the issue is Ratner's largesse--it could simply be "in for a dime, in for a dollar" (or, in this case, a several hundred million in public funds). Markowitz has staked his reputation on this project, so maybe he'll going to continue to double down, to support the project no matter what.

On the other hand, Oder recalls a telling scene from a New Yorker profile, where Markowitz takes a call from "Bruce."

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Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

ACCUSING ACORN

Newsday.com

ACORN_Logo.gifThe story of irregularities in ACORN's get-out-the-vote drives has been making local news nationwide:

McCain's campaign has demanded Obama's ties to ACORN, an activist organization that runs voter-registration drives, be probed. Registration cards the group submitted prompted fraud investigations in Nevada, Connecticut, Missouri, and at least five other states - and included some with the names of Dallas Cowboys football players. Bertha Lewis, a chief organizer for ACORN who is well known in New York City politics, issued a detailed rejoinder with ACORN leader Steve Kest, saying status quo forces were playing up isolated irregularities to deter voter registration. Lewis has been co-chair of the state Working Families Party. She drew paparazzi-style notice in 2005 by grabbing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's face and kissing him on the lips when ACORN and the city reached a certain participation deal with developer Bruce Ratner on Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project.

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NoLandGrab: For the record, Bertha Lewis kissed Bruce Ratner on the lips at the press conference as well.

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Forest City in the News: Openings

WTVR.com, PRESS RELEASE: Discover The Shops at White Oak Village October 13

Henrico County, VA (September 30, 2008) - Residents of Henrico County will be treated to a special gift this Columbus Day when The Shops at White Oak Village officially opens, Monday, October 13 at 10 a.m. In a ceremony set on the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival to America, Forest City Enterprises and Pruitt Associates will cut the ribbon and open the Center in patriotic red, white and blue style.

"This will be the beginning of a new era in Eastern Henrico," said Brendan Fisher, associate project developer, Forest City Commercial Development. "Forest City and Pruitt Associates are thrilled to bring Henrico residents a new world of shopping and dining to explore in their own community. It is with great pride that we open The Shops at White Oak Village."

MartketWatch.com, PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Military Communities Opens First New Privatized Homes for Navy Families

MILLINGTON, Tenn., Oct 03, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Together with the United States Navy, Forest City Military Communities, LLC, today welcomed local officials and community leaders to celebrate the completion of the first new privatized homes for navy families at Mid-South.

"These new homes create much needed places for our nation's sailors to live," said Forest City Military Communities' Michael Defferding. "Our partnership with the United States Navy has enabled us to bring the best of private sector business practices to our military and greatly improve the quality of life for some of the most deserving families in America. Their contribution to our nation during these times of difficulty is a true inspiration to us all."

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

October 12, 2008

Letter to the Editor: Staten Island Advance

FRAN POWERS, CLIFTON

So, Mike Bloomberg has decided he is above what the voting public has already passed into law twice. I just have a couple of questions: What exactly has he done that is good for New York City that hasn't advanced his own agenda?

What about all the money wasted trying to get the Olympics (failed at that), the West Side Jets stadium (failed at that) and the Atlantic Yards (failure has been slightly postponed). The closing of Astroland with no imminent projects actually and financially close to fruition.

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Posted by amy at 10:01 AM

Another distortion in the latest "liar flier"

liarflier10.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report notices that the buildings in the flier renderings got a bit of a haircut...

At right is a spread from the flier emphasizing the provision of affordable housing and the project's "eco-friendly nature."

The rendering is long on foreground, short on background. Project towers--some of them planned to be 30, 40, and 50 stories, are cut off, with only half-a-dozen floors visible.

The main image of the project is... trees.

link

Posted by amy at 9:56 AM

Markowitz Says It's Not the Money

101008marty.jpg

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asks some questions of Marty Markowitz's assertion that the big bucks pouring in from Ratner did not green his vision of Atlantic Yards:

Okay, sure Markowitz supported the project from the beginning and advocated for it. But he has continued to advocate for it for five years with zero skepticism and zero scrutiny despite all that has come to light about it. What explains his disdain for ever single criticism or complaint about the project?

Are we to believe that Ratner's largesse has nothing to do with Markowitz's utter lack of scrutiny of perhaps the most controversial development plan in Brooklyn's history? Markowitz's unconditional, undying support for Atlantic Yards despite the developer's broken promises on "affordable housing," abuse of eminent domain, displacement of tenants, ongoing failure to actually build anything, extended delays, over-dependence on public subsidies and special tax breaks, complete lack of a traffic plan for an extraordinarily congested area etc etc, has nothing to do with Ratner's "philanthropy?"

The fact that over five years of controversy we've not heard a critical peep from the Beep has absolutely nothing to do with Ratner's money? Believe that, and we've got a bridge to sell you.

link

More coverage: gothamist: Markowitz "Bought and Paid For" by Atlantic Yards Developer, Critic Says
Queens Crapper: Pig BP rolling in tainted dough

Posted by amy at 9:45 AM

October 11, 2008

Forest City's tanking stock price; an impact on AY?

fcrchart10.08.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Most people who have money in the stock market are taking a hit, so it's no surprise that Forest City Enterprises (FCE), parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, is also suffering big-time.

Still, its decline is pretty dramatic: it closed yesterday at $19.79, near the low point of its 52-week range: $18.84 - $60.36. (Five-year chart at right, from October 2003, two months before the project was announced.)

AY impact?

What does that mean to the company? Well, a month ago, even before the market tanked, President and CEO Chuck Ratner told investment analysts, "To a great degree, our pipeline gives us the ability to pull back on slow projects as markets weaken or, if the outlook improves, to move projects at a faster pace. Clearly, from everything that we see, this is a time to pull back and that’s exactly what we’ve done."

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Posted by amy at 9:39 AM

Backyard Gardens in Stereo

The Brooklyn Rail
Erik Rhey takes a walking tour of the backyard gardens of Brooklyn, ending in Prospect Heights:

We made our way back along Dean Street, past the chaos of rubble and chain-link fences that cordoned off demolition anticipating the Atlantic Yards project. There were no trees along the sidewalk to offer respite from the asphalt sauna.

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NoLandGrab: Unfortunately, the missing trees are no accident, and Bruce Ratner is no community gardener.

Posted by amy at 9:29 AM

Ratner Contributions Questioned

NetsDaily
NoLandGrab: A storm is brewing over at NetsDaily where a commenter makes the mistake of invoking Norman Oder's name, thus inviting himself to a thorough fact-checking:

Norman Oder says:

Since my name was invoked, I’ll agree that the project isn’t dead and, as I’ve written, if the tax-exempt bonds become available and legal challenges overcome *within a reasonable time*, Ratner certainly will build the arena.

By the same token, delay eventually will have its costs, given the effect on parent company Forest City Enterprises’ bottom line, especially if the stock continues to tank: http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2008/10/forest-citys-tanking-stock-price-impact.html

We just don’t know their decision-making process.

link

Posted by amy at 9:17 AM

Hermann Park: a landscape jewel

tradingmarkets.com

White-haired and charming, Olin excels at both sides of his business. In courting Brooklynites suspicious of the Atlantic Yards development, it's usually Olin who takes the lead, not his frequent collaborator, Frank Gehry. Gehry is perhaps the most famous architect in the world, but at public forums on the project, he mainly sits quiet. Olin does the talking.

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NoLandGrab: We must have missed all these forums...or maybe they are just "forums of the mind." Or maybe the author is confusing Olin with another white-haired charmer...

Posted by amy at 9:02 AM

October 10, 2008

Brooklyn BP Defends Donations From Atlantic Yards Developer

NY1

PointingMarty.jpg

Markowitz defended the donations, saying that he has always been a proponent of this project and these contributions had no affect on his support.

"Make no mistake, I advocated for this project with no strings attached, no promise of any reciprocal support whatsoever," he said in a statement. "And I continue to do so adamantly because it will be a major catalyst for continuing what we call the 'Brooklyn Renaissance.'"

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NoLandGrab: You say "Brooklyn Renaissance," we say "conflict of interest." Let's call the whole thing off!

And remember, when you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing right back at you.

More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: FCR, allies funnel at least $680K to Markowitz's "pseudo campaign accounts"

NY Observer, Report: Atlantic Yards Backers Reward Markowitz Nonprofits

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Mega-bucks for Markowitz, Mega-project for Ratner

Posted by eric at 1:20 PM

BEEP REAPING BIG AS YARDS BACKER

ARENA-PLAN GROUPS BOO$T HIS PROJECTS

NY Post
by Rich Calder and Chuck Bennett

All this time, we thought Marty Markowitz was all-in on Atlantic Yards because he missed the Dodgers so much. Wrong!

Being the biggest booster of Brooklyn's controversial Atlantic Yards project has really paid off for Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Since 2003, Nets owner Bruce Ratner and others involved in the $4 billion plan for an NBA arena and 16 apartment and office towers in the heart of Brooklyn have quietly funneled at least $680,000 to three nonprofit groups set up by Markowitz to run pet projects, a Post investigation found.

The pet projects -- which include promoting tourism and offering free concerts -- have been instrumental in boosting Markowitz's popularity and getting him re-elected, critics charge.

"Affiliated nonprofits should not be used as pseudo campaign accounts," said Dick Dadey, of the government watchdog group Citizens Union. "One could argue that these nonprofits raise the profile of the borough president in a way that certainly aids his possible campaigns."

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Posted by eric at 1:06 PM

LEED for Neighborhood Development: AY's "selection," density, and other curiosities

Atlantic Yards Report

As Norman Oder has another look at the most recent Atlantic Yards promotional flier, another misrepresentation:

In the realm of Atlantic Yards, it's a relatively small fib (or lingering error), but it's still worth noticing. The latest Forest City Ratner promotional brochure claims:

Atlantic Yards also has been selected as part of LEED's [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Neighborhood Development Pilot Program, which encourages compact development, proximity to transit, access to public spaces, mixed use, affordable housing, and pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly design.
(Emphasis added)

I wondered how exactly AY had been "selected," given the prospect for some neighborhood-unfriendly features like indefinite interim surface parking, given that AY open space isn't due until Phase 2 (which has no starting point), given that expected shadows nixed planned solar panels on a nearby building, and given that Phase 2 would include most of the affordable housing.

It wasn't selected. A look at the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED for Neighborhood Development web page shows that Atlantic Yards is one of 239 "Registered Pilot Projects," most of which have not yet been evaluated as certified--and none of which have been "selected."

Oder gets to the bottom of this misunderstanding and explains what "LEED for Neighborhood Development" is supposed to mean.

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NoLandGrab: When you have to wonder about seemingly insignificant claims, it makes it hard to believe anything that Forest City Ratner says.

Posted by eric at 5:49 AM

Barclays Bank on British bailout list

From yesterday's Dallas Morning News:

On Tuesday, Britain started injecting about $88 billion of capital into several large banks in what amounts to a partial nationalization. The British government will get preferred shares for its money in lenders such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and HBOS.

NoLandGrab: So if the Brits bail out Barclays Bank and Barclays doesn't walk away from the $400-million arena naming-rights deal it signed with Bruce Ratner, and if Ratner gets the triple-tax-exempt bonds he's looking for, then Atlantic Yards would end up being directly or indirectly subsidized by NY City, NY State, the US Federal Government and the British central bank. Incredible.

Posted by eric at 5:03 AM

October 9, 2008

Counting on a 7-Footer to Reach New Fans

The New York Times
by Jonathan Abrams

Amid a bustling Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, Ken Niu is among the many only-when-it-is-convenient basketball fans. He catches a game when he can, but is not necessarily disappointed when he cannot.

Niu is a target for the Nets, the type of observer who just may be lured to East Rutherford, N.J., for the first time by the presence of Yi Jianlian, a 7-foot forward from Guangdong Province in southern China entering his second N.B.A. season.
...

Yi’s name recognition runs high, and people in Chinatown said they would go watch him, if time and funds allow it, but would not necessarily go out of their way to cross the Hudson River.
...

“We think we have a story to tell to the Chinese-American community, which we didn’t have before, but it’s not one that we want to go out there and exploit,” [Nets Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Brett] Yormark said. “We don’t think that’s the appropriate way. We’ve got to earn it.”
[Emphasis added]

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NoLandGrab: Of course, no one associated with the Nets would ever exploit ethnicity or race to help accomplish their goals.

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Flanders Investment & Trade Comes to New York Times Bldg.

FCRC Inks Lease Transaction Valued at $7.5M

Neddy.gif

CoStar News
by Christina Mckinnon

The Government of Flanders' Investment & Trade Office signed a 7,400-square-foot lease with Forest City Ratner Cos. (FCRC) at the New York Times Building. The 10-year deal is valued at approximately $7.5 million. Occupancy is scheduled for February next year.

The 52-story, 1.5 million-square-foot office skyscraper at 620 Eighth Ave. was developed by FCRC and delivered late last year. At 748 feet, the tower ties the Chrysler Building as the third tallest building in New York.

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Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

Atlantic Yards Webcam: Wednesday afternoon

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AYCAM-icon.gif

Despite Bruce Ratner's ongoing destruction of the Ward Bakery building, yesterday was a beautiful day. Click here to check out the current view from the Atlantic Yards Webcam.

Posted by eric at 5:45 AM

On stage, the gentrification of Williamsburg: one actor, compelling characters, and some gaps

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews a one-man show about gentrification:

TakingOver_BrooklynThumb.gif

The prodigiously talented Danny Hoch, he of the one-man, multi-character shows “Jails, Hospitals, and Hip-Hop” and “Some People,” turns to his home neighborhood of Williamsburg in “Taking Over,” a deftly portrayed and thoroughly absorbing--yet at times frustrating--look at gentrification.

It’s admirable that Hoch pushed for free shows in the boroughs, and it’s worth paying good money to see him, a kinetic Jewish guy from Queens who's steeped in hip-hop. More than a mimic, he inhabits an array of characters, both gentrifiers and the gentrified, capturing the details that mark the tense transition from drug-ravaged 'hood to condo paradise, the loss of New York’s soul that got further attention since the first Jane Jacobs panel last year.

Hoch leaves us with some arresting images and the message, at least, to wake up, and to be willing to look your neighbor in the eye. I joined in the enthusiastic applause at the end of the show but hope that, as the show develops, Hoch might flesh it out more, the same way documentary theater artist Anna Deavere Smith deepened the show Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 by adding more ambiguity.

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Posted by eric at 5:18 AM

October 8, 2008

As Delays Mount, 2012 Looks Like the Best-Case Bet for the Atlantic Yards Arena

Pending lawsuits and questions about tax-exempt bonds cast cloud over Ratner’s plans

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Norman Oder

Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder outlines recent developments (or, shall we say, lack of developments) with Atlantic Yards, which won't be news to you if you're a regular reader of his blog, but are newsworthy nonetheless.

Last week, we learned that, because a state appeals court wouldn’t dismiss a pending eminent domain lawsuit challenging Atlantic Yards, the announced groundbreaking for the Brooklyn arena might be delayed at least six months. Most news outlets then concluded that the planned Barclays Center could open by 2011, a year later than the most recently announced official opening date of 2010. However, the best-case arena opening date is probably 2012, nearly nine years after the project was unveiled and six years after the first—and clearly overambitious—announced arena opening date.

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NoLandGrab: "Overambitious?" Yesterday, Nets' CEO Brett Yormark told Bloomberg News that the Nets always look to "overdeliver." Umm, wait a minute....

Posted by eric at 4:24 PM

Fresh Air at Atlantic Yards

Either someone is trying to clear the air over Atlantic Yards, or these trees are replacements for the ones just chopped down by Bruce Ratner.

Photo by Steve.

Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

Reality Bangs on Bloomberg's Development Door

Four more years may not help as finance crisis compounds uncertainty of big projects

The Real Estate Observer

Mayor Bloomberg is citing the current economic crisis as justification for casting aside the term-limit law, permitting him to run for a third term, but budget challenges could stand in the way of several planned megaprojects.

Reporter Eliot Brown assesses the local-megadevelopment landscape, which includes Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

What another Bloomberg term would mean for approved developments such as the West Side rail yards and Atlantic Yards isn’t clear, but both developments require substantial investments where financing remains tricky. With Atlantic Yards, developer Forest City Ratner has yet to secure financing or to close on the nearly two-year-old deal, and has asked the city for a new infusion of subsidy.

As for development projects still seeking approval or those that need additional funding, the road could indeed be a rocky one, as city revenues over the next four years would take a major hit from a wounded financial sector.

“People would rather cut some long-term projects,” said John Tepper Marlin, former chief economist at the city comptroller’s office, “than cut regular workers, like police and fire and teachers.”
...
Generally, business leaders and fiscal experts credit Mr. Bloomberg with exercising fiscal discipline and express confidence in his ability to guide the city in a recession. Still, the amount of city debt accrued in his administration suggests that that, too, could compound budget problems in a third term. The total amount of city debt and obligations is slated to rise from $59 billion this year to more than $73 billion by 2011, according to city figures, and, should tax revenues fall, debt payments would take up a significantly larger portion of the budget. That, again, leaves less money for the big projects.

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Atlantic Yards Report, "Total uncertainty," says Wylde about development projects (but is AY "shaky"?)

Norman Oder considers some of the opinions expressed in the Observer article and yesterday's Brooklyn Papers story, which described the status of the Atlantic Yards project as "shaky":

[T]he funding at issue, I suspect, may be linked less to the arena than the rest of the project. That means that, should legal challenges be resolved and tax-exempt arena bonds be made available, Forest City Ratner will go ahead and build the arena--and then might have leverage to extract subsidies for towers and additional infrastructure.
...
Well, there's certainly more doubt about AY than before, and there are a lot of moving parts and challenges, but that doesn't mean it's shaky or ready for a kill.

NoLandGrab: Though Norman may be quite right, it isn't too early to wonder who will finally pull the plug on Atlantic Yards: the State, which is wrestling with a budget gap in the several-billions of dollars; or Forest City Enterprises, which is covering the NJ Nets's approximately $40-million annual operating loss.

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

The Financial Crisis and Atlantic Yards

Picketing Henry Ford

phf-logo.gif Is Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards a symptom or victim of the global fiscal crisis? As confidence in "ficticious capital" evaporates, where does that leave confidence in a pie-in-the-sky project?

In a world where government outsources the monitoring of new-fangled securities and megaprojects that are too big to fail, "to the firms that are to be monitored," on the principle that corporate self-preservation instincts will preclude these companies from doing anything catastrophically stupid (just ask Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Merrill), conditions are ripe for the "promulgation of a development plan so in love with its own rectitude due to its supposed community benefit"... and for another post on Picketing Henry Ford.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

October 7, 2008

Nets' Yormark Says 'Underdog' Role for Sponsors a Fit

Bloomberg News

NJ Nets CEO Bret Yorkmark explains that a market where sports teams are struggling to attract dwindling entertainment dollars is a perfect fit for the NJ Nets, because they're used to struggling to make ends not meet. That is, if you try hard to pretend that he's actually making sense here:

"We, obviously, have always been the underdog in the tri-state area, so the business of value creation has been one that we've been very close to and have adapted for the last couple of years,'' Yormark said in an interview that will air Oct. 11 on Bloomberg's "On the Ball'' radio program. "I think it's going to serve us well in times like now because we look to over-deliver.''

The Nets, who play at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, have among the smallest followings of the nine New York area professional sports teams.

NoLandGrab: Over-deliver, or over-promise? Wasn't the arena supposed to open in 2006?

Click here to read about the NJ Nets plan to become the Match.com of the NBA.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

KeepOnBlogging.jpg

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog], Times: Luxury Boxes Selling OK. (Also Selling on Craigslist.)

Of course some people are sub-leasing luxury box seats at Craigslist, so far on their terms only ("Offers below face value [$115/ticket] will not be replied to"). We'll see if their price moves in the months ahead. If things get hairy, maybe the Stadia will let us roll in our own keg.

Nets Daily, Zo’s Take on His Time With Nets Revealing but Incomplete

In his autobiograpy, “Resilence: Faith, Focus, Triumph”, Alonzo Mourning writes briefly about his time–actually two times–in New Jersey, first after his diagnosis with kidney disease, then after his kidney surgery. Although Mourning paints a negative portrait of the Nets management, and particularly Bruce Ratner, he does not repeat his claim that Rod Thorn and Lawrence Frank had tried to kill him by playing him too many minutes after his transplant.

Nets Daily, Luxury Suites Still Selling, but Delays Hurting Nets

Omnivore, Brooklyn, arenas, Tampa Rays Baseball & The Future…

Blogger Ron Bronson believes the Nets will never call Brooklyn home... but that baseball's Tampa Bay Rays will.

But you better believe that the deal will get done and the ghosts of ol’ Ebbets Field will be stirred up again as a new baseball stadium gets put in the same spot where Bruce RATner thought he could put a basketball arena for a team that’s been largely irrelevant since its inception.

Where will the Nets go?

Newark, where they should’ve been all along.

NoLandGrab: Not even Frank Gehry could figure out how to shoehorn a baseball stadium onto a parcel that's not really even large enough for an arena.

New York Real Estate Journal, Special Olympics to honor Minieri of FCRC and Moudis of Ted Moudis

Posted by eric at 1:08 PM

Save the date: DDDB walkathon as Yards looks shaky

The Brooklyn Paper
by Evan Gardner

The annual walkathon to raise money to fight Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development is going undercover — under cover of darkness, that is.

For the first time, the four-year-old tradition of marching in and around the footprint of the faltering $4-billion, 16-skyscraper, arena, residential and office space complex will be held at night — with participants carrying candles.

“We’re doing it to shed light on [the developer’s and the state’s] abuses, and we’re hoping that politicians will also see the light,” Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one the march’s organizers, said about the twilight gimmick.

DDDB has been fighting the 22-acre mega-project since it was unveiled in 2003 — the heady days of the Brooklyn real-estate boom — and now the group’s battle is reaching a critical phase just as the project appears to be collapsing under its own weight.

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Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

The mysteries of Site 5: from housing to (obviously delayed) office space

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder fleshes out the mystery of the disappearance of Site V:

The prospects for Site 5, the now-disappeared tower planned at the property now occupied by P.C. Richard/Modell's, may be even more murky than previously assumed.

In May, when developer Forest City Rather released new renderings, there was no depiction of Site 5, located between Pacific Street and Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues, the site farthest west in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Though the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) General Project Plan described the development of both Site 5 and Building 1 as "central to the goal of the Project," both are delayed. ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston told me in May, "Site 5 was never contemplated to be one of the first buildings and will be done in a future phase."
...
Given the obvious delay in the plans for Site 5, it's worth asking the “probabilistic” date for any construction there, especially given that the two retail outlets still operate, despite a projection in the Atlantic Yards construction schedule that demolition was to be completed by January 31, 2008.

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Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Economic Downturn Isn’t Slowing Luxury Box Sales

The NY Times
By Katie Thomas and Richard Sandomir

With the economy in crisis and Wall Street in turmoil, will local sports teams be forced to place vacancy signs on the scores of luxury suites being built in their new stadiums?

Don’t expect a stampede for the bleachers just yet, several team executives and industry observers said recently. They noted that the concentration of corporate headquarters in New York — combined with the marquee appeal of locations like Yankee Stadium — meant that demand for luxury suites was not likely to fade anytime soon. At some of the new stadiums, the suites are already sold out.

At the bottom of the pack, Bruce Ratner spokesperson Barry Baum tries to put on a happy face, despite the fact that they can't officially break ground until they in fact own the land needed to build the arena.

Teams whose stadiums are further from completion face more uncertainty, [editor and publisher of Revenues from Sports Venues Jim] Grinstead said. In particular, he said the Nets’ project faced competition from arenas like Madison Square Garden. “That’s where the sales challenge is,” he said.

But Barry Baum, a Ratner spokesman, said that about 30 percent of the 128 planned suites were leased. Once ground is broken for the arena next year, “we expect to have a flurry of interest,” Baum said.

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NoLandGrab: The original version of this Times story read "once ground is broken for the arena later this year...." That is widely seen as an impossibility, given lawsuits facing the Atlantic Yards project.

Sour Times for Suites; Ratner Flack Misses Atlantic Yards Memo
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn politely catches Baum in a fib:

Just last week Bruce Ratner told The Times and The Sun that he can't break ground for at least another six months, which would decidely not be "later this year."

And if Baum is fibbin' about the groundbreaking, why should anyone believe him about unverifiable sales figures?

As for that 30 percent and holding number. In May The Times reported that the Nets marketing guru Brett Yormark claimed 20 percent had been leased. Now they say it's 30 percent? Forgive us if we are not the only ones who think that's as believable as Baum saying they are "breaking ground" later this year.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

The Sun Sets Again: NYT Metro Section R.I.P.

Noticing New York

You may have noticed that the NY Times has folded its metro coverage into section A of the paper:

You won’t see the Metro section in the future; no more front page stories in a section devoted to city news. It has been replaced by coverage with a “New York” heading tucked away in the paper’s A Section. It is predicted that this will result in diminished metropolitan news coverage.

In mourning the loss of the New York Sun, Noticing New York commented that the New York Times has been ceding local city coverage to others as it reconstitutes itself as a national newspaper. We commented further that in the course of doing so the Times has also not been adequately covering important local issues like New York’s abuses of eminent domain and more extensive abuses such as Atlantic Yards. (Thursday, September 11, 2008, If the Sun Sets and see also Tuesday, September 30, 2008, No Longer If; The Sun Sets)

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NoLandGrab: Should we expect The Times to cover Atlantic Yards less adequately, or will the story shift toward the real estate, business or sports sections? For its part, The Times says the reconfiguration won't affect its coverage.

Posted by lumi at 6:28 AM

Meltdown gives

MetroNY
By Patrick Arden

While Mayor Bloomberg is still making plans for Willets Point that don't include anybody who is currently working there, ACORN protests for more affordable housing in the project.

However, one local housing advocate takes a broader view:

“There are times when big projects make sense, but then there are times when you have to rethink your strategy,” said Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development. “With Willets Point, they seem to be killing 1,500 non-Wall Street jobs for an outdated vanity project that’s not going to happen.”

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From one land grab to another: "An outdated vanity project" never makes sense... especially when it's "not going to happen."

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

5 NBA teams vulnerable in economic recession: Charlotte Bobcats, Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies

HoopsVibe

In this edition of ‘Listed’, HoopsVibe The Blog examines five teams who could be hampered by the economic downturn.

New Jersey Nets:

Problems: What happened to Brooklyn? Their move has once again been delayed and the club languishes as a lame duck in Jersey. Owner Bruce Ratner is heavily tied to real estate development and could get exposed in a downturn.

Saving Grace: The Nets are capable of pushing for the playoffs. But their true saviour plays in Cleveland, is two seasons away from unrestricted free agency, and there is little, if no, guarantee he comes.

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Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Not So Fast, Jay-Z: LeBron James Might Be Staying in Cleveland

AOL: NBA Fan House

Much has been made about the possibility of LeBron James bolting Cleveland for the brighter lights and bigger exposure that the New Jersey Nets would have to offer in 2010. All the signs are there, including the team moving to Brooklyn right around the same time (give or take a year), which would place King James in prime position to play in the biggest city in the country, in a brand new arena, and for partial Nets' owner and bestest buddy Jay-Z. The gossip is rampant for good reason. But if LeBron himself is to be believed, at least by virtue of his comments here when he was finished urging the fine people of Ohio to register to vote, he loves Cleveland, and has no plans to go elsewhere.

Click here to check out the video.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

Atlantic Antic Antics 2008

SlyFox-GOTH.jpg Gothamist

Yesterday, Gothamist attended the 34th annual Atlantic Antic along Atlantic Avenue between Hicks Street and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. For the uninitiated, this not your typical New York "tube sock" street fair.
...
One thing was definitely different this year – there was a pronounced political presence.... Opponents to the embattled Atlantic Yards project were also gathering petitions, while the development's supporters trotted out the Nets mascot to charm the masses.

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Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

October 6, 2008

Season preview: New Jersey Nets

SI.com
by Paul Forrester

Sports Illustrated is not high on the Nets' chances for the 2008-2009 season, listing the following at #2 under "reasons for worry":

VinceandLeBron.jpg

Risky plan. The not-so-hidden subtext to the Nets' recent moves -- the trades of Kidd and Jefferson, the acquisition of Simmons, the stockpiling of draft picks -- is an expected push to lure LeBron in 2010. A key element to the effort is the Nets' supposed impending move to Brooklyn, where owner Bruce Ratner has been planning to build a new arena in the borough that LeBron playfully referred to as his favorite in New York. Originally set to open in 2006, the proposed arena has hit a number of legal snags, largely from community residents fighting the project. Now with the economy in a downward spiral, the financing for the $950 million initiative is in jeopardy. That could leave LeBron potentially playing in the swamps of New Jersey, which, as Kidd will attest, is a far cry from the headlines of New York City. We'd assume the front office hasn't placed all his eggs in the LeBron basket, because if the arena falls through, the Nets will need a Plan B.

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NoLandGrab: Attention Bruce Ratner — in case of emergency, click here for Plan B.

Posted by eric at 9:51 PM

An Open Letter to ESDC Chair Marisa Lago re: Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The following is an open letter to the new Chairwoman of the Empire State Development Corporation, Marisa Lago.

Dear Chairwoman Lago:

Congratulations on your new appointment to the ESDC.

You recently said, “The need for strategic economic development is actually keenest in a down economy.” We agree wholeheartedly, and we believe that means it’s time to scrap the Atlantic Yards project. Atlantic Yards was proposed in 2003, in a very different economy. Our current situation will not support such a bloated and costly development.

On the other hand, the community’s UNITY Plan for developing the Vanderbilt rail yard offers a wise alternative. With a dense mix of affordable and market-rate housing, it divides the 8-acre rail yard into smaller, more manageable parcels to attract multiple developers through a legitimate RFP, providing more revenue to the MTA. Dividing the parcel into smaller lots will spread and reduce risk, and will ensure development in a far more timely manner. No longer will the redevelopment of the yards rise and fall with Forest City Ratner’s fiscal health and private goals.

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Nothing could be farther from “strategic economic development” than a taxpayer-subsidized, revenue-neutral, billion-dollar basketball arena, which would create few new jobs and is faced by financial uncertainty, escalating construction costs, widespread community opposition and ongoing litigation.

We believe a comprehensive re-evaluation of Atlantic Yards is long overdue. We urge you to meet with elected and community leaders in Brooklyn to discuss the benefits of a fresh approach – “strategic economic development” depends on it.

Sincerely,

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

The latest FCR "liar flier": recycled paper, recycled promises, new distortion

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner, keepin' the lies alive!

Norman Oder takes readers on a page-by-page tour of the latest Atlantic Yards promotional flier.

LiarFlier081005-AYR.jpg

Despite four years of promotional material claiming that Atlantic Yards is in "Downtown Brooklyn," the project remains in Prospect Heights. [Conclusion: either Ratner is lying or he's accidentally demolishing the wrong neighborhood.]

Click here to check out the rest of the lies, and damn lies, that Ratner relies upon in order to convince people that this project is somehow a good idea.

Posted by eric at 6:20 AM

At the Atlantic Antic, FCR, DDDB, & CBN

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Antic yesterday featured a wide array of vendors and organizations, but I of course went looking for those involved in the AY fight.

AnticVans-AYR.jpg

The Barclays Center has it's own promotional van ("Assisting the community?"), not to be confused with the NJ Nets van, which features Nets mascot and Bruce Ratner's alter-ego, "Sly Fox."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods had fliers, facts, the last laugh, but no vans.

Check out Norman Oder's photos from the Antic here.

Posted by eric at 6:08 AM

Antics

Antics.jpg

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods took their best pot shot (they make it so easy) at Bruce Ratner's $4 BILLION Atlantic Yards megaproject at yesterday's Atlantic Antic.

Photos, NoLandGrab.

Posted by eric at 5:57 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Queen's Chronicle, Willets Pt. owners fear eminent domain threat

Mayor Bloomberg's plans for Willets Point do not include this business owner, as the city's attempts to find another location for the business have proved futile:

“If we get thrown out through eminent domain, then who’s to say you’re not next?” asked Jack Bono, who now heads Bono Sawdust Supply Co., with his son, Jake. “This kind of thing is done in other countries, not here.”

The Bonos own one-quarter of an acre on 127th Place and rent another quarter acre nearby for their operation that specializes in turning sawdust into a sweeping compound used in the construction trade and for animal bedding used by local stables, race tracks and the circus. It is the only such business remaining in New York City, they said.

The business is located in the 60-acre Willets Point area of Corona and Flushing that the city wants to develop into a $3 billion mixed-use project. The plan would require all businesses there to leave.

The city has promised to try and find them other locations, but so far has failed to locate anything comparable to the Bono’s current site. “They showed us two storefronts and a huge area in another borough,” said Jake Bono. “Our life is here in Queens. Where are we going to move?”

NY Newsday, Babylon seeks eminent domain on Wyandanch site

Wyandanch's downtown revitalization plans don't include this small business owner:

One reluctant seller, Moo S. Kwon, didn't want to move his 6-year-old beauty supply store from its current location at 1567 Straight Path, a desirable spot in the heart of the business corridor. However, Kwon said he felt he didn't have a choice after receiving a letter from Town Attorney Paul J. Margiotta indicating that the town was prepared to seize his property without his consent.
...
As a small-business owner, Kwon doesn't have the resources to fight Babylon in court if the government condemned his property.

"I have no choice," Kwon said. "What are we going to do?"
...
Kwon agreed to sell the property, which is more than 11,000 square feet, to Babylon for $420,000. The town, however, did not compensate him for his business."That's unfair," Kwon said.

Posted by eric at 5:33 AM

October 5, 2008

NJ Nets hotline not so hot in Brooklyn

NetsVan10.08.jpg

This..."community" van was spotted on the street in front of the Pacific Street Branch Library. NoLandGrab phoned the "community" hotline posted on the van (1-800-7-THENETS) and heard the following message: "The service you requested is unavailable from your calling area." Another caller phoned and received the message "hang up and call 10-10-15-800 -- this service is available at a cost of $5.49."

Maybe our New Jersey friends can let us know what's going on in the "community"?

Posted by amy at 10:12 AM

"You be the editor"? Courier-Life allows comments, at least

Atlantic Yards Report takes part in "citizen journalism" with the Courier-Life. Since their new articles do not appear on the web for a week, AYR had to use his own "citizen journalism" tools...

The Courier-Life's follow-up article on the disappearance of AY footprint trees, an issue raised more than two weeks ago on AYR, does advance the story by adding a quote from Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, who gets the final word.

"While some trees will have to be removed as work at the site progresses, their number will be replaced many, many times over with new trees and over eight acres of new landscaped open space," Bender said.

Unmentioned: all the landscaped open space would appear in Phase 2 of the project. There's no timetable for Phase 2. There's no starting date for Phase 2, nor are there penalties for failing to complete it by a certain time, according to the State Funding Agreement. It's hardly reassuring to promise "new landscape open space" without a target date.

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Posted by amy at 10:03 AM

"Sitt"ing Not So Pretty

Noticing New York takes on the missing parts of the NY Times article "Failed Deals Replace Boom in New York Real Estate":

Not mentioned in the Times list of large-scale ambitious projects that are surely going to take longer to start and to complete than expected is the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. This unnecessarily huge project already assails the community with an inordinately protracted development schedule. The schedule will be more protracted still. Unless the megadevelopment is replaced by something more appropriately designed and scaled, decades of blight will befall the adjoining communities. Again, as with nearly all eminent domain-abusing projects, it is an example of blight of our own making.

If the Atlantic Yards project had never been undertaken, the newly renovated and expensive co-ops and condominiums within its speculative footprint would be fully and productively occupied just like the adjacent Newswalk development. In contrast to the lumbering Atlantic Yards besetting the community during these many recent boom years, without Atlantic Yards, the example of these successful cooperatives and condominiums developments would have been followed by other developments. Propelled by the boom of these past years the elegant white terra cotta Ward Bakery building, also within the speculative footprint, would no doubt have been landmarked: It would be well on it way to exciting the community with creative adaptative reuse.

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Posted by amy at 9:57 AM

Borough President Forever?

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn's resident poet responds to Markowitz's desire to extend term limits in verse:

DEAR BROTHER RATNER

Can’t accept the job, Bruce,
Gotta understand the score;
Chance to make additional deals
Staying in Borough Hall four more.

link
NoLandGrab: If you've had enough Bloomberg and Markowitz you can hit City Hall steps for a rally in support of term limits today at 2pm with Norman Siegal or tomorrow at 2pm with Letitia James.

Posted by amy at 9:48 AM

October 4, 2008

Frank Gehry: Columbo, Dirty Harry, or Frank Abagnale?

abagnale.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report tries to match Gehry with his celebrity twin:

Gehry, whose reputation is taking a bit of a turn south, as the Canadian magazine MacLean's recently reported, is neither Columbo nor Dirty Harry when it comes to Atlantic Yards.

While he surely is laboring to create an innovative basketball arena, his willingness to produce renderings that do not merely obscure but actively deceive suggests aspects of Frank Abagnale, the legendary con man in the film Catch Me If You Can.

Remember, Building 1, when known as Miss Brooklyn, was to be three times the size, in square footage, as the iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank. However, a Gehry rendering, bizarrely tilting the bank as if to crash on the hapless maiden, portrayed it as a behemoth. (Now Building 1 would be about twice the bulk of the bank building.)

"If I think it got out of whack with my own principles, I’d walk away," Gehry said of Atlantic Yards, during a January 2006 appearance in New York. Given that he hasn't walked away, Gehry should be pressed on how exactly deceptive renderings comport with his principles. After all, Abagnale eventually went straight.

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Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

She Read the Cliffsnotes?

palin10.08.jpg

Talking Points Memo presents a Fox News clip of Sarah Palin making up for her original heedeous non-answer to the question of which Supreme Court cases she disagreed with. Kelo vs. New London makes an appearance in her new answer, but considering that she abused eminent domain in her tenure as mayor, her answer here may surprise you.

link

Ok, we won't leave you in suspense. Here's her answer as reported on Politico:

Also, eminent domain. That affects me as a governor and as a mayor as well. private property rights are so precious in this nation and for the Supreme Court to have sided with government, instead of the people, the property owners, that was frustrating.

Well, gee, Sarah, how do you explain this?

Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

Commentary on Bagli's article "Atlantic Yards Faces Another Delay"

City Room

There was quite a bit of action in the comments section of the NY Times, City Room blog in reaction to Charles Bagli's article about the latest setback for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Here's a slice:

"Another delay! The NIMBYs that are against the Atlantic Yards project need to let Ratner build it already. Let Brooklyn thrive! It can’t be all about you." — Ariel

"...the scuttlebutt I got from one of my friends who’s so far surviving at Lehman is that Barclays is potentially in over its head on the Lehman deal. I’m hoping that come November, conditions will allow Barclays to bow out, not only because I’m against Atlantic Yards, but also because I’d like my pension fund to salvage its holdings in Lehman and a $20 million name sponsorship is an unnecessary distraction." — WL

"Bruce Ratner should give up on Brooklyn. Newark has a terrific new arena that the Net’s could call home." — bsh451

"Atlantic Yards cannot be built. Everyone knows it. It’s just a matter of Ratner and the State admitting it and feeling there is some way to save face." — brookland

"Ratner is the wrong developer, with the wrong plans, at the worst time." — RWeber, Park Slope

"Stop your complaining already. I live blocks from the project and have been anxiously awaiting the Ratner project for years. I hate NIMBYISM. It’s not your land, you have no right to impede progress like this…" — mike

"Actually, Mike, it IS their land. They own it, and Ratner is trying to take it from them." — Greg

"Why hasn’t there been a single comment let alone major investigative articles concerning the very curious question about where the handful of residents who are spending millions in legal fees fighting Ratner are getting the money... Who would the new Brooklyn arena directly compete ? Answer. Madison Square Garden and its owner Billionaire Jim Dolan. Again I wonder where all the money for these legal fees is coming ??" — AH2

Note: "AH2" is personally invited to the FOURTH DDDB Walkathon on October 18.

"Sorry AH2. No conspiracy is involved in the source of financial support for the legal fees etc. of those fighting Atlantic Yards. The coalition of groups that object to Bruce Ratner’s project, with its misuse of eminent domain, have organized many large-scale and highly successful fund raising events. They also receive ongoing support from numerous contributors and volunteers who agree with their point of view re Ratopia." — Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"Although all large developments require great amounts of leveraged funding to be built, the Atlantic Yards project embodies a microcosm of the present financial crisis.... What does any of this have to do with basketball and low-income housing? About as much as a bailout of financial firms has to do with helping those in Brooklyn defaulting on subprime mortgages received through predatory lending." — Stuart Schrader

"How are they NIMBYs when they are going to be forced to move out if this project gets built rather than living with it?" — Tal Barzilai

Posted by lumi at 7:43 AM

Are You Living in Pete Hamill's Brooklyn, Or Ours?

Runnin' Scared [blog, The Village Voice]
By Roy Edroso

It's gotten to the point where Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards land-grabbing megaproject provides a point of reference that goes beyond the controversy itself. The Voice reacts to Pete Hamill's piece on Brooklyn for New York Magazine:

Despite his plus-ca-change protestations, [Pete] Hamill's Brooklyn is clearly a different place than today's -- a place where the light is always sepia and LaGuardia is always reading the funnies. Which Brooklyn are you living in? Check yourself with this simple comparison chart:
...
Hamill's Brooklyn: "Opposition to the Atlantic Yards project is so bitter" because "Brooklyn is not Frank Gehry. It’s Edward Hopper."
Modern Brooklyn: Opposition to the Atlantic Yards is so bitter because Brooklyn is not a borough. It's a corporate fiefdom.

link

Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

October 3, 2008

Governor wants $2 billion in budget cuts

Gov. David Paterson is calling the Legislature back for another budget-cutting session in November.

Crain's NY Business
by Matthew Sollars

Gov. David Paterson is calling the Legislature back for another special budget session on Nov. 18 and has asked Assembly and Senate leaders to submit $2 billion worth of proposed cuts.

At a meeting in New York City this morning to discuss the state’s budget outlook, Mr. Paterson said the economic crisis requires “drastic action.”

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NoLandGrab: Probably nothing as "drastic" as putting the kibosh on Bruce Ratner and his Atlantic Yards plan, however. Bruce and his mega-project seem to be in some sort of "lock box."

Posted by eric at 4:49 PM

Nets stuck with Jersey address?

The Jersey Journal, Editorial

Remember when the New Jersey Nets of the NBA was expected to move out of the Meadowlands Sports Complex to a Frank Gehry-designed arena in Brooklyn?

It is quite possible the Nets will be staying with us a bit longer. The Wall Street crisis and legal problems are close to making a worst case scenario a reality for team owner Bruce Ratner.
...
Having already spent millions, Ratner will not give up his Brooklyn dream. Considering the expensive uphill climb he faces, the Nets owner would be wise to make a deal with the New Jersey Devils for the Nets to play in the new Prudential Center arena in Newark with the idea of keeping the franchise in New Jersey another decade, or longer. Any financing Ratner eventually obtains could go into that part of an already scaled-down version of Atlantic Yards that he cares about - skyscrapers and apartments.

link

Posted by lumi at 8:01 AM

Failed Deals Replace Boom in New York Real Estate

The NY TImes
By Charles V. Bagli

Though this article from yesterday's Times does not mention Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, it goes a long way in explaining the implications of the credit crisis on the local commercial and residential real estate market, and is a must-read for those who are trying to understand the possible effects on Ratner's megaproject:

Developers are complaining that lenders are now refusing to finance projects that were all but certain months or even weeks ago.

While Ratner is searching for an anchor tenant for Building One (formerly known as "Miss Brooklyn")...

Examples of aborted deals and troubled developments abound. Last Friday, HSBC, the big London-based bank, quietly tore up an agreement to move its American headquarters to 7 World Trade Center after bids for its existing home at 452 Fifth Avenue, between 39th and 40th Streets, came in 30 percent lower than the $600 million it wanted for the property.

A 40-story office tower under construction by SJP Properties at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue for the past 18 months still does not have a tenant.

Ratner has already expressed some marketplace flexibility by issuing two configurations of Atlantic Yards, one devoting more space to commercial tenants, the other favoring more residential space. But Charles Bagli reports that the credit crisis affects both the commercial and residential properties:

Some developers who are currently erecting condominiums are trying to convert to rentals, while others are looking to sell the projects.

Existing bond-financing is also being affected:

Commercial properties are not the only ones facing problems. On Friday, Standard & Poor’s dropped its rating on the bonds used in Tishman’s $5.4 billion purchase of the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village apartment complexes in 2006, the biggest real estate deal in modern history. Standard & Poor’s said it cut the rating, in part, because of an estimated 10 percent decline in the properties’ value and the rapid depletion of reserve funds.

The rating reduction shows the growing nervousness of lenders and investors about such deals, which have often involved aggressive — critics say unrealistic — projections of future income.

Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Me, Myself an Eye, It's Real In The Field

Atlantic Yards is part of the problem; Sista Tolja wants to be part of the solution:

We've only got a few more days here in NYC, but I will be registering folks to vote tonight and through the weekend. And I am finally taking an interest in local politics in the borough of Brooklyn, as well as the city as a whole and the state of New York. If I want to raise kids here, I have to be aware and aggressive. Projects like the Atlantic Yards monstrosity (supported by YOUR boy, Jay-Z) affect me and I have to be heard! There are politicians (like Barack Obama) and aspiring politicians (like Kevin Powell) who have the potential to be change agents, but they can't without US.

Here's more reaction to the tectonic shift in the Atlatic Yards arena timeline:

SportsByBrooks, Jay-Z Has 99 Problems: Arena Financing Is One

Brooks recaps Ratner's arena financing and legal woes as reported by the Star-Ledger, NY Post and Crain's and adds:

I know it sounds like a lot of money to mere mortals, but can’t Nets part-owner Jay Z just pay the $950 million from his “walking around” money? I mean, the guy has the technology to make the plans for the freakin’ stadium magically appear out of his hands; why can’t he just make a billion dollars appear as well?

MAS.org, Atlantic Yards Stalled

The Atlantic Yards development has been delayed again after a state appellate court did not dismiss the project opponents’ court challenge, says the New York Times. While this derails Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner’s recent pledge to break ground on the project this December, Crain’s New York Business reports that Barclays bank, which would pay for naming rights to the stadium, remains committed to the project when it proceeds. Read more about MAS advocacy on Atlantic Yards here.

Popo in my crib, The Nets may remain in New Jersey

The Newark Star Ledger is reporting that the economic downturn may have claimed another victim, the New Jersey Nets.

Note: This post includes the persistent rumor that Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new ballpark for the Dodger on Atlantic Yards. O'Malley wanted to build the ballpark on a site across the street from the Vanderbilt Railyards on a land that has since been redeveloped by Bruce Ratner for his Atlantic Center Mall.

REBLOGGING: Star-Ledger, Wall Street crisis imperils Nets arena, 10/01/08

Big Shot Bob in Texas, A little Tight Credit?

Park Lane – Sports Finance Bulletin, Wall Street crisis puts Nets’ future Brooklyn home in jeopardy

Can’t Stop The Bleeding, Ratner’s Dream Deferred Pt. II : Are The Nets Stuck In The Swamp Indefinetly?

While it’s hard to find a silver lining to the near collapse of American financial markets, the Newark Star-Ledger’s Ian T. Shearn and George F. Jordan hint there’s one in Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s inability to borrow.

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

"The Glass Stampede," Downtown Brooklyn, & Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

In a thoughtful, more-optimistic-than-not essay published last month, headlined The Glass Stampede, New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson addressed the building boom, with side-by-side photos showing before-and-after views. Though the article contains few Brooklyn examples and no mention of Atlantic Yards, the article still has resonance in Brooklyn.

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Posted by lumi at 6:45 AM

...from the Bloombergsphere

bloombergphere.jpg Lost City, 13 Reasons Bloomberg Shouldn't Be Re-elected

And the number one reason that Bloomberg should not be reelected to a third term...

1. Atlantic Yards. That gaping hole in downtown Brooklyn is as much his fault as Ratner's. He allowed it to happen, funneling money from the City coffers to the developer and looking the other way as Ratner twisted every law in the book, including that of Eminent Domain, in his favor.

NoLandGrab: Bloomberg's Atlantic Yards transgressions have been to stand by as the State of New York used its power to supercede all local zoning and wield the power of eminent domain; throwing money at the project and then throwing extra money at the project for a grand total pledge of $205 million, thus far; and then lying about the project, leading New Yorkers to believe that developer Bruce Ratner would foot the bill, and that there was only, like, one eminent domain hold-out.

life in the sonic age, Mayor Bloomberg’s Third Term (No Way!)

Bloomberg's irrational affection for Atlantic Yards earns the number-three spot on Ken Lowy's reasons to spare New York City from four more years.

#3: Bloomberg likes the Atlantic Yards proposal. Did I mention he’s a billionaire? It doesn’t provide a lot of jobs (not jobs that pay well), unless you’re in construction. Then it’s great, until it’s done, then you need to find another job. No low income housing! Very little (very little) middle income housing. Lot’s of housing for people who make a lot of money (less of those people now than a month ago).

Curbed, Four More Years?

The blowback from abolishing term limits for elected city officials would be four more years of all those other guys who have already been in office for too long, like Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz:

Markowitz who is loved by some as Brooklyn's #1 cheerleader and loathed by others as a front man for projects like Atlantic Yards, says "I just hope that the people of Brooklyn would be thrilled, too. Well, not everyone will be thrilled, but I hope most of the people will."

NoLandGrab: Not every Atlantic Yards critic loathes Markowitz — some just think that the poor guy has just totally lost it.

Queens Crap, Why it won't be a walk in the park for Bloomie

"Crappy" gathers some online reaction to Bloomberg's announcement, including this:

Bloomberg has not done much good for NYC - that is, unless you’re on wall street or a fat cat real estate developer. Even if you’re the latter, his failures, with the west side yards, Atlantic yards, etc are proof positive this man doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Parole scare!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Sarah Portlock

StAnnMetroTech-BP.jpg After Bruce Ratner leased space in his MetroTech complex to a Federal parole office, parents of students of St. Ann's, another Ratner MetroTech tenant, were assured that things like this would never happen:

Since July, the private school has shared space with a federal parole office in the Bruce Ratner-owned One Pierrepont Plaza building — and parents have continued to express concern that parolees and their kids should not be mingling so closely.

Those fears were realized on Sept. 23, when an ex-con, who was wanted in a separate assault case, showed up for his scheduled parole appointment only to find two plainclothes officers waiting for him.

The felon, sensing the sting, raced out of the building with two officers in hot pursuit. A third officer briefly reached into his jacket — possibly to pull his service pistol, though the gun was never out in the open, a witness said.

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Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

The Port Authority's "probabilistic" timetable for Ground Zero (vs. fantasy for AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notes the difference between "probabilistic" and "anticipated:"

The Times reports that Port Authority of NY/NJ Chairman Christopher Ward has reported back to Gov. David Paterson on the rebuilding plans at Ground Zero:

To cover his bets, Mr. Ward presented two dates for each project: a target date and a “probabilistic” date, based on computer analysis of all the many random things that might go wrong.

That's a bit more candid than saying "anticipate" or "anticipated," as developer Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation have said.

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NoLandGrab: The reason for the candor? The Governor has made it clear that progress in Lower Manhattan is a priority, where everyone involved must be held accountable.

It's hard to imagine the same for Bruce Ratner's highly controversial Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project, for which timetables have been more promotional than "probabilistic."

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

Forest City in the News

Fresno Bee, Fresno projects feel the credit crunch

Off topic: News that the credit "crunch" has reached full-blown "crisis" hasn't reached headline writers in Fresno. "Crunch" was the word folks used in early 2008 when they were eager to believe that the credit market would clear its throat and recover within a few months.

Back to Forest City news: The Bee reports that projects are grinding to a halt due to the credit crisis, though Forest City's South Stadium project is not among them, since it has yet to receive formal approval, pending environmental review.

CoStar Group, Forest City Lines Up Construction Financing for DC Project

During this credit crisis, if you're a developer who managed to line up credit for your next project, you're gonna let people know:

Forest City Enterprises Inc. closed on $250 million in construction financing for the initial phase of its Waterfront Station project in Southwest Washington, DC.

Institutions participating in the financing included Bank of New York Mellon, which will serve as administrative agent for the lenders, Bank of Ireland, Wachovia, PB Capital and Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg, New York Branch.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

October 2, 2008

Clash of the Titans!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

A Markowitz vs. DeBlasio matchup could be won and lost on the charred battlefield of issues like development and the use of the bully pulpit. Markowitz has been a staunch supporter of Atlantic Yards while DeBlasio did an about-face, and is now a vocal critic of the mega-project. In his seven years as Beep, Markowitz has used his office to champion retail development and cheerleaded the borough as a tourist destination.

DeBlasio has made “affordable” housing and environmental issues some of his chief policy planks.

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Atlantic Yards Report, Bloomberg's term-limits override effort implies a Markowitz re-election and other ripple effects

An abolition of term limits:

would have major ripple effects, allowing City Council members and Borough Presidents with expiring terms to run with the enormous advantage of incumbency, and maintaining the current configuration of Atlantic Yards support.

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

Coming to Terms With Mistakes

Noticing New York

We are neither entirely for nor against term limits. Mostly we are against them, but we are absolutely opposed to their elimination in the last-minute and self-serving manner being proposed by Bloomberg.
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The most pronounced downside of a Bloomberg third term involves a need to acknowledge and correct mistakes.

Mistakes including "Bloomberg’s supreme mistake," Atlantic Yards.

I was not the only one to criticize Atlantic Yards when I phoned in to the Brian Lehrer show during the term limits discussion on September 9th. Atlantic Yards is a spectacular example of a decision that was rushed through with improperly forced haste and it is a spectacular example of just how bad the consequences of such thoughtless haste can be.
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However disgraceful all its lapses, the Bloomberg administration has done nothing to correct the misreckoned Atlantic Yards course it is on.

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Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

AKRF's very selective literature review for the Atlantic Yards Blight Study

Atlantic Yards Report

This may be old news, but it still deserves another look.

In the battle over the dubious Atlantic Yards Blight Study conducted by consultant AKRF for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), those challenging the environmental review were told by the ESDC that claims about about improvements in Prospect Heights and the site footprint were merely anecdotal--and a judge agreed. An appeal is pending, and the appellate court may be more skeptical.

Interestingly, the AKRF blight study included "anecdotal" evidence by way of an article writen by reporter Steven Witt for the Ratner-friendly Courier-Life publications.

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Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

Atlantic Yards Opponents Pleased With Court’s Denial of Motion

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Associated Press, with additional reporting by Ryan Thompson

Borough President Marty Markowitz said that he is disappointed by the recent denial of the motion to dismiss the eminent domain suit filed by opponents of Atlantic Yards.

“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, which is so well-served by public transit, become the kind of live-work hub and center of cultural life that our borough of 2.5 million has long deserved.”

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NoLandGrab: Unfortunately, Marty will exploit anything in order to justify Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Brooklyn Downtown Star, Atlantic Yards Suit Has Merit, Court Says

Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards may be facing serious legal trouble, as the state’s move to dismiss the case was denied by a State Appellate Court.
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The ESDC tried to dismiss the property owners’ case, but was unsuccessful in their attempts, and will have until October 15 to file their response.

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

Safety in the Numbers You Pull Out of Hat: Club’s Number is 103

Bunny-NNY.jpg Noticing New York

You gotta love a blogger who has a bunny for a sidekick.

For today's magic trick, NNY and Bunny explain how to pull numbers out of a hat to get tax payers to help finance a new stadium for every team that wants one.

Who among us would consider it safe to come up with fictional numbers to present to the IRS?

I am thinking about this because I was reading another attorney’s anonymously offered justifications for the transcendently artificial stratagems currently being used to divert public moneys to the financing of sports venues like Yankee Stadium. In connection with this it seems that some rather fictional numbers were submitted to the IRS. It is doubtful that the numbers are any more substantiated than if they were simply pulled out of hat.
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The Yankee Stadium financing presents an excellent example of what is wrong with sports stadium and arena financing in the country in general and in New York in particular. The proposed Atlantic Yards Nets arena is on obvious analog and cousin to the Yankee Stadium financing.

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Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

Are You There God? It's Us, Cleveland

Cleveland Scene
By James Renner

Over and over again, Forest City Enterprises's blatant backroom dealing demonstrates that the company is untouchable and that no one of any importance or power really cares when the tax payers get ripped off.

Here's more proof from the company's hometown of Cleveland:

Last week, we learned that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer Board paid Sunrise Development $1.55 million for some contaminated land that the company had purchased for $200,000.

[Ka-ching!]

Sunrise apparently is a subsidiary that Forest City uses to buy up toxic properties to sell to politicians who owe Miller favors for the thousands he injects into their campaign treasuries. Sunrise also purchased the property where the new juvenile courthouse is being built for $383,000 and sold it back to taxpayers a year later for $2.75 million. (Jimmy Dimora, who has collected tens of thousands of dollars from Miller and the Ratner family, was instrumental in that deal.)

[Ka-ching, KA-CHING!]

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Posted by lumi at 4:31 AM

Delay? It's about winning.

The folks from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn would like to remind Bruce Ratner that thousands of people haven't donated money to "delay" the controversial subsidy-sucking Atlantic Yards megaproject, they're actually trying to win.

...the lawsuit is an effort to protect the homes and businesses in the project footprint from being seized by New York State and given to Bruce Ratner. The owners and tenants filed their suit to win it and keep their properties.

So, while Ratner talks about a "six month delay" (based on a lawsuit that won't be resolved for at least 9 months) what he fails to consider is that the plaintiffs could win their suit and intend to.

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Posted by lumi at 4:17 AM

October 1, 2008

Bloomberg 3. What a sad joke.

The Angry New Yorker

Angry New Yorker cites Bruce Ratner's pet mega-project as one reason we don't need a third go-round of the Bloomberg administration.

Bloomberg has not done much good for NYC - that is, unless you’re on wall street or a fat cat real estate developer. Even if you’re the latter, his failures, with the west side yards, Atlantic yards, etc are proof positive this man doesn’t know what he’s doing. We’re talking about a guy who closes fire houses one year and then upzones the neighborhoods they were in to add more population (Dutch Kills, Harlem, Williamsburg are good examples).

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Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

Wall Street crisis puts Nets' future Brooklyn home in jeopardy

The Star-Ledger
By Ian T. Shearn and George E. Jordan

Four months ago, Goldman Sachs assured all financing would be in place for a $950 million professional basketball arena in Brooklyn by today.

Bruce Ratner, owner of the New Jersey Nets and developer of the ambitious, $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, said he was "inches away from completing the deal."

That was before prestigious investment firms started to fall and credit markets went into full-scale panic, triggering a financial crisis on Wall Street unseen since the Great Depression.

Tuesday, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs offered only a "no comment" when asked about the financing for the nearly $950 million arena, fueling persistent doubts about the viability of Ratner's plan, which has been systematically downscaled and delayed since it was first rolled out more than four years ago.

The result of the latest delay for New Jersey fans and residents:

That leaves the Nets playing at the aging Izod Center in the Meadowlands for at least the next three years, which will perpetuate competition with the Prudential Center hockey arena in Newark.

While the November deadline approaches for the Barlays Bank naming-rights deal for the Brooklyn arena:

Neither Barclays nor the Nets responded to email requests for interviews.

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Atlantic Yards Report, Star-Ledger: Goldman Sachs mum on AY arena financing

Norman Oder adds some additional analysis to the Star-Ledger article:

But the big question, as a lawyer quoted by the newspaper says, is whether tax-exempt financing will be available, since it remains attractive in this investment climate. The Internal Revenue Service has been asked by the city and state to grandfather in arena financing under more lenient rules than proposed; an IRS official said regulations would be issued "soon."

Meanwhile, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), chair of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has asked the IRS and Treasury Department to desist from approving any more sports facility deals based on PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), pending further clarification of their policies, a subject of an ongoing subcommittee investigation.

Posted by lumi at 7:04 AM

Introducing Two New Members of the DDDB Advisory Board

From the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn e-newsletter:

KantorNachman.jpg

We are very proud to announce the addition of two new members to our extraordinary Advisory Board. We thank them for their support of and participation in our work.

These two Brooklynites, with exceptional and diverse experience, are:

Melissa Kantor

Melissa Kantor moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan 13 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. An English teacher at Saint Ann’s School, she is also the author of several young adult novels, "Confessions of a Not It Girl," "If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince?," "The Breakup Bible" and the forthcoming "Girlfriend Material." She and her husband, the poet Benjamin Gantcher, have two sons and live in Park Slope.

David Nachman

David Nachman is a Park Slope resident, an attorney and partner at DLA Piper and a community activist.

[Cont'd after the jump.]

David represents leading corporations and financial institutions, as well as senior executives and directors of public companies, in complex regulatory, enforcement, securities law and corporate governance and compliance matters.

He is Co-Chair of DLA Piper’s recently-established Career Advancement Center. The Center coordinates the firm’s efforts in the areas of professional development, attorney evaluations, recruiting and diversity. David also serves as Chair of the New York office’s Diversity Committee, and as a member of the firm’s nationwide Diversity Committee.

Serving on DLA Piper’s Pro Bono Committee, he has been intensely engaged in international human rights and other pro bono work throughout his professional career. As part of his work on behalf of Human Rights Watch and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, he has conducted human rights missions to Chile, Romania, Turkey, Cuba, Panama, South Africa, and Venezuela.

David participates actively in the life of his community. In 2006 and 2007, he served as President of the Board of Trustees of the Park Slope Jewish Center, and from 2004 to 2006 as a member of Brooklyn’s Community Board 6. More recently, he joined the Board of Directors of St. Ann’s Warehouse, the cutting-edge music and cultural institution in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 7:03 AM

Déjà delay all over again, redux (Part deux)

Here are two more online items on the latest Atlantic Yards hold-up, delay, stall, et cetera, et cetera...

Reason (blog), Eminent Domain Abuse on Hold in Brooklyn

NoEdAbuseWall-sm.jpg

Back in June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a previous Atlantic Yards case, Goldstein v. Pataki, which had challenged the eminent domain use on Fifth Amendment grounds. While the afflicted property owners were hardly thrilled at the High Court's refusal to take their case, lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff promised to take the fight to state court, declaring, "New York State law, and the state constitution, prohibit the government from taking private homes and businesses simply because a powerful developer demands it."

Today he scored his first victory. Here's hoping it isn't the last.

Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Atlantic Yards Opponents Will Get Their Day in Court After All

The lawsuit claims that Forest City Ratner’s 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. According to DDDB, the Court’s decision means that oral arguments will be heard in the case sometime in March or April, with a decision then expected between late spring and fall 2009.

This is a major setback for developer Bruce Ratner, who recently told the New York Times that he planned to break ground in December. The project cannot move forward without using eminent domain. In addition, according to the Times, Ratner has brokered a contract with Barclays Bank that would provide $20 million a year for naming rights to the arena. This contract requires FCR to close on the land and secure the financing by the end of November.

Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

Pete Hamill suggests violation of Brooklyn scale animates the AY opposition, but there's much more

Atlantic Yards Report

Native Brooklynite and author Pete Hamill returns to the South Slope for New York Magazine's 40th anniversary issue, in a piece headlined Brooklyn Revisited, and eventually touches on Atlantic Yards.

However, because he's only a casual observer of the Atlantic Yards fight, I think he misses a key point: much of the opposition to and criticism of Atlantic Yards goes beyond issues of scale.

Hamill writes:

...when the scale has been violated, by apartment houses or housing projects, two things are always lost: a sense of community, and beauty. The big Stalinesque apartment houses now rising on Fourth Avenue seem like faceless transients from Area Code 800. An apartment house, after all, is rarely a community. But above all, they violate any sense of Brooklyn scale. That is why much of the opposition to the Atlantic Yards project is so bitter. Brooklyn is not Frank Gehry. It’s Edward Hopper.

Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder adds:

Still, the eight- or ten- or 12-story apartment houses along Fourth Avenue are considerably smaller than the buildings--20, 30, 40, and 50+ stories--planned for Atlantic Yards. (Heck, the arena itself would be 150 feet tall, or 15 stories.)

Oder continues:

An updated analysis of the Atlantic Yards opposition would acknowledge that it's driven less by a violation of scale than a violation of process, the bypass of democratic accountability, leaving four underinformed political appointees on the board of the Empire State Development Corporation 15 minutes to approve the project, without the local input that would've been required in the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

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Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

No Longer If; The Sun Sets

Noticing New York mourns the Suns closing:

Today’s New York Sun Final Edition, quoting from the front page, “is the final issue.” We are sad.
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Fittingly, if you search the Sun today for the words “eminent domain”, one article comes up which reports on how the legal challenge to the abuse of eminent domain in connection with Atlantic Yards has set back that megaproject.
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Though this last short article did not make passing comment about how eminent domain abuse drags down the economy while abusing fundamental rights, the Sun during its too-short life provided a superb forum for such points to be made.

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Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

Frank Gehry's really bad year

For years the architect has been lauded for ushering in a new cultural era. But the climate appears to be shifting.

Macleans
By Nancy MacDonald

As starchitect Frank Gehry's reputation begins to sour, he has "become a lightning rod for criticism of developer Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards development."

There's a "culture of affirmation that surrounds Gehry," says the well-known art critic and Princeton professor Hal Foster. "The same buildings that leak, burn and moulder would cost any other architect their job and reputation," says one Manhattan-based critic, who asked to remain anonymous. Yet "major newspapers, art critics and museums" continue to "hold Gehry up," he says.
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The climate, however, appears to be shifting. This summer, The Economist dubbed Gehry "the one-trick pony's one-trick pony," who "merely plonks down the same lump of product time and again across the globe." His notoriously costly and resource-heavy designs seem increasingly vulgar, given heightened environmental concerns and the softening economy. Indeed, the focus of the profession has turned to green or sustainable design, says Jeffrey Ochsner, professor of architecture at the University of Washington.
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Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn, Gehry is dealing with far worse than a lost theatre contract.
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"Gehry has taken a big risk," says urban historian Witold Rybczynski. "It is a very big project. And it is in New York, where all the media are. If that project goes bad, it would tarnish his reputation. Instead of being a capstone, it would be a blot on his career."

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Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

Forest City in the News

Fresno Bee, Two buildings, sign get historic status

The Fresno City Council did what the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission was unwilling to do, protect historic buildings within a designated redevelopment zone to be developed by Forest City Ratner.

Two downtown Fresno buildings and a sign on a third building were given historic designations Tuesday by the Fresno City Council, in at least one case over the objections of the property owner.
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The review was necessary, said City Attorney James Sanchez, because all of the buildings fall within Forest City Enterprises' South Stadium project area. City officials hope the South Stadium project will transform that corner of downtown.
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Susan Smartt, a senior vice president with Forest City, said the historic designations would affect her company's plans, but it was too soon to say how drastic the changes would be.

ITBusinessEdge, DOE Doles out $15 Million for Green Building Initiative

Wherever there's a dole, Forest City is on it:

It’s not a bailout, but the U.S. Department of Energy is providing $15 million in technical assistance to 21 organizations as part of its Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative.

GreenerBuildings reports the chosen firms include Best Buy, JCPenney, John Deere, Macy’s, SuperValu, Target, Toyota, Whole Foods Market, CB Richard Ellis, Forest City Enterprises, Hines, Intercontinental Hotels Group, the Opus Group, ProLogis, Regency Centers, Ryan Companies US, Simon Property Group, Tishman Speyer, the Westfield Group, Bank of America and the PNC Financial Services Group.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM