« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

November 30, 2008

So, the 2006 IRS ruling the city requested for the Yankees hinged, in part, on a free luxury box

Atlantic Yards Report

No major daily newspaper has been looking hard lately at Atlantic Yards, but the press keeps running with the Yankee Stadium story, thanks in part to new revelations via Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. E-mail messages from city officials acquired by Brodsky tell an interesting tale, as the Daily News reports:
Mayor Bloomberg's top aides engaged in a behind-the-scenes brawl to win a free luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium that could wind up costing taxpayers, e-mails show.

Joseph Gunn, a city lawyer, in fact warned that the city would refuse to request a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service to allow tax-exempt funding if the city did not get the luxury suite.

As we know, such a Private Letter Ruling was achieved in 2006 for the Yankees and for the New York Mets. And the city this year successfully went to bat to get those rules grandfathered in for additional tax-exempt bonds for the baseball teams and, most importantly to the city, for tax-exempt bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena.


Posted by amy at 8:58 AM

The investigation into the city's practices regarding tax-exempt bonds isn't over

Atlantic Yards Report

In response to those who've prematurely assumed that the Atlantic Yards arena is dead, I've asserted that it is, rather, very much in play. Indeed, the recommitment of the Barclays Center naming rights deal is a sign that the project has some juice, even as the stock of parent Forest City Enterprises slumbers. (It´s still down nearly 90% from its peak, but up some 50% from its low.)

At the same time, the Congressional investigation led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) into questionable assessments of Yankee Stadium also remains in play, as Kucinich has vowed. (“We’re going to continue our work here, make no mistake about that," he said after a hearing October 24.)

Should further and more concrete evidence of dubious practices be found, that would cast doubt on the tax-exempt bonds issued for the Yankees and, inevitably, the still inchoate plan for tax-exempt bonds issued for the Atlantic Yards arena.

In other words, even though more lenient regulations for the arena bonds were grandfathered in, questions will be asked.


Posted by amy at 8:56 AM

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #9: Park Design Makes Use of “Enclosure” to Define Park Space? NO


Noticing New York produced six new segments of the "Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card," five deal with the definition of park space, and the sixth asks "Appropriate Density? NO":

The absolutely incomparable density of Atlantic Yards is one of its most clearly controversial features. Jane Jacobs considered herself to be a proponent of density, describing in her book as dense the similarly dense neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights and Greenwich Village, but she was not a proponent of a particular level of density which should be mathematically measured. Instead, she was a proponent of density at a level that would perform well, which would vary according to many other specific factors in play. She also called for gradual reductions of density when appropriate. Atlantic Yards is immensely more dense than, at least double, Manhattan and any area of New York City now or that might have been targets for such a density reduction at the time she wrote.

Uses Parks as Focal Points? NO

Has Intricacy of Park Design? NO

Parks Are Designed with Desirable Centers? NO

Parks Are Designed So Sun Shines Within Them? NO

Park Design Makes Use of “Enclosure” to Define Park Space? NO

Posted by amy at 8:30 AM

Eminent Domain abuse is nothing more than theft


Juniper Park Civic Association

In New York City, under the Bloomberg administration, the evil aspect of eminent domain is thrusting itself into every neighborhood in the City from Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn to Sunnyside Yards and the proposed Willets Point Project in Queens. And let us not forget Manhattan where New York State forced a man to sell a corner that his family owned for more than 100 years. And, what went up - a courthouse, a school? Nope, the new New York Times Building. This was an instant case; where the original owner’s rights, all the investments, and the expectation that the original owner’s children would inherit, all disappeared.

I believe that most knowledgeable people would agree that once the shroud of eminent domain cast its shadow over any neighborhood the concept of fair market value or just compensation is a fraud. The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which includes building a new stadium for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, is an example of theft.


Posted by amy at 8:24 AM

Gluttons for Punishment

Kris Seals

Question: How does LeBron James affect Newark? Answer: In no way, shape, form, or fashion if the Nets get their way. They want to move to Brooklyn so bad that they were willing to use the Manifest Destiny Remix - Eminent Domain - to make it happen.

However, they may not get their wish. First, the proposed Brooklyn arena might not be finished by the time James becomes a free agent. Second, there is still opposition by those who are against the Ratner dream of development. Lastly, if the NBA has any integrity, James would be ineligible to sign with the Nets, as he has been constantly hanging out with the drug dealer who owns a part of the team. If that does not violate the tampering policy, then what does?

NoLandGrab: Is Jay-Z really a drug dealer? He claims so...

Posted by amy at 8:12 AM

November 29, 2008

Atlantic Yards: What's missing from this picture?


Brit in Brooklyn

Posted by amy at 10:35 AM

Is AY site in Fort Greene? Flashback to an odd caption


Atlantic Yards Report says the New York Times has "no excuse for identifying buildings within the Atlantic Yards footprint as located in Fort Greene rather than Prospect Heights, as indicated by the caption in this 4/2/05 Times article." Four additional errors in NY Times captions are pointed out as well.

Despite the Times's stated policy of correcting "all its factual errors, large and small," I'll assume that the failure to correct this--I did request a correction, to no avail--falls under the explanation, as per the Corrections Editor, "There is a limit to how many old articles we can correct in print."


Posted by amy at 10:23 AM

Brooklyn at Eye Level - new posts


Here are some more excerpts from interviews conducted by The Civilians, as background for the new play about Atlantic Yards:

“I think it’s questionable to even call the Atlantic Yards agreement a “Community Benefits Agreement.” Because if you think that one of the definite defining points is that there is a coalition of community and labor, I don’t think they have that. They made a beeline to the developer…where was the community in that community benefit agreement? There are…all of the surrounding neighborhoods have community-based organizations that were never consulted.” - Urban Planner

“My initial understanding of the project was that it was just a Nets stadium, and I thought, “Well what’s so wrong with that?” I’m not a huge basketball fan but I didn’t see the huge problem. Then I realized that there were houses being torn down as a result of the project and I thought, “Okay that’s crossing the line.” Eventually the whole problem of the project dawned on me: It’s not just that the project is making housing more difficult, which it is, but it’s a complete and total blight on Brooklyn itself, and me living close to it it’s just horrendous. Traffic will go through the roof, entire blocks will be cast in shadows throughout the entire day because of the office buildings and apartment complexes, which are going to be very expensive and as if housing in New York wasn’t expensive enough already. Ratner’s plans are ultimately going to only grant him a load of money and meanwhile put a total blemish on the face of Brooklyn. I said earlier that Brooklyn was like a rainbow in its diversity, and one might argue that this project is just another hue in the cultural rainbow; I respond, if you threw a dull brown-grey into the middle of a rainbow, it would seem out of place and ugly. That’s the problem with Atlantic Yards: It’s a total eyesore, a housing and traffic nightmare and there is simply so much more harm that can come out of this project than good.” - Brooklyn High School Student

Posted by amy at 10:08 AM

November 28, 2008

Job seekers attend a career day sponsored by the New Jersey Nets November 22, 2008 in East Rutherford, New Jersey



Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

MTA: No fare hikes or service cuts!

New York State Communist Party

Better Red than in the red, or something like that. NY's Communist Party has a prescription for fixing the MTA's budget woes, and it starts with Atlantic Yards.

The MTA’s operating and capital investment budgets must not only be funded, but expanded. This is not impossible, even in the current financial environment. First, the MTA must not waste money through sweetheart deals with big developers. A colossal amount of money was wasted when the MTA agreed to sell air rights to the Atlantic Yards to Forest City Ratner for $50 million, though the independently assessed value was as high as $900 million. Even when another firm offered a higher bid, the MTA chose to go with Forest City Ratner. Other projects, like the proposed extension of the 7 subway line, which is essentially a multi-billion dollar gift to the developers, could be postponed.


NoLandGrab: The CP's sentiment is correct, but its numbers are a bit off. The MTA has agreed to sell the Vanderbilt Yard (the land itself, not the air rights) to Forest City Ratner for $100 million, and we're not sure we ever recall seeing an independent appraisal of $900 million — although the MTA's own appraiser thought the land was worth more than twice the agreed-upon price.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Eminent domain cloud darkens Bay Ridge neighborhood

NY Daily News
by Jotham Sederstrom

The poster project for eminent domain abuse, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, finds its way into this story about a more nuanced dispute over best public use in another section of Brooklyn.

A plan to build a public school in Bay Ridge has drawn the ire of several Fourth Ave. property owners whose land could be seized under eminent domain, officials said. The move to clear land for the 480-seat school would mark the first time the School Construction Authority has had to resort to the controversial move of seizing private land for a government project.

"We're still in negotiations, but we also are prepared to initiate eminent domain proceedings so we don't lose time," said spokeswoman Margie Feinberg, who could not recall another instance of land seizure being used for a school project.

The possibility of eminent domain - which is typically used for projects that would benefit the public - has put plans for a grocery store and medical center on hold for the swath of Fourth Ave. between 88th and 89th Sts.

"There's no question that a school is a quintessential public use," said attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff, who has represented residents threatened by the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights.

"Having said that, as a matter of good policy, [the School Construction Authority] should target a spot that doesn't already have another public purpose in mind."


Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

The cozy relationship between Sheldon Silver, the Met Council, and Bruce Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

I know I'm late on this, but let's take another look at the cozy relationship between Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and developer Forest City Ratner. There's nothing illegal, just another episode of the questionable one-hand-washes-the-other power configuration that seems so prevalent in the city and state.

Silver says that those who care about process are "naive." Perhaps that's also his message for those who had hoped he'd ask hard questions about Atlantic Yards.

Each year the Met Council holds a "Builder's Luncheon" to honor someone in the real estate field and raise funds for its supportive housing initiatives. This year's event, as the Council's widely-reported press release stated, raised $1 million and honored Bruce Ratner:
Numerous other elected and appointed officials were present as the keynote speaker, Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, presented Mr. Ratner with a beautifully decorated charity box.

That gets the developer, Silver, and the Met Council some nice publicity for a relatively small amount of money, even while the developer and Assembly Speaker deal in much larger sums for a project in which affordable housing does not come first.


Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Raid and rationality

Here are some more excerpts from interviews conducted by The Civilians, as background for the new play about Atlantic Yards:

"Every time they raid me, the day before I receive a call from some real estate investor in the city that wants to buy my building. When I tell them no, you guys raid me, so what the fuck you expect from me." — Community Business Owner

"You know, I was brought up to think that the world actually is a somewhat rational place! Well it is rational, you know, this is a guy who went to law school with Pataki who was the governor at the time, he dangles, you know the elephants in front of Marty Markowitz, he dangles part ownership of a football team in front of Jay-Z, he offers free events, you know, so that poor families can bring their kids to a basketball clinic, that then gets used to create a PR video, you know?" — Rational Brooklynite

Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving wishes from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards has been a real turkey for a long time. Still, with each passing day, its inner turkeyness is revealed to greater degrees. Today we take a time out to wish you a...

If you think "inner turkeyness" is nuts, click here to find out what a grabscamoggle is.

NoLandGrab: As if nearly five years of head-scratching lack of urban planning isn't enough to be grateful for, here at NLG we're thankful that city, state and probably federal tax dollars will go to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise megaproject while the Metropolitan Transit Authority plans service cutbacks and fare increases, the City is cutting back on social services and the State is postponing infrastructure projects and trying to get serious about closing the budget gap.

Thankfully, we're still here to remind folks that things are pretty much business as usual during these tough economic times — Atlantic Yards YES, vital public services NO!

Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM

Agit prop

The Brooklyn Paper
By Sarah Portlock


There’s a lot that’s angering Brooklynites these days, so how better to vent about it than to put on a show?

That’s the thematic basis for “Brooklyn at Eye Level,” the new production by Manhattan-based theater troupe, the Civilians. The play — a musical actually! — is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with community leaders about local development projects and gentrification.
“The reason why we’re doing [this performance] is to try to make people understand what’s actually been happening and what’s at stake,” Cosson said. “What we’ve found out is going to surprise people.”

“Brooklyn at Eye Level,” Dec. 4–7, Brooklyn Lyceum (227 Fourth Ave., between Union and President streets in Park Slope). For information, visit www.thecivilians.org and brooklynateyelevel.org.


Brooklyn Daily Eagle, The Civilians present “Brooklyn at Eye Level”

Brooklyn residents, community activists, developers and politicos will discuss the social ecology of their borough, Dec. 4 through 7, following performances of theater, music and dance at “Brooklyn at Eye Level.” The piece, based on interviews with Brooklynites—young, old, activists and developers—looks at the rapidly changing face of Brooklyn, centering on the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

Distrust Ratner

From The Brooklyn Paper Mailbag

To the editor,

Your editorial, “Distrust but verify” (Oct. 25), reminds us that the Atlantic Yards project is still alive, even if it’s not doing so well — and it’s not just that it’s more costly, but it has also become far more toxic.

I am sure we will see more awards given to your paper’s coverage of Atlantic Yards should construction eventually proceed. Indeed I would expect that The Brooklyn Paper will end up reporting how Ratner’s delay of the Atlantic Yards build out will contribute to perpetual gridlock on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. That is, replacing Atlantic Yards Phase II residential housing with interim parking means going back on a commitment to mitigate traffic by using off-site parking with a shuttle service to the arena.

So now instead of this being a transit-related project, the new Atlantic Yards timetable confronts Brooklyn with the prospect of public parking for Ratner’s arena and his mall, as well as of a park and ride for the MTA.

Meanwhile, there is no public input on how vehicles are expected to enter and exit the parking areas without further disrupting existing traffic flows!

The new timetables effects will also show up in your ongoing coverage of the Gowanus Canal — in fact, the paper has a current piece on combined sewage overflow and long term goals for cleaning up the canal (“Toll’s Canal project moves forward,” Nov. 1).

Creating interim surface parking with no end date means that accumulating automotive and petroleum-based chemicals will become part of the storm water runoff feeding into a cleaned up Gowanus. How big of a problem this will become appears to rest, like so much else, solely in the hands of the developer. So, continue to distrust and verify. We’re counting on you.

Alan Rosner, Prospect Heights

Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

How the (unintended consequences of) the EIS process fostered suburban sprawl

Atlantic Yards Report

Developer Jonathan Rose shares his opinions on what is wrong with environmental impact statements and their effect on suburban sprawl.

"One person chooses to build a 1000-unit urban project in a city and they get held up for five years in an environmental impact statement," he concluded. "And so the unintended consequence of NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act ] actually was one more of the many things that made it easier for suburban sprawl to proceed from 1970 to 2000 instead of urban redevelopment."
NEPA is also a poor planning tool, he says, because of its heavy reliance on environmental impact statements, whose accuracy he believes is unproven. "I ask this of Planning magazine readers: Does anybody have a good, broad-based study of a diverse group of environmental impact statements of [completed] projects that 10 years later were back-tested to see if the predictions were accurate?"

One of the reasons he believes they can't be accurate is that "they look at projects from a granular point of view; essentially, they look at a project by itself, and not the whole system."


Posted by lumi at 4:30 AM

demolition of 489 Dean continues

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

Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

November 26, 2008

An Opaque and Lengthy Road to Landmark Status

The New York Times
by Robin Pogrebin

An in-depth examination of New York City's dysfunctional Landmarks Preservation Commission of course omits mention of the LPC's failure to act to save the Ward Bakery building, which was only recently reduced to rubble by The Times's development partner, Atlantic Yards mastermind Bruce Ratner.

Ruling on a lawsuit filed in March against the landmarks commission’s top officials by a preservationist coalition, the judge called the agency’s inaction “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered it to start making timely decisions on every designation request. To allow such proposals “to languish is to defeat the very purpose of the L.P.C. and invite the loss of irreplaceable landmarks,” the judge, Marilyn Shafer, wrote.

The city says it will appeal. Still, the ruling was a significant victory for preservationists and politicians across the city who have long accused the commission of lacking the responsiveness and accountability that citizens expect from a watchdog of the city’s architectural history.

A six-month examination of the commission’s operations by The New York Times reveals an overtaxed agency that has taken years to act on some proposed designations, even as soaring development pressures put historic buildings at risk. Its decision-making is often opaque, and its record-keeping on landmark-designation requests is so spotty that staff members are uncertain how many it rejects in a given year.


NoLandGrab: Here's a shocker — the LPC's chairman, who turned down a 20% budget increase approved by the City Council last year, has no background in architecture, urban planning or historic preservation.

Posted by eric at 12:59 PM

It's a Two-Team Race for LeBron James in 2010

the nba from the cheap seats

An unvarnished look at the respective chances of those teams vying to land LeBron James in 2010 includes this evaluation of the boys from Brooklyn, er, Jersey.


The New Jersey Nets

Why They Could Get LeBron: Bruce Ratner, the majority stakeholder of the Nets, wants to move the team to Brooklyn, the hometown of Jay-Z, a minority stakeholder of the Nets and a close friend of LeBron's. Brooklyn gives LeBron access to New York City, the biggest media market in the NBA. He has even said his favorite city in the world is New York, but his favorite borough is Brooklyn, not Manhattan.

Why They Won't Get LeBron: Because everything in the preceding paragraph is a big, steaming pile of crap. The Atlantic Yards project is so mired in legal problems that it'll be lucky to begin construction in 2010. The eminent domain case against Atlantic Yards, filed by the residents of Brooklyn, won't reach a decision until March 2009, at which point the petitioners will of course appeal and drag out the process even more months. Moreover, Bruce Ratner is a real estate mogul, not a sports owner. He cares a lot more about making sure his $4 billion real estate project is completed than he does about putting LeBron in a Brooklyn Nets uniform. In fact, he has been trying to sell the Nets for the past year due to the mountain of financial losses the team takes every year.

And Jay-Z? How many times has he been at Madison Square Garden for the Knicks this year? He probably has season tickets. Now when was the last time you saw Jay-Z at the Izod Center watching the Nets? 2006? 2005? The New Jersey Nets are not moving to Brooklyn. If anywhere, they're much more likely to move into the Prudential Center with the Devils in Newark. Even if Ratner does keep them, they're not going to have an arena ready until 2012. If Jay-Z won't go into Jersey to watch his own team, why would LeBron waste two years in the swamp?


Posted by eric at 8:29 AM

Last Night's Action: LeBron Pays A Visit


LeBron James got a hero's welcome at the Garden:

After the game, James said all the right things about his future and how he wouldn’t think about it until 2010. Interestingly, he referred to the Nets two different times as “Brooklyn”. Maybe he isn’t aware that the Atlantic Yards won’t be built until 2011, if at all, or maybe he is just sending a message to Nets’ ownership to hurry up and move?


NoLandGrab: Or maybe, just maybe, James doesn't read NoLandGrab.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Fort Greene Park

Here is an excerpt from an interview conducted by The Civilians, as background for the new play about Atlantic Yards:

“Oh, I know what disappeared! Concerts in the park! Concerts in Fort Greene Park. They got rid of those because I guess the people who live here now didn’t want the kinds of people who’d come to the concerts parking on their streets or hanging out in front of their houses. Didn’t want the noise. So those are gone. And now they got doggie fountains…where your dog could get a drink of water. Used to be your kids couldn’t get water outta those fountains, now they lowered them so the dogs can drink.” — Fort Greene resident

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Financing delays plague NYC projects for both offices and condos

Atlantic Yards Report

A compilation of a couple of news reports on the current local real estate market paints a grim picture for projects like Atlantic Yards that are still trying to secure financing.

There are more signs that the offices and condos planned for the Atlantic Yards project face financing delays, along with similar projects in the city--though, in the case at least of condos, there might be a silver lining.


Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

November 25, 2008

Pols want new name for Mets home: Taxpayer Field

AP via Yahoo Sports

Two New York City Council members say that Citigroup should show its thanks for a federal bailout by sharing the naming rights to the new Mets ballpark in Queens.

The struggling bank is slated to pay $400 million over the next 20 years to name the stadium Citi Field.

The bank made the commitment years ago, when it was flush with cash. Now that Citigroup is getting billions of dollars in federal aid, Staten Island Republicans Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo say the ballpark’s name should be changed to Citi/Taxpayer Field.

Citigroup and Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon have been saying that they have no plan to alter the naming-rights deal for the ballpark, which hosts its regular-season opener April 13.


NoLandGrab: Given the hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies for the planned Atlantic Yards project, perhaps "Barclays Center" should be changed to "Barclays/NYC-NYS-Federal Taxpayer Center," unless Barclays does end up accepting aid from the British government, in which case "British" could be slipped in there somewhere, too.

Posted by eric at 6:49 PM

And baby makes three!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Sarah Portlock

Despite Bruce Ratner's best efforts to make the footprint of his Atlantic Yards project uninhabitable, the area has gained a notable new resident.

Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein and his wife did what megadeveloper Bruce Ratner has failed to do: they brought life to the Atlantic Yards footprint.

On Nov. 9, little Sita Dorothy Goldstein was born to Goldstein and Shabnam Merchant — and unlike most things near the couple’s Pacific Street home, the six-pound, five-ounce baby is “adorable,” the proud papa said.

“Despite the unusual circumstances, we’re happy to be living our lives and being able to raise our child in Brooklyn where we planned to,” Goldstein said. “We’re just very happy to have started a new family.”

Goldstein and Merchant met while organizing efforts against Ratner as part of the group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Congratulations!

Posted by eric at 1:28 PM

Where will Lebron James be after 2010?

Cavs News Fan Poll


This Cleveland Cavaliers fan site is running a poll on where LeBron James will end up after his current contract expires in 2010, and though the results aren't even remotely scientific, the Nets' chances of landing the highly coveted all-star are not looking good, trailing not only the Cavs and Knicks, but "elsewhere," too — by a four-to-one margin, no less.


Posted by eric at 1:15 PM

Design Excellence in Newark Overshadows NYC

eOculus [AIA NY Newsletter]
by Ian Volner

It turns out NYC might just have reason to envy Newark, NJ. “They’ve just got so much open space to work with,” gushed NYC Department of Parks and Recreation’s Charles McKinney, reflecting on the sweeping plans for new housing and recreational projects presented by Newark Director of Planning Toni Griffin. With a much-depleted urban core and a newly energized city government under Mayor Cory Booker, Griffin is looking to draw on Newark’s present advantages — a thriving seaport and proximity to NYC — in remaking the face of the city. And she already has ambitious proposals coming from the likes of Richard Meier, FAIA, to help her do it.


NoLandGrab: One other thing Newark has that New York City doesn't is a sparkling new arena, which would make a perfect permanent home for the New Jersey Nets, the team that event co-sponsor Forest City Ratner stubbornly wants to move to Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

President's message: Eyes on the horizon

New York Real Estate Journal
by James McCullar, FAIA

However, when institutions such as St. Vincent's Hospital and Columbia University need to modernize through expansion, or new developments such as Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards transform existing typologies, they often confront resistance from established neighborhoods and civic organizations. New growth is imperative if a city is to remain competitive in the global marketplace; yet those needs must be synthesized with existing contexts and expectations for sustainable communities.

The Wall Street collapse and crisis in global financial markets has unexpectedly brought expectations for unlimited growth to a halt. The New York Building Congress has projected the worst is yet to come in 2010 after projects in the pipeline dry up. However, as Governor Paterson reminded us recently, some of the most significant infrastructure and landmarks in the city, such as Rockefeller Center, was built over periods of economic ups and downs - we must keep our eyes on the horizon.

The silver lining in this cloud will be the opportunity for architects to work together with government, the development community, and civic organizations to plan more thoughtfully for the next cycle of growth, and to rethink projects hastily conceived in the rush of the recent real estate boom. As our workload slows down, we will all have more time to think about the future.

Finding the right balance presents an enormous challenge and demands a creative collaboration often missing in recent new developments where government overrides local concerns. We must be careful not to replicate the errors of our modernist past. Above all we must look back on this period as having created something good that will be remembered by future generations.


Posted by eric at 12:54 PM

Local Leaders Call On MTA To Maximize Assets

by Ty Chandler


The MTA painted a gloomy financial picture Thursday when it unveiled its doomsday budget. But some city lawmakers are not convinced a 23 percent fare hike is necessary.

"Before the MTA tells riders that they have to deal with less service for a higher fare, the MTA has an absolute obligation to maximize their assets," said Councilman Eric Gioia.

Gioia says the MTA has an extensive real estate portfolio that could be worth as much as a billion dollars. He says the MTA used tax dollars to pay for a report to look for ways to maximize those assets, but says the MTA has refused to release its findings, calling them flawed.

In a statement, the MTA says it "is continually assessing its assets for revenue-generating opportunities."


NoLandGrab: One asset the MTA is apparently not continually assessing for revenue-generating opportunities is Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yard, which the cash-strapped agency has agreed to sell to Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner for less than half what the MTA's own assessor says it is worth.

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Eminent domain case speeded up, might be heard in January

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on a timetable shift in the state eminent domain case that might explain a recent comment by Nets CEO Brett Yormark:

Well, the Atlantic Yards state eminent domain case will be heard on a faster track than first envisioned. On September 29, I predicted that final briefs would be due in late February, with a hearing sometime after that. That implied a decision no sooner than May or June.

The state appellate court, however, on its own accord changed the schedule, with the nine petitioners required to file their brief by this Friday, November 28. That means that the defendant Empire State Development Corporation has to respond by December 19 and that the petitioners' reply brief is due December 29.

Decision by March?

While no hearing has yet been scheduled, the timetable leaves open the possibility of a January hearing. And while a decision might come by March, that doesn't mean that Atlantic Yards backers would "get through litigation, some time in March," as New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark said last week.

The losing side--most likely the petitioners, because the case is a long shot--would inevitably file an appeal, which could require several more months. And other litigation may persist or arise.


Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Roots and arrogance

Here are excerpts from more interviews conducted by The Civilians, as background for the new play about Atlantic Yards:

"Me going to another complex? C’mon I don’t know nobody. I know people in the Clinton Hill area, Fort Greene area. I don’t wanna go out to no Bed Stuy. No Farragut. I don’t wanna go there. I’ll go there to talk or whatever but I’m not going to live out there.” — A Firmly Rooted Brooklynite


"...now all these guys you see coming into this neighborhood. they dont have time to say hi to you how are you, how ya been . . . they dont. that is nasty of them that is very rude . . . arrogant, cocky.” — Brooklyn Old Timer

NoLandGrab: In case you're wondering, the two gray houses in the background are in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan and are threatened with eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

Developer Chakrabarti: environmental review process is "workfare" for lawyers and consultants

Atlantic Yards Report

A lot of community groups don't like the environmental review process that, under city, state, and national law, requires elaborate disclosure documents that are burdensome to produce but not necessarily helpful.

And developers don't like them, either.

According to Vishaan Chakrabarti, the Executive Vice President of Design and Planning for the Related Companies:

"Our environmental impact process is completely flawed," he said. "Our regulatory process for a project like Moynihan Station--probably over $15 million has been spent on environmental work that no one will ever read, that is its own kind of workfare program for lawyers and consultants.”


Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

November 24, 2008

Citi, AIG Won't Drop Big Sports Sponsorships

Critics Slam Bailed-Out Firms' Pricey Deals for Naming Rights, Logo Placement

ABC News — The Blotter
by Justin Rood

Just because taxpayers are having to bail out financial firms to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars doesn't mean those firms are giving up their expensive stadium naming-rights deals.

AIG, Citibank and a number of other federally bailed-out financial institutions have no plans to cancel hundreds of millions of dollars in sports team sponsorships, even as they take billions in taxpayer support, ABC News has found.

Struggling Citibank just sealed a multi-billion-dollar emergency "backstop" deal with the U.S. government. The financial behemoth, suffering with billions in bad mortgage-related assets on its books, recently shed 53,000 workers and saw its stock price lose over half its value. Yet it's in a 20-year contract to pay the New York Mets $400 million to name the team's new stadium "Citi Field."

"This type of spending is indefensible and unacceptable to Citigroup's new partner and largest investor: the American taxpayer," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., in a statement Monday.

"Up until now they were businesses who could invest or waste their money as they see fit," said Taxpayers for Common Sense's Ellis. "But now we're the shareholders. And frittering their money away with naming rights and ties to sports teams isn't a really good investment of taxpayers' money -- particularly when credit markets are collapsed."


NoLandGrab: Barclays, which has a naming-rights deal with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, has thus far resisted taking funds from the British government; some allege that's because Barclays' top managers don't want to have their compensation limited by government regulators.

Daily Kos, You are funding CITI's marketing efforts (and the New York Mets)

Posted by eric at 6:04 PM

Even as lawsuits delay construction, demolition on Dean Street creates facts on the ground (and blight)

Atlantic Yards Report


The picture... which I published last Wednesday, quickly became out of date. Photographer Tracy Collins on Saturday returned to the site and showed that 487 Dean Street, at the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue, had already been chopped in half, with the only structure remaining behind some scaffolding.

Soon enough, 489 Dean Street, another structurally sound row house will be demolished. Then what? Forest City Ratner will have to wait. The owners of the building just to the east are plaintiffs in the pending eminent domain case, and the owner of the adjoining two buildings has not, as far as I know, been negotiating with the developer.


Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Contracts, business, and gardening

Here are excerpts from more interviews conducted by The Civilians, as background for the new play about Atlantic Yards:

“It’s a binding enough contract [The Community Benefits Agreement] that when you see things happen in the community that are not going in that direction, that you can go back to that piece of paper say look this is what you promised us, to the developer, this is what we agreed upon doing and it was signed by the mayor." — Brooklynite

NoLandGrab: For the record, Mayor Bloomberg showed up at the signing ceremony and signed SOMETHING, but it wasn't the actual Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which is signed by community groups that support the project and the developer. The Mayor's role made for great theater though.

"...with this construction right here? We hardly get any people coming in at all. Cause the construction just make people wanna walk fast fast through here to get past all the dust and the debris. So nobody stop." — Black Businessperson

"I had gotten all these bulbs, and I was out with this little heart-shaped spade, um, planting them, and….I….I was up close to 127, and one of the drug dealers, this other neighbor and I decided that one of the ways that we could fight this, this problem was just to make the drug dealers feel uncomfortable." — Gardener and a Guardian remembering the way it was not so long ago.

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

NYC's chief urban designer salutes continuity and vitality of streets (and what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Director of Urban Design for the Department of City Planning, Alexandros Washburn, only joined the administration in January 2007, so he's presumably had little contact with the Atlantic Yards project, which got its final state approval a month earlier. (The City Planning Commission in September 2006 had endorsed the project, with minor changes.)

Still, it was remarkable how, in a recent discussion of the city's planning practices, he saluted the High Line project, which began with public infrastructure, not a private developer, involved multiple developers, and emphasized streets rather than demapped them. The contrast with Atlantic Yards is stark.


Posted by lumi at 4:17 AM

November 23, 2008

Daily Dis

From Crain's NY Business, Popularity wanes for embattled Bloomberg

"In the month since he signed the bill that allows him to run for a third term, hardly a day has gone by without a major city employer announcing layoffs, or another dismal economic indicator making headlines. With tax revenues dropping, he has proposed $2.5 billion in tax increases and service cuts..."

...except for developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards boondoggle, which has received hundreds of millions in direct cash subsidies and is slated for hundreds of millions more in tax breaks and giveaways.

Posted by eric at 3:14 PM

Hal Steinbrenner can be his own Boss

NY Daily News
Mike Lupica

One of these days Commissioner Stern needs to figure out where the Nets are going to be playing in a few years if they're not playing in Brooklyn.


Posted by amy at 11:41 AM

How taxpayers might help the Nets land LeBron James


Atlantic Yards Report

The issue came up on the CUNY-TV talk show City Talk regarding the new Yankee Stadium, which I wrote about yesterday.

One guest was Baruch professor Neil Sullivan, author of The Diamond in the Bronx: Yankee Stadium and the Politics of New York (2001, updated 2008),

He pointed out how the San Francisco Giants privately financed PacBell Park:
Everyone was, 'Ohmigod, you can't build these things, you'll have no money left for the ballplayers.' They signed Barry Bonds, they went to a World Series, they functioned fine.

The great question in the off-season, one of the great questions that the Yankees will be considering, is do they make an offer to Manny Ramirez, that's going to be 20 to 25 million dollars... for four or five or maybe six years. Where do you think that money comes from? In this stadium game, one of the ways I think about it, the state picks up, the public picks up the capital budget for this private business. All of that money, hundreds of the millions... goes over to the operating side. They can go chase anybody they want.

Remember, the direct subsidies for Atlantic Yards so far total $305 million. The savings on tax-exempt bonds could be $165 million. Other subsidies and tax breaks would be enormous as well, though no one's produced definitive numbers.

That could help pay for a few good hoopsters.


Posted by amy at 11:34 AM

"Bloomberg's bombast": historian Siegel says sports facility subsidies don't pass cost-benefit analysis

Atlantic Yards Report

Historian Fred Siegel, writing in the 11/17/08 issue of the conservative Weekly Standard, doesn't forget that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, in his first term--the one that even the Village Voice's Wayne Barrett praised--supported welfare for sports team owners.

Siegel's essay, headlined Bloomberg's Bombast: New York's mayor buys himself a third term, begins:
The folks over at Newsweek have a sly sense of humor. They put New York mayor Michael Bloomberg on the cover of their November 3 issue and let him dispense fiscal advice to the next president. In the article, Bloomberg, who has presided over record levels of spending and debt increases, chastised "Washington" for putting us in a hole by "spending with reckless abandon for years." The lofty Bloomberg told Newsweek's readers, "Programs that don't pass a cost-benefit analysis, that have been driven by politics rather than economics, should be cut."

This is excellent advice. But Bloomberg has never taken it. One of the few things economists agree on, for example, is that subsidized sports stadia are a bad investment of public funds. They are also one of Bloomberg's passions. The mayor tried and failed to subsidize a West Side football stadium to the tune of roughly $600 million, but succeeded in sending similar sums toward his developer friend Bruce Ratner for a massive Brooklyn project, centered on a basketball arena, now stalled, for which there was no demand.


Posted by amy at 11:29 AM

Sunday Comix - Red Sea Edition

Gickr helps you to pimp your myspace
graphic myspace at Gickr.com

Posted by amy at 11:25 AM

Public Good: Architect clubhouse introduces everyday citizens to good design

NY Daily News

If you want your kid to become an architect rather than an astronaut, or you just want to know more about your physical surroundings, the Center for Architecture should be a constant on your to-do list.
Daniel Libeskind, architect for the Freedom Tower downtown, lectured at the center last month. So did Forest City Ratner’s MaryAnne Gilmartin. Current exhibits in the 15,000-square-foot, green-design LaGuardia Place home include a series on “hybrid” or mixed-use buildings, such as the Beekman Tower, by Forest City Ratner and architect Frank Gehry, and Harlem’s Renaissance Theatre.

NoLandGrab: If you want your kid to learn about greedy backroom dealings and ripping off the public through shady subsidies, send them to the Atlantic Yards Report School of Online Investigative Journalism.

Posted by amy at 11:06 AM

November 22, 2008

TONIGHT: Freddy's Donald O'Finn Video Art Opening This Weekend, Partial Proceeds to DDDB

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


Freddy's Bar & Backroom manager Donald O'Finn has an opening night reception for his video art installation this Saturday in Red Hook. Freddy's is, of course, one of the nine plaintiffs on the eminent domain lawsuit trying to keep their property from NY State seizure for Bruce Ratner's boondoggle.

And Donald is donating some of the proceeds from his opening reception to DDDB.

Projection - re-purposed video art installation by Donald O'Finn
Opening Night Reception
Saturday November 22
Bar Botanica
220 Conover Street
Red Hook
Brooklyn, New York


Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

487 Dean Street demolished


threecee via flickr

487 Dean Street at 6th Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

This building has been demolished for Atlantic Yards.

All buildings in this photo are also slated for demolition.


Posted by amy at 10:03 AM

It Came From the Blogosphere...

Mole's Progressive Democrat, NEW YORK STATE FOCUS: Blogs, 2009 Candidates, Groups and Events

Bloomberg vs. Thompson on Bruce Ratner: Comptroller and possible mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is saying no more public money for greedy developer Bruce Ratner while Tsar Bloomberg is raising YOUR taxes and cutting jobs but letting rich Ratner dodge taxes.

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Friday Links Roundup

And, for your Friday fun, may we present Atlantic Yards Deathwatch. (No, we don’t know who made it).

NY Observer, The Weekly Walk-Through

IFC is airing a film bashing the media for not bashing Atlantic Yards.

Posted by amy at 9:53 AM

On CityTalk: "How much welfare do you think the Steinbrenners should get?"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Yankee Stadium deal was the subject of a scathing episode of the CUNY-TV talk show City Talk, taped November 11, which raised many issues that should be pursued regarding the planned Atlantic Yards arena.

One hot topic was press coverage of the subject, Oder explains:

Well, the press always likes to piggyback on a governmental investigation, and recent reports from committees led by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Rep. Dennis Kucinich certainly have provided a jump-start. Yankee Stadium is probably the poster child for questionable behavior, but it's not too late to take a look at Atlantic Yards, as pre-construction demolition and utility work continues.

Another question was of public ownership:

The reason for public ownership is to provide the opportunity to issue tax-exempt bonds. The same goes for the Atlantic Yards arena, which a federal appellate court described in a 2/1/08 decision as "a publicly owned (albeit generously leased) stadium." Yes, the developer would use PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to pay for construction. But rent would be nominal.

Read the full article for epic coverage including "A brief history of machinations," the CBA and lost parklands.

Posted by amy at 9:40 AM

And, then, Forest City Enterprises stock price rises

Atlantic Yards Report

The price of Forest City Enterprises stock went up 15% yesterday, to $3.94 which was a very good deal for anyone who bought the stock on Thursday, when it it closed at $3.42.

But it's still off 92% from its one-year high of $50.27. A day earlier, it was off 93%.


Posted by amy at 9:39 AM

Making a run at LeBron

The Sports Network
John McMullen looks at the problems preventing LeBron becoming a Net:

The Nets' move to Brooklyn has been slowed by delays, the faltering economy and legal challenges to Atlantic Yards, the proposed development that would include the team's new arena.

In fact, the latest piece of litigation has pushed a possible groundbreaking back to next spring at the earliest, with a projected opening in 2011, a year after James would be scheduled to arrive with the Nets. North Jersey is close to New York in proximity, but not in stature.


Posted by amy at 9:34 AM

November 21, 2008

Daily Dis

Headline from today's NY Times:
"M.T.A. Warns of Service Cuts and Fare Increases" ...yet makes no mention of making Bruce Ratner pay fair market value for the Vanderbilt rail yard.

Posted by eric at 9:11 PM

NY State Budget Crisis

mole333 via Daily Gotham

Politics blogger mole333 lists re-thinking government-sponsored development projects among his ideas for dealing with New York State's budget crisis. Can you guess the identity of his poster-child for wasteful development schemes?

Sane Development. This state and city has a bad habit of pouring money into ill conceived development projects with little oversight. They do this largely based on promises of affordable housing. Yet there are few guarantees that these promises will ever be carried out. Bruce Ratner is merely the most obvious and egregious example, using his connections and family donations to Pataki, Bloomberg, Vito Lopez, etc. to get massive amounts of tax money from the people of NYC and NY State. Yet he is now saying he will largely back out of all promises regarding affordable housing. In the end, these development projects become more about patronage and political donations than about improving our city, and taxpayer money is wasted with little return for the community. The job creation is anaemic, the affordable housing non-existant or not affordable, and the only people to benefit are the developer and his political cronies. I am for devlopment if it is sane development, and I am for giving tax breaks to developers if they make enforceable promises and are held accountable if they don't keep them. But this habit of giving development projects to a low bidder, paying for his land purchase anyway, pouring tax money into his pockets, then getting nothing out of it is a huge waste of our time and money.


Posted by eric at 2:17 PM

Health of Forest City: not so Sterling

Writes Like She Talks

An Ohio blogger discovers Atlantic Yards Report, which prompts her to relate her own negative experiences with a Forest City Enterprises development known as Sterling Lakes.

I live in a town that is saddled with a little something developed by Forest City called Sterling Lakes which, to the best of my knowledge, has done not one single exemplary thing for our city and continues to be something that causes negative ripple effects throughout the four or so towns around it, mine included.

Many of us - though obviously not enough of us or enough of us who were in elected office and had a final vote - objected to Sterling Lakes from the start. We didn’t want the Porter property sold, we didn’t want it turned into a development and we didn’t want the development to be of homes that would primarily cost upwards of $800,000. Even a few years ago, some of us just knew that this region and the economy would not sustain such a project.

So, I suppose I’m glad tht FCE can see that something like that Baylee Properties would be an absolutely absurd undertaking, but I still sting, as do many of my neighbors, about how the Sterling Lakes project and all that it’s not reaped was pushed on us.


Posted by eric at 2:05 PM

What Decrepit Brooklyn Nabe Gets (In Dreams) This Gleaming Waterfront Park?

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog]

Forest City makes a cameo in this brief piece casting doubt on the likelihood of a newly proposed Brooklyn waterfront development coming to fruition.

One of the bright sides of a collapsing economy is that developers -- who normally treat us peons like, well, peons -- are getting their asses kicked. Forest City Enterprises, the home office of Atlantic Yards villain Bruce Ratner, has lost 93 percent of its share value this year. Brooklynites are even starting to reach across neighborhoods to hassle builders. Up your ass like a war of class, richies!


Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

Plan to Redevelop Seaport Is Spurned for the Mass, Scale and Height of Its Buildings

The New York Times
by David W. Dunlap and Sewell Chan

What's good for the South Street Seaport is apparently not good for Prospect Heights, at least where the Landmarks Preservation Commission is concerned.

An ambitious and much-debated plan to redevelop the low-rise South Street Seaport with a 42-story apartment and hotel was rebuffed in its current form on Tuesday by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Eventually, the plummeting economy might have reshaped the redevelopment proposal by General Growth Properties of Chicago, which itself faces an uncertain future. But the landmarks commission got to it first.

A majority of the commissioners made it clear that they did not find the proposed massing, scale and height of the buildings appropriate to the 19th-century historic district, said a spokeswoman for the commission, Elisabeth de Bourbon.

The redevelopment plan — a mix of stores, hotel rooms, apartments and open space — is strongly favored by the Bloomberg administration. SHoP Architects has designed a 495-foot tower, clad in a terra-cotta exoskeleton, rising on new pilings in the East River. A 1980s mall on Pier 17 would be replaced with two-story retail buildings, a four- and six-story hotel, walkways, a plaza, and the refurbished and relocated Tin Building.


NoLandGrab: While the LPC is now considering a Prospect Height Historic District that carefully avoids the proposed footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it refused to consider protecting noteworthy buildings in the path of Ratner's wrecking ball, like the old Spalding Factory and the now-demolished Ward Bakery — which was, ironically, perhaps the finest example of a terra-cotta-clad building in New York.

For the record, the Atlantic Yards plan includes several towers of a similar "mass, scale and height" as the building proposed at the Seaport, all of which would loom over low-rise, 19th-century Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Port Authority's Ward: AY represents simple--er, complex--density challenge

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on recent comments about Atlantic Yards made by Port Authority chief Christopher Ward.

Then he got to Atlantic Yards. “That is part of the challenge that we face in terms of where we will build," he said. "Think of the challenge that Bruce Ratner’s facing, Atlantic Yards, where you’ve had exactly what you could describe as a transit-oriented development resisted heavily, simply because--simply for the complex reason that the community around there does not match the height, density, and character. So you have the brownstone versus the skyscraper, although Atlantic I think is the MTA’s second-largest transit hub within the city, which lends itself to the very model that Hong Kong represents.”
(Emphasis added)

It's the third-largest transit hub, I believe, but not necessarily the third-busiest. (Aren't Times Square, Grand Central, and Union Square busier?)

Ward's awkward syntax suggests that the issue is more complex than simple. Yes, many have resisted the project's scale and density, but supporters of the UNITY plan welcome significant density, just not at the level that Forest City Ratner proposes. Urban planner Ron Shiffman, a supporter of density, has argued that the proposed density "far exceeds the carrying capacity of the area’s physical, social, cultural, and educational infrastructure."

Several other issues generate resistance, including the undemocratic approval process, the level of public subsidy, and the use of eminent domain based on questionable findings of blight.


Posted by eric at 7:22 AM

1,000-acre plan scrapped

Cleveland company withdraws its plans for giant housing, retail project between Dublin, Marysville

The Columbus Dispatch
By Mike Pramik

An ambitious plan to turn nearly 1,000 acres of rural Union County land into a bustling community is being canceled.

Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, the proposed developer of Bayly Pointe, today plans to withdraw a zoning application it had filed with Millcreek Township.

Bayly Pointe was intended to include offices, retail space and more than 2,000 residences at the site, at the intersection of Rts. 33 and 42.

News of the cancellation came in a letter to township trustees, Millcreek Township Trustee Keith Conroy said.
Representatives of Forest City did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. However, in the letter to the township, Forest City cited the poor economy and infrastructure issues as reasons for the decision, Conroy said.


Atlantic Yards Report, As Forest City's stock continues to plunge, one project is scrapped

As the stock of Forest City Enterprises (FCE) continued its mind-boggling fall--down nearly 18% yesterday to $3.42, a new low, and 93% for the year--the casualties have begun.

This doesn't necessarily signal anything about the developer's plans for Atlantic Yards, because Bayly Pointe had not yet been approved.

The developer, and its local arm Forest City Ratner, surely aim to hold onto a project like Atlantic Yards that has increased in value by gaining governmental approvals. After all, they "control the pace."

But the tanking stock has to concentrate the mind. Either Forest City Enterprises is headed for oblivion or it's a very good buy.

Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

Bad times at big mall

PoliceBlotter-BP.gif The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center Malls made headlines in this week's "Police Blotter":

It’s almost the holiday shopping season, but thieves and weirdos were already working Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls on Nov. 10.

On that single day, there were three incidents. Here’s a roundup:

• A police officer engaged a sword-carrying shopper in armed combat inside an Atlantic Terminal store before arresting him.
• A tiny troublemaker swiped a woman’s wallet while she shopped in an Atlantic Terminal store on Nov. 10.
• A thief brazenly made repeated raids on a clothier inside Atlantic Center Mall.

Click here to read the details of these three remarkable crimes that will surely boost the overall official crime stats of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards footprint, which is located across Atlantic Avenue from these malls.

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

The Civilians

Brooklyn Tech High School News
Written by Adrianne Cesar

Progressive Student Awareness invites you to come take part in THE CIVILIANS.

As we all know change is inevitable and in the case of Brooklyn, that could only be an understatement. The Civilians have undergone an investigation and have interviewed many people in the atlantic yards area. Some of their interviews have even been conducted by some of our tech students. Some of them include: Justice Buckmaster, Steven Bartashev, Rebecca Morofsky, and Melanie Adams. Their performance is part of a project by BROOKLYN AT EYE LEVEL, which is an acclaimed theater company.

Come watch as The Civilians take real life accounts and every day people and incorporate them into a performance of theatre, dance, and music.This event is being held at the Brooklyn Lyceum at 227 4th Avenue. Performances will be held on December 4-6 at 8pm and Dec. 6 & 7 at 3 pm.

Don't miss out! Reserve your seating now. Call 212-730-2019 or visit thecivilians.org. ake the M or R to Union St. or the 2,3,4,5,N,B,Q to Atlantic.


Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

Another Day, Another Drubbing for Forest City

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn continues the Forest City stockwatch:

Forest City Ratner's parent company Forest City Enterprises' stock continued its vertiginous descent into uncharted territory today, down 74 cents (17.79%) to $3.42. One month ago the stock price was $16.13. The stock is down 93% for the year.


NoLandGrab: Granted the market has been in a freefall and the real estate sector has been hit especially hard, but watchdogs are having a hard time accounting for FCE-A's nosedive, unless investors are expecting some very bad news when the company reports 3rd-quarter earnings.

Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Research Center Moves Headquarters From Manhattan to Downtown Bklyn

OnePierrepontPlaza.jpgBrooklyn Daily Eagle
Compiled by Linda Collins

Moving from offices on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, the prestigious Social Science Research Council (SSRC), an independent, not-for-profit research organization, has signed a lease for 25,000 square feet on the 15th floor of One Pierrepont Plaza in Brooklyn Heights.

The SSRC, is relocating its headquarters — and its more than 80 employees — to Brooklyn to take advantage of lower rents, according to Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), the landlord, who announced the move yesterday.


Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Brooklyn at Eye Level — the Blog

Here are some more excerpts from interviews of the cast of characters being conducted by "The Civilians":

“...before you had the pioneers, who’d talk and be neighbourly. Then the millionaires came in and they speak sometimes but only to us cause they think we’re in the same class as them, you know, cause we’re owners. Dad says he’s scared of what the ones who buy their houses for 3 MILLION (and it’s their SECOND house, you know, their CITY house) are gonna be” - anonymous long time resident

"It’s ok for my city council and my state senator to give them $100,000 so they can do an environmental to review the project that’s $200,000 but grassroots organization like us we couldn’t get 5 cents. So if we get $50,000 from the developer again for things you’re showing and you’re doing, oh you’re taking the money and you’re running off and you’re doing whatever. This is not a get rich quick scheme.” — Hard working advocate

"Maybe for you life is comfortable for you here, you have a job, you’remaking pretty good money. You like things the way they are. So you don’t want change but when you look at some other people who also live here we need change. We need things to get better." — Hopeful resident

Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

487 & 489 Dean demolition continues

Sadly, Forest City Ratner began demolitions on these two townhouses on Dean St. this week.

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

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

Commercial Mortgages With Poor Forecasts Roil Bonds

Bloomberg News
By Sarah Mulholland

Trouble in the commercial real estate credit market is being caused by bonds issued for projects with revenue projections based on fiction:

Mortgages on offices, shopping malls and hotels that were based on projections of soaring income during the real estate boom are roiling the bond market.

A $209 million loan made by JPMorgan Chase & Co. to finance the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, and the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa in South Carolina, is near default after cancellations sapped revenue, according to Standard & Poor’s. In southern California, the owner of the Promenade Shops at Dos Lagos missed two payments, according to analysts at Deutsche Bank AG.

Both loans were given to borrowers based on estimates that rents and hotel revenue would rise, and then were packaged with similar debt into a $1.16 billion bond sold by JPMorgan to investors. So-called pro-forma loans outstanding total more than $40 billion, according to Barclays Capital, all of which were put into securities. Concern that the Westin Portfolio and Promenade debt may be the first of many of those loans to default sent yields on commercial-mortgage backed securities to record highs relative to benchmark interest rates.

“These kinds of loans written during the height of the real estate boom could be the first to have problems,” said Christopher Sullivan, who oversees $1.3 billion as chief investment officer at United Nations Federal Credit Union in New York. “They were underwritten with outlandish expectations on rents and property appreciation that will turn out to be fiction.”


NoLandGrab: We don't have a grasp on Forest City Enterprises's revenue projections because a detailed analysis has never been released to the public, despite billions of dollars of direct and indirect public subsidies.

Suffice it to say, in the current credit market, investors will favor non-fictional revenue projections.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

Bracing for the 2010 sweepstakes

Sports Illustrated
By Ian Thomsen

For those of you who are following the sports angle, here's another opinion that LeBron James will not end up with the Nets, especially since conventional wisdom has the odds against the team moving to Brooklyn:

The NBA's latest version of a long-running presidential election involves LeBron James and more than a dozen other high-profile candidates. The issue: Where will they land when they become free agents in 2010?
The chronic speculation that LeBron will bolt for New York (or to New Jersey, though that is less likely now that the Nets appear less likely to move to Brooklyn) has been based entirely on the provocative idea of his becoming the biggest thing in the Big Apple. But here, now, he is saying that winning championships is his most important consideration.


Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

November 20, 2008

Daily Dis

Headline from today's NY Times:
"City Plans to Reduce Aid to 21 Day Care Locations" ...yet remains firmly committed to funding Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Posted by lumi at 6:18 PM

Bloomberg: Blank Check for Ratner, No Check for Homeowners

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


Mayor Bloomberg has signed a blank check for Bruce Ratner.

But now, after his power grab, he won't sign the $400 homeowner tax rebate checks:

"We have no money. This isn't a legal issue; this is a fiscal issue,'' Bloomberg said at a Brooklyn news conference today. "Obviously, we're not going to send out checks, and we'll have to find a way to balance the budget.''

"We have no money," but the blank check to Ratner is still signed?


NoLandGrab: Look, we'd be the first to admit that curtailing the property-tax rebate in tough economic times might be wise, given the need for cash for the MTA, schools and myriad other critical areas. But until the city and state say, "hey, maybe we oughtn't be bailing out a money-hemorrhaging NBA team by subsidizing a billion-dollar basketball arena," we don't feel much like volunteering to play the sucker. So just give us our damned $400.

Posted by eric at 4:17 PM

Of Moths and Light: LeBron Continues to Play Opponents and Media Well

Cleveland Frowns

A Cleveland sports blogger throws some cold water on the LeBron-to-NY theories.

LeBron can’t so much as make a lay-up in the New York metro area without some idiot interpreting it as a sign that he wants to leave Cleveland. The AP account of last night’s Cavs victory over the Nets begins like so: “With free agency awaiting him in 2010, LeBron James put on a show for the New York metropolitan area and its deep-pocket teams highlighted by length-of-the court sprint to block a dunk by Devin Harris.”

The reference to “deep-pocket teams” is particularly ridiculous, as the Cavs hold LeBron’s “Bird Rights,” thus can and will offer him substantially more money than any other team. Yet the meme persists, despite the oft-pointed-out fact, already proven by LeBron, that in today’s world he simply doesn’t need a “big media market” to maintain his mega-stardom, or his mega-endorsement deals. As CBSportsline’s Greg Doyel puts it, “LeBron doesn't have to become a moth and chase the light of New York.”


NoLandGrab: While an overzealous commenter declares "the Atlantic Yards project dead," it's worth remembering that this blog is based in Cleveland, home to Forest City Enterprises.

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM


Forest City Ratner Tells Real Estate Industry It “Controls the Pace” of Atlantic Yards

Contradicts New York State’s Claim That It Is In Control

BROOKLYN, NY— The Empire State Development Corporation says that it is in charge of the timetable for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

But the project's developer doesn’t see it that way.

Forest City Enterprises (FCE), parent of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, is telling the real estate industry that Atlantic Yards is among "Active Large Scale Projects Where We Control the Pace."

On his Atlantic Yards Report Norman Oder points to the developer’s message found within an FCE PowerPoint presentation for the 2008 NAREIT (National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts) Annual Convention this week in San Diego.

It is further evidence that every aspect of the Atlantic Yards project, including the timetable for construction, is in the hands of the developer, rather than the sponsoring public agency presumably in place to represent New York taxpayers.

“Ratner says he is in control of the pace of his project. The Empire State Development Corporation has said it is in charge. We’d like to hear the ESDC repudiate the Ratner claim of control and take back control of the project for which they continue to stay in the back seat,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “New York State can no longer allow Ratner to engineer the train wreck otherwise known as Atlantic Yards.”

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

IFC Series Rips Local Atlantic Yards Coverage

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog]
by Roy Edroso

IFC's Media Project series announces that Episode 4 will take on, among other things, the lousy local coverage of the Atlantic Yards boondoggle. While the topic gets plenty of attention at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, No Land Grab, Atlantic Yards Report and such places, the "three major daily papers" in New York, says the Media Project, "have barely scratched the surface."


Posted by eric at 9:32 AM

Nets no match in LeBron derby, either

Fox Sports
by Jay Greenberg, NY Post

Well, LeBron James didn't exactly mean at that political rally that he would stay in Cleveland, only that he always would consider it fondly.

"That's the way I was feeling at that time," he said last night. "Home is always going to be home, and that was what I was basically letting them know."

That will shake 'em in Shaker Heights, get blood pumping again in New York. It even briefly put the shovel that has yet to hit the ground at Atlantic Yards to work exhuming the Nets' hopes at signing James until he said this:

"We all seen the cutting of the ribbon, but that's the last thing we saw with the Nets moving to Brooklyn," he said. "I'm not sure if that's still in the works, but I'm not invested in the team, so I can sleep good at night."

He sleeps better than do his pal, part-owner Jay-Z, and Bruce Ratner. Now that the Nets won't be in to Brooklyn in time for James' 2010 free agency, they can only hope that before he dropped 31 in a 106-82 rout at a depressingly under-capacity Meadowlands on Tuesday, King James excitedly noted that there soon will be indoor skiing there.


Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

The 28 of '08

Busted! New York real estate took a wallop this year—the properties that saw it all and survived to tell us something

NY Observer

What a year, eh? Arab money, Irish money, federal money, no money! This year was the annum when the party stopped and the hangover started, and New Yorkers slept little in between. Both the residential and commercial real estate markets stormed into Jan. 1 of this year happy and bloated, wafted along by hefty credit markets, an indifferent government and a can-do fervor.

And why not? Last year had marked record amounts of investment and apartment and building sales. And the possibilities appeared endless, as lenders poured capital in and buyers yanked it out to satiate markets where $5,000 for a square foot of condo space or $1 billion for an office building felt normal and never-ending.

So long to all that.

As 2008 closes, certain properties stand emblematic of the year’s triumphs and tribulations. Below comes a ranking of the 28 most representative—the towers, sites, stores, developments and complexes that captured a New York City in transition from thrill to chill, and that show the direction of the city property-wise in 2009 and beyond.

No. 25 of 28: Atlantic Yards

article [Click on the dot in central Brooklyn for the lowdown]

Posted by eric at 9:05 AM

Who's in charge? Forest City says "we control the pace" of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) says the state is in charge of the Atlantic Yards timetable.

However, Forest City Enterprises (FCE), parent of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, is telling the real estate industry that Atlantic Yards is among "Active Large Scale Projects Where We Control the Pace."

That message was within an FCE PowerPoint presentation for the 2008 NAREIT (National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts) Annual Convention this week in San Diego. (The slides accompanied presentations made by FCE officials.)

Both the ESDC and FCE, of course, seem to be discounting the effect of pending litigation and the availability of credit and tax-exempt bonds on delay.

But the message from FCE, apparently, is that, given that the project has received government approvals, the developer is in the driver's seat.


NoLandGrab: If FCE stock continues to tank, and credit markets remain frozen, how long before the ESDC and FCE start saying "they're in charge, not us?"

Posted by eric at 8:51 AM

After 27% fall in stock price, how long before some news out of Forest City Enterprises?

Atlantic Yards Report

What should we make of the astounding continued fall in the stock price of Forest City Enterprises, parent company of developer Forest City Ratner?

The nearly 27% decline yesterday brought the stock to $4.16, nearly 92% below the stock's 52-week high.... The stock has fallen nearly 79% since October 10, when it was $19.79.

How does the lack of investor confidence affect Atlantic Yards? Would the developer pull out? Well, the project passed governmental review, which is quite valuable--after all, the developer now says "we control the pace."

But the carrying costs of the project and the continued losses by the Nets basketball team have to hurt. Have the phone lines to Dubai, Russia, and other potential sources of rescue capital opened back up?


Posted by eric at 8:40 AM

Times columnist: hard data needed to support benefits of projects

Atlantic Yards Report

David Leonhardt's Economic Scene column in yesterday's New York Times, headlined Piling Up Monuments of Waste, suggested that funding for the nation’s infrastructure was less of a problem than the inability to set credible priorities.

Scattershot system

Leonhardt writes:
It’s hard to exaggerate how scattershot the current system is. Government agencies usually don’t even have to do a rigorous analysis of a project or how it would affect traffic and the environment, relative to its cost and to the alternatives — before deciding whether to proceed. In one recent survey of local officials, almost 80 percent said they had based their decisions largely on politics, while fewer than 20 percent cited a project’s potential benefits.

There are monuments to the resulting waste all over the country: the little-traveled Bud Shuster Highway in western Pennsylvania; new highways in suburban St. Louis and suburban Maryland that won’t alleviate traffic; all the fancy government-subsidized sports stadiums that have replaced perfectly good existing stadiums. These are the Bridges to (Almost) Nowhere that actually got built.

Well, the Atlantic Yards arena wouldn't replace a "perfectly good arena," given that the aging Izod Center is in another state and, without public transportation, is not the easiest place to visit. But federal taxpayers would subsidize new construction, even while a new arena in Newark could use a basketball team.

And, while the environmental review process in New York was extensive, was it truly rigorous? After all, the Empire State Development Corporation counted benefits but not costs. And the press punted and never analyzed the study that Forest City Ratner paid for.


Posted by eric at 8:22 AM

The Voice's Barrett on Bloomberg's transformation (with a blind spot)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews a Village Voice cover story on the Mayor's pursuit of a third term through the prism of Atlantic Yards.

I think [Voice reporter Wayne] Barrett is a bit too generous about Bloomberg's first term. After all, there were already signs of the mayor's edifice complex and his unquestioning willingness to back a developer's plan.

Remember, this is the mayor who said, in a 1/23/04 radio interview six weeks after Atlantic Yards was announced:
Then, we’ve got to find a find a ways--Bruce Ratner’s got to find a ways--to build this complex in Brooklyn. Like everything else, it’s controversial, I’m sympathetic to people who don’t like something like this moving in to their neighborhood. People whose apartments are going to be replaced, or houses taken away, generally speaking, this guy Ratner is a very responsible developer. If you go back and look at his track record when he developed MetroTech, which made an enormous difference in the city, he treated people very well.

As I pointed out, Bloomberg essentially said that the city and the developer were on the same team, nearly a year and a half before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority put the Vanderbilt Yard--some 40% of the proposed site--out for bid.


Posted by eric at 8:12 AM

November 19, 2008

Ward Bread Bakery crumbs

Photographer Tracy Collins just posted some fresh photos of what's left of the Ward Bakery site in the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 7:21 PM

Forest City Enterprises Ends Day Down 26.89%

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn continues to track the stock of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises.

The stock price of Forest City Ratner's parent company—Forest City Enterprises—continues its precipitous nosedive, reaching a 12 year low. It closed today down 1.53 (26.89%):


Posted by lumi at 6:47 PM

TALK, by all means . . .

Brooklyn at Eye Level Blog

From another interview with a neighborhood character:

“If ya’ll do kick them out cause they can’t pay rent I hope ya’ll got another house for them to move in. My grandmother been here for twenty years and she said she ain’t going nowhere. And I said grandma I’m right wit chu. Cause I love this building. Without Atlantic Terminal there wouldn’t be me." — Talented Talker

Read more of what Talented Talker had to say.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 PM

Ratner's sweet land deal should have NYC up in arms

NY Daily News I-Team Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe


With the MTA threatening to slash hundreds of jobs as well as bus and subway service, the people at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn raise a good point: Why does the cash-strapped agency want to give away a valuable asset to Nets owner Bruce Ratner for a rock-bottom price?

The MTA's own appraisal valued the Vanderbilt Rail Yards at $214 million, and Extell Development offered $150 million for the site, and yet the MTA has an agreement to sell the eight acres to Nets owner Bruce Ratner for $100 million. Wouldn't $50 million or more be nice to have in times like these?

So next year, when it costs $3 to ride a filthy and crowded train (it won't be a W train, because that line will be eliminated), take comfort in the fact that Ratner got a great deal on prime real estate.

Really, the fact that our local sports teams continue to get massive public subsidies at a time when funding for essentials such as schools and transit is threatened should make New Yorkers go to their windows and shout "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"


NoLandGrab: The fact that it's the sports desk at the Daily News, on their blog, no less, that has to make this point is exactly why the Independent Film Channel is airing that December 9th segment on shoddy Atlantic Yards news coverage. Thank goodness there are a few reporters, like Michael O'Keeffe, who aren't willing to accept the party line.

Speaking of film, if you have four minutes, be sure to watch the classic scene from Network linked on the Daily News post above. Maybe it's high time we all listened to Howard Beale — and got "mad as hell."

Posted by eric at 3:45 PM

Ah, The Irony...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The New York Times' City Room blog squibs:

A television mini-series focuses on the paucity of news media coverage on the Atlantic Yards project, with a mission to tell “a half-told story that’s failed to serve the public interest.” [The Real Estate]

No further comment.


Posted by eric at 3:39 PM

Film To Bash Media for Not Bashing Atlantic Yards

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The Real Estate picks up on news of the Independent Film Channel's planned December 9th airing of a critique of mainstream media coverage of Atlantic Yards.

Opponents of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn have never held back in criticizing the media’s coverage—or what they say is a lack thereof—of the more than $4 billion planned development. Now, as Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn points out to us, the issue has apparently piqued the interest of a TV mini-series that examines flaws of mainstream print and broadcast outlets.


Posted by eric at 3:19 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...


Daily Heights, Bruce Ratner’s newest stunt: free Nets Tickets

I tried all morning to come up with a clever way to analogize the developer’s most recent scam, but it never came, so I’ll just say that this is shameless — even for Bruce Ratner.

Brooklynian, Atlantic Yards....toast

Some idle chatter about the future of Atlantic Yards...

The Orange Juice Blog, Subsidizing NJ Nets NBA Arena in Brooklyn while NYC cuts 3,000 employees

A left-coast blog comes late to the tale of Atlantic Yards.

ESPN.com, James clarifies 'I ain't going nowhere' and leaves door ajar

The original version of this story contained the following paragraph, which was apparently deleted after Daniel Goldstein emailed in a correction:

He even chimed in on the state of the Nets, who won't know until next spring if they'll ever get a shovel in the ground for their proposed new home in Brooklyn, the opening of which has now been pushed back to 2011 at the earliest as they await the outcome of an eminent domain lawsuit filed in state court by Brooklynite Daniel Goldstein, the final holdout against being bought out of his tenant's lease in a multi-story apartment building on the proposed site of the Nets' new Atlantic Yards arena.

Daniel Goldstein is neither "the final holdout" nor a tenant.

Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

Chutzpah! FCR tried to evade paying $159K restitution for trees, saying (unscheduled) open space would compensate

Atlantic Yards Report


The story of Forest City Ratner's scorched-earth rush to cut down trees in the Atlantic Yards footprint is also a story of the company's penny-pinching. Imagine if Bruce Ratner wasn't a liberal do-gooder.

Preparing to demolish 86 street trees around the Atlantic Yards footprint, Forest City Ratner contended last year that it did not need to pay $159,000 in partial restitution to the city because the trees in the Atlantic Yards open space eventually would “add much more value than the trees that will be removed during construction.”

That argument required chutzpah, given that no part of the Atlantic Yards open space would be constructed until the project’s Phase 2, for which there is no announced timetable and no penalties (as of yet) for delays.

The city Department of Parks and Recreation, perhaps mindful of that timetable, held its ground, requiring the requested payment, and Forest City Ratner complied.

The story is told via letters received by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), after filing a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the Parks department. The entire document is nearly 30 pages (PDF).


Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

Demolition visible at Dean Street row houses (but what about the Construction Update?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on fresh demolitions in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project:


Since the week beginning September 22, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in its Atlantic Yards Construction Update, has alerted community members that demolition would begin at 487 Dean Street (block 1128, lot 89) and at 489 Dean Street (block 1128, lot 88), two structurally sound row houses just east of Sixth Avenue, targeted (along with the three houses to the east) to become a staging area for arena construction, should it ever begin, and later a tower, oh, nearly seven times taller, at 272 feet.

While interior demolition work may well have occurred, only this week did demolition become truly visible, with the windows hollowed out of the buildings. It can't be pleasant for the neighbors next door, who are plaintiffs in the pending eminent domain lawsuit.

Oddly enough, the Construction Update sent out November 17 omitted these buildings (see map at bottom).


Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

Nets CEO Yormark continues to spin: "We're on target" for Brooklyn groundbreaking

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder covers the lovefestinterview between Alexis Glick of Fox Business News and New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

Most notable is Yormark's pronouncement that groundbreaking will happen sometime next year (not December 2008 as was recently announced), just after declaring that they were "on target."


Glick then served up a nice leading question: When you look at the current climate, I’m sure hindsight is 20/20, but a lot of big team owners and executives may not have made the plans that they have made. And yet, for the most part, from what I can understand, things are going according to plan. Walk me through some of the litigation issues that still remain in Brooklyn and the Atlantic Yards, and the time frame in terms of getting this project done and completed as soon as you’d like.

Yormark's answer deserves a close look. Listen to his tone, at about 1:02, when he declares "We're on target" and tilts his head (right). Does the uptick in his voice betray that he's not really sure?

BY: Would love to. We’re on target. We are going to, hopefully, get through litigation, some time in March, and shortly thereafter break ground. I look at groundbreaking some time in the first half of ‘09. Obviously, with Barclays and all of our founding partners, our suiteholders—everyone’s excited about it. I’ve spent a lot of time, Alexis, in Brooklyn, meeting with kids, throughout the borough, every day. And there is so much support for this project. And when you look at the project, the affordable housing, job creation, and most importantly, bringing the team and sports entertainment back to the borough. It’s going to be a huge moment. We’re just thankful that things are moving in the right direction.

NoLandGrab: The NJ Nets are on target, if you consider that the arena ground-breaking has been a perpetual moving target.

Check out the rest of the article for more analysis and for a quick check of attendance at last night's game.

Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

It's No Wonder the MTA is In Crisis, and Straphangers Will Pay

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn reminds Atlantic Yards critics that while the MTA is planning deep service cuts and layoffs, the same agency accepted Bruce Ratner's lowball bid for the Vanderbilt Railyards.

Perhaps the MTA wouldn't be in such dire straits and sticking it to New Yorkers had they not done dumb real estate deals. For example, the MTA has an agreement to sell the 8-acre Vanderbilt Rail Yards to Bruce Ratner for $100 million (no money collected yet) leaving $150 million on the table from Extell Development Company and, moreover, the $214.5 million the yards had been appraised at.

That's a minimum of $50 million the MTA turned down on just one deal. No wonder New Yorkers now have to pay.


NoLandGrab: Simply put, that's more for Bruce and less for you.

Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

It’s tree-son!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Sarah Portlock

As if NoLandGrab readers need a reminder that, when it comes to all things Forest City Ratner, things aren't always as they seem:


If you think the 15-foot Christmas tree in the Metrotech Commons looks too good to believe, you’re right.

On Saturday, workers did more than just spread joy throughout Downtown when they raised the evergreen — they performed cosmetic surgery!

The New Jersey-born evergreen arrived on a flatbed truck early on Saturday morning — along with a little buddy to provide replacement boughs for any that fell off in transit. A quick “triage” revealed that work was, indeed, required. So the construction crew brought out some paste and reinforcement wires to turn the crippled conifer into the arboreal equivalent of the $6 Million Man.

“We’re up there, supergluing the other branches back to the main tree,” one worker told The Brooklyn Paper.
A spokesman for Forest City Ratner, which owns the Metrotech complex, chose not to comment.


NoLandGrab: Well, what do you expect from a developer married to a plastic surgeon?

Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

The Mad Overkiller Oderizes NBA Superstar

Will the NBA's hottest property come to New York and will it be with the Knicks or Nets?

NY Newsday columnist Ken Berger reported on the hype from a pregame interview with The One:

The last time he was in the metropolitan area, on a pre-Olympic tour with Team USA this summer, [LeBron] James mentioned that New York was his favorite city and Brooklyn his favorite borough. His favorite rap mogul, Nets investor Jay-Z, had the best seat in the house for LeBron's visit Tuesday night, and could only have been dreaming about the possibilities.

"I don't know, man," LeBron said, when asked what's going on with the Nets' glacial move to Brooklyn. "I haven't been hands-on about what's the problem. I think we all saw the cutting of the ribbon, but that was the last time we've seen anything going on with the Nets moving to Brooklyn.

"I don't know if it's still in the works, but that's not my problem," he said. "I'm not invested in the team or anything, so I can sleep good at night."

Asked what his friend who is invested in the team thinks, LeBron said, "Um, I don't know. I haven't asked him. And even if we did talk about it, I couldn't tell you guys."

LeBron James may be able to sleep good at night, but Norman The Mad Overkilling Fact-Checking Machine Oder doesn't sleep well unless he sets the record straight on his Atlantic Yards Report blog:

For the records, there have been Atlantic Yards announcements that may seem like the equivalent of a ribbon-cutting, but no ribbon has been cut.

Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

Blogging about a musical, dancing about architecture

BrooklynatEyeLevelsm.gif Introducing the blog about a musical theater project about development in Brooklyn.

The Civilians will be premiering "Brooklyn at Eye Level" December 4-7 at the Brooklyn Lyceum. The musical is based on material compiled from interviews with folks in the neighborhood.

Quotes gleaned from the interviews are being posted daily on the Brooklyn at Eye Level Blog. Below are some excerpts from what has been posted already. Who knows, you might recognize the thoughts and sentiments of one of your neighbors.

“When you look at the renderings and what the finished product is going to look like, I think it’s wonderful. NYC is all about evolution, it’s all about re-inventing itself and my whole thing is…get on the bandwagon. If you really don’t like change then go to the midwest somewhere where communities– you could go there a hundred years later and it still looks the same.” - A New Yorker for Change

“I just see the development that is happening all over Brooklyn, that it doesn’t match the beauty that already exists. And I just wonder in fifty years if America is going to be able to see the wonder and the beauty of what we created, instead of this cardboard cut-out bullshit that is passed off for living. So am I a fan of the arena? No.” - Former Fort Greene Resident

“Now I look around and my son doesn’t necessarily know the people next door cause we don’t talk to them. People are moving in and out so much that you don’t really wanna get to know them because you don’t know what they’re about. I don’t want my son to talk to any little kid because one, I’m afraid he’s gonna get attached to them and they’re gonna move away and two, I don’t know what their parents are like.” - Worried Mother

“Clipboards are one of the most important tools for community organizing. Because you’re always asking people to sign things.” - Community Organizer

“I mean buildings are ethical finally. The amassing of power, the amassing of money, the kind of deals that you make, the exclusion of other people to make those deals, the blocking of light – that’s ethical. That’s architecture. Architecture is ethical.” - Architecture enthusiast

“You want my stories? You gots to come up off that cash. . . I’m not giving up my life for free. . . I gots lots of stories too. Lots. I’ve been living here all my life…. That’s over fifty years. Over fifty years of stories. Nah. Like I said, you gotta pay me. You telling me you ain’t got no monay? You got money. . .Not-for-profit? What that mean? You still got a producer. Producers got money. , , How I’m gonna give you my life for free? …I got fifty-six years a stories. But, I ain’t no chump. - Someone Who Needs Some Cash

Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

Episode 4: Unreliable Sources

IFCMediaProjBanner.gif The IFC Media Project premiered last night on the Independent Film Channel. Episode 4, to air December 9, will take a serious look at coverage of Atlantic Yards:

This episode looks at the people and outlets that provide us the news, and asks: Who are they? Why should we trust them?
Atlantic Yards (10min)
New York has three major daily papers all competing for readers, advertisers and power. This should lead to great coverage of major stories – but in the case of one story at least, it hasn't. Atlantic Yards is one of the biggest real estate developments in the city's history, yet the three papers have barely scratched the surface. In this piece we examine how government collusion with the developer and the developer's business ties to the paper have resulted in a half-told story that's failed to serve the public interest.

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

November 18, 2008


Weeks beginning November 17, 2008 and November 24, 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.

  • Continue sloping soil, Block 1121.

  • Continue installing gabion wall, Block 1121.

  • Complete east abutment.

  • Continue assembly of temporary train trestle/bridge on 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.

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.

  • 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.

Posted by eric at 8:46 PM

LeBron James to New Jersey or Brooklyn? No, and not quite

Atlantic Yards Report

In the run-up to tonight's New Jersey Nets home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a lot of sportswriters are speculating whether Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, who becomes a free agent in 2010, would stay put in Cleveland, just down the road from his hometown of Akron, or move to the bigger cities of New York or Los Angeles, where he could become even more of a brand.

The Record's Al Iannazzone speculates:
So does James, because of his strong relationship with Jay-Z, forgo the Knicks, wait another season and play for his meager 2010 salary to align his star with the hip-hop mogul and part-owner of the Nets one year later in Brooklyn?

It would have to be a perfect storm.

First, the Nets have to make sure they’re in Brooklyn. Two, they may have to clear more money...

But the arena can't get built by 2011. My calculation is that, even if lawsuits are cleared by mid-2009, the 32-month construction timetable suggests a best-case opening in March 2012.


More coverage...

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James fielding contract questions

Bergen Record, Could LeBron be a Net?

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Forest City Enterprises Stockwatch

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn ran this screen cap, noting that Forest City Enterprises's share price reached an over-ten-year low yesterday, closing at 5.56.


It is worth noting that Barclays Global Investors UK Holdings Ltd., an investment management subsidiary of Barclays Bank, which just publicly reaffirmed the lucrative naming rights deal for a new arena in Brooklyn, not long ago became one of the largest institutional investors in Forest City Enterprises.

On June 30, 2008 Barclays Global Investors purchased 2,440,986 shares at $32.21 for a total investment of $78,648,568. The current value is estimated around $13,571,882.

Since Barclays is so bullish about the project, might they double down while the stock is cheap?

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Watch

Though Norman Oder is majoring in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, the overachiving Mad Overkiller seems to be minoring in NYC Urban Planning. Today he double-posted on the efforts to rezone the Gowanus Canal area and Coney Island:

Learning from AY: Gowanus Summit insists balanced development desirable and possible

They didn't say so explicitly, but it sure looks like the Gowanus Summit--a coalition of community organizations, affordable housing advocates, labor unions, and advocates for blue-collar jobs setting out principles for rezoning in Gowanus--learned from the Atlantic Yards experience.

They haven't let one developer's demand for density and a particular footprint drive the process. They haven't let advocates for affordable housing shout down those who raise questions about other priorities.

Rather, they're trying to have it all, and while the devil will be in the details, they think the package is workable, not just affordable housing but space for industrial jobs, respect for community context, mixed-use zoning, responsible contracting, and a comprehensive approach to neighborhood infrastructure.

Imagine Coney thinks big (and small): new cable car, digital skins, and lucrative $ignage

A little more than four decades ago, many in the city had given up on the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Now it's a thriving, multi-building institution, and its handsome, cavernous BAMcafe, glittering with light and graced with Milton Rosa-Ortiz's floating part-torso sculptures dubbed "Disbelief", was the appropriate setting for last night's standing-room only public unveiling of the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Imagine Coney project.

It was a particularly opportune time, as well, given that just yesterday morning the New York Post reported that developer (or flipper?) Joe Sitt was ready to give up his plans for hotels (time-shares) and entertainment retail and sell to the city.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

Atlantic Yards Deathwatch Watch

AtlanticYardsDeathwatchsm.jpg Though we doubt that the folks at Forest City Enterprises have changed their homepages to the Atlantic Yards Deathwatch, the site made a ripple in the blogosphere.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report sez:

I'm not sure I buy the concept of the Atlantic Yards Deathwatch. Maybe it should be the Atlantic Yards Delay-watch.

Comments from the Brownstoner pack:

...guess they're pretty sure the project won't see the light of day.

Just more propaganda, the flip-side of Ratner announcing that he's going to break ground in December.

why is the No Land Grab posting written as if they aren't hosting the deathwatch?

...enough already with the crying lets get out arena, i don't see what all the fuss is about!

No land grab talked about all of the great things that could happen to the site if Ratner didnt build on it.

NoLandGrab: For the record, this site is an aggregator of the news, with some editorial flip. We also carry the news of all the great things the developer continues to promise!

Seriously, no matter what happens on the Atlantic Yards footprint site, it's already a loss for the neighborhood, since Bruce Ratner has ruthlessly and methodically taken down nearly every building he can.

At last check, today makes something like 1804 Days, 00 Hours, 48 Minutes, 20 Seconds since Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject was announced.

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

New York Suitors Prepare for James

The NY Times
By Jonathan Abrams

A "former shoe executive" predicts that NBA superstar LeBron James won't sign with the Nets as long as they're still from Joisey:

The Nets were once considered the odds-on favorite to get James, possibly the game’s most transcending player. He is a close friend to the rapper Jay-Z, a part-owner of the Nets.

But the team’s planned move to Brooklyn is at a standstill, which could significantly lessen the chances of James becoming a Net. That is the view of Sonny Vaccaro, the former shoe executive who keeps tabs on his former ABCD campers, James included. Vaccaro said he thought James would end up with the Knicks.

“LeBron’s relationship with Jay-Z will go on regardless,” Vaccaro said. “He’ll be an international celebrity in New York. If the Nets aren’t in Brooklyn, he’s not going over there for even $200 million. They’re putting pieces together. They’re doing the right things. They’re just living in the wrong building.”


Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

November 17, 2008

Recession Is a Relative Term in Baseball

The New York Times
by William C. Rhoden

With much of the nation reeling, with banks failing, workers being laid off and homes being foreclosed, sports owners continue to build castles and pay players by the millions. At least one team, the Knicks, is paying a player millions not to play.

Recession? What recession?

Sports leagues like the N.B.A., the N.F.L. and Major League Baseball are fairy-tale lands, an otherworld of packed stadiums, charter flights, multimillion-dollar training facilities, multimillion-dollar player contracts paid by multibillionaire owners.

Yet in a time of severe economic crisis, the leagues, at least for now, are holding forth, if not completely thriving.


NoLandGrab: Rhoden goes on to explore several reasons as to why pro leagues appear to be somewhat recession-proof, but he misses the the two most obvious: heaps of public subsidies and anti-trust exemptions.

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

How Forest City Ratner (quite possibly) saved $55 million on "Arena Land"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder digs up yet more subsidy for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

In June, I wrote that an unreleased appraisal might be hiding a city-enabled bonus of tens of millions of dollars for developer Forest City Ratner (FCR).

Now I can better estimate a number: $54.6 million.

That number, of course, is speculative, but the calculation is fairly straightforward. Forest City Ratner was reimbursed $100 million by the city for property in the Atlantic Yards footprint for which it spent $103.5 million.

But the property was more likely worth $158.1 million, based on the city's own valuation of development rights at a site reasonably close to the Atlantic Yards footprint. So that means the city's land subsidy could be considered not the announced $100 million but nearly $155 million, a bonus of some 55%.


NoLandGrab: While the Governor and the Mayor pay an extraordinary amount of lip service to "shared sacrifice," they continue to play a game of reverse-Robin Hood, taking from the taxpayers to line the pockets of the Sheriff of Nott..., er, Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Atlantic Yards Deathwatch

Has Atlantic Yards purchased its own tomb with a view so that it can be ceremoniously buried next to other megaprojects that never broke ground? Or is this the community's idea of a holiday card for Bruce?


Here's a screen cap, but check out www.atlanticyardsdeathwatch.com for a live count-up clock.

For the record, today is day 1,803 since Bruce Ratner's megaproject was announced.

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

Bruce Ratner Loves The Jobless

Carter-GI.jpg Fans for Fair Play tees off on Bruce Ratner's latest plan to fill conspicuously empty seats at NJ Nets home games:

Bruce Ratner's become the poster child for bait-and-switch prevarications the last five years. FFFP readers know that. So do the wide-ranging communities who've been fighting Ratner's Atlantic Yards project the last five years.

Ratner's latest p.r. stunt, offering Nets tickets to the jobless, continues his shoddy and increasingly frantic plays for sympathy, manufactured good will and all-American publicity.

The conventional wisdom says there's no such thing as bad publicity. Bruce Ratner is discovering that publicity that backfires is something else altogether.

The New Jersey Nets' plan is to offer free game tickets to job seekers. The Nets would pass on the hopeful applicants' resumes to the team's official sponsors. In return, the applicants get those tickets. This isn't the first time Ratner's played on peoples hopes and fears.


[Photo: Nets star guard Vince Carter plays for the hometown crowd in a half fullempty arena.]

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

Why aren’t the Yankees making cuts, too?

amNewYork, Letters to the Editor

Supporters of public funding of local professional sports venues spew the same blah-blah-blah to justify the expense, but when the city is headed towards fiscal straights, pro-sports subsidies never seem to get cut:

I’ve got two questions for the Emperor of City Hall: 1. If “all” of NYC must take the pain of our government’s failures, what “sacrifices” are George Steinbrenner and the Yankees making? 2. If Bloomberg is telling the truth that stadiums are so profitable, why do the Yankees need hundreds of millions of our tax dollars? This has got to be the dumbest lie ever. And, if we taxpayers are paying for half of the new Yankee Stadium, why aren’t we getting half the eventual profits in return? Mike Antoinette better watch his head, because it seems like he’s losing it!

— Tanya O’Langan, Manhattan

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

The New York Times, Enlightened

A Cutting-Edge Lighting System at the Publisher's Times Square Office Tower is Saving $300,000 in Energy Costs

The CoStar Group
By Andrew C. Burr

A state-of-the-art lighting system installed at the new 52-story office tower on Eighth Avenue is saving the publisher more than $300,000 annually in energy costs by outperforming what were thought to be ambitious efficiency expectations, by a jaw-dropping 70 percent.
The 1.5 million-square-foot office building delivered late last year and is co-owned by the Times and Forest City Ratner Cos., the New York-based property development firm which controls the upper 24 floors.


NoLandGrab: Aside from being a co-owner, Forest City Ratner was the developer. Though the building's lighting system is supposedly highly energy-efficient, Forest City Ratner did not complete LEED certification, which the company originally claimed it would.

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

November 16, 2008

Leon Washington is Jets' little big man in 2008

NY Daily News
Mike Lupica

Quick question for Caring Bruce Ratner:

Where can I buy my "Brooklyn Nets" T-shirt?


Posted by amy at 9:44 AM

At centennial of Martyrs' Monument, some worthy reminders


Atlantic Yards Report

The driving force for the centennial celebration was Ruth Learnard Goldstein, chair of the centennial committee of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, who's tried for decades to restore the monument. She also happens to be a board member of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB). So DDDB, which does not frequently have a presence in other civic programs (other than that of the Brooklyn Peace Fair 2008 journal), bought a small advertisement in the centennial journal.

The journal contained advertisements from, among others, the Myrtle Avenue Partnership, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Industrial Park, the Society of Old Brooklynites, the Society for Clinton Hill, and a variety of local businesses. The only developer, for the record, was IBEC Living, which has developed the nearby Clermont Armory.

So there was no advertisement from Forest City Ratner, which is building the 80 DeKalb Avenue project just west of the park's southern border. That may be because the building is under construction. Then again, working with an avowed opponent of Atlantic Yards might have been a bit icky.


Posted by amy at 9:41 AM

Friday Links Roundup

Campaign for Community-Based Planning

As expected, both the Willets Point and Hunters Point South (rendering shown here via EDC) plans got approval from the City Council yesterday. Atlantic Yards Report has an interesting comparison of the Willets Point and Atlantic Yards plans in regards to affordable housing.

In other AY news, this week we learned that Barclay’s is sticking around, despite the fact that developer Bruce Ratner will not break ground on the project this month, as previously planned.


Posted by amy at 9:36 AM

Initial results of Imagine Coney to be presented tomorrow


Atlantic Yards Report

After two public meetings and two design meetings last week for the Imagine Coney project, the Municipal Art Society will unveil the design team's initial recommendations on Monday at 6:30 PM at the BAMCafe upstairs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Reservations are recommended.

Initial ideas

While the design team obviously isn't wedded to suggestions from the public, the MAS has provided a list of "top public ideas," some of which are far more realistic than the others.
* Create a Venice, CA-style Muscle Beach
* Brooklyn Nets/Nudie Bar/Gambling (note that these are not linked)
* Hologram Facility/Video Wormhole
* Dig Hole to China
* Reestablish Massive Clock
* Outdoor Stage/Indoor Theater for Public Use
* New Fanciful Architecture
* Best Water Ride Ever
* Robots
* Adult Fun
* New Old Rides
* National Eating Hall of Fame (my idea)
* Transport Rides
* Be in Video Game
* Laser Water Show
* Interspecies Friendship


Posted by amy at 9:31 AM

The Mayor, The Times' Timing, and a Proper Ordering


Noticing New York

We have asked once before whether the Times editorial page was ineffectually pleading to rein in the Mayor, after the fact, atoning for the damage they did when endorsing the notion that Mr. Bloomberg should be ushered into a third term by special exemption from term limits.
Bloomberg may argue that he has managed to avoid owing anybody anything but to give credit for this would be to presuppose that public benefit flows from the situation. It is not at all apparent that it does. What about those developers `routinely outflanking’ the public interest mentioned previously? Clyde Haberman has commented that the “Bloomberg administration . . has yet to meet a developer to which it wishes to say no.” What if we had a different mayor who was in fact taking campaign funds from the real estate industry with frank acknowledgment? Would capitulations to the industry’s wishes be happening any less fast or furiously than now? It is hard to believe that such could be the case.


Posted by amy at 9:20 AM

November 15, 2008

Nets Ticket Giveaway to the Unemployed

News and Notes

This National Public Radio program gave passing mention to the Nets' promotional campaign to offer free tickets to the unemployed.

An excerpt of the broadcast can be found here.

The complete segment that this excerpt came from may be found here.

Posted by steve at 8:15 PM

February 1, 2009: CFP: The Dreamland Pavilion: Brooklyn and Development

Truly Educated Events


The Dreamland Pavilion: Brooklyn and Development Kingsborough Community College, The City University of New York October 2-3, 2009

How has Brooklyn become what it is: a place of nostalgia, imagination, or fantasy as much as a territorial space, an outer borough of New York City? Isn't it time to assess critically the rapid changes in the borough over the last decade? With tremendous growth comes certain costs, but how do we evaluate the present moment, poised between Brooklyn past and Brooklyn future? How is 'development' defined differently by different groups in different contexts? Finally, how do Brooklyn's diverse localities and populations reflect or even shape the future of New York, a global metropolis? This conference aims to be a space within which these and other questions will be addressed, discussed, even answered. The two-day gathering will combine moderated panels (in both traditional academic and roundtable formats), guided visits to local sites, artistic performances and discussion.

We welcome proposals from all relevant academic disciplines, including history, literary studies, political science, geography, and sociology. We are equally interested in proposals from those outside academia, including architects, artists, journalists, activists, urban planners and others concerned with Brooklyn in particular and urban space in general.

The primary areas we will focus on in the conference are:
--The Arts and Cultural Practices: the borough's relationship to film, literature, and the performing arts.
--Development Projects: the conflicts and controversies surrounding Brooklyn's most important contemporary development projects
--Demographics and Diversity: the broader forces that have reshaped Brooklynites lives in past and present, including migration, education, housing and urban politics.

Possible topics for panelists to address within these areas could include:
--Renters and homeowners
--Decision-making processes
--Relationship of arts and culture to neighborhood geography
--Case studies of particular neighborhoods
--The Atlantic Yards project or Coney Island redevelopment
--Dynamics of race and/or ethnicity
--Environmental impact of development
--Access to local institutions
--Privatization and public space

Proposals should be submitted by February 1, 2009 and should include:
--A one-page description of your topic
--Contact information: Name, position and affiliation, telephone numbers (home and cellphone), mail address and e-mail.

Please email completed proposals to Dr. Rick Armstrong, Department of English, Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York, at: stephen.armstrong@kingsborough.edu.


Posted by amy at 10:31 AM

Catching up with Jane Jacobs and AY

Atlantic Yards Report

In case you didn't check back on my coverage last Saturday of an affordable housing panel that served as the First Annual Jane Jacobs Forum, take a look at the lengthy comments from Benjamin Hemric, a Jacobsian who's read a lot more than The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Then take a look at Michael D.D. White's Noticing New York, where he's expanding on his 1/26/08 Brooklyn Paper op-ed, How Jacobs would view Yards, with methodical posts detailing the 47 criteria used in his report card.


Posted by amy at 10:26 AM

NY State Never Sought Piece of Barclays Center Naming Rights Action

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Ratner's frivolous $950 million arena would supposedly be "privately owned" (it would be leased to Ratner for $1), yet the $400 million naming rights deal with Barclays bank (is it still $400 million?) is solely with the developer. The public gets nothing out of the lucrative naming rights deal on the arena it supposedly owns.

Norman Oder did some FOIA searching to find out if NY State ever wisely tried to get any value out of the naming rights deal. What he found was that New York State was not wise. The state sure could have used that money.


Posted by amy at 10:19 AM

Marty’s Place in Brooklyn History

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By John B. Manbeck, a Brooklyn historian, interviews Marty Markowitz without analysis...

Major Projects

Considering the financial crisis, Marty sees major construction phases extended but completed eventually. Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Yards offer more jobs and thereby help the economy, he said.

About those jobs...

Posted by amy at 10:12 AM

Sean Williams' subpar start could force Nets' hand

NY Daily News

BANK ON IT: Thursday, Barclay's, the naming rights partner for the future Barclays Center, affirmed its commitment to the Nets' arena in Brooklyn. According to the original agreement with Forest City Ratner, the Nets' owner, the British bank could pull out of the deal if financing for the project wasn't finalized by this month.


Posted by amy at 10:08 AM

November 14, 2008

It came from the Blogosphere...


Curbed, Even if Nets Sold to Dubai, Barclays Not Bailing on Arena

There's some sorely needed good news for developer Bruce Ratner this morning. Barclays Bank, which paid $400 million for the naming rights to the Atlantic Yards arena is not bailing.

Brownstoner, Barclays Maintains Ties to Atlantic Yards

Awesomeology, Awesome Stuff For Friday November 14 2008

Awesome News: The New Jersey Nets really know how to treat their fans. This is just impressive. Because of the economy, they’re giving unemployed fans free tickets to games and helping them find jobs with companies that sponsor the Nets.

Columnist Ray Ratto manages to see through the awesomeness:

CBS Sportsline, In a year or two, sports might start timing its contractions

So many teams are lining up these days to show their sympathy for the current and future downtrodden that one can almost feel the warmth.

The Won't be Brooklyn Nets For Years, to give the most aggressive example, are offering free tickets to unemployed fans who turn in résumés that the Nets, in turn, can turn in to their sponsors who might be hiring. That sure beats the far more prevalent corporate sentiment of "Hey, we won't raise ticket prices next year, and aren't we good sports?"

But we're not here to break down every act of true, faux or deceptive largesse.

NoLandGrab: Ratto's column, which focuses on the possibility that some professional sports franchises could actually go belly-up in a deep recession, is well worth a read.

Noticing New York, Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #3: Avoidance of Monotony? NO

NNY, in a post noteworthy for its brevity, continues an ongoing evaluation of Atlantic Yards against criteria laid out by the late Jane Jacobs.

Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

Barclays recommits to naming rights agreement, but details are scant

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder briefly summarizes and analyzes recent events.

On the Barclay's naming-rights deal:

The deal had to be renewed by the end of the month and there was at least speculation that Barclays might reconsider.
Despite a statement that Barclays was "unwavering" in its commitment, it's reasonable to question whether Barclays, which had some leverage and has faced losses of its own, renewed at the previously announced $400 million ($20 million a year over 20 years) figure.
I'd bet they managed a better deal of some sort.

A new twist in the arena financing:

The press release also stated that "Barclays continues to play a major role as the co-lead in the financing of the Barclays Center," which is news to me, since previous news coverage described Goldman Sachs as the lead. Has Goldman tried to spread the risk, reward, and responsibility of getting the deal done?

Stock watch:

I imagine that officials at parent company Forest City Enterprises hoped that the announcement might nudge investor confidence. Instead, the stock went down more than 5%, to $7.16, continuing a stunning decline.

English-to-English translation service:

Barclays "affirmed its commitment to the future arena in Brooklyn and the updated timeline for a 2009 groundbreaking."

In translation, "updated timeline" means "delayed timeline."


Also, Forest City Ratner has begun layoffs, and while the following information can't be confirmed, a commenter on NetsDaily stated, "It may be good that the Nets are going to Brooklyn. But I happen to know they let go of almost ten key internal employees earlier this week and several that were selling for the new arena suites and seating."

I'm also told--secondhand, but from a source I consider reliable--that the fellow occupying the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office has departed.


NoLandGrab: Former Forest City employees may be able to send their resumes to the NJ Nets for a shot at free tickets.

Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM


NY Post
By Rich Calder

Barclays bank vowed yesterday not to exercise an out clause and kill its record $400 million naming-rights deal for the venue, the centerpiece of developer Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

The deal was contingent on Ratner's having financing for his entire project - which also includes 16 towers of residential and office space - set by the end of this month. That is now impossible because of pending litigation to block the project.

But sources told The Post that Barclays agreed to an extension.


The Star-Ledger, Harris ready to help New Jersey Nets

Seeking to dispel doubts about the Atlantic Yards project, the Nets issued a short release yesterday quoting Barclays Chief Administrator Officer for the Americas that reiterated the bank's pledge to carry on. "Barclays is unwavering in its commitment to the Barclays Center, and we are very pleased with our long-term alliance with our great partners," said Gerard LaRocca, whose institution has committed $400 million to the deal.

Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

Blight's hard to find: why Mike Bloomberg could never work for AKRF

Atlantic Yards Report

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has started backing away from claims that Willets Point is blighted. “To take an area which, it’s not fair to say it’s blighted,” he told NY1, as quoted in Crain's and cited by DDDB. “It’s seen its better days is a fair way to phrase it.”

Well, Willets Point is pretty rough--unpaved, no sewers, remember--though the city should take the lion's share of the blame.

But it's curious how unpaved Willets Point has "seen its better days" but a small but well-kept house (the fifth one in) in the Atlantic Yards footprint drawn by Forest City Ratner is, according to consultant AKRF's report for the Empire State Development Corporation, blighted because it doesn't fulfill 60% of allowable development rights.


NoLandGrab: We wonder if Mayor Bloomberg would testify on the behalf of any remaining property owners, if they try to make their case that their property isn't blighted.

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Barclays Affirms Steadfast Commitment to Arena in Brooklyn and 2009 Groundbreaking

Says Support for Atlantic Yards is "Unwavering"

Via, MarketWatch

Barclays, a leading global financial services company and the naming rights partner for the future Barclays Center, today affirmed its commitment to the future arena in Brooklyn and the updated timeline for a 2009 groundbreaking. The Barclays Center, which is designed by Frank Gehry, will be the world-class home of the Nets.

"Barclays is unwavering in its commitment to the Barclays Center and we are very pleased with our long-term alliance with our great partners, the Nets and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC)," said Gerard LaRocca, Chief Administrative Officer, Americas, at Barclays Capital, the investment banking division of Barclays PLC. "We are very excited about being part of the continued renaissance of Brooklyn and we eagerly look forward to opening night at the Barclays Center."

"Since we announced our 20-year naming rights partnership in January 2007, Barclays has offered nothing but resolute and great support," Nets Chief Executive Officer Brett Yormark said. "We deeply appreciate our partnership with such a well-respected and distinguished company, which shares our love for Brooklyn and our strong sense of community." "We are thrilled to have Barclays as a partner," said Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, Inc., and the chairman of Nets Sports and Entertainment, LLC, which owns the Nets. "The Barclays Center will be one of the most spectacular sports and entertainment arenas in the world. Even more importantly, it is a centerpiece of a development that will bring thousands of jobs and affordable housing units to Brooklyn." Forest City Enterprises (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) has an equity interest in Nets Sports and Entertainment. In addition to its naming rights commitment, Barclays continues to play a major role as the co-lead in the financing of the Barclays Center. Momentum for the Barclays Center continued recently when the Internal Revenue Service issued a new regulation that confirms that tax exempt bonds may be used to finance the arena. The multifaceted partnership among Barclays, the Nets, and FCRC includes the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance, which invests $1 million per year in local non-profits that work to improve the lives of young people in Brooklyn and surrounding communities through sports and other activities, including education and health care. Last month, the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance unveiled a new playground at Public School 19 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, which marked the first of eight Brooklyn playgrounds that the Alliance will fund with a grant to Out2Play, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to building and refurbishing playgrounds throughout the New York City public school system. Information on the Barclays Center can be found at www.barclayscenter.com . SOURCE Nets Basketball


Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

November 13, 2008

Barclays Reaffirms Support Of Atlantic Yards Project

Financial Firm Is OK With 2009 Groundbreaking Date

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

Even as observers speculate about the effect of the economic crisis on Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards arena-highrise project, Barclays Thursday reaffirmed its commitment to the arena, to be called the Barclays Arena, the intended home for Bruce Ratner’s Nets basketball team.

The announcement by Forest City Ratner also said Barclays has affirmed its commitment to “the updated timetable for a 2009 groundbreaking.” As recently as May, Ratner had vowed to break ground on the arena in the fall, according to the Daily News.

Of particular interest in Thursday’s announcement was the statement, “In addition to its naming rights commitment, Barclays continues to play a major role as the co-lead in the financing of the Barclays Center.” A spokesman for Barclays did not answer questions, but Barclays, of course, is heavily involved in the financial industry.

Dan Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of the major groups opposing the Atlantic Yards project, commented, “They [Forest City] don’t have the land, they don’t have the money. I’m not sure what Barclays is committing itself to, except for a money pit. Forest City also said they would begin the project in 2006, so we’ll see what happens.”

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner was unavailable for comment Thursday.


NoLandGrab: Let us get this straight — Forest City issued a press release, and then was "unavailable for comment?"

Posted by eric at 9:21 PM

Barclays still committed to Nets' planned new home

Watchdog [Newsday Sports blog]
by Neil Best

Barclays asserts that it still is fully committed to the Nets' planned new arena, The Barclays Center, even given these difficult times for banks and stuff.

The race is on to begin construction before LeBron James signs with the Knicks.

Click below for the assertive news release.

Barclays, a leading global financial services company and the naming rights partner for the future Barclays Center, today affirmed its commitment to the future arena in Brooklyn and the updated timeline for a 2009 groundbreaking. The Barclays Center, which is designed by Frank Gehry, will be the world-class home of the Nets.

"Barclays is unwavering in its commitment to the Barclays Center and we are very pleased with our long-term alliance with our great partners, the Nets and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC)," said Gerard LaRocca, Chief Administrative Officer, Americas, at Barclays Capital, the investment banking division of Barclays PLC. "We are very excited about being part of the continued renaissance of Brooklyn and we eagerly look forward to opening night at the Barclays Center."

Since we announced our 20-year naming rights partnership in January 2007, Barclays has offered nothing but resolute and great support," Nets Chief Executive Officer Brett Yormark said. "We deeply appreciate our partnership with such a well-respected and distinguished company, which shares our love for Brooklyn and our strong sense of community."


NoLandGrab: It's great that Barclays is "unwavering" in its commitment, but the release doesn't make clear that they're remaining contractually committed to the naming-rights deal.

There is news here, though, in the assertion that "Barclays continues to play a major role as the co-lead in the financing of the Barclays Center," a role that seemed to have been the exclusive domain of Goldman Sachs. Divvying up the underwriting doesn't exactly scream "done deal" now, does it?

“We are thrilled to have Barclays as a partner,” said Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, Inc., and the chairman of Nets Sports and Entertainment, LLC, which owns the Nets. “The Barclays Center will be one of the most spectacular sports and entertainment arenas in the world. Even more importantly, it is a centerpiece of a development that will bring thousands of jobs and affordable housing units to Brooklyn.” Forest City Enterprises (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) has an equity interest in Nets Sports and Entertainment.

In addition to its naming rights commitment, Barclays continues to play a major role as the co-lead in the financing of the Barclays Center. Momentum for the Barclays Center continued recently when the Internal Revenue Service issued a new regulation that confirms that tax exempt bonds may be used to finance the arena.

The multifaceted partnership among Barclays, the Nets, and FCRC includes the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance, which invests $1 million per year in local non-profits that work to improve the lives of young people in Brooklyn and surrounding communities through sports and other activities, including education and health care. Last month, the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance unveiled a new playground at Public School 19 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, which marked the first of eight Brooklyn playgrounds that the Alliance will fund with a grant to Out2Play, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to building and refurbishing playgrounds throughout the New York City public school system.

Posted by eric at 7:16 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Too many Willets Point stories for us to list them all, but here's a sampling.

Crain's NY Business, Deal struck on Willets Point redevelopment

Mr. Monserrate also was satisfied that the city would not abuse eminent domain to condemn land in the project footprint.

The agreement is a blow to Willets Point landowners who have yet to agree on a sale price with the city. The Willets Point Industry & Realty Association, a group of the 10 largest land and business owners in Willets Point, Queens, released a statement that said many substantial businesses on the site have not begun or concluded negotiations. "We feel the announcement today on agreements reached at Willets Point are premature," the group said.

While the city maintains that it has been fair with its offers and relocation assistance, and hopes not to use eminent domain, the mayor said, "Having that threat there gets everybody focused."

NoLandGrab: Sure, Councilman Monserrate, eminent domain won't be abused.

Crain's NY Business, Greg David: Willets Pt. another Bloomberg victory


Outgoing City Councilman Hiram Monserrate and some particularly dubious allies have succeeded in squeezing City Hall for a "community benefit" agreement requiring a vast tract of low-income housing to be included in whatever ultimately rises at Willets Point.

"Community benefit," of course, is a euphemism for "legal shakedown."

NY Daily News, Willets Point deal set for Council OK

One of the balking owners, Jake Bono, vowed to take his fight to court.

"What's going on here is a giant land grab," he said. "The mayor and the City Council ain't going to be the ones to dictate me off my land. It's going to be a guy in a little black robe and a wooden hammer."

Gothamist, Monserrate Paves the Way for Willets Point Plan's Passage

Not all of Monserrate’s constituents were happy with his announcement—some local business owners painted over his name on his campaign bus.

Queens Tribune, Opponents Flip On Willets Point Plan

Not everyone is finding reason to celebrate.

Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) spent all day cloistered inside City Hall, only receiving word of the deal three hours after it was announced. He may have been the last to know, but it changed little.

“I’m still opposed. It still doesn’t address the main issue, which is eminent domain,” he said. “Let’s spend a couple hundred million dollars to buy out property and take the rest. Where’s the American dream in that?”

WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, Boom Town

The City Council is expected to approve the redevelopment of Willets Point today. Carlos Canal, owner of Flushing Towing, explains why he sold his property, while Jake Bono of Bono Sawdust Supply opposes the plan.

Then, WNYC's Matthew Shuerman on why the city is moving ahead with the project and the status of Atlantic Yards and other developments.


Download MP3

Posted by eric at 7:09 PM

Nets offer free tickets, job fair to unemployed

AP via amNY
by Tom Canavan

Plenty of sports teams have given away bobblehead dolls, caps and seat cushions. But the New Jersey Nets are trying to do more for their fans in these hard economic times: Get them jobs.

The Nets announced Wednesday they are providing 1,500 free tickets over the next two months to unemployed fans who submit resumes to the team.

Nets spokesman Barry Baum said late Wednesday that the team had already received about 1,000 resumes.

Yormark said the Nets, however, are not guaranteeing jobs for anyone.

"Our sponsors and season ticket holders are always looking for good talent," Yormark said. "They have not given us any commitment. Hopefully, if they see a talented person they will call them in for an interview."


NoLandGrab: In other words, don't be surprised if your resumé ends up in the can while your can sits in what would otherwise be an empty Izod Center seat.

More Coverage...

Game ON! (USAToday blog), Out of work? Come see the Nets for free

Wallet Pop, NJ Nets reach out to unemployed fans

Kudos to the Nets for reaching out like this.... It's good that at least one team in pro sports recognizes the base of its franchise.

NLG: That's a good one! The main reason the Nets are struggling to fill empty seats at the Izod Center is precisely because the team plans to abandon "the base of its franchise" for Brooklyn, in the year 20-whatever.

NY Times, Nets Try to Help Jobless Fans

NY Daily News, Nets giving unemployed fans free tickets, job help

The Nets are offering unemployed fans a chance to get free tickets to upcoming games. The better news is that the team is also willing to place resumes with companies that sponsor the team (I think there are about 400 of them!).

Posted by eric at 3:23 PM

Willets Point Makeover Has Locals Crying Foul

Small Business Owners Say City Councilman Made Sweetheart Deal With Mayor And Then Sold Them All Out



Willets Point, Queens is about to get a complete overhaul.

But a group claiming to represent 250 small businesses says the city councilman who traded affordable housing in exchange for the overhaul sold them out in the process.

The Willets Point scrap metal/chop shop/auto body area is in the shadow of the new ballpark the Mets are building. And it's no coincidence that after decades of neglect, businesses and apartments will suddenly be built there. But the Willets Point group said the trade off Monserrate negotiated in getting 35 percent of the 5,500 homes for affordable housing does not help them. And the $3 million these 250 small businesses are being offered to divide among themselves in exchange for getting out --- they say is an insult.



Posted by eric at 2:51 PM

City Council Caves, Supports Willets Point Eminent Domain

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB runs down the selling out of Willets Point property owners.

The City Council and Bloomberg administration have reached agreement to approve the Willets Point rezoning plan which is dependent on the threat, use, and abuse of eminent domain.

Led by councilman Hiram Monserrate, a majority of councilmembers had said they would oppose the rezoning unless there was an improved "affordable" housing plan and eminent domain was taken off the table. Crains quoted Monserrate in September:

“I look forward to finally having an open discussion and solution on the issues that the administration has so far not resolved—guaranteed affordable housing, fair-market compensation and relocation plans, traffic mitigation plans and a commitment to take eminent domain off the table," Mr. Monserrate said in a statement.
(Emphasis added)

But on the day before the Council's vote on the project, Monserrate, Speaker Quinn, ACORN's Bertha Lewis and Mayor Mike Bloomberg (according the Times "an improbable cast of allies," even though the selling out came like clockwork) announced an affordable housing deal and that the "rezoning" of Willets Point—including the right for the City to threaten and use eminent domain—would pass in a planned Thursday vote.

No mention was made about taking eminent domain off the table. It is still there.


Posted by eric at 2:35 PM

Willets Point affordable housing offers more moderate-income housing than AY

Atlantic Yards Report

While similar in percentages to the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal, the Willets Point plan emphasizes housing for low- and moderate-income families, while the Atlantic Yards plan offers a wider range of units, including those aimed at middle income families earning more than six figures.

The Times reported:
The deal requires that 35 percent of the project’s 5,500 housing units be set aside for families who make less than $99,840 a year, or 130 percent of the city’s median income of $76,800. The original plan reserved just 20 percent of the units for families of those income levels.

It's hardly clear, as with Atlantic Yards, whether there are bonds and other public funding mechanisms to fulfill the affordable housing promises.


Posted by eric at 2:21 PM

Willets Point Project Foes Reach Deal With the City

The New York Times
by Fernanda Santos

Two of the leading opponents of the Willets Point redevelopment project in Queens came out in favor of the plan on Wednesday, after they reached a critical deal with the city over the number of homes for low-income families that will be built at the site.

The agreement calls for more than 800 homes for families earning less than $38,400 a year and essentially paves the way for the project’s approval by the City Council on Thursday. The agreement is a major political victory for one of the opponents, Councilman Hiram Monserrate, and for the Bloomberg administration, which spent considerable time and money in recent weeks to arrange support for the plan.

“This is a project for the people,” said Councilman Monserrate, who represents a district that includes Willets Point, a 62-acre expanse of auto body shops, junkyards and manufacturers on unpaved roads near Shea Stadium. “Everybody wins,” he said.

The agreement was announced on Wednesday at a news conference at City Hall that brought together what days ago would have been an improbable cast of allies.

On hand were Mr. Monserrate and Bertha Lewis, chief organizer of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, which Mr. Monserrate had enlisted in opposing the project’s housing levels and the city’s plan to take over privately owned property by eminent domain. At their side were Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, Robert C. Lieber, who worked late into the night on Tuesday to arrange the deal.


NoLandGrab: "Everybody wins?" Not quite. Despite Councilman Monserrate's one-time insistence that the City not use eminent domain, many Willets Point property owners haven't even begun negotiations with the City. With the project approved by the City Council, those property owners will have zero leverage when negotiating the sale of their properties, and if they don't want to sell, then what? Yup, eminent domain seizures.

As for Acorn's role, bringing them in to help oppose eminent domain is — based on their role with Atlantic Yards — a bit like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

Did the state try to gain any value from arena naming rights? Apparently not

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder tries to get at whether or not New York State even tried to get a piece of the naming rights for the Atlantic Yards arena, but finds that State and City agencies are not very forthcoming with answers. [Answer redacted]

Yesterday, Gov. David Paterson proposed $5.2 billion in budget cuts over the next 16½ months, with reductions in school aid, increased tuition at city and state universities, and reduced Medicaid reimbursements, among other things.

Perhaps administration officials--many of whom were not in charge at the time, actually--are wondering why exactly their predecessors allowed Forest City Ratner to claim the entire value of naming rights for the Barclays Center arena.

In response to a Freedom of Information Law request, documents received from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) indicated that no effort was made to retain any such value, though at one point, a Forest City Ratner executive indicated anxiety about the developer being "punished" for the naming rights deal.

Though the documents are scant, in several places they were redacted; the ESDC cited exemptions that allow agencies to deny access to records that are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not final agency policy or determinations and instructions to staff that that affect the public, among other things.


NoLandGrab: As far as those budget cuts go, it doesn't appear that Bruce Ratner has yet had to tighten his belt even one notch. What a surprise.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

FCR layoffs confirmed; parent company stock price continues to sink

Atlantic Yards Report

A week ago, I speculated that Forest City Ratner (FCR) had laid off some people working on the Atlantic Yards project, even as corporate officials at parent Forest City Enterprises (FCE) would not specify where there'd been layoffs.

Yesterday, there was partial confirmation, as the New York Post quoted sources saying there had been layoffs at FCR. Though no projects were specified, it's reasonable to believe that the company's most ambitious project couldn't have gone unscathed.


Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

No wonder the Nets are giving away tickets

Atlantic Yards Report

The New Jersey Nets, in a gesture that represents both corporate citizenship and an effort to fill some seats in the Izod Center, are giving away tickets to the jobless.

Indeed, based on images from last night's game against the Indiana Pacers, the seat-filling effort can't begin soon enough. See here, here, and here.

Announced attendance was 13,551, or 68% of 19,968. Then again, a reporter in the audience on Saturday observed that the arena was half-empty when the claim was 89% full.


Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

November 12, 2008

Nets to give free tickets to jobless fans

Newark Star-Ledger
by David Waldstein

The Star-Ledger picks up the Nets tickets-for-the-unemployed story, and runs with it.

The Nets program was applauded by Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, a marketing firm that has been consulted by many professional teams on fan loyalty and branding. He said the team is "acknowledging that people in fact do not have the discretionary income they once had."

"The job fair clearly is a very powerful signal of corporate citizenship, and these days that can be a lot more meaningful than a free hat or a bobblehead doll. The team is willing to take a hit in order to be able to ensure the continuity of fan visits, and that is something that people will ultimately appreciate," Passikoff said.

NoLandGrab: Um, "take a hit?" By giving away seats that are sitting empty, and maybe enticing some folks to buy $8 beers and $6 hot dogs, while making the Izod Center seem a little less empty?

Many of the paying fans (who may not be so psyched that the people next to them are getting in free) are getting a break, too.

Based on a random sampling of fans at recent home games, however, many weren't paying full price.

Ray Massa of Jersey City, who works for T-Mobile in Parsippany and describes business as "sloooow," got four decent seats in the lower bowl to Friday night's Nets-Pistons game for $15 apiece. The tickets were part of a plan in which Nets sponsors buy up to 80,000 seats over the season and distribute them to schools, which often use them as rewards for kids who are doing well.

"We couldn't come if the tickets were full price," said Massa, who noted that he, his wife and two daughters ate before the game to save money.


NoLandGrab: So while New York's taxpayers, many of whom are unemployed, too, are lavishing hundreds of millions of dollars on Bruce Ratner, Bruce is in turn giving away free tickets to New Jersey's jobless. Shouldn't we maybe cut out the middleman?

Posted by eric at 2:23 PM



NY Post
by Lois Weiss

The Atlantic Yards developer makes a cameo in this story about layoffs in the City's real estate industry.

With most commercial sales unable to get financing, and development stalled for the same reason, brokerages and title companies have been shedding staff.

And now developers are starting to make similar moves.

Tishman Speyer Properties, Forest City Ratner and Extell Development are among those that have had layoffs, sources said.


Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

The Atlantic Yards and You

Idealist in NYC

Another plug for the Civilians' project, but with a bit more context:

When I lived in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill, I’d ride the the C train every day on my way home from work and would often get off at the Lafayette stop. I’d walk up the subway steps to a delicious waft of fresh pizza from Not Ray’s, and a beautiful view of the open sky, unobstructed by tall buildings like those in Manhattan. I’d then have a calm walk through stately streets lined with gorgeous trees and brownstones, without worrying about uncomfortably bumping elbows with random strangers.

A current proposal is threatening the serenity of my old locale: the Atlantic Yards project. And Michael Premo, founder of The Civilians theater company, wants to know what you have to say about it.


Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

Nets Have Free Tickets for Job Seekers

WCBS 880

The New Jersey Nets are getting into the job-placement business, and not coincidentally, trying to get a few more warm bodies into the sparsely populated Izod Center.

Would you like to get a job and see a professional basketball game for free? If you do, make the Nets your destination.

The New Jersey Nets will be giving out free tickets to five home games. Just send your resume, employment history, career field of interest, and contact information to the Nets Job Bank at jobbank@njnets.com.

Constantly creating ways to attract fans to a see team that has traditionally drawn poorly, New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark told WCBS Sports Director Jared Max, "We have to ideate as much as possible - throw as much the wall - and occasionally, some good things come back. In this particular case with our unemployment program, we've nailed it."


Download MP3 [Running time 6:07]

NoLandGrab: Look, it's hard to knock the Nets for actually trying to help people find jobs in tough economic times, but honestly, how long before the Nets kick off a "take one free ticket, get another one free" promotion?"

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Traffic slows for suites at new Yankee Stadium

How suite it isn't: Traffic slows for luxury boxes next season at new Yankee Stadium

AP via CNN Money

The New York Times reported little more than a month ago that the faltering economy wasn't having a negative effect on the sales of new luxury suites, but that was before things got really ugly on the economic front. Now, even New York's pre-eminent sports franchise is having some trouble moving the merchandise.

Selling suites may not be so sweet a business for the New York Yankees in these tough economic times.

Seven luxury boxes down the foul lines priced at $600,000 remain available for the 2009 season, the first at the new Yankee Stadium. The team still had seven available in August, too.

"There's no getting away from the fact that the world is different than it was, so traffic slows," chief operating officer Lonn Trost said Tuesday. "So you don't have 10 people banging on the door. You may only have two people."


NoLandGrab: With the projected supply of New York-area luxury suites increasing by more than 50%, to nearly 700, according to that Times story, the Yankees' news can't bode well for a team trying to float $800 million in new bonds to build a suite-laden basketball arena in Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

In Coney Island Visions report, new ideas, express dreams, and AY avoidance

Atlantic Yards Report

Observing that the city's truncated Coney Island plan--an apparent accommodation to developer Joe Sitt--"greatly reduces the area set aside for open-air amusements and puts too much faith in 'entertainment retail,'" the Center for an Urban Future yesterday issued a report called Coney Island Visions, asking thinkers from a variety of fields about Coney Island's future.

The effort is a partnership with the Municipal Art Society (MAS), which recently began the Imagine Coney initiative. While the MAS is soliciting advice from everybody, the Center for an Urban Future consulted amusement industry veteran, writers, architects, urban planners, and historians. Most have not been involved in the details of the development debate but were asked to provide a broader picture.

The first person quoted in the report brought up Atlantic Yards is an example of what not to do.


NoLandGrab: More evidence that Atlantic Yards is the poster project for top-down, coercive, community-unfriendly planning and development.

Imagine Coney? Here are three ideas: amusement museum; eating contest Hall of Fame; and street hoops haven
And while we're on the topic of Coney Island, Norman Oder offers three fun ideas for redevelopment of the world-famous amusement destination.

Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

Will Extell Prove That Diamonds are Forever?


Extell's Gary Barnett has always been a maverick of sorts in the development world. He was the only rival bidder to Bruce Ratner at Atlantic Yards (even though the cause was hopeless). He bought up most of the insular Diamond District to assemble air rights for a skyscraper to be built smack in the middle of it. He wore a baseball cap to the unveiling of the Hudson Yards bids. A maverick, indeed, but that might be the problem: times have been tough for mavericks of late.


NoLandGrab: In one of the most intersting chapters of the Atlantic Yards saga, the mavericky developer Gary Barnett submitted a rival bid to the MTA for the development rights over the railyard. Despite Barnett's higher bid, the MTA decided to give Ratner another shot and subsequently awarded the rights to... Ratner!

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

November 11, 2008

Representing Central Brooklyn: Mark Winston Griffith with Nicholas Jahr

The Brooklyn Rail
by Nicholas Jahr

Mark Winston Griffith, an activist, co-founder with Errol Louis of the Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union, and now a candidate for City Council, talks with The Brooklyn Rail about a number of hot topics — including Atlantic Yards.

Rail: I’m wondering what you think of the Atlantic Yards project. The site is just outside your district and I know you’ve written a bit on the subject.

Griffith: What I don’t like about Atlantic Yards is that it didn’t start with a conversation. No one said, “We’ve got this land here that’s been underutilized, how do we fulfill its greatest potential? How do we build on it and develop it in a way that’s going to build the surrounding community, that is going to be respectful of the surrounding community, and is going to be healthy environmentally, physically, economically, and that’s going to include a lot of different people in the revitalization of this area?”

Now what you have here in Brooklyn is almost a lose-lose situation, in the sense that if Ratner is successful in realizing his vision, I think it’s going to have a serious negative effect on the area. If he’s not, and he goes through financial troubles and he ends up not building, and that area becomes even more blighted…I don’t think it necessarily was fully blighted before, but after he gets done knocking down everything, and making way for the development, if he doesn’t actually get to build, then it actually will be a blighted neighborhood.


Posted by eric at 2:15 PM

Brooklyn Nets? Eh, Brooklyn Aces Are Here


One is tempted to say puck you, but it would be wrong. The point is that the Brooklyn Aces of the Eastern Professional Hockey League played their first game on Flatbush Avenue (at the Aviator Sports and Recreation Complex at Floyd Bennett Field) on Satruday night. A capacity crowd of 2,200 showed up. And when the players started fighting they started playing "Kung Fu Fighting" on the sound system. Take that Mr. Ratner and Mr. Gehry. Oh, the team lost 3-2, but it's early in the season.


Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

A New View on Atlantic Yards

WardGone-BIB.jpg Brit in Brooklyn

Forest City Ratner has completed the demolition of the Ward Bakery, so through the gap on Dean Street there is now a clear view to Atlantic Avenue and beyond.


Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City says layoffs involved fewer than 160 people

Last week's layoffs at Forest City Enterprises involved fewer than 160 employees, up to 80 of them in the Cleveland area.

Forest City provided additional details about the layoffs Monday in response to inquiries from The Plain Dealer. The real estate company, based in Cleveland, said Wednesday that it was laying off a small percentage of its nationwide work force of 3,200, which included roughly 800 people in Cleveland.

A spokesman elaborated Monday, saying that the layoffs affected less than 5 percent of the company's employees and less than 10 percent of its Cleveland workers. He did not provide specific numbers. The layoffs resulted from the company's need to cut costs in the face of the economic slump and turmoil spreading from the housing market into the commercial real estate industry.

Current and former employees have described the mood at Forest City's headquarters in the Terminal Tower as tense and full of uncertainty. Some say they worry about what might happen if the economy sours further.

NoLandGrab: The mood at Forest City's Brooklyn subsidiary, run by cousin Bruce, can't be much better.

In this environment, Forest City has still been able to secure some money and move forward with projects. The company announced three deals Monday, comprising more than $167 million in financing.

The New York State Teachers' Retirement System provided a $75 million construction loan for a shopping center expansion in southern California. Wachovia Bank, RBS Citizens and the National Electric Benefit Fund teamed up on $67.5 million in construction financing for apartments in San Francisco. And KeyBank and Fannie Mae worked with Forest City on a $24.9 million refinancing of apartments in Cambridge, Mass.

MarketWatch, PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Announces $167 Million in Recent Financings

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

And has the Atlantic Yards arena site been assessed? Not that I've been told

Atlantic Yards Report

In order to generate PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes) sufficient for the Atlantic Yards arena bond, would the land under the arena be assessed in the same questionable way that the land under Yankee Stadium was assessed?

Norman Oder tries to get to the bottom of this question by requesting documents from various government agencies.


NoLandGrab: Regular readers may remember that, just last week, the City of New York refused to hand over documents concerning the Yankees Stadium deal to a US House Subcommittee investigating possible fraud.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Goldman Sachs tilts toward losses

Crain's NY Business
By Aaron Elstein

We are not certain how the financial condition of Goldman Sachs might affect the financing of Bruce Ratner's new arena for the Nets, except to say that the company is supposed to issue and find buyers for the triple tax-exempt arena bonds, if and when the legal encumberances to the project are finally cleared.

When it unveils its fourth-quarter results next month, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is expected to post its first loss since going public in 1999. As investors brace for bad news, its stock has sunk by 25% in the past week alone, including a 10% drop on Monday morning. The shares are now down 67% so far this year—only marginally better than peers Merrill Lynch & Co. and Morgan Stanley.

Barclays Capital analyst Roger Freeman on Monday added to the gloom by forecasting Goldman would post a loss of $2.50 a share, or about $1 billion, due to losses in private-equity investments and real estate. Mr. Freeman had been forecasting a profit of about $1.1 billion. Other analysts predict substantial withdrawals from Goldman’s asset management unit, which invests heavily in hedge funds. Trading remains dormant in all but the safest securities.

Preparing for tougher times, Goldman last week shed about 10% of its 32,600-employee workforce, including prominent research analysts Bill Tanona, who covered financial institutions; newspaper analyst Peter Appert; and General Electric analyst Deane Dray. Up to another 7,000 job cuts loom as Goldman pares costs to match revenues which are expected to fall 35% this year, according to Thomson Reuters, while profits could plunge by 55%.

To date, Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein has deftly steered his firm through the market’s storms. Goldman has yet to lose a dime during the yearlong financial crisis despite having recorded $5 billion in asset write-downs, according to Bloomberg data. Those losses, however, are a fraction of those taken by Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, or Citigroup Inc.

But Goldman’s days of coining profits may be coming to a halt temporarily because the firm is more exposed than its peers to sinking stock markets around the world, analysts say.


Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

Does a lousy record help the Nets go green?

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets are being recognized for the team's effort to "go green," but what about all those acres of cars during home games? One Nets Daily commenter suggests that the Nets could help save the planet by continuing to suck.


Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

Paterson's Billions in Cuts, As Bruce's Boondoggle Flounders Along

The mantra of "Schools, yes — stadiums, no" was wielded effectively by the Dolan family, owners of Madison Square Garden and Cablevision, in the fight against a Jets stadium on the west side of Manhattan.

Even though Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn doesn't have the resources to launch a similar media campaign against Bruce Ratner's multi-billion-dollar boondoggle, during these tough economic times, the point still stands:

The New York Times reports:

Paterson Says Schools and Medicaid Face Cuts

Gov. David A. Paterson said in an interview on Sunday that he would almost certainly seek billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid, as well as midyear reductions in school aid, to address New York’s worsening fiscal condition.

He also said he expected to urge labor unions to reopen the contracts they have struck on behalf of public employees as a way to avoid or decrease layoffs.

Such a step is reminiscent of measures taken by New York City in the financial crisis of the 1970s or moves made more recently by the Big Three domestic automakers to reduce their labor costs after years of granting steady raises and comprehensive health and pension benefits...

Still, New York State and New York City continue to sink hundreds of millions into Bruce Ratner's frivolous billion dollar arena and parking lots Atlantic Yards projectmoney pit.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

The class of 2010 - stay or go?

Pro Basketball News
By Jarrad Todd

Could the fate of a new NBA arena in Brooklyn be in the hands of soon-to-be free agent LeBron James? Sure, if you consider that the world revolves around pro-basketball and its brightest star:

LEBRON JAMES, Cavaliers (player option)
Stay or Go: Go

Sorry Cleveland fans, but I think your worst nightmare will come true. The Cavs' inability to surround LeBron with enough quality players will force him to look elsewhere for that elusive championship.
New Jersey has put together an impressive collection of young talent (Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Yi Jianlian, Ryan Anderson, Sean Williams) that could be ready for a playoff push in two years. Not to mention the fact that James' good buddy, Jay-Z, is part-owner of the team, and LeBron’s "building empire" would be a perfect fit for the eventual Brooklyn relocation (2011?).

While current developments suggest that the $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards arena project is in doubt, the mere prospect of a LeBron defection to Brooklyn should ensure that it remains on course for completion.
But ultimately, assuming the Brooklyn move takes place, it’s the prospect of success and mass appeal in New York that will clinch the deal with the Nets.


Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

November 10, 2008

Forest City to trim work force

Crain's Cleveland Business
By Stan Bullard

Last week, we missed this article about the layoffs at Forest City Enterprises. Crain's didn't get any further than the Plain Dealer did in pinning down additional details about the workforce cuts:

Forest City Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: FCEa, FCEb), the Cleveland-based mega developer and property owner, confirmed today that it will lay off an undisclosed number of employees, although spokesman Jeff Linton described it as a “small percentage” of its national work force of 3,200.
Forest City’s largest concentration of employees is in Cleveland where it employs 800 people, but Mr. Linton declined to say if the largest number of job cuts is here. He said the layoffs are in various units of the company and span its geographic footprint, which stretches from New York City to Hawaii.


Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Digest

Today's Atlantic Yards Report focuses on urban planning:

After Oil: dispatches from a conference on the challenges facing cities worldwide

I couldn’t get to Philadelphia this past weekend for the symposium at the University of Pennsylvania titled Re-Imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil, but a set of jouranlists and academics blogging at the web site of the magazine Next American City posted some 16,000 words.

I’ve distilled some thought-provoking excerpts below. My overall conclusion is that, however much civic energy is spent on individual controversies (like, um, a certain Brooklyn megaproject), there are huge systemic issues we have to address, and, as noted by some of the bloggers, many of those at those conference--though more motivated than most, obviously-- didn't grasp the urgency of the problem.

In China, many eggs broken for omelet of massive urban tranformation

Last week, I mentioned how an urban planner was impressed by China's massive efforts at urbanization, and that a critic listening was appalled at the casual dismissal of the costs of upheaval.

But how much transformation is there? In an interview in the September issue of Metropolis, headlined The Chinese Century, Thomas J. Campanella, author of The Concrete Dragon: China’s Urban Revolution and What It Means for the World, explained that this is unprecedented:

We’ve never seen anything like this in terms of the sheer amount of stuff being built. But we’ve also never seen so much destroyed in order to build. You know the old maxim “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs”? Robert Moses was very fond of that saying. Well, China has busted a lot of eggs to make this great big omelet. The amount of urban fabric that’s been razed to make way for all this new construction is unprecedented in the peacetime history of world cities. In fact, the only comparable thing we have—and I don’t want to make too much of this because in China it’s reconstruction—is the wartime bombings of cities like Dresden and Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

Premier Ad Agency Leases Space at One MetroTech

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Linda Collins

1MetroTechCenter.jpg More on UniWorld Group's move to Bruce Ratner's MetroTech complex in Downtown Brooklyn:

[CEO Byron] Lewis’ firm, reportedly the nation’s largest African-American-owned ad agency, joins the city’s largest Hispanic daily newspaper El Diario La Prensa, online artist marketplace Etsy.com, global media company Incisive Media, architecture firm Interboro Partners, and urban design and planning cooperative The Metropolitan Exchange as tenants.
Lewis said he chose the MetroTech space for several reasons: “It was the most beautiful space in our price range, it was not far from our offices in SoHo, about 35 of our 135 employees already live in Brooklyn and for those who live on Long Island, the Long Island Railroad is handy. The transportation is ideal,” he said.


NoLandGrab: The article does not mention the tax credits, which according to Crain's, drove the asking rent below $30 a square foot.

ExpressEstates.in, Manhattan offices cross the river

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

November 9, 2008

In the Pool: Bakery Rubble

Gowanus Lounge
Photo, June Carter Peeps, via flickr

GoLo suggests an appropriate name for this rubble-strewn plaza where Bruce Ratner demolished the Ward Bakery building: "Markowitz Grove."

Posted by lumi at 7:59 PM

HELP WANTED: NJ Nets Basketball Fan Photographer! (Izod Center)

Reply to: jobs@redbowphoto.com [?] Date: 2008-11-07, 9:34AM EST

NJ Nets Fan Photographers Needed!

PhotogBarbie.jpg Enjoy professional sports? Can you take a photograph? Fast growing RedBow Photo Inc., is searching for friendly, energetic, out-going part-time photographers who can capture special fan moments. Minimal experience necessary, but enthusiasm and the ability to point and click are a must! All skill levels of photographers needed. We will train you and supply all necessary equipment. This is a concession/sales oriented position. Photographers must be able to approach fans and capture the moment! Must be able to work the majority of home games. Send contact information and a brief skills summary to jobs@redbowphoto.com. Mention NJ Nets in subject line.

Phone calls will not be routed to hiring manager.

Location: Izod Center
Compensation: $10+/hr plus bonuses. 5-6 hours/game
This is a part-time job.
This is a contract job.
Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Posted by lumi at 6:31 PM

Critic Huxtable: "Everything in this city is totally developer driven"

Atlantic Yards Report

In Philip Lopate's interview in today's New York Times with Ada Louise Huxtable, "the dean of American architectural criticism" has some harsh words for the developer-driven world of architecture in New York today.
Huxtable sets out a central problem: Architecture is a very real and important art; it affects us all so directly. You must judge it in terms of problem-solving in this uneasy, difficult combination of structure and art. My feeling is that criticism is not looking at this — it is treating architecture as eye candy.

Indeed, I'd point out that the late Herbert Muschamp pronounced Atlantic Yards "a Garden of Eden" only with some major blinkers.


Posted by amy at 12:19 PM

Atlantic Yards Report Weekend Wrap-Up

Atlantic Yards Report twofer

Lupica: "Bloomberg was a cheerleader for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards hustle"

New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica today, in a column headlined Yankees' and Mets' new stadiums are NYC's real tax burden, slams Mayor Mike Bloomberg for city support of the new stadiums, then adds:
Oh yeah: It's also worth pointing out that Bloomberg was a cheerleader for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards hustle, along with just about every other politician of note in town.

Was Izod Center 89% full or "half-empty"?

The announced attendance at the basketball game Friday night between the New Jersey Nets and the Detroit Pistons was 17,767, meaning the Izod Center, which has a capacity of 19,968 (the box score in the New York Times said 19,900) was 89% full.

The New York Times described the arena as "half-empty." Could it be that a lot of ticket-holders just didn't show up?

Posted by amy at 12:03 PM

Science Park has winning formula

Steve Garmhausen

Drug development company NaniRx Therapeutics will soon outgrow its 2,000-square-foot space near Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. In years past, the company would have been considering a move outside the city.

Instead, executives have their eyes on what's likely to become one of New York's hottest neighborhoods for biotechs: the East River Science Park.

The development “is going to allow us to stay in New York City,” says David Cohen, chief executive.

Larger developments, including the $4 billion, 8 million-square-foot Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and the $15 billion, 26-acre Hudson Yards on the West Side, are drawing more attention than the Science Park. But its Manhattan location and narrow focus are likely to make it a hot spot for small firms that work in the bioscience world. That includes not only biotechs, but law firms and the investment banks that serve them.

NoLandGrab: Fascinating - a proposed development that actually has prospective tenants in mind? Isn't it more fun to just say "if we build it they will come...or the government will bail us out?"

Posted by amy at 11:55 AM

For Sports Teams, Mayors Play Ball at the City’s Expense

NY Times

The first incarnations of these deals came in the final hours of the administration of Rudolph W. Giuliani, and thus had the faint whiff of idolatry about them. (Mr. Giuliani was such a Yankees fan that he managed to buy four World Series rings from the team “at cost,” which apparently meant thousands of dollars less than their actual value. Somehow, the city’s chief executive can get discount jewelry from a sports company that was being subsidized with public funds, while the Conflict of Interest Board fined a school librarian $500 for displaying a book written by his daughter.)

The Giuliani stadium deals were immediately canceled in 2002 when a new mayor took office — the hard-headed, clear-thinking businessman Michael R. Bloomberg. With the city facing a recession and the loss of income from the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bloomberg said New York simply could not afford them. Maybe later, he said.

Over the next few years, Mr. Bloomberg proceeded to slather new layers of icing atop the Giuliani cakes. The stadium plans were reborn, richer than ever. As a result, on Saturday, there will be one of these hokey quasi-religious ceremonies moving home plate from the old stadium across the street to the new one.

This happens the same week that Mr. Bloomberg says he has to close health clinics, shut libraries one day a week, not hire a new class of cops and raise property taxes.


Atlantic Yards Report comments:

Perhaps he could turn his attention to the Atlantic Yards arena, for which Bloomberg claimed in 2004, "This will be done with private money, and any city monies of any meaningful size will be debt issues financed by the extra tax revenues that come from this."

That was before the city pledged $100 million in subsidies, then added $105 million more. And the developer wants, at least, another $100 million.

Posted by amy at 11:47 AM

November 8, 2008

U.S. government bails out Bruce Ratner


One important piece of news lost in the din of election coverage was the federal government’s decision to free up millions of dollars in tax-exempt bonds for the Forest City Ratner (our old friend Bruce) development project at Atlantic Yards.

The ruling gives Ratner access to $800 million in tax-free money to proceed with the construction of a new arena for the New Jersey Nets. The arena is only one part of a controversial $4 billion boondoggle that seeks to transform the yards into a sprawling commercial and residential complex.

But the joke may be on him — not to mention city and state officials that have blown taxpayer money fighting for him — because Ratner still needs to find investors willing to back the bonds. Jay-Z or no Jay-Z, the Nets were a hard sell before the market took a nose dive. With the economy writhing on the table right now, it’s going to be even more difficult to convince people to invest money in a basketball team that went 34-48 last year.


Posted by amy at 7:53 AM

Lew Fidler Uses Council Pork to Help His Friends

New York City 46th City Council District

Atlantic Yards gets a shout-out in a round-up of the "Member Item-Funded Nonprofit Reelection Industry"

Brooklyn Democratic Leader Vito Lopez, an early protégé of Genovese, funds the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Center as an umbrella-type nonprofit with millions of dollars in government patronage to his district. Bolton-St. Johns’ Emily Giske uses the High Line and the health care industry to build an umbrella for her team, including $50,000 to Speaker Quinn for her mayoral campaign from High Line supporters. The Parkside Group used their relationship with former Speaker Miller, former Queens Democratic leader Tom Manton and convicted felon Brian McLaughlin to pull in over $7 million in consulting fees from nonprofits receiving council funding. Former Thomas Jefferson Club leader Bruce Bender, now working for as chief lobbyist for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, helps fund Borough President Markowitz’s umbrella nonprofit Best of Brooklyn. (emphasis added)


Posted by amy at 7:48 AM

Willets Point down to the wire

Daniel Massey

With less than a week remaining before the City Council votes on the contentious Willets Point redevelopment project, the Bloomberg administration has made some progress on buying up land at the Queens site. But it’s still unclear if the city has the votes it needs to see the measure pass. To prevail, it may have to strike additional deals on land and one on affordable housing.
A majority of Council members have vowed to reject the proposal Thursday over concerns about use of eminent domain and lack of affordable housing. City officials have intensified efforts in recent weeks to tilt the members’ opinions in favor of the plan.

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg met personally with each borough’s Council delegation to press his case. The mayor and his staff also met with some Council members individually. Opponents of the project say the delegation meetings were unprecedented and indicate the mayor is worried he doesn’t have the votes to get the project passed.

“That’s never been done before,” said a Willets Point Realty and Industry Association spokeswoman. “In his seven years, the mayor never once did it, not on congestion pricing, not on term limits. If they had the votes, they wouldn’t have dragged him out.”


Posted by amy at 7:45 AM

Paging Jane Jacobs? Panel takes on where and how to build affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report turns in 2,894 words about Wednesday's panel discussion "Housing New Yorkers in the 21st Century", sponsored by the Municipal Art Society.

HPD Deputy Commissioner for Development Holly Leicht said New York has to be maintain diversity, and pointed out that the city must support not only low-income housing but also housing for those of middle and moderate incomes.

(Such “workforce housing” actually would be a majority of the planned Atlantic Yards subsidized housing; the irony is that most members of the low-income group ACORN, which “negotiated” the AY affordable housing agreement, wouldn’t qualify for those units, as those seeking housing discovered at a July 2006 AY affordable housing information session.)
Leicht went on to discuss how a more transparent process has emerged in which the public gets a sense of the trade-off between affordability and density--a process, I pointed out yesterday, absent from the Atlantic Yards plan.


Posted by amy at 7:37 AM

Downtown Office Growth Continues Despite Recession

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dennis Holt reports on the recent NY Times article about businesses moving to Downtown Brooklyn.

The centerpiece of the new Downtown will probably turn out to be the City Point development, where the Albee Square Mall used to be. It will be very large and will be located in the old Downtown Brooklyn business core.

The current plan calls for creating about 500,000 square feet of office space. Anchor tenants will probably be acquired before everything is completed. Oddly, the Times’ report did not include this project.

It did mention Atlantic Yards, that somewhat spooked major development, and the potential of significant additional office space along with the sports arena. The point to note with it is that Atlantic Yards will create a second commercial and business center.

It will be both part of an expanded Downtown business center and a new center of its own. How the new center evolves will depend on the progress of the Cultural District and other trends not yet predictable.


Posted by amy at 7:29 AM

November 7, 2008

King Alfred plans are killed off

The Argus


The high-profile Frank Gehry-designed development project in Hove, England, has been given the heave-ho, a victim of world economic turmoil.

The £290 million King Alfred development is dead.

The Frank Gehry designed scheme planned for the Hove seafront was declared “finished” tonight by the man behind the project.

It comes after years of argument over whether the bold towers would either revitalise the city or become a blot on the landscape.

Without a financial backer, the development agreement signed in November 2004 is expected to expire at midnight on Sunday, leaving Frank Gehry’s first project in England dead in the water.

The scheme, which included the construction of 751 homes in 11 buildings of up to 98 metres high, was thrown into doubt in July when Dutch bank ING withdrew its financial support because falling house prices no longer made it financially viable.


Posted by eric at 4:54 PM

HPD official says development trade-offs should be transparent (and implicitly indicts the AY approval process)

Atlantic Yards Report

In talking about development trade-offs, a top official in the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Wednesday night provided an (implicit) indictment of the process behind Atlantic Yards.

HPD Deputy Commissioner for Development Holly Leicht spoke matter-of-factly during a panel discussion, titled Housing New Yorkers in the 21st Century, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society and underwritten by the Rockefeller Foundation as the First Annual Jane Jacobs Forum. (I’ll write tomorrow about the broader issues raised at the forum.)

She even declared that the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)--which Atlantic Yards critics stress was bypassed in the state approval process--doesn’t work for large projects.
ven former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff acknowledges Atlantic Yards should’ve gone through ULURP, which gives community boards an advisory vote and requires the approval of the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Atlantic Yards critics point out that ULURP at least allows local elected officials a voice, adding legitimacy.

HPD's Leicht, however, warned Wednesday night, “ULURP is awfully late to start a conversation about a large project. It’s one thing if you’re talking about a small project, and you’re going to tweak a floor... or affordability, slightly. If you’re talking about a large-scale project, ULURP is simply too late to really have that dialogue.”


Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

Wrong Ratner...

BrettRatner.jpg The Moscow News Weekly reported that, "Late last month, Yahoo! Sports reported that the New Jersey Nets might be up for sale, and that owner Brett Ratner has been entertaining some interesting offers."

Brett Ratner is a hot movie director, Bruce Ratner is an overdeveloper (not hot)... none of whom are related to financier Steven Rattner.

Posted by lumi at 4:37 AM

City balks over Yankee Stadium documents

By Patrick Arden

Where there's smoke there's fire:

The Bloomberg administration is refusing to hand over documents requested by a Congressional subcommittee investigating how the city secured tax-exempt financing for the new Yankee Stadium. U.S. Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has claimed the probe discovered “substantial evidence of improprieties and possible fraud.”


NoLandGrab: The possible fraud lies in the fact that the City claimed a ridiculously high land value in order to justify the bond financing, but lowballed the land value in order to skimp on the replacement of the park land to the commmunity.

Aside from the fact that the deal may have cheated the federal government of future tax revenue, note that the high land valuation benefits the Yankees and the low land valuation cheats the community.

Is this why we need this Mayor more than ever to steer the City through these tough financial times?

Looking ahead, expect creative justifications for extraordinarily high valuations for the tax-exempt bond financing for Bruce Ratner's arena.

Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

Gala for design leaders not your humdrum affair

NY Daily News

Ratner exec fêted:

At last Thursday's American Institute of Architects' (AIA) Heritage Ball, hosted by the New York chapter, 1,200-plus people showed up at the annual black-tie event to honor some of New York's design leaders. Not your usual humdrum affair, this one had an 8-minute video documentary produced by N.Y. AIA executive director Rick Bell. In it, honorees Daniel Libeskind and his wife, Nina, NYC Housing Preservation Development head Shawn Donovan, Forest City Ratner exec MaryAnne Gilmartin and the Robin Hood Foundation's David Saltzman talked about their favorite books, New York buildings and why they do what they do. Afterward the four gave speeches.


Posted by lumi at 4:14 AM

November 6, 2008

An Interview With the Star Ledger’s Dave D’Alessandro

The Big Lead

The sports blog's interview with the Newark paper's hoops reporter inevitably comes around to the Nets' future plans.

Q: Will the Nets ever make it to Brooklyn? The delays have us thinking no. If that’s the case, then do you think LeBron stays in Cleveland, or winds up with the Knicks? Or can you imagine him playing in New Jersey? Is there even a darkhorse for his services, or is he the type who bigger-than-sports star must be in one of the NBA’s major markets, like LA, Chicago, or NY?

The political momentum is such that there may be no turning back at this point, and the linchpin in this deal – sharp guy named Brett Yormark – asserts that the financing is there, and that his partners are content to see it through. Even Barclays, which actually turned down Gordon Brown’s handout, seems to be hanging in there. Maybe that’s just a company line, but the signs are that they’re still going to break ground. . . . uh, some time in the coming century.


Atlantic Yards Report, Listening to Yormark: sports reporter says Brooklyn deal is a go

Norman Oder throws a little cold water on D'Alessandro's assertion, considering the source of his info.

While I agree that the "Atlantic Yards is dead" meme is way overstated, I also think anything Yormark says should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, he's the guy who last year said the arena would break ground in the fall of 2007 and open in 2009.

And of course, there's chatter on Nets Daily: Dave D. on Brooklyn…and New Jersey

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

Has Forest City laid off anyone working on AY? I'd bet yes

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder plumbs the Cleveland Plain Dealer's report about layoffs at Forest City for clues as to where Atlantic Yards lies in the company's development queue.

A brief paragraph, I think, provides some clues about Atlantic Yards:
[Forest City Enterprises spokesman Jeff Linton] said the company remains committed to all projects already under way. "It's those far-future things that we've made the determinations that we need to slow down," he said.

You might say Atlantic Yards is "already under way," given that the developer and affiliates have already invested $250 million.

However, FCE categorizes Atlantic Yards in the "initial development stage," one step behind the "shadow pipeline."

But here's why I suspect Atlantic Yards is in the category of "those far-future things" cited by spokesman Linton. The developer can't have many people working on projects in the category that exists before the "initial development stage" category. So that latter category has to be a target for layoffs.


Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

FCR confirms planned increase in AY office space, decrease in condos

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines the announcement of increased office space at Atlantic Yards, explains the history, analyzes the implications and busts the NY Times for another failure to disclose the media company's business relationship with developer Forest City Ratner.

We have further confirmation Forest City Ratner plans more Atlantic Yards office space than previously announced, 1 million sf rather than 336,000 sf, an apparent recognition that the condo market is in trouble and a hope, based some mixed evidence, that the office market will pick up.

Also, if the pattern regarding office space in Downtown Brooklyn extends to Atlantic Yards, most of the jobs would be firms relocating from Manhattan to Brooklyn; thus the jobs wouldn't be new.

The New York Times, in an article yesterday headlined Office Tenants Flee Manhattan Rents for Brooklyn, reported enthusiastically on the office market in Brooklyn, focusing on Forest City Ratner (and failed to mention that FCR is the partner of the parent New York Times Company in the new Times Tower).


Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Forest City Enterprises announces layoffs, won't say how many

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
By Shaheen Samavati

Due to the one-two punch of sagging demand and scarce credit, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises is laying some employees off this week.

Spokesman Jeff Linton wouldn't say how many people are affected, but he said it's a small percentage of the company's work force of 3,200. Of those, about 800 work at the company's headquarters in downtown Cleveland.

The company also has offices across the country.
Forest City stock has taken a beating recently, with shares trading at about $11, down from about $50 at this time last year. It closed at $11.07 on Wednesday, down $1.08, or 8.9 percent.

"It isn't prudent to develop real estate without tenant demand or consumer demand," Linton said. "If that's your starting point, that's one strike against launching a new project. It's also increasingly difficult to finance that development anyway, so you've got two strikes against you."

He said the company remains committed to all projects already under way. "It's those far-future things that we've made the determinations that we need to slow down," he said.


Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

Higher Taxes for All...Except Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn presents a brief study in contrast:

From City Room:

Bloomberg Announces Layoffs and Tax Increase

Delivering a grim prognosis for the city’s economy, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced plans on Wednesday to save $1.5 billion this fiscal year and next, by trimming 3,000 jobs from the city’s workforce, rescinding a popular 7 percent property tax cut and suspending the annual $400 property tax rebate checks that homeowners have come to rely upon...

Meanwhile, Bruce Ratner would pay no taxes on about 7 million square feet of housing and office space and an 18,000-seat arena, and collect hundreds of millions from the City treasury.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

Yuma voters reject new arena


Hey lookie, when given the chance to decide on whether or not to proceed with planning and negotiations for a new arena, voters in Yuma, AZ rejected the idea.


But we digress. The main reason for the link to ArenaDigest.com is that news of the IRS ruling allowing Bruce Ratner to receive triple-tax-exempt bond financing for a new arena in Brooklyn is the lead story on this week's podcast.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Forest City in the News

Southtown Star, New Lenox voters back home rule

New Lenox, IL Mayor Tim Baldermann called mall developer Forest City Enterprises to deliver the good news about Tuesday's election:

Home rule will enable the village to levy a 1 percent sales tax July 1, bringing it up to 8 percent. That will be primarily paid by non-residents, officials said, while residential homeowners have been promised a property tax rebate.

Village leaders said they needed home rule powers to help them lure quality commercial development to town and pay for road improvements to accommodate the shopping traffic. The increased sales tax revenues will be used to finance roadwork.

CoStarGroup, Forest City Signs 54,500 SF in Deals at Tower City Center

Forest City Enterprises Inc. signed two new deals at the Tower City Center, one of Cleveland's premier mixed-use developments and the most recognized building in Cleveland.

The Cuyahoga Community College leased 38,079 square feet of office space, the full second floor of the Terminal Tower building, at 50 Public Square in Cleveland.
General Service Administration renewed and expanded its lease of 16,484 square feet in Skylight Office Tower at 1660 W. Second St.

NoLandGrab: What a coincidence, Forest City projects in Brooklyn have lots of government agencies as well.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

November 5, 2008

Eminent domain question approved

AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada voters on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment limiting use of eminent domain and rejected giving state lawmakers more authority over regulating sales and use taxes.

Voters approved Question 2, a constitutional amendment that restricts use of eminent domain.

The ballot question passed once already, in 2006, with strong voter support after being put on the ballot by those seeking reform to the eminent domain process.

The initiative would make it illegal for state and local governments to force property owners to sell land for use in private projects. Such seizures for public works would remain legal, but they would face new hurdles.


NoLandGrab: Nevada's constitution requires that an amendment pass in two consecutive elections in order to become law; this amendment previously carried in 2006.

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Bruce Ratner Votes Obama

NY Observer
by Lydia Depillis

Bruce Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner, via a spokesman: "He enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama."


NoLandGrab: The bottom line for Bruce isn't blue or red — it's green.

Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

RPA looks at infrastructure investments for Brooklyn, slams (implicitly) AY parking plan

Atlantic Yards Report

Maybe the local, state, and federal governments will decide it’s time to invest in infrastructure, notably transit. If so, a study released last month by the Regional Plan Association (RPA) lists possibilities and priorities to improve transit for New York City and Northern New Jersey.

“Tomorrow’s Transit: New Mobility for the Region’s Urban Core” (PDF 24.9 MB)adds urban portions of Northern New Jersey to the five boroughs of New York City. (Someday there will be an integrated rail system and it will be a one-fare ride to Newark and Jersey City, right?

Though the report says nothing about Atlantic Yards and little about projects that might impact the plan, it does offer some belated but now mainstream wisdom about parking:
To reduce the overabundance of low cost parking, establish parking ratio requirements in non-residential areas commensurate with the level and use of transit in the area.

More generally, in transit-rich areas follow the lead of Manhattan and Jersey City and require lower parking ratio requirements and establish maximum, rather than minimum ratios.

Indeed, as I pointed out last December, Mayor Mike Bloomberg's much-praised PlaNYC 2030 contains a glaring omission, a failure to address the antiquated anti-urban policy that mandates parking attached to new residential developments outside Manhattan, even when such developments, like Atlantic Yards, are justified precisely because they're located near transit hubs.


Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

As the State Senate goes Democratic, would that mean a change for AY?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder ponders how a Democratic majority in the New York State Senate might affect Atlantic Yards — if at all.

Now that the State Senate has a 32-30 Democratic majority, Brooklyn Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, an opponent of the Atlantic Yards project, should have new clout, but it's not as simple as that.

In many cases, the majority will follow the wishes of the local legislator, but in this case, some members of the Democratic majority, like Carl Kruger, who's benefited from Republican largesse, are staunch AY supporters. Other solid Democrats, like [updated] Martin Malave-Dilan, are supporters. After all, as the New York Times reported, four Democrats, including Kruger, may continue to support Republican Dean Skelos as Majority Leader.

[Update: I originally listed Eric Adams as a supporter. He's sometimes been critical, appearing at some BrooklynSpeaks events. I'm not certain of his position, but note that he recently organized a health fair co-sponsored by the developer.]


Posted by eric at 9:06 AM

AY supporter Thompson clarifies position: no more subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

Thompson two weeks ago was less equivocal (though he wasn't queried specifically about subsidies), saying, "If those projects made sense two-three years ago, when things were booming, they make sense during slower economies, also."

Maybe he's thinking more like Newark Deputy Mayor Stefan Pryor, who said last week about municipal decisionmaking, "We want to look for the least necessary insertion of subsidies."


Posted by eric at 8:59 AM

New York City’s CFO On Bears and Bloomberg

NY Observer

From reporter Eliot Brown's interview with NYC Comptoller William Thompson and likely mayoral candidate:

The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn faces some clear challenges, and the developer has asked for more than $100 million in additional assistance from the city. Do you think the project should get more government assistance if it can’t go forward otherwise?

No. I think that that project has received a lot of government assistance to this point. It’s a project I supported in its original form. It continues to morph and change, and that may be one of the projects that you have to reevaluate on a staged basis before you move forward. It is still a project that I support, but it continues to change.


Posted by eric at 8:46 AM

Ad agency defects to Brooklyn

Crain's NY Business

MetroTechNYT.jpg A year and a half ago, Forest City Ratner and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership began marketing MetroTech to the creative services industry.

Ratner has recently made some strides with some very helpful tax credits:

Advertising agency UniWorld Group Inc. is leaving Manhattan for Brooklyn, drawn by the borough’s cheaper rents and easy commute for its employees.

UniWorld, which is part of the WPP Group, inked a 10-year deal for 37,000 square feet at 1 MetroTech Center. The asking rent for the deal, which encompasses the entire 11th floor, was in the low $40s a square foot. However, a city program provides tax credits of up to $3,000 per employee for companies that relocate from Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn. That credit will knock around $12 a square foot off the rent, according to Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

The tax credit drove the asking rent below $30 a square foot. Such low rents cannot be found in Class A Manhattan office towers, notes UniWorld’s broker, Shawna Menifee of Cushman & Wakefield Inc.


The NY Times, Office Tenants Flee Manhattan Rents for Brooklyn

At least nine Manhattan companies, including UniWorld, have signed new leases for Class A space in Downtown Brooklyn this year. The leases — for properties ranging in size from 4,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet — total nearly 300,000 square feet.

Although that would not make much of a dent in Midtown Manhattan, the Downtown Brooklyn market is relatively small. It has only about eight million square feet of Class A space, compared to nearly 180 million square feet in Midtown.
MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president for commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner, said the project would add up to one million square feet of office space, including a 600,000-square-foot tower. In addition, the company says it has the capacity to add almost one million square feet of office space in the MetroTech development.

“If we build one, that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t build the other,” Ms. Gilmartin said.

But Ms. Gilmartin said Forest City Ratner would not build any new office space in Brooklyn until it had adequate advance leasing. She said that before the credit markets froze up this fall, the banks could finance buildings with 50 percent advance leasing. Although it is too soon to say what might happen once the credit markets thaw, she speculated that bankers might want greater advance leasing, perhaps as much as 60 to 75 percent.

So the office market in Downtown Brooklyn might remain tight for some time. There is some sublease space on the market; and JPMorgan Chase is looking to rent out a large block of space in its buildings in MetroTech. But Ms. Gilmartin said that 99 percent of Forest City Ratner’s space in MetroTech is leased. “We are sitting pretty now,” she said.

NoLandGrab: Something tells us that Forest City Ratner wouldn't be "sitting pretty" if every commercial building was subsidized to the same extent as MetroTech.

Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

Real estate money split on Dems, GOP

Inman News

ForestCityDonkey.jpg Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises was one of the top donors from the real estate industry in this past presidential race, with 73% going towards the Dems.

Those employed in real estate may have been rooting more for John McCain than Barack Obama, but all in all the industry's federal campaign contributions have been more evenly balanced between Democrats and Republicans in the 2008 election cycle than at any time since 1992, according the Center for Responsive Politics.

Individuals employed in the industry and real estate political action committees (PACs) have made $105.5 million in federal campaign contributions in 2007 and 2008, according to the center's analyses of reports released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and published at OpenSecrets.org. Of those contributions, 49 percent went to Democrats and 51 percent to Republicans.
Based on reports released Oct. 19, the Center said real estate organizations with the most contributions by both employees and PACs were the National Association of Realtors ($3.36 million), Fannie Mae ($1.1 million), the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts ($790,175), The Villages ($725,300), Realogy Corp. ($700,469), the Mortgage Bankers Association ($699,425), Newmark Knight Frank ($626,100), the National Multi Housing Council ($594,492), Forest City Enterprises ($516,800), and Freddie Mac ($509,067).


NoLandGrab: Over half a million going to the election with nearly three-quarters to the Dems, that's not chump "change."

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

November 4, 2008

The Times takes a skeptical look at stadium construction figures (but not AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

If the Atlantic Yards arena moves closer toward construction, maybe the New York Times will take a skeptical look at the numbers behind it. Meanwhile, in today's article about baseball stadiums, headlined As Stadiums’ Costs Swell, Benefits in Question, there's a lot of skepticism.


NoLandGrab: While The Times's Charles Bagli didn't address the planned new arena for the Nets, anyone who still thinks that publicly funded sports venues are a swell idea should read the article.

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

Interviewees wanted for the Civilians' insta-theater inspired by AY

Atlantic Yards Report

The Civilians theater troupe, as I wrote in January, plans a piece inspired by Atlantic Yards.

Now they're seeking interviewees for a project that will first go on stage in about a month.

The announcement

The Civilians want to hear from you. Brooklyn is changing fast. We are creating BROOKLYN AT EYE LEVEL a theater show inspired by interviews about the transformation of Brooklyn and the controversial Atlantic Yards Project. If you have something to say about the communities surrounding the proposed project (Downtown, Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights & Park Slope), we want to listen. We want to talk to long-term residents, recent arrivals, players in the Atlantic Yards story, anyone who works or lives in the area and cares about the future of Brooklyn. Eager to hear from all perspectives. If you want to be interviewed send us an email with a little information about yourself to Michael Premo, Project Coordinator: Premo(at)thecivilians(dot)org. For more information: www.brooklynateyelevel.org. These interviews will be performed along with original music and dance by Urban Bush Women live at the Brooklyn Lyceum, December 4th – 7th.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

World According to... Ivanka Trump

IvankaTrumpNYT.jpg Portfolio
By Lloyd Grove

On more than one occasion (1, 2), Ivanka Trump has mentioned that she "earned her stripes working for rival real estate mogul Bruce Ratner," the implication being that she's not just daddy's little girl and that she can totally hold her own with straight-suited politically connected overdevelopers.


Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

As Election Day approaches, a deficit of democracy in New York City

Atlantic Yards Report

Prospect Heights activist Patti Hagan testified at yesterday's hearing at which Mayor Bloomberg signed the term-limit extension bill:

After your strong-armed, knuckle busting performance last month to get term limit extended, I'd like to refresh your memory on the subject of term limits extension--in your own words.

You said: "The public has spoken twice and they have spoken quite clearly. I don't know that you should keep shopping for a different answer."

...Unfortunately, Mr. Mayor, you have a bad habit of ignoring the People of NYC--you don't care what we think or vote. Instead, you govern imperiously with an inner circle, limited constituency of a couple dozen billionaire overdevelopers like the predatory Bruce Ratner--you blessed his Ratlantic Yards land grab in Brooklyn--and look where that has gone in 5½ years! Nowhere! Jinxed!

Norman Oder notes that Bruce Ratner has received a lot of special consideration from the Mayor:

Well, it's gotten official approval and pre-construction demolition and utility relocation has begun. Whether it actually gets off the ground is another question. Suffice it to say that developer Forest City Ratner is happy with the mayor, as FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin indicated last week.


Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

The Changing Downtown B’klyn Skyline

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Linda Collins

Despite the shocking newspaper headlines and the doom and gloom TV reports about the economic crisis, construction appears to be moving forward on several Downtown Brooklyn projects and, as Dennis Holt notes (see above), these projects will be changing the downtown skyline forever.
These do not include the Atlantic Yards project with its close to 50-story Miss Brooklyn planned for Atlantic and Flatbush. Although delayed by law suits, Forest City Ratner still expects to break ground for the arena component before the end of the year.


NoLandGrab: For once, an article doesn't toe the party line and slip Atlantic Yards into "Downtown Brooklyn," though it is hard to imagine that Bruce Ratner could manage anything other than a ceremonial-fantasy groundbreaking this year, because lawsuits continue to tie up the transfer of property.

Posted by lumi at 4:24 AM

Pistons get Iverson now, LeBron later?

Yahoo Sports
By Adrian Wojnarowski

As Bruce Ratner's fortunes are stalling out in Brooklyn, the Nets's prospects of luring LeBron James in a crowded field have dimmed:

The New Jersey Nets’ move to Brooklyn is falling apart, and so is owner Bruce Ratner’s chances of using limited partner, Jay-Z, to lure James.


Posted by lumi at 4:18 AM

November 3, 2008

Destructoporn Aftermath: Bye Bye Ward Bakery


Remember Ward Bakery? We've had destructoporn from time to time and, of course, there was the locally famous parapet collapse. Well, from here on out, it'll be remembrance via photo. Atlantic Yards may or may not happen and the Nets may get sold to investors from Moscow and be renamed the Brooklyn Putins, but Ward Bakery is finally and definitively gone. This pic comes from the Atlantic Yards webcam. Fear not, however. If the Nets area is built, this will become a parking lot. If not, we're certain someone will figure out a use for the property by 2015 at the latest. It's just around the corner.


Brownstoner, Goodnight, Ward, Goodnight
Develop Don't Destroy Brookly, Bruce Ratner, Blight Mogul

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

ACORN: No Business Like Poverty Business

The New American
by Gregory A. Hession

"The essential news source for freedom-loving Americans," aka the house organ of the John Birch Society, concludes a scathing four-part series on ACORN.

The business of harassing business appears to be good business for ACORN. It routinely runs Jesse-Jackson-style corporate shakedowns, which often result in corporate "contributions" or partnerships in which ACORN is paid to provide "education" to the target. One example of many is Household Finance Corporation, which was targeted by ACORN and eventually ended up paying ACORN to run a program to educate people about mortgages and loan terms. It also gets sweetheart deals to join in land development and housing projects such as Forest City Ratner's giant Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, New York, where it will profit from marketing "affordable" housing units.


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM


Weeks beginning November 3, 2008 and November 10, 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.

  • Continue sloping soil, Block 1121.

  • Continue installing gabion wall, Block 1121.

  • Continue trenching electrical duct banks on Blocks 1120 and 1121.

  • Begin plumbing line on Blocks 1120 and 1121.

  • Complete east abutment and east portal approach slab.

  • Continue yard grading Blocks 1120 and 1121.

  • Drill borings in Blocks 1120 and1121.

  • Begin delivery and assembly of temporary train trestle/bridge on 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.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Overdevelopment, zoning, and the public realm (and AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder mulls over a couple recent panel discussions on development, overdevelopment, and the future sustainability of cities, and as usual, the conversation comes back to Atlantic Yards.

Interestingly enough, [Hunter College Urban Planning Professor Tom] Angotti found himself agreeing with [Real Estate Board of NY President Steven] Spinola that a lot of neighborhoods in the outer boroughs should have been upzoned, rather than downzoned, “because there was great potential for development in the outer boroughs that was not taken advantage of.”

Then he returned to the whipping boy: “Instead, we have the lunacy of concentrating development in Atlantic Yards. The third largest transit hub, yes, and they call it transit-oriented development, but there’s no improvement to transit. They're putting in a huge parking garage. So, this is not really planning.”


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

AY project fallen apart? Let's wait until we see the Barclays deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder keeps hope alive for Bruce Ratner.

Sports columnist Will Leitch of New York magazine, considering the low chance overseas investors would bail out Bruce Ratner, declares (No Red Dawn for Ratner) that "it appears the deal will fall apart the old-fashioned way: not enough money."

Again, I don't think it's that simple. Yes, the Nets keep losing money. Yes, Ratner has decimated the team to rebuild it, with the hope of getting a free agent like LeBron James in 2010.

The big decision point, I think, will be whether Barclays Capital renews and renegotiates the arena naming rights deal. Perhaps we'll know by the end of the month.


Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Ward Bakery Rubble


All that is left of the stunning white-terracotta-tiled Ward Bakery building is this windrow of rubble waiting to be loaded and carted away.

This demolition was brought to you by Bruce.

Photo, Atlantic Yards Webcam, November 2, 2008, 12:45pm.

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

Sports riches could be latest U.S. casualty


Neil deMause reports on the state of the NY sports industry:

In recent weeks, the portents that many sports-watchers have been keeping an eye out for are predictions of how one of our other national obsessions — the spectator sport that is the roller-coaster economy — will affect teams’ bottom lines. So far, the signs are mixed.

When the Jets last week put up for action2,000 personal seat licenses for their new stadium — not tickets, mind you, only the right to buy tickets for the best seats — the top bid was $82,000, four times what the Giants, who didn’t use an auction, are charging; yet more than two-thirds of the licenses went unsold. The Mets’ online auction of Shea Stadium memorabilia was still going strong (a game-day-used onion-and-relish holder drew a $155 bid). The New Jersey Nets began offering no-money-down season ticket plans. The Newark Bears minor-league baseball team folded after 10 seasons.

Put it all together, and you have a picture of a sports industry where some high-rollers are still willing to splurge, but the well-heeled are fewer in number. If the trend holds, it could have huge implications for local sports teams and their fans. The Mets, Yankees, Giants and Jets are all opening new stadiums in the next two years; they may find they have to start offering discounts to put fannies in those schmancy new seats. It also could put the final nail in the coffin of the Nets’ move to Brooklyn, as a $950 million arena will look less like a good investment if fewer people will pay premium prices to sit there.


NoLandGrab: Though deMause concludes that the signs are mixed, Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets are settling to nearly the bottom of the barrel.

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

No Red Dawn for Ratner

NYMRedRatner.jpg New York Magazine, Intelligencer
By Will Leitch

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner was banking on the fact that the NJ Nets would actually make money if the team moved to a new arena in Brooklyn. After multiple setbacks, can the developer just sell the team?

After Ratner denied a Daily News report last week that he was considering selling the team, NBA commissioner David Stern confirmed “Russian oligarchs” had come a-calling, jokingly pointing out that the offer, along with a separate one from a Dubai group, was made “when oil was $140 a barrel.”

Even if the Russians aren’t coming, the clock seems to have run out. Stuck with an asset that’s reportedly losing him $30 million a year, Ratner has been backed into a corner. Thanks to Ratner’s boosterism, the Nets have decidedly less value without the Atlantic Yards project. He has an asset he can’t sell and doesn’t have an asset he can.


Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

Still Looking for a Chance to Vote on Eminent Domain Abuse

Noticing New York

When polls show that 95% of Americans agree that eminent domain should not be used for transfer of private property to another private owner, why have politicians left this hot-button issue on the table? Michael D. D. White calls some state senate campaigns to see what they're saying.


Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM


By Tim Weisberg

Nets owner Bruce Ratner is said to be meeting with potential foreign investors for his team and the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn that will include a new arena. He reportedly spoke with investors from Russia and Dubai in order to increase the cash power behind moving the team out of New Jersey. As if Jay-Z and the potential to lure LeBron James out of Cleveland wasn't enough.


Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

November 2, 2008

Barclays Taps Investors for $11.8 Billion in Capital (Update1)


Barclays Plc, Britain's second-biggest bank, will raise 7.3 billion pounds ($11.8 billion) from a group that includes investors in Abu Dhabi and Qatar as credit-market writedowns deplete capital.

Chief Executive Officer John Varley tapped sovereign wealth funds in the Mideast to avoid a U.K. government bailout plan that calls for overhauling management boards, capping executive salaries and banning dividend payouts. Barclays fell 12 percent in London trading today.


Posted by amy at 10:02 AM

Bad news for Brooklyn


In the last month, three pieces of news have surfaced about the Nets and all of it may contribute to doom for their dreams of getting James' interest despite what you may read, listen to and see elsewhere.

First, a New York appellate court cleared a lawsuit to go forward that will further delay groundbreaking of the Nets' Brooklyn arena for at least six months. James, of course, piqued interest over the summer when he said his favorite New York borough was Brooklyn. Nary a mention of the Bronx, home of his supposed beloved Yankees, or any community in Jersey where the Nets currently play in perhaps the most dilapidated arena in the NBA.

The $1 billion Frank Gehry-designed Brooklyn project, which once promised to be opened by late 2009, now may not be ready until the 2012-13 season, a full two seasons after James' free agency. But, in reality, there's a chance it may never open at all.

Second, the New York Times reported the Nets' $400 million arena naming rights deal with Barclays Capital has a clause requiring financing to be settled by the end of this month. The team owner and Cleveland native, Bruce C. Ratner, has been tussling trying to get bonds for the arena, part of his $4 billion Atlantic Yards development. Barclays recently said it is still supporting the project but here's two things you don't want to be doing these days if you are a real estate developer: attempting to get new financing or re-negotiating terms with an investment bank.

Third, the New York Daily News broke a story this week that Ratner met with investors earlier this year in an attempt to sell controlling interest in the Nets to cash out some equity. No word on whether Jay-Z wanted to dump his minor investment in the team. The Nets denied it but the Daily News stood behind their source, an investor who said he listened to Ratner's pitch.

NoLandGrab: Contrary to the headline, many people in Brooklyn think this is good news. Hence the lawsuits...

Atlantic Yards Report comments:

In other words, it's still all in flux. But Cleveland superstar LeBron James, a friend of Nets part-owner Jay-Z, becomes a free agent in 2010, which means a new arena in Brooklyn likely wouldn't be available for at least two seasons.

Then again, there is a new arena in Newark.

Posted by amy at 9:56 AM



Dubai Nets?

We knew the unraveling of the economy would put the brakes on Bruce Ratner's dream of bringing the Nets to Brooklyn. We just didn't know it would result in the Nets moving to Dubai instead. Just kidding, of course. But Yahoo! Sports first reported this past week that Ratner had discussions - since tabled - with investors from Dubai and Russia about selling the Nets and the Atlantic Yards Project. The Star-Ledger spoke with a source who described Ratner's discussions with foreign investors as "absolutely true." Ratner's spokesman issued a statement denying the talks, and the Nets issued a separate statement: "The Nets are not for sale." But the spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, cleverly added the caveat that Ratner would be "happy" to speak with foreign or domestic investors. Though Ratner continues to tell the team's basketball officials that the Brooklyn move will go through eventually, few will be surprised if he seeks a buyer if the project dies.


Posted by amy at 9:53 AM

Gersh in action


Gilly Youner via Flickr

Miss Brooklyn makes a special appearance as the MC for the Costume Contest Best in Show kids. Appropriate for Halloween as she is now a specter...


Posted by amy at 9:45 AM

Brooklyn Walkathon Against Eminent Domain Abuse Boosts Legal Fund


ground report
Richard Cooper

The October 4tth, 2008 Walkathon on behalf of the legal fund of Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) raised $45,000 despite the downturn according to DDDB www.dddb.net. They are combatting the attempt by developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner in league with Borough President Marty Markowitz and, Mayor Michael Bloomberg to seize private property and turn it over to Ratner for a combination sports arena, office and residential complex. The Libertarian Party of New York is strongly opposed to eminent domain and fielded a team of three walkers with myself as captain on short notice. The Libertarian Party already took on Forest City Ratner with the campaign I called Time$cam when the Times and Ratner had the State take private property for the new NY TImes building. We held a protest outside the old Times Building on 43rd Street in October 2002.


Posted by amy at 9:35 AM

A tall order: Louisville company restoring a Cleveland landmark


Forest City executive Jeff Linton said the company takes great pride in preserving the Tower.

"It is symbolic of Cleveland in so many respects," said Linton. "We have a stewardship responsibility as its owner to maintain and preserve it because of its meaning for Cleveland and the people of Cleveland."

NoLandGrab: Maybe it's easier for FCR to respect Ohio, since they are FROM Ohio.

Posted by amy at 9:27 AM

November 1, 2008

In gathering information on AY, much opportunity for cognitive dissonance

Atlantic Yards Report

Could it be that ACORN's Bertha Lewis, who isn't really up on Atlantic Yards, only looks at the official Atlantic Yards web site (below), while Jon Benguiat of the Brooklyn Borough President's Office, like others trying to keep up, checks No Land Grab (bottom) every day?

Click here for the link, which includes screenshots of the Atlantic Yards website's press room, which is missing a certain article from the AP...

Posted by amy at 10:28 AM

Israeli court OKs Museum of Tolerance's controversial branch


Los Angeles Times
Mike Boehm

Frank Gehry digs himself into another hole, but this time there are bodies in it:

A Frank Gehry-designed museum can rise in Jerusalem on a site that was once a Muslim cemetery, Israel's Supreme Court ruled today, clearing the way for L.A.'s Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a Holy Land counterpart to its Museum of Tolerance on Pico Boulevard.

The $250-million project had been delayed since early 2006, when builders unearthed bones. Arab leaders in Israel sued to stop the project and were supported, in an unusual alliance, by some ultra-Orthodox Jews with firm beliefs against disturbing graves.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement Wednesday that "moderation and tolerance have prevailed." But Zahi Nujidat, a spokesman for the Israeli Islamic movement, decried the ruling as "clear religious and ethnic oppression," according to the Associated Press.


Posted by amy at 10:19 AM

Construction Watch: Ratner's Big Kondylis Rising in BK


With all the Bruce Ratner talk that swirls around Atlantic Yards, there's a forgotten Ratner. This is it. It's 80 Dekalb Aveue, just a block in from Flatbush and it will be a 34-story Costas Kondylis-designed glass number straddling the Fort Greene-Downtown Border. When all is said and done the Ratner-Kondylis tower will have 292 units, 73 of them "affordable" housing. Oh, yeah, and the devleopment got $109.5 million in tax-exempt bonds and $27.5 million in taxable bonds.


Posted by amy at 10:16 AM

Brooklyn: Too Big To Fail?


In my first post on the effect of the global meltdown of markets, let's tackle the question of a deepening financial crisis that effects New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut more dramatically than any other part of the country. A depression so sudden and disarming that New York is no longer the global financial epicenter of prosperity but just another backwater big city with an auction house.

Already there is the observation that the global power-players who have cash to burn are interested in New York properties and Ratner whose Nets have been little more than a money sink for years may be expendable.

In an exhausted New York economy, it is not inconceivable that an Asian buyer of a team like the Nets might simply pack up their acquisition and move them out to Seattle rather than keep them in the New York metro area.

Whether it is the Nets or another team, expect the face of the NBA to change dramatically and suddenly as the economic cancer spreads through the American sports market.

It won't be long before the Knicks are playing the Sheiks.

NoLandGrab: Ratner insists he hasn't spoken to foreign investors, but that seems 'Dubai'ous.

Posted by amy at 10:11 AM